Archive for January, 2010

A Coloring Book, Then a Smile


By D.R.Richards

Coloring for the first time, Amantani Island, Peru

The simple act of giving a child a coloring book on the high mountain island of Amantani on Lake Titicaca, where we have been taking small groups for years, bridges our cultures. It also helps reach out by giving a little something back. By no means is it as big as building a school, or other major project that other more established organisations are doing in Peru. As mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a  smile,” and in this case a coloring book, then a smile.

We at Mountain Spirit Institute believe that to truly connect with others in our world, when we travel its good to reach out in anyway you can. Reaching out  might be that smile, the  coloring book,  or listening well to the people you’re visiting rather than building them what you think they need, a good lesson from Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. Of course listening well implies you need a good interpreter or hopefully have studies the local lanquage, and I don’t mean Spanish.  Next time you travel, load up on some coloring books and colored pencils. Leave the chocolates at the city, and take some paper and pencils instead. The local kids will love it, and you’ll smile too.

Mean World Syndrome, Media & Tolle


Media Violence and the Cultivation of Fear
A new film based on the late George Gerbner’s groundbreaking analysis of media influence and media violence

MEA's Mean World Syndrome

In A New Heaven New Earth, Eckart Tolle says that violence for violence sake is the pain body‘s way of seeking food. Violent films are made by pain bodies for pain bodies to view. He also wrote, however, that if a film, such as a documentary or drama about the Vietnam war or World War II for example,  use violence to illustrate the madness of the human mind, to wake us up to the insanity of the egoic mind, then violent depictions can have a role in showing us a way to becoming more fully conscious.   I’m still on the fence about Tolle’s comments. Meanwhile, the highly respected Media Education Foundation has just produced a new DVD called Mean World Syndrome.

“In an era dominated by simplified assumptions about the impact of television violence, Gerbner insisted on a broader perspective and a sharper analysis, arguing that the primary impact of the media was to reinforce, not to challenge, the structure of power.”
– Larry Gross, Director, USC Annenberg School of Communication

For years, debates have raged among scholars, politicians, and concerned parents about the effects (more…)

Airlifts from Machu Picchu Resume


U.S. helicopters help Peru evacuate hundreds after rail line was cut
From AP
Image: Mountain Spirit Institute

Helicopter at Aquas Caliente, MP. MSI file photo

Helicopters ferried almost 600 more tourists from the Machu Picchu area after rains slackened Wednesday, leaving up to 1,600 travelers still stranded by mudslides blocking the only land route from the famed Inca citadel.

Authorities said airlifts would continue throughout the week because more tourists had shown up at the evacuation site on foot after completing treks along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, the 15th century Incan fortress that is 8,000 feet above sea level.

Rain-fueled mudslides on Sunday cut the train line that is the only transport link to the remote region atop an Andean mountain ridge. Adding to the worries, tourists flown out Wednesday reported that a rain-swollen river had eroded the site where rescue helicopters are landing.

Stranded tourists charged they are being victimized by price-gouging because food, water and accommodations are scarce in the now isolated Machu Picchu Pueblo, a village of 4,000 residents.

Room for Improvement at Machu Picchu


Tourists ‘bribe their way out of flooded Machu Picchu’
By Hannah Strange

Bus Road to MP, Image: MSI File Photo

British backpackers were among 1,500 tourists trying to escape from Peru’s Inca citadel of Machu Picchu yesterday, which has been cut off by floods and landslides.

As food supplies dwindled and hostels ran out of space many tourists were sleeping in the railway station and the town’s main square while they waited to be rescued by helicopter.

“The situation is about to erupt,” Rudy Chalco, a tour guide with a group of elderly Europeans, told the Peruvian daily newspaper El Comercio. “We don’t have any more food, disorder is starting to reign, the soldiers and police don’t know what to do or how to organise the help that has arrived, people are getting desperate and no one is taking charge.”

Some tourists were paying up to $500 (£300) for a seat on one of the helicopters, he said.

Fernando Celis, one of 300 Chileans stranded in Machu Picchu, said that people were bribing rescuers. “A helicopter arrived yesterday to take out the elderly and the unwell and some tourists who had more money. There are almost no North Americans left, only the backpackers. People on tours who were waving their money about, they were all evacuated,” he said.

He added that local vendors had doubled their prices. Read the rest of this story

Slides-Flooding at Machu Picchu


Peru slide kills tourist, guide near Machu Picchu
From The Times

Flooding at Aquas Caliente near Machu Picchu. Image: Reuters

A mudslide on the famed Inca trail to Machu Picchu killed an Argentine tourist and a Peruvian guide, as authorities evacuated hundreds of tourists by helicopter from a flood zone where more than 1,500 others were still stranded

Cuzco government spokesman Hernet Moscoso said the Argentine, identified as Lucia Ramallo, 23, and the guide, Washington Huaraya, were in their tents when a slope gave way and their tents were crushed. Three other tourists were injured.

Authorities closed the Inca trail, a popular tourist trek that follows a stone path built by the ancient civilization from their capital, Cuzco, to the Machu Picchu citadel.

The deaths raised to five the number of people killed by heavy rains that have caused floods and landslides and collapsed homes, Moscoso said.  Read the rest of this story
Image: The Times

Fooling Some of the People with BGH


U.S. FDA’s Curious Statement on Carton of Milk

Perplexing labeling re: BGH

We were pulling a small carton of light cream from the fridge tonight and noticed a perplexing statement on Oakhurst’s container. On the one hand, there’s a banner under the logo stating “America’s 1st Farmers’ Pledge, No Artificial Growth Hormones Used”

And then in small print, at the lower left hand corner of the same panel reads, “FDA states No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.”

Who are they trying to kid? You can’t fool all the people all the time.
If it’s so safe, why are Americans looking bloated that drink BGH milk. Also why do so many other countries prohibit the sale of BGH milk?

At first we thought it was some sort of trick on Oakhurst’s part. But, on second thought, we concluded it’s another strong-arm tactic of big pharma.  I’ll send an email to Oakhurst  in the morning and query them as to why there are two apparently contradictory statements on one carton of milk.

New Zealand by Sustainable Travel


The splendours of New Zealand are best seen by rail
By Dan Poole
The Independent

TranzCoastal crosses the Waimakariri

Grand Central, St Pancras, Milano Centrale – and, er, Britomart? The main station in New Zealand’s largest city sounds as though it is named after a discount car-parts retailer. In fact, Auckland’s Britomart Transport Centre occupies a handsome Victorian building on Queen Elizabeth II Square, and is apparently named after a character from The Faerie Queene.

It is also the northern terminus of New Zealand’s longest train ride – the 12-hour haul south to the capital, Wellington – known as the Overlander. And as if to hint at the views that lie ahead, it is run by Tranz Scenic.  Read the rest of this story

Why We Need Live Music #4


Another Study Proves It – Live Music: Definitely good for the soul.
By Randall Richards
Mike Heffernan

Fat Hands, creating good vibes, L to R: Walt Kutylowski, Gerry Putnam, Dana Flewelling, and Nic Kutylowski

OK .  It wasn’t an official *scientific study, but ask anyone who was there, at Gerry Putnam’s CedarHouse Sound & Mastering recording studio when he hosted his annual music get-together, and they’ll tell you – Their souls felt better after having been there – both musicians and listeners alike.  This year, I had the good fortune of being a listener. We had missed most of the day’s party which had started mid-morning, but we certainly weren’t short-changed for music.
The party has been the brainchild of Gerry and recording artist Kathy Lowe as a vehicle to showcase Gerry’s studio for potential recording artists, and to thank past artists who had already done an album (or two, or three) at this heavenly studio, complete with a concert grand Steinway piano, and Gerry’s masterful abilities to engineer top quality albums.
As the night wore on, and most of the day’s musicians had headed home, brothers Walt and Nick Kutylowski, also known as “Fat Hands” sat down and started to do a few numbers unplugged. (The day is usually fully “plugged in”). Then, Putnam pulled up a chair and started picking his classical guitar. Gerry not only recorded and mastered Fat Hands’  two albums at Cedarhouse, but ended up playing lead guitar on them as well. Enter drummer extraordinaire Dana Flewelling, (from Night Kitchen) who usually has a whole “trap set”  in front of him.  He  sat down with a djembe and a set of brushes.

Small but appreciative audience

My wife Amanda and I, Walt Kutylowski’s partner Christy, Mike Heffernan and Kathy Lowe were all that remained of the audience. The rest of  the party-goers had all headed home in the cold night air.

The music and energy that happened was nothing short of way cool.  They must have played for an hour or more, and we, the privileged few,  just sat there taking it in.

Fathands has a few upcoming **gigs but  we’re threatening to kidnap them and take them to New Zealand the next time we head down under, and from the sound of it, they might be willing go.  Meanwhile, we (at Mountain Spirit Institute) will most likely be offering to put on  a house concert or local venue concert for these guys if they’re up for it. They deserve to be heard. Check out Fathands, and Gerry Putnam’s Cedarhouse Sound and Mastering through the links above.
* This is a scientific study about the healing power or music, by the BBC.
** Deerfield CoffeeHouse, NH,  April 10 2010, with Gerry Putnam & Kent Allyn
Musterfield Farm, New London, NH USA June 19th, 2010
Thanks to Mike Heffernan for getting his camera out to capture the moment.

3-yr Old + iPhone = Monster?


"Where's My iPhone?"

I Gave My 3 Year Old an iPhone: Have I Created a Monster?
By Patrick Hunt
A few months back, my wife went on a girls’ weekend trip from East Coast to West, gone for a total of five days. I survived my first long stretch with our three year old daughter alone, but it wasn’t easy. At 43, I came to parenthood late in life, and I have to admit being a father is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. During my wife’s much-needed and deserved vacation, I perhaps relied a bit too heavily on the TV for entertainment and babysitting. Read the rest of this story..

Three Cups of Tea in Action


Three Cups of Tea

Learn what one retired high school teacher is doing to spread the word about international understanding in local New England schools.

By Randall Richards
When Frank Hammond, of New London New Hampshire, USA,  becomes passionate about something, he gets involved with no reservations.  A long-time contributor to various community projects, a popular and effective high school teacher, and former Executive Director of the  Lake Sunapee Protective Association, Hammond recently read the New York Times Bestseller  Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, and was motivated to get the book in front school children in the region. One of the strategies, he mentions  “is to teach kids empathy skills, i.e., listening to others and building healthy relationships both at home and abroad with foreign cultures.”  Learn more by watching the interview below…

Editor’s Note: Frank Hammond was my 8th grade home-schoolroom teacher in Sunapee, NH.  He was a great teacher, and left a big impression on my me, and I’m sure on my fellow classmates as well. If his  Facebook “friends count” is any gauge, he’s still just as popular as ever with alumni. Thanks for the interview Frank!
R. Richards