Archives for category: Bite-sized Activism

The weather in Paris has been depressing this spring. But it was the perfect backdrop for the depressing French presidential campaign, which was harsh and ugly, with the extreme right gaining ground and the Greens written off completely (less than 3% of the vote). Sigh.

So I have a suggestion for you. To lift your spirits, celebrate Mother’s Day, and give your kids the priceless, lasting gift of eco-consciousness and civic responsibility…

Why not take a trip to the Zoo La Boissière du Doré for a special event to raise awareness about orphaned orangutans? The zoo is right outside of Nantes. (OK, so it’s a four-hour drive from Paris, but I’m from California, so… road trip! It’s only about two hours to Nantes by train.)

Need a moment to think about it?

How about this moment? This is one of the orphans at the Nyaru Menteng reintroduction center. He didn’t want to go back to the center for his nap after “forest school.”

(Image copyright Orangutan Outreach! Click the picture to go to their Pinterest page and see a bigger version.)

Orangutan Outreach helps support the Nyaru Menteng center (managed by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation), where our little buddy above lives, and the Ketapang Rescue Center (managed by International Animal Rescue). If you’re still not convinced, watch the Orangutan Outreach mom and baby orangutan video that melted our hearts.

Missing Orangutan Mothers (MOM)

This year, on Mother’s Day (May 13th), the Zoo La Boissière du Doré is hosting the annual Orangutan Outreach MOM (Missing Orangutan Mothers) event, which raises awareness about the plight of orphaned orangutans:

Every year on Mothers Day, Orangutan Outreach celebrates orangutan mothers in zoos around the world. We take this special day to bring attention to the hundreds of orphaned orangutans being cared for in rescue centers in Borneo and Sumatra.

The orangutan keeper at the zoo, Dr. Marylise Pompignac Poisson, is a child psychiatrist, psychology educator, and specialist in early psychosocial development of primates — both human and non-human.

The program she has put together for the MOM event includes:

  • a talk about orangutans during which she will also discuss findings of her research on the importance of early interaction in the cognitive and emotional development of infant orangutans,
  • a fact sheet/quiz for visitors,
  • coloring pages for the little ones.

She will be available to chat with visitors and answer questions, her book Les Orangs-outangs de la Boissière nous livrent leurs secrets will be available to buy, and you’ll be able to make donations on the spot. All proceeds will go to the EAZA Southeast Asia campaign (see below).

By now you should be highly motivated to go to the MOM event at the zoo! (But if you can’t, scroll past the details for other ways to help.)

Event details

Date: May 13
Time: 13:00
Location: the orangutan enclosure, of course.
Hotels near the zoo

Map of the zoo (click for a downloadable PDF):

The orangutans desperately need our help

The MOM event is being co-sponsored by the nonprofit org Le Jardin d’Athéna, founded and run by Dr. Pompignac Poisson, and EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria).

This year, EAZA is running a campaign to support endangered animals in Southeast Asia. Large animals in this region are in serious danger of being completely wiped out in the near future (the Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered, the Bornean orangutan is endangered). This is largely because their rainforest habitat is being razed to make room for palm oil plantations. It’s all about greed.

For professionals

If you or anyone you know are a pediatric, veterinary, or other professional interested in early primate development, Dr. Pompignac Poisson is offering a training program on the topic: Stage d’observation en primatologie.

Dr. Pompignac Poisson is also a member of the Société Française pour l’Etude du Comportement Animal, and will be presenting her research at their meeting May 9-11.

I grew up in San Diego with the beautiful San Diego Zoo. My favorite parts were the reptile house and the monkeys and apes. And the elephants. At the San Diego Zoo in the 70’s, you could buy bags of peanuts and the elephants would take them from your palm with their tickly trunks. But I don’t want to think about that right now. And they let kids ride on the giant tortoises, and reach into a kid-level incubator to hold newly hatched chicks. That was all over by the 80’s. Bad for the animals. I respect that. But I suspect it changed mostly because of liability issues.

I have a special place in my heart for orangutans. One day I was at the zoo with my son when he was in his early teens, standing on the observation platform above the orangutan exhibit. Looked kind of like the one below (click for bigger), but with a wooden wall instead of a net wall. You could watch them from the platform, or you could go under the platform and look at them at eye level through very thick glass. They are notorious escape artists. Can’t blame them. They’re too smart to be enclosed. But I guess it’s better than being butchered and having your babies sold as pets, or being burned out of your home for palm oil plantations

That day, there was an adult orangutan chilling out on a rock below the platform, just staring up at the few people up there, about like this. I waved at her and said some stuff.

She was bored as hell, no doubt. She looked around her and grabbed a clod of dried dirt with dried grass sticking out of it. Then she looked up at me and gently, lackadaisically, tossed it up onto the platform, where it landed off to my right a little. I picked it up and tossed it back down to the ground beside her. She picked it up and threw it back to me. I was clapping and talking to her and laughing the whole time. We played catch for a few minutes. It was glorious. I don’t remember how or why it ended. She probably got tired of the game before I did, though.

That’s the whole story. Disappointed? You wouldn’t be if it had been you.

The other day I discovered Orangutan Outreach when Vincent saw a tweet about their Apps for Apes program. We watched one of their videos and pretty much decided on the spot we’d sell everything and go live in the jungle and hold baby orangutans for the rest of our lives. I’m crazy enough to do it. My body may not cooperate, though, unfortunately.

In any case, I’ve decided to devote most, if not all of my do-good energies to the plight of the orangutan. I think it will be good for my mental health if I focus.

You see, with social media, and all the information delivery platforms out there, I find myself overwhelmed. My bleeding heart is running out of blood. I’m losing hope and have compassion fatigue. Petition fatigue. War and disaster and hunger and racism and hate and corruption and cruelty and injustice fatigue. I constantly feel pulled in a million directions to do something. I know you know what I mean.

I’ve done only little things for Orangutan Outreach so far. Put a link to their site on my page, retweeted @redapes (their Twitter handle) tweets, read up on orangutans, connected with the OO founder on LinkedIn and gave some suggestions for promoting the organization, voted for their rescue boat. Working on figuring out some expenses we can cut in order to divert that money to OO. I even managed to get orangutans on Francophilia! I’ll do what I can with what I have.

I’m just getting started. But you have to start somewhere. You have to start. {:(|}

So I was on the rue Saint Paul in the Marais yesterday, a trip to Thanksgiving to get French’s mustard and PopTarts (les PopTarts de Proust, OK??). Also came home with Vlasic Kosher Dills (cornichons don’t cut it; no dill) and a can of vegetarian refried beans…

Dragged Claire along with me, and she was urging me to get something “truly atrocious.” There’s atrocious aplenty at the American grocery stores here; that semi-liquid marshmallow stuff in a jar, for example, and StoveTop stuffing (which I’ve bought twice in 5+ years, that’s right, deal with it). I assured her PopTarts were quite atrocious enough and sent her home with two of them. I await her assessment.

(Aside: They have Celestial Seasonings tea there, including Red Zinger in boxes of 10 teabags for 3.75€. You can get the same thing online for 1.99€/box direct from, run by Harold, who is a great guy. Please support him so I can keep getting mass quantities of Red Zinger, without which I cannot survive winter in Paris.)

So we leave Thanksgiving in search of a café with a heated terrace, but just a couple doors down we stop short, drawn like magpies to a shop window bursting with bright cheery girliness in the form of funky, colorful leather clogs, bags and other goodies. I’m so starved for color in Paris, displays like this one make my dopamine or endorphins or serotonin or all of the above spike big time.

So of course we go in. Parisians tend to turn up their noses at clogs, BTW. Their loss. But Claire is not one of those Parisians. I’ve never stopped wearing clogs since the 70s, and Claire and I are from the same generation, so we enjoyed sharing the blast-from-the-past moment. She likes dainty florals à la Liberty of London, while I like loud 70s kitsch and the retro-collagey thing, all of which, as you see, they do:

The objects themselves were delightful, but the story gets even better. You see, they’re handmade by real, live French craftsmen! The shop, which only opened in Paris three months ago, is run by the soft-spoken young Benjamin Renoux (picture below), who is learning the leather/cobbler trade from his father. They have two other shops, in Honfleur and Saint-Malo (both big tourist destinations). Lucky for you, Cuir du Voyageur also sells its delicious products through its website.

True artisans are getting harder and harder to find in France because, of course, they have a tough time competing with the cheap, mass-produced crap imported from other countries (no need to name names).

So this shop is a true gem. Support them if you can!

I’m going to get some clogs (only 79€ for handmade leather shoes, folks, I mean come on…). Probably the ones at the top of the page. Or maybe a pair with the pattern on the bag (red, white, black, pinup, etc.). Or maybe I’ll just get the bag… Or the darker floral clogs in the bottom right corner of the picture just above. Or the red, red rose clogs I saw in the window… (You can see why I did not leave the shop with an actual pair of clogs.) And I’m also going to offer to translate their site into English pro bono.

By all means stop by and see all the other things they have, like the barrettes (you know, the kind with the stick through two holes, straight outta the 70s,) and the irresistible little leather pouches…

Cuir du Voyageur
32, rue Saint Paul
75004 Paris

Cuir du Voyageur Facebook page

Out of the goodness of his heart, a French tech blogger named Cédric Serret (author of Autour du Web) decided to launch a fundraising campaign last year to encourage bloggers to contribute to the iconic French charity Les Restaurants du Coeur founded by comedian/activist Coluche in 1985. Cédric is running his Les Enfoirés de Blogueurs campaign again this year.

(Les Enfoirés refers to artists and musicians who give benefit concerts for Les Restos du Coeur. Read all about them in English.)

Les Restos du Coeur feeds those who have trouble feeding themselves. The organization has no religious or other agenda. There are more and more people needing this kind of help (+25% in the last three years), and they’re getting younger and younger…

I’ve translated Cédric’s blog post describing his campaign below. The rest is up to you!

The first Enfoirés de Blogueurs campaign took place in 2010. The goal? To support Les Restos du Coeur, a charitable organization that has been helping the less fortunate since 1985.
 Would you like to become an Enfoiré de Blogueur? Read on to find out how…

In 2010, we had 55 donors who raised 1,555€ — enough to pay for 55 daily meals for a month.

We’d like to do even better this year!

Whether you donate 10, 20 or 100€, the important thing is to make a donation.

How to become an Enfoiré de Blogueur

I haven’t changed the rules since last year:

  1. Make a donation through the Restos du Cœoeur site.
  2. When you get your confirmation e-mail, forward it to me at or

Why send me the e-mail? So I can add your donation to the counter and offer you two links.

Two free links

Since the only way I can thank you for your donation is through my blog, you’ll get two links:

Bloggers who participated last year will get another two links this year.

Spread the word

Encourage your readers to participate too. Write a post on your blog, share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+. Display one of the banners in our banner pack. Be creative and spread the word among your network.

And don’t forget that without Coluche, none of this would exist… And only our help can keep it going!

P.S.: I am getting no personal gain from this. I’m just trying to make things happen the only way a blogger can! Your donations are made exclusively through the Restos du Coeœur site and I get NOTHING AT ALL!

Thank you for participating.

If I didn’t live a block from the Seine, I sometimes wonder if I’d still be in Paris. I’ve spent most of my life next to or in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you see, and I can’t live long without a body of water nearby. Even the dirty brown streak of the Seine, a sad, sad substitute for the Pacific, an icky little skid mark in comparison, satisfies that criterion.

The fact that I’m a Pisces has nothing to do with anything at all, but it’s a pretty coincidence.

I’m not complaining about the murky strip of river that is standing in for my ocean, really I’m not. I walk my dog along it every day and it’s water and even though I can only look at it, not that I’d want to get in it, yuck, it gets me as close as I can get for the moment to Madison when she dumps the bottle of Morton’s in the tub and unfurls her tail.

This post is brought to you today by the letter W because it’s Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers all over the world publish posts on the same socially or environmentally conscious theme and this year’s theme is “water.” (Last year it was “poverty,” and I wrote about it here on frogblog.)

I put on my drama queen costume and say I would die without water but, every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 really do die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.

We don’t have problems like that in the West.

(Mini-mermaid maintenance in Indiana, while Dad was at Purdue.)

For a time, I lived “on the shores of Gitche Gumee,” a formidable body of water, not an ocean, but big enough that I couldn’t see to the opposite shore and badass enough to swallow the Edmund Fitzgerald. It served as a Pacific surrogate for a short time. Much later, the almost three years I lived an hour from Death Valley nearly killed me, though the thunderstorms were magnificent and flash floods made temporary baby-beaches of the dunes. By the time I escaped and moved back to the ocean I was like one of those fish in Africa that live in ephemeral ponds and dehydrate into crispy fishcakes in the dry season and then come back to life with the spring rains.

I don’t feel like getting on a soapbox today. Sorry. I feel like selfishly daydreaming. I don’t rant as much as I used to on this blog anyway. Maybe all the people in my building tossing cat litter into the recycling bin and plastic bottles into the trash bin and American morons voting for Tea Party morons and fucking Sarko rounding up and deporting a vulnerable and disadvantaged ethnic group to pander to the far right are slowly draining the fight out of me. At least today I don’t have much fight in me.

Sometimes I just want to say to the world what my mother said after a dozen years of watching my little brother and me knock each other around, from her spot on the couch where she was drinking white wine as was her wont in the years immediately following her divorce: “Go ahead and kill each other. Just don’t knock over the Christmas tree.”

Anyway. Do me a favor and go here and scroll down to “Suggested Post Ideas” to get some compelling factoids about the state and use of water on our poor abused and declining planet. And then please sign this petition. And then maybe donate some money to Blue Planet Network or a charity of your choice (preferably one that doesn’t shove religion down throats along with spoonfuls of mush) so I can keep on dreaming of warm salt water on this fall day in Paris without feeling guilty about not having done my duty. I’ll be grateful to you. Besides, I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do; I donated to last month. (I guess I am still fighting after all.)

My darling husband knows the Seine is not a permanent solution, so he dangles this carrot in front of me on gloomy days. We’re toying with the idea of going there “next,” when and if next happens. Rents there are less than half what they are in Paris and you get an ocean too.

I have not lived on the Atlantic, but something tells me it will do just fine. I should be able to stick my toes in it at least a few times a year. And I’m sure it looks and smells right, and I’m sure it sounds right. Like an ocean.

I get e-mail spam from all kinds of sites I’ve given my address to. I don’t mind the stuff from orgs like Conservation International, Partners in Health, World Wildlife Fund (although they do send a lot more e-mails than the others, which is starting to get annoying). The e-mails keep these worthy organizations at the forefront of my mind so that when I do have an extra few bucks and a gift occasion (or a wild hair), I sometimes donate money.

I got a WWF spam mail yesterday featuring e-cards you can send people for Earth Day, including this series:


I have a green tip for WWF: Stop Sending Me Junk Mail. Not only do they bombard me with e-mails, they also send me shit in the mail. Tons of it. All the time. Air mail. All the way to Paris.

Here’s what I got this week (They did not send the shoe. Duh. It’s there for scale. Size 8.5 US.):


You get the idea. The trees, the transport of raw materials, the emissions from processing the inks and the paper and running the machines printing this crap I don’t even look at (that’s what the Internet’s for people!), the cost and jet fumes to get it here, the cost of personnel to stuff and mail envelopes… What do you think all of this costs? I want those dollars protecting orangutans, goddammit.

I seem to remember asking them through their site to take me off the real-mail list (could have been CI though). Never got a response, whoever it was. When I donated to WWF once there was a gifty thing, recycling bags that I wanted them to send to my son in California instead of to me all the way in fucking France. Not an option. Couldn’t opt not to receive the gifty things either.

I just went back to see if they had changed that. You do have the option to make a regular donation and pass on the gifty thing. But I went to adopt an animal (a gray wolf: Sarah Palin’s favorite for target practice from the air):


I tried to put “0″ in the quantity of “Adoption Kits” and got this:



They need to give donors an account where they can go in and set their preferences. I’d choose no real mail and only one e-mail a month. I want alternate shipping addresses (like Amazon, hello, not hard to do) for gifty things or to skip gifty things altogether. I do not need a stuffed wolf. Nobody needs a stuffed wolf. You listening WWF?

So my growing perception of WWF is that it’s wasteful, aggressive and it doesn’t respect its donor base. I’m about to unsubscribe from their e-mails and give my money exclusively to Conservation International for eco causes even though they don’t have a cute panda logo. They seem more austere and respectful of the environment and their users’ mental and real bandwidth.

So there.

Having spent most of my life on the California edge of the Pacific, when I wasn’t in the middle of it, that is, I am exceedingly fond of sunsets over the ocean. (Isn’t it generous of Nature to share her kaleidoscope with such mean beasts?)

I trapped a San Diego sunset one February day three years ago and now it’s serving as the wallpaper on my computer. It was one of many sublime sunsets I drove into after work when I was living at the beach the year before I moved here. I would drive a block past my tiny dollhouse to the empty beach, park my car, and leap out to capture the sky. Did that a lot. Here’s another February sunset from that year (click it!).


In addition to sunsets, I also love the color orange, African fabrics, and doing things to make the world a better place when I can. So after talking about the Shona shop (at the end of my last post), I bought a skirt. Couldn’t resist.

They called the one I bought the Sunset Skirt. It’s made of fine polished cotton, lined, and sewn with vertical panels that are wider at the bottom for a subtle flirty, frilly effect. The orange and off-white are complemented by a deep, almost black purple, just like in the captive sunset above. The skirt is as delicious as its name. And Mapendo, one of the Shona founders, sewed it herself. Thank you Mapendo!

This summer, Paris has had almost nonstop cotton-skirt weather, so I should have plenty of chances to wear this outfit before fall sets in.


I want to take this opportunity to salute Dawn Hurley, the wizard behind the Shona shop curtain (and what a beautiful curtain it must be!). I asked her about the shop and how she got involved. Here’s what she said:

While living here in Congo, I wanted to do something that would address some of those bottom levels of the pyramid, as you were saying. I am an English teacher by profession but that did not seem to be extremely useful in this context. Sewing seemed like a tangible way to help people help themselves, so I started with that, thinking that I would just carry some things back with me on my trips to the states, and sell them at a church or something.

Dawn’s husband had initially encouraged her to sell the items on eBay, but she ended up teaching herself html and launching an out-of-the-box platform for the Shona e-commerce site. Since then, she has found a company that donates its services to spruce up the site and keep it updated. She did all this with no background in sewing or geek stuff. Bravo, Dawn. (Read Dawn’s blog for more.)

Stories like this, people like this, are what make life good. Pretty skirts help too, of course.

I have never seen a sunset in Africa, but I think I’ll have to one of these days.