Tag Archives: education

“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…

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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

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.

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.