smelling blood, the news hound sticks his nose in a pile of manure

The things that pass for credible journalism these days are, well, incredible.

Trusted news source CNN thought they could get a leg up on the competition by identifying the person reportedly at the center of the Secret Service scandal.  Upon publicly identifying him, they also thought it might be a good idea to find his private residence and broadcast live from in front of it.  Well, CNN got a leg up alright, but in doing so resembled a dog at a fire hydrant, not a sprinter inching out ahead of the competition.  See for yourself:


I suppose CNN could say they got themselves a scoop, but I think what they got is more commonly served with a shovel.  I first saw this video clip at the break room at work, and couldn’t stop laughing, even though I was also quite disgusted.

I noticed that they have edited the video clip a little since then.   When I originally saw Brian Todd talking about neighbor comments, he dutifully reported that one neighbor remarked “Have you no sense of decency?”  I wonder if Todd was deftly offering on-air feedback about just what he thought of his assignment.  In any case, that quote was conveniently edited out of the clip above.

I’d commented before on the tendency of American journalism to publicly humiliate individuals in front of an audience of hundreds of millions.  It looks like CNN found another “freak of the week” to pick on, but in the process, truly made themselves look like the punch line to a joke.

One useful link for observing how American journalistic standards measure up against the world is a website called “WTF CNN?”  I think the title says it all.

the way things are meant to be? part 3 (you can lead a horse to community…)

I procrastinated on writing part three of this subject.  (Parts 1 and 2 were the first two posts in this blog.)   At first, I think the intent was dramatic pause but that simply gave way to procrastination.  Part of the struggle was in writing an answer to the rhetorical question asking “What’s a 21st century middle-aged American to do” about fostering a sense of togetherness.

First of all, truth be told, plenty of Americans have that in their lives.  Plenty of people have a tight circle of friends and family they can lean on at any time.  But I think it’s harder to foster that than it used to be.  Many people want such a tight circle but struggle to bring it in their lives.  A lot of times people, particularly parents, are too busy to really let other people into their lives.  Others are perfectly content to live in their own cocoons–either with a spouse, a family, or by themselves.

I’d mentioned before that I’d participated in the Global Walk for a Livable World and I have a page about it on this website.  We became a mobile intentional community that could not help but be around each other all the time.  We ended up being a very tight-knit bunch of people, to the extent that even those on the Walk that I wasn’t very close to still ended up feeling like a part of me.  When we found each other on Facebook it’s as if no time had passed between the end of the Walk and the present, and that felt especially true when we had our twenty-year reunion in Colorado.

So, okay, some answers, right?  That we live out of tents?  No, but intentional community?  That has the potential for some real answers.  Of course putting a bunch of people together in a house or on a piece of land might not automatically result in community, a feeling of connectedness with others.  It would still be easy for people to retreat into their own cocoons.  Furthermore, living together in community takes skills that not everyone has developed well.

I’ve lived eleven years of my life in community, nearly one-fourth of my life.  I’ve been living in co-op houses for the past 9 1/2 years.  I can say that a lot of times I’ve felt a strong sense of connectedness.  Other times the connectedness was weak, and there were a few instances where it was downright dysfunctional.  I think community is something to strive for, and I believe that there will come a time where it will be critical to our well-being.  I don’t think that day is too far away…

the giant kombucha mother that gobbled up the east side of madison

I have a new hobby.  Or should I say, a new hobby has me.

I have entered into a mutual cooperative working relationship with what biologists classify as a “zoogleal mat.”  (When I entered that term into Wikipedia, it redirected me to a page about “biofilm,” examples of which includes dental plaque and slime.)  It is also called a “SCOBY” which is an acronym for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast,” and is referred to most affectionately as a “kombucha mother.”

The arrangement is as follows:  I feed this aggregate of microorganisms tons of sugar and caffeine, and these microorganisms make kombucha for me, a delicious fizzy brew that tastes a bit like apple cider and which is reportedly full of antioxidants, probiotics and amino acids, while also helping  with the immune system and liver functions.

Living near the Willy Street Co-op, I found myself indulging in little $3 bottles of the brew. I fell in love with its complex flavor.  It reminded me of a good glass of wine (which is nice because I haven’t consumed alcohol since becoming a Baha’i in 2007), and I loved the fact that I could indulge in a fizzy drink guilt-free.

I’ve been wanting to drink something other than coffee in the morning–for me, a good cold and fizzy beverage does a better job waking me up than something so hot that I have to drink it slowly. Also, I’ve always liked my coffee white, and the complex operation of adding cream and sugar is just a bit too much for someone who doesn’t have very many synapses firing in his brain early in the morning.  But a 64 oz bottle of kombucha costs about $8 and I could see that this could become an expensive habit quite quickly–maybe not quite like Starbucks, but then again, to me Starbucks tastes like a freshly brewed ashtray.

At the beginning of March, I saw a sign in the checkout lane at Willy Street that advertised a kombucha making workshop.  Thirty dollars would pay for a one-hour workshop and would also include a free kombucha starter kit with a one-gallon jar, some starter tea, and my very own scoby.  I couldn’t resist.  The workshop was put on by two women who own NesAlla, a local business brewing and selling their own kombucha.  They are located in an old commercial building on Winnebago Street within walking distance of my house.

The rest is history.  I’ve started brewing more and more of the stuff.  A few weeks ago, I stopped at a Boston Store (for you Chicagoans, this is what Carson Pirie Scott is called almost everywhere else) looking for a gallon jar to brew more of the stuff.  The attendant asked if she could help me, and when I told her about my kombucha brewing mission, she got quite excited and became eager to help me.  She explained that she was a microbiologist at the university (working at the Boston Store for extra cash) and as such, had quite the appreciation for kombucha.  She soon came up with a two-gallon jar with its own spigot, which you see housing the kombucha above.

I am now brewing three gallons of the stuff a week and consider myself an addict.  There is still a lot I need to learn about the art of brewing kombucha, but I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

I must confess that the act of fermentation has altered my thoughts about what is gross and what isn’t.  I have no qualms about touching or picking up the scoby.  After one week in the gallon and two-gallon jars, I transfer the brew to smaller jars for the anaerobic phase of the brewing and then refrigerate after 1-5 days.  Sometimes the process isn’t anaerobic enough and the beginnings of another scoby develop, and I might discover it I’m pouring or consuming the drink.  It greets me with a gelatinous texture somewhere between that of snot and a goldfish.  But it’s more pleasant to swallow than either. (Not that I’ve gotten in the habit of swallowing either.  At least not intentionally.)  The following video shows a toddler discovering the wonders of consuming the kombucha mother directly–a texture reportedly similar to that of calamari…