Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Healthy Mistrust Still the Best Protection

In a world fueled with righteous and self righteous anger the art of assassination by internet bullet has reached epidemic proportions. Few days go by when my e-mail box does not contain some kind of vituerative comment for or against something or somebody. The other day I received a typical one that claimed that President Obama has proposed a bill that would force veterans to buy private insurance in order to be treated for their war injuries.

Obama was quoted with no attribution as saying, "Look, it's an all volunteer force, ... Nobody made these guys go to war. They had to have known and accepted the risks. Now they whine about bearing the costs of their choice? It doesn't compute. I thought these were people who were proud to sacrifice for their country, I wasn't asking for blood, just money. With the country facing the worst financial crisis in its history, I'd have thought that the patriotic thing to do would be to try to help reduce the nation's deficit. I guess I underestimated the selfishness of some of my fellow Americans."

Does this sound like something any politician of any stripe would say about veterans who will some day come to the polls with a vote? Even Obama is not that far out of touch. Does this sound like Obama's tone and language even if you ignore the content? We won't even go into the irony factor that Obama ,whose health care plans have been attacked by the charge that they would destroy private insurance and substitute government insurance, would probably not want to sponsor a law to force people into private plans.

Uhg! Enter the academic who has spent forty years teaching Communications and feels he is still fighting a losing battle with media responsibility and attribution . Luckily the web does offer some self correction modules. If you put some phrases from the original e-mail into Google, it will lead you to a site called Fact Check.org You can do this yourself. At http://www.factcheck.org/2009/05/would-obama-have-soldiers-pay-for-own-war-injuries/ you will find a step by step account of how this story developed. It is an all too common pattern. Someone’s satirical comments, that were clear in the original context, begin to morph through continuously less accurate repetitions into blatant falsehoods. It’s the old rumor game we all used to play at parties, but magnified by millions of unchallenged forwarded internet messages.

This is not new just as electronic junk mail advertising (SPAM) is not new. The solution is not new either. “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers and magazines” and especially don’t believe everything you see on a television or computer screen. Use some caution. Evaluate the source if one is apparent and if there is no attribution, be extremely suspcious of any charges or conclusions.

Thanks for listening this morning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November Arts Advocacy Bulletin

I participated in a conference call for arts advocates on behalf of the Illinois Theatre Association on October 22, 2009. It was set up by Arts Alliance Illinois and featured input from legislators, lobbyists, and Mr. Terry Scrogum, Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Council. Mostly it was bad news. Illinois arts funding has declined by an average of 49% this year and next year may be even grimmer. At a total of 7.8 million dollars this is the lowest Illinois dollar amount investment in the arts since 1988.

Our state legislators have now left Springfield until after the February primary elections effectively putting off dealing with any of the state’s many budget problems (including the arts) for another three months. This is not good, but it does mean that your state representatives may be more accessible in and around their home districts. If you will go to the web site below and enter your zip code, you can get contact information for your specific state legislators. I would ask you phone their office or send a letter to them. Tell them that you are a constituent, mention any local arts affiliations you have, and mention that you are a member of the Illinois Theatre Association. Ask them to support some restoration of funding for the Arts Council and to support coherent tax reform for the state of Illinois. http://capwiz.com/artsusa/il/state/main/?state=IL

Here is another way to stand up and be counted. If you represent an Illinois arts organization, participate in the Cultural Data Project. “If you can’t count it, it doesn’t count” is a common watchword in Springfield. Visit www.ilculturaldata.org for more information on the Cultural Data Project.

Do you live in the Peoria area? Rocco Landesman, the new chairman of the NEA will be visiting Peoria in November as a part of his “Art Works Tour of America.” He did not start his tenure too well when he wondered after his appointment whether there was any theatre in Peoria, but he has since recovered from his gaffe and is now scheduled to see Eastlight Theatre's production of "Rent." while in town. I would love to hear how his visit went. This would be a good use of our new ITA Facebook group. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?filter=app_2361831622#/group.php?gid=207088680374&ref=ts

Are you looking to volunteer for the arts or to find a volunteer project for your arts group to participate in? Try this site and plug in your state, area, city, or zip code. Wow! You may even stumble on something that pays. http://www.allforgood.org/search#q=arts&num=10&start=1&vol_loc=Illinois&timeperiod=everything&cache=1

There is at least some good news on the national arts scene. The U.S. Congress Approved 12.5 million dollars in budget Increases for the Arts and Humanities Endowments on October 29th. The final budget was decided in conference week and passed by a vote of 247–178 in the House and 72–28 in the Senate. To find out if your congressman supported the bill and to send an e-mail either congratulating or chastizing go to: http://www.capwiz.com/artsusa/issues/alert/?alertid=14261276

Wherever you might live I challenge you to consider that if you don’t give voice to the arts who will? And if you don’t act now, when will you start? A full recap of Advocacy Resources on the Illinois Arts Funding crisis is at this web site. www.box.net/shared/idt1u3sdh7.) I hope that you will use some of them.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

OFTA Features Prairie Plant Watercolorist George Olson

Above: Olson autographing a copy of his book in 2007

Join OFTA(Old Friends Talk Arts) on Wednesday, November 11th at 10:00 AM at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in downtown Monmouth, IL for a presentation on “Drawing the Plants of the Prairie” by George Olson, a well known watercolorist.

Professor Olson was on the faculty of the College of Wooster in Ohio, where he taught art from 1963 to 2000. His prairie plant studies have been exhibited widely in the U.S. and England, including more than thirty one-person exhibitions at such venues as the British Museum of Natural History, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Royal Horticultural Society. He and his wife Pat now live outside of Woodhull, IL

In his 2005 book with essayist John Madson, The Elemental Prairie: Sixty Tallgrass Plants, Olson revealed his love for the mid-western prairie and his devotion to the rendering of its astoundingly diverse plant life. One reviewer, Robert McCracken Peck of the Academy of Natural Sciences, commented “George Olson and John Madson are the artist laureate and poet laureate of the prairie. They capture its beauty, complexity, and magic in ways that allow us to really see and feel and understand this uniquely American habitat and all that it represents. The Elemental Prairie’s compelling mix of illustration and text make it one of the best natural history publications I have seen in a very long time.”

OFTA programs are available to every member of the community free of charge and come with complimentary coffee and cookies. If you have an arts related topic you would like addressed or have an arts related program you would like to present in 2010, please contact Jim De Young, the OFTA coordinator, at 734-5529 or jdeyoung@maplecity.com