12/04 Open Thread: More on Consumerism

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I have written before about consumerism, over-consumption, how we got to this point and the environmental problems related thereto. Along the way I'm sure I and commentators have pointed out that cutting back on consumption is a form of rebellion, possibly one of the more serious forms out there. Of course, that is easier for some than others. Those who already consume just the bare minimum, for whatever reason, can't readily cut back. They also are not part of the problem, aren't feeding the machine and aren't contributing to the various problems. Everybody else, however, could rein in their acquisition of goods and services a bit, putting an infinitesimal hurt upon the beast, slowing the upward transfer of wealth, conserving resources and energy, and reducing pollution, trash and environmental contamination in the process. But for many (most?) it isn't that easy all the same, and for those who try to do so, it isn't that easy to sell others on the idea either. Hence I'm going to bring up yet another perspective on the problem(s). I'll also toss out an article on one thing to absolutely never buy or gift and show how it ties in.

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Alana Semuels, a staff writer at The Atlantic wrote ‘We Are All Accumulating Mountains of Things’
How online shopping and cheap prices are turning Americans into hoarders.
which The At,antic published published on August 21, 2018. I found it here: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/we-are-all-accumulating-mountains-of-... , via pocket. She points out and illustrates with some examples how the ease of shopping makes it so easy to do that, for many, it is difficult not to. She also notes that online shoppers get a double dopamine hit, first when they buy the goods, and again when they actually receive them, compounding the potential for addiction and the difficulty in stopping. According to her information, over 100 million people have signed up for Amazon Prime ( at $119 a year just for the sometimes preferential pricing and full time free shipping). The thing is that it is generally a PITA to return stuff you buy online, and a lot of it is pretty cheap, so many wind up keeping it. In 2017, we spent 240 Billion busks on stuff, in just that one year. Not only are we, as individuals, accumulating huge piles of stuff, so are charities, thrift stores, second hand stores and the like. They are deluged, per the article, with tons of stuff that is often new or nearly so, sufficient to create a glut on the market for such stuff among those who shop such locales and, hence, a ton of it winds up in landfills.

On a clearly related note, she points out that:

At the same time we are amassing all this stuff, Americans are taking up more space. In 2017, the average size of a single-family house in America was 2,426 square feet, a 23 percent increase in size from two decades ago, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The number of self-storage units is rapidly increasing, too: There are around 52,000 such facilities nationally; two decades ago, there were half that number.

So, as a society, we annually buy store, donate, and discard huge amounts of goods. Not discussed by the author is the fact that there is tons of packaging and shipping materials associated with all of those goods, which also wind up in landfills.

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On her way to a somewhat extensive and detailed look at how much we waste and discard, as well as how much is donated or simply left behind in dorm rooms and such, she drops a little tidbit, that is far more sinister that it looks. This is a self-reinforcing cycle to some extent:

And as consumers demand cheaper clothing, electronics, and other goods, manufacturers are spending less to make them, which sometimes means they fall apart more quickly. The share of large household appliances that had to be replaced within five years grew to 13 percent in 2013, up from 7 percent in 2004.

I'm sure that much the same can be said for most classes of goods, at least to some extent. I'm not going to get into the donate and discard detail, it is there in the article, which is an easy and interesting enough read, but will note that the above aside on stuff needing replacement has an effect that is presaged in the article:

Fifty years ago, the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick coined a phrase for these “useless objects” that accumulate in a house: “kipple.” In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which served as the basis for the movie Blade Runner, he theorized that “the entire universe is moving toward a state of total, absolute kippleization.” Kipple reproduced, Dick wrote, when nobody was around. The ubiquity of mobile devices and the ease of online shopping have made Dick’s prediction come true, with one small tweak: Our kipple does not just multiply on its own, every time we turn away. We grow it ourselves, buying more and more of it, because we can.

And therein lies a segue into a most interesting short article from Gizmodo, https://gizmodo.com/dont-buy-anyone-a-ring-camera-1840070640 by Adam Clark Estes. It gives numerous reasons why nobody should buy or gift a "Ring" doorbell camera gadget (or own one for that matter, imo.) If you really must have one, for security, they suggest two alternatives, but really, why? Henry J Kaiser is credited with the business advice to “find a need and fill it.”, but, as well know, Bernays and the rest of the marketing professionals preferred to create a need and fill it. Often this is done by kindling some fear and then fanning it into a flame quenchable only by buying Pepsodent, Charmin, Pepsi, a Lincoln, or whatever. In this case the thing to fear is everyone else. Anybody arriving on your porch, even if they ring the bell, and the answer is the handy Ring spycam. Ring was never a good thing for the reasons described in the Gizmodo article, but it became worse, of course, in the hands of Jeff Bezos. And here is the hilarious tie-in to both the Atlantic article and Philip K. Dick's intuition as to kippleization. There may be some tiny point to front porch security. No, muggers don't walk up and ring the bell, not with any frequency at any rate, but, especially as xmastide nears, package thieves do start to manifest themselves, at least in certain neighborhoods where it is easy to indulge in such thievery. And what, pray tell are the vast majority of these package thieves stealing? All that crap that Amazon is shipping to everybody, that's what, and you can protect yourself from losing it by simply buying one more piece of crap from, who else but Amazon. It is to laugh, it is to weep.

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Title Image is amazon

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It's an open thread, so have at it. The floor is yours
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Raggedy Ann's picture

We don't "do" xmas anymore - not for seven years now. I tell my kids, I don't need anything. I tell my spouse, I don't need anything. In fact, I'm busy getting rid of things and labeling things because I don't want a burden on my kids.

Luckily, my kids are not big consumers either. Neither is an Amazon customer.

I don't buy from Amazon, and haven't for over 12 years, because I refuse to enrich Bezos.

Squander your day away non-monetarily, folks! Pleasantry

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“The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”
-- Arundhati Roy

enhydra lutris's picture

@Raggedy Ann
off of xmas and birthdays and have mostly succeeded and have otherwise convinced them to only get us consumables, like homemade rum cakes and such, which is what we too tend to give, or grocery store or pharmacy gift cards. Generally, if you must give something, give something that substitutes for a purchase the recipient is locked into buying for themselves at some point anyway is our thinking. My wife and I give each other whatever most recently broke or failed from long use.

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

If holiday spending is owed to some fear, I can't imagine what it might be. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday & etc... the opportunities to spend are endless.

Leave the cheap foreign junk on the shelves. If compelled to gift, spend local. A gift card to the local mechanic or handyman. Support local arts and crafters. Send a donation to a worthy cause in their name. We are not on this earth to make retailers happy.

Wishing you all a non-material oriented holiday.

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May we be united and strong -- laurel

enhydra lutris's picture

@QMS
household and/or personal needs, though local sourcing is a major plus when possible. Also treats, my stock answer to "what do you want for ...?" is usually "ham".

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

thanatokephaloides's picture

@QMS

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday & etc... the opportunities to spend are endless.

Save only Black Friday, all of these are inventions of the marketing dweebs at Amerikkkan Excess Express.

"Black Friday" was coined by the poor 99%er bastards who work on-the-floor retail, as it's the roughest single workday of the year for such people.

My response to all that:

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"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

Lookout's picture

...And I've learned to only buy what I need and can use. The thing that gets many folks is a bargain. What a deal....on this thing I really don't want and can't use. The almighty dollar has warped our goals.

I do use Amazon. Not proud about it. Living in the boonies, I have to drive 1-2 hours to find items I want purchase. However we are minimalist with all our shopping.

Advertising signs that con
You into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime, life outside goes on
All around you

Thanks for OT and the reminder in this commercial season, el. We stopped the present thing years ago (except for the few children in our extended family to whom we usually give cash).

One of my buddies told me several years ago...
The less you want, the more you'll have.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

enhydra lutris's picture

@Lookout
order/amazon, having lived in the boonies myself once upon a time. Back then was pre-amazon, but there was still stuff you had to buy remotely and have shipped. Even here, there is some stuff that is just not available locally, especially if you have very specific, precise requirements. For me, I can usually get stuff direct from the source, like Sugru, and skip Bezos.

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Gifts are nice and my family and friendship circles like to do them but we don't go all big money or stuff collecting about it. We mostly do consumable gifts, typically things like food, bath/spa stuff, music, books, art, or experiences. (Sometimes we even write the books, record the music, make the art. This is the best!)

Ever since Bezos ripped off his human mask and revealed his true face, I've also been boycotting Amazon, so while we do sometimes buy from online vendors, nothing from there. My dad's favorite gift in recent years was a few bags of hard-to-find flavored wood chips for his meat/fish smoker which I was able to score from a small business website.

I shop local as often as possible and usually do a lot of handmade things but this year I'm still recovering from last year's surgery + dealing with cancer treatment lite (even the lite version can be a bit of a rough ride) so some folks are getting gift cards from ethical vendors. I've recently learned to scratch make all kinds of bath and bodycare products so the rest of my gift list will be filled out by homemade natural organic lotions/creams, powders, scrubs, soaks, face mask kits, etc., which are fun to make, give and hopefully also to get.

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enhydra lutris's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski
targeted gift cards to relatives with recurring purchasing needs as gifts. They fill an actual need, so it is not going to generate additions to the waste stream, and is guaranteed to be useful.

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Daenerys's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski Spend money on experiences, not on things--that's my philosophy these days. Shop local when you can, and only patronize the more ethical companies for the rest.
I can't think of a single thing I want for Christmas. But I'm sure I know what my FIL will send us; he never bothers to ask what we want or listen to the answer, so it will probably be more shirts and/or coffee mugs, which we already have tons of. He sent me three (!!!) shirts for my birthday, one of which was a fail because it was a dark design on a black shirt. Feh. I'd rather just have the money so we can survive until hubby gets into grad school or I start getting some cake orders.
I'd be happy with some good chocolate too.

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This shit is bananas.

@Daenerys

My dad does a similar gifting thing in that he sends us expensive things we don't want, which is actually an improvement over the years he sent all of the women the same expensive thing that none of us wanted, lol. Fortunately he shops at a place with a decent return policy so we do at least get the cash value of this weird little behavioral tic.

Are you a professional cakemaker? So cool! I admire the talent it takes to do that, especially the presentation, which is out of my league. For the past year or two I've been baking and candymaking with Guittard Chocolate, which is out by San Francisco. If you've not tried it, it's delightful stuff. Also really like Theo Chocolate out of Seattle; a little richer and with more finish than Guittard's products so better for snacking than for baking, but lovely flavors. Both are a little spendy but you know good ingredients often are.

I hope you get the nothing you want this year! Wink More seriously I hope your holiday experiences are joyous and gift you with the kinds of warm and fuzzy memories that you can re-use whenever you like.

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Daenerys's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski Hi Rev. Jane--when I lived in Utah I used Guittard chocolate sometimes. We used the chocolate chips at my job there as well. I also use Ghirardelli, but I've seen Guittard around here too.

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This shit is bananas.

detroitmechworks's picture

As Mark Twain so famously foresaw.

So, you can also see the trend towards cheaper and faster in entertainment. Not from the BUDGETS, of course, because Hollywood has to launder the money SOMEHOW, but from the actual quality and quantity of films. Lots more films, all shittier, all with tons of tie ins, and all of them needing to be replaced in theaters faster than you can say WalMart Bargain Rack.

Video games, Same thing. Lootboxes galore, plots reduced to fetch and order following. No ability to enjoy anything more than the most SURFACE level of interaction with characters... Essentially, the industry took a bucket of paint and tried to cover an entire building with it, rather than paint a mural... didn't fucking work.

Books... how many Magic Schools are there now? How many superhero training schools? For adults too, apparently! Either that or the whip hand of a loving master, portrayed as the most desirable of relationships... FUCK this mainstream media propaganda.

Kill your TV. You'll Feel Better.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

enhydra lutris's picture

@detroitmechworks
cutter culture is upon us big time. I've mostly tuned it out and generally subsist on old classics. There are tons of really good books I haven't read and old classic movies I never saw, etc.

Hope you're doing well and have a great one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

detroitmechworks's picture

@enhydra lutris THere's a LOT of Hostility in the Portland Area. I had to walk away completely from three interactions today.

Something's in the air, and I don't like it.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

magiamma's picture

@detroitmechworks
Great to see you here. Something is in the air. My first thought was ?blooding the hounds? Getting us used to another level of chaos? It certainly seems like something go turned up a notch. Glad to hear you are doing well.

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Daenerys's picture

@detroitmechworks Same with modern architecture--'luxury' apartments in the city with boring, industrial look and colors, chain stores with boring, drab colors. Take a look at how many vehicles on the road these days are shades of gray. Bleh!!

It's been a long time since I read The Giver in school; I think that's the one where everything is gray and they talk about 'sameness'. Either way I feel like I've seen this story before, and it doesn't end well for anyone.

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This shit is bananas.

detroitmechworks's picture

@Daenerys

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

snoopydawg's picture

@Daenerys

Yep. $0 so the developer can tear it down and build high rise apartments. The deal is though that he has to make 30/300 low income. For that price I think it should be 100/300 because you just know that he is also getting tax breaks to build them.

Builders are buying up orchards on hwy 89 tween SLC and Ogden and building the same gawd ugly apartments that have a two ft balcony if you're lucky. The same buildings are going up everywhere around the area. Coalville is okaying 700,000 new homes and two golf courses. Of course the homes are second ones and will drive everyone's property taxes sky high. Morgan is allowing more homes, a ski resort and more golf courses.

The winter inversion season started yesterday and boy did it get bad quick. Then there's that inland port that no one can control which will bring in lots more truck traffic and they will get to drive on Legacy at higher speeds. The hell with the wildlife and homes in the area. SMDH over the legislature's stupidity.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

Daenerys's picture

@snoopydawg Go figure. Money uber alles. Bad

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This shit is bananas.

calendar about 40 years ago.
I usually get away from home during the holidays. This year, I will celebrate Christmas in Morocco.
My shopping is local, resale, outlet stores,consignment, and I cut off my cable tv a decade ago.
If I must shop at a chain store, you can bet it is out of strict necessity.
My gifts are either food or charities in a friend's name.
If my brother needs or wants something, he can call. He doesn't have to wait for any calendar date.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

@on the cusp

If my brother needs or wants something, he can call. He doesn't have to wait for any calendar date.

That's what I tell my kids and grandkids - when you need something, just let me know and we can do what we can to make it happen. I will be taking my grandson shopping on Saturday, however, he's 24 and dating a quality girl. He's told me he wants nicer clothes. Good thinking. I'll spring for that!

Cheers! Pleasantry

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“The trouble [with injustice] is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”
-- Arundhati Roy

enhydra lutris's picture

@on the cusp
sounds fabulous, wish I could join you. My wife and I did something similr, but far less exotic one year, it was nice to be away from it all.

Have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris pals currently in Munich. They will tour Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Lichtenstein before coming home.
My Christmas Market tour was limited to Germany and Austria, a river cruise down the Danube.
I have spent Christmas in Thailand, Spain, Columbia, and Costa Rica.
Most courts shut down from Dec. 20 until January 2nd, depending on how weekends fall during that time.
I see no reason to be here. My office is closed, I am not missing court, I do not celebrate with anyone here, so I may as well go see the world.

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Azazello's picture

I've been railing against this for years.
There is a mighty river of CPC.
It originates in China and flows to your local landfill.
For a small price you can divert this river so it flows through your house.
But why would you want to ?

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@Azazello
a continuation of the church stealing solstice
and the grinch started the war on christians
to paraphrase mimi - nothing for bad

5c2765dddda4c832388b460c.jpg

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May we be united and strong -- laurel

enhydra lutris's picture

@Azazello
image of a long snake like river of junk weaving its way to the local dump and the absolute silliness of electing to pay to have it diverted through my living room. That is really great metaphor that you need to spread.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

topic and has more far reaching implications that just consumerism or shopping too much. It has to do with the behavior of our society. With our predisposition that everything is here for our consumption and our blindness to the consequences of this over-consumption, we have fouled our own nest. What we have done is pillaged and destroyed in orders to satisfy our wants. The consequences of this type of behavior by Western culture is now undeniably evident. We are making this planet uninhabitable. A society that behaves like this is truly sick.

