The latest episode of Last Seen a podcast by WBUR in Boston focuses on the reporter’s search for the elusive black raspberry, not in its usual ice cream form, but in the cultural wild, so to speak, the farmer’s market or grocery store. It’s an interesting look at the agricultural choices that are made by farmers, marketers, and consumers. At one point Amelia Mason meets up with a forager, who says:
Foraging is one of the last activities out there that does not involve a financial transaction of any kind…
And I 100% understand the spirit of this comment. Foraging is just you and the wild, building knowledge of what is and isn’t nibble-able.
But the sentiment renders the capitalism invisible.
Who has access to these wild areas? (How do you get there? Drive? Bike?)
How does one find out about areas that are accessible?
Who owns that land? (The state of federal government? Private citizens?)
Who preserves that land? What labor is involved?
What kind of transactions are needed to keep the area undeveloped?
All of these questions involve financial transactions in one way or another before one black raspberry is picked. We need to stop thinking that preservation can only exist outside of capitalism, because, frankly, nothing exists outside capitalism in our current world. To put it simply, if you know about it and can access it, a financial transaction was necessary for just the knowledge to get to you.
There’s no aspersions cast here because of the one quote. I loved the episode and want to grow my own black raspberries one day, but I’ll need land for that, and the money to buy it, and the money to buy the bushes, and the ability to provide the labor to do it, and the wherewithal to continue to own the land to see those berries come to fruition.
We’ve already grafted financial transactions onto every branch and when we pretend we haven’t, we think we can see the boundaries of capitalism, but they’re further out, past the brambles, down the slope and away.
I spent $24 at the college bookstore today and got one notebook and four pens. What I went for was a book that I’d ordered for my class. For some reason, I decided to order my readings from the college Bookstore and it was nothing short of dismal. See, the college BookStore really deals with apparel and items and the Brand of the college, not necessarily the day-to-day reading needs of its students. It used to, but not anymore. It just can’t compete.
Even with the power of the Barnes & Noble apparatus behind it, the BOokStore is just not a bookstore anymore. When I ordered my books, only a few came in, some were on backorder and they were sent to a “Mystery” pile in the mailroom. I’m not making up that name, “Mystery.” That’s what they told me to tell the attendant when it was my turn. Yet even when it was my turn was a mystery, as the ID card reader didn’t accept my card.
“Grad student?” the attendant asked.
See, grad students don’t have mailboxes at the mailroom, as far as I know. In my department we have mailboxes in the English office. An actual box where I can receive mail and packages. Packages like Amazon packages. Guess what I can’t receive there? Books from the college BOokStoRe.
I walk with a cane. I teach at 7:55am. I spend nearly every minute reading for my exams. Getting down the hill to the BOoKStoRe is not an easy feat. When I can remember that those (some, which?) books are waiting for me (or aren’t), it was a hassle. I kick myself for responding to the email to “Get Your Books at the BOOKSTORE!” Kick!
When I finally got there, they handed me one book, that I needed two weeks ago. They did not have the two books they told me they had. One (the one I need to read) had been sent back, the other, apparently dematerialized. When I got to the office, I bought the ebook.
I watch cryptocurrency drama from the nosebleed seats. I have some shallow understanding of the system and, I’m not ashamed to say, I rely on my students to fill in some details for me if I’m curious and they’re willing. If you keep hearing about FTX and wondering what’s going on, this piece in The Atlantic by Annie Lowrey will give you an idea of the most recent meltdown.
I tend to shake up my tech tools and apps when I want to procrastinate. Lately I’ve approached this a bit more maturely, explaining (lying) to myself that I’m trying out something new for a while in the hopes of simplifying my workflow. When I saw our library was offering Zotero free for students, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve been using Paperpile religiously for years and thought it might be good to see what else is out there.
Zotero’s interface, for some, is dated, but I found it endearing. For the last few months I’ve been adding RSS feeds and readings from my comp exams to see how I like its features. Overwhelmingly I loved the ability to mark sources as related to other sources – a big help with the films I’m viewing to see which articles I’ve read in relation to them (their titles are not always clear). What I really hated was their filing system and the inability to add it to my Google Drive without some headaches.
Ultimately, that and the need to be hardware independent was what made me come back fully to Paperpile. While I will miss the relation feature, I spent many years without it and since Paperpile doesn’t seem to be implementing something similar anytime soon, I’ll make it work.
Yeah, that’s it. Not really a review, just letting everyone know what I’m doing instead of reading and writing. 🙂