Left and right brain stuff

Honda Pavarotti

Opera singer icon

Opera singer icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Tony Hoagland

I’m driving on the dark highway
when the opera singer on the radio
opens his great mouth
and the whole car plunges down the canyon of his throat.

So the night becomes an aria of stars and exit signs
as I steer through the galleries
of one dilated Italian syllable
after another. I love the passages in which

the rich flood of the baritone
strains out against the walls of the esophagus,
and I love the pauses
in which I hear the tenor’s flesh labor to inhale

enough oxygen to take the next plummet
up into the chasm of the violins.
In part of the song, it sounds as if the singer
is being squeezed by an enormous pair of tongs

while his head and legs keep kicking.
In part of the song, it sounds as if he is
standing in the middle of a coliseum,
swinging a 300-pound lion by the tail,

the empire of gravity
conquered by the empire of aerodynamics,
the citadel of pride in flames
and the citizens of weakness
celebrating their defeat in chorus,

joy and suffering made one at last,
joined in everything a marriage is alleged to be,
though I know the woman he is singing for
is dead in a foreign language on the stage beside him,
though I know his chain mail is made of silver-painted plastic
and his mismanagement of money is legendary,
as I know I have squandered
most of my own life

in a haze of trivial distractions,
and that I will continue to waste it.
But wherever I was going, I don’t care anymore,
because no place I could arrive at

is good enough for this, this thing made out of experience
but to which experience will never measure up.
And that dark and soaring fact
is enough to make me renounce the whole world

or fall in love with it forever.

No stress

In Salvador, Bahia, Brazil‘s third largest city, people don’t like stress. None at all. Life is too precious to be wasted on stress.

Salvador is also known as Brazil‘s capital of happiness due to its easygoing population and countless popular outdoor parties, including its famous street carnival. Life is very relaxed and focused on the enjoyable side of life, meeting people, going to the beach and and having fun.

Standing in line at the bank isn’t much fun, so the Baianos, as the locals are called, quickly invented a very ingenious way to have their shoes and slippers stand in line for them while having a relaxing rest and a chat at the nearby chairs.

This is creativity at its best!


Standing in line, Bahia style.

75 Years Later

Gallina is my mother-in-law, she is a bit over 90 years old now, healthy and strong, and she is living with us since a few years, much to all our delight!

Gallina received a lost notebook from 75 years ago.

Map of central Qingdao published in 1912. The ...

Map of central Qingdao published in 1912. The main harbour is to the north. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday she received a notebook in the mail she used to have when she was 15 years old while living in a boarding school in  China, in Tsingtao, today’s Qingdao, at the north-east coast, close to Beijing.

It was a precious moment for all of us when she opened the letter sent by one of her daughters and discovered her old notebook. She had written poems, stories of her everyday life and some recipes, and had all but surrendered this notebook after it had been lost for so many years.

Her eyes were misty when she leafed through the worn and torn pages, remembering her 18 years in China, getting out just before the communist revolution took over the country. As an 18 year old Gallina managed to travel to Brazil and reunite with her Russian born mother who had moved there when Gallina was just 6.

What an incredible life story, with so many amazing accounts of fate, determination and shier luck!

English: Former site of the headquarters of th...

English: Former site of the headquarters of the German Administration in Qingdao, China (Shandong province) Deutsch: Ehemaliges deutsches Verwaltungshauptquartier in Qingdao (ehemals Tsingtau), China, Shandong-Provinz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gallina and her daughter Angela, my wife, are currently writing Gallina’s life story, starting with Gallina’s parents in the Ukraine during the upheavals of the Russian October Revolution, Gallina’s birth in China, her early years there, her adventure to reunite with her mother in Brazil, her marriage, 4 children, moving may times throughout several continents … and all this time seeking for answers to life’s persistent questions.


(author unknown) copied from Ed’s blog


Twins having a chat about life after birth

In a mother’s belly there were two babies. One asks the other:

“Do you believe in life after birth?”

“Of course! Something must exist after birth. Maybe we are here because we need to prepare for what we will become later.”

“Ridiculous! There is no life after birth! How do you think this life would be?”

“I don’t know, but surely there will be more light than there is here. Maybe we will walk on our own two feet and we can feed ourselves through our mouths!”

“That is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eat through our mouths? How ridiculous! The umbilical chord is how we are fed. Let me tell you something: There can’t be life after birth. The umbilical chord is too short.”

“Well I believe there must be something. And it could be just a little bit different than what we are used to here.”

“But nobody has ever returned from the other side after birth. Birth is the end of life. All in all, life is nothing more than a stressful existence in the dark that does not lead to anything.”

“Well, I don’t know how it will exactly be after birth, but surely we will see Mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother? You believe in Mother? And where do you think she is?”

“Where? All around us! We live inside her and through her. Without her this whole world would not exist!”

“Well I don’t believe it! I have never seen Mother so, logically, she does not exist.”

“Yes but sometimes when we are very silent, we can hear her singing or feel how she caresses our world. You know, I think there is a real life waiting for us, and that right now we are just preparing ourselves for it.”

This picture depicts the birth of Gautama Budd...

This picture depicts the birth of Gautama Buddha, in a forest at Lumbini. The legend goes that directly after his birth, he made 7 steps and proclaimed that he would end suffering and attain supreme enlightenment in this life. The Buddha’s mother is holding a branch of a tree for support during birth. In the picture also some gods and some servants of can be seen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Setting your agenda for TEDx events

Reposted from Steve’s Blog, Nov 9, 2012


TED (conference)

TED (conference) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TED is an amazing experience for participants because not only is the content compelling, but also the conversations with others are engaging and rich.

I find both aspects to be equally important.

I like to break events into a series of Main Stage Sessions and Interactive Sessions:

Main Stage Sessions include a well-curated set of talks, the talk of each presenter’s life, totaling approximately 80-100 minutes for the session.

English: Chris Anderson is the curator of the ...

English: Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference Français : Chris Anderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each main stage session ideally has a sub-theme that links each of the talks. In addition to the live presenters, we are not afraid to include funny YouTube clips, live music, or other types of content that really make that main stage session an engaging experience. We want people to leave informed and inspired by the content they’ve just consumed.

Interactive Sessions are equally important, then, as an opportunity for dialogue about what people just heard. What did you hear that you disagree with? What new ideas did that spark? For some people, just a place to go talk is enough, but for others, it’s great to facilitate some extra chances for serendipity. We’ve had areas with fencing as well as places to fly blimps. At an upcoming event, we’ll have basketball-playing robots and our own spin on the Generous Store. Another thing I’ve seen work well is a “Before I Die…” wall. It’s good to include enough time for interaction in your program, ideally 60 minutes instead of a 30 minute “break”.

I also like broadcasting this vocabulary in telling participants the day is split up in this way. Therefore nothing is called a “break” because we want people to be fully on all day.

I’d be interested to hear more about the way others set up their programs as well.

Living Unspecified – Fractals Geometry

English: Benoît Mandelbrot at the EPFL, on the...

English: Benoît Mandelbrot at the EPFL, on the 14h of March 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What made the father of fractal geometry Benoit Mandelbrot so creative in his field was his disdain for conformity. He didn’t sound methodical like a mathematician or a physicist. This was because he was endowed with an intuitive approach in a very structured world allowing him to see a totally new mathematical idea he named fractals.

“Perhaps my early rootlessness gave me an awareness that one can live without being so completely specific.”

Machines are extensions of our consciousness

Amber Case says in her 2010 TED Talk, “people aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore…when you have no external input that is the time when you have creation of self…when you can figure out who you really are…it’s not that machines are taking over, it’s that they are helping us to be more human, helping us to connect with each other…it ends up being more human than technology because we are co-creating each other all the time.”

The media are avenues for our reaching out to each other. Water finds its level and so as we dive into social media we find our kindred spirits.

That is or should be just the start of our journey…our humanity lies in our ability to bridge the gap between our differences.

Evolution is slower than innovation


It moves slowly to allow for the smallest common denominator to adjust to change.

Except when innovation hits – remember the dinosaurs?

The Social Media Environment of Minotaur’s Labyrinth

On behalf of those that were not physically present, let’s quickly recapitulate the story of Minos, king of Crete. He reigned during the height of Crete’s commercial success and during this time he hired the famed architect Daedalus to build for him a labyrinth in order to hide a dark family secret.

Minos's Palace.

Minos’s Palace. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The king’s family was hiding an indiscretion of tremendous proportions. It seems the queen Parsiphnae had a brief relationship of catastrophic consequences with a magnificent snow-white sea-born bull. This type of transgression seems to have run in the family because Mino’s mother Europa was seduced by a bull herself who was in fact the god Zeus. The fruit of this particular union was Minos, but it seems that there was love between his progenitors for Minos did grow up to be a just and respected ruler.

Unfortunately love was not the motive for Parsiphanae’s betrayal, as the fruit of her lustful union was monstrous. She bore a son with a human body but the head and tail of a bull! King Minos was not totally blameless in this story. He was gifted this spectacular white bull with a definitive purpose, in fact Minos had made a deal with the gods to use this bull only to impress his brothers with his divine connections. After Minos managed to ascend to the throne, he was supposed to return the bull by sacrificing it. But greed took over and Minos swapped the heavenly bull for an inferior earthly bull, as if the gods couldn’t tell the difference!

Minos had an impeccable reputation in his kingdom as a just and virtuous ruler. So obviously there was a great outcry when his wife betrayed him while he was on a business trip. She had asked the very architect Daedalus, who would later help her husband to confine the monster she conceived, to aid her in deceiving the object of her lust. He constructed a wooden cow she could enter in, masking her true form. This was definitely not the Trojan horse of yore, but a cow of inferior motives.

Her son the Minotaur, as the monster was called, was concealed in the labyrinth prison. As the Minotaur was the fruit of deceit and lust, he perpetuated these desires by consuming captured youth from conquered lands.

It would seem that this was a unique story but actually it’s really quite ordinary. Let’s say that Minos is the CEO of a company. The queen could be the Vice President of Investments. The Minotaur represents a very bad deal like the mortgage bundles created for hedge fund investments. The architect Daedalus is a brilliant and well connected lawyer.

King Minos could not, in good conscience, completely blame the queen for her indiscretion for he was the first to sin by not keeping his bargain with the gods and sacrificing the white bull. He was after all a superb bull, it was in essence a loan and not a gift therefore some repercussion was to be expected. Minos utilized a public asset for personal gain, and everything went downhill after that.

The king was part of a community; his role was to serve the needs of his people. It would have been through his selfless decision, his ability to uphold the integrity of his office that the entire community could have prospered. When things became transparent and the shady side deals came to light, he lost his credibility among his people. Still the evil had to be contained, and the architect constructed such an elaborate labyrinth the even he himself could not make his way out of it. Much like our modern investment firms that have constructed such elaborated packages that no one can figure out. But the monster had a terrific appetite and who quenched it were the conquered people whose assets, in this case the youth, were consumed. Ponzi schemes always need the fresh blood of investors to keep up the pretence of legitimacy.

The Minotaur represents the unabashed ego of our basest qualities bereft of any virtue. These desires lie in wait within all of us, always looking out for number one. His existence drives humanity to crave redemption and liberation from the worst that we can conceive. Through the Minotaur’s example we look in horror at this aberration of our collective values and hopefully are driven to revisit our suppressed virtues and once more hold them up as examples of our lives.

But going back in time to that place within us where we have romanticized virtue as some distant memory of a sanitized experience, is an illusionary endeavor. It’s only by reexamining our selves as we are now that we are able to become awakened to what was formally obscured. A caterpillar that changes into a butterfly is not a different being but rather a transformed one. We as a civilization have built our cocoon of self interest and are now shedding these constraints discovering that by being socially responsible we are able to collectively achieve so much more.

Illustration of Theseus slaying the Minotaur o...

Illustration of Theseus slaying the Minotaur on a neck-amphora. Circa 460 BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now Theseus’ time has come. He was a man with an inner mission. He was called into action by the deepest despair of all the sacrificed youth in the labyrinth of Minotaur.

Joseph Campbell artfully explained this woeful state, “It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight is so desperate, that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart.”

Mr. Campbell further refers to a particularly enlightened precept of Professor Toynbee who “uses the terms “detachment” and “transfiguration” to describe the crisis by which the higher spiritual dimension is attained that makes possible the resumption of the work of creation. The first step, detachment, or withdrawal, consists of a radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world, macro to microcosm, a retreat from the desperation of the wasteland to the peace of the everlasting realm that is within.” Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

“A myth, in its simplest definition, is a story with a meaning attached to it other than it seems to have at first.”

This definition was made by John Ruskin, in 1869, in The Queen of the Air. Myth speaks about our common beliefs and they transcend time and cultures. What held true thousands of years ago stands up to our current challenges, it might be time for us to learn the lessons of yore.

Let’s look under the hood of communication

An overload of communications

An overload of communications (Photo credit: windsordi)

Humanity is scrambling to understand communication. Until the advent of social media came about, the message was very pliable. Because we were so distant from each other the message was vulnerable to manipulation. As communication become instantaneous, it is able to circumvent manipulation and has therefore become inevitable. Owners of the message have had to put up smokescreens because of the sheer speed factor; the message has become very difficult if not impossible to control. What has this done to communication as we have always experienced it?

There was a time when there were longer intervals in the rhythm of conversations. A messenger would run back to Athens to relay the message that they won the war against the Persians. But this message took some time to be delivered, and any number of reversals could have occurred without this messenger knowing, much less Athens. When Alexander the Great rolled out his army conquering everything and everyone in his path, how did he know if the information that arrived from his scouts was current?

Charlotte von Stein

What has changed since the time of Goethe when he used to write love letters to his beloved Charlotte von Stein? Meaningful and introspective communications went back and forth and in between these communications time passed, experiences were had, people changed, new ideas were formed.

Now with instant messaging what happens to the processing of information? How is the communication received and how are the responses formed? What is the essence of our conversation when we communicate back and forth in an instant? Is an instant long enough to have an earth shattering experience to share until the next text message or tweet arrives?

Image representing Amber Case as depicted in C...

Image by Kris Krug (used with permission) via CrunchBase

Communication within the context of social media is being examined from many sides lately. I listened to a TED talk where Amber Case, who studies Cyborg Anthropology, has made her University thesis on cell phones. She made the following observations, “People aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore…when you have no external input  – that is the time when you have creation of self…when you can figure out who you really are…It’s not that machines are taking over its that they are helping us to be more human, helping us to connect with each other…it ends up being more human than technology because we are co-creating each other all the time”

This evolution has created a pressing need to understand each other in more subtle ways. Mae-Wan Ho said in the Rainbow and the Worm, “Actually, we never take anything just literally, even in ordinary discourse. If we did, we would not only lose all meaning behind words, but also the unfathomable magic.” How do we retain or discover the magic of the message when there is precious little time for reflection due to the instantaneous nature of modern communication?

One thing I believe, there will be a tremendous shift in the relationship that we have with the message that we are sending out into the world. As there isn’t much wiggle room for manipulation there will be a need for us to be accountable for every word, every communication that we release. We need to flow within it, it is part of us, an extension of our own consciousness, and becomes part of the one that receives it, connecting us in ways not possible before.


October 26, 2012Permalink 1 Comment