Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Follow the Flags - We're Redirecting
The Woo Woo Teacup Journal!
I've got a bit of work to do, transferring my links and the like, and maybe changing the picture, so bear with me. If you follow me using a feed reader or news aggregator, please link up to the new site, if you so desire. You don't have to dump this one right away. I may post a few more straggling things, plus I'm not going to delete this. Too much work went into it over the past year. I'll link to Filter & Splice on my new blog.
Monday, October 22, 2007
What's in a Name?
The internet practically begs for made up words or interesting combinations of words. Joanne, who readers will remember from the Poppy Seed Heart blog, has recently started a blog called Bebellyboo. Very cute. And unique. I need to come up with a name like that, but not like that. One that shows my personality. Ideally, the name will be whimsical, but easy to spell and easy to remember. It's a tall order, which is why I'm racking my brain.
Random starting points for the name - something bird-related, something that uses my initials, a name that uses other letters in my name, something related to Dave Matthews Band (I know, that's lame), something writing-related, something related to creativity, something curvy. I'm also quite fond of the "quite contrary" part of "Mary, Mary, quite contrary." This used to be recited at me when I was a kid, especially by my seventh grade English teacher, which I never minded. Probably because I rather like be contrary, but not always.
I've tried out the following possibilities using my initials by Googling them and checking the number of hits:
mewbird - lots of hits, already taken by some jazz dude
trarybird - no hits
mewzba - no hits
mewsba - no hits (I keep wanting to type the "s" rather than the "z," though I like the "z" better)
zamew - this hit on a Polish guy who makes gantries
snickmew - like the sound of snick
mewzla - one hit
maelwa - 3 hits
melwa - 2860 hits
Suggestions, anyone? This is making me crazy.
Here are a couple of links I found this morning that helped me out of my dilemma.
World War II African American Medal of Honor Recipients
Pictures of African Americans During World War II
Great photos in that second site.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The Rules:Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.
Once again, I'm going to have trouble listing eight other people to tag, but I'll give it the old college try. So, eight random things about me . . .
1. I keep a stack of books beside my bed. I can't live without reading material. Sometimes I don't get to them all.
2. I heard a Moby song today at the grocery store and it made me realize how much I like his music and how much I miss it. I haven't listened to any Moby in months. I really must buy some of his albums, rather than borrow them from the library.
3. I'm obsessive about backing up my writing files.
4. I'm not obsessive about editing my writing. I edit as I write (I know - it's a sin in the writing world to do this), so my stories and essays are pretty much finished by the time I'm done writing. (Please help your editor friends off the floor. I think they've fainted.)
5. I'm totally envious of Neil Gaiman's writing output. Does this guy fret over editing?
6. Eldest Son and Daughter are both taller than I am. Young Son is not far behind.
7. While I'm glad I have an art degree, I'm really jonesing for the sociology degree my husband is working toward.
8. I own an original Geek Squad t-shirt, handed to me by Robert Stevens (Stephens?) himself, while I was at the Minnesota State Fair. Stevens (Stephens? - Somebody please give me the proper spelling!) was a co-founder of Geek Squad, which is now owned by Best Buy.
Okay, now it's time to tag. I'll tag Livy, Lex, Ariel, Rianna, Soloist, and Reeva Dubois. Hey, that's six people. Not bad.
We've had rain, rain, and more rain in central Minnesota. It makes me think back to high school French class, where I learned to say "Il pleut," which means "It's raining." You say "pleut" as "plu" - kind of a short "u," but with some "e" mixed in. It almost sounds like rain when you say it, especially the sort of gray, plodding rain we've had. My mom told me that she had heard that if all the rain we've had lately were snow, we'd have 180 inches. Bring it on, baby! The white stuff, please, not more rain. Have we turned into Portland or Seattle?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
What Makes for a Date-able Man
The bar has officially been lowered.
Coast around and you'll find gems such as mahonkin, McFinch, meandrathal, Einstoned, Emotional Tourette's, enclownter, eufirstics, wickcellent, wober, and wordjones. Really, take a look and have a laugh. It's filarious.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
A Continuation of Sorts
Today, there was a story posted about a six-year-old getting a notice from her city telling her to clean up her graffiti or pay a $300 fine. The graffiti? A mere chalk drawing someone called to complain about. How's that for being uptight? Hide your chalk, kiddies!
Monday, October 15, 2007
More Graffiti from Blanchard Dam
Here are more photos of graffiti from Blanchard Dam. Thanks for indulging me.
Btw, the last bit of graffiti says, "Nature Thru a Fence," in case you're having trouble reading it. Notice that Hubby artistically took the shot to show the fence in the foreground.
Old News & Modern Art
Today was a writing day. I managed almost 1,000 words on a new story, the last in my Greenville series. Because I was busy with that, today I'm presenting you with some old news. Last week, on my birthday, my husband, Young Son #2 and I took a trip to Blanchard Dam. I had never been before and neither had Young Son. I was wholly impressed with the dam, the Soo Line trestle bridge (which is now a recreational trail) and all of the graffiti. Now, I know there are lots of people out there who can't standing graffiti, what with its defacement of public and private property, but that aside, I can truly appreciate the artistry presented. Especially when you think about the pressure the artists must be facing to get their tagging done before they are caught.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Modern Art Pissing Match
Erich Vieth posted a picture of a couple of modern art paintings and said that he "wasn't tempted to buy either of these paintings," which were going for $1,300 and $3,200. He indicated that he didn't "get" modern art, which is something I've heard a lot from non-artists. It's as if they feel they don't have the expertise to judge art based on how they react to it. I agreed with Erich, saying that I wouldn't buy the paintings either, and mentioned that our experience of art is subjective - trying to let him know that he could trust his own instincts when it came to paintings.
For opening my mouth, I was promptly challenged by a commenter with the screen name gatomjp to explain myself in detail and to show some of my own work. I felt that I was being placed in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If I didn't link up to my work, I'd be considered chicken. If I did, I'd be placing my art in line for potential potshots, which may or may not be based on the fact that I said something that was disagreeable to gatomjp. I don't have much up in the way of art on my blog, but I did link to my artist trading cards. Gatomjp also asked me to define why, precisely, I didn't like the two paintings presented in the blog.
My reply garnered this response from gatomjp: "Sorry, Mary that's not good enough." I was expected to give an essay on the technical aspects of why I didn't like the paintings. It wasn't good enough that I simply didn't care for them. Gatomjp also leapt to the assumption that I didn't like abstract art at all. He/she did indicate liking my artist trading cards, which was a surprise considering the tone of the rest of his/her comments. I was beginning to think that maybe gatomjp was the artist of the pictured paintings, or perhaps an artist who produced paintings like those pictured. I was stumped by the vehemence at which this person was going after me and thought that if I'd been at a party and someone jumped on me like this, I'd find a way to distance myself right quick. It's not that I mind be asked to give a more in-depth explanation for my opinions, but a little honey (i.e. nicely asking), rather than vinegar (i.e. making assumptions that aren't true) goes a long way in getting my cooperation.
I obliged anyway, giving a long, detailed comment about how a painting can be technically perfect, but if it doesn't speak to my emotions, it will have missed its mark. I used music as my alternate example, because non-musicians have no problem determining what sort of music they enjoy.
As I was thinking further about this issue, and waiting to see how gatomjp would respond to my long comment, I realized that there was more that I had to say about technical vs. emotional aspects in creative works, this time in the subject of literature. When I write short stories, I'm always concerned with the technical aspects of telling a story. How do I turn this phrase? What's my point of view? Am I using cliches? How's my spelling and grammar? Did I break that paragraph at the right time? Do I have any plot holes?
