Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mrs. McNeil Music of Ithaca’s Top 5 ways to support local music:

5. Get the Door: If a musician walks past you carrying an amp/ drum/ bass-cabinet/harp grab the door for them. That stuff’s heavy, and it’s nice to know you care.

4. Get it Live: Planning a wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, graduation party? Hire live musicians. There is something truly magical about music being made especially for you in an unrepeatable, unique moment.

3. Get it direct:  Buy the album or tracks directly from the musician. If you give a musician $10 for an album they get $10. If you give it to that online company, the musician may get only pennies. Same goes for t-shirts, posters, and other assorted schwag.

2. Spread the Word: If you love that song/band/concert why not post/tweet/blog/Instagram so all your friends know the awesomeness? Better yet- carpool. Load all your friends into your car so you can elbow them during the show and say “I told you this would rock.” A packed house makes the performers feel great, builds excitement for the audience, and makes whoever books for the club say “I’ve got to get these guys back here!”

1. Listen: There is no better way to support local music than to show up and listen. Why do you think that band lives 5 months a year in a tour bus eating cold pizza? Why do they spend all those hours in the practice room or rehearsal space? Because they hope that if they pour all that love and sweat and hard work into it you will listen.

[Bonus points- afterward tell them what you heard. Musicians drink that up like water on a hot day]

This is Why

Note inside card given to me by the first and third same-gender couples ever to receive a marriage license in Bradford County PA at their joint wedding on Wednesday:
"Having our wedding ceremony in our church, performed by our minister is truly a blessing and a dream come true."

Thirty years each couple had been together before that fateful court decision a few days back.

During the round of toasts that followed the 9 of us present for the ceremony lifted a glass to Unitarian Universalism for being part of the struggle.

I lifted my class and told them a day like this is why you go to seminary in the first place.

Monday, August 26, 2013

An Open Letter to Gap Inc.

Dear Gap Inc.,
I have been a loyal customer of the Gap for many years- some of my favorite clothes are from the Gap brands. Recently, however, I have been ashamed to admit to my friends that I am a Gap customer. I was deeply shaken by the factory fires in Bangladesh this past year.   Those tragedies made me question the integrity of the garment industry, and of Gap brands in particular.

 I am glad that Gap and other retailers have agreed to a “5 year safety plan but I call on Gap Inc. to be a leader in the industry by signing on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety inBangladesh.  I look forward to someday being confident that the women and men who make my clothing work in a safe environment, only then will I be a proud Gap customer again.
Rev. Darcey Laine

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Digital Divide- Update

An update from my previous post about the digital divide:

First, I should disclose that I am now blogging from a laptop made in the CURRENT CALENDAR YEAR with the Windows 8 and everything. I can't tell you what a difference it makes to be able to run two programs simultaneously, to not have a half hour boot-up time, or to be able to open iTunes without crashing the whole works.

This makes me only more adamant in my witness of the digital divide. Yes, technology is awesome -- I totally get that. But it is simply not accessible to everyone. A friend moved about a half an hour outside of town, and though the neighbors one block over have cable TV and Internet, the cable just doesn't cross the street. The good people at Time Warner Cable said they'd be happy to run a cable out to her house for the low-low price of $20,000. She now waits until she drives into town to check her e-mail at the bookstore cafe on her laptop.  Now imagine that you can't afford a laptop and so you are one of the millions of Americans who can only access the Internet in half hour increments at the public library. Doesn't it make you want to lobby your elected officials for a "Rural Internet Act" in the spirit of the "Rural Electrification Act" that brought the electric light to rural America in the late 1930s? Perhaps some kind of governmental computer upgrade program so that not only would every home have a computer, but one that us up-to-date enough to run the current version of, let's say, iTunes?

Second, I am disturbed by the fundamental misunderstanding of why the technological divide exists. On the Colbert Report last spring, Google's Eric Schmidt said "In the next few years years 5 Billion people are going to join the 2 billion of us who are already on it." [this is around 3 minutes into the video] He says tht these are the 5 billion people, [like me], who are currently using "dumb phones" in places like "Africa, Asia and the poor parts of America."  Apparently we are all going to be converted to smart phones. But Mr. Schmidt does not explain how all of these folks [like me] are going to pay for their data plans. Nor does he explain how we are going to extend cell phone coverage to all those currently un-covered areas [like my friend's house] that are too sparsely populated to seem worth covering by for-profit corporations.

I also recommend that Mr. Schmidt check his math --  there are only a total of 7 billion people in the world today, and though in fact 6 million of us do have a cell phone of some kind, Mr. Schmidt's math is off by a billion people who have no cell phone of any kind. I don't think we can assume they are all going to be part of the internet comunity "in the next few years."

It reminds me of the green revolution back in the 70s. We were going to radically change our agricultural practices so that we could fight hunger around the globe. Recently a World Bank report showed that it is actually not a lack of food that creates global hunger, but a lack of money to pay for said food. According to the United Nations, there are 870 million chronically hungry people in the world today. 2.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation. If we can't even get food and clean water to all 7 billion people in the world, how on earth do we think we are going to get each and every one of them a smart phone? It feels a little like Marie Antoinette's admonition to "let them eat cake."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Festival Fashion- Part 3

But when it comes down to it,  Festival Fashion is about finding a way to express the moment.

