Archive for the 'current events' Category

“You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world”

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Jon Stewart, though ostensibly a comedian, is, I think, one of the most thoughtful and important voices we have on current politics and the media. He recently spoke about the terrible shooting in Arizona and his words are both moving and wise:

… to see good people like this hurt. It is so grievous and it causes me such sadness. But again, I refuse to give in to that feeling of despair. There is light in this situation. I urge everyone – read up about those that were hurt and or killed. You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world.

You read about these people and realize that people you don’t even know, that you have never met, are leading lives of real dignity and goodness, and you hear about crazy, but it’s rarer than you think….

If there is real solace in this, I think it’s that, for all the hyperbole and vitriol that’s become part of our political process, when the reality of that rhetoric, when actions match the disturbing nature of words, we haven’t lost our capacity to be horrified. And please, god, let us hope we never do…

Someone or something will shatter our world again. And wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take this opportunity and the loss of these incredible people and the pain that their loved ones are going through right now, wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take that moment to make sure that the world that we are creating now that will ultimately be shattered again by a moment of lunacy, wouldn’t it be a shame if that world wasn’t better than the one that was previously lost?

The full video is here:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

silence, minimalism

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

my mood lately: I want minimalism, something slightly cool and removed

Illinois, Birds Over Lake Michigan by Arthur Lazar via a perfect commotion

I want just the sound of the fan, grey silence

Silent World by Michael Kenna via lushlight

crisp and stark, quiet

Silent World by Michael Kenna

lunch counter protests – Civil Rights, Rand Paul and faces and actions to remember

Friday, May 21st, 2010

(via A Short and Incomplete Civil Rights History)

I’d never seen this image of students staging a sit-in at a lunch counter in 1960s Mississippi before today but it brought tears to my eyes – both at the gloating, self-satisfied glee of some of the people pouring food and drink on the protesters and at the protestors own calm, if pained, dignity (also the blond on the left looks striking like one of our former student interns).

This image was posted at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish as part of an on-going discussion of Rand Paul’s recent comments against the Civil Rights Act. As always, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts on the matter are well worth reading as well.

Like others I’m just staggered that someone who opposes the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act has been elected in this country and has any place on the national stage. It’s easy to become disheartened and to look around and see the embrace of hates, prejudices and bigotries as a cancer in this country (and other countries) – to see the faces of those men in that picture pouring food and drink on other human beings (or just looking on) repeated in contemporary politics. I have to remember too the faces of those three protestors in that crowd – their incredible dignity and strength; their justness and their cause; their willingness to act for what they believe – and to remember that this exists now too.

Mandela and Biko (music and social justice)

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Last week was the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela and so I found myself listening to the Special AKA song “Free Nelson Mandela” from 1984 quite a few times.

(Unfortunately I can’t find an embeddable version of the fantastic original video).

While that song is buoyant and energetic and new listens contain the additional joy of knowing Mandela was eventually freed and went on to have a strong and positive influence in South Africa it always makes me think of its mournful, (both in tone and in the story it tells), counterpart: Peter Gabriel’s “Biko” from 1980.

(some of the images in the above video are from the 1987 movie “Cry Freedom” with Denzel Washington. This video has the audio from the movie clips over the song. I recommend watching it as it gives an idea of how powerfully moving the movie was).

Steven Biko was a contemporary of Mandela’s and though both worked for the freedom of their country and the dignity of their people Biko supported non-violent measures of protest while Mandela supported an armed struggle (though Mandela was an advocate for peace and reconciliation after his release). Biko more the Martin Luther King to Mandela’s Malcolm X in a way. I remember watching “Cry Freedom” on TV and being stunned by Steven Biko’s story, his bravery and the realization that such conditions continued to exist at that time. I remember around that same time too the song “Sun City” by musicians who refused to play in apartheid South Africa. I know I owe a lot of my introduction to contemporary social justice to music and, oddly, MTV. I think it was a time of real social awakening for me, the realization that the struggle for justice and political action were ongoing, contemporary, active issues and not just a part of history like stories of Harriet Tubman, WWII or the American Civil Rights movement (how sheltered/ignorant was I, eh?).

Howard Zinn – a marvelous victory

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

I was very sorry to read that Howard Zinn died last week. He was a compassionate man with an immense passion for justice and fairness.

I remember in the days after the 2004 election feeling overwhelmed and full of despair. Zinn’s essay, the Optimism of Uncertainty, not only reassured me but spurred me to expect and act for change. It affected my life in a modest but very powerful way and over the years I have been repeatedly grateful for and tried to do my part to help to spread the message.

I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.

…it’s clear that the struggle for justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent overwhelming power of those who have the guns and the money and who seem invincible in their determination to hold on to it. That apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience–whether by blacks in Alabama and South Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Vietnam, or workers and intellectuals in Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union itself. No cold calculation of the balance of power need deter people who are persuaded that their cause is just….

Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society. We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don’t “win,” there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.

An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

The Optimism of Uncertainty

Meip Geis

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I was sad to hear today that Meip Geis has died as she was a kind of personal hero of mine.

When I was a child my family told many stories about WWII in the Netherlands. My great-grandmother in Arnheim hid American airmen in a hiding space in her house during the occupation and my great uncle died in a concentration camp after being captured in a raid when visiting Jewish friends in the ghetto. My parents took us to see The Hiding Place – a movie which we were probably a bit too young to see, or at least I remember being more frightened and upset at watching it than anything previously in my life – about a Dutch family who hid their Jewish countrymen, were caught and taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp. When I was growing up these stories were an important part of the family identity and something I know which affected me deeply as I was creating my view of the world – the potential for evil and the potential for good.

Meip Geis was one of the people who risked their lives to hide Anne Frank and her family for two years and who, after the Franks and others hiding in the space behind the bookcase were captured by the Nazis and taken away to concentration camps, found and saved Anne’s diary which has become one of the most important and moving books in Western Civilization.

I am stunned at the courage and determination that it must have taken to risk one’s life daily for years to help protect others as Meip Geis did, as others did, when struggling to just try to survive the war and occupation was such a tremendous battle.

“There is nothing special about me,” Gies wrote, “I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time.”

But she was special. She and her husband and others risked their lives every day for years – overcoming fear, the day-after-day grind and difficulty and effort, to do what was necessary, what was good. They scrounged extra food, clothing and supplies when all was terribly scarce in a time of almost unimaginable daily threat and fear. This is tremendous heroism – the modest but staggering strength of deciding the right thing to do and doing it no matter how difficult. This is what goodness is, what courage is and why I wanted to pause and think of and be grateful for all that Meip Gies and all brave protectors have done for us, the lessons they leave us.

— update 1/14/09
I heard the announcement that Meip Geis died on the radio, WCPE via the web. They played Barber’s Adagio for Strings in her memory and it was so lovely and so fitting I decided I wanted to keep the music and the note about her death together.

Just because it’s awesome (Arctic Monkeys – I bet you look good on the dancefloor)

Friday, October 16th, 2009

It’s *snowing* in October in Boston. It’s dark and cold and the thing this day really, really needed – I noticed when walking down the street with my shoulders hunched against the wind and rain – the thing which really reformed the morning was Arctic Monkeys: ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.

So starting a new theme: just because it’s awesome….

Arctic Monkeys at Glastonbury, 2007, lyrics

serious, earnest and informative (Iran, humor and pumpkin pie)

Saturday, June 27th, 2009


(started on IRC):
I did it again – just totally couldn’t take the joke. I should be aware by now that the inclusion of the word “Iran” (or “Iraq”) in any conversation immediately shuts off any humor receptors in my brain.* My eyes go glassy, I sit up very straight, start spouting statistics and referencing web sites. I am serious, earnest and _painfully_ informative. I’ve got a disproportionate amount of data, passion and desire to talk about this (not just about videos of a young woman dying on the street or politics, but technology, humanity, connection, history, etc. etc) compared to just about anyone I speak to in my every day world (and I admit, it feels very lonely).

It occured to me after I launched into another unechoed allocution on the topic that I might need to come up with an equivalent code phrase to the one used by Summer Glau’s brother in Serenity when she hears a trigger word, goes nuts in the bar and starts wailing on everyone – which he says to make her fall asleep. Something like “pumpkin pie” maybe?

* ok, that’s not totally true. trevlix on twitter has been consistently awesome and pointed and funny.

* and I love that this gesture looks both “V for Victory” with small bits of the Brit “get stuffed” gesture


Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

-Elizabeth Alexander-Inaugural Poem

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans…

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake…

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint…

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath…
– President Obama, Inaugural speech


a poem I read today (“or just after”)

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

– “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens