Monday, November 17, 2014

Dan Pallotta's TED Talk -- The way we think about nonprofit organizations is dead wrong.

I couldn't say it better ...

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong/transcript?language=en

 Here's the reading list : http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong/recommendations

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Guest Post: Rabbi David Lapin's "Charity vs. Investment"



Tzeddakah and Chessed are different. They produce different results.
Parshat Eikev 5774                                                                                                    © Rabbi David Lapin, 2014 Permission Granted
Tzeddakah Box
You know the story of The Giving Tree? It’s a charming children’s book [written by Shel Silverstein] about a lifetime’s relationship between a boy and an apple tree. The boy plays in the shade of an apple tree and climbs its branches. When he grows up and no longer wants to play, the tree gives him its apples so that he can sell them and earn money. Later, when the boy wants a house the tree offers him its branches with which to build a home and then its trunk with which to build a boat. Finally, the tree, having given the boy all of its resources, has nothing more to offer him other than the stub of its trunk on which to sit in his old age.
The idea of generosity that the book illustrates it is not the Jewish idea of generosity. The book teaches unconditional generosity, a Christian idea, not a Jewish one. 
The Torah differentiates between two distinct expressions of generosity: Generous donations to a cause or a person, and generous investment in the growth and development of others. Charity is tzedakkah; investment is chessed. Unconditional (and at times even anonymous) charity is generous. Unconditional investment is not.
The boy – and the world – would have benefitted more from the tree had the tree required that the boy replant some of its apple seeds and grows more trees. The tree could have insisted that the boy show gratitude and that he pays the tree’s kindness forward by showing similar kindness to others. This would have been a truly generous investment in another. As it is, the tree simply gave the boy charity and eventually depleted itself. Unconditional giving is not sustainable, which is why the Torah limits it to twenty percent of assets or income.
Investment in others, on the other hand, is not only sustainable it is regenerative and the Torah does not cap it. Olam chessed yibaneh: the world continues to be built and rebuilt through chessed – investment in others. Investors have expectations of those who benefit from their generosity; they expect growth and returns. Not only are these expectations legitimate, they also inspire the very growth and development that was the purpose of the investment to begin with.
In my last essay, “So What Now?”  I wrote about the attractiveness of matnat chinam. You will have noticed that I deliberately chose not to translate this idea as unconditional giving but rather as unearned giving. The reason is because matnat chinam is a gift given to someone not because they had previously done something to earn it but given to someone who has thus far done nothing at all to earn it. However, matnat chinam does not imply a gift with no expectation of gratitude or reciprocation in the future. That would be charity. Charity, a noble midah and necessary social responsibility, does not build society; it simply preserves society. Investment in others, and expecting reciprocal returns on that investment, actually builds a society.
The purpose of the Creation was not so that Hashem could provide us with unconditional charity. Unconditional charity is nahama de’kissufa, as Rabeinu Sa’adia Gaon terms it. Were we to be the recipients of free handouts we could not built our dignity and our stature; our journey on earth would be pointless.  Hashem created the world, the Gaon says, so that Hashem could invest in us expecting us to reciprocate with our Avodah (service) – serving Him and providing a service to one another. In this way we could earn His ultimate generosity in olam habbah and we would not experience it as undignified nahama de’kissufa.
This theme is emphasized over and over again in the Torah and specifically in the parsha. The parsha’s very name, Eikev, implies the conditionality of investment: You serve me properly and deal justly and kindly with others, I will continue to shower you and your land with abundant blessing.
Our nation is emerging out of a relatively peaceful era of some seventy years during the non-Jewish world, shamed by the holocaust tolerated us and the excellence of our accomplishments. Now we are starting to irritate the world again, and their irritation is erupting into flashes of vile anti-semitism not seen since the war. We cannot take God’s protection for granted; it is not an unconditional handout of charity. We have just experienced miracle after miracle in Israel, Hashem expects us to reciprocate with higher standards of avodah, limud Torah and service to others. Some of us can inspire this reciprocation on large scales, others can do it within themselves and their immediate spheres of influence. 

Whatever your capability, what are you doing to reciprocate to Hashem? What are you and I doing to earn God’s continuing protection and blessing as our nation moves into a new era of independence, accomplishment, influence and global resentment? How are we showing ever greater Hakkarat hatov (gratitude) to Hashem for our being given the opportunity to live in one of the most stunning eras of modern Jewish history?
The Giving Tree took more than it gave. It gave the boy shade, and apples and wood. But it took away his dignity and his potential to grow in the most important midah of all: Hakkarat hatov – gratitude, the very stuff of relationship (with God and with fellow men), kindness and society itself.

For more insights from Rabbi Lapin, see his iAwaken website. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DIGNITY!!!!


The tradition of joining the world-wide Jewish community commitment to study a page of the Babylonian Talmud (2,711 pages in total) a day in a 7.5 year-long in a specific cycle -- is called Daf YomiSince the custom, minhag, began in 1923, then the entire cycle has been completed 12 times; the last one ending August 2, 2012. The current one is due to be completed in January 2020. 

