Ayahuasca: Tourism vs. Tradition

"Talk given at the 3rd Amazonian Shamanism Conference, addressing the commercialization and banalization of shamanism... If you want to know more about the topic of new age, plastic shamans, "Who owns native culture?" deals with every aspect of the appropriation of traditional knowledge, not just spiritual and religious practices."

This video was made in 2008. Jerónimo M.M.'s blog, "Legitimos Guerreritos," has current info on the ayahuasca documentary project and other matters related to indigenous culture.


News from the J-FLARE Observatory

Several years ago, back in Columbusland, I'd cart the telescope that I bought in New Mexico to various parts of the city and invite people to take a look at the most easily observable objects: the Moon, Saturn, sometimes Mars.

Apparently, giving my friend's father some 'scope time made such an impression that he decided to get one for her husband the next Christmas. This instrument was twice as nice as mine, with a motorized, auto-find controller and a proper, omnidirectional mount.

I was interested to see this thing get set up, but it sat in the front room for months, nestled next to the arcade games (and here, I don't mean a PlayStation or Sega; actual, standup consoles that one would find in an arcade). I stopped by one night, eyed the still-unopened box, and said I was going to start to put it together. But my friend didn't think that'd be the best idea. So I let it go.

Fast-forward five or six years. My Lady Friend and I were in Columbus some time after our first year in Korea (where I left most of the pieces of my NM 'scope, after losing bits in Egypt and trying to rig it together in Asia). We ended up going to the house that I'd lived in before moving to Seattle, so that I could pick up a few things I left behind. It turned out that my friend's husband had left his telescope there, also. So into the van it went, back to Chicagoland.

Soon afterward, I think on the first night that I took the 'scope to the end of the driveway, I received the news that my friend's father had died. I thought about the celebrity nickname that I read that he used for himself -- J-Flare (J. Flaherty) -- and I thought that would be an appropriate, official-sounding name for the telescope he'd bought.

In the last couple of weeks, I've finally taken it upon myself to heft this thing down to the main drag and see who wants to go to the Moon. On Friday, I think there were three people who stopped to look who said it was their first time to peer through a telescope. Tonight, there were three or four more.

So, like the light that shines from faraway stars, the effect of one person's inspiration continues to be seen across time and space.



Silly me, I posted this to the wrong blog. But since the previous post was also about seeds and nutrition, I guess it all works out.

After puzzling over it for months (and happening to see a related specimen in the medicinal garden at U-Dub), I can now report that the tall plants around the northern half of the garden are...

Salvia tiliifolia (Tarahumara chia, Lindenleaf sage).

I threw so many different seeds into those flanking beds in March and April, I couldn't be sure what was coming up until June. Since then, my best guess was that these plants were a Monarda species, but they seemed too dark. When none of them flowered at the same time that I saw other plants in bloom around the area, I knew my best guess was wrong.

A closer look at the stems helped. They're rigidly square and I was reminded of the stems on Salvia divinorum. This meant I was looking at a species in the Lamiaceae, the mint family, of which I knew chia was a member.

Still, it took some time to find visual confirmation, because examples of other chia species are shorter or they produce flowerheads that I knew this plant wasn't going to make. A mention of Tarahumara chia led me to Seeds of Change's website, where I found a matching photo. When I looked up that particular species, I found all of the matching descriptors.

Now, you might wonder, how did I not know what the plant would like if I broadcast its seed? That's because I used a packet of seeds from the spice section at La Huerta supermarket in Geneva. Chia seeds, as discussed at length one other sites, have been used by our brothers and sisters in Mexico as a nutritive and sustaining food for centuries:

"Chia, is familiar to most of us as a seed used for the novelty of the Chia Pet™, clay animals with sprouted Chia seeds covering their bodies. Little is known, however, of the seeds' tremendous nutritional value and medicinal properties. For centuries this tiny little seed was used as a staple food by the Indians of the south west and Mexico. Known as the running food, [Chia's] use as a high-energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs.

"If you try mixing a spoonful of Chia in a glass of water and leaving it for approximately 30 minutes or so, when you return the glass will appear to contain not seeds or water, but an almost solid gelatin. This gel-forming reaction is due to the soluble fiber in the Chia. Research believe this same gel-forming phenomenon takes place in the stomach when food containing these gummy fibers, known as mucilages, are eaten. The gel that is formed in the stomach creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.

"In addition to the obvious benefits for diabetics, this slowing in the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar offers the ability for creating endurance. Carbohydrates are the fuel for energy in our bodies. Prolonging their conversion into sugar stabilizes metabolic changes, diminishing the surges of highs and lows creating a longer duration in their fueling effects."


Kalonji continued, once more

This was exciting:

I've written before about the benefits of "blackseed," properly known as black cumin (Nigella sativa). The seeds of this plant are used as a spicing agent and as a source for antimicrobial, antiparasitic, I think antibiotic and immune-boosting oil throughout the Middle East and South Asia. I first learned about black cumin's culinary and medicinal uses when I lived in Egypt.

Anyhow, as I walked through the aisles of World Fruit Market on Devon Avenue in Chicago (a nexus of Indo-Pak culture and cuisine), I spotted the honey seen above. Jaw dropped. Camera was pulled from bag. Mind reeled.

I bought a less expensive honey, however (the blackseed variety was $17?), into which I plan to mix some of my own Nigella seeds.


Eyes on the sky

Foraging wild food in Chicago

I know, I barely visit my own digital home. I started a new blog for my organic gardening service, I've been caring for my own garden, and so on and on.

Here are images and videos from an urban foraging walk led by Nance Klehm on Sunday. The next walk 'n' talk is scheduled for June 7, 3-5 p.m., at Garfield Park in Chicago.

Ground ivy




Sweet violet

Spring beauties

Garlic mustard

(from the yard, not the park)


Two quick links

Astronomers Without Borders

"The boundaries we place between us vanish when we look skyward. Whoever, whatever or wherever we are, we all share the same sky."

The World at Night

"The World At Night is a new program to create and exhibit a collection of stunning photographs and time-lapse videos of the world’s most beautiful and historic sites against a nighttime backdrop of stars, planets and celestial events. The eternally peaceful sky looks the same above all the landmarks and symbols of different nations and regions, attesting to the truly unified nature of Earth as a planet rather than an amalgam of human-designated territories."


They really ought to rename
this volcano Mount Jindal.

"Alaskan authorities were on alert Monday after the Mount Redoubt volcano erupted five times, spewing plumes of smoke and ash some 15 kilometers (nine miles) into the air and forcing flight cancellations.

"The Alaska Volcano Observatory said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the 3,100 meter (10,200-foot) volcano, located not far from Anchorage, Alaska's most populous city.

"The eruptions, which began late Sunday, have unleashed a cloud of ash reaching up to 18,200 meters (60,000 feet) above sea level, said Rick Wessels, a geophysicist at the observatory. The explosions were also "pretty good-sized," he said.

"'We expect these activities to last for weeks,' said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, speaking with volcano experts on a conference call to reporters.

"Salazar said that Alaska officials were monitoring the safety of local residents and that of air travelers. Some 20,000 passengers fly through the area on any given day, Salazar said.

"Alaska Airlines canceled 19 flights out of the international airport in Anchorage, which lies some 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of the volcano, and residents of nearby towns have been warned to prepare for falling ash."

Now does Gov. Bobby understand what purpose volcano monitoring serves?


Your friendly neighborhood garden man

If you live around Chicago, that is.

I now offer vegetable garden installation and plant care services in Chicagoland.

A weblog connected to the venture is located at backyardharvester.com/blog/.


Blowin' up under the sea

Somebody call Bobby Jindal and tell him this is what volcano monitoring is for...

The White House will grow its own greens.

"Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, 'whether they like it or not,' Mrs. Obama said laughing. 'Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.' Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: 'Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.'"

"Mrs. Obama, who said that she never had a vegetable garden before, said the idea for it came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet. Eating out three times a week, ordering a pizza, having a sandwich for dinner took it’s toll. The children’s pediatrician told her she needed to be thinking about nutrition.

"'He raised a flag for us,' she said, and within months the children lost weight.

"For children, she said, food is all about taste, and fresh and local taste better.

"'A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,' she said. 'And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things."