Friday, July 30, 2010

Sources of inspiration...

Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert once gave a talk on the concept and history of "the muse." It was pretty eye-opening for me, and while it didn't inspire me to paint a masterpiece or churn out the Great American Novel, it did make me examine things from a new perspective. Which I suppose is a type of inspiration.

Today's blog examines a couple different sources of inspiration. The first is poverty. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the partnership between Tim Jahnigen, his wife Lisa Tarver and Sting to create One World Futbol after Jahnigen was dismayed by a CNN report on the children of Darfur who played soccer with anything but a real ball since those quickly went flat. One World Futbol produces soccer balls made out of the same stuff as Crocs. For each $39.50 ball sold, another goes to a child in need around the world. The couple's goal is to give out 1 million balls in the next three years.

The other theme is the wisdom of others. London's Daily Mail posted a story on its 10 most inspirational speeches. It, of course, skews heavily toward British politicians, but it does reference the great speeches from Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Winston Churchill. You will have to Google for the full text, but the story gives a nice abstract of each one. On a less world-beating note, each year colleges and universities bring in famous, infamous and everyday speakers in one last effort to propel their graduates to greatness. My own university's graduation speaker was more embittering than emboldening, but other schools do better. Harvard, for example. The following link is one speech that manages to be both entertaining and energizing.

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy birthday, Mr. (former) President...

I'm always a little slow to get on the bandwagon for things, particularly movies. I don't really go to the theaters anymore ($11 for a ticket, really?), so I have to wait for the movies to come out on Netflix.

So I just saw "Invictus" last night. Matt Damon is genius. That he can be a leading man and a character actor at the same time astonishes me. But what that movie really did for me was re-introduce me to a man I'd only been dimly aware of - Nelson Mandela.

I wasn't even in double digits when he was released from Robben Island, and really, the West's coverage of African news is pretty bad. So despite what a fantastic man and leader he is, Mandela made little impact on me. Clicking through stories for today, I found an article in The Guardian marking Mandela's 92nd birthday, which co-incided with Mandela Day - a day set aside to celebrate "Nelson Mandela’s life and a global call to action for people to recognize their individual ability to make an imprint and change the world around them."

As I'm sure everyone is aware by now, the movie title invokes the poem in which Mandela found inspiration during his 27 years of incarceration. He used the poem to survive prison, but I think it can be applied to anyone in need of inspiration for anything, particularly when trying to change the world.

I've pasted it below and linked to the original site (so I don't get sued). :) It's short but does pack a powerful punch...


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

- William Ernest Henley

(Photo courtesy of The Guardian.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday round up...

My mind has been a little scattered with all the changes going on in my life lately, so I thought it was the perfect time for a round up post. Much like my thoughts, these stories have nothing in common other than I thought they were interesting. :)

MSNBC reported on what it is callingthe biggest fundraising drive in history.” Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have joined their considerable forces to convince their fellow gazillionaires to give half their fortunes to charity. Begun as a secret dinner with the Buffetts, the Gates', George Soros, Oprah, Ted Turner, David Rockefeller and Michael Bloomberg, the Giving Pledge has now been extended to any of the other mega-rich members of society thought willing to explore charity of this magnitude.

This next story from the Belfast Telegraph is super-cute. The real-life story of Belfast zookeeper Denis Austin, who kept a baby elephant in her backyard during the blitz of 1941 has become the inspiration for a new children's story. Austin used to sneak nightly into the zoo to bring Shiela to the relative safety of her garden after the elephant escaped a ministry order to euthanize large animals who may wreak havoc should the city be attacked. Even after the arrangement was discovered, Austin used to visit Shiela every night during the Luftwaffe raids to rub the baby's ears to keep her calm.

And lastly, CNN posted a story on Palestinian female race car drivers. The story is a semi-profile of Noor Daoud, a 20 year-old woman who has been driving since she was 11. Daoud was one of seven women who recently raced in a field of 50 in Ramallah in the West Bank. She has the moral support of her male friends and has even fooled other men who think she's a man until she takes off her helmet.

(Photo courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Out of Africa...II...

The World Cup is coming to a close; the final between Spain and The Netherlands is set for Sunday, July 11 after yesterday’s La Furia Roja victory over Germany in the second semi-final.

South Africa has drawn a lot of attention as the host of the world’s most popular sporting event (sorry, World Series/Superbowl). A lot of people were concerned about South Africa’s ability to host such an event. Worries about infrastructure, finances and security abounded. But most of what I’ve seen coming out of S. Africa has been stories like this one from MSNBC.

Poverty keeps townships kids from getting a lot of things those of us in the West deem essential to life, even a pair of sneakers. But a local organization started by a broadcast journalist and a man from the townships is aiming to make the kids’ soccer dreams come true - one uniform at a time.

I suppose all this attention on Africa has made me more sensitive to good news from that continent. Rwanda is one of the world’s poorest countries, known more for its 1994 genocide than anything else. But, according to Time, NYC cult hit Blue Marble Ice Cream has looked past the problem to help with the solution. Owners Alexie Miesen and Jennie Dundas have helped Odile Gakire Katese open Rwanda’s first ice cream shop as a way to bridge divides and remind Rwandans they deserve happiness along with their basic needs met.

Liberian Lovetta Conto fled her home country with her father when she was 18 months old and ended up in a Ghanaian refugee camp. An encounter with Cori Stern from the Strongheart Fellowship gave Conto a chance to make her fashion designing dreams come true. Her jewelry, made from bullet casings from the Liberian civil war, has adorned stars like Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pan-Pacific good news...

Today’s stories come from all over the Pacific - Hong Kong, North Korea, and Australia. Yep, that’s right, North Korea...

As with most things related to the pariah state, this news needs to be read between the lines and carefully parsed, but luckily, The Washington Post is all over that. The Post reported that according to sources inside the country and to watchdog groups, North Korea appears to have abandoned, in practice, Communism. Dictator Kim Jong-Il appears to have admitted his government is unable to solve the food shortage and has told his citizens to start relying on private markets for goods.

Australia has undergone a change in leadership more so than policy, but that may be in the offing as well. After a vote of no-confidence, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been ousted by former deputy PM Julia Gillard. She is the first woman Prime Minister in Australia’s history (and apparently the second redhead). Newsweek has a laudatory article on Gillard and how her personality and leadership skills could bring a breath of fresh air to Australia’s politics. Let’s hope she has better luck than the Socceroos.

Hong Kong does not have a team in the World Cup; if it did, it would be nearly as much of an long-shot as its neighbor North Korea’s team. But Hong Kong does have an inspirational underdog off the pitch, according to CNN. Gordon Wong abandoned a career in health diagnostic equipment to make wheelchairs for fellow Hongkongers when he noticed foreigners had far better equipment than his countrymen.

(Photo courtesy of Newsweek)