I've not done it even for a day, but I have been following Jacqueline Nicholls' "Draw Yomi" Project in which she not only participates in the reading, but also she draws images from the passages and offers a short commentary or note about its contents for a decidedly personal,  21st Century feminist eye. It is a bit haiku-ish in that it is not work that is over thought, but definitely impressionistic. We are who we are when we enter the current of the big river.



A prolific artist who lives in London, Nicholls' other works are mostly in the fiber arts that address women's role in Jewish rituals, exploring the forms and intentions of minhagim, traditions, and projecting them on to personal experiences of life cycles of the body and the peoplehood. 

Today, after catching up on her daily impressions, I explored once again her website and entered "rooms" of her many thematic projects. I was struck particularly by her "Kittel" project today. A kittel is a very simple garment that an observant man (usually) will wear at his wedding, funeral and on the annual days of yom kippur in between. It is white, full length and has sleeves. A perfect canvas for such an inspired, skillful artist.

Here is her thought about the “Dignity Kittel” ...

“I used to spend Christmas volunteering at a temporary homeless shelter in London that provided basic services and support. In amongst the medical and dental care, food, hairdressing, there was a large clothing section. The guests could choose an outfit, and my job was to make sure that these garments fitted them properly, so when they stepped out in their new suit, they looked smart and dignified. We were instructed to make sure that they didn’t look like they were wearing hand-me-downs. The shelter also supplied practical warm coats, but by ensuring that there were people there to make adjustments, they recognized that clothing doesn’t just provide protection against the elements."

We have an obligation to help recognize the inherent dignity of all Beggars, Holy or not. Thus, I’m posting this in two blogs: “Trads in Contempo Life” and “Holy Beggar”.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Want to Buy a Hole?

Copyright The New Yorker
I am not kidding that I view panhandlers as colleagues. Haven't you ever wanted to correct spelling or darkened the letters on a begging board  ... not to mention turn it right side up ... ?

Be truthful. There are so many ways to help our colleagues achieve their desired result: spare change.

This cartoon from The New Yorker is another example of what is at the heart of this blog's mission: to explore the fundamental, foundational essence of redistributing resources to effect a more  dynamic flow of a society's economic resources.

What is the difference between begging and crowd-funding?

Perhaps in the former, the hat is perceived as being empty; in the latter, the perception is that there is something "inside" to bloom out of that emptiness.

To fit the Kickstarter mold, the HB (Holy Beggar) might consider putting something to exchange to show appreciation ... perhaps a slip of paper or piece of string ... to show thanks. A few low denomination coins might be nice to enable contributors to make change if all they have is a $20 but would like to give $0.20.

On another note, an empty hat may be full enough. I have friends who had a huge  hole in their newly purchased rural land. It was not really empty, as it had  a foundation laid by the original owner who abandoned a project to build a structure. My friends thought that they could fill the hole with all sorts of refuse -- rotting wood, metal parts, etc. -- that was left from the original owner, but they soon realized that the hole was much more than the sum of available stuff, so they paid a lot of money for a contractor to fill the hole with dirt.

Now, I'm thinking that perhaps there was someone out there who needed a hole or a part of it so s/he could begin to build a lake, a swimming pool, skate park or a house, and so I wondered whether my friends could advertise its availability online, Craig's List, for example.

And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!



Monday, December 30, 2013

Stuck Between the Tao and a Hard Place: Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis of an Ailing Western Economy


Money itself has no intrinsic value and is called “currency” because it is most valuable when in circulation. According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system, among the signs of health and life is the unimpeded and proper flow blood and “chi”. Pain is diagnosed in TCM as "blockage". Likewise, when money stops moving, as it has in the vast majority of Western nations, the economy is sick, and, in extreme cases near death. In TCM terms, the situations of excess (i.e. bloating), and deficiency need to be relieved and the patient returned to a more harmonious state to cease to be in pain.

We’re mostly familiar with the pain of deficiency. It brings to mind the title of the late Richard Farina’s 1966 now cult classic roadie novel, “Been down so long it looks like up to me”, which was taken from even older lyrics of “Turn My Money Green” by Memphis bluesman Furry Lewis. Kris Kristofferson, echoed by Janice Joplin, knew it well when he wrote, “Freedom is another word for nothin’ left to lose!” The dull pain is so familiar. You wake up day after day, with the same “nothin’”.
 
The pain from excess, on the other hand, is defined as sharp and bloating; take just one more and the whole system will burst! TCM countermands the oft-quoted statement (attributed to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor per Vogue), “You can’t be too rich or too thin.” Well, if you’re reading this, you’ve outlived her! Obesity is having just “just one more” ... even one more obsessive less in the case of anorexia.

TCM practitioners use various modalities to rebalance the patient, including acupuncture and acupressure to stimulate meridians, energetic crossroads to release the impasses. This enables areas that are deficient to be slowly enriched, while that which is in excess, will be carefully drained away. Just as it is dangerous to point a starving man to a banquet, it is important for the exchange to be gradual and monitored.

