Vending machines offer free books

The Buk bilong Pikinini library opened at UPNG is an incredible facility that allows pikininis - children - to access free basic education in a library environment

The Buk bilong Pikinini library opened at UPNG is an incredible facility that allows children to access free basic education in a library environment

JetBlue and Random House are not the first to offer books through vending machines. John Geoghegan wrote A Brief History of Book Vending Machines for Huffington Post. In it he described the generally unsuccessful efforts to sell books that way. Some libraries have tried it as well, making it easy to borrow books in such places as train stations and community centers.

What makes the new scheme special is the attempt to put free books into the hands of children who have few or no opportunities to own them. Washington, D.C., is the lucky recipient of book vending machines in Southeast D.C.’s “book deserts”. The Soar with Reading machines are in a Salvation Army, a Safeway, and a Baptist church. Text messages can alert parents to the arrival of new books, and children can return as often as their hunger for a new book makes them itch to go back for more.

Libraries have been providing free access to books for a long time. May that continue forever. But the chance to keep, cherish and re-read a beloved book is not a part of everyone’s life. Every child should have that delicious experience. If this pilot project is a success, a lot more youngsters may discover the pleasure and pride of having their own shelves of beloved books.


Changing life for women, one laugh at a time

When Liza Donnelly was young and impressionable, her mother gave her a book of cartoons. That set her on her life’s path. As she told the TEDWomen 2010 audience:

I drew, and I drew, and since I knew that humor was acceptable in my family, I could draw, do what I wanted to do, and not have to perform, not have to speak — I was very shy — and I could still get approval. I was launched as a cartoonist.

The New Yorker cartoonist and Forbes columnist focuses her humour on the crazy rules that set the boundaries of women’s roles. She is working to change them, one laugh at a time.

I learned about her 2010 TED talk from another creative woman in my online world, Joan Becht Willette. You can catch the flavour of her work in this poem of hers, “Indomitable Spirit”.



Puppets bring a street performer and an aging activist together

Ricky Syers has been performing on New York streets for years. He got tired of working as a laborer, turned to music, then began creating puppets that make even harried grownups slow down to watch. Recently, the 50-year-old performer met Doris Diether and made a marionette of the 86-year-old activist. The friendship blossomed, and now the two of them can sometimes be seen performing together.

Syers’s whimsical creations would make anyone smile. So if you’re feeling down, don’t wait another minute. Meet a man following his Muse all the way to joy.

Follow Syers on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.


Teen’s letter convinces Nike to design shoes for people with physical challenges

Matt Walzer trying on his first pair of Nike FLYEASE shoes

Florida-based Matt Walzer is a sports enthusiast, but cerebral palsy keeps him from being actively engaged. The bright, active teen has overcome two major challenges his doctors said he would never master: walking and talking. He is an academic success, but there is one thing he cannot do without help. He cannot tie his own shoes.

So in 2012 he wrote to Nike, saying in part:

I believe everyone, no matter what their physical, economic, or social circumstances may be, deserves to call themselves an athlete, and deserves to have a sense of freedom and independence. If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them.

Walzer’s letter went viral, and 48 hours later the young sports enthusiast received a call from Nike. John Poyner, who made the call, also has cerebral palsy. He connected Walzer with Tobie Hatfield, who worked with him on the specifications that would lead to a sturdy sports shoe with the convenience of a slip-on.

Fast forward to 2015. Nike has a new product, the Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease. As smart looking as anything in the Nike line, the high-performance shoe would be a good fit for any athlete. But it offers special advantages to anyone for whom tying shoes is a challenge.

Thank you, Nike, for turning your energies to a shoe that opens the sports door to millions more people. And thank you, Matthew Walzer, for writing a life-changing letter.


Crowdsourcing a cancer cure

Just when you think you’ve heard everything…

Artist Salvatore Iaconesi was given a fearful diagnosis: brain cancer. He told a TED audience in 2013 that he did not want to be a patient, “the one who waits.”

His response was novel. He asked for a print-out of his cancer. He spoke to it, telling the cancer it was only part of who he was and would have “to deal with the whole of me.” He created a website for it, La Cura (the cure), hacked his own medical records and posted them, and asked for ideas on how to cure his cancer.

