Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The National Mall: Ours or Theirs?

When you set foot on the National Mall, the Founding Fathers speak to you. From their marble monuments, and across the centuries, they tell of the ideals that gave birth to our government “of the people, by the people, for the people…”

This morning, I read a story from AlterNet, National Mall Redesign Could Seriously Restrict Free Speech. The story is about how the National Park Service is considering redesigning the National Mall. I think it's imperative the people take a long hard look at this proposal and at our democratic history which is woven into the marble and the soil of the National Mall. Don't let them keep taking, taking, and taking...put a stop to our loss! Do a little research, and see how many of our important social justice initiatives began at this memorable place! Don't let them take our history and allow them to place us into more little free speech corrals!

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the first memorable demonstration that I can remember during my lifetime. That march and demonstration that took place on the National Mall grounds back in 1963, is the one that brought us the historical I Have a Dream speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. There were an estimated 250,000 people in attendance that day. Even the folk singer icon Bob Dylan sang during the demonstration.

In 1969, the National Mall again was one of the demonstration sites for the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. Although the numbers in attendance vary according to the source, some say there were an estimated 250,000-500,000 in attendance at the National Mall and another 500,000 attending demonstrations across the United States, including 50 members of Congress!

In 2004 the National Mall was once again the location for a huge demonstration. In April of that year, somewhere between 800,000 to 1,500,000 people converged on Washington for the March for Women's Lives.

And just last year, on January 27, 2007, the march against the Iraq War, sponsored by United for Peace and Justice, ralleyed at the National Mall to let their voices be heard against the U.S. involvement in the Mid-East. There were an estimated 500,000 people in attendance at the National Mall.

Just take a look at the National Coalition who is determined to save the National Mall as a symbol of our country's founding ideals and a stage for our evolving democracy.. Take a look at their publication and perhaps pass it around to those who you think may understand the message.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How We Look At Our World

Thanks to my friend David VanAmburg, who I met via Whole Wheat Radio, I was fortunate enough to catch the live stream of the 2007 Pop! Tech Conference last October. The entire conference was far greater than I ever could have imagined. And I would urge anyone, who is concerned about the future of our planet and the people who call it home, to check out Pop! Tech's archives from 2007. And put the 2008 Conference on your calendar of "not to miss" events of this year! I promise, you will not be sorry!

All of the sessions were incredible and the speakers who participated in these sessions were the top movers and shakers of their selected fields of study. So you'll have to go to Pop! Tech's website and watch the many, many presentations for yourself. But I'm noting one of them right now. Perhaps the reason I chose this one is because it was the very first session of the conference and the impact this initial speaker/artist had on me set the stage for the rest of the conference. In other words, once I watched this first session with Chris Jordan (The Human Impact)...I was hooked...and there was no way I could miss the rest of the conference!

Artist Chris Jordan brings the enormous scale of our mass consumption into high-resolution. He shares Running the Numbers, composite photographs of discarded cell phones, computers, aluminum cans and other modern detritus, urging us to consider the consequences of our consumer culture while insisting that each of us has the power to make a difference.

It's all about running the numbers. Add it up for yourself, and then you decide if this system of consumerism is a sustainable social model.

To me, it's important that we learn to look at our world and ourselves much differently if we are to acheive something greater than what we currently are offered. And it's important that our creativity be unchained, unbridled, and free to flow in the most natural way possible. There is another group of movers and shakers other than Pop! Tech. This other group is called TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). I have only watched some of their archived material, but I have been impressed with what I have been exposed to so far. And I urge each of you to check for yourselves the huge library of media that is offered. But I want to share one presentation by Stanford professor and lawyer Larry Lessig. The title of his presentation is "How creativity is being strangled by the law"

The 2008 TED Conference begins this week...February 27th - March be exact! But it doesn't look as if TED offers the conference to us grunts out here who can't afford or who don't have the time to travel to Monterey or Aspen. So while TED looks to have some astounding speakers, and they will eventually make the conference available online, they would do well to follow Pop! Tech's lead and make the conference available to anyone via a live stream over the web.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Contagious Affluenza

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. de Graaf

affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. PBS

Anthropologist/Psychologist Oliver James believes there is a connection between the increasing nature of affluenza and the increase of material inequality! Consumerism at it's best...and according to James, along with the idolization of this consumeristic push of cherished stuff comes the innevitable mental disorders.

Below is Part 1 of the the entire six parts of the video and draw your own conclusions!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Runnin' The Roads

Well, things are getting somewhat back to normal here in the hill region of north Mississippi after the freight train of tornadoes roared through February 5th. All that is left of the storms are the scars on the land and the people's lives who were unfortunately placed within their paths. But today was bright and sunny and the temps were in the low 60's. A beautiful day, and I hope somehow it helps to mend some of those scars.

Since the weather was so nice, I decided to do a little rambling today(runnin' the roads as it's called down here), and as I had a few chores to accomplish also, I incorporated work and play into a very enjoyable day! I live in the hill region of Mississippi which is just east of, and borders, the famed delta region and it's world renown blues artists and culture! As I was runnin' the roads, I passed through quite a few small towns and communities that lay claim to some very impressive bluesmen. If I mentioned them all, this could turn into a documentary very I thought I would cover just two of these legends. And the two I chose happen to be buried in the hill region, but only a few miles from where the bluffs abruptly drop off almost 200 feet into the delta area.

The first artist I want to mention is Mississippi Fred McDowell. Mississippi Fred is kind of special to me, as he was born in the small town of Rossville, Tennessee. The reason I feel that is special is due to the fact my family sharecropped on 320 acres just outside of Rossville, Tn. from the year 1960 - 1963. That property was owned by Berry B. Brooks who was the president of the Memphis Cotton Exchange during our tenure at this farm. This old plantation was one of many throughout Fayette County and was located on the northern side of Wolf River. I'm not sure what the name of the plantation was, but all we ever called it was the Bell Place. I've searched on the web for information but have yet to find out the history of the place. One of these days, I'll drive over there and do some research through the county records. But I digress and that's a story for another time. It's just the fact I could possibly have kicked up some of the same dirt clods that Fred did when he was young that gives me that little special feeling. And surely it's possible that I could have met some of his relatives down at the old country store? Probably not, but it's nice to imagine the possibility.

Mississippi Fred is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame and he is now buried no more than 8 miles from where I currently live. His burial site is located at the Hammond Hill M. B. Church in Como, Mississippi.

I've listened to quite a few of his older recordings and watched some of his videos that a few caring people have thankfully uploaded to the web. Fred's complete discography can be found on the American Music site. Here is one of them on video, but more can be found if a search is done. I chose this one because I think both of us had to work the same Wolf River bottomland, even if not the same ground. This tune is called, "Goin' Down to the River".

The next bluesman I want to mention is the great Mississippi John Hurt. Mississippi John was born in the small town of Teoc, Ms. but was raised in the little delta community of Avalon about twenty miles to the west of Grenada. John also worked in the cotton fields as a field hand when he was young and later as a sharecropper while he played his music for his local friends and family. Mississippi John did get the chance to record a couple of tunes that just didn't ever get off the ground during the depression era of the late 20's. John stated that he made $20 for each song he recorded. However, a man named Tom Byrd Hoskins had listened to John's recordings and set upon the trail to find this Mississippi John Hurt. I think an entire novel could be written about "Fang" Hoskins, but that is for another time!

John's performance in 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival launched his musical talents into a new direction and his fan base began to grow among the youth in the 60's and his popularity grew so, that he did a performance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. John had finally left the fields and was getting to share what he loved.

Mississippi John is also a distinguished member of the Blues Hall of Fame and much more can be learned of John at the Mississippi John Hurt Museum, which is maintained by John's grand daughter, Mary Frances Hurt Wright. Later this month, there will be a dedication ceremony honoring Mississippi John Hurt. There will be a new state "Blues Trail Marker" unveiled in Carrollton, Mississippi to honor John's contribution to the history of the blues. His contributions are some of the greatest that our state, our country, and our world have ever known.

Mississippi John Hurt was buried at Saint James Cemetery in Avalon, Ms. The burial site hunter duo, Death 2UR even have a video documenting their hunt for Mississippi John's gravesite.

There are some of Mississippi John's tunes available at the Internet Archive. The one I'm sharing here is entitled, "You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley"

I hope you enjoy these extraordinary artist's music as much as I do. Perhaps in the near future, I'll do a little more rambling and visit a few more of these wonderful blues artists stomping grounds as I am runnin' the roads. Maybe I'll even begin a pictorial journey of the historical places they were born and even performed. At least for now, it sounds like something I really would like to do, especially with Spring just right around the corner. We shall see!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lessig on Barack Obama

This video from Lawrence Lessig says it all...and there is nothing left for discussion! Get out there and show your face...cast your the change that we so desperately need!

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