Some Pithy Verbage – Tell Me Whose Writing Makes YOUR Heart Sing

My friend, the author, Mylené Dressler, posted this (following) wonderful Margaret Atwood quote on her Facebook this morning. The beautiful Mylené was one of my husband, John’s colleagues at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.  I took a literature course from her and deem her one of the finest teachers I have ever had.  She was truly inspiring, and opened up so many new doors for me, in terms of my literary perspective.  She is a former ballerina, and one of the most graceful people I have ever known.  Back then, she had long, long hair, and would sort of dance around the classroom as she enthusiastically spoke about the Harlem Renaissance and the other literary topics that we broached in that class.  We have kept in touch through the years, and it has been fantastic to watch as she has produced novel after novel and has become successful.  I love seeing my friends succeed in their endeavors.  This friend, in particular, has been fun to watch, because she does so much to promote other writers.  Wonderful, intelligent person, Mylene is.  ( Her name is pronounced Me-lan <–and lan rhymes with ran.)  :-)  Isn’t that a pretty name?

mylene

Thought I’d share the quote that she posted…because it’s pithy:

“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is . . . Think about it. There’s escaping from the wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.”

–Margaret Atwood

I love Margaret Atwood’s poetry, and I love her fiction…but I do not love her sci-fi so much.  I mean, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was perfectly written and very interesting.  I’m just not into that genre.  Atwood recently worked on a project with an environmental documentary maker-friend of mine in Santa Rosa.  I was dying to meet her, but alas.  The opportunity did not arise.

However, when it comes to poetry, no one can steal my heart quicker than Pablo Neruda .  Wow.  What power he exudes.

This little verse is heavily on my mind this morning…

“Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.”

Even translated, Neruda’s words lose nothing.  They are magic….or more aptly put, he captures the magic that I already feel in my heart.

chihuly in sf

Art by Dale Chihuly

Seattle, 2014

Photograph by Stacy Alexander

©Stacy Alexander – All Rights Reserved
2015

Whose writing most makes your own heart sing?

 

Music to My Ears

This morning, I taught myself one of the little tunes that always brings a smile to my face….like…every day, in fact.  I’m not a very good guitarist, but picking up this little tune was easy….and yeah…It DOES make me smile! :-)

Feeling happy, loved and ready to face another day.

This is finals week, and let me tell you.  The amount of work that I have to do is staggering…but I know I can do it. Just have to remain positive and focused.   It baffles me why professors wait until the last week to pile on so much work.  ugh.   I must say, however, these classes have opened new portals for me, and I am smiling as I anticipate how this information will be used in my future endeavors. These classes have all been so interesting….ok…except for stat…but we won’t talk about that.

I feel happy, loved, excited and rearing to go!  Isn’t it funny how the power of love can propel you forward in life?  It gives me a reason to wake up and get out of bed every morning.  I am one lucky woman.

It also feels very good to be organized and to have the time to creatively explore my various projects. This has not always been the case, but over the last few years, something just clicked into place with regard to getting organized.  It all makes sense….and is easy for me, permitting me to do much more than I used to.  I can simply bounce from one project to another without its being any big deal.

I have almost completed another mosaic, and I let little Ingrid work on it with me.  I was amazed at her eye for design and the careful accuracy with with which she placed each tile.  She really enjoys these kinds of projects, and I always have something for her to work on with me.  Working on an entire guitar-themed installation.  It is inspired! ;-)

I completed all but 3 essay questions on my final for Psychological Testing and Assessments yesterday and plan to tackle those this morning. I still have to complete and polish up my annotated bibliography for that same class, but I’ve made a good deal of progress on that as well.   Then, I have a discussion question for the Women in Leadership class which amounts to about 3 pages of substantiated discourse, plus my research proposal (6-9 pages) , and a journal entry about women being change agents….and as soon as I get all that done, my term will be complete!!!  Yay!  One step closer to my goal and I’m feeling so good!

Next term, I will be taking a forensic psychology course…You know…like on CSI.  :-)  That should prove to be interesting!  I’m also taking a business consulting course.  Then, it will be time for my final senior project (thesis) and I will graduate early July!!  I am beside myself with happiness as I complete each step.  I’ve never worked harder, but have never felt happier.  Really.  John wants to take me to Paris, but I want to wait a year before we go.

Have been invited for a night on the Oregon coast next week with three friends, so that will be my reward for accomplishing all of this.  Also looking forward to a celebratory drink with Kath, if we can both manage to get away. (She stays as busy as I.)  Of course, I’ll still be working, even during my “break”…but I’m thankful that I have the work.

