April 7, 2017

Neurocooking, indeed!

From the New York Times article, To Become a Better Cook, Sharpen Your Senses
The most recent multisensory development is the connection between food and autonomous sensory meridian response, or A.S.M.R. A newly defined sensory state, A.S.M.R. is a kind of pleasurable shivering or tingling that spreads along the scalp, upper back and shoulders in response to soothing repetitive sounds. Originally, these included soft whispering, pages turning or having one’s hair brushed.

Now, A.S.M.R. devotees have discovered food. Video series like Silently Cooking and Peaceful Cuisine have no talking, no music, nothing to distract from the sounds of cooking: the rasp of a knife shaving chocolate, the rhythmic scrape of a whisk whipping egg whites, the glug-glug of olive oil pouring into a pan. Even eating sounds have A.S.M.R. devotees, especially if it involves chewing candy and whispering at the same time.

June 13, 2016

Studs Terkel with Tony Parker: Interviewing an Interviewer

"I'm looking for the uniqueness in each person. And I'm not looking for some such abstraction as the truth, because it doesn't exist. What I am looking for is what the truth is for them."

Louis "Studs" Terkel (1912-2008) is an iconic oral historian, Chicago-based radio broadcaster, and author. Above and below is excerpted exactly as presented from an interview with Tony Parker, often described as the UK's own "Studs".

There was a black woman one time, I saw her standing in the street, with two or three of her kids round her and she was looking in a shop window. And as I'm walking by, I look to see what it is she's looking at -- and you know what? There's nothing in the window, she's looking in an empty shopwindow -- looking at nothing. So naturally I'm curious -- naturally I'm curious -- so I say 'Excuse me ma'am -- but what are we looking at?' She doesn't seem to mind being spoken to by a stranger, and she doesn't turn her head around to see who's asking her or anything, and after a moment or so she says 'Oh' she says, 'Oh, dreams, I'm just looking at dreams.' So I've got my tape recorder and I switch it on and I say 'Good dreams, bad dreams...?' And she starts to talk. Then she talks a little bit more, and a little bit more. And her kids are playing around her, and they can see I'm tape-recording what their mom is saying, and when she stops talking after eight, maybe ten minutes or so, one of them says "Heh mom, can we listen to what you said?' And I ask her if it's OK with her and she says yes, so I play it back and she listens to it too. And when it's over, she gives a little shake of her head and she looks at me, and she says "Well until I heard that, I never knew I felt that way.' 'I never knew I felt that way!' Isn't that incredible? The way I look at it, it's like being a gold prospector. You find this precious metal in people when you least expect it.

November 1, 2015

Autumnal-reflection beaver-blogging!

(A beaver in Rock Creek, as seen from the Kensington Parkway bridge, Saturday, October 31, 2015.)

October 25, 2015

Autumn Weekend Now-and-Then Beaver Blogging! [featuring ear-tagged beaver-pairs in drop-crates]

Yesterday morning, at the Kensington Parkway bridge over Rock Creek, I saw a beaver on the downstream side.

It swam under the bridge, so I crossed, and saw it emerge on the upstream side.

I watched it for a while.

And then it swam away upstream.

This morning, courtesy of my sister and the Washington Post, I saw ear-tagged beaver-pairs in drop-crates. And you can too:

September 7, 2015

Views from the bridge.

Over this three-day Labor Day weekend, I walked each morning to the Kensington Parkway bridge over Rock Creek, with a telephoto zoom lens on a full-frame digital SLR.

Saturday morning:

Sunday morning:

Monday morning: 

(click any image for full-screen)

August 24, 2015

Not once but twice last week...

Not once but twice last week, in the early evening, I suddenly saw a beaver swimming towards me; by the time I could retrieve my camera, all I could capture was the back of the beaver's head, moving away...

June 28, 2015

Reflections on Stories, Empathy, and Helping People Be Heard

“I work with stories. I don’t need to define it. I just need to do it better.” – Participant

“To find a meaningful story is simply to walk around in the world with your eyes open, listening.” – Jacqueline Banaszynski, Missouri School of Journalism
I’m at the Restorative Narrative Summit, a conference and retreat organized by Images & Voices of Hope. The organization believes “that media can create meaningful positive change in the world. Our global community includes journalists, documentary filmmakers, photographers, social media specialists, gamers and more. …It’s about amplifying the best in human nature and whenever possible shining a light on the steps we can take towards the future we want.”

The Summit opened with members of its Fellows program, which provides five journalists with a stipend to spend six months telling Restorative Narratives. These are defined as “stories that show how people and communities are learning to rebuild and recover in the aftermath, or midst of, difficult times…[These narratives] locate the opportunity in disruption and move beyond questions of ‘what happened?’ to questions of ‘what’s possible?’”

When asked what they have learned, one Fellow, Alex Tizon, offered, “It’s hard to give up narrative as central to the conflict. …I like the benevolent pressure I feel from this group, it forces me to work hard, to strive for empathy.”

Another Fellow, Rochelle Riley, observed, “It takes longer, because you have to wait for people to move forward.”

Time and patience continued to emerge as key components of empathetic storysharing.

Many participants have self-identified as recovering advertising people. There’s also a cohort of former broadcast journalists who are now therapists. Having worked in advertising myself (after going to college at 16 to earn a B.S. in advertising), I was prompted to reflect on this convergence.

I was attracted to advertising because, on 10th grade career day, we visited an advertising agency with a focus room group. Upon seeing the two-way mirror, I thought it was so cool that you could actually find out why people do what they do and want what they want.

At its core, advertising is giving people what they want. That focus group room was inviting the ad agency to listen to what participants were thinking and reflect it back to them. There is a generosity – hear me out, please! – at the heart of the work. Ideally, you can help people be heard.

Felix Richter, of Droga5, shared the incredible ads he made for Under Armour. Felix was speaking on a panel about how media can challenge stereotypes and change perceptions. In approaching the Under Armour work, he said they didn’t want to be patronizing to women – “You can do it!” – nor did they just want to tell women to exercise more.

Instead, Droga5 championed the campaign, “I will what I want.” He explained, “Advertising shows extreme stereotypes all the time, and they become accepted as true. Showing the opposite of that can help us get to the real truth.” To that end, I was delighted to see his ad featuring Gisele Bündchen, "in a raw workout, while real social comments, from both haters and supporters in response to the signing of Gisele to Under Armour just two days earlier, invade her space. Gisele remains focused, willing what she wants."

I’m guessing the cohort of reformed advertising folk were not as lucky or talented as Felix, or simply not working with adventurous clients. Our desire to be generous in giving people what they want, and allowing people to be heard, led us to journalism, arts, education, or advocacy. There is an inherent generosity in desiring to respect and reflect people’s lives back to them.

Here is Kim Cross, author of What Stands in a Storm, explaining her motivation in writing a book about a community’s resilience in the wake of the nation’s most destructive tornado event, focusing on a family that lost a child:
I wanted the reader to know what it was like for a parent to lose a child. Instead of walking a wide arc around them in the Piggly Wiggly, they would engage them.
Kim also offered a meaningful distinction between pity, sympathy, and empathy:
In sympathy, you are looking down at someone. In sympathy, you are looking at someone. In empathy, you are sitting next to someone.
Listening to people and enabling them to be heard is necessary and time consuming. Letting go of assumptions and allowing the time for people to find their voice and establish enough trust to share what they are thinking takes patience (and practice). Patience, purpose, and passion are gifts we give one another.

At the closing reflection, Jacqueline Banaszynski offered this wisdom, “You don’t have to rush just because you’re under time pressure.”

The conference is being held at Peace Village in the Catskill Mountains. Internet and phone access is extremely limited. Friday was an extraordinary day of news to be spending with journalists in almost total blackout! At the close of the day, I wept with joy and sadness – with empathy -- while going through my Facebook feed celebrating marriage equality, and the transformative power of the eulogy President Obama delivered in Charleston: 
He was full of empathy and fellow feeling… He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the ‘sweet hour of prayer’ actually lasts the whole week long – that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it's about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
 Empathy: the imperative of a just society.


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