Flutterby™! : Red State Blues

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

Red State Blues

2007-04-03 16:54:54.993085+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

I guess one of the things I've become conscious of lately is how much of a bubble the Bay Area is. Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine who wanted to add some space to their living room. A fairly simple change, pour a bit of a foundation, extend out some walls, probably change the roofline. They've got plans drawn up and, I believe, approved. No plumbing, maybe a little wiring. The bids came in around $240/square foot.

And, as others have asked me about in the past, I see the world as overpopulated because my world is overpopulated, on the edge. This year we had light rainfall, so local cities are beginning to deal with water rationing issues. Food is either high priced specialty stuff, or something that comes from "somewhere else".

At any rate, Letters at 3 A.M.: Red State Blues is well worth a read:

I forget the name of the Kansas town where we stopped for lunch. It was like a scene in an old Western: We walk in; everybody looks; everybody stares as we take our seats. Dave, he could be a businessman from down the road (as, in fact, he is) – distinguished looking, tall, gray hair, casual clothes. He walks into this diner alone, and he's fine. Me – maybe it's the hat, the gray ponytail, how I walk, I don't know. But the people in that Kansas diner, in particular – they looked at me with naked, livid hatred. (So did old women in Nebraska the next day. As I passed, one said to another, "Well, he's different." She spat "different" as though the word meant something vile.) In the diner, one farmhand couldn't take his eyes off me. Sitting with his friends at lunch, he stopped eating and stared at me. His face was trembling – trembling! – with rage and hate. I expected something nasty to go down, but all he did was stare. I was baffled. Why me?

And he actually comes up with some answers (I was lead there by this Orcinus entry that Lyn linked to).

[ related topics: Food History Space & Astronomy Nudity California Culture Clothing ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-04 11:28:52.135132+00 by: DaveP

That's one of the things that makes Minneapolis interesting to me. We're in "the big city" here, and for a couple hours drive in any direction, you're still in exurbs, some of which were small towns towns that are thriving.

But go more than a couple hours to the southwest, and you start running into the big empty. Small towns where all the farms have been consolidated into large food factories, some with the empty farmhouses still standing, but many where there's no sign of a previous owner because the land was too valuable as cropland. There might still be a city, but a lot of them have lost population, especially in the winter. In the summer, there are few ghost-towns in MN, since so many people "drive to the lake" on weekends, and that keeps the small towns alive, if just barely.

In my "one year pretty soon" vacation queue are a few drives on US highways. We've got three going through this state that start at the Canadian border and make it all the way to Mexico or the gulf (US 61, 71 and 59) and a couple that go east-west (US 2 and US 12) from Lake Michigan to the left coast. I'd like to drive them all, and maybe tack in I-29/US-77 for good measure, taking my time and exploring the "flyover country" they cross. If I had more free time, it'd really rock to bike some of them, but I suspect that's just a pipe-dream.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-04 15:40:20.220066+00 by: petronius

Well, Mr. Blue stater complains that nobody comes to talk with these people, but gives no indication that he tried. either. Instead he projects all his dislike of non-city folk onto their alleged facial expressions. Quite the most patronizing item I've read in a long time.

As to the Kansan's way of life being swept away by globalization and politicians, the real culprit is the invention of the tractor and the telephone. Shall we get rid of these infernal inventions?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-04 16:16:56.188276+00 by: Dan Lyke

The tractor and the telephone to some extent, but also largely the method by which corn and other agricultural commodities are subsidized through government policy.

I'm trying to figure out the context in which to forward this on to a Bay Area friend of mine with strong Nebraska roots, because I think that if I could draw the conversation out of her she'd have some good input.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-04 17:01:33.446149+00 by: Diane Reese

Granted it was 30 years ago, but my experience was that the way to get Kansans into a conversation was to ride up to the cafe on a fully-loaded bicycle, lean it up on the wall outside, and smile as you take off your cycling gloves and step inside. We were treated like queens and kings, even though it was obvious we were "from somewhere else". Another part of my cross-country cycling experience that might not have been replicated any other way.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-04 22:52:28.658691+00 by: crasch

I don't have evidence for the Bay Area, but overall, the costs of food as a percentage of income has been declining (from 23% in 1925 to 10% now).

Water shortages are exacerbated due to heavy water subsidies by the federal government to farmers.

Much of the higher housing costs in the Bay Area can be explained by the greater land use regulations here.

I would note that many industrialized cities are experiencing population declines. You could enjoy much lower population densities, if you chose to relocate to one of those cities.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-04 23:56:45.498168+00 by: Dan Lyke

On cost of food as a percentage of income: Yes, but I believe that if you tried to eat a 1925 diet you'd end up with a far smaller decline. Don't know if anyone's run that number. Or if those numbers factor in the various taxpayer funded farming subsidies, including those aforementioned water subsidies.

But, yeah, in general my vision of population is both extreme in my expectations of reasonable impact of human activity, and where I live.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-05 01:42:55.066742+00 by: crasch [edit history]

True, the total cost of food may be partially hidden in tax subsidies to farmers. However, the cost is also artificially inflated due to tariffs which keep out sugar, beef, rice, etc. that can be more grown elsewhere less expensively.

Here's what I could find regarding the cost of buying a 1925 meal today:


"In terms of work time," say Cox and Alm, "the price of bacon and eggs has fallen 40 percent since 1970 . . . . A pound of ground beef declined by more than 5 minutes . . . . A dozen oranges is worth 10 minutes' work, cheaper by 6 minutes since 1970 . . . . A sample of 12 food staples—a market basket varied enough to provide three square meals—shows that what required 2 hours, 22 minutes of work time to buy in 1970 now takes only 1 hour, 45 minutes."

Not direct evidence, of course, but if the decline from 1970 to the present is that much, I would expect the decline from 1925 to the present to be larger.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-05 14:28:28.188088+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hmmmm... I'll have to read that further, because the beef mention rang a few alarm bells. The early '70s were when economic policies on the farm subsidies changed to cause the super heavy corn subsidies we see today, and... well... having had grass fed beef, I no longer consider modern corn fed supermarket beef anywhere near the same class of commodity. And my gut feel is that that costs roughly 3-4x corn fed beef.

So part of what we're dealing with is the difference between solid oak and particle board... both make shelves.