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Disaster Capitalism in the Feminist Review

By Brittany Shoot
Feminist Review

Recorded from a lecture in May 2008, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is an engaging, well-crafted talk by economist-writer-activist Naomi Klein about the problems of increasingly pervasive neoliberal privatization of land and resources on a global scale. Based on the same premise as her most recent book, Klein’s lecture is aimed at people who have not necessarily read The Shock Doctrine—in part, she said, because the book was “hideously overpriced in hardback.” The lecture marked the release of the book in paperback, as well as its availability in Spanish.

In the book and for the purposes of this talk, Klein’s analysis is centered on the idea that widespread privatization of public spaces and services often takes place in the aftermath of large shocks: military coups, economic crises, natural disasters. This pattern has played out repeatedly in Latin America, and most recently, it has been seen in Iraq, New Orleans, and in the wake of the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, among others. Though Burma was already run by a crony capitalist regime before the 2008’s Cyclone Nargis destroyed significant infrastructure and killed tens of thousands of civilians, the disaster accelerated the country’s last major wealth grab. Forty-three private reconstruction contracts were already in place before any relief had been done.

Anecdotally, Klein cites a recent National Science Foundation study that shows that conservatives are generally happier people, better able to rationalize social and economic inequality. Calling the mindset an “elaborate form of self-deception” and a “political sedative after the fact,” she explains that in reality, neoliberal policies treat entire nations and peoples as testing grounds and laboratory subjects. In the wake of large-scale disasters and upheaval, people are often rightfully focused on self-preservation. By the time new constitutions have been put into place, water supplies have been privatized, and public school systems have been turned into privately-funded charter schools, it is often too late to debate—let alone reverse—such massive systemic changes.

What is crucial to remember is that none of these events are inevitable. Indeed, they are being resisted, often most effectively by indigenous groups. While certainly not simple problems with easy solutions, Klein believes there are two ways to respond. We can develop policies and technologies that change our way of life; or, as is increasingly and frighteningly common, we can devise policies and technologies that can be used to protect and shield ourselves from those we have enraged and displaced.

If you don’t live in an urban area likely to be visited by a luminary like Klein, this skillfully produced lecture is an excellent way to supplement the experience of an in-person lecture. A portion of DVD proceeds go to War On Want.

Buy DVD now | Back to Naomi Klein's Page




Humanity, Glorious and Vile

By Carlo Wolff
The Boston Globe
January 3, 2010

The origins of life, humans bent on logic, political strife, the little disturbances that make us itch, and family dysfunction preoccupy the best recent graphic novels. Despite great differences in style and attitude, all delight in presenting fresh ways of seeing the world.

***

Peter Kuper, his wife, and his daughter arrived in Oaxaca, one of the poorest states of Mexico, for a year’s stay in July 2006, just when a teachers’ strike got nasty. His diary of that sojourn, and a subsequent brief return, joins drawings, watercolor, even photography at times, to insights about how we process information. An earthquake in February 2008 passed in 10 seconds, barely disturbing Kuper but making sensationalist, scary headlines. “I’ve come to believe that most news is all sizzle without the quake,’’ he writes. In earlier works like “Stones’’ and “Stop Forgetting to Remember,’’ Kuper’s approach was more cartoonish and ironic, more distanced. Here, a self-styled refugee from the Bush administration, he’s involved and personal; may he craft more such documentaries, further his talent for collage, and nurture his affection for entomology. The book, its text in English and Spanish, is beautiful, a real production: The textured, embossed cover evokes Mexican tiles, giving this “Diario de Oaxaca’’ elegant gravity and permanence.

Buy book now | Download the eBook now | Back to Peter Kuper's Page




Frank, diverse look at raising kids with disabilities

By ELIZABETH FLOYD MAIR
Times Union
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kathy Bricetti writes of calling the police to her own home as a last resort when her 12-year-old son -- who's almost 6 feet tall and has Asperger's -- has three tantrums in one weekend, each more violent than the last. She's relieved that the officer is "calm and kind to Ben," and simply talks to him about the consequences of his behavior.

Hers is just one voice in the new anthology "My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities," whose contributors are parents who are themselves a little bit apart from the mainstream, whether single, gay, older, disabled or perhaps financially struggling.

One of the anthology's three editors, Jennifer Silverman, (a mom of two kids, one of whom has autism) will be at Book House in Guilderland today for a reading and book signing.

According to Silverman -- who spoke recently by telephone from her home in Queens -- many of the existing books that offer accounts of parents' experiences are aimed at an audience mainly of white, upper middle-class readers from intact nuclear families, without a lot of ethnic diversity, and it can sometimes be difficult for readers who don't fall into those categories to relate. The co-editors of "My Baby Rides the Short Bus" have tried hard to include a much more diverse array of voices than is usually found in print.

Several essayists write with startling honesty about the day they first discovered that their baby would be living with some form of disability. For instance, Andrea McDowell, the mother of a child with dwarfism, writes of her 30-week ultrasound, "My dream of a perfect baby died that day, and nothing would ever bring it back." Sharis Ingram writes, about parenting two kids with special needs, "I didn't sign up for any of this when I got pregnant. I thought I was just having a baby."

Many also describe feeling shock and anger about the brusque, clinical manner of the experts charged with doing the initial diagnosis and evaluation of a child. As Maria June writes, "It was almost as if she was treating Blake like a pathology in and of himself, not as an individual with a complex and unique set of very human needs, the first of which was compassion."

As Silverman explains on the telephone, "The evaluator just turns around and walks out of that house or that clinic and it's over for them, but for us it's just starting."

The quality of the writing is generally good throughout, although a few writers take the easy route and rely on curse words to express their outrage, which may alienate some readers.

One of the book's best essays is "Interpreting the Signs," by Andrea Winninghoff, a hearing mother of a deaf child. She has always been his sign language interpreter, making for a very close relationship: "I am Jonah's mother but sometimes more importantly, I am the language conduit between him and the hearing world."

Winninghoff deftly portrays the dilemma she faces when trying to decide whether to enroll 10-year-old Jonah in the residential program for the deaf, several hours from home, that he desperately wants to attend. Deaf acquaintances are shocked at her resistance to the idea ("I was all but called selfish for keeping him from his culture") while hearing parents are shocked that she would even entertain the idea ("they could never do that to their family").

Loving her son eventually means letting him learn to communicate freely without her as middle-man and facing her fears of becoming unnecessary to him.

Essayist Nina Packebush points out in "And We Survive" that readers love stories in which kids with severe learning disabilities work hard and grow up to become millionaires "despite being unable to spell or read." Readers don't respond as well, she says, to stories "where the underdog remains the underdog and the cute little toddler becomes loud, socially awkward, slightly odd child or teen who will never give friends and family the bragging rights that they feel they deserve."

A common theme is parents learning to focus on what actually makes the child happy. Maria June adopts a baby with special needs and says that at first she grieved for "possibilities of college and marriage as I have scripted them, fearful that because Mitchell has this or that cognitive or neurological challenge, he would miss out on something I deem necessary for a 'good life.'?"

There is a great deal of joy too. One parent after another speaks of loving the child just the way he or she is. McDowell, whose child will probably be 4 feet tall as an adult, writes that she secretly loves her small size and that "I would never trade her for a 'normal' baby or even her made somehow normal."

Buy this book now | Download ebook now | Back to Jennifer Silverman's page | Back to Sarah Talbot page | Back to Yantra Bertelli's page

 




Four Things You Can Do for Juvenile Justice Reform

By GRACE BAUER
Reclaiming Futures

There are rumblings throughout the country about racism right now. People are wondering what the implications of racism are, if it still exists, how much it affects and to what extent. These are the kinds of discussions we should be having as a nation. They are long overdue and the results of such discussions would be a welcome change to the silence and the ability of this country to ignore what is plain and evident. Yet it seems they're slow to begin and could go on for decades before we see any real change.

Now there are some in this country that can afford to wait as the discussion begins; on the other hand, those that are most affected by and involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems do not have the luxury of waiting. We must take action today, at every opportunity in the future, and be prepared to create opportunities on the days when there are none!

We're lucky in that we have the facts that are indisputable to serve as the starting point for this work. Our country has an addiction to incarceration and based on the staggering statistics of that addiction, it's one we can no longer afford. Secondly, the criminal and juvenile justice systems are inundated with the appalling history of racism in the US. The focus of our discussion should be, "What are we going to do about it?"
 
If we assume we can no longer wait for the leaders in our field and in our communities to spearhead the work, then the answers we seek lie within us. Are you waiting for change to come or are you willing to roll up your sleeves and push for the change? If you were waiting for the right time, I believe we are there.
 

What can you do? Four things:
 
1. Educate

  • Yourself
  • Your family
  • Your friends
  • Your community
If we're to confront leadership and power it is incumbent on us to understand the ways in which racism permeates the criminal justice system. Try visiting a few of the following websites and taking a look at those staggering statistics:

Look at a few of these books:

  • "No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System" by David Cole
  • "Race to Incarcerate" by Marc Mauer
  • "The Real Cost of Prisons Comix" by Lois Ahrens
Not up to reading an entire book? Then try a few of these smaller publications:
 
 
2. Organize:
 
Once you have some facts to work with and have a good understanding of the issue of race and the criminal justice system, you need to find other folks like yourself who care about this issue.
 
Where are those folks?
 
They're in all the same places that you are. You may not know who they are because we're so used to not talking about these issues. Begin by sharing your own story of involvement with the criminal justice system, and before long you will find others who are like-minded.
 
 

3. Get Involved

:
  • Community decision-making tables
  • Community events
  • Juvenile justice meetings
  • Criminal justice meetings
  • School board meetings
  • County board meetings
Find out what these folks are doing. Attend a meeting or two and familiarize yourself with their agenda and policies. Look for the opportunities that exist in these leadership environments to raise the issue of racism and the intersection of race and criminal and juvenile justice system.
 
For example, you may attend the school board meetings to find that the schools in your area are suspending and expelling children of color at an alarming rate. You can bring attention to this issue by supplying information and possible solutions. By organizing others, you'll find that your issue becomes more powerful, and as a group you can demand change.
 
 
4. Get Connected:
 

Join the Campaign for Youth Justice's newest campaign, Join the Movement, on our website, or join us on Facebook and Twitter.  You will not only become connected to others that care about our children, but you'll also find tools and guides to help you as you begin to educate and organize others.

We can no longer look to the leaders to make the change our children and communities need: we must realize that we are the leaders, and the work will begin with us!

Buy book now | Download eBook now | Back to Author Page




Read Local

As the broader publishing world flounders, alternative presses are turning to their communities for support.
By Anna Clark
The American Prospect
December 3, 2009

"When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." So said Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch priest born less than 20 years after the printing press was invented. This holiday season, publishers might like to see his ilk in bookshops. Traditionally, the book industry depends upon the December gift-giving season to buoy its entire year. Many publishers shape their catalog around the six-week window of intensified shopping that carries particular urgency in the depths of a recession.

But this "make or break" bookselling strategy is one holiday tradition that a handful of innovative publishers are eager to end.

In search of sustainability, some publishers and booksellers are adapting ideas from the food movement. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) -- in which consumers buy a share of a farm's produce yield for the season -- translates to community-supported publishing (CSP), in which readers subscribe to an independent press that in return delivers books to their doorstep every month. "Buy Local" becomes "Buy Indie." And the do-it-yourself momentum behind home gardening parallels the energy behind literary chapbooks, a traditional form that's finding new popularity and legitimacy in the 21st century. More than a marketing strategy, the sustainability shift is carving out a place for diverse ideas -- even in an economic climate where mainstream publishers abhor risk.

South End Press is among those that are crafting alternative models of publishing. The nonprofit, collectively run press has an author list that includes Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, bell hooks, Howard Zinn, Arundhati Roy, and Vandana Shiva. Founded in 1977 in Boston, South End opened a second office in Brooklyn this year to better situate itself financially and as a movement-builder.

The inspiration behind the CSP program is clear. South End's Web site invites potential subscribers to enjoy "a steady crop of books" that feature "all the new varieties and choice heirloom selections free each month." CSP subscriptions start at $20 per month. Members receive a book each month and a 10 percent discount on all further purchases; when no new title is available, members get an item from South End's backlist that is deemed to be timely. During this year's health-care debate, CSP members received Sickness and Wealth: The Corporate Assault on Global Health, a 2004 anthology of essays.

Asha Tall of the South End collective said that the publisher explicitly borrowed from the food movement's CSA model when it developed its community-supported publishing program in 2006. "We were looking for ways to engage more directly with readers," Tall says. At the same time, Tall adds, the CSP program was intended to "relieve the effects of the consolidation of book distribution."

With about a hundred CSP members, South End can count on a certain number of sales up front, allowing it to effectively underwrite its projects. The program brings in money throughout the year from supportive readers, rather than depending on the whims of holiday shoppers. Alex Straaik, an editor at South End and a collective member, says that "with a holiday gift subscription drive and by spreading the word to our new allies in Brooklyn," the publisher intends to significantly grow the program.

South End is looking for people like Soula Pefkaros, a 28-year-old activist in Virginia who is the creator of a documentary photo exhibit about "small ecologically conscious farming and the people building an alternative food paradigm," as she describes it. Pefkaros is willing to apply those beliefs to her reading habits as well -- she spent a year as a member of South End's CSP program and plans to rejoin soon. "I intend to have a CSP again in the future because, first, it makes me feel good and I enjoy their books; and second, I want to keep supporting an organization that plays such a vital role in meaningful social change," Pefkaros says. "I really believe in South End Press and what they're trying to do."

And South End is not alone. PM Press, based in Oakland, California, produces books, pamphlets, videos, and audio materials. Not more than two years old, it shares much of its ideals with South End. "We're a publisher of fine material, with a decidedly leftist, progressive bent," says PM co-founder Ramsey Kanaan, who brings more than 30 years of publishing experience to this new venture. PM calls its CSP initiative Friends of PM, which offers four membership opportunities for people who want to "help impact, amplify, and revitalize the discourse and actions of radical writers, filmmakers, and artists." For $25 a month, Friends of PM get either every published book and pamphlet or every CD and DVD, along with a 50 percent discount on anything else from PM. For $40 a month, members receive all PM releases plus the discount. Friends who contribute $100 a month receive all PM merchandise, free downloads, and the discount. About 60 people are currently members of the young program, though Kanaan admits that "6,000 would be nice."

Kanaan is quick to point out that Friends of PM is a variation on a theme. People used to subscribe to books when titles were serialized and came out in installments. Likewise, listener--sponsored radio has been on the air since 1949. By returning to traditional storytelling models of direct connection, PM Press is both radical and old-fashioned.

"Whether it's sustainable is still an open question," Kanaan said. "Whether any media is sustainable is an open question, which is why media is in crisis. Surviving in this climate is a measure of success."

Lisa Jervis is among those who believe that PM is on the right path. "No one knows what's happening with print publishing in the long term," says Jervis, who published her book, Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating, with PM Press this year. "No one knows what the successful model is, so why not try something? If a measure of success is to get to work on projects that are great and important, then this is a good start."

Both South End and PM host catalogs that cohere around a commitment to radical social change. But for a general publisher -- independent or otherwise -- it remains an open question whether this strategy is workable. If the CSP model depends upon the reader's commitment to the sustainability of the publisher, what happens when the publisher doesn't have nearly so distinct an identity as South End and PM? "I think it's a harder sell for the mainstream press," Tall says. "The idea they push is that they offer a product you want. If it's only a product, that's all you will buy from them."

Kanaan adds that the community-supported model is difficult for traditional publishers due to the inflexibility of corporate culture and to what he calls "the credibility gap." For readers like Soula Pefkaros, this credibility is the key factor. "I trust South End Press. That is, for me, an invaluable piece of my CSP," Pefkaros says. "I felt it was one way I could hold myself accountable to educating myself about things that I feel are important."

To reach readers who don't necessarily want to make such a commitment to a single publisher, the literary world is also seeking sustainability through the Buy Indie movement. Much like the foodie Buy Local campaign, which urges consumers to support local farmers, Buy Indie spotlights the benefits of local booksellers over chain or online stores. The movement emphasizes how community support leads to thriving local economies.

"Spend $100 at a local [bookstore], and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43," touts the Web site of IndieBound, an association founded by independent booksellers in 2008. Though it has expanded its focus to include other community-oriented and independent businesses, IndieBound retains a bookish emphasis. Its Web site features reading-group guides, book wish lists, and profiles of local bookshops. Visitors are invited to explore Indie Bestsellers -- drawn from weekly reports by independent booksellers across America -- and the Indie Next List of recommended titles.

"Indiebound.org is booming with users," says Paige Poe, the IndieBound outreach liaison for the American Booksellers Association. She added that the IndieBound application for iPhones is especially popular, along with the affiliate program, which rewards bloggers and reviewers who link to books on indie bookstores' Web sites.

In that same vein, a collaborative blog titled quite directly "Buy Books for the Holidays" advocates for shopping at independent stores. "What's at stake is the wealth and diversity of book culture," wrote author Joshua Henkin in a blog post about the Buy Indie campaign during the last holiday season. "I would especially encourage you to buy books from independent bookstores, which are in the most serious trouble and which promote books that go beyond the usual bestsellers and where the employees really know about books."

"Independent booksellers are the unsung heroes in what are very difficult times," Henkin adds.

Indeed, the Buy Indie movement seems to be gaining traction. In last year's holiday shopping season, independent stores outperformed their chain counterparts, according to a 2009 survey from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Stores located in cities with robust Shop Local and Buy Indie campaigns performed best of all. "The success of the local food movement, and the success of independent businesses during the last holiday season, makes us fairly confident that the interest in local will spread to and sustain local, independent retailers," Poe says.

Just as the food movement is looking back several decades to a time when we ate more sustainably, the publishing world is finding a renewed interest in chapbooks, small volumes of fiction or poetry, often handcrafted and artfully designed, which are available in limited distribution. The chapbook has a storied history -- it was the chosen medium for literary classics like T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and the first edition of Allen Ginsburg's "Howl." Now a new generation of writers is embracing the uncommon hands-on creativity that it offers. Last April the City University of New York hosted an inaugural three-day festival called A Celebration of the Chapbook. Meanwhile, there are dozens of prizes that acknowledge the high-quality work being published in chapbooks, awarded by organizations as varied as the Black Lawrence Press, the Alabama State Poetry Society, and the Center for Book Arts.

"With the culture of the low budget and the homegrown becoming ever more appealing in our difficult economic times, and established outlets for literature seemingly diminishing, chapbook publishing, with its do-it-yourself spirit, is on the rise," writes Kimiko Hahn in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers magazine.

More than a movement of "independence" from corporate publishers and booksellers, this is a movement of interdependence. You might say that these choices -- whether they take the enthusiast to homemade chapbooks, indie booksellers, or community--supported publishers -- are nourishing a diverse literary ecosystem in which readers recognize their stake in a vibrant culture. After all, we are at a moment of unprecedented corporate-media consolidation; particularly in a recession, there is little room for writers with unconventional or "controversial" ideas in the mainstream press. And yet alternative ideas remain a potent force. As Kanaan points out, "There's a reason there were book burnings. There's a reason books continue to be banned around the U.S. and the world, and why Internet access is restricted in China. Ideas are powerful."

More about becoming a Friend of PM




In Self Defense

Quirky Culture
The Q Note

The goal is non-violence.  But if you have to fight, author Mickey Z. thinks you might as well be prepared. Discover his tactics in Self-Defense for Radicals

A little over two weeks ago, when Obama matter-of-factly announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, many hearts fell - not just because an eight-year war doesn’t show any signs of stopping, but because the President’s decision somehow seemed contradictory to his message of positive change. It’s fitting, then, that Astoria’s own beloved government cynic, author and activist Mickey Z., has a new, stimulating read, Self Defense for Radicals: A-Z Guide for Subversive Struggle, set to debut tomorrow from PM Press.

With the keen eye of a historian, Mickey’s sharp, humorous words expose oft-perceived truths as false. Since 2004, long before it was de rigueur for a writer to pen a blog, he launched the Cool Observerwww.mickeyz.net), analyzing current events and attracting a loyal group of readers dubbed “The Expendables.”  Over the decade he’s also managed to publish 10 insightful tomes, from The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda and No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial.

“I’ve always been an outsider who is capable of looking like an insider. I just never trusted the mainstream flow of things,” he says.

In SDR, his newest work – an amusing, alphabetized, 40-page pamphlet - which is sprinkled with cartoons and words of advice from unlikely heroes such as Patrick Swayze’s Dalton in Roadhouse, Mickey continues to inspire change by combining his lifelong passions for writing and martial arts.  He encourages readers to defend their visions - even if it means resorting to a good, old-fashioned head butt.

“As I learned more and more about our destructive culture, and watched how most humans are seemingly unwilling to put up a fight to create change, SDR became more urgent,” he explains. “We just watched tens of millions of people craving ‘hope’ get hoodwinked into trusting yet another corporate politician.  SDR is my little gesture toward suggesting that the concept of creating change by using the system is a fantasy.”

He may expose you to new ways of thinking, but Mickey Z. is not your everyday fire-breathing radical full of conspiracy theories.  At the end of the day, he’s just a “blue collar guy from Queens.”   Growing up two miles away from his current digs with wife Michele, Mickey describes Astoria as an old-time New York neighborhood that is “walkable, friendly, and diverse. When I get off the train from Manhattan I let out a sigh of relief. I can see the sky, the streets are less crowded, and everywhere I look, I see a familiar face.”

Buy this pamphlet now | Download eBook now | Back to Author Page

 




Cook Food on NWHP

Cook FoodReview: Cook Food by Lisa Jervis
National Women's History Project blog

Cook Food is for you if: you love feminist pop culture, you love food, you want to learn more about sustainable eating, you’re on a budget, you’re vegan-curious, or you just need some cheap, easy, and healthy recipes.

I was so excited to see Cook Food posted on some great vegan food blogs lately. The back story is that the author, Lisa Jervis, is none other than the founding editor of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, a magazine going strong today. The reviews in the front of the book are written by a veritable who’s who of feminism, veganism, and great fiction writers.

Cook Food is divided into multiple sections that, when combined, create a full-spectrum sourcebook. Jervis explains her philosophy, does a Q & A, shares recipes, and offers a great list of resources to use when embarking on healthier, more sustainable, and enjoyable eating. Cook Food initially struck me as less than the best recipe book for experienced cooks, as the dishes are all fairly basic, but upon closer examination, this seasoned vegan found lots of dishes with new twists that I can’t wait to try.

Get Cook Food for yourself, friends, and family. Jervis writes in a conversational tone that eases any apprehension about uppity health-nut propaganda. She explains that she works towards veganism for health reasons, but doesn’t begrudge anyone a favorite non-vegan food in moderation. She allows for the fact that we each have different tastes and access to different resources, but insists that everyone can upgrade to healthier eating in individual ways. Cook Food claims to be a “manualfesto for easy, healthy, local eating,” and after reading it, I’d have to say the author has done an exceptional job making good on the message she set out to send.

Buy book now | Download PDF now




Lisa Jervis's New Cookbook

Cook FoodA Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating
EcoSalon

An obstacle people often face when trying to eat a healthy, green, reasonably priced diet is a lack of cooking skills. Cookbooks don’t always help. Most food authors attempt to teach people how to cook real food (as opposed to opening packages, dumping and stirring) and assume the reader already knows something about cooking.

Other cookbooks are written as if people who don’t already know how to cook must not really want to know how to cook. These cookbooks seem to think that people should just be happy to combine processed foods in innumerable ways to create “quick and easy meals”.

That’s where this new book comes in. Cook Food – which is earning rave reviews – can teach people how to cook simple, tasty, nourishing, whole foods quickly, cheaply, and above all, intelligently. If you know someone who cares about the environment, their body, animals, and taste, yet nobody has ever taught them to cook, give them this book.

Lisa Jervis, who is perhaps best known for being the Founding Editor and Publisher of the magazine Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture, has written a slim, no nonsense book with a can-do attitude. Don’t expect glossy photos. This isn’t aspirational food porn. This is a manualfesto!

Vegan Approach to Sensitive Cooking and Eating

Jervis’s  book is entirely vegan, with very occasional suggestions for adding dairy products if desired, but that’s not really the point, so don’t stop reading just because you don’t happen to bevegan. The book’s main message is that cooking for oneself shouldn’t be challenging, expensive, or time-consuming.

Jervis stresses cooking and eating consciously for your health and the planet. Whether we are meat eaters or not, we all need to eat our vegetables. And most of us could lower our meat consumption for the sake of both our bodies and the planet. Knowing how to prepare tasty veg-centric meals and getting in the habit of eating more of them is a great skill to have.

A Look at Our Food System

By way of introduction as to why the recipes in the book are vegan and almost always seasonal and unprocessed, the author gives a succinct primer on what’s wrong with our food system with many nods to authors like Michael Pollan and Raj Patel.

She touches on complex issues such as why processed soy products aren’t as good for the environment as some people think, and how affordability is relative, and why we shouldn’t worry too much about micronutrients, or (gasp!) salt – all of which serve to get the reader thinking deeply about food.

But Jervis doesn’t want us to think so deeply that we become paralyzed about our food choices, so she ends with a very smart bit of advice: “In the end, we can all only do the best we can, which actually means a lot.”

A Well Stocked Kitchen

Before getting down to cooking, Jervis wants you to have the right supplies. The entire first section of the book talks about what tools, spices and pantry items you absolutely need and which ones you can actually do without. There are different tiers from “must haves” to “nice to haves” to “splurges,” and as a cook, I can say the advice is solid.

Just as solid are her explanations of cooking techniques. Using a friendly, approachable style, Jervis sets out to teach you how to cook. I mean really cook. She defines and describes sautéing, blanching, roasting. She tells why to salt early in the process, how caramelization builds flavor, and how dried herbs behave more like spices and therefore should be added at the beginning, while fresh herbs lose flavor if cooked to long.

The tone is matter-of-fact rather than pedantic, and none of the techniques are dumbed down in the least. Simplified, not stupid. Rather than just imparting recipes, she teaches how to build flavor in a dish, merrily dispensing variation suggestions throughout in order to coax cooks into trusting their own instincts.

Roasting Veggies

My favorite part of the book is the section on roasting vegetables. People are always shocked by how good roasted vegetables done properly with olive oil, salt, and high heat can taste. It’s such a simple thing, yet there is a lot of technique involved that most experienced cooks just do unconsciously, and most cookbooks don’t even attempt to explain.

Jervis’ mini-treatise tells why not to crowd the vegetables (they steam) why you should use a dark pan (they brown better), how to cut (so as to have lots of surfaces to brown) and why to toss them in olive oil with your hands (so the oil penetrates into all the cracks and crevices), and more. Next time someone asks me how I get my roasted vegetables to taste so good, I’m just going to hand them that section of Cook Food.

What You Will Learn From the Book

In the end, the reader gets simple food prepared with solid techniques that can be used for a lifetime of cooking.

Even experienced cooks might learn something from Cook Food. In the recipe for Ginger-Garlic-Sesame Tofu with Spinach, I learned why my tofu doesn’t ever taste all that great when I marinate it and sauté it – because I’ve never pressed it. Turns out that removing all the excess liquid lets the tofu absorb the marinade better and leads to more efficient caramelizing.

I also love the three recipes for Beans n’ Greens (Italian style, Indian style, and Chili style) because such recipes are a great way to eat. Filling,healthy, streamlined, green, efficient. You can feed a lot of people or just yourself all week long with one dish.

My only quibble: I think both the flavor and texture of dried beans from scratch are so superior to canned that it would be a service to readers to tell them that it’s mostly the planning that hangspeople up, not the actually process. You don’t have to do anything to the beans while they are cooking, other than to stir and check them occasionally, and you can use a crockpot, making it even easier. And then you have the beans around to use for quick meals. But then, as the author of a cookbook devoted entirely to dried beans, I would say that!

