Inspirational News Articles
Excerpts of Key Inspirational News Articles in Major Media
Below are many highly engaging excerpts of key inspirational news articles reported in the mainstream media.
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Peanut Butter Plan to feed the homeless spreads
2009-09-15, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The world is getting better, one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time. It's called the Peanut Butter Plan. Like many of the best plans, it's simple: Strangers get together, make peanut butter sandwiches and immediately pass them out to homeless people. No federal subsidy, no foundation, no vouchers. No official sanction from anybody. Just strangers, good will and peanut butter. Jory John, a San Francisco children's book writer, got the idea for the PBJ stealth campaign this spring. John put forth the idea on Facebook and, over the past few months, PBJ handouts have taken place in Los Angeles; Berkeley; Phoenix; Little Rock, Ark.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Austin, Texas; and London. "People are joining from all over the place," John said. "I thought it was about time to use a social networking site to do some good." The monthly gathering took place the other evening around a conference table inside a publishing house that had donated its office for the cause. Some sandwich-laden volunteers [went] to the Tenderloin and some others to the Haight and South of Market.There was no shortage of people who found the idea of a complimentary peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich to be just the thing. Outside the BART station at 16th and Mission streets, a dozen folks accepted sandwiches. When the sandwiches were gone, [the] sandwich makers retired to a nearby tavern for a beer. The camaraderie of doing something nice, along with the beers, made everyone feel pretty good and some of the strangers exchanged phone numbers. "The smallest actions make the biggest difference," [John] said. "There are some cynics who say it's not really curing hunger, and it isn't curing hunger. But it's curing one person's hunger. There's nothing wrong with that."
Note: Information on the Peanut Butter Plan and its operations in various cities around the U.S. is available at www.peanutbutterplan.org.
Watching Whales Watching Us
2009-07-12, New York Times
Scientists have now documented behaviors like tool use and cooperative hunting strategies among whales. Orcas, or killer whales, have been found to mourn their own dead. Just three years ago, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York discovered, in the brains of a number of whale species, highly specialized neurons that are linked to, among other things, the use of language and were once thought to be the exclusive property of humans and a few other primates. Indeed, marine biologists are now revealing not only the dizzying variety of vocalizations among a number of whale species but also complex societal structures and cultures. Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us. For all of their inherent elusiveness, the gray whales of Baja baffle scientists for the opposite reason: They can’t seem to get enough of us humans. The question of why present-day gray-whale mothers, some of whom still bear harpoon scars, would take to seeking us out and gently shepherding their young into our arms is a mystery that now captivates whale researchers and watchers alike. There may be something far more compelling going on in the lagoons of Baja each winter and spring. Something, let’s say, along the lines of that time-worn plot conceit behind many a film, in which the peaceable greetings of alien visitors are tragically rebuffed by human fear and ignorance. Except that in this particular rendition, the aliens keep coming back, trying, perhaps, to give us another chance.
Note: For many important reports from reliable sources on the amazing capabilities of marine mammals, as well as serious threats to their well-being and survival from human activities, click here.
2009-07-05, New York Times
Like others in the so-called good-food movement, [Will] Allen, who is 60, asserts that our industrial food system is depleting soil, poisoning water, gobbling fossil fuels and stuffing us with bad calories. Like others, he advocates eating locally grown food. But to Allen, local doesn't mean a rolling pasture or even a suburban garden: it means 14 greenhouses crammed onto two acres in a working-class neighborhood on Milwaukee's northwest side, less than half a mile from the city's largest public-housing project. And this is why Allen is so fond of his worms. When you're producing a quarter of a million dollars' worth of food in such a small space, soil fertility is everything. Without microbe- and nutrient-rich worm castings (poop, that is), Allen's Growing Power farm couldn't provide healthful food to 10,000 urbanites — through his on-farm retail store, in schools and restaurants, at farmers' markets and in low-cost market baskets delivered to neighborhood pickup points. He couldn't employ scores of people, some from the nearby housing project; continually train farmers in intensive polyculture; or convert millions of pounds of food waste into a version of black gold. With seeds planted at quadruple density and nearly every inch of space maximized to generate exceptional bounty, Growing Power is an agricultural Mumbai, a supercity of upward-thrusting tendrils and duct-taped infrastructure.
