February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: The Song of Wandering Aengus

      WENT out to the hazel wood,
      Because a fire was in my head,
      And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
      And hooked a berry to a thread;

      And when white moths were on the wing,
      And moth-like stars were flickering out,
      I dropped the berry in a stream
      And caught a little silver trout.

      When I had laid it on the floor
      I went to blow the fire a-flame,
      But something rustled on the floor,
      And some one called me by my name:
      It had become a glimmering girl
      With apple blossom in her hair
      Who called me by my name and ran
      And faded through the brightening air.

      Though I am old with wandering
      Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
      I will find out where she has gone,
      And kiss her lips and take her hands;
      And walk among long dappled grass,
      And pluck till time and times are done
      The silver apples of the moon,
      The golden apples of the sun.

    --W. B. Yeats
    from The Wind Among the Reeds

Check out today's Poetry Friday, hosted here:
Thanks, Karen!

February 23, 2009

The Mind: Flash Fabrica

I love brain training and tests. The Web is a great place to find some interesting and challenging tasks.

Try this Flash Fabrica offering. There are a few other puzzles you can try on this site -- some good, some very weird. Unfortunately, there seems to be no explanation of how they determine your 'brain age'.


February 19, 2009

Poetry Friday: At Sea


Turn the clock on its face.
Time should not see us kicking
into the green depths of love,
slick as seals chasing a brisk
and breathing sea

or pulsing together above the reef -
two squid blushing crimson
in the sway and slow lap
of a rising tide.


I am a sea cave. You,
the great sliding eel -
with no one blind
to the drift of this -
and the way the kiss
of your skin lights
this dark passage.


Time must be kicking up a froth
at the surface of this sea.
No doubt we will rise
to it soon -
to sheets of whitecaps
to the dark canvas
of a billowing night sail
pierced in a thousand places -

thin light to chart our journey home.

-- Jet Buell

Poetry Friday is being hosted at the holly and the ivy. Check it out!

You can find more of Erin's beautiful art here.

February 16, 2009

The Eye: Meet Walt

Walt is just my type -- a real thinker.

I asked Walt's creator, Mike Rivamonte, to tell me about his design process. I'm always interested to know if visual artists use any of the same strategies we writers use, and just how they work.

Here's what Mike had to say:

"Usually I find an object or objects that inspires me. For Walt I found his head first. Incidentally his head is a 1923 Crosley Pup crystal radio. I bought the radio and right away began to sketch.

"I then wrote my thoughts of his biography. He is from the 1920s, He is not mischievous but more of a thinker. Every time he gets an idea the tube on his head lights up. I decided his body parts would come from that same era too.

"The more I wrote and sketched the more he comes alive. That helps me determine what he looks like and how he carries himself. As a drawing exercise, I draw thumbnails of the robot expressing emotions and moving around. By understanding how he would behave and react to a given situation I can focus on how to best set up the sculpture.

"I find parts from all over the U.S. and with the help of the internet I find things abroad too. Many of them are very rare and delicate. Some have initials carved or dedications engraved from previous owners which is always a treat to discover.

"Hours are spent figuring out how to best connect the pieces together. I’ll sketch it all out and if necessary build a working model. It is paramount that the viewer does not see any screws or bolts. I want the work to look as if it came together on its own. Sometimes you only get one chance to drill a hole or cut a piece. “Measure twice..”

"I love sketching my characters. Like any illustrator I want to capture the ultimate pose --the moment that best expresses the story. Sketching allows you to move things around and exaggerate posture and expression. It is also the springboard for new ideas and possibilities. There are some situations that are not feasible to construct but make a great illustration.

"The sketch becomes the blue print or guide to build the work. However physical limitations exists that you do not know are going to happen from the sketch. For example a sketch does not have a concept of gravity or the true physical weight of the objects you want to assemble. That is where center of gravity and counter balance come in. On Walt I found out that his legs, which are vintage goose neck lamps, were two different length. Wrestling with that issue the piece stood in a pose that I found quite amusing and ultimately became the final pose.

"The best part is that after a sculpture is complete and takes on a life of its own I can pack up all my new skills and experiences and head off to the next one!"

You can find Mike and his guys at his website. Click here for the gallery.

February 13, 2009

Two Songs


Sex, as they harshly call it,
I fell into this morning
at ten o'clock , a drizzling hour
of traffic and wet newspapers.
I thought of him who yesterday
clearly didn't
turn me to a hot field
ready for plowing,
and longing for that young man
pierced me to the roots
bathing every vein, etc.
All day he appears to me
touchingly desirable,
a prize one could wreck one's peace for:
I'd call it love if love
didn't take so many years
But lust too is a jewel
a sweet flower and what
pure happiness to know
all our high-toned questions
breed in a lively animal.

-- Adrienne Rich
from Two Songs

You can find the second song by clicking here:

The lovely rain-day traffic painting was created by Eileen O'Brien. You can find her work here at redbubble.com. This is a new discovery. I'll get back to you when I find out more.

Tody's Poetry Friday is being hosted here at Big A little a.

February 5, 2009

A Month of Love and Lust

True love begins with algebra
Those casual actors x and y,
Nonentities whose magic role
Is to turn nothing into all.
To be and not to be: to mate:
The links are chance, the chain is fate.

Michael Hamburger
from The Mathematics of Love

Her light shining in the darkness made everything tremble
The hills began dancing like rams.
"Oh Lord," I thought, "Our secrets will be discovered,"
But she reached back at once with her powerful hands
And covered us both with her long black hair,
And once again it was night.

Judah al-Haziri
(13th century Hebrew poet)

As the light comes through
And the night is turning into day
I want to know I'll die before you
I want to know I'll die before
We aren't lovers anymore

      Sam Shepard

      from Savage Love

Wild Rose Reader is hosting today's Poetry Friday. Check it out here: http://wildrosereader.blogspot.com/2009/02/poetry-friday-roundup-is-here.html

February 3, 2009

10,000 Hours

Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule? I hadn't until I read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success. It's an interesting read, along with his other books, Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Difference and Blink: Thinking Without Thinking. Gladwell, who pretty much looks like this guy with the ladder, is a staff writer for the New York Times. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in 2005. He has his detractors, but he also has his fans. His books get you thinking.

The premise of Outliers is that we may be mistaken about natural talents and how people become successful. In one notable chapter, Gladwell cites research done over the course of the last twenty-five years by K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University. That's him with the beard.

Haven't you always admired the natural athlete or writer or artist? Well, get over it right now! You, too, can be the natural talent you always wanted to be. If you're going to admire anything about the naturally talented person, admire the amount of work that person has put into it.

Except for a few athletes, Ericsson has shown that this kind of 'gift' that really successful people have comes only after a specific number of hours of dedicated practice. How many hours? 10,000.

Some would argue that you could practice something for 10,000 hours and still not get any better -- I know some golfers -- and writers -- who are prime examples of this. But Ericsson has shown that not all practice is equal. Practice is quite different from dedicated practice.

Practicing just for the sake of practicing will keep you busy, but it may not get you as far as you could be going. As a teacher who's put in well over 10,000 hours (um, quadruple that, perhaps? octuple?), I have seen this at work in my own life. I haven't been content to just teach a lesson and be satisfied with it. I have to design and classroom test each of them -- I think about each one and tinker with each as I go. I may teach some of the same lessons every year, but they certainly never look the same from one presentation to the next. That means a lot of time thinking (let's call it practicing). This is one example of how I've pursued dedicated practice. Find 10,000 hours of it yourself, and boom -- you're a success!

I could say more on this topic, but Geoffrey Colvin, Senior Editor-at-Large at Fortune Magazine has written a really great article on this subject here. You should take a look at it.

I plan to focus myself on dedicated practice with
my writing -- I hope to find ways to produce more, stretch myself into different genres, to say things in interesting, quirky, and unusual new ways, to read more widely, and to think more critically -- and creatively -- about my own work and the work of others I admire. I'll be having fun over the next 7,000 hours upping my skills ante.

So, what is your particular talent? Are you willing to put in those 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to be a natural?