People

5 Months Swimming, 4 World Records

 Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

Recently a 33-year-old swimmer and fitness expert, Ross Edgley, returned from an epic 1,780-mile (2,800 km) journey. Ross spent 5 months at sea and is believed to be the first person to swim around the island of Great Britain.

 Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda


The fact that this deed was perceived as impossible inspired Ross to be one to accomplish it. “I’ve always been fascinated by British explorers and it was Captain Matthew Webb [first person the swim the English Channel], who really inspired me.

 Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

During this victorious swim, Ross broke 4 world records. The records include – the first person to swim the entire South Coast of the UK, the longest ever staged sea swim, the fastest person on the planet to swim from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and the first person to swim around Great Britain.

 Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

“The biggest challenge now is learning to walk again! My biggest fear when I was coming out of the water and back onto the beach was that I was going to fall over. As I’ve not stepped foot on land for over five months, the tendons and ligaments in my feet have been asleep, so I basically have to learn to walk again. But in terms of bigger thinking, and I know this will sound weird, but I’m still not bored of swimming. A few big swims have been mentioned and this is probably the most ‘swim-fit’ I’ll ever be, so who knows?”

For the complete story and more pictures, visit Bored Panda.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Real People : Inspiration

The last surviving paratroopers from D-Day reflects on Freedom

There is no real freedom in a sense. We're all obligated to something or somebody. 

Often, I take for granted the lives that so many have lived. 

Often, I take for granted my freedom which they provide.

An American citizen should basically be a responsible person, to his family first, to his community, and then to his country.

 

Also, check out . . .

Oldest Living Veteran - 109 Years Old

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

President Bush : in search of atonement

Thanks for reading!

Kendrick Lamar wins the Pulitzer. And traditional America isn't happy.

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Kendrick Lamar can now add Politzer Prize winner to his growing laundry list of awards

Shocked? If so, you're not alone. I was too. Because, I always thought that the Pulitzer Prize was set aside for great writers and poets and journalists? That it was for classical musicians, not rappers.

So I did some looking around and found Eatock Daily, a composer based out of Toronto who shared my thoughts and assumptions. But then, I read these words, 

I’ve noticed that some classical types have been careful to sound respectful and inclusive when discussing this issue. Perhaps fearful of being labelled “elitist,” or hoping that just a little bit of hip-hop’s coolness might rub off on them, they praise Damn for its musical craft, sophistication and cultural authenticity, and say supportive things about Lamar’s prize-win (via).

And my "this is bullshit" radar sounded.

Then, when he quoted Norman Lebrecht, who called the decision, “an almighty kick in the teeth of contemporary composition" and added the he, "a classical {himself}" was "alarmed" by this decision because, "Even though the prize has almost always been awarded to a classical composer (with the exception of a few jazz artists) there has never been an official statement of this policy – it was an unwritten tradition", I pushed the panic button, holy shit!

Daily goes on to say that Lamar winning this award is "cultural erosion" and that "only time will tell if Lamar’s prize is a gesture of tokenism, or if the Pulitzers will largely embrace popular musics, and America’s classical composers will find themselves shut out of a prestigious award that used to “belong” to classical music." Damn. 

But also, why? Why does the Pulitzer have to belong to classical music? Because of tradition?

What tradition? 

Because from what I read, the Pulitzer music prize is awarded “for distinguished musical composition by an American", not tradition. 

So why the animosity or frustration?

Probably because Mr. Lamar doesn't fit easily into the image of what many traditional American's consider art, and not only because of how he looks, but because he uses gritty language and raps about a lifestyle and reality many Americans would rather turn away from and ignore.

But if that's the case, why did the staff of Reuters win the Pulitzer for Feature photography? Because their images of "the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in fleeing Myanmar" (via) are pretty gritty too.

