Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dancing Girls


In the beginning of the 20th century ballet ruled the world of dance.  But as the Western world embraced industrialism and modernity, so did artists.  Stifled by the strict technique, training, and codified movements of ballet, movers like Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis turned to other cultures and movement traditions to create new movement forms, new dances, new ways of moving.  This new aesthetic was rooted in expressionism and for the first time considered how the movement felt in the dancers body.  The first choreographer to popularize this new type of movement in European concert dance was Margaret Morris.  More than that, Morris championed a new kind of dance technique and training that emphasized grounding and fluidity over virtuosity and her movement theory and dance pedagogy might be one of the earliest examples of somatic study as dance training.  The result of her perspective can be seen in the freedom of movement in her dancers bodies and the innovation of shape and form prevalent in her works.  The ideas that she pioneered are now considered de facto parts of most dance classes.  

To Watch the Margaret Morris Girls Dance Outside:

To See the Margaret Morris Girls Performing:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day


Tired of the sequester debate? Watch Mr. Rogers carefully explain to Congress why they should fund Public Broadcasting, and then teach them what to do with their anger in 1969.  Then forward this to your representative.  It worked last time.

Mr. Rogers Testifies to Congress:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Drop In the Bucket


The water cycle is one of the first things taught in almost any natural science course.  That water is cyclical and therefore finite is a hugely important thing for people to understand in terms of how we relate to and behave with respect to the environment.  But oceans and rivers are big, and our planet seems so blue, with such an abundance of water, that it is hard for us to visualize how deeply connected we are through water.  

Consider for example a few simple things.  Human bodies are made of about 60% water.  Only three percent of the water on Earth is freshwater.  There are river channels in China in which flow fluids that can no longer be classified as water because of the high concentrations of pollutants, these rivers run with aqueous solutions.  It is important for us to understand how and why water moves throughout the world. 

Artists Helen Friel, Jess Deacon and Chris Turner produced an pop-up book animation showing the water cycle that is a wonderful fusion of art, design, multimedia, with scientific content.  There is still a vast and growing gap between those who are science literate and those who are not.  Projects like this help bring important scientific concepts into the mainstream consciousness. And it is visually stunning.  We all live here together, we need to make sure that everyone is participating with informed consent. 

To watch Revolutions:


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Soldier On


In the spring of 1990 the car transporting Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, vocal and influential activists for the preservation of the California Redwoods, exploded.  Bari was an organizer for Earth First! a well-known environmental group formed in 1979 that specializes in non-violent direction action.  Bari was a major organizer for their Redwood Summer, a series of anti-logging protests aimed at protection of the Redwood forests and the changing of logging practices.

Bari had received a series of death threats in the months leading up to the bombing. The FBI arrived at the scene in minutes.  Injured, both Bari and Cherney were taken into custody in Oakland after the bombing and charged with transportation of an incendiary device; they were being held for bombing themselves.  Bari never recovered, remaining severely disabled for the rest of her life.  Though the charges were dropped amid clear evidence of a third party being responsible for the crime, the most compelling of which being the placement of the device directly beneath the drivers seat, the FBI and national press painted Bari and Cherney as environmental terrorists and used the incident to marginalize the entire environmental movement of the early 90's.

No other suspects have ever been taken into custody.

The image of environmental activists as crazy, dirty hippies with no jobs and nothing better to do than drugs and violent petty crimes stems from incidences such as these.  Far from the successes of other non-violent movements, civil right, and labor for instance, the environmental movement of the late 20th century was unable to garner mainstream support or respect, instead becoming increasingly caricatured and ignored.  This allowed policy makers to largely ignore the environmental movement in its totality.

Perhaps the government and big business had learned a few things before the environmental movement was realized, perhaps the social climate was not ready for another cultural revolution, maybe it was a movement ahead of it's time, lacking the rigorous research and obvious signs of climate change and species loss we now  see daily on the news.  Whatever the cause, Judi Bari, what she fought for, and almost the entirety of the movement have faded from public consciousness.  Climate change, and the fact of dwindling resources have not.

