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After accepting homegrown herbs from a witch, pondering the use of chile peppers as perfume, and standing knee-deep in manure with New York City gardeners, author Robin Chotzinoff comes to the conclusion that gardeners are, quite simply, more interesting than other people. In her collection of essays, People With Dirty Hands: The Passion for Gardening (New York: Macmillan, 1996), Chotzinoff details both her travels across the country and her travails in her own backyard. She finds nearly as many eccentric gardeners as there are varieties of flowers, but it is her whimsical self-descriptions that are most charming. Far from inspiring Martha Stewart-style pangs of inadequacy, the image of Chotzinoff working in her weed-ridden urban garden — complete with pool cue as bean pole — is enough to drive even the brownest of thumbs to plant at least a flowerbox.

Chocolate Supa Highway (Capitol Records, 1997), the latest CD from Spearhead, reflects singer/writer/ producer Michael Franti’s belief that hip-hop serves as a kind of Internet for African-Americans. And Spearhead’s inviting blend of rap, reggae, and soul is as pointedly political as any Web site. In “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” Franti sings: “It’s just the calm before the storm that’s why I’m quiet/ ya always mistaking an uprising for a race riot/ you can take my life — but there’s no escape/ ’cause you can’t shoot yer way through the pearly gates.” The group’s adept mix of music and politics is refreshing — and powerful.

Looking for the perfect way to celebrate National Poetry Month in April? Try listening to In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry (Rhino Records, 1996), in which 80 of the most beloved poets of the English language recite their work. Beginning with Walt Whitman’s circa 1890 reading of “America” (captured on wax cylinder by Thomas Edison), the four-CD set features a diverse range of styles and voices: from Robert Frost’s plodding recitation of “The Road Not Taken” to Maya Angelou’s fearless rendition of “Phenomenal Woman.” In Their Own Voices demonstrates why the spoken word is making a comeback today.

Toxic Deception (Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1997), by environmental journalists Marianne Lavelle and Dan Fagin, is scary reading. Exposing how the chemical industry keeps potentially lethal substances on the market, the authors focus on four chemicals: the herbicides atrazine and alachlor; the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene; and formaldehyde, used in making plywood. What emerges is a clear picture of chemical giants skewing scientific studies and manipulating the media.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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