Saturday, December 20, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
If you have been a reader of mine for any length of time, you know at least a couple of things about me: I love this planet we're on -- its beauty, its diversity, its people; and I love the adventure of entrepreneurship and the importance of developing multiple streams of income. So in order to provide YOU with a one-stop travel shop -- and to open up an additional stream of income for World to the Wise, I now have my very own TRAVEL PORTAL:
No, I am not a licensed travel agent, nor do I intend to become one. Instead, I have linked arms with Hemisphere Travel, the world's largest private travel provider, with a search engine twice as large as Expedia, the next largest online travel provider. They are the ones making your travel arrangements for you, and they are the ones you will contact directly with customer services issues; but when you book your travel through this website, not only will you find true concierge service, you'll be supporting World to the Wise as we develop into a multi-faceted organization.
Nothing else needs to change for you -- simply save this URL in your Favorites and go there instead of the other guys, knowing that you'll get the same competitive prices and be apprised of some pretty amazing specials from time to time. And when you hear the signal for the first World to the Wise cultural tour, your travel will be booked through this portal.
Check it out: http://www.worldtothewisetravel.hemitc.com/ -- whether it's to book flights, cruises, rental cars, hotels, group trips, or ski vacations, we've got you covered. I'll tell you about some more cool features in future posts.
It's your planet -- go see it!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
As an American, I'm not always particularly proud of our cultural exports. Halloween, for example, came into vogue in Europe while I was living there; and not all of Hollywood's values make me want to stand up and say, "That's us!"
Thanksgiving is different. And what is ironic is that I don't know of other countries besides Canada that have instituted this tradition on a national level. (Prove me wrong by posting a comment!)
On this 4th Thursday of the month of November, we stop to remember how blessed we are. Not that celebrations of thanksgiving have never been held in other cultures; harvest festivals have been a tradition of cultures worldwide since recorded history began. But the feast that has become an annual holiday in the United States is generally attributed to an offering of thanks not for copious material blessings, but for mere survival. The Pilgrims who had come to the New World from England in search of the freedom to practice their religion in the way their convictions dictated were thankful just to have made it through their first winter. And this would not have been possible were it not for the providential help of a Patuxet Native American named Squanto. You should take a moment to read this remarkable story some time.
The first national declaration of Thanksgiving was made by the Continental Congress in 1777, but it was not declared an annual holiday until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of a civil war that was tearing his nation apart, made the following resolution:
"... to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union...."
How radical and completely counter-intuitive. In some of the darkest days of this young nation's history, a leader urging his people to unite on two principles -- gratitude and penitence.
The tough times we're facing right now are a cake walk compared to many of the ordeals our ancestors went through. Is it possible that one of the divine laws of the universe might be that gratitude not only comes after deliverance, but also precedes it?
Here is one thankful heart that a day has been set aside for something that is actually intended to be a way of life for us.
May we all live lives of gratitude.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
One of my criteria for a worthwhile film is whether it makes me think. My wife and I went to see “Body of Lies” the other night, and I came away thinking.
Without having read David Ignatius’ book, I can only take the film at face value. Was the Ed Hoffman character (played by Russell Crow) an intentional caricature of the stereotypical American cowboy with some very sophisticated toys he’s not afraid to use on people he’s never taken the time to understand? (It irks my Mississippi-born wife to no end that these characters always have southern accents.) Are we to extrapolate and believe that everyone in the U.S. intelligence community is cut from the same cloth? Whether or not that’s the case (and I still dare to hope it’s not), Hoffman’s line toward the end of the film (“After all, what is to like about this place?”) reflects an undeniable fact: many of us simply don’t see anything to like about, in this case, “these Arabs.” You could replace the word “Arabs” with countless other names, depending on what culture you live in and who your traditional enemies are.
I once had a voice student in Switzerland whose example left an indelible impression on me. She was from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, a relatively small area and unfortunately susceptible to the traditional French prejudice toward Germans and German speakers. Aware of this prejudice in her own heart, this lady actually sought out a job in Zurich, the largest city in the larger German-speaking area of Switzerland –- simply to find something to like about those German speakers! Needless to say, she was not disappointed, and to this day has maintained several close friendships there.
Enough said. Or perhaps not.
Welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Thanks to those of you who responded with your own cultural faux pas stories. Unfortunately, they all came through Facebook and are therefore not posted on this site. That darn Facebook is just too convenient.
