I’ve been thinking some about what constitutes a culture, especially with black lives matter movements, Asian movements, and other cultures voicing their rights. Sometimes, I think culture is more than just ethnicity. It’s about different activities (sports even?), the ecosystem movement, eclectic arts groups, schools and their different modes of education, music, celebrity and movie culture, and of course culture in families and their communities.

I’ve tried a variety of activities since high school, so I feel like I kind of had an inside glimpse into this other kind of life(lives). I’ve done a fair amount of thinking about these groups that I’ve been involved with over the years. In some ways, I feel very lucky to be part of all the groups I’ve been a part of, but on the other hand, I think maybe I didn’t pick the right groups, and should have done things that more suited my upbringing.

I actually just saw a PBS program called, “Samantha Brown’s Places to Go” about a woman who loves to travel, but it doesn’t have to be far and she emphasizes talking to strangers. She loves to visit places around the US and explore the neighborhood and people there. It really made me think about my traveling experiences and how I do things around my area and consider some of that a mini vacation. Just watching her show made me think of how there’s so many different cultures all around us and you don’t have to go to Timbuktoo to have a profound travel experience.

I think a lot of my “travel” experiences have been just to see new people. Sometimes I think that people can be so diverse and different, it’s illuminating! My Mom thinks I know a lot of different kinds of people and I think she’s right. I don’t have one big group of girlfriends like I’m sure some women I know do. I have more intimate friendships with many different kinds of women. It may be difficult at times to do this, but I feel I’m not as phony as some of the women I know because of this and that makes me more at ease.

I think about this contra dance that I used to go to a lot. I think part of the attraction for me going there was that it was a legitimate community in a really fascinating area of Philadelphia. I wasn’t really accepted in the long run going there, but I would just love to go to Fairmount Park there and other things going on there to get a taste of a different way of life.

Even in the many classes I’ve taken over the years, or the jobs I’ve had, there seems to be a definite culture in most things I’ve done. I feel like I’m kinda taking a break from my real life and get to experience something new and fun for a change. And that’s what culture is about for me. Experiencing real movements of art, science, food, education, work, and whatever else comes down the line.

I was raised in a family in which you do whatever you can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I don’t remember my Mom being as anti-plastic as she is today. I think about recycling more frequently than I care to. I almost always try to bring canvas or tote bags along when I go shopping. I cook as much as I can stand, and I try not to buy many plastic material possessions, if any.

I sometimes cringe when I see the media try to get in on recycling or using “eco-friendly” plastics because the way I see it, why buy anything like that at all, when you can probably get away with no plastic, even though you might not want to live that kind of life.

At one point, I was really thinking about trying to visit a recycling center and observe how they recycle plastic (if they really do, as rumors are they might not). When I was in college, I did a semi-serious study and article of recycling on campus and am kinda proud that the repercussions of that article prompted stricter recycling methods.

Up until a couple years ago, there was a cool recycling center about half an hour away from us, in Pottstown, PA where you could recycle 9 different types of plastic, styrofoam, videocassettes, different colored glass, metal, corks, milk cartons, and a lot of other things. I kind of miss going there because it just seemed like a real recycling culture, if that exists.

It always seems like an oxymoron to me when I’m living in this somewhat liberal world, that touts itself as being eco-friendly, when I think they could do better. I sometimes think that the culture of the liberal set, outweighs the actual environmental repercussions, but I hope I’m wrong about that.

I sometimes fantasize about a world that survives on recycling, or at least reusing. I think there should be a futuristic movie about a hippie world that has survived yet another apocolypse because they consistently think outside the box and have organized movements to not depend on any fossil fuels. Wouldn’t that be cool? Maybe I should write it!

I see America as an arts country a lot of the time. Maybe that’s because I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which is first and foremost an artsy city. I’ve been involved in comedy, music, movies, dancing, lots of art museums, crafts, have antiques, that sort of thing.

I grew up in a family where the arts were valued. My brother is an architect and my parents are both musicians. I don’t think this really registered in my life until I was in my twenties and I was kind of searching for a career and way of life. A lot of my parents friends are artists on the side or at least have heavy artistic leanings so that factored in as well.

When I realized I was sort of a failure at all the jobs I tried after college and knew that my choices for a real career were limited, I decided to embrace the arts full force, which is no easy task when you make about $10,000 a year and have to kind of support yourself.

It kind of saved my life, the art world. It gave me purpose and a foundation for life. Because when you embrace the arts, you embrace life, all life, whether it’s rich or poor, sane or insane, messy or clean.

