Month: July 2010

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #16

tiny toy cowboy figure with lasso

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week here, but which I post on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

Flags of the nations, in food! (This one’s for you, Jodi.) [Facebook-ed].

If you’ve wondered what this here Kickstarter thing is all about, look no further than Mr. Craig Mod’s excellent writeup.   [delicious-ed]

Terry Richardson shoots Los Angeles. [Tumbld]

One of my fave small fries I met via the interwebs, doing an excellent impersonation of an adorable elf. [Flickr-faved]

And my favorite link from the past week as Coudal Guest Editor, my last: clueless idiot gives “gift” to his ex on her wedding day; Lizzie Skurnick tells him where he can put it.


P.S. Bonus extra link I found VIA Coudal: the world’s greatest story involving a screenwriter, a prostitute and the law. So not what you think, it will blow your mind. (And even if it doesn’t, the writing will.)

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

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Poetry Thursday: Cranky is as cranky does

airplane in flight

I am annoyed
by this fake movie
with Jennifer Aniston
and this real guy
falling asleep in my lap,
in my airspace

And I am annoyed
by my pants not fitting
and by all the things I ate
to make them that way

And I am annoyed
by the books I brought to read
because the good ones are done with
and the bad ones
I want nothing to do with

And I am annoyed
by the time
that crawls so slowly
when all I want
is to crawl into bed
(and miles to crawl
before I sleep)

I am annoyed
by how little I wrote
and how easy it was
not to write it

I am annoyed
he hasn’t called
and that she
will not stop
by the heat
and the humidity
by having too much
and not enough
and the hopeless
piles of civilization
I cannot stop seeing
all around me,
that I cannot stop
adding to
even when I know better

Dear God:
I am annoyed
and dismayed
at what I know will be
the long, shameful walk
to the me
who is not


Image by Kossy@FINEDAYS via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Asking the right question

illustration of three different looking doorsA while back, when my shrink and I were trying to dismantle my Lack of Entitlement Issues, she had me ask myself a question repeatedly: What do I feel like doing?

Like the complaint-free bracelet or any other kind of check-in built around raising awareness, it worked like gangbusters once I focused on it for a while. Which is to say, it probably would not have moved me forward had I not made it Project Front-and-Center, but once I did, it moved me from a place of not even realizing I had stuff I wanted to ask for to what I suppose will be a long, flat plateau of asking for it outright. Still, it’s a kind of progress.

One of the tricks of forward motion, though, is learning to ask the right question. This is where the older among us usually have it all over the younger, because we’ve been in enough situations where we’ve done things right and wrong that we have a working vocabulary of questions for various conundrums.

For some reason, though, I’d never found a good question for grappling with immediate satisfaction vs. delayed gratification. I mean, I’d powered through quitting smoking and transitioning onto the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but there were really compelling things urging me on in the moment: inability to breathe, for the former, and blood pouring out of my ass, for the latter. Once the super-compelling reason disappeared, it was much, much harder to just say “no” to tasty grains and sugar. (Fortunately for me with regard to tobacco, the stuff tastes and smells vile once you’ve been off it for a while.)

More and more ideas have been coming to me via my gut lately, possibly because there is a lot more gut lately, thanks to straying from SCD, and I’ve been better about giving them the attention to float up to me (possibly as a result of the awareness-raising from the Lack of Entitlement exercise.) And a few days ago, this came up: instead of asking myself if I really wanted this (bad thing, usually carbs), or if something else wouldn’t be better for me (duh!), or what such-and-such-inspiring-hero would do, or if this would give me more or less room/health/whatever, I should ask how I wanted to feel: right now, in five minutes, the next day, etc.

It’s worked and it’s not worked, and so it’s really too soon to say if it’s a significantly “better” question. Honestly, I find that I’m more willing to reason out the answer to any question if I’m better rested, so the truly significant gift I can probably give myself is less about the perfect set of questions and more about eight hours.

Still, I wonder: if framing has so much to do with what we do, what are the framing devices that work the best? And which of these were truly surprising to you? The “feeling” angle seems so obvious in hindsight that I figure there are probably other, even better questions out there.

So how about it? Are there questions, ways of framing a situation, a decision, that finally turned the key in the lock for you and made the tumblers fall into place? Or is it more about powering through for you?


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

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #15

tiny toy cowboy figure with lasso

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week here, but which I post on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

Incredibly (and surprisingly) heartwarming video involving Jewel, karaoke and a little good-hearted trickery. [Facebook-ed, via Gretchen Rubin].

If you don’t think a piece about sexism in art can be wildly entertaining AND illuminating AND thought-provoking, you’re not reading enough Jill.   [delicious-ed]

My new-favorite quote about writing, and kinda-sorta-prettymuch what I want to do for the next 50 years of my life. [Tumbld]

Fantastic Flickr set of classic albums reinterpreted as Pelican books. [Stumbled, via KERNSPIRACY] [Flickr-faved]

Tarp surfing. It’s a thing. [YouTube-d, via The Rumpus]


P.S. I’m posting tons more awesome stuff to the Coudal feed through the end of next week. No, really, they said I was good!

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

Poetry Thursday: Game on

The first change is
up to you.

The rest
come rushing
up to you,
one after another,
greedy, greedy bastards
ready ready ready
for the light
you have let in
through that small, small
crack in the door.

The news is
that changing one thing
changes everything.

Whether that bit
of news is
or bad
depends on how
your arms
and your brain
and your heart
really are.


Reframing your ducks

signed keith haring poster

I have a signed Keith Haring poster from the New York Book Fair that’s been with me for 25 years now.

