Monday, April 30, 2007

word of the week

peccadillo (pek-uh-DIL-o), noun. A minor offense. From Spanish pecadillo, diminutive of pecado (sin), from Latin peccare (to sin). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ped- (foot) which gave us not only peccadillo (alluding to a stumble or fall) but also pedal, impeccable, podium, octopus, and impeach. more words here...

word of the week

jaywalk (JAY-wok), verb. last week my dear friends from paris visited nyc... with my faulty french, we spent alot of time discussing a word's equivalent in our own languages. so here, in honor of them, is one of the words we encountered in our travels... "To cross a street in a reckless manner, disregarding traffic rules. As with other birds, the name jaybird denotes a naive person or simpleton. Early last century, country folks visiting big cities were often oblivious of any approaching traffic when they were crossing streets. Eventually their nickname, jays, became associated with crossing a street illegally." from

blissful! website of the week

my nostalgia for the few years i spent in san francisco led me to the fabulous work of jill bliss, an artist and designer based in northern california. her "few-of-a-kind" goods are made from recycled or sustainable materials. my favorite purchases so far? the small pocket pouch (style: picnic) and the farm life 2007 calendar. go shopping and encourage that blissful feeling of more thoughtful consuming!

word of the week

snuggery (SNUG-uh-ree), noun: a snug, cozy place. as in, "let's go to three lives & company bookstore [see 4/23 post], it's a snuggery!" thanks,

Never spoken of

Who are these guys? Good question. Their names were Sacco and Vanzetti, and they were anarchists. Yes, anarchists. They are also executed, most likely for their beliefs in the need for revolution. The presiding judge had this to say about one of them: "Webster Thayer, stated to the jury "This man, (Vanzetti) although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions."[1] (Reference: Wikipedia)
My question is this: on the eve of May 1, Labor Day, has anything really changed? Could it be that they were really executed for being Italian anarchists who threatened the existing power structure? Like MLK did and JFK did and Malcom X did?

More Troops (and Iraqis) Keep Dying

Just so we know 103 troops have died this month and the number of troops dead in the war is 3350 total American deaths in Iraq. Since no one cares about dead Iraqis I thought it important to post a number that at least all Americans can agree is worth caring about. I was at the gym yesterday watching Lou "I hate all immigrants" Dobbs yesterday and he was discussing the war and the death toll...and said: We have over 3345 troops dead and 24,000 wounded Americans and then in passing said: "and the death toll for Iraqis" and then continued.

Why are Iraqi deaths not worth as much? This I will never matter how many xenophobic or pseudo patriotic articles pass my desk.

Regardless the Iraq body count puts the minimum total of dead Iraqis at 62,570. I am not sure how they define "civilians" as opposed to "insurgents," but at least this is a number everyone agrees has occurred. But, I remind you there are numbers out there that describe the full Iraqi death toll over 500,000, a mind boggling number.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Another Reason to Hate Starbucks

As if burning the coffee on purpose, putting local cafes out of business, and "walmartifying" the coffee industry is not enough. Now this. This is an somewhat old story...with a bit of an update.

I went to my local cafe to get my regular Sunday cup of Joe. It was the Ethiopian blend, usually the best of the blends. Legal Beans has the best cup of coffee in town and it is due (among other things) to the Ethiopian brand they serve. Coffee is Ethiopia's main resource and represents anywhere between 40 - 60 percent of its exports and as Eric Leser in Le Monde said: "assures the survival of 15 million people, mostly poor farmers."

Many local cafes sell Ethiopian brands...including Starbucks. Starbucks sells the Ethiopian brands at approximately $24 -$26 a lb. The farmers who grow the coffee receive anywhere between 60 cents to a $1.10 per pound. The farmers and Ethiopia are trying to do something about this and register their coffees as trademarks and to protect itself from a catastrophic drop in prices that took place between 2000 - 2003. Only Starbucks stands in the way. Eleven coffee distributors have agreed to the proposition of trademarking Ethiopian coffee. Starbucks makes liberal use of the wonderful Ethiopian brands and does not want to hear about trademarks. Oxfam, the English organization that preaches fair trade has accused Starbucks of denying Ethiopia 90 million dollars in revenue per year. It seems only Starbucks is allowed to make money.

Do yourself a favor (and Ethiopia) and avoid these money hungry, union busting capitalists who seek not to sell good coffee, but have the world drink only their coffee, which by the way is terrible, Ethiopian brands or not. See links below for recent and more information.

renato's papermaking process

part of my work as a grantwriter involves developing art programs for kids in under-resourced communities. once in awhile we find just the right combination of creative activity and dynamic teacher. the results are beautiful-- laughing kids, one of a kind master pieces and a feeling of belonging. here's what renato (see 4/26 post) taught our kids in paterson.

how to make paper (simplified version):

1. after ripping up unwanted old paper of any kind and soaking it in water, add to the blender, add some coloring and other stuff to create the pulp. photo on left.

2. the pulp is placed in vats, where it is sifted and placed evenly on screens. the screens are then lifted to reveal new paper sheets which get pressed and moved to the drying racks. photo on right.

3. final product! i sent several sheets of our paper to renee french and voila... here is what she created on the kids' handmade paper!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Once more, with feeling...

Think you know C-span? Think again. Normally footage of legislators testifying in support of, or in opposition to, proposed bills induces yawns in the electorate and a quick channel change.

But recently, there were two very powerful examples of elected officials, both women, laying it all on the line and speaking from the heart. The clips of their oratory are so powerful that I will do nothing more then give these two civil servants simple introductions.

Beth Bye is a Democratic legislator from West Hartford, CT who serves in that state's House of Representatives. She was testifying regarding a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Eleanor Holmes Norton is the elected representative to the Congress for the District of Columbia. She was debating a bill that would extend the franchise to residents of
Washington DC.

If Hillary could ever be this real, she would surely be the next president.

Isn't this the state where gay marriage is legal?

This young lady wanted to bring her date to the prom at Bishop Feehan High School in Massachusetts, just like every other senior in the school. The problem is her date is of the same sex. The reason given of course it that it is a catholic school. The principle said it isn't discrimination. He says we don't discriminate against gay people. This is about 'gay sexual activity."

So, being gay is not against the laws of the catholic church just the sexual activity. Well, isn't pre-marital sex against these same laws? Under this reasoning the prom should be cancelled. Fraternization of boys and girls is not against these laws, just the sex.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spotlight On: The Boys In Brazil

although i only spent one month in brazil (rio de janeiro area), i feel a strong connection to the people i met there and the places i discovered. so to reminisce a bit, here are my top three connections to brazil that i'd like to brag about...

1. my friend dan whom i met from our year of AmeriCorps VISTA service in paterson, nj. we worked on a project for foster teens aging out of the state foster care system. my year of VISTA service and 2 years of program supervision were filled with challenges, lifelong friendships, success stories, amazing teamwork and community projects. and the reason why i still love and work for the city of paterson... but back to dan: he's a jersey boy who visited brazil (with a push from me i think...), fell in love and married a brazilian. now he lives there with his wife and young son, phil. he writes critically in his blog about life as a "foreigner" in brazil... lots of political commentary, art, beautiful photos of brazil and musings on culture. visit

2. my friend and collaborator renato who introduced me to the world of mural art and illustration through his work with street kids in the favelas (slums) of rio. renato's talent in art and illustration can't be described in words. look for yourself at when he moved to newark, nj to pursue a master's degree in illustration, we jumped at the chance to collaborate on mural projects in paterson and passaic. renato taught art classes to teens and younger children, and together with his wife and co-artist rosa, they created an entire curriculum and workshops on book binding and paper making. we also painted a series of murals in the community where poverty takes it toll, attempting to beautify parks, buildings, empty lots & public housing projects. see the above photos of our music themed mural at the riverside housing site.

