Grow Food Or Lawns: Whatever Works For You

Have you guys seen (usually through social media, such as Facebook or Tumblr) the “Grow Food Not Lawns” campaigners? Basically, they believe that people should not obsess over perfectly manicured lawns and grow edible fruits, vegetables, and herbs on their own property. The potential benefits in terms of less fuel consumed when food is shipped are obvious—if enough people were to do this to make a difference. Those whoa re fans of organic food might enjoy the peace of mind that comes with growing the food yourself.

There’s an easy argument against this—that not everyone, even in the suburbs, lives in a neighborhood (or town or city) that allows what the Grow Food Not Lawns proponents are encouraging. From what I understand, in some places, doing something like this could get part of your lawn bulldozed—and you billed for it.

There is another, more important argument.

I’m not a “grass person” (I love trees and ivy, personally) and many types of gardens look absolutely lovely, but there’s just no way that I’m ever going to do that. How about if I fulfill one of my specialized skills and, as a person who hates the feeling of dirt or grime and who gets genuinely uncomfortably warm at 70F, leave the gardening to people who have both the desire and inclination. Growing flowers and managing a garden is work. Growing crops that you intend to eat, even if you do not intend to rely upon them as your primary source of sustenance, is a lot of work.

Also, not everyone eats the kind of food that you can grow in your lawn. There are some teas and flavorful herbs and some wonderful fruits and berries that could grow in my yard, but let’s be honest: I can’t grow enchiladas or macaroni and cheese. I cannot grow sesame chicken or pizza.

I understand the environmental ideas behind this movement—I really do. But I’m not just objecting to people telling me what to do with my lawn like someone objecting at being told to shave (or not shave, as the case may be). It’s not just that people are being pushy—it’s that the idea does not work. Not for everyone.

We like the idea of a Jack-Of-All-Trades in fiction—someone who can kick ass, perform battlefield surgery, solve a complex riddle, survive in the wilderness for three months, and hack into any computer on the planet. But as anyone who has played a hybrid class in a video game might tell you, being a little good at a lot of things does not work. If you can act and write and paint and sing and you also have other talents, great. But chances are that if you’re working on your new album and filming a movie, you aren’t going to be able to devote that time that you wanted to spend on solving the Riemann Hypothesis, designing that new video game you thought of in the shower, and also growing your own food. And that’s if you don’t have children.

We each have our own particular aptitudes, sets of knowledge, capabilities, and interests. If you want to grow your own food, that’s great. If I want to do what I can do with my abilities, receive currency—my effort and merit measured out—and then exchange that currency to someone else (like a grocery store) for that store’s product (thus rewarding them for doing their work as I am rewarded for doing mine), then that’s wonderful. That’s the world in which we live.

The solution to unhealthy food is to fix the food and/or to fix our bodies so that we are not punished for enjoying the foods that we love. The solution to the environmental impact of transporting foods across distances is to use clean, renewable energy. We won’t exhaust sunlight transporting out-of-season strawberries halfway across the continent so that I can eat them when I want to.

If you want to make time to grow your own food or solve unsolved mathematical equations, good for you. But don’t criticize someone for using his or her property for a different purpose.

PS: I’m an environmentalist. I really am. I am just not a farmer. I like plants but we just thrive in totally different environments. They thrive in sunny, warm, humid environments where there are also things like insects and dirt and I do not care for any of those things in the least.



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Gay Superheroes Are Shocking! . . . To Awful People

A lot of people who are not comics fans may not be familiar with the Young Avengers, a superhero team within a Marvel Comics title of the same name. Most people are at least familiar, in passing, with The Avengers themselves—the 2012 Avengers film was a tremendous box-office success, and ABC is going to have a prequel series: Agents of Shield (that looks exciting, too, by the way).

If you are not familiar, the Avengers are a fairly diverse (as in, coming from different backgrounds—they’re still a fairly white-and-hetero-and-male group) group of superheroes. It includes mutants, super-soldiers, monsters, super-suited billionaires, super-scientists, mercenaries, and gods. Membership changes over time, but some of the Avengers are more iconic than others.

The Young Avengers first came out in 2006 (and won the 2006 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book and the 2006 Harvey Award for Best New Series, by the way). The Young Avengers are a group of teenage superheroes brought together (it’s a long story) who model themselves more or less after iconic Avengers. Initial membership includes Hulkling (not actually related in any way to The Hulk; he is a shape-shifter), Patriot (a young black man who is a descendent of the black Captain America), Wiccan (initially called Asgardian, with the mutant ability to warp reality, though he styles himself after Thor), and Hawkeye (not the male, original Hawkeye, but the female Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, who is a strong kickass lady who is great in close-quarters combat or with a bow and arrow). There are some others but that’s a long story. More recently, Young Avengers Vol 2 has been released (just this year, 2013), and I am enjoying it even more—particularly because Miss America (America Chavez, who can fly and is super-strong) is a kick-ass Strong Female Character who likes to punch people.

 

America Chavez is clearly a master of strategy and battlefield creativity.

The point, though, is that Wiccan (Billy Kaplan) and Hulkling (Teddy Altman) are a gay couple. There are a number of superhero teams that have a gay member, but the Young Avengers have two gay characters, who are dating from the beginning of the story. They did take a while for an “on-screen kiss” (okay, it’s not a screen, but whatever), but they’ve kissed in the comics and were a couple for a long time before that. They both have some very interesting lineage and they’re a really precious couple.

