Q302: Qualifies As Green Halloween

Thirty years ago my daughter went Trick or Treating as a Green Crayon. I was reminded of this while photo purging Monday. Though we weren’t aiming for green back then, I am crazy about this idea today.

Actually, this costume was really in keeping with sustainability. It was reused from an older cousin. Yes, my sister-in-law made it in the first place and passed it on for Angel. I hope I passed it on to someone else. As I recall, her brother wasn’t interested. Anyway, the child can dress really warmly, just requiring the color green. The crayola label is an art project that can be retired to the compost pile. The hat was foam, but green fabric with stiffened lining (even chipboard or cardboard) could be used. All together this could be free except for a few art supplies. A bunch of friends or siblings might have fun as a group of different colored crayons.

I had this idea after finding Angel’s picture. You could take a digital photo of each kid or group of kids against a backdrop you have created (really scary would be great). Then, turn and put the dealy bob (disk, cd whatever) to your computer / printer and make an instant print. Shove this into a little cardboard frame and hand it over. If it is a group, just make multiples.

Some neighborhoods have crowds of kids that all seem to hit at once. This could be a real pain. If your trick or treaters are all neighborhood kids known to you, it would be pretty simple to just hand out a little ticket that tells them to come back (later, next day?) for their picture.

Maybe the kid will be disappointed, maybe not. But, I am pretty confident the parents will be delighted. I love this shot of Angel even if the quality of the print sucks.

From Treeehugger . . . Halloween costumes that would truly be scary to greenies.
  • Safari Hunter
  • Grocery Bag(s)
  • Sushi
  • Lumberjack
  • Gas Pump
  • Steak
  • Cow With Whoopee Cushion
I would add
  • Coal
Seriously, this is nothing I could do - even if there were kids who came to my place on Halloween. The cost of it is out of the question. Yet, in reading other sites, I surmised that there are a lot of people in this movement who can afford something like this. Just a thought . . .

Q301: Quitting the Paint Factory

I may be pushing the boundary of fair use today by reproducing almost the entire article that appeared in Harper’s Magazine, November 2004 issue. Take a deep breath – before the election, the plasticized halloween holiday before the high holy plasticized holidays that follow. I want to show my deep and abiding respect for this beautifully organized argument in favor of jumping off the treadmill. It has been my deliberate effort over some years to opt out. This speaks to my heart and my values. I have placed the words in bold as my own emphasis.

Quitting the Paint Factory
Mark Slouka

Love yields to business. If you seek a way out of love, be busy; you’ll be safe, then.
-Ovid, Remedia Amoris

I distrust the perpetually busy; always have. The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats. The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain. They are the soul-eaters.

When I was young, my parents read me Aesop’s fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” wherein, as everyone knows, the grasshopper spends the sum­mer making music in the sun while the ant toils with his fellow formicidae. Inevitably, winter comes, as winters will, and the grasshopper, who hasn’t planned ahead and who doesn’t know what a 401K is, has run out of luck. When he shows up at the ants’ door, carrying his fiddle, the ant asks him what he was doing all year: “I was singing, if you please,” the grasshopper replies, or something to that effect. “You were singing?” says the ant. “Well, then, go and sing.” And perhaps because I sensed, even then, that fate would someday find me holding a violin or a manuscript at the door of the ants, my antennae frozen and my bills overdue, I confounded both Aesop and my well-meaning parents, and bore away the wrong moral. That summer, many a wind­blown grasshopper was saved from the pond, and many an anthill inundat­ed under the golden rain of my pee.

I was right.

In the lifetime that has passed since Calvin Coolidge gave his speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in which he famously pro­claimed that “the chief business of the American people is business,” the do­minion of the ants has grown enormously. Look about: The business of busi­ness is everywhere and inescapable; the song of the buyers and the sellers never stops; the term “workaholic” has been folded up and put away. We have no time for our friends or our families, no time to think or to make a meal. We’re moving product, while the soul drowns like a cat in a well. ["I think that there is far too much work done in the world," Bertrand Russell observed in his famous 1932 essay "In Praise of Idleness," adding that he hoped to "start a cam­paign to induce good young men to do nothing." He failed. A year later, National So­cialism, with its cult of work (think of all those bronzed young men in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will throwing cordwood to each other in the sun), flared in Germany.]

A resuscitated orthodoxy, so pervasive as to be nearly invisible, rules the land. Like any religion worth its salt, it shapes our world in its image, de­monizing if necessary, absorbing when possible. Thus has the great sovereign territory of what Nabokov called “unreal estate,” the continent of invisible possessions from time to talent to contentment, been either infantilized, ren­dered unclean, or translated into the grammar of dollars and cents. Thus has the great wilderness of the inner life been compressed into a median strip by the demands of the “real world,” which of course is anything but. Thus have we succeeded in transforming even ourselves into bipedal products, paying richly for seminars that teach us how to market the self so it may be sold to the highest bidder. Or perhaps “down the river” is the phrase.

Ah, but here’s the rub: Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, req­uisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idle­ness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil. Not for nothing did our mothers grow suspicious when we had “too much time on our hands.” They knew we might be up to something. And not for nothing did we whisper to each other, when we were up to something, “Quick, look busy.”

Mother knew instinctively what the keepers of the castles have always known: that trouble – the kind that might threaten the symmetry of a well-ordered garden – needs time to take root. Take away the time, therefore, and you choke off the problem before it begins. Obedience reigns, the plow stays in the furrow; things proceed as they must. Which raises an uncomfortable question: Could the Church of Work – which today has Americans aspir­ing to sleep deprivation the way they once aspired to a personal knowledge of God – be, at base, an anti-democratic force? Well, yes. James Russell Lowell, that nineteenth-century workhorse, summed it all up quite neatly: “There is no better ballast for keeping the mind steady on its keel, and sav­ing it from all risk of crankiness, than business.”

Quite so. The mind, however, particularly the mind of a citizen in a de­mocratic society, is not a boat. Ballast is not what it needs, and steadiness, alas, can be a synonym for stupidity, as our current administration has so am­ply demonstrated. No, what the democratic mind requires, above all, is time; time to consider its options. Time to develop the democratic virtues of independence, orneriness, objectivity, and fairness. Time, perhaps (to sail along with Lowell’s leaky metaphor for a moment), to ponder the course our unelected captains have so generously set for us, and to consider mutiny when the iceberg looms.

Which is precisely why we need to be kept busy. If we have no time to think, to mull, if we have no time to piece together the sudden associations and unexpected, mid-shower insights that are the stuff of independent opinion, then we are less citizens than cursors, easily manipulated, vulnerable to the currents of power.

But I have to be careful here. Having worked all of my adult life, I recognize that work of one sort or another is as essential to survival as protein, and that much of it, in today’s highly bureaucratized, economically diversified societies, will of necessity be neither pleasant nor challenging nor particularly meaningful. I have compassion for those making the most of their commute and their cubicle; I just wish they could be a little less cheerful about it. In short, this isn’t about us so much as it is about the Zeitgeist we live and labor in, which, like a cuckoo taking over a thrush’s nest, has systematically shoved all the other eggs of our life, one by one, onto the pavement. It’s about illuminating the losses.

