Musical Monday::One Chorus, One People

Bobby McFerrin may very well be on of America’s National Treasures. His approach to music shows his total immersion in the craft of music from the world of sounds, and he seems to have honed the ability to transform instruction into entertaining activity.

This video shows Bobby McFerrin leading the audience (at the World Science Festival ) in a song based on the pentatonic scale; he uses mime and vocalizations to teach the audience to sing the song. McFerrin begins by demonstrating the interval between the mid-tone and the next higher tone, as well as the tone below. After the minimal instruction, he pantomimes to lead the audience through the rest of the song. Amazingly, the audience sings as if they already knew the tune, or at least the pentatonic scale. At the end, Mr. McFerrin returns to his seat and discloses that everywhere he’s visited, all the countries with different languages, cultures and musical traditions, people everywhere are able to intuit, discern and vocalize the correct higher and lower notes for the pentatonic scale, beyond those he initially demonstrated.

This demonstration suggests that our brains are hardwired for harmonics. As an intuitive person with a holistic understanding of nature, this makes sense to me given that all life forms make music. All Life Makes Music; Sound and music is a condition of life. When we use our voices we add to the chorus of the world, whether we sing, speak, yell or cry, we add to the ambient soundscapes of birds, rushing water, rustling tree leaves, whooshing wind, car honks, dog barks and on and on.

think:: If you were an observer /listener who detached from the emotionality of the scene or activity of the actors, let’s say you recently landed from Neptune, would you be more likely to perceive “noise” or be able to discern human language versus birdsong, versus rainfall, thunder or the rev of a motor? Probably not. If you were new to the earthly soundscape, you would be more likely to orient yourself to the underlying rhythms which pattern the swells of noise, eventually noticing similarities or dissimilarities in tones before you could identify where the tones / sounds / pulses or rhythms emanate from. If our humanly sounds add to the chorus of life, even our technological wonders become a part of the greater soundscape, are we really so different from a woodpecker, dragonfly, rooster or any other animal? We are ONE.

Feel:: What emotions come up for you as you listen to the non-musical audience of strangers who engaged in a perfectly orchestrated impromptu song? Remember, these people don’t represent a cohesive group, they all flew / drove / swam / walked 🙂  to the World Science festival to attend that lecture; they were from as many walks of life, and represent as many different experiences as there were people, however harmonically they were all in tune. Complete strangers expertly sang a new song in unison. When I watched this video, I felt an overwhelming, beautiful sense of joy and expansive ONENESS. The people may not have known each other individually, but they essential humanness asserted and recognized itself to show that they, WE come from the same proverbial root.

The harmony created in a room of strangers poignantly illustrates an ultimate truth: there is no separation between you and me. If we can tap into the greater chorus at will, then maybe, just maybe we  are all creating a symphony composed of the sounds, words and expressions we make in our everyday life?

Grow!:: What sounds do you want to contribute to the chorus of life? Identify the most recent time you felt alone. Not lonely, but alone. Where life seemed as if it were coursing by without you, or when you had thoughts that your experience was so different from everyone else’s, that no one could understand. In this moment, after witnessing a supreme moment of oneness between strangers, realize that there is no possible way for you to actually be alone the world. Even in feelings of isolation, we can add melancholy tone to the symphony of life. We all know that some of the most compelling works of art incorporated the artists melancholy to great effect; I challenge you take the reins as the composer of your life and consciously decide what note you add to the chorus of life. The next time you feel alone, or misunderstood, to go out into the world and listen to the chorus just outside your door. Do you notice that there is something missing? It’s You! Your voice is crucial to the chorus of Life. Lift your voice and sing, add your unique melody to the chorus. When you add to the soundtrack of life, it is impossible to feel alone, because in that moment you connect and contribute to the chorus, you will remember that you are irrevocably plugged into or tapped into to the greater power that unites us all.

What is my sound?:: Well, I wish to add the beta-wave sound of optimism, honesty and human healing. I wish to create a sound-wave of my healing that emanates from my own healing process out to others in need of the same. My intent is that the healing beta-wave compels all who hear it to seek, find and ultimately embark on their deepest, most profound healing journey.