Organic produce gets delivered today, so I will be spending some time working on my cookbook recipes as well. I have to stop and process everything the day it comes in, or else it will end up going bad.  I rather enjoy it.  A friend is coming over to help later.   I have onion rings soaking in buttermilk in my refrigerator as I type this.  They will be turned into oven-baked, panko onion rings later today.  Really looking forward to testing this recipe.  Have recently enlisted my cousin’s help with the meat portion of the book.  She will send me meat recipes and I will convert them into vegetarian and vegan versions.  This cookbook is for family and friends that have mixed diets, so everyone can have the same foods, but customized to suit their diets.  Good concept?  Bad concept?  We’ll see….

Ok….back to work for me.  Have a glorious day!  xoxoxo

 

Day #5 of 5 – Art Challenge

Today is the final day of the 5-day art challenge and I have selected three of my very early pieces to show you.  This first piece is one of my first 3-D mosaics.  I made it in honor of my beloved granddaughter, Maya, and used this piece to teach *her* how to make mosaics.  She and her friend, Maddie, helped me with the grouting, and both of them stuck some tiles to it. I free-handed the flowers, and all glass is hand cut.

flower heart song for maya

This second piece is also an older one, and one that I did in a series of mosaic/mixed-media shrines for an exhibit that I did in California.

shrine dancing blue dog head guy

And finally, this piece was one of my very first mosaics, and is called, “Womb With a View” (for obvious reasons).

womb view

I hope you have enjoyed checking out my work.  I am currently working on a series of musical instrument- inspired mosaics for an installation.  Not a lot of time to work on it, since I’m still in school and working full time…but I burn the midnight oil, sometimes, and slowly plug away on my new pieces.  Hopefully, I will have more to show you in the near future…but who knows?  It is what it is…..  Art makes me feel good, and that’s why I make it.

Feeling…

Right now, I feel very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very  HAPPY.

It takes so little.

Ya know?

Day #4 of 5 – Art Challenge

Here are three more pictures of my art in day #4 of a 5-day art challenge.  First, however, I would like to comment on the fact that this blog’s readership reached 642 this morning.  I would like to welcome all of my readers, new and old….not that any of you are “old” (since old is a state of mind…) and to say how happy I am that you are here!  Thank you.  I am honored.

This first piece is a stacked glass mosaic that was inspired by aerial photography.  It is many layers thick, and must be seen in person to truly appreciate the magnificence of the stacked glass technique that I learned from Seattle artist, Kelley Knickerbocker…who is one truly amazing artist!  I love Kelley’s work.

stacked glass mosaic

This second piece is one of a series of fish that I used various mixed media techniques to create.  It is on a birch wood panel and is called, “Bubble Fish.”

bubble fish

This last piece was in an exhibit at the 420 Gallery in Oakland some years ago.  I am honored that it is now owned by renowned artist, Darwin Price.  I call this one, “Noodle Girl,” and used many of the same techniques with this piece that I used with the “Bubble Fish” piece above.  She, too is on a birch wood panel.

noodle girl

Happy 10 Month Birthday, Harrison!

Today, Harrison Arlo Blackwood turns 10 months old.  He is growing and thriving, a happy little guy!

harrison 10 mo

Day 3 of 5 Art Challenge

This is Day #3 of a 5 Day Art Challenge in which I have been asked to post 3 works of my own art.  These are older pieces.

This first piece was my interpretation of Calder’s Fish Mobile.  It was very difficult to make and the photo isn’t good…but this is the best I can do.  It was made of found beach glass, recycled jewelry, heavy-gauge wire and thin, silver wire.  The tail was painted yellow, but it’s difficult to see in the photo.

fishmobile

This next piece is a commissioned mixed media painting of a Jizo (sort of the Buddhist patron saint of travelers and pets) (but not exactly).  This one has gold leaf, acrylic paint and various imported papers and jewels on a wood panel.  Many of the details are etched into the wood using a wood burning tool.

jizo

This tutu mosaic is called, “Tutu Degas”.  I collaged images onto the substrate and silver leaf and stamping, then covered the piece with clear glass with iridescent glass and millefiori trim.  The piece is lying on one of my mosaic tables (background) which is not a part of this piece.  I sold this at an exhibit in California a few years ago.

tutu

A New Article About my Husband

I am happy to promote this new article about my husband, Dr. John Freed, that was just published in the Brandman/Chapman University magazine.  It was written by Cindy O’Dell.  Click on her name to be taken to the original article. 

john at timberline (good)

Photo by Stacy Alexander

 

John Freed finds humor, meaning in history; turns it into theater

January 22, 2015 by Cindy O’Dell

Dr. John Freed, associate professor of humanities and liberal studies, finds it amusing that he’s immersed himself so personally in the very activity for which he describes himself as one of Brandman University’s chief boosters – being creative. But then Freed finds a lot of things amusing including the foibles of historic figures, the twists and turns his own career has taken and the unexpected but extreme pleasure of hearing himself introduced as “the playwright” by a theater director he admires.

Freed has been teaching college students about drama, particularly Shakespeare, for over 30 years. He’s also been a film and theatre critic. But it’s only in the last few years that he’s launched himself into writing plays, including “Figaro’s Follies” (a 2013 rewrite of the original Beaumarchais’ play on which the more famous opera “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart is based) performed as staged readings last summer in San Francisco. “Creativity is a very important student learning outcome for our revised liberal arts core,” said Freed in a phone interview from his Bay area office. He teaches blended classes at the Walnut Creek, Fairfield and Travis Air Force Base campuses and online and divides his time between the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, where his wife, Stacy Alexander, a mixed-media artist lives.

“This is an offshoot that links directly back to our mission of recovering the arts part of a School of Arts and Sciences,” he added.

“Dr. Freed has played an integral leadership role in the development and evolution of the School of Arts and Sciences,” according to Dean Jeremy Korr. “He’s developed a variety of innovative courses in online and blended formats and participated in the recent revision and expansion of the B.A. in Liberal Studies program for prospective teacher with our School of Education.”

Serious topics with a touch of humor

figaro

The characters of Susanna and FIgaro read through their parts at dress rehearsal.

Just as his academic interests range over a wide field, Freed’s plays defy narrow descriptions. They take on serious topics – the conflicts among classes, genders, ethnicities – but he does it by moving away from haranguing audiences and toward the comic.

“While Figaro (in both the opera and the plays) is a comic figure, he’s also challenging the hierarchy and class structure of his time. Nobody can read the original 18th century play. It’s five hours long. There are three-page long speeches that blast the aristocracy, but the play itself may well have been the catalyst for the French and other European revolutions that followed. My goal was to deliver Beaumarchais to a 21st century audience – to make the play fun and profound at the same time.”

Freed genuinely appreciated the comment forwarded to him by the literary director at Brown University: “On a personal note, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading “Figaro’s Follies.” I thought it was a fabulous adaptation, and that it both honored and enhanced its source material. Its cleverness and vitality made it a joy to read.” His other completed plays are “Love Me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Circle of Friends” (2012) and “The Merchants of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” (2014). Thanks to that trio of works, he was invited to join the Dramatists Guild of America in November. Freed prefers to think of himself as coming from the David Ives tradition drawing from both history and existing writings or plays to create his own works. In “The Merchants of Pittsburgh,” he drew on his own experiences with a Pittsburgh theater company and Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” to create a world where a Jewish theater board member takes over a production to create a more Shylock-friendly play. “You can see why somebody who has taught “Merchant of Venice” for so long can imagine a Jewish oriented version and have things believably come out that way,” said Freed. “At one critical moment near the end of the play, Shakespeare, in Portia’s voice offers Shylock that option to demonstrate the true value of the ‘quality of mercy.’”

Venturing into new worlds of theater

all hallows

 All Hallows at Hearst CastleWith his fourth work, “All Hallows at Hearst Castle,” which is currently in progress, Freed is venturing into several new worlds that are also fact-based. It’s a musical. He has a collaborator, the composer Jeff Dunn. And it’s based on redeeming the reputations of William Randolph Hearst and his life-long companion, Marion Davies, from the savagery of Orson Welles’ fictionalized version of them in “Citizen Kane.” “What he [Welles] did was horrible and just not true. They were incredibly hospitable people and very progressive in many ways,” he said and then adds, “I’m a huge San Simeon fan. In many ambivalent ways, it’s the ultimate icon of American exceptionalism.” There’s Charlie Chaplin developing a scene for “The Great Dictator” with a giant beach ball borrowed from the San Simeon pool and all the other comings and goings of the insulated world created by Hearst. “Welcome to this dear little, queer little world,” said Freed, echoing Davies’ greeting to her guests. Expect it to also include Clark Gable, Bette Davis – even Dagwood Bumstead – secret love, music, dancing, political intrigue, swordplay and self-discovery. “Things happen in history that you can’t make up. Nobody would believe it,” said Freed who wants to enlighten as well as entertain audiences.

This past year Dr. Freed has arranged with the following theaters to provide an on-going, greater than 50 percent discount on tickets for all college students, educators and members of the military (with ID cards). Contact the individual websites or box offices for details. CenterRep Theatre at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek: http://www.centerrep.org 925-943-7469 The San Francisco Playhouse in downtown San Francisco: http://www.sfplayhouse.org 415-677-9596 Island City Opera Company in Alameda: http://www.islandcityopera.org 510-759-9771 Enlightenment is also what he wants for his students, calling teaching a lifetime activity. “No one retires from what they love to do. I feel the same way about writing as I do about teaching. In my life and career, these two activities are converging very nicely,” he said. He makes sure his students “experience” theater as well as “read” it, working with San Franciso Bay Area theater companies to provide discounted tickets (see box for details).

