Teach Your Children Well

Peace quilt made by 5th grade students of Benida Solow at Kenter Canyon School

Artist Benida Solow inspires her students not only with original and exciting projects, but an appreciation of the natural world and with environmental activism. She teaches art to elementary school students and volunteers as a docent on whale watch cruises for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in the winter months, when whales are most likely to visit the waters off Southern California. She admires British artist Andy Goldsworthy, who creates astonishing sculpture from natural objects, and she offers his example to encourage children to get their hands into the wondrous world out-of-doors.

The life-sized (50 foot long) gray whale cow and calf sand sculpture took Benida and the children four hours to complete. They used a fire hose to keep the sand wet while working on their entry in the sand sculpture contest of the Cabrillo Whale Fiesta 2006.

“Message in a Bottle” won first place in the recycled sculpture contest
at the STAR ECO Station in Culver City, California. The children wrote messages on colored paper and stuffed them into the discarded plastic bottles before hot glue-ing them all together to create one immense bottle.

Benida brought butterfly wings into a first grade class to inspire the children to create a whole series of remarkable abstract paintings.

The children find Benida fascinating and magical; witness this mixed media contour drawing of her by a second grade student.

Honing the Spoken Word

Alicia performs her stories and music at Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, during a 75 performance cross country tour in 2000

Today I attended From Page To Stage: Performing Your Personal Story, a class offered by The Learning Annex on spoken word performance, a fast-growing trend in theatre. The list of spoken word venues continues to grow in cities with art scenes; in Los Angeles, for example, you’ll find Word-a-Rama, Melt in Your Mouth, Mortified, Show and Tell, Dear Diary, Say the Word, Sit ‘n Spin, Story Salon, Word Theatre, Tasty Words, Word Nerd, Word Space, Cornucopia and Afterbirth. These evenings feature four to seven readers of personal stories in an atmosphere of hipness bordering on a poetry slam.

I certainly recommend both teachers. Amy Friedman, a much-published writer of fiction, non-fiction, screenwriting, and a syndicated newspaper column, teaches Writing Your Personal Story through UCLA extension. Jim Pentecost has acted, directed and produced plays and musicals in New York, came to LA to produce Disney’s Pocahontas, and now is coaching spoken word. Both are personable and communicate well.

Amy led us in writing what she calls “personal essays”—intimate, honest, and revealing narratives about small, distinct events in our lives. You can find abundant examples of this genre in The Sun Magazine.

As our first task, we composed lists of as many memories, absolutely any memories, as we could think of in ten minutes. Then we were asked to quickly jot down ten more memories and were asked to look for our repetitive life themes in this seemingly random set of ten memories. Finally, we wrote a short personal essay using anything from our memory lists, or on subjects suggested by Amy and Jim, including What No One Knows About Me, My Morning Ritual, and How I Learned About Sex.

Three volunteers read their first drafts to the class while Jim coached them on reading with emphasis and good dramatic timing.

I discovered that what I really want to do is not the same as spoken word performance. I want to do more one-woman shows of my humorous autobiographical stories and original music, like the shows I created and toured in 2000, 2001 and 2002. So, I will seek coaching in this particular dramatic form.


Alicia cooking in Hawaii

Ratatouille (pronounced Ra-ta-too-ee)

My mom used to make this luscious eggplant stew to accompany barbequed marinated lamb. Lamb is not necessary for the enjoyment of this dish, which can be transformed from a side dish to a one-dish meal with the addition of tofu or cubes of freerange chicken or turkey breast. I’ll explain how to add options in the recipe.

One large eggplant cut into one inch cubes (remove stem connection and dimple at bottom of eggplant)

Two large yellow onions, peeled and chopped coarsely

Ten cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely

Two medium sized zucchini, ends cut off and sliced in 1/4 inch slices

One can of tomato paste (6 ounces)

One can of stewed tomatoes (8 ounces)

One large green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into one inch pieces

Optional: one block of extra firm tofu, OR one raw (thawed) turkey half breast OR two or three raw (thawed) chicken half-breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Sesame oil for frying and olive oil for seasoning after it’s cooked

Bragg’s liquid aminos for salty seasoning

A handful of fresh basil leaves, rosemary needles and oregano leaves, if you can get them, or two tablespoons of finely minced dried herbs if you can’t.

Mix together the stewed tomatoes and the tomato paste and set aside. Be sure to include all of the water in the can with the stewed tomatos.

