Things I saw today – elk calf frolicking in a puddle

March 28th, 2010 by amy

via TYWKIWDBI with the quote:

“All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.”
– Samuel Butler

an elk calf frolicking in a puddle

and this decides it – I’m off to go for a walk outside


excellent writing advice

March 6th, 2010 by amy

5. Keep a copy of Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway on the left hand side of your desk. Keep Fitzgerald’s The Crack Up on the right. When you get stuck, pick them up and pretend that they are having a fight, like you used to do with your GI Joes. Just sort of bash them together for a while.

from 10 rules for writing (dogless, well-nourished) fiction by Lynn Coady

:)


Just because it’s awesome (Portishead)

March 3rd, 2010 by amy

I rarely listen to iTunes on shuffle but today on a whim was listening to some random stuff and was reminded how gorgeous Portishead’s “Roads” is. It’s layered, simple and achingly sad:

I remember in 2008 when Third came out being absolutely mesmerized by “Machine Gun”. I must have listened to it 20 times in a row on the day I first heard it. It makes my heart race slightly andI find it both disturbing and beautiful which is kind of a rare thing in music.

Also worth checking out is “Chase the tear” which they did for Amnesty International.


update 6 March 2010

Yves brought up another fantastic Portishead song and video: We Carry On. He very correctly described the song as hypnotic, loud and sad. The video is uniquely beautiful and almost distressingly dark.


Mandela and Biko (music and social justice)

February 19th, 2010 by amy

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?).


kind of icky, kind of awesome (fat and muscle)

February 18th, 2010 by amy

Since I saw this kind of icky and kind of awesome image at mc’s amazing fitness blog, begin to dig, it occurs to me over and over again and is actually a bit of an inspiration to get on the exercise machine in the morning.


Just because it’s awesome (Gotan Project – tango)

February 1st, 2010 by amy

This video inspired me to take tango lessons (with a well-matched partner such fun, fun, fun!)

The song is fantastic and the video is graphically beautiful and additionally awesome for having M/M and F/F as well as the more traditional F/M couples. Such a beautiful and sexy dance.


Howard Zinn – a marvelous victory

January 31st, 2010 by amy

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)

January 24th, 2010 by amy

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)

January 19th, 2010 by amy

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)

January 17th, 2010 by amy

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.”