Monthly Archives: November 2011

Black Friday vs. Holiday Spirit

Black Friday is officially out of hand; the retail revelry of day-after-Thanksgiving sales is now bleeding into Thanksgiving itself.

This goes far beyond the early Christmas Creep that Rod Dreher pointed out.

For the last several years of Black Friday bonanzas, tent encampments tended to pop up in the evening,  but only after Turkey left-overs had been shoved in the fridge. I recall my days as a sales associate at Circuit City back in 2006 — we didn’t open doors until Friday, 5 a.m on the mark, though the lines would start building around midnight. Not this year. An excerpt from the L.A. Times article linked above:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, will for the first time launch its holiday sale kickoff at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, joining Toys R Us Inc., Kmart and other chains that have already thrown their doors open while holiday turkeys are still warm.

Other big retailers — including Target Corp.Best Buy Co.,Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. — have decided for the first time to open at midnight.

With tents often springing up at Midnight before Black Friday openings, what will happen now? It’s dreadful to imagine some will skirt celebrating Thanksgiving traditions and their closest relationships in quest of new material possessions — but I’m certain it will happen. While Christmas Creep annoys a lot of us, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be going away anytime soon.

Growing up in a mostly-functional Southern family, I still had a healthy exposure to holiday tradition. On Thanksgiving, we’d pray together, before stuffing ourselves with carb-laden comfort foods; after our homemade feasts, we would head into the field behind our house for family baseball games. Each Christmas, I’d visit both sets of grandparents — along with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We’d have a silly string fights in my Grandmother’s backyard, after exchanging presents with family members. Granted, for a 10-year-old boy, Christmas morning was toy time (the old people always got me clothes — kids never like that). I was more concerned with button-mashing away at The Legend of Zelda, than talking about the birth of Christ. But I still went to Christmas Eve services, and at Thanksgiving, my parents made an effort to convey the meaning behind the holiday.

Are the parents of my own generation going to do the same? Or are they more likely to spend Thanksgiving Day in the confines of a tent, ranting to their impressionable, young children about Playstation 3’s superiority over X-Box 360? I cannot imagine that the cultural impact of excess Christimas-time consumerism will be a positive one. To echo Rod Dreher’s post earlier today, the decline of family meals is disturbing. Even for the non-religious in my circle of acquaintances, atheist and agnostic alike, Thanksgiving has been a day of friendship and family — things the American tradition cherishes.

At least some of the store employees are speaking up:

As family time gives way to commerce, annoyed employees and supporters have taken to Facebook, Twitter and online petitions to vent. Employees at both Best Buy and Target have created online petitions at Change.org urging their companies to open later so workers can “break bread with loved ones.”

Inevitably, some silly news outlet will insinuate a Christmas-gift spending binge as a positive sign for the economy, even as main street still struggles. Phil Giraldi suggested that buying gifts from local establishments, and supporting American-made products, this might be a good way to keep money within local economies.

Perhaps the best way to honor the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving, is to intentionally start boycotting this retail madness. I think I will be skipping out on Occupy Best Buy this year, even if I do still plan to play the newLegend of Zelda on Christmas morning.

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Millennial Survival Guide: Omnoms

One of the most difficult things about being a run-of-the-mill, financially-strapped Millennial? Eating even half-decently.

We aren’t enjoying well-marbled grass-fed steaks, fresh-caught salmon, or locally-grown vegetables from Whole Foods (well, maybe you are if you’re a cop.).  Given the economic desperate straits most Millennials themselves in, keeping one’s body in prime-working condition is a pretty important– no one can afford the medical bill baggage that comes included with shitty health. After all, lots of us are uninsured, and oh look rates are going up — hope and change?

There almost seems to be a mutually exclusive dichotomy between nourishing one’s body properly but being broke, or saving a few bucks and loading up on sodium-coated, sugar-laden garbage. Either, you can have some extra spending money, but end up shaped like The Penguin, or you’ll spend every damn cent you have to resemble something humanoid.  (By the way, if you’re going The Penguin route, my ‘Poor Man’s Pad Thai’ is pretty good: Peanut butter, ramen, and egg — honey if you have it).

Before we delve deeper into this, I want to assert my firm belief that the modern American dietary guidelines are insulin-spike-fueling bullshit.  Thanks government overlords!

Go to school in the 90s? Remember this piece of crap on the cafeteria wall?

