Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Introducing Magna –Tiles!

Introducing Magna –Tiles!

The best toys give kids freedom to create what they see in their mind’s eye: a castle stormed by knights, a busy airport with flights arriving every minute, or a barn that’s home for Old MacDonald’s menagerie. Magna -Tiles are transformational toys that get the creative juices flowing. A set of tiles can be used to create a host of settings for imaginative play as well as obstacle courses, creatures, geometric patterns and so much more.

The colorful tiles look like stained glass but are much tougher. Tiny magnets along the edges of the tile hold pieces together and offer added stability that can support tall towers, until it’s time for them to come tumbling down. For budding architects, engineers, artists and mathematicians, designing with the tiles can help foster an intuitive understanding of some of the basic relationships between shape and stability as well as increase small muscle dexterity. And, because they stick together, they’re easy to clean up and to store out of sight.

Magna Tiles

Magna -Tiles were created in 1992 as an educational toy that helped children learn geometrical concepts and fractions, but educators soon realized that children loved playing with them. They are now among the most beloved toys at many preschools and kindergartens. Parents and teachers have access to the educational materials at the Magna –Tiles website for use at home or in the classroom. But long after the lessons are mastered, the kids will be having fun getting connected to their inventive, creative selves.

Outdoor Adventure at the Austin Film Festival 2015

Outdoor Adventure Film Festival

The Austin Film Festival’s 2015 lineup includes two outdoor adventure films: Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia and The Great Alone. Both films take a broad look at the lives and careers of their subjects, as well as focusing in on a specific challenge. For Jeff Lowe, it’s his climb of Eiger’s notorious North Face. For Lance Mackey, it’s his pursuit of a fifth Iditarod victory. Both couch potatoes and aficionados will love the adrenaline rush, scenic beauty and the moving human stories told in these movies.


Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia

Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia

For nine harrowing days in the winter of 1991, Jeff Lowe pieced together a nearly impossible route up the very center of the Eiger’s North Face. This is the story behind that climb – an act of imagination – that has become legendary. Jon Krakauer photographed Jeff’s ascent for Men’s Journal. Twenty two years later the best selling author narrates the greater, more compelling story behind that climb and what lies beneath Jeff’s high adventure lifestyle and the keys to his success in life today. Original film footage from the archives captures visionary firsts, key instructional lessons and exciting new retakes on old stories.


The Great Alone

The Great Alone

Lance Mackey entered his first dogsled race at the age of approximately negative-two-months: His mom was racing when she was seven months pregnant with him, says John DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter. His father was co-founder of the Iditarod Anchorage to Nome endurance race in 1973. With a family inheritance like that, it’s no wonder that Mackey became one of the greatest dog sled drivers of all time. The Great Alone follows the four time Iditarod winner on his quest for a fifth title. Filmed in the Alaskan Arctic, be prepared for intense frozen beauty. Bring a jacket.


Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia will be shown at 9:30 pm on Friday, October 30th at the Galaxy Highland and at 6:30 pm Monday, November 2nd at the Hideout.

The Great Alone will be shown at 7:30 pm on Thursday, October 29th at Alamo Drafthouse Village and at 2 pm Wednesday, November 4th at the Galaxy Highland

For more information click here

HAAM Benefit Day 2015

HAAM Benefit Day 2015

September 1st is the 10th Annual HAAM Benefit Day. Whole Earth Provision Co. is excited to be hosting two bands this year – Hard Proof and Phoenix Down.

Our Austin Westgate store will be rocking to the Afrobeat music of Hard Proof from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Hard Proof fuses sounds from sub-Saharan Africa with jazz and deep funk, stimulating your mind and moving your feet.

Hard Proof

Our Austin Campus store will be hosting Phoenix Down from 4 to 5 pm. They play alternative rock with an inspiring message. The band has a strong Whole Earth connection – lead singer, lyricist and bassist, Eric Logue-Sargeant also manages the Campus store.

Pheonix Down

HAAM is short for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. The Austin music scene enriches our everyday life here in the city and is a major contributor to our popularity with visitors from around the world. However, as much as we love our music, it doesn’t always add up to a big payday for our musicians. Many of them need help making ends meet, especially when it comes to health care expenses. HAAM provides access to affordable health care for Austin’s low income, uninsured working musicians. Many are self-employed and cannot afford health insurance or basic health care. Many work multiple jobs and struggle to pay for food, clothing and shelter. HAAM sees to it that qualifying Austin musicians find the help they need whether it’s medical, dental or psychological care.

Whole Earth will also be donating a percentage of the day’s sales at our Austin stores to support HAAM. We hope you’ll come out to hear these great Austin musicians and support HAAM with your purchases.

Notes from a Visit to Huautla

Rune Burnett points to a photo of his younger self from a 1967 expedition to Huautla.

Rune Burnett points to a photo of his younger self from a 1967 expedition to Huautla.

Notes from a visit to Huautla

by Joe Ray Jones

Day One

Off on our adventure – an expedition, as it were, to an international scientific venture in the remote parts of Oaxaca, Mexico. One member of our traveling group, Rune Burnett, ventured to Huautla 49 years ago and was among the first to enter what is now known to be a giant cave system. It gives one pause to realize that events of one’s youth can be almost 50 years in the past. Back then, the trip would have taken several days, driving from Austin and camping under strategically located bridges at night. Now the same trip is accomplished in hours with a non-stop flight from Houston to a clean, quaint hotel in Oaxaca city center.


Day Two

The final leg of the journey still involves a four and a half hour drive from the city, but in a new, comfortable rental car over paved and maintained roads winding ever upward.

We’re driving through the clouds. Curls of dense fog rise upward, twisting like a snake – never straight. In one moment, there’s a total loss of visibility and in the next, the view is restored. Loose donkeys and goats loom in the fog along the side of the road. The driver, my son Holland, keeps the wheels close to the center stripe. There’s an abyss to the right and oncoming traffic to the left including giant buses. There’s no curb or shoulder on the road, just a direct and sheer, eroding drop-off that actually undercuts the road surface. It’s a blind roller coaster adventure. When we’re following behind a large freight truck, a path is cleared through the fog and the traffic.

Plants peer out of the fog as we pass. Giant datura covered with their spectacular hanging bell flowers come in and out of focus. Succulents and maize mixed with ferns and soaring ancient long leaf pines along with roadside stands of banana plants. We see heavily blooming hydrangea in mystical blue and a glowing canopy of pink mimosa blossoms in a brief beam of sunlight. Eight hours after leaving Oaxaca city, we pull into Huautla de Jiménez.


Day Three

On to San Agustin, a remote mountain village on the top of a remote mountain. It clings to a cliff above the entrance to Sistema Huautla. There are lots of sturdy young people here. All smiles and muscles, everyone seems very happy to be finished with removing the last of the gear from the cave after a very successful season.

On the trail to the Sótano de San Agustin entrance to Sistema Huautla

On the trail to the Sótano de San Agustin entrance to Sistema Huautla

The approach to the cave entrance cannot be called a hike. It begins in a steeply sloping corn field. Nothing here is horizontal except the narrow, concrete roadway placed on the side of the mountainside like a continuous balcony. The cornfield soon gives way to rainforest with thick undergrowth and a trail of slick, vertical mud. We move from one underbrush handhold to the next – a vertical slog like primates swinging through trees with the savannah left far behind.

The trail is distinguished by a vertical rut in the slimy mountain wall that has been traversed, sometimes multiple times a day, by dozens of international cavers transporting heavy packs filled with technical climbing gear. Each member of our slog lost our balance and verticality, but managed to save ourselves by grabbing handholds of barely adequate roots and stems. How on earth did anyone find the cave entrance in the first place?

We keep going until we reach the most outer lips of the vertical abyss that is the entrance to the cave and the part of the trail called “Mud Slide.” This is it. This is the impasse that stops us in our tracks if we had any tracks in this vertical mud rut. It begins at our feet and disappears into the undergrowth – the rainforest reaching out and clamoring to swallow up all intruders. The mud slide goes on an indeterminate way down into the crater-like entrance to the cave and on ever downward. Many of the native peoples of this hemisphere share a creation story that begins deep within the earth. Seeing and experiencing the main entrance to Sistema Huautla is truly religious in nature and impact. The entrance to this deepest and longest cave in the Americas seems an abyss, a bottomless pit.

Sótano de San Agustin, the main entrance of Sistema Huautla. Photo by Chris Jewell

Sótano de San Agustin, the main entrance of Sistema Huautla. Photo by Chris Jewell (http://www.peshcaving.org/new-page-1/)

The cavers hike day and night to complete the removal of gear from the cave, but we are not too keen on making the return traverse in the dark, not to mention the possibility of missing supper. We reluctantly call a halt to our advance and face the return journey. With heavy hearts, we clamored back seeking our previous handholds and avoiding our fall outs. It’s hard to tell the position of the sun in the rainforest, but we can sense the growing gloom in the atmosphere which we took for the advancing end of the day.

Midway sliding along our route out, the apparition of Bill Steele, co-leader of the expedition, appeared. He, the veteran of many, many traverses of this route in the past month, had come to meet us in the middle of nowhere. Calling us “wusses” for not immediately diving into the profound mud slide back down the trail, he offered us a quick side venture to a smaller cave just 60 feet away. Sixty feet away straight up! Instead of climbing hand over hand sideways as we had for the past few hours, now we were climbing straight up the vertical side of the mountain slope.

Suddenly, we were faced with exactly the three words in English you never want to hear uttered by your guide “Wow, a Fer-de-Lance!” [Now would be a good time to google Fer-de-Lance to get the most appropriate and detailed description of this most venomous of snakes.] The next comment from Bill Steele: “Man, he took off in a hurry. He’s exactly the same color as these leaves we’re standing on. And these snakes always travel in groups.”

We can’t go down so…

Bill Steele at the alternative entrance to San Agustin

Bill Steele at the alternative entrance to San Agustin

We eventually reach the alternative entrance to San Agustin which loomed wide-jawed above us. At least we could see our feet and maybe any snakes. Our host cheers us up with the matter of fact statement that really big spiders live in these caves. “We’ve identified 12 new species this year.” The roof of the cave is blackened with fire soot, a sure sign of some human occupation at some time, a feature many of the local caves do not share. There are also a small array of petroglyphs of unknown age or meaning.

San Agustin de Huautla is a wonderland of adventure that never quits, but not a wonderland of relaxation.

The travelers, from left to right: Susan Souby, Rune Burnett, Joe Ray Jones and Holland Jones with the Explorer’s Club flag for Proyecto Espeleológico de Sistema Huautla  2015 expedition.

The travelers, from left to right: Susan Souby, Rune Burnett, Joe Ray Jones and Holland Jones with the Explorer’s Club flag for Proyecto Espeleológico de Sistema Huautla 2015 expedition.

Learn more about Proyecto Espeleológico de Sistema Huautla 2015 expedition here.

On the Road in Search of Bluebonnets

Bluebonnet image by Brittan Hussing

Photo by Brittan Hussing

The forecast is great! Thanks to the winter rains, the Spring wildflower season may be one for the record book. Make your plans now to pack your camera and a picnic lunch and head out on the road to see the spectacular swaths of color created by Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, Pink Evening Primroses and a succession of beautiful wildflowers filling the fields and roadsides of Texas. The wildflower trails are concentrated in three areas of the state: Northeast Texas centered on Ennis; in East Texas around Chappell Hill and Brenham; and in the Hill Country from Burnet and Marble Falls to Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

In the past, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Hotline was a great resource, providing updates on the routes for the best wildflower viewing. But, unfortunately, it is no more. Today the most up-to-the-minute information can be found on Facebook. What the pages lack in organization, they make up for in timeliness. Visit Texas Bluebonnet Sightings and Texas Wildflower Report – like them and click on notifications and you should be up-to-date on daily wildflower sightings from around the state.

Web pages can also be a source of good information. Texas Wildflower and Bluebonnet Sightings Report has offered route information in past years. Look for updated postings coming soon. For the motherlode of information visit Texas Bluebonnet Reports at Wildflower Haven. They have three free, pdf ebook guides to Brenham, Ennis and the Hill Country complete with route maps.

If you need help in identifying some of the plants you find, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Database. You won’t have to know the plant’s name to find it. There are search options by location, month, color, leaf type and height that can help you hone in on the correct identification.

Bluebonnet image by Johanna Schmidt

Photo by Johanna Schmidt

For many Texans, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Shake off those winter cobwebs and get outdoors to see the countryside decked out in wildflowers. Take a classic Bluebonnet photo of the ones you love. And like a good Texan, look for other creatures that might be enjoying the Bluebonnets as well, particularly snakes. Step carefully so the area will remain beautiful for those who come after you, and so that the wildflowers will survive to reseed, ensuring Spring beauty for years to come.

Thoreau and the mall? No not that mall…

Thoreau and the Mall

Thoreau and the Mall

If you’re a regular reader of our Facebook page, you know that Whole Earth starts every day with a quote. Last year’s 365 quotes were just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of quotes we collected but that failed to make the grade for “publication.” And in gathering this mountain of quotes, we’ve learned several lessons.

Perhaps the most important one is that any quote from Mark Twain must be verified. It seems that our great American writer has been credited with many a quote that he never actually set down on paper. There are often clues that something is amiss – usually a colloquial phrase or a word used before its time. So when we read this quote from Henry David Thoreau, it looked like another example of misattribution.

“When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall?”

Wait, what? A mall? Thoreau was blessed with foresight, but did he really foresee the great American shopping mall and its early morning mall walkers? Surely this was an “updated” or even a spurious quote. A quick internet search revealed that the quote is genuine. It’s from his famous essay “Walking” published in The Atlantic Monthly on June 1, 1862. So what was a mall to Thoreau?

According to Webster’s Second Unabridged, mall refers to Pall Mall, a game and a place. The game was an ancestor of croquet, played on long grass alleys with large hoops, wooden balls and mallets. In 17th century London, the King and his court played Pall Mall in St. James’ Park. As the game’s popularity waned the Pall Mall alley was repurposed as a tree-lined public promenade, but the name Pall Mall or the Mall stuck. So Thoreau’s mall is a shaded public walk.

What would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Thoreau believed we would lose our connection to the Wild. He saw walking as a holy act, a communion with the Wild, which enriched our humanity by returning us to our true home within the natural world. It was easy for Thoreau to find the Wild. It was just down the road and over a fence or two. For us, it’s more difficult. But we should not be deterred from following Thoreau’s advice and cultivating our connection with the Wild by walking in wild places whenever we can.

What We’re Reading – Dogs in Cars

Dogs in Cars by Lara Jo Regan

Our new favorite book so far for this season is Lara Jo Regan’s Dogs in Cars. It’s a vicarious joy ride that captures those amazing moments when our canine companions are one with the wind.

“Most dogs become downright delirious over a car ride, and I wanted to capture this amazing primal energy in photographs beyond what I’d seen before.”

In order to get these shots, Regan built a special light, which jutted out over the roof of a the car, a harness that allowed her to lean out of the window, and various other contraptions to make the images come alive.

Need a lift? Dogs in Cars will put a smile on your face. You’ll find copies at all of our Whole Earth stores except the Campus store in Austin. Here are a couple of our favorite photos to give you a taste of the good things to come.

Dogs in Cars Photo

Champ and Jordan


Dogs in Cars Photo

Sasha

What We’re Reading

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon for The Halloween Tree

Cover art by Leo and Diane Dillon for The Halloween Tree

Halloween, as it’s celebrated today, is a relatively recent development. Our great grandparents, as children, probably never heard of it and never went trick-or-treating or dressed in costumes. Over the past 100 years, All Hallows Eve has gradually transformed into a holiday for all ages filled with partying, candy and disguises. But its roots lie deep in the past.

In Texas, we’re more aware of those roots than in many other parts of the country. We celebrate both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. For us, the connection between Halloween and the dead is much clearer and runs deeper than skeleton costumes and white-sheeted ghosts. Now that Halloween is almost upon us, we reread one of our favorite holiday stories: Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.

Bradbury is perhaps best known for his stories The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. But he was also a master of the small town fantasy where his youthful characters are faced with great peril, and those who rise to the challenge take giant steps towards a larger, more mature vision of the world. Bradbury’s stories are, by turns, poetic, dramatic, wise and downright scary. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a favorite in the genre, and The Halloween Tree is a close cousin.

In it, boys intent on Halloween thrills get far more than they expect. One of them is spirited away, and his friends travel through space and time to rescue him, with the help of Mr. Moundshroud. Their journey carries them to ancient Egypt; to our distant ancestors, the cave dwellers; to the Celtic Feast of Samhain; into the company of witches and gargoyles; and on to Mexico where the boys decide that Mexican Halloweens are better: “Up in Illinois, we’ve forgotten what it’s all about. I mean the dead, up in our town, tonight, they’re forgotten. Nobody remembers. Nobody cares. Nobody goes to sit and talk to them. Boy, that’s lonely. That’s really sad. But here – it’s both happy and sad. …Up in the graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy. I mean it’s almost like Thanksgiving. And everyone set down to dinner and only half the people able to eat.”

The book was first published in 1972, and was based on a screen play penned by Bradbury for an animated feature film by Chuck Jones. The film was finally made in 1993 by Hanna–Barbera and won a daytime Emmy. The book is beloved by many who read it as children and found it scary but also comforting.

Bradbury loved storytelling and writing, and his well-crafted novels and stories are difficult to put down. He creates an immersive experience where the need to know what happens next is matched with visually evocative images that play out in the imagination like a film. Here’s a taste of Bradbury’s magic. The boys of The Halloween Tree have reached Notre Dame in Medieval Paris but see that there are no gargoyles. The call goes out and:

“…all the dead statues and idols and semigods and demigods of Europe lying like a dreadful snow all about, abandoned, in ruins, gave a blink and start and came as salamanders on the road, or bats in the skies or dingoes in the brush. They flew, they galloped, they skittered.

…And obedient to the summons, the mobs, the flocks, the prides, the crush, the collection, the raving flux of monsters, beasts, vices rampant, virtues gone sour, discarded saints, misguided prides, hollow pomps oozed, slid, suckered, pelted, ran bold and right up the sides of Notre Dame. In a floodtide of nightmare, in a tidal wave of outcry and shamble they inundated the cathedral, to crust themselves on every pinion and upthrust stone.”

So if you’re looking for a short Halloween tale to enjoy yourself or to read aloud as a family, The Halloween Tree just might be the book for you. It’s a reminder that “Night and day. Summer and winter. Seedtime and harvest. Life and death. That’s what Halloween is, all rolled up into one.”

Chapter heading for The Halloween Tree by Joseph Mugnaini

Chapter heading for The Halloween Tree by Joseph Mugnaini

The Last Act Theatre Company presents Peer Gynt at the Graffiti Park – Austin

October 16th – November 2nd   ~   Thursday – Sunday 8:00PM
HOPE Outdoor Gallery (Graffiti Park)
1012 Baylor St. Austin, TX 78703

The Last Act Theatre Company presents Peer Gynt at the Graffiti Wall

The Last Act Theatre Company in Austin has chosen a most unusual venue for their upcoming performances of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. The production will take place at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, also known as the Graffiti Park on Baylor Street. The Company embraces unconventional venues to create immersive experiences for the audience. According to Sara Billeaux of Last Act, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery was a perfect fit. “We were inspired by the look and atmosphere of the space, and we like the fact that artists are free to come by and paint at any time so the backdrop is always changing. We felt that those things all combined to create the perfect place to stage this fantastical, whimsical story.”

Peer Gynt is loosely based on a Norwegian fairytale which plays out both in the “real world” and in the realm of dreams. The hero, Peer Gynt, has been described by Harold Bloom as a “Norwegian roaring boy, marvelously attractive to women, a kind of bogus poet, a narcissist, absurd self-idolator, a liar, seducer, bombastic self-deceiver.” Ibsen weaves Peer’s story from both folkloric and satirical threads. The play was first performed in Oslo in 1876 and included music composed by Edvard Grieg some of which we know today as the Peer Gynt Suite. Following the lead of many modern theater companies, the Last Act’s presentation has been adapted from the original by the director Bridget Farias Gates.

Whole Earth Provision Co. is taking a particular interest in this production as it is located near our 1014 North Lamar store and our company offices. The Graffiti Wall is a constant source of entertainment and it will be very interesting to see it used in this new and unusual way.

HAAM Benefit Day 2014 – Austin

HAAM Benefit Day Image

Tuesday, September 23rd is the 9th Annual HAAM Benefit Day. HAAM is short for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. The Austin music scene enriches our everyday life here in the city and is a major contributor to our popularity with visitors from around the world. However, as much as we love our music, it doesn’t always add up to a big payday for our musicians. Many of them need help making ends meet, especially when it comes to health care expenses. HAAM provides access to affordable health care for Austin’s low income, uninsured working musicians. Many are self-employed and cannot afford health insurance or basic health care. Many work multiple jobs and struggle to pay for food, clothing and shelter. HAAM sees to it that qualifying Austin musicians find the help they need whether it be medical, dental or psychological care.

On HAAM Benefit Day, Whole Earth Provision Co. will host bands at all three of our Austin stores. Here’s the schedule:

North Lamar at 1 pm: Vallejo will get you moving with their melting pot of rock, funky rhythms and Latin percussion.

Westgate at 1 pm: Bonnie Whitmore is an Americana singer-songwriter with a big voice and songs that will tug at your heart.

Campus at 2 pm: The South Austin Moonlighters are a versatile all-star band who can knock your socks off a hundred different ways.

Whole Earth will also be donating a percentage of the day’s sales at our Austin stores to support HAAM. We hope you’ll come out to hear these great Austin musicians and support HAAM with your purchases.