Bless the well-intentioned consumer. The biodegradable soap, the hemp backpack, the energy-efficient light bulbs—and all of the other “guilt-free” end products of conscientious consumption—are becoming far more popular and make us feel much better about ourselves. But in the final analysis, how much better, really, are these purchases for the environment?
The economic collapse has devastated my household, my community and my industry. Perhaps, however, this is just what we need. As I send ‘hang in there’ balloons and sympathy cards like everyone else, wishing the economy a speedy recovery, somewhere deep—in a secret, sadistic place—I hope it’s not over yet.
Your neighbors have replaced their light bulbs, but have they shut off their lights? Your family’s traded in its SUV for a hybrid, but has it busted out the bicycles? The most economical choice is almost always the most environmental choice to make as well. Is our obsession with even well-intentioned consumption keeping us poor and environmentally destructive?
If we stopped all manufacturing right now and liberated what we’ve buried in landfills, what’s in each other’s closets and what is currently lining store shelves, there would be enough for everybody for a good long time—without another sweatshop hiring or smokestack puff.
While there is a lot of thought about what happens to our possessions after consumption (those not reused or recycled end up in landfills), if we want to make real change, we need to consider everything that happens before we consume as well. The manufacture and transport of new items, even 100% recycled items, is a far greater environmental threat than the items we don’t reuse or recycle.
We don’t just need better products, we need less of them. “Reduce” is first in the maxim “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” for a reason. Why do we immediately skip to the second or third item in the list? If we don’t purchase it, we won’t have to consider what to do with it after we are done.
There is only one thing better than being a green consumer and that is being a non-consumer. As a non-consumer, I can still purchase things, barter for things and gift things. I just take myself out of the manufacture/consumption cycle by purchasing exclusively reused and making sure my unwanteds get remade, gifted or resold.
No new item will have to be manufactured or transported to replace my purchases. No reusable or recycled item will wind up in a landfill. And, as a bonus, I escape paying sales tax, which saves me 10.25% here in California. What’s more economical than that? I’m all for a better economy, but let this economic crash not mend until we learn how to value what we have now.
Whoa, what has happened to my world in the last three weeks? Just when I thought Los Angeles traffic couldn’t get more ridiculous, parking structures more cumbersome, or drivers grumpier and less safe, the holiday season began.
I’m driving to an audition, which is a usual part of my day, and suddenly there are three cars in front of me making dangerously bad moves and screaming out their windows about who is ‘right’—like children… like jerks. I wonder if they even realize how miserable their holiday cheer has become?
I wasn’t raised to follow any specific religion. In fact, more than preaching or teaching any religious point of view to me as a child, my parents were vocal about not choosing to support “organized” religion. Which I get. I totally get it. So Christmas was literally a family get together in my early years. It was the time when I got to see my cousins-in-law, great-grandmas and special-invite boyfriends all in one living room. My immediate family made ornaments, harmonized our favorite songs in the Astro van, watched the old black and white Scrooge on television. These were the rituals that marked our celebration.
But now, after a near miss in the parking lot, I’m afraid for my life and afraid for humanity…because of Christmas. And I’m afraid for the environment, because what all this traffic tells me is that people want to shop. Some unconscious desire to buy more, more, more is upon us and it doesn’t take a huge leap of intellect to realize the result: depleted resources and increased pollution. There’s the wrapping paper used once and then thrown away. The plastic packaging that invariably holds our gifts. The gifts themselves—I mean, how many trinkets, accessories and stocking stuffers do we need? Are we just spending money we don’t have on things that don’t matter, packaged in plastic that doesn’t degrade, wrapped in paper that lived a half-used life and calling it Christmas? Is this really our holiday? No wonder that a mom in aisle nine is yelling at her greedy children right now.
