ALAMEDA -- From politics to plants and painters, Alameda organizations have a stimulating variety of activities for the community to take part in over the next few weeks.

Alameda Public Affairs Forum, for instance, will present author and philosopher Richard Lichtman on Saturday at the Alameda Main Library. Lichtman will lead a discussion on American society and its challenges in the wake of the killings in Newtown, Conn.

The guest speaker will focus on the ideas of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (who wrote "The Sane Society") and how they can be applied to understanding acts of violence today, as well as to socio-economic inequality and feelings of hopelessness. He will also discuss alternative views, such as those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others who have fought for hope and a new America.

Visitors are invited to come to the library at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with snacks to share and to socialize. The discussion will run from 7-9 p.m., with donations requested at the door. For more information, call 510-814-9592.

Several days later, Alameda Backyard Growers will present a bit more down-to-earth chat at the Main Library. Alameda County master gardener and soil scientist Marion Adams Yoxall will deliver a talk at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12, entitled: "The Dirt on Dirt, Soil Science and Soil Fertility Basics for the Home Gardener."

Those attending the lecture will learn where soil comes from, what it is made of and how it is formed. They will also hear about soil texture and how texture affects plants, soil biology, fertility, nutrients and fertilizers.


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At the Feb. 12 event, the local gardening group -- which will celebrate its three-year anniversary at the library on Feb. 17 -- will have a silent auction for a worm bin.

For those less interested in getting their hands dirty, the Alameda Free Library will share a talk on the newest exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, "Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis," which is on display through June 2.

Museum docent Marsha Holm will introduce some of the show's highlights to the Alameda community from 6:30-8 p.m. on Feb. 20, at the Main Library. She will share images of and information on 35 paintings from the 17th century Dutch Republic, which are owned by the Royal Picture Gallery, Mauritshuis, at the Hague.

Some of the masterpieces featured are "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer, "The Goldfinch" by Carl Fabritius and "Vase of Flowers" by Rachel Ruysch. The free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Alameda Free Library.

Janet Levaux also writes the Alameda Journal Blog at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal.