Archive for January, 2010

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

Just because it’s awesome (Norm Walsh – Geek Rockstar)

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Koalie found this fantastic video of Norm Walsh for Mark Logic which depicts him as an XML Rock Star. I love that these ads show there are heroes and stars in the world of technology, that geeks are awesome. That this is Norm, whom I know, makes it even better.

Norm is a great guy: super smart, curious, kind and of course, as you may be able to tell from the fact that he did the ad at all, he has a great sense of humor.

This is easily the most awesome thing I’ve seen in ages.

Things I read the other day and meant to post (buggy and squishy cyborg)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Technically, you’re already a cyborg. If you keep your cell phone with you most of the time, especially if the earpiece is in place, I think we can call that arrangement an exobrain. Don’t protest that your cellphone isn’t part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body. In fact, one of the benefits of being a cyborg is that you can remove and upgrade parts easily. So don’t give me that “It’s not attached to me” argument. You’re already a cyborg. Deal with it.

– Scott Adams (via the daily dish)

Ok, so I’m a sucker for the term “exobrain”. I do hate to be away from my phone for too long and having grown up with Star Trek and Star Wars and other Sci-Fi as such constant cultural references I think I’m more inclined to think “cyborg?!! AWESOME!” (and then be vaguely disappointed with the end product since if I’m a cyborg it’s a dangerously beta, buggy, squishy one) than to be worried. So though I can’t completely agree with the idea, (using a shovel doesn’t make me a backhoe), I was amused at the notion.

and on the other side of the idea, the iPhone as object that desires to be used:

“Pet me, touch me, love me, that’s what I get when I perform”, one of several great images in the “Sociology of Objects” set by the ever-fantastic Stéphane Massa-Bidal

Things I saw today (the known universe)

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

The Known Universe (via information aesthetics) is a beautiful video of the, yes, known universe “through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang” created with data from the Digital Universe Atlas maintained by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History.

“Every satellite, moon, planet, star and galaxy is represented to scale and its correct, measured location according to the best scientific research to-date.”

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.

dream house (decorating castles in the sky)

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

ffffound is an amazing collection of images – a subset of which is interior design and amongst which are several I find very appealing. I realized I had started to kind of pull together images of some kind of alternate reality dream house.

What’s interesting, I suppose, is how close and perhaps moreso, how far, the above are from how I’ve decorated my own real house. One big difference is I’d never have a animal skin rug. I also really favor red oriental rugs (as opposed to neutral or rugless floors in these pictures) and display more artwork – features I love but which detract from the minimalist vibe I seem to desire.

Things I saw today (minimalist joyful pleasure-making)

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Zimoun : Sound Sculptures & Installations | Compilation Video V1.5 from ZIMOUN VIDEO ARCHIVE on Vimeo.

a quite lovely and soothing sound/art video by Swiss artist Zimoun, (aptly) titled: minimalist joyful pleasure-making (via moon river)

Around the same time that I saw the above I saw a great image (via the ever-amazing nevver)

Perhaps I’m a bit too minimalist in my tastes or already moved by the mundane but I think the radiator is plenty beautiful without a fez.