Vida

Vida coverVida
Marge Piercy
PM Press, 433 pages
Kindle edition $9.99
purchased on sale for $3.51

It had been many decades since I had read a Marge Piercy novel, and I thought I was due. Piercy is not a literary novelist by any means, but she has her niche and her following. While she has written historical fiction and speculative fiction she is best known and most appreciated by her followers for her contemporary fiction about feminism and political activism in the sixties and seventies.

Vida, originally published in 1980, is classic Piercy. The title character is an activist from the sixties who has had to go underground due to her bombing attacks on military-related targets. The novel moves back and forth between her activist years in the sixties and her fugitive years in the seventies. While the book describes her actions as a leader of an anti-war organization and chronicles her constant travels, requests for money, and pleas for shelter, the novel deftly portrays her many relationships. And she does have many: her ex-husband, her current lover, the many members of the Movement (always with a capital M), and especially her sister. The relationships resonate as real and believable and the plot is an effective page-turner.

In the end Piercy leaves one hanging. Loose ends are not tied up and much is left unresolved. But the journey to get there makes for engaging and entertaining reading.


Hippie Food

Hippie Food coverHippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat
Jonathan Kauffman
Narrated by George Newbern
HarperAudio, January 23, 2018
$20.27 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I started college in 1971 and was surrounded by people who were into natural foods and vegetarian eating. At Pitzer College it was written into the food service contract that each dinner meal had to have one vegetarian entrée. My senior year, when I lived off campus, I had a copy of the first edition of Diet for a Small Planet, and I was very much in tune with Frances Moore Lappé’s philosophy that we should get our protein from plants rather than animals.

Hippie Food, then, addressed a subject in which I was very interested. Kauffman really covers the waterfront on the topic. He writes about the early Seventh Day Adventists in the nineteenth century who believed in a vegetarian diet. He discusses the natural food and vegetarian restaurants in Los Angeles in the 1940’s that attracted the elite in Hollywood. He talks about Stephen Gaskin and The Farm commune. Kauffman accurately describes how vegetarian cookbooks evolved, from Lappé’ to Mollie Katzen and her Moosewood Cookbook as well as those between and beyond. Near the end of the book he chronicles the food co-op wars of the seventies and eighties, describing the debate over healthy for the few versus affordable for the working class. He explains how Whole Foods arose out of all that.

It’s all fascinating stuff and narrator George Newbern delivers the material in an extraordinarily pleasant and engaging manner. I found it a most enjoyable listening experience.


it was inevitable

store closing signOn Monday I tossed a whole stack of Bed Bath & Beyond coupons into the recycle basket in my office. It reduced the size of my coupon folder by half. Why would I do that?

On Sunday Terry and I made a routine trip to Bed Bath & Beyond (BBY as we call it), a couple of “20% off one item” coupons in hand, to get ice cube trays. (Sometimes we use more ice than the ice maker can keep up with and one of our trays had a crack in it.) There were big signs saying Clearance — Store Closing — All Sales Final. We weren’t surprised.

I wrote back in June about how the chain was struggling and how I couldn’t find what I was looking for on one particular trip. I wondered how long our local store would last. We have that answer now.

I like BBY, but I’m not going to go out of my way to get there. The two closest stores will now each be about thirty minutes away and it’s just not worth it. Hence my tossing that stack of coupons. Between Target and Amazon we’ll be just fine.

Still, it’s a convenience we’re losing and local jobs that will be lost. The latter, especially, is not a good thing.

Bed Bath & Beyond coupons


the new, improved Beyond Meat burger

You are, perhaps, getting tired of my reviews of plant-based meat substitutes. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t offer just one more.

Beyond Meat Burger packageEarlier this summer I received an email from the good folks at Beyond Meat saying that they were coming out with an improved burger with marbling and a meatier taste. Around that time the burger disappeared from the store shelves. Within the last week, however, the new, improved burger (as per the packaging) has been in stock both at WinCo and Stater Bros. I picked up a package on Friday and made burgers using my homemade sourdough bread for buns that evening.

It really is better. You can see the marbling in the burger, and the cooked burger has a meatier, fuller, more flavorful taste with an even more meat-like texture. And it is, in both Terry’s and my opinion, more filling.

The team at Beyond Meat is doing some excellent work.


an indulgence, but a thoroughly enjoyable one

I have a new iPhone 8. I love it.

iPhone 8My previous phone was an iPhone 5s which I have had, I want to say, for four years. I was trying to keep limping along with it, but I was getting squeezed for storage space. I was deleting both apps and photos (copying the photos to my PC) to free up space. And it was getting slower.

Terry’s iPhone 5c had flat out died, and she needs her smart phone for work. She went to the Verizon store and came home with an iPhone 8. I tried to resist, but reached the point where I was simply not productive with my 5s.

I ventured out to the Verizon store and came home with my new iPhone 8.

I’m very happy with it. I have 60 gigabytes of storage instead of 16. I can store my audiobooks and podcasts, and the screen is large enough to be able to read Kindle books as well. I was able to reinstall the apps I deleted.

Not only that, but I set up Apple Pay, which is amazingly convenient at the few places that accept it.

As part of the accessory package I got a protective case and cover and a wireless charger. I no longer have to plug my iPhone into the connector to charge it, but simply place it on the pad. And I got one for Terry as well.

It is more money on the monthly bill, but it’s such a pleasure.


the Impossible Whopper

Impossible WhopperIt has been an interesting journey in that the rise of plant-based meat substitutes corresponded with the time after my surgery in which I was not allowed red meat. I am coming up on the six month mark and so should be able to return to red meat. I’ll check with my surgeon at the beginning of next week. (I really want a Double Double from In-n-Out!)

In the interim, however, I have tried a number of plant-based products: the Beyond Meat burger, two varieties of Beyond Meat sausage, the LightLife ground, the LightLife burger, and, of course, the Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star. I have been pleased with the taste and texture of all of those.

Impossible WhopperThen there’s the one I’ve been waiting for: the Impossible Whopper. It rolled out nationwide on Thursday and I tried one yesterday. Now I have long been a Whopper fan. It’s not In-n-Out, not by a long shot, but one cannot live by In-n-Out alone, and the Whopper is a pretty darn good burger as fast food burgers go. The only problem is that it doesn’t come with cheese. You have to specifically request it, which I think is silly.

So the Impossible Whopper? Marvelous. I could not tell the difference from the beef Whopper. I just need to remember to ask for cheese.

Beyond Meat. LightLife. Impossible. It’s a whole new world and I love it.


The Sun Is a Compass

The Sun is a Compass coverThe Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds
Caroline Van Hemert
Narrated by Xe Sands
Hachette Audio, March 19, 2019
$20.76 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

The author is a biologist who specializes in the study of birds, particularly species found in Alaska. She married a former college roommate of her sister, a man who loves the outdoors and who would build cabins in the wilderness with his two hands. Caroline was becoming bored with academia, research, and dissertation writing, so the two of them decided to trek across the Alaskan and Canadian arctic.

This was no small excursion. They planned a four thousand mile, six month journey across lands that were not mapped or perhaps barely mapped. Some of the of the segments on their trip many have been most recently mapped decades earlier. Everything had to be carefully planned: how much they would carry with them, where they could pick up pre-arranged re-supply packages, and all sorts of logistical details.

Van Hemert’s writing is flowing, precise, and descriptive. Much of the book reads like a novel as she describes those times when their lives were in real danger. I knew that they would make it through each perilous incident since this is a memoir, not a novel, and she survived to write the account. Nonetheless, I really felt the tension in those precarious moments.

The narrator, Xe Sands, is a skilled voice actor. You hear Caroline’s emotions in her voice and I felt as if I was actually listening to the author herself.

If you enjoy this genre, do not overlook The Sun Is a Compass.