“Higher Education… and the death of critical thought, creativity, and innovation”

They work their asses off to get straight A’s…

But many of these brilliant artists, musicians, performers, and inventive types are destined to metaphorically flip burgers and sell shoes, perhaps to never again experience that feeling, when a hot rush of creative thought, action, and pride wells-up in their loins, perhaps to never realize the full potential of their craft, nor contribute meaningfully to their society. These creative spirits are bludgeoned then wither, as our unapologetically capitalist society compels them to give-in and be just another consumer zombie bitch.

Meanwhile, on entering the ‘real’ world, those former students of English, History, Literature, Philosophy, and Education often feel obliged to shut down their thought and questioning process in order to pay their debt… to become part of a bureaucracy; obedient and expected to do, say, and regurgitate what they have been told.

Then, of course, there are those unfortunate few who never pursued a degree, yet who are brilliant in their way… who though meritorious, are unfairly discriminated from ever getting higher paying and meaningful employment, simply because they have not yet paid into the system.

They only wanted to pursue their interests, be more productive, learn how they could apply themselves in a meaningful way, and perhaps make a difference. They felt the need to recognize their muse, follow their respective passions, and make a tangible contribution; perhaps to shed a shred of light onto the murky darkness our species has draft over the planet and our collective consciousness, or perhaps to advance our society to the next evolutionary square on the game board, or maybe to try to better of our world through understanding how they can make a difference in their own sphere. But all this, my friends, is just what it is… and what this has become, is in the service of paying one’s debt to some nameless bureaucrat or money-lender, because many of us feel we must borrow in order to better ourselves.

Who’s to blame? The kids who had too little money, who might otherwise have been only qualified for military service or a cashier’s position at Walmart? Or the colleges and universities that operate more like a business trading on the Stock Exchange, rather than fulfilling their purpose as an institution of higher learning; accepting no less than a dollar amount that might purchase a dean a fully-loaded Lexus each year.

Meanwhile, the wealthier peer, without an obligation or a worry, studies whatever s/he please, does only as well as befits his/her mood, then, when it is all said and done, whether with glowing recommendations, or nodding heads, s/he walks away scott free and laughing.

Later, because his/her family has the fiscal resources and social connections, s/he opens a gallery and sells paintings of colorful squiggles on canvas to the elite! His/her family’s rogues gallery of superficial and surgically-altered friends and business associates laud him/her for his/her work; paying top dollar. But s/he also accrued millions in debt from publicly subsidized, business improvement loans, and the reckless use of a triple platinum card. No worries! Whether his/her gallery business succeeds or fails, s/he knows that his/her family can afford the very best accountants, the most crooked bankruptcy attorneys, the finest business consultants, and perhaps even a politician to put in their pocket; to identify the loopholes, to soften the blows, to hide away any unpleasantries, and to get him/her started on his/her next half-hearted endeavor (with everything but the former business’s name in-tact). Besides, guess who is next in-line to inherit the family fortune?

Many years later – having paid five-hundred thousand dollars on their $100K loan, having been mired in half-a-lifetime of federally sanctioned and unforgivable indentured debt-servitude – our former thinkers, creators, innovators, and educators have become mere shells of their former, vibrant selves. Into their latter years, ever deeper in debt, they remain trapped and feel resentful, regretful, and empty because when they were naive and hopeful teens, no one told them what pact they were signing, nor did they understand the lifelong consequences. There was no escape clause.

So, dashed onto the rocks of society’s shoreline; great ideas are casually and forever washed away…

Thoughts Toward Realizing A Green Economy…

Even though I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama on his platform for change – which included his promise to usher in a 21st-Century ‘Green Economy’ – frankly, I am wholly disappointed with the Democratic Party’s reluctance to wrestle, take down, and once-and-for-all, pin the Right Wing to the mat.

January 20, 2009 - Washington D.C. Early in the morning, while heading into D.C. on the Metro, I came across the grand daughters of Alex Haley, the beloved author of "Roots". Photo by Craig Morse.

Over the past year, hundreds of billions of tax payer’s dollars have been applied toward the “American Reinvestment and Recovery Act”, otherwise known as the “Stimulus Bill”, which directed tens of billions of these dollars toward road improvement and ‘supposed’ renewable energy projects. The most recent of the ‘renewable energy’ plans to be approved is a nuclear plant to be built near Atlanta, GA, being the first to be constructed in the US in over 30 years. I suspect these projects have moved/are moving forward only because Obama – who is desperate to find middle ground with a minority of self-serving Republican senators and representatives – feels the need to produce results in order to quell the unrealistic expectations of a recession weary American public. Though these projects may produce tens of thousands of jobs over the next couple years, make no mistake, these projects are short-sighted and frankly, dangerous (exchanging the damage being done to our global climate from CO and CO2 for the risks and dangers inherent in Uranium and Plutonium) as our representative, through slight-of-hand, attempt to cover-up the root issues, thereby keeping it from entering the mainstream public dialog.

Rather than look toward a hopeful future and seek to make amends that would benefit the greater whole, these ‘solutions’ maintain an unhealthy status-quo, catering to embedded special interests and lobbies under the auspice of laying the foundations for a 21st-century green economy.

It is my belief that one simple idea – a plan to implement a thoughtful and systemically comprehensive long-term Sustainable Strategy – has been completely overlooked during the many debates and dialogues from over the past few years.

Besides plotting a map to where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish, over the next 5, 10, 20, and 50 years, we should seek to get beyond the symptoms, to understand the root problems: their respective origins and histories; how each is internally wired; how each relates to (or perpetrates) other problems; and how each problem relates to and affects the economy, culture, public health, environment, employment, climate change, and our species’ legacy … instead of perpetrating the usual covering-up of symptoms with distraction, misdirection, and fiscal Band-Aids.

Let’s take a few steps back to consider the big picture, and seek to understand each problem systemically, then seek to understand how each problem connects to or affects other elements in this picture. We are teetering on the edge of a threshold and have a choice to make. Do we take that bold step into the uncertain, to probably lead and inspire the rest of the world through initiating an age of renewable energy and materials through a Green Revolution? Or do we simply continue to fall back on tired formulas, to keep making the same mistakes until it all comes crashing down?

Following are a few thoughts about how a Green Revolution might usher in a paradigm shift toward a Silver Age. Through applying sustainable technologies, practices, processes, and cradle to grave educational and informational resources (that would encourage each of us to think about and measure the cost/consequences versus the benefits of specific behaviors, products, resources, and energies) we could effectively participate in creating a more conscientious society while being the stewards of our planet, insuring a clean, healthy, and enjoyable quality-of-life for our children.

In my opinion, transitioning into a Sustainable Economy would mean to:

• Reestablish the United States as a first-class manufacturing economy… followed by a substantially increased GDP, reduction in our national deficit and debt, collective purchasing power, and an increase in gross sales- and income-tax which, if properly directed, would significantly improve public infrastructure, public utilities, public education, and access to health services.

• Spur on the development of technologies and products that are cutting edge, energy and resource efficient, useful, in-demand, and recyclable, reusable, and/or refurbishable.

• Similar to how we led the world in the desktop computing and the internet revolution – developed by the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. – the United States could again be at the forefront of the research, development, and application of green technologies, which would translate into tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of jobs, and billions (if not trillions) of dollars each year. If we approached a Green Technology with a similar enthusiasm consider the technological advances that could be realized, and the invaluable knowledge that would be revealed, if we engaged in the full-on, dedicated research, development, and improvement of solar, wind, geothermal, rare earth magnetic, water and bio fuel, superconductor technologies and applications.

• Re-ignite the mid-western and rustbelt manufacturing economy, as well as enliven Silicon Valley research and development, through creating an immediate demand for a highly skilled and educated workforce, while retrofitting vacant and ‘dirty’ material and energy industrial complexes for ‘clean’ material and product manufacturing.

• Lessen our demand for and impact on public services, utilities, and infrastructure through (to the chagrin of energy monopolies) democratizing access to energy by enabling each home/business owner to supplement their energy needs through on-site systems (solar, wind, geothermal, insulation, etc).

• Balance the Trade Deficit by creating high-quality ‘Made in America’ products and services for export to other nations.

• Minimize the need for newly extracted natural resources through implementing reusable, repurposed, refurbished, and recyclable material and energy resources.

• Reduce our dependence on the private automobile, and thus promote the reclamation of our public streets and thoroughfares toward better uses. Consider the gross acreage of landscape that has been capped by asphalt, concrete, and rooftops. Such repurposing of these linear rights-of-way would greatly contribute to the permeability and greening of our landscape, thereby enabling the eventual recharge of our fresh water aquifers, along with a significant reduction of storm water runoff and flooding. Additionally, these existing rights-of-way would be very useful for bicycles, light rail, high-speed rail, linear parks, urban and suburban architectural infill (which would translate to higher density, mixed-use communities that in-turn would result in accessibility to services, walkable neighborhoods, as well as fewer and shorter trips).

