Think Before You Pink 2017

Let’s get ready to rumble folks! It’s Think Before You Pink 2017 and this year is a great campaign. With this year’s campaign, “Knot Our Pink Ribbon”, Breast Cancer Action is taking the original pinkwasher Estee Lauder to task. And as a makeup and skincare enthusiast, I am all for it.

Estee Lauder, along with many other cosmetic/skincare companies, have profited on selling the idea of beauty and vitality, while not being forthcoming with consumers about the components of their products. America’s cosmetic industry is surprisingly under regulated putting the consumer in a position to try and understand exactly what it is they are putting on their skin.

Estee Lauder commandeered the pink ribbon from hard core, grassroots, activist Charlotte Haley to help bring more “awareness” to breast cancer, and yet today they create products that included ingredients suspected of increasing breast cancer risk, such as parabens and octinoxate.

I’m happy to participate in the “Knot Our Pink Ribbon” campaign. Hopefully it will be a signal not just to Estee Lauder, but to all cosmetic and skincare companies that it is time to consider the health of their consumers.

To learn more, and send message to Estee Lauder, visit: https://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/2017/10/join-us-in-putting-a-knot-in-the-pink-ribbon/

Oberon Award for Master Wizard

On June 21, 2017 The Grey School of Wizardry announced the first annual “Oberon Award for Master Wizard.” This award is given by the Grey School to recognize public figures who have exhibited visionary wisdom in their lives and works, and who exemplify and/or portray the ideals of Wizardry through outstanding life work dedicated toward the betterment of humankind and of the planet. This is a lifetime achievement award, and is given only once to any individual.

This award of recognition for “Master Wizard” is named in honor of renowned Wizard Oberon Zell, Founder and Headmaster of the Grey School of Wizardry, and an esteemed Elder in the worldwide magickal community since the early 1960s.

The 2017 Award Recipients are:

Science at the Edge: Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey)

Visionary Technology and Philanthropy: William Henry “Bill” Gates III & Elon Reeve Musk

Film Production: Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) & George Lucas (Star Wars)

Film Portrayal—Wizard: Sir Ian Murray McKellen (as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings)

Film Portrayal—Witch: Dame Maggie Smith (as Minerva McGonegal in Harry Potter)

Television Portrayal—Wizard or Witch: Alyson Lee Hannigan (as Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Magickal Literature: J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)

Graphic Novels/Comics: writer: Neil Gaimon (Books of Magic; Sandman; The Dreaming)

Visual Artist: J. H. Williams III (Promethea)

Bardic Arts: Enya Patricia Brennan

Illusion Magic: David Copperfield

Wizardry

Wizardry means “wisdom.” Just as artistry is the craft of an Artist, wizardry is the craft of a Wizard—literally, a “wise one.” Wizards were the first scientists—science means “knowledge,” as wizardry means “wisdom.” Philosophy means “love of wisdom,” and “natural philosophy” was the term used for science up through the 19th century. Many noteworthy scientists are referred to as “Wizards” in their biographies, and brilliant computer engineers today are commonly called “Wizards.” Thomas Edison was known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Steve Jobs was called “The Wizard of Silicon Valley,” and Warren Buffet has been nicknamed the “Wizard of Omaha.”

The Grey School of Wizardry

The Grey School of Wizardry was incorporated as a non-profit Educational Institution in California on March 14, 2005; and in 2007, received a 501(c)(3) from the IRS for charitable and educational purposes. The Grey School provides an extensive program of arcane and Classical studies for youth and adult students.

As a secular online facility of esoteric education, the Grey School is dedicated to preserving the arcane arts and crafts of the past (i.e. “The Wisdom of the Ages”) for generations to follow. The core of those teachings is the School motto: Omnia vivunt; omnia inter se conexa (“everything is alive; everything is interconnected.”).

Learn more about The Grey School of Wizardry here.

Prison Evangelism

I received an interesting press release that I’d like to share, along with some personal observations. First, let’s take a look at the press release:

Oil industry veteran David Howell is working a rich new harvest field—saving souls and reducing the prison population through a graphic guidebook, allowing public funds to be diverted to other pressing needs.

Mailing copies of his How To Be a Child of God to prisoners for just 54 cents a copy offers a remarkable 7,000-to-1 return on investment, according to Howell. That’s because keeping someone from returning to prison by helping them find new life and hope as a Christian saves around $31,000 a year in incarceration costs.

