Saturday, July 31, 2010

Consumerism and Moi

Living on a tight budget can be challenging for a person like me who grew up in the height of consumerism. It was in my lifetime that “disposable” became a desired trait to promote in advertising. No more fixing or making-do with the old stuff.

World War 2 came on the heels of our Great Depression and with all the servicemen returning to civilian life, there was an urgent need to employ them. Many of those servicemen, like my uncles, had come from the farms and had no desire to return. They liked the action found in city life. The economy needed a jump-start to get us back up to speed, too.

Enter the true age of manufacturing. All the materials that had been so closely tied to the war effort were now free for use here at home. The chemicals that had been used to create bombs became cheap fertilizers for the food industry. Plastics developed during the war were now available for any creative entrepreneur that had the wherewithal to put it to use.

To drive this manufacturing, the customer had to be enlightened on how great these products are. Why, no more waiting weeks to get that toaster fixed by the little bent man in the back room of the shop! Throw out that old one and buy new. Automobiles were cheaper. The ballpoint pen and TV dinners with their throw away containers arrived. Loans and revolving credit were easy to get so you could buy all sorts of items to consume your money and landfills.

We continue to do the same with cell phones, computers, PDAs, video players, fast food wrappers, and the list goes on. I challenge you to look in your trashcan to see what else qualifies. It gets ridiculous when you see what all you throw away.

Knowing all this and thinking about its impact on my life has made me decide to be a smarter consumer. I started with fountain pens. Unless I use cartridges, it will take quite a while for any part of that “hobby” to end up in the landfill. Bottled ink goes a whole lot further than a ballpoint pen and its cartridge.

Next, I’ve started reading about household life in the 1930s and 1940s before we became brainwashed. I remember Grandma saving sheets of aluminum foil, wax paper and plastic wrap to reuse until it couldn’t function any longer. When one of the sheep died giving birth, Grandpa fed the lamb from a washed out 7-Up bottle and a rubber nipple from the farm supply store. Grandma used a stopper with holes in it for another bottle to use to sprinkle her clothes with water before ironing. (I still remember how good it smelled.) Food scraps went to the farm dog, pigs and chickens. We had gardens and we processed vegetables for canning and freezing.

This is my challenge: how can I not only cut back on my spending but also make a smaller footprint in my world? Even with all this complaining about the modern mindset, I have to say that the Internet will prove invaluable in my quest. It’s free (so far) and full of great information and ideas. So using this technology, I send out my call. I need ideas and information from you for ways I can be a better user of this planet without spending a wad of cash to be fashionably “green.” (There’s paradox for you.)

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It happened again...

I'm sorry - stepped out for some air and lost track of time.  Seriously, it became a bit crazy this week.  Some of the things are usual and some are not.  But all are made of the stuff of life.

My friend and co-worker, Susan had a death in the family so work hasn't been as much fun as it usually is.  All the services are done and the family clean up operation is well in hand.  Time takes over with the rest of the process.

I have a large meeting happening in November that I'm preparing for. The momentum is starting to build now but the usual worry/panic hasn't hit yet.  I have more time to work on it this year, so maybe I can let that all go.

The cat has been naughty, too.  I came home today to the greeting, "There's a dead bird behind the recliner."  So I pull out the recliner and find TWO birds.  One was indeed dead and the other is alive.  I put the alive bird in the fig tree just as a rainstorm hit.  I'm not sure it will live, but it won't die being terrorized by a cat or in a dark corner of an alien prison.  (I love the cat, but she really frustrates me because I love birds, too.  So due to the cat, I pulled all the feeders down in the yard.  (Don't lecture me on "survival of the fittest" and "part of the circle of life" and "that's what cats do," etc.  I know all of that but it doesn't help.))

Update 07/30/10: The bird died.  In a way, I'm glad.  It was suffering.

But the BEST NEWS is that I've been writing!  Yay!  I got hit with a lot of clear daydreams that are working into a good story.  That's how they come to me.  Some weird thing will trigger them and then off I go dreaming.  I just wish reality wouldn't interfer with the process.  Ha-ha!

So anyway, I hope things slow a bit for the weekend.  Don't forget to get your submittals in for the Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Call for Submissions: Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper!

Wow!  I get to host the "Lucky 13" issue of the Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper! 

Submit those blog articles on this form by midnight on August 1st.  The new issue will be up on August 3 for everyone to enjoy.

See you there!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Pen Review: Noodler’s Ink Fountain Pen

When news came of a fountain pen to be manufactured by Noodler’s Ink, my ears perked. More information came from Fountain Pen Network that Swisher Pens had shipments but kept selling out faster than lightning. Jet Pens to the rescue!

I ordered the turquoise model with piston fill and ink window. All of their pens come with a fine medium (FM) sized nib. For $14 I felt I couldn’t go wrong and it fit my extremely tight budget. Jet Pens delivered in 3 business days.

Our camera is very old and I apologise for the terrible picture. I won't post any more, I promise!
The pen is smaller than I expected and very light weight. It is designed with a 1960’s influence and the turquoise color is dark and pleasantly muted. However, I find that the barrel material scuffs easily. The clip feels quite sturdy and I was very pleased to see the cap edged with a metal band. (My Parker Reflex pens have all cracked there allowing the nib dry out.) The cap screws on and unfortunately, the threads tend to rub on my thumb after writing for a couple of pages. One really nice feature is the ink window. It wraps around the pen so you can very easily see how much ink you have left in it.

The piston action is stiff but I attribute that to being very new. The quantity of ink it holds isn’t as much as I’d hoped. I haven’t used the full supply of ink in the pen yet, but I’m already seeing “daylight” in the window after writing 3 full pages (one side only) in a standard composition notebook. Successive fills may prove to improve my mileage with ink.

The nib lays down a thin line that is quite similar to my fine-nib Lamy Safari, isn’t quite that smooth but nice to use nonetheless.

What I would like to see with future issues of this pen are brighter colors, more durable barrel material, a snap-on cap to eliminate the thread rubbing the thumb problem, and perhaps a wee bit fatter to eliminate the hand fatigue of long writing sessions.

All that said, I can recommend this pen and have ordered 2 more to boot!

Please note that I have no affiliation with Swisher Pens, Jet Pens, or Noodler’s Ink.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For Sheri: Safety and Your Journal

After reading the comments on my post on Personal Writing I felt that I had to address the issue of safety in journaling on a deeper level.  I'm a great believer in the value of journaling and safety plays a role both in those pages and out.  Sheri mentioned the old wound of someone finding hers and reading it.  (I have heard stories of how people hide their journals.  One woman hides hers in with her cookbooks because no one even thinks about cooking in her house!  Ha-ha!)  Personally, I feel the journal itself outweighs the risk of someone reading it. 

However, when addressing the topic and it's importance, I felt like I wasn't really THE person for that job. So, I asked a huge favor of my Journal Coach, Sue Meyn to talk about this. She did. With great pleasure, I request that you visit the Journal Magic blog and read what she has to say.

 Thank you, Sue!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's a Dry Heat. Not!

As I write this post, it is just after 10 p.m. mountain standard time.  The sun set around 7:30 p.m. and full dark arrived about an hour later.  It is still 100°F.  In the grass.  Under a tree.  We have 33% humidity.  It is sticky to say the least.  However the magic number here is our dew point.  Right now it is 62°F. 

This time of year in the Sonoran Desert this number takes on a magnified significance.  Three days in a row that exhibit a dew point of 55°F or more declares it to be the Monsoon.  This is when the clouds build on the horizon.  Big, solid, white and dark grey/black clouds in anvil-shaped thunderheads. 

Often this is preceded by an haboob (I love saying that word): a HUGE fast moving wall of blowing dust that is so thick you are completely blinded.  This leads to many traffic accidents out of the city limits where there is nothing to filter out some of the dust, like buildings and tall trees.  By time the haboob reaches my house it just smells dusty and feels like an oven door left open.

For the past 10 years or so, central Phoenix has barely gotten any rain out of this weather pattern.  At most we get one good one that knocks down my back fence and that's it.  The reason for this is entitled "the heat island effect."  All this block, brick, concrete, asphalt and other heat storing materials keep the cooling rains away.  The outer ring of the metropolitan area is what gets hit.  Okay, this may often lead to power outages, but hey, trade off.  Right?

There isn't a point to be made here.  I'm just grumpy because those clouds just sit on my horizon and taunt me in a way that is downright degrading.

Friday, July 9, 2010

“Cézanne and American Modernism” or “How about them apples?”

I’ve been somewhat remiss in my review of the newest exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Originally, I had planned to attend on the First Friday showing, July 2nd when admission is free from 6 to 10 p.m. but had to postpone to this past Wednesday when SRP hosts the admission from 3 to 9 p.m. Thus, the extra lateness of the post.

Maybe I was expecting too much. Maybe I had exaggerated it in my head to the point that it was bound to disappoint. Regardless of the reason, I was disappointed. First, I was surprised at how small some of the paintings were. Then, after getting halfway around the room, I was surprised by how few actual Cézanne paintings there were. 16 Cézanne compared to 84 others.

Three main themes were represented.

1. The Bathers. One Cézanne and many versions of the same.

2. The Still Life Fruit. Two or three Cézanne and many, many versions of the same.

3. Landscapes of one particular view in Southern France. A handful of Cézanne and many, many, many versions of the same.

There were a few portraits. There were a few old photographs of Cézanne’s paintings. There were a scattering of a bit of this and that but, overall, meh.

One thing that I did enjoy was a small brochure from a Cézanne exhibition held after Cézanne had died. A painter whose name escapes me wrote all over the margins and pages of that brochure trying to analyze the paintings and journal of the experience to take back to his own studio later. It was most enlightening to read over 100 years later.

I’m sure I missed the point of the whole show. According to the video on the museum’s website, I did. However, I encourage you to go and see for yourself. You can’t go wrong with free admission!

If you go: “Cézanne and American Modernism” runs through September 26th. Hours and location are found on the website here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Personal Writing Encouragement Received

I was enjoying the DVD from BBC America entitled “Sahara with Michael Palin” that I borrowed from the library this weekend. This is not a review of the video program as such, but I must say, “WOW!” I like travel logs. I’ve been known to watch Steve Whatshisname on our public television station and it is okay but Michael Palin is the one who got me hooked with the first program he did called “Around the World in 80 Days.”

What really grabbed my attention on this program was the more than one shot of Mr. Palin writing in his journal. On one of the special features, he pulls it out of his bag and shows it. I didn’t recognize the manufacturer’s name (it began with “A”) but Mr. Palin pointed out the flexible all-weather cover and the sewn binding as desirable features. The pen was never mentioned, but I’m taking a wild guess that it is a good quality ballpoint. The guess is based on the extreme heat and diverse conditions in which it was used (camels play a small part). (I’d like to think that Mr. Palin uses a fountain pen when he is at home.)

While in the library, I also checked out the book “Himalaya” by Michael Palin. I noted in the introduction written by Mr. Palin that the book was based upon the journals he wrote during the filming of that travel log. Apparently, he also has written one on “Sahara.”

Travel journals are only one example of personal writing. I flash back to the motivational event I attended last February where Rudy Giuliani encouraged the audience to read and more importantly to write every day. He mentioned that he writes every morning before beginning his day. I was disappointed that he didn’t elaborate on this a bit more as I was curious how he viewed his writing: brainstorming, journaling, or other.

I don’t think personal writing is experiencing resurgence so much as it is being talked about more. Great men and women instinctively turn to personal writing as a part of their daily lives. We hear about them because they are “great” in our eyes. The not so great among us also have the same pull to the page.

I am not a traveler. I am a daydreamer. A daydreamer who writes every day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I'm Almost Speechless. Almost.

I can’t believe what I just witnessed in the Phoenix Public Library. I was just walking up to the music CD table to check on an artist for my hubby. There was a young lady already leafing through them. This young lady just happened to have brown skin. A tall, elderly white guy with his elderly white wife in tow walked up, looked down at the brown-skinned lady, and asked, “Are these in English?”

The brown-skinned lady paused for only a nanosecond and said, “Yes, they are all in English.”

The white man then asked if these were the movies and the brown-skinned lady pointed to the taller shelves of DVDs. “The movies are over there.”

“Are those in English?”

“Yes, they are.” We watched the elderly white couple move over to the DVDs. I must have made some sort of noise because the brown-skinned lady turned to me and smiled sadly. “It happens all the time. Just because I look Hispanic, people assume I don’t speak or read English.”

I snapped my jaw shut. “I am so sorry. You handled that beautifully.”

“My little son, of all people, reminds me to love my enemies.”

“But it’s so hard to do.”

She shrugged her shoulders and wished me a great weekend as we parted.