And I’m worried for people’s health. I know how difficult it is to sit down to a meal with extended family who don’t know what an avocado is or how to pick one out at the grocery store. It’s difficult to stay on a healthy diet at the holiday table. Especially with co-workers shoving chocolates on your desk, teachers bringing cookies to school, and aunts making fruit cake, buckeyes, peanut brittle, Chex mix and eggnog to send home. With the extra weight she’s putting on, and with all that refined sugar, dairy and hydrogenated oil coursing through her arteries, I can see why the postal-service cashier was flat out insulting to me today… because it’s Christmas!
But solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah—indeed, this entire holiday season—does not have to be synonymous with candy canes, road rage and unconscious consumerism. It could just as easily be about making your own gifts, regifting an already loved item, or creating an experience instead of giving any object away at all. The holidays could just as easily be about reusing gift boxes and newspaper for wrapping (then using them again after). We could create new food rituals to replace our outdated ones; instead of whipping up the old eggnog, whip up some banana ice cream with cinnamon, vanilla and cacao sauce drizzled on top. The new holiday customs could be about donating to charitable organizations, like I have this year (see list below), and sending gift cards to let friends and family know you donated in their honor. I have given gifts of donation this year and received gifts of donation, too, and being on both ends really feels good. I like that kind of gift. Yea, Christmas! This is my kind of ritual!
As I am sitting here waiting for an unhappy family of four, overburdened with bags and objects—on which they just spent more money than they have—to cross the street, I wonder to myself: Are our holiday rituals so far gone that they need to die altogether before our nation’s humanity can progress again? Or can some intentional ritual-creating allow us to reclaim our holiday and our future?
Rituals are important to society. Birth, menstruation, graduation, marriage, death… are all marked by social ritual. It’s vital that we remain conscious creators of the rituals we use to celebrate family and the turning of the year.
To celebrate my family, I would like to formulate rituals of health and long life. My extended family is my community and I would like to devise rituals of friendliness and patience. My grandest family is the Earth I walk on and all of its creatures. For them, I’d like to develop rituals of compassion and protection. I’d like to replace all the backwards customs we now use to celebrate the holidays with customs quite their opposite. Are there others out there reclaiming rituals? If so, what are you doing as a pioneer of the ecstatic life?
Organizations to which I’ve donated in the past: The Carbon Fund Elephant Nature Foundation Performing Animal Welfare Society National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws The Witches’ Voice
I’ve certainly worked with my share of unexplained phenomena. Mostly intentionally conjured, of course. Does it still count as “paranormal” if you went looking for it like witches and occultists do? City Monsters thinks so and so do I. On City Monsters I am the only female host of five paranormal experts. In our pilot episode we search to prove or disprove the Native American lore of a reptilian race living in tunnels underneath Los Angeles from times past AND present. Yes, we get our feet wet in the LA sewers and canal in this pure renegade pilot shoot, produced by Ping Pong Productions. I think I got some unexplained phenomena under my finger nails that nite. Check us out:
There is a big difference between a production and an action. I make my living as a performer (with gratitude), so I know the designs of a production very well. In fact, I know them so well that I can transform a “nothing evening” at the wine bar with my girlfriends into a production.
A production entails getting noticed, communicating with a wide audience and (do not even think you are capable of altruism) a production is just for the fun of it. It’s the experience of production that changes the individual.
An action is very different than a production.
Any sit down, stand up, rising up, speaking out, shouting out or acting out that gets us thinking about things that should be but aren’t (or were intended to be, but ended up being compromised) is an action. And anything that makes us feel like we matter and that we are important is a vital action indeed.
Sometimes our outward anger, directed productively at systems (that in my opinion need to be scrapped, rather than reformed), is a good way to start the action fires burning. Get together, make a difference, get mad, get riled up. But be smart about it.
Every witch knows that there are two things essential to make all that energy effective and the first is to direct it; that is, get together and focus it. As Rick Theis said in his recent“Revolution Made Easy: How ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Can Change the World” op-ed piece, locate and start with a nonpartisan issue that we can all agree upon and can win with. Remember, as the Occupy Wall Street movement says, we are the 99%. That means there is only 1% actually resisting us. With the other 99% of us directing all this focused energy, we win.
