Thursday, December 31, 2009

Still here

I'm violating blog netiquette by noting how long it's been since I've posted, but there it is. It's been a long time since I last posted and if you are reading this without my prompting you to look at my blog, thanks for sticking with me during my dry spell. I'll get back to more semi-regular posts in the new year.

Too much to update in detail but here's a thumbnail sketch of my life since my last post:

Got a mostly full-time temp job for six weeks in October that ran through early December (hence the lack of posting-no time). Thanks to my friend E. for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to earn money rather than filing for unemployment. Wish the job could have lasted longer; it was lovely to not worry about money for awhile.

Just got back from California where I spent just over a week attending the Hazon Food Conference and afterwards visited friends and family. More on the conference in a subsequent post.

Started doing yoga again after a 20+ year hiatus. Feels good, on many levels. Sweetie is doing it with me. She finds it challenging, but is intrigued by it too.

Here's hoping you all have a better year, and a better decade, in every sense of the word.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A toiznt dank!

Thank you to everyone who called in to KBOO to support the Yiddish Hour this past Sunday during our membership drive. We more than doubled our goal for the show; in fact, we brought in more money than any other show that aired on Sunday.

A thousand thanks.

BTW, if you didn't get a chance to become a member, you can go to KBOO's website and join online, or tune in this coming Sunday for another special show hosted by my friend Ed Kraus. I'll be on the air as well, in a support capacity.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Special Yiddish Hour this Sunday

For those of you who celebrated the holidays, a sweet and healthy new year.

This Sunday, Oct. 4, I hope you can tune in to a special edition of the Yiddish Hour at 10am on KBOO 90.7fm (for those of you outside the Portland area, you can stream the program live online at http://kboo.fm). I'll be featuring performances from "Happy Hour with Sholom Aleichem," stories by the incomparable SA read by actors from the Jewish Theatre Collaborative, directed by Sacha Reich. Sacha herself will be on the air for a special story about Sukkot, and will fill us in on the JTC's upcoming programs for Jewish Book Month in November and December.

This program is part of KBOO's fall membership drive. I know, I know, nobody wants to listen to a radio show during a membership drive, with its constant demand that you, the audience, step up and support the station. Believe me, as a 20+ year non-commercial radio listener and member, I get it. I'd be happy to never be subjected to another membership drive again, either as a listener or a host.

Except...

Without audience support during the membership drive, programs like the Yiddish Hour and radio stations like KBOO will cease to exist. That is not hyberbole, just an inconvenient truth (sorry, Al). These are desperate times for grass-roots-run organizations like KBOO, which gets more than 80% of its funding directly from listeners who become members. I know that many of you tune in regularly, whether or not I am hosting, to hear the music and interviews we present on the Yiddish Hour every week. I know that you value the unique programming we offer on the Yiddish Hour. A lot of you have gone out of your way to tell me how much you enjoy listening to the show, and that you have made us "destination radio" on Sunday mornings. That means a lot to me, and to my co-hosts. Without KBOO, a whole lot of unique programs will disappear, including the Yiddish Hour.

Here's the thing: what we offer on the Yiddish Hour can't be found anywhere else in NW Oregon. If that matters to you, please make a point of calling us during the drive on Sunday and becoming a member of KBOO. The specific amount is unimportant; it could be as little as $5 or as much as your personal financial situation allows. What matters is that you show your support for the show and the station. If you're in Portland, you can call us at (503) 232-8818; if you're outside of the Portland metro area, you can call us toll-free at 1-877-500-5266. We'd prefer you to call if you can, because the ringing phones really give a boost to those of us at the station, not to mention all the volunteers who are waiting to take your call, but you can also become a member online at https://kboo.fm/membershipform. If you join online, please mention the Yiddish Hour in the comments section.

For those of you who have issues with some of KBOO's other programs, I understand and share your concerns. My co-host, Ed Kraus, is working on a new show about Jewish news and current events to offer different perspectives about Jewish issues than what is presently available on KBOO. I encourage you to listen to his debut show, Shalom Portland, and let the Program Director, Chris Merrick, know that you'd like it to stay on the air. You can contact him at chrism_8032@yahoo.com.

In addition, I think it's important to remember that KBOO is a community radio station, which means it presents all kinds of programs with all kinds of viewpoints. I don't agree with or even like a fair amount of what I hear on KBOO, but I look at it this way: Bernice Johnson Reagon, co-founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, once said, with regard to building coalitions, "If you're comfortable with everyone in your coalition, then your coalition isn't big enough." The same is true of community. You don't have to agree with everything KBOO puts out on the air; I certainly don't. But I don't need to agree with or even like everyone in my community to support and value the uniqueness of that community.

Thanks for your help; hope you'll join me on Sunday.

Best news I've heard today

The Oregon Symphony has done something totally unexpected. I must say, after reading so many awful stories about symphonies in dire straits, this is welcome news, and not just 'cause I write for them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

White House Farmer's Market opens

Thanks to Michelle Obama for spearheading this effort. She rocks my food world. Check out the video:



Here's a great post, with pics, from Sam Fromartz' Chewswise.

I can't think of a better way to mark the new year, myself. Shana tovah.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Did you know...?

Whodathunk it? It's a start. For a good explanation of what this means, check out Sam Fromartz' post here.

Michael Pollan's latest

If you haven't already seen it, here's Michael Pollan's latest article in the NYTimes from Sept. 10, about the necessity to address the American diet when talking about reforming health care. As always, well written and worth reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tikkun Olam/Pikuach nefesh on Shabbat

Yeah, I know, as Jews we're supposed to rest from our weekday labors on Shabbat, even including the practice of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Jews who observe Shabbat more traditionally than I do tend to refrain from social action on Shabbat. However, there is a ruling in Talmudic law (isn't there always?) that allows us to sidestep Shabbat prohibitions against typical activist activities, called pikuach nefesh, saving a life (soul). Here's a more complete explanation of the concept.

So why am I violating Shabbat by posting on my blog today? I should explain that my personal level of observance allows me to use my computer on Shabbat, but I do try to create a separation between how I spend my time on Saturdays and what I do the rest of the week. It's my way of making Shabbat different and special, even if I don't adhere to the traditional prohibitions on work.

So what's such a big deal that I choose not to wait til tomorrow to write about it? Taking down Monsanto. You think I'm being funny? I'm as serious as a heart attack. IMO, Monsanto is currently one of the most dangerous companies operating on the planet, for innumerable reasons. Here are some:

• The folks at Monsanto gifted us with Agent Orange, aspartame (otherwise known as NutraSweet) PCBs and bovine growth hormone, among other products.

• Monsanto controls 90% of the soy, 65% of the corn, and 70% of the cotton market, and has a rapidly growing presence in the fruit and vegetable market. That's just in North America. Their influence in developing nations like India is even greater (check out this 2006 article in the New York Times about Indian farmer suicides for a direct link to the need for pikuach nefesh). India Together, an independent online news outlet based in India, reports that there have been 182,936 farmer suicides in that country since 1997. Other news outlets and blogs, including The Daily Mail and The Ethicurian, attribute these suicides directly to debt incurred when the farmers were urged by the Indian government to plant GM crops, like those engineered by Monsanto. (In the interests of balance, here's a different take on this issue in a study cited in The Guardian, which suggests the farmer suicides are a result of lack of financial support rather than GM crops specifically.)

Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Saskatchewan, whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto's genetically engineered Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen blown by the wind from a nearby farm. Monsanto said it didn't matter how the contamination took place, and demanded Schmeiser pay their Technology Fee (the fee farmers must pay to grow Monsanto's genetically engineered products). Monsanto outlined their request for patent infringement seeking damages totaling $400,000. Click here to learn more about Schmeiser's case.

• In order to be productive, the entire line of Monsanto's seeds essentially require the use of Roundup herbicide, forcing all of their customers to purchase it. Roundup is owned by Monsanto.

• In the middle of a recession, while farmers' incomes are dropping, Monsanto recently announced a 42% price hike on its most popular genetically modified seeds. In many areas of the country, seed distributors carry only Monsanto's GM seeds.

Can you spell M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y, boys and girls?

CREDO Action is calling for a federal investigation of Monsanto for violation of anti-trust and monopoly laws. They're circulating a petition to be sent to President Obama's antitrust chief Christine Varney. If you're interested, you can sign it here.

I'm the first to admit an online petition is a relatively spineless form of activism, but it's a start. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seriously?!!!??

This is a bit far afield from my usual blog topics of late, but it's so absurd I just had to post about it. Except I'm not actually posting about it, I'm just posting the article 'cause I'm late and procrastinating again.


My favorite quote:  "The fact that people want to keep their kids from hearing the President of the United States encourage them to do well in school shows a true level of ignorance."


Seriously??! Am I really a citizen of this country? Hey Canada, can I move in? Pretty please? I'll be your best friend...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meanwhile...

This is what's happening in India to farmers there. This situation is ongoing and largely unknown to the food communities here in the U.S. Raj Patel's book, Stuffed and Starved, is a scathing critique of the global industrial food system and its catastrophic consequences for farmers and eaters around the world. If you care about food and justice, it's really worth reading.

I find it not at all ironic, but really sad, that this follows my previous post. It just highlights how broken our food system really is. For every feel-good story like the White House garden, there are so many others, like this one, that go largely untold. While I believe the United States is experiencing a food revolution, a radical rethinking and re-educating about what we eat, I also believe that the rest of the world will continue to suffer under the kinds of conditions detailed in Patel's book for a long time to come. So it goes...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Michelle is my hero

Michelle Obama and White House Chief Chef Sam Kass tell the story of the White House vegetable garden in this 7-minute video. I guarantee it will make you smile.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Farmer Obama

President Obama says he wants to set up a farmer's market just outside the White House to sell produce from Michelle's garden and give local farmers a venue for selling their food. How cool is that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Harvesting angst

This is something most every vegetable gardener can relate to, I imagine. Right around now is the time when everything ripens at once. I find myself feeling vaguely oppressed by all the bounty in my garden, even while I revel in it. I recently joined a social network called Homegrown.org, and posted a comment that talked about feeling rich when I contemplate my abundant tomatoes (sorry, folks back east).

When it comes to food, I do feel rich. I feel lucky to have land to grow food on. We had friends over for dinner twice last weekend and I loved feeding them meals that were more than 60% homegrown. But I also feel kinda crazed when I look at everything ripening at once. I can only eat so much in a day, and my sweetie can eat even less, owing to her Crohn's disease, which limits her veggie consumption. I've been donating extra food to a local pantry, but what I really want is to stretch the calendar, extend the growing season, so that I can enjoy all this bounty for more than just 6 weeks a year.

Last week Portland Tuv Ha'Aretz hosted a canning and jam making workshop, so I learned the basics of food preservation, and that's one way to extend my harvest. But there's nothing like the taste of a freshly-picked tomato or cucumber. Of course, by the time I start hankering for fresh tomatoes in December and January, I'll be eating the beets and parsnips I planted earlier this month...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Does sustainable food stack up?

Heard this earlier today on NPR's Talk of the Nation. An interesting discussion, worth listening to.

Friday, August 14, 2009

There was a hot time in the old town last night


Last night I went to hear Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms in Virginia, speak at a benefit for the Hollywood Farmer's Market. Salatin is featured in Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and more recently in the film Food, Inc. (BTW, if you haven't seen the film, go, this minute, and take everyone you know, even if you have to drag them kicking and screaming).

Salatin is a self-described "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-farmer," which gives you some idea of his philosophies and approaches to, well, just about everything. His talk was based on food safety and how governmental approaches to it are not only not making our food safer, but are also marginalizing and criminalizing small farmers who raise animals on a non-industrial scale. In other words, farmers who raise pasture-fed beef, pork and poultry, in numbers that are appropriate to what their land can handle, and whose animals are slaughtered locally (sometimes on the farms themselves) and as humanely as possible.

I didn't go to Salatin's lecture expecting to learn anything new; I've read several of his books, including Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, and I also know a bit about this subject from other sources and from my work in the food sustainability world. I went to the lecture to experience Salatin himself (I also hoped it might be a potential networking opportunity, which didn't turn out to be the case, but I did bump into a couple folks I knew). And he was definitely worth the price of admission.

Salatin is, among other things, an entertaining writer, with a love of language that pays homage to his Southern roots. In person he is even more so. I felt like I was in a tent camp revival meeting gettin' some old time religion. He exhorted, he roared, his energy couldn't be contained on the small stage, he overwhelmed the levels on the rather feeble amplification system he was using (that's the radio geek in me coming out, that I would notice such a technical thing). It was a pleasure to hear him trace back the history of our attitudes towards food safety, going back to Pasteur and germ theory (Salatin's redux on Pasteur's approach is that germs are out to get us, so we have to destroy them before they destroy us).

Instead, as Salatin pointed out, we should be focussing our energies on creating environments where these killer bacteria, such as salmonella, E-coli, campylobacter, listeria, etc. etc. can't thrive. In other words, outlaw feedlots and other concentrated animal raising operations that feed animals things they were never supposed to eat and that make them sick (corn, in the case of cows), force animals to live hip deep in their own feces, with no access to the outside (in the case of factory poultry) and no ability to move about freely. If the USDA outlawed these kinds of operations, the proliferation and spread of these dangerous germs would be drastically reduced and our food would be measurably safer. That, along with the myriad ways government bureaucracy sets up obstacles for small farmers who want to raise animals sustainably and in a manner designed for their maximum health (not to mention ours), was the gist of Salatin's talk.

I didn't agree with everything Salatin said. He's a true libertarian as far as his contempt for anything governmental is concerned, and he believes the free market and capitalism are a sufficient corrective to industrial food abuses (He cited Upton Sinclair's The Jungle as an example; after it was published in 1906, sales of meat products dropped by 50%). I'm way too much of a socialist to ever buy into that point of view, and my contempt for capitalism is almost as deep as Salatin's is for government. But it was great to sit in a room with like-minded folks (many of them young farmers) and share a sense of purpose, to renew our individual and collective commitments to raising, buying. eating and advocating for good (and I mean in every sense of the word) food. And it was balm to my spirit to hear Salatin describe that commitment as "noble and righteous." Amen to that.

Tomato porn

I harvested our first heirloom tomato on Wednesday, a colossal and supremely ugly Brandywine. Of course, as every heirloom grower knows, the uglier the tomato, the better it tastes. I don't think the pictures do it justice, in terms of how large it actually was (I served it to friends in a salad for dinner, and two days later am still finishing it), but here you go:




Needless to say, I hope, it was fantastic. I feel for all those folks in the NE whose tomatoes have been destroyed by blight this summer. I hope you can glean some vicarious enjoyment from this one.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Garden report

Today we sowed beets and parsnips, in anticipation of autumn and winter. It's hard to look ahead to cooler temps right now, as we continue into our second week of 90+ degree days (earlier this week it was 106, an almost unheard-of temperature for Portland. It was so hot that I went to bed in a soaking wet shirt and turned the fan on; it was the only way to stay cool enough to sleep). Those of you who think it rains all the time here, think again.

It is HOT. And DRY. Our greens, what's left of them, are pretty wilted and bitter, despite my efforts to water regularly. They just can't stand these extreme temps. Our tomatoes, on the other hand, are loving life right now, and will be sweeter and generally more flavorful when they ripen. We're already eating our Sungolds (we came back from our annual pilgrimage to the Metolius River on July 10 to find a couple already ripe even then), and today we harvested our first Early Girls, which I will have for lunch, along with some of our basil. All I need is to learn how to make homemade mozzarella (I'm told it's not hard) and I can serve a Caprese salad (see below) made entirely of homegrown and homemade stuff.


We have begun harvesting our summer squashes and cukes. A few days ago I took about 10lbs. of pattypans and zukes to the local emergency food pantry; we're at the point where every day yields a few more, and we can't eat them fast enough to keep up. The cukes are deliciously crisp and cold and crunchy. I have resolved to keep up with the watering (I do it all by hand, although I dream of a drip irrigation system someday) so they stay sweet and juicy.

Here are some garden pics:



Sweetie made the bean trellis from some dead bike frames and wheels. The day after she put it up she got up early (around 5:30) and found some idiot trying to steal the frame (one of them used to be a high end desirable bike before it cracked), and she told him he was an idiot for trying to steal a dead frame. He slunk off, humiliated. It was a great moment.

What's doing well this year:

The Copra onions we planted are coming along well, and I look forward to having a great supply for storage this winter.

I put the basil in our main patch (you can see it in front of one of our tomatoes), where it gets full sun all day, instead of in the herb beds next to the house, where it only got half-day sun. It's flourishing.

Tomatoes

Summer squashes

Cukes

Potatoes (we assume, since we haven't dug them up yet, but the plants look good). We planted blue and Yukon golds this year.

What's not doing so well:

The acorn squash we put in doesn't seem to be doing well; it blossoms, but then the blossoms just dry up and die without producing any squashes. I planted this with the intention of giving all the squashes to a food pantry, so it's not a huge loss for me personally, but I'm puzzled by it. Any ideas?

The bush beans we put in were devoured by slugs, and the second round of bush beans we put in to replace the first wave didn't fare much better. The scarlet runners also got eaten a bit, but managed to recover somewhat, although we have fewer plants than we'd hoped.

All you gardeners out there, if you have suggestions for future forays into winter squash and bush beans, please send them along. If you are growing your own, hope your garden is faring well this summer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Portland Tuv Ha'Aretz Jewish Garden Bike Tour

Sorry to be such an absent blogger lately; there's no real reason for it, and I'll try to get back to posting soon.

Here's a post I wrote for The Jew and the Carrot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is the food movment elitist, and if so, does it matter?

My interest in food and my work within the food movement began, as passions do, at the personal level. I love eating and cooking and growing food, and I wanted to learn more about what went into the food I ate. Simple as that.

Over the past couple of years, I've done a lot of self-educating, in the form of reading, research and writing about food. I've also shared what I've learned with friends and family, who, to my pleasant surprise, seem interested in the topic, even if not to the total-immersion-extent that I am. The universality of this issue is clear, since we all need to eat.

Which brings me to the title of this post. The local/organic/sustainable food movement has been accused, with some justification, of being elitist. If you google the words “food movement elitism,” you’ll find a lot of attacks on Alice Waters, widely considered by many to be the founder of the local food movement in this country. Alice Waters is an easy target, and much of what she advocates can be construed as elitist, in the sense that buying and eating local fresh food is too expensive for a number of people to afford. For this reason, many are left out of the food movement, not because they are indifferent or unaware, but simply because they can't afford to participate in it.

However, there is another, seldom-acknowledged, form of elitism at work, specifically the assumptions that many within the food movement hold about people outside it. I recently had discussions with several friends and acquaintances, including a local farmer, about why low-income people don’t eat local, fresh, organic food. I was surprised at their responses (I’d characterize these folks as liberal progressives). One person said that if people just stopped buying soda they could afford fruits and vegetables instead. Another said that if people took the money they spent on drugs and alcohol and used it for food, they could afford to eat properly (he was apparently equating the term “low-income” with “substance abuser,” something that really surprised me). Several people commented, in rather disparaging ways, that if people understood more about nutrition and health they’d make better choices. Not one of the people I spoke with talked about the cost of high-quality food as a barrier to eating better. As a low-income person myself, I was amazed at these responses.

We must re-examine our own assumptions about who eats good food and why or why not. This kind of intellectual or moral elitism is equally damaging to the food movement, because it creates an “us” vs. “them” dichotomy. In fact, cost is the primary barrier to eating well. Another issue for many people is lack of access, in terms of geographical proximity, to a farmer’s market or full-service grocery store. If you don’t have a car, getting to the best food can be a challenge. A third issue for some people is lack of knowledge about how to cook fresh foods.

Is the food movement elitist? If by elitist you mean does it exclude people, then yes. Does that mean we should dismiss it, or disparage it? No. If all we do is participate in the local food movement ourselves, then we are being elitist, but if we make our personal participation a springboard for other activities that allow more people to have access to good local fresh food, then we are combating that elitism. Again, Alice Waters is a good exemplar. She is best known as the founder of the restaurant Chez Panisse in the Bay Area, and for her decades of advocating for greater availability of fresh local food. However, she is also the founder of an innovative school lunch program in the Berkeley school district, which serves a wide variety of children of various income levels and ethnicities. This program, Edible Schoolyard, provides fresh local foods in the school cafeteria, and also includes a school garden and cooking classes, in which kids learn to grow and cook the foods they eat. She’s also expanded the Edible Schoolyard program to the national level, in the hopes of putting edible gardens in public schools nationwide.