Land Lovers and Canning in my Native New York

The Canning Queen of the Desert from Etsy on Vimeo.

Eating from the Land Ties You to the Land

A Haiku Mind, A Haiku Life

My Feeling Thinking Friends,

Toward growth, spiritual and emotional progress I write today of the poet, Sonia Sanchez. To me, she epitomizes the Beautiful Spirit which feeds her fantastical mind, loving heart and grounded views, that is, she IS the Haiku Mind personified, living a Haiku Life to inspire in us all, the Haiku Mind.

“A Haiku Mind: the way of looking at each other, the way of looking at the beauty in nature and transferring that looking [to the] the beauty in ourselves” (Sonia Sanchez, minute 3:22 —3:32)

She has taken up her mantle of artist, poet, seer, counselor and griot (pronounced: gree-oh) to share with us the way, the path, the methodos for beauty, creative expression, peace, personal productivity and overall health & well-being. It is through Her chosen art form, the Haiku which “…is three lines,  five–seven–five,  seventeen syllables  involved there, it will give us a moment of beauty, a moment of time, a moment of something so excruciatingly beautiful that you just stop for a minute, and it catches your breath, period”.  (Sonia Sanchez, minute 1:32–1:56)

(Here is the video, please do watch this lovely interview)

On April 26, 2010, Ms. Sanchez appeared on the Tavis Smiley show, and she offered us just that, moments in which we can and may pause to catch our breath in pace with her silken phraseology,  lyrical lilt delivered in her precise, crystalline, velvet-tinged voice:

“The beauty of the haiku is that it is NOT simplistic, the beauty of the haiku…is very complex. It reaches all the complexities of our life on this earth. Peace – thats a very complex idea, Peace…We can’t get it as human beings. And so what I am trying to do, is to tell young people, I teach them how to breathe before I teach the Haiku…that one breath, that one breath because the haiku keeps you alive, it keeps you going. If you learn how to breathe the heaiku, you learn how to breathe., and if you learn to breathe, you’re much healthier” (Sonia Sanchez, minute 3:57–4:33)

Check out her new book: A Morning Haiku

“Womanifesta” for the Future of Environmental Psychology and Geography

My thanks to Adeola Enigbokan for the color highlighting idea, which I have imitated in this post. As they say, “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”. Therein lay the entirety of what is not my own original inspiration within this post.  This was written originally for a workshop in which we are re-envisioning the fields of Environmental Psychology and Geography, or Psychogeography..hold the jokes, please.  I’ve edited this to be a standalone post for this blog, as it is removed from its original context, a larger, ongoing conversation with my colleagues. Onward!      

My overarching research interests involve interrogating “American” popular culture for perpetuation and sometimes creation of otherwise hidden social and systemic norms. From gender roles and associated /expected life-choice trajectories to cultural ideas, ideals, images and understandings and methods of producing nature and our relation to / with  it.  My current research uses visual analysis techniques to discern the underlying myths of nature portrayed in post–WWII car ads in National Geographic Magazine. Here is a link to a more detailed project description.     

 The Visual and The Creative 

My research , and conversations and collaborations with fellow researchers aims to expand our current bevy of methods by which we engage with the visual (analysis and methodology), and to encourage acceptance of the creative. To add the visual, is to create, assemble or find  an information base for the fields of Environmental Psychology and [Cultural] Geography (Imagined Geographies or Visual Geography) to accomplish two things:           

  1. Supports and encourages the exploration and use of visual analysis techniques to interrogate images and other material cultural artifacts for their contextual and storied content, rather than solely categorizing and counting their elements a la content analysis or adapted quantitative survey measures
  2. Allows for the dynamic presentation and sharing of said information so as to be maximally interesting, sensorially engaging and technologically relevant beyond the academy, or at least beyond one specific discipline.

