Saturday, May 14, 2005

Athens and the "brightness of a single bird"

Last night at dinner my dad posed a question, I don’t remember how it came up: If you had a billion dollars to give away, what would you spend it on? My brother immediately said AIDS research. My sister said water purification systems in impoverished countries. My mom said education on public health. I said I’d give it to those MIT guys who are developing $100 laptops so that every kid in the world could have acccess to the internet (sounds dumb, but think about how connected to the rest of the world they would be, and what they could teach themselves)—they’re close to achieving their goal, but think of how a billion dollars would increase the volume they could produce!

My dad, however, had the most interesting answer of all. He said that he’d use the money to somehow identify and support creatives all over the world. Paraphrased, this was his argument:
“Many more people have the capacity for extreme creativity or innovation than actually exploit it. Most people can’t afford to spend their time philosophizing or sculpting or whatnot, but…But think about Athens. That was a city of only 30,000 people, yet a huge number of influential people—including Aristophanes, Sophocles, Aristotle, Hyperbolus, Plato, Herodotus, and Socrates—came out of there. That water didn’t have something special in it. Those people weren’t smarter than any other given community. But it was a place in which people were given the opportunity to devote their time to purely intellectual or artistic pursuits. Which is not to say that everyone should hang around thinking deep thoughts all the time, but it is to say that people should have the prospect to.”
Just something to think about. Musing over the question again now, the other thing I might do is fund some kind of think tank—political or intellectual or creative, I don’t know which…

On a different note, I’d like to mention the three best CD’s I’ve been listening to in the past couple months:
  1. Regina Spektor, Soviet Kitsch
  2. Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People
  3. Joanna Newsom, Milk-Eyed Mender (which my brother likes too! Who woulda thought…)
(I’m also really liking the Delgados’ Universal Audio and Sufjan Stevens’ leaked Illinois as well as Bjork and some recently re-discovered White Stripes.)

Here’s a funny fact about me and music: For some reason, riding on a bus or train or as a passenger in a car has a very therapeutic effect on me. I guess it’s sorta like how babies will fall asleep right away if you take them out for a drive at night. Anyway, I find that if I listen to a CD for the first time in the car—preferably at night, in quiet, when I can stare absently out the window—it has the strange effect of making me much more inclined towards that CD, not just at first listen but at all later listens. It sets a good mood for my first impression, I guess, and that residual feeling sticks with me… I’m not really sure what I’m talking about. But regardless, I now actually make a point of going out for a night drive whenever I get a new album—it’s my ritual for absorbing music. Everyone has odd rituals like that, right? (Like eating the middle square of French toast last and reading magazines from back to front and smelling library books and drawing all over my hands when I’m nervous or upset…) Right?

I have so much to do. I’ll leave you with some beautiful art by my friend the very talented and very lovely Oki:

She’s going places, eh? For more of her art, go here. (Oki, if you want me to take these pictures down I will, since I used them without your permission. Sorry—they’re too splendid!)


Anonymous oki said...

haha.thanks! I don't mind at all

3:40 AM  

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