Saturday, December 20, 2008

Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense!

Yea - French. It means: "Evil be to he who evil thinks..." It's a motto. There are some really great mottos around. This is probably the opposite of the one which exhorts: "Pay forward!"

Let's take a step back for a minute. You are probably thinking, "Wow! I bet he's going to tell me that there is so much evil in the world!" Well - you know. But just think what all the good in the world does too, huh?

There has been an increase in really beautiful, thought-provoking reality shows on American TV recently. I am a firm believer that they all really started with the fine example that Oprah Winfrey gives us all! Some of the shows that I have recently viewed are:
Secret Millionaire - a show where real life millionaires give away their own money to deserving people they meet who have fallen on hard times.  These people come from a real mixture background. We see those who have grown up against a backdrop of "old money" and those who started with nothing and built a multi-millionaire empire out of nothing. The common denominator is that they take time to visit folk who are literally on the breadline and in doing so, learn about how people who have next to nothing are living. It is a marvelous exposition of the human spirit and what it can achieve.
Molly Shattuck, wife of Mayo Shattuck III, CEO of Constellation Energy, was a recent participant in the show, and she actually gave away more than $100,000. She says (about the name, Secret Millionaire): “ I think it’s so obnoxious. But I absolutely am in love with the concept and in love with the show. I think it’s so important.” (quote courtesy of David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun) Molly drives around with her Mom, and we hear her Mom tell her that she has always thought that Molly was great just doing what she does, but that this had given her the opportunity to see the human side of Molly. We see her tearfully visiting a young widow with three boys who is living in a house which is literally falling apart. Aside from the angst which is obviously generated by the real danger of living somewhere where there are holes in the roof among other very real dangers, we are immediately aware of the sadness and emptiness generated by a recent loss of a life partner to some horrible deadly medical condition, in this case cardiac arrest.

So, everyone grows a little bit on the Secret Millionaire.

Another participant, Greg, in another show, comes from a different background, but nonetheless, is inspired by the really ordinary people, doing ordinary things to help their fellow human beings in need. The show starts with Greg being dumped off the bus in the harsh reality of this end of Vegas, and immediately we are seeing people being arrested and all the other aspects of the hard life on the streets! It is interesting to see that this is the North end of Las Vegas, a town which most of us see as being a magical land with fairytale lights and beauty. He starts off living in a "hotel" which he has a difficult time understanding to actually be a hotel, because he encounters cockroaches and other really filthy things in his room, for which he is working, because he doesn't have enough money to pay when he gets there. During the show, he visits a day center for teens in trouble, a lady who helps out people who have fallen on hard times with food and groceries, and he goes to a skateboard park, where a wheelchair-bound 16-year-old is doing tricks in his wheelchair! The kid's dream is to help others, so Greg helps that dream come true with a check. Greg also helps all the others with check donations from his own money.

In yet another show, we see a Los Angeles, self-made millionaire and his wife going to live in Watts, a depressed area of L.A., and we can sense the immediate danger felt by them as they drive into the area from the nearby area where they really live, which is so different. The amazing thing is that they are welcomed into the community just like anyone else, which proves the community spirit which exists in these places. Later on they too donate money to some really deserving people, one of whom is helping ex-convicts who are literally dumped off the bus, when they are released from jail.
Anyway - this is just an example of some of the truly wonderful things happening on TV in America. You can catch this on Fox  (I expect these will be mirrored around the world. But I live in the USA, so this is my primary focus.) Of course, we have been watching "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" for a while now on ABC, and this is another example of people doing stuff for other people who have fallen on hard times.  Ty Pennington and his crew of designers and builders take a week to rebuild houses that have fallen into disrepair and create mansions out of hovels for deserving families.

I think that there are too many really terrible sad stories on the news. It would be great if someone could come up with a good news station which broadcast only good news. I somehow think this would be a challenge though...

See y'all next time!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Taking Connectivism Out Into The World Of Life

Well the course is over. Students are still interconnecting. There will be a buzz of that going on for a long while...

What will I do now? My thoughts about this are: I will continue to blog. I will continue to bring you useful stuff. And I will continue to stimulate my brain and yours too. Talking of which, I have been acquainted with Alzheimer's Disease recently. A couple of people who are close to me, know exactly what it is to have someone suddenly deny knowledge of you right there and then... It is devastating, particularly if you love that person very much.

Several theories have been put forward for how the disease develops. However, the over-riding theory is that the brain starts to die because it is not getting enough exercise. Getting exercise to the brain can come in all kinds of ways. Now they are saying that one of the most widely used methods of brain exercise is surfing the Internet. In fact, scientists from UCLA have done a study on people aged 55 to 76, and have discovered that all of these "emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults."

Hmmm, what is middle-aged now? It is getting more confusing what with people living longer. Perhaps they mean 60?