Audio Book and Book to Film: The Botany of Desire

Recently I started downloading audio books from my library. It is another attempt on my part to nudge myself back into reading. I am gradually getting a real feel for the novel again. And, I have also enjoyed non-fiction audio books for the sheer depth of covering a subject versus the articles and posts I have become accustomed to reading on the internet. This weekend I finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver, her husband and daughter narrate Animal Vegetable Miracle. I really enjoyed that book.

One of my first books was The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. I wish the book had been narrated by Michael Pollan as I have come to really enjoy him speak. His thesis is that plants use humans. Our desires for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control are fulfilled via plants. He illustrates his thesis by exploring the apple, the tulip, the marijuana plant and the potato. Regardless of the construct, I loved the history and the myriad of fun facts to know and tell about all of these plants. It was a really fascinating book.

This morning I was pleased to spot this post at Civil Eats about The Botany of Desire showing on PBS on Wednesday, October 28. I'm not sure I can view it - unless it is available online. Here is a trailer.

Watch PBS full episode here.

Eating the Alphabet

This morning I read the following from Path to Freedom, an excerpt from a presentation by Jules Dervaes and his family.
Swamped with more and more choices (shoes, fonts) but check out the contrast when it comes to seeds it is just the opposite.

Since the origin of agriculture around 10,000 plant species have been used for human food. Today about 150 species make up the diet of most of the world population. Just 12 provide over 80% of our food and 60% of what we eat comes from only 4 crops - rice, wheat, corn and potatoes.

(Showing a power point slide) Back in the 1900 a dollar represented what our grandparents ate in terms of varieties. Today after 100 years of progress what remains of their diet is a lousy 3 cents. That’s a 97% loss. If a corporation lost that in stock value it would be the end of its existence.
Share with you some solutions today.

In fact I did spend my weekend pondering this very issue related to the little elementary school across the street from me. First, I just found out that a grant proposal I wrote with the school's green committee was approved for a small proportion of what we proposed in our School as a Garden plan. The family foundation is granting the school $30,000, with $10,000 each year for three years being the timetable. The elementary school is on fall break so I know nothing more.

Even before I got this news I heard from a parent about a Love Your Vegetables grant parents had attempted last year with no luck. I responded that I was interested, so he sent me what we had. I couldn't get the Eat the Alphabet idea out of my head, so I spent the weekend filling this out a bit. Without going into the original School as a Garden proposal here right now (possibly later) I was wanting to capitalize on the weekly Farmers' Market that takes place each Sunday on the school grounds. We have the perfect opportunity for class projects, lunchroom menus that rally round the concept of Know Your Farmer. We have the perfect setup for this. The sample menu beginnings are shown here (click on these for larger versions) and I am trying to incorporate what the parents used last year as a starting point. I got many of the images and ideas from my own 2008 make-a-(green)plan food posts, which were organized by my year long alphabet format.

On Monday or Tuesday I lost my momentum. Nobody responded to my emails or ideas and the deadline is in 2 weeks. *sigh* I also looked up this month's menu for the school's lunches. Oh woe, where oh where did I think I could start with finding acceptance for the menu items I was suggesting (for the raw, fresh salad bar and for hot dishes made with more diversity)? These kids are offered pizza, chicken nuggets and canned peas every single day. Oh yes, on Tuesdays and Thursdays they have iceberg lettuce and some hot house GM tomatoes and the like - but nothing remotely like what qualifies as excellence. There is a lot of talk on the school website (and all over the internet, USDA sites, education and state children's health etc.) about nutrition. I am more in agreement with my favorite food blogger, Jill Richardson, when she says:
[...]When it comes to school lunch nutritional standards there are two categories of food to discuss: the federally-reimbursable school lunch, and everything else. (The name for "everything else" is "competitive foods" because those foods compete for children's money and appetites with the school lunch.)  [...]
The Institute of Medicine recommendations focus on the actual school lunch, not the competitive foods. The nutrition of the school lunch IS regulated by the USDA... only the standards haven't been updated since 1995 and, as IOM points out, they kinda suck. The recommendations, on the other hand, are AWESOME. My biggest fear is that any changes to school food policy will be based on what Michael Pollan calls "nutritionism:" i.e. regulations calling for lunches to contain specific nutrients instead of specific foods. And, as the people who market Rice Krispies understand, you can take a relatively junky food and fortify it until it appears very healthy (the back of the Rice Krispies box touts all of the nutrients in the cereal, even though it's basically nothing more than fortified refined grains and sugar.) The IOM is totally on the same page as me:

First, the committee recommended a food-based menu planning system that includes limits on calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium. Currently, schools have the option of using a nutrient-based system, which makes it easy to serve heavily processed, fortified food. They can meet requirements for vitamin C, for example, by serving fortified fruit snacks. Under a food-based system, nutrient targets are used in developing the standards for school meals, but they are not used in the actual menu planning. Instead, schools must simply serve items from a number of different food groups, including dark green and orange vegetables and legumes.

I talked about this disillusionment while walking on Wednesday with my kid. It isn't a new state, where I find myself now. I have deliberately stepped away from the most pervasive cultural norms of consumerism, junk food, television, magazines and other sources of the corporate drumbeat, propagandist wall of sound. And I am able to do this with ease because of my age and place. If I were a parent of young children I'd be hardwired to this destructive noise machine that never sleeps. All day every day - yes, in the schools, what passes for news and on the streets. (I just found out that one can get a car free or very cheap if one agrees to have it covered in advertising.)

