|WHITE MAN WALKING|
How is such an extreme car culture formed? Well, for starters the one time we fill the tank in Toronto costs 75% of what three fill-ups cost here. Ahh the smell of economies of scale. So, for starters, it costs less to drive here in the south. Despite the fact that Torontonians appear to be more in love with their cars than most city dwellers, it would be too expensive for every resident to sit behind a wheel for much of the day (commutes to Brampton or Pickering notwithstanding).
Globalization has assured that we can eat strawberries in the middle of a snowstorm, chomp Big Macs by the Fontana Trevi and dispose of our Starbucks cups before entering the Taj Mahal. And yet, despite the ugliness and cultural depletion that all this threatens, it has not touched every corner of the globe (wait, globes don't have corners!) The milk marketing board of Canada has defied all the ostensible 'freedoms' created by globalization and transnationalism! It has protected the Canadian Dairy industry farmers, workers, and distributors! It has kept me from my favourite yogurt!
FAGE brand yogurt is the most beautiful yogurt I have ever tasted. The word FAGE (pronounced Fa-yeh) is the imperative of 'Eat' in Greek ....so "Eat!' and believe me, I would love to. Made using the original method of this company based in Greece, its exported products may be even better than the yogurt which is made from milk from actual Greek cows. Last year, they ran an also beautiful - if slightly esoteric - TV ad with flowy images and a voice over by Willem Dafoe. This stuff tastes so good, it appears to have a higher percentage of milk fat than milk fat itself and yet has none (or 1% or 2%). It has a balanced tartness that doesn't make you pucker like some watery Balkan style or stirred yogurts do. There is no gelatin or starch charged with suspending and stabilizing particles pretending 'smoothness'. It is available in Greece (obviously) the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Germany, the US.....but not in Canada. The Canadian Milk marketing board has done such a good job of protecting the Canadian Dairy industry, they have protected us out of this gem. In order to be able to fix prices of milk, eggs, cheese etc., the marketing board had to meet World Trade Organizaton (WTO) and General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade (GATT) requirements and those agreements included import restrictions. As a result, while in Canada I got to buy Canadian products (OK, yay) for 300% the price I pay here (not YAY) and no FAGE yogurt (definitely not YAY). I got used to enjoying this trove of tasty probiotics in Florida and missed it terribly when in Toronto. It became my mission (along with making trivial observations to put in this blog) to find out why. My research led me to a moment of harsh comparison between a true market economy and a market oriented economy. OK, we'll keep our health care, you keep your cheap cell phones. But let's get going on a trans-border yogurt stimulus plan.
WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR NICKEL BACK?
Always a popular fulcrum around which to plot one's anchors of comparison is that of music. Music, more than bumper stickers, hair styles or college majors is the G.P.S. for the cultural perspectives of individuals and communities alike. It's not surprising that in the largest city (Toronto) in a country with a strong songwriter tradition (Canada) that new and indie music is born and thrives consistently. On any given day, a band you love or would consider loving is playing somewhere. Here, try to find a decent radio station and you get on the fast track to settle-city. There's good music here only it's buried. And, honestly, my shovel is not hip enough to dig that deep. Besides the Latino stations on which some great classics and newer reggaeton and Latin hip-hop tunes can be heard, I listen to a basic, general, inoffensive FM station. Their claim that they 'play anything' is substantiated. Really. Their playlists are eclectic (I'm talking any of several Nirvana tunes followed by that Pina Colada song from the 70s!) but just not very big. I would say that about 70% of the time I get in my car (and you know how often that is) and turn the radio on, 'Rock Star' is playing. They sure do love their Nickelback here. Ever notice how when cultural paradigms are removed from their geographic birthplace, they take on an unexpected grandeur? Like how Chinese food - so revered here in North America - in Hong Kong is just food. And African safaris for all their exotic glamour-travel appeal in Africa are just Sunday afternoon walks in the park. Well, I know I haven't recorded any albums recently or ever. I don't believe, however, that that strips me of the right to say that Nickelback are something of a national embarrassment as far as I'm concerned. But here, they are worshipped to the tune of 2nd biggest grossing foreign act in the U.S. behind the Beatles!! Legend (and Google) has it that the band got their name from the phrase Mike Kroeger used at the job he had at Starbucks - before the band made it big - when returning change to customers as in 'Here's your nickel back, Sir'.
Do I want my Nickelback? You can keep the whole dollar!