Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blogger: Welcome to the writer parade

This is brilliant. It's the work of French illustrator Stéphane Massa-Bidal: popular Web platforms like Flickr, Facebook and YouTube reinvented as old-school book covers.

Classy, hilarious and inspirational. See my random Blogger ideas:


No longer just on mom's fridge
Comments speak louder than actions
InVenTed wOrDs display inGeNuity
RSS feed me
Freedom of speech unless deleted by author
Welcome to the writer parade

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On est toujours mieux chez soi

I just spent a colorful, decadent, freezing weekend in Paris. It was my first time traveling-while-traveling.

Much of the time I stood tapping my foot at an intersection of cultures: saying "merci" like "merthi," reading El País in French cafés, speaking half-English/half-Spanish because I didn't know which language someone was more likely to know ("Tiene water? Agua?" ::cup hands for emphasis::). Considering I cannot even pronounce "je suis" correctly no matter how many times I try, these language juxtapositions were necessary.

I spent time wandering the city and visiting neighborhood markets with one of the most interesting men I've met in a while, Roberto. He speaks five languages, is extremely thoughtful and intelligent, and inspired me to bring my laptop on the metro to write, like he does.

“Even if I only get one perfect sentence out of it—it's worth it,” he said.

I taught him some salsa tricks and he introduced me to tango. I spent my last night savoring a French wine over an immense dinner and accidentally seeing for the first time the Eiffel Tower, while midnight bike-riding around the city. After drinking hot chocolate at a bourgeois bar, I slept for four hours and hopped on a plane back to Spain.

And I was perfectly content to do so.

Being in Paris made me realize how much Spanish I actually do know, how proud I am of it, how happy I am to use it... and how much I have come to regard Madrid.

I wandered in and out of consciousness on the flight home, due to the lack of sleep. As we touched ground, I opened my eyes and thought, simply, "I am home, and home is Madrid." And then, a smile bloomed across my sleepy face, sprouting from deep within.

Home is Madrid.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The ocean is right where I put it, still stinging

I lay there for a month, a year, a week. Taut and spellbound. Carving the sand with the arches of my body, waiting.

You polished my curves with salt, traced me with foam fingers. Rocked me with your push-pull, insistent and consuming. You chaffed me, made me softer, made me rougher. You were high and low, and I was worn away by your tides.

When your waves had ceased lapping I was still there. Mineralized.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There will be no turning of the page

Google Living Stories. Wow.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and Google have awkwardly joined hands to create this masterpiece. Or, what looks like it could be a masterpiece — something that won't be "saving" journalism but is definitely desired and, for the most part, expected. It's one of those things that feels like it must have been around for a while because you've already been creating something like it yourself, with RSS feeds, customization of home pages, etc.

And now, voila. Unification of coverage for a single story or concept, all on one dynamic and well-organized web page.

We have come together.


Well, according to The Washington Post's piece on the project:

Post editors are concerned that the overall process could eat up valuable staff time unless it is made more automated.

During the process a half-dozen Google staffers spent three days in the Post newsroom in May, trailing editors and reporters with notepads and video cameras like some archaeological expedition. "The culture of Google is a culture of engineers," Brenner says. "We exist in different worlds."

The part of me that is enamored with the idea of Living Stories is unfortunately the same part of me that, guilt-ridden, chooses the latte over the newspaper and instead reads the cafe's copy of the paper while drinking the latte. But the journalist part of me wonders how this is going to help journalism stay afloat. In particular, as has been a huge point of discussion for nearly a year: investigative journalism. It's wonderful for consumers, but will this pay the professional journalists? No. (I'm sorry, but the phrase "citizen journalist" still irks me. TIME magazine's recent piece on is a must-read if you share—or don't share—my point of view.)

My opinion on Living Stories is similar to what Richard Kendall's expressed in his comment on an online journalism blog:

I hate it and love and bow down before it at the same time. This sort of advanced story curation is what news sites have been crying out for.

What we will lose in this is what we have already been losing in the process of transferring journalism from print to print+screen — the precious notion of turning our heads 1/4 inch and finding a completely different article that catches our interest. An article that we may glance over, yes — but also one that may inspire us, anger us or encourage us to explore our own values. An article that we never would have found.

Now, we find Google ads.

Escribir para comprender

- El País del 9 de Diciembre, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Storing words for winter

I've been reading some Spanish books lately (please regard the word "reading" lightly), but I've been missing reading English. I miss the poetry of the language I own, diving into it, and how enrapturing it can be, how it feeds me and influences my own writing.

I have two English-language books with me in Spain. This is very different from the United States where I have two for every day of the year.

I brought:

1) "The New Spaniards" by John Hooper, second edition. It's a very well-written and entertaining history of modern Spain. I like it. Well, I liked it; I honestly have no desire to read it now that I'm in Madrid and would rather place myself in beautiful old bars with smoke-stained ceilings, sipping manzanilla and talking to Spaniards.

2) "The Secret Lives of People in Love" by Simon Van Booy. I found this book of short stories in September and was enthralled by it. However, I cannot read it at the moment, as there are remains of masticated love still stuck between my ribs.

So in the midst of missing my language, today I bought a third.

In all honesty, I wanted to buy "Lolita" (both of my copies are in Boulder), because even just the first paragraph makes me want to slit my wrists in a dramatic sacrifice to alliterative craftsmanship. But the only version that Casa del Libro had was one with a soulless, forlorn-looking rubia on the front cover. I just could not walk around with that. Not because I care what other people think, but because it depicts a character I don't believe exists in the book.

Anyway. I bought Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." I've never read it, although I own a copy in the U.S. But I am hungry for poetry and it seems this might be what I am looking for.

[Our attention is drawn] to Woolf's poetic prose: her rhythms and images, her use of hard consonants in monosyllabic words in counterpoint to long, soft, dreamy words and phrases. "To the Lighthouse" plays back and forth between telescopic and microscopic views of nature and human nature.

In the introduction, Woolf writes of her novel:

I meant nothing by The Lighthouse. I saw that all sorts of feelings would accrue to this, but I refused to think them out, and trusted that people would make it the deposit for their own emotions.

And so inward I dive.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

La Niña

My Spanish family is very endearing, and after hearing some friends' stories about the Spanish families they are staying with, I appreciate mine even more.

The little boy, Jaime, is an absolute treasure. Like his grandmother said, "Con Jaime, todo es siempre bien." He gives up his candy for his sister Ana and then she pulls his hair. He puts himself last in order of turns when the three of us play "Memory." He seems to know intuitively when I am uncomfortable because Ana isn't listening to me, and he will try harder to show me that he wants to learn English. If I had just him, my teaching life would be a bit too perfect.

And so — enter little Ana.

My relationship with Ana is a bit like a non-functional romantic relationship. It is filled with anxiety, emotional ups and downs, occasional compromise and random destruction of property.

Today, Ana not only spilled water on my computer, she then broke a glass in the bathroom and danced away as Jaime started to clean it up; as I ran into the room to help he cutely said, "Please shoes!"

One evening, she stole sunflower seeds from my room without asking, and I told her not to. She scowled, and ran away, still eating them. Then I hear my iPhone alarm going off, and as I went to turn it off, the funniest thing happened... the alarm started moving. I followed it out to the living room, where I found it in Ana's hand, as she was about to hide it inside an umbrella bin where I never would have found it if it had stopped making noise. At this point I spoke a lot louder than before and told her to not ever take my $360 iPhone again.

We didn't talk for two days after that.

But then... my door was open one night and she came in, thought for a minute, walked back out, closed it — and knocked.

"...come in?" I said.

"Tienes pipas?" she asked.

And I gave her some sunflower seeds, and she said "thank you." And I smiled.

Of course, the next day I saw her with more — meaning that she went to where she saw my hiding spot was and got herself more.

And to this I say: Jaime is here to remind me what angels children can be... and Ana is what Spanish wine is for.