When I read a finished story to my writers group, I'm hoping they will catch problems with the technical aspects of the story. What I've discovered is that this rarely occurs. What happens instead is that the other writers start talking about the content of my story. What happens to that character? Hey, I've had that experience. What's synesthesia? (Or some other obscure topic I've brought up.) After witnessing this several times, I realized that the technical aspects of my storytelling were not jumping to the fore, screaming for attention. They are at least adequate in allowing the story to take center stage. (There's always room for improvement, though.)
This is how it should be with art or music or literature or any other creative endeavor. The technical aspects should remain invisible. The work should appear as though created by magic. Once you've hooked people, gotten them emotionally entangled, they may be curious about how you made it happen. Then you can explain the technique behind the work. If all people notice is the technique, then you haven't done your job as an artist. You haven't truly connected.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Age and Accomplisment
37 Under 36: America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences
I don't know about you, but the vaunting of the spectacular achievements of our youth make me feel completely inadequate. It always has, even when I was considered young, mostly because the tone is that if you haven't made it by a particular youthful age, the implication is that you'll never make it. As if all of us must achieve something noteworthy enough to make it into a magazine. As if those of us who don't simply aren't worth breathing the air on this earth. I do not begrudge people their accomplishments, au contraire! Amen and hallelujah to them for what they've done. And, amen and hallelujah to those who plug away at tasks that aren't deemed noteworthy by society, but that are crucial nonetheless. (You go, Mike Rowe!) But, quit attaching an age to the accomplishment, as though somehow we're all supposed to be so impressed by the wunderkind, merely because of the age, without factoring in all of the support the kid has had in getting to where he's gotten.
Because we can't seem to help ourselves on the whole age vs. achievement issue, I'd like to point out my favorite article on the subject, published by Wired Magazine in July 2006. (Yes, I still have the print version.) It's called "What Kind of Genius Are You?" and looks at the research of David Galenson, who studied age and achievement and found that those who blossomed early tended to peak early, but that there were plenty of genius types who didn't hit their creative strides until much later in life. There's still hope for those of us over 36.
P.S. I forgot a link that came through The Rake's Secrets of the Day email today. Apparently, I'm not to only one interested in the accomplishments of older folks. Lizz Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show, is looking for guys over 40 who've always wanted to be in a rock band, but life got in their way, for a reality show called "Ready 2 Rock." Here's a link to a video of Winstead describing the project.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Too Funny Not to Pass Along
The 9 Manliest Names in the World
Go ahead, have yourselves a giggle. No, wait! That's not manly enough. Have yourself a chortle, followed by a snort.
I've Always Liked Crows
When I was in kindergarten, I found a dead crow and felt sorry for it, so I put it in my school bag and brought it home. Scared my mom half to death when she saw it.
I ran across an article on National Geographic's website today, one that explains how several New Caledonian crows have been fitted with tiny cameras to track their behavior and how scientists are finding that these crows use tools much more than previously believed. How can you not like a bird that's so smart?
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Night at the Museum
Ben Stiller plays Larry Daley, the new night watchman. He's replacing three older security guards played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs, all of whom give stellar performances. There's a bit of predictability in the plot in that Larry is a dreamer who can't seem to get anything accomplished, but he must because he's the non-custodial parent in a divorce situation and has to provide security for his kid. The creators of the movie did a seamless job in bringing the museum exhibits to life, especially the T-Rex installation. Owen Wilson and Robin Williams are hilarious and lend to the credibility. The only thing that seemed weird is that certain exhibits caused all sorts of chaos, but others just seemed to wander around aimlessly in the background - like that giant jade Chinese dog. I wasn't keen on the museum director, who was a stuffy fuddy-duddy. That's not what most museum directors are like, but we still have to deal with the reputation because it keeps getting played that way in movies.
All-in-all, "Night at the Museum" was a good movie and plays well with kids.
As an aside, Dick Van Dyke has always reminded me of my dad, especially when he was younger. It's the jaw. My dad has the same strong jaw Dick Van Dyke has.
