Video Fridays: Happy Birthday, John Lennon!

lennonSo, John Lennon would have turned 75-years old today if some lunatic with a gun hadn’t taken him down nearly 35 years ago.

Don’t get me started again on guns.

Lennon was a polarizing figure for sure, a flawed human being like everyone else, but there’s no question that his is one of the greatest stories in music history, and I’ve got to say that he’s been a huge influence on me, musically and otherwise.

John Lennon, the Beatle, seemed to have everything: superstardom, adoring fans, a critically acclaimed body of work, a loving wife, and a beautiful son. He could have coasted the rest of his life on that wave, but he chose to evolve as a musician and a human being, gradually drifting from the relatively clean-cut guy who wrote Please Please Me, to psychedelic poster child, to hippie activist, and beyond, never looking back.

He alienated his fans, he alienated his songwriting partner, he left his wife and son, and he left the greatest band the world has ever seen.

Like I said, one helluva story.

I’ve never been one to argue who the best Beatle was, as is common amongst fans, and I never disliked any of them, though I’ve not always liked all over their post-Beatles material.

And yet, there’s no doubt that John was my favorite. I’ve always, on the whole, loved his music more than the work of the others, ever so slightly more in some cases, and yet it was his emergence as a peacenik activist in the late 1960s that won me over completely. That he was willing grow out his hair and beard in the face of stifling and oppressive conservatism, that he was willing to leverage his massive celebrity to promote love and peace at a particularly volatile period of history, moved and influenced me deeply.

Yes, you were not and still are not the only dreamer, John.

But like I said, he was no angel. He was part hippie and part raunchy Rock&Roller, kinda like me!

And so, for this Video Fridays installment, I thought I’d show both sides of John Lennon, starting with his first overtly peacenik song, All You Need Is Love, a song that, in it’s message, however naive some may call it, still makes my eyes drip; and followed by one of my all-time favorite live performances, the White Album track Yer Blues, performed with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell at the 1968 Rolling Stone’s Rock & Roll Circus.

Happy Birthday, John, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Guerrilla Grafters: A Refreshing Conflict

Photo: Tom Levy,
Photo: Tom Levy,
With all of the acute conflicts going on in the world — the Haves vs. the Have-Nots, climate change deniers vs. science, gun control advocates vs. the NRA, Caucasians vs. people of color, Jews vs. Muslims vs. Christians, etc. — conflicts of such great and often terrible consequences, how refreshing it was to read this morning about a conflict going down in San Francisco that is wonderfully small-scale, at least for now, and while some might call it trivial, I’d prefer to think of it as quaint, but not at all in a bad way.

Via the San Francisco Chronicle:

Hui and Goldberg are members of the Guerrilla Grafters, a loose-knit band of undercover orchardists blending farming and urban activism as a way to spark debate about the use of public space. For the past two years, the Grafters have been secretly attaching fruit-bearing branches, known as scions, to non-fruiting plum, pear and apple street trees.

City officials in San Francisco call their actions unlawful. Urban architecture connoisseurs call it groundbreaking: The grafters’ subversive project is being featured in the U.S. pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale’s 13th International Architecture Exhibition opening Wednesday.

Now, on the property of a house I used to live in, we had a couple of ridiculously prolific Italian plum trees, a pear tree, and an apple tree. As a result, every year in late summer and fall, so much fruit dropped in our yard, more than we could have ever consumed, we were never into canning, and so walking around the house was like navigating a minefield, one step, two steps, three steps, squish!

So, I kinda get the concern of SF city officials who worry, as the article states, of slip hazards from fruit falling on sidewalks and streets, BUT I tend to agree with the Grafters who argue:

“With grafts you only have a few branches that are bearing, and it’s really very manageable,” said Goldberg. The Grafters also say that stewards and gleaners can ensure that ripe fruit from trees they graft is safely harvested. They say they can also help maintain trees needing pruning, propping or watering.

This conflict says so much about urban life in the U.S. these days. A simple, natural and historically nourishing occurrence — fruit growing on trees — is seen as undesirable while poverty persists and gentrification pushes lower income residents out to the margins of the cities.

It’s not that middle and upper class urbanites don’t like fruit. It’s that they want it picked for them and neatly arranged in colorful displays at their local farmers market, evident by a 76% increase in the number of U.S. farmers markets from 2008 to 2014.

First World problems, indeed.

Video Fridays: Marriage Equality Edition

marriage-equalityThe news this morning, that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can no longer deny same-sex couples the right to marry is a major breakthrough for justice and civil rights.

We still have VERY far to go, so many areas where inequality — racial, gender, age, ability, economic, etc. — remains, here in the U.S. and around the globe, and yet today’s victory feels particularly poignant.

After all, as one of the catch phrases of the marriage equality movement points out:

Love is Love

I’m still one of those dreamers, though not the only one, who truly believes that All You Need Is Love, and we need LOTS more love to overcome the remaining inequality challenges, to end violence and war, to save the planet from global climate change.

Let all people love each other and make lifelong commitments to each other and tell me how that can have any other effect than to heal the world?!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Tweet of the Day: @BillMcKibben

My new favorite made-up word: Kayaktivist

I don’t think many people thought, when the kayak-based protests over a Shell Oil arctic drilling platform in Seattle’s Elliot Bay started a month ago, that the protest would still be going on today.

Kayaks have such an iconic presence here in the Pacific Northwest, and though I’ve never owned one myself, I’ve had the pleasure of paddling quite a few times over my 20+ years living here. As a result, and given my radical treehugging tendencies, I can’t help feeling solidarity with the protesters.

Paddle on, brothers and sisters! Paddle on!

Reason #257 Why I Love Bellingham: Annual Naked Bike Ride

NakedBikeRide-page-001There are MANY reasons why I love my adopted hometown of 20+ years, Bellingham, Washington, and the annual Naked Bike Ride is certainly one of them.

The World Naked Bike Ride is a global event with an interesting dual message, promoting: 1.) cycling for the good of the planet; 2.) body-positive values. Riders in the clothing-optional event display varying levels of skin, based on personal preference, and that skin is often painted. Skin not on display is covered with eye-catching, outlandish costume and accessories.

No, I’ve never participated in the ride myself, and I’ve never even consciously sought it out as a spectator. BUTT, pun intended, many a time I just happened to be downtown when the glorious parade of naked weirdness just happened to pass by.

I am simply happy that I live in a town with people who support and participate in events like this; creative acts of expression, silly, fun, and with an aim to make the world a better place.

Tweet of the Day: @pattonoswalt

Even though some reply tweeters rush to point out that Time Warner likely does not make money from the sale of ALL Guy Fawkes masks, I think a valid point is made about the need to thoroughly think through the symbols we use.

Bellingham, Just Say No to Whole Foods

whole-foodsI was very saddened to see news in the Bellingham Herald this morning that a Whole Foods Market will be opening here in the summer of 2016.

I’ve written numerous times, most recently this past December, that one of the things that is so special about Bellingham is that local businesses are thriving here. It’s an integral part of our identity as a small city. And, local businesses are thriving mostly because we take pride in that identity and commit to support our local businesses, even at times when prices are cheaper elsewhere, because we know that the owners of these businesses are our neighbors and friends.

Another component of Bellingham’s identity is our commitment to sustainability, in terms of environmental protection and restoration, sustainable agriculture, sustainable building practices, etc.

So, you see this conflict between those two aspects of our identity when we consider the arrival of Whole Foods. While not a locally-owned business, it is a market that features natural and organic foods, including non-GMO products.

Problem is, we already have two outstanding local natural foods markets, the Bellingham Community Food Co-Op, with two locations, and Terra Organic & Natural Foods, both conduct themselves more like communities than businesses, and both contribute to a wide variety of community events and non-profit organizations.

I find the practices of these large chain stores disturbing, how they move into communities that have existing, local businesses offering similar goods and services, without any apparent concern for how they will take business away from those who were here first, wielding their corporate power against mom and pop shops, or, in the case of the Community Food Co-Op, member owners, businesses that don’t have the resources to compete fairly.

In the Herald article, a Whole Foods executive is quoted:

Bellingham is a terrific market. It’s been a long time coming…The right site was there, the right partner and developer was there, the right mix in terms of competition and suppliers. We just think the time is perfect…Our primary interest is in Whatcom County. It’s a very strong market in itself.

Now, I have no doubt that Whole Foods is confident that the market is strong enough for them to open here and succeed, but I’m just as confident that they do not consider the fact that their success could imperil the pre-existing locally-owned natural food markets.

Consider the Core Values section of their website, where you’ll find a menu of pages on a variety of topics, including one titled We Serve And Suport Our Local And Global Communities.

Sounds nice, but of course there’s no mention of their impact on similar local businesses. Why, that wouldn’t be flattering at all!

I wish I had more time to dig deeper on this topic. There are sources I’ve consulted on the impact of chain stores, which deserves elaboration, and there is the sticky fact that some local natural food producers might do better if they can sell their products at Whole Foods, and perhaps I’ll get to these topics in future posts.

For now, mine is a more personal expression of distaste for this news, rather than a thorough analysis.

I doubt we can stop Whole Foods from coming, they are already leasing the property they’ll be moving into.

But, we can make the choice to not shop there, and to continue to support the Co-Op and Terra.