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.

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!

Best of Fish & Bicycles: In Defense of Moss

Originally Published: April 20, 2011


I don’t know whether it’s thrilling or depressing that some local news made it on the front page (albeit below the fold) in the National Edition of the New York Times today.

On one hand, it was exciting to see a beautiful photo of the lush green moss that is so prevalent here and that I love so much, and I thought the front page headline was cute:

Nature’s Wall-To-Wall Carpet

But then, here’s the headline of the story on Page A-13:

Poor Season for Sunshine Is Great One for Spores

What a frickin’ let down!

Sure, New York Times, rub it in our faces that this has been, so far, the coldest April on record here in Western Washington, remind us that it snowed just six days ago, and refer to my beloved moss diminutively as spores.

That’s.Just.Cruel.

There are some things that I never get tired of living here in the Pacific Northwest. No matter how many times I see a Bald Eagle soaring overhead, or the towering western red cedar or Douglas fir, or the jagged snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Mountains, I’m always enthralled.

Well, the same goes for nature’s wall-to-wall carpet — moss — an astounding 700 varieties of which, as I mentioned back in June 2010, grow in our Olympic National Park. Whenever I’m out on the trail and I see the green stuff covering trees and rocks, softening the rough edges, I can’t resist the urge to reach out and lay my hand on it, or in the case of a large patch on the ground, to lay my body down upon it. Every year, I notice that more of my lawn is being consumed by moss, and I look eagerly forward to when there is no grass left at all.

And yet, as if we needed any more rain, the Times rains on my mossy parade by focusing mostly on people who are busy trying to reduce or rid their environment of moss.

Hmmmm. Maybe the New York Times 20-article diet isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Starbucks

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, 90 miles north of Seattle, for close to 20 years, and in this corner of the world it’s almost unbearably cliché to blog about how much I love coffee.

Suffice to say, despite my February 2011 rant against my state’s coffee fetish

…I LOVE the java!

And, despite my preference for supporting local businesses, I even admit to loving that multinational megacoffeecorporation, Starbucks. (What can I say? I’ve tried many, many coffees from all kinds of roasters, some good, some bad, some ugly, but I always know, when I walk into a Starbucks, that I will like what they serve.)

And while they can certainly be doing more, Starbucks has incorporated sustainable practices in their operations, for years, and today I read about another new initiative, perfect for a new installment in my Celebrating Eco-Progress series.

Via GOOD.is:

Starbucks Is Funding Research That Would Turn Food Waste into Useful Stuff

Who’s got tons of old coffee grounds headed for the trash? Starbucks. And who’s got great ideas for repurposing waste? Scientists. It’s a promising match.

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong are working on a new “biorefinery” that would turn food waste into something useful, and it’s been getting funding from Starbucks Hong Kong, which produces 5,000 tons of spent grounds and bakery waste each year.

According to a press release, the biorefinery (above) uses a mixture of fungi, which excrete enzymes that break down carbohydrates (like the ones in those coffee grounds) into simple sugars, which then go into a fermenter to become succinic acid. That succinic acid can then be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products, including detergents, bio-plastics, and medicines.

Starbucks has been giving away, free of charge, sacks of spent coffee grounds since 1999, for use in composting, but this new effort is exciting for the decidedly larger positive impact it could have.

Way to go, Starbucks! Keep up the good work!