Archive for the ‘story’ Category

Farce of the week: prison break out… by courier!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

From the BBC -

A manhunt is under way in western Germany for a convicted drug dealer who escaped by mailing himself out of jail.

The 42-year-old Turkish citizen – who was serving a seven-year sentence – had been making stationery with other prisoners destined for the shops.

At the end of his shift, the inmate climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of prison by express courier. His whereabouts are still unknown.

The chief warden of the jail told the BBC this was an embarrassing incident.

To say the least.  Priceless.

‘The Vet who did not Vet’

Friday, October 24, 2008

The number of high quality, innovative, non-Campaign, campaigning videos that have been produced and shared on the www is astounding.

And on this basis alone, Obama wins.

Ouch! McCain’s history of ‘failing upwards’

Thursday, October 9, 2008

http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0c5d1F37OlfED/610x.jpgAP photo by Gerald Herbert

From Tom Dickinson’s iconoclastic portrait of a self-centred misogynist, who crashed two US planes on his way to becoming a very dishonourable man, in Rolling Stone magazine -

In its broad strokes, McCain’s life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers’ powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives’ evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

Exquisite? ‘Wake Up, Freak Out, Then Get a Grip’

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I watched this thanks to Ray Ison, and was mightily impressed with the quality of the animation and the sound effects.

I found myself wanting more!  I’d love to see the team that created this apply their talents to lots more stuff.  It strikes me this medium can work incredibly well as a storytelling and educational vehicle. Very nice song at the end.

Now for my critique.  On the whole, the narrative was cogent, but the intense relaying of scientific information seemed to cater more for a science-literate audience.  I felt the scripting and narration left quite a lot to be desired.  The narrator skipped quickly between concepts, leaving non-scientists like myself befuddled and breathless, and needing to rewind the animation to work out what was being discussed and to catch up.  It seriously denigrated my experience of what could be a stunning project.  I dearly wanted a simpler script and much, much clearer transitions between each science-spiel segment.  And less jargon. (Interestingly, the animation’s creator conceived the animation as an old-fashioned piece of unilateral communication.)

I’m curious what you think and how you feel about it.  Comments and insights welcome.

The Wild Driveway Story

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Copyright Franke James.  Read the full story here.

A word from the wise – JK Rowling’s Address to Harvard Graduates 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An excerpt on how imagination facilitates empathy -

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London. There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind. I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares about some of the things I saw, heard and read. And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before. Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid. What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

Storytelling is the new politics

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Previously I wrote about the emergence of the new politics courtesy of the US presidential election. Here is another example of what’s happening. The Obama campaign is doing something clever: having ordinary folk introduce the candidate by telling their personal story. This is a significant change when compared with the traditional approach of having someone famous, established or important introducing the candidate. I love this, from the Obama website -

The great birthing – the significance of the US presidential election

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Like me, you may have become fascinated – obsessed, even – with the presidential election in the United States.

Some might think that the levels of money being raised are obscene. To that perspective, I’d counter that people’s participation rather than corrupt secret deals is the cause. Others may think that no politician can be honourable. To this perspective, I’d counter that we’re all human but that some are better than others.

I believe this election is the most important the world will know for a very long time. The stakes are the highest they have been.

Can the growing sectarian conflict in the world, that’s embroiled with American foreign policy, be reversed? Can the rhetoric of intolerance, and the belief that might is right, be overcome? Can the political will be generated to address global warming, and other seemingly intractable issues like the rising food prices globally? America can shine a light and do something positive to address each of these questions.

In sum, this election may be the last time that any one nation state has the chance to prevent the erosion of human civilisation as we know it. It’s about sustainability in its deepest sense.

Now I don’t believe any one individual alone can solve these issues. However, the president of the United States, as of 2008, sure sets the tone and leads by example in how to go about addressing them.

If it’s about anything in particular, I’d suggest the election is about the ability to manage amidst complexity.

McCain, unfortunately for him and the Republican Party, has the wrong policies. Clinton has the wrong decision-making approach.

To my mind, the tortuous Democratic nomination campaign reflects the labour pains of a new kind of politics, one that Senator Barack Obama seems the better able to appreciate. Obama has, broadly speaking, both the right policies and the right decision-making approach. (For those who missed it the first time, read Andrew Sullivan’s article, The New Face of America, published in the Times.) That is, of course, from my point of view, but I believe he gives people confidence that he is able to handle, grapple with, and forge pathways through complexity.

Like many others of his supporters, I was disappointed that Clinton won the Pensylvania primary, but I wasn’t surprised. Not only was it predicted and she heavily favoured. If you think about it, anything big that tries to be born has long and drawn-out labour pains.

An important part of the new politics is the grass-roots organising going on, facilitated by the internet. The fundraising has been staggering. The ability to reflect and share ideas and perspectives on the campaign, online, is also formidable. Candidate’s supporters in a very real sense are guiding where the campaign goes. The feedback from a candidate’s speech to a supporter’s online donation can be immediate.

Innovatively, an American NGO, MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Obama, is currently hosting an online competition for the best ‘Obama in 30 Seconds‘ advert. I’ve watched a few now, engrossed in how keen people have been to express themselves in aid of a political campaign.

Something I have found heartening has been how people have been effected when they have met Obama in person, heard him speak at rallies, and have had a chance to size him up; like here.

Here are four of my overall favourites

And my vote would be for ‘My Name Is Barack Obama – Afraid’

Influencing the conversation: Gore’s self-funded ad blitz

Monday, March 31, 2008

Superb interview, which prompted a personal reflection on his failed 2000 presidential campaign, despite his attempt (‘words fail to describe’ etc.) to evade the question – i.e. ‘shattering’.

From CBS News.

Note Gore’s message – ‘Yes We Can’ mitigate the devastating effects of man-made global warming (which sounds good as far as an Obama endorsement is concerned).

[One of the things I find interesting about his approach is his casting of the issue as a moral-cum-spiritual problem, one that concerns basic survival -

"We all share the exact same interest in doing the right thing on this. Who are we as human beings? Are we destined to destroy this place that we call home, planet earth? I can't believe that that's our destiny. It is not our destiny. But we have to awaken to the moral duty that we have to do the right thing and get out of this silly political game-playing about it. This is about survival," he said.

I had thought basic survival comes first on the (Maslow) hierarchy of needs - with spiritual/moral needs coming later, once basic survival needs have been satisfied. (I kind of like Max Neef's take on this; see the Maslow wikipedia link above. Maslow could have been projecting a whole lot of cultural junk, about the developmental stages of evolution towards 'civilisation', into his hierarchy - but that's a whole other discussion.) Maybe Gore's understanding of the relationship between survival and morality reflects a difference between British and American culture. I don't know. To my mind, matters of survival don't necessitate lofty arguments about morality but rather the finding of food, water, air, shelter and warmth. And probably laughter too. Anyway...]

Perhaps unsurprisingly many are envisaging Gore as a possible bridge between the Democratic party and the White House. What did I say? I still maintain, though, that Obama should be at the top of the ticket.

Some intervention into the presidential campaign his ad campaign could be.


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