Most distressing about this is the early, pre-911 association of non-violent activism, especially environmental activism, with terrorism.  There is good reason to know about Judi Bari, and not just for the protection of the Redwoods, but for the protection of our civil rights and the freedom of speech.  The fight to save the Redwoods continues.  


John Muir in 1920 on saving the Redwoods:

The Who Bombed Judi Bari Movie Official website:

The New York Times brief review:



Friday, February 22, 2013

The Glass Slipper


Dame Margot Fonteyn was perhaps the worlds best known and certainly most loved ballerina.  She revitalized ballet in post World War II Europe and brought it into the American mainstream in the 1950's.  She was a master of the classical vocabulary, and set the bar to which prima ballerinas are still judged. She performed into her late sixties.  She did this in spite of the fact that she was a homely child, plump, and lacking the the long neck and legs desired of ballerinas.  She was ambitious and unstoppable, she dyed her hair, got a nose job, and trained with an unprecedented diligence and fortitude.  She was a remarkable, astonishing dancer, with the ability to make almost anything look effortless.  She stands as one of the great beautys of her time. 

But by all accounts, in spite of her success and legions of adoring fans, she was lonely, isolated, unhappy, and largely taken advantage of throughout her life.  She was childless, unmarried, and without close friends.  She died penniless, alone, and nearly unable to walk.

I wonder about the sacrifices we make.  I am curious about ambition, envy, and ego and where they intersect with discipline and the pursuit of greatness.  I look at the choices people make, the trade offs, bargains, and business deals, the ways in which we get the things we want.  I think that work is good for us and I believe that sacrifice, of time, energy, leisure, is a part of work. I want to understand the tipping point, where desire becomes study, becomes lifestyle, becomes success, and how it can consume some people and nourish others. What are the things you want in life?  What are you willing to do for them?  Will you work, sweat, and fight for it?  Will you lie, cheat or steal?  Will it be worth it?


Thursday, February 21, 2013

A First Lady


Ladybird Johnson was a reluctant and unexpected first lady.  She was unsure of her abilities as a public speaker, and aware of her place well within the shadow of Jacqueline Kennedy.  She had an unpopular husband known best for ushering us into the Vietnam era and she stepped into her role as first lady under a cloud of public grief that would mark the beginning of decades of disillusionment and social change.  She was commonly referred to as  "wife in capital letters".  She wore a lot of yellow.

But. She also played an important role in the formation and implementation of the Headstart program, which today services more than 22 million children nationwide and was essential to the formation of the Redwoods National Park.   

We assume we know people, what they stand for, what they do, and what's important to them.  That Ladybird Johnson was one of the nation's early environmentalists may surprise us speaks to our tendency to pigeonhole people, and judge them based on their most public selves.  That she so quietly accomplished so much speaks to her ability to remain true to herself, regardless of her public obligations and personal challenges.

Do what you love.  Do what's important. You never know what you might accomplish.


To visit the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Website:


The PBS Biography of Ladybird:

Head Start:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stone Soup


According to a 2012 report released by the Natural Resource Defense Council 40 percent of the food in the United States goes to waste. Much of this is in the production and marketing of pre-packed and pre-prepared foods, and much of it is due to over-sized restaurant portions. But a lot of it just gets tossed from our refrigerators because we forgot to get around to cooking it.

Food waste argues against itself. There are no good reasons to waste food, only good excuses for why it happens. I believe that one of the primary contributors to American food waste is the loss of home life and the domestic art of cooking. Sure, people still make a couple of things here and there, and we will still make a special trip to the store to try a new recipe from the Times, but the art of daily cooking, and the practice of sitting down to eat has been disappearing from our lives since the 1980's. Cooking has become a form of social action.

That we make too much food and then throw it away or let the leftovers go bad is true, but an overlooked and important contribution to food waste is in our food preparation. More specifically, because we no longer cook from scratch or with regularity, we waste more food. Vegetable ends and peels go into the trash or compost instead of a broth. Past-fresh breads and pastries are thrown out instead of cooked into a bread pudding. Leftovers and need to be eaten now items are tossed over for takeout instead of cooked into a improvised hash. Knowing how to prepare our food, what is edible and is not, how long it can be kept, or how to freeze and preserve leftovers or seasonal batches can prevent food waste as well. Do you use the lemon zest before you slice the lemon? Do you remember to toss the squeezed lemon wedges in with the chicken to season it as it roasts?

While food preparation waste may not be the largest contributor to our overall food waste, the NRDC claims that a decrease in our food waste of even 15 percent could feed 25 million Americans annually. Small changes go a long way.

The best things you could be cooking with things you might otherwise throw away:

  1. hash
  2. vegetable broth
  3. sweet or savory bread pudding
  4. veggie and cheese spreads/tapenades
  5. smoothies and juices

Hash is an dish with protein, veggies and some kind of starch (potatoes etc.) although you can substitute a grain like rice or quinoa.

The New York Times lists lots of simple and delicious hash recipes:

Vegetable and meat broths can be made easily from scraps and frozen until you need them. An easy starter recipe from Frugal Living:

Bread puddings are easy and flexible, substitute any kind of bread and add or subtract sweet and savory ingredients.

Ina Garten's Bread Pudding:

Veggie and cheese spreads can be made in minutes with bits and pieces of whatever you have lying around. Alton Brown has a great beginners recipe:

Smoothies are almost infinitely variable. Better Homes and Gardens provides a great selection of recipes:


NRDC Report of Food Waste:

Post Secret


There is a hugely popular bog called PostSecret that is an ongoing public art project in which people submit secrets written on one side of a postcard.  A lot of the posts are funny, and most of them are visually interesting; until they aren't.  There are posts about abortions, rape, infidelity, and addiction, there are the kinds of awful things you cannot make up in the first place and then cannot get rid of after you see them.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if the post is from a true confessor in need of anonymous catharsis, or a thrill seeker pushing their fantasy onto a voyeuristic audience.  Every time I go to this blog I come away feeling a little dirty and depressed.  

I understand the compulsion towards confession, especially anonymous confession.  I think we all need the weight of our secrets, the actions of our past selves or the actions of others that we have suffered or witnessed, to be lifted, even momentarily.  But it is difficult to face the enormity of our collective hidden lives. The part of me that wants for people to be healthy and well reels from just how unhappy, dysfunctional, and cruel we really are.  I'm not sure that it makes me feel better to know that people feel badly about it.  

Candy Chang, a New Orleans-based public artist has taken a similar  but more positive and inspiring approach to confession as public art in several of her installations.  In Confessions, she prompted people to write confessions on posted slips of paper in a contemplative space inspired by Shinto shrines.  Her acknowledgement of the influence of both Shinto and Catholic concepts of confession in her work are what distinguishes it from PostSecret.  Confessions has none of the sensationalism, no feeling of desperation or attention grabbing that you find on Post Secret.  The result is far more profound and simple, and the tone of the confessions decidedly more positive.  It turns out that in a contemplative space people confess love in addition to loss.

Secrets are like anything else, to keep them carries a price and a weight.  There are lots of ways to unburden yourself and there are lots of people with secrets.  Consider letting go of one of yours.


Post Secret:


Before I Die:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Joyce Carol Vincent


In 2006 Joyce Carol Vincent was found dead in her London flat.  The cause of death was not determined due to the advanced state of decomposition of her body.  Joyce was 38 years old when she died.  Her body had lain undisturbed in her flat for nearly three years.  The story of Joyce, what there is to know and tell has been documented in the film Dreams of a Life.  

Joyce was not a shut-in, had no history of mental illness of drug abuse, and had three living sisters.  She was widely described as beautiful , vibrant, and successful.  By all accounts from those that knew her, it is as though the Joyce they knew simply slipped away; they seemed unable to reconcile the woman in the flat with the person they had known.  Contrary to the image of a recluse she was found surrounded by freshly wrapped Christmas presents; there must have been people in her life.

While there is something morbidly compelling about the unresolved cause of her death and the grim tableau of how she was found, the more disturbing element of this story is the three year wait before her discovery.  Where were family, friends, and coworkers?  Where were the neighbors or the mailman? Where, even, were the bill collectors? In the end, it took even the landlords three years to come and clear her out for unpaid rent.  

