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Food For Thought

The Global Brain


Although the idea of a Global Brain may sound like something you’d read about in a 21st century science fiction novel, it is in fact a concept that first emerged in the social and biological sciences in the late 19th century, when an increasing number of evolutionary and social theorists began to realize that the entire human system was, in a sense, “behaving.” As scientists began to identify underlying patterns in global human systems – that appeared to be structured and self-organizing, in the same way as are those of any biological organism - scientists hypothesized that our species could, in fact, be understood as a “superorganism” as opposed to a random collection of individuals, families, groups, cities, or nations.

One of the first things to alert scientists to this possibility was the very nature of human, animal, and plant metabolism itself – which is the mechanism by which individual biological organisms process matter and transform it into energy, allowing us to live, reproduce, and function on a daily basis. The metabolic process is a highly complex one, and it is probably safe to say that no one understands it in its entirety. We do know, however, that metabolism consists of eight primary functions or “functional subsystems,” all of which have been identified and discussed by cyberneticist Francis Heylighen in his 2007 paper on the Global Brain:

• Ingestor - i.e., eating, drinking, inhaling
• Converter - i.e., digestive system, lungs
• Distributor - i.e., circulatory system
• Producer - i.e., stem cells
• Extruder - i.e., urine excretion, defecation, exhaling
• Storage - i.e., fat, bones
• Support - i.e., skeleton
• Motor - i.e., muscles

We also know that within our very own global society, we can find an analogous mechanism that perfectly mirrors the metabolic function of biological organisms, and in which we can identify the following “functional sub-systems:”

• Ingestor - i.e., mining, harvesting, pumping
• Converter - i.e., refineries, processing, plants
• Distributor - i.e., transport networks
• Producer - i.e., factories, builders
• Extruder - i.e., sewers, waste disposal, smokestacks
• Storage - i.e., warehouses, containers
• Support - i.e., buildings, bridges
• Motor - i.e., engines, people, animals

If we take the time to look at the world in this light, it is easy to see that human systems - taken together – can easily look like a giant, planetary superorganism.
But, if this is true, then where is the brain in this superorganism?

Most complex multicellular organisms have some type of nervous system, and many have centralized brains that allow them to process information, to learn from past events and experiences, and to non-randomly predict the future. Do we see evidence of this type of activity in the human superorganism? Do human systems, examined globally, display the ability to process information, to learn from past events and experiences, and to non-randomly predict the future?

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, scientists could not identify a global nervous system. And it is no wonder. During this period in human history, our communication systems were quite primitive, with most of us relying on postal services, physical meetings, and landline telephone systems to interact at even the most basic level. Only toward the mid-20th century did computer scientists, evolutionary scientists, physicists, and a few science fiction writers begin to suspect that a global nervous system was developing or emerging. Some came up with the idea that a "noosphere" could explain the organized, behavioral nature of human systems, that evolution was, in fact, pushing us towards a kind of planetary consciousness. Others saw the possibility that a global world knowledge center consisting of all human thought – was in the process of being created.

But what could create such an entity?

Well – the Internet, of course.

With the development and widespread use of the Internet, scientists could finally identify the emergence of a nervous system. From the very beginning, humans have been quick to adapt to its many uses, to rely on the Internet to store, catalogue, and process vast quantities of information – and most importantly, to facilitate communication and data transmission, breaking down more and more physical and geographical limitations as time went on, and in so doing, changing the very way humans relate to one another on a daily basis. Very few would disagree that the Internet, still in its infancy, has already completely transformed our planet and our species. With the advent of the Internet, there is nothing to prevent humans from forming connections, building social groups, and collaborating with one another, regardless of where we are on the planet.

Thank you Internet.

But is this nervous system comparable to the nervous system of a biological organism? Again, the patterns and functions seem eerily similar. In an animal’s nervous system, the following functions can be identified:

• Sensor i.e., sensory organs
• Decoder i.e., perception
• Channel and net i.e., nerves, neurons
• Associator i.e., synaptic learning
• Memory i.e., neural memory
• Decider i.e., higher brain functions
• Effector i.e., nerves activating muscles

In the global nervous system, the following functions can similarly be identified:

• Sensor i.e., reporters, researchers, etc.
• Decoder i.e., experts, politicians, public opinion, etc.
• Channel and net i.e., communication media
• Associator i.e., scientific discovery, social learning, etc.
• Memory i.e., libraries, schools, collective knowledge
• Decider i.e., government, market, voters, etc.
• Effector i.e., executives

All that said, the question remains: Are we in the process of building a Global Brain?

To answer this question, it would be a good idea to back up a little and define what we mean by Global Brain.

Right now, the idea that a Global Brain may exist in the future is merely a hypothesis, according to which scientists have posited that a higher distributed intelligence may, in fact, be emerging from an otherwise complex network of people, machines, and ideas. According to this hypothesis, a Global Brain would, through our continued collective action and/or consciousness, eventually have the ability to mediate and to regulate all human activity. Now, before we begin comparing the idea of a Global Brain to that of an Orwellian Big Brother, let's remember that the Global Brain is a “distributed” intelligence. Such an entity would not be controlled by any one agent. In fact, the Global Brain's existence would depend exclusively on the behavior and existence of its neurons (i.e., us). Just as your own “global brain” (i.e., you) is produced by the collective behavior of your neural networks, the Global Brain’s behaviour would be dependent on the collective thoughts and wishes of individuals and organizations around the world.

In my opinion, the evolution of a Global Brain is – in the very least - theoretically possible. After all, many technological and system-level trends appear to point towards the emergence of such an entity sometime during this century.

Consider, for example, the following trends:

1. Everyday, humans around the world continue to provide increasing amounts of data to the Internet, including information that we had once considered personal and private.

2. Everyday, humans around the world are spending increasing amounts of time on the Internet.

3. Everyday, humans around the world have increasingly easy and cost-effective access to the Internet.

All of these trends are likely to continue. It is not difficult for most of us to picture a world – in 2030 - when all humans are on the Internet, all the time - sharing, liking, tweeting, hash-tagging, commenting, discussing – generally outsourcing our lives to a medium that has access to all of our personal and collective information. Assuming that these trends will continue, one can easily hypothesize that at some unfixed point in the future, most or perhaps all human interaction will take place there.

Let’s assume, for a moment, that a Global Brain does, in fact, exist – or is in the process of development - and that we are simply the neurons that make up this vast nervous system. Using the analogy of a human brain, we know that a Global Brain could not function if its neurons were not fully connected with it, if its neurons were not engaged in a continuous stream of communication with one another. A Global Brain, after all, could not exist if its neurons were disconnected from it or from one another.

In the last decade, we have seen computers shrink in size and weight, becoming increasingly portable, accessible, and user-friendly. Whether in the form of laptops, tablets, or other mobile devices, we are using computers in more intimate ways. We have come to rely on computers on a daily basis for all kinds of reasons and they, in turn, have become ubiquitous in our lives. In the 1970s, computers could be found only in laboratories, research facilities, and universities. In the 1980s, they invaded the work place. In the 1990s, computers found their way “en masse” into our homes. In the 2000s, they found their way into our pockets in the form of mobile gadgets, portable phones, and listening devices. In this decade, we are already beginning to witness the emergence of "wearable" computers (i.e., Google Glass, Smart Watches). In the 2020s, computers will make our homes, businesses, and transportation grids intelligent, and in the 2030s we will probably begin to allow computers into our own bodies, so that they can interface with our organs, including with our brains.

In this light, it is easy to see that a global nervous system may indeed be coming to life, and that once the Internet is connected to or somehow integrated into our brains, we will have given it the power to mediate everything we do, say, and think, and that we will be able interact with it as seamlessly as we currently do through the medium of spoken and written language.

The Global Brain refers, in short, to the Internet at its full maturity. It will be an intelligent planetary network of people, machines, and ideas – a collective system within which we will probably spend most of our existence. Will it be conscious? Well, WE are conscious. So if all human consciousness on the earth is merged together on one planetary communication medium, my guess is that this will give rise to a meta-consciousness. Evolution, taken to its natural next step, will permit us to create an all-encompassing global consciousness endowed with its own intelligence and its own nervous system, opening doors to innumerable possibilities that could never have existed otherwise.

If you’d like to know more about the Global Brain, come see me at where I am attempting to raise money to fund my research, and where I have included additional information about this very exciting project. I look forward to answering your questions at:

Photo Credit: Istockphoto

Cadell Last is a science writer and evolutionary scientist with a Master’s Degree from the University of Toronto, with experience in the fields of anthropology, biology, cybernetics, and history. He is in the early stages of his doctorate research at the Global Brain Institute in Belgium, working under cyberneticist Francis Heylighen. If you are interested in supporting Cadell’s groundbreaking research, or would like to find out more about it, please visit or contact him directly via Twitter (@cadelllast).

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Moana Lambert

Teen visual artist Moana Lambert, 18, who lives on the North Island in New Zealand, is a fiercely courageous and outspoken young woman. As an artist, Moana believes that art can inspire widespread social change, and hopes that her paintings will help raise awareness and compassion for our planet and for all living creatures. Her haunting, atmospheric paintings are infused with tenderness and affection for the most helpless of animals, and exhibit a kind of gothic sensibility that plays on the razor’s edge between the innocuous and the horrific. The wide-eyed young girls who dominate her canvasses look oddly out of place amid the cross-bones, broken glass, and toxic sludge that act as symbols of contemporary life, and in so doing, draw our attention to some of the most pressing matters of the day. In the following interview, Moana talks about her life, her art, and her hopes for a better future. ***** Q. When did you start creating art? I realized I had a passion for art when I was in primary school, but I have been drawing and creating ever since I can remember. I guess I've always felt excitement about the freedom it gives me to create whatever I am feeling. My teachers told my parents that I had talent, and so my parents encouraged me by crafting and drawing with me at home. It became my favourite activity! As a child, I filled books full of drawings. I still keep these books. Q. What do you hope to achieve with your art? I hope to raise awareness about just how important our earth is. It's the only one we have, after all, and we are the only ones who can influence its condition. We share our planet with many other creatures and I believe it is ignorant to carry thoughts that we are the only living things that think and feel. I want to raise awareness and let other people know that if everybody treated animals with respect and kindness, we would provide the world with harmony and peace – which we need a large dose of. Just as importantly, I want my artwork to encourage those who are already fighting for these causes not to give up, and to provide them with support as their causes grow in numbers and awareness. Q. Are you vegetarian? I am not fully vegetarian, but I have made the decision to slowly convert. I have cut all red meats from my diet, and pork. I feel that it has made a great improvement on my well being, as I feel it is wrong to kill and eat such intelligent and beautiful animals. In the past, I tried to convert to vegetarianism suddenly and dropped all meat from my diet but found that I became ill. I think I have to get accustomed to it slowly. Q. Can art help raise awareness about the importance of animal welfare? Animal welfare has always been important to me. As I was growing up, I always felt a strong connection with animals, and have always thought that their well being was equally important to our own. Humans are just animals too after all, and I believe all living things deserve the same amount of happiness and freedom. I think that awareness about animal abuse can definitely be raised through art. Art has the ability to portray strong emotions through something that is visually beautiful, and that will easily capture attention. It can be activist in a way that is non-threatening, but blatantly obvious as to what it is about. Art can be shared through social media where it is hard to miss, and hung in people’s homes where a statement can be made for the cause. Q. Do other people or artists inspire or influence your work? If so, can you tell me who they are, and in what way they have inspired you? To be perfectly honest, my artwork is strongly inspired by my own feelings and need for personal expression on subjects I feel strongly about, such as pollution of the environment and my love of animals. I aim to ignite this passion in other people when they see my work. But other artists have definitely inspired me. Mark Ryden has been very inspirational because he is unafraid to portray through his work the grim realities that people choose to be ignorant about and prefer not to think about. His use of young, doe-eyed girls creates a sense of vulnerability that I think we can all relate to, in that we all feel vulnerable to the world at some point. Camilla d'Errico's work has influenced me strongly because her images of people and animals provide a sense of harmony that I feel such an emotional connection to, and relates to my own love for all creatures on earth. Séraphine Pick has been very influential as she is a New Zealand artist. Her work highlights human emotion through powerful facial expression and character. I believe this is important when painting people - to help draw the viewer’s thoughts to the meaning behind the image. Q. How have people responded to your art so far? Usually they say that it’s beautiful or the message is strong. I've had a few people from my school - who I barely know - come up to me and ask whether I brought my art that day and if they can see it. It means so much to me when people tell me that my art has inspired them. It means that it's all worth it, even if it's just one person, if the message in my work has reached someone or touched someone's thoughts. Q. Can you describe your creative process? My creative process often begins with something I've seen, read or heard that overwhelms me and makes me think “this needs to change” or “people need to know about this.” I then think of a way to present this in a painting. I want to make sure that the image will stick in the viewer’s mind and make them realize the importance of the issue. Q. What kind of equipment, materials, and technique do you use? First off, I create a rough sketch to plan my painting. Then most times I use acrylic paint, and occasionally water colours, for smooth blending on backgrounds. I find I can use acrylic paint with the most ease, and I often use a dry brush technique for effective blending of colours and shading. Sometimes I will even blend with my finger. Q. What do you like to draw? Animals, especially cats, have always been my favourite subjects. There is a certain majestic and serene presence about cats that I like to capture in a drawing. It leaves me inspired. As my mother is also an animal lover, there have always been beloved pets around me as I was growing up. I also love drawing faces. I find it a challenge to achieve the correct balance of character and expression in the face and my goal is to continue to improve on this. I enjoy drawing fantasy creatures and beings, and creating characters, but I rarely post these online. Q. I see that you’re also interested in photography. Do you prefer painting and drawing over photography? I prefer painting and drawing to photography as it allows me more freedom and control over my creation. For me, photography is a beautiful way to enhance the world to how I want to see it, but drawing and painting present endless possibilities for what I want to do and unexpected changes and outcomes along the way. Painting is like a creative journey for me. Q. What are you working on right now? I am working on a folio painting featuring a man morphed with a black rhino, carrying a bottle and holding a baby white rhino. The ghost of the black rhino - which is extinct - is attempting to save the baby white rhino - which is endangered - from a destructive world. At the other end of the picture, I have painted the earth as a ghostly skull emerging from a white lily, which is often associated with death. I have also painted a string of red hair entwining parts of the rhino to represent anger and pain and passion, all feelings associated with the colour red. This is how I feel about the pollution of the environment and the mistreatment of animals. Q. Can you describe a typical day in your life? I am attending high school for my senior year, so on a typical day, I am usually planning out and working on my Art and Photography folios. I am preparing to enroll into Massey University in Wellington where I will be studying Fine Arts next year. After school I will usually spend time with my friends and family. The evenings is when I do more painting, and work on other homework and personal drawings. I also watch horror movies. Q. What do you enjoy most about horror movies? I like to be thrilled and shocked or scared by a film rather than bored waiting for an inevitable happy ending. I guess my love for horror films appears often in my artwork, in the grim and eerie nature of some of my paintings. Q. In your opinion, do you think that art is important in today’s technological society? I think art is very important in today's society as it allows people's thoughts and feelings to be made into something visual. Art is a form of communication and I think it is extremely therapeutic on one’s mind and that it will always be present despite the advances of technology. I believe the world would be a dull place without any form of art, because art is thought provoking and allows us to think more deeply about different aspects of life, and it allows us to simply see beauty in strange things, beauty we wouldn’t be able to appreciate otherwise. I think art can go a long way with the help of technology, as it can be spread worldwide to be viewed by a huge range of people, and easily accessed with a click of a button. Q. Do you think that teens would benefit from creating more art? I strongly feel that more teens should create art, as it lets you define yourself and express yourself without the influence of other people. It is also a great outlet for teens suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, which I feel strongly about. Parents, teachers, schools and society could encourage teens to create more art by refraining from speaking of art as if it were a lesser subject. I have come across adults like this from time to time. Adults need to support creative outlets for teens, and they need to make it a priority. Q. Have you always known that you would pursue a career in art? Yes, I've always known art would be a big part of my life. It's what I love regardless of anyone's opinion. Almost everyone in my life has been extremely supportive of my creativity and those who haven’t been so supportive have never bothered me much, because I believe in my abilities and I know that art is a part of who I am. Art is the thing that motivates me toward my goals. It is the thing in my life that I can always fall back on and feel confident about no matter what is going on in my life. To view more of Moana’s work, please go to ***** Image Credit: Moana Lambert

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Shed The Layers

by Melanie Lotos

Based out of Hamburg, Germany, Melanie Lotos was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and was wheelchair-bound for some time at the age of twenty-seven. She was told that she would never walk normally or without pain again. Defying the odds, Melanie adopted an organic grain-free vegan diet, rich in fresh wild herbs and greens, and found that after only two weeks, her symptoms had considerably improved. She continued her journey to health by water fasting in Paraguay and by adopting a raw vegan diet. In the following article, Melanie tells an inspirational story about the life-changing journey she took to take charge of her life and her health. ***** I was born in a little old farmhouse in the Black Forest in Germany. I am the first child to my mother Karin Elizabeth, who is an artist, yoga teacher and Ayurvedic massage therapist, and to my father Markus, who is best described as an orchid lover and jungle enthusiast. I have one younger brother. His name is Sascha Benjamin. As a child, I attended many different schools and eventually chose to live in a boarding school that specialized in music and sports. Over the course of my youth, two classmates—who were from different parts of the world—invited me to stay with their families, and I was lucky to travel to Egypt and India with them. After completing my A level in 2003, I traveled extensively in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Australia where I spent time in the area known as Arnhem Land. It was at this time that I developed an interest in global foods and culture. Two years later, I enrolled in Media Arts at the State School of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe in Germany. I completed my studies, and for the next two years, I traveled back and forth between Argentina and Germany. In 2012, I completed my Master-Exhibition in Berlin—it was called “The Institute of Health and Happiness” —and in September 2013, I left home to travel to the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica. I am now thirty-one years old, and I live in Hamburg. I continue to travel for food, art and health related reasons, and have seen most of Europe, Iran, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Mexico. Over the last few years, I have been invited to be a chef at the Woodstock Fruit Festival just outside of Albany, NY. I have worked as a freelance chef at extraVeganz in Berlin, and I co-created the menu for Gratitude Organic Eatery in Munich. I currently work as a holistic health coach, and am certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. I specialize in raw food and whole food nutrition, as well as in mindset therapy. ***** In 2010, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation in the joints. I had suffered from a lot of different symptoms prior to this diagnosis. I had various gastrointestinal issues, which doctors simply liked to refer to as ‘irritable bowel syndrome.’ In 2005, I had an anal fistula, which is a very nasty thing. As a kid, I often suffered from sinusitis, and I remember that I took a lot of antibiotics. My tonsils were removed when I was eleven years old, and as a teen, I suffered from PMS. My emotional and mental state was chaotic. I felt that I was crazy and depressed. I thought that I could easily be diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. Drama queen. Artist to be. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, American psychiatrist and New York Times best-selling author of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” insane is the new normal. He states that depression, obesity and Alzheimers’ have to be understood as interrelated conditions. Depression has become one of the greatest killers of our time. I had not known about Dr. Amen when I was a teenager, but I knew that the way I thought about myself was unhealthy. Although I was not obese, I was carrying around my share of excess fat and did not feel good about myself. I did not respect my body and mind. I drank excessively on a regular basis. When I was a teenager in boarding school, I experimented with drugs—from marijuana to cocaine and ecstasy. I used drugs regularly over the years. From a very young age, I was on a quest for personal development and self-discovery, and the drugs were part of this journey. I was not an addict, but I definitely used drugs regularly. I was living in a boarding school at the time, which was more fun than it sounds like. I enjoyed the community living and all of the social activities, like performing in the theater and singing in the choir. Nevertheless, smoking pot was a daily occurrence and there was a lot of alcohol involved also. Weekends gave me the opportunity to break free from school. For me, it was like entering a different world. On weekends, I would go out with a group of girls to party. On almost every weekend for two years, we partied from Friday to Sunday, including after-hour parties. The mid-to-late 90's was an amazing time. We were so young. It was a lot of fun. Techno, outdoor goa parties, and underground clubs. We mixed different substances like MDMA and amphetamine. Thankfully, I knew my limits and always made sure to surround myself with good people. We took care of one other. Not all of us were so lucky. When I was twenty or twenty-one, I went through a phase when I regretted taking all of these drugs. I do not regret these experiences anymore. I would not be the person I am now had I not had those experiences. They are part of me. While I believe that psychoactive drugs, in the correct dosage and when used in the right way, can help some people experience a higher form of consciousness, I was not using drugs to raise my consciousness when I was a teenager. My only intention was to party, and in retrospect I realize that I was using drugs and alcohol to escape from a deeper emotional trauma, hoping that it would fill some kind of void. Having said that, I know that there was something magical about these experiences, and that in a sense, another realm of reality had opened up for me to explore. Just as the conscious use of drugs can bring forth a deeper awareness and a greater understanding of the unlimited self, similarly, the healing powers of plant medicine can have powerful and positive effects on people in difficult life situations. These days, I choose the path of ancient wisdom and natural medicine instead of that of prescription drugs. ***** Prior to my RA diagnosis, I had developed pain in the joints of my pinky finger, and in my right wrist and knee. The pain had become almost unbearable. To control the pain, I took between five and ten painkillers a day. Eventually, it got to the point where I couldn’t walk normally anymore. I decided that it was time to visit the doctor. Several months later, after diagnosing me with rheumatoid arthritis, my doctors told me that I would never walk without pain again. They told me I would have to take immunosuppressant medication for an undefined period of time. In the worst case, they said, it would be for the rest of my life. I knew instantly that I wouldn’t follow their advice. Although I had this crazy party life, I also knew about natural healing, organic foods, and the importance of rest and being surrounded by good friends. It was clear to me that I had to change my situation, and that I was the only one who could do it. Actually, it all started with a feeling. Despite the doctor’s diagnosis, I was almost certain that I did not suffer from a serious disorder like rheumatoid arthritis. Something inside of me knew better. It was very obvious to me, and to others, that my life was out of balance. My mother, who knows about the healing power of our own bodies, sent me emails everyday telling me, “You are not sick; just change your lifestyle.” I did a lot of research and read all I could find about natural healing. I learned that it was possible to reduce inflammation by making sure that my body was more alkaline. Within a week, I stopped smoking, drinking, eating meat, dairy and any other animal products. I cut out pasta, bread and all other grain-based products and added more greens, fruits and filtered water to my diet. I stopped consuming anything that would promote inflammation, and I added herbs and plants that would help with the detoxification of my body. The results were startling. In two weeks, the pain had diminished. I could walk again—and almost without any pain at all, and the stinging, irritating pain in my right wrist had disappeared. I could put weight on my hands, and I did not feel the constant burning in my joints anymore. The inflammation had subsided. I read many books, and learned that grains can promote inflammation, so I started experimenting with different foods. One week, I would eat only green vegetables and fruits—and I found that I felt better. Then, the following week, I would add grains—and I found that the pain was worse. Removing grains from my diet made a big difference in reducing the intensity of the pain. I did not know about the elimination diet back then, but that was basically what I was doing. I left foods out of my diet, and then I’d introduce them again later on to see how my body would react. It was a challenge for me, but the decision was an easy one to make. Try something radical or take pills and suffer. I did not want to continue on the road to becoming a victim. I knew that much. ***** I need to mention that I was very fortunate. A month after my diagnosis, I had gone back to Argentina where my boyfriend at that time was living. The support I got from him played a crucial role in my recovery, and the support of my family and school made all these drastic changes in my life possible. My school, for example, allowed me to extend my stay in South America, and recognized my healing journey as an art project. My mother was behind me one hundred percent. She supported my dietary changes, and the choice I made to go to a retreat center to fast. My boyfriend at the time was my greatest supporter. I felt very safe with him, and for the first time in a long time, I felt deeply connected to another person. His love for me sparked a desire to love myself for who I was. He saw through all the layers of pain and doubt. He gave me a lot of space so I could discover the reasons I had got sick in the first place. I would even say we were brought together for that very reason. It was "serendipity" or some higher force that brought us together. I am very grateful to him. ***** When I did make the decision to go vegan, and later raw, I did it overnight. I had already begun exploring the world of superfoods back in 2010 when I was traveling through Argentina, Paraguay and Costa Rica. Superfoods are plants that are rich in mineral content, protective phyto-chemicals, micronutrients and antioxidants. Berries, green leafy vegetables, papayas, pineapples, grapes, green tea, turmeric and ginger are considered superfoods. While living in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, I discovered a whole new world of superfoods – like chia, spirulina, maca, and seaweed - and I learned about lifestyles and healing protocols like natural hygiene and fruitarianism. Argentina is famous for its meats and wine, right? Right. And I had had lots of it. But after my diagnosis, I started researching whether I could heal myself naturally. What I discovered was a completely different way of eating. I discovered the wacky world of raw food. By then, I was already buying my fruits and vegetables at a gorgeous organic farmers market that was located at an old train station outside of Buenos Aires. I went there every weekend to do my shopping and to try out new things. There, I rediscovered the incredible power of wild greens, which was not new to me—I had known about them since I was a child—but I hadn’t yet made the effort to include them in my diet. I also discovered a lot of vegan and raw vegan restaurants in Buenos Aires, which had not been of interest to me before. As part of my healing process, I did liver cleanses and colon hydrotherapy, and I learned as much as I could about wild herbs and herbal tinctures and supplements. I tried EVERYTHING. The world of raw foods and superfoods was not entirely new to me. I had grown up with hippie parents who grew a lot of their own produce and also traveled a lot. But I started to view it from a different point of view. I understood that changing the way I ate was more than a culinary adventure. I discovered that I could actually heal and change my whole existence. I knew I would have to get to know who I thought I was and the essence of what made up my belief systems. At the age of twenty-seven, I considered myself a world citizen, an art student, a free spirit—but when I was diagnosed with RA, I felt reckless, fat and depressed. I had no real understanding of self-love and no sense of ambition. Oh, I was in for a ride. ;) I would change on a cellular level. ***** I can't remember when I first heard the term “epigenetics,” but I remember watching an intriguing German documentary about it a while back. Epigenetics is a field of study that focuses on changes in gene expression caused by certain base pairs in our DNA that are activated or de-activated by chemical reactions. It's about what we inherit and how our environment shapes us and creates us. What we eat and what we think have major influences on our physical and mental health. According to epigenetics, we have the power to influence, restructure, and correct our DNA. In Dr. Bruce Lipton’s words, “The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.” Through my mother, I found out about a German couple, both homeopaths living in Paraguay, who started a raw food community called El Paraiso. I wrote to them to explain my situation, and they invited me to start my raw food healing journey there. One month prior to my departure, I stopped taking all medication including pain killers. At the time, I was still experiencing some pain and was exhibiting many detox symptoms. I was already taking spirulina, and it was helping me immensely with these symptoms. I also learned about MSM and had started taking that as well. By then, I had been on a vegan diet for two months. My knee was still extremely swollen but I could already feel a difference in my body. I had already lost a lot of weight and my outlook on life in general had changed. Immediately upon arrival, the owners of El Paraiso introduced me to the practice of visualization. It was difficult for me to sit down and envision myself walking pain free again. I had never really taken meditation very seriously before and I thought, “How could sitting here and WISHING to heal help me?” But after a while, I began to get into it—and it felt amazing. Surrounded by nature, I was breathing fresh air and drinking clean spring water. I added more fresh greens to my diet, and left out all processed foods. I ate only raw vegan food, and this supported my body as I focused on healing myself. After only two days at El Paraiso, I could not believe my eyes. All of the water in my knee was gone. The swelling had disappeared. I could run. For the first time in ten months, I could run without any pain at all. It was like a miracle to me. The raw vegan diet helped my body get rid of all of the toxins in my body. Energy that was normally used to digest heavy foods was now being re-directed toward healing and rejuvenating my body. I practiced yoga and visualization techniques on a daily basis. I also decided to water fast for ten days. As time passed, I became more mindful of my thoughts and started to shed the layers. I lost about twenty kilograms in three months. It was a lot of weight in a rather short period of time but it felt amazing. I was glowing. I had never felt this good before. Many emotional issues came up during this period, but I was not ready to deal with them yet. I refused to believe that the origin of my health problems lay way back in my childhood. I did not want to deal with that possibility, and chose to stay on the physical side of healing for another six months—before I started to dig even deeper. My detox had started at El Paraiso, but it continued on a more spiritual and emotional level when I traveled to the Farm of Life in Costa Rica. It was my first volunteer position as a raw chef, and I had the pleasure of getting to know the retreat’s wonderful hosts Brian and Jody Calvi. They, in turn, referred me to raw food author and consultant, Ka Sundance from RawFoodFamily. I have had the pleasure of meeting Ka a few times since then, and thanks to his support, I attended his retreat as a chef in December 2010. Opportunities began to come my way. Doors began to open. I moved to Berlin in the spring of 2011. Shortly afterward, I found a heart dialogue therapist. I also did a workshop with the founders of Café Gratitude about forgiveness and emotional healing. I developed an interest in shamanic ceremonies and I took part in ceremonies like sweat lodges and plant medicine retreats. I felt that I needed to clear out a lot of the anger that I was carrying around with me. I had to forgive myself and some of the people in my past. It was time to face the truth and start taking care of myself. By moving to the jungle, fasting and eating a raw vegan diet, I had created a pathway that would make choosing love possible, for myself and for others. In time, I would join the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and I would begin to focus on my own personal growth. I would start my own business. I would take part in the Awesomeness Fest, and get to know some amazing people. This would lead me to an opportunity to take part in a camp at Burning Man in the desert in Nevada—for which I will be leaving shortly. I believe that when I made the decision to take care of myself, when I decided to reach out and make myself vulnerable to others, the universe responded and opened itself to me. ***** These days, I eat a diet consisting of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. I also eat nuts, seeds and so-called superfoods like spirulina, barley grass, chia, maca, chaga and reishi. I also take B12 and other bio-available supplements. More than anything else, I eat fresh greens. In the beginning, I was very strict and dove headfirst into living a natural hygiene lifestyle, which is known in North America as the 80-10-10 diet. And I was learning from and working with raw foodies who lead a very pure low-fat raw vegan 80-10-10 lifestyle. So it took me quite some time to realize that I would not poison myself if I ate something cooked every once in a while. Thanks to Frederic Patenaude who published a very cool book called Raw Freedom—which sheds some light on a lot of false science used by raw foodies—I eat cooked food occasionally when I’m traveling or out with friends. Compared to what I used to eat in the past, the drugs I took, and the other reckless life choices I made, I can say that I eat very healthily now. It’s a tremendous improvement, and as time goes by, I continue to make better choices. Given all of the research on the benefits of a vegan diet for our health and the planet, I believe that it’s the way to go, and that it is possible to heal most diseases of affluence. I am living proof of that. But I also support experimenting with a high raw, plant-based diet that includes minimal, high-quality animal products. With the choices I make, I want to create a world where people are inspired to go back to their roots to growing much of their own food for themselves or at least knowing where it really comes from. A world where people stop buying mass-produced meats and other animal products. Although I do not live up to some of the standards set by the raw and vegan communities, I am an advocate for these amazing lifestyles—for making healthy choices for the planet and for yourself. I am what I eat, but I am more than what I eat. There is more to health than food. Our relationships, spirituality, careers, and our level of physical activity play a crucial role in our well-being and are the building blocks to achieving superior health. Food is secondary, but it’s the fastest and most direct way to shed the layers, so we can take a deeper, more meaningful look at ourselves and the lives we lead, and so we can start building the lives we truly want. ***** What Melanie Eats in a Day: I like to start with a glass of water and lemon when I get up. I go through phases where I drink matcha tea, green tea and pu-erh tea, often throughout the day. For breakfast I enjoy mostly fruits. Right now, I like to start the day with seasonal fruits from Turkey and Italy, or berries from Germany. When I am in the tropics, I choose from a bountiful variety of fruits. Sometimes, when I am in Europe, I will buy a special box of fruit from Orkos, which exports mostly organic, pesticide-free and tree-ripened tropical fruits to Europe. I also like to make fresh juices and smoothies in the morning. My favorite juice right now is carrot-ginger-cucumber-celery-lime juice. I also enjoy different kinds of smoothies, sometimes green smoothies with herbs or just plain fruit. I like to add a different mix of superfoods like maca, chaga, hemp seeds, msm, spirulina, chia or matcha to my juices and smoothies from time to time. Some mornings I like to eat porridge made from quinoa or steel cut oats with fresh, homemade almond milk. For lunch I will eat a salad or more fruits or even some steamed greens. Spinach and peas are high up on my list right now. In the evenings, I like to prepare a dish with steamed or raw vegetables. I combine them with quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, or noodles made of corn, rice, buckwheat or sea vegetable pasta accompanied by a variety of tomato sauces, cooked or raw. I love to add coconut milk, ginger, nama shoyu and lots of fresh herbs to my meals. Cilantro and parsley are my favorites. If I feel like eating something like bread or ice cream, I prefer to make it myself with the best and most natural ingredients I can find. For example, I like to bake my own buckwheat and spelt sourdough bread with sesame and pumpkin seeds. And it’s easy to make your own ice cream if you own a blender or juicer. You just need some frozen fruit, coconut milk and coconut sugar. Just bananas and dates will make a great ice cream too! I enjoy simple dishes, and nothing can beat a great salad with tons of GREENS and a mango-ginger tomato dressing. ***** Melanie provides the following tips and advice for people who are suffering from serious or chronic illnesses: 1. Make the decision to take care of yourself. Take responsibility for your health, and start putting yourself and your health first. 2. Once you have made this decision, it is very important to have a support system in place. Make sure to let the people in your life know that you have made the decision to take care of your own health, and that this decision is important to you. 3. Consider joining a coaching program or connect with people who are on a similar journey. 4. I do not believe in the term ‘chronic illness’ per se. We are here as spiritual beings, and we are having a human experience. Health problems are part of this experience, and they can reveal so much about our greatness, and about those areas in our life where we need to dig deeper in order to grow. Instead of asking “why is this happening to me?” consider asking yourself “why is this happening FOR me?” I know that this is a very difficult thing to do, but when I learned to see things this way, to actually see all of the good in what seems like a really bad situation, things began to shift. To create awareness of your own ability to heal yourself is a very powerful thing. 5. I recommend that you spend some time alone and in silence. Go into nature. 6. Fast every once in a while and drink clean water. 7. Eat fresh green vegetables, and try eating all of the vegetables you’ve never tried before. 8. Explore the world of herbs. Drink herbal teas. Make juice. Drink coconut water. Infuse your water with lemon juice or fruit juice. Eat fruit for breakfast. 9. Sleep, rest and meditate MORE. 10. And remember, you don’t have to be perfect. ***** Image Credit: Used with Melanie Lotos’ permission

