December 3, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’ve been wanting to do a series of self-portraits ever since seeing Vivian Maier’s unique collection, but I’ve also been a bit shy about it. It’s seems somehow egotistical or self-absorbed to post all photos of myself – and more vulnerable too.
I’ve definitely learned more about my body in the process – like my incredibly bad posture (I may finally listen to my mother and stand up straight!), where I need to work on my lines in yoga positions, and how in photos and in life I prefer to glance to the side rather than straight on. But I’ve also been obsessed recently with Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on how our body language shapes our mentality. Her opinion is that standing in postures of power and confidence for a few minutes will change how we think about our role in a situation. It’s been interesting over the month how my postures have oscillated between confidence and vulnerability. Both are positive and needed, I think, but they are each best in different situations. I am working towards both at the right times.
Here are a few highlights from the month.
You can view the rest here.
November 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Yesterday as my class visited with the poets Maxine Scates and Jeanne Marie Beaumont, we talked about the writing process and how one knows a piece is completed:
“Every time I find an ending, it feels like a gift.”
“The poem should be telling me things I don’t know.”
“The poem, like breath, is the world passing through us.”
They saw themselves as a vehicle for the poem, often a voice for those who don’t have a voice.
Their comments – particularly Beaumont’s who openly admits and celebrates her superstitious nature – reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk a few years ago on our relationship to the creative spirit, “a divine, attendant spirit that comes to human beings from some distant, unknowable source for distant unknowable reasons.” It’s not that we are geniuses, it’s that we have a genius. Creativity does not come from us directly; we just show up to do our part.
So today I am showing up to my kitchen table, pen and paper close by, and we will see what the day brings. And here’s an invitation to you, Reader – a weekend do, if you will: Show up to your creative space and wait.
April 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I just can’t get enough of Brene Brown’s talk, so I wrote a second blog post on what I learned about vulnerability, love, and life as found in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Yeah, that’s right. Life lessons from a story that includes a playboy candelabra and a villian with a hairy chest.
My friend has been re-watching all the Disney animated films in chronological order and blogging about them at Disnerd Adventures. (I wrote a guest post awhile back about Peter Pan and the gift of stories.) After seeing Beauty and the Beast again (the first movie I watched – or remember watching – in theaters), I was drawn to the character of the Beast:
As I paid more attention to the Beast, the requirements of the spell in particular stood out. Not only did the Beast have to get past his own self-centeredness, someone had to love him back.
Think about that for a moment. How in the world—enchanted or not—do you get anyone to love you?
Change yourself? Difficult and challenging but put the pedal to the metal and you can probably do it by your 21st birthday. Get someone to love you? It’s too much to ask.
Read the rest of my post here.
April 13, 2012 § 11 Comments
I lost a poem last night. I thought of it as I was falling asleep, but I did not get up to scribble it down and I cannot remember any of it now. I’ve been thinking about it all day, how it’s lost. How it might have been really good. How I didn’t have a strong enough desire for it, to chase after it. How I regret the not chasing.
I don’t know what was behind the not chasing – sleep and laziness seem too easy answers. I always have an excuse for why I do not write. And lately, as I consider writing more, I wonder if I will have anything to say, let alone anything worth saying. I wonder who would even be interested in hearing me and how people will respond when I’m laid bare on paper.
Brene Brown, who describes herself as a researcher/storyteller, is amazing. She delves into this feeling of fear and unworthiness and discovers that vulnerability lies behind both, but without vulnerability we also don’t experience joy, creativity, or love. Listen to her TED talk below. It is so worth the 20 minutes.
These are hard, but good lessons. I’m not good at being vulnerable; this post took a few weeks to write. What is most dear to me, I tend to hold silently or to let other words obscure my meaning. I have a friend who tells me often, “Keep it honest, Abi!”, another friend whose advice to “engage in the situation in the truest form of yourself” is written on my bathroom mirror, and a third friend who recently emailed me, saying:
The world is full of many things to be loved and despised but also simply seen. Don’t overlay your vision with something that’s not there. Don’t forget to take joy. Don’t try to keep your emotions at arm’s length. Experience this thing and see it as it is, however it may be right now.
I’m surrounded by this message, and yet it is still sinking in, still a daily practice. Be vulnerable. Keep chasing.
Photo credit: Naama Oshri.
March 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Guest post by Laura Mettler.
I would like to introduce you to a musical friend of mine. And by friend, I mean a friendly musical presence in my life who is also a real person whom I have never met. This “meeting” may be redundant, considering the fact that he has released eleven albums since 1997. His name is Andrew Bird, and I myself was properly introduced to his music a little over a year ago. Chances are I am not the only newbie.
I chanced to run into him last week while checking out NPR’s First Listen. And hey! He has a new album coming out this month. Here is your sneak peek. Feel free to sample.
By now, we all love and are totally impressed with TED talks, right? Well, prepare to be even more impressed with Andrew. Here is his TED talk from November 2010! It showcases his mad looping skills which combine whistling, singing, and strumming-plucking-bow-ing a violin, all in precision timing.
Click here for his show on the highly impractical “Sounds from a Room” recorded in late January. It’s almost an hour long, so feel free to put it on as background music for your work-a-day world, or snuggle down on your couch (alone or with friends) and savor it like an after-dinner mint.
Here he covers Cass McCombs’ song “Meet Me Here at Dawn” with Priscilla Ahn.
As if everything he has ever done has not impressed you yet, his music is featured in the new Muppets movie!
To top it all off, he’s from Chicago. Incontestable proof that the Midwest is indeed the best! (Thanks, Etsy!)
February 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Awhile ago, I came across this quote by author A. C. Benson, “All the best stories are but one story in reality – the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.”
So no matter what you’re escaping from or to this weekend, here are a few things to help you on your way.
1. Do read! Elif Shafak, a Turkish writer, gives an incredible TED talk on the politics of fiction, how reading breaks down all sort of walls and gives us better insight into understanding one another. “If you want to destroy anything,” she says, “surround it with thick walls.”
2. Do enter into the noble act of creating (do we ever have a Weekend Do without this advice?). In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Micahel Chabon writes about comic book artists drawing their superheroes in the 1940s, how the act of creating is itself a hopeful escape.
“In literature and folklore, the significance and the fascintation of golems . . . lay in their soulessness, in their tireless inhuman strength, in their metaphoircal association with overweening human ambition, and in the frightening ease with which they passed beyond the control of their horrified and admiring creators. But none of these were among the true reasons that impelled men, time after time, to hazard the making of golems. The shaping of golem was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something– one poor dumb, powerful thing – exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevtiable failures of the greater Creation. It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape. To slip, like the Escapist, free of the entangling chain of reality and the straitjacket of physical laws . . . the Senate investigation into comic books always cited “escapism” among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life.”
3. Do watch a heist movie and note their escapist strategies. One of my favorites is The Maiden Heist, where three old art aficionados working at a museum plan to steal their favorite paintings to avoid being separated from them forever.
4. Do browse the dichromatic and odd world of the French painter Bruno Michaud. His work has a note of mystery and intrigue, a world where you could surely lose yourself if you wanted.
5. Do escape into music. Both the name and music of The Wilderness of Manitoba set the perfect mood for escapism in these lovely harmonies. Just close your eyes and drift.
Are you gone yet?
February 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In my recent spring cleaning, I tossed out quite a few things from cassettes I listened to in junior high (will cassettes – like vinyl – ever make a comeback? I may regret this move) to notes from college classes (my stats class never proved useful). I also came across things I forgot I had and found new uses for what I might have tossed. Shoe boxes get gift wrapped to hold photos or office supplies, homemade quilts become wall hangings, and stacks of books hold up frames given fresh photos.
It got me looking at how other people are reusing their materials, such as this gallon-drum-turned-bench from Etsy, complete with a bike gear as a drink holder.
And Dan Phillips builds stunning, affordable homes out of upcycled materials – anything discarded and durable is fair game and each of his creative innovations adds a unique touch, like the ceiling of frames below.
View The New York Times slideshow of his work here and listen to his TED talk below – his take on our waste and perception of what is perfect is both funny and thought-provoking.
This last story is my favorite. By using empty soda bottles, water, and a few tools, those living in poverty in San Pedro in Manila can finally have light inside their homes during the day. It’s cheap, provides jobs, and cuts down on waste. And so creatively simple.
What are you reusing and upcycling?