Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Markets Goblin, Apple, and Black

Last night I dreamt I was walking at night in the middle of a road near here where the speed limit is 55 mph. I had my eyes closed and I was feeling my way along by kicking the small centre divide. I think I had headphones on, too, and was listening to Howard Stern.

Yesterday I went to La Jolla for lunch. At the mall called University Town Centre I had some Japanese food with green tea, and I took my tea in its styrofoam cup for a long walk thereabouts. I was surprised to see the old Robinsons-May is now a Crown Books, a company I thought had gone out of business a while ago. My sister had told me it had moved into the building, but I thought it was just a case of whoever owns Crown's remaining stocks of books trying to get rid of them again, as I've seen "Crown Books" open at random locations for such purposes for years. I bought a collection of Christina Rossetti poems at one, but mostly it's just piles of autobiographies of celebrities no-one remembers anymore.

But the Crown I saw yesterday had a massive, permanent looking sign on the old department store building. I was already on a bridge, halfway across the street when I saw it and didn't feel like walking back, so I didn't go in to see what sort of undead place might be inside. I had some idea of stopping in the grocery store across the street to buy some apples--last time I'd been in that particular shopping centre, there'd been an Albertsons there. In its place yesterday I found a higher end grocery store called Bristol Farms. I'd never heard of it, but it looked like Whole Foods for people who are too rich to sully themselves with Whole Foods, which is saying something. You can gauge the snootiness of a place, too, by the name of the coffee shop inside, in this case Peet's. Peet's is kind of at the zenith of Coffee Snobbishness and Market Viability Mountain. All the big coffee chains do have distinctive flavours, but I don't really perceive any objective superiority, except that Starbucks, with so many stores, has a lot more employees who really don't know what they're doing. Also, it's worth pointing out most Starbucks now have espresso machines that require less skill from the barista at the sacrifice of some quality. So, okay, some snobbishness is justified.

What surprises me is that Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is still the only place that has loose leaf tea in bags. It's a wonderful invention--tea bags that produce tea as good as that produced in a pot. Neither Starbucks or Peet's seem to have caught up, which is particularly glaring in the case of Peet's, which presents itself as more of a coffee and tea shop than Starbucks does.

Anyway, Bristol Farms also had a stunning selection of liquor, none of which was on sale, it looked like, ever. They had 12 year and 18 year aged scotch and a whole row of different brands of absinthe, including St. George's, which, at 120 proof is by far the strongest bottle of alcohol I've seen on a store shelf without locked glass in front of it.

I bought four large Braeburn apples, a kind I've never had before. Eating apples so much lately, I'm noticing what a vast variety there is, and that each grocery store seems to have one or two types that are available nowhere else. At Ralph's a little while ago, I got something called "Rome apples", which were massive, shaped like tomatoes, and had red veins running though their pulp.

Last night I watched the fourteenth episode of Battlestar Galactica's second season, an episode that finally got around to focusing on Apollo. He seemed to become Philip Marlowe for an episode as he investigated the murder of the Pegasus's commander in his stateroom by gangsters who'd gotten past security as easily as the Cylon prisoner had a couple episodes ago when she killed the ship's previous commander. Not a lucky room. Of course, Apollo didn't waste time interrogating security.

The episode introduces a black market that has somehow formed in the community of the around 50,000 surviving humans interspersed throughout what looks like a couple dozen starships. I suppose something like that could happen. But the episode kind of asks us to take on faith one thing after another until the climax says, "See?! See the dark truths of human nature we have revealed?!"

I don't know? Yes? Maybe? Can I ask about the inefficiency of the trade regulations that have apparently caused the black market? No? Can I ask why it's wrong to trade booze for fruit? No? Okay, er . . .

I feel like I want to know a lot more than the writers want me to want to know. I know the black market was a necessity of life in post World War II Tokyo, but there were a lot of factors present there that wouldn't be present among the survivors of the 12 colonies. There's no forced shift to a new system of government, the population's much smaller and traffic from one location to another ought to be much easier to monitor, at least well enough that a massive black market wouldn't be able to form. Who are the victims here? Are supply ships being robbed? How? Are there trade embargoes? On who from where? And why? How can the currency be devalued if it's the only one in existence? Are the taxes ridiculous? What do most people do for their livings? What's daily life like for people? We really don't get any glimpse of that. Very little creativity seems to be expended for even the black market which seems to spend more time trying not to look like contemporary Earth than to be original in music and clothes.

And now we've moved from baby killing to baby fucking. Were there really this many people in need of child prostitutes among the 50,000 survivors and who are currently well enough off to afford them with resources stretched as thin as they are? If getting the basic necessities of life is so difficult, why aren't people starving to death?

Could it be the writers are more interested here in creating an allegory than they are in creating a coherent story? I think I know the answer to that one.

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