Category Archives: Green Ideas

On the road


Kickstarter update on the road away from prohibition.

This is an account of a one-day side-trip on the road in pursuit of the “Tales of Mary Jane”. Every day of that year-ending five-weeks was as interesting and satisfactory as (I hope you will agree) this one.

The first four chapters of the book have been distributed to the backers, and I’m polishing chapter 5 for posting soon.

Here’s to 2015 being better for you, and more productive for me.

Sincere best wishes,
Jack Large

PS to backers of either or both of my Kickstarter projects: Forgive the appearance of multiple identical updates, if you will. It takes a lot less time to apologize in advance than it does to forestall it when your tech skills are as sketchy as mine.

Prohibition of Marijuana

The Korea Times “report” that triggered this letter is poorly written and a waste of your time. but you can track it down if you want to see why I felt I had to respond.

Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition

A year ago, I took my first step into the world of crowd funding. A success, the backing I received enabled me to present a collection of photographs I took while living in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, as a gift to the Seattle Public Library. In return for their help, I promised backers a “reward” in the form of a book with information about the images in the collection, including a narrative about the period (1966-’68), places, people and cultural context portrayed.

Today, minutes ago, I launched a second appeal titled, “Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition”. The campaign will run for 14 days. The money goal is modest, far less than will be required to produce the best quality outcome. I may be over-optimistic in thinking the project will capture the interest of anyone who marvels, as I still do from afar, that states of Washington and Colorado (two of my favorites), have legalized recreational use of marijuana since I launched the first campaign.

This is significant because it shapes my perspective on the first Kickstarter effort (“KS1”). Some, a few dozen, of the images in the slide collection show people engaged in various activities associated with casual or habitual use of marijuana. Because this was a criminal activity then (and in most places still is today) the photographs, like the drugs, might have been considered contraband, or at the very least, evidence to support prosecution and, upon conviction, incarceration if we had been so careless as to be caught, as many have been, and are still.

In writing the story of the slide show while poring over the pages of slides in the collection for the purpose of tagging and logging them before sending them on to Seattle, a small but prominent group of images expanded in my mind. They are shots of the small children whose parents were the adults shown smoking pot. The adults were a light-hearted group then and now, and the photos suggest nothing sinister or fear inducing, contrary to the expectations of what at the time was called “straight society”, before the more explicitly sexual connotation attached to the phrase.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned more and more to those children. I wondered, what became of them? A few of them, I know today. For the most part, they grew strong, intelligent, worldly, capable, even accomplished citizens. To all appearances, they were wholly unimpaired by the conditions of their childhood. I can’t say, nor do I have any basis to speculate, what has been the fate of the others. The questions that have grown in my consciousness while writint of them are intensified by not knowing.

Is it possible to predict the mindset of one who grows up gradually more aware that those closest are, crudely put, habitual criminals? How does such knowledge shape one’s interaction with the contrastive world beyond the front door of the family home? Does it influence their choice of friends? Does it make them more or less likely to indulge in a subculture of marijuana use or other proscribed behavior themselves? Are they more sophisticated about the whole range of substances and their abuse? Do they form coteries of peer support outside the traditional systems in their communities.

I intend to gather and tell these “Tales of Mary Jane”. I will find these possessors of unique insight, elicit their stories, and share the stories with a world several generations behind them in its awareness of what, although illegal, has been pervasive. All those having deep familiarity with marijuana and its use, and effects on users are in a position to help inform those who lack it.

A majority of US citizens now agree that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. I will present the evidence I find for and against that conclusion, through the personal narratives and detailed accomplishments of those who understand the much-maligned herb better than can any other, in their way: the children of prohibition. I will need all the help I can get, to do it justice, and justice is really what it’s all about.

Cannabis is coming; can Korea catch the wave?

Korean national policy regarding the legal status of marijuana as, alternately, an intoxicant and a medication, and their future role in Korean agricultural economy, must undergo change in the near future. Legal recreational use of marijuana in the US states of Washington and Colorado is a done deal, and although attempts to roll it back continue, they appear less likely to succeed with each scintillating report of growing profits and tax yields from sales.
Simply put, the combination of growing interest in utilitarian products made of hemp fiber, and the combination of recreational and medical consumption of an ever-widening range of cannabinol (get you high drug) and cannabidiol (relieves your ailment with no high) drug products has become so robust that when the movement is fully developed, it will transform every society that embraces it.
What is Korea to do, then? The nation bought into the false picture painted by US demonizers of the plant, and lodged marijuana with those natural and pharmaceutical drug substances like opium and amphetamine and their derivatives. Once so grouped, strong legal penalties for use, and the promulgation of cultural taboos such as attach to any forbidden item, were made strong, sweeping and draconian.
Why all this fuss over a plant that over decades of prohibition, despite collecting millions of enthusiastic users, has yet to be blamed directly for the death of a single person? Compare this to the same statistic for alcohol or tobacco and any reasonable person should get a glimpse of marijuana’s future (and explanation of its past) now the facts about it become more widely known.
It’s understandable that, where so much official and press puffery and bombast have been launched against marijuana since its criminalization was urged upon other nations by the US, no Korean policymaker is likely to be the first to come forward and say, “Look, we need to talk about this.” One’s political game is motivated by the urgency of getting reelected. Giving one’s opponents ammunition, in the form of support for changes in Korean anti-drug laws, even if convinced of the wisdom of it, might still cost one the office.
Unless a public movement builds in support of public discussion about the legal status of a common plant that should never have been banned in the first place, Korea stands to miss a golden opportunity to expand its agricultural and medical sectors, and to gain a step on the inevitable global economic movement that will result from the decriminalization of cannabis. It’s economic potential is a big part of what lies at the heart of opposition to it from alcoholic beverage and pharmaceuticals industries. There is no question that legal weed will shrink their bottom lines, and that will be a good thing.
The point of origin for pressure on the Korean political community to do this is the agricultural sector. Even if marijuana continues to be banned for use by Koreans, farmers should be permitted and encouraged to start the process of creating a grow-for-export sector, with strong support for research and development. If we work openly to ensure that Korea becomes one of the earliest advanced producers of top-quality cannabis products, especially medical cannabidiol, and a robust medical research program to go with it, Koreans will benefit economically. There’s no reason for Korea to be left behind. All it will take is the political courage to kick it off.

Ways I contribute to climate change

Driving A Big Car All Over The Place By Yourself
Having LOTS Of Kids
Idling Your Car
Eating Lots Of Meat
Voting For Climate Change-Denying And Pro-Oil Representatives
Taking A Really Long Shower
Buying Things From China
Wasting Paper
Wasting Food
Eating Out Of Season
Using Lots Of Power When Your Electricity Comes From Coal
Air Conditioners
Owning Pets
Not Sealing Your House

A slide show illustrating each of fifteen “Ways I contribute to climate change” appeared online at Huffington Post, May 12, 2014. Tempted to share it on FB immediately, I was stopped by its being imbedded in another page that showed up with the “front end” for sharing, where I would include any intro snark/remark I might like to add. That gave me enough time to think a little more about the list as a whole, about some of the individual items on it, and about what I could see from what is not on it that makes of it a troubling and troublesome list, indeed.

Personally, it’s a matter of small satisfaction that it takes me all the way to China before being hooked by the barbs on the list. Mostly, though, I had to admit that the main reason I get a pass on the previous ones is because of my age. I didn’t have a lot of kids; I have two. Maybe two is the new six, like my parents had, so again, I don’t deserve a pass. Anyway, who am I to look at someone else’s kids, if they’re loved and cared for by their families, and society, and say, “You shouldn’t have!” It’s not in me.

I waste paper. Yes, I do. It isn’t easy to stop, despite a better Korean approach to recycling paper than to limiting wasteful use of it to begin with. Paper laminates, product wrappers, handbills, towels and napkins and all forms of paper products considered “contaminated” if adhered to organic residues of any kind, are not recycled often, if at all. These go into landfills or incinerators, where they degrade into pollutants of great quantity and variety. Publications and large cartons and containers make up most of the recycled content.

Flying. Ah well, I am an expatriate, living on a peninsula from which there is no land exit. To come and go from Korea is to fly. There is the sea, but ferries to China, Japan and Vladivostok are the only ones running, and they contribute to global warming, too. Ticket prices have done wonders to curtail my flying will force me to do it. It breaks my heart to tell friends and loved ones abroad that reducing my carbon footprint means I must withdraw the open invitation to visit. Although my need and desire to extend affectionate hospitality to them overwhelms in certain seasons and mental states, I feel cornered by it, having accepted that the climate science is accurate. Before scolding others about their travels, I must look too my own. That mobility is a cornerstone of our personal liberty doesn’t free us from being judged by the same standard that apply to all.

I waste comparatively little food in this phase of my life. In the main, it is a result of choosing a combination of healthy level of consumption, and a minimal amount of waste. The Korean approach to food waste, such as it is, has us paying collectors who process it into livestock feed, compost, etc., according to the weight of our discarded waste. I have speculated that some form of odorless drying devices will appear, but maybe not. Few substances are more malodorous than kimchi gone too far off. We use a key card to open a bin with an attached scales to keep track of our “contributions” of collected wet waste. I call it our “crap account”.

Eating out of season may be a category in which I am more culpable than others. Dietary changes I’ve embraced as a part of my inevitably futile attempt to live forever are the cause. The avocados from New Zealand, the factory salmon from Norway, Florida orange juice, chickpeas and lentils from the sub-continent, it’s a long list; all are seasonal, imported or both. I’m determined to learn to live without them without sacrificing the pleasure of delicious food, imaginatively prepared, but it’s harder than one thinks at first glance, to find a lot of encouragement at the market.

Of the remaining four conditions, only one applies to me. I have two small dogs. When the last one is taken by natural causes, we won’t replace them, despite our sympathy for the unfortunate creatures cared for by pet rescue services and clients. Pets are wonderfully satisfying, crucial even, to the very young and very old, but until I have reached that stage of aging where I am unable to go about on my own, I will put off adopting another animal friend to keep me company. A certain grey-to-rust colored miniature poodle may outlast me if I don’t penetrate the secret of local foods only (another item on the list), but if not, he’ll be the last pet I have for most of the time I have left.

Air conditioning, though desirable during the hottest summer months here, we have lived without it for so long that it no longer appeals, for it would mean blocking the circulation of air between inside and outside. Our location at some distance from the center of the urban metropolis that is Seoul is, on most days, more refreshing than not. There is no water shortage (yet), and a cold shower in clean, cold water three times a day is not such a bad fate in semi-tropical conditions, so that’s what we do. It’s also nice to go without most clothing whenever we can, so we do that too.

Korea is moving toward renewable energy, mostly solar, some wind, but is still too dependent on gas and nuclear generation for electricity. Coal, to the extent it is still in use, is primarily for winter “ondol” heating by burning the cylindrical briquettes called “nine-hole coal” with a boiler heats water to circulate through a grid of plastic pipes in a cement floor. The coal isn’t always necessary, but private homes will keep it as an optional way of heating the boiler. No matter how the house (apartment in our case) is heated, cold season weather sealing and insulation reduce energy costs. It’s also possible to dress more warmly indoors, and to heat only rooms of heavy use.

But there is an elephant in the room, once we accept that what we’re really talking about is decreasing human contributions to the greenhouse effect, the pollution of air and water, and environmental damage from the industries that cater to one or many of our appetites that lead to our doing these things. Presented in the form of a question, what would happen if we didn’t? The answer is why we almost certainly won’t change and stop doing them, unless their availability is curtailed by circumstances in or out of our control.

