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Crossroads, Onward

6 Nov
Dream Catcher by rsmithing

“Dream Catcher”
Click to view more of my photomontages

So what if the world ends
Was it ever real to begin with?
Does anything really exist,
When it’s up to us to decide what “existence” means?

Maybe I’m plowing old ground.
Certainly, someone’s been here before.
I sure know I have.
Because I remember it from a dream.

Where did that memory come from?
An intersection of a thousand other memories.
Who’s to say we only live in the present
When the past is so alive?

Not that we can ever go back.
Onward. That is all.
Not a test, but the end?
Sure. Until next time.

Music accompaniment: Tomahawk, “Desastre Natural”

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Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night ValeThe above text is from Welcome to Night Vale,” an excellent, surreal podcast. I receive no compensation from there (or Denny’s) for sharing this message; I’ve just really, really been enjoying the show lately. This radio-news-report-style “broadcast” from a mysterious town brings together the quaintness of Mayberry, the weirdness of Twin Peaks, and the spookiness of The X-Files in an chillingly funny, original way, with great writing and performance. Check it out on iTunes for free.

Text of above “ad” from Episode 27,First Date,” at about 17:39 [transcript]
What do you think? Are you into anything you’d describe as surreal? Do you listen to Night Vale? What are some podcasts you enjoy ? Been to Denny’s lately? Let us hear from you in the comments.

A Good Man Is Hard To Find Read by Flannery O’Connor

22 Sep

Flannery O’Connor reading her short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

My all-time favorite author, Flannery O’Connor, reads here one of my all-time favorite stories, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. It’s so interesting to hear the creator of such a widespread work (the story appears in many college “English 101” college compilations) reciting her own creation.

A Southern Accent

I know many people who sound exactly like this around where I’m from. To me it sounds comforting. And that’s saying quite a bit, considering how disconcerting the subject matter of the story is.

5ebf6c0b6f62e8b061fe613ccf3a9177

I wonder what O’Connor would have thought of Breaking Bad. If I ever meet Vince Gilligan or any of the writers, I’ll bring this up.

What do you think? Have you ever heard any of your favorite authors reading one of your favorite works? Do you think hearing the words from the person who wrote them affects the interpretation? Let us hear from you in the comments.
Characters of "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" - The Misfit, et.al

Characters of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

Two-Dollar Poems

11 Aug

A typewriter, a cardboard sign, some note paper, a skateboard to sit on — and you’re in business. Met this fellow at Venice Beach offering on-the-spot poetry. He asked for a topic and about a minute later produced a poem. Definitely worth two dollars. I snapped the top photo with Hipstamatic and added solarization via Dynamic Light, combining results in Photoforge2. Also met a photographer for a another blog  there that day as well. Creativity and art abound = cool stuff.

photo 1

Two Dollar Poems, Venice Beach

What do you think? Could you see yourself conducting such an enterprise? Would you support someone doing this? Ever seen this elsewhere? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

11 Jul

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingI just finished the audiobook of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book makes many interesting revelations by way of neuroscience (like another I just reviewed, Deep Survival), giving scientific insight into the myriad of reasons of why introverts and extroverts are the way they are.

I’ve always considered myself an ambivert – I have varying tendencies in different situations, so this detailed look at introversion was of particular interest to me. I’m not shy, and do enjoy public speaking, performing and experiencing the world – yet I’m very independently minded in my approach.

Much of Quiet seems to work at making introverts feel okay about who they are, which is understandable. But what I enjoyed more was how it made sense of the biological reasonings and structural evidence for this parallel of personalities. Consider this take on extroverts at dinner parties:

The ability to process a lot of short-term information at once without becoming distracted or overly stressed – this is just the sort of brain function extroverts tend to be well-suited for. In other words, extroverts are sociable because their brains are good at handling competing demands on their attention — which is just what dinner-party conversation involves. In contrast, introverts often feel repelled by social events that force them to attend to many people at once.

