Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm published!

It is not every day that I can say I have been published. It is also not everyday that I can say I have been published in a book full of great writing by excellent writers who are sure to rock the world with their fantastic writing and views on everything from everyday life to current events. I feel so humbled, yet so proud to be a part of this awesome endeavor.

If you want to read something that makes you feel like somebody out there understands you, or even if you want to read something that lets you see things in a different way in a fun and engaging way, Intrepid Media's 2009 and third volume of great writing collections is it, and it's super easy to get-- just click on the link below and download!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The truth about 'Twilight'

I have a confession to make. I read the Twilight series and actually found it to be brain candy, and albeit it was the kind that is mostly bad for you, it was still brain candy.

I picked up the first book because it was cheap and I was in sort of a reading rut and needed some oil for the old engine before I embarked on more legit reading material. I didn't plan on embarking on a four-book journey that would end with disappointment, but I embarked on said journey and came out with something other than lust for teenage vampires and werewolves.

To explain why I bothered in the first place, as a thirty-year-old woman, let me just say that as an aspiring writer who hopes to one day reach the same level of success as the smallest published author, I find it is best to see what makes readers tick, no matter how awful it is. From a writing standpoint, the Twilight books are nothing special, or particularly good. The writing is nothing a beginning creative writing student couldn't produce, and the characters are cliches when you peel the layers of the supernatural aspects they possess away.

From the brain candy standpoint, it seems to me that like Harlequin romance novels, the Twilight books give female readers from all walks of life and age groups (including moms who disturbingly share the same lust for Edward Cullen and Jacob Black as their teenage daughters) what they long for: a ridiculously good looking, sparkly or shirtless man who would rip the head off anyone who comes near the woman he loves, yet is sensitive and vegetarian.

Seems natural for women to want such things, but what takes me aback is the fact that these sex objects are teenagers. Sure, Edward Cullen is 100 years old, but he is essentially a teenager in appearance. It can't be that these grown women are in love with Edward Cullen's personality, because he simply doesn't have much of one, and even if he did, he still acts like a teenager. It's disturbing. Taylor Lautner, the actor who plays Jacob Black, the shirtless one told Jay Leno not too long ago that he was approached by a woman in her forties, who asked him to sign her Twilight underwear... in front of her teenage daughter, who was so embarassed she pleaded with her mom to stop.

In light of the Twilight craze that is obviously and inexplicably sweeping the best women off their feet nowadays I came across this piece that pretty much sums up what sets the Twilight series apart from all the other vampire romance, or just plain romance novels out there.

You could say it is the characters, but as this piece explains, it's lack of character that drives all the girls (and sometimes guys) crazy for the vampire and werewolf who love Bella Swan.

So, let me sign off by saying that it was brain candy and I enjoyed it, but like in real life, I only lust after and fall in love with men of substance... that's men, who aren't jailbait. Who don't sparkle in the sun. Who don't walk around shirtless.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Old Man Winter's charm

Yummy, warm and cozy Zigzag Scarf.

It's no secret that Old Man Winter and I don't get along much. Aside from hating the cold and being one of those people who are miserable until spring tickles my nostrils with the smell of awakening earth, I hate OMW because I feel like my wardrobe options are limited. That could just be a psychological thing, or it could just be that I don't want to freeze in the name of fashion, but darn it, that old man really cramps my style.

Just like everything else in the world, however, OMW has his charms. I still wouldn't choose this over laying in the sun on a hot summer's day and waking up to birds chirping instead of the crunch of frozen streets under snow tires, but there is some charm to the cold. I would have to say that the only thing that keeps me from hibernating like a bear all winter is the ability to wear things I make, and quite yummy things they are. Scarves, arm warmers, hats, mittens, sweaters... I love making these things and winter gives me the opportunity to put them to good use.

The Zigzag scarf is one such item that I have been utilizing during this abnormally horribly cold time of the year. Not only is it chunky and yummy and keeps me totally warm, but it gets a lot of compliments. Anyone who knits or crochets, or makes anything by hand, really, appreciates each compliment, because most of the time people don't notice the scarf or hat or arm warmers you spent a week making, counting rows and getting cramps in your fingers from the effort. To get a compliment makes the effort all the more worthwhile, and I wanted to write a little tidbit about the scarf that has been giving me pride in my handiwork.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Truly foreign things that resonate, long after exposure.

Every once in a while, I find myself becoming attached to a place. I'm not necessarily in that place, and 99% of the time I wouldn't have even set foot in that place, but whatever triggers that attachment is powerful enough to get me to find out everything about where that triggering device came from.

This has happened several times, and if you must know, right now I'm attached to Paris, but that was an easy sell, considering that I was just there a little over two months ago. But before visiting Paris, before I even dreamed of going anywhere beyond Mexico, I became attached to odd places-- a little off the beaten path, if you will. I will explain to you what I mean by becoming attached to a place I've never been.

It started in 2005, with China. The trigger was a movie that was not Chinese, nor was it set there. It was an English movie with a Chinese character in it. That one character got me all riled up about everything Chinese: movies, people, history, culture, food-- everything. It was an obssession that even made me go so far as to try to learn a little bit of Mandarin so that when I would make my dream of going there come true I would be able to at least say thank you. I did a lot of reading in that time and learned a lot of things that I still to this day use to educate people about China and get them to see beyond the smog that envelopes the image of that country in the western psyche.

You're probably wondering what the heck the title of this post has to do with what I'm talking about at this point, and here is where it will come together for you. In the summer of 2006, the FIFA World Cup took place, and Portugal's team was one of the many highlights of that event. They were in the spotlight for being the rookies who took the show away, so to speak. I became very intrigued, especially after watching a game they played against a former African colony of theirs, Angola, and what started as a mere curiosity turned into a full-fledged attachment, or obssession, that lead me down the same path as that Chinese character led me to China.

I watched movies, documentaries, read the history of the place, listened to Fado, filled my music collection with Portuguese music and made great headway on learning Portuguese. In the midst of all this immersion in everything Portuguese, I came across a list of idioms, expressions that the people of the country use to make life a little easier to understand. Given that the entire western and southern part of the country are neighbors to nothing but the ocean, naturally, it is a culture that relies heavily on the sea and what it brings, native or otherwise. Due to this a lot of the idioms are related to the sea. Here are a few that paint the picture:

Fish don't pull wagons.
[Peixe não puxa carroça]

You're letting water in...
[Estás a meter água...]

This is too much sand for my truck.
[É muita areia para a minha camioneta]

Women and sardines, you want them to be small.
[A mulher e a sardinha querem-se da mais pequenina]

He's like a racing mackerel.
[Armar-se em carapau de corrida]

They use other topics to simplify life in Portugal, but they're clearly sea people. My favorite idiom, which acted as a trigger for me to write this in the first place is one I haven't written out yet, but like the ones I did list, it is linked to the sea and what it brings. This idiom is used during the sweetest of times, despite the subject matter, which if taken at face value is anything but sweet. The idiom is as follows:

There's a Moor on the coast...
[Há Mouro na costa...]

This idiom is used when one feels they are falling in love, that someone is about to invade their heart. A Moor is not good news, if taken at face value. The Moors were the archenemies of the Portuguese, because they were Muslims from North Africa-- a threat to the Catholic Portuguese. Despite such a war-related context if taken at face value, the expression is beautiful in that it illustrates perfectly what the prospect of falling in love feels like, right at the beginning, when it is the unknown. I think it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.

So, you see, it's foreign, and although I came across it over two years ago, it is still fresh in my mind, especially at this time. I can't think of a better way to tour and really see the world than to know the little nuances that are as simple as an idiom, and I certainly can't think of a better way to describe the jitters that come when love looms, too close for comfort....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I turned 31, and my life changed!

For my birthday I received the gift that keeps on giving. Well, technologically anyway. I am now the proud owner of an iPod Touch. It has an immense amount of gigs ready for me to fill with endless hours of music and close-to-endless hours of movies. It's more than safe to say, then, that I now belong to the ever-growing population of people whose noses and index fingers are perpetually touching a touch screen.

Although this isn't my first MP3 player-- I've owned two iPod Nanos in my time, and I have no complaints about either one-- The IPod Touch is so much more than just an MP3 player. It is a portal one can use to expand horizons easily overlooked when on a regular computer.

I'm talking about the numerous apps available in iTunes's app store, a lot of which are absolutely free-- and so useful, I wonder how and why they're free. I've downloaded all kinds of apps, ranging from Pandora Internet Radio and Facebook, to BBCReader and all of Shakespeare's works in one place. I have yet to pay for an app and the pages to scroll across are multiplying at a rapid, scary pace. I've found a way to organize things I never thought about organizing to begin with, and some I've organized in less convenient ways than the swipe or touch of my index finger.

Thanks to the iPod Touch I started logging what I eat and how often I exercise using an app that keeps all that organized for you so that after you input the details, you see the big, simple picture, in turn, paving your path to fitness to make it easier. I've also organized my growing collection of knitting needles, which will make planning a project that much easier, though I'd already started organizing it using Excel and printing an updated copy of the chart each time I bought new needles... now I don't have to waste all that paper and don't have to worry about whether I have the updated copy or not.
Before: Using Excel to organize

After: Using the Needles application on the iPod Touch (isn't it purty?!?)

I could go on and on about how my iPod Touch has changed my life, albeit in small ways, in just a matter of days.

Finally, what fascinates me the most is that a device such as this is like one of those leatherbound, zippered planners that serious business people used to carry around to organize their hectically important lives. Add to that they had to get the refills, which cost a fortune and must be filled out by hand. Nowadays, even teenagers have their lives organized in a device that not even a CEO would've dreamed of owning less than a decade ago.

I don't believe anything makes you happy on its own, but I feel lucky in more ways than I can express for having a lot of things in my life, and the iPod Touch is one of those many things that make me smile.