Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent by James Schuyler

"Advent" by James Schuyler

Open my eyes on the welcome
rosy shock of sunshine.

Open the first little door
of my Advent calendar:

a darling hobby horse
on wheels. Open

the window a crack: and
quickly close it against

a knife-like draught. The day
looks warmer than it is.


I’m not sure how I made it through this year. With all the Trump triggers. The mashup every Friday of an executive order that disenfranchises some segment of the US population. The frenzy of weekend tweets sure to distract. How did I manage to accomplish anything!

Yet unbelievably I’ve had more success this year than ever. Not only a book contract for a novel I’ve been trying to sell forever, but 13 acceptances of “Other Writing” plus an eBook, Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing. Whew!


Nevertheless, glad to see the end of 2017, and the advent of 2018, opening the little window on a new year and hopefully some surprises.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cycle Touring: It’s about problem solving

When I tell people about my various bicycling tours they usually blurt out, That doesn’t sound fun! They’re right. A lot of it is simply crazy. As a solo woman cyclist my tours are mostly about problem solving. One after another.

Take for instance my very first solo international trip. I figured England: they speak English! It should be flat! Not sure why I thought that. Maybe I was contemplating that saying about being led down the garden path. That phrase refers to being deceived, by the way. So I booked a flight.

I practiced taking the bike apart for the box and quickly reassembling it. I planned how I was going to get to and from the airport and manage check in and odd-sized carry-on, explaining to TSA what a spork is and that it isn’t lethal. Yet nothing prepared me for missing the international leg of the flight. The hurry of arriving early at O’Hare Airport had no impact whatsoever on the fact that my Air Canada plane would be late thus a stopover in Montreal turned into a layover. I asked if I could get the next flight out to London. Sure. That would be in 24 hours!

Really. They only flew one time a day. So I spent a night at a hotel courtesy of Air Canada. This did not assuage my fears. I had train reservations. Lovely hard-fought tickets for a night train to Thurso, Scotland where I was to begin my trip at John O’Groats. This was my first problem.

I spent the next day tooling around Montreal on my own, realizing how difficult it was to access GPS when one’s phone no longer received data. You have no idea how hooked you are to your phone for info and directions until—nada. I started off walking in the wrong direction, away from Saint Joseph’s Oratory. Once straightened out, I then had to work out how to leave the oratory and walk the paths of Mount Royal. One decision led to a panic-racked next decision. I made it back from my adventure in the city of Montreal with only minutes to spare before catching a hotel shuttle to the airport. I arrived in London a day late.

No problem. I’d just get new train tickets (a later article to detail how my travel insurance came in handy) and be on my way. I made it to Euston station for the 9 pm departure to discover that the Caledonian Sleeper didn’t run on Saturday. By now it was dark and raining and cars drive on the left! I rode away from the station and, of course got lost. I stopped at a Starbucks! Got WiFi and with my phone booked a hostel. I felt proud of myself. I was doing it. I’d worked through already several unforeseen hiccups. I got directions, made it to the hostel, carried my loaded bike up a flight of stairs, got buzzed in the door—only to be told I was too old for the hostel. This is ageism I stated, but they didn’t relent. I should have made them carry my bike for me and then tell me I’m too old. I rode around looking for a vacancy somewhere/anywhere. I found a slightly rundown family-operated hotel. Isn’t the pound like two American dollars? I was freaking out about how much this was going to cost (after paying for brand new train tickets without the advantage of advance reservation). When the proprietor answered the door and saw me with a loaded bicycle in the rain I didn’t give him a chance. I need the cheapest room you’ve got. He said he only had a triple available. It was as much as a Jaguar. I countered with half that amount—cash, I said.

Unbelievably I got in. So I spent the next day exploring London. That evening I got off on the train, now 2 days behind schedule. My entire trip I was playing catch-up with my itinerary.

All this before even putting on bike shorts. All this before encountering the expected hardships of touring: headwinds, rain, detours, sheep. Those were coming, but this is just an example of how one woman, alone ran the gauntlet of bike travel and persevered.


More stories to come.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Black Friday Sale

5 out of 5 stars  Great for writers and teachers of writing.
ByMichelle Schaubon November 15, 2017
In this clever craft book, Hertenstein outlines a plan for busy writers to build a memoir in little flashes- those seemingly inconsequential moments that, when strung together, create a powerful memoir. Hertenstein provides a series of accessible yet thought-provoking prompts that can be completed in "the time it takes you to brush your teeth." Great for writers and teachers of writing as well.


5 out of 5 starsExcellent#
ByMel G.on June 18, 2016

I have read this book twice, and highlighted extensively. As a new memoir writer who works in slice of life and brief moments, I find her approach helpful. Highly recommend to all writers of memoir. Enjoyable read!

Available from wherever you download books. Also you can click on the icons and go straight
to Amazon

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Catching Up--my latest story now posted online

Check out my story “Catching Up” at Sunlight Press. A tiny slice of life about how we slowly fall out of shape and that it’s never to late to catch up.


Black Wednesday Sale

5 out of 5 stars  Great for writers and teachers of writing.
ByMichelle Schaubon November 15, 2017
In this clever craft book, Hertenstein outlines a plan for busy writers to build a memoir in little flashes- those seemingly inconsequential moments that, when strung together, create a powerful memoir. Hertenstein provides a series of accessible yet thought-provoking prompts that can be completed in "the time it takes you to brush your teeth." Great for writers and teachers of writing as well.




5 out of 5 starsExcellent#
ByMel G.on June 18, 2016

I have read this book twice, and highlighted extensively. As a new memoir writer who works in slice of life and brief moments, I find her approach helpful. Highly recommend to all writers of memoir. Enjoyable read!