I’d like people to cook more dried beans so they can experience how good they are, but at the risk of making the perfect the enemy of the good, I’ll agree with Jervis. If the best you can do on any given night is open a can of beans, that’s okay, “because it actually means a lot.”

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Interview with Gabriel Kuhn

Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy – Interview with Gabriel Kuhn
By Nora Räthzel
Darkmatter: In the Ruins of Imperial Culture

 

In November 2009, PM Press released Gabriel Kuhn’s Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy, a study analyzing the most legendary pirate era from ethnographic, sociological and political angles. Gabriel Kuhn is a writer and translator who currently resides in Sweden. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Nora Räthzel, sociologist at the University of Umeå, Sweden, has interviewed him about his upcoming book.

For those not too familiar with pirate history: what is the golden age?

The golden age refers to the heyday of the piracy that emerged in the Caribbean in the late 17th century before spreading to the Indian Ocean and eventually to the west coast of Africa. Basically all of the popular Euro-American pirate images derive from this era, whether we encounter them in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. The Jolly Roger, the most powerful of all pirate symbols, stems from the golden age too. Historians give the era different frames, but we are roughly looking at the period from 1690 to 1725.

Why did piracy become so strong then?

Sea robbery had occurred in the Caribbean for more than a hundred years prior to the golden age. In the 16th century, when the run for the colonies in the Caribbean and in the Americas began, European powers sent sea robbers as a sort of unofficial mercenary force to the region to plunder ships of their colonial rivals. As legend has it, Francis Drake was called “my pirate” by Queen Elizabeth.

In the 17th century, an outlaw hunting community gathered on the island of Hispaniola, today divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The community consisted of marooned or shipwrecked sailors, runaway servants and slaves, adventurers and dropouts. They were called the buccaneers after a meat-smoking practice they adopted from the indigenous Carib Indians. When they took to sea robbery to supplement their income, they began serving a similar role to the likes of Drake, being issued with a “letter of marque” by one colonial power and attacking ships of another. Eventually, some buccaneer expeditions gained military-like dimensions, the successful 1671 attack on Spanish-ruled Panama under Henry Morgan serving as the most famous example.

By the end of the 17th century, colonial policies had changed enough to render the buccaneers’ services increasingly less important. This left many of them without an income. As a consequence, they continued their attacks on merchant ships indiscriminately and turned, in the words of some historians, into “pirates proper”: a community of sea robbers who would no longer serve a particular master but who “waged war on the whole world,” as Captain Charles Johnson’s General History of the Pirates famously puts it. This was the beginning of the golden age.

For three decades the golden age pirates were surprisingly successful. Then they were crushed by combined efforts of the powers that had created them. It’s a scenario very similar to many we see today: governments equip men to fight in their interests – and then criminalize and persecute them when they are no longer useful.

So golden age piracy is directly bound to colonialism?

Most certainly. Without European colonization there wouldn’t have been a golden age of piracy. And not only because Europeans wouldn’t have traveled to the Caribbean or to the Indian Ocean, but also because golden age piracy was a direct result of activities that were financed and encouraged by colonial powers.

The relations between the golden age pirates and the colonial era are complicated, because once pirates started to prey on ships of all nations they began to pose a threat to the economic profitability of the colonies and therefore to the colonial enterprise itself. However, this doesn’t change the fact that they are an inherent part of the colonial legacy. To portray golden age pirates as some kind of anti-colonial force seems misleading. Many of the pirate strongholds of the golden age – in the Caribbean, on Madagascar and along the West African coast – functioned as renegade colonial outposts. True, they were not established under the flag of any European nation state, but they still reinforced the control of Europeans over native populations.

Can you elaborate on this? Some historians have claimed that pirate crews overcame the racial prejudices of their times?

Whenever we talk about what golden age pirate crews did or did not do, we are facing a serious problem, namely a lack of reliable sources. We have no logbooks, diaries, letters – not a single document that would provide an “authentic” image of what life was like on their ships. All we have is what in a court of law would go as “circumstantial” evidence: newspaper articles, court transcripts, governmental records.

This leaves the role that non-Europeans played on golden age pirate ships very unclear. On the one hand, there are indications that some Caribbean Indians and Africans who sailed on pirate ships were full crew members, sometimes very respected ones. On the other hand, there are many indications that Indians and Africans were used as laborers or servants. It is interesting to note that when the British Navy hunted down the most notorious of all golden age pirate captains, Bartholomew Roberts, basically all of his nearly two hundred European crew members were brought to trial, while the seventy-five Africans were sold into slavery. This might just reflect the attitudes of the British officials at the time – but it might also indicate the status these men really had.

I think it is true that pirate crews offered a chance for non-Europeans to live relatively free lives when this was practically impossible anywhere else within European society. It must also be true that the lure of freedom that drew Europeans to piracy drew runaway slaves to piracy too. So I’m not denying that there has been an element of transgressing racial limitations in the pirate experience. However, to portray golden age pirate communities sweepingly as “multiracial” or “post-racial” seems very bold to me.

Can you say something about the relations between the golden age pirates and the slave trade?

Again, it’s not a clear-cut issue. It seems well documented that some of the golden age pirates’ strongholds doubled as slave trading posts, especially in Madagascar and West Africa. According to the records, it also seems likely that slaves were mostly considered cargo like any other when pirates took a slave ship and that they were sold at the next best opportunity.

