Even for the most prolific of writers, the well does run dry sometimes. Yes, the writer must have the discipline to sit in the chair (BICHOK: butt in chair hands on keyboard) and write, but what if you sit there for fifteen minutes staring at a blank page and blinking cursor? What can you do to jumpstart that creative side of the brain?
Here are a few tricks I try (before giving up to sit in a lounge chair on the beach with a fruity umbrella drink—I'm joking... sort-of... well... a liquid restorative might be part of the plan, but the beach part is not doable where I live).
Over the years, I have collected late 18th C and early 19th C music or music from period movies. I then collected all the tracks into a playlist on Windows Media Player. So I simply start at the top and let the music impart the sense of place and expansiveness of movement in that space.
Hey, who doesn't like scrolling through beautiful pictures? Take a look at my Georgian-Regency board. Those pins are a good jumping off point to other pins or websites with blogs and pictures.
I'll pull out a random book from my shelves of research books and leaf through it. Sometimes, I'll get an inkling of an idea that after I dash off a few hundred or a few thousand words dies the horrible death of deletion, but once I start writing, I am writing.
I'm a reproduction furniture catalog junkie. I love reading those catalogs and imagining the pieces in my characters' homes. I also enjoy looking through gardening magazines to imagine terrace and other outdoor scenes. Pictures of British country manors is pure unadulterated pleasure. Oh, to be able to actually go and see some of those houses!
Retail therapy at the writing supply stores. I'll buy a beautiful journal or thick creamy notepaper and a fresh bottle of ink (I love my lovely Mont Blanc fountain pen) or a new fangled smooth-as-butter fine-tip pen, and start writing out the scene that's percolating but not germinating. Something in the physical act of writing longhand—the cramping fingers, the hand moving across smooth paper, the flowing ink, the words appearing in blue (or violet or black or green) on the page in my handwriting—makes the words come easier and with wider latitude.
If all else fails, there's always the restorative, jus' sayin'...
Monday, June 17, 2013
Even for the most prolific of writers, the well does run dry sometimes. Yes, the writer must have the discipline to sit in the chair (BICHOK: butt in chair hands on keyboard) and write, but what if you sit there for fifteen minutes staring at a blank page and blinking cursor? What can you do to jumpstart that creative side of the brain?
Friday, June 14, 2013
We all have known this fear. It's the fear that causes me to take 50-pounds of books when traveling to international destinations. (Due to migraine issues I can't read eBooks.)
[Image courtesy of Smart Bitches.]
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
"On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The popular show was the first-ever retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England's celebrated portrait painter. Two centuries later, this e-gallery offers the modern visitor a historical reconstruction of that long-lost Regency blockbuster. Enter via the Rowlandson print below, the original 1813 catalogue, or the floor plan."
The Infant Academy, The Gypsy Fortune Teller, Portrait of Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra, and the Laughing Girl were some of the paintings by Reynolds that Kenwood House now owns and were shown in the Seattle exhibit that I went to and talked about on Monday.
To think: my eyes rested on the same paintings that Jane Austen's eyes had rested upon. My word!
Monday, June 10, 2013
English Heritage site Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath just out of London is the home of the Iveagh Bequest Art Collection. It was acquired by Edward Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh in the 1880s–1890s. He collected the Old Masters, Dutch and Flemish painters, as well as British ones. His interest was primarily portraits, but he added landscapes to his collection also. Kenwood House itself is worth a visit with architecture by Robert Adam, gorgeous interiors (the library and orangery are of note), and landscape design by Repton.
Currently, Kenwood House is under renovation and so its art, including the famous Rembrandt self portrait on the right, is on travel. Nearly fifty works are on a North American tour, of which Seattle is one stop. The touring show is called "Rembrandt, van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London." The tour visited Houston in June 2012, Milwaukee in October 2012, and then arrived in Seattle in February 2013. As of today, the paintings are headed out of the U.S.
I was primarily interested in the British portraiture artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, namely, Van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and George Romney and landscape artists Gainsborough and Joseph Turner since those were the painters most popular during the Regency.
English art of portraiture came into being in the 17th C with Van Dyck's elegant paintings. He was the court painter to King Charles I, and his work was hung in English aristocratic country houses and town homes and inspired generations that British portrait artists.
Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, was a pure portrait artist and was heavily influenced by Van Dyck and Reuben. One of his earliest portraits was of the Angerstein Children wherein he developed his signature style that is best showcased by the portrait of Lady Louisa Manners, thereby giving his style the title "Grand Manner Portraits."
Since the Royal Academy paintings were hung from up above with the bottom edge being 5'6" off the ground, painters tended to paint humans with long elongated bodies to compensate for the viewing angles in those days.
The Infant Academy is a departure from Reynolds's usual style, it's whimsical turning away from the Van Dyck classical learning to paint life as simply as he saw it.
Reynolds's chief rival for art commissions and Royal Academy wall space was Gainsborough. They tried to out-do each other in the drama and size of their paintings and garnering commissions from the wealthiest of patrons.
Gainsborough's Mary, Countess of Howe is considered one of the essential masterpieces of English painting and an icon of English feminine beauty. This is his third life-size full-length portrait. Another of his well-known works is Lady Brisco, also a life-size full-length portrait.
Gainsborough drew inspiration for his landscapes in the country motifs and architecture in the region around Bath. He claimed that while portrait painting was his profession, landscape painting was his pleasure. Some of his well-known landscapes are: Greyhounds Coursing a Fox (his third largest work executed in the style of Flemish painter Frans Snyder), and Two Shepherd Boys with Two Dogs Fighting.
Reynolds's and Gainsborough's portraiture fell under the heading Allegorical Paintings or History Paintings. They depict scenes from the Bible or Greek and Roman mythology (extending to even Cleopatra). This was considered the most respected artistic genre of 18th C and early 19th C England. An example is The Honorable Mrs. Tollemache where the lady is presented as Miranda from Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Life is a Vine of Tomatoes...
The goals of The Pomodoro Technique, a time management system by Francesco Cirillo, are to "eliminate the anxiety of time" and to "enhance focus and concentration."
"The Pomodoro Technique is based on the achievement of incremental objectives, one at a time, and on the development of a pleasant way to systematically observe, track, and evaluate time [spent] to enable self-improvement." In other words, it helps to banish the productivity lag introduced by the myth of multitasking goodness by focusing on one task at a time, finishing it and only then moving on to the next task, and improving your time and quality of work the next time you do the same or similar task.
Before I begin explaining the system, here are some handy-dandy worksheets that you'll need: the Cheat Sheet, a To Do Today list and a Activity Inventory list.
Choose a time period, such as a week. Write down all the activities that you want to accomplish in that week on the Activity Inventory list. Then every morning, select the tasks you need to complete that day, and write them down on the To Do list. Three-quarters of the way down that list, create a heading called "Unplanned & Urgent" for activities that show up as interruptions.
This is how it works. You set a 25-minute timer and start working on the first task on your To Do list. At 25 minutes, when the timer rings, stop working, and take a break for five minutes. This was one Pomodoro. Once your break is over, reset the timer for 25 minutes, and start work on your second Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros, a Pomodoro set, take a longer break of 30 minutes.
Put an "X" next to the task for every Pomodoro it takes to complete it. For weekly self-assessment purposes, create a table where you write down the date, the category of task, the name of the task, and how many Pomodoros it took to achieve the task. This way, you can assess how long it takes you to complete tasks of a certain category, tasks of a certain type, individual tasks, etc. It also allows you to then set new goals for time and quality improvements on recurring tasks.
If you finish the first task in the middle of a Pomodoro, either go over the first task or start the second task on the list and continue working till the Pomodoro rings. A Pomodoro is indivisible, so you cannot further break it down. Once you start working on a Pomodoro, the timer has to ring; you cannot stop halfway through. (More on interruptions later.) Make sure the break is a relaxing one, and not something where you start an engrossing task that will spill over into the time for the next Pomodoro. Once you begin your first Pomodoro, you have to steadily continue working throughout the day, barring interruptions.
Internal interruptions occur when you remember a new task that needs to be completed or you get the sudden urge to raid the fridge or you start dreaming of that beach vacation you'd like to have some day, etc. When you realize that you're interrupting your Pomodoro, put an "apostrophe" next to the task on the To Do list. Then continue working on your original task. If new task needs to be done that day, add it to the section called Unplanned & Urgent Tasks of the To Do list, otherwise add it to the Activity Inventory list. After you've completed the first task, you can then choose to pick up this new task to do.
External interruptions occur when you get a phone call, someone stops by with a question, etc. situations that occur in office-type environments. Every time this happens, address them as quickly and efficiently as possible, add a "hyphen" on the To Do list next to the original task, and continue working on it. Add the new tasks if any to the Unplanned & Urgent Tasks list or the Activity Inventory list.
Sometimes, interruptions have to be addressed in the moment with no regard to the original task. In that case, void the current Pomodoro, even if it was set to ring within a few minutes, do the urgent task, and restart your original task with a fresh Pomodoro. Remember, a Pomodoro is indivisible.
At the end of the day, record how many internal vs. external interruptions occurred during the day. Over the week, reflect on whether the interruptions have a pattern and what can be done to minimize them. Sometimes, it's as simple as letting other people know that when you're working on a Pomodoro, you do not appreciate interruptions. They can come talk to you in the break after your four-Pomodoro set. Sometimes, it's a matter of self-discipline to ignore procrastinations. This acts as a carrot to get you to be more efficient with your time.
Based on your one week's record, you should be able to estimate how many Pomodoros you'll need for the same or similar tasks next week. Based on your knowledge of other tasks and your capabilities, you can also estimate how many Pomodoros you'll need. So when you set up a daily To Do list, you can put the number of boxes of estimated Pomodoros next to each task. Then as you work through Pomodoros, put an "X" in each of the boxes. Interruptions are recorded as previously mentioned.
So now, on the record sheet, you have estimated and real Pomodoros columns. What the estimation method does is that at the end of the second week, you can assess your ability to appraise a particular task. On which tasks did you overestimate the time required and for which ones did you underestimate the time required. Was it due to interruptions or simply the nature of the work? Do certain tasks at certain times of the day take you longer? Can you move them to a different spot in your day next week? As a result of this self-valuation, you improve your efficiency in task-time allocation for future tasks without sacrificing quality. At the same time, you gain insight into your capabilities and how you work.
The Pomodoro method has been integrated with several productivity applications. For example, Kanban Flow uses the technique to improve your focus, to time track tasks, and to track and measure any interruptions to your focus.
You can participate in mutual online support with other folks who're trying out the technique at Pomodoro World and My Tomatoes, or you can sync up with fellow enthusiasts at meetups and conferences via the Pomodoro Technique site.
If you're into cool gadgets and apps, the Pomodoro Technique site offers Pomodoro timers and the company Gigaom offers free online timers.
One of the downsides of The Pomodoro Technique is that the efficiency and improved quality of work gained as a result of applying the system will only continue if the method is followed as described. Taking shortcuts or license from prescribed rituals will diminish the benefits.
Do read the full book by Francesco Cirillo available as a free PDF download.
Friday, May 31, 2013
This is the Standard of Ur from southern Iraq from about 2600–2400 BCE. At that time, Ur was the capital of an empire stretching across southern Mesopotamia. Known today as Tell el-Muqayyar, the Mound of Pitch, the city of Ur was occupied from around 5000 BCE to 300 BCE.
The British Museum says that the object below "was found in one of the largest graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, lying in the corner of a chamber above the right shoulder of a man. Its original function is not yet understood."
"The main panels are known as 'War' and 'Peace'. 'War' shows one of the earliest representations of a Sumerian army. Chariots, each pulled by four donkeys, trample enemies; infantry with cloaks carry spears; enemy soldiers are killed with axes, others are paraded naked and presented to the king who holds a spear. The 'Peace' panel depicts animals, fish and other goods brought in procession to a banquet. Seated figures, wearing woolen fleeces or fringed skirts, drink to the accompaniment of a musician playing a lyre."
[Image courtesy of Wamtac.]
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
In the blog on Monday, May 27, 2013, I introduced the basic concept of the book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy.
Continuing on... How do you create the daily prioritized list of tasks?
In order to do so, I ask myself, "Which is the one activity that if I did in an excellent and timely fashion would have the greatest positive impact on the project as a whole or my life?" Thus, I use long-term consequences to make my near-term decisions.
The thing that I, personally, have been and continue to be guilty of is that I'm tempted to clear up the small things first. The thinking is that these are things that I can finish up quickly and that will make me feel accomplished and on top of things. Whereas the reverse is true. Time management is really life management, and while I am free to choose what to spend my time on, my ability to choose between important and unimportant things will determine my successes day-to-day and in the long-term.
Identifying the key constraints of all the tasks also determines the order of execution of the tasks. Say, I'm waiting for something to be delivered to me by someone else before I can start on my part of the project, then I can schedule that task for the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, even if, it is the most important thing on my list for that day. In this case, the ugly morning frog will have to be the ugliest of all the frogs in my control and not dependent upon others.
An important determiner of the order of tasks is my assessment of my daily health and special needs. Say, my energy levels always flag around 10 o'clock and pick up after lunch at 1 o'clock. Well, then the ugliest frogs are set for the first half of the morning, unimportant tasks for mid-morning, and the lesser frogs for early afternoon.
Sometimes a project is too large and unwieldy to be tackled in one big chunk. So after it is broken down in various sub-tasks, the sub-tasks can be sequenced in order to get the whole project done.
These are some of the ways in which to develop a prioritized list of tasks to do on a daily basis.
One thing to remember is to unitask, that is, focus on only one task at time, and finish it before moving on to the next task on the list. See the blog on May 20, 2013 to learn how and why unitasking is better than multitasking.
Another thing to remember is to "develop a sense of urgency in everything you do," according to Brian Tracy. Once you start a task, develop the habit of working immediately and fast on it.
The unitasking and fast action help in achieving a task quicker with higher quality. It results in a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Monday, May 27, 2013
I've blogged about the book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy before. Lately, I picked up the book again and felt motivated to re-do my previous blog on it with added new information.
Eat That Frog! refers to the Mark Twain mantra: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."
According to Tracy: "Your frog is your biggest, most important task of the day, the one you're most likely to procrastinate on. It is also the one task that can have the greatest possible impact on your life and results at the moment. [So] tackle your major task first thing each morning before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first."
The way I interpret this is that I should plan my day in advance (say, the night before or at the start of the day) by creating and typing up a prioritized list of tasks I want to get done that day.
"There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing." So the first thing I tackle the next day morning is either the most significant task and/or the most 'procrastinable' task. The latter is the task that I'm most reluctant to get done—it might be something I have been putting off for days. So getting that done and out of the way in the morning itself will take the pressure off from the rest of my day.
"Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, you feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem," says Brain Tracy. "The more important the completed task, the happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well, and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life."
Who wouldn't want these feel-good endorphins first thing in the morning? Especially when, I don't have to have burning pain in my legs or heaving sides to get it? Frog legs for the win! Bon Appétit!
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Gale R. Owen-Crocker of Medievalists.net has a great post on how the clothes of the guys in the Bayeux Tapestry often depicts the status and character of the men involved.
For example, "We then Guy [Count of Ponthieu,(d.1100)] being confronted by William’s messengers who look bigger and more intimidating then the men from Ponthieu. Guy is now shown wearing a cloak over an embroidered tunic with colorful yellow and green garters and carrying an axe. Owen-Crocker believes that the tunic he is wearing was made of fur, making the count look decadent and wimpy."
The post's definitely worth a read.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Parterre at Edzell Castle in Scotland
[Image is courtesy of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Gardens of the University of Greenwich.]
Monday, May 20, 2013
I shall be doing a short series of productivity blogs here next.
I have blogged on Monk Mind: How to Increase Your Focus by Leo Babauta before. I'm combining those previous posts into one here.
The buzzword of the late 1990s and 2000s was multitasking. Everyone wanted to be multitasking or wanted it bruited about that they were efficient multitaskers.
But the key question these high achievers failed to ask was: Were they effective as multitaskers? That is, at the end of the day, given the same set of tasks, did the multitaskers or the unitaskers achieve more in terms of quality and quantity?
Has this ever happened to you? You're reading a document, when it suddenly reminds you of the email your friend sent to you yesterday that you hadn't replied to, so you open your email program, only to find two high priority emails from your boss that you start answering, only to be interrupted by your co-worker calling you for lunch. And so your mid-morning goes, by the end of which, all you've achieved is a meal.
Behavior and social scientists now believe that constant context-switching between various tasks causes people to be less effective overall. For something like walking and chewing gum, multitasking works. For something like, writing a scene of your book with complex fight choreography and also having a protracted discussion via email on the minutiae of book contract negotiations, multitasking is counterproductive to achieving the milestones for either of the two tasks.
Every time you switch away from task one to task two, you have to reload all the details about task two in your mind before you can start working. Similarly, switching back to task one requires you to reload those set of details, and back and forth.
In Monk Mind, blogger Leo Babauta explodes the myth that multitaskers are getting more work done and are getting more satisfaction from that work, in terms of quality and sense of achievement.
So for the intellectually challenging tasks, tasks that require a lot of attention and care, tasks involving physical and emotional intimacy, etc., unitasking is to be lauded and actively pursued, because focusing on single tasks is the way to go in order to achieve success.
How do you go about focusing the mind on a single task? Take the case of writing an article for a magazine.
Clear Away Distractions
Close all email systems, browsers, and social media programs.
Turn off all notifications.
Disconect your computer from the Internet.
Clear your desk of all pieces of paper except for those necessary for your selected task. As in the case of writing the article, you'll need your folder of research material, interview transcripts, and notes.
Leave only the programs open that are necessary for achieving your selected task. So for the article, perhaps you'll need the folder where you've saved your research and nascent article files and your word processing program.
Plug in headphones, whether you play music or not is up to you. Headphones cut out ambient sound and also signal to other people that Serious Work Is In Progress.
Now, do nothing but that one task.
Practice Doing One Thing
If you can't focus on one task for more than a few minutes, start out with small goals in the begining. Say, you'll work on your task for five minutes, then reward yourself by taking a one-minute break to read email. Slowly build up to ten minutes on, one minute off; and so on. Be sure to have a timer set so that you can accurately build this up. In his article, Leo writes, "Set up a positive feedback cycle for single-tasking focus, and you’ll reverse the years of training your mind has gotten to switch tasks."
Sounds overly simplistic? Give it a try. The mind is flexible and can be retrained.
In conclusion, Leo writes, "While a few years ago I couldn’t sit down to work on something without quickly switching to email or one of my favorite Internet forums or sites, today I can sit down and write. I can clear away distractions, when I set my mind to it, and do one thing. And that changes everything: you lose yourself in that task, become so immersed that you pour everything you have into the work, and it becomes a meditative, transformative experience. Your happiness increases, stress goes down, and [quality of] work improves."
However, busy moms will still prize multitasking. For example, here's what writer Monica Trasandes wrote in the December 2012 issue of Real Simple: "Recently I found myself walking toward the kitchen with a load of laundry in my arms, two empty coffee cups dangling from my fingers, and car keys tucked between my chin and the clothes."
I think Trasandes is a lightweight. I'd have a book tucked under one arm, a purse dangling from that elbow, the mugs held in one hand, while an empty water bottle and a board game are firmly clasped in the other hand, in addition to the laundry and keys.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Memorabilia, the detritus of one's life and also the raison d'être.
In his article "Flights of Fancy" for the April 2013 issue of the Smithsonian, playwright David Mamet waxes eloquent on his collection of memorabilia and the stories behind the items. "My various workplaces are cork-walled and covered in remembrances, of the early motion picture studios, of the railroads, of long-forgotten politicals wars."
Now, most romance readers collect author promo items, which we call swag. So let's have it: What is in your collection, swag or memorabilia? And where do you put it?
Most of my authorial swag is in paper form and is in binders of plastic sleeves. I have one sleeve dedicated to each of my top favorite authors and then sometimes shared sleeves for author groups (authors who are friends, fellow bloggers, write in the same sub-genre, etc.). In each sleeve, I have signed coverflats, post-its, bookmarks, postcards, handwritten notes, trading cards, and business cards. Other than binders, I have totes, pens, chapstick, chip clips, compacts, pens, hand mirrors, pens, coasters, and writing pads, which I use every day. It keeps the memory of the authors and their books alive in my mind every time I see one of those items.
One of my most favorite items of non-authorial swag is the concert program and ticket of Zubin Mehta's appearance as the conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. What a concert that was—a symphony :) of Webern and Beethoven.
Another treasured part of my collection is the set of five original colored prints of Regency gowns from the catalog La Belle Assemblée.
Here's a picture of one of my cork boards chockablock with memories:
(Click on the image to see a bigger version.)
Top left is Nora Roberts's annual magnet showing book releases by month as well as a calendar for the year. Below that is a small postcard of the Tibetan Festival I attended four years ago here. Under that is the aqua card from my husband that reminds me to "Listen Closely" because he knows that a writer is in the process of becoming. The rare Bridgertons bookmark by Julia Quinn hangs off the bottom left edge and is cozied up to a collection of four make-believe vintage romance novel covers. Above that is a picture of a study filled with warm wood furniture and lots of sunlight streaming in through the wide windows. This is my dream of a study to sit and write in.
"Park your car. Drive Fluevog." is a sticker sign that Canadian speciality shoemaker John Fluevog puts out. Above that are two wonderful memories of a Hawaiian trip: a wooden postcard with dolphins and whales and a wooden ukulele bookmark. Above the ukulele are three versions of my business cards. Below it is a bookmark by a person on eBay who designed my custom ex libris bookplates.
The bookmark from Titlepage and the occasional tweet by Odile reminds me of an attempt at an online literary disucssion circle with authors, a virtual soapbox that is a 21st century version of the Algonquin Round Table, produced and presented by Daniel Menaker.
Right above that is a bookmark from The Beau Monde, a special interest chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Next to this bookmark is a filligree metal bookmark of Sydney, sent to me by friend and author Anna Campbell. And right above that is my favorite button of all time: SquawkRadio. It was a group of five authors (Eloisa James, Connie Brockway, Christina Dodd, Lisa Kleypas, and Elizabeth Bevarly) who came together to create one of the very first online group author blogs. SquawkRadio was also my first introduction to the online romance community, affectionately known as Romancelandia.
Top right is the cardboard insert that came with my Jane Austen action figure—she came with a writing desk, quill, and a seriously fashionable outfit. To the left of that is a bookmark reminding me to "never judge a book by its movie," not that I am in danger of doing so. Below that is a post-it by fave historical author Candice Hern. Business cards from The Perfumed Court and Threadless highlight my current interests in perfume samples (including Queen Victoria's and Audrey Hepburn's faves) and crowdsourced, original art T-shirts.
Front center is my aboslute favorite photograph: My ideal of where I'd like to be 24x7: On a beach, on a sunny, warm, afternoon, sitting in a comfy chair with a cool drink on the table next to me, listening to the waves and reading a book. Below that is a lotion bottle wrapper from Island Bath and Body in Plumeria-Vanilla—Hawaiian heaven in a bottle. The button below that features some of the group of then aspiring and now published romance writers who used to frequent the SquawkRadio blog and the Eloisa James message board: The Bon Bons.
To the right of that is a gorgeous handmade purse of lavendar silk, plaid top, and beaded outline and handle. It's not a purse that can see heavy usage, but is a minor sort of a coin purse purely for your viewing pleasure. To the right of that is a tea bag packet from the tin of Fortnum and Mason tea I had picked up on my trip to London (part one, part two, and part three).
Top center is a picture of a completely chaotic office, where the mother's sitting under the desk and the baby in diapers rules the roost by commanding the room's computer. In his essay, Mamet laments the advent of the computer. "One unfortunate byproduct of [the computer] is the elimination of the physical artifact: the flight log, the sectional map, the postcard, the pin-back button and the poster—in short, of memorabilia."
Friday, May 10, 2013
Take a look at the immensity of The Long Room Library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. It makes you take a deep breath, doesn't it? All those books waiting to be read. It's awe-inspiring!
[Image courtesy of The Gentleman Scholar.]
Monday, May 6, 2013
The Library of Alexandria in Egypt has always been considered as one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world. "Oppression and fear of learning have obliterated almost all memories of ancient Alexandria," writes Carl Sagan in Cosmos. "Yet this place was once the brain and glory of the greatest city on the planet, the first true research institute in the history of the world." (Carl Sagan may be forgiven a lot, including his blindness towards the ancient, advanced civilizations of the East, namely, China and India.)
Scholars of Alexandria explored philosophy, literature, chemistry, biology, medicine, physics, astronomy, geography, mathematics, engineering, and history. "Science and scholarship had come of age [in Alexandria]," writes Sagan. Open-minded pursuit of knowledge for the sake of learning, questioning, refuting or digesting was the order of the day among the diverse peoples of the city. Encouraged by Alexander the Great, his namesake city, Alexandria became the center of learning, culture, and also commerce. The library also served as home to a host of international scholars, who were provided with research, travel, and lodging stipends for themselves and their families.
The Greek kings, who succeeded Alexander, were also serious about learning and research. The library consisted of research halls, a large dining hall, fountains and colonnades, botanical gardens, a zoo, dissecting rooms, an observatory, and meeting rooms where scholars could gather for critical discussion and debate. The library itself is known to have an acquisitions department and a cataloguing department located close to the stacks.
Of course, the heart of the library, as with any library, were the books. The original founders and succeeding directors combed the world's civilizations for books. They bought up libraries, copied books that could not be bought, wrested books from personal libraries, and yes, also stole ones that were otherwise unavailable. The scholars also produced new works that were An estimated half a millions books, in the form of papyrus scrolls, were shelved there.
Thus, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria led to an immeasurable loss of knowledge that affects us to this day. We know some of what we lost—some of it took nearly two thousand years to rediscover—some we don't know how to figure out, and most of it is gone forever. Imagine what we could've known of history, astronomy, biology, and engineering had the texts survived!
[Credit for these images goes to Living Moon.]
Posted on: 5/06/2013 08:00:00 AM
Copyright 2007–2013 Keira Soleore (keirasoleore.blogspot.com)
Friday, May 3, 2013
A photograph of the opulent drawing room in Bashir Bagh palace in Hyderabad, India taken in 1888. The photograph was shot by India's legendary photographer Raja Deen Dayal.
[Image courtesy of the BBC.]
Monday, April 29, 2013
Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire is the most complete Georgian playhouse in Britain today.
It was built by actor-manager Samuel Butler in 1788. In its heyday, the 200-seat theater hosted figures from Georgian star Edmund Kean to Dame Sybil Thorndike, Joyce Grenfell, and Alan Bennett.
The theater is still in its original form today with its original boxes, furnishings, stage, box office, and other features. One of them includes kicking boards, which audiences would use to make their disapproval heard.
The theater was closed in 1848, reopened in 1963, and restored and extended 2003. However, only restoration work has been done on the building: no refits; thereby retaining everything the way it was when it was built. However, further restoration works still needs to be done, and so the theater is launching a fundraising campaign to save it from closure.
These days, in addition to a regular bill of plays, music concerts, and talks, the playhouse also houses a 180-member youth theater.
One of the one-person character plays currently playing is vignettes from the Georgian era's most beloved writers: Jane Austen. In Austen's Women, "thirteen of Jane Austen's most celebrated female characters are brought to life in this bold revisiting of scenes of high comedy and moments of pathos." Using only Austen's words, Austen's Women offers a distillation of 19th century feminism.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
Ruins of the medieval Nevitsky Castle are located in the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine.
The castle was built in the 13th century on a hill above the river valley of Uzh on the former site of a wooden fort. It was the mighty citadel of the Drugeth family. "In 1241, the castle was destroyed by the Mongol-Tatar hordes, but in the second half of the 13th century the castle was rebuilt. It was reconstructed several times and acquired its final shape in the early 16th century. In 1644, the castle was captured and destroyed by the Transylvanian governor György Rákóczi. Since then, the castle has not been restored." Go HERE for many more pictures.
[Image courtesy of UkraineTrek.com and thanks to @NevitskyCastle for the link.]