The world lost a striking, unique talent with the recent passing of singer/songwriter (and notorious substance abuser) Amy Winehouse.  Here are a few of the headlines that came out after her passing:
Wake-up call?  Really?  If the death of Amy Winehouse is your wake-up call to the dangers of drugs, you are a mighty heavy sleeper.

Amy Winehouse was not the first young, beautiful, talented celebrity to be taken by drug abuse.  Hey everybody, remember Heath Ledger?  Or (arguably, I guess) Michael Jackson?  

And what if we go back a few more years, from the mid-nineties to today?  Bradley Nowell of Sublime.  Steve Clark of Def Leppard.  Kurt Cobain, Nirvana.  Dee Dee Ramone.  John Entwistle, The Who.  DJ AM.  And we could go even farther back to talk about Hendrix, Joplin, or Judy Garland.  

These are just a few select musicians.  The list just gets longer and more depressing as you venture into visual art, comedy, theatre, dance...  Here's a fun little list about just that from Wikipedia to perk up your day.

Winehouse's death was not a wake-up call; it was deja vu.

There was some dark irony to the drug-related death of the woman who wrote "Rehab" and "Back to Black," which may be why so many are so committed to turning this into a wake-up call.  But irony and tragedy are cousins, and can all too often be found traveling together.

I'm saddened by the loss of Amy Winehouse.  And I wonder how we can remember her without falling back asleep.  

(This is not what I would recommend.  In case you were curious.)

To end, I'll leave you with a couple of videos to compare.
Last weekend Alan and I shlepped ourselves and everything we own (well, it kinda seemed like it) to Goshen, NY, the site of the up-and-coming Yiddish Farm.  Stereo Sinai had been invited to play on Sunday afternoon of their Golus Festival (there's a nice write-up about the festival with some pics here), and we decided to give it a shot for the whole weekend.  
"Golus" (or galut in Hebrew) means exile or, in some cases, Diaspora.  It's the term used for the state of being into which the Jews were thrown after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE.  It's usually kind of a nasty word, implying lowliness and loss.  Forward-thinking Israelis don't typically use the word "galut" to describe Diaspora Jewry, favoring instead the word "t'futzot," or those of us who are spread out all over the place.  (That's the technical definition, I swear.) 
And yes, we were in golus.  Especially to a city-minded, non-camper such as myself.  I was in golus from many, many things.  Internet, for instance.  Mattresses.  Air conditioning.  English.

But we were also in golus in other ways.  From denominations, for instance.  The battles among Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and other streams of Judaism are ongoing, bitter, and destructive (a friend wrote an interesting post about the end of this era that I recommend checking out).  Here there was no such thing.  Everyone from the most secular, strictly cultural Jew to a small crew of Satmar Hasidim gathered in our mutual love of all things Yiddish.  Men and women, young and was surprising and beautiful.  

We were in golus from a sense of hierarchy as well.  I have to admit, I was skeptical as to how the festival would run.  But everyone pitched in and made it happen.  Leadership rotated, fluctuated, and rarely settled in one person.

There were some really incredible moments throughout the weekend.  Dancing with the Torah from one end of a field to the other.  Marveling at the great masses of hay that descended from the sky, refuse from the farm next door which we all interpreted as manna from heaven.  The moment we found out we were going to be in golus even from Golus because our camp site wasn't up to code for the number of people there (on Sunday morning we moved to another site for the music).  Dancing with new friends.  All these things and more.

Don't get me wrong, I will not miss the mosquitoes and eating mostly the same thing every day and the oppressive day-heat and the bewildering night-cold.  But I have walked away with a renewed appreciation for, and a new vision of, exile.  

Last night no less than four - count them, four - utility (manhole) covers blew up on my new street in Crown Heights.  It caused quite the stir. The entire neighborhood came out and wandered around, chatting and laughing, basking in the glow of our respective mobile devices.  

