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.”

Boxy but good

Remember Dudley Moore, the ad man who goes crazy in the 1990 movie, Crazy People? He switches to using honesty, and comes up with campaigns like, “Volvos. They’re boxy but good.”

Parisian design collective Maentis is doing something similar in their reimagining of famous logos with a dose of added honesty. Check out their Universal Unbranding portfolio. A couple of examples are copied below to whet your appetite.

BP oil soaked bird




Ikea kitset logo

Kaggle: what you can do with big data!

Kaggle website screenshotAs the grim news of the NSA’s data mining sinks in, I’d like to shift gears on that topic and highlight the up side of big data.

Kaggle is a website that hosts competitions for data prediction. Data wizards compete to come up with solutions — solutions that elude experts in all kinds of industries — and so far are beating the experts hands down.

When given the chance to play with data (and write algorithms to analyze it), data scientists are able to see solutions without being distracted by industry assumptions or specialist knowledge. As Kaggle’s Jeremy Howard says, “Specialist knowledge is actually unhelpful.”

Competitions include developing an algorithm to grade student papers, developing a gesture-learning system for Microsoft Kinect, and predicting the biological properties of small molecules being screened as potential drugs. Kaggle has approximately 95,000 data scientists worldwide, from fields such as computer science, statistics, economics and mathematics. The data scientists rely on techniques of data mining and machine learning to predict future trends from current data. Companies, governments, and researchers present data sets and problems and offer prize money for the best solutions.

As Howard says, “Winners of Kaggle competitions tend to be curious and creative people. They come up with a dozen totally new ways to think about the problem.” (New Scientist vol. 216, No. 2893)

Way cool!


Anders Bjorling website launched

02_anders_bjorlingWe’re pleased the announce the launch of the website for Minnesota photographer Anders Bjorling. Anders travels the world to take beautiful shots in his native Sweden, as well as Iceland, Africa, the Galapagos, Ecuador, and elsewhere. The site was built with scalable portfolio pages, so with the CMS (content management system) in place, there is no limit to the number of images Anders can add.

Time flies…

Makara Beach, outside of Wellington, NZ

Makara Beach, outside of Wellington, NZ

…when you’re busy, then you go on vacation. We were in Hawaii and New Zealand for a couple of weeks, visiting relatives. It was lovely. We really should get back there more often. What was also lovely was that Blue Moue Monkey carried on in my absence. Now that we have a project manager (John Redder) and a studio manager (Sheliese Gieseke), stuff gets done even when I’m not there! I am so thrilled to have them both on board. And of course Jimmy Thomas, who strictly speaking isn’t part of Blue Mouse Monkey, but he does so much work for us he may as well be. Jimmy built the new Blue Mouse Monkey website while I was away. We’re putting the finishing touches on it and hope to launch it this week!

Soy. Food of the Gods.

tofu-beijing-china1Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the “soy issue” has come up a few times. Not from doctors (who appear to care little about what you eat – hah!) but from friends. Well-meaning friends who wish to warn me about the “dangers of soy”, particularly for people with hormone-related cancers.

I’m a vegetarian. I eat soy. I love tofu and eat it in some form almost every day. (I go through a tub of Toby’s Tofu Pate a week. I must have put their kids through college by now). I like miso, but it’s so salty it’s more like a condiment than rib-sticking food. I admit I do like “vegan junk food” like tofurkey slices, smart dogs, and the like. I don’t eat this kind of processed stuff every day, but a couple of times a week I’ll indulge. I don’t like tempeh but will eat it very occasionally if it’s well-disguised. I don’t like soymilk, and rarely drink it. The exception is the occasional winter drink of hot soymilk with maple syrup and a dash of salt. Somehow, maple and salt make it divine.

Aaaaanyhow, my point is, I eat a little bit of soy, often. I don’t believe it gave me cancer. And I don’t believe omitting it from my diet will reduce the risk of cancer returning. Quite the contrary.

Japanese women have the lowest rate of breast cancer in the world. A lot has been written about the Japanese diet, and many epidemiological studies have demonstrated a correlation between soy consumption and reduced breast cancer risk there. Now I know that correlation is not cause, but epidemiological studies are all we have when it comes to understanding the long-term relationship between diet and health. You can’t do a double-blind, controlled experiment following several thousand people for 20 years, during which half of them eat real soy and the other half eat placebo soy. It’s just won’t work. So epidemiological studies are what we have, and particularly useful are meta-studies of those studies.

When a Japanese woman has breast cancer, she is more likely than an American woman to survive long term. Her cancer will likely be slower-growing, less aggressive, and hormone receptive. When a Japanese woman gets breast cancer, her tumor is easier to beat.

My tumor was slow-growing, less aggressive, and highly hormone receptive. There’s no way I’ll ever pinpoint the cause or my cancer, but based on what I understand, it might be the case that my 20 years of soy-eating (and general healthful practices) gave the tumor a less favorable terrain to get really nasty. It’s out now, and my task for the rest of my life is to make sure it doesn’t return. It’s a statistics game: I could do everything possible that’s right and good for health, and the cancer might still come back. But if I do everything that’s right and good, at least I’ll know I did everything I could.

So why does soy have such a bad rap among the general public, and also some alternative medical practitioners such as naturopaths?

If you look at the history, it’s apparent that soy’s reputation has slid for political reasons rather than scientific ones.

Here’s a link to a good article about soy and why the bad rap it’s gotten is based on politics rather than science: Is Soy Safe?

More info on soy and health can be read here: Soy improves breast cancer survival

One government that has particularly obvious anti-soy policies is New Zealand. New Zealand’s small economy is based heavily in animal agriculture. Milk there is like corn here: a massive surplus that the food industry mops up by adding milk products to a lot of processed foods, the way corn products are added to many foods here. (New Zealand is a hard place to be if you’re lactose intolerant!).

New Zelanders internalize anti-soy propaganda to the point where, e.g. my brother in law won’t eat tofu because it will “give him titties”. (Ironically, NZ has one of the highest rates of cardiovascular disease, due to high meat and dairy consumption).

Here in the US the economy is so huge and based on so many variables that pressure comes less from the federal government and more from particular industries. The effect is the same: spread of misinformation and fear-mongering.

So, say yes to soy! Food of the gods, in my opinion.

Monica Camin art portfolio website launched

caminArgentinean born Monica Camin is a painter and sculptor whose work mixes European and South American influences. Cultural history, displacement, and family are recurring themes within Monica’s gestural, expressionistic works.

This website is made in Flash and includes a content management system that allows Monica to create new pages and edit existing ones.

DIG WHERE YOU STAND: Design Futuring, by Tony Fry

Designer and design theorist Tony Fry presented a PNCA-sponsored lecture today based on his book “Design Futuring, Culture and the Coming Age of Unsettlement“.

The idea were huge and his presence steady, quiet and firm. He began by framing his talk with the idea that we (human beings) are designers, we design our world, we live in a designed world. We are very good at creating things, and very bad at recognizing what we’re destroying in the process. The implications of this are of course enormous as we face global climate catastrophe. The social and cultural changes to be forced upon us from dealing with upheavals, including the displacement of about 10% of the world’s population, will be of a scale not seen since the last time humanity reacted to major climate change, about 12,000 years ago when disparate peoples moved into Mesopotamia, and nomads turned agrarian.

The following selective bits and pieces from the rest of Fry’s lecture made it into my notes:

War is the most dramatic manifestation of unsustainment. It destroys the environment, it destroys bodies.

The current economic recovery is really just a reinstatement of the status quo, rather than the paradigm shift needed from a quantitative economy to a qualitative economy.

An economy base on perpetual growth is like the concept of perpetual motion. It’s physically impossible.

Our current form of democracy won’t deliver sustainment. People won’t vote for a different world if they are unable to imagine it. What’s needed is the creation and dissemination of a vision of a different world.

The problems we’re facing can’t be solved by individuals (i.e. the ‘genius’ model). What’s required are teams of people with ranges of expertise.

Designers need to move from just designing things, to learning how to mobilize them strategically. Fry proposes a ‘redirective practice’, which entails new design practices and new design activities. E.g a practice of ‘design for elimination’ – how do you turn a designer’s eye toward the problem of how to get rid of things? 

It’s not just about changing the world, it”s about changing ourselves. It’s a process as big as the Enlightenment, but we don’t have 500 years to do it.

Seems impossible? Human history is the history of the attainment of the impossible. It’s about changing the perception of what’s possible. The world, after all, is not flat.

When the inevitable audience question came up of, ‘there’s so much to be done, how does one prioritize?’, Fry quoted a Swedish associate: “Dig where you stand.”

An astounding discovery!

Agave nectar (which sounds so foreign, so of-the-desert, and damn hard to get out of agave) tastes remarkably like the Golden Syrup of my NZ youth! I mean, it’s like Golden Syrup is really agave nectar but they never said so!  Or someone’s been syringing Golden Syrup into agave plants!

I have yet to try it out as a substitute for Golden Syrup in making Hokey Pokey. 


Don’t know what Hokey Pokey is? It’s an easy-to-make candy that’s like honeycombed caramel. It’s brittle like toffee, but full of bubbles like, well, pumice. But it tastes way better than pumice. Here’s a recipe.