6-11 servings? 300 carbohydrates in a day? Obesity rates, diabetes, and cancer,  are all on the rise, and yet, walk into the grocery store and all you see are waddling penguin-people who are pouring over labels of ‘low fat’ foods.  Skittles are low fat! Sour Patch kids are a low fat food. Coca-Cola is a low fat food. Pasta and bread? Anyone else see a problem here? I think Mark Sisson is onto something with the Primal Blueprint. Rather, I know he is, seeing that I was was the fat kid in school growing up. Thanks grains. Nearly 300 lbs. and nary one kiss from a girl until giving a low-carbohydrate approach a shot (I did Atkins, which does melt off weight, but I found to be unsustainable due to its unnatural limitation on fruits and vegetables).

Now I’m not recommending you inanely avoid all carbs, your body needs them– but limit it to about 150 a day at most, mostly from fruit and vegetables. Ditch the grains. Conventional wisdom literally advocates we all become sugar burners,  while diabetes rates are soaring. Running on a cheap, quick fuel like sugar is simply not the way our bodies adapted in the wild before we became agrarian.  Your body had everything it needed in the wild. Try this out, and I promise you will feel better for it. A day free of the sugar-spike—>crash is amazing.

Off the bat, the idea that living off of cheap grains is bad for you is going to seemingly drive your grocery bill up, but if your resourceful and clever, there are ways to curb the costs.

There’s obviously a few life hacks here to get around it — beside dumpter diving with the Freegans. But hey, not judging you if you’re into the freegan thing, sometimes the food is well packaged; I did it in college and ate free Little Caesar’s pizza for nearly a year (Yeah I know pizza is not exactly grain free, but it was college and I wanted money for bars).

I can think of a few easy ones off the bat:

Freegan 2.0.
Find conferences and free food in your general proximity WITHOUT ever having to set foot in a Domino’s Pizza dumpster. Obviously, this works better if you’re still on a college campus, or somewhere equally communal, but there are freeloader opportunities all over the place if you know where to look. Conferences, seminars, open-houses. If you really want to be cheap, go for it. Luckily, with social media in our pockets nowadays — checking around Facebook, Meetup, and other community sites can keep you abreast of where to freeload. Hey, it’s there to be taken, so why feel bad about it?

Skip meals, graze. Seriously. The world will not implode if you start cutting back on your intake. I tend to find people of the 20-30 crowd are of two minds. They either don’t eat a damn thing already… and end up looking like emaciated hipsters, or they eat far more than they should (mostly grain-based foods) and balloon up. When I reduced  my intake, my stomach shrank, along with my appetite. Conventional Wisdom says skipping meals is bad, that your metabolism will slow to a crawl if you don’t eat something small every 2-3 hours. Conventional wisdom also used to think ‘bloodletting‘ could cure disease. I eat when I’m hungry, usually protein-heavy, fatty meals, and I avoid snacking out of social compulsion, or boredom. Simple. I don’t eat when I’m not hungry. I’ve been moving downward on the scale, and toning up, by simply listening to my body– eating when hungry, skipping meals when not. I’m usually only eating 2 meals a day now with some when-hungry snacking (apples, nuts) — and I’m doing just fine — and I’m having to buy less on my grocery runs because of it.

Cut back on the restaurants, learn to cook.
When you are working with your own goods, you tend to be more conscious of how much you’re preparing, and what’s going in it. I find that I end up feeling fuller, on less, when I cook for myself. Perhaps it’s just getting into that contentious mindset while preparing the food? Eating out though, is an Achilles Heel for the under-30 crowd. A good portion of Millennials grew up in one-parent homes with parents far too busy to cook — for some, cooking is an antiquated practice. Eating out has become a way of life for many Americans. In my own social circles, sometimes we eat out just to get our minds off of the fact that everything seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket (even though we’re all broke and shouldn’t be spending a dime). The problem with that is of course two-fold:

1. Eating out is expensive and further breaks our thin wallets.

2. Most people don’t think about what they’re putting into their body when they’re eating out. — That usually means they get a big ass plate of carbohydrates (pasta, pizza, fries) and a sugar-filled soda. Those things are already bad, but coupled with the fact that much of it is still probably made with High Fructose Corn Syrup, it’s doubly bad.

When you absolutely -have- to go to a restaurant, order a water, and snack on an appetizer. If you’re curbing the volume of food you’re bringing in, you probably won’t feel the need to eat too much more in one sitting than an appetizer anyway. Or, skip the food and be social with a glass of wine.

Costco-hoarding. Buy your meat here. I haven’t found a cheaper alternative yet– but it works. And a lot of Costco’s stuff is actually organic in the literal sense, it’s simply not ‘certified’ as such– as this costs producers significant amounts of operating capital. If you have a big-ass fridge, make a trip, just one trip a month and set a firm limit on what you intend to spend on meat.  Get a healthy amount of protein and fat. Ditch the snacks that aren’t veggies. They’re all grain, and again, I think grain is bullshit. Fill up on the free samples while you’re there too, it can cover your lunch for the day.

