it's been 11 months to the day since i departed nyc, and have been told a friend has departed to another world. last night, shortly before midnight, ellen rafel became an eternal angel. in the photo above, her hand is to the left and erwin's, her husband, is on the right.
this past month's journey has been intense and an emotional roller coaster. up and down and around my heart has swung. while the month of may started in a fog of romance and trudged up to the peak of heartbreak, down into the valleys of birthdays, and onto a few loops de loops of two new jobs. now, i can see the tracks race off into the distance.
while i'll spare you the lovey dovey personal stuff - let me tell you about ellen's & erwin's birthday. since 1999, i've known Gideon Rafel-Frankel, their loving son. as the years passed, gid would always invite me to their family functions... from summers on cape cod, to weekends in NYC (when i wasn't living here), birthdays, passover, holidays, parties and the like... through all of the events, i was a witness to one of the best damn relationships i've ever seen...
now separated only by physical space, the memory of erwin and ellen and the care they demonstrated for their sons, themselves and all their friends and family has left an indelible mark on my soul. the passion she demonstrated was recognized when over 100 people jammed themselves into a tiny two bedroom penthouse apartment on the upper-west side to celebrate her last birthday.
as we sang and embraced her life, i knew ellen's glorious soul wouldn't be around too much longer. as we said our goodbyes, it became apparent to me that this family had impacted me more than most. with lessons from own family, erwin's tenacity as a refuge and ellen's love as a social worker, i set forth to see the beauty of all we can touch.
along this journey i have found something that is indescribable. something i can never articulate in words, photos nor movies. on six continents, i found this thing buried in every person who open their mouths, families, and hearts... never could i have imagined that the world is filled with so many loving people.
while i haven't been diligaent in writing about the lessions i've learned, since my return i have lived every moment knowing that my passion to make this a better planet is unexcable. the love we can share with each other is something that should never be taken for granted. the opportunities we have to change everything around us is real.
sunday, when i stand with her family and countless other souls who have been touched by her love, i know she will be with us as an eternal lesson that peace and hope are the only two things we need. you don't need to be famous, you don't need to be anyone of any material goods - just love everyone - love the unescapable and work to make it better. well all else fails, be at peace.
ellen, thank you for being one of my teachers.
i stand and look out at the wonder that is the world. beneath my feet, embedded in my flip flops are the peeples of discomfort, the ignorance of sand and the wet and wild world we call earth. in four short days, my journey will officially end. in four short days, i will return to new york city.
it's been seven months from my bed, my friends, my "stuff," and any notion of disposable income. i know little has changed; i know i am not the same. as the days wind down i face another moment of reflection. each passing mirrored moment, i see a million lessons wrapped into one epic journey.
but for this this morning, my brain feels a bit scattered. maybe it's the strong texas coffee. maybe it's my body still recovering from Barcamp TX and three nights of restless sleep. maybe it's the fact that i now see my footsteps as a thin film of butter on a global piece of rye toast...
maybe it's the understanding that for everyday after next, the job gets tougher and tougher. no longer can i skate bye and say, i'm skimming the global ice. now it's time to tighten up the laces, grab the hockey stick and summarize my understanding into the back of a net.
for the past two weeks, dr miggy has given me the gift of love and a small little space to carve out my ice sculpture. a week from now, i will be penniless in geneva while having the honor to help host the open stage conversations at LIFT. subsequently, i will get five minutes to present my sculpture. :)
...but before the moderate temperatures of time start to melt my understanding of the world, the following are the seven lessons of this journey...
"when facing goliath, bring your own sling shot." - egyptian linux users group; open source software users in egypt.
"the end of the world is a great place to put ideas on their head." - cowork central; providence in ushuaia
(btw, i originally started to break out each lesson via continent, but quickly discovered that the lessons were mirrored everywhere. these seven lessons are will grow to be the basis of the children's book and the documentary film.)
