Archives for January 2008

"Only one person can become president of the United States, but there’s no limit to the number of social entrepreneurs who can make this planet a better place."

Nicholas Kristof has a lovely and inspiring editorial in today's NYT about the young social entrepreneurs who are working to create systems that increase equality and opportunity. It begins: "In the ’60s, perhaps the most remarkable Americans were the civil rights workers and antiwar protesters who started movements that transformed the country. In the 1980s, the most fascinating people were entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who started companies and ended up revolutionizing the way we use technology. "Today the most remarkable young people are the social entrepreneurs, those who see a problem in society and roll up their sleeves to address it in new ways." He offers some examples: Andrew Klaber...spent the summer after his sophomore year in college in Thailand and was aghast to see teenage girls being forced into prostitution after their parents had died of AIDS. So he started "Orphans Against AIDS , which pays school-related expenses for hundreds of children who have been orphaned or … [Read more...]

Miscellaneous Weekend Links

Organized for your convenience: About Dogs From The New York Times, The Healing Power of Dogs The heartwarming picture alone is worth the click over. Other Heartwarming Someone unearthed a cache of 1970s-era studio photos from Sears and Olan Mills photo stores. The pictures are comical but also moving, and some of the captions are fun. I love the funny-hat family. About Veganism Terrific Wall Street Journal article on vegan athletes . Features NFL and NBA players, as well as the recent winner of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter," a violent combination of kick-boxing and wrestling, who says, "It's about animal rights, not human rights." More Good News Whole Foods to Stop Use of Plastic BagsOnce more, our good friends at Whole Foods lead an ethical charge. Did you know there's a vast "trash island" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Plastic grocery bags are a major component. Sea turtles also eat plastic bags thinking they're jellyfish, usually with fatal results. About Republicans John Cole asks … [Read more...]

Beauty for a Friday

CalTech physics professor Kenneth Libbrecht takes exquisitely beautiful photographs of snowflakes using a custom-built camera. Check out his website , which also includes some "cool" science. … [Read more...]

Another Compassionate Conservative(tm)

From Think Progress : "Opening his radio show with funeral music yesterday, Fox News host John Gibson callously mocked the death of actor Heath Ledger, calling him a 'weirdo' with a 'serious drug problem.' "Playing an audio clip of the iconic quote, “I wish I knew how to quit you' from Ledger’s gay romance movie Brokeback Mountain, Gibson disdainfully quipped, 'Well, he found out how to quit you.'" You know, you can read all the psychology and political texts in the world, and still find yourself wondering, "Who are these people, and how could they have possibly gotten so twisted?" … [Read more...]

I Think (Lucky), Therefore I Am (Lucky)

I have been looking for this citation, on and off, for months. Thought it was either from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but can't find it, so maybe I'm wrong. If one of you have it, please share! It was an article about luck. It said that people who believe themselves to be lucky often do wind up lucky, in part because they keep looking for solutions to problems long after the people who believe themselves to be unlucky give up. In other words, optimism yields luck. Here's an example of this phenomenon from my own life. Years ago, when I lived in the suburbs, I used to do the suburban thing and park at a train station and take the train into Boston. Like most writers, I'm a late riser and so by the time I got to the commuter garage it was invariably full. Believing myself to be lucky, though, I would drive around a bit longer believing that something would turn up - and it often did. I'd either catch someone leaving a space, or a few times the garage attendant let me park in an unused e-car … [Read more...]

"…happiness is complex and difficult and worth striving for."

Hi Everyone: this posting is from a few months back, but we're getting a spate of new visitors from the WSJ Forums and I want to make sure they don't miss some of the good old stuff. As for the rest of you, well, it never hurts to reread a little Goethe. - Hillary From a Wall Street Journal review of a new biography of the writer Goethe: "Directing sensitivity inward, relishing alienation from the world -- these are things that artists have traditionally been expected to do, at least since the days of the Romantic movement that Goethe helped to set in train. As Mr. Armstrong makes clear, Goethe himself took an opposite course, producing great art through active, positive involvement with the age in which he lived. "The success of Gatz and Werther brought Goethe an invitation to the court of the young Duke Carl August at Weimar. He went not as a poet laureate or tutor, as one might expect, but as an administrator, soon becoming responsible for the small duchy's mining operations, its army and its … [Read more...]

Howard Bloom's Somber Poli Sci Lesson

From an Alternet essay by literary and cultural critical Harold Bloom: "The horror of what is taking place in Iraq exceeds my worst fears five or six years ago (after Bush came to power). I am horrified at the disastrous mistake involved. Imagine the complete madness in trying to occupy a large Arab country in the middle of the Arab world, a culture we know precious little about, and who speaks a language only a handful of our specialists can speak, with armed forces which we have limited control of and with a large army of private soldiers .... The whole thing is a scandal ... a series of lies. I don't understand the motivation for the war, but suspect the real reason for the war, which one would suspect of a country which is a third oligarchy, a third plutocracy and a third theocracy, is that it simply is a profitable machine." A reminder: Oligarchy = rule by a few individualsPlutocracy = rule by the wealthyTheocracy = placement of governmental authority in the hands of a church This might be a good … [Read more...]

