Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blogs - Rampant, Personalised Creativity?

According to my friend Reggie .... reggieh.blogspot.com
Thanks Reggie for posting this. This entire blog - in fact - is courtesy of Reggie.

"Blogging is bringing new voices to the online world." And it's showing some surprising gender and racial parity. According to the Pew Caritable Trust, "Most bloggers focus on personal experiences, not politics."

7/19/2006 | Release - From where, I'm not sure....but other condensed sources seem to verify this.

Washington, DC – The ease and appeal of blogging is inspiring a new group of writers and creators to share their voices with the world.

A new, national phone survey of bloggers finds that most are focused on describing their personal experiences to a relatively small audience of readers and that only a small proportion focus their coverage on politics, media, government, or technology.

Related surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults, or about 8% of adult internet users and that the number of blog readers has jumped to 57 million American adults, or 39% of the online population.

These are some of the key findings in a new report issued by the Pew Internet Project titled "Bloggers":

54% of bloggers say that they have never published their writing or media creations anywhere else; 44% say they have published elsewhere.
54% of bloggers are under the age of 30.
Women and men have statistical parity in the blogosphere, with women representing 46% of bloggers and men 54%.
76% of bloggers say a reason they blog is to document their personal experiences and share them with others.
64% of bloggers say a reason they blog is to share practical knowledge or skills with others.
When asked to choose one main subject, 37% of bloggers say that the primary topic of their blog is "my life and experiences."
Other topics ran distantly behind: 11% of bloggers focus on politics and government; 7% focus on entertainment; 6% focus on sports; 5% focus on general news and current events; 5% focus on business; 4% on technology; 2% on religion, spirituality or faith; and additional smaller groups who focus on a specific hobby, a health problem or illness, or other topics.

The report, written by Senior Research Specialist Amanda Lenhart and Associate Director Susannah Fox, says that bloggers are avid consumers and creators of online content. They are also heavy users of the internet in general. Forty-four percent of bloggers have taken material they find online – like songs, text, or images – and remixed it into their own artistic creation. By comparison, just 18% of all internet users have done this. A whopping 77% of bloggers have shared something online that they created themselves, like their own artwork, photos, stories, or videos. By comparison, 26% of internet users have done this.

"Blogs are as individual as the people who keep them, but this survey shows that most bloggers are primarily interested in creative, personal expression," said Lenhart. "Blogs make it easy to document individual experiences, share practical knowledge, or just keep in touch with friends and family."

The Pew Internet & American Life Project deployed two strategies to interview bloggers. First, bloggers were identified in random-digit dial surveys about internet use. These respondents were called back for an in-depth survey between July 2005 and February 2006, for a final yield of 233 bloggers. Second, additional random-digit surveys were fielded between November 2005 and April 2006 to capture an up-to-date estimate of the percentage of internet users who are currently blogging. These large-scale telephone surveys yielded a sample of 7,012 adults, which included 4,753 internet users, 8% of whom are bloggers.

"Much of the public and press attention to bloggers has focused on the small number of high-traffic, A-list bloggers," said Fox. "By asking a wide range of bloggers what they do and why they do it, we have found a different kind of story about the power of the internet to encourage creativity and community among all kinds of internet users."

Some additional data points from the Bloggers report:

87% of bloggers allow comments on their blog
72% of bloggers post photos to their blog
55% of bloggers blog under a pseudonym
41% of bloggers say they have a blogroll or friends list on their blog
8% of bloggers earn money on their blog

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has created an online version of the Blogger Callback telephone survey and invites participation from the general public. The resulting answers will not be a representative sample, but the online survey will give observers a chance to see the questions in context and to comment on some specific aspects of blogging. The survey is online at the following address: http://www.psra.com/PewBloggerSurvey.html


So, friends, stand up and be counted! I did it. It was (time-consuming) fun.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Homes Have A Little Store Room

Somehow, I always find myself sending “energy” to someone - wishes, love, peace, health, prayers or some such thing. I’m remembering what that means. And I know where it lives in me.

For Karen who began it and Raina who made it get written.

if I close my eyes. reach deep.
dive. dive.
burrow. root inside
myself. excavate or scurry
trip fall. There is

a store room holding
all of the positive energy
people send me.  
Love, Health. Prosperity.

Peace. if I manage

to get there. I see - wax
sealed green wine bottles, plastic
crumpled litres, hand blown glass
wrapped in knotted golden filigree
mason jars of all styles, designs and lid fittings
from the silver flip snap to the orange rubberised
jam seal. filled
to the brim with jewel coloured liquids.  
precious like Patricia’s crab apple jam -

labelled acquired at high cost, use sparingly.” (1)

and when deep need drives me,
I choose one, open it. drain
savour or suck the fortifying elixir. I've just found
my storeroom again.  I’m laying
like a drunk on the rocky dirt floor.
it seems to be most
of what sustains me. these days.

(1) Johnson, Patricia, Stain My Days Blue , Ausdoh Press, 1999, “Bitter White Apples,” page 39

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Drop Of Water. Wave

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

It is hard to face oneself in the mirror. It is hard to strip off each layer until your Self reveals yourself. In many ways, London has been this for me. A challenge to come face to face with my Self. And it has been a challenge. Recently my friend Christiane D. sent me a link to a video by another friend of ours, Chris Ivey.

Here it is, please watch it.

He’s making a documentary about my old neighbourhood. After watching the trailer for “East Of Liberty,” I thought back to my visit in April. I remember noticing how so much had stayed the same within the changes.

I remember the reasons we bought 602 Mellon Street. We wanted to be in a diverse community. We wanted to be close to the places we needed to be - work, school and recreation. We wanted to come back to a community which had long ignored by the dominant culture of Pittsburgh. And most of all, we wanted to be part of rebuilding.

Before we left, a Whole Foods had opened. (For my British friends, Whole Foods is the same company which bought Fresh & Wild.) Those of us who had chosen to buy and make a home - in a community which was “borderline” at best and “in desperate straits” at worst - rejoiced. On the other end of that corridor a “Shop & Save” was going to be built. Finally, steps towards improving our community were being taken. And personally, we were glad that we hadn’t made the wrong investment.

However, as I look at myself then and now. I find myself previous self tattooed by the subtitle of Chris’s video. “A Story Of Good Intentions.”

In April, I learned that the prosperous section of my old neighbourhood was being marketed under a new name for it. Instead of East Liberty - it is now EastSide.

And I think about EastSide. The adjoining wealthy neighbourhood is called Shadyside. In essence, my diverse, struggling, beautiful community does not deserve to be part of all this prosperous growth. It has to be subsumed by the wealthy as a lesser but valuable entity. It is like an indispensable servant or personal secretary. Or perhaps like a slave. In spite of all of its “improvements” it will never be equal to its betters. It will always be East Side. It can not be one with the wealthy. Its express purpose is to stand in support and service to its betters. A bit to the side - never in the centre. Kind of like the Africans-Americans throughout history.

“A Story Of Good Intentions.” Isn’t that the story of slavery? How the kind Europeans delivered us from paganism and primitivism. And wasn’t it kind for them to give us something productive to do with our time - like build a nation, innovate agriculture and bring massive profits to Europeans and American slave owners. And then later, wasn’t it kind of them to “free us” because economics and a Republic were at stake? And then how about the three extra amendments and the nearly 100 years it took for them to say...”No really, this is what the Constitution meant...they are human beings and worthy of a say in their governance. Especially - look at these few extremely bright ones who have “improved themselves” to resemble something which almost looks like our standards?

Like me. Educated. Middle Class. Generous in contributing to the community. Culturally and politically active. Somewhat delusional . (I thought I was striving towards a life of Voluntary Simplicity living in my 6 bedroom, 3 bath Victorian house filled with used furniture and recycled toys.) Never compromising my quality of life. “A Story Of Good Intentions.”

I live in the exact same place in London as I did in Pittsburgh. Hackney is on the border of Islington. It is experiencing rapid gentrification. And in some small way - here I am contributing to the cycle again. This time, however, I believe I must find a way to bring my vision of a thriving diverse community to life. Rather than, stand back and say, “oh dear, they’ve put us in chains again.”

Perhaps tonight, I’ll take dinner up to the squatters who are occupying the old theatre which is scheduled for demolition. It’s not even 1/2 a block away from me. Why hadn’t I done this 2 months ago? Ah, yes, Chris Ivey reminded me. I don’t think I want a highrise filled with chain stores 4 minutes walk from my home. (Okay, I do want a Starbucks...see how far I have left to go? ) I have to keep chanting...

if I am a drop of water, I am responsibile for the whole wave.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Salaam - a free music festival featuring Muslim musicians from all over the world: Iraq, Bosnia, Kenya, China, India, Pakistan, Morocco, etc.  