  Rohingya siblings fleeing violence hold one another as they cross the Naf River along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Palong Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 1, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Rohingya siblings fleeing violence hold one another as they cross the Naf River along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Palong Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 1, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

  Hamida, a Rohingya refugee woman, weeps as she holds her 40-day-old son after he died as their boat capsized before arriving on shore in Shah Porir Dwip, Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Hamida, a Rohingya refugee woman, weeps as she holds her 40-day-old son after he died as their boat capsized before arriving on shore in Shah Porir Dwip, Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

 Mohammed Shoaib, 7, who was shot in his chest before crossing the border from Myanmar in August, is held by his father outside a medical centre near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 5, 2017.  (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Mohammed Shoaib, 7, who was shot in his chest before crossing the border from Myanmar in August, is held by his father outside a medical centre near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 5, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Why are these stories more valid than Lamar's? Why are these atrocities seen as "shocking" and move our hearts while Lamar's offend?

Why are photographers praised for their voice and style and Lamar criticized and considered a tainting of tradition?

Because he curses? What?

Mr. Daily actually beat me to these questions when he wrote, "It was only a matter of time before someone rhetorically asked,  “Hey, wait a minute, if the Pulitzer is for ‘distinguished musical composition by an American,’ why shouldn’t hip-hop be considered?” And it is his answer that I find most troubling. He writes, "the Pulitzer Prize for Music must now be shared among (presumably) all genres of American-made music. And the small and marginalized contemporary classical music world just got a little smaller and more marginal."

Damn. Presumably? Marginalized?

Really?

Kendrick Lamar is unfit for this award because allowing more non-traditional music into the discussion will leave classical musicians feeling marginalized? What about musicians of the past hundred years who were never recognized because they didn't follow "tradition"? Where is their contribution to music and society and mankind's story?

Marginalized?

Because right now, as Mr. Lamar is being celebrated as the first rapper to win the Pulitzer, CEO Kevin Johnson's is trying to salvage the Starbucks image by closing 8,000 stores in May for "racial-bias education day" after two black men were arrested for not buying anything.

Do you know how many times I have sat in Starbucks and not bought a damn thing but just sat and read or wrote or waited for a friend? Not only that, do you know how many of those times I've asked for a free glass of ice water AND used the bathroom? Countless. And never was I questioned, denied, or even remotely suspected of anything other than sitting and doing nothing. 

Marginalized? Really?!

This is exactly why it is so important that Mr. Kenrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Price for music, because now traditional America has to take him and rap and all those stories of how the other half live seriously. Because now traditional America can no longer use the argument, "That ain't music" or categorize it as, "black people music" and turn the station and their attention to something more agreeable to their ears. Because now (as it already has been for many years) it is truly part of America's music and a crucial component to America's story.

Damn. by Kendrick Lamar isn't a gesture of tokenism or a kick in the teeth to tradition and for sure it isn't a cultural erosion. It's progression in American storytelling, in American poetry, and in American voice. It's a piece of distinguished musical composition written by an American and recognized as "a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life" (via). And Kendrick Lamar deserves an applause, not a patronizing pat on the back.

"Pulitzer was the most skillful of newspaper publishers, a passionate crusader against dishonest government, a fierce, hawk-like competitor who did not shrink from sensationalism in circulation struggles, and a visionary who richly endowed his profession." And whether Mr. Daily or traditional America likes it or not, so is Kendrick Lamar. 

Hot Damn.

 

You can listen to the full album on Spotify

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Art  :  Music

 

Clean Streets : When it's more than just a job

I've been watching a lot of StoryCorp lately. These stories, short and sweet, are also immensely powerful and challenging. 

Like this one, a story of how cleaning the streets can be something so much more. And why, when it's over, a neighborhood comes out to say goodbye.

StoryCorps was designed by David Irsay to "preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world," and has collected well over 50,000 stories (that number is from June, 2015). 

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Favorite Podcasts 

A Tribute to Stephen Hawking

We are all time travelers, journeying together into the future. Let us work together to make a future a place we want to visit.

 

Using various lines from various speeches, melodysheep has put together an truly inspirational video that celebrates the "life and message" of one of the greatest minds of our time.

He also has videos celebrating Princess Leia, Robin Williams, and science

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff   :  Inspiring Art

23 years of tag has kept these friends together

Tag, set for release on June 15, is a movie about five friends who have engaged in a "no-holds-barred game of tag" since the first grade. It looks pretty typical and fairly comical. 

However, it's based on a true story - a brilliant story - of nine buddies who have refused to let time and distance come between their brotherhood. And their story is the antithesis of typical.

The Guardian first wrote about it in April in 2013.

"As teenagers," the article starts, "a group of friends and I spent every spare moment at school playing tag. The game developed into more than just chasing each other round the playground; it involved strategy and cunning. But when I failed to tag someone in the last moments before school broke up for summer – he'd locked himself in his car to avoid it – I resigned myself to for ever being "it".

Until their 10-year reunion.

Everyone had moved off to college to the games had sort of "fizzled out," but when they reunited once more, someone suggested starting it up again and everyone agreed. "We had busy lives and lived hundreds of miles apart," so they came up with three simple rules: 

1. The game could only be play in February
2. You are not allowed immediately to tag back the person who's tagged you
3. You had to declare to the group that you were "it"

Over the next 23 years, these friends kept finding new and creative ways to tag their buddies. "Eleven months of the year are spent planning. Collaborating with a friend is where the fun is – we can spend hours discussing approaches."

I love that. How a simple game of tag kept friends in touch and connected with each other - something we all deeply crave but have little time for. But these guys make time for it, spend money on it, and make it a priority of life. Even if, at times, it means avoiding your friends. Like Patrick does.

"Patrick," the article reads and the movie portrays, "who does everything he can to avoid being caught, sometimes spends February in Hawaii." When he learned that his buddies were there, at the airport waiting for him, he "hired a man to hold up a card with his name on it in arrivals, so one of us would wait near it. Then he slipped out of another exit."

Brilliant. 

So too was "one of the most unexpected tags" because it was at a funeral . . . of a Mike's father. "During the service, {Mike} felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Joe mouthing, 'You're it.'" And Mike didn't even care, because he knew his father "found our game hilarious."

Daring. But brilliant.

I'm terrible at keeping up with old, good, and great friends. Just terrible at it. And it's not because I don't care because I really do. It's just hard is all, and I'm really not sure why. There's Facebook, email, text, phone calls, and old fashion letter writing. Yet, I never seem to make it happen. After reading this article, I've begun to wonder if the ease of communication prevents me from doing it - because it's always there, and I can just do it later, no problem. 

Tag, over hundreds of miles, takes effort and collaboration. It takes intentionality and time. Which, unsurprisingly, are the same ingredients for great friendships, as these now old men have discovered. 

"The best thing about the game is that it has kept us in touch over all these years – it forces us to meet and has formed a strong bond between us, almost like brothers."

Anyone up for a game of tag?

Living Greater by finding Middle Ground

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I think there's safety in being heard and understood. You feel as if whatever it is you want to be understood about matters.

Jubilee hopes to "inspire people to LIVE GREATER", by modeling for us how to engage in difficult yet necessary conversation with people of immense difference.

Sometimes the discussions are cringeworthy. Other times, they're beautiful. Always though, they're challenging:

Do I sound that arrogant? 

Am I that uncouth? 

Could I be wrong?

Here are a few of my favorites/most challenging. 

Once you humanize someone, when you're having a conversation . . . {once} I start looking at you as a person and listening to what you're saying, {I} really realize that it's not that different. We have different situations, we have different information, but we're all trying to do the best {with} what we have.

There are relationships in my life that are severed beyond repair. Yet, I wonder if that could change. If I saw others as trying to do the best they can with what they have, if I understood that their information and situation was and is very different than my own, maybe we'd be able to sit and have a discussion. Maybe we'd find some middle ground. 

Maybe.

I think you make choices, personal choices, every single day, on how you live your life and how you treat people and how exist in the world.

I think it's that people are so determined to make other people wrong.

Jeremy really bothers me. Not because he's confident or because of what he says (okay, some of it is because of what he says) but because of how he says it, and why. He isn't there to have a discussion, to refine his thinking, or to consider another's perspective. He's there to prove others wrong. 

Faith is faith because it's based and founded on faith, not facts. And in order for a discussion to happen, in order for two unlike individuals to grow and learn and find some common ground, they have to be willing to concede their omniscience. And because Jeremy is unwilling to do so, his passion, his education, and all of his credentials amount to nothing. 

So he stands outside the circle, unable to contribute a word. And when he's invited in, when he's allowed to join the discussion and be with the people, a moaning works through the group and no one hears a word he has to say.

You can watch more people try to find Middle Ground here. They're pretty great, covering topics such as:

- Pro-life and Pro-choice
- Liberals and Conservatives
- Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun

 

For more on . . .

The Need and Difficulty of Good Conversation

A Heineken commercial that inspires more than a drink

Fall in love in 36 questions, and two music videos

Marriage. And Race Shouldn't Matter.

 

BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN AND SUBSCRIBE - THANKS FOR READING!

Refugees, our neighbors.

 Photo by Angie Smith

Photo by Angie Smith

What if we treated our neighbors like refugees?

And what if we treated refugees like neighbors? 

 

African Neighbor:

 Photo by Angie Smith

Photo by Angie Smith

I remember coming in and the teachers introducing me to my classes and me introducing myself to my classmates. And I remember them saying ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I’m from Africa,’ and they would say these things that never happened in Africa. Never. At least to me. They really think that we have this communion with animals, like we love wild animals very much.They thought I lived in a tribe, which a couple people do still live in a tribe there but I didn’t, I lived in a city. It was pretty weird seeing how they view us. And the difference between how we view them. I don’t think I felt offended, I think there was an empathy that I had because when I lived in Kenya, there were pictures painted about the US that were very untrue. So I was like ‘I was like you when I was there.’ I understood. I just think some of the notions were very ridiculous. I don’t blame them. But some of them were very far from the truth (via).

American Refugee:

She’d missed the bus because her sister overslept. She couldn’t go home because nobody was there and she couldn’t make it to school because the roads were barely plowed and most of the sidewalks hadn’t been shoveled. Plus, she was cold. She wasn’t wearing socks or a hat or even a jacket, and at eight o’clock in the morning, it was still a few degrees below zero.

So she came to our home.

She knocked gently and waiting quietly. But the door only opened half way, “Hey,” Josey said, in her soft and calming voice, “What’s up?”

The little girl explained her plight quickly, because she was cold.

“Oh,” Josey said, but didn’t open the door any further. Elias began to cry in the background, “Sorry kiddo, I have two of my own children who are hungry and cold and I need to make sure they’re okay.” The little girl stared blankly. “Sorry,” Josey said again, gently closing the door and heading back to the kitchen.

After helping Elias to a handful of Cheerios, she picked up her phone and texted her husband and explained what just happened. She ended with, “Can you believe these parents? What kind of shithole home does this girl live in that she doesn’t even have socks!”

The girl stood for a moment, staring at the woman with long blond hair walk around the kitchen, smiling and laughing with her two little kids. She wondered if she should knock again, if the lady would change her mind. She raised her hand, stopped, then let it fall. She turned and slowly walked down the steps and sidewalk littered with ice and clumps of salt. At the corner, she turned toward her house knowing it would be locked and nobody would be home. She fought back tears and fear and jumped over a large snowdrift that covered the sidewalk. Snow slipped into her shoes and packed beneath her bare. She jammed her hands into pockets and bit her lower lip. Crying wouldn’t help.

 

Ethiopian Neighbor:

 Photo by Angie Smith

Photo by Angie Smith

The Boise people I see, they are very welcoming to refugees, they encourage us to improve our English, to have better job, to have better life. From Create Common Good I met a lot of interesting people, amazing people, they change my life. I don’t want to forget my volunteer, Michael. I will never forget him in my life. He is making me a man in this city. He was teaching me to ask, ‘are you guys hiring people at this time? Who is your boss?’ Pushing me to speak with people, and teaching me how I can be successful. He is the first person making me successful in this country. And still he is beside me if I have any difficulty. At this time, I am trying to help anyone who is lower than me. Wherever I am from, inside my community or outside, I don’t care, if someone need help, whenever I can, I help (via). 

American Refugee:

Okay, I made that part up. It didn’t happen that way. Here is what really happened.

She’d missed the bus because her sister overslept. She couldn’t go home because nobody was there and she couldn’t make it to school because the roads were barely plowed and most of the sidewalks hadn’t been shoveled. Plus, she was cold. She wasn’t wearing socks or a hat or even a jacket, and at eight o’clock in the morning, it was still a few degrees below zero.

Josey wasn’t expecting anyone, so when she heard a faint knock – almost like a whisper – coming from the front door, she assumed Judah missed the bus and had locked the door on his way out. But when she opened the door and found the little girl from down the street standing on the doorstep, she wasn’t surprised. “Hey kiddo, you okay?”

The little girl explained her plight and Josey’s heart ached as she listened. When the girl finished, Josey fought back tears, knelt down, and looked the girl in the eyes, “Oh kiddo, I’m so sorry.” The girl smiled slightly but kept her eyes on the frozen ground. “I’ll tell you what,” Josey said, standing but still holding the little girls shoulder, “All day today, I promise to keep you in my thoughts and prayers, okay!”

The girl’s smile faded, “Okay.”

“Great,” and Josey’s hand fell from the girls shoulder and reached for the door, “All day kiddo, I promise.” And as she gently closed the door and slipped the deadbolt back into place, she whispered to herself and to God her hopes and desires that things might get better for this little girl, that she would have parents who loved and cared for her, and that the evil that flooded this little girl’s home would be washed away and the home renewed. She prayed God would once again be welcome in the schools and courthouses and public meetings. Then she walked over to the chalkboard that hangs above the coffee pot and wrote, “Today, as you pour your coffee, remember to pray for the little girl.” And she did. All throughout the day, whenever she reached for her mug or poured milk for Zion, she read the message and sent up simple but lengthy prayers for the little girl with freezing fingers and uninvolved parents.

Later in the day, while the wind blew snowdrifts up the door or covered the windows and sidewalk, Josey sipped her coffee and played with her kids. She worked on her spread for a magazine that wanted to feature her. When her husband came home and asked her how the day was, she said it was good – “nothing outside the norm,” and when they all gathered around the table, plates steaming and hearts warm, she remembered the little girl and, as a family, they prayed for her. Eden cried, because she has a soft heart, and Josey wrapped her up in her arms and told he she loved her and that she was proud of her for caring so much about people.

Iriqi Neighbor:

 Photo by Angie Smith

Photo by Angie Smith

. . . I came here in May 2012. Then a whole new problems started here. Language, culture, no one, no friends. After three months, I just gave up on my life, I tried to kill myself, but it didn’t work. I took a lot of medicine. I just wanted to kill myself because I’m tired. They said if you ever do that again, you will be in jail forever. That’s what the judge said. It scared me, to be honest. At the same time I thought, wow, I gave up on my life but now I am back in life. Let me just start a new life. I always start a new life, since left my country I have been starting over and over. Sometimes I smile when I talk about it or I laugh, but inside it’s killing me.

I’m tired of losing people. I have been losing people my entire life. Losing my friends, losing my best friend, losing a lot of people to stupid ISIS. I’m like no, I will live my life however I want it. And people will accept it or not. Not just accept me as being gay or straight, but accept me as who I am. Once I open that, now I am not afraid to say to anyone, I am gay. They can decide if they want to be friends with me. If you want to be friends with me, you are more than welcome to be friends. If not, move on, and I move on with my life.

I decided to do what I did in [Gay] pride, to be more open to everyone. So I wrote down my first and last name, Iraqi, refugee, gay, and that’s how I become out.

It felt great. I feel like I am not afraid of anything. I am more open to a lot of people, more open to myself, being who I am. I have always wanted to live a life as who I am. People will accept me as who I am, not just accept me being gay or straight. Once I open that, I’m not afraid to tell anyone I am gay. I was even shaking when I walked. Even when I did it, I still got scared, but I just walked. Walked with a big smile and waving at everyone, proud being gay in Idaho (via).

American Refugee:

It didn’t happen that way either. Here’s how it really happened. I promise.

And I let her in and made her some hot chocolate. “Don’t call my mom,” she said because her mom was already at work and her older sisters at school and she didn’t want anyone get into trouble. Our van was still covered in snow from the day before so Josey called the school and asked them to come pick her up. They weren’t surprised.

“This won’t be a problem next year,” the little girl said, “because I’ll be in Texas with my dad and it doesn’t snow in Texas.” She sipped her hot coco and played with her fingernails.

“Why are you moving to Texas?” Josey asked.

“Because I have ADHD and my mom can’t handle three kids by herself,” she looked around the room, at Elias eating Honey Nut Cheerios, “she’s keeping my other sisters because they aren’t as difficult.” Then she finished her hot chocolate.

A few minutes later, the school bus arrived and the little girl grabbed her bag, said “thank you” for the hot chocolate, and headed off to school.

Josey rinsed out the cup and listened to Zion talk about all she wants to buy with the money she got from the Tooth Ferry who had visited the night before.

After pouring a fresh cup of coffee, Josey sat down. Zion, holding a favorite book, climbed into her lap while Elias crawled on the floor.

After school, the little girl stopped in and asked if she could come over tomorrow, after school. When Josey said yes, the little girl handed her a note, a to-do list of activities.

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A lesson from Boise:

 Photo by Angie Smith

Photo by Angie Smith

I think a refugee is not just a person fleeing disaster. I think a refugee is a person that strives to liberate a whole generation. Because the reason why there is America is because a group of people went from Europe to here because they wanted a better life, and look what we have now. So a refugee is not just a person who takes space and eats your food and takes your money. I think a refugee is a person who strives to make a better way for their generation. It’s not just a one-sided perspective. When you see one person getting out of another country to come into yours, it’s not just one person, it’s a lineage of people. And when you reject that one person, you are rejecting his whole generation. So I feel like having that perspective of consumerism and what it’s going to take out of the country, I think that’s human. I think it’s very natural for us to look at the compromise and say ‘What if we lose this?’ Sometimes it’s very hard to see what you will gain because what you will gain is definitely not money. It’s something more beautiful and abstract and less tangible (via).

“Being chosen" says Trevor Noah, "is the greatest gift you can give to another human being." 

May we choose to choose, over and over again. 

 

You can read more refugee stories at Stronger Shines the Light Inside.

The Saint of Dry Creek : a StoryCorp short film

Dont' sneak. . . if you sneak it means you think you're doing the wrong thing. And if you run around your whole life thinking you're doing the wrong thing, then you'll ruin your immortal soul.

Damn, that's good.

StoryCorps was designed by David Irsay to "preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world," and has collected well over 50,000 stories (that number is from June, 2015). 

I first heard of David Irsay and his brilliant development of StoryCorps almost two years ago while walking through the streets of Chengdu, China. He and it was the center piece to the episode The Act of Listening from the podcast TED Radio Hour. Since that night, I've listened to hundreds of podcasts. Yet, this episode has remained one of my all time favorites. 

Thank you Eric Trauger for sending me this video!

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Favorite Podcasts  :  TED Talks  :  StoryCorps films