Friday, February 18, 2011


I caught an episode of Dateline NBC with Keith Morrison tonight on the story of Colonel Russell Williams, a former generous patriot and seemingly good man who was in fact living a double life as a rapist and murderer. I was particularly impressed with the detective's 4-hour interrogation with Williams and his natural ability to coax the trained, intelligent officer into a confession. Great episode and it got me thinking about a British illusionist/entertainer, Derren Brown, again. How incredible is it that humans can control the other's behavior through simple misdirection and suggestion?

Derren Brown is a phenomenal showman. A hypnotist. A magician. But more than these things intrigued me about him. He uses his slight of hand and ability to manipulate others to teach his audience how (with practice and knowledge of psychology/sociology) we too can predict and/or control the reactions of others.

Check out this video of Derren showing us how easily manipulative and predictable we all really are.

So, although the detective may not think of himself as a magician, what he did certainly was magical. By allowing the suspect to believe he was "in control" of the conversation, he found himself confessing the details of his heinous crimes he had been covering up for years to one man who remained calm, friendly, and soft-spoken through the duration of their 4-hour conversation. I'm sure Derren Brown knows similar tricks; I'm just waiting for the episode...(or for him to finally launch an American tour so I can see it live!)

Song of the day:

Friday, February 4, 2011

"We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community" -Haile Selassie

Now that I've officially memorized (no joke) all of the countries in Africa thanks to and my steadily increasing social-less life, I came across this thought-provoking and informative image...for real, test me...Nigeria, Niger, Libya, Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia...anyway...

This image really gives you perspective on the enormity of their social, governmental, and economic struggles in a more literal sense:

AIDS/HIV Epidemic: Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Nigeria may have the highest number of citizens with HIV but Africa as a whole outnumbers all countries with home to 88% of all HIV sufferers. (

Child Soldiers: About a third of the world's child soldiers are from Africa. (

Gender Inequality: FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is a disgraceful, absurd practice that continues in 25 countries within Africa's borders. (

Human Rights Violations: Zimbabwe (under the authority of President Robert Mugabe) torture, beat, and force their villagers to labor over the diamond fields of the Marange district. Although the fighting has decreased, the diamond smuggling continues to exist. (

Government Corruption: states "The international community needs to use December 9th, Anti Corruption Day, to listen to Transparency International and their call for African countries to focus on the core elements of fighting corruption: access to information, increased visibility of spending, a corruption-free judiciary, and working on stronger communication in education." (

..Now enjoy some Nneka :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the Artificial

You can look at reading as autonomous or you can look at reading the way I do: a collection you build over time and use to connect you to other, both mentally and literally. It seems with the invention of e-books and Kindles, the look of the traditional library is changing forever.

A part of me understands the hype and I understand the benefits. The immediacy, the privacy, the longevity. I get the convenience factor and the cool, new technology feel.  And I actually believe it's a great tool for students' textbooks -finally, an inexpensive way to organize and lighten the load of school books for kids. 

I even came across this video that shows some fantastic features that can help make reading cool again - and its attempt to move away from autonomy by allowing a borrowing feature:

But what about the forgotten value of growing a library for yourself. The look, feel, and even smell of a book you make your own by breaking it in like a new hat or pair of sneakers. It's the books you buy that give them value; they don't become a post in a myriad of other books and even applications (I know it sounds silly but I wouldn't want some of my most valuable books next to my Scrabble or Monopoly app -which seems to be the most popular buys). I doubt I will ever get a Kindle because of this fact.

A book is to me like a hat or coat - a very uncomfortable thing until the newness has been worn off.  ~Charles B. Fairbanks

Fairbanks has a point and buying a Kindle for the purposes of leisurely reading to me is comparable to buying an already broken-in hat. It's simply artificial  -Just as I buy an artist's CD if I really respect them as an artist, I've decided that I will do the same with books out of respect to the author.