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A refreshing refutation of the Whole Foods mentality:

In Europe and the United States, a new line of thinking has emerged in elite circles that opposes bringing improved seeds and fertilizers to traditional farmers and opposes linking those farmers more closely to international markets. Influential food writers, advocates, and celebrity restaurant owners are repeating the mantra that “sustainable food” in the future must be organic, local, and slow. But guess what: Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn’t work. Few smallholder farmers in Africa use any synthetic chemicals, so their food is de facto organic. High transportation costs force them to purchase and sell almost all of their food locally. And food preparation is painfully slow. The result is nothing to celebrate: average income levels of only $1 a day and a one-in-three chance of being malnourished.

If we are going to get serious about solving global hunger, we need to de-romanticize our view of preindustrial food and farming. And that means learning to appreciate the modern, science-intensive, and highly capitalized agricultural system we’ve developed in the West. Without it, our food would be more expensive and less safe. In other words, a lot like the hunger-plagued rest of the world.

Read the rest.

In Robbo’s humble opinion, the kind of limousine liberal nostalgie de la boue discussed in the article is pretty damned offensive, both in its preening, infantile, self-satisfied ignorance and even more in the ironic fact that it hurts those who have no yearning for the mud, but who are instead desperately trying to get out of it.

Perhaps not so ironic, however, since one cannot help wondering if all those Western Elites playing at peasants and shephards want to keep the real ones where they are in order to satisfy the Elites’ sense of “authenticity”.

But that’s just me, Mr. Cynical.

Greetings, fellow port-swillers!

My apologies for not posting all week, but Ol’ Robbo has been up to his eyebrows in teh busyness, both at home and in the office.  Bees, as they say, ain’t in it.

Last evening, however, I finally got the chance to put up my feet and unwind for a while.  And by some serendipitous trick of fate, I just so happened to have on hand from Netflix a copy of Rescue From Gilligan’s Island, the 1978 reunion movie in which Gilligan and his friends finally make it back to Civilization after 15 years, only to discover that they don’t really like it very much.

No doubt you are saying to your collective selves, “Tom! Why?”  Well, the fact is that what with one thing and another in the headlines lately, I had been thinking about the Carter Era in all its awfulness and suddenly remembered this flick.  I actually saw it when it first aired, but as I was only 13 at the time it didn’t make that much of an impression.  I was curious, now that I’m older, to go back and see just how many jabs the flick took at the Modern World of the late 70’s.

Well, alas, the answer is “Not many.”   Ginger (played here by substitute Judith Baldwin, no doubt because Tina Louise didn’t want to damage her career) discovers that Hollywood is all about foul language and nudity – rayther touchingly naive considering where we are now.  The Professor discovers that academics are all about fundraising instead of scholarship.  Heigh, ho.  Oh, and Gilligan is chased around by a pair of bumbling Soviet agents trying to steal a piece of a crashed spy satellite that he had found on the Island.  Considering that we were losing teh Cold War at that point, this looked particularly lame.  All the other “problems” encountered by the rest of the crew are purely personal.

I know this is Gilligan and I know that it never aimed very high to begin with, but given the enormous societal changes between 1963 and 1978, and also given the malaise of the time, it seems to me that something less lame than this could have been produced, had anyone spent more than 15 minutes or so writing the script.

So I got an idea.

How about a Children of Gilligan’s Island sequel?  Many of the original cast are dead and the rest are too old now, but how about this plot device:  Once the crew return to the Island (as they do at the end of Rescue), they decide to abandon any idea of ever getting off again.  In the ensuing years, Gilligan, the Professor and the Skipper all father children on Mary Ann and Ginger.  This rayther complicated brood of six half-siblings are raised with the values of their elders, including the Howells.   Comes the present day and the original settlers are all gone, but by some trick of fate the kids are picked up by the Navy and brought back to the States, where their mid-60’s values come into direct conflict with the Times.  The changes between 1963 and 1978 were vast, but the changes between 1963 and 2010 are exponentially huge.

