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3 Things I Learned This Week June 7, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Life Lessons, Mindfulness.
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44 comments

170px-PuckCoverAs a child, I loved the story of Epaminondas ~ a young boy who was forever applying the “right lesson” at the wrong time.

So much so that his auntie often shook her head and said, “Epaminondas, Epaminondas ~ you ain’t got the sense you was born with!”

Like Epaminondas, I’ve learned a few things this week.

Let’s hope that moving forward, I apply the right lesson at the right time:

1.  “Legal lingo” doesn’t translate well into the “real world.”

When lawyers counsel clients to avoid “even the appearance of impropriety” by revealing potential “conflicts of interest,” they are not saying that anyone has done or is doing anything wrong.

It’s “code” for laying all one’s cards on the table so that no one looking on will ever be able to raise the issue of possible impropriety or shady dealings due to the relationship of the parties.

2.  I need to avoid the temptation to extrapolate from what’s “right for me” to what’s “right for you.” 

Unless retained to represent someone else, I should keep my nose out of their business.  It doesn’t matter if I know what I would do if I were in their shoes . . . because they aren’t MY shoes.

3.  I am NOT the General Manager of the Universe.

What a relief!  A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  Almost as if Atlas Shrugged ~ an interesting synchronicity since we happened to watch a documentary on Ayn Rand last night.

Aah . . . that’s better!

If any of you are looking for a “beach read” this summer, I have it on good authority that Andra’s book,  To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, is a page turner!

“The mystery of how and why Meriwether Lewis died at thirty-five on the Natchez Trace in 1809 Tennessee is one of the lynchpins that holds the story together and propels it forward. In a wonderful leap of imagination, Watkins pits two adversarial figures straight out of American history against each other for one last deadly confrontation, with the winner gaining redemption and the loser falling into the eternal abyss.” [J.R. Stewart]

Related posts:  Traveling the Natchez Trace with Meriwether Lewis and author Andra Watkins (Breathe Lighter) * Interview: Andra Watkins (Blog Critics) * To Live Forever by Andra Watkins (I Heart Reading) * To Live Forever ~ A Novel By Andra Watkins (Michael Carnell) * More Press & Praise for the book.

 

 

Give Your Brain A Boost . . . With A Book April 25, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Health & Wellness, Meditation.
Tags: , , , , ,
43 comments

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052Last week, Andra Watkins (The Accidental Cootchie Mama) shared links to two research studies done to evaluate the impact of reading on brain function:

Brain Function Boosted After Reading A Novel

This study revealed increased brain activity measured in the MRI’s of 21 college students during and after reading the novel Pompeii.

While this is promising news for book lovers, I wish the study had used control groups so we could compare results and determine whether reading novels has a more pronounced effect on the brain than:  watching movies, playing video games, meditating, dining out, texting, yoga, drinking wine, eating chocolate, walking, parasailing, riding a bike, talking to a close friend, having sex, etc.

Since everyone read the same novel, it’s hard to conclude, based on this study alone, that novel reading is better for the brain than other activities, such as reading poetry, attending a concert, watching a ballet, or “getting jiggy with it” by going ballroom dancing.

But reading definitely woke up a few neurons.

How Reading Lights Up Your Mind

Another article with anecdotal evidence about the value of reading (and meditation) for brain health.

Here’s what the article had to say about meditation:

“Meditation has long been studied to better understand how sustaining attention and focus affects the brain. Studies on mindfulness meditation, for example, show that parts of the brain associated with positive mood are activated with the practice of focusing attention.”

I have found this to be true.  Plus the sustained focus and attention carries over in all areas of life. Instead of re-acting to events (using stale beliefs about past experiences), we more mindfully choose how to spend our days.

Sally-BrownPerhaps by curling up with a good book.

And a cup of coffee.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related: Fight Brain Drain & Set Your Mind On Fire (Andra) * Your Brain On Jane (NPR) * Cross Train Your Brain

Cross Train Your Brain April 24, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Health & Wellness, Meditation.
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45 comments

A few weeks ago, we attended a lecture at Freedom Village on Cross Training Your Brain.

We’d heard the speaker, Dr. Kevin W. O’Neill, once before when he presented A Brain Training Symposium.