Yahoo’s economic forecast, however, is pointing simultaneously in both extreme directions, that the rich are getting richer and the poor are gaining ranks and losing access to basic necessities. I believe that it is because the haves and have-nots are not always on the same sliding scale of life. Government can fix that, but charity cannot; the former is mandated by the people; the latter is too prone to the whims of altruism and government provoked incentives (i.e. tax deduction). Ultimately, the “patient” will not get well.


And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Saving Face: A Tax Deduction Loophole



Purim the springtime Jewish holiday celebrating the power of masking, is focused on events that happened in Persia long ago and retold in the Megillah Esther, Book of Esther. For just one day (unlike other much longer celebrations of the lunar year) up go the masks, ultimately victory is ours (whew!), and down they must come.

For Jews, the most notable instance of un-masking is when Moses, standing atop Mt. Sinai, demands of the Great Donor, "Show me your face ..." (Exodus 33:18) While he has been initiated as a tzadik through many hard trials, still Moses is "only" granted a view of the august back. Further, from the vantage of the schlep-weary minions below, the much-anticipated encounter takes place in a cloud, veiled from ordinary view. 



The gift of Purim is our lot to mask-up and taste life as the "other". Yet behind the mundane charade, the spiels and noisemakers, Purim is a holiday of giving shalach monos, gifts of good cheer and food. It is no surprise, that masking and giving are brought together in one celebration.



The mask has its good points; it enables us to “save face”. We hold that the highest form of charity is when the donor and recipient are anonymous to each other.

Freud as Freud
Fraud as Freud?** 
Too often, however, we act / hope / pray that, even just this one time, the ubiquitous someone else will provide the support for those in need or organizations we deem necessary to keep the world in a more beautiful balance. After all, isn’t it their turn to go up the mountain? Through the masks, we still only see ourselves*. The heart knows no disguise.



This Purim, whomever you see reflected in the mirror – yourself, anonymous, a superhero from another galaxy or even Queen Esther, make a deduction in his / her / its name to your favorite nonprofit ... it’s still tax deductible.



Chag Sameach! Happy Festival!

*Channeling and projecting the Inner Siggy. Marias Bustamante

 **http://hemisphericinstitute.org/web-cuadernos/images/AV/1982-M-Busta2_370px.jpg


And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!



Monday, February 4, 2013

Tickling the Beggar's Funny Bone

Beggars, holy or otherwise, need a laugh and are even originators of the laughs of others. Kudos to the Chronicle of Philanthropy for having a cartoon section. :))


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Burn Out ... Part 2

 There is a teaching from Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezritch, on the biblical verse, Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise and stand … and gaze after Moses until he went to the Tent. (Exodus 33.8). 

“Everyone sees himself in the righteous one (zaddik),” Dov Baer wrote. “Therefore, they suspected Moses was guilty of adultery (since he had separated from his wife). But in fact it was they who were guilty [of adultery] with the mixed multitude. [When they gazed at Moses] they saw themselves in the zaddik and thus suspected him.” Rabbi Dov Baer suggests this is the core, and tragedy, of a leader: His (or her) selfhood is lost in the aspirations, expectations, and limitations of those “who gaze upon him.”

Your Humble Holy Beggar sees something else ... they are giving Moses the respect due to one who secures the survival for others. (That "nonprofit leader" noted in the previous posting.) 

Read the source of this quote and see how humble a human Holy Beggar can be: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/music/115376/carlebach-broken-mirror?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=85f99372d7-11_1_2012&utm_medium=email

And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money


Burn Out ...

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy ... If we Holy Beggars only had such luxuries ...

A Recovery Plan for Fundraisers Facing Burnout

October 31, 2012  by Carol Weisman

Do any of these describe you?
  • You spend more the 50 percent of your therapy session talking about fundraising.
  • Your efforts to get board members to help raise money are so unpleasant, you find yourself daydreaming of the good old days when you were on the front lines in the Vietnam War.
  • You have gained more than 30 pounds, tripled your alcohol consumption, or taken up smoking over the age of 40.
  • You and a co-worker are thinking of leaving together. The only thing you haven’t decided is who will be Thelma and who will be Louise.
If any of these sound familiar, you may be suffering from burnout.
It surprises some people that burnout occurs in fundraisers. After all, they are not making the big bucks, and they are on the side of the angels. But burnout is real, and it affects the mental and physical health of people who raise money just like anybody else.
Even if you’re burned out, you can recover your edge. Here’s how:
Chill out and take a break. This is easier said than done when you feel that if you don’t get the work done, no one will. For some people, a weekend with no text messages, meetings, or e-mails will give you the perspective to approach your work with more energy. For others, you might have to walk away for a longer time. If the organization falls to pieces without you, perhaps it is time to walk away for good. During this down time, write the three things that are most important in your life other than this commitment. If these things are being seriously compromised, think about whether its time to move on.
Implement healthy habits. When you are holed up for hours with Cheetos and a flickering computer screen trying to respond to complex, nonsensical, or infuriating e-mails, your blood pressure, attitude, and effectiveness are compromised. Take a walk, eat healthier food, cut down on the caffeine, and go to bed earlier.  These are all simple concepts but not easy to do consistently. You might want to enlist a friend or relative to support you.
Set boundaries. Fundraising is a team sport. You don’t have to go it alone. If you are, it is time to recruit someone to work with you. Find a volunteer who has different strengths than you have. Ask for a new role in the organization that fits your time and skill constraints. Or ultimately, find another job that fits your abilities, life, and work style, and priorities.
I will never forget working with a nonprofit leader who was a major burn-out case. I told him, “Working at a nonprofit is the dream of many corporate folks. Ideally, you should feel like you are accomplishing something, enjoy the people you are working with, grow intellectually and emotionally and have fun.”
He said, “This is less fun than war time in Vietnam.”
Then he spent three months not working more than 55 hours a week, got a job at another organization that was better staffed, and called me. “Son of a gun,” he said. “This is fun. And I’m getting something done”
You don’t have to give up nonprofit work. If the strategies outlined above don’t work, you can divorce your current nonprofit and find joy with another!

