Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Art of Storytelling

Perhaps the oldest art form is one that needs to be reclaimed in our generation: storytelling. For years, Melea Brock has been weaving her own stories as well as some borrowed from other times and other places.
For the first time, Melea will be performing a live tele-Storynight tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 26) at 9:00 pm Eastern time. No matter where you are, you'll be able to listen in -- from your car, your home phone, or your computer. Melea has such an engaging manner about her that adults as well as children are drawn in -- and you'll find her stories charged with meaning.

All you have to do is go here to register.

Make a fire and some hot chocolate, gather the kids or friends, unplug the iPod and tune into Melea instead. It will be one of those moments suspended in time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ready or Not, Here Comes India

Whether or not the sleeper movie Slumdog Millionaire had won the Best Picture Oscar, its work would have been done: to shine a global light on a culture whose influence is spreading at disproportionate speed. Even though this is not a Bollywood film in the strict sense of the term (written and directed by Brits), its Dickensian depiction of life in the world's fourth largest metropolis is feeding a cultural frenzy. You can now book a "slumdog millionaire tour" in Mumbai, and Bollywood films are flying off the proverbial shelves. (More than four times as many films are made per year in Mumbai alone than in the entire Hollywood film industry.)

And you ain't seen nothin' yet, say many Bollywood veterans. "It's sad but true that we very often wait for the West to recognize a genius," laments Preity Zinta.

Seen the film? Leave your comments!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. Washington

On this date in 1732, George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. If you saw last year's mini-series on John Adams, you saw a strong yet humble leader in Washington. On this anniversary of his birthday, I leave you a striking clip from the mini-series which opens a window to us of the awesome (in the original sense of the word) responsibility Washington had glimpsed in the office he was assuming. Who would not be sobered by such a burden?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Washington.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today's WorldQuiz

What is the only remaining sovereign grand duchy in the world? It has a population less than that of Nashville, Tennessee.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Announcing World to the Wise Cultural Tours

If you follow World to the Wise, you've seen the hints. Now we're finally ready to launch our very first World to the Wise Cultural Tour for the culturally curious.

What makes World to the Wise tours different from other tours? You'll not only see the sights, but you'll also gain INsights into the heart and history of each culture we visit. In most places we will work with local guides/instructors who know and love their city. And wherever possible, we'll facilitate an actual exchange where our group is able to interact with the locals. This can make the difference between a nice trip and one that marks you for a lifetime.

What makes up culture? Is it art? Language? History? Government? Education? Religion? Family? The answer is yes! It is impossible to fully know and experience a culture without considering these things. But before you start thinking that World to the Wise Tours will be a purely academic experience, think again. One of our foundational values is laughter, for example. A successful tour is one where we have been able to laugh with each other, and sometimes at ourselves.

Who is invited? Anyone and everyone, although unaccompanied minors may be prohibited on certain trips. Since we are Americans and currently live in the US, it is our mission to expose other Americans to the beauty and diversity of this planet; having said that, all nationalities are invited -- the more the merrier.

Are you of the tribe of the culturally curious? Then head over right now to to sign up for our updates. Our first tour is coming up this May to Paris and Florence (and possibly a side trip to Venice). Tentative dates are May 16-27, 2009. In this current economic climate, we will keep our costs as low as possible.

Stay tuned for more details -- we're just getting started!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Living in an Idol Culture

In the US, it's American Idol. In France, it's Star Academy. In the UK, it's Britain's Got Talent. Each season, these shows take their devoted audiences through a crazed spectrum of the sublime to the ridiculous -- and it's hard to say which the fans love more.

The underlying message of these shows -- or rather, one of the underlying messages -- is that anything is possible if you truly believe in yourself. For those who didn't have the support of a loving family and parents who told them they could do anything they set their mind to, it's up to them to pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps. And some of them do it. But what has me laughing one minute and gaping in amazement the next is how completely deluded some of the candidates are.

I'm the first to agree that a child is much more likely to succeed in the world with the encouragement and affirmation of his parents. It can make literally all the difference in a child's self-esteem and world view. But I have to wonder if we've become a little extreme in our craving for affirmation when candidates show up to audition who are nothing short of tone deaf. The ones I wonder about the most are the ones who are there with their families who appear completely supportive. What did those parents tell their child? Are the parents encouraging the dream in order to fulfill some unfulfilled dream of their own like the classic stage mom syndrome?

If I have half-way succeeded as a parent, I've somehow managed to identify and encourage strengths in my sons. True, the tricky part is what to do when a child doesn't seem to be gifted in a particular area of passion. I suppose that's where tough love comes in. But we're shooting ourselves in the collective cultural foot if we idolize pop culture icons to the point where we will do anything to be like them -- or for our children to.

"Above all, know thyself."
- Socrates