Month: October 2010

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #24

girl in mid-air, jumping on beach

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.

This manifesto on tolerance from Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Sprong first made the rounds last year around this time, but it is (sadly) more timely than ever.  [delicious-ed, via Bryan Fuller]

Penelope Trunk has been killing it lately. This piece on why she now sorts her books by color is, like the best kinds of essays, about that and so much more. [Google Reader-ed]

I think I lost a year of my own life reading this harrowing story of a young man’s two-year stretch for armed robbery. He told it in a series of posts to a forum he frequented before doing time; someone compiled all the pieces, as well as his answers to further questions posted by other forum members. Caveat: while it’s really well-told, it’s about prison, i.e., not for the faint of heart. [Tumbled]

Even if the story is 100% false (and hey, don’t believe everything you see on the TV news), the footage of this lion greeting his Good Samaritan after a long absence is wonderful to watch. [Facebook-ed]


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

Poetry Thursday: My enemy, my Sherpa

halftone image of woman holding hands in front of face

Do not wish away time
or fat
or fear
or change
or any other

If you face them,
those thieves
of what you thought
you wanted
will show you
to your heart’s true love.

If you hide,
in the dark
in a bottle
in a bag of Doritos
in the glow of a screen
under cubicle light
behind walls of silence
beneath waterfalls
of meaningless chatter,
they will hunt you down

They will show you.
They will show you.

If they have to wait
until your dying breath

they will show you.

How much better
to invite them in
for a cup of tea
and a moment’s rest
and hear
what they have
to offer.

Hello, my enemy!
My teacher!

Let me sit at your feet
and work out the kinks
while you tell me how
to unbuckle my life…


Whom will you offend today?

a bunch of kids with their hands over their ears

I have been on an unsubscribing kick lately. And I’m not the only one.

People who track and parse the trends of social media (which is currently being transitioned into “the new media” and which will, soon enough, become just “media”) have been saying this for a long time: attention is the new currency. In other words, if you’ve been paying any kind of attention, this is non-news.

But from the dismaying and ever-expanding swath of garbage I have to wade through every day to get to fresh, open waters, I’d say most people have yet to get the memo. And I say that having already deliberately and painstakingly filtered the firehose down to a relative trickle. I follow fewer than 100 people on Twitter. I have only a dozen or so “always” blogs in my Google Reader. I use delicious and FriendFeed to collect and collate, not chat nor find new material. I stay the hell away from YouTube entirely, just reading the comments there is often enough to lower one’s IQ 50 points, not to mention plunge one into a black hole of depression. I will visit HuffPo only out of absolute necessity, and only long enough enough to hit the “Instapaper-izer” bookmarklet I installed on my browser to strip it and its ilk of their Downtown Vegas-like flashing carnival lightshow of crappery.

And yes, Facebook “friends”, many of you who are redundant, dour, knee-jerk cheerful, or too talky, especially around the business offerings, just don’t show up in my feed at all anymore.

I am not a highly-sensitive person like my friend, Havi, and I never saw that old ’90s movie where Julianne Moore became allergic to everything, but as I let go of the clutter I’ve used both to insulate myself from and inure myself to sensation, I’m freaking out a little bit over how crowded and noisy everything has gotten in the past seven or so years. I mean, I’m as delighted as the next gal about the democratization of dissemination that owning the means of production has created, but does EVERYONE have to make EVERYTHING ALL the time? And with quite so many %#@$ modal windows?

