January 31, 2012

The Difference Between Cliché and Art

Offered without commentary.





The great work of James Mollison is here and here.  And of course the great work of the Simpsons creators is here.

January 30, 2012

Our Secret Worlds


I’ve always said that I read because it’s as close as you can get to another person’s insides, their subjectivity. You learn so much about a person from what they write. And you learn about other people as a whole ~ how different yet the same you are on the inside.

But, also, reading is your own special world. (I hear echoes of Gollum: Mine! Mine!) No one can know your experience of reading this book, not really. They can’t know the thoughts that come into your head, the experiences this book dredges up, your reaction to the protagonist, how it changes your thinking irrevocably.

Going on vacation is something a couple can share. We both climb Mount Kilimanjaro and go on the tilt-a-whirl. We may have slightly different points of view standing right next to one another, and I might have noticed our Italian waiter making eyes at me and you don’t, but our experiences are very similar.

Not so with a book. It’s too interior, too personal, too wrapped up in memory and emotion and where you are in your life right now.

I was thinking about how reading is something that couples cannot share. Oh, I know some couples who do. One reads to the other in bed at night. It becomes a bonding. (My husband and I ~ our tastes in books are too different for this.) However, when you read to one another it becomes more about the performance, more about you and he, than about the contents of the book. No, book reading is and always will be a separation.

But, no, not really ~ let me contradict myself and hope that both contradictions hold true in your mind. Because, even though you are distant from your loved ones, you are close to one other human being and by proxy the whole human race.

And because the experience is so intense, we do try to share it. We do try to read to our lover in bed. We get together in book clubs. We press our favorites into the hands of our friends. Because it is human nature to try to connect, to share these stories of our lives ~ or others’ lives in our lives.

January 27, 2012

January 26, 2012

Oh, Cruel World

"Self is a Cruel Master."
You know the feeling. You go to a party, which you’ve prepared for meticulously. You spent weeks dieting and getting your hair cut and highlighted and finding just the right little black dress. You had big plans for this party. Maybe you were sure a certain someone would show up. Or maybe you’ve always had the best time at this particular friend’s house. But then you go and it’s a total flop. Your timing is off all night, and you offend at least one person and maybe you get drunk or maybe you say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. So despite ~ or maybe because of ~ your high expectations, the evening is a disaster.

Or maybe you post something very heartfelt online. You worked so hard on it and it bares your soul and you believe it’s the best thing you’ve ever written. But, then, crickets. No one responds, even when you post to Facebook and Twitter and Google+, first a witty come-on and then a heartfelt but bitter, “If you love me, you’ll look at this.” Again, crickets.

I’m sure there’s a lot more examples of this type of thing. You put it out there, hang it all on the line, and the indifferent world shrugs and turns away.

There’s one thing that helps me a lot in these situations. Very early in our relationship, my husband said, “The world really doesn’t care about you. They all are more concerned about themselves ~ the way they look, their witty repartee, whether they’re bombing. They’re thinking about the next thing they’re going to say or about their last flub or about when it’s polite to bag it. So don’t take it personally.”

This has held me in good stead ever since. I rarely take things personally. Maybe even when I should. But I give them the benefit of the doubt. Call me obtuse. But thinking like that has gotten me through many an awkward ~ or what might otherwise be mortifying ~ situation. Online, someone will say something and I don’t get offended (mostly). I take it in the spirit that it’s offered, and when I do feel those familiar pangs, I tell myself, “Don’t be so self-centered as to think it’s personal. It’s not about you; it’s about them.”

In the meantime, I try to remember to forgive myself for not being that perfect person and to forgive everyone else for not anticipating my every need. The world is a wondrous and horrible place, for sure. (And forgive the proscriptive nature of this post.)

January 24, 2012

The War Between My Critical Faculties and My Social Faculties

As anyone who’s ever asked me to comment on a manuscript knows, it can be a hit or miss proposition. I have every intention of doing it. I look forward to it before I receive the manuscript and I’m all excited. When I get the manuscript, I’m stoked. I’m all “I’ll jump on that immediately, get it done, I’m so looking forward to it!” But then a niggle of doubt sets in, and I start to avoid a little. I think, what do I really know about giving feedback? You know what, maybe I really do suck at all this. Not only that, but I’m going to horribly offend this wonderful writer person who I adore. God I suck. Then the tension mounts even further, and it becomes this huge weight around my neck that I try to pull away from. Once I force myself to get started on the review, I’m fine. No problem at all. I’ve got confidence, and I think I give good feedback. You can imagine this makes preparing for workshop a bit of a challenge.

So some people have stage fright, and some people have writer’s block ~ I get editor’s block. It may seem silly. I mean, you just have to read, for heaven’s sake. Use your years of thinking about writing and apply it to this manuscript. Piece a cake. But, oh no, it isn’t.

What brought this up now is that a friend (hi, JoAnn!) asked me to help judge a high school writing contest recently. I really enjoyed reading all these young people’s work, and the contest has a fabulous rubric and supporting materials to help the judges. Some of these entries were fabulous pieces of art. But, as you can imagine, it took me a while to get to it.

I used to have the same problem when I was teaching freshman comp and science and technical writing. On one hand, I was supposed to be this supportive teacher and on the other I was the hammer of judgment giving them grades. I felt very comfortable with the former, but the latter was torture. I would think, this person is trying their hardest. They really are. I should cut them some slack. But then I can’t give everyone As. It just doesn’t work that way. I would know that the paper was a C at best, but the person was so nice. So to counter this I had to always go back and adjust grades to that the percentages would even out and be what everyone expects. I had to put my social faculties aside for my critical ones.

I blame my mom. (Hi, Mom!) She’s always been such a supportive person. We joke that if one of us seven kids were a serial killer, she’d say, “Isn’t that nice? I bet she’s very good at it!” I inherited it, and on the whole it’s not a bad quality to have.

Do you have this problem? When you’re going to give someone feedback, does it take forever for you to get to it?

January 23, 2012

What Would You Regret?

Bronnie Ware
My husband sent me this thought-provoking and oh-so-true (as far as I can tell at my age) link yesterday. It’s about the top five things people regret as they are dying. It’s funny because they are what you would expect, which makes them cliché, possibly, but they also are so true they hit you right where you live. Maybe I should be more honest and say they hit my husband and me where we live.

Some of them I feel fairly comfortable with in my life. But, you know, ask me when I’m dying.

One think I found comforting is that everyone Bronnie Ware helped in her job grew a lot at the very end, and “Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.” I find this strangely comforting. Maybe because it’s what I had hoped, but also maybe because it’s a testament to the fact that we hold on tooth and nail until we reach that point. It’s a testament to gritty human nature.

Her point I wanted to highlight was number 5: I wish that I had let myself be happier. Oh, gosh, isn’t this just so true? We are most often the ones standing in the way of our happiness. Our deep-seated happiness, anyway ~ sure you might think a million dollars might make you happy, but I would think that would only allow you to run away a little bit farther. The hard things in life are the basis for lasting happiness, I’m convinced. And a lot of times we won’t let ourselves follow our dreams, for whatever reason.

So, my biggest takeaway is that, if someone today offers to make friends or someone sends you a link that would further your writing or you meet a cousin who mentions a retreat that is right in line with something you want to do, TAKE IT UP, for god’s sake. That’s the world with its eternal yeah saying, do it, we want you to be happy.

January 20, 2012

Hanging Out at Yareah Magazine

Pardon the continuing SSP (shameless self-promotion) but I'm so excited I could burst...

The lovely Isabel del Rio at Yareah Magazine has been following my Project 365 on Google+, and she asked me to write up something for the magazine and send in a few photos.  Well, it's up!  I'm thrilled and honored to be part of such a great magazine.

Please check out this beautiful and smart magazine.

January 19, 2012

Myfanwy and I Hanging Over at All Lit Up

The lovely Myfanwy Collins and I pulled up a chair over at James Goertel's All Lit Up blog to talk about writing.  Myf talked eloquently about publishing and fear, and I went on ... and on and on ... about getting my agent. If you have a minute, check it out! Thanks, James!

January 18, 2012

An Observation on Subjectivity

Have you seen the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies?* I’ve seen the Danish/Swedish version (2009, director Niels Arden Oplev), but I’m waiting to see the American version (2011, director David Fincher) when it comes out on DVD. It’s such a dark vision of the world, I didn’t want it drilled into my brain on the big screen.

One of the many things that struck me about the Oplev version was that the actor who plays Mikael Blomkvist, Michael Nyqvist, is not conventionally handsome by Hollywood/American cinema standards. His eyes are set a little close, and he has rough skin on his cheeks, which are not craigy (forgive the pun) but rather a little loose and round. On the other hand, Daniel Craig of the Fincher version ~ he’s got that strong jaw with long dimples and smooth skin. (Full disclosure: I think Daniel Craig is just yum.)

When you look at Nyqvist and Craig side by side, they actually look fairly similar. They are of a type. However, Craig is definitely classically Hollywood in looks. Nyqvist is more regular guy, more what the rest of us look like. It’s like some of the British drama/comedy series ~ they have regular-looking people on them.

It got me thinking about American sensibilities. Then it struck me: why, in American movies and television, do only beautiful people get subjectivity and depth of character? Of course I know why. Beauty and sex sells. But think of the ramifications. The underlying message is that only people who are beautiful have lives and thoughts and anything worth anything inside them. If you aren’t conventionally beautiful, you are at best a character type. You are to be made fun of or even not shown at all. Fat men can be in comedies only, and fat women aren’t shown at all, if possible.

So our kids are getting the message every day that 95% of our people should not be given any respect for intelligence or depth of character or anything. They are invisible. That’s no small thing.

Food for thought.

* Note that I'm not linking to any Wikipedia sites today.  That's because Wiki and many other tools we use every day are being threatened.  If you care about your internet, write your congressman or -woman today!

January 17, 2012

The Tenors Un Limited

Jem, Scott, and Paul, Tenors Un Limited
I had the unparalleled pleasure of seeing the Tenors Un Limited on Saturday! It was great on so many levels.

First of all, oh the pure pleasure of voice. I’m an amateur in all things musical, but even my ear could tell the absolute control and precision and pure ecstasy of the sound. Each member of the group is a master craftsman. The way they would come in just above the note and then fall down ever so slightly and gently upon it. Their harmonies, and the surprise of the low tone coming it at the last minute. The mixture of arias and more popular favorites and their own compositions. Their humor and coming out into the crowd. Inviting the Laramie High School Choir to join them. Don’t you just love when you hear/see/experience master craftsman at work? It gives me chills every time. Not only that, but I was in the frame of mind that is totally open to new experience, and so it moved me tremendously.

Second, Tenors Un Limited are world-class tenors out of the UK, so it was so fabulous that they opened the season at the Griffon Theatre for the Laramie Plains Civic Center. They call themselves the Rat Pack of Opera. The group is made up of Paul Martin, Jem Sharples, and Scott Ciscon. Paul and Gem are from the London, and Scott is originally from Chicago. One of the reasons they were playing in Wyoming is that Paul is married to Lila, a fabulous opera singer in her own right who grew up in Casper and is my great friend Nina’s sister. Small world, no?

Another reason it was so fabulous is this: My mom’s 88th birthday is next Friday. Before the concert, I emailed back and forth with a friend who attended the concert and hosted a dinner the night before (hi, Peter!) and happened to mention that fact and that I was taking her to the concert for her birthday. Since he’s friends of the family too, he let the tenors know that it was a birthday. So, early on in the concert, they said, “So, there’s a birthday in the house?” We sat in the front row, so they came down and serenaded my mom with “Volare”! Oh, it made her whole year, I can tell you! Not only that, but my birthday was last week, and the woman sitting on the other side of us had a birthday the next day. Then after the concert, I bought two of their CDs and they very graciously signed them and came over and talked with my mom. She’s been listening to them ever since. They are not only great performers but so generous as well! Thank you so much, guys.

