Interesting Reads | 5.31.2013

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

Erotic Republic
By Afshin Shahi
From Foreign Policy

A surprising sexual revolution is underway in Iran. Afshin Shahi shines a small spotlight on the revolution with some interesting data.

Chasing fireflies in rural twilight
By Andrea Badgley
From Butterfly Mind

I hope you enjoy Badgley’s well-timed childhood reverie on her excellent creative nonfiction blog.

Company Man
By David Sedaris
From The New Yorker

Another Interesting Reads feature and another David Sedaris piece. Maybe it’s because he’s now middle aged, but this is a far tamer piece that what made him famous. All the more, I was still entertained while reading it.

Have you read anything interesting lately?

Interesting Reads | 4.26.2013

I know it’s cliched, but can you believe it’s the end of April? Like, really, the end of April! In Minnesota the snow is just now melting. It’s really been a crazy month with Claire’s birthday, our quick move that started a week ago on Wednesday, and about three snowstorms that dumped up to two feet of snow on us. Listen, I’m ready to be outside! And to blog again.

While I haven’t had time to blog, I have had time to read a few interesting articles. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

A Cat-Hater’s Handbook: Irreverent Vintage Gem Illustrated by Tomi Ungerer by Maria Popova
Brain  Pickings

I am not a cat lover by any means, so the topic of this post is appealing to me. But, beyond that, it’s a really funny look into the cat-hating thoughst of Mark Twain, Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash and more.

Say it Out Loud: How David Sedaris Makes his Writing Better by Kristin Hohenadel
Fast Co. Create

I love insights into how writers write. This is a great look into how David Sedaris writes and edits for maximum laughs. The best part is that it’s not the typical read-out-loud advice!

My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters by Deborah Copaken Kogan
The Nation

There’s no way around it; if you’re a book-loving woman, this will piss you off.

Have you read anything interesting lately?

For those who’ve feared that I would never return, I promise you that I’ll be back on Monday with my planned reading post, Wednesday with a book chat post and Friday with what I’ve watched (hint: it’s not much!).

Movies I’m Looking Forward to with Excitement

Over the next few months a few movies will hit the big screen, and I’m very excited! As per usual, I probably won’t watch them in theaters, but I’ll be waiting for them to be released on DVD.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

I shouldn’t have to explain my excitement about this movie!

In Theatres May 10th

The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

Sounds interesting. A comedy about three teenagers who decide to build a house in a forest and live off the land.

In Theaters May 31

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

A Shakespeare retelling in the hands of Joss Whedon. This should be promising.

In Theaters June 7th 

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring | Movies I'm Looking Forward To | The 1000th Voice Blog

Via IMDB

Directed by Sophia Coppola, this movie is based on a true story.

In Theaters June 14th

Any movies you’re looking forward to in the next couple of months?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

What I’ve Watched: March

What I’ve Watched is a summary of new things I’ve watched in the previous month. Read more about What I‘ve Watched here.

The Lucky One The Lucky One | Warner Brothers | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

Surprisingly good. It follows typical Nicholas Sparks stories and the movie adaptations: a row boat, Spanish moss, someone keeping the couple apart. It’s sacriligious as a book lover to say, but this is the way to experience a Nicholas Spark book. As a move it’s a fun, romantic way to spend a couple hours, plus Zac Efron is hot and no longer jail bait.

Les MiserablesLes Miserables | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

This movie didn’t garner so many prestigious nominations and awards for nothing. It’s a great adaptation. The acting, set design, and costumes are great. Anne Hathaway’s performance was breathtaking and heartbreaking at the same time. Also, I love Helena Bonham Carter’s oddities. Casting her alongside Sacha Baron Cohen was pure genius in my opinion.

Zero Dark Thirty Zero Dark Thirty | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

This was good. I was a little tired when we first watched it, so I’ll have to rewatch it to figure some plot points out. This movie furthered my respect and admiration for Kathryn Bigelow.

Bates Motel Bates Motel | A & E | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

The Atlantic Wire accurately reviewed this as campy. It truly is. It’s so weird, and it’s a mashup of modern and vintage. iPods exist in this world, yet Norma and Norman dress as they are in the still. It’s delightful, and I have to catch up!

