Little-h heroes

September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

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In a university class I’m teaching, I started the semester by having the students answer some questions about themselves: What scares you? (Spiders, heights, and death were popular—or unpopular, as it were.) What is your hometown, or where else have you lived? (See how I phrased that one, in case we had some TCKs in the group?) Who is your hero and why?

In answer to that last question, a few said Jesus—with a couple adding, “Because he’s, um, Jesus.” Some chose a famous athlete or a figure from history. But for most, their heroes aren’t well-known. They’re personal heroes: my father, because he works three jobs to support our family; my grandma, because she raised my sisters and me by herself; my teacher, because she never gave up on me.

Last year, Amy Peterson wrote a wonderful article for Christianity Today entitled “Farewell to the Missionary Hero.” In it she talks about how missionary biographies of the past have portrayed missionaries as larger-than-life “saints,” often moving from one glorious adventure to another. She contrasts that with the approach of many missionaries today who are more willing to present the hardships and mundane routines of missionary life, as well as their own shortcomings. Peterson even mentions A Life Overseas and some of the authors here as examples of this new openness and honesty.

As I reread Peterson’s article, I am even more a fan, and I’m glad that she has extended the conversation outside the missionary community. So it might surprise you to hear me say that I actually don’t think we should say “farewell to the missionary hero.” I’m not arguing against her premise. No, mine is only a semantic concern. I just want to take the word hero and look at it from a different direction. . . .

The complete post is at A Life Overseas. Finish reading it there.

[photo: “Solitude,” by G.S. Matthews, used under a Creative Commons license]

Air China Back-Back-Backtracks from Inflight Article on London

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

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The Interwebs have been in an uproar the last few days over an article in Air China’s inflight magazine Wings of China. As reported by journalist Haze Fan for CNBC, the latest issue of the magazine touts London as a top destination but includes the following “safety” advice in a section called “Tips from Air China”:

London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.

Fan notes that the capital city is currently being led by a mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born in London to Pakistani parents.

After Fan’s reporting, Air China North America issued the following apology via Twitter:

We at Air China Limited do not condone discrimination in any shape or form. We regret and apologize for the offensive language. . . .

But Air China was not done reversing its engines. The company also pulled the magazine from their planes and even deleted the above Tweet. Wings of China is now offline, as well.

So . . . I can’t send you to the Wings of China to read the article yourself, but I will remind you that if you’d like to see some other airline mags from around the world, go to my list of over 100 links at “Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.” Maybe you’ll be the one to scoop the next big piece of travel news.

(Haze Fan, “Air China Magazine Warns London Visitors to Avoid Ethnic Minority Areas,” CNBC, Sept. 7, 2016; Haze Fan, “Air China’s Magazine Says Media, Readers Misinterpreted London Travel Advice,” CNBC, Sept. 8, 2016)

[photo: “B-5178 | Air China | Boeing 737-86N | Grey Peony Livery | PEK,” by Byeangel, used under a Creative Commons license]

Jimmy Anderson, Native-American Artist and Preacher, and His Own Lilias Trotter Choice

September 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

When I listen to Jimmy Anderson speak in this video, I feel as if I’m listening to an uncle. Thinking through my list of uncles, several of them no longer living, I don’t come up with a match for him, but he still sounds like an uncle. Maybe it’s his calm voice and simple wisdom. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling more at home in southwest Missouri, just a few miles away from Oklahoma. There are a lot of uncle types here with his accent.

Jimmy Anderson, part of the Creek tribe, is an artist, a musician, and a missionary. I learned of him about the time I discovered Lilias Trotter. Both left behind careers in the arts to pursue life in vocational ministry. When I wrote about Trotter, I noted how little attention has been paid to her. Anderson is even less well-known. His documentary is shorter and no well-known actor plays him in it. Actually, there’s no reason to compare the two, except to note the similarities in their paths. Each has a unique story worth telling in its own right.

After graduating from high school, Anderson sang with the quartet the Osceola Four, a group that recorded a song with “The Spike Jones Orchestra” and appeared regularly on a TV variety show out of Oklahoma City. He was even more talented as a painter and studied under the Cheyenne painter, Walter Richard “Dick” West. Along with West, he became part of the Oklahoma Flat-Style movement.

But his life changed after he saw some children sitting on the curb outside a bar in Oklahoma City, waiting for their parents to come out from their drinking. After praying and fasting, he felt a calling from God and committed his life to preaching, later serving with the  Southern Baptist’s Home Mission Board.

The folks at KOSU’s Invisible Nation made this mini documentary about Anderson, as a companion to their on-air reporting about this man who passed up his potential in the art world for life as a missionary.

Anderson’s work is part of the collection at Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art. In the documentary, Christina Burke, curator of Native American and non-Western Art there, summarizes Anderson’s life succinctly  in the documentary,

Well, I don’t know a lot about Jimmy Anderson and his career as an artist. I think he probably had his life path taken in another direction rather than making a career as an artist.