We’re enthralled. I want to disenchant us a bit; draw a mustache on the boss.



It’s been one hundred and forty years since Thoreau, who itched a full century before everyone else began to scratch, complained that the world was increasingly just “a place of business. What an infi­nite bustle!” he groused. “I am awaked almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my dreams. There is no Sab­bath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work.” Little did he know. Today the roads of commerce, paved and smoothed, reach into every nook and cranny of the republic; there is no place apart, no place where we would be shut of the drone of that damnable traffic. Today we, quite literally, live to work. And it hardly matters what kind of work we do; the process justifies the ends. Indeed, at times it seems there is hardly an occupation, however useless or humiliating or down­right despicable, that cannot at least in part be redeemed by our obsessive dedication to it: “Yes, Ted sold shoulder-held Stingers to folks with no surname, but he worked so hard!”

Not long ago, at the kind of dinner party I rarely attend, I made the mis­take of admitting that I not only liked to sleep but liked to get at least eight hours a night whenever possible, and that nine would be better still. The reaction – a complex Pinot Noir of nervous laughter displaced by expres­sions of disbelief and condescension – suggested that my transgression had been, on some level, a political one. I was reminded of the time I’d confessed to Roger Angell that I did not much care for baseball.

My comment was immediately rebutted by testimonials to sleeplessness: two of the nine guests confessed to being insomniacs; a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters claimed indignantly that she couldn’t re­member when she had ever gotten eight hours of sleep; two other guests de­clared themselves grateful for five or six. It mattered little that I’d arranged my life differently, and accepted the sacrifices that arrangement entailed. Eight hours! There was something willful about it. Arrogant, even. Suitably chastened, I held my tongue, and escaped alone to tell Thee.

Increasingly, it seems to me, our world is dividing into two kinds of things: those that aid work, or at least represent a path to it, and those that don’t. Things in the first category are good and noble; things in the second aren’t. Thus, for example, education is good (as long as we don’t have to listen to any of that “end in itself” nonsense) because it will pre­sumably lead to work. Thus playing the piano or swimming the 100-yard backstroke are good things for a fifteen-year-old to do not because they might give her some pleasure but because rumor has it that Princeton is interested in students who can play Chopin or swim quickly on their backs (and a degree from Princeton, as any fool knows, can be readily converted to work).

Point the beam anywhere, and there’s the God of Work, busily trampling out the vintage. Blizzards are bemoaned because they keep us from getting to work. Hobbies are seen as either ridiculous or self-indulgent because they interfere with work. Longer school days are all the rage (even as our children grow demonstrably stupider), not because they make educational or psychological or any other kind of sense but because keeping kids in school longer makes it easier for us to work. Meanwhile, the time grows short, the margin narrows; the white spaces on our calendars have been inked in for months. We’re angry about this, upset about that, but who has the time to do anything anymore? There are those reports to re­port on, memos to remember, emails to deflect or delete. They bury us like snow.

The alarm rings and we’re off, running so hard that by the time we stop we’re too tired to do much of anything except nod in front of the TV, which, like virtually all the other voices in our culture, endorses our exhaustion, fetishizes and romanticizes it and, by daily adding its little trowelful of lies and omissions, helps cement the conviction that not only is this how our three score and ten must be spent but that the transaction is both noble and necessary.


Time may be money (though I’ve always resisted that loath­some platitude, the alchemy by which the very gold of our lives is transformed into the base lead of commerce), but one thing seems certain: Money eats time. Forget the visions of sanctioned leisure: the view from the deck in St. Moritz, the wafer-thin TV. Consider the price.

Sometimes, I want to say, money costs too much. And at the beginning of the millennium, in this country, the cost of money is well on the way to bankrupting us. We’re impoverishing ourselves, our families, our communities – and yet we can’t stop our­selves. Worse, we don’t want to.

Seen from the right vantage point, there’s something wonderfully animistic about it. The god must be fed; he’s hungry for our hours, craves our days and years. And we oblige. Every morning (unlike the good citizens of Tenochti­tlan, who at least had the good sense to sacrifice others on the slab) we rush up the steps of the ziggurat to lay ourselves down. It’s not a pretty sight.

Then again, we’ve been well trained. And the training never stops. In a recent ad in The New York Times Magazine, paid for by an outfit named Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc., an attractive young woman in a dark business suit is shown working at her desk. (She may be at home, though these days the distinction is moot.) On the desk is a cup, a cell phone, and an adding machine. Above her right shoulder, just over the blurred sofa and the blurred landscape on the wall, are the words, “Suc­cessful entrepreneurs work continuously.” The text below explains: “The challenge to building wealth is that your finances grow in complexity as your time demands increase.”

The ad is worth disarticulating, it seems to me, if only because some ver­sion of it is beamed into our cerebral cortex a thousand times a day. What’s interesting about it is not only what it says but what it so blithely assumes. What it says, crudely enough, is that in order to be successful, we must not only work but work continuously; what it assumes is that time is inversely pro­portional to wealth: our time demands will increase the harder we work and the more successful we become. It’s an organic thing; a law, almost. Fish got­ta swim and birds gotta fly, you gotta work like a dog ’til you die.

Am I suggesting then that Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc. spend $60,000 for a full-page ad in The New York Times Magazine to show us a young woman at her desk writing poetry? Or playing with her kids? Or sharing a glass of wine with a friend, attractively thumbing her nose at the acquisition of wealth? No. For one thing, the folks at Wealth and Tax, etc. are simply doing what’s in their best interest. For another, it would hardly matter if they did show the woman writing poetry, or laugh­ing with her children, because these things, by virtue of their placement in the ad, would immediately take on the color of their host; they would simply be the rewards of working almost continuously.

What I am suggesting is that just as the marketplace has co-opted rebel­lion by subordinating politics to fashion, by making anger chic, so it has qui­etly underwritten the idea of leisure, in part by separating it from idleness. Open almost any magazine in America today and there they are: The ubiq­uitous tanned-and-toned twenty-somethings driving the $70,000 fruits of their labor; the moneyed-looking men and women in their healthy sixties (to give the young something to aspire to) tossing Frisbees to Irish setters or ty­ing on flies in midstream or watching sunsets from their Adirondack chairs.

Leisure is permissible, we understand, because it costs money; idleness is not, because it doesn’t. Leisure is focused; whatever thinking it requires is absorbed by a certain task: sinking that putt, making that cast, watching that flat-screen TV. Idleness is unconstrained, anarchic. Leisure – particularly if it involves some kind of high-priced technology – is as American as a Fourth of July barbecue. Idleness, on the other hand, has a bad attitude. It doesn’t shave; it’s not a member of the team; it doesn’t play well with others. It thinks too much, as my high school coach used to say. So it has to be ostracized.

[Or put to good use. The wilderness of association we enter when we read, for example, is one of the world's great domains of imaginative diversity: a seedbed of individualism.

What better reason to pave it then, to make it an accessory, like a personal organizer, a sure-fire way of raising your SAT score, or improving your communication skills for that next interview. You say you like to read? Then don't waste your time; put it to work. Order Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard's Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage, with its picture of the bard in a business suit on the cover.]

With idleness safely on the reservation, the notion that leisure is neces­sarily a function of money is free to grow into a truism. “Money isn’t the goal. Your goals, that’s the goal,” reads a recent ad for Citibank. At first glance, there’s something appealingly subversive about it. Apply a little skepticism though, and the implicit message floats to the surface: And how else are you going to reach those goals than by investing wisely with us? Which suggests that, um, money is the goal, after all.


There’s something un-American about singing the virtues of idleness. It is a form of blasphemy, a secular sin. More precisely, it is a kind of latter-­day antinomianism, as much a threat to the orthodoxy of our day as Anne Hutchinson’s desire 350 years ago to circumvent the Puritan ministers and dial God direct. Hutchinson, we recall, got into trouble because she accused the Puritan elders of backsliding from the rigors of their theology and giving in to a Covenant of Works, whereby the individual could earn his all-expenses-paid trip to the pearly gates through the labor of his hands rather than solely through the grace of God. Think of it as a kind of frequent-flier plan for the soul.

The analogy to today is instructive. Like the New England clergy, the Religion of Business – literalized, painfully, in books like Jesus, C.E.O. – holds a monopoly on interpretation; it sets the terms, dictates value.

[In this new lexicon, for example, "work" is defined as the means to wealth; "success," as a synonym for it.]

Although to­day’s version of the Covenant of Works has substituted a host of secular pleasures for the idea of heaven, it too seeks to corner the market on what we most desire, to suggest that the work of our hands will save us. And we be­lieve. We believe across all the boundaries of class and race and ethnicity that normally divide us; we believe in numbers that dwarf those of the more con­ventionally faithful. We repeat the daily catechism, we sing in the choir. And we tithe, and keep on tithing, until we are spent.

It is this willingness to hand over our lives that fascinates and appalls me. There’s such a lovely perversity to it; it’s so wonderfully counterintuitive, so very Christian: You must empty your pockets, turn them inside out, and spill out your wife and your son, the pets you hardly knew, and the days you sim­ply missed altogether watching the sunlight fade on the bricks across the way. You must hand over the rainy afternoons, the light on the grass, the moments of play and of simply being. You must give it up, all of it, and by your example teach your children to do the same, and then – because even this is not enough – you must train yourself to believe that this outsourcing of your life is both natural and good. But even so, your soul will not be saved.

The young, for a time, know better. They balk at the harness. They do not go easy. For a time they are able to see the utter sadness of subordinating all that matters to all that doesn’t. Eventually, of course, sitting in their cubi­cle lined with New Yorker cartoons, selling whatever it is they’ve been asked to sell, most come to see the advantage of enthusiasm. They join the choir and are duly forgiven for their illusions. It’s a rite of passage we are all familiar with. The generations before us clear the path; Augustine stands to the left, Freud to the right. We are born into death, and die into life, they mur­mur; civilization will have its discontents. The sign in front of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Work confirms it. And we believe.

All of which leaves only the task of explaining away those few miscreants who out of some inner weakness or perversity either refuse to convert or who go along and then, in their thirty-sixth year in the choir, say, abruptly abandon the faith. Those in the first category are relatively easy to contend with; they are simply losers. Those in the second are a bit more difficult; their apostasy requires something more… dramatic. They are considered mad.

In one of my favorite anecdotes from American literary history (which my children know by heart, and which in turn bodes poorly for their fu­tures as captains of industry), the writer Sherwood Anderson found himself, at the age of thirty-six, the chief owner and general manager of a paint factory in Elyria, Ohio. Having made something of a reputation for himself as a copywriter in a Chicago advertising agency, he’d moved up a rung. He was on his way, as they say, a businessman in the making, per­haps even a tycoon in embryo. There was only one problem: he couldn’t seem to shake the notion that the work he was doing (writing circulars extolling the virtues of his line of paints) was patently absurd, undignified; that it amounted to a kind of prison sentence. Lacking the rationalizing gene, incapable of numbing himself sufficiently to make the days and the years pass without pain, he suffered and flailed. Eventually he snapped.

It was a scene he would revisit time and again in his memoirs and fic­tion. On November 27, 1912, in the middle of dictating a letter to his secretary (”The goods about which you have inquired are the best of their kind made in the…”), he simply stopped. According to the story, the two supposedly stared at each other for a long time, after which Anderson said: “I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet,” and walked out. Outside the building he turned east toward Cleveland and kept going. Four days later he was recognized and taken to a hospital suffering from exhaustion.

Anderson claimed afterward that he had encouraged the impression that he might be cracking up in order to facilitate his exit, to make it compre­hensible. “The thought occurred to me that if men thought me a little in­sane they would forgive me if I lit out,” he wrote, and though we will nev­er know for sure if he suffered a nervous breakdown that day or only pretended to one (his biographers have concluded that he did), the point of the anec­dote is elsewhere: Real or imagined, nothing short of madness would do for an excuse.

Anderson himself, of course, was smart enough to recognize the absurdity in all this, and to use it for his own ends; over the years that fol­lowed, he worked his escape from the paint factory into a kind of parable of liberation, an exemplar for the young men of his age. It became the cornerstone of his critique of the emerging business culture: To stay was to suffocate, slowly; to escape was to take a stab at “aliveness.” What America needed, Anderson argued, was a new class of individuals who “at any physical cost to themselves and others” would “agree to quit working, to loaf, to refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world.”

“To refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world.” It sounds quite mad. What would we do if we followed that advice? And who would we be? No, better to pull down the blinds, finish that sentence. We’re all in the paint factory now.


At times you can almost see it, this flypaper we’re attached to, this mechanism we labor in, this delusion we inhabit. A thing of such magnitude can be hard to make out, of course, but you can rough out its shape and mark its progress, like Lon Chaney’s Invisible Man, by its effects: by the things it renders quaint or obsolete, by the trail of discarded notions it leaves be­hind. What we’re leaving behind today, at record pace, is what­ever belief we might once have had in the value of unstructured time: in the privilege of contemplating our lives before they are gone, in the importance of uninterrupted conversation, in the beauty of play. In the thing in itself – unmediated, leading nowhere. In the present moment.

Admittedly, the present – in its ontological, rather than consumerist, sense – has never been too popular on this side of the Atlantic; we’ve always been a finger-drumming, restless bunch, suspicious of jawboning, less likely to sit at the table than to grab a quick one at the bar. Whitman might have exhorted us to loaf and invite our souls, but that was not an invitation we cared to extend, not unless the soul played poker, ha, ha. No sir, a Frenchman might invite his soul. One expected such things. But an American? An American would be out the swinging doors and halfway to tomorrow before his silver dollar had stopped ringing on the counter.

I was put in mind of all this last June while sitting on a bench in London’s Hampstead Heath. My bench, like many others, was almost entirely hidden; well off the path, delightfully overgrown, it sat at the top of a long-grassed meadow. It had a view. There was whimsy in its placement, and joy. It was thoroughly impractical. It had clearly been placed there to encourage one thing – solitary contemplation.

And sitting there, listening to the summer drone of the bees, I sud­denly imagined George W. Bush on my bench. I can’t tell you why this happened, or what in particular brought the image to my mind. Possi­bly it was the sheer incongruity of it that appealed to me, the turtle-on-a-lamppost illogic of it; earlier that summer, intrigued by images of Kaf­ka’s face on posters advertising the Prague Marathon, I’d entertained myself with pictures of Franz looking fit for the big race. In any case, my vision of Dubya sitting on a bench, reading a book on his lap – smiling or nodding in agreement, wetting a finger to turn a page – was so discordant, so absurd, that I realized I’d accidentally stumbled upon one of those visual oxymorons that, by its very dissonance, illuminates something essential.

What the picture of George W. Bush flushed into the open for me was the classically American and increasingly Republican cult of movement, of busy-ness; of doing, not thinking. One could imagine Kennedy reading on that bench in Hampstead Heath. Or Carter, maybe. Or even Clinton (though given the bucolic setting, one could also imagine him in other, more Dionysian scenarios). But Bush? Bush would be clearing brush. He’d be stomping it into submission with his pointy boots. He’d be making the world a better place.

Now, something about all that brush clearing had always bothered me. It wasn’t the work itself, though I’d never fully understood where all that brush was being cleared from, or why, or how it was possible that there was any brush still left between Dallas and Austin. No, it was the fre­netic, anti-thinking element of it I disliked. This wasn’t simply outdoor work, which I had done my share of and knew well. This was brush clearing as a statement, a gesture of impatience. It captured the man, his disdain for the inner life, for the virtues of slowness and contemplation. This was movement as an answer to all those equivocating intellectuals and Gallic pontificators who would rather talk than do, think than act. Who could always be counted on to complicate what was simple with long-winded dis­cussions of complexity and consequences. Who were weak.

And then I had it, the thing I’d been trying to place, the thing that had always made me bristle – instinctively – whenever I saw our fidgety, unelected President in action. I recalled reading about an Italian art movement called Futurism, which had flourished in the first decades of the twentieth century. Its prac­titioners had advocated a cult of restlessness, of speed, of dy­namism; had rejected the past in all its forms; had glorified busi­ness and war and patriotism. They had also, at least in theory, supported the growth of fascism.

The link seemed tenuous at best, even facile. Was I serious­ly linking Bush – his shallowness, his bustle, his obvious suspi­cion of nuance – to the spirit of fascism? As much as I loathed the man, it made me uneasy. I’d always argued with people who applied the word carelessly. Having been called a fascist myself for suggesting that an ill-tempered rottweiler be put on a leash, I had no wish to align myself with those who had downgraded the word to a kind of generalized epithet, roughly synonymous with “asshole,” to be applied to whoever disagreed with them. I had too much re­spect for the real thing. And yet there was no getting around it; what I’d been picking up like a bad smell whenever I observed the Bush team in ac­tion was the faint but unmistakable whiff of fascism; a democratically diluted fascism, true, and masked by the perfume of down-home cookin’, but fascism nonetheless.

Still, it was not until I’d returned to the States and had forced myself to wade through the reams of Futurist manifestos – a form that obviously spoke to their hearts – that the details of the connection began to come clear. The linkage had nothing to do with the Futurists’ art, which was notable only for its sustained mediocrity, nor with their writing, which at times achieved an almost sublime level of badness. It had to do, rather, with their ant-like energy, their busy-ness, their utter disdain of all the manifestations of the inner life, and with the way these traits seemed so organically linked in their thinking to aggression and war. “We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia,” wrote Filip­po Marinetti, perhaps the Futurists’ most breathless spokesman. “We will glorify war – the world’s only hygiene – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers….. We will destroy the muse­ums, libraries, academies of every kind….. We will sing of great crowds excited by work.”

“Militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers,” “a feverish insomnia,” “great crowds excited by work” … I knew that song. And yet still, almost perversely, I resisted the recognition. It was too easy, somehow. Wasn’t much of the Futurist rant (”Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly”) sim­ply a gesture of adolescent rebellion, a FUCK YOU scrawled on Dad’s garage door? I had just about decided to scrap the whole thing when I came across Marinetti’s later and more extended version of the Futurist creed. And this time the connection was impossible to deny.

In the piece, published in June of 1913 (roughly six months after An­derson walked out of the paint factory), Marinetti explained that Futur­ism was about the “acceleration of life to today’s swift pace.” It was about the “dread of the old and the known… of quiet living.” The new age, he wrote, would require the “negation of distances and nostalgic solitudes.” It would “ridicule . . . the ‘holy green silence’ and the ineffable land­scape.” It would be, instead, an age enamored of “the passion, art, and idealism of Business.”

This shift from slowness to speed, from the solitary individual to the crowd excited by work, would in turn force other adjustments. The wor­ship of speed and business would require a new patriotism, “a heroic ideal­ization of the commercial, industrial, and artistic solidarity of a people”; it would require “a modification in the idea of war,” in order to make it “the necessary and bloody test of a people’s force.”

As if this weren’t enough, as if the parallel were not yet sufficiently clear, there was this: The new man, Marinetti wrote – and this deserves my italics – would communicate by “brutally destroying the syntax of his speech. He wastes no time in building sentences. Punctuation and the right ad­jectives will mean nothing to him. He will despise subtleties and nuances of lan­guage.” All of his thinking, moreover, would be marked by a “dread of slowness, pettiness, analysis, and detailed explanations. Love of speed, abbrevi­ation, and the summary. ‘Quick, give me the whole thing in two words!’

Short of telling us that he would have a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and be given to clearing brush, nothing Marinetti wrote could have made the resemblance clearer. From his notorious mangling of the Eng­lish language to his well-documented impatience with detail and analy­sis to his chuckling disregard for human life (which enabled him to crack jokes about Aileen Wuornos’s execution as well as mug for the cameras minutes before announcing that the nation was going to war), Dubya was Marinetti’s “New Man”: impatient, almost pathologically un­reflective, unburdened by the past. A man untroubled by the imagina­tion, or by an awareness of human frailty. A leader wonderfully attuned (though one doubted he could ever articulate it) to “today’s swift pace”; to the necessity of forging a new patriotism; to the idea of war as “the necessary and bloody test of a people’s force”; to the all-conquering beauty of Business.

Mark Slouka is the author, most recently, of the novel God’s Fool. He teaches in Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His last essay for Harper’s Magazine, “Arrow and Wound,” appeared in the May 2003 issue.

Q300: Quick Meals

When we're eating fast food, we're not just eating the food, we're eating a set of values that comes with the food. [. . .]
food should be cheap.
food should be the same no matter where we are on the planet.
advertising confers value.
OK to eat 24 hours a day.
there are unlimited resources.
the work of the people who grow or raise the food is unimportant—in fact we don't even need to know.
And all of those values are informing what's happening in the world around us. We're ending up with malls instead of beautiful places to live in. Alice Waters

So let me explain that the title does not mean fast food. I have had a kind of pet peeve with this the idea of fast food for even quick meals for a long time. Frankly, even complex recipes taking a long time often don’t require one’s undivided attention. For instance a recipe might say preparation time is 2 hours, but fail to mention that most of that time is time the food is in the oven, and the cook is free to be doing something else.

I believe Fast Food is a misnomer in another way (besides often not being particularly fast and the food content is dubious). No, I believe the key motivation for buying fast food is to be free of any planning or thinking about food in advance of a meal. It is virtually mindless to have no plan at all and simply show up at the drive-up window and order off the top of your head. As with my previous post, Pay Attention, the message is that you can pay money or pay attention. (Similarly, you can pay the price with your health and the planet’s resources or pay attention and respect.) We all know that one can spend less money and minimal time to prepare a tasty, healthy meal - a superior meal. The tough part comes when people don’t know how to prepare food from scratch or how to budget planning, shopping, preparation time.

Though I had planned on this concept as I was contemplating my blog last year, I was happy to see a post by Sharon of Casaubon’s Book, The Future of the Quick ‘N Easy Meal.

“. . . my job now is to think about food. That is no hardship – regular readers of this blog will know that the question of how we will go on eating is my great passion. So much so that I’m now working on book #2, co-authored with Aaron Newton, titled A Nation of Farmers and coming out from New Society in spring ’09. The subject of the book is all of the agricultural acts we will need to undertake to survive and thrive in the coming decades – and on how reclaiming food – growing it and cooking it – might preserve or maybe remake our democracy. The title is drawn from Thomas Jefferson’s claim that it was a nation of independent farmers who were best able to create and sustain democracy, because personal independence made it possible for us to make moral and just choices.”

“Someone once observed that you can tell what decade you are in by how long the “quick and easy” meals take. In the 1970s, a good portion took as much as an hour. By the 80s and early 90s 30 minutes was it. Amazon now counts 23 cookbooks advertising meals in 20 minutes or 15 minutes or less, and a number of them are best sellers.” [snip]

“Aaron and I probably won’t change the title of the book, or at most we’ll add “A Nation of Cooks” to the title somehow. But the truth is this – a nation reared on instant and quick and easy is about to make a very hard transition – one that transforms the question of what to have for dinner to “how shall we transform our very society down to its deepest roots." Now the good thing is that I suspect that much of this transition will improve our lives, our health and a whole host of other things. But it will be hard, and harder still until we recognize that as challenging as getting 100 million farmers and gardeners will be the creation of 200 million home cooks.”

Sharon makes some penetrating points in this post. Her usual in-depth perspective takes the concept of quick a step farther than most I have ever read. But, she too makes the point I did about the thoughtlessness factor of fast food buying.

This week’s food post is dedicated to this concept of a quick meal. My choice is to return to quinoa because it contains needed protein and it is a food I have on hand at all times. Similarly I have onions around almost always. As I wrote, onions are a versatile and hearty vegetable, a complex carbohydrate that stores well during the winter months. Both of these recipes I would be happy to fix. I might not have the cheese or pine nuts on hand, but it wouldn’t stop me from fixing these. I also would be crazy not to use the solar oven if the sun was shining.

Quinoa With Fried Onions

Get a Real Food Life | June 2003
by Janine Whiteson
Rodale Press

Pronounced "keen-wah," this grain, native to South America, has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. In fact, it is not a true grain at all, but a relative of spinach and Swiss Chard. Over the past 20 years, it has enjoyed a resurgence on plates across America. This might have to do with its nutty flavor or maybe the fact that it has more iron than other grain around and is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Servings: Makes 4 servings.


  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Ground black pepper


  1. Rinse the quinoa under cold running water until the water turns clear.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the quinoa and water. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa begins to soften. Remove from the heat and drain.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the onions and cut into 1/8" to 1/4" slices. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they soften and brown. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary to prevent burning.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, onions, parsley, cheese, and pepper to taste. Toss well. Serve as a side dish.

Herbed Quinoa Pilaf

Bon Appétit | June 2003
Adapted from B. Smith


  • 4 cups quinoa (about 18 ounces)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil


  1. Place quinoa in large strainer. Rinse under cold running water until water is clear.
  2. Transfer quinoa to large saucepan; add 4 1/2 cups water and salt. Bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer quinoa to large bowl; fluff with fork. Stir in oil and lemon juice. Cool to room temperature.
  5. Mix in pine nuts and red onion. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.) Mix in basil.

Quinoa images from Tor Tor Tor and St_Gleam.

Update 11/1/08 - I read thisgreat article on this theme of quick meals. Author takes on Kentucky Fried Chicken's challenge (read: marketing) to fix the same meal for less than $10. Not surprising that it can be done (of course), but reading the details is entertaining.

Q299: Quiet! You Gotta' Hear This

I'm man eating machine. Quirky doesn't begin to describe the Queen of Quirk, Grace Jones. Love this Corporate Cannibal, Digital Criminal. I embedded this last summer, but the album was released yesterday and I had to listen to it again. Love.

Q298: Qualms About Photo Purge

Although I take digital photographs, scan old photographs and store all these on the computer. I also make a backup. What about keeping photos? Do you? As you can see, I have a metal box filled with photographs. These photos have all been scanned and organized. On the other hand, for this purge I emptied a cardboard box filled with snapshots. The first pass is done. But, I need to scan and decide what to do with the original photographs.

A part of me just wants to pack them away in another metal box and label both for my son. I had a similar category, termed 'legacy content', in the twin to this metal box. I wrote about the box (another family's legacy) and my cassette music stored in it for another partial purge that needs more attention.

For now, I will put whatever I have completed in my closet or shed because he has no room. I will also burn cd’s for him when I have finished scanning. He may choose to simply toss them. I was thinking that he may one day have children and grandchildren who might be fascinated by our primitive photographic records and our stories. If not, it doesn’t really matter. I get a kick out of the images, but I don’t need to touch them as some do.

I have a wall of family photographs and computer folders filled with them. But, the graduation photograph isn’t leaving the damn box.

P297: Polling

If you like the horse race aspect of the elections, you will love the work of Nate Silver at his blog fivethirtyeight. I heard him on Democracy Now and checked out his site. It is a wonder to behold and graphics nobody comes close to outdoing. (Sound competitive? I think I’ve got this down.)

I am still working on envelopes and helping out a neighbor and even when I have no tasks at hand, the ideas come but I can't seem to flesh them out. So, I will cast a few crumbs on the water today. In depth research doesn't seem the activity of the day.

P296: Pay Attention

Don’t pay money, pay attention.
“None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
I realized this morning that I really prefer living as I am right now than living with my past measures of success and progress. I remember a time when I would daydream and make lists about doubling my income, paying off all debts, building a home, traveling to Europe and maybe even having some make-over surgery to look younger. It is the stuff of daydreaming and it is fed by what is held up as the ideal American way of life. (More and more I cringe at the ubiquitous use of American to mean United States – with complete disregard for the other North Americans of Canada and Mexico and utter invisibility of South and Central Americas. Gah) I digress . . .

Let me be clear that I believe my wish lists above were not intrinsically bad. I know for a fact I have missed out in my own development by never traveling abroad. Reading novels only takes one to far off places and cultures in the imagination and it isn’t the same. Hey, but the debts are gone via a bankruptcy almost two decades ago and living without credit cards ever since. I also bought a home and sold it during the housing bubble. I am down to one last bit owed on student loans (currently in forbearance until I hit my retirement Jan. 2010). The home building is not something I would do in the same way I’d imagined years ago and the cosmetic surgery idea is stupid. Okay, that last one is bad, wrong-headed and just plain vanity.

What about doubling my income? The more I learn about money, the less I care about it. One of the very first videos I placed on make-a-(green)plan is Money As Debt posted about a year ago. It is still the best 45 min. tutorial I could recommend for anyone who is confused with the bank bailout just foisted on the US taxpayers. I just don’t want to play (or pay). I essentially want to take my ball and go home.

Did you know the Wizard of Oz is a story of money?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Chicago, 1900) is a parable about Money Reform and the 1890s Midwestern political movement led by William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925); three times candidate for President of the United States. From 1891-1895 Bryan served in the House of Representatives, where he advocated the coinage of silver at a fixed ratio with gold, in order to break the bankers' monopoly and manipulation of the gold-backed currency. [snip]

L. Frank Baum was editor of a South Dakota newspaper and he wrote the first of his Oz series on Bryan’s second attempt in 1900.

Oz is short for ounce, the measure for gold and silver.

Dorothy, hailing from Kansas, represents the commoner.

The Tin Woodsman is the industrial worker, rusted as solid as the factories shut down in the 1893 depression. The Scarecrow is the farmer who apparently doesn’t have the wit to understand his situation or his political interests. The Cowardly Lion is Bryan himself; who had a loud roar but little political power.

The Good Witches represent the magical potential of the people of the North and the South.

After vanquishing the Wicked Witch of the East (the Eastern bankers) Dorothy frees The Munchkins (the little people). With the witch's silver slippers (the silver standard), Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road (the gold standard) to the Emerald City (Washington), where they meet the Wizard (the President), who appears powerful, but is ultimately revealed as an illusion; the real Wizard being just a little man who pulls levers behind a curtain.

This can be interpreted in two ways: Either, the President himself is really just a little man who pulls levers to sustain an illusion of power, or, the real power of the President rests with the little men behind the curtains who pull the levers and create the illusion.

When the real Wizard is exposed, the now enlightened Scarecrow denounces him. Dorothy drowns the Wicked Witch of the West (the West Coast elite); the water being an allegory for the Midwest drought. The real Wizard flies away in a hot-air balloon, the Scarecrow is left to govern the Emerald City, the Tin Woodsman rules the West, and the Cowardly Lion returns to the forest where he becomes King of the Beasts after vanquishing a giant spider which was devouring the animals in the forest. Dorothy's silver slippers were changed to ruby in the 1939 film.

I included this here because I don't believe it is common knowledge that money is the basis for the story. Yet I don’t want to devote a post to this allegory of what was. I am far more interested in what is going to happen in my life. The reality is still with us that money is no longer attached to value (as with gold or silver coinage). Money is now based on debt and demands perpetual debt and unending growth. This translates into destruction of the planet and slavery of the world’s people. The video on Money as Debt gives guidance to the alternatives to this money economy. I am focused on my own person freedom from debt bondage.

“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, that there is no human relation between master and slave.”
Leo Tolstoy

Don’t pay money, pay attention.

There are so many items in our daily lives that can be eliminated. This last year has been so revealing for me to eliminate things to experience what it means. The vast majority of these items eliminated are not really important. I do have to pay attention. I have to be conscious of my laundry, in order to have clean clothes and cloths (for the kitchen, bathroom and general cleaning) because I don’t use paper products. My attention to food supply and food spoilage has been honed without the use of my refrigerator. Notice, I am not saying I need to do a whole lot more than I ever did before. I just need to pay attention, be on top of things and generally more aware.

Again, my caveat is that I am not working outside my home or raising children or living with any other people or pets. My health is good and I live in a mild climate. These two sentences place me in a favored position. Oh yes, and I am white with an education and a small savings account. This is privilege in the United States and not to be taken lightly. Nothing in my life would be as easy without these 3 magically keys – white and educated with savings. My savings are meager, but a buffer and leverage nonetheless.

Since I live in a money economy based on the demand that we all be in perpetual debt, there are many obstacles to living in a sustainable manner. Anyone who blames herself or himself on failing to live sustainably needs to be reminded of this. Only the smallest of incentives have been promoted by the powers that be. Not one government leader in any elected office is talking about consuming less, buying less, or sacrifice. The multinationals have effectively blocked any nationwide switch to fossil fuel alternatives in transportation, energy generation or cradle to cradle manufacturing. Agribusiness has created countless obstacles for a population wanting local, healthy whole food. That same world along with the restaurant industry makes waste a given.
Because of this we have to pay attention and grab opportunities, tips and risks with changing this system. We have to direct our attention to every trip we take and assess its importance or urgency. I have to remember to keep my shopping bag with me and trot my scraps out to the compost or the wormery. I can’t sleep walk through my days as I could before. To save pennies, to save a few kilowatts or a couple of trees I have to pay attention.

When I lived as a corporate drone working 60-80 hour weeks my pay never really compensated me for what I lost. I paid in quality time and my best years lost forever. And that is without even turning my attention to the millions of lives engaged in providing the developed nations the foodstuffs, tech toys, garments, trinkets and packaging to be used for a moment and tossed into a landfill. The system is broken all over the world.

