Beagle Freedom Success

Produced by The Beagle Freedom Project

Jun 14, 2011

The Beagle Freedom Project’s second rescue of beagles who have lived their entire lives inside a research laboratory. These beagles have known nothing except the confines of metal cages. They have known no soft human touch, no warm bed, no companionship, no love. They have never been outside or sniffed a tree or grass. Finally, after years of being poked and prodded, these beagles are FREE! ARME got the call that a facility was willing to release them to us after they had been used in several tests. The BFP members picked them up on June 8th and now they are all in loving foster homes, and one has already been adopted.

If you are interested in adopting any of these special beagles, please email them at: shannon@beaglefreedomproject.org. If you cannot adopt, but would like to help, ARME is a non-profit organization and we rely on your donations to continue this work. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. You can donate here: http://www.beaglefreedomproject.org/donate.php
PLEASE DO NOT BUY PRODUCTS TESTED ON ANIMALS! You can see their faces now….. buy only products that have the cruelty-free symbol.

Year of the Water Dragon

by Kit Wong

 

An illustration of a dragon composed of splashes of water against a black backgroundIn Chinese Mythology, the Dragon has always been an auspicious sign. Its symbolism is often related to or signifies Heavenly Energies and Imperial Decrees or both. The Belief that there are four Dragon Kings in the four corners of the World, charged with regulating the flow of water, in the form of rainfall, rivers, lakes, streams, and even wells is significant to the relation of the element with the mythical creature. With water, being the life source of most living things, the Dragon’s influence means it affects the regulation and flow of life. Seeing that Dragon is a Yang Force, or representation of Dynamic Energies, and it’s linked to the element of water – the life giving force, it can be seen as an auspicious time to expect a deluge of energies. But like the water rapids, expect some wild rides ahead in 2012, economically, politically and romantically. Expect fresh innovation, but also historically watershed (no pun intended) moments, and stagnancy is not an issue.

The Water Dragon, seen as a lucky sign for the most part also displays traits of sustainability and longevity. 1952 was the last time the Water Dragon made an appearance in a once-a-60 year cycle. It demarcated the coronation of UK’s Queen Elizabeth II in February of that year, for a period that moves from the 20th to the 21st century, and she is still reigning today. In November that same year, Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap opened in London, its successful run, in retrospect, earned it the record holder for the longest, continuously running production of a play in modern history.

an ornate and undulating statue of a green Chinese dragon

This sense of lasting power or leaving an indelible mark on society can be seen as good for some and perhaps more ominous for others. In 1952, the United States of America brought two new innovations to the 20th century: the hydrogen bomb and the B-52 Bomber, two of the most destructive weapons for use in conflicts. In December of that year, a toxic killer-fog descended over the city of London, requiring us to come up with a new term in eco-disaster: “Smog”.

But as ancient Taoist Philosophy teaches, all things in the world are comprised of the dynamic interplays of forces Positive and Negative, so it may hearten some to know that the field of medicine saw the first successful separation of conjoined twins at Mt Sinai hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout history parents in China and Asian communities have hoped to give birth during Dragon years. In the last period of Water Dragon in 1952 the birth of world leaders in politics were Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong. In Sports, we had tennis luminary Jimmy Connors, and four-time super bowl winning coach Bill Belichick. In the corporate and business world 1952 gave us the most Water Dragons that dominate the world of business, offering us a host of CEOs from companies such as Exxon-Mobil, Alberto-Culver, Time Warner, Colgate- Palmolive, Viacom, UPS, Radio Shack, Clorox, Tiffany & Company, Hershey, ITT, Macy’s, Walgreens to name a few, with Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark, who has reshaped the world of advertising and Anne M. Mulcahy, former chairwoman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, and Muhtar Kent, current CEO of Coca Cola.

Year of the Dragon 2012 is the fifth in the series following the Rabbit and recur every twelfth year with five elements effecting each dragon year differently. The date of each Chinese New Year varies with this one beginning January 23.

Others who have entered in during the Year of the Dragon are Bruce Lee, John Lennon, Shirley Temple, Kirk Douglas, Ringo Starr, Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, Robin Williams, Salvador Dali, Helen Keller, Charles Darwin, Maya Angelou, Dr. Seuss, Mae West, and Florence Nightingale.

Thus, in retrospect, we can infer a sense that 2012 could very well be an unforgettable year. Let us all strive to harness the energies that the Water Dragon brings, and effect positive changes in our life and the lives of others. Happy New Year!

 

water dragon photo © Vitaly Korovin

1st dragon image © Nikolai Sorokin

2nd dragon photo © Martyn Unsworth

2012 offers infinite possibilities

A very decorative illustration of a dragon

Article and artwork by Colette Stefan

 

On January 23, 2012, we move out of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit into the prosperous and fertile Year of the Dragon. Dragons represent potent and benevolent power as the ultimate ruler of all the elements, embodying primordial power as a catalyst for change and transformation, wisdom, infinity, longevity and movement through space.

It is critical that we adapt our way of living and eliminate out-of-date practices that hinder the brilliant future of our planet, our galaxy and the entire universe. Research undertaken by cosmologist and inventor Nassim Haramein has created a “Unified Field Theory.” This information can change our lives on Earth dramatically, as it unlocks deep levels of understanding of human existence through an exploration of the geometric structure of the universe and human consciousness.

The unified field is the space we occupy. No matter how big or small, all matter we observe is made of atoms and all atoms are of 99.99999% space. Physicists use math to describe the universe and the nature of reality through the language of equations. We can improve our understanding of the fundamentals of our universe when we understand the geometry of the fabric of the vacuum and the dynamics of space-time within that structure.

This is a critical period in our evolution where we can come into coherency and harmony with nature instead of destroying our environment as we interact with it and transform our society from scarcity consciousness to abundance.

We live in the perfect organization of a holographic and non-linear fractal universal structure. We are a reflection of the abundance of mother Earth; like her, we are self-sustaining. The anxiety we feel as a human race is a direct result of the stress of living within the confines of a box of a closed system. Stress can be better defined as the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of misinformation and acceptance of living within the confines of a mistaken identity as limited beings confined within a limited structure. There are no closed systems in nature. What appears to be an isolated system is actually connected to an infinite amount of information. We are in effect, a container of the infinite potential of the entire universe.

Our society, as a whole, tends to embrace looking outside of ourselves for answers, based on expansion and radiation instead of contraction – exploding fuel-filled rockets instead of floating hot air balloons.

The Year of the Dragon is a perfect opportunity to break out of the box in our search for creative solutions by going towards the centre and using our intuition to find answers from within. We are invincible if we harness our collective power to command our energies toward the inevitability of a peaceful harmonious existence, through breakthroughs in enlightenment rather than disaster.

Misdiagnosing ADHD

An illustration of silhouetted children playing among butterflies in bright green grass

Kids can’t be kids anymore?

by Bruce Burnett, CH

 

There’s a popular T-shirt that reads, “I don’t have ADHD, I’m just ignoring you.” We all know that ADHD is no laughing matter, yet, as with much humour, there’s a grain of truth in the joke.

It’s axiomatic that Americans are addicted to pharmaceutical drugs. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, writes in his review of Overdosed America by Dr. John Abramson, “some of the nation’s worst drug dealers aren’t peddling on the street corners, they’re occupying corporate suites. Overdosed America reveals the greed and corruption that drive health care costs skyward and now threatens the public health. Before you see a doctor, you should read this book.”

According to Dr. Abramson, “This is the mother of all sleights of hand: the transformation of medical science from a public good whose purpose is to improve health into a commodity whose primary function is to maximize financial returns.”

Nothing illustrates this more disturbingly than new research by Todd Elder, an assistant professor of economics at Michigan State University. According to Elder, almost one million children in the US are possibly misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest in their class. Immaturity is therefore mistaken for ADHD. These children are significantly more likely than their older classmates to be prescribed behaviour-modifying stimulants such as Ritalin. Elder said the “smoking gun” of the study is that ADHD diagnoses depend on a child’s age relative to classmates and the teacher’s perceptions of whether the child has symptoms.

“If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s five and the other kids are six,” said Elder. “There’s a big difference between a five-year-old and a six-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD.”

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioural disorder for kids in the US, with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, as Elder has noted, there are no neurological markers for ADHD (such as a blood test) and experts disagree on its prevalence, fuelling intense public debate about whether ADHD is under-diagnosed or over-diagnosed.

In 2000, a series of Ritalin class action federal lawsuits were filed in five separate US states. All five lawsuits were dismissed by the end of 2002. The lawsuits alleged the makers of Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and the American Psychiatric Association had conspired to invent and promote the disorder ADHD to create a highly profitable market for the drug. The lawsuit also alleged CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) deliberately attempted to increase the supply of Ritalin and ease restrictions on the supply of Ritalin to help increase profits for Novartis. Indeed, some even argue that ADHD is merely a disease manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry to sell drugs.