Chris Hedges' new book, America: The Farewell Tour is all about the pathology within our society. Robert Lustig's new book also is about our pathology and more specifically our confusion between happiness and pleasure. Both authors talk about our addictions; gambling, pornography, hate and violence, drugs and food, and overconsumption. These addictions are a symptom of a society that is in decline.

Why does this matter? Both authors indicate that if we have any hope of restoring health to our society we have to take a different path. The status quo is not going to work. Most importantly of all though, is that our society has to first recognize its illness.

Here is an interview with Robert Lustig that I think is relevant: (h/t Lookout)

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enhydra lutris's picture

@randtntx
and its contents were put here for our exploitation use and consumption, so very wrong and harmful, is seldom a focal point of our discourse. It should be, as you note. And, of course, the conflation of happiness and pleasure is also seldom dwelt upon.

Thanks for reading and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Secondhand travels in the global garage sale

is a book I have been reading that touches on many things that have been mentioned by others.

I am giving small gifts to people that were so supportive to me after DO's death. The gifts are all local or consumables.

DO and I accumulated a lot of stuff and now an starting to re-gift or donate to a local thrift store. Glad my condo in Santafe is only 466 sq ft. Keeps you from "needing" more.

Santafe is the easy place to deal with but place outside Austin has 4 outbuildings and this is where I am working to downsize but realize how much I contribute to the global problem of trash.

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Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

@jakkalbessie
Thank you for sharing this J bess. Also going into the 'thin-down' mode. Have eons worth of collected items, too good to throw out. One of my clients has put me to the task: "Organize and sell my stuff, and I'll split the proceeds". Hmm. Sounds like I have to become ebay or craigslist savvy next. A good winter project, it seems. Dissolving possessions is a daunting task, but better whilst still functioning than leaving it up to the next one. No?

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May we be united and strong -- laurel

enhydra lutris's picture

@jakkalbessie
what the effect of DO's passing and the concomitant changes in lifestyle have had on your household paraphernalia. I'm sure it will take you a long time to get squared away. I know it I were placed in that situation, figuring out what goes and what stays and what to do with the stuff that goes would take a couple of years of so.

We all contribute to the global trash problem, but being aware of it is half the battle. A lot of stuff is potentially somebody's raw material, the problem is figuring out whose.

Have a great one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

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enhydra lutris's picture

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

magiamma's picture

et al

My kids, some 30 years ago, when they were in their early 20s, decided to eschew xmas. Have not given it a thought since. Less is more. Spend time with, hike, eat, converse. Mo better.

And, of course, how could I not stop by without my favorite rant. Just exactly how the fuck can the planet sustain the resource extraction necessary to provide baubles and bangles for endless consumption? Eh? (Talk about far reaching consequences @randtntx). No esta possible.

Thanks for the excellent ot. Have a good one... (Rain here has seemingly passed at least for a while.)

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enhydra lutris's picture

@magiamma
here about an hour ago. Supposed to start again Friday and run through Sunday. You're right, it cannot be sustained, after all the tyrants, mass murderers and such, it is the clowns on Madison Av. who will wind up being the worst global criminals of all time, them and corporate CEOs.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Anja Geitz's picture

Even when I was younger. The clothes and make-up craze that a lot of women go through seemed to pass right by me. I mean, yeah, ok, I do buy new clothes when I need them, and I do have a few make-up items, but I spend about a quarter of what my contemporaries do. The only time I purchased a significant amount of goods in a short period of time was when I moved to California and had to furnish my new new place. And even then I didn't go crazy.

My Mother was a different story. Maybe American consumerism was very attractive for someone who grew up during the war and suffered severe privations. In the end, my Mother eventually ran out of places to put things and her apartment looked like a hoarder lived there.

Thanks for a great topic, EL!

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

enhydra lutris's picture

@Anja Geitz
hypothesis, but I think it can be more or less inherited through example and proximity by a fair percent of their offspring.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --