Monday, March 31, 2008

Berea Arts Council: Stranger With a Camera; Panel discussion with bell hooks, Janie Welker & Elizabeth Barret: “Seeing Women: Imagination of Justice"

(Courtesy of Susan King. Stranger with a Camera is one of the most haunting and stunning documentaries I have watched. It got under my skin and kept playing with my thoughts about representation and meanings--Michael Benton)

Stranger with a Camera

Saturday, April 5, 2008 @ 1 p.m.
at the Berea Arts Council

"Stranger With A Camera is an exceptionally moving film about a people and place often misunderstood by the outside world." - 2000 Sundance Film Festival

In 1967 Canadian filmmaker Hugh O'Connor visited the mountains of Central Appalachia to document poverty. A local landlord, who resented the presence of filmmakers on his property, shot and killed O'Connor, in part because of his anger over the media images of Appalachia that had become icons in the nation's War on Poverty.

Filmmaker Elizabeth Barret, a native of Appalachia, uses O'Connor's death as a lens to explore the complex relationship between those who make films to promote social change and the people whose lives are represented in such media productions. Through first-person accounts of the killing and the perspective of three decades of reflection, Stranger With A Camera leads viewers on a quest for understanding - a quest that ultimately leads Barret to examine her own role as both a maker of media and a member of the Appalachian community she portrays.

Panel discussion with bell hooks, Janie Welker & Elizabeth Barret

“Seeing Women: the Imagination of Justice”

Writer bell hooks, UK Art Museum curator Janie Welker will join filmmaker Elizabeth Barret in discussion with the audience.

Sponsored by KY Women Photographers Network, The Berea Arts Council and writer bell hooks in conjunction with the “What Women See” exhibit, with support from the Kentucky Arts Council

Berea Arts Council, 116 Main Street, Berea, KY 40456

A Musician's Life: Vusi Mahlasela

Vusi Mahlasela
A Musician's Life (WXPN: Philadelphia)
Host: Tracey Tanenbaum

Vusi Mahlasela's music was considered an incendiary tool in the struggle against apartheid in his native South Africa. Mahlasela's latest release is called "Guiding Star."

Listen to the Podcast

The Treatment: Scott Simmon on Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934

Scott Simmon
The Treatment
Host: Elvis Mitchell

Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 is not only a mouthful as a title, but this DVD set deals with plain-spoken and direct controversy on the big screen in the silent era. You can hear all about it from its curator, Scott Simmon.

Listed among the "Ten Best DVD Sets of 2007" in Time magazine, the New Yorker, and the New York Times, this outstanding boxed set features many never-before-seen films and features, a real treat for both the film buff and historian.

To Listen to the Episode

University of Kentucky Event: An Evening with Bobby Seale (3/31/08)

(Courtesy of Michael Marchman)

An Evening with Bobby Seale

Event Info
An Evening with Bobby Seale

Time and Place
Date: Monday, March 31, 2008
Time: 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: Student Center Grand Ballroom
City/Town: Lexington, KY

Free and open to the public.

On Monday, March 31st, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Center will present "An Evening With Bobby Seale", featuring a presentation by the legendary Bobby Seale, perhaps best known for his role as co-founder of the Black Panther Party. The event, which is free and open to the public, is set for 7:00 pm in the Student Center Grand Ballroom on the UK campus.

Bobby Seale enjoys an almost mythic status as one of the iconic figures of the 1960's. During the turbulent 1960's he became chairman of the Black Panther Party and was the subject of FBI surveillance as part of its COINTELPRO program. He was also one of the original "Chicago Eight" defendants charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot, in the wake of the historic 1968 Democratic National Convention. It was during this period that he gained international recognition as a defendant in what became known as "The Great Chicago Eight Conspiracy Trial of 1969", where he was chained, shackled, gagged and tied to a chair for three days during the trial. While in jail, he wrote the book Seize The Time. Eventually, all political charges against Seale and the seven co-defendants were dismissed or thrown out of court. In 1974, Seale resigned the Black Panther Party and released his autobiography, A Lonely Rage.

Today, Bobby Seale acts as a Community Liaison with the Department of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is completing the screenplay for the film Seize The Time, the next real life 1960's feature film following Spike Lee's Malcolm X.

The King Cultural Center is presenting "An Evening With Bobby Seale" as part of its on-going effort to advance inter-cultural understanding and raise student and community awareness around issues of cultural and political significance. In remarking on the importance of the Bobby Seale lecture, Veleashia Smith, the director of the center said, "It is important for students today to understand the historic relevance of figures like Bobby Seale. In light of such events as Jena Six and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, our youth, now more than ever, need to understand the impact of advocacy and importance of standing up against oppression and discrimination."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jeff Curto: The History of Photography (Podcast)

Jeff Curto, at the College of DuPage, has put the lectures and images from his History of Photography course online:

The History of Photography

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ambrose Bierce: On Patriotism

(Courtesy of Erin Wilson)

"Every patriot believes his country better than any other country . .
. In its active manifestation—it is fond of killing—patriotism would
be well enough if it were simply defensive, but it is also aggressive
. . . Patriotism deliberately and with folly aforethought subordinates
the interests of a whole to the interests of a part . . . Patriotism
is fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave and blind as a stone."

—Ambrose Bierce, Collected Works

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Anthony Eardley: A Position on Centrepointe (Downtown Lexington, KY)

(Courtesy of William Murphy)

Hello everyone,

The 2000 word article set out below was submitted to The Lexington Herald-Leader today and rejected until I reduce to a 700 word maximum, when they might take a look at it. I know I am prolix, and I could probably cut a few words to advantage, but two out of three is more than I can contemplate at this time. I find it disappointing that a paper that can spew out thousands of words a day in its Sports Section, can afford so little space elsewhere in its columns to a matter of such consequence to Lexington as the Centrepointe proposal.

To those among you who are Lexingtonians I would ask that you read it and, in the event that you agree with me, that you disseminate it as widely as possible.

To those friends and family members beyond the city, it will simply serve to reassure you that nothing really changes in our lovely "Athens of the West".




Perhaps we need reminding that the authors of the Centrepointe scheme have a truly dismal record of building on Main Street? It was the Webbs who erected the dreary, concrete-paneled bookends of the Radisson block (Vine Center), and who then indulged in a little whimsy across Main Street with the fatuous, Churchill Downsy Festival Market (now Triangle Center), the Webbs once again who gave us the Wildcat-hued glass of the thirty storey Big Blue tower (Lexington Fiancial Center), a building appropriate only to the urban wilderness of Dubai, whose plug-in, eight storey, concrete-paneled parking structure reduces to a displaced antiquity the delicate cast iron facade that flanks it at Main and Upper, and demeans the Old Court House Plaza across the street with its vacant-eyed want of civility. Given their penchant for centers and symmetrical planning, it would scarcely have been rocket science if, having determined to erect a symmetrical free-standing tower on the Financial Center site, they were to have aligned Big Blues north-south axis with that of the symmetrical Old Courthouse, and used the parking structure as a backdrop to a new plaza extending the space of the old. But their concerns evidently extend little farther than the building envelope, let alone the other side of the street. And their architects, facing no challenge from the public realm, have all too readily acquiesced to the clients prerogatives to get it done fast and keep the costs down, doing just enough to satisfy the building code and recovering what little profit remained from the cut-rate fee. For these developments, a plethora ofplaceless centers, the Webb Companies have earned little but our resentment and suspicion.

Now they want tabula rasa rights across an entire block and more, for what Mary McNeese, in her admirable March 11 letter to the Herald-Leader, has rightly summarized as an overpriced, out-of-scale, understudied and underwritten sequel. No doubt they have felt emboldened by the fact that the Museum Plaza project, Louisvilles sixty-two storey grotesquerie, is a recipient of TIF support, and that the Downtown Lexington Master Plan, the outcome of much community effort, sound, well-considered consultant advice, and over $400,000 in expenditure, (available on the web for all to see here), has yet to be adopted by the Urban County Council to inform the work of its Downtown Development Authority.

Though there is less detail in the Webb presentation than one would wish to see, indeed, far less than is required of a couple of senior students presenting a term-long comprehensive project, the mixed use behemoth that is now proposed, it seems to me, would serve the unrepentant greed and megalomania of its developers, and nothing more. Its 887,000 square foot program is so grossly overinflated that almost half the parking requirements it necessitatescould be accommodated only by resort to another plug-in, ten level parking annex, shoe-horned without a word of apology into Phoenix Park.

Its totally self-referential massing has three components. First, there is a four storey U shape that surrounds a 150-foot-square car court opening to Vine Street. This sets out 23,700 square feet of retail space, a coffee shop, and a couple of bars and restaurants on some notional ground plane that enables the architects to overlook the significant grade change between Main and Vine --- about seven feet, as I recall from student projects on this site. The three upper levels of the U contain hotel ballrooms, meeting facilities and a spa in the west wing, and office space in the east. This four storey component has the ostensible purpose of making the perimeter of the complex responsive to the scale of the surrounding streetscape, which it then so resolutely ignores in its myopic struggle to bring order to its interior spaces that its facades offer just the same dumb indifference and hostility to the city as we have all been obliged to endure in our daily encounters with existing Webb projects.

So, for instance, the canopied entries to the hotel and the condos on Main Street --- which Dudley Webb still regards as the principal points of access to the building despite his half acre of car court on Vine --- are furnished with a sweeping automobile lay-by that has been unflinchingly permitted to disrupt the continuity of the sidewalk and to create the most dangerous possible conditions for the hapless pedestrian. Further, this lay-by clearly presumes the future purpose of Main Street, not as an outdoor place for the use and enjoyment of people, but continuing in its present function as a mere conduit to funnel wheeled vehicles as quickly as possible from unidentified but more important locations somewhere in the suburban east to other anonymous but more important locations somewhere in the suburban west. This view is reinforced by the conspicuous absence of sidewalk entries to the retail spaces of the building, which would be entered instead from internal arcades accessed from just two points of entry, one at each corner of the block on Main Street, anti-urban devices calculated to siphon people off the sidewalk and drain the life out of the street. Those of us who actually live in the downtown have long contested this view of Main Street, and our view is clearly upheld in the Recommendations of the Downtown Master Plan, which shows a phased return to two-way of all the one-way streets in the downtown. But Dudley Webb and his suburbanite teams of architects adhere to their one-way inclinations, nevertheless.

Around the corner, on Upper Street --- another street that is presently one-way --- one would encounter a complete battery of conditions hostile to urban welfare. For a full 150 feet along the sidewalk there would be nothing but fire stairs, truck loading docks and a kitchen. Above this, the entire 240 foot length of the second and third storeys would be occupied solely by storage, service and mechanical spaces, shoved to the outer perimeter by the crude exigencies of the plan. A more effective set of disincentives to the recovery of a flourishing urban life on an Upper Street restored to two-way traffic can scarcely be imagined.

Indeed, everything that presently brings some semblance of vitality to the block is now under marching orders to go elsewhere, not just its arts and entertainment venues, which have managed to flourish in some of the slightly shabby, and now clearly inconvenient surviving buildings on the block, but even its slightly untidy and now inconvenient Saturday Farmers Market, which, to the great joy of the many who frequent it, has occupied this generous, sun-drenched section of Vine Street sidewalk for years --- all to be banished and left to fend for themselves, maybe somewhere in the downtown, maybe with Harold Tates assistance, maybe not, but certainly out of sight and hearing of Centrepointe. So why, one must ask, would these people want to build in the city when they find the stuff of urban life so distasteful?

Having thus leveled the block and sterilized its perimeter, the illusory U is then surmounted by a nine storey slab of hotel accommodation running along Main Street. These two components, the U and the slab, are cobbled together with layers of retardataire neo-classical trappings ---- not unlike the amateur displays that baffle the eye on the facades of the new courthouses --- but exhibit not the slightest grasp of Beaux Arts compositional discipline in either plan or elevation. One is obliged to ask, in consequence, whether this ungainly assembly owes its existence entirely to its bloated building program, or whether certain elements of the program, its 83,000 square feet of office space for example, have had to be drummed up and tacked on to the original punch list simply to fill out the volume demanded by the building's symmetry of footprint and profile?

Finally, the thirteen storey mass along Main Street is violently split in two by the huge phallic thrust of the condo tower, rising from the base to a height of forty storeys above the sidewalk in a disgusting assertion of the developers ego, and in flagrant disregard of the fifteen storey limit that is recommended by the Downtown Master Plan. And though we have long become inured to the overbearing presence of the skyscraper on the city sidewalk, and have even learned to enjoy its spikes and bar graphs on the distant skyline, the offensiveness of the proposed display is not readily ignored, from either close to or far away. Whether a deliberate part of its iconic agenda or just a calamitous by-product of the final massing, the building engenders the image --- made inescapable in the architects perspective --- of a cupped hand giving the finger to the city.

And they want TIF money for it! The colorful Yiddish term, chutzpah was once explained to me as embracing the kind of shameless audacity possessed by a thief who steals a hot dog from a curbside stand, but asks the proprietor to put mustard on it for him before he carries it off. This proposal completes my understanding of chutzpah.

Among the developers urgings that the project be approved without fuss or delay, so that it may start emerging from the ground by mid-August and be open for the World Equestrian Games in 2010, are pious assertions about the new jobs it will create and its LEED certification. We know very well that any new development will bring new jobs, some more attractive, some less, some more numerous, some less, which should not be a matter of central concern here unless, of course, your chief interest is TIF income. Not all of us may understand, however, that LEED certification does not signify some uniformly high standard of environmental efficiency in a building. There are several levels of LEED certification, and the lower ratings are actually much less distinguished than they sound. A Silver rating, for example, such as that earned by Robert Sterns Disneyland Federal Style proposal for the new UK Law quadrangle, might suggest an honorable second-place performance to most of us when, in fact, it represents only the fourth level of achievement on the LEED scale. Thus, LEED certification can amount to something substantial or something quite trivial. The elements of the program and the sheer surface area of this proposal make it hard to imagine that it could achieve a rating higher than Silver, but who needs even the highest LEED rated city block that is an unmitigated urban disaster?

The Urban County Council should not hesitate to reject the present proposal in toto. The Council needs, no matter how belatedly, to formally adopt the Downtown Master Plan, to inform the work of the Downtown Development Authority and to ensure the satisfaction of the standards outlined in the Plan by any new urban development enterprise, especially by a project seeking access to TIF resources. This should be reinforced by the establishment of an architectural review panel such as the one that has been in force in downtown Cincinnati for decades, to the satisfaction of both the citizen and the developer.

It might also enquire into the judgment and fealty of the Chairman and Director of the Downtown Development Authority, both of them architects who were heavily engaged in the preparation of the Plan, but who now, inexplicably, seem more like acolytes to the Webb proposal than representatives of the public interest. Having offered to give the proposal a mere tweak or two, either to assuage their own consciences or mollify public opinion, they appear happy to actually endorse this new and most monumental attack on our ravaged and still fragile downtown. If their volte-face is triggered by fears of being seen to let a major development opportunity escape their grasp, they should be assured that only the impenetrably stupid --- and there are always some of those --- will persist in regarding this monstrous proposal as beneficial to the downtown. The people of Lexington deserve better than this from a $250,000,000 TIF project in the core of their city. We have a Plan, a very good plan, for which they were the midwives. Let us embrace it and implement it.

Anthony Eardley.

Monday, March 24, 2008

On the Media: 5 Years of Covering Iraq

5 Years of Covering Iraq
On the Media (NPR)

On the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War, the death toll for U.S. soldiers approaches 4,000 and the cost moves past a half-trillion dollars. Press coverage, however, is at an all-time low.

::: :: : OTM'S IRAQ WAR TIMELINE : :: :::

OTM takes a look at the crucial role of media in the evolution of this war. Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher and author of So Wrong for So Long, takes us back to the early days of combat.

Listen to this Section

Also from this podcast:

The Embed Experiment

Stagecrafting the War

Finding a Voice

Wake Up Lexington: Help Save Our Block/Filmmaking Project (March 29th)

(Message from Griffin by way of Gina)


We are looking for people to share their memories and stories of the businesses and the buildings on the block. We are not asking people to talk about the issues facing the block, but only to tell their stories and interactions. These testimonies will be screened at an event called Wake Up Lexington: Help Save Our Block, March 29 Saturday at 10:30 AM at the Kentucky Theater.


Refreshments will be provided.

Everybody with a story to tell will be filmed.

We encourage you to pass this information on to anybody with a story.

The goal of these testimonies will be to add words to the bricks.

Please Participate LEXINGTON needs your help, and bring your friends.

For any questions please contact Griffin VanMeter at or 859.243.0000

Some suggestions on what you could talk about:

What is your first memory of this block?

What role did this block have for you growing up?

Do you have any funny stories about the block?

Did you work or know anybody that worked in the stores?

Whats your favorite memory of the block?

What was your favorite store?

When was the last time you went to a business on that block?

Bungie Jumping Too Crazy for You?

Check this out:

Is this Fun?

(Courtesy of Marchman)

The Non-Gardener's Guide to Turning Un(der)-used Space into a Productive Garden: Pt. 3

Don Boes shared this poem with us after last week's presentation and I asked him if I could post it as part of the continuing exhibition of pictures of our guerrilla gardening activities.

On The Anniversary of the Beginning of the War
by Don Boes

At least we can journey to the mall.
At least we can make the commitment
to think less about thinking less.

In the food court, the menus
facilitate our meaningful decisions.
And when the sun retreats beyond the bypass

we can’t be bothered. We celebrate
by consuming and we grieve the same way
and what we can’t consume we pretend to consume.

In my weaker moments, I am partial to devilled eggs.

The concourse is not to be feared.
Those mannequins, although they do not
resemble us, are not our enemies.

One of many lessons of last year (our first year) was that garlic should be planted when it is first starting to cool down, so that it can sprout in the last days of sunshine and more easily survive the winter. Here is some garlic poking up through the snow at People's Garden: Cheeks

We mentioned that we will continue, when possible, to expand the People's Gardens. Here is the latest addition to People's Garden: Cheeks

Our second garden People's Garden: Victory (inspired by the WWII Victory Gardens and a direct response to President Bush's notion that we should consume, rather than conserve, in supporting the Iraq/Terror War). Marchman discovered this site on his walks and took the time to talk to the people nearby to let them know what we were doing. This is a diverse, working class neighborhood and the garden is located in a culvert that borders the railroad tracks. Another early lesson, do not use railroad ties because they are coated with creosote (sp?) that can leach into the soil. We usually build above-ground and layer newspaper under the soil we bring into the gardening site. We later replaced the ties...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

David Matas on Persecution of Falun Gong Practitioners in China (March 27th)

Thursday, March 27, 6:30-7:45 p.m., Oswald Auditorium, Cooper Campus:
David Matas, internationally recognized immigration and human rights lawyer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Mr. Matas will speak about his investigation into allegations of organ harvesting (and in the process, killing) Falun Gong practitioners in China.

With the events unfolding in Tibet, Mr. Matas’ presentation on human rights in China is very timely. If you are interested in learning more about Mr. Matas and his work to advance human rights, a google search will work. He recently received a “guarding human rights” award from the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Foundation (Australia).

If you are interested in human rights:
• March 22, 7:00 p.m., Vigil for Tibet, by Lexington’s downtown library

• April 11, 4-6 p.m., Human Rights Torch Relay, begins at 4:00 p.m. at Triangle Park and ends at Woodland Park. The Franciscan Peace Center will light the torch at Triangle Park. Participants will carry the torch between Triangle and Woodland Parks. At Woodland Park, there will be three short speeches about human rights, music, and a demonstration of Falun Gong. All are welcome. There is a $15 ($5 for children under 18) registration for torch carriers, to cover the costs of USA-made, organic cotton Human Rights Torch Relay t-shirts. To sign up for the relay and order your t-shirt, email

Jim Embry on Community Gardens (March 25)

Tuesday, March 25, 6:30-7:45 p.m., Oswald Auditorium, Cooper Campus: Jim Embry of the Sustainable Communities Network. Community activist Jim Embry will speak to the momentum behind Lexington’s community gardens, why they are important, how they help build environmental awareness and move our community toward ecological sustainability. For more information about the Sustainable Communities Network.

If you are interested in gardening:

• Botanika Book Club, Tuesday, April 8, 12:15-1:15 pm, Visitor Center, UK Arboretum. Free. Call 257-9339 for more information.

• Edible Gardening Club, Wednesday, April 9, 6:30-8:00 pm, UK Arboretum. Free. Call 257-9339 for more information.

Tom Chapin: Not On the Test

At last Thursday night's dinner we were discussing the misplaced values of the Bush "No Child Left Behind" testing policies and the overall pedagogical-philosophy of the US educational system. With that in mind Angela Schuman sent this satirical folk song from Tom Chapin.

Not On the Test

Damian Marley: Confrontation; Road to Zion;

(Playing this disc over and over this weekend...)


(Lexington has a small downtown area with only a few cool places to hang out and the powers-that-be have decided to destroy a major part of that cultural scene in order to build a hotel that could easily be located somewhere else--WAKE UP LEXINGTON!!! I think the documentary described below is a project Griffin was putting together in which he was going to collect interviews with younger Lexingtonians about how they envision the future of our city.)

"Preserve Lexington is committed to preserving downtown Lexington's historic fabric, voicing the interests of diverse groups and cultures, and promoting quality infill and design."

Preserve Lexington announces:


CentrePointe, a $250 million 40-story mixed-use development proposed for downtown Lexington, calls for the demolition of all 14 historic buildings on a block in the heart of downtown and adjacent to the historic and new courthouse plazas. At least ten of the 14 buildings on the block are historically and architecturally significant. These buildings have been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

This block is the center of a thriving entertainment district responsible for luring thousands of people back to the city center and for reviving an all but moribund nightlife downtown. It is also home to the popular Lexington Farmers' Market. Both would be displaced if not eradicated by the proposed development.

CentrePointe has been met with skepticism by many members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, and with opposition from advocates of historic preservation and supporters of the entertainment district and the Farmers' Market. Local architects have also expressed concerns.

To raise awareness of the consequences of this proposed development and to discuss alternative approaches, Preserve Lexington is sponsoring a public gathering on Saturday, March 29 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm at the historic Kentucky Theater.

"Wake Up Lexington: An Event to Save the Block" will feature speakers discussing the historic, architectural and cultural importance of this block as well as alternatives to the currently proposed development and other examples of alternative developments from around the United States

Audience members will screen the DEBUT OF A SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM made especially for this event. This film tells the story of this block through the memories of Lexingtonians young and old.

Audience members will also view A MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION OF RARELY SEEN PHOTOGRAPHS OF DOWNTOWN LEXINGTON from the early part of the 20th century.

AN EXHIBIT IN THE THEATER LOBBY will illuminate the issues surrounding this controversial development.

MUSIC and REFRESHMENTS will be provided. And all attendees will receive DISCOUNT COUPONS to locally-owned downtown bars, restaurants and retail establishments.


For more information or to schedule an interview please contact Preserve Lexington at (859)229-0075 or email

Preserve Lexington is a non-profit organization formed in 2006 to promote awareness of downtown Lexington's historic and cultural fabric and to serve as an educational resource to the citizens of Fayette County. Through working with existing organizations and stakeholders, Preserve Lexington is committed to preserving downtown Lexington's historic fabric, voicing the interests of diverse groups and cultures, and promoting quality infill and design.

Kitchen Gardeners International

(John Walker mentioned this during dinner last thursday and Marchman found it online for us.)

Check out the extensive resources at Kitchen Gardeners International. They have started a movement to plant a garden on the White House Lawn :) This is an essential site for guerrilla gardeners and food activists!

The Non-Gardener's Guide to Turning Un(der)-used Space into a Productive Garden: Pt. 2

This is the first "people's garden" we built: Mr. Cheeks (see explanation for the name in 1st post). Classic raised-bed, built out of rocks found along roadsides and construction sites. We were using Lowe's bagged soil and store-bought plants at this time, this garden required about 25+ dollars worth. We are now getting our soil from a bulk compost company for 20 dollars a truckload and have started using heirloom seeds sprouted in a greenhouse out at Keene (a collective of two houses in Jessamine county--shared by 6 people--a big bonus is the fantastic 18 hole frisbee golf course laid out across the property--I'll get some pictures later.) We are very excited to see what the 20+ types of heirloom tomatoes Danny got will produce.

Marchman, Danny and Benton posing with the sign for the first garden. This shot was taken at one of our weekly pasta dinners at Danny's/Julie"s house where, in the tradition of a long line of radical citizens, we plot our subversive activities over drinks. We are fortunate to know Erin, a local artist, who made this sign.