IMGP1472a

Dr. O’Neill reiterated that what benefits the body, benefits the brain:

* Exercise ~ Ball Room Dancing is #1!
* Eat right ~ a Mediterranean Diet is best
* Sleep tight ~ without popping pills
* Don’t let the bed bugs bite
* Manage stress ~ meditation is great
* Focus on positives ~ don’t worry, be happy
* Interact with friends ~ be a social animal
* Tickle your funny bone chakra
* Learn something new today ~ build synapses
* Share your talents/volunteer/help others
* Develop an attitude of gratitude
* Drinking coffee lowers the risk of dementia
* Eat tumeric ~ curried veggies, please
* Play games, solve puzzles, have FUN!
* Live, Love, Laugh, Learn!

A few key points:

(1) Exercise is the fountain of youth when it comes to brain health.  It lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, increases gray matter, improves blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, and reduces stress.  For a 76% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, try Ballroom Dancing!

(2) Reducing Stress helps maintain brain health ~ try exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or other purposeful pursuits.  And get enough sleep.  Sleep allows neurons to shut down and repair themselves.

(3) A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and omega 3 fats helps keep dementia at bay.  Vitamins C, D, and E are key building blocks for brain health.  As is Folic Acid ~ found in dark green veggies, chickpeas, and pinto beans.

(4) Intellectual Stimulation and Social Engagement are beneficial to brain health as we age.  Playing games and musical instruments helps ward off dementia.

(5)  Go ahead, enjoy your daily dose of caffeine.  According to the research Dr. O’Neill shared, drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day will lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease . . . by 65%!

But don’t just sit around drinking coffee, R~E~A~D!  More on that tomorrow.

Aah . . . that’s better!

 

What do you do to keep your brain sharp?

Breathing Life Into Characters February 26, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
Tags: , , , , ,
22 comments

Tim Dorsey knows how to breathe life into his characters.

In a single paragraph, he describes 7 characters using brief sketches, allowing readers to flesh in the rest:

* Major Fletcher ~ steady leader with blond hair, a close shave, and a square dependable jaw

* Lee Barnes ~ a crusty and foul-mouthed veteran with hangover stubble and a footlocker of vintage Playboys

* Milton “Bananas” Foster ~ a highly excitable yet gifted mechanical wizard

* Marilyn Sebastian ~ a plucky aerial reconnaissance officer, as tough as any man, but every bit a woman

* Pepe Miguelito ~ a forlorn youth with pencil mustaches and unending girl troubles

* “Tiny” Baxter ~ a massive country boy from Oklahoma with simple but strong values

* William Honeycutt ~ a former bantamweight champion

Dorsey provides enough detail to bring his characters to life . . . without beating them to death.

Sometimes a skeletal outline or quick sketch connects us to a character faster than too many extraneous details.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related post:  Explanations (Candid Impressions) * Two Writers Debate: Pantsing vs. Plotting (Eric John Baker) * The End is Never the End (Grannymar)

Mumbo Jumbo . . . and Sambo January 14, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Happiness, Humor, Spirit & Ego.
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26 comments

You know you’ve grown in spirit . . . when external turmoil does not disturb the peace and tranquility you feel within.

You know you’ve grown in compassion . . . when angry words tossed your way make you want to alleviate the suffering of the person doing the tossing, without first wanting to defend your own position.

You know you’ve found your bliss and are headed the right way . . . when your spirit is soaring and work feels like play.

And that’s no Mumbo Jumbo!

Aah . . . that’s better!

When I googled “Mumbo Jumbo” to learn the origin of the expression, one of the links transported me back in time to . . . Mumbo, Jumbo, and Sambo.

The Story of Little Black Sambo is a children’s book written and illustrated by Helen Bannerman, first published by Grant Richards in October 1899 as one in a series of small-format books called The Dumpy Books for Children:

Sambo is a South Indian boy who encounters four hungry tigers, and surrenders his colourful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella so they will not eat him. The tigers are vain and each thinks he is better dressed than the others. They chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of melted butter. Sambo then recovers his clothes and his mother makes pancakes out of the butter.

The story has been retold a time or two in different settings with changed names.  For example, in “Little Kim,” a storybook and cassette as part of the Once Upon a Time Fairy Tale Series, Sambo is called “Kim,” his father Jumbo is “Tim,” and his mother Mumbo is “Sim.”

