I've been reading an apocalyptic book titled The End of Food, by Thomas F. Pawlick. It opens with the most startling information, which is that the nutritional value of most foods has been dropping over the last half-century. The theory underlying this set of facts is that industrial production of food seeks to maximize production, which leads to examples such as overuse of fertilizers (which makes the soil less rich) and grain-fed cows (which leads to lower-quality beef).
Overall, the book presents some interesting information, but I found it a little too over the top. It is somewhat unsurprising that "mass-produced" food is low quality: it will always be the case that the highest-quality food costs much more than many people can afford. I agree with the author that it is very short-sighted of our civilization to misuse natural resources in the way that we do, but all of these implicit decisions are driven by increasing populations.
Without having done a careful analysis, it feels like this season was mostly centered around Al Swearengen: the end of the season finishes with a shot of him. The first season felt like it was more about Seth Bullock.
We then went shopping at Whole Foods. Always an experience, and usually hard on the checkbook...
We also saw through the Jeff Wall retrospective, and the exhibition on Armando Reveron. There were some fascinating paintings in each exhibition, although we weren't overwhelmed by anything in particular.
One of our favorite paintings at MOMA is Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World":
One minor note: this book would have been more interesting if there had been pictures of how different types of toilet work.
The extras on the DVD were almost funnier than the movie: in particular, the appearances that Borat made on Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show.
Zero waste: can we achieve it? This article made me wonder how right some economists are that the market will solve problems. Maybe they are right, but the time scale could be wrong for certain kinds of problems.
For example, it could be that we need the doomsayers to move the population to act; they could be the impulse function in reaction to the recognition of a problem (say, global warming). In that metaphor, government and the media act as delay functions. The problem is that if the time needed to act is longer than the delay imposed by the delay function...
I really enjoyed the excerpts from A Roomful of Hovings. Unfortunately, the NY Public Library doesn't have this book! Some of the other excerpts didn't grab me as much: in particular, I found the story about Monopoly from A Sense of Place fairly awkward in its structure.
- It is all well and good to say that externality pricing reduces the effects of the externality, but how politically easy is it to impose such prices? As we've seen in NY, it is extremely difficult.
- The book claims that as the standard of living in China has increase, that large-particle pollution has gone down. That may be true, but when I was just in China I felt like the pollution was stifling.
- The book claims that there is correlation/causation between protectionist policies and intensive farming. I'm not sure I believe that, and the book did not provide a compelling argument as to why that might be the case.
I did enjoy the depth of portrayal of 17th-century Spain, although I am not in a position the historical accuracy of the extended ruminations on Spain's downfall. However, for fiction I tend to prefer books with more interesting plots or with better character development. Well, I guess you can't expect everything from a novel.