At the same time, it is unlikely that all golden age pirates were involved in the slave trade. Some Africans sailing as full crew members makes it appear improbable that slaves would have been treated as mere commodities on their ships. Then again, freeing some slaves didn’t end slavery in the US-American South either… We simply don’t know.

Some historians have suggested a strong anti-slavery moment among golden age pirates because they disrupted the slave trade that developed in West Africa. This is a questionable conclusion. It is true that the pirates’ activities disrupted the slave trade and that this was one of the reasons why the authorities became ever more determined to hunt them down. However, we are not talking about an interference based on enlightened moral values here. The pirates interfered with the slave trade in the same way that organized crime interferes with alcohol or tobacco sales: the pirates hurt the official slave trading industry by claiming a share of its profits – not by challenging the trade per se.

It has also been suggested that some golden age pirates attacked slave ships to free all Africans on board. Even if this is true – and the stories don’t seem very convincing to me – such events must have been exceptional.

Golden age pirates have been described as communities transcending national boundaries too. Would you agree?

The concept of the nation is a difficult one to deal with. If we speak of nation states, yes, the golden age pirates defied this concept and all that goes with it: citizenship, borders, administrative rule. The Jolly Roger remains a powerful symbol in this sense alone. Did the golden age pirates lose all sense of national identity, though, as in: all sense of belonging to a particular group of people united by language, geography, heritage, or whatever else can be used to construe a “nation”? Hardly so.

It is true that in certain ways golden age pirates overcame the national boundaries that were still characteristic of the buccaneer communities. In the golden age, Anglo-American, French and Dutch pirates fought together rather than against one another. However, most other nationalities remain conspicuously absent from golden age pirate ships, most notably the Spanish. The main colonial rivalry of the Americas was hence still reflected in the makeup of the pirate crews. In general, the multinational melting pots that golden age pirate crews are sometimes made out to be seem overrated. The overwhelming majority of golden age pirates were Anglo-American. There were significant numbers of French and Dutch pirates, but only a smattering of pirates from other European nations, and some Indians and Africans. Arguably, the population of most colonies at the time was more diverse than golden age pirate crews. True, national identity among the pirates might have been more flexible, horizontal and egalitarian, but prejudices and conflicts certainly remained.

In short, given the absence of a nation state as an authoritarian unifying concept, there was definitely an anti-national streak in golden age piracy and its political significance must not be neglected. Yet, to imagine a utopian paradise where national allegiances of all sorts had evaporated seems to simplify matters.

It appears, though, that this anti-national streak was a very characteristic feature of golden age piracy – also one that would distinguish the golden age from other pirate eras.

It is at least related to what I would call the most distinguishing feature of golden age piracy, namely its nomadism. This aspect is missing in all other great eras of piracy, whether we are talking about piracy off the North African coast in the 16th century, piracy in the South China Sea in the 1800s, or piracy along the Somali coast now. Golden age pirates had no home, no permanent land base, no community they were part of, could retreat to and disappear in. When asked where they came from, they famously replied “From the Sea.” They had safe havens, allies and business partners on land, but these ties were merely pragmatic and very fleeting.

The nomadic aspect of golden age piracy is very unique – and very fascinating, in many ways. It is the reason why all of our popular pirate images relate to this era: the golden age pirate, more so than any other pirate, is the ultimate outlaw, one who has cut of all ties with the conventions of a bourgeois life: home, security, stability. No surprise then that he’s been such a common focus of projection: both by the bourgeois who sees his secret desires fulfilled, and by the radical who finds her dreams of liberation materialized.

The final part of your book discusses the political legacy of golden age pirates and whether they can inform contemporary radicals. Can they?

Well, they obviously do. Look at how present the Jolly Roger is in radical circles: it adorns autonomous spaces, appears on anti-globalization rallies and is a favorite in any radical art show. The question is whether this is mere romanticism or whether there is any substance to back up such adaptation. I think this is an important distinction to make. Nothing against romanticism, but when it becomes a dominant force in politics it can prevent both complex analysis and convincing vision.

I do believe that there is substance behind the radical embrace of golden age pirates. Certain characteristics must appeal to any radical endeavor: 1. an uncompromising defiance of authority; 2. risking one’s life for freedom rather than saving one’s life in chains; 3. setting a remarkable example of direct democracy (the egalitarian organization of pirate crews is not disputed even by the most conservative historians).

However, golden age pirates were no model revolutionaries, no principled socialists, no perpetrators of a class war. I think that we can learn much more from golden age pirates if we take their shortcomings into account rather than making unsupported claims. The most important shortcomings seem to be: 1. a lack of moral perspective beyond an immediate group of peers; 2. a lack of social organization beyond the confines of one’s own ship; 3. a lack of long-term political vision; 4. an economic dependency on one’s enemies. In short, the golden age pirate communities were not sustainable. They had no inherent mechanisms for reproduction, preservation, progression. It is telling that they lasted for but one generation.

Your book covers a lot of ground – we have talked about colonialism, nationality, race, radical politics, and there are chapters on gender, sexuality, disability, Friedrich Nietzsche etc. How do all these parts tie together?

By reflecting upon golden age piracy from many angles, I’m trying to add perspectives that might not have been voiced before. Due to the mentioned lack of first-hand sources, the study of golden age piracy involves endless speculation. Of course certain theories are much more plausible than others, and spouting random nonsense is as meaningless, boring and offensive as claiming a truth that isn’t there. But the inevitability of speculation is part of the pirate mystique and an important factor for our never-ending fascination with the subject.

It is really important to note, though, that this is not a historical book. I am no historian and by no means do I want do compete with the people who have done marvelous work in the field, scholars like Marcus Rediker, David Cordingly and others. My work is entirely indebted to theirs. They’ve unearthed the material that I’m using for my interpretations. Some of my interpretations might differ from theirs, but how are you going to contribute to a debate if you don’t dare to differ?

