Archive for the ‘media’ Category

God Made a Farmer and Then He Made Monsanto

So I watched the “God Made a Farmer” commercial on YouTube (because I do not watch the Superbowl, but that is a different post, suffice it to say I call Superbowl Sunday “The Biggest Single Day of Domestic Violence Incidence in the Year”  which it is)  and of course I got all misty because Paul Harvey was one hell of a writer even if his politics are a bit too conservative for me.   I was torn.  It was a great piece.   Even if it was a commercial for a gas guzzling road hog.   I wondered how I could, in good conscience, blog about it.   Then my friend Tom Luther sent me this on Facebook.   Thanks Tom.   Think of these as both sides of the story.  Or better yet think of it as…the rest of the story.

 

3/2/13 Update.   The funny video has been removed.   Thanks Monsanto.   We should all chip together and buy them a sense of humor.

3/10/13 Update #2.  See the comment section of my post “Broken Girls”  one of my wonderful followers has put the funny video there.  I will try to move it back into this post when I have a minute but for now it is there.   Thanks!

 

We the People…

Some random thoughts (not all of them uplifting) on watching President Obama’s second inauguration and listening to the talking heads on the various networks.  Bearing in mind that I am a frustrated speech writer and admitted political junky:

Second inaugural speeches (and really all inaugural speeches) are supposed to be big picture speeches.   They are a call to action but they are supposed to set the goals not write the policy.   That is exactly what Mr. Obama’s speech did today.    As Deval Patrick said on one of the networks he called people to “turn to each other, not on each other.”   Another commentator called it a “We the People speech in the tradition of Howard Zinn.”  So Bob Schaffer, I admire you, but you got it wrong when you said he should have been more specific in his plans.   That is for the State of the Union speech in February.   Today was a day to be inspired not told what the work plan for the next four years is.

The Reverend that gave the benediction could have used a good thesaurus or a better speechwriter.  He was the second string because the first choice turned out to be a raging homophobe.   I know he was blessing us but he used the word “blessing” at least 20 times in a two-minute speech.  Some minor rewrites might have been in order.

Another talking head used the term “cascading fiscal cliffs” to describe the coming legislative session.   Great imagery.

I found very poignant the moment when the President and his entourage were going back into the Capitol and he turned and just stood there for a several seconds looking back out over the Mall and the crowd.  Savoring the moment.   It was very Zen of him.

I like that the leader of the free world has an actual smile, and uses it.   Four years of the Bush smirk was more than enough.

I did not stand up for the swearing-in of the President (although I would like to thank Justice Roberts for getting it right this time) but I did stand in my living room with tears in my eyes as Justice Sotomayor swore in Vice President Biden.   You go, Joe and Sonja, you made my day.   And Joe you are my hero, the nation’s government needs more straight talkers like you.

Chuck Schumer was the pitch perfect emcee.   Good choice!

Eric Cantor further demonstrated his limits as a human being by spending his entire time at the microphone describing the Lennox Crystal he was presenting to the President and First Lady.  What a waste of breathing space this man is.    Hollow and shallow and what every other words for truly mediocre you can come up with.

Got a little too much of the “our troops” stuff.   Need to stop creating so many veterans and take better care of the ones we have created.   Enough said.

During another time-filling conversation by the talking-heads they spoke about guessing who was in the any given motorcade in DC by how many cars there were.   One of them said if there were more than two limos it was “obviously not the Secretary of Agriculture.”   Nice guy!   What would you be eating for lunch if it weren’t for agriculture?   Chew on that.

The inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, spoke of us all living under one sky, We the People, waking up to the same sun.   And he is from Maine.   And gay.  Beyoncé hit the high notes and James Taylor got to be a political commentator for a while on NBC.  Not a bad day for the professional performers.

I, personally, liked Laura Bushes sense of style better than Michelle Obama’s.   I do not need to say that I think I would rather go out for a beer with the current FLOTUS than  with her immediate predecessor.  That said, I have to come down on the side of liking the new “bangs.”   They frame her kind, smiling face very nicely.   You gotta love an organic gardener.