My heart breaks for parents trying to teach their children anything counter to the big corporate dictates. Yet, my resolution is to keep my own center and focus. I refuse to snuff out my own passion and spirit and will continue to write and dream. I just have to back away from the school somewhat when it comes to investing too much of myself. I want to do the composting and be a garden regular and contribute what I can. I just can hand my heart away. I must always remind myself that many, many of the people all around me go through the motions without a lot of thought or awareness. It is how people try to cope and it is what's encouraged - a distracted race rather than living. These are my observations anyway. So, I share with my virtual community and keep looking for more and more real live indications of change.

See the movie

I saw Capitalism: A Love Story with my son Thursday lunchtime. I wish every citizen could see this movie for a real education. And, I agree with something I read today from Cenk Unger about Michael Moore. He has reframed the conversation:
Michael Moore is doing the same in his move Capitalism. First, he is changing the conversation on who caused the financial collapse in the first place. Most people are acutely aware that it was the bankers, but not the Fox News audience. So, when he went on Sean Hannity's show the other night, he introduced that idea to them and then Hannity was stuck in the position of defending the bankers and blatantly blaming the victims and the poor. Instead of discussing how government was at fault, Moore started a conversation on how deregulation might have led to this mess.

But more importantly, he started a battle for the heart and soul of Christianity. He proposed in the movie and in his debate with Hannity that being on the side of the rapacious rich is un-Christian. He claimed his position is the more Christian position. For so long, the Republicans have simply claimed that they are more Christian without anything to back them up. They just shouted louder. Now, Moore is shouting just as loud.

By putting them on the defensive on how they are not good Christians if they help the rich crush the poor, he has once again changed the conversation. Are the Republicans bad Christians? It doesn't matter what the answer is, that's a question you can't lose with [sic].

 Another thing, U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur is a woman you have to see and hear. A remarkable public servant working amongst the criminals on Capital Hill.

Having said that, I cringe at the dumbing down, the sentimentality of the film. It is an ongoing argument within myself. For those completely brainwashed by the popular culture, the shallow thinking and hefty emotionalism of America, this film is a fantastic way to change the conversations. Even so, I want to agree with a critical review at Cyrano's Journal.
Moore has an unpleasant tendency of letting his camera linger on the distressed faces of his social victims. The most serious weaknesses, however, involve his continued support for the Democratic Party, and Obama, and his inability to advance any serious alternative to the capitalist system.
Yes, Capitalism: A Love Story is a highly moralistic documentary imbued with Moore's very personal bias. Oh well, it has some real flaws if we expect it to do all things. I hope that at least it exposes those who need to hear some reality outside of the wingers' bubble.

As a post script. I spent money I hadn't budgeted (11 am tickets were $5.50) and also got treated to a delicious lunch I hadn't counted on in my calendar. It was a great day. We then went shopping at Henry's and I got my hair cut. I so wanted to only get my hair cut twice this year. Instead it was 3 times and once for my bangs only.  Counting dollars . . .

There is a post that I should write about the American dollar being abandoned globally. We are headed for the most profound change in a century. I will work to pull together my thoughts. 

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Moon Sowing

I found myself in the midst of a deeply symbolic feeling ritual . . . I planted clover by the light of a full moon. I sowed the seeds more by feel in the deep quiet and the eerie light.

Let me explain. I am in the middle of my end of year projects. For days I have been purging files. I have already cleared and shredded a 2 foot high pile of papers and check stubs. Aside: I smoked for 39 years and ever one of these papers is has the stink of smoke. This makes the task nasty. Oh, and I am not letting myself go into nostalgia mode. I am so pleased when I have this kind of clarity during purging. It pays to turn to this kind of project at the right time, as anyone who has gotten lost in reminiscence instead of clearing knows.

Having just applied for social security, I am focused on a whole new chapter in my life. I am done with my career in facility planning and interior design. I am done with my own dreams of building a consulting business. Serving the rich (the only market for my skills) is the last thing on earth I want to do. So, this indeed sounds like a ritual of growth, right? It is, but it isn't the one I am writing about this morning. It is related because I had a dilemma in the midst of my paper shredding. I filled a barrel with shredded paper and borrowed a couple more. My plan is to have shredded paper for my wormery, the park compost / wormery and the elementary schools upcoming compost demonstrations. (I adore the idea of feeding worms sensitive, private paperwork.) So, I needed more barrels and bags.

I went searching and found a barrel in the garden filled with black plastic bags full of dried horse manure. I emailed the woman who had secured the manure and asked if I could spread it on the garden so that I could have the bags. She urged me on. I switched gears and turned to the garden work. Some neighbors had laid out two large black plastic sheets weighted with stones and pavers to kill weeds and pathogens. I folded them up and put them away in a shed before opening each bag and raking the manure across the whole garden. I was sweating buckets, but I secured a bunch of bags and the barrel for my mountain of paper shreds.

Shorty after I finished we had rain! The first rain of the autumn was a real surprise (she says thinking of the two loads of laundry I had hanging), but a delicious treat. I felt that the garden was beckoning me to sow seeds in the newly fertilized and moistened earth. Then I remembered I'd awakened the night before with the bright light of the nearly full moon. Well, there you go. I didn't need a coven of sister witches to tap me on the shoulder. I went to bed knowing I'd awake pre-dawn to a full moon. I did wake with a grin. I threw on clothes, grabbed the can of clover seeds donated by another gardener neighbor and walked by the light of the moon to our community garden. The stillness felt sacred. I repeated words of lifting, life and blessing. I stood in the moonlight and envisioned the green abundance of clover to come. It felt so extraordinary I had to sit down and record it. I am still smiling.

Image credit, How Plants Work blog