Friday, February 29, 2008

Too much on my mind

Thanks to everybody who has left comments on the post about my dad's life and death. I really appreciate each and every comment and gain much comfort from them.

I will just have to ease myself back into blogging as time and emotions allow. Going back to school was hard, but I knew if I stayed out I'd just be sitting around stressing over falling behind in classes and rehearsals. I expect that blogging will prove to be the same sort of thing -- I'll get too restless the longer I don't post.

I wanted to go with a Friday night Kinks song, and looked on YouTube for one that seems so appropriate. The song is Scattered and the video is strange and works on multiple levels regarding death and life. It is not available for embedding, but you can see it here.

In the midst of all the darkness, I did receive an email notification that Ray Davies has three concerts scheduled for the US in April: San Francisco, Chicago and NYC -- and other dates are now popping up at Dave Emlen's Unofficial Kinks Web Site. Nothing in Ohio as of yet. Tour info can be found here.

And yes, dear readers, I did manage to purchase a ticket online to the NYC show at the Beacon Theatre. Look for me in Row O on April 8th, which just happens to be spring break. Spring -- now that's a warming thought for a mind that has been running on overload this week:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Upon the rack of this tough world...

Time stood still this week here on the Village Green as the clock ran out on my father's life. He fought a brave battle against ILD (interstitial lung disease), living years past anyone's best prognosis. We thought he'd overcome the latest set-back -- after all he'd fought his way through various bouts of pneumonia and bounced back from a lung cancer operation only last year.

But it was not to be this time, and in the wee hours of February 25th, his pulmonary specialist called us all back to the hospital. The fibrosis was not going to be stopped this time. There were only two choices -- ventilation in order to stay alive, or allow the disease to take its deadly course.

Dad was glad to have us there. He said he'd chased the preachers out of his room twice -- politely, of course -- just as he used to turn away the religionists who knocked on our front door when we were kids. My parents raised us in proper Agnostic form -- we learned early on to question authority and to be skeptical of magical thinking. We are a godless family, but that doesn't mean we don't have family values. The difference is that our values were not all pre-written in some holy book and forced upon us by custom or convention, but rather were the outcome of diligent philosophical study and rational weighing of evidence.

My dad was lucid and clear in his instructions not to take prolonging measures. Ventilation was not an option. He turned to the doctor and said, "Well, let's get on with it then." "It" being the process of loading him up with morphine and other painkillers so that as his lungs worked harder and harder in an attempt to bring in oxygen through the thickened walls of his lungs, he would not feel any pain and would gradually drift off into unconsciousness and finally death.

No one could tell us how long it would take -- each ILD sufferer gasps his or her way to dusty death at an individual and unpredictable rate. There are a number of causes of ILD, including environmental and occupational exposures. My dad was born and raised in Akron, and grew up breathing rubber fumes along with everybody else in the city. He worked in the construction trade as a stone mason, mixing mortar and breathing in clouds of cement dust and whatever else was in the air on countless construction sites.

It seemed to take forever for the morphine and other pain meds to have an effect. His entire body was struggling and heaving on each breath, while his arms and legs kept moving in a display of resistance to the inevitable. The family members present held on to his hands, rubbed his head, shoulders and feet for hours, and he was still communicating from under his oxygen mask. He eventually drifted off, and I left to go tend everybody's pets around 5 AM. When I got back around 7 AM he was still thrashing and plucking with his hands, but seemed to be unconscious. However, he suddenly woke up around 8 am and looked at us with an expression of amazement -- he was still alive and we were still there with him. He asked about Obama and was it time for "Morning Joe" -- the Joe Scarborough show that he loved to hate on MSNBC. But the next time he drifted off into morphine-induced sleep, he stayed under until around 3:30 PM when his vital numbers went through a rapid drop and he died peacefully at last.

Before he died, I thanked my dad for being the best dad I could ever hope for. I told him how much I appreciated all the gifts he gave me: love for theatre and all the arts, for science and philosophy, for literature and history, for books and book collecting, and for Shakespeare! I am like my dad in so many ways. I love to work out a design, to make things with my hands. I am project oriented, and once the project is finished, I want to move onto something completely new and different.

When we were young, my dad was often home during the long winter months when it was too cold and snowy to be out laying bricks. Dad always had a project for those winter months. He built a life-sized replica of an Egyptian mummy case, carved a replica set of medieval chessmen, constructed marionettes, designed landscapes for around the house, and worked in his own dark room making prints of his wonderfully artistic photographs.

The best winter was the one in which we hung out together studying sailing ships. My dad started carving a hull for a model clipper ship. It was about three feet long with three masts and it was to be fully functional, with rigging and canvas sails sewn on an old Singer sewing machine by my mom. Finally the day came for it to receive its final coat of paint. I walked around it in awe -- and finally noticed that on the prow of the ship, a name had been painted -- my name! We took it out on Hinckley lake, and it sailed beautifully! Dad photographed it and the resulting images make it look like a real ship out on the rolling sea! We sang sea chanteys as we oared our way behind it in a row boat.

I loved to follow my dad around the garden, and I picked up his love for tending beds of flowers and vegetables. We would often have deep philosophical discussions while we worked outside. I remember asking him once, "Daddy, what is a miracle?" He asked me to imagine a giant ice cream cone dropping down from the sky and landing point down in our back yard. I duly imagined it, and he asked, "Now what are the chances of that actually happening?" I said, "Not much of a chance at all." Then he talked about how miracles are usually claimed by other people, but he'd never witnessed one with his own eyes and that until he did, he would remain skeptical.

Another philosophical discussion that made a deep impact was one about how in life, we need not always see things in absolutes, that not all questions can be answered in terms of black or white. He asked me how many shades of grey are there, and I immediately realized there were too many shades to begin to count.

My dad was very fond of literature, and could quote at will from many sources. The title of this post is from King Lear, which Dad quoted in the hours before his death:
O, let him pass! he hates him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.
He loved Dylan Thomas and used to recite the following poem to me when I was young. He continues to teach me, beyond his final breath, how to live life to its fullest and how to face death with courage. I will always think of him when I read this poem:


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Friday, February 22, 2008

But in a moment hope will find the way

As expected, Ray's appearance on Letterman is available via Youtube. Paul Shaffer runs on with a microphone and is obviously having a blast joining in the chorus of "In a Moment," a song with wonderful lyrics.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Leaning toward unity

I'm liking Obama a whole lot more since I've begun avoiding reading blogs and commentary by his most rabid supporters. I know I'll be happy to support his candidacy, and I'm still hoping that Hillary plays some major role within his campaign as VP or Secretary of State or whatever.

I'm thinking it makes more sense to cast a vote that decides it now rather than continuing the divide on through the long summer months into the convention. I've never seen a whole lot of difference between the two, except with health care. Maybe if Hillary makes a gracious concession, Barack will take a second look at his health plan and find a way to make it universal.

Here in Ohio, times are very tough and getting worse by the minute. Once a thriving state with both industrial and agricultural economies, we are now living on top of a toxic waste land. We breathe in polluted dust that has been layered on over the decades, and we produce agricultural products on depleted land laced with pesticides and other petroleum-based products. The state budget is all about cutting back. There are no steps-forward -- we are always in a reactive mode. It will be interesting to see how Ohio's Democrats eventually choose to vote in this primary season. I wouldn't be surprised if Hillary ekes out a win here. I would hope, if that is the case, that Obama learns from it and gives some focus to the needs of the Rust Belt.

I will continue to keep all options open until polling day, for just as soon as I file a mail-in vote, the candidate I vote for will make some kind of fatal error. Call me cynical, and you have part of it right. But mostly, I want and end to Republican control of this country. May the best person win, and the next best person join in a unified drive to defeat McCain in the fall.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Off line

Had a great post planned for this evening, centered around Ray Davies appearance on Letterman tonight. Tune in now, kids -- he'll be on at the end of the program.

However, when I turned on my 'puter, the big No Connection message came up, taking me back to those dial-up days long ago, when one would try and try to stay on AOL without getting booted off every ten minutes. I don't know what was up with Earthlink tonight, but I wasn't getting on for almost four hours.

Wow, what do you do for four hours in the evening when your computer won't connect? Watch American Idol, of course, while talking to friends on the phone and trying to get student progress reports finished.

No time to go to the Google Reader and check out all my favorite blogs tonight. Will try to play catch-up tomorrow. Time for Ray!!! If you are reading this after Letterman, don't worry -- his appearance is sure to appear on YouTube before you know it.

PS: Working Man's Cafe was released today in the US, so don't forget to buy it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ride with Chrissie Hynde and PR Miller in Support of METRO

This just came in, for those of you who are free to take a bus ride this morning in support of the Metro tax issue on the March 4th primary ballot here in Akron:

Get On The Bus, METRO Is For All Of Us!