Art is still a part of Anderson’s life, but not an active part any more. “I know I’m where I’m supposed to be,” he says and continues,

I made the right decision, well, the Lord made the right decision for me. I’m happy . . . at peace with what I’m doing in the Lord. But I don’t use my art any more. I’ve still got visions of some paintings in my mind that I would like to do. But, boy, I’m just so busy doing my ministry, that doesn’t leave me much time to just sit down and do some painting.

In the documentary, he tells about helping a family whose mother had died from an accidental shooting. It was Christmastime, and after giving her children gifts and praying with them, he told his sons, “I’m a preacher and a missionary. But I want you to know, I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m glad I am who I am.”

(Allison Herrera, “Watch: Our Mini-Doc on Creek Preacher Jimmy Anderson,” KOSU, March 8, 2016)

Umbrellas, 2, 3, 4

August 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

“The Public Shaming of England’s First Umbrella User”

In the early 1750s, an Englishman by the name of Jonas Hanway, lately returned from a trip to France, began carrying an umbrella around the rainy streets of London.

. . . . . .

Hanway was the first man to parade an umbrella unashamed in 18th-century England, a time and place in which umbrellas were strictly taboo. In the minds of many Brits, umbrella usage was symptomatic of a weakness of character, particularly among men. Few people ever dared to be seen with such a detestable, effeminate contraption. To carry an umbrella when it rained was to incur public ridicule.

The British also regarded umbrellas as too French—inspired by the parasol, a Far Eastern contraption that for centuries kept nobles protected from the sun, the umbrella had begun to flourish in France in the early 18th century. . . . Later British umbrella users reported being called “mincing Frenchm[e]n” for carrying them in public.

Michael Walters, Atlas Obscura, July 27, 2016

Sorry: Another Difficult, but Necessary, Word

August 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

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The following is adapted from “Sorry: No Ifs, Sos, or Buts” for A Life Overseas. The original was posted here.

Last month, I wrote about the difficulties of saying goodbye, something faced over again by those living overseas. Today I’d like to discuss another word that can come up during times of transition: Sorry. It, too, is hard to say, at least in the right way.

R is for Reconciliation

When it comes to transitions between countries, it can be easy to feel as if we’re drowning in all the emotions, responsibilities, and stressors. That’s why David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, in their landmark book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, talk about building a “RAFT” to keep your head above water. The four parts of that raft are

  • Reconciliation
  • Affirmation
  • Farewells, and
  • Think Destination

“Reconciliation,” say the authors, “includes both the need to forgive and to be forgiven.” And this forgiveness is especially important preceding a move across time zones and oceans.

When transitions approach, those leaving—and those staying—have a small window of opportunity for a face-to-face healing of wounded relationships, a window that gets smaller as the departure gets closer. That’s why apologies become more and more necessary, even at a time when they may seem more and more difficult.

But simply deciding to say “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, because not all apologies are created equal. In fact, we live in the age of the “non-apology apology.” When you say, “I’m sorry,” do you add on any qualifiers? Do extra words reveal your true feelings?

Or do your words of remorse stand on their own? Do you say Sorry, with no ifs, sos, or buts?

Go to A Life Overseas to finish reading. . . .

(David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, Boston: Nicholas Brealey, 2009)

[photo: “More Fun with Sorry,” by Erin Kohlenberg, used under a Creative Commons license]

P.S. I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot-Luggage Overlords

August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Not being able to leave well enough alone, after my last post, on the Modobag, I gave another look to the suitcase innovations on Indiegogo.

What I found is frightening, simply frightening.

Four years ago, you may recall, I mentioned hop! “the follow along suitcase.” At the time it was only in a prototype stage, and as you can see in the video below, it was a rather bare-bones, timid-looking prototype, at that.

Speaking about advancements in luggage design, I wrote the following:

Regardless, the evolution of the suitcase continues. When USA Today asked what’s “next on the horizon,” Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, said, “Luggage that packs itself? Now that would be a problem-solver.”

Oh, how our carry-ons have evolved since then. Can you say “robot luggage”?

How about “Cowarobot R1“? That’s the name of “the first and only robotic suitcase,” in the middle of its own Indiegogo campaign.

Yes, you read that correctly, robot luggage! All I can do is wonder how long it will be before these “fully autonomous” carry-ons become self-determining—and evil—and force us to pack our clothes against our will. How long before the “find me function” (which I think is pretty cool) becomes the “track me down function”? (not cool)

It’s difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume us on captive Earth or merely enslave us.  One thing is for certain: There is no stopping them. The android carry-ons will soon be here. . . .

And I for one welcome our new robot-luggage overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted blogger, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground suitcase-packing sweatshops.[*]

Actually, I can see an alternative ending to this scenario, one in which a plucky teen, with sick video-game skills, uses the USB port on a robot carry-on to upload a virus into our would-be mechanized oppressors, thus shutting down the global computer and GPS infrastructure. And with worldwide computer automation halted, our luggage will be rendered powerless and benign. Yay humans!

(But just in case that doesn’t work, and in case they don’t respond well to my overtures, I have my getaway vehicle already picked out . . . .)

[photo: “The World Shall Be Mine . . . ,” by Emiliano Felicissimo, used under a Creative Commons license]

Look, in the Airport! It’s a Carry-On! It’s a Scooter! It’s Modobag!

August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson said that (or at least something like that*) in the 1800s, a new-and-improved mousetrap was a suitable metaphor for innovation. I would submit to you that today’s mousetrap may very well be the carry-on bag, and the door is an Indiegogo campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Modobag. (Sorry, I mean the Modobag!)

The Modobag, the creation of Kevin O’Donnell, with the help of Boyd Bruner, is a TSA- and FAA-compliant carry-on bag that you can ride around the airport. It has an electric motor, telescoping handlebar with thumb throttle and hand brake, and professional motorcycle-grade foot pegs—and it can carry your clothes, too.

Here are some of the specs from Modobag’s Indiegogo page:

  • two speed settings—5 mph indoors, 8 mph outdoors
  • ability to carry a person up to 260 lbs
  • 8-mile range (for a 180-lb person)
  • two USB charging ports

Pre-orders for the Modobag are available at Indiegogo for $1,000. The campaign was set up with a modest goal of $50,000, and with two weeks left, it has already blown past a quarter of a million dollars.

According to CNN, O’Donnell doesn’t want to limit his invention to the airport. He wants people to ride it to the train and  use it to navigate conference venues. And he takes it for spins himself in the bike lanes of Chicago.

It all sounds like a great idea to me, but I do have a few concerns . . . where the rubber meets the airport walkway, so to speak. But I think each one is fixable with the simple addition of an accessory.

First, there are the images in the video above of riders leaning into tight Modobag turns. I can imagine middle-aged travelers (like myself) wiping out on the way to Gate 26. Solution? The addition of fold-down wheeled outriggers—a fancy way of saying they need training wheels.

I’m also wondering about trying to pull two, or more, pieces of checked bags on your way to an international flight. A guy only has two hands, and one is already busy with steering, throttling, and braking. Solution? Some kind of proprietary linkage system to form a giant super luggage trolley.

And finally, I’m worried that airport authorities will step in to shut down Modobag riders in the name of safety (for example, see “wiping out” above), much the way that the anti-progress lobby has unfairly hampered the would be life-changing Segway revolution around the globe. Solution? A simple beeping mechanism and pop-up flashing light. Hey, it works for those airport carts.

The bottom line for me, though, is I’m not much of an early adopter. I’m more of a late follower. So just as with wearable luggage, carry-on child carriers and follow-along bags, and even pillow head coverings, to all you risk takers, you trend setters, you beta testers, I say, Lead the way! And as long as you don’t look too silly, I’ll be right there jumping on board. (I promise.)

(“Modobag: World’s First Motorized, Rideable Luggage,” Indiegogo; Matt McFarland, “You Can Now Ride Your Luggage around the Airport,” CNN, July 22, 2016)


*[and now, for quote geeks like me . . .] According to Garson O’Toole of Quote Investigator, the earliest form in print of

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door

is from “Current Comment,” in The Atlanta Constitution. The passage, titled “The Value of Good Work,” is ascribed to Emerson and was published on May 11, 1882, a few weeks after his death:

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Giving credence to Emerson’s authorship of the sentence, or at least the thoughts behind it, is a journal entry that Emerson wrote in 1855, under the heading “Common Fame”:

I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house,though it be in the woods.

Sarah S. B. Yule and Mary S. Keene include the “If a man . . .” quotation above, crediting it to Emerson, in their book “Borrowings,” compiled in 1989 and published in 1893. The article “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” from 1912, quotes Yule telling how she heard it from the lips of Emerson:

To the best of my memory and belief, I copied it in my handbook from an address delivered long years ago, it being my custom to write everything there that I thought particularly good, if expressed in concise form; and when we were compiling “Borrowings” I drew from this old handbook freely. It will seem strange to you, as it does to me, that Emerson never incorporated this in any of his essays. He did use the thought and similar wording, but never exactly the wording, of the quotation I used in “Borrowings.”

(Garson O’Toole, “If You Build a Better Mousetrap the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door,” Quote Investigator, March 24, 2015; “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” West Publishing Co’s Docket, Volume 1, West Publishing Company, 1912)


[photo: “Surprising News,” by Edgardo Balduccio, used under a Creative Commons license]

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