mandarin america

i get a lot of crap email.  i spend a portion of my day hitting the delete key and filtering through to the stuff that is even remotely relevant to me.  occasionally i get a few forwards from family, and occasionally it saddens me to see how ignorant and racist they are.  rather than think too long about how these ignorant and racist emails reflect on the family that sent them, i choose to ignore them and move on.

today, however, i got something that seriously blew my mind.

one of the general themes of the racist brand of forwards i get is that outsourcing or getting any kind of products from abroad hurts our country.  (we’ll set aside, for a moment, the socio-economic implications in how our economy would really be crippled if we stopped importing products altogether, suffice it to say that we’ve been importing ever since the first pilgrims jumped on the boat from England.)  therefore, it’s no surprise that the title of this email is “DO IT YOURSELF, AMERICA.”

So here is an actual excerpt of the email, first paragraph:


it then proceeds into a rant about how we should be producing our own food rather than importing “inferior” products from abroad.  really?  mandarin oranges?  from china?  you don’t say.

a quick glance at etymonline — the online etymology dictionary — will reveal that the origin of the word mandarin  refers to a Chinese official.  the usage of the word Mandarin, as in Mandarin Chinese, came about by referring to the specific dialect used by officials and educated people, i.e. the Mandarins.  the mandarin oranges were so named because their color resembled the color of the robes worn by…Mandarins.

wiki’ing “manarin orange” casts an even harsher light on the ridiculousness of the above statement.  in the middle of the article is a chart showing the top 10 countries producing mandarin oranges.  not only does the united states not even rank on this chart, but the number one producer of mandarin oranges?  china.  really?  really.

so, let’s summarize: mandarin oranges are named after mandarins, which was a type of chinese official, because the color of their robes resembled the color of the fruit.  the world’s largest producer of mandarin oranges is, no surprise here, china — by a significant margin.  to beat a dead horse, and because the united states wasn’t even listed in the top 10 countries producing mandarin oranges, i tried to find out where dole — one of the u.s. alternatives the email suggests — gets their mandarins.  dole’s own website says that their mandarin oranges are actually japanese satsuma oranges.  i wonder where those come from.

the thing that gets me isn’t the us-vs.-them mentality, or the racism inherent in the belief that products from China are, by their nature, inferior.  it’s the fact that this argument was started over mandarin oranges.  not just any oranges, mandarin.  which are, by default, chinese.  i mean, it’s in the name — not of the brand, but of the fruit.

i’m glad we have a president who is an intelligent black man, and i’m glad he’s selected a woman from a poor puerto rican family — whose father didn’t speak english — to be a supreme court justice,  if, for no other reason, than because it forces people to confront others with a different heritage — one that’s obvious by their physical characteristics.  but we, as a wired culture, need to be responsible about the information we digest.  not only is it easy to perpetuate blatant lies and twist information, but in our digital culture it is just as easy to publish those falsehoods to a wide audience.   if one didn’t already know, it would take maybe five minutes to learn that mandarin oranges come from china, and maybe then the moral outrage about chinese mandarin oranges would be diffused somewhat.  i’m not against favoring local producers — in fact, i buy local foods if and whenever possible.  but just because it comes from another country doesn’t mean it’s tainted.  however, i encourage people to read labels, buy fair trade products, buy local, buy organic — these things are good not only for you as a conscientious consumer but for the environment, for the workers plowing the fields, and for your body.

meanwhile, i’m less interested in the fact that mandarin oranges were imported from china and more interested in why dole chose not to publish the fact that their “mandarin oranges” were actually satsuma oranges, and where they got their oranges from.  

in doing research for this post, i stumbled across GoodGuide, a searchable index that publishes information about how producers rank in terms of health, environmental impact, and the working conditions for their employees, which looks pretty freaking awesome, and makes deciding what to do with the information printed on labels much easier and gives it a context in comparison with other manufacturers.  i think the next wave would be an iphone app or a handheld device that you could take into the store with you, scan a barcode, and then pull up all the relevant information about that product laid out like what this site does.

Random Album Cover – the Creative Commons Way

i’ve been waiting for someone to tag me on that 25 things meme, mostly because it’s come across a couple of the blogs i read, but i guess i either have no friends or everyone knows everything there is to know about me.  either way poor, poor, pitiful me.  anyway, i’m getting my revenge by having the most bad.ass. random album cover, and it’s inspired me to up the ante on this whole thing…



To Do This

1 – Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
or click
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 – Go to Quotations Page and select “random quotations”
or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 – Grab the photo randomly generated from Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr here:

4 – Use Paint.Net or Gimp or similar to put it all together.


this all started because i got the most awesome band name, and it only got better from there:ździec,_Lesser_Poland_Voivodeship

my random quote was
When you relinquish the desire to control your future, you can have more happiness.
Nicole Kidmanin The Scotsman 

and my random photo was[email protected]/3304450435/
by /meaghan préfontaine 

here’s the result:

gwoździec - more happiness

i am so happy about this result that i’ve decided this album needs to be made.  so to go along with the spirit of random and creative commons, i’m trying to devise a system by which one could create an entire album in the same vein as the album cover thing.

– so, the first step is to decide how many tracks are on the album.  i’m not sure of a cc way to do this, my idea is to go to (there’s gotta be a random  page thing?) or possibly a better idea is go to  there’s no random album thing there, but i did a search for my album title and i think the answer is to pick the first full-length release you come to (my first 3 search results were singles).  that is, unless you just want to do a single/ep, which, i suppose, could be an acceptable entry.  so my first full length result is this:
my album will have 11 tracks (i guess an even easier way is to roll a d12…)

now you need songs.  you can cheat and just do a compilation based on full-length creative commons tracks, but…that would be cheating.  a better idea is to scour or some other such sound archive and create your own songs based on what you get.  most of these are fragments so they will require software and time and inspiration and some amount of musical talent (but in these days of GarageBand and song mashups, not really all that much musical talent).  freesound does have a random sample search, so i think the method is get as many samples as you need to compose music that is entirely created with cc’d samples.   there’s a couple other places to get sounds that you can find on the creative commons site, freesound is just what i used for the rpm project.

last, anyone who actually completes this, let me know and put me in the liner notes or send me a copy or something.  you can expect gwozdziec’s debut to be coming in the next couple months.

note: i have no idea how to even pronounce gwozdziec, that’s part of what makes it so awesome.