In the real world, driven by material values dictating that, to enjoy any semblance of a “lifestyle” in popular parlance, most of us have no choice but to exchange our labor for pay, which we then spend on the “things we do”, which are, technically, the “things we buy”, that is, “our shit”, as we refer to our purchases. In a nutshell, then, the algorithm of our lives becomes “no job, no shit”. That’s the problem. There are very few jobs today that can’t be connected to, or related to the Big Industries that are based on our continued embrace of these products and services. If we stop doing these things, without some clear plan for what comes after, then they, and eventually we (many of us, anyway) will cease to be. There is no time to waste on preparing such a plan, and we are wasting almost all of it.

The Best of the Billionaires

Since I put the idea out there for them to embrace with the alacrity and verve we find so appealing in them, America’s billionaires have been slow to recognize the real opportunity my plan represents. This is hard to explain. After all, who’s better known for seizing an opportunity to become even more financially rotund than the commercial behemoths produced by the US system of trickle down, Hoover up freemarket capitalism.

The plan in a nutshell, you may remember, is a unique combination of reality TV and game show, with an American Idol twist. It starts with a move every billionaire can get behind, and divides up the planet between a number of the most competitive billionaires (weaklings under $2bn net worth need not apply.) Each billionaire is allowed to compete with up to one billion of his or her own money, and whatever profits are gained from their enterprise in the competition are theirs to keep, after all expenses have been settled.

Every day brings new ideas and insights to the scheme, and today’s come from the sale of the Shine Group, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, to the mogul himself, price tag: $672 million. The old fellow wants the company, we are told, because of all the great things it’s goint to add to the content-creation arm of his behemoth media empire. He may envision improvements to his FOX Broadcasting unit, where the need for help with quality content is sorely needed, if we can’t believe what we’re hearing and seeing there, and it seems we can’t. Good luck with that.

So here it is, Ms Murdoch, here is the gem that will help ensure that the new Shine on the Murdoch fortunes is real, and not just a reflection of the stage lights on Dad’s ego. Pick up the option on this program and produce an instant hit. I say start with the 50 states and give one each to a billionaire with no current financial holdings in that state. Charge them with building a team of idea people, researchers, managers and engineers, and public relations and marketing people who are presently unemployed in that state. Start by landing one or more of the many unemployed human resources professionals wandering around looking dazed and confused and go from there.

All they have to do to get started is to verify that they have placed $US one billion in escrow for the project, and the game is on. Round up the local media teams to keep an eye (and a camera) on their their every move, as they begin to shape a new industry for the state, or to improve its existing resources to a level of fiscal productiveness. Make sure they all get exactly the same breaks, in terms of obeying the local laws. Air weekly or even daily reports on the action, answering questions on the minds of local viewers: Who’re the players? What’s the action?; How much is being spent, and on what?

Empanel a group of experts to evaluate the moguls’ projects in terms of whose ideas are generating the most good for the most citizens of each’s respective state. Finally, set up a method, a la American Idol, where the citizens can make their own opinions count, in terms of how they are receiving that which is being put in place for them. Use an algorithm combining the findings of the panel with the votes of the public to allot a number of points per week to each player. The billionaire with the most points for the week is the “Best Billionaire”.

I’m looking your way, Ms Murdoch, for the same reason I first offered the idea to Donald Trump. I figured he’d jump at the chance to do it, and earned a well-deserved Nobel, thus putting him a giant step closer to the US Presidency that he feels so uniquely qualified for. He’s ignoring me, possibly because it’s easier to just keep building projects that shave money off those of his own class. Who can say?

I reckon that, if you know anything at all, Ms Murdoch, you must know media. I think you will see the merits in this plan, if your imagination is as good as we imagine. This project has the potential to produce more media revenue in the first year alone, than Diddums is forking over for your Shine Group. Here’s your chance to build another one, even bigger and better, and in less time, without even breaking a sweat. Call it Spit Shine. Call it whatever you want, once it’s yours. Call me.

Jack Large


The World I Want to See

After posting yesterday’s, it occurred to me that, because the phrase, American Mogul, is a fairly common one, it has likely been used in one context or another by someone. If so, I owed it to that person and myself to find out. I did what anyone does, nowadays, and googled it. Sure enough, there he was, Russell Simmons, an entertainment world figure and a successful entrepreneur himself, if still a toenail short of the billionaire cut. If he remains healthy and energetic, and continues to do everything right, he’ll make it. It’s still America, after all.

Reading about Mr. Simmons, I began to develop a wary admiration of him and his pursuits. He had some help along the way from family, like so many successful people have, but he surely deserves the “self-made” distinction that Forbes applies to billionaires (and less) that the magazine considers more worthy of our approbation. I realized that, while making money had been a relatively central factor in Mr. Simmons’ motivational complex, I was hard-pressed to think of anyone for whom that isn’t necessarily the case. All it takes, in fact, is a trip to the supermarket to put the point into perspective.

I cannot comment about the reality show of which he was the central character, for I’ve only just learned of its existence and have more pressing lacunae on my to-Google list. Apparently it didn’t have the leg for the long run. Others will know; I don’t. It was apparently interesting enough to be signed up for more than a single season, so one wonders what essential ingredient it exhausted first. I had to think about the point for a spell.

As I thought (an activity I do more vigorously before lunch than after) I slipped into a kind of afternoon reverie. I remembered a project I had worked on years earlier in Idaho, taking photographs for a project run by a long-defunct magazine called Idaho Heritage. I spent a day or two, (depending on Day One weather) wandering about taking snapshots, and only occasionally intruding into the daily activities of the residents, to get their ideas about what might be the interesting subjects of my work.

The communities and their citizens were charming, villages, really, each was unique. I’ll bring some of the photos here, soon as it occurs to me where they are archived, for they coincide in years with the advent of the personal computer. I mention these places; there were twelve of them, for one reason. Each of the towns was healthy, but not noticeably growing, and each showed signs of a struggle to remain not just economically viable, but stable enough to remain more than a mere ghost town, of which there are more in Idaho than one might guess.

It occurred to me to wonder what might happen if a single affluent individual decided that one of these towns would be, in a wired world such as ours, a reasonable place to take up residence for all or part of a year? What if, having determined to do so with a budget of a million dollars to make the move, using locally available products and services and tradespeople as possible, they spent 90% of their budget there?

In fact, there is nothing speculative about this scenario, and in Bellevue, Idaho (one of the 12 Idaho Heritage towns) something very similar has happened nearby already, and repeatedly. The next town north of it is Hailey, after which comes Ketchum. All three are part of the Sun Valley, Big Wood River area of central Idaho, which has become the site of serial homes of some of the most recognized names in the country. The easiest way for a longterm resident of the area to become a millionaire is to sell the building lot their pioneer family home still occupies.

The point of today’s maundering entry is that it doesn’t take a big investment in a small community, its residents and their businesses, to set in motion a chain reaction of progressive optimism and hope for the future that makes of such places some of the best places to live in the country. There are a large number of civic projects just waiting on a little bit of liquidity for launch. The knock-on effects of employing a dozen of the most capable local workers, normally resigned to the “rocking chair” of off-season unemployment checks is well known. People with an opportunity to repair, expand, upgrade, begin or complete long-idle projects in their surroundings are people with renewed optimism. Without optimism, life is merely being. The missing ingredient that brings the transformation from being to becoming is disposable capital, and that only comes from the exchange of goods and services, unless you are a Wall Street Banker or a big corporation. But that’s another blog post.