Compare this with the introvert perspective:

When introverts assume the observer role, as when they write novels, or contemplate unified field theory – or fall quiet at dinner parties – they’re not demonstrating a failure of will or lack of energy. They’re simply doing what they’re constitutionally suited for.

This is not to say that all introverts or  extroverts are the same categorically, and the book does stress this in several places. But that these are two different approaches due to a variety of factors, each valid in their own way, and each capable of benefitting by better understanding the other – a concept advanced by this book.

Introverts UNITE (separately)

This design available at printfection.com

Musical accompaniment – “Quiet” by the Smashing Pumpkins:

What do you think? Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Do you find advantages or disadvantages in either case? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Improve Your Writing Immediately: Synonym Finder

27 Jun
Synonym Finder

Fact: if you use a book so much you repair it with duct tape, it’s a winner.

There are plenty of books on improving your writing, and here’s one that works immediately. It’s more direct than a thesaurus and is instantly applicable for deepening the breadth of your vocabulary in the moment, while you are writing. Whatever word you’re thinking of using, check it out in the ol’ Synonym Finder and you’ll likely find a better one — or at least get to thinking about other possibilities.

Since we all write with our own voices, it’s sometimes helpful to have a tool at the ready to infuse some color when called for, especially in moments of creative befuddlement. I borrowed this copy from my father before leaving for college, and reference it to this day. It’s definitely gotten use, hence the duct tape keeping the cover attached to the spine.

What do you think? Ever use a Synonym Finder? What else do you turn to for writing tools or inspiration? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – My Review

31 May

Deep Survival by Laurence GonzalesIn the face of catastrophe, and beyond luck, survival is as much a factor of mental acuity than anything else.

I just finished Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It’s a compelling book, and I’d recommend it not only for the gripping true stories of survival and the advice these tales impart, but particularly for its examination of how our brains work. This is as much a study of psychology and introductory neuroscience as it is a dos-and-don’ts of how to handle being lost at sea, stranded in the wilderness, or any number of other life-and-death events.

Consider this passage:

The limited nature of working memory, attention, and the executive function, along with the shorthand work of mental models can cause surprising lapses in the way we process the world and make conscious or unconscious decisions.

This is an eloquent explanation of how we can become distracted and thrown off from basic logic, like following standard safety procedures – things that mountain climbers, for example, should do practically as second nature.

And on adaptability, this passage:

We all make powerful models of the future. The world we imagine seems as real as the ones we’ve experienced. We suffuse the model with the emotional values of past realities. And in the thrall of that vision, call it, “the plan, writ large,” we go forth and take action. If things don’t go according to the plan, revising such a robust model may be difficult. In an environment that has high objective hazards, the longer it takes to dislodge the imagined world in favor of the real one, the greater the risk. In nature, adaptation is important. The plan is not. It’s a Zen thing. We must plan, but we must be able to let go of the plan, too.

Phrasing like this – and applying Zen principles to survival concepts – kept me interested the whole way through.

Deep Survival

Click to hear a sample of the Deep Survival audio book at Audible.com (opens in new window)

This book’s subtitle in some versions is “True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death,” and while it certainly covers that, it explores far more – particularly in terms of how the mind handles itself in extraordinary situations.

I listened to the audiobook version from Audible.com, narrated in the authoritative yet friendly baritone of Stefan Rudnicki. Visit the Deep Survival page at Audible  to read other reviews and hear a sample.

What do you think? Have you ever survived a near-death encounter? Have you ever been lost at sea, stranded, or otherwise in great peril? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Focus

26 Apr

Distractions are a distracting factor; Procrastination delays the matter… Does it matter? Get there faster? More to-do we’re chasing after. (laughter)

Click for a full-size view of this and others like it at my Flickr page

A quick photomontage of a candle I shot along with a macro view of my eye. For a full-size look at this and others like it, check out the Photomontage set at my Flickr gallery.

Musical accompaniment for this post: Incubus – Made for TV Movie

Also, this live version:

Graphic Design, Web Design and Writing: How I Got Started

21 Mar

I’ve always been a creative person. I was always one of those kids who was excited about art class, always drawing, seeing my artwork on the fridge (thanks, mom). This turned into a love of music as I got older.

I decided that being a rock star was what I wanted to do. In fact, to this day, I consider myself not necessarily working a day job, but instead fleshing out an elaborate backup plan just in case the rock star thing doesn’t happen. Still dreaming.

 

Carvin Ultra V 24-fret Neck-through with Kahler tremolo

High school me, rocking the flying V. I designed the logo on the bass drum and the backdrop behind the band. This guitar makes the sounds in the clip above.

So I played guitar in bands, graduating later to bass, and I was always the one creating the flyers, coming up with the T-shirt and logo designs, and the banners behind the stage. The visual element to music and promotion was something that always fascinated me, and it was something that I just always enjoyed doing. I would cut words out from newspaper headlines, or pictures from magazines, then arrange them into the name of the band and the name of the venue. Little did I know I was teaching myself layout and typography. I was just having fun with it.

I’d kept on making flyers for my bands’ gigs and other bands’ shows, then I get into college. And that’s when I discovered I had a knack for writing. Turns out you have to write a lot of papers in college. In fact, I went to college to major in art, but the program, while good, had a way of breaking you down then building you back up their way, and I just wasn’t having any of that. It took the fun out of creating. But I didn’t know enough about writing to be put off, so I majored instead in English, and along those lines, I was hired by the university newspaper in the features department, reporting and writing a couple of stories each week.

I also minored in communications, which meant more writing. This was while also taking classes like creative writing and expository writing, while at the same time having a story or two due for the paper every week. I found it to be like working out – the writing mindset is a muscle to be developed.

Graphic Design Examples

Some examples of my early print graphic design work.

But amid all this writing, at the newspaper I saw how it was laid out: electronically. You mean you can just scan in a photo, scoot it around with a mouse, then arrange the text in just the right size all right there on the screen? Genius. This was the mid-‘90s, and this turned me on to the world of modern graphic design, using a Mac running Aldus PageMaker (ancestor of Adobe InDesign). And this opened up a whole new world for me, rekindling my love of layout, typography, and all the things I had been doing for years by hand with my gig flyers. Hello, career.

Behance.net Portfolio

My Web Design Portfolio at Behance.net

From there, I just taught myself. I had a passion for this. I would dive into software, using tutorials — that’s how I learned Adobe Illustrator, by going through the exercises on the application CDs. Also, I began recreating graphics and advertisements on my own just to understand their principles and build my portfolio. Gradually I built enough experience and projects to turn my passion into a professional career, including learning html and CSS for web design. And to this day I’ve had a great run as a graphic artist, web designer, and writer.

Just in case I don’t become a rock star.

What do you think? Has your passion led to a career, or the other way around? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Crestfallen. Twice.

22 Feb

I like making connections. So I’m often on the lookout for them. It’s fun for me to align concepts for an expanded meaning beyond what they may singularly impart. The same is true with writing: symbolism, parallelism, etc. And as a corporate communications professional, connection-making often comes in handy, whether with words, concepts or people.

Crestfallen

Wired February 2013So it was interesting for me to see an uncommon term, “crestfallen” twice in a single issue of Wired this month. The word appeared in David MacNeal’s story on mobile boombox dance parties, as well as Carl Zimmer’s story on sleuthing out deadly mutant bacteria. Both are positive stories overall, but each includes a mention of someone being crestfallen. I think that’s interesting, and am happy to report not being crestfallen at this discovery.

What do you think? Ever notice an uncommon phrase in rapid succession from multiple sources? Do you believe in synchronicity? What are your thoughts on making connections? Let us hear from you in the comments.
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