Poetry, Radio, and Happenings

It’s been a busy week or two… here’s some of the latest:

*** Poetry. I still don’t have most of my newest poetry online yet. BUT, I do have some of it online now, along with links to the older poems: treesong.org/poetry

*** Radio. For those of you who don’t know, I have a radio show with my friend Aur every Friday at 10 am on WDBX 91.1 FM. The podcast is available on our website at yourcommunityspirit.org.

*** Happenings. There’s so much going on in the near future that I may just stay home and take a nap instead of trying to sort it all out. But in case you’re interested, there’s a movie at the Big Muddy IMC on Friday; an AIDS fundraiser and “T-Shirt Party” at Upside Downtown on Saturday; and various other things coming up soon.

Pretty soon, I’ll have more news to share about the updates to this website (treesong.org) and the two sites for my two latest books (Earth Conscious Revolution and Gaia’s Orphans). Earth Conscious Revolution is already available locally at Rosetta Stone Bookstore, and Gaia’s Orphans is due out Halloween 2006. (A post-apocalyptic novel coming out on Halloween! Brilliant, eh?)

Anyway, thanks for listening… and as a reward for your attentive reading, here’s a link to Weird Al’s website, which contains some funny new songs:


My personal favorite is White and Nerdy. When I have more time, I plan on starting up a quiz that rates just how White and Nerdy each of you may be based on the lyrics of the song… 🙂 My plans to go to the Ren Faire next Saturday (sirenfaire.org) will surely boost my score…

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Earth Conscious Revolution

In honor of the upcoming release of Earth Conscious Revolution, I’m going to be holding two events here in Carbondale: a book party and a book signing.

The pre-release book party is on Friday, Sep 22 at 8 pm at my home. Everyone who knows me is hereby invited. And if you’ve never seen the movie McLibel, you can swing by the Big Muddy IMC (214 N. Washington) at 7 pm and then head to the party when the movie’s over.

The book signing is on Saturday at noon at Rosetta Stone Bookstore (214 W Freeman). I’ll be reading a passage or two from the book, discussing its overall approach to revolution, and answering any questions you may have.

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Earth Activist Training

I just returned from the Earth Activist Training at Diana’s Grove in Missouri. After two weeks of intensive learning about permaculture, activism, and beyond, I have plenty to share…

First of all, on a personal level, this was a profoundly renewing and healing experience. Diana’s Grove ( http://dianasgrove.com/ ) is situated on about 100 acres of beautiful land in the hills of rural southern Missouri. My ride and I rolled into the Grove a couple of days early, so I got to spend some time adjusting to this environment by walking the land alone and helping out a bit with preparations for the coming weeks.

There are no words to convey the magic of this land! On top of the main hill, there’s a community building where meals are served and many classes are held. There’s also an extensive dog rescue program that takes in stray/abandoned dogs and locates new homes for them. So throughout my time at the Grove, my classmates and I were often accompanied by canine companions ranging from adorable little puppies to older dogs of many breeds and sizes.

At the bottom of the hill, there’s an open barn that has been converted into a community meeting space. This is where we had several of our classes, along with our end-of-session talent show and dance party. Nearby, there are two gardens, a couple of cabins, and a gift shop that supports the work of Diana’s Grove.

Just beyond the barn and at the foot of the big hill lies a great field filled with tall grasses and plants. This part of the land includes a large mowed labyrinth, a lone tree preserved in the midst of the field, and pathsways to the camping areas, stream, and other parts of the land. Included among these other areas are meeting spaces, ritual spaces, and my personal favorite — Brighid’s Grove, which is a meeting and ritual space sacred to the Goddess Brighid.

Living in a cabin on this land for two weeks was a wonderful experience — and yet, even this was overshadowed by the Earth Activist Training program itself.

The two main teachers for this EAT were Starhawk, whose writings I’ve read with great enthusiasm in the past, and Charles, a man I was less familiar with who has a great deal of knowledge and experience to share about earth activism and permaculture. They also had a student teacher named Chris who supported their efforts and presented on a number of topics of his own. Together, they lead us in a course of lectures, discussions, and hands-on learning and design activities that kept us very busy for the full two weeks. To be honest, each individual day felt more like several days worth of learning because we covered such a range of information and activity… 🙂 But somehow, they managed to weave a little time magic and pack all of that education and experience into two weeks.

