Archive - Mar 2008

March 10th

Both Sides of the Middle East Conflict

On the Group Psychotherapy mailing list, there has been an interesting discussion of hope and despair as we look at the fighting in the Middle East. Here is a modified version of an email that I sent to the list.

I hold desperately on to hope, not because I believe there ever will be peace in the Middle East, I simply do not know. Yet, for me holding onto that belief, that hope is what I must do to survive. My mind wanders to Viktor Frankl's 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning. Then, my mind wanders to A.M. Rosenthal's essay, "No News from Auschwitz"

Brzezinka, Poland—The most terrible thing of all, somehow, was that at Brzezinka the sun was bright and warm, the rows of graceful poplars were lovely to look upon, and on the grass near the gates children played.

It all seemed frighteningly wrong, as in a nightmare, that at Brzezinka the sun should ever shine or that there should be light and greenness and the sound of young laughter. It would be fitting if at Brzezinka the sun never shone and the grass withered, because this is a place of unutterable terror.
There is nothing new to report about Auschwitz. It was a sunny day and the trees were green and at the gates the children played.

From their, my mind wanders to W.H. Auden's great poem, Musee des Beaux Arts:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood

So those who despair that there will never be peace in the Middle East and people like me who desperately seek for ways to bring peace are parts of the same drama seeing two sides of the same horror. If I were a therapist, I feel I would need to embrace both parts to be able to reach the people that came to see me. I would have to hold the ambiguity that Miriam talks about. I might even have to channel a little bit of Joni Mitchell

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
Its life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

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Wheelies: Under new management

(Originally published at SLNN.COM)

As Simon Walsh hands over the management of Wheelies Nightclub to Polgara Paine, the club faces many new challenges and opportunities.

Second Ability - Simon Walsh, founder of Wheelies Nightclub, announced Sunday that he was resigning from his role as overall manager of Wheelies Nightclub. Wheelies Nightclub is an important fixture in Second Life, that Mr. Walsh has worked tirelessly building up.

In 2006, when Mr. Walsh first entered Second Life, there wasn’t a lot of focus on accessibility issues and he wanted to create a space where people could safely explore issues of accessibility in Second Life. Over the years, Wheelies Nightclub has grown from a floor of a building where five or six people could dance to full sim, elaborately built out.

In the first month of operation, the club, which featured live music as well as DJs, carefully orchestrated by an operations manager and a site manager, attracted over five hundred visitors. The club caught the attention of the media, from blogs and YouTube videos to television news stories in the United Kingdom, Canada and Russia.

Since then, Mr. Walsh has had many opportunities to speak about accessibility issues online. However, these opportunities, as well as other personal issues that Mr. Walsh has been facing requires him to reallocate his time away from the management of Wheelies.

Wheelies is much more than just a nightclub with an accessibility theme. It has grown into an important community in Second Life. Members of the accessibility community explored ways to keep the community together. Polgara Paine has agreed to become Director of Wheelies.

Ms. Paine has been active in Second Life since May 2005. She is a professor of special education at the School of Intervention Services at Bowling Green State University. During the transition, Wheelies will continue at a temporary location. Moving forward, Ms. Paine intends to establish a board of directors and raise funds to make Wheelies sustainable on a long-term basis. The first fundraising event is scheduled to take place on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day as part of a grand opening of their new space.

Mr. Walsh’s vision of virtual worlds that are more accessible to people with all levels of ability continues to evolve and he will remain an important speaker on these topics. Wheelies, the Nightclub, will continue to evolve as the new management makes its imprint, new spaces are built out, and new forms of funding are sought. Most importantly, the community of Wheelies, people interested in the issues of accessibility is bound to continue to grow as everyone learns from Mr. Walsh, Ms. Paine, and the whole communities’ experiences.

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AVC Investigation Committee

Today, I was approached by Konner McDonnell about assisting with the AVC Investigative Committee (AVCIC). This has presented a dilemma for me. I wish to be as helpful as possible, yet at the same time make sure that my sources and confidential information are adequately protected.

I have agreed to provide as much information as I can to the committee provided it doesn’t violate the confidentiality of my sources and stays within the guidelines of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Important to the commission, I agree not to disclose any of the information we have talked about until it is publicly released.

Besides providing information that may be useful to the committee, I also agree to review findings and provide my feedback to the finding. However, I do not intend to do any investigation on behalf of the committee. My goal is simply to see that the committee report be as fair and accurate as possible.

It is my hope that AVCIC will set a good example of how investigations can and should be done in Second Life. If you have comments, please contact me directly.

For additional information, check the AVC statement about me joining them.

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March 9th

V. in Gaza

On the Group Psychotherapy mailing list that I am part of, there has been a lot of discussion about what is going on in Gaza. This is intermixed with discussions of conferences and issues that people run into in their practices. It seemed to me that these threads were more interrelated than they initially seemed, so I wrote the following:

I've been struggling to keep up with all the emails on this list and make sense of them. So many of them call out to me to say something and I've just not had the time or energy, and if I had, others would be feeling overwhelmed with the amount of emails In generate. So, I am glad that V. has given me a chance to try and tie together all my reactions.

It seems like there is an important underlying theme, how do we respond to injustice. We see a parent bullying their child. Do we walk away and say that the parent had terminated therapy and there was nothing more the therapist could do? Or do we try to find some other way to get through?

When we see a peace process breakdown, do we walk away and say that the different sides are hardened in their positions and it is useless to talk about it, or do we seek to find empathy and help others find empathy, and perhaps even a shred of hope?

When we see callous youth, do we blame it on the education system or the media, shaking our heads as we walk away, or do we own our own roles as educators as part of the media landscape and seek for ways that we can bring a little empathy and hope into yet another situation that might appear hopeless?

Four years ago, my wife ran for State Representative in Connecticut. It was a seat that a Democrat had not run for in around ten years and a Democrat hadn't won in around a hundred years. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district two to one. There was very little chance that she would get elected, but it was important to run. In the election she received 44% of the vote, much greater than anyone ever thought was possible.

Afterwards, people who hadn't seen the election results would ask if she had won. I would always reply, that yes, she had won. She hadn't gotten elected, but she had won. I didn't know exactly what her victory meant, and I still don't know exactly, but we saw increased dialog about the issues our little part of Connecticut faced. We saw other people become more involved and find their own voices in politics. I believe I even see a little more civility in some of the discourse.

It is with that in mind that I complement V. on her successful intervention. Would I have done things differently? Perhaps a little bit, but I'm not sure. Did the presenting case for the intervention get
resolved, the parent finding help? We don't know. We might never know. Did V.'s action send forth a little ripple of hope? Yes.

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of
energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Robert F. Kennedy

So, with that, I want to thank V. for her contribution to trying to find peace in the Middle East, for her contribution to trying to help students in the United States learn more about the battles for justice that we have faced in the past and face in the future, and for her contribution here.

(Note: I post this with permission of the person on the list who brought the vignette, and have changed some of the details to protect privacy and confidentiality.)

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March 8th

Saturday afternoon random stuff

It is a quiet, rainy day. Mairead and Miranda are with their mother. Fiona has been out with Kim at various activities; horse grooming in the morning, and rehearsal for the Palm Sunday Pageant in the afternoon. I have spent time, reading through emails that have piled up and listening to various shows on NPR.

As I get through the emails I’ve built up a list of websites that I’ve browsed and left open, something like 20 different tabs in my browser. Personal Paranoia is a website by Nick Carlton. He added me as a friend on BlogCatalog, I believe. I liked what I read and left the window open to come back to.

I’ve been checking in at Cool Justice a lot over the past few days as we continue to write about and try to make sense of the latest developments in the Avery Doninger case.

I had a meeting on Wednesday where it was suggested that I should check out Fielding Graduate University. “Our mission is to meet your educational and professional needs as an adult learner and a mid-career professional.” In the same discussion, the Carter Center was mentioned. They have The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships For Mental Health Journalism. Applications are due no later than April 28th.

Another tab had Introducing the Book open. It has a very funny tech support video.

Then, there are all kinds of tabs open for interesting events. Yesterday, South by Southwest started. Everyone is Twittering about it or jonesing to be there. The ”Big Gamble” symposium website is open, as is the Life 2.0 summit, where I still can’t find a schedule of who is speaking when. This overlaps with Take Back America 2008. I went to Take Back America last year, and I’m trying to figure out my schedule for this month.

Then, there are various job leads that have crossed my desk in one manner or another. The Center for Community Change is looking for a Web and New Media Manager. Virtual Thesaurus is looking for a Executive Producer to manage all editorial of its online magazine on language and the creative process. SLCN.TV is looking for a part time webmaster.

Two final websites; one is an article about Babak Zamanian, an Iranian blogger who has been sentenced to jail because of his writing. The other is 23andme, a personal Genome Service. For a thousand dollars, you can send them a sample of your saliva. They look at around 600,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, not the whole genome, but enough to get a very good view ones genetic ancestry and makeup. When I have a few thousand to spare, it would it looks like a great geek toy.

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