“On the Ground in Bamako”: My Interview With An Anthropologist

I spoke with anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse about being in Mali during the military coup that occurred this spring, and what it was like to become a correspondent for the media.

For Construction magazine:

“On his blog, Bridges From Bamako, Whitehouse documented not only snippets of his research findings, but also observations of daily life in Bamako during the pandemonium and thoughts about how Bamakois were responding to the coup. The blog began attracting the attention of journalists who were covering the turmoil in Bamako from afar. Soon, Whitehouse was giving interviews to Time magazine, the New York Times, the blog Africa Is A Country, and other media outlets.”



Amor Fati

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: to want nothing to be other than as it is, neither in the future, nor in the past, nor in all eternity. Not merely to endure what happens of necessity, still less to hide it from oneself–all idealism is untruthfulness in the face of necessity–but to love it…”

-Neitzsche, Ecce Homo

“It is here and now that we must learn to separate forms of life that are failed–mediocre, reactive, weakened–from forms of life that are intense, grandiose, courageous and rich in diversity.”

-Luc Ferry on Nietzsche in A Brief History of Thought

Jonathan Stray on how journalism can generate solutions

At Dowser.org, the site I’ve written for since early 2011, we investigate stories in the vein of solution journalism: “who’s solving what, and how.” Writing on his blog recently, journalist Jonathan Stray illuminated why this is important.

“The only editorial mantra that ever made any sense to me comes from the Voice of San Diego new reporter guidelines: “Our bent: Reform. Things can always be better.” It’s been said that the role of journalism is to inform, but informing seems like a means, not an end, and I believe that a better world is  the ultimate goal for journalism. The ambitious idea of solution journalism is to concentrate reporting on what could be improved and how, not just what is wrong. Read more

Atul Gawande: Health Care Is A Wicked Problem

The Supreme Court has allowed most aspects of Obama’s health care bill to pass. So, now we all get free broccoli, right?

Hopefully, we’ll eventually see the bill’s effects in our own lives–though that may require Obama to have a second term.

In the meantime, check out Atul Gawande’s insightful article on The New Yorker’s website,  explaining why health care is a “wicked problem,” meaning a messy, complex issue with interlocking dependencies that defies a simple solution (I’ve written about wicked problems for Dowser).

Gawande writes: “The reality of trying to solve a wicked problem is that action of any kind presents risks and uncertainties. Yet so does inaction. All that leaders can do is weigh the possibilities as best they can and find a way forward.”

Also, take a look at Lifehacker’s useful guide to how the Affordable Care Act will affect you.

Media as a “force for good”

Deseret News recently cited my interview with San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan alongside other examples of journalism that has a positive effect on society–like that of Nicholas Kristof.

“Journalist Kevin Fagan has reported extensively on homeless issues in San Francisco in the last decade. His efforts as a “solution journalist” have led to the creation of new social programs, reunited families and influenced social change. It’s easier to write about the problems rather than what’s working, Fagan said.

“It’s important to write about problems, but it’s not the only thing to write about,” Fagan said in an interview with Rachel Signer of dowser.org. “There’s an institutional or industrial attitude that writing happy stories is sappy. They are seen as ‘puff pieces.’ The trick is … writing about something that’s useful and informative rather than puffy and dippy.”

The ahistorical aesthetics of Ruin Porn

An excellent 2011 Guernica article by John Patrick Leary:

“In viewing Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit, one is conscious of nothing so much as failure—of the city itself, of course, but also of the photographs to communicate anything more than that self-evident fact. This is the meta-irony of these often ironic pictures: Though they trade on the peculiarity of Detroit as living ruin, these are pictures of historical oblivion. The decontextualized aesthetics of ruin make them pictures of nothing and no place in particular. Detroit in these artists’ work is, likewise, a mass of unique details that fails to tell a complete story. Both books Read more