Here are a couple that have come through:
On the first day of classes, a university freshman in the States who has been raised in Europe and learned English only from her mother and foreign language classes, asks a classmate for a rubber. (Don't get it? Ask someone.)
In one of my own French classes years ago, one of my students, who is a recording artist, was trying to tell me how her husband's voice blends well with her own. She was making a gargantuan effort, truly; but instead of saying 'He blends,' she said 'He changes my diaper.'
And finally, a dear friend who was living in Switzerland and learning French thought she knew a thing or two about predicting whether a pregant woman's baby would be a boy or a girl, depending on how the woman was carrying the baby. In faltering French, but confident it was a boy, she proudly informed the dubious woman that it was going to be a fish.
Keep them coming! And post them here so non-Facebook members can appreciate them!
Monday, October 6, 2008
I lived for a number of years in Australia as a child. Even though my memories of that time are somewhat sketchy, I remember my parents recounting, through tears of laughter, the lessons they learned about the differences between Australian and American vocabulary. Some of these lessons they learned firsthand; others they learned through (or rather at the expense of) other visiting Americans.
For example, one American couple had been in Perth just a few days. The wife had come down with a bug of some sort and had stayed at the hotel. When asked where his wife was, the gentlemen forlornly replied that she was under the weather, so had to stay behind.
If you're from a present or former British Commonwealth country, you already see the problem here. If you're not, you're probably not aware that in those countries, "under the weather" means very, very drunk.
The American gentleman was a pastor.
Stay tuned for more -- and in the meantime, send me YOUR faux pas anecdotes!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
On his latest album, Encanto, Mendes is again joined by Herb and Lani on one track. The rest of the record is pure Brazilian, recorded in Rio and Salvador de Baia. The sounds are more irresistible than ever, chronicling the amazing musical journey of a man who has become a legend. Skipping some of his mid-career forays into American pop and soul, Encanto reflects some later influences such as a wonderfully African brand of hip-hop, combined with some of the jazz and bossa nova influences that have blended to produce that oh-so Mendes sound.
Looking for timeless? You've got it right here.
Welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
You would almost think there was a curse on the nation of Haiti. Ravaged by not one, not two, but FOUR storms in the last month, the already destitute country is now struggling to dig out of the latest devastation left by Hurricane Ike. Not that the Texas victims have nothing to deal with -- but there are resources readily available to most Texans that the Haitians could only dream of.
Here is a tangible way you can help: Terry Snow, Director of Youth With a Mission in Haiti, has made an appeal for help in feeding the thousands of newly homeless in the city of St. Marc, Haiti's third largest city. For only $1.50 US, you can provide a hot meal for someone who has no idea where the next meal is coming from. Youth With a Mission has been involved in nation building in Haiti in the most holistic way possible, from opening a fish market in the city to helping with roads, bridges, and feeding programs for well over a decade. Here's what you can do:
Send a quick e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org stating the number of meals (@ $1.50) you would like to provide. Then mail your check for that amount IMMEDIATELY to:
PO Box 236
Akron, PA 17501
...and indicate that it is for the meal program in St. Marc.
Thanks for your help.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Bonjour from France, where I am speaking at an annual arts camp. The camp is situated in the southern region called the Cevennes, about an hour and a half inland from the Mediterranean. This is my third time to be invited to speak here, but it's been five years since the last time. I was eager to see how things have evolved.
It's impossible to visit any place in Europe without discovering some historical significance; in this case, many an impressionist painter, for example, traversed and painted these rolling hills with their picturesque villages. But what I find most striking goes back further than the impressionists: it was to this part of France, among others, that the Huguenots fled the persecution of the Catholic church under Louis XIV in the 17th century. This post will hopefully be followed by a Part II after a visit to the "Musee du Desert." The "desert" in question is not a physical desert, but a period of such intense persecution that the years have come to be known as such. More on that later...
In the meantime, it's gratifying to see the arts flourishing...they've assembled an impressive faculty representing practically all the artistic disciplines -- and I'm speaking at the morning plenary sessions. Reunions with old friends and great conversations with new friends...grateful for the privilege! Out of time for now...more later.
And welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
But what if what we saw on 08.08.08 was actually the truer China after all? What if the breathtaking magnitude and splendor of the opening ceremony -- the rising of the curtain on what has already proven to be a most memorable Olympic Games -- was the China God had in mind in the first place? I don't usually delve into matters of religion in this blog, but indulge me for just this: in the book of Revelation in the Bible, it says of the New Jerusalem that "the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it." We tend to think of heaven as a nondescript existence of golden streets and harps. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that heaven is the perfect version of all that is splendid and beautiful about the universe we know and have known.
The reason I fought back tears during that performance is that I felt I was getting a taste of the beauty of heaven. And we ain't seen nothin' yet.
...and welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Many of us, for whatever reason, have been discouraged from dreaming. The pragmatists tell us it's a waste of time and energy. I suppose I have always been somewhat of a dreamer, even being called an idealist once by a work supervisor. I have seen many of the dreams come true, and have many yet to be fulfilled. I dreamed of singing and recording in multiple languages, combining two of my greatest passions and giftings. It has happened. I then dreamed of equipping other creatives with a broader world view and a deeper sense of their place in this world. Almost 1000 creatives came through the programs we offered. Could I have done some things better? Oh yes; but the dreams became reality nevertheless.
They're not all old dreams, either -- the dreams keep coming. One of my latest dreams is to promote a deeper sense of cultural awareness in this age of globalization; to foster what one author has termed "glocalization", where we learn to think and act both on a local and on a global scale. (Check out the book in my reading list on the right.) And being an American, one of my more ambitious dreams is to improve the image of America and Americans in the international community. God willing, this will take the form of seminars, webinars and podcasts on cross-cultural dynamics in this new age in which we live.
Another dream that is not far from reality is hosting World to the Wise Cultural Tours, where North Americans are given the chance not only to visit their dream destinations, but also to understand the heart of the culture they're visiting: what is the story behind the way people live as they live? Stay tuned -- our first tour is in the offing!
Welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday -- check it out!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
With all the "war and rumors of war," it's easy to lose sight of the fact that when God created the world, he sat back and pronounced it good. And as Matt Harding demonstrates in his own unpolished, abandoned way, there is much to celebrate in the beauty of cultural diversity.
So do a little jig today -- wherever you happen to find yourself on this big ball of ours!
This post is part of Water Cooler Wednesday -- check it out!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
First, thanks to all who participated in the poll, with the question of whether it's appropriate for governments to boycott the Beijing Olympics to make a political point. 88% of those who took the poll said it is inappropriate.
Speaking of China, she finds herself again in todays' topic: our changing world climate. Addressing an elite gathering in Switzerland of CEO's from some of the foremost international companies, Herbert E. Meyer laid out an insightful manifesto entitled "What in the World Is Going On? A Global Intelligence Briefing for CEO's." Meyer is widely credited with being the first senior U.S.Government official to forecast the Soviet Union’s collapse, for which he was later awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the intelligence community’s highest honor.
According to Meyer, there are four great transformations that are currently shaping global political, economic and social life:
- The war in Iraq - the conflict is not just between Islamic terrorists and the U.S.-led coalition; Meyer says it is much, much bigger -- and actually represents the 3rd major attack of radical Islam on Western Civilization.
- The emergence of China - in a few short years, 500 million Chinese will have moved from the country to the city. This internal upheaval and historic transformation cannot help but have a cataclysmic effect on the world stage.
- Shifting demographics of Western Civilization - Europe is currently importing so many Muslims and other foreigners that by 2020, for example, more than half of all births in the Netherlands will be non-European.
- The restructuring of American business - with the rise of outsourcing and independent contracting as a common business model, it is increasingly difficult to get an accurate read of the economy.
Fascinating and illuminating, Meyer's entire speech is worth the read...
Thursday, July 10, 2008
This brings up a huge question: are the Olympic Games an opportunity to air grievances between nations? Do they supply the leverage governments are looking for to punish another country or at least make a political point?
Take our poll and post a comment!
Monday, July 7, 2008
If you've ever been to Amsterdam, you know it stands out from other world capitals. Having lived there over five years, I have vivid memories of a charming city rich in culture and history -- but also of a conflicted city on an ongoing quest to "find itself." Historic old churches in the middle of the world's most (in)famous red light district; world class museums housing priceless treasures, coexisting with buildings almost effaced by graffiti.
Since July 1, Amsterdam finds itself again facing a unique set of questions. In compliance with the EU's initiatives to ban smoking in public places, the Netherlands was one of the last to lay down the law. Not surprising when you know that the traditional coffee shop can just as easily be called a smoking parlor. But in Amsterdam, it's a little more complicated: for years, many of the city's notorious coffee shops have also offered hashish on their menus. It's technically illegal, but smokers are not prosecuted for possession under 5 grams. Around 750 Dutch cafés — half of them in Amsterdam — are licensed to have up to 500 grams in stock at any one time. The problem Dutch smokers now face is that most of the marijuana they smoke is in fat, cone-shaped joints that contain a blend of cannabis and tobacco. With the new law now in force, the hash will have to be pure.
Shops are scrambling to adapt. One alternative is "vaporizer" machines, which incinerate weed smokelessly. Another is to replace tobacco with herbs like coltsfoot, a common plant that looks like a dandelion and that smokers describe as tasting a bit like oregano. But most shops are just planning to increase their sales of hash brownies and pure weed — and are hoping the law isn't enforced.
What a predicament. I guess every small business has its challenges...
Thanks to my friend Celeste Yohai for the observation!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
If you've been to Africa, you know what I mean.
My wife and I spent two amazing, enlightening months in Zimbabwe in 1985, just five years after the British colony of Southern Rhodesia had achieved independence and renamed itself. Robert Mugabe was still the Man of the Hour, having led the nation not only into independence, but ongoing relative prosperity as well. Not by any means that Zimbabwe was a model society -- inter-tribal conflict and racial inequality were very present; but it was a period of peace, and most of all, hope. Twenty-three years later, Mugabe is regarded by most as a power-addicted despot, desperately clutching what authority remains in his 84-year-old hands. For the rest of the world, his moral authority has long since dissipated.
We freedom-touting Westerners are inclined to immediately take sides with whichever side appeals most to our idea of liberty. I'll admit that I'm more than ready to see Mugabe hand over the reins of that nation in demise, the nation that was once called the Bread Basket of Africa. And Morgan Tsvangirai seemed like the man for the job. Now we'll just have to wait and see what unfolds.
I hear the word "O" with the word "Africa" because she has so much to offer. Like a slave who has just been offered freedom, she struggles to find her footing, her role on the international stage. South Africa, which many consider the bellwether nation of the continent, finds itself facing a whole new set of challenges as foreigners flock to its already swollen cities.
More later -- in the meantime, share your "O Africa" experiences and thoughts by posting a comment.
Monday, June 16, 2008
So why would I cite this film in the world history class I taught last semester? Gosling’s character’s behavior was symptomatic of some serious adolescent scarring – a profound sense of abandonment, in particular. It is no secret that dysfunctional behavior can almost always be traced to some kind of past trauma or extreme deficit. As I write this I’m also reminded of the Barbra Streisand film, Nuts, in which it is revealed that, during her teenage years, the father of this now high class, sex-addicted call girl regularly used money to coerce her into having sex with him. Not all consequences are so dramatic, but they are there nonetheless.
If this is true of human beings, is it not possible that the same is true of nations? I am sincerely asking the question, rather than making a dogmatic statement.
There are many problem spots in the world we would label as dysfunctional, whether it be ethnic conflict, corruption, religious friction…and in my simple, naïve, American mind, I wonder why everyone can’t just get along….Knowing that over half of the foreign aid that arrives in Africa falls into corrupt hands and never reaches its destination makes me crazy; Sunni vs. Shiite makes absolutely no sense to me; the refusal of the Myanmar junta to allow relief agencies to help its people in the wake of such a disaster blows my fuses.
I am certain that I never see the whole picture, that no one really sees and understands the full story; but I am convinced that if we look into the past to learn for the sake of the future, we will have more than one “aha” experience. Take Rwanda, which I believe is emblematic of much of Africa: We would better understand the Tutsi/Hutu conflict that engendered the genocide of the 90’s if we knew that the Belgian imperial presence (preceded by the Germans) showed a blatant preference for the Tutsis, thereby setting one tribe against the other. We would have more insight into the Kurdish conflict – and why Turkey is so threatened by them -- if we knew that this is the largest ethnic group in history to have never had its own independent political state. I don’t cite these examples to take sides; just to say that there is always a back story.
This blog is intended not as a monologue, but a diablog! Do other examples come to mind? We welcome your comments.