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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Art versus Authority

  I had thought my note about comment about a playwright being on a wartime death list was a quirky one-off, but the topic about artists threatening authority, foreign or domestic, just came up again. SFMOMA | OPEN SPACE - Blog Archive - A Dangerous Spectre Lurks Amongst Us: Paul Clipson presents Subversive Documentaries discusses dangerously political films:
Buñuel brings the full corrosive force of his Surrealist vision into documentary terrain, subtly lampooning the conventions of a genre then only in its nascency. Financed by anarchists, this work’s potential contribution to Spain’s on-going turmoil was recognized, and was very much not appreciated. Banned for two years by the Republican government, it earned Buñuel a warrant by the right-wing Nationalists (fortunately never served) for him to be immediately escorted to Generalissimo Franco were he to be captured.
Again, this is vaguely flattering to film. And yes, contrary to what you think anarchists are or were, they can get together to finance an art film. They should probably do that more often! Maybe you'd know they aren't actually all Caucasian suburban boys in black jeans. (Though I suspect the idea that you believe that is what anarchists are amuses them.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fruit friends

  The economy has inspired a lot of neighbor-to-neighbor activity, and (more visibly) media awareness of community activities that already exist, and the way those communities are innovating solutions for their needs themselves.

Foraging for Fruit Gains Popularity (, 6/10/09, shared by a Facebook friend) is an article about looking around you, seeing what you have to offer, and giving or trading it with others. As one participant remarks, “A fruit tree is really made for sharing with your neighborhood.”

It's a sweet article about all sorts of little personal projects that have blossomed into larger organizations of people picking fruit for food banks, harvesting and pruning orchards for elderly neighbors, and working out elaborate social networks of ripe fruit reporting so people can trade when the fruit on their trees is at its best. The idea expands beyond the community/victory garden in which apartment dwellers may garden for their own table, to discuss how neighbors with private gardens can better share their surplus.

These sorts of exchanges have always occurred: I think very fondly of the coworkers who have brought in baskets of ripe lemons, apricots, plums, and avocados to the office. There are also jokes about how, in certain neighborhoods, you have to lock your car doors and roll up the windows, or in the morning you'll find your car filled with baskets of zucchini and string beans dumped by rogue urban farmers.

The novelty, I suppose, is that technology is playing a slightly increased organizing role in these exchanges, allowing more people to participate than the ordinary do-gooder neighbor could otherwise handle. Another novelty angle may be that the major media, ever seeking stories about impending doom, remained stunned that people are capable of self-organizing for positive reasons. (I half-expected to read articles about 'unregulated and dangerous fruit anarchy.')

If you have more bounty from your yard than you can handle, this article is a reminder to share it, regardless of whether you do that through a Facebook group or by ringing your neighbor's doorbell and offering a sack of lemons.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:50 PM

Sunday, July 01, 2007

  Jay Kullman has a book out! He never mentioned to me that he was even working on a book, and then Jay sends a last-minute e-mail about how he's giving a reading at Modern Times Books, one of my favorite bookstores. Go figure.

Jay is one of five co-authors of The Ten Minute Activist (, just published by Nation Books ( It's a compilation of little things you can do that are quick and easy which make a positive difference in the world if they are done cumulatively. There are many habits that Americans have that add up to a big impact, and this book provides easy behavioral modifications you can make.

I'll ramble about individual versus collective action (and combined with collective action) some other time.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:12 PM

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