Monday, June 30, 2008

A Freelancing Plan of Business, Part 1

Holbein's Erasmus via Wikamedia

I want to start taking writing seriously. To this end, I read Margit Ragland's book, Get a Freelance Life. It begins by attempting to puncture the hot air out of a writer's dreams. Writers are not destined to wealth or greatness. Writers need to be able to endure solitude, sell themselves, flip over backwards for people, and operate without the encouragement of a boss. And God forbid you contemplate quiting your day job.

The thing is, I'm fine with all this. I adore being alone, love promoting my ideas, am flexible to a fault, and get motivated without rhyme or reason. And I don't want to quit my day job. It's a endless source of new experience. Besides, I like the idea of having writing as sort of a second, secret life. Reading, thinking, and writing are what I do with my free time anyway, so why not make an extra living out of it?

This decided, I'm going ahead with Ragland's next point, which is to combat writerly vapidness by applying deadlines and operating off of a Business Plan. So, here is my Freelancing Plan of Business, Week 1:

--read chapters 1-6 of Learn HTML in 24 Hours. I've decided keeping abreast of technology is crucial and there are all sorts of things I want to do with this blog that I can't because of lack of tech wizardry.
--write blog entries for an outside, paying blog.
--apply to day jobs that relate to writing
--get name cards
--get a camera (some of the paying blogs require original photos)
--write 6 blog entries
--read a lot and start tossing around ideas for longer articles
--pin-point readings and such to go to
--interview other writers

All this of course needs to be fitted into a larger scheme of things (Ragland preaches the virtues of the 5-year-plan) that I'll get to in my next post. I will however insert a very unbusinesslike deadline here. My birthday is August 9th, and what could make for a better birthday than having a fledgling freelance business started? I'm going to work at getting something published by then.

If anyone knows of blogs that are looking for authors, or other venues a start-up free-lancer should look into, let me know! :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My God has a bigger Forehead than Yours

Image via Skeptic

Posted in We Op-Ed

One of my favorite authors is acclaimed scientist and famous atheist Richard Dawkins. His latest book, The God Delusion, reads like a psychological thriller. An earlier book, Unweaving the Rainbow, sends me into paroxysms of poetic delight every time. On a scale of 1 to 10 of whether you will write a poem after reading his books, I bet you a 10. You should go buy them both now.

However whenever I do a google search on Dawkins to gather material for a seasoned, researched article, I keep getting distracted by one thing. The size of Richard Dawkins' forehead. Seriously. Refer to the pictures. I have never seen anything like it. It beats out the forehead of a typical religious practitioner by at least two or three times. I compared it to my own frontal lobe and came out a chastened and humbled being.

I think I will go now and and do worship on the alter of Rich-Ard Daw-Kins, in hopes that I may gain access to that divine region, His Front Fore-Head.

Richard Dawkins' forehead is so big it won't
even fit on the page:

Image via BBC Blogs

The Pope: Not even close.

Image via Katie Halper

First Chirrup

Image via Jeff's Weather Blog

It is 4:25am and the first bird of the day just started chirruping. Now, the killer question: Why am I up at 4:25am? The blogger's answer: I woke up at 3:00am thinking about my blog...

This is well and fine. But the next time I wake up at 3am I want there to be a more exciting reason. Like, jetting to Indonesia or something. I missed out on a chance to go to Vermont this weekend. For a vegetable contest or something. Would the birds in Vermont have chirruped prettier?

I have plans to take writing a lot more seriously than I have been. But in the process need to remember not to spend all hours of my life blogosphered. I should take friends up on their weekend ideas. And sketch out plans to jet to Indonesia to hear the birds chirrup. Now, that would be a reason to wake up at 3am.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poetry Bestiary

Image via The Aberdeen Bestiary

Modern life is great
You get to imagine,
All in one day,
What it took other cultures
Centuries to create.

