A few months ago I was on a long flight over the ocean, and towards the end of it the airline attendants brought me a sandwich. When I looked closely at the plastic packaging I noticed that mine said it was “hand-crafted”, and that the bread was made using “authentic methods”. They must have passed out hundreds of “authentic” “hand-crafted” sandwiches that morning. I’m not really sure what those words mean exactly (what would an “inauthentic method” be?), but I know there’s part of me that does prefer to know that a human was involved in the process of making my food. Which is strange, to think of it—machines are pretty good at things, after all. With the right design and programming I’m sure they could be great at producing sandwiches. Probably better than a lot of people. I suppose the difference is that machines don’t care. A lot of people don’t care, either, but at least with a human there’s a chance. And that means something. It means so much, in fact, that the sandwich packaging said “hand-crafted”, not “machine perfected”. We like the thought of our lunch being made specially, with care, not just mindlessly mass-produced in a machine.Continue reading Hand-Crafted
When my second son was three, he didn’t walk—he marched. Everywhere. His stride may have been short, but it was full of confidence. I vividly remember the day he marched ahead of us into the grocery store, but had to pause as the automatic doors slid open. He watched them closely, then announced as a matter of fact: “Well, THAT was magic!” Then he marched through.
Was it magic? Not really. I know, and you know, and he knows now that he’s older, that automatic doors don’t operate on fairy dust. There is a mechanical, electrical explanation, and it all adds up and it all makes sense. Yes. But isn’t it amazing? The doors open themselves! It may not be magic in a technical sense, but isn’t there something magical about it?Continue reading “Well, THAT was magic!”
The world has a rhythm: a steady beat of seasons and sunrises, of tides and migrations and flowers and fruit.
The world has a melody: the beauty that stands out and demands our attention—the dawn chorus, the painted skies, the autumn colours and majestic peaks.
The world has a harmony: the subtle details that we hardly even notice, but they add richness and depth to the world, like the veins in a leaf, the scent in the grass, and the warmth in sunshine and fire.
The world is a symphony: exquisite and detailed and beautiful. But for all of its music, there is one thing that the world cannot supply on its own. The world has music—but it doesn’t have lyrics. That’s where we come in.Continue reading Music And Lyrics
Gold is just a rock. Money is just fancy paper—or these days, even less—ones and zeros floating invisible out of our mobile phones with a little bleep. But then, mobile phones are really just a collection of sand, a few bits of rare stones, and some electrically charged lithium-ions and such. Even the hands that hold them are a mix of basic components like carbon, water, calcium, and a few other things.
When you really break it down, life itself is a collection of dead elements and minerals. Under a microscope, the colours and patterns of flower petals and butterfly wings are lost in a confusion of nucleotides and mitochondrion and smooth endoplasmic reticulum.Continue reading Everything is Ordinary, Everything is Wonderful
The mysterious Mona Lisa has been sitting on a secret (with a smile like hers it was obvious, wasn’t it?). But now, with the help of multispectral infrared reflectographic camera technology (whatever that means) researchers can see under her, and what they’ve discovered is that the famous lady actually began as a sketch—and here’s the thing—the original sketch was made somewhere else, because the lines were transferred to Lisa’s now priceless poplar panel by means of a technique known as spolvero.Continue reading The Mind Behind The Art
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Snapchat is drowning in it. Twitter’s recent addition of “Fleets” to the top of their feed looks like what Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin call “Stories,” and all of them work off the same principle that launched Snapchat to prominence: impermanence. It can be daunting to think that what goes up online never comes down, and the solution from every social app is now to offer a way to post temporarily. Now you can say what you like and dance how you please, knowing that after 24 hours the evidence will be gone and no one will be able to cancel you for it in twenty years. Usually the strings of temporary stories at the top of my news feeds are filled with simple pictures or short videos of everyday moments like stencilled coffees, beautiful sunsets, and random complaints. Sometimes they are encouraging thoughts or recommendations. Whatever they are, if you don’t look at them in their allotted time, you’ll miss them.Continue reading Snapchats, Stories, Fleets, and Glories
William Wilberforce was a British white man who was born into wealth, and quickly attained significant political power. He was elected as a Member of Parliament at the age of 21, while still a student. From such a position of privilege, what could Wilberforce ever legitimately say about racism? He had no personal experience of slavery. And yet, it was Wilberforce who spent most of his life and strength spearheading the effort to end the slave trade in the British Empire.Continue reading Two British White Men And The Foundations Of Racial Equality
We found a rope swing near our house. It’s hanging from a tree that is not on our property, in a field that is empty and waiting for development. Our neighbours showed us how to find the path where people walk their dogs, where the one tree stands alone in the middle of wide open green—a green studded with more wildflowers than we would have thought possible.
It’s not our garden, but our children can run there.Continue reading You Don’t Have To Own It To Enjoy It
We turned a corner, and the view opened up. From the porch of the ruined manor house we could see the cultivated gardens around the lake, fading into forests sheltered by distant mountains. We had to stop and stare. My ten year old son summed it up:
“I feel like I need to whisper. I don’t know why.”
Last Wednesday the anonymous British graffiti artist known as ‘Banksy’ sold a few prints at an auction in Paris. This is notable mainly because of what didn’t happen: the last time Banksy art was sold (earlier this month) it self-destructed only moments after the gavel went down on a bid of over a million British pounds. Banksy had installed a shredder inside the frame, which was remotely activated as soon as the sale was complete. It sounds a bit like the stuff of spy movies, and certainly was a first for the art world. Or was it?