Monday, August 25, 2008

Update from Choose Responsibility

I blogged about this group last June. I think their points are really interesting - and am excited to see the effort gaining ground.

Hello [CR] supporters, new and old,

As this amazing week draws to a close, we are glad to have a chance to check in, and to welcome over 700 new subscribers and volunteers to our ranks. This week has been a formative one for the drinking age debate and we hope to continue this positive momentum into the coming months.

In July, John McCardell began working with several college and university presidents on a statement calling for an informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. The statement became known as the Amethyst Initiative, so called because the purple stone was considered a symbol of moderation in ancient Greece. Over the next several weeks 104 college and university presidents signed onto the Initiative. Efforts were underway to expand the list when the Associated Press caught wind of our efforts.

Late Monday afternoon the Associated Press released a story about the Initiative. The resulting media firestorm was nothing short of astounding, and unlike anything we could have anticipated when we wrote to you on Monday evening to announce the Amethyst Initiative. The story was covered by all network and cable news channels, national and local radio, and in thousands of print stories and editorials. We have done our best to keep a running tally of some of the best coverage, which you can read here.

Here are some other highlights from the week:
• 24 additional presidents and chancellors added their names to the Amethyst Initiative
• Over 70,000 people visited the Amethyst Initiative website
• Over 8,000 people visited the Choose Responsibility website
• 1,200 email messages and a lively dialogue in the comments to our blog.

Needless to say, the resources in our small office are stretched thin. (Do you live in Vermont? If so, we are looking for temporary help this week and next in our Middlebury office. Reply to this newsletter if you would like to lend a hand). We need your help to keep the momentum going and to ensure that MADD and others do not succeed in stifling public debate. Two easy things you can do:

1. Write a letter to the editor in response to local coverage. See “Arguments Against 21” and materials in the [CR] Download Center for supportive facts and statistics. If your letter is published, please be sure to send us a copy!

2. Write to the president of your (or your children’s) alma mater, and to local colleges and universities who have not already signed on to the Amethyst Initiative to encourage them to join (see here for a fll list of presidents who have already signed on). Since the news broke on the issue before we had anticipated, many presidents are still actively discussing the issue and might benefit from your encouragement. If you do write, here are some points to emphasize:
• The Amethyst Initiative is a group of college and university presidents and chancellors who support open debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. They do not support a lower drinking age, or any particular policy outcome, but call on the public and our elected officials to consider the intended and unintended consequences of the law.
• The 21 year-old drinking age has contributed to a culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking.
• Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among students.
• Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and commitment to this issue. We have made great strides this week and are happy to have you on our team.

Here’s to another busy week,

The [CR] Team
John, Mike and, Grace

Choose Responsibility
PO BOX 507 Middlebury, VT 05753 802.398.2024

Saturday, August 23, 2008

As we say goodbye...for now

Proud Mom and Son

NYT article on Burning Man prep

Here I am again - always interested in Burning Man though I've never been. I mean, gosh, just look at the beauty of these flames....

From the NYT today:

Priming for Burning Man, Flames in Hand

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Fire dancers rehearse for the Burning Man festival. More Photos >

Published: August 13, 2008

On the back patio of an East Village apartment, Natasha Kouri sat on a bench surrounded by plastic bottles and bags. She picked up a bottle from the woman on her left, who chopped its bottom off at the Poland Spring label. Ms. Kouri wove a handful of bags through the opening and handed the work in progress to her right. A bearded man taped the bags to the bottle, fluffed the bags into petals and tossed the results into the growing pile of plastic petunias: 775 down, only 1,225 to go.

Skip to next paragraph


Art Bound for the Black Rock DesertSlide Show

Art Bound for the Black Rock Desert

David Goldman for The New York Times

Max Darby, right, and Stefan Pildes finish a sign for the Kostume Kult campsite. More Photos »

“We’re the art minions,” Ms. Kouri, 21, said with a smile last week. “What the directors tell us to do, we do.”

With reggae-trance music as a soundtrack, this six-person assembly line cut, stuffed, fluffed. In the building’s central courtyard another team built funhouse mirrors out of mylar, and Max Darby, a product designer and one of the masterminds behind this group artwork, put together vinyl street signs to be attached to an 18-foot-high, 60-foot-long mural that was still in pieces in the courtyard’s nooks.

“We had no money,” Ms. Darby, 41, explained, “so we’re basically making art from garbage.”

Four hours a night, three nights a week, for the last three months, about 80 people have rotated through this basement apartment for craft sessions. None will see the final presentation of their work until it is assembled in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where the annual Burning Man art festival-rave-love-in takes place the week before Labor Day. About 48,000 people are expected to haul everything they need to survive — tents, water, fake-fur costumes — for this experiment in commerce-free, creatively wild community. Thousands of them will come from New York and set up camps with names like Smoochdome, Disorient and Rubber Chicken.

Ms. Darby and her craft workers are part of Kostume Kult, a camp known for giving away 2,000 pounds of sparkling, sequined, saucy costumes to attendees. This year the camp wanted to make a more artistic contribution as well, so members —friends, friends of friends, and others who found the group through its Web site,, or through the event itself — came up with a New York interpretation of the festival’s 2008 American Dream theme.

“It’s a Coney Island theme,” Ms. Darby said, pointing to a sketch of the mural with roller coasters, balloons and skyscrapers. “The left is all candy floss, childlike colors. Then it turns into grimy Gotham City, all gray and dark.”

The mural will serve as a giant doorway to the camp, which they’ve dubbed KKoney Island. Visitors who wander through the middle of the boardwalk-downtown split will arrive in Central Park, a chill space with carpets, cushions and a canopy of plastic flowers. A critical element of the project, Ms. Darby said, was having everyone contribute to its creation.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Go see Humboldt County Sept 26! Highly recommended.

Stumbled across this promotional trailer first on Matt Dentler's blog before finding it again on Humboldt County's blog.

Humboldt County was one of my favorite films at SXSW 2008. Something about its created world was totally sure. I still don't know how to articulate why even though I wrote the SXSW catalogue copy. I didn't feel I did it justice. It was just about a place filled with people I came to really care about, where I immersed fully for a couple of hours. And longer. It's stayed with me in a surprising fashion.

While amusing on its own terms, this trailer is goofier than the film itself -- and doesn't really give you an accurate taste. Definitely check the feature out when it comes to your town! September 26: Humboldt. San Francisco, Berkeley, Portland, Seattle and Austin, TX!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Countdown to Empty Nest

Yes, it's all been amazing. And yes, hard to believe how it evolves. From here (@1991) you just can't imagine the march forward. Everyday precious. Feeling the clock ticking... Exciting. Achingly sad. The definition (again) of bittersweet.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The things we come back to

I went swimming today. And no, not because of Michael Phelps. I went swimming today because I've wanted to for months, years even. I think about it all the time, but today I made it in. And in a moment, I was reminded of all the other times swimming has been my grounding force. Visiting my Dad in LA. In the early days at Canyon Cinema in SF, depressed, in transition. The early days in NYC, again, depressed and in transition. I hadn't put together the pattern til an hour ago. It's the transitional moments. I'm certainly not depressed, but working again fulltime for an outside organization - something I haven't done for decades. So not depressed, but yes, in transition. And as I ponder taking my youngest child to start college next week, I remember too, that I spent my first pregnancy swimming. It was my transition from working fulltime to the unknown of parenting. Swimming was my salve. I'd forgotten. But smile too now remembering and realizing what a little fish my first born turned out to be. Water is her salve too.

The ritual is familiar. Gym swimming, not outdoors even though Barton Springs is the lifeblood of the town I now live in. I need anonymity and cover. I looked good in a bathing suit I think one day in my life @ when I was 13. It's going to the gym - in SF it was in the tenderloin. A crumby Y with a friendly front door staff. In NYC the first go-round it was the Apple gym on Thompson Street. I used to run into Pam Yates there keeping up her arm strength while briefly back in the U.S. between shooting documentaries in war zones. Pregnant with Georgia, I subwayed up to the 24hour gym on 58th, which unfortunately went bankrupt right after I gave birth, right after I renewed my year membership, saving money by paying it all in advance.

Now in Austin. At the popular 24 hour fitness center near my house, near my job. The same gym I've paid money to every month for years, waiting for this day. I hit the water and the feeling is the same. I love the water. I love swimming. I can't breathe. I panic immediately as I finish one lane of the crawl. I just can't exhale. So as I've done years and years before, I switch to back stroke up, breast stroke down. I used to feel like a wuss for that, but BFF Susan told me not to. "It's all good." Back stroke up. Breast stroke down. It's bliss. The rhythm kicks in. The breathing stabilizes. It's just what my 50+ year old hips need. Then it's the sauna. Quiet. Hot. Dark. The contractions lessen. Those deep contractions the massage guy was talking about the other day. That Wendy always talks about. The unconscious holding and gripping.

It's what I need now. What I've needed before. What I keep coming back to.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Contraception is essential

I've been pregnant exactly twice. I'm the mother of a 21 and 18 year old, both of whom I cherish! This couldn't have happened without safe, legal, relatively inexpensive contraception. Contraception is essential if you care about healthy families (and I don't just mean healthy babies...I mean a healthy, functioning, loving unit) and a woman's right not be a kind of indentured servant and victim. Why don't you join me? See the sample letter below.

Dear friend,

Subject: Contraception is abortion?


I had to share something with you. Can you imagine living in a place where birth control is considered an "abortion" and health insurers won't cover it? Where even rape victims are denied emergency contraception?

It seems unbelievable, but the Bush Administration is quietly trying to redefine "abortion" to include birth control. The Houston Chronicle says this could wipe out dozens of state laws that protect women's reproductive freedom and protect rape victims. And this proposed "rule change" doesn't need congressional approval.

I just signed a message to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, whose department is considering this rule change, telling him: "Contraception is NOT abortion." Can you add your voice to this cause? Click here to sign the message:


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The extreme relief possible

I've added another practitioner. Not a new practice, just a new practitioner. And he's amazing. A massage therapist with a brilliant touch. With savvy wisdom. He was the first to point out that my current limping had everything to do with my compulsive Barbie foot stance while sitting. You know, the toe pointed, rather than foot flat on the floor.

My pilates trainer has been talking about the importance of feet for years. Really using the whole foot, stretching the foot, engaging the arches, relaxing into gravity rather than clenching. But it was the new guy who immediately grasped how weirdly I was sitting all day in the new gig. Unconsciously. So I started paying more attention, started becoming more conscious. But it's still been a problem. And tonight he took it farther. "You know contracting is often the way the body tries to avoid feeling something." Yeah, ok, new age stuff. I know there's a mind/body connection! I have no doubt about that. I've experienced too much that's interesting in that area.

As I relaxed into the deepest relaxation I felt the most profound relief. The body tenses unconsciously and that causes ill effects. I always love massage but the relief from this deep strong massage combined with my own very deep breathing was true bliss. "You know," he said, "what you're feeling is what you're feeling. It's helped by what I'm doing but really, it's what you're capable of feeling." Kind of a mind fuck -but what a great goal! To get as blissed out through my own means? An idea very worth pursuing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Finally, an American Teen review I can relate to

Finally, a smart, intelligent American Teen review I can relate to. Thanks to Marjorie Baumgarten at the Austin Chronicle.

American Teen

Year Released: 2008
Directed By: Nanette Burstein
(PG-13, 95 min.)

In our modern Information Age, it is no longer possible to believe in documentaries as conveyors of unfiltered, unvarnished truths. Everything is transmitted through the eyes of the beholders, from the lens of the filmmaker to the perceptions of the viewers. Burstein’s American Teen, however, causes us to become aware of the power the subjects have to control their ultimate image and message. We used to fret over the extent to which a filmmaker’s presence altered the very nature of that which was under observation. American Teen shows us that we really need to pay more attention to the ways in which the media-savvy of the subjects can shape the outcome of the observation. The teens of Warsaw, Ind., the town in which Burstein’s documentary is set, were born into the era of reality TV, in which a spot on The Real World or American Idol means a ticket to instant celebrity, and the confidences once shared in diaries and incessant phone chatter are now unveiled on Facebook and MySpace for all the world to consume. They may not have known it, but these kids were ready for their shot at fame long before Burstein entered their midst and wired them up with portable microphone packs. What her cameras capture shouldn’t be construed as truth but rather as scenarios that were cast in stone long before she came on the scene. The five high school seniors she chooses as her main subjects could have come straight from Central Casting – or The Breakfast Club: They are the princess, jock, rebel, heartthrob, and geek. It’s senior year, so the film gains some dramatic strength from the kids’ uncertainty about their futures, but apart from that, the film records the usual teenage obsessions with social insecurities, who’s dating whom, and the hierarchies of cool. From the outset, it’s necessary to ask if these students are a truly representative lot or whether they’re stereotypes that fit Burstein’s preconceptions. Burstein’s judgment also becomes an issue, as we watch the occasionally despicable behavior of the teens (as during the plastering of hate graffiti on an opponent’s window or the merciless mocking of a defenseless newcomer whose naked torso has been IM’d throughout the town), while her unyielding camera practically spurs further action with its rapt attention. The artsy rebel Hannah Bailey (who is now studying filmmaking in college) experiences a depression so intense that it precludes her being able to attend school, yet she gladly allows Burstein’s camera into her bedroom and inner thoughts. Burstein (who previously co-directed The Kid Stays in the Picture and On the Ropes) ultimately tells us nothing about senior year in the heartland of America that we didn’t already know. However, the film’s revelations about our media-soaked society are revelatory. At times it’s almost like Lord of the Flies, with the camera serving as the flypaper dipped in the honey of the promised land of celebrity.

Marjorie Baumgarten [2008-08-08]

Friday, August 08, 2008

The incredible Olympics opening ceremony and Wendy

The other day John asked, "Are you going to watch any of the Olympics? Do you have any interest at all?" At the time I said, "No." But that was before I found out that my beloved pilates trainer Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle was taking part as a member of 400 meter gold medalist Sanya Richard's team. !!!! That's my weekly pilates trainer - part of Richard's close team! So now all of a sudden I have a routing interest. Of course wishing them the best!!

Without paying attention to the schedule, finally wandering home from a busy work week, 7pm on a summer Friday night, I walk in just in time to catch the Opening ceremonies on TV. (John is already quite entrenched. He loves the Olympics. He loves almost all sports!)

What an amazing spectacle!!! Gorgeous. Awe-inspiring. Beyond my words.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ahhhh.....Paul Newman

Ah, Paul Newman......the ultimate! Read more (and gaze upon the beautiful, beautiful photos) in this month's Vanity Fair.


Paul Newman

Whether Paul Newman was playing the villain or the hero, Americans were smitten with his rugged good looks, his wry wit, and those blue, blue eyes. By Nate Cutler/Globe Photos.

The Newman Chronicles

Paul Newman saw his movie-stardom as a trap and worked to find his way around it—to keep fame from corroding his life. He succeeded beyond measure, as a distinguished actor, award-winning director, dedicated philanthropist, entrepreneur, political activist, racecar driver, and loving husband and father. As rumors swirl about the 83-year-old icon’s health, the author replays critical moments—some witnessed firsthand, others from Newman’s friends and colleagues—in a five-decade trajectory, gauging the unique impact of this remarkably private, deeply honorable man.

by Patricia Bosworth September 2008


Monday, August 04, 2008

Matt spreading the Gnarls love

Matt Dentler was right. This is a really terrific music video.

Road Trip Nation paid a visit

Had a lovely visit today from these kids from RoadTripNation.
Totally fun to talk to recent college kids about the road so far, as they embark on their own. Great concept for an adventure and show. I would have loved to do the same at their age. Check out the show. And thanks to Mike Akel for sending them my way.

General Roadtrip FAQ

What is Roadtrip Nation?
Roadtrip Nation is a movement that encourages young people to get out there and explore their options in life by talking with successful people who are passionate about their careers.

When did it happen?
The original roadtrip, as documented in "The Open Road," took place with Mike, Brian, and Nathan in the summer of 2001.

How did they do it?
Mike, Brian, and Nathan bought an old clunky RV, painted it bright green, cold called a ton of inspirational people, booked as many interviews as they could, and then took off across the country.

How did they pay for it?
Credit card debt.

Who are Mike, Brian, and Nathan?
These are the guys that started it all. They graduated college without a clue about what they wanted to do. Unwilling to simply go down the traditional career paths, they decided to seek advice from people who had defined their own roads in life. So, they bought an old RV, painted it bright green, and the rest is history.

Who are the "100 college partners"?
These are the 100 college whose career centers are committed raising awareness of Roadtrip Nation on their campuses. These college career centers communicate with us directly and provide students with valuable info on RTN roadtrips, indie roadtrip grants, and the Roadtrip Nation curriculum.

Where can I view past roadtrips? PBS? DVD? Online streaming video?
Right here on our website! We've got archives of all our PBS episodes, videos of our interviews...all you have to do is explore.

What is Roadtrip Nation today?
At the core, Roadtrip Nation is a movement made by students for students. As a result, Roadtrip Nation has created an annual PBS documentary series, an interactive online community of roadtrippers, a book collection, an indie roadtrip grant program, an educational curriculum, and more!

Is it a production company?
Yes. We film, edit, and produce all of our own content.

Who works there?
Check out our about us section to meet the people behind the green RVs!

What are Mike, Brian, and Nate doing now?
At this second? They're probably out surfing. But when they aren't catching waves, Mike, Nate, and Brian are busy (veeeerry busy) heading up their respective departments: Mike in marketing, Nate in production, and Brian in campus outreach.

What are past roadtrippers doing now?
Some are anchoring news programs, some are in bands on tour with the Eagles of Death Metal... Want to find out more about Roadtrip alumni? Check out our explore section.

Where is the original RV?
The original RV, which we like to call "The Legend," is parked right inside our office, where members of our production team may admire it on a daily basis, gazing at it in awe from the comfort of their editing stationsÑand occasionally using it for an afternoon nap.

Will RTN come to my school?
We definitely want to! Our campus teams tour the nation every Spring and Fall, bringing the RTN movement to a number of college campuses across the nation. Check out our campus tour page for more info on our tour route and the campuses we'll be visiting. Let us know if you'd like to see us at your school!

Austin K musing on the Neuroscience of Not-Knowing

It's my almost weekly reference to something Austin Kleon has posted. Could there be anyone reading this blog who now doesn't read his? Thanks as always Austin! Make sure to tell him where you get your best ideas.



Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Trying hard to solve that impossible problem? Hit the topless bar, take a warm shower, and sleep on it.

Three tips I gathered from Jonah Lehrer’s great article in the July 28th New Yorker called “The Eureka Hunt,” all about “insight,” where our good ideas come from, when they come to us, and why.

The formula:

total immersion → relaxing distraction = moment of insight

The insight process…is a delicate mental balancing act. At first, the brain lavishes the scarce resource of attention on a single problem. But, once the brain is sufficiently focussed, the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote association in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight. “The relaxation phase is crucial,” Jung-Beeman said. “That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers.” Another ideal moment for insights, according to the scientists, is the early morning, right after we wake up. The drowsy brain is unwound and disorganized, open to all sorts of unconventional ideas. The right hemisphere is also unusually active. Jung-Beeman said, “The problem with the morning, though, is that we’re always so rushed. We’ve got to get the kids ready for school, so we leap out of bed and never give ourselves a chance to think.” He recommends that if we’re stuck on a difficult problem, it’s better to set the alarm clock a few minutes early so that we have time to lie in bed and ruminate. We do some of our best thinking while we’re still half asleep.

The mathematician Henri Poincaré had his “seminal insight into non-Euclidean geometry…while he was boarding a bus.”

Poincaré insisted that the best way to think about complex problems is to immerse yourself in the problem until you hit an impasse. Then, when it seems that “nothing good has been accomplished,” you should find a way to distract yourself, preferably by going on a “walk or a journey”. The answer will arrive when you least expect it.

And let’s not forget Richard Feynman:

the Nobel Prize winning physicist, preferred the relaxed atmosphere of a topless bar, where he would sip 7UP, “watch the entertainment,” and, if inspiration struck, scribble equations on cocktail napkins.

The good stuff comes along when you’re not forcing it—what Lynda Barry and Donald Barthelme call “not-knowing.”

My “Eureka!” moments always come to me in the shower, which is why I keep a dry-erase marker in the bathroom.

When do y’all get your best ideas?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Before The Rain - Criterion DVD Highly Recommended

Perusing the Criterion website, I came across one of my favorite films from the last decade --

Before The Rain

I haven't seen it since it's New York premiere in the 90s, but it remains a haunting presence. A stand out favorite along with Naked and Breaking the Waves.

Janet Maslin's New York Times review jogged me on two counts.
1) I hadn't remembered that it opened the same day as the very great Once Were Warriors.
2) it starred Katrin Cartlidge.

I loved her for her many great roles in Mike Leigh films. She died suddenly while we were living in Fiji. The news hit me surprisingly hard living all that way away. And hit me even harder when her sudden death was echoed by my son's best friend's mom's similar tragic unexpected passing, just a few weeks later. Trivial I know, and just very personal to me. But interesting too - it's only as I'm writing this, and doing a quick IMDB check to see what Mike Leigh films I was even thinking about, that I realize she appeared in the three movies I just tied together. Before the Rain, Naked, and Breaking the Waves. I know I loved them all. I know I associate them all from the same time. That she was the thread tying them together? That's the surprise.

Highly recommended.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tell No One - Highly Recommended

I finally got a chance to see Tell No One tonight, it's first night in Austin. (And great to see the strong crowd at the Arbor.) Advance word was terrific. And right on. The film is wonderful. Beautifully made, suspenseful, highly entertaining, well done. Highly recommended.

update: excellent interview from Green Cine:

Tell No One: Guillaume Canet and Harlan Coben


By James Van Maanen