Weekend Do: Women Edition

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

1. Do read these facts produced by The Girl Effect:

  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.

  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for men.

  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.

2. Do wear Sseko Sandals.  Sseko Designs supports young women in Uganda to further their education by providing fair work for them to earn money towards their college tuition. The sandals are handcrafted and beautifully made by these wonderful women.

3. Do watch the video of the recent graduates’ (all employees at Sseko) from Cornerstone Leadership Academy reaction to passing their exams. 1.52 minutes of pure joy!

4. Do love on the women in your life and find a way to acknowledge the ones that are yet to be.


The Future of the Novel

April 27, 2011 § 4 Comments

I usually don’t read a lot of new fiction. There are so many classics still to be devoured, recommendations from friends and family to peruse, and so many new titles every year that it seems easier to let time be the sifter of what’s good and what disappears quietly into the library’s discarded pile.

But I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the novel that won last week’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Jennifer Egan’s novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad. Centered around two characters and the changing music industry over the last 40 years, the novel jumps back and forth through time, each chapter about a different person who is loosely connected to one of the main characters. The nonlinear plot jumps space too, from New York to San Francisco to Africa.

Egan explains more in this interview with Jeffrey Brown. (It’s an 8 min video, but worth the watch. She’s quite self-aware and articulate of her writing process.)

I like Egan’s reasoning for this sort of structure, that when we hear a song, “music cuts through time like nothing else.” So a novel about music shouldn’t be too concerned with chronology. Similarly, our thought-lives are hardly ever linear; memories, present tasks, and future daydreams and plans frequently overlap. I think James Joyce’s Ulysses ultimately revealed this same idea: our stream-of-conscious moves us in and out of time, not straight through it. One could make the argument that our perception of reality is never truly linear.

The loose narrative structure–every chapter a short story in itself–reminded me of another favorite novel, Adverbs by Daniel Handler (more famously known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, the author of the wry Series of Unfortunate Events). Adverbs is a novel about love, each chapter titled something like immediately, judgmentally, or artfully, which describes that particular love story. The same characters keep popping up, first in their own story, then as a minor character in someone else’s story. It’s the literary version of a concept album:

“It is not the diamonds or the birds, the people or the potatoes; it is not any of the nouns. The miracle is the adverbs, the way things are done. It is the way love gets done despite every catastrophe.” -Daniel Handler, Adverbs

It’s an interesting structure in both books and a trend I’d love to see more of in future novels. In our increasingly connected world, I’m intrigued by the idea that one’s story is told as much through other characters’ interactions and perception of that person than the person’s own thoughts and experiences. To truly understand a character, we observe her in different periods of life or see him through the eyes of someone else. It’d be an exchange of the almost visceral connection between reader and character for the more objective role of a sideline observer, but with my generation’s hip cynicism and shortened attention span, this could just be the future of the novel.


April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The other day when I dropped a stack of yellow, cut-out circles (for the purpose of a flower-making craft) on the floor and said, “Oops-a-daisy,” my student replied, “Miss V, what does that mean?” I looked at him and said, “It means oops, like when you drop a crayon or your snack and you say oops. You can also say oops-a-daisy.” The little kindergarten boy then paired a sweet, upbeat melody with the words “oops-a-daisy” into a song.

As I pondered my response to him, I’m not so confident that I gave him the right definition of oops-a-daisy. Thus, my curiosity led me on a quest to discover the origin of this phrase.  Two meanings come from this phrase. First, starting in 1862 the phrase “upsy-daisy” was usually used by children as an exclamation when assisted in a spring-leap from the ground, meaning “going up.” The “daisy” part comes from the word lackaday with the suffix -sy attached. Second in the 1920s, “oops-a-daisy”  or “whoops-a-daisy” came to mean in dismay or to drop something, meaning “going down.”

For me, I tend to use the phrase “oops-a-daisy” when I make a mistake or something suddenly occurs. A few people have made their own interpretation of “oops-a-daisy” moments that is quite creative.

1. Jan Vormann, an artist, discovers wall cracks to be the perfect place to hold legos in his Dispatchwork project.

2. Barney Saltzberg turns mistakes into interactive, beautiful, and thoughtful pages in his book, “Beautiful Oops!”

3. Artist Juliana Santacruz Herrera fills street potholes and cracks with braided yarn – turning disrupting road bumps into pieces of art.

A nod to all of these individuals choosing to turn oops-a-daisy moments into something incredibly creative and beautiful.

This Groaning Earth Lightened

April 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve come to enjoy the well-designed infographic – especially ones with fake data – and I’m thrilled there are so many websites devoted to finding and creating them. The last few days have been particularly exciting as the weekly infographic my coworkers and I make (our creative lunchtime project) got picked up by I Love Charts and was a huge hit in the blogosphere:

Made by twentyonehundred productions

As today also encourages good care of this groaning earth, here’s a nod to a few folks doing just that.
1. These plant-able comic books let you enjoy your superhero and a garden too.

April Showers has some serious gardening superpowers.

2. Stylish sneakers from the Dutch brand OAT Shoes. After they’re worn and torn and you’ve tossed them out, they’ll biodegrade and (hopefully) sprout trees from the seeds packed in the lining. These won 2nd place at Amsterdam’s Green Fashion Awards this year.

I wonder how many more trees Johnny Appleseed would have planted had he worn a pair of these on his cross-country hikes...

3. I’m always inspired by the New Dress a Day blog, whose thrifting creator reuses some of the ugliest, oldest clothes around and somehow envisions a stylish and trendy new piece.

Before and after

4. There have been quite a few spin-offs of the song, “Empire State of Mind,” but this mock music video done by volunteers for Green Sangha, an environmental organization in California, might just be my favorite.

5. The lovely Upcycled designers at Poketo! have given us bags made from discarded street banners, wallets made from leather sofas, and my favorite: totes made from vintage suits.

Guys, would this be a tote you'd carry? It's got so much class!

Morning mix tape

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s midweek of my spring break and I’m allowing myself to linger-linger in the morning light.

Enjoy these morning tunes that will surely get you movin’ and groovin’ around.

1. Dr. Dog – Heart it Races

2. Pomegranates – Everybody, Come Outside!

3. Breathe Owl Breathe – Swimming

Linger as long as you can.

You’re My Melancholy Sunshine

April 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

Most of us think of the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” as a sweet, lighthearted chorus, but the original version is more of a melancholy ballad. When Pakou and I saw The Civil Wars this weekend, they performed their cover of the song, intentionally reaching back to the sad moments in which it was written just before WWII.

When they sing it, you understand that the narrator is currently living through a period of grey skies. It’s not a song of sentimental appreciation for the lover; it’s a desperate plea to return, to stay, to be near.

It’s amazing how a simple change completely reinterprets a song, the most famous example being Aretha Franklin’s cover of “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”  Written by Otis Redding in 1965 and covered by Aretha just two years later, the song went from a cry for respect from a woman to a powerful symbol of women’s rights.

Both renditions are amazing (I love watching Otis dance!), but Aretha’s version, tied to some injustice, to an international, churning frustration pushed the already popular song into becoming a feminist icon.

For me, changing the gender of the singer in Glee’s cover of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” similarly transformed the song to a powerful expression of pain and bitterness. Since I first heard it, I’ve loved the music to James Brown’s song. There’s those intensely dramatic first bars, the strings running down the scales to begin the slow and soulful beat of the song, the strings now periodically rising and falling in the background. And I love James Brown, his funk and “I Feel Good” voice. But the chauvinistic words have always chafed at me, even if intended to be complimentary to the women in his life.

While a few women have covered this song before, like Christina Aguilera and Joss Stone, their versions still seem self-glorified, as if women are the only good things around. Then last year, the TV show Glee covered it, placing a pregnant teenage girl at the center of the song. In the loose storyline behind this scene, she’s become increasingly outcast at school and at home while the guy she slept with has barely faced any troubles.

Forget for a moment the cheesy choreography of swelling bellies and the fact that Dianna Agron can’t sing soul to save the Tasmanian Forester Kangaroo.

For many women in abusive relationships, trapped in sex trafficking, or just hindered by poverty and single motherhood, this is a real and bitter reality. When I hear this sung by a lonely woman struggling to survive, to find some self-worth in a male-dominated world, the song takes on a power that matches the music, a power I don’t feel is present when sung by a man looking at his success and realizing women make it more meaningful.

Weekend do: Rainy day edition

April 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

There are so many different things that inspire me – clothes, art, music, and words. For a rainy weekend ahead, here is what inspires me and I hope you too:

1. Do wear this lovely dress by EmersonMade.

2. Do look at Camila do Rosário’s art. She is a Brazilian artist and her mixed-media illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful.


3. Do listen to The Civil Wars. Thankful I get to enjoy this duo live with friends this weekend.

What is currently inspiring you this weekend?

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