Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Walden: A Historical Experiment

We live in great times, when people are doing amazing symbolic things for the environment and society. Seems like everyone has a year-long eco-project these days - the 100 Mile Diet, 100 Thing Challenge, No Impact Project, The Compact, Seven Things, Wardrobe Refashion, and I'm sure many more (feel free to contribute one to this list).

Long before all of that, way back in the 1800s, a man spent a year living with nature in a little log cabin. Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond is among the most famous of these projects - and it was as much an experiment as a statement, like the ones above. It also resulted in a book (Walden).

What I love most about Walden is that it wasn't just an experiment, but the basic philosophy that life is not just experiments and going about your life doing what you need to do, but unconditionally doing what is right. Thoreau summarized his philosophy: Simplify. In the introduction to Walden by Joseph Wood Kutch, his philosophy is expanded a bit, fortunately:

"The lesson he had taught himself, and which he tried to teach others, was summed up in the one word "Simplify." That meant simplify the outward circumstances of your life, simplify your needs and your ambitions; learn to delight in the simple pleasures with the world of Nature affords. It meant also, scorn public opinion, refuse to accept the common definitions of success, refuse to be moved by the judgment of others. And unlike most who advocate such attitudes, he put them into practice."

Greats like Gandhi, MLK, and Tolstoy have been inspired by Thoreau, and even they have been unable to put all he said into practice. We can only aspire.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green party

I just read this article on the disappearance of the third person, so I'm going to try to revive it. (Defashionista is moi) I hope this doesn't prove the point.

Defashionista's ds is turning a whopping 1 year old next month (I know, already!). She is trying hard to throw a party that is green, but is a) cheap, b) trying not to buy unnecessary things, c) eager to be crafty, and d) perhaps overdoing it. She has invited almost everyone she knows within a 50 mile radius, sent out the invitation by Evite, ordered a gigantic vegan cake, reserved reuseable dishes and cutlery to borrow, obtained the permit for the location, made over 60 party hats from old newspapers, and made two paper garlands from the leftovers.

Still to come: a happy birthday banner, more hanging paper decorations, setting aside some old balloons for use, ordering food for dinner afterward, and of course, eventually, shopping and cooking and prepping food for the big day.

The goody bags she is planning to make will be cloth bags, containing recycled toys (tops from bottle caps), fair trade chocolate, secondhand books, and allergen-free cupcakes baked in baby food jars.

The activities will consist of blowing bubbles, using biodegradable sponge water "balloons," playing music as a group, and having a solar oven demonstration.

Oh, and she will dream up more and more. With all the attention to being environmentally conscious, she has perhaps not considered energy conservation - her own!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Meipporul / Yethi Nijam / The True Meaning

Well I've got movie on the brain so I thought I'd post a few relevant things:

Movie blog for reviews

I saw Meipporul this weekend myself (Tamil with English subtitles). Definitely not formula, and it has a sort of European feel, with the generally dark character and little emotional acting. Even though I knew the story myself, I found myself waiting to see each event unfold and bring with it a clearer picture of what was happening. It was wonderful to see all these familiar places and people come to life as new characters and form a story that was pretty gripping. It also left me wondering what really did happen to this couple and their friends - I had to think back to what was said and what happened and how things actually did fit together.

All-in-all, it was great to just sit back and relax and watch a movie (which, with an infant, is a feat in itself!) that is not the standard fare - no mush, no muss, no fuss :)

I hope you'll get to go see it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The True Meaning of Happiness



Well, my 31 days list is not yet happening because my other lists have taken over my life. Things to do around the house, things to do for dear son, and things to do related to this Indian movie that my husband and myself and some friends made together.

Ok, this is a shameless plug for it: it's called Meipporul, which means "The True Meaning" and it's based on a Tamil-language saying that goes "Whatever anyone may say, understanding their true meaning is real wisdom." So you can guess that it's a suspense drama. It's entirely set in the San Francisco Bay Area out here in California, with a local cast and crew, and it's in the South Indian language Tamil.

If you know anything about Indian movies, you know that most of them are full of choreographed dance sequences and choreographed magical fight sequences and go by a pretty standard formula (guy meets girl, someone plays hard to get, they fall in love, parents/family try to keep them apart, eventually they overcome obstacles to get together). In this one, the protagonists are already married, parents are cool with it, and a third person - a new friend with ESP - comes in to throw a wrench in their relationships with each other and their other friends. No dancing, no fights, no formula.

It's playing in San Jose, CA, Newark, NJ, and (May 1st) Newport, Los Angeles and India. So please go see it, and if you do, let me know what you think, good, bad, or ugly. The website is http://www.meipporulthemovie.com

Oh and eco-tip: bring your own mug and container to the theater to get your drinks and popcorn. you can even bring a bag to fill from the candy bins (less packaging than boxed candy). many places also allow food in these days!

Monday, March 09, 2009

List list baby list

I'm back again, with some inspired action. I was trying to do Real Simple's 31 Ideas for 31 Days (back in January - link is lost in their site upgrade but you can see the list here), but I found that many of the items are not applicable to me or just not things I want to do.

So here is a somewhat baby-centric list instead. I'm planning to do these in April (March is booked up already haha). Things any mom/dad might do anyway, but just a reminder. Each thing should take no more than 15 min, unless you want to or amazingly have the time:

1. Write a future letter to your child
2. Speed clean a floor, picking up toys and dumping them into a box or crate
3. Clean out old junk from the diaper bag and refresh
4. Take a few spontaneous photos of your little one. Try to get a close up with you in it by turning the camera around.
5. Set aside clothes baby has grown out of, or give them away.
6. Try one new food with your baby.
7. Donate to a charity that helps underprivileged children.
8. Send your mom/guardian or someone special flowers to thank them for raising you or helping you through tough times.
9. Place spit up cloths or wipes in each room for quick cleanups.
10. Schedule a day off for yourself.
11. Program 5 essential numbers into your cellphone: pediatrician, poison control, ob/gyn, takeout/delivery place (when you have no time to cook!), etc.
12. Pick up some new music you wouldn't usually listen to and dance with your baby.
13. Clean the high chair. Get into the nooks and crannies and find all the loose cereal crumbs.
14. Stash some baby snacks in your purse and diaper bag. While you're at it, add a snack for yourself too.
15. Make a list of books you want to read with your baby. Check them out at the library or buy them used.
16. Clean out all those half-used jars of baby food and other expired foods from the fridge.
17. Plan out how you want to do your little one's birthday this (or next) year. Simple or all out? Indoors or out? Home or away? Magician, clown?
18. Organize baby's food bowls and bottles. If you can, give baby a shelf of his/her own.
19. Make a short wishlist of fun stuff to do together this year with baby. Visit a zoo or take a vacation or join a new class.
20. Pare down baby's toys - give the extras to a shelter.
21. Change out old pictures to more recent ones.
22. Read some poetry with your little one.
23. Gather and boil all the pacifiers.
24. Flip through all the baby cards you received and put them in a box safely.
25. Change out the toys in the diaper bag, stroller, or car.
26. Fill a water bottle and stash in your purse so you stay hydrated.
27. Walk around the house with your baby and look at the pictures.
28. Cut up some fruit, puree, and freeze for baby food.
29. Make a small travel kit of toy, bottle of water, snack, pacifier and wipe and keep it by the door for quick trips out with baby.
30. List 15 places you'd like to visit in 15 years. Plan for the different ages of baby when you go (Disneyland when she's 5, Hawaii when he's 10?).
31. Lie down and nap with your baby.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Conscious again?

After a hiatus from blogging, I'm back :) Happy new year!

I've been trying out a few eco-conscious things that have been left by the wayside:

- using my own tooth powder made of baking soda, stevia, salt, cinnamon
- using a paste of baking soda as a shampoo and dilute apple cider vinegar for a rinse (amazingly soft hair!)
- taking semi-navy showers - just turn off the water when soaping up. I do tend to linger a bit.
- saving water in the sink from rinsing dishes and using it for plants
- saving water from the shower heating up for the commode or plants
- making my own baby food (I've cooked and frozen butternut squash and carrots so far)

For soap, I saved an old foam pump from some cleanser and filled it with one-third lavender castile soap and the rest water - lovely foamy body wash!

On another note, I have a question - my recycling company and the local recycling center no longer take milk and juice cartons. As a vegan, I drink soymilk, which comes in boxes (not recyclable) or cartons (also now not recyclable). What can I do? Any suggestions?

On yet another note, I have several charity calendars from 2008 for the Association for India's Development with the theme "clothing the nation" - really gorgeous print designs and pictures showing people weaving, etc. Anyone want one? Email me at p j 2 0 at cornell dot edu