"An Abject Fear of Losing"

Having just a few days ago posted an encomium to Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and current courageous political activist, I was struck by an interesting contrast between his story and the late Bobby Fischer's. One of the main points Kasparov kept mentioning in the talk I heard him give is that, You have to have the courage to fail." In contrast, "Fischer's obituary in the New York Times notes, "some said he was driven by an abject fear of losing." A comparison would be both facile and unfair, since their circumstances were very different and Fischer clearly suffered from mental problems. But it is interesting nevertheless to ponder the difference in fates between a genius who conquered his fears, and one who was conquered by them. … [Read more...]

Just Two Fun Links

"People aged 1 through 100 banging on a drum.": and oddly compelling. The Daily CoyoteYoung woman lives in a cabin in the Wyoming countryside, finds a 10-day-old orphaned coyote, names it Charlie, raises it, and takes amazing photos and writes compelling commentary as it grows up. I'm not a huge fan of photography as an art because the work often seems cold and over-technical, but these photographs are filled with warmth and character and feeling, as well as being beautiful. You really get a sense of Charlie the Coyote as an individual soul. … [Read more...]

Essay: Encounters With Four Activists

I had the good fortune to encounter four amazing activists last year. The first was Doris Haddock, a.k.a. GrannyD , an incredible woman who walked across the United States at the age of 89 to advocate for the elimination of unregulated "soft" money in campaigns. She then returned home to New Hampshire, and in 2004, at the age of 94, ran for U.S. Senate! With almost no money, and running against an entrenched Republican incumbent, she still managed to get nearly 40%+ of the vote - a people-powered success that proved the effectiveness of grassroots, guerrilla campaigns. Her story is now told in a wonderful and inspiring film, Run Granny Run!, that showed on HBO in October, and is now available on DVD. That film previewed in Boston and GrannyD herself was in attendance and spoke; it was thrilling to see her. The second was Garry Kasparov , the former world chess champion who is now the leading opposition candidate and champion for democracy in an increasingly autocratic Russia. He gave a talk to more than a … [Read more...]

Meditation on Life Coaching

The New York Times has a pretty good article on life coaches and what they do. I particularly like the fact that the coach they feature most prominently comes, as I do, from a business background: many coaches come from a social work or psychotherapy background, and while those skills are essential, I don't think they're sufficient. I find that my strategic and business knowledge are particularly helplful to people who are stuck with their careers or, obviously, businesses. One thing that I do that I don't see other coaches doing is include an explicit political framework in my coaching. Not that I tell people whom to vote for, but I do incorporate my conviction that many people are stuck or unhappy not through any fault of their own, but because our hyper-capitalist, hyper-corporate society has decimated our authentic communities, overwhelmed our families, and striven to reduce vibrant, creative, independent-thinking individuals to passive, compliant workers and consumers. For the kind of people I coach - … [Read more...]

New York Times article on The Moral Instinct

Great long - but extremely lucid - article on morality by psychologist Steven Pinker in Sunday's New York Times. I love the beginning: "Which of the following people would you say is the most admirable: Mother Teresa, Bill Gates or Norman Borlaug? And which do you think is the least admirable? For most people, it’s an easy question. Mother Teresa, famous for ministering to the poor in Calcutta, has been beatified by the Vatican, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ranked in an American poll as the most admired person of the 20th century. Bill Gates, infamous for giving us the Microsoft dancing paper clip and the blue screen of death, has been decapitated in effigy in “I Hate Gates” Web sites and hit with a pie in the face. As for Norman Borlaug . . . who the heck is Norman Borlaug? "Yet a deeper look might lead you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion … [Read more...]

Moving Letter From a Courageous Guatemalan Mother to Her "Forcibly Disappeared" Son, 20 Years Later

From Boing-Boing "Oscar, there are so many things I would like to tell you which have happened over these past twenty years. Ever since you were abducted, on that February 23rd 1984, my heart has remained completely void. You know I considered you not just my son, but also my brother, my colleague. You were everything to me and ever since that day I swore I would neither rest nor give up the struggle to find you. "More than twenty years have passed now and unfortunately I have yet to complete the objective I set for myself. If these walls could speak, they would recall everything we once talked about. How many sleepless nights of work we spent! I don’t know if you remember the amount of cigarettes we smoked together, the cups of coffee we drank while planning our work. Work intended for that struggle you took upon and eventually involved me in. Despite it all, I do not regret a thing. If things were to go back as they were in the 1980s, now in 2005, I would do it all over. Even if it meant losing you … [Read more...]

An Artist's Progress

Artist Joel Harris has posted a selection of his artworks spanning his entire life starting with crayon masterpieces from age 5, and proceeding through his Mad Magazine phase, cartooning phase, Marine Corps phase, European travel phase, and culminating with a radically new style of art that he evolved after he: "Sold everything I owned and lived in the Amazon region of Peru for 1 year. I took one year off from painting and creativity, and focused on finding answers to life's questions. In the Amazon, I worked with a visionary/shamanic plant called Ayahuasca which alowed me to view reality from a different perspective, and has changed my life forever..." Fascinating visual portrait of a creatively free mind at work. … [Read more...]