I have a new idea for a poetry book. It's going to be a Bestiary of Animals, A-Z. It started with the Turtle poem below. Then I remembered I had written an O for Owl poem. So far, I have written 4 more animal poems, and am particularly happy with the "A" one, for which I invented an animal, the Argote. 6 down, 20 to go. If anyone has any favorite animals you want poems written about, or thoughts on the Bestiary idea, let me know! :)

Friends, Family, and the Poet Blogger

Image via jean paul's myspace

On the phone with my family, there is always that moment when we have exhausted all their juicy tidbits of family gossip, love life, and work drama that don't make it on to this blog. At that moment, the family member usually exclaims: "But what about you? I feel like I don't know anything about what's happening with you, in your life."

Looong silence. I'm waiting for it. I'm sitting on the edge of my chair. I'm waiting for the family member to continue by saying "And, I was on your blog, and read your incredible, new, POEM!"

The moment never happens. Instead, we discuss my desultory job search attempts, my vague dreams, my latest date--the German kid with spiky hair. I'm not sure what it is about family and poems, but there is a sort of awkwardness there. A need to tip-toe around the subject. To be fair, I have an amazing supportive family and it is largely due to the encouragement of one of my sisters that I am starting to take my writing seriously at all.

But to anyone who is a friend, family member, or acquaintance of someone who blogs, trust me. The blogger doesn't want to know what you think about their work drama, job search, or love life. The blogger just wants to know what you think about their blog.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Impossibility of Time

Thinking about all the time I waste and all the things I want to do:

Some things were meant
To be written slowly
Some things are hatched
Like a turtle
Out of eggs laid in sand
Carrying on their backs
Eons of a rivlet swam daily
Now an ocean.

Images via Marine Conservation Society


Does anyone else read books hind foremost? --

The last poem
Is always the one
I flip to first
Just at the
Moment I suspect
Things might
Get good; shattering
The effect of

Andy Warhol Lips via Retro To Go

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"It's always your lucky day"

Image via Legally Blonde in London

I've been having a dull and discouraging last couple days at work. But on my lunch break at Barns and Nobles today I found an article in Entrepreneur Magazine that gave me a bit of new vim. It's called "It's always your lucky day" by Barry Farber and contains the usual handshake, eye contact, and smile recommendations for how to succeed in business. Two pointers however stood out to me: "Find something about them that's interesting" and "put them in a better mood than when you found them."

I think I already do some of this unconsciously, because I find everyone under the sun (and their dog) to be interesting. But now I'm going to take it to a new level. From now on, everyone I work with in Special Occasion Dresses is not only going to be fitted with the most perfect dress possible, but are going to leave in a better mood with the affirmation that they are indeed an interesting person to work with. Also, I will continue to take time to pet their dogs. Yes, in case you're wondering, people bring along their chiwawas and terriers as they get fitted for their bridesmaid dresses.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On The Edge of Love

Image via BBC News
There is a new film, The Edge of Love, which gives me an excuse to research a poet and post pictures of Keira Knightley. Dylan Thomas, the subject of the film, has puzzled me ever since I read a piece on him claiming that he was a popular poet merely. This puzzles me because I find his poem Fern Hill to be as daunting a piece as any. I tried to read it as a teenager and it always seemed like a closed book. Then one day I had an epiphany and got the most beautiful image and meaning out of it. Unfortunately shortly thereafter I forgot the epiphany and to this day struggle with Fern Hill.

What interests me as much as Dylan's poetry is the dynamic image he built up around himself. Especially, the way he harnessed his voice and the medium of radio to promote poetry. Having suffered through many poetry readings in New York City (poet clutches podium, reads in monotone without looking up) I could appreciate a bit of such promotion. Also, I enjoyed Keira Knightley's take on Dylan Thomas, in an interview about the film, where she stars as Thomas's childhood sweetheart and lover. According to Keira: "Dylan Thomas did s**g around but you look at pictures of him and he was no hunk. However, his poetry is extraordinary. He's a mischief-maker, a puck. He just wants to prod and see what happens." (via M&G People)

I am still unsure why Dylan shouldn't be considered a major poet and why his poems are read outside of the usually meager circle of poetry readers. But I do understand why Keira Knightley could come on to Dylan Thomas.

