Archive | Media

The Last Seltzer Works

 

‘Good Seltzer Should Hurt’

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s the end of the era.

In the early 1900s, thousands of seltzer deliverymen criss-crossed the nation, schlepping heavy glass bottles full of fizzy water to the doorsteps of millions of thirsty customers.

Today, with only a handful of seltzer works left in the country, the siphon machines at Gomberg Seltzer Works don’t turn like they used to.  Most of the old customers have passed on.  Or moved to Florida.  At one time there were 500 seltzer bottlers in NYC alone.

In Jessica Edwards’ short documentary film, Seltzer Works, the last bottler in Brooklyn fends off the supermarket seltzer take-over and honors this simple drink’s place in history.  And it’s more of a place than Hollywood’s iconic cream pie and seltzer water fights captured on celluloid.  Seltzer water over ice was the refreshing uptown drink for those hot humid summer days in the City.

For third-generation bottler Kenny Gomberg of Canarsie, Brooklyn, the charm of authentic bottled seltzer is both the throat-biting tingle a pressurized glass bottle creates, and the memories it stirs up.

Since his grandfather opened the seltzer factory in 1953, the seltzer delivery business has dropped off significantly due to grocery shelves stocked with big-brand fizzy water in plastic bottles and busy schedules that are out of sync with home delivery.

Indeed, Gomberg’s small operation is the only seltzer factory left in New York City and one of the few original ones left in the country.

A gritty old machine there pumps its effervescent, bubbly elixir into Gomberg’s thick glass bottles, made in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, hand-blown and hand-etched, with pewter siphon tops.

“You drop one of these, it will explode,” he said, holding one up.  “Inside here is triple-filtered New York City water with 80 pounds of carbonic pressure.”

He jams wooden shims between the 10 rattling bottles in their beat-up wooden cases, which he sells for $31.  He has about 150 customers.

Still, he’s able to carve out a living serving up his crisp beverage – and some nostalgia – to elderly customers, and to a younger generation that prizes all things archaic and artisanal.

Those were the days, my friend.  And we  thought they would never end.

 

 

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The Sunny Side of Mr. Creo

 

Soldier, Athlete, Artist: at 90

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 
‘I’m losing a little, but I’m using everything I’ve got,’ says the 90-year-old artist Leonard Creo, for whom old age means working harder to achieve less than what he was used to doing before.

But all that effort is still an endeavor worthy of taking care and attention of oneself.  “If you can do puberty, you can do old age,” Creo says with a sparkle in his eye.

Creo keeps his body active through speed walking six days a week.  He keeps his mind alert by sculpting and painting.  When he was reunited with his old WWII uniform that had been lost and stored away, he glowed with a youthful satisfaction and relished going back in time as a 21-year old, even if it was only briefly in his mind.  He paused, reflected, and widely smiled while remembering.

Born in New York City and now living in Britain, Creo’s perspective on life and his art are driven by a desire to connect.  Yet he’s also keenly aware of the limits of human communication.  His sharp observations on war and the near impossibility of communicating a soldier’s experience to that of a civilian is reflective of the challenges we all face in understanding others.

Ultimately, Mr. Creo sees the possibility of happiness as a pragmatic process, as something you want to do– and doing it regularly.  Moss Davis’s film shows this brisk and compelling approach to life, one that is given to a happy, consistent, and applied course of action.

It’s good to keep on the sunny side of life. 

And it seems to be serving Mr. Creo just fine.

 

 

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Planting One Million Trees

 

From Roots to Shoots:

Creating Change in a Tough Environment

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jonah Kessel
JonahKessel.com

 

 
In a country full of rumors, scandals and negative news, it’s nice to see something positive for once.

In my time in China, I’ve watched many NGOs attempt to make change in their communities.  While some are successful, many more seem to fall to the great challenges any organization faces: attempting to make social reforms in an authoritarian state.  

However, this week a project came across my desk that overcame these challenges that I thought worthy to mention.

In 2007 a bright-eyed bunch of volunteers in a nascent NGO called Shanghai Roots & Shoots had a big dream to help fight desertification in China.  Their dream:  to plant one million trees on the edge of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert in China.

China’s deserts have been growing for many years, and in response, the government’s Great Green Wall Program planted trees across China.  However, it was often done in places where tree planting wasn’t appropriate due to environmental conditions and a lack of available ground water.  Many of these trees simply weren’t taken care of because a lack of financial incentives led farmers to simply drop them in the sand and leave.

Shanghai Roots & Shoots had a different plan.

Not only was it to plant more trees but to successfully take care of them, and educating the communities around the desert to their potential benefits. Experts helped the NGO identify areas where ground water was available, giving the trees their best chance of survival.

This was the The Million Tree Project.

The aim was to raise community awareness of the Earth’s precious environment, focusing on steps individuals can take to lessen their negative impact on the natural world.  

The project gave individuals and organizations an opportunity for fighting global warming by planting oxygen-producing trees. It also encompassed the local population becoming involved in planting, maintaining, and monitoring the trees. 

The Million Tree Project was designed to both improve the ecological and humanitarian conditions of lnner Mongolia.  It was a big idea, a big goal, and a tremendous undertaking in the Gobi desert.

They chose this site because the area suffers severely from desertification and sandstorms; at the same time, they also have available ground water.  Sandstorms strike Inner Mongolia and its surrounding areas each spring, destroying local homes and forcing many people to flee their native land.

The NGO cooperated with the national and regional governments as well as local communities to help secure and rebuild the land.  Since 2007, thousands of students, individuals, and corporate sponsors– with the help of Dr. Jane Goodall– donated their time and muscle buying and planting trees.

This summer, the NGO reached their goal.  They planted their one millionth tree.

I had been shooting this project since 2009 when they called and asked me to make a quick video that they could share with their volunteers and tree donors.  While the video is intended for their audience, I believe their project is a good example of showing actual results from an NGO working in a difficult political and social environment. 

And it’s worth sharing with a greater audience.  Looking into the future, the NGO is now pledging to plant one million more trees.

The first million, well… it looks like that was just the beginning.

To Shanghai Roots & Shoots: Congratulations on this massive accomplishment.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jonah Kessel is a freelance cinematographer, filmmaker, and visual journalist based in Beijing working with the New York Times.  He is the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Justice and Human Rights and the Edwin Hood Diplomatic Award for Broadcast, as well as a contributor to a winning Pultizer Prize series. 

You can see more of his work at his web siteblog or follow him on Twitter.

~Via Jonah Kessel, Sharon Lovell, Shanghai Roots and Shoots, Shanghai Talk Magazine,   DanWei.com, and Vimeo.  Posted by Skippy Massey.

 

 

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The Day Elvis Presley Met Richard Nixon

 

 

 The King Gets to Meet Tricky Dick

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It all started in Memphis in 1970.

Elvis’ father, Vernon, and wife, Priscilla, complained that he’d spent too much on Christmas presents—more than $100,000 for 32 handguns and ten Mercedes-Benzes.

Peeved, Elvis drove to the airport and caught the next available flight, which happened to be bound for Washington.  He checked into a hotel, then got bored and decided to fly to Los Angeles.

“Elvis called and asked me to pick him up at the airport,” recalls Jerry Schilling, Presley’s longtime aide, who dutifully arrived at the Los Angeles airport at 3 a.m. to chauffeur the King to his mansion there.

Elvis was traveling with some guns and his collection of police badges, and he decided that what he really wanted was a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs back in Washington.

“The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley would write in her memoir, Elvis and Me.  ”With the federal narcotics badge, he believed he could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked Schilling to fly with him back to the capital.  ”He didn’t say why,” Schilling recalls, “but I thought the badge might be part of the reason.”

On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon. “Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out,” he wrote.  ”I would love to meet you,” he added, informing Nixon that he’d be staying at the Washington Hotel under the alias Jon Burrows. “I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.”

All Elvis wanted in return was a federal agent’s badge.

After they landed, Elvis and Schilling took a limo to the White House, and Elvis dropped off his letter at an entrance gate at about 6:30 a.m.  Once they checked in at their hotel, Elvis left for the offices of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  He got a meeting with a deputy director, but not approval for a bureau badge.

Meanwhile, his letter was delivered to Nixon aide Egil “Bud” Krogh, who happened to be an Elvis fan.  Krogh loved the idea of a Nixon-Presley summit and persuaded his bosses, including White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, to make it happen.  Krogh called the Washington Hotel and set up a meeting through Schilling.

Around noon, Elvis arrived at the White House with Schilling and bodyguard Sonny West, who’d just arrived from Memphis.  Arrayed in a purple velvet suit with a huge gold belt buckle and amber sunglasses,

Elvis came bearing a gift, a Colt .45 pistol mounted in a display case that Elvis had plucked off the wall of his Los Angeles mansion which the Secret Service confiscated before Krogh escorted Elvis– without his entourage– to meet Nixon.

“When he first walked into the Oval Office, he seemed a little awe-struck,” Krogh recalls, “but he quickly warmed to the situation.”

While White House photographer Ollie Atkins snapped photographs, the president and the King shook hands.  Then Elvis showed off his police badges.

Nixon’s famous taping system had not yet been installed, so the conversation wasn’t recorded.  But Krogh took notes:  ”Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit.  The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest.”

“I’m on your side,” Elvis told Nixon, adding that he’d been studying the drug culture and Communist brainwashing.  Then he asked the president for a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

“Can we get him a badge?” Nixon asked Krogh.

Krogh said he could, and Nixon ordered it done.

Elvis was ecstatic.  ”In a surprising, spontaneous gesture,” Krogh wrote, Elvis “put his left arm around the President and hugged him.”

Before leaving, Elvis asked Nixon to say hello to Schilling and West, and the two men were escorted into the Oval Office.  Nixon playfully punched Schilling on the shoulder and gave both men White House cuff links.

“Mr. President, they have wives, too,” Elvis said.  So Nixon gave them each a White House brooch.

After Krogh took him to lunch at the White House mess, Elvis received his gift– the narc badge.

At Elvis’ request, the meeting was kept secret– although it’s widely believed a mug shot surfacing years later was taken for security purposes; Elvis had never been arrested before to warrant one.  A year later, columnist Jack Anderson broke the story– “Presley Gets Narcotics Bureau Badge“– but few people seemed to care. 

That is, everyone except Beatle Paul McCartney.

On hearing reports of the meeting, McCartney later said that he “Felt a bit betrayed.  The great joke was that we were all taking illegal drugs, and look what happened to him,” he said, a reference to Presley’s death hastened by prescription drug abuse.  To note, Presley and his friends had had a four-hour get-together with the Beatles five years earlier.

In 1988, years after Nixon resigned and Elvis died of a drug overdose, a Chicago newspaper reported that the National Archives was selling photos of the meeting, and within a week, some 8,000 people requested copies, making the pictures the most requested photographs in Archives history.

Why is the photo so popular?  Krogh figures it’s the incongruity; a bizarre encounter between the president and the king of rock and roll.

“There’s this staid president with this rock ‘n’ roll figure.  It’s a powerful image,” Krogh said.  It’s a jolt seeing them together.  Here is the leader of the Western world and the king of rock ‘n’ roll in the same place, and they’re clearly enjoying each other. And you think, ‘How can this be?’”

~Via Scott Calonico, Smithsonian, Archived America, and Vimeo

  * * * * * * * * * * *

If you liked this article, you may enjoy our others on the nation’s history and its pop culture:

Led Zeppelin Meets Elvis Presley

JFK’s Rant and Wrath

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

 

 

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

 

 

You Get What You Need

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy.  First, let her think she’s having her own way.  And second, let her have it. 

…and every man has a right to a Saturday night bath.”

  ~Lyndon B. Johnson

 

It’s tough being President.

Although being President of the United States is the one of the most powerful gigs in the world, it still has its drawbacks.  As this series of intimate archived phone conversations released by the Johnson Presidential Library shows, it’s still a job. 

Annoyances such as tech issues, vexing overseas operators, awkward small-talk, lukewarm bullion and limited dessert options show an entirely different side of power in the Oval Office– one where you can’t always get what you want.

Animated with archival photographs, director Scott Calonico’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want is a quick and revealing look at the office of the President in the rare moments that aren’t usually subject to public scrutiny, a glimpse into the life and times of Lyndon B Johnson during the tumultuous 1960s.

By many accounts, LBJ was an intimidating man, sporting a foul mouth and comfortably accustomed to throwing his height, weight and power around like a schoolyard bully.  He was used to getting his way. 

It just goes to show you can’t always get what you want– but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.  Unless it’s trying to make Congress do something.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Scott Calonico holds a Radio/TV/Film production degree from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in International Journalism from City University, London.  His short films have been shown at numerous festivals in the United States, and we covered two of his previously delightful pieces you may like to see here:

JFK’s Rant and Wrath  and The Day Elvis Presley Met Richard Nixon

 

 

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Cave Digger

 

 

A Man, An Underground Obsession, and Art

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

For the past two decades, Ra Paulette has been making caves.

Working alone with only the few tools he can carry on his back– a wheelbarrow, a pickaxe, and a shovel– he spends hours each day excavating the soft sandstone cliffs of Northern New Mexico to create his beautiful and other-worldly land art.

Paulette creates ‘eighth wonder of the world’ cathedral-like sculptural caves using nothing but hand tools.  Working in the malleable sandstone his creations rival the work of the great earth artists– Goldsworthy, Heiser, De Maria and Smithson.

As patrons cut short his projects for financial or aesthetic reasons, though, Paulette insists on continuing, doing it his way, letting his inner-driven artist shine through.  He struggles with ever-greater frustrations and what he sees as a lack of recognition for his work.