To which Your Humble Holy Beggar replies, "Poppycock!" 
And remember, 
no matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trick or Treat? Conservatives Masquerading as Zen Buddhists

In his very thoughtful book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde discusses the tao of scarcity and abundance, noting: "The problem is that wealth ceases to move freely when all things are counted and priced." As we know, stagnation is death.

Hyde presents Marshall Sahlins, University of Chicago anthropologist, on modern scarcity, saying "that hunters and gatherers have  affluent economies, their absolute poverty notwithstanding,:" and continues, "Inadequacy of economic means is the first principle of the world's wealthiest peoples."

The term "conservative" used to mean taking care of what you have. (As in, "A conservative livestyle will insure the sustainability of the planet.") Conservative now means grabbing what someone has, too.

We are supposed to know how much is "enough". Surely not enough (aka poverty) seems endless, but in fact it ends in death. But how come the sky's the limit on excess? (Yes, I know the rich die, too, but not so fast.) And what about the "middle class". I am so sick and tired of discussions about maintaining middle class lifestyle.

Through this means, captors can (and do) calculate the minimum amount amount of food and water necessary (as determined by official human rights judges) to sustain the life of a prisoner. This is the stuff upon which sanctions are developed. A gentlemen's agreement on how much is enough is not exactly torture, but it certainly is not generosity. As your Holy Beggar has discussed in this column, generosity makes the world go round.

If the rhetoric spewing forth from the Republican party's shill in the 2012 presidential election seems a bit twisted to you, as it does to your Holy Beggar, beware NOW! All those promised "jobs" that will being created (probably at chain stores) will offer standardized minimum wages that just happen to be "enough" to buy a Big Mac. Hey, If it sounds like jail, it must be jail.

Despite all the soothing wooing, the "middle class" is not going to be the winner because THERE IS NO MIDDLE CLASS. Will the government be issuing official middle class IDs in the future? It's another faceless fear tactic to keep us beholden to the hope of redemption by you-know-who. We must realign with the reason to thrive and save ourselves by remaining vital, being active.

Only the members of the "middle class" (presumably represented by the independent / undeclared voters of the "battleground" states) are being offered the opportunity to stay where you are, to cling to their right to be mediocre. The poor aren't even being told anything, and the rich are assured they will never fall below. Is this an incorrect reading of "Be Here Now?" Enjoy the moment?

Are the Republicans promoting Zen Buddhism?

Not likely. "Clinging" is the tip-off. No self or sangha respecting Buddhist would want to develop one's capacity to "cling" to anything.

Beware and Vote ... and press harder for Change.

And, remember,
No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Is Empathy a Profession? Isn't This the Job of The Holy Beggar?

In advance of the Zócalo event (public lecture / discussion to be held in Los Angeles October 4) Is Altruism a Wonder Drug?” the planners approached several people who, in their words, "make a profession of empathy" to tackle a simple question: Can kindness be taught? You may read their comments by clicking the link.

What a strange job ... "profession of empathy". Isn't this what your Holy Beggar does in fact (vs in a think tank)? 

Anyway, this is my comment (below) and I'll post a link to the write-up about the live event.


Which comes first: the need or desire to give? According to my teacher Gilla Nissan, the first word of the first verse of Genesis is easily rendered as “creates an offering”. This promotes the notion that gratitude and the means to express it are inherent in the very creation of existence; that we are always in a position of negotiating an exchange, of giving and taking.

According to Jewish tradition, it’s not just as a matter of empathy -- " ... what it must be like to be in her situation." To stop here would be to yield to a dualistic understanding of who I (vs?) and you are / am. A full understanding of gemilut chassadim requires more than such sensitivity. In practical and spiritual terms, these acts of loving-kindness – together with a knowledge and appreciation of the standards of being human and determination to take responsibility for action -- bring about "tikkun olam", the repair of the broken vessel of existence that we all share.

The eminent Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Han describes this greater reality as “inter-being” … you and I “inter-are”. I am already part of “her situation.”

Judaism’s mitzvot, spiritually weighted deeds, are specific actions to this end. When a boy or girl at the age of 13 is declared a son/daughter of the mitzvot (bar/bat mitzvah), s/he is accepts personal responsibility for such behavior in the presence the community.