Locations: Ahmedabad, India
Tags: citizen journalism, video volunteers, DRISHTI Media, Arts & Human Rights , stalin k, jessica mayberry, kavita das gupta, siddharth chadha, community media, participatory culture
Music: leaving you behind, Hermann & Kleine
About: the journey into understanding participatory culture doesn't start with digital technology. the study of participatory culture should arise from the understanding that one shoe doesn't fit all. since my time in ahmedabad, i've come to see drishti and video volunteers as the premier example of interactivity between online/offline, between old media/new media, between bitching and getting things done. the prime directive should not exist on earth. if we truly care about a participatory society, we must embrace tools as forms of technology and work hard to impart their use among all.
i hope you check out more of video volunteers work.
the midwest is a funny place. i know that every place i've gone and meet a fellow midwesterner, i've always found a feller of good company.
smack dab in regional stereotypes, the east and west look at my home state as a humble populous smack dab in between cornfields and coal mines, to the north a short congressman who's vegan and running for president and to the south, the home of makers mark.
i, on the other-hand know something a bit different. i know that ohio is home to six us presidents (that makes it second to NY to the number of US presidents)! i know ohio is home to the wright brothers, thomas edison, granville woods, charles kettering, blue jacket, and tecumseh.
i know that when the economy of the US is on the rocks, ohio has been on the rocks for a few months longer. i know that when the housing market crashes, i can find a desperate home owners in ohio. i know when ohio votes for a president, that president wins.
i know that ohio is at the heart of it all!
as my skybus descended through the clouds, i saw magnificent fields of crops and never-ending suburban sprawl. when the wheels made contact with earth, the precipitation contacting the plane was sleet. yet i new this was no cold welcoming. i walked out of a warm aircraft and flip-floped my way across a cold tarmac into one of the oldest airports in american history, port columbus international airport.
through the maze of walkways, foot paths, escalators, and ramps, i found my anxious parents, impatient brother and a very slow baggage claim. (in all honestly, the slowest baggage claim is in ahmedabad india. in a town known for their ice cream consumption to be some of the highest in the world, ahmedabad's baggage trollers are greased with sugar and grind to a halt the min any traveler has a destination with a time line.)
...back to columbus... so after a brief recapitulation of the past four months, i found myself in a new (circa 2000) lexus with an electronic navigator and heated seats. though the drizzle, i saw what i knew best, middle america. little did i know that in less than an hour i would find myself knee deep in the muddy river we call the future... surrounded by more questions than answers, i sat in the back seat, chewed on wendy's double patties jalapenoioed cheese hamburger.
slamming a frosty, gulping a dr. pepper and devouring a burger rocketed my shuga levels to another planet. with extremely high levels of fidgety uncertainty, my family and i shook off the sleet and walked into cosi's new GIGANTIC new museum.
COSI, for those of you who are not familiar with columbus, is the center of science and industry. it a commercialized name for columbus' equivalent of a natural history museum. since, ohio developed through the industrial revolution, the monicker "industry" is added for full crowed pleasing affect. too boot, many of the exhibits are underwritten by captains of industry.
in this new iteration of the COSI, WOSU (the broadcast wing ohio state university and home to central ohio's public radio) collaborated in the construction of a monstrosity community TV studio. tucked away in a building open 9 - 5, most of the center was under-utilized... well that was until, this evening when 40 some odd bloggers, tv and radio personalities, newspaper readers, citizens of the greater community, my parents, my brother and i (all daytonion carpetbaggers) got together to discuss one question - "What can we do together that we cannot do alone to make the community better using Social Media."
walking into a TV studio with a ring a chairs and a camera pointed on half of the ring scares many people. it damn near gave me a heart attack, i didn't not expect to be on camera nor did i expect such a group gear up for video documentation. despite the prevalence of camcorders, very few east coast groups have attempted video documentation of their events. too boot, if you've seen a recent picture of me, you'll know that my hobbitin height, bearded facial monstrosity and orange cap always seems to be a bit out of place. surveying the room and seeing many clean shaven folk most in "i just got out of work" attire, i was highly self conscious of a formal meeting with a structured sessions of "we want this" and "can you tell us how solve our problems."
first, up on the wall was a matrix of time slots and locations.
second, i saw a poster advertising the "law of two feet" - Law of Two Feet (also known as the Law of Mobility in settings where participants don't necessarily have the use of both feet) -- a foot of passion and a foot of responsibility -- expresses the core idea of taking responsibility for what you love. In practical terms, the law says that if you're neither contributing nor getting value where you are, use your two feet (or available form of mobility) and go somewhere where you can. It is also a reminder to stand up for your passion. (from wikipedia)
third, i saw the four principles of open space (from wikipedia)...
- Whoever comes are the right people
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- Whenever it starts is the right time
- When it's over, it's over
when the facilitator started speaking, my sugga kicked into overdrive and my fidgeting exploded in excitement... i've traveled the world, and there in front of me, there in columbus, ohio, i was watching the future of news. there in front of me sat a diverse group of community members who had come together to discuss how WOSU and COSI can better serve the community.
in the buckeye state i watched the future of "broadcast" media unfold.
in nyc, i've helped organized many of these open space events, and after a serendipitous meeting of david cohn at BarCamp NYC 2, the two of us bounced many ideas off of each other to work on CopyCamp - an unconference for community journalism. (we are in the process of formulating a grander conversation on how open space conversations can improve journalism - both citizen and professional - for now join the google group and let's corral a few news agencies into thinking that this is a good idea.)
for 15 mins, the group sat around trying to understand the next two hours. as people gathered ideas for conversation, people grabbed a sheet of paper, wrote down their two cents and found a space to do discuss the topic. while i desperately wanted to chat about so many things, i wondered how much would i be perceived as a foreigner. with my bearded hobbitin status in full effect, i wrote something down and waited to see who would pose a topic that seemed more suitable. i didn't have to wait too long to get, andrew, from elephants on bicycles, to propose a topic that sounded like "the future of citizen journalism."
after over staying our allotted time, we log rolled from topic to topic... from trust, to linkage, to content, to business models, to the definition of "broadcasting"... on and on, the room tumbled in conversation from Robin Mizell, copyeditor & former newassignment.net contributor, to mike thompson, director of news and public affairs, to susan meyer director of communications and organization planning at WOSU, to tim eby, station manager of WOSU radio, some upper crust members of COSI's management, to a few guys from the barcamp ohio group... and that's just to some of the more vocal members of the group... there was conversational buy in from so many divers parties.
as we ran through the second alloted time session, many ideas splashed up at us..
- FIRST, continue exploring by hosting more open space events that invite the community to help shape the future. just remember, rome was not built overnight.
- use the COSI/WOSU facility as home base for Columbus's tech community (aka meetups, *camps, more open space events, etc).
- investigate the marriage of freelancers and independent workers within a COSI café (aka coworking). also, don't be afraid of turning to daytime events like "work at jelly" to help crystalize personal relationships. (apparently, an international network of science centers is studying how to keep them self community relevant. if anyone can send me contacts, that would be awesome!)
- open up more WOSU programing for community participation by bringing in community experts (specifically expert bloggers, and not just local ones). comically, when we were talking about "experts" or "bloggers" the criteria came from the same place... people who know their stuff and can accurately augment a show. (btw, one should note that mike thompson, director of news and public affairs already pulls in bloggers to augment his line of pundants)
- point listeners/viewers/community members in direction of online communities that feature topical conversation.
- bring in new media students as interns (aka slave labor) and have them experiment with "professional programming" (i use this term in the looses sense, please see my previous blog post.)
- don't just say it, but embrace it!
- one the shortcomings seemed to stem from the fact that no one was employed 100% to understand the intricacies of new media, community, and exploration. everyone seemed to say, "well, that sounds like a bit of this and that..." yeah, in reality it is a bit of this and that...
in the end what we discussed is nothing new. if you look at talk radio, if you look at community programming, if you look at community centers, or anything that loops community, conversation, and construction - you will find time tested models of engagement. there is nothing wrong with frailty, this is what has placed WOSU/COSI into this position. there is nothing wrong with failure. we must read, write and created or in this case listen, communicate and create. the only way traditional broadcast will survive is to find a symbiosis between a relevant/profitable business model and community - if your listeners are talking, are you listing?
hats off to WOSU and COSI, the facilitators, and community members. you took the leap of faith.... now it's a collective job to find the tussling logs will sustain the weight and carry everyone.
"bling, bling, who's dis? oh it's jetset let me call you right back."
attached to this post, you'll find my jetset interview in MOV format... i've you're just tuning in. there are few things you should know...
1. i still need contributions of $11.11
2. i hope some auzzies see this video. on friday, i'll start hitchhiking across the continent. no seriously! i'm going to stick my thumb out and see how far it takes me. if i'm lucky, i should only need my towel.
3. i'm looking on bringing my insanity to the US. if you're hot to trot, join me on this venture.
in the meantime, i'm tanking up on my last few hours of internet uploading flickr photos before moving out of my plush air conditioned & hot water shower hotel room.
today, i had a great interview with Javier from Khmer OS. his story is amazing! with a wondering soul and a dream, Javier is helping create a society educated, trained and technology proficient in their OWN language. after today, i know damn well i'm blessed to have an education and tools i can use without ANY translation.
this evening, hui (a couchsurfer) and i sketched out a quick action plan of activities. tomorrow, breakfast, palace of decadence, morning market, a monument or two to genocide, home cooked lunch and then she'll depart to home school a kid, and i'll fend off the throbbing men becking me into their motorcycle/basket contraptions. (i'm sexy - aka rich - in cambodia!)
tomorrow morning when i shlep my load down the street to huixian's apartment, once again i won't have electricity nor hot water. on the other hand, i'll be chillin with a leo from '78 who's traveled quite a bit, and knows a thing or two about the cheap underbelly of da' Phen.
btw, you should know this country is twisted - it's as if everything is for sale. oh wait, everything is for sale! tonight, i saw a local man get slapped, punched, kicked and thrown into a busy street. this was done by a cambodian military guy in uniform and AK-47 over his shoulder. while at times this country might seem like disney land, the reality is more painful.
i'll regroup in bangkok, but for the next few days i'm going to be off-line. in the meantime...
with a bit of tung and cheek, joe strummer sung the following immortal words...
"Number 1, You have the right not to be killed...
... Number 2, You have the right to food money...
... Number 3, You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."
as last night's waning hours worked their fury into a insatiable quest for entertainment, i found my self immersed in "seize the time" and thinking about my conversations with mardini, alaa, amr and nora.
back in nyc, i would have read their stories on global voices and thought of their story to be a novel use of social technology. after visiting them, hearing them, watching them with friends and conversing with a room full of geeks, i no longer viewed them as just a story. i no longer saw novelty, but the reality we are locked in a long struggle.
this struggle is not just about technology, but providing localized technology... without adequate translation, a computer, iphone, ipod, etc is no different than a hammer. (this will be addressed in a video interview... but hopefully you can understand that english internet superpower is not the "end all be all" of intellectual prowess... then again the hole-in-the-wall project would disagree with me.)
humanity has many faces. a majority of them are pleasant. (i am fortunate to see these faces across the globe - from the cairo subway to the streets of the bronx.) when it comes to the minority, this struggle works it way to be a battle over power. my visit to the pyramids reinfoced this fact.
through my eyes, i see this struggle to be a struggle over basic human rights. in the USA, we are "fortunate" to be "born" with "inalienable rights." incredibly, 40 years ago "the great experiment" failed in providing these rights to it's citizens. now at the dawn of the 21st century, through the use of digital technology, we have a unique opportunity to shape the way "inalienable rights" are passed along to the rest of the world.
without trying to be radical, a basic civics lesson will tell you "politics is war without bloodshed - and war is a continuation of politics, with bloodshed." huey p. newton & bobby seale built the black panther party to be THE vessel for the american black community to fight oppression, racism and murder and provide "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace." despite the fact their organization was criminalized and persecuted, the black panther party died to bring justice for all poor americans. (btw, did you know they created the "free breakfast for children program" and popularized medical research in sickle-cell disease?)
forty years later, the world continues to face these same problems. most of the people whom i've interviewed all see the same thing.
the technology we have at our disposal is not just a simple vessel of entertainment. our modern technology is a complex beast that crashes through the gates of oppression and gives us an opportunity to make the world a better place.
sadly and on a too frequent basis, i see many of us blinded by the shiny side of the iphone, the hue of a garment or worse the insatiable consumption for "sustainable consumption." yet, one can not separate the quest of basic human rights as the pit of peach. all of these issues are wrapped up on the third planet from the sun.
by creating "a bill of rights for users of the social web" it's great to see that smarr, canter, scoble and arrington hopping on the same chariot many political technologist championed last year through the integration proclamation. while i support both, i see these intellectual statements as one thing, and can't stop thinking of bertolt brecht and kurt weill's song "what keeps mankind alive"
You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins
You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on
So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving
What keeps mankind alive?
What keeps mankind alive?
The fact that millions are daily tortured
Stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
In keeping its humanity repressed
And for once you must try not to shriek the facts
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts
Technorati Tags: a bill of rights for users of the social web, activists, bertoit brecht, integration proclamation, joseph smarr, kurt weill, marc canter, michael arrington, open social web, robert scoble
yesterday evening when i finally found some food, melisa maples twittered "listening to This American Life #339 ... if you've ever gone through a break-up, this one's for you!" ... and after a day of strange reacquaintances, i found myself cozing up to a fan, a pillow and my ipod.
long story short or maybe a long psychiatric bill cut cheep, i'm not home sick... i'm just heart broken. i know that i can't turn back and head home. regardless of that comes next, i must press on. regardless of sleepless nights filled with illusions of comfort, i am on the road.
i am on the road to see how all of our social networks, open societies and free thought, come together. from the past 53 days, i can see we are creating a world our parents could only dream. while social and economic injustice is rife, we see something different. wether out of necessity or opportunity, we press on thinking different.
btw - this american life is running a contest to remix one of the songs featured in this week's "break up" episode. check it out. it's not only heart warming, but fun!
Technorati Tags: this american life
it's been two days since i've eaten a real meal. two nights ago, i headed out with hayal pozanti and her two friends, gokce and matan. after bouncing around from a street cafe, to an open air cafe, we climbed into an elevator to a roof top cafe for a taste of traditional turkish delights and anisette. covered in yogurt and rich sauces, we dinned in blissful content.
around 1am, we strung up our sails and departed to our abodes.
after a few hours of delightful dreams, i found my self in a place like none other. surround by unspeakable horror, i struggled to pull my self from the nightmare on elm street horror into the real world.
my eyes opened, my head swelled and my mouth filled. lucky, i was able to jimmy the door open, and rock my head toward what this hostel called a toilet. needless to say, you can put the rest together.
(warning, graphic content ahead... but like that night, if i don't get it out now... you might never make it to the plot...)
every thirty minutes or so, i found myself in another unpleasant world; desiring i was not shackled to a six room dorm room with five other unhappy, i managed to make it to the bathroom.
after the first hour, i howled every imaginable curse world and drank two liters of water.
after the second hour, i debated calling an ambulance and in between the dry heaves, munched four tablets of pepto and drank another liter of water.
during the third hour, i prayed, shat my pants and with all my might extruded the three or so liters that sat unpleasantly within my system.
somewhere among all those things. something worked. something unexplainable worked. for lack of a better term a miracle...
back in 1996, a similar incident happened, sans the alcohol part. for 48 hours, i convulsed in an american university dorm room. depleted of everything, i was rushed to the emergency room and placed under 24 hour supervision.
back in 1996, my father rushed from ohio to take care me...
alone. cold. rotting in hostel more apropo to a squat. i wondered what would take care of me this time...
one of the more interesting parts of this journey has been the discussion of faith. from the jewish quarter in prague, to a brief mash-up discussion on the streets of paris, to dries and an intimate conversation about baptism, to a punk rock bar in amsterdam drinking with three dutch jews and debating Mormonism, to openly debating religion in istanbul...
faith has become a current, but my faith does not have a title, name or singular belief. when i departed, i set out not knowing what i will find, but knowing what i will change me and embolden my faith....
... but if i was to discuss religion, what faith do i espouse?
... do i say i was a catholic, because my parents baptized me when i was born?
... am i mormon because i was raised in the mormon church and know it best?
... do i say i'm i a Buddhist, since i once studied it?
... i'm not just agnostic ...
BUT what i will say... faith comes in all different shapes and colors. don't be afraid of your passions, desires and most importantly your beliefs. refuse to take the world at it's face value... prove to yourself that mind is stronger than matter. if you want to change your world... take it by the horns and run!