Thursday, January 7, 2010

FYI: Thought Provoking, Useful, and Inspiring Items on the Web

Bard Prison Initiative helps prisoners choose better futures

Knowing that education is the best way to build peace, Bard College began Bard Prison Initiative in response to Congress’ 1994 elimination of Pell grants. The program encourages student prisoners, some of them serving life sentences for murder, to think objectively about the choices they make, and the ones they see others making, while enabling them to work their way toward college degrees. Prisoners take the same classes as other Bard students and earn the same degrees, reminding us that at any point in our lives, despite choices we’ve made in the past, we can choose an upright path.

Read the Jewish Daily Forward article

Chief investment strategist says Think Twice about the choices we make

Despite what our mothers tell us, following our gut is not always the best idea says Michael J. Mauboussin, chief investment strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management and author of Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition. Called “an insightful, well-researched discussion of our all-too-familiar cognitive failures,” the book springboards from America’s current financial crisis to discuss what Mauboussin pinpoints as our nation’s eight most common mistakes. Mis-skills include looking for answers in the wrong places and misunderstanding cause and effect. "To make good decisions,” Mauboussin writes, “you frequently must think twice—and that's something our minds would rather not do."

Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition
By Michael J. Mauboussin
Harvard Business Press; 208 pp.; $29.95

Read the BusinessWeek review

Former Navy lieutenant smuggles Iraqi art out of Green Zone

Of all the hundreds of stories we read each week while carrying out the Art Not Hate mission, there are some that just really make our hearts pound. At a time when their nation is being ripped apart by war, Christopher Brownfield, a former Navy lieutenant, smuggled paintings by Iraqi artists out of the Green Zone, risking life and career for the betterment of these artists’ livelihood. After auctioning the paintings at New York’s Pomegranate Gallery and sending all of his proceeds back to the artists, he launched an online gallery (below) to sell the artwork. Not just a story about helping one’s fellow man, Brownfield’s actions are evidence of the persistence of the human spirit in the face of impossible odds.

Read the Forbes article
Visit Christopher’s online gallery

Scientists say human kindness is nature, not nurture

Human kindness: nurture or nature? These days, scientists across a spectrum of schools are saying nature. New evidence suggests that infants display helpful behavior even before their parents begin teaching them social norms. Furthermore, humans’ innate helpfulness may have stemmed from ancient humans’ need to cooperate in finding food and shelter, and protecting the safety of the group. “Humans putting their heads together in shared cooperative activities are thus the originators of human culture,” Dr. Tomasello, a developmental psychiatrist, writes.

Read the New York Times article

‘Hebrew Mamita’ spreads spoken-word against Jewish stereotypes

Spoken word artist Vanessa Hidary is inspiring beaming shmaykhels on the faces of audiences all over Manhattan and the Web. Calling herself The Hebrew Mamita, Hidary aims to shatter stereotypes about the daughters of Abraham, “Bigging up all people who are a little miffed, cause someone tells you don’t look like, or act like your people. Impossible. ‘Cause you are your people. You just tell them they don’t look…PERIOD!” Hidary’s solo show, “Culture Bandit”, garnered attention at festivals and playhouses from New York to Los Angeles, including The Roar Theatre Festival at Nuyorican Poets Café and The Los Angeles Women's Theater Festival.

Watch Vanessa perform
Visit her site

What A Wonderful World it is that brought us Louis Armstrong

Nothing speaks to the beauty of imperfection and inspires hope in the human heart like Louis Armstrong singing “What A Wonderful World.” The gravel of his voice set aloft over airy strings, singing, “I hear babies cry/I watch them grow/They’ll learn much more/than I’ll ever know,” restores a certain sense faith in humanity’s ability to mend the wounds of hatred. Not all is lost, it says, Don’t lose hope. These are only growing pains.

Listen to “What a Wonderful World”

US futurologist says innovation is the economic way forward

The relationship between the human brain and the technology it creates is symbiotic, dynamic, and tied inextricably into world economy. US futurologist Jamais Cascio says in a culture like America’s, where innovation is the driving force of our economy, not only is failure inevitable—it’s necessary. In an interview with Viennese newspaper Die Presse, Cascio discusses America’s new wave of personalized technology, the necessity of trial and error, the future of the human brain, and the death of industrial Capitalism.

Read the interview


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