Month: February 2010

Referral Friday: 11:11

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week.* For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

the communicatrix logo on an 11:11 vinyl bizcard holder

Well, it happened again, South By Southwest is just around the corner, and once again, I’m going to be scrambling to get my new cards done in time.

Honestly, though, I only care about the cards because I’m so screamingly, trippingly excited to whip out my brand, spankin’ new, super-foxy card holders from 11:11.

Who to the what now?

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them yet. You will. Jamila Tazewell & Patrick Ladro, the wife-and-husband co-owners of 11:11, makers of the world’s cutest ready- and custom-made vinyl hold-y products, will be well-known soon enough. Oprah-known, if I (and you, only you don’t know it yet) have any say in it.

The weird backstory

Patrick and Jamila found me in the most normal of modern ways: via Chris Guillebeau, when he announced his L.A. visit (which I helped pull together, as I am a crazy-mad fangirl of young Mr. Guillebeau). Only…he remembered me from somewhere else, like acting. Because he used to act in commercials, like I did, so he used to read my L.A. Casting column, and, well, you get the picture.

Speaking of pictures

This is where Jamila comes in. She’s been designing these adorable business-card holders and checkbook holders and other groovy holder-type things for awhile. A-dorable. And since we all have all this stuff in common, and they like my stuff, as a kind of thank-you Jamila makes me a custom business-card holder and Patrick sends it to me. And I go NUTS for this thing because it’s everything I want in something like that: cute, small, light and plastered all over with my picture.

So I say, “Hey! We need to make this a Referral Friday feature and get the word of this out there: can you give my readers a deal?”

And Patrick is like, “Hey! Righteous!” And even offers to send me a bunch more, so I can show them off at SXSW and totally make all the other cool kids jealous. HA. Take THAT, cool kids!

Anyway. Here’s the deal.

Fabulous deal for readers of communicatrix-dot-com only! Go to the 11:11 shop on Amazon and…

BONUS-EXTRA! I have it on good authority that if you buy two or more items with this code, 11:11 will throw in a random cardholder as a free gift. Rock the hell on, mighty soldiers!

Make sure to enter this promotion code at checkout: COMX9999

(Look, Ma! My own special checkout code!)

Offer good on orders placed from today, Friday, February 26th – Tuesday, March 2nd, and only on orders from the Amazon store. If you want custom items, well, you’ll have to take it up with Jamila and Patrick yourself. And no discounts. That I know of, anyway.

This is my first special communicatrix offer and I am so excited to offer it. Don’t be a jerk, order a bunch. Make me look good. For yourself! For your friends! Because how cute are these as gifts, right? You’re gonna get one free if you buy two!

Full disclosure: the kids have thrown me a few of these for free, because that’s how they roll. But I’m’a order me a jet-plane passport holder and a Siamese kitty checkbook cover anyway, full boat (minus discount!). Because that’s how I roll, mothatruckas!

xxx
c

Full set of photos available to view at Flickr.

*And so you know, the SECOND ANNUAL Make-a-Referral Week kicks off on Monday. Hop to it for the info, and get on board the get-this-goddamn-economy-moving-for-the-little-guy train!

Poetry Thursday: You first

man on couch wearing headphones

Eight hours
of sleep

Thirty minutes
of exercise

Sixty-four ounces
of water

One goal:

Put
your
own
oxygen
mask
on
first
or prepare for a long, hard, rocky, uphill road
of diminishing returns.

Taking care of yourself
can be a bitch
but it does not make you one.

That is reserved
for those who take from others
what is not given.

You first, ma’am:
no matter what shape
the fixing
takes.

xxx
c

Funhouse mirror

warped mirrors reflecting a warped image

I have a friend whom I guess the kids would characterize as a kind of frenemy: thrown together by circumstance, stuck together of necessity, we are close in some ways but wary in others, always doing this delicate dance of extending ourselves while keeping an eye on the exits, or using our powers of incision while endeavoring not to cut each other  too deeply.

Like most cases where I have a strong and somewhat negative reaction to someone, I suspect it is because we are more alike than either of us cares to admit: there are plenty of flat-out buzzkills I couldn’t care less about because I feel no common ground; their shit isn’t my shit, ergo I have no personal investment, because hey, when you get right down to it, it’s all about us.

I had been having the hardest time putting my finger on it, though. We are unaligned in so many ways it’s ridiculous, from our personal style (girly-chic vs. whatever mine is) to our modes of expression (sailor-colorful vs. whatever hers is).