A brief history of the Web 2.0 gold rush

It’s not like any of this is news. When most normal people, i.e., non-ADD types and non-change addicts, first come to social media, they ask the same question: how do you deal with the noise?1

To which the standard reply from a responsible social media tour guide is two-fold:

  1. Reduce input to what is necessary
  2. Filter the rest with tools and processes

In the beginning, we tended to err on the side of too much info and rely on tools and processes to manage it. Them was heady times, the land-grab days, and we didn’t want to miss a minute of it. And yes, it sounds goofy, but there was a great big bunch of us who were writing about the same stuff we were reading about, the stuff we were always interested in, that we were now finally able to swap stories about (productivity pr0n was a big one) and the stuff that was brand spanking new that we were trying to wrap our heads around (i.e. social/”the new” media). I was as guilty as anyone, and guess what? I’m not even the least bit ashamed. This was well before social media hit pop-will-eat-itself levels. There were a handful of gossip bloggers. There were (blessedly) no mommybloggers.2 Back then, it was such a relief to be able to have conversations and interactions instead of just consuming page after mind-numbing page of webular data, I loved it all, including the then-occasional “10 Best Whatever” post. I subscribed to blogs, to newsletters, I joined forums and Yahoo! groups. I did way too much, but I learned a lot, which I was then able to sift through, process, and synthesize in purportedly useful ways to people joining the party late.

And then, all of a sudden, a little bit at a time, I realized: I was done.

Done with ubiquity. Done with ravenous, voracious intake. I am back to reading judiciously about process, and intensely in new areas of interest. So I unsubscribed, and unfollowed, and deactivated, and generally went elsewhere. There are plenty of people who have a deep and enduring interest in exploring and sharing the stuff I once did, and some of them are even doing it responsibly, thank goodness, meaning they are not just yakking about social effing media, but talking about it from some sort of useful context. If you’re climbing aboard now, you should find one of these people. They’re fairly easy to spot, if you like the tenor of my blog.

Walking my own (not-)talk

In February of this year, I did something fairly radical for me: I told people to unsubscribe.

The engagement levels of my newsletter had been dropping for a few months, and I was despondent. Not that I don’t spend a great deal of time on this blog, I do!, but I spend even more time on my newsletter, proportionately, plus it costs me money to send out every month. This is one thing when you’re working, and when your newsletter is bringing you clients; it’s quite another when you’re purposely on self-imposed sabbatical and essentially paying for other people to read your work and they’re not.

The solution suddenly seemed simple: tell the people who were disinterested that it was fine for them to go. So I did. My unsubscribe rates are now just about dead even with my subscribe rates, so the cost is holding steady. But the range of feelings I was suddenly exposed to was far more valuable than the few bucks that went back into my pocket.

I would be offended and/or surprised at who left, and almost immediately after, I would be joyous. I was letting go! They were letting go! We were all free to go wherever we pleased! I got a taste of what it feels like to be filtered out, along with a kind of permission to filter more honestly. Walking the talk! What a concept!

The remains of the day

What’s left is a profound gratitude for who’s left, because they’re really choosing to be fully present with me, plus a kind of focus I never felt before. I am paying more and more attention to what it is that interests me, and trusting that everyone else is grownup enough to do the same. I’m enjoying the hell out of the time I do spend in social media, and what I read and share there. Out of the nothing, a something emerges, and I realize that this is all one process, and that it doesn’t end until we do: we take in, we interact, we synthesize, we release. The landscape of our lives is always changing, just like life is always changing. It’s so obvious, it’s ridiculous, but there it is.

I look at what is left of all I’ve learned from so much time spent absorbing these various modalities of communication, at what has stayed with me, and I start to get a sense of how I might be useful to people when I emerge from self-imposed sabbatical. I’ve been playing with it a bit here and there, quietly test-driving it with a few longtime clients who are, for whatever reasons, also happy to play in this space, to cop a coach-y term. I’m hopeful that by February, when the odometer on my year rolls over, I’ll have some clear and useful offering to extend more widely.

In the meantime, though, I hope that if you are here, you will be really here with me. And that if you are not, you will feel free to let go. And that if there are impediments to your finding utility here, a lack of organization in some critical area, or a missing delivery system, you’ll let me know, either via a comment or an email. Comments and emails remain a constant, I do not see giving them up anytime soon.

You are my great love, giver of useful feedback, engager in meaningful conversation. I will give up much to share in this way…


1In fairness, the first question many people ask is, “What the hell is the point of this crap?”, but these folk are unlikely to use social media for any purposes, good or ill.)

