Jamestown is blessed with art and cultural treasures of all descriptions.
This week, the Critical Eye looks in two very different directions. First we want to tell you about a nature art show, joined with a weekend of music, woodworking, and both education and fun with nature, going on at our local Audubon Nature Center and Sanctuary. Then, we want to share with you a novel, written by a man who was born and grew up in our area, in which he takes a truly frightening look at what the future might hold for our country.
Let's begin with Art in the Woods.
Audubon Nature Center
AUDUBON NATURE CENTER
Just a few miles south of the city is one of these artistic treasures with which we began the column, which is currently preparing for a big showing and sale of paintings, sculpture, photography, jewelry, and other visual arts, all inspired by nature. Mark your calendar for July 18-19, for the Audubon Center and Sanctuary's giant Art in the Woods.
If you haven't been to the Audubon Center, or even if you go there often, its location on a 600-acre wetland preserve, with more than five miles of nature trails, is an artistic experience all in itself, before you even set eyes on the art. The man-made art will be displayed both inside and outside the center, weather permitting.
Let's start with some basic information about the coming events, and then I'll tell you some more about the center and the sale.
Art in the Woods will be held July 18 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and July 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The address is 1600 Riverside Road. To get there from Jamestown, you drive south on Route 60 - Foote Ave. - to the intersection of U.S. Route 62, where there is a traffic light. Turn right at the light and drive a mile or two to Riverside Road. Turn left there, and you will soon be at the Audubon Center.
Admission to the show is $5 per person. Children age 12 and younger are admitted for free. All proceeds go to benefit the Audubon Center. There is plenty of parking at no additional charge. Food vendors will be providing a variety of foods, and on Sunday morning a strawberry pancake breakfast will be served. Volunteers will be offering baked goods and other sweet treats for sale.
Keeping in mind that this all takes place at a nature center, all foods will be served on either reusable or compostable dishes, and you're invited to bring your own mug or cup for the beverage of your choice, to reduce paper waste. Composting buckets and recycling receptacles will be available to help you be a constructive part of nature.
If you prefer to pack your own snacks or a picnic lunch, you are very welcome to do so, and the grounds abound with beautiful spots in which to eat. However, the center requests that everything you pack into their territory, you be certain to pack back out with you.
AT THE SALE
When you've enjoyed and purchased art as much as you wish, there are other programs to consider as well:
Also offered will be creative programs for children, hiking, exhibits, lessons in various arts, food, and activities which focus on conservation and respect for the natural world.
For example, you could watch demonstrations of energy saving techniques and applications which have cut the Audubon's energy purchases by 60 percent within the past two years.
Local produce is expected to be available for purchase and Liberty, the center's own bald eagle, will be available for a visit, along with an exhibit of live fish, reptiles, amphibians and other residents of nature.
In the Sky Room of the center, be sure to see the many entries in the photo contest, which was open to photographers of age 13 and older, both professional and amateur. All photos were required to have been taken within 100 miles of the Audubon Center.
First through third place winners in a variety of categories will be denoted with a ribbon at the show, and winning photographs will be displayed in the center's publicity releases. All entrants in the contest will be eligible for a series of prize drawings, with prizes donated by sponsors of the show.
Music will be performed at various times during the show. Featured performers will be the jazz ensemble Collaboration. Musicians include John Andrea, Norm Paduano and Harry Jacobson.
The center has been hosting nature art shows since 1992. Last year more than 2,000 visitors took part in the show.
Among the artists whose work will be shown and will be available for sale will be Beth Ann Faulk, Robert Grubbs, Jeannie Nutting, Patricia Orbanic, Bob Culver, Joanie De Simone, Janet Mandel, Bill Smith, and Patricia Kramer.
There is even still time for you to take advantage of a great opportunity. If you purchase an advance ticket, before the beginning of the sale, you become eligible for a drawing to win a $100 savings bond donated by Jamestown Savings Bank, a $50 gasoline card donated by United Refining, and other prizes. Make advance ticket purchases in person at the Audubon Center, or phone 569-2345 to learn the other locations at which tickets are on sale.
Needless to say, businesses who wish to serve as sponsors of the show by donating prizes, services, or other things of use to the center are always very welcome. Individuals can be a sponsor by volunteering to assist with this fun event. Whether your talents extend to distributing posters and flyers, setting up exhibits, selling tickets, helping with children's programs, or any other number of badly needed services, the Audubon Center would love to hear from you. Give Dee Marlinski a call at 569-2345 and let her know how you'd like to help. Volunteers at the event get free admission.
Jamestown's Johnson Foundation is a frequent sponsor of educational programming at the Audubon Center, and is a principal sponsor of ''Art in the Woods.'' Other sponsors include United Refining, Wegmans, Jamestown Community College, Brigiotta's Garden Center, Frame and Glass Shoppe, Hollyloft Ski & Bike, Jamestown Area Medical Associates, Jamestown Royal Furniture, L.J. Stein & Co. Insurance, Peek 'n Peak, Tordella's Surfaces, Eight Limbs Yoga Studio, and Luv Toyota.