The second and possibly even more potent way of intensifying the energy generated by the Occupy Everything movement is transmutation. Gather up the inspiration, the conversations and the revolution, and form it into a little stone that you can swallow and become. Remember, it doesn’t matter how many encampments you set up, if you’re just gonna go home and consume the shit that lines the pockets of the corporations that then line the pockets of the politicians we are all so disgusted with. I call this “Occupy Self.””
Firefighters have always been cool people. I was a NYC resident when 9/11 hit. I witnessed how the status of firefighters leapt from cool to highly noble—almost to gods and goddesses—in one morning. My vision is this: I wanna gift our politicians the possibility of gaining a status like the firefighters had. I don’t want to shit-talk my country’s behavior when I travel around the world. I want to genuinely respect and cheer my representatives. I know the spirit is in you too, politicians. I know you are in there. Decades ago, you began on your present path thinking, yea, I’m a good person, I’m a diplomatic person. I will listen and do what’s right. But then you got tired and you got $$$ and you got star-struck; like young Hollywood actors, only yours is more dangerous and embarrassing. Because no actors pretend they were hired because they wanted to help the people live together happily, safely and in exquisite health. But you did. You started because you wanted to see us all live happily, safely and in exquisite health. I know you still have that feeling somewhere in you. Are you still alive in there? Where are my politicians who are part of “The People”?
People. People are the democracy, right? So if things have gotten out of balance, it’s because only 57% percent of eligible voters turned out to vote in the 2008 presidential elections. Where are my people who know how a democracy is run? We are the mutherf***ing people! I’m no longer gonna say, “If you didn’t show up to the polls, you should shut up.” I’m gonna say, ”What are you thinking!?” Some of us do want a democracy, but in 2008, 43% of us didn’t feel like it! You know who you are and you are probably young, hardworking and possibly a racial minority, and you present a very different view of the system than what was represented. So you, more than anyone, I need to see next to me in line at the upcoming local polls. The democracy doesn’t work right when it’s missing people.
And tomorrow, when you rally and put on a production, I want 99% of the 99% to bring up how to Occupy Self. Here’s how: The next time you’re sitting in that fast-food line, pumping that petrol in your tank or buying shit at Walmart manufactured exclusively overseas, you send the revolution in to your Self. And get your picket sign out and get mad and get loud and start kicking shit around inside yourself until your Self gets it. Without this action, it’s all just a production. As entertaining as the performance is, this ain’t new or real. So get on the ride. And challenge your personal shit while you are helping those doofuses in Washington make their transitions to a lower-income, lower-consumption lifestyle, too.
Have you ever noticed how people buy more when they are scared? It’s an advertising strategy, in fact. Scared your teeth aren’t white enough? Scared your belly is noticeably bloated? Scared the chicks won’t dig your junker car? “We’ve got the products that will assure your security. Spend your money on toothpaste, prescription medications or heck, just buy a brand new gas guzzler and you, too, can rest safely at nite.”
There is a constant and intentional low-level fear inducement happening across our society at all times. I mean, when was the last time you heard “Green Alert: everything’s absolutely okay. You and your family are completely safe and there is no reason to worry about anything whatsoever,” over the airport intercom speakers? The fact is, a fearful society is an easily controlled society and the effectiveness of that mind control is quantifiable proportional to the society’s purchases. We will buy whatever we are told to (and a lot of it) if we are scared enough. Or trying hard enough to distract ourselves from what needs our attention.
Does this explain the Japanese yen hitting an all time high two days ago, in the midst of devastating world crisis, before lower-status currency-driven world banks “came together” to push it back down (for the good of Japan, of course)? I can’t help but see this as another fear indicator expressed through financial institutions and the stock market.
So forgive me if it doesn’t sit well with me when I see my community leaders taking part in the perpetuation of the fear. I expect more from the leaders of the counter culture. I’ve gotten several emails telling me to fear for my life specifically in California because radiation is swooping across the sea with cross hairs set for my roof top, and the next quake will crush everything and everyone I love in Southern California before month’s end. I don’t know if it will or won’t, but wake up everyone: it hasn’t yet and this consciousness is doing nothing for anyone.
Did you know that the worst nuclear disaster of all time, Chernobyl, had a dead zone of 50 miles? That’s really serious! It’s horrible, but it’s not across the seas killing Californians “this Friday” (which was yesterday). So why are you selling me this state of mind? Did you know that iodide and other radiation protecting foods are targeting the extremely sensitive thyroid gland, but nothing else? If it really were time to fear for my health, then I wouldn’t be “eating more chlorella”, I’d be getting the f*ck out of the radiation zone. So why are you selling me more raw food products?
All of it is screams self-centered fear-based reactionism rather than actual compassion for anything that is happening right now. This is not productive activism that makes a difference in the peoples’, animals’ and environments’ lives that are suffering right now. They aren’t just sitting at home scared and buying more superfoods over in Japan.
A friend of mine relates this real life situation: “One of our (United States) friends sells Japanese furniture and she said people walk right out of the showroom when they realize it’s from Japan – as if they’d get cancer from a couch imported 4 months ago. Needless to say this type of reaction needs to be schooled out of us because it’s ridiculous and hurtful to people that really need our help right now.”
If you want to be useful, don’t post another video that tells me how to avoid radiation. Don’t send me another link telling me “I’m next” in the global death toll. Do something that matters and write about living the transformation you yourself are going through because of the wake up call of this world disaster. Show empathy and compassion in your communications with friends rather than doomsday speak, warnings and fear propagation. Talk to me about how you are calling your family more often because life is too short. Film a video that shows support for the injured and provides a solution. Write about what charity you are putting your $100 towards and how you are speaking out to politicians against nuclear power at home.
PLEASE write about your personal transformation towards beccoming a human being that cares, is available and is aware of the preciousness of life. We don’t need more opportunists pretending to lead by selling us more products. We don’t need more debilitating propaganda. If you are truly afraid for my well being, then help me. If you don’t have a solution to offer, get out of the way.
Permission To Heal’s Victoria Moon asks raw vegan athlete and Hollywood actress, Tonya Kay, where she gets her vegetarian protein from in segment 3 of 5 of this in-depth interview series.
Here’s a little secret – not so secret anymore: When I was in highschool, there was a TON of pressure from the school system to NOT go into an artistic career. I was graduating Valedictorian and choosing not to continue with traditional education, like college or university. My parents were super supportive of my chocies, thank goodness, but my school was not. I lived in a farm town and I think it was hard for many of the school employees to see my choice to dance, sing and act as a viable career option. So my guidance counselors and Vice Principal and drama teacher all flat out opposed my dream. My Vice Principal and I actually got in a yelling match with her saying “No Valedictorian of this school is NOT going to college! What ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?!?”
Well, I was a renegade, but still just a 16 year old, so I hadn’t had the confidence instilling experiences that I have had at this point and … those abusive words of non-support got to me. Got me scared and didn’t know if I could do the whole performance thing after all. After all, in the farm town, I didn’t have any role models to mentor me on how to even get started. So I went a bit mad and toiled and stressed and wrote down a bunch of Plan B’s. Here’s what I came up with:
1. tattoo artist 2. vegan pastry chef 3. aerobics instructor 4. Muppeteer
Yes, I thought Muppeteering would be a really cool job. I actually wrote Diamond Studios, which was Jim Henson’s studio back then, innocently and ignorantly asking how I could become a Muppeteer.
I never heard back.
Thank goodness. The Universe was telling me to just do Plan A! And I have had a whole life of successful Plan A, have not wasted professional artistic years in an accredited scholastic system and now know how to veto destructive criticism without regret.
Years ago, I temporarily “moved” to Hollywood for 4 months before booking the STOMP tour. My boyfriend at that time was in a signed band and his band was recording at Henson Recording Studios on La Brea and I got to hang out in the sound mixing studio. It was really cool for me.