The information was incredible, and hard to convey even in an extended blog entry. Our topics of study included:

* Basic permaculture principles;
* Protracted observation (actually LOOKING at existing systems before doing your design);
* Permaculture activism (events at mass demonstrations and events in local communities);
* The design process and group process (consensus);
* Political activism related to peak oil and other topics;
* Working with water as a renewable resource;
* Bioremediation;
* Soil ecology, compost, and soil health;
* Plant guilds and animals;
* Microclimates;
* Green building and renewable energy;
* Media literacy and activism;
* Making biodiesel;
* Urban permaculture strategies;
* Agroforestry;
* More on group process and consensus decision-making;
* Community Economics;
* Climate Change;
* And beyond! 🙂

It would be impossible for a single human being to be an “expert” in all of these areas. But it’s possible — and in fact, essential — for us to know the basics of all of these topics and how to apply their wisdom in our daily lives and our community infrastructure.

Before attending the EAT, I had already been aware of most if not all of these issues on some level. But during the course of the training, I learned more about each issue and how to weave them together into the design of our living systems. It’s not enough to simple consider these issues as abstract and disconnected points of discussion. Instead, we have to learn as much as possible about them so that we can weave them into a holistic understanding that will serve as the underpinning of how we look at living systems and design them in accordance with ecological principles and observations.

In addition to all of this learning, it was wonderful to connect with others who shared in this interest in permaculture and community involvement. There were 20 students total, along with the three instructors and the staff at Diana’s Grove who sometimes joined in on lunch discussions and open evening sessions. Spending two weeks with such bright and loving people was an experience that I will always treasure… and I hope that many of our connections will stay in place even over the geographical distances that now separate us.

Between the joys of the land, the power of the training program, and the opportunity to connect with all of these wonderful people, I feel incredibly blessed — and incredibly empowered to continue and renew my active involvement in Carbondale and Southern Illinois. It’s going to take me a while to digest all of this and find the best ways to apply it in our community… but in the meantime, I’ll be reaching out to many of my friends here to share what I experienced and learn what I can from all of you about the best ways that we in Southern Illinois can work together to create a better life for ourselves and our living planet.

I’ll have plenty of news soon about new projects in our area and current events with the many wonderful projects that always exist. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line and say hello…

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Superman Returns. Swell, eh?

Now that Superman’s new movie has hit the big screen, it’s time for me to delve into my latest reflections on this classic superhero. I’m sure that other people are doing this too… but most of them probably aren’t tree-hugging anarchists like me, eh? So here goes…

First of all, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I wore my now-infamous Superman costume to the local corporate movie theatre on opening night, where I was greeted with a mix of curious glances, chuckles, smiles, and even friendly conversation from strangers. For a few moments, as I sat there looking up at the pre-movie slide show of ads, I felt a bit restless. After all, Superman usually only busts out the suit when it’s time to go fly off and save the day. But with so many fellow Superman fans wearing T-shirts all around me, I was already in the mindset – and soon enough, the movie started.

Even though I’d seen half a dozen separate previews, I didn’t know what to expect. But from the moment the classic Superman theme started playing, I felt like a kid again. For over two hours, I watched a great drama unfold before my eyes. Some people might say that superhero stories are too simplistic – and when they’re poorly done, that’s a very valid critique. But when they’re at the finest, superhero dramas leap the giant chasm between simplistic stereotypes and epic archetypal narratives. And the story of Superman, for me anyway, is an archetypal narrative that speaks with tremendous power.

Of course, the anarchist tree-hugger in me has a lot of critiques about certain aspects of Superman’s story. But I can make these very serious critiques while still adopting a very playful and welcoming attitude toward our good friend Kal-El.

Yes, the whole idea of a superhero is at times paternalistic and disempowering to the “common man” (and the “beautiful woman”) who is being saved. And more often than not, Superman is a rather apolitical (or even counter-revolutionary) figure who simply helps to maintain law and order rather than addresses the deeper roots of crime, poverty, violence, etc.

But even in the movies, comics, and graphic novels, Superman does have his moments where he shines in radical critique of violence, greed, war, poverty, and other political issues. This still leaves a huge gap in the overall character development as Superman usually fails to address most of the greatest political issues of our time… but if you can set aside all of that surface-level buzz for a moment, Superman becomes a very empowering character.

In MY version of the Superman mythos, the potential for political awareness and empowerment of the masses will play out much more fully. But in the meantime, the existing narrative is an incredible story of personal empowerment that every Superman fan can tap into whenever they’re looking for inner strength and inspiration.

