Category Archives: Community

[‘Tis The Season] For New Holiday Traditions

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the impending Winter rush of familial holiday functions, the bombardment of imposed holiday cheer is here and ready to rear it’s seasonal head.  Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up splitting my holidays between two homes, or it could be that I wasn’t raised under any form of religious guise – but the holidays themselves essentially passed me over; the only thing I ever gathered from them was they were a great time to be with loved ones, reminisce about the year that was and postulate on what’s to come while not slipping into a glorious food coma with sports on (which, let’s admit, is still pretty damn fun). 

In the decade since I left college, I moved the opposite direction from home –  and spent half of that time living by myself re-establishing my baseline, and questioning much of the world around me, including the day to day moves we make and overarching traditions most of us have blindly followed for part, if not most of our lives.  Though my parents were raised Methodist and Jewish, they chose to raise me as as a scientist – to not accept the world at face value, and approach each situation with a childlike sense of wonder and an adult sense of amusement; where the world and nature were my church and the elders were my leaders. Now that I’ve moved up to a new state with my husband, we’re looking to make traditions of our own – which got me thinking.  

Though our schooling would have us believe a very different story, Thanksgiving was a construct of the pagans and the very first one was not at Plymouth Rock.  With Thanksgiving falling on a Full Moon for the first time in almost 71 years – I thought it was the  perfect time to explore the actual societal roots of the holiday. 

Unlike Easter and Christmas which are steeped in slightly more obvious Christian roots, stories and traditions with true roots in Pagan Holiday, Thanksgiving itself is one of the few secular holidays celebrated around the United States and it has an interesting, sorted Colonial history as well as a – you guessed it – Pagan based backstory.   

In 1621, the Pilgrims completed their voyage to the new shore – and after a tumultuous time at sea, and losing a menagerie of ship members, they gathered what they could in the cold month of November with the locals and had a winter’s feast; and so started Thanksgiving. 

Kinda.  That’s what we learn in school at least, and it’s basically completely wrong, starting with the erroneous fact claiming it was the “first” Thanksgiving.   Secondly, the Pilgrims were not the first to land in the new world – but this isn’t that history lesson. 

Fast forward to our first President George Washington and the formulation of America – there was a suggestion among the constituents that as a new country, it would behoove them to create a nationally binding yet seemingly secular holiday.  So, in October of 1789, Washington issued a formal proclamation that designated November 26th as a national day of thanks. And now, 225 years later – we have Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, and Football to celebrate with us. So where did Thanksgiving actually stem from…?

Believe it or not, but having a “Day of Thanks” transmutes almost all cultural walls, and essentially time itself; you can find an ode to it in essentially every ancient culture.  The Egyptians celebrated Min while the Chinese held holiday for Chung Ch’ui; the Israelites celebrated Sukkot, the Babylonians worshiped Marduk and the Persians had Mirthas; the Romans had Cerelia while the Greeks honored Demeter and Celtic Pagans took to Mabon. Each of these civilizations had a day designated as a Fall Harvest Feast where they would tend to the end of their crop season, and enjoy the bounty in communal celebration. 

After the Romans invaded Nazareth, the cradle of Judaism, in the 3rd Century, their civilization and culture began to seep into Israelite texts and traditions – including Roman Fall Festival Cerelia, which worshiped Goddess of the Harvest Ceres.  As the global power of the time, this transmuted the Pagan celebration across any and every culture they touched…which was a lot

A few hundred years later, Roman rulership had reached England and Cerelia evolved into the Harvest Home Festival under the Church of England.  Between the 600’s and 1600’s, the tradition transformed over and over, for both secular and religious groups – but over time, and catalyzed by the separation of the Church of England from Roman rule, many groups within the church splintered off and chose to try for a new life in America; the rest is history – but apparently very poorly written and researched.

And since we’re here – traditional Thanksgiving fare and lore also have cultural roots that you might not expect.   That Cornucopia, known as the horn of plenty, full of festively fall items?  In Ancient Greece – Amathea the goat broke off his horn, presenting it to Zeus to earn his favor – in return, Amathea’s image became transfixed in the sky as Capricorn.  Not to mention, that other things like corn, the Harvest Queen and poppies are all odes to the Roman Goddess Ceres, which the holiday Cerelia celebrates.