He brings in Michael Butler, the artistic director of CenterRep Theater in Walnut Creek, to teach a master class to his students to help them understand the background and the effort that goes into an actual live theatre performance that they had just witnessed. From academics to housing and back again Freed began his university teaching career at Penn State University, but left after 10 years, having grown “exhausted by the banality of 18 and 19 year olds.” He renovated Victorian houses in Pittsburgh and was a low-income housing community developer for Neighborhood Housing Services. Then his life did a 360, returning him to higher education. He was hired as the dean of continuing education and that first semester assigned himself to teach adult learners in the evening at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. “That totally revolutionized what I knew,” he said. He begins his courses now by going around the room (digitally speaking, if it’s an online class rather than a blended one) and asking his students what they’re experts in. And they all have “phenomenal” answers. Then he tells his students, usually in their mid-30s or older, “You were all 18 or 19 and college-worthy back then, but what would you have said you were an expert in at that age?” Usually they say “nothing much,” although a few will candidly admit that they thought they knew everything at that age. “Now the challenge is to learn from and teach that classroom of experts and be creative enough with my own materials and assignments to tap into it.”

He also appreciates the School of Arts and Sciences’ multidisciplinary approach to curriculum development that encourages him to go from “The Iliad” to Google in a single, culture and media studies course rather than just “being marooned on the island of the 16th and 17th century literature.” That’s the fate he describes had he stayed at Penn State.

“All of these opportunities are why I love to work with my students and brilliant colleagues here at Brandman.”

Day 2 of 5 – Show My Art Challenge

This is the second day of the “Show My Art” challenge, and I have selected three of my older pieces to show you.  This first piece is called, “Van Gogh’s Eye” and was painted by me to give to my now-deceased friend, William Paul Smith.

vangoghseye

The second piece is encaustic on burned wood.  I am honored that it now hangs in the home of artist, Arlene Elizabeth.

red crow

This last piece is a jeweled heart mosaic that I created several years ago.

jeweled heart

The Power of Empathy

It can be very difficult to empathize with those people with whom you have no connection.  Take, for instance, the nasty, redneck girlfriend of a close friend….or that cranky clerk down at the grocery store. Fortunately, most people are not mean, and in most cases, I do try to connect and empathize with others. Do you?

Here is an interesting talk about empathy.

3 Arts a Day

I am participating in a sharing challenge issued by a group of artists on Facebook wherein I was challenged by Kim Larson to post 3 pictures of my art every day for 5 days.  So….here I go….

 

This first mosaic is a guitar that I made for recording artist/friend, Amy Corriea, winner of a CMA award and a wonderful, soulful singer.  The guitar resides with Amy in Massachusetts.

art1

This next piece, called, “Martha”, which now hangs in Seattle, Washington, was inspired by the very materials that made her.  My friend, Karyn D. gave me a big box of those tiny little bathroom tiles that most mosaic artists throw out, and some broken chards of china.  This is what I created with it all:

art2

This next piece, called, “Winter” was a large piece that covered one entire wall.  I sold it to a designer in a show in San Francisco a number of years ago and it now hangs in a mansion overlooking the Pacific near Dana’s Point in California.

art3

And these are my three art offerings for the day.   Come back tomorrow for more.

I Could Say More….but ….I Have Self Control…

kettle of crazy

Have you ever been in a situation where someone that was truly crazy, truly mean, was up to their typical evil and you just wanted to rub their nose in their own stupidity?  Don’t.

When you find a big kettle of crazy, it really is best not to stir it.  The crazies will beat that broth with a whisk themselves, until it is frothy… so you don’t have to.  The difference between the nut-jobs and yourself is that YOU have self control.

Failure to control oneself is just that….failure…..and who needs to be around losers? Attempt to be cool, folks.  Whether it involves stopping drinking or smoking, or getting even with the person that keeps making an ass out of him or herself, your exercising self control is the best answer.  betty smokingWhen you feel a good retaliation coming on….even a DESERVED one, meditate! Meditation not only improves your emotional intelligence, it also trains the brain to become a self-control machine. Simple techniques such as mindfulness, that requires as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves self-awareness and the brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason!

Believe it or not, another way to control one’s self is to control what goes into the body.  The brain burns heavily into one’s stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control in those situations where you don’t really WANT to exercise self control.

When some crazy has pissed you off so badly that you really, really want to flaunt your situation in front of his or her face, if your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses….so eat healthy foods!   Sugary foods rapidly spike sugar levels and leave one feeling drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn, such as whole grain rice or beans, will give anyone a longer window of self-control.

Getting the ‘ol body moving for as little as 10 minutes at a time releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes one’s brain feel soothed and keeps the exerciser in control of his or her impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to upload all kinds of incriminating evidence to your blog, or if you want to splash someone’s CRAZY name all over the Internet…. just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.

The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at this advice and giving these tips a go before you give in.  Exercise a little self-discipline.   The crazies will take care of themselves.  It takes time to increase your emotional intelligence, but the new habits you form with effort can last a lifetime.

 

An Evening at Xico

My 89 year old father (in another state) suffered a serious medical setback yesterday, so my heart was heavy with worry all day.  Fortunately, he came through the procedure with flying colors and was recovering rapidly last night, so I met a friend for dinner to celebrate that and to simply relieve some of the tension that I had been feeling.

It’s always a treat when my friend, Denise, flies in from Tuscon.  Last night was no exception.  We had a lovely evening at one of my neighborhood’s best restaurants, Xico.  Located at 3715 SE Division Street, Xico offers a small array of freshly prepared, gourmet Mexican food and designer cocktails.

The wait staff is highly knowledgeable about both food and beverage.  This is always a winning element for me.  I like it when the staff knows the food well and can talk about it intelligently.  Here is a little video of Denise and the waitress discussing some of the food:

After hugs and greetings, we started our meal with  smoky margaritas made with Sombra,  one of the restaurant’s “suitcase” mezcals from a mysterious collection that Xico owner Liz Davis hunts down in dirt-floored Mexican palenques where men still hack agave cores with machetes.   It also had fresh lime juice, honey and a half-rim of rust-red, “worm salt” or  sal de guasano, a condiment traditional to Oaxaca but little known here.

margarita

3 appetizers accompanied our cocktails.  We had a small dish of the Queso Fundido, which is usually served with chirozo (Mexican sausage) but, of course, being a vegetarian, I asked that this ingredient be omitted.  It was a perfectly perfect blend of broiled queso barra and muenstar topped with serrano-tomatilo salsa, radish, cabbage and Xito’s fresh-pressed tortillas that were bursting with organic corn that they grind themselves, right in the back room. They smell like wildflowers. A lot of this restaurant’s ingredients must be smoked, crushed, pampered, or flamed before being blended into their masterful concoctions.  This dish was complex with multi-layers of salty, smoky flavor and bursts of fresh herbs.  Wow.  There are simply no words to fully describe how delicious it was.

queso

We also had the Blood Orange and Apple Salad, that consisted of tequila-infused apples, pomegranate, cucumber, chile arbal, queso cotija resting in a drizzel of blood orange vinagrette.  Mmmmm!  It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

salad

The third appetizer we tried was the Fried Cauliflower.  These were cruciferous  flourettes in an arbol salsa with queso cotja, creme and cilantro.  It was light, full-flavored and delicious.  It seemed the flavors of all the food at this restaurant are so perfectly balanced.  It is unbelievable how they do it.  For every tart flavor, there is a counterbalance of sweetness, and everything was so masterfully prepared and presented.

cauliflower

We each had a main entree, too.  I am not going to write about Denise’s entree because she had pork and fish…but my own was a delicious, roasted Chili Relleno with Amaranth and Black Beans.

chili

This dish was prepared unlike any chili relleno I’d ever tasted, starting with the fact that it was roasted and not fried.  The chili was filled with black beans, amaranth, sun-dried tomatoes and requeson.  It rested in a tomato-canela broth and was topped with sour cream, guacamole, sauteed hedgehog mushrooms and sliced vegetable escabeche garnish.  It was served with a side of Mexican rice.  By the time it arrived, however, I was so full that I could only eat a bite or two, so I had it wrapped and took it home to enjoy for lunch today or tomorrow.  It was light (despite the sour cream, which I pushed to one side…) and delicious!

Denise and I had the best talk!  I enjoyed her company so much, and especially enjoyed the fact that we talked about a future business that we are planning to do together.  She and I just click, in terms of our belief systems and the things that are important to us.  We both had such a good time.

I walked home, ever thankful for my good friends, for my family, for living as close as I do to restaurants such as Xico, for the crisp, cool evening and for just being alive.  Evenings like last night make all of my hard work worth every minute of it!   Oh….and speaking of hard work, I should get back to it now.

feminism4

On Feminism

I remember reading something online a couple of years ago.  It was written by a redneck nitwit about one of my friends, and it referred to the friend as a “self-admitted feminist,” in a way that implied that the redneck was somehow “above” my friend….that being a feminist was a bad thing.   I found myself wondering, “How could any woman logically NOT be a feminist and walk away with an ounce of self respect?” and I pondered this question for a long time before I concluded the answer in one word….ignorance.  The redneck is ignorant.  She doesn’t even understand what the term means.

feminism

Feminism is simply the belief that women are already, and should be treated as social and intellectual equals to men.  Many people do not realize it, but feminists can be either male or female.  For instance, my husband is a feminist.  He is very much a man, does guy things…..He just thinks that women and men are equal…and frankly, I like it that way.  It makes me work harder to please him…because he works so hard to please me.  See how that goes?  Feminism is not the same thing as “man hating”.  It isn’t anti-male at all.  People who believe that are fraught with ignorance.

feminist3The basic idea of Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.

Feminism also, by its nature, embraces the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty within reason–including equal civil rights–and that discrimination should not be made based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle.

feminism2Feminists–and all persons interested in civil equality and intellectuality–are dedicated to fighting the ignorance that says people are controlled by and limited to their biology.

Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender. However, you should still hold the door for a feminist, man or woman; this is known as respect or politeness and need have nothing whatever to do with gender discrimination.
Get down with your own feminist selves, ya’ll.  It is time to embrace equality  for all people.  Deal with it, redneck.

Chasing Unicorns

Are you a unicorn chaser?  Do you have your eye set on someone that is not interested in you?  That’s too bad….because being in a one-sided relationship cannot be very gratifying.  I can’t imagine having to walk through my life “performing” for someone else so they will love me more.   If it doesn’t come naturally, I don’t want it.  When you stop chasing the wrong things, you allow the opportunity for the RIGHT things to come into your life.  You should not have to change who you are for any other person.

One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  You have your own unique qualities.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right person will be the one that appreciates those qualities fully, not someone to whom you have to defend yourself.

unicorn

If someone wants you in their life, he or she will make room for you.   You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. My advice?   Never, ever insinuate yourself onto someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  I have never understood the concept of chasing after someone that does not want to be in your life.  If the other person is ready to move on or does not cherish you enough to even be faithful to you (without some kind of mutual agreement) ….then it’s time to move on!

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After all, what is the point?  How degrading it must feel to know that the person you’re with is only with you because you’re crazy, or because you’ve issued an ultimatum or because you’re vulnerable or because you’ve made some kind of threat. That is not love!  It is intimidation.

How awful it must feel to wake in the morning with the knowledge that you are a burden to someone else, that his or her heart is elsewhere.  I sure wouldn’t want to live that way.  It isn’t healthy…..not for you….and certainly not for the other person.

Why would anyone even *want* to be in a situation such as that?  Even when they “win” and the person stays with them, they are losers.  They can never feel secure about their relationships, and even upon those occasions when they feel the love is reciprocated, it doesn’t last.  There is always that next hurdle to cross, that emotional mountain to climb, that unrelenting insecurity in the pit of the stomach.  Why do people put themselves through it?

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I want to know who I am in a relationship, and I do.  I don’t want to have to suffer the indignity of chasing after someone that is not naturally attracted to or that does not want to be in a relationship with me….and if things don’t work out, I am happy to simply turn away and exit with a smile on my face.  I will never be one of those “clingers” that people shake their heads about.   If someone doesn’t love me, I bow out.  No questions asked.  Fortunately, I am secure in all of my relationships.

I’m very lucky  that way.

Ready to Grout!

I finished sticking the tesserae onto my mosaic guitar last night. It is now ready for grout.  I am still contemplating colors.  Thinking of either doing a multi-colored, bright grout or charcoal gray.  Will have to think about it for awile….but I think I’ll probably go with the dark gray.

The front:

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And the back:

pregrout guitar back

After the piece is grouted, I will be listing it on Etsy.  Will post a notice here.

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The Age of Attention in the Music Industry

I have a lot of friends in the music industry.  The ones that have taken note of what is going on NOW are doing well.  The ones that are stuck in the past and still using the old tricks of the trade are simply stuck….and I don’t think they’ll be going anywhere any time soon.    Simply put, a new paradigm has formed and those that do not heed the call will get left in the dust.

There are a number of things that have caused this shift in how things are done in the music industry:

1. The Demand

Music is a business just like any other.  It follows and feeds on money. Don’t get me wrong.  Music doesn’t exist because of money….but the music business does.   Over the past twenty years, music has suffered through the invention of the CD, free torrents,  iTunes (with Apple’s  30 percent cut), Napster, and now, all of the new streaming services that lower sales below the already-low, low level.

The industry has been rocked by all kinds of new trends, and has recently succumbed to a state of  free-fall terror.   Industry leaders are clutching whatever straws are left in an attempt to still make a little profit from the remains of its now-broken business models.

As music becomes firmly embedded in the digital realm, Millennials have become the dominant music consumers.  They also dominate the most likely successful future market for music: mobile devices.  Millennials  use music and other kinds of entertainment apps more than 75 percent more than anyone else. They also use social sharing apps 20 % more frequently than any other demographic.

In other words,  Millennials consume more music than anyone else, and they tell the greatest number of people about it.   Why the sharing?  Why is this so important?

The old music industry had a banner metric of artist success: album sales. For years, album sales have been declining and the growth of singles and streaming services have accelerated the trend.