Top Photo credit: Dogbone
Wizard of Oz graphic
Perspective photo

P295: Pollution Problems of the World

Blacksmith Institute in collaboration with Green Cross Switzerland issued a report of the following:


Artisanal Gold Mining

Contaminated Surface Water

Ground Water Contamination

Indoor Air Pollution

Industrial Mining Activities

Metals Smelters and Processing

Radioactive waste and Uranium Mines

Untreated Sewage

Urban Air Quality

Used Lead Acid Batteries

Download here

Top Ten List of the world's worst pollution problems 2008

The Pollution Report 2008

And another thing . . . With my thoughts about a global perspective, I read about the US economic outlook and how this economy was based on using much of the world as slave labor while trashing environments and sucking the raw materials, the resources into our insatiable multinational gullet.
If economic activity is scaled down rationally, in a fair and humane way, requiring the biggest sacrifices from the most affluent, we could all live in a better, cleaner world. But when recession-plagued economies contract chaotically, prompting governments and industries to cast about for new ways to restore rapid capital accumulation, almost everyone's environment deteriorates.

There is still time to cure the malignant economic growth that we've unleashed, but the solution won't come from those people and institutions that have managed to wreck both the global economy and the global ecology. A new way of thinking and acting will have to come from the bottom up, and from both hemispheres of this ailing planet. We'd should be ready; the unsettled times that lie ahead may offer the opening we've been looking for.

This from "Thinking About Shrinking: A Green Path Through Hard Times?" by Stan Cox posted today in Common Dreams. The emphasis in bold was mine.

Sustain = support from below.

Update 2
Anti-Poverty Rallies Smash World Record

UNITED NATIONS - The worldwide anti-poverty mass action that took place last weekend has broken all previous records for coordinated public demonstrations on a single issue, says Guinness World Records, the ultimate authority on evaluating achievements.

Guinness said Wednesday more than 116 million people took part in public gatherings and demonstrations organized by anti-poverty activists in 131 countries across the world, making it "the biggest mobilization ever on a single issue."

Organizers said the mass action on Oct. 17-19, which drew nearly 2 percent of the world's population, sent a clear message to world leaders that people will not stay seated while promises to end poverty remain unfulfilled. [snip]

The worldwide actions, billed as "Stand Up and Take Action," were jointly organized by two international groups, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) and the UN Millennium Campaign. [snip]

The UN Millennium Campaign was established by the former UN chief Kofi Annan in 2002, about two years after world leaders agreed to set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- a series of measures to effectively reduce poverty, illiteracy, diseases, and environmental pollution by 2015.

"The largest Stand Up is truly an historical event and as keepers and adjudicators of world records we are delighted to ratify such an important record and make this official," said Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records. [snip]

The list shows 24,496,151 participants in Africa; 17,847,870 in Arab States; 951,788 in Europe; 211,250 in Latin America; 210,803 in Oceania; and 123,920 in North America.

The Guinness records show that in the Philippines, more than 35 million people participated, which is equivalent to one third of the country's population. The group mentions Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Thailand, and Uganda as countries where people raised their concerns about poverty in massive numbers. [snip]

"This is a new kind of action the world is seeing," said GCAP's Sylvia Borren. "It's the local influencing the global. Women in villages in Africa are connecting and joining millions of citizens and other countries. The young people are taking ownership of the MDGs like never before."

P294: Picture It

I am swamped today with political tasks, but I saw this trailer first thing and felt such hope. The film is due to be released in 2009. One of the last lines I will paraphrase, We are not on the fringe, we are the cutting edge. It is perspective, right?
Edible City is a documentary film that explores the issues of food justice, security, and sovereignty through a comprehensive view of urban farming in the Bay Area - a grassroots effort that sees people responding to climate change, rising food costs and gas prices, and increasing health concerns by strengthening connections to the food they eat and reaching out to their local communities.

Edible City Trailer 1 from East Bay Pictures on Vimeo.

Hat tip GroovyGreen

P293: Potluck

Presenting my offering for the Master Composter graduation party. In truth, the colorful card, printed words came the next day from make-a-(green)plan Commenter Extraordinaire Rosa, in a package filled with goodies and good reads. My thanks for such a timely treat.

The snack is filled with the local Henry’s bulk food bins of nuts, mini-pretzels, wasabi peas, granola, grains, seeds and gummi worms.

Fun Fact to Know and Tell:
Hans Riegel invented gummi bears (the first gummi candy) and gummi candy during the 1920s. Riegel was the owner of the German candy company Haribo. Haribo went on to manufacture the first American made gummi candy in 1982.

In 1981, another German gummi candy manufacturer called Trolli decided to made the first gummi worm. Gummi worms have become the most popular gummi candy ever made. The average Brite Crawler the number one sold gummi worm is two inches long.

Edible gelatin is the basic ingredient in gummi candy. Gelatin is also found in soft caramels, marshmallows, foam-filled wafers, licorice, wine gums, pastilles, chocolate coated mallows and a host of other sweets, because it gives candy elasticity, the desired chewy consistency, and a longer shelf life. Gelatin has been used since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

The long and short of it is that I haven’t felt like cooking for several weeks. Too true. I am in a rut, my garden is finished for now and I am pinching pennies. So, what to do? I literally waited to the last possible moment. As I wrote about with my Paper Purge, I’d spent some time shredding past mortgage papers. My inspiration came from this plus a small cardboard box (from my Skype headphones) inside another fruit box.. I had kept the boxes for the show-and-tell energy demonstration I’d planned but postponed a couple weeks ago. So, voila! I had my centerpiece presentation figured out –a paper lined box within box filled with shredded paper and some loose green leaf twigs. I just needed to hit the bins before the class. I stopped by to see my son and he surprised me with some cash to buy the gummi worms and other snacks for the ‘compost’ dish.

It got some chuckles. We had way too much food at the presentations and pizza / potluck dinner, so I brought home quite a bit. I covered it and shared it with the neighbors at the campfire gathering. It was a good conversation starter for vermicomposting, besides going well with cold drinks.

I ventured out into a new circle of people, learned a great deal and had the good fortune of sharing some information and good eats between the two groups.

I also got a reminder that these others I meet are bringing all that they know and have learned to the group. I got to toast the newly promoted RN in her Assistant Director job and welcome home the neighbor away all summer. She talked about the strides she saw we had taken in sustainability while she was away.

At class I found a potential partner for my master composter volunteer commitment at the elementary school across the street. It turns out she is a scientist, expert at wetlands and birds and grew up in Phoenix.

P292: Palin Parrot

Monty Python could have written this.

P291: Paper Purge

This was to be power tool /manual tool purge. Change in plan as no tools are going anywhere. Paper is a constant purge this year. I am being ruthless with this purging of files. This shot was taken some months ago. I have repeated with piles equally high. More than a barrel's worth of old legal and financial records (including divorce files) got shredded for the class compost bins we built.

I also emptied out files from my white storage folders and magazines in July when I got rid of the television. I needed the rolling cart to be relocated to the kitchen - where I'd moved out the refrigerator.

I bring this up and include the photos because I am continually struck by everything being connected . . . by repurposing . . . repositioning . . . rethinking . . . and the kind of sickeningly corporate sounding word: reprioritizing.