This year, instead of giving into a tradition that has been incorrectly hardwired into our brains, try one of these one-offs for size – or even better, use this as an excuse to make your own festivites. 

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Friendsgiving

Not only are the holidays a perfect time to reconnect and rekindle your relationships with those you hold dear – but they’re an equally excellent time to forge a bond over an amazing meal and delicious libations. For Friendsgiving, bring the whole squad with you – new neighborhood transplants that aren’t going back to their old stomping grounds, friends, coworkers and even their friends and coworkers.  Friendsgiving isn’t relegated to any particular part of the holiday season, but I definitely recommend that it’s on a Friday or Saturday so you can enjoy your food coma into a lovely, lounging Sunday where you can marinate in the memories of your family you chose for yourself just a little while longer. 

Green is the New Black

Raise your paws if you’re one of those people who has a timer on their phone for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  Good, no one – and if you’re rocking with me, I honestly didn’t think so.  I always found it a bit untoward that one day we’re wrapped up in giving thanks, and then the next day we’re wrapped up in spending our money – it’s pretty anachronistic to me.  Anyways! A few years back, REI started their #OptOutside campaign – shutting down their storefronts, giving their employees the day off and encouraging them to enjoy the outdoors; I love the effect that it’s had on the world at large. Instead of giving into the urge to purchase, get off your cute little butts and get outside; not only is exercise one of the highest rated New Years resolutions, or most common Friday after Thanksgiving traditions – but it feels pretty damn good.  

Give Back

Altruism is by and large one of the best gifts you can give, because it really does keep giving.  If you don’t feel like having your own celebrations this year, or are looking for a way to make an impact in your community – find a local shelter to volunteer with, help in their soup kitchen for the holidays, donate your time to a senior center and spend the holidays with those who could use the support, or find an animal shelter to give our furry friends something to smile about. 

25 Days of Gratitude

Like I mentioned in the beginning, being thankful and gracious aren’t only applicable to the holidays, though they do allow a wonderful time for pause and reflection, as I’ve found a good memory is kindling to the fire of the heart – especially on a chilly winter’s night.   As a kid, I loved those little you games you got on Thanksgiving that counted down the days to Christmas with candy. 

This year, ditch that Advent Calendar, which may as well be called the Countdown to Capitalism as an incredibly Protestant Christian ideal that has been transmuted into the public arena without much thought, make your own ‘Gratitude Calendar’. Grab a notepad or old scratch paper, a few favorite pens and a jar – something you can decorate and want to look at.  Each day, instead of taking something out – write down one thing that you’re grateful for, date it, and toss it in.  When Christmas arrives, spill the jar out and read through each note one by one, you might even be surprised at how many presents you already have in your life. 


I have to admit that being in a new state for the Holiday, and married, I’m incredibly excited to start some new celebrations with my husband and my family.  With Thanksgiving falling on the Gemini Full Moon, I’m eager for the hearty conversation and lively company for the day.

Whatever you celebrate and whoever you celebrate it with, make it memorable – always

What new traditions are you excited to start this year?

Let me know in the comments below – I can’t wait to read how you’re spending the season.

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[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

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Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

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We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation

[LA Life] CERB Brings Their Fall Plant Sale to Eagle Rock City Hall on 11/7

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Known throughout the community for their eco-friendly initiatives and local landscape beautification projects, the Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful (CERB) is delighted to host their annual Fall plant sale on Saturday November 7th, 2015 at Eagle Rock City Hall.

From 9AM to 4PM, CERB invites the community to an informative fair focused on drought resistant  landscaping. With current drought restrictions, native plants and succulents can reduce residential water footprints by 60-90% while preserving resources such as soil, fertilizer and pesticides.  

Featuring a wide assortment of California natives and succulents, many plants featured at the Fall Plant Sale are locally sourced and harvested in Eagle Rock by CERB volunteers, students at Occidental College and members of the community.  A post-Halloween treat for the whole family, the plant fair features a Kids Zone full of children friendly activities as well as a variety of food trucks and other local entertainment.  All proceeds of the Fall Plant Sale will go to Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful to assist their local efforts of neighborhood maintenance and support their annual projects.  

Event Details:
Saturday, 11/7/15 from 9am to 4pm
Eagle Rock City Hall
2035 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Since 2001, CERB has cemented its status as a local resource while working towards lasting change throughout the neighborhood.  Yearly events for CERB include neighborhood events such as A Taste of Eagle Rock, the maintenance of the Eagle Rock Canyon Hiking Trails and the promotion of drought resistant landscaping through active work on major street medians like Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard.

Join the Facebook event here and invite the neighbors.

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For more on CERB and their Fall Plant Sale, connect on social media:  

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful

The Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful was established in 2001 by longtime Eagle Rock residents John Stillion and Esther Monk.  With almost two decades of service in the neighborhood, CERB has evolved into an esteemed non-profit organization fueled by local volunteers and resources for a homegrown effort in reducing fiscal dependence of city-funded maintenance programs. Curated within the community to discourage the removal of native trees, preserve local open space and inspire cohesive drought tolerant landscaping, CERB is devoted to leaving a lasting legacy through both action and awareness.

[I Can’t Breathe] Race Relations in 21st Century America

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Growing up, I was always cognizant on some basic level that my life was different than my peers; I felt psychologically befuddled by my social experiences and more or less like an emotional and physical outcast.  Sure, there was the fact I towered over my friends at 6′ by the time I was leaving elementary school – or that my penchant for math problems superseded those around me. Dressing up for Halloween, I was teased for my Pipi Longstocking and Belle costumes, and over the moon when Jasmine and Mulan became Disney princesses. In middle school, I tried using sun-in, my hair turned bronze; my mom and I frequented an African American hair salon in Palo Alto – Mixed Media, if you want to be specific – and one Summer, we tried relaxing my hair; instead of being easier to straighten, it got brittle, crimped and was more or less destroyed. My skin didn’t burn, instead it evened out into a shade of nutmeg, spotted with dark freckles around my nose.  There’s thinking you’re different, but for me – it was more than that; I knew I was different.

My parents got together in the Bay Area during the 70s; in a time of free love, open minds and radical change.  A goofy, gangley Jewish man from Oregon and a formidable genius from Compton, they met matching wits at Stanford and to this day, haven’t stopped. At the time, the two sides of the family had starkly different responses; my mom’s sister lamented ‘But, you couldn’t find a nice Black one?’ while my dad’s father, founder of the Corvallis chapter of the NAACP, couldn’t be more excited about my mom being part of the family.  Their reactions were opposite, but equal – each painfully aware of the state of race relations in America.

A nation divided by external and negligible traits like socio-ecoonmic status, levels of education and the color of our skin, those with power are busy tearing neighborhoods apart with closed fists and closed minds instead of building our brothers and sisters up with open arms.  Over-militarized and by in large, uneducated, police forces roam city streets in militia formation, filling tension filled streets with former war weapons and palpable, cultural fear.

As a society overglamorized by the news and undereducated by what’s important on a human, spiritual level, we’re so busy putting our community – friends, family, peers, celebrities and strangers alike – into boxes, confirming and or denying formidable existence and their overall importance that some can forget – we’re all members of the human race. As a law of differences and similarities, I might not be much like my Asian sisters and Australian brothers on the other side of Earth – but we’re certainly, undeniably more similar than I am to my cat, or to a rug, or a piece of grass.

I’m a human, an multicultral member of society;
I’m an American and I can’t breathe.

We’re a multicultural melting pot drowning under the repressive regimes of the powerfully ignorant;
and we can’t breathe. 

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Culturally, the compounding of our spotted, racially fueled past has slowly but surely led us here. It’s not that what’s happened recently is new news; African Americans historically have been disproportionately targeted, arrested and gunned down in the name of ignorant police work for decades. And now, within the span of less than two weeks, not just one – but two – police officers have gotten off on non-indictments in Federal Court cases for killing unarmed African American civilians. It’s become increasingly clear where those in power stand, people of a darker skin color, lower economic or academic rank are demonized while policemen, with their overrightous sense of power and what now appears as contempt for their human brothers, are held to outrageously different standards.