Images via The Cillian Site

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pink Shoe Plans for a New Job

Image via Shoe Blitz

I'm kind of in limbo land right now. I'm happy with my life, work, and writing. But I need to make some definitive moves if I'm going to give any of these purposeful direction. First off, get a (real) job. I've never really gone after all the options properly. I need to:

--Network with friends
--Talk to current boss
--Apply the hell out of craigslist
--Pick a couple companies I like, and approach them randomly.

I'll post updates in each event. Advice and encouragement more than welcome! :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Auden and Blogging

I got a lovely little book by Auden at the library. The unfortunate thing is that I have not had the patience to read it. Was there ever a poet so bookish? Or so moved by dusty paintings in art history books? I know, I'm bookish, and an art history major. Auden's poetry should be like a charm to me. Okay I'll make one last sleepy attempt before midnight strikes.

...12:03am. I was searching for a little, easy Auden poem to round off this blog post with. But am not finding Auden easy or bloggable. I did find the reason I know Auden in the first place. His poem Unknown Citizen, from my old high school English anthology. The obedient citizen, "found by the Bureau of Statistics to be/ One against whom there was no official complaint....Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: /Had anything been wrong, we should certainly/have heard."

But had the Unknown Citizen been living in this century, we actually would've heard from him, right? Every little foible, regardless of whether or not there was anything wrong. Cause he'd be blogging...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Frustrated 1am

Image via Tim Harford's Flickr

This is one of those frustrated 1am posts. I have lots of ideas for posts, but they won't come together properly after I've spent 8 hours zippering up old ladies into Special Occasion Dresses. And trying to restore order to the fitting rooms when the prom queens have been trying on hundreds of dresses. I did however have my lunch break at Barns and Nobles, and discovered a wonderful new book called the Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World by Tim Harford. On how elementary logic underlies people's seemingly spontaneous and irrational decisions. Better yet, he's got a blog! The Undercover Economist.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Red Herring Update

Image via Sketched Out

So far, the red herring has gone to the park, taken the B train to work, and sighted a mermaid (she snubbed him). I am having a couple of problems with these poems though. The red herring is doing rather banal things. Also, every poem in the series so far has started with the line "The red herring..." This could get old. Finally, I wanted to continue playing with ideas of art and how the mind works. The problem is I don't really know anything about this. I know there must be tombs of scholarly literature out there on the subject. Mrrrr does this mean I actually have to think? I think I'll cheat and start with Alice in Wonderland.

Also, while searching for a picture for this post I found an interesting definition for a red herring, which I wasn't aware of: (via Sketched Out)

"Most film buffs know that a “red herring” is a plot device used in film noir, murder mysteries and suspense films, to distract the audience away from the more important aspect of the plot. The red herring can sometimes be a character, believed by the audience to be the killer, only to discover later in the film that they are innocent and another character, never even considered is, in fact, the murderer."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

All About Op-Ed

Image via We Op-Ed

I've seen so much good writing since I started exploring the blogosphere. A new site that is putting this to great use is We Op-Ed. It's an interesting spin on the traditional opinion column in newspapers. The web is full of pieces that rival such articles, and it's a wonderful take on the genre to gather them in one place.

A great feature of We Op-Ed is that it seems be built in a way that makes it much easier for a new blogger and author to get noticed. On other blog-forums, technorati for example, it seems that only the heavyweights who have been around for a while have a chance of getting front-page attention. We Op-Ed by contrast has a variety of ways of bringing new articles to the forefront. For instance, it has a column for last article commented on and last article posted in addition to headlining the more prominent authors and most-commented-on posts.

