Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shift Happens

David Lebovitz, an American baker living in Paris, posted this morning on his FB page about the Borders book store closing.  There is no doubt about it:  this latest development in how the book industry is dealing with the challenges of digital verses dead trees is a serious issue.  And, in thinking about my venture into writing books, I am convinced that going digital is perfect for me.  But, (as Mark Bittman is fond of saying) that's another story.

I share my post on David's FB page because I think it is another example of how our terrain is changing. 

"I have been having trouble reading for several years now. Besides the fact that most print stuff is in Serif type...which makes translation for the brain harder than easier, I can no longer follow the ants walking across the page...SO...when I finally got my digital reader device I felt like I was in heaven and am back on the road of reading enjoyment...especially all my favorite cook books.   

The issues the book industry are facing remind me of phrases like, "NO...I'm not gonna get one of those new fangled refrigerators...what's wrong with ice boxes?"  The good news is we are witnessing the shift.  Shift happens.

What is important to me is that we maintain our focus on that fact that ALL of those people in the print industry are, hopefully,  shifting with their industry.  How many hands and/or people touched that book that won't be on the shelf at Borders? 

So, while many of the familiar anchors in the Middle East are moving around, back home we are experiencing shifts too.  Bruce Damer,  once told me that it is important to build some sort of supporting structure around the fragile structures that are disintegrating rather than tear them down and try to build anew.   Bruce is a leading expert about the subject of avatars as well as a philosopher and inventor.   

I have been challenging myself to pay really, really close attention as shift happens because I believe that paper books are potentially like ice boxes, something that no one could imagine could or will disappear. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hoist the Anchor ... Move the Anchor

My last post here was about how I perceived the movement of cultural anchors in my life.  From my point of view, they were either being hoisted or relocated:  some gone, some moved.  There were enough of them moving around the first time I posted that I felt it was important enough to speak about it.  And, yes, I agree, change is a constant, and the changes seemed then and now to be more frequent and numerous.

Anchors Away-ing

April 30, 2010, Bill Moyers retired.  Thanks to podcasts and related technology, I was finally able to learn about his work. I got to become a loyal viewer a year or so before his exit.  For me, he will always be a distinguished journalist.

Liane Hanson, from NPR announced last May that she would be leaving Weekend Edition Sunday in May of 2011. I have recently given up having a television, so lately I listen to the news instead of watch it.  Between all the online news sources and NPR I keep pretty much up to date. I used to listen to her many years ago when I listened to radio.  I took a long break but now I really enjoy the programs. I can't even imagine Puzzle Master Will Shortz without Liane.  I will be sad when she no longer broadcasts Weekend Edition Sunday. 

Regis Philbin announced on January 18th, 2011 that he was leaving his show:  Live with Regis and Kelly sometime later this year, maybe in the summer.  His career spanned 40 years. 

Anchors Moving

As I have paid attention these last months, just keeping track of the anchor movement,  I've noticed that anchors are not just away-ing.  Some are moving to other places.

Oprah announced in Sept of 2010 that there was a farewell season for her show, Oprah.  And then on New Year's Day, 2011 she premiered her network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).  Her relocation into this newest venture only continues to expand her pioneering path.

Larry King announced in June of 2010 that he would step down as host of his show and on Dec. 19th, 2010 he ended his 26 years as the host of Larry King Live. He will, however, continue to host specials.  Although I never watched the show much, I liked the fact that a Brooklyn native had such longevity as a talk show host.  I just sorta knew he was there and a fixture in our cable community. 

But the one that has really gotten my attention is Mark Bittman. Bittman is a food journalist, cook book author, home cook, and, among other things, has written a NY Times column called the Minimalist for the last 13 years.  A man with a vision he says about his work:  "my mission is to get people cooking simply, comfortably, and well."

In the confession department, I confess, Mark Bittman is one of my heroes.  He makes cooking good food easily accessible.  Not too many ingredients and not too many steps.  Really good videos (podcasts) so us slower learners can take it in at our own pace.  And he's funny.  And he's from "New Yawk."  

On January 26th, 2010 Bittman wrote his last Minimalist column.  Oh no I thought, he's leaving the scene?  Another anchor hoisted?  What is my world coming to?  Well, I read more and he's changing places, not leaving.  

Bittman will be writing opinion columns for the New York Times and someplace I think I read that he will be writing foodie articles for the Times Magazine section.  Following the theme of Food Matters he is upping the ante on his mission to have people cook simply, comfortably and well.  Now, he encourages us to "eat less meat."   With his cooking style, I actually do that.   
Bittman holds a special place in my foodie heart because I was able to cook a gluten free bread that was in its original form, already gluten free.  AND it didn't taste like a hockey puck or seasoned sand.  It's called Socca or Farinata.   And I was even more thrilled when he listed it among his 25 favorite Minimalist recipes.      

Several years ago, I met an Italian chef who served Farinata at a gluten free food conference.  It was the most scrumptious bread I think I'd ever eaten. And it wasn't being changed to BE gluten free. No exchanging flours or making your own mix. Southern Italians have always eaten this delicious (gluten free) bread.

The chef said that he always held back something from a recipe so we probably wouldn't be able to reproduce it easily.  Some chefs are like that.  When I looked at his recipe, he was right.  I certainly wouldn't have been able to reproduce his recipe.  So, I spent one night until the wee hours of the morning tracking Socca/Farinata on the Internet and discovered Mark's review and recipe.  

The Socca/Farinata recipe is also in "Food Matters" and he has expanded and innovated the recipe in "The Food Matters Cookbook."  I believe that Socca/Farinata is THE best example of minimalist cooking.  Some chickpea flour, water, salt and some herbs if you want.  And, it makes the best ever pizza. 

What's So Important About Anchors Away-ing?

When I wrote Anchors Away, a friend of mine said, I don't have television so I don't even know these people...the implication was that it was neither important nor relevant.  

I believe that our cultural views and discourse are created from the combination of words, images, tones and beliefs of many people, especially those who contribute consistently.  All of the people I have noted are leaders and elders in creating our cultrual discourse. Most I consider to be soloists in our ever evolving cultural symphony.

My words are a way for me to mark the changes that are taking place in my cultural symphony.  Because you can't hear a melody, does that mean it isn't playing?  The symphony goes on even if we think it's not related to us and some of these voices will be absent from the tune and some, thankfully will be more prominent.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Anchors Away

When I got my Bachelors degree at 50, one of my final projects was a photo essay called: "story-telling itself."  I believe that stories tell themselves when we get out of the way and let them flow. 

Recently, I have been keeping track of this particular story that is telling itself.  It's called Anchors Away.  The story line seems to be about how the familiar anchors or touchstones in our lives and culture are changing places or disappearing entirely.  We don't need to worry about 2012, the changes are all happening right now.

As I have retold this story people ask me what I mean by anchors.  In the way the story is telling itself, the anchors are those cultural icons and - or touchstones that are familiar to us.  The anchors are those dependable icons that have been in our culture and lives for years.   Some we listen to and some are what seem like permanent fixtures; transparent and ever present.

In the fall of 2009, I started to notice that some of our major cultural icons (anchors, for lack of a better word) were leaving the "life-stage."  Oprah announced that her show which has been running for almost 25 years, would go off the air sometime in 2011 and Alton Brown, the Food Network’s nutty food scientist (who had recently lost 55 lbs) was moving on too.  Brown never said why he lost weight or what he will be doing in his next life chapter.  My suspicion is that Alton Brown joined the ranks of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman and is heading on to other foodie trails.  

Then, in December of 2009, Charles Gibson retired and almost all of the news anchors at ABC switched places:  Diane Sawyer left Good Morning America (GMA) and moved to Gibson's spot on the evening news, Chris Cuomo left GMA and moved to 20/20, George Stephanopoulos left This Week and joined GMA, someone would eventually take George's place at This Week and Juju Chang came to GMA.  Only one anchor remained steady: Robin Roberts.  This switching event got my attention and I remember talking with friends about "all the anchors moving around."  As I retold the story about the news anchors changing places that it was a reflection of the way our lives were changing.

Then, in the pre-show for the 2010 Academy Awards in March, Barbara Walters announced that she was retiring.  She wanted to go out at the top of her game, she said.  I had worked with Walters on the Today show when she was an "anchor."  In my first career, I worked in the entertainment industry.  When I worked with Walters, I was on staff in the NBC wardrobe department.  I had a big lump in my throat as I watched her last pre-Academy Awards show interviews.  There went another anchor, I remember thinking.

Then there's Arlo Guthrie.  I'm a long time fan of Arlo and when he comes to where ever I am living I make a point to go see him.  He came to Asheville in March of 2010 and I went to see both shows. I spent two wonderful evenings with the Guthrie Family.  Four generations of Guthries' singing and dancing...Woody's songs, Arlo singing and telling stories...Arlo's 4 children, all accomplished musicians in their own right and their children all singing and dancing...the youngest Guthries' were about 3...just dancing and twirling to their great grandfathers songs.

So...30 years ago Arlo bought the church that he wrote about in the very long song and subsequent movie:  Alice's Restaurant.   Arlo has performed at the church for the past 30 years I believe.  This year is the first year that he is not playing at the Church during the summer.  His career has changed and as he said on his web site, "we're playing at a larger venue" in town at that time...and they will also be on tour in the UK around that time.  Another anchor in my life changing places.

Of course during all this time we had the earthquakes in Haiti and China as well as what seems like more frequent earthquakes all over the world, and the volcanic eruption in Iceland.  Now those events are not necessarily anchors like the others in the story, but they sure seem to be shaking things up.

As I post this story today, May 2nd, we have one more familiar "anchor" gone away...The Mississippi Delta in the Gulf of Mexico is most likely not going to be the same for a long time.

And then there's the laundromat.  I have a condo in Asheville, NC and we have shared washers and dryers for the owners.  It's a vintage building so we have to share.  The washers and dryers had not been working well so I went down the hill to use the local laundromat.  They had wonderful BIG washers and great dryers.  Came time to do my laundry about 2 weeks later and the machines at the condo were still not working well so I went down the hill again.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the laundromat was closed.  It had just closed...not moved...just closed.  Friends of mine who have lived in Asheville for all of their lives were amazed.    That laundromat had been around for at least 25 years.  I took a deep breath and exhaled...Another anchor gone away.

I don't know if there's any mystical meaning to all this, and I generally make a concerted effort not to apply too much meaning to events like these.  However, I do have to say, it seems that there are a lot of anchors moving and change seems to be a foot.  So, now I am collecting stories and keeping track of the changing and shifting anchors.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting It In Stereo

I decided to move to Portland, OR after a wonderful visit in 2004. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and Portland, in particular. A friend of mine suggested that I come and visit after a conference I was attending in Denver. Because Denver is much closer to Portland than Asheville is, I thought, how could I miss the opportunity. I had always wanted to see the Pacific NW. My friend squired me around Portland as well as Cannon Beach and Depot Bay. I got to see whales and seals and exquisitely beautiful sunsets. When I returned to Asheville, I had dreams of the ocean, wales, otters, scrumptious cuisine in so many restaurants, tables of mushrooms at the farmers markets, pioneers and soaring eagles.

Coincidentally, Portland is also the home of the Feldenkrais® Guild. I have been studying Feldenkrais for 4 or 5 years with Lavinia Plonka. Our journeys to Asheville happened about the same time and we met shortly after moving there through Aikido, a martial arts we both practice. At the time, I was in a great deal of physical pain and through Lavinia's individual lessons and then the group classes I have become a life long student of Feldenkrais.

Moshe Feldenkrais was an innovator and pioneer in somatic education. Besides the “somatic” work we do in class, there are also tenets that have become an integral part of my life. One of the experiences classes offer me is the opportunity to “notice.” Not noticing to fix anything in particular, just noticing…For me, noticing where I “grip” was and still is among my top ten noticings. Of course, now it's not the only noticing I do.

Of course, I told all my friends about my intent to move to Portland. Some were supportive and some were upset with me…”It’s so far.” “We’ll never see you”…and, of course, the big one…”Can you stand the rain…you know it rains in Portland A LOT and there’s no sun”… “Make sure you go in the winter when it’s raining and there’s no sunshine, so you can see if you can stand it.” However, my course was set…even if it has taken me almost 4 years to have finally satisfied all the questions and concerns… mine and everyone else’s.

Anyway, back to noticing. What I began to discover was the practice of noticing from Feldenkrais class was creeping into my life…and what I began to see after I returned from Portland was that pretty frequently I would hear something about Oregon or Portland. I’d see a story about Portland on the morning news or hear something in an overheard grocery store conversation, read something arbitrary from some really unusual source or even find some great source I was researching and they would be from Portland. There was a continuous mentioning of Portland or Oregon.

One day I was driving and I noticed that I’d heard something about Portland 2 times in one day. I remember telling a friend that it seemed a bit odd that I was hearing all this stuff about Portland. By the time I mentioned it to my friend it was pretty consistent and loud. And then one day I heard something about Portland 3 times in one day. Well, by that time noticing how often I heard about Portland had really gotten my attention.…and I remember just laughing out loud the day I heard Portland stuff three times in one day. It never seemed to be important what I heard about Portland. What I noticed was that Portland was continuously in my life.

So, I developed this theory that my friends now tease me about and some have even written about. I call it “getting it in stereo.” Basically, the theory is that when we take time to “notice” we can hear all sorts of things. I have found that if it’s something important that I might want to pay really, really close attention to, that the information gets repeated until I do notice. Of course, I have been known to sleep through lots of experiences. However, these days I notice when I am “getting it” at least in stereo. For me, stereo is when something is repeated two times and it’s close enough together to get my attention). But if I am really snoozing, I get it in surround sound until I "get it." For me, surround sound is when something repeats as many times as I need it to until I get it. So, I have come to see that that when we actually take the time to notice…we can hear the those things we might ordinarily miss. Remember, it’s not noticing to do something, it’s noticing to become aware. Thanks Moshe and Lavinia.