Ashley's Reporter Blog

Art, music, poetry… All Shook Up

Saturday, September 7th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

This is going to be short and sweet because it’s a busy weekend. I just had a couple quick things I wanted to remind the area about.

It’s Colorscape weekend. This arts festival draws approximately 12,000 people to downtown Norwich. I’ve got to be honest, I’m not too “big” on art, but I do enjoy it – I just don’t know much about it. I just like what I like and don’t what I don’t and couldn’t really give a reason why.

Regardless, Colorscape is great. I know I’ll leave with some handmade jewelry, and maybe something for my mom’s birthday (which is still almost two months away, but I’m sure I’ll see something she’ll like).

The poetry slam starts at 2 pm down at the Blarney Stone Pub. Local, regional and nationally recognized slam poets will be there, and it is honestly my second favorite thing about living in Norwich. I remember when Buddy Wakefield came to perform. I’ve seen him perform eight times since. It’s no joke when I say the young folks around here have talent. When a 15-year-old can write and perform a piece that gives me goosebumps… that’s awesome. Lots of great folks come out to showcase their skills, and it makes my heart happy. Plus, I couldn’t think of a better atmosphere than the Blarney Stone. There will be mature language, I’d imagine, so if you’re a minor you’ll need a parent with you. Naturally, you’ll need to present your ID if you’re over 21 and looking to purchase alcohol. Really though, you won’t want to miss it. [I will be MIA from the Evening Sun's booth during this time].

All that being said about Colorscape, there is something else going on you really should check out: Norwich Theater Company’s production of All Shook Up.

I had the pleasure of attending the final dress rehearsal Thursday night and can say with confidence this is a show you do not want to miss. Am I a huge Elvis fan? No. I think I could only name three songs off the top of my head, but when I met with the director a couple weeks go she had said, “This is a show people are going to want to see twice,” and that wasn’t just lip service… I would absolutely go see it again this weekend.

I’m not going to give anything away about the plot, but the cast is fantastic and it’s clear they put a lot of time and effort into their work and the crew worked . That sounds cliché, but really – you will want to catch this show. It isn’t only about Elvis tunes, the plot addresses social issues in an impressive manner, and pulls it off in such a way that messages are conveyed with humor woven in.

The audience during the rehearsal I attended consisted of me, a couple other folks, and a group of young adults from the Oneonta Job Corps. During the intermission I talked to a couple of the guys who were in town from Oneonta and they had nothing but good things to say about the show.

“Was that the end? I really hope not. I want to see what happens. Man, this is good. I didn’t know what to expect,” said one young man.

Their reaction and participation as an audience was terrific. I loved that they loved it as much as I did.

The entire cast is fantastic and talented, and I don’t want to leave anyone out, because I was genuinely impressed by everyone. Jes Sheldon and Jon Stockton are wonderful as leads, and it’s hard to believe with their performance resumes they’ve never shared the stage with one another. Meredith Cathcart has a great voice and stage presence as does Ericka Tyler. Steve Emmons is super entertaining as Dennis. Nick Tyler, Marty Kuhn, Jessica Richardson, Ryan DeTomi and Craig LaForte are all great. The entire cast and crew deserve two big thumbs up.

The pit orchestra does a really awesome job. I don’t have a list of who is in it, but I recognized Mark Sands and Nick Natoli, and they’re great musicians. Music Director Dave Burch obviously worked hard putting together and directing the talented group of folks.

Basically, I have nothing bad at all I could say about the show. I was super impressed and it was a lot of fun. If I can’t make it to the show tonight, I’ll probably check it out tomorrow; if there are seats left, that is.

Jes Sheldon said that even she got goosebumps during the last scene of the first act. When I had the opportunity to see it for myself, I understood why. If you have $14, go to the Martin W. Kappel Theater at the Chenango Arts Council, 27 West Main Street, either at 7 pm tonight or 2 pm tomorrow … you’ll be glad you did.

Something is seriously wrong…

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
Ashley Biviano

Bradley Manning was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison for letting the public and the press know about illegal actions taken by the United States government. Technically he was found guilty on multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act (among other charges), and his actions allegedly caused a threat to national security.

I say that’s bogus.

In Chenango County, it is not uncommon for a sex offender to receive a split sentence of six months in the Chenango County Correctional Facility and five years probation. A sex offender. This could be a man who molested a child and ruined said child’s life forever. Alternately it could be an adult who forced himself (or herself) upon another adult who in turn reported the rape. Regardless, lives in these situations have been forever altered. Clear victim, one that may very well never be able to be whole again.

The sex offender will have his/her name on a list, and address made public – only if the designation is a level 2 or 3 (check the sex offender registry online and see who is near you, folks). Said individual won’t be allowed to have residence near a school.

But at the end of the day, the rapist essentially walks.

I’ve gone into greater detail before with the above issue, so for the sake of brevity, I won’t do that now.

My point is, 25-year-old Manning is going to prison for telling the truth.

No, I don’t know what it’s like first hand to be in the military, let alone the military during a time of war; a war on terror that is unnecessarily cutting lives short daily. Be it an American soldier or civilian, an Afghan mother, an Iraqi teen, a father and Imam, a militant … I don’t know, you name it … to me, a life is a life. Murder? No good. I don’t care if it’s in the name of combating “terror” or if it’s an average Joe who is not happy with his home life.

Now could Manning’s actions have potentially caused the untimely death of Americans? If that’s what you want to roll with, go ahead. I’m not here to judge or berate anyone for where they stand on the Manning situation.

I guess my point is that I have no hope or faith, whatsoever, in the “justice system.” Molest a child, serve half a year – maybe a whole year – behind bars. The DA in your area will offer a plea most likely, you’ll take it, do whatever you have to do, and may very well be victimizing again in no time. Sexually assault someone in the military, get a promotion (if you haven’t seen “The Invisible War” yet, watch it). But provide documents to the press and the public about how the government is really acting … spend years behind bars and be deemed a traitor.

Makes perfect sense, right?

I would like to thank Mr. Manning for shedding some light. I would like to give him a hug – and if you know me at all, I don’t hug.

A campaign was started online where folks could sign up to state they stand with Manning and would serve part of his sentence, as a message of solidarity. I was signer 2,937.

“In 1969 when I was a 21-year-old Army PFC, I publicly refused orders to Vietnam, I was court martialed, convicted of two counts of refusing the same order, and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a Dishonorable Discharge. I escaped to Sweden and never served a day in jail. Bradley Manning has already suffered way too much for having the courage to do the right thing. He should serve no time in prison. But I would gladly serve a good part of his sentence,” wrote a recent signer to the campaign.

You know what doesn’t fly with me? “I was just following orders.” … That doesn’t go over well in my book. If your orders are to shoot a stranger – a human being you have never ever met, a human with a soul and aspirations and a family – and you’re doing so without question, I have an issue with that.

What I don’t have an issue with is Manning’s actions.

According to media reports, Director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project Ben Wizner said, “When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system.”

I agree, Mr. Wizner.

Something is seriously wrong.

Free Bradley Manning.

Protecting and serving each other.

Monday, August 12th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

Uh oh, someone broke into your car over night and took your iPod and whatever loose change you had lying around. Maybe next time you’ll lock your car, or keep anything of value out of sight. I hear that things like this are happening all around Norwich, and I’ve read complaints via social networking sites that law enforcement officials haven’t been all that helpful. Hours after the fact, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done without the use of quite a few resources. A possible solution or deterrent for this? Maybe you want to install a couple cameras near your garage, facing your car. Maybe put a camera inside your vehicle. It’s also a good idea to notify your neighbors of what’s been going on, so that they can be aware and take the necessary measures so that similar things don’t happen to them.

You can certainly call the police department and let them know that an individual got into your unlocked vehicle and helped themselves to the $4.77 in your cup-holder, but I will not say that anything will come out of it that will help you out.

What you can do though, is take measures to protect and serve each other. Become an active member of your community.

Now with some of the examples that follow, many will say, “None of that happens around here, why should I care?” … That’s why I stated the situation above, something that is happening locally many people are peeved about – and a possible solution: keeping an eye out on each other.

The Peaceful Streets Project is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort with the goal of uniting members of a community to end institutional violence on the streets, regardless of where you live.

In our community we don’t see much direct police brutality; at least not documented and placed in the lime light. But I’m willing to bet a lot of you have stories; some stories that have gone unreported because, who do you report police misconduct to? The police. Who internally investigates the matter? The police.

The vision of the Peaceful Streets Project is to reach “a society free of state-sponsored institutionalized violence.” This shall be done by way of community organizing, engagement in non-political and non-violent direct action tactics. The goal is for individuals to know and understand their rights. Communities would ultimately be able to protect and serve each other.

Antonio Buehler developed the Peaceful Streets Project after his arrest on New Year’s Eve of 2012 for videotaping the police using excessive force against a female in Austin, Texas. Buehler has since become rather active in the sharing of ideas regarding police accountability and documenting interactions with officers.

The project offers training sessions on knowing one’s rights during police encounters and how to safely and responsibly document interactions, as well as an arena where those who have been victims of police abuse can go on record with their experiences. There are also “cop-watching” outfits, where groups peacefully video police activity to assist those who may be victim to police misconduct.

Bear in mind, these aren’t crazy people running up onto crime scenes videotaping like maniacs. Per rule number two in the code of conduct, “PSP participants shall make every necessary effort to not interfere with law enforcement officials while they are carrying out their official duties.”

…Cameras zoom in, folks. Police officers are armed. They’re not afraid to use their weapons. Use common sense.

The Peaceful Streets Project is hosting its second annual Police Accountability Summit this Saturday in Austin, Texas at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Admission is free and the speakers are sure to provide outstanding and informative discussion for concerned citizens, police abuse survivors, advocates of liberty, and police accountability activists from around the nation.

