Folks, I've been reading Reader's Digest since I was 10. I'm 35 now. My stepdad got me a gift subscription this last year, and I think he deserves his money back for this last issue. I didn't even PAY for it and I felt like I got gypped. And for the record, NO, you may not edit this email for reprint. Either you publish it just the way I've written it, or you don't publish it at all. I'm betting on the latter.
OK, so you no longer print the contents in a clear and concise manner on the cover. I can deal with that--it's marketing. I know. But now you no longer spread each humor piece throughout the publication, to be discovered like little treasures, you lump them all together. This once fine publication has now stooped to satisfying the "GIMME NOW AND MAKE IT EASY" trend in society. Shame on you.
Every article I want to read is constantly interrupted by pages and pages of ads for drugs. Not only am I not interested in any of them, you've made it a pain to get pleasure from any article. If you can lump all the jokes into one section, why on earth can't you lump all the ads into one section (preferably at the back) and let us get on with our reading?
Then there's the Titanic article. I've always been fascinated by what happened that night, and it just so happens that my daughter was born on April 15. So imagine my feelings when, in the middle of this terrific educational and emotional article, I turn the page to find another article with a ridiculous illustration on how to PRANK people. Seriously? You think that the tragedy of the Titanic is OK to interrupt with something that trivial? So, I dutifully paged my way to the continuance of the Titanic article, all the while being bombarded with advertisements that I have no interest in whatsoever. By then, I was growling and muttering under my breath.
But you know what? I haven't even gotten started. This issue was so absolutely full of TRIPE that it makes me angry every time I see the cover. It wasn't just the ads, it wasn't just the format, it wasn't just the interruptions. Sure, they contributed to my surly mood, but it all boils down to a specific article. Oddly enough, "Cheer Up" did anything BUT cheer me up. The only reason I've held on to this issue this long (instead of chucking it in either the recycle bin or fireplace where it belongs) is so that I can specifically address some points listed therein. You might want to get your head out of your ads and listen.
#2. "Urban living is a good thing. City dwellers take up less space, use less energy, and have less impact on natural ecosystems than country dwellers." What kind of idiocy is this? Where do you think city dwellers get their food from? Gosh, it's from country dwellers that have to truck their crops into the city to have them processed into fake food for the city dwellers. If that's not a huge carbon footprint, I don't know what is. We country dwellers can raise our own food on our own farms, thank you very much, without having to truck it or process it into fake food. Most of us country dwellers are experts at canning and dehydrating without adding preservatives or synthetic materials. " . . .but living in the country is not the best way to care for the earth. The best thing we can do for the planet is build more skyscrapers." How else do you care for the earth than by living on it, stewarding it carefully, and being in tune with its rhythms? I find the concept of building more skyscrapers amazingly ridiculous. So many people could live better and cheaper on just a tiny bit of land (like a backyard) and reduce energy use and the ever-powerful carbon footprint as well as building soil. Oh, and I enjoy being able to open my windows whenever I feel like it, walk around without bumping into thousands of other people, and eating fresh produce that was grown less than 50 feet from my own house. Somehow I don't think these skyscraper dwellers in their little "bubbles" have any of that.
#4. "The important stuff costs less . . .a candle providing one hour's light cost six hours' work." Folks, anyone who has ever made candles should be howling by now. OK, I'll grant you that it took time to go out to the beehive and clean the combs to melt for wax, or to process the tallow from slaughtered animals (and that's not counting the added products of honey and/or meat). Still, anyone should know that candles were NOT made one at a time, and provided WAY more than an hour's worth of light. They were also very carefully used to CONSERVE them . . .unlike today when we leave everything on because we can.
#5. "The environment is better than you think . . .rivers lakes, seas, and air are getting cleaner all the time." WRONG. With the advent of fracking (fracture drilling for oil), we create immense areas of chemical laden waste water that threatens my drinking water supply. With runoff (manure, chemicals, and offal) from industrial processing plants, feedlots, and commercial chicken/turkey houses--the same ones that supply those happy city dwellers--we are killing our wetlands, streams, rivers, and oceans.
#6. "Shopping fuels innovation . . .The more we specialize and exchange, the better off we'll be." HUH? Nature itself demands that we not specialize. Any time that you can look out over 100 acres and see only one kind of plant growing (specialization), you know that it's not naturally like that. Heck, if I was only good at making widgets, what kind of mom would I be? If I only knew how to raise chickens, how could I work with horses? Nature demands diversification. Hasn't the author ever heard of not putting all your eggs in one basket?
#7. "Global trade enriches our lives." I have to seriously wonder why the author is so proud of eating "bread made from French wheat, spread with New Zealand butter and Spanish marmalade," etc. Whatever happened to eating fresh, eating local? Why on EARTH would you buy butter from New Zealand (not that I have a problem with the country except that it's halfway around the world) when you could buy it fresh from your local farmer? Marmalade? Why not ask your neighbor lady for her recipe for jam and MAKE IT YOURSELF? Good grief. I think the real kicker here is the phrase that set me off about the whole article. Let's read it together: "Self-sufficiency is poverty." Read that again. What in the world is this guy SMOKING? Self-sufficiency is WEALTH. I'd be willing to bet that I get much more satisfaction in jobs well done (like a day spent canning the produce I've grown to feed my family through the winter, making my own jams and jellies, caring for my chickens who provide me with fresher eggs than this guy has ever tasted in his life, baking my own bread, and seeing how much healthier my kids are when they eat home-grown foods) than this guy gets from walking down the aisle of a supermarket and buying his Spanish marmalade. I'm RICH, and I didn't have to drive to get there.
#8. "More Farm Production = more wilderness . . .other things have increased too--the area of crops by 30 percent, harvests by 600 percent." Yeah, thanks to Big Ag and their genetically modified seeds. Oh wait, those genetically modified seeds are being phased out in Europe because they cause health problems, but we gobble them up in America and make room for more. Yippee. I'll bet he doesn't know I can get sued if the corn I raise on my own farm for my family to eat becomes infested with drifting pollen from GMO corn a mile away. Oh joy. " . . .farmers left them to head for cities . . .The world will feed itself to a higher and higher standard throughout this new century without plowing any new land." Ohhh Kay? So how are we going to do that if the farmers are heading for the cities? Right, use more GMO's. Got it. So what if they're not good for you? Oh, and let's cram a few more cows into those feedlots. They're already filthy, so what's a little more? That "free range" chicken you just bought at the grocery store? Sure, let's cram some more of those into the chicken house. They're not caged, so that's good, right?
#9. "The good old days weren't. Some people argue that in the past there was a simplicity, tranquility, sociability, and spirituality that's now been lost. That rose-tinted nostalgia is generally confined to the wealthy." Nonsense. Pure and utter HOGWASH. I'm definitely not wealthy in money terms, but that simplicity, tranquility, sociability and spirituality is what makes me rich. Yeah, I see ads for cute shoes. Somehow I think stiletto heels in the horse pen or chicken coop just wouldn't work. So, I wear my well-made work boots--simple. We raise much of our own food. Simple. Tranquility? I go hang out in the chicken coop just to hear them cluck and watch their little feathery antics. It beats reality TV any day and I get eggs too. Sociability? I am fortunate to be surrounded by great neighbors who (thank GOD) are always willing to stop to chat, help out, swap produce, or loan vehicles. I'm even volunteering in my new hometown to run a farmers' market. Sociability doesn't get any better than that! Spirituality doesn't necessarily mean religion. I can have a spiritual moment on that frigid night when I look up and see all the stars in the sky and feel as fragile as a piece of glass. I can have a spiritual moment when my horse snuffles in my ear and makes me giggle. Every time I pick up a freshly laid egg, feeling it warm in my hand with its perfect shell enclosing all those nutrients, it's a spiritual event that so very few have been fortunate enough to experience. "It's easy to wax elegeiac for the life of a pioneer when you don't have to use an outhouse." Yeah, pioneer life is hard--I freely admit that I call our farm "homesteading lite" but there are so many things you can do that ENCOURAGE simplicity, tranquility, sociability, and spirituality. None of them involve electronics, gadgets, imports, or debt. "The biggest-ever experiment in back-to-the-land hippie lifestyle is now known as the Dark Ages." Only to an industrialist. In case the author hasn't noticed, there are a growing number of people living off-grid or aspiring to. They want control of their own food, their own power, and their own lives instead of letting government dictate to them. Read Countryside magazine if you don't believe me. At least they keep their ads to the sides of the pages.
#10. "Population growth is not a threat." Ummm, if all the farmers are moving to the cities, who's going to feed all those people? Oops, sorry, I forgot. GMOs. And as to "eating better and better every decade"--Nope. They're just eating more processed fake food made with (wait for it . . .) GMO and subsidized grains. Yum! When you find out that that piece of steak on your plate was fed with dead chicken parts and chicken manure instead of eating grass, I'll bet you'll go running to those farmers. Too bad they already moved to the city.
#11. "Oil is not running out." Yeah, tar sands and oil shale. Wonderful. Let's frack in my backyard, let the waste water pollute my well AND the local reservoir so that not only will we not have drinking water, tourism to the lake (that keeps my town alive) will dry up. Oh yeah, and since fracking causes earthquakes (which aren't normal out here in backwoods Kansas), if I'm out riding my horses and get thrown during a quake and break my leg . . .at least somebody will have gas. YAY!
#12. "We are the luckiest generation." Well yeah, we are. Most of us, the author of this article included, really don't appreciate it. We now have the means and the freedom to . . .wait. Nope, we don't. I can't even start up a business selling homemade products unless I go into debt to build a government approved and inspected facility. Oh well, at least I don't have to wear a skirt all the time.
#13. "The best defenses against disaster are prosperity and freedom." The author really needs to join a 12-step program on this one. Just sayin.
#15. "We can solve all our problems." Well sure we can--by not following the views of the author. People being responsible for their lives would be a start. People not relying on bailouts would be a start. People getting actively interested in what they eat and eating RIGHT would be a start.
#17. "Optimists are right . . .For 200 years, pessimists have had all the headlines even though optimists have far more often been right." Yeah, because the vast majority of people that the media is selling to are those that live in the skyscrapers you want to build. I seriously suggest you read any or all of Joel Salatin's books (his latest one is "Folks, This Ain't Normal") and get a grip on optimism, as well as what farming SHOULD be. I'm a town girl who used to live in cities, and now I'm proud to be a farmer. I've got optimism coming out my EARS. And I promise you: I will NEVER EVER live in a skyscraper.
I'm not even going to go into detail about how every issue seems have articles about how to lose weight, burn fat, etc. How often are you going to flog a dead horse? It's really simple, folks. Eat naturally raised local foods. Get off your lazy butt and do some physical work. OOO, maybe start a community garden--you'll get the workout AND the food. Novel idea, isn't it? If you actually must write about health, try investigating Big Ag and GMO's. Food, Inc. is a good movie to get you started. Try researching what fracking can do to our drinking water. Get out of your skyscrapers and get back in touch with America.