Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Little Sunday Afternoon Shakespeare - With Cats

Congrats Dad


This semester, spring 2007, will be Professor J. Robert Bruya’s last semester of teaching. He decided to retire after nearly forty years of teaching, thirty-six at Slippery Rock University. J. Robert, and his teaching, had a tremendous impact on many of you. He personally built the Metalsmithing/ Jewelry studio, developing it into a viable, dynamic teaching workshop. His instruction set the foundation, and had tremendous impact for many students, in and outside the Metalsmithing classes, for years to come. His devotion to art and teaching has been a model for all his students.

Join us in the Art Department in wishing Professor J. Robert Bruya the best in his retirement.


Glen Brunken
Professor of Art

Friday, April 27, 2007

Un Petit Morceau de Beat Box

Missoula Peacemaker of the Year

Jeannette Rankin Peace Center names Josh Slotnick as 2007 Peacemaker of the Year

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to announce the 2007 Peacemaker of the Year – Josh Slotnick of Garden City Harvest and the UM Environmental Studies Program. Josh co-founded Garden City Harvest and started the PEAS Farm project with its community gardens and educational farms because he saw the need to connect people to the earth in loving, sustainable ways. He has worked to educate and inspire young people to create peace in the world at a very basic level. His organization sustains our community by engaging us locally to care for the earth's bounty,

"Peace begins when the hungry are fed." ~Dorothy Day

to feed the hungry and to recognize the connection between all of us and the earth. Visit to learn more about his work and then plan to join us as we celebrate him on May 4.

When I think about the vast contribution Josh has made to peace in Missoula, I am reminded of the importance of understanding in our world. Josh saw a need in this community, he sought to understand it, and that willingness helped him to find solutions. Whether that understanding is created in our connections to the earth, in our interactions with those around us or in learning about people who are different from us, it is clear that we must all find ways to reach out in understanding if we are to create peace. The truth is there are many people and situations that demand more of our understanding and compassion. Peace begins when we connect with them where they are and how they need us – whether that is food, education, time or understanding.

Please join me in congratulating Josh Slotnick and thanking him for the peace he has created in Missoula. ~Betsy

NPR interview with Josh Slotnick.
Josh's UM faculty webpage.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What Do You Think?


Imus isn’t the real bad guy

Instead of wasting time on irrelevant shock jock, black leaders need to be fighting a growing gangster culture.

By JASON WHITLOCK - Columnist, Kansas City Star

Thank you, Don Imus. You’ve given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.

You’ve given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.

You’ve given Vivian Stringer and Rutgers the chance to hold a nationally televised recruiting celebration expertly disguised as a news conference to respond to your poor attempt at humor.

Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

The bigots win again.

While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves.

It’s embarrassing. Dave Chappelle was offered $50 million to make racially insensitive jokes about black and white people on TV. He was hailed as a genius. Black comedians routinely crack jokes about white and black people, and we all laugh out loud.

I’m no Don Imus apologist. He and his tiny companion Mike Lupica blasted me after I fell out with ESPN. Imus is a hack.

But, in my view, he didn’t do anything outside the norm for shock jocks and comedians. He also offered an apology. That should’ve been the end of this whole affair. Instead, it’s only the beginning. It’s an opportunity for Stringer, Jackson and Sharpton to step on victim platforms and elevate themselves and their agenda$.

I watched the Rutgers news conference and was ashamed.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for eight minutes in 1963 at the March on Washington. At the time, black people could be lynched and denied fundamental rights with little thought. With the comments of a talk-show host most of her players had never heard of before last week serving as her excuse, Vivian Stringer rambled on for 30 minutes about the amazing season her team had.

Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that the comments of a man with virtually no connection to the sports world ruined Rutgers’ wonderful season. Had a broadcaster with credibility and a platform in the sports world uttered the words Imus did, I could understand a level of outrage.

But an hourlong press conference over a man who has already apologized, already been suspended and is already insignificant is just plain intellectually dishonest. This is opportunism. This is a distraction.

In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?

I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?

When Imus does any of that, call me and I’ll get upset. Until then, he is what he is — a washed-up shock jock who is very easy to ignore when you’re not looking to be made a victim.

No. We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out.

To reach Jason Whitlock, call (816) 234-4869 or send e-mail to

Film: La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil

Directed by Djibril Diop Mambety.

A crippled young girl from the countryside tries to survive on the streets of Dakar. The odds seem stacked against her especially when the rough newspaper boys are brutish in their efforts to dissuade her. But she finds a protector and friend and the two thrive.

Sili is a girl with polio whose spirited desire to fend for herself and her blind grandmother, makes her a winner in the eyes of everyone around her, including those who might want to torment her. Radiant with pride and determination, the girl is the quintessence of the real nature of surviving and Mambety captures all of that in the young girl’s performance beautifully.

La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil is a film of great warmth, charm and spirit. The title is a lovely pun – Sili asks a friend why the opposition paper [Le Sud] outsells hers [Le Soleil], and he tells her that it is because it is the people’s choice. Sili insists on selling the Sun so, she believes, that the government can come closer to the people. At the end of the film, Mambety’s humanistic conception is clearly stated in an afterword “Cette histoire est un hmyne au courage des enfants de la rue. [This story is a hymn to the courage of the children of the streets].

More on Sister Aimee

Famous Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson

John Updike reviews a new book by Matthew Avery Sutton entitled "Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America"

Click here to read the article in the New Yorker.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Danse Traditionnel du Fang du Gabon

More on Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in India in 1895 into a Brahmin family. At the age of 13 he was ‘discovered’ by C. W. Leadbeater, one of the leaders of the Theosophical Society, whose mission, among other things, was “to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.” The Theosophists believed in the coming of a ‘World Teacher’, and Krishnamurti was believed to be the ‘vehicle’ for this expected leader.

The Theosophists created an organization called the Order of the Star and installed Krishnamurti as its head, but in 1929 Krishnamurti rejected the messianic role imposed upon him and dissolved the Order, claiming truth to be ‘a pathless land,’ which could not be accomplished by means of doctrine, philosophy, institutionalized religion, or by following a guru. He spent the rest of his life traveling, teaching, and encouraging independent thinking. He maintained that a fundamental change in society can emerge only through a radical change in the individual, since society is the product of the relationships between individuals.

I am particularly interested in Krishnamurti’s emphasis on the need to continually explore the implications of conditioning, and how this relates to our present system of education at the level of college and graduate study. “…It is only those who are in constant revolt that discover what is true, not the man who conforms, who follows some tradition,” he writes. Krishnamurti, with a few other thinkers, notably Emerson, has brought to my attention one of the most interesting challenges of life, and education: notably, thinking for oneself. While some may think this is an easy proposition, and that we focus sufficiently on the development of critical thinking skills in our present educational system, I would make a distinction between critical and independent thinking—one of which can be conditioned, the other which can’t.

According to Albert Schweitzer in his epilogue to Out of My Life and Thought, the crisis of conditioned thinking is one of the greatest spiritual challenges of our time. Psychologist Erich Fromm suggests that “most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinions as the result of their own thinking—and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as those of the majority.”

Krishnamurti is one more voice of the 20th century calling for us to examine our own behavior, our own conditioning as the source of many of our social problems. “And this is the essential part of education:” Krishnamurti writes, “to learn to stand alone so that you are not caught either in the will of the many or in the will of one, and are therefore capable of discovering for yourself what is true.”

In an institution where our motto is “Veritas,” it is, to my mind, a crisis that we do not recognize the great extent to which we are failing to fully nurture and draw out the unique potential and contribution of each individual. We study such ideas when we read Emerson, but we do not seriously entertain the extent to which they pertain to us. We have essentially removed the individual from the center of his or her own education and have come to believe that absorption and critical analysis of the thoughts and theories of others is the pinnacle of achievement. Krishnamurti writes: “Surely a school [should be] a place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life. Academic excellence is absolutely necessary, but a school [should] include much more than that. It is a place where both the teacher and the taught explore not only the outer world, the world of knowledge, but also their own thinking, their own behaviour.”

Here at Harvard, and particularly at HDS, it has been my experience that we pursue a certain idea of academic rigor and excellence to the neglect of many other aspects of human capacity for growth and development. I would like to see a system in which the development of the authentic, individual person and his or her contribution to life and the world is central. With Krishnamurti, I believe that social responsibility begins with the education, or enlightenment, of the individual.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You Are What You Grow

By Michael Pollan
[From the New York Times]

A few years ago, an obesity researcher at the
University of Washington named Adam Drewnowski ventured into the supermarket to solve a mystery. He wanted to figure out why it is that the most reliable predictor of obesity in America today is a person’s wealth. For most of history, after all, the poor have typically suffered from a shortage of calories, not a surfeit. So how is it that today the people with the least amount of money to spend on food are the ones most likely to be overweight?

Drewnowski gave himself a hypothetical dollar to spend, using it to purchase as many calories as he po
ssibly could. He discovered that he could buy the most calories per dollar in the middle aisles of the supermarket, among the towering canyons of processed food and soft drink. (In the typical American supermarket, the fresh foods — dairy, meat, fish and produce — line the perimeter walls, while the imperishable packaged goods dominate the center.) Drewnowski found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots. Looking for something to wash down those chips, he discovered that his dollar bought 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice.

As a rule, processed foods are more “energy dense” than fresh foods: they contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. These particular calories also happen to be the least healthful ones in the marketplace, which is why we call the foods that contain them “junk.” Drewnowski concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly — and get fat.

This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market. Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?

For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill.
Read more

Monday, April 23, 2007

What the...?*

Philadelphia - At a Wharton Business School conference on business in Africa, World Trade Organization representative Hanniford Schmidt announced the creation of a WTO initiative for "full private stewardry of labor" for the parts of Africa that have been hardest hit by the 500 years of Africa's free trade with the West.

The initiative will require Western companies doing business in some parts of Africa to own their workers outright. Schmidt recounted how private stewardship has been successfully applied to transport, power, water, traditional knowledge, and even the human genome. The WTO's "full private stewardry" program will extend these successes to (re)privatize humans themselves.

"Full, untrammelled stewardry is the best available solution toAfrican poverty, and the inevitable result of free-market theory," Schmidt told more than 150 attendees. Schmidt acknowledged that the stewardry program was similar in many ways to slavery, but explained that just as "compassionate conservatism" has polished the rough edges on labor relations in industrialized countries, full stewardry, or "compassionate slavery," could be a similar boon to developing ones.

The audience included Prof. Charles Soludo (Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria), Dr. Laurie Ann Agama (Director for African Affairs at the Office of the US Trade Representative), and other notables. Agama prefaced her remarks by thanking Scmidt for his macroscopic perspective, saying that the USTR view adds details to the WTO's general approach. Nigerian Central Bank Governor Soludo also acknowledged the WTO proposal, though he did not seem to appreciate it as much as did Agama.

A system in which corporations own workers is the only free-market solution to African poverty, Schmidt said. "Today, in African factories, the only concern a company has for the worker is for his or her productive hours, and within his or her productive years," he said. "As soon as AIDS or pregnancy hits--out the door. Get sick, get fired. If you extend the employer's obligation to a 24/7, lifelong concern, you have an entirely different situation: get sick, get care. With each life valuable from start to finish, the AIDS scourge will be quickly contained via accords with drug manufacturers as a profitable investment in human stewardees. And educating a child for later might make more sense than working it to the bone right now."

To prove that human stewardry can work, Schmidt cited a proposal by a free-market think tank to save whales by selling them. "Those who don't like whaling can purchase rights to specific whales or groups of whales in order to stop those particular whales from getting whaled as much," he explained. Similarly, the market in Third-World humans will "empower" caring First Worlders to help them, Schmidt said.

During his talk, Schmidt outlined the three phases of Africa's 500-year history of free trade with the West: slavery, colonialism, and post-colonial markets. Each time, he noted, the trade has brought tremendous wealth to the West but catastrophe to Africa, with poverty steadily deepening and ever more millions of dead.

"So far there's a pattern: Good for business, bad for people. Good for business, bad for people. Good for business, bad for people. That's why we're so happy to announce this fourth phase for business between Africa and the West: good for business--GOOD for people."

The conference took place on Saturday, November 11. The panel on which Schmidt spoke was entitled "Trade in Africa: Enhancing Relationships to Improve Net Worth." Some of the other panels in the conference were entitled "Re-Branding Africa" and "Growing Africa's Appetite."

Throughout the comments by Schmidt and his three co-panelists, which lasted 75 minutes, Schmidt's stewardee, Thomas Bongani-Nkemdilim, remained standing at respectful attention off to the side.

"This is what free trade's all about," said Schmidt. "It's about the freedom to buy and sell anything--even people."

*Note: The above is a hoax designed by The Yes Men. See their fake WTO website here. Yes Men FAQs.

The Yes Men describe their work as "Identity Correction": Honest people impersonate big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else. The Yes Men have impersonated some of the world's most powerful criminals at conferences, on the web, and on television, in order to correct their identities.

Book Review: Matigari

by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Book review by Danny Yee

The struggle for independence over, a resistance fighter comes out of the bush, buries his AK47, and girds himself with a belt of peace. But he finds life in the newly independent state is far from his dreams, with business continuing very much as it did before. Using the name Matigari ma Nijiruungi, "the patriots who survived the bullets", he joins up with a worker, a prostitute, and an orphan. When he confronts the sons of those he had fought, demanding the house he built, he is locked up. He and the others in his cell tell one another their stories before miraculously escaping.

As rumors about him spread, Matigari goes in search of truth and justice. He asks in shopping centers, law courts, eating places, and farmlands. He asks old women and students and teachers and priests. And finally at a public meeting he asks the Minister for Truth and Justice and his parrots, only to be locked up in a mental hospital.

Here Matigari takes off his belt of peace and tramples it, remembering that "Justice for the oppressed comes from a sharpened spear". Escaping, he is tracked down with dogs but disappears, becoming a myth and leaving his weapons and his words to those among the next generation who will take up the struggle.

Matigari was written in Gikuyu and modeled on a traditional Kikuyu tale, but it could be set almost anywhere in Africa. It mixes oral tradition, Marxism and Christianity, concrete detail and symbolism, and humor, poetry and politics, in a simple but powerful story.

Sara's comments:

I'm sorry I didn't have time to write this review myself. It is a most powerful book, a must read, for anyone interested in social change. It really brings up the dilemma/debate of whether or not force and violence are necessary to revolution. I can see why this book was banned in Kenya. It directly encourages people to take up arms (and perhaps, rightly so?) The book makes a strong claim for armed resistance, stating that "the differences between the robber and the robbed can only be settled in struggle."

Matigari continually questions why the builder must sleep in the open air, why the tiller starves and the tailor goes without clothes. Though attempting his search for Truth and Justice through peaceful means, he ultimately abandons
his belt of peace, determining that "the enemy can never be driven out by words alone, no matter how sound the argument. Nor can the enemy be driven out by force alone. But words of truth and justice, fully backed by armed power, will certainly drive the enemy out."

It's no surprise that the author has lived most of his life in exile.

From the preface to the English edition:

The novel was published in the Gikuyu-language original in Kenya in October 1986. By January 1987, intelligence reports had it that peasants in Central Kenya were whispering and talking about a man called Matigari who was roaming the whole country making demands about truth and justice. There were orders for his immediate arrest, but the police discovered that Matigari was only a fictional character in a book of the same name. In February 1987, the police raided all bookshops and seized every copy of the novel.

