The Farm Bill Isn’t Worth Cashews

Michael Pollan had a lot to say recently about U.S. agricultural policy — conveniently packaged and available later this year as the Farm Bill 2007. His article reminded me of Mexico. When I lived in el D.F., the Agriculture Attache and I struck up a cordial relationship. We both had our reasons. For his part it was because his wife was Indian and he saw in me a chance to toss out some Hindi in the hallways. “Aray, FSOwalla, kya hal? Teekh hai?” For me, I had discovered that he kept a large jar of cashew nuts in his office, and could score some just by stopping by on a variety of pretexts. Soon enough, however, his interest in speaking Hindi to me waned (I didn’t know any Hindi, that may have been the problem.) But by then, my capacity and desire for a daily cashew nut pick-me-up at about 4:12pm had become a near addiction. Continue reading →


Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

rf.jpg These days we’re all super-sensitive, particularly when we feel that we’re just a cog in a large, globalized wheel. The problem is, more and more of us take that kind of realization badly, and perhaps violently, and we find ourselves locked in conflicts off all kinds. Jabberwock, in his review of Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, points out the anger of that moment when blissfully ignorant old people “uninformed about the world outside their own backyards” ascribe their seemingly harmless stereotypes to you. It’s happened to most of us, and the truth is that people probably should know better, but really, maybe we could all be a little less thin-skinned.

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The Beautiful Idea of MJQ

MJQ-George Chang In the mid-90s in Atlanta there was a club named MJQ founded and owned by a tall, gangly young fellow named George Chang. The letters stood for Modern Jazz Quartet, George’s favorite jazz group (Lionel Hampton grooved with them). I didn’t know George well, and my best memory of him was seeing him show up at a pick-up football match in 70s-era super-short football shorts, sneakers, and colored socks. I suppose that made sense; it turned out that George was a Chinese Swede, which was probably another story in itself. Otherwise, I would see George hanging out at MJQ in retro Adidas and thrift store chic. I hear he was a friendly guy, but I didn’t have much to say to him and was probably wowed by the cool factor — he operated one of the most laid-back back bars that exuded sprezzatura from all corners and was as cool as Blue Note cover art. Continue reading →

What History?

I enjoy opening up a Firefox browser window in the morning and reading the NY Times homepage. Yesterday’s front and center news: the death of Kurt Vonnegut. It seems odd, but I haven’t actually read a Vonnegut novel. Slaughterhouse-Five was on a summer reading list many years ago in high school, but we had some choice and I chose other books to be “force read” (including Darkness at Noon, ugh.)  So now I feel that I should read Vonnegut, with the awareness that I’m reading him posthumously. Continue reading →