• Encourage a transition toward sustainable applications for urban planning & design, building architecture, landscape architecture, business practices, public services, the long range city plan, and zoning and subdivisioning regulations. Additionally, municipal Planning Councils and Boards, and Chambers of Commerce, should be informed about the advantages to (and how to implement) sustainable practices and technologies so as to save municipal monies and lessen the impact upon the public infrastructure.

• Legalize Hemp, being one of the most useful and versatile plants on the planet. Some of the benefits to consider are as follow: 1. Hemp is a hardy perennial with a remarkable turnover time between planting and harvesting, as opposed to trees, which take many years to grow. 2. Its cellulose level is almost three times that of wood, and its processing utilizes less energy and fewer chemicals, so it yields more and better quality paper. 3. It is a nutritious source of food and well suited for hair and skin care. 4. The oil extracted from its seed provides a highly efficient source of fuel, and may be used as a raw material in paints and plastics. 5. It provides one of natures longest and strongest fibers, so is very useful for textiles. 6. It is very useful as a component for building materials, such as concrete, fiber board, and composite materials. And finally, 7. Hemp is ideal for crop rotation and it’s water requirements are negligible.

•Slowly enable a climate change course correction by significantly reducing carbon emissions.

• Enable the planet’s filtration and ‘immune’ systems (forests, rivers, oceans, biodiversity) to again get a foothold, to then cycle and cleanse the air, water, and land.

• Force us to rethink the way by which we educate our children; to incorporate knowledge and training that is applicable to building upon and maintaining a Green Economy. This would encourage future generations to consider our personal and collective impacts, natural cycles and feedback systems, as well as the relationships between of cause vs effect, impact vs consequence, initial cost vs the ultimate price paid.

• Improve the quality of our food, water, and air… and thus our overall health. Additionally, if devastated ecosystems were able to repair, while existent ecosystems were less likely to be impacted by development, pollution, and human interference, many very useful natural pharmaceutical substances may yet be discovered.

• Reduce the likelihood for warfare, colonialization, and the exploitation of other cultures. One reason that war happens is related directly to our desire to have access to and control of others’ natural resources for our own purpose. Meanwhile, though quantities and intensities may differ, every person on this planet has access to sun, wind, and water.

Think about it… We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Whether it be nuclear science, the human genome, super-computing, or flying to the moon, we’ve made what was once considered science fiction become real science. And when we consider contemporary great public works projects, such as the myriad of FDR’s WPA projects (including the The Hoover Dam and The Lincoln Tunnel), The Golden Gate Bridge, The Panama Canal, or The Interstate Highway system, it is indisputable that we’ve completed some seemingly unreal and truly momentous projects that have, unquestionably, changed the course of human history. So, if we have a dream, and we put our hearts and minds toward making into a reality, we are capable of accomplishing almost anything.

And though it will cost a lot of money up-front to initiate this change, make no mistake, such a transition will make a lot of people a lot of money, while giving even the least fortunate segment of our population access to a cleaner and more affordable water, food, transportation, and energy.

Lets talk about this further, then compel our leaders to recruit then employ the greatest visionaries, hearts, and minds on the planet from the sciences, the arts, and industry… especially those who are able to think beyond their own self-interests.

With this said, though these ideas make perfect sense to me, I am, by no means, an expert in any of these fields. So, to improve my own understanding, and that of other readers, I invite you to contribute your own comments and suggestions.

Finally, feel free to pass this link along if you have any friends who may be interested in reading and/or chiming in…

Thank you!

:) Craig Morse aka The Voice Of Eye

PS – Following are a few other advances in renewable energy and sustainable technologies that you may be interested in reviewing and passing along:

– HHO Fuel… http://b2bf.com/ and http://b2bf.com/hydrogen_generators.htm
– Zero Point Energy… http://www.prlog.org/10306202-how-to-build-zero-point-energy-generator.html and http://ezinearticles.com/?Zero-Point-Energy-Magnetic-Power-Generator—Fully-Power-Your-Home-For-Free&id=2486194
– Magnetic Refrigeration… http://www.scientificblogging.com/welcome_my_moon_base/new_magnetocaloric_material_will_allow_magnetic_refrigerationSee More
– Waterless Washing Machine… http://www.physorg.com/news136555635.html
– Gray Water Systems… http://www.greywater.com/
– Rainwater Harvesting… http://www.rain-barrel.net/
– Rooftop Gardening… http://www.cityfarmer.org/rooftop59.html
– Black Water Treatment… http://wapedia.mobi/en/Blackwater_%28waste%29
– Evapotranspiration Cooling… http://www.eoearth.org/article/Evapotranspiration
– The Water Fueled Car… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-fuelled_car
– Insulations… http://insulation.sustainablesources.com/
– Rammed Earth Walls… http://arch.usc.edu/Programs/Research/RammedEarthConstruction
– Adobe Bricks… http://www.elmerfudd.us/dp/adobe/brick.htm
– Straw Bale Construction… http://www.dancingrabbit.org/building/straw_bale.php
– Passive Solar Design… http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/construction/solardesign/orientation.html
– Geothermal Heat Pumps… http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/space_heating_cooling/index.cfm/mytopic=12640

An Open Letter to Kevin Wright of Bend, Oregon’s City Church

Dear Kevin…

I am a social documentary and fine art photographer who, after living in San Francisco for ten years, moved to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. For 2-1/2 years I chronicled the myriad of challenges and recovery efforts as well as documented the variety of communities that make New Orleans such a beautiful and wonderfully unique city; being a place endowed with culture, heritage, spirituality, and a troubled history.

Well, the other night I heard you being interviewed on Dick Gordon’s “The Story” on WAMU. Afterward, both pleasantly surprised and very curious, I found myself visiting the City Church website.

Before I say anything else, I would like to say “Thank You!” Though I am neither a religious person nor do I desire to be, I found your message to be a breath of fresh air. It was thoughtful, conscious, compassionate, inspiring, and frankly, courageous. This threw me for a loop, because I often find myself frustrated with the fearful, ignorant, servile, self-centered, righteous, pushy, intolerant, and willfully apocalyptic greater Evangelical movement. In my mind, your words and actions are infinitely closer to what Jesus would have wished from those who follow His Word.

Secondly, I would like to ask you if, someday, you and your congregation might be interested in me coming to visit your church to document your services, your community, your contributions, and your example. All that I ask is that I am not targeted as a potential soul to be saved. I would rather be treated as an ally and with kindness: recognized for my contributions and respected for my curious and questioning nature. So, though I have no desire to become a Christian, nor do I wish to be an advocate for Christianity or any other belief system, I recognize how important and meaningful it is for some people to have a moral and ethical framework so as to give a person a sense of guidance, belonging, identity, purpose, and greater understanding. And from what I’ve both read and heard, the mission of your church is one that I greatly admire and respect, inspiring a message that seeks to enhance a participant’s awareness and understanding, participation and contribution, while offering one’s service to heal and ease another’s suffering.

With that said, I invite you to visit my online gallery to see the work that I’ve done in New Orleans and beyond. But with regard to “the beyond”, if you have difficulty looking at images that may be contrary to your beliefs, I urge you to proceed with caution. Because besides being a photojournalist, I am an artist, an agnostic, and a liberal activist. So, though I make a point to provoke thought, challenge our society’s assumptions, and shed light on the oft unknown, I always attempt to chronicle my subjects honestly while highlighting their humanity and preserving their dignity.

The link to the best of my New Orleans’ imagery may be found here

Anyhow, thanks again for having the courage to be positively affective, blaze your own trail, and share your story with the greater American public. I am certain that your thoughtful message will be very well received by many Evangelicals and other Christians alike, as well as by those who follow other faiths, or no faith at all.

Stay true to your path. I look forward to hearing your thoughts or suggestions.

My very best,

:) Craig Morse

An Open Letter to AT&T: “Adapt or whither”

Dear AT&T Wireless management…

I have had to pay my mobile phone bill late on a few occasions over the years, but I have always paid as soon as I was able, in full, and without question. This time, however, I am pushed to the very edge of my fiscal ability, when I am forced to realign my priorities and consider what services and resources will be absolutely necessary to help me get me through this very difficult period in our history. So, I would like to share the following thoughts with you…

Your rates, your late fees, and the cost of your products have not only become excessive, but are out-of-touch with and indifferent to these difficult times. It would seem prudent for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and Nextel to adapt — when global economies are collapsing, and millions of people are losing their jobs and homes every month — so as to retain their respective client base and keep their employees employed. I suspect that if the telecommunications industry does not make the necessary adjustments, both it and its employees may be next on the chopping block. But to add a personal dimension to the challenges presented, though I have a societally valuable and contributive role, I am an independent photojournalist and an artist, and thus monetarily undervalued, at least in the United States. So, though I should have equal access to quality services and products, it would seems that I do not make an income that will afford me a functional phone with its associated services.

As for the reality of my current situation, though I would like to use my mobile phone more often, I don’t. This is because my calls are regularly dropped, I have to piece together sentences that are broken, and/or the signal is so poor that I have to put effort into going outdoors with the hope that it will connect properly. As a result, 90% of my communications occur on a land line or through my email and Facebook profile. Though these options might not provide me with the perceived instant gratification, geographic mobility, and convenience of a mobile phone, they are a small fraction of the cost. And honestly, as expensive as it is for me to have a mobile phone, it has benefitted me very little while in its current incarnation, mostly adding another source of stress and frustration.

If you would like to retain your clientele, I suggest you make the necessary adjustments very soon. However, if you would like to retain me as a client, I would like to know asap if you will waive my late fee, consider reducing my monthly bill, and provide me with a better phone, without attempting to bind me with unrealistic commitments? If not, I will be researching other options for mobile phone service, or simply drop it altogether until it can functionally serve my needs.

Finally, because I am an independent journalist and I speak for many others, I feel compelled to share this letter in its entirety with my extensive network of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and my online communities for consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to understand my concerns. I look forward to hearing from you and discussing a fair and reasonable compromise.

Sincerely,
Craig Morse

A Petition to President Obama: Appoint The First Ever ‘U.S. Secretary of The Arts’

In their myriad forms, the arts are essential to the collective psychological health, welfare, progress, and maturity of any civilized society. As well, the arts instill a sense of purpose and alignment into the hearts of creative people who contribute their wealth of enlightening, challenging, provocative, and beautiful ideas. Art compels us to think, to question, to emote, to confront, to challenge conventions, to heal, and to remember. Art has the ability to instill cultural pride while raising the collective morale. Art defines space, and place, and cultural identity at a particular time and place. The selection of a highly respected creative colleague to the position of The Secretary of The Arts, empowered by federal funding, is ESSENTIAL to the healthful resuscitation, functioning, and maintenance of our national heart and soul.

While other countries have appointed Ministers of the Arts and Culture for decades, if not centuries, the United States has never had such a position. We need this NOW more than ever. Please visit Secretary Of The Arts and sign this important petition, then pass it along to your friends and colleagues. Thank you! :) Craig

February 2007 - New Orleans, LA.  The Guardians of the Flame are several children of Mardi Gras Indians and the Congo Nation.  They seek to keep alive the custom of paying homage to the Native Americans who gave refuge to their enslaved ancestors and treated them as equals.

February 2007 - New Orleans, LA. The Guardians of the Flame are several children of Mardi Gras Indians and the Congo Nation. They seek to keep alive the custom of paying homage to the Native Americans who gave refuge to their enslaved ancestors and treated them as equals.

The Conflicted Photographer…

Before jumping into the following essay, I ask those who I have photographed over the years to not take personal offense to some of the things I am about to say. Because I have done thousands of hours of work over the past ten years toward promoting other creatives at no charge, or in the spirit of being spontaneously creative, I have occasionally had to struggle with interpersonal frustrations, miscommunication, and unmet expectations, I think it prudent for me to take the time to put my thoughts into words. And as such, I hope to establish a rudimentary understanding as to who I am, why I do what I do, how I hope to relate to those who I have yet to photograph, and what I can realistically provide…

Since my creative awakening at Burning Man in 1999, I have received numerous emails that, whether polite or not, ask some variation on the following question: “Would you please send the photos that you took of me?”

I am very fortunate to be gifted with a talent for taking beautiful and meaningful photos of truly interesting people and subjects, but one of the banes of my existence as a photographer has been to receive impatient and demanding requests for, though worthwhile and important, what are typically art-for-art’s-sake or speculative documentary without the expectation of compensation for my time. Then, when I am able to fulfill these requests, I have over the years come to learn that I am not only rarely thanked for my efforts and for sharing these images freely in the spirit of co-promotion, but I am also not credited properly. What troubles me most though, is that even when the subject would typically expect to be paid by an event promoter or venue to perform, to sing, to dance, or whatnot, and who is quite capable of offering a gift, exchange, or compensation for my time or a print, I am only very rarely appreciated as a working artist. Yet, when I am unable to meet these demands in a timely fashion, believe me, I hear about it, and am made to feel inadequate. So, through sharing the following, I would like to clarify both my purpose and circumstance as a photographer, as well as set down, in policy, the standards by which I would like to approach all future recreational, portraiture, musician, performance, and speculative documentary work.

I am a D.I.Y. artist and documentarian who has, for the past eleven years, lived on a hand-to-mouth budget while doing the best that I am able with what few resources I have available to me. I live minimally. I don’t hold down a “regular” job, because I have the equivalent of three roles as a photographer (pointing the lens and pushing the button; the editor/retoucher of my own work; and the promoter/manager), which is, I feel, the most meaningful way that I can contribute… working almost every waking hour toward these ends. I sleep on friends sofas, so that I am able to put what few funds I do have available to me toward my craft and to co-promote my creative allies. And instead of being able to own and use what camera and computer I desire, I make use of an inexpensive prosumer camera, and perform all of my post-production work on a 2001 laptop that I bought at a discount rate back in the middle of 2002.

Now, on one level, I empathize with the frustrations of the few who have discredited me. However, this isn’t because I think that I owe them something. My understanding of this troubling issue comes from the probability that, over the years, I have not effectively communicated my purpose, my ethic, my situation, my limitations, the resources I have available to me, and the hard fact that photography is what I do for a living.

I am not an independently wealthy photographer, such as was Diane Arbus. Nor do I currently have a support staff to whom I can delegate my administrative, marketing, creative, financial, and managerial tasks. And I am most certainly not a one-man Fotomat. I am a thoughtful, kind, and generous person who’s first loyalty is to spread awareness and provoke thought, dialogue, and positive change. My second priority is to inspire mainstream society to consider other ways of living and being through pointing my lens toward unapologetically genuine and unique individuals, creatives, and alternative lifestyle communities so they may be inspired to express themselves authentically, to perhaps recognize and break from the prescribed reality. My third is to co-promote the various grassroots creatives who I appreciate and respect, and who do what they do for the love of it or because they cannot be untrue to their calling. So, in order to maintain the facility to move about freely and without distraction to discover and share lesser understood realities, I have forsaken creature comforts, geographic stability, and the soul sucking job that holds most of us firmly in place so that I may honor this purpose.

So as to give the reader a sense of the history and compounded gravity of these demands without consideration of recompense, it all started in 2000. At that time, I was still shooting film. At that time, I provided small prints at no cost to my subjects. However, at $30 a roll (through film, processing, and printing costs) plus event entry fees combined with the effort it took for me to do a shoot, travel to and from the lab, and edit the photos, I was fast going broke. It was in 2002 when, disheartened, I looked down upon about 500 unprocessed rolls from my early years that I had to consider either going digital, or deny my passion as a visual artist and activist. I, of course, chose to go digital. However, in doing so, I incurred an enormous up-front expense to purchase a new camera system and the computer that I still use today. And to boot, I still have over 400 of those 500 rolls yet unprocessed.

Ironically, after I started to shoot digital, I was soon overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of images that I had to manage, while also becoming responsible for post-processing, which up to that point was mostly left to the lab… unless I was printing for a show. Nonetheless, some people would say, “Just send the photos as they are!” Maybe this is just my ego talking out loud, but that’s not the way that I operate. I am interested in quality, not quantity. And the level of quality that I hope to attain, and that which I wish to attach to my name, requires effort. And though there are more than a few photos that might be considered excellent, I am only capable of applying my efforts toward one or a few before moving onto the next project.

What surprised and disappointed me most, however, was when such a statement would come from the mouths of artists, dancers, musicians, or performers. This is because these, of all people, are the ones who should most be able to understand where I am coming from. I want only my best and my finished work to leave my possession, to perhaps enter the public realm. And where a painter might, for example, complete one painting per week, I am often dealing with up to 3000 images per week. I have often wondered how some of these people would feel if I demanded that they paint, dance, sing, or perform for me halfway… or for free.

Another surprise is how more than a few of the people who I have photographed – who live materialistically minimal, and sometimes spiritual, alternative lifestyles – could become so attached to the idea of a picture of themselves. Then, occasionally, expressing dissatisfaction with receiving only one or a few images. It frustrated me most to know that some people would retroactively corrupt a genuinely fun, creative, and productive photographic experience simply because they based their entire experience on the expectation that they would get something beautiful for free… while assuming that, for me, it was all just cake.

So, over the past year, this growing accumulation of unmet expectations has weighed heavily enough so that I have actually asked myself, “Should I stop taking photos of people? Should I just photograph places and things that won’t demand so much from me? Should I leave the camera home during moments of great creative potential? Or during historically relevant moments?” Then, after a lot of thought, and considerable melancholy, I decided, “Hell no!”

Though I am not a religious man, I feel blessed. I was put on the Earth with a gifted ability and a purpose. I will not be made to feel as though I should stop chronicling beautiful people and important moments simply because a few spoilers can’t see the big picture. To choose to not take photos, and to not share what I am able to provide with the world at-large, would seem to me to be short-sighted, selfish, and personally self-destructive to not heed my calling.

So, with the exception of a few people who really seem to get it, I am sometimes made to feel alone in my endeavor, and separate from some of the people who I otherwise respect, admire, and/or enjoy being around. Thankfully, the people who understand me and appreciate what I am doing make it all worth it. Nonetheless, each time I aim the lens and push the camera’s button, though I tend to feel that I have taken one more step forward and am actively making a difference, it feels as though my ability to manage my works is pushed back another ten steps.

Well, I guess that’s my bane… and the spoiler’s loss. Because, though I do have the desire to be generous and make people smile, I have absolutely no desire to compromise my purpose, nor sell short my creative soul. So, I repeat… I was put on the Earth with an ability and a purpose. I intend to use my talents to the best of my ability, while continuing to do my very best to be kind, generous, and true.

With that said, though I will continue to take the time to capture historically relevant moments and co-create artistically provocative imagery with a knowing and consenting subject, I think it important to state that my talent, my time, and my person is of value.  And how I choose take photos — which at this time is expressed through black and white photography; and what I choose to release to the world, which are images that I deem worthy of investing my efforts toward retouching; and how I prioritize my shoots, which first honors paying work, then low- or unpaid social/environmental/economic justice work, then speculative fine art portraiture, and so on — is my prerogative.

In terms of my documentary imagery, if you enter the public realm, where any number of other recording devices may capture your likeness, or you are in someone’s space where I have been given permission to photograph, I will, whenever possible, be among the first to ask for your permission beforehand.  Additionally, I will do my very best to one day share the selected image or images with you to post on your website, MySpace, Facebook, or whatnot.  But in saying so, it will be on my own terms, by my own quality and selection standards, and if I am not offered some form of compensation, in my own time.

And though I recognize that the subject’s time is of value too, I will no longer commit to a photo shoot with a person if they cannot first understand the position I have stated in this essay.  So, if one day I should approach you to ask if I may take your photo, and if, in your heart, you are attached to the expectation of an end product without any thought or consideration for my priorities, my livelihood, or the resources I must own and maintain in order to take and process the photos… or if you cannot understand my commitment to being an artist, a visual historian, and a hopeful agent of change… or if you cannot appreciate all of the heart, and sacrifice, and effort that goes into bringing what I capture through my lens to completion… or if you have difficulty living in-the-moment, enough so as to at least engage in an experience simply for the joy of being creative… then you should probably politely decline my request.

But, on the other hand, if, you trust my eye and know that my intentions are good, and you wish to one day be able to see and share the strange and wonderful keepsake that is an artful photographic memory as seen from my point-of-view, then, in recognition of all that is necessary to make it manifest, I would, at the very least, appreciate a smile and a “Thank you!”.

The New Fountainhead

With our economy going to hell-in-a-handbasket, there has been a worrisome stir in the extended community that includes architects, planners, and developers. Being that houses across the country are being foreclosed, home loan approval is nearly impossible, housing developments sit idle, half-built, and office buildings are emptying into the streets of every major city, what may yet become of their livelihoods? Allow me to put those minds at ease…

Assuming that President Elect Obama will keep his promise to light a flame underneath an economic plan that will ignite a “Green Deal”, it’s only the very beginning of a new era in architecture as well as physical layout and design, when there will be opportunities too numerous to count. This is because in this proposed future, a lot of heads and hands will be necessary to implement out-of-the-box solutions for square-one designs, and energy-efficient retrofits of old architecture and municipal layout/infrastructure to become manifest.

Assuming the perceived urgency of the current Green Movement continues to gain momentum, I expect maverick architects, planners, engineers, and developers will have a field day (or rather, a field decade) with consideration to all of the unhinged possibilities for creative engineering and re-imagining. The heretofore bridaled visionaries will perhaps have more creative latitude, funding, and public support than ever, at least in the modern age, to propose super innovative and foundation-shaking solutions. And where municipal zoning and subdivision laws have literally made everything resemble everything else in our physical environment, while attempting to make every function fit neatly into the same size and brand of box – be it a mall, a Walmart, a McDonalds, a parking space, or a cubicle – local, state, and federal agencies will soon hurry to pass legislation that encourages intelligent physical design and thoughtful accounting of resources. Through the coming years, this will further be facilitated by federal funding requirements and the shift toward supporting industries, a labor force, and a marketplace that manufacture Green materials, technologies, and systems.

Give it a decade…  If the forthcoming administration can lead the charge toward dedicated research, development, and application of conservation-minded technology, energy, material, and space solutions, an entirely new family of products and services may yet become available…  to eventually become ever more efficient and affordable.

Consider how the personal computer, the internet, the digital camera, and the cell phone have indelibly changed our lives over the past decade.  If the aforementioned ideas can get a foothold for even one-half a generation, Green thinking and conscious behavior will no longer be on the fringe. It will simply be the way things are…

The Flight Of The Phoenix

An online Flickr acquaintance, James, contacted me with the following note, which is paraphrased…

“Greetings Craig… I am at an Internet cafe and received your article… worded and sent out into the world with true heart and passion. Since I lost all of my stock holdings, I am currently homeless. I’m living in the Florida Keys: selling my art work, doing cleaning jobs, dish washing, and other things to survive while preparing for Saskia’s arrival on January 4th. When the stock market crashed, life went from having everything to absolutely nothing. I suppose it’s a chance to start at ground zero with a good attitude and faith in the good energies that will allow folks, such as us, to continue the struggle and create. It gives the world a chance to even out. Anyhow, I wish you strength, peace, joy, and love in life… James”

I responded…

Dear James… “I’m so sorry for your loss, but I really admire your attitude!

Though I cannot say that my life has ever been overly complicated by money, property, or responsibility to another person, after going through some considerable trials in the nineties, I had an epiphany on Valentine’s Day of 1998. I relinquished many of the so-called responsibilities and comforts that American culture deems important, if not altogether essential, such as functioning as a soulless cog in the machine in order to sustain a materialistic lifestyle and pay the bills. That day, while sitting alone, I willfully decided to go against the grain. I chose to be impractical… to follow my dream to become a documentary photographer and one day work for the likes of National Geographic and Smithsonian. During this process of becoming, I not only discovered there was an artist, writer, cultural anthropologist, visual historian, and activist hiding deep within, but I also realized that I had the tools, the talents, and the resources available to me to get people to ask a lot of questions (instead of blindly accepting the party line), consider different possibilities, and even change their thought patterns and behaviors. Though I have struggled along the way, as a direct result of these choices I have experienced some unbelievable moments in our history, met some truly unique and talented people, and come to know and love (and be loved by) those who I consider to be my dearest friends, without whom, I suspect, I would be little more than a pale interpretation of who I currently am, if not dead.

It may sound cliché, but I firmly believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. This, to me, means that every event that occurs in our lives – whether it is large or small, or perceived as good or bad – presents us with an array of choices. If these choices are recognized, thoughtfully considered, then acted upon, they enable the individual the opportunity to endow themselves with purpose. Essentially, these moments present us with metaphorical benchmarks, which, if attended to consciously and with optimism, result in a more meaningful existence. Additionally, through reminding ourselves to live-in-the-present and do our very best – while minimizing material attachments, emotional dependencies, and selfish expectations – we come ever closer to being truly free.

I was once in-love with a wonderful, beautiful woman who I met in Rio de Janeiro. After sharing a storybook romance, we decided to get married. However, after the hard knocks of reality weighed heavy upon our dreams, this marriage eventually came to an end. It resulted in one of the most painful and confusing experiences I had had in my life up to that point. Yet, I do not regret it having happened, nor would I choose to go back in time to change events, if I could. This is because so much good has come into my life as a direct consequence of this unpleasant event. If I we had remained together, I would neither have had the liberty nor the courage to pursue my passion as a photographer. It is likely that I would not have met any of the wonderful people who today inhabit my life. And if not for the therapeutic, creative, and purpose-driven qualities of my photography, I, as a person prone to depression, might not be alive.

Today my ex-wife is one of these dearest of friends. And though we have been apart for many years and don’t see each other as much as I wish we were able, both she and I are exactly where we need to be in our respective life situations. So, though my life was very painful and without direction at that time, it is as it should be.

Another illustration of the “Everything happens…” tenet relates to those people along the Gulf Coast who were victimized by Hurricane Katrina and the inept response of our federal government. These people had their existential foundations ripped from beneath them. Many were torn from their homes, their communities, and from everyone and everything they, and their families had known and loved for many generations. Whether upon their return to New Orleans or in another place, a many people were driven to despair, while many others tried their best to restore normalcy and routine. But apart from these people, there were a few exceptional souls who understood that their world was changing irrevocably. They allowed their repetitive routines, their material attachments, and their behavioral addictions to wither – effectively shedding their skin – as they adapted to their circumstances, became sensitive to their present, and expressed their thanks for all of the genuinely valuable and important things in their life. So, though they did quietly suffer as they slowly healed, they chose to look deep within while setting their sights on the horizon as they reinvented themselves, having had their eyes opened wide.

Anyhow James, I urge you to read between the lines of your personal experience while continuing to do your very best while in the Keys or wherever you may go from there. If you have faith in yourself and the universe, and choose to remain open, who knows? Perhaps you and Saskia will meet someone who owns a boat and who needs two people to crew their journey through the Caribbean? Or perhaps you will learn to juggle while riding a unicycle and befriend a fascinating and wacky group of performers? Or perhaps you’ll save enough money through selling your art to fly from Miami to the tropics, where a small piece of land with banana trees and cockatoos patiently await your neighborly presence. Your future success is contingent upon you broadening your perspective while opening yourself to new experiences and ways of being…

Trust yourself. Take a few risks. And live each day honestly, authentically, and completely. A great adventure awaits you…

In fact, it has already begun.

:) Craig”

Pardon Me!?!

Just yesterday I received an e-mail from the ACLU mentioning that George W. Bush may very well give Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and others who are or have been in his administration something known as a Preemptive Pardon. When I read this, I said to myself, “Preemptive? WTF!?!”

What rational explanation can justify the granting of immunity by a sitting President to a person who has not yet been convicted nor even formally charged with a crime? It sounds ridiculous, yet it seems to have been acted upon once already… when Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon a presidential pardon before he had been convicted or even formally charged with the Watergate crimes.

Doesn’t this go against core American values of justice and due process? And isn’t it implicit that by allowing high-ranking officials to evade accountability for undermining the Constitution and violating the law will give a “Get Out Of Jail” pass to future public officials who commit high crimes against the people of the world, or against the interests of the American People? Maybe I’m naive, but doesn’t this define a certain powerful segment of the upper tier of our society as above the law? And how can a sitting president project his will into a succeeding president’s term, effectively nullifying the possibility of an investigation into past activities or bringing up charges against a former official?

Let me remind the reader that several officers in this administration, including the President himself, could easily be accused and tried for crimes such as subterfuge, libel, misrepresentation, torture, illegal wiretapping, and even treason under our own Federal laws. And though it would require a great act of political courage by our President Elect, Barack Obama, followed by the tying up our courts for a good whi a series of independent investigations are under way, would most certainly send a precedent to all future public officials and elected representative that they ARE accountable to their actions.

There are so many questions that need answers, such as “Was there tampering and/or fraud committed during the 2000 and 2004 elections?” Or, “Were any of the Bush Administration or American Neo-Conservatives involved with the planning, goings-on, or suppression of information that led to 9/11? And what about war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it is understood under the Geneva Convention and the International Criminal Court?

The Geneva Convention, which was ratified by the U.S., and is therefore as applicable as our own laws, is explicit in that it prohibits torture, the use of “violence,” “cruel treatment” or “humiliating and degrading treatment” against a detainee “at any time and in any place whatsoever.” The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony.

This preemptive perversion of the Presidential Pardon would enable Bush to prevent any future criminal investigation into his administration’s activities. Though interestingly, through accepting a pardon, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and so on would be, by default, admitting their guilt.

In an editorial by The New York Times, it stated:

“The Bush administration distorted statutes and case law to legally justify interrogation techniques that had long been considered torture under domestic and international law. It relied on sloppy or aggressive legal analysis as a basis for evading judicial review of a warrantless wiretapping program. It has at every turn chosen the most expansive interpretation of the law to rationalize indefinite detentions and deny federal court review to those in custody. It has, in short, determined its preferred course of action first and then stitched together absurd readings of the law to defend those choices.”

With regard to torture, to outline the laws broken by our public officials, I offer the following information…

To show how inhumane the practice is, a U.S. volunteer is waterboarded.

To show how inhumane the practice is, a U.S. volunteer is waterboarded.

Dick Cheney, the sitting Vice President, orchestrated the use of torture, secret prisons, and detention without charge. The vice president’s office played a central role in eliminating limits on coercion in U.S. custody, and created a distinction between forbidden “torture” and the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods of questioning which they advanced as permissible.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner, believed to be Satar Jabar, who reportedly was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner, believed to be Satar Jabar, who reportedly was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, authorized the use of abusive interrogation methods at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and Abu Ghraib. These methods included abuse, humiliation, torture, sodomy, and homicide.

Lynndie England and Charles Graner posing with prisoners ordered to form a human pyramid.

Lynndie England and Charles Graner posing with prisoners ordered to form a human pyramid.

John Ashcroft, the former US Attorney General, reportedly participated in National Security Council meetings authorizing specific forms of abuse on specific prisoners, and approved Office of Legal Counsel torture memoranda.

England pointing to a naked prisoner being forced to masturbate in front of his captors.

England pointing to a naked prisoner being forced to masturbate in front of his captors.

George Tenet, forner Director of the CIA, oversaw the Extraordinary Rendition Program (the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another, particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners or to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture), as well as the abusive interrogation methods, including waterboarding, by CIA officials.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick sitting on an Iraqi detainee between two stretchers.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick sitting on an Iraqi detainee between two stretchers.

John Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, authored memos that tried to provide a legal basis for the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.

United States soldier Spc. Graner prepares to punch restrained prisoners.

United States soldier Spc. Graner prepares to punch restrained prisoners.

Alberto Gonzales, the former White House Counsel, chaired discussions about the authorization of specific forms of torture and abuse, and urged the president not to apply the Geneva Conventions to many of the detainees.

Spc. Charles Graner poses over Manadel al-Jamadis corpse.

Spc. Charles Graner poses over Manadel al-Jamadi's corpse.

Condoleeza Rice, the current Secretary of State, chaired the National Security Council meetings reportedly authorizing specific forms of abuse on specific prisoners.

One of the previously unreleased images released in February 2006 by SBS in Australia, showing a man covered in excrement forced to pose for the camera.

One of the previously unreleased images released in February 2006 by SBS in Australia, showing a man covered in excrement forced to pose for the camera.

In my opinion, this should be fought against, tooth and nail, by the American People. Then, there should be clear and rigorous conditions placed on the whens, hows, and limitations of a Presidential Pardon.

The pardon should be made available to correct judicial error, not used for the sake of political expediency or to absolve an administration’s criminal activities.

And now the big question… if these and the many other accusations against the Bush Administration (especially those of fraudulent election activity and/or involvement with 911) are found to be true in a court of law, would it not be prudent to retroactively nullify the many laws and appointments that this administration has made?

What do you think?

•••

Sources include the ACLU’s letter and citations from Wikipedia

Knowledge Begets Wisdom: A List Of Recommended Documentary Films

Have you ever had one of those moments when you just wanted to sit back and relax to some informative variant or another about the beauty, mystery, and/or stupidity of our strange existence?

Does anyone remember 1970’s public television? When some disaffected scientist’s voice would describe the mating habits of the Australian Dingo? Well, the documentary film has come a very long way since those slow days when making the choice to spend your free time learning was painfully boring, and those audio samples are relegated to the likes of music by Boards Of Canada. Whether it be the works of Michael Moore’s biased dissertations, Ron Fricke’s audio/visual tapestries, Danny Schechter’s brilliant investigative journalism, or the new age revelations of glorified infomercials, such as “The Secret”, learning about ourselves, our world, and our universe has never been so enjoyable as well as informative.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I truly look forward to a day when soulless corporations, at least as we know and understand them, will meet their demise. But one company, Netflix, has actually managed to enrich my life through providing me with a quality array of great films and documentary, both quickly and inexpensively. With that said, I’d like to recommend the following films with hopes that you won’t have to waste too much time trying to figure out what to watch. I too hope that you will gain and put to use the knowledge and wisdom you are sure to acquire about the oft overlooked reality that stealthfully affects us everyday.

If you have any great recommendations, please let me know so I can add it to the list…

Politics and War…

No End In Sight: This in-depth, Oscar-nominated documentary from filmmaker (and former Brookings Institution fellow) Charles Ferguson examines the decisions that led to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the handling of the subsequent occupation by President George W. Bush and his administration. Featuring exclusive interviews with central players and detailed analysis, the film pulls no punches as it chronicles the twists and turns America took on the path to war.

WMD: Weapons Of Mass Deception: Independent investigative reporter and filmmaker Danny Schechter’s documentary focuses on how the media shaped people’s views of the Iraq War through their intense coverage from the war’s inception through February 2004. Schechter’s film examines provocative theories such as the Pentagon’s involvement in media messages, how new methods such as satellites and embedded journalists affected media coverage, and the competition between media outlets.

Zeitgeist: Produced by Peter Joseph, was created as a nonprofit expression to inspire people to start looking at the world from a more critical perspective and to understand that very often things are not what the population at large think they are. IMPORTANT NOTE: The introduction, being the first ten minutes, or so, is cheesy, amateurish film making. Skip it.

Iraq in Fragments: Honored with an Oscar nod and prizes for editing and cinematography at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, director James Longley’s striking portrait of a nation divided presents a collage of images and commentary from ordinary Iraqi citizens coping with the effects of war, political unrest, religious feuds and an uncertain future. Moving beyond the abstract, the film powerfully captures the indelible humanity of those living in a country defined by conflict.

Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers: Private contractors are getting rich while everybody else is suffering: This is the point director Robert Greenwald makes — passionately — in this 2006 documentary. Using whistleblower testimony, firsthand accounts, financial records and classified documents, Greenwald levels charges of greed, corruption and incompetence against private contractors and shows the subsequent devastating effect on Americans and Iraqis.

War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death: Based on Norman Solomon’s revealing book and narrated by actor Sean Penn, War Made Easy exposes the government’s and the media’s purported history of deceiving the American people and leading us into war after war. Using archival footage of past presidents, including Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and both Bushes, and media correspondents like Walter Cronkite, the documentary sheds light on propaganda pushing and draws parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

The Weather Underground: A sobering documentary about a group of 1960s “committed freedom fighters” known as The Weather Underground. A radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen didn’t just march or sit in; they rioted and bombed — not to change the American political scene but rather to destroy it. The organization was part of a global trend of revolution that sprang from the belief that not acting against violence is violence.

Why We Fight: Filmed during the Iraq War, this documentary dissects America’s military machine with a keen eye to answering the question: Why does America engage in war? Through personal stories of soldiers, government officials, scholars, journalists and innocent victims, the film examines the political and economic interests and ideological factors, past and present, behind American militarism. Winner of the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Award.

911 In Plane Sight: This provocative documentary probes the theories behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, focusing on live video footage captured that day that aired only once on TV and was never shown again. The film examines alternative causes of the crash on the Pentagon and questions whether the damage was inflicted by a 757. The documentary also asks if explosives might have been already present in the World Trade Center and aboard United Airlines Flight 175

Orwell Rolls in His Grave: Documentary filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas presents a riveting argument for his theory that America is under an Orwellian watch with the rise to prominence of the radical, right-wing Republican party, an ascent aided, unwittingly or not, by the mainstream media. Here, Pappas interviews an impressive roster, including Center for Public Integrity director Charles Lewis, legal analyst Vincent Bugliosi and liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.

Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties: Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress passed a series of legislations known as The Patriot Act, which is designed to assist law enforcement in preventing future terrorist attacks. Take an inside look at this controversial bill through the eyes of legal analysts and constitutional experts as they examine the possible dangers The Patriot Act poses to our civil liberties and individual freedoms.

The Peace!: Amid an escalating war in Iraq, rising terror levels and the threat of nuclear attack, a growing body of intellectuals, religious leaders and community organizers are getting tough with their questions about peace — and that’s no oxymoron. To shed light on the answers, filmmakers Gabriele Zamparini and Lorenzo Meccoli record a variety of speakers, including Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, Scott Ritter, Pete Seeger, Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal. NOTE: The first half is good, but it loses all of its steam toward the end.

Bowling For Columbine: Famed filmmaker and left-wing political humorist Michael Moore tackles America’s obsession with firearms in this Oscar-winning documentary. Focusing mainly on the Columbine massacre in April 1999, Moore also visits a Michigan bank that gives new customers a free gun, recites statistics for gun deaths in the United States and interviews folks ranging from National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston to shock rocker Marilyn Manson.

Business and Economy…

The Corporation: This documentary charts the spectacular rise of corporations as a dramatic, pervasive presence in our lives. Filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott present a timely, entertaining critique of global conglomerates as they chronicle the origins of corporations, as well as their inner workings, controversial impacts and possible futures. The pros and cons are weighed via interviews with social critics such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.

In Debt We Trust: Filmmaker and former journalist Danny Schechter (WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception) investigates Americans’ ongoing love affair with credit cards and the staggering level of personal debt it’s created, paying special attention to the relationship between Congress and the credit card industry. In a modern society that’s increasingly “financialized,” consumer debt is so common that extending credit has become highly lucrative.

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room: Based on the book of the same name by Peter Elkin, director Alex Gibney’s documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the powerful energy company whose downfall forever changed the landscape of the business world. With a blend of fascinating footage, fast-paced interviews and a wealth of information, this film is a serious lesson in the potential trappings of dishonesty and unethical behavior dogging corporate America today.

Roger and Me: In this blistering, satirical documentary, ex-journalist Michael Moore gives a personal account of the tough times in his hometown of Flint, Mich., after the General Motors plant was closed in the mid-1980s. The film revolves around Moore’s dogged attempts to gain an interview with Roger Smith, the elusive and well-insulated head of GM and the man responsible for massive layoffs that eliminated more than 30,000 jobs and left the town destitute.

America: Freedom to Fascism: Acclaimed filmmaker Aaron Russo directs this thorough investigation into the creation of the Federal Reserve and the controversial legislation (or lack thereof) that requires all American citizens to pay income taxes. Through revelatory interviews with key members of Congress, a former IRS Commissioner, tax attorneys, agents from the IRS and FBI, and various authors, Russo demystifies federal income tax and the creation of money. NOTE: It’s not a particularly well produced film, but the historical information and interviews are excellent.

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash: Produced by award-winning filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, this documentary examines the world’s dependency on oil and the impending chaos that’s sure to follow when the resource is depleted. Straight from the headlines, this hot-button topic may represent the world’s most dire crisis. Through expert interviews, the film spells out in startling detail the challenge we all face and underscores our desperate need for alternative energy.

Maxed Out: Investigating both the personal and the national debt owed by Americans, this thought-provoking documentary explores the staggering financial burden we live with every day and exposes how the contemporary financial industry is set up in ways that can harm unwitting customers. With both sobering facts and black humor, Maxed Out unveils the consequences of our debt addiction, including its contribution to the vanishing of the American middle class.

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price: Producer, director and activist Robert Greenwald takes aim at the corporate giant that’s come to symbolize big business in America: Wal-Mart. Blasting the box-store Goliath for allegedly paying substandard wages, skimping on employee health benefits and eviscerating communities, this hard-hitting, emotional documentary profiles the struggle of everyday folks from around the country who’ve committed themselves to fighting the mega-retailer. NOTE: Though I believe this documentary is poorly produced, the interviews and information is invaluable.

Media…

Outfoxed: Rupurt Murdoch’s War on Journalism: Finally, a no-holds-barred documentary on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, which has been criticized in some quarters as running a “race to the bottom” in television news. Offering an in-depth look at the dangers of burgeoning corporations that take control of the public’s right to know, the film explores Murdoch’s ever-expanding media empire and its impact on society. Media experts such as Jeff Cohen and Bob McChesney are interviewed.

Control Room: This documentary peers into the controversial and often dangerous operations of the 7-year-old Al Jazeera news network. Although it often enrages its own people, the news outlet has become the most accepted informational resource in the Arab community. Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim gains extraordinary access to Al Jazeera journalists and examines the risks they confront on a daily basis.

Science…

The Elegant Universe: Brian Greene, a Columbia University physics professor and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe, hosts this fascinating exploration of string theory. Beginning with an overview of general physics concepts, Greene moves on to a straightforward and visually stimulating explanation of the more recent string theory that unites relativity and quantum mechanics. A profile of Einstein and an explanation of his theory of relativity are included.

Connections 1: How did a test of gold’s purity in 500 B.C. lead to the invention of the atomic bomb? James Burke, host of this beloved 1978 TV documentary series, makes this and other beguiling connections between history and science. Combing through 12,000 years of history, this Sherlock Holmes of science finds clues that led to various modern inventions. Burke’s droll humor, careful reenactments and stirring use of classical music helped to make this a BBC hit.

Connections 2: History links seemingly disparate past events to form a fascinating whole in this intriguing show featuring British intellectual James Burke, who makes connections between such moments as the invention of the French loom and the creation of computer giant IBM; the naissance of the steam pump and the production of carbon paper; and the use of water pipes and the streamlining of carburetors. What results is nothing short of educational magic.

Connections 3: Intrepid host James Burke connects the seemingly random dots between one scientific or historical event and another, creating a fascinating, weblike tableau of the past in this popular Learning Channel series. Learn how the invention of the superconductor and the study of oceans are linked and how the exploration of a plethora of other topics, including geysers and handwriting analysis, helped shape the world as we know it today

Environment…

Baraka: The relationship between humans and their environment is the subject of this mesmerizing visual study from Ron Fricke, the cinematographer and editor of Koyaanisqatsi. The images — which Fricke gathered from 24 countries — range from the daily devotions of Tibetan monks and whirling dervishes to a cigarette factory and time-lapse views of the Hong Kong skyline. Diverse world music accompanies the visuals.

The 11th Hour: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary on the global environmental crisis paints a portrait of a planet at risk while also offering some exciting and radical solutions for making life on earth sustainable. Tapping the brains of leading scientists and thinkers — including Stephen Hawking and Mikhail Gorbachev — the film ultimately delivers a hopeful message: Our planet may be in crisis, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late change.

The End of Suburbia: This provocative documentary, a regular on the film-festival circuit, examines the history of suburban life and the wisdom of this distinctly American way of life. A post-World War II concept, suburbia attracted droves of people, giving rise to sprawl and all that comes with it — good and bad. How has the environment been affected by this lifestyle, and is it sustainable? Canadian director Gregory Greene dares to ask all the tough questions

An Inconvenient Truth: Director-producer Davis Guggenheim (HBO’s “Deadwood”) captures former Vice President Al Gore in the midst of waging a passionate campaign — not for the White House, but for the environment. Laying out the facts of global warming without getting political, Gore makes a sobering impression in this Oscar-winning doc on the audiences who hear his message, urging them to act “boldly, quickly and wisely” … before it’s too late to act at all.