So, sadly, since I cannot hand you this experience with my words, here’s a video so you can get some small taste. It does not do the experience justice. Oh, and buy their CDs and go see them, if you get a chance!

January 13, 2012

Barry Lopez, On the Value of Story

A great quote (from a short film) from the wonderful Barry Lopez about the value of story, while he's at Bread Loaf.

“I think, what happens in a story is that you are reminded again of something you already know. Maybe you know it in your body or maybe you know it in your emotions without language or maybe you know it in your mind. But the story reminds you of something that you forgot. And when you remember it, you feel exhilarated.

“From my point of view, storytelling is a social impulse, and the social impulse is to take care of your people. Part of the reason I’m at Bread Loaf is to help the people who have chosen to come into the classroom where I am, to help them find that way to take what they know and make it into something that will help all of us.

“There’s shipwreck in life from one end to the other. I think every person probably by the time they are thirty years old has been driven to their knees. They’ve been alone in some room on their knees weeping, wondering who cares if I die? Why should I bother to get up? Why should I go out the door? Why should I go to work? Why should I write or reform this relationship with this woman or this man? Why should I try for custody for my kids? They’re on their knees and they would just as soon die. They need a story. The story that they need is a story that they can believe about the purpose of life, and that’s the place I want to be in.

January 12, 2012

"If—" by Rudyard Kipling

Kipling may be somewhat out of fashion, but I will always love him for not only Just So Stories and Jungle Book and Rikki Tikki Tavi but also for his military poetry and his wonderful stories.  Also his cogitations on what it means to be a man.

Courtesy Strom Art Gallery

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

January 11, 2012

Creating Photos, Creating Stories

So, I’ve been posting a photo a day for my Project 365. I love it. It helps me see the beauty in the world. It reminds me to really look.

But I’ve also been thinking a lot about how all creative endeavors are the same. The aesthetics of presentation. The way they come about. Really amazing.

First of all, that faculty that recognizes ideas, patterns, interesting bits about the world gets turned on. Like I said above, I spend the day seeing colors and patterns and odd conjunctions as I look for photos. It’s the same way with writing. People ask how you come up with ideas. Well, it’s a skill, like finding a good photo, where you learn to recognize them.

Not only that, but it’s as if it has an on/off switch. When I’m in it, be it taking photos or writing, I see it everywhere. In fact, it’s so insistent, if I can’t take the photo or follow up on the idea for a story, I mourn. I regret it for days. Which is a problem, as when I’m in the mode they come thick and fast.

Another way taking photos is similar to writing is that you frame the image or idea. It’s much easier to think in terms of a photo. You have a square. You aim it at something. You snap it. You take it into Photoshop and refine the frame further. But it’s the same as you write a story. You have to limit the world. I mean: you certainly cannot put a person’s full experience as it happens into a story. That would be ludicrious, not to mention boring. No. You have to select. You have to make everything count. You have to take it into the Photoshop of the mind and clip the parts that don’t matter to the effect or the story.

You have to worry about composition in photos. How the lines lead in the eye. The aesthetics of the placement of trees and people and where their eyes are looking, which leads the eyes of the viewer. Whether there’s color. What ideas are conveyed and how to heighten people’s attention. Once again, the same with stories. You have to “compose” them beyond just the writing. You add elements that enhance effects and you leave out others. You try this. You try that. You try to have a line, an opening, that leads you into the story. You need to have them exit satisfactorily.

And you may or may not be aware of it, but photographers fiddle with the pictures beyond just the framing. They heighten contrast, enhance hue and saturation, blur out background so that the main subject is the focus, and so on. Some photographers enhance photos so much that they are pseudo-realistic, a heightened reality. Look at Trey Ratcliff’s images. The world doesn’t objectively have colors like that that come together in one place, but, yet, we actually experience them that way (more on this in a sec). Same with stories. You need to heighten reality. Compress time frames. Focus and essentialize character. Even in literary fiction, where you’re trying to get closer to lived experience, you must craft the representation for a satisfactory story.

Something I’ve realized, too, is that the photo often cannot represent the experience, and there are some photos that can’t be taken. For example, yesterday morning there was a lovely full moon above the western horizon just before the sun came up on the east. It was full and huge and floated above the blue mountains with snow tipping their peaks. The sky was blue trending to pink. I didn’t take the picture because my camera and my skill would not adequately represent the feeling that image gives. Some people can do it, but often they’ll go into Photoshop and do serious things with the size of the moon and the colors. There are a number of things like that that just don’t translate to image. A vista from a mountain peak often won’t. What it felt like to sit around a fire in the mountains at night. Many things. The same with stories. Dreams seem compelling to the individual, but they mostly don’t fare well in fiction. (And don’t start your story by waking up. Just don’t. That is a huge cliché because it’s been used so much.) The subtleties of lived experience are hard to encapsulate on paper, and maybe I’m not yet able to recognize what doesn’t work or maybe it’s somewhat unconscious, self-selecting as I come across ideas. I guess that’s it ~ it’s in the selection process.

Finally, I look for certain things when I snap photos. Incongruities, patterns, a singular focus. I realize that when I post a photo, I am asking complete strangers to look at my view of the world, and it better be damn interesting. That’s it: interesting, intriguing, weird in some way. Stories, once again, are the same. I’m asking someone to take time out of their busy day and read this thing. It better be interesting. It better have an interesting worldview. It should be well-executed. It needs to entertain or intrigue or something.

Be not boring, which is another word for unoriginal or badly executed.

January 6, 2012

January 5, 2012

"Characteristics Of A Child Three Years Old," by William Wordsworth

I love Wordsworth, particularly "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."  However, today, this delightful bit.

Image courtesy

Characteristics Of A Child Three Years Old
by William Wordsworth

LOVING she is, and tractable, though wild;
And Innocence hath privilege in her
To dignify arch looks and laughing eyes;
And feats of cunning; and the pretty round
Of trespasses, affected to provoke
Mock-chastisement and partnership in play.
And, as a faggot sparkles on the hearth,
Not less if unattended and alone
Than when both young and old sit gathered round
And take delight in its activity;
Even so this happy Creature of herself
Is all-sufficient, solitude to her
Is blithe society, who fills the air
With gladness and involuntary songs.
Light are her sallies as the tripping fawn's
Forth-startled from the fern where she lay couched;
Unthought-of, unexpected, as the stir
Of the soft breeze ruffling the meadow-flowers,
Or from before it chasing wantonly
The many-coloured images imprest
Upon the bosom of a placid lake.

January 4, 2012

“I Am a _____ Writer”

I wanted to cogitate on a topic for a bit today. Not sure I’ll have anything particularly insightful to say, but here we go.

I read the introductions to the 2011 edition of the fabulous series Best European Fiction, edited by Aleksander Hemon. One introduction is by Aleksander, and the other is by Colum McCann.

I just love introductions, people meditating about what they do and why they it, and these were no exceptions. Both Aleksander and Colum talked about what the tem European fiction might mean. Fascinating stuff.

What does it mean to be labeled a certain type of writer? It is a fraught thing. We have often given privilege to the white male writer, and all other writers have had to have an additional tag put on the title. So a white male writer is “a writer,” and a white woman writer is “a woman writer,” and a African-American male writer is “a black writer,” and an African-American woman writer is “a black woman writer,” and so on. The same for your country of origin or your religious persuasion. And if you’re a number of things, they’re often hyphenated ~ Michael Ondaatje is a Sri Lanken-English-Canadian-American writer, say.

The default position needs no clarification, which is evidence of the embedded nature of power structures, while all others need to be carefully delineated. I’m not writing this to point blame; I’m simply pointing to historical realities. It is in our very nature to categorize the world by stereotype, which is a completely different discussion.

One of Colum’s points is that that world has become so small that people live in the hyphens: “We can be Irish and Argentinean, or French and Australian, or Chinese and Paraguayan, or perhaps even all of them at once.”

Colum, however, goes on to lay a special claim for European fiction ~ that its meaning expands and contracts and is particularly unclassifiable and fluid. In one respect I agree with him, in that the borders of nations change, which is not the case any more in the United States.

