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“The basic human need to be watched was once satisfied by God. Now the same functionality can be replicated with data-mining algorithms.”

–Morphius, Deus Ex

Over the course of the last several weeks, in order to remain a functional human being, I’ve had to put myself on a strict media diet and step away from the computer, the Internet, and what Abha Dawesar refers to as thedigital now.”  The analog here-and-now, with its bicycles, trees, rivers, paper, pens, and printed words on actual pages in books with heft and texture and scent, has been grounding.  There I spent time self-soothing with the words of Mr. Rogers:

“The media shows the tiniest percentage of what people do. There are millions and millions of people doing wonderful things all over the world and they’re generally not the ones being touted in the news.”

Like many others this year, I’ve found myself in new and uncomfortable roles with my regular routines disrupted as a result of the pandemic. Though not dubbed “essential” in any official capacity, staying home has not been an option. I have been out and about throughout the quarantine on a near daily. In the last three months I’ve made more trips to various hospitals and clinics than I have in the previous four decades of my life combined – and that includes the time I spent interning in one. I’ve seen for myself that there are many people doing wonderful things right here in my own city.

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time.  It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

–Fred Rogers

Coming off my blog hiatus I discovered that My Little Spacebook turned 10 years old this week. One decade and 542 posts later and I’m no closer to understanding anything that’s happened.   As such, this seems an opportune time to drill down and do some retrospective and reflective work to figure out what exactly I’m doing here; with this blog, I mean.

I will say, the media diet has made more space for silence and wonder, for creation, and for appreciation of beauty.  I think Mr. Rogers would be proud.

“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.”

–Fred Rogers

Iris

And the answer to the cake question is a resounding, “Yes.”

Everything about this masterful work of art gives me chills – the story telling, the exquisite expressions and movements of the dancers, the collaboration, the controlled chaos, the costuming and makeup.  I came across it this morning by accident and I’ve been thinking about it all day….

It’s a lament, a call to action, and astounding art at once.

 

The first time they walked the bridge linking Memphis to Arkansas was December 26, 2016.  She didn’t have her phone, so she asked him to take the picture she wanted.  It later became his album cover.

Making Waves

The second time they crossed the bridge spanning the big river was November 24, 2019.  She didn’t have her phone, so she asked him to take the picture she wanted.

bridge.JPG

Does the geometry of the scene remind anyone else of the arcade game Tempest?  She wonders.  When she looks at it she hears electronic white noise and feels like she might suddenly swirl around the playing field and warp to the next level.

On the bridge they walk and they talk. One thought bubbles up after another in a constant stream that flows as fast as the muddy water beneath their feet.

“Remember that performance years ago at the Church on the River?”

“Yeah, that was weird.”

She thinks of a friend, an atheist who sometimes teaches a Sunday school class at church, and she giggles.

A man rides by on a motorized unicycle.  She’s instantly flooded with envy.  One churchy thought primes the next, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s unicycle.”

They stop at the in-between point and stand half in Tennessee and half in Arkansas. There a sign warns that the powers-that-be have no qualms about cutting off love locks, so couples might as well go lock their love elsewhere. Near the sign, others have continued to lock their love defiantly in harder-to-reach places.

They walk on.

At the end of the bridge, there’s another picture she wants.  He takes it. Team work makes the  dream work.

bridge 2

That’s the view from the fence going west.  She ask for his phone so she can take the view going east.

bridge 3

They sit in Arkansas on a park bench and marvel at this bridge, where industry, commerce, construction, technology, logistics, architecture and nature collide.

Brimming with wild ideas and errant thoughts, she babbles on and on.  He patiently listens, sort of. There’s music happening inside his mind, but he bobs his head and makes noises in all the right places.

On the way back across the bridge, they run into a friend, a teacher, who talks about recently recording a “Tuck You In” story for her students. Suspended high above the Mississippi River they discuss all sorts of things. They make plans and share ideas, then they go separate ways and the river flows on.

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Recommended viewing:

History of Big River Crossing  — there are vintage photos of the construction and bridge plans, drawings and such.

Recommended listening:

Little Sunshine — her theme song, written by Joe Michael, Making Waves

 

 

My electronic archives have been neglected this year as I took a turn back to the old ways, to relish the dying art of handwriting and its ancient tools, and to savor the privacy, tangibility, focus and flow that these tools afford. 

For some reason, this seems like a good time to share a gratuitous picture of a turtle I met this year.  Or maybe she’s not so gratuitous. Maybe she was a little spirit companion meant to remind me the value of slowing down, grounding, and seeking solitude.

turtle

But I didn’t come here today to share turtle pictures.  I wanted to show you one of my most prized possessions — a garden journal my sister made for me.

 

journal

 

She calls it a “junk journal,” though I don’t think that’s a fitting description. Every single page is embellished with awesomeness.

 

iris

There are all sorts of nooks and folds in which to tuck notes, thoughts, dreams, and ideas.  And she stocked it with seeds, charms, a vial of dandelion fluff upon which to make wishes, and all sorts of magic.

seeds.jpg

And these pictures do not even begin to do it justice.

butterfly.jpg

With this journal I am a garden wizard!  Next year, I should be able to grow a beanstalk to climb to find the goose who lays golden eggs.

It makes me happy.

The video below is her doing a complete flip-through of the journal in case you’re interested:

And if you want to see the other journals she’s created (e.g., Murder on the Orient Express), here’s a link to her channel:
Recycled by Skattur

Herein lies the annual archiving of the books that occupied me this year.  I’m breaking this down into multiple posts to make it easier on all of us.

1. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

If you like Amy Schumer’s comedy and you want a good laugh, then you should go watch Amy Schumer’s comedy instead of reading this book.  If you are curious about the person behind the clown, it is worth reading. It’s written in the style of a personal diary – loosely organized thoughts about her family, her life, her loves, her stuffed animals, and her years of work behind her “overnight” success. She includes excerpts from a diary she kept in her early twenties with retrospective commentary.  It made me want to dig out the Winnie the Pooh journal I kept in my teens to remind myself what I was thinking back then.  As a whole, the book has a vibe of raw honesty that people rarely reveal to each other.

2. A Monster Calls

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”


I paid too much for this book at the airport newsstand because it said “monster” on the cover. It was October 31 and I needed a way to mark the holiday that would be otherwise consumed by travel.  I crammed myself into a little airplane seat with my monster book and read it cover-to-cover. This book had me crying all across the sky on Halloween.

“…and sometimes witches merit saving. Quite often, actually. You’d be surprised.”

–Patrick Ness

3. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity


Silberman has provided the most comprehensive historical perspective on autism that I’ve read in my 16 years of studying autism and working with folks on the spectrum. He also delves into the wide range of controversies, treatments, and organizations associated with autism. It’s a work that honors the varieties of human intelligence.

4. The Japanese Lover

 From a retirement home in San Francisco, an octogenarian recounts the events that shaped her life to her young Moldovan employee. Her recollections span from her immigration from Poland to the events leading up to her marriage and beyond. In the telling I learned a lot I didn’t know about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII  – and that was just the backdrop for a short episode in the narrative.

It’s hard to say what I admire most about Isabel Allende’s novels:  Her settings are as nuanced as her characters. She makes history live and breathe on the page.  She also guards her characters’ secrets well.  You have to get to know them and love them before you gain their confidence.

5. Another Day

This was the much-anticipated sequel to Everyday [Reviewed Here], the fascinating story of a bodiless teen who wakes up in a different person’s body every day.  Unfortunately, Another Day sucked and I am kinda (irrationally) mad at David Levithan right now. It was the same story, same events, same characters as before, but it was told by the boring character’s point of view instead of the awesome one’s.   Ugh – Why do that?  Maybe because it was written more for commercial reasons than for artistic ones.

6. The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism 

A friend wanted to read this book together, so we did. Drawing heavily from research in positive psychology, Cabane offers practical exercises to sharpen listening and speaking skills and to increase one’s general likeability.  The practices and advice were reminiscent of the principles from yoga teacher training, though Cabane couched them in the language of the corporate and academic world.

7. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works-A True Story

 

TV journalist Dan Harris attributes meditation to making him happier and generally less of an ass.  In his self-help/memoir hybrid he shares the experiences, ideas, and  research to explain the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the type of happy that meditation provides.

8. Leaving Time


A psychic and a detective reluctantly join teenager Jenna Metcalf’s search for her missing mother, Alice.  The search centers around the elephant sanctuary where Alice worked as a scientist. As the story weaves back and forth from past to present, the author explores mother-daughter bonds, memory, and grief in both humans and elephants. The ending had a crazy turn that I did not see coming.

9. The Great Gatsby

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve been a little obsessed with the 1920’s this year and because I hadn’t yet read this classic, I figured it was time.

10. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows


An interesting look at how technology changes the way we think. I posted thoughts this one HERE.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

A young friend recently introduced me to this book, which is required reading in a local high school curriculum.  I was really not in the mood to read this sort of thing at the time, but once I started it, I was hooked. Drawing from sources in neuroscience, philosophy, history, and literature, Carr proposes that technology steadily alters our patterns of thinking. Our use of the Internet in particular is rewiring our brains in the areas of working memory, long-term memory, attention, and comprehension.  In a nutshell, the process goes something like this: with the abundance of information in hypertext links, posts, updates, emails, ads, crawls, and flippers, and various other pings, and dings that we’re multitasking,  our  concentration becomes fragmented, which overloads working memory, which causes information to not be processed deeply enough to find its way into long-term memory, which interferes with comprehension. So our brains get really busy and excited when immersed in electronic media, but not  in a way that promotes contemplation and comprehension.  Sustained attention is necessary to forge those deeper links.

The chapter on memory was my favorite — well-researched and simply explained.  The ideas raise all sorts of interesting questions.  What are the long-term consequences of outsourcing our cognition to machines – on an individual and societal level?

Will habitual use of electronic media, particularly among children, erode the desire, or even the ability, to develop sustained attention? Being in schools and classrooms across districts everyday of the week I see more and more “smart” technology being implemented in classrooms at earlier and earlier ages.  Given the hand-brain-cognition connection (see Levin’s book The Hand for a comprehensive review of that topic) do preschoolers really need to have more iPads instead of 3-dimensional toys to manipulate with their hands? What are the gains and are they worth the cost?

Dearest Readers,

If you have been around this blog for a few years, then you may think I sometimes get a little too preoccupied with toilet technology.   While I would have to disagree, I do appreciate you enduring these episodes if you find them uncouth.

If you are just joining this party, welcome to the fold.  And just let me say  I think “preoccupied” is really too strong of a word for what goes on here.  You may want to consider it more like an occasional recurring theme. Rest assured, whatever label you want to put on it, this too shall pass, and we will soon resume our regularly scheduled programming.

And if you’re only here to get the bruise status update, well today it features a pink crescent moon entrapped within a fushia hexagon from which a cloud of navy smoke billows.  May you sleep better knowing.

So my interest in toilet technology began a couple years ago with a TedxTokyo Talk called Toilet Talks, which opened my eyes to how far we Americans lag behind the Japanese in lavatory engineering. Still reeling from that revelation, a couple weeks later I encountered another disturbing sign in a university bathroom stall indicating America’s ineptitude in latrine design and the lengths those in the ivory tower will go to enshroud this truth with their propaganda. The problem was made personal with some unfortunate business that occurred on I-40 in a snowstorm.  Then that summer I learned that Japan is not the only country wildly ahead of us when I learned of Ayurvedic medicinal herbs and I tried the Poo-Poo Tea at the ashram.

Today I discovered a video that provided a ray of hope. Other minds are acknowledging the errors of our ways. Mark my words: innovation is coming.

“You love me. Real or not real?”

~~@~~

Every single weekend for the last month I have been consumed by The Hunger Games. Four weeks ago the movie came out and I bought the book. I devoured it that Saturday before going to see the movie the next day. The following Saturday I read the second book.  The Saturday after that I finished the third book of the series.  With that, I thought my obsession was over and I could get on with my life.

 Alas, no.

This past weekend I inadvertently found myself in Asheville, North Carolina, where much of the movie was filmed.  We were road tripping our way to a conference in Raleigh, when my own hunger struck.  I consulted Yelp,  (a must-have app for roadtrips), read a few reviews, and decided on Rezaz in Asheville for lunch.  The odds were oddly in my favor.  The seven vegetable couscous was a different flavor in every bite: here a chickpea, there the sharp crunch of fresh ginger, and everywhere the ruffley texture of grilled kale intermingling with couscous and cilantro.  It was a real Capitol meal.  The Devil had a pizza that rivaled his own devious creations.  The pizza alone warranted another visit to the restaurant on the return road trip: a crisp cracker crust, lightly grilled and topped with marinaded mushrooms that finished with a hint of pepper.  Creamy gellato for dessert – chocolate for her, vanilla for him, each topped with a flakey sugar cookie.  Hunger games, indeed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the books.  I’ve started, abandoned, restarted, and reabandoned an embarrasing number of books the past several months.  Nothing has been able to compete with the flying colors of life experienced moment-to-moment in its bold and beautiful unfurling. Until this. What a pleasure to finally find a series to keep me captivated and wanting more.

Across from Rezaz sits the Grand Bohemian Hotel. It was filled with interesting things – a stuffed boar wearing a fishing hat, for instance, and other dead things surrounded by unusual lighting. The decor  was overwhelmingly antlered. There are fine lines to be drawn between rustic and classy and creepy.  The hotel decorators played hopscotch with those lines.

There were all sorts of fancy people milling about in the lobby doing all sorts of fancy things like sitting around in their fancy hair and shoes drinking fancy drinks while having fancy conversations.  What a strange scene to take in against the backdrop of skulls and skins, hides and horns.

The hotel I learned offers a Hunger Games package for a few hundred dollars.  Apparently trips to the setting are all the rage.

I enjoyed my brief adventure and I definitely want to go back to explore.

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