I love Billy’s lineage (I won’t spoil it but it’s wonderful), and while Billy has a traditional “girl power” (that is, a ranged psionic ability rather than a physical one—not that anyone would complain, because it’s a powerful ability), Teddy has, quite progressively, a power that are typical of Leading Male Protagonists (super-strength and regeneration). And while Billy has a bit of an “alternative” look at times, Teddy looks like an Abercrombie Adonis (when he is in his civilian form). Just for that, Teddy is a very progressive, stereotype-defying character.

Earlier this year, Marvel’s Facebook page was asking its fans about their opinions of various couples (whether a couple was stable and would last). They posted a picture of Billy and Teddy (here), and in addition to honest opinions on their relationship’s future and posts of support for Marvel putting a same-sex couple front-and-center, there were the seemingly unavoidable anti-gay rants.

Some commenters were unhappy about “gay characters in comics” (Marvel has had openly gay characters for a couple of decades, now) and “pushing an agenda” (what people say any time that anyone is gay, ever). It’s ridiculous.

So-called comics fans completely oblivious to the existence of LGBT characters in comics offends me as a nerd (especially since I’ll be that these are a lot of the same awful guys who use the term “fake geek girl” with sincerity). I mean, these characters aren’t even obscure anymore, and they’re not the first gay superheroes, either. And the anti-gay tirades just offended me as a person. Because it’s ridiculous.

Now that I’ve shared this horror story from the dark, anti-gay side of nerd fandom, let me improve your day with:

This set of pictures from right after Kate Bishop’s one-night stand with Noh-Varr (spoiler alert: Kate can’t remember the guy’s name while the guy is the one who dances around in his underwear).

And this, in which Kid Loki uses a Game of Thrones analogy to try to persuade Wiccan, Hulkling, and Miss America to trust him.



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The Twitter Lifeline During Hurricane Sandy and the Impact of Social Media on Current Events

photo of twitter hurricane sandy pictures
When super-storm Sandy was making her way to NYC, I was sitting in my little cube at my job in California. I have a little TV in my cube and so do my coworkers, and all of the TVs were on and tuned in to the news but the sound was off and backs were turned, the faces were reading Twitter.

Every desk I walked by was pouring over a Twitter feed of some kind. That’s how I got my news, too. I read Ice-T and Coco, who were breaking down the storm from New Jersey, and Julie Klausner who was in the thick of Manhattan. Even today I’m following their updates about the storm. Julie was evacuated to a friend’s apartment with her cat, and Ice-T and Coco still have no power.

I was watching my feed as my friends in New York tweeted that they were okay, where they were, and what was happening. Later during the hurricane, I fell in love with Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

The night of the storm I lay in bed and saw a RT from Bette Middler of Cory Booker. I clicked on his feed, I had no idea who he was at the time, but I saw this man responding to tweets every few seconds. ‘DM me your address I’ll come there’, when someone would say the emergency number wasn’t working he would reply with one that was. When someone said power was out he responded with “I’ll report it, I’m in the area do you need anything?” he was out all night. Three days later he’s still updating people on Twitter letting them know he’s there.

When word got out that the NYC Marathon was going to go on, I watched my feed explode with anger. People going on and on about how awful it was to not cancel it and a few hours ago I watched as they rejoiced that Bloomberg announced that due to an outcry on social media, the race had been canceled. I saw pictures of people sharing power with signs that said “We have power, please use it to charge your phones or go online”. Getting online was a connection, it let us know you were there and what you needed.

I saw the storms devastation on Instagram and Twitpics, I saw the share link for the Google doc that was listing displace persons, and I read the hashtag #NOLATONYC where survivors of Katrina reached out and comforted people over 1,300 miles away.

Like it or not our lives play out over social media. Or lives intersect over social media. It is an age of rapid fire information. And is that always such a bad thing?



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Put Down the Electronics, Revitalize Your Love Life?

photo of nook pictures photos pics
For Christmas this year, my mother got me a Nook.  She vacillated between the easy reader and one of the more advanced models, eventually going for the simpler (and cheaper, although she kindly made up the financial difference in a Barnes and Noble gift card) route.

Why?

Well, because I have an iPhone that’s pretty much my life.  I mean, that baby has a camera, camcorder, calculator, and so on, never mind the internet options.  I read the news on my iPhone.  I get e-mail and texts on my iPhone.  I keep in touch with friends, loved ones, and total strangers via Facebook and Twitter on my iPhone.  I got notified about my tax return on my iPhone.

Well, you get the idea.

And so did my mom since she decided that, between the iPhone and my laptop, there was  no earthly need to give me yet another internet-enabled device when the Simple Touch would certainly meet my needs as a book equivalent (well, almost-equivalent).

Yup, I’m definitely a card-carrying member of the “Technology Age”, and the things that have been lost along the way only bother me when I think about them.

Like now, as I’m contemplating Chicago Portfolio student Jake Reilly’s self-titled “Amish Project”, the gist of which involved dropping from the world of social networking—in other words, going without “Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, texting, and more for 90 days”.

This is a fascinating story to me, actually, namely because I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t pull it off.  (I’m one of those annoying people that inform my Facebook followers know when I wake up in the morning  and Tweet about the weather)

What I found relevant to you lovely ZL readers, though, is this: apparently, Reilly’s love life took a turn for the better that clearly coincided with his life change as he recaptured the heart of his long-term girlfriend by stamping a Christmas message into the snow outside her window.

From Yahoo News Brad Sylvester’s recent interview with Reilly:

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