Archive for the Video Category
It’s something that was driven home by a line I came across in the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experiences, which notes that in 70 years of life we can take in about 185 billion bits of information. That information, in turn, makes up our consciousness.
“It is out of this total that everything in our life must come–every thought, memory, feeling, or action,“ writes, Mihaly Csikszentmihahyi, “It seems like a huge amount, but in reality it does not go that far….an individual can experience only so much. Therefore, the information we allow into consciousness becomes extremely important; It is, in fact, what determines the content and the quality of our life.”
For the last few years, I have been allowing a torrent of information into my mind, mostly via the Internet. Much of it good, and much of it important. But at some point you have to choose. I’m nearing 40 and according to Csikszentmihahyi, I have less than 90 billion bits left, and I have wasted too many already.
The internet is a powerful tool, but sometimes I feel like it is hungry for my mind, and up till now, I have been giving it too much, doing too many things online that up add up to nothing. As a result, I’ve had this gnawing unease, like I was sliding down some scree slope of trivia, like my mind was a balloon with a million tiny holes. Until reading that passage, I didn’t know exactly why.
So in a small but significant gesture–a finger in the dike–I’ll be spending each Monday this year offline. There is plenty of other work to be done (that used to be all we did!) and if there is anything urgent, there is a jurassic piece of technology on my desk called the telephone.
As far as I can see, this may be the only way to wrest back some control over the content and the quality of my life, and over my mind. This year, I want to remember how to lose myself in things again. I want to regain the focus that has carried me so far. And I don’t want to waste time on distractions, because I have too many things that I haven’t done yet.
So with that, I wish you all the best in the new year.
See you on Tuesdays.
Around our house, when we’re not busy reading quality children’s literature, our girls sometimes ask to watch online animal videos. Needless to say, it’s a dangerous world out there (on Youtube) and you never know quite what you’re going to get: Bizzare pet tricks set to terrible music. Boring shots of guinea pigs. Gazelle babies suddenly turned prey. (Hey kids, that’s life.) But once in a while, you stumble across a gem like this one, which warms the cockles of your heart, as well as other parts best left unmentioned. Suffice to say this has something for the whole family.
I’m not quite sure what to say about this except that it’s simultaneously wonderful and terrifying. Surely this is globalization at its finest.
I was talking to a friend about Star Trek, and Rolf Potts’ series on World Hum, when he mentioned an obscure Turkish remake of the original series. Well thank God for Youtube, because a quick search brought it right up. Great stuff:
Speaking of non-places:
Doug Lansky has a fun new website called the Titanic Awards dedicated to a seriously unappreciated aspect of travel: The bad trip. As we all know, the worse the trip, the better the story about it. I interviewed Lansky about the site, which features interviews with famous travelers like Tim Cahill and Don George commenting on their worst experiences, as well as surveys and videos like Worst Airsickness, Most Dangerous Intersection, and the one below, Worst Subway Commute.
In the new issue Mother Jones, there’s a short piece I wrote about Taqwacore, a kind of movement among young Muslim-Americans to create their own cultural space. It’s a great story, though somewhat truncated. I’ll put more up about it later, but for now you can pick up the February Mother Jones and check the media section. There should also be a film version of Mike Knight’s The Taqwacores coming out soon, as well as a documentary, and more books by Knight, like Osama Van Halen. Meanwhile, here’s a video by Al Thawra, one of the groups in the story.
In the Somali Mall not far from my house, there are signs for Obama all over the place. The other day, I was there talking to a guy from Ethiopia, who’d just come back from a visit. He said everyone at home, or 99% of them, want Obama to win. What this means is a matter of debate, but a friend of mine, Mukoma wa Ngugi, just had a great piece on the BBC about what Obama means (and doesn’t mean) for Africa. In his eyes, it speaks as much to the failures of African countries as to the success of a half-member of its diaspora. The implications for the continent are mixed at best.
But one way an Obama presidency might be a bright spot for Africa is the simple fact that Obama knows (or did know) what things look like from the ground up. Back in April, he commented that, “When Senator Clinton brags ‘I’ve met leaders from eighty countries’–I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then, you go. You do that in eighty countries, you don’t know those eighty countries. [W]hen I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa–knowing the leaders is not important. What I know is the people.”
Which means that for once, we may have a president who actually knows the world not because he was on a committee, or lived in some walled-off compound, but because he has been part of that world, and it made him who he is, and he knows what it’s like to live out in it. And as we all know, Obama is Beautiful World: