Zumba for the Soul, week 5

Are we in week 5 already?  (I suspect we’re in week 6 already, actually.  Late, late, for a very important date!)

Aaaand the Zumba tasks for this week, assigned by Ms. Grout:

a) make a hat out of newspaper.

Ehhhhh.  MORE ORIGAMI?  Can I just cut a circle out of the middle, plonk it on my head and call it a sunhat?

b) then, to write 500 words.  About someone you hate.

Yuck, that’s not a nice task.  Must I?  Well, I suppose it need never see the light of day.

c) Plan a beach holiday, make cocktails for it, get straw hats for the sun.

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But hey?  With my newspaper-with-a-hole cut out, I’ve got the sunhat all ready!  (The boozin’ bit I’ve got down.  I can do that all right.)

‘If you like pina colada, and getting caught in the rain…’

 

image – chris Goldberg https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisgold/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ and not modified.

Zumba for the Soul, week 4

Week Four!  We’re back again!

Task One:

Eh.  Three instructions for this week, and the first is to catch fireflies or make snow angels.  Uhhhh…  I don’t know where I could catch fireflies.  I’m not sure it’s even the time of year for fireflies.  And no snow here, bud.35082682316_f7f9615c71_k

image – Bernd Thaller https://www.flickr.com/photos/bernd_thaller/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I think this one’s a bust.

Task Two: wear all one colour, yellow or purple or blue.

Well, my sis gives me so many cloes that I could probs do this one.  Will go and poke about in my wardrobe and chest of drawers.

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image Vladimer Shioshvilir  https://www.flickr.com/photos/vshioshvili/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Task Three: remember as many Christmas carols as possible.

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image – Nick Amoscato https://www.flickr.com/photos/namoscato/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

…timing much?  Ooookay.  Just remember ’em, though, right?  I don’t have to actually sing?  Because that would be cruel and unusual.  (For everyone around me.)

What I’ve been reading – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read it a long time ago, and to the best of my memory I just didn’t agree with at least half of King’s assertions. But you can’t argue with his sales, and The Dead Zone is one of my favourite books ever. He’s got to know what he’s doing!

View all my reviews

What I’ve been reading – ‘Art & Soul, Reloaded’ by Pam Grout

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image – Matt https://www.flickr.com/photos/berger787/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ no changes

Yes, yes, I’ve only just begun working through the projects – but I actually finished reading the book itself a little while ago.  And I think it says something, that I had such a good time with it that I decided to actually put it to work and do the weekly projects.  Right?  How often does a book actually inspire you to action, including ones that are designed specifically for that purpose?

I have a print copy of the book (and it’s a lovely object, well-designed.)  It’s structured on a weekly basis for a full  year.  Each chapter has an essay linked to the main project assigned for the week.  Then there’s the ‘Zumba for the Soul’ section per week, three more random activities/tasks/suggestions.  And an inspirational quote/biographical tidbit to sign off.

I think – and Ms. Grout herself notes – that it would be easy to read the book purely as inspiration, to feel good and get lit up with enthusiasm and then…  move on and forget about it.  That would be a shame, though.  I forget who I’m quoting when I invoke the law of precession – Buckminster Fuller?  Things happen, when you take action.  Things you couldn’t have predicted.  Many more than you would have expected, all flowing from your original act like a fountainhead.

But it was pretty probably Goethe who said something about action having ‘genius, power and magic in it’, and how therefore actually getting off your arse and doin’ it – whatever magic act of creativity you  have in mind – was probably the best thing.

The results you get in life – good, bad, indifferent, astounding – depend on how much you engage.  Engage 10%, get 10% results – i.e. results that you’ve actually brought into being as a result of your interaction.  Engage 90%, get 90% results.  If you don’t engage – get out there, interact, create, ask, try – then you’re not getting results at all.  You’re just a null object, having no effect on reality whatsoever.  You’re a bit of flotsam, along for the ride.  You might as well not exist.

Lemme quote Taylor Parkes: ‘Activity is king’.

What would happen if you engaged 100%?  I’d like to find out, personally.

This book is terrific. But the results if you follow its prescription, if you treat it less like a pretty recipe book, and more like the actual contents of your food cupboards that you’re gonna cook and eat – could be truly astonishing.

Zumba For The Soul: Week 3

Wow, here we are in week three of this adventure I’m sharing with you, courtesy of Ms. Grout!  And the random, mercurial, downright mystifying tasks for this week are:-

i) Invent a new drink.  A boozy one.  Not just a beverage.  Hey, this is my kind of challenge!  Ooh, lemme see…  I know.  Lager and peppermint cordial.  As boozing goes, that’s the kind of disgusting that tests your resolve and your dedication to the bottle.  How much do you really want to get hammered?  That much?  Wow.

ii) for this, you gotta paint some old trainers, sneakers, somesuch.  I don’t know if I’ve got any.  Old ones tend to go in the bin!  But if I can find any, I’ve got some silver spray paint…

iii) ‘Eat breakfast somewhere you’ve never eaten before.’  What, like a sandwich out at the local pond with all the froggies in spring?  I could do that.

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image – Benny Mazur https://www.flickr.com/photos/benimoto/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Pammie, you’re making my brain hurt with some of these.

Me and Pam: Week One, Day Six

Catching up – gasp – definitely catching up!  Three ideas for ya?  Easy-peasy!

 

a) A little research: identify one real-life historical famous person in your locale, and one fictional one.  Write a story on how they meet up in an alternative universe.

b) Dig out an unused Christmas or birthday present – and repurpose it in an unusual way.

c) Draw a plug wiring diagram from memory.  Then compare it to a real one off the internet.  Did the electrical trade lose a bright spark when you opted for another vocation?  (Was it the act of a merciful Field of Potentiality?)

Here comes the finish line!  Comin’ atcha!

me and Pam: a New Year project, Week One, Day One

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image – Inga Vitola https://www.flickr.com/photos/360around/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I got Pam Grout’s new book, ‘Art and Soul, Reloaded‘ for Christmas.  Lucky me!  And since it’s structured in the form of weekly projects, I figure I will make a serious stab at them, and at finishing them by next New Year.  Gotta try, right?

The first week’s project, as advised by Ms. Grout, is simply to log amount of time spent on social media for the week.  Then to cut it in half, and spend the freed-up time on creative pursuits instead.  And in addition, to come up with three new ideas a day.  No matter how ridiculous!

Well, we’re already halfway through the week.  So I’ll come up with my best estimate of the time I waste daily – say two hours.  And, yes, make an effort to cut it down.

And today’s three ideas?

i) write a Gothic novel summary with a clown as the hero

ii) decorate a mug to celebrate a national holiday that doesn’t exist

iii) build a ladybug house.

 

she’d have been garrotted at Trinian’s

(Love those Trinian’s vixens in any incarnation!)

Damn it. I had a terrific idea today – well, I had an idea that would be fun for me, and that amounts to the same thing. I was listening to a local pop radio station, golden oldies – depending on your era. It was one cheesy 90s housey-housey rave trance and techno classic after another, which is always good fun for me. And I thought – with poetry on my mind, after reading one blog post after another about it – O, I know what would be a good idea.

I could write a series of ‘After a line from’ poems! But, instead of taking the first line from another writer’s poem, and building a whole new cathedral of words upon it… I could take the first line (or maybe the standout line from the chorus) of an earworm-worthy 90s dance classic.  Like say ‘Ride On Time’, or ‘You’ve Got The Love’. Or ‘You Might Need Somebody’Shola Ama, baby!

…and then make something completely other out of it.  Something that you wouldn’t catch on a dancefloor.  A quiet meditation on death, or love, or gardening, say.