In a large non-aluminum wok, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and add the garlic. Stir it around until the garlic is golden brown. Add the onions, and stir fry them until they are translucent. Add the dried herbs next if you are using them. (If you are using fresh herbs, add them with the vegetables.) If you will be adding chicken or turkey, add them now, and cook until not pink inside a cube you break open to test. Keep the fire moderate so that nothing burns. Next add the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, optional tofu and optional fresh herbs. Stir around until all of these are evenly coated with oil. Pour in the tomato mixture, stir to distribute evenly throughout the stew, put the lid on the wok, and let the whole thing simmer until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and olive oil. Serve immediately, or cool the mixture to wrist temperature, and store, refrigerated, in an airtight glass container (tomato stains plastic and reacts with aluminum). The taste improves overnight, so it’s a dish you can prepare for a party the day before.

Alternatives to Corporate Globalization

Jerry Mander and his son Yari at the 2003 Bioneers Conference

In October 2003, I was signing Living on the Earth books at the Bioneers Conference, an annual weekend event in Marin County, California, that brings together thousands of activists working toward a sustainable world, to witness a panoply of educational presentations. At the table next to mine, Jerry Mander and John Cavanaugh, co-chairs of the International Forum on Globalization, were signing their book, Alternatives to Economic Globalization. We made friends and traded books.

I began reading their book the following December. Don’t be fooled by the dry title; this one’s a page-turner. It links together all of today’s issues—from global warming to in the invasion of Iraq to the AIDS epidemic in Africa to the attempted private sector takeover of Social Security—and places them in the context of a single looming menace: giant multi-national corporations that consider themselves above the law of any land. Indeed, if they find a country’s laws an impediment to their profit making, they will impose trade sanctions until those democratically created laws are repealed. We’re talking laws about environmental protections, food safety, labor, and monopoly.

The global conglomerates seek to control public water supplies around the world. Those who cannot afford the market price go thirsty, as do their crops. This assists in the corporations in herding cheap labor off the land and into their factories, while global corporations acquire the land for mono-crop agriculture exclusively for export—where self-sufficient agricultural communities had existed for thousands of years. Result: famine.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical companies are patenting seeds and folk remedies developed over millennia by indigenous communities, and suing these same communities for using the corporation’s “intellectual property.” In addition, the chemical companies develop genetically modified seeds created to withstand the toxicity of chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, so that the farmers become dependent upon these megaliths for their seeds and farming supplies. Should a neighboring farmer refuse to use the GMO seeds, the wind carries the pollen from the GMO plants into the neighbor’s fields, and he can be bankrupted by a lawsuit from the chemical company for “stealing intellectual property.”

Some things were not meant ever to be owned by a single individual or organization. These are what Mander and Cavanaugh call “the Commons”—that which belongs to all and shared for the common good, including clean air and water, wilderness, biodiversity, the air waves (radio and TV), the basic human rights to medical care, education, and food safety.

What can we citizens do to protect the Commons, and to avert the social and environmental tragedies being promulgated by international administrative bodies that favor multi-national corporations over the needs of the people and the environment?

We can start by getting informed. Everyone from high school on up should read Alternatives to Economic Globalization. You can easily order one for $15.95 from Berrett-Koehler Publishers in Vermont at (800) 929-2929. Bulk discounts are available.

We all need truthful daily news, and one can find it online at www.commondreams.org, www.buzzflash.com, www.alternet.org, www.truthout.org, and www.tompaine.com.

We can speak out, calling and writing our representatives in Washington DC, writing letters to print publications, posting on web logs, talking with friends, and joining in public demonstrations.

We can create self-sufficient communities based on diversified agriculture, small businesses, seed saving, bartering, and community schools and clinics.

Absolutely, we need to support the few, brave politicians who are working to regulate corporate globalization and reverse its damage to our beautiful planet.

Two More Rules

I liked your Three Rules, but what about losing weight? I noticed from your photos that you were heavier at one time and not now.


Dear Blimpie,

You’re right, I’m fifty pounds lighter now than I was at my top weight, and I’ve been this size for about twenty years. The three rules have been enough for some of my friends to lose whatever extra weight they wanted to lose, but if they’re not enough for you, here are two more rules that will do the trick.

Don’t feed Santa: Like, skip the sweets.

Free your inner pig: Wild pigs are lean and mean because no one is fattening them up for slaughter with grains and other starchy foods.

All of that being said, I don’t think that losing weight is necessarily heroic. What’s heroic is to appreciate the precious miracle that you are, and to ignore Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and any critical friends, relatives and associates that might opine otherwise.


Do you still do any “hippie crafts” from your book, and what is your favorite recipe from LOTE that you enjoy cooking?

Benny Goodman Fan

My creative energies at this time are mostly consumed with music, storytelling, writing and illustrating. I will probably continue making salads, soups, stir fries, stews, and other vegetable intensive dishes for the rest of my life.

Thank you for writing to me!


Sorry to bother you with another question, but when you were still doing crafts, what were your favorites? I read craft books, and there are so many to choose from, I just can’t decide which to try. 🙂

Benny Goodman Fan

Making patchwork quilts has to have been my favorite. There are so many cool things you can do, too—print photos and other images on fabric and then frame them with other fabric, tie-dye several fabrics in different sets of colors before you cut them up to use in the patchwork, paint on fabrics with acrylics or fabric paints before adding them to your patchwork, get cheap and free fabric by cutting up old clothing from thrift stores and free boxes or by getting scraps from a clothing maker, embroider, bead, and applique designs and images onto the pieces of fabric before sewing them into the patchwork, use fabrics from other cultures that have wonderful designs and textures, use a variety of colorful buttons to quilt the fabric instead of sewing patterns into it (you can often find collections of buttons at garage sales and thrift stores, too). It’s wonderful to turn other people’s waste into precious heirlooms!

Tip: use fabrics of equal weight and strength. Avoid silks, as they tend to disintegrate long before other fabrics will.

There’s a photo of a big quilt I made in the late sixties and early seventies at the online Hippie Museum.

Still peace and love,


Tracy Dove's Art

Tracy Dove paints in Phoenix. Not just canvases, not just mailboxes, not just all over her Volkswagen, the walls of her house and the fences of her organic garden, although she does all of these. Her home-printed hippie coloring books and greeting cards are popular all over town. She has plans to restore a vintage trailer and cruise America with Sisters on the Fly, an association of women who go on fly-fishing expeditions in their vintage trailers and smoke cigars. She has plans to throw a wedding for her artist daughter Sarah Coppen to musician Chris Warmuth at the visionary village Arcosanti. With Kathy Cano-Murillo, she started a women’s art cooperative called the Phoenix Fridas that have group art shows. Last spring, when I lived at her house for a few months, we tromped around downtown Phoenix each first Friday night, when all the galleries were open, with live music played in doorways and off the back of trucks, and bellydancers and fire knife dancers performing in a torchlit parking lot. A party not to be missed! We painted ourselves silly in between.

Pumpkin/carrot/ginger soup

Recipe for pumpkin/carrot/ginger soup

Bright orange, creamy, rich, pungent, this is a superbly warming soup for cold weather, and one of my most requested recipes.

One large, or two small butternut squashes, or a kabocha pumpkin, with stem cut away, seeds saved separately and toasted on a tray in an oven or toaster-oven (they pop!), and the rest cut into chunks about 3 inches across.

Four large carrots, or an equivalent amount of smaller ones, peeled and cut into 1 inch sections

Two large or three smaller yellow onions, peeled and quartered

A ginger root, about the same size as a large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch sections

Ten garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

Steam all of the vegetables in a steamer basket in a large pot over a quart of pure or purified water, until soft enough that a fork easily pierces all of them. Let the vegetables cool until you can handle the chunks of pumpkin or squash. Spoon these out of their shells into a food processor bowl. Add the other vegetables and the cooking water. Blend until silky smooth. You’ll probably have to do this step in three or four small batches, depending on the capacity of the food processor. Collect all of the batches in one large bowl and stir in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of organic tamari soy sauce. Stir until completely homogenized.

Serve immediately, or store in a refrigerated airtight container and gently reheat before serving. Garnish, if you like, with fresh cilantro leaves and popped pumpkin seeds.

What Really Happened on September 11th?

The events of September 11, 2001 are the defining rationale for the actions of the US government in the ensuing years, yet few have logically and scientifically studied what actually happened on that day, and the events that unfolded in reponse.

If you are not among those few, I recommend that you begin by reading David Ray Griffin’s books The New Pearl Harbor and The 9/11 Report: Errors and Omissions. Griffin is a retired professor of theology, not a wild-eyed radical by any stretch of the imagination. He collects facts, such as the standard Air Force procedure in response to an off-course air craft, the temperature at which steel melts, and the policies of insurance companies relative to fires in steel frame buildings. He considers a number of the possible interpretations of the facts (the Bush administration had no idea, they knew and didn’t prevent it, they executed it for their own benefit, etc.) and then considers how each interpretation could exist logically in the real world.

In addition, the Internet is rich with sites and documentary footage on this subject, which you can access by googling 9/11 Truth.

Three Rules

I painted this last spring 2005. 

Working at my art, I do different things every day, but taking care of my body, I do much the same things each day. My rules of health are: Walk the dog, feed the rabbit and feed the cat.

What I mean by that is: I take a walk (walk my inner dog?), or swim, or dance, or garden, or do yoga, whatever kind of fun I can muster that will get my body pumping endorphins.

To satisfy my inner rabbit, I eat rather piggy portions of dark green leafy vegetables, and other non-starchy vegetables, at least two big servings each day.

Three times a day I feed the cat. Cats like protein, but not a lot at one time. In the Zone books, a portion the size of your palm is suggested.

That’s enough to keep me free of 95% of the health problems that could keep me from doing what I love.