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The Custom House – Episode 6: On the Banality of Pest Control

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We explore both the lyrical and ethical heart of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as we ask what are the ecological and moral effects of the banal and continued daily use of chemical pesticides in our Earthly Garden.

In this episode of The Custom House we speak with Lisa Sideris, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University and Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English at Indiana University, about the ways Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring examines issues of authority and expertise and the drive to control nature through applied science as an abdication of our moral responsibility to life. This is the Faustian bargain struck in an attempt to control nature that Carson sets against the “simple looking” of the observer in nature in a mood of humility wonder.

Also of interest:
http://wfhb.org/news/the-custom-house-agassiz-inc-extended-conversation-wchristoph-irmscher/

The Custom House – Hark! Who Goes There? Locating the Self in the Stories We Tell (Extended Conversation w/John Eakin)

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We enlist the aid of noted scholar of autobiography, John Eakin, as we seek to answer Andrew Bird’s question: where exactly does the self reside, in your head or between your sides, and who, exactly, will decide its true location?

In this episode of The Custom House we try to locate our mysterious “me” within the commonplace act of telling stories. To guide us through this dark wood of many trails is an expert in the storying self, John Eakin, Ruth N. Halls Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, whose most recent book is Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative (Cornell University Press, 2008). And it’s the “commonplace” or dailiness of “identity practice” that is even more intrinsic than such an institutional practice as that of the school assignments that bookend this very act of life-composition: Write your autobiography…Write your obituary. It’s how we practice that “life in the middest” that makes us who we are at any given moment.

This extended cut includes some of Eakin’s own biography as he discusses how he came to find professional room for the study of autobiography in academia. We also explore how we define self outside of memory–a loss of remembered life, of our past, also excludes our friends and loved ones: that is, how are you recognizable to others outside of the physical?

The Custom House – Episode 5: Hark! Who Goes There? Locating the Self in the Stories We Tell

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We enlist the aid of noted scholar of autobiography, John Eakin, as we seek to answer Andrew Bird’s question: where exactly does the self reside, in your head or between your sides, and who, exactly, will decide its true location?

In this episode of The Custom House we try to locate our mysterious “me” within the commonplace act of telling stories. To guide us through this dark wood of many trails is an expert in the storying self, John Eakin, Ruth N. Halls Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, whose most recent book is Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative (Cornell University Press, 2008). And it’s the “commonplace” or dailiness of “identity practice” that is even more intrinsic than such an institutional practice as that of the school assignments that bookend this very act of life-composition: Write your autobiography…Write your obituary. It’s how we practice that “life in the middest” that makes us who we are at any given moment.

Donnelly Opposes Regulations on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Indiana Democratic Party Senator Joe Donnelly has joined Republican Party members of the state Congressional delegation in opposing increased regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Donnelly, GOP Senator Dan Coates and Indiana Republicans in the House of Representatives, sent President Obama a letter last week, requesting that he reject new proposals from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Indiana’s two Democratic Representatives, however, did not sign the letter.

The proposed EPA rules would require new coal-fired electricity generating plants to meet the same green-house gas emissions limits as those for natural gas-fired plants. All new electrical generation facilities will be allowed to pump a maximum of 100 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every megawatt of electricity produced.

The letter from Donnelly and his allies claims that this new limit would increase the costs of generating electricity from both upgraded and new coal plants, which would render them uncompetitive with other electricity generating sources, and put too much of a burden on customers. The letter goes on to promote the benefits of coal including, its ability to meet domestic energy demands for over 100 years, the jobs and income produced by the state’s coal mining sector, the low cost to electricity consumers of coal generated power, the future promise of zero emissions through sequestration of coal emissions, and the threat of economic competition from countries such as China and India that have no such restrictions on burning their cheap coal.

Bennet Brabson, Emeritus Professor of Physics at IU-Bloomington, who specializes in climate and energy joined faculty colleagues at IU and other local notables in government and industry with an interest in energy and the environment, in meeting Senator Donnelly’s energy advisor to discuss power generation. Brabson says generation of electricity from more benign sources is not only more environmentally responsible but of greater economic benefit to the state, and also something that Indiana is ready and able to take on.  He first explained Indiana’s potential in bio-fuel production.

“There are three big issues that make Indiana attractive from the point of view of non-coal energy,” said Brabson.

“One of those of course is biofuels. We are a big agricultural state, and we grow crops well, and can grow almost anything well because of our climate at the moment. We are in position to grow any of the biofuels that are being suggested, and those biofuels are ones that former senator Lugar was enthusiastic about as they even included corn. And now we are moving away from corn because it does conflict with food prices and so forth, but even doing corn as biofuel is a step in the right direction — it is a carbon neutral source.”