I get frustrated when I see the mass media with crazy big budget superhero movies and reality shows galore dominate arts as we know it in the mainstream. I kind of want to scream, but that’s not reality! I’ve been to folk festivals, craft shows, off the radar theater productions and dances, and I sometimes feel that the mainstream version of art has its days numbered. Maybe this pandemic will teach us to value the small things in life, however offbeat they may be.

Sometimes I hope that because of the recession and the drastic changes that have come to America, arts on the fringe will flourish more and people will see that there’s more to life than TV. Because during this time of reflection and isolation, we should discover our inner spirit and experiment with our (hopefully) heavy artistic leanings.

Do we really need jobs??

February 11, 2021

I think about jobs a lot, mostly because I worry about my prospects at them, but I also wonder about a world that doesn’t need them quite as much as my high education friends and family would have me believe. I sometimes consider myself something of a hippie so thus feel I could work in a commune like area, or in a co-op or nonprofit or something that doesn’t have anything to do with the depressing world of jobs.

In this leisure dominated world we have more time, especially nowadays, to do what we want, whether it’s watching hours of streaming services, crafts, exercising, reading, cooking, volunteering, etc. Maybe we shouldn’t put jobs in the front gear of what we require in people in terms of living a life. Maybe now’s the time to reorganize our priorities and do some character building or such.

I just get so worried about a superpower like the USA that has money as the priority of life. I know, I know, it’s important and essential, but with a country that has the stigma of poverty and lack of support for its citizens, now’s the time to do some clear reimagining.

I sometimes think the new modern world of jobs is a fascinating thing to behold. It almost seems more fascinating than a lot of other joys of the world. I guess a lot of the jobs at the moment are remote, but I marvel at the underworld of jobs that I half feel I belong to. I don’t know much about them, but I imagine the world of volunteering has really expanded and is more prominent that many of the dead end jobs many people succumb to.

I sometimes don’t see the point in working. I mean really, why work a dead end job that you’re unhappy with (as I’m sure a lot of millenials are in), when you could work outdoors, or maybe work for a nonprofit.

I mean if you go back hundreds of years ago, people had to work outside mostly. I sometimes feel like I should have been born in a different era. Like even one hundred years ago in England, or somewhere in the country. Sure there were still hardships, but man, it must have been a more simpler time.

Nowadays, it seems a lot of us want “smart” jobs that will elevate us to greater monetary gain, respect, or power among people we can call equals. I feel something got lost along the way when we gave up working or playing outdoors, to being smarter.

Sometimes, I think jobs make the mindset of a country. Maybe we’re stereotyped as an unhappy country because the vast majority of us Americans work on computers all day. I’ve seen the occasional happiness study and countries in Africa or island countries have been classified as happier, probably in part because they have more social interaction and know their neighbors better.

Maybe we should use this reflective time to think about jobs and volunteer jobs that are important to us spiritually. I think that the reason we have so many problems with people being mentally ill and guns and whatnot is because we’re so shut off from each other now that we don’t know how to deal with people and life in general.

In being more spiritual and thoughtful this pandemic, we should reexamine what it means to be busy and put that energy into making people happier and less shut off.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why people feel the need to be nice. I think a lot of times it’s counterintuitive. It’s so important to be intelligent that when we strive for niceness at all times, we lose that intellectual sharpness. I don’t really understand this need to be nice all the time in retail environments and elsewhere. Niceness does not equal kindness in a lot of cases and it defintely doesn’t equal support a lot either. I feel that it stems from mental health issues in this country and the lack of understanding of those issues and also school shootings and the deteriorating school system.

I personally try so hard to be authentic and kind and I feel that it’s misunderstood a lot of the time. There’s a Michael Moore documentary that came out about 5 years ago called, “Where to Invade Next” about countries around the world that have better policies in some areas then the US. One prevalent issue in a lot of countries is education and how school prices in the US go up all the time and no one pays attention while free education is considered a right in places like Canada, some European countries, and elsewhere. I get so scared for this country, USA, especially these days with mass protests, an unstable government, a neglected health care system that is certainly distressed these days, and racism, just to name a few. But I always try to fight for my mental health, even if it means feeling unconfortable.

I feel that because of the many issues the USA has, we get so scared, that we lose some of our intellect and our only recourse is to be nice. If that’s all we have, our niceness, which more often than not, acts like meanness too, than what’s the point in living? We need to fight for our right to think clearly and intellectually, not be defeneseless when we might seem like we’re losing our battles with our mind and thus the world.

I think also, that we have a severe lack of empathy in this country, replaced by niceness. I read a sign at a Women’s March a couple years ago, saying, “Legalize Empathy.” That really spoke to home. We don’t know how to be empathetic anymore. It’s too scary now. I used to be a regular contributor on Facebook up until 6 months ago, and sometimes I think we use Facebook to get our all our frustrations (I did that) because it’s too scary to do it in real life.

I have some mental health problems, (as some of you might have deduced) and I try to so hard to work around them and use them to my advantage, both intellectually and authentically. I read an article in a mental health magazine years ago saying that the reason this country has so many mentally ill people so to speak is because they have a certain type of personality that makes many of us susceptible to mental health issues.

We need to realize the need to be educated about mental health, because in some ways, we already know a lot more about these issues than we’ll ever admit to. Some might say that we don’t need to change the mental health system, but I say, in the name speaking your mind against “niceness” and being more kind and authentic, we need to know our mental health needs come before this niceness destroys all that we hold dear and precious about being human!!

I went to a college in Maryland in the late 90s where I was reintroduced to crab and also a monthly dinner of “Adventures in Dining” where we had everything from pumpkin soup to ostrich, venison, alligator, and truffles.  The food offered at the cafeteria was pretty awesome (at least to me) in that they had lots of different stations (like getting wraps, ice cream station, sandwiches, etc…  They also had theme nights where they had special food.

But my favorite was the pub and the club sandwiches and chicken tenders they offered.  Also, one of my college friends was South Korean and she was super involved in cultural things on campus.  She was kind to invite me to all these gourmet get togethers.  I also went to a soul food night where I was introduced to African American food.  My friends and I would go out to restaurants like Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Indian etc…  I had no idea at the time how lucky I was to get invited to these dinners.  It literally felt like I was going to other countries.  I was so ignorant of that kind of thing, that looking back, it feels like I was discovering what it meant to be cultural.

Now, that I am kind of poor, I look back on those college years as a very rich time in my life.  I feel the food and people I encountered had a huge effect on my diet today and how open minded I try to be.   I’m not saying I had bad food in my childhood, (my parents did try to cook well) but prepared meals in grocery stores and take out and whatnot have certainly improved and it makes me feel cosmopolitan when I compare the semi-gourmet food I sometimes cook to the vastly improved prepared meals from these places.

Looking back on those college years, it kind of feels like the equivalent to a cruise ship, where I hear people are offered food all the time.  It might not have been the same quality, but it was everywhere and you simply had to be in the right place at the right time to experience all Western Maryland College had to offer.

I often think about how other people eat, especially those without access and money for healthy food, say in the inner city or middle of nowhere.  I wonder how much the current food revolution has hurt or helped people.   My Mom and I have a bigger garden (ie farm) this year, partly because of the virus crisis and everything went really well.  It’s because we have so much more time now to make it right and see that things are planted right.  If everyone had time to and unlimited resources to spend on food, would they do it?

I saw an eye- opening food documentary a couple years ago called, “A Place at the Table” about how people just don’t have access to proper food because trucks don’t stop at little stores, only big grocery stores like Walmart.  Another food doc I liked was about the organic movement which came about some 40 years ago about some kind of hippie people who started this new type of farming and weren’t really expected to be mainstream, but sure enough, here we are now with “organic” everything.

With the corona virus changing how we get food and afford food, we should all be focusing on cooking more since I bet most of us have more time.  Do these massive changes in how we eat mean the food revolution is put on pause indefinitely??  Do people really even care about eating healthy right now or is it really a new comfort zone of eating??

I tend to think of Americans as pretty outdoorsy. But apparently I’m wrong when you look at the statistics as to which countries are the most outdoorsy. The Scandinavian countries, like Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden win that contest. Now which matter more in this contest? Protecting the environment or actually going out and experiencing nature? Maybe liberals in America would say both, but Republicans might say liberals are hypocrites because they don’t protect the environment.

I don’t think of myself as a truly outdoorsy person because I live in the suburbs and don’t go camping that often, don’t garden, don’t exercise outdoors as much as I could, and don’t go hiking as much as I used to. But I don’t feel too envious of these people because I think a lot of outdoorsy people do not truly care about the environment. I’m not saying I’m the most ecological person out there, but it makes me kind of weary when I see people proclaim to love the outdoors when they’re really just all attitude.

It’s a lot of work to reduce, reuse, recycle. I compost, hang my clothes outside or inside to dry, try to walk to do my errands as much as possible, cook local and vegetarian food, mow with a hand powered mower, don’t buy much, etc…

But a lot of people think I’m outdoorsy because of this eco-friendly attitude. I’m somewhat of an environmental activist, and love, or try to love nature, and am really easygoing about that kind of thing.

I wonder how Americans continue to be stigmatized for polluting the Earth with cars and material possessions and also love nature. Because we have so much nature in this country, it seems that if you’re an American, you must do something that speaks to your love for the outdoors.

When I was hiking in China, in 2001, I couldn’t help but notice, Chinese people hiking in high heels, skirts, and nice clothes! You would never find anyone in America doing that, no matter, how rich they were. Granted, the hiking paths in China were paved, or at least the ones in the park we went to, so maybe it’s a different frame of mind there.

I feel that here in America, it’s our outdoorsy attitude that binds us together, no matter how divided we are. I mean how could you not be even a little outdoorsy with all the national parks we have and environmental activism we have? I mean, look how many people flock to the shore every summer?

It’s funny how extreme the divides are though. People can do the craziest outdoorsy stuff in America and then other people barely do anything. I like to think that in Scandinavian countries, there’s more of a happy medium between being ecological and outdoorsy because maybe they’re far less people to worry about.

The Romantic Farmer…

August 25, 2020

I don’t consider myself a farmer by any means, but I’m a great helper, picker, and weeder and I’ve done my share of volunteer work on CSA farms and co-op farms, among other things.  I often romanticize farming, especially today, when we have so many CSA’s, hobby farms, and other farms that defy the big comglomerates of past decades.

Now when you compare American farming to say European farming, South American, or Chinese or Indian farming, I would think we would fall far behind, but am I right about that?  We’re not known as a farming country anymore, but I’m always hearing about under the radar farms like CSA’s and hobby farms with great connections that give me hope that farming will one day find itself at the forefront of the American economy.

I think of farming in other countries as sometimes more romantic than here in America.  For example, farming in France, Italy, Spain, and parts of South America just seems so loved and part of the culture.  And I’ve heard some things about China and how farmers use their small patch of land to grow several crops and it just sounds like something Americans and other countries could learn from!

I know farming has somewhat changed in America from big comglomerate, commerical farming to smaller farms and you’ll hear of people growing gardens more than they used to.  I sometimes hear how farming is in trouble in America, but is it really? I hear, read, or see how people off the beaten path are putting in serious time to make soil farmable, or use non-GMO seeds, or make a farm habitable again (like the amazing doc “The Biggest Little Farm”).

And with this pandemic making us all enjoy the outdoors more, I think about regular people turning to small scale farming for relief, therapy, and just better healthy living.  I think of Americans as pretty outdoorsy (but not compared to some Europeans), and I would like to think that our evolving farming speaks to that.

 

I am somewhat of a music buff.  I used to play piano and trombone, but not anymore, so I think I vicariously listen to all kinds of music and imagine what it would be like to be so talented.  I attended a contra dance (folk music) pretty regularly for almost 10 years and that was my entertainment because I was so poor so at this point I have a pretty good idea what good music is.  Also, one of my good friends is a professional musician on the side and I have tagged along with her pretty much anywhere I could to this day so I do really love music.

Comparing the American traditional music (roots music) to say Indian or Chinese traditional music is pretty off putting. My musician friend and I went to the Philly Folk Festival last year and they had a Korean traditional folk(?) music performance with the other folk music and we really tried to enjoy it, but ultimately left as I think it was an acquired taste.  I also love some Russian folk music (like on Riverdance) and since my Dad is a big music person (he sings and plays guitar) that has likewise rubbed off on me.  For as long as I can remember, he has had a collection of Putumayo music from around the world.  I really love that stuff.  It just is so authentic.  I can’t stand American pop music much anymore (or whatever genre it is today).  One music documentary that I highly recommend if you like music (or docs!) is “This Ain’t No Mouse Music” about a man who grew up in Germany but was displaced because of WWII and came to the USA where he was introduced to African American music and roots music too.  It changed his life and he started a record label based on it.  Very well done and easy to watch.

Now, I haven’t been to that many countries, but I have been to concerts of traditional classical Indian music, Brazilian music, Bolivian, Latino, Andes music, and any variety of American roots music.  I will probably never be able to afford to go to a big name concert again and you know what, I don’t really care to because I know what real music sounds like.  Why pay 300 dollars for noise when you can have the real thing for next to nothing?!?!?

I watched Ken Burns’ documentary series on country music last year and it was just so eye opening to me because I really hate most pop country music today, but love bluegrass and folk music.  It was just so incredible to see how it evolved from the 1800s to present day.

I also tried to watch some of Burns’ Jazz series, but I couldn’t relate to it nearly as much, despite having some jazz CDs and playing trombone for 10 years.  I do however, like hip hop, reggae, R/B and rap some.