I have experimented with making paper maché from junk mail, compost material, packing material and a centerpiece. More on that last one Wednesday. But, the down side of this purge of paper is that I have grown way too comfortable having a paper mess always out. Piles of paper need to be gone before the end of the year. You heard it here.

Now if I take on the magazine DIY project, I'll have that mess too. Oy.

I had a neat experience over the weekend when I hung out by the camp fire with neighbors Saturday night. One woman had a whole trash can filled with confidential files that she didn't want to hand feed into a shredder, so she fed the fire as we sat around laughing and talking that night. It was fun. She got her papers destroyed, we got some firelight and I get to put the ashes on the garden.

O290: Old School Misogyny

O289: Operation Needy to Nerdy

This Portland enterprise called Free Geek is the heart and soul of sustainable. At its root:
Sustain = support from below.

Watch at YouTube

How neat would it be to be a part of this Nerd Herd?

Hat tip to Treehugger's reference post on recycling resources (this is worth a bookmark for the wealth of links provided) where I stumbled upon Free Geek.

O288: Optimism Opportunity Dream

Last night I had a dream . . . I was crossing a busy urban street (like NYC) and I dropped 5 or 6 quarters on the pavement all around me. They flew everywhere and I was instantly distressed. Then others gathered around and bent down to retrieve the coins. Then there was this pile of coins. I distributed them amongst this little crowd of us huddled together. There were even silver dollars in this pile. And the dream morphed into a pile of unique objects in pottery and art. We were all passing around this treasure trove of discarded things of beauty.

I woke feeling so happy. I couldn’t have scripted awake such a wonderful example of what feels like loss turning into positive interactions, discovery, bounty and generosity. We can turn things into magic. We can seek opportunities.

(BTW, I found a beat up dime in my yard yesterday – the dream seed I think.)

This dream relates to a video by Al Gore I saw this year. It had this kind of bad news, good opportunity mix. It is a new slide show put together for the TED conference in Monterey. Despite the greater sense of urgency with accelerating climate change, Al Gore emphasizes the ‘generational mission’ presented to us. Stirring indeed.

Paraphrasing Gore . . .
Optimism is a belief, but behavior comes about from belief. But, as important as it is to change behavior in our lives, we often leave out the citizen part. We have to solve the democracy process. We need the political will.
Better than my paraphrase of this video, just watch it. It is again lifting me up with hope, if not joy. He makes smart and committed seem like something worthwhile again. It is rousing. (At the same time making it clear how empty the pResidential campaign is.)

TED is the Technology Entertainment and Design group that has been around since 1984. If there is anyone unfamiliar, their website is worth browsing.

Silver Dollars

O287: Overthowing Our Democracy

It strikes me as a sign of our times that we are being manipulated constantly by fear, but what we should most be afraid of is ignored wholesale, across the board in most all media and the blogs. I wrote a lengthy comment at One Green Generation about Fear, without broaching this very real fear of mine.

Naomi Wolf speaks of the police state we now live within.

Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps by Naomi Wolf, printed in the Gurardian.

This week on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman presents the story of 15 arrested outside of the presidential debates. Iraq veterans against the war were bloodied among others. Also on Democracy Now, Is Posse Commitatus Dead? US Troops on the Streets.

I am as guilty as anyone for viewing Bush as incompetent, a drunk or stupid. His administration has effectively dismantled our system of government and shredded the constitution. Even this week as he is mugging for the cameras and acting like a boof, he is busy signing away more rights for citizens while granting greater powers for himself and continuing to defy the congressional powers named in the constitution by ignoring Senator Waxman's oversight committee demands.

O286: One $ / Day

It is World Food Day and I find it appropriate to introduce a remarkable challenge by two teachers in my neck of the woods. They blogged about their 30 day challenge called One Dollar Diet Project. It is well worth starting at the beginning and reading each entry.
Here are the rules:

1. All food consumed each day must total $1 for each of us.

2. We cannot accept free food or “donated” food unless it is available for everyone in our area. (i.e. foraging, samples in stores, dumpster diving)

3. Any food we plant, we pay for.

4. We will do our best to cook a variety of meals; ramen noodles can only be prepared if there is no other way to stay under one dollar. (We have six packages and will buy no more)

5. Should we decide to have guests over for dinner they must eat from our share; meaning they don’t get to eat their own dollar’s worth of food.

Each day one of us will post an entry here with a photo that details how things are going. So if you want some daily entertainment, look no further than: OneDollarDietProject

If you think what we’re doing is interesting, inspiring, or just plain nutty, consider SPONSORING our efforts. Simply enter in an amount, click “update total” and follow the prompting. If you don’t have PayPal, it will let you use a credit card. At the end of the of the month all proceeds will go to the Community Resource Center (snip) and/or the ONE campaign. We will post evidence of donations at the end.

So stick with us, and feel encouraged to get in touch or comment as we move forward.

Our first post will come later tonight!

Feeling hungry already,

Christopher & Kerri

I visited the ONE Campaign and signed the pledge.

Hat tip Wasted Food

O285: Onions

Although I love exploring new foods, both native and exotic, there is a real pull for me to acknowledge an absolute basic food in my culinary world, the onion. I find that an onion can transform the most basic food into a recipe. If I had to choose my number one fresh food to eat with my bulk purchases it would be onion. Forget that, I don’t really thing I could choose – diversity is key. Nonetheless, I believe the onion is a staple I never want to do without.

I most commonly have the yellow or red onions on hand, but there isn’t one in the basic family types here I wouldn’t want in my pantry. I have grown bunching onions or shallots semi-successfully. I say this because they never got very large or robust. They were sad, sorry little shoots that flavored an assortment of solar oven stews and a couple of salads. It may be the climate and I lack the gardening know-how yet to do more than guess.

How do I preserve onions? The best little tip I came across is to store onions in panty hose. Now there is a use worthy of this stupid invention. The image (from Walla Walla Onions) spells it out. Hang it in a cool, dry place and it is supposed to keep onions up to six months. Only thing is I haven’t had hose for many years.

I would like to try my hand at drying some onion with a friend's dehydrator. Freezing is out because I don’t have a freezer. If I did I would take the suggestion of dicing the onions laying them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then packaging them. This way you can retrieve only the amount needed. I used this method for blueberries when I had a freezer.

There is one method of preserving, namely pickling, that I would like to try at some point. I have come across recipes via Google that sound really intriguing. I am especially interested in those that have jalapeno peppers. I learned this year and passed along in another post that capsaicin (what makes the pepper hot) kills microbes in food.

Before I leave the topic I want to suggest a beautiful way to dye eggs using onion skins. It isn’t really the theme of this post, but an important part of feeding one’s spirit with beautiful creative things. This photo is from a fascinating post here that describes natural dyes in great detail; using alum as a fixative for red & yellow onion skins, red cabbage and more. In the coming times of economic anxiety and want, this might be a way to nourish both body and spirit. And onion peels can be put to really good use prior to being put into the compost. Oh, and the cunning little leaf prints can be held in place on the egg using panty hose!