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14 APRIL, 2011

Gilbert Tuhabonye on Genocide, Running and Forgiveness

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What the human capacity for evil has to do with the divine gift of joy.

Our friends at TEDxAustin host one of the best-produced, most thoughtfully curated TEDx events in the world. (Their opening sequence alone speaks volumes.) Nowhere does this excellence shine more powerfully than in this deeply moving talk by world-class runner Gilbert Tuhabonye — a candid and raw personal account of finding grace and refuge in the face of great tragedy, recalling how running not only enabled him to survive the horrific Burundi genocide, but also to find true joy and healing. From atrocity to aspiration, Tuhabonye’s talk embodies the most remarkable capacities of a human being — resilience, humility and, above all, forgiveness.

What makes the talk most extraordinary though is that, on the surface, it appears to use the kind of language we’ve come to associate with self-help cliches and contrived motivation-speak — except those were Gilbert’s grippingly real lived experiences, and these are the simple, powerful insights that allowed him to live through them, past them, and with them: The crisp truth in the tired truisms.

Forgiveness has allowed me to move forward. Forgiveness has allowed me to find joy. It was very hard, I had to find running. Running is my therapy, it’s my freedom. It grounds me. It makes me happy. It is the vehicle for all other blessings that have come my way.” ~ Gilbert Tuhabonye

Tuhabonye tells his remarkable story in This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness — an eloquent and poignant autobiography that blends the gruesome detail of an eyewitness account with the transformative, uplifting power of forgiveness.

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13 APRIL, 2011

A Rare Look at Antarctica, 1911-1914

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In the summer of 1911, a group of Australian scientists, adventurers and explorers set out to make history by undertaking the first Australian expedition to Antarctica, a three-year journey into the frozen unknown. Under the leadership of Dr. Douglas Mawson, they set sail for Macquarie Island and the virgin parts of Antarctica. Today, we look at what they encountered and recorded on the way not merely as a rare and fascinating glimpse of long-gone world frozen in time, but also as the source of important information that made a major contribution to how contemporary science understands the region and laid the groundwork for claims that in 1936 were formalized as the Australian Antarctic Territory.

These images come from James Francis (Frank) Hurley, the official photographer to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, and other members of the expedition who compensated for their lack of photographic acumen with sheer enthusiasm and visceral curiosity about the novel landscape that unfolded before their eyes.

Huskies pulling sledge / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint

Harold Hamilton with skeleton of sea-elephant / Format: Silver gelatin photonegative

Blizzard, the pup in Antarctica / Photograph by Frank Hurley /Format: Silver gelatin negative

Ice cased Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Glass negative

Hamilton hand-netting for macro-plankton from Aurora / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint

Wreck of the 'Gratitude', Macquarie Island, 1911 / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint

King penguins, Antarctica, 1911-1914 / Photograph by Frank Hurley

Ice mask, C.T. Madigan, between 1911-1914 / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Glass negative

Wild & Watson in sleeping bag tent on sledge journey

Shags defending nest, Macquarie Island / Photograph by Harold Hamilton

Arthur Sawyer with sea elephant pup / Format: Silver gelatin photonegative

Perhaps most fascinating — in a bittersweet kind of way — is the duality of human progress found in the stark contrast between these images and contemporary iterations of them: At once a living hallmark of the remarkable advances in photographic technology and a gripping reminder of how quickly we’re losing this precious ecosystem.

For a closer look at this fascinating and tender world, you won’t go wrong with Sara Wheeler’s classic, Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica.

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13 APRIL, 2011

Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things

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If Pixar films have taught us one thing about the world, it’s that everyday objects live extraordinary secret lives while we aren’t looking. That’s exactly what photographer-turned-artist Terry Border, who left commercial photography for the world of storytelling, explores with wit and whimsy in Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things — a collection of micro-sculptures using everyday objects and thin wire to create anthropomorphic, charmingly emotive beings and scenes.

I get ideas for photographs when everyday objects remind me of something else. Then I try to think about how I can show others the connection I made. The next step – I try really hard to take it one step further- add humor, emotion of some kind, maybe an “aha” moment. For example, with ‘Mail Order Bride,’I came up with the characters, but the little chair against the door really makes that shot for most people.” ~ Terry Border

Though the photos themselves are a delight, what makes the project most charming are Border’s clever captions. For a sneak peek, look no further than his excellent Gel Conference talk, which captures the humor and imagination with which Border approaches his work:

Playful and poetic, Bent Objects will make you smile and nod knowingly as the most mundane of objects bring to life all-too-human moments.

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13 APRIL, 2011

David Friedman’s Portraits of Inventors

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What Instagram has to do with ice fishing and specialty chairs for canoodling.

For the past few years, New-York-based photographer David Friedman has been taking portraits of inventors — those ordinary people who came up with ordinary-seeming things that transform lives, often our lives, in extraordinary ways. Rather than lofty and fluff-padded, like many such efforts tend to be, these profiles blend humility with creative restlessness, demystifying invention and reframing it not as the idle blessing of some arbitrary muse but as the product of combinatorial creativity and one’s everyday life experience.

STEVEN SASSON: THE DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re an Instagram obsessive like we are, you’re grateful for the advances in digital imaging on a daily basis. But they didn’t just “happen.” In 1975, American electrical engineer Steven Sasson began exploring ideas that eventually led to his invention of the digital camera, the patent for which was officially issued in 1978, paving the way for the imaging revolution. This portrait was taken shortly before President Obama awarded Sasson the National Medal of Technology.

The options the average person has today for imaging [are] unlimited. You walk around with you cell phone or digital camera today, and the pictures are excellent, they’re reliably produced, you can share them instantly. I like to say to inventors, ‘Be aware that your invention is in an environment when the rest of the world is inventing along with you, and so by the time the idea matures, it’ll be in a totally different world. I think that was the case with the digital camera.”

via Swiss Miss

TAMI GALT: FOLDING WAGON

Looking for an easy way to cary her groceries back from the farmers market that didn’t make her look like a wire-cart-dragging old lady, Tami Galt came up with teh Fold It & Go portable wagon, quitting her 9-to-5 job to work on the seemingly kooky creation.

One day, my boss was yelling at one of my coworkers and I’m like, ‘I gotta do something else, this isn’t working.’ So I just looked through my book of ideas, I looked at which one I liked the best, and said, ‘That’s what I’m working on!'”

JERRY FORD: WHEELCHAIR BRAKE SYSTEM

When crop farmer Jerry Ford‘s son was working at a nursing home and noted the need for a braking system that would prevent wheelchair accidents, Ford decided to invent one.

The cost of the falls is huge, and the technology is there to prevent them. Seat belts in cars actually prevent you from getting more seriously injured in an accident, where my automatic brake system prevents the accident from ever happening.”

TOM ROERING: AMPHIBIOUS VEHICLE

Ice fisherman Tom Roering‘s lightweight drivable amphibious vehicle for land, water and ice that doubles as an ice-fishing shelter and can also be adapted as an ice rescue vehicle.

Ice is never predictable, so each year there is loss of property as well as loss of life.”

BRENT FARLEY: MULTIPLE

Brent Farley‘s first patent was a “chair for aiding the [conjugal] relationships for the confirmed” — that is, a chair for having sex on. Farley went on to become one the most prolific of Friedman’s inventors, his creations ranging from the numbingly utilitarian (“self-hanging hammer” anyone?) to the gobsmackingly kooky (“wing walker,” we’re looking at you).

I look for the slightest problem that I can see, and ask myself, ‘Could there really be, maybe, a little bit better way to actually do that?”

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