2There were plenty of mothers who happened to blog, and some outstanding blogs from them. They just weren’t the ad-splattered, Proctor-and-Gamblized, black holes of mediocrity you find in such woeful numbers today.

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

Something for nothing

poet akka b at bart's books in ojai

akka b, poet and community-wrangler extraordinaire

I spent the weekend with friends, away from home. A short trip this time, both because circumstances dictated it could not be longer and because I have finally started to get a sense of what I need, how much of it, and when.

This, alone, is a miracle of sorts. Not that I haven’t actively been working for years and years (and again, I say, YEARS) at getting a handle on things; it’s more that because I’ve been working at it so long, I’m shocked when start to feel like there’s actually been some kind of improvement. (It’s also shocking to feel creeping realizations because I’ve grown accustomed to epiphany-esque indicators, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Nominally, I went up for an evening of poetry, and brother, did I get it. Akka B. raised the metaphorical roof, there is none actually at Bart’s to be raised, but if there were, she’d have raised it, too. Instead, she brought us together and howled at the (full) moon, and it was pretty great. You should probably go subscribe to her blog immediately1, so you can participate in the next one, remote participation actively encouraged, and 3D, in-person visitors welcome.

But as is the way with these kinds of things, you go in for a little pecan pie and come out with a new set of radial tires, or something like that. While Ojai is a mighty small place, and while I know enough folks up there to qualify as an honorary citizen, I still manage to meet new ones on every trip north. This trip was no exception, and between a whole slew of new people at our monthly Jerry’s mixers (see here) and a mini-slew this weekend, I had to trot out my long-and-boring story of Self-Imposed Sabbatical so many times, it even started to sound weird and lame to me.

The last person I shared it with, though, had the reply that made every other painful telling worthwhile. Hell, she may have just made the entire sabbatical worthwhile. Because when I gave her my usual answer (“Nothing!”) to the eternal question of “What do you do?”, without missing a beat, she said, “Well, you know what Akka B. would say: ‘If you do nothing long enough, you’re bound to find something.’

People who have a direction, a focus, think this sort of process is bananas. I know, because I used to think this sort of process was bananas, that there had to be something to do to make the next thing happen. Now I know better. Now, some three years after this maddening, horrifying stretch of nothing, I can feel something coming into view. The metaphor is purposely mixed, because while I still see nothing, I am starting to feel plenty. My head feels clearer. My feet feel like they make firmer contact with the ground. (I know, incredibly weird, but I’m telling you, that’s what it feels like.) I’m not advanced enough at any of this chi stuff to assess it with complete confidence, but I feel like the circuitry has been somehow rewired, and that the energy is flowing a little more regularly, a little more evenly, and a lot more reliably. I notice that things around me are starting to take shape: I like doing this. I feel good sharing this. I want to wake up here. What I say “no” to is comes more quickly, which seems to make what to say “yes” to more obvious. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

A big part of me is still flying on faith, a bigger part that I’d ordinarily be comfortable with. Yet. Slowly but surely, though something is starting to emerge from the nothing. And the work I’ve done so far has made me more comfortable with the messy, dangling, unfinished parts of the work left to do.

Glory, hallelujah.

May your own nothing unfold in its own perfect way to reveal exactly the something waiting just beyond, and may we all hold each other’s hand and stop for an occasional, poetic howl at the moon in the meantime…


1And friend her fan page, or whatever the hell it is you do on the Facebook these days, while you’re at it. It’s easy, and she’s lovely.

Photo © Nathalie Raijmakers Photography.

Frrrrriday Rrrrround-up! #23

a young foal on wobbly legs

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.

