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optical illusion paintings

03/22/15 3 Comments

"The Phenomenon of Floating"

“The Phenomenon of Floating”

there’s a beautifully conflicted symmetry to rob gonsalves‘s acrylic paintings, which blend different images & ideas to wonderful results.  see what i’m talking about in the gallery below.   for more of his work, check him out on facebook.  1st spotted @ yahoo.

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a creative take on the common calendar

07/23/14

by artist susanna hertrich (1st spotted at artruby):

Chrono-Shredder celebrates remorse for the lost moment. It is a poetic machine with functions similar to those of a calendar and a clock: The device continuously shreds every single day, minute after minute, hour after hour. A pulse is given every 3 minutes, after 24 hours a complete day has been destroyed. Continuously, the tattered remains of the past pile up under the device as time passes by.

hertrich’s chrono-shredder emphasizes how precious time really is.  once it’s gone, you can’t recover or recreate it.  also, even though every second has a short shelf life, it doesn’t mean that you should easily forget them once they’re gone.  otherwise, you might have a big emotional/physical/mental/spiritual mess that’s begging your attention.  best to process your experiences as much as you can, and as often as necessary, to not only avoid that buildup, but to also give you a better sense of direction moving forward.

related: here’s a fresh way to look at a glass of water (and yourself)

mammy-as-sphinx

05/09/14

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“At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected: 
A Subtlety
or the Marvelous Sugar Baby
an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined
our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World
on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant”

read the story behind this impressive sugar sculpture via the newyorker.

update: video clip on the sculpture

3 dimensions of art

04/22/14 18 Comments

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here’s a cool take on blackout poetry that blends prose, poetry, and drawing (via nprbooks).  how do you read the resulting poem?

a.) “we learn

as a child

to feel the wind

and exist in consciousness,

lost moments,

our remembering”

or

b.) “we learn

as a child

to feel the wind

and exist in consciousness

remembering our lost moments”

or

c.) something else…

homemade planes, protheses & optimus prime

04/03/14 1 Comment

Sun Jifa moves a brick as he works to build his new house in Yong Ji county, Jilin province, September 25, 2012. Chinese farmer Sun, who lost his forearms in a dynamite fishing accident 32 years ago, could not afford to buy prosthesis. He spent two years guiding his two nephews to build him prosthesis from scrap metal, plastic and rubber. Over the years, Sun and his nephews have built about 300 prosthetic limbs for people in need, charging 3000 RMB ($476) each. Picture taken September 25, 2012. (REUTERS/Sheng Li)

Sun Jifa moves a brick as he works to build his new house in Yong Ji county, Jilin province, September 25, 2012. Chinese farmer Sun, who lost his forearms in a dynamite fishing accident 32 years ago, could not afford to buy prosthesis. He spent two years guiding his two nephews to build him prosthesis from scrap metal, plastic and rubber. Over the years, Sun and his nephews have built about 300 prosthetic limbs for people in need, charging 3000 RMB ($476) each. Picture taken September 25, 2012. (REUTERS/Sheng Li)

the submarines, planes, and other self-made creations depicted below came from inventors of different ages, genders & motivations.  some were successful.  others failed (repeatedly).  all however are great examples of hope and resourcefulness in action.

click on the pics below for detailed captions & closer looks.  via reuters by way of yahoo news.

related: 20 unusual homes from around the world

on balancing a writing career with a day job

11/06/13

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written by win bassett via the atlantic; art by grant snider:

Writers who have day jobs outside the literature industry aren’t a new thing. Oscar Wilde wrote, “The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer.” Essays at The MillionsPloughshares, and elsewhere feature stories of folks who have made the double life of writer and Joe or Jane Worker fruitful and rewarding. Short story writer Lorrie Moore wrote, “First, try to be something, anything, else,” in her essay “How to Be a Writer.”

Poet Amy Woolard, named one of the 50 Best News Poets of 2013 by Best New Poets editor Brenda Shaughnessy, has tried “something, anything, else”—including, most recently, working as a child-welfare lawyer. But she has also kept writing. I spoke with her about what it’s like to maintain a career in poetry while also maintaining a demanding, white-collar day job. A condensed, edited version of that email conversation follows.


When did you first consider yourself a “poet,” and what was your job at the time? 

This is one of those moments that kids face in a spelling bee when they’re unfamiliar with a word, right, and they furrow their brows and ask, “Poet. Can you use it in a sentence?” It’s a title I’ve never really taken on or have been comfortable with, but it has been used on me in different contexts. For example, at Iowa, we were often called poets but only really to distinguish us from the fiction writers, viz.—“The poets are going to the Foxhead for drinks, and I think some of the fiction writers will be there, too.”

Shorter story—I don’t think I’ve every really considered myself a poet, just someone who writes poems, I suppose.

One moment that stands out, though, as a moment when I thought the writing of poems would certainly come to define me in some significant way: as an undergrad at the University of Virginia, when I’d applied, via portfolio submission, for Charles Wright’s Advanced Poetry Workshop. Charles is someone who came to mean a great deal to me and still does. I’ve often called him my “poetry dad” because of the way he took an interest in me and supported my work early on. But in this moment, the first day of that workshop, nearly 30 or 40 students filled the room—we did not yet know if we’d been accepted into the class. And Charles came in, welcomed everyone briefly, and then without another word began writing names on a chalkboard: the 12 or 15 students he’d admitted. And when he wrote out my name, mid-list or so, it was one of those rare occasions when you know something will stay with you forever. That class was also the true beginning of a writing community that I’ve been tied to ever since—other students in the class included Mary Szybist, Heather Derr-Smith, Rebecca Dunham, John Casteen, Jen Scappettone, and I think Sam Witt might’ve been in there too. It was a great crew, many of whom went on to join the crew I was lucky to be among at Iowa.

Tell me about some of the jobs you’ve held while writing poems between that time and today.

Oh, lord. Well, I’ve always considered Shakespeare’s Henry IV to be one of my favorite plays—most specifically Hal’s dilemma between life at the Tavern and the Court. My own years have played out similarly (sometimes quasi-literally), with an overindulgence of grad school thrown in. During and since my undergrad years, I’ve bartended and managed restaurants a lot—probably a total of seven or eight years’ worth of that time. I love that life, but it definitely takes a physical and mental toll that just became unsustainable. I’m definitely drawn back to that scene again and again, though. I do love a good bourbon.

In between and amongst those jobs, I went to grad school for advertising/copywriting, worked as a writer and editor for a San Francisco dot-com (during the boom and just before the bust), did a financial journalism gig, taught online English Composition courses, did some project-based freelance writing and editing for a few organizations (including a company in SF who gave me “naming gigs,” where I had to come up with names and URLs for new companies. There were all these rules to watch out for. You had to make sure a phrase-based URL didn’t end up unintentionally reading as unsavory—like, oh I don’t know, if you’re doing a site for a therapist named John Smith, you don’t want a URL that’s http://www.therapistJohnSmith.com, that kind of Arrested Development-type humor). This was years ago, however, when the internet was really starting to multiply, and quickly. People are much more savvy about those things now (I hope).

And of course, law school. I’ve been a lawyer/policy wonk for about five or six years now, and it seems like (especially given my financial investment in it) that this is the one that will stick.

Tell me about your current job.

Right now I’m a policy attorney for a statewide non-profit research and advocacy group called Voices for Virginia’s Children. I’ve been there for a few years, and before that was a legal aid attorney representing kids with education and school discipline issues. The subject areas I cover now include child welfare and foster care, juvenile justice, child homelessness and some general child poverty issues—most recently child hunger. Essentially, I write, research, analyze data, advocate, lobby, and attend a hell of a lot of meetings in order to bring to Virginia good laws/policies and fight bad laws/policies around children’s issues. I absolutely love it. It lets me tap into my journalism background to write articles and op-eds, use my legal background to actually write laws and regulations at times—and I totally thrive off of the lobbying part. A lot of people find lobbying for social justice issues, especially at the Virginia General Assembly, to be frustrating, annoying, and painful—which it is—but it’s an amazing study in human behavior and the power of persuasion—my favorite part of the job, by far.

How does your current work affect your writing?

I’d like to say that it doesn’t, but I think whenever you have to perform a couple of different identities within your life, each is affected by the other in some way. My job provides a nice counter-balance to the anything-goes world of poems—it’s still a persuasion-based job, but definitely in a rational, intellectual, responsible, real-world sort of way. This may sound terrible, but in my day job, I have to be a good person—and don’t get me wrong: I want to be and like being a good person, but poems give me a path to wrestle with the terrifying, difficult, absurd, imperfect, uncontrollable parts of the world in a much different but incredibly important way. As an attorney and a policy advocate, I can focus on actual change for the better. In poems, I can kind of tear a hole in that continuum and play around more with the scaffolding of it all. In policy, “good” is always the desired outcome. In poems, “good” rarely has anything to do with my goals—and sometimes it’s just desire itself that I want.

What do your co-workers think about your writing?

They don’t. I mean, for whatever reason, I just don’t tend to share much about that side of my life at work. The two versions of me–work self and writing self–seem like such different entities that it almost feels too vulnerable to share that part of my life in an environment where I need to have a kind of commanding presence, you know? Or else, it plays into my superstition that the more you talk about something, the less likely it will go the way you want it to. I know—it’s the least rational thing about me, but I think I’ve always been that way. I remember not even telling any family that I’d applied to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop until I knew I’d gotten in. Ditto with law school (control issues much?) And aside from that, I just think that there’s something a little too incongruous between law and poetry. In the legal world, it tends to make sense to others that someone would be a fiction writer, but no one really knows what to do with a poet (although that’s probably true everywhere outside the writing community/academia).

When do you do most of your writing?

I’ve persistently had a terrible writing schedule. By which I mean, for the most part, I have no schedule. I’ve never been a “write every day, even if it’s crap” kind of writer, and I’m a slow producer—ridiculously slow. Part of this, I think, is because I used to think about writing the way you’re supposed to think about credit card debt: Pick the highest interest rate card, and pay it down until it’s done. Then move on to the next. But in writing, that strategy was leading me to a kind of paralysis—getting hung up on the most challenging, wrenching piece was keeping me in a persistent stall mode. Finally finding a way to allow myself to move between projects was completely liberating—it was the best thing for my overall process to learn how to jump between work-writing, lighter poems, other essay ideas, and those heart-sucking poems that won’t ever leave you alone. Once I did that, it felt less excruciating to make time to sit down and write, and I stopped creating all the procrastination traps to keep me from the hard work of it.

I actually stopped writing altogether for about 10 years, for various reasons, beginning with the unexpected, sudden death of my closest friend, which led into the creative purgatory that is law school—a place that can kill both time and any adventure the mind might want to wander into. I’ve only picked it up again in the last two or three years—which, I think I knew I’d always come back to it, but needed to feel ready and able. Luckily, I think it’s been worth the wait—I feel much more confident in what I’m doing now than I ever have.

And now that I’m writing seriously again, with an eye toward a cohesive collection, I do some kind of writing work every day, whether it’s reading or dreaming or just chiseling away at a piece that’s in progress—I give myself more permission to see different kinds of work as writing. I usually write early in the morning, which is also kind of a revelation, because before my decade hiatus, I was mostly doing night shifts at restaurants, which meant I never really experienced mornings for the productive times they can be. I also write a lot on weekends, at all times of day, depending on my energy level and how close I am to finishing something.

Have you ever written at work? (I won’t tell anyone.)

Well, as long as it stays a secret just between us… Sure, I have, but only in the sense of jotting down a line or word or image I want to work on later. The paid job I do and the job of writing poems require me to be in two totally different brains, so it really only happens when my neurons slip a gear every now and then and something will stick with me enough that I just have to type it out so that I can get it out of my head for a while and get back to doing my job. And since I have an hour commute to work and back most days, sometimes I’ll turn on Siri on my iPhone and just talk some ideas out in the car as they happen. And sometimes it turns out Siri is a better writer than I am.

What would be your ideal job while writing poems?

I’m nearly there, I think—or else it doesn’t actually exist. Someone asked me this question recently, and I think my answer took the form of something like: having six months out of the year to just write, say April to September, with no other work obligations, and then the remaining six months to work on policy campaigns during the legislative session (which in Virginia runs from January through March). I’m not sure there’s a joint-advocacy/poetry foundation out there who would fund that, though. Is there? Call me.

related: from dissections to depositions, poets’ second jobs (npr)

how to train your brain to see what others don’t

09/09/13 3 Comments

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written by  for huffpost:

Charles Darwin had one of the greatest “aha!” moments in all of history when writing his magnum opus On The Origin of Species. After reading a book written 40 years earlier on population growth and resource competition, Darwin immediately saw the connection to the variation among species that he had observed in the Galapagos — and voila, the theory of natural selection was born.

“Darwin reads this book and says, ‘Wow, that’s it!’ That exemplifies the ‘aha!’ of getting the new piece of information, and seeing the implication and seeing how it fits,” cognitive psychologist Gary Klein, author of Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, tells The Huffington Post. “That was an unexpected shift in his understanding.”

These epiphanies and flashes of sudden clarity tend to come at the most unexpected moments. So do we have any control over these insights, and is there a way to train the brain to become more attuned to them? Insights may be unexpected, but we can actually teach ourselves to see connections that others may never notice.

“An insight is an unexpected shift in the way we understand things,” says Klein. “It comes without warning. It’s not something that we think is going to happen and that’s why it’s unexpected. It feels like a gift and in fact it is.”

Here are five things you should know about insight — and ways to bring more “aha!” moments into your life.

Be curious.

Being curious is the best way to become more insightful, says Klein, and a lack of insight often comes from being in a passive and disinterested state of mind.

“Curiosity is another engine of insight,” says Klein. “People who get insights see something that’s a little bit off, and instead of ignoring it, they’re curious about it. Curiosity keeps our mind engaged to work out the implications.”

Let your mind wander.

2012 psychological study found that daydreaming — passive though it may seem — actually involves a very active brain state, which is why the wandering mind can sometimes stumble upon brilliant insights and sudden connections. The researchers credit this phenomenon to the fact that daydreaming correlates with our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Recent neuroscience research has also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes involved in imagination and creativity.

“I worry about people who spend all their empty time when they’re not in conversations listening to music or podcasts or things like that, and not leaving any space to just daydream,” says Klein.

Pay attention to coincidences.

“Be more alert to anomalies,” Klein says, “rather than quickly explaining them away and staying in your comfort zone.”

We tend to ignore coincidences or not think much of them, because they’re often meaningless, says Klein. But looking for coincidences is a powerful way to make surprising connections.

“There’s a belief that correlation doesn’t imply causality, which is true. People see all sorts of correlations in coincides that turn out to be spurious, so they get a bad reputation,” Klein says. “But in my work I find that a lot of insights are fed by people spotting coincidences and making assumptions, and instead of just saying ‘It must be true,’ doing to follow-up work to find out if it’s true.”

Look closely at contradictions.

Insights can occur when we encounter ideas that don’t make sense to us.

Questioning contradictions is another path to epiphanies. Whereas curiosity makes us wonder, contradiction causes us to doubt — and it can be another powerful way to gain insights.

“Our tendency when we hit a contradiction that involves things we believe we understand well is to say, ‘Well, that must an anomaly.’ We have a marvelous set of techniques for explaining away inconvenient facts,” says Klein. “The contradiction only leads to an insight when people take it seriously enough to explore it a bit.”

Act on your insights.

Daydreaming isn’t the only state of mind that can lead to insights.

“I’ve found a number of examples where people were under tremendous pressure and came up with marvelous insights,” says Klein. “We should embrace urgency.”

This urgency forces people to look at things they’d otherwise ignore (what Klein refers to as “creative desperation”), and when they gain an insight, encourages them to act on it right away. This is frequently how chess grand masters try an unusual move that ends up being successful and winning the game for them.

“The problem with too many organizations is that they don’t feel any pressure to act on the insights they’ve had,” says Klein. “They act like they have all the time in the world and then they end up going out of business.”

related: zadie smith on “creativity and refusal” | 9 easy ways to create ideas |  20 ways to spawn million dollar ideas

leftovers

08/31/13 2 Comments

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often times in portraits, faces are the center of attention.  this photo series however takes away that center literally and pushes your attention elsewhere.  details via nytimes:

Visiting the town of Gulu in northern Uganda, the Italian photographer Martina Bacigalupo happened upon discarded portraits with the subjects’ faces removed. They led her to the Gulu Real Art Studio, where Obal Denis sold ID photos by cutting rectangles out of larger prints. Bacigalupo gathered Denis’s scraps and interviewed his customers. Many had been affected by the war in northern Uganda, which lasted some two decades. Taken for driver’s licenses, new job and loan applications, the photos were the means for Ugandans to start new chapters in their lives. The “leftovers,” as Bacigalupo calls the images — showing at the Walther Collection Project Space in New York next month — evoke in her mind both the “agony of an entire community” and its resilience.

you can check out some of the series in the gallery below.  as you do, see if you can glean each subject’s backstory from details like clothing & body language.  also, try to imagine the face that belongs in the blank space.   for more, be on the lookout for bacigalupo’s upcoming book “gulu real art studio”.

here’s a modern take on home building, spiced with ingenuity, persistence & brooklyn.  background via science friday:

Michele Bertomen and David Boyle bought an empty 20-by-40-foot lot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They planned to build something traditional, but when the bid for the masonary envelope (the building without plumbing, electricity) came back at over $300,000, they re-evaluated. Inspired by Bertomen’s students at New York Institute of Technology, the couple decided to try building their home from shipping containers–which cost them about $50,000 for the building envelope.  Bertomen, an architect, and Boyle, the general contractor, designed and oversaw construction of their home. We stopped by for a tour.

what do you think about michele & david’s home?  would you ever live in a building made with shipping containers or any other unusual material?

spotted @ npr’s fresh air.

related: 20 unusual homes from around the world | 14 exciting architectural moments in 2012

living inside the box

08/15/13 1 Comment

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