About Me

My photo

Armchair theorist, poet, and occasional IT manager, Sascha B. is equipped with a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas, and is not afraid to use it. His work has been published by the University Press of America, Edwin Mellen Press, University of Texas Press, and a variety of small journals nationwide. He is also the proprietor and baker for 3141 Pie, of which you should eat many.

The Deal

I stopped blogging in 2013, when life overtook me. My father became ill and died shortly thereafter, and my mother was left with increasing dementia. I became the primary caregiver, and now orchestrate my mother's care and our family estate.

Now, I am coming up for air again.

Looking for the next book to read. All suggestions welcome.

My reading list is over here.







Saturday, August 01, 2009

Remarkable

From the AP tonight, on the proposals for our desperately needed health care reforms:
In a sign of the fight ahead, Republicans on Saturday quickly blasted the Democrats' proposals as a "dangerous and costly experiment"
Funny. Back in th 1770s, British loyalists damned the venture of American independence with pretty much the same terms.

Of course it is costly. But keeping the current system is more costly. Is it dangerous? Only to those who are determined to cling tenaciously to the status quo, and the misguided and absurd ideology that a) we live with a truly "free market" system, and b) that the free market is the anodyne for all things, in all situations, without stricture or amendment.

Patriot, or Loyalist? Which side are you on?

The Lost Art Of Cooking

If you know me at all, you know I love to cook: the kitchen is a place of making, of creative forces. It's activity is a personal expression; it's output a social convocation. So it is with a heavy sigh that I read this excellent article by Michael Pollan on the failing art of cooking, and the rising tide of food as spectacle that is occurring in direct contrast to the falling off of cooking for ourselves (or anyone else, for that matter).
The Food Network has helped to transform cooking from something you do into something you watch — into yet another confection of spectacle and celebrity that keeps us pinned to the couch. The formula is as circular and self-reinforcing as a TV dinner: a simulacrum of home cooking that is sold on TV and designed to be eaten in front of the TV. True, in the case of the Swanson rendition, at least you get something that will fill you up; by comparison, the Food Network leaves you hungry, a condition its advertisers must love. But in neither case is there much risk that you will get off the couch and actually cook a meal. Both kinds of TV dinner plant us exactly where television always wants us: in front of the set, watching.....If cooking is as central to human identity and culture as Wrangham believes, it stands to reason that the decline of cooking in our time would have a profound effect on modern life.
Profound effect indeed. And you wonder why I look out at everything, and just get sad.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Confusion

photo of Sarah Palin By CNN
After reading the notes on Sarah Palin's resignation speech today, I chew on a recurring thought: we as a people confuse celebrity with success, and success with excellence. They are all neither synonymous, nor co-dependent. And quite honestly, any elected official who provides the following for a reason to leave office deserves to be heckled, humiliated, and then sent back to school to relearn as many times as necessary the meaning of responsibility, public welfare, and "a four-year term:"
I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics-as-usual, lame-duck session in one's last year in office," Palin said, just moments before Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell was sworn in as governor.

"With this decision, now I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right and for the truth," Palin continued.
Celebrity. Success. Excellence.

We report: you decide.

Clarity

Paul Krugman has posted a concise but overwhelmingly clear post on why health care and "free market economy" are not concepts that mix well:
There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.
I recommend reading the whole thing. We seem to have forgotten, in our modern rendition of the Grand Dance With Greed, that certain aspects of the social fabric function beyond the realm of market models. Health care is one; sustenance (food & water) is another. I would add to that basic shelter. We make gestures to this reality --- through food and farm subsidies, food stamp programs, and the governmental control of water rights --- for sustenance, and a bit less so on shelter through low-cost housing. But we try our damnedest to shoehorn them all into the market model, to allow our greed for profit to run rampant over our need for a social compact.

As I walk in my city each day, and see the homeless on the streets, begging for food, and knowing they will likely sleep in a shelter at best, though more likely in a doorway or behind a dumpster, I think about our failure to address this issue. And I hope that any progress the current administration and Obama can make in health care reform can be a first step toward a more decent way of living together.