It turned into a big party.  Alan and I finished off all the ice cream in the freezer, just in case.

While Alan and I were hunkered down outside the park that divides our street, I was busily checking Twitter and came across this tweet:
"For financial reasons."  It was at least as big a shock as my street exploding.  But then again, manhole covers blow up all the time.  And Jewish organizations are prone to closing when there's no money anywhere in sight for creative, forward-thinking projects that don't have anything (directly) to do with advocating for Israel or ending the "plague" of intermarriage.

But manholes covers don't need to explode.  It's a problem of maintenance.  If we are more attentive to our streets and the magical grids below them that make our freezers keep ice cream cold and delicious, they won't cause the sparks that ignite the gases that make the manhole covers shoot into the sky.  We need to invest in regular maintenance, not just emergency measures.

The same is true of the Jewish world.  JDub, and other innovative projects, needed maintenance (there's a great article on eJewish Philanthropy that illustrates this much better than I ever could - minus the flimsy manhole comparison).  Jewish arts and culture are the magical wiring beneath the surface.  They keep us whole, inspired.  They simultaneously reflect and create our society, and they deserve our investment.  

I'm sure I will write on this again.  In the wake of this boom, it will be interesting to see who from the neighborhood steps up, and how the landscape - the road - changes.
It should be clear at this point that my husband Alan and I are big, big nerds.  (If you needed more proof, he's reading the Myst books right now and I...well, read my other blog posts.)  

So in that vein, we're watching the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation series from the beginning.  Here's a way cheesy promo spot to get you excited for the rest of this post. 
There have been all kinds of articles talking about Star Trek technology, comparing it to the types of nifty gadgets we actually have today.  And a competition has even been launched to help expediate the creation of a real-life tri-corder to diagnose disease.  Pretty cool stuff.  Even if you're not a nerd (I think).

But there are some other interesting lessons we can learn from Star Trek, especially when it comes to social media.  Here are a few:
  • "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise..."  Best. Elevator pitch.  Ever.  We should all be so eloquent, succinct, and powerful in pitching our own organizations and their missions.  And we should all have Patrick Stewart do our voice-overs.
  • High-ranking crew members are forever going on "away missions" to weird places that just so happen to be able to support human life.  Watching this, I wonder - where is your Flip cam?  Your iPhone?  How are you not recording every moment of this?  On the one hand, I'm right - they should really be documenting these "strange new worlds" they're seeking out.  On the other hand, there's a nice lesson in here about human experience.  Lose yourself in the documentation, and you miss the big picture.  (Like the, dare I say it, John Mayer song, "3x5."
  • A similar lesson applies to the power of speech, and face-to-face contact.  Crew members aren't (at least to my knowledge) constantly texting one another.  They tap their chests and start a conversation, or they bring up a video screen and talk things through, complete with facial expression and body language.  (On that note, there's a great TED talk about the power of video here.)
  • "Captain's log..."  I love blogging, but as a singer I also know there is something about recording your own voice - getting the tenor, the pauses, the changes in pitch, the mood...  It's powerful.  Hearing that back months, years, after completing a mission must be an intense exercise in reflection.  And how much more could the person taking our position after we leave learn from not just our words, but the sound of them?  If podcasts/vlogs were as neatly searchable as they are on the Enterprise (and they will be, one day), it would be amazing to see what more we could learn about ourselves.
It's interesting to think that Star Trek, for all its visions of the future, hardly addresses issues of social media.  Video chat, sure, but not much else.  The Federation is bureaucratic and hierarchical.  The staff meets in a board room.  Officers are divided by color.  This is hardly the authentic, transparent, simple kind of organization that succeeds in social media spaces.

Nonetheless, there are some interesting lessons to be gleaned that can help us make our own experiences in social media more meaningful and productive.  Bottom line: Star Trek blends social technologies that best mimic true human interaction and learning into the work of the ship.  

Is there more to learn here?  More to criticize?  What would you add to this list?