Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our May Author: Wade Davis

This month we are reading The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis. His personal website has a good selection of links and is worth a visit just to browse the photograph section. His National Geographic page will connect you to some of his more recent articles for the magazine.  The Wayfinders is a compendium of the talks Davis gave in 2009 for the CBC Massey Lectures.  You can find out more about this series here and also listen to the audio of the first lecture/chapter for free. A condensed form of the lecture is also available from several sources on YouTube. I like this version from SALT. Those who have already read the book can skip ahead to the Q&A portion. Likewise, this Big Ideas audio gives you a summary of the book's main ideas and in the second half more background on the author. If you're really short on time there's always one of his TED talks (see above), though personally, I feel there's so much information packed in there, a more leisurely pace is better. Inevitably when you read this book you'll wish for some visuals to pair with the lectures. On his website and also his Vimeo page, you can watch two film series, "Ancient Voices" and "Light at the Edge of the World" which will allow you to meet some of the people described in the book.

Recently, Davis has been involved in an effort to protect Canadian wilderness in northern British Columbia from exploitation by mining and oil companies. You can hear his eloquent defense of the 'Sacred Headwaters' here.

If you enjoyed this book, Davis has written several others. His most recent book is Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest. The Browser interviewed him about it and got him to recommend several books about WWI. I've tossed one of those into the pile of titles we may consider some day. I'll let you try to figure out which one!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Bamiyan Buddhas

Today's culture break takes us back to Cheryl Benard, author of a mystery set in Peshawar, Pakistan, Moghul Buffet, which we read many years ago. More recently, she has been working on an effort to protect and restore the Bamiyan Buddhas, The Bamiyan Project. You may recall that these are the giant sculptures that were created in the sixth century and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban regime.  The video below from Al Jazeera is a few years old, but it's still a good introduction to what is happening. If you have some time and want to learn more about the Bamiyan Buddhas' history, I recommend getting hold of the film The Giant Buddhas. Take a moment and step away from the headline news about the war and contemplate the symbolism of healing these monuments to peace.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Free Dhondup Wangchen

 I just had to share this beautiful animation from Amnesty International - Portugal in support of Tibetan filmaker Dhondup Wangchen,
Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen is serving a six-year prison sentence in China for "subversion of state power" -- simply because he dared to speak out about Tibetan human rights through his filmmaking. Demand his release now!

China has detained hundreds of Tibetans for peacefully exercising their human rights or for taking part in protests since 2008. Recently, Tibetan activists have set themselves on fire in protest of restrictions on basic freedoms and punitive security measures. The Chinese government has responded to the protests with mass arrests, imprisonment, and possible killings by security forces.

Dhondup Wangchen suffers from Hepatitis B and has not received the medical treatment he needs. It has been difficult to obtain reliable information about his condition.

Please call on the Chinese authorities to release Dhondup Wangchen immediately and unconditionally.
You can watch Dhondup Wangchen's film, Leaving Fear Behind here. Thematically, it's an excellent fit with the book we are reading this month, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis, about language and cultural preservation. You can take action on this case here.
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