Celebrate Samhain 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013, was the 8th annual Celebrate Samhain event in Peterborough, NH. This was my 4th year attending. That’s right folks, I’ve been there for half of this event’s lifespan. Why does this make me feel oddly old?

There were a few things that caused the energy to be “off” this year. We were all missing Cucina Aurora and its head kitchen witch in-chief Dawn Hunt, who was absent due to a death in the family. Her effervescent personality and delicious food were sorely missed. Also, Mike Dolan of Haunted Wood wasn’t around this year with his hearty laugh and giant bear hugs.

However, there were a few things that added some new fun. Jess G., co-founder and co-coordinator, who also happens to be a kick butt roller derby lady, spent the WHOLE day on roller skates. Let me tell you, she has some crazy skills! We were also blessed with beautiful weather, which was perfect for this year’s catering option of Goodness Gracious food truck. They were set up right outside the one entrance/exit to the venue.

Jess could move mountains in those skates!

Shopping, as usual, was excellent. I started telling people that Celebrate Samhain was the biggest shopping day of my year. Stuff purchased as holiday gifts I must keep mum about, but I picked up plenty of stuff to brag about/share with you. I picked up a little something at Muse Gifts & Books (that I must keep to myself) (but it’s pretty awesome) (you so wish you knew) (and could see) (it rocks is what I’m saying) (if I were to say anything). I restocked at FairySpa. I was literally down to a teeny, tiny square of my Goat’s Milk Facial Cleansing Bar and I finally got another bottle of Intense Lotion. Yay! I can feel almost human again!

Obviously I visited the Temple of Witchcraft table. This is where Christopher Penczak, Steve Kenson (wake up gamer friends!), and Adam Sartwell live! I picked up a copy of “Feast of the Morrighan: A Grimoire for the Dark Lady of the Emerald Isle”, which was the topic of his talk at last year’s Celebrate Samhain. I also learned that next year’s Templefest will be August 2-3, 2014. Save the date! I keep wanting to make it back. The Temple of Witchcraft folks put together a well organized event and were very welcoming. They haven’t announced any speakers yet, but I bet Christopher Penczak will be one!

I HAD to visit my friends at Inkubus since they had a booth again this year. I picked up a new table cloth for Dia de los Muertos. Another gift was also purchased. (It is so freakin’ cool. Cooler than the table cloth. So bad ass. You really wish you could see it. Seriously.) They were also nice enough to let me and Jim pick a few sugar skulls from their basket o’ skulls! Lastly, we visited Alchemy’s booth. What can I say? It’s as if someone had created an entire jewelry store just for me! You know how some famous people will wear one jewelry designers work almost exclusively? If I ever become rich and famous, I will wear Alchemy’s Tisha Harris’s curated work almost exclusively. (I have to leave room for Deborah Blake!) I bought myself a pink skull and cross bones cameo ring. That’s right boys, I’ve got myself a rum drinking ring! Watch out if you see me wearing it because that shows I means business.

Alchemy, where I shall do ALL my jewelry shopping!

Again I was amazed at the caliber of speakers that this event in Peterborough, NH attracts. Opening was Matooka Moonbear, who spoke about “Connecting and Working with Animal Spirit Guides”. I totally missed her introduction, but I recognize her as a member of the Temple of Witchcraft. I missed her talk catching up with people and going to get a palm reading from the wonderful Juliet Bell. Following her was musician Michael Long Rider. I didn’t get to watch him perform because….SHOPPING….but I got to enjoy his performance while browsing wares.

After that, my ass was planted and didn’t move. First was Christopher Penczak, “Avalon: The Isle of Nine Morgans”. Spoiler alert, this was my favorite talk of the event. It was a little all over the place but that was good because I wanted to actually hear more about Guinevere, Lancelot, and Arthur! Christopher, don’t just take on the Morgans in your writings, cover the whole Arthur mythology.

Christopher Penczak getting his groove on.

