Rooms to Grow

Storm-Bred Magic Mushrooms
Can Improve Your Personality

Unlike what almost 100% of politicians, celebrities, and people way more famous than you may believe, there is a living organism that’s much bigger than them all: it’s a 2.4 miles across mushroom and it resides in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.
But maybe because it’s over 2,600 years old, and despite being called honey fungus, there’s nothing sweet or mushy about this creature. It’s still expanding, killing every plant on its path, and it’s covered by the carcasses of hundreds of dead trees.
Then again, it’s a mushroom. You know, that very peculiar life form that can feed you, get you high, or poison you to death, and whose multitude of varieties are freaky enough to sprout from soil (or a cow’s pie), or grow on the very flesh (or nail surface) of your body.
But not that humongous creature, which tests showed that it’s a single individual, and that seems happy to preside over a national park in Oregon. Maybe being simply the earth’s largest living being is enough, thank you very much.
But as a plant species, fungi are not always so scarily dominant, and research is being conducted about the ability of some varieties to break down heavy pollutants, and even clean up dirty diapers, no matter how powerful the digestive track of your absolutely adorable baby may be.
In fact, they’ve been adapted for use in almost as wide a range of applications as there are species, from a Mushroom Death Suit, suitable to usher the body decaying process at burial, to a compost for packaging and furniture that could one day replace plastic and other non-degradable materials, to future uses in the auto industry.
Thus, it was almost inevitable to learn about two relatively surprising properties these at times beautiful organisms may have in store for all of us, free for the taking and all related to that special kind, so dear to so many, the magic mushrooms: they are abundant after storms and they may be actually good for you.

FRESH AFTER THE HURRICANE
As it turns out, then, hurricanes like to leave something else on their wake, besides mayhem and destruction: plenty of psychedelic mushrooms.  Of course, to many people, that particular kind of hongos is exactly what the definition of mayhem and destruction is meant to be. Perhaps.
Or it’s just a freakish way of nature to compensate those living in high-risk areas: to give them a break in the form of a trip to their own mind. As long as they can come back sane and sound, they most likely would appreciate the gift, if given a taste. Philosophically speaking, maybe.
The phenomenon was first observed after Hurricane Irene‘s passage in the New York metropolitan area, in 2011. What was then a rare and mildly intense storm – not nearly as lethal and devastating as the following year’s Hurricane Sandy – did seem to have made some folks wide-eyed happy afterwards, according to unconfirmed reports.
It gets better. As it goes, the magic kind also improves your general well being, according to research conducted (more)
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Read Also:
* Mushroom Car
* Nothing’s Wasted
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Kids, These Days

Things Teenagers May Excel at,
Despite What Their Parents Say

It’s a brand new, wild world out there. But some things have hardly changed. Parent complaints, for instance, about how their teens are wasting their lives and may wind up in the gutter.
Not so fast, though. Yes, the air is lethal out there, and happy campers will be crushed. But it’s all so new that jobs that weren’t even around in the 1990s, are already minting millionaires.
For millions of baby boomers, who did waste their youths telling their elders that they could outsell The Beatles, or live off the land, or become a yoga master, the end result was not so pretty.
But it’s not fair for them to now bitterly preach platitudes they never believed in the first place, and that may actually wind up breaking the hell out of their kids’ spirit.
Time to stop barking lessons, and focus on what’s at stake here: how to dislodge that gym-trained body holding a dream-soaked mind, from the cocoon of their room out to the real world.
No, we’re not about to dispense advice, but we did do the ‘finger’ work for you, to uncover some of those things that actually occupy their hearts and minds, when you think they’re doing their homework.
It’s a short list, because we too have boring jobs and unfulfilling lives, and no longer get excited about the latest and the shiniest to capture the attention of immature minds. Just something to get you going.

HACKING INTERNET STARDOM
It’s clear what you’re thinking, but no, we’re not about to digress in the wonders of those utterly annoying Web kids, who command audiences of millions, and have hardly anything to say.
But if your teen spends a lot of time on the Web, messaging friends and, well let’s not go there, he or she may be ready to dole out videos about any kind of expertise he may have.
It’s a good gig but let them try on their own; you would never understand any of that anyway. But it may offer him a path, a window? to their destiny. Or not. Just don’t waste money on it.

COOK SOME ACTIVIST BUG
Let’s face it: there’s just one Malala Yousafzai. Or Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. But all over the world, there’s a huge demand for compassion and helping hands. And the causes in need are vast.
Your kid may show a penchant to help out others, if at the end of the stick there’s a possibility of travel a million miles away from you. Your masterful skills will be required to put it all together.
But, heaven forbid, always make it look as if it’s their own idea. (more)
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Read Also:
* Dime a Dozen
* Half-Past Child
* Feral Children
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John & Poe

October & the City Link
the Walrus & the Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct. 7, 1849, Boston) and John Lennon (b. Oct.9, 1940, Liverpool) would’ve likely enjoyed each other’s company. One could even picture them sharing a coffee in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from where they both lived briefly in New York.
Sharing a certain sensibility, they’ve twisted rules and noses with their talent and non-conformism. While Poe’s genius was acknowledged mostly after death, Lennon’s was still shaping his own times when life was brutally taken away from him. Despite their enormous sway over our era, they’ve both died at 40.
Their status as two of the world’s most recognized pop icons often obscures the depth of their art and endurance of their legacy. And maybe their irresistible appeal owes more to a contemporary deficit of revolutionary artists than to their particular take on human expression.
Or it may be that we’re so desperate to find paradigms upon which to pile our frustration about the world, that a walking wound such as Poe, or a talking head like Lennon, may offer the conduit we seek to connect and placate our own shortcomings. Just like it ever was.
They couldn’t help it but being such tragic heroes, either, with terrible upbringings and disturbing deaths to boot. But that’s when shallow similarities between the two begin to falter, and no longer serve us to rescue their relevance out of the amber it’s been encased.
THE MESMERIC & THE MAUDIT
Poe, who lived in three separate places in Greenwich Village, New York City, before moving to a farmhouse uptown where he wrote The Raven at age 36, is the only American writer routinely mentioned along the French poètes maudits.
The Paul Verlaine-concocted term encapsulated the romantic ideal of the artist as a tragic hero, not suited to this world, who inevitably self-immolates. We won’t get into how flawed and self-indulgent it is such notion, but the literature the group produced transcended it all.
Perhaps the best known among those poets was Charles Baudelaire, who championed, translated and wrote essays about Poe, (more)
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Read Also:
* Murder & Unkindness
* Hallowed Ground
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Murder & Unkindness

Nevermore, or When the Corvus
Talked Through Poe & His Poem

Emissaries of rebirth from the great beyond, or omens of bad things to come in ancient traditions, crows have soared over our imaginations for ages. Scientists are baffled by their social skills, cognitive abilities, and use of tools. Old Aesop may have been onto something after all.
As January 19th marks Edgar Allan Poe’s 206th birthday, and The Raven’s first print 170 years ago this month, we review research being done about the black bird that feasts on carrion and whose collective nouns convey the finality of sudden death and sorrow of lost souls.
Before Claude Lévi-Strauss called the raven a mediator, antiquity took care of inscribing the winged creature into an assortment of narratives and roles, including it in all holy books, from the Talmud to the Bible to the Qur’an, Greek-Roman mythologies and Hindu cosmology.
Old Germanic and English texts also assigned the species a prominent role, and so did Pacific tribes and Native Americans. Which may confer oversized meaning to their annual winter arrival at Waterloo, England, for example, or instances of mass deaths, as it just happened in India.
But before going any further, let’s get the distinction between crows and ravens out of the way. Crows are smaller and live only eight years, to raven’s average 30-year lifespan. Crows, which caw-caw, also live closer to humans; ravens’ croaks are heard mostly in the wild.
A crow’s wing is blunt, and its tail, fan-shaped, while ravens have pointed wings and wedge-shaped tails. All else may not be easily noted because the birds are commonly sighted in parks and cemeteries, where people go to fulfill a function or when they’re, well, dead.

WHO IS BIRD-BRAINED NOW?
We should all be weary of studies comparing the intelligence of radically different species, say primates vs. cetacean, for instance. Mainly because for a long time, we’ve considered cognitive intelligence and social skills to be our monopoly and of a few other animals only.
Also, we still don’t know enough Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

The Plastic Oh, No, Band, Colltalers

‘I just want to say one word to you. Just one word… Are you listening? Plastics.’ That was the career advice offered to Benjamin Braddock, in the 1967 movie The Graduate. If the word was just a joke then, almost 50 years later, it now defines our way of life and may point to our demise.
Its presence permeates almost everything considered essential to our living in this planet, plastic may also choke to death its lifeline, the oceans. Everyday, millions of discarded pieces of it reach the world’s waterways and join what’s an already incalculable amount of floating garbage.
In fact, in this past half century, we’ve seen how insidious plastic clogging the world oceans has become: it has been found everywhere, from vast extensions, forming giant invisible islands of flotsam, to deep under the Arctic seas, and out of dead seabirds’ bursted open stomachs full of it.
As part of our daily life, it’s also all over: in the computer where this post is being composed to cellphones, medicine bottles, to product packaging, food containers, to throwaway utensils. It’s almost discouraging to realize how hard it’d be for us do dig ourselves out of this lifestyle hole.
But perhaps not all is lost. Two of the more ominous of its uses may represent both a way out and a method to wean ourselves from such pervasive product: plastic bags and bottles. They both encapsulate extremes of our societal behavior and offer interesting metaphors to our way of living.
Take bags, for instance, banned this past week in California, which may be one of the most important steps taken against plastic pollution since recycling rules have been instituted in the U.S. A positive sign, indeed, that should ignite a chain reaction and lead to a nationwide ban.
Created solely out of convenience, these bags are utterly replaceable, and yet, have a level of adherence in all walks of life that would baffle social scientists searching for common habits shared by all classes. It’s, however, one of the most environment-damaging habits we could possibly partake.
So a ban, as it’s being pursued in New York and other states, and following some European countries, would represent a big step towards controlling ocean pollution, where they inevitably wind up, after decades in landfills. Would a ban also instill a reflexion on our shopping obsessions? Nah.
The other ominous use of polymers is even more ridden with the contradictions of our very own highfalutin approach to a natural lifestyle: bottles. Drinking bottled water became one the most terrible by-products of the ‘living healthy’ movement, one that added millions of tons of plastic to our already Continue reading

Amazing Zone

Amazon’s Mind-Altering Tales:
Nazis, Condoms & the Internet

Just on the account of its gargantuan scope and staggering diversity of species, the Amazon Rainforest has inspired some of our most intriguing posts. But today’s three surprising stories may stun even the most seasoned admirer of that grand green extension.
Cue in the Ayahuasca, its ancient hallucinogenic medicine, and suddenly, tales are not about flora and fauna, but in a way, about basic human feelings, such as love, hate, and the pursuit of communication among distant peoples, otherwise known as being online.
Not that deforestation has slowed down by that much. Or that assassinations of local defenders of the forest has subsided, or being punished by law. And since we’re at it, the jungle’s prospects for the future have not become any less forbidding either.
On the other hand, we could, as we’ve done often, highlight some of the amazing lives and works, native communities and positive deeds, that perform daily their mostly ignored task of fighting to preserve if not the whole forest, at least its indomitable spirit, to our grandchildren and their own kids.
It’s just that we can’t resist bringing you something not usually associated with the environment and wild life and indigenous peoples, all worthy causes for discussion and multiple posts, intrinsically connected with the forest. Not today, anyway.
Instead, let’s contextualize these elements alluded to by the headline, as signs that perhaps one can take the civilization out of the forest, and it’d all be just fine. But try to take the forest out of civilization, and one may be left with the bitter sum of its worst vices.
The good thing about it, spoiler alert, is that out of three, two of said elements are somewhat positive, for one may represent an economic force of transformation, and the other, well, it simply failed, and that was an excellent thing. About the Internet, however, the jury’s still out.

MAKING RUBBERS FOR LOVE
Among the many advocates, some already savagely gunned down, and others still soldiering on, despite life threats and the oblivion of society at large, the shadow of Chico Mendes, murdered 25 years ago last month, still deservedly dominates the conversation about preservation of the forest.
Chico, as he was known, was a rubber tapper and union leader, whose life work was involved in creating sustainable means of survival for the people of the jungle. His assassination helped call attention to the plight of many who, like him, had the courage to fight for a shared, positive view of the future.
We mention rubber because Brazil’s experienced two powerful production booms, one in the late 1800s, and then during WWII. But with widespread commercialization of synthetic rubber, produced from petroleum, the boom went bust, and the Amazon never recovered economically.
Still, production of natural rubber from latex continues in a very small scale, thanks in part to Chico’s efforts. Now there’s a small factory Continue reading

The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my own goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them all like spam, and as the quests for help intensified towards the end of the year, December being the very apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched it all with equal intensity by sending them all to trash.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes stuffed with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

WHY SHOULD I?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

LACK OF ATLAS
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs, Continue reading