Thursday, January 31, 2008

Half way through the debate...

And I still want them both on the ticket. I like the focus on the policies and the plans to implement them. I like the tone of civility between the two -- they'd make a fantastic ticket. The longer the "debate" goes on, the closer Clinton and Obama appear to be on all the issues.

Wolf Blitzer is trying to stir things up as we go into the Iraq portion of the debate, but fails miserably. Both candidates are taking the arguments to the Republicans and getting strong audience responses.

As far as Hillary's vote for the war, yes -- she shouldn't have done it but she explains it in depth. It leads to a broader question that no one has answered -- is it a good thing to use the threat of force in negotiating? These are the moments when I think about Kucinich's plan for a Department of Peace at the cabinet level. It seems to me that threats generally lead to lines being drawn and bombs bursting in air.

Almost reaching the end, and the question arises of a "dream ticket" with both of them on it. I'm still rooting for it at the end of this debate.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time Out for Recovery

Well I'm down with a bug of some sort, one of those nasties that takes away voice, free-breathing and mental clarity, while bringing on the chills and fevers and other assorted unpleasantries.

So readers will have to wait until I feel up to writing Parts II and III of my review of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.

And on another current issue, check out my mom's blog for a most rational response to the last two standing Democratic presidential candidates.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan's follow up book to The Omnivore's Dilemma (reviewed here in four parts) provides us with some much needed guidance. After following the four food chains, he described in his previous book, the reader is left contemplating the dilemma and not quite sure what to do. Those four chains were:

1. A fast food meal
2. An Agri-biz organic meal
3. A pastoral meal from a sustainable farm
4. And a meal that was entirely hunted and gathered

None of the meals was vegetarian or vegan, however if I were a meat-eater, I'd stop and think hard before eating animal products from options 1 or 2 after reading how those animals were fed and slaughtered.

Now Pollan addresses the dilemmas he left hanging with this advice:

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

Sounds simple, but how to convince people to do that after a life time spent absorbing the typical Western diet? Pollan makes a convincing case. His new book is divided into three sections, which I will review one at a time. Today's section:

The Age of Nutritionism

How did we get from eating food to eating products that must be labeled with complete ingredients, along with amazing pseudo-scientific claims? Leading off with "An Eater's Manifesto," Pollan states:
"'re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than processed food products. That's what I mean by the recommendation to 'eat food,' which is not quite as simple as it sounds. For while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science come in packages elaborately festooned with health claims, which brings me to another, somewhat counterintuitive, piece of advice: If you're concerned about your health, you should probably avid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it's not really food, and food is what you want to eat."
The health claims began in earnest with the advent of nutrients replacing real food in the supermarkets. Product claims of low-fat, low cholestoral, vitamins added all grew out of scientific studies that were trying to discover what exactly is in food that is good for us or bad for us. In the early 1d9th century, William Prout first identified the three major constituents of food: protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Justice Von Liebig followed with his discovery of the essential chemicals for building life from the soil up the food chain: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. He developed formulas for beef bouillion and the first baby formula (made of cow's milk, wheat flour , malted flour and postassium bicarbonate -- babies who drank it failed to thrive), which were not as nutritious as he expected. It wasn't until micronutrients (vitamins) were discovered in the early 20th century, that nutritional science really began to take off.

Pollan then takes us through a little-known event in 1977 that he says is responsible for the shift away from food to nutrients in the last two decades of the 20th century. The Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human needs, chaired by George McGovern (a man for whom I once voted for president). Responding to reports that the typical US diet was leading to an increase in chronic diseases, the committee prepared a document called "Dietary Goals for the United States."
"The committee learned that while coronary heart disease had soared in the US, certain other cultures that consumed traditional diets based mostly on plants had strikingly low rates of chronic diseases. Epidemiologists had also observed that in America during the war years, when meat and dairy products were strictly rationed, the rate of heart disease had temporarily plummeted, only to leap upward once the war was over."
Based upon all that evidence, the committee issued guidelines that called for Americans to cut down on dairy and red meat. Can you guess who leaped into the fray? Why the red meat and dairy industries, of course. Senator McGovern's state of South Dakota was home to many cattle ranchers. McGovern bowed to pressure and the guidelines were re-written so that Americans were advised to "choose meats, poultry, and fish that will reduce saturated fat intake." Pollan puts it in sharp language:
"...with these subtle changes in wording, a whole way of thinking about food and health underwent a momentous shift. First, notice that the stark message to eat less of a particular food--int his case meat--had been deep-sixed; don't look for it ever again in any official US Government dietary pronouncement. Say what you will about this or that food, you are not allowed officially to tell people to eat less of it or the industry in question will have you for lunch. But there is a path around this immovable obstacle, and it was McGovern's staffers who blazed it: Speak no more of foods, only nutrients."
And so began the age of Nutritionism, in which food is broken down into components which accompanying claims:L lowfat vs saturated fat, high and low cholesterol omega 3 vs omega 6, good carbs vs bad carbs and so on. Pollan points out that the advent of low-fat products coincides with the rise of obesity and diabetes in the US.

Pollan digs in deep to the claims and the research for the various nutrients. This first section is fascinating and enlightening, and leads to a conclusion that when food became a substance filled with nutrients that are either good or bad for you, eating became a chore rather than a pleasure. References to the French way of eating are found throughout the book. The French eat food that is filled with all the wrong stuff, and yet they remain slimmer and healthier than Americans. By the end of In Defense of Food, you will be considering not only French cuisine, but French attitudes about food and its place in your life.

Tomorrow, we'll delve into Part II: The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization. It's not very pretty and it will probably make you feel queasy, rather like the typical American meal.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home Foreclosures all around us

The Plain Dealer published a series of articles on the home foreclosure debacle in Cleveland this past week, and today the ABJ follows with two stories of local foreclosures.

In a short summary of the crisis, Foreign, National Banks Top Summit Foreclosures, ABJ writer Rick Armon names Deutsche Bank as the top filer of foreclosures in Summit county. That name figures prominently in the region due north of us, as Callahan's Cleveland Diary points out every week in his listing of Cleveland area foreclosures. (Bill Callahan has been on top of this story for months now, and his blog is the best place to keep up with the ongoing crisis.)

In Summit County, we've seen over 19,000 foreclosures in the past five years. Last year alone, according the ABJ report, Deutsche Bank filed 559 foreclosures. The banks involved are generally out of state or out of country banks. Local banks actually care about keeping people in their homes, while the giant behemoth banks only care about selling as many mortgages as possible so they can turn around and sell them off at a profit.

Someone said that we have become a nation that bases its economy on selling our homes to each other. No more manufacturing jobs, no more tech jobs -- let's just buy homes in order to flip them. But the homes up for foreclosure sales in NE Ohio are not going to go for higher prices. Hell, the people who signed up for variable rate mortgages couldn't afford them to begin with. So who can? These sad homes fall into disrepair, are broken into, and stay boarded up as urban neighborhoods fall into rapid decline.

In Armon's main story today, Losing Our Homes, the reader follows along the journey of a family who moved out of public housing and into a modest North Hill home by signing a variable interest mortgage. They thought they were signing a fixed interest loan, but didn't read the fine print. First time buyers who were taken for the long ride that ends in foreclosure.

Nine years ago, I bought my little working class home in Akron. A first time buyer, I knew nothing about mortgages or the differences between variable and fixed rates. Fortunately, I ended up with a real estate agent who gave me good advice and steered me toward an honest broker. 19,000 families in the past five years were not so lucky.

What I'd really like to see is another feature story, one that follows a day in the life of the mortgage broker who gets people to sign one of these predatory loans. I'd like the article to also give us the day in the life of the out of state or country bank managers who process and profit off of the loans. It could be called "Lifestyles of the Rich and Ruthless."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Night at the Theatre with Bill Irwin

Bill Irwin in a segment from the brilliant The Regard of Flight. I didn't get to see the original live, but have played the recorded version over and over until the tape wore out. Then I had the great luck to attend the revival of Regard during Bill Irwin's Signature Theatre season in NYC in 2003.

The Regard of Flight is a loving send-up of "New Theatre" with visual and verbal plays on the language and devices of the experimental theatre genre.

In this clip, we see his patented "hat moves" as well as examples of his "eccentric dancing" and a delightful free association segment. We also are given the perfect definition of acting: "I am performing. I am trying to be here in this space now!"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Night Kick Back -- Ray Davies

Here's a song from Working Man's Cafe called One More Time. It has the curious effect of rending my heart and then patching it back up almost at the same time:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So long Dennis, and thanks...

...for representing those of us whom some people like to stigmatize as the far-out lefties, the old hippies, the peace-niks and so on. Although there are a few issues I am probably more libertarian than progressive, when it comes to presidential candidates, Dennis was the one I always found myself closest to -- no matter what quiz or political compass I happened to be taking.

I didn't care much for the new-age spiritual tones he occasionally brought into his speeches, but I could put up with them a lot more than all the earnest avowals of religious faithfulness I hear from the others, regardless of party.

The thing I admired most about Dennis, was his fight to keep Cleveland's municipal power operations out of the hands of corporate ownership. That's the kind of personal history that means something when choosing a candidate.

Some people brought up his history of voting against a woman's right to choose for so long as a reason not to vote for him. I imagine it was tough for a good Catholic boy to go against his upbringing, but finally he did and I give him full credit for it.

No candidate is perfect, but there should be someone to represent all the segments of society, not just those who reside in or near the center on either side. I voted for Dennis in the 2004 primary and was planning on voting for him in this one. Not sure what I'm going to do now -- maybe a write in vote for Barbara Boxer. As for now, I'm staying out of the Obama/Clinton brouhaha. I'll support the winner in the fall. As someone who didn't vote in the Gore vs Bush sham election, I don't think I could bring myself to sit this one out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

US release of Working Man's Cafe will have bonus tracks

Ray Davies' Working Man's Cafe will appear in three versions in US release. The single cd release will have one new track entitled Angola (Wrong Side of the Law), plus two demo versions of "Vietnam Cowboys" and "The Voodoo Walk."

A "deluxe" cd/dvd version will have the three listed above plus something called "I, Victim" from a rough mix from an upcoming project called "Ripper." The dvd will feature a 20 minute film:
...titled “Americana: A Work In Progress,” which was filmed and directed by Davies. It features footage from the fall 2001 Storyteller Tour. Ray narrates over the post-9/11 landscape of airports, freeways, hotels, soundchecks and performances, with songs from Working Man’s CafĂ© as the soundtrack. It all culminates in New Orleans, the city that inspired many of the songs on the new album.
The above from Harp Magazine, which includes a link to a video promo of the film.

Working Man's Cafe will also be released in "high quality 180g vinyl." Although I still maintain a record player and a collection of old albums, I'm not really keen on buying new ones. Polyvinyl chloride is a problematic substance and is known to leach dioxide into the air, land and water. Although thermal depolymerization is on the horizon as a means to deal with PVC, it is probably best not to buy more of it.

February 19th is the projected release date, and pre-orders are being taken at your favorite online music sellers. I will be buying the deluxe edition and recycling the UK edition that I bought last fall to someone else. If you haven't obtained it yet, I suggest downloading it as the most environmentally friendly way to enjoy the music.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Which presidential candidate is your best match?

Forget the rhetoric -- let's look at the issues. But how? Here's a site with a handy quiz that will match you up with the candidate based upon Economic, Social and Personal criteria. Vote Match also ranks the candidates by percentages.

Here's how I match up in ranking order by percentages:

1. Dennis Kucinich - 88% (88% Social, 88% Economic)
2. Cynthia McKinney (Green Party) - 83% (81% Social, 83% Economic)
3. Hillary Clinton - 78% (75% Social, 79% Economic)
4. Mike Gravel - 75% (88% Social, 71% Economic)
5. Barak Obama - 65% (56% Social, 71% Economic)
6. John Edwards - 58% (44% Social, 67% Economic)
7. Ron Paul - 33% (38% Social, 29% Economic)
8.Rudy Giuliani - 25% (38% Social, 17% Economic)
9. John McCain - 15% (13% Social, 17% Economic)
10. Alan Keyes - 15% (13% Social, 17% Economic)
11. Mike Huckabee - 10% (19% Social, 4% Economic)
12. Mitt Romney - 10% (0% Social, 13% Economic)
13. John Cox (Who the hell is he?) - 8% (13% Social, 4% Economic)
14. Fred Thompson - 8% (0% Social, 13% Economic)
15. Duncan Hunter - 5% (0% Social, 8% Economic)

What is really neat is that you can go into the issues in depth by clicking into how each candidate matches up with you on the issues. For example, the issues that lower Obama's score as a match to mine are he is pro Drug War, wants to spend more on the military, and supports faith-based welfare. With Hillary, I get a 13% higher match than Obama. The only big difference in scoring is that Hillary is also in support of faith-based welfare.

It pleases me no end to see that there are three candidates with whom I have 0% matching on social issues, including Romney, Hunter, and the recently dropped-out Thompson.

Take the quiz and us know via the comments if your actual candidate matches up with your stance on the issues. And if you spot any problems with this quiz and/or the results, please let us know that as well.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Peace, Love and Woodstock

Where were you in the Summer of '69? Did you make it to Woodstock? The closest I got to the Woodstock Festival of Music & Art: I can boast that I once slept in a sleeping bag that was at Woodstock. It belonged to a room-mate who had loaned it to a friend who went to the festival and actually remembered to bring the sleeping bag home! For those too young to remember Woodstock, here's your background info.

Over this past weekend spent in New York state, I eagerly accepted an invitation to head for Bethel Woods to see the site of the original concert. I was visiting a fellow U of Akron theatre alum with whom I did a lot of work back in the times just after Woodstock. We took a long drive through the beautiful Hudson Valley, catching up on our latest theatrical adventures on the way.

It was a very cold day, but the views were spectacular. Above, you see Ron beside the monument pointing down the hillside toward the actual 1969 concert site. The monument lists the participants, a most impressive list indeed:

Ron told me Woodstock the concert did not take place in Woodstock, the artist colony, but rather in this remote location known as Bethel Woods. The site, happily, was never sold for development of McMansions and starter castles. Instead, it has been transformed into the Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts. During the summer, the outdoor pavilion Blossom-style venue attracts thousands of patrons.

Along the drive bordering the site, I was pleased to notice solar powered street lights. Why can't we have them in Akron, was my immediate thought?

A museum about the concert and its historical significance within the context of the times is going to open this spring. They are seeking first hand accounts and artifacts:

The Museum at Bethel Woods
Do you have a Woodstock experience/artifact to contribute?
Phone: (845) 295-2443

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cabaret in Rochester NY with Storm Large

Cabaret at the the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester NY is billed as "for mature audiences" and the buzz on the Ballzboard was that the decadence of Germany in the late Weimar Republic would be on full display from beginning to end. And with Storm Large playing Sally Bowles, one could bet that the houses would be packed.

The good news is that this production features a marvelous ensemble of performers, beautifully cast and expertly directed by Chris Coleman, of Portland, OR where this production began in the fall of 2007. Now in frigid upstate NY state, it goes on through Feb 17th and is well worth a trip to Rochester.

You may have seen Storm Large on network television a couple of summer's ago when she competed on Rockstar: Supernova. And if you are from the upper NW, you may have seen her with her band, the Balls playing at Dante's and other clubs. Storm has a voice that is powerful, yet capable of exquisite subtlety. She is tall (6 ft) and she is extraordinarily physical, especially in the sexual sense of the word. I didn't quite know what to expect from her in a traditional musical theatre role, and can happily report that she does not use her rocker or lounge-core persona at all in interpreting Sally Bowles. I had no problem believing that she was a 19 year old cabaret performer, but she does need to be a little more consistent with the British accent. (A dialect coach was hired for this production, and all in all, I thought the German dialects sounded quite good.)

Wade McCollum as the Emcee was appropriately fascinating and eerie, while Romain Fruge provided a suitable love interest for Sally. However, the stage slap tonight was really off -- oops! Chrisse Roccaro took the role of Fraulein Schneider and made her story as compelling as Sally's, maybe even more so, as she waited her entire life for love only to be made too frightened to accept it.

The staging featured the clever use of a revolve, that allowed scenes to flow from one to the next, while actors found ways to utilize the moving floor beneath them to great effect. The orchestra was first rate and cleverly hidden beneath a walkway that thrust out into the audience.

Cabaret is one of very few musicals that defies expectations. The title song, which seems like it should be a typical show-stopping production number, is instead infused with tragic tones and impending doom. There are no happy endings for anybody. I'd like to see this musical in rotating repertory with Ionesco's Rhinoceros. That would be a powerful one two theatrical punch against the dangers of conformity and giving in to fascistic tendencies. The pressure to avoid taking risks, to just simply give in to authority and not fight what is patently unjust is always present. There will always be a Fraulein Schneiderman who allows herself to be intimidated to the point that she will give up any chance of happiness because it is safer to do nothing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why did they take my train station away?

A four day weekend and I'm outta here.

First stop, Rochester NY to see finally the amazing Storm Large live on stage as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Then on to Poughkeepsie for fun times with old friends, there and back again by train.

I hate it that Amtrak stopped service in Akron. I would so love to make the five minute drive to the station from my house and jump on board for points east or west. Instead, I must drive all the way to Cleveland to catch an Amtrak train.

Trains are the most civilized form of transportation. They go at a pace that gives one opportunity to think, read, sketch, work on a laptop or snooze without feeling crowded or stressed, unlike the present day hassles of flying. Flying is also bad for the environment and I'm thinking I should save my flying for true life essentials like catching the opening of Ray Davies' musical in England, whenever that finally hits the boards.

But meanwhile, I'm thrilled to get to see Storm's performance and I will be reviewing the production here, you can bet on it

While I'm gone, be sure to check out the Carnival of Ohio Politics, celebrating its 100th issue with 100 posts from Ohio bloggers of all persuasions. Thanks to all the folks who put that together. This was my first carnival of anything anywhere! I'll try to find something worthy to send along for future editions.

Leaving you with the only video bit of Storm Large as Sally Bowles that I could find on YouTube:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Problems at Countywide Landfill

The Akron Beacon Journal's excellent environmental reporter Bob Downing gives us the low down on the latest violations at Countywide landfill in Stark County. (Much of Summit County's trash ends up there.) Buried trash was found outside the permitted area, and not only that:

The EPA said the trash was ''black, appeared to have been charred and was saturated with black liquid.''

The material was ''warm to the touch, steaming and emitted a strong smoldering smell,'' the agency said."

This is the same landfill that has been under investigation for suspected underground toxic fires. No matter the violation and all the threats of closing it down, the landfill continues to operate -- because what do we do with all the trash if it is shut down?

Our training as good little mindless consumers in a free market capitalistic society has encouraged us not to think about landfills. Leave that to the people who take up careers in "solid-waste management." What a term! It makes the entire process sound so normal and efficient.

The problem, of course, is that the materials that end up in landfills break down into noxious liquids that will eventually eat through the man-made lining that is supposed to keep the trash from leaching into the ground and the surrounding water tables. But out of sight -- out of mind. That is the way we deal with trash. (See The Story of Stuff in yesterday's post, paying special attention to Chapter 6.)

Perhaps we all need to take a field trip to our local landfill and sniff the air. Observe the endless line of trucks dumping tons of waste day after day. And then focus on more than "managing" the waste.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Here's my nomination for Best Film of 2007. The Story of Stuff walks you through the entire process of how stuff is produced, transported, bought, sold and where it goes when it is no longer wanted. You can watch it chapter by chapter here or go to Free Range Studios to watch it in its entirety.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Extraction

Chapter 3: Production

Chapter 4: Distribution

Chapter 5: Consumption

Chapter 6 -- Disposal

Chapter 7: Another Way

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ohio continues to do nothing about the environment

From the AP via the Akron Beacon Journal online:
COLUMBUS: A conservation group says it can't grade Ohio lawmakers on their environmental records because they passed almost no substantive laws on the topic last year.
The brief snippet on a subject of utmost importance goes on to say that legislators had time to name the official state of Ohio amphibian, while not considering things like:

1. Cleaning up the toxic industrial wastelands that pollute our urban areas.

2. Building a high speed train that connects all the major Ohio cities.

3. Establishing green building standards for every state contract that is given out.

4. Establishing higher standards for clean air, water, and waste management.

5. Banning plastic bags!

6. Moving away from coal and nuclear power to sustainable forms of energy.

And that's just my short list!

Here in Akron, we need to do way more than simply call for a new "Green-print" for our city. It is going to take some major focus and energy, not to mention a commitment in funding. One of the problems is that very few of our "leaders" recognize that it is the small things that count largest. For example, the ubiquitous plastic bags that choke our landscapes and kill our wildlife and use up obscene amounts of petroleum. San Francisco banned them. Now China has also abolished their use, so why not Akron?

How much of the new building that goes on in our city is based upon green and sustainable principles? Not to mention energy conservation and emphasis on use of recycled materials? Meanwhile, Medina has just built itself a brand new environmentally responsible library.

How do we get our politicians to get focus on vital matters instead of playing "king of the hill" all the time?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Night -- King Missile

Here's a good one from King Missile, one of my fave bands from the early 90s. I was thinking about selecting Detachable Penis as the song choice and dedicate it to Chris Matthews (who seemed to have some problems controlling his own this past week), but it gets an adult rating over at YouTube, so I won't risk it here at Blogger. You can click on through and find it. Also, be sure to go to Media Matters to get the scoop on just how long Matthews has been embarrassing himself and his network with his sexist comments.

Friday, January 11, 2008

End of the Week Musings

Heck of a week for political theatre. I for one, am glad the show didn't end in only one short act, comprised of two scenes. We though Iowa was thrilling, little knowing what amazing plot developments would come out of New Hampshire.

The bumpersticker you see pictured here at the Village Green, has been riding around on my vehicle since the day after Kerry lost in 2004. I was madder than all get out and wanted to put something out there to double-whammy hex all those Bush/Cheney stickers. I made a couple dozen of these stickers to send out to my Happy Hour Atheist and Agnostic mailing list friends. Half said "Obama/Clinton," the others said "Clinton/Obama." It didn't really matter to me what order the names were it. What mattered was that these two names would make Republicans shudder. I can't tell you how tickled I am that these two names are now the top choices for the Democratic party.


The weather in NE Ohio has been ridiculously bizarre, even by our usual standards of unpredictability. Upper 60s and bright sunshine as the week began interspersed with high volume wind storms. Obie, the huskador retriever, is shedding heavily -- in the depths of winter when he normally wears his luxurient thick double coat out into the snow storms.


Just to let you know, VegiTerranean does really good take-out meals. I zipped over there to pick up a lunch via the Innerbelt. My goal for 2008 is to try everything at least once on their menu. For the record, today I went with the Tuscan "steak" panini with delicious vegetables and sauce. It came with a side of white bean salad and was portioned so generously I could save half to take home for dinner.

No, I'm not getting paid to plug the restaurant. I just think it is really cool that there is an actual vegan restaurant in Akron. It would be really fun to have an Akron blogger's meet up there some evening. What say you all?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

China bans plastic bags -- when will we?