Available from wherever you download books. Also you can click on the icons and go straight
to Amazon

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hannah Arendt: Don’t Kill People


We’ve imbued our political parties with morals. For example, Republicans care about life. Thus, they will appoint pro life judges. Democrats care about human rights. Thus, they’ll be better at foreign policy—saying NO to Russia.

Bviously this is simplified. Also obviously I have no right to write about Hannah Arendt. A brilliant thinker.

This weekend I watched the movie Hannah Arendt. I knew about her peripherally like in the sense she was one of the people (émergie who fled Nazi Germany) who helped ferment The New School where my daughter went.

Once I saw the movie I was able to sort her into—Oh you thought that up, that line of thinking, about the question of evil. The movie released in 2012, Hannah Arendt died in 1975. Some of her books are:
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Revised ed.; New York: Schocken, 2004.
The Human Condition (1958) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). (Rev. ed. New York: Viking, 1968.

I was surprised at how relevant and timely the movie felt. The notion of evil and abdicating what we know is right in order to achieve a particular outcome that we believe is ultimately right. For example voters in Alabama. Voting for a man who likely if elected will be thrown out of the Senate or at least censored because they
1)      Cannot bring themselves to vote for a Democrat
2)      They feel Judge Roy Moore will be a moral leader and see to it that the “right” people get on the Supreme Court
3)      Some believe that he’s God’s chosen (more on that later)

Belief is a tricky thing because in some of these cases people have abandoned their beliefs wholecloth. They’ve left off thinking all together.

Hannah Arendt in her pursuit of understanding evil in a post WWII, post-Hitler, post-Auschwitz, nuclear world struggled with alliances and fealties. She would not sacrifice what she believed just to keep things normal, to protect the status quo, or to satisfy family, friends, or country. That isn’t how philosophy works. Philosophy isn’t nationalistic or gender-specific. It has affairs and dabbles in various camps in order to get a reading, a report of what that space occupies. Thus, she angered many Jews.

When she wrote that evil was ordinary and that given a chance we would—all of us—sell out our mother, our tribe, our deepest sense of right and wrong for a higher purpose—or in Eichmann’s case, per someone’s order.

It’s how Trump got elected.

The very people who need a tax break, healthcare, housing, recovery treatment, safe food and drinking water, who care about family, the unborn voted against their interests. Against the published news reports, even against the candidate’s own words—they decided to believe in an alternative.

So we are at a crossroads. Of fake news, fake facts, conspiracies. The Russia Thing, if you will. People have decided to believe whatever they want because either there are no facts or they chose to believe in alternative facts.

Hannah Arendt got into trouble by blurring the edges of what the Western world fought and died for, by diluting their mottos and deconstructing their manifestos. We all have the ability to be evil. It is an individual choice and one frankly not all of us are able to acknowledge, myself included. I’ve held my nose and voted for someone I didn’t like just because they’d make the trains run on time.

Thus, some good Christian people are going to vote for Judge Roy Moore.


I think what Hannah Arendt was saying is that we are all capable of killing, of supporting killers, that we will find a way to justify genocide, and rationalize mass murder. Just don’t make us think about it too deeply or have to explain why.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Last Tab

Last Tab

Lastly, in closing up the tabs: an article at the BBC website: (Credit: Edouard Taufenbech)

And


Both articles are basically profiles of people who file away data/memories. Who can never forget. Some of us have excellent memories, some of us—mostly husbands—cannot remember what they went to the grocery for.

Researchers are not yet certain what forms the basis of memories. The assumption is that most memories are language based—thus, it is unlikely to have memories pre-verbal. Yet, I know I can recall certain images—an overhead light over my crib because I associated the seemingly glazed spiral with a honey bun, even though I still didn’t have a word for honey bun. I guess looking at it made me hungry. I wanted to eat that thing over my crib.

I remember climbing out of my crib. I wasn’t tall enough to open the door, so I would fall asleep in front of the door, making it difficult for mom to come in and check on me. Now some of this memory could be stuff Mom later recounted. Like the sleeping part. I suspect I was under the age of three.

The subject of the article, her memory stretch all the way back to being a baby. “I’d always know when it was Mum holding me, for some reason. I just instinctively always knew and she was my favourite person.” She has been diagnosed with a rare syndrome called ‘Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory’, or HSAM, also known as hyperthymesia. This unique neurological condition means that Sharrock can recall every single thing she did on any given date.

The second article has to do with the ability to hang onto every random date and memory and retain it at the fingertips of recall. The blessing and curse of this kind of memory is that it can be an anvil weighing you down. Every regret, mistake, coming back to you to be rehearsed all over again. Scenes of sadness, grief replayed over and over. It is a tremendous burden to bear.

‘Highly superior autobiographical memory’ (or HSAM for short), first came to light in the early 2000s, with a young woman named Jill Price. Emailing the neuroscientist and memory researcher Jim McGaugh one day, she claimed that she could recall every day of her life since the age of 12.
The subjects themselves find it hard to put their finger on the trigger, however; Veiseh, for instance, knows that his HSAM began with meeting his first girlfriend, but he still can’t explain why she set it off.

I remember applying mnemonic strategies before a test. In order to remember A I remember B. The whole house of cards can easily come undone. One presupposes the other. Very tricky. There were even courses you could send away for to help improve memory. For the person who cannot escape their memories they would gladly change places.

Two of the people interviewed with HSAM: “It can be very hard to forget embarrassing moments,” says Donohue. “You feel same emotions – it is just as raw, just as fresh… You can’t turn off that stream of memories, no matter how hard you try.” Veiseh agrees: “It is like having these open wounds – they are just a part of you,” he says.

It is a narrow road we travel, the tension between recall and what the memory represents. We don’t want to live in the land of memories 24/7.