dom paradox's half-blog - a paradoxplace experiment

(constructive comments can be sent to domparadox at paradoxplace dot com)




Monday 7 May 2007 - Sydney Australia


Saint Francis' Little Places, Micro Lending and Institution Busting


I'm reading a biography of Saint Francis by G.K.("Prince of Paradox") Chesterton.  It's a small book, and so took pride of place in front of the next biography of Saint Francis on the list - by Nikos ("Zorba the Greek") Kazantzakis which looks more heavily opaque.  The fact that San Francesco's life drew in at least two of the most interesting writers of the twentieth century, is just one more indication of how fascinatingly different was this towering unintellectual unmilitary uninstitutional beggar saint.


I fell in love with Francis when I discovered some of his little places in Umbria - the tiny Porziuncola Chapel, his first church project on the then forest plain below Assisi (and the place where he died), and the Eremo (hermitage) cave retreat high in the forested mountains above - go there in autumn when the leaves are goldening.  The little and very old church of the Vittorino outside Gubbio, where he met with a wolf who had been eating people, and persuaded the beast to reform its behaviour - go there on a late winter afternoon and tell me that you're not moved.  Also the very first Franciscan Convent (photo below) - built in 1212 just north of Cetona in far southern Tuscany with tiny cloister, chapter house and refectory, now all lovingly restored (and you can stay there).



It was in little places and in direct contact with people and nature that Francis shone brightest.  He was a genuine mendicant (beggar) with no safety net, and he was absolutely not an institutional man.  His philosophy was transparent love and not the intellectual browbeating of a Saint Bernard or the administrative organizing of a Saint Benedict or the strong arm militarism of some of the Spanish Saints.


That's all about Saint Francis for now, but do seek out some of the little places if you are in Umbria.  Hopefully Paradoxplace will have a more meaty page on him (hence the books) - including some more special places - before too long.


Sensitized, I suppose, to some of the issues touched on above, there was a bit of an ear twitch when someone who phoned in to a radio program in Sydney last week, said that it was outrageous that charities should be forced to beg for money (rather than get it from government) - a sentiment possibly shared in Australia by too many large charity board members who do not seem to understand that their dominant raison d'ệtre should be to raise money and facilitate doing, and not just preen themselves (one thing which, by contrast, Americans absolutely understand).


But it was an excellent (BBC?) TV documentary program on micro lending that got both ears twitching and the eyes rolling.  The extent of the geographic reach of these micro lending programs and the wide spread successes they are achieving amongst thousands of little groups of people is inspiring and moving.  So much so that now the other (unattractive) end of American business culture has realized that here is an opportunity for institutional capital markets to make a buck out of raising securitized money, just so long as the operations can be bulked up, institutionalized and given "good governance."  Sure.  Why not stick with airline privatizations boys? - micro lending needs big institutional baggage like a hole in the head.


Actually, it would be more constructive humanity wise if we could start edging towards understanding more about how and where institution busting, rather than building, could help us.  How about an MBA core course on Institution Busting?




Monday 30 April 2007 - Sydney Australia


If you want to know more about who is writing this the Dom has just been interviewed by News Limited's Charlie Brewer




Sunday 29 April 2007 - Sydney, Australia


Moral Justice and Cockatoo Commandos


Australia this morning is divided into two groups - those who kept the grog flowing past 11pm last night when the Cricket on the other side of the world was due to start, but didn't because of rain, and who then stayed watching endless replays and increasingly desperate commentators until after 2.30am, with no certainty of any live play at all, and were rewarded with the best batting performance ever seen.  And those who, like me, wimped out somewhere between 12 and 2.  What a good story in a world where there is increasing disconnection and confusion between reward and worthiness.


This morning, by the time the cricket was finishing (twice it seemed) in near darkness, it was a beautiful Sydney autumn morning, ideal for a neighbourhood walk.


Ultimo is a tiny old inner suburbette adjoining Blackwattle Bay (where the famous Sydney Fish Market now is) - the sort of place where old warehouses are being renovated into appartamenti for the upwardly mobile.  In a narrow lane beside one such recently completed project there was a man taking photos of the top of a wall.  Curiosity had to be satisfied, so the Dom nipped home to take the Nikons on a surprise Sunday outing .... here's the result .....



What you are looking at appears to be a plastic foam bit of "renovation" which has been exposed because a noisily playful group of large Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have decided to destroy it (or so said the earlier photographer, who was also an architect).  An interesting liability question, especially as sulphur crested cockatoos are protected and do not have bank accounts (though some speak pretty good and live longer than your average human).  And yet another reason to buy a house in Chianti that has been renovated by Italian Stonemasons .





Friday 13 April, 2007 - Sydney, Australia


Front Page is Dead - How do Amateurs Stay in the Age of Experience ?


The other afternoon Dom Paradox (aka I) went to a presentation by a computer company "Evangelist" (seriously - it's not just us pseudo Doms that have funny titles) who said something like:


"The age of functionality is over, and we are now in the age of experience"


which, in the way it was explained, seemed to be another way of saying that the new whatever program did not do much more than the old one but you had a better time doing it.  More seriously it also led to the increasingly wonderful experiences you can have on the web (though of course the reason they can happen for you is dramatically improved functionality). 


Like a lot of these punchy corporate phrases this one is sort of true but sort of not useful, particularly to those of us who missed the age of functionality and  embraced the age of experience (like travel, eating, photography and history in Italy, Spain, France, Britain etc) up front . 


To share these experiences in the early years of the new millennium we had a tool called Front Page, which any challenged "Word" using internet publisher could afford, and learn well enough to get quite a rich representation up there on the web without too much design work time.   Which is exactly what we did, and now 3000 people a day visit us.


"Now here's the good news" - continued the EVANGELIST - "Front Page is Dead - Hooray !"


Even though the room was packed with web techs, there was no discernable reaction to this and I could not help wondering whether we had closet front pagers in our midst in addition to me. 


I mean, there must be a few hundred thousand of us out there who have found Front Page a more than adequate way of publishing our stuff and spending time on content rather than publishing technology, but are now left uninformed and potentially stranded (try asking your web host what their plans for front page extension maintenance are).  Worse still we can't fess up to this for fear of exposing our politically incorrect (Front Page) habits to techno scorn.


So, in the absence of a "Save Front Page" movement, we have to work out how we eventually move forwards, whilst avoiding spending a greater rather than a lesser proportion of our time and money arm wrestling functionality rather than having and sharing experiences.


Stay tuned as the multitask-challenged Dom tries to work it all out in between planning the next trip (a sweep through medieval France, more truffle eating in Alba and a visit to Naples and Campania), catching up with publishing past experiences like visits to dozens of Rome's churches, and new initiatives such as generating some web-style supporting income to match the cash burn required to support on the ground research for a website like paradoxplace.


Adrian Fletcher


14 April 2007 - My web friend Holly Hayes, who has built her sacred-destinations site into one of the best designed and most informative around (using Dreamweaver), has suggested that Nvu could be the (free) answer to a Dom's prayer - and the site wizard site itself looks worth a Sunday browse.



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