Another common target of the charge of elitism is Slow Food, a movement founded twenty years ago by Carlo Petrini in Italy. At its best, Slow Food’s events and efforts promote the best of the local food movement: fresh local food and appreciation for regional cuisine and unique food cultures. However, Slow Food has too often been what Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved, a scathing critique of the global food system and its impact on cultures around the world, characterizes as “a bunch of tossers who sit around talking about olive oil.” Here’s an interesting discussion of Slow Food’s attempts to re-brand itself as a socially conscious movement.

In a recent article in New Voices, a Jewish student magazine, Michael Pollan, the food movement’s most eloquent advocate, acknowledges this elitism. “A lot of important movements begin as elitism—women’s suffrage, abolition, environmentalism,” he says. “And then, hopefully, they filter down and they don’t remain elite.” In an interview with Rebekah Denn in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Pollan added, “If the food movement is still elitist in 20 years, that is an indictment, that will be an indictment. But it's a very new movement and I don't think we should write it off because right now it's elitist.”

Pollan's historical overview of social change may be correct, and his assessment that the food movement in its current state is elitist is true, but we cannot simply sit back and wait for food equality to trickle down to the majority of the population. Access to high quality food should be a universal right, not a privilege. As Jews we are charged with the obligation of tikkun olam, repairing the world. If we have the means, it’s great to support local fresh food production where we live, through membership in a CSA, buying at farmer’s markets, or growing our own. However, it's not enough for us to merely participate in the food movement ourselves. We also need to channel our efforts to include everyone, particularly poor folks. Although the systemic issues that contribute to these inequities may not be solved except on a national level, as individuals, there are a number of things we can do right now within our own communities to insure everyone has access to high-quality fresh local food.

Some ideas:

1) Volunteer with an organization that helps low-income people grow their own food. In Portland we have a non-profit, Growing Gardens, which provides food security to low-income folks by teaching them how to grow their own fruits and vegetables. In several local community food assessments published here, a majority of the participants surveyed said they’d be interested in a home garden program.

2) Grow extra food in your own garden and donate it to a local food pantry. This is an idea that's been gaining national attention, particularly over the past year or so, and it’s an easy way to help bridge the gap. For an example of one such program, check out the Oregon Food Bank's Plant-A-Row program.

3) If you don’t garden but have a yard, consider renting your yard out to an urban farmer. In Portland we have a terrific program, City Garden Farms, a CSA that sells vegetables from a collection of urban vegetable plots and vacant lots scattered around Portland. If you're interesting in farming but don't have access to land, try doing something similar in your community.

4) Find out if your local farmer's market accepts food stamps and WIC vouchers. If they don't, work with them to include these programs and increase access to locally produced foods. In Portland, EBT (electronic benefits transfer) machines are provided to farmer’s markets at no cost, but these machines require a landline. For markets without access to a building with a landline, wireless machines are available, but they can cost up to $800. While many farmers’ markets in Portland have EBT machines, not all do. If this is true in your community, consider finding ways to fund the machines, either through allocation of city funds, or grant programs.

Our olam is in dire need of some tikkun, and where better to start than by making sure everyone can eat the best food available?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Slow Food Portland talks about Jewish food movement

Just got sent this post from a friend who saw it on the Slow Food Portland blog. Glad to see food folks in Portland, who are largely secular, are taking notice of trends in the Jewish food movement. It is interesting, however, that the post doesn't mention Tuv Ha'Aretz generally or Portland Tuv Ha'Aretz even though it does mention Hazon. Go figure.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tune in this Sunday

I'll be hosting a special Mother's Day edition of the Yiddish Hour this Sunday (actually, the fact that it's Mother's Day is incidental), featuring a Catskills musical retrospective-Mickey Katz, the Barry Sisters, etc. etc. You definitely won't hear this stuff anywhere else on the radio, so I hope you can join me and tune in.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blooming

Sweetie took these pictures last week and I meant to post them several days ago; spring changes happen so quickly these may soon be out of date. This first one was a pleasant surprise; this tulip used to be a solitary flower, but over the winter it split and now there are two. I'm pretty ignorant about bulbs (we inherited all our bulbs when we bought the house), so this was news to me.


Here's one of our rhododendrons. They usually bloom in sequence: first the white, then this magenta one, then the two purples. I guess the long hard winter delayed the white one, and the magenta doesn't usually bloom til Mother's Day.



Our lilac is just now bursting into bloom outside our bedroom window. If it weren't for our seasonal allergies to tree pollen, Sweetie and I would revel wholeheartedly in all this beauty. As it is, we revel as best we can, through our allergy-reddened eyes and in between sneezes. More pics soon.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Rename this blog!

I have thought for some time now that the name of my blog is rather bland and doesn't really reflect either my personality, sense of humor or, most importantly, what it is I blog about. Because my blog posts cover a wide and often unrelated series of subjects (food, food policy, gardening, music, radio, Jewish topics, general politics and occasional personal musings), I've had a hard time coming up with a good title that captures the essence of all that.

So I'm throwing this open to all of you, dear readers. Please submit your suggestions for a better title for my blog. The winner will be chosen at my discretion and will receive my everlasting gratitude, and (if you're local), a big hug.

UN Discusses the Right to Food & Food Sovereignty

This is very cool, and long overdue, imo.

From the Community Food Security Coalition's latest email digest:

"The President of the UN General Assembly held a discussion on the Global Food Crisis and the Right to Food on April 6, 2009. The first panel, moderated by Brother Dave Andrews, entitled Policy Choices and the Right to Food in the Context of the Global Food Crisis, featured: Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the United Nations; Professor Sanjay Reddy; Professor Daniel De La Torre Ugarte; and Congressman Jim McGovern. The second panel, Answering to the Poor: Right to Food and Sustainable Models of Agriculture, was moderated by Barbara Ekwall and featured: Henri Saragih; Molly Anderson (CFSC Board President); Dr. Judi Wakhungu; and Miguel Altieri.

"Farmer voices were presented by Henry Saragih, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, who discussed the state and international community’s obligation to protect the right to food, food sovereignty and the right to sustainable food production. Professor De Schutter made two presentations the following day in Washington D.C. to help increase policymakers and non-governmental organizations’ understanding of these issues.
Read statements from all panelists.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jews, Food & Ethics show now online

I am happy to announce that my radio show, Jews, Food and Ethics is now available online. When you visit the Yiddish Hour page at KBOO, click on the "Audio" tab at the top. Scroll down to the second audio file and you'll find it. You can stream it from the site or download it to listen to at your convenience.

If you know anyone you think would be interested in hearing this show, please forward them the link to the Yiddish Hour site, rather than sending the audio file itself. For one thing, the file is quite large and would take awhile to send by itself, but more importantly, this show is part of the Yiddish Hour and I'd like people who may not have visited our site before to check it out.

I look forward to hearing your feedback. I've never done a show of this type before, and I must say, after conceiving, planning and recording it over a period of nine months or so, I feel like I got as close as I ever will to experiencing the miracle of birth. The best part of it is no stretch marks and no 2am feedings!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Farewell to all that

Twenty years ago yesterday I gave my senior voice recital at UC Santa Cruz. I haven't considered myself a classical singer in any serious sense of the words in some time, and I haven't sung classical music, as either an amateur or paid professional, in over a decade, so in the rush of getting ready for Pesach I had forgotten about what I did on April 8, 1989.

My senior recital was a major milestone in my life then. It represented more than a year's worth of preparation, and also signaled the end of my college career. My parents, maternal grandfather and brother came from far and wide to hear me sing. My dear friend A, a pianist I had met the summer before at a music festival in Switzerland, and who had first worked on some of my music with me, drove all the way down from Portland to Santa Cruz (alone, I might add, no one to share the drive with), a distance of almost 600 miles and probably 10-12 hours, to lend her support (and cookie-baking expertise for the reception afterwards).

Here's the program:

Three Ladino Songs
Anonymous

Scalerica de Or
Ya Viene el Cativo
Cuando el Rey Nimrod

Three Lieder
Gustav Mahler (1862-1911)

Hans und Grethe (1886)
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (1892)
Das irdische Leben (1893)

Fetes Galantes I (1892)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

En Sourdine
Clair de Lune
Fantoches

 - I N T E R M I S S I O N -

Yosha's Morning Song
Malcolm Goldstein (b. 1936)

Six from 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson
Aaron Copland (b. 1900)

3. Why do they shut me out of Heaven?
5. Heart, we will forget him
8. When they come back
9. I felt a funeral in my brain
10. I've heard an organ talk sometimes
12. The Chariot

Music nerds among you might notice Aaron Copland's date does not include his death, because he was still alive in 1989. (He died a year later).

I find it interesting that I included the following quotes from the Talmud in my concert booklet. Interesting because I wasn't particularly connected to Judaism during my college years, and I was certainly no Talmud scholar. But here they are in the program, and I couldn't tell you why or where I came across them:

"Nature is saturated with melody; heaven and earth are full of song."

"There are places that open only to music."

My life as a classical music performer has been over, (with no regrets on my part, let me add) for some time. I realized sometime during grad school that for me singing classical music was akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I don't have the voice for it, nor the temperament. I never wanted to be a full-time singer anyway; I definitely didn't have the personality one needs to withstand all the rejection, to live only for your voice. I was never that singleminded. Like the address of my blog suggests, I have always been something of a Renaissance woman when it comes to the breadth of my interests and passions, and I was never willing to sacrifice that to acquire the focus I'd have needed if I were serious about making it as a singer.

Singing classical music was something that brought me joy for a time, but it also brought a lot of baggage and the growing realization that I was better suited, both vocally and temperamentally, to the folk and ethnic music I'd grown up with. Since I never wanted a professional vocal career, this realization was not a huge blow; actually, it was something of a relief: "Oh, right, I don't have to sing this stuff; I can sing the music I really connect with instead." 

But there are moments when I miss all the years I spent as a professional chorister, my occasional solo gigs (I was always more of a collaborative than a solo singer), my life as a paid church musician and soloist in a pre-Vatican II choir that sight-read Gregorian chant in the old block notation every week (I probably know more about the structure of the Catholic Mass than many Catholics, and certainly more of the liturgy, something I find amusing since I'm just a nice Jewish girl from L.A.)

Moments of nostalgia, yes, but not many of them. What I really miss now is a regular venue for singing the sort of stuff I really connect with: folk music, Yiddish theatre, Yiddish folk songs. I fronted a klezmer band for about eight years, but haven't found another group to make music with (in all fairness, musicmaking has not been my priority, either). I've been so focused on jobhunting and networking in the sustainable food community that I've given short shrift to music. The closest thing I have to being a performer these days is hosting the Yiddish Hour, and while that is performance of a kind, it is not the same thing.

Perhaps I'll find the time and energy to bring performance back into my life, as spring unfolds.

President Obama hosts 2nd night seder in the White House

This is a historic moment, especially because the event is designed not for major campaign donors to rub elbows with the President, but simply as a celebration for White House staffers and some of the Obamas' close friends. According to the post on Politico, there are only 20 guests, so it's really more like a seder you'd attend in your family's home, or one you'd host yourself, rather than some big gala Event.

I'd love to see Obama's face when he eats the maror, I have to admit...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jews, Food and Ethics radio show-an update

Thanks to all of you who tuned in to listen to my Jews, Food and Ethics show on KBOO last weekend. I appreciate the support, particularly as this was my first-ever foray into a public affairs/interview-type show. I think, all things considered, that it went fairly well. I certainly learned a lot about how to do this kind of radio, and will put it to good use next time.

If you weren't able to catch the show live, it will be available on the Yiddish Hour site. I have to edit the show a bit before I can put it online, but because Passover is next week, I probably won't be able to get it up on our site before next weekend. However, I do want to assure you that the show will be available to download, and I'll post here when it's ready.

If you're interested in more information about any of the topics I discussed on the show, you can find links to my guests, the eco-kashrut movement and the Hekhsher Tzedek Initiative at our site. Click on the Playlists tab at the top of the page and you'll find a list of the music I played, along with the aforementioned links.

If you're Jewish, chag sameach. If not, happy spring.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How NOT to make yourself crazy (and malnourished) during Pesach

For many Ashkenazic Jews, figuring out what is okay to eat during Pesach is to negotiate a minefield of anxiety and judgment. 

One of my particular pet peeves centers around the issue of kitniyot, or legumes. Halachically speaking (according to Jewish law), there is nothing wrong with eating kitniyot, which includes beans, lentils and rice. However, many Ashkenazic Jews do not eat these foods because, about 600 years ago, Ashkenazic rabbis declared them forbidden. Their rationale goes something like this: legumes swell when they are cooked, making them too similar to leavened foods like bread, therefore we must ban them just to be extra careful we don't violate the Biblical laws of Pesach kashrut, which, for those of you unfamiliar with the food prohibitions associated with Passover, are even more stringent than regular kashrut. (For a great article about how some Orthodox Jews are reclaiming their right to eat kitniyot, check this out.)

I was raised in an assimilated Reform household, and the only Passover food restrictions we observed were not to eat bread and bread products for eight days. I had no idea there were so many other restrictions associated with Pesach until I became an adult, and I adjusted my observance to a certain extent. 

For many Jews, what (or what not) to eat during Pesach is as much a matter of minhag (custom) as it is a desire to follow Biblical law, or be "a good Jew," however you define that. Hence the reality that many Jews deny themselves the protein nourishment and the delicious flavors of beans and lentils, (not to mention rice), because they are operating from a place of minhag, a mindset that says, "This is how I've always done it, this is how my mother did it, it's not for me to change that, and if I did I'd be consumed with guilt."

Minhag can be a wonderful thing, providing continuity in one's personal observance of and connection with many Jewish practices. In this instance, however, I'm going to risk offending some of my Jewish friends when I say that refusing to eat legumes, and freaking out about having legumes even be present at any seder you may attend (most folks I know do potluck seders these days; it's just too much work to expect the host to do it all), is misguided and detracts from the whole point of Pesach, which is to celebrate our liberation from slavery in the company of friends and family.

I find myself going back to something Rabbi Arthur Waskow said in an interview I did with him for my "Jews, Food and Ethics" show on KBOO last Sunday. He made the point that changes to Jewish practice over time tend to be adopted based on whether they are life-affirming. In other words, does eating kitniyot enhance your enjoyment of Pesach? Does it decrease your anxiety about whether you are "doing it right?" If so, eating kitniyot is a life-affirming practice and should become part of your observance if you want it to be. Waskow also made a good analogy to feminist Judaism here: he said that when feminist Jewish practices first began surfacing, in the 1970s, many reacted by saying, "Not with my Torah, you don't!" But over time, it was found that including women's participation in rituals that had traditionally been limited to men was found to be life-affirming (I tend to think of it as simply more fair and practical, but I'll yield to Waskow's definition), so the practices were adopted. Today, even in some Orthodox communities, women's roles have expanded, and women's full participation is now de facto in the other branches of Judaism.

I respect the minhag of following minhag. But I also know that Judaism is an interpretive tradition that has evolved over the centuries, and so I believe it is equally Jewish to question or change one's minhag when it becomes burdensome, (especially when it is not based on halachah), and diminishes, rather than enhances, the joy of celebrating the Jewish holidays.

Chag sameach.

Important info about current food safety legislation

You may or may not be aware of several food safety bills that are making their way through Congress at present. There's a terrific post from The Ethicurian today that lays it all out. It's a bit long, but worth the read.

Jews and food

Check this out.

A gitn shabbes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pesach prep

Take a break from hunting down that last crumb of chametz and check this out:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Special Yiddish Hour show on Jews, food and ethics

Hope you all can join me this Sunday, March 29, at 10am PDT for a special edition of the Yiddish Hour on KBOO, 90.7 fm. This week I'll be focusing on the intersection of Jews, food and ethics, just in time for Passover. I'll discuss the concepts of eco-kashrut with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, PA, and I'll also be speaking with Rabbi Morris Allen, founder of the Hechsher Tzedek Initiative. In addition, I'll be interviewing two local Jewish organic farmers, Shari Raider of Sauvie Island Organics and Lyle Stanley of Gee Creek Farm.

Eco-kashrut is a growing movement in Jewish circles to re-interpret the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut (kosher). Eco-kashrut expands on traditional kosher practice by incorporating the ethics of sustainable growing systems, as well as humane, healthy animal production and fair treatment for farm workers and meat processors.

The Hechsher Tzedek Initiative has created the Magen Tzedek (Righteous Shield), a new ethical certification seal. Kosher food companies who successfully apply for ethical certification from the Hekhsher Tzedek commission will display the Magen Tzedek seal on their products.

Please tell anyone you think would be interested in a discussion of food, values and ethics from a Jewish perspective. Out of town folks can stream the show live online for free at www.kboo.fm.

If you can't listen to the show this Sunday, it will be available for downloading at the Yiddish Hour site at KBOO (http://kboo.fm/PortlandYiddishHour). We can't usually do this because there are copyright issues pertaining to music that prevent us from podcasting the show, but since this show is original material, we can post it on our site.

Thanks! Hope you can tune in this Sunday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuv Ha'Aretz

For the past several months I've been involved with the planning committee for Tuv Ha'Aretz, a new Jewish organization in Portland that connects Jews with agriculture, sustainability, food, and Jewish traditions. This week we are officially launching our Web site. I invite all of you in Portland who are interested in these issues to check us out, or even become a member (it's a nominal fee of $5/individual and $10/family). Also, please spread the word about Tuv Ha'Aretz to anyone you know who might be interested.

Here's our official news release. Pardon my self-quoting.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2009

PORTLAND’S JEWISH COMMUNITY JOINS HAZON’S FAST-GROWING AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY PROJECT


(Portland, Ore.) — Several Jewish organizations and a local farmer have teamed up with Hazon, a New York-based organization dedicated to a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, to participate in Hazon’s Tuv Ha’Aretz program. The first Jewish program of its kind, Tuv Ha’Aretz brings synagogues, Jewish community centers and other Jewish organizations together with local farmers to support sustainable agriculture and Jewish environmental education.

Havurah Shalom, Congregation Neveh Shalom, the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Sauvie Island Organics have come together to create the Portland chapter of Tuv Ha’Aretz, which translates as both “good for the land” and “best of the land.” Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz offers a variety of ways to combine interest in sustainably grown, healthy food with Jewish ethics and values. Among its program offerings, Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz gives people the opportunity to join Sauvie Island Organics’ CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. The CSA provides its members with weekly boxes of freshly picked produce throughout the growing season; in turn, members of the CSA support local, sustainable agriculture through their membership dollars.

“Portland is a major focal point in the sustainable and local food movement,” said Elizabeth Schwartz, a member of the Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz planning committee. “Many members of the Jewish community here already support local CSAs and shop at farmers’ markets, so it makes perfect sense to link Portlanders’ interest in food issues with programs that incorporate Jewish values.” “Judaism is an agricultural religion in its roots,” adds Havurah Shalom’s Education Director, Deborah Eisenbach-Budner, “so it’s really exciting to be able to reclaim some of that.”

Joining Sauvie Island Organics’ CSA is one component of Tuv Ha’Aretz. In addition, members of Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz will be able to choose from a variety of programs, including yearly visits to Sauvie Island Organics farm; movie nights featuring food-oriented films and discussions; weekly newsletters with recipes and short articles about the connections among Judaism, food and agriculture; workshops on growing and eating your own locally raised food; family-oriented hands-on programs for kids and adults; and text study that illuminates the ancient roots of Jews’ relationship to food and how those connections inform our food choices today.

Membership in Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz is open to everyone.

ABOUT TUV HA’ARETZ
Tuv Ha’Aretz is the first Jewish Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in North America and includes the first CSA in Israel, with a current total of 32 sites internationally. Founded in 2004, by 2008, Tuv Ha’Aretz had more than 2,700 individual members and raised over $600,000 in membership to support local farms. This year, Portland joins eleven other new Tuv Ha’Aretz chapters across the country and in Israel.

ABOUT HAZON
Hazon, which means “vision,” is a non-profit that works to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and a healthier and more sustainable world. Best known for its series of Jewish Environmental Bike Rides in New York and Israel, Hazon is at the forefront of an emerging national movement at the intersection of food and Jewish life. Hazon’s food work includes Tuv Ha’Aretz; an annual Food Conference for chefs, farmers, educators, and food enthusiasts; Min Ha’Aretz, a day school food curriculum for children and parents on issues of food, health, and Jewish life; Challah for Hunger, whose chapters bake and sell challah to raise awareness of and money for poverty and disaster relief work; and The Jew & The Carrot: a blog about Jews, food and contemporary food issues. For more information on Hazon, visit www.hazon.org.

For more information on Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz, visit www.portlandtuv.org.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lawns to food in 13 easy steps

This year Sweetie and I decided to expand our vegetable patch and get rid of more of our lawn at the same time. Much of our lawn is too shady to become a viable vegetable garden, but we marked out a 4' x 16' stretch on the west side of our front walkway. Here's the plot with half the sod removed:

Step 1: Remove the sod and put it aside to use later. With the right shovel (flat-edged and sharpened), this was not as hard as I expected it to be. Glad I didn't have to do the whole lawn, though, because it is tiring.

Step 2: Spread compost over the de-sodded bed.

Step 3: Remove a trench of soil one shovel-length deep and one shovel-length wide (approx. 1 sq. ft). Set aside:

Step 4: Use a forked spade or similar tool (ours is kind of like a pitchfork, but designed for soil) to turn and loosen the soil an additional foot deep:

Step 5: Dig a second trench of soil, moving this dirt onto the trench you just loosened. Then repeat steps 3 & 4 until the whole bed has been dug and loosened (this part took Sweetie and me about 3 hours; we took turns with the shovel and forked spade so as not to wear ourselves out)

Step 6: Fill the last trench with soil from the first trench (wipe brow, straighten aching back, feel great about finishing the most manual part of this labor).

Step 7: Sprinkle lime over the bed. Lime is used to balance the pH in soil. Portland soil tends toward the acidic, but of course it depends on where in the city you are.

Step 8: Remember all that sod we removed? Now we get to replace it, grass side down and roots up:



Step 9: Sheet-mulching. Also known as lasagna mulching, because you make layers of compost, organic material (yard debris), cardboard and straw. First a layer of cardboard, courtesy of Sweetie's bike shop, which is soaked with water:

Step 10: Add a layer of compost or composted manure. Water thoroughly:

Step 11: Add a layer of yard debris; we had lots of dead leaves hiding under our rhodies and in our hedge. This picture only shows about 1/3 of what we eventually piled on. Water thoroughly:

Step 12: Add a layer of straw. We went out to Linnton Feed & Seed, a nifty store on Hwy. 30 north of Portland, to get a bale of straw. A bale of straw, in case you weren't aware, (as I wasn't) is a LOT of straw, at least for gardening purposes, although I'm sure a horse could make short work of it. Water thoroughly:

Step 13: Stand back and enjoy what you've created. 

fyi: the bed on the far side of the path is our existing vegetable garden; we created permanent walking paths using extra cardboard and straw, so we don't walk on our vegetable beds and compact the soil:

When we dug our first bed, five years ago, we had no idea what we were doing. We made lots of mistakes but somehow managed to get quite a bit of food to grow that first summer. This year, armed with information (knowledge is power, after all, or so my 4th grade teacher told me), I'm excited to try new veggies and see how much food our little plots (221 sq. ft. total) can grow.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nothing says spring like...

Our yard faces north, so this might seem anticlimactic for all you folks with south-facing properties, but our first daffodil is out (finally).


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Breaking news

I just heard on ABC news that there will be a vegetable garden planted on the White House lawn near the fountain. Unfortunately I couldn't find the story on ABC news' web site, and of course it was just a sound bite, no details as to size of garden, what they'll plant, who will tend it, etc.

But still. It's. About. Time. Stay tuned.

Here's some backstory.

UPDATE: Thanks to Itai and Abigail for finding the full story here.

Mid-morning thoughts on listening to Mahler's 4th Symphony

I've been spending the past few days researching and writing about Mahler's 4th Symphony for an upcoming Oregon Symphony concert (it's in May, in case you want to check it out, or, if you're like some of my friends, avoid it like plague). 

I understand those who groan when they hear the name Mahler. He's not an easy listening experience. I would never take someone unfamiliar with classical music to a Mahler concert, for several reasons: the shortest Mahler symphony is just under an hour, so it's a lot of music to throw at neophyte ears; his music is complex, with many layers of meaning and subtext; sometimes it's relentlessly dark or ominous (Mahler was tortured, with justification, about a lot of stuff). Listening to Mahler without knowing much about him or his music can be like taking a first-time museum visitor to a Mark Rothko exhibit. (If you're not familiar with Mark Rothko, here are a couple of his paintings):


You look at the paintings, know you're supposed to "understand" them but don't, feel like an uneducated Philistine and give up. This is also some people's experience with Mahler. I get it.

All of Mahler's symphonies are distinct worlds. Listening to them is to enter into a soundscape, to take a journey without necessarily knowing the final destination. But Mahler's 4th Symphony is a complete departure from what we think of as "the Mahler sound." It's one of his shorter symphonies (still close to an hour, though), and its soundscape, its journey, is an exploration of childhood. Not a post-modernist self-consciously ironic portrait of childhood, either. It's cheerful and sunny and graceful, nostalgic without being maudlin.

If you've noticed the labels for this post, you are probably wondering at this point what the (insert favorite expletive here) Mahler's 4th Symphony has to do with gardening, of all things. The last movement of the symphony is a setting of a poem, originally titled "Heaven is hung with violins." (Mahler renamed it "The Heavenly Life" when he set it to music.) It's a child's concept of Heaven, which is a place full of music, dancing and other innocent pleasures. Heaven also offers a variety of delicious foods. What struck me about the poem is the specificity of the foods mentioned: 

"Good greens of all sorts
Grow in the heavenly garden.
Good asparagus, string beans,
And anything we want!...
Good apples, good pears, and good grapes,
And the gardener who permits us everything!"

Kids who love vegetables so much they dream of them in heaven. My kinda place. Of course, I know the poem itself was written by an adult, and perhaps this childish yearning for good asparagus and string beans is simply projected wishful thinking on the author's part, but it still made me smile. Perhaps it only exists in literature, but at least somewhere there are kids who don't balk at eating vegetables.

As for gardening, my sweetie and I are expanding our vegetable patch (more about that in another post), and as I listen to the soprano sing about the delicious veggies I am imagining all the great food we're going to grow this year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

catching up

Okay, I can't possibly post about everything that's been going on, so I'll do it as I can. Top of my list: radio training.

I spent 7 hours at KBOO last weekend attending two different trainings on how to host music shows and also how to host public affairs shows (I'm planning a public affairs-style show on the Yiddish Hour later this month about the eco-kashrut movement; more on that later).  I find myself thinking a lot about one thing our intrepid trainer, Marilyn Pittman, kept saying, which is that as hosts our responsibility is to take care of our audience. 

What does that mean? Well, several things. For one, it means that you need to give your audience a reason to tune in and a reason to keep listening to you. You need to sound competent and comfortable and conversational but the irony is that you can't actually talk the way you do in regular conversation because THIS IS RADIO. You just have to SOUND like you're having a regular conversation, but there's a whole lotta craft that goes into sounding conversational. It doesn't happen by accident. It takes preparation and warming up and a lot of time. It takes training, and being serious about your work, even if your show is comedy. Maybe even especially if your show is comedy.

Another thing about taking care of the audience is to remember that only 1 in 100 people actually calls a radio show. In other words, the callers are not your audience. Your audience is the other 99 people listening; it's easy to assume the callers represent the audience, but they don't, esp. on public affairs and news shows. At KBOO that's an important point to remember, because people who tend to call KBOO shows think they have a right to rant and ramble simply because it's community radio, and everyone should have a right to weigh in.

So now I'm going to say something that won't go over well in some circles, but this is my blog, so what the hell. Being a host is a privilege. Being on the radio is a privilege. I take that seriously. And I take a lot of time to prepare my show, both because I'm still pretty new at it and also because the audience deserves to hear a quality product. I'm a radio consumer as well as a host; I listen to the radio many hours a day. I'm trying to make the kind of show I'd like to hear (I hope other people like to hear it too).

What isn't going to go over with some folks is my beef with people who don't take their hosting duties that seriously, who pride themselves on not sounding "professional," (and they say it like that, with finger quotes), who ramble and um and er and clearly just rolled out of bed and into the air room. Their shows sound like crap, and even if the content is interesting I find it really annoying, bordering on disrespectful. I'm not referring to anyone in particular, but if you tune into KBOO at any given time, particularly on the weekday public affairs shows, you'll hear what I mean. The audience deserves better. I'm the audience. So are you. If the prime job of the host is to take care of the audience, then the audience for these shoddily-done shows is ill-served indeed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Watch this space

Wow, has it been a month since I've posted?

So much to catch up with, hard to know where to start, and I don't have time or energy to do it now, but stay tuned for further details.

Am trying out pictures for my header; this is Yofi, one of our food-obsessed cats. Comments?

Random fact for the day: Today, March 3, 2009, would have been my paternal grandfather's 100th birthday. He died almost 20 years ago, but I still think of him often. He was a mensch and a sweet, quietly heroic man.

Happy birthday, Grandpa Al.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Help for arts organizations in crisis

Heard about this on NPR today, and also got an email about it from the Music Librarian's Association listserve. I'm glad the Kennedy Center is stepping up to help arts organizations, because in our current economic climate, trying to convince either government or individuals that the arts are worthy of help is next to impossible. I'm sure the Republicans who are stonewalling the stimulus package have raised lots of fuss over the proposal to increase funds for the NEA, for example, even though such increases account for a tiny percentage of the overall funds.

Here are some examples of organizations in crisis:

"Indeed, organizations from almost every part of the country have reported belt-tightening measures or worse. The Baltimore Opera Company filed for bankruptcy, the Seattle Repertory Theatre asked its staff to take two weeks of unpaid leave, and the Orlando Ballet
cut live music for The Nutcracker so the dance troupe wouldn't be reduced." (N.B.-The Oregon Ballet Theatre did likewise this past December, without consulting its music director first, I might add, thereby cutting the orchestra's income by approximately half, and with no notice).

"Organizations that have endowments have seen them cut by one-third," said Kennedy Center president Michael M. Kaiser, who is the author of The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations. "In cities like Detroit that are so dependent on the auto industry, the money is gone. Foundations are forced to cut back, and individuals have seen their wealth reduced."

Historically, Portland has never had a huge pool of private wealth to draw upon, nor do we have a lot of large Fortune 500 type corporations who have the funds to donate to the arts in sufficient amounts to keep performing organizations afloat during tough times. We may not be Detroit, but we're hurting too, and the fact that our civic image is of progressive tech-savvy people further masks how little public and private money there actually is to keep our arts alive and kicking. Thanks, Kennedy Center, for stepping up to help.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This is encouraging/Same as it ever was

I've been behind on my posting and keeping up with food issues, but just came across this. Given my (and the food community's) disappointment with the choice of Tom Vilsack as Sec'y of Ag, I'll take any positive signs I can get.

On the other hand, I heard on the news tonight that the owner of Peanut Corporation of America, the company that owns the plant in Georgia responsible for the current salmonella outbreak in peanut products, sits on the Dept. of Ag's Peanut Standards committee. If you are surprised or shocked by this news, you should know this is business as usual for the Dept. of Agriculture, and with Vilsack at the head I doubt we'll be seeing any real changes there anytime soon. Not to mention the interview they did with a former worker at the plant who talked about rats and roaches being dry roasted with the peanuts... 

One step forward, two steps back...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Holy cow, batman!

We went to the Hillsdale Farmer's Market today, our only year-round market, and found this:


It's only right to give the farmers who grew this behemoth their due. The parsnip in question was grown at Ayers Creek Farm, in Gaston, a place Sweetie and I have visited (we learned about bees there at a Slow Food event last summer). Even they were impressed and seemed a little frightened by what they had yanked up out of the ground. One farmer offered to give us adoption papers, to make things official, but we declined, since we are going to slice it up and eat it.

When we got home we measured it and it's 23". Damn.

Before we left for the market, we saw a young Cooper's hawk in our tree, the first one I've seen this season. Their migration period begins in November, and last year we saw several of them, including one who tried to land directly on our birdfeeder in hopes of catching a meal. I'm surprised we haven't seen any before now, but it was worth the wait, esp. since it snowed again last night, so everything was coated in white.


Quite a nature day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get the word out

From the American Farmland Trust. This is "9 in 09," their set of nine policy recommendations to the Obama Administration to, in their words, "help shape a better, brighter, and more secure future for American farms, farmers and consumers."

1. Recognize that agriculture can play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gases.
2. Engage agricultural producers in their efforts to improve water quality.
3. Mitigate against the loss of strategic agricultural resources and stimulate the development of green infrastructure to support the local agricultural economy with any new transportation-related legislation.
4. Support proper implementation of the Farmland Protection Program and its full funding.
5. Protect and promote farm bill regional food system programs.
6. Reduce, even mitigate, the federal government’s role in farmland conversion.
7. Provide timely research to policymakers about impacts of current and projected land use trends on national food and energy security.
8. Create a Farmer Corps to stimulate green jobs in the agricultural economy and encourage a new generation to enter agriculture.
9. Support local food in school cafeterias and provide access to it for low income consumers through Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Acts.

As best I can tell, this is a "get the word out" campaign. A friend told me recently that Michael Pollan had spoken to someone who had spoken to President Obama directly about changing our food national food policy (I know that's, like, serious hearsay, but there it is). When asked if Obama had read Pollan's "Open Letter to the President," published in the New York Times Magazine last October, Obama replied he had, and in response to the question of whether he would do anything to change national food policies, Obama is said to have replied, "Show me the public support for it."

So here's a chance to show your public support and get your friends and family members who care about food (really, that should be everyone you know, 'cause, well, we all gotta eat) to spread the word. One way to do that is go here and tell President Obama what you think of reshaping food policy in this country. We need a critical mass of people who will take the time (really, it's not much time) to express their interest in revamping our broken food system; the more people who do it, the more likely it is President Obama will consider making the changes we as a country so desperately need.  

Disclaimer: in my more cynical moods I question whether or not this kind of activism is really effective. On the other hand, it can't hurt.