Undaunted at age 65, he decided to build caves on public land, without permission, working for no one but himself.  Following his inspiration and passion have cost him almost everything.

Nonetheless, he either can’t– or won’t– stop digging.

In Cave Digger, director Jeffrey Karoff explores Paulette’s unique subterranean creations and examines the cost of the artist’s obsession as he increasingly rejects commissioned work to focus on his own magnum opus, a sprawling network of caves expected to take 10 years to complete.

Nominated for an Oscar in 2013, it’s a film that brings the viewer to a hidden land of wonders that is at once an artistic revelation– and a reflection of the hard work and psyche of the man who built it.

You can watch Karoff’s full 38-minute documentary for free here.  Below, the CBS story about Paulette and his beautiful labor of love.

 


 

 

 

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Still Life: Deep into the Depths

 

 

Diving Free

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“Still” dives into the life of Carlos Eyles and his ocean philosophy. 

We are very much aware of our environment on land– yet very much is still unknown about the body that encompasses over 70% of earth:  our oceans.

Eyles, a 72-year-old ocean photographer, author, and free diver, shares a spiritual connection between the ocean and humankind.  In the short documentary of Still, we accompany him deep into the depths as he describes his intimate relationship with the marine world, serving as the voice of the ocean against the constant environmental and biological threats. 

Floating through coral reefs photographing dolphins and sea turtles, Eyles says, “the ocean exists as a fundamental reality of the earth.  Through that mirror, you can see the fundamental reality of yourself.”

In recent years, underwater freediving—diving without breathing equipment– has found new popularity.  Dating back thousands of years, it’s an ancient tradition and a recognized sport, but for Carlos Eyles, freediving is a way of life.

The above film was shot over a month in Hawaii, with most of the footage coming from five days of underwater shooting.  According to Michael Barth, one of the filmmakers of Still, “Eyles really is a Mr. Miyagi of the sea.  Sometimes he felt like swimming in the sea longer than any of us young guns could keep up, and other days he just needed a day off to play his bongos.”

Swimming among the dolphins, whales, and sharks, Eyles reflects on a realm that is still within the province of the unknown, illuminating how profoundly wondrous it is to live within the great scheme of life and nature.

To note, Eyles has currently written ten books based around the ocean.  To see more of his work including photography, books, and more, please visit his website.

 

~Via Carlos and Margaret Eyles, and Vimeo

 

 

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Kite Fighting

 

 

‘Everyone Gets Their Strings Cut Here’

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

 

“A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you a fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air.

And you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.”

~Leonard Cohen

 

 

Kite Fighting, known as soltar pipas, is Brazil’s most popular sport after futbol.

In the poor urban slums, or favelas, of Rio de Janeiro, growing up is a tough business. Drugs, crime, violence, poverty and prostitution are rampant, an everyday reality.  It’s difficult to stay grounded and tethered under such conditions.

Flying the pipa is more than a leisurely escape from the on-the-ground realities which many face.  It’s a venue for playful battle, for freedom, and with the entire sky as the arena for the kite runners.

Rio’s young kids and more than a few adults spend much of their time designing pipas for flight, endurance, and recreational battle.  They glue and gum and wax their kite strings with powdered glass, honing their “cutting” strategies for knocking competitor’s kites from the sky; taking out another’s pipa in one vicious entangled swipe is considered a badge of courage and honor for the participants. 

The skillful knowledge of flying pipas, staying aloft, and avoiding cutting one’s own fingers while cutting another’s strings has been passed from rooftop to rooftop, from generation to generation, in the favela.

One single rule of battle remains constant: cut the other kite’s line, and don’t get cut.  The activity is also controversial, as kites with razor-sharp strings have caused accidents, injuries, and deaths.

Carlos Eduardo da Silva Barbosa, a community leader in Rocinha featured in the video, understands everything about kite fighting– and his rooftop is a prime spot for it, easily accessible by all.  In the favela, there are typically no locks on doors, and everyone knows everyone else.  It’s common to pass through one family’s living room to access another family’s bedroom two flights above.  There’s a very strong sense of community here, and even pride.

A boy named Breno shares how he manufactures his signature kite.  He was born and raised in Rocinha and exemplifies the kids there:  silent, observant, smart and insightful.

Victory Journal filmmakers Guilherme Tensol and Leandro HBL spent time in Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela, filming  its young pipa warriors and elder statesmen, recording their stories, and taking in their thoughts in the above documentary, Kite Fight.

In the end, maybe it’s not really about cutting the other guy’s kite.  It’s about flying above it all and staying aloft.

 

 

“The real fun began when a kite was cut.  

That was where the kite runners came in, those kids who chased the windblown kite drifting through the neighborhoods until it came spiraling down in a field, dropping in someone’s yard, on a tree or a rooftop.

The chase got pretty fierce; hordes of kite runners swarmed the streets, shoved past each other like those people from Spain I’d read about once, the ones who ran from the bulls.  

One year a neighborhood kid climbed a pine tree for a kite.  A branch snapped under his weight and he fell thirty feet.  Broke his back and never walked again.

But he fell with the kite still in his hands.  And when a kite runner has his hands on a kite, no one can take it from him.  That wasn’t a rule; that was a custom.”

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

 

 

 

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Catching the Big Air of Life

 

 

Mr. Toots:  One Wicked Shredder

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

 

Snowboarding is an activity that is very popular with people who do not feel that regular skiing is lethal enough.

And Seb Toots makes it look easy.  Twisting a pipe, sliding a rail, sticking a triple cork or catching some big air, he can do it all– with style.  Trick-wise, he’s about as good as it gets.

Maybe that’s why the 22-year old made the Canadian Olympic Snowboarding Team in 2014 and took the silver and gold medals in the 2011 Winter X-Games in Aspen, Colorado. 

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Sebastien Toutant aka “Seb Toots” was a mere 13 years of age when he took home the win at the 2006 Ride Shakedown.  Consistently one of the most successful riders in the competitive snowboard circuit, the French-Canadian has been on a winning streak and taking it home ever since.

You can see why Seb nailed a 97 point score during the 2011 Aspen Winter X-Games Slopestyle competition– the highest score ever in the Winter X-Games Slopestyle history at the time.  A ton of additional wins and finishes continued that year, with Seb being crowned the 2011/2012 TTR World Tour Slopestyle Champion and taking the 2012/2013 World Snowboard Tour Big Air Championship title the next year.

In snowboarding, there’s a huge focus on grace and style.  It’s the physical exertion and the acrobatic aesthetic that draws us in. 

And it’s funny what’s been happening to us lately.  Our lives have become digital.  Our friends are now virtual.  Exercise has become sitting on the couch with game controllers in hand.  Everything you could ever want is only a click away.

So anything that involves the outdoors, whether it be skiing, snowboarding, wakesurfing or mountain biking, is important.  Anything that gets us playing outside. 

And if you’re not having fun and falling down while playing, you’re not trying hard enough.

 

 

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Inside the Mind of a Mad Inventor

 

 

A Mother of Invention …Minus the Necessity

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”
  ~Thomas A. Edison

 

 Meet Colin Furze.

A happy blue-collar mad scientist from Lincolnshire, England, Furze tinkers in his garage turning his eccentric whims and strange ideas into a practical reality.

Produced by director David Beazley, the above little film takes a lighthearted look at Furze and the technological innovations and inventions that are possible in today’s internet age.

Furze, normally a British plumber by day, is constantly striving to create something bigger, faster and more bizarre than what came before it in his off hours.  Needless to say, he’s also a bit dotty.  

In doing so, he’s achieved world records with his technological marvels.  They include, by his own account, the World’s Fastest Toilet, the World’s Fastest Pram, and the World’s Longest Motorbike– as well as a Guinness World Record for the World’s Fastest Mobility Scooter.

His most exhilarating invention so far is his jet bike, seen in the video below.  It reaches speeds of up to 50 mph — on a rickety old Raleigh pushbike backed up by Furze’s homemade jet engine.

He spent four months lengthening the frame by a meter so he wouldn’t be scorched by the jet’s flame.  He then attached the engine– which uses the same technology as the World War II V1 bombs– to the back.

“This is my craziest creation yet and the scariest one to ride,” said Furze.  “My friend’s mom was throwing out her bicycle, which she had ridden into town every day and loved, so I decided to give it a new life,” he revealed.  “It’s the most dangerous unsafe bicycle in the world.”

It’s all a bit of a goose chase and a happy-go-lucky sort of lark on the surface, but underneath all the fun and tinkering—and neighbors giving him bits and pieces of junk and materials to work with–  is a simple and powerful notion.  As Furze puts it: “If we helped people out all the time, God knows what would get made and done.”

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down,” Kurt Vonnegut once opined.  And Furze takes that idea into action.  It’s the passion, creativity, desire, and sheer craziness of it all that inspires him to get up in the morning, get down to some serious DIY work, and to invent. 

“There’s always something to do bigger and better.  There’s always something else to make; there’s always something else to make better,” Furze says with a driven motivation.

It just goes to show the world is moving by so fast that the person who says it can’t be done is often interrupted by the other person doing it.

 

 

 

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No More Tears

 

 

The Kids’ Cover of Ozzy’s Classic Song

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

When we last checked in on Aaron O’Keefe’s students, they were schooling musicians everywhere on how to cover Tool’s 46 & 2.

This time around, O’Keefe, who teaches at Ohio’s Loveland Music Academy, Maineville Music Academy, and Lebanon Music Academy, booked some studio time at Nashville’s Tracking Room for his young students to pay tribute to Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears.

They tear it up in short order.  The young singer does an admirable job, the teen guitarists slay the song with some nice jams, riffs and trills, the female chorus, flutists, and pianos complement the flow nicely, and even the youngest drummer– who loses his sticks occasionally– doesn’t miss a beat.  It’s a great cover of a great song done by all.

No More Tears, you’ll remember, was the fifth song on the 1991 Ozzy Osbourne heavy metal album by the same name

It was the first album Ozzy recorded while he was sober, a big change for him since he had been doing drugs and alcohol fairly willy-nilly over the previous 20 years.  He settled down, became a family man, and was even rumored to exercise from time to time.

Unlike previous Ozzy albums, it took a unique departure by leaving the demonic title and cover art behind.  Ozzy, surprisingly enough, is pictured on the cover with angel wings, once remarking that the song “was a gift from Heaven.”

Curious to note, No More Tears once saved the life of a Sabbath-loving autistic eight-year-old boy.  Joshua Robb ran into the San Bernardino Mountains of California to escape allegedly abusive parents and became lost.  After rescuers and police blasted his favorite song from speakers, Joshua was found walking towards the rescuers 24 hours later.

O’Keefe is apparently a music teacher with impeccable taste who teaches and mentors his students well in the classic School of Rock fashion.  You can check out his students taking on Bohemian Rhapsody, Down, Avenged Sevenfold, Killswitch Engage, and many more.

“Every now and then we get to tackle a song as epic as No More Tears,” O’Keefe said.  “This performance involved 21 students in ages from 5 to 16.  As always, producing this video was a team effort– especially the hard work of the students– and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone being involved.”

The future of music seems to be in good hands.

 

 

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The Art of Balance

 

 

Stacking Rocks: ‘Everything Happen for a Reason’

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Stone sculptures aren’t unusual in beach communities.

Almost anyone who has spent time around rocky shores has seen large boulders and bits of driftwood stacked up, some deliberately poised on just a single point.  It’s a neat trick, creating something that looks so precarious and an elegant demonstration of balance.

Manuel Cisneros never thought of himself as an artist.  To hear him explain it, he was never particularly creative as a child.  He didn’t go to school much, let alone art school.  He didn’t visit museums or galleries.  Art simply didn’t figure into his life much at all.  Until one day it just did.

“I just started doing it three or four months ago,” Cisneros says of the stone cairns he’s been building in a cobble field at Ventura’s Emma Wood State Beach, just down from Surfer’s Point.  

Almost any day of the week you’ll find him there, amid a pile of boulders just south of where the Ventura River meets the Pacific, close to the ruins of the WWII artillery emplacements.  He found the practice so comforting that he soon began spending entire days on the endeavor.  He’s been doing it nonstop since.

There’s something Zen-like about the way Cisneros works — for viewers as well as the artist.  On one blustery afternoon, he muscled a large stone up to the top of the pile and held it in various positions over another rock, feeling for the subtle shifts that tell him whether it’s steady or not.  Within moments he had a boulder nearly 3 feet long comfortably settled lengthwise in a slight groove on its base.  His strength, concentration and intuitive sense of equilibrium are impressive, as is the speed with which he can do the seemingly impossible.

So it’s not that Cisneros is offering up a shocking new art form.  But the sheer number of sculptures he’s created atop the boulder pile, as well as their size and composition, is a little breathtaking.  The dozens of cairns he’s erected are, from a distance, vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge or the ruins at Delphi.

And the closer you look, the more surprising they are.  

A simple stack of flat stones isn’t stunning for its feats of equilibrium, but for its careful gradation of color.  Two unusually shaped rocks are placed in such a way as to create a window.  Some have interesting curves, defying gravity.  Eight-foot-tall wood branches topped with beach detritus resemble palm trees.  Some are simple in form and design, others more elaborate and delicate.  It’s a fun puzzle, figuring out how Cisneros put some of his creations together.

One particular cairn with “Everything Happen for a Reason” written vertically on the stones is a clue to how Cisneros found himself here.  A native of Guanajuato, Mexico, he came to California 12 years ago at just 19 years of age.

