Thursday, January 29, 2009

The New Humanities

A future, indeed, for which we are not prepared, largely because no pedagogies exist to teach it. - Kevin Jarrett

It scares the hell out of people when there is no structure to maintain their illusion of control. My peers and I have discussed, cussed, and argued about a so-called "structureless society". Our discussions were based on labor union organizational structures, but they are the same as our current social structures here in the states. I think a lot of the problem is the name that is used. Structureless is a misnomer. There is always structure, it is just that the structure takes different forms depending on necessity, and recquires different interactions between the participants. Most of the good folks I hang with strive for a level playing field where no human life is any more precious than another. It's the basics for being a human being in my opinion...there is either humanity, or our history as inhabitants on this poor planet continues to repeat itself. There continues to be hunger, suffering, death, and destruction. Why do you think that is? Perhaps because we want to hold on to that structure our entire lives are built around? Maybe we want to hold on to that little embedded piece of DNA that gives us that exhilarating feeling that we are of some importantance...that we are above other life forms?

Our quest should be to change the story of humanity, and the only way to change our story is to write it ourselves. As we venture into this unknown, we must understand that technology is moving faster than we can define our critical pedagogy! For the first time, people have the power to write the story of our future. We do not have to rely on any hierarchical beings to envision and design the structures for us. This is our opportunity to discuss, share, design, and build our own world. The people will define humanity and's our chance. Are we as a people ready for such a huge undertaking as this? Is this merely a pipe dream, or can we really get this done? After all the past failures of civilization, can we hope to succeed?

Professor Richard Miller of Rutgers is co-author of New Humanities Reader. I strongly recommend you watch his presentation on the new humanities in the two videos below.

What are our thinkers doing to make this shift toward cooperation possible and manageable? How do we adjust as we head from an ownership society into a shared society? Stanford has some wonderful lectures pertaining to these questions. The Literacy of Cooperation Lecture Series is part of the interdisciplinary study of cooperation and collective action being conducted by The Cooperation Commons. Below is a compilation of some of the lectures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Memories of Tar Heel

I have been reading many articles about the Victory for Smithfield Workers. This victory comes after a sixteen year battle against the mega-agricultural powers in this southern state of North Carolina. Although this is a labor battle for worker rights, this particular Smithfield operation in Tar Heel has been on the front pages for other atrocities which their environmental record shows.

I wish the workers well, but having been in North Carolina and currently residing in Mississippi, I'm thinking that although this battle seems won...the war is not over, and unless some state laws can be changed, it has only begun! However, my congratulations to the people for a well fought battle. A battle that has seen illegal arrests from Luter's corporate paid armed police force, unfair and undemocratic elections, public demonstrations, work lockouts, and protests. Many people have suffered physically, mentally, and financially to reach this point! I'm proud of these people and what they have accomplished, but I sincerely hope the union who is going to represent them lives up to what these people deserve.

Another reason I share this is because I worked on the initial construction of this Tarheel, N.C. plant, I believe in '87-'88, and it triggers some of my memories from the road. I think Smithfield acquired the plant back in '92 and it's my opinion that this hog processing plant was snakebit from the git-go. It was a project agreement contract which meant the contractual hourly wage scale had been compromised by actively negotiating individual contracts on any job that meets state and federal standards for the use of government funds. One of the feds requirements was that the construction project would be manned entirely with union labor. Nobody liked these agreements...they only harmed organized labor's efforts in the south. But I don't want to talk about that crap this morning...just the good stuff I remember about the Tar Heel, N.C. area while I worked/lived among the folks who called those rich coastal plains home. (Street view of Tar Heel in Google Maps.)

On my crew there were two local sprinkler fitters who lived in the nearby Penbroke area. Both were members of the contested Lumbee Tribe and I became very good friends with both. Their family names were Oxendine and Locklear. Of the two, Locklear was more like a brother than a friend and at the time of the construction at Tar Heel, he and his family were farming a small truck patch of cucumbers on a few acres outside of Penbroke. The first time I had the opportunity to talk with Brother Locklear, he and another worker were talking about religious denomination as I walked up to meet them. Locklear turned to me and asked, "What are you?" I thought for a moment and then replied, "I am a human being". This brought a big smile to his face and he said, "You're different aren't you?",to which I replied, "I try to be!". I suppose the Gawds of humanity smiled on us and the next thing I knew he was inviting me over for potatoes, pinto beans, squash, cornbread and sweet tea...and the bond between myself and the Locklear family was made. They couldn't get rid of me after that! ;-)

His son was in college at Florida State on a grant. His two girls were young teenagers and already knew they were also going to attend FSU. The girls called me Moses from the very first day I met the family...they were true jewels...a wonderful family. Ms Locklear and the girls were the members of the family who loved we got along really well and they put me on to some good bass fishing and beautiful country. Country which I would never have seen if it had not been for their willingness to share their little part of the world with a guy 800 miles away from his own home. Yeah, they welcomed me, made me feel at home, and they gave me a reason to look forward to going back to work after the short infrequent trips to my home here in Mississippi.

I was introduced to the Cape Fear and the Lumbee rivers. The Cape Fear River has been associated with such pirates as Bonnet and Blackbeard. To navigate these waters I was also introduced to a new type of one person boat I had never seen...and to this day have no idea what it is called. It was built with two identical halves that were hinged. It served for a wood storage container, but when emptied and unfolded and locked into position, it transformed into a small dinghy of sorts. Worked well, and balance was similar to a small canoe. You had to be aware of your center of gravity at all times and much care was needed less the excitement of hooking a good size largemouth bring about an unscheduled swim.

Brother Locklear had a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis which eventually was cause for an early medical retirement. He had tried all the current medical treatments without much success and was relying more on a healer by the name of Cooper. He introduced me to Cooper and on many occasions while we were out and about, we would drop by his home and bring him some staple items from town. Cooper was one of those healers whose medicine was a mix of faith based laying on of hands, herbs, and down home common sense. He was a great human being and very selfless, but eventually Brother Locklear's only relief would come from surgery that removed those baseball size growths on his elbows and ankles.

It was difficult to say goodbye once the project was finished. There were some great memories and friendships built while I was there. There are so many stories attached to my life as a construction worker on the road, and this is a summarized recollection of one of them...and it is all thanks to the victory of the workers at Smithfield Foods. Now if only the Lumbees can finally receive the federal recognition they have fought so hard for over the last 50+ years! Good luck with that folks, but regardless, just remember that recognition, like beauty and notability, is in the eye of the beholder. Thanks for the memories friends!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Radio Concert Setup

These videos are of Jim Kloss allowing us a glimpse of the preparations that must be made prior to hosting one of Whole Wheat Radio's famous House/Web Concerts. Did I say famous? Yes, I did...and all it takes to understand why I praise them so highly, is to experience just one of the concerts on-line...and no more explanations will be required.

Below is a playlist of four videos Jim made available today. The player will automatically play all four videos. I hope you enjoy! Don't Forget! Tonight! Whole Wheat Radio Easton-Stagger (without Phillips) Concert! 10:00 pm Central! Be There!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sorry, We're Open

I enjoyed this film so much that I couldn't help but share. This documentary was made by Joe York, who is a film maker working with the UMCMD Projects. York also produces the Highway 61 Radio, a blues show that airs on Mississippi Public Broadcasting stations.

This video is of an old cotton warehouse that was turned into a theater in Oxford, Mississippi...and of course Ole Miss! Ron Shapiro was the owner of the converted warehouse who named the new place "Hoka" after the legendary Chickasaw Indian, "Princess Hoka". Her name was the first to appear on the Lafayette County deed records. I'm not certain of the date, but I do know the Chickasaws were forced off their lands and relocated between the years of 1833 and 1840. Shapiro and associates were actively operating The Hoka from 1976 until 1996.

These days the Oxford Film Festival organization passes out the "Hoka Awards" to the winners. But so much for the history lesson and on to the movie.

The movie is entitled "Sorry, We're Open" and I hope you enjoy it.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Easton, Stagger, Phillips Web Concert
January 22

Part time troubadours will come and go. For Tim Easton (JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA), Leeroy Stagger (VICTORIA, CANADA) and Evan Phillips (ANCHORAGE, ALASKA), traveling the world and singing songs isn't just a diversion. It's a way of life. It is how they survive in this world, and it is what caused them to cross each others paths.

The three singer/songwriters first came together at Easton's Joshua Tree desert home in 2007. They had mutual respect for each others work but the thought of forming a band was the last thing on their minds. Fast forward to January 2008 where Easton and Stagger are the support acts for Phillips' band The Whipsaws on their Alaskan CD release tour and the three start to collaborate. With the assistance of Anchorage resident and recording engineer Greg Benolkin, the three musicians found themselves laying down tracks during a winter storm in a cabin in Girdwood, Alaska. The snow was falling and the tape was rolling and what came out of that three day session was a lifelong friendship plus a beautiful record of songs the three had been stockpiling. The majority of ONE FOR THE DITCH was recorded at that session, and on the third evening, their first performance as Easton, Stagger, Phillips took place at Vagabond Blues in Palmer, Alaska.

On January 22, 2009 at 10:00 pm Central time, Whole Wheat Radio will host Easton and Stagger at the Wheat Palace for a house concert that will be streamed live on the web for all to enjoy. I invite everyone to listen in through either of the three audio links provided on Whole Wheat Radio. If you have trouble listening, just go to the Tune in page where all the options are spelled out for you. I hope you can make the time to witness how a house concert and it's independent musicians can reach out to a much broader listening base by using the web to their advantage. Hope to see you there!
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