Note: For another excellent article on this most amazing man and the urban farming movement, click here.
Can Positive Thoughts Help Heal Another Person?
For the past decade, [Sheri] Kaplan has been coming every few months to see Gail Ironson, a professor at the University of Miami. Ironson, an AIDS researcher, runs down a battery of questions. Kaplan has never taken medicine, yet the disease has not progressed to AIDS (and she is not part of the population that has a mutation in the CCR5 gene that prevents progression of HIV to AIDS). In the mid-1990s, when having HIV was akin to a death sentence, Ironson noticed that a number of patients like Kaplan never got sick. Ironson wanted to know why. And she found something surprising. "If you ask people what's kept you going so long, what keeps you healthy, often people would say spirituality," she says. "It was something that just kept coming up in the interviews, and that's why I decided to look at it." Ironson began to zero in on a patient's relationship with God in an attempt to predict how fast the disease would progress. Ironson says over time, those who turned to God after their diagnosis had a much lower viral load and maintained those powerful immune cells at a much higher rate than those who turned away from God. "In fact, people who felt abandoned by God and who decreased in spirituality lost their CD4 cells 4.5 times faster than people who increased in spirituality," Ironson says. "That was actually our most powerful psychological predictor to date."
Modern Pied Piper Cheats Death
2009-05-01, CBS News
Every time 70-year-old Andy Mackie draws a breath, it's music to his ears - whether there's a harmonica there or not. Mackie's just glad to be alive. Mackie jokes, "I guess they don't need a harmonica player in heaven yet." Mackie, a Scottish-born retired horse trainer, lives in a camper in northwest Washington state - he lives there, even though technically -- medically -- he should have died long ago. After his ninth heart surgery, Mackie's doctors had him on 15 different medicines. But the side effects made life miserable. So one day he quit taking all 15 and decided to spend his final days doing something he always wanted to do. He used the money he would have spent on the prescriptions to give away 300 harmonicas, with lessons included. "I really thought it was the last thing I could ever do," he says. And when he didn't die the next month, he bought a few hundred more. Harmonicas in hand, he explains, "I just started going from school to school." It's now 11 years and 13,000 harmonicas later. Today there's nary a kid in the county who hasn't gotten a free harmonica from Mackie, or played one of his strum sticks. To keep the kids interested in music as they get older, Mackie now spends the bulk of his Social Security check making them beginner string instruments. He also buys store-made instruments for kids that show a special interest. He provides free lessons to everyone by getting the older kids to teach the younger kids. Mackie says, "I tell them music is a gift, you give it away - you give it away and you get to keep it forever." The end result is something truly unique to his corner of Washington. It seems everywhere you look, everyplace you go, every kid you meet has the same genuine passion for fiddle music.
Note: Don't miss the inspiring video of this story at the link above. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Torture tests say battery power's hardly nerdy
2009-03-30, Boston Globe
Bill Dubé gets giddy when he talks about batteries and speed. After all, his 500-horsepower Killacycle electric motorcycle goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under a second. He claims it is the fastest electric vehicle on the planet. In October, the Killacycle traveled a quarter mile in 7.89 seconds, topping out at 174 mph, a record. Dubé, 56, an engineer and Rhode Island native whose day job is designing air chemistry instruments at the University of Colorado, is the bike's designer, owner, and builder. He is out to prove that electric vehicles do not have to be "nerd-mobiles." At the heart of electric vehicles like the Killacycle are the batteries. A123 Systems Inc., based in Watertown, sponsors the Killacycle and provides its battery. Dubé read about A123's lithium-ion battery technology in 2003 and decided to approach company officials. He thought drag racing was a great way to torture-test the company's innovative battery cells. "I told them I'll take the battery cells out to the drag strip and set a world record," he said. Electric-vehicle racing hit the start line about 15 years ago, when pioneers like Dubé began building the machines. "Bill is quite amazing and does pretty good promoting electric-vehicle racing in general," said Mike Willmon, president of the National Electric Drag Racing Association, based in Santa Rosa, Calif. The mission of the group, whose membership stands at 100, is to increase public awareness about the performance side of electric vehicles.
Note: Why such a weak title for this amazing bike? Why not a title like "Electric motorcycle goes 0 to 60 in one second"? Could it be the media doesn't want us to know things like this? For lots more suggesting this may be the case, click here. And for more on this amazing motorcyle and an unassuming electric car that does the quarter mile in under 12 seconds, click here.
Microlending: Do Good, Make Money?
2009-02-17, CBS News
I've long been a fan of microfinance or microlending where a small loan can make a big difference. To date, I've made several small investments via both Microplace.com and Kiva.org. And, in addition to doing good, I'm doing well. The money is loaned to poor people--mostly women--in various parts of the world. Microlending, like other uninsured investments, is subject to all sorts of risks. But, based on past performance, the odds of seeing your money again are pretty high. Historically, 97 percent of low-income borrowers have paid back their microfinance loans. Kiva.org is a not-for-profit organization. From a user perspective, one of the big differences between the two organizations is that Kiva doesn't pay interest. Also, Kiva is a bit more "peer to peer" in that its Web site shows you information about the specific entrepreneur who will be receiving your loan. One feature I like about Kiva is that you can purchase gift certificates for as little as $25. That's what I'm now doing for the children in my life. By giving them a Kiva gift certificate they and their parents get to chose who to loan it to and, eventually, the child gets the $25 back. It's a good long-term investment in social consciousness. And, yes, I've put my money where my words are. After a couple of years investing in both Kiva and Microplace, I have nothing but happy (albeit small) returns.
Note: For lots more on microlending, click here and here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Apocalypse now? 30 days when the world didn't end
2008-09-09, Times of London (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The beginning of the first serious experiments using CERN’s Large Hadron Collider this week has given rise to a welter of fanciful scare stories about the obliteration of the Earth by a pocket black hole or a cascade reaction of exotic particles. Similar predictions have been made around the launch of several other particle physics experiments and even the first atomic weapons tests. Predictions of the world’s end are nothing new though. We’ve picked out 30 of the most memorable apocalypses that never, for one reason or another, quite happened. 1: 2,800BC: The oldest surviving prediction of the world’s imminent demise was found inscribed upon an Assyrian clay tablet which stated: "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common." 4: Mar 25, 970 AD. The Lotharingian computists believed they had found evidence in the Bible that a conjunction of certain feast days prefigured the end times. They were just one of a wide scattering of millennial cults springing up in advance of that first Millennium. The millennial panic endured for at least 30 years after the fateful date had come and gone, with some adjustment made to allow 1,000 years after the crucifixion, rather than the nativity. 8: 1648: Having made close study of the kabbalah, theTurkish rabbi Sabbatai Zevi predicted that the Messiah would make a miraculous return in 1648, and that his name would be Sabbatai Zevi. 9: 1666: A year packed with apocalyptic portent. With a date containing the figures commonly accepted as the biblical Number of the Beast and following a protracted period of plague in England, it was little surprise that many should believe the Great Fire of London to be a herald of the Last Days.
Canadian teen's process decomposes plastic bags
2008-06-05, Reuters News
As countries and cities around the world move to ban plastic bags, a Canadian teenager is tackling the problem of what to do with them. High school student Daniel Burd successfully isolated microorganisms from soil and used them to help degrade 43 percent of his polyethylene sample within a few weeks in a science project that recently won him the C$10,000 ($9,800) top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. "The purpose of my project was to first of all prove that it's possible to do the degradation, and I just wanted to develop a beginning procedure that could be used," said the 17-year-old Grade 11 student, who also walked away with nearly C$35,000 in university scholarship offers. "We know that after 40 to 100,000 years, the plastic bags will be degraded naturally. Some type of microbe must be responsible for this. So the first step was to isolate this microbe and that's what I did," said Burd, who began his research in December 2006. To isolate the microorganism, he turned the plastic bags into a powder -- an important step, Burd said, because it increases the surface area and helps the microorganisms that can use the plastic to grow. Once he had the powder, he collected soil samples from a landfill, and combined the two with a home-made solution that would encourage microorganism growth. After months of experimenting, he isolated two microbial strains from the genuses sphingomonas and pseudomonas. Burd worked with the microbes to find the combination that would degrade strips of plastic bags best, and optimized the process by factoring in elements such as temperature and concentration of microbes. "In the end I was able to find that after six weeks incubation 43 percent of my plastic bag is degraded."
