Archive for August 2010 | Monthly archive page

So the riddle asks, “which came first the chicken or the egg… or the salmonella?” With the recent out break of fowl nastiness, this bird has attracted a lot of attention in the media. As scientists and doctors try and “crack” this case, let’s have a closer look at the origins and problems with chicken farming in its current state.

Raising chickens and other such poultry has been a common practice throughout history. In its earlier stages, it was more of an individual family activity. Families would take their chickens to market to sell, or use them for eggs, meat, feathers and manure, with very little going to waste.

Mass poultry production evolved somewhat quickly in the USA, circa the mid 1920’s. Live poultry trains were developed to transport large numbers of chickens, with each car holding around 4,600 squawking beaks. Eggs laid on route went to feed the train conductors, and everyone was happy (with maybe the exception of the chickens.) The birds were raised by a wide variety of producers and sold to brokers.

Now, of course, back in those days, even the farms with oodles of chickens on them were low security. These birds could roam, and peck, and riot, and live somewhat of a decent life. But somewhere between prohibition and disco, people decided it would be a much better idea to coop the cocks and check the chicks. Someone figured out that chickens would put out faster, and in greater number, if they were kept inside with lights burning through the night. But, as we know, when you put a bunch of mongoose on an island to get rid of snakes, then you have a mongoose issue. Similarly, when you cram a bunch of chickens together in a confined space, you have to pump them full of drugs, stack them on wire, and chop off their peckers (beaks, don’t have such a dirty mind) to keep them “healthy” and peck-proof.

However, even with these arguably cruel and unfortunate precautions, we still manage to have outbreaks of disease, as with the recent case of salmonella spreading cross the country. An investigation this week found the source of the bacteria in two major farm producers’ chicken feed (that is, the mush they have to feed them because they have freak beaks.)

So, if you don’t want to give up your morning chicken and waffles, or your breaded chicken fillet, or your cake, or your french bread, or your creamy dressings, or your egg muffin sandos, what can you do to at least not be a part of this problem? For starters, you can cut back on your daily dose of our feathered friends and all their by-products. Choose vegan once in a while. And when you get tired of that, or if you just can’t stick to it, support your local farmer, and get farm fresh, free range chicken and eggs. Make sure they haven’t been stuck with all kinds of nasty needles. Nobody likes a chicken with track marks. Remember that as consumers we vote with our dollars, and the more you make wise choices, the less you’ll burden our resources. Don’t be a chicken, go organic!

Song of the day: “People Got a Lotta Nerve” by Neko Case.

The ages of teen idols and celluloid heros have come and gone. Onscreen celebrities no longer impress me. Pop star sensations no longer amuse me. The Hollywood Hills escapades, the Scientology revelations, the doping investigations. We’re over it.

A great generation is sinking like a setting sun. A silver tsunami is rising. The boomers are breaking down and cashing out. But rest assured, they will not leave us in want of another victory lap. Their swan songs will run long into that dark night.

And as they do, it is their heroes we are condemned to adore. It is their CEO superstars who have captured our imaginations. These wizards of financial witchcraft have mesmerized us with legerdemain and ledger deceit. Not only that, but hell, they know how to party.

Take James Cain, for instance, CEO sensation of Bear Sterns, pioneering powerhouse of economic catastrophe. While his company led the world into financial ruin, Cain went right on living the high life, smoking grass and cutting cards at one of his frequent bridge tournaments. Eat your heart out, Double-0-Seven. Live it up, Cain, and let the era of baccarat and shaken martinis die.

Look no further for the next king of comedy, AIG’s newest CEO, Robert Benmosche makes “Take the Money and Run” look like some kind of holocaust docudrama. Benmosche took this position last summer and spent the first two weeks vacationing at his Italian villa on the Adriatic, where the Mediterranean influence presumably nourishes his endless stream of devastating one-liners. (Better than wasting time adopting Eastern European orphans, or some such philanthropic stunt.)

In one of his first public appearances as CEO, Benmosche told reporters that AIG —recipient of over $100 Billion in taxpayer bailouts —was “Getting stronger everyday.” Move over, Will Ferrell! More recently, he put the press in stitches by announcing, “We are on our way to paying back the tax payers.” Silver-haired and silver-tongued, these devils are merciless. They won’t quit until their audiences die laughing.

We once marveled at James Dean, who enshrined himself in eternal youth — the enfant terrible, the precocious rebel, the bane of the establishment. What little we knew of this budding generation and its capacity for treacherous genius. A generation who refuses to surrender the center stage, who will hog the limelight until its last breath, and will never stop dazzling the world with its cavalier knack for originality. From free love to free trade, will they ever stop innovating? Will they ever stop playing by their own rules?

These old hacks have more lives than Sylvester, more comebacks than Travolta, and more sequels than a teenage bloodbath. Every decade a new crop of heroes, and with the aging of America, the current cadre of sixty-somethings promises to be more ruthless than ever. Even before they gambled away everyone else’s life savings and 401Ks like a bingeing bachelor party on the loose in Monte Carlo and never looked back, they’d already put the rest of us whippersnappers to shame.

Song of the Day: “When I’m Sixty-four” from the Beatles.

With school about to start for so many young college kids, moving is on the mind of many. Even we here at Bambu Batu are moving in true fall spirit. And of course, with a new space, comes the desire to decorate and make that space your own. As decorating can be expensive, we thought we’d offer a few ways to go green and recycle, while decorating on the cheap.

• “You spin me right round baby, right round!” Records are more than just an audiophile’s preferred way of listening to music. Those black discs (or colored, or clear even) are a hip and versatile way to add some flare to your dorm or room. By heating them up and shaping them, you can make them in to a pretty neat fruit bowl. Or simply take the records themselves and pin them to your wall in a pattern pleasing to you. But before you go opening your dad’s original pressing of his favorite Glenn Miller record and pinning it or melting it, stop by Boo Boo Records. They often have some colorful and interesting records for free out in front, or go digging through their dollar bin. (p.s. the record covers can make cool wall coverings or great material for stencils.)

• If you don’t read magazines, I’m sure you know someone who does. Don’t let them throw them away when they’re done with them. Instead, snake them, and make them in to a spunky collage to put on your refrigerator or wall. Add some personal pictures or a poem, or strips of fabric. Make it colorful or bland. Whatever suits you.

• Empty wine bottles can be more than just the sign of a fun night. Put an all natural soy candle in one, burn it down a bit, and let the wax drip over the glass for and old school appeal, or simply put some water and a single rose in it. Vincent Price would approve of either.

• Got and old bike that’s beyond repair? There are all kinds of ways to make that bike into wall art. From the chain, to the spokes to the wheel, disassemble and play around. Even pictures of bike parts can be pretty artsy.

• Old calendar pages make great posters. (Depending what kind of calendar you have, you may not want to invite your mom over.)

There are a thousand other ways to redecorate while reducing and reusing. Get creative, play, and save the earth. When you run out of ideas, come see us and we’ll hook you up with some earth friendly home decor that’s already assembled! Until then, good luck moving!

Song of the Day: “Movin’ On Up” By Jeff Berry and Ja’net Du Bois

Among Western laymen, few realize the full breadth of knowledge commanded by an accomplished Zen master. We may appreciate their expertise in the subtleties of the medical, the physical and the metaphysical, yet much of their insight in matters more mundane gets overlooked.

Consider the lesson of one Zen master on the basic subject of arithmetic. He presents his students with this simple story.

“In our village, there once lived this man,” the teacher begins. “He had five hundred dollars, and over the course of his life he gave away four hundred dollars. How much money did the man have when he died?”

Quickly and confidently, the students reply, “One hundred dollars!”

“No,” says the teacher, “you are mistaken. It might look that way, but the deeper truth is that if he had five hundred dollars here on Earth and gave away four hundred, then at his death he would have had four hundred dollars. Because in the end, all you have is what you have given.”

Song of the Day: “The End” by The Beatles.

“Fuit Foo!” the construction guy whistles in the Revlon ad, as the tall, leggy brunette walks by. We see this beautiful goddess toss her hair and give an eyeliner smeared stare at the camera. But Ill rewind if I may, and take a cue from film director, John Carpenter, from his movie “They Live”, as I scrutinize what’s really going on all over this girl’s face under special x ray glasses. “Oh my…. she’s an alien and she’s trying to take over the world with the rest of her alien drones! She can’t…. wait, wha? you say she just has cancerous agents on her face eating away at cell tissue and causing all sorts of health problems from breast and uterine cancer to reproductive complications? Oh. What a relief.”

From her painted toes all the way to the roots of her dyed brown hair, this woman on the screen is a walking disaster to her own health. For the rest of this article, as we point out the major health risks on her body, let’s call her Betty-X. (X, just because it makes her seem more dangerous.)

• Betty(X!)’s nails are more than just fire engine red attention grabbers. They are carcinogenic claws, most likely covered in a chemical called DBP (or, “don’t buy when pregnant”… or any other time.) DBP is commonly used in adhesives or printing inks, but is also found in most nail polish. This agent may cause birth defects, and may be a contributing factor to obesity in men. • Betty’s legs, which have been recently shaved, have also recently been coated with a hefty dose of Triethanolamine, amongst other nasty ingredients. This stuff has been identified as a skin and sense organ toxin. • Most of the rest of Miss X’s skin has been slathered with scented lotion. The stuff she chose likely contains more than one of the following ingredients: Petrolatum, Synthetic Fragrances, Propylene Glycol, Sodium lauryl sulfate (ewwwww) and Parabens. Collectively, these ingredients can cause metabolic problems, mild skin irritation, headaches, rashes, birth defects, dizziness, and of course, cancer. Our subject’s freshly shaved armpits have just been doused in a bunch of scented deodorant, containing many of the same ingredients PLUS aluminum. Yummy. • Betty’s face is well made up. Pretty on the outside, but oh so dangerous on the inside. Her foundation contains conventional sunscreen to protect from those harmful U.V. rays, but it also contains PABA and benzophenones, which are known to generate free radicals. (those equal cancer.) Her lipstick contains petroleum and oils that can cause diarrhea, and of course, cancer. Her blush contains a bunch of stuff I don’t even want to try to pronounce, let alone put on my face and her eyeliner, mascera, and eyeshadow, in addition to also being, you guessed it, cancer causing, have been tested on cute fuzzy creatures. Holy Haz-Mat, she’s one big cancer cell!

So what’s the moral to Betty-X’s story? How can we be pretty and not get cancer? The answer is simple. Choose organically made products, such as Elemental Herbs sunscreen and chap stick, and buy your beauty from companies like The Hemp Shak and Saffronrouge, where you know it’s all safe and natural. Or come on in to the House of Bamboo, and get an outfit so comfortable and elegant, you shine without makeup. Either way, face facts and put Betty in her place- back on the shelf.

Song of the day: “Unbroken, Unshaven” by The Budos Band

Considering the rich foundation of Eastern and esoteric philosophy which underpins both our business model and our way of life, the imagery of Zen, Buddhism and ancient India are virtually inescapable at the House of Bamboo.

Few can overlook the wisdom of our inspirational scrolls imparting the words of timeless teachers like Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the Dalai Lama, as well as Einstein, Mother Teresa and Henry James. But not every Central Coast resident, central valley tourist, or Cal Poly engineering student is so intimately familiar with the subtleties of the Tao or the sensitivities of the Vedas.

One the most ubiquitous symbols of Eastern mythology, the Om, appears in tapestries, jewelry, clothing and all manner of yoga accessories. These days most people will recognize it, but not everyone can identify it, and even fewer can identify with it. For each person who asks, there’s surely a dozen more who wonder, “What is the meaning of this symbol?”

Volumes have been written about this sacred syllable, in the ancient Hindu texts as well as by more modern sages and comparative scholars like Joseph Campbell. Traditionally, this humming sound, written as either Aum or Om, is chanted as a mantra before and/or after the reading of holy vedic scriptures or the practice of yoga. Essentially, it is meant to represent the singularity of the cosmos, the single unifying sound of the universe and all its resonation. One might read it to mean the name of god, or even the voice of god (god in the very non-Western sense, that is).

Not unlike the New Testament divinity, however, this single Indian syllable can also be divided into three parts: a-u-m. These three phonemes are variously believed to represent the Hindu Trimurti, the Indian trinity of gods, i.e. Brahma (creator), Vishnu (maintainer) and Shiva (destroyer or transformer); or the three stages of life, i.e. birth, life and death. From this point, the range of interpretation is almost unlimited. Many, for example, believe in a vital fourth element: the silence which follows the a-u-m.

Invoked in conjunction with prayer, yoga or meditation, this sacred syllable has a phenomenal capacity to elevate the practitioner’s state of consciousness, to transcend the world of the mundane and material, to open new doors of spiritual understanding, and enter the depths of the universal mind. So clear a little floor space or find a nice patch of grass and try for yourself. Who says you can’t go Om again?

Song of the Day: Donovan’s “There is a Mountain”

Something amazing happened last night at Steynberg Gallery, and if you weren’t there, you missed out. As anyone who appreciates good jazz and lives in SLO county will tell you, there’s not much of it to be had around here. Venues that want actual entertainment, and not just a fancy background visual are somewhat far and few between, and there are only a handful of jazz musicians to go with them.

But I can honestly say, after last night’s concert, with Aaron Wolf (sax) Matt Slocum (drums) Sebastion Meuller (guitar) and the great Darek Oles (bass), that there is hope for little SLO. For those of you that weren’t there, I’ll do my best to sum up the evening in a way that does it justice. We walked in and gladly paid our humble admission price of ten dollars, to be greeted by an amiable door man. Getting in line, we weighed our drink options. There’s something magical about a coffee shop that serves beer by the way.

Like eager children, we watched the musicians huddle together and talk over some forms and arrangements off in the corner. We had arrived early to ensure getting a good a seat, and were thankful to have done so.

The room filled in slowly and the masters took their places in front of a beautiful makeshift setting, with red and black curtains draped behind them. They quickly tuned, and Aaron gave a brief, modest introduction.

As though they were one, they came out swinging with an Ornette Coleman tune. Darek and Matt fit together instantly, and it was difficult to tell at times where one of them ended and the other one began. It seemed Matt had tuned his tom and adorably small kick just so that it blended perfectly with Darek’s bass tone.

Aaron and Sebastion had roomed together at Berkley school of music, and it showed as they played the head in unison, with Sebastion’s very Scofield-esque tone complementing Aaron’s angular phrasing.

The night went on and it became clear that the first tune was just the tip of the iceberg. They warmed up, and then burned up. At the end of the first song, Aaron had hardly gotten through one sentence explaining to the audience what song they had just played, when Darek assuredly and sturdily came in playing the head to Solar. Without apologies, he placed the melody in to the air. Every note in tune, every line musically shaped, his rich tone emanating from his old German bass, his top of the line gut strings and powerfully wise hands.

For all too short of a time, the first set went on like this, with innovation, fluidity, wisdom and musical prowess coming from every corner. Their solos were the beginnings of songs in and of themselves. They never phoned a note in, there was always intention.

They ended the first set by bringing up Inga Swearingen to do a vocal version of Prayer, by Keith Jarrett. The song was an unstoppable force driven by Darek’s double stops, Matt’s tasteful rhythmic choices, Sebastion’s engaging voicings and Aaron and Inga’s interplay filled with rich tones and heavenly cries. Yup, I’ll admit it, I cried a little (and it wasn’t the only time that night).

During the set break, in line for the bathroom, I noticed Darek behind me with his picture-book son of maybe eight. I asked if they needed to go first, thinking of how hard it must be at that age to sit through a set of that intensity and have to go the bathroom. He politely said no with his charming accent, and made a point of stating, as he grabbed his son’s hand, that ladies were indeed first. I was shocked a bit as I went in, perhaps not being used to meeting musicians with manners.

The second set may have been shorter than the first, but it lacked nothing. Matt started off one of the tunes and, in a way reminiscent of Clarke Kent turning in to Superman, gave the audience a glimpse of what his thin stature and large glasses were concealing. Stick to snare, stick to bell, stick to ride, stick to tom, eyes burning, and rhythm searing through the room, he let us have it. It was glorious.

Halfway through the second set, Aaron introduced an original composition dedicated to his sister-in-law, who happened to be struggling with brain cancer at the age of 26. The work had a surprisingly uplifting texture, and the crew gave it life on what I can only assume was a minimal amount of rehearsal. There was the second tear that came out of me. (Sorry, coffee shop that serves beer, what can I say?)

Inga came up again to close the second set and at the end of it, we were all left wanting more. We stood to show our gratitude (and perhaps get an encore out of them, quickly to be discouraged by Aaron pointing out that Matt and Darek had a long way to drive) and just like that, it was over.

Aaron greeted and thanked all of his friends and acquaintances individually for coming, in his Boo Boo Records t-shirt and unique shoes, sax in hand. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to persuade Aaron and Sebastion to join us at our apartment for some beer and music. Aaron was a bit tuckered and didn’t play, unfortunately, but Sebastion showed his true talent, without his effects pedals, on a $200 guitar. It was all too much, and the few of us that were there gave him our full attention.

Now if only this kind of thing happened more often around here….

“I want to ride my bicycle!!!” (my bamboo bicycle)

Is there a greener form of transportation on this earth than riding your bicycle? The average U.S gas mileage in 2005 was 21 mpg, so theoretically, for every 21 miles you put on your foot buggy, you save a gallon of gas. You put no toxic waste in to the air, and jeez, if you ride 21 m/day, you’re bound to get in decent shape. But can you make it greener? YES YOU CAN! CAN YOU MAKE IT GREENER?!?!?!?! YES YOU CAN!!!! CAN YOU MAKE IT GREEEEEEEENER?!?!?!?!? YES YOU CAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!! (whew. got a little too excited.) How? Bamboo bicycles, of course. Cool huh?

As I’m sure you know already, bamboo is a sustainable resource. It grows naturally in great abundance, and requires no pesticides or fertilizers. It provides more oxygen than trees, and prevents soil erosion, amongst other things. This means you’re saving the planet when you choose bamboo made products over plastic, aluminum, steel and wood. Additionally bamboo is stronger and lighter than steel, more flexible so as to absorb shocks from riding, sturdy and long lasting, (it isn’t going to rust) and can be worked and formed without even using electricity or other such intensive resources, while simultaneously providing job opportunities such as harvesting, building and shipping.

So where can you get one of these newfangled contraptions? Well there’s a pretty neat company out there called Bamboosero. The company was conceived in 1995 when the CEO, Craig Calfee, made his first bamboo bike. Since then, it has been a fifteen year journey to get the place they are now. The fine folks there provide job opportunities in several different locations including New Zealand, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda and the Philippines- all places where bamboo is native. This, along with keeping mother earth alive, is the goal of their company. You can opt to buy a frame or a complete shiny new bicycle (with some parts made from other materials) and get to know builders through their online profiles.

Once you get your bike, come on in and see us to get some to-go wear and some locally made sunscreen to take on your cross country trip. Go forth, and put the bamboo fun between your legs.

Song of the day: Pink Floyd’s “Bike”

Our previous blog post about the virtues of lavender got me to thinking. (Stimulation of the synapses is among the effects of lavender essence, after all.) As a greenhorn gardener on the Central Coast, it’s almost impossible for me to think about this wonderful purple bush without conjuring savory thoughts of pungent rosemary. In the drought tolerant herb garden, these supercharged Mediterranean perennials go together like Batman and Robin.

When it comes to warding off arch-enemies like olfactory ennui, culinary mediocrity, and general malaise, few shrubs can rival the super powers of the mighty rosemary. What other herb has such a rich history, a wealth of uses in cooking, cologne and aromatherapy, and grows so easily throughout California? Riddle me this.

From horror film classics to the folksy lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel, tributes to rosemary are countless, and its imprint on the collective psyche unforgettable. Among its many reputed benefits, in fact, is the improvement of memory. You may recall the words of Ophelia, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” (Hamlet, iv.5.)

But the mystique surrounding rosemary dates back far earlier than Shakespeare. In Greek mythology, when Aphrodite is born from the sea, she emerges from the water draped in rosemary. The Greek Ros Marinas actually translates as “Dew of the Sea,” and rosemary remains a mighty symbol of the goddess of love and beauty.

In the 1300s — so legend has it — the 72-year-old queen of Hungary charmed the pants off the king of Poland (Zoinks!) thanks largely to the wooing powers of Hungary Water, the illustrious perfume whose key ingredient was rosemary. For many centuries, rosemary continued to enjoy tremendous popularity for its scent and as an herbal remedy.

So whether you’re plotting a garden, preparing a dish, and craving a refreshing cleanse, consider the many benefits of rosemary. And if you’re skeptical about legends and jokers, just know that rosemary is also extremely high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6!

Song of the Day: enjoy another spicy dynamic duo with “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

It’s three in the morning, and you jolt awake from a nightmare involving  clowns and people with creepy mustaches. Your head is pounding, which prevents you from going back to sleep. The dream has left you with anxiety and your heart pounds big rhythmic thumps in your chest.  The anxiety brings on your asthma and as you reach for the inhaler you get a charlie horse in your leg. Jumping from the pain, you accidentally scrape your head on the corner of the nightstand containing said inhaler and a small amount of blood is drawn. Your headache worsens and you now have a plethora of problems whose pay dirt can only be purloined by procuring that purple miracle: lavender. 

Aside from looking pretty, and smelling even better, lavender has a variety of uses. lavender has been used for quite some time as an antiseptic and pain reliever, and as a calming agent for anxiety, stress, and nervous tension. There’s a couple of different methods for using nature’s purple bushy wonder. One unique way to relieve tension headaches and treat respiratory problems with lavender is to put its oil derivative in to a vaporizer. Amongst the long list of uses that lavender has, it can work as a pain reliever, when used in massage. It can fight off pesky insects from mosquitoes to lice, and has possibly reduced mammary tumors in lab rats (though I doubt those mammary tumors are the worst of a lab rat’s problems) lavender oil has anti-fungal properties. As a result, it may be able to treat acne, cuts, burns, psoriasis, and when added to chamomile, eczema. This amazing stuff can improve circulation, lower blood pressure and aid in treating hypertension. As a dietary aid, the oil stimulates digestive properties that fend off indigestion, stomach pain, gas, and other unpleasant problems caused from that two am pizza binge. In aromatherapy lavender oil is used for depression and emotional stress. It can increase mental activity and relieve restlessness.

All around, lavender and its derivatives are pretty useful in every day life. You can grow lavender in rough terrain and if prefers the hot weather. It’s a natural cure all that makes your house smell like heaven, and it tastes pretty dang good in ice cream! Put a little purple in your life and try Ruth’s lavender salve.

Song of the day: Start Wearing Purple by Gogol Bordello.