Friday, January 30, 2009

Wonderfalls (Watch This Show!)

I don't know if you've ever heard of "Wonderfalls" - only four episodes of the first and only season were aired back in 2004, although they were all put out on DVD, which is how I came across them sitting innocently on our friends' DVD rack. We borrowed it, happily, and I am totally amazed that it was cancelled! The writing is quirky and hilarious, the acting is spot-on and the plot manages to be completely ridiculous and still be taken seriously.

The basic premise of "Wonderfalls" is that Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), the black sheep of her rich WASP family, starts hearing voices... from anthropomorphized animal-headed objects like her mother's shrink's monkey bookstop or the stuffed bears in the Niagara Falls gift shop she works in.
Many of the instructions her animals give her, force her to put herself in awkward positions like blaming her crush's kind-of wife for attempted murder or outing her sister by setting her up with the cute package delivery guy. In the end, though, all of the instructions end up benefitting both Jaye, who would otherwise remain univolved and unattached, and many others as well. She saves a man's life, a rare pair of birds' love, ruins her crush's marriage in the best way possible and becomes closer to the family she's been holding at arm's length. Generally, the show seems to be about the disaffected Gen-Y 20 somethings feeling like society has nothing to contribute to their lives and vice-versa.
"Pushing Daisy" fans should check out Lee Pace playing the concerned older brother and "Firefly" fans will enjoy the several episode guest spot Jewel Staite (aka Kaylee) has as the almost-ex-wife of the love interest.

Related posts:
How Supernatural Is Like the X-Files
Red Dwarf: Camp In Space
Margaret Cho Is a Goddess

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Thursday, January 29, 2009

3 Books Every Woman Should Read

Say what you will about feminism, being a woman has it's own special set of circumstances we have to deal with. Whether it's not being safe walking alone late at night, dealing with menstruation or being shafted by the medical field, there are just some things we have to deal with. These three books, I am convinced, can help us deal and I think every female should read them.

1. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio
I'll be honest, I was turned off by this book for a long while because of its title and most women I've recommended it too had the same reaction, so I'll start by saying that you should just pretend it has a different title if it bothers you too much, because it is so important you read this book! Inga took the blinders off my eyes about so many female things. She taught me to start looking at my period as a positive thing instead of a negative, she helped me realize how I'd been pretending that women's safety isn't the problem it is, showed me that I had no idea how my vagina is really put together and so much more.

Reading this book changed my life and it will do the same for you. She takes an honest look at our culture and how it supports or doesn't support women's opportunities and self esteem. Where it doesn't support us, she offers suggestions on how we can do better at taking care of ourselves and female friends, family and acquaintances. It is the most honest and empowering thing I have ever read and I CANNOT emphasize just how worthwhile it is.

2. A New View of a Woman's Body by Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers
After reading Cunt, you will hunger for this book! Inga teaches you how little you really know about your body (because lady bits are still not properly represented in most sex ed and health books) and suggests this book as a way to overcome that. Medical science favors the male of the species and until recently drugs for women only weren't even tested on women before receiving FDA approval! That's how unhelpful it can be.

A New View of a Woman's Body is based on the work done by women for women to represent our sexual organs properly. It includes illustrations as well as photos that show what the figure eight muscle structure "down there" that is activated during orgasms and childbirth, compares the female genitals to the male to show both similarities and differences, and shows a broad range of "normal" cervices and their natural variations.

I don't know how I can describe how empowering it is to understand the minute responses of my body that were complete mysteries before, but it is literally life-changing. I feel I have so much more ownership of who I am and what I can accomplish.

This book also includes some information that some women will find really weird - like their advice on birth control use and certain other things that might seem extreme. This is a small part of the book, but just to warn you - just take what you find helpful and leave the rest.

3. Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
I've talked about this book a lot on my other blog, but I'll keep it short here. This book is wonderful because it mixes a deep understanding of the medical world and the unique challenges of being female. Northrup dispenses a mixture of health, mind and spiritual advice that is invaluable to a girl like me who grew up without a female mentor.

Reading this book challenged my assumptions about life. Her feminist, holistic outlook on life is empowering and takes into account the emotional and physical equally. Her experience in life as a doctor for over twenty years has given her unique insight into many problems and concerns of her female patients and being able to access all that knowledge at once is kind of overwhelming.

I think sometimes one of the negative effects feminism has on my mind is that I want to forget that the differences between the sexes really do affect people's lives. These books help me to realize that embracing my womanhood doesn't make me less of a feminist or a person and they've shown me ways of approaching problems that I wouldn't have thought up on my own.

Related posts:
What Women Can and Can't Do
My Fictional Female Role Models
Women's Magazines Suck

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sam & Max: Season 1 (Wii Game Review)

In case you were unaware, The Collected Sam & Max: Surfin' the Highway by Steve Purcell is, no question, the best comic book EVAR. And lucky for you, it was just re-printed recently otherwise you'd have a devil of a time trying to get your hands on a copy. Lucky for me my oldest bro has one (that I'm trying to make him leave me in his will - I'm so not kidding), which was how I found out about it, and my sexy boyfriend has another. In fact, one of the first things he and I bonded over (besides Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried") was Sam & Max.

Matt's got a tattoo of that middle panel with Max's face

Sam & Max are a 6 foot dog and a rabbity-thing who just happen to be "free lance police." Which basically gives them free license to do whatever they want. They solve wackadoo crimes like why an aisle of the local grocery store is possessed, why the giant insects on the dark side of the moon are kidnapping the rats that live on the light side and where all the tourists are disappearing to on the island with a volcano cult. Sam is the straight man to Max's complete insanity and they've got the most impressive, random and hilarious dialogue of any crime fighters or cartoon characters.

Sam in the office (Sam & Max: Season 1)

I played the LucasArts game Sam & Max Hit the Road back in the day, watched the brief cartoon show, and now I have defeated the Wii game: Sam & Max: Season 1. This newest game is essentially the same as the LucasArts game, only instead of using the mouse to click around, you're using the Wii remote. Sam & Max: Season 1 is one of those puzzle-type adventure games, where you have to solve how to get money for a purchase to solve one problem even as you're working on solving a couple others simultaneously. It can be tricky and we used a walk through several times, especially on a couple of the "episodes" that are not as logical as these games can be.

By "episodes" I mean that Sam & Max: Season 1 is broken up into 6 smaller segments they call "episodes," each with their own specific agenda that all leads up to defeating the one big villian behind all the other smaller ones you have to defeat along the way. Constant throughout all the episodes is the street where Sam and Max have their office.

Sybil in her store (Sam & Max: Season 1)

Your neighbors are Bosco and his Inconvenience Store and Sybil with her constantly-changing-function store (she's got a problem with choosing one career and sticking with it). These are where you will go often for finding gadgets you need to accomplish tasks and solve the mysteries. Depending on the episode, you will have new locations to visit including a TV studio, the internet and the White House.

Each episode includes a degree of mind control of hypnosis used on victims. In one episode, you even get to knock the head off of a robot president who's hynotyzing the country! This similarity is the first clue you get that all of the crimes you're investigating are ultimately related somehow - all leading up to defeating the big bad crazy guy.

Max & Sam face a gangster in his toy manufacturing set-up for hypnotyzing bears

There was enough variation among episodes that you didn't feel like you were doing the same thing over and over again, which could have happened since the last Sam & Max game took you all across the country instead of staying focused largely in one small area (although, you do get to visit the internet which is arguably everywhere). Overall, the game was good about helping you along with enough information to know what to do next without it seeming all too easy. But, as I said, there were moments when we would have had no idea how to proceed without taking a peek at the walk-through.

This is a great buy if you're a fan of Sam & Max, weird humor and puzzle-solving, or if you just want a Wii game that you can be lazy and still play - it doesn't call for much more action than pointing and clicking.

Related posts:
Sam & Max are Back!
Death, Sex and the Future (In Manga)
Sex, Lies and Buddha

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Continuum of Acceptance

Had a diversity training at the ole job recently and it introduced me to The Cultural Proficiency Group's "Cultural Proficiency Continuum" or as I like to think of it: a continuum of acceptance. Since I've been blogging and thinking a lot about racism and other forms of discrimination lately, I was very interested to find something that could break up the different kinds of reactions people have into something that disrupts the normal dichotomy of acceptance/rejection. I like the idea of there being a variety of of ways to accept others and it makes me feel like those fuzzy gray places that lacked definition before now have a rather simple explanation.

This is the "Cultural Proficiency Continuum":

  1. Cultural destructiveness: See the difference, stomp it out. The elimination of other people's cultures
  2. Cultural incapacity: See the difference, make it wrong. Belief in the superiority of one's own culture and behavior that dis-empowers another's culture.
  3. Cultural blindness: See the difference, act like you don't. Acting as if the cultural differences you see do not matter, or not recognizing that there are differences among and between cultures.
  4. Cultural pre-competence: See the difference, respond inadequately. Awareness of the limitations of one's skills or an organization's practices when interacting with other cultural groups.
  5. Cultural competence: See the difference, understand the difference that difference makes. Interacting with other cultural groups using the five essential elements of cultural proficiency:
    • Name the differences: Assess culture
    • Claim the differences: Value diversity
    • Reframe the differences: Manage the dynamics of difference
    • Train about differences: Adapt to diversity
    • Change for differences: Institutionalize cultural knowledge
  6. Cultural proficiency: See the differences and respond positively and affirmingly. Esteeming culture, knowing how to learn about individual and organizational culture, and interacting effectively in a variety of cultural environments.
Do you think this is a helpful way to describe the way someone might or does respond to a person different enough from them to prompt a reaction?

Related posts:
Perception and Reaction to Racism Not Equal
Cultures Threatened as Climate Changes
Tony's Take on Racism in the Kansas City Area

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Monday, January 26, 2009

May's Rules for Living Well

I've been working on my personal philosophy and point of view lately, trying to avoid all the ego-driven bullshit I can get caught up on all too easily and trying to be level-headed and calm (or at least calm-ish) when dealing with problems. It's all about observing how I behave and correcting the stupid behaviors, trying to replace them with healthy ways of self-expression or problem solving or what have you. To that end, I've set up some simple "rules" for myself to try and follow - I'm always trying to have the happiest life I can and these seem to be working:

1. Feel Your Feelings
I spent a lot of time repressing what I felt in my life and because of it I ended up with a butt-load of angst, depression and emotional frigidity. PLUS it turns out feelings don't go away if you just ignore them. Time was, I'd start feeling pissy, sad or some other negative emotion and I'd just respond by being upset I was feeling that way. That ended up creating a stupid cycle of icky feelings that would keep reinforcing themselves until I'd eventually freak out or else drink them away. Now, I just accept that life isn't all pooping rainbows and when I feel badly for some reason I give myself space to feel those emotions. Turns out when you listen to your emotions, you can examine them more closely which has led to alot of problem-solving or just simply deciding to not be upset anymore because it isn't worth it. All in all it's helped me be more balanced, less demanding and more forgiving of myself and others.

2. Expect Problems
We'd all like life to be sunshine and roses, but it's generally not and I've found that the expectation of having good things happen to us can cause really bitchy attitudes when something bad does happen. The whole "why do bad things happen to good people" question can be answered simply: bad things just happen. It's still wonderful to expect goodness, but if you only expect that, any little thing that goes wrong can derail you very easily. Accepting bad things as part of what makes me unique has helped me to view bad things as opportunities for personal growth. It's taken me a long time to get here, but I finally agree with the statement "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." Also, when taken with rule #1, these things tend to be easier to deal with.

3. Love Yourself
I keep finding out that the most important love I can experience is self-love (and while I don't specifically mean masturbation, I'm sure that helps). No matter what else is going on in my life, if I'm not in love with myself I'm a pretty unhappy person. I spent years searching for the approval of other people and denying and it sucked. Then I started to focus on making myself happy first and then others and things are working much better for me now. Self-love for me includes rebutting the "you're not good enough" type voices in my head with positive messages that I know are true about myself (whether or not I'm feeling it at the time); making sure to put as much energy into comforting myself when I am sad/upset/etc. as I would put into another person I love; and finding the best things about myself to celebrate. All this makes me a less needy person, which is really good seeing as I'm already an attention whore.

4. Keep an Open Mind and Heart
While keeping an open mind comes naturally to me since I'm a crazy-ass reader and I love to know about people and experiences I'll never know personally, but keeping an open heart is harder for me. I picked up a lot of critical bitchiness from being in college and picking apart other people's stories and ideas and then I discovered how cranky that makes me. It took me a little bit to stop my ego from automatically responding to everything I see, but now I feel I've gotten to a place where I'm more accepting of others. It's made me friendlier and happier and reduced the amount of stress I was putting on myself. Turns out judging others really is bad for you.

Do you have any "rules" to live by?

Related posts:
Would We Like You When You're Angry?
Thoughts on Learning by Experience
FAILure and Humor

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Friday, January 23, 2009

Captain Blasto, Mercury Men: Serial Radio Style on the Internets

Christopher Preksta created a video web series called Captain Blasto last year about a wimpy high school student who takes on the persona of an old-timey radio drama hero called Captain Blasto. He gets together a group of disaffected guys who want to blow off the frustration in their life by getting involved in something bigger than themselves: which just turns out to be pretending to be the bad guys in faked crimes so Captain Blasto can seem like a hero. Each episode is just minutes long and uses a lot of radio drama voice-over and comic book-like split screens and animation. Here's the first one:

You can view the rest here.

Preksta and crew are now working on creating another similarly serial series, The Mercury Men,

currently in production. This series will be a sci-fi one:
Edward Borman, a lowly government office drone, finds himself caught in a nefarious interplanetary plot when deadly invaders seize his office building as a staging ground for the destruction of Earth. Aided by a daring aerospace engineer from a mysterious organization known as “The League,” Edward must stop the invaders and their doomsday device, the Gravity Engine.
Considering how low-key all of the sets and props are for Captain Blasto, I'm really interested to see what kind of time and money goes into this project. I wonder if it will be as simple as Blasto or will Preksta totally blow my mind? These production stills sure make it seem like it will be flashier:
Watch The Mercury Men blog for release dates!

Related posts:
Margaret Cho Is a Goddess
We Are Scientists Create Delicious Videos
Tom Cruise and the Gayest Unicorn

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kaiser Chiefs, "Off With Their Heads" (Album Review)

Kaiser Chiefs is a 5 person indie band from England that sounds to me like Cake, The Beatles, The Killers and Voxtrot in a blender. Their latest album "Off With Their Heads" was released last year in October and here's what I've got to say about that:

The album starts off with "Spanish Metal" a catchy song with Beatle-esque vocal harmonies, but unfortunately I can't really understand more than a word or two of the lyrics at a time so I have no idea what it's about. It's pretty straight forward until some fancy guitar flourishes at the end, but it's a great introduction to the overall sound of the album.

