Monday, November 12, 2012

Global Challenges in 2012: Taking Responsibility for Our Interconnected Future

Dear All,

This is your chance to start getting others inspired to take responsibility for what you think is important:

please post the abstracts for your conference presentations and any other material you would like to share here as well as anything else you find relevant in connection with your topic. 

Please use this forum to create more awareness about your topic and to inspire others to join you in creating a better world!

Of course, there should also be some time to celebrate! And tomorrow (Nov 13th) is a very special day:

Happy Diwali!


More Topics to Discuss....

This is YOUR space:

-> Please use this space to talk about other topics you find important and interesting!

Consciousness and the Meaning of Life

Dear All,

I think the most recent discoveries of Science are simply amazing - and they change the way we see reality and ourselves. In fact, it seems that quantum physics can help us recreate ourselves - and live the life we choose to live.

Please watch one or more of the following clips and share your thoughts with the rest of us:


Brian Green: Quantum Mechanics Explained
Brian Greene: The Hidden Reality


Big Thinkers - Michio Kaku:
Michio Kaku:  The Quantum Revolution
Are We Ready for the Coming Age of Abundance? (with Michio Kaku):


Stephen Hawking: The Meaning of Life
Stepehn Hawking: The Power of Ideas
also interesting:
Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Arthur C. Clarke (1988): God, the Universe, and Everything Else


Deepak Chopra:
Down the Rabbit Hole - Beyond the Matrix (3 minutes only)
Deepak Chopra: Lecture about Consciousness
Deepak Chopra & Leonard Mlodinow: Science and Spirituality
Leading@Google: Deepak Chopra [about leadership]

Thank you!


Writing in Different Ways

Dear All,

More suggestions for writing in different ways. Feel free to pick and choose.


Alternative Beginnings of the Same Essay Subform

Please write three alternative - and very different - beginnings of either an ACADEMIC essay, a GENERAL INTEREST essay, or a LITERARY essay about one of the following topics: Dream, Men and/or Women, Color, or the Elements. Please use different strategies for each beginning but make sure the essay subgenre you have chosen as well as the focus of your topic remain the same.


Oral and Written Discourse

Please choose ONE of the following paired options (a or b) and write the beginning of a piece in both media about one of the following topics: Ideals of Beauty, Consumerism, the Universe, Artificial Intelligence, Procrastination, Yoga, Leading a Meaningful Life.
a) [transcript of a] conference presentation and academic essay
b) [transcript of a] speech in front of a mixed audience an general interest essay
Focus on bringing out the differences in style that your change of medium (oral vs. written) demands.

Happy Writing!


Creative Writing

Dear All,

Please share your creative work here with the rest of us! Poems, stories, short plays, and anything else you wish - including cartoons and manga as well as any other pieces that combine multiple media - are welcome. If you do something fancy that is difficult to post in a comment to a blog, feel free to give us the link to your own website that is better equipped to the form you have chosen.

You are also welcome to do one of the following EXERCISES and post what you wrote here.


Multiple Genre Combo:

Please write a text in a genre of your choice that includes at least two other genres - as well as at least 5 of the following word: magic, metamorphosis, mirror, wall, door, window, moon, cat, butterfly, chocolate, water, well, man, woman, dragon, game face, tweet, computer, coffee, cup, bottle, blue, green, yellow, red, black, white, purple, orange. (Or use any other words of your choice but let us know which words you are using.) You only need to use your chosen words once (please underline them so that we know which ones you have chosen). Of course, you can repeat them as often as you like. In any case, please keep them in your mind as key words for your piece.


Seeing Things from Contrasting Perspectives:

Please choose a text and retell "what really happened" from two contrastive perspectives. Try to choose the language (vocabulary, syntax, tone, style, etc) that is appropriate for the character through whose eyes you retell the events and feel free to make up concrete details that reveal the personality of each speaker and the motivations for his or her actions.

Have fun!



Dear All,

Please go for a walk somewhere outside where you are close to the natural world. Spend some time doing nothing - just enjoy the world around you. Then choose a phenomenon or object or being that you feel close to and observed him/her/it for a while.  Try to define it/him/her in an unique way. Then write an interesting narrative about that phenomenon/thing/being or about your encounter with it/him/her. Share you definition and/or your narrative with the rest of us if you wish.

Please repeat your walk whenever you feel stressed! You will encounter many amazing beings....


Looking and Listening - and Finding the Untold Story Behind

Dear All,

Please go to the Museum of Anthropology (or any other museum of your choice) and choose any "object" you can connect with emotionally. Spend some time just looking at it and listening to it. Then describe the object in a unique way and compose a dialogue (or monologue) that involves the object either as speaker, listener, or topic.



Friday, November 9, 2012


Since it's dark outside in the evening - and since you might feel more like staying inside - I thought you might enjoy watching some movies.

Please find below a  list of some movies that I thought might inspire some further thoughts and discussion. Please pick something you haven't seen yet and fee free to add to the list.

Thank you,


Here my little movie list:

What the Bleep Do We Know?

Dead Poets Society

Hermann Hesse

Bab'Aziz - the Prince that Contemplated His Soul
Michael Ondaatje
The English Patient

Margaret Atwood
A Handmaid's Tale

Albert Camus
L'Etranger (part 1 of 11)
-> please follow prompts for the other parts!
see also:

Jean Paul Sartre
A Huis Clos/ No Exit
version 1:
version 2:
version 3:   
see also:

Samuel Becket
Waiting for Godot    
or any other version

Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlett Letter
version 1: 
version 2: 
-> please find the other parts yourself!

Herman Melville
Moby Dick

Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls

Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose

R.K. Narayan
Malgudi Days

Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart (47 parts on youtube)

V.S. Naipaul
The Mystic Masseur

Tennessee Williams
A Streetcar Named Desire

Arthur Miller
The Crucible

George Bernard Shaw

Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray

James Joyce
Ulysses (Documentary in 9 parts & other material)

Bert Brecht
Galileo Gallilei  

Eugene Ionesco
La Cantatrice Chauve (7 parts)

Heinrich Mann
The Blue Angel/ Professor Unrat

Thomas Mann
The Magic Mountain

Franz Kafka
The Trial
Coming out soon as well: Metamorphosis

J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Spirited Away


Rising Moon

Memoirs of a Geisha


Black Orpheus

V for Vendetta

The Motorcycle Diaries

Meshes in the Afternoon


The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

L’Âge d’Or

clip 1:

The Other Half


Cell Phone

Family Ties

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

Eagle's Bride

A Separation

Madadayo/ Not Yet

Monsieur Lazhar



William Shakespeare
-> anything 

... and any other literary or experimental movie of your choice.

If you would like to learn more about film/ movie analysis and/or get a little intro to film studies in general, please check out the following link & connected website:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thinking about - and Acting for - the Environment

Dear All,

Please check out either the links about the Story of Stuff Project (#1) or about Climate Change (#2) or about Sustainability and the Future of Our Planet (#3) and share your response and other thoughts, ideas, and/or suggestions you have about the topic(s). Feel also free to post links to other sites you find interesting in this context.

Thank you,


Here the links:

1) The Story of Stuff Project

a) The Story of Stuff:
b) The Story of Change:
c) The Story of Electronics:
d) The Story of Bottled Water:

The Story of Stuff Project:

2) Climate Change

a) NBC News: Was Sandy a Warning:
b) Bill McKibben: Global Warming's Terrifying New Math:
c) Al Gore Warns on Latest Climate Trends:

3) Sustainability and the Future of the Planet

a) David Suzuki: An Elder's Vision for Our Sustainable Future
David Suzuki - Lecture at UBC: Accelerating Sustainability

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Exploring New Cultural Territory

Dear All,

Since I strongly believe that active participation in culture is an important part of a "real" education, I would like to encourage you to explore one or more aspect(s) of culture that you are not too familiar with during the next weeks.

Here some ideas of what exploring new cultural territory may mean for you:

* attending a literary event (e.g. a reading at the International Writers Festival or a play)
* taking a creative writing workshop (poetry, fiction, drama, biographical writing, etc)
* attending a dance performance (e.g. ballet, modern dance)
* taking a dance class (e.g. jazz, belly, ballet, salsa)
* going to a concert (classical, rock, jazz, blues, etc)
* taking some music lessons (e.g. flute, piano, guitar, voice)
* going to an art museum (Vancouver Art Gallery, Bill Reid Museum, Surrey Museum, etc)
* taking some art classes (painting, drawing, sculpting, batik, jewelry making, etc)
* going to a good movie (e.g. at the Asian Film Festival at the beginning of November)
* taking a workshop about film making or photography or web design etc
* going to a festival or other event organized by one of Vancouver's many cultural groups (e.g. Diwali, All Souls Day)
* taking up yoga, meditation, or tai chi, etc

Please tell us in detail about your cultural experience - and how it felt to you. You are welcome to write your comments in any genre (including poems, stories, journal entries, etc). Feel free to add links, pictures, and other material to give us a better idea about your experience.