It’s moved with me from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Chicago, where I finally had it framed and hung it proudly on the wall of my first bona-fide “grownup” apartment (i.e., all mine, with furniture I purchased myself); it’s moved with me since to three other places and one additional city, Los Angeles.

Somewhere along the way, I fell out of love with it, but I hung onto it because it was valuable, literally, perhaps, but more personally, because I could remember the moment of signing, me, nervous and sweaty on one side of the table, Keith Haring, weary and sweaty on the other. (New York summers are the opposite of dry and temperate.)

He asked me who to make it out to, and in a fit of stupid reaching to be different, I said, “C-A-W”, my initials. Because more than anything in that moment, I wanted Keith Haring to think I was interesting and unusual. I’m sure that’s exactly what he thought, right after “Christ on a bike, they come out in the heat.”

Anyway, there it all is, in one framed, signed poster: me in my lost, twentysomething yearning, and New York City, and the closest I ever got to Keith Haring (other than the dance floor of Area a couple of times, where everyone served as background for everyone else’s ongoing New York music video.) It’s not serving to do anything but remind me of what a sad little tool I was, both for my pathetic stabs at cool and for selecting an orangey-red frame that matches nothing I’ve ever had nor will have in my home. Yet even though I am committed to letting go of what’s not working for me, I can’t give this the heave-ho. The idea of selling it hurts my heart; the idea of giving it to Goodwill is unthinkable. It needs its Next Right Home, but it’s not fit to go out into the world yet. Its Next Right Home’s owner would (rightfully) look at it and politely decline. It is ’80s in the worst of ways, bright, loathed, neglected.

It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the thing was not empirically awful. That it could be saved by, perhaps even made lovable by, reframing. I scouted readymade frames, Aaron Brothers coupon in hand (does anyone shop at Aaron Brothers or Bed, Bath & Beyond without one anymore?) but came up short. Which is how, a few fiscally painful exchanges later, I wound up with my same old poster looking completely awesome on my bedroom wall in its new, plain, wildly overpriced, custom black frame.

Getting rid of new stuff, stuff that you haven’t had for a while, or that hasn’t been in your family for a while, getting charged with multiple hits of emotional energy, isn’t too hard. Even the expensive new stuff is relatively easy to let go of, once you get over that first hump.

Getting rid of old stuff is much, much harder. For starters, you’re invested in it seven ways to Sunday; it becomes so much a part of you, it’s hard to see how it could serve you differently, or serve someone else better completely.

I recently unearthed a mamaluke of an old habit, not remembering, that is going to be an unholy bitch to wrangle. My shrink and I spent the better part of this month’s session unpacking it, and I just know I’m going to be a long time at turning this one around. The reframing began with me being introduced to the idea that when you come from a fucked-up home, you tend to do a lot of dissociating, and that leads to a lot of not-remembering. For a long time, it either didn’t matter (I could look things up, or ask) or the problem wasn’t that bad. But with perimenopause, things have declined precipitously, I forget names almost instantly after they’re made known, and random nouns are getting harder to grab as my rickety head-RAM spins fruitlessly. Plus, I want to live a good life, and that means addressing my demons, even the stinky, hoary ones I paved over or figured out a way to work around a long time ago.

At some point, I will let go of most everything. And at some point further down the road, I will let go of the rest of it, as we all will when the clock counts down to zero.

For now, I let go of what I can as I can, and reframe the rest, so it can continue to serve. And it warrants remembering that one can enlist a little help with the reframing, as well as help with the outright tossing. None of us got here on our own; sometimes, we can all use a little help getting to the next place…


Book review: On Writing Well

cover of "on writing well" and author William Zinsser

If I were a better writer, I’d be able to do justice to On Writing Well, William Zinsser’s own brilliant writing on writing.

Or maybe I should say, if I were the writer I dreamed of being back when I first dreamed of being a writer, I could write the review I had somewhere in the back of my head: that perfect review that made the book come alive, that explained it perfectly, in words that danced around on the page in fancy clothes, as I’d always imagined my words doing when I finally got my word-choreographer chops.

Here’s what Zinsser might say to that: Why don’t you just tell them what the book is about, and what you got out of it? (Only, you know, he’d do it better. Because he’s WILLIAM ZINSSER.)

Fine. Here’s what I got out of it:

1. Writing is rewriting. You knew that, right? Even though most of us who write mostly on our blogs mostly don’t. Like me, if you couldn’t tell. Well, it is. Writing is rewriting. And some of what may be most useful to you about this book are the before/after examples. This man is ruthless with his darlings. Slaughtered, incinerated bodies everywhere.

2. Most good writing is good, simple writing. Very easy to get tangled up in your fancy pants, fancypants. Again, the book is rife with examples of good, simple writing. Which, to bring us neatly back to Point the First, is the result of plenty o’ rewriting.

3. The writing that looks the easiest is often the hardest to pull off. Dialogue that sounds realistic. Humor that’s actually humorous. Anything short.

4. Any subject can be interesting if it’s written about well. Unfortunately, most people who know a lot about a thing don’t know much about writing. If this is you, this is your book!

5. Anyone can learn to write well (enough). Mostly, writing is about listening and cutting and getting the hell out of the way of your story. The essays in this book will teach you how to do this.

There’s a reason this book warranted a 25th anniversary edition. It’s one of the best how-to manuals on writing out I can imagine, and I dream big. If you’re a writer, or want to be, you should read this book; if you’re serious about it, you should read it once a year.


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.