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Infoshop News Reviews Life Under the Jolly Roger

Review: Life Under the Jolly Roger
By Peter Gelderloos
Infoshop News

 

In Life Under the Jolly Roger (PM Press 2009), Gabriel Kuhn takes on the far flung sources regarding golden age piracy (primarily in the Caribbean at the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th) not in order to establish a definitive truth about them but to dispel myths, clarify what we can know for sure about the pirates and what realistic questions remain, and to elucidate what the pirate legacy might mean for people today who also see themselves as excluded by or at war with the developing global order.

With a mastery of social theory and a comfortable deployment of the great body of research he has mined, Kuhn examines the pirates ethnographically and sociologically and subjects them to the theories of Clastres, Foucault, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, and sundry others. None of this is to say that the book is dense or obscure. Quite the contrary. Kuhn certainly writes for the agile reader, but rather than dropping names and assuming one can automatically place the reference within a well developed theoretical framework, Kuhn quotes at length to show how golden age piracy fits into these influential social theories and thus fills in a missing piece in our understanding of the world. In this way, Kuhn's sincerely curious, detailed, and multifaceted investigation of piracy helps us reconfigure our historical understanding of such broad themes as the development of capitalism, colonialism, race, discipline and the human body, physical disability, rebellion and political violence, guerrilla warfare, and more. The book has the potential of becoming something of a milestone achievement in this regard, similar to Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch, though Kuhn's subject matter is decidedly more limited.

Sometimes the limitations he sets leaves me feeling like part of the picture is missing, and leaves important questions unanswered, such as: what was the connection between the golden age Caribbean pirates and the earlier Muslim and renegade pirates of North Africa, studied by Peter Lamborn Wilson? But in general Kuhn is just being specific and disciplined, setting himself a subject matter distinct enough that it can be properly analyzed, rather than going after all pirates, anywhere, at any time. And he also maps out at length the direct predecessors of the golden age pirates, the buccaneers, so the sense of history is not left lacking.

I found particularly fascinating the analysis of the transatlantic ship as a space for the creation of new social relationships that laid the ground for factory production; Kuhn makes clear how historically significant a few thousand pirates were in negating and temporarily opposing the development of capitalism, given the antiauthoritarian and undisciplined counter-model of the pirate ships.

The book is definitely written in an academic style, and it seems Kuhn is attempting to intervene and leave his mark in the professional discourse on piracy as much as he is trying to talk to fellow anarchists about pirates. I have long been curious about the attraction the academy exerts on some anarchists, and I think there is as much to gain as there is to lose from this liaison. On the positive side, a more disciplined style of research us shed the incorrect and self-serving histories that have found their way into anarchist folklore, so that, for example, we don't go around like idiots talking about a pirate utopia, Libertalia, that probably never existed and in any case is exemplary of liberal democracy rather than anarchy. (I've fallen for that same lie, sadly in a text that is now going to print. If only I had read Kuhn's book first!)

But the detraction of academic discourse is its conservatism. Perhaps the most powerful criticism within that milieu is the charge of romanticism, and anywhere one looks one sees academics falling over themselves to run in the opposite direction. And while I daresay Kuhn does not fall or stumble in the course of this book, I do notice a certain conservatism that is surprising coming from a fellow anarchist. For example, there's the occasional usage of words like “cutthroat” as though it has any meaning, terms loaded with a bourgeois weight, like “crooked merchants” to describe traders who took plundered goods from pirates. Kuhn seems to privilege conservative myth-busting to radical romanticism. I appreciate his honesty in exposing the racism of the pirates and their participation in the slave trade; however in his presentation he heavily privileges this information at the expense of information on the connection between piracy and slave rebellions, which was in fact so strong a connection that it motivated the legislation of race and segregation in the new colonies. Kuhn mentions this latter information, but in passing, making it seem that he is more interested in busting the myth of racially liberated and liberating pirates than in exploring the complexity that this contradiction between pirate slavetrading and pirate support for slave rebellions suggests.

After all, a goal of anarchists is to inspire people. To do this, we don't need to tell lies, but we do need to accomplish a certain unbalanced telling of facts and stories, and by unbalanced I do not mean skewed but in motion, infused with a crazy hope that this system is sinking and we can help send it to Davy Jone's locker, as it were. Gabriel Kuhn does not at all hide his politics, but he also engages in a preexisting discourse that doesn't rock the boat too much. He does us a service of disabusing us of certain tall tales, but it seems that whenever he offers information about the pirates that might be inspiring, he does so in a very balanced, grounded way that is more useful to academics than to anarchists.

But even as he discrediting pirate myths that anarchists have long cherished, he offers us something even more helpful: the observation that, in fact, fairy tales do not become any less important than real histories, because of what they represent for an insurgent imagination. As Kuhn suggests, the romanticization of pirates as antiauthoritarian rebels seems to be part of the pirate phenomenon from the beginning, and that imaginary myth may have played the important role of keeping radical dreams alive throughout a century when these dreams could find no solid expression in the reactionary socio-political order that reigned from the mid-seventeenth to mid-eighteenth centuries, between the era of the Ranters and Levellers to the era of democratic revolutions.

In the end, Kuhn does a masterful job of convincingly detailing life under the jolly roger, but he does far more than that, by calling on this phenomenon to deepen our understanding of contemporaneous processes in history at a point when capitalism was first starting to develop, and by hinting at the importance of imagination in the course of history. Thus all the romanticism surrounding pirates is not meaningless: people thirst for rebellion and unfettered freedom, and if they cannot live it themselves, they will create in an imaginary world or see it in the frontier region of this one, until such time as they can seize it for themselves.

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