Sunday, January 06, 2008

Indian Connections

I just looked at the visitor log for my blog, and noticed that I had a visitor a few weeks back from "Gurgaon, Haryana, India" That happens to be an area I'm familiar with - it's the area I visited back in the summer of 2006 with my Freshi group.  It was a fantastic experience - I even hear occassionally from some of the young filmmakers we taught (one of which is apparently checking up on me!).    I found that the teens we worked with in India were excited, curious and optimistic about their country's progress.   They have a pride in their own country that kids in America would recognize.

My interest in India continues. The documentary I'm currently shooting is the story of a group of Indian boys, born in America, who are being taught "Bollywood-style" dancing as part of their parent's efforts to maintain their connection to Indian culture.  It's not so much a story of Indians, but of what it means to be an American in the 21st Century.  

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Information Age: Part Two

I recently heard about a website called - it's a site through which individuals can loan small amounts of money to small start up ventures in third world countries.  By small, I mean VERY small - people selling coal in a small village in Uganda - or a scooter taxi service.  You don't make money - you simply make a small (about $25) loan, applied toward a specific amount, which is likely to be paid back  - and so change lives in a very real way.  Kiva's has had so much publicity lately that all of the current businesses have already been fully funded.  "Investors" can also correspond with the entrepreneurs if they wish.  It's one of the few opportunities for individuals in the western world to make a real, meaningful connection to individuals in the "third world."  It's worth a look.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Dorkiness Factor

When I was a kid, I had a favorite jacket - I knew it was spring when I could transition from my winter coat to my bright blue New York Mets jacket.  I probably wore it longer then necessary into summer just just to make sure I got the most out of it.   I don't think I ever had as much of an attachment to a jacket as I did when I was ten years old.   In fact, I can't remember any other jacket throughout my childhood.  I think I've always had the idea in the back of my mind that I'll get another jacket like that one day....

I also remember wanting what I called a "Lost In Space" shirt - mainly, a shirt with a V-neck.  Judging from some photos, I appear to have succeeded in fulfilling my desire.

I did have some ill-fated flirtations with various items - like a notorious month or so in junior high school with a pair of brown boots.  I consider that one of my "what was I thinking?" moments.  I don't even think it was possible to walk normally, but I insisted on my precious boots - until I woke up one morning and discovered the dorkiness factor.  I never put them on again - to the great relief of my friends, I suspect.   The middle school mind works in mysterious ways.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Information Age: Part One

There was an editorial in the New York Times this morning that called attention to the fact that 2008 is the 40th anniversary of the notorious year, 1968, which was filled with political upheaval, a collapse of US efforts in Vietnam, assassinations, and, well, some pretty good music in spite of it all.
Of course, celebrating the anniversary of a year in general is a bit odd.  After all, we might as well celebrate the first anniversary of 2007, the tenth anniversary of 1998, and so on. Of course, the journalist's point was that 1968, and in particular the meteoric rise and violent fall of Bobby Kennedy, was a tragic turning point in the fortunes of this country. Still, mourning over a now-distant moment in history overshadows the opportunities that our own age - or perhaps the near future - provide.

As wired as we are in the western world, the rest of the world is still in the infancy of the information age - a large majority of the world's population still lives shrouded in a nearly medieval control over information.  It's still possible in 2007 to keep a population isolated through ignorance.  The reasons are sometimes political (North Korea being a prime example) and sometimes economic (a newly high-tech India nevertheless struggles to educate and connect its huge population).
Of course, the temptation is to look at our own country and wonder why the wired world hasn't helped our political system - as we sit mired in crisis after crisis. We have wider access to information than ever before - but perhaps we as a people need to learn to employ the power of information more effectively.   The process continues and evolves as individuals and organizations learn to use technology to educate, inform and change the world.