3. last but not least... check out marcos' site, he's an amazing photographer whom i met through renato. he travels the world, documenting life and capturing many music gigs. see his photo from cuba, above left.

well, guys, i miss ya! remember jersey loves you...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kucinich introduces Articles of Impeachment

After a delay because of Cheney's health, Representative Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. This is long overdue for an administration that has sought to coalesce power out of the hands of the other two branches of government and act as a King.

Currently, I am reading "A Tale of Two Cities" the brilliant Charles Dickens book that describes in stunning detail the dangers of a people that is ruled by a King and and aristocracy that cares little for the people. When the people rise up it is nothing short of understandable horror. Let's get rid of these guys through the laws given to us by our Constitution.

Cheney is the hatchet man and the architect. We can start with him, but I say let's get rid of the whole lot.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

julie doucet--the queen of underground comics

i loved comics as a kid (the archies, little lulu, etc.) but "re-discovering" underground comics (especially those drawn by women) in the early 90s helped me get through a bad time in my life, inspired me and most of all, brought me laughter and a sense of community. i picked up my first julie doucet work --"leve ta jambe mon poisson est mort!"-- probably because i was drawn to french (she's canadian) and was instantly hooked. completely. couldn't get enough. i frantically searched for any stuff i could find (rare copies, signed copies), faithfully loyal to each issue of dirty plotte, and to her, writing fan letters and believing that she understood my inner thoughts. her work is, to say the least, intense, detailed, painful and filled with anxieties of womanhood. over the years, she abandoned comics and focused more on her artwork... i missed her comics terribly and wondered what the switch meant to us and her. julie doucet certainly busted wide open the door for future women cartoonists in a different way than her peers and predecessors (phoebe gloeckner, ariel bordeaux--deep girl, aline kominsky-crumb, carol tyler and many others). so what next? having abandoned my comics obsession briefly to pursue regular life and then re-igniting it because of my partner, i recently stumbled across her reason for slipping away from her role as underground queen bee... and now i feel at peace. my heroine to the end...

"I quit comics because I got completely sick of it. I was drawing comics all the time and didn't have the time or energy to do anything else. That got to me in the end. I never made enough money from comics to be able to take a break and do something else. Now I just can't stand comics... I wish my work would be recognized by a larger crowd of people as more art than be stuck with the cartoonist label for the rest of my life. That's what's killing me about a lot of those comics guys. Dan Clowes is mostly a writer, a great artist, and has tried different things, But a lot of those guys, their drawing style never changes—the content neither—and it seems it never will. I just don't understand that, how you can spend 50 years of your artist life doing the same thing over and over again."

Reference: "A Good Life: The Julie Doucet Interview" by Dan Nadel, published in The Drama, issue No 7 (2006).

Another Suicide Bomber Struck and Killed Nine U.S. Soldiers and Injures Twenty Others at a U.S. Outpost

While McCain calls us on our patriotism and walks through a market in heavily guarded fashion and claims "the surge" is working, our soldiers and the Iraqi people are killed in record numbers. This war will not stop unless we stand up and do something about it.

In addition: "Bombings in different parts of the country Monday killed at least another 44 people and wounded more than 100, police said. Twin car bombings killed at least 19 outside Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, and a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a restaurant near Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, killing seven and injuring 14."
The number of American Soldiers Killed Now Stands at 3,332. While this number is outrageous, it pales in comparison to the number of Iraqis who lost their lives in this devastating war. And now the greatest refugee crisis in the world is not Darfur, as horrible a situation as that is, it is Iraq.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bill Moyers on the Complicity of Journalists in the Iraq War

For those of us who did not buy the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" argument from the beginning this documentary is long overdue. From the greatest journalist of his generation Bill Moyers brings us the selling of the Iraq war by the Bush Administration and how the media bought it hook line and sinker. It will also show us Knight Ridder, who did not buy the arguments and the justifications for war and actually did their own investigation regarding the claims of Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda. The documentary shows us what journalism is and why it is so important. I am so glad Bill Moyers is still practicing the lost art of telling the truth.

