"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Inside Job; what to do? One thing, to start: State Banks

Below is a post I wrote on our private Mountain Meadows Blogspot group blog (just for Mountain Meadows Community residents). Though it might be of wider interest as well so I've copied it here: 

Video Viewpoints, Inside Job, and Oregonians for a State Bank

In case you weren't there for the Video Viewpoints program last Wednesday--a screening of Inside Job, and guests from Oregon Action--a very large crowd showed up, clearly showing a widespread interest in this subject. 

At the Computer Users Group meeting last Friday, it was suggested we post information here about the proposed Oregon State Bank and also on the comparison of  local banks where we might switch our personal accounts. So here is everything I have on the subject. If more comes up, I'll add it. If you find something to add, use the Comments field or send it to me. If you are opposed to the idea of a state bank, you can use the Comments function to add your voice here. 

1. The State Bank Fact Sheet: Matt and Bert Witt (of Oregon Action) have sent the most recent edition. The link, above, will take you there. You can copy it or bookmark it for your own use, and then to return to this page, use the Back button. See also: "Putting Oregon's Money to Work for Oregon"

2. Move Your Money to a Local Bank: Fact sheet on local banks as alternatives to the big corporations.

3. Web site for Oregonians for a State Bank. Click on the link, and use the Back button to return here. It also has information on the upcoming (March 30) hearings that Treasa said she would be going to, and contact information for legislators (click on "Take Action").

4. Letters to the Editor: Treasa Cordero-Runzi (guest from Oregon Action) recommended writing letters to the editor, and here are three recent ones; they provide good information and arguments for a state bank that you can also use when telling your friends about it, and contacting state legislators. 
MEDFORD MAIL TRIBUNE, Letters to the Editor, March 10, 2011
A step toward jobs
Why does Oregon have a jobs and foreclosure crisis while North Dakota — another small, mostly rural state — has only one-third our unemployment rate and a foreclosure rate under 1 percent?
For more than 90 years, the state of North Dakota hasn't done its banking with Wall Street. When the state has tax money to deposit, it keeps that money in the state to provide more affordable loans for small businesses, small farmers, homeowners and students. North Dakota does this through what it calls the Bank of North Dakota — a publicly-owned institution that partners with local banks to increase the supply of affordable capital in their communities. 
The state of Oregon, in contrast, deposits nearly two-thirds of its money with five Wall Street-type banks — U.S. Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Key Bank — to use overseas or out of state. 
Legislators from the Republican, Democratic and Working Families parties are proposing to create an Oregon State Bank based on the proven North Dakota model. It would put our existing tax money to work, through community banks and credit unions, to promote job-creating small businesses and affordable housing and education.
There are more details at OregoniansForAStateBank.org.  
— Matt Witt, Talent
Medford Mail Tribune, Sunday, March 20, 2011
Letters to the Editor
Oregon needs its own bank
I concur with Matt Witt's letter concerning the establishment of an Oregon State Bank ("A step toward jobs," March 10).
Since becoming aware of this job-producing opportunity several months ago, I've become increasingly aware of how many small and medium-sized Southern Oregon businesses have been closing. Further investigation reveals that many of these closures are not bad credit risks. Rather, it's a case of Wall Street banks not cooperating with or granting credit to hard-working small-business owners that employ local Oregonians.
Being aware of the billions in TARP dollars (read: taxpayer money) infused into the banking system recently, it leads one to conclude that Wall Street doesn't want to share with Main Street.
How much of the TARP money ever found its way to community banks in Oregon? Small-business owners or farmers can provide the answer: None.
Oregon needs to establish its own bank to keep Oregonian taxpayer money in Oregon and not send it to Wall Street. I'm hopeful that this subject will soon receive the mainstream media coverage that it merits.
— Mary Cody, Ashland
Medford Mail Tribune, March 18, 2011
Support a state bank
Regarding the letter, "A step toward jobs," the Main Street Alliance, made up of Oregon small businesses, recently released a survey conducted in 28 Oregon communities. Two-thirds of small businesses reported problems with access to credit that resulted in delays or cancellation of expansion plans. That includes Medford's Associated Fruit, which is expecting to lay off workers because of the credit crisis. When small businesses can't get affordable loans, they can't create the decent paying jobs our region desperately needs, or even hang onto the jobs we have.
Not surprising that 75 percent of the businesses surveyed support the proposed creation of an Oregon State Bank.
A state bank would mean that the state treasury would be able to use our money, in partnership with local banks and credit unions, to make affordable loans to small businesses, family farmers, homeowners and students.
That's tax money that the state already collects, not new taxes. It's just a question of where that money is deposited until it's time to pay the state's bills.
Should we keep depositing in big out-of-state Wall Street banks, or in local banks and credit unions to create jobs here at home? 

— Caren Caldwell, Ashland

5. Contacting legislators: the hearing takes place March 30, but that's just the beginning. Click here to send a message - service of OregoniansForAStateBank.org

6. Nationwide demand for reform: Today I came across the following article about a nationwide movement in protest of the culture reflected in Inside Job, which the film argues cogently is destroying our economy, and thought this fit in nicely with the theme, too. Click here to view it. (I saw it posted on Twitter by Van Jones. We've also been talking a bit in the computer group population about Twitter and what it's good for; here's a good example.)

OSF 2011: The Imaginary Invalid

I bought a ticket to The Imaginary Invalid with some reluctance, as I didn't expect to enjoy it. Let me say at the outset that, with the exception of Aphra Behn, I'm not a big fan of anything Restoration; and hypochondria, however satirically treated, does not strike me as particularly fertile ground for wit, much less humor. But several people I know said it was a lot of fun and worth seeing for its Sixties spirit, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did, but with reservations.

A couple of these people did add, in a warning tone, that it's very "bawdy." Well, I wouldn't call this bawdy, exactly; that, to my mind, is a humor mostly based on forbidden sexual themes. What we have here is a kind of humor called "gross out," which is based on fear and loathing of all types of bodily functions (you know, the kind of stuff you see on TV when you aren't careful in your channel surfing). I hate that. 

But in the end, I bought a ticket because I'm a fan of OSF and the wide-ranging talent the festival offers, and even when I don't warm to a play I'm usually entertained or at least very interested. In this, the festival reflects Shakespeare's own universal range. My trust in OSF was justified and though I hated much of this play, I loved other parts of it and wouldn't want to have missed them. 

This adaptation is set in the 1960's, in a classic Parisian apartment that has gone insanely Mod. (Designer Christopher Acebo plays very cleverly on the spirit of  London Kings Road Sixties). To add my own element to this mix of centuries and locales, my review is more Bollywood than Shakespeare (the two have much in common): I liked the second half more than the first, and though you have to love Johnny Lever, his comedy is best taken in small doses. This Invalid is too heavily dosed. I know that's the point of the satire, but I got it with the first joke and didn't need a zillion more. But then, without that excess, it would lose its Restoration character. So in that sense the failure to appreciate the totality of this production is entirely my own.

The first act, which seems much longer than the second one, is the more difficult to endure if you aren't a fan of potty humor. For me, what redeemed this part of the experience was that I happened to attend a matinee, and the audience consisted mostly of teenage students out to enjoy themselves; they ate it up--they roared, they cheered, they screamed, they responded. The interplay between the cast and the audience was a joy, even as I cringed at the brand of humor they were responding to. It was like sitting through a whole play devoted (you'll only get this if you know Bollywood, but it's the closest I can come) to Johnny Lever's or Anupam Kher's most unbearable moments.

As I said, Shakespeare's plays are dotted with such moments, but few of them are quite so heavily weighted in that direction. An exception, maybe, is A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play that can go very wrong in the humor department if the balance isn't found. Shakespeare offers the means to balance it, by scripting the more airy humor of fairies and fantasy. Henry IV Part 1 also balances low humor and high thought, through the elegant structure of the play. As with the original, which had musical interludes, this take on The Imaginary Invalid aims for a similar balance, through the magic of music: Paul James Pendergrast's buoyant score is inspired by Phil Spector's wall-of-sound. The individual songs reference several different pop forms of the period, used to ingenious effect (my favorite moment was a fabulous Barry White sendup which also furthers the plot in a hilarious fashion) . The other winning elements of the production, for me, are charming choreography and very fine players.