Bio-fuels are carbon neutral because they absorb as much carbon dioxide in their growth phase as they produce in their power generation stage. These crops, such as switch grass, miscanthus and poplar, grow well in Indiana. He also explained that the use of coal to generate electricity has to stop if humanity has any hope of limiting global warming and catastrophic climate change.

“The second turns out to be the fact that Indiana has already a major center for the establishment of renewable energy in the form of the Lugar Center in Indianapolis,” explained Brabson.

“So the idea that Indiana somehow is unable to or unwilling to do alternative fuels is not correct. Already, there is a huge effort in Indiana done by people who are smart folk here to develop renewable energies, and those certainly include wind and solar which are now coming into their own. Both wind and solar are now less expensive it turns out per kilowatt hour than coal, which is remarkable, but actually the case.”

Professor Brabson explained that the promise of carbon sequestration is weak. Furthermore, one of the states largest user of coal for electricity generation, Duke Energy, has announced that it will not build any more coal plants but instead use natural gas as a source material, because it is both much cheaper and much cleaner than coal, as well as having wind and solar arrays for power generation. He then provided the third reason why Indiana should move to cleaner energy generation.

“The fact that Indiana is a technological state that has done enormous effort for the automobile industry over the years and is enormously clever — illustrated by the Cummins engine and the development of all sorts of parts for automobiles for many years including the building of automobiles themselves — there have been automobiles that been built in this state. The state has also done work on trailers and other electromechnical devices and so it is very good at working on things like windpower development, for example. Which it is now doing. So there are a number of things that include technology, that include brains, that include land. And those three things are critical and are available in Indiana.”

President Obama gave a speech this afternoon which directly addressed greenhouse gasses, and warned that the United States must take action to avoid the future damage of changes in the climate.

Monroe County-based Artists Receive Indiana Arts Council Grants

Several Monroe County-based artists have received Indiana Arts Council grants for the 2014 fiscal year that begins July 1st. Of the 39 statewide artists in a variety of disciplines who received the awards, five live and work in the immediate Bloomington area. IAC Grants for Individuals rants are given to artists in dance, literature, music, and theater.

“It is a career development grant to helping travel to New York City this summer and to be able to watch some of the current shows in the city and to use that to develop my abilities more,” said Chad Rabinovitz, producing artistic director of the Bloomington Playwrights Project.

“Mostly focusing on musicals, because my career is currently taking a turn in that direction and it is just unbelievably helpful to see what is cutting edge in the field and to learn some new styles and techniques.”

Rabinovitz will be in New York for eight days from July 12-19th. He has been awarded $1,754 to cover travel, hotel, and meal expenses as well as Broadway’s hefty ticket prices. Among the many musical theater creative types he’s scheduled to meet are the composer and lyricist of the play “Island Song.” In addition to helping individual artists develop their skills, the IAC grants benefit the communities in which the artists work. Local arts patrons can experience enhanced performances and exhibitions and businesses like nearby restaurants get a bump from theater-goers and live music lovers who make a night of it.

“The grant requires that there is an affordable or free to the public performance,” said Rabinovitz.

“There will be a pay-what-you-can performance for the BPP production of ‘Island Song.’ Theater tells us about the human condition as it is now. It is not only a place to relax and to be entertained; it is to be educated on what your values are, to question those values. Arts education is about learning collaboration, working with one another. Acting is understanding why different people are different from you.”

Besides Rabinovitz, local artists getting the good news today include singers Janiece Jaffe and Krista Detor, choreographer Tamara Loewenthal, and oboist Guy M. Hardy.

Lieutenant Governor Designates Communities for Revitalization

Two Indiana communities have been designated by the Lieutenant Governor to receive help funding revitalization projects. Bedford and Richmond were selected as the two winners of the 2013 Stellar Communities program, which is a collaboration among the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“It was a way to look at pooling sources to communities to fund their long term comprehensive strategic goals in targeted areas of their community,” said Public Information Officer Emily Duncan of The Housing and Community Development Authority.

“So instead of having to go to each individual agency to apply for funding, they could kind of do one grand proposal, and then see what could happen for their communities.”

Duncan says Bedford and Richmond’s proposals, which suggest nearly $20 million each in improvements, impressed officials during the selection process. Each proposal included efforts to revitalize the two communities’ downtown areas with projects like business development, bike trails and murals.

“We just finished the 2013 designation round which was the third year for the program,” explained Duncan.

“We put out a request for proposals, so any community that is not a entitlement community, meaning they do not receive funds from the federal government directly themselves, so they had to be a (inaudible) of government could submit a letter of interest. We received 24 community’s proposals for this coming run. Then after we evaluated those, then the top six, which was what we called ‘finalist communities,’ which required a little bit of further information, and then say business was conducted by the staff by each of the agencies.”