I also must impulsively respond and only “… lean on my imagination …“  as to what is needed in a situation. Consider what colonialist Europeans "knew" and thus projected on their “discovery” of native peoples (who wondered the same thing) when they landed on the shores of the "new world". Even if I could empathize with the “obvious” situation of who is in front of my nose seemingly hungry, in need of clean clothes and a safe place to sleep, my imagination is always limited, and, thus, my conclusion and response may be inaccurate, even harmful I quickly abandoned the notion of “quaint” after visiting economically impoverished neighborhoods in southern Africa and seek a deeper understanding of the dimensions of Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness”.

These are some of the concerns that I have been addressing throughout my 40 years in the nonprofit “sector”. Perhaps this is why the "role" of beggar exists among us across time and space of human experience. I’m exploring these ideas in my blog www.holybeggar.blogspot.com.

P.S. The larger discussion now has passed. One may audit it here. It was none too cleverly subtitled: "Take Two MItzvahs and See Me in the Morning", but it was more than that. Bravo, Zocalo.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Economic Realities of The Beggar in Society

Perhaps the position of the beggar in an economy is as provocative as the role of the beggar in a social context. The beggar does not produce any commodity or provide any obvious service. Thus there is an ambiguity as to his / her "value", yet throughout time and space, culture, etc. the beggar is present in any number of guises. If it is perceived that s/he has no skill or has skill but no means (due to physical condition or mental stability such as a person who is strong but lacks the capacity to focus on a task or to even understand directions, or even the financial resources to access tools or proper clothing), then she is at the mercy of others to receive sustenance for survival.

That said, it still behooves others to recognize not only that there is one who is unable to provide for him/herself but that the person, as a human being, is deserving of assistance (a value judgement?). This further requires at best a level of compassion on the part of the more able individual, solely or in a collective, to provide assistance. Is this the balance of Gevurah (judgement) and Chesed (compassion) in the Kabbalistic Tree of LIfe? 

This assistance requires an understanding of when one has enough so that sharing may take place.

I am not an economist by any means, but I sense that the response to the beggar differs in hunter vs gather and agrarian societies / economies, where teamwork is required to produce even a bite, whereas in the latter half and in the case of farming, one can search for or grow just enough.

If any reader knows more about the beggar in various societies / economies, please get in touch.


And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know.

Ambrose "Fierce" Bierce hit the nail on the head with his remark (quoted above). We can take for granted that our situation is unique and can find out the hard way that, as Holy Beggars, we're drowning a sea of good intention. What's not to understand about helping someone who says she's in need. But maybe we're missing a critical point, somewhere. Is it hereditary? Is there a "begging gene?" How many times have I written about stopping the cycle of intergenerational poverty". While it is the symptom of a social illness, is it a pandemic under scrutiny by public health officials? It does seem to be under discussion up the political ladder and sideways, too.

Maybe our salvation can be jump started from a long time ago. Let's try what we haven't. I know a woman who says she can travel to a timeless place and repair the imbalance in our motivating principles. I'm all for giving it a try. How about you? But I'm sure that in any case,

No matter what ...
Don't forget to ask for the money!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Begging the Question: Which Came First: Beggar or Charity?

Which came first: the impulse of compassion or the need for basic life-giving "amenities" such as food and shelter, not to mention clothing which seems to separate us from animals?

Organizations are bestowed nonprofit status by the IRS if they serve a public benefit, yet they are the ones who seek charity in the form of donations.

In my book, this is a tautology, a redundant, self-fulfilling prophesy; the charitable are in need of charity. What about the needy, the ones who are at the bottom line?

Perhaps we have to organize, a "Beggars Union" and cut out the middle man. Do we need nonprofits to frame our issues or, perhaps, is their role to tidy us up so that we are presentable to those "others" who need to exercise that compassionate impulse? When a nonprofit makes more money "defining" the issue than it does remedying it ... don't get me started!!

Begging the Question, Again. Always!


And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Don't Forget to Ask for the Money

From the writing of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz ...


"When the giver is out of the picture, like dust and ashes, 
there is no one above or below him, 
there are no levels of value, 
and the act of giving is spontaneous, natural, and simple."


May we all be so inspiring to all we meet.

The full quote may be found here:
http://arthurkurzweil.com/rabbi-adin-steinsaltz-if-one-is-truly-nothing-in-his-own-eyes/4043

Friday, February 17, 2012

Being Charitable Without an Income


This just rattled my begging bowl! (I always put some change in there to encourage others to donate and to enable me to be charitable as well ... even in these very rough times.)  What do you think?


http://philanthropy.com/article/White-House-Says-Charitable/130862/?sid=pt&utm_source=pt&utm_medium=en

Here's my reply:

NEED AN INCOME TAX DEDUCTION? HOW ABOUT $21/HR. FOR YOUR VOLUNTEER LABOR?

Looking for a bail-out-free economic stimulus? If you volunteered your time to a nonprofit organization, it was worth more than $21/hour (national average, per Independent Sector) in 2010. Would have been great to deduct it, but IRS says you only can deduct your direct expenses.
Please share this petition with your Facebook and Twitter fans, family, etc. Tell your elected official running for or against the incumbent to make this a campaign priority! Something on which they can all agree.
Let's not be romantic about volunteerism. We're really doing essential WORK that in a better economy a person would have been paid to do. Soon it'll be the top bosses with big salaries and volunteers.
America is a great working society, but volunteer labor -- estimated by the Corporation for National Community Service (funny, profit-making sound) accounted for $173 billion in 2010 (up from $168 billion in contributed time in
2009) but not counted in the GDP.


And remember,
No Matter What
Don't Forget to Ask for the Money!

Uber - Super Rich ... Less Rich? Where are you?

An article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy really rattled my begging bowl today for 2 reasons. (I always put in a few coins into the abyss even if no one else will ... just to exercise my own need to be generous!)

The first is the language: "lot less rich" ... Where are we on the economic continuum? Does it run from super-uber rich to super-unter poor? The sky's the limit when we speak about wealth but it's not called "rock" bottom for no reason. Two times broke is still broke. This article is a mirror on the desperate reality that there is a disconnect within the “haves” and “have-nots”. The middle (class) is incapable maintaining balance because of that great sucking sound from above. (Funny ... or not ... that the heavier kid always ends up at the bottom on a see-saw! Is Justice playing a game?)

The second is the lack of concern that we folks who, in addition to cash and non-cash goods, donate our labor / work / expertise / skills / time to “help” nonprofits deserve a tax deduction (currently valued at $21+/hour on the average by Independent Sector), as well as for the material donations (cash, stuff, etc.) Nonprofits are laying-off paid staff due to budgetary issues, but the unspoken reality is that they know there is a pool of free, skilled (or not) labor to fill in the gap. What do volunteers get ... good feelings? Try to take that to the bank when it’s time to pay bills. I hope my petition to the President at the White House website http://wh.gov/8rM will attract some strong attention. Please sign it if you haven't already.

And remember, no matter what
DON'T FORGET TO
ASK FOR THE MONEY!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

URBAN CHINA

URBAN CHINA
Shanghai Magazine / Planning Group 
Has New Finger on the Pulse of China's Future


Special Report for Kyoto Journal  

www.chinadaily.com.cn

www.chinadaily.com.cn

www.chinadaily.com.cn
Whoever controls the wrecking ball usually wins land rights battles, but not necessarily in China anymore. In 2007, for the first time in its history, China had in place legislation that offered equal protection for state and private entities which was quickly put to the test by a growing number of protagonists coined by the media as “nail families”, (ding zi hu). The residents of these households, of no set number of folks, primarily in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, refuse, even to the point of committing suicide, to move from their dwellings to make way for “progress”. There is one report of demolition company thugs pulling a 54 year old man out of his home and beating him to death.

In addition to challenging the establishment at every level, the plight of these 21st Century folk "heroes" have also captured the imagination of the international media and academic community due in no small part to the striking photographs of remnant buildings crowning Brancusi-like pinnacles in the midst of deep construction canyons.

shanghai.globaltimes.cn
After years of resistance, putting up with condemnation of their buildings, cutting off water and power, and developers’ early offers of financial compensation, most families finally vacate in exchange for significantly larger pay-outs, new residences and additional land to earn a living. One family succumbed by taking a sum equivalent to 1600% of their original purchase price, upwards of $2.7 million! Not every nail family has caved in, however. In Beijing, for example, a six-lane highway completely surrounds the Zhang family’s home. A four-lane highway isolates another holdout family in Shanghai. (Japan and even the USA has "nail families"; farmlands remain within the perimeter of Tokyo's Narita Airport.)

According to Global Times, at the end of January 2011, due to pressure from lawyers, China’s Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a joint statement about new legislation that attempts to mitigate disputes over house expropriation and demolition. It strives to give equal consideration to both public interests and property owners' individual rights, and to create a more transparent, level, non-lethal process. It defines the basis for claims of eminent domain; it also rules-out land developers' involvement in the demolition and relocation procedures, outlaws the use of violence means of coercion,  and promotes more equitable financial compensation basis on par with the region.

Mirage Games
When looking at these images from a Western perspective, it’s easy to jump to a conclusion that it's another case of the little guy against the bureaucracy and greedy developers. It is not only tempting to play that duality game, but according to The Wall Street Journal, it is also possible! “Fighting Eviction: the Videogame” is a digital time-killer that pits feisty homesteaders against demo goons hired by property developers, government guards and the ever-present gangsters. As noted in “China Realtime Report”, player avatars include “a woman in curlers who throws sandals at encroaching attackers, a pot-bellied man who drops dynamite from the roof, and an old man with a shotgun. When you win a level, the woman appears, pointing a finger at the Forbidden City, the symbolic center of the government’s power. When you lose, the house collapses in a cloud of dust.” A related blog post points out that film critic Li Chengpeng drew attention for his piece, “Avatar: An Epic Nail House Textbook,” in which he compares the plight of James Cameron’s Na’vi to the people who live in “nail houses”.

