Friday, June 19, 2009

Pushing the Pause Button on Social Media

I'm about to get on an airplane tomorrow, to visit relatives in Holland and Germany, and I've decided to push the pause button on social media updates for the next couple of weeks. No facebook, no twitter, no elenabella. Instead, I'll slip into the comfortable obscurity of a face-to-face life, camera, sketchbook and journal in hand. This is an experiment: I'm sure there will be much to say about the trip. But I won't always have ready access to the web, so I've made the decision to (try to) put the internet out of my mind. My focus will be on direct conversation, biking, hiking, sleeping, relaxing, and experiencing the chance to explore a few places that are now deeply familiar landing spots over in Europe. I'll be sharing some highlights after July 7th: come back in two weeks and find out what we did on our summer vacation! Bon voyage! Auf wiedersehen! Abientot j'espere..

And now, just for fun, that heroic moment when Obama swatted a fly. I like the fact that he slaps his own hand while smashing the fly: it's a double whammy, a calculated risk.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Human Adornment: Photography of Hans Silvester

I received two messages yesterday that juxtaposed themselves in an interesting way. One was a video of images by photographer Hans Silvester, who has collected pictures of the Omo and other African people, in books such as Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa. The other was the poem here, by John Caddy, of the Morning Earth website, accompanied by this photo of a gorgeously adorned webworm, the natural kind.

Of all the images I've seen in my life of human adornment, I find those by Silvester to be the most intriguing and beautiful – not least because the humans here seem to show such a profound connection with and appreciation for the natural world. At the same time, such pictures make me somewhat uncomfortable, as they so clearly objectify those resources, both human and natural, that are increasingly exotic and vulnerable. What happens next to these people? And don't they put the rest of us to shame, not least because their artistic sensibility seems so sophisticated and contemporary, without exposure to the latest trends in either art or fashion? Here's a review from the New York Times that touches on these issues.

Caddy's poem catches some of this ambivalence for me, from the perspective of the humble worm. If the poem had begun "You say I'm lovely" it would echo the comments viewers make of the portraits in Silvester's books. The question "So how am I different from you?" seems so relevant in both instances. I think it's a real question, not just a rhetorical one.

There are several videos of Omo photos at YouTube, but I liked the one here best, not least for the music that accompanies it. I'm not sure what the music is, though, or who is making it. Watch the video, and let your eyes and soul be amazed.

You say I’m unlovely
but I know I’m fine.
I’m bristly and blue
with round yellow spots
in patches of black.
My long stripes of blue
are bordered in gold,
my skirt of orange bristles
is fit for a Chinatown dragon.
I hatch in my webs
by the thousands
and graze all the leaves I can find.
I am blessed in my beauty,
my manifold colors, I know I am chosen.
So how am I different from you?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Toy, or Poster, or Art Card-A-Day

The web has spawned a number of blogging projects that impose the discipline of daily practice, including elenabella. A remarkable site in this regard is Toy-A-Day, by Joe – someone relatively anonymous who has created a downloadable template for making paper figures, like Pikachu, the Mario Bros., or anyone else you'd enjoy toying with.

I love the idea of Toy-A-Day, but was really impressed when I found that Joe also gives us a Poster-A-Day, such as the one here. He designs and uploads posters (not every single day, but regularly), based on a quote by a famous artist. The posters are created in hi-resolution and are available on the site for anyone to download and print. Each includes a little bio about the artist, such as this one:

Arne Emil Jacobsen (11 February 1902 – 24 March 1971) was a Danish architect and designer, exemplar of the 'Danish Modern' style. In addition to his architectural work he created a number of highly original chairs and other furniture. He received several international distinctions and medals.

Not only that, but Joe also makes art cards, over at 1000 ACEO, a new project. ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. These cards have one defining condition - they are 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches, the size of a trading card. Take a look at the creative challenges this guy has set for himself, and the gifts he's throwing out on the web. Hey, Joe – I'm a fan!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

World Naked Bike Ride Protests Indecent Exposure to Auto Pollution

Last Saturday, June 13 2009, was World Naked Bike Day (the same day as the Queen's Birthday Parade, Trooping the Colour). In cities around the world people rode naked in peaceful protest against oil dependency and the dominance of car culture.

The ride is an imaginative way to demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on the road, and to comment on our "indecent exposure" to pollution generated by motor vehicles.

The first World Naked Bike Ride was held on 12 June 2004, when 58 cyclists rode naked through London's Hyde Park. The police were tolerant, there were no arrests, and viewers – no surprise here – found the event to be an enjoyable spectator sport. Remember the hysteria over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction"? This event offers a nice counterweight regarding views of the human body. There's some great use of body paint and self decoration.

This event has continued to grow, drawing over 1,000 riders in the 2008 London ride. Now there is a wiki where people in cities around the world can plan their own rides. Nothing in the Twin Cities yet, or Bloomington, Indiana, or Pittsburgh: still time to get the wheels rolling for 2010. Here's a WordPress blog with links to posts about the ride in various cities.

World Naked Bike Ride has its own film, World Naked B,
a "movie about people, suspense, intrigue, love and the potential of environmental catastrophic collapse." Here is what the filmmakers say:

Our group of highly entertaining movie makers has set upon a world wide mission to interview as many of the WNBR organizers as possible and uncover their personal motives and ambitions for world domination. You can help us with this project by helping us release this movie in your home town.

$20 + $3 shipping. This includes full public or television screening rights, as well as the right to copy and distribute an unlimited quantity of the original. These can be sold as a fundraiser for local rides.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Exploring Pittsburgh

Pineapples and mustard-colored bridges in Pittsburgh, and a perpetually pouring Heinz ketchup bottle. I found this to be a wonderful city, the original home of Andy Warhol. Just back after several rich days of conversation, idea-sharing, and taking in textures and sounds.

Did you know? In 2009, The Economist named Pittsburgh the most livable city in the United States and 29th-most-livable city worldwide. It was a pleasure to see the sister bridges, the brick facades, neighborhood enclaves, and hills and rivers of this intriguing place. Lots of visual drama in those steep inclines!

Click here to learn how Pittsburgh almost lost – and then regained – its "H".

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Twin Cities Milk Producers Association

I bid on – and won – a disk of images from the Twin Cities Milk Producers Association, at the Howard Bowers Fund Silent Auction at CCMA, the 53rd annual meeting of the Consumer Cooperatives Management Association. Stuart Reid, of Food Co-op 500, found the photos and offered them to this event.

The disk contains images from the early 20th century of cooperative creameries in Minnesota, showing various facets of milk production. They're beautiful and evocative, and indulge my fascination with creameries. Look at the lovely diagram of confined cows, with those grain-tailed arrows indicating the escape of methane gas? Andy Warhol would have loved these pictures.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Go, Penguins...and Tigers!

Okay, so I am in Pittsburgh, Steeler country. Penguin country! Whoo hoo: after the Pens won the Stanley Cup last night, a lot of us cooperators went outside and whooped and hollered, doing a call and response with the passing taxi drivers, who were, of course, blasting their horns.

And then the Detroit Tigers won their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates: it was a double D-P night, with the winning Pitt game away, the D win here. (And the Tigers are staying here at the Westin!) Certainly more sports in one day than this blogger usually takes in. Here are some images from the sports stores along the Strip.

Friday, June 12, 2009

DeLuca's in Pittsburgh: Road Trip Breakfast

From the Streamliner Dinner on Bainbridge Island, to DeLuca's on the Strip in Pittsburgh: that's the story of my search for the best local breakfast during recent trips. We were told to go to DeLuca's because rumor had it that Obama had eaten there, but the truemor is that Obama was at breakfast rival Pamela's. (Get the full story here, at the very informative Obama Foodorama, A Daily Diary of The Obama Foodscape, One Bipartisan Byte At A Time.)

We thought the breakfast was terrific – and so was the ambience: bustling, friendly, evoking years of morning-meals-out-with-friends gone by. Here are just a few pictures.

I tracked down a piece called "The DeLuca Paradox" by Bob Steigerwald about why he thinks DeLuca's is a great place. The Feisty Foodie weighs in here. This review, by Regis Behe, says:

"the long, low counter, with accompanying swivel stools attached to the floor, allows diners to watch the kitchen staff whip up a variety of breakfast favorites. The booths are small but cozy, and a Greek-themed mural and an ancient clock on the front wall are relics from bygone eras. The service is friendly, efficient and quick. A first-time diner immediately feels welcome.

Of course, you get a lot of these comforts (not to mention some of the same ambience) at your Aunt Betty's house."

Yes, but who is lucky enough to have an Aunt Betty anymore? (If you have one, please let me know.) That comment reminds me of the CD by Bloomington musician Carrie Newcomer, Betty's Diner: I bet Carrie would appreciate DeLuca's.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

East Local, America! Challenge, and LIFE Farm

There's an Eat Local, America! Challenge going on through the National Cooperative Growers Association: click over to participate in the momentum around local foods. I'll be blogging there occasionally, along with Katie Zukof, who works both at Bloomingfoods and for the Local Growers Guild of south central Indiana. You can set your own local food commitment, and learn how to make Garden Chimichurri (chimichurri, I think, is the new pesto).

Right now I'm on a road trip to Pittsburgh, traveling with Martha, grocery manager of Bloomingfoods East, and Art Sherwood, co-owner of LIFE Certified Organic Farm. We are heading to
CCMA, the annual gathering of the Consumer Cooperative Management Association. It's going to be fun to visit a new city, and we've been having great conversations.

Here are a couple of photos from LIFE Farm, taken by Ann Schertz. Art was our Local Food Hero at Bloomingfoods in 2007. He works on numerous agricultural projects in education and business, both in the US and abroad. He's kind of a ubiquitous fellow for a farmer, cropping up everywhere!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

FRESH, the Movie: with Will Allen of Growing Power

There's a new movie, FRESH, by Ana Joanes, that is causing a lot of buzz: here is the trailer. You'll see Will Allen of Growing Power, and (in the film itself) other inspiring food activists, like Joel Salatin. I have to admit, I teared up when I saw this trailer.

I'm not the only one. There's an interview with Ana Joanes over at Cheese Slave, a blog celebrating "the love of cheese. And bacon. And butter. And raw milk. And all those other things we’re not supposed to eat." The author, annmarie at (use the @ sign), says she gets teary-eyed, too, when she sees it.

Reference to FRESH is popping up all over. Click here to go the blog of The Beginning Farmer, where he mentions it, too. And the film showed to sold out audiences last week in Minneapolis, with more screenings coming across the land. Here's a story about Ana Joanes at the Huffington Post. It's exciting, this momentum in the direction of reclaiming our land and local food economies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gorgeous Fabric Bowls

Okay, these are right up my alley. It was all I could do to sit on my hands to stop myself from starting to make one of these great fabric bowls.

I'll get back to this later: for now, I'm getting ready to drive off to Pittsburgh for a national conference for the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA). I've never been to Pittsburgh, though my friends Judy and Jenny grew up there, and I've spent some time today doing research: it looks exciting. And any city with a river is good with me!

Check out the tutorial for these bowls here. With thanks to Jess at How About Orange for finding the link.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sweet Sunday

Yesterday afternoon, a meeting with wonderful friends to talk about one of my favorite reads of the past year, Elizabeth Bowen's The House in Paris. Scones and real strawberries, sweet peas, cherry blossoms, a few minutes to sing together, Malcolm Dalglish's new processional for next February, Arts Week in Bloomington. (I wish I could really sing...I do love to listen.)

Stopped to talk for a minute with Ruth, next door, as she harvested kale from her front yard garden. Home of Scott Russell Sanders, author of the new book A Conservationist's Manifesto. Came home to a supper in our own backyard, a large salad and even the kids were here. Sav and Andreas are back from a week in Canada on an island, with friends.

Working, hatching plans to go to Pittsburgh later this week, for the 53rd annual gathering of CCMA, the Consumer Cooperatives Management Association. This is always fun: a chance to learn, reconnect, a tribal reunion.