Another commentator, when the Obamas and Bidens stopped in front of the MLK bust in the Capitol, showed his marvelous grasp of the obvious when he said there is a “direct through line between Dr. King and Mr. Obama.”   Ya think?

I agree with whichever commentator it was that said Mr. Obama seems like a very balanced person.  Trying to be a good Dad and a good President.   Now that the girls are teenagers I hope he will have more time to work on the President thing.   He has the bully pulpit; he should not shrink from using it to get all of his initiatives passed.   Immigration, Same Sex Marriage, Gun Control, and “Peace on Earth Good Will Toward All Men” as he joked while signing papers in the Presidential Room of the Capitol.

The close up shots of the limo’s license plates with the DC logo “Taxation Without Representation” will warm the cockles of the hearts of my DC Statehood Green Party friends.  It made me smile.

But I have to say, trying hard to steal the spotlight of the day; definitely NBC’s Al Roker so far gave the most entertaining moments to us.   He stood at the side of the parade route and managed to not only get POTUS to comment on the weather but then scored the double play by getting Mr. Biden to scare the crap out of his security detail and come over to shake his hand.   Way to go Al.   It looked like you were having a great time and you certainly brightened my day with your antics.

Speaking of security, it saddens me when I reflect on the fact that we live in such a bat-shit crazy country that the security between the President and the people he was elected to lead and serve has to be 5 or 6 deep.   And the amount of $$$$ spent on that over reaction, to what ever real or imagined threats there are, is appalling when there are children in this world hungry and cold.   It lines the pockets of some powerful people so it will not go away soon.   Let us just hope that we can be as sensible as we are able and remember the words of that other great inaugural speech “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Three Locals and a From Away

Last night I attended the Belfast premiere of a movie about Dan Brown.  He is the farmer being sued by the state for selling milk from his cow to two neighbors.  This film “You Wanted to be a Farmer”  which bears the subtitle “A discussion of scale”  was very well done.  Produced by  No Umbrella Media and the Sap Pail it was about as local a production as you can get.  Local food, local media.  It’s all about walking away from corporate control.  As I heard a radio commentator call them this morning Corporate Locust.  A perfect frame for what they do.  They are the Borg but remember:  Resistance is Fertile!

 A while ago I got a slick publication from Maine General Health in my mailbox.  I usually recycle these things fairly quickly, time management you know, but this one had a picture of an adorable little girl holding up two carrots and the headline “Where you food comes from matters.”  So I read it.  Turns out the Food and Nutrition department of the Maine General Hospitals have made a commitment to sourcing more of their food locally.  They have also made a movie “ The Farmer’s Market: Where Your Food Comes From Matters”   I haven’t seen this one but it sure sounds like a winner.

 Number Three is the fact that yesterday the Bangor Daily News did an article about my friend’s farm.  Seth Yentes, his brother Tyler, his wife Anna and Tyler’s partner Elsie are doing great things at North Branch Farm in Monroe.  I am proud to know them all.

 And finally a note that corporate farming is horning in on the Fair Trade market and driving out small farmers everywhere.  No surprise there.   I will be adding a link on my blog so that you can click and join your voice to others saying that this is the antithesis of what the Fair Trade movement is all about.

 

Sugar Maple Telegraph Brings Great News

Holli in her garden.

If any of you are Jimmy Buffett fans you have heard about the “Coconut Telegraph“.  The connection, in any small community, that allows everyone to know everything about everybody in very short order.   When we were living in the islands we used to call it the “Papaya Telegraph”   (More papaya trees then coconuts but plenty of both.) I like to think that I am not a gossip.   I am just a good listener who gets to be privy to the local goings on.   When it is appropriate I am willing to pass along useful information.   As an example:  one of the most difficult to accomplish on the islands  was finding housing for people coming from off-island to work in Majuro.   I always seemed to know where there was an open rental or one about to become open.  One day an Australian volunteer friends came to me to ask if I knew of a place for some newbies arriving soon.  I replied that I would ask around saying  “I’m pretty well tapped into the telegraph.”   She laughed,  “You’re not just tapped into the telegraph, you ARE the telegraph.

Fast forward 20+ years and here I am home in Maine serving the same function. (I’m thinking about calling this one the “Sugar Maple Telegraph”, what do you think?)  People tell me things.  I file them away in my memory and when a person comes along who need that information I can supply it to them.  A recent example: one friend told me that she had a goat giving so much rich milk she couldn’t make cheese fast enough.   A few days later another friend told me about her preemie goat twins.  Because of birth complications the mother had rejected them, so they were being bottle fed.  And the connection was made.

This is one of the many reasons I like my job at the Co-op.  I see folks all the time and chat with them about this and that.  Ultimately information gets passed along to me that I can then pass along to someone else.  Through this blog or by other means.  Well I have a piece of news that I was told and have sat on for almost a month now, per Holli’s request,  waiting for the press release.  Yesterday it finally came.  My friend Holli Cederholm has been named the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA)  general manager in charge of technical assistance, organizational development and communications. This is exciting on so many levels.  Holli is such a bright and hard-working person I know she is going to do a wonderful job for this very important organization.   And this organization is vital to protecting our access to organic seed.  They are at the forefront of the fight against Monsanto and I just know Holli is the right person to help lead this most important crusade.

Writing the Great American Novel

I write a blog because I need to vent my pent-up anger at the current state of affairs in both agriculture and politics. But I also write a blog because I need something that makes me WRITE every day (or at least once a week). I like writing on WordPress because it is easy and because when I sign in they make me look at the other more successful blogs that are flaunted on the home page:  Freshly Pressed. I find this very motivating, when I don’t find it totally discouraging.

Today (and maybe yesterday too) there was a featured blog post called Chicken Soup with Glass Noodles. The picture was very appetizing, so I clicked over to take a look. And what I found there was a treasure. The blogger, Wendy, mentioned a New York Times article about brain chemistry and fiction. I read the article and was motivated, inspired, heartened, (insert your own word here) to go back to work on my novel. You see according to this article, I am actually doing a social good by writing fiction. Now I feel worthwhile and can stop the guilt-trip of wasted time when I work on my book.

Thanks Chez Chloe. For the motivation and for the inspiration.

Chicken Soup for the Occupiers

I was down at Occupy Augusta yesterday and as always got into many interesting discussions about the movement; about irrigation for our farms, about how to make sure the folks at the encampments get warm food every day if the ban on fires continues, about the cooking of the state books that LePage is doing to try to cut benefits to those who need them most,  how to build an igloo,  where would be the best place for a greenhouse so that the OAers can get their seedlings started in the spring; all sorts of fascinating topics.

The most interesting conversation, however, was one we had  as a group   with a media reporter who had come down to cover the Governor’s announcement about his cuts in human services.  (see above remark about book cooking).  During this conversation the reporter quoted John Steinbeck:   “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”   There in a nutshell is the kernel of the problem.  This is exactly how all of my Republicrat relatives and friends see themselves.  They are against taxing the wealthy because they are sure that someday they are going to hit the big financial lotto and they don’t want the government taking anything away from them.  This is the magical thinking that keeps the Republicrats in power.  The “I’ve got mine and tough s**t if you don’t have yours”.

This is how those in power get the masses to vote against their own best interests.  Until we can make them understand otherwise they will continue to be in the pockets of the TeaBaggers.   I’m not trying to be pessimistic here just realistic.  I do think that Occupy is starting to make a dent in this belief system and that is why I will continue to support them in any way I can.

My pot of chicken soup even got a mention in the Kennebec Journal article about the Occupiers.

“a democracy of ignorant citizens can be as dangerous as a dictatorship”

The power of the people's voice.

