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    BEN - bicycle empowerment network

    Its Blog Action Day - my plug is for BEN the Bicycle Empowerment Network of Namibia.
    Established by Australian Michael Linke who had previously edited Australian Cyclist, which at the time was Australia's largest circulation cycling magazine, and ReNew, a magazine aimed at people designing, making and using solar, wind and biofuel energy devices, lowering their energy consumption and designing environmentally sustainable houses and businesses.

    Since starting in May 2005, they have distributed more than 7,000 bicycles, 80 bicycle ambulances and 9 community-based bicycle workshops. BEN has partnered with 51 community-based organisations, mainly focused on home-based care services for people living with HIV/AIDS and orphans and vulnerable children, as well as the dissemination of information on HIV prevention.

    Head over to their web page and make a donation.

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    Rushkoff, a change agent

    I have been reading two books by Douglas Rushkoff. "Program or Be Programmed" and "Life Inc". These books have well reasoned arguments that encourage a subversive approach to two pervasive elements of modern life

    • The rise of technocratic class that you should join before they take control of to many aspects of your life
    • A fundamental challenge to our modern economic model and the way that plays out in our jobs and life choices

    This is fascinating stuff and fits into a rare category of books that change the way you view the world around you.
    There are many videos linked from his website and they are great viewing as he is a gifted orator and spruiker for change.
    Rushkoff.com

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    Notebooks and Manifestos

    I have love notebooks, especially interesting quirky ones that help me feel creative.
    My latest notebook is the Makers Notebook from Make magazine. Its modelled after a lab book with graph paper pages. Solidly bound and with loads and useful (and just plain weird) data in the back pages. Included in the book are two manifestos, The Makers Bill of Rights and a Crafters Manifesto. Here is an extract

    People get satisfaction for being able to create/craft things because they can see themselves in the objects they make. This is not possible in purchased products.The things that people have made themselves have magic powers. They have hidden meanings that other people can't see.The things people make they usually want to keep and update. Crafting is not against consumption. It is against throwing things away.People seek recognition for the things they have made. Primarily it comes from their friends and family. This manifests as an economy of gifts.

    One of my other favourite notebooks are Moleskins - these are fantastic and come in many great formats. Lots of magnificently illustrated moleskins can be found at moleskinerie and at their Flikr pool (here).  This photo is taken from the Logan Wines Cellar Door in Mudgee.

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    Simplicity amongst the weapons

    This week we went to the opening night of a new movie - Son Of A Lion. This is a moving and engaging story set in the tribal region of northern Pakistan, home of the Pashtuns. The typical depiction of Pashtuns in contemporary media brands them as extremist terrorists and followers of Osama Bin Laden. This is not the case for much of the population including those in this simple story.

    The synopsis goes like this

    In the Pakistan tribal weapon making village of Darra Adam Kel, a young Pashtun boy defies his fathers expectations that he will carry on the family's business and demands an education instead.

    The movie was shot in secret by an Australian who was taken in by the local tribespeople and included in their life in a way that a conventional movie crew could never have been. The movie is completely authentic as it is shot during the normal life of the locals. This gives it a vaguely documentary feel, as does the handheld camera work (the only type camera that could be carried in and effectively hidden). The performances are touching as is the very simple lifestyle of the locals who live in mud huts with very little in the way of possessions.

    In this weapon making village, where the tribes people have been making weapons for decades, people are constantly wandering out of their workshops and firing their loaded guns into the air to test them. This constant firing forms one of the recurring themes of the movie and is central to the unfolding of the plot. The soundtrack is also very good and would be well worth listening to on its own.

    Highly recommended. sonofalion

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    A slow sunday at the art gallery

    We wandered along to the Art Gallery of NSW today for our Slow Sunday. I wanted to take another look at the Harold Cazneaux exhibition. It is the most inspiring collection of photographic images. Wonderful use of light and location, especially when you consider the equipment that he was using compared to what we have available today. The images are highly atmospheric and clearly present themselves as art.

    "Cazneaux was the leading exponent in Australia of the school of 'pictorial photography.' Indeed, Max Dupain once called him 'the father of modern Australian photography.' The pictorialists argued that every photograph should be a work of art and that the camera was an aesthetic instrument to be used on the way to a final image rather than a purely functional tool"

    Click here For an online gallery of his pictures.

    We also took in the Taisho Chic exhibition which shows Japan coming to terms with Western culture in the 20's and 30's

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    Resurgence slow sundays

    The latest issue of Resurgence has arrived and it looks a beauty. At quick skim reveals the usual combination of thoughtful articles and fabulous images.

    In the spirit of Ghandi's use of spinning as an act of defiance, Resurgence have chosen baking bread as the theme of their first Slow Sunday.
    In each issue of the magazine we will nominate one Sunday when we invite our members to take part in simple actions that symbolise a rejection of commercialism, a passion for the planet and a desire for change.

    We will take part here at Slowlane, I will have another go at the dutch oven technique that seems to have worked for many people whose previous bread making efforts produced worthy but not particularly appetising loaves. My two efforts have been ok, plenty of room for improvement though. Its not the fact that this is a no knead recipe that attracts me, rather that it promises to produce a loaf that is crusty yet chewy on the inside.

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    Clear thinking - well informed outspoken

    No its not this author, although we can aspire...I'm referring to George Monbiot, who's new book Bring on the Apocalypse - Six Arguments for Global Justice has leapt to the top of my reading pile. To do that it displaced Nicholas Shakespeares book Secrets of the Sea which I reserved at the library with great anticipation due to my attachment to stories about Tasmania. Not to mention any number of magazines and other tempting material.

    The essays in Monbiots' book were, I suspect, originally published in the Guardian in the UK. This makes for snappy, easily digested reading. If only we had such daring writers regularly featured in our daily rags here in Sydney. Monbiot makes no bones about being left wing and he lets fly with compelling discussion about so many of the ills of modern life that you find yourself cheering him on as you read. He is driven to write the material that he knows will not be well received by the establishment and bravo to the Guardian for being prepared to publish him . If it wasn't we would only find this sort of gutsy writing in journals like Resurgence and The Ecologist.

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