As we’ve transitioned into a digital music economy, new measures of success have emerged. A new generation of artists has hit the scene and they thrive on attention rather than units of music they sell.

The attention has become every bit as valuable as one’s likelihood to purchase.   The attention is what leads to festival and concert attendance, merchandising sales and other sources of revenue. However, they still won’t buy anyone’s music.

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Brands know this, too. Companies like GUESS, Red Bull and Steve Madden will pour more than $1.34 billion into sponsoring music venues, festivals and tours this year.

Over a billion dollars will be spent for the opportunity to build customer relationships and brand equity with digital natives. In contrast, the top 10 highest-earning electronic artists last year cumulatively made just over $240 million  —  less than 20 percent of what brands will spend in 2014 to capture Millennials’ attention.

What brands understand is that music is an important part of Millennials’ identity. It’s more than entertainment for this generation. The music they listen to can be as important as how they dress and influences who their friends are.  Going to festivals and concerts is an expression of identity. The brand will become part of the fans’ lifestyle.

The crux is that the music industry and the big brands are both chasing the new generation of artists; artists who can capture, retain and monetize attention — instead of album sales — and who can keep Millennials interested.  If you’re still trying to ride that old steam engine, it’s time to jump off and ride the new wave of music.


2. The Supply

These days, the only things required to make a sellable recording is a computer and a piece of  recording software.  One of the most powerful professional  digital audio workstations used to produce music is Logic Pro from Apple.  Get this…it only costs $200.   It has virtual instruments like pianos, synthesizers and drums, as well as all the necessary tools to edit and produce audio.

Most of the equipment required to create music has been absorbed into digital audio workstations while the software continues to get easier and easier to use. The end result is that artists can create music more quickly, more efficiently and less expensively than at any other time in history.

Gotye created “Somebody That I Used to Know” in his parents’ house in Australia.

The song reached #1 on more than 23 national charts and landed  inside the top 10 in over 30 countries worldwide.   By December of 2012, it became the best-selling song of that year.  That’s right.  A song recorded in an Australian basement with a $200 piece of software sold over 11.8 million copies! It was ranked among the best-selling digital singles of all time.

A young Dutch producer named Martin Garrix reached the top of the charts in more than 10 countries with his smash hit, “Animals,”

He  produced and released this song when he was only 17 years old. The song hit number one on Beatport, making Garrix the youngest person ever to receive the honor.

Millennials, who can simply record after class or work, are mostly familiar with this technology, but our open-source attitude toward learning is much more important.

Search “How to use Logic Pro” in YouTube and you’ll find thousands of free tutorials. Sites like Reddit have entire communities with tens of thousands of members who are dedicated to learning about music production.


3. Music Discovery Is At An All-time High

Music discovery and music production go hand in hand. However, as technology has enabled easy music production for emerging artists, it has also provided them with a way to reach fans all over the world.

There are the classic success stories like Justin Bieber and Lana Del Rey, of course, but below the YouTube empire rests an entire culture of Millennials who are discovering music online.

Platforms such as SoundCloud have more than 250 million active users each month and Millennials discover their music predominately through these digital platforms. Oh, and by the way,  when digital natives produce new music, they initially release it on the digital platforms.

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A key element to remember:  Millennials are creating more music than ever and releasing it onto platforms where their peers go to discover music.


4. Millennials Are Forming Powerful Musical Teams

Powerful songwriting and production teams exist to back popular artists such as Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Katy Perry. These teams are one of the primary drivers that sustain  the superstar artists on top. Working in teams allows writers to churn out tons of highly enjoyable music tracks at top speeds.

However, Millennials are breaking down this final barrier, too.

Services like FindMySong are connecting independent musicians so they can form their own dominant songwriting and production teams. The FindMySong model takes advantage of the fact that there are more independent musicians than ever before who want a piece of the major artist success without the major label strings.

With cheap recording technology and an effective way to distribute the music, these independents team up online to rival major labels.

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For the first time in its history, the American music business is firmly in the hands of the artists and the consumers. The power is now in your hands.  You have the ability to lead the industry wherever you want it to go.  Where will that be?

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Nashville

Since Nashville has been the topic of a lot of recent conversation between a close friend and myself lately, I thought I’d let you in on the fact that ABC is seeking paid extras for its prime time series “Nashville” currently filming in Music City.

The network is looking for all ages and all types of people including music industry types and musicians, upscale conservative business types, hip Nashville scene types and general everyday people.

The job doesn’t pay much money, but promises to be fun.  Extras will be paid $8 an hour with a guarantee of eight hours plus overtime.

Filming will take place on a Monday through Friday basis.  Work days generally average between 10 and 12 hours.

To be considered for extra work on “Nashville”, visit OnLocationCasting.net and complete free talent application or send an email to nashvilleextras@gmail.com with a recent photo, your first and last name, height and weight and contact number.

