Lynchian Coffee

by douglas reeser on January 30, 2012
I got hooked on the work of David Lynch back in the mid-90s when I began watching re-broadcasts of Twin Peaks on Bravo. Eraserhead was crazy, Blue Velvet amazing, and Twin Peaks still has me wishing it was picked up for more than two seasons. We haven't seen a Lynch film in five years, but he has been active - making art, music, and apparently starting a new coffee company.

Darkness. Flashes of light. A cup of espresso. A woman. Oh yeah.

This is David Lynch... and it's organic!

Comes with a great tagline too: "It's all about the beans... and I'm full of beans."

This isn't Lynch's first commercial - two years ago we shared his advertising genius by promoting a perfume by Dior with a 16 minute film. Check it out here >>>

Views from the ANThill: Indigenous Knowledge, Development and Trust

by douglas reeser on January 26, 2012
A Healing Garden in southern Belize.
Photo courtesy of douglas reeser.
Here in Belize, I'm working on a number of what might be called "development" projects. Basically, I've been partnering with a few different organizations, all working on a type of traditional healing garden, each one of which aim to preserve and pass on traditional (indigenous or local) knowledge, educate youth, and provide a means of income generation. Each organization is built on ethnic background, and so each project is working with a traditional knowledge system specific to each ethnic group. Still, there is a good deal of overlap, as each group's knowledge is derived from the same environmental conditions. Each of the projects are at various stages of development or execution and each has faced its own challenges. I have come to realize that this is likely the path that each must take to have a chance at success. Most agree that success will include a multi-ethnic healing garden in a central location that offers a space for the wider community to spend time and share.

Just as each healing garden project has its own unique trajectory, my role in each has also been variable. It has become a challenge for me to keep the distinctiveness in mind has I work towards successful project outcomes. I decided to look for some reference to help make sense of my experience here, and I came across an article by anthropologist, Paul Sillitoe, "Trust in development: some implications of knowing in indigenous knowledge.The article is a reflection on the lessons learned through the Indigenous Knowledge (IK) Initiative implemented in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and intended to give local voices and practices more prominence in development projects. Sillitoe examines the idea of knowledge, and explains that the word’s meaning can vary from context to context and culture to culture. He posits that while defining exactly what IK is and means, we can find some form of it everywhere around the globe. Today, IK has become a central means of addressing poverty in the global development agenda, however it has yet to be utilized very effectively; i.e., IK has not been brought into the dominant technological and market mainstream, and poverty reduction has not been a fully successful outcome of most development schemes. 

Tarahumara Facing Drought and Hunger

The rough heart of Tarahumara Country: Copper Canyon
in northern Mexico.
Photo courtesy of
by douglas reeser on January 22, 2012
The Tarahumara, an indigenous group of northern Mexico who gained widespread attention from the barefoot running craze (check out our post from February 2011 here), have been experiencing a drought that has lasted for over 15 months. The dry conditions have destroyed crops and brough hunger and food shortages to their communities in and around the unforgiving Copper Canyon region. The Tarahumara number over 120,000, and have maintained their distinct culture through the colonial and capitalist eras, but these new environmental events (drought and unusual cold) have made it so that today, they can not feed themselves. The Mexican government has brought in some food supplies, but it appears that more will be needed. The Tarahumara, known for their incredible endurance and strength are now facing another great challenge, this time brought on by the forces of nature that are outside of their control.

Check out this short video from Al Jazeera for more on the developing story:

And for another short video and story, visit NTD Television here >>> 

Of Censorship and ████ ██ ██████

by douglas reeser on January 18, 2012
The internet is currently abuzz with talk of SOPA, PIPA and issues of anti-piracy and censorship. I have to applaud efforts to raise awareness about this legislation that is nothing less than a step backwards in terms of democracy and freedom. There are any number of places to find commentary on the actual details of the acts and what that would mean for the internet and its users. For me, the issue has brought forward a period of reflection on what the internet has meant personally.

I remember the days before the internet. Back then, I sought out alternative sources of news. I traded music. I wrote. I watched movies recorded on VHS tape. I critically thought about the world around me, and I sought others who did the same. In many ways, my world has not changed all that much. In some ways, the ease in which I do these things has changed, but ease does not equal better - or worse (depending on your position).

Allow me to begin with my example of alternative news and viewpoints. I once depended on bookstores, specifically small, independent bookstores, for a supply of information that was different from what was espoused on the television or in the newspapers. Truly alternative bookstores were few and far between, however, and unless you lived near a city, these sources were extremely limited. I think it can easily be argued that information (like that which is available today) was more difficult to come by back then.

Today, while the internet remains a fairly exclusive domain, reserved for those who can pay (which is a bit fewer than we like to think, especially if we look globally), alternative news and information is easy to find. The old traditional venues have re-emerged online, and there are an ungodly plethora of other sources of information today. This has been a common complaint (and warning) about the internet, and one that has not been reasonably addressed, as it remains difficult to wade through the muck to find reliable sources.

And creating one of those sources has been no easy task either. We began Recycled Minds seven years ago, building on ideas that were brought forth from our days of reading pre-internet zines and alternative newspapers. And yet, seven years later, we have a relatively small readership, and find it extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to find contributors. The internet has allowed us to create and maintain this site at a cost that is not much more than our time (not taking into account our monthly internet access bills). Our audience is potentially world-wide, and we can produce as much content as we want or can. We never did create a hard-copy newsletter or zine, but one can imagine some of the drawbacks - specifically costs relating to layout, printing and distribution to name a few.

It's hard to argue, then, that the internet is worse for information sharing. However, the main thing that I see about the internet age that remains a disadvantage is the aforementioned high number of sources available. Today, you can think about finding good information as akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Or maybe a field of hay. The sheer numbers serve to keep things unclear - even unintelligible - such that accurate pictures are hard to perceive and/or maintain. The question of what is truth remains as obscure as ever.

I seriously doubt that the powers that be seek to clear things up for the rest of us through legislation such as SOPA. What I do think is a more likely target is the sheer speed at which information can now be shared. Think, for example, about the perceived role of Twitter during the Egyptian Revolution. While Twitter was by no means a cause of the Revolution, that it played an important role should not be argued - or dismissed. I see this kind of information that is in danger of being legislated - "rapid information". The question then becomes where is the line drawn. If they start by censoring tweets, where do they stop? To be sure, this can be a slippery slope, and one that should be thoroughly discussed and understood by everyone involved.


That's the key here. If we seek a truly democratic world, we need to consult the people. We may not have had much say on how the internet was developed or on how it turned out. But now that it has become such an integral part of our lives, do we not have a say in its future? Should we not protect those powers that the internet offers to the people? The powerless? The voiceless? The exploited? It can probably offer more to these people, and I believe this is where we should be focusing our energies as a people - not in taking things away.

Anyway... at this point, I urge you to go find out more about SOPA and PIPA, and if you find it appropriate, take action against such legislation. But I also encourage you as a human being, to consider how tools like the internet can be mobilized to create a better world. Since the age of the internet, the rich have become richer, the poor poorer. Is that a coincidence? Can the internet play a role in reversing that trend?

"Nature's Economic Stimulus": The Value of Honeybees

Bee collecting pollen. Photo from
by lana lynne on January 13, 2012
Nothing says nature like green, and it appears that beekeepers have decided to go straight for the wallet in an ongoing attempt to draw attention to the honeybee plight. On Tuesday, beekeepers and environmentalists came together to lay out the impact of honeybees on the U.S. economy, showing the substantial monetary effect long-range fall out that colony loss can have on the food system.

According to one apiary owner at the conference, the value of his colonies tops $5 million in just 6 months: "$500,000 from California almonds in January, $800,000 from Georgia blueberries in March, $2 million from Pennsylvania apples and cherries in April, $500,000 from Maine blueberries in May, and $1 million from Pennsylvania pumpkins in June." Numbers like these have earned the honeybee status as the most important pollinator in the world.

Study after study points to pesticides as the likely culprit in the decline of honeybees. But as Claire Thompson points out in her Grist article, trying to get Big Agricultural to change its ways in an election year isn't likely. If any reason could convince industrial agriculture to become more sustainable, though, it may be profits.

Read more here:

First Friday Picture Show: Life & Travels by Sequoia Rock

January's First Friday Picture Show, "Life and Travels," comes to us from farmer, carpenter, photographer, and spiritual master, Sequoia Rock. Sequoia is from the small rural town of Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, and has offered us a selection of photos from his many travels in the US and abroad. You can view more of his excellent photos at his flickr page.

Consumption Junction: Agency and Panopticism in a Digital World

Photo courtesy of
by lana lynne on January 4, 2012
While there are those among us who thrive in the digital world, and eagerly await the next new way to "share our stories" or to put technology to good use, there are others who have a more pessimistic (some might say paranoid) view of the virtual landscape many traverse with abandon. A view closer, perhaps, to the latter end of the spectrum arises in Joel Bakan's essay on, "The Panopticon." Here, Bakan explains social media marketing vis-à-vis Foucault's ideas of power in a disciplinary society, mapping out a closed system of sorts, where children passively trade advertising messages while the puppeteer brands watch from behind the curtain. "Sharing" has seemingly taken on a new dimension on social media platforms: 
Marketing as marketing disappears within the viral networks of social media platforms. Boundaries are broken down between marketers and kids (as kids market to each other); between content and advertising (as advertising now infuses, rather than interrupts, content); and between kids' lives and entertainment (as their lives now become the content of that entertainment). It is truly the "perfection of [marketers'] power." Kids, like the prisoners in the Panopticon, now bear the power marketing holds over them, and the marketers, like the Panopticon's guards, drop from view, their power now automatic and self-executing, all the greater for its invisibility. 
Bakan is clear about his interpretation; he uses the panopticon as a tool to understanding the ways youth advertising works online. As reports surface of the access that advertisers have to profiles on Facebook, or the amount of personal information stored by Google, it's obvious that power is shifting into ever-murkier depths. But, without coming across as a pop culture apologist, I think it's important not to simplify the situation so that it fits into a complex theory, and what I find most interesting about Bakan's piece is the many directions it sent my thoughts about online advertising. First of all, consider the agency of internet users. Some would say it's naive to believe that we're not simply acted upon by marketing messages, and yet, some of us, at the same time, are the creators of these messages. Second, the panopticon works in theory because prisoners (or members of society, as the case may be) believe they are being watched at all times. Is that the case with social media? Or do we read more and more articles on the shocking online displays of what once would have been considered private information? Like I said before, many of us traverse these territories with unprecedented abandon.

Also consider the children of whom Bakan speaks as agents in this situation. Each successive generation becomes more technologically savvy than the previous one, and with that, might there also be inherited a certain knowledge about what lurks behind the curtain, so to speak? What's more, kids are reading and writing more than ever before thanks to texting, chatting, etc., and, according to the National Literacy Trust, literacy rates are reflecting that growth. A study reported in 2009 suggested "a strong correlation between kids using technology and wider patterns of reading and writing," and found that "engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm for writing short stories, letters, song lyrics or diaries." Hopefully, more reading and writing also helps critical thinking skills, which can only come in handy on the digital frontier.

While I have my own strong suspicions about marketing messages and the identities they inform, and how that relationship, in turn, is fertilized by social networks, I also wonder if our concerns are slightly exaggerated. Think about this: in 2010, Apple (largely considered a marketing genius) spent less than 10% of its $420 million advertising budget on digital advertising. Maybe, all that online surveillance is just going to waste.