Tweet of the Day: @soulpancake

soul-pancakeI gotta say, the more I see of actor Rainn Wilson, the more impressed I am with him.

I first discovered Rainn, appearing as Arthur Martin, the quirky/slightly-creepy/yet-endearing intern at the Fisher Funeral Home, in the 2001-2005 HBO series Six Feet Under. And then, very soon after, he appeared in his most-known role, as Dwight Schrute in the U.S. version of The Office.

He has also appeared in a couple of movies, and has hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, but the project I’m most impressed with is his website, Soul Pancake, and the the book of the same name. Soul Pancake is a kind of Web 2.0 platform, best described by this blurb from the site:

Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humor is designed to open your mind, challenge your friends, and feel damn good.

I particularly like Rainn’s video series, Metaphysical Milkshake, filmed in the back of a van, in which he has hosted a wide range of guests, from musicians to actors to entrepreneurs to Deepak Chopra. Now, plenty of fun has been poked at people who are inquisitive and think about life’s big questions, spiritual questions, but Rainn Wilson has achieved a wonderful balance between comedy and seriousness. He keeps things very funny, but the jokes don’t rob the discussions of their sincerity.

If you read up a little on Rainn, you find out that he’s from right here in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle), his mom was a yoga instructor, he’s very open about being a member of the Bahá’í Faith, and, while his humor can be as dark and risqué as it gets, he doesn’t allow it to be mutually exclusive with his spiritual side.

And so we arrive at the reason for today’s Tweet of the Day installment, something that, despite the typo in the tweet, I found very sweet and meaningful and representative of Rainn’s sincere big heart.

Enjoy!

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: An Open Letter To Bellingham Mayor, Kelli Linville

Coal_TrainIn this latest addition to my continuing series of posts on the battle, here in my beloved Bellingham, Washington, over a proposed coal shipping terminal just north of town, some great Earth Day news on the subject prompted me to write to Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, to implore her to take a stand.


Dear Mayor Linville,

It was with tremendous pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest that I learned of the Earth Day announcement yesterday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn concerning the newly-formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

The time is now, Mayor Linville, for you to take a stand against coal and join this coalition.

I appreciate that, up until now, you’ve been taking a cautious approach to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, careful, as of course you would and should be, not to be too hasty in opposing a project that could bring some badly-needed family wage jobs and tax revenue to the county.

However, members of the Bellingham community, your constituents, through groups like ReSources for Sustainable Communities and CommunityWise Bellingham have done a fantastic job researching the possible local and regional impacts of the GPT, and there’s more than enough evidence out there already, even before the EIS scoping is determined, to see that the terminal would be a disaster, both environmentally and economically, for Whatcom County, Bellingham, and the region.

And now you see, from this new alliance of regional leaders and tribes, as well as from the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments received during the scoping process were in opposition to the GPT:

via TheNorthernLight.com (emphasis in bold added):

The report categorizes comments based on where and how they were received as well as by their issue of concern. Of the 124,889 comments, 108,995 were received as signatures on bulk form letters from various groups in support or opposed to the project, 1,207 were verbal comments submitted during scoping meetings and 14,687 were submitted individually in writing.

…and finally from recent reports that the demand for coal from China is on the decline, as they make massive investment in renewables, that there is a groundswell and momentum, a perfect time for you to announce that you’ve had time to consider all of the implications of the GPT and have decided to join the Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

Again, I appreciate your leadership and your initial decision to not rush into a stance on the coal terminal. But, Bellingham has become nationally-known for our community’s commitment to sustainability, and the GPT project is entirely antithetical to Bellingham’s hard-earned reputation and proud identity.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: Coal Kills

Coal_TrainHere’s just a brief addition to my ongoing series of posts on the ongoing battle here in Bellingham, Washington, Whatcom County, over a proposed coal shipping terminal.

In my last post on the subject, I mentioned that we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for the local, state and federal oversight agencies to determine the scope of the study of environmental impacts (Environmental Impact Statement, aka EIS) that must be completed before the project is approved or denied.

The big money behind the project — the coal mining companies, the railroad, and the company that will build and operate the shipping terminal — as well as the proponents of the terminal, seduced by a promise of jobs and new tax revenues, would like the scope of the EIS to be limited to the site of the terminal and the impacts on the property alone.

It’s an outrageous attempt to ignore the very real, devastating impacts of continuing to mine coal, to ship it in uncovered trains halfway across the country by rail, releasing toxic coal dust into the air of every community along the route, sending it halfway around the world in ships that can and do spill, and then burning it and releasing toxic smoke into the air and greenhouse gases into the already dangerously carbonated atmosphere.

Appropriate, then, to post the following video of Bellingham treasure Mike Marker, singer/songwriter, activist, and educator, performing a beautiful version of the gut-wrenching Stanley Brothers song Dream of the Coal Miner’s Child, a stark reminder of coal’s long history of tragic impact on humans.

Video Fridays: Hey Marseilles

hey-marseillesAs I was driving my son to school this morning, we were listening to CBC Radio 2 (a major perk of living so close to the Canadian border!), and a beautiful song came on by some Indie band, I didn’t catch the name of the group or the title of the song, but I remarked to my son that it seemed to me that the Indie scene these days is pretty solidly dominated by bands who specialize in music on the mellow side, dominated by acoustic instrumentation, guitars, mandolins, banjos, strings, accordions, piano, etc.

It’s a stark change from where Indie music was at when I first moved to Bellingham, Washington, in the early 90s, at the height of the so-called Grunge era, which was all about very loud, electric-guitar-centric rock music.

Anyway, as I was browsing around this morning for something to feature in this week’s Video Fridays installment, I came across the following in-studio performance by Seattle band Hey Marseilles, a relatively new group, having just released their second album, and it seems to me they epitomize the (excuse the horribly mixed metaphors) mellow that is all the rage right now.

I have to admit that I’ve been noticing a certain degree of regrettable replication going on. For instance, I do not need to hear one more band that sounds like Mumford & Sons.

But, I’m happy to report that I do not have that reaction to Hey Marseilles. Oh, sure, you can hear all kinds of influences in their music and similarities to some other bands, but I found myself really enjoying them, particularly the gentle, expressive vocals of Matt Bishop, and the consistently beautiful, expertly crafted melodies. NPR referred to Hey Marseilles as “worldy chamber pop” and I guess, if you had to put a label on it, that one would be a pretty apt.

So, enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: China, Please Hurry Up!

Coal_TrainIt’s been over a year since I last wrote about the ongoing battle over coal happening here in the Pacific Northwest, where efforts are underway to build multiple shipping terminals to send millions of tons of coal to China, with one of the terminals proposed here, at a site just north of my Bellingham, Washington home.

Ironically, and perhaps fortuitously for us here in Bellingham (via Bloomberg.com):

China Drives Record Solar Growth Becoming Biggest Market

The $77 billion solar-energy industry is forecast to expand the most since 2011, as China becomes the biggest market for the first time and drives annual global installations to a record…

China, after building scores of factories that helped cut panel prices 20 percent in the past year, is poised to become the biggest consumer of the devices after doubling its 2013 target for new projects in January…

China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is forecast to unseat Germany as the largest solar market in 2013… Projects have multiplied as the nation provides financial support to its solar companies in a bid to diversify the coal-dependent energy industry.

The Chinese government expects 10 gigawatts of new solar projects in 2013, more than double its previous target and three times last year’s expansion.

Tripling their solar implementation in one year! THAT is good news, whether your hometown is threatened by coal or not.

The latest on the proposed shipping terminal: The backers of the project, SSA Marine and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad, will have to conduct a thorough study of environmental impacts, resulting in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that they will have to submit to the local, state, and federal government agencies (aka Co-Lead agencies) overseeing the project. The Co-Lead agencies will study the EIS and either approve or reject the building of the terminal. The scoping of the EIS — identifying exactly what impacts must be studied and reported on — was recently conducted, via a series of statewide public hearings and an open comment period. 124,000 comments were submitted.

It’s unclear how long it will take for the government agencies to review all of the comments and to announce the scope of the EIS, but it is estimated that the EIS will likely take two or more years to complete.

So, wouldn’t it be nice if China’s rush to liberate itself from its coal dependency resulted in a severe enough decline in demand that the building of the shipping terminal would ultimately be cost-ineffective?

One can hope, can’t one?

Video Fridays: Steve Miller

steve-miller-bandYou know, there was a time when I thought I’d never again need to hear the music of Steve Miller.

His many hits were ubiquitous on the radio in the late 70s and early 80s, too ubiquitous, over played, and I burned out on them.

Not Steve Miller’s fault, and not the fault of the music.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was playing an open mic night at a local tavern, just me and a friend, both of us on acoustic guitars, and in between songs, seemingly out of nowhere, I started playing the bass line from The Joker, my friend recognized it and started playing the chords, I started singing it and miraculously remembered all of the words, and…

…the small crowd at that tiny tavern — a tiny tavern not at all known for dancing — got up and danced.their.asses.off!

That still stands as one of the best musical moments of my life. We jammed on that song as long as we could, repeating verses and the chorus, and to see all those people having so much fun, moving to the tune and singing along, well, as a performer it just doesn’t get any better than that.

My current band has just added The Joker to our repertoire, in a full-on rockin’ electric version, and I can’t wait to debut it at our upcoming gig on March 2nd.

For now, in honor of that first magical music moment, on nothing but acoustic guitars, here’s a wonderful solo-acoustic version, performed by Steve Miller, at a radio station right here in the Pacific Northwest, Portland to be exact, which is fitting, given all of the Portland content I posted this week.

Happy Weekend, everyone!