Kathy Eldon on learning to forgive

drawing by Dan Eldon

Kathy Eldon is a powerful changemaker.

Her memoir, In the Heart of Life, is about losing her son, Reuter’s news agency photographer Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death by an angry mob in Mogadishu. It’s also a meditation on the “cosmic pull of forgiveness” that enabled her to finally let go of her anger over her son’s murder.

In an interview with Brandon Jones (Good Magazine, Issue 031, Winter 2013) She recounts the day she learned to forgive:

My daughter Amy and I were on our way to the premier of the Dying to Tell the Story documentary at the United Nations. As we ducked into our taxi, I quickly realized our driver was Somali. Out of all the taxi drivers in New York, mine had to be Somali? So, what the hell do I do? I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to tell him what happened, and I don’t care what he thinks. I’m just going to tell him.’ I told him how my son was trying to do good. I told him about what the Somalis had done to him. I told him how very sad I was. I told him everything. He continued to drive, quiet all the while. When we arrived at the United nations, he turned and said, “I know everything about what happened to your sone. Many of us Somalis were affected. In Mogadishu, people loved your son. They knew your son, and they knew he was just trying to help.” I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. This is amazing. This is impossible.’ But, I still wasn’t totally receptive. Then he looked at me, and he said, “Mrs. Eldon, on behalf of all Somalis, I ask your forgiveness.” I was completely shocked. There was a long pause. In that moment, I realized that the world needs redemption. I said, “I understand what the Somalis did, and I have forgiven them.” And with those words, I felt a great sense of relief come over me.

Kathy Eldon is the founder and chairman of the Creative Visions Foundation, a “hub where creative activists turn ideas into action & a community becomes a force for change…providing tools, resources, mentorship and community to help everyone use the power of media and arts to build social movements and impact the world.”

I always knew there was a damn good reason to read good books!


An article in the November 2, 2013 issue of Science News. It’s so short I am copying the whole thing.

Reading high-brow literature may aid in reading minds

Immersion in fiction boosts social insights

By Bruce Bower

Think of it as the bookworm’s bonus: People who read first-rate fiction become more socially literate, at least briefly, a new study suggests.

Researchers randomly assigned nearly 700 volunteers to read excerpts of “literary” novels by recent National Book Award finalists and other celebrated authors, to read parts of fiction best sellers or popular nonfiction books, or to not read anything. Those who read literary works then scored highest on several tests of the ability to decipher others’ motives and emotions, say David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

One test asked volunteers to describe the thoughts or feelings of one or two individuals shown surrounded by various items in a series of images, based on written and visual clues. In another test, participants tried to match emotion words to facial expressions shown for two seconds on a computer screen.

By prompting readers to ponder characters’ motives and emotions, literary fiction recruits mind-reading skills used in daily encounters, Kidd and Castano propose October 3 in Science. The researchers don’t know whether regularly reading literary fiction yields lasting mind-reading upgrades.

Lisa Onstad artist website launched

Lisa Onstad websiteBlue Mouse Monkey is proud to announce the launch of an art portfolio website for Portland artist Lisa Onstad. Lisa works in book arts and painting, and she teaches workshops at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts and elsewhere. Lisa wanted a clean, minimal design to present her work, and a scalable content management system to enable her to add and edit content over time. Check it out at LisaOnstad.net.


Technoschmerz, according to this Boston Globe article on neologisms, means,

“…the emotional pain (schmerz comes from a German word meaning “pain”) caused by difficult interactions with electronic gadgets or unhelpful websites. If you’ve ever felt your cellphone was out to get you, you’ve suffered from technoschmerz.”

This word is long overdue. (Thank you, Kate Greene, for the coinage.) I expect to use it often. If I take my personal experiences with digital technologies (and in running a web design company, I have plenty) and multiply these by the number of people in the world with dependent connections to contemporary digital gadgets, I can only imagine the amount of confusion, delay, errors, and the resulting stress from wrestling with technologies that keep changing, or don’t work intuitively or correctly must be global and massive. Has anyone analyzed the overall cost of this? I wonder what it would amount to when weighed against the overall benefits…

Bruce Sterling's chart of technological adaptation

Bruce Sterling In his book Shaping Things (one of my all-time favorite books, btw) examines the evolving interplay between objects and people. He divides the technosocial realm into several epochs, beginning with ARTIFACTS, which are hand-made, muscle-powered objects, such as spears. Then moving to MACHINES, which are artifacts with moving parts that rely on a non-human, non-animal power source, and require an infrastructure of engineering, distribution, and finance. Think steam engines. Next up is PRODUCTS, and they are mass-produced, non-artisinal, widely distributed, and operate over continental economies of scale. Think blenders. Since 1989 we have been in the age of GIZMOS, according to Sterling. Gizmos are

“…highly unstable,  user-alterable multi-featured objects, commonly programmable, with a brief lifespan. Gizmos offer functionality so plentiful that it is cheaper to import features into the object than it is to simplify it. Gizmos are commonly linked to network service providers; they are not stand-alone objects but interfaces.

Unlike artifacts, machines and products, gizmos have enough functionally to actively nag people. Their deployment demands extensive, sustained, interaction, upgrades, grooming, plug-ins, plug-outs, unsought messages, security threats,…

Sterling goes on to argue that we are moving into the epoch of SPIMES, which are already among us in primitive forms such as the RFID tag. But that’s a topic for another post. For now, GIZMOS are enough to deal with. And according to Sterling, we have long passed the Line of No Return on them. This is the moment when a revolutionary technology becomes the status quo, and a culture has become so reliant that it cannot voluntarily return to the previous technosocial condition, at least not without social collapse.

And dependent we are. Not just on the objects, but the networks that connect them. IMAP email that shows up at home, work, on my iPad, on my iPhone. Dropbox files that do the same. Writeroom for synched notes, BaseCamp for synched project management, FreshBooks for synched book-keeping. Compared with how I managed files and communications a mere two or three years ago, a revolution has taken place in my personal life, and I know it’s been mirrored in the lives of many.

Infographic by Randy Krum, coolinfographics.com

We are firmly in the age of the GIZMO. Thus I pledge allegiance to the new overlords, and I interact, upgrade, groom, and protect them from security threats whenever they demand it. Because if I fail to nurture these overlords, I become invisible and mute to anyone not standing directly in front of me!

Suzy Vitello Website Launched

suzyvitello1Author Suzy Vitello needed a complete website makeover. Her old site was built in Flash, which has become problematic since the iPad and iPhone do not support Flash viewing. Suzy Vitello’s new site uses lush background imagery to showcase her two novels and her extensive involvement in the Portland literary world. (Image by Brooke Shaden, used with permission.)


Scott Sparling reads at Powell’s Burnside

img_0176Last night Portland author Scott Sparling read from his debut novel Wire to Wire (Tin House, 2011). His story of how the book came to be was funny, poignant, and inspiring. Twenty years in the making, and now it’s a beautiful edition, lovingly produced by one of indie publishing’s top houses. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of being associated with Scott’s work in two ways. Firstly, for several years I shared a space at the Pinewood Table with Scott. Pinewood Table is a critique group facilitated by Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose, and it’s where many Portland writers learn, in a challenging but supportive environment, the craft of fiction writing. Each week writers bring a handful of pages to share around the table and read aloud. Then the writers get verbal and written critique of their pages. During my time at that table I read most of Wire to Wire in small weekly chunks, and Scott’s amazing prose worked its way in under my skin. But I read the story out of order: I’d come in in the middle, and the controlled chaos of the character’s lives never quite gelled for me until Scott started again at the beginning. Then things fell into place, and I could appreciate the work anew.

Later, after the news that Wire to Wire was being published by Tin House, Scott approached me to make him a website. He needed a look-and-feel as cool and edgy as the book, as well as an easy way to keep it updated as the reviews rolled in and the events calendar grew. So far Wire to Wire has received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Playboy, and the Oregonian, and Scott is in the middle of his book tour.


Scott Sparling signs a copy of Wire to Wire for Portland artist Brenda Mallory

Here are photos from his presentation on June 30th at Powell’s Books (Burnside location). Scott told the story of the book’s creation, read three excerpts, then signed copies, while the art show on the wall behind him happened to create some great visual juxtapositions!


Scott Sparling signs a copy of Wire to Wire for Portland writer Yuvi Zalkow

Scott Sparling website launched

scott_sparlingScott Sparling is a Portland writer and author of the forthcoming novel Wire to Wire (Tin House, June 2011). Scott came to Blue Mouse Monkey for an exceptional and innovative design solution to showcase his edgy novel. Combining large-scale imagery with content that pulls you into the world of the book, this author website transcends the genre.

Austin Granger website launched

austin_granger2Austin Granger is a photographer and writer who has produced three books, and wanted us to create online versions of each of them. The challenge was to reproduce the books in web form in a way that preserved as much of the flavor of “book”, with its concomitant hierarchies of information, while maintaining good digital user interface and information design. The resulting triple-website presents nearly 400 photographs, along with Austin’s 9-chapter essay on Point Reyes. Check out the three books: Elegy from the Edge of a Continent: Photographing Point Reyes, Lights and Keepsakes, and Astoria.

Jackie Shannon Hollis website launched

shannon-hollisJackie Shannon Hollis is an author whose fiction and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including: The Rambler, Rosebud, South Dakota Review, Inkwell, Flashquake, High Desert Journal, and Oregon Literary Review. Her work has been recognized for several awards. Her novel-in-progress, At the Wheat Line, is near completion, and you can read an excerpt on this site.

To create this site a custom “skin” was wrapped around a WordPress content management system, which for Jackie makes updating her site as easy as keeping a blog.