Fred Baughman, MD, has been an adult and child neurologist in California for nearly 40 years. He leads the opposition to the over and misdiagnoses of ADHD. Dr. Baughman has been striving for many years to bring the truth about this so-called ‘disease’ to the attention of as many people as possible. In his book, The ADHD Fraud, he writes, “They made a list of the most common symptoms of emotional discomfiture of children; those which bother teachers and parents most, and in a stroke that could not be more devoid of science or Hippocratic motive – termed them a ‘disease.’ Twenty-five years of research, not deserving of the term ‘research,’ has failed to validate ADD/ADHD as a disease. Tragically – the ‘epidemic’ having grown from 500,000 in 1985 to between five and seven and million today – this remains the state of the ‘science’ of ADHD.”

Dr. Mercola, founder of mercola.com, an online natural health newsletter, raises concern about “the frightening rise of ADHD drugs among children and their parents.” Mercola writes, “Parents of children already taking such medications are almost 10 times more likely to take one themselves. Even worse, some 60 percent were mothers, although ADHD had been thought to be almost three times more common among males.”

These dire numbers come from a review of prescription claims generated by more than 100,000 children (ages 5-19) and their parents in 2005 by Medco Health Solutions. More alarming statistics:

  • The chances of a second child in the same family taking an ADHD drug doubled when a parent also took one.
  • In cases where both parent and child took an ADHD drug, parents began drug therapy first more than 40 percent of the time.
  • Adults began taking an ADHD drug at age 43 while children start at age 13.
  • According to an earlier Medco analysis, ADHD drug use among women had exploded 164 percent from 2000-05.
  • According to Mercola, “There’s no need to expose your family or yourself to a potentially hazardous ADHD drug that can cause hallucinations, especially when there are safer and more natural solutions available. A few to consider:
  • Avoid processed foods.
    Rebalance your intake of omega-3 fats by taking a high quality fish or krill oil daily.
  • Reduce, with the plan to eliminate, grains and sugars from your diet.

So is ADHD real or not? The ‘disease’ has been attributed to anything from pesticide exposure to too much television. The jury is still out, but parents are advised to at least get a second opinion before drugging their child, especially if he or she is among the youngest in the class.

References:
Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine by John Abramson, MD.
The ADHD Fraud by Fred Baughman, MD.

Based in Ladysmith, BC, Bruce Burnett is a chartered herbalist, an award-winning writer and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing.

illustration © Kirsty Pargeter

Marketing nostalgia

A gold-tinted closeup of a musician's hand playing an electric guitar

From The Big Chill to boxed sets and beyond

by Geoff Olson

 

It’s extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
– Noel Coward

Nostalgia strikes when you least expect it. You’re sitting in a café putzing away on your smart phone when some long-forgotten tune comes on the radio in the background. Suddenly, you’re caught in a Proustian tractor beam and boarding the mothership of memory.

Song supplies a key that opens the door to the past. This implies there is a keyhole somewhere in the brain. According to some neuroscientists – and there is a long-running academic debate about this – everything we’ve ever heard is encoded holographically in our nervous systems. In the early sixties, Canadian neurologist Wilder Penfield explored the brains of patients with severe epilepsy in search of causes for their disease. He would stimulate the exposed brain tissue in fully conscious patients and by observing the patient’s response, as the electrode was moved gently from point to point over the temporal lobe, he was often able to pinpoint the area of damage responsible for seizures. Occasionally, he would alight on a spot where the patient would experience an extraordinarily vivid scene from the past, a voice or a fragment of music. If Penfield stimulated the exact spot a second time, the recollection would repeat, like a vinyl disc scratched by a DJ.

We’ve all experienced a moment where a piece of music has teleported us back to some joyful or painful time in our lives. This budget time travel can even be instigated by a disliked song or an advertising jingle. The brain is promiscuous when it comes to musical attachments. Personally, I will forever associate Paul Young’s Every Time You Go Away with dental work, ever since a Richmond dentist hummed it all the way through a root canal.

