Thursday, August 23, 2012

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness -- from the inside

This video is so powerful that there is really nothing I can add to it - except this, there are many people who have schizophrenia and/or mental illnesses, who achieve a great deal and contribute to society. Mental illnesses wax and wane in the severity of their symptoms. With proper care there is no reason to exclude people from society, when they can still contribute so much.

Please watch it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shakespeare, poetry, and body-consciousness

I had another topic planned for posting, but I need to think on it more, so I am reposting something from my Google+ page Poetry Tutorials and random thoughts:

Being in touch with the body

In my personal opinion great poetry comes from the soul and the muscles. It is felt in every fiber of your being. So it didn't surprise me in the least to read this article a few months back about William Shakespeare's poetry stating that:

According to Dr Heaton his analysis demonstrates that Shakespeare "was an exceptionally body-conscious writer." He suggests that Shakespeare's used this style of writing to allow his characters to appear more human and stimulate the reader to feel more empathetic or to dramatize his plays and poems.

Let's talk about poetry coming from the body for a few moments. The first example of the body influencing poetry writing is the effects of practice, which is a combination of exercising the mind and the body. When you practice writing poems, the neuron networks that help you write poetry become stronger and work faster. It becomes easier to find the right phrase, the right rhyme, etc. After all these years of writing poetry on an off, I can write syllable-count poetry without really worrying about the count because I usually am right on the button from pure repetition. For the same reason, I will automatically rhyme in my poems if I am very tired and ill. (Sleep deprivation introduces naturally occuring alliteration.) Writing poems on a regular basis also trains your body to enter a state of relaxation, allowing your mind to be freer with its expression.

The second example of writing from the body is the very thing Shakespeare did - using the description of bodily sensation to connect with the audience. In a way, you are achieving a deeper sense of communication through the verbal description of a physical language share by almost all humanity.

The third example is something I discovered while reading The Mythic Path by David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner. It is the act of actually exploring your own body's reaction to a triggering memory and then expressing it in words. To a lesser extent, it's what I use when doing the sensory approach to writing poetry. In the actually exercise, I first focused on a memory of something that represented security to me as a child and described what I was doing and what my body was feeling. Then I drew a personal symbol to represent that experience. After I drew it, I pretended I was the symbol and had it speak. I believe that's where the actual exercise ended before going on to the next memory, but being me, I had to explore it more in verse and write down other insights I had while doing the exercise.

While I am not comfortable sharing my results from those exercises, I can give you another example of describing the body's reaction in a poem:

Sun Song

Warm sand under my feet
Caressing them as I walk
Along the beach--blank as a page
A few pieces of driftwood and shells
Break up its placid smoothness

Gently the waves wash in and out
Removing the marks of those
Who dare this pilgrimage
I sit just out of their reach
Hypnotized by their rhythm

The sun beats upon my shoulders
Forcing muscles to relax
Burning out the daggers in my back
Nothing outside of this beach exists
My mind is as empty as the sky above me
A hunger makes itself known inside me
A hunger to be physically alive
To live in this body
Instead of ignoring its presence

I lay on my back
Nature communes with me
Reminding me that just being
Is cause for celebration
Grateful, I accept this lesson

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Adventures with Pinterest

I curate a personal art museum. As of this moment, I have 532 works of art in it. I have ancient art, classical art, folk art, and modern art in it. I have works from the well-known, the unknown, and every degree of fame in-between. I have art that have personal meaning for me, works of historic importance, multi-cultural works, shocking works, and soothing works.

Here's my art gallery. I love it. I don't have to worry about space, climate controls, visitors, theft, insurance, or any other type of maintenance issue. The only drawback is that I can't arrange and organize things. Outside of that, it's the perfect art gallery for me.

I joined Pinterest out of curiosity more than anything else. A male acquaintance on Google+ invited me to it. Of course, I had heard about the site at work, from women who were using it to plan weddings, baby showers, and other things. Outside of the recipe board, I haven't really used any of the pre-made board categories the way most people would. Oh, I started out by making boards for some of my favorite things - butterflies, flowers, landscapes, geek stuff, and glass. But my "For the Home" is really more "Quirky Home-Related Stuff" and a companion to my "Interesting homes" board. And then there's my "Inspirations of Fantasy" board, which are more or less just things that excite the fairy tale lover within me, even if they are real.

A few months ago, I made a board sort of in memory of a classmate, who had just died from cancer at the young age of 25 years. I had often enjoyed her Pinterest boards, because they showed her joy and enthusiasm for color and life, as well as her eye for style. I sensed within some of her choices an underlying desire to be married, mixed with the knowledge that she may never have the opportunity. After her death, I missed seeing her pins, so I started my own board of elegant and romantic things. However, in honor of her authenticity, I chose things that were more appropriate to myself than recreate her choices. I don't think it represents me as much as her boards did her, but it does represent the overlap she and I had - which is far more meaningful.

A few days ago, I read Plan Your Future: How to Create a Vision Board by Margarita Tartakovky, M.S. over on PsychCentral. Since I've recently been laid off due to a corporate re-organization of my department, I thought it would be a good idea to do a vision board. Due to my current financial constraints, I decided I would try to do this online, instead of getting magazines. I cruised a few online sources of things I wouldn't normally be interested in - such as a powerpoint forwarded by my mother (As_melhores_fotos_da_PIXDAUS_I.pps), a search for tattoos on Pinterest (doing a single board didn't give me many images to consider), a knitting blog (Knitting to Stay Sane), and a car TV show website (Motor Week). I finally settled on 10 images. As it turns out, I really don't find tattoos all that inspiring. I had to work to find an image I felt any affinity towards. I knew I was never really into tattoos, but I underestimated the depths of my apathy towards them. I think it's because I find skin fascinating on its own.

Anyway, I played with the images in a graphics editor on my computer until I had an arrangement I liked and then I answered the questions. I identified a color scheme, a pull towards nature, and somewhat surprisingly a desire to ascend things.

In theory, it should be possible to do a vision pinboard by culling from images you've already collected on other boards. Of course, the original exercise is set up to make you think outside of the box - and I would still suggest using sources you aren't normally interested in to start. But once you've started that process, you should be able to go back through your own boards and pick out images that pull at you. Unless, of course, you have a habit of only pinning things based on what other people approve of. In that case, you probably wouldn't get much personal insight out of using the stuff you've already pinned.

The problems with the theory (or more specifically the hunch) - you can't make a single board private, which may lead to self-censorship. You could, of course, privately gather images other ways and work with them. And as I mentioned earlier, you can't rearrange things on a Pinterest board. Still, it may still serve some purpose to have one, even if it is a bit restrained. A friend uses Pinboard, a site the requires a one-time free, but does allow you to keep certain boards private, but doesn't post images - so it wouldn't work for this. A combination of the two sites would be nice.

I suspect that there may be other ways to use Pinterest, which are not immediately obvious. Being able to visually tag things is bound to lead to different ways of processing ideas.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Modern Artist Spotlight – Rob Mulholland

(image via The Daily Mail - resized for display)

Rob Mulholland is a sculptor and installation artist based in the United Kingdom, who does some pretty awesome things with mirrored surfaces. Seriously, this guy’s work Vestige is gut-wrenching thought provoking. To quote the artist:

The six male and female figures represent a vestige, a faint trace of the past people and communities that once occupied and lived in this space. The figures absorb their environment, reflecting in their surface the daily changes of life in the forest. They create a visual notion of non – space. A void as if they are at one moment part of our world and then as they fade into the forest they become an intangible outline.

His most recent work Tide Flow – Time Flow invites us to consider the flow of evolution in a similar fashion. I personally think the use of mirrored surfaces makes the viewer more likely to examine themselves and their own part in the play we call existence.

Of course, Mr. Mulholland has works in other mediums that you would expect from an inventive modern sculptor, including more perishable materials and items from mundane life. You can see the theme of humans relating to their past and their environment through much of his works. But these stainless steel mirrored works are a stroke of pure genius.

Artist’s website -