Anyway, this link is to an online test in the Science & Nature section of the BBC. The test, which is easy to take - and, to be honest, pretty fun - is to discover what makes us feel disgusted. You run through a series of pictures and rate your level of disgust from high to low. When the test is over, each picture is explained in relation to how most people feel in terms of disgust. The point is that humans should naturally feel disgusted over things that are potentially disease-producing. When my husband and I went through it, we strangely were not as disgusted as the average person over most of the pictures. I can attribute this to a couple of things. We have three children and have seen pretty much every illness-related disgusting event you can see - poop, snot, gushing blood, etc., etc. - and as a parent, you just have to get over the disgust and deal. Also, we are adventurous eaters, being willing to try most any kind of new food. (It helps to watch Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern.) Hubby is more adventurous than I am with food, but I, at one time, considered becoming a naturopath and have long been fascinated with medicine, so I must have a stomach that can take the gross.
Friday, October 05, 2007
I'm reading a collection of short stories called "Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories," edited by John Klima. Each author had to write a story based on winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The story that's sticking with me is "Eczema" by Clare Dudman. The gist of the story is about a young man whose sister has died. He doesn't fit into regular society, but I'm not going to tell you why. The story involves three neighbor women dressed in black that the man's sister used to call crows. The ending of the story left me unsettled, like I want to continue the story. That's why it's sticking with me.
Stephen Fry on Fame
National Guard Troops Denied Benefits After Longest Deployment of Iraq War - The soldiers' orders were written for service one day short of that needed to get full benefits. After reading this, tell me that our President and this White House Administration supports our troops.
24 Illegal Song Downloads Cost U.S. Woman 220,000 - The "U.S. Woman" was actually a Minnesota woman and she lost in her court battle against the Recording Industry of America. I think it's time we support musicians who work outside of the mega-music recording and publishing industry.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Down with Love
"Down with Love" stars Renee Zellweger as Barbara Novak, an author who has written a book called "Down with Love" that teaches women how not to fall in love with men. Ewan McGregor is her male nemesis. He plays Catcher Block, posing as Zip Martin, in order to trick Novak into falling in love with him. David Hyde Pierce plays Peter MacMannus, Catcher's humorously neurotic boss. He is in love with Barbara's editor and friend, Vikki Hiller, played by Sarah Paulson. Vikki is a chain-smoking live-wire who packs a mean punch.
The movie clips along and makes me laugh and clap with delight. There's only one scene where the movie's creators should have said "Cut!" half-way through -- a monologue by Barbara Novak. When you see it, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. When her monologue ends and the camera cuts to Catcher Block, he looks practically comatose. Other than this one minor flaw, "Down with Love" is worth watching over and over.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
Riff on Matthews' Quote
Something Dave Matthews recently said spun me into a mental riff.
According to an article called “Matthews Battles to Get It Right on the Stage and in Life” by George Varga on SignOnSanDiego.com (of the Union-Tribune), Matthews doesn’t like to do interviews because he doesn’t care for how the media oversimplifies things. The quote from Matthews:
“Because of what it is, ‘rock journalism,’ like much of the other mainstream media, is an attempt to sell an oversimplified, nicely packaged vision of the world that will be palatable and easy to travel, when the truth is far more confusing. I can assure anyone that gets their news from the mainstream media that there’s a far more inspirational, complex and breathtaking world out there than the one portrayed to us in general by the purveyors of information.”
You bet. Rock journalism is trying to sell something. Music, for one, but also the glamour and gossip of the rock scene, all in an effort to sell publications and advertising. It’s about readership. If you give people something juicy, they’ll let it dribble from their chins while they eat it up. Sales soar. Ka-ching!
