Morning Meditation 11/17/14

Charlotte Hamrick:

I have a recurring feature on my personal blog I call “Morning Meditation”. Today’s meditation was inspired by the writings of Pema Chodron, particularly the passage titled Unconditional well-being from “The Pocket Pema Chodron”.

Originally posted on Zouxzoux:

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Your bottomless heart has enough
space to make willingness your constant
companion, to feel fear without
shutting down, to show tenderness
in time of trouble.
Don’t let life shrink it.

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Image by Lilian Auduong on Google+

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Hot Reads 11/9/14

The theme that emerged from this edition of  Hot Reads is women who know who they are and are unapologetic. I love that. I love a woman who doesn’t follow the crowd, who goes her own way. Women like New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux, actor Frances McDormand, and the iconic Janis Joplin.

Enjoy!

From the New York Times: A Star Who Has No Time for Vanity
Tagline: Frances McDormand, True to Herself in HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’
Favorite quote: “We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she said. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal.”
Note: I like this woman’s attitude; she’s fierce and definitely her own woman.  Her acting skills belong in an elite league of strong women actors that, for  me, include Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, and Lupita Nyong’o.  If you haven’t seen Laurel Canyon, you must!

Photo via Flavorwire

Photo via Flavorwire

 

From Flavorwire: The Shocking True Story of My Life With a Flip Phone
Favorite quote: “And ultimately, not everybody has a smartphone. For one thing: they’re really expensive. I’ve been looking into it, and the initial expenditure is shocking to me. How do people afford and/or justify it? Then, regarding Apple products, it’s a lose-lose situation of predetermined obsolescence and keeping up with the Joneses, every year.” and “I find the addictive qualities of the smartphone, and how they’ve changed the way that people are present in public in cities to be somewhat disconcerting.” and…….THE WHOLE ENTIRE ARTICLE.
Note: I really liked this piece because I now know there are other anti-iPhone people like me out there. And, of course, I love that this young woman feels absolutely no peer pressure to have the latest technology.

And speaking of phone addictions…..

From HuffPo: 7 Reasons to Banish Your Phone From the Bedroom
Favorite quote: “A study published in the journal Nature last summer by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., revealed how the artificial blue light emitted from electronic devices like cell phones, smartphones and tablets activates arousing neurons within the brain, preventing us from feeling sleepy.”
Note: I love my iPad mini and I often take it to bed with me at night and read. There’s no doubt in my mind that the longer I read the less I feel like sleeping. Lately, I’ve been choosing to read a real paper and ink book instead because I don’t want to become addicted to my iPad anymore than I want to be addicted to a phone. Plus, reading a real book at bedtime always makes me sleepy.
You really have to make a conscious decision to step away from the glowing screen.

Photo by Paul Costello for The New York Times

Dawn DeDeaux by Paul Costello for The New York Times

From The New York Times: Between Apocalypses (Interview with New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux about her Prospect .3 installation, Mothership)
Favorite quote: “At 15, Ms. DeDeaux considered herself an old master; by her early 20s, she was making installations out of telephone booths hooked up to CB radio channels. She was also part of the group that founded the Contemporary Arts Center here in 1976, she said, a year after she won the demolition derby in the Superdome.”
Note: This interview was so interesting and really sparked my interest to see Mothership. Yet another unique, independent woman!

The featured Book List is from Book Riot: Peek Over Our Shoulders: What Rioters Are Reading
When I saw Bird Box on this list it gave me the extra push to download and read it. What they said about it: “Bird Box by Josh Malerman: When a bunch of Rioters say a book is so scary that you have to put it in the freezer, you buy the book and gird your girdable parts.” What I say about it: I slept with a light on. If you like apocalyptic stories, this one is for you.

Featured poem is by Dorianne Laux whose work I’ve become somewhat obsessed with over the summer. I’m a Janis Joplin fan so when I read her poem “Pearl” from her book,  Smoke, I immediately emailed and asked permission to post it here. She graciously agreed. This poem is so good it makes me shiver. Reading this, I feel like I’m right there in the audience at Monterey in  1967. When a poem, or any piece of writing, can transport you to a different place and time so easily and so convincingly, well, you know it’s exceptional.
Here is an MP3 of Dorianne reading “Pearl” and talking about the writing of the poem. Enjoy!
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Pearl

She was a headlong assault, a hysterical
discharge,
an act of total extermination.
–Myra Friedma, Buried Alive:
The Biography of Janis Joplin

She was nothing much, this plain-faced girl from Texas,
this moonfaced child who opened her mouth
to the gravel pit churning in her belly, acne-faced
daughter of Leadbelly, Bessie, Otis, and the booze-
filled moon, child of the honky-tonk bar-talk crowd
who cackled like a bird of prey, velvet cape blown
open in the Monterey wind, ringed fingers fisted
at her throat, howling the slagheap up and out
into the sawdusted air. Barefaced, mouth warped
and wailing like giving birth, like being eaten alive
from the inside, or crooning like the first child
abandoned by God, trying to woo him back,
down on her knees and pleading for a second chance.
When she sang she danced a stand-in-place dance,
one foot stamping at that fire, that bed of coals;
one leg locked at the knee and quivering, the other
pumping its oil-rig rhythm, her bony hip jigging
so the beaded belt slapped her thigh.
Didn’t she give it to us? So loud so hard so furious,
hurling heat-seeking balls of lightning
down the long human aisles, her voice crashing
into us-sonic booms to the heart-this little white girl
who showed us what it was like to die
for love, to jump right up and die for it night after
drumbeaten night, going down shrieking – hair
feathered, frayed, eyes glazed, addicted to the song -
a one-woman let me show you how it’s done, how it is,
where it goes when you can’t hold it in anymore.
Child of everything gone wrong, gone bad, gone down,
gone. Girl with the girlish breasts and woman hips,
thick-necked, sweat misting her upper lip, hooded eyes
raining a wild blue light, hands reaching out
to the ocean we made, all that anguish and longing
swelling and rising at her feet. Didn’t she burn
herself up for us, shaking us alive? That child,
that girl, that rawboned woman, stranded
in a storm on a blackened stage like a house
on fire.

_________________________________

Damn, that’s good!

Don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest and have a great reading week!

Bad Apple 8.1

I hate updates. Nine times out of ten they’re a pain in the ass the way they make us relearn how to navigate everything when the old way was just fine, thank you. OK, I get that sometimes software people come up with new ideas for new things. I get it, I do. But leave the old things alone! And, for goddess sake, don’t make the update so big it takes hours to install. Smaller bits, please.

I updated my iPad to 8.1 last week and it’s been pure crazy hell  ever since. Like just now. I’m in the middle of reading a story from “Maybe This Time” by Austrian writer Alois Hotschnig and it’s got me by the throat when……  Black Out! The screen goes blank. In the middle of a sentence. This is happening way, way too much and it’s only one of a number of problems I’m having, including:

Clipboard only works after about six taps.  This is wreaking havoc with my Pinterest shares and adding new sites to Feedly. I use both a lot so I’m getting pissed a lot.

Links work slowly, if at all. Links on search engines don’t work at all. I mean never. Links from Gmail rarely work.

Screen freezes and/or completely blacks out. A lot.

Does not remember logins and passwords. No auto-population.

And it’s S-L-O-W…………………….

At least Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube, etc. are still working OK (Shhhhhhhhh, don’t say it too loud.)

I googled up some Apple forums and I see lots of bitching about the upgrade on iPhone and I found some bitching about iPad so I know I’m not alone. My question is, WHEN IS THE FIX? Cause I’m getting close to apoplectic here. Any tips or info from you out there are much appreciated. A tech geek I am not.

Meanwhile, I’ll be using my PC more and my iPad less.

 

CONtraflow: New Orleans’ Own Taste of the Geek Life by Anna Harris

IMG_1807-0If someone had told me a few months ago that I’d get some of the best writing advice of my life at a hotel out by the airport, I’d have been suitably skeptical. It’s just that when one imagines a scene filled with award-winning authors, aspiring wordsmiths, and a sizeable contingent of steampunks and Chewbacchanalians, the Hilton on Airline Highway is probably not going to be the first place she thinks of. Not that the Hilton isn’t a great hotel, of course – just that it’s not that high in the list of wretched hives of scum and villainy. That fact notwithstanding, it turns out that the organizers couldn’t have picked a better spot to house the odd and amazing convergence known as CONtraflow.

Now in its fourth year, CONtraflow is a fan-organized, volunteer-run convention that focuses on science fiction and fantasy in literature and art. It’s a small convention (for right now, at least), but a robust one. This year the gathering boasted 100+ educational panels, parties, and concerts, featuring over 55 well-known names in the sci-fi and fantasy community. The gathering attracts writers, artists, vendors and fans (and everything in between), who mingle and bond over a shared love of geekdom.

At 32, until very recently it was a necessity to keep my geeky interests a secret, lest I be branded a weirdo. Even though pop culture has thoroughly embraced gaming, comic book heroes, and various sci-fi franchises over the last decade, if you’re my age (and especially if you’re female) you probably remember a time when it was just not possible to admit that you read fantasy novels and knew a smattering of Klingon without being ostracized. It’s only within the last couple of years that I started meeting geeks who were proud to share their interests with others, and started to realize that it was OK to be geeky. Meanwhile though, old habits die hard, and I’m still getting used to not being ashamed to buy comic books or profess my love for Settlers of Catan.

So while a large contingent of my comic book-loving, RPG-playing, sci-fi movie quoting friends regularly attend huge and hallowed conventions like Dragoncon and San Diego Comic-Con International, the bulk of my con experience begins and ends with Star Trek conventions with my mother, circa 1990. As you can imagine, I hadn’t revealed my secret to any of my friends – how embarrassing to basically be a con virgin! I was hoping that CONtraflow would give me a decent taste of what it’s like to go to a convention, without the huge crowds and overstimulation. I figured I could work my way up to the crazy stuff if the basics seemed interesting enough.

Luckily, my expectations were right on the money. From the moment the Hilton’s automatic doors sluiced open, enveloping me in brightly printed carpet and the sweet, sweet caress of over-conditioned air, I knew I was home. Two steampunk pirate wenches and an excellent Maleficent walked in with me from the parking lot, and I followed them through the hotel to the registration desk.

I had hoped to attend all three days, but as it turned out, Sunday was my only opening to check out the panels. I explained this to the lovely volunteer at registration, and she gamely recommended the best panels that day, based on my interests. While we were talking, I explained that I was new to this whole “being vocal about being a geek” thing. Without missing a beat, she reassured me that there’s nothing like going to a con – in fact, she’d met her husband at one! I made a mental note to keep my eyes peeled, just in case Destiny happened to be cosplaying that day.

The first panel on my list was “How to Write a Great First Line”, with author and radio talk show host M. B. Weston. Weston’s specialties are fantasy, YA, steampunk and paranormal fiction, and her enthusiasm for her craft was immediately evident as the panel got underway. “Punch, and punch hard!” was the message of the day. During the hour-long open Q&A, Weston shared her experience in crafting first lines made to immediately reel a reader in, and keep them hungry for more. The author explained that first lines were a kind of bait, or a drug, if you will. Keep adjusting the formula as you get to know your readers more. Introducing sensory details, inciting curiosity, and creating a sense of urgency are all ways to get the reader hooked. Most importantly, don’t get caught up on the first line. Keep writing, and let that perfect introduction come to you as you build the rest of the story. You can always go back and edit.

Weston’s talk was so engaging that I found myself staying put through the break to chat with other members of the crowd who’d stuck around to talk about first lines. Before I knew it, the next panel was getting under way. During “How to Promote Yourself & Your Writing”, independent author Ben Herr and author/actor/publisher Allan Gilbreath encouraged the writers in the crowd to start thinking of themselves as brands, and to start getting their messaging out to the right target market. Herr, creator of YA fantasy series Alynia Sky, is a fascinating example of how to be your own best brand ambassador. He shared valuable lessons on what’s worked – and what hasn’t – for him as he’s made it his mission to see his stories travel the globe. Gilbreath’s advice was even more interesting, as he’s had the opportunity to view the process from the writer’s chair as well as from the publisher’s point of view. His tips on how to succeed (and avoid screwing up) were useful and frequently hilarious, including the best thing I heard all day: “Interns are an invaluable resource – and they compost well!”

Despite the great advice had in the first two panels, the next panel I attended was definitely my favorite. Authors J. L. Mulvihill, Rob Cerio, and Kimberly Daniels led a very engaged crowd through an active discussion on “Writing Good Villains”. Between the three panelists, they covered a diverse set of genres, including YA, steampunk, fantasy, sci-fi, and comedy, but also were able to reference villains and plot points from TV, movies, comic books, classic fiction and even non-fiction sources. This created a rich and very accepting conversation, where the crowd felt encouraged to bring up ideas and share their struggles and successes with writing villainous characters. We even talked about how societal norms change our concept of villainy, and how to build a story where the villain is the landscape, or the society, or even the protagonist. Best of all, during the panel, I felt a light bulb switch on in my mind, as a story character I’d been writing and rewriting for a couple of years now suddenly completely made sense.

Afterward the day of awesome panels, I realized that it was pointless to try avoiding the siren song of geeky baubles any longer. As I wound my way through the serpentine field of merch tables, exploring my options, I could almost hear my bank account groaning. Bags laden with new books, I wandered back out to the parking lot, mentally signing myself up for next year’s CONtraflow. Wonder if the Hilton takes Vulcans?
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Anna Harris is a New Orleans-based marketing consultant and blogger. You can find her online at Compass & Quill and The Camino Plan.

All Saints Day

In New Orleans, All Saints’ Day is as important as any other holiday including 4th of July, Memorial Day and New Years. During this day, the cemeteries come to life with hundreds of bodies passing through each cemetery, especially the Catholic ones. The relatives of the deceased will bring flowers to decorate the graves as well as paint them and clean them. Some families will bring food and have lunch with their deceased loved ones.

~via nolacemetaries.com

I put together a few photos from my New Orleans Churches and Cemeteries album on Flickr in honor of All Saints Day.

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