Jan 31 2008

May I speak to God please?…Do you know when he’ll be back?

Why, oh why, is that Canada only makes international news with bizarro stories?

Our serial killers are… pig farmers, which is grisly yet efficient (if you don’t know, you don’t want to), albeit not very glamorous. Our departing prime ministers try to sell off the furnishings of the government-owned official residence.

… an attempt by the Mulroneys in 1993 to sell the furniture, decorations and drapery they had accumulated at 24 Sussex Drive … for about $150,000. [more Mulroney corruption here]

We also harbour “rogue elves” that impersonate Santa and write shocking letters to small children in his name.

Each Santa letter Canada Post delivers contains the same main message with a hand-written personal postscript.

[2-year-old child recipient] Maya’s personal “P.S.” said: “This letter is too long, you dumb s - - t. [full article]

And now the latest — just in case you were thinking of flying Air Canada:

… the co-pilot was carried into the cabin with his hands and ankles cuffed after he was restrained by cabin crew and a passenger.

“He was very, very distraught. He was yelling loudly,” Finucane told Canadian broadcaster CBC. “His voice was clear, he didn’t sound like he was drunk or anything, but he was swearing and asking for God. He specifically said he wants to talk to God.” [full article]

I read a few different articles and it sounds like the Air Canada co-pilot removed his shoes and was running about the airplane screaming. Not good for nervous fliers.

Why is it that small children and the insane love taking their shoes off?

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Jan 4 2008

Disturbing, but not for the first reason that comes to mind…

A group of Czech artists who inserted a nuclear explosion into a national weather broadcast have been told by a prosecutor they could be sent to jail. [see video, read BBC article…]

I have to admit, my first reaction was laughter. Lots. It reminded me of Orson Well’s little stunt.

Then, I started thinking. What a cynic I’ve become! It never even occurred to me that people would see the footage and think it was real. Guess I’ve seen too many movies, used Photoshop too often — and I never watch television, so I’m not used to reality feeds. I am as skeptical of images as I am of what I read in the paper.

It’s a given that you don’t just accept and believe whatever you hear or read, whether it be in the media, the local pub or what one co-worker says about another. You look at alternate sources, you ask around, you keep in mind likely biases, you think about it.

So why doesn’t this automatically apply to images? More precisely: to photographs and video? We don’t look at a cartoon and think: “Oh my god, that chicken knows how to drive a car and I can see what he’s saying!” I think it’s safe to say that most people in most cultures don’t confuse reality with depictions of reality.

So why is photography (and by extension, video) different? I guess, because it’s new (150-odd years) compared to drawing, sculpting, painting, etc. which we’ve been doing for eons. And perhaps also because it seems scientific due to the more or less mysterious mechanical/chemical processes involved.

But from the very beginning of photography, people were making adjustments. Why, then, are we still so quick to believe photos? Why does it seem disappointing and even disturbing not to be able to believe images? Perhaps because there’s no obvious filter between us and the realness of the image: no brush strokes in the paint, no pencil lines on the paper, chisel marks in the marble — photos just look so damn real. Like what we see with our own eyes. And if you can’t believe your own eyes… what can you trust, what can you believe? What links us to reality?

This reminds me of an essay by Montaigne on the importance of truth between people: “we have no other bond with one another but our word”.

P.S. The Montaigne link just above is an episode from a television series done for BBC 4 by Alain de Botton, who is one of my favorite authors. I discovered it utterly by chance when looking for a good Montaigne link. I’ve never seen any of the episodes before, so this is a gift from the gods as it’s not available on DVD (yet?). Enjoy!! To support the man, and for a wonderful book, pick up his “Consolations of Philosophy” or any of his others, they’re all extremely good.

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Jan 4 2008

Paying attention.

I used to be a lot more relaxed.

I remember Jon Kabat-Zinn as a big influence.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D is the founder and director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and associate professor of medicine in the Division of Preventative and Behavioral Medicine. Perhaps no other person in America has done more to bring mindfulness meditation into the mainstream than Jon Kabat-Zinn. Through many research studies and his pioneering work at the University of Massachusetts where he is founder of its world renowned Stress Reduction Clinic, Kabat-Zinn has served as a recognized bridge between science and meditation.

He has been working for eons to help people deal with their stress — everything from people who live in inner city war zones to palliative care for the chronically ill and dying. He always struck me as a surprisingly sincere and decent person. And I have to admit that I find it endearing that every photograph I’ve seen of him, he’s squinting.
I found this video of him giving a talk — to the office monkeys at Google no less. Enjoy!

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