When You Can’t Stop Bringing Up Fungi in Casual Conversations

Imagine if you went out bird watching and half the birds didn’t have names. That’s where we are with fungi according to mycologist Noah Siegel. Fungi are essential for life on this planet, but since they are mostly out of site and out of mind they don’t get the credit or protection due to them.

Siegel delivered an entertaining lecture at this year’s Los Angeles Mycological Society Mushroom Fair this past weekend. He emphasized the important role amateurs can play simply through photography and posting reports in apps like iNaturalist.

When Siegel was asked about the medicinal benefits of certain mushrooms he responded by saying that, “there’s a lot of snake oil out there.” Amen to that. I have to say I’ve become increasingly frustrated with some in the mycology sphere who are more interested in self promotion than in exploring the fungal world in all its majesty and complexity. Comrades, we need better science popularizers!

I also had the privilege of taking a cultivation class the day before the fair taught by Peter McCoy. He taught us a cultivation technique invented by an amateur Robert McPherson, aka Psylocybe Fanaticus, that makes use of sterilized mason jars to inoculate grain. McPherson’s method, which he calls PF Tek, allows you to propagate fungi in your kitchen without a lot of expensive lab equipment. You do need a pressure canner which I’m lobbying the administration here at Root Simple to let me order.

Odds are there’s a mycological society near you. While it’s interesting to grow mushrooms and forage for edible species it’s also just plain fun to look at them wherever they are, in the woods, in a garden or in an alley.

If you’re a local, the LA Mycological society has a very cool reading group run by Aaron Thompson. It’s free and you can sign up here.

Community Power! Elect Hugo Soto-Martinez!

I live in the most corrupt city in the United States, Los Angeles. A quarter of our city council is either in prison or under investigation. The way you get elected to the city council here is to take money from developers and real estate financiers. Once you get in office you serve those interests. Between elections you fix the occasional pothole and show up for photo ops when there’s a new star on the Walk of Fame. Meanwhile, income inequality, unafordable housing, homelessness, and traffic deaths have increased.

Nobody epitomizes this status quo and lack of vision more than my city current councilman Mitch O’Farrell. In the nine years he’s sat on the city council he’s failed to advocate for housing and services for the homeless and instead has pursued a discredited policy of criminalizing poverty. Instead of pushing for safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists he’s failed to implement even modest improvements and, as a result, our streets are grim, high speed traffic sewers. He and his staff fill their hours by serving the interests of a parasitic class of real estate investors, bloated non-profits and lobbyists who are his patrons.

Thankfully we have a chance to change things for the better by electing Hugo Soto-Martinez for council district 13. Hugo is the son of street vendors and has spent the last fifteen years as an organizer for UNITE HERE Local 11, a union of hotel, warehouse and food service workers. Once elected Hugo will represent the interests of ordinary working people. He supports building social housing, jobs programs and making our streets safer for everyone. You can read more about his platform on his website.

Electing Hugo is just the beginning. There’s a lot of work to do to turn this city around. Thankfully, more people are starting to pay attention to local elections. You can help out by going to my fundraising page for Hugo and chipping in a few dollars.

Wherever you are you can be a part of change at the local level. I believe that Hugo is a great model for community power. Let’s take Los Angeles back by electing Hugo in June!