I think that the we learn more about ourselves in Joyce's story than we learn about her.  When she died in 2003 we were pre-Facebook and post nuclear-family.  2003 was right in the transition point between the constant connections of the social media age and the isolation and lack of community of the end of the 20th Century.  Three years? How can this be? It is not hard for me to imagine friends of mine disappearing and not being noticed for three or four months.  The free spirits, wanderers, or troubled souls, but three years? There is no one I know or have ever known that was in any way functional that could disappear from all things for three years and not have someone ring the bell.  

What are we to think of this?   Is Joyce some kind of social canary warning us of the dangers of our modernity? Is it an isolated case; one sad woman's quiet decline?  Is it possible that we have reached a place where people can live out their lives with no real connections?  How acceptable is distance between family members?  How important is the building of community? How long do you want to wait before someone finds you? 

This terrifies me.  Joyce's story tapped into some deeply rooted fears about mortality and loneliness.  I think that we all have these fears.  It's why we bother to call up old friends, love and lose and love again, and hassle our way through the holidays to spend time with family; so that when things go awry, someone is there to help us.  Somewhere along the line either Joyce stopped bothering, or everyone else did.  Probably a little of both.  I think a consequence of contemporary culture may be the devaluing of substantive connections with other people.  I think that we are all not so far away from being Joyce as we might like to believe.

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

References/Works Cited:

Dreams of a Life:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heavy Oil


The Sierra Club was founded in 1892 and is the oldest grassroots environmental organization in the United States.  Founded by John Muir, the mission the Sierra Club is to "do something for wildness and make the mountains glad."  the Sierra Club has a reputation for being accessible to people from all points of view and walks of life and are typically considered mainstream in their methodology, preferring education, resource sharing, and lobbying over protest or contention.  The club was essential to the formation of the National Parks Service, the inclusion of the Grand Teton area as a National Park, the addition of over 45,000 acres of wilderness to the Olympics National Park, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

This week, for the first time in its 120 year history, The Sierra Club participated in a direct action protest involving civil disobedience   48 prominent environmentalists, including the executive director of the Sierra Club were arrested after blocking the main gate of the White House in an effort to draw attention to their concerns regarding the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.  Proposed pipeline would transport oil from the tar pits of Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States.   

This is not a typical pipeline debate.  This is not about habitat destruction or road-less areas or even the push away from fossil fuels.  This is a simple mass balance problem. Tar sand oil produces significantly higher emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than other forms of crude oil.  The proposed pipeline would create a dependence on this dirty kind of oil that would be the equivalent of adding over 6 million cars to the road.  In an era of fuel economy and climate change such a step, taken largely to protect national security interests and our own, obviously outdated way of life clearly runs counter to our long term well-being.

It speaks volumes that after over a century an organization that has worked so hard to mainstream itself and distance itself from the radical left in order to gain widespread support and credibility has chosen to use such bold tactics.  These are not hippies or tree huggers, these are business people, political thinkers, policy makers, and scientists; and they know that once the pipeline is built, we will use it.

We have a unique opportunity to fix an environmental problem before we create it.  Do something.

To email President Barack Obama:

Like what you are reading?  Then support the Kickstarter for my book Girl Gone Wild- On Being a Woman in the Wilderness.  Thanks!

"Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains." 
John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 235.


The Sierra Clubs Website:

Photo of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt riding in Yosemite 1903:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Cloven Hoof


In the last few days it has been revealed that large quantities of foodstuffs common in the European markets were labeled clearly as beef when they were, in fact, horse.  Many people have found this upsetting; especially those that have eaten it.

A few observations:
Most religions of the world place dietary restrictions on their practitioners.  Buddhism and other religions object not to the eating of meat per se, but to the needless and dis-compassionate taking of life.  Judaism and Christianity have dietary laws clearly intended as practical guides to food safety, avoiding the ingestion of blood or decomposed meats; the animal must have a cloven hoof.  The Hindus hold the cow in sacred reverence.

We form intimate working and recreational relationships with horses, not with cows.  Horses are easier to ride.  Some cows have horns.  Neither species speaks English.

It takes far more resources to fatten a cow for slaughter than it does to fatten a horse, though neither is especially more or less nutritious.  There are lots of countries, due to climate and resources, that historically have and continue to raise horses for meat.  Many of these countries are modern, and European.  Americans typically pretend they do not know this.


There is neither a better reason to not eat a horse than a cow nor a better reason to eat a cow rather than a horse.  Eating animals is eating animals, at least to some extent.  Cows and horses bear a good resemblance to one another, certainly more so than a fish and a horse.  If you can eat one, you can probably eat the other.

The controversy that is unfolding this week is not about whether or not it is gross or morally and ethically reprehensible to eat horses or even horses versus cows.  This is the illumination of the modern food system.  What should really be making us feel uncomfortable about about this is how difficult it is to determine the original source of the meat.  That the food industry even in such a small geographic region as continental Europe can be so convolute so as to have obscured both the source and the end product.  The real argument no longer lies in how we eat, vegetarian versus carnivore, but in the industry that has come to feed us.

This is what we eat.  This is not happening across the world right now, its happening right here.  We just haven't shined the light.  Be impeccable with your food.  Understand where it comes from and vote with your dollar.  Buy locally, and trust small food handlers.  

To watch video of the wild horses of Oregon:

To watch a truly distressing portrait of the American cattle industry:

Monday, February 11, 2013

A State of Mind


Vicki Topaz, a San Francisco based photographer recently showed a collection of portraits of women, all with gray or silver hair in an exhibit entitled Silver: A
State of Mind.  The exhibition is intended to investigate what it means to be an aging woman and what it means to be an authentic person.  It is not a collection of pictures of old women.  It is not a feminist diatribe.  The collection is an intimate and touching collection of women, just as they are.  It does, though, beg the question, what value do women hold as they age in a youth-based culture? Are we still desirable? Is going gray and accepting it, necessarily political? 

I don't think so.  I think that it is personal.  I do not believe that I have diminished with age in either beauty or person-hood.  I feel myself improving, fine-tuning, and continuing to learn. I take these things, lines, gray hairs, as reminders of my hard work and the triumph of having made it this far.  I hold fast to the belief that beauty radiates and that a lovely soul never goes out of style.

To view the work of Vicki Topaz:

References Cited:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

No Bull About It


On the morning of my 29th birthday I stepped outside onto the raised front porch of a cabin near Kenai, Alaska with my cup of coffee only to come eye to eye with a Moose.  She was huge, majestic  and clearly the dominant animal.  And she had a calf with her.  I watched them for a while, coming in and out of the treeline until they disappeared into the fog.  What I remember most from this encounter is the air of dignity that surrounded these long and lumbering creatures, the possessors of old souls.  

The state of Minnesota announced this week that for the first time in the State's history low numbers mean there will be no moose hunting season.  This comes after a six year decline in the state's moose population from over 8000 to just above 2000, a seventy percent decrease.  Worse than that, researchers are unable to identify a cause for the decline.  While climate change, hunting, and disease are likely culprits, there is no definitive evidence for a causal relationship between any of these factors and the observed decrease in the population.  

Moose, like other large, dominant species, are facing urban encroachment, declining water and air quality, weather changes, and a healthy hunting community, in the form of both humans and wolves.  They are also dependent on healthy, mature forests for their winter survival, the kinds of forests that are disappearing more and more rapidly as we increase our demand for build-able land and construction resources.  It is important to pay attention to the decline of a species that stands over seven feet tall and can weigh up to 1300 pounds because as go those large species, so goes the rest of us.  The decline of the moose is a good warning to us that there is no species that is too big to fail.  Including us.  

References Cited:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Airing Dirty Laundry


From 1920 to 1996 the Catholic Church in Ireland ran "homes for fallen women" called the Magdalene Laundries.  Taking in girls as young as nine, those with nowhere else to go because of poverty, abuse, poor choices or just plain bad luck worked long days in hard labor without pay.  They were outcasts, stripped of their names and dignity.  They were held in service to the the church that housed them, the government and military that commissioned the work, and the common people who ostracized them.  The UN Committee Against Torture called upon the Irish government in 2011 to investigate the Magdalene Laundries and the report of the findings was recently released.  The report not only describes these women as slaves, but acknowledges the collusion of the state in their treatment.  Today, more than 10,000 women, after a legal request for reparation, received an apology from the church. 

The apology was rejected.

Listen to Joni Mitchell's Tribute Song to the Magdalene Laundries:

References Cited:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To Come to Be Able


I spend most of my day asking people to do things that I know they either have never done before, or are far from being good at.  What I hear, most often, is "I can't."  To which I can only reply, "I know."  It is the condition of being a student that a person be desirous of something, some knowledge or skill which they do not yet possess. This is often incredibly distressing. Learning how to do something, anything, requires us to be unable to do it at the start.  If we could already do it, we would not need to come to class.
Merriam Webster defines the word learn in the following way:
          1)  to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, 
instruction, or experience <learn a trade>
2) :memorize <learn the lines of a play>

b : to come to be able <learn to dance>

I find that there are two moments of epiphany in learning, the shock of learning that we cannot, and the shock of learning that we can.  The thing that separates them, sweat. Do you have things that you desire?  Are there things that you are studying?  Then accept your failures.  Embrace them, knowing that you have to get them out of the way, in repetition, diligence, and work. Do not use "I can't" interchangeably with "I don't want to try." The people that can, got there in the doing.  So can you.

To watch Debbie Allen give her "Fame Costs" speech from Fame:

References Cited:

Monday, February 4, 2013

There's a Pill for That


In October of 2011 the National Center for Health Statistics released a report which stated that the number of people in the United States with prescriptions for antidepressants increased more than 400% from 1988 to 2008.  Prescriptions for amphetamine-based drugs used to treat ADD and ADHD saw a similar increase just between 1996 and 1999. Over-prescription of antibiotics has led the Center for Disease Control to call antibiotic resistance a major health problem in the U.S.  The average American takes 12 prescription drugs a year, compared to seven twenty years ago.  We are taking enough prescription drugs that they are appearing in measurable quantities in our waste water.

Sadly, our health, mental or physical is no better.  We are overweight and unhappy, and choking in the cost of our own medical care.  We still love MacDonald's and beer and we still don't exercise.  Our use of prescription drugs has become a symptom of our greater illness.  Take pause. Take a walk.  Take care of yourself.  Sometimes there is no magic pill. 

References Cited:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sarabaites and Gyrovagues


 The Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia  is a book of precepts, holy rules of obligation and practice, written in the mid-5th Century and widely adopted even today by convents and monastic communities throughout the world.  In it, St. Benedict outlined a way of life that addressed the needs of monks living in closed community.  One of these needs was theosis, a divine transformation.  Saint Benedict believed that in order to obtain theosis one had to live a life of peace, prayer, and work.  Essential to this way of life  was moderation in the use of words and extended periods of silence.  

 Practitioners of many faiths, Buddhists and Catholic most notably among them, have long taken vows of silence.  These vows are taken because it is believed that silence clears the mind and body from the distractions of worldly things and allows us to to clear the smoke that that prevents us from seeing the nature of the world. It was also believed that silence would keep the peace within the Abbey walls, that speaking little would prevent discord and and dispute among the devotees.

There is something to be said for holding ones tongue. Do not we all, actually, live in close community?  Do we not share the same basic needs and face the same struggles as anyone else? Do we not all strive for a sense of the divine in our lives?  Saint Benedict began his precepts with a description of the types of monks; Cenobites, those living in a monastery; Anchorites, the hermits; Sarabaites, those living in small family groups of two to four living under their own rules of law; and Gyrovagues, the wanderers, living at the will of their own impulses and desires.  I suggest that we are all Sarabaites and Gyrovagues.  All monks, trying to keep the peace, and it may do us some great degree of good to be careful what we say and to embrace more fully the silence in our lives.

Listen to the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos: