Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Apologies. Apparently I had not turn comments back on when I switched layouts here. Now the comments should be on, at least for this post and on all from this point forward.
An email was being passed around on lists today supposedly by a musican and historian from the New Orleans area (might be this guy mentioned here but that isn't confirmed) that struck me today as I was thinking about the storms down south. He writes about how the evacuation plans are based on car ownership for the most part, so that poor people, those without cars, squatters, homeless, etc. in these situations are left without ways to get out and therefore mostly trapped when the flood waters rush in.

I thought about this last year when hurricanes threatened to hit Miami and my own sister was living down there, on South Beach ... potentially the most vulnerable section if there was a direct hit. Although not poor, she also did not have a car and no rentals were available, and therefore she made the decision to stay put. She found friends who lived in a section of town that was slightly higher inland, and waited it out from there. Luckily it didn't hit. But I'm sure that many of the folks down in the Gulf right now have similar stories. And that's not even thinking about the pets people had to leave behind, the folks who are ill and in bed and need medicine and supplies at home, the folks without friends who live on higher grounds, those in shelters, etc.

I also am inherently suspicious that these are not purely "acts of God" but that humans have a hand in the outcome of these kinds of storms. Another article that was sent to me today looks into this question -- Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues by Will Bunch.

Working for a national network, we have many teachers/colleagues who live down in these areas. We have heard from some people and I'm sure more news will continue to trickle in. Mostly I've heard stories of how people got out, but don't know where others are right now. My colleague Karen today sent out a link to a Katrina-tagged-Flickr site that included many pictures of the devastation and another colleague, Troy, responded about the power of this technology to allow us a view in, from afar, and allow others to share their experiences one-to-many ("to share in the common human experience"). The bloggers are testament to this too.

And I believe this. And I also believe that the stories of those without computers, without digital cameras and digital tendecies, those without cars and friends in the right places and money in their pockets, or at least in the bank, are likely to not be heard from for the most part. But I'll keep looking for those stories.

And as I'm looking, my best goes out to all ya'll dealing with this right now.

It's the last day of August, 2005. It's sticky outside and hurricane Katrina down in the Gulf promises rain today here, leaving behind a mess down there.

Finally went to folk dancing last night at the Art Museum. One of those things you see advertised in the paper and you think "oh that would be a good thing to do" but you never go. It was fun, a bit challenging. Beautiful up on the art museum at night. They will move indoors for winter, into Lloyd Hall. ... Most of them were experienced folk dancers, and also older than us. It's not really a young person's thing to folk dance for the most part I guess. But I actually quite like the traditional group dances. And, anyway, I'm not really a young person anymore.

I posted a few updated photos of the bathroom for Hillary if she comes back to this blog to take a look. Now I'm still collecting quotes for additional work on this place. Part of me gets excited about redoing parts of this house like the kitchen, and part of me thinks it's a pain the ass and a waste of materials and time. But then again, in a 200 year old house, I suppose any improvements I make can only help. I'll just add a clause when I sell -- do not change until X date in order to make all this work and the materials worth it!

Oh, and I should make a link to this. Spiral Q is mentioned in Sunday's Inquirer in an article about the impact of nonprofits in the Philadelphia area.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

So the American press officer is actually a Marine and his name is Lt. Josh Rushing and there are many articles about him from 2004 when he was silenced by the Marines and left after a 14 year career. Here's one from Salon.
I realize that I'm a bit behind, but I watched the documentary "Control Room" last night which is about the Aljazeera news channel in the Middle East. This documentary is situated in 2003 when the US started to drop bombs on Iraq and follows through until the US supposeably "won."

Not that this is particularly helpful or anything, but I cried while watching it. It's utterly depressing, especially two years later.

A few particular things stick with me. Watching the initial air strikes in Baghdad at the beginning of the US attack (as well as later attacks downtown that killed a journalist and wounded many others). I couldn't help but wonder again (but this time more vividly because the strikes were filmed during daytime hours and you could really see what was happening) how did those people feel who were living in the downtown just like I live in downtown Philadelphia? What did they do to protect themselves? How did they spend those hours? ... In the movie, right before the air strikes began, you see men in a barber shop listening to Bush declaring unilateral war and the veins in their necks are pulsing. Now I don't know if they are in Baghdad or not, and I don't know what was going through their heads, but I know what was going through my heads watching them and seeing Bush speaking from where they are sitting. It is profoundly humbling.

Another thing that is amazing to watch is the work and reflections of the Army's press office who is stationed at Central Command. His answers at the beginning are so lame it's sad and you can see the stress on his own brow as he tries to hold his ground. This remains true throughout the film -- he stays in this position as press officer and must therefore uphold the Army's PR line with lesser or greater difficulty at times -- but you get to hear some amazing reflections from him throughout the film. The most telling one is his own notice that he reacted more viserally to seeing American soldiers killed and wounded in combat (on screen) than he did to seeing Iraqi's killed and wounded (again, on screen). A very powerful and deep discovery for him to talk about on film the way that he does here. I wonder where he is today.

Thirdly, there is this quote that you can also see via the IMDB link above (Hassan Ibrahim is a journalist, maybe even a manager?, at Aljazzeera):

Journalist: Who can defeat the Americans? They are so strong.
Hassan Ibrahim: The Americans will defeat the Americans. I have ultimate faith in the American Constitution.

Sigh. And here it is, 2005.

Anyway, the real point of the film I believe, is to show how Aljazeera focuses on the cost of war by showing its impact on human lives. The scenes of wounded children, soldiers (on both sides) and even of interviews of American prisoners are terrifying and despite how you feel about the war, draw you immediately into what is happening on the ground.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

There was an interview this morning on NPR with the guy who started this place, Tumbleweed Tiny Houses Company. Wow -- makes my little house look like a mansion! They are beautiful actually. Lots of helpful links that might be of use to us as small house owners too.

We should join our trinities into this movement -- advocate for less!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What a busy week. Took off from work and promptly filled it with lots of things to do. Living rather than blogging week ... need time away from the computer.


Tomorrow is back to the grind. But before I re-enter, I wanted to post a public thank you to all the folks who came to the vigil at 12th and Pine Streets on Wednesday evening. I sadly can't reach the people who came anymore ... since I organized this through MoveOn, my host privledges for emailing have been turned off (I have requested a change to this however). So hopefully some of you will find this.

Here are the pictures from MoveOn vigils from all over the country, including this one from 12th & Pine.

And here are more photos from 12th & Pine (thanks to the wonderful, supportive and ever-talented Rich Garella).

There was an idea to have a vigil every week until the mothers come home. Not a bad idea. Here's a good website for learning more about what is happening down in Texas that has moved so many people across the country to come out on the streets in support -- Gold Star Families for Peace.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Went to a free play -- Twelfth Night -- at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival last night and it was great. Apparently all the shows are free. Just get there early, or grab tickets days before because it fills up quickly.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Everyone should get a Howard Zinn's A People's History for Christmas this year. At least everyone in my family. Shhhh, don't tell.

Speaking of a people's history, the intention of this blog was to really start to collect and document information about this house I live in. I haven't quite done that yet. Part of that work is done already on the website that is linked here. The street that I live on currently, which is named Waverly now, used to be called Ohio Street according to the map found at this site. This site seems to be a research project of a student at Bryn Mawr, and it is linked to a larger project of the Philadelphia Historical Society about the Washington West Neighborhood where I live. The data here was put together based on an African-American census from 1838.

I found it one day by searching simply for my address in Google.

Where I live is a historically important African American neighborhood. Today it is almost entirely white, this side of South Street. But in the mid-1800's it was the hub of the black community and there are signs all along the streets around here that show where important leaders in that community lived and work. The church around the block was the first African-American catholic church in the city (and possibly further ... I have to check on that again).

What I understand from this website is that in 1838, a "Committee to Visit the Colored People" was established by the Abolitionists and Quaker community in town. Apparently at the time there was continuing debate on whether or not freed blacks (men) had the right to vote. This committee was established to document that community and show how African-Americans were contributors to the community, and hence entitled to the vote.

This site is fascinating actually. Click on the map of Ohio Street and you will actually see a contemporary pictures of the courtyard. Click on the documentation to see a transcription of the data that was collected. You can find the names of the people who lived here, how many members there were in the household, what work they did, where they came from, etc.

My neighbors houses, on Eisemenger Street, actually have double basements ... part of the Underground Railroad.

During this next week, when I have time off from work, I might try to find out a bit more about this place. I would love to do a puppet show here with Spiral Q, one that would dig into the history of this place and retell some of its stories. An oral history project seems like just the thing to do, actually.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Finished a really interesting book over my last trip -- The Gate by Francois Bizot. This is about the author's experience as a young ethnologist in Cambodia in the 1970's during the Khmer Rouge regime. Although I have read stories by survivors of the war, this book was particularly interesting since Bizot actually has candid conversations (which he documents here, apparently from memory) with his captor, the infamous and also young, Douch, during the first time he is taken hostage in Anlong Veng in the early days of fighting. Also lots of things I didn't know about Vietnam's involvement too (not to mention France and America).

Finishing this book brings me to read more about the war generally. Reading through that section of Howard Zinn's A People's History. Amazed by the parallel here with the current war in Iraq -- especially around how the government used media and rhetoric to obscure the real reasons for the US's involvement (ie. resource control and access), I'm wondering again how to fight against this current involvement in Iraq. The headline today is about five local soldiers who were killed yesterday.

I sent money to Iraq Veterans Against the War and display their sticker on my bike so that more people learn that they exist. Also, today, an encampment of mothers who have lost children in Iraq convene in Texas to meet with Bush. MoveOn and True Majority are supporting them now in their campaign. What else should we be doing?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Hotel Durant, my home away from home in Berkeley California. High speed internet access in the rooms and wireless in the lobby -- so high tech for a hotel that reminds you of the "bygone era of elegance and luxury."

I actually like the place quite a bit, flaws and all. No a/c at all, just fans in the room and windows that open, which is good for me since the weather here is usually cool. .. On the down side you can definitely hear your neighbors through the walls, Tuesday evenings down in the pub it gets really really noisy with students (over 21 of course), and there are only two, already full, double outlets in every room (always placed in the most awkward places). But as a frequent visitor, along with other fellow NWP travelers, we like to record the constant little improvements which they do in fact make here all the time. The place definitely does have a certain charm as well as many local beers on tap right downstairs, which makes us happy after long days of travel or meetings. Not sure how well it would hold up in an earthquake though (and hoping not to find out).

Probably important to note too that the pub downstairs (Henry's) was unfortunately made famous by an event in 1990 where one deranged/distraught student took a number of others students hostage and killed one person and then died in the stand-off. I would normally link to articles about this event, but when I did a google search I found a couple particularly hateful links, so I'm not longer in the mood.

I'm here visiting an advanced technology institute of the Bay Area Writing Project.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Here I am at the NWP Writing and Technology Professional Writing Retreat (a mouthful I realize!) in Nebraska City, Nebraska. I'm in our little computer lab on the third floor of the Lied Lodge Retreat Center. It's beautiful outside, but the sun is getting hot and it's hard to see my screen in the glare, so I retreat inside. I thought I would spend most of my time here working on an article I started years ago now, but besides thinking about it, I haven't done much actual work on that. Given that I'm here working (for the NWP), it's nice to even have the reflective space to pay it some attention again actually. ... I also have had time today to finish a marathon of email catch ups, work-related chats, and a phone conference with Paul in Tahoe and I thought I'd take a moment to blog about what's happening here.

Lied Lodge itself is pretty cool. Based on Arbor Day Farms Preserve, the lodge has a commitment to tree planting and environmental sustainability. The a/c we are enjoying comes from the burning of poplar tree "biomass" from their renewal tree farms. The rugs we walk on are made from recycled word chips and the rubber underneath that comes from recycled tires. The hazelnut grove we see outside the window are meant to support experiments in alternative and sustainable farming in the Nebraska plains area. The apple trees contain antique apples, protected and grown to support continued diversity and development. (Unfortunately the apples aren't in bloom right now, but the peaches and apple cider from last year are delicious!).

Despite the great outdoors, there is also lots to tapped into here in the lodge itself. Right now a few of us are connecting our iTunes libraries through the wireless network and listening to each others' music as we work and type. All the folks here from the writing project are working hard on their writing and, as a consequence, the discussions over lunch (once they take a break from composing) are good and fascinating and rich with energy. I really do love the writing project. It's wonderful when I have those moments when I can rise above the work grind and see the wonderful thing I am connected to and through.

And here's my haiku:

No progress on the actual piece
Just lots of thinking
Realizing along the way

And a few pictures that Will posted online at Flickr.