Oh, and I'm twittering, too. Who knew? We'll see where that goes. You can find me at CCMA2009: I will twitter (in Twitsburgh) for natural foods and cooperation! I am also over there at elenabella. Come follow me, if you want to play with those kinds of messages.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Will Allen of Growing Power

Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc., won a much-deserved MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2008. Once a professional basketball player, Allen also worked in corporate marketing at Procter and Gamble before turning his energy to the development of Growing Power, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, since 1995.

Allen is a major source of inspiration and information for the urban gardening movement, inspiring people of all ages. He teaches workshops to aspiring urban farmers across the United States and abroad. His passion is for transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to underserved urban populations.

Allen recognized that many low-income urban populations have very limited access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, resulting in health-related problems such as obesity and diabetes. He transplanted the best “back to the land” efforts of the sustainable agriculture movement to an urban garden of under three acres, using raised beds, aquaculture, vermiculture, and compost-heated greenhouses to raise food. He then went to focus on redesigning urban food distribution networks.

Naturally, he's had a huge impact on human culture in the process. Growing Power works because it engages many people through internships, workshops, and intensive, hands-in-the-compost-bin training. The goal is to improve the diet and health of the urban poor, and in the meantime, a whole lot of learning, community building, and creative interaction takes place.

This guy is my hero. A lot of people feel that way – click here for a couple of posts about Growing Power written by Daughter Number Three, from Minneapolis. And here's a piece about Allen from the White House Organic Farm Project. There are a number of Growing Power facebook pages, too, and now they are populating my facebook page!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Coldplay with Howling Bells and Snow Patrol

Lucky, lucky us. We saw Howling Bells, the Glasgow band Snow Patrol, and Coldplay last night at Verizon Center near Noblesville, Indiana, under a nearly full moon. Years ago we saw Coldplay in Louisville with Fiona Apple. Both were great concerts, but this was the best, due to the perfectly beautiful night.

Coldplay gives a fabulous concert. Chris Martin literally throws himself across the stage, but he's like a super ball, he bounces. He's light on his feet, sweet, there is something so endearingly childlike about his persona, a hard thing to pull off in the world of rock music. But it works. (I had this weird flash that we were in the world's best possible kindergarten class – which sounds strange, but then I saw the new Coldplay video, "Life in Technicolor ii" – check it out, below.)

The other thing about this band is that they have absolutely gorgeous visual effects; this time there was very cool video throughout, sometimes projected on spinning balls that were lifted and lowered over the stage. During the song "Yellow" huge yellow balloons bounced into the crowd. At another point tissue and mylar butterflies are shot out into the sky, for a euphoria effect. We did a cell phone wave.

These guys are really good musicians, something that is apparent when they perform live. The group includes vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Chris Martin, lead guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer/backing vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Will Champion (coolest drummer ever). Coldplay invited Oxfam on this mammoth Viva la Vida tour, and there's a great website about that.

A couple of times the stage went dark and the lads reappeared on smaller platforms in the audience, once way back out on the lawn. There, they clustered like a bluegrass band, playing in a tight ensemble. At the end of the night, as we were leaving, they gave away their latest CD, a live album, Left Right Left Right Left. So as the crowd crawled through traffic leaving the concert, we could carry the music with us, extending the mood. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

You too can download the album free of charge: "a thank you to our fans." At the Coldplay website you'll find an interview with Chris Martin about giving away over a million of these CDs. Travel here for an interview with Dougal Wilson, video director of "Life in Technicolor ii":

Friday, June 5, 2009

DN3 on ConAgra's Pirate Food

Run-don't-walk over to Daughter Number Three, to read yesterday's post about Pirate Food. A critique of corporate agribusiness, it began as a response to this hideous (or maybe just dopey) logo, the new mark for ConAgra Foods., Inc.

What the heck is that, I wondered? A pirate? Someone whose eye has been poked out with a spoon? I realized, on one level, it was meant to be a smiley face, but the one-eyed thing was really distracting -- what happened to the other eye? Or was it an asymmetrical cyclops?