To this day, every time I drive by that big green frog atop that mainstay sound facility on La Brea, I make sure to make eye contact with Kermit, give him a tip of the hat, and have what I consider a spiritual moment of gratitude that he gave me the courage to live this life as a professional artist. Kermie, dreams really do come true.
My Lover (whose birthday it is today!) is working on the next Muppets Movie and last nite he guested me to the cast and crew filming kick-off party at Disney. I invariably hang out on all the major motion picture sets that my Lover films on (he’s been in the industry for a WHILE) and you bet my dreams are coming true with him on this project. This is more meaningful to me than hanging out on the Pirates of the Caribbean sets, which were all cool, but … The Muppets.
I watched the television shows when I was a child. My favorite film of all time is still to this day The Dark Crystal. I’ve been called Red Fraggle by more than one friend. And to me, it all adds up to this: there is no Plan B. Telling kids to prepare for failure is the most spirit-suffocating thing we could do to them. If you are an adult suffocating your own spirit by living for Plan B, then become your own best parent – become the guidance counselor, the father, the grandmother – you always wished you had and mother yourself better this time. If you only have one plan to put food on your table, guess how hard you dedicate to Plan A? You are going to make it work because there is no planning for failure. Plan B is self-abuse. Plan B is planning for failure of your dreams. There is only Plan A. And Kermit and I are your good parents telling you you can do it.
The Lovers, the Dreamers and me …
It has never struck me to be ashamed of my body. Children don’t think to cover up – they will run through Walgreens with their dresses up over their faces or their hands down their trousers without a second thought. I’m like a child in some ways.
I don’t think to cover up, either. And that’s why I do so love my Hollywood. My Hollywood is filled with stiletto heels and mini skirts outside The Bardot. Or with sports bras and boy shorts at the gym. The beach folk even make it into the hood on weekends still sporting string bikinis and thongs. The modesty bar is relaxed in my Hollyhood because, like in Brazil, society does not question a woman’s character over a little mid-drift. In fact, Hollywood celebrates the empowered woman. And because of that, we get to redefine ourselves without shame that others may have at times felt, just for having female-shaped body.photo by Marti Matulis
I grew up dancing and doing musical theatre, which contributes almost entirely to my comfort inside my own body. I was 6 years old doing quick changes in the wings of my community theatre stage. One foot further and I would be actually on-stage, but behind that wing curtain, just inside of the shadow created where the spotlight doesn’t reach, I would whip off my shoes and one-zip dress, tossing another costume over my head, zipping it up just in time to return to stage and back into the spotlight. If at 6 years old, I can quick-change in theatre wings and share dressing rooms with other actors and actresses, then it is unlikely I will have body hangups as an adult.
Community theatre is so healthy for young people for more reasons than people think.
Meanwhile, artistically, I was training as a dancer. I officially began taking dance classes at 4 years old and it all came very naturally to me. A dancer of any age spends hours in front of a mirror. The mirror is so important in fact, that our training studios build entire walls of mirrors extending from ceiling to floor – my family put a wall of practice mirrors in our own basement! And the dancer does not stand up close to the mirror – no. And the existence of magnifying mirrors confounds her (especially for the shower!), seeming more like ego torture tools than anything actually useful. No, the dancer stands 10 feet away from her full length mirrors at least. To see the entire body in motion. To see the muscles contract and respond. To watch our athleticism mix with emotion and liberate as motion. Clothing covers up the art of the movement, so little is often worn. And the healthy dancer, like myself, grows up valuing their body’s abilities more than their jean size. If a dancer’s body creates beautiful movement, then it is a respected loved body. And since I did respect and love my movement growing up, dance was a major component of why I didn’t carry on with body hangups as an adult.
It doesn’t hurt that dance is an athletic sport that builds a strong body, either. Children should grow up dancing.