Funding for the designation program comes from multiple existing federal funds, and both cities have proposed projects that involve public and private dollars. While no amount of funding is actually guaranteed, Duncan says the initiative is important because it makes the process of accessing funds easier.

“I think that is what is important for Indiana. This is a wonderful, groundbreaking designation program that really paired three agencies together and showed kind of a new wave for federal, state, and local dollars to come together for the combined efforts of vision for different communities.”

“In fact,” continued Duncan. “This dollar designation program was nationally recognized last year and received the presidential award for innovation from the council and state community development agencies.”

The Stellar Communities Program was started in 2011 and is a collaboration among the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, The Indiana Housing, Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation and Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann.

Indiana Children are Growing Up Healthier

Indiana children are growing up healthier but the state continues to struggle with high rates of child poverty according to new data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book.  Indiana ranks 21st in child health, up 13 spots from last year. Indiana Youth Institute helped prepare the data.

“We see fewer babies being born at low birth rate, or babies being born at healthy birth rate,” said President & CEO for Indiana Youth Institute Bill Stanczykiewicz.

“We also see fewer deaths amongst children and teenagers especially teens when they are driving. And then lastly, we see fewer teenagers abusing drugs and alcohol, and when you take those together it explains the improvement in health indicators for Indiana.”

But when it comes to children in poverty, the state still lags behind. Child poverty in Indiana has increased since 2000. Nearly 1/4th of Indiana’s children age 18 and under are now living in poverty. Stanczykiewicz explains that’s mainly due to the state’s manufacturing jobs requiring more education than before. There are other factors that influence this, like an increase of children living in single parent homes who have a five to six times larger risk to be living in poverty.

“We have short term approaches we can take certainly helping people in need through charitable giving,” said Stanczykiewicz.

“Philanthropic efforts helping them enroll in social safety net, public safety net programs, and long term this report points out to the strong need of education, that we need more Indiana kids with more education at the high school so they can get today’s jobs and be able to support themselves in the 21st century economy.”

Indiana’s overall rank for 2013 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C. improved to 30th from 31st in 2012. In addition to the health and economic well-being rankings, the Kids Count Data Book ranks the state 34th in education and 30th in family and community.

The Custom House – Writing on Pictures (Extended Conversation w/Jeffrey Wolin)

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This week we’ll be talking with photographer Jeffrey Wolin about how he integrates the written word into his portraits to make stories that are both deeply personal and broadly cultural. This extended cut includes a deeper discussion of Wolin’s Vietnam book as well as his companion project in which he pursued stories and portraits “from the other side of the story,” that is from a Vietnamese perspective.

Jeffrey Wolin mixes the word with the image to produce portraits that seem to stand as much as social and cultural commentary as they do Art and appear to turn the very subject of that portrait into commentary as well. Wolin’s recent books consist of portrait series that included Holocaust survivors (Written in Memory: Portraits of the Holocaust) and Vietnam War Veterans (Inconvenient Stories). He’s currently working on a series of portraits depicting Bloomington, Indiana residents from a section of the town called Pigeon Hill across a twenty-year span.

Examples of Jeffery Wolin’s work can be found here:
http://jeffreywolin.com/

The Custom House – Episode 4: Writing on Pictures

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This week we’ll be talking with photographer Jeffrey Wolin about how he integrates the written word into his portraits to make stories that are both deeply personal and broadly cultural.

Jeffrey Wolin mixes the word with the image to produce portraits that seem to stand as much as social and cultural commentary as they do Art and appear to turn the very subject of that portrait into commentary as well. Wolin’s recent books consist of portrait series that included Holocaust survivors (Written in Memory: Portraits of the Holocaust) and Vietnam War Veterans (Inconvenient Stories). He’s currently working on a series of portraits depicting Bloomington, Indiana residents from a section of the town called Pigeon Hill across a twenty-year span.

Examples of Jeffery Wolin’s work can be found here:
http://jeffreywolin.com/

The Custom House – Theocracy and Dystopia (Extended Conversation w/Purnima Bose)

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This week Purnima Bose discusses how Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrates how easily modern America might become a truly repressive theocracy. The extended cut includes a review of the plot of the novel as well as a discussion of the cultural milieu in which Atwood composed the narrative. There is also a brief discussion of how the movie adaptation with Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn and Robert Duvall alters the book’s ending.

America is a land founded on commercial ventures intended to gather in the riches of a virgin land but also upon the Puritan plan to set up a theocratic state. In this episode of The Custom House Purnima Bose, a professor in the International Studies Department of Indiana University, discusses how Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrates how easily modern America can become a truly repressive theocracy.

LINKS
http://storm-nemesis.blogspot.com/2013/05/one-and-one-and-one-and-one.html

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