If you don't know where to start, here a few links you may find useful in this context:

Vancouver International Writers Festival, Oct 16th to 21th:

Asian Film Festival, Nov 1st to 4th:


Music, Dance, Museums, etc (see categories on the LEFT):

Please enjoy your cultural experience!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Creating More Peace in the World

Dear All,

Tomorrow, September 21st, is International Peace Day. I would like to use the opportunity to invite you all to think about peace - as well as to do your part in creating a more peaceful world.

Peace has many forms and aspects and can be achieved on many levels. Any form of cultural exchange and/ or cultural sharing, for example - from sharing food to sharing music, poems, or philosophical traditions - is likely to promote global peace. But peace does not only mean international peace, it also includes peace with the natural world, in particular building a sustainable  relationship with the environment and treating other species (animals and plants) in a respectful, responsible, caring, and compassionate way. Of course, peace plays also an important role in everyday life, both in our interaction with the people we meet on a daily basis (family, friends, classmates, co-workers, etc) and in our relationship with ourselves (inner peace).

I would like to invite you to share your thoughts about peace here - either in the form of personal statements, general arguments (short speeches or articles), or creative expressions (poems, stories, artworks, songs, etc) - as well as to tell us about more action-oriented projects you are planning to organize in order to promote peace in today's world.

Please have a look at some of the websites dedicated to Peace Day if you would like to get inspired and, of course, involved, for example:

Thank you - and Happy Peace Day!


Analyzing Texts

Dear All,

I think that looking closely at texts and figuring out what makes them work, is a very useful exercise: on the one hand, it helps us understand why certain texts are convincing (while others are not), on the other, it teaches us how to compose effective texts ourselves.

Please have a look at one or more of the texts listed below and analyze them. Pay attention in particular to how the speaker or writer of each text uses language to get his/her message across. If you don't know how to analyze a text, please check out the following handout: 

I hope you will find the texts interesting - and you will be able to learn from them as well as from your analysis.



1) Speeches & Lectures:

Nelson Mandela, Inaugural Address (May 10th, 1994):

Deepak Chopra, "Speech for Cinema for Peace":

Stephen Hawking, "Does God Play Dice?

2) Articles & Essays:

Elisabet Sahtouris, "Cosmic Beginnings":

Bill McKibben, "A Link between Climate Change and Joplin Tornadoes? Never!":

Peter Slezak, "Thinking about Thinking: Language, Thought and Introspection":

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Taking Responsibility

Dear All,

Our present world is in a serious crisis in many respects: global warming, pollution, the extinction of numerous species of animals and plants, the destruction of wildlife habitat everywhere, the abuse of animals and humans in all parts of the world, racism and discrimination, wars and violence, greed for money and control, etc.

It has been proven over and over that one person can make a difference and create positive change. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela are just some of the most obvious examples. As educated people we have the responsibility to take the lead in creating a better future for all of us.

I would therefore like to invite you all to create positive change in one of the many areas that need change - and in a way that makes use of your personal talents and skills. Please share your projects and other ideas with the rest of us!

Thank you,


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Writing & Creativity

Dear All,

Writing may seem boring, but...!

Please listen to at least one of the following talks about writing, storytelling, letters, blogs, and creativity in general, and let us know what you think of it [click on "comment" to share your views]. Feel free to add any other thoughts and/or links you would like to share about these topics.

Thank you,


Here the list:

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

Isabel Allende: Tales of Passion

Amy Tan: Where Does Creativity Hide?
JJ Abrams: The Mystery Box

Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story      

Joe Sabia: The Technology of Storytelling

Ryan Lobo: Photographing the hidden story

Lakshmi Pratury: On Letter-Writing

Neil Pasricha: The 3 A's of Awesome

Isaac Mizrahi: On Fashion and Creativity

Authors on Writing

More Authors on Writing

The Power of Words

Storytelling & Identity

Advice for Writers from Stephen King

Advice for Writers from Garrison Keillor

Advice for Writers from Kurt Vonnegut

Writing Lessons by Jack Kerouac

Wit & Wisdom from Writers about Writing, I

Wit & Wisdom from Writers about Writing, II (critics)

Jaques Derrida: Fear of Writing

Peter Elbow: On Writing

Garrison Keillor: Writing in Different Forms

Toni Morrison: Motivation for Writing

Salman Rushdie: The Creative Process

Margaret Atwood: The Creative Process