/***********************************************/ /* HEADER */

It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

My Photo
Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

100 things about me

Powered by Blogger

Sunday, November 30, 2008

To do: Be awesome.

Came across this guy in a random web walk, yesterday. I first tripped on his portfolio in his flickr stream, then zoomed off to his pro site.

His designs are now stuck to my brain. There's something sexy about the kind of designers who are obsessed with typesetting and colour.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sexiest car ever?

I'm not much of a car guy, but this is just sex on a popsicle stick.

The Aston Martin AMV 10.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An open apology to boomers everywhere

(Click title, above, to go to original Salon.com article.)

By Heather Havrilesky

Nov. 07, 2008 |

Dear boomers: We're sorry for rolling our eyes at you all these years. We apologize for scoffing at your earnestness, your lack of self-deprecation, your tendency to take yourselves a little too seriously. We can go ahead and admit now that we grew tired of hearing about the '60s and the peace movement, as if you had to live through those times to understand anything at all. It's true, we didn't completely partake of your idealism and your notions about community. Frankly, it looked gray and saggy in your hands, these many decades later. Chanting "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" at that rally against the Iraq war made us feel self-conscious in spite of ourselves. We felt like clichés. We wondered why someone couldn't come up with a newer, catchier, pro-peace slogan over the course of 40 years of protests. We knew we shouldn't care that some of you were wearing socks with sandals and smelled like you'd been on the bus with Wavy Gravy for the last three decades, but we cared anyway. We couldn't help it. It's just who we are.

And look, we really did stand for something, underneath all the eye-rolling. We're feminists, we care about the environment, we want to improve race relations, we volunteer. We're just low-key about it. We never wanted to do it the way you did it: So unselfconscious, so optimistic, guilelessly throwing yourself behind Team Liberal. We didn't get that. We aren't joiners. We don't like carrying signs. We tend to disagree, if only on principle.

But when we watched Barack Obama's victory speech on Tuesday night, we looked into the eyes of a real leader, and decades of cynicism about politics and grass-roots movements and community melted away in a single moment. We heard the voice of a man who can inspire with his words, who's unashamed of his own intelligence, who's willing to treat the citizens of this country like smart, capable people, worthy of respect. For the first time in some of our lifetimes, we believed.

Suddenly it makes sense, what you've been trying to tell us about John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Sure, we knew all about their roles in history, we'd learned about them in a million classes, through countless books and documentaries. Eventually, though, the endless memorials and tributes and TV specials and Oliver Stone films grew a little tedious. We didn't quite understand why you've never let those two go, why you'd speak so relentlessly about a better time.

But how could we have known? We were raised under Ronald Reagan, smiling emptily under a shellacked cap of shiny brown hair like a demon clown, warning us (With a knowing nod! With a wink!) about those evil Russians stockpiling nuclear arms thousands of miles away. We were raised by "The Love Boat" and "Eight Is Enough" and "Charlie's Angels," a steady flow of saccharine tales with clunky morals. There were smiling families, hugging and learning important lessons on every channel, while at home, our parents threw dishes at each other's heads. We went to church and learned about God's divine plan every Sunday, but all it took was one Dr. Seuss cartoon about an entire world that existed on a speck of dust, and our belief in God was deconstructed in an instant. Our childhoods were one long existential crisis. We ate Happy Meals while watching the space shuttle blow into tiny bits.

You and all your boomer friends read "I'm OK, You're OK," and tried desperately to avoid the mistakes of your parents, those stoic alcoholics of the so-called Greatest Generation. But you couldn't quite put your ideals into motion. As our parents, you told us to tell you anything, to be honest, to come to you with our problems, but when we did, you were uncomfortable and dismissive. You didn't really want to know how we felt. When we were emotional, you flashed back to that time your drunk mother threw the jack-o'-lantern into the street. You loved us, but you were passive-aggressive and avoidant in spite of your best intentions.

You did your best. But we rose out of that murky soup of love and confusion, of stated beliefs without the actions to back them up, and we grew cynical. We doubted even the most heartfelt, genuine statements. We didn't want to be blind to our own faults, like you were, so we paraded our faults around, exalted in our shortcomings. The worst thing, to us, was to not see ourselves clearly. The worst thing was to not be in on the joke.

So we cast a jaded eye on ourselves and each other. We drank too much and listened to obscure indie rock bands. We dressed badly and communicated in four-letter words and read books like "Infinite Jest" and "The Corrections," modern-day versions of your precious J.D. Salinger in which everyone is a fake and the high capitalist world is bought and sold and even the purest form of art is a commodity, not to be taken seriously. No one can be trusted, nothing is pure -- these are the truths we held to be self-evident.

No, we weren't always ready to get involved and make the world a better place, because the air we breathed was toxic with absurdity and excess. Consider our head-spinning trajectory: Mister Rogers, Son of Sam, the Iran hostage crisis, Catholic school, the Hite Report, "The Day After," Edwin Meese, rampant divorce, "Fantasy Island," "Endless Love," Jeffrey Dahmer, the Happy Meal, the Lockerbie air disaster, Toyotathons, John Updike, "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" Do you see how far we had to come? How we were primed to hate our own country, and ourselves along with it?

And then most of us became mature, rational adults at the exact moment that a reckless frat boy boomer became our president. Just when we were starting to understand how to be a part of the larger world outside, Al Gore had the election stolen right out of his hands in Florida, and then the twin towers collapsed before our eyes. At first we felt moved to act for the greater good in the wake of that tragedy. But then the whole country seemed to implode in front of us, from our invasion of two sovereign nations to the rise of celebrity culture to tanning beds to McMansions to Guantánamo Bay to Hummers and a big, faceless herd of humans in low-rider ass pants, chattering about whether or not to get Botox. It was so sad and pathetic that it was funny to us, even if it was only sad and pathetic to you. We urged you to get a sense of humor; we'd lived this way for years, after all. Things were much worse now, worse than ever -- but we'd always expected that they would be, eventually. That's one of the few rewards of being deeply pessimistic, of being trained to lower our expectations, of living in a constant state of distrust and learned helplessness.

But on Tuesday night, that changed. We understood, for the first time in our lives, what it means to be a part of something big, without reservation. We saw the joy in that. We knew that history had been made, and we were happy to have made calls and sent money and knocked on doors for this man. We felt like we were really, truly participants in history, that we had a connection to those people in the crowd at Grant Park and those kids crying and celebrating in Compton on the local news. We were all Americans, together, old and young, black and white and Latino and Asian, and it didn't feel hokey or overly earnest to admit it for once.

So we apologize to you, for making fun of your earnestness. We never want to go back to our old way of thinking. Sure, we'll still be our irreverent, self-deprecating, exasperating selves, but we also want to believe. We want to follow this man, and trust him, and give him our full support. The world may not be transformed overnight, the economy may still struggle, Obama will surely make his share of mistakes. But we want to stand behind him, stand behind this country, and show our fellow Americans the same respect that this new leader of ours has shown all of us, in his words, in his manner and in his promises.

On Tuesday night, we could all sense, with open hearts, that this man meant what he said. There's no shame in seeing that clearly, together. There's no shame in trusting someone's words, and allowing those words to move and inspire you. There's no shame in throwing ourselves into this new future with full hearts, with tears in our eyes, unselfconsciously.

And in 15 years, our kids probably won't understand it when we talk about the night that Obama was elected president, either. They'll sigh deeply and roll their eyes and say they've heard this story a million times before, so please shut up about it already. They'll purse their lips and think about how our hair looks stupid and we smell like old cheese.

But maybe, just maybe, we can change the world enough that they'll get it. Maybe if we dare to hope, eventually hope won't feel quite so daring.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Originally here, but found here via here!

The World View, redux

From the New York Times, a couple of days ago.

The Promise
For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed

GAZA — From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth — call it America — where such a thing happens.

Even where the United States is held in special contempt, like here in this benighted Palestinian coastal strip, the “glorious epic of Barack Obama,” as the leftist French editor Jean Daniel calls it, makes America — the idea as much as the actual place — stand again, perhaps only fleetingly, for limitless possibility.

“It allows us all to dream a little,” said Oswaldo Calvo, 58, a Venezuelan political activist in Caracas, in a comment echoed to correspondents of The New York Times on four continents in the days leading up to the election.

Tristram Hunt, a British historian, put it this way: Mr. Obama “brings the narrative that everyone wants to return to — that America is the land of extraordinary opportunity and possibility, where miracles happen.”

But wonder is almost overwhelmed by relief. Mr. Obama’s election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm — a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos — saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course.

They say the country that weakened democratic forces abroad through a tireless but often ineffective campaign for democracy — dismissing results it found unsavory, cutting deals with dictators it needed as allies in its other battles — was now shining a transformative beacon with its own democratic exercise.


The world’s view of an Obama presidency presents a paradox. His election embodies what many consider unique about the United States — yet America’s sense of its own specialness, of its destiny and mission, has driven it astray, they say. They want Mr. Obama, the beneficiary and exemplar of American exceptionalism, to act like everyone else, only better, to shift American policy and somehow to project both humility and leadership.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Promise fulfilled

Well, it took eight years and a black junior senator from Illinois to fulfill one of George Bush's most important promises: to restore honor and dignity to the White House.


Number 44

Patrick Moberg via Roughly Daily.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Fired Up, Ready To Go


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bring it home.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

The World's View

One of the many refreshing things about this US election is an uncommon level of acknowledgement that there is an entire world beyond American borders.

I was standing in the village pub, last night, talking with a friend of a friend. He asked me if Americans understand how the rest of the world views them. With the caveat that I haven't lived in the US for much of the last 20 years, I told him my impression that Americans are more aware now than in the past, but mostly they don't know and they don't care.

I didn't mean it to sound that harsh. When it came out of my mouth, I instantly realised that I sounded like an arrogant, elitist, ex-pat prick. I tried to wind back to a more sympathetic way of expressing what I meant. Harsh though it might have sounded, however, my unedited initial statement was, I think, right.

There is a certain group of Americans who proudly don't give a flying brief intimate encounter what anyone else thinks of them. I almost admire their self-assuredness, their confident isolationism. I kind of suspect, however, that they are the same folks who want to impose "American values" on the rest of the world. "We don't care what any foreigners think of us, because we're the greatest country on earth. Everyone else in the world ought to live more like us."

Frankly, however, I doubt many Americans give it that much thought, nor would be that arrogant if they did. Rather than considering the rest of the world's view irrelevant, I reckon most Americans just don't consider it at all. Why would Americans give much thought to the rest of the world, day-to-day? Rather than rejecting a global view of the United States on its merits, most Americans may not ever be moved to reflect that one even exists.

Yet in this election, occasionally you do hear the candidates discuss America's standing in the world. Mostly you hear it from the Democratic side. They're invested in "restoring America's global standing" or similar phrases. The Republicans tend not to mention it so much, because it's politically dangerous to stipulate that America has lost global standing since their folks have been in power.

Discussion of America's standing in the world doesn't quite embrace the importance of how others see America, but it goes half way. It tacitly acknowledges that America's power is compromised if its "standing" slips. The concept of "America's global standing" is also sometimes expressed as "America's moral leadership". This rhetoric appeals to the progressive base of the Democratic party because it implicitly puts the moral offences of the Bush Administration on the table: torture, imprisonment without trial, unjust war, etc. Yet the phraseology is gentle enough not to make people defensive, especially those middle-ground voters who regret having voted for Bush two elections in a row.

I say it goes only half way, however, because discussion of America's standing in the world still presumes a mental model in which America is the central concept. It is a model in which "standing" is subtle code for America's power and influence over others. Most of the rest of the world doesn't work from that mental model. Imagine walking up to an Italian on the sidewalk in Rome and asking what they considered to be America's standing in the world. It's a kind of geo-political question, demanding a high-fallutin', egg-headed wonk of an answer. Now, imagine asking instead what he thinks of America and Americans.

The former question is abstract. The latter is personal. I think the latter question matters more. It is at the personal, emotional level where American soft power is built and wielded. That's why they call it "winning hearts and minds".

For that reason I reckon it is in Americans' best interests to give more thought to how the rest of the world sees us: what the rest of the world thinks of us and our country. For about a century, we Americans have been able to pretty much presume that the majority of the world either loved or envied us. Understanding why that has become less true might be a useful lens for Americans to look through as they grapple with the many crises that confront the nation.

For as long as Americans have shouted "We're number one!" with nationalistic bravado, it's been pretty much accepted as a statement of fact. Yet, as Bill Maher devastatingly pointed out some time back, being number one is empirically verifiable. America is sadly not number one on too many measures of a national greatness. And some of those where we still lead, like military spending, don't reflect the kind of leadership many of us aspire to.

I'm not for a second suggesting that Americans should look to any other nations for cures to its ills. I'm only re-stating that old progressive trope that seeing from another's point of view often enlightens one's own.

Should more Americans take up that suggestion, however, they need to be prepared not to like what they see in the global mirror. Don't worry; it's not that the rest of the world hates us. By and large, they don't. But they don't adore us, either. Many folks overseas have found us, at least for the last eight years, frightening. They watched as some of us supported policies they found bluntly dangerous, and saw most of the rest of us put up only mild resistance.

If The Economist (see below and/or click through) is to be believed, almost every nation on earth wants Barack Obama to win. No doubt, many Republicans will see this as a damn good reason why folks should vote for John McCain: to stand righteously independent from world opinion. Personally, I can think of a few dozen possible messages behind the world's preference, and I'm sure the message is different for lots of different people in lots of different places.

Mostly, though, I choose to interpret it like this: The world *wants* America to be great again. The world wants America to be that beacon on a hill: a place where liberty and justice prevail, where individual opportunity is celebrated alongside public good, where merit is celebrated above privilege, and where international standing is used to serve more than self interest.

The world just doesn't think it will see America return to that stature under McCain. The international judgment on the Bush Administration, and on America under it, has been harsh. But that should be no surprise. Bush's domestic approval ratings are hardly kinder (or gentler). In fact, Americans and foreigners are pretty united in their opinions about Bush's leadership, if for different reasons.

The world's view of the United States and its people is not as simplistic as the US media sometimes frames it. It is not pro-America or anti-America, in the main. Most of what I personally encounter is a combination of befuddlement and hope. Some foreigners are more resigned than hopeful -- especially since the 2004 election -- but most still aspire to America's greatness in some form, even if they currently see it as potentiality rather than reality.

That view is neatly distilled in this interview clip with John Cleese, of all people.

In the pub last night, after my harsh comment about most Americans not knowing and not caring about what the rest of the world thought of them, the guy I was talking to was more sympathetic than most Americans might have expected. He hadn't spent a lot of time in the US, but had loved traveling there. He reflected, "You know, Europeans think it's kind of an indictment that so few Americans even have passports. But you live in a country that is so big, and has so much variety, it's easy to understand why so many people would wonder why it would ever be necessary to leave it."

"Still," he said, "I don't think Americans realise how out of touch with reality they've looked for the last eight years."

Nor, I thought to myself, how out of touch with the better angels of our own nature.