Sunday, August 31, 2008

Virtual Vacation, Day 3

And every vacation needs some entertainment, yes? How about a movie -- a thriller! -- say, “The Googling”? In five parts:

I “Google Maps”
II “Google Moon”
III “Google My Maps”
IV “Google SMS”
V ...eep, a cliffhanger! (not yet released)

Then, for some laughs before falling asleep, go retro with a few of the 2(ish)-minute episodes of Stupid Game Show Answers.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Virtual Vacation, Day 2

If you prefer man-made scapes to natural ones, and have access to iTunes (via your computer even if you don’t use an iPod) -- search the iTunes Store for the Discovery Channel Video Podcasts. Then scroll through the archives and download “FYI” episodes. Enjoy the 1-2-minute tours around the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Kennedy Space Center, Eiffel Tower, Great Wall, and Egyptian pyramids.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Virtual Vacation

Not traveling over this holiday weekend? ... yet craving an end-of-summer getaway?

Go virtual!

For the next three days, I’ll link to transporting sites that shake you loose from your day-to-day routine. And unlike real vacations -- that go poof! the moment you return home -- you can take these little breaks again and again, any time.

Now ... where better to begin than an immersion in nature?

Herewith, Beautiful Places in HD. Each 3-4-minute video includes an extended period of sounds from nature, evocative of the closing moments of CBS's Sunday Morning program. The photo above is clipped from the Redwood National Park episode.

Bon voyage!

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Used to Believe

One reason to wander around at I Used to Believe is to be reminded of the childhood perspective -- or any naive, or out-of-context perspective. From the site:

I Used To Believe is a funny and bizarre collection of ideas that adults thought were true when they were children.
But another is the quick opportunity to analyze different ways of communicating the same thing. Choose one of the site's most common beliefs, and read through the multiple entries describing the same belief. Notice that the entries are rated quite differently by the site's visitors (readers). Take a look at those with the highest ratings (they're shaded in blue and marked "rated beliefs") and notice how the writing goes beyond exposition by incorporating techniques of craft: sometimes an arc; a setting; a scene; dialogue.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I overheard a man tell of a moment that occurred while watching a film with his three-year-old daughter:

Onscreen, two dinosaur eggs hatched and the tiny young dinosaurs emerged. Suddenly, a huge dinosaur came out of nowhere and snatched one of the babies in his jaws.

My daughter was horrified. “Daddy! What’s he doing?!”

I didn’t know what to do, so I hugged her. “Don’t worry, he’s just taking the baby somewhere safe.”
Oh, no no no.

I know a bit about this man and know he had an honorable intention: to ease his tiny daughter through a terrible moment. But his immediate response was in direct conflict with a longer-term goal.

She’s obviously a smart kid -- she interpreted that violent scene spot-on and reacted appropriately. Assuming she was old enough to deal with the film’s content (a big assumption), the moment offered her dad an opportunity to help her cope with what she saw. But if her dad’s response did quiet her, it was probably due less to comfort and more to a stunned confusion from having her reality denied and rewritten. It’s called crazymaking, and what she learns is to not trust herself.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Worst Firsts

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote it worst (and first), in his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents -- except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
But since 1982, hundreds of writers have intentionally crafted opening sentences terrible enough to be awarded Winner, Runner-up, or Dishonorable Mention in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. This year’s winner, by Garrison Spik of Washington DC:

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."
I gathered five favorites from the 2008 awards -- favorites because, ironically, there's something great in each:

Joanne watched her fellow passengers -- a wizened man reading about alchemy; an oversized bearded man-child; a haunted, bespectacled young man with a scar; and a gaggle of private school children who chatted ceaselessly about Latin and flying around the hockey pitch and the two-faced teacher who they thought was a witch -- there was a story here, she decided. (Tim Ellis, Haslemere, UK) [Ack, it's the writerly truth!]

"Let's see what this baby can do, Virgil," said Wyatt, as he floored the Charger, brushing a Dart out of the way, sideswiping an oncoming Lancer, rear-ending a Diplomat, and demolishing a row of Rams before catapulting head-on into the sheriff's Viper -- realizing that we'd indeed missed the turn-off to Abilene and ended up instead, in Dodge City. (Paul Curtis, Randburg, South Africa) [Clever!]

Like a mechanic who forgets to wipe his hands on a shop rag and then goes home, hugs his wife, and gets a grease stain on her favorite sweater -- love touches you, and marks you forever. (Beth Fand Incollingo, Haddon Heights, NJ) [Hey, it’s effective!]

Carmen's romance with Broderick had thus far been like a train ride, not the kind that slowly leaves the station, builds momentum, and then races across the countryside at breathtaking speed, but rather the one that spends all day moving freight cars around at the local steel mill. (Bruce Portzer, Seattle, WA) [Again, great imagery and symbolism!]

Bill swore the affair had ended, but Louise knew he was lying, after discovering Tupperware containers under the seat of his car, which were not the off-brand containers that she bought to save money, but authentic, burpable, lidded Tupperware; and she knew he would see that woman again, because unlike the flimsy, fake containers that should always be recycled responsibly, real Tupperware must be returned to its rightful owner. (Jeanne Villa, Novato, CA) [What a small, true, detail!]
But your mileage may vary. So please, enjoy the whole 2008 list. Then look at the 25 previous Grand Prize winners, read the rules for entering, and bookmark the submission page your own 2009 entry.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Hoo boy, watching the Olympics Synchronized Diving does something to my mind … it’s a magnet that pulls all the atoms in my brain into weird and perfect alignment.

I do love visual patterns and themes! When it occurred to me that the design of a certain pink TV kitchen was no accident, I realized other people enjoy them, too. I've since paused to take a snapshot whenever I’ve noticed examples.

Some are pleasing because they’re understated -- see how the colors of Murphy Brown’s clothing, hair, and skin are repeated in the lamp, the vertical blinds, and the background windows. Some are pleasing because they're coincidental -- like these three June issues that arrived together in the mail.

But others join the over-the-top collection:

from the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore show...

...the Ellen show...

...and Vera Bradley stores, where clerks coordinate the sack and tissue to whatever noisy pattern you’ve purchased.

Together now: shake your head to re-scatter the atoms ... you'll want to be ready for next week’s Olympics synchronized swimming!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fast Forward

From a 1969 LaZBoy furniture ad, this image fit my child-self's vision of a newlywed couple's typical evening at home.

How is it the same (and different) from the couple's typical evening today, as they approach their 40th wedding anniversary?