Here we were under the blazing mid-day sun on the infield listening to Bronwen Exter, when this gorgeous breeze came up.  Suddenly the diaphanous skirt captured the zeitgeist of the moment beautifully.

Check out Bronwyn Exter in her flowy asymmetrical dress and cowboy boots
And her kick-ass fans.

After Fatoumata Diawara's mind-blowing sets on the Infield and the Grandstand, I predict this bustier, mini and pattern leggings will be "must wear" for all Grassroots band leaders.

 After a few hours of carrying all your belongings on your back, you start to covet your neighbor's utility kilt

I have got to find out who made these harem cargo-pants

By Friday morning the fashion-istas are hung over and covered in mud and it is time to let your Grassroots fly. To do that I recommend:

this bag

And obviously a tail


The royal blue napoleon jacket I saw on a shaved head young man when my camera was back at camp.

And a Parasol
[At one point I started to feel guilty- was I some heartless paparazzi? So I screwed up my courage and approached some of my subjects directly asking "Can I take your photo for my blog?"  This Father Daughter duo was the first. They jumped right in like pros.]

In fact by the end of the weekend it seemed most people just love to vogue.
By Sunday when the happiness parade circles the festival there is only one fashion rule- let your freak flag fly.

Epilogue: The patchwork maxi proved impractical in a series of drenching rains and ensuing mud. I have visions of harem pants and feathers next year. I can't wait.

Festival Fashion - Part 2

"But what am to wear with my lace top and cut-offs?" you are undoubtedly asking yourself.

Let's start at the bottom --Generally folks at GrassRoots are pretty utilitarian about shoes. A good shoe can handle not only heat but rain and mud and many hours of dancing
But we do love our boots- even on the hot hot days (but especially on those muddy days and cool evenings).

Here we have the lead singer for Elastic Bond working her boots Miami-style.

 And my favorite boot vogue...
When I asked this woman to pose, she was skeptical of my credentials- apparently she had somehow never heard of the Carrots and Ginger... 
She so captured the spirit of the moment I had to share another photo with better light.

Now to the top -- if you are not wearing flowers in your hair, you may want to consider a hat.

But  before you start in with the face and body paint, I recommend changing out of your white lace dress.

Coming up next... Capturing the Zeitgeist

Festival Fashion - Part 1

I had just found this unexpected patchwork maxi skirt in the most unexpected thrift shop. My sister looked at me quizzically until I explained "It's a festival skirt."

In the ensuing conversation she mentioned that many of the fashion blogs are obsessed with festival fashion right now. (There are fashion blogs about festival fashion? There are Fashion blogs?)
In the week leading up to our Grassroots festival she shot me links to several of said blogs, and finally parked in line for Car-camping waiting for the gates of the festival to open, I blithely promised here photos and updates on Grassroots 2013 festival fashion. This is what ensued.

After a heated discussion about under what circumstances a bra is a shirt, and the bravery of women wearing white dresses in the drenching downpour and ensuing mud, I started surreptitiously taking photos to try to capture the GrassRoots 2013 trends:

First- It goes without saying that the very short cut-offs were everywhere. Something creepy about photographing women's rear-ends in their short shorts without permission so I'll leave you to your own devices on that.

Second- the white lace dress/top. Came out of no where this year.

(Who are these brave girls wearing white dresses in this mud?)

Third - the number of women wearing flowers in their hair went up exponentially this year. Apparently my sister and I were not the only ones that saw the Coachella blogs
I believe this one was made with actual flowers...

I like this fresh take on the festival flower...

Notice that this young woman is rocking the flowers, the cut offs and the white lace. A moment of festival fashion convergence.

Coming up- feet and heads...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Not the right question

I was at a conference about social justice and immigration reform-- the Unitarian Universalists have been focused on this "Immigration as a moral issue" for the past couple of years. This day-long conference had some great speakers and I filled page after page in my notebook with all I learned that day. I raised my hand just once to ask about the assertion that immigrant labor is critical to industries like agriculture because "no American worker would want those jobs." Since, in addition to being a minister I work part time as office manager of an organic farm, I thought of all those job inquiries clogging the farm e-mail. When we post an opening (and even when we don't) we get a steady stream of qualified applicants, most of whom are American citizens. I asked the panel "if the agricultural jobs are so miserable that citizens won't apply for them,  maybe there is something wrong with the job?" and offered our farm as an alternative example. This was the wrong question apparently- there was an awkward silence and a quick change of subject.

