Sunday, June 6, 2010

Earthen Oven Part Deux

I've been watching the Green Channel (also known as the Ed Begley Jr. Channel) every now and then, specifically Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days" in which he chronicles people's attempts to do everything from lose weight to live like a Muslim for -- you guessed it -- 30 days. The show is highly entertaining and a rare look into how Americans really live, all but nonexistent on more mainstream television.

One episode followed an out-of-shape dad in his early 30s who embarks on an "age reversal" regimen. The program called for exercise and better eating. Fine. But then he added steroids and human growth hormone administered by a ghoulish middle-aged doctor who looked like he smeared half a can of black shoe polish into his hair and mustache every morning. I won't spoil it, but things awry. What a surprise.

The other night, I watched another episode which to my surprise took place at The Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, site of the mud bread oven I wrote about in my previous post. A couple from the Bronx, Vito, a tattooed Italian bouncer and Johari, his black wife-girlfriend, who is a party planner (see picture above), live on the commune for 30 days.

Food is, of course, a major issue. Poor Vito, who has arms the size of tree trunks, has to live without meat on the vegetarian/vegan commune. He's reduced to shooting rabbits with a pellet gun. Later, he visits a farm that sells grass-fed beef which he tries to roast over a campfire. His fire is clearly not hot enough, and the result looks unappetizingly raw.

If this show were on Fox, there would be screaming matches and non-stop, over-the-top mutual contempt. Red vs. Blue, Real Common Sense Americans against Lilly-Livered Commie Pinko Nazis. But the show isn't like that all. Sure the couple get annoyed, but in the end, they have a positive experience and, in spite of their initial doubts, come away with some real lessons: use less energy, eat more locally produced food, take more public transportation.

The commune people, meanwhile, are far more tolerant and much less militant than their stereotype. They're not happy Vito's eating meat, but hey if that's what he wants to do, it's his thing.

TV that reflects reality, makes us think and shows people compromising and learning from each other instead of reinforcing prejudices and set narratives. What a concept.

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