The opinions came from all sides. Some people gave medical advice, others spiritual. Artists sent thousands of videos, images, pictures and art performances. The result was a multi-media, multi-lingual strategy Iaconesi chose from among the half million responses. This open-source approach to cancer treatment connected Iaconesi to a vast community, all focused on a cure.

Indigenous approaches to healing often focus on re-balancing in community rather than suffering in isolation. Iaconesi’s cancer journey shifts that communal approach into the wide world of the Web.


This teenager is an environmental superstar

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez must have come out of the womb caring about the earth. He  was six years old when he gave his first speech at a climate change rally. He was 12 when he addressed the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. In June 2015 the 15-year-old addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, asking world leaders from 193 countries to act together on behalf of the planet.

The self-described “indigenous, environmental, eco hip hop artist and activist” is mobilizing youth in 25 countries as youth director of Earth Guardians. He and his brother Itzcuauhtli inspire environmental action through presentations, hip-hop performances and demonstrations. At times they are joined by their sisters Isa Caress, Tonantzin and Jasmine. And they are joined by young people around the world who are not waiting for politicians and industry. They are acting now for the earth.

Kid Warrior: The Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Story from BLKFLM on Vimeo.

Read more about Xiuhtezcatl Martinez:


David Zinn’s fabulous street art


David Zinn, please move to Kelowna, British Columbia. I am in love with your street art.

Sigh. I know how unlikely that is.

You create that oh-so-temporary chalk art in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You cannot be everywhere, but thanks to IndieGogo your art will reach a wider audience.

I love the whimsy of your art, the poignant scenes, the creative imagination, the gentleness and love behind them. You see stories in the cracked urban landscape most of us inhabit. I look at your Sluggo on the Street scenes and see the tender fissures in everyone’s heart.

We are such fragile creatures. We need to laugh. We long to feel loved. Your art would put a smile on anyone’s face.

Help support David Zinn’s ephemeral art on IndieGogo. Buy his post cards, buttons and more on Zazzle. Follow David Zinn on Twitter and Facebook,


Proud father of Malala Yousafzai

Around the world, women grow up knowing they are considered inferior to men. Ziauddin Yousafzai was determined to give his daughter Malala a very different upbringing. Instead of accepting the patriarchal attitudes of many in his country, the Pakistani educator was determined to give his daughter a strong sense of her intelligence and power.

He enrolled her in his school. The Taliban nearly ended his hopes for Malala when they shot her on a bus in 2012. Malala survived. So did her and her father’s dreams.

If you have ever wondered how the young Nobel Peace Prize winner became the inspiring young woman she is today, watch her father talking about his belief in equality for men and women. It is an inspiring 16:36 video.


Homeless customers are welcome at Rosa’s Fresh Pizza

Mason Wartman did well on Wall Street. By the time he stopped doing equity research to start a pizza joint, he had saved a quarter of a million dollars. He used that money to launch Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, in honour of his mother, Rose.

One day a customer asked to buy a slice of the restaurant’s $1-a-slice pizza for a homeless person. Wartman got some Post-It Notes to keep track of the kind gesture. Now Rosa’s walls are covered with notes from all the customers wanting to do the same.

Over 14,000 free pizza slices have brightened lives since 2013. One small request has sent ripples of kindness around Philadelphia. People receive more than pizza. They are given the loving letters and notes written by people happy to have a chance to share.

Follow Rosa’s Fresh Pizza on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Forget the cane and dance!

The World War II veteran is waiting for a plane at the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Then a trio of three women singers start harmonizing a song the Andrews Sisters made famous, “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. Music and memories set his heart thumping, his legs moving, and he is up and dancing.

Any stiffness his bones may be feeling disappears as he swings to the beat. Someone tries to give him his cane, but he ignores it. Another vet joins the singers and is soon invited to dance by a young woman with the veterans. The first vet taps him on the shoulder and takes over. You can feel the smiles spread.

The whole thing is only a couple minutes long, but it is 2:15 full of life, memories, and joy.