So here I am, a mature woman living in Hollywood and it seems just about right … just about right that my hobby/my career includes performing live burlesque. Burlesque is an empowered womans’ dance form that celebrates the reveal. There is no wrong way to take off clothing off, but one thing is for sure, the clothes must come off in the art of burlesque. As I said, there is no wrong way. The dancer could make it a comedy act (in fact my favorite burlesque dancer in LA has her audience in stitches!), or the dancer can make it a cutesy tongue-in-cheek dance around. The dancer can include skilled danger arts (like I do neo-Geisha style!) or she might take an entire number to remove only one glove and then run her fingers through her hair. There is no wrong way.
I am always surprised, even in Hollyweird, how many women say to me, “I’ve always wanted to be a burlesque dancer.” They say they are nervous to show their bodies and present their most sensual sides to an audience. For them, like theatre and dance for children, I say performing burlesque could be one of the most psychologically healthy things a mature woman can do. And the audience invariably is the most supportive audience I’ve ever performed for in my professional life. Because every woman and every man celebrates a woman in her power. Women and men both love and honor the burlesque dancer. It is quite a special experience, and it reminds you that inside we are all just children running through the market with our skirts over our heads. We should be that okay with ourselves now. Unlearn shame.
Nipples … everyone’s got’em. Even boys.
So what’s the big ordeal about nipples?
He texted at 10pm saying he was already there. He’d love to see me – the party is a spectacle. I looked at the website and decided that to do the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball right – I mean, steampunk Bowie pagan astronaut style – one should plan ahead. A day. A week. Heck, from year to year, it appears these people are serious costumers, special effects pros, inventors. I was a little late, one might say, in my planning.
I said I don’t have a costume – are nipples okay? He texted “pasties should be fine”. But by that point, I had already (hardly) dressed, and my burlesque pasties weren’t going to work. So I slathered on the latex pastie glue and sprinkled pink glitter into it (worried about my latex with the jewelry later:-), threw the cover off the Riv and was parking rock star style, right out front of The Historic Park Plaza venue by some twist of Hollywood fate, and, hearing they weren’t tearing tickets, nabbed an already-used one from a guest whom was picking up his car at valet. Rock star parking. Free in. Glitter nips. All in 45 min. from invite. I’m a friggin pro.
Ladies and Gentelmen, there were Victorian Queens, there were forest nymphs, there were Vampire royalty, there were steampunk Ghostbusters (With real, steam powered electricity throwers, telescopes and potato guns. No kidding. It all worked).
Women belly danced on stilts, men wore monocles with cowboy hats, lads bared fangs and three dance floors of Celtic, downtempo, live drum circle and the fantastical sailor’s song you’ve only heard while dreaming. For the courtyard – a classic outdoor SoCal bar/dance floor that doubles as the smoking patio; sweet enyas. And every guest without faces – this masquerade ball was the real deal.photography by http://www.facebook.com/ErzenDesign
As the belly dancer shook her wild hips, I was driven by the same drums to dance mad with my own jiggle. The spirit was skyrocketing with dancers inspired. We really let loose. We really found the groove to the boom bah ka klang, when the bouncer entered the dance, “we have to ask you to cover up your nipples”. As if he hadn’t ever seen any before. I mean, even boys have nipples.
I gladly threw my long locks over my shoulders to show I was attempting to be down with his coverage plan. But only 5 min later the henchwoman arrived with black duct tape in hand outstreached. I took my silent cue with a smile and moving body unable to be interrupted, lined up with her falling axe and put a black tape X-Marks-The-Spot where pink glitter used to be. We all seemed satisfied. I didn’t mind, but just wanted to dance. So the dance continued. The nite progressed. And I only wondered nostolgically once; what’s the big ordeal about nipples?
They aren’t as secret as we socially pretend them to be. I mean, you have a few, I have a few. Almost everyone I know has at least one.
What a party. What an invite. What a perfect duct tape peel off. Glitter and latex too.photography by http://www.facebook.com/ErzenDesign