Culture Grab Bag

Kevin Kelly was cutting-edge in his youth and with the passage of years he seems to just get sharper.  Highlights of his bio include editing and publishing the Whole Earth Catalog which, to refresh my your memory, is a compendium of the best tools for self-education.  He later co-founded and edited Wired magazine.

Lesser known (to me) products of his free-thinking mind include the All Species Foundation, dedicated to identifying all living species, and the Long Now Foundation, which “fosters long-term responsibility as an antidote to the extremely short-term horizon of most contemporary organizations.”  (Ya think we might need some of that?)  And he’s edited and written a bunch of books, one of which is available for free right here.

Look, Ma, no college!
Kevin freely – nay, proudly – admits that “My educational background is minimal. I am a college drop-out. Instead of going to university, I went to Asia. That was one of the best decisions I ever made.” Elsewhere I found this, written in the third person.  “He is married and has three wonderful children. He was born in 1952. He has no college or university degrees.”  See what I mean?

Then when he returned to the U.S. he traveled a lot more before starting a mail order company called Nomadic Books, selling budget travel guides.  Which ultimately led to those other publishing successes.

To me it’s no surprise that a smart, inquisitive person probably learned much more as an world-traveling auto-didact than he ever could have sitting in classrooms.  (I was too meek to drop out of college myself but at least spent some of it bumming around Europe and picking up enough college credits there to satisfy the parents.)

The story of Kevin’s religious conversion
I was surprised to find this intriguing note tucked away in his long bio:  “On an even more personal note, I told my story of a religious conversion many years ago to Ira Glass, host of This American Life, a public radio series that features long narrative stories…You can find an audio file on the ‘This American Life’ web site. It is the second story on the program called ‘Shoulda Been Dead‘”.  I’ve downloaded it to my iPod already.

Kevin’s Cool Tools and a lot more

Upon entering Kevin’s home page the reader discovers:

  • Two blogs about technology trends (as best I can tell) – Lifestream and The Technium.
  • True Films, which carries short reviews of his favorite “documentaries, educational films, instructional how-to’s, and what the British call factuals – a non-fiction visual account.”  (Hope Netflix has ‘em!)
  • Screen publishing, most of which is beyond me but I DO understand this link to 7 quick rules for e-publishing.
  • Quantified Self, which is “a place for people interested in self-tracking to gather, share knowledge and experiences, and discover resources.”  Honestly, even with that definition I’m left at “Huh?”
  • Street Use, which features “the ways in which people modify and re-create technology.”  I’ll be exploring that one.
  • And finally, Cool Tools remind me of turn-ons, though tool contributors are multi-generational.  Here’s how Kevin explains them:  “As my children began to leave home I wanted to give them each a box of tools and a book containing ideas of tools and possibilities that they might not encounter otherwise. I started to keep a list of tools plus my comments. Some of those reviews appeared in issues of Whole Earth Review a magazine I used to edit.”   The tools cover 41 different categories, everything from crafts to workplace to something called “consumptivity”, most of which I’m unqualified to judge, but gardening tools I know a bit about and you know what?  They ARE cool.  So worth a lot more browsing – or even contributing to.

Hat tip to Steve Brown for turning me on to Kevin’s world.

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Celebrating Independence

by Susan Harris on July 4, 2011

And still singing “Give Peace a Chance.”  Now which makes my patriotism more suspect – the flag or the turfgrass-free yard?

Here’s a 16-second video of the mosaic of groundcovers growing where the lawn used to be, inside this fence.

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Boomer grooms finally allowed to be grooms

by Susan Harris on May 1, 2011

Charlie Fabella (L) and Bill Yosses, photo by Anthony Jalandoni

Before Royal Wedding fever cools off too much, I’ve gotta say that same-sex wedding announcements, which we’re finally seeing in the Washington Post and the New York Times, are always a pick-me-up to this reader.   I’ve never looked twice at hetero wedding announcements – because they’re sooo boring if you don’t know the people – but gay weddings are different.  They’re still a rarity (still only legal in 5 states and D.C.) and each one is a triumph of love over bigotry – cue the Kleenex box!

So in today’s NY Times darned I didn’t see a name I recognize grinning proudly with his new spouse – that of Bill Yosses, 57, “executive pastry chef” chef at the White House.  He married special education teacher Charlie Fabella at a courthouse in D.C.

According to the Times, he was tapped for the White House job by Laura Bush in 2007, and in 2009 heard his new boss Michelle Obama saying that “desserts would be rare at family meals and that portions would be scaled down.  And with her emphasis on healthy eating, his responsibilities broadened to included beekeeping and tending the White House Garden.”  Ah, if only more pastry chefs would see the light (or have it shown to them) and grow vegetables instead.  Even better?  If the people who make Oreos got food religion, too.   As if.

But there’s more!  Today’s Times was a jackpot for lovers of gay weddings, including another with an even more famous Boomer taking his vows.  That’s John Goldwyn, 52, scion of the movie producer family and a producer himself – we have him to thank for “Dexter”.  This time, the groom had been down the aisle before – in a straight marriage that resulted in an adult daughter, who “led the couple in an exchange of vows and rings.”  Sadly, though, theirs was a commitment ceremony with no legal standing, since the right to marry in California was snatched away by the odious Proposition 8.

So sure, all spring brides and grooms deserve their share of congratulations, but gay newlyweds get an extra shout-out from this reader for being trail-blazers.  And no matter how sappy their how-they-met stories may be, I read every word.

Photo by Anthony Jalandoni, which I’m assuming is kosher to use because it was released with their wedding announcement.

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AARP’s website nominated for Webby Award

by Susan Harris on April 27, 2011

You all know the American Association of Retired Persons.  Even if you’re under 50 and haven’t yet been contacted by them, someday AARP will be very much on your radar screen, and you’ll be glad they’re doing a good job communicating online.

Such a good job that their website has been honored as one of only five finalists among organizations for a Webby Award – the Internet’s top award.  Voting is open through tomorrow, April 28, so vote now.  Click here to vote.

The other four finalists include three art- and design-related organizations and a Canadian tourist board, none of which have as much information to relate or as many functions to accomplish with their website as does the AARP.  (Over the years I’ve worked on enough websites – for better or worse – to appreciate how difficult it is to do them well.  So, no phony sucking -up here.  Just sincere sucking up.)

What I like about the AARP website:

  • Good reporting on the serious stuff – health and money, especially the subcategory Self-Employment.
  • A movie discussion group,  a Simply Green discussion group and one about the Great Outdoors.
  • Under the category of Relationships, right there with parenting and marriage I found the topic of Pets.  My cats are feeling the respect.
  • The information about gardening is sparse right now but I hear there’s lots more coming soon.
  • Budget Travel. The only kind I’m interested in.
  • Technology articles that are relevant to me and that I can actually understand.
  • The blog, which is a good place to keep up with their newest articles.  I subscribe to it using Google Reader.

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Turn-ons for Oberlin Boomers

by Susan Harris on April 12, 2011

I recently asked the Oberlin Alumni group on Linked-In what’s turning the Baby Boom Alum on these days, and seven of them had answers for us:

Performance art/Theater
Making performance work outside the box.  Turning my passion for Contact Improvisation (that I became addicted to as a sophomore at Oberlin when primary investigator Nancy Stark Smith ’74 was in residency) into a research focus and the basis for a new modality – Contact Theatre – that I’m still investigating and developing.  (From Mirle Criste)

I am really enjoying community theater again, now that my kids are a bit older (teenagers). This summer I’m playing Katisha in the Mikado in the wonderful summer theater called Unadilla, in Calais, Vermont. I also continue my solo residential architecture practice but am most jazzed about getting together with this great group to put on plays in a barn! (From Irene Facciolo)

Paddling my canoe or Kayak (depending on the water) on the Wisconsin River with friends! Over the years that group of friends has expanded and now we travel to the Ozarks to paddle the Current River, off season when the tourists are gone. Our friends from the Ozarks come up to Wisconsin for a Summer Rendezvous, and we go down there for a Spring and Fall Rendezvous–we camp for a 4-day trip. Those who have retired have already started a Winter Rendezvous with our Texas friends! (From Rena Crispin)

Second Careers

After working in the financial world for over 20 years, I decided to pursue my passion, photography. For the last 7 1/2 years, I have been working as a full-time professional photographer, specializing in intimate images of Japan, nature and other cultures. You can see examples of my work on my Facebook photography page, as well as on my website. Recently I spend a lot of time on social Media such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to help promote my photography.  (From Rob Tilley)

Quit my corporate job a year and a half ago to launch a business making practical products from recycled materials: laptop sleeves, reusable sandwich bags, wine bottle gift bags, etc. Never lost my Oberlin-based passion for environmental/ecological issues and this is my small way of contributing to the solution. Mostly doing wholesale (store suggestions welcome!) and am absolutely loving it. Here’s WrapCycle, my website. (From Janet Michal)

Just received my LEED Green Associate credential, and working on my Masters in Sustainable Energy Engineering. The inspiration of recycling in Noah [a dorm at Oberlin] got me going on environmental issues in the 70′s, and after 30 years in semiconductors and medical devices, wanted to return to my “green” passion. For now I’m consulting in the medical device industry, but hope to land consulting gigs in the sustainability/green field soon!  (From Ed Milner)

Launching a course on Sustainability in Fashion in the fall at FIT/SUNY – any suggestions or guest speakers for the course welcome! Love learning new technology for teaching.  (From Naomi Gross about her second career teaching)

Music, books, and more

Classic recording artists like James Taylor and The Eagles, who appear to have aged amazingly well.  Cheap red wine, thrift shops, really good science fiction, collecting first editions of beloved novels (Kindle schmindle). I better stop there for now.  (From Mirle Criste)

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