Rise of the Guardians Rise of the Guardians | DreamWorks Pictures | What I've Watched | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

This was Claire’s Easter gift. It was good. I personally loved the tattooed, Russian Santa.

Have you watched anything interesting lately?

The Work-Life Balance Debate

Work-life balance has been a hot topic of debate lately, but a lot of the debate seems to be missing the point. A lot of the debate has focused on women having a flexible schedule and women being able to have a healthy work-life balance. But where are the men in this discussion?

Anne-Marie Slaughter, who really kicked off the recent focus on this debate with her controversial (but very interesting and correct) piece in The Atlantic, says it’s not all about women. At SXSW a few weeks ago, she said “that if we want better choices for women, we have to want better choices for men.” She also shared that she has received responses from men following her piece in the Atlantic; responses that indicated that men aren’t as concerned about the balance their wives have, but they are concerned about the balances their daughters will some day have. Irony, you’re alive and well in the debate over work-life balance.

What do you think about the role of men in the debate over work-life balance? Also, check out this great post on Breadwinning Mama

Book Discussion: The Accidental Creative

Book Discussion: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogThe Accidental Creative:
How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice
By Todd Henry

When I mentioned in three It’s Monday! What I’m Reading! posts that I was (slowly) reading a book about being accidentally creative, several commenters echoed my own thoughts when they said they would benefit from learning how to be creative at a moment’s notice. Todd Henry knew that, and wrote a good book to help everyone be as brilliant as possible. The book provides a lot of ideas and suggestions to maximize creativity. While I wish there could be a magic formula (a pinch of this and a dash of that), being creative takes effort. Some people can just ooze creativity (or an odd brand of weirdness), but for others it seems to be more of a struggle.

Henry’s approach to being spontaneously creative can be separated into three categories: Preparing for Creativity, Harnessing Creativity and Recognizing Threats to Your Creativity.

Preparing for Creativity

The most prominent way in which someone can learn to become accidentally creative is to prepare for brilliant moments of insight. This basic premise is born out of the idea that, “If you want to deliver the right idea at the right moment, you must begin the process far upstream from when you need that idea.” (p 9) Henry recommends that everyday includes quality stimuli. In my post on finding inspiration, I shared a similar concept. I try to regularly read websites, magazines and blogs that inspire and/or inform me. I may not always take away something that I believe is important from each article or post, but over time, I’ve come to realize that the information and ideas I’ve stored away (in the back of my mind, in my notebooks or on Pinterest) has come forward to benefit me when I’m trying to think of solutions or articulate ideas. This is really the Minute Maid of ideas to promote your creativity.

The Minute Maid of Recs | Put Good In, Get Good Out | Book Review of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

The second way to prepare for creativity is to be purposeful about what you do and how you approach the creative process. Henry recommends planning out your life by considering the projects, plans and goals you have by focusing on the coming day, week, month, quarter and year. “Whole-life planning recognizes that your creative process is the result of the merging of all your experiences and passions.” (p 96) I think the idea of clustering, or intelligent adjacency, is also a way to be purposeful about your work. Basically, clustering is doing similar tasks next to each other without interruptions. Like most efficiency experts, Henry recommends limiting phone calls and e-mails to specific times of the day. The benefits of clustering include limiting focus shifts, experiencing unexpected breakthroughs and improving flow. 

Take Notes! | Book Review of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogFinally, Henry recommends note taking. Obviously, I’m a big fan of taking notes. I’m never quite sure what I’ll remember later or what will be important later. Throughout history, thought leaders, movers and shakers have taken voracious notes. In fact, John Adams, who was an especially prolific note taker, took many notes in his book. “[John] Adams was not taking notes the way that many of us have been taught…Rather, he was recording his own thoughts and reactions to the claims of the author. He treated books as a conversation rather than a monologue.” (p 112)

Harnessing Creativity

How do you harness those insights and all that creativity you’re supposed to glean from notes and the like? Henry recommends establishing a rhythm to your work that manages “the pressures and expectations you face each day.” (p 122) Henry continues that, “When you begin to treat idea generation as a rhythmic practice, you begin to experience growth in your ability to generate ideas when you need them.” (p 125)

Recognizing Threats to Your Creativity

Now that you’ve spent all of that time preparing for and harnessing your creativity, you need to learn to recognize threats to that creativity.