China's landfills are bursting at the seams and will be filled to capacity in 13 years, so their government has decided to ban plastic shopping bags, at least the flimsy plastic ones that blow everywhere and end up in trees. The Chinese are also trying to clean up their image before the Olympics, according to an AP story today.

Deep within the story, these facts caught my eye:
"In the United States, which has less than one-quarter of China's 1.3 billion people, the Sierra Club's Sierra magazine estimates almost 100 billion plastic bags are thrown out each year. The Sierra Club estimated that if every one of New York City's 8 million people used one less grocery bag per year, it would reduce waste by about 218,000 pounds."
Here in convenience-driven U$A, the citizens mindlessly wait for anything they purchase to be placed in a plastic bag which they may take home to eventually find its way to a landfill or allow to fly out the car window and escape to pollute and kill wildlife.

The Chinese until quite recently shopped with cloth bags and baskets. But the arrival of big box stores also brought the ubiquitous and deadly plastic bag. The Chinese went from a sustainable form of shopping to that of the robotic western consumerist style of wrap everything in plastic.

Using cloth shopping bags is one simple action that anybody can do. Take a stand against mindless consumption and switch to cloth bags.

The image above of the turtle attempting to ingest a plastic bag is lifted from this site in Australia. Try Googling for images of plastic bags in trees for and you will find gruesome images of dead animals remains filled with undigested plastic bags.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thank you NH for providing some balance

What fun watching the media types scrambling to figure out that beating up on a woman for stupid things can lead people to turn out to vote.

Women are going for Hillary in a major way in NH.

Maybe I'll get my dream ticket after all!

To see rankings based upon progressive views, you can go to Progressive Punch to find that Hillary Clinton is ranked at 29, which is two positions higher than Ted Kennedy. Barack Obama is 43, one below Claire McCaskill, Our own Sherrod Brown ranks 6 -- go Sherrod!

Meanwhile, it is loads of fun watching the media pundits get slapped in the face by the women of New Hampshire. Those bad media boys totally can't handle tears. Don't they know real men aren't ashamed to show their emotions. Neither are real women. Emotions are part of what makes us human.

Media Uber-dumping

The headlines are all about Hillary in tears. Well I watched the video footage expecting to see tears dripping down a face and instead, I saw Hillary showing her human side. Hey, isn't that what everybody has been clamoring for? We don't want to see the policy wonk robot woman.

Even Keith Olbermann was dumping on her for so-called crying. Tear her apart for her vote on Iraq and for any other policy, vote or position. But all the nastiness directed at her for having the wrong emotions or too many emotions or not enough emotion is unnecessary.

The Iowa caucus vote gave the media it's big story and now the sell is on. I like Obama a lot. But I'd rather see him win without the press providing such a big push. Suck it in and provide some balance, please.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year's Revolutions

I don't know that resolutions are going to do it. If we want to turn climate change around we need a few revolutions:

1. Achieve clean green energy, and transportation both individual and public forms.

2. Ignite a massive effort to recycle more and use the toxic landfills less.

3. Invent and use alternatives to plastic.

4. Begin a major transformation from a consumer society motivated by convenience to one that is a conserving society motivated by a sense of fairness rather than greed.

These huge transformations must be fueled by our day to day actions. I can't invent a car that runs on compressed air, but I can save up so that when one arrives on the market, I can purchase it.

Made a resolution that helps you feel like you are participating in the revolution. I've been shopping with cloth bags since the fall of 2006. It wasn't easy at first, but I eventually realized that more reusable bags stashed in the vehicle makes it very easy not to forget to shop with them. Another tip is to hang the bags, once emptied, on the door handle so you don't forget to take them back out to your car.

I reached a milestone this week. I used up the last saved blue plastic bag for recyclables from my pre-cloth shopping bag days. I still have a huge stock of white (and other shades) plastic shopping bags.

There are some folks who are blogging their personal trash challenges. Fake Plastic Fish is the place to visit if you want expert advice on how to avoid plastic in your life. 365 Days of Trash is a blog for recording and collecting one man's trash for a year. He's going to stash it in his basement so he can come to grips with how much trash he is producing. Crunchy Chicken is working on a project to help us all get rid of personal waste, ie: excess weight and the propensity toward over-eating. You can join in Project Waste here. No Impact Man, the one and only, has finished his year long stint making no impact on the environment, but his blog continues and is an excellent resource on how to decrease your impact on the planet.

I don't have a focused trash project like those above, but I am working to be more mindful of what I consume and what I throw away. The goal is to develop habits that produce less waste and to make purchases that take packaging into consideration.

What are your personal climate control goals for 2008?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Chick Rock Night at the Village Green

Because I'm feeling kind of bad for Hil (see latest Rasmussen NH prediction here), I feel like reaffirming women's liberation with some classic Fanny, Suzi Quatro and some post-modern Storm Large.

I'm four years younger than Hillary, and I know what it was like back then -- being a girl with ambitions beyond the ideal husband, house and kids in the suburbs. My consciousness was raised in high school, when I was running for class president. I had jumped into the campaign, thinking I would be good in a leadership role as I had already evidenced the skills that would be put to good use as a theatre director and teacher. Politics and show biz are pretty much involve the same skill sets.

So I was sitting in Latin class chatting about running for office when the eventual class Valedictorian with perfect 4.0 turned to me and said she couldn't vote for a girl because being president was a man's job. This young woman with all those impeccable academic qualities got married right out of high school, had kids and eventually I heard she went to nursing school.

As for me, I was soundly trounced in the election by the class super athlete. That pretty much ended my political ambitions. Good thing too, because it would have been wasted effort. According to a recent Gallup poll, more people would choose NOT to vote for an atheist, no matter what. Note that the 48% figure is a consistent number from the 1950s to the present, a time during which the percentages opposed to blacks and women dropped hugely.

Back in the dark ages of the 1960s, most girls went to college to get a husband. Some like Hillary wanted a husband and a career, and she was willing to put her husband's career first. (I could never do that so, wisely, never married!) Then the Vietnam war came along and messed all the old traditions. Our fellow students, boyfriends, brothers, cousins and friends were getting drafted, or else dodging the draft in various ways. We mobilized and took to the streets, boys and girls together. The war resistance movement opened us up many more possible liberation paths.

Things are better now. In the same poll, we see that only 5% of the populace would vote against someone because they are black and 8% would vote against a candidate because she is female. That is hopeful, but it doesn't address the lack of women in leadership roles at all levels. For example -- go to this site and see that only one woman made the top ten list of local "newsworthy" people of 2007. Chrissie Hynde only made the top 15! Bah!

I wonder, just how far have we come -- really? I think that is a real problem -- there are no newsworthy women locally. If that is the case, why?

We need some grrl power inspiration right about now. Here's some classic Fanny. This band never got its just due. They were all very talented musicians and this video proves it. For me, the very idea of Fanny was electric and inspirational. Women could pick up guitars and play. It was ok to pursue your artistic passion, even when the field was very much male-dominated.

Here's another early rock and roll legend, Suzi Quatro. Why isn't she in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Madonna goes in but not Suzi or Fanny. Utterly shocking.

No Chick Rock Night would be complete without Storm Large. What the what is Ladylike? Check out Storm and the Balls in Ontario, 2006.

Friday, January 04, 2008

How It All Ends

A science teacher has created a video on how to deal with global warming. How It All Ends takes the viewer through the major possible outcomes regarding global warming, from it isn't really happening to total catastrophe. Thanks to Brewed Fresh Daily for the link. Note that you really should visit Wonderingmind42's other videos at YouTube as he has created an index of clips that support his work. He calls it an expansion pack. But first check out his main thesis:

Gravel still in the race -- MSNBC misspeaks

Just got an email from the Gravel campaign. Mike is still in the race. That's good to know, actually. You never can trust a politician totally, so it is good to have Mike as an option...just in case. Here's the message:

"We're Still in the Race!

Once again, the Mainstream Media has not gotten the facts straight.

MSNBC pundit Keith Olbermann has incorrectly declared that Sen. Gravel has dropped out of the race following the January third caucus in Iowa. This is not true, and Sen. Gravel is still an active member in this race. We are requesting that MSNBC and Keith Olbermann retract their statement, and issue an apology to the campaign for promoting blatantly false misinformation.

Again, Sen. Gravel has not dissolved his campaign, and has no intentions of doing so.

J. Skyler McKinley
Multimedia Coordinator
Mike Gravel for President 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Congratulations Barack Obama!

What a great win in Iowa! If he can keep up the momentum, Hillary may well find herself scrambling for some new talking points. But how does she make herself acceptable without stealing Obama's lines?

The breakdown in stats tells us that Obama got the youth vote and the independent vote along with a solid third of Democrats. He also won the women's vote. Edwards was counting on the unions and they let him down. Edwards had nothing to say to the other candidates in his post caucus speech -- not very classy.

Hillary is currently leading in the national polls but for how long? It will be very interesting to see how the campaigns redirect their energies after tonight. Will America jump on the Obama Express ride toward Change? Will Hillary go negative or go gracefully? Or will she find some way to put a halt to Obama's charisma and political charm?

Biden, Dodd and Gravel are out. I took Mike's banner down earlier today before the caucuses, sensing perhaps that his participation in the race was ending. I enjoyed his comments along the way and I do think that he and Dennis Kucinich served a very worthwhile purpose in the year long race to this the first 2008 presidential caucus. I got the photo of Barack from his web site and also downloaded a banner which I might be putting up here very soon.