Then Raven Grimassi spoke about “The Mystery of Reincarnation and the Inner Teachings of the Sacred Tree”. As always, Grimassi was an excellent speaker and I’m always touched by the gratitude he shows at the end of his talks. I felt like such a Celebrate Samhain hipster. When someone asked me if I enjoyed his talk I said, “His talk was quite good; touched on a lot of themes from a talk he gave at a Celebrate Samhain 3 years ago.” It’s true! Those actual words came out of my mouth. If you haven’t been to 4 years of Celebrate Samhain, you just can’t hang.

Raven Grimassi working his mojo.

The last speaker for the day was Dorothy Morrison who’s topic was “Magic Down and Dirty”. I had never seen Morrison speak before and she is a total hoot. A fun Southern accent, beautiful fingernails, glittering jewelry, and a great black scoop neck shirt. She’s definitely a character that’s not to be missed.

A not entirely great photo of the lovely Dorothy Morrison.

With all the talks out of the way it was time to rock! That’s when Frenchy and the Punk took the stage. This is when long time Magical Buffet readers can all be hipsters by saying, “I knew them when they were The Gypsy Nomads.” As always, they were fantastic! So full of energy. The Celebrate Samhain crowd loves Frenchy and the Punk! They demanded more songs and when Samantha (aka Frenchy) asked for titles the crowd eagerly provided fan favorites.

Samantha and Scott kicking ass and taking names.

Coordinators Jess G. and Kevin Satoris with all their volunteers put together a great event. Their hard work has made Celebrate Samhain an amazing even that I look forward to every year and I suspect I’m not the only one. (Readers that offered input on The Magical Buffet’s Facebook page, I’m wearing the Hello Kitty shirt you guys picked!)

(left to right) Jess, Me, Kevin Satoris

The 90s Were Totally Sweet

When I was given the chance to review “The Totally Sweet ‘90s: From Clear Cola to Furby and Grunge to ‘Whatever,’ the Toys, Tastes, and Trends That Defined a Decade” I thought, sure the 90s were fun but do we really need a book devoted to them? I mean, it’s so recent. Then it hit me. The 90s were actually quite a while ago. You know, I graduated from high school in the mid-nineties. You know what else? I’m getting seriously old. What the hell universe?

Where was I? Oh yeah, “The Totally Sweet ‘90s”. Holy crap there was a lot of stuff that happened in the nineties and authors Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont manage to squeeze it all in to one book! Each entry includes a status to let you know what’s going on with it now and also a fun fact. But I know what you’re thinking, Rebecca, what’s in that fun little book that you’ll share?

Hmmmm, shall it be Pogs? Or perhaps “Clarissa Explains it All”? Maybe Zima? Possibly “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”? However, I’ve chosen perhaps my favorite thing……that’s right readers, “Pop Up Video”.

The 1990s were all about multitasking, and music videos were no exception. Why just veg out in front of an ordinary video when you could watch a video paired with “Beavis and Butt-Head” commentary or one adorned with “Pop Up Video’s” cartoony word bubbles?

The best pop-ups told you something hilarious like one on a Rick Astley video pointing out a dancer who never learned the steps, or confiding that the director and producer had a two-hour fight about whether Astley should roll up his sleeves. Awesomely, the writers of the pop-ups seemed to have the same bemused contempt for the music industry as the rest of us, never failing to point out where the producers cheaped out on a set or the singer was replaced with a stand in.

Watching “Pop Up Video” was like kicking back with your friend with your friend who worked as the third director’s assistant and letting him dish about the scene where Meat Loaf fell off his chair or snark that Dexys Midnight Runners fired their drummer midway through the shoot. The pop-ups were like musical footnotes, but footnotes that were more often entertaining than the real text.

Status: “Pop Up Video” popped off the air for a time in 2002 but was revived by VH1 in 2011.

Fun Fact: “Pop Up Brady” gave the pop up treatment to old “Brady Bunch” episodes. One pop-up on the famed Kings’ Island episode claims Robert Reed saved the cast’s life by spotting a poorly mounted camera that would have flown off a roller coaster and possibly killed the actors.

Pop Up Sugar Ray

With concise, but entertaining write ups, that include updates on where they are now and tidbits of trivia; “The Totally Sweet 90s” is a great party book. An amusing stroll down memory lane, reminding us of the good (“Clerks”), the bad (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), and the ugly (Gak).

Music Copyright Infringement Project

Something interesting turned up in ye olde’ email inbox. Did you know that there is an online music copyright infringement archive? Well there is. Are you not entirely sure what that means? Remember when Vanilla Ice spent time telling us that his “Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun” wasn’t like Queen and David Bowie’s “Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun”? That was a music copyright infringement case, and now I learned there is an archive online dedicated to preserving that legacy!

This archive I didn’t know existed just moved to the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. According to the press release, “USC Gould is honored to sponsor the Music Copyright Infringement Project,” said Jonathan Barnett, academic director of USC Gould’s Entertainment and Media Law Program. “This is an absolute treasure trove and further cements our reputation in entertainment and intellectual property law.”

Obviously this is an important tool for those studying musical copyright law, or music history, but it is also looking like a great place for music nuts like me! The press release says, “The project offers complete summaries of famous and under-the-radar music copyright infringement cases dating back to 1845, including claims leveled against Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, George Harrison and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The multimedia collection allows visitors to play disputed songs to hear similarities – or dissimilarities – for themselves. They may also compare music scores of disputed works, and view clips of films, television shows, and advertisements at the center of lawsuits.”

You can visit the site at http://mcir.usc.edu/.

The Lonely Life of CFBDSIR2149-0403

On November 14, 2012 the BBC World News website posted a story about a “rogue planet” in anticipation of its appearance in “Astronomy and Astrophysics”. These rogues aren’t that uncommon, but what’s special about this one is that it is our closest neighbor at 100 light-years away.

The article says that these rogue planets are formed much like stars but they just never reach a star’s full mass (There is a late years Elvis or Brando joke there but I just can’t put I finger on it.), or they form the way planets normally do but are then thrown out of their host star’s orbit. Kind of like if the Earth were suddenly flung out of the Sun’s orbit, but like millions of years ago, not right this minute. Right this minute would suck.

A team went looking for these planets using the Canada France Hawaii VLT. (VLT stands for Very Large Telescope. Seriously people, I can’t make that kind of stuff up! See? Science can be totally accessible.) Etienne Artigau, co-author of the study, is quoted in the article as saying they “observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighborhood.”

According to the article, this rogue planet, named CFBDSIR2149-0403, is believed to be 50 – 120 million years old. That’s a long time for a planet to be out there without a star to call its own. And it will continue to be “homeless”, a “rogue”, and “orphaned” until the sky ceases to be. It’s an interesting scientific discovery, but I also find it a rather sad, lonesome story.

Study co-author Philippe Delorme didn’t say it made him “sad”, but in the BBC article he did say, “If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space.”

This rarely happens, but for some reason, this story made me immediately think of the song “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” by Moby. Some may know it from the movie “Heat”. Anyway, here’s a YouTube of the song. If you want the complete “Rebecca” experience, you can start the music on the video and the start reading the BBC World News article and see if they go together for you like they did for me.

God speed CFBDSIR2149-0403, God speed.

The Whole Metric Album

I’m so very happy! Not too long ago I was complaining to my husband that iTunes killed the full length album. It seems like the more pop oriented artists just make a bunch of singles and they happen to end up together in case, if by some fluke, you want to purchase them all instead of one at a time for .99 as you discover them. Of course, if you decided like a madman to buy the whole Madonna “MDNA” album; don’t worry about hearing the songs “Give Me All Your Luvin'” or “I Don’t Give A” when selecting the album to listen to on your iPod. You see, Madonna had the nerve to collaborate with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on those songs respectively and thusly iTunes has decided that those song are now special, independent songs that now live entirely on their own and unless you take matters into your own hands you will never hear the “MDNA” album whole, as the artist intended. All this annoys the hell out of me because I believe in the album. I live by the rule of, if you like three songs, you buy the album. Sometimes I’ll buy on only two songs if I really like them, and I’ll even buy on none if I loved the previous album. But I almost always buy the whole album and listen to the whole thing. That’s why I’m so happy that I recently bought an album. A really good album. An album that even had a theme running through it. An album that reminds me why I buy albums; Metric “Synthetica”.

Some readers may remember that all the way back in 2009 I wrote a review of Metric’s previous album “Fantasies”. Obviously I liked that album if I took the time to review it. Well my friends, as much as I enjoyed “Fantasies” I have to say “Synthetica” kicks its ass.

“Synthetica” explores some kinds of heavy, but pretty relatable ideas and questions. Songs explore aging, disillusionment, wondering if you’re being true to yourself, etc. This theme is stretched so far that album’s lyrics and track list are printed backwards and included with the album is foil so you can read the words in the reflection. Now before you all zone out on me, thinking that this is one bummer of a concept album, I’m here to tell you where the rest of the awesome is…..it’s not one long drag.

Musically Metric works double time to rock you. I bought “Synthetica” while the weather was still warm out. I was playing it full volume in the car with both windows and the moon roof open and losing track of my speed. It’s that kind of sound. I do not often notice drums, but the drums at times are brutal. On the title track I swear the drummer had to have gone straight through the drums.

The opening track, “Artificial Nocturne” starts out slow, but it’s compelling with the opening line of, “I’m just as fucked up as they say.” Your curiosity following this is rewarded as the song opens up into a New Wave sound that would make New Order proud.

Then hold onto your hats as the single from the album, “Youth Without Youth” kicks in!

This one’s got a nice bouncy, driving, 80s vibe that I love. “Breathing Underwater”.

And here’s the title track, “Synthetica”. By the end the drums are kind of epic, right?

That was three songs. Go out and buy the whole album!

The Tibetans and The Grateful Dead

By Huston Smith

Mickey Hart, a drummer for the erstwhile Grateful Dead, is also a serious ethnomusicologist who now works with the Smithsonian Institution. Fascinated by the Tibetan monks’ multiphonic chanting, he put the infrastructure of the Dead to work and helped organize six sellout coast-to-coast tours with twelve of the Gyuto monks.

One evening the monks were returning to Mickey’s ranch, in Northern California, after a performance in the University of California’s Zellerbach Auditorium, in Berkeley. When the van reached the Marin side of the Richmond Bridge, out of the blue the monks asked the driver to pull over to the side of the road. They told Mickey that they sensed evil in the vicinity, and they wanted to alleviate it. Little did they know that at that moment they were passing San Quentin, a maximum-security penitentiary. Visibly moved, they asked if they could go into the prison and bless the inmates.

Mickey was skeptical, but he asked the sentry on duty, who referred the matter to his superior. The monks were admitted to the entrance, which was separated from the prison proper by about twelve yards. On the opposite side was an electric fence featuring elevated cages, which housed sharpshooters with cocked rifles.

The prison chaplain told us about a Christian group of prisoners who met regularly to pray and sing hymns. They were summoned, and for about half an hour they alternated with the monks, one group singing and praying, and the other group chanting. The monks were so moved by their encounter with the prisoners that they returned several times to repeat the ritual.

Later, I accompanied Mickey to the San Francisco Airport to say farewell to the monks, who where returning to India, for their final tour had ended. As the stairs for boarding the plane descended to the runway, the monks regrouped themselves and chanted a farewell blessing on the land that they were leaving. The passengers in the corridor who were proceeding to their departure gates were so captivated they stopped and clustered around the monks, listening intently. As the last monk disappeared into the plane and the door was closing, a woman asked us in wide-eyed wonder, “What was that all about?”

As if to answer her emphatically, Mickey shouted out to the departing monks the famous line from Star Wars, “May the Force be with you!”

Then, turning to me, Mickey said, “What am I saying? May the Force be with me! They already have it!”

About Huston Smith:
Huston Smith is recognized and revered as the preeminent teacher of world religions. Smith has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He has written fifteen books, including the classic “The World’s Religions”, which has sold over two million copies in many translations, and the New York Times bestseller “Why Religion Matters”. He has been bestowed with twelve honorary degrees and was the focus of the five-part television series “The Wisdom of Faith” hosted by Bill Moyers.

From the book “And Live Rejoicing”. Copyright © 2012 Huston Smith. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com

Revisiting Dr. Dee

Do any of you guys remember about a year ago when I talked about the opera “Doctor Dee”? Well for those of you who missed it, Damon Albarn (best known for his work with Blur and Gorillaz) joined forces with Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, and an orchestra to do an opera about the Elizabethan era alchemist, occultist, and scholar John Dee. As a music lover and occult nerd I was immediately smitten with this bizarre idea and bummed that I wasn’t in England to see a performance. Then I learned that Damon Albarn released an album of the music titled “Dr. Dee”. It would be mine, oh yes, it would be mine.

It’s all the same players, Albarn, Allen, and the orchestra is the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. You find songs titled, “Edward Kelley”, “The Golden Dawn”, “A Man of England”, “9 Point Star”. The music is enjoyable and atmospheric. I had never noticed, until this album, how beautifully delicate Albarn’s singing voice can be. All of that said, this is definitely not a play it every day CD, or at least not for me. It’s not the right vibe for playing in the car while running errands, not for perhaps coming out of your computer speakers while trolling around Facebook. It’s not really pop. There is no rock. It is an opera, lightly sprinkled at times with a rock musician’s voice and sensibilities. None of that is to put down the album, it’s just something that should be understood if you’re considering picking up your own copy, which would be cool if you did.

Man I wish I could see Dr. Dee live! Take a look at this short video that shows clips of it being performed along with the reactions of those who saw it.

Here’s a music video for one of the more pop-ish songs from the album called “The Marvelous Dream”.

Why John Dee? Here’s a 7 minute interview Damon Albarn did with the Guardian about Dr. Dee.

25 Years of Graceland

What can I say about Paul Simon? First and most importantly, don’t come to my website and bad mouth the man’s music because I will cut you. I. Will. Cut. You. I used to entertain the whimsical notion that somehow we were related because I’m a Simon and he’s a Simon and we both have roots in the Eastern region of the U.S. There’s absolutely no way we are, but I’d still joke about “Uncle Paul”. One of my friends in school called me, and in fact still does, Pauley to reference that my last name at the time was Simon and that I was such a big fan of Paul Simon’s music. I can’t remember when I first heard Paul Simon, that’s how long his music has been a part of my life. Musically speaking, just about the only thing my father and I can agree on is Paul Simon. In fact, at my wedding the father daughter dance was to the song “Still Crazy After All These Years”. (That’s right brides, read this and despair for my father daughter song was SO much cooler than yours.)

It’s hard for me to pick an absolute favorite Paul Simon, but like so many people, his album “Graceland” is damn close to perfection. That is why I was pretty excited for the release of the 25th anniversary edition. It’s amusing. I had put it on my Amazon wish list with the intention of buying a copy for myself and another one for my father for Father’s Day. However, instead my aunt bought a copy for me from my wish list for my birthday leaving us to just purchase one copy for my father. Zany Amazon.com shenanigans. Here’s the deal though, for a really reasonable price, like under $20, you can get the 25th anniversary “Graceland” album which includes 6 bonus tracks and Simon telling the story of “Graceland” AND you’ll get the DVD documentary “Under African Skies” which isn’t some shoddy piece o’ crap thing, it’s done by Joe Berlinger, the guy who did the Metallica documentary “Some Kind of Monster” and a handful of music videos. That’s a hell of a lot of “Graceland” going on, so what’s the big deal?

Paul Simon’s “Graceland” is generally credited with introducing African music and musicians to the West. The biggest being Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Many point out that during a time when most American’s experience with Africans was seeing starving children in television ads, “Graceland” introduced America to a jubilant, celebratory people. It’s true that much of the music on “Graceland” is mid or up tempo, although to be honest with you all, I always found the songs on “Graceland” haunting. Lyrically I found they lingered in my mind and the songs still do. Unlike much of the other music I listened to in 1986, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” still speaks as relevantly today as it did the day it was released. A pretty impressive hat trick. Of course, he is Paul Simon. Oh, and if you watch the documentary and hear Simon talk about the level of work he put into writing the lyrics your mind will be blown. I once heard comedian Louis CK talk on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about when he develops a real strong closing 5 minutes to his routine, the kind that drives the audience wild, he’ll cut it so he’ll be forced to make the rest of the act stronger. Paul Simon kind of worked like that writing the lyrics for “Graceland”. The stuff that survived, whoa.

So obviously I love the album, and was tickled to have the few extra demos and alternative versions that the 25th anniversary version of “Graceland” offered. Here’s the thing though, the documentary “Under African Skies” was a really big deal for me. First, it was incredibly exciting as a fan to see so much footage of the actual recording sessions of Simon in South Africa with all the artists. And the documentary is loaded with interviews, some with unexpected people such as; David Byrne, Oprah, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney, and Vampire Weekend. The biggest thing with “Under African Skies” was it opening my eyes to the before now unknown to me controversy that surrounded Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. I was 10 years old when “Graceland” released. I didn’t know about apartheid in South Africa, I didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was or that he was in prison, and I didn’t know there was a cultural boycott that Simon essentially broke when he made “Graceland”. I didn’t know there was a situation. As if that wasn’t enough drama, certain segments of the African American community looked at “Graceland” as Simon basically using Africans. There was a particularly brutal exchange when Simon was doing a Q&A at Howard University and a student was accusing Simon of simply stealing music from African artists. Simon asked the student something like, don’t you think we can share ideas? And the student’s answer was in effect, if it’s with you, no. You think I will cut you? No one talks to my Uncle Paul like that! Forget I will cut you, I will take a sledgehammer straight to the crotch of those parachute pants! There were bomb threats called in to venues Paul Simon was scheduled to perform at while touring with “Graceland”. Bomb threats to Paul Simon shows.

Watching “Under African Skies” gave me a new appreciation of “Graceland” and its role in music, and cultural, history. It’s easy now that we’re on the other side of apartheid to say, well, it worked out so how Simon went about making “Graceland” was okey dokey. I don’t know how 10 year-old Rebecca would have reacted at the time. I suspect in extremes. Either “Everyone leave Uncle Paul alone, he’s the greatest and he knows what he’s doing” or “Oh no! Uncle Paul condones apartheid!’ Adult Rebecca knows that apartheid was absolutely bad, bad, bad, but who am I tell artists in America or Africa how to react in the face of injustice and cruelty. If Simon and his band of truly merry, wonderful South African artists hadn’t thrown caution to the wind, the world may never have known “Graceland”, and in my opinion, that would be a terrible world to live in.

Here’s Paul Simon performing the title track “Graceland” live in Zimbabwe. Back in ’87 Zimbabwe was a more stable location to perform than South Africa. How times have changed, right gang?

And here’s another favorite of mine, “The Boy in the Bubble”. It’s amazing how the lyrics could very well be about today. Even the sound is modern. Uncle Paul is pretty cool.

STUFF!

While I’ve been sitting on the sofa letting my ass get wide working my way through old seasons of “Chuck” and “Numb3rs”, and getting sucked into new television like “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” (Damn you Hulu!), friends of The Magical Buffet have been actually accomplishing things. So much so that I’m way past due in giving you guys the rundown on all that has been going on.

My friends at the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society have a new website going. It has many of the same features as before, like a chat room and forum, but the upgraded site now also gives them the capability to broadcast investigations live online! Nifty, right? If you haven’t checked them out before, now is the time. www.nnyprs.com

Remember Paula Chaffee Scardamalia who wrote the wonderful essay “Weaving a Woman’s Life” for The Buffet? And how she had a wonderful book, shockingly titled, “Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom”? Well that book is now available as an e-book! Also, her more current work under the umbrella of “Divining the Muse” has a beautiful new website! You can learn more about getting a copy of “Weaving a Woman’s Life” (with free PDF downloadable journal) and her other fascinating work with creativity by visiting her newly refreshed website www.diviningthemuse.com.

Apparently this is the time of year for website upgrades (Jim, get on that!), because New Age musician, and long time friend of The Buffet, Paul Avgerinos just gave the Round Sky Music and Studio Unicorn websites a complete overhaul! You may remember I just talked about Avgerinos’ “Bliss” album in October 2011. In case you’re wondering, it’s still relaxing.

There has also been interesting news out from The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. I received this press release that I think will be of great interest to many of you.

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University is pleased to announce the launch of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape, a website documenting and resourcing the interfaith movement in the United States. Dr. Diana Eck, a professor at Harvard University and director of the Pluralism Project explains, “While interfaith organizations play a vital role in cities and towns across America, their critical contributions to our multireligious society are often overlooked.”

The Pluralism Project has been researching religious diversity in the United States for the past two decades; however, America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape represents an in-depth pilot study of interfaith efforts in twenty cities across the U.S. Since 9/11, interfaith initiatives on the national scene have gained prominence and are increasingly covered in major media outlets for their outstanding work, yet few have chronicled interfaith efforts at the grassroots level. This pilot project documents the richly diverse interfaith movement as it continues to develop in the United States. Initiatives include: an innovative community video project in Omaha, Nebraska; a thriving women’s interfaith network in Syracuse, New York; and a long-standing, replicable tradition of a festival of faiths in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Diana Eck explains the importance of this new resource as a starting point for scholars, activists, students, and citizens:

“Ten years after 9/11, the need for inter-religious understanding and cooperation has never been greater. Interfaith organizations create innovative programs to engage and educate – they also offer a counter-narrative amidst the rising rhetoric of division. People of all ages and beliefs from across the country are collaborating in the arts, social services, youth leadership programs, and civic initiatives at unprecedented levels. New forms of dialogue are emerging as we speak.”

The Pluralism Project invites activists, students, educators, and community members to share their own story of the interfaith movement by submitting a short audio or written piece that may be included in the storytelling portal of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape.

The site, www.pluralism.org/interfaith, includes promising practices, leadership profiles, case studies, and multimedia features; a summary report of the findings from this pilot study is also available.

Lastly, (I know! Freakin’ EVERYONE has been doing stuff except me!) remember Avi Glijansky, creator, writer, and director of the awesome web series “The Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros”? Well sadly he isn’t back with season 2 yet (where I secretly hope to get a cameo as God), but he is part of something new and fun that I thought I would bring to your attention; “The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club”.

In a world full of secrets, lies, and depravity, there are some crimes that the police are just too mainstream to handle. Enter: The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club. The heroes Silver Lake deserves but hasn’t necessarily heard of yet.

It’s an over the top hipster noir Scooby Doo adventure, filled with actors you may recognize from “Cupid and Eros”. Here’s part one to try out!

I guess this is a reminder that it’s time to get up and get moving! It’s time to innovate, to reinvent, to create! I’ll get right to that after this next episode of “Chuck”.

The Brute Chorus is Coming!

Very rarely I’ll receive an email from a music promoter about a solo artist or band. Rarer still, will said email catch my interest in any way. The last time this worked I was introduced to the wild and wonderful world of The Gypsy Nomads (now known as Frenchy and the Punk). However when I received an email about a band called The Brute Chorus that said their music is a, “wild blend of garage rock, blues, and folk music with lyrics populated with characters from Greek mythology and Grimm’s fairytales” and it also mentioned they have been support for Ida Maria (whose album, “Fortress Round My Heart”, you may remember I LOVED), I knew I had to see what the heck this was all about.

Let’s talk about truth in advertising! The Brute Chorus album “How the Caged Bird Sings” fits the bill to a tee.

“Could This Be Love?”

“Heaven”

I liked what I heard so much I went ahead and picked up the 2009 live album too because…..

“All the Pilgrims”

But the big news for The Brute Chorus and for the United States is that they’re coming here for the first time ever for several showcases during the SXSW festival in Austin, TX! The thing is, they’re in indie band in Britain, so getting to Texas is a pretty big task. If you like what you’ve heard, why not hop on over to iTunes or Amazon.com and download their albums? They’re both under $10 each. Better still, if you’re really inspired you can check out their fundraising page on Indie Gogo. There you can contribute cash toward Visa interviews, hiring a van, getting their instruments through customs, and more, and be rewarded with signed CDs and t-shirts!

To learn more about The Brute Chorus, you can visit their website.