Moving Like Ex-Lax

Dearest Poopers, I hope you have been feeling balanced and regular as we transition into this autumn season.  It’s been over a month since we returned from the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival with the premiere of Eat $h*t: How Our Waste Can Save the World. We couldn’t have asked for a better reception.

We spread the message of bottom-up sustainability to hundreds of poopers in the audience, passed out thousands of postcards packed with important potty facts, and Scotland’s national newspaper, The Scotsman, praised us as “…the most important show on the fringe…ahead of its time.” Perhaps most importantly, there are now hundreds of people all over the world proudly sporting "I'm A Pooper!" pins.

There's still a lot of work to do but, needless to say, we are happy poopers. And we’re not resting on our bums just yet. (See below for events happening this very week!)

Nov. 19th is World Toilet Day in honor of the 2.6 billion people still living without safe toilets. Stay tuned for more information about a Big Squat in Times Square, a sanitation hackathon, and a one night only showing of Eat $h*t on Nov. 19th. But that’s not all. We’ll soon be rolling out a new, easy-to-use website, a DVD of the Edinburgh production, potty songs for toddlers, and more.

In the meantime, join the poop crew Wed, Oct. 10 for GrowNYC’s 7th Annual New Green City, FREE in Union Square from 10am-5pm. Come for the awesome workshops and locavore delicacies, stay for the infamous turd toss.

Thurs morning, Oct. 11, check out Skraptacular’s Earthfest, a district-wide event in celebration of our planet in Fort Tryon Park. The Puru will be teaching a workshop on waste consciousness you won’t soon forget…just follow your nose! (Skip to :45 in the video below to check out the last year's event.)

Skraptacular! from Megan Paznik on Vimeo.

Peaceful pooping until then,

Shawn “The Puru” Shafner

World Toilet Day is Here!

Dearest Poopers, If you've already had your morning movement, you may have noticed something different about your toilet today. You may have noticed it was slightly puffed up, proud of itself. It may have been wearing an extra big smile, showing off its porcelain whites. And after your product was whisked away down the drain , perhaps you could sense that your toilet was patting itself on the tank.

Yes indeed, this World Toilet Day, toilets everywhere are luxuriating in the acclaim that's so seldom afforded to them. Just think of all the wonderful things your toilet does for you! Six times a day (on average), the toilet takes away your pain. Your toilet doesn't judge you or call you names. It's there for you through pizza, hot dogs and taco night, lovingly accepting that which your own body has rejected.

But toilets are not just convenient, they're critical. World Toilet Day stands as a celebration of a technology that has prevented countless deadly diseases in the past 150 years, and as an act of solidarity with the over 40% of our world population still living--and dying--without access to safe toilets. Yet in a recent survey of things they could not live without, British museum-goers ranked toilets 9th, behind sunshine, internet connection, Facebook and email (clean water was 3rd). In India more people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet, and the amount GDP that is lost in Africa due to sanitation exceeds all foreign aid dollars. What a waste.

Across the spectrum, changing our relationship to the toilet requires us to reassess our understanding of value. Though poop may smell bad and be not the prettiest product to every emerge from our bodies (what is, really?), it is essentially a product. It is a nutrient-rich commodity that must be handled and processed like any other, from which there is money to be made. In the "developed" world, we are only beginning to compare the value of poop to that of the water we flush it in, or the energy and infrastructure required to maintain it (hear more from Science Friday on NPR). In the "developing" world, we are beginning to understand how making toilets "cool" can generate demand for them in ways simple health lectures never could. (Read more on the changing attitudes toward toilets from World Toilet Day founder, Jack Sim.)

The POOP Project is proud to be part of an awakening shaking abdomens around the world. As gross as it may be, poop is undeniably a part of us. It is our shadow, our shame. But it is also THE shit; it is our gold. It is the part of us that connects back to the earth and renews our relationship to the universe. We can turn our waste into a world of opportunity, and it all starts with four simple words:

"I love you, toilet."

A Joyous World Toilet Day to you all, and peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Celebrity Scat

I am happy to announce that we are now beginning to release some of the footage from our highly acclaimed World Toilet Day New York event this past November 19th, 2011.  For your viewing pleasure, I give you Ms. Megan Gerlach and Mr. Justin Lang, "Nerds and Turds." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyxLJNDSv-M

In other celebrity news, Oprah poops. I understand that this may not qualify as news.  Oprah and her creation, Dr. Oz, are pioneers in promoting poop-positive TV programming.  Nonetheless, it turns out that Oprah's own fame has forced her to become what Dave Praeger, in his book Poop Culture, describes as a 'shameful shitter.'  More on that soon.

In the clip, she says:

"This is me, who does not take public bowel movements, okay?  I am not gonna go, like, Number 2 in a regular... (Someone else: "In a stall...")  Oh my God, no."

At first I was offended.  Perhaps it was the tangible disgust and horror in her tone, or her choice of the word "regular," as if her derriere deserved much better.  Poop, like death, is a great equalizer; you can eat from a diner, a dumpster, or a deluxe 12-course banquet, but then the lines blur into a mighty blast of brown.  Of course, money can buy you a nicer place to deposit your doo.  $6,000 recently bought American Idol host Ryan Seacrest a luxurious birthday bidet (the gift that keeps on giving), while in the developing world, only the wealthy can afford the privacy of a home toilet.  So what about privacy for the super rich and famous?

Oprah continues:

"[laughing]...the only thing anybody's going to do is go home and say, 'Guess who was in the bathroom today?'  No!"

And you know she's right.  Oprah can poop in a public potty just like anybody else, but it could just make 'the splash heard round the world.'  Sure, your curry vindaloo explosion might make you the office laughingstock by the end of the day, but by the end of her day, the lady who's iPhone recorded Oprah playing the butt trumpet would have her own reality TV show on Fox.  The audio clip, in equal parts delightful and disgusting, would be downloaded in droves and remixed for the dance floor, hitting the pop charts and the elevators at Harpo, reaping royalties for Oprah long after the reality star had faded.  At least that's what I think; you can see Jimmy Kimmel's take in the video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD2DUmDbeQ4

The Urban Dictionary (clearly an irrefutable source of accurate information...) defines Dave Praeger's "shameful shitter" as someone who, "will hold it in for hours before daring to go into a public restroom."  If they must use the toilet, "they will do it in a continued state of terror and anxiety that someone will come in and smell their aroma or hear their farts..."

While we all know somebody who talks regularly about their colon health and strolls into the bathroom proudly carrying a newspaper, most of us struggle with shameful shitting to a greater or lesser degree. We might walk in to an occupied bathroom and pretend to be there just washing our hands, or tell the date who's been waiting at the table that it only took us so long because the restroom line was unusually long.  We're worried that someone will find out what we all already know, that as pretty and put together as we may look, all sorts of icky things ooze out of us once the door's been closed.  We deny poop because, as the "dirtiest" object with the lowest status, it has the magical, Midas-like power to pollute and bring down whatever it touches.  When the pedestal's been placed at celebrity height, the counterweight of poop can mean quite a fall.

Consider the case of Paris Hilton.  She made headlines in 2007 when she was sentenced to 45 days in prison for violating a reckless driving probation.  Three days into serving her term, and Paris wound up sedated in the medical wing after having refused to eat or drink since she arrived. Apparently the toilet was placed opposite a window through which the court guards could see everything. A Hilton insider quoted in the article reports, "'She was absolutely terrified that one of the guards or staffers would get her with the cell-phone cam and it would wind up on the Internet.'"

To be clear, you can find clips of Ms. Hilton in coitus with just a few clicks of your mouse.  Could the shame of someone (or the whole world) seeing you poop be that much worse?

Grimani Breviary- The Month of February (1490-1510)

Norbert Elias' classic text, The Civilizing Process, quotes old missives on manners to show the complex social maneuvering that first led Western Europeans to adopt now-common, "civilized" behaviors. Unlike Adam and Eve, who learned shame in the time it took to eat some fruit, humans 1,000 years ago had to be conditioned over time to look down on those who blow their snot onto their sleeve, eat with their fingers, or poop in the hallways.  Lest you accuse me of exaggeration, consider this passage culled from the Brunswick Court Regulations of 1589:

"Let no one, whoever he may be, before, at, or after meals, early or late, foul the staircases, corridors, or closets with urine or other filth, but go to suitable, prescribed places for such relief."

If it was necessary for someone to write this, obviously there was a problem.  But that's exactly it--these ideas are only obvious to you and me because society learned to be disgusted by such acts, and to shame those who committed them into seeking privacy for such things.  Modern society gives the responsibility of molding well-adjusted citizens to Mom and Dad, yet Community Led Total Sanitation programs are just now convincing rural communities in the developing world to feel shame and disgust over outdoor and/or public defecation. (For more information, read this article by The Last Taboo co-author Maggie Black.)

In reaction to our former animalism, we may have learned the rules a little too well, allowing for few shameless ways to shit.  But if Paris and Oprah ever want to ease their bowels, we may need to ease up on a cultural stigma in which we're all complicit.  We wind up shaming anyone who makes us aware that poop exists, paradoxically stoking people's interest through censorship, and thereby giving Oprah's poop the potential to make international news, whether she likes it or not.  But if Oprah pooped in a forest and everyone heard it, maybe we'd understand that she's really just like us.  And if we're all just like Oprah than we're all just like each other.  We'll beat swords into plowshares, doves will soar overhead, and Oprah's poop will leads us to an era of world peace.

Prosperous Pooping in this New Year,

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Picasso's dove

Mr. Hankey Is Not the Only Christmas Poo

As Christmas Eve 2010 descends upon us, and sugar plum fairies stretch their quads, preparing to dance in our heads once again, The Puru wants to bring you in on a rather crappy Catalan holiday tradition.  But first, a plug for our upcoming event this Monday night! humorous chamber pot

This holiday season, skip Jack Black's reinterpretation of Gulliver's Travels and join The POOP Project for a taste of the REAL Jonathan Swift. Monday, Dec. 27 from 7-8pm, Shawn Shafner (me!) will be at Swift Hibernian Lounge drinking homemade gin and reading from the scatological poo-etry of the 18th century's greatest satirist. Hilarious, insightful, and all in rhyming verse, Swift has a gift for looking beneath the rosy facade, and reminding us that "though we'd like to thank our shit don't stank..." well, you know the rest.  For more information, please write The Puru, or see our Facebook Event page.

And now, for some straight poop on Christmas, take a moment to think about who's present in your average nativity scene.  Let's see...we've got the baby Jesus, mother Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, some camels, sheep, and OH YEAH!  That peasant with his pants down, pooping in the corner.

Excuse me?

Meet El Caganer. Literally, "The Shitter," this figurine of a red-hatted farmer relieving himself has been seen in folk imagery in various parts of the world since the 16th century, and has been most famously hiding in Catalan nativity scenes since the early 18th century.  Mmm hmmm.  And why now?  It seems no one knows for certain, but his presence might have represented hopes for a bountiful harvest, symbolized regenerative powers of nature and God, or helped to connect a larger-than-life story to something real and "earthy."  For kids, finding the little stinker--placed inconspicuously for modesty's sake--is one of the holidays greatest joys.  (Even children with poor eyesight can find this record-making caganer in Barcelona; his stool alone stands taller than a 3rd grader.)

Nowadays, the caganer has loosened the shackles of tradition and not only appears in female form, but as almost anyone else you can think of.  Just a quick image search reveals the plastic pooping picture of everyone from Pope Benedict XVI to Barack Obama, Spiderman to Santa, with a healthy dose of Einstein, Woody Allen and Darth Vader thrown in the mix.  Admired as a kitschy collectible and art object, they have even spawned their own fan club: The Association of Friends of the Caganer.  Daniel L. Lisuk, an artist and a member of the association, helps us contextualize the pooping shepherd in modern times:

"I find that the caganer fits in with many issues of contemporary art: Why are the cycles of nature so profound in our lives? What is the relationship of man to nature and man to God? How can humorous imagery be used with profound subject matter? How do we show the stabilizing role of strong tradition in a rapidly changing society? ... Life is filled with deep meaning, but is also filled with warm humor. The ability of man to examine himself and his place in the universe and to occasionally laugh very loudly at himself makes this a wonderful world." (You can read the full essay here.)

Dayenu, nu?  But the Catalan keep it coming.  Not only have they enamored themselves with a nativity-crashing crapper, there's also the traditional Tio de Nadal ("Christmas Log"), or what's more commonly called the Caga Tio ("Pooping Log").  Originally this was a hollowed out log that was fed sweets, nuts, or dried fruit in the days leading up to Christmas, and was often covered with a blanket to keep it warm.  Come Christmas Day, however, the family would singe the wood in the fire, and then beat it with sticks while demanding that the log poop its treats out for them.  Today, the Caga Tio often has four legs, a painted face, and the traditional hat worn by the caganer, in addition to taking on the Santa-like responsibility of pooping out large gifts.  Now thanks to YouTube, we can all share this tradition with someone else's family halfway across the world!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pzm-4VQteJM&feature=related

Now aren't you glad nobody hits you with a stick and rhythmically demands that you drop a deuce?  Unless that's your thing, in which case, good luck with that.  However you choose to honor the holidays, we at The POOP Project wish you all the best for a joyous season and prosperous New Year.  Peaceful pooping, and looking forward to joining you in 2011.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

P.S. If you haven't yet, be sure to check out what Professor Toilet said about our World Toilet Day event!

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