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Jakob Davies

Canadian-based actor Jakob Davies, who turned eleven in January 2014, has been featured in twenty-six productions to date, and has played iconic characters like the young Lex Luther in Warner Bros’ television series “Smallville,” and the recurring role of Pinocchio on the ABC hit series “Once Upon A Time.” Despite his young age, Jakob is a true professional who agreed to a lengthy interview and welcomed the many questions I threw his way, answering each and every one with the same sensitivity, candor, and good humor that he brings to every one of his roles. For those of you who are familiar with Jakob’s portrayal of Pinocchio in “Once Upon a Time,” you will agree that Jakob is simply a pleasure to watch on screen. We look forward to seeing him in the feature length film “If I Stay,” which will be released in August 2014 – in which Jakob will play the role of little brother to Chloe Moretz’s character, Mia – and in “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” starring Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Rosamund Pike, and Christopher Plummer, which will be released in September 2014. ***** Jakob lives in White Rock, a city located within a thirty minute drive of Vancouver BC, with his mom, dad, little brother Jack, and Zipper, the family’s Boston Terrier: “We have a fun, busy house. My mom is a shoe designer, my dad is in banking, and my brother Jack is six and going into grade two in September.” Unlike many young actors, Jakob has elected to continue attending public school, where he will be starting sixth grade in September: “I actually love school. Spending time with my friends is the best part. My friends are really great and don’t really pay any extra attention to what I do. We all do different things we love. Some of my friends are good at soccer, dance or hockey. We all are really proud of each other.” He continued: “I really love math, but I really don’t like the homework. I do it, but it is not how I want to spend my time after school. I prefer to ride my bike or longboard with my friends. If the weather is bad we sometimes play Xbox. I have an Xbox One and love sports games. It is so fun to have your friends over or play with them online.” Despite his many commitments, Jakob makes the time in his busy schedule for extra-curricular activities like hip-hop and football: “I play football for the White Rock Titans and am a quarterback. I have been playing football since I was five years old. I love being part of the team. A lot of the boys on the White Rock Titans have been playing together since we have been five years old. It’s like having twenty crazy brothers.” I asked Jakob to describe a typical day in his life: “Now that it is summer, I usually start the day with Instagram. I love Instagram! You won’t see a bunch of selfies of me on my Instagram. I am really lucky that I get to do really cool things and meet interesting people. I like to share those parts of my life with my Instagram followers. I am on Twitter as well because it is linked to my Instagram account. After posting to Instagram, I ride my bike, go to swimming classes, and then study lines for any auditions that are coming up. I am also taking sailing lessons this summer which I’m super excited about!” I wondered whether a busy actor like Jakob had time to enjoy a movie now and again. “What’s your favorite movie of all time?” I asked. He replied: “I love 'The Lord of the Rings' movies. My dad read the books to me at bedtime before the movies came out and we watched them all together. There are other movies that I like – like 'Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.' But the 'Lord of the Rings' is special because of my dad.” ***** Jakob started acting five years ago in 2009 when he was featured in several national and international commercials, as well as in the 2010 thriller “The Tortured.” I asked him whether he was nervous to be in front of the camera for the first time: “I only had one scene, no lines, but it was exciting! The director, Robert Lieberman, made me comfortable by letting me sit in his chair and look at the set-up through the monitor. By the time they were ready to shoot my scene, I was not nervous at all.” Jakob admitted, however, that he still finds auditions to be a little nerve-wracking: “I always get nervous at auditions. The more I want the role, the more nervous I am! It is a different kind of nervous where you can’t wait to get in the room and show what you can do.” His advice: “If you are nervous and scared to go in the room, you probably shouldn’t.” Jakob decided he wanted to start acting after watching the Canadian television series “This is Daniel Cook”: “It was a show where Daniel would do different jobs or activities and interview people. I loved that show and watched it all the time. I wanted to be on TV like him.” When I asked him what kinds of tips he would give to other aspiring young actors, Jakob replied: “If you want to be an actor, keep bugging your parents. You need them to take you to auditions and classes. I kept asking my parents for two years before they agreed to take me to talk to an agent. You get a lot of rejection, but you just have to try to not let it bug you! You have to really want to be an actor and love what you do because you sometimes miss out on things like friends’ birthday parties or school trips.” I asked Jakob whether there are challenges that he faces as a young actor, or whether he ever gets lonely or bored as the only kid on the set: “There are not many bad things about being an actor, except I guess missing a friend’s birthday party or a school field trip if I am on set. Unless it is spring break or summer, I am in school or on set and I don’t have time to be bored. If I’m not needed for a scene, I go right to school. I also bring a football and an Xbox to play on dinner breaks. There are a lot of people working on a set and there is usually someone who wants to play catch.” For Jakob, missing a friend’s birthday party or a school trip is a small price to pay for the privilege of acting in the company of so many talented individuals, and for the many unique opportunities that have come his way: “I love acting because I have met some really interesting people, and I’ve travelled away from home and tried new things. For my role in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, which is coming out soon, I played a cowboy who could ride, shoot a rifle and rope. I got to travel across Canada and even went to Cowboy School to learn to rope and ride horses. Before Cowboy School, I had only sat on a horse once, never shot a gun and never even thought about doing rope tricks. I worked with real rodeo cowboys who trained me for three months for one scene in the movie.” ***** I asked Jakob to talk about what it was like to play the role of little brother, Teddy, to Chloe Moretz’s character in R.J. Cutler’s film “If I Stay.” Based on Gayle Forman’s 2009 novel by the same name, the film tells the story of a seventeen year old classical cellist by the name of Mia, who finds herself dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic car accident. Jakob explained: “One of the best parts about working with Chloe was that she knows what it is like being the only kid on set because she started acting when she was young as well. I was able to ask her questions that only she would understand, and I am really glad I met her. The cast and crew made it so easy to play the role of a little brother because Teddy - my character in 'If I Stay' - was treated like a fun little brother by everyone on set! Jamie Blackley would play catch (football) or play soccer with me every day on set in between takes and at lunch breaks. Everyone always made me feel like I was a part of the group.” Much to his credit, Jakob is quick to express gratitude to those actors who have inspired him and provided him with support over the years: “I have been lucky to spend time with some really great actors. There is one actor. You may not know his name right away, but you have probably seen him in movies or on TV. Tony Amendola plays Geppeto opposite me as Pinocchio on ABC's Once Upon a Time. In the second season, we had a scene where we both needed to be crying. In rehearsals I was embarrassed to cry and Tony took the time to coach me and make me feel comfortable. That scene is still one of my favorites and I am proud and grateful to him whenever I see it.” Being surrounded by famous and incredibly talented actors doesn’t appear to faze Jakob. In Peter Chelsom’s upcoming 2014 British romantic comedy “Hector and the Search for Happiness” starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer, Jakob plays a young version of the lead character Hector - played by Simon Pegg - an eccentric London psychiatrist who searches the globe to find the secret to happiness. When I asked Jakob to talk about his role and what it was like to work with so many famous people, he shrugged it off and replied modestly: “I got to spend time with Simon Pegg. He is really cool and funny, and knows everything about video games! I have some great pictures from the set but can’t share them until after the movie comes out.” I believe we might want to keep our eye on Jakob Davies in the days to come. Jakob is a bright, mature, and articulate young man with an exciting future ahead of him who, despite his youth, is obviously passionate about his craft. In his words, “I would like to try directing when I am older. I do love acting and plan on doing it as long as I can.” We wish Jakob the very best in his acting career, and look forward to seeing him light up the screen. ***** Image Credit: Used with permission