On the other hand, on paper, we have quite a bit in common: love of the arts, wide range of creative expression, a fairly sharp mind. I’ll even grant her a sense of humor, although of a much, much different variety.

As for our shared “challenges,” after some painful reflection I’ve noted that we’re both neurotic, controlling and highly insecure. I mean, I get all that, it’s outrageously, neon-sign-obvious to me, although I question whether the similarity is even a blip on the edges of her consciousness. So you could say it’s blazingly obvious, too, why she would push my buttons: seeing my most loathed behaviors come to whiny, annoying life in her would of course set me off, right? Who’d want to be like her, I mean, me, right?

Only that wasn’t quite it. Trust me, I’ve noted my own, shameful behaviors in far more dark and/or lost souls than this woman, who really is more annoying than anything else, and really only annoying to me, not anyone else. This is my thing; I’m sticking my Dymo label on it.

Finally, while I was playing around in the Google Wave with Daveâ„¢, he held up the mirror that allowed me to see it clearly for the first time: she is me, inside out. She is fine with our flaws, while I’m still afraid or ashamed to truly hold them in my hands and own them in my heart. Or she seems that way, maybe she has no idea, and maybe that is her own path, coming in her way to that realization.

My path is to carry this with me, this uncomfortable burden of truth, until I can toss it about so lightly, I can toss it, period. And, no guarantee, of course, but maybe once I do, I will have a hand free to extend in true friendship…

xxx
c

Image by Clearly Ambiguous via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Book review: The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb

diptych of two illustrations from r. crumb's illustrated book of genesis

I am not one known for my godliness. Church makes me itch, I’ve been a doubter from way back before I knew there were such things, and, while I’ve been exposed to big, honking chunks of it thanks to eight years of Catholic school, I’ve never read the Bible all the way through. Those “begats,” they always put me to sleep.

I’ve always found the idea of comic-book renditions kinda suspect, as well. Sure, there are some stories in there that lend themselves to literally graphic retelling: look what DeMille did with Exodus and 4 million extras; I do, at least once a year. But the various panels I’d seen made these efforts seemed more like sucker bets, ways of roping in kids and the egregiously impatient, more like Jesus porn than anything really illuminating. Illustration, like design, should earn its keep, not be reduced to cheap gimmickry or decoration.

Revelations from the genius of documentation

R. Crumb‘s cartoons have been illuminating things for me since I stumbled on them at the tender age of seven or eight, in a stack of other grownup-type reading material at my grandparents’ apartment.1 It took a while for my baby brain to catch up, but I now realize that Crumb’s work was my first exposure to drawings carrying equal weight with words in grownup storytelling. Plus, you know, there were all of those great, dirty pictures. Way more interesting than the back issues of Playboy I also unearthed in Grampa’s study (which to an eight-year-old were already pretty interesting).

Dirty subject matter will only get you off so far, though. Once you’d burned through the material a first time, for the naughty bits, you could go back and pore over the minutiae. I’m a fan of minutiae, by which I mean I can get a little OCD at times; re-reading early Crumb is very soothing, and it only gets better as he gets older and his talent deepens and his scope widens, not a lot, just enough to incorporate his other interests, like old-time blues and jazz, or the creeping industrialization of the countryside, or, now, really old stories about where we come from.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb is book-ended by an illuminating forward, where he documents (in hand-drawn lettering) his impetus for creating the book and acknowledges the great amount of help given him in bringing it to life, and an equally illuminating commentary (in mercifully legible typeset characters) at the end, where he discusses various pertinent items concerning the content and background of the chapters.

Do yourself a favor and read the book all the way through first, without skipping ahead to peek at what are basically extended footnotes. While the commentary helps make some sense of a few really impenetrable parts, for the most part, I found myself fully sucked into these ancient stories, begats inclusive, in a way I never have before. I wondered about all the people I sprang from (at least half of them directly descended from Noah’s son, Shem, according to this particular history); even more, I started to wonder about all the people and stories who weren’t in the book, the ladies doing the begatting, for instance, and how some of their stories really, really didn’t add up. Crumbs drawings pull you in and slow you down even as they make you want to race through and gobble the story up whole. Reading this version of some of the greatest stories ever told is maddening and intoxicating and, yes, interesting.

“Goddammit, this is a good book!”

As God is my witness, those are the exact words I spoke, out loud and without thinking, when I finished the whole shebang, and, I think, why Crumb’s work is a triumph: it engages people who might not otherwise engage with these ancient stories, and provides a way for us to plug into the ancient throughline of humanity. Despite predictable accusations from certain quarters, the book is as far from titillating as you can get when you’re talking about a work where every five seconds, it seems, someone is either smiting someone or begatting with them. As more reasonable members of the religious community seem to have pointed out, it ain’t like the stuff isn’t written in there, people.

It’s unlikely that I’ll have a conversion experience even having had my first connection with a holy text. But like my brothers and sisters on the other side of this great religious divide, I now have an interest in a story we share. That’s a shared place, and shared places can be the beginning of mutual understanding, right?

Or not. But either way, it’s a helluva good read…

xxx

c

1By piecing together various stories, dated documentation and memories, I finally deduced that the underground comix in question had been a gag gift for my grandfather’s massive 60th birthday bash, although given his interest in keeping up with the times as they were a-changin’, he may have bought them himself: Gramps was hip to Dylan when Dylan was coming up on the scene, and had the ancient LPs to prove it.

Images by Rachel Kramer Bussell and ideowl via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt’s excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

A complaint-free Colleen

the author showing off her "complaint-free world" reminder bracelet

One of the more fascinating things about deciding to grant myself MORE ROOM this year, taking these few months off to catch up with the mountain of obligations I’d overcommitted to, taking time in the day to read and to practice Nei Kung and to write in the Google Wave with Daveâ„¢, taking the time while traveling to wander instead of cramming each trip with wall-to-wall everything, has been seeing what arises in the spaces that I’ve managed to create and not immediately fill up with some other “doing.”

Note, please, that I said “fascinating,” not “wonderful” or “cool” or “awesome,” (although I could possibly use that last in the more traditional, non-surfer-co-opted sense). Because quite often what floats into that space is not “pretty!” or “love!” or even “what?”, but some kind of slam. And far too often, the object of my scrutiny, adjudication and swift-and-merciless punishment is my own self-battered self. Which is not to say it would be better to find the rest of the world wanting instead; I’ve just been around long enough to know that shitty outward behavior tends to originate with shitty inward stuff.

So. What to do?

I’m already observing, which is great, because I’m of firm belief that nothing can change until you have some idea that there’s something you need to change in the first place, and that requires a certain amount of looking around.

I’m also already in talk therapy (which is probably how all this conscious observing started, come to think of it). I’ve got a few flavors of ongoing accountability support set up, as well, Success Team and the aforementioned Wave project and my semi-not-regular ladies’ meetup, where repeat sabotage cannot help but be brought to light.

I’m really, really not ready for meditation: seeding three big new habits of reading, Nei Kung-ing and SCD-ing are all I can handle.

Ditto for toting around some kind of “judgment journal” to note my slams on the fly, like one would pennies spent or calories consumed.

The answer came on a fishing expedition for a fresh moka pot gasket, a supply of which I keep on hand in the silverware drawer. After stabbing my fingers on various implements I’ve thrown in over time (note to self: declutter silverware drawer), I came across the complaint bracelet my friend Mary Ellen had given me a couple of years back.

Self, I asked, what is judging yourself if not a kind of complaining?

Whereupon I stuck that sucker on my wrist with a solemn vow to transfer it from one to the other with each noting of the negative. I did it, too, for a full week(ish). After which I took off that damned purple nuisance and hurled it back in the drawer with some excellent excuse or other, too loose on the wrist, too ugly with my outfit, and tried to forget about it.

But this morning, after a few rounds with my inner Judge Judy before breakfast left me feeling sad and weary, I pulled out the bracelet again and quietly slipped it on my wrist. Wasn’t gonna tell anyone, much less the blog world at large; was gonna make up some crazy thing about orphans in West Africa or widows in Afghanistan if anyone in real life asked.

Then I realized that not only is there no shame in working to relieve myself of a burden I am weary of carrying with me, there may be help available in the getting-rid-of if I’m really and truly game.

I will catch myself where I can. And if you see me out and about, sneaking a little one-two punch to my own jaw while I’m not looking, perhaps you will catch me where I cannot catch myself.

Gently, of course, and without judgment…

xxx
c

Referral Friday: Shatterboxx Media

cupcakes, one of which has edible code fondant

If you’re reading this via email or RSS, you probably won’t notice, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to click on through to the other side today.

Because finally, as of today (or a little bit of yesterday that barely counts), I’ve managed to wrest this poor little blog from the ganky clutches of Frankenstein code I’ve cobbled together from various WordPress themes over the years, and into nice, clean Thesis.

Or rather, Jamie Varon and her team at Shatterboxx Media have.

Are you here yet, on the site? (Go on, do it! I’ll wait!) Okay, even if you won’t right now, at some point, you’re going to need to visit the site for something, back issues of the newsletter archives** or to find that recipe for Strawberry-Chicken-Walnut Salad* you’ve been dreaming about for years but finally are going to make this spring, for reals. And when you do, that site’s pages will load and reload and load again like a, well, I was going to make a luge joke, but it’s really too soon, even if it is a dreadful sport I never saw the point of.***

That’s because Thesis has been optimized within an inch of its life, or at least, a helluva lot better than Colleen’s Third Grade Stabs at Fixing CSS Code (which is an insult to nine-year-olds everywhere, I know). I laughed, laughed, I tell you!, at the idea that cleaning things up could positively affect page load; I figured the biggest benefit would be that I could now go in and fiddle under the hood and actually change things, instead of that code just staring back at me in that mysterious, impenetrable way. But no, ZIPPITY-DOO-DAH, the pages, they are loading! Which means all sorts of other nerdy bits of goodness, like Google’s bots having an easier time of indexing my pages and (we can only hope)  much lower “bounce rates” born of frustration.

What is most important to you, the reader (and I hope, potential blogger/website owner) is knowing about Jamie. She is fast, she is good, she provides excellent value and, glory hallelujah!, she is patient. We talked back in June of last year, after which conversation I immediately plunked down a 50% deposit (when you know, you know), after which…nothing. Because of me and my busy, busy schedule, and my massive disorganization and plate-spinning and such. Jamie just calmly emailed me now and again to touch base, to see what was what, to see if I needed any help/nudging.

When I finally gave the go-ahead, we had an easy-breezy 1/2-hour conversation about what I wanted vs. what had to happen; 24 hours later (if that), I had a schedule and a plan. Bada-bing, bada-boom! All of life should work this easily.

One more note: I’m not an affiliate for many items, even multiple items for the same person. I became an affiliate for Thesis because after installing it on The Virgo Guide to Marketing, I fell in love with its ease of use. There’s massive support for Thesis, and a big user community. If you’re really terrified of doing anything yourself, there’s a community of nice Thesis devs like Jamie and her partner and team who can help you with what you need for a reasonable fee. But really, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with webby stuff, because it’s so danged simple.

Brava, Shatterboxx! Bravo, Thesis!

Now, let’s get back to work…

xxx
c

UPDATE 7/16/10: While for now, this site is still using the Thesis theme, I can no longer recommend Thesis due to concerns I have about the ethics surrounding its release.

I may write a longer post about this, but for now, I’ll simply say that I’m very concerned about the hard line Chris Pearson is taking on the WordPress license issue, and very upset with myself for not doing due diligence when researching replacement themes for Grid Focus. I’d been meaning to take down my affiliate links anyway (more on that, soon, too, in the form of a policy) so I’ve gone ahead and done that, but I’m really hoping that Chris will do the right thing and release Thesis under the GPL, the license that WordPress itself is released under, and which all iterations are supposed to carry.

I still recommend Jamie Varon if you have your heart set on a Thesis customization.

*Yeah, sorry, I know I didn’t link to the actual post, but ain’t it great how FAST the site loads!?

**Uh…what I said above.

***Unless Dreamhost is down, AGAIN, and nothing is loading, in which case all you’ll get is a stupid “502 Error” page. Ugh.

Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Ham sandwich

tasty ham sandwich on a plate in a cafe

On slightly dry white,
it conjures up
foreign lunchrooms
and sour lunchboxes
and the clamped-shut feeling
of a stomach that can’t do its job
for worry of a new place.

Crusts cut off and insides
lightly lined with butter
it brings back Gramma
and days of being well-cared for

Rough-hewn
from the Honeybaked bone,
wrapped in romaine,
dipped in mustard,
inhaled over the sink,
of being a grownup
for the first time ever:
not well, perhaps,
or elegantly,
but old enough finally
to deny yourself
something good now
against the hope
of something better
down the road.

What for you is my lunch
for me is a portal,
a trip back
to a simpler life
that may or may not
have existed.

What for me is a stab at meaning,
and a clumsy one at that,
put down quickly like packaged ham
on commercial rye,
for you, I hope,
is a thread to worry
(or not)
as you please
toward the root of your own
sweet and sour
and slightly salty past.

At least,
that is how
I present it.

xxx
c

Image by stevendepolo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.