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Archive for the ‘Psychologies of humanity’ Category

I went and saw the new French movie Seraphine last night about a genius artist who ends up in an insane asylum. It got me thinking; there have been so many stories of people with mental imbalances, disorders or signs of ‘craziness’ who have proved to be the most successful in their prospective fields of effort and enquiry.

The other day my partner and I were listening to some music by the late African American singer and piano player Nina Simone. We were marvelling at her musical creations, so I went to Wikipedia to find out more about her (as one does in this day and age). Nina Simone suffered bi-polar disorder.

A while back I went to see the pianist David Helfgott perform live here in Melbourne; he’s the guy the movie Shine was written about. Again we have an arguable genius matched by an acute anxiety neurosis. We have so many names for these illnesses and afflictions: Schizophrenia, Manic-Depression, Autism, Clinical Depression, Obsessive-compulsive and the list goes on reportedly ad infinitum.

Check out this PDF file that lists ‘Famous people with mental illnesses’

Here’s also a massive list of renowned people who have or did have bi-polar disorder and one for famous people with depression.

For society in general, if someone mentions they have been diagnosed with a mental issue, automatically others often make judgments and can stigmatise the individual, even if it’s in a very unconscious or subtle way. What a paradox! In one instance we laud the accomplishments of these souls who have created works of genius, yet in another light, we feel uncomfortable around them with their peculiarities and unpredictable actions.

The funny thing is, maybe we’re all a little imbalanced at times, and it is this that evokes so much fear in ourselves when we witness someone acting ‘abnormally’ or in a  ‘socially unacceptable’ manner.

Ernest Hemingway killed himself because of depression. Ludwig van Beethoven was bi-polar and self-medicated himself until he died of liver failure. Winston Churchill suffered the ‘black dog’ of depression and only survived by drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

If some of the people who’ve made the greatest impacts upon human society suffered from these painful disorders, it makes you wonder how you should judge the next person you see acting strangely, looking melancholy or anxious in the street.

Abe

'Honest Abe' Abraham Lincoln freed the African slaves in the US, but he was enslaved by great bouts of depression.

(Creative Commons image taken from scriptingnews’ photostream.)

Lennon

John Lennon taught us how to 'Give Peace a Chance; he had a rough time keeping his own mind at ease.

(Creative Commons image taken from C J Sorg’s photostream.)

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I’m usually quite an optimistic writer when it comes to the Internet, blogging, and information technologies. I’ve written over 180 articles on these subjects and it’s a rare occasion that I ever focus on the negative side of things. I guess I need to be an optimist; I really have faith that these new forms of human communication and collaboration are going to help our species evolve its collective social consciousness to a level where we are much more in tune with each other and the world around us. However, I guess because of the nature of the Universe, it being composed of equal parts positive and negative forces (as represented in the Chinese symbol ‘Yin Yang’), there had to be a time where my perspective shifted towards the other end of the spectrum. That time is now. I still love what I do and all that humanity has achieved, but lately I can’t help but focus on the many ways in which we have failed to reach a functioning level in terms of simplicity of design with these new technologies. Technology is meant to be simple and easy so that the masses can partake in its wonder and utilise its power. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost our bearings. Let me tell you about my day today.

My last post was entitled, ‘I can’t find the kinds of blogs that I’d like to read. Help me!’ and it typifies how my interaction with computers and the Internet has been lately. In that post I talk about the terrible experience I had when I decided to search for blogs written about Kung Fu. That is only the beginning of the tale. This TED Talk by David Pogue that I just listened to about the simplicity (or lack thereof) of design in modern technology exemplifies my current mental state. He particularly likes to focus on the stupidity of many Microsoft creations like Windows and Word, but I’m going to take a much broader approach with my criticisms. For me, things don’t really relate to only one company or technology, although admittedly I do use a Mac (which if you have one, you will know that it can be hard to be a Mac user in a world full of Microsoft and Linux users) so it seems I unwittingly chose a hard road for myself. My issues stretch in all directions and are not prejudiced against anyone in particular. What I am feeling is a deep questioning in terms of the integrity and fallibility of human designers who are behind a lot of what has been produced for our society. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve got the brains – but are we using them?

