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Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

For fans of WireTap…or not – I suggest you take a look at the awesome opportunity below. You don’t need a journalism degree to apply – just a degree.

Who: Wiretap Magazine

What: Arts & Culture Journalism Fellowship

When: The deadline is May 1, 2009

Where: Anywhere you are – but if you are currently residing in San Francisco or New York, consider yourself lucky to have an office to report to

Why:

  • You get to have your work published (and paid for it!)
  • Sharpen your journalism chops and get JOURNALIST boot camp
  • Cover emerging arts, artists and art communities. So cool. Period

Good Luck!!!

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Monocat @Flickr

Photo Credit: Monocat @Flickr

On the second floor of Steinmetz High School, 6 girls are participating in an art therapy technique called Model Magic.

Each girl is supposed to shape the clay into a feeling they have about themselves. In essence, they are to physically mold their emotions into a physical rendering. When finished, the other participants guess what the girl was trying to sculpt.

Afterwards, each sculptor reveals the intended emotion.

R, a 15-year old 9th grader, has molded several shapes that are randomly fingered and “blobbed” on the clay mat. Descriptors like angry, confused, complicated and frustrated come from around the table.

Finally, she reveals, “I named it: You cannot save me because I do not want to be saved.”

R says she was trying to sculpt destruction.

Gwenn Waldmann, the woman who heads Art Therapy Connection (ATC), says these techniques are used to tackle ideas of self-exploration, self-awareness and identity. Other therapeutic techniques like the Friendship Circles and Hand Murals get participants to draw what makes them happy or how they see themselves. 

Waldmann enthusiastically advocates the use of art therapy in contrast to talk therapy. She believes such emotional scrapbooking provides tangible documentation of one’s emotional currents, triumphs and reflections.

I find this type of “therapeutic journeying” intriguing because self-discovery never truly stops.

ATC provides the tools for (troubled) kids to connect with the disconnectedness of competing and contradictory emotions. A lot of it involves being lost, silent and frustrated.

And, perhaps, that’s why so many twentysomethings have a problem with being lost. Being lost is contradictory because you already know you don’t know all the answers. Yet, it doesn’t stop the competing desire to have some of the answers now.

Beyond the obvious sentiments of being a generation that is accused of over entitlement and arrogance, Gen Ys sometimes treat their journeys to self-awareness like 15 minute El rides. Everything should be quick. Take me to my intended destination – no matter what.

ATC’s 34-week program focuses on getting participants to open up and express themselves. Expression is important. It fosters relevance and creativity. It provides value and (re)establishes our self-worth. Nonetheless, in an environment where it is discouraged it only breeds anger, resentment…even self-loathing.

Are you leading a life of discouragement?

And, I wonder how many twentysomethings are feeling they’re in environments that breed these emotions. The pressure of accomplishing professional (or personal) expectations is overwhelming. Or, dealing with the discouragement of unrealized dreams swirls a maelstrom of emotional chaos.

Waldman tells me that kids (and adults) will either engage in useful or useless behavior. Essentially, we use creativity or destruction to find our way (or lose our way) when dealing with traumas. And, it’s difficult to recognize the traumas. We don’t like being disappointed. The upsets can disengage us as well. Some people have the tools. Others, perhaps, do not.

It’s hard to be your own therapist because what haven’t you already diagnosed yourself with? I’m wondering what kind of (art) therapy will save Gen Y from life’s chaos.

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success3

Photo Credit: Kevinthoule @Flickr

Dear Readers,

You know, a while back, I was supposed to write a series on Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers?

Well, I hope you didn’t forget. I did. And, the next two chapters I am critiquing didn’t make it any better.

As I am sure you have probably finished the book by now, I can only hope you will share your opinions with me…or roll your eyes in annoyance (as I did).

Gladwell names 3 things as contributing factors for Joe Flom’s success: 

  • Being Jewish
  • Luck
  • Meaningful work

Essentially, Gladwell has framed these ideas in context to his past chapters on a sense of entitlement, birth year and the 10,000 hour rule. In short, Mr. Flom was able to capitalize on the discrimination he faced by “white shoe” law firms in the 1950s and ’60s. As such,  a typical (Jewish) lawyer at that time would be forced to work for a “smaller, second-rate, upstart law firm on a rung below the big names downtown” or if they went into business for themselves, they took whatever came through the door.

This setback primes a young lawyer, like Mr. Flom to do work that the big name law firms deemed unfit to perform. What sort of work?  Primarily, litigation and proxy fights. I could go on and cite more (boring) facts that make Gladwell’s case, but I won’t. To summarize, the remaining two factors involve the luck of being born during the Great Depression and being exposed to parents who performed meaningful work.

Gladwell surmises that the cultural legacy of the three factors frame the success for Joe Flom and others like him.

Rounding out his theory on legacy, Gladwell cites the background of the Appalachian Howard and Turner clans of Kentucky. From the description, imagine it as a cross between The Proposition and Appaloosa

What?!

Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives.

They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them.

Gladwell is careful to note that using the idea of cultural legacies to determine success is a slippery slope that can lead to racial and social stereotyping. I’m not impressed. And, neither should anyone reading this book. I thought I’d be “wow-ed” by Gladwell’s interpretations of success – I’m only disappointed. No, I did not read Tipping Point or Blink.

I can only assume that those are his better books because they are a part of today’s b-school and grad school curriculums.

From Gladwell’s observations, I only conclude (so far) that he is supplying interesting facts and tethering what may seem like disconnected ideas to give success a new “spin.”

Maybe, I’m biased or short-sighted. Perhaps, I’m reading everything wrong. Generally, a book that is seeking to change my views on success has only created a set of factors (some within my control, some not) as annoyances and ancestrally created obstacles.

If Gladwell is trying to (re)define success as something that is 3-dimensional, he has succeeded. Yet, only for the wrong reasons.

According to Outliers, if my parents time my birth year just right, I will only need to spend 10,000 hours doing something meaningful and complex that gives me autonomy. I have to remember to speak up and make sure that people accomodate my needs. I just need to be smart enough to get into college, but not necessarily be a genius. And, if I’m raised in the South and haven’t gone to jail (yet)  for someone “disrespecting” me – I should be OK.

So far…(maybe not) so good.

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Dogs and Sabotage

Mini PinscherMy little sister decided she’d adopt a dog. Actually, she didn’t really “adopt” the dog. She just took the dog off the hands of a family that couldn’t keep the dog anymore (they were moving into a no pets allowed apartment building).

So, Samantha (or Sam) is a reddish brown miniature pinscher. She’s somewhat grown on me. I like her in the “I am dog person” sort of way. But, the dog works a nerve. She’s very particular about who she answers to (only my sister) and insists on doing her business in the house instead of out, if you know what I mean. She also marks the furniture with her teeny paw prints and thinks that sofas are her lounging territory.

Sam likes to burrow under bed covers and sleep in the hamper. I’m thinking she’s cold a lot (since pinschers don’t have much fur) she likes to keep warm. But, it’s annoying to try and find a dog that doesn’t come to you when you call it and hides in clothes hampers.

So, we bought her little coats and sweaters. It doesn’t stop her from living in the hamper. We discipline her for getting on the furniture. She still sneaks into the living room for pawing romps. Forget about trying to get her to answer to my Mom or I – that’s a lost cause.

All that aside, this post isn’t about Samantha or her lack of good training. Samantha reminds me of how sabotage can be instinctive. Despite changing things to fix the present, we instinctively go back to the same habits. The warm comfort zone of behaving recklessly to keep things familiar makes life so much more difficult than necessary.

What happens when you repeat yourself to your own detriment?

I only hope you have the good sense to recognize the disastrous results of what can happen before others think you’re too annoying to keep around.

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generation-y1Neil Gaiman’s comic collection titled “A Game of You,” explored the complex subjects of identity, imagination and history through a diverse group of female characters (a lesbian couple, a drag queen, a witch and a girl named Barbie to be exact).

Ok, why am I talking about this besides blabbing my fandom for all things Gaiman?

As a writer, Gaiman eloquently plays with the idea of how much imagination shapes identity. How we imagine ourselves can be so different from how we appear to others and who we want to be can contrast so vastly from who we really are.

Yes. All that in a comic book.

In any case, Gaiman’s story got me to thinking how identity has changed for Generation Y and how it will drastically change even more in the future.

Gen Y’s identity is tightly tethered to more conscious action. We are much more attentive to how others perceive us and what we imagine for ourselves. It’s a trippy trio that continues to redefine  sex, race and culture.

Therefore, several versions of our identity co-exist interdependently of the other. In other words, when girls channel their inner bitch,  Beyonce emerges with her Sasha Fierce persona or guys flex machismo – it’s all about channeling those multiple identities that reside within our souls, whether we need them all the time or not.

Generation Y is more comfortable absorbing multiple identities – being several ideas at once instead of becoming one abstract notion.

The compelling part is that we will be much better at communicating our brand, personalities and messages because we are more secure with having multiple connections to different ideas. The steady, linear stream of identity morphs into an ever widening circle.

We, on the other hand, are more likely to struggle with our past mistakes. We won’t be content to leave them as footnotes in history. Instead, we’ll analyze them into a series of multi-layered experiences (and even blog about them, if possible).

Our minds are much more invested in catharsis than previous generations.

Generation Y establishes more fluidity when it comes to career, love and living life. Although, being connected to so much seems to offer a multitude of possibilities – it gets overwhelming.

Instead of having fewer answers, we ask more questions.

The ambiguity gets…bigger.

Yet, I look forward to the bigger ambiguities because they’ll connect to new ideas. They will allow me to explore my individuality on a larger scale – a different scale.

A generation of people who are comfortable with living inside many identities means we are hungrier to establish our own individual connection with so many more ideas.

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iheartbloggingFor those of you interested in blogging, the venture can be a mysterious, weird process. You may go to a site like Blogger, WordPress or Typepad, go through the motions of setting up – and now what?

And now that you have your blog about [subject to be inserted later], you are at a loss for (written) words.

How can you make your voice heard in the chattering mass of the blogosphere?

What can you do (besides write good posts)? Well, it depends on what you want to talk to about. Everyone talks about niches, personal brands, the essence of what your blog should be about – it gets overwhelming.

So, in any event, you need a niche, but you don’t know how to figure that out. That’s OK, we all had to start somewhere.

Start a blog. Fall in love.

In order to enjoy blogging, you need to fall in love with your subject. And no, not the honeymoon love where there are no flaws and everything is perfect. 

When you do choose a subject, you have to be willing to uncover its secrets, its flaws, its inconsistencies and its hypocrisies. The unappealing, sees-you-first-in-the-morning reality that takes your blog to a new depth is what gives it pop.

Don’t be afraid to uncover its ugliness – it gives your blog credibility (as well as relevancy).

It may be awkward at first, but you’ll get better as time goes on.

And, no, you may not blog about your pet bunny. Unless your bunny does something really interesting. And you’re in love with it.

So, we’ve narrowly covered what your niche should be and eased your fears about what a blog could be about.

Maybe.

Randomness – the godsend of unexpected ideas

It’s fine to be a little random in your blog, but not quite so at the beginning – but keep it intriguing. 

An example of randomness can range from something seemingly off-topic from your niche or discovering an edgy idea and applying it to your blog.

It’s alright if you switch topics or ideas throughout the life of your blog – expect it.

Blogging and your virtual community. 

A blog should reflect you.

Unlike getting a book deal, or publishing in other print media, the way in which you edit and revise your ideas is much more transparent. 

You change your mind, tweak your opinions and engage your audience in a much more interesting way with a blog than you ever could with a book.

However, stick true to your (well-researched) opinions and don’t become wish washy.

Whatever your blog is about, make sure you can have enough content to keep the blog going. Be specific enough to attract your intended audience but make it accessible enough to capture attention of new readers.

Do you want to talk to farmers, lawyers, doctors, Gen-Yers, baby boomers, Stay-at-home moms, Working Mothers, Stay-at-home Dads, college girls who want to become fetish models?

Look at your surroundings.

The initial conversation is in your head

Blogging is just as much about a dialogue with yourself as it is with others.

In other words, the reason why blogs are considered to be about conversation is because they offer a sense of immediacy. If someone (dis)likes what you say, they can engage you (or not read your blog anymore, but let’s stay positive).

Pick one. Any subject. Don’t know where to start with that either? Who do you like talking to? What kind of friends do you have? What kinds of stuff do you like to do? What kind books and magazines do you read?

If you can’t answer any of the above questions or have nothing in which to draw inspiration, you probably have no business trying to create a blog and should spend more time developing a social life instead.

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Paris Hilton can only fetch a tawdry $37,000 for appearance fees from club owners. That’s significantly down from her previous demand of roughly $100,000.

One can only guess that Paris Hilton’s personal brand of mindless glitz and glamour is starting to wear thin on a crushed economy and tightening credit crunch. Maybe she should stop by the Gap and pick up a prairie-style cotton dress so she can look more like a woman of the people.

The Depression Era is hot and folks want to cash in. According to Ellen Gibson at Businessweek, Evite has recorded 40 invitations with the theme of “Depression parties” in October alone (up from 3 in September). Parties feature ’30s vintage clothing and music playlists favoring Big Bands. CEOs are researching Depression Era products developed by their companies in hopes of repackaging them as marketing tools in order to gain or lure potential customers.

Pretty nifty stuff – who would have thought being cash strapped would help businesses cash in?

Using the Depression Era brings as a reference brings some economical sincerity to the cash strapped over-commercialized 20-something. I’m still boggled at the popularity of shows like “The Real Housewives of [insert location].” These reality shows, nevertheless, may start to alienate only a small part of its audience because of the unabashed flaunt of richness and vapid materialism. Everyone likes to dream – don’t they?

Yet, the other reality is that as more households cut back, the necessity of watching such entertainment disappears into the murk of deciding between paying the gas bill or canceling cable.

I'd rather cancel my cable bill

I'd rather cancel my cable bill

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