GROWING VEGGIES IN OLD HAVANA: On Saturday, August 8, the Santa Barbara Permaculture Network brings in Australian designer and educator Robyn Francis to deliver the latest in its Permaculture Around the World lecture series. So, what’s permaculture, you ask? And why fly in a speaker all the way from Australia to talk about its role in Cuba? The answers turn out to be closely connected. The Soviet Union’s collapse meant an enormous hit to the small island’s even smaller income stream, resulting in those especially lean years often referred to as the “Special Period.” Growing their own food, however and wherever possible, became the only option for many Cubans, and the Australians happened to be the ones to show up and help out with their efforts. Dubbing Cuba’s new homegrown (in more ways than one) food economy “permaculture,” Francis and the Cuba-Australia Permaculture Exchange (CAPE) have since made several return visits to maintain and develop this new ag infrastructure. Francis’s discussion about her experiences with CAPE and wherever else in the world permaculture is to be found begins at 6:30 p.m. at the downtown Santa Barbara Public Library (40 E. Anapamu St.). Call 962-2571 or visit sbpermaculture.org for details.
MOONWALKER: An early warning to all readers interested in space exploration, both its history and its practice: Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969, and on Thursday, August 20, 2009, he’ll walk into Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.). While there, Aldrin will talk about his new memoir, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon. We’ve all wondered what it would be like to walk on the moon, but what on Earth, as it were, do you do after taking that one giant leap for mankind? Aldrin’s book chronicles his unrewarding Air Force stint, depression, grinding public relations touring, alcoholism, decidedly un-majestic time as a car salesman, and ultimately the space exploration advocacy that followed his return from the historic voyage, taking time as well to consider the national space program itself and its future. Aldrin’s flight plan has him touching down on Chaucer’s surface at 6 p.m. Call 682-6787 or visit chaucersbooks.com for information.
LITERARY SPEED DEMONISM: It hardly began with Maverick and Goose; humanity and its fictional representatives have been feeling the need for speed for quite some time now. We know speed thrills, but we don’t quite grasp why. UCSB Professor of English Enda Duffy delves deep into this very question with The Speed Handbook: Velocity, Pleasure, Modernism from Duke University Press, a study of the “adrenaline aesthetics” found in modern narrative and what it’s got to do with our hard-driving society and culture. The book argues that, with the invention of the mass-produced automobile and the mapping of the globe, the increasingly widespread ability to cross impossible numbers of miles per hour made speed an exciting new frontier, forever altering our relationship to pace, distance, slowness, and consumption. In demonstrating this, Duffy draws on works as varied as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic The Great Gatsby and J.G. Ballard’s speculative story of wreckage-fetishists, Crash. In other words, a must-read for any speed demon. For details, visit dukeupress.edu.
WHERE IN THE WORLD? Fellow travelers seem to always want to know: “What’s your favorite place?” Sometimes the most world-weary of the world-weary have seen too much to even answer, but at least it gets the conversation started. Ojai writer Jerry Dunn takes it two dimensions further, posing the question to 75 travelers, all luminaries in their various fields. He’s collected their responses into a book, My Favorite Place on Earth, from National Geographic. It seems Star Wars mastermind George Lucas loves Monument Valley for its expanse, simplicity, and “Asian-Japanese sensibility,” “a combination of Buddhist and Krazy Kat.” And famous Santa Barbarans make up no small part of the respondents: Jonathan Winters is big on England, Jean-Michel Cousteau is a fan of the Amazon, and T.C. Boyle enjoys the Sequoia National Forest. Visit myfavoriteplacenatgeo.com for more information.