Note: Why wasn't this all over the news? Very few media outlets covered this highly inspiring story. For a more recent article on this fascinating topic, click here.
In Rwanda, visionary doctor is moving mountains again
2008-04-13, Boston Globe
It was November 2004, and Dr. Paul Farmer had agreed to bring his world-renowned Partners in Health model to Rwanda, which was still reeling from the aftershocks of the genocide a decade earlier. Now here he was, with Rwandan health officials, to scout out a location for a hospital to serve the poorest of the poor. Farmer, who teaches at Harvard, was taken to Ruhengeri, in the country's northwest corner. But there was already a clean hospital there, with employees and even an X-ray machine. "No, no, no. You don't understand," Farmer recalls saying. "Find me the worst possible place in the country." So they took him to Rwinkwavu, a remote area two hours east of Kigali. Even Farmer - who works in the world's worst regions - was taken aback. There were no beds, no patients, no staff, no medical equipment. "It was abandoned, dirty and scary," Farmer says. There were 200,000 people in the district and not a single doctor. It was the perfect place for Farmer. In the summer of 2005, the doors opened at Rwinkwavu Hospital, which now sees 250 patients a day, some of them walking hours to get there. Farmer, [Dr. Michael Rich, who is Rwanda country director for Partners in Health], and their Rwandan counterparts have built a second hospital in an equally remote area of 200,000 - also without a single doctor - and built or renovated 19 health centers that feed patients to them. A third hospital is on the drawing board, designed by Harvard architecture students. Ultimately, they plan to expand rural medical services to the entire country. Now 20 years old, Partners in Health, with its emphasis on treating poverty as well as disease, has expanded to nine countries.
Note: Five years ago, Farmer became reluctantly famous with the publication of Tracy Kidder's best-selling book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which told the story of the brash Harvard Medical School graduate who changed the face of healthcare in rural Haiti.
Jenny McCarthy: My son's recovery from autism
We've met some of the most amazing moms and dads who are forging their own path to prevention and recovery. When our son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism we were lucky enough to benefit from their knowledge and experience. Evan has been healed to a great extent by many breakthroughs that, while perhaps not scientifically proven, have definitely helped Evan and many other children who are recovering from autism. We believe what helped Evan recover was starting a gluten-free, casein-free diet, vitamin supplementation, detox of metals, and anti-fungals for yeast overgrowth that plagued his intestines. Once Evan's neurological function was recovered through these medical treatments, speech therapy and applied behavior analysis helped him quickly learn the skills he could not learn while he was frozen in autism. After we implemented these therapies for one year, the state re-evaluated Evan for further services. They spent five minutes with Evan and said, "What happened? We've never seen a recovery like this." Evan is now 5 years old and what might surprise a lot of you is that we've never been contacted by a single member of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or any other health authority to evaluate and understand how Evan recovered from autism. When Evan meets doctors and neurologists, to this day they tell us he was misdiagnosed -- that he never had autism to begin with. It's as if they are wired to believe that children can't recover from autism.
Note: This article is written by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, actors and parents actively involved in autism-related causes. McCarthy is the author of the book Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism. Don't miss a great three-minute video of McCarthy on CNN talking about her experience with vaccines and autism. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
For Modern Kids, 'Philanthropy' Is No Grown-Up Word
2007-12-30, Washington Post
In lieu of presents at her 12th birthday party this year, Maddie Freed of Potomac asked her friends to bring money, and she raised $800 for Children's Hospital. Eight-year-old Jenny Hoekman saves a third of what she makes walking dogs, and this month the Takoma Park girl donated it to help her Brownie troop sponsor an immigrant family. And in Club Penguin, a popular online game club for the elementary school set, more than 2.5 million kids gave their virtual earnings to charities in a contest this month. In response, the site's founders are giving $1 million to charities based on the children's preferences. Young children and teenagers across the nation are getting involved in philanthropy more than ever, according to research and nonprofit experts, who credit new technologies with the rise of the trend. As young people increasingly become exposed to and connected with the problems of the world via the Internet and television, experts said, parents are finding new ways to instill in their children the value of giving. At the same time, technology is democratizing philanthropy so giving is not only easier for people of all ages and means, but also trendier. And children are starting to organize at the grass-roots level to give. "We've globalized technology, we've globalized commerce, but we haven't globalized compassion," said Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children, a nonprofit network of kids helping kids. "But we're seeing a generation of kids, ages 10 to 15, who are aware of global problems, and they're really searching to help. The next step is to help kids move from that awareness to action." Eileen Barber, 10, of Charlottesville said she gave her Club Penguin coins to the World Wildlife Fund to help animals. "It sort of seemed like they have a lot more needs than us," Barber said. "With global warming and stuff, I figured it would be nicer to look beyond just myself."
For this club, life begins at 50 (%)
2007-07-29, Boston Globe
When David Ludlow's wife died in a climbing accident 11 years ago, her death transformed him into a multimillionaire: He inherited Vanda Sendzimir's share of her family fortune, a $5 million trust that generates an annual interest of about $300,000. Then a freelance photographer with a passion for social justice issues, the Jamaica Plain man was plunged into a swirl of shock, guilt, and confusion.
"I've always been very left-wing politically and all of a sudden I was living incredible inequality," said Ludlow, 64. "Suddenly I was in the upper 1 percent of the population in terms of wealth, and I felt terrible about that for a long time." So he did something radical, and something that many people might consider insane: He decided to give away half his annual income. In doing so, Ludlow joined a small, unusual, and growing community: The 50% League, an Arlington-based group of people who contribute at least half their income, business profits, or net worth to charity. Members from across the country have been welcomed into an elite circle of givers and asked to share their stories publicly, even if anonymously, to inspire other givers. Their motivations are manifold: Some give out of a sense of fairness, personal satisfaction or a desire for simplicity; others are driven by religious faith or dedication to a cause. Many are anonymous philanthropists, and not all of them have great wealth: Some are members of the middle class, but have chosen to survive on less so they can give more. Above all, they aim to stand as role models, and to encourage others of all income levels to think about their giving potential. "I feel incredibly privileged, and I still feel guilty about that," said Ludlow, who has used much of the money he inherited from his late wife ... to fund grass-roots groups led by low-income people of color. "But it's given me tremendous meaning in my life to give as much as I can away."
Note: The wonderful man featured in this article, David Ludlow, is a major supporter of our work in the form of a large monthly donation (http://www.peerservice.org/donations#monthly). This is a powerful example of how one inspired individual can make a big difference in the world. Let us all do our best to use our money in support of personal and global transformation to the best of our ability. We also invite you to make a difference by donating to support our empowering work at http://www.peerservice.org/donations. For two inspiring media clips of David and this great organization, click here and here.
A genius explains
2007-02-12, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it. He speaks seven languages and is even devising his own language. Now scientists are asking whether his exceptional abilities are the key to unlock the secrets of autism. Ever since the age of three, when he suffered an epileptic fit, Tammet has been obsessed with counting. Now he is 26, and a mathematical genius who can figure out cube roots quicker than a calculator and recall pi to 22,514 decimal places. He also happens to be autistic, which is why he can't drive a car, wire a plug, or tell right from left. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. An estimated 10% of the autistic population - and an estimated 1% of the non-autistic population - have savant abilities, but no one knows exactly why. A number of scientists now hope that Tammet might help us to understand better. The blind American savant Leslie Lemke played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No1, after he heard it for the first time, and he never had so much as a piano lesson. And the British savant Stephen Wiltshire was able to draw a highly accurate map of the London skyline from memory after a single helicopter trip over the city. Even so, Tammet could still turn out to be the more significant.
Note: Could the human mind be much more powerful than even science is willing to admit? For an astounding documentary showing how this unusual man managed to become conversant in a difficult language in one week and lots more, click here.
Do-Gooders With Spreadsheets
2007-01-30, New York Times
The World Economic Forum here in Davos is the kind of place where if you let yourself get distracted while walking by a European prime minister on your left, you could end up tripping over a famous gazillionaire. But perhaps the most remarkable people to attend ... are the social entrepreneurs. Nic Frances runs a group that aims to cut carbon emissions in 70 percent of Australian households over 10 years. His group, Easy Being Green, gives out low-energy light bulbs and low-flow shower heads after the household signs over the rights to the carbon emissions the equipment will save. The group then sells those carbon credits to industry to finance its activities. In the U.S., Gillian Caldwell and her group, Witness, train people around the world to use video cameras to document human rights abuses. The resulting videos have drawn public attention to issues like child soldiers and the treatment of the mentally ill. Now Ms. Caldwell aims to create sort of YouTube for human rights video clips. Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, demonstrated with Grameen Bank the power of microfinancing. His bank has helped raise incomes, secure property rights for women, lower population growth and raise education standards across Bangladesh — and now the success is rippling around the globe. “Politics is failing to solve all the big issues,” said Jim Wallis, who wrote “God’s Politics” and runs Sojourners. “So when that happens, social movements rise up.” A growing number of the best and brightest university graduates in the U.S. and abroad are moving into this area (many clutching the book “How to Change the World,” a bible in the field).
Molecule offers cancer hope
2007-01-17, Toronto Star (One of Canada's leading newspapers)
In results that "astounded" scientists, an inexpensive molecule known as DCA was shown to shrink lung, breast and brain tumours in both animal and human tissue experiments. The study was published yesterday in the journal Cancer Cell. "I think DCA can be selective for cancer because it attacks a fundamental process of cancer that is unique to cancer cells," said Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, a professor at the Edmonton university's medical school and one of the study's key authors. The molecule appears to repair damaged mitochondria in cancer cells. "When a cell is getting too old or doesn't function properly, the mitochondria are going to induce the cell death," lead study author Sebastien Bonnet said yesterday. Bonnet says DCA – or dichloroacetate – appears to reverse the mitochondrial changes in a wide range of cancers. "One of the really exciting things about this compound is that it might be able to treat many different forms of cancer because all forms of cancer suppress mitochondrial function," Michelakis said. Bonnet says DCA may also provide an effective cancer treatment because its small size allows easy absorption into the body, ensuring it can reach areas that other drugs cannot, such as brain tumours. Because it's been used to combat other ailments ... DCA has been shown to have few toxic effects on the body. Its previous use means it can be immediately tested on humans. Unlike other cancer drugs, DCA did not appear to have any negative effect on normal cells. It could provide an extremely inexpensive cancer therapy because it's not patented. But ... the lack of a patent could lead to an unwillingness on the part of pharmaceutical companies to fund expensive clinical trials.
Note: Even these scientists realize that though this discovery could be a huge benefit to mankind, because the drug companies will lose profits, they almost certainly will not fund studies. Expensive AIDS drugs with promising results, on the other hand, are rushed through the studies to market. For more reliable, verifiable information on how hugely beneficial health advances are shut down to keep profits high, click here and here.
Blind, Wheelchair-Bound Student Doesn't Fail to Inspire
2006-11-10, ABC News
When I met 18-year old Patrick Henry Hughes, I knew he was musically talented. I had been told so, had read that he was very able for someone his age and who had been blind and crippled since birth. Patrick's eyes are not functional; his body and legs are stunted. He is in a wheelchair. When we first shook hands, his fingers seemed entirely too thick to be nimble. So when he offered to play the piano for me and his father rolled his wheelchair up to the baby grand, I confess that I thought to myself, "Well, this will be sweet. He has overcome so much. How nice that he can play piano." But then Patrick put his hands to the keyboard, and his fingers began to race across it -- the entire span of it, his fingers moving up and back and over and across the keys so quickly and intricately that my fully-functional eyesight couldn't keep up with them. I was stunned. The music his hands drew from that piano was so lovely and lyrical and haunting, so rich and complex and beyond anything I had imagined he would play that there was nothing I could say. All I could do was listen. "God made me blind and didn't give me the ability to walk. I mean, big deal." Patrick said, smiling. "He gave me the talent to play piano and trumpet and all that good stuff." This is Patrick's philosophy in life, and he wants people to know it. "I'm the kind of person that's always going to fight till I win," he said. Patrick also attends the University of Louisville and plays trumpet in the marching band. The band director suggested it, and Patrick and his father, Patrick John Hughes, who have faced tougher challenges together, decided "Why not?" "Don't tell us we can't do something," Patrick's father added, with a chuckle. He looks at Patrick with a mixture of love and loyalty and admiration, something not always seen in the eyes of a father when he gazes at his son. "I've told him before. He's my hero."
Note: For amazingly inspiring seven-minute video clips of this unusual young musician on both Oprah and ESPN, click here and here.
Elephant 'self-portrait' on show
2006-07-21, BBC News
Art graduate Victoria Khunapramot, 26, has brought [remarkable] paintings from Thailand, [including] "self-portraits" by Paya, who is said to be the only elephant to have mastered his own likeness. Paya is one of six elephants whose keepers have taught them how to hold a paintbrush in their trunks. They drop the brush when they want a new colour. Mrs Khunapramot, from Newington, said: "Many people cannot believe that an elephant is capable of producing any kind of artwork, never mind a self-portrait. But they are very intelligent animals and create the entire paintings with great gusto and concentration within just five or 10 minutes - the only thing they cannot do on their own is pick up a paintbrush, so it gets handed to them. They are trained by artists who fine-tune their skills, and they paint in front of an audience in their conservation village, leaving no one in any doubt that they are authentic elephant creations." Mrs Khunapramot, who set up the Thai Fine Art company after studying the history of art in St Andrews and business management at Edinburgh's Napier University, said it took about a month to train the animals to paint.
Note: For an amazing video clip of one of these elephants at work, click here. For more on this fascinating topic, click here and here.
Children Full of Life
2004-09-27, CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
In the award-winning documentary "Children Full of Life," a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates. Capturing the intimate moments of the students' laughter and tears, the film explores one teacher's approach to allowing children the opportunity to discover the value of sharing powerful emotions. Classroom discussions include difficult issues such as the death of a parent or being the victim of bullying. In this "school of life," the simple message is learning to look after one another. Following Mr. Kanamori's class for a whole school year, the cameras were kept at the children's eye-level, giving their view of the world as they cope with troubled relationships and the loss of loved ones. Through their daily experiences, viewers see how they develop together a spirit of co-operation and compassion. Children Full of Life was awarded the Global Television Grand Prize at this year's 25th Anniversary Banff Television Festival, the festival's highest honour.
Note: Don't miss this, one of the most inspiring videos on the Internet, available at this link. If you watch nothing but the first five minutes of this touching 40-minute video, you will almost certainly be thankful you did.
Baltimore Artist's Art, Spirit Triumph Over Disability
Dan Keplinger was born with severe cerebral palsy. But at 30, he's already a successful artist, the subject of an Oscar-winning film called "King Gimp," and he's finishing his second college degree. Keplinger insists on doing everything for himself. To paint, Keplinger wiggles into headgear, then kneels over a canvas, hugging himself tightly to keep his arms from flailing. Many of Keplinger's works are self-portraits or reference his disability. "King Gimp" charts Keplinger's experience in a regular public school, his discovery of art and his entry into college. The 40-minute film won an Oscar in 1999 for best short subject documentary. His art continues to garner fans and critical acclaim. "Many of Keplinger's paintings are in some way autobiographical," [NPR reporter Neda] Ulaby says. "His bearded face flickers from the canvas, the eyes empty hollows. He looks both vulnerable and blank. It isn't easy to separate Keplinger's story from his art." Keplinger explains it simply: "Art... is... my... life."
Note: For one of the most inspiring one-minute videos ever made, watch the clip featuring Dan at this link.
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