3…2…1…CARE!!! OR Emoting can increase readability and interest

My second goal for the field is to advocate for storytelling techniques and/or interpretive methods that allow exploration of the sensorial aspects of our physical, cultural and social environments. This is to say that students and PhD’s alike need some exposure to publications of interest wherein language is used expressively, with all attendant emotion and individual personality. This can only serve to enrich the texture of the analysis, discussion and presentation. It is time for us to release the imposed rational objectivity of the physical sciences which often stifles the potential for brilliant insights and inspired research inquiries in our interdisciplinary and subjective fields of Environmental Psychology and Geography.            

Technology is our friend

Lastly, I sense an opportunity for Environmental Psychology and Geography to seize the opportunity to step ahead of the curve and make our fields relevant and popularly appealing again by encouraging the use of current technology in data collection, analysis, presentation and distribution. There is but a small window of time in which we can be “the first” and still have the luxury of our lead time to become “the best” at producing researchers whose methods and mediums reflect the current array of possible information flows, storage, presentation and technological advancements. The [written] word is no longer enough in a world where people read few books and “learn” from TV and the Internet.           

Signed, Shawndel N. Fraser
Static [written] Dissertations behind Dynamic PhD Student

Signed, Shawndel

Greenwashed Canaries are Expensive!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Calling all Thinkers!

I found this ad on , it speaks for itself. It does however raise a pet topic of mine, “GreenWashing“.

Greenwashing is insidious, it has infiltrated the advertising of every industry from automotive manufacture (i.e. Chevy and BMW : at what point did 30mpg highway become good?), to chemical companies like DOW (who presumtively offer to guide the Government in drafting a comprehensive energy plan), to your exclusively priced consumer goods like you find at Gaiam.

Greenwashing is seductive; the advertising pulls on your emotions and amplifies concerns you may have, however they bank on your passive acceptance of their imagery rather than critical analysis.  The next time you see an ad that:

  • has copious amount of the color or the use of the word green 
  • showcases incongruous amounts of plants, mountains and sea birds surrounding a green MACK truck
  • on a perfectly sunny day, makes you want to cry or hug your neighbor’s dog.

Before allowing your senses to be completely seduced, you should ask yourself…

  • Where do those products come from?
  • What is the health of the trees, water, animals, insects and local people as compared to before the factories?
  • Who made those products? and who actually uses them?  Are they the same people?
  • Why do I feel like crying right now? Where’s my puppy Shay Shay, I need a hug!

So, my dear detective friends, you may say, oh, I can look for that information. I challenge you to do so! These real impacts are purposely kept hidden because the truth, well, the truth might not set you free, but it would certainly wake you up! 

So you may ask me “Just what are you trying to say?” I am saying:

  •  If the ad does not answer those questions, then you’ve been greenwashed.
  • If you cannot find those answers on the packaging or the company website, then you have been greenwashed.

The production of truly ‘Organic’, ‘Environmentally Friendly’ or ‘Sustainable’ is completely transparent from cradle to cradle. Think of a farmers market: you can meet the people who grow, bake or processes your food, wine, yarn etc,  you can visit the farm, and you can talk to the farmers, workers and ask them questions about the entire process (and actually receive an answer, and maybe an invitation to experience it firsthand!). I dare you to try that with any mass producer of so-called ‘green’ goods.

So, to wrap up, if any part of the production process is hidden from you, not easily accessible on wikipedia, their website or the ad itself,

Don’t Believe the Hype! Green is just a Marketing Type!

Welcome to Think. Feel. Grow!

Thinkers! Feelers! Friends!

Welcome to Think. Feel. Grow! For the foreseeable future, and with your help, we will think deeply about the various ways that our relationship to nature and one another is created and reinforced by the Everyday Myths of pop culture.  We will think about the messages encoded in our books, advertising, science,  music, cinema and traditions. We will discuss the way we feel about their affect on our beliefs and choices. The combination of which will help us to grow a sustainable, deeply social and aware community of environmental thinkers, ’emoters’ and doers!

By delving into  art, books, science, advertising, movies and song we will decode the messages we passively imbibe and share with our loved ones. The goal is not to mourn our misguided efforts, but to take the opportunities presented to us every day, to actively envision different ways to think about and relate to nature and one another. Through critique and discussion we will usher in the new way of being by becoming the change that we want to see in this world. Today we begin to co-create!