The next song, "Never Miss a Beat," is one of my favorite and features the snarky type of sarcastic lyrics that made me love the Kaiser Chiefs' previous album "Yours Truly, the Angry Mob." It's mocking stupidity and the idea that "it's cool to know nothing." The sound is more aggressive than "Spanish Metal" and uses fewer harmonies. You can watch the music video here (embedding is disabled or I'd post it here).

"I Like it Too Much" is, as I said, my favorite song on this album. It starts out with a simple driving bass/drum line that the singer emphasizes by the way he sings. Towards the chorus, the melody becomes more flowing and the guitar takes over. It's the most beautiful song they've made, IMO. The song is about addiction, human nature and self-denial. I posted the video before, so check it out if you missed it.

"You Want History" is about the mystery of a partner's personal history. It has a similar tempo to "I Like It Too Much" with an extremely effected guitar line reeling over it. A great song that drives the album forwards and makes me want to shake around to the beat.

"Can't Say What I Mean" is another one of my favorites, starting out with the great line: "Nothing's so important that it can't be shortened to fit on a badge." The entire song, as you might guess, is about a guy who finds himself incapable of saying what he means and wishes that he was a pithy, sound-bite delivering suave speaker. As a person who also finds the words to say hard to find lots of times (surprised?), I totally relate. Add to that the catchiness of this song and the fierce drumming and you've got a winner.

I really like it when musicians take words from our common cultural heritage and re-frame them. Like when Panic! At the Disco referenced the Sound of Music song, "My Favorite Things," for "Build God, Then We'll Talk" and ended up with: "Raindrops on roses and girls in white dresses/ It's sleeping with roaches and taking best guesses/ At the shade of the sheets and before all the stains/ And a few more of your least favorite things." In their next song, "Good Days, Bad Days," Kaiser Chiefs rewords the common saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," changing it to: "Sticks and stones and animal bones/ Can't stop me from having a good day or a bad day." Another super catchy tune, this one also makes me want to get moving. The basic message is that nothing will change the fact that we all have good days and bad days. Kinda obvious but kudos to them for making it sound so spiffy.

"Tomato in the Rain" kind of fails as far as lyrics are concerned. I don't get the metaphors they use ("like a tomato in the rain I got my feeling again) and the chorus seems to have nothing to do with the verses. On the other hand, it's a lovely, lyrical song and if you ignore the words, it sounds great.

"Half the Truth" uses the Kaiser Chiefs favorite from the last album: really monotonous vocals for the verses mixed with slightly more varied vocals and harmony in the choruses. It's a very Kaiser Chiefs kind of sound and I like it for that, but since it is also so much like songs from the last album, I'm not all that impressed. The song is about communication (and otherwise) breakdown in a relationship: "I will not life to you/ but I definitely only give you half the truth."

"Always Happens Like That" describes the frustration experienced when given mixed messages by society: "You can do what you like/ but you can't do that/ You can say what you like/ But you can't say that/ You can go anywhere/ But you can't go there." It also refuses to accept these limitations, describing breaking into a public pool and other activities. The vocals, guitar, bass and drums are all quite simple, but perfect and the sound changes slightly from one section of the song to the next, keeping it interesting.

"Addicted to Drugs" is one of the two songs that really caught my ear during my first listen to this album. It's a weird song about a couple that has nothing in common but their drug problem so they decide to get married. The sound is one of the more fresh sounding on the album and the chorus for some reason just cracks me up: "You might as well face it you're addicted to drugs/ You might as well face it you're addicted {repeat}." No reason for that to be really funny but it cracks me, maybe because it's implied that one of the druggie couple is trying to convince the other that they're addicted while avoiding blame themselves? Anyway, it's catchy shit. You can take a listen here.

"Remember You're a Girl" is the slowest, dreamiest song on the album and sounds the most like a Beatles song. It ends the album on a soothing note and acts as a goodbye kiss and final encouragement to be unique as "interesting people will always run the world."

Overall I liked this album even more than their previous and would definitely recommend you listen to it.

Related posts:
I Like It Too Much
Voxtrot: Music Review
Flobots "Fights With Tools" (Album Review)

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Street Art from Guatemala

Via I found some gorgeous images of street art from Guatemala and I couldn't resist sharing my favorites:
Go here to see all of them.

Related posts:
Girls Who Graffiti
Climate Change Art Destroys All Humans
Eye-Popping Art

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope in the White House

Today we get a new president! One that isn't a moron/puppet and who doesn't do the double talk bullshit as much as other politicians. How awesome is that? This video sums up a lot of what I'm feeling about the political scene lately. Every time I watch it I am shocked to realize just how much Bush being president really got me down the past 7 years and how far away America got from being "the land of the free." Anyway, this is lezzie rapper MC Flow singing "Created Equal."

Related posts:
How Obama Gave Me my Pride Back
Bush's Legacy (of Failure)
Protect Yourself from McCain this Election

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Bush Legacy (of Failure)

Tomorrow, President-Elect Obama will be sworn in, so it seems only natural to take some time today to look back at the legacy Bush will be leaving behind him. broke down his effect on the nation by seven points:

1. Ecomony = FAIL
We all know the economy sucks. People are losing their homes and jobs and the only people receiving hand outs are a bunch of corporate asshats who don't deserve it. The national debt is now 10.6 trillion, 4 million people became unemployed from 2000 to 2008 and the gross national product and Dow Jones are going down the tubes.

2. Infrastructure = FAIL
Bridges and roads suffered major failures under the Bush administration. It didn't help that SUV drivers were given kick backs, making the damn machines more popular and crowding up streets. One-third of roads nation-wide are in poor condition and 70,000 bridges were declared structurally deficient. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is proposing a cut of $202.1 million for public transportation - apparently spending $17.4 billion in the auto maker bailout doesn't mean we need good roads on which to drive all those stupid vehicles.

3. Iraq = FAIL
How long ago did we get that "Mission Accomplished" bullshit from the Bush administration? Cuz it sure as hell doesn't seem like the fucking war is over yet. 4,222 military deaths and over 3 trillion dollars later, things aren't getting any better. This war costs us $12 billion each month and the military predicts it will take at least $250 billion to repair the Army's resources and equipment.. of course, that's just for the vehicles and such that have been damaged so far.

4. Human Rights = FAIL
Never mind the torture that did receive public attention, the US was involved with tons of activities that went against basic human rights during the Bush administration. About 100 "detainees" under US custody - that's people held without any legal cause and usually tortured - have died and over 35 have simply disappeared. And let's not forget all of our rights to privacy that the Patriot Act destroyed.

5. Hurricane Katrina = FAIL
Arguably the worst disaster to hit an American city since 9/11, Katrina affected 15 million people and caused the loss of 400,000 jobs and 275,000 homes. The death toll is still unclear, but it is believed to be about 1,500 with 700 people still missing. New Orleans is still only at 72% of the population it had before the storm. Despite Congress approving $122 billion to go to the region, not many results seem to have come from it. Insurance costs from the storm were over $40 billion, affecting everyone who has home insurance. The Bush administration showed no leadership in this tragedy and all but abandoned the city of New Orleans after the storm hit. Trillions of dollars go to a war in another country and Bush can't even take care of his problems at home. Shame, shame.

6. Health Care = FAIL
Bush's drug plan has turned out to be one of the biggest new entitlement programs of the past 40 years, forcing the government to pay the high prices of drugs once dealt with by the consumer and protecting drug companies for no good reason. Noticing a trend yet on who gets ahead the most when Republicans are in office? Brand name drugs are 70% more expensive here than in Canada. Bush also denied health care benefits for 4 million children by vetoing a bill to assist families with children. 46 million Americans, about 18%, are without insurance and the average cost of health care for employees has risen 120% since 2000.

7. Climate = FAIL
Seven of the hottest years on record have happened since 2000, despite the Bush administration's denial of climate change and suppression and censorship of scientific information backing it up. The sea level has risen 40 feet, areas of the Southwest USA are turning into deserts, extreme temperatures are affecting the farming industry and this unaddressed climate change is projected to cost us 20 percent of the world gross domestic product.

Kudos to all of us who had a part in ending this administration! It has been total suckage.

Related posts:
How Obama Gave Me my Pride Back
Just Pull Out
Human Rights are Meaningless in America
USA Should Open Borders, Open Minds

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Simple Daily Detox Tips

Carole Fogarty at Rejuvenation Lounge always has such interesting tips! I'm glad I found her somehow. These are her three daily ways to detox and they were so unique and simple I thought I'd pass them along:

1: Tongue scraping:

First thing in the morning I get up scrap my tongue at least 7 or 8 times. This removes the very unattractive coating that has gathered on my tongue over night. When this coating is not removed then all that unpleasant “gunk” gets reabsorbed back into your body.

The benefits of tongue cleaning are:

  • Remove toxins
  • Reduces bacteria on the tongue
  • Enhances your sense of taste
  • Improves your digestion
  • Gently stimulates your internal organs
A tongue cleaner should be made from copper or silver and not from processed materials such as plastic. You should also try and scrap your tongue from as far back as possible.

[Matt already had a tongue scraper so I've started doing this. You'd be surprised the goop that comes off your tongue in the morning!]

2: Spiced water detox tea:

Each morning I make a thermos of this spiced brew and sip frequently throughout my day. It’s not drunk like tea in a cup or mug, you simply take small sips whenever you think of it.

