Non-Judge-Mentality the 3rd

Gossip rags. Gossip television. Gossip sites. Fixated on celebrities and their pathetic lives. Throw in a good dose of fame and money, and voila, you’ve got stories about people’s lives which everyone eats up like hungry little twisted peeping toms. Our pathetic lives, minus the fame and money, seem so pale in comparison.

Celebrity gossip is the ultimate  form of Judge-Mentality. Bullshit abounds…bullshit which really doesn’t concern us or make any difference in our lives. Celebrity gossip is nothing but mental filler, occupying bored minds with mindless facts. It is cotton candy of the soul.

Who’s pregnant and who’s pregnant with who; who is falling off the wagon or who’s got a coke problem; who is stepping out on who and who has stepped out with who; who is institutionalized and who has fallen off the deep end; who’s fashion mistake was captured by live cameras.

Photos are a must!

We cannot simply be entertained by the failings and drama of others…we must see it too! We must feel it and live it and hear it and smell it….we must experience it as much as possible without actually participating.

That’s what we are, as a society. A watching, judging, lazy culture looking for emotional fixes without suffering the real pain of life. Celebrity gossip is awesome that way. You can choose just how much you invest yourself in a situation. It is non-participatory and passive yet you can feel like you have a stake in the matter. About people whose lives will never intersect yours. It’s the television generation.

Consequently, it is also a serious waste of energy. Gossiping about people you know first-hand is a reflection of your faltering sense of honor; gossiping about strangers is a reflection of your restless sense of monotony. A busy mind doesn’t have time to devote itself to interpreting anyone’s life except its own.

Live life on an even level and pay attention to that little circle, that little bubble you call reality. Trying to burst out of your bubble in order to enter others is intellectual suicide.

Junk food taxes, are they a slippery slope?

Rudy Ruiz, an author and radio show host, has a guest commentary over on CNN.com titled “A fat tax is a healthy idea.”

OK, here we go, I thought, another knee-jerk “tax behavior which we can’t control” reaction to society’s descent into fat-assedness.

I gave the commentary a chance and was pleasantly surprised.

Ruiz justifies a tax on crap food as but one ingredient in an overall strategy which the government should institute to combat rampant obesity. And while I’m still not keen on the practice of using taxes as a tool of behavior modification, I think he has a very good perspective on the problem of America’s pathetic eating habits and their ingrained nature. And most importantly, the role of the food industry in this mess.

He maintains that the abundance of cheaply produced “foods” (ie, sweet as hell, courtesy of corn syrup, high fructose and not) is public enemy #1 in the battle of the bulge. I agree with this. However, if you start taxing junk food, then what? Where will the poor buy their food? In effect you are leaving them no options.

This would go hand-in-hand with another proposal Ruiz makes, one that addresses the economic issue of food affordability which I touched upon in this post from yesterday. Ruiz’ proposal would

• Shift subsidies away from corn toward the production of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as organic farming, so healthier, more natural foods become as accessible as Happy Meals.

Very pie-in-the-sky thinking. But accurate. If the government devoted just a fraction of all the resources and energy towards healthy and sustainable farming as it does towards the bolstering and strengthening of the corn production industry, you’d be able to walk into any grocery store and buy healthy (ie, clean and unprocessed) foods for prices which are on par with the crappiest garbage Kraft or Hostess has to offer.

Yeah, don’t start holding your breath. Not when this stuff can be produced for dirt cheap and tastes so yummy. When you’re 7-years-old, you don’t give a flying crap about HFCS or carbohydrates or multi-syllable chemicals which soften and preserve that spongy bread treat.

El Sprouts Farmers Market

So you see, this weekend I was out and about, roaming at large, shopping, buying crap, stocking up for stage 2 of my East L.A. Makever in the beautiful and balmy O.C. It was a welcome respite from the 90 degree scorching I was enduring in the hood and it’s always pleasant to see how the other half lives.

The white folks in Orange County are the most well-mannered, conscientious-driving people in SoCal. They may be a bunch of right-wing freaks but it’s always a pleasure heading down there to revitalize my spirit and rekindle my faith in the human race because frankly the ghetto-tude and posturing where I live can be a bit trying over time.

Another great thing is that I can pop in to Sprouts Farmers Market, a Trader Joe-sie, Whole Food-sie type of store, regionally located in the Southwest.

I love Sprouts; stocked with a large assortment of natural and organic products and lots of clean foods, you won’t find too many Kraft or Hostess products lining these shelves.