Urban China Covers from Facebook
Business Not As Usual

The continuing saga of Mr. and Mrs. Nail and their Little Tack (remember China’s one-child per family!) is not just about rampant development for progress’ sake. Rather, under the bleary eyes of the Internet-glued world, China is taking pains to learn about itself, its huge and massively growing self ... on its own terms.








In the past Chinese people had little agency to petition for a better life than to offer a bundle of smoking sticks of incense and few burning wads of Bank of Hell paper money to offer to a deceased ancestor. Maybe one of them might bribe an official in a dream and affect a more desirable outcome of some terrestrial problem. Even courtiers and bureaucrats sought out auspicious signs and assessed news from “above”.


China's renowned city planning formalities have been emulated by other East Asian population centers. From capital cities to villages geomancy has been highly regarded in societies ruled by emperors, kings, warlords and more "modern" revolutionary dictators. But will principles from Tao to Mao hold up today in support of the world's fastest process of urbanization in recorded history? 

Unlike their predecessors, today’s elected officials, are slowly learning to listen to news from “below”, to observe and understand the ways of the people, not just respond to the needs of the Party. In his introduction to  "The Mystified Boat: Postmodern Stories from China, [1] Manoa Co-Editor Frank Stewart has noted that China’s street-level reality today is fraught with "shifting points of view, characters who misunderstand each other in ways that have direct consequences, unreliable narrators who address readers in order to tell them what to think, events that are improbable or impossible in life outside the story -- these are some of the startling elements possible in life outside the story.”

We can continue to expect great things from the people who brought us  fen shui and Traditional Oriental Medicine; there is a precedent for diagnosing the character of a disharmony -- whether economic or corporeal, and to reinstate its systemic balance by economic readjustment. It's just a matter of scale.

With China's current population around 1.35 billion, capturing the diversity of  opinions and experiences, providing appropriate ways to analyze the information, recognizing trends and taking action is understandably a daunting task, but one that is essential to that big dream of progress. 

A New Finger on the Pulse of China's Urban Future

"It is very difficult to find another civilization in history like China’s, which has been extremely meticulous about control for thousands of years," observed Jiang Jun, Editor-in-Chief of Urban China, in an essay, "Informal China". "This control is not only on political and ideological levels, but is also present in material and spatial realms: from macro-scale urban planning, meso-scale traditional construction rules, to countless micro-scale details of daily life."

Since 2005 Urban China城市中国, has been the only magazine published both in, about and for China devoted to issues of urbanism [2][3]. Jun describes the UC mission as a means to “challenge the way we see this world and, in so doing, re-imagine what the world can be.” 







Urban China’s slogan is “Urban Wisdom Advancing with China”, and its content is at once technical and theoretical, presenting statistical data and analytical considerations. It functions as a research network, think tank, documentary archive, and a tool for artistic production and urban activism.


 A product of its socialist society, Urban China's contents are deeply scrutinized by the Party’s regulatory machinery to assess compliance with the status quo. Nonetheless, its mission is to demystify that same governmental machine; the publication also informs upper echelons of power about the impact of public policy in real time. Unlike American and European sleek architecture and planning publications, it is less a fanzine for the elite aesthete; its contents are directed to both official and informal operatives who are looking for trends and opportunities.
Urban China incorporates frameworks ranging from ecology, anthropology, media, technology and architecture to demography, political science, geography and sociology to clash and merge in nonlinear ways. The editorial team has at its disposal a vast archive of documentary images, statistics and anecdotal commentary to create what is at once a vehicle of artistic expression and tool for urban activism. UC’s graphic design presents almost a tongue-in-cheek impression that accentuates the incidental, every-day elemental material icons of one’s existence.

Through rigorous research and creative considerations of outcomes, UC has documented how Chinese urban dwellers – like nail families -- create innovative solutions to the problems of daily existence in the 21st Century. They account for the material and ephemeral, the practical and the practically impossible. For example, one issue showed how a basketball produced for export was repurposed as a water bucket by the same factory workers who made it. Some how it is all going to make sense, on a huge scale.

While China is its focus, the UC process indirectly encourages all earthlings to try to come up with new ways to address change and its partner “uncertainty”, to document existence, and to create strategic systems by which to make sense of everyday life. This is possible, it offers, through “dialogues, collections, classifications, explorations and networks”. Even for those who cannot read Chinese, the images themselves provoke consideration about one’s own quality and quantitative measures of life.








There is not doubt that the best laid plans for China's cities of the future -- even those with the "benefit" of input of internationally recognized "green" urban planners and architects -- have to be sensitive to the realities of how  local people do live. For example a widely publicized green city project destined to be a show-piece during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo was never accomplished. In fact, according to Yale University's environment 360 online journal, "Although the project was widely publicized internationally, most locals knew little about it. The political leaders who championed the project were ousted in a corruption scandal, and their successors have allowed construction permits to lapse."

Each issue of Urban China has a theme, such as “Migrating China”, “Chinatown”,  “Urban Graffiti” or “Informal China” and blends the past with the present through graphic details such as archives of historic maps juxtaposed with those of new planning charts. For example, traditional Chinese paradigms, such as feng shui, are mixed together with diagrams and photographs of current development projects.

In another issue there is an image entitled “Labor–Insurance -- Gloves Coat”, depicting a pair of thick wool work gloves positioned next to a child’s coat knit from the same material”. The caption notes that housewives unravel the yarn from unused extra gloves and repurpose the raw material for more useful commodities. Images of street markets are next to new high-rise towers; personal laundry hangs on public telephone wires. We may take them for granted, but in officially formal China, any informality or unofficial enterprise that permeates these membranes, emerges at an unprecedented scale. The implications are becoming more universal for populations outside China, particularly those with large populations and cities utilizing upon traditional Chinese principles, such as those in Japan and Korea.

In 2010 a consortium of three American museums collaborated to present a major exhibition devoted to the UC oeuvre, “Urban China: Informal Cities”: New York’s New Museum, UCLA’s Hammer Museum and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. According to New York City’s New Museum Curatorial Associate and UC exhibition Curator Benjamin Godsill, issues are “brilliant and strange, intellectual and graphic cornucopias that track the rapid development and flux that are the hallmarks of China today.”

During one of the "Conversations" at the Hammer Museum (see below for links), Jiang explained a common urban planning process based on industrial development needs. For example in a region where shoes are manufactured, the government planning department may situate a new town and factory to make shoelaces adjacent to one that makes innersoles. 
 
The only Urban China online English language presence is a Facebook page. As mentioned, the magazine is published in Chinese, but Brendan McGetrick has compiled a few issue samples with English translation as a beautifully produced print volume, Urban China: Work in Progress.

Urban China reminds me of the early publishing efforts of Richard Saul Wurman, an American architect by training, whose Man-made Philadelphia and Access© guides deconstructed elements of urban life in a number of major cities world wide. Through the use of analytical tools and orderly graphic design, he made the city observable and arguable more accessible. His latest project is 19.20.21, the title being a reference to 19 cities (includes Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai, Tokyo and Osaka-Kobe, Jakarta, Singapore, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, Karachi in Asia alone), each with populations of 20 million people in the 21st Century. Over half the population of the world now lives in cities; the globe is web of cities rather than nation-states. He postulates that denser populations will not only improve the quality of life but may actively result in better environmental solutions.

What next for China? What's next for the new democracies of the Middle East and of the seemingly worn-out socio-economic realities known as Europe and the USA? Stay tuned!

(Note: None of these graphic images are the property of the blogger, nor is this blog intended for commercial purposes. it is purely for public information. The images will be removed when requested by the copyright owners. Thank you in advance.)


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Links to Archives of Urban China 
"CONVERSATIONS" 
@ UCLA’s Hammer Museum 2009

7/1/09 -- Jiang Jun, editor of Urban China magazine, and curator Benjamin Godsill of the New Museum introduce a dynamic multimedia presentation on the history of Urban China as well as the exhibition Urban China: Informal Cities. Godsill and Jiang will discuss the rapidly changing nature of Chinese cities and what these alterations of space mean for forms of social control and organization in contemporary China. Never before seen photographs, maps, and diagrams from Urban China's extensive collection will accompany the talk. Co-presented with the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House Urban Future Initiative. (Run Time: 1 hour, 41 min.)

5/19/09 -- An art critic and international curator, Hou Hanru is also the director of exhibitions and public programs at the San Francisco Art Institute. Recent curatorial projects include the 10th Istanbul Biennial and Trans(ient) City, 2007. Qingyun Ma is principal of the Shanghai-based design firm s.p.a.m., established in 1996. Since 2007 Ma has also served as dean of the USC School of Architecture, where he has enhanced the program by developing a number of global initiatives. Conversations on Urban China was co-organized and moderated by Sylvia Lavin, Director of Critical Studies and MA/PhD programs in UCLA's Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Professor Lavin is a leading figure in current debates, known for her scholarship in contemporary architecture and design. She has published in leading journals of the field, and her book Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture was published in 2005. (Run Time: 1 hour, 29 min., 39 sec.) 

4/29/09 -- Widely known for innovative installations such as Sleepwalkers, presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2007, Doug Aitken utilizes a wide array of media and artistic approaches, leading us into a world where time, space, and memory are fluid concepts. Catherine Opie is engaged in issues of documentary photography and in how aspects of identity and collective behaviors are shaped by architecture. A Professor of Photography at UCLA, Opie was featured in a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2008. Conversations on Urban China was co-organized and moderated by Sylvia Lavin, Director of Critical Studies and MA/PhD programs in UCLA's Department of Architecture and Urban Design. Professor Lavin is a leading figure in current debates, known for her scholarship in contemporary architecture and design. She has published in leading journals of the field, and her book Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture was published in 2005. (Run Time: 1 hour, 20 min.) http://hammer.ucla.edu/watchlisten/watchlisten/show_id/121609



[1] Stewart, Frank and Batt, Herbert J., eds., Winter 2003, Volume 15, Number 2,  University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu
[2] The magazine's website (Chinese only) is http://www.urbanchina.com.cn/  Not supported by all browsers. 
[3] There is a "fan" page on Facebook, the source of the covers in this report.