Thursday, May 17, 2007

Getting Over It

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work;
and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

There may be many stories just like this one, but for Julie Amero, the American schoolteacher facing 40 years in prison for supposedly exposing her pupils to online pornography, it is a nightmare that is not yet over. Her claim is that she is the victim of unwarranted pop-up porn ads via some malware, and was unable to fix the problem before students saw the images. Anyone who has spent anytime at all on a computer knows how easy that can happen. Where is the schools IT manager in all of this? Not a good look, as they say.

And speaking of nightmares, if your name is David Bain, and you lived in Dunedin, NZ in the early 90's, then the last 13 years in prison came to an end last week. Arrested and jailed for allegedly killing all 5 members of his family, he has steadfastly claimed his innocence. A long and arduous campaign has gone all the way to the Privy Council in London, where Law Lords (what is a Law Lord?) quashed his conviction and he was subsequently released. He may still face another trial, but do you think he might just have paid his dues already? To lose your entire family and then spend over a decade in prison as the murderer if in fact you were not, would be a nightmare hard to top. More to come surely, in what some call "trials by ambush".

Not a good week for New Zealand all around really. First they are told they blew it in the trial of Mr Bain so many years ago, and then visiting European tourism students give the "clean green" image a bit of workover.

They claim the lack of recycling ("plastic bags everywhere!"), as well as lack of cycle paths and other car-alternative transport options do no favours to the visitor on an eco-conscious trip.
Outside the cities lie vast unspoilt regions of exceptional beauty, for sure, but apparently our carbon footprint per capita is not to be proud of. Ouch again.

However, the wildlife have got it together..

The New Zealand godwits head north every year, and their journey is now being tracked
by scientists, according to this BBC report.
Not one to rest much, the godwit is a small bird that makes its way all the way to Alaska every year, by way of China. Fattening themselves for the epic jaunt, they travel over 10,000km with only a short stop for food and water along the way.

That's alot of flappin'. Carbon neutral as well!

A new biography is out on the great thinker of the early 20th century, Rudoph Steiner. Along with founding the Waldorf schools and Biodynamic agricultural methods, he was fond of pouring his remaining coffee from his cup each day on the earth, so it could have the benefit as well. A very prolific writer and lecturer with some interesting ideas and supporters, anthroposophy was the name given to his mystical and holistic approach.

Attention (pop) culture vultures: The Simpsons has reached 400 episodes! Haven't seen a bad one yet, actually.

Another guy to steer way clear of: First, he promotes the invasion of a sovereign country and makes a mess of that whole neo-con imperialist post 9/11 hysteria, then slips out of government to take up a post at the World Bank.

There, he gets his girlfriend a hefty pay rise and cushy post, while heading up an anti-corruption task force to tell other governments how to act so they can get money from the Bank. Charming. I'd say Paul Wolfowitz has some explaining to do.

Michael Moore's new film Sicko, premiering in Cannes this week, should be another shaker for those who have something to hide. Like the U.S. government apparently, who have tried seizing the film before he could "sneak" it out of the country to the festival. You can't buy publicity like that.

However, all is not lost.
If you were a housewife circa 1954, you might have enjoyed some portable music in the kitchen as you went about your duties (or not). This shows just how far we have come for the audiophiles, if not in gender equality:Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Misallocation of Attention

" It's not dark yet,
But it's getting there

-Bob Dylan

It had to happen. Just as the current backlash on religious fundamentalism has produce pundits from all corners of the atheistic spectrum; we now have internet entrepreneurs saying the offerings of the last couple of years ( commonly referred to by those in the tech world as "Web 2.0") have led to "digital narcissism" and are wrecking our culture.

Eh? It is what it is. The internet simply reflects that in a quicker, wider and more visual manner.

I have not yet read the book, but Andrew Keens The Cult of the Amateur, How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting our Economy, has received mixed reviews, with most claiming it to be a rant too far. MySpace and YouTube may have lots of students blogging on their frat parties or making silly attempts at directorial stardom, but it still is a creative outlet that has transformed the way we relate to each other. Some say to the worse. I think it is still too early to say. Stay tuned.

Bad News Weekend in Aotearoa: Two teenagers get run over at a party in Christchurch, a toddler gets shot dead in a drive by gang shooting, and a P Lab blows up, killing the drug baron-to-be. That's just last weekend. These are all things that make New Zealanders think hard about what kind of society we are living in now. It may be commonplace in other countries, but it puts a shudder up the collective spine of this one. Young people are such a source of energy. Losing them such a waste.

There is more to life than living,
There is more to death than dying.

The Icelandic Diva Bjork live (right) will send anyone into a spin with her eclectic and experimental mix of vocal and instrumental explosions, a recent live recording in New York is here courtesy of NPR.

And while you are using up some bandwidth, and only have time for one good interview all year, don't miss Bill Moyers chatting with Jon Stewart about what is (and isn't) journalism, what is (and isn't) happening in America, and generally looking at current events from a different perspective. From Moyers' new PBS show. Brilliant.

The Hippies were Right is an interesting article from SF Chronicle columnist Mark Morford. Since Green has become the new chic, then maybe the hippies were on to something all those years ago. I kind of enjoyed living in a teepee. My carbon footprint was more of a charcoal smudge, but it was living lightly!

Speaking of greenies, and hippies (not!), Prince Charles features in the Vanity Fair Green issue, in an article entitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Throne. Apparently he has received an Environmental Global Citizen Award that he jetted in to pick up earlier this year. For the Prince everyone likes to make fun of, and who has been "talking to plants" for awhile now; it is clear he was on to it in the early days, pushing organic farming and sustainable land management. Still hounded by the press in all his causes both personal and otherwise, the saavy Prince is finally seeing his message get through. A big hit in environmentally conscious California, that is for sure.

His Duchy Originals boasts 200 plus mostly organic products, generating over $2M for charity. His latest idea is Accounting for Sustainability, a method of "accounting for the green costs" in products, in order to let consumers make informed choices. This has been put forward before, by Paul Hawken in his groundbreaking book Natural Capitalism with Amory Lovins, but maybe its just a little sexier now.

If that doesn't get you going, then a new study out by Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, states quite boldly that meditation is and excellent way of achieving prolonged states of concentration. This prevents the brain from "blinking", thereby losing attention at perhaps a crucial point. When things happen too fast, it is claimed, consciousness is supressed, and well, where are those damn car keys anyway? He calls attention a "flexible and trainable skill", which is groundbreaking stuff in the world of neuroscience.

Get those brain watchers and mystics together for a bit of a sit down, I say.

Michael Moore's new doco, called Sicko will no doubt take an unmerciful look at the Healthcare system in the U.S., where average annual health insurance premiums are more than what worker on the minimum wage makes in a whole year. wage. Any wonder there are 30+ million uninsured? Premieres at Cannes this month.

Gotta get down to the local Rocky Bay Hall for my weekly Qigong workout. The grapes are in, the olives as well, Winter green manure cover crops are sown, and pretty much had the last swim for the summer. (ouch!) Time for some inner work.