Before I continue with details on the summit, here are some things that have taken place around the nation lately, that many folks may not be aware of:

Police in Hawthorne, California unlawfully arrested a man who was videotaping a raid he had witnessed. There were others videotaping as well. The man had his dog with him, Max. When he had an inkling he was going to get arrested, he placed Max into his vehicle, and two officers approached, arresting him shortly thereafter. While being cuffed by Hawthorne PD employees, Max jumped out of the vehicle and a third officer approached, drew his weapon, and opened fire. Many times. Many, many times. Watch the video if you haven’t (use discretion, it is insanely disturbing). Max was barking. If an officer is threatened for his life by a barking dog… come on. So sad. And unnecessary.

In July of this year a NYPD officer was arrested and charged with attempted rape, unlawfully dealing with a child, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse, according to media reports, after allegedly providing alcohol to a 16-year-old acquaintance and later sexually assaulting her. He has been suspended without pay (which is uncommon – it’s actually pretty uncommon for charges to be filed in situations such as these) and was released on $1,500 bail.

In 2010 in Albuquerque, a man was arrested for serving food without a permit, disobeying a police officer and trespassing. He was providing food for the homeless. According to reports the charge for operating without a permit was dropped, as there is no law stating you cannon feed the hungry if it is not for profit. The other two charges were later dismissed as well. The man sued the city, who opted to settle rather than follow through with proceedings, and the man received $45,000. He continues to feed the homeless every Sunday.

Not only one small deer, but now two, have been killed by authorities, according to media reports. Giggles was a baby fawn who was at a no-kill shelter and was scheduled to be taken to a wildlife reserve the following day. Instead, Department of Natural Resources officers came in heavily armed, removed and killed the deer. All because the shelter didn’t pay for a permit. … Insanity.

According to media reports and a security video, a 14 year-old mentally ill girl was being escorted down a hallway at the Citrus Health System treatment center for mentally ill adolescents in Pembroke Pines, Florida when a police officer reaches and grabs the female. She responds with a swat at the officer who then opts to punch her – fist closed – in the face, snapping her head back. Other officers join in the on the fiasco, and spray her with mace once she is down. She is 14. They charged her with resisting arrest. They are violent men terrorizing a mentally ill adolescent who was at the facility for help. I wonder if they’re proud of themselves when they go home.

Anyway, I could go on forever citing cases of police misconduct. It doesn’t have to be rape, killing of animals, or beatings. It could be unlawful arrests, illegal searches, harassment, or any other abuse of power committed by one who is in place to “protect and serve.”

With a little bit of education and motivation, it seems as though communities would be well equipped to protect and serve each other. Technology is a wonderful thing, and can be used to your advantage during interactions.

The summit in Austin has a terrific lineup of speakers and entertainers.

The keynote speaker is Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party and a long-time police accountability activist. Seale will speak about how a camera is a more powerful tool now as a weapon against police abuse than the rifles were the Black Panther Party often used when cop-watching in their communities in the past.

Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force” will deliver a second keynote speech. –By the way, go purchase that book and read it, folks.

Jacob Crawford of Wecopwatch.org, Carlos Miller of Photographyisnotacrime.com, Pete Eyre of Copblock.org will also speak at the summit, and are expected to share very important and informative ideas.

Buehler and John Bush (co-founder of the Peaceful Streets Project) will offer speeches as well.

B.Dolan will provide entertainment at the summit. He is a hip-hop and spoken word artist signed to Strange Famous Records who dug into activism when co-founding knowmore.org with fellow artist Sage Francis. I’ve personally seen them both live – more than once – , and B.Dolan doesn’t disappoint. Check out his “Film the Police.”

Tatiana Moroz will perform a song she wrote for the Peaceful Streets Project.

A victims panel is slated on the schedule as well as a discussion on reigning in the police through legislation. Free food and child care will also be provided at the event.

The 2nd Annual Peaceful Streets Project Police Accountability Summit is sure to be one for the books. While I can’t make it in person, those speaking and the individuals in attendance have my support, wholeheartedly.

Even though it may seem like things are A-okay here in Chenango County, take a good look around – look beyond your immediate surroundings. Just because you don’t see a police officer beating innocent women on our streets does that mean it doesn’t happen? No. Rather than turn a blind eye, I feel it’s best to become informed and share ideas regarding misconduct. If you don’t know what it looks like, you don’t know how to handle it.

If by chance you’re in the Texas area, I’d urge you to attend. Again, it’s free. You’ll learn a lot. If you can’t attend, you can always donate to the cause. I did. Gladly.

I think we’d could all benefit by helping each other out with things like this. When we know our rights, remain peaceful but diligent, and keep an eye out on one another, things can only improve.

You can learn more or help out by visiting Peacefulstreets.com.