With a record 2 million-plus people currently behind bars in the United States, Howell now wants to expand the reach of his Prison Evangelism project by distributing an additional 600,000 free copies of How To Be a Child of God to prison chaplains nationwide. Doing so responds to Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 25 for his followers to remember those in prison, who have an extremely high conversion rate when presented with the gospel.

“Imagine the impact we can have, not only on individuals and their families, but on society as a whole, as they find new purpose and power for living and put prison behind them,” Howell said.

Prison Evangelism research on distribution to date shows that one in 10 people who reads the 52-page booklet makes a commitment to Christ. That means if the national campaign saw a similar response and those impacted did not return to prison, the saving to taxpayers would be $2.1 billion annually. Additionally, the reduced inmate population would be equivalent to closing 60 prisons.

The owner of Houston-based pipeline consulting firm Pipeline Equities, who began working in the oil and gas fields as a 14-year-old “roughneck,” Howell has been active in sharing his faith since becoming a Christian in 1984. That decision “turned my life around,” forsaking drinking and wayward living, he said.

Involved in a wide range of other ministries at Houston’s Second Baptist Church, Howell created How To Be a Child of God in 2010 to pass out to people he met. Asked to provide some copies for use in prisons, he was amazed by the response. Letters began to come in from prisoners transformed by what they read. Among them was a man in jail in Midway, Texas, who wrote how the book touched his heart. “This book has been an inspiration to me. It opened my eyes to some great things and I soaked it all up like a sponge. I’ve finally put my life in His hands after all I’ve been through. Now I’m growing spiritually every day,” he said.

Since then, Howell has printed and distributed more than 110,000 copies to prison chaplains across the country, including 25,000 in Spanish. The book has been translated into a dozen languages, and turned into a 20-minute online video (www.howtobeachildofgod.com). He has also produced two popular follow-up books in similar style, Seeking God Through Prayer & Meditation and Fully Alive and Finally Free.

Howell credits the impact of the publications, written at a sixth-grade reading level, to their simple language and the emphasis on being transformed by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Additionally, as a standalone piece that can be reread and studied by prisoners who may be isolated or have time on their hands, it self-directs the reader into making a commitment to Christ without requiring others’ involvement.

“These are people who have come to an end of themselves, and that is where all of us must come before we are willing to accept the need for a power greater than ourselves,” said Howell.

John Salmon, chaplain at Diboll Correctional Center in Diboll, Tex., said that How To Be a Child of God had been “very popular” with the men there. “They actually read it,” he wrote. “And you know what happens when people expose themselves to the Word of God.”

George Hanson put copies out for chapel services at the Price Daniel Unit in Snyder, Texas, “and they flew out of the door,” he said.

Having poured more than $300,000 of his own money into the project, Howell formed Prison Evangelism as a nonprofit a couple of years ago. Now 77, with three granddaughters and a great-grandson, he said, “I know that this is the reason God is keeping alive, for this project. It is what he designed and created me to do.”

Before deciding to feature this on my site I asked to receive a copy of “How to Be a Child of God” to read for myself. And although I’m not a Christian lass, I found nothing offensive in the book. It’s essentially a simply written book, with full color illustrations, instructing you on how to accept Jesus Christ into your life. The book also has a section about introducing others to Jesus Christ and I liked the part where it said, “we are not seeking to make bad people good, but spiritually dead people alive”. Making sure that they understand that just because a person hasn’t accepted Jesus Christ doesn’t make them a bad person, just different. The focus of the book is on the internal life of the individual, it’s not a vehicle of radicalization.

I think it’s nice that Howell has found something like this to put his energy into. I believe in prison outreach be it through assorted chaplains, yoga and meditation classes, service dog training, or any number of other programs that are out there. Yes prison is a punishment, but it should be a place that offers rehabilitation too.

Prison Evangelism (www.prisonevangelism.com) is a faith-based nonprofit committed to transforming and rehabilitating offenders through the distribution of “How to Be a Child of God” and other evangelistic and discipleship materials designed to help prisoners find new purpose and power in life through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

People’s Climate March

This information was provided by People’s Climate March & the Sierra Club.