The site's got a great taking-off feel right now and a supportive and interesting cast of contributors. I'm hoping to see some of the bloggers I've been following (see blog-roll to the left) op-eding on it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Red Herring Visits the Musuem

Image via Berry Falls

Result of a recent trip to MoMA:

The red herring
Visited the museum
As soon as he
Stepped inside
The red herring
Lost his mind
He forgot that
Pink was part
Of a flower
And repeated
It over and over
And over. Pink
Pink pink. The
Red herring
Climbed up
The wall and
Stared in
The mirror
For a long long
Time. Was it
Herring he
Saw or Red?

I've been thinking of writing a series of these red herring poems. Focused either on places and past-times in New York City or on exploring art/aesthetics. Ideas or thoughts on this?

MoMA by the way has a wonderful exhibition by Olafur Eliasson. Makes me believe in contemporary art again. His art is interactive in an irresistible and absolutely unforced way. So much of contemporary art is reactive and a little catty. Eliasson by contrast absorbs you (literally) in his art and... it's actually beautiful as well, in the way a glacier, forest, or waterfall is beautiful.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Striped Thoughts

Image via aboutsomethings

The promised poem about buying a dress. Or not:

Stripes in my mind
Running down the street
In Manhattan
The dress I didn't buy
The man I didn't love
Running down the streets
In high heels
Doesn't slow me down.

My life is a To Do List..

Image via InfoWorld

...and that's about it. Does anyone else feel like this? I always have 15 new plans ideas, thoughts. But by the time I brush my teeth, clean my room, have family time with Honey, and head for work, all that I've managed to do is write the to do list. A new one every day. Each more glamorous than the last.

Monday, June 9, 2008

On trying to span Fashion and Poetry

Images via Urban Audrey

I have a new favorite blog. Urban Audrey. It's spunky, draws on a wide range of cultural sources both past and contemporary, and is brightly written and well-pictured. The trouble is trying to bring it under my poetry blanket...

A very kind fellow blogger recently responded to my plea for her to look over my blog. And something she noted was that this blog is a bit diverse in terms of subject matter. She kindly noted that this could be a good thing, as it might help attract a wider audience. Yet at the same time, I've noticed the more successful blogs tend to have a narrow focus. Say--fashion photography. Or poetry writing tips. Or economics by a wall streeter.

The trouble is I'm driven more by ideas than a particular subject matter. I'm convinced we live in telling times and want to write about new ideas across the board. I picked poetry because it's one thing I've kept up with reasonable consistency. But as can be seen, I'm already veering widely off course.

Does anyone know of any awesome blogs that are not driven by a single subject, but manage to produce consistent content, something readers can come back to? I could use inspiration and reassurance. In the meantime, I've been inspired by Urban Audrey to head to Forever 21 and shop for something cute, summery, quirky yet classic. Maybe I'll even write a poem about it. :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

American Optimism

Image via Viator

I keep thinking of an Austrian Cultural Gathering I went to back in February when full impact of the credit crisis was beginning to hit. It was at a little mid-town bar. People showed up in suits and little dresses, while I had on jeans with a black top. I was practically the only American, and everyone was using their very fluent (Austrian) German.

My German is wretched. I murder grammar and get by by employing the all-purpose response wirklich!!!??? (really?! Is that so?) whenever possible. But even I could tell that the main subject of the evening was the American credit crisis. And you don't need fluency in a language to get a reading on the "air" of a room. There was palpable, almost ring-side gladiator, excitement.

At one point, as the American in the group, I was asked for my opinion. I launched into a confused spiel on Science, Technology, Arts, and the Optimism of America's youth. The funny thing was that people took me seriously. And later, even as they lapsed into more arcane Austrian I couldn't follow, I could tell they were referencing back to what I said. They were like "See, she's optimistic." I was shy, ill-equipped to speak on the subject, and murdered the language and grammar. But the world still takes American optimism seriously.

