Monday, April 21, 2008

The Best Blog Post Ever

My teacher for our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class assigned us to do "the best blog post ever." Daunting as it may seem, I was not toooo worried because I knew I would have a lot of inspiration to work with after this last weekend.

Sunday night, just as I was drifting off to sleep in my bed, I awoke suddenly to the sound of a car.
My eyelids quickly jolted open. What was that?!!?
Ohhhh yeahhh, I'm back to civilization, where large moving machines is the norm.
I closed my eyes again with a grumble, appreciating the sweet memory of how nice it was to sleep with only the sounds of nature (and other people snoring).

This past weekend we lived at StoneLake Farm.

We spent time with the chickens who hatched our eggs.

We savored these eggs many times over. This spanish tortilla/makeshift scramble paired with a sweet white Riesling wine was maybe the best meal I have had since studying abroad in France a year ago (Thanks Lulu). So good, and eaten immersed in the wonder of such vast nature, that this was the slowest I had savored a meal since I can remember.

we took our time thinking of and creating these meals. Could the reason this trip felt so relaxing and time went by so nicely simply be the sheer pleasure in spending time to cook and savor our meals?

Perhaps. Or rather, eating is something that all humans share and relate on. With all of the things that civilization usually keeps us busy with taken away, we found ourselves talking and relating about food so much because we all naturally like and need to connect with each other. Besides being necessary to live, food, and cooking it, thinking about it, planning for the next meal, is a simple way for people to connect. The beauty in this is also that food, done properly, can be delicious, something special in itself.

we foraged

and chopped the wood that kept us warm

we appreciated this wood even more when it began to snow

we created very little trash!

and ducklings, hopefully who will survive the food chain and help the summer garden to fruition, provided us with some "fluff"

All of this, in one word is homesteading (check out In two words, is the simple life. In ten words, is the most relaxing while simultaneously fulfilling weekend I have ever had.

I'll be back.

For an even better feel of StoneLake farms, view a slideshow of the trip.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gayla Trail, Urban Gardener

Because of a field trip and graduation mayhem, this post is a bit late, but still necessary because of the value of this speaker's words! Gayla Trail, self-described "urban gardener" and author of blog You Grow Girl visited USF two Thursdays ago for the Davies Forum on Digital Literacy. It was great to have her here! I wish everyone could hear her speak, now I understand the tremendous importance of urban gardening.

One of Trail's mottos is "Play is Valuable." She said Play is three things: a learning tool, a way to explore and make discoveries, and also an opportunity to make mistakes. Her site started as her own play. She simply loved to garden, and was bored with her corporate job. "I just wanted other people to relate to," she said about starting the blog. It turns out people do relate to her, her blog is pretty popular.

She talked about her thought that gardening media is so flat and boring. Think about it: we tend to talk about nature as dead, she said. She referred to a quote by someone called Johnson who said instead of wilderness, we should call it wildness-. This makes the term a quality rather than a place, an adjective rather than a noun, and a little more exciting. Instead of gardening magazines for inspiration on gardening, Gail refers to works of literature: stuff like Michael Pollan's Second Nature, and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Her main point is that we need to start seeing the city and nature as being able to coexist. We tend to think of them as separate. Gardening can inspire wonder and delight. "I use the word wonder a lot when I talk about gardening, " Trail said. After hearing her speak, I thought, duh! Gardening is a healthy habit that is fulfilling, good for the earth, and fun. Why is it still fairly obscure?

In addition to all of her pro- gardening points, Trail brought up some interesting points about blogging in general. "When you try to write in the mainstream, you have to be validated by someone else- not in personal media," she said. This means there's no editorial process. Maybe this is a good thing, or a bad thing. One bad thing may be that with blogging, you tend to write something, and then later connect with it and only come to know it after it's out there, open for criticism. In her own blog, Trail uses a lot of personal voice. "I have a lot of problems with the idea of hierarchy, I don't like authority" she said. She also uses a lot of photos in her blog because "we're a very visual culture."
Her blog being a sort of how to site for gardening, Trail also has a unique blogger perspective. "There are too many variables (in gardening) to give exact directions, the wrong way to give gardening directions is to say this is how you do it...I try to encourage people to make mistakes, kill plants, etc."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kevin Epps

Kevin Epps, chatting with students after the talk

Kevin Epps, filmmaker, activist, artist and my teacher for documentary class, gave a really intriguing talk about his experience as an artist in today's media landscape. "Digital technology is the reason this story was able to be told," he said about his 2005 documentary Straight Outta Hunter's Point. It was quite refreshing to hear someone talk about making a difference through media, giving people a voice by helping them to tell their story through documentary film. "There's something very empowering about telling your own story." Epps said. One of the ways he helps people do this is by working with Conscious Youth Media Crew, a non-profit production studio that provides inner city youth with the opportunity to create media. Awesome.

Epps also stated the idea that "We don't have to compete with Hollywood." As a media studies student, I guess it feels like everyone is always talking about making it big. Epps made me realize that it's more about small community power than Hollywood. Let's face it- Hollywood sucks.

Although, in this capitalist society, everyone needs money. Epps talked about how as an artist he and everyone else have been figuring out how to control ownership of their work and manage it in order to be compensated. This is the big issue that is happening right now with music downloading, and the reason why the writers' strike took place. It will be interesting to see how these sorts of issues play out in my lifetime.

This was the first time in our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class that we had the perspective of a digital artist. Kevin Epps has a very unique, important perspective, perfect for the role. He touched on the digital divide too, something we are about to talk more about in our class. "Not having the access to the latest, fastest, digital technology is definitely a digital divide," Epps said.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ocean Beach, Jane Jacobs, and Kelly Quinn

Ocean Beach is a great place. And I think Jane Jacobs would approve of Ocean Beach because, though it is not part of a grid system which she was such an advocate for ( a grid is the basic idea of a divided piece of land that provides equal size blocks, that dominates the landscape of the US), much of the grid system of San Francisco ends here. It is so large that much of San Francisco has access to it by simply walking or driving West.

The reason I am thinking about Ocean Beach in relation to what Jane Jacobs and Kelly Quinn had to say is because I love the vastness of it, how it's open to everyone (no fees or major restrictions) and how when it's a nice day out the whole city seems to flock to the beach. As Kelly Quinn said Thursday as a speaker for our Davies Forum on Digital Literacy class, "the grid is the most democratic form of urban planning, because at the corner we have the opportunity to meet people unlike ourselves." I think Ocean Beach is like this too! Because of its size and accessibility, day and night, and because of what it is as nature and as land's end, there are all sorts of different people at the beach.

Kelly Quinn said Thursday, "one of my real fascinations is with urban furniture." She then showed the class a slide of a photo of two benches facing each other. These benches almost require conversation, and human interaction, she pointed out. This brings up an interesting point. Ocean Beach has benches too, and a large ledge in an area where people can sit, though these benches face the water, not each other. But to me it seems like since everyone is there because they enjoy the beach -they all have this in common- and so the human interaction there is meaningful. This has to do with safety too. Though there is probably less of a permanent community at the beach, like a neighborhood would have, that knows who is who and keeps its eyes out for strangers, I feel like the mutual enjoyment of the beach is a safe thing in itself. One can probably tell and feel the difference between a person there to enjoy the beach and someone there to cause ruckus.

Quinn also mentioned the importance of trees. The more plants and trees, the less hot the climate. This is important, she mentioned, for elders. People don't like to come outside when it's really hot, and so are less involved and part of the community. Though there aren't trees at Ocean Beach, there's always a nice breeze.

Safety is of great importance to Jane Jacobs. I think Ocean Beach is very safe. During the day, as long as there aren't gale force winds or rain, people are always out: elders walking or sitting, parents walking kids in strollers, surfers, wind surfers, and couples. During the night, although the beach itself (the sand beyond the boardwalk lit by cars and lights on the street) is dark, partyers and bon-fire goers keep watch. To Jane Jacobs, eyes are very important. The more eyes on an area, the safer the area. The fact that there are so many people at Ocean Beach is itself probably one of the reasons why there are so many people at Ocean Beach. Jacobs says in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, "Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off an on, by watching street activity" (p 35). (my emphasis). To me this says, people need people- a large theme of the first three chapters of her book.