Slow blogging

What we’re approaching here is what was once “content” being stripped of its nutritious value and being processed into “content product”. See where I’m going with this? I could see, over time, readers realizing how many empty calories, in the form of news “snippets” or meaningless photos, we’ve been consuming on the web and there being a counter movement. I’ve seen the term “slow blogging” show up a few times around the web recently in different contexts, and it definitely comes to mind now. I could see a parallel on the web to what we’ve seen in the food industry, where the early adopters seek out whole, local, organic… content. From the source. On the site it was designed for, from the person who wrote it. Or at least prepared in a way that shows respect to the ingredient.

–Laura Brunow Miner, founder of Pictory (via Space Miner).

I consider myself one of those who made this realization about empty calories this year, and the “info-fast” during this past Ramadan was the perfect moment to put that realization into action.

Wade Davis

Anthropologist Wade Davis of National Geographic in an absolutely mind-blowing TED talk from 2003. I’m floored. I caught a bit of this guy today on the radio while driving back from the garage and wanted to find out more. He’s giving this year’s Massey Lecture.

The whole TED talk is fantastic, but the ending pushes it over the top for me to something transcendent:

“It’s pretty obvious, at least to all of us who have traveled in these remote reaches of the planet, to realize that they’re not remote at all. They’re homelands of somebody. They represent branches of the human imagination that go back to the dawn of time. And for all of us, the dreams of these children, like the dreams of our own children, become part of the naked geography of hope. So what we’re trying to do at the National Geographic, finally, is, we believe that politicians will never accomplish anything. We think that polemics are not persuasive, but we think that storytelling can change the world. So we are probably the best storytelling institution in the world: we have 35 million hits on our website every month, 156 nations carry our television channel, our magazines are read by millions. What we’re doing is a series of journeys to the ethnosphere where we’re gonna take our audience to places of such cultural wonder that they cannot help but come away dazzled by what they have seen, and hopefully, therefore, embrace gradually, one by one, this central revelation of anthropology: that this world deserves to exist in a diverse way, that we can find a way to live in a truly multicultural, pluralistic world, where all of the wisdom of all of all peoples can contribute to our collective well-being.”

His summary of the craft of storytelling takes the career longings and yearnings I’ve been having to a higher place, to a truer place. It transcends mere journalism and enters the realm of something almost holy. It seems to unify the spiritual searching I’ve had all these years and expressed in my exploration of religion, along with the need for relevance through journalism, my own persistent desire to write, and the urge of humans 10,000 years ago to sacralize the hunt by painting it on cave walls. Really. His vision is celebratory of the human adventure, cherishes it, and is in love with it in all its forms and manifestations.

Too many thoughts are springing forth from this. I see connections in the career I’ve sought, in what I’m writing now, in what I wrote years ago, in values and ideals I shape and form and hold dear. I, I, I need to think this through more. Not enough tags for this post! Not enough! Ahh, this is so going in my personal manifesto box. “The naked geography of hope.” Argh! And I marvel once more at the poetic capabilities of the human spirit. (Falls over)

Corbu’s favorite chair

“Once asked by a magazine editor to name his favourite chair, Le Corbusier cited the seat of a cockpit, and described the first time he ever saw an aeroplane, in the spring of 1909, in the sky above Paris—it was the aviator the Comte de Lambert taking a turn around the Eiffel Tower—as the most significant moment in his life.”

–Alain de Botton, from The Architecture of Happiness.

Overpowering brilliance

We’re working on a show about Abraham Joshua Heschel, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, an ally of his in the civil rights movement, an anti-Vietnam activist, a profound religious thinker of the 20th Century. In our interview with our guest, the chancellor of New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary (where Heschel taught during his life), our guest shared some unnervingly beautiful writing of the late Rabbi Heschel that I myself would like to share. Read more

A vulnerable God, and surrender

We’re currently producing a show featuring Jean Vanier, a wise old man who has spent his life doing charity work with mentally disabled individuals around the world. Although he’s Christian, his words and his gentleness are unsettling in their beauty and have given me plenty to think about as a Muslim. His notions of God’s vulnerability, in particular, make me understand the word islam better than I ever have. (I’m going to delve into the kind of theological matters I don’t typically discuss. I mean, yes, I do talk about religion often enough, but my own spiritual bent is difficult for me to pin down, even though I’m coming from an Islamic perspective. So I’ll be talking about God as a reality more than I usually do. That’s even uncomfortable for me to do because I think God is something that we are incapable of talking about well using language. It’s awkward, and language is limiting because of its precision and linearity. I’ll be addressing that awkwardness in this post, as well.) Read more

Approaching Ed Husain and The Islamist

One person we’re pursuing for an interview is Ed Husain, British Muslim and author of the controversial book The Islamist. We have a copy of his book at the office, and I picked it up and read it voraciously over the past few days. This upcoming show is one I desperately want us to get right.

Let’s talk a bit about the book first. I’m going to drop a few spoilers, so if you’re planning to read it, I suggest you skip ahead a bit (or even wait until you’ve read the book). Read more

At The Corner of Crescent and Sainte-Catherine

The cosmopolitan city of Montreal is home to immigrants from every corner of the world, including a vibrant Muslim community. But how will Muslims react when a government commission addresses the misplaced discontent of non-Muslims toward this growing, visible community? Read more

Religion and the search for beauty

During an all-hours-of-the-night conversation with one of my best friends, I was asked by him, strictly from a place of genuine curiosity, how someone as educated and intelligent as I appear to be could “fall for” or “buy into” religion (“fairy tales, wizards and magic” as he put it). It’s a valid question, one I’ve been asked before in some form. I’ve always found it difficult to deliver the kind of succinct answer that would satisfy such a question. To be honest, I myself ask myself regularly how or why I believe what I do. Not because I think I’m in danger of losing my faith or anything like that, but because I am genuinely curious about the path I’ve taken, and about the mechanics of this device that operates in my soul. Read more

Thoughts on Little Mosque on the Prairie

I just finished watching the first episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie. Actually, we managed to get the press kit from the CBC, for the sake of our CKUT radio show. Part of the press kit was a DVD with the first episode.

There seems to be an inordinate amount of “buzz” (God, I hate that word) around this show. We’re finally showing the “normal” side of North American Muslims. Frankly, the mass media has failed, thus far, to really deal with Islam outside of the context of fundamentalism or extremism, so this is a refreshing change. It’s also, in my view, representative of the continuing Islamic renaissance here in the West. Read more

Optimism vs. cynicism

Strange morning. I was listening to CBC Radio as I usually do. On The Current, they interviewed George Monbiot, a writer for The Guardian, who was talking about air travel within the context of global climate change. Pretty heavy stuff. I agree with all of it. We’re sitting in a closed garage with the car running, essentially, and rather than turn the car off, we’re just enjoying getting high off the fumes. Wonderful. (And for the record, yes, I own a car.)

Anyway, an hour later, on Sounds Like Canada, on comes Bruce Mau, a designer who recently published a think piece in The Walrus called “Optimism: Imagining The Future.”

As a global culture we are beginning to outgrow polarized and binary divisions but we still confuse the media with reality. If we were to publish a newspaper called Reality, it would be a mile thick. The first quarter-inch would arrive on your doorstep, scare the hell out of you, push the worst of human possibility into your world, make you want to lock your doors, inhibit your impulse toward community, and drive you to xenophobia, resentful and fearful of all the violent others determined to ruin your life. The rest of the mile of newspaper — the reality of our world, the part that never gets published — would be Massive Change, the story of how millions of people from every part of the world are working together to confront the dilemmas we face as a global society.

What is Massive Change, and why is it capitalized? Read more