It would be something like a cross between Rip Van Winkle and Blue Lagoon.   I’ve an idea Johnny Depp could play the younger version of Gilligan.

Recycling run amok:

The new bin system by Newcastle-under-Lyme Council, north Staffordshire, includes a silver slop bucket for food waste, which is then emptied into a larger, green outdoor bin.

There is a pink bag for plastic bottles, a blue box for glass, foil, tins and aerosols, a green bag for cardboard and blue bags for paper and magazines.

Clothing and textiles go in a white bag, garden waste in a wheelie bin with a brown lid and non-recyclable waste in a separate grey wheelie bin.

If successful, the scheme – which is more rigorous than any previous recycling standards expected of households – is likely to be adopted by councils up and down the country.


It seems to me that this sort of scheme isn’t so much about recycling per se, it’s more about guv’mint hounding and bullying people into producing less waste by making the stuff that much more complicated and difficult to get rid of.

Call it Coercion by a Thousand Bins.

Because his birthday happened to be yesterday, the local classickal musick station has been running a month-long “celebration” of the works of Sergei Prokofiev.

It does not strike me that a month-long “celebration” of Prokofiev is strickly necessary.

There are few things that awaken the sleeping fiend within ol’ Robbo faster than being told by one of the gels that she’s “too tired” to help out with the chores.

And Robbo is always being told by one of the gels that she’s “too tired” to help out with the chores.


On this day I’m thinking more of England than of her patron himself.  I suppose this is because I’m still a rookie Catholic.  It’s not a question of overcoming some previously-held Protestant scruples, since orthodox Anglicanism does not consider veneration of the saints to be idolatry, it’s just that such practice is not natural to me and is something I have to be concentrating on in order to remember it.

At any rate, I am thinking of England.  Poor, poor England.  She’s had the stuffing kicked out of her by two world wars and 60-odd years of socialism.  She’s being demographically inundated by immigrants.  She’s culturally exhausted, socially and morally adrift and sinking into geopolitical irrelevancy.  I very much fear that as a pillar of Western Civilisation, she is doomed.

But she was once THE pillar of Western Civilisation, at her best reaching a height that has never been surpassed or reproduced, and for that, she must always be honored.  

I see where the gentlemen of Kappa Alpha have decided to tone down their Old South celebrations:

Thomas Williams, president of the [University of Alabama] chapter of Kappa Alpha, said in a statement Thursday that the members chose to cancel the Old South parade after deciding that it was not “in congruence with our values as an organization.”

Williams said they made the decision after consulting with alumni, the fraternity’s national office and UA student affairs officials.

“We support an inclusive campus environment, and as an organization we chose not to participate in an activity that we knew other members of the community found offensive,” he said.

University officials did not specifically ask the fraternity to end the practice. In 2009, after the parade interrupted the 35th anniversary celebration for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority, AKA alumnae sent a letter to UA President Robert Witt requesting that the administration end Old South celebrations.

Dean of Students Tim Hebson said UA officials are pleased KA members found a way to honor their history while also showing that they want to be cooperative and compassionate members of the UA community.

“The members of the fraternity understand that when traditions hurt others, even unintentionally, it’s time to change them,” Hebson said in a statement. “This year, they are committed to upholding the ideals of their founding fathers while demonstrating respect for everyone on campus.”

An internal memo posted on the Kappa Alpha Order’s Web site from the KA executive council to all chapters and alumni said that KA members could not wear Confederate uniforms at Old South balls or parades. The memo from Executive Director Larry Weise was dated Jan. 21.

“In today’s climate, the order can ill afford to offend our host institutions and fend off significant negative national press and remain effective at our core mission, which is to aid young men in becoming better community leaders and citizens,” Weise said in the memo.

Kappa Alpha was founded in 1865 at Washington & Lee University, formerly known as Washington College. Chapters hold Old South week celebrations to honor their founders according to information on chapter Web sites. Members dress in Confederate uniforms to honor founders who had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

As a Dubyanell Man myself and knowing something of the traditions of the place, I think I can say that General Lee would approve the change on the grounds of good manners. 

I must say that I am personally somewhat ambivalent about the whole question of Southern Pride, perhaps because I enjoy history so much, perhaps because although born to a Yankee family, I grew up in Texas and have one foot in both camps, so to speak.  It’s a complicated thing, after all, involving multiple layers of competing cultural values and sensitivities, some of them good and some of them obviously very bad.  One bright spot about this story is that KA decided to stand down voluntarily and that there is no wretched legal action involved.  When these things get into court, they have a habit of polarizing and embittering people, making the overall situation that much worse. 

The whole biznay reminds me of a story about Mrs. Robbo.  Like most women, she has a tendency to make things more complicated than necessary.  But once in a while she is capable of flashing out an almost ingenious simplicity.

First, you have to understand that Mrs. Robbo was born on Lon Gyland and raised in southern Connecticut.  Before coming to the great Commonwealth of Virginny for college, she had never been south of Mason/Dixon and barely west of the Hudson.  And like many, many people of such background (at least in my experience), she simply never thought about the Civil War, much less the more general history of North and South.    

One evening in her first year at Sweet Briar (long before she and Robbo met, of course), Mrs. Robbo and some of her friends decided to go slumming over at Hamster-Squidney Hampton-Sydney College.  Squidney was in those days (and still is, so far as I know) one of the last holdouts of what one might call Confederate Romanticism, its student body composed largely of good ol’ boy types from ‘Bama and other parts of the Deep South.   Almost every dorm room, so I am told, proudly displayed the Confederate battle flag.  If one mentioned “the War” it was automatically assumed that one was speaking of the War of Northern Aggression.  And from what I gather, the War was mentioned a lot.

At any rate, as the evening progressed, young Miss Yankee found herself in a dorm room full of Squidneys, all of them sipping Beam and talking about “the War”.  The story goes that after listening to their talk for a great while, she suddenly blurted out in her rayther New Yawk accent, “I don’t get why you talk about the War all the time.  I mean, you all lost.”   

The room, I am told, was reduced to incredulous, helpless silence.

We’re having an all day “retreat” down the office next week.

I loathe employment retreats and everything associated with them.  Thus, I have been quietly ignoring the email invitations to RSVP for the thing, firmly resolved to duck it.

Evidently I’m not the only one, as the latest invitation contains a clarification that attendance is mandatory.

Said Sistah in response to my post about giving up on the garden below:

I have often thought, with a chuckle, of getting you one of those weed torches for Christmas or your birthday. Perfect! It combines your arsonic tendencies with your hatred of weeds.

To tell the truth, I’d never even heard of such a tool.  But a quick peek on line shows that it does, indeed, exist.

Says the ad copy:

Weed Torch – Your own mini flame thrower! The use of heat for weed control is nothing new…professional gardeners have relied on it for a long time. Now, you too can fight weeds effectively and conveniently. No more chemical hazards or messy clean up. Unit is complete with Piezo ignition which provides a flame at the touch of a button. Runs on propane or a mixture of propane/butane in 14 or 16.2 oz. cylinders (not included). 30.351 in length. Optional 8 ft. hose assembly allows you to use with any bulk tank application.

Oh, my.  I think Robbo’s just got excited about gardening again.

By the bye, I would point out to Sistah and to the rest of my fellow port swillers that I don’t have “arsonic” tendencies, thank you very much.  I am something of a pyromaniac, granted, but there’s a difference in that I have always kept my conflagrations on the right side of the law.

Is it a mere coincidence that “Earth Day” also happens to be the anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known to the world as Lenin?

I think not.  I think not.


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April 2010