Category: General
Posted by: IkeWest
A wise person once asked me, “What do you suppose motivated people to work before there was money?” I looked blankly at this individual and couldn't think of a thing. Her answer was: “Across time, what has motivated humans is a desire to improve living conditions and beautify the environment.” That was simple enough. And to this day, I use these two measurements when assessing the value of people’s actions. For example, when I think of Princess Dianna, Mother Theresa, and now Lady Bird Johnson, I look past the media glitz and politics involved to see their successes in a different light. All of these women—Dianna, Theresa and Lady Bird—were motivated during their lifetimes by something more than greed and the pursuit of money. Each, in her own way, worked to improve the conditions around them and beautify the world. Living in Austin, Texas, I can see evidence of Lady Bird's actions to improve and beautify at every turn.



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Category: General
Posted by: IkeWest
Recently a young Belgian filmmaker asked me to share some thoughts about modern chaos. A few days later a Texas artist with close ties to the UK suggested I might commemorate the anniversary of the car bombing in London two years ago—after all I’d written about New Orleans the year after Katrina broke the levees. First, I thought about the courageous families of the innocent people who died or were injured in the car bombings. The senseless attack obviously brought them indelible grief and pain. But the disaster did something more: it imbued every person in London (and beyond) with an intrinsic sense of horror. As time passed, the shock wore off, yet for many people there was no return to life-as-usual. Like most of us, they could not escape the truth that what we now experience instead is life-in-chaos. Grasping this insight, I knew there was no need to write one piece about chaos and a separate memorial for London’s disaster of July 2005. From this new perspective, the two melded to become one and the same.



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No doubt, Irwin’s death is a tragedy. Yet it is easy to see that in his work he courted death constantly. Some might even say in doing what he did, Steve Irwin must’ve had some sort of underlying death wish to fulfill. There are apt to be others that think by dying young Irwin got exactly what he deserved. After all, he chose to wrestle with crocodiles and swim with deadly ocean creatures. He should’ve had some consideration for his wife and young children and like the rest of us, taken a safe job behind a desk in an office somewhere. In today’s modern world, we’re taught to believe that our lives are some how much better off because we don’t wrestle creatures in the wild the way Irwin did. I guess Steve would want us to take a look at that belief and see if it measures up as an honest assessment.

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These are some thoughts I had after seeing the movie An Inconvenient Truth. While the content is very thought-provoking and may inspire viewers to make some life style changes, I keep thinking about Marshall McLuhan’s statement from decades past: “the medium is the message.” Accepting that premise, it seems—starting perhaps with Micheal Moore’s films—we are seeing the rise of edu-tainment films as a way to provide people in depth understanding of truly relevant contemporary affairs. Thirty years ago, the ‘medium’ for that would probably have been print: the newspapers and magazines. But lately we’ve been pretty much left to our own devices as citizens to research our own truths about pertinent matters, like what’s the worldwide impact of our standard of living, what’s in the stuff we eat on the fly, and so on. Perhaps this is a reason movies like An Inconvenient Truth end up drawing an enthusiastic audience. We are hungry for news that reaches past the pabulum that’s fed to us daily, like the highlights of life among the rich and famous.

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Seldom are people able to glimpse the true spirit of a city. I don’t mean in the sense of enthusiasm for a specific municipality, but rather spirit in the absolute meaning of the word: the soul lay bare. I feel fortunate in that I have seen glimpses of the work underway in New Orleans as it heals from Hurricane Katrina. And I believe what’s revealed in the process of taking in the view one year later is the city’s deepest essence. Whether a visitor or a citizen, one cannot help but be curious about how the raw areas that were smack in the corridor of peak destruction are faring after the passage of time. There, the scars of Katrina are readily evident.

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