Yesterday I went to my girlfriend’s university to use the Internet, as my office at home was extremely hot and I needed some cool air conditioning to get my brain functioning. The students in the computer labs wouldn’t shut up, but that’s another story completely. My thumb drive that I store much of my work on no longer works on nearly all of the computers in the library – only one row of very old ones, in an area that is quite noisy. My thumb drive does work in the computer labs however … Why is it so?

I just got a new RSS Reader for my Mac; I downloaded it free online. See my previous post ‘RSS Readers: Why don’t you have one? Are you crazy?’ Well, for some reason I keep trying to add blogs to this ‘Shrook’ Reader and it just won’t take them. The blog sites say that they have RSS feeds available and yet they either simply don’t work, or I get a message saying that it can’t read the XML.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a program called Workrave that tells you automatically when you should take a break from your computer so that you don’t get Repetitive Strain Injury in your wrists. He owns an Optometry Clinic with his wife (she’s the optometrist) and uses this program, but in the context of relieving strain on the eyes. Of course it won’t work on a Mac, only Windows and Linux. I tried getting a few Mac equivalents like ‘Type-Break-Mode’, but couldn’t easily find where I could download it. You know when you hit on a Google link with your desired key words and you get a page of html computer code? That happened repeatedly. Repeatedly …

My brother gave me a program called Irip, which is supposed to let you download your songs off of your Ipod onto your Itunes program in your computer (when Apple made the Ipod they only wanted songs to be able to travel one way, computer to MP3 player). It’s supposed to be easy. I must be an idiot because I can’t get it to work! Are you getting my drift here?

Then there’s the issue of content on the Internet. I found a list of blogs about blogging that supposedly originated from Technorati CEO David Sifry at a blog called ‘I’m Blogging This’. Most of these blogs only touch on blogging, and some of them have nothing to do with it at all. I looked up literary blogs (I like reading books and want to get a list of other bloggers with similar interests) to see if I’d have any more luck than with my Kung Fu blog search debacle. I found this really cool web page that lists heaps of literary blogs: ‘The Complete Review’s Links to Literary Weblogs‘. The funny thing is that my search engine didn’t provide this list. No way. The only reason that a comprehensive list like this one even exists is because some individual human beings put the effort in to compile it themselves. The search engine spiders don’t have one up on simple human endeavours. Prove me wrong people!

I love technology. It needs to be simple to use. The people who make it are thinking too much. It’s all too complex, varied, random, and disassociated from meaning. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Jesse S. Somer is not the brightest kid on the block. He needs the processes of ‘future’ technologies to be created with simpletons like him in mind.

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Recently, I stumbled upon ‘Post of the week’ as we all do on our blogging travels. That is, we stumble around endlessly searching for good writing. For that’s what this blogging journey is, isn’t it? We traverse through the ‘human mind ether’ searching for people’s words on the screen; people’s words that hopefully will connect with our own way of seeing the world. Where you go, you never know, and the kinds of people you’re relating to, you’ve really no idea – except for one tiny aspect of their personality which for some strange reason you believe you can relate to. I read some weird blogs on occasion, but I don’t judge them…It’s just so interesting to see how many different ways human beings interact with their mind-borne realities. ‘Post of the Week’ is a very new venture that intends to highlight great writing out in the Blogosphere by bloggers that otherwise mightn’t be getting much recognition.

So far there’s been three winners (one per week), and I was able to access two of the posts…that’s the thing with the Internet and technology – it doesn’t always work for us now does it? Still, it’s in its infancy…the blogosphere needs to be toilet-trained. Both posts I read were quite powerful forms of online writing. I can’t say that they’re the type of reading that I usually search out for, but they were enlightening nonetheless. At dervala.net the author wrote a post called ‘Against depression’ that gave some real insight into what having the disease of depression is like. There were some interesting links throughout the narrative, one of which went to a summary of a book about depression in Japan called, ‘Shutting out the Sun’ by Michael Zielenziger that caught my eye, as I’m quite interested in Japanese culture.

The other winning post I read came from the Overnight Editor, and was called ‘The 000-999 of London’. It’s a down and dirty social-realism genre/stream of consciousness look into a contemporary life that is led by chemicals/alcohol into multiple parallel universes of London. It’s interesting stuff.

I think this kind of site will grow a lot and be a really good place to find out about great blog writing, as its mission is to do just that. It’s making me realise that many more bloggers are indeed actually ‘real’ writers (But what is a real writer?), and that we could be on the cusp of a whole new way of interaction in our world. Through writing, we are meeting others, sharing opinions and ideas, and probably most importantly, inspiring each other’s creativity by expressing what we have to say in a style all our own, and by seeing the magic of how other people put words on their own ‘page’. The Blogosphere is an actual place (Not virtual!) where our collective social consciousness is being fed by each and every individual mind that chooses to participate in discussion.

Could the future ‘classic’ writers be the bloggers of today?

Jesse S. Somer wonders how many bloggers also aspire to be considered ‘writers’.

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Do we really need to hear the voices of every single human being? If everyone gets a blog, is that such a good thing? These are a couple questions that have come up in discussion in recent times on this blog, and I feel it’s about time we get to the bottom of it. If everybody’s spending their time writing a blog, will there be anyone left to read them? Why do you want to write or read blogs anyway? If you’re writing for readers or comments/interaction, will your writing become obsolete and lost in a sea of human voices crying out to be heard? What kind of voices are we going to hear?

Going deeper, how many people do you meet that you don’t really relate to, or even get along with? The answer is ‘a lot’! Why do you think most people only have a small group of human beings they call their closest friends, all others automatically thrown into categories like housemates, colleagues, team mates, acquaintances, and associates? We don’t like all people. Well, it’s not that we don’t like all people – but we don’t understand or comprehend many of the behaviours that others exhibit. As soon as someone else shows a certain trait that grates against our belief system, we decide that we’d rather not spend as much time being around them. So, what about blogging? Does this mean the Internet is going to become an endless quagmire of people we don’t relate to getting clicked on and visited when we do Google searches on any specific topic?

Everyone’s a writer now. Great! Smell my sarcasm. How many books are already at the bookstore? Do we really need more writers spilling their guts into the pot of human communication? When you go to a bookstore how often do you walk around looking at authors you’ve never heard of, or writers who write about subjects you’ve no interest in at all? All the time, and sometimes you walk out of that shop with nothing. You’ve found nothing worth reading…in a bookstore! So what happens when we get every brain on the planet trying to tell us a story? Chaos! Can you imagine looking for blogs about motorcycles for instance? How many freaking blogs are you going to have to go through to get the type of blog you like to read? By the time you get there, you’ve got no energy left to read…that is of course if you ever get there.

You wanted to know about old German motorcycle engine cylinders, all you found were pictures of scantily-clad women on Harley Davidson choppers with photos of mean-looking tattoo beast-men staring at you through your monitor, daring you to come near their bike or woman. It all sounds like a pain in the buttocks to me. I thought blogging would give a voice to the minorities and individuals of the world. It sounds like if they ever did finally get a blog, no one would be able to find it for the forest of ‘Average Joe’ blogs pervading the Blogosphere. I don’t want to have to read about people’s everyday lives…you might?

In the days before writing, most wisdom was passed down orally by elders who had lived long lives, and because they were sensible they held high positions in the tribe. Younger people didn’t bother speaking much, especially at important ceremonies – they wouldn’t know what to say anyway! Those were stories worth hearing. How many stories expressed by people we don’t really relate with and who don’t really have much knowledge about anything are we going to have to wade through to get through to the worthy information? Sounds like a world with too many bloggers, too many writers, too many voices and not enough readers or time to relate with anyone.

Just as a dog isn’t allowed to crap in the park, humans shouldn’t be allowed to talk bullshit in the Blogosphere.

Jesse S. Somer isn’t jive talkin’. He’s tellin’ it the way it is.

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You may have caught this astounding story of Internet romance/superstardom/comedy at Wired Magazine’s blog recently in a post called, ‘Love Train: It was a fairy-tale romance, a very nerdy fairy-tale romance.’ Please, you must have a read of this. What blows me away (besides the multi-million dollar repercussions of writing one post at a community blogging/forum site) is how Train Man’s discussions online about what to do in terms of asking the ‘pretty girl’ out became a social/community venture for so many people online.

In listening to his fellow bloggers/forum participants’ advice (‘Get enough sleep, cut your nose hair, have breath mints, charge your cell phone, brush your teeth, take enough money, take a shower, and – in case of an emergency – wash your penis properly.’(Yeah, don’t forget that one buddy…) we can see a new form of human relationship taking place.

‘Remember: She’s only one girl. You have all 2Channel (The Japanese website) on your side!’ People are now putting faith in the opinions of fellow bloggers/humans that they’ve never met. So much so it seems, that we are now asking others-once deemed as ‘strangers’, for advice in the most personal arenas of life. Plus of course, people are generously offering their help and advice. (We aim to please, us humans.)

Amongst all the ensuing commercial chaos around this ‘Geek Love Story’, we are told that a book of the blogging forum’s threads has already sold over 1 million copies. I know Japanese people are a little bit different (not to be judgmental in any way), but could this be a trend for the future of all literature? Popular blogs transformed into books, posts becoming paper pages…Isn’t it strange how technology can flip back in on itself?

Would you read a book of made up of your favorite blog’s archive of posts? Or, can you imagine reading a beloved author’s next novel-online one post at a time? The online serial novel is born! Hmmm…It makes you think.

Could this be ‘Train Man’s future? Or is marriage too big a step for this comic-reading, anime-watching ‘Otaku’?

Jesse S. Somer didn’t meet his girlfriend on a train…it was at a Juice Bar. She made the most incredible Berry Blast Soy Smoothie you could ever imagine.

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If you haven’t heard of Mena Trott, although she’s quite young (28-years-old), she is one of the most influential and innovative people to have taken part in the Blogosphere. As founder of leading blog software company Six Apart (Creators of Typepad, Movable Type, LiveJournal and Vox) there probably isn’t that much that she doesn’t know about blogging. That’s why it came as quite a surprise to me that when she did a TED Talk presentation she chose to focus on the magic of personalised blogs, as opposed to blogs relating to specific topics or communities. I mean, what’s so great about hearing some stranger’s everyday life stories?

In her talk Trott does touch on the positive power of some blogs in the community, referring to the incredibly fast updates people received from big media as well as independents concerning the hurricane situation in New Orleans. She also mentions Interplast, a group of blogging plastic surgeons who work to help disfigured people in developing nations. However, strangely enough she starts out her speech talking about the ‘scary’ power of blogs-using the Kryptonite bicycle lock story (bloggers discovered that a ballpoint pen could open locks, therefore the company was forced to recall their stock), as well as the infamous ‘Rathergate’ scandal where intense political bloggers discovered that falsified documents were used in the coverage of a mainstream media story. Trott seems to think that this invasive power some bloggers now have mightn’t be the best scenario for humankind. What do you think?

Trott takes a more ‘micro’ approach to the world of blogging (at least in this talk). She likes ‘people that just tell stories.’ She looks at personal blogs as a new form of human archive, a place to store our life stories for future generations. ‘Blogs are basically an evolution. They are a record of who you are; your persona.’ She tells stories about a day-to-day diary written by a man whose child was born prematurely, describing the emotional connection she felt to people she’d never really met. When the child was ill she could sympathise with the parents’ pain, and when it ended up being a healthy normal kid, she vicariously experienced the relief and joy that they felt.

As well as writing so that our great-grandchildren can know who we were, Mena emphasises about how blogs can be helpful for ourselves. She takes a photo of herself everyday and posts it on her personal blog which only a few people have access to. (She tells a story about how sometimes you don’t want too many people reading your ‘real’ personal stories. After cheekily complaining that her boyfriend wouldn’t ‘let’ her buy a banjo, she received all kinds of comments that took her words way out of context-some people saying that she should leave the ‘selfish bastard’.) She says the photo as well as the text can let you know exactly what you were doing in a day of your life. Capturing a moment in time, reflecting upon these visual cues, she feels that all kinds of revelations, memories, and new ideas can be born to help us in what we do today.

It’s interesting because at some points she almost seems to contradict herself, saying that blogs don’t have to be attacking and scary, that they can help people to open new dialogues and inspire helpful attitudes. Whereas at other points she says that she doesn’t want too many people reading her stories, preferring to only have close friends and family access her life online. A few questions for you: What do you think about this seemingly paradoxical situation? Do you think there are other reasons personal blogging is good or bad? Do you think topical blogs are more relevant to society’s needs? How many people do you want reading your personal life stories? Are we able to become more ‘open’ and helpful with others if we aren’t willing to let anyone and everyone read and comment on our blog posts? What kind of blogger are you?

If you write a personal blog, how many people would you like to have reading your life story?

Jesse S. Somer thinks when writing about a specific topic, you can integrate aspects of yourself in the story. Maybe there is a middle ground here…

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Most probably you know TED…I’m often the last person to find out about something or someone new and/or cool, so I just spent my whole afternoon getting to know TED. For those of you who don’t know of TED already, first let me let you in on a little secret. TED isn’t a person. TED is a group of people…A group of people that changes every year; a group of people (extremely talented and intelligent people-Why not?) who get together and discuss any and all topics that humanity sees as being ‘fresh and important’.

TED stands for ‘Technology, Entertainment, and Design’, but as the ‘About TED’ page will tell you, no relevant subject evades these passionately focussed minds that are so keen to learn and share knowledge with one another. The Arts, Business, and the Sciences aren’t left out-you can read, listen to podcasts, and watch video talks from some of the most renown and scholarly individuals on the globe…plus they throw in a few healthy comedians to keep things light (as they should be).

The ‘Tedblog‘ keeps you up to date with all that’s being said, and normally I like to focus on the written word (as opposed to videoblogs and podcasts), but in this case I was completely captivated by the video links found on the ‘TED Talks’ web page (linked to from the main TED site). These are ‘talks’ or oral presentations, usually around 18 minutes in length, but which can be as short as 3 minutes, although the length definitely doesn’t limit the potential for impact. I haven’t witnessed a boring talk as of yet.

Check this little 3 minute talk about ‘Why people succeed’ by Richard St. John and you’ll know what I mean. I also watched an incredible 14-year-old concert pianist named Jennifer Lin whose skills will simply blow your mind. Wait until the end and watch her improvise with 5 random notes chosen from a member (You’ll probably recognise her too) of the crowd.

Closer to home and relating to some of my recent posts here at MiContent, this talk by Sasa Vucinic about venture capitalists helping to fund independent media in developing countries (where most media is controlled and censored) was quite inspirational. In my last post (‘Some ‘real’ journalists don’t think bloggers can write’ I discussed the opinions of some mainstream media (newspaper) journalists who felt that blogs were destroying some of the information sharing process. This video talk touched on some interesting points relating to the need for more independent newspapers in the world…at least blogs generally don’t seem to have much problem with outside interests filtering content. Or do they?

Another awesome, enlightening, and even humorous presentation I saw (a must see) was from a Swedish professor named Hans Rosling (founder of ‘Gap Minder‘), which was based on the changing health and wealth in our world. A while back I wrote about a book I read that discussed how humanity could change our behaviours to make the world into a better place (‘Can you change the world?’). Well, this fellow pretty much proves that our planet is now already much better off than it ever has been!

I also had a good couple of laughs with this comedian Ze Frank, and another quick 3 minute performance by the poet/spoken word specialist who calls himself Rives. Check out the Tedblog and some of the other talks and tell me about any that grabbed your attention and why. I think it’s about time we all got to know a bit about what TED is all about.

Jesse S. Somer may never be invited or be able to afford a ticket to see TED, but just watching TED’s work has been uplifting in itself.

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