--Posted in We Op-Ed


German vs. American sales skills

Friday, June 6, 2008

Green Tea and Sleep

Image via Green Tea

I am drinking a cup of green tea this evening in hopes of waking myself up. The green tea isn't working. This morning I had five awesome ideas for posts. They had beginnings, middles, and ends, referenced useful data, and made original insights. But how to re-ignite them when it's almost midnight, I'm sleepy as hell, and the green tea isn't working?

Giving up, random thoughts instead. I need to swim and work out every day. Would you believe that I have access to a pool and yet have gone swimming a grand total of twice in the past 3 months? I need to figure out how to challenge myself a bit more every day. Dunking in cold chlorinated water early every morning should do it.

I'm going riding this Sunday!!! I actually went and signed up. This was spurned by my volunteering for a Therapeutic Riding Program for disabled kids. It was fun, though I decided I was as much in need of therapy as the kids. They were being taught the difference between left and right, how to pay attention to their surroundings, and how to follow verbal instructions.

I have, of course, been tracking my meager blog stats as if my life depended on it. So far, the posts that have generated the most Google search hits have been Poetry and Law and Frieda Kalo. I want to expand on both of these subjects. Kind of write a series of useful articles on them. Other areas of interest I want to explore: Mind and the unconscious, politics and culture, book reviews of everything I read, reviews of poetry and poets and of course my projected collection of contemporary poetry.

That's all for now. I am seriously nodding off over the keyboard. My faith in green tea wreaked forever...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Vote Poet as President! Obama and the New Cultural Convergence

Image via CBC News

About a year ago I made a prediction on the elections. I was wrong, and could not be more thrilled. I predicted that Clinton would win the Democratic elections only because she had more (ill-begotten lobbyist) money. The Republicans would elect another Bible-waving idiot. The country would proceed to the general elections firmly resolving to vote Democratic and anti-war. They would, however, be so put off by Clinton that the Republicans would win de-facto. I would spend the next four years diving under the couch when the state-of-the-union address appeared, determined to ignore the mess and humiliation that was politics in our country and focus on poetry instead...

There are two things that particularly thrill me about Obama's rise to securing the Democratic nomination:

1) The means by which he went about securing it. Ever since I was a kid and read a Forbes issue on Convergence just when the possibilities the the Internet started becoming apparent, I've held we are living in exciting, revolutionary times. Up til now, though, I excluded politics from this revolution. Washington was a bunch of gray-hairs absurdly behind the times. Methods by which people were elected were 17th century ilk encrusted by 200 years ensuing complications. Nothing could break through the Washington citadel. This is what I believed until Obama started beating out competition on Facebook, U-tube, blogs, and on-line donations. Yay! Freedom of speech and true democratic participation have returned!

2) Obama's genius for distilling the issues of our times. January 07 I wrote a speech for Toastmaster's in which I wrote about why I ignored politics and focused on art. The right-wing/left-wing stance on all the major political subjects discussed (abortion, war in Iraq, immigration) simply no longer had anything to do with the issues I confronted in life. What concerned me...the surfing the web, education and , were not even noticed by the partisan politics. Politics had become isolated from what was happening in my life, culturally, socially, and economically.

At this point, I am a true Obamaniac. I don't even care if Obama's plans for revising health care and improving the economy actually work. Being the arrogant millennial that I am, I've grown up believing I'd have to solve these problems for myself anyway. What prevents me starting a company, learning languages, living healthily, and improving the community? Nothing but my own indolence. But if we can elect a government that recognizes and articulates the new-found possibilities of our age...if we can elect a president who yay! was a (one)time poet himself, I predict a new age of cultural flowering, scientific invention, and economic prosperity.


Did I mention I was an Obamaniac? :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why Blogging is better than keeping a Journal

Image via Sight Center

I just read through Robert Marello's quirky little book Robert's Rules of Writing and the following quote struck me: "If you're serious about writing, burn the journal and get to work."

This quote resonated for me because I'm one of those veteran dedicated journal keepers. My mom got me a (pink) diary for my 5th birthday and helped me keep it. My journal was the major crutch of my teenage years. It's been a major boon and a major drive for me.

But it's got limitations. During the past couple of years I've run repeatedly dry in journaling. I seem to go over the same crappy inner dialogue again and again. I've made repeated resolutions to spend more time writing about books or world events. But when left in a room by myself what I end up thinking about is...myself.

Now some would argue that being able to transfer one's inner venting to the world via blog is even more selfish than sitting at home and keeping it all in a drawer. The blog Textura Design notes that blogging is an ironically "anti-social" medium that "rewards persistence, self-aggrandizement, and talking about yourself all the time."

Now it's true that with blogging, as journaling, what I end up talking about most is that well-worn subject of me. But with blogging, there's this nifty little tool. It's called linking. With one click you jump to another's blog, another world, another subject.

I've found that with blogging I start to organize my thoughts in a different way. I strive to make them clearer (there's an audience, after all). I start thinking of extra little bits of information I can include. I start clicking my way around the world. Blogging is worlds away from journaling in a room by yourself. And worlds better, too.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why I love my Job (even though I shouldn't)

Image via Textura Design
I am the proto-type failed college grad. Two years out of college, several internships down the road, and I'm working as a sales girl at a department store (special occasion dresses). I have no business loving my job. None of my barely-graduated-from-high-school co-workers are deluded into believing it will bring anything more than the hardly-above-minimum-wages garnered from it. And yet, I love it, I'm challenged by it, and I work hard at it.

Today I worked with an adorable little French woman. This is the second time I've helped her. The first time she was buying a dress in the afternoon for an evening graduation party from Columbia law school the same day. What impressed me was how perfectly she knew her body, what worked for her and what didn't. What also impressed me was how she managed to be completely tenacious in getting what she wanted while being so sweet and funny about it that it didn't seem to make extra work.

Somehow, I'm going to make this job yield time well spent. I need to make a list of all the (many) things I need to work on. I'm still the slowest salesperson in the building. Future posts in the making...

5 Surprising Rules of Working Retail*

Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergeres. Image via Georgetown

I was a coddled college kid, given to believe that the world functioned according to justice, accountability, and creativity. If I could just display these characteristics, I would excel at any job and rise quickly to the top. Imagine my surprise, on securing a job, to find that none of these hold true. Instead, the following prevails:

Rule # 1: It's never your fault. Are you the type of person who exclaims "I'm so sorry" and "I take total responsibility" whenever possible? Wrong, wrong, wrong. This will never get you anywhere. Customers and co-workers alike will quickly take advantage of this self-provided scape-goat. Besides, you are working as hard as you possibly can anyway, and management just laid off all the dressing room attendants. You can't possibly do it all. Instead, insert these handy phrases: "I don't know." It's not my fault." "I didn't do it."

Rule # 2: Blame the customer. If it's not your fault, who's is it? Your safest bet is to blame the customer. They'll never be the wiser for it anyway.

Rule # 3: Let everyone know how hard you're working. Your job is to keep the place looking perfect. Of course, no one notices perfection, they only notice when something is out of place. So if you just removed 86 dresses from one fitting room, be sure to tell everyone about it. Otherwise they will assume you were lolling in the storage room playing with your hair the whole time.

Rule # 4: Creativity is out. You think the model on the stand would look better in polka-dots? Guess what? No one cares. You have 3 amazing ideas for making work go faster? Whacha trying to do girl, make us loose our jobs? Your key at this level is to be as flawlessly mechanical as possible. Any deviation from the standard will trip up performance and negatively affect monthly reviews.

Rule # 5: Let everyone know how much you hate your job (even if you don't). Positive attitude is boring and deemed unrealistic. No one else is deceived into believing that this job will lead to anything greater.

*This title reveals that I read way too much msn. Sorry, people.