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Fall 2007 Newsletter

Hello Friends,

Recently, I spent six weeks in Sausalito where I caught up with friends, camped out in bookstore cafés, and overdosed on Palak Paneer (spinach curry with cheese) at two great restaurants: Sartaj and Avatar’s. Best of all, I spent a week showing my adorable niece the sites, sounds and tastes of the San Francisco Bay Area. And she guided me through her favorite clothing store, Old Navy, where I bought three trendy tops. In January, I’ll be in southern India for three mind-bending weeks of gazing at tigers, waterfalls and temples.

Best Films
•  After the Wedding:  To save the failing orphanage he runs in India, Danish transplant Jacob Petersen returns to his homeland to meet a self-indulgent businessman named Jørgen who’s offered a generous donation—and who represents everything the noble-minded Jacob abhors. Complicating matters further are the unusual strings Jørgen has attached to his so-called gift. A brilliant film about relationships.
•  The Lives of Others:  Set in 1980s East Berlin, a portrait of life under the watchful eye of the state police as a high-profile couple is bugged. When a successful playwright and his actress companion become subjects of the Stasi’s secret surveillance program, their friends, family and even those doing the watching find their lives changed, too.
•  The Valet:  This tale begins when François, a restaurant car service valet at a posh Paris hotel, gets caught-up in a billionaire industrialist’s sneaky infidelities. A French farce.
•  Wordplay:  An intimate look at the national American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I didn’t know that crossword puzzles could be such an addiction.

Best Packing Tips
Color Scheme:  Commit to either black or brown accessories—never both!—and then build your wardrobe from there. Why? Because it defines your color scheme for the trip, and your whole wardrobe ends up working together instead of being a big salad of things you wear only once.
Clear-Plastic Zip Bags:  Kmart sells nifty plastic zip bags for cosmetics and other small things. The brand is “Soho” and there are four sizes. Buy several.

Best New Books
• Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think about Our Lives:  What is the biological reason for gossip? For laughter? For the creation of art? Why do dogs have curly tails? What can microbes tell us about morality? A well-written, page-turning narrative by David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University in England. A fun read!
• The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature:  Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker investigates what the words we use tell us about the way we think. His vivid prose and down-to-earth style attracts audiences outside academia.
The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War:  Right now, as you read this, somebody, somewhere, is planning a war. This book examines how we are biologically wired to fight. Here is the unvarnished tale of human gangs romping through history—raiding, pillaging, terrorizing, and waging wars in the name of abstract gods, master races and political systems. David Smith’s rapid-fire account of our uniquely lethal nature makes a mockery of our dreams for peace. We could always try, though, but seeing ourselves as we truly are is a necessary first step.

Best Health Tip
"Fasting" does not cleanse and detoxify your body, says a fascinating new article in Utne Reader's September/October 2007 issue. Instead, it breaks down protein from your muscles to provide glucose to your brain, which needs roughly 20 percent of the glucose you produce. This overloads your kidneys and liver with toxic by-products like urea and ammonia. Yes, you become more toxic than ever. Ugh! Then your fat cells are tackled. So instead of fasting (starving), consume lots of fruits and veggies and drink plenty of clean water, and limit your exposure to toxic chemicals entering your body.

Best Edgy Video has a superb collection of videos featuring some of the nation’s most respected thinkers. Below Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale and author of Descartes’ Baby, talks about the soul and why it seems so real. “For the last few years, I’ve been interested in common-sense dualism, which is the notion that people have two ways of looking at the world. We see the world in terms of material bodies and immaterial souls. We see bodies and souls as distinct…”  Think of this video as a "free" Yale lecture.

tv graphic top
guru Puppetji’s take on The Secret tv graphic right
guru Puppetji’s take on The Secret

Best Quotes
“An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of a revelation.”
       —William James, psychologist  and philosopher
“It is possible to speculate endlessly about the nonexistent.”
       —Anne Nicol Gaynor, freethinker
“We whack away at the gorgeousness of reality with too many distractions.”
       —Theo Gund, air surfer

Best Exposé
I just saw Michael Moore's docufilm “Sicko.” At first I thought, “Who wants to see a film about health care? Boring. I've got insurance.” But I left the theatre teary-eyed, rare for me. The action takes place in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Cuba, and France. (I loved the Eiffel Tower scenes.) Don't miss this witty, informative and life-altering film.

Best Veggie Recipes
Green Beans:  Steam green beans and then pour some bottled peanut sauce over them and toss. Add some fresh cherry tomato halves for color.
Baked Potatoes: Top with a dollop of Patak’s spicy Garlic Relish.

Best Brainy Podcasts
Dr. Ginger Campbell’s “The Brain Science Podcast” features interviews with the leading authors of books on the brain. She has a long-standing interest in mind-body medicine, the brain and consciousness. In her podcasts, she shares recent discoveries from the world of neuroscience in a way that people of all backgrounds can enjoy. She believes that becoming savvy about how the brain works gives us insights into what makes us human.

I hope all is going well in your life. Have a fabulous fall!


P. S. I’m thinking about the upcoming presidential election and about Ron Paul (Republican rebel) and Hillary Clinton (she’s into health care and is the first female candidate, yes!) and Steven Colbert (the wittiest man on the planet). I’m a card-carrying Independent or “Swingocrat” and plan to diligently study the records and stances of the front-runners in the coming months. My friend Wyatt, age 16, says, “America can’t call itself a democracy until its voters can turn off their television sets, put down their newspapers, and start doing their own research. Until then, democracy is a hollow concept.”

Colbert for President



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