Why men should read more fiction…


From BRETT & KATE McKAY
The Art of Manliness

[…] Whatever the reason, cognitive studies are beginning to show that men might be short-shrifting themselves by avoiding the fiction section in the bookstore and library.  Today we make the case for why you need to put down those business books every once in awhile and pick up a copy of  Hemingway.

Why Men Should Read More Fiction

In the past decade, several cognitive scientists have turned their attention to how fiction affects our minds. Leading this research is cognitive psychologist and fiction writer, Dr. Keith Oatley. Dr. Oatley and other researchers from around the globe have discovered that fiction not only activates, but also improves the cognitive functions that allow us to thrive socially.

Dr. Oatley argues in his book Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction that fiction is primarily about “selves in a social world,” and that fiction’s main subject is “what people are up to with each other.” Just as your understanding of history and finance is improved by reading lots of books on those subjects, reading fiction improves your understanding of social relationships–your thinking about what other people are thinking. In fact, Dr. Oatley calls fiction a simulation for the social world that allows you to experience (at least vicariously) a variety of social circumstances with different kinds of people than you might encounter in your actual day-to-day life…

Unfortunately, men have gotten the short end of the evolutionary stick when it comes to our ability to socialize. Studies show that male brains are generally wired for dealing with stuff, while female brains are generally wired for dealing with people. This may explain why women often prefer fiction over non-fiction: their brains are already wired to want to read

The most successful, happiest people on the planet in twenty years will be living in resilient communities…


From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

Last week, I did a short, but intense interview with the author Jon Evans for the popular technology e-zine TechCrunch. The section of the interview on the necessity of networked resilient communities is a great place to start today’s letter.

Networked resilient communities is the topic where I spend most of my time.

Why? There are two globally systemic threats we can’t solve. Finance and the environment. Both systems are deeply broken and they are going to do considerable damage to all of us over the next decades. The only way to get ready for that is to build networked resilient communities. Resilient Communities efficiently produce most (not all) of the food, energy, water, and products we use daily. These communities 1) reduce our vulnerabilities to the future’s inevitable disruptions (disruptions that will damage/impoverish those that don’t transition to local production), 2) reduce complexity to a human scale, and 3) improve the quality of our lives.

Since these communities network with the global system economically and socially, they don’t lose any of the complexity/value we enjoy in the current intellectual environment.  My bet, and it is the reason I started the resilient community newsletter, is that the most successful, happiest people on the planet in twenty years will be living in resilient communities.

That last phrase worth discussing today.  The statement that the most successful, happiest people on the planet will be living in resilient communities.

Resilience or BUST!

The problem in a nutshell…


From DAVID ATKINS
Hullabaloo

A local progressive activist and friend pointed me to an amazing section from Thomas Frank’s recent book Pity the Billionaire. It’s a succinct description of Democratic ideological malaise, laid out in no-holds-barred prose for which Thomas Frank is so justifiably famous, and it tells the tale of what has happened to much of the institutional “left” as well as anything I’ve seen:

Terminal niceness…

The problem is larger than Obama; it is a consequence of grander changes in the party’s most-favored group of constituents. No one has described the new breed of Democrat better than … Barack Obama. “Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means – law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists,” reminisced the future president in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope:

As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. … They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome, and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital.

“I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met,” Obama confesses a few paragraphs later. So he has. And so has his party. Today’s Democrats have their eyes on people who believe, per Obama’s description, “in the free market” almost as piously as do Tea Partiers.

Class language, on the other hand, feels strange to the new Dems; off limits. Instead, the party’s guiding geniuses like to think of their organization

H.L. Menken was right…


From WASHINGTON’S BLOG

“I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.” – H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken was a renowned newspaper columnist for the Baltimore Sun from 1906 until 1948. His biting sarcasm seems to fit perfectly in today’s world. His acerbic satirical writings on government, democracy, politicians and the ignorant masses are as true today as they were then. I believe the reason his words hit home is because he was writing during the last Unraveling and Crisis periods in America. The similarities cannot be denied.

There are no journalists of his stature working in the mainstream media today. His acerbic wit is nowhere to be found among the lightweight shills that parrot their corporate masters’ propaganda on a daily basis and unquestioningly report the fabrications spewed by our government. Mencken’s skepticism of all institutions is an unknown quality in the vapid world of present day journalism. The Roaring Twenties of decadence, financial crisis caused by loose Fed monetary policies, stock market crash, Depression, colossal government redistribution of wealth, and ultimately a World War, all occurred during his prime writing years.

I know people want to believe that the world only progresses, but they are wrong. The cycles of history reveal that people do not change, just the circumstances change. How Americans react to the undulations of history depends upon their age and generational position. We are currently in a Crisis period when practical, truth telling realists like Mencken are most useful and necessary. Mencken captured the essence of American politics and a disconnected populace 80 years ago. Even though many people today feel the average American is less intelligent, more materialistic, and less informed than ever before, it was just as true in 1930 based on Mencken’s assessment:

“The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men.

Community Funding, Not Crowd Funding…


From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

[Crowdfunding is another scam to remove money from our own local communities with no localized oversight or involvement… simply grabbing the funds of the distant naive. We need to develop progressive, Mondragon-style democratically-controlled Credit Unions in our own local communities… -DS]

[…] The good news is that is now easier to raise money for small to medium sized projects than it was in the past.

Why is it easier?

Two recent developments:   Kickstarter and the JOBS Act.

  • Kickstarter is a Web site that makes it easier for people and companies to get funding for their projects.  Recently, the site gained critical mass and some projects, from a computer game to an iPhone accessory, raised millions of dollars in funding.
  • The JOBS Act is a new US law that makes it legal for small companies to “go public” without all of the pesky SEC and accounting paperwork that makes going public so tough and expensive.  So, it’s now possible for companies to sell shares of stock (equity) directly to the public in small amounts.

These developments are great news for those of us building resilient communities. Why? It opens up new options for getting resilient infrastructure built and resilient businesses launched.  Unfortunately, this new freedom will come at a cost.

Avoid Crowdfunding

The bad news is that this funding method is going to be terribly abused by the same broken financial system that gave us the financial meltdown of 2008. Here’s what I mean.

You can see the problem already in the term the press is using to describe this new funding activity.  They are calling it “crowdfunding.”  This name conjures up an image of a nameless faceless mob of people, ready to throw money

The Gates of Hell…


From GUY McPHERSON
Transition Voice

In a letter to Ernest de Chabrol dated 9 June 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?

Nearly two hundred years later, de Tocqueville has been vindicated not only as a superb social critic but also as a forecaster.

High anxiety

Knowing nothing about de Tocqueville, the ten-year-old son of a friend put his own spin on recent history: “Mom, I think people value Father Time more than they value Mother Earth.”

His words sting me like freezing rain, squeezing tears from the corners of my eyes. There’s nothing new there for me, except the perspective of youth: I often weep when I think about the hellishly overheated world we’re leaving him and his young friends. We’re destroying this world in large part because we care more about chasing fiat currency than we care about the living planet and its occupants.

Although it seems unlikely they met, de Tocqueville was writing during the time of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As if he, too, could see the future, Kierkegaard was plagued with anxiety. However, Kierkegaard didn’t call anxiety a plague. As he pointed out, anxiety is fundamental to our sense of humanity.

Although I’m tempted to discard Kierkegaard’s every thought based simply on his ludicrous leap of faith, I can’t convince myself to disagree with him about anxiety. His writings about anxiety resonate with me as strongly as anything I’ve read by Lao Tzu, Arthur Schopenhauer, or Aldo Leopold.

It’s small wonder I’ve slept so poorly since August of 1979, when I reached a vague

GMOs and pesticides are in almost everything, including “natural” cereals…


From NATURAL NEWS
Thanks to Ron Epstein

Three facts you need to know about GMOs before you read the explosive test results below

Before you view the Cornucopia’s test results below, there are three important things you need to know about GMOs:

#1) There is GE contamination in almost everything. Even “non-GMO” food products almost always contain trace levels of GMOs (often between .01% and 0.5%). A test for the mere presence of GMOs is not considered conclusive. What’s important is thelevelof GMOs in a particular food item. Some of the “natural” items tested by the Cornucopia Institute showed GMO contamination levels between 28 and 100 %, which means the key ingredients in those cereals are most definitely genetically engineered from the source (and it’s not just a chance contamination from some other nearby field).

#2) All GMO tests are merely a “snapshot” that can change over time. Foods that test free of GMOs today may contain higher levels tomorrow due to supply line errors, contamination, supply source changes, and so on. At the same time, foods that test at high levels of GMOs today may test at lower levels in the future or even for different batches from the same manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturers are lied to by their suppliers. Some manufacturers test for GMOs in every batch, but others take a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach where they don’t test because they’d rather not know.

#3) Products may be “enrolled” in the Non-GMO Project and still contain GMOs before they are “verified.” The Non-GMO Project has two designations for products. There are products which are “enrolled” which means they are “on the path” to becoming free of GMOs but may not have achieved it yet. Thus, it is true that products “enrolled” in the

Todd Walton: My Father


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

When my father died five years ago, my siblings and I did not hold a memorial service in his honor. We were each of us so wounded by our father’s incessant criticism and disapproval of us that his death unleashed our long suppressed anger toward him, and being so angry we could not see our way to put on a show of loving memories. But now I wish to speak of his goodness and the gifts he gave me. I wish to propitiate his ghost, something my father would have scoffed at, and to communicate my gratitude for his presence in my life.

When my sisters and brother and I were little kids, my father told us the most wonderful bedtime stories, and sometimes we would be the characters in those stories, which was especially thrilling to me. Imagine being a character in a story! My father would just make up the stories without the help of a book, and my brother and sisters and I marveled that he could do that. I am certain that my fascination with stories and story telling began with listening to my father invent those magical stories for us.

My father taught me how to plant trees when I was six-years-old, and we planted many trees together over the years—fruit trees, redwoods, birches, and pines. He would show me where to dig the hole, and I would dig as big and deep a hole as I could. Then he would deepen and widen the hole considerably; and I would admire how strong he was and how easily the ground yielded to him. Then we would refill the hole halfway with a mixture of peat moss and compost and soil. I remember we stirred this mixture in the hole with our bare hands, and then we would place the baby tree atop this mixture and fill in the hole. With the leftover soil, we would construct a circular basin around the tree and I would fetch the hose to fill this basin with water

Angry Breakfast Eggs…


From ELISSA ALTMAN
Poor Man’s Feast

She has never slept, for as long as I can remember.

First, there was the hair, which, when I was very small, was very tall; these were the days of teasing, and to keep her updo in place, she climbed into bed every night next to my father with three feet of toilet paper wrapped around her head, a six inch tail of Charmin hanging off the pillow, blowing in the air-conditioned breeze like a Coppertone banner dragged behind a beach plane. She lay there stiffly all night, immobile and exhausted, and sat up the next morning, her hair perfect.

Eventually, it was just plain pique that kept her awake — the constant working of herself into a lather over imaginary transgressions, while my father and I and the world around her, ever the transgressors, slept soundly. When the black and white numbers on her bedside clock flipped over to 6:30 a.m. and the alarm went off, she swung her legs off the side of the bed and stood up, already furious and seething.

And then she made eggs.

A lot of eggs.

At first, when things were still good and happy, they were soft boiled, and sat in the broad end of our porcelain egg cups, their tips sliced away so that my father and I — perched side by side at the breakfast counter half an hour before he dropped me off at the school bus stop on his way to the subway — could dunk untoasted fingers of Pepperidge Farm Diet White into the runny yolk. As my parents’ marriage wore on and she grew angrier, the eggs were medium boiled, their firm yolks like thick golden velvet, with spots of remaining tenderness just barely discernible.

When I turned fourteen, my mother began hard boiling our eggs; she’d put them in a small pot filled with a shallow inch or two of water,