Bill Moyers Journal: "Buying the War" will broadcast on PBS on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9:00 p.m. (check local listings -

forget the mega-bookstores... buy some books at your local bookstore

sunday -- a perfect spring day to wander the city streets and browse in my local bookstores. if heaven exists (which i think not), my version would look like three lives & company...

the moment you step into the cozy little corner store in the west village on a quiet block, you feel at home. the space is small (the anti-megastore to be exact), selection of books superb... and not overwhelming. narrow shelves of memoirs, nyc history, travel, politics, poetry, art with only a few or even just one copy awaiting the lucky searcher. i often order books there from helpful and informed staff. every time i walk in the store to browse, buy or bring someone (see cousin marc entering the store at right), i feel as if i walked into the home of good friends.

three lives hosts monthly in-store readings, which take place in the back section of the store. a small chair and mini table, that's it! an intimate setting, casual, just like your living room. months ago, i heard nell freudenberger (see photo above) read from her novel, the dissident. we all sat together, so close, nell looking at me as i nodded to the familiar words she spoke. after the reading, several of us stayed to talk to the author. in such a comfortable setting, we chatted like long lost friends and shared the names of books we were currently obsessed with... take that, barnes and noble! but i can't lie, i do (rarely) attend b & n readings (james mcgreevey, marjane satrapi) because i must see them. however, not a purchase for me! i save my pennies for three lives. i hope you will too... support your local bookstores, it's essential!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

MLB Notes: Overlooking the Best Story.

Baseball is off to a swift start this season. The discussion thus far has been Barry Bonds and his quest to beat Hank Aaron' s (the most underrated player in baseball history) Home Run record. His totals are of note: first in homers (755), third in hits (3771), first in RBI (2297) and in a mass of other categories. Three gold gloves and MVP, 240 stolen bases and breaking the Home Run record while the country tried to overcome its history of hate. While I follow Barry Bonds' quest I am ambivalent just as Hank has said. Bonds was my favorite player as a young adult and his career, before he morphed into Babe Ruth, was a hall of fame one.

Alex Rodriguez, however is upstaging Barry Bonds with a Ruthian performance of his own. To date: he is batting .379 with 12 HRs and 31 RBI. He is having an historic April. ARod may be back to the player he once was, the most feared hitter in baseball and the heir apparent to the title: "the best ever."

This brings us to the real story of the baseball season. Is it Red Sox/Yanks rivalry back in the front pages, Glavine going for 300 wins, Griffey and the newly emergent Sammy Sosa ready to be the fifth player to hit 600 Home Runs? Nope. Note even close. His name is Josh Hamilton. Haven't heard of him? You will. Josh Hamilton first and foremost describes himself as a "drug addict...and it is going to be like that for the rest of my life."

He is a 6'4", 235 pound power house. In 1999 he was an all-American considered as a "can't miss" five tool player out of Raleigh, North Carolina. He was drafted #1 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999 in the amateur draft. Steve Henderson, the hitting coach described him as a young George Brett, who will hit .300, 30 Homers a year and run. He also had the best left handed throwing arm Henderson had ever seen. In short this kid was a once in a decade kind of player.

Then, Hamilton met crack and it all came crashing down. He lost everything. His baseball contract, his wife and young child, his family had given up on him and he says today: "I can't believe I am alive today." He ended up on his grandmother's porch at two in the morning 50 pounds lighter, looking ill, trembling and without sleep in four days. His granny nursed him back to health and after he gained the trust of his family and most importantly himself, he decided to give baseball another try. His $3.96 million dollar signing bonus gone, he appealed to the commissioner who allowed him to participate in baseball activities.

Eventually, he was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and this spring hit .400 to the amazement of anyone who was paying attention. Once the season began he was expected to fill in as a fourth outfielder for the Reds, while Griffey, Dunn and Freel get the majority of the starts. His first start was delayed by the flu, but once in the line-up Hamilton has not disappointed. As a part-time player, he is hitting .295 five HR, 11 RBI and 10 runs.

While his baseball talent is clear, he understands that the greatest challenge lies ahead. Staying sober. He knows it will be a struggle for the rest of his life.
For sports writing with a social conscience, check out Dave Zirin's the edge of sports at

Friday, April 20, 2007

D.I.Y. -- the antidote to the shopping mall & corporate buying

looking for creative, reasonably priced handmade and lovely gifts? look no further than! check out the wallets, bags, jewelry, tee-shirts, notecards (send a letter, it's more romantic than an email or text message!), calendars, pins and more...

after a brief but inspired visit to olympia, wa on the way to seattle to visit friends, i found this website. buyolympia's founders wanted a way to help their friends "sell their awesome handmade crafts online, and have since grown to have a lot more friends from all over world."

one of my favorite purchases: a "Reading is Sexy" sticker. so... forget the jersey malls (ICK!) and bypass the overpriced, snobby manhattan boutiques... shop buyolympia and support the creative source!

Hacking Away at Roe v. Wade (Will the Real Justice Kennedy Please Stand Up?)

Our legal DC guest columnist writes:

i read the Supreme Court's decision in the "partial birth abortion" ban case last night and about 2/3 of the way through, it made me angry and i had to stop. the court has entirely left behind the notion that these laws should have as their purpose, at least in part, the protection of women's health. as far as i can tell, there was nothing in the opinion about that notion except Kennedy's paternalistic statements that we shouldn't allow women to have such abortions because they might regret it some day. as usual, conservatives rail against "big brother" regulations until it's convenient to let big brother make the decisions. it's a complete change in direction for the court and, it seems, the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade. another rather radical (i think) thing the court did was place Congress's "factual" findings - that really have nothing to do with fact - ahead of actual medical opinions. these "findings" were inserted into the law simply to try to bolster its chances of being upheld (a very similar law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2000 as unconstitutional). this says to me that the Supreme Court is abdicating its responsibility - if it's going to say, from now on, that whatever Congress says goes, there's no point in having independent constitutional adjudicators.

we must start giving to planned parenthood and other reproductive rights organizations now - they have quite a lot of major fights ahead of them.

and here's the link to the actual opinion, if you want to read pages and pages of descriptions of these abortion procedures and not much legal analysis. ginsberg's dissent is worth a read, though.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Four Bombings Kill 198 People in Baghdad

When is 33 more than 198? While the nation mourns for the Va. Tech victims, Baghdad burns. A tragedy struck Virginia Tech University, indeed, but the Iraq toll today is already quadruple that of Virginia. When will we learn that death is death no matter the color of someone's skin or the origin of their birth?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"They Paved Paradise and Put Up A Parking Lot"

Is this the end of Mola Coffee? The only place in Hoboken that is free of Wall Street, Jersey Cheeze and selfishness. The best cappuccino in town made by our own Eli, where conversation regarding a disastrous war, poetry and anything alternative is found. Where have you gone Dave Roberts? Hoboken turns its lonely hearts to you.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

We love comix!

See the review below of an alternative view of Africa... the Ivory Coast. Comics allow a medium that is highly effective in allowing one to both envision the characters and see the author's viewpoint as well. Graphic novels and comics allow the reader to travel with the author as she experiences the circumstances of her life. No other medium allows such a candid and intimate viewpoint. AYA is highly readable and "subversive" in its ability to bring real life working class Adjiban to the reader. Visual images and personal stories break down the stereotypes readers have of Western Africa while engaging the reader. A superior work from a young woman's point of view.

"A Cherry Tree Grows in Newark."

Go see the Cherry Blossom Festival in Branch Brook Park! It begins in mid-April culminating in a Cherry Blossom Festival the weekend of April 20th. There are more Cherry Blossom trees in Branch Brook Park than in any other location in North America (lots more than the prominent display at the Jefferson Memorial in our nation's capitol). For more information go to
Reduce your carbon imprint! Take the new Newark Light Rail. It's cheap, fun and easy. To plan your trip go to See you there!