Much like the aftermath of the Fergason protests, last night 223 protesters were arrested in New York City for demanding equality, fairness and the essential staples this country was built upon.  The gentleman who captured the video of Eric Garner was charged with a crime.  But, the policeman who killed him with unnecessary and lethal force – he wasn’t even indicted on a crime, in the same manner that Michael Brown’s killer was set free, sans charge.  What it sends is an unfortunate message, historically echoed throughout minority communities: our lives matter less than others; we matter less than others. The way our justice system works it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, albeit an unfortunate one: instead of maintaining a system of checks and balances, with prosecutors and policemen working side by side in the same office, there’s only one system, and it’s busy keeping itself in check.

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Newton’s third law of motion is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – and right now, there are citizens in each and every corner of the nation that are finally inspired, through outrage, frustration and passionate persistence, to exact change on their external world. Peaceful protest, Non Violent Actions, Rallies – they’re not the end all; but they’re most certainly the means to an end – and people are listening.

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order consisting of 50,000 body cameras for the nations 630,000 strong police force. After the outcome of the Garner case, it’s easy to argue that video cameras don’t do enough – but without this camera evidence, do you honestly believe that our streets would be full of protests and our cities would come to a standstill? In a recent news conference, Mayor De Blasio of New York City has demanded that the 20,000 member  police force undergo mandated retraining on the use of lethal force as well as community awareness.  As it turns out, most police officers across the country work in a different county than they live in – meaning that they most definitely don’t serve ‘the community.’ But when body cameras can be turned off, and the police can return to work after their mandated seminars – where does that really leave our nation? We need immense reform from both the top down and the bottom up.  California’s set the tone by passing Prop 47, decriminalizing non violent offenses and lessening the bulging prison population, and an assorted number of states have legalized marijuana – decreasing the amount of nonviolent crimes and offenders.  On top of that, there’s the issue of for profit prisons, some of which need a 90-100% retention rate to stay in business.

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We’re stopping traffic to beg for equality, we’re staging protests, wielding signs and standing strong as a community because we refuse to be silenced any longer. So go, find your voice, wage your peaceful protests and non violent wars, because until we’re heard – as a nation, as part of the human race – we can’t breathe.

[Write On] Astronomical Achievements and Cultural Failures

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Early Wednesday morning, the ESA’s Rosetta Space Mission landed Space Craft Philae semi-gracefully on a comet (it might have bounced a kilometer off the comet first…), and it’s managed to blast through space while holding tight, sending images mid-flight for the world to see.   It’s novel, unprecedented and amazing – this marks the first time a spacecraft has landed at the center of a comet and it’s been a long time coming.File:Comet 67P on 19 September 2014 NavCam mosaic.jpg A lonely fellow, flitting around the Universe for at least the last Four Billion Years, Comet 67P was first discovered back in 1969 by Soviet Astronomers Svetlana Gerasimenko and Klim Churyumov; thus dubbed – Comet ’67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.’

And now, 45 years later, their hard work has paid off: Philae is set to probe it’s way into Comet 67P, analyzing everything it can about the comet’s iidentity- details about the comet’s atmosphere, physical terrain and chemical composition.  Both Philae and the Rosetta Mission have been beaming back unbelievable images of the comet, and the vast depths of the universe; but that’s not even the coolest thing to me. My favorite part of the discovery has been the fact this comet sings! Yes, that’s right – it’s been jamming out for millions of years and now we can listen in!   How’s this even possible? Well, there are oscillations in the comet’s magnetic field that sit around 40 to 50 millihertz. Though it’s unable to hear by human ears alone, scientists from the ESA have increased the frequency 10,000x to make it audible. 

But, you probably didn’t hear about that, because you know: ASS.

Kim Kardashian’s ass, if you’d like to get specific. Now, first things first I’m not trying to debase or discredit the booty – in fact, praise the booty; that is a fine specimen.  And, for all us ladies that lack the necessary junk in and around the trunk, I’m glad there’s someone out there that knows how to (a) respect her body and (b) celebrate her body.  Now, to the critics: Photoshop, and other retouching applications, are a widely used resource in the digital marketing world and it’s silly to think otherwise. Not that I don’t see the correlations between the Jean Paul Gaude’s photo shoot with Grace Jones and Kim K – give me a break; I would give my right arm to recreate this amazing shot.  And for the uproar and the hoopla circulating about the photo shoot and the tirades and charades around her love of nude modeling: why is what an individual does with their body more interesting or exciting than SPACE EXPLORATION?

Comet 67P

[LA Life] Drought & A Push Towards Eco-Friendly Landscaping

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IMG_1770.JPGBetween the weeks of eternal Summer and an absent Winter, months of sunshine and not a whole lot of rain – it’s understandable why there’s a fairly popular misnomer around town that Los Angeles is in the desert.  With conditions ripe for avocados, lemons and olives – we’re actually considered a Mediterranean Climate with varied seasonal change (yes, we do have seasons!). One thing we don’t boast about very often is being part of an elite 2%: Los Angeles – down into North Western Baja California – is one of only five places in the world with such a climate. The other four being Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Western South Africa and the Mediterranean itself.droughtgif

Unlike those other climates, ours here has been suffering from this overbearing and unrelenting drought; and it’s not just Los Angeles that’s in trouble,California has officially entered an unprecedented fourth year of severe drought.  Over the past few months as Danny and I have traversed California and the Greater Pacific North West from Oregon to Washington and
Canada, I’ve witnessed firsthand how low our water reservoir’s are and just how volatile fire season has become.  It’s not only ecologically detrimentally, but on a personal level it’s heartbreaking to see just how far this drought has gone.  A considerable portion of the state’s economy comes from the farms that line Central California, and the drought threatens the farmer’s way of life as well as their crops.

The answer is simple: water less, conserve more.  

Click Through to Original MIC Article With More Pics

At the end of September, there was even a ginormous slip and slide slated to swing through multiple blocks of downtown Los Angeles – something that admittedly I’d been looking forward to for a while.  Fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on what personal feelings you’d invested in the event – it was cancelled due equal parts passionate citizens, as well as the intensity and duration of our water situation. .

There are small things we can do on a household by household basis like watering your lawn less, flushing less, ensuring larger loads of laundry to reduce the item to water ratio, not taking baths, hell – showering together saves water, too. A man’s home is his sanctuary, which is why this last pill might be difficult to swallow – but last and certainly not least, there’s the manicured maintenance of our yards and lawns.  Between my mother and my step-mother, I might not have grown up with a green thumb but I was definitely heavily influenced by them.  At each and every turn at my mom’s in Menlo Park were bountiful bushes of lavender, roses, and marigolds – while my dad’s in Palo Alto then Los Altos always had lush grass, towering trees, well maintained bushes. But that’s a novelty, and there were enough rainy seasons to substantiate the foliage – fast forward to 2014, and that’s simply not the case anymore.

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Lawns: A Thing of the Past?

At a local level, there are equal amounts of incentives to become eco-friendly as there are to simply conserve water.  For those caught over watering and abusing, Los Angeles will slap you on the wrist with a hefty $500 fine.  On the other hand, if you’re willing to make the shift towards an South Western, Desert – or just plain dirt landscape, the city is willing to pay $3 a square foot under the California Friendly Landscape Incentives Program. On average, that’s a nice chunk of change for the conversion – at least few thousand dollars for the yard.  As of last Summer, 850 residences around the city had made the shift and it’s projected that the numbers have tripled since.

Running around the neighborhood, I’ve started to notice which homes use and abuse the almost depleted supply of water and which homes are doing it right – replacing grass with gravel, stone or even dirt as an ode to South Western, Desert and Ecofriendly landscaping.So far, only one home a block on average has made the conscious conversion. I hope that by raising more awareness of our current ecological state, more question and follow suit. These are some of the houses  in my area that are doing it right.

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If you’re interested in joining the trend – it’s super simple to follow, easy to maintain and so great for the environment.  For starters, mulch, stone, gravel and tanbark can be used for walking paths in leu of grass. California local plants and flowers like the California Holly (Toyon), Concha Lilac, Deer Grass and Tree Mallow require little to moderate water to maintain and are beautiful additions to your property.  If you’d like to go one deeper, succulents and air plants are excellent alternatives to traditional, more water nourished plants.  Succulents are on the thicker side when it comes to stalks and leaves, but that’s because of the amount of water the succulents retain. Air plants, on the other hand, don’t need any dirt and can pull moisture straight from the air.