Add 1/4 tspn cummin seeds, 1/4 tspn fennel seeds, 1/4 tspn coriander seeds to 1.5 litres of hot water. After 15 minutes the detox brew will be ready.

[Tried this kinda but I only had fennel seeds so I used powdered versions of the others. It worked okay but I'm going to wait and try again until I have all the seeds. It tasted a bit odd but wasn't offensive.]

3: Sipping warm water as medicine:

I’ve actually drunk warm water for years as I simply prefer it to cold beverages. However, don’t overlook the healing benefits that sipping warm water has to offer your body. My practitioner shared with me that it has a hormone balancing effect, strips your body of ama (toxins) and improves your digestion. How magical is that. Sometimes I even add a small piece of ginger for a bit of variety (it’s allowed).

[Turns out I already do this at work just because the filtered water always comes out warm. Who knew I was getting a health benefit out of that?]

Carole has lots of unique insights, so I hope you'll subscribe!

Related posts:
Test Your Home's Toxicity
Detox Your Petcare
Detox Your Life (How To)

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Balloon Me!

Stacey K. local blogger and owner of Oh Wow! Balloons! totally made me out of balloons.

Love it!

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Perception and Reaction to Racism Not Equal

Not Exactly Rocket Science covered an extremely interesting study on how people respond to racism and how they predict they will respond, offering it as a reason why racism is so looked down on and yet so rampant. What with all the previous discussion here about racism, I couldn't not post this info. It's the most unique approach I've seen yet.

[Kerry Kawakami of York University] recruited 120 volunteers of various races (apart from black), sat each one in a room with two actors - one white, one black - and watched as the white student reacted to having their knee bumped. In some trials, they said nothing; in others, they said, "Typical, I hate it when black people do that," and in the most extreme cases, they said, "Clumsy [n-word]." When the black partner returned, all three were asked to fill in a survey about their current state of mind and the real volunteer was asked to pick one of the other two to help them complete a word task.

Only half of the volunteers - the "experiencer" group - actually sat through these events. The other half - the "forecasters" - were only told about it and asked to put themselves in the shoes of an experiencer. Kawakimi found that their forecasts of their feelings and reactions bore little resemblance to the way the experiencers actually behaved.

Expectedly, forecasters said that they would be very upset by either racist slur. In reality, the experiencers were largely indifferent, and those who heard negative remarks were actually no more distressed than those whose partners hadn't said anything at all. Likewise, only about 10-20% of the forecasters said that they would choose the white person as their partner over the black one but a much higher 63% of the experiencers actually did so. If anything, they were more likely to pick their white associate if they made a racist slur than if they said nothing.


Kawakimi's results suggest that people really are terrible at predicting the extent to which racist comments would upset them and whether they would distance themselves from people who said such comments. The two mistakes are probably related - people think that they would reject racism because they overestimate how much it would really affect them.

Even [the n-word] - widely regarded as one of the most offensive words in the English language - didn't bother people that much and didn't change their likelihood of associating with another person. Acts that ought to make the blood boil were actually met with indifference.

So basically, non-blacks are much more likely to pretend to be shocked/dismayed by racism than they really are.

I find this surprising myself since the first and last really racist person I had to deal with for any amount of time constantly made me incredibly pissed. I was nanny for a summer in Erie, PA for a really racist couple. The guy made a comment one day about how he was worried that his son played with the one black kid in the neighborhood, "because he might think it's okay to grow up and marry those people" and I wanted to slap his face. I didn't, of course, cuz I needed the job, but luckily I dealt with his wife most of the time.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't understand why intolerance is so widely tolerated.

Related posts:
Racism in the Kansas City Area: Western Expansion - 1800s and 1900s - Present
Tony's Take on Racism in the Kansas City Area

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bugs Are Beautiful

That's right... bugs are beautiful and if you don't agree, then you haven't seen these incredible pictures by Igor Siwanowicz. Here are a few of my favorites, but you should really go to his site and see all of them.

Isn't it amazing how alien stuff from our own planet can seem?

Related posts:
For the Birds
Girls Who Graffiti
Tjie Tsang, Artist of the Apocalypse

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Monday, January 12, 2009

How the City Hurts Your Brain (and Nature Helps)

Jonah Lehrer wrote this article for the Boston Globe about how the city and nature affect human minds. I really liked this article because it helped me make sense of why I both adore living in the city and at the same time desire daily exposure to nature. Here are some excerpts:

For the first time in history, the majority of people reside in cities. For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration marks a dramatic shift. Instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we're crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers. In recent years, it's become clear that such unnatural surroundings have important implications for our mental and physical health, and can powerfully alter how we think.


Consider everything your brain has to keep track of as you walk down a busy thoroughfare like Newbury Street. There are the crowded sidewalks full of distracted pedestrians who have to be avoided; the hazardous crosswalks that require the brain to monitor the flow of traffic. (The brain is a wary machine, always looking out for potential threats.) There's the confusing urban grid, which forces people to think continually about where they're going and how to get there.

The reason such seemingly trivial mental tasks leave us depleted is that they exploit one of the crucial weak spots of the brain. A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren't distracted by irrelevant things, like a flashing neon sign or the cellphone conversation of a nearby passenger on the bus. This sort of controlled perception -- we are telling the mind what to pay attention to -- takes energy and effort. The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power.

Natural settings, in contrast, don't require the same amount of cognitive effort... Natural settings are full of objects that automatically capture our attention, yet without triggering a negative emotional response -- unlike, say, a backfiring car. The mental machinery that directs attention can relax deeply, replenishing itself.


"We worry a lot about the effects of urbanization on other species," Fuller says. "But we're also affected by it. That's why it's so important to invest in the spaces that provide us with some relief."

When a park is properly designed, it can improve the function of the brain within minutes. As the Berman study demonstrates, just looking at a natural scene can lead to higher scores on tests of attention and memory. While people have searched high and low for ways to improve cognitive performance, from doping themselves with Red Bull to redesigning the layout of offices, it appears that few of these treatments are as effective as simply taking a walk in a natural place.

Given the myriad mental problems that are exacerbated by city life, from an inability to pay attention to a lack of self-control, the question remains: Why do cities continue to grow? And why, even in the electronic age, do they endure as wellsprings of intellectual life?

Recent research by scientists at the Santa Fe Institute used a set of complex mathematical algorithms to demonstrate that the very same urban features that trigger lapses in attention and memory -- the crowded streets, the crushing density of people -- also correlate with measures of innovation, as strangers interact with one another in unpredictable ways. It is the "concentration of social interactions" that is largely responsible for urban creativity, according to the scientists. The density of 18th-century London may have triggered outbreaks of disease, but it also led to intellectual breakthroughs, just as the density of Cambridge -- one of the densest cities in America -- contributes to its success as a creative center. One corollary of this research is that less dense urban areas, like Phoenix, may, over time, generate less innovation.

The key, then, is to find ways to mitigate the psychological damage of the metropolis while still preserving its unique benefits. (Source)
What do you think of this? I personally do find the city extremely stimulating in a myriad of ways, and always loved Kansas City because of the large forests and fields that exist pocketed throughout the area. I love that the front yard of where I live is a garden that attracts all sorts of wildlife and that through most of my windows most of the year I see beautiful trees and nothing else.

Growing up I spent most of my time outside and the powerfully relaxing nature of nature (ha ha) was very impressive to me, seeing as I was so freaking high strung. Sometimes I wish I didn't live in the city so I could get more nature, but I would miss the mental stimulation of others way to much to ever go live someplace where I couldn't walk to get what I needed. I would go absolutely crazy being that alone. I don't even like being by myself in the apartment for long periods of time. I get crazy cranky.

So I agree with Lehrer that the trick is finding a balance between being with people and being with nature, at least that's what I seem to need to be perfectly happy.

Related posts:
For the Birds
Giving Nature a Helping Hand
Being Zen on the Mountain

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cultures Threatened as Climate Changes

Hurricaine effects on island habitats

TreeHugger posted a moving article about how native cultures are endangered by climate change. This is something that I've felt move me before, and, in fact, it's one of the reasons I got so fired up about climate change personally. I blogged about attending a Marshall Islands Cultural Celebration for the Burke Museum of Culture and National history when I was in Seattle interning there. The president of the Marshall Islands was there as well as dancers, artisans and others of Marshal Island ancestry now living in the Seattle area. President Kessai Note gave a passionate address about climate change and the devastation affects it was and will have on the Marshall Islands - an island chain that has low elevation and is at great risk of disappearing forever.

As I watched these joyful people celebrate their heritage and dance and laugh, I wondered how anyone could could choose to hasten their culture's extinction. I felt that by not doing anything, I was partially responsible. All of the consumer-y crap I do to deplete resources when I don't need to be is only making things worse for people who are going to soon be struggling for their very survival. That was the moment when climate change became real for me.

TreeHugger's post reminded me of this moment and goes on to describe the very real dangers facing indigenous cultures:

In Tibet, sacred glaciers are melting and alpine medicinal plant populations are disappearing. In the Borneo rainforest, Dayak tribes report unusual alterations in wildlife seasonal patterns: native birds aren't showing up in their usual places, or at the usual times. In Central Africa, changing rainfall patterns have altered stream flows, making it harder for the Mbaka (pygmy) women to catch fish.

In Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia, milder winters are decreasing lichen populations, a key food source for both wild and semi-domesticated reindeer. For the first time in history, Sámi peoples have to search for fodder to feed their reindeer herds.

In the Arctic Circle, the permafrost isn't "permanent frost" anymore. It is melting. And as it melts, the tundra dries, reducing the vegetation available for caribou herds. With less food available, caribou are more prone to disease and food-borne illnesses.