For more on the history and resurrection of Little Black Sambo ~ New Takes on an Old Story (L.A.Times, 9/8/96)

Know-It-Alls January 9, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Joke, People, Poetry.
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42 comments

alice26th

Books, authors, words ~ how
vast the stacks. No know-it-all
ever knows it all.

And you can tell him I said so.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Do you know any know-it-alls?

Do you view them as a ready reference and reliable resource obviating the need for further research on your part?

Related posts:  Empty Your Cup * The Urge to Pontificate (Candid Impressions)

Wading Through Sot-Weeds January 8, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
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32 comments

My favorite thing about writing is its complete and utter autonomy:

* My book.
* My rules.
* My choice of characters.

Anyone who writes a book, play, or screenplay gets to choose the world, the setting, the time period, and the people populating center stage.

That said, readers do have a voice.

When following the threads of a story, I enjoy a sense of continuity.  Imagery and poetry in perpetuity are not enough for me.  I need something to hang my hat on or my attention wanes.

“Sot-Weed Factor” fan
proclaims it ~ “the best English
written novel yet”

Hopes high, I dove deep
where obscure digressions and
parodies parade

Wading through Sot-Weeds
grew cruelly tiresome, I
turned to other worlds

Reading a voluminous tome or treatise filled with esoteric references holds little appeal . . . when the whole forest is out there waiting to be explored.

That’s my favorite thing about reading ~ the complete and utter autonomy to choose whether to remain in an author’s audience or turn to other words and other worlds.

Aah . . . that’s better!

While writing this post, I learned I’m not alone in my unwillingness to wade through Barth’s laborious labors:

“John Barth’s “The Sot-Weed Factor” is a brilliantly specialized performance, so monstrously long that reading it seemed nearly as laborious as writing it. Obviously Barth (author previous of “The End of the Road” and “The Floating Opera”) believed he needed these approximately 500,000 words to achieve his effects. Few will agree with him, for though he abounds in excellent satirical devices he is addicted to repeating them.”

* * *

“Though it is not for all palates, it is possible that Barth’s book may be cherished by its true audience for some time to come.”

Fuller, Edmond, “The Joke is on Mankind,” NY Times, August 21, 1960.

Have you read The Sot-Weed Factor?  

Did you consume its 500,000 words in one gulp or spit it out before digesting its divergent digressions?

Related posts:  The Clean (Book)Plate Club *  Andrew Zimmern’s Picks Don’t Appeal

Self-Publishing ~ Pros and Cons June 25, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, Life Lessons, Writing & Writers.
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56 comments

IMGP4187There are two main avenues (with lots of cross streets, thoroughfares, and traffic to traverse) when you’re ready to publish your words as a book or e-book:

* Find a publisher

* Be a publisher

Both approaches have Pros . . . and Cons.

When you self-publish, you have complete control over the process ~ from the title of your book, to its length, to the design you select for the cover.

You get to call all the shots.

You don’t have to send queries to agents or publishers to get them to sign on to the project.  Once you’re satisfied that your words flow in the intended direction, you can upload to Create Space on Amazon (or elsewhere) and send your words out to the World.

On the downside, if you self-publish:

(1) You won’t receive the external validation that comes from hearing an agent and/or publisher say they believe in the worth of your words enough to invest time and energy in marketing your book.

Who needs them?

If your book sales skyrocket, you’ll receive even more potent validation directly from readers (or the Academy!) ~> “you like me, you really like me.”

(2) You won’t get the benufit of professhunal etiding unless you higher someone to fill that roll for you.

(3) You have to wear three hats ~ writer, publisher, and agent.  For writers who are already borderline schizophrenic, this can be a real challenge.  They must struggle to quiet the voices in their heads long enough to come up with a viable marketing plan, handle press releases (to create a buzz), and set up book signings.

If this is a problem for you, here’s the solution:  Assign each role (writer, publisher, agent) to a different voice or character.  Let them brainstorm together while you go out and get donuts.

Despite its challenges, self-publishing is a legitimate tradition which allows authors to make more money, get to press sooner, and maintain complete control of their work.

Need more convincing?

Many well-known and/or best-selling authors have self-published ~ Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Benjamin Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, etc..

Here’s a few contemporary examples:

* Richard Nelson Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute?

* James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy ~ over 5.5 million copies sold

* Strunk & White, The Elements of Style

* John Grisham, A Time To Kill ~ first sold out of the trunk of his car

* Richard Paul Evans, The Christmas Box ~ later sold to Simon & Schuster for $4.2 million

If they can do it, so can you.  (Once you quiet those voices in your head.)

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  Truths About Self-Publishing (Linda Cassidy Lewis) * Self-doubt, self-publishing, and other selfish writer-isms (Eric J. Baker) * One Year Later ~ Self-Publishing Review (Christine M. Grote) * How to Make an E-Book Using Open Office * The Thrill of Victory & The Agony of Defeat!

And from Global Mysteries:  How to Promote Your Book For FREE * How to Do an Author’s Book Event * What to do When a Publisher Rejects Your Novel 

Believe It Or Not! May 18, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Fun & Games, Synchronicity & Mystery.
Tags: , , , ,
20 comments

I grew up reading books by Ripley, filled with unbelievable oddities and amazing facts, but seldom paused to consider the man behind the cartoons.

A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley,  by Neal Thompson, reveals this real life Wizard of Odd.

“The life story of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley is as intriguing as the many oddities in which he delighted.”
~ Entertainment Weekly

“An engaging, fast-moving biography… makes the case that Ripley was among the first media celebrities, and that his affection for the grotesque and the extreme shaped American pop culture.”
~ Columbus Dispatch

“Ripley’s amazing American life itself plays out like an impossible fairy tale.”
~ Kirkus Reviews

“A Curious Man is the marvelously compelling biography of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley, the enigmatic cartoonist turned globetrotting millionaire who won international fame by celebrating the world’s strangest oddities, and whose outrageous showmanship taught us to believe in the unbelievable.”
~ Amazon

Ripley’s efforts to counter claims that he was “stretching the truth” resulted in the fascinating and fun array of artifacts displayed in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museums around the globe.

Once could say that Ripley’s curated collections are the fantastic and amusing consequence of calling a man a liar . . .

“I venture to say that I have been called a liar more often than anybody in the world.  Ordinarily, when one is called a liar, one feels hurt.  But it is different with me.  I do not mind it a bit.  When I am called a liar by a reader of my cartoons, I feel flattered.  That short and ugly word is like music to my ears.  I am complimented because it means to me that my cartoon contained some strange fact that was unbelievable ~ and therefore most interesting, and that the reader did not know the truth when he saw it.” ~ Robert Ripley

Did you read any of Ripley’s books of wonders, miracles, freaks, monstrosities, and almost-impossibilities?

Did you Believe it or Not! ?

Aah . . . that’s better!

What Have You Created Lately? May 17, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Art & Photography, Books & Movies, Food & Drink, People.
Tags: , , , , , ,
50 comments

catladyIn life, we have two principal roles  . . . consumers and creators.

Why do we create?

To fill our hearts, homes, and hours with more satisfying fare than watching endless reruns of Seinfeld or I Love Lucy while mindlessly stuffing our pie holes with Hostess Twinkies.

Parents create offspring to nurture.  Cooks create meals to savor and share. Musicians create music.  Artists create paintings, statues, collages, quilts, jewelry.  Photographers create Kodak moments and memories.  Architects create buildings, bridges, and alleyways.  Attorneys create theories of the case, opening statements, closing arguments.  Writers create plot-lines and poetry, heroines and villains.  Friends create relationships, connections, and shared bonds.  Philosophers create ideas and ideals.

Advertising and marketing moguls create desires for us to consume when we are not creating.

A Pensive Moment: Wikipedia ~ Desire (in Public Domain)

As consumers, we consume an endless array of consumables in every waking and sleeping hour ~ books, sleep, movies, classes, TV shows, meals, lectures, jewelry, alcohol, shoes, handbags, concerts, sporting events, video games, puzzles, magazine articles, and the occasional imported cigar.

Our appetites as consumers are insatiable.

Once we have consumed the object of each current desire, a new desire arises to take its place.

To kill time and fill the void between birth and death, we can consume.

Or we can create.

What have YOU created lately?

Aah . . . that’s better!

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