The Tank Man : At the cost of life

Photo by Jeff Widener

Photo by Jeff Widener

There are several videos that capture this event, and a few with Jeff Widener describing the moments surrounding this iconic photo. They're all pretty good, but this one, the one without any music or explanation, is the best. Without the distractions, you can almost feel it. The crowd, the tanks, and the moment of a man who has finally had enough, and decides to do something about it.

Even at the cost of his life. 

No one knows what has happened to the Tank Man. He has never surfaced and no one has ever claimed him as a father, son, husband, or friend, but his actions have inspired countries and individuals around the world.

After yesterday's post on the Charlottesville shooting, remembering this event which occurred on June 5, 1989, seems most appropriate.

So does this quote, which was recently shared with me by a friend.

It reads,

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.
- Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and the author of Night.

And this one, by Alan Patton: 

In the deserted harbour, there is yet water that laps against the quays. In the dark and silent forest there is a leaf that falls. Behind the polished panelling the white ant eats away the wood. Nothing is ever quiet, except for fools. - Cry, the Beloved Country

May we never be considered fools. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humility  :  Tank Man Documentary



Charlottesville: An up-close look at race and terror

This is perhaps the best on-the-ground view of what went down in Charlottesville over the weekend. It’s graphic in spots. Prepare to be angry and sad and frustrated and scared (via).

Because this, too, is America. 

On Saturday hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester, and two police officers – and many more injured. 
“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counter-protesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.
From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside of Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up close and personal access inside the unrest (via).

In the face of such hatred, how do we forgive? How do we improve? 

Where do we go from here?


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  How to Forgive  :  Chris Paul forgives the men who killed his grandfather



Bacon and God's Wrath : After 90 years, a Jewish woman eats bacon

bacon and god's wrath

I was recently asked by a friend who isn't exactly an atheist, "What if you're wrong?"

He didn't ask this in an arrogant or A-hole sort of way - the way many people do - but in a genuine, inquisitive sort of way; in a way that lead me to believe he has asked himself the same question many times, and, more importantly, will continue to do so. 

Since that day, which was almost three weeks ago now, I haven't been able to put the thought down. Even now, my mind hasn't found a conclusion yet, and I doubt it ever will. Which is a good, I think, because, what if I am wrong? And not just about my faith, but about a million other things I feel so certain about that, seemingly, have grave and everlasting (or not) consequences? What if I'm wrong not just on a few small things, but a few huge things?

About people?

And about Life?

"What if you're wrong" might be the hardest, most important question to answer because if we are, it means we have to admit it, and that we have to change. 

It means having to say we're sorry, which, at times, is harder than sliding a camel through the eye of a needle. 

You're torn between the safety of where you are and the loyalty to your parents. I can't help but wondering if it's somewhat that's part of the genes. Part of the brain pattern. I think that for me, this is the essential part of the documentary.

That connectedness. It was more than I ever got from going to synagogue.

It's courageous to choose to the truth, even if that means abandoning what we know.


At the root of all humanity, there is doubt. We all doubt, even though we speak of absolutes and act with deep certainty, at the depths of us all, there is doubt. And because so, it should be something that unites us, not divides. Knowing that all of us are without absolutely certainty should fill us with compassion and patience, not arrogance and piety. 

At least, that's what Philip Seymour Hoffman says.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On playing Devil's Advocate  :  Where Ideas come from  :  On Empathy



11 GIFs that explain (seemingly) simple things

These may or may not help in the advancement of life, but I bet you can't stop watching them. 


How popcorn is made:



How a cheetah runs and uses its tail for stability:

Now that is cool. Kinda makes me wish I had a tail. 


How locks work: 

Or, just pound screw driver in. 


How a dandelion spreads its seeds:

Question. Does this happen in a single day? Because the sky never changes. 


How a sowing machine works:

I've sincerely always wondered about this. 


How a dog drinks water:

And this.

How vines find support:

For some reason, this is super cool to me.


How a trumpet works:

So simple. Yet, Miles Davis makes it seem so incredibly complicated. 


How the Pythagorean Theorem works:

Oh . . . I still don't get it.


How to visualize and explain the value of pi

Finally. Math makes a little bit of sense.


How the gladiator spider hunts:

This is quite simply the most terrifying thing I've ever seen. Ever. Thank the Lord spiders don't fly, or hunt in packs, or scream wildly whenever they catch their prey. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  The Magic of Making Sound  : Japanese Fish Makes Ocean Art  :  They Shyness of Trees



Monica Lewinsky: The Price of Shame

At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss. At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences. Not a day goes by that I'm not reminded of my mistake. And I regret that mistake deeply. In 1998, after being swept up in an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal, and media maelstrom like we had never seen before. It was the first time the traditional news was usurped by the internet for a major news story. A click that reverberated around the world. What that meant for me personally was that overnight, I went from a complete private figure, to a publicly humiliated one. Worldwide.

