December 27, 2008

A much-needed recovery period from knee surgery, coupled with the holiday season, left little time for working anywhere but on the computer these past two weeks. No interviews, few e-mails, mostly surfing government Web pages. And the effort produced an alarming deja vu.

While researching a story for NUVO readers in Indianapolis on the connection between autism and toxic chemicals, I returned to territory familiar from my stint as an environmental writer at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) from 1996-2000. I spent hours analyzing Indiana's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), a gauge for how polluted Indiana or any other state is.

This Community-Right-to-Know tool is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) database through which polluters quantify their annual releases of "nearly" 650 chemicals into the nation's air, water and land, according to the TRI Program Fact Sheet.

Murray McGibbon: The African Tempest Project

February 9, 2008

This installment of “Alternative Conversations” features IU theater professor Murray McGibbon. In the summer of 2007, he took six theater students to his native South Africa, where they collaborated with a South African university on a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, which McGibbon called The African Tempest Project.

Amber Kerezman interviewed McGibbon for this story package.

Links to "Alternative Conversations: The African Tempest Project"

- STORY: Shakespeare in South Africa

- PHOTO ALBUM: The African Tempest Project

- VIDEO CONVERSATION: The African Tempest Project -- Part 1

- VIDEO CONVERSATION: The African Tempest Project -- Part 2

- VIDEO CONVERSATION: The African Tempest Project -- Part 3

February 9, 2008

Murray McGibbon sits on a plush beige sofa, surrounded by native African Zulu masks that scream of far away places. The 2 p.m. sunlight streams in on the native South African and IU theater professor as he discusses The African Tempest Project.

The project, he says, "was a hands-on workshopping of Shakespeare's play within a South African context."

McGibbon's receipt of a Lilly Endowment New Frontiers grant enabled six students from IU and 14 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal to produce The African Tempest Project this past summer in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

And it all might happen again. If more funds are granted through the Lilly Endowment, IU will return the favor, housing several South African students while rehearsals for The Tempest are underway in Bloomington.

James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom

January 26, 2008

Welcome to the first installment of “Alternative Conversations,” a new Bloomington Alternative multimedia reporting project. As you will see with today’s story package on local authors, artists and activists James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom, this series explores the experiences, thoughts and environments of some of our community’s most dynamic and effective voices.

This and future chapters in this ongoing, online series will feature in-depth, thought-provoking stories of the caliber our readers have come to expect, enhanced with video recordings of the conversations and photo album chronicles of the experiences.

This edition, for example, features a conversation Alison Hamm had with James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom about art and writing, the American Indian, and our current state of affairs.

Links to "Alternative Conversations: the Thoms"

January 26, 2008

I became familiar with the name James Alexander Thom at age 12, when my mother handed me Follow the River, his novel about the true ordeal of Mary Ingles, the white woman who was kidnapped by Shawnee Indians in 1755 and then made her way home with the Ohio River as her guide.

The book resonated with my mother and me -- it was such a powerful testament and tribute to one woman's strength and courage -- and from our multiple readings, the paperback cover fell off at one point. I know my mother ended up buying a new copy later, but I still have that one worn copy on my shelf in my childhood bedroom at my parents' house.

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