The beauty of a festival is that people have come for the express purpose of sharing common ground. Winston made many friends. These are the clips.

Under the heavy arms of an old Mama tree,
Winston finds a boy. Louis is perhaps seven.
Two shades darker than Winston.

Hair the same ancestral testimony.
Equiangular slick fine nautiluses, rams
whirling horns and Archimedean galaxies

from crowns simultaneously firing iron flat
golden wisps of chaos. Love given root
in heads big enough to hold the difference

between space, time, nature and
age. They played across expectations
of ability. Louis bending down to hear

Winston casting his ideas
into a void - like The Who’s
Horton heard. And all acted.

Copper and silver horns trumpeted;
drummers and dancers demanded
salaam; two boys chase each other

flinging spells, dying, laughing.
Resurrecting themselves

to do it again.


Many older children were curious why
we -as non-Muslims - would attend such a festival.  
We asked them what the name of the festival was.  
“Salaam,” They answered "Salaam."  

“But, what does that word mean?” We asked.
"We are always brothers and sisters in peace -
so if there is a call for peace

we should always do our best to be there."  
They seemed to understand
this. Wisdom is part of being
a child.


All the differing
hues, colours, styles of dress -

women in burkas, hajib, any old scarf,
Louis Vatton hajib and matching hand bag,
flowing hippie skirts, shorts and bikinis.

No one judged
another. Good day.


Went to our home park - London Fields - this weekend for Grassy Art or some other such lame name. There we happened upon some Senegalese drummers with a lone dancer in green.

He danced with fire and sometimes just presented the same emanation from within. Winston was entranced.

Across ten years came a man with whom he’d danced as a boy
or perhaps the fonder memories are of football. Kinetic pick up

expressions of boy bodies energising the space
around themselves. It is the thing of fondest recollection -

frenetic childhood joy. How precious.
To wrap your arms around your childhood

after so much time. They danced together
again. In a foreign land Winston saw possibility;
ate barbecue chicken offered him by the new dancer’s wife;

and when sated, his limbs imitated dreams
he doesn’t know how to tell.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

King’s Square

Finally, somewhere special.

On my birthday, we found a playground near Norman's workplace which
also has the best fish and chips shoppe we've found in London.  It is an exceptional place. The children are friendly and not prone to unpredictable violence.

Norman and I have been trying to figure out what makes this play park so special.  Because the kids are very nice and friendly.  Interesting combination of Turkish, biracial, British and Italian kids.  It is surrounded on all four sides by council housing.  And is next to a square filled with cheap, but delicious cafes with lots of outdoor seating.  

The play park is very well designed and surrounded by lovely gardens and an ancient grape arbor under which the children must pass to go from climbing frames to the water jets.  The water jets (in all different configurations) are activated by children stomping on pressure plates.  

So, Winston and I go there whenever we don't have a violin commitment - or in inclement weather.  We have lunch with Norman and play until he finishes with work.  Unfortunately, the adults aren't much for connecting with.  But, the children are lovely.

The other day we were playing with a group of kids.  Their mothers were so grateful, they sent over something they called, "Turkish dinner."  It was the most awesome, flavourful cous cous balls - easily eaten by hand.  I'm trying to figure out how to make it.  They were so filling and scrumptious. So - at least we know the adults can be friendly in their own way.

“Turkish Dinner?”
8 oz. cous cous
12 oz. broth
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 small onion minced
3 tsp. paprika

5? cloves garlic - minced
2 handfuls chopped parsley - minced
1 tsp. black pepper
hint of lemon juice

1. Bring broth and minced onions to a boil with tomato paste, paprika, pepper.
2. Add couscous and minced garlic.
3. Stir, stir and stir until all mixed. Remove from burner.
4. Let cool, add fresh chopped parsley and hint of lemon. Stir.
5. Once cool, form into tight balls (palm sized - which can be eaten by hand over a serviette.)

Quick. Impressive.  Tasty.  Easy to eat whilst standing about chatting.

Back To Colour

for those Afro and Caribbean women who refuse to see us.

Seeking more
shade. This heat wave
oozes hues

of solidarity. Glistening
Afro and Caribbean
women accept intolerable

volatile temperatures. They,
or should I say -
we (who are invisible

to them?) share acceptance
of fluctuation, tides,
moon cycles,

the coming and going
of nations......leaders
failed. Hope.

Triumph, I understand
these things: like food
in the mouth, roof top

over bed; babies; being
inside friendly arms -
regardless of knowing

heat’s colour. We hold.