Elsewhere in Alaska, melting glaciers are changing fish distribution patterns, affecting sea birds, mammals, and the indigenous communities dependent on them. Walruses and seals have fewer resting platforms (critical to maintaining their core body heat), and sea mammals are migrating further in search of fish. Earlier ice break-up and later freezes shorten hunting periods and increase risk along routes for Native Inuit hunters.

As glaciers along the Alaskan coast retreat, 180 Native villages have already experienced increased flooding and erosion from strong waves, their shorelines no longer protected by sea ice walls.

On the other side of the equator, retreating glaciers in the Peruvian Andes are reducing water flow to wetlands where vicuna, alpaca, and llama graze. Native Quechua herders are distressed not only at the negative impact on their livelihoods, but on the spiritual consequences of humankind's disregard for sacred mountains.

Here's the irony: the peoples of the world with the tiniest ecological footprint-who have contributed the least to our current state of global warming-are the first, and the hardest hit, by the negative impacts of climate change.

Native peoples are deeply connected to their natural landscape - and not just in economic terms. Cultural identity, belief systems, songs, and stories of indigenous peoples around the world are centered around the flora, fauna, forests, mountains, and waters of their traditional territories. Native Alaska peoples such as the Gwich'in consider themselves as the "Caribou People". Their creation stories tell how the Gwich'in people and the caribou share a part of each other's heart. According to Tibetan villagers, their sacred mountains have souls, just as humans do, and need to be treated accordingly.

Why care? Because diversity gives humanity and all of Earth's species more chance at long-term survival. I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to give up on the human experiment just yet.

Related posts:
The Problem with the Green Movement
This is a True Story
More Ways to Use Human Energy

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Like It Too Much

I am so in love with this new song from the Kaiser Chiefs. I have to play it twice a day at least.

My favorite lyrics:
You are descended from animals
And you are constructed of chemicals.

Coming soon, I'll have a review of the album with this song on it. Aren't you just so excited?

Related posts:
Yet More Music I Fell in Love With
Put Your Headphones On (Your Heart)
Even Vegetarians Love Bacon Shoe

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Beauty Saves, Pain Defines

Despite all the ugliness, there was a lot of beauty in my home growing up. It's the root of my obsession with having a pleasing interior design wherever I live, because I felt the balm of that grace every day I was there. It's part of what helped me get through (the other parts being all the time I spent out in nature and the millions of books I read).

I remember being struck when I came home from a week at Bible camp to find the living room repainted with one bold blue wall that hit you in a wash of calm when you opened the door. I was so amazed by the strong statement it made and the beauty of it; it's where I get my love of bold colors. Against this backdrop, the framed painted prints - gifts from my "rich" grandmother both before and after her death of lung cancer - of old Master paintings gained a new vibrance.

Those paintings were my first introduction to any kind of art history and some I loved, like the three girls on a sofa sharing a large book, the profile of a young girl reading (above), and some I didn't - the young girl looking miserable in a fishing boat with her grandfather. Growing up with those around me made me believe that art was just as big a part of life as anything else.

My grandmother had also given us an original painting by one of my not-to-distant relatives who was of the still life and flowers ilk. In her painting, which hung over the stairs for as long as I can remember, fruit spilled across a table, glowing with such vibrancy that I can't even recall what else that ornate frame that was such a bitch to dust held within its corners. That painting was a constant reminder to me that artistic talent lurked in my blood, running up and down my body the way I ran up and down those stairs.

Besides the paintings, I also loved to look at the little green spot in the living room that served as my mother's indoor garden. She was a firm believer in needing plants in ones living space and we had several hardy ivys and, later, a small tree. On winter days I would sit in the chair beside the window, stair at the only green plants within sight beside me and soak in the sun with them.

There was also a lot of beautiful music in my parents' house. Being Baptist, the only kinds of "approved" music were hymns, certain contemporary religious songs, classical music, songs from Disney cartoons and Broadway show tunes (but not the "indecent" ones). My mother had been a music teacher and played in the church orchestra. I have seen her play the clarinet, flute, cello, harpsicord and piano and know she can play much more. The house was often full of her practicing or beautiful classical music that sent my soul flying. I could lose myself in certain songs and emerge at the end feeling as if I had been on a long journey. The few live classical performances I saw only fed my love and I soaked up all that glorious old music like I was dying of thirst.

With the Broadway show tunes I indulged my love of singing and memorized tons of songs. There used to be a show on the old classical radio station here in Kansas City that played show tunes for several hours every Saturday night. Singing my guts out with the various characters and letting out my anxiety, anger and sorrow through them always helped me be calmer in church the next day when I'd have to deal with a bunch of judgmental bullshit and feel like a fish out of water.

I still seek solace in art, music and beautiful surroundings. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that the things I clung to as a type of escape would end up defining the largest parts of me. But it does. I guess it's like Kirk said in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, "You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves."

Related posts:
Create Your Own Reality
Thoughts On Learning By Experience

Like what you see? Subscribe here or add to Mixx