I’d actually sampled that magic pickle thing that makes everything taste sweet after you eat it, so naturally, I was fascinated to read about this stuff that removes all of the sweet taste in anything so you can taste what’s left behind. [Facebook-ed]

Raw, brave post about giving up the bottle.  [delicious-ed]

LOVED this piece from my friend, Danielle LaPorte, about transparency: when it’s good, and when/how it goes awry. [Google Reader-ed]

I think I sang this song about 400 times in the car on the way to and from Portland, so naturally, I had to find (and Stumble) the video of it. [Stumbled]


Image by me’nthedogs via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: 50,002 miles

I waited

for weeks
for that odometer to roll
the first 50,000 miles
I’d put on a car

First EVER.

Not the extra fifty
I helped put
on the family car
or the twenty/ten/five
that got me to fifty
on all of those  
other cars,

50,000 miles,
from zero to five-oh
(save the few it took
to get it from factory
to me),
all by my lonesome.

For months
I guessed at
the rollover date:
in L.A.,
on the 101,
running mundane errands
or my own crazy ass
over the hill and back
for to get my head shrunk?

In the valley of Ojai,
at night, climbing
the hill toward the stars?

On the road in between,
windows down,
singing to the oldies?

As it happened,
I was somewhere on the outskirts
of Sacto,
negotiating my way
through a surprising number
of Sunday drivers
on their way to salvation,
two miles before I had a moment
to look down
and notice.

and two.

I thought about it
all the way
to Bakersfield.

And then,
somewhere on the outskirts
of L.A. County
I realized:
I would remember
and two
far, far longer
than I could have dreamed
I’d remember


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

Trixercising, “video is hard” and Tuesday, deconstructed

I’ve been a bit wobbly, finding my land legs again.

Or maybe my regular-usual legs are my sea legs. Maybe I’m usually adrift, out voyaging in an inward fashion, and the concrete trips here and there, the actual vagabonding, are my trips ashore, where I land hard, and, finding the land hard, can hardly walk.

Either way, it has been an interesting process this past week or so, getting back into the groove I’d just begun to establish before I hit the road.

We discussed grooves today in my now-Tuesday morning writing group: what are habits and rituals and patterns? And what does it mean if you make having no habits/rituals/patterns your habit/ritual/pattern? Is that even possible, or do we just not have our radar tuned in properly to pick up on them? Does it take a major happening, or maybe a series of minor ones, plus one to tip us, to make us see them well enough to consider changing them?

Not all rituals are bad, of course. Most aren’t, or at least, not until they’ve outlived their usefulness in our lives. If you had to think through every process you’ve learned since you started learning things, just driving to the 7-11 for a Big Gulp would be an odyssey of epic proportions. (I know; it was a joke, see?)

The reason I take classes and seek out accountability partners and hire professionals to help me untangle my brain and redirect my chi and see my stuff clearly enough to decide what should stay and what should go is because I can’t see it all by myself. Not all at once. Not when it matters. And I’m someone who sees a fair amount. What I could not see about Monday’s post, though, is what my colleagues pointed out in Tuesday’s workshop: that I’d left some things hanging, that I’d missed some opportunities. I mean, I knew these things; I know I’m missing opportunities and dropping threads of ideas all over the place. These are not polished essays I write, but blog posts. For the most part, I write them in one shot, straight through, with very little editing. The true miracle is when one works.

I would like to write a whole post about trixercise, because I think that this idea of true discovery coming from these three things, a cordoning off, a distancing, and a mindful attention throughout the process, might be a big and a useful enough idea to warrant deeper and more thoughtful explanation. Just not today. Because I write this at the end of a day where I’d thought I’d be posting a breezy instructional video, not wrassling for three hours with firmware upgrades, bad light and goddamn .AVI files.

In the meantime, I will settle for a wrap-up of discoveries from the day:

  1. Your writing needs to be done first, or you’re done for.
  2. You can make a dent in your gnarliest issue if you chip away at it for a half-hour per day.
  3. Just because pain is dormant doesn’t mean it’s over.
  4. Knowing there is a little chopped liver left in the fridge is a great comfort.
  5. Setting yourself a hard in and hard out may be the self-employed’s greatest self-gift.

May we both continue to uncover many wonderful things moving forward…


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