Music will often conjure up a complex constellation of feelings, with an attached sense of longing or loss. We call this sense “nostalgia,” a Greek word combining nostos (returning home) and algos (pain or ache). The term “nostalgia” was coined by 17th century Swiss physician Johannes Hofer in his medical dissertation as an umbrella term for symptoms displayed by Swiss mercenaries in the service of European monarchs. When they were stationed far from the Alps, the mercenaries apparently fell prey to a morbid state of homesickness. Hofer described the illness as a “continuous vibration of animal spirits through those fibres of the middle brain in which the impressed traces of ideas of the Fatherland still cling.”

As noted by psychologist Charles A. Zwingmann, “to ward off [this debilitating] nostalgia, Swiss soldiers were forbidden to play, sing or even whistle Alpine tunes” because Alpine melodies haunted the listener with “an image of the past which is at once definite and unattainable.” Nostalgia was regarded as the soul’s yearning for a home to which the sufferer could no longer return. (You might say the 17th century Swiss mercenaries were the world’s first emo kids.)

You might not be able to go home again – in the sense of returning to the vanished world of your youth – but thanks to digital technology, the soundtrack of your life is always on tap.

Musical nostalgia in its current form is a joint discovery of the American music and film industries. The founding document is the 1984 film The Big Chill, which starred an ensemble of A-list Hollywood actors as a group of supernaturally droll and attractive boomers who gather at a weekend memorial for a dead friend. This was one of the first Hollywood films that did not commission theme music. Instead, director Lawrence Kasdan put on his hardhat and took a trip down the pop cultural mineshaft. Rock classics like Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through the Grapevine and The Temptations’ My Girl lent the film a depth and resonance it might have otherwise lacked.

With The Big Chill, it was like the entertainment industry had discovered a whole new continent. On Hollywood’s side, there was the big box office effect of attaching musical nostalgia to blockbuster films. On the music industry’s side, it was a double win: songs leased to Hollywood productions could revive the radio play and resale of old hits.

This was back in the glory days of vinyl albums, well before the balance-sheet terrors of CD ripping and digital downloading. Today, with their profits under siege, music labels are pushing musical nostalgia through a different angle: boxed sets. I’m talking about those multidisc packages that honour an artist’s entire career, complete with b-sides, bootlegs, big hits, live versions and filmed performances.

In 1990, Atlantic Records repackaged Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits as six vinyl albums or four compact discs, in a stunning boxed set decorated with crop circles. 1995 saw the release of The Beatles Anthology, in which a collection of tinny demos found in the vaults of the BBC seeded a television documentary series, three double albums and a book focusing on moptop history. Over the next two decades, the packaging of boxed sets became increasingly elaborate, the multimedia spin-offs more impressive and the prices stiffer. (Elvis Costello recently discouraged fans from buying his compilation, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, calling its $249.00 price tag “either a misprint or a satire.”)

Yet these past efforts are chump change compared to EMI’s recent remastering of Pink Floyd’s catalogue. From the PR blurb, it sounds like the marketing equivalent of the Normandy invasion, featuring “CD’s, DVDs Blu-ray discs, an array of digital formats, viral marketing, iPhone Apps and a brand-new single album “Best Of” collection.”

The marketing angle is to convince Floyd purists this seductive package is a need, rather than a want, while persuading file-sharing freeloaders their mp3 Floyd collections sound like AM radio tracks broadcast through mercury amalgam fillings. The Discovery Box Set contains all 14 digitally remastered Floyd albums, for the grand price of $175. Or if you prefer, you can purchase each album separately, in either the entry “Experience” format or the full-scale “Immersion” format. The $113 “Immersion” format of Wish You Were Here includes live and unreleased tracks on five discs, including SACD and vinyl LP, plus booklets and even a freaking scarf. (No word yet if the “Immersion” version of Roger Waters’ bummer classic, The Wall – $119, seven discs, available February – will come with a bag of weed to take off the misanthropic edge.)

Who knows? Perhaps the boxed sets of the future will come with nanotechnology and gene-splicing kits, allowing fans to grow miniaturized musical artists like sea monkeys. The next generation will be able to grow their own itsy-bitsy Pink Floyds, with tiny roadies rebuilding The Wall out of packing peanuts.

Take it from me, if you have a car, you already have a Pink Floyd boxed set; it’s called a radio. David Gilmour’s guitar workout Money has been in AM radio rotation since I was in tube socks. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of the band myself. I just keep my enthusiasm to subclinical levels. Rock stars and rappers are the closest things we have to religious figures in secular culture and boxed sets are the marketing equivalent of church reliquaries containing the fragments of saints. Of course, not everyone’s a saint or interested in owning a piece of one. These productions are mostly limited to musical acts beloved by boomers, the principal target demographic. They’re the only folks who can honestly afford this sort of archival overkill.

We’re a long, long way from that famous pre-punk moment in 1975 when John Lydon walked into rock impresario Malcolm McLaren’s London boutique wearing a tattered T-shirt with the words “I hate” scrawled above “Pink Floyd.” You’d think the wall-eyed former lead singer of the Sex Pistols would prove resistant to the nostalgia biz. Not so. When nostalgia combines with the preservation industry, even punk rockers are found to have a stately charm.

Exhibit A: Last month, British archaeologists expressed their delight at the discovery of some graffiti behind cupboards in a London apartment. Not just any apartment, but one once rented by the Sex Pistols. The graffiti – consisting of eight childlike scribbles by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) – is “a direct and powerful representation of a radical and dramatic movement of rebellion,” according to Dr. John Schofield at the department of archaeology, University of York and independent researcher Dr. Paul Graves-Brown. In the latest edition of the journal Antiquity, the two argue the graffiti is worthy of archaeological investigation and historical preservation.

Dr. Schofield writes, “The tabloid press once claimed that early Beatles recordings discovered at the BBC were the most important archaeological find since Tutankhamen’s tomb. The Sex Pistols’ graffiti in Denmark Street surely ranks alongside this and – to our minds – usurps it.”

With a bit of luck and heritage society finagling, the London flat will become the punk rock version of the Lascaux Caves. It only goes to show if you allow a pop culture artifact enough time, it will age into respectable, preservation-worthy status, like a Charles Manson doodle on Antiques Roadshow. The surviving punkers are old enough to prefer PIN safety over safety pins and the “Immersion” set of Dark Side of the Moon might as well come packaged with Depends. The boomers and Gen-Xers are now the museum-going class and like any other generation, we love any new discovery that puts a spotlight on the soundtrack to our glorious youth.

There is something poignant about the impulse to archive the pop culture past into gallery items and fetish objects. There is great artistry in some of these works and their archival collection is meant, in a certain sense, to ward off time. A song that survives its composer is the closest thing we have in the material world to a tangible spirit (or, at least, the acoustic tracing of a vanished temperament). It’s little wonder we attach a sense of the sacred to music, whether it be Gregorian chants or Seattle grunge.

When you are completely absorbed in a task, a sport, making a piece of art or lovemaking, you are ‘not there.’ This sense of timelessness is most evident with music, in either its performance or its appreciation. The player merges with the played and the listener with the listened. This timeless dimension of music was captured perfectly in a BBC documentary entitled Prisoner of Consciousness. Musicologist Clive Wearing was stricken with a severe brain inflammation that left him with a memory span of just a few seconds. Without a recognizable past or an imaginable future, Clive Wearing told his wife his purgatorial life was “like being dead.” Although he can never remember his wife, he is thrilled each time he sees her.

This is not a man capable of nostalgia, at least not in the usual sense. When he is asked to play a composition by Bach, Wearing initially says he doesn’t know any. Yet he manages to summon up a prelude by the composer when he is at a piano. In examining Wearing, Dr. Oliver Sacks proposed that musical recall is not quite like another kind of memory: “Remembering music is not, in the usual sense, remembering at all… Listening to it or playing it is entirely in the present,” he writes in his book Musicophilia.

There are well-known health benefits from music, for both the healthy and the sick. Even non-speaking patients with brain damage can sometimes be brought to energetic vocal life with music. Sacks notes how remarkable it is that, even in the worst cases of dementia, “there is still a self to be called upon, even if music, and only music, can do the calling.” The best music resonates with what’s deepest inside us.

Carl Jung once lamented to a colleague he had “failed to open people’s eyes that man has a soul – a buried treasure in the field.” If you’re a big music fan, you may prefer to think of the soul as a boxed set.

www.olscribbler.wordpress.com

photo © Regien Paassen

Restoring Eden

SCIENCE MATTERS

by David Suzuki

 

Portrait of David SuzukiThe federal government has announced an exciting NIMBY project. It will put nature in millions of backyards by establishing Canada’s first urban National Park in the country’s largest urban area.

Nestled in the east end of the Greater Toronto Area, Rouge National Park will be unlike any other. It won’t offer the panoramas of Jasper or Banff or provide a safe haven for polar bears, like Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park, or be larger than some European countries, like Wood Buffalo National Park. But it will help connect urban dwellers with nature and ultimately protect and restore a once great forest.

Rouge National Park will be established within the heart of one of the fastest growing urban areas in North America. Home to a wealth of plant and animal life – snapping turtles, butternut trees and rare wetland flowers – the area’s significant and growing human footprint is already evident: two major highways, nearby housing estates and stormwater drainage. Managing existing and future infrastructure in the park, especially roads, will be critical so the growth and spread of surrounding suburbs won’t adversely impact its sensitive ecology.

Restoring the Rouge’s once verdant Carolinian and Great Lakes forest canopy will be important because a long history of agricultural land use and timber harvesting has dramatically reduced the amount of old and mature forest in the area. Intact mature and old-growth forests are rare in northeastern North America, making up less than one percent of forested land.

Plant surveys conducted since the early 1900s in southern Ontario, the Maritimes and New England have found, for example, that some plants, like American yew, do well in undisturbed forests but are so sensitive to human land use that they are often absent or rare in recovering second-growth forests. Scientists believe these plants are not able to fully recover in abandoned farm fields or old logging sites, even after hundreds of years, because habitat is no longer suitable.

Given the importance of these habitat features to the recovery of forest plants and animals, Parks Canada, in partnership with local community groups, regional conservation authorities, universities, and others, will need to work to restore areas in Rouge Park by planting indigenous tree species, removing invasive species, and, in some places, re-introducing and re-creating, by hand, the special features that are largely missing from the park, such as old dead logs, mounds and pits and vernal ponds.

Much of this restoration work is already underway. A local conservation group, Friends of the Rouge Watershed, has planted more than 100,000 native trees and wildflowers in a monumental effort to reforest a section of the park that was set aside in honour of the late Bob Hunter, who helped start Greenpeace and is considered the father of the modern environmental movement in Canada. The group now hopes to restore critical features – old logs, ponds and other habitat – in Bob Hunter Memorial Park as well as in other nearby Rouge Park sites.

It’s a fitting tribute to the memory of a great environmental hero and a wonderful gift to the people of Toronto, and indeed, all of Canada, who will see the lustre restored to this once great forest. Spending time in nature is good for physical and mental health. Having a National Park in the city’s backyard will offer benefits for generations to come.

Written with contributions from Faisal Moola. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Breaking boundaries

FILMS WORTH WATCHING

by Robert Alstead

 

on a city street a barebacked man runs, holding a woman in midair
Dancers perform in Wim Wenders’ Pina

Two films due to open this month bring the wizardry of digital cinema to the arthouse with stunning results. Firstly, there’s Wim Wenders’ Pina 3D, a portrait of the work of the celebrated German choreographer Pina Bausch (due out January 27).

Pina was a film that almost didn’t get made. On June 30, 2009, only two days before the planned 3D rehearsal shoot, its subject Pina Bausch suddenly died. After a period of mourning, Wenders decided to go ahead with a “memoir,” showcasing Bausch’s theatrical choreography and the muscular grace of the dancers from Bausch’s internationally diverse Tanztheater Wuppertal.

The core of the film – and where the 3D cinematography really comes into its own – is the live performances of four of Bausch’s choreographed pieces. The 3D gives the stage depth and, at times, it’s almost like being among the performers. The dancing is mesmerizing, from the explosive, shape-shifting movement of the opening The Rite of Spring, performed on a carpet of peat, to the exuberant Vollmond where the dancers cavort on a stage swimming with water (a stage electrician’s nightmare, no doubt).

Archive footage of Bausch performing her signature piece, the minimalist Café Müller, with its at times scrabbly, fidgety movement, is juxtaposed with a later 3D performance. In the fourth piece, Kontakthof, the filmmaker’s hand is much in evidence with jump cuts between different generations of performers mid-performance.

Bausch rarely gave verbal advice (the occasions she did are cherished by the dancers like gold nuggets). She preferred to show. Similarly, Wenders has the dancers express themselves in movement – in a street, a factory, a swimming pool or in a woodland with a leaf-blower blasting – accentuating their otherworldliness. I came out of this film thinking I really must see more dance.

The second film breaking new boundaries is The Mill and the Cross, which steps inside the 1564 painting The Way to Calvary by Flemish master Pieter Bruegel. The painting/film sets Christ’s crucifixion in Flanders during a period of thuggish Spanish repression (due out January 6).

Polish director Lech Majewski’s imagining, based on the book by Michael Francis Gibson, tells the stories of a dozen characters from the busy canvas of 500 individuals. The script, which uses little dialogue, stays loyal to the spirit of the painting: surreal scenes take us inside the windmill, featured atop a high precipice in the painting and Bruegel (Rutger Hauer) describes to his friend and art collector Nicholas Jonghelinck (Michael York) how he has painted the tragedy of religious persecution epitomized by the figure of the Virgin Mary (a mournful Charlotte Rampling).

Majewski used different techniques to merge art and real life. Actors were shot against a blue screen so they could be superimposed later in craggy landscapes shot on location as well as against a large version of Bruegel’s work (painted by Majewski). The stylized backdrop is sufficiently subtle that your awareness of being “in” the painting ebbs and flows. It’s an unusual film, but rewarding.

Robert Alstead writes at www.2020Vancouver.com.

Warm winter fare

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

 

Portrait of Vesanto Melina

In creating recipes, it is my great pleasure to collaborate with expert chef Joseph Forest; the process allows me to improve my sensory awareness of food, something dietitian training didn’t include. During our exchanges, Joseph has become fascinated with the field of nutrition, which I bring to the table, and our collaboration has resulted in the new book Cooking Vegetarian. (J. Forest and V. Melina, Wiley Canada, 2011)

While working as a banquet chef for the Four Seasons hotel, Joseph gained an understanding of the textures and layers of flavour that combine to make a fine soup. (www.josephforest.com) Winter is a great time to savour the aroma and flavours of soup and the recipes below offer a warm welcome to anyone coming in from the cold. Alternatively, you’ll have enough left over for several days or to freeze for later use. Both of these soups are low in oil and they provide abundant nutrition; they can also help you slim down after the rich fare of the holiday season. Serve them with crackers or fresh bread.

Ginger, carrot and yam soup Makes 9 cups

Certain vitamins and protective phytochemicals in vegetables provide the splendid array of colours you see when you walk down the produce aisle. Three vitamins are bright yellow: riboflavin, folate and vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene. This warming, golden soup is packed with all three.

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup peeled, chopped ginger
4 cups water
4 cups chopped carrots
2 cups peeled and chopped yam
1 med. orange, peeled, seeded & chopped
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup apple juice

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add the water, carrots, yams, orange, coriander, salt, allspice and nutmeg and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots and yams are soft. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, add the apple juice and reheat.

Red lentil miso soup Makes 6 1/2 cups

Miso is a Japanese fermented paste made from soybeans, salt and grain – most commonly rice or barley – and a living culture that is used to initiate the fermentation process. The nutrient-rich soybeans are made more digestible by fermentation. Miso can be used to flavour many different dishes such as gravies, dressings, dips and soups.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced carrot
5 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seed
2 tablespoons miso
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a pot over medium heat and cook the onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic, carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add water, lentils, cumin, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils have disintegrated. Mix miso and salt in a small bowl along with a small amount of the liquid from the soup. Stir mixture until smooth, add it to the soup and serve.

Vesanto Melina is a Langley dietitian and author (www.nutrispeak.com). Saturday January 28: Meet Vesanto at an author event at Wendel’s Bookstore and Café in Fort Langley, 3-7PM, www.wendelsonline.com. While you’re there, treat yourself to a warming bowl of soup.

Farm of the future

ON THE GARDEN PATH

by Carolyn Herriot

Portrait of Carolyn Herriot

Rebecca Hosking grew up on a beef and dairy farm in Devon where she fell in love with wildlife and then went on to become a wildlife filmmaker. With her father and uncle both beyond retirement and struggling to keep the farm going, Rebecca decided to return to her roots and take over the operation of the farm. There was only one problem – farming had become dependant on a mechanized system that used fossil fuels intensively. How could she afford to operate her small family farm as the global oil supply ran out and the price went sky high?

Rebecca recalled her elderly Devon neighbour, who only farmed her land using two horses and a cart (equalling two horsepower of energy). Today, one tractor has the impact of 400 horses – 400 horsepower. Rebecca recognized that bringing the hay in to feed the cows in winter demanded the highest use of fossil fuels on the farm so she set out to discover how Fordhall Organic Farm in Shropshire could leave cows out to pasture all winter.

Her father Arthur, who passed away in 2005, had been a revolutionary farmer and against all convention, he believed “ploughing a field was like ripping skin off a human.” He knew that leaf litter and the upper layers of soil teemed with life – worms, fungi and bacteria – and that every time the soil was ploughed, all that life was destroyed. Leaving the soil undisturbed creates a wildlife-rich, diversified meadow with many species of grass, some of which fed Arthur’s cattle year-round.

A field of brown cattle

If we left nature alone, we know she would soon reforest the land. How then could we farm and produce food? Rebecca discovered permaculture addresses this question by creating plant communities in a nature-inspired design. Edible and desirable species are encouraged; soil is undisturbed so soil fertility is high; wildlife is diversified and abundant and every plant serves a unique purpose, keeping the ecosystem healthy and in balance.

Rebecca visited a forest farm where, by utilizing the full height of trees and shrubs, thriving hedgerows were more productive than the fields they surrounded. Fruiting species such as mulberries, meddlers, quinces, apples and pears grew in abundance, as well as nut trees such as sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts. Nut trees are more sustainable than cereal crops; one acre of land can produce two tons of sweet chestnuts. Rebecca even discovered that cattle will eat shrubs and trees and are particularly fond of ash so controlling hedgerows produces fodder for cows.

When the oil runs out, is this what the farm of the future will look like – farmers living on smallholdings, producing food in clearings surrounded by woodlands, leaving most of the work to nature? What a joyful and harmonious scenario that would be, compared to fields of poisoned and degraded soil, lacking any habitat and food for wildlife, producing cheap food that not only costs the Earth, but that also has become a threat to human health and our very survival. See Rebecca’s vision in the documentary A Natural World: A Farm for the Future at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/farm-for-the-future/

Happy New Year 2012!

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath/

photo © Brian Sedgbeer

Choosing the high road

UNIVERSE WITHIN

by Gwen Randall-Young

A portrait of Gwen Randall-Young

Back in the 1970s, Jonas Salk wrote a little book called The Survival of the Wisest. This was a shift from the older paradigm of “survival of the fittest.” The concept of the fittest surviving was based on strength, force, aggression, competition and win/lose.

In order to survive and thrive, Salk proposed there would have to be an inversion of those old values so that co-operation, understanding and finding win/win solutions replaced the old polarity/adversarial approach. He was envisioning humans evolving in a more positive direction.

Interestingly, evolution of the species can mirror evolution within the individual. Babies are completely self-centred and it takes years for them to learn to share or to consider the impact of their behaviour on others.

Becoming more evolved is not a given. Looking at ourselves and the people in our lives, we can see a variety of evolutionary levels at play. Consider a situation where someone does something another doesn’t like. The most primitive response is to beat up or even kill the offender. Still primitive, but a little less so, is a verbal attack. More evolved is to talk it over and try to come to some agreement or peace about the issue.

Evolving consciously is a choice. We can either go through life reacting from ego, much as we did as a child, or we can choose to access our inner wisdom and maturity. We have both capabilities within us. It is not always easy to take the high road, especially when dealing with one who is unevolved.

What does this look like in everyday life? We are coming from a more primitive, ego-driven place when we find ourselves engaged in blame, judgment, confrontation, polarity, anger, jealousy or any behaviour that is out of integrity.

We are coming from a more evolved place when we demonstrate encouragement, patience, openness, co-operation, helpfulness, kindness and being non-judgmental.

How evolved we choose to be has nothing to do with those around us and everything to do with how we choose to be in the world. It is easy to be evolved when all is going well. The difficult people and situations we encounter offer us the opportunity to practise being true to our highest self.

Ultimately, the most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. Are we conducting ourselves in ways that, if we look back tomorrow or in 20 years, we can be free of regret? Are we speaking and acting in ways that could be aired on national television?

Choosing to evolve consciously requires we make a commitment to ourselves to not do or say things that are mean, negative, untrue or lacking in integrity. It requires we do this even in the face of temptation to just lash out.

Sometimes, it means we simply have to walk away from the situation or out of someone’s life. It requires the courage to let others know we will not participate in gossip or negativity. It may mean we lose friends who are uncomfortable with whom we are becoming.

Evolutionary change must first manifest in some individuals in a species. Some will not, in this lifetime, have the awareness that allows them to make more evolved choices. If you recognize the existence of a higher road, choose to walk that one.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca.