Saturday, February 24, 2007

Artful Perceptions

The art technique known as Trompe-l'œil is deceiving to the eye. From what I understand, this art form dates back to early Greek and Roman times. It can be seen in the still life of William Michael Harnett.

And you can see the art form in the work of Richard Haas.

But the artist I find very interesting is English chalk artist Julian Beever. His three dimensional pavement drawings are something to behold!

Just my opinion and I guess we must take into consideration that I also like dirty winshield art. Maybe it seems to mean more when you put so much of your soul and effort into a creation, knowing it's only temporary and the rain could wash it away at any time. There's just something fresh about that idea. :)

Perhaps it's the revolutionary feeling I get when I see this art form. Seems to be as much about protest as it is about an art form!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Presidential Candidates, Activism, The Future

I have to say, this particular presidential campaign of this young senator from Illinois, is impressing me more and more each day!

Speaking to members of the Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign group, Obama said: "You gotta pay your workers enough that they can actually not only shop at Wal-Mart, but ultimately send their kids to college and save for retirement."

And speaking to health care advocate group, Families Care, Obama said:
"The days of using the war on terror as a political football are over...It is time to give Iraqis their country back, and it is time to refocus America's efforts on the wider struggle yet to be won." According to his speech, Obama also called for a phased withdrawal of American troops starting in 2007, and an opening of diplomatic dialogue with Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran.

More than a week before Barack Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, 3,500 students--many of whom had driven for hours from out of state--packed into George Mason University's Johnson Center in Fairfax, Virginia, brimming with idealism. As the Senator took the stage to address the frenetic young crowd, he was visibly taken aback.

Obama has been podcasting from the Senate since late 2005 and is responding to the people through web-based grass roots groups who happen to agree that our future lies in "our" hands and we all know the basics here; it's number crunching time again. What really impresses me about this campaign is the way in which the campaign is organized through the use of Internet communities. Internet Politics are here to stay, at least all of us should understand this truth. Yes, it is brand spankin' new, and as a matter of fact, wikipedia needs some writers for their entry of Electronic Politics. Perhaps some of us here should explain to the people exactly how electronic politics are playing a vital role in the rising wave, and which direction will this type of politics travel? Will it's growing power be controlled by the "media elite" or will grassroots communities begin to force accountability and transparency as the standard and transfer power from the hands of the few into the will of the people...the majority?

Internet Activism is without a doubt the best opportunity for the people and to deny this fact is deny your very future...what a tool it is. As individuals, we are armed with a seemingly endless supply of cybertools at our disposal.

Internet activism (also known as electronic advocacy, cyberactivism, and online organizing) is the use of communication technologies such as e-mail, web sites, and podcasts to enable faster communications by citizen movements and deliver a message to a large audience. These Internet technologies are used for cause-related fundraising, lobbying, volunteering, community building, and organizing.

And as we build links and expand and embrace other communities, our strength to "change what needs to be changed" builds as well. And it's this growing sense of community that bonds us together. It is in essence, your neighborhood. Here are two definitions of sense of community from wikipedia.

For Sarason, Psychological Sense of Community is “the perception of similarity to others, an acknowledged interdependence with others, a willingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what one expects from them, and the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stable structure” (1974, p. 157).

McMillan & Chavis (1986) define Sense of Community as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.”

I'm keeping my eyes and ears open to this young Senator's campaign...definitely a social experiment in social computing. And it seems our youth also is being active and participation levels are sky rocketing. In my personal opinion, when we begin to witness unrest among the youth of our countries... change is in the air. The wind of change is blowing once again and the answers have always been blowin' in the wind!

There have been 27 universities participating in social protests throughout the nation, including Columbia, UCLA, UC Davis, Berkeley, and UCSB. In the article entitled, The Pulse of the Youth the author writes:
Protestors sat on the pavement of Highway 217 and listened to speakers address the group with words of encouragement, news of other opportunities for political activism and the like. “I wasn’t planning on coming today. I was on the bus,” said Dos Pueblos High School student Adam Rothman, referencing a public transit vehicle trying protests%20110.jpgthat had been completely stopped from circling the roundabout when the march halted it. The crowd met this identification with cheers. Other speakers spoke about the protest being sadly uncharacteristic of the crop of young adults. “Our generation is the one that will be remembered for iPods and ignorance,” said a speaker. “We’re the generation that is willing to get arrested for public intoxication on the weekend on [Del Playa Drive] and not in a protest for civil disobedience.” Jeronimo Saldana, a member of UCSB’s Associated Students Legislative Council who took part in the protest, praised the crowd for coming as far as they had. “We shut down the university as of now. We’re showing our solidarity,” he said. “This is beautiful. Let’s keep this going on.”

This is our future and it's this shift in powers that we as concerned citizens and families should embrace and engage in my humble opinion at least. The shift is inevitable and we can expect to get no more out of it than we are willing to put into it. This is the opportunity to lay the foundation blocks of our future. The way I see it, it's two choices and it's not rocket science...either help build it or continue to let "somebody else" build it! If you don't have the time left to help build it, and are willing to accept what comes down the pike, don't be surprised to one day find you no longer have the freedom to actively participate in your own future!

But take note, if you make the choice to help build it, this will definitely require a "time payment" or your part. You will have to sacrifice some alotted time in your daily life and redirect energy toward more...reading, researching, discussing, comparing, and writing. It boils down to active participation and there are many here that are already concerned enough in our future that they are willing to do anything to help. It's the dreamers who always chart new paths. These dreamers have faith in creating a society that is built on justice and participatory democracy. It's getting you know where your Senator is?

Another version of this post appeared on Uncharted.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Talking and Less Banning

Well, just when I think the people may be heading in the right direction with somewhat of a concerted effort, there is always something which shows up that snaps me back to reality and allows me to see that we are not even close! In the midst of the ongoing death and destruction from the Iraq War, the melting polar ice caps, the possibilities of a dollar crash, and the ever-widening wealth disparities, one word has surfaced in the mainstream that puts all the aforementioned catasrophes in their place. And the focus of the people is once again misdirected and sidetracked in the same old way it has been for eons! What word could that be you ask? What single word could have this much power?

First off I want to mention Susan Patron, a public librarian from Los Angeles. Susan's latest book won the 2007 Newbery Medal which is considered the most prestigious award for children's literature. The book entitled, The Higher Power of Lucky, deals with a 10 year old motherless girl in a small town. But one word which appears on the first page of the book has offended conservative librarians and school teachers. And libraries all over the country have already banned or are considering banning the book citing moral shock! The word that has created this uproar with visions of book burning is scrotum.

Like I mentioned, just as I thought I could see a little light at the end of the tunnel, one solitary word becomes a social stumbling block and the light disappears! In a New York Times article, Pat Scales, who is a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, said that declining to stock the book in libraries was nothing short of censorship.
“The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole,” she said. “That’s what censors do — they pick out words and don’t look at the total merit of the book.”

I have to say that I'm losing faith in the future of humanity. How shallow and misdirected can we be? I continue to witness new highs in mass ignorance and I truly can't understand. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but come on people! Scrotum! C'mon people! Perhaps these poor misguided people should try a little honesty and good old fashioned common sense. Be open with the children and read to them and actually "talk" with them. Not to them...but with them. It was John Stuart Mill who spoke On Liberty.
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

Banning books is not the answer! Freedom of thought and honest communication is what is needed! There are times when I really think there is absolutely no hope for the human race! I think Susan's use of the word was eloquent and scientific. I have to admit our kids down south would probably question the meaning of the word scrotum. Not because we shelter our kids, but because us "rednecks" use a different terminology down here. I think it would be safe to say a large percentage of our kids wouldn't recognize scrotum, but if you said nut sack, they would know exactly what you were talking about! You see I actually talk "with" my kids and always have! We need to communicate with our children and talk openly about everything, not guide them through life with literary and social blinders! Let them think!! Give them the freedom that their minds need. Our future will be in their hands and I know for sure we don't need more of what we've already seen! I already see how destructive we've been up to this point in our so-called progress! And I know our kids, if given the opportunities, can do a much better job than we have so far!

To quote from Patricia Zohn's piece Scrotum Wars:
Anna Freud was reaching maturity and began to show an interest in her father's work so Freud gave her some of his writings to read. About a month later he asked her if she had any questions about what she had been reading. "Just one," she replied. "What is a phallus ?" Being a man of science, Freud unbuttoned his pants and showed her. "Oh, Anna exclaimed, thus enlightened, "it's like a penis, only smaller!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Apathy, America's Greatest Danger

I want to share a speech I inadvertently found while cleaning out an attic in the home the family and I are purchasing. The speech is from Douglas Dillon, who was appointed by President John Kennedy to the position of our 57th Secretary of the Treasury back in 1961. Dillon's tenure as Secretary of the Treasury was unique as he was a republican who was appointed by a democratic president. And Lyndon Johnson kept Dillon in his position after Kennedy's assasination. Dillon was also an important member of the ExComm during the Cuban Missle Crisis.

I was unable to find this particular speech on-line but that may be due more to my inability rather than availability. The speech is entitled, "Apathy, America's Greatest Danger", and the importance of the speech doesn't seem to have diminished through the years. Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents all talk about apathy as being a danger to democracy.

The vast changes taking place in our civilization have had one thing in common. They have often seemed to reduce the efforts of the individual citizen to insignificance. For this is certainly the age of the mass market, the mass media, the mass civilization. Out of this age, two great dangers have arisen - mass ignorance and mass apathy.

As the industrial era has accelerated, it has been the specialist - the market analyst, the computer systems designer, the neurosurgeon, the nuclear scientist - in short, the expert - who has become important. Experts are indeed necessary. But with their increasing importance, we too often are tempted to say, when considering matters of public policy, "What do I know about it? I'm no expert."

I say to you that the individual, despite indications to the contrary, is more important than ever, and that the ability of our citizens to influence public policy is also more important than ever.

In our system, it is how much the ordinary citizen knows - and even more important, how much he cares - that will determine the outcome of large issues. Experts of course are necessary, and their advice should be heard, but in the end, it is often the non-expert who must make the decisions.

An active Citizen in our democracy must hold forthright opinions. But if his opinion is to be of significant value to his country, three thinngs are required:

  • He must have derived that opinion from a reasonable understanding of the facts, and not from mere prejudice.

  • Second, he must care about the issue, whatever it may be.

  • And third, he must do something about it.

Even if all he does is talk to his neighbor, a purpose will have been served, but in a nation like ours - where only a small fraction of the population takes an active part in election campaigns beyond the act of voting - the latitude for effective political action, if one cares to take the trouble, is extremely broad.

A Citizen of the United States has a greater duty than merely to register an uninformed personal preference at the polls, and the college graduate, in particular, has a responsibility to commit himself to some larger cause than the mere pursuit of an ever-higher standard of living for himself and his family.

The facts are available. They are given to us every day by newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. But to many of us, the public business often appears to be too complicated to make interesting reading. Because we cannot foresee the outcome of the disarmament talks, or because we cannot fully comprehend the complexity of tax problems - or, most often, because we feel no personal involvement - we skip to the sports page or to the fashion column.

This public apathy, in my opinion, may well be the greatest single danger we face today. It gives rise to an automatic process in which blind prejudice is substituted for reason - and thus all problems become over-simplified. Out of such reactions have grown both the hysterical right and the hysterical left. One contends that the real danger in the world today is subversion within our country and within our government. The other maintains that our whole society is manipulated by a small clique of businessmen, military leaders, and power-hungry politicians.

Both views are, of course, nonsense. Power in this country rests today more than ever with the people. The problem is that they use their power too seldom...

With the Internet, we now have the best communication tools the world has ever witnessed, and yet apathy is still a problem that faces democracy. But I have seen a change, an awakening of the people. They are becoming empowered and are beginning to really believe and understand they can make a difference. STAY TUNED...the best is yet to come!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wikocracy and Wikitics

What would politics look like if they were actually democratic and the people were able to discuss and decide which goals were the most important to society? And what if they were allowed an active voice in political directions and decisions? Well, it seems at least one representative from Utah, Steve Urquhart is finding out how it should work and is putting it to good use on his Wiki Politicopia! A Wiki where users create summaries of bills, pro and con arguments, comments, links, and more.

Extreme Democracy -- When Wikis Inform Legislation.

To bolster his new effort at interaction and transparency, Urquhart posted his school voucher bill in its entirety on Politicopia before he distributed it to his colleagues in the Utah House. Soon the page expanded with pro and con sections with findings from states like Vermont and Wisconsin accompanied by a section for comments, as wel as links to news articles about the bill.

“For six years we’ve been chasing our tail on this bill, and today the bill passed in very large part because of Politicopia. When private dialogue was made public, the main area of criticism was publicly revealed to be fictitious,” Urquhart told WebProNews in an email.

Modern advocates of direct democracy often suggest e-democracy (sometimes including wikis, television and Internet forums) to address the problem of the lack of direct democracy in this country. There have been tests on this premise of what is sometimes called Wikocracy.
On the Wikocracy platform, you can freely edit the USA PATRIOT Act, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, your State's law on gay marriage, your city's zoning ordinances. If you'd like to change a law that is not yet on this platform, you can easily create a page and import the text you want to change. You can also write your own laws, post blogs, collaborate and spar with other users.

And there are even experiments in direct democracy on a global scale at Worldwide Direct Democracy Movement. It is a new initiative and there are many obstacles to overcome, but a more worthwhile endeavor I haven't seen in a very long time!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Nothing Divine About Divine Strake

The people have very high stakes in the proposed Divine Strake. It's time the people stood up to this kind of atrocity to our environment and the health of our citizens. People are beginning to make a stand and are willing to fight the machine which has dominated our society for way too long.

Michelle Thomas always suspected there was something in the Utah dust that was unhealthy for her family. The dust from the nuclear test site in Nevada was always settling on her lawn, the cars, and the other houses in St. George, Utah. St. George is just a few hours drive from the Nevada Test Site (NTS), where between 1951 and 1992, a total of 925 announced nuclear tests were conducted. The ensuing radiation from the test site is said to be responsible for cases of thyroid cancer totaling between 10,000 to 75,000 cases. The people who were exposed to the radiation fallout have been labeled non-chalantly as downwinders.

The 100 atmospheric nuclear tests done by 1962 was instrumental in dubbing St. George, Utah the new title of Fallout City because of the amount of fallout dust that settled over the town. In a piece by AlterNet, Thomas recalled the memories of her childhood.
Born in 1952 in St. George, Utah, just a few hours' drive from the Nevada Test Site (NTS), nuclear explosions were routine for Thomas. She can recall her mother -- wrapped in overalls, boots, and gloves, and with a dishtowel covering her mouth -- pulling the laundry from the line when they heard or saw another bomb go off.

Now the government wants to test a 700 ton atmospheric explosion at the NTS and the people are rising up in opposition to the detonation. Last April the test was postponed due to a lawsuit filed by the Western Shoshone Tribe. The lawsuit claims that the blast will take place on ancestral land and violate a historical land-use treaty.
Additionally, the suit says the Environmental Assessment is lacking, and the tribe calls on the government to conduct a full environmental-impact statement, which requires the agencies to further scrutinize the potential impact of the test.

Raymond Yowell, chief of the Western Shoshone National Council, said in a press statement in April that the Council opposed military testing on Shoshone lands as a violation of international law and "an affront to [their] religious belief [that] Mother Earth is sacred and should not be harmed."

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) prior to the lawsuit had determined the test was safe and would not affect the environment or the quality of human life. But once the lawsuit was filed, the NNSA withdrew their initial statement and in an attempt to quell public discourse, have opened public dialogue asking for comments which just ended February 7th.

Citizen Alert has put up this fact sheet to inform and educate our citizens about Divine Strake. And we need to listen to the real stories of the real people who have had to endure these atrocities. And Thomas' story is one that should enlighten as well as enrage the rest of us.
Downwinders like Thomas are refusing to be silenced, even as they continue to battle physical hardships.

In addition to suffering from the debilitating muscle disease Polymyositis, Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. "We are doing double-whammy," she said. "We're going to our chemotherapy and our surgeries and our funerals, and we're trying to inform the people about what happened to us in the past and light a fuse with them and help us fight this."

Please support our neighbors in the southwest, for what affects them will definitely affect us all. Government supported terrorism on it's own citizens can no longer be accepted! Make a stand, sign a petition, write or call your elected officials! Let your voice be heard and join with other real people who are fighting the fight for all of humanity!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Folk Streams...Keeping It Alive

The website at has two goals. One is to build a national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures. The other is to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. The films were produced by independent filmmakers in a golden age that began in the 1960s and was made possible by the development first of portable cameras and then capacity for synch sound. Their films focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of unnoticed Americans from many different regions and communities.

This is just a sampling of the videos that are available at And I encourage everybody to visit their site and view these cultural treasures! The permanent link for the complete stream of the films is located below each of the short introductory film clips.

Appalachian Journey

Peg Leg Sam Jackson

Cajun Country

Catching the Music

Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old

It Ain't City Music
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