We Should Go to Martinique

Or, how the marketers got to Nerd’s Eye View.

Aloha, nonfamousi. It’s been ages and mostly I blog at my own site now, but given JPs occupation, I thought you might find this interesting. Plus, I totally want to go to Martinique, don’t you? Crossposted from Nerd’s Eye View.

First things first. I was asked to participate in a 25 entrant writing contest to win a trip to Martinique. You should totally vote for me because, duh, of course I want to go to Martinique. One of the 25 bloggers “recruited” for the contest is going to go, it might as well be me, doncha think? Yes, you’re going to have to hand over an email address, but then you get entered in the contest also, and wouldn’t you like to hang out with me in Martinique? I’d sure like to hang out with you, eating excellent seafood, drinking tropical cocktails, watching the sun go down, or having a leisurely breakfast before we head off for a strenuous day of lolling about the beach… you get it. Go here.

Okay, here’s the deal. The whole thing is a marketing program for whoever is handling Martinique tourism these days, isn’t it? They contact me and offer me Martinique-esque swag and a shot at a trip to the island. I tell you and off you go to the website, and they get your email address and send you stuff about the island and all of a sudden, you’re thinking, huh, Martinique! There’s an idea… It’s clever marketing, a little back door media through an unconventional channel. Thing is, you don’t have to sell ME on the idea of a getaway to the tropics, hell, I’m always up for it and as far as passing the word along to you? I feel okay about that. Come on, don’t tell me you wouldn’t like a sun break about now. Unless you’re sub-equatorial, in which case, I’m sorry.

But check this out, too. On the heels of the Martinique pitch comes another PR mail. “Thought you’d be interested in this travel blog…” says the mail. Meh. okay, I click through and I don’t get it. It’s a nice enough blog but shockingly free of advertising. What’s the pitch? I click through a few times and I give up. Why is the PR company promoting this one guy’s blog? And, in a more self-serving question, why aren’t PR companies promoting Nerd’s Eye View? What gives here? What the hell, I email the PR company back and ask them.

Here’s the deal. The blogger is an artist. The artwork is displayed at a restaurant chain. The idea is that I point you to the blog, you get interested in the art, you go to the restaurant to see the work and there you are, eating your franchised meal. This one, no can do. I can’t vouch for the quality of the food, I don’t think you should eat a chain unless you’re out of options, and even then, are you sure you wouldn’t do better just going to the supermarket? But I do have to say that I appreciate the honesty from the PR folks. When I asked, they told me exactly what the deal was. I wonder how many people ask.

I can totally get behind the idea of a vacation to Martinique; I can’t get behind the idea of a chain restaurant meal. I might eat at a chain restaurant if I had to because I’m not really a snob, I just don’t think you’d believe me if I said, “Dude, you have to go to Olive Garden to check out this artwork.” (It’s not Olive Garden, FYI, but you get the gist.) Interesting stuff from the land of marketing to blogs, through blogs.

Fish are friends, not food.

If you’ve not seen Finding Nemo, you don’t know the hilarious scene where the sharks get together for something akin to Seafood Eaters Anonymous. “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food,” they state, with great earnestness. It all comes apart because, duh, they’re sharks, hello.

Fast forward to Fish Wednesday. Readers of my Nerd’s Eye View blog will know that Fish Wednesday happens pretty regularly around our house, if not quite weekly. About a month ago, I started wondering where my fish was coming from. I get my veggies from a CSA, why was I getting my fish from the Safeway? Was there a better way to buy fish and did it matter where it came from?

Also, hey, while I’m at it, I thought, this is a good story for a food magazine. I pitched it to an editor I’ve written for and she accepted the idea. A little research will go a long way and I’ll be able to sit down and write a nice 1200 word piece. It turns out these are very big questions, dammit. I have been hoping for a simple sort of answer, some easy rules that will assuage my conscience and keep a nice plate of fish in front of me. The whole thing is quite a bit more difficult than anticipated.

Last week we visited with Mike McDermid who runs the Ocean Wise program out of the Vancouver Aquarium. And this week, we spent some time with Mark Plunkett who’s the conservation guy at the Seattle Aquarium. While I certainly feel much more educated as a consumer, I don’t feel like I’ve come to any easy conclusions.

There are a couple of basic things I can put my hand on, and for now, they’ll have to do. Step away from the Tiger Prawns, sorry, but put the crustacean down. Don’t touch that Chilean Sea Bass, no matter how gorgeously it’s marinated in wasabi and sake. (Argh!) No Orange Roughy, no farmed Atlantic Salmon.

I have a ton more reading to do. I’d like to talk to the guy at the fish counter at our neighborhood “green” market, I’d like to get in touch with the folks that buy seafood for our neighborhood not so green market, and I need to spend some time on the Seafood Choices Alliance web site.

I told our kind host at the aquarium that I felt like the story was starting to unravel for me. It wasn’t so much that it’s coming apart, it’s just that I’ve opened the proverbial can of worms. (Heh. For fishing. Get it? Heh.) When you start to ask where your food comes from, you unleash a whole lot of other questions that you hadn’t previously anticipated.

I find it both fascinating and frustrating. Frustrating in that I feel I can’t just sit down and hammer out my tidy little essay about sustainable seafood. And fascinating in that the avenues to explore are unlimited. I’ve not yet been to an oyster farm, talked to a fisherman or a chef, visited a seafood distribution hub… Dammit, it’s just supposed to be Fish Wednesday, not a master’s thesis.

Give a woman a fish and she’ll cook it, photograph it, and serve it up on Fish Wednesday. Ask a woman about a fish and she’ll embark on a Hemingwayesque journey to find out where the fish came from, what impact eating that fish has on the environment, whether or not it’s okay to eat the fish in the first place, and any number of as of yet unasked questions.

You can tuna fish, but you can’t just ask about it and expect an easy answer. Stay, um, tuned.

National Soup Swap Day is January 23rd, 2007

No, it’s not a joke. My post about Soup Swap was picked up at BlogHer, where it was found by the soup loving goddesses of The Gracious Bowl, a DC blog about, yes, SOUP. Inspired by our soupy goodness, they decided to host their own. Meanwhile, in Boston, the Wooden Spoon of Power was passed along to a new Master of Soup Ceremony. All these events converged, emails were exchanged, and National Soup Swap Day was declared.

The Soup Swappers of Boston, Washington DC, and Seattle encourage YOU to host a soup swap in your town on January 23rd, making this a craze that sweeps the nation. And, so there’s soup for those that might not get the chance to have some, please add a canned soup drive for a local shelter to your soup swap party, courtesy of the thoughtful ladies of The Gracious Bowl.

If you want to know how to host a soup swap, there are general guidelines here. If you do host a January 23rd soup swap, please drop me a line so I can let the other soup swappers know who’s participating and add your city to the press release. And you, you overseas people? You know who you are. We’d love to be able to call it International Soup Swap day, so if you can round up your neighbors and get them in on the swapping, do let me know.

Swap on!

Four Minutes of Fame

If you go to WGBH Morning Stories and click Home Alone you’ll hear – hey, wait! That’s me! I start at about the six minute mark, but you should listen to the whole thing.

I am giddy with delight to find that I don’t sound like a complete idiot. It is odd to hear the edited version – we talked for probably half an hour and this is just a few minutes with big chunks cut out. Still, the sentiment of the conversation is very much intact and wait ’til you hear what Tony Kahn says to me. I really want to do it again.

Morning Stories is doing some fundraising; you might think about sending them a nickel or two.

The original story is here.

Oh, and while I’ve got your attention, it costs 63 cents to mail in that absentee ballot. Don’t forget!

C’mon Dems, Get Happy!

The good folks of NonFamous know as well as anyone how hard I took the last election. After logging so many hours at the campaign office, I logged a good deal more over the last two years outside the United States. I had the chance to stay, but there was no way I was going to miss this election. I’m not the activist I was last time ’round, but I’ve been hanging out at the rallies lately and I gotta tell you, it’s starting to work.

I’m on the record as being a skeptic about Maria Cantwell, but I’ve been doing my reading and drinking the kool-aid, as they say. While I’m still on the fence, I do understand the importance of Maria keeping her seat. And I understand the imperative for the Democrats to sweep the house in this election. Beaten down by the losses of 2004, I didn’t think I could find enthusiasm for 2006, but hearing Maria Cantwell, Christine Gregoire, Jim McDermott, Darcy Burner, Russ Feingold, and Barack Obama speak over the last week has really revved my engines.

It may be a passing phase and I’m sure to come down off the propaganda buzz as soon as the election is over. But for now, I’m going to take the energy of the high and remind y’all to vote and to work to get others to do so in the upcoming election. If you’re on the fence like I’ve been, I heartily suggest you get yourself to an event to hear your candidates speak. It really helps – it’s way better to hear them in person and there’s something remarkable about being in the presence of your fellow voters.

I’m not quite ready to sing the Hallelujah chorus, but I’m back to feeling like there are some good people out there who really want to affect change. Today, while watching the students at Bellevue Community College nearly exploding with enthusiasm as Barack Obama enter the gym, I thought, “Oh my god, we can’t let them down.” I survived the heartbreak of the last election, but these kids shouldn’t have to.

You know what to do.

Elections in Austria

Yesterday we had an election here in Austria. I was surprised to learn this morning that the Social Party took the lead – shocking, given their involvement in a massive banking scandal last spring. The far right Freedom Party took just over 11 percent of the vote. They ran an ugly, openly racist campaign that infuriated me whenever I saw the posters. The other right wing party was just as offensive, calling for a deportation of 30% of Austria’s immigrants as part of their platform – I loudly offered to be the first deportee in line whenever I heard the party leader on the news.

In my head it went something like this:

“Oh, we didn’t mean YOU,” they’d say at the BZOe HQ when I went down to volunteer to be deported.

“Then who, pray tell, DID you mean?” I would ask, pointedly, while the camera crew zoomed in on the hapless party employee’s face.

Given that the Social Party and the People’s Party took the lion’s share of the vote and that talk is of a grand coalition between those two, I hold hope that the new government will crush the far right’s participation in Austrian politics once and for all. But I also hope that the reason the Greens did so poorly is because green policy has become mainstream here in Austria. Hope springs eternal, and hey, yesterday at the harvest festival in Schladming, I watched little Indian girls dance to tuba music and hitch rides on hay covered floats, their brown hands stained with juice from wild blueberries. Austria has a chance, still.

If nothing else, now that the election is over, those awful posters will come down. I had to physically restrain myself from going on a propaganda remix campaign. They were bad, I’m telling you, saying things like “Homeland instead of Islam” and “Vienna Should Not Be Istanbul.” A newspaper checklist that listed things the FPOe was against included “The construction of new mosques.”

I’m on the hunt for photos of the Freedom Party’s campaign, remixed, but haven’t found anything better than the one we saw in town that gave Strache the trademark hairdo and mustache of Austria’s most famous facist – and renamed the FPOe (Freedom Party Austria) as the Fascist Party Austria. I salute you, my remixing neighbor! May you dance with the Indian girls at next year’s harvest festival!