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Jenni Wolfson: A Storyteller of Genocide & Human Rights Violations

June 22, 2008 by  

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Rash_passport I was recently introduced to WITNESS director Jenni Wolfson, who performed a series of three one-woman skits on the PUSH 2008 stage last week. She sat in a chair and walked us through one Scottish woman’s journey as a UN human rights worker, living and loving under fire in post-genocide Rwanda. Heartbreaking, humorous and hopeful. Jenniwolfson_of_witnessjpg_1 Prior to WITNESS, Jenni worked for 12 years with the United Nations and UNICEF, including 3 years in Rwanda and 2 years in Haiti. Her field work involved investigating the genocide and human rights violations, as well as training the military, police, judiciary and NGOs in human rights standards. Theatrical in her storytelling, we listened to the brutality she experienced in Africa over the past decade. A remarkable and very moving story. Be sure to check out Jenni’s blog, where you read a number of these accounts in great detail. Jenniwolfson_of_witnessjpg


J.D. Steele & Shangilia

June 22, 2008 by  

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Shanglia Musician J.D. Steele performed at the PUSH Conference this year. He and his siblings started performing together as children, forming that other singing family group from Gary, Indiana. Since then, J.D. has performed with The Steeles all over the world, and his talents as a composer, arranger and vocal artist have earned him recording contracts, awards, commissions for musicals, operas, movies and commercial jingles. Jd_steelejpg_6 On stage, he is quietly charismatic in a zen-like way, meaning he exudes passion but is completely in his own body, controlled, relaxed and calling us all to do nothing but smile and fall into his music. Jd_steelejpg_11 Steele’s most recent project is with Shangilia, a 200 kid orphanage in Nairobi, where he has led the group in performances at the Kennedy Center and toured Tanzania, the U.S. and Greece. It started when twenty-three children gave their first public performance at Nairobi ‘s National Theatre in July 1994. The occasion was the visit to Kenya of four members of the United Nation’s Committee of Ten (established

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Dan Wilson Hits the PUSH Stage

June 22, 2008 by  

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Singer songwriter Dan Wilson hit the PUSH 2008 stage last week in Minneapolis. Danwilson_performs_at_push08jpg_5 Another beautiful thing about PUSH is that the event weaves in amazing, eclectic performers throughout the sessions. These artists have so much soul, you lose yourself as they find their way in between ‘brain food’ panels and individual talks about serious global issues. The emotion of music allows you to process what you just heard in a different way and Cecily’s selection of these artists are a powerful part of the conference. Danwilson_performs_at_push08jpg_4 Dan won a 2007 Song of the Year Grammy Award with the Dixie Chicks for ‘Not Ready to Make Nice.’ Additional recognition includes the 2007 Album of the Year (Dixie Chicks, ‘Taking the Long Way’), for which he co-wrote an additional 5 songs, and a nomination for Best Rock Song for ‘Closing Time,’ on which he was primary singer and songwriter with the band Semisonic. On-stage, he tells us a story a heartwarming story about the birth of his first child, the inspiration behind Closing Time, which most people…

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PUSH Conference in Minneapolis

June 22, 2008 by  

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Push_logo I’ve been wanting to go to the Minneapolis-based PUSH Conference for awhile now but since its always in June, there has always been a conflict. This year was no different as I was in launch mode, but I somehow found myself on a Northwest flight heading to the midwest last week. President Cecily Somers often has a hard time describing the event, which she puts in the ‘brain food’ category. It’s a miniature Davos in a way, in a mini-TED-like format, so its small enough that you can still meet nearly everyone at the conference if that was your goal. The theme this year was “The Fertile Delta,” which while it has a great name, is hard to summarize in one line. It addressed one of the things I’ve been feeling in a bigger way over the last eighteen months – the widening of gaps in the U.S. After visiting Mexico last year, I was not only reminded that our dollar is in decline, but it was thrown in my face. And it wasn’t just the dollar that I felt in Mexico and every other international trip…

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One Enlists, One Graduates

June 16, 2008 by  

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He hugged me when I walked in the back door and found him unexpectedly standing in my kitchen. Unlike so many of my 18-year-old son’s friends, who’ve crossed that invisible line into manhood where it’s not considered cool. Because he and my son had drifted apart, I had not seen him in awhile. I knew he had barely finished high school because, like so many young people these days, there wasn’t much there for him. He wasn’t college-bound, wasn’t into theater or band or sports. He had never quite fit in. So I asked him what he’d been up to, this tall boy with the sweet smile. “I joined the Army,” he said quietly. “So I’m trying to go around and say good-bye to everybody.” When he told me this I tried not to gasp. Not quite two weeks ago my son walked across a stage and accepted his high-school diploma. A few days before that his friend boarded a plane for Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin basic training. Two young men. Two paths. It could have been so different. At five years and counting, we still don’t know much about the tragic price of the wars in Afghanistan and…

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How to Change Your Life in 30 Days

June 13, 2008 by  

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Book_big A friend of mine just came out with a fantastic book about change and sustaining that change over the long haul. Ariane de Bonvoisin’s new book, The First 30 Days: A Guide to Change (And Loving Your Life More) is all about transition and making life changes, whether you’re going through a divorce, just received a troubling health diagnosis or lost your job. Perhaps you’re a new parent, received a promotion, started your own business or changes you’d love to make such as losing weight, moving to a new city, changing your career or falling in love. She spent time at Boston Consulting Group, BMG, Sony Music and ran Time Warner’s Venture Fund before moving into the world of life improvement. In researching the book, she found that the things you do, say, and feel directly affect your reaction to change. Check it out. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders and is getting fabulous reviews.


Don’t Forget to Vote!

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 a Sorry Hillary supporters, but that girl needed a fork put in her months ago – so you’ll just have to find someone else to vote for. a Glad that’s over. a But before you think I’m another head-over-heals Obamaphile wait just one damn minute! a I want you to vote for me! Yeah, me! And the place to get that done is none other than here. Right here in the Wild Wild East. And right there in the side-bar – in the readers poll section.aAnd there’s only a few days left. The readers poll ends on June 22nd, my birthday, and the results may well determine what kind of shite you’ll end up reading for the rest of the summer. a Results so far, from just six of you casting ballots, are pretty interesting, so let’s run through the numbers as they stand now and see where things are going – or how YOU could change things in the next week. a Clocking in at 0% are “Brain Surgery” and “Mary Magdeline’s Gosple” so it’s pretty certain our readers have perfectly functioning brains that didn’t buy any of that DaVinci Code


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Once Upon a Time, I Lived on a Kibbutz

June 12, 2008 by  

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Returning to Israel after so many years was more than a rendezvous with nostalgia. My current life as a publicist, entrepreneur and blogger met the former me, a teenage girl with a pony-tail on an adventure that more than shaped the rest of her life. This story is a very long one and not typical of my regular blog posts. For that reason, I’ve shortened the introduction – click on more if you’re interested in reading the entire piece. It’s a story of a journey back in time, back to Israel and the life I knew 23′ish years ago, hitching and living on the road and working on a far left Zionist kibbutz, a fact I didn’t know when I first arrived. My first experience in Israel was a coming-of-age story in countless ways. I never saw Israel as a new country full of immigrants who went there to find a better life for many of the same reasons the oppressed and the misfits flocked to the States at the turn of the century. Nearly all of my encounters during that trip so many years ago were with misfits – misfits who were on a journey to find…

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