See here for author's website.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

April 30, 1908

Houdini escapes manacles in 31 seconds after jumping off the Harvard Bridge into the Charles River.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fanta Régina Nacro

Fanta Régina Nacro is a filmmaker from Burkina Faso. She visited my African Literature class on Thursday to discuss her career, and her film La Nuit de la Vérité. Unfortunately, our class had not seen her film before she arrived.

It played this evening at the Harvard Film Archive. I did not attend--too much going on--but I do plan to see this film. It sounds very interesting, and we were told one must have a strong stomach, as the scenes of violence are very vivid. Nacro was asked why she chose to be so explicit with the scenes of death and torture (there is a scene where a man is roasted over a fire on a spit like an animal--this actually happened in real life to her uncle.) She replied that she reflected a lot on this issue, and ultimately decided that people should see the reality of what human beings do to each other. The way in which the media censors the most violent images, she feels, prevents people from being impacted by the shocking reality.

In a series of short films about AIDS, Nacro made a different decision, after having seen many films that focused on the grim and depressing realities of the disease. She said that she left those films wanting to distract herself from the issue because it was so painful. She felt that humor could be used to disseminate information about the virus, and to plant the information in people's minds without a negative association.

Nacro expressed her strong feeling that film is one of the most vital and important media for a country's culture, because of its role in sharing information and creating dialogue on important issues.

Night of Truth (La Nuit de la Vérité, 2004) is the African director Fanta Régina Nacro's first full length film.

Set in a fictional West-African country, this film tells the story of the night of reconciliation between two ethnic groups, the Nayak and the Bonandes. After ten years of war and much bloodshed, Theo, leader of the Bonandes, invites the Nayak president to come and make peace. However things don't go as smoothly as planned.

Premier long-métrage de Fanta Régina Nacro. C'est la première fiction réalisée par une femme qui aborde de l'intérieur le sujet des guerres ethniques en Afrique. Le film est aussi une réflexion sur la place et l'influence des femmes face aux conflits politiques et humains.

This Is Fun!

Here's my latest set of chess pieces--Hot from the kiln.
I'm really happy with the glaze.

I've been making the queen the biggest piece.
She's the most powerful, after all.
The king is the little guy to her right, with the belly.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Marilyn Bruya: A Retrospective

Montana Museum of Art & Culture
April 26 - June 30, 2007

The exhibition celebrates the work of art Professor Marilyn Bruya, who is retiring after 25 years teaching painting and drawing at UM.

Bruya has taught painting and drawing to more than 4,000 students during the course of her career.

"When I think of teaching, the first thing that comes to mind is students and how much they’ve taught me and how my work has changed as a result," she said.

The exhibition highlights various periods of Bruya’s work, ranging from the purely abstract to the highly representational to photo collages. Her recent work explores the physical world as representative of inner experience and references the transitory nature of life.

"I’ve heard that when you die, you see your whole life flash before you," Bruya said. "A retrospective with 40 years of work represented might be a similar experience."

Bruya received a master’s degree in painting in 1965 from Mills College in California and a master’s of fine arts in painting in 1985 from Bard College in New York. She then continued her education at California State University summer arts workshops and at Schumacher College in Devon, United Kingdom.

She began teaching in the UM Department of Art in 1982. During her tenure, Bruya received numerous grants, including seven University research grants, various travel grants, visiting scholar and professional enhancement grants, three sabbatical leaves and four mini-sabbaticals.

Her work has been exhibited widely. On the UM campus, Bruya received several commissions: one painting installed in the Davidson Honors College lobby and four in the entry corridors of the Adams Center. She also has paintings in The Bookstore at UM and the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West.