A few months ago I listened to Monica Lewinsky share her story on the podcast To Endure, by TED Radio Hour. The whole hour is worth listening to but Ms. Lewinsky's story, starting at minute marker 30:56, is truly inspiring, and revealing, and I strongly encourage you listen to the the interview. I thought it better than the TED Talk because, like she says from the TED stage, "It was easy to forget that that woman was dimensional." And she's right. This interview provided, perhaps for the first time in my life, empathy towards her and her plight. 

I was only fifteen-ish when the story broke, but my understanding of her then and up until I listened to her story was most certainly, one dimensional. Because it was easy. And because, if I'm honest, I didn't really care that much to change it. Now, I'm eager to.

Here is another dimension of Monica Lewinsky.

We need to return to being a culture of compassion. Compassion and empathy.

Since the scandal of '98, Monica Lewinsky went on to receive a Masters in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 2014, she released an essay for Vanity Fair named "Shame and Survival," which was nominated for a National Magazine Award. She's currently involved with anti-bullying projects in the U.S. and U.K. (via). 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Dangers of a Single Story  :  Humanity  :  TED Talks



"Former enemies, now friends" : WWII Vets reunite with Japanese soldiers

"An Oregon couple is providing closure to the descendants of Japanese soldiers killed in World War II by repatriating the "good luck" flags they carried into battle, which were acquired by American GIs. Lee Cowan talks to veterans and their families about a respectful and emotional return - and of a bond born of war and strengthened in peace" (via).

At age 95, Bud still doesn't take lightly. "I provided all the ammunition that killed all these folks. And I'm not exactly, totally happy that I did that. But at the time, that was my job. I couldn't question that.
Why is it important to return the flags now?
"It's a closer. You can't keep hating people."


"It wasn't some souvenir. It was their father come home."


This generation will soon be gone, and so will their stories, their lessons, and their pain. The oldest living WWII Vet is 109 years old. WWII wasn't good, but they had to go. And, more times then often, they represent the best of us. 

World War II veterans visited Iwo Jima for the 70th anniversary of one most iconic battles of World War II, March 21, 2015.

I recently passed a man in a local grocery store who was wearing a "WW II Veteran" hat. I walked past, in the traditional silence I pass most people in a grocery store. Later, I wish I had said stopped him and said, "thank you." Watching films like this affirms the need to do this in the future. To say thank you for going, thank you for shouldering the burden of coming home, and thank you for loving us all - the many men and women whom you'll never know - so much.

Our lives, our freedoms, are because of you. 

Thank you. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Real People  :  Humanity



Double King Explained!

I've posted some of Felix Colgrave's works before and probably will again. He's pretty fricken cool. 

However, I'm posting this more for my AP students who spent an entire class trying to dissect and interpret, but who, like myself, struggled to truly make sense of it. 

This guys interpretation my not be perfect, but it still helps quite a bit. 

Check out more of Felix Colgrave's works, click here. And if you have any further insights or opinions on this or any of his works, please, share your thoughts!


For more on . . .


-N- Stuff  :  Short Films  :  Art



Privileged America, your table is ready

This morning, after listening to the podcast "State vs Johnson," by Malcolm Gladwell I was uncomfortable. No, that's not right. I was angry - pissed even - because I just hate stories like these. It's about a colored man accused of raping a white woman during the Jim Crow era. He didn't do it, but that didn't matter. She said he did.

The podcast ended about seven minutes before the walk was over so I had time to try and digest it a bit. It was a bit like trying to swallow a much too large piece of apple. After forcing it down with a giant chin-to-chest gulp, it scraped all the way down, leaving my chest soar and bruised for the rest of the day. Suddenly, simple eating becomes a painful chore. 

Around noon, I grabbed a beer and tried to sort out my thoughts. I drank coffee instead.

A few nights earlier, I wasted too much time watching Louis C.K. videos because a good friend of mine, Eric Trauger, always talks about him, and for good reason: Louis C.K. is brilliant - in a hysterically difficult to watch sort of way - because, well, he nails us. Right on the head. And it's super uncomfortable.

Especially if you're privileged white. 

In "State vs Johnson," Gladwell points out the parallel between Johnson's case and that described in To Kill a Mockingbird. The only difference being, Johnson didn't have Atticus Finch. He had a drunk who didn't understand the constitution, or the rights of all men.

(As a side note, I absolutely, with all that I know and am, disagree with Gladwell's assessment of Atticus' motive of persuasion).

Soon after the podcast ended, one thought that came to mind was on the idea of rights. After the trial, where Johnson was unsurprisingly found guilty, a new lawyer, Vernon Jordan, stepped in to try and rectify the verdict on the basis of violated Amendment rights - the fourteenth specifically- which says that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (via)." 

Johnson, a born citizen of the United States, had certain unalienable rights. But because of the color of his skin and because of the egregious actions he was assumed to have done, his rights were tossed aside, like crumbs on a picnic table. 

Suddenly, inherent rights, seam so fickle, so fragile, only as strong as the men and women who ensure them. 

The twin brother to rights is deserve, and in our American culture, we use them interchangeably. He or she deserves or has the right to do this or that, we feel the freedom to buy or do as we please because we deserve it, and please, feel the freedom to speak up and speak out because it is our First Amendment right, any high schooler knows that.

These ideas of complete independence and freedom are rooted in the declarations of our constitution, that all men are created equal and with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As Americans, we understand these truths, and we hold them to be self-evident.

But, what if they're not? What if we don't actually deserve anything? What if we, really, have absolutely no right to demand any rights at all?

What if, like Atticus Finch, all we really have is the weight of responsibility. 

None of us chose anything about our birth, we just showed up, involuntarily. Louis C.K. hits on this when he says, "If it were an option, I would re-up (on being white) every year." 

That's a pretty important "if" because it emphasis the point that none of us had a choice in anything about how we came into this world. Not who are parents are, their nationality, or ethnicity they are or decided to have sex with. We didn't decide any of it. We had not a single bit of input. Even after we were born, our opinions didn't count. If our parents lived on a farm, we lived on a farm. If they moved to the city, we went along - kicking and screaming or otherwise. From the beginning, we had no say, none, on some of the most deciding factors of life. 

We didn't even have a say if we wanted to be born at all.

However, overtime, we begin to expect, demand even, what we are so confident think we deserve. 

Yet, these men and women, without rights and without privilege, shaped the course of America.

We know America is what we make of it. That, "the Tuskegee Airman, and the Navajo Code Talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty (a right or privilege) had been denied" taught and lived out for us a great lesson on what it means to be American, and what it means to be human.

"We are all called to do something. We are all called, to play a role," not simply sit about, demanding our rights and privileges, but to live a life of deep responsibility, like Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Atticus Finch

Many of those men and women who walked that bridge, including that southern baptist preacher who had a dream, didn't look to the Constitution for strength to stand up and do something, they looked to their responsibility, their role within the time, and they made something of it. They were men and women of integrity, not entitlement. And they, along with many others both past and present, are what have helped make America great. Not their rights. 

But we're not finished. In fact, if we look around, I think it's clear to say we are far from it.

May we, especially those of us born into undeserved privilege, live in a similar way and with like conviction and embrace the roles we are called to play - to make our homes, our communities, our country and our world great, not simply ourselves. To live, not with selfish and ambition, but with a sense of urgent responsibility, to use our gifts and talents and rights for the benefit of others, not merely ourselves. And to love. Good God may we learn to love and think of each others as more important than ourselves. 

Then, and only then, will We be great. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  History  :  The Misunderstood Black Panther Party



Music : Illusion and Mastery

I wasn't going to watch this one even though it kept popping up on various websites and even though I love soundtracks. I don't know why, I just didn't want to watch it.

Then, it popped up again. So I watched it.

I'm glad I did. I think you will be too.


Afterward, I was lead to this one of John Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin. 

 For almost 20 years now, I've maintained a steady level of less-than-mediocre drumming skills - which is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself - so have always been drawn to really, really good drummers.

Even though I can't read music, the pictures really helped and I can now say with confidence, this guy is brilliant. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Movies Without Soundtracks  :  The Story Behind Soundtracks



Danny Macaskill : The Ridge

Sometimes, people amaze me.

Born December 23, 1985, Danny MacAskill is a Scottish trials cyclist, from Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. He works professionally as a street trials pro rider for Inspired Bicycles Ltd and is one helluva crazy dude. 

You can read more about Danny on his website and watch his new video, Wee Day Out where he explores the rural landscape around Edinburgh. The film "sets out to capture the simple fun of a ride in the country with moments of incredible riding and a touch of humor. Danny pulls off never-seen-before tricks, most of which would normally be assumed impossible on a mountain bike, like leaping onto a single train track, turning a hay bale into a giant unicycle, riding over a cottage, and disappearing into a 6ft puddle."


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :   Other Guys who will make your palms sweat  :  Great Wall Adventures