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On Being Tumblr

On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Music You Can’t Hear But Know Exists
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Being part of such a large outfit at Minnesota Public Radio, we encounter an awfully eclectic group of talented musicians, writers, artists, actors, performers, politicians… And, oftentimes, these brief introductions with greatness occur in the most mundane ways.

One day you’re accidentally brushing shoulders with former vice president Walter Mondale in the hallway, and another day you’re reading a mass e-mail instructing star-struck employees not to linger while Harry Connick Jr. is being interviewed.

Yesterday, while sitting in the control room of Studio P listening to the final edit of next week’s show with two Vatican astronomers, I look up and peer through the slanted glass only to witness part of the Johannes String Quartet warming up for "a couple of movements from Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 59 No. 1."

Not a whisper from that cello can I hear. But, right then, I pinch myself knowing great aural waves exist in that vacuum across the glass. Sometimes knowing and imagining is enough. But, those mystical, mulled upon wanderings can be made real. The unheard serendipitously takes root in YouTube reality. And, if you look up, you might just realize that Moby and Leela James performed “Walk with Me” in that very same space across the way.

I’ll be “looking up” — and hopefully seeing — the Performance Today recording of the quartet in action, much like this video from artists-in-residence The Parker Quartet (whom I first incorrectly attributed to being in the photo above).


White Mountain Milky Way
Trent Gilliss, online editor

This one-minute time lapse film taken in Mauna Kea, Hawai’i made me ache for the magic dome of my home state of North Dakota — the thickness of the galaxy in plain site. The canvas overhead will surely spark your sense of wonder for the weekend. Enjoy heartily.


Moving Stills
Trent Gilliss, online editor

For those of you still stuck in the office or waiting at home for the night’s activities. The Friday video snack is back.

The Qatar-born photographer Khalid Mohtaseb has received quite a bit of attention for his striking footage (below) of the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake using a still camera (Canon 5d Mark2, if you must know) and a pocket dolly. The technical specs are fun to discuss, but it is his choice of shots and the person behind the eyes that connect me with his subjects. Even the collapsed buildings are put into context by the people moving through them, and not the buildings being the main character. I like that about Mohtaseb. People matter. They’re art forms in and of themselves.

Screen shot from Khalid Mohtaseb footage of Lebanon/Egypt MontageBut, I decided to lead off this post with his montage of Lebanon and Egypt. There’s so much happiness and carrying on in the grittiness of circumstances. Children swinging and twirling and playing; young men squatting and smoking and laughing. Even the silent places have a sense of peace about them; the parched, cracked earth teems with life and optimism. If you clicked on one thing, I didn’t want you to deny yourself this slice of singing beauty.

For a few minutes, I’m transported and know somebody else, some other world — and then remember my wife and children and find my silent smile. Time to find home.


A Triumphant Survival

Kate Moos, managing producer

Arresting. From the Mail & Guardian, this difficult and disturbing set of images accompanied by an interview with Leon Botha, an artist and Progeria survivor. He is 24 years old. A Friday afternoon video *pause* in a day that leaves me reflective.

(Thanks to Boing Boing for their post leading me to this slideshow.)


"A Minor American Miracle": Orrin Hatch’s Rockin’ Hanukkah Song
Trent Gilliss, online editor

A quick scan of this morning’s edition of the Tablet Daily Digest e-mail prompted me to read the lead article, "Hanukkah: A Guide for the Perplexed," which was fun and quite helpful. And then I moved on.

It wasn’t until I was checking my inbox this afternoon that I saw what should have been at the top of the page: a video by songwriter and senior senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch. How the song came into being is actually a rather heart-warming story, as Jeffrey Goldberg tells it. I had no idea the Sen. Hatch liked to write spirituals.

But, it is a wonderful testament to the spirit of the season that such things can happen so freely and spread a little joy during an afternoon at work. Also, the idea that an Arab singer backed by the vocals of a the Jewish magazine staff sings a song written by a Mormon politician who “possesses a heartfelt desire to reach out to Jews” gives one hope that year-end holidays can bring out the best in people — and a will to understand one’s own traditions and the rituals of others:

"I know a lot of Jewish people that don’t know what Hanukkah means," he [Hatch] said. Jewish people, he said, should "take a look at it and realize the miracle that’s being commemorated here. It’s more than a miracle; it’s the solidification of the Jewish people."

And, yes, I do consider this another one of my Friday “video snacks.” *grin*


Wisdom Comes at 65
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Last winter I paid a hefty fine to the Minneapolis Public Library. I couldn’t let go of several photography books, including a pair by Andrew Zuckerman: portraits of beautiful animals — two- and four-legged forms — supple and lithe in their stillness, majestic in simplicity, unpretentious and vulnerable.

Ravi ShankarI intended to share some of these images then; I’m glad I waited. This video from Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another shares the ideas and profundity of those who have lived a life worthy of furrows and ridges. A few of my favorites touching on themes of work and love, conflict and resolution:

You can’t get to wonderful without passin’ through all right.
—Bill Withers, musician

Love something. I think we’ve got to learn love something deeply.
—Andrew Wyeth, artist

The human being has a need for dignity just as like water, like air.
—Wole Soyinka, writer

If you’re willing to offer your life for it, you might actually get something done.
—Bernice Johnson Reagon, activist

If everyone takes care of their own area, then we won’t have any problems.
—Willie Nelson, musician

You don’t stop doing things because you get old. You get old because you stop doing things.
—Rosamunde Pilcher, writer

I get sillier as I get older. I don’t know what wisdom means.
—Judi Dench, actor

…who I am, and what I need, these are things I have to find out myself.
—Chinua Achebe, writer

(photo: Andrew Zuckerman)


Swimming at the Top of the World
Trent Gilliss, online editor

A thoroughly inspiring lecture from a man who has been called the human polar bear. Lewis Gordon Pugh has swum in unimaginable places, including long-distance swims in all five oceans, in order to call attention to climate change.

Here, he talks about his most recent feat: swimming one kilometer (nearly 20 minutes) in minus 1.8 degrees Celsius water at the North Pole in order to raise awareness of the melting polar ice cap and rising water levels. For every one hour he spent training in cold water, he spent four hours in “mind training” — visualizing himself at every phase of the swim and willing his brain to raise his core body temperature.

If you only have a few minutes and can’t watch all 19, I recommend dropping in at the 10:25 mark to watch a short film about his journey. It’s quite moving.

(via Mashable)


"Looking Out for Hope"
Trent Gilliss, online editor

It’s been some time since I’ve posted a Friday video snack. I don’t know about you, but these last few months have been a blur — hectic and almost harrowing at times. And there is good, a lot of good, that’s come of meeting new people and sharing our work and talking to long-lost friends back home.

Looking for a contemplative moment, an adult time-out, a centering event, I was lucky enough to happen upon this short film that puts into play Bryan Mallessa's fictional letter to Raymond Carver with music by the band Low. The film’s remarkably meditative in its quietude for the medium. It allows one ten minutes to reflect, to peer into blizzard and cold, to think about hard times, and the joy of the road ahead.

(h/t things are happening*)


Hanukkah and a Colbert Christmas
Shiraz Janjua, Associate Producer

Coinciding with our Hanukkah program is this tasty video snack via Stephen Colbert’s A Colbert Christmas special. In our program on Hanukkah with book designer Scott-Martin Kosofsky, he talks a bit about the perceived “competition” between Hanukkah and Christmas. A little tongue-in-cheek humor here with Stewart and Colbert to reflect that, with Stephen experiencing a bit of Christmas humbug…


One Man Standing
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

On the social matrix of the Web, one meets all types of interesting people and finds interesting stories through these happenstance relationships. Take, for instance, Sinan İpek. In a random checkup on the status of SOF videos, I found this Turkish filmmaker had commented on two SOF videos with themes of women’s rights: one about Kenyan women striving for a more verdant future and another about Diana Matar’s exploration of women and the veil in Egypt.

This documentary is too long for me to consider it a video snack, but it’s a compelling 25 minutes of narrative that grips you from a tender, darkly lit opening scene. İpek could have told the story of a paralyzed son and his mother’s love in an exotic land and made it feel foreign to this Midwestern American’s eyes. Instead I felt united in their fight for decency — as a journalist, as a father, as a compassionate bystander, as a citizen of the world, as a kid who used to throw snowballs at my neighbors never noticing the person behind the glass watching with eagerness.

Watch it over your lunch break, in the wee hours of the morning or in the still of night. You won’t regret it.


"Lei Zhang: Floating in America”
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

It’s been a heavy week, hasn’t it? I could use a little beauty and a short respite this afternoon. Here’s a video snack to ease you into the weekend.


Tesfaye = “My Hope”
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

It’s late afternoon. The SOF quadrant is deserted since most of the staff are working the Minnesota State Fair. And as I was uploading videos, I watched this inspirational story of Tesfaye, an Ethiopian man who watched the deforestation of his home, did nothing, and is reclaiming his land and his memories.

How many other efforts similar to Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement are happening on the African continent that hear little about?


The Sound of … Minn Heima
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

It’s been quite some time since I posted a video snack on SOF Observed. And although it’s creeping into the evening hours on a Friday night here in SOF cubicleland, I needed a reprieve after a compressed work week.

There’s no better cure than the music of the Icelandic group Sigur Rós. Shed the angst and stress of a ruthless schedule without going classical. Now pair that with some out-of-this-world visuals of mustangs galloping, brooks gurgling, and velvety-soft mossy mountains lying low under a travelling sky and magic’s about to enter the room.

Ben Millett, whom I just realized makes his home in our sister city of Minneapolis, makes me long for a distinct show on sacred space. We tangentially touched on this topic with our program on the Rural Studio. Maybe the director/designer Julie Taymor is that voice, or perhaps James Turrell. Are you all aware of any other people out there that are just waiting to be heard on this topic?


The First Breath after a Coma
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

As we all know, Fridays require mini respites from the long working week — whether I’m coming off a professional high (cue Peabody Award post) or the depressing reality of six inches of snow in April (yes, we are in Minnesota). How about a video snack?

The last several months I’ve been turning to the delightfully short films of independent auteur Carolina LaBranche (aka cayoyin) on Vimeo. Her compositions are elemental, musically thoughtful, not overly maudlin, and display a lust for life that reminds me of why the day’s a gift and not a drag. This particular video has a loose narrative. I’ve woven my story in my head; what’s your take?