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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

"People who avoid all criticism fail"

A lot of business and management books have captivated my reading time over the last few months. It is by choice I read these books, but not something I would have envisioned myself doing a decade ago. At the university I studied graphic design and chuckled to myself at the serious minded business students. Now I am employed as a manager and it is just weird for me to think in those terms. I don't feel like a manager. I sure don't look like a manager (for those who actual know or care what I look like). I sure am not paid like a manager.

One of the benefits to reading business and management books is to learn how other people have failed and succeeded and know that--as bad as I think I have it--it could be worse. Worse in the sense that, some of these characters lost thousands of dollars or jobs or companies--and survived and learned from it.

So I'm reading this book by Tim Ferriss. A friend recently loaned me a copy of The 4-Hour Workweek. Not your ordinary business book, and yet it is. How's that for a non-review critique? I've only completed the first part and find it to contain ingredients not a recipe--as the author suggests. Here's some excerpts:
Does your life have purpose? Are you contributing anything useful to this world, or just shuffling papers... and coming home to a drunken existence on the weekends?
Busy yourself with the routine of the money wheel, pretend it's the fix-all, and you artfully create a constant distraction that prevents you from seeing just how pointless it is.
this is great...
People who avoid all criticism fail.
one more...
Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
And I have only started the second part of the book--Elimination.

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Vanessa Boyd does Burning Man

VANESSA BOYD... is "in Nevada playing music at Burning Man..." this week. What is the Burning Man Festival?

For those who don't know, Burning Man is an annual week-long festival held prior to and including the Labor Day weekend. It is a temporary city located 120 miles north of Reno in the Black Rock Desert, and experiments in radical community organization using their 10 principles (Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and

Also, the title track to Vanessa's new album, Hunger to Be Fed (the album package that I designed), is included in Long Island's August 9th podcast on the Indie Connection and later broadcasted on WMIR. WETS in Johnson City, TN is playing Hunger on Roots & Branches as well as WNCW out of Spindale (Asheville) NC.

"This is no chopped liver" --Host Kim Clark, WNCW (March 2006 Studio B Live Recording)

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Gaping Void philosophy

(via gapingvoid) Link.

breakfast of champions

Mmm, I think grew up on the wrong side of 'The Pond' because this looks like a great way to start the day.

Confessions : : 06

01. I got less than five hours of sleep last night.
02. Three poem sketches were written due to this insomnia.
03. The first time I've written poetry since the writers residency in July.
04. I've been developing other people's books for publication,
05. and neglecting my own literary efforts.
06. I am supposed to be writing regularly column for The Indie, but I haven't submitted anything in two months.
07. I am supposed to be doing something important right now...
08. but one spreadsheet looks just like all the others...

Previous confessions: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Writing is a cruel mistress

From the Guardian Unlimited:
Writing tops poll of ideal jobs by Michelle Pauli

More Britons dream about becoming an author than any other job, according to a new survey.... almost 10% of Britons aspire to being an author.... More women than men yearn to write... Link.
I do not need to read the rest of the article to know it is not news. Further, most people (non writers) believe that writing is an easy profession where the individual lounges around drinking martinis and writes great novels in bursts of inspiration. This is a movie myth—if not fantasy.

According to this site (thanks Tammi), "Less than 100 people control what books are read in the U.S...." which means writers seeking publication are in an extremely difficult vocation to attain success.

Now, if I were to dream of an ideal job, it would be a U.S. park ranger in Montana.

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Rain either rolls off your back or gets under your skin

For Write Stuff readers, I have composed a personal essay regarding a five-week writing course I took earlier this summer. It is a five-part series, but I was unable to post this week's part on the Write Stuff site. So I will post it here. If you have not read the previous posts, please take time to read them before reading this part as they all build upon each other. In order: 1) Where does rain come from?, 2) Rain intensifies the drama of the question, 3) Rain—everyone needs it like everyone needs a great narrative.

Rain either rolls off your back or gets under your skin

Two weeks later—I sit in the familiar warehouse that is the classroom of a writing workshop on the art of personal essay. The class discussion of homework complete, a cookie provided by the Flood Fine Arts Gallery owner crumbles in my mouth and the class assumes the task of critiquing the third draft of personal essays. My personal essay has grown from a three-page, double spaced first draft to a nine-page document. A couple classmates have privately commented to me their solidarity with my work and I believe we may be kindred spirits in the dark art of literary craft. Ann Pancake writes in the Poets & Writers article Reading How You’re Read, “Art is not created by consensus.” I understand this and realize that most of my classmates cannot detach their teacherly or motherly habits. Ann Pancake further reminds to “consider any personal biases a reader might have for or against a particular piece. Such prejudices might concern you as a writer... the critics insecurities about her own work, or the subject matter of the poem, story, or essay being critiqued.”

Even with this understanding, I am not prepared for today’s critique.

“He’s a jerk,” says one classmate holding a copy of my manuscript in front of her. “He’s not even listening to her.”

“And there’s a weird detachment,” says another. “Almost voyeuristic.”

The workshop instructor displays a wry smile, and I cannot decide if he is nervous or devious. He reaches for his bottled water and unscrews the cap. “Matthew is doing something different here. I think he’s the only one doing this. Can anyone tell me what’s going on here?” he asks.

You see, many of my classmates wrote in the style of a memoir—experience based personal narrative. It tends to be linear as far as general plot. This is not wrong. A good memoir is a delightful reading experience. Another way of looking at a memoir is that it is autobiographical and follows a real life plot line. But this is boring for me to write. Plain vanilla ice cream is a grand delight—one of my favorite, especially Ben & Jerry's Organic Vanilla. But Ben and Jerry’s Vermonty Python explodes with flavor. As a consumer, Ben & Jerry’s Organic Vanilla ice cream is great, but put in the director's chair—I want to experiment. Personal essay seems the perfect laboratory for me. A personal essay is an idea piece that relates a universal theme. It is part memoir in that it deals with personal history, but it is part essay in the fact that the personal history is plumbed for a deeper theme, lesson, or anecdote. It can be written in past tense, but can be written in present tense.

The instructor knows what I am trying to do. I use techniques common to fiction. To be honest, I did not know exactly what I was doing—regarding technique. I write what was in my head and let the story form on the page. (Most drafts I write in a composition book or moleskin notebook and enter them into my laptop later.) What emerged was a narrative with three viewpoints. This is something the workshop instructor identifies and shares with the class. He explains it this way to the class: “Matthew is both the narrator and principle actor in this piece.”

Through the personal essay, I—the writer—assume several masks (roles or point of views): principle actor, narrator (or, if this was a film, a director) and the third mask is somewhat mysterious. The workshop instructor uses the term writers mask as an expression of the face the writer assumes to relate the narrative. For example, most memoir writers use one mask—I, the writer/narrator. For me that seems too linear—a matter of personal preference. The instructor has a difficult time identifying the third mask until one of the classmates (the only other man in the class outside myself), says that it embodies the spirit of foreshadowing.

“Kind of like the voice of a prophet,” says the instructor. “Suggesting something bigger than the current narrative presents.”

This is rich critique—something I can use to strengthen the personal essay. The previous critique is also useful, but relates more about the reader than about the prose I am crafting.

Again, I am not aware of what I am doing. Writing the essay seems intuitive to me in that I present a story that shifts in and out of scenes and summary. For example, the exposition territory allows me to present personal summary and develop an emotional landscape—the inner life of the narrator. The dialogue presents scenes of drama where all the action takes place. This dialogue part is risky in a personal essay due to the fabrication of it. Did I really say that? Did she really say that? No recording device is present. So I guesstimate the actual scenes as best I can recall. To some writers creative guesstimation presents an ethical dilemma—shifting empirical evidence to fit the narrative if not pure imagination. I shrug off the comments of being a jerk and embrace the critique about multiple masks.

Web 2.0 explained

(via Lessig) Link.

MAC user for 12 years

(That means WAAAAY before these AWRsome videos were produced.)

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The Traveling Bonfires presents Asheville’s Lovers’ Loop Poetry Forum

This Saturday night (7-9PM) at Osondu Booksellers! Jess Clarke, Destiny Dorozan Kappa, Audrey Hope Rinehart, Jessica Newton are the featured poets plus singer-songwriter Sara Day Evans.

This is going to be a special event, for me at least. I was part of
Jessica Newton's writers group for awhile. And Audrey Hope Rinehart helps put together the Flood Fine Arts Gallery Poetry Reading Series.

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How did On the Road change your life?

If it did change your life. When I landed in Asheville, it was one of the first books I read. Howl being the second. From the Guardian Unlimited, by Sean O'Hagan:

In Minor Characters, her illuminating memoir of life among the Beat writers, Joyce Johnson, who was with Kerouac on that day in New York, captures the seismic resonance of that single review. She had gone with Kerouac to buy an early edition of the newspaper from an all-night newsstand in midtown Manhattan. In a nearby bar, she had watched him read Millstein's article, shaking his head 'as if he couldn't figure out why he wasn't happier than he was'.

Afterwards, they had walked back to Johnson's apartment on the Upper West Side where, as she memorably put it: 'Jack lay down obscure for the last time in his life. The ringing phone woke him next morning and he was famous.' Overnight, the Beat generation had gone overground, and the man who did most to define it suddenly found that his book was now defining him. It would continue to do so for the rest of his short life, and for many decades afterwards.

'Challenging the complacency and prosperity of postwar America hadn't been Kerouac's intent when he wrote his novel,' his first biographer, Ann Charters, later wrote, 'but he had created a book that heralded a change of consciousness in the country.' In the few years following its publication, On the Road became a major bestseller. It also, as Kerouac's friend and fellow Beat writer, William Burroughs, witheringly wrote, 'sold a trillion Levi's, a million espresso coffee machines, and also sent countless kids on the road'. Unwittingly, and to his increasing horror, Kerouac had written a zeitgeist book, one that would help determine the course of what would come to be known as youth culture over the following two decades.

'It changed my life like it changed everyone else's,' Bob Dylan would say many years later. Link.

I was drinking espresso and wearing Levi's and traveling the roads of America long before I read On the Road. And somehow, I feel like I'm part of the cultural machinery in the wake of Kerouac's novel. And you?

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Write Stuff: Pursuit of the personal essay

I've been sharing what I learned during a 5-week writing course in my Write Stuff columns. This week's piece, Rain--everyone needs it like everyone needs a great narrative, continues the story.

Last week's post, Rain intensifies the drama of the question, evoked the following response:
...one of the most profound statements I’ve ever read. —Tammi

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DIWATA: poster design


[Click on image to download image]

A recently completed poster design for A Third World Asheville Gathering.

A Seth Godin Reader, Vol. 1, links

  1. Contagious
  2. Role models
  3. Death of the farmer's market
  4. The honor system
  5. Sloppy naming
  6. Expectations

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Photoshop CS3 Tutorial - how to trick out digital photos using the Match Color feature

Here's a quick Photoshop technique I use to trick out an ordinary digital photo. If you are not familiar with the Match Color feature, it is located under the Image drop down menu (using Photoshop CS3: Image » Adjustments » Match Color). In order to match the color temperature of the "ordinary" photo you need to also open a file that contains the color temperature you desire (NOTE: The image on the left of the screen capture is the original, "ordinary" photo and the "source" image is displayed as a thumbnail in the Match Color window.).

The original photo has now been "matched" [see below image] to the source photo with the Match Color default settings (Luminance = 200, Color Intensity = 100, Fade = 0, Neutralize deselected).

Adjusting the Color Intensity setting to 40 provides a sepia antique feel to the original photo.

Adjusting the Fade setting to 50 lightens the photo. At this point, I play with the Color Intensity and Fade settings until it feels right to me. It is hard for me to explain. The previous settings were too muddy for my taste.

Since I am going for a rich antique faux black and white style, I end up with the following settings in Match Color: Luminance = 200, Color Intensity = 10, Fade = 100, Neutralize deselected.

A faux pinhole effect completes the photo below.

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Write Stuff: The art of personal essay

For my Write Stuff post I've been sharing what I learned during a 5-week writing course. Later I will explore what I gleaned from a 1-week writers residency.

This week's piece, Rain intensifies the drama of the question, continues the story.

Last week's post, Where does rain come from?, evoked the following responses:
One of the things that I don’t like about taking classes... is the people who fall over themselves to impress the instructor and can’t follow instructions. —Finn

I believe that the majority of people there are just like you - they simply want to learn the ins and outs of the craft and ultimately become better writers.... At any rate, have more confidence in your writing abilities because... judging by what you’ve contributed to this blog so far, you are well on your way to becoming one of the greats. —Karen

I’m sure that your essay didn’t seem silly... the... polished pieces are jumping ahead of the process and undermining your teacher’s efforts. —Tammi

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From Jessica Smith:

In a very encouraging email, my DGS (for the uninitiated, that's "Director of Graduate Studies") told me to "keep my eyes on the prize." This is the right thing to say to an Alabaman who grew up with the Gospel hymn resonating in her mind like a battle cry of freedom. Yes! Keep my eyes on the prize! I can do that!

But unfortunately, after turning this little phrase over in my head for awhile, I began to note the flaw in its logic. Exactly what prize am I working for? Many of the smartest graduate students I have known have gone on to teach composition at schools in the middle of nowhere. When they're lucky, perhaps they get a creative writing course or they get to live in a place somewhat convenient to them. When they're very lucky the position is tenure-track. Some have hefty teaching loads and are wrangled into sitting on every committee the department mandates.

And what if you're really, really very lucky, and get a tenure-track job at an ivy league school, and even get tenure there? (Unheard-of! But I am referring to someone specific, actually.) What if taking tenure there means teaching snotty rich kids while your academic S.O. languishes or moves far away? It seems like even if you get The Ideal Situation there are still so many real-life factors to take into account. Link.


The Drama:
This is not the right school for me. Link.

The prize

The prize is the work. The work is the prize.

Moral lessons

I think I would be getting along better in school if I had some humility. I don't like being treated like a "student." I don't like doing work that I consider to be beneath my talents. If I could fake humility, I would at least be able to get on better terms with some of my teachers. If I had real humility, maybe it wouldn't bother me so much that I am required to whore out my intellect to 5-page book reports. Link.

Awaiting the Verdict: A Romance in One Act

Maybe if you would be a little more interesting I would try harder.

Maybe if you try harder I will seem more interesting. Link.

The End of an Affair: A Comedy

We genuinely wish you success in your critical and creative work. But that work cannot be continued in our department.

shrugs Eh.

I feel liberated, glad someone else made the decision for me, ready to get a job that pays money, happy that (ironically) I can finally get to do the intellectual work that I came here to do-- guilt-free and unencumbered. There are books to be written, both critical and poetic, and they're entirely under my control now. I think some people will be upset or disappointed but come on, we all knew this wasn't working.

**Addendum I actually did go to a wedding tonight, so I guess it's a comedy. At the wedding, I saw a wonderful neon sign that will make a great title for my next chapbook. And, of course, there was lots of free booze and cake-- a happy ending. Link.