Hitting the road – PorcFest bound

Friday, June 21st, 2013
Ashley Biviano

The recent weeks have been pretty eventful for anyone paying any attention to local, state, national, or worldwide happenings. The protests in Turkey and now Brazil, continuous “updates” on the NSA, Supreme Court’s decision to essentially disregard the Fifth Amendment, the COO of Golden Artist Colors, Inc. speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, preliminary talks of bringing a homeless shelter to Chenango County, and the hot-topic of the Village of Oxford elections – of which voter turn-out was significantly higher than previous years, telling me the Oxford residents are paying attention.

At any rate, a lot is going on and always is. I’ve always figured if there is something interesting taking place, I might as well check it out. Therefore, this weekend – as soon as I get out of work, rather – I will be packing a few things into my car and heading for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The tenth annual Porcupine Freedom Festival – as part of the Free State Project – has been in full swing since Monday, but even with my late arrival this evening I will have the opportunity to meet many peaceful, liberty-minded folks, hear from some pretty prominent people within the freedom-oriented community, eat some tasty food, and do whatever my little heart desires.

The festival has been commonly referred to as PorcFest – no – it is not a direct bacon reference (I don’t even like bacon… crazy, I know). The porcupine has been used as a libertarian “mascot” or symbol if you will – as it is the porcupine is an animal who harms no one if left alone, but will defend itself if need be.

I’ll have the opportunity to learn about gardening, firearms etiquette, hear Antonio Buehler of the Peaceful Streets Project (the goal of which is to create a cultural shift where individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement accountable, and communities protect and serve each other) and Buehler Education speak about Education Entrepreneurship, hear speakers regarding jury nullification, listen to a panel discussion by ladies involved in the liberty movement, take part in a CPR workshop, among many other events and discussions.

2012 Libertarian Presidental candidate Gov. Gary Johnson speaks tomorrow evening – something I’m very excited about. Johnson was the Governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003 and is probably best known for his veto record – which includes more than 750 during his time in office. When he ran in 2012, Johnson garnered the most votes in a Presidental election in the Libertarian Party’s history. I don’t agree with him totally by any means, but he certainly received my vote in 2012 – so I’m looking forward to his talk.

There are radio shows broadcast, documentary screenings, ice cream socials, a pig roast, dance parties (if you’ve read anything I’ve written, you many have noticed I have an affinity for dance parties. Usually solo, but hey – you never know), music, kid-friendly fun (I don’t have any kids but little tykes will be taking part in a number of track and field events, which might be fun to watch), and tons of other things.

Mind you, all the aforementioned are taking place either tonight, tomorrow, or Sunday. Imagine a week’s worth of that. Ah, too much fun – or maybe my idea of fun is different than yours.

Vendors in Agora Valley will be selling just about anything neat you can think of: Ice cream, homemade juice, chili, baklava (I hear it’s the best I will ever have), books, clothes, documentaries, handmade jewelry, organic soaps… you name it, you can probably buy it – or trade something for it. It seems as though it is the epitome of a free market.
The six-hour drive will prove to be a fun adventure in itself, as there’s nothing like a good road trip. Granted, the cd player in my car is on the fritz and my iPod was snagged from my car a while back so the radio will have to suffice, but once I get out of the area maybe there’ll be a cool station that plays something I’m into.

So happy Friday, folks. Enjoy your weekend and get out and do something fun. I am beyond excited to spend the weekend camping with about a thousand or so liberty-oriented and freedom-loving activists, authors, speakers, economists, and “average Joes.”

Catch you when I get back.

Team Edward

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

Possessing or showing courage or determination in the face of danger. That’s the definition of valiant. Synonymous with heroic, brave, and even plucky… a word I love.

A person who betrays a friend, country, or principle. That’s the definition of traitor. Synonymous with recreant, dastard, and renegade. The crime of betraying one’s country is referred to as treason.

I would hope by now you’ve heard of Edward Snowden. If not, I’ll provide a quick breakdown.

Edward Snowden, 29, was employed by the government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), and had worked out of the Virginia based company in Hawaii for less than three months. Three fourths of this private company’s 25,000 employees hold government security clearances and half of their employees hold top secret clearances. Snowden worked for the CIA previously, and most likely retained the security clearance he gained with that position. Once he left the government position and moved to private contractors, he was able to keep his clearance, which granted him access to offices, files, communications and computer networks. He had worked for the NSA through various private contractors for the past four years. It was announced Tuesday that Snowden was fired from Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden decided to disclose top-secret information to the public regarding actions that are being conducted by the NSA including their program codenamed PRISM. The program accesses data held by internet companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype and others (Some heads of these companies have released statements denying the allegations, but as for me, I take whatever Mark Zuckerberg has to say with a grain of salt). The data obtained contains detailed online actions including social media activity, live chats and the contents of emails.

There is an interview with Snowden readily available online where he lays out not only what PRISM is all about and how the US government is blatantly violating our privacy, but how he feels about coming forward. Watch it if you haven’t already. I implore you.

In the interview he states, “The NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they are collecting your communications to do so.”

