Conventional wisdom.

On a recent pass through Whole Foods I noticed one word on a few signs in the produce department.

(I also noticed that a teeny bunch of  cauliflower was going to cost me upwards of $4…that’s a story for another time.)

Right inside the entrance was an enormous display of avocados, salsa and bags of organic chips–hey, even vegans watch the Superbowl. A big sign hung over the table blaring:


No, “conventional” here does not mean middle-class, suit-wearing avocados clinging to the status quo, it means “not organic.” It is a common term now; I had somehow managed to miss this linguistic development. When I checked out the WF website, I read this:

Organic foods set the standard for top quality freshness, texture, flavor and variety. These foods are produced without the standard array of potentially harmful, environmentally long-lasting agricultural chemicals commonly used on conventional food products since the 1950s.

WF is, of course, right to label the provenance of  produce. “Organic” is a USDA designation that must be earned, and these avocados, tasty as they may be, were not worthy of the O-badge. But I couldn’t help feeling, well, judged, as I grabbed my $5 worth and hurried off: Suddenly I’m conventional, typical, pedestrian in my choice of guacamole ingredients. I am conforming.

Maybe a sign saying “Old School Avocados” would be better.

All the news that fits. And solves.

I’ve only read some of the stories and ads in three sections in Sunday’s New York Times (Book Review, Business and Week in Review) and here’s what I’ve already learned:

Most new fiction is deeply flawed. A five-line letter from Ronald Reagan to his old actress friend Kitty Carlisle Hart is worth $6,100. Whales and dolphins are as smart as we are, and probably nicer. Congo is still the rape capital on earth. Congress still has absolutely no balls when it comes to regulating Wall Street. Our cellphones are built with materials that are obtained at human cost. Author Danielle Steele and legal pot growers in Colorado work harder than the rest of us. Camile Paglia says “female Viagra” pharmaceuticals will not cure the sexual malaise blanketing America.

It seems so clear:

Send sexually disappointed whiners to witness real problems in Congo.  Sell collections of witless Presidential missives as e-books in order to fund the increased cost of cruelty-free cellphone manufacturing. Deploy the hyper-prolific Ms. Steele to the pot-growing operations for one week. Swear in Ms. Paglia, stand her up in front of Congress, and let her spell it out for them: No balls, no glory.

If that last thing doesn’t work, vote for a whale or a dolphin next time.

Great minds, lazy butts.

No one can say we Americans are not using our heads. We’re just doing it in a way that requires little or no physical movement.

Sure, we’ve got a moribund auto industry, sieve-like leakage of jobs to China, rocketing unemployment. But when it comes to selling domain names, we’re hot-hot-hot.

Searching online for a new iPad at a discount, I couldn’t find any cheap Apples in the Ebay barrel…but I did discover the many enterprising souls already auctioning and selling the likes of “www.TheIPadShoppe” and of course, “www.TheAppleIPadSucks.”

The worst part about this kind of armchair sales world is how contagious it is. It was a certainty that I would then spend the morning glued to my computer, searching for domain names that might yield big bucks in the future.

Bad news: is taken.

Winter coats (and boots?) for the herd

A lovely ad on the back of Sunday’s New York Times Style Magazine may have solved our ambivalence toward animals once and for all.

We want them to have a nice life–including a view and space to run around–right up until we kill and eat them.

A woman wearing a fur coat is treated as if she slung her first-born on as a poncho, yet most of us walk down the street with a leather purse (filled with smaller leather doodads), leather shoes, maybe even a leather belt.

Let’s not even get into the animal products used in that hair gel.

To our credit, we know we’re hypocrites. But what’s an animal-lover to do? Canvas shoes only get you so far.

Well, while we were wringing our hands over free-range arrangements, the Hermes people were wracking their sharp French noodles for solutions.

The company’s “Winter at Last” ad shows a lovely model in profile, silky Hermes scarves twined around her neck and head. Next to her is an antlered critter (elk? mule deer?) who is also sporting Hermes. A single tasteful silk scarf, wound around his neck with a suitably small knot. (No worries about snagging it on a tree branch.)

At last, a solution to our uneasy bond with animals. Grain-fed lives are one thing, but nothing says humane treatment like a good accessory.

There’s a word for this

I had no sooner finished reading the obituary for William Safire, fearless commentator, tireless writer and unparalleled language-czar, when a faint beep sounded, warning me of an incoming job opportunity in my email.

I wish I’d never signed up for all those “career feeds” in the first place, but that’s what a day with a head cold and nothing good on pay-per-view cable can do to a person.

The job ad touts a community-relations position with a big international nonprofit that has an Oregon office. In the middle of its windy description of duties, this gem appears:

“The Community-Relations Officer will focus matrixed teams on matters of cross-agency benefit.”

I’m sure if I had any idea what this meant I would be an excellent person to do it. Alas, I will just continue to focus my un-matrixed team-of-one on cross-room trips from desk to ‘fridge.

Rest in peace, Mr. Safire.