Monday, June 28, 2010

A recent New Yorker magazine featured twenty writers under the age of forty. They were presented as the future stars of contemporary American fiction. With the exception of Jonathan Safran Foer, I am embarrassed to stay that I’ve never heard of any one of them. One writer, whose short story I particularly enjoyed was Philipp Meyer, who made some particularly insightful references to modern design and architecture. His sarcastic comments about Design Within Reach, and their iconic branding exploits, form the inspiration for my musings over the term’’ within reach’’

There are many examples of solutions to problems that are within our reach, but for a multitude of reasons, we have been unable grasp the illusive ring. Tom Friedman alluded to this conundrum last week in his column about the Gulf oil mess. We seem to want to attack major systemic problems with the most superficial responses that always maintain the status quo. The solution to our oil dependency is well known. Jimmy Carter spoke about our need to explore renewable energy sources in the 1970s, but nothing tangible ever came of his requests.

I’m usually turned off by the many Dr. Phil types, who after any major event, always play the ‘’Let’s use this as an opportunity to finally tackle this issue card’’. Invariably the low hanging fruit is picked, leaving the core issues which were within our reach, relatively unchanged. The legislatures ‘’Financial Reform’’ package is a prime example of this phenomenon. Let’s do enough to appease the ignorant public, but not enough to really address the issue.

The so called health care reform package will do very little to improve the general and financial health of this country. When the most effective solutions to these immense problems are always ‘’off the table’’ it is very difficult for any thinking individual to be very optimistic about the future.

The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission just ended on Friday. Instead of doing the ‘’right thing’’ and eliminating the loopholes around the ‘’harvesting’’ of whales for ‘’scientific ‘’ purposes, it let Japan and Norway off the hook again. Saving the sperm whale, whose 18lb brain is the largest of any animal on earth and whose ratio of brain size to body mass is second only by ours, was off the table.

On a personal note, I went to the Acme bakery this morning to purchase their wonderful Whole Wheat Walnut Bread. They have been pioneers in bringing European style breads to the Bay area, and have inspired the artisan bread movement across the country. Acme bakes two crusted whole grain breads which appear very lonely sitting there among all the other refined bread products. I’ve never done an official survey, but I would guess that they sell one hundred refined white breads to every healthful great tasting whole grain bread. I’ve never personally seen anyone purchase one of these breads, although someone must, since they have been sold out on several occasions.

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