Now, the argument has been made that the actions being carried out by the NSA are completely legal because a warrant must be obtained to look further into an individual’s information. …My question is then, do you trust the government? You believe what it tells you? If you want to blindly follow and trust what you’re told, so be it – but that means we’re in different zones completely.

The 2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder of the Department of Homeland Security was released due to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Beginning on page 21 of this document are the key words analysts monitor on social media sites to pinpoint “threats.” After reading the list of key terms multiple times, I feel like I can say with confidence the majority of people I know have used these terms on social media sites, likely on a regular basis. Here are just a few: Cops, militia, deaths, shooting, sick, pork, cloud, Mexico, burn, North Korea, subway, cancelled, electric, marijuana, drug war, bust, Afghanistan, snow, social media, homegrown, power lines, worm.

Yes, you read those correctly. Sick, worm, pork. …Awesome, right?

“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” said Snowden in the interview. “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. …it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life.”

If this stuff isn’t sending chills up and down your spine or striking a nerve with you… I’m sorry.

Stripped of our privacy, what do we have left? Our freedom of speech is being infringed daily, New York is not an ideal place to live if you’re a gun owner or value the second amendment, property rights are being violated continuously, and I could continue, but won’t for the sake of brevity. The revelation of this information by Snowden – hopefully – has opened the eyes of everyone living their cozy little life.

The Obama Administration stood behind the actions of the NSA asserting it uses legal means to obtain the information. Check out the video on YouTube comparing Obama pre-presidency in 2007 and the speech he made just days ago. …How’s that “change” working out for you?

In regards to Snowden, Speaker of the House John Boehner said Tuesday in an interview, “”He’s a traitor…The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face.”

I wholeheartedly disagree with Boehner and whoever else thinks Snowden is a traitor, or thinks he has committed acts of treason.

How many people are actually scared of terrorism? – Now that’s a legitimate question I have – but I understand the answers will differ based geographical location. I’m honestly not, and I don’t think it’s because of all the “security measures” the government has in place. The last two times I flew I was escorted to a special area where I was directed to wait for a female TSA agent to arrive, who then told me to remove my shirt because she had to inspect my “sensitive areas.” How many terrorist plots has the TSA foiled since its inception? Costing about 8 billion dollars per year you’d think it’d be pretty effective. I don’t think so. I didn’t feel one bit safer, just ridiculously violated.

Do I trust our government? Simply put, no – and I’ll leave it at that for now, because I could ramble on forever. But do you? And what are you willing to give up for the sake of so-called “security?”

Are you willing to give up your comforts, your family, the life you know, to awaken the world if only for a short time? Snowden was.

Said Snowden, “The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. [People] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things… And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse. [The NSA will] say that… because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

I, for one, am all for changing things. What we have now isn’t working. More authority, more power… that is not what the government needs at all.

Edward Snowden was in a hotel in Hong Kong when he was interviewed. He had mentioned thoughts of seeking asylum in Iceland. He has since checked out of the hotel where he was staying and his whereabouts are currently unknown. He expressed fears the harmful effects on his family, who he said he will no longer be able to help.

He also stated, “I do not expect to see home again.”

You know what, folks…. go ahead… spend $15 dollars to go watch your hero in a cape stop the bad guys on a big screen – I heard one of those movies just came out. He may even do something fancy in a phone booth. Then go home, turn on the news and hear the real hero – the plucky Edward Snowden – being deemed a traitor for revealing what he knows is a violation of our rights. Or, save your money, turn off your TV and do some reading, or at least some thinking.

A friend of mine begged me to go with her to see Twilight when it came out however many years ago. Against my better judgement, I did… yuck. Afterward I was asked if I was “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.” I honestly had no opinion.

Today, I can say with absolute pride I am Team Edward… Edward Snowden, that is.

What does that all mean?

Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

“Hey, what does that all mean?!” is a question I’ve been asked far too often. Well, let me put that in context… far too often it’s asked when someone catches a glimpse of one of my tattoos. I usually wiggle my way around the subject, because I like folks to draw their own conclusions.

Every now and then I’ll lay it out for someone who seems genuinely interested, but for the most part I respond with, “Whatever you think it means,” which is an authentic answer.

I’ve yet to come across a representation of a tangible object or visual image that symbolizes something enough for me to want it displayed on my ‘canvas’ permanently. Butterflies, feathers, angels… they do nothing for me. If something of that nature is significant in your life, by all means do your thing.

There have been three occasions thus far on my journey where I’ve deemed it appropriate to add something to my body that will remain until I’m ashes again.

The first time I was 18, living in Buffalo, and it simply says, “Stay Human.” You wouldn’t believe – or maybe you would – how many times I’ve been told how ridiculous that is. “Why would you want that?” “What does that even mean?” “I don’t understand…” …Really? You don’t understand that idea? I guess I’ll break it down in one of the many ways I am able.

I’ll do what I want, you do what you want. I have flaws, vices, lapses in judgement and I understand you do too. I will not berate you for your opinions, or belittle you for your imperfections, so long as you’re not harming anyone in the process.