Yes! It’s a well-worn tradition.  Not my own idea, of course. People have been doing the same thing for years.  And for that matter setting it as homework, making a parlour game of it, producing new creations out of old classics. And – traditionally – that’s what you do, the accepted procedure: to name your derivative poem ‘After a line from xxx by xxxx’. All attribution and credit present and correct – no attempt to filch the prestige of the original idea.

But beyond the signalling of the format, the citing of the original creative spark – I was damn sure that it was a poetic format that had an actual name, dammit.

But what? I had a vague notion that it might be a clerihew. But a quick resorting to search engine services proved me wrong. I’m not overly educated regarding formal poetry structures – O, the power of understatement.  But what little information I did possess proved insufficient. Not a rondel, not a sonnet – bloody hell no – not a villanelle either.

I knew there was an answer, though – and I knew how I knew, too. I’d first come across the phenomenon at ten or eleven years of age – in a boarding school story by Ann Digby.

The Trebizon school stories were moderately popular at the time, although I found them a bit bland. Compared to the traditional exemplars of the genre – Enid Blyton, basically, and perhaps the Chalet School, and of course St. Trinian’s – they were botched, uneasy half-arsed 1980s creations, products of the time. Hardly able to flat-out condemn private education, given that they were trading on its snob appeal – and yet offering half-hearted sops to the red flag, with school scholarships for plucky lower-middle class heroines. (Definitely lower-middle. Not actual proles, darling.) Doubtful about the seductive charms of the aristocracy, even in an era in love with Princess Diana, and gifting the school involved with a cohort of upper-middle bourgeoisie, banker’s brats and doctor’s daughters.

Sign o’ the times, right? Thatcherite union-breaking, miners’ strikes, all that jazz. Not exactly down with the workers, but unable to uninhibitedly embrace the decadent allure of the aristocracy, blatant capitalist privilege and unearned elitism.

Not like these days, eh? Fucking Mumford, and his clueless hairy flippin’ progeny, in fruitless search of a tune in a tin bath.  Tom Hiddlestone, ex-Eton, ex-Dragon School, ex-Cambridge, the scrappy urchin nobly urging us to reach for the stars.  Cheers, Tom.

But I was an uncritical young reader – anything including cornflake packets and the Reader’s Digest, basically – and I swallowed the books down whole. Including one installment of the series, which included a school poetry competition. And what poetry format did our plucky heroine choose, as her competition entry?

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image – Maximilian Ott https://www.flickr.com/photos/maximilianott/ licence https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Yep. She picked a line by – ooh, I want to say Wordsworth, but it was probably someone more obscure – a first line. And she wrote herself an ‘After A Line From…’ poem. Except, I’m pretty sure that in the book, she knew what the format was actually called, and – admirably – used the correct term. Well, admirably for a twelve or thirteen year old character. Considering that I still can’t locate the appropriate word, myself.

Not just that, we’re not done.  In the book, the format itself was key to the plot – because it wasn’t all over with just with the climax of OPH writing a winning comp entry. No.

The silly little heroine of the fourth form, and her slightly non-U accent, first wrote her derivative work while wandering lonely as a cloud along the beach, or a cliff or somesuch.

Then, the little div managed to let it get blown away by the wind. O’er the cliff and far away, and could she remember a word of it once it was gone out of her hand? Could she heck as like. Oh dear, oh hell.

So, what’s an earnest scholarship private boarding school girl to do, when she’s lost the work of genius that the inspiration of the moment has brought her?  And the competition deadline is looming? Oh, bloody hell. Probably just bodge out an inferior substitute.  Because when the Muse isn’t calling, the poxy bitch can’t be seduced, and you just gotta pound out the words and fulfill the requirements anyhow.

Well, too bad, she doesn’t win the competition. Except, she does get to read the winning entry. And get this: it’s her own poem. Yep, the first one – the one she let blow away over the cliff.

Which was apparently caught and retrieved by the Assistant Head Girl of the whole damn school. The moral leader and ethical exemplar of the entire damn shooting match. Which the dodgy bint has… uh-oh… claimed, and submitted as her own work.  Not a citation, not a reference, not a credit to be seen in the whole shebang, kidses, nuttin’.  Nuttin’!  No acknowledgment of either the original poet, or our transformative-workin’ Plucky Heroine, to be seen!

Oh, Plucky Heroine! What are you to do, in this tight spot?

Well, mostly, she spends the next chapter or so dithering about it. Oh, her work has been stolen! Oh, but it’s the assistant Head Girl! Who would believe her? How can she prove it? Will allegations result in dire consequences?

Eventually, after enough agonizing to justify a murder or a little insider trading, OPH does make a formal complaint. And both lassies get hauled in to see the Headmistress. (Who is as sapphically lithe and foxy as you might expect the headmistress of a fictional girls’ boarding school to be. Well, that’s how I choose to remember her, at any rate.)

It’s not smooth sailing.  Prove it, the Headmistress basically says. And our divvy – hang on, Our Plucky Heroine – who has not thought this through – has no comeback to that. Until! The Assistant Head Girl – or, as we shall know her, Thieving Little Cow – is making good her escape, smirking smugly and heading for the study door. That’s when the Headmistress casually says, “By the way, Robin -”

…assistant Head Girls are always called Robin, or Roberta at a pinch…

“I’m planning on including the works of NAME OF HIGHLY OBSCURE POET in next term’s English seminars. What’s your opinion on that?”

Cue blank look from Evil Roberta, The Thieving Little Cow. Who has never blimmin’ heard of HIGHLY OBSCURE POET. Despite having entered an ‘After A Line From…’ poem in the prestigious school literary competition, taking as its first line one filched from that very HIGHLY OBSCURE POET himself.  Not that it was flagged up as a derivative work, since OPH had just been scratching out a rough draft on the leaf of paper that found its way into TLC’s eager hot sweaty little hands.  Roberta didn’t have a clue, that not one but two writers had contributed to the work, which she then laid claim to and appended her own name to.

Pwned is, I believe, what the kids haven’t been saying for about five years now.

Turns out, Sexy Sapphic Headmistress (in my head) had had her suspicions about TLC – given the lack of the usual format of title attribution for these poems, given her past character.  But without hard evidence to confirm her suspicions, she’d been powerless to validate and support OP(AC)H.

What? Oh. Our Plucky (Although Common) Heroine.  Obvs. Who was extremely familiar with the works of the obscure poet, and could demonstrate the fact, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and myopic as any other book-worm. And thereby proved her prior claim to the string of words arranged into music and meter on the page. Thievery thwarted!

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image – Smithsonian Institution https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/ licence https://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Anyhow, there ya go. Protected by poetry, redeemed by riffs, legitimized by language! This is the power of words, folks! Never doubt what the right or the wrong word can do – moving mountains, freezing hearts, changing destinies with the flick of a page of the thesaurus.

Never doubt it.

And I still have no clue what the poetry form in question is really and legitimately called. Must I really go the full hog and start re-reading the anodyne Trebizon saga, book after book, to find out? O dear reader, have you no clue on the issue?

In any case, my plan goes forward – onwards, ever onwards!  With or without the format name of the verse I’ll be spewing forth shortly. Expect ‘After A Line From ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ any day now. Perhaps modified, to ‘Last Night A Poet Saved My Rep’.  Or possibly ‘After A Line From ‘Bump – I’m Rushing’‘.

The Jetslags’ Rushing Roulette remix, obviously.

 

GRL Blog Tour with J.C. Owens — Joyfully Jay

Today I am pleased to be hosting J.C. Owens for our first stop on the GRL Blog Tour! Welcome J.C.! Last year destroyed my confidence with the varying difficulties regarding publishers folding, and then a very large third party seller (how’s that for diplomatic?). By the end of it, I was burned so badly…

via GRL Blog Tour with J.C. Owens — Joyfully Jay

Well said.  Nil bastardii carborundum etc.

A) You’re adorable, B) You’re so beautiful, C) You’re a cutie full of charms

Lately, I’ve been writing five lists when I get up in the morning, first thing I do.  The first list is the gratitude list, just like they tell you you should do.

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I’ve always meant to get started on it, but somehow it’s taken me this long to actually get around to it.  I always felt like, well, I’m grateful, I’m a grateful person, I think about the things I’m grateful for all the time.  Doesn’t that count for the same?  But, when it comes down to sharpening the pencil, finding a blank page in a favourite notebook and actually getting down to making the list, it’s a whole different beast.

The process matters.  Like praying, it’s the actual words of the prayer, the getting down on your knees, the willingness to give up the time and do the work, instead of just thinking about it and thinking that makes it so.  Like the Steve Jobs quote – ‘the disease of thinking that having a great idea is really 90 percent of the work’.

So that works, and it’s been good.  Ten things I’m grateful for, every morning, varying from day to day but often the same things showing up – my partner, my parents, Theresa May getting a kicking in the election, the usual things.  It’s always ten items, for simplicity, and because an arbitrary number makes you really think – stretching for gratitude when the list is difficult to finish, making hard choices when there are too many candidates for too few spots.

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Then I move on to the second list, and another ten items.  The second list is my ‘hello universe’ list.  Signs, signals, little tips and winks and nudges from the universe to put me on another path or confirm the way I’m heading, or just to say ‘hi there, hi.  you’re not alone’.  I don’t generally get ten signs or synchronicities a day, and repetition from day to day is fine.  But almost always, I have something new to add to the list – like, I turn on the radio and there’s a discussion going on about something I’m thinking about right that second.  Or someone’s name comes up in every book I open, every song I hear.

Then there’s the third list, which is the daily To-Do list.  This is self-explanatory, and probably very little different from anyone’s to-do list.  Paperwork, shopping, phone-calls to make, nothing unusual.  The fourth list is Work, and is a more narrowly-defined to-do list with purely professional/work/money based items to be ticked off.

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The fifth list is maybe the most important.  It’s the ‘The Ones I Love’ list, and what could be more important than that?  Listing off ten people you love – changing little from day to day, maybe the slightest variations according to the vicissitudes of life and relationships – is guaranteed to open the heart, lighten the spirits, make the world a more beautiful place.

I find it so, anyhow.  It makes every day a good day. 

Every morning, the ritual, then.  Except that yesterday morning, my brain was on the fritz, glitching away with senior moments.  The first four lists I dashed off fine, pleased with my spiritual and practical processes and progress.  Then when it came to the Love List, I had a dyslexic moment.  Instead of ‘love’, you see, I wrote ‘evol’.

The Evol List – I was writing – apparently – the Evol List.  It sounds a little sinister, doesn’t it?  Packed full of supervillainy and miscreants, you’d think.  Who needs a list of evol-doers in their life?

I went to strike it out, to correct it.  And then I hesitated, and I thought.  Well, if you believe in signs and synchronicities – and I do – don’t these things happen for a reason?  At minimum, maybe my brain was talking to me.  Unconscious to superego, are you reading me, superego?

Evol.  Hmm.  Take a look at it.  It’s not exactly love in reverse.  It’s more of a mish-mash, the ingredients of love taken and misused by a terrible cook.  What would an Evol List consist of?

I didn’t think about it too much, then.  There were ten spots on the list, and I filled them up, quick, not too much pondering.  With names, with people in and out of my life.  Some of them were names of people who often appear on my Love List, too.  Maybe people I have very imperfect relationships with, but who still merit the word love in my mind, in my heart.

Some of them weren’t.

And I took the list, when I’d written it, and thought about the names on it.  Sighed a bit, and got on with my day.

Who would go on your Evol list?  Who would go on your Love List?  Would any of the names be the same, on both?

 

Image – holytimeland on Flickr, public domain.

Image – lizzi idiomas on Flickr, public domain.

Image – Jack Ambler on Flickr, public domain.