While it’s not a magic formula, Henry did share a formula to achieving creative brilliance:

Math Formula for Creativity | Book Review of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogTo maintain a certain level of work, you must remember to stay healthy. Do what you need to do to stay healthy–exercise, eat healthy, etc. Use routines to maintain your prolific nature.

Henry believes there are three assassins to the creative process: dissonance, fear and expectation escalation.

Dissonance is a disagreement or incongruity. The human mind craves resolution of unresolved things and patterns. One of the main functions of creative thought is the resolution of this dissonance; however, if out of control, it can be a threat to your creativity.

People fear plenty of things: success, failure, cats, dogs. As Henry states, “A lifetime of mediocrity is a high price to pay for safety. Paranoia undoes greatness.” (p47)

Finally, expectation escalation is a threat. Once you’ve done something great, the expectations continue to rise. Sometimes that escalation can lead to the inability to be creative.

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars
The writing in this book was strong. Henry clearly made his points and backed them up with knowledge gained as a consultant.

Topic Knowledge 4 out of 5 stars
As I mentioned, Henry is a creativity consultant, so he does have a lot of knowledge on this topic, including an understanding of how to teach people to be creative.

Research 3.5 out of 5 stars
This book didn’t really require formal research because of Henry’s vast knowledge on the topic.

Cultural/Personal Impact 3.5 out of 5 stars
I didn’t read a lot of new information, so the personal impact is a bit limited for me. Affirming my understanding, though, does count for something for me and validates the time I spend reading a LOT of books and articles online. If this doesn’t validate your blog/Twitter/Digg/Stumple Upon/Whatever content habit you have, then I don’t know what will.

Organization/Presentation of Information 5 out of 5 stars
The information is presented in an organized, easy-to-follow fashion. I hate when a nonfiction book jumps around and doesn’t present the information is a logical way. Flashbacks and flashforwards are for fiction; they have NO place in nonfiction. (I have to emphasize this because I don’t think some people understand.)

Total 4 out of 5 stars

Overall, I found this book helpful, but mostly as an affirmation of what I already believed about being creative. 

What do you think about the suggestions Henry made? Do you have a content reading habit like mine? 

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

Interesting Reads | 3.20.2013

in which I share links to things that caught my attention

A Box of Puppies by Lena Dunham
The New Yorker 

I’m guessing this is a teaser for her forthcoming book. It’s a very good read. Please check it out ASAP!

Don’t be surprised when you see my own personal essay on childhood pets in a couple weeks. I was actually inspired by Sloane Crosley’s essay in How Did You Get This Number. Also, this pretty much confirms what my newest feature will be: Head to Head, a comparison of books with similar themes, concepts or press coverage. (I bet you can’t guess that my other planned Head to Head will be Sandberg vs. Slaughter. I love Slaughter’s name in this context.)

Taylor Swift’s Telltale Heart
Vanity Fair 

Nancy Jo Sales’ interview that I referenced here has been posted online this week. It’s at once a flattering look and a not-so-flattering look at Swift behind the scenes. It made me far less sympathetic to her, and made me question Sales motives. In the article, Sales mentions Swifts’ Grammy appearance, but apparently doesn’t ask her why she makes her relationships (or the end of her relationships) public in such a manner if she doesn’t want to deal with any negative press about how much she dates. It leads me to believe her “feud” with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler is purely promotional.

What Friedan Changed
The New Yorker 

I can’t describe the changes that have taken place since The Feminine Mystique was published 50 years ago any better than Katie Roiphe did.

When my mother was a child, her father told her that ‘Only ugly women become lawyers.’ That was the world she grew up in. And I grew up in a world where my mother removed the Barbie Beauty Palace that my grandfather gave me, and told me the next morning, when I got up and was eager to play with it, that it had been lost.” The audience—a diverse group of about ten men and fifty women, of second- and third-wave vintages—laughed. “And then my daughter, we were watching the Obama–Hillary Presidential election, she was tiny, like five, and she was a big Obama supporter. And I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a woman President?’ And she looked at me disdainfully and said, ‘Mom, of course there’s been a woman President.’ In that short time we went from ‘Only ugly women become lawyers’ to ‘Of course there’s been a woman President’ in a five-year-old girl.”

Harry Stamps Obituary
Sun Herald 

This is a funny and touching obituary written for a man who would have lived in obscurity outside his Mississippi-area home if not for his daughter’s excellent writing.

Have you read anything interesting lately? What do you think of Lena Dunnham’s essay?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

Poetry Friday: A Drinking Song

It’s Poetry Friday!
Every third Friday of the month
I will share snippets of
 poems I love and share my thoughts!
See previous Poetry Friday posts here.

Poetry Friday: A Drinking Song by Yeats | The 1000th Voice BlogToday I’ll actually feature an Irish poet unlike my Wednesday review. Despite being an Irish poet who wrote a drinking poem, it seems appropriate to honor Yeats as we approach Saint Patrick’s day because he was involved in the Celtic Revival, “a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period, which sought to promote the spirit of Ireland’s native heritage.” (via)

Yeats’ poem is a succinct description of what many people’s weekends will be at the bar. Stay safe, have fun, and happy Saint Paddy’s day (even the fake Irish)!

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacany by J.K. Rowling | A book review at The 1000th VoiceThe Casual Vacancy
By J.K. Rowling

In the absence of an Irish author, I decided to review a British author because there’s nothing quite like honoring one country’s heritage like honoring their oppressor for hundreds of years. I kid. Moving on…

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling | A book review at The 1000th VoiceAs a Harry Potter fan and literary fiction snob (OK, I do read and enjoy some genre books–Harry Potter and more), I knew I had to read The Casual Vacancy even though it was being panned by many critics. I don’t know how many warnings Rowling and her team had to give to the media that this wasn’t Harry Potter for adults, but apparently there weren’t enough because plenty of reviews hinted at a certain amount of confusion at the lack of robes and wands. This is very funny to me because the notoriously private Rowling did a ton of press before the book was published; people should have known what to expect, and if they didn’t believe her, it’s on them.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling | A book review by The 1000th Voice

Review

I suppose I can understand why some people don’t enjoy large literary fiction tomes, but, really, everyone should love this book. The Casual Vacancy is an intriguing character study of the prominent and notorious citizens of a small but proud British village. (Is it redundant to describe a British village as small and proud?) Rowling thrusts her readers into the lives of Pagford’s citizens, including the so-called First Citizen down to the widely-regarded lowest citizen.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling | A review by The 1000th Voice

I will admit that as I approached page 100 I was still confused by who the characters were, how they related to each other, and, most importantly, who hated whom. After contemplating the usefulness of a pictorial guide to Pagford’s alliances (my version would be lovely with hand drawn images of how I pictured the characters, solid lines and dotted lines in varying shades of red and blue to indicate dislike and like, but I can’t draw), I realized that the confusion about who the people are and who they dislike can be likened to the confusion a new small-town citizen would feel if they were learning about their new surroundings by bits and pieces through gossip, which, let’s face it, is how it always happens.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling | A book review by The 1000th Voice

With just one seemingly simple sentence, Rowling is able to cut right to the core of her characters and reveal who they truly are, warts and all. And, let me tell you, there were truly plenty of warts in this small town. “Christians” who were more concerned about appearing to be Christians than by acting like Christians, pretensions, addictions, they’re all here in some form.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling | A book review by The 1000th Voice

Through the story she tells, it’s obvious that Rowling understands small towns, but, more than that, she understands people and she understands their motives. Small towns just allow people’s best and worst characteristics to be more obvious to others, so the setting helped Rowling tell the story.

Rating

Writing 4.5 out of 5 stars
There were some points in the book where I didn’t think the writing was as strong as it could be, where transitions maybe didn’t occur in the best spots, but overall, Rowling’s writing was solid. As I said earlier, she really can get to the core of someone’s motivations with just a few words. That takes well-developed skill.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars
While some people will, of course, disagree with my rating of storytelling, I stand behind it. There is a story here; the narrative does build to something. It just may not be what everyone wants, and it doesn’t have the big climax that genre readers are accustomed to.

Character Development 5 out of 5 stars
My high rating for character development really ties into the high rating I gave for writing. This is, after all, a character study, so the strong writing, naturally, resulted in strong character development.

Plot Structure 4 out of 5 stars
There is absolutely a plot here, but it isn’t really strong, and it flips from between the different character’s perspectives of current events and then a flashback pops up. It really works to tell the story, but it does seem confusing.

Cultural Impact 3 out of 5 stars
There’s no doubt that this won’t have the cultural impact that Harry Potter did. No book probably ever will, but, being by the same author, I believe it will have a lasting impact. After all, the story has already been optioned by the BBC for a miniseries.

Total 4.3 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What did you think?

On Celebrity Fights: Taylor Swift, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried

Besides interesting fashion, awards season gave us contrived and flat out fake celebrity fights. And, of course, women on women fights were most popular.

Ugh! Why won’t Amanda & Anne just fight? It’s what the media wants. ::eyeroll:: tinyurl.com/auc5jz9

— Brittany R (@BrittanyR30) March 6, 2013

Let’s start with the contrived fight between Taylor Swift, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. During the Golden Globes, Tina and Amy made comic gold, including a little joke at serial dater/ex trasher Taylor’s expense. Taylor’s not happy about this as we learned this week in a preview of Vanity Fair’s cover story on Swift.

“You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people,” Taylor Swift tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales on the subject of mean girls in general and in response to an incident at this year’s Golden Globes, where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey mocked her highly scrutinized love life. “Because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved, that said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’”

Who does she really think she’s kidding? She wasn’t slut shamed (as some have tried to suggest). She was the butt of a very mild joke. And I know a joke is no longer funny when it has to be explained, but for Taylor’s benefit (and those who side with her), here’s an explanation: Taylor openly trashes and mocks her exes in her songs. She’s made millions off of it, and despite a backlash from people, she still continues to do it. Tina and Amy were just pointing out that no one wants her to date, dump and publicly trash the adorable son of one of America’s most loved actors. Taylor’s serial dating (and whether she is or isn’t a virgin) wasn’t the butt of the joke. Her twee, innocent behavior after trashing her exes publicly is.

I have one question for Taylor: if she’s so concerned about being publicly humiliated, she might want to reconsider things like her Grammy opening performance in which she mocked British ex Harry Styles (or Hair One Direction as I usually remember him). She can’t really expect something that she isn’t providing other people.

(Read a great rebuttal to the Vanity Fair article on the Washington Post blog here.)

Well, I could talk about this more, but let’s move on. Apparently Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfreid don’t know they’re supposed to hate each other, as evidenced by this tweet from Amanda:

I mean, come on, Amanda. Anne allegedly threw a fit when she learned that you, her “friend,” and Les Mis costar planned to wear a dress similar to hers at the Oscars. (Please note that this is complete sarcasm.)

The media really wants these two to hate each other. I think it’s so that they have another reason to add to the growing list of arbitrary things to hate Anne for.

Anne has swept up awards left and right for what I’m given to believe was a stirring performance as Fantine in Les Mis (I hate that I haven’t seen this yet. Like, seriously, HATE!), and has weathered a firestorm of media coverage about the general dislike or flat out hatred America feels for her.

I’m seriously grossed out by the amount of traction these stories have gained. What bothers me most about this coverage is the critique of her face and how it offends people. Her face is undoubtedly one of the least offensive faces I’ve ever seen. TRUTH. I’m even further sickened by the fact that people can consider a successful, wonderfully involved woman and tear her apart based on looks. She’s been attacked for her hair, which was chopped for her Les Mis performance, because it apparently doesn’t suit her face. And her alarmingly doe-like eyes, which I consider one of her most strikingly beautiful features, don’t get people started with that.

What do you think about the recent celebrity “fights” and the Anne Hathaway hate?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!