Monday, October 22, 2007

No Excess Bagisms!

For someone who's just starting to sew, one of the easiest things to make is a supermarket bag. It’s a good project because not only do you get to practice your sewing skills, if you feel like it you can add some personal touches to your grocery bag. If that weren’t its own reward, you also get to feel good about not adding more non-biodegradable flotsam to the environment.

This morning, I had to make a quick pit stop at the supermarket to pick up some sandwich bread. I didn’t take my cloth bag, figuring I wouldn’t need it for just a loaf of bread. I shoulda' known better. I couldn’t pass up the freshly baked puffy cheese bagels. The scent of them immediately had me salivating and then the French bread loaves were peeking out of their bags, flashing some very sexy flaky crust at me. Anyway, I don’t want to turn this narrative into kinky bakery porn. Suffice it to say that I ended up with plenty of warm bread in my basket.

Which brings me back to my story. When I got to the cash register with my loaves and bagels, I asked for no bag. In the past this request has been met with irate indignation, which I’ve never been able to understand. Is it too much to ask that the checker or bagger pause his/her robotic impulse to bag my groceries? Well, this time it wasn’t. To my surprise and delight, the cashier responded to my request with “Oh, you're trying to do your bit for the environment. Good for you.” Though that was a nice touch, it wasn’t the payoff. As I wheeled out my cart full of unbagged bread I heard the man behind me say “That looks like a good idea. Don’t bag mine, either.” Now that would’ve made my day, but as I drove out of the parking lot I saw ANOTHER customer coming out of the market with an armful of unbagged groceries. I couldn’t believe it. It was contagious!

You don’t know how many times since I made those darn bags I’ve forgotten to take them to the market, or felt dumb for asking the cashier to take my merchandise out of the bag when they jumped the gun and bagged stuff before I had a chance to stop them. There have certainly been plenty of times when I’ve thought that taking my cloth bag to the market was never going to make any difference but today I caught a glimpse of the power that each one of us has to make change. Sometimes all people need is a little encouragement and someone to start the ball rolling.

Sometimes I think I can be obnoxiously positive, but then I remember that I can be angry and mean too, so I guess it all balances out. I think positivity has gotten a bad rap. I'm not positive in that "don't worry, be happy" sort of way; my positivity has more to do with tenacity. It can even be confrontational. In fact, I just saw a case study in what I would describe as confrontational positivity - a documentary which is out on DVD , The U.S. vs. John Lennon.

John Lennon's rebellious, in-your-face attitude, his idealism, and commitment to rallying the youth of the world to demand peace and an end to the Vietnam war are inspiring. In fact, I'm struck by how little anyone is doing to stop the current war and how bold and shamelessly President Bush asks for more funds to finance a war which is becoming increasingly unpopular.

In one scene from the documentary, a group of antiwar protesters stands outside of the White House chanting "Fuck War, Fuck LBJ!" (referring to then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson), middle fingers waving in the air - wow! Can you imagine chanting that sort of stuff anywhere, let alone outside of the White House, now? I don't think we'd get away with it. What the hell is wrong with us? How did we become so afraid of our own government? I wonder if those activists in the early seventies thought they'd get away with it back then. Guess what? They did. There I go being positive again...but really, what the hell is wrong with us?

Here are some statistics related to Bush's increased war budget that should get you pissed off.

Source: AP 10/22/07

For the Pentagon, the latest request includes:
  • $1 billion for military construction projects, including improvements at airfields and other U.S. bases in Iraq;
  • $1 billion to expand the Iraqi security forces; and
  • $1 billion to train National Guard units.

    All told, the $189.3 billion Pentagon request for 2008 includes:
  • $77 billion for military operations and maintenance;
  • $30.5 billion to protect U.S. forces from roadside bombs, snipers, and other threats; and
  • $46.5 billion to repair and replace equipment that has been damaged or destroyed in combat or worn out in harsh conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • **************************************

    Source: CBS NEWS 10/22/07

    The U.S.
    The insurgents
    Neither side

    Source: Alice Bag 10/22/07
    Defense contractors and big oil companies


    LouisJacinto said...

    Bagism was an activity in which, among other things, John and Yoko would show up somewhere inside of a coth bag. They would answer questions, but they couldn't be seen. Here in Los Angeles, if you shop at Ralphs Supermarket and you bring your own bag, which I do, you get a 5 cent discount on your grocery bill!!!!

    Jenny Lens said...

    I routinely carry lots of cloth bags in the trunk of my car. Lately, I've walked everywhere: the Santa Monica Co-Op (which doesn't give a discount, but has always donated to Heal the [SM] Bay and other causes), Trader Joe's (more about them below), Staples, OSH (hardware store), 99 cent store, library, bank, post office, and yes, Ralph's.

    I wear a variety of backpacks, depending upon what I'll be buying and the weather. I have a ton of free cloth bags I've collected during my many years going to computer conferences.

    For the less talented, who can't sew, the Co-Op and TJ's sell bags. TJ's has a system wherein they enter your name into a raffle to win a gift certificate. You have to provide your own bags to be eligible. The downside is they always run out of entry forms, but they print a blank receipt to use. But they work so quickly and are on auto mode, or they don't see my backpack, and I constantly tell them I walked and brought bags.

    TJ's should instruct their cashiers, who bag as well, that they offer this great program!

    Another great option is the nylon Chico bag (, even sold at Target, my SM Co-Op and online). They are now being printed in many of colors and designs for holidays.

    It's really cool: it folds into its own little pouch, with a plastic hook, so you can put it in your pocket, hook to a backpack or purse or whatever. I bring it to the 99 cent store for bananas and TJ's too.

    I have a sun hat that I hang from a nail and put the Chico bag next to it. I grab them, my backpack, and my heavy hands (getting great upper arm muscles) and get outdoors!

    When driving, sometimes I forget to bring bags into the store, so I take a cart to my car and bag them. But these days, because my car needs work, I walk. Good excuse to get often!

    Yes, it's amazing how setting one example empowers others to follow.

    Re John Lennon (my hero!): it's amazing what we can and cannot say these days.

    Quite frankly, I am appalled Halle Berry got into so much trouble for what I consider something so innocent. She was showing some images using s/w that gave her a big nose. Her assistant, who is Jewish, said she looked like her Jewish cousin. When Halle said the same thing, all hell broke loose. Jay Leno said he was glad he didn't say that.

    Come on, us Jews have heard and said worse. It was funny!

    We are a nation of sheep. Whether the Dem Congress who lack the votes to make change, but instead of roaring like lions, act like sheep.

    Tis a pity. I'm more scared of the people who accept all this than the people saying the things to scare us.

    You know what I find ironic: that you and I get all kinds of emails from people telling us how much they love and admire what we did. They love punk and all it stands for. Then they do nothing. Nothing like the '60's and anti-Vietnam marches, nothing like punk in the late '70's.

    Oh well, back to my blog. So glad to see you added subscribe links. Was that due to my suggestion? Ha ha, I'm gonna sign up right now!

    I love the new option to get follow-up comments emailed to me. I am setting up something like that on my new Wordpress blog. OMG, I am having so much fun setting that up! Hard hard hard work, but oh la la!

    godoggo said...

    This seems relevant:

    Mass Protest & Die-In to ‘End the War Now!’ @ Olympic & Broadway ~ Coordinated with regional protests across the country. March to downtown Federal Building for Rally. ~ 12 noon.

    From LA Taco

    That's bicycleable for me, so I'll probably make it...

    godoggo said...

    Oh, that's tomorrow, Saturday. Forgot to paste.

    godoggo said...

    ...well that was fun, sort of, if you ignore me having to drop out of the parade after 3 blocks because I felt like passing out (whereas the 10 mile bike ride both ways barely phased me - my thoracic outlet syndrome is a fickle bitch. But I kvetch. Well, this does seem to be the place for it).

    Of course, it was nothing compared to the mass protests which preceded the war. But then, we know how much good that did, don't we? And as long as I'm on the subject, here are some other reasons besides "fear" which may account for the comparatively limited interest in protest: 1) no draft 2) far fewer American casualties (and somewhat less dramatically fewer native casualties, so far) 3) no carnage on T.V. (not a good reason, but there it is) 4) the fact that, unlike Vietnam, the war is going to continue whether we leave or not.

    Really, I think the difference is not so much greater fear, as a smaller sense of urgency. And we do have some really urgent things to worry about: war with the Iran, and a Giuliani presidency (to pick both the likeliest and scariest scenario, IMO - whatever shortcomings the Democratic candidates have, they at least are not lunatics, which is more than I can say for pretty much any of the Republican candidates).

    Jenny Lens said...


    We must "never never never never never never give up," a fave quote of Winston Churchill's, that's five nevers). You marched. That's what counts. Yes, the media won't report it, yes, it seemingly doesn't make a difference. But one of the great surprises in life is never knowing how our actions impact others.

    Yes, you hit the nail on the head: those in charge learned that without a draft and without showing the carnage on television during dinner means apathy. But it doesn't mean we can all roll over and play dead.

    Thank you and never never never never never give up.

    You are an inspiration!

    godoggo said...

    Gosh, Jen, that's kind of embaras - aw, fuck it... YESSS!!!! All hail the brave and selfless godoggo! Leave your expensive offerings in the hand-knitted shopping bag by the door, and feel free to punch a hippy on the way out.

    In all honesty, though, a major incentive for going was that it was a way to get a bit of the exercise I so badly need (so that hopefully at some point in the future I won't feel so shitty I can't think straight 24-7, as opposed wishing to be more svelte in order to pick up up on bouncy, button-nosed little shiksas)...And, really, my greatest fear at these sorts of events is of embarrassment. I would feel a surge of relief whenever somebody approached me with Obama for President or Progessive Democrats flyer, rather than the more typical Marxist-Lenninist newspaper or a screed about how Bush and Zog conspired behind 9-11.


    aliceandmark said...

    We've started using those cloth bags - when we remember. Over here (Oxford in the UK) there's a campaign to reduce supermarket packaging. I have unpacked biscuits from their cadboard boxes which surround the plastic inner containers.

    Sometimes the people in the queue (line) behind are supportive, other times they look on with... well they try to avoid eye contact.

    The best is the local farmers' market - with its local produce, we've been reducing food miles. It only comes round once a fortnight though.

    Anonymous said...

    i have been doing the "NO BAG" thing here, if i start off with a bag, and buy other things at other stores, then I say No Bag Please, I get odd looks, but it works out really good for me.
    Thanks Alice for this great thing!