Finally, props to all the local Obama supporters, especially to the gang at The Chief Source and to Terra (not terror) who have been actively promoting his candidacy. I think one of the greatest selling points in Barack's favor is that he is the youth candidate and that so many people regardless of age appreciate that he is neither a Bush or a Clinton and he never voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

One should never totally trust a politician because they can never represent you in all the ways you'd like. But when it comes time to make a choice, you have to look for the least objectionable one and maybe if you are lucky, one who will take positive actions that benefit us more than they hurt us. I posted last night that I would be happy with any of the Democrats and that is a good sign. I think Obama's victory tonight is a victory for the voters, not the political machines.

So go Obama. Best wishes for New Hampshire!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Caucus Racing

Hey, how come only the people of Iowa and a few other odd states get to caucus? Sounds like it could be fun, getting together on a cold January night for two hours with members of one's own political party to debate and stand up for the party's presidential candidate.

On the Democratic side, I'll take any of them, and really want all of them to contribute to the upcoming Democratic administration. So I charge them to kiss and make up quickly after a winner is sorted out, then all unite to defeat whatever bizzaro Republican is left standing.

The Republicans are looking like a freak show, with the party fragmented and despised by a good many people who once voted for them. They've made awful messes that will take a lot of creative solutions in order to clean up. It will take enormous cooperation and determined action to return to a collective viewpoint rather than the imperial one so ruthlessly implemented by Cheney, Rove, Bush Inc.

So go Dems! I'm still hoping for a Clinton/Obama ticket. The US needs a huge public relations makeover, and that ticket would speak volumes to the rest of the world as well as to those of us in the US who would like to see a different gender/ethnicity providing leadership for a change. And since we've been on a long extended swing to the right, we need to go back through the center on the way to the progressive left. For purposes of balance and seeking some kind of equilibrium. Eight years of Hillary should do that, and then 8 more of Obama who will have the time to gain experience on the international stage as VP.

That's my primary outcome fantasy at the moment -- what's yours?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Post-holiday plastic wrap-up

What aesthetic urge prompts people to put out giant plastic inflatable decorations? I'm not just picking on Xmas here, I don't want to see inflatable turkeys, goblins, leprechauns, easter bunnies or any other such creatures lurching about in the wind in front of a neighbor's house. One night of a good winter storm's wind and the inflatable looks like the one at left, wilted into a pissed off expression!

The idea is to use Less Plastic not more, along with Less Energy Usage, and not to buy Things that will end up in The Landfill after one season's use.

In the spirit of ignoring all the hype and wanting to keep my out-going trash to a minimum, I avoided most holiday temptations. It is always a pleasure not to shop during the weeks prior to Xmas. And this year, I also avoided the After Sales Events. Sometimes the things one really needs are not for sale any where. Things like peace and quiet and a new kitten who came into this household on December 23rd.

I gathered up my cloth shopping bags and headed to Pets Plus for kitten food. I was somewhat startled to see the sign posted: "Special Extended Holiday Shopping Hours!" Was this so Fido could have extra time making up his mind what to purchase for his fellow animal companions?

However, I did not leave that store without succumbing to temptations. I bought a bed for the kitten, which turned out to be a good thing. She loves it and I find her curled up in it when I get home from outside adventures. I probably could have made something similar out of recycled materials, but like millions of other people -- I chose convenience.

Then I made a stupid purchase -- a kitty play gym for fifty bucks. It is constructed of pieces of pressed wood covered with petroleum based carpeting, something I don't have anywhere in my house. There is a play mouse on a string hanging inside a hoop. The hoop is made out of a pressed wood form (a process that uses formaldehyde) and the mouse upon closer inspection is made from some kind of real fur (shudder). No country of origin listed on a label anywhere. The brand name is Kitty Condo.

Later back home, and racked with guilt, I looked online to see if I could find a "green" cat gym. I found one made out of PVC (!) and another made out of pressed wood covered with faux fleece, and one that is made to look like a tree stump but doesn't list materials used. Here's a very expensive cat gym, without carpeting, but made out of veneered plywood and covered with polyurethane coating. The designer had the living room decor more in mind than the comfort and safety of the cat with that one.

My quick search for "green" cat gyms and condos did not turn up anything suitable. Obviously, this is a market waiting to be tapped. Just another one of those little local green businesses I wish I could walk down Kenmore Blvd and find.

At Pets Plus, I also bought a half-off Xmas squeaky ball for Obie. He's been carrying it around ever since, never letting it get far from sight. Both animals are retrievers. Ophelia arrived here with a foam rubber ball that was her favorite kitten toy. She will run after every toss and then leap back up onto the couch and drop the ball for me to toss again. I've never seen anything like it in a cat!

Ophelia likes the kitty gym, but after a good work out, she heads over to the couch to hang out with Oberon.