Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “hot chocolate”

Surviving Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Buy Nothing Day

It’s got very confusing. I don’t know anyone who is not aware of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any of a number of other crazy sales days or anti-consumerism initiatives.

I have to admit that I have stood in line in past years and exploited the opportunity. I feel okay with this because I have always bought something that my family ‘needs’ (let’s not go there, okay), and would have bought anywhere. The self-righteous like to point fingers at the fanatics, the violent, and the irresponsible. Fair game. But, as Eugene Cho commented a year ago, this is often the privileged who can afford to buy these items year round.

So the question is: do we throw the baby out with the bath water? Answer: only if there is a special deal on babies or bath water – check out Bed Bath and Way Beyond.

But here are five steps to embrace Black Friday and not feel like you sold your soul to consumerism.

1) Decide on a number of items that you want to buy, how much you are going to spend, and only buy these.

2) Bring an extra cup to share that hot chocolate you have to avoid hyperthermia and share with the person in front of you.

3) Support Small Business Saturday by patronizing a local family-owned shop, also for something you need.

4) I’m impressed with the idea of Buy Nothing Day. I think it is something incredibly powerful and educational. The kids will love you for it!

5) Take a portion of the day and do something for charity. Maybe donate what you bought last year at Black Friday to Goodwill or Out of the Closet. You need to donate something of worth. Those stained, musty t-shirts don’t count.

6) There is no No. 6 – we are sticking to a plan and the plan was 5 ideas, remember? You alway want more than you set out for, looking for the extra deal and value. What do you think this is? Black Friday?


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Merchants of Doubt

It’s numbingly cold outside. What does a frustrated activist need to do to stay warm? How about reading a book that’s going to get the blood coursing through the body, while remaining wrapped in a blanket on the sofa drinking hot chocolate?

Merchants of Doubt does just that. This is a book of highly educated and venerated scientists who fail to adhere to the need to improve society though research and hypothesis. It is a stunningly detailed account of how they have prostituted their knowledge to advance lies and myths that will ultimately harm the individual and society, all in the name of making money for themselves and the masters they serve.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway do a great job tracking eminent physicists and other scientists who are able to manipulate the truth. One stunning realization that I took from this is that their “truths” are perpetuated by harried journalist and opinionated bloggers. DON’T READ BLOGS! Here I said it – and you can believe me ’cause I blog everyday .

Seriously, this book has garnered tremendous respect. I think that it says a lot for their research when they unabashedly name names and have not found themselves in court. It might be a book to delve into from time-to-time rather than consumed in one sitting, but Oreskes and Conway have done us a great service. To quote Former Vice President, Al Gore:

“Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have demonstrated what many of us have long suspected: that the ‘debate’ over the climate crisis–and many other environmental issues–was manufactured by the same people who brought you ‘safe’ cigarettes.  Anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America should read this book.”

I think, Mr. Gore, that it is far beyond the democracy of the US. This inconvenient truth is a global issue.

Another book that illustrates this so clearly is Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley. While he does clearly state that this is a novel, he hits many of the points that Merchants of Doubt proves. He also has you laughing rather than seeking the next spaceship off of the planet.

“Buckley’s caricatures of Washington politics, corporate power plays, media spin control, Hollywood pretensions and the human foibles of self-delusion and denial are appallingly right on the money.” –San Francisco Chronicle.

See what I mean?

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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