You are an individual – free to express yourself, be beautiful, articulate, logical or emotional (or an ‘’awkward’’ balance of both), carefree, careful, or any number of possibilities. Never bring yourself to a point where you forget that. In that moment when you’re feeling nothing but pure joy and the urge to dance around when others very well may deem you crazy… go for it. Stand up for causes you believe in, and educate yourself on those you don’t. From there you can take action for change.

There is a whole lot of hate in the world, but an awful lot more good to back it up. If those good folks show love for the fellow good, and work to expose the bad, I think this world could be a better place. Maybe that makes me sound as though I’m living in a dream world… ha, maybe I am.

Tattoo number two came around age 21. At the time it served as a beginning of a new chapter after one that was all too tumultuous. It reads, “One life, one world, one chance.”

Go ahead, make the argument for reincarnation… I’ve heard that one countless times. I really won’t refute it. My beliefs regarding an afterlife (whatever they may be at any particular moment) have little bearing on those words. When I take a look at the phrase on my ribs it prompts action.

If you’re upset about a situation or circumstance, work to make change. Don’t sit idly by while horrible things take place in front of your face. It’s not up to others to make anything happen in your life, it’s up to you. Be the catalyst. Pretty straightforward idea, I think.

My most recent addition was the phrase, “Live for a living.” This idea came from spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield’s piece titled “Pretend.” Look it up on YouTube if it strikes your fancy.

As an individual, find your passion and live it. Don’t let your occupation define who you are. I’m not “Ashley: Staff Writer for The Evening Sun.” I am “Ashley: freethinker, music-lover, solo-dance party enthusiast, lover of anything involving the number seven, and not a fan of bacon.” The actions I take throughout my day are carried out because I have the desire, not because of a preset list of obligations.

I suppose the entire point here – if there even is a point – is that I’ve chosen to add little reminders to my body that assert my self-hood. In case I ever have a moment of weakness I can just step back, take a look at myself, and have that little moment of “Ah, so that’s what it all means.”

For the sake of brevity… or not.

Saturday, May 11th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

Week five has come to a close and it’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog. It’s not for lack of trying… I’ve started and deleted about 17 times now. There are so many things on my mind – even as I type right now – I have no clue where I want to head with this.

For a brief wrap-up of happenings around here – I’m really enjoying things… The flowers on my desk have died because I forgot to water them. I have post-its reminding me about almost everything else though. I’ve finally been able to discard my two notes reminding me to buy new batteries for my mouse.

I met and had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Ridgway, which was an awesome experience. Amy grew up in Norwich. For those who haven’t read the article, she was the brave nurse who worked with detectives to get a confession out of her colleague and friend, Charles Cullen, who has admitted to killing at least forty (but quite possibly hundreds) of patients over sixteen years as a registered nurse. Check out Charles Graeber’s book “The Good Nurse” which tells the entire story. He dedicated a great deal of his time on this work, and is the only journalist that has interviewed Cullen in prison in New Jersey. The story was also on 60 minutes and CBS This Morning. Fascinating stuff. It definitely brings up qualms regarding actions and policies of hospitals and healthcare facilities, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll save that for another time.

As a little precursor to what follows – I try to be as happy-go-lucky, peaceful, “live and let live” as possible. While my opinion below may box me in to a certain category or party of individuals according to some folks, I’d prefer to just keep my checkmark next to the spot that says “human.”

A little more than a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Educational Forum on the NY SAFE Act at the Oxford Rod and Gun Club. I say “pleasure” because I was honestly super excited. Now, let me warn you, I’m late to the game. I don’t know technicalities of certain firearms, and I don’t know every legal definition down to a “t.” But, I will share what I learned and some of my thoughts. Bear with me a little, okay?

The NY SAFE Act was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 15, 2013. This was a knee-jerk reaction in response to the shootings in Newtown, CT.

“The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, increases penalties for people who use illegal guns, mandates life in prison without parole for anyone who murders a first responder, and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country. For hunters, sportsmen, and law abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns.” -Governor Andrew Cuomo

Well that’s certainly some dexterous language to make things sounds fine-and-dandy, isn’t it?

Simply put, the SAFE Act will do nothing to make anyone any safer. Law-abiding citizens became felons while they were sleeping. Of course, tragedies including Sandy Hook, Aurora, CO, Virginia Tech, etc. are disgusting and disheartening. However, it’s been said countless times, regardless of laws that are in place, someone determined to obtain a weapon (be it a firearm, bomb, knife – you name it) and use it to cause harm on an unsuspecting or innocent party will do so.

How many criminals do you think will attempt to purchase a firearm through legal means? (Christopher Dorner and the LAPD is deserving of its own attention, so for the sake of brevity -again- I won’t discuss that now). Chances are he/she/they will talk to a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend and have what they’re looking for in a very short while.

Do I get a warm and cozy feeling when I think of a dangerously mentally ill individual with a weapon? Not particularly. Is it going to happen anyway? Absolutely. There is no legislation that will stop that.

Something else that has been given much attention from supporters of the SAFE Act is the specific portion of the 2nd Amendment that states, “A well-regulated militia.” It is imperative to understand the Constitution was written in 1787. “Well-regulated” now does not hold the same definition as it did then. These days, if something is “regulated” it is controlled, supervised, adjusted. However, when the Constitution was written “well-regulated” referred to something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected.

Therefore, a “well-regulated militia” could very well be a group of three friends who agree to get together a few times a year, train with one another, and be content in knowing that if something were to “go down,” they would be prepared to take necessary action – be it most likely against a tyrannical government.

Another thing that was brought to my attention at the forum is that ten rounds are still allowed for shooting competitions or recreational shooting at a range. The SAFE Act does, however, limit the number of rounds you can have at your home for personal defense/protection to seven. This raises the question, “Why is sport shooting given more value than personal protection?”

If I understand correctly, the SAFE Act also does not include an exemption for law enforcement. Most police officers in NY carry 9mm weapons with a 15-round capacity. Essentially, these folks are in violation of the SAFE Act – along with thousands of law-abiding New Yorkers.

Questions arise when it comes to the lack of clarification all throughout the legislation. It was mentioned at the forum that you must re-certify your weapon with the State Police every five years. If you fail to do so, your registration will be revoked. It was also stated that it is not currently written that you will be sent a reminder notice around that five year mark, so if this ridiculous legislation holds up, you’ll want to keep track on your own.

As of March 15, all private handgun, rifle or shotgun sales or transfers (with the exception of those sales or transfers to and between certain family members) will require a background check of the buyer. The “immediate” family members exempt include spouses, domestic partners, children and stepchildren. …Okay, I have none of those things. What about siblings? The legislation is incredibly vague, and as I said before, knee-jerk. Questions were raised at the forum regarding grandchildren… they’re not considered immediate family, and are not exempt. Now, I’m not saying the background check is a necessarily a bad idea, I’m saying that the SAFE Act was very poorly written, and clearly not well thought out.

Now, I’m aware I’m jumping around a whole lot here, but I have too much to say so am only going with random snippets as they come to me.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook claiming “I have to have a license for my dog, so you should have one for your gun.” – The majority of the people frustrated with this legislation do have registered weapons and permits to carry. They are legal and were turned into criminals overnight. Other posts have made reference to other groups with limited rights, such as “How does it feel to have your rights infringed, I can’t even marry the person I love.” – I think the idea of the government being involved in “love” and “marriage” has been a ridiculous concept since I was a kid, so even heterosexuals requiring “marriage licenses” makes no sense to me. The government doesn’t need to know who I love. But I digress… I’m on your side, and you should be able to marry who you want to marry. In the same token, a gun owner who wants to protect his/her family/self has every right to do so.

A number of lawsuits have been filed against the SAFE Act, and I am super curious to see how things turn out. Arrests have also been made to folks in violation of this legislation, and people gathered to protest at arraignments of those charged with violating (this happened up in Moreau, NY – near Saratoga Springs – just last week). There have also been instances of gun licenses being wrongfully revoked due to cases of mistaken identity (one man near Buffalo, as an example).

The 2nd Amendment states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The NY SAFE Act is clearly in violation of this. Know your rights. Exercise your rights. Educate yourself.

Alright, that is all. I want to go out and dance in the rain.

Oh – you can follow me on Twitter…

@evesunashley

Soundtrack of the newsroom… and other things.

Friday, April 26th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

At the close of week three here in the newsroom, I have plenty that I could blog about. Can I make up my mind on a topic? Of course not.

It has been great working with Brian, Shawn and Kevin. The soundtrack of the morning hours is just the pitter-patter of fingers on keyboards, which is nice. Once the paper is finished, Brian can be identified by his whistling when he comes and goes, Kevin by his distinct laugh, and Shawn is super sneaky so I can only figure out it’s him coming through the door by default. In any case, it’s a lot of fun and I’m really enjoying things here.

On another note, I was reading about the Tribeca Film Festival and see that “The Kill Team” won best documentary. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it’s on my list. Reading that did remind me of another documentary I recently watched – “The Invisible War.” I highly recommend it to mature audiences, as it gets pretty descriptive regarding sexual abuse cases within the military, but definitely worth the watch – in a “this is absolutely horrible” kind of way. It’s on Netflix.

Well, I’ve mentioned the words “soundtrack” and “festival” which makes me eager for upcoming shows and festivals. What I wouldn’t give to be at the New Orleans Jazz Fest this weekend… one of these years I’ll make it happen. The Mountain Jam lineup is pretty solid, and I probably should’ve gotten tickets for that, but haven’t. It’d be nice to see Dispatch, Soulive, Michael Franti, and of course everyone else. The Cat Empire is touring soon, and I’ll probably go to their show in Philadelphia. I have yet to see them live, and they’re one of my favorites. I can’t talk about music and festivals without bringing up the Chenango Blues Fest, one of my favorite things about living in the area – terrific live music right here in Norwich.