However, when it comes to a single representational literature, I think Europe is the same as the United States. The consensus centers of culture lay claim to that un-adjectived state of representing everyone. To them, if they don’t read widely outside their own sphere, the fiction of the United States may seem fairly uniform, with oh you know that crazy guy who writes about this weird other place. (I give most people more credit than this, however.) All other literature is given the label of regional. I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. Remember that infamous cover?

But another distinction may be whether the label is applied from the outside or from the inside. Who are you? Are you an American? Are you a woman? Are you an African American? Are you a lesbian American? And who gets to label you? Some people shoulder labels easily, while others reject all labels as superficial.

We need these classifications. That’s the basis for language: we all sort of agree that this word equals this thing with these borders. So there’s always an inherent tension there. For example, it’s not just that dastardly publishing business reducing my fiction to a certain category. People want to know what this thing is. (I did my master's thesis on identity in pioneer diaries.)

I’m going to have to think more about Colum’s claim for the special nature of European literature and reread  the intro. However, in the meantime, I get to read these fabulous stories!

PS I know I'm a year behind and there's a 2012.  Looking forward to it!

January 3, 2012

Film Technique in Sherlock Holmes

My husband and I went to see the new movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. (We haven’t yet seen the first one.)

I was expecting not to particularly like it, but my husband wanted to see it. He rarely wants to see a film in the theater, so when he does, I’m more than happy to go, as I’m a film addict. But the ones I like are rarely blockbuster and most often character-based.

This one was thought provoking in a number of ways, but mostly ~ for me ~ because of the superb filmmaking technique.

First of all, the actors acted incredibly close to one another. In the real world, if people are enemies or having a fight, you expect them to draw back and put distance between each other. On screen, actors always almost play close to one another, but this one seemed incredibly so. Second, the camera played very close to the actors’ faces. So not only were the actors close but the camera, we, were close to the actors. The overall affect was a feeling of claustrophobia, which was I’m sure the intended effect. It put you close to the actions and emotions but also trapped you there and made you uncomfortable. Very interesting.

I’m trying to think of the literary equivalent. Certainly psychological realism/suspense is that way. I’m thinking Edgar Allen Poe or Henry James. What would be the modern equivalent of this claustrophobic inside-the-skull dramatic positioning? Perhaps mysteries, which I don’t read a lot of. Unrealiable narrators like Humbert Humbert in Lolita, perhaps?

Another thing that was fascinating was the historical realism. The male actors were semi-unshaven, which I’m sure was a the case due to 1880s shaving and bathing technology, and the street scenes you felt would be very much like it might have been. So lovely to see. The lack of lighting and the crowding and the filth. Very lovely. It grounded what otherwise might have been what seemed like the mere attempt to turn Sherlock Holmes into a superhero. That was my suspicion going in, but it certainly didn’t come across that way.

And to be fair Holmes and Watson were the superheroes of their day. I’ve only read a little of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, but friends assure me that there is a lot of action, so it isn’t misrepresentation. So actually I’m being unfair to the whole enterprise because I haven’t read very much of the actual Sherlock Holmes stories and am relying on stereotype.

Finally, I love the way that Guy Ritchie portrayed the working of Holmes’s mind. Whenever a fight was about to occur, what is going to happen is foreshadowed in quick blur motion in black and white and blue. A very effective technique. It was similar to the technique Peter Jackson used to show Frodo’s draw to the ring in the Lord of the Rings movies. It felt dreamy but also you felt the point of view of the character strongly. And in Sherlock Holmes, it was doubly effective because then you got inside Moriarity’s head too, as he matched Holmes move for move at the end, and then ~ surprise! ~ Holmes was one step ahead.

What would be the literary equivalent? Jumping forward in time inside the characters head but with such energy of language and technique differing from the rest of the prose. It wouldn’t merely be shifting from third to first person, though that might contribute. It’s the play within the play, like "The Murder of Gonzago" in Hamlet, reflecting on the whole but also showing the content of a character’s mind. The difference in the media, though, makes prose much better at showing interiors rather than surfaces, but I thought this was a very affective technique in filmmaking. IMHO and for what it’s worth.

Oh, and Noomi Rapace (of the Danish version of Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) and Stephen Fry and Jared Harris were so delightful!

January 2, 2012

What Lights You Up

My friend, the amazingly talented and creative Pierre Hauser, has been doing a project called Photo a Day or Project 365. (He also writes these amazing stories.)  He takes a photo a day ~ a lot more than that, in actuality ~ and posts it on his Facebook page.  He takes the loveliest photos.  Sometimes it’s a very interesting view of a common object, sometimes it’s what’s happening on the NYC streets, and sometimes it’s from he and his family’s travels, but it’s always beautiful and interesting.

Well, I got a new digital SLR camera for Christmas, and it’s prompted me to try the project.  That and Pierre’s photos and the great photos that my friend the writer and photographer Twister Marquiss takes and also the wish to see more beauty in the world. 

What else could one wish but to see more beauty in the world?

The photo above is my first offering.  I will only be posting them on Facebook for the time being, but I would put them here if they relate to what I’m writing about. Or maybe I’ll add another tab here.  Hmmm.  I’ll have to see if I can figure that out.

I love projects like this.  Creative endeavors just make me so happy.  I’ve always been driven/loved passionately/had to do creative projects.  As a kid, I drew and painted and took art every year at school.  I hooked rugs and did embroidery and sewed my own clothes.  I cooked, not just recreationally but for the family.  And I wrote of course.

It’s one of the things that lights me up inside.  You know what I mean?  There are things that, when people talk about them, it’s as if they are lighted from the inside.  They love them so much and so deeply they are not even aware of the physical effect talking about them has.

My family and writing and reading and talking with friends also light me up.

What things light you up?

January 1, 2012

New Year Yearnings

“There are times though when in despair & loneliness & self hatred, finding oneself unable to achieve the things one constantly dreams of, one can only become real & stable again by thinking of those few others who are not too far from one’s own path.” ~ Iris Murdoch
Happy New Year, y’all!

Read the above quote this morning on Facebook (thanks, Corey Mesler!). It gives me food for thought.

I know a lot of people hate new year’s resolutions, but I like them.  Anything that prompts us to be better people, pulls us out of ourselves and our doldrums and puts winds in our sails, is good, I think.

I had had great hopes of getting a bunch of writing done this week I’ve had off from work. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass. Wait. That was a passive construction, as if it were out of my hands. I guess, really, I didn’t make it the top priority, which has been a problem lately.  But I did get a lot of reading and cogitating done on the next project.

But today is a new year.  Today, I’m going to write.

But the above quote.  I have the usual list of resolutions: eat better, exercise more, manage finances better, write more, be a better person.  But this quote reminded me that the road to self-fulfillment is not paved with other’s bodies.  Quite the opposite.  The most energizing and worthwhile goals involve outward effort, thinking of others, trying to be the best social creature you can be.  Granted, you also have to be selfish in order to get the work, the writing, done, but I know that I gain so much energy from my social world.  It enhances, rather than drains, my energy.

And I love Iris’s point that one must be outwardly focused in order to pull oneself out of despair & loneliness & self hatred.  I can identify with that wholeheartedly.  I know that to my core. All I have to do is have a lively exchange with a friend over lunch or online.  It jazzes me. It gives me energy for all my other endeavors.

The trick, though, is those negative influences, those interactions that drain the energy rather than add.  You know the ones ~ the idiot who cuts in front of you in traffic and then slows down and turns (a personal pet peeve of mine) or those conflicts you always have with the same members of your family, the ones that make you feel like that fat and ugly and unlovable two-year-old.

What to do about those?  Draw boundaries, give yourself distance and in my case permission to be angry and get it out so that it doesn’t turn into depression.  Also permission to be assertive and say, you know what?, I don’t need to take this. A healthy shell surrounding a lively but serene interior.

I know.  Easier said than done.

So in addition and above all other new year’s resolutions: as caring as I can be to my fellow toilers in the ant farm.

So, as my lovely sister Nikki says, stawzawamps, which means love, light, health, joy in Northern Cheyenne.