Microcosmos: Critters of the small kind are featured in this interesting look at the seldom-explored world of insects, snails and other undersized creatures as they go about their daily lives. By using unique microscopic cameras and powerful specialized microphones, this highly praised French documentary gives new meaning to “a bug’s life.”

Culture…

Baraka: The relationship between humans and their environment is the subject of this mesmerizing visual study from Ron Fricke, the cinematographer and editor of Koyaanisqatsi. The images — which Fricke gathered from 24 countries — range from the daily devotions of Tibetan monks and whirling dervishes to a cigarette factory and time-lapse views of the Hong Kong skyline. Diverse world music accompanies the visuals.

The Story Of Weeping Camel: This unique documentary follows a Mongolian camel that’s rejected her newborn white colt. Throughout her difficult delivery, the camel is aided by a family of shepherds, who instantly notice the mother’s rejection and make valiant efforts to warm the mother to her child. Now, all hope lies with the family’s two young boys, who must travel across the Gobi desert to find a healing musician. Will the violinist’s ritual do the trick?

The Up Series: In 1964, Michael Apted interviewed a group of 7-year-old kids in England, all from different backgrounds and with big dreams, and has tracked their lives every seven years since. Now, those kids are 49 years old, and this intriguing documentary series reveals how their individual journeys are a microcosm of Britain as a whole. You’ll see how the kids who once had goals of going to college ended up living the dream or falling by the wayside. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Because each volume of this series was filmed at 7 year intervals, if watched in succession, the viewer must put up with some repetition due to an introductory summary of each subjects’ past, effectively catching the viewer up to all that had come before. Nonetheless, it is a truly unique and profound series, and should be viewed like such: 7 Up, 14 Up, 21 Up 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up… and in 2012 it will be followed by 56 Up.

Born Into Brothels: This Oscar-winning documentary is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in Calcutta’s red-light district, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Spurred by the kids’ fascination with her camera, Zana Briski, a photographer documenting life in the brothels, decides to teach them photography. As they begin to look at and record their world through new eyes, the kids awaken to their own talents and sense of worth.

Religion…

Zeitgeist: Produced by Peter Joseph, was created as a nonprofit expression to inspire people to start looking at the world from a more critical perspective and to understand that very often things are not what the population at large think they are. IMPORTANT NOTE: The introduction, being the first ten minutes, or so, is cheesy, amateurish film making. Skip it.

Jesus Camp: This riveting Oscar-nominated documentary offers an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture where devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens’ spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism as they’re exhorted to “take back America for Christ.”

Fall From Grace: For years, the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have preached a message of intolerance and hatred, aimed at homosexuals. This compelling documentary shines a spotlight on Phelps and his followers, widely condemned as a hate group. K. Ryan Jones’s debut takes a hard look a church that claims that everything from the poor economy to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks can be tied to God’s wrath over so-called sexual deviance.

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple: How could one man persuade 900 people to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid in the jungles of Guyana? That man, of course, was Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones, and this film tries to answer that question by providing a portrait of the demented preacher. Using never-before-seen footage and audio accounts of two Jonestown survivors, documentarian Stanley Nelson paints a chilling picture of a social experiment gone horribly awry.

Health…

Super Size Me: On the heels of recent lawsuits against McDonald’s, director Morgan Spurlock takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body. For one month, Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald’s food, ordering everything on the menu at least once and “super-sizing” his order if asked. With obesity on the rise, Spurlock’s film begs the question: Where does personal responsibility end and corporate responsibility begin?

Sicko: Michael Moore sets his sights on the plight of the uninsured in this eye-opening, Oscar-nominated documentary. In the world’s richest country, 45 million people have no health insurance, while HMOs grow in size and wealth. Moore also explores the widespread use of antidepressants and their possible link to violent behavior. With his trademark humor and confrontational style, Moore asks the difficult questions to get to the truth behind today’s health care.

Art…

Rivers and Tides: This amazing documentary from Thomas Riedelsheimer won the Golden Gate Award Grand Prize for Best Documentary at the 2003 San Francisco International Film Festival. The film follows renowned sculptor Andy Goldsworthy as he creates with ice, driftwood, bracken, leaves, stone, dirt and snow in open fields, beaches, rivers, creeks and forests. With each new creation, he carefully studies the energetic flow and transitory nature of his work.

Personality…

The Eyes Of Tammy Faye: Tammy Faye Bakker’s journey from traveling evangelist to weepy, scandal-scarred cult icon is chronicled in this tongue-in-cheek documentary from Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. The film (which was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival) details the affair that ended the PTL Ministry of Tammy and husband Jimmy Bakker as well as Tammy’s emergence as a hero to alternative-lifestyle communities. RuPaul Charles narrates.

Pumping Iron: In 1977, this independent documentary shone a light on the world of bodybuilding, unaware that it would launch one man’s multimillion-dollar career and forever change the face of bodybuilding and physical fitness. Starring five-time Mr. Olympia winner (and now mega-movie star) Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie follows the then 28-year-old bodybuilder as he competes for his sixth title. Includes interviews with Schwarzenegger, outtakes and more.

When We Were Kings: Legendary boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman travel to Zaire for the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight title bout in director Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning documentary. At the time, Foreman was world champion, and Ali was supposedly past his prime. Financial and legal issues shelved the film for two decades, but this glimpse of Ali in the years after his moral opposition to U.S. military service showcases a sporting and cultural milestone.

New Age…

What the $*! Do We Know!?: The neurological processes and “quantum uncertainty” of life are explored in this film. Thrust from her mundane life into an Alice in Wonderland-like world, Amanda (Marlee Matlin) must develop a brand-new perception of the world and the people she interacts with. Interviews with various experts are interspersed throughout the film, which combines narrative, documentary and animation. IMPORTANT NOTE: This film is so poorly acted and produced it’s laughable, however the interviews and general message are invaluable.

The Secret: Believed to have been in existence for thousands of years, The Secret is only now being shared to the world. It’s supposedly what brought success to such greats as Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Andrew Carnegie. In this video, The Secret is revealed and taught by over 50 teachers, including writers, philosophers, doctors and scientists, to empower viewers to achieve success in their careers, relationships and health. IMPORTANT NOTE: This too is very poorly produced, almost to the effect of being a sappy infomercial. I also think it’s message is misdirected, putting too much effort into convincing the viewer that what should be “attracted” is superficially material in nature. All this aside, if the viewer can understand the message that lurks beneath the surface this revelation can be life changing.

Science Fiction? No More…

Over one-hundred years ago H.G. Wells enlivened our collective imagination with time machines and alien visitation, while soon thereafter one of the very first short films showed a rocket blasting off to crash into the eye of the moon. We were entertained by these ideas, but said to ourselves and each other, “That’s impossible!” As the 20th Century progressed, Albert Einstein, Nicola Tesla, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry, and many other scientists, writers, philosophers, and futurists challenged our imagination with concepts, many of which have since come to pass into the realm of the possible.

Its always been considered impossible by the realists... while the dreamers often seem to find a way.

The realists probably invented the word "impossible"... meanwhile the dreamers were discovering ways to make possible the impossible.

I guess the lesson I am trying to impart is that, if we put our hearts and minds into an endeavor, whether it be a personal manifestation or a great discovery for the good (or not so good) of humanity, very little of what is humanly imaginable is truly impossible.

With that said, here are a few links to little known advances and discoveries that you should know about from over the decade…

What About Immortality?

Read: “Who Wants To Live Forever?”

•••••••

And Weather Modification?

Watch: “H.A.A.R.P.”

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Time Travel?

Watch: “National Geographic Takes A Look At Time Travel”

•••••••

And Water As Fuel?

Watch: “Denny Klein and HHO Gas”

Watch: “Stan Meyer and the Water Fuel Cell”

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And Ultra-Efficient Solar Collectors?

Watch: “Solar Energy Technology Breakthrough”

•••••••

And A Quasi-Perpetual Motion Machine?

Watch: “Zero-Point Energy Off-The-Grid Home Generator”

•••••••

And Teleportation?

Read: “Australian Teleport Breakthrough”

Read: “Teleportation Breakthrough Made”

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And Invisibility?

Read: Science Reveals The Secrets Of Invisibility”

And From The Ashes… An Apple?

It’s all coming to a head…

As a result of decades of unbridaled, Laissez Faire, Trickle Down Reaganomics, and a detached culture that has become spoiled by overabundance and privilege, my nation is going down in flames. Today, every crisis imaginable descends upon our collective shoulders as the Bush Administration makes ready to depart from the White House. And in the aftermath, he and his cronies more than likely walk quietly into the short memory of most Americans, left unaccountable to the high crimes his administration has committed over the past eight years.

How do I despise W? Let me count the ways… Two wars, bad foreign relations across-the-board, a cascade of sub-prime mortgage failures, an ever growing energy crisis, the collapse of Wall Street along with global banking and insurance institutions, the likely demise of the Big Three US automobile manufacturers, a sharp rise in unemployment and violent crime, social discontent, and the pending bankruptcy of the American tax-payers’ collective coffer. Whew! Thank goodness W didn’t succeed with convincing us to invest our Social Security dollars into Wall Street, huh? Nonetheless, most of us view these troubling times as unparalleled in the history of Western Civilization. I agree. But as the mythological Phoenix eventually rises from the ashes, I consider this period necessary. In order for our civilization to evolve, to rethink our relationship to one another and the planet that sustains us, our society must experience a metaphorical mid-life crisis that will give us the opportunity to view our own species’ existence and mortality straight in the face and rethink all that we have taken for granted.

Bailing out failing financial institutions is not an answer...
Bailing out our failing financial institutions is not the answer… It’s time for a paradigm change.

As with any great paradigm shift though, there will, of course, be casualties. But that’s a natural quality of growth. It’s almost always accompanied by pain and loss. However, as difficult as the challenges ahead will most certainly be, this may very well be the greatest opportunity ever presented for the continued existence of our species. As hopeless as it may all seem, we are seeing glimpses of cultural enlightenment. For the very first time in the history of the United States, we have elected our very first African-American President. Thankfully, this is indicative of a major shift in our way of thinking and doing and being. But aside from the unprecedented skin color of Mr. Obama, he also gives me the impression that he is quite possibly the most genuine, intelligent, conscious, selfless, and forward-thinking of politicians since FDR. With regard to these qualities, however, I guess only time will reveal the truth…

Meanwhile, as Mr. Obama awaits his democratically elected seat of power, the politicos chatter about stimulating the economy with unoriginal ideas such as tax-payer bail-outs and road-building. I disagree with these strategies wholly. We should NOT be propping up or rewarding failed institutions and amoral corporate miscreants to deliver more of the same. Nor should we be investing our valuable time and resources toward expanding an archaic, wasteful, and filthy infrastructure. The era of the automobile as we know it is nearing it’s end. With the limited national resources that remain in what now amounts to a giant basic checking account, we should not only become more intentional and strategic in our planning process, we should endeavor to create a future for our children that is worthy of praise. The representative powers that WE elect and who are accountable to US should impose clear and stringent standards alongside serious consequences so that we will discourage the furtherance of our greedy, selfish, and misguided behaviors.

At this time, when the planet is, without a doubt, rebelling against our myopic and exploitive occupancy, and its resources are either tainted and dwindling, we are perfectly positioned to put our hearts and minds, our fiscal assets and labor resources toward becoming the global leaders in a Green Revolution.

At this very moment, we have an enormous, unemployed, skilled labor force that is sitting idle. Let’s train and employ them to retrofit the rust belt to manufacture “green” vehicles, products, and technologies. Meanwhile, let’s draw the finest technological/scientific minds away from creating video games and new weapons of mass destruction to instead work on developing more efficient solar, wind, and transportation technologies.

Environmentalism, Socialism, and Capitalism are NOT necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. Similar to Roosevelt’s New Deal, there are millions of jobs yet to be created and trillions of dollars to be made through creating clean and renewable fuels, building (and retrofitting) energy efficient architecture, improving energy collection and waste disposal/reuse technologies, restoring the quality of our water, land, and air, consolidating our physical infrastructure (in the interest of preserving the natural environment and promoting community), and developing quick, inexpensive, and efficient modes of private and mass transportation. With consideration to the American work ethic, will, determination, and vision that made this nation what it became in the 20th Century, what if we put dedicated ourselves to institutionalizing a functional paradigm? Suits and hippies alike, we may very well be able to create a global movement toward a conscious and sustainable future.

In addition to these programs, we SHOULD be investing the balance of those hundreds of billions of dollars into creating cutting edge educational, health care, public transportation, and physical infrastructure systems. Let’s endow our children and young adults with a sense of identity, purpose, and meaning. Let us no longer deny the realities of sex. Let’s teach them the basics of parenting along with the sacrifices, the consequences, and the resources available to them. Let’s carefully select our teachers and pay them well. Let’s encourage preventative medicine and healthy patterns of behavior. Let’s strengthen our society’s weakest links by putting our criminals to work in our communities or compel them to serve in the military. Let’s tighten-up our development patterns and promote mixed-use development to encourage the formation of diverse communities while enabling accessibility for everyone.

Think about it for a moment… If, as part of a 20- to 30-year plan, we were to recognize our potential as a species – with aspirations to become an intelligent, healthy, conscious, and functional society – ignorance, fear, and crime would diminish considerably while our quality-of-life and worldwide reputation would improve measurably. If such standards were put into practice, the United States could very well lead the world’s nations on a path toward economic, environmental, and social excellence.

Stretched Canvas Prints For Sale – Greatly Reduced Prices

Dear Friends… I am currently going through a fiscal rough patch, so I hope y’all will take a moment to give the following images a look and consider buying one or a few as canvas gicleé prints. I am selling these at severely reduced prices with hopes to bring in enough money to take care of my October rent and bills.

The following images represent the canvas prints and range in size between 30×40 inches and 12×16 inches. And while a few are #1’s in their respective editions, many are artist proofs (meaning they are acceptable, but not quite up to my print standards). These artist proofs are greatly reduced with hopes to bring in enough to cover my cost to have had them produced. So, if you’re interested in either the limited edition prints or the artist’s proofs, or if you think you know someone who may be interested, please let me know… and feel free to pass this link along. It would be extremely helpful and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! :) Craig

PS- if the print you like is still too much for your budget, feel free to make an offer along with the title of the print, and I will give it consideration. Thx!

My Lame Gulf Oil Spill Project…

An Open Letter To President Obama: “One Solution For Many Problems – A Strong Case For Transitioning Into A Green Economy”

Dear Mr President,

As you are aware, FDR led the charge toward our involvement in WWII with a “total mobilization of manpower, industry, and logistics” by committing ALL of our available resources toward the war effort, while a decade earlier, he initiated The New Deal through creating public programs toward relief, recovery, reform, and beautification. I think you would agree that FDR’s policies were no less than instrumental in transforming the US into one of the most powerful and respected nations on the planet.

So, with regard to the various crises our nation is experiencing, my questions to you are as follow:

– Being that the future of our nation, our children’s future, and all of life on Earth may very well be on the line, would you take a firm stance to implement constructive programs and policies similar to that of FDR which could ultimately reunite the people under a unified cause, and again infuse our nation with a sense of purpose and pride?

– And, do you have the political courage, conviction, and will to resist: corporate hegemony and greed; the short-sighted, lying, and self-interested Right; the career-minded political establishment; and the oft innate desire to preserve one’s own career, even if it’s at the expense of a greater good?

If so, I ask that you take a moment to please consider the following…

It is my belief that within three to five years, the US could effectively solve many of the problems it currently faces by strategically hurling one, bold stone. This ‘stone’ would be to commit to a fearless and resolute transition away from a Fossil Fuel dependent economy into a Green economy, while concurrently stating to the American people, in a confident, calm, and clear tone, how such an effort would effectively be beneficial, if not altogether profitable, to everyone in both short order and over the long run.

A committed effort to transform our economy into one that is sustainable would:

1. Breath life into and grow a newer, cleaner manufacturing base.

2. After a training period, put millions of people to work almost immediately, while giving them a set of increasingly valuable knowledge and skills, and improving our collective purchasing power.

3. After an initial investment, it would enable the US to pay off our national debt and reduce our annual deficit.

4. Encourage our universities, Silicon Valley, and the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and private enterprise to participate in this noble and profitable venture.

5. Enable the creation of a cooperative government network (similar to Homeland Security) through partially reconfiguring the missions and responsibilities of The National Guard, The Coast Guard, The Army Corps of Engineers, Americorps, The EPA, The Department of the Interior, The Department of Forestry, The BLM, HUD, The Department of Transportation, The National Parks Service, and The Department of Education, so as to treat the preservation of our natural environment as a national security concern.

6. Reduce our over-reliance on the private automobile and the unnecessary and redundant distribution of resources and infrastructure over great distances through encouraging compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development and regional farming.

7. Eventually result in much cleaner food, water, land, and air, which would ultimately engender a healthier population.

8. Germinate an entirely new economic sector of frontier technologies, products, and services that would be in demand the world over while making the US the go-to nation, balancing our trade deficit, and making the US the industrial pioneers by which other nations would soon follow.

9. Enable the US to become energy independent while minimizing the necessity for newly extracted fossil fuel resources, which too would reduce our artificial need to exploit and/or commit war on other regions.

10. Disable energy monopolies through decentralizing and democratizing access to energy.

11. Improve additional national security concerns through implementing #9 and #10.

12. And halt, if not altogether reverse Global Climate change over the coming decades, thereby reducing costs as well as damage to lives and properties as a result of natural disaster and rising oceans.

Mr President… Americans have once and again proven that we can accomplish anything if we commit our hearts, minds, and bodies to the task. We’ve done it before, during both the industrial and technological revolutions. We can do it again. All that we need is a strong, visionary leader to pave the way.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Craig Morse