Self Discipline….and Burning the Midnight Oil

midnight oilThis is the time in the school term that requires much intensive work, meaning that I am burning the midnight oil every night and have (even bigger) bags under my eyes.  Week 8 of 10 means that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but I must dig my way to it through a mountain of books and papers and self-discipline.

My major is Organizational and Industrial Psychology.  These last few terms have been focused on leadership, so we have been studying the habits and lifestyles of the uber-successful to find out what makes them tick.  I don’t really have any grand plans for after graduation.  I will be starting a business, but  I do not aspire to make a fortune. I’m not really doing it for the money…but I do aspire to do some good in the world and to positively impact other lives.  However, before I get there, I must keep my nose to the grindstone and practice some self discipline.

There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but there is only one that begets sustainable, long term success in all aspects of life – self discipline. Whether in terms of one’s diet, fitness, work ethic, or relationships, self discipline is the first and foremost trait that one needs to accomplish goals, lead a good and healthy lifestyle and ultimately, to be a happier person.

self discipline

Self discipline means doing what needs done rather than what one necessarily wants to do.  For instance, I turned down a great invitation for dinner and music with friends last night because I had a paper to write.  I have gotten used to this, during the course of my grad school endeavors, and, in fact, rather enjoy just staying at home alone working toward a much-desired goal.  Each day, I realize how much closer I am, and each day, I am a little more grateful for this opportunity.

According to a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hoffman, people with high self control are happier than those without.  The study discovered this is true because the self disciplined subjects were more capable of dealing with goal conflicts. These people spent less time debating whether to indulge in behaviors detrimental to their health, and were able to make positive decisions more easily. The self disciplined did not allow their choices to be dictated by impulses or feelings. Instead, they made informed, rational decisions on a daily basis without feeling overly stressed or upset. That is what I am trying to do with regard to school….and it is paying off, big time.

Self discipline is a learned behavior. It requires practice and repetition in one’s day-to-day life.  Here are a few tips to help attain it:

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1.  Removing as many temptations and distractions from one’s  environment is a crucial first step when working to improve self discipline. If you are trying to have better control of your eating, toss the junk food.  If you want to improve your focus while working, turn off your cell phone and clear away the clutter from your desk. In other words, set yourself up for success by ditching the bad influences.

 

 

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2. Eat regularly and healthfully  Well, anyone that knows me, also knows that I am an advocate for a healthful, organic, plant-based diet.  Studies have shown that low blood sugar can weaken a person’s resolve. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential. Hunger makes it hard o focus on the tasks at hand, not to mention making you grumpy and pessimistic. You are much more likely to have a weakened sense of self control in all areas of our life – diet, exercise, work, relationships… you name it. In order to stay on track, make sure that you are well fueled throughout the day with healthy snacks and meals every few hours. I personally make sure to always have some almonds or Muscle Milk on hand. These snacks ensure that I can get a dose of healthy protein and fats throughout the day when needed. Eating often regulates your blood sugar levels and improves your decision making skills and concentration. Allow you brain to focus on your goals and priorities instead of on your growling stomach.

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3. Don’t wait for it to “feel right.” Improving your self discipline means changing up your normal routine, which can be uncomfortable and awkward. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that habit behaviors are traced to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia – a portion of the brain associated with emotions, patterns, and memories. Decisions, on the other hand, are made in the prefrontal cortex, a completely different area. When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do. The solution? Embrace the wrong. Acknowledge that it will take a while for your new regime to feel right or good or natural. Keep chugging along. It will happen.

 

 

4. Schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. I tend to pick up my guitar and practice for half an hour when I want to reward myself for accomplishing a school task.  Self discipline does not mean your new regimen needs to be entirely cold turkey, hard core, or drill sergeant-like in execution. In fact, giving yourself zero wiggle room often results in failures, disappointments, and giving into your old ways. While practicing self control, schedule specific breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. Dieting? Designate Saturday as ice cream sundae day. Trying to lose weight? Treat yourself with a fancy massage after a month of gym trips. Working on controlling your spending? Allow yourself a $25 splurge at the mall on Sunday. (Leave the credit cards at home, and bring cash only). Self discipline can be hard. Reward your effort.

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5. Forgive yourself and move forward. As much as the turkeys WILL try to bring you down, simply detatch and don’t allow them into your headspace.   Mind you, instituting a new way of thinking won’t always go according to plan. You will have ups and downs, fabulous successes, and flat out failures. The key is to keep moving forward. When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on. It is easy to get wrapped up in guilt, anger, or frustration, but these emotions will not help build improve self discipline. Instead, use the hiccups in your plan as learning experiences for the future. Forgive yourself, and get back in the saddle ASAP. The longer you’re off your game, the harder it is to keep going in a positive direction.

 

Oh….and have a beautiful day, ok?  :-)