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Heard of the Yes Men? They’re an awesome group of anti-corporate, anti-globalization tricksters headed up by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. In their own words, they engage in “identity correction”: “Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.” Exposing the greed and dehumanization of corporate culture, they set up fake websites, get invited to speak at conferences and on television, and—in outrageous fashion—point out the seriously misguided, destructive, irresponsible actions of some of the largest corporations in the world. They also print spoof issues of major newspapers that highlight the realities of the world we live in and visions for a better one.

The Yes Men Fix the World

The Yes Men Fix the World

This past Friday, they screened their new movie, The Yes Men Fix the World, at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, followed by a Q&A (Andy appeared in person, Mike appeared virtually via a laptop Skype hookup)—all to benefit WBCR (Berkshire Community Radio). While I find watching their movies a little stressful, I think they’re innovative, entertaining, and important. Whether they’re impersonating Dow Chemical and highlighting their refusal to do the right thing and take responsibility for the Union Carbide disaster in Bhophal or taking on Halliburton with fake Survivaball pitches (side note: a WBCR board member appeared in a Survivaball at the beginning of the Q&A), they’re exposing the cult of consumerism and capitalism. As they say in the movie, what looks normal to those on the inside of it looks crazy to those on the outside. They provide the much-needed view from outside of the cult, offering up the craziness for all to see.

Check out their latest stunt—announcing that the Chamber of Commerce has reversed their stance on climate-change legislation (which the CoC is strictly opposed to):

Last month, as Andy was telling us in the Q&A after the screening, the Yes Men were sued for the very first time, by the Chamber of Commerce. Surprised that they haven’t been sued more often? The way Andy explained it, engaging in a lawsuit that would give the activists more opportunity to state their case and point out to the world why the corporations they target are the ones that deserve to be on trial usually isn’t in the best interests of said corporations, who spend millions of dollars trying to present a clean, shiny image to the public at large.

Next they’re screening their film in DC, and then they’re off to Copenhagen. Be sure to see the new movie, check out what they’re up to, and find out how you can get involved.

Other gems from the Q&A:

  • “We’re not actually great actors at all, we just play them in front of corporate audiences.”
  • “There are progressive people in government, they just don’t act that way because we’re not taking to the streets and carrying pitchforks and setting cars on fire.” (One of them noted how hard it is to find a pitchfork nowadays.)
  • They’re starting to organize educational workshops for people interested in anti-corporate pransktering, “the Yes League for Something Something” (they’re still working on the name). “We give away our secrets and you can do it yourself!”

Seen either of their movies? What did you think?

Boots

I went to gentle yoga at the end of the workday Thursday and came back into the hallway outside my office afterward to find this delightful note affixed to my boots. Who’s the post-it elf? A delightful friend that I work with whose name starts with D (the handwriting was a sure giveaway).

Prompt: What I’m listening to right now.
Time: 10 minutes.

I’m listening to Ani DiFranco. I’m listening to Kris Delmhorst’s Horses Swimming over and over again—never old, never tired. I’m listening to the sound of rain on my car as I drive on this road and that, in search of something, something. I’m listening to the buzz of my speakers. I’m listening to the buzz of my refrigerator. I’m listening to a mix entitled Time Past and Time Future. And indeed, I’m listening to my past and my future for clues to my present. I’m listening to people living small pieces of their lives in the hallway outside of my apartment door—bringing their clothes to the laundry room, locking or unlocking their doors, greeting cheerfully or not their neighbors in passing. I am listening to the whirring thoughts in my head and the pressure of feelings building in my chest. I’m not sure yet what they’re all saying to me, or what to focus on out of all of the many messages they’re delivering or seem to be delivering or I want them to be delivering. But there is something—something deep, something real, something important—in this listening. The creak of the floorboards and the wind outside my huge windows and the hum of my computer. The scratch of my pen against paper, the click of my knitting needles against one another, the intake of breath as I awake from a dream. Surely they each have something to tell me.

Buy Nothing Day

Resist consumer culture!

The day after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday,” is traditionally a huge holiday shopping day. In response to growing consumerism, Adbusters has declared November 27 Buy Nothing Day, encouraging all of us to take a personal challenge to lock up (or cut up) our credit cards, keep our wallets closed, and opt out of consumer culture for 24 hours.

Want to take it up a notch? Adbusters suggests setting up shop in a local mall and offer to cut up willing customers’ credit cards, taking part in a zombie walk, or meandering with shopping carts in tow in a Whirl-mart conga line.

And this year, Adbusters is calling for a Wildcat General Strike—beyond just not shopping, take the non-consuming to a higher level: park your car and turn off your lights, televisions, and computers for the day.

At whatever level you choose to participate in Buy Nothing Day, it’s a great opportunity to experiment in curbing our consumerist tendencies. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to extend it to a buy-nothing holiday season. Last year, my extended family decided to donate non-perishables to a local food pantry in lieu of a whole lot of stuff we didn’t really need or want.

Take the plunge!

 

Jackson Covered Bridge

Welcome to Jackson!

This weekend, Giraffe took a trip to the North Country of New Hampshire as I reconnected with old friends and stomped around old haunts. Jackson has a special place in my heart. I lived there for a few years in elementary school (third through fifth-ish grades), and then I was back up in the vicinity when I was serving in the AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program for a year after college.

Jackson Covered Bridge

The Jackson Covered Bridge is quite old. Giraffe is much younger.

There’s nothing like an old one-lane covered bridge into town to make it feel out of time, or quaint, or touristy, or all of the above. In any case, I find it endearing.

Giraffe at Jackson Falls

One of Giraffe's new favorite places.

One of my most favorite places is Jackson Falls. During AmeriCorps, I spent many afternoons there sitting in the sun, surrounded by the roar of the water, pondering all the things one ponders when you’re 22/23 and trying to figure out life and the world and people, and you’re working at a crisis center where you live in an apartment above the shelter (that is in an undisclosed location).

Jackson Falls

View down the Falls.

And one of my favorite events when I was little was the Wildquack River Festival, which involves herding hundreds of rubber duckies racing down Jackson Falls. I’m not even kidding. I had a bright orange volunteer shirt that I wore for years after I had the chance to be a duck-herder (broom in hand).

Giraffe at Falls

Giraffe takes a closer look at the Falls.

I didn’t want Giraffe to be like one of the rubber ducks and take a trip down the Falls, but Giraffe couldn’t resist getting a closer look.

Giraffe at Jackson Falls

Giraffe sunning next to the Falls.

Jackson Falls

View from the top of Jackson Falls

After some delightfully serene moments at the Falls, Giraffe and I headed back down into town.

Jackson Grammar School

Jackson Grammar School

We said hello to the Jackson Grammar School, where I started my first day with a side ponytail, had my first crush (on a pale boy named Simon), and was one of three Jessicas in a class of 10 (and that was several grades combined). It was originally a three-room schoolhouse, and if I remember correctly, while I was there, they added on an extra classroom (it’s even bigger now). My favorite classroom was up some stairs that are on the other side of the window to the right of the door.

Recess Yard Shadow

Recess Yard

We played four-square and tetherball and hopscotch and jump-rope during recess. And tunneled into the big pile of snow that the plow made in the winter.

Jackson Library

Jackson Public Library

And Mr. Poon or Mrs. Birkbeck would walk us across the street and over the bridge that crossed the Wildcat River to the teeny Jackson Public Library, where we could feast our hungry brains on the shelves of books that seemed quite adequate to us young’uns at the time (but they’re working on a big expansion right now!).

Jackson Town Hall

Jackson Town Hall

Our yearly musical productions were performed in the Jackson Town Hall, just across the street in the other direction from the school. That is where I twirled a yellow boa as I sang “Cabaret” in a production of SRO: Standing Room Only. Again, not even kidding. I guess I was too young to be paralyzed by nerves.

The Wentworth

The Wentworth

The Wentworth (across the street from the library) was one of the places that my parents worked, and we lived in one of their condos for awhile. Things of note that I remember about the Wentworth: they had hayrides in the fall, my mom built a gingerbread replica of it one holiday season, and it had a huge fire one year (I remember watching the flames shoot from the roof in the middle of the night).

So, Giraffe had quite a tour and a trip down my memory lane. Also, as a side trip, Giraffe went on safari in Conway, and came across an adorable creature named Jenna. Will the wonders of the North Country never cease?

Giraffe and Jenna

Hark! Is that a baby Jenna I see?

National Novel Writing Month

Ready to write?

Always wanted to pen a novel? Ready to make your own contribution to the literary greatness? Well, it’s your month: National Novel Writing Month—”thirty days and thirty nights of literary abandon,” as they say.

Affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, the project aims for participants to start writing on November 1 (but you can still  start now!) and churn out 175 pages (or 50,000 words) by midnight on November 30. Intense. But just think of the great benefits: lots of writing (a whole book!), a convenient excuse to avoid any undesirable Thanksgiving obligations or social events you’d rather avoid (“Sorry, I have to write a novel. It’s due next week. Otherwise I totally would have loved to be there.”), and being able to say you did it.

What I’d admire about NaNoWriMo is that it’s all about sitting down and writing. Getting it down on paper. Editing, crafting, refining—that can come later. You have to start somewhere, and NaNoWriMo gives you the opportunity to do just that. While I’m not participating myself (not this year, at least), I think it’s a pretty awesome phenomenon.

teapot

Who’s a little teapot?

OK, total Jessica Fail. I know it’s not October anymore (those last few days of it just disappeared without warning), but I think every month should be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s not like the violence stops the other 11 months of the year. In a country, a world really, where domestic violence is shrouded in silence, where it’s all too often overlooked as “not our business,” where we see headlines of women murdered, it’s so important to educate ourselves, speak out, and offer our support.

Remember that domestic violence effects people of all races, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, and more. Remember it is not about love, no matter what an abusive partner says. It’s about power and control. And remember there are many forms of abuse, not just physical violence. Mental, verbal, and emotional abuse can and often will eventually lead to physical abuse. And even if it doesn’t, the detrimental effects of mental, verbal, and emotional abuse are serious. I find the Power and Control Wheel to be a useful tool in considering the many aspects of domestic violence:

Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel courtesy of the Duluth Model (click image to enlarge)

If you want to print out a copy of the Power and Control Wheel, check out this PDF from the Duluth Model. Remember, no one deserves to be treated this way.

For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Starting Point, the crisis center in New Hampshire that I used to work out, printed the following list of things that you can do, to which I’ve added a couple ideas:

  • Purchase, wear, and distribute a purple ribbon. The purple ribbon is a unifying symbol of courage, survival, honor, and dedication to ending domestic violence. By wearing the ribbon, you are conveying the strong message that there is no place for domestic violence in our homes, schools, or neighborhoods.
  • Take action and speak out when you hear a myth about domestic violence and replace it with the truth.
  • Assist with the production and distribution of educational and awareness programs and materials.
  • Listen to a victim and say, “I believe you.”
  • Record public service announcements or write an article or letter to the editor for a newspaper.
  • Wear a purple bracelet.
  • Participate in a walk or candlelight vigil, which are held throughout the country.
  • Volunteer for your local crisis center.
  • Donate to your local crisis center.
  • Read a book about domestic violence and lead a book-group discussion about it.
  • Know what the local resources are for victim-survivors of domestic violence so that you know where to direct someone that could use them.
  • Find out what you can do to support a friend in a domestic violence situation by calling your local crisis center.

Some further information and resources:


I would sigh, but I feel angrier than that. The fact that enough Mainers voted to reject the new law legalizing same-sex marriage is beyond disappointing. In the face of a blow like this, it’s hard to pick back up and figure out how to keep fighting for what is right. But keep on we must. More education, more outreach, more communication, more action. To be honest, obviously naively, I expected the opposite outcome. My impression of Mainers is that they embrace the “live-and-let-live” mentality, and I thought that would translate in the polls to an affirmation of the right to same-sex marriage. This is just another kick in the butt for me to recommit to speaking out, spreading the word, and doing the work in service of LGBTQ equality. And that goes way beyond just same-sex marriage.

But for right this minute, I suggest you sign a petition to urge President Obama to file a federal court challenge to Prop 8 (which would in turn, I imagine, set a precedent to affect what happened in Maine). Votes of the majority shouldn’t be able to determine the civil rights of a minority group.

And check out statements and reporting from GLAD, Pam Spaulding, Lambda Legal, and the Advocate.

Also, a friend of mine made a good point to thank all of the people that voted no on 1, and I echo that. But we need more.

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