No fast food. I don’t even think I need to go too deep into this one. No one’s going to seriously believe fast food is healthy– but before you ask, this absolutely includes Subway, with it’s mystery meat ‘chicken’ (look at it sometime, it’s a sponge, not a meat). Honestly, that should be okay. The last thing my struggling generation needs to do is keep poisoning their bodies with Monsanto’s Frankenstein-food.

Eat more eggs. Eggs are a superfood. They’re still dirt-cheap compared to most protein sources out there, and they do a good job keeping a nice, full feeling. Are they going to raise your cholesterol? They might, but consider that many people used to live off lard and eggs every day, and they sure weren’t rolling down the street in a beach ball shaped body, the way the toaster-pastry penguins are. The jury is out, one day you hear eggs are horrible, the next they’re great. I say gamble it.

Grow your own food. Take a note from the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s wife on this one. If your local municipality isn’t yet parading some bullshit law restricting you from generating your own food– go for it.  I don’t do this yet– but I keep intending to.

Drink more water. This one is easy. It keeps you full, alert, and hydrated.

Flask it. Going out to the bar? Order club soda all night and save yourself an unnecessary dent in your wallet. Illegal? Probably, but I don’t have respect for most laws, it’s the beauty of being a libertarian.

 

 

What are some ways you get free munchies and keep the penguin physique away?


TSA Tries to Sneak Past Scrutiny

When folks want to hold government accountable for their activities, it appears that sometimes the best route of action is to simply take Uncle Sam’s word for it — or just have one bureaucracy vouch for the other. At least, that’s what’s happening amid questions surrounding the health-risks of using Backscatter X-ray machines. ProPublica reports:

Earlier this month, a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation found that the TSA had glossed over research that the X-ray scanners could lead to a small number of cancer cases. The scanners emit low levels of ionizing radiation, which has been shown to damage DNA. In addition, several safety reviewers who initially advised the government on the scanners said they had concerns about the machines being used, as they are today, on millions of airline passengers.

At a Senate hearing after the story ran, TSA Administrator John Pistole agreed to a request by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to conduct a new independent study of the health effects of the X-ray scanners, also known as backscatters.

But at a Senate hearing of a different committee last week, Pistole said he had since received a draft report on the machines by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, or IG, that might render the independent study unnecessary.

“My strong belief is those types of machines are still completely safe,” Pistole said. “If the determination is that this IG study is not sufficient, then I will look at still yet another additional study.”

Ever been to a gathering where an acquaintance brings along a less-than-savory character everyone just can’t help but feel uneasy around? Something ends up destroyed, or they eat all the damn food. It’s an easy analogy to make in this scenario. The DHS is the sketchy acquaintance, and the TSA is his shady cousin Louie.

DHS: ‘Hey no worries, these TSA guys are with me. It’s cool man, trust me.’

Even as the TSA evades independent scrutiny in the U.S., the European Union adopted new airport screening policies that ban the use of Backscatter machines. What for? Safety and health concerns!

In order not to risk jeopardising citizens’ health and safety, only security scanners which do not use X-ray technology are added to the list of authorised methods for passenger screening at EU airports.


Will SHTF for OWS tomorrow?

The police have been shutting down Occupy Movement encampments all over the country in the last several days; the NYPD raided the central encampment in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in the early-morning hours of Tuesday. Now the protesters who were evicted are back, though tent-less— and according to one OWS website, they’re vowing vow massive action tomorrow.

The demonstration calls for action to kick off at 7 a.m.:

“Enough of this economy that exploits and divides us. It’s time we put an end to Wall Street’s reign of terror and begin building an economy that works for all. We will gather in Liberty Square at 7:00 a.m., before the ring of the Trading Floor Bell, to prepare to confront Wall Street with the stories of people on the frontlines of economic injustice. There, before the Stock Exchange, we will exchange stories rather than stocks.”

By 3 p.m. there are plans to ‘Occupy the Subways’ and take the protests into Bronx, Brooklyn, Queen, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

Protesters then plan to gather at Foley Square at 5 p.m., before a march to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The website and promotional posters call for peaceful demonstration, although it’s going to be difficult for the day to play out peacefully, if it ends up at all like the escalated demonstrations that took place in DC during the Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the Dream Summit.

In that incident traffic was impeded, and at least two protesters were involved in pedestrian traffic accidents. Daily Caller reporters were harassed on camera, children were reportedly accosted by protesters, and an elderly woman was injured in the midst of a human blockade around the Washington D.C. Convention center.