DN3 reflects on what this logo suggests about a corporation that proudly devours smaller brands. A bland and tasteless pirate, it seems entirely clueless about current local food trends. With a new tagline, "Food you love," ConAgra Foods Inc. for the first time is overtly advertising its name with the brands it makes (make that "overtakes"). Hmmm. Yumm? Check out this sharp and savvy debunking of their brand strategy, from someone with years of experience in media and natural foods.

There's a photo of ConAgra products sitting on a shelf in a pantry somewhere...straight out of the 70s? I think I cleaned out that cupboard once: I can almost feel the sticky, smudgy dust on those boxes and on the lids of those jars. Oops – stale and outdated...have to pitch them!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Messages and Minarets: Homing Pigeons

Where do messages go? When we twitter,
how are our tweets dispersed? I thought about this in relation to homing
pigeons, trying to imagine what the world was like when they were commonly used to relay information. Here, from Wikipedia, is a photo of a B-type bus from London converted into a pigeon loft for use in Northern France and Belgium during the Great War. Carrier pigeons played a vital part in World War II too, for communication during the Invasion of Normandy; radios couldn't be used for fear of message interception by the enemy.

Carrier pigeons were first used 3,000 years ago in Egypt and Persia. They also were used to proclaim the winner of the Olympics. Carrier pigeons lived in the minarets of mosques, such as those in the Jamia Masjid mosque in Srirangapatna, headquarters of Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore. National Geographic offers computer wallpaper of homing pigeons in a clay roost.

Research suggests that homing pigeons
establish habitual routes with repetition, much the way humans do.
The discovery of iron-containing structures in the beaks of pigeons may explain how they (and perhaps other birds) navigate in relation to the Earth's magnetic fields.

It's exciting to think that we can use computers and handheld devices to communicate over long distances today, using the latest applications, but it's really just an extension and transformation of pigeon delivery service and the telegraph. (I'm sure I used more than 140 characters trying to craft that thought: bear with me!) I think it's important to remember that these have all been "technologies." When one supplants another, whole worlds of sensory experience are lost, even as new ones are gained.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Complicated Worlds of Feather: Passenger Pigeons

Artist Walton Ford describes John James Audubon as "more NRA guy than Audubon Society guy," with anecdotes about Audubon's reckless abuse of the birds whose images he painted. The original watercolor painting of the Audubon print here, of the Passenger Pigeon, is the only one of Audubon's works known to have been painted in Pittsburgh. It was part of a 2003-04 exhibit at the University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery, called "This Taking Flight: Selected Prints from John James Audubon's Birds of America."

The passenger (or wild) pigeon was once the most common bird in North America, sometimes passing through the sky in enormous flocks of up to two billion birds, a mile wide and 300 miles long. There may have been five billion passenger pigeons in the United States at one time – now there are none. Pigeon meat was commercialized as an inexpensive food for slaves and the poor, so they were hunted on a massive scale, and they lost their habitat as Europeans settled across the country. The bird thought to be the last passenger pigeon, named Martha, died on September 1, 1914, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tourtre, tourte, pigeon migrateur. The Lenape called it amimi, the Ojibwe omiimii. Passenger pigeon in English derives from the French word passager, meaning to pass by.

Walton Ford's artwork reminds us of the decimation of various species in times prior to our own. I wonder if he has painted the passenger pigeon? The carving here is by master bird carver Matt Cormons, of Parksley, Virginia.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Complicated Worlds of Fur, from Walton Ford

I recently read Calvin Tomkins' fascinating profile of the painter Walton Ford in The New Yorker, and then found this self-portrait of the artist over at You Tube. (I just have to say: I'm impressed with the digital reader and web features of The New Yorker's site.)

Searching for more, I came upon Irene Gallo's very interesting blog The Art Department. Gallo has been art director at Tor/Forge Books since 1992 and at Starscape Books since its launch in 2002, placing her at the center of contemporary sci fi illustration, for one thing.

Here, in his own words, is an introduction to the "complicated worlds of fur" you find in the watercolors of Walton Ford. I also appreciate the clutter in his studio, contrasting with the meticulous renderings in his artworks.