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Summer on Tubbs Hill

by J.D. Coburn

In 1966, my late best friend, Phil Dickenson and I spent the summer living on Tubbs Hill near downtown Coeur d'Alene. Tubbs‚ as it is known locally, is a knoll about 400 feet high situated on the North Shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. There’s a nice two mile hiking trail that winds around the hill adjacent to the shoreline with spurs leading up and down along the way, a wide creek to cross, boulders of basalt and cliffs of granite ideal for diving, a smattering of private beaches, a couple of caves, and just about anything a kid would want in the way of a forested playground. No shirts, no shoes, no problem. In the city by the lake, there was one rule: Don’t track in the sand for someone else to clean up. So clothing was kept to a minimum. A pair of cut-offs with your tighty whities peeking out over the top was plenty for us boys. In the summer, we kids were either swimming, or riding our bikes to other places where we could go swimming. The Hayden, Fernan, and Coeur d’Alene lakes, and the Spokane River were all within biking distance. Some of my best memories are of the little bubbles squishing out of the wrinkles and creases in my wet cut-off jeans as I pumped my twenty-six inch Schwinn from one beach to another, the sun baking the trails, streets, and my bare skin equally. Phil and I were fourteen years old. Phil's older sister, who was sixteen, had just run away from home because she was tired of her father’s daily rampages, which we referred to as ‘the beatin’s.’ That left Phil as the eldest kid in the family, which meant he would now bear the brunt of his father’s rage. So, for respite, for his sanity, we camped out on Tubbs that summer. ‘The beatin’s’ always started after dinner. So, on most days, I'd show up at Phil's around dinner time. We’d walk to the coffee shop where we'd meet up with the other members of our clique, aka The MOB. One of our junior high teachers had named us as such, and the name had stuck. In school, we were defined less by who we were than by the numbers we represented, so for ease of reference, the teachers referred to us simply as The MOB. We weren’t jocks or nerds, and we were too cool to be popular. We smoked cigarettes and played in a band. We listened to The Stones, thank you, and The Doors. If we had a Beatles album among us, that meant that one of us had stolen it from a party we had crashed. Phil would take a few thumps from the old man, Jerry, before he left the house, but with Phil out for the evening and his older sister gone that summer, it meant that his little brother and sister took more than their share of ‘the beatin’s.’ Phil's mom, Joanne, took the worst of it. I'm sure that their fifth child was stillborn because Jerry beat the baby out of her. I remember that a little white coffin was buried at Forest Cemetery over on Government Way. Only the family was in attendance for the services, but three or four of The MOB looked on through the fence surrounding the grounds. We were ready in case Phil’s dad decided to start punishing Joanne or the kids for the death of the baby. After dinner, Phil was safe, at least for the time being, so we went to the coffee shop where we could smoke and talk about what we'd all be doing for the rest of our lives when we managed to get to anywhere but Coeur d'Alene. ***** That summer, the summer of 1966, Phil and I lived in a small outcropping of rocks on the eastern edge of Tubbs. We were only a couple of blocks from Sanders Beach and maybe a couple hundred feet from the home of a fellow MOB member we called Mouse. His real name was Kevin Anderson, but from the moment we first saw him coming out of the water looking like a drowned rat, he was Mouse. Mouse's dad worked for the city water works and part of the deal was a free house next to the reservoir on Tubbs. He'd get really pissed when we'd break into the reservoir for a swim. It wasn't just the fact that we had the whole damn lake to swim in that got him so upset. It was because he'd have to drain the reservoir and refill it after our escapades. He suspected that we were the perpetrators, I'm sure, but there was no evidence, just some whispers and stifled laughter. Sanders Beach was next door to Mouse's place. It was a smaller beach than City Beach where all the tourists went and it was cleaner, so it was the beach of choice for the fourteen and fifteen year old girls with their bikinis, golden hair and tan lines. Phil and I, living on the hill without parental supervision, were very, very attractive to the girls. Two or four of them would follow us to our campsite where we would giggle and tease, and grope crotches and budding breasts. Away from the prying eyes of adults, our mischief was gleeful and harmless. For some reason, I was the funny guy that summer. I’d always tried hard to be liked by others, and that was made clear by my litany of bawdy vaudevillian jokes that had been handed down from my theatrical family. Mostly, my neediness was looked upon as obnoxious, but that summer, maybe because we were all fourteen, all of my jokes seemed hysterically funny. During the day, from sunrise on, we were at the beach. In retrospect, it was strange that no one ever looked for us or reported us missing. We sure didn't tell our parents we'd be living on Tubbs Hill that summer, but no inquiry was ever made as to our whereabouts. In fact, I have no recollection of ever being hungry. I don’t even remember eating. Of course, Mom knew I was at the theater most nights. I was doing repertory with the Montana State University Red Door Players and we were staging a melodrama on the pier over the lake that summer with our local theater group. After the shows though, I was gone. I’d meet up with Phil backstage and we were off on whatever adventure was planned for the night. Usually our late evening activities involved getting girls to sneak out and hang with us. If we were very lucky we might get the girls involved in kissing practice. It was just what it sounds like, practice only, nothing serious. After exhausting the girls with laughter and play, Phil and I would peruse the streets until the wee hours. We'd break into cars to steal cigarettes that had been left on the dashboards and whatever else that hadn’t been bolted down. We had all these trails and pathways around town that allowed us to steer clear of the local constabulary. I think there was a Debbie or a Rhonda who made my heart go pitter-pat that summer. I don't recall. But I do remember that it was late in the summer, in August, when one of Mom's friends gave me a car. A two-tone, 1957 Studebaker Commander V8 in oxidized purple and sky blue, three speeds on the column, four doors, three of which worked, and a full complement of three spare tires and three gallons of oil in the trunk. We called it the X-15 because the speedometer went sideways and always indicated a speed that was much faster than the car could go. If the speedometer had gone around about three times you knew you were doing fifty-five miles per hour. At fifty-five, the car started to shake violently, so I would say that was its top speed. Since we lived in a tourist community, there were always activities for teens on summer nights. The Slab, near the entrance of City Park was determined to be a safe place for local and visiting teens to meet and carouse, and a band was hired to set up there on Saturday nights. The events were known as Slab Dances and they were well attended. At the last Slab Dance of the summer, I finally came into my own. A hint of a mustache had sprung up over the summer, and there was muscle tone where there had previously been only gangly limb. After a long summer of swimming, hiking and camping out, I was fit. It was a Saturday night and I had a rare night off from the theater. The Slab was a huge piece of concrete that accommodated four half-court basketball areas surrounded by a fence made of logging chain. Put a live band on one end and old Joe Whitley at the entrance to collect two dollars a head, and you had an enterprise. I had not seen a barber or a shoe all summer so my hair was long, wind blown and sun bleached. My tan was perfect. I could put out a cigarette with my bare foot. My soles were like leather. I wore a baby blue pinstriped muscle shirt and a pair of hip hugger wide wale cords the same color. It all fit like a second skin, which was very cool at the time. I showed up at the dance alone. It was already dark. I had to walk clear across town because I couldn't drive at night yet, but things were just starting to hop when I got there. I was very existential in those days and was therefore convinced that if I wasn't there, the party didn't exist anyway. Well, Pam, Debbie, Carla – I don’t remember their names exactly - took one look at me and got all squishy. They were quite literally hanging all over me. By the time Phil showed up at the dance, I was feeling very secure about my immediate future as a spelunker. But, nothing happened. We danced outside the chain fence. The music didn’t seem to recognize the fence as a barrier, and neither did we, but at the end of the night, everyone just went home. School started a couple of days later. Phil and I were back living at home with new shoes that hurt like hell and clothes you couldn't swim in. Phil and I spoke infrequently about that summer in the following years, but when we did, we both acknowledged that we’d never laughed so hard or so much before or after. For Phil, that summer was the first time in his life that he had not been beaten on a daily basis and that he’d felt free. I was just glad to be along. As soon as the abuse at home had resumed, Phil had started taking it out on me again, just as he had our entire lives. My best friend for life, my BFF, in the vernacular, was the living definition of the cycle of abuse. A year or so later I casually mentioned ‘the beatin's’ to the mother of a mutual friend. She quickly attacked me for telling lies, insisting that Phil’s father, Jerry, would never raise a hand to those kids. I didn’t argue. I didn’t say another word. I guess she must have said something to Phil's mom, because two days later the whole family moved out of the house, leaving Jerry alone. A couple of days after that, Jerry moved out and the family moved back in. And that’s the way it stayed. The nightmare was over. ***** Image Credit: Istockphoto/AlpamayaPhoto