What’s so empowering about this story? Basically, Clark Kent is an Everyman – a polite, quiet, often geeky man who tends to be clumsy and often goes unnoticed. On the surface, he seems to be one of the weakest and most unimportant characters in the whole story. But when trouble arises, he discovers an almost invincible strength inside of himself. He sheds the mask of meek propriety and leaps dramatically into the foreground of the narrative. He could easily use this strength of his to become a godlike dictator, bending the entire world to his will. Instead, he chooses to serve humanity, lending his strength and his very life to the service of the common good.

Of course, when taken as a tale of personal empowerment, there are a few glaring flaws. Only one man has this power, and everyone else is saved only through his grace. Other characters, from Lois Lane to Jimmy Olsen to the nameless citizens of Metropolis, can only plead for Superman’s aid and bask in his glory when he single-handedly saves the day. Therefore, the story of Superman (as it exists so far) doesn’t usually offer us a model for how the people at large can find a similar sense of empowerment and heroism.

Moviegoers who are too meek to embrace their inner Superman are stuck in a perpetual Clark Kent role – looking outside of themselves for a Superman to save the day, and never even realizing the tremendous power that lies just beneath their own mask. And even worse, moviegoers with inflated egos may take Superman’s sense of power too far, feeling that it’s their personal mission in life to dictate and dominate rather than listen and serve. (Let’s face it – we’ve all met the real life equivalent of General Zod, and he’s really just a dark mirror of what Superman could be on a bad day.)

In a nation like ours that is already sliding deeper into fascism, this sort of lone superhero tale presents a very real risk of reinforcing some people’s belief that the USA is a global superhero/superpower/savior that holds all of the power and carries the heavy burden of solving all of the world’s problems. This very belief is leading many otherwise upstanding citizens to fall into line behind policies and practices that ultimately do more harm than good. But at the same time, Superman’s deep appeal to our sense of personal empowerment can just as easily be used to turn people AWAY from fascism. If we truly take to heart the message of using our power to help and server others, and combine this with a good dose of critical thinking, then Superman’s story can become a tale that inspires us to revolutionary action. Lex Luthor and/or General Zod becomes a stand-in for every authoritarian who tries to enrich themself at the expense of the people and the land, and the Superman fan becomes a heroic champion of revolutionary principles such as freedom, true grassroots democracy, ecological integrity, and so on.

On some level, I’m still a Superman fan simply because the original motion picture and other TV incarnations were such an inspiration to me during my childhood. Out of all of the masculine archetypes out there in pop culture, he was really the only one who truly appealed to me on such a deep gut level. Along with some real-life heroes, and a few other fictional characters such as the Avatar, Superman truly inspired me to believe that I should be a good person, and that I had the power within to do so. As early as preschool, when other kids were saying that they wanted to be doctors, firefighters, or astronauts, I was saying that I wanted to be Superman. And now, as I set about the task of serving my community and my planet in whatever ways possible, I can feel the echoes of that Superman archetype in my life today, even after so many other more developed and epic tales have come to my attention. This is why I write about Superman again now, and why I probably will continue to write about him for the rest of my life.

But on another level, I’m a Superman fan because I can still feel the tremendous relevance that he has for the people of this culture and all who are touched by it. Positive masculine role models are hard to come by in this culture, and Superman is almost certainly both the most prevalent and the most positive heroic archetype out there for the men in our society. If we continue to embrace him as our own, in spite of certain serious critiques that we may have, then we will ensure that he won’t simply be used by the corporate media as a tool for promoting their own nefarious agendas.

Once I finish my two current writing projects, I intend to write a novel about Superman. In the meantime, it’s been thoroughly enjoyable to see his return to the silver screen – and to a renewed place of prominence in my life, and the lives of those around me.

If you have any thoughts or feelings to share on the subject, I’d love to hear them… in the meantime, it’s almost 6 pm on a Sunday, so it’s time for me to go up, up, and away to a Big Muddy Independent Media Center meeting. (And yes, I do find it amusing and ironic that a Superman fan such as myself is working on media issues and occassionally acting as an independent reporter. Am I a mild-mannered reporter like Clark Kent? Surely, the real Clark/Superman/Kal-El would feel ethically inclined to drop out of the corporate Daily Planet scene and join the IMC movement…)

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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