"We’re delighted to honor Marilyn as both an artist and a teacher," UM museum Director Barbara Koostra said. "She has served The University of Montana in both regards with energy and passion, and this retrospective is a wonderful opportunity to thank her for that service."

****Congratulations Mom****

Sweet Song by Daville

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Modern-Day Slavery

I attended a reception this evening for the launch of Nivasa Foundation--committed to supporting those in Sri Lanka who have been victims of modern-day slavery. The founder of Nivasa (which means house), Beatrice Fernando, is an eloquent speaker who tells a dramatic story of her survival of slavery. She had to nearly kill herself by jumping off a fourth-floor balcony in order to escape, breaking her back and overcoming paralysis that doctors said would be permanent. See here for more info about Fernando and Nivasa.

Disposable People
by Kevin Bales

Most people think of slavery as a phenomenon of the past, as something we have put behind us. In Disposable People Bales surveys the disturbing extent of slavery in the modern world, where there may be more slaves than at any previous time in history — around 25 million by his estimate. More here.


You Are The World

Here's an interesting, short film about the ideas of Krishnamurti.

You Are The World

Man and Camel

Man and Camel
by Mark Strand

On the eve of my fortieth birthday
I sat on the porch having a smoke
when out of the blue a man and a camel
happened by. Neither uttered a sound
at first, but as they drifted up the street
and out of town the two of them began to sing.
Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me—
the words were indistinct and the tune
too ornamental to recall. Into the desert
they went and as they went their voices
rose as one above the sifting sound
of windblown sand. The wonder of their singing,
its elusive blend of man and camel, seemed
an ideal image for all uncommon couples.
Was this the night that I had waited for
so long? I wanted to believe it was,
but just as they were vanishing, the man
and camel ceased to sing, and galloped
back to town. They stood before my porch,
staring up at me with beady eyes, and said:
"You ruined it. You ruined it forever."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Book Review: Martin & Malcolm & America

As the semester moves toward its close, my book reviews are getting shorter and shorter!

This book, by theologian James Cone, is a decent "all in one" overview of the lives and careers of MLK, Jr. and Malcolm X. However, if you are already even slightly familiar with them, you will not learn anything new.

On the contrary, you will learn a lot from this lecture, delivered last October by James Cone at HDS entitled "Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree." You can watch it here.

Also, the National Urban League is releasing "The State of Black America: 2007" Report on Tuesday. See here for more information and abstracts from the Report.

Origin of X

First two minutes are awesome...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cueva de los Cristales

This is real!
More from National Geographic.

Zule Zoo

These guys remind me of Outkast...sort of.

From YouTube:
The Zule-Zoo are a group of multi-talented Nigerians who has popularized a genre of Music which projects Nigerian culture through creativity in lyrical composition and innovative use of African percussion instrument. The genre of their music is known as the Takuraku beat. The word Zulezoo means, Forgotten Warriors Never Die.
Zulezoo is currently the top musical artistes with a unique, energetic, African cultural dance which thrills a lot of people wherever they perform, both at home and abroad.
Their first hit solo tract is titled: Kerewa, of which they are popularly known for. The music was banned by the censors board due to a misunderstanding of the song as advocating adultery. This created a rubble in the music industry in Nigeria and almost caused a set back to the Zulezoo. Not long after, the group came out with a full album entitle: BANNED IN NIGERIA, a 9-tract album including the banned Kerewa, which made wave nationwide and is now a huge success. Kerewa was subsequently unbanned in Nigeria and the group is flying high in the sky. They are most sought in Shows, Concert and media houses.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Book Review: Re-Enchantment

I have fallen behind with my book reports! It is that time in the semester...the final push to the finish line and graduation!

Here's my favorite report on the teaching of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche from Jeffrey Paine's book, Re-Enchantment:

Trungpa said it was a guru's duty to insult his students (meaning, affront their distorted egotism), and in this duty he did not fail. Some inner radar of his seemed to detect where a person's hidden vanity lay, and he would home straight in on that sensitive spot. Consider the time when the American called Bhagavan Das--made famous in Ram Dass's best-selling Be Here Now, where Das is portrayed wearing blond dreadlocks and walking barefoot all over India--came to pay Trungpa a visit. That night everyone drank until they passed out, and the next morning, Das woke to find his long blond dreadlocks had been cut off while he slept by Trungpa. The night before Bhagavan Das had preached that material objects do not matter, and Trungpa thus demonstrated that they did matter to Das. Fortunately for Trungpa this was the 1970s, when many people imagined that being confronted would remake them for the better. (p. 88)
Bhagavan Das


This evening, I'm taking a wax dyeing workshop (batik) with Nigerian artist OYENIKE OKUNDAYE.

Nigerian textile artist Chief Oyenike Monica Okundaye - known to virtually everyone as Nike - has made it her life's work to be an inspiration to others - and especially to other women. Inspired by her great-grandmother, she has worked tirelessly to gain international recognition for Nigeria's rich cultural heritage and to pass on traditional skills, not least for their value in empowering female artists. Her title of chief is in recognition of her achievements. "I am a chief in Nigeria because of my work as an artist and using it to develop and empower the youth and the women in my country," she said. Read more here.

The workshop was a lot of fun, although a lot of repeat info for me on basic tie-dyeing. But my fingers are blue and the group of ladies there laughed the whole evening. I needed that. Nike wanted to give me a "Nigerian name." She was trying to think of something that started with "S" so she chose Seye, which she says means "someone who others like to honor."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bunny Cake

This cake is easy to make with two cake mixes and an Entemann's pound cake. You make one cake mix in a sheet pan for the bottom layer, the other cake mix in two round pans for the back (you end up using 3 half-rounds), and the pound cake is carved for the head. Then you just stick the whole thing together with 2-3 containers of frosting. Voila! I first made this cake for my god-daughter Bridgette's first birthday.

Black or White

For old time's sake...

Special K's Special Day!

Happy Birthday Kristen!!

and Buddha! (in Japan).

Celestial Horses

The Ferghana horse is gamed among nomad breeds.
Lean in build, like the point of a lance;
Two ears sharp as bamboo spikes;
Four hoofs light as though born of the wind.
Heading away across the endless spaces,
Truely, you may entrust him with your life...

- Tu Fu, Chinese poet (8th century)

Read more about the Celestial Horses of Ferghana.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Film: Black Gold

Black Gold Movie

Coffee is the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil.

Watch the trailer here. The movie will air on PBS April 10, 2007.
See also Fair Trade: The Story at

Friday, April 06, 2007

I Made This

For your Musical Edification

For more great humor, Say No to Crack.


Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.
-Sigmund Freud

So I've discovered that I have more than two readers. That's great! Welcome all wanderers!

I'm in the mad process of networking, so if anyone knows anyone in the following organizations, please let me know! Thank you, thank you.
  • Heifer International
  • Ten Thousand Villages
  • Transfair USA
  • Equal Exchange
  • Save the Children
  • The Farm School (MA)
  • The Food Project (MA)
  • Kiva
  • Other Fair Trade or Ag related orgs
  • Any orgs combining agriculture, education, Africa
  • Anywhere you think I might find a wonderful job?
More savage chickens here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Plumeria Progress

Back in February I planted this Hawaiian Plumeria and put its photo nearby to inspire it to its future greatness. (Also so my roommate wouldn't throw it away thinking it was dead or pornographic.)

I've been gently coaxing it to grow, watering it faithfully everyday, admiring it out loud for the beautiful flowers it will produce. As these trees alternate between having leaves, flowers and no leaves or flowers, I'm not sure what it will do first, since at the moment it is nothing but a 7-inch stem.

Over the past few weeks, there has been some greening activity and I'm very certain that by its own slow schedule, we will soon have either a flower or a leaf.

Care to wager which?

I'm saying Leaf.

Stay tuned for important updates!

Ga-Bon Anniversaire

Bonne Anniversaire Jason!

Gabon 2003

Today is also the anniversary of the great Lambarene Snail Race,
or Course des Escargots!

April is Poetry Month

Knopf Poetry will send you a poem a day during the month of April. It's a great springtime activity to read a little poetry each morning! If you wish to subscribe, send a blank email to

Study of Two Pears
Wallace Stevens

Opusculum paedagogum.
The pears are not viols,
Nudes or bottles.
They resemble nothing else.

They are yellow forms
Composed of curves
Bulging toward the base.
They are touched red.

They are not flat surfaces
Having curved outlines.
They are round
Tapering toward the top.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Turdus Migratorius

My favorite springtime bird has a most unfortunate Latin name

How to attract the American Robin to your Garden

(I think this was written by a 5th grader)

The American Robin is easy to get into your garden. Some things to help them there would be some good food sources. They enjoy Toyon as well as Juniper berries. They like being able to see predators so weeds are discouraged. One way to reduce weeds and increase earthworms is to mulch your yard. Mulch is an excellent source of bird food.


I like this guy's voice, and from what I can tell, most of his songs have a positive message. Enjoy.

The Human Heart

If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Lucifer Effect

Last night, I attended a lecture by Phil Zimbardo at Harvard Law School entitled "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding Why Good People Turn Evil." (This is also the title of his new book, which I haven't read). The presentation was very interesting to me, particularly because one of my primary interests that has arisen out of all my grad school work is the question of why people conform. (See here, for more info on conformity from Zimbardo's website.)
Phil Zimbardo

Zimbardo (who seems to enjoy his resemblance to Lucifer) conducted the Stanford Prison Experiement in 1971 in which he took average college students and turned them into either guards or prisoners. The two week experiment was ended after six days, by which time the "guards" became sadistic and the "prisoners" became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress. He also discussed several other famous experiments, in particular the Milgram Experiment, in which subjects were encouraged to "help" a student learn by administering progressively more dangerous levels of electric shock. When they resisted, they were instructed by an authority figure to continue, and 91% of the test subjects went all the way to the top of the dial--to lethal levels.

Zimbardo in his lecture, and presumably in his book, uses all of these cases to suggest that we cannot blame the "bad apple" but must rather look at the "bad barrel," or the institutional structures that create such behavior. Thus he places responsibility for the torturing of captives at Abu Ghraib upon the structure of the military itself, and not on the individuals who were corrupted under duress. His point is that any one of us would/might have done the same thing, under the circumstances.

From Zimbardo's website, The Lucifer Effect:

The “Lucifer Effect” describes the point in time when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action. It represents a transformation of human character that is significant in its consequences. Such transformations are more likely to occur in novel settings, in “total situations,” where social situational forces are sufficiently powerful to overwhelm, or set aside temporally, personal attributes of morality, compassion, or sense of justice and fair play.

Evil is the exercise of power to intentionally harm (psychologically), hurt (physically), or destroy (mortally or spiritually) others.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Owen and Mzee

NAIROBI (AFP) - A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa , officials said. The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about
300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean , then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on De
cember 26, 2004 before wildlife rangers rescued him.

“It is incredible. A-less-than-a-year-old hippo has adopted a male tortoise, about a century old, and the tortoise seems to be very happy with being a 'mother',” ecologist Paula Kahumbu,
who is in charge of Lafarge Park , told AFP.

“After it was swept away and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. “They swim, eat and sleep together,” the ecologist added. “The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it followed its mother. If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother,” Kahumbu added.

“The hippo is a young baby, he was left at a very tender age and by nature, hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years,” he explained.

This is a real story that shows that our differences don't matter much when we need the comfort of another. We could all learn a lesson from these two creatures.

See Jimbo's attached comments for links to a documentary and more info!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tricked Out Camel

This photo was taken by my great pal Mary B on her trip to India. To see more of Mary's photos, click here.