Please join Chrissie Hynde for a METRO bus ride to downtown Akron this Monday, February, 18th.
We will be gathering at Angel Falls in Highland Square at 10:45 AM. We will be departing Highland Square from the bus stop in front of the Two Turtles bus stop at 11:02 AM on the #1 bus to downtown.
Bus fare is $1.25, please have exact fare, drivers do not carry change. Children under 6 ride for free, limit 2 kids per adult.

We must make public transportation a priority, not just to pass Issue 8 on March 4th, but to help increase rider-ship in the future. Our goal is to raise awareness about how important public transportation is for the successful economic and social revitalization of the greater Akron area.

METRO lost over $3.5 million in state funds since 2000, and has spent an additional $1.45 million on fuel since 2004. METRO has had no new local tax revenue since 1990 and now faces a $2 million deficit in 2008 and a $4 million deficit in 2004, making cuts to service inevitable with out additional funding.

Please support our city by coming on this ride with Chrissie Hynde and local artist PR Miller.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Catching up with Tags -- Part 1

From Ohdave at Into My Own, comes this one.

I. You have to look up page 123 in the nearest book around you.
II. Look for the fifth sentence.
III. Then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.
IV. And then tag five people, just like you were tagged.

I think I've done this one before, but that's OK -- digging into books is always a good thing. The question is, which book is closest at hand. There are dozens within arm's reach. So I will choose to go with the one I'm actually reading at the moment, as a participant in Crunchy Chicken's Book Club: Affluenza, The All Consuming Epidemic by Wann, de Graff, and Naylor published in 2001 as a follow up to the documentary of the same title.

The three sentences are:
Hence a simpler, stuff-free life was a requirement for survival. A genetic propensity toward hoarding would have been downright deadly. [Section break: Original Affluence] Life for hunter-gatherers was fraught with danger--from wild animals, accidents, disease, and an occasional enemy.
One of the main themes of this book is that human societies can choose between leisure or accumulating stuff. The more stuff we want, the harder we must work to obtain it. In the Stone Age, humans "were able to provide for their basic needs on as little as three or four hours of work a day," according to the authors.

Anyway, I'm tagging the following blogs: The Accidental Akronite, I Will Shout Youngstown, Theatre Ideas, The Political Cat, and of course -- Crunchy Chicken.

Tomorrow I'll get to Beth's tag via Fake Plastic Fish.

Friday, February 15, 2008

To the Bone

A belated post for Valentine's Day. They do always take the best bits of furniture along with the records you will miss the most:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Everybody's a Star

Tackling piles Things To Do tonight, while the TV provides background noise. Suddenly, the sound of one very great rock guitarist rings out along with the vocal tones of the Bard of Muswell Hill. I'm shocked out of my seat with wonderment! Why is a song from "Soap Opera" coming from my television? Oh yeah, it's that commercial for a shoe company that has a star for a logo. Hence the use of the song "Everybody's a Star."
I believe that everybody's a celebrity,
And we've all got personality
And individuality.
We all read lines,
And we all act a part,
We all need a script
And an audience to play to.
No matter what you do,
Or who you are,
Everybody's a star.
That dear friends, is my philosophy of life and theatre! Now promoting shoes undoubtedly made in China. I just hope the Davies brothers are receiving appropriate renumeration for the use of said song.

On my bulletin board at school, the following line from this song is posted:
No matter what your occupation is
Everybody's in showbiz.
Because no matter what career my drama students end up in, they will make good use of their theatrical training. They will be able to communicate clearly and work well in collaborative situations. All the world will be their stage and it will need every ounce of creative thinking they can muster in order to overcome all the problems besetting them and it.

For more insight into the song "Everybody's A Star" within context of Soap Opera, the rock and roll musical it comes from, check this post.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More thoughts on the great Rodham (Clinton) - Obama divide

The more I look at this conflict, the less I like it. I don't want to bash either candidate and I don't want to have to wince every time I read nastiness from Dems addressed to other Dems. We should be having a blast, looking at McCain stumble toward the finish line, dogged by party conservatives -- while Dems prepare for a glorious run in the fall.

Remember the last debate? How respectful and thoughtful both candidates were toward each other? And the immediate post-debate comments were variations on the theme of "dream ticket?" What happened to that moment, anyway? My guess -- it wasn't exciting enough for the media. No, we have to have conflict, the more bitter and scathing the better. That's old style politics, and I don't care for it.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination ought to immediately announce their proposed cabinet members, which should include as many of their primary opponents as possible. It is going to take an enormous amount of creativity, intelligence and disciplined commitment to overcome and turn around all the Bush damage. It will take women and men of all ethnicities as well as support from Democrats across the board.

