These links have been languishing among my bookmarks for awhile–so, perhaps not timely, but of ongoing interest to me.
This New York Times article about the shrinking middle class caught my eye because of the pull quote about kitchen appliances: “At G.E. Appliances, for example, the fastest-growing brand is the Café line, which is aimed at the top quarter of the market, with refrigerators typically retailing for $1,700 to $3,000.” Within the article, these numbers (along with examples from several other industries) are used to bolster the claims that income inequality is deepening: the market for luxury goods and services is thriving, even outstripping comparable mid-range offerings, which suggests that a flush and optimistic class of big spenders is driving the supposed recession recovery while middle-earners still struggle.
I’m not debating that claim, but I do think it’s interesting to consider it in light of recent reportage about trophy kitchens (and pushback against trophy kitchens): might some of those high-end appliances be purchased by hopeful homeowners in the interest of increasing their overall home value, or by middle-income planners and savers who would prefer to splurge on a luxury model than on a marginally cheaper but less serviceable one?
Via some foodie friends on Facebook, I really enjoyed this Grist interview with an organic farmer who makes a comfortable living off his family’s farm. He talks a little bit about economic sustainability, fair labor, marketable crops, and more of the business side of running a CSA and farmstands and such. The farmer who provides my CSA sends us chatty weekly messages in which he discusses what’s going on at the farm, including agricultural challenges as well as descriptions of watching the sun rise over his fields and so forth, but not much about the money matters. I’m not saying that he should–those of us receiving the message are investors, sure, but I’ve never believed that investors (or members, or customers, or clients) need to have a full insider view of the organizations they support. We’re not insiders, and sometimes that behind-the-scenes glimpse does more harm than good. But an informed view is desirable, and since choose CSA because I think it’s an economically and environmentally sound decision, so it’s very cool to hear a little more information about how that works on the other end.
At First We Feast, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite resources for food stories, Chris Schonberger recounts his experience dining alone at a vegan strip club. It’s mostly a play-by-play with a few rhetorical questions thrown in. Having recently read Amelia Gray’s slightly more engaging but similarly unsatisfying strip club dining piece for Lucky Peach, I have to assume that the art of thoughtful essay-writing on strip club culture is still up-and-coming; both pieces mostly lay their experience on the table, as it were, and let the oddity of the experience speak for itself. But it’s a story worth linking to because its contradictions raise so many questions. First: of course a club has to have food, but what can we say about the act of consuming dinner in a venue dedicated to feasting with the eyes? Second, what does it mean to serve vegan food in a venue dedicated to the proverbial meat market? Much has been written about the natural alliance of feminism and vegetarianism/veganism: refusing animal products is often framed as a way to refuse patriarchal power structures (predator v. prey, man v. beast). So is it possible to sit in a strip club, where a server’s breasts are literally set on the table before you, and still be vegan?
This last link may be a better fit for my language & letters blog–and I’m working on a longer post for it over there–but I thought it suggests an interesting extension to some of the genres of blogging I have in What Kind of Blog Am I? Authors Inger Mewburn and Pat Thomson make a case for academic blogging by positioning within what they call an “attention economy”–it’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase, but it’s an existing term which treats the finite amount of human attention as a commodity. The authors also intriguingly note that most of the blogs they considered in their study are by and for academics–not blogs like this one or many that I follow, which may draw on theories or texts learned in an academic context but nonetheless writes for a general audience. I wonder if academic blogging, then, should be considered its own genre, with conventions less formal than journals but less casual than blogs for general readership–and, if so, whether it’s necessary to ramp up a global social media campaign to seize a bigger slice of the proverbial pie, as the pool of academic readers tends to be self-selecting and necessarily small.