My favorite is the several aisles of fresh items you can purchase by the pound: every imaginable nut and legume, flax seeds, rolled oats, assorted grains, the list is endless. And since you buy by the pound, there is no packaging per se. You pull out the small hand shovel and pour exactly what you want into a plastic bag, close it up with a plastic fastener which has a piece of paper affixed on which you write the code of the item so they can check you out correctly. Yesterday I bought about 2 pounds of raw almonds and raw walnuts…on sale for $4.99/lb! That’s a killer deal.

As is customary when I wander this store, I get that Very Obvious Outsider vibe. I’m usually one of maybe 3 people of color in the store…the other 2 being Asian. There are literally NO other Mexicans in that store. Ever. I’m it. The sole Latino contingent, marching the aisles of some health food store in lily white Republicanville-by-the-Sea. It’s quite an experience. I’ve been in so many situations over the years where I’ve found myself in environments which lacked any brown shading at all, so I’m mostly unfazed.

But that’s not my point. That’s just a trite observation which really serves no purpose.

I get in my car, tuck my nuts away in the darkness of the car floor (heh heh), away from direct sunlight, and head back to joyful East L.A. With that little slice of Orange County in my car. I carry the Sprouts bags into my apartment, like a treasure pilfered from a distant land…this is what Marco Polo must have felt like.

It took about 35 minutes for me to reach home. If I were to drive to Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena, that is a 30 minute trip. Whole Foods in Pasadena? Probably 40 minutes. East L.A. and environs is no place for the clean eater, the junk food-ophobe looking to venture out into the many choices available to those looking to expand their diet with natural foods you most likely won’t find in chain grocery stores. Why is this?

It’s not that TJ’s or Sprouts are that much more expensive. Hell, in many cases, they are cheaper. I bought a tray of blueberries for $2.99 which would have cost me about five bucks at Ralphs or Vons. And to be quite honest, my area is full of “Mexi-marts” as I call them…Latino-aimed grocery stores and the fruit they sell is super cheap but just as good as the large chains.

But why is it that if I want a pound and a half of flax seed I have to drive a 1/2 hour? Why?

I’m not pointing fingers at Sprouts or any of the other similar-minded stores. If they could make money and turn a profit in East L.A., I guarantee you that you’d find a Sprouts opening up on Whittier Boulevard, Mexican mural and all, El Sprouts. But no, that will not happen.

Most discouraging to me is the preponderance (and success) of generic supermarkets which specialize in WIC and Food Stamps and sell nothing but canned and boxed items, where 90% of the inventory seems to be processed food.

El Sprouts. Haha, I can just picture it.

East L.A. Makeover: Stage 2, the Palace of Pomposity

Today will officially mark the beginning of Stage 2 of my East L.A. Makeover. It began the minute I wandered into Target, early in the morning before the church crowd or late-rising crowd had a chance to mob the aisles like lost cattle.

First, I bought another pair of jeans. I’ve been on a jean-buying frenzy for the last 3 or 4 months, collecting various pairs of blue, semi-blue, harshly-blue, jeans, lots of them, like a madman. Trying to find that perfect fit, not too skinny so as to look like an old man trying to look like an emo kid a third his age, but not too baggy so as to look like a hopelessly lost gangster fashionista. I found a pair I liked then proceeded to the shower / bathroom section.

I think I’m going to enjoy this stage. It’s allowing me to actually use some creativity as opposed to stage 1 which allowed about as much creativity as clipping your toenails. Nope, the bathroom is going to be a deceiving challenge. Standing there in the aisle before the endless collection of bathroom paraphernalia I was seized with the awesome realization that modern society’s sense of righteous luxury has turned the Shitting room into a friggin’ palace of pomposity. Ah, new phrase.

Palace of Pomposity.

Note that.

So I picked up a few items to begin the construction of my very own East L.A. Palace of Pomposity.

-A “shower caddy” which I can hang from a rack instead of the shower head…hanging anything from the shower head has become a comedic exercise in toppled shower bottles, soap, sponges, etc. I hope this new shower caddy will result in less frustrating displays of falling items and thus allow my showers to continue peacefully without a rise in blood pressure.
-Three storable boxes which I will keep in the cupboards for various loose items which would normally scatter across the sink top.
-One organizer tray I will keep in one of my drawers to hold various other items which would also normally clutter the sink top.

This is just a start but I suspect I’ll be returning to Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond to complete my shopping checklist.

In addition to enjoying stage 2, I think it will also slowly drive me broke.