Tag Archives: must_read

Randy Pausch and his inspirational message to us all


There is truly one unforgettable video available on-line that will move you and make a difference in the way you look at life (and death).   


On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”  


Over the past few years, this ‘Last Lecture’ has become a phenomenon – from YouTube clips to an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, to a #1, best-selling book. The lecture itself is a resounding message of hope and determination.  It provides a moral compass on how one should approach the short time we have on earth.  The ‘kicker’ is that Randy Pausch delivers his important life messages with the knowledge that he has incurable pancreatic cancer and only months to live.  


The full hour-plus university lecture can be viewed here:    

With the lecture’s growing popularity, Oprah Winfrey had Randy Pausch on her show to deliver a 10 minute condensed version.  This reprisal can be viewed here:   

Randy Pausch has a website http://www.thelastlecture.com which features his book.  


Randy Pausch passed away earlier this summer – July 25th, 2008.  He was 47 and, as he wished, he died at his home with his wife and three young children.


(Ed. – This is a repost from a By George Journal 2008 posting – a truly inspirational piece.)


The Internet as “the information super-sewer” ?!


Further to Chris Hedges’ argument within Empire of Illusion, here is his thought on the role of the Internet as a contributing factor in the devolution of our society.  In a piece entitled, “The Information Super-Sewer”, Hedges contends that our society and man’s ability to properly communicate are threatened in having virtual realities replace the real world. He begins by stating:   


     The Internet has become one more tool hijacked by corporate interests to accelerate our cultural, political and economic decline. The great promise of the Internet, to open up dialogue, break down cultural barriers, promote democracy and unleash innovation and creativity, has been exposed as a scam. The Internet is dividing us into antagonistic clans, in which we chant the same slogans and hate the same enemies, while our creative work is handed for free to Web providers who use it as bait for advertising.


     Ask journalists, photographers, musicians, cartoonists or artists what they think of the Web. Ask movie and film producers. Ask architects or engineers. The Web efficiently disseminates content, but it does not protect intellectual property rights. Writers and artists are increasingly unable to make a living. And technical professions are under heavy assault. Anything that can be digitized can and is being outsourced to countries such as India and China where wages are miserable and benefits nonexistent. Welcome to the new global serfdom where the only professions that pay a living wage are propaganda and corporate management. 


     The Web, at the same time it is destroying creative work, is forming anonymous crowds that vent collective rage, intolerance and bigotry. These virtual slums do not expand communication or dialogue. They do not enrich our culture. They create a herd mentality in which those who express empathy for “the enemy”—and the liberal class is as guilty of this as the right wing—are denounced by their fellow travelers for their impurity. Racism toward Muslims may be as evil as anti-Semitism, but try to express this simple truth on a partisan Palestinian or Israeli website.


Read Hedges full column here:



Read our earlier post re Empire of Illusion here:



“Empire of Illusion” is a must-read


Here’s the crux of the argument presented in Empire of Illusion, a disturbingly invigorating book on the demise of our North American society.


     The more we sever ourselves from a literate, print-based world, a world of complexity and nuance, a world of ideas, for one informed by comforting, reassuring images, fantasies, slogans, celebrities, and a lust for violence, the more we are destined to implode…. The worse reality becomes, the less a beleaguered population wants to hear about it, and the more it distracts itself with squalid pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying civilization.


More on Empire of Illusion here:



More on Chris Hedges can be read here:




Hedges’ take: “The road ahead is grim”


Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion is a must-read for those who want to go into the impeding crises our country face with their eyes wide-open.  In the last of the book’s chapters on today’s political leadership, Hedges holds out little hope for the actions of President Barack Obama. Here’s a rather pessimistic take on the state of the Union (pg 178): 


     The road ahead is grim. The United Nations’ International Labour Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide in 2009. The collapse had already seen close to 4 million lost jobs in the United States by mid-2009. The International Monetary Fund’s prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5 percent – the worst since the Second World War. There were 2.3 million properties in the United States that received a default notice or were repossessed in 2008.  And this number is set to rise, especially as vacant commercial real estate begins to be foreclosed. About 20,000 major global banks collapsed, were sold, or were nationalized in 2008. An estimated 62,000 U.S. companies are expected to shut down in 2009.


     We have few tools left to dig our way out. The manufacturing sector in the United States has been dismantled by globalization. Consumers, thanks to credit card companies and easy lines of credit, are $14 trillion in debt. The government has spent, lent, or guaranteed $ 12.8 trillion towards the crisis, most of it borrowed or printed in the form of new money. It is borrowing to fund our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no one states the obvious: We will never be able to pay these loans back. We are suppose to spend our way out of the crisis and maintain our part of the grand imperial project on credit. We are supposed to bring back the illusion of wealth created by the bubble economy. There is no coherent and realistic plan, one built around our severe limitations, to stanch the bleeding or ameliorate the mounting deprivations we will suffer as citizens. Contrast this with the national security state’s preparations to crush potential civil unrest, and you get a glimpse of the future.


This excerpt was from Chris Hedges’ masterful Empire of Illusion. To read how Hedges views the Obama presidency, read “Buying Brand Obama” and other columns on the state of today’s political scene south of the border:



Modern politics: “It is style and story, not content and fact…”


I am currently reading a thought-provoking book on the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle – Chris Hedges’ Empire of Illusion.  Here’s a snippet on modern politicians (pg 46):   


  Those captive to images [ed. -the majority of our population today] cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel. They vote for a slogan, a smile, perceived sincerity, and attractiveness, along with the carefully crafted personal narrative of the candidate. It is style and story, not content and fact, that inform mass politics. Politicians have learned that to get votes they must replicate the faux intimacy established between celebrities and the public. There has to be a sense, created through artful theatrical staging and scripting by political spin machines, that the politician is “one of us.” The politician, like the celebrity, has to give voters the impression that he or she, as Bill Clinton use to say, feels their pain. We have to be able to see ourselves in them. If this connection, invariably a product of extremely sophisticated artifice, is not established, no politician can get any traction in a celebrity culture.


In Canada, to see evidence o f this, we need only look at men of substance who did not make it in the glare of politics, when they failed to connect:  Joe Clark, John Turner, Paul Martin and, more recently, Stephane Dion.