Even the gross-out humor is somewhat (though not consistently enough, to my taste) redeemed by references to current political and social issues such as the awful state of health care in the US. (If there'd been more of that, I'd have liked it more.) And even the message of the play (that we choose whether to enjoy life or not - a facile assertion that becomes more questionable in the light of modern neurological science) was not entirely lost in the dazzling welter of showmanship.

As I said, I liked the second half much better than the first. It was more weighted with music, choreography, and story. And whatever the material, you have to root for a cast like this one.

Here's another review that pretty much agrees with my own mixed experience of the production. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2011 has arrived! OSF and AIFF

On the main drag in downtown Ashland, banners are flying for both the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ashland Independent Film Festival. The new year has begun!

The 2011 season of the reliably fabulous Oregon Shakespeare Festival  (check out this traveller's blog) is well underway with several plays in repertory (so far, I've seen three). Meanwhile, we're gearing up for the 2011 Ashland Independent Film Festival April 7-11. Again this year, the Academy has given AIFF a grant to help in bringing even more of the filmmakers here for their screenings (it's already a festival they like to come to, so we always get a good number) so it should be a boffo festival once more. Ashland crazy!

The three OSF plays I've seen so far are Measure for Measure, The Language Archive, and To Kill a Mockingbird. In the wings are tickets to Julius Caesar, The Imaginary Invalid, and Ghost Light, and several lectures, and I hope to see most if not all of the 11 or 12 (depending on how you look at it) plays at least once before the year is out. And of course I look forward to many Green Shows other special events once the season goes into high gear in June, with the opening of the third theatre, the Elizabethan, and its plays.

At this point my hands-down favorite is Measure for Measure, no surprise since Bill Rauch directed it and I don't think that man can put a foot wrong. Here, he takes yet another play I've never warmed to, and (with dramaturg Barry Kraft) pulls many rabbits out of his hat and finds in it Shakespeare's full measure of humanity (I also saw a very entertaining and enlightening noon lecture by Barry Kraft and I definitely want to see this play again). The Mariachi music alone, performed by Mary M. Alfaro, Vaneza M. Calderon, and Susie Garcia, is worth the price of a ticket.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Language Archive too, as well as a very fine lecture by the dramaturg (whose name I'll add here when I can find it) but wasn't too crazy about To Kill a Mockingbird , which seemed tired to me. However, some friends here who have seen other productions of the same adaptation said it was the best they'd seen, and thought it was very fine. Imaginary Invalid is getting great word-of-mouth and so I broke down and bought a ticket to that too. We'll see! As far as August: Osage County goes, I'm not sure. Just not that fond of modern dysfunctional-family plays and will await reports.

And on to...

From the delightful blog Only in Ashland, this photo shows the Columbia Hotel, the Ashland Springs Hotel in recent snow. The Varsity Theatre, below, is a little further down the street.
Meanwhile, emails are flying back and forth like crazy the last few days, between two out of town friends and me, planning an epic, all-out Ashland Independent Film Festival bash for 2011. Columbia Hotel room is reserved, airline tickets bought, and the AIFF website has posted the daily schedule of films a couple of days early. Peggy already has all her films picked out! Jeanie and I are a little slower but before we know it, the box office will open and April will be here. I can't wait!

This post is just a teaser. Last year I really enjoyed writing about both festivals and hope to have that pleasure again this year. Now that I've been blogging for more than a year, the shape of the year repeats -- but, like the mountain weather here, never in the same way twice. 

From the blog Only in Ashland, this great photo shows the deco Varsity Theater in recent snow, but gearing up for the film festival: 
The Deco-style Varsity Theatre was built in 1937. Photo from http://traveljapanblog.com/ashland/category/only-in-ashland/
Update: tickets bought. Can't wait!