So how to resolve this situation where roughly half of Dems want one candidate and the other half want another? I'm not talking about super delegates, either. I'm talking about looking beyond numbers to a ticket that gives everybody a stake in supporting it.

If Rodham (Clinton) and/or Barack Obama cannot bring themselves to make a deal that furthers the interests of the Democratic party, then their egos may very well bring about the decline and fall of the United States of America -- should McCain win in the fall. Likewise, if Dems can't get beyond accusations of racism or sexism because they support one or the other of the candidates, we will all lose.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This Ohioan is Leaning toward Hillary

I've been ambivalent about Hillary here, and I have had some compliments for Obama. However, as the campaign has drawn down to the final two, I find myself leaning toward Hillary Rodham (Clinton) as opposed to her opponent.

Bear in mind that I am about as Left as you can get, so I am looking at two people who do not represent my views very closely. Both are overtly religious, but I know that in my lifetime there will never be an avowed freethinker running for president. Both have voted consistently to fund the Iraq War. However, no one on the Republican side could ever get close to offering up a platform that I could accept in any way.

Realistically, if you look at Rodham (Clinton) and Obama, they are more alike than different, except Hillary's health care plan is better and Obama seems weak on details, although strong on metaphors. I'm in a detail kind of mood these days and not so keen on oratory without substance.

But the truth of the matter is, the more I read Democrats viciously attack Hillary, the more I'm inclined to vote for her. That's what it is coming down to. I cannot stand to see the term "Billary" for example. Like the users of said term have some kind of deep insight into the Clinton marriage. I know I don't and I don't trust the media to inform me about it either. Look at the Urban Dictionary's definitions of the term "Billary" and you see definitions that reek of unkindness if not downright cruelty.

Likewise, the critique that we don't want another Clinton is spurious. She has no Clinton DNA in her, which is why I will call her Rodham (Clinton) from now on as a response to the "Billary" derogatory.

The term "triangulation" -- why is it used to denigrate Hillary, but not Barack? I just saw a speech in which Barack boasts of his "Obamicans" -- Republicans that are voting for him. He is putting his ideology "above and between the left and the right" -- just as his fans accuse Hillary of doing.

In short, I am seeing way too much Hillary hatred and far too little in the way of concrete reasons to vote for Barack other than "we need change." Well duh, yes we do! Change from Republican theocratic war-mongering. Here's an example of a list of reasons why a Democrat blogger (Dave at Radio Free Newport) doesn't want Rodham (Clinton). Where's his list of reasons why he wants Obama? What is he doing to the outcome of this race? Rodham (Clinton) represents a large group of constituents. Why alienate the white women? Because Dems assume we'll just come around and forget the way Obama fans talked about Hillary?

I have said repeatedly here that I'd like to see them both on the same ticket. The Hillary attackers will have none of that, and are are attempting to make sure that the label "unelectable" sticks. What a shame it is to see Democrats smearing their own.

For a more thorough critique of Hillary-hating, please go here. Stanley Fish deals quite nicely with the media play-up of the supposed Clinton race-bashing for example.

I don't have time to answer all of Newport Dave's list tonight, but I will try to deal with them throughout the week. I will say that I am a huge fan of his blog, but his post today really got my goat! Not because I think he is sexist, but really -- the comment about Baby Boomers. Talk about your blatant ageist remarks! Look buddy, I didn't choose to be born into a generation that was tagged with such a hideous name, and I can tell you that throughout my life and in my art, I have been actively anti-war! And I am not alone in my generation to wave the banner of peace. Shame on you for such stereotyping!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Local environmental news and events

Some interesting environmental programs and events coming up:

Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club News

Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club General Meetings begin at 7:30 PM. on the third Tuesday of
every month at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, 3300 Morewood Rd., Fairlawn.

Clayton Daughenbaugh: Utah's Redrock Wilderness
February 19, 2008, 7:30 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Church Of Akron
Daughenbaugh represents the Southern Utal Wilderness
Alliance, which is promoting, with Sierra Club
backing, an ambitious wilderness plan for this
beautiful and remote land north of Grand Canyon Park.
It includes the largest remaining U.S. roadless areas
outside Alaska.

Mark Dann: Ohio's Environment and the Law
March 18, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron
Ohio's new attorney general will discuss the role of
his office in defending the environment. Join us for
this up-to-the minute examination of the changing role
of state government.

We need your help NOW!

LightsOut Akron is a community-wide event for
citizens, businesses and governments across Summit
County to turn off their non-essential lighting for
one hour. It's a simple act that you can turn into a
long-term, high-impact habit to cut carbon emissions.
The event will be held Sunday, April 20 in conjunction
with EarthDay which is April 22.

This group is looking for volunteers to help with LightsOut Akron. For more information, contact them via their web page.

No school today

The ride back from Cincinnati yesterday was brutally cold. Cincinnati felt like Cleveland with sharp biting winds that only grew more ferocious as I headed north. Getting out of my truck at rest stops and gas stations prompted me to dash full tilt from one warm space to the other, as the wind howled and lashed its cold icy fingers around me. I was glad there was no major snow storm to go along with it as I made my way back to Akron. The further north I got, the less effect my 14 year old truck's heater had on the inside of the cab -- only my feet stayed warm!

Today, no school and a snow storm is promised for the overnight hours and on through Tuesday day, which may mean another day off school. I may be the only teacher in Akron who hates no school due to weather days -- it means missing rehearsals, which is never a good thing. Ah well, no use fretting about it! Time to focus on other things that need doing and know that we will be playing "catch-up" when school is finally back in session.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An existential evening with Sartre and Beckett

For some, three and a half hours of live theatre is too much to take, let alone two plays that deal with the intolerableness of knowing that life ends in nothingness. I could not resist the double bill on offer from The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

The evening got off to a hellish start with Sartre's No Exit. This is a play I've read, but never seen and I was so thrilled to finally see it live before me. If you don't know the story, in essence it is about three bad people who die and go to hell. Hell is a hotel room furnished with shabby 2nd Empire furnishings, including a mantlepiece containing an immobile bronze stature and a sharp letter opener. A valet shows three people through the door, which locks behind them. Two women and a man are trapped together forever -- each attracted to the one who doesn't return the feeling, in a round robin of perpetual frustration. "Hell is other people," says one of the characters.

Some of the audience members may have thought that hell was sitting through this production, as many left at intermission. Wimps! They do not realize that Sartre's play is deliberately torturous. He gives us the experience of what eternity might be like, and it isn't pleasant!

The production worked its torture on me, chiefly in terms of the lighting, which glared into my eyes and made them itch and droop. The acting was suitably charged with the tensions of crimes and punishments and the overall effect was sufficiently suffocating and interminable.

After intermission, the set had been changed to meet the requirements of Sam Beckett's post-nuclear landscape play, End Game. If you've never seen it, I can only ask, "Why not?" I've seen it many times in my life and I will never turn down the opportunity to see it again. This production was very well done, with a commedia Clov, a tragical-comical Hamm, and a Nel and Nagg of the dustbins beautifully rendered.

I first came into contact with this play as a teenager, working on a n ill-fated production as stage manger. (We never opened after weeks and weeks of rehearsals, due to some major personality conflicts among cast and director.) After decades, the characters still haunt me and the lines resonate to something deep inside, something that shaped my philosophy toward life and existence way back in the 60s. "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness," says Hamm. The audience laughs at that, because if we didn't we'd be crying constantly.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Taking the long drive to Cincinnati

It takes five hours, down 71 through Columbus to Cincinnati.

Once past Columbus, you know you are in a different sort of territory. A billboard announces "Hell is a real place!" Well yes, Hell is a real place and you can find it in Michigan. Unfortunately, I doubt the perpetrators of that billboard are not referring to anything other than a tired old myth.

Speaking of mythology and how primitive humans may have begun making up the idea of gods to utilize for various purposes, on the approach to Columbus, massive clouds gathered slightly above the horizon line, with the lowering sun poking rays through gaps in the clouds. Two holes lined up appeared to be eyes, while other gaps in the clouds allowed giant glowing rays to poke their way down to earth. "Looks like a cosmic being," I thought to myself. But instead of a crown of thorns, it had a beard of sun rays. Too bad I didn't have a camera with me, as it would have made a stunning photograph.

I did bring along my recently purchased Fanny box set (more details here) which provided much pleasure along the way, as I sang along to many old favorites: Long Road Home, Charity Ball, Rock Bottom Blues, Place in the Country, Special Care, Knock On My Door, a rousing version of Ain't That Peculiar and the sweet yet powerful Think of the Children, among the many stand-out tracks. Why these women aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is beyond me.

Today was spent in focusing our theatre education research and tonight some of us are going to see a double bill of existentialist theatre: No Exit and End Game performed by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. I hope to have the time and energy to blog about the shows later.

Meanwhile, have some Fanny:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Working Man's Cafe DVD preview

I'm off to Cincinnati for another Critical Links in theatre education weekend. So I leave you with this nifty promo preview of the bonus DVD on the new US release of Ray Davies album, Working Man's Cafe:

Order here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

E4S can help you become an Urban Farmer

Tired of waiting for your local government to do something to make your city greener? Entrepreneurs for Sustainability are here to help bring out the urban farmer in you! This event takes place in Cleveland, sounds fascinating -- and it's free!

Emerging Urban Farming Opportunities

• Why is increasing urban food
production vital to the region?

• How is this promising industry
budding in the region?

Attend the E4S Third Tuesday Network Event on February 19th to explore your inner farmer and find new business opportunities that will support the health of the regional economy and improve the health of all citizens.


RSVP early as this event has sold out the last two years.
RSVP online or call 216-451-7755.

Request a Display Table

Display tables are available at the E4S Third Tuesday Network Event on February 19th. If you have a business to business green product or service apply for a table by clicking here or call 216-451-7755.
  • $150 – Full Table
  • $100 – Half Table
  • The E4S Member standard rate is $50 off full or half table prices.
Emerging Urban Farming Opportunities E4S Third Tuesday Network Event

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

5:30 to 8:30 pm

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Tasting Room, 2701 Carroll Ave. Cleveland

General Price:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Duper Tuesday and I'm in a Stupor

I stayed up way too late last night working on an iMovie. Deadline. Had to get it done.

So I'm not going out to either of the Democratic presidential watch parties in the Akron area. Instead, I plan to watch from the couch in between snoozing and waking up to the challenge of untangling a marionette's strings that resemble a chaotic cat's cradle. This is what happens when the drama teacher misses a day from school -- the puppets run wild!

I have no predictions for the night, other than I will be switching from CNN to MSNBC shortly, but even that move won't keep me awake much longer. I'm rooting for a mixed result so that the March 4th primary here in Ohio will actually have some meaning in the whole unfolding of events.

CNN is now reporting that Rush Limbaugh has stated he'd rather vote for Hillary Clinton than John McCain. Following in Ann Coulter's slimy footsteps, he takes this tactic as a double whammy against both the hated so-called non-conservative McCain as well as providing gullible Dems with yet another reason to turn from Hillary. If Ms Coulter and Mr Limbaugh would vote for Hillary, then she must be Bush-lite -- right? I'm sure both Rush and Ann and their mindless followers would prefer going against Obama in the fall classic.

Arrghhh! I need respite from Too Many Talking Points From All Sides.

See you when it is all over.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ireland taxes plastic shopping bags -- when will we?

The Irish, in a matter of five years, have rid themselves of the plastic shopping bag habit, according to a NYT story:

"In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog."

In Akron, it is socially uncomfortable and often times weird to ask your supermarket bagger to use customer provided cloth bags. Only yesterday, at the Giant Eagle on Waterloo Rd, this shopper handed over two cloth bags to the clerk before emptying my cart of purchases, telling her that I brought my own shopping bags. The clerk's attention was all on the handsome young bagger, who was relating a long involved story to her. Once my cart was empty, I turned -- only to see that the bagger was loading my goods into plastic bags while my own cloth bags lay there in front of him, all empty from neglect.

"Hey, I don't want plastic bags -- I asked you to use my own cloth bags!" I said, and then -- I really couldn't help myself -- my teacher voice came out in full force: "Perhaps if you hadn't been talking so much you would have heard my request."

The clerk looked guilty and the bagger looked pissed, but he emptied the plastic bags and packed my cloth ones, while I calmly commented that plastic bags were harmful to the environment.

I want Akron to be a plastic bag free zone. Join with me and write your local council person. Maybe we should go for Summit County instead as most of the major shopping districts lie outside of the city limits. What do you think?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Blog Roll Amnesty Day

I admit it -- I hadn't a clue as to what Blog Roll Amnesty Day is. My first thought was that it was a day to catch up on all the posts I had been meaning to write. Or maybe a day to tidy up the blog, which turns out to be closer to the real idea -- but not quite. Jon Swift explains how it began here.

Jill at Writes Like She Talks very kindly added me to her blog roll and listed Village Green as one of her six contributions to Blog Amnesty Day. I thank her hugely and continue to admire her astounding output and energy.

If the idea of Blog Roll Amnesty Day is to give some love to blogs smaller than one's own, then I'm not sure I want to embarrass anyone by pointing out that their readership has yet to reach the the not very astounding average of 59 visits per day. On the other hand, I do confess that it thrills me to see the monthly visits and page views climb ever upward.

Links do matter, as well as writing things that particular groups of people want to read. I love to look at visitor locations to see how many are from Akron. And then to note the regulars from places near and far, as well as visitors who come here for pictures of Huskador retrievers or news of Ray Davies and the Kinks. The themes here at the Village Green cannot be clustered under one convenient handle. This blog is not a "political" blog and it is not strictly "environmental" -- but it visits both themes often. By taking this opportunity to write about what is on my mind, I have come in contact with wonderful people also thinking about the same things, adding new insights to my own world views. Blogging! I love it!

So for Blog Amnesty Day, I am honoring the following blogs regardless of their actual Technorati rating compared to mine:

Cotswold Corner Diary: This is my mom's blog and I really owe her for getting me involved in blogging. She started first and that got me interested in doing the same.

Daily BBG is home to my Happy Hour Atheist & Agnostic email list friend Kevin. Kev and I go way back to the early days of AOL. He is a comic book colorist and a great guy. Blog more often, Kev!

Alisa and the Stuff Alisa Does is a blog by an actress with the American Shakespeare Center as she tours the country performing in venues big and small. This one arrives via my dad, who became a big fan when he saw her perform with the ASC at U of Akron's Wayne branch last fall. I didn't get out to those performances, but I did see Alisa in her last production at KSU -- Hair. (Fun show, that one!) Anyway, her blog is a very fun read of her life on the road.

(Speaking of theatre, I've added a whole new section of theatre blogs and links to my blog rolls, including my new blog Critical Links Theatre Journal, which is totally focused on theatre teaching process and research, and so might not be the most fascinating read for most Village Green regulars. Eventually, I may move most of my theatre-related posts there, but not until the research project is over.)


Edited to change the title and references to the correct term: Blog ROLL Amnesty Day. You can see how new it all is to me still!

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Review of "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan - Part II

In Part II (The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization) of his just released book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan begins with a tale of ten middle-aged Australian Aborigines, all overweight diabetics, who had been living in a settlement and eating a Western diet chock full of refined carbohydrates. Kerin O'Dea, a nutrition scientist, asked them to participate in an experiment: spend 7 weeks in the bush hunting and gathering the traditional Aboriginal foods. The result was dramatic. They lost weight, naturally, but also "all of the metabolic abnormalities of type II diabetes were either greatly improved or completely normalized...."

What are the diseases brought about by the infamous Western ways of eating? Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diet-related cancers are the big ones. O'Dea and others who have replicated her findings in other native populations (Native Americans and native Hawaiians) are showing us that it doesn't take a long time to reverse the ill effects of our horrible ways of eating things that really are not food. They also show us that the idea of "Nutritionism" with its single minded focus on fats or carbs as the guilty culprits that make us fat or sick is wrong-headed. It isn't one thing, it's the entire range of foods and how they are produced that act together to either make us healthy or ill.

The typical Western diet consists of "lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of everything except fruits, vegetables, and whole grains." Pollan points out that this is not new information, that scientists began recognizing the effects of western vs indigenous diets in the early 20th centuries. People like Albert Schweitzer observed that when native populations were introduced to refined flours and sugar and other industrialized food products, western diseases were sure to follow.

All kinds of theories were offered -- from natives being poorly adapted to modern foods, to genetic and demographic theories. But Pollan points out that "When you adjust for age, rates of chronic diseases like cancer and type 2 diabetes are considerably higher today than they were in 1900." Chillingly he notes that most of us today simply accept that conditions like cancer and heart disease are givens, so we look for medical solutions rather than focusing in on what and how we eat.

In a fascinating account of a Canadian dentist by the name of Weston A. Price, who set up a practice in Cleveland, OH, we find an answer to the question of why industrialized societies have such great dental problems. Price traveled the world to solve this mystery. He searched for native populations that had not been exposed to modern refined foods. No matter where he found these natives (in the mountains of Switzerland, lowlands of Africa, Australian bush, New Zealand or the Everglades of Florida and more), they all had no need of dentists. Their teeth were healthy and their gums free of diseases.

Not content with mere observation, he took pictures of the teeth (this was in the 1930s) and sent home samples of their foods to be analyzed . He found that all his population groups were eating a diet that contained on average ten times as much vitamins A and D as the typical Western diet. What is most amazing is that none of the diets were the same. For example, the Masai ate hardly any plant foods, for example, while the people in the Hebrides consumed no dairy.

What he was on to was how nutritionally starved we have become in the quest to process foods so that we can ship them great distances and store them for months and years upon the shelf. The closer we humans are to the natural links of the food chain, the more nutrition we gain from our food.

It starts with the the soil, which gets robbed of nutrients to grow more grains to process into refined food products or to feed more animals to slaughter and process to feed more people. Other researchers were developing this critique of an impoverished food supply in the 1930s, but World War II created a demand for industrialized foods (think Spam) and by the end of this horrific Western conflict, processed food was a way of life for most Europeans and Americans.

Pollan puts it bluntly -- the Western diet is:
"...a radical and, at least in evolutionary terms, abrupt set of changes over the course of the last 150 years, not just to our foodstuffs but also to our food relationships, all the way from the soil to the meal. The rise of the ideology of nutirionism is itself part of that change. When we think of s aspecies' environment, we usually think in terms of things like geography, predators and prey and the weather. But of course on e of the most critical components of any creature's environment is the nature of the food available to it and its relationships to the species it eats."
Pollan offers five fundamental recent transformations to our foods that we can reverse if we choose:

1. From whole foods to refined.
2. From complexity to simplicity.
3. From quality to quantity.
4. From leaves to seeds.
5. From food culture to food science.

Pollan goes into great detail and provides excellent examples of what he means for each of the above transformations. I won't give it all away, as I do think this book deserves to be read and talked about and acted upon. I will give you one example for number 5. Pollan talks about how food once was something that was part of one's cultural traditions. What we ate and how it was grown, gathered and prepared was handed down from generation to generation. Now food is packaged as something that is "good for you" with added vitamins and Omega 3s and everything else that has vanished because our soils are depleted and our food is processed to death. Grandmother doesn't tell you what is good for you anymore, it is the nutritionists from General Mills or other corporate food processing behemoths.

Coming soon -- Part III, in which we learn how to get over Nutritionism as a way of eating.

From the Village Reader

There is nothing like the sound of the radio alarm announcing "No School Today!" Especially after awakening to report after report of major traffic accidents on all branches of the freeways surrounding Akron this AM. So, we happily switched off the radio and drifted back into health-inducing sleep.

Now armed with coffee and time to kill, I share with you some choice reading from the Village Google Reader:

Beth, at Fake Plastic Fish gives us the lowdown on supposedly degradable plastic bags made out of something called D2W.

Crunchy Chicken is looking for the perfect toothpaste recipe.

This one isn't perfect, but will do in a pinch: Dip your brush in baking soda, then put a drop of Dr Bonner's peppermint soap on it. I have stopped using toothpaste, having recently found a dental powder called Eco-dent. "Hardens teeth without fluoride," is the claim. I'm not one of those anti-fluoride freaks, incidentally. I bought this because it has no dyes or sweeteners and it comes in a recyclable blue plastic (#1) bottle. It has a nice mint taste and a grittiness that works on the plaque. In fact, my dental technician commented on the lack of plaque at my last cleaning session. For those in the Akron area, you can find it at the The Mustard Seed.

Over in the UK, Aphra Behn has some thoughts on the Diana inquest. Quoting Aphra:
"It’s a compelling glimpse into the lives of the idle rich; lives cluttered with drivers and body-guards and butlers and spiritual healers and other odd and trashy acolytes."
David Byrne talks a bit about Antonin Artaud and about Jarvis Rockwell, son of illustrator Normal Rockwell. Byrne's Journal is a must-read for anyone interested in the arts and culture.

Speaking of art, you won't want to miss this post from The Brain Police about the amazing elephant artists of northern Thailand. Complete with video!

A blog I recently discovered is dedicated to figuring out how theatre people can make their living doing theatre -- and nothing else. Theatre Ideas explores:
1. Decentralization.
2. Localization
3. Artist - Audience Relationship
4. Positive Contribution
5. Revision of business model

I would say that our own The Bang and The Clatter is an example of what Theatre Ideas is promoting -- high quality, challenging local theatre. Now the trick is to find ways for the theatre workers in local companies to make their living exclusively by doing their art.

PZ Meyers at Pharyngula failed The God Delusion Test with a perfect score of zero and so did I. You can take it here.

Finally, for those who are not easily offended, I recommend this review of Jerry Springer, the Opera via The Playgoer.