This quote by Paul Chappelle was on one of Robert Shetterly’s portraits in his “Americans Who Tell the Truth” series on display as Mr. Shetterly gave the opening talk on Saturday  at  the first Maine Grassroots Media Conference.

I have to start out by complimenting the organizers.  Especially Meaghan LaSala who pulled off this really great event with what looked like total aplomb.  And then say there are a LOT of links in this post and you should go to every one on them.  These people are all doing great work and I think you will find all of them very informative.

So this is what I learned at the conference:

My voice is my instrument and has a full range to use.  High to low.  It’s okay to become emotional on radio as long as it is genuine emotion.  Good writing makes great radio.  Critique doesn’t need to hurt.  Thanks, Lisa.

There are lots of  different voices out there some get heard and some don‘t.  There are also lots of great young filmmakers out there who are helping them to get their stories told.

My friend Kate said at lunch that we go to these things to rejuvenate ourselves and be in a room full of people who think about the world in a similar way.  It helps us feel like we are not always  swimming against the tide.  Larry Dansinger’s workshop to organize a regular grassroots news publication was that roomful of people for me.  (once I got  past the noise that the mainstream media representative was making)  It was really a fruitful hour, well spent.

Low power radio is about to expand.  The FCC is getting ready to release a few more low power radio licenses probably by mid 2012.   The Prometheus Radio Project can help you if you are starting your own very local radio station.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine is as active as ever and blessed to have Shenna  Bellows as their spokesperson.  She encourages us all to use the Freedom Of Information Act and the Maine Right to Know Act as much as possible to get the information we need to expose malfeasance in whatever form it may take. And to keep cross posting, reposting, blogging etc etc.

There is a newish organization called the “Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting”, which at the conference was represented by that stalwart of the liberal media Jay Davis, doing the investigative reporting that all the mainstream media outlets have dropped as “too expensive”.

There are lots of people like me out there.   Over 100 at this conference alone.  It’s a nice warm feeling.

Community, disasters and other ramblings.

Farmer Mice

My friend Tom and I were discussing what our personal worlds will be like after the “crash”. We often have these deep philosophical discussions in the produce department at the Co-op. This is one of the benefits of working with this great bunch of guys. I said, of course, that I would continue to grow the food and encourage others in their pursuit of growing their own. Plus, of course, the midwifery skills. I think I will easily find my niche in post apocalyptic society.  He said he would brew the beer and play the music. I immediately thought of a book I had read to my son when he was young. I had recently had my sweetheart, the artist, read it. A story of agriculture and art. The book is “Fredrick”, a Caldecott Honor winner by Leo Lionni, the story of a community of hard working mice with one apparent slacker. But in the cold and dark of the winter the “slacker” comes into his own keeping the cold, hungry mice entertained until spring. The role of the artist in society. I loaned Tom the book because I knew he would enjoy it.

This got me thinking about other favorite children’s books and the first one that came to mind was “Stone Soup”. You (if you are old enough) remember Captain Kangaroo reading this to us. The story of the hungry soldiers who come into a small town and bamboozle the village folks into sharing their hidden food stores with them in making their “Stone Soup”. This story starts out being about each of us protecting our own and ends up with a beautiful celebration of community. The town’s people start out being the frightened, greedy people that the media and those in power would like us all to continue to be. The constant hounding of the media about how societal structure will fall apart and we will all become looters if disaster strikes has been proven wrong over and over again. People took care of each other during the Ice Storm here in Maine and they took care of each other in New Orleans after Katrina. People flocked to Indonesia after the tsunami to help. People step up and care for their neighbors. No guns required.

So as DC dithers about where the debt ceiling should be and whether we should continue to have a social safety net. As the temperatures soar into the triple digits and the truth of climate change is more evident every day. As the fabric of society is eroded more and more by the Oprah “everyone should have their own private jet” ethos. It is important to remember no matter what happens people will continue to take care of people. Within families, within affinity groups and within the community at large. Each of us contributing our talents to society. Building strong communities now will lead to strong communities in the future no matter what the future may hold for us.

Twitter Politics

First we had the sound bite. Important events and political decisions reduced to what you can say on camera in 15 seconds. I am a kind of good at that. I was Green Party state co-chair for 3 years and believe me the main stream media does not want to give the Green Party any more air time than necessary to appear unbiased (when they even care if they are appearing that way). So I got very practiced at short pithy answers to reporter’s questions. But sound bite politics is not good governance. It is great campaign material but when it comes to making the sausage, so to speak, it just does not cut it. More depth and concentration is needed to solve the complex problems that face us today.

So it has come to this. Political discussion reduced to 140 characters or less.  Obama had a “tweet” with the country yesterday.  And while the Tweeter executives and the technology pundits are all agog with delight at this development, frankly it gives me a big knot in my stomach.  I get the part about involving more people in the discussion.  More voices in the mix is a good thing.  All I am asking is  how far down the road of catering to the increasingly short attention span of the American public are we going to go?

I will grant that I am as big a fan of the concise as anyone. I keep a copy of Strunk and White  (the illustrated edition) on my bedside table. But there is pithy and then there is just lame, under thought, superficial garbage that passes for political discourse.

Fortunately they did not limit Mr. Obama’s answers to 140 characters. So maybe the there is yet some hope.

Who Does She Think She Is?

Last night my Sweetheart (a wonderfully supportive man) and I were watching MPBN and caught the last half of a documentary about women artists called “Who Does She Think She Is?” It was excellent, riveting even. The struggles that these women faced and have overcome were amazing. One of the saddest facts (other than having to choose between their art and their relationships far too often) was the abysmal statistics about how poorly female artists are represented in our major museums or even in our small local galleries. The fact that only something like 4% of the artists in MOMA are women and it’s even worse in the Guggenheim and elsewhere was appalling. I know this is still largely a rich, old (or dead) white man’s world but I guess I was blinded by the fact that all of my favorite artists are women: Cassatt, Chicago, Kahlo, Oatway, O’Keefe.

One thing that struck us both rather forcefully was the anger in the art of one of the women in the film. A Mormon mother of several who says right in the film that most of the people who know her are unaware that she is an artist. And a fairly successful one too, she says she sells on average a piece a month. The film also portrayed how she has no space to herself for her work, no Room of One’s Own. She says that she makes the work and then gets it out of the house as quickly as possible so that is will not get broken. I came to the conclusion it’s better she should vent her anger in her art, however subconsciously, and not be taking it out on the kids but, I have to say, some of her images were downright scary. This was just another reconfirmation of my belief that the Muslim world’s got nothing on the Mormons when it comes to keeping their women folk “in their place”. Their place being barefoot and pregnant. The film also showed a couple of women who were very in touch with their feelings and their need to express themselves artistically even if the men in their lives did not get it and were definitely NOT supportive. The best part of these segments were that the kids seemed to be thriving. See you can have it all if you are willing to work very, very hard. This was a very engrossing film, I highly recommend it.

All this got me thinking, of course, about women farmers. Most of the successful farms I know are either run entirely by women (Southpaw and Nettie Fox) or are a partnership of a, usually married, couple where the women is an equal partner (Village Farm, Part n’ Parcel, After the Fall, Singing Nettle, Brightberry Farm). Those of us who are women in agriculture are so fortunate that there is a vibrant tradition of shared work, responsibility and reward between women and men in the agricultural community. This is not the case worldwide, I understand that, in lots of places women do all the agricultural work and men own the land and thus the profits but at least here in Maine it is different. We are also fortunate to have access to the services of such organizations as WAgN (Maine Women’s Agricultural Network) to promote and sustain women in their agricultural calling.

So hurrah for women farmers! People who can truly lead a balanced life where work and family get equal attention and time and who are not forced to choose which is more important: their relationships or their calling.

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