Happy Birthday Kafka

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While some posit that you could never be truly happy about anything, we know you’ve got a bit of an optimist hiding deep down inside.

Just look! You once said:

“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”

and:

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

and of course:

“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

Those that have dubbed you the eternal pessimist have refused to acknowledge this believer within you. Like so many others, what little was published during your lifetime garnered little public attention. Now people throw around the word Kafkaesque to sound cultured and in-the-know.

If you had known what would follow, would you still have left most of your full-length novels unfinished? Would you still have  burned 90 percent of your work?

Time’s funny that way. Happy birthday Kafka. We’re celebrating you now.

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The Only Risk of Knowledge is That You’ll Learn Something

Ooo dangerous.
Gujurat, India

Stuck mulling over the same ol’ field of thinking? Getting restless is a good sign.
It means your brain is craving for something more.

Challenge it.

Get that Ivy League education you always wanted. For free. Online. (Welcome to the future y’all)

Devour books old and new like they were going out of style. Kindle, you ain’t got nothing on nostalgia.

Remind yourself of Jefferson’s Democracy in less than 15 minutes with amazingly accessible YouTube crash courses.

The world is only getting larger and more easy to tap into every day.

What seeds of ideas have you planted lately?

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“America” Means Different Things to Different People

“I always liked the idea that America is a big facade. We are all insects crawling across on the shiny hood of a Cadillac. We’re all looking at the wrapping. But we won’t tear the wrapping to see what lies beneath.”
-Tom Waits

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Portrait of Portlandia

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ”
– John Ruskin

1467Touch down

1468Trainside Poetry: “I believe in the rule of opposites…”

1505The Good Mod

1511Coffeeshop Reads

1543Inside the Japanese Gardens

1547And then, the rain

1553One of the many reasons why Powell’s Books was top-notch

1581Sun peeks through

1594Relative to everywhere

I never thought a city could make me fall in love with the rain. I had always been ambivalent to its indecisiveness, halfway between a clear sky and a snowstorm. But the people of Portland welcome every drop. Instead of rushing inside when the leaking starts, they continue about their days, aptly pointing out that yes, “it’s just water.”

30 Things You Can Do in the Next 30 Minutes to Kickstart Your Creativity

Feeling stalled? Creativity juices running low? Time to get yourself back in the game with some of these small things that you can do right. this. second.
Remember, little actions make for big change over time.

If Hemingway can kick it up a notch, you can too

1. Try to write a sentence backwards. Whatever word first pops into your head must be the last word of your sentence. Continue picking words until you have a phrase that makes sense. Force your brain to think in new ways.

2. Reorganize your bookshelves by color. You decide where to start the rainbow.

3. Cut up a photo and rearrange it entirely. Become a Picasso of the modern age.

4. Go read a bit of a book or two. Marvel at how one author’s voice is completely distinct from another’s. No tome nearby? Dive into this free online library of 40,000 titles.

5. Write a letter to someone you haven’t chatted with in a while. Draw pictures in the margins of memories you shared and laughed over once. Perhaps make plans to make more memories soon.

6. Write with your non-dominant hand. Now draw. Which method is more appealing?

7. Learn how to say one phrase in another language. Ngiyajabula ukukwazi! (“Pleased to meet you” in Zulu)

8. Pick an image by a famous photographer or artist that you find particularly stunning and recreate it only using objects you have in the room.

9. Meditate.

10. Ask someone what was the best movie they ever saw. Pick their brain as to why that one still stands out in their mind.

11. Write a haiku that would make your grandmother faint. No holds barred.

12. Go for a walk. Choose a path you’ve never taken before.

13. Reorganize your bookshelves by books you love and books you still need to read.

14. Turn money into art! Instantly!

15. Think up five terrible puns. The more groan-worthy the better.  Despite evidence that they should be, puns will never be a sick bird (ill+eagle = illegal =groaaan).

16. Question a long-held ideal of yours. What makes you stuck in your ways on this subject?

17. Snap pictures of only things that start with the letter “C”. Pick a new letter tomorrow.

18. Use chopsticks to do something other than eat food. 

19. Listen to one of your favorite songs. Mentally choreograph a dance that would match it perfectly.

20. Print out any of these images. Color outside of the lines if you wish.

21. Write yourself a message that you can only read when you hold up it up to a mirror.

22. Invent a character. Decide its name, age, favorite cereal and how it views the world. What kind of person would it befriend?

23. Throw away something that you thought you needed.

24. Reorganize your bookshelves in whatever way that makes you happy. If that means putting the books in the pantry and the canned goods on the bookshelves, give it a go.

25. Journal.

26. Make up new lyrics to a well-loved song. They can be ridiculous, referential, or reverent as long as they are different.

27. Pick a random spot in a distant country on Google Maps and zoom all the way in. You will feel tiny and overwhelmed and inspired.

28. Create a word map. Connect the dots between disparate ideas.

29. List everything in this world that you love. Combine as many of these as you can into your day.

30. Get uncomfortable, get crafty, create. 

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Spotted: The Artist Formerly Known as Le Petit Prince

One certain French novella is so prolific and so well-loved that the world continues to celebrate it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Saint Ex’s Le Petit Prince is both the most read and most translated book in the French language, available in over 250 languages and dialects. Its story of love and truth is universal. And now a handful of artists have taken this classic tale to the streets. Take a look at how they have memorialized the little prince and his visit to Earth.

“I feel out of place like the Little Prince on Earth”, Montmartre, Paris, France

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia

Havana, Cuba

Buenos Aires, Argentina

San José, Costa Rica

Lyon, France

“We only see clearly with our hearts. The essential is invisible to the eye…”, Canada

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Books Aren’t Just for Reading Anymore

Whether on a small or large scale, these clever projects will make you think twice about the power of a good book.

Artist: Johnathan Callan

Artist: Mike Stilkey

Artist: Brian Dettmer

Artist: Robert The

Artist: Guy Laramee

Artist: Jennifer Koshbin

Artist: Alex Queral

Artist: Su Blackwell

Artist: Alicia Martin

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Love Lessons from Stoppard

From “The Invention of Love,” a play in which Stoppard focuses on Latin-scholar Housman’s life and his relationships with his peers and professors (including Pater, Wilde, and Ruskin).

He postulates on the catalysts for this crazy little thing we call love:

“They loved, and quarreled, and made up, and loved, and fought, and were true to each other and untrue. She made him the happiest man in the whole world and the most wretched, and after a few years she died, and then, when he was thirty, he died, too. But by that time Catullus had invented the love poem.”

A great deal of the play concerns itself with the importance of education – even outside of the typical confines of the university. This passage is easily one of my favorites:

“The Renaissance teaches us that the book of knowledge is not to be learned by rote but is to be written anew in the ecstasy of living each moment for the moment’s sake. Success in life is to maintain this ecstasy, to burn always with this hard gem-like flame. Failure is to form habits. To burn with a gem-like flame is to capture the awareness of each moment; and for that moment only. To form habits is to be absent from those moments. How may we always be present for them?—to garner not the fruits of experience but experience itself?”

This play was another one of my gifts from the holiday season. While not as famous as some of his other works (Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), I’ve found it to be immersive and quite moving. If you’re in the mood for an intellectual and imaginative journey with Mr. Stoppard, this one is a good bet.

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Japan

Here’s the start of a new series highlighting theatre trends from around the globe. This big old world is a fascinating place – let’s take a look beyond our own country’s border shall we?

First up, Japan:

Nothing better than ladies strutting their stuff on stage right? The gals of Takarazuka, Japan sure think so.

Promo Poster – Casablanca

The Takarazuka Revue (宝塚歌劇団) is a Japanese all-female musical theater troupe. Ladies play every role in larger-than-life, Broadway style productions. All of the women in the troupe work for the Hankyu Takarazuka rail line.

5 Reasons why the Troupe is Fascinating:

–       The Revue was founded in 1913 as a way to boost train ticket sales and draw additional business to the town. The company  now performs for 2.5 million people per year.

–       The troupe is highly competitive and only accepts 40 to 50 girls each year from the thousands across Japan that audition. Once accepted into the super strict program, the women are trained in music, dance, and acting, and are given seven-year contracts.

–       Within the first year, teachers decide who will be best suited for the male and female roles. Those playing a man’s role, otokoyaku, cut their hair short, take on a more masculine role in the classroom, and speak in the masculine form.

–       This stuff is popular with the ladies. The otokoyaku represents the woman’s idealized man without the roughness or need to dominate, the “perfect” man who can not be found in the real world. It is these male-roles that offer an escape from the strict, gender-bound real roles lauded in Japanese society.

–       They often adapt classic Western novels, films, and musicals. Just a few of their past productions include Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate, Phantom, Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Ernest in Love (an adaptation of The Importance of Being Ernest).

Clip of “The Muffin Song” from the aforementioned Ernest in Love.
At the end of this clip, you can catch a glimpse of the actors nearly breaking on stage.

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