Tensions between the protesters and police have already proven high, and hundreds of arrests were made on Tuesday morning alone. With OWS actions moving more fluidly around New York City, tensions may still rise higher. It only takes the actions of a few bad apples to send things down a slippery slope. Whether it’s a transgression from protesters, or police — this to get out of hand very quickly, and unfortunately, the bad apples are already making themselves known.

Following the Zuccotti eviction on Monday, video was captured of one protester vowing to make November 17 a day of violent action:

“In a few days you’re going to see what a Molotov cocktail can do to Macy’s.”

Here’s the video, but be warned, the language is graphic:

Hopefully, fools like that guy will sleep in.


Millennial Survival Guide: How are you getting by?

The proverbial excrement is already smeared across each blade of the ceiling fan for most people under 30. If these numbers have any legitimacy — 55.3 percent of folks 16 to 29 have jobs right now. Yeah, yeah, they’re derived from government research, but let’s assume that they’re actually at least kinda accurate. For those of us who spent (probably wasted) our time going to college , 85% of Millenials are moving back home after graduating. Some of us are ’employed’ to the extent that we have jobs,  but that doesn’t mean we are bringing in enough to pay the bills.

Our standard of living is significantly lower than that of the generations that came before us. A few days of hard work may have paid Dick Cheney’s apartment rent, back when he was a kid with some hair— but this is 2011. A month’s worth of labor these days will cover some rent and a few groceries for most. It’s not building anyone a nest egg.  And, if you’re like me, you still have to call family for bailouts…

I might soon execute the Boomerang strategy myself to shave $800-900  a month off of my living expenses (unfortunately, I could not find Mr. Cheney’s $45 dollar rent rate, go figure). I am seeing little in the way of decently-paying  jobs in the Beltway right now (I guess we can’t all take government contracts for the Pentagon), and it seems a redundancy to take labor jobs to pay rent and utilities when I can live under my parents roof for free, right? Basement-dweller stigma be damned, it’s smarter than doing the debt dance and getting obese on a sodium-laden ramen diet.

Essentially, our lives are being put in a kind of purgatory that no one anticipated. We were told if we worked hard, we’d attain the American Dream. We aren’t seeing that.  It is bound to take an emotional, and psychological toll on most. Moreover, the whole ‘get a job and quit whining’ bit that some Baby Boomers and Gen Xers spew out isn’t quite right either. This little piece , written in 2006 by Daniel Gross (born in 1967 — NOT a Millennial), clearly didn’t see the hurricane of the 2008 crash that was fast-approaching, did it?

The Baby Boomers inherited a land of prosperity from the greatest generation, and squandered it
.

The grievances of young people are legit. This isn’t just another recession. The economists might not be saying it on the airwaves, but for many people it’s very much a depression, and the Federal Reserve is hiding it with a ballroom masquerade of money printing.

I’m working on a piece over at The American Conservative that will attempt to asses the political ramifications of  the Millennial crisis in the context of the larger global shitstorm the entire world is now swept up in (it should run in January). But this crisis goes much, much deeper than politics.

The crisis runs far deeper than just finances or ballot boxes. I go so far as to say it is a crisis of culture and morality by no stretch of the imagination. It’s multifaceted, inflicting troubles emotional, spiritual, psychological, and even sexual. It’s a big-ass can of worms. I can’t cover the scope of it in one or even 10 blog entries. It’s not a simple quarter-life crisis, though it certainly intersects and compounds with Millennial woes.

We face nothing short of being America’s next ‘Lost Generation‘.

Pardon the horribly trite cliche, but “we are all on this together.”

Some of us will make it, many will not.

So given that —  how are you surviving?

What lengths have you gone to in order to get by?
What lengths are you willing to go to still?

I want to hear your stories — more importantly, what’s your plan to get ahead?


Rick Perry’s Explosive Debate Performance

Don’t call it a comeback! — because it’s certainly not a comeback. If there was any hope amongst Perry supporters that their Texan might two-step his way back to a front-runner label in pundit-ville, it died a slow, painful death last night at the CNBC debate. That is to say, in political TV Land, 53 seconds of awkward stuttering sure seems like a long time.

After Perry launches confidently into a proposal to start cutting government agencies… he forgets which agencies he wants to cut.

Where Perry seemed to get stumped, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney tried to offer assists. Why stop at cutting three government agencies? Paul suggests Perry get ambitious and try for five. IRS maybe? Still stumped at number three though, Romney recommends cutting the EPA.  Have you ever seen a horrific traffic accident on the interstate? You just can’t bring yourself to look away.

Oops is right.


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