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One Trick Dog

Monique Witt, founder and owner of NYC-based independent music production company One Trick Dog Records, is a retired international finance attorney, former Yale University English professor, and Hollywood ghostwriter who has devoted herself to the creation of music, film, and visual art. An accomplished artist in her own right, Monique has worked with many musicians, including Alida Rohr, Nando Michelin, Roy Assaf, Adres Boiyarski, Esperanza Spalding, Pedro Ito, Tom Larsen and David Rosenblatt. She also works closely with her two sons, jazz pianist Ben Rosenblum and fusion artist Dev Avidon. Recently, Monique has written and produced an off-Broadway play entitled “Splitscreen,” and has since directed a variety of short films, including “Ease of Access” and several music videos. In the following interview, Monique talks about her career, her films, her comic book art, and most importantly, about the incredible music she helps create at One Trick Dog Records: Q. Can you tell me a little about your background? I originally thought I would be a graphic artist. My father is a well known painter, a magical realist who was Jackson Pollock's only protegé, and he was involved with the original Bauhaus. While I was at college, a family tragedy made it important for me to make a steadier income, so I went to Yale Graduate School, studied with Harold Bloom and the linguistic phenomenologists, and then spent several years training at Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute. Unfortunately, the market for professors in the humanities collapsed, so I went to Yale Law School, and finished my Ph.D. in 1980 and my J.D. in 1982. I practiced law for a number of years in the fields of project finance and sovereign debt restructuring. The latter involved working with the World Bank and the IMF and to some extent the U.S. State Department. My expertise was primarily in Latin America in what were at that time termed "lesser developing countries." I loved my work. It was a combination of diplomacy and complex math as well as market analysis. We helped to build the wine industry in Chile. This helped my family, but it meant I had to leave drawing, writing and reading behind for a while. I did begin making jazz recordings as a kind of hobby because my sister, Alida Rohr, was heavily involved in the jazz scene and I wanted to help her with her career. But, I had always wanted to return to the creative arts. When my older son Dev was born, my husband and I were working very long days, seven days a week, and I never saw my son. So I took this opportunity to retire from the law. I returned to ghostwriting and cartooning, because cartoons are the form of graphic art I like the best. They skirt the edge of ‘dangerous’ while beguiling us into believing they are harmless. And I think that the best popular art populates that edge - sweet yet sinister - like Frank Frazetta, who is skilled like Titian, but who worked on "Little Annie Fanny" for Playboy. My graphic art, in the form of adult comics, continues to have something of an underground following. I have never restricted the use of my drawings so they have made their way onto the net and around the world. I received a picture from Japan some years ago with one of my girls on the nose of a jet plane. This is the way I think popular art should spread. When I retired from the law, I began running a small production company with family and friends called One Trick Dog Records. Essentially, everyone does everything, because we're on a small budget. I don't take anything from the artists. This is why it’s me singing "Mary Mack" in "Ease of Access.” I was the only female voice in the room. Two years ago, we were making and recording jazz, jazz fusion, Brazilian, and blues when a group of friends convinced me to put on an off-Broadway play. The result was a play called “Splitscreen,” which was about a young man who is gravely injured in a climbing accident, and who is waiting in an ER to be admitted to rehab. To promote the play, I directed a short video. It was hugely successful, and we began getting video work. Since then, we have been approached to turn one of my longer works into a pilot for a potential "Netflix" type story arc, but that is very much in its early stages. Our next two projects are a theatrical work called "The Walking Man Monologues," and a four piano musical concert entitled "Piano Conversations." In addition, we have four discs coming out soon: "Urban Griot" (the second series of works by the Roy Assaf Trio which has already been released in Europe), a blues album by People v. Larsen, and archived work from two jazz legends Manny Williams and Alida Rohr. We will also release a remix of "Tears of Men" and a new album by pianist Ben Rosenblum. Q. What was your childhood experience with art? My sister and I were raised in a house where everyone we met was an artist of some kind. We were surrounded primarily by visual artists, but by some musicians as well, as my Italian mother loved opera and my father loved Bach. In addition to being an extraordinary painter, my father had a beautiful baritone voice, and one of my earliest memories was of him singing "Wachet Auf." I can still hear him humming it as he painted. I remember when my father was working as the art director for the 1964 World's Fair. I must have been nine or ten and he was doing the architectural drawings for the Unisphere, which is the huge steel globe that sits in Flushing Meadow by the tennis courts. His drawing table was separated from the living room by an open divider and I would sit on one side for hours watching him draw. I would draw next to him on my own pile of scratch paper which was kept on the lower shelf of the divider. My first drawings were very similar to the cartoons I draw now. My only formal training was an undergraduate photography course. I was trained primarily by watching my father and by absorbing his aesthetics from his paintings. I also learned from the way he constructed his environment. My father gave me two pieces of advice that I try to live by. He told me that successful art will inspire animosity and admiration, but never complacency, and that I should not be afraid of controversy, because it means that I am challenging accepted notions and that is the cultural mandate of art. He also said that every artist must be the sole and final arbiter of whether he has succeeded at what he has set out to do. Q. What city are you based out of? We're based out of New York. We run the production company from Roosevelt Island where we have offices, mix and master facilities, and space for drawing and artwork production. But we also have affiliations with artists in Boston. We are basically a family enterprise supported by our friends, and everyone involved has multiple skills. Q. What are the things that interest you? I guess I'd have to say everything interests me. People particularly. I'm deeply committed to my boys, Dev and Ben, and to the arts. Q. Your short film entitled “Ease of Access” is based on Jeff Musillo’s novel about a male prostitute who is hired out to service reality TV celebrities. Can you tell me how this film came about? Jeff saw the promotional short film for Splitscreen. He contacted us through our publicist, Michael Martinez, to see if we were interested in doing a promotional video for his book “The Ease of Access.” I loved the fact that all we had to work with was a monologue. In essence, we had complete freedom to create and map and explore the landscape of this young man's isolation. If you think about it, sex is about intimacy. When we pay for it, we make it about power and control, and one of the most important and ratifying aspects of our lives, our intimate relations to ourselves and to others, becomes a floating signifier, stripped, as Chang-rae Lee would say, of its native voice and its emotional content. This creates an unnatural vertigo that keeps demanding an explanation. I love monologues for the question they ask: “What fills the pregnant emptiness when we are alone in the company of our thoughts?” The actors in the film Alex Montaldo and Adam Rashad Glenn were amazing. Directing them is a dream. I directed them in Splitscreen, and their acting was effortless, because they have inhabited many of the same psychic landscapes that we are attempting to convey in that work. My son Dev was the engineer on the audio for "Ease of Access." His studio is called Avidon Audio Labs. Most of the comments we have gotten back have been about how amazing the sound track is. The children’s rhyme and voice over parts are balanced beautifully with the jazz piano and the effects. And the clarity of these is exceptional. Dev designed and recorded the sound track and it is very strong. The cinematographer, Kahleem Poole-Tejada, is quite extraordinary. I talk to him about what I see, and more often than not he gets it the first try. I think his work is beautiful, and he is a permanent member of our production team. He has a rare sense of balance, color, narrative, and he brings so much to each project. He is such an intuitive filmmaker. Alex and I talked a little about why "Ease of Access" was so interesting. I think it’s because of the edge I was telling you about, between the sexual, the sweet and the sinister. I like J-pop because of what I like to call its "empowered vapidity." As a culture we are fascinated by this. It's what sells Lindsay Lohan even when she's a total train wreck. It's what Tennyson understood and referred to when he wrote the Dappled Partridge Sonnet. Love and death are first cousins. Alex and I were talking about the image of the ghost lover in "Ease of Access." The kanji on the pianist's hand says "ghost lover," and was meant to suggest that the interlocutor who frames many of the scenes, played by Adam, may not be real at all, that something about selling sex has caused such a primal break in the speaker's relation to himself that he is watching himself through the eyes of another. Q. Can you tell me about "Splitscreen"? Why did you decide to write this play? This is kind of a funny story. I have known the lead actor, Alex Montaldo, for a few years. As well as being a gifted actor, he is also a professional fitness trainer who works off the island. I have trained my whole life, so he and I began to work out together. One day, in the gym, he remarked that he was at a transitional point in his career. He told me that he couldn’t find a theater role he liked, and that he was looking for a one-act play. In a moment of foolishness, I said, "How difficult can it be to write you a challenging role? I'll write you a one-act play." Having said that, I was committed. I had been ghosting for thirty years, working on everything from Hollywood scripts to legal works to medical texts as well as children's books. I find it easier when I write in someone else’s voice, so I figured I'd just treat it as if it were someone else's work, not my own. I wrote "Splitscreen," and gave it to Alex a week later. He loved it and showed it to a director who was also excited about working on the play. We did a short run at the Helen Mills Theater in the fall of 2013 to packed houses. I have since written it up to a full length script at the request of a second director who was interested in it, and we are doing a pilot treatment of the work on which "Splitscreen" was based, at the request of a third director. I loved doing "Splitscreen" for the challenge it posed in having the lead character in a wheelchair the whole time, but the video was really the first time I directed seriously, and it led almost immediately to several music videos. There is one I particularly like. It’s the music video for "Second Row Behind the Painter,” an album by the Roy Assaf Trio. Q. Can you tell me more about One Trick Dog Records? What kind of music do you produce? One Trick Dog has been around in some incarnation or another since the early 80's. We do primarily jazz and have worked with artists from around the world, including American jazz musician Esperanza Spalding, and a legendary line up of Brazilian artists, but we also do blues every so often. I favor melodic jazz. Close to my own heart is minimalism - Philip Glass, Keith Jarrett, Eric Dolphy - but we record trios and quartets, and do some acid jazz as well. Q. Have you always been interested in music production? Are you a musician? Yes, I've always been interested in jazz, though I am not a musician. I always wanted to be Keith Jarrett but wasn't blessed with his gift. When my young son announced at four that he was going to be a professional pianist, it meant the world to me. His name is Ben Rosenblum and at 21, he is a well-respected professional jazz pianist. My older son Dev Avidon, 27, is a jazz-rock fusion composer, singer, engineer and producer. My sister, Alida Rohr, is a jazz singer, and has worked with some of the heaviest cats of the last two generations. She has one of the most exceptional instruments I have ever heard. Like my sons, she can play almost any instrument, and she has perfect relative pitch. I produced my first record in the early 80's and have been involved in music in some way ever since. I have a natural instrument but it is wholly untrained and I don't pretend to be able to do what my sons and sister can do. I sing only when we can't find someone else who has the right range. Q. Please describe a typical day in your life. How do music and filmmaking fit into your day? Yesterday, I began writing early. I worked on the first draft of the narrative for a rap video we are going to shoot this week. When I write I try to rough out something, then sleep on it and see what happens. Cadence is always the most important, because if the voice isn't authentic, there's no point in trying to pass it off as real. The reason James Blunt did so well with "You're Beautiful" was not because of his voice but because of the nakedness and truthfulness of his story, the manner in which his voice conveyed how exposed he felt at the time. Glenn Campbell, Michael Bolton, Neil Diamond, it's the same raw authentic emotion. It is why we are drawn to music. I then set about responding to inquiries at One Trick Dog. Because we still sponsor the tracking, mixing, mastering and pressing of our artists, we bring in a number of new jazz artists each year. Right now, I have three albums in the pipeline. I particularly wanted to review the first mixes of one and the final mixes of another - one jazz piano trio and one fusion. I had already heard the roughs, but we had just installed an SSL console in the mastering space and I had not yet heard the sound of the new board. Each piece of pro audio equipment has a sonic "signature," and the role of a great audio engineer is to make these play well together. Any time I go into the studio I end up helping to rewire, because the engineers are forever optimizing their toys. Yesterday was no different. My days are broken into two shifts, because I play two hours of tennis everyday and box or run with Alex afterward. So the second shift involved a re-write and reformat of a pilot for a new series that is going out to LA in a week. The primary writing responsibility is mine. Alex formats and Dev - my older son and chief engineer - edits. We then met with the director and the videographer to go over the stock footage. By stock, I mean what my videographer has shot for his own projects, to see what we wanted to use. The day ended with two hours of Cannonball Adderley. This is listening time, when we share and explore older artists or brand new ones, what anyone has found that seems cool or different. Q. What kind of advice would you give to musicians and artists who are just starting out? My advice to musicians and artists in general is to try to find your own path. The business is very exploitative and does not provide real opportunities for success. People will always suggest that artists should work for free to get exposure. Exposure is a myth. Artists should not give away their work. They should value it so that the culture does. Right now, the Internet encourages people to believe they have a right to get music for free, but if musicians aren't paid, they won't be able to support themselves by creating. I try to encourage people to understand that what makes us human is twofold: our ability to create and appreciate objects of beauty and our desire to believe in something, some order, that is larger than ourselves. The anthropologist, Arjun Apadurai, observed that when a culture commercializes its sacred objects it destroys meaning. I believe this. I believe that art sanctifies life. It preserves what is greatest in a culture. So I would encourage young artists to stay true to their art, not to compromise their vision for commercial success, not to give away their art, and, finally, always to have a day gig, so they don't have to shill their work. For more information about Monique’s work, please go to: or contact her at To view "Ease of Access," please go to ***** Cover Image Credit: Kahleem Poole-Tejada/One Trick Dog Records Image Credit: Monique Witt Description: One Trick Dog Records, Production Crew on site at Avidon Audio Labs, Clockwise from upper left: Dev Avidon (sound design, audio engineering, voice over, and writing/arranging/composing), Ben Rosenblum (musical composition, arranging, and recording), Kahleem Poole-Tejada, (cinematography and video editing), and Alex Montaldo (acting, editing, tech support). Music copyrighted to One Trick Dog Records Featured Piece: "Lilian," written and performed by Ben Rosenblum (2012), recorded and mixed by Dev Avidon at Avidon Audio Labs for One Trick Dog Records.

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Aaron Schwartz

Fascinating. Thanks, The People Project.

19 days ago

Eduardo Ribeiro Alves

I like (very much!)

19 days ago

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