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Seattle, Leading The World Once Again

Posted by Leonard on April, 29, 2010

This past Saturday,  I was fortunate to film a series of interviews with an incredible handful of people.  At the conference Compassionate Seattle, It’s Up To Us, The City of Seattle became the first city in the world to affirm The Charter for Compassion.  Keynoting the conference was Karen Armstrong, who was  awarded the 2008 TED prize of $100,000 that granted her one wish.  She used the prize, money and exposure to work toward promoting The Charter for Compassion around the world. In her words, “All the great traditions are saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences.” They each have in common, she says, an emphasis on the transcendent importance of compassion, as epitomized in the so-called Golden Rule: Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.

Thanks to a connection from my friend Sheri Herndon, I was able to work as a freelance cameraman for the day with Odyssey Networks, a video production company out of New York City that’s the largest interfaith media company in America. They are actively developing a mobile phone application that will share videos about compassion, interfaith dialogue, religion, spirituality, meditation, prayer and much more. Their goal is that people will be able to enjoy short videos of world thought leaders as they ride buses, wait on line at the supermarket, or wherever they may be.

Over the course of the day, as speakers came off stage, we filmed interviews in various parts of The Center for Spiritual Living campus.  Interviews included the self described Interfaith Amigos – a rabbi, imam and priest who travel the country together promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding, with Richard Conlin, the Seattle City Council president on hand to sign the charter, James O’Dea (the former Executive Director of Amnesty International), the boy who stood next to Barack Obama as he signed the Health Care Reform Bill (a Seattleite from the Rainier Valley!), Karen Armstrong, Courtney Martin (The Secret Society of Creative Philanthropy), and various reverends, authors, and activists.

They each talked about their understanding of the concept of compassion, their motivations and experiences with conflict and therapy and peace and love and community.  Very positive stuff.  What I particularly appreciated was the spectrum of experience, and the way in which each of them talked about the work they did, in terms of where they saw change coming from, and the greatest obstacles to worldwide policy initiation toward greater compassion.

It was a great day. Made me proud to be a Seattleite.  All of Odyssey Network’s content is open source so stay tuned, I’ll be posting as many of the interviews as possible as they become available.

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TED conference comes to Seattle with TEDxSEA, and excellent it was

Posted by Leonard on April, 16, 2010

Today I had the pleasure of participating in the Seattle satellite version of the TED conference.  Hosted in the IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center by the MCDM (Masters in Communication and Digital Media) at UW, the day included 13, 18 minute presentations on a variety of incredible topics from The Evolution of Storytelling to Harnessing the Global Power of the Mobile Phone for good, not just marketing and advertising. From Why More Women Don’t Become Computer Scientists to donating One Day’s Wages.  I loved the inspiration, the variety, the networking, the creativity, the globality, the technology, and the intellectual and community engagement.

Some of my favorite parts included:

An analysis of how much is to much? in reference to the saturation of information.  One of the metaphors that Greg Bear, a science fiction writer who gave the talk used was the bee community metaphor of bees going out into the field on their own and doing their thing,  then coming back to the hive to share, but how in the current mediasphere there is too much resorting to only doing the sharing, and that there’s less and less of the going out into the world part. Today people are posting every breath they take and thought they have.  As a science fiction writer much of his analysis had a hyperbolic techno society vision vibe in which basically the inside of your eyelids if not just the inside of your eyeglasses will eventually be screens, but I appreciated the general comparison.

The ‘Everyone Needs a Safe Place to Save‘ talk was also very impressive, about the lack of access to banking in the poorer parts of the world.  The Gates Foundation is working to harness the power of mobile phones globally, since even many poor people have phones,and their problem is nowhere to put their money, if not in animals, hidden, loaned out, or elsewhere, and that if a mechanism existed for depositing and saving even cents daily, that that savings would lead to actual wealth accrual.  So now people can walk into a rural market or business, give their money to the business, and the business immediately uses the phone #, acct # and pin to deposit the money in their acct and the store takes a small percentage.  Apparently over 40 million mobile phone users have begun using the technology in Kenya only 3 years into the technology existing there. Very cool. There were actually 2 talks about the power of cell phones. The other was with David Edelstein and Fiona Lee, and they argued the mobile phone as a great playing field leveler and tool of overcoming information poverty, as the cell phone transforms as something you use with your ear to something you use equally with your eyes, with applications in health, agriculture, and beyond as online information becomes available to folks based on very elementary search terms.

In Sapna Cheryan’s talk about ‘Stereotypes as Gatekeepers’, where certain professions like computer sciences repel women from entering the field because of the images of who those people are, one of the more powerful points involved the google image results for  ‘nurse’  in pointing out these gender identifications and who we perceive to be capable of or likely to fill a certain role.

Eugene Cho challenged us to consider how we love the ideas of community, compassion, and justice, but where that love goes when that love requires us to act and sacrifices to be made.  His young ngo One Day’s Wages invited people to consider what 1 day of their wages really is and to donate that to the organization in support of the ‘many many small NGOs doing great work out there that you’ve never ever heard of before’.

TEDxSEA logo

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Lecture & Film Screening at Wallingford Worldwide Books & Maps

Posted by Leonard on April, 14, 2010

On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of screening 4 of my films and giving a short talk at Wallingford Worldwide Books and Maps in Seattle. I showed the 3 films I produced last year for The Seattle Channel connecting Seattle and Nepal and one short piece about tea shop culture in Nepal. There was a crowd of about 25 folks, most over 50 years old and about half of whom had been to Nepal before. 3 of the films were about Dispelling the Stigma of Disability in Nepal, A young Tibetan boy who left his family in Seattle to be raised as a future lama and spiritual leader, and one about Bhutanese Refugees being resettled in Seattle’s Rainier Valley.

Delivering presentation @ Worldwide Books & Maps

I spoke about how the stories came about, the stages of production and actually telling these stories, and the trip overall. The dialogue went great, and people seemed moved by the variety and depth of the stories. As I stood in back of the crowd watching along with them, I was impressed and proud at the quality of the stories and the variety of issues they dealt with. Being in a travel bookstore, it was the perfect mix of tourism and sharing of a destination with folks in a socio-cultural investigation that asks one to look at their understanding of both cultures. WWB&M holds similar lectures every Tuesday night.

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New Youth & Families Initiative video linked to on NYT

Posted by Leonard on April, 2, 2010

On Friday, the New York Times ran this article about the city of Seattle and what kind of place it is for raising children.  In the article was a link to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s new Youth & Families Initiative, which I just happened to have finished the video for earlier in the week. Our initial plan was to wait til next week to roll it out, but with the link and increased attention to the initiative, they decided to make the video live that day. It was an exciting synchronicity for me.  I was pleased with the way the piece turned out and felt like it really captured the energy in the room, and the broad spectrum of Seattleites who were participating in the conversation.  I felt like NYT readers or visitors to the Youth and Families website could get a real sense of what the actually took place at initiative events , and that ideally they’d be moved to get involved in helping to make Seattle a healthier, more equitable community.

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