Speaking of live, there’s live music tonight at The Blarney Stone, the Hop City Hellcats. Also, The Norwich Theater Company’s production of “How Green Was My Brownie” opens tonight at 7 p.m. at the Martin W. Kappel Theater. That’s something to check out too. It was really funny – but probably not appropriate for the younger folks – but if you’re looking for some laughs this weekend, I highly recommend it.

Well, here ends my ridiculous stream of consciousness-type blog.

Follow me on twitter… @evesunashley

What a week…

Friday, April 19th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

What a week it has been. Sending positive energy and vibes to anyone in need.

The bombings in Boston on Monday have certainly shown that during times of crisis, we as a people can come together. It’s nice to see, yet unfortunate it takes a tragedy for it to surface. In no way do I want to discredit this empathy we are showing – it truly is wonderful – I guess it’s just a nice little fantasy in my head that people should show compassion and humanity to one another around the clock.

Hats off to those brave folks who have helped out throughout this situation in Boston, and those who are continuing to help out as more is unfolding as I write this. First responders, by-standers, the National Guard members, medical staff … anyone who has a helping hand in the care and safety of those afflicted gets a big thumbs up.

The explosion in West, Texas on Thursday certainly has had me concerned as well. I hadn’t heard about it until about 6:30 a.m. as I was heading out the door. My father lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and just before I closed the door to leave I heard on the TV, “Explosion in West Texas.” – I thought, “Oh no. Well, I’ll find out more soon, but at least it’s not near Dad.” Wrong. It turns out West is the name of the town, and is actually not too far – about an hour – from my father. He’s fine of course, but boy – what a misleading town name. The positivity and love mentioned above is no doubt directed toward all the folks down in Texas affected by this explosion as well.

Syria is also on my mind. There are way too many people hungry, without water, women and children being raped and beaten. Those who survive will have a long road ahead of them after experiencing such horror, that’s for sure. It is heartbreaking. I sincerely hope these individuals will receive the post-trauma counseling necessary to continue with life after such brutality. Things of this nature are – of course- a domestic issue as well, and I extend the same hopes of vitality to all who have endured – or are enduring – such situations.

My thoughts are with the thousands without shelter after the earthquake that rocked the Middle East on Tuesday. At least 35 people were killed and an estimated 150 injured in Pakistan, and one death has been reported in Iran. Pakistani soldiers are helping with the relief effort and have been distributing food, blankets and medicine. I hope those folks get taken care of soon.

I am thinking of our service men and women around the world. As the weather warms up, the attacks in Afghanistan will only increase. For those who have served, are currently serving, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – thank you.

Maybe you’ve been down because your beloved pet has passed away. Maybe you’re bummed because the only milk you have to put in your coffee expired far too long ago. Maybe you’re just down about the cloudy weather. Regardless – chin up. This world is filled with gentle, caring individuals – even though it may not seem like it all the time.

Shawn, thank you for watering the plants. It also served as a reminder for me to water the plant on my desk. Kevin, thanks for helping me fix the time on my computer. That whole seven varying times thing was throwing off my day, but now I’m good to go. You know, sometimes it’s just the little things.

I suppose to sum up what’s on my mind today, there is a lot going on in the world… there always is. Horrible things happen… they always will. I like to think the good outweigh the bad, the caring outshine the callous. It’s certainly not a perfect place, and it never will be, but healing thoughts to anyone feeling down and out.

I’m the new kid

Friday, April 12th, 2013
Ashley Biviano

Happy Friday, folks. I’m Ashley, the newest addition to the team of Evening Sun reporters. Today marks the end of my first week here, and I feel as though it’s a pretty neat fit for me. Brian, Kevin and Shawn are a great group of guys and they’ve been nothing but helpful and welcoming. Everyone else I’ve met here thus far has been wonderful and it’s just overall a nice atmosphere.

My cubicle is becoming slightly cozier by the day. I returned from New Berlin Wednesday to some flowers on my desk, and I have post-its all over. Other than that, it’s pretty plain, but I’m sure in a few weeks time it’ll have some more pizazz. I thought about drawing a fishbowl on paper, adding a goldfish (or maybe a beta) and hanging it in the corner. That should bring the place to life.

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day. I ended it by checking out the parent/child yoga event at the Oxford Library. It was really neat to see. All the parents and children were taking an adventure through the forest. They were turtles, bears, lions, snakes, warriors, the whole lot. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find myself a little spot in the corner and join in for a minute. I’ll definitely be looking into the adult yoga classes the Black Horse Yoga Studio has to offer.

Don’t let the cool, damp weather stop you from heading out to enjoy some of the events going on in the area this weekend. You have three chances to catch The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at the Norwich High School, which I think will be terrific. Saturday night the Koresh Dance Company is performing at the Council of the Arts and that should be awesome as well.

If there’s something going on, and you think I should know about it, send me an email at abiviano@evesun.com
Oh, you can follow me on twitter too – @evesunashley