Now I happen to be probably as far to the left as one can get on issues of immigration reform, but I feel there is a deeper issue that needs to be part of the conversation. For centuries American industry has recruit immigrants to fill jobs that are crappy. Not because American citizens are so lazy they won't do a day of hard work, but because it's much harder to exploit workers who know their rights and are rooted in local community. Perhaps American citizens would be more willing to apply for jobs in industrial agriculture if:
  1. It were not one of the leading industries for sexual assault! According to the Huffington Post, "In the Central Valley, a 2010 survey of 150 women farmworkers by a researcher from the University of California at Santa Cruz found that 80% had experienced some form of sexual harassment". Wow.
  2. If agricultural workers were not exempt from many of the same protections provided to every other worker in America-- like collective bargaining, overtime pay, and a day of rest each week.
  3. If agricultural work was not one of the most hazardous- causing more deaths than construction and mining. And remember, these are mostly jobs with no health care or disability insurance.
  4. If wage theft was not so common.
  5. If you could get a drink of water when you were thirsty; it seems that A North Carolina survey found "only 4% of farmworkers surveyed had access to drinking water, hand washing facilities, and toilets."
  6. If you could enjoy the fruits of your labor.  At the farm where I work they grow just about every fruit and vegetable that can be grown in our area, and all the farmworkers (and office staff) are offered "food from themselves and their families." People VOLUNTEER at our farm just to get a taste of strawberries or snow peas fresh picked and organic. (I think this is not so enticing if the farm where you work grows only corn or soy.)
  7. If  there was a chance for learning, advancement and growth. Because truth be told many folks who come work at our farm hope one day to have a farm of their own- or this is what they say in their cover letters anyway. Some folks work at the farm for a season and learn definitively that farming is not for them. Others come back season after season and are given opportunities for advancement. Some people just love to have their hands in the soil.
  8. If farm workers were treated with fairness, respect and dignity. That's what it all comes down to really. I suspect part of the reason our in-box is filled with hopeful resumes is because workers at our farm are treated with fairness and respect.
For centuries our country has recruited immigrants to work in industries that do not meet basic human rights. Remember the railroad? Remember the garment factories at the turn of the 20th century? (Oh heck, remember the sweat shops staffed by immigrants all over the country right now? But that's a story for another day). When immigrant workers live in constant fear of deportation, of being ripped away from their home and family they are less likely to report sexual assault or wage theft or safety violations. As soon as an immigrant group has enough roots and standing in the community to demand humane working conditions, American business turns to a new part of the world to find immigrants who won't be so picky about basic human rights.

There are a lot of important questions we need to ask about immigration policy right now. But let's not forget to ask- if there are jobs that American Citizens won't do, is there something wrong with those jobs? Because safety, fair pay and dignity are the rights of all persons, regardless of their citizenship status.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Digital Divide

My phone broke in half. Seriously. I went to the Verizon store to "upgrade." An iPhone 4 is free with data plan. A basic phone is $130 with 2 year contact. The salesman explained they are phasing out basic phones- the manufacturers are going to stop producing them. 

I ask "what about folks who can't afford a data plan?" 

He said "we are working on some all inclusive plans." 

I ask "will it cost more than what I have now?" 

He fiddles with his computer for a while, but we both know the answer. Of Course it will. 

I know that we could afford a data plan if that was the most important thing to us. If I gave up Yoga, or if my son gave up Soccer, or if we never bought anything fancy at the grocery store. But it is not the most important thing to me. In fact, I'm starting to feel downright ornery about it.

We've all heard in theory about the digital divide, but it wasn't until I was called to serve a congregation in the Endless Mountains that I met so many people who can't get cell phone coverage or cable or DSL at their homes. 

When I go to collegial events I seem to be one of the only UU ministers without a laptop or smart phone. I run into a colleague in the hall at a conference who asks "can you reply to my e-mail..." and the answer is "no, I am 1500 miles from my computer, you are going to have to talk to me now in person if you want an answer." Another colleague suggests "couldn't you get a grant to buy a laptop?" But in fact we all know that technology is not a capitol expense like a building, it is an ongoing expense requiring frequent upgrades- not one grant this year, but a new grant every 3 years or so to stay even vaguely current. And, more to the point, my congregation does not expect me to answer e-mail when I'm on the road. Because they don't have laptops or smart phone either. They have my phone number and they know they can call me if it's important. 

I write this blog on a desktop with a CPU I can barely lift. I use Word  2003 and an OS so old it has to take a nap after opening iTunes. 

I'm not even going to get into the carbon footprint of replacing our technology so often, I just want to stand at the edge of this digital divide and witness. Why does it matter? Because our elected representatives are saying things like "no one needs welfare any more because they can just start a business on the Internet." Really? Are going to buy everyone a computer and pay for their monthly DSL line. Oh, and are you going to run cable out into the truly rural areas so they aren't running their business with dial up?

I attended an anti-oppression conference and one of the other participants pondered, "don't you think all these differences are going to resolve themselves with technology?" So it's not just that some folks have technology and others don't, it's that too many of the folks who have pre-ordered their iPhone 5 don't realize that millions of Americans are completely app-less. 

Or let's think closer to home. Our own UUA has shifted some of their funding and focus from districts to regions, with tons of new webinars. Have you ever tried to attend a webinar without a high speed connection? 

Even if I could afford the data plan and could, right now, be writing all this to you from my brand new iPhone 4, I wonder if I would. I want that daily reminder that the more we transition our communications to exclusive technology, the harder we make it to communicate with all those folks on the other side of the digital divide.