Another shot of "People's Garden: Mr. Cheeks" with the new sign up. We put a laminated sheet that details what is in the garden and lets people know that this garden is for the people. We invite them to share in the bounty and to help water it if they are so inclined. The Summer of 2007 was a brutally hot/dry summer for us to learn how to build and tend these gardens. The cardboard was placed by the garden by someone who was sleeping next to it until the whole set-up was wrecked by a wild Kentucky summer storm. We never met the person who was sleeping there, but we liked the idea of their finding shelter next to our garden.

Film School: Bill Haney on The Price of Sugar

Film School
Hosts: Nathan Callan and Mike Kaspar

An interview with Bill Haney, director, producer and screenwriter of The Price of Sugar. In the Dominican Republic, a tropical island-nation, tourists flock to pristine beaches unaware that a few miles away thousands of dispossessed Haitians are toiling under armed-guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, much of which ends up in U.S. kitchens. They work grueling hours and frequently lack decent housing, clean water, electricity, education or healthcare. Narrated by Paul Newman, "The Price of Sugar" follows Father Christopher Hartley, a charismatic Spanish priest, as he organizes some of this hemisphere's poorest people to fight for their basic human rights. This film raises key questions about where the products we consume originate and at what human cost they are produced.

To Listen to the Interview

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Winter Soldier Hearings/Fifth Anniversary of the Start of the Iraq War

Courtesy of the most important news show in the USA: Democracy Now

Half a Decade of War: Five Years After Iraq Invasion, Soldiers Testify at Winter Soldier Hearings

Winter Soldier CONT’D: US Vets, Active-Duty Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan Testify About the Horrors of War (March 18th)

Winter Soldier: US Vets, Active-Duty Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan Testify About the Horrors of War (March 17th)

Winter Soldier: Hundreds of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Gather to Testify in Echo of 1971 Vietnam Hearings (March 14th)

Becky McCane: Berea Sustainability/Rain Barrel/Ecovillage Projects; Laura W.: Seedballing

(Becky sent this to us after the presentation today.)

I live in Berea and here is a link to a local project that sounds similar to what you are doing. Each home that participates in the Edible Yard Project posts a sign in their yard about the project. That generates more interest.

Edible Yard Project
Edible Yard Contest

Berea is also having a Rain Barrel Festival in April. Pretty cool! Generates more community interest.

Rain Barrel Festival

Here are some painted rain barrels. An art class could even participate in a rain barrel art contest or something like that.

Artistic Rain Barrels

Site w/ info on building rain barrels

How to Build a Rain Barrel

The Rain Barrel Festival will be held just down the road from (well, actually beside) Berea College's Ecovillage. They offer free, informative tours on a regular basis. If you have not heard about the Ecovillage, here is a link.

They have a community garden that everyone helps tend. I think some group at Berea College even has a long-term goal of having the college only provide local food.

Here is another tidbit. Something you or Danny may be interested in, perhaps on a smaller, less structured scale? Check out the complete mission statement. V. cool!

Berea Garden Party

I don't know if this is something you or Danny would be interested in, but here is a grant opportunity that funds student-learning/community service projects. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Hallmarks of Effective Service ..." you can see what they are looking for in the projects. I just thought it could provide a little money to help students create community gardens --as part of a course's curriculum perhaps?

Learn and Serve


(Laura, who also lives in Berea, wrote up some info on Seedballing)

Image courtesy Heavy Petal


  • Dry, powdered, red or brown clay (the kind potters use)

  • Dry compost/humus

  • Lots of non-invasive seeds!

  • Containers for water — spray bottles, etc.

  • Containers to mix them all up in

  • Trays to set the finished seed balls on

  • Storage for the finished seed balls to dry in/on - need to dry for 24-48 hours before "distributing"

  • People willing to "adopt" finished seedballs (take them home to dry)

Okay then. Now, on to the resources.

The first use of "seed bombs" or "seed grenades" in guerrilla gardening was in the 1970's with Liz Christy. While some were just compressed clods of soil, many more were glass Christmas ornaments or balloons filled seed and soil and thrown over a fence — what seems to be one of those "sounded great at the time" methods, as the broken glass and balloons also contributed to litter and pollution. (Here are the original seed bomb instructions.) A more eco-friendly technique was later (re-)introduced by Masanobu Fukuoka — the seed ball. archive
Here's an archival mirror of the now-extant, an essential resource compiled by Jim Bones.
Image courtesy
Heavy Petal
A brief history of the seed ball
This page explains seed balls thoroughly and concisely...
How to make seedballs
...This page explains how to make them...
Seedball progress
...And this page shows seed balls in action.

Path to Freedom has two different seed ball-instruction articles:
Making Seed Balls
How To Make Seed Balls

Making Hay with Clay (Greece)
This website includes a brief history of the seed ball, the benefits of seed balls/seed ball theory, instructions for making them, and examples of how they're being used to combat soil erosion in Greece.
There are similar efforts going on in New Zealand and in Bangalore, India:

Seed Ball NZ
The New Zealand project's page has simple seed ball instructions as well as information on its benefits. This page is somewhat cumbersome to navigate, so fortunately, they've also published all the information in a PDF format, which you can download here.

Image courtesy Heavy Petal

MillionSeedBalls is an ambitions and inspiring project out of Bangalore (by the BCIL Alt.Tech Foundation), with the goal of "painting India green."

Permaculture Reflections has an excellent post on the philosophy of seed balls and of Masanobu Fukuoka:
"Imagine tanks used, not for warfare, but to pull land imprinters to give seedballs an advantage. Imaging cluster bombs, not killing, but being used to distribute seed balls over deserts creating green explosions..."

Kathryn Miller of the Green Museum shows us how she used a sort of seed bomb to regreen the Raytheon Plant in Santa Barbara, CA.

Last but not least, an inspiration for fun — a photoset of a seed bomb party!

So, is everyone ready to get their hands dirty?

— L. W.

The Non-Gardener's Guide to Turning Un(der)-used Space into a Productive Garden

Danny and I did a presentation at Bluegrass Community and Technical College today called: "The Non-Gardener's Guide to Turning Un(der)-used Space into a Productive Garden" in which we discussed our Guerrilla Gardening/Communal Dinners/Engaged Pedagogies projects. Unfortunately the room we were assigned did not have the expected computer technology and we were unable to show our pictures. So, over the next few days I will be posting them on this site. Feel free to comment--to share your own community activism/engaged pedagogy--and to network with us. Peace, Michael Benton.

Danny cultivating the first Guerrilla Garden "People's Garden: Mr. Cheeks." We call the gardens People's Gardens because no one owns them and we plant them in neglected/unused public spaces for everyone to take care of and to harvest.

This is the store lot that borders "People's Garden: Mr. Cheeks." The garden was named after a randomly open, private bar (now permanently closed) that caused much speculation amongst the guerrila gardeners.

General area of "People's Garden: Mr. Cheeks":

Arthur C. Clarke: 1917 - 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author, dies at 90
By Gerald Jonas
International Herald Tribune

Arthur C. Clarke, a writer whose seamless blend of scientific expertise and poetic imagination helped usher in the space age, died Wednesday in Colombo, where he had lived since 1956. He was 90.

The author of almost 100 books, Clarke was an ardent promoter of the idea that humanity's destiny lay beyond the confines of Earth. It was a vision served most vividly by "2001: A Space Odyssey," the classic 1968 science-fiction film he created with the director Stanley Kubrick and the novel of the same title that he wrote as part of the project.

His work was also prophetic: His detailed forecast of telecommunications satellites in 1945 came more than a decade before the first orbital rocket flight.

Clarke's influence on public attitudes toward space was acknowledged by U.S. astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, by scientists like Carl Sagan and by movie and television producers. Gene Roddenberry credited Clarke's writings with encouraging him to pursue his "Star Trek" project in the face of indifference from television executives.

In his later years, after settling in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Clarke continued to bask in worldwide acclaim as both a scientific sage and the pre-eminent science fiction writer of the 20th century.

In 1998, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Clarke played down his success in foretelling a globe-spanning network of communication satellites. "No one can predict the future," he always maintained. But as a science fiction writer he could not resist drawing up timelines for what he called "possible futures." Far from displaying uncanny prescience, these conjectures mainly demonstrated his lifelong, and often disappointed, optimism about the peaceful uses of technology - from his calculation in 1945 that atomic-fueled rockets could be no more than 20 years away to his conviction in 1999 that "clean, safe power" from "cold fusion" would be commercially available in the first years of the new millennium.

To Read the Rest of the Obituary

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Terry Tempest Williams: What is the Meaning of Democracy?

(Revisiting this important statement as tax payers are forced to bail out fat cat investing firms while private homeowners are left to drown... I guess the free market mythology is only viable when they are making money.)

There are a few basic concepts we must start re-thinking in order to understand what they mean for us as citizens of our communities, our nation, and the world. One of these is the concept that is at the center of how we define ourselves as Americans. What is the meaning of "democracy" for you?--MB

by Terry Tempest Williams


IN THE OPEN SPACE OF DEMOCRACY, we are listening -- ears alert -- we are watching -- eyes open -- registering the patterns and possibilities for engagement. Some acts are private; some are public. Our oscillations between local, national, and global gestures map the full range of our movement. Our strength lies in our imagination, and paying attention to what sustains life, rather than what destroys it.


In my private moments of despair, I am aware of the limits of my own imagination. I am learning in Castle Valley that imaginations shared invite collaboration and collaboration creates community. A life in association, not a life independent, is the democratic ideal. We participate in the vitality of the struggle.

The time has come to demand an end to the wholesale dismissal of the sacredness of life.... At what point do we finally lay our bodies down to say this is no longer acceptable?

Social change takes time. Communities are built on the practice of patience and imagination -- the belief that we are here for the duration and will take care of our relations in times of both drought and abundance. These are the blood and flesh gestures of commitment.

In thousands of local narratives being written around America, enlivened citizenship is activated each time we knock on our neighbors' doors, each time we sit down together and share a meal.

IN OUR INCREASINGLY fundamentalist country, we have to remember what is fundamental: gravity -- what draws us to a place and keeps us there, like love, like kinship. When we commit to a particular place, a certain element of choice is removed. We begin to see the world whole instead of fractured. Long-term strategies replace short-term gains. We inform one another and become an educated public that responds.


It is easy to believe we the people have no say; that the powers in Washington will roll over our local concerns with their corporate energy ties and thumper trucks. It is easy to believe that the American will is only focused on how to get rich, how to be entertained, and how to distract itself from the hard choices we have before us as a nation.

I refuse to believe this. The only space I see truly capable of being closed is not the land or our civil liberties but our own hearts.

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up -- ever -- trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?

The heart is the house of empathy whose door opens when we receive the pain of others. This is where bravery lives, where we find our mettle to give and receive, to love and be loved, to stand in the center of uncertainty with strength, not fear, understanding this is all there is. The heart is the path to wisdom because it dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power. Our power lies in our love of our homelands.

The heart embodies faith because it leads us to charity. It is the muscle behind hope that brings confidence to those who despair.

Democracy depends on engagement, a firsthand accounting of what one sees, what one feels, and what one thinks, followed by the artful practice of expressing the truth of our times through our own talents, gifts, and vocations.

Question. Stand. Speak. Act.

We have a history of bravery in this nation and we must call it forward now. Our future is guaranteed only by the degree of our personal involvement and commitment to an inclusive justice.

In the open space of democracy, we engage the qualities of inquiry, intuition, and love as we become a dynamic citizenry, unafraid to exercise our shared knowledge and power. We can dissent. We can vote. We can step forward in times of terror with a confounding calm that will shatter fear and complacency.

It is time to ask, when will our national culture of self-interest stop cutting the bonds of community to shore up individual gain and instead begin to nourish communal life through acts of giving, not taking? It is time to acknowledge the violence rendered to our souls each time a mountaintop is removed to expose a coal vein in Appalachia or when a wetland is drained, dredged, and filled for a strip mall. And the time has come to demand an end to the wholesale dismissal of the sacredness of life in all its variety and forms, as we witness the repeated breaking of laws, and the relaxing of laws, in the sole name of growth and greed.

We have made the mistake of confusing democracy with capitalism and have mistaken political engagement with a political machinery we all understand to be corrupt. It is time to resist the simplistic, utilitarian view that what is good for business is good for humanity in all its complex web of relationships. A spiritual democracy is inspired by our own sense of what we can accomplish together, honoring an integrated society where the social, intellectual, physical, and economic well-being of all is considered, not just the wealth and health of the corporate few.

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government," said Edward Abbey. To not be engaged in the democratic process, to sit back and let others do the work for us, is to fall prey to bitterness and cynicism. It is the passivity of cynicism that has broken the back of our collective outrage. We succumb to our own depression believing there is nothing we can do.

I do not believe we can look for leadership beyond ourselves. I do not believe we can wait for someone or something to save us from our global predicaments and obligations. I need to look in the mirror and ask this of myself: If I am committed to seeing the direction of our country change, how must I change myself?

We are a people addicted to speed and superficiality, and a nation that prides itself on moral superiority. But our folly lies in not seeing what we base our superiority on. Wealth and freedom? What is wealth if we cannot share it? What is freedom if we cannot offer it as a vision of compassion and restraint, rather than force and aggression? Without an acknowledgement of complexity in a society of sound bites, we will not find the true source of our anger or an authentic passion that will propel us forward to the place of personal engagement.

We are in need of a reflective activism born out of humility, not arrogance. Reflection, with deep time spent in the consideration of others, opens the door to becoming a compassionate participant in the world.

"To care is neither conservative nor radical," writes John Ralston Saul. "It is a form of consciousness." To be in the service of something beyond ourselves -- to be in the presence of something other than ourselves, together -- this is where we can begin to craft a meaningful life where personal isolation and despair disappear through the shared engagement of a vibrant citizenry.

Read This Essay and Others By Williams

Monday, March 17, 2008

Penny Coleman: America Must Hear These Vets' Stories

To view the soldiers speaking about their experiences in the Iraq War/Occupation

Winter Soldier: America Must Hear These Vets' Stories
By Penny Coleman

If America listens to what they say, the war would be over tomorrow.

I missed the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971. At the time I was married to a vet who desperately wanted to put his war behind him - and he wanted me to help him do it. We were supposed to pretend it had never happened. It didn't work.

Daniel refused to talk about Vietnam. "Talk to your old lady? No fucking way," his friend Bobby Lanz shot back when I said I thought that maybe Daniel wouldn't have killed himself if I had been able to get him to talk about whatever it was that was causing him such pain. "With other vets, you can say, 'shit man, I did all this horrible stuff. You're not going to believe the stuff I did', and someone who has been there will say, 'Yeah, so did I, so did we all.' But with your woman? You start to talk about having fucked some folks up bad, doing awful things, killing people, maybe, and she starts to cry and you don't go there again. You think, Fuck me, man, I don't need to hurt her. This is psychological abuse, so I am going to shut up."

Maybe I wouldn't have understood. Completely. But not knowing was far worse. For decades, I took responsibility for his death. I thought it was my fault. And even if I hadn't been able to understand exactly what he was talking about, I would have understood that he was in a kind of lethal pain. Whether it was that he thought he deserved to die or that he deserved to be put out of his misery, either way, execution or euthanasia, I would have understood that he had been injured in the war. And I would have known where to focus my grief and my rage.

What I kept thinking today, listening to all those who testified at this new Winter Soldier investigation sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War at the National Labor College in Washington, DC, is that so much grief and pain for the past 30 years has been mis-directed, so much energy wasted, blaming ourselves and the soldiers we loved for the injuries that we couldn't see. Joyce Lucey, the mother of a soldier who took his own life after returning from Iraq, said that when he left he gave her a coin and told her to hold it like an amulet to keep him safe. She did, but she now understands that even though her son had been returned to her, his soul had been destroyed. "I should have been holding that coin after he came home."

But, she continued, "His voice is silenced. Ours is not." And she quoted Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil in America is for good men to do nothing."

Everything I heard today spoke to that challenge, to the challenge of channeling our combined grief and rage into a focused fight that will really, finally make a difference. Clifton Hicks began his testimony by saying that all of the men he served with in Iraq were there for love: love of country, of ideals, of comrades, and "for that they are beyond judgment. I am here," he added, "to judge the war itself."

One after another, veterans told conflicted stories, some with tears, some with rigid control, some with visible shakes, but all with hard-won moral courage and deep sorrow. John Michael Turner began his testimony by telling the audience that as far as he was concerned, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine" was history. For him it is now "Eat the apple and fuck the corps." Then he tossed his dog tags into the audience saying, "Fuck you, I don't work for you no more." Turner's first confirmed kill was on April 18, 2006. He shot an Iraqi boy in front of his father. It took a second shot to kill him. He had a photograph of the boy's open skull. Turner was personally congratulated by his commanding officer, who proceeded to offer a four day pass to anyone who got a kill by stabbing one of the enemy. Turner ended with, "I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people. I am sorry for the things I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was."

Hart Viges told of having an insurgent, armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, in his sights during a firefight and not being able to pull the trigger. He was frozen by awareness that the fear and confusion he saw on the Iraqi kid's face was exactly what he imagined was on his own.

Adam Kokesh enlisted in the Marines not because he agreed with the war, but because he "wanted to help clean up the mess." Instead of the schools and water facilities his President had promised he would be helping to build, he found himself policing a wanton project of human and social destruction. He manned "snap" check points where Marines in camouflage at dusk shot unsuspecting drivers who had failed to see them. He described feeling "funny" when he had to decide whether or not to pose with the trophy remains. "I wasn't the one who killed this guy." Kokesh was ordered to shoot at Iraqi police and firemen who were out after curfew putting out a fire that had been started by American rounds. That one he managed to stop with his "little bit of Arabic," but Kokesh wasn't optimistic about our prospects in Iraq. "We care so the American people don't have to. As soon as you choose looking good over doing right, you lose."

Clifton Hicks talked about free fire orders in city neighborhoods and the indiscriminate, often vengeful, targeting of cars and civilians, and about riding through the gates of their compound one night, aware that the humvee in front of his had run over a civilian. No one said anything because it had been a long hard day. They had all been in country long enough to feel that the bigger deal was "being separated from your cot" for the hours it would have taken to fill out the paperwork.

Jason Hurt, a medic from East Tennessee, said, "I am a peaceful person, and I drew down on an 80 year old woman. I hate guns. They should all be melted down into jewelry." And he added, if this were happening where he lives, if some foreign occupying force came into his part of the world, "every self-respecting citizen would come out of the hills with a shotgun to defend their country."

Vincent Emanuelli was appalled by the way American soldiers treated Iraqi dead. "Standard operating procedure was to run over them or take pictures."

Sergio Corrigan said that all an Iraqi needed was a heavy bag and a shovel to become a target. And looking back, with a "clear mind and not so much anger," he wanted to "apologize to the people of Iraq."

James Gilligan struggled to tell about the night he saw a flash on a mountainside and tried to call in for fire. But he took his compass reading too close to a machine gun and the heavy metal threw he reading off. An Afghani village was decimated and he will never be the same.

As Adam Kokesh put it, they were all struggling all the time because their morals were at odds with their survival instincts.

These new Winter Soldiers look so young to me. They are my son's age. My daughter's age as well. The last time young soldiers like these tried to get Americans to listen they were ignored. And that can't be allowed to happen again. The message of Iraq Veterans Against the War came through clearly in every tortured testimony. This is an illegal war. It has cost us our peace of mind. The longer we are there, the more of us will be injured. Bring our troops home now.

It is tempting to despair, but as Logan Laituri reminded the audience, Logan who had testified that his unit unknowingly used white phosphorous for training rounds and that it had "a significant impact on the surrounding communities, what Dr. King said in 1967 is equally true for us now. He said that he opposed the War, then in Vietnam, "because I love America. I speak out against this war not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world."


Penny Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam Veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War, was released on Memorial Day, 2006. Her website is Flashback.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Film School: Alex Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side

Film School (KUCI: Irvine, CA)
Hosts: Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar

An interview with Alex Gibney the director of Taxi to the Dark Side — an in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002. The documentary delves into the opposition to the use torture from its political and military opponents, as well as the defence of such methods; the attempts by Congress to uphold the standards of the Geneva Convention forbidding torture; and the popularisation of the use of torture techniques in shows such as 24. Gibney is the writer, producer and director of the 2006 Oscar-nominated film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which also received the Independent Spirit Award and the WGA Award. In 2003, he served as the Series Producer for The Blues, an Emmy-nominated series of seven films in association with executive producer Martin Scorsese. Taxi to the Dark Side has won the Best Documentary Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.

To Listen to the Podcast

Lexington, KY: Observance of 5th Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion (March 19th)

To Access a PDF of the Announcement

Observance of 5th Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion

(Lexington, KY). The Central Kentucky Council for Peace & Justice's Peace Action Task Group is calling on central Kentuckians to "observe, mourn, & protest" on the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Demonstrators will gather from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Wednesday March 19 at Lexington's Triangle Park. Similar events are being held the same day in Frankfort and Berea (see below). United for Peace & Justice's 5YearsTooMany campaign (click here for more information) currently lists 5th anniversary events in 490 cities in all 50 states.

Spokesperson Richard Mitchell summarized the group's goals: "We want to go beyond statistics. The statistics are numbing: 3,984 U.S. dead, 29,314 U.S. wounded, at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, and an unknown number of Iraqi insurgents dead."
"On the corner we will hold a solemn ceremony focusing on the 63 Kentuckians and 63 randomly selected Iraqi civilians who have died in the war and occupation. To the rhythm of a slow drumbeat, one demonstrator after another will read one of the names and then place a flower on a coffin that is draped with U.S. and Iraqi flags. We will alternate between Kentucky and Iraqi names. After each pair of names is read, we will chant in unison "End this war, No More Killing." After all these dead are honored, we will end the observance by singing together "Where Have All The Flowers Gone."

The Frankfort event will take place earlier Wednesday between 11:45 a.m. & 12:45 p.m. in front the Watts Federal Building, 330 West Broadway.

The Berea event will take place 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. simultaneously with the Lexington event. Activists will gather in Berea's College Square.

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

(Courtesy of Claire Glasscock)

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

I ask Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for the following reasons:

1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal "War of Aggression" against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.

2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.

4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

6. Violating the Constitution by using "signing statements" to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.

7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.

9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.

Bluegrass Community and Technical College: Spring 2008 Speaker Series

This semester, Marcia Freyman, Danny Mayer, Jean Watts, Terri Anderson, and several students have been working on a cooperative sustainable agriculture project. Support for the local food economy and for community gardening is on the rise in the Bluegrass and speakers this spring will be focused primarily on various gardening and agriculture issues. All presentations will be held in the Oswald Building auditorium on the Cooper campus unless otherwise indicated.

March 25, 6:30-7:45:
Jim Embry of the Sustainable Communities Network. Community activist Jim Embry will speak to the momentum behind Lexington’s community gardens, why they are important, how they help build environmental awareness and move our community toward ecological sustainability.

March 27, 6:30-7:45 p.m.:
David Matas, immigration and human rights lawyer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Mr. Matas will speak about his investigation into allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China.

April 3, 4 - 5 p.m.:
Erin Howard, BCTC Multicultural
Affairs. Hispanic Outreach Coordinator Erin Howard will educate her audience about the work of World Vision. This international organization works to lift up the lives of the poor and the oppressed.

April 8, 6:30-7:45:
John Walker, UK Biologist. During World War II, in the face of food and other scarcities, Lexington joined towns and cities across the country in growing its own food. The Victory Gardens were a source of pride - and a way to help “win the peace” on the homefront.

April 14, 6:30-7:45:
Mac Stone, Kentucky Department of Agriculture Manager. Starting in 1999, Kentucky’s
tobacco growers began receiving payments to compensate for loss of tobacco quotas and declining demand for their tobacco. Learn about the impact of this infusion of money on Kentucky’s farms and farm families.

April 17, 6:30-7:45:
Aloma Dew, Sierra Club. Recently, we learned of our country’s largest recall of meat - 143 million pounds. The humane treatment of livestock, the suffering of farmers in Mexico, the use of synthetic pesticides, and nutritional deficiencies
are all aspects of Aloma Dew’s thesis - that eating is a moral act.

April 22, 6:30-7:45:
Garrett Graddy, UK Geography Graduate Student. The source of our food - the seed - is the topic of this presentation. Open pollinated versus hybrid versus genetically modified seeds and their global distribution result in misery or bounty for those who plant the seed. On Earth Day, come and learn about the political ecology of seed.

April 25, 11:30-2:30:
United Nations Association Annual Meeting/Luncheon, UK Goodbarn. Presentation
by Sarah Lynn Cunningham - Is Our Carbon Footprint Stomping Out the Developing World’s Chances? Kentucky Proud meal, silent auction, international
displays. Students $10; All others $25.

April 26, Arbor Day Festival, The Arboretum

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stop Loss (Kimberly Pierce: USA, 2008)

A film I hope comes to Lexington... you can tell people are already trying to discredit the film before they have seen it. For an example see the comments on the film's section on IMDB. A clue to a political attack on a film by someone that hasn't seen it is that they do not mention anything about the actual film and say something ridiculous like it is "one-sided." It is a fictional film..... I have criticized many films, but I would never say something as ridiculous as a film is "one-sided" :) Pierce's first film was the stunning and tragic Boys Don't Cry.

Watch the Trailer

Mario Savo: There Comes a Time...

(Courtesy of Michael Marchman--thanks!)

The famous words of Mario Savio during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in the
1960s have been ringing in my head -- for several years now!

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies on the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

Suicidal Tendecies: You Can't Bring Me Down

(Sometimes one just needs to rock out and ST is one of the best bands I know for dispelling excess energy.)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Julie Hilden: Free Speech and the Concept of "Torture Porn"

Update (3/11/08): After posting this I realized that perhaps a much more serious example of "torture porn" is the hit TV show 24. Everyone tsks, tsks the horror genre, yet, they sit down to watch the cop culture entertainments of 24, Law and Order, and CSI, which all provide safely "exhilirating" and order-bringing "fear-inducing" versions of torture as porn (and I have barely touched the many examples that are on mainstream TV)--MB

Original Post:

(I admit the only examples of these films I have seen is Saw and Wolf Creek, after that I decided I didn't want to assault my senses any more. I developed a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of the Hostel films without having seen them, dismissing them as mindless, sadistic Torture Porn. I'm not going to rush out and go get them, but Hilden has effectively given me something to think about and I will keep in mind my violation of the grievous sin of dismissing what I have not seen/read. Came across this courtesy of Broken Pencil)

Free Speech and the Concept of "Torture Porn": Why are Critics So Hostile to "Hostel II"?
FindLaw's Writ

Free speech advocates have often zeroed in on the hypocrisy of the ratings system of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA): Movies with less-than-explicit sex scenes often qualify for R and NC-17 ratings, whereas even very violent movies often do not. This criticism usually is paired with the hope that this hypocrisy will someday be resolved through a more reasonable approach to ratings for movies with sex scenes.

But recently, that hope for the movie industry has been turned on its head. It now seems that the analogy between movies that depict sex and violence, respectively, will be used not to convince the MPAA to ease up on the first, but rather to justify a crackdown on the latter. Thus, the comparison between sexuality and violence may actually serve as leverage in favor of harsher ratings, rather than against them.

That's a serious concern for those who believe in free speech. While the MPAA is of course an industry organization, and not a government body, its ratings can still have a profound effect (including a "chilling effect" for the future) upon the kind of movies that can be made and, if made, can reach broad audiences.

The phrase "torture porn," which has been repeatedly applied to the Writer/Director Eli Roth's recent movie "Hostel II," is telling in terms of the new movement to conflate sexuality and violence - and it's spreading virally. Entertainment Weekly used the term; and five of the featured reviews on the popular movie ratings site use variations on this theme. This summer, New York magazine's reviewer David Edelstein devoted an entire article to the concept.

While not quite new, the concept is recent - largely confined to Twenty-First Century films such as "Saw" and its sequels, and Roth's earlier films "Cabin Fever" and "Hostel." In addition, "Captivity," which premiered last Friday, June 13, has attracted the "torture porn" label - with its billboards becoming especially controversial. How long will it be before the MPAA follows the lead of movie reviewers in labeling films "torture porn"? (Meanwhile, in the context of television, Senator Sam Brownback may well succeed in convincing the FCC to move aggressively against depictions of violence, especially explicit ones - a move that has led to significant blowback from the ACLU.)

In this column, I'll argue that the "torture porn" label is damaging, unfair, and misguided. It attempts to trivialize certain movies by suggesting that their only purpose is to titillate - short-circuiting the brain to go straight to the pulse or groin. In fact, many of the visceral depictions of violence in these movies conveyed strong messages that no viewer could miss. Ironically, these messages, especially in the "Hostel" films, are typically anti-violence.

Because the real world includes violence, and because violence has such devastating effects, it would be anomalous if ideas about, and depictions of, violence didn't play a strong role in the lively "marketplace of ideas" the First Amendment protects. Aggressively protecting that marketplace of ideas, as the First Amendment commands us to do, entails protecting a wide swathe of types of expression, including those that some viewers will find overly explicit.

The Importance of Allowing Filmmakers to Rely on Context and Realism

Generally, scenes of violence are effectively interpreted by critics and the MPAA in isolation, unless the movie is truly a rare masterpiece. For example, the Oscar-nominated "Saving Private Ryan" came famously close to receiving an NC-17 for its violence, especially that of its opening, but ultimately did not, likely due to this informal masterpiece exception. In this one example, the MPAA was able to see the movie's violence in context, and in light of the perspective the movie conveyed. It was also able to see that it would have done a disservice to World War II veterans to convey a tamer portrait of what had actually happened on the battlefield.

These arguments regarding context and perspective, however, are applicable to virtually every movie; it's just that with respect to other films, the MPAA ignores them. It's nonsensical to look at scenes of violence out of context, given that viewers will only see them in context. And making violence look less realistic - less bloody, less gory, and more stylized - would be deceptive not only in masterpieces such as "Saving Private Ryan," but also in any film that purports to either locate itself in a real world, or to locate itself in a fictional world similar enough to our own that it can offer commentary on the world we live in.

The tacit masterpiece exception is also troubling in another way: It favors conventional films, and grossly discriminates against the kind of films that, while they may be interesting and popular, will never be nominated for an Academy Award. The masterpieces of Sundance may be allowed to be violent, but the masterpieces of its edgier spin-off, Slamdance, may not.

This is particularly troubling because it's not masterpieces, but edgier films, that are likely to have the most interesting and new points to make about violence.

The Cases of "Hostel" and "Hostel II": Anti-Violence Movies Wrongly Labeled "Torture Porn"

For example, it's hardly controversial to convey, as "Saving Private Ryan" did, that it's tragic when soldiers die in a just war. But it is very controversial indeed to say that even the most civilized-seeming people may be lawless sadists underneath, and that this sadism isn't aberrant; it's just an intensification and distortion of other elements in our culture.

Yet that's exactly the message of "Hostel" and "Hostel II" - a message seemingly lost on those who label the movies torture porn. Unfortunately, when these films receive that label, the movies' commentary about the violent extremes that seemingly-civilized people never reaches part of its potential audience, for would-be viewers may boycott the films based on this reductive and unfair label.

Both "Hostel" and "Hostel II' comment on the stereotype of naïve American innocence and jaded European experience. Critics highlight this kind of commentary when it appears in classic literature, but tend to ignore it when they discuss the kind of movies they tend to consider beneath them, and only condescend to review. To illustrate the contrast between brash America and weary Europe, both movies depict small groups of young Americans traveling abroad (men in "Hostel"; women in "Hostel II"). Both groups have an ugly surprise waiting for them: They will be tricked into being the victims of a club, based in Eastern Europe, at which otherwise unremarkable but extremely wealthy men and women torture and kill for sport. Even if the Americans escape, their illusions of safety and privilege will be permanently shattered.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

(This essay makes an excellent point about the level of acceptance of violence, real or implied, in mainstream "masterpiece" films as opposed to the more indie/low-budget grnre films. One could consider that Roth/Tarantino are trying to communicate a message about society... except, they turn it into a franchise? When you brand your message of violence and start spawning sequels, doesn't that problematize what you are trying to do... once again I admit I have not seen the Hostel films. If you have seen either of these films I would be very curious to hear what you have to say about them--Michael Benton)

UChannel: The Dilemma of Darfur

The Dilemma of Darfur
UChannel (Princeton University)

Bill Frist and Mia Farrow participate in a panel focusing on the future direction of U.S. and international policy towards the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

(Feb 8, 2008 at National Press Club, Washington D.C. Co-hosted by The Economist magazine and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs)

- Bill Frist, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and Woodrow Wilson School visiting professor
- Mia Farrow, Darfur activist and actress
- Lauren Landis, Senior Representative to Sudan, U.S. State Department
- Robert Guest, Washington correspondent for The Economist and author of the book The Shackled Continent;
- Julius Coles, President of Africare

To Listen to the Roundtable

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Democracy Now: Alabama Censorship; Retired Military Generals Oppose Bush Torture Agenda; Bush Administration Lies to Congress (just one)

Democracy Now

FCC Launches Probe of Alabama TV Station Accused of Censoring a 60 Minutes Expose on the GOP’s Prosecution of Alabama’s Imprisoned Former Gov. Don Siegelman

Last month, 60 Minutes exposed new details on how Karl Rove and the Bush administration may have unjustly targeted Siegelman for political reasons. However, viewers of CBS affiliate WHNT in northern Alabama saw nothing but a black screen during most of the segment. We speak to Scott Horton about the case and his new article in Harper’s, “Vote Machine: How the Republicans Hacked the Justice Department.”

Listen to the Report

Retired Military Generals Criticize President Bush for Preparing to Veto Anti-Torture Bill

The former Chief Judge of the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals, Brigadier General James Cullen, and Marine Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes discuss their opposition to torture and why they feel the use of torture threatens national security. Last month, they joined forty other retired US military leaders to urge the Senate to approve the torture ban.

Listen to the Report

Iran Contra 2.0: How the Bush Admin Lied to Congress and Armed Fatah to Provoke Palestinian Civil War Aiming to Overthrow Hamas

In its latest issue, Vanity Fair reports that the White House tried to organize the armed overthrow of the Hamas-led goverment after Hamas swept Palestinian elections two years ago. According to the article, the Bush administration lied to Congress and boosted military support for rival Palestinian faction Fatah in the aim of provoking a Palestinian civil war they thought Hamas would lose. Vanity Fair dubbed the episode “Iran Contra 2.0”—a reference to the Reagan administration’s funding of Nicaraguan Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran. We speak with David Rose, the journalist who broke the story.

Listen to the Report

Friday, March 07, 2008

Saul Williams: Wine

Margaret Kimberley: Economic Meltdown

(Courtesy of Danny Mayer)

Economic Meltdown
by Margaret Kimberley
From Black Agenda Report and Smirking Chimp

How will Americans react when their economy collapses? The story of the coming crisis is barely being told because the corporate media's information bubble gets thicker by the day. Very few people know or understand the depths of the coming crisis. There is talk of recession, and falling home prices, but there has been little if any explanation of the havoc that will be played out across the country when the day of reckoning comes.

Banks all over the world are taking "write downs" in the billions of dollars. In plain English, a write down is a loss. Not only are international investment banks losing money hand over fist, but the almighty dollar isn't so mighty anymore. Stores in New York City are accepting euros along with the greenback.

Humorous anecdotes of Manhattanites using euros are no longer funny. No nation on earth wants dollars anymore. Tourists can no longer use them at the Taj Mahal and oil rich Saudi princes would dump them if they could do so without hurting themselves. "My feeling is that the mere mention that OPEC countries are studying the issue of the dollar is itself going to have an impact that endangers the interests of the countries. There will be journalists who will seize on this point and we don't want the dollar to collapse instead of doing something good for OPEC."

So said Prince Saud al-Faisal when he thought his microphone was turned off at an OPEC meeting. His words were stunning, so too is the fact that few Americans know he uttered them. The average American knows about the subprime mortgage crisis and knows that the neighbors lost their house. They think the problems were created by greedy banks and gullible home buyers who thought interest-only mortgages actually made sense. They don't know much else. They don't know that the subprime mortgage crisis is part of a larger crisis in the derivatives market that has enveloped the entire world.

Neither the corporate media nor politicians are telling the country the true extent of our economic troubles. The country will be wholly unprepared for the coming catastrophe. While foreigners are waiting for an opportune moment to drop the dollar like a bad habit, the presidential candidates say nothing and the people won't know what hit them when the hammer falls.

The three trillion dollar cost of the Iraq occupation, and giveaways to corporate cronies have sucked the treasury dry. Bush will have won the day, and left the next president with no money for any new initiatives, regardless of any campaign promises.

What will be the human cost when the bottom falls out? Americans have no safety net, no job security, and no health insurance without the jobs they are about to lose. There will be wide spread human misery among the people less prepared than any other to cope with the crisis.

As always, black Americans will suffer more. The little wealth we had, real estate, has been taken away by the banking industry derivatives schemes that are at the heart of this crisis. Those who were barely in the middle class won't be any longer without assets or jobs to sustain them.

Trouble will spread outside of the nation as well. America produces nothing but warfare with a military budget larger than that of every other country on earth combined. The very existence of an Iran oil market, based on Iran's currency, not dollars, may be enough to instigate Uncle Sam to do the only thing it still can: wage war and kill many human beings. The response to the loss of domination will be more wars.

The most basic understandings that Americans had of their country are about to shaken to the very core. Despite all evidence to the contrary, most still believe they have the best standard of living and the strongest economy. Those beliefs have not been true for a long time and those foolish ideas will be put to the test in a painful way.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Webster Word of the Day: Muckety-Muck

muckety-muck \MUCK-uh-tee-muck\ noun

: an important and often arrogant person

Example sentence:

A contingent of hospital muckety-mucks swept into Adelaide's room, peered at her over their glasses, briefly discussed her case, and swept out again.

The Chinook of the Pacific Northwest were avid traders, and in the course of their history a trade language developed that came to be known as Chinook jargon, based on a combination of Chinook and other American Indian languages with English and French. The Chinook jargon term "hayo makamak" meant "plenty to eat." By a process called folk etymology, in which a word of another language is transformed to a more familiar-sounding term, "hayo" was identified with "high" and the spelling and meaning of the entire phrase was transformed. Beginning in the 19th century, the term "high-muck-a-muck" referred to a self-important person. Since then, the expression has taken on several variations, including "high mucky-muck" and "high-muckety-muck," and nowadays the "high" is often dispensed with entirely.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Surfrider Foundation: February Podcasts

(One of my favorite community activist podcast sites--essential listening! Here are the episodes since the last time posted on the Surfrider Foundation.)

February 29, 2008
Mark Babski in San Clemente in Southern California.

Few people reflect the Surfrider brand with as much accuracy as Mark Babski: global citizen yet locally integrated, highly educated yet accessible and down to earth, politically astute yet environmentally conscious, a listener and yet the first person to act. Mark has been around Surfrider for the last 15 years. He has seen a lot here and held a lot of it together over the years. I sat down with Mark on a blustery February day on a San Clemente beach. Listen in.

February 15, 2008
Scott Werney and Marvin Heskett from the Surfrider Foundation Oahu Chapter, recorded at Point Panic.

Any time you land in Hawai'i it feels special. From the lava fields of the big island to the insane Napali Coast of Kaua'i... to the ledging waves on Oahu's North Shore. I caught up with Scott Werny and Marvin Heskett from Surfrider's O'ahu chapter and heard an update on what is happening on the "Gathering Place", the third largest Hawaiian Island. We sat at Point Panic, watched the sun set and talked story.

January 30, 2008
Ericka D’Avanzo, Surfrider’s Florida Regional Manager, in a rental car powering north somewhere on I-95 in Florida.

Few people have accomplished in their lives what Ericka has in the two years she’s been in Florida. To the wonderful and growing web of Floridian activists, Ericka is their glue, their mentor and their champion. Listen up; this is the sound of activism... redlining.

To Listen to the Episodes

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cory Doctorow: "I, Row-Boat; Talk of the Nation: Constructing Life Creates Questions of Ethics

Just when I thought my course long research and teaching of the history of Science Fiction short stories this semester was leaving me somewhat jaded... I came across Cory Doctorow's fascinating short story "I, Row-Boat" (2006), originally published in the first issue of Flurb, and which I found in Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection. Robbie the Row-Boat is one of my all-time favorite characters and Doctorow's story through it's vision of uniquely uplifted sentiences, AI avatars and downloaded humans gives us another opportunity to ponder the meaning of it all.

Then I popped online to do some research and I come across this report:

Constructing Life Creates Questions of Ethics
Talk of the Nation (NPR)

Scientists are getting closer to creating artificial life in the lab. But is society ready for custom-made organisms? Synthetic biology has the potential to dramatically change fields from agriculture to medicine to zoology. But how will society cope with the ability for a lone researcher to — for example — build a polio virus from scratch in a private lab?

Paul Rabinow, author of Making PCR: A Story of Biotechnology, and Drew Endy, an MIT professor of biological engineering, talk with guest host Joe Palca about the promise and potential perils of synthetic biology. What protections need to be in place as research proceeds?

To Listen to the Episode

A good, warm night for thinking...