Saturday Links for the Week — July 5, 2008 — The Story Edition

jason akermanis
(Several of the students from two Melbourne universities that we hosted yesterday said they thought I looked startlingly like Aussie star footballer Jason Akermanis, above top, except for the blond hair. I don’t see it, but I’m flattered. Must be the mannerisms. Used to be told I looked like John Denver or Richard Belzer, above bottom. Who’s your celebrity lookalike?)

Creating Space for What’s Important: Another inspiring article by PS Pirro: “I know why I didnít do it sooner, and I know why all that other stuff was cluttering up my list: following a heartís desire is very scary stuff. Itís so much easier and so much less risky to spend your hours doing things that donít really matter, to pursue lesser goals, to do the work that others think is important. When I clear space in my thinking — and in my physical environment — and then hold that space open for my own real and true desires, my heart recognizes the opportunity, and slips right in. And the next thing I know, Iím elbow deep in paper and notes and yes, I’m scared, but I’m also full of gratitude. My heart says thank you, thank you.”

A Death Without Meaning: Oncology nurse Karen Crone tells a very short story about some people she briefly knew. The story will stay with you a long time, asking questions that have no answers.

Murder in the Park: Cassandra tells an unsettling story, and leaves us to imagine our own ending.

How to Use ‘Mystery’ Stories to Engage Your Business Audience: Matt Moore, who I met recently in Toronto, has a new podcast on Story Work featuring Shawn Callahan (who I met in Melbourne in April) and Madelyn Blair. At the end of it, Shawn talks about how scientists are framing their papers as mystery stories that expound on their problem (the ‘murder’) and their discovery of the solution (the ‘murderer’). In another article he explains how that approach (Pose the mystery; Deepen the mystery; Home in on the proper explanation by considering (and offering evidence against) alternative explanations; Provide a clue to the proper explanation; Resolve the mystery; Draw the implications for the phenomenon under study) can be used to engage the audience in any expository presentation. And the best title for such presentations is usually a question.

Determined to Do the Only Thing You Could Do: Jen Lemen reminds us of an amazing poem, The Journey, by Mary Oliver.

The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead: Our Descent’s weekly YouTube round-up includes this remarkable solo bravura performance of a song about Toronto’s most famous landmark (I work about a block away from it) with some equally remarkable lyrics.

Another Great Mystery (Unre)Solved: There is something perverse about human nature that causes us to be dissatisfied with important mysteries that are never solved. The death of JFK (and several other up-and-coming politicians who embarrassed those in high places); the Anthrax Mail murders; the strange way the Trade Centre towers collapsed from below; the truth behind chemtrails; what happened to the plane that struck the Pentagon; the inability to find many of the world’s most notorious murderers and criminals — all of these mysteries beg for a solution. Even the most rational of us, in the absence of anything close to a resolution to these issues, can be tempted to believe conspiracy theories, because as other theories lead only to dead ends, they begin to appear more plausible. One of these unresolved issues back in the news is the perplexing fall of Trade Centre Tower 7, many hours after the twin towers’ collapse, and without an airplane strike to explain it. Many years later, there is an explanation, but its implausibility is already restoking the conspiracy theories.

Collective Answers and the End of E-mail: After getting his pro-IM, anti-email article published in the NYT, my friend Luis Suares of IBM in Spain replies to reactionary critics: “Because I no longer have the stress of constantly having to check e-mail, the flow of the conversations is out in the open available to everyone else to contribute as well; it is no longer only me who can action something, my social networks can help chime in and contribute”.

Is the Corn Ethanol Lobby Responsible for the Food Price Spike?: A new survey suggests as much as 75% of the recent massive increase in global staple food prices is due to land shifted from food to fuel production.

An Artist Shouts Out About Cruelty to Farmed Animals: Twyla Francois is leading an international campaign to raise awareness of the horrific abuse that farmed animals suffer in our society. Caveat: This site is not for the squeamish or easily depressed.

What Does the Quality Co-construction of Learning Mean?: Nancy White’s Lisbon presentation on how to build (Velcro) bridges between teachers and learners.

Building Consensus in a New Community: Cheryl (“Mira”) and I (“Cal”) are part of an Intentional Community in Second Life that now boasts over a dozen members. We ‘live’ on a deserted island that provides us with all we need to live, but, like people suddenly shipwrecked together, we’re still working out how to get along and what we intend to be and do on the island. We’ve agreed to come ‘inworld’ on a regular schedule (that works for all the members, who live in time zones all across the world) to explore these issues. Mira has documented our latest group conversation, where we try to develop a consensus on the objective and operating principles for our community, with unexpected and interesting results.

16000 Litres of Water to Produce a Kilogram of Beef: Now that you’ve figured out your carbon consumption footprint, and how to reduce it, it’s time to get to work on reducing your water consumption footprint. Thanks to Craig De Ruisseau for the link.

Kennedy Airport is Not Part of the US: That’s the weasel ruling of a US court that assessed that Canadian Maher Arar, who was abducted by Homeland Security as he made a connection at the US airport while returning home, and sent to Syria for months of excruciating torture, could not seek damages for his arrest and kidnapping.

Have the Young Forgotten How to Read?: Blogger Amanda Kyffin thinks many people today have lost the ability to process text longer than a paragraph, or to concentrate on written material longer than a page. Does that inability pose a challenge to our ability to learn, or does it simply reflect that we need to find other, more visual, means to communicate? And in this attention economy, if it takes longer than a page to communicate a difficult concept, how can we hope to do so? Are stories the answer?

coffee art

Just for Fun: Coffee Art: Latest craze at some coffee houses is mouthfuls of artwork (like that above) done with coffee, cream and chocolate. Here’s an amazing video showing how it’s done. Thanks to Cheryl Long for the link.

Thought for the Week: Literature as Remedy for What Ails Us: Alberto Manguel’s book and lecture series The City of Words meanders through some of the great works of fiction throughout history and urges us to rediscover fiction as source of ideas to understand and remedy many of the maladies of our time: consumerism and corporatism (the Frankenstein myth and 2001: A Space Odyssey have much to teach us about inflexible human creations that can destroy their maker), political psychopathy, our fear of other cultures and our inability to synthesize the best of many cultures, our inability to recognize and reject business, political and religious propaganda, our lack of imagination and critical thinking, our lack of appreciation of the advantages and dangers of myth, our learned helplessness, and the oversimplification of what is important. The wise message of the book is simple: If you want to understand the world better and make it a better place, you would be better off reading great stories than books that offer oversimplified analysis and prescribedsolutions.

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3 Responses to Saturday Links for the Week — July 5, 2008 — The Story Edition

  1. Karen Crone says:

    Dave,I am so honored by your acknowledgement.Thank you.

  2. Jon Husband says:

    Reading great stories, fiction that offers an interpretation of our experience of the world, helps anchor us and our values, through reflection, much better than do several-paragraph blog posts, tweets, Im’s etc.And, (to try to be comprehensive) I don’t want to diminish the value of weaving together what one takes in from a constant flow of exposure to interaction with others’ ideas and perceptions.Just one person’s opinion.

  3. Daisy Bond says:

    Hey Dave! Glad you appreciated that song. If you’re interested in hearing more of his work (which I highly recommend), the band is Final Fantasy and the fellow is Owen Pallet.

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