2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Like Me: How Facebook is Shaping My Ability to Love

Warning: Pityparty alert, bear with me, it’s just an example.  Recently, I saw a picture on Facebook of some of my favorite people from various parts of the country, all gathered not two hours from where I live.  They were all laughing and smiling and clearly having a great time.  Not only did it hurt my feelings that I was not invited, but it started to weave some disparate threads together in my mind about the nature of social media.

I am seldom in a social situation that doesn’t involve a selfie that is instantly delivered to fb.  As I go through my day and consider my thoughts, I find less and less of them belong to me, rather, they are immediately, mentally posted to Facebook and my imagination doles out my friends and family’s individual responses.  It was bad enough pre-Facebook as a young woman to be acutely aware of my own social reflection; now it is concrete, magnified, supercharged.

Facebook has changed my relationships.  It has changed my thinking.  I don’t even have alot of your email addresses or phone numbers because we do all our correspondence on Facebook.

We all complain about it as a first world problem that cannot be avoided if we want to maintain with our friends, old school buddies, distant family.  I have connected to a person on the other side of the planet that is now indispensable to me.  We all have these visual and verbal records of ourselves extending back several years. Every memorable meal, every movie worth mentioning, all our politics and professional interests are there in a timeline.  And there is something beautiful and phenomenal about it, no question.

So why do I feel robbed?

Because Facebook has preyed on my greatest strength as a human: my ability to love people and appreciate every good thing they generate.  It is a tractor beam for my best and worst moments and the sum total of my experience or my work is quantified by how many likes my reported experience receives.  It has exploited our natural need to share.  Even the word “share” feels lessened.  I realize my responsibility in all this.

And I won’t even delve into the topic of privacy, how closely Facebook works with government, and the soul eroding, invasive ads.  We are all being stalked for our purchasing power and our votes.

I know lots of people who have accounts that visit every so often.  They don’t comment, they see it as light entertainment.  I, on the other hand, am completely sucked in.

I have to tighten the circle; I will redouble my efforts to send more pictures via email, I will text and call and for God’s sake visit with you IN PERSON.  I want the real human connection back, not this simulacrum.  I want my thoughts back.  I cannot quite bring myself to leave Facebook at the moment, not when I am about to launch my book.  I acknowledge the hypocrisy of this.  But I also feel the need to express my discomfort with it.  The construct at once breeds inclusion and exclusion.  It amplifies the feeling of “I am not there” and it maximizes bad manners and misunderstanding.  I am challenging myself to recalibrate my sense of what it means to love people. And yes, this blog post will end up on Facebook.

I say this with no reservation: I love all 453 of you.  I want a genuine connection with you.  Let’s have coffee.  Even if it’s on Skype.

~M

Abbott Organics Small Farm in West Sacramento: A Little Gem of Agricultural Ingenuity

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I unexpectedly ventured onto an organic farm today.  Abbott Organics is  a small, independent farm that specializes in rare varieties of garlic which they make into infused gourmet salt with a simple solar process.  Their hoop houses are a sight to behold.

Todd and Amy do everything themselves.  The farm is in its fourth year and they are producing 2000 pounds per hoop house while using a fraction of the water compared to other farms their size.  Their vertical system combines a small amount of water and nutrients and uses gravity to draw the liquid down and nourish the column of plants.  They also sell crops of heirloom red, orange and purple peppers and grape tomatoes.

 

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Blossom in the Tomato Sun House

Todd did everything right with his set up: he concentrated on doing two or three things really well, he picked a good price point with peppers and garlic and he has devised an elegantly simple way of infusing the highest quality french salt with the live, raw essence of these unique varieties.

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Todd and Amy in the Pepper House.

My friend who invited me, Beth Wenbourne Katz, is working on their marketing strategy and I came along to see if I could help.  Our meeting consisted of a takeout picnic, plum picking, chicken petting and custard pie.  Image

 

Their method is inspiring and their product and  yield are impressive.  I am really excited to see what happens now that Beth is in charge getting them out there.  I could so stand it if this was what my business meetings looked like.

 

 

 

 

The Dreamy Nostalgia of Grand Budapest Hotel

A theme Wed Anderson might have been working with when he fashioned Grand Budapest Hotel might have been: “They just don’t make them like this anymore.”  In our new era of computerized storytelling, we have lost a lyricism, a respect for the pregnant pause, the need to commemorate personal events with words and a little ritual.

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Scouting this picture must have been an adventure in and of itself.  Shot in various locations in Germany, the set designs were so fully realized that you felt as though though you were actually occupying those old world rooms.  Anderson is deft with his paintbrush, moving you back and forth through time using color.  The reverence for this magisterial landscape and architecture is palpable, teetering on the sentimental line without ever crossing it.

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Ralph Fiennes, playing M. Gustave, the gallant but opportunistic butler of the hotel, puts in a rare performance with spiffy comic timing we never get to see from someone so traditionally serious.  It’s as though he is also pining for the days when he could make an audience laugh.

And while it can be annoying when a writer/director insists on using the same actors repeatedly, in this case it’s like watching a theatre troupe come to town; all these actors are like your buddies and even if they only make quick little cameos, you are so happy to see them.  He throws in some entirely startling new-but-famous faces for mere seconds which makes you think the production must have been so much fun that everyone wanted to get in on it, even if they only had one, short scene.

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There is something so wonderful about F Murray Abraham’s elegant speech.  He is an undervalued gem.  The script is lively and vivid, giving the actors plenty of room to thoughtfully invest in the words.  But Anderson is too self aware to give his characters great silioquys; he almost always yanks them from their eloquent emoting as a way of poking fun at himself.  He seems to be addressing the dying art of filmmaking and theatre, even as he incorporates new techniques, he is bowing low to the bygone era of set building and the melodramatic posturing of silent film.

A bookseller once told me that a good story should have a little bit of everything: a little romance, a little murder, a little laugh, a few tears or sighs and of course, a good chase. To tell and retell a story is to relegate it to the past.  Remembering is at once reliving the event and heaving a sigh of relief that it is over.  I envy this filmmaking team’s memories in creating such a ripsnorting romp.

Some Unbridled Sharing about the Yoga Seed, Sacramento

I recently started teaching an outreach class through Yoga Seed Collective a non-profit studio on the 1400 Block of E street in Midtown Sacramento.  I teach at-risk teens one day a week at a charter school called Heritage Peaks in Oak Park.  The Yoga Seed handled all the paperwork, got me in there teaching immediately and got me paid.

The first time I walked into the studio, I knew there was something unique about this place.   The room is large with exposed beams, it feels old and solid, very peaceful.  I attended a class called All Bodies, and it is exactly that.  There were people recovering from injuries, obese people, young, old, all colors, shapes and sizes.  The class was slow and methodical, but rigorous at the same time.  It was also what you might call an open dialogue class, where people were free to ask questions or make observations.  I loved it when ML, the teacher said something to the effect of  “we are not trying to wrap our leg around our head, we are trying to prevent slipping in the shower.”

The thing is, most yoga studios are trying to turn a profit.  So while they employ the gentlest form of capitalism, there is still a tension there between wanting to offer the community a service and making money.  We all wish we could rise above the system but we all have to pay the rent.

The difference with Yoga Seed is that the money comes from donors, big or small, so whoever wants to practice, can.  It’s kind of like, dare I say it, socialized healthcare, where those who can pay in, do, and those who can’t still get care.

The team of people who work there are not just good teachers, they are advocates.  Yoga is the platform for a larger social awareness.  They teach in the prison, at rehab centers, they even offer a class to the employees at the Department of Education.

I’m impressed by this approach because it loosens the financial grip that prohibits a lot of people from practicing. I’m also thrilled to be a part of the goal, in my small way.

theyogaseed.org