In the wake of the Women’s Marches, activists have announced a major People’s Climate March on April 29th in Washington, D.C. and across the country. The effort is being organized by the coalition formed out of 2014’s People’s Climate March, which brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York City and many more around the world.

The April 29th march comes in response to widespread outrage against President Trump’s disastrous anti-climate agenda – including his executive orders advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines – as well as his attacks on healthcare, immigrants, and programs and policies that improve the lives of all Americans. The event will cap off 100 days of action to fight Trump’s proposals to reverse climate action, dismantle our government and hand power over to the one percent.

Over 145 protests in local communities took place across the country in the first 100 hours of the Trump presidency, demonstrating widespread opposition to the administration’s anti-environment and corporate agenda as part of an ongoing campaign organized by the People’s Climate Movement.

The People’s Climate Movement grew out of the largest climate march in U.S. history in New York in September of 2014, creating a groundbreaking coalition of green and environmental justice groups, labor unions, faith, students, indigenous peoples and civil rights groups working to advance a climate agenda rooted in economic and racial justice.

With the 100 days of action and April march, this coalition will leverage their power once again, to resist the Trump administration and corporate leaders’ efforts to thwart or reverse progress towards a more just America.

Now more than ever, it will take everyone to change everything. So, the People’s Climate Movement is calling on everyone to join in resisting Trump, his crooked administration and the one percent who are running our country.

For more information on The People’s Climate Movement and the mobilization on April 29th, please visit: https://peoplesclimate.org/

Remote Area Medical

Like many Americans, I hope most Americans, I follow the national debate about the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). Readers with a longish memory may recall I took the time to read the original, infamous 1,018 page health care bill when it seemed like no one was going to bother. This is why when I got word of a new documentary being released I wanted to make sure to share it with you.

During the U.S. debate about healthcare reform, the media—reporters and news crews and filmmakers— failed to put a human face on what it means to not have access to healthcare. “Remote Area Medical” fills that gap—it is a film about people, not policy. Focusing on a single three-day clinic held in the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, “Remote Area Medical” affords us an insider’s perspective on the ebb and flow of the event—from the tense 3:30 a.m. ticket distribution that determines who gets seen to the routine check-ups that take dramatic turns for the worse, to the risky means to which some patients resort for pain relief. We meet a doctor who also drives an 18-wheeler, a denture maker who moonlights as a jeweler, and the organization’s founder, Stan Brock, who first imagined Remote Area Medical while living as a cowboy in the Amazon rainforest, hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor. But it is the extraordinary stories of the patients, desperate for medical attention, that create a lasting impression about the state of modern health care in America.

Born in Lancashire, England, Stan Brock is perhaps best known for his years as the co-host of NBC’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” from 1963-1971.

In 1985 Stan Brock founded Remote Area Medical (RAM). Since then RAM has mobilized over 80,000 volunteers and healthcare professionals to deliver over $75,000,000 worth of free quality medical procedures and services. He has addressed The United States Congress on the needs of providing free quality healthcare to those who cannot afford it nor have direct access to it. Stan has received numerous accolades for his work with Remote Area Medical, including the prestigious Inamori Ethics Prize for humanitarian leaders in 2010 and CNN’s Hero Award in 2012.

I can tell just from the trailer I’m going to need a tissue or two to get through this one, but I’m so totally going to watch it.

“Remote Area Medical” opens in New York on November 28, 2014 and nationwide on December 5, 2014.

UPDATE: A bit of news broke shortly after I wrote this up. It looks like NYC was going to have a visit from Remote Area Medical on November 28, 2014 to provide free health care to those who were willing to make the trip and lucky enough to get picked in the lottery. However New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to cancel the event. You can read the details here. (It’s written by the directors/producers of the documentary.)

Biocultural Landscape

On September 30, 2014 The Christensen Fund launched the “Biocultural Landscape,” an interactive web portal that illustrates the intricate connections that determine the vitality of Indigenous communities and ecosystems across the globe. A biocultural landscape is an intertwined holistic system that has been shaped by human management over a long periods of time.

“We created this user-friendly channel to unpack the deep interplay between people and place, culture and ecology,” said Bea Calo, Director of Grantmaking for The Christensen Fund. “The co-evolution of humans and landscapes doesn’t just shape local environments but influences geopolitical forces and weather events, too.”

The “Biocultural Landscape” portal draws out links across six main sections: bounty, culture, inhabitants, cycles, beauty, and interconnections.

The culture section, for instance, explores how people have worked out the distribution of water and nutrients through an ecosystem, say, from a mountain top down to a valley. The knowledge of this biocultural phenomenon has led to physical interventions like canals and yielded cultural practices like unique water dispersal systems and decorative arts that attempt to capture the local environment.

The Christensen Fund hopes that users of the portal will come away with an understanding of the importance of “resilience” — that is, the ability of a landscape to withstand and recover from shocks and stresses from within and without. The more strong and positive interconnections in a landscape, the better it can withstand such shocks.

“With our new Biocultural Landscape feature, we’re hoping to break down the silos that characterize the fields of international development, health, conservation and philanthropy,” said Calo. “We’re championing a more holistic view of our world that emphasizes the interconnections among people and landscapes first.”

I visited the site and it is beautiful and informative. However don’t take my word for it, visit it at http://www.christensenfund.org/experience/biocultural-landscape/.

The Christensen Fund is a private foundation founded in 1957 and based in San Francisco, California. The Fund believes in the power of biological and cultural diversity to sustain and enrich a world faced with great change and uncertainty, and focuses on the biocultural — the rich but neglected adaptive interweave of people and place, culture and ecology. You can learn more about them at www.christensenfund.org.

World Sword Swallowing Day

Did you know that this Saturday is World Sword Swallowing Day? I didn’t until someone submitted this fun video to us.

Now that video is all well and good, but let’s take a brief look at some surprising reality about sword swallowing. In reviewing the press release about this year’s World Sword Swallowing Day I learned a lot. For instance, Sword Swallowers Association International President Dan Meyer states, “We established World Sword Swallower’s Day to promote this ancient art still carried on by a few dozen surviving performers — to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science, to honor veteran performers, and to raise funds for esophageal cancer research and the Injured Sword Swallower’s Relief Fund.”

Medical contributions? That’s right. I learned from further reading the release that in 1868 a sword swallower was used by Dr. Adolf Kussmaul in Freiburg Germany to develop the first rigid endoscopy. In 1906 a sword swallower underwent the first esophageal electrocardiogram in Wales. In the 1930’s sword swallower Delno Fritz died of pneumonia while testing a bronchialscope for doctors in Pennsylvania as a result of a screw that came loose and lodged in his lung.

To learn more about World Sword Swallowing Day, visit the Sword Swallowers Association International website! Until then, let’s check out a previous participant!

Think Before You Pink 2013

Here it is again, another October. Instead of stores being a sea of orange and black for Halloween they’re flooded with pink. Pink scissors, pink watches, pink hats, pink cameras, pink candy, of course pink ribbons, and so much more.

Each year I encourage you to take action and Think Before You Pink, and this year is no different. First, please consider donating to a great breast cancer charity like Breast Cancer Action. They take no donations from corporations that contribute to or profit from breast cancer. This way I know they’re beholden to no one when issuing statements of findings or when making calls to action. I donate to them every October. See:

Dear Rebecca,

Breast Cancer Action is deeply grateful for your generous online donation of $25 dated September 29, 2013. Thank you so much for your commitment to women’s health.

With your support, we will continue to:

• Put Patients First by ensuring that the FDA advances the needs of people over those of the pharmaceutical industry.

• Create Healthy Environments by reducing the involuntary environmental exposures that contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.

• Eliminate Social Inequities by creating awareness of the social injustices, rather than just genetics or personal decisions, that lead to inequities in breast cancer incidence and outcomes.

For the past 21 years, we’ve created a better world for those affected by breast cancer and, with your help, we’ll continue this important work. We are in the unique position to do this because we are one of the only national breast cancer organizations that refuses funding from corporations that profit from or contribute to cancer. This means that over 75% of our support comes from individuals just like you. We are deeply grateful.

Sincerely,

Karuna Jaggar
Executive Director

Second, you can watch the movie “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”. It’s available for streaming on Netflix.

“Who really benefits from the pink ribbon campaigns: the cause or the company? In showing the real story of breast cancer and the lives of those who fight it, this film reveals the co-opting of what marketing experts have labeled a ‘dream cause.’”

You can also get in touch with Breast Cancer Action about setting up a screening.

Lastly, I am SO fed up with “pink October” that in protest I have decided that I will wear absolutely NO PINK the entire month of October. And before you think this is a simple thing, I made a video showing you guys everything I’ll be giving up.

Not so easy, is it. If you feel like me, ditch your pink. Breast cancer has enough “awareness” what it really needs is money for research and support for the women and men dealing with this disease.

Banned Books Week 2013

It’s that magical time of the year when us freedom loving people get together and celebrate the fact that we get to read what we want, when we want, the end. That’s right, it’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982.

My favorite part of Banned Books Week is reviewing the updated banned and challenged book list. The list includes books that have banned or challenged from May 2012 to May 2013. The list includes 44 titles, and like every year you see some familiar faces and some stand out titles.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie – this book ends up on the list every year. I mean at this point people complaining about it is a snooze-fest to me. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood – I haven’t read this but I’m guessing a lot of you guys have. This was challenged as required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class and as optional reading for Advanced Placement reading courses at Grimsley High School because the book is “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt”. We’re talking about high school students, some of them can see R rated movies by themselves, I suspect they can handle Margaret Atwood, am I right? “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card – they don’t actually say what the problem is, but it has to be with the book, and not that the author is bat shit crazy. “Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies” by Laura Esquivel – this was removed from a reading list at Nampa, Idaho high school because it was considered too racy for sophomores. I can’t remember when it was that I read this book, but first, it was a pretty good book and kind of racy, and second, it was when I was in high school. I think we can say that I turned out all right. Not a word out of any of you! “Different Seasons” by Stephen King – this book was challenge but retained at Roklin California High School. What’s kind of funny about this is that some charities have you buy books for children and I always buy “Different Seasons” for high school aged children. According to some Roklin California parents I suck. FYI, if I can’t buy “Different Seasons” I pick up a copy of “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. Rebecca Elson, corrupting young minds via charity. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell – marked for removal in the Davis, Utah School District because parents might find it objectionable. Every year someone has to pick on poor old Tango. Why does everyone have to hate on same sex penguin couples just trying to raise their baby penguin the best they can in this crazy world. Did you know there are some sickos out there who buy “Different Seasons” for high school kids? See what they’re up against?

If you’d like to view the whole list, which I encourage you to check out because we didn’t even get into the schools banning whole subjects or the graphic novels that popped up, click here.

If you want to learn more visit the Banned Books Week website, or the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week site, or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

What Can You Say When Your Hero Dies?

What can you say when your hero dies?

For most of my life my female heroes were fictional. Seriously. Right into adulthood. I don’t know if it showed a lack of worldliness on my part (it probably did), but I’m a product of equal parts movie, television, and comic book women. However all of that changed when I saw the “Cancer” episode of “Penn & Teller’s Bullshit”.

That episode featured a woman named Barbara Brenner who represented an organization called Breast Cancer Action. She was bold, witty, and really didn’t seemed to care that she was on television. You could tell that what she was saying, she would say whether the camera was on or off. That got me to investigate Breast Cancer Action.

Those of you who have read this site for a while know what happened, I became a vocal supporter of the organization. Every October I highlight Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign and I also will occasionally post about other important work that they’re doing. This is all because of Barbara Brenner, who became my first real life female hero. Because of her Breast Cancer Action’s work was above reproach and they are able to speak truth to power.

Brenner, already having overcome breast cancer, left Breast Cancer Action in 2010 after being diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Even when she lost the ability to talk, she used text to speech software so her voice could be heard. She quickly became a known figure in the ALS activist community and still stayed involved to a certain extent with breast cancer issues as well. She started her own blog “Healthy Barbs” where she discussed her challenges.

Barbara Brenner passed away on May 10, 2013. And again, and again, I found myself asking, what can you say when your hero dies? Then at once I knew.

It’s only when a hero dies, that they can become a legend.

If you wish to honor Barbara Brenner and all the good that she stood for, she asked that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Barbara Brenner Rapid Response Fund at Breast Cancer Action.

If you want to learn more about Barbara Brenner, here are a couple of wonderful tributes:

http://bcaction.org/2013/05/11/in-memoriam-barbara-a-brenner-1951-2013/

http://breastcancerconsortium.net/in-honor-and-memory-of-barbara-brenner/