Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eat food. Mostly plants.

Wish I had said that, but Michael Pollan, who was on Oprah today, got there first. I'm amazed at how rapidly and thoroughly food production has changed. I live near the line between urban and rural. When I was a local news reporter, it always amazed me to hear about city kids coming to a local dairy farm to find out where milk came from. They didn't know. The store, right? I lived through this once already, going back to the garden in the '60s, before highly processed food was king and when Wonder Bread was just that -- a labor-saving wonder. Is cheap food all that cheap if it's making us fat and chronically ill? I'm up for a change, starting in my own back yard. The next revolution will be in the garden.

Monday, January 25, 2010

RIP Union maid Stella Nowicki

I attended a memorial service for Vicky Starr, a union organizer in the 1930s on Chicago's South Side, mother of my husband's very good friend, and a subject (she's Stella Nowicki, her "underground" name) of the Academy Award-nominated 1976 documentary Union Maids. Time passes, and that's history. In attendance, all these white-haired folks, singing the chorus of Union Maid by Woody Guthrie (as sung by Pete Seeger). These used to be dangerous Commie agitators; now they've got white hair and walkers and have outlived chief FBI paranoid J. Edgar Hoover and are a little forgetful of who is listening to their stories. We listeners forget that cops shot union organizers; we forget a whole lot. Union Maids is a great little slice of history, showing how history is made: somebody decides to do something, and that somebody is not a hero, just a mom of someone you know. Vicky did her job with dignity. Amen and thanks.

Monday, January 04, 2010

What I'm reading

The Zookeeper's Wife. Diane Ackerman.

If Hitler had a hierarchy of hate, Poles were somewhat better off than Jews, but not by many rungs. Ackerman's book is a truly fresh perspective on the Holocaust, from inside Warsaw (85 percent destroyed in WWII) and from the viewpoint of Antonina Zabinski, wife of Jan, keeper of the Warsaw Zoo. Animal life took a beating along with everything else in the war -- the zoo was bombed during the 1939 invasion. In a beautiful twist, the mostly empty zoo became a place of shelter for 300 Polish Jews during the war years. The Holocaust and WWII are so overwhelmingly evil and destructive that I am compelled to understand the resistance to Nazis. It is documented at Auschwitz, and documented here; at the Zabinski home, Jews lived in hiding alongside Jan (who worked with armed Resistance forces), Antonina, their little boy Rys, a chicken, a hamster, a badger, a muskrat, a rabbit (those were among the various house pets.) A wide circle of species, interconnected, learning survival.