Whether that news is palatable is another story altogether. I have never cared for rock journalism’s concentration on the underbellies of performing artists – the sex and drugs part of the equation, not to mention the liberal shots of liquor. Fine, musicians are human. They have peccadilloes. It’s a rare article about Dave Matthews that doesn’t mention his alcohol consumption. You’d think the guy was a raging alcoholic, and maybe he is, but I doubt it. Raging alcoholics tend to have difficulty remaining upright, let alone maintaining a productive and profitable creative life. But rock journalists keep writing this aspect of Matthews’ life because it connects with the majority of their readers. Besides, who has time to go any deeper? Rock stars are busy. Rock journalists are busy. Time is money. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Get the story out to readers.
Without making excuses for the mainstream media, which, as Matthews and many other critics point out, have plenty of flaws, how can they possible give us the entire, complicated story? The reality is that no one, not even the great PBS documentary directors of our day, can tell the full story on anything. If one could, there’d be no reason to revisit topics, to reexamine the truth, which can be slippery and multi-faceted. Instead, the story is revealed in dribs and drabs over time.
This is the way of all creative works, not just the machinations of rock journalists. The products of creativity, be they songs or books or paintings or stories in the mainstream media, are necessarily distillations. Why does Matthews continue to write songs? I’d venture to guess that, like most artists, he can’t capture everything he wants to express within one song. Neither can rock journalists, or other purveyors of mainstream media, serve up everything they’d like to say in one story or report, even if they desperately wanted to. The flaw is not only with mainstream media’s oversimplifications, it is with all of us who don’t have the patience to allow the story to unfold. We want the final story immediately, so we can make decisions and live our lives accordingly. We won’t be satisfied with any less.
If you want to get a bigger picture of Dave Matthews, you can’t read one article in Rolling Stone and take it as gospel, the last word. You have to listen to his band’s music and his solo music, follow the band’s website, and see the films he’s been in, plus read material and comments posted by fans, along with reading what rock journalists have to say about him. Even then, you will only get a glimpse of the fullness of his being.
Extrapolate this process to any news item and you can begin to see why the mainstream media chooses oversimplification. This does not mean they’re off the hook, however. They could be telling us more of a story than they do; building upon what has gone before, rather than resorting to banal questions like the examples Matthews gives in the SignOnSanDiego article. How many times should he have to answer, “What’s your favorite color?” Has any rock journalist ever asked him, “What’s your favorite note?”
Last night my husband and I had a grand opportunity. We met several people from a chat forum my husband participates in. Because I don’t participate in this chat, other than to read over my husband’s shoulder periodically, or listen as he mentions bits of the conversation, I had no preconceived notions of what people would be like based upon their screen names or what they wrote.
Turns out my husband knew two of the posters, one whom he attended Boy Scout camp with as a kid; the other whose daughter lives in our neighborhood. Small world, as someone said last night.
“Red,” the gal who got this gathering together, lived in
The key here is “over time.” Without physical contact, it is only by following a poster’s writing over time that allows the reader to make judgments about character. And we do make judgments, sometimes too quickly. When we are online with someone, we tend to think we know him/her. A false familiarity builds up. We may make a joke, thinking the person on the other end will know it’s a joke, but the person takes the joke as an insult instead, being unable to read our tone or posture.
Red gave us the perfect example of this phenomenon last night. She discussed a poster who portrays himself as the opposite of what he is in order to get a rise out of others. My husband was suspicious of his comments, thinking maybe the poster was doing this, but he wasn’t sure, so decided not to engage him.
Meeting chat posters last night brought humanity – a physical humanity – to those present. It’s not about words on a screen (sometimes very angry words); it’s about feeling the fullness of a person behind the words, which tempers the emotions.
One man, who was born in
Like most people, I am apt to create fictions about others in my mind when I get a brief or one-sided view of them. (As a fiction writer, maybe I’m even more likely to do so.) That’s what made last night’s gathering so great. Reality can certainly be a disappointment, but, as I’ve often found, it can be way better than fiction. So it was last night. Cheers to the chatters!
For those of you who regularly comment on my blog, know that I’d eventually like to meet you in the flesh.