Each year, the center hosts approximately 18,000 school students for educational experiences related to nature. In addition, roughly the same number of adults take classes or participate in programs sponsored by the center.
It's an opportunity to do an enjoyable thing at a very reasonable price, to serve a very good cause. What an opportunity!
Once in a while, it does a body good to have his socks scared off him. I've recently completed a novel which did exactly that.
''American Anarchy'' is a novel by Jim Rath, a Western New York native, born in Elmira and raised here in Jamestown, whose recent career includes a period as a state legislator in Hawaii. It deals with a very dangerous and very believable attempt to seize control of the U.S. government. If you've followed our nation's history for the past 50 years, this book could curl your hair.
Many Americans alternate regularly between singing hymns to our nation's freedoms, and advocating ways to destroy those freedoms in order to have the country represent their own points of view, to the exclusion of those they deem unworthy to have an opinion. Rath envisions exactly the group of people who could harness that separation of personality, and he presents them in a way which is terrifying.
Our country has been blessedly saved from much of the terrorism which has taken place throughout history. Because our shores are separated from most other countries by wide oceans, and because our size, our diversity and our wealth have offered unbalanced individuals alternatives to seizing power, isolated events such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 are the worst we have experienced.
And, of course, they're more than bad enough.
It's not new that people, especially in crowds, tend to believe they are acting for noble beliefs, while in fact, they're acting for their own personal gain. Shakespeare's plays, for example, are filled with crowds who demand that something happen, then demand that it be prevented from happening, then demand it happen again, within a matter of a few minutes, as a talented orator convinced them that the varying events were to their own gain.
Rath's narrative begins as a small number of people in varying government positions read a cover story in a popular news magazine. The story is a study of a new political movement which calls itself ''Anarchy.'' In Rath's words, the magazine dismisses the movement as an association of unhappy young people who have decided that they're not likely to climb very high on the ladder of success, so they're angry, and they're out to destroy that ladder so nobody else can ascend it, either.
Instead of playing harmlessly away, however, the Anarchists have a plan. They have prepared a list of small American cities. One evening, residents of York, Pa. begin to see thousands of stickers, attached to store windows, telephone and electric poles, and anywhere else someone could find to put them.
Next, power and phone service are disrupted, including dynamiting of cell phone towers. Then, immediately police and fire stations are fire bombed. Off-duty police officers are tracked to their homes and murdered. Finally, carloads of activists begin driving up and down the main streets, machine gunning innocent citizens. State and federal agencies begin procedures to track down the people who did these horrible things, when similar activities take place in Florence, South Carolina. This time, elements of the public have read or seen the details of the previous attacks and have been told by journalists that the chaos of the attacks have made it possible for millions upon millions of dollars worth of goods to be looted from stores and homes. Then there's a third city, in Indiana.
Each new attack requires fewer originating criminals, as discontents and greedy people see the now-expected loss of law enforcement as an opportunity for gain.
The book's events closely parallel what happened when the Roman Empire abandoned law enforcement in order for their troops to defend against the invasions of the Goths. The result that time was a thousand years of disorder, bloodshed, and cultural retreat.
Naturally, when the events of the plot take place, there steps forward a variety of military officers, FBI and CIA agents, local politicians, and a vast hodge podge of individuals who believe they have the solution to the problem. Many of their solutions include suspending the Constitution, as chaos is one frequent result of freedom.
And eventually it becomes clear that some of these ''saviors'' are actually the causes of the trouble. The young know-it-alls who are doing all these vicious acts are actually the tools of certain of the people they think they are thwarting. You know, if you study history, they always have been those people's tools. They always are. And, they're always shocked to learn they're disposable.
The author's strength is his ability to start the reader down a path and then change the rules without warning. Characters we believe are about to become major players, for example, are suddenly killed or arrested, and we're off in a new direction. It keeps us on the edge of our seats.
Chances are excellent that if you listen to radio shows which invite listeners to phone in, or read publications' contributions by readers, you will be completely comfortable with some of the personality types the author presents, and with their style of reasoning.
Occasionally there is a false note. When you come up against a character named Hiddler, for example, you have to assume this is going to be a baddie. The novel comes to a natural and satisfying ending, then it ploughs on, trying to tie up ends which real life would have left untied.
Still, ''American Anarchy'' will grab your attention, convince you of its believability, and entertain you immensely, while making you re-think many things we have come to take for granted. That's a good thing.
The language is clear and easy to read, but it is varied and comfortably uses a varied and colorful vocabulary.
The book has 359 pages in paperbound edition, and it sells at a variety of computer booksellers for just under $20. It's publication date is 2009, and it was published by Cornerstone Book Publishers. Find it with ISBN number 978-1-934935-52-1.
One word to the wise: there have sprung up in recent days a number of computer sites which seek to sell books for significantly less than other sites. If you read carefully, however, you will find that by buying from those sites, you're giving your credit card number to a book club, which will put a monthly membership fee on your charge account.
Getting that charge removed will be difficult if not impossible, and you may end up paying double or more than you would for the same books on more reputable sites. This has nothing to do with this book or this author; it is just the first time I have been able to write about books since I learned about the practice.