“Like everybody, I was looking for a better life,” he simply says.  “Sometimes you have dreams.”

Improving his condition proved difficult, however. Cisneros worked at a manufacturing plant in Santa Paula that made helicopter parts, but was living hand to mouth. “I was working every day, 7 to 5, just to pay the rent,” he says.  “So I decided I needed to do something else to make money.”  Cisneros prefers not to discuss this side of his life in detail, so suffice it to say that he was making some bad decisions and living life on a dangerous edge.

“Before, I was just living day by day.  I had no motivation,” he recalls.  “When you’re living that kind of life, any day could be your last.”  After a few violent altercations and a brush with the law that almost landed him in prison, he realized he needed to turn over a new leaf.  So last December, he packed up a bag and just walked away — from his job, his associates, his home, everything.

“I had no direction. It was 1 a.m. and I was just on my bike,” Cisneros says.  He ended up in Ventura and spent that first night at Subway, which was open 24 hours.  Homeless, he became part of the transient community at Mission Park and then later started sleeping at Pierpont Beach.  Odd jobs would come along, but he was unable to find stable employment.  “When you sleep in the street, it’s difficult,” he says.  “But I think I needed something hard to help me make a change.  Sometimes the things that are more difficult make you stronger.”

Discouraged by the lack of work, he found himself spending more time at the beach, and was drawn to the rocks, just as a diversion.  “I’d make three or four stacks a day, and they were usually destroyed when I’d go back,” Cisneros remembers.  “So one day, I just decided to spend all day working in the rocks.”

Stacking stones became his sole preoccupation.  The physical labor of moving large boulders around was satisfying, and the contemplative nature of balancing and composing his sculptures fed his soul.  

Often, he doesn’t know what a sculpture is going to look like until it’s finished; he enjoys the way the rocks, wind and ocean waves work their own magic on him.  Something else came to him down in that boulder field.  A sense of purpose.

“It was a hard time in my life because I was homeless,” he explains.  “But it was also a really nice experience in my life.  Because I found something.”

Cisneros spent so much time building cairns that he soon had a large collection that attracted the attention of people on the beach.  This public reaction caught him by surprise. “People who saw the rocks, they really liked it,” he recalls.

Cisneros, an affable guy with a ready smile, enjoys chatting with the folks who come up to him while he’s building, and is happy to show them a demonstration or talk about his art. “The most important thing is when you can make other people happy.  I’ve had so many people say ‘You made my day!’ ”

The rock artist has enjoyed the attention, but lately has been building after dark to take advantage of the peace and quiet.  “I also like to build when no one is around so there’s an element of surprise when people finally see it,” Cisneros says.  “I like to see the expressions on people’s faces.”  

Certainly he brings joy and wonder to the people who see his works.  But many have an emotional reaction as well.  “Some people when they come out here, they start to cry,” he says of the boulder field that is his primary ‘gallery.’  “Something happens. I don’t know why, but it affects them.”

Since Cisneros started building his cairns, his life has taken a turn for the better and not just in an artistic sense.  Some friends he made at the beach are letting him pitch a tent in their yard and sleep in their van.  It’s not the Ritz, but it’s more comfortable and safer than being homeless and sleeping on the streets.

Every day he spends in the boulders, he says is like a gift.  And he has direction and hope, two things that eluded him until recently.

“I feel like everything happen for a reason,” he says, referencing one of his sculptures.

“Everything’s connected. I just need rocks.  It’s all what I need.  And I have a feeling I have to wait a little bit more.  But I feel something good is coming.”

* * * * * * * * * *

~Via Nancy Shaffer, Ventura County Reporter, Vimeo
 Photo Credit: T. Gapin, Ventura County, Juan Cisneros

 

 

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The Raw Footage of the South Carolina Trooper Shooting

 

 

Warning:  Above Video is Graphic in Detail

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

If you haven’t seen the above video, you can’t understand just
how great of a shock it is.

An unarmed black man, stopped for a broken tail-light, is seen running away from a cop.  The cop, officer Michael Slager, aims and fires eight times.  The victim, Walter Scott, falls.

Slager shot the unarmed man in the back and then rushes to cover up the crime.  Slager had called in the shooting as a tussle about a Taser gun.  He calmly went to the body, handcuffed Scott, and then went back for what looked like his Taser, which he planted next to Scott.  He wiped his hands for no apparent reason.

He did all this as Scott lay dying.

It was horrific and much worse.  Scott had run away from the traffic stop, apparently fearing arrest for an old warrant.  There had been a scuffle, according to the man who witnessed the event and caught it all on his cell phone.

Except Slager killed a man and then lied about the shooting.  He apparently tried to plant incriminating evidence.  And you could see how, without the video, he probably would have gotten away with unaccountably and unimaginably shooting an unarmed man eight times in the back.

It wasn’t the only shock.  Some were shocked that the North Charleston mayor and police chief acted so quickly in immediately removing Slager from the force and charging him with murder.

Perhaps that was because Slager has had excessive force complaints in the past and is embroiled in a current lawsuit. 

Two years ago, a man said Slager used his stun gun against him without reason.  

On Friday, another Charleston County man, Justin Wilson, came forward alleging that Slager did the same thing to him during a traffic stop last year.  Wilson’s lawsuit says that when he was pulled over by police Aug. 24, he produced a valid Georgia driver’s license but was placed under arrest for having a suspended South Carolina license.

The suit alleges that Wilson was pulled from his vehicle, forced to the ground and then, although he was cooperating with authorities, Slager shot him with his Taser.  Wilson’s lawyer said he would release a statement next week.

The story in this recent South Carolina shooting didn’t begin or end there, however, because a man who was walking to work saw the scuffle and did what people do.  He pulled out his cell phone and started shooting video.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  And he was scared to death to think what he had in his phone.

Feidin Santana, a Dominican immigrant, would say he thought about erasing the video and leaving town.  He worried that the cops must have seen him.  He was afraid, after watching the shooting, what they might to do him.

“My life has changed in a matter of seconds,” Santana said.  “My family’s afraid what’s going to happen next with me.  I’m afraid, too, of what can happen.  But I guess I feel that what I did is just, you know, look for justice in this case.”

After hearing what Slager had to say about the shooting, Santana took his video to a vigil for Scott and gave it to the family.  The video was released to the press, and, as it was played for the world to see, Slager was charged with murder and Santana was rightly being called a hero.

Days later, the North Charleston police released the dash-cam video
of the traffic stop.  

And the mayor promised that the police would soon be outfitted with body-cams– a policy that, locally here in Humboldt County, Chief Andrew Mills and the Eureka Police Department have been dragging their feet on for some time, especially given our own spate of multiple officer-involved shootings and fatalities over the past several years.

And so Santana would tell the Washington Post that if people see “something bad … happening,” they should reach for their cell phones to record it.  It’s a matter of justice, he said.

As shocking as that can sometimes be.

~Via NYDN, Summit News, SF Gate, IBT, Daily Kos, ABC, YouTube

 

 

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Kid Dynamite

 

 

‘Vote for Pedro’ Talent Show

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

If you’re a fan of Napoleon Dynamite, you will love this little video.

It’s been 11 years since Napoleon Dynamite came out, or as brothers Diego and Marco Rueda put it — “it’s super old.”  Yet it’s nice to see that something about the mumbling quirky dweeby duo in the hot suburban sun still resonates today, even if only nostalgically.

In Kid Dynamite, from director Ross Harris and Uncle Folerio, real life kids Diego and Marco prepare for their school talent show.  Marco will bust out Napolean’s iconic dance.  Diego will perform Pedro’s speech for class president.  How will it turn out?

The beautiful thing about the above film-doc is not the kids’ performances or their preparation but their rapport, which is so wonderfully evocative of Napoleon and Pedro.  The two brothers are true to form, both in and out of character.  They’re not awkward, but everything else about their endearing commitment to each other and their mission, right down to their posture and eye contact, makes us want to take the day off and watch the stupid movie all over again.

We’re fairly certain we weren’t nowhere near as cool as these brothers are when we were their age.  And we know we are definitely less cool now.

And we fondly remember Napoleon’s wise words of wisdom:  “I see you’re drinking 1 percent.  Is that ’cause you think you’re fat?  ‘Cause you’re not.  You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.”

Sweet.

 

 

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Five Throughout the World

 

 

Five Children, Their Families and Their Faith

 

Award-Winning Short **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

There’s nothing quite like the open, trusting faith of a child.

Five children, five religions, and in almost five minutes, this film takes us from the mundane to the sublime, from the chaotic to the peaceful, and for a moment to our beliefs about our spiritual commonality across the planet.

In the short film “Five,” director Katina Mercadante follows five 5-year-olds as they get ready, leave home and attend prayer services.  We see the children, who live around the world, carefully pull on their best clothes, wash up, have breakfast and travel with their parents to their respective houses of worship.

The children come from vastly different religious and cultural backgrounds — Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian.

But when they reach their destinations, settle into stillness and close their eyes for prayer, the similarities are striking.

Mercadante, a 30-year-old filmmaker from San Francisco, told The Huffington Post that it was these poignant moments of spiritual reflection that she was trying to capture with her piece.

She set out to find children who already had a strong prayer life.  Because of their age, she said, all the kids she worked with seemed to have a simple and pure faith.  They weren’t jaded or cynical about prayer — they simply saw it as a way to talk to God.

Katina and her husband, Daniel, make films that celebrate life.  Katina grew up in a Hindu tradition that teaches that all religions hold aspects of the divine.  She said she feels that this upbringing gave her the ability to find beauty in many different religious traditions– and she wants others to see that, as well.

“Life isn’t just about money or possessions,” Mercadante said. 

“There is an internal and spiritual life that we all have that is a really important part of being a human and existing.  And it doesn’t matter where you get that from.”

~Via the Huffington Post and Carol Kuruvilla, The Mercadantes, and Vimeo

  This one is for Karen.

 

 

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The Sun Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

 

 

Rare Images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory Spacecraft

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“Billions of years from now our sun, by then a distended red giant star, will have reduced our Earth to a charred cinder.

But the Voyager record will still be largely intact, in some other remote region of the Milky Way galaxy, preserving a murmur of an ancient civilization that once flourished — perhaps before moving on to greater deeds and other worlds — on the distant planet Earth. 

But for now, we are star stuff harvesting sunlight.”

~Carl Sagan

 

 

What you are seeing here is something very rare:  images of the sun our naked eye can’t see, up close and personal.

The above video is composed of time lapse sequences taken of the sun’s atmosphere as observed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft between 2011 and 2015.

This montage features pictures in extreme ultraviolet channels, mainly using wavelengths of 30.4 nm (50,000 Kelvin) and offering a glance at spicules, solar flares, filaments and an overview of the sun’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft footage was captured and processed by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) maintained by the Joint Science Operations Center (Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in collaboration with Stanford University) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Filmed in 4K, we suggest seeing these high definition pictures above on the largest screen you have.  Here are the scenes you see in their order of appearance:

 

1. Long shots of solar activity

2. Boiling solar prominence

3. Close up active regions

4. Launching filament

5. Twisting prominence

6. Close up solar activity

7. Solar prominence

8. Lunar transit

9. Solar prominence dance

10. Solar activity

11. Plasma eruption

12. Coronal rain

13. Close up active regions

14. Trebuchet eruption

15. Solar prominence

16. Venus transit

17. Extreme solar eruption

18. Filament eruption & ’canyon of fire’

19. Erupting solar filament

20. Comet ’lovejoy’ passes sun

21. Earth eclipse and dark prominence

 

“We all shine on…like the moon and the stars and the sun…we all shine on…come on and on and on…”

~John Lennon

 

 

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A Dark Horse in the Race

 

 

Mitch Medford’s Electric Quest to Shatter 170+ MPH

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Move over.  It ain’t your parent’s Prius game anymore.

Mitch Medford is on a quest, determined to redefine vintage performance cars forever.  Driven by his passion for speed and love of technology, Mitch wants to prove that his transformed electric muscle car—a 1968 Fastback Mustang– can be every bit as powerful and more as gasoline.

The Zombie 222 is the brainchild of Medford, a muscle car enthusiast who left a career in tech to launch Bloodshed Motors, a garage that offers an unusual service: converting classic cars into high-speed electric machines that can pummel the most powerful supercars in the world.

The ’68 fastback is Bloodshed’s first — and so far, only — project.  Medford hopes that one day his four-wheeled creatures will be roaming streets and highways around the world.  But first, he has to prove what the Zombie is made of.

It was unseasonably cold and wet, but Medford had been tinkering at the garage since 4 am.  The Zombie sat hunched in the middle of the shop, its menacing green-and-black paint job immaculate, every inch of chrome polished.  

Medford was working feverishly to prepare for the Texas Mile, a bi-annual racing event where he hoped to demonstrate the Zombie’s mettle by breaking two speed records. The event was exactly one month away.

Mitch Medford may as well have been born in an auto shop and delivered by a mechanic.  He comes from a long line of mechanics and moonshiners — in fact, he’s named after Robert Mitchum, the producer, writer, and star of 1958’s Thunder Road, a seedy noir about a fast-driving illegal booze runner.

At 53, Medford still has the good-humored energy of a middle school class clown: eager to tease friends, offer up a groan-worthy joke, or riff on a plot for a Fast and Furious film starring himself and the Zombie.  He’s also a born storyteller, peppering his anecdotes with expressions that reveal his roots in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains — an underpowered car, he’ll tell you, “can’t pull a greasy string out of a cat’s ass.”

“Cars were woven into my high school years,” Medford says.

“It’s a part of my memories of getting girlfriends and going to the drive-in movies and trying to outrun my friends down the backside of the river… It was the way we settled arguments.  We’d see who could lay down the most rubber in the parking lot, who had the loudest pipes — putting on glasspacks, cherry bombs, straight pipes, cutouts.  It was just seeped into my whole childhood.”

Medford’s steel gray hair is trimmed with military precision, a throwback to his time as a drill instructor.  After the army, he turned to computer engineering, and made a successful career of it– first at IBM, then heading startups.  In June of last year, Medford left his post as CEO of Austin-based RF Code to build Bloodshed Motors.

“Let’s face it,” Medford said, “growing up with muscle cars — why did we make them loud?  To get attention.  Why did we try to make them faster?  To be the guy that wins…and gets the attention.”

And with the Zombie, Medford built the ultimate conversation piece.  Sometimes he says he sticks GoPros in the engine bay, props open the hood, and leaves the Zombie at a Home Depot parking lot.  Then, he watches people’s faces as they crane their heads over the electric motors. “To be totally candid,” he says, “it’s an amazingly addictive feeling.”

But admiration won’t pay the bills.

Medford will need customers, and to attract them he needs to establish Bloodshed as a business.  That’s why he’s headed to the Texas Mile, a biannual event where drivers are invited to hurtle their machines down a runway to see just how fast they can go.  The Texas Mile draws million-dollar vehicles, big buyers, and thousands of spectators.

“If we’re going to focus on building a brand that represents extremely high-performance electric vehicle conversions of classic iconic cars,” Medford says with determination, “we’ve got to really prove it.”

~Via The Verge, Vimeo, Mitch Medford and Bloodshed Motors

 

 

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George’s Boots

 

 

An American Business in Search of a Successor

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Andrew
FarmRun.com

 

 

Wisdom and hard work are not easy to come by.

It is an enigmatic phenomenon, towards whose qualities we all aspire. 

George Ziermann is an indescribably wise man, and he would like to sell you his business.  A jack of many trades, George has a proclivity towards hard working excellence, which is expressed in his labor.  He is American-made, and so are his boots. 

George’s story is riddled with innumerable chapters, having had lives in logging, trapping, gunsmithing, machining, mining, cabinet making and shoe making, to list a few.  He is a character, the likes of which are rarely bred these days. 

For the last 40 years, he has been making custom-measured, hand-made shoes, which are, certifiably– according to George and I and everyone who has ever owned a pair of his shoes– the best on the market.  Custom-measured shoes differ significantly than custom-made ones.  Custom-measured shoes are made on a customized stock to the exact shape and closest size of your foot.

George has been trying to sell his business for the last 8 years.  I met George at the Small Farmers Journal Auction two years ago.  I purchased a pair of his shoes, and, upon learning his story, decided I’d like to help him find a buyer for his business.  Thus, I made the above film. 

He has had no dearth of interest, but has never had a party that could stand up to his integrity and expectations for a successor.  He is looking for someone who is interested in making excellent shoes. One who is interested investing themselves in the trade of custom shoe making and will respect the history thereof. 

George is of an age and disposition whereby his knowledge and experience ought to be revered.  He is unfortunately exemplary of a dark temporal reality we now face.  

He and many of his contemporaries are retiring, closing their businesses, and dying without passing on their knowledge.  If this trend persists we will enter a perennially barren state of manufacturing monoculture. This is unacceptable.

The reasons for this are everyone’s fault and no one’s.  In spite of these dark times, we look ahead, hold our posture well and focus on solutions.  In this case, it means it is my responsibility to help George find a successor.  For if George’s Boots remains, there is a chance we will have a place to buy quality shoes in the future. 

If you are interested in purchasing George’s Boots, know someone who might be, or would like more information about the deal, please contact him. 

George’s Boots

541.215.1001

427 S Main St.

Pendleton, OR 97801

 

 

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The Face of Altruism

 

 

Perfect Strangers, Perfect Kindness

 

Award-Winning **Video Trailer**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Perfect Strangers is a documentary telling the very real and touching story of two unique and engaging people who care.  

One is Ellie Edwards, who embarks on an unpredictably altruistic journey of twists and turns, determined to give away one of her kidneys.

A massage therapist and single mother living on the central coast of California, she met a young woman at a local community college in the early stages of kidney disease in 2007.  This intrigued her in a profoundly unique and compassionate way.  After spending time on the matching donors website where potential donors and recipients can meet, the free-spirited Ellie decided to find someone who was in need of the greatest gift she could ever possibly give:  her “spare” kidney. 

Five hundred miles away in Humboldt County, Kathy Wheeler, a hospice nurse, endured nightly dialysis lasting for hours at a time with the help of her caregiving husband, Jim. 

Learning that she has Polycystic Kidney Disease, Kathy began to look for an altruistic donor after several friends who volunteered their kidneys were found to be a mismatch.  

Wishing to speed up the seven years that she would spend on the national wait list for a kidney from a deceased donor and nearly giving up all hope, she posted her profile on the same website where Ellie had been looking.

Everything changed when Ellie read Kathy’s profile on the online website. 

Ellie decided to donate her kidney to a complete stranger because she felt a need to help others and had the ability to do something about it.  Kathy, facing an imminent life or death situation, wished for more time to be with her family and grandchild.  Both women faced unexpected challenges as their parallel stories unfolded together over the next four years.  

More than 98,000 people in the United States are waiting for a new kidney. Tragically, one-third of them will die before a kidney from a deceased donor becomes available.  

Altruistic organ donation is the new frontier that could significantly increase the supply of organs, yet many people are uncomfortable by the idea.  In the United States, the buying and selling of organs is illegal, and many transplant centers are reluctant to accept kidneys from an altruistic donor like Ellie.

Altruism is the most fundamentally good social characteristic that defines us; doing things for others and not expecting anything in return is at the very core of what makes us human.

Perfect Strangers is about perfect kindness.  It raises questions about what motivates an individual towards such an extreme act of compassion, and exposes the philosophical questions about those acts of compassion, and ultimately, who deserves a second chance at life. 

Dispelling stereotypes and raising awareness of the physical and emotional terrain of organ donation, it’s an intimate portrayal of the process and a study of the human condition, specifically focusing on what motivates an individual towards an act of compassion translated into action.

~Via Perfect Strangers, Jan Krawitz, and Vimeo 

  If you would like to purchase Perfect Strangers on DVD or show a screening, please go here.

  * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Director Jan Krawitz has been independently producing documentary films for 35 years.  A Professor at Stanford University and director of the M.F.A. Program in Documentary Film and Video, her work has been exhibited at film festivals in the United States and abroad, including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, and scores of others. 

A collaboration between Krawitz and her Stanford graduate students to raise awareness of organ donations, Perfect Strangers has received eight awards at juried film festivals across the nation.

 

 

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The Amazing Transformation of Dr. Kitchin

 

 

Blading Away From the Material World

 

Award-Winning New York Times VIDEO

 

Joshua Izenberg
Filmmaker

 

 

Slomo came into my life at an opportune moment.

Having just rolled into my 30s, I was looking for both a film subject and some wisdom on how to approach the encroaching “middle third” of my life– the years when youthful idealism is so often blunted by adult responsibilities.

Around this time, during a business trip to San Diego, my father had a chance meeting on the Pacific Beach boardwalk with John Kitchin, an old medical school classmate.

My dad barely recognized Dr. Kitchin, who was meticulously skating up and down the promenade, blasting inspirational music from speakers hidden under his shirt. Disillusioned with a life that had become increasingly materialistic, he had abruptly abandoned his career as a neurologist and moved to a studio by the beach.

The locals called him Slomo, knowing little about his past life, but cheering and high-fiving him as he skated by in slow motion. He had become a Pacific Beach institution.

I was intrigued.

I’ve long been fascinated by people who make seismic changes late in life. It goes against the mainstream narrative: “Grow up, pick a career, stick it out, and retire.”

I was also curious about Slomo’s concept of “the zone,” a realm of pure subjectivity and connectedness that he achieves through his skating. The only thing Slomo loves more than being in the zone is talking about the zone, so it wasn’t hard to persuade him to take part in a documentary film.

Slomo’s combination of candor and eloquence made him a natural on camera, and his background as a neurologist legitimized his metaphysical theories about skating, lateral motion and the brain. But like many of the people who saw him skating by, I couldn’t help wondering: was this guy nuts, or was he onto something?

And was his mantra – “Do what you want to” – translatable to those of us without the nest egg of a retired doctor? But just like the throngs of Slomo fans on Pacific Beach, I couldn’t get enough of him, and was determined to capture the effect he had on people in a cinematic way.

With this film, we hope to create a window into the ecstatic experience that Slomo has every day, transcending the trappings of the material world.

And for my part, I continue to be intrigued by the particular joys and conflicts that define a person’s life once he decides to do exactly what he wants.

* * * * * * * *

Josh Izenberg is a filmmaker based in San Francisco. “Slomo,” his first documentary, received more than a dozen awards including Best Documentary Short by the International Documentary Association and the jury award for best short documentary at SXSW.

This film blew us away on a number of levels. We hope you like it too.

Oh, one other small thing: it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

 

 

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Portrait of a Dog Walker

 

 

Being Let Off The Leash

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Portrait of a Dog Walker is about a man who traded in a high-stress life in London finance to follow his dream of spending his life with dogs instead.

Matt Hein gave up his fancy Savile Row suits and the Brazilian mahogany office he had for five years, to operate his own dog-walking business in Oslo, Norway.  In the process he discovered a good life for himself by following his passion for animals and nature.

“You had to get in the morning before your boss and you had to leave after your boss, because that way your boss thinks you’re working much harder than you are,” he says of his former life.  “It’s a competition for who can be sat at their desk, pretty much wasting their life for the most time.  That’s not a way to live your life.”

He decided to change directions and now finds his bliss walking dogs in the Norwegian woods.  An epiphany of sorts for Hein, things are much different now since he took himself off the leash.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to take dogs that otherwise would be inside whilst their owners are working long days— eight, nine ten, maybe more, hours.  And these dogs, they love it.”

Filmed by 21-year-old Norwegian cinematographer Fredrik Harper, Portrait of a Dog Walker chronicles the bearded Englishman’s decision to leave his job and head for the French Alps.  

He began dating a Norwegian woman and followed her back to Oslo.  That didn’t work out.  But he stayed, realizing his two great passions: Being outside and being around dogs.

The few dog-walking businesses in the Norwegian capital limited themselves to small city parks and seemed to be taxing for both the canines and their walkers, Hein noticed.

“I thought, wow, there’s an opportunity here.  I’d love to be out there five days a week,” Hein says in the short documentary.  “I basically get paid to be an adventurer and hang out with dogs.”

Now, he takes his white van and drives a pack of several dogs out to the wooded nature parks outside the city and hikes all day and plays games with them.  He lets them off the leash so they can run and play, getting some fresh air and sunshine in the woods and snow.  If they are on a leash, it’s a very long one– unlike the shorter leads of the more urbane dog-walking couture.

Hein has no regrets getting outside and off the leash himself.

“It’s so easy to think in our heads, ‘Oh, I can’t do this because I’ve got this and I’ve got that,’” he says.

“No.  Just change.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Don’t Miss This!  We love our dogs, especially Dogs In Cars

 

 

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From Coal Miner to Award-Winning Photographer

 

 

The Evolution of Ray Collins:  From Underground to Underwater

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Ray Collins gets up before dawn, pulls on a wetsuit and jumps into the ocean swell in search of the perfect wave.

But instead of grabbing a surfboard, Collins brings a camera. That’s because he’s a renowned fine arts photographer who showcases the power of the ocean through his breathtaking seascape images.

The Australian coal-mining town of Bulli, south of Sydney, isn’t exactly regarded as a repository of high art.  Nor is it a vibrant and pulsing beehive of life and color and culture. 

Yet here was Ray Collins, ready to switch it up.

Seven years ago the idea of his new photography book, Found at Sea, would have seemed like ludicrous idea to him.  He was still working a mile down in the dusty and dirty coal mines of Bulli and had never shot a single frame on a camera.  It’s not exactly a typical situation going from coal miner to photographer in this neck of the woods.

But life has its opportune twists.  Ray crawled out of the mines after irreparably blowing out a knee in an accident.  “No shock absorbers left,” he glumly said.  So he left the mining behind and bought a camera, embarking upon a new career with his payout.

Ray feels more at home floating in saltwater with his camera than anywhere on land, he says.  Nearly color blind, it’s the ephemeral relationship between water and light that drives and inspires him to peel himself out of bed in the dark each morning.

In the short years since, he has transitioned from the subterranean world to more of a submariner one, becoming arguably the most inventive and beautiful water photographer in Australia.  By capturing the ocean in different weather and lighting situations, his shots seem to display nature’s moods ranging from a stormy melancholy to jewel-toned ecstasy.  Even we were blown away by his work.

Having only bought his first camera in 2007 to shoot his friends surfing around home, he quickly progressed to having companies like Apple, Nikon, United Airlines, Isuzu, Qantas, Patagonia, National Geographic and Red Bull use his unique signature seascapes for their own international campaigns.

Make no mistake:  his photography takes some arduous work to do.  It requires an intimate knowledge and respect for the ocean’s power, strong swimming skills, driven determination, tough technical equipment, and shooting under adverse, if not downright dangerous, conditions. 

“Ray either displays a fierce dedication to his craft, or he is a complete lunatic,” Surfing World’s Editor Vaughan Blakey said bluntly.

Ray’s work appears in numerous publications and is regularly exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world.  He has won a dozen of photography’s most prestigious international awards– the most recent being the 2015 Smithsonian Annual photo contest.

It’s been a quick evolution going from black to blue.  “Waves in beautiful light have always inspired me.  The moods of the ocean are my priority,” Ray says.  “There are no fashion trends that go into the image — just the same two constants: water and light.  I find it far too beautiful to resist.”

~Via Ray Collins, My ModernMet, Vimeo

  It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

 

 

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L’Chaim– To Life

 

 

The Holocaust Survivor Band

 

 

Award-Winning New York Times **VIDEO**

 

Joshua Z. Weinstein
Weinstein Films

 

 

They play for the joy and love of it all.  In Hebrew,  they refer to the song describing it as  L’Chaim– to life.

Like many survivors of the Holocaust after World War II, Saul Dreier and Reuwen (“Ruby”) Sosnowicz moved to America.

They started families and careers, grew old, and retired to Florida. For these octogenarians, settling near Boca Raton could have been the last chapter in their story.

But then, last summer, Mr. Dreier, 89, decided to start a klezmer band, drawing upon the music he grew up with in Poland.

Both credit music for keeping them alive during the Holocaust, but both fell out of practice as they grew older.  

Last year, spurred by the death of musician and fellow survivor? Alice Herz-Sommer,  Mr. Dreier approached then-stranger Mr. Sosnowicz with a pitch:  why not start their own Survivor Band?

Playing the drums, he teamed up with Mr. Sosnowicz, an 85-year-old Polish accordionist.  This video profiles the two men and their group, which they’ve named the Holocaust Survivor Band.  In recent months they have performed for audiences at venues ranging from local nursing homes and temples to The Venetian in Las Vegas.

Music has always been a tool of survival for these men.

Mr. Dreier, the drummer, was born in Krakow and in his youth survived three concentration camps.  In one, there was a cantor singer in his barracks.  To pass the time, the boys formed a choir, singing soprano, tenor and baritone parts, switching as they grew up and as their voices changed.  Mr. Dreier learned to play drums by banging two spoons together on a piece of wood as he accompanied the choir.  Later, he worked as a construction contractor in New Jersey.

For Mr. Sosnowicz, music was recovery.

He spent the war hidden by a Polish farmer, sleeping next to cows and digging through trash at night to collect bits of potatoes.  After the war, he landed in a displaced persons camp in Germany, where he acquired his first accordion.  Mr. Sosnowicz went on to become a hairdresser and professional musician.  He played at parties throughout the borscht belt in upstate New York, and even had a gig at Studio 54.

As they reinvent themselves, Mr. Dreier and Mr. Sosnowicz never forget their past.  It is life before Hitler, their youth, that they most want to remember.  For them, music is catharsis and liberation. 

They credit music for keeping them alive during the dark times of the Holocaust; they believe in spreading the sound of joy and survival well into their golden years.

The Holocaust Survivor Band summons the bittersweet memories of childhood, but more than that, it is a celebration of life.

* * * * * * * * * *

Joshua Z Weinstein is a filmmaker and cinematographer who lives in New York.  Among his many film projects are U2′s Sunday Bloody Sunday and Code of the West.  He is currently developing a Yiddish-language fiction film.

  Via the New York Times, CBC, and Vimeo

  To Dr. Samuel P. Oliner and Rabbi Les Scharnberg, who’ve shared life, love, laughs, and shalom with all.

 

 

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This Kid Can Shred

 

 

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

This kid’s got some game.

Meet Ian Matteoli.  He tears it up on the slopes.

He’s the little 9-year old, 60-pound youngster from France who is already fluent in 3 languages, knows how to have fun, is as sharp as a knife and absolutely shreds it on a snowboard.

Rusty Toothbrush’s film  features Ian alongside his good friend Alex Stewart as they rip the snowparks at Vars and Les 2 Alpes in France, act like consumerist hooligans in a grocery store with a severe case of ADHD, and hit Volcom’s contest runs.

And the kid stays busy.

He rocked the snow at age 6, went pro at age 7, has numerous girlfriends, loves skateboarding and BMX-ing, makes fly-fishing tackle, plays the harmonica, and absolutely kills it on a snowboard.

Ian can be found spinning tricks, twists, and turns off of everything and charging rails of any size.  Following in the footsteps of his snowboard idol Shaun White, the kid is fearless in the park with an uncanny sense of coordination and speed control. 

It also doesn’t hurt having a father that’s a European Ski Champion, a coach of an Olympic Gold medal winner, and the owner of a snowboard company mentoring you along, too.

And you thought you were good.

 

 

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Me and Bobby McGee

 

 

Pearl:  Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Janis Joplin brought her powerful, bluesy voice from Texas to San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, where she went from drifter to superstar.

It was a liberating move for the lonely and out-of-place Janis, who always felt like she was a square peg stuck into a round hole. 

Her childhood was somewhat “normal” but her adolescent years were traumatic.  She was made fun of because of her weight, her serious case of acne, her perceived ugliness.  

She was a loner and a misfit, ridiculed on a daily basis at school.  Janis herself withdrew, self-conscious and shamed.  She took to writing poetry and just staying the hell away from everybody.  She developed a love for drinking, boozing her troubles away to forget.

To understand Janis Joplin, you must first understand Port Arthur, Texas, where she grew up: a dull, small industrial town, a violent town, a town where the heat is overpowering, oil derricks and refineries belch out thick black smoke, a place where the mosquitoes are abundant and the culture and scenery and anything to be proud of aren’t.  There are no shades of color in Port Arthur, only oppressive self-righteous conservatism where anything– and anyone out of the ordinary– are viewed with disdain.

“I got treated very badly in Texas,” she said.  “They don’t treat beatniks too good in Texas.  Port Arthur people thought I was a beatnik, though they’d never seen one and neither had I.  I always wanted to be an artist, whatever that was, like other chicks want to be stewardesses.  I read.  I painted.  I thought.”

Called “the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation,” Joplin’s raspy intensity proved a perfect match for the high-energy music of San Francisco’s Big Brother and the Holding Company and the 60′s Haight-Ashbury scene, resulting in a mix of free-flung blues, folk and psychedelic rock.

No one had ever seen anything quite like Janis before. 

She didn’t merely possess a great vocal instrument.  She threw herself into every syllable, testifying from the very core of her emotional being.  Her voice was high, husky, earthy and explosive.  She claimed blues, soul, gospel, country and rock with unquestionable authority and verve, fearlessly inhabiting psychedelic guitar jams, back-porch roots, and everything else in between.  

Her volcanic performances left audiences stunned and speechless.  Her sexual magnetism, worldly demeanor and flamboyantly rebellious style shattered every stereotype about female artists.

Joplin’s tenure with Big Brother was brief, lasting only from 1966 to 1968, yet her performance with them at 1967’s Monterey International Pop Festival still remains one of the greatest performances in rock history.

Her posthumously released album Pearl and Me and Bobby McGee went straight to the top of the charts, hitting #1 in 1970.  Capturing the bohemian spirit of the times and sung by Joplin in her trademark affectionate, road-weary, country-bluesy fashion, it’s a reminiscently quixotic portrait of a counterculture cross-country love affair taking place long before.

Originally written by Kris Kristofferson, Me and Bobby McGee was Joplin’s ode to fame following her death.  Kristofferson and Joplin had known each other well.  Some said they were lovers; others said that wasn’t the case.

Kristofferson was asked why he came up with the line, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”  

His reply:

“I was working the Gulf of Mexico on oil rigs, flying helicopters.  I’d lost my family to my years of failing as a songwriter.  All I had were bills, child support, and grief.  And I was about to get fired for not letting 24 hours go between the throttle and the bottle.  It looked like I’d trashed my act.  

But there was something liberating about it.  By not having to live up to people’s expectations, I was somehow free.”

 

And it looked like Janis was setting herself free, too. 

At the time of her death, Janis had recently become engaged, was working with her new band Full Tilt Boogie, and was excited about the future.  She was happy, talking about leaving the music business, settling down, possibly raising a family.  

More importantly, she had finally kicked her heroin addiction plaguing her for years.  Or so it seemed.  She had been clean for six months going into the studio in Hollywood to begin recording what would become her last and greatest work bearing her nickname, Pearl.

But it didn’t work out as planned.  As her career waxed and waned, Joplin had increasingly taken refuge in drugs, heroin, and alcohol.  She had already earned a reputation as being a speed freak, returning to visit Port Arthur in 1965 and reportedly looking “skeletal and emaciated.”  Janis, it turned out, was so strung out that her friends held a collection to buy her a bus ticket home so she could straighten herself up, and in June of 1966, she hitchhiked back to San Francisco.

Within years she would blossom into a $200 a day heroin habit.  Coupled with her low self-esteem, she moved in and out of depression constantly.  “Audiences like their blues singers to be miserable,” she once lamentedly said.

So she set herself free in a different way. 

Obtaining a dose that was more more pure than usual, she was found dead of a heroin overdose on the floor of a Hollywood motel room on October 4, 1970.  She had been dead for 18 hours when her body was discovered; she had been alone when she died.  Passing three weeks after Jimi Hendrix’s death, also at the age of 27, the two had played together at Woodstock only the year before.

Janis Joplin has since passed into the realm of legend:  an outwardly brash and yet inwardly vulnerable and troubled personality who possessed one of the most passionate voices in music.  Her stage was her sanctuary and her adoption of a wild sartorial style in both song and the fashion of the times– granny glasses, frizzed-out hair, an extravagant attire winking at the hippie era– spiked her burgeoning reputation.

“I’m one of those regular weird people, Janis once remarked. 

“You know why we’re stuck with the myth that only black people have soul?  Because white people don’t let themselves feel things.  When I sing, I feel like when you’re first in love, when you really touch someone for the first time, but it’s gigantic, multiplied by the whole audience.  I feel chills.  Then I go home, alone.”

(Picture Credits: Ed-Lloyd, DeadHead Willow, GoldMine, Jim Marshall)

 

 

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The Reinvention of Normal

 

 

Off the Wall Creativity and Its Inventions

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

What is normal?  What is creativity?

Creativity is about connecting things.  When you ask people how they did something creative, they feel a bit awkward because they only saw something that was simply there, something they can’t fully explain.  It just seemed obvious to them after a while.  That’s because they were able to connect the experiences they had with the ideas of synthesizing new things.

In this brief profile by filmmaker Liam Saint Pierre, we dive head-first into the strange mind of British artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox who’s been entertaining the world for years with his delightfully impractical and outlandish ideas.

His recent off-the-wall inventions include a stained glass driverless car, shoes with built-in GPS that guide you back home, and a giant listening device called Binaudios that mimic tourist binoculars for the purpose of listening to a city.  He writes a blog and has also published a book filled with comic-like sketches of his most outlandish ideas, Variations on Normal.

St. Pierre’s film packs a lot into its seven minutes.  We spend time with Dominic on his “desperate” quest for inspiration, glimpse his studio, meet his parents and see the family business, and even trot round a hardware store after him.

There are animations of some of his most bizarre ideas and home video footage of Dominic as a child. “Quiet, shy children do a lot of work in their heads,” Dominic says rather poignantly.  “They’re thinking a lot, observing a lot.  Maybe as a child the creativity was there but it didn’t have an outlet.”

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns, looking
at things in a different way and not being afraid to fail, Dominic
believes.

“Let’s do the ridiculous and by doing the ridiculous something else might come of it,” Dominic shares in the film, perfectly encapsulating his entire artistic practice.

We’re reminded that the process of creativity is allowing yourself to produce ideas and make mistakes by doing the inspiring and outlandish, and the process of art and invention is knowing which ones to keep.

~Via Dominic Wlcox, Liam Saint Pierre, This is Colossal,
It’s Nice That, and Vimeo

 

 

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Extreme Bungee Madness

 

 

New Zealand’s Beauty and the Bungee Beast

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

There’s nothing quite like the terrifying life or death experience of bungee jumping.

It’s a leap of faith.  The do-or-die moment of truth, the holding of your breath in unnerving disbelief, the fatal psyche-plunge into oblivion, the feeling of your kidneys gravitating up to your Adam’s apple.

And they call this fun?

Well, it’s a rite of passage, becoming a part of the small minority who can say they have jumped off a bridge connected to a giant rubber band while impressing their significant others or proving something to the family members.  Who knows, it could become your newest Facebook cover photo.

The above video shot by Devin Graham, also known as YouTube uber-darling’s Devinsupertramp, might just change your mind.  Devin’s crew teamed up with AJ Hackett Bungy to get some one-of-a-kind footage at New Zealand’s very first commercial bungee jumping siteBelow is the behind the scenes look of the whole bungee jumping party affair.

Anytime Devin is filming there’s going to be some action packed shots and some bumping music moving the fun footage right along.

If heights aren’t your cup of tea, then we’re pretty sure extreme bungee jumping won’t be on your to-do bucket list anytime soon. 

Just remember, the longest journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Or one humongous gnarly jump.

 

 

 

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Balancing the Budget on the Poor– with Fines

 

 

John Oliver:  It’s Time to Pay Up– Or Chill Out in Debtor’s Prison

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Debtors’ prisons have made a huge comeback.  

Hooray?

If you have money, committing a municipal violation is a minor inconvenience.  If you don’t, it can ruin your life.

John Oliver took on fines for municipal violations and how they disproportionately harm the poor and minorities on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

If there’s one thing John Oliver teaches us, it’s that being broke sucks.  Whether it’s payday loans or municipal violations, making one mistake when you’re broke can result in months or years of being screwed.

“We have all committed municipal violations, and if you’ve never gotten a ticket for one, congratulations on not getting caught,” he said on Sunday.

What can start out as a small fine for speeding or not wearing a seatbelt quickly balloons when municipalities and courts tack on surcharges and fees.  And when offenders can’t immediately pay them, they can have their license suspended, making it difficult for them to continue working.

“Most Americans drive to work, and if you can’t do that, you’ve got a problem,” he said. 

“In New Jersey, a survey of low-income drivers who had their license suspended found that 64 percent had lost their jobs as a result, which doesn’t help anyone.  You need them to pay their fine, but you’re taking away their means of paying it.”

Some municipalities pass off enforcement to private companies, which charge their own fees, making it impossible for some to pay off their tickets. 

Take Harriet Cleveland, for example.

When Harriet Cleveland opened her door one morning, the last thing she expected to see was a cop.  And when she did open her door, it didn’t even cross her mind that he might be there for her, because the only thing she had ever done was to get a minor traffic ticket.

Except he was there for her.  To take her away to the local pokey for not paying her traffic debt.

Since Harriet didn’t have enough money to pay her ticket, the court handed the collection responsibility over to a private company that slapped enormous fees onto the cost.  Every time Harriet tried to pay off the ticket, all the money she handed over went to cover the fees, not the ticket itself.  And the fees kept increasing regardless.  Eventually, she had to decide between paying the fees and covering her food and utilities.

So she gave up.  And she went to jail.

And there are hundreds of thousands more like Harriet across the nation.  Debtors prisons’ — throwing people in jail for owing money — are theoretically illegal.  The federal government outlawed them in 1833, and most states followed shortly thereafter.  And yet, shady cities and towns and municipalities across America– including Humboldt County– have slowly been bringing them back.

“Let’s be clear, no one is saying people who break the law shouldn’t be punished,” Oliver said.  ”This isn’t about being soft on crime, but having fines people can reasonably pay off.”

“Not only should municipalities not be balancing their books on the backs of their most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in jail,” he added.

Make no mistake:  there are a growing number of citizens going to jail at the behest of banks and a welcoming judicial system.  Our Founding Fathers would have had a hissy fit.  And we wonder as the courts balance their beastly burgeoning budgets on the backs of the working poor, What the Hell Did You Do With All That Money?”

~Via John Oliver, HBO, YouTube, UpWorthy and the Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

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Rising Up Against the Odds in Africa’s Largest Slum

 

 

A Shining Hope: Kibera’s School for Girls

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“I have a dream, a dream that will never fail.

Every mighty king was once a crying baby.  Every great tree was once a tiny seed.  And so is my dream.

This journey seems so long.  Yet I will not waiver.  The path has stones all over, but I will not give up. 

Every day of my life is a page of my history.  Every step I take is a move to my glorious destiny.

It’s not where I am, but where I’m going that matters.  So dream!”

~Eunice Akoth

 

 

Located just three miles from the center of downtown Nairobi and home to an estimated 1 million people living in an area the size of NYC’s Central Park, Kibera is Africa’s largest slum.

The Kenyan government, which owns the land where Kibera stands, refuses to formally recognize the settlement.  It regards its residents as squatters who simply don’t belong there even though they have nowhere else to go.

As such, the government turns a blind eye to its conditions and plight.  The people of Kibera’s 12 villages are conveniently denied basic social services such as education, healthcare, sanitation, clean water, electricity, and roads– and the basic human dignity that accompanies them.

A Girl’s Life is the story of Eunice Akoth, a fourth grade student at the Kibera School for Girls.  She has a passion for poetry, an aptitude for math, and a love of the book Matilda by Roald Dahl.

She has lived all her life in Kibera.  Although she is only ten years old, she has dreams of traveling the world from New York to Melbourne, before returning to Kenya and becoming a doctor.

Though Eunice is considered a bright student by her teachers and fortunate enough to receive a free education in a place where only 8% of the girls have a chance to attend school, she also represents the far-too-common case of a girl who must overcome extreme obstacles in order to find her way out of poverty.

Unfortunately, according to Nairobi’s Kibera Law Centre, the statistics are not in favor of Eunice succeeding.  Or any of the kids there for that matter.  The odds are stacked against them.

Kibera’s 1 million people are jammed into makeshift tin huts in a 1.5 square mile area; with an average of 8 people per hut and without toilets, human waste and garbage run rampant through the rambling walking paths of the slum village.  There are no streets, street lighting, police or medical facilities.  Nor is there clean water, for that matter.  The people must purchase water from private vendors, paying up to 15 times more than non-slum residents.  The area has consequently become a de facto breeding ground for typhus, diphtheria, and malaria, depending on how poor and how low to the ground you live.  In Kibera, everyone lives on the same level, sharing the same conditions.

One of the most densely populated places on the planet, Kibera’s life expectancy is 30 years of age—compared to 50 years in the remainder of Kenya and 62 years on average throughout the rest of the world.  Half of all Kiberians are under the age of 15, and only four out of its five children will live to see their 5th birthday.  Children widely sniff glue-like hallucinogenic solvents to reduce their hunger pangs.  Solvent is cheaper than food and makes you forget your misery.

Violence is also no stranger in Kibera.  Women are routinely beaten, raped, or sold into prostitution, and both men and women are denied any form of police protection.  Shockingly enough, 66% of girls in Kibera routinely trade sex for food by the age of 16; many begin as young as 6. 

43% of Kibera’s young women reported their first sexual contact was a forced encounter, under duress or trauma.  The young girls also suffer an HIV rate that’s 5 times greater than that of their male counterparts.  Condoms and birth control are unheard of.

So where does all this lead for someone like young Eunice?

It’s well known that giving an education to a girl like Eunice– in an urban slum like Kibera– means she will earn more money on the whole, will invest 90% of those earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV, and have fewer, healthier children who are more likely to see adulthood.

The life-threatening obstacles can be boiled down to these three basic beginning points:  poverty, a lack of education, and gender inequality.  The lack of access to quality healthcare and resources often prevents girls like Eunice from staying in school, and the lack of value placed on women and girls means many of the most vulnerable girls in Kibera will never start school at all.

But there is a small glimmer of hope, of change.  It starts, simply, with creating a school for girls.  Kibera’s young women can be a model for others if given the opportunity.  With some luck and investment, they could transition from urban poverty to urban change.  They could become tomorrow’s progressive leaders.

Sponsoring the two videos seen above and below, the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) organization believes change– for Eunice and others like her in Kibera– needs to be centered on creating schools with superior education, free healthcare, food, and
psychosocial services that they can attend. 

And so they did just that:  The Kibera School for Girls was founded in 2009, the slum’s first free primary and middle school for girls like Eunice.

The Kibera School for Girls mission is about education, transforming lives and creating opportunity, fostering hope and empowerment, and making a difference for the most vulnerable.  With nearly 400 successful students well on their way, Shining Hope has expanded their goal by opening another new school for girls in nearby Malthare, another large and impovershed slum.

“Stop watching all your dreams going down the drain,” Eunice wisely says to others, rising above her tender age of 11 years.

“Fight.  Fight fearlessly!” she advises.  “Fight like a lion even if you are wounded– and change.  It’s not about who you are, but how you see yourself.  It’s about where you are going.  If you trust in yourself, you can make it.”

“So dream!”

 

 

 

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Pele and The Fire Within

 

 

The Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Lance Page
PageFilms.com 

 

 

“She is Pele-honua-mea, Pele of the Sacred Land.  She is Pele, the eater of land, when she devours the land with her flames.

She who rules the volcanoes of Hawai’i, and Mankind has no power to resist her.  When Pele is heard from, her word is the final word.”

 

 

The Fire Within is my visceral and artistic study of the Big Island of Hawaii’s hyperactive Kilauea volcano.  

I was born and raised on the island.  All my life I hadn’t had the chance to come face to face with her incredible presence until last year.

Many in Hawaii refer to the lava as ‘Pele’, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.  

After my incredible experience at the volcano it’s not hard to see why so many islanders to this day see her as a living, breathing thing.  I wanted to capture her beauty and mysteriousness as well as her unimaginable power in the best way that I knew how.  I wanted to just see her doing what she does. I shied away from any human interaction and turned my camera on the fiery blood of the Earth.

It is said if you want to protect yourself and your family from the lava flow, you have to pay your respects to Pele, the volcano goddess.  

According to local legends, she appears as a beautiful woman with long, flowing hair or an older woman with long, white hair and accompanied by a dog, and you must greet her with aloha and offer her help or respite to avoid her violent temper.  To really get on her good side, however, you must visit her at the crater, offering her food and flowers to settle her down.

This six and a half minute film is my best attempt at capturing what it felt like to witness molten rock slowly burning down a dense wet rainforest, or to peer into the six-hundred-foot-wide lava lake at Kilauea’s summit crater.

Kilauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii and possibly the world.  I’ve never been anywhere else on the planet that demanded as much respect and awareness for the natural environment around me.

Her unexpected beauty and unsettling sense of danger were nothing short of humbling– and put so much of my short, temporal life into perspective.

~Via Lance Page, Herb Kawainui Kane, Olukai/Nick Selway

 

 

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The Pigeon Kings of Brooklyn

 

Birds of a Feather Do Flock Together

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Take a moment to look up from the busy streets of New York City.

You might glimpse a flock of purebred pigeons swooping in circles around abandoned tenement buildings of the Big Apple.  They’re there for a reason.  They have a purpose.  They have people who care for them deeply.

We don’t know why we haven’t heard about pigeon-raising until now; it appears that the City has no shortage of people training and
caring for them, we found out.

In The Birds by Brooklyn based photographer and filmmaker JJ Sulin, seen in the short film above, we are let into the world of three men who independently raise hundreds of pigeons in New York City.  It’s the story of why Joe Scott from Brooklyn, Tom Scotto from Staten Island, and Vincent Outerbridge from the Bronx all became interested in a career raising the birds.

Pigeon Kings of Brooklyn, seen below, is also a short documentary about NYC’s Bushwick residents who raise pigeons in rooftop coops across the urban landscape. 

The three New Yorkers say they find poetry and religion in their birds, competing for the hearts and minds of a gaggle of pigeons flying high above the skies over Brooklyn.

Their aerial acrobatics are guided by their keeper, a streetwise Puerto Rican nicknamed 2Tone.  On the other end of the borough, a man named Goodwin, and his pal Super 13, tend to their own pigeon coop and flock of 300 birds.

Some may consider them a nuisance; germ-ridden, mangy creatures scrounging off leftovers and good for nothing but sullying city landmarks.  But these films show pigeons in a whole new light– where they vastly improve New York City’s sky and provide some of its inhabitants with company and happiness.

In the age-old art of pigeon keeping, the birds– all varieties of domestic pigeons– are precious rather than pestilent.

These two films highlight the hobby and competition among coop owners, all the while forming a tight bond with their pigeon flock.  Make no mistake, each man is trying to beat the other, to lure his precious birds away.  

Sure, it’s about bragging rights, but it’s also about finding that “true pigeon that will never break your heart,” as 2Tone says.

Who even knew?  We certainly didn’t and we had no idea they could be
so dear to so many.

~Via JJ Sulin, Narratively, Daily Mail, Chris Andrade, Vimeo

 

 

 

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Whiskey in the Jar

 

 

The Metallica Version for St. Paddy’s

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

One of the best known traditional Irish vocal ballads, Whiskey in the Jar has its origins stretching back to the mid-17th century.

Found in dozens of forms throughout the globe, it tells the story of a highwayman robber who rips off an English military officer and then is betrayed by Molly, his dear and once-trusted lover.  

Recorded by dozens upon dozens of traditional and not-so-traditional musicians, Whiskey in the Jar was taken in a rock and roll direction first by Thin Lizzy and the Grateful Dead, and then by U2 and most successfully by Metallica, who won a 2000 Grammy Award for their Best Hard Rock Performance version seen above.

The song, as you might have guessed from the title, is a favorite drinking and pub song celebrated among fans of Irish music all over the world.

Enjoy St. Patricks Day, have a tipple of good Irish whiskey, be among friends and behave responsibly. 

Or not.

 

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry mountains
I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’
I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
I said stand and deliver or the devil he may take ‘ya

I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money yeah and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she’d love me, no never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman yeah for you know she tricked me easy

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o

Being drunk and weary I went to Molly’s chamber
Takin’ my money with me, but I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired off my pistols and I shot him with both barrels

Now some men like the fishin’ and some men like the fowlin’
And some men like ta hear, ta hear the cannon ball a roarin’
Me I like sleepin’, ‘specially in my Molly’s chamber
But here I am in prison, here I am with a ball and chain, yeah

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o

 

 

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Breaking Rules

 

 

Breaking Away is Part of Growing Up

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Rules are necessary for the development of society.  If they didn’t exist, we’d miss the pleasure of breaking them.

When we’re young, people tell us the world looks a certain way.  Parents tell us how to think.  Schools tell us how to think.  Religion and TV leave their indelible mark as well.  And then at a certain point, if we’re lucky, we realize we can make up our own mind.  We realize that nobody sets the rules but ourselves.  We find we can design our own life.

We didn’t learn to walk by following rules.  We learned by doing, and then by falling over.  Repeatedly.

“You are remembered for the rules you break,” Douglas MacArthur said.  “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun,” Katherine Hepburn remarked.  “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively,” the Dalai Lama advised.  “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it,” Thoreau quipped.

Whatever path you choose, however many roads you travel, we hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there, on behalf of humanity and a better world.

 

 

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Adapt and Live

 

 

The Exuberance of Life, Nature and Change

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Not only did he make the final cut, he won the contest.

As a freelance cinematographer and producer traveling the country seeking adventure and shooting wildlife, Filipe DeAndrade originally studied film and wildlife ecology & conservation at the University of Florida.

He’s come a long ways since those days.  DeAndrade’s inspiring film that you see above, Adapt, was selected as the final winner from hundreds of online entries, taking the grand prize from both the Sun Valley Film Festival and National Geographic’s Wild to Inspire competition last week.

His pictures are indeed beautiful, stunning, and one of a kind.  In his short film, the young photographer shared how he found a deep salvation in nature at a time when his own life was particularly chaotic and confusing.  He came to find his place and voice through the camera lens, saying passionately, “The minute I picked up my camera I found my voice.  If nature was my savior, then photography was my soulmate.”

In partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation, DeAndrade will now travel to Africa this fall to produce another film, sharing his wildlife adventures further through videos, diaries, and photos as part of an online companion to National Geographic’s Destination Wild Sunday night nature series.

“We heartily congratulate Filipe and can’t wait to see what he’ll bring back to the screen through his lens,” said Craig R. Sholley of the African Wildlife Foundation.  “Africa provides the perfect backdrop for honing your skills as a wildlife filmmaker given its extraordinary biodiversity.  Filipe’s camera will be a window into that world inspiring others to advocate for its protection.”

DeAndrade’s love of nature is equal to his own passion as a cinematographer. “In order to protect something you have to love it, and I cannot wait to bring back a story from Africa to inspire others to love the natural world as much as I do,” the Brazilian-born DeAndrade said.  “My life’s passion is to use my camera to inspire others to fall in love with the wild, the same way that I did.”

“I was 5 years old when we came to America from Rio de Janeiro.  We had no citizenship, no money and I had only a tenuous grasp on the English Language.  To make things a little more difficult, my father was addicted to drugs and extremely abusive,” DeAndrade said of his early childhood. 

“So at 5 years old, I learned my most important life lesson: Adapt.  Through our experiences we’re meant to be better because of our hardships; not in spite of them.  Thank you, thank you, thank you  everyone who helped me be a part of this process because you never let me go at it alone.”

 


~With appreciation and inspiration to Kym Kemp

 

 

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Internet Café Refugees

 

 

Japan’s Disposable Workers

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It is better to bend than to break, the old Japanese proverb goes.

Internet cafes have existed in Japan for over a decade, but in the mid 2000′s, customers began using these spaces as living quarters to make ends meet.

Internet cafe refugees are mostly temporary employees, their salaries too low to rent their own apartments.  A growing class of homeless people in Japan, deemed the ‘cyber-homeless’, do not own or rent a residence.  Instead, they sleep in these 24-hour business cubicles.

A Japanese government study estimated that this phenomenon is part of an increasing wealth gap in Japan, which historically has been an equal society, economically speaking.

Following the recession of the 1990s, Japan’s white collar salary-men worked increasingly long and arduous hours for fear of losing their jobs, often leading to conditions of depression and suicide.  The situation took its toll on other economy workers, too, where 38% of Japan’s working class became ‘temporary employees’ employed by convenience stores, supermarkets, fast food outlets, restaurants, and other low paying, low skill positions.

Traditionally used by commuters who missed the last train home, the net cafés are now used by larger numbers of people as temporary homes. 

Although such cafés originally provided only Internet services, many expanded their services to cater to their newly dispossessed clientele by including food, drink, TV, showers, and selling underwear and other personal items, much like a hostel or hotel does. 

According to the Japanese government survey, those staying in the net cafes have little interest in the cafe or the Internet, instead using the cubicles only because of the low price relative to anything else available in temporary housing, business hotels, capsule hotels, hostels, or any other option– besides sleeping on the street.

It’s estimated that about half of those staying at net cafes have no job, while the other half work in low-paid temporary jobs, which pay around 100,000 yen—or $1000 per month.  That amount is much lower than what is needed to rent an apartment and pay for transportation in a city like Tokyo.

Japan has become a poor place for unskilled labor.  Osaka, Japan, for example, used to be a thriving day laborer’s town; today, it is home to approximately 25,000 unemployed and elderly men, many of whom are also homeless. 

And it’s seen on the other end of the age spectrum, too. 

More than four million of Japan’s young people called freeters, many of whom hold diplomas, are working in insecure positions, victims of an economic situation and working conditions imposed by employers realizing the benefits of using temporary employees.  Disgusted or disillusioned, many have dropped out altogether from working.  About 10% of all high school and university graduates could not find steady employment in a recent study, and a full 50% of those who did find a job left within three years after employment.

 

 

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Tripping Through Austria

 

 

A Three-Minute Tour

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s a drop-dead gorgeous place, a country rich in history and culture.

From the Austrian Alps to the low lying valleys, from the crystal clear waters to the lush green grass, the sights and sounds of Austria are nothing less than spectacular. 

After two years of filming, Thomas Pöcksteiner and Peter Jablonowski of FilmSpektakel created a three-minute film that captures a breathtaking new perspective of the stunning beauty and charm of their home country of Austria by compiling 600 time-lapse videos.

Each shot could easily stand on its own, but the team tied it all together using a zoom effect between transitions.  This seamlessly brings the viewer from inside the bustling cities to the picturesque mountainside, revealing Austria’s diverse landscape.

It’s some amazing scenery, more than a few natural and cultural attractions, and, to note, an awesome soundtrack of natural sounds laid over the voice of Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos mission in 2012.

 

 

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The Ocean Gypsies

 

 

Vanishing Sea Nomads of Southeast Asia

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jacques Ivanoff
National Geographic

 

 

On the horizon we see them, their flotilla of small hand-built boats like a mirage beneath the setting sun.

They are wary of strangers:  At our approach they split up and scatter. We close in on one boat, and I call out reassuring words in their language.  The boat slows and finally stops, rolling on the swell in heavy silence.

I jump aboard, a privileged trespasser and rare witness to another world.

That world belongs to the Moken, a nomadic sea culture of gypsy people who migrated from southern China some 4,000 years ago, and, moving through Malaysia, eventually split off from other migrant groups in the late 17th century.  Their home is some 800 islands scattered along 250 miles of the Andaman Sea, off Myanmar (formerly Burma).

For the Moken people of Southeast Asia, the sea provides nearly everything a person might need.  It offers food to eat, a comfortable place to live, and, sometimes, love.

Members of this ocean-faring ethnic group– often called “Sea Gypsies”– travel on small, handcrafted wooden boats called kabangs, from which they skillfully procure fresh meals of fish, scallops, and clams, using nothing more complicated than a simple spear and a remarkable ability to hold their breath.

It is an elder named Gatcha who allows me on his family’s boat and listens to my plea to join them.  I have a long history here: My father, Pierre Ivanoff, worked with the Moken starting in 1957, and I reestablished that relationship in 1982, several years after his death.  I tell Gatcha that I’ve lived among his people, that I befriended their greatest shaman and recorded hours of his myths and tales that I wish to share.  When Gatcha finally offers me a plate of betel nuts, I know he has accepted me.

“The Moken are born, live, and die on their boats, and the umbilical cords of their children plunge into the sea,” goes an epic of the Moken.  For eight to nine months a year they live aboard their low-slung kabang.

As divers and beachcombers the Moken take what they need each day– fish, mollusks, and sandworms to eat; shells, sea snails, and oysters for barter with the mostly Malay and Chinese traders they encounter.  They accumulate little and live on land only during the monsoons.

Like the turtles of their rituals, the Moken spend much of their time submerged, both for work and play. Plastic goggles are now the fashion among these nomads, who used to carve their eye pieces from wood, then attach glass lenses from broken bottles with tree sap.

The wave troughs look immense from the kabang, but Puket—one of Gatcha’s seven children– sits in the stern calmly smoking his pipe amid the exhaust of the motor.  Puket and another son, Jale– a mighty spear fisherman– and a daughter named Iphim, a childless widow, travel with their father most of the time.

This family, like all Moken, poses little threat to others sharing these waters.  Nonpolitical and nonviolent, Moken keep to themselves except when trading, usually on the move in flotillas of seven or more kabangs belonging to an extended family.  Still, our lone vessel is stopped by a Burmese military boat disguised as a trawler.  Fortunately, we are sent on our way without incident, and Puket even manages to beg a few fish and some liquor by flattering the officials.

But it is not always so.  

As nomadic sea gypsies, the Moken have been exploited and harassed throughout history by the British, Japanese, Thai, and Burmese alike.  They’ve been stopped to pay taxes, driven away by illegal fishermen, forced to work in mines and on farms, prohibited from vital trading areas, jailed for lacking permits, and turned into opium addicts by merchants to keep them dependent.  

Recently the Myanmar government, following Thailand’s lead, has tried to settle the Moken permanently in a national park and exhibited as a tourist attraction.

The Moken have resisted, but threats to forcibly settle them hang in the air.  And other troubles abound.  Many young men die each year in diving accidents, often from the bends when they dive too deep and resurface too quickly while working for Burmese fishermen.  As the military presence increases throughout the islands, the Moken are unable to move freely in search of spouses.  And without room to roam, they cannot find the traders who provide rice, a staple Moken food, and fuel for their motors.

Ten years ago, some 2,500 Moken still led the traditional seafaring and spiritual life in this archipelago.  That number is slowly diminishing and is now at perhaps 1,000.

As the son of a shaman and a father figure to his people, Gatcha’s mission is to keep the old ways alive, bringing the Moken together for rituals that have suffered as flotillas have divided into subgroups and scattered north and south to reduce competition for natural resources.  

On this journey he will round up followers, including sacred singers and dancers to take with him to Nyawi Island, where things have gone awry.

Soldiers are harassing the Moken and Burmese on Nyawi, and the Burmese government has mandated a Moken festival for tourists– which Gatcha says is upsetting the spirits.  With offerings, trances, song, and dance on Nyawi, he hopes his people can begin to appease the ancestors, to whom they look for guidance and protection.

The days of gathering end with a night of restorative ritual, after which I am heartened to see Gatcha and his family push out to sea in the damp, gray morning, continuing their journey through the archipelago.  As the dry season nears its end, it is time to put down shallow roots on land, setting up a temporary camp in which to wait out the swift winds and rains of the monsoons.  It will be a place to honor the spirits and to build new boats for young men coming of age.

The island chosen for a monsoon camp offers a breathtaking setting:  A wall of virgin forest rife with boar and bats to be hunted, a band of beach, and a deep, powerful sea.  

Women comb the beaches and sing, and children play in the surf.  Girls coax sandworms from hiding with rattan sticks; boys fashion harpoons and learn from the older men how to hunt for fish, crab, turtle, ray, and eel, and how to eventually marry.

The Moken are the soul of this archipelago, the expression of a world that has begun to fade.  The world is closing in on the Moken way of life.  My hope is that as the rains continue to come and go, so too will the gypsy Moken, from sea to land and back again.

 

 

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The Two Million Dollar Man Living in a Van

 

 

Major League Baseball’s Daniel Norris

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The future of the Toronto Blue Jays wakes up in a 1978 Volkswagen camper behind the dumpsters at a Lakeland Wal-Mart and wonders if he has anything to eat.

He rummages through a half-empty cooler until he finds a dozen eggs.  

“I’m not sure about these,” he says, removing three from the carton, smelling them, and finally deciding it’s safe to eat them.  

While the eggs cook on a portable stove, he begins the morning ritual of cleaning his van, pulling the contents of his life into the parking lot.

Out comes a surfboard.  Out comes a subzero sleeping bag.  Out comes his only pair of jeans and his handwritten journals.  A curious shopper stops to watch. “Hi-ya,” Daniel Norris says, waving as the customer walks away into the store.  Norris turns back to his eggs.  ”I’ve gotten used to people staring,” he says.

This is where 22-year old Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida ‘burbs.

There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts.  There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry vegetables on his portable stove.  There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.

He has been here at Wal-Mart for long enough that some store employees have given him a nickname– “Van Man”– and begun to question where he’s from and what he might be doing.  A few have felt so bad for him that they’ve approached the van with prayers and crumpled bills, assuming he must be homeless.  They wonder: Is he a runaway teen?  A destitute surfer?  A new-age wanderer lost on some spiritual quest?

The truth is even stranger:  The Van Man has a consistent 92-mile-an-hour left-handed wickedly-fast fastball, a $2 million signing bonus, a lucrative deal with Nike and a growing club of fans, yet he has decided the best way to prepare for the grind of a 162-game season is to live here, in the back of an old 1978 VW Westfalia camper he purchased for $10,000.  

The van is his escape from the pressures of the major leagues, his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every movement will be measured, catalogued and analyzed.

If baseball requires notoriety, the van offers seclusion.  If pitching demands repetition and exactitude, the van promises freedom.

“It’s like a yin-and-yang thing for me,” he says.  

“I’m not going to change who I am just because people think it’s weird.  The only way I’m going to have a great season is by starting out happy and balanced and continuing to be me.  It might be unconventional, but to feel good about life I need to have some adventure.”

He lives in it for weeks on end during spring training or searching out the next big wave.   At night he pops open the roof and sleeps in the makeshift bunk.  He has a small machete for protection, or maybe for simply slicing apples.

He’s a bit of a free spirit and has all that he needs, really.  “It was a really cool experience for me, learning how to be self-sustainable.  That’s just kind of how my mom and dad raised me:  Learn to live on what you truly need and not really anything more,” he says happily.

On this morning, Norris’ adventure turns out to be the van itself.  He finishes breakfast and turns the key in the ignition, and the engine refuses to start.  ”Come on, old friend. You can do this,” he says, gently patting his hand against the dashboard.  He is due at the Blue Jays’ spring training facility in an hour for a workout, a massage and a throwing session.

He tries the key again, and the engine retorts like a firecracker.  Gas leaks onto the parking lot and a cloud of smoke shoots out from the tailpipe, but the VW makes it into gear.  ”There you go,” Norris says, talking gently again to the van.  ”Back on the road.  Just you and me.”

He bought the van in 2011, a few weeks after signing his first contract out of high school with the Blue Jays, and the VW has been his best friend and his spiritual center ever since.  

He named it Shaggy after the “Scooby Doo” character.  He sings it songs and writes it poems and gives it Valentine’s Day cards.  He takes it for hiking expeditions in the mountains of Tennessee and surfing trips along the Carolina coast.  He drives it each year to spring training in Florida, and this year he stretched that trip out over a few weeks.  He drove without a schedule from his home in Tennessee, avoiding the interstate and exploring the dirt roads of Appalachia, sleeping each night in the crawl space behind the driver’s seat with his head tucked against the back door.

When he finally arrived in Florida, he parked illegally on the beach and camped inside the VW until local police evicted him and offered directions to the 24-hour Wal-Mart, his home ever since.

Now he pulls out of Wal-Mart and drives three miles through Dunedin, squeezing the VW into a parking spot among his teammates’ luxury sports cars and tinted SUVs.  He sits in the back of the van to heat water for coffee.  

A few Blue Jays stop by on their way into the facility and watch Norris fiddle with his stove.  The pilot light doesn’t seem to be working.  The water is still cold.  

“Why don’t you just, like, go get something normal to eat,” says another young pitcher, Marcus Stroman, reminding Norris that the team provides free coffee inside.  ”Don’t you think this is kind of crazy?”

“Not to me,” Norris says. “To me this is the way that makes sense.”

~Via MSN, ESPN, MLB, Reddit, GrindTV,
   Plaidzebra, and YouTube

 

 

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The Woman on the Front Lines of War Journalism

 

 

Covering the Unquiet World of War Zones

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t forget news is often something that someone, somewhere, doesn’t want you to know.

The real-life tales from foreign reporters under fire or those determined journalistic gumshoes fighting against stone-walling bureaucracy are just as extraordinary as the articles that end up in the newspaper.  There are journalists out there doing back-breaking dangerous work and committed to digging out the truth and putting it on the front pages, yet their own personal tales often get lost in the telling. 

Christina Lamb isn’t used to talking about herself.  As one of the Sunday Times’ most revered war correspondents and perhaps the only female one, she’s far more comfortable telling the stories of conflict-struck regions of the world, giving her voice to those who don’t have one or can’t get it heard in the crossfire of bigger and louder leaders, armies, terrorists and politicians.

Christina realizes that, for every headline she brings, there is as much or more curiosity about her own lifestyle being a woman on the front lines.  “People seem very interested in what’s in my war bag that sits ready in the cupboard,” she says.

Earning her street cred with a couple of decades of war reporting and four books under her belt, she does a frightening job, but says with a smirk, “I just get on with it.”  When she’s covering a foreign war zone, she misses her home, her family, and the everyday niceties we take for granted, like “good coffee.”

For 27 years, Christina has been living out of a suitcase and travelling to some of the world’s most troubled spots.  Since she first set off undaunted at the age of 21, flak jacket and helmet in hand, Christina has reported from such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and other diverse hotspots.

Family life has changed the nature of her job for Christina.  Although she jokes that her husband would never ask her to stay home– “apparently I become unbearable if I stay put for too long”– it’s clear becoming a mother has altered her outlook.  When asked what moment scared her most in her traveling assignments, she gives her horrifying account of being ambushed by the Taliban in the Helmand province in 2006 and literally running for her life along with a group of equally terrified British soldiers, saying that it was the thoughts of her son that kept her going.

In addition, the loss of her close friend and female war correspondent colleague Marie Colvin in Syria in 2012 made the risks all too apparent.  “That was very traumatic for all of us at the paper and brought home something you tried not to think about.  I feel now we’re not covering Syria properly, but it’s hard to see how to do it safely.  Being a mother I try and be more careful.  And being practical, I can’t explain what’s going on if I’m dead.”

For her, the most frustrating time in her career was covering Robert Mugabe’s oppression of his people in Zimbabwe, watching the systematic destruction of lives, homes, shops and an estimated 700,000 made homeless, all in the name of tyranny.  “At least a war is fighting for something you believe in, whereas here it was just one man fighting to stay in power,” she says with frustration.

For every moment of frustration, Christina can console herself that her work has made a difference.

“There are good moments and amazing people you meet along the way,” she reflects, “but I don’t think many people would do this job if you didn’t think you could change things.  It’s why I find the Israel-Palestine situation so frustrating in its intransigence.  I like to see a glimmer of hope wherever I am.”

~Via the Sunday Times, Christina Lamb, Huffington Post, and Vimeo

 

 

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You Don’t Know Jack

 

 

Jack Andraka, The Teen Prodigy of Cancer

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Only a sophomore in high school, Jack Andraka invented a new test for a deadly form of cancer.  It’s cheap, accurate, and revolutionary.

Andraka created his potentially revolutionary pancreatic cancer detection tool at nearby Johns Hopkins University, though he does sometimes tinker in a small basement lab at the family’s house in leafy Crownsville, Maryland, where a homemade particle accelerator crowds the foosball table.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, with a five-year survival rate of 6 percent.  Some 40,000 people die of it each year.  The diagnosis can be devastating because it is often delivered late, after the cancer has spread.

Unlike the breast or colon, the pancreas is nestled deep in the body cavity and difficult to image, and there is no telltale early symptom or lump. “By the time you bring this to a physician, it’s too late,” says Anirban Maitra, a Johns Hopkins pathologist and pancreatic cancer researcher who is Andraka’s mentor. “The testing and drugs we have aren’t good for this disease.”

As the cancer takes hold, the body does issue an unmistakable distress signal: an overabundance of a protein called mesothelin.  The problem is that scientists haven’t yet developed a surefire way to look for this red flag in the course of a standard physical.

“The first point of entry would have to be a cheap blood test done with a simple prick,” Maitra says.

That’s exactly what Andraka invented: A small dipstick probe that uses just a sixth of a drop of blood and is much more accurate than existing approaches and takes five minutes to complete.  It’s still preliminary, drug companies are interested, and the word is spreading.

“I’ve gotten these Facebook messages asking, ‘Can I have the test?’” 14-year-old Andraka says. “I am heartbroken to say no.”

That fateful day in freshman biology class last year, Andraka had a lot on his mind.  A close friend of his family had recently died of pancreatic cancer, and Andraka had been reading about the disease.

Andraka wrote up an experimental protocol and e-mailed it to 200 researchers.  Only Maitra responded.

“It was a very unusual e-mail,” Maitra remembers.  “I often don’t get e-mails like this from postdoctoral fellows, let alone high-school freshmen.”

He decided to invite Andraka to his lab.  To oversee the project, he appointed a gentle postdoctoral chemist, who took the baby-sitting assignment in stride.  They expected to see Andraka for perhaps a few weeks over the summer.

Instead, the young scientist worked for seven months, every day after school and often on Saturdays until after midnight, subsisting on hard-boiled eggs and Twix as his mother dozed in the car in a nearby parking garage.  He labored through Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He spent his 15th birthday in the lab.

He had a nasty run-in with the centrifuge machine, in which a month’s worth of cell culture samples exploded, and Andraka burst into tears.

But sometimes his lack of training yielded elegant solutions.  For his test strips, he decided to use simple filter paper, which is absorbent enough to soak up the necessary solution of carbon nano­tubes and mesothelin antibodies, and inexpensive.  To measure the electrical change in a sample, he bought a $50 ohmmeter at Home Depot.  He and his dad built the Plexiglas testing apparatus used to hold the strips as he reads the current.  He swiped a pair of his mom’s sewing needles to use as electrodes.

About 2:30 a.m. one December Sunday, Jane Andraka was jolted from her parking lot stupor by an ecstatic Jack.

“He opens the door,” she remembers, “and you know how your kid has this giant smile, and that shine in their eye when something went right?”  The test had detected mesothelin in artificial samples.  A few weeks later, it pinpointed mesothelin in the blood of mice bearing human pancreatic tumors.  It worked.

Andraka’s appetite for science and success knows no bounds: His euphoric reaction to winning the Intel science contest based on his research quickly went viral on YouTube. In the months since that triumph, reality has sunk in a little as he spoke with attorneys and licensing companies.  

“I just finished the patent,” he says, “and I’m going to start an LLC soon.”

But Maitra—who believes that the dipstick should ultimately be modified to identify other flag-raising cancer proteins along with mesothelin– has made clear that Andraka has a lot more testing to do before publishing a peer-reviewed paper on the work, the next step.  Even if all goes well, the product probably wouldn’t be marketed for a decade or so, which, to a teenager, is practically eternity.  Nonetheless, his invention has already been extrapolated to diagnose ovarian and lung cancer as well.

The young Mr. Andraka is now in high demand.  He won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and took the $75,000 grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, one of the few freshman ever to do so.  He’s giving TED talks, speaking at international ideas festivals, written a book, been recognized by the Vatican, and had GE sponsor the video You Don’t Know Jack, seen above.  His iPhone contains snapshots of dignitaries ranging from Bill Clinton to Will.i.am and others. 

He’s been featured in dozens of publications and on The Colbert Report and 60 Minutes.  He’s competing for the $10 million dollar X-Prize by building a Star Trek-like tricorder that will diagnose disease by simply scanning your skin.

For all of his smarts and astounding accomplishments at such a young age– even before having a drivers license– Jack Andraka still remains a humble and soft spoken person, with an open future of possibilities to consider. 

“I really have no clue where I want to go or what I want to be when I grow up,” he said.  “I still have a lot of decisions to make.  I still have to take my SAT first.”

“He’s ahead of his time in many ways,” Maitra says.  “Taking one idea and seeing how to extrapolate something even more expansive, that’s the difference between being great and being a genius.  And who comes up with ideas like this at 14?  It’s crazy.”

~Via MSN, Smithsonian, Morgan Spurlock, GE,
   Out, the Andraka family, and Vimeo

 

 

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The Woman With Three Breasts

 

 

A Total Recall Circus Sideshow

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

We like stories about unusual people with unusual stories to tell. 

This one, though, takes the cake and left us scratching our heads in confusion and bewilderment and thinking the world had gone mad.

A wannabe pop-star and aspiring reality TV actress has spoken for the first time since she stunned the world by revealing her third breast.  

21-year-old Jasmine Tridevil from Tampa, Florida, may be the first woman in the world to have an artificial third breast– or she may have pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes in Internet history.

In reality, Tridevil’s real name is Alisha Hessler, a Tampa-area massage therapist who previously made headlines for forcing a man, who allegedly assaulted her, to wear a “I beat women” sign on a busy street corner.

The website for her massage parlor, Alisha’s Golden Touch, describes her as a “provider of internet hoaxes since 2014” and a “specialist in massage for three-breasted women.”  Tridevil refused to display her third breast during a recent Tampa news interview, saying she was “saving that for her reality show.”  She also got busted for a DUI a couple months back, being over twice the legal alcohol limit.

At first glance, Tridevil’s story looks like a tale as old as time:  Girl wants reality show.  Girl has body dysmorphia and disposable income.  Girl spends a small fortune on an insane, Total Recall-inspired surgery to get it.  And Girl gets her 15 minutes of fame and free exposure.

Ms. Tridevil appeared in news outlets throughout the world several months ago and claims the surgery changed her life.

But many commentators claim her third breast is a wearable prosthetic.  She even reported a “3-breast prosthesis” was stolen when her bags went missing at the Tampa Airport in 2014.

Tridevil claims the procedure cost $20,000 and took around an hour and a half to complete.  But she had a big problem in finding a surgeon who would perform the procedure after consulting 50-60 doctors, she says.  She could not produce the name of the plastic surgeon she claims conducted the surgery while other well-known plastic surgeons have said that such a surgery would be incredibly difficult to do, violate ethic standards, and take up to a year to complete.

She claims to have undergone the surgery because she didn’t want to date anymore and “to make herself less attractive to men.” 

She denies the surgery was fake and that it’s all been a hoax.  “I’m real.  This is not a fake, I had the procedure done,” she says.  “If people don’t believe it, that’s up to them.”

Despite having numerous calls to categorically prove once and for all that her three breasts are real, she as of yet has refused every offer.

What do we think? 

P.T. Barnum was right when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute” and “Every crowd has a silver lining.”

 

 

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Alive in Oakland

 

 

Skating on the Thin Ice of Urban Life

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Ryan Reichenfeld’s Alive in Oakland is a unique short film
about skateboarding.

The documentary takes a look at the essence and purity of the sport and the impact it created in one small corner of the urban world. 

Zeroing in on brand new home-built skatepark constructed in Oakland, California, Reichenfeld chose to focus on the close-knit group of young kids who skate every day, spending some time with them and sharing their similar backgrounds and dreams of securing a brighter future.

Rather than focusing on the odds against them, Reichenfeld took a more optimistic look at the young kids and their hard-nosed skate style native to their community.

16-year-old skater Lem West, honing his skills to the new style, bluntly put it this way:

“Oakland breeds a different kind of skater.  Go big or go home.  We’re doing it for the fuck of it, and doing it for the love of it.”

* * * * * * * * * *

If you liked Reichenfeld’s film above, you might also like this one he and we did of growing up in Lake Havasu.

 

 

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