What is so great about Snapchat?

The story teller in me finds this review of Snapchat, and its power to threaten ubiquitous social media platforms such as Facebook, very interesting.

As a neophyte Snapchat user what I can ascertain the key appeals to be, are:

  1. It’s ephemeral nature. Disappearing snaps and stories create a compulsion to share and view immediately.
  2. Stories. Adding a series of snaps to a story, shared for 24 hrs, invites followers into a narrative account of an experience.

Tell your friends a mini story about your day?! Awesome.

Rogue Male Attends Christmas Carols

After a brief hiatus it is with pleasure that Damien Shalley blogs again for Bear Skin, this time with something a little more personal. A Christmas reflection.

Rogue Male Attends Christmas Carols

by Damien R. Shalley, Esq.

for N.W.

Last Saturday I awoke at 3:47 pm feeling mighty used, having spent the previous day and night attempting to prove that a person can be sustained exclusively on fermented malt beverages. (Fun fact: You can, until you lose consciousness). I can usually manage to stumble out of bed by the crack of noon after a big session on the stagger juice, so even for me this was a grand anti-achievement. I popped a Berocca and some Nurofen Plus and attempted to reintegrate my synapses. I had a vague feeling that I was supposed to be doing something on this day, but my addled cerebellum wouldn’t reveal this secret knowledge. So I moved to my default position whilst in this condition – oblivious ignorance – whilst wallowing in self-pity and emitting quiet whimpering noises.

I hit the shower for an extended water therapy session. I revived enough to realise that I had forgotten to take off my socks. (Oh well, they needed a wash). The water was soothing but I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was required to be doing something else other than rehydrating whilst curled up in the foetal position on tiles of my shower bay. On the plus side, my socks were now very clean. I lay there until the throbbing in my head had reduced to a low-key drumming. The dullness in my corpus abated to the extent that I could reach for and open the shampoo bottle without risking heart failure. Small mercies. I continued to absorb the H2O for an extended period and eventually relieved my H2 woe. I exited the shower on my hands and knees and blow-dried my socks whilst still wearing them. (Incidentally, this resulted in remarkably fluffy and comfortable socks – I would recommend this technique to the hung over). Now I was ready to face the day, despite the fact that the day was pretty much over.

At this point my resolute nausea was weirdly challenged by a desire to eat something. Food, I thought, might provide a nice counterbalance to the strange percolations that were occurring in my stomach – an organ only marginally less abused than my liver. Experts recommend eating a healthy, low-fat meal after a hangover to help one’s body cleanse toxins. Phooey! I hadn’t listened to expert advice about how to avoid a hangover, so I wasn’t going to listen to expert advice about how to treat a hangover. (I know this is circular logic, but hey, I had a hangover!) I proceeded to fix myself two fried eggs on toast. With greasy bacon. And a lot of sauce. Tempting fate much? I am not a chef and there are two things that always ring true about my culinary exploits: 1. Nothing cooked by me tastes any good, and; 2. I’m not kidding. My meal was average at best but at least it quietened my bubbling gastric system. In the back of my mind I still felt that I had forgotten something. I retired to my favourite leather recliner to give serious consideration to this dilemma – and promptly fell asleep. Food always makes me sleepy, and in my weakened state I entered the land of nod without resistance. Blissful slumber ensued – for a while.

Two loud beeps broke though the arc of snoozy zzz’s emanating from my reclining body. That’d be my phone, I thought as I returned from unconscious oblivion. I had previously forgotten to check this device because I was preoccupied with my own misery and because I secretly resented the way it ruined my naps. After fumbling with the insidious creation, a text message from a friend revealed itself. “Don’t forget Carols tonight at church, biggest night of the year! Be there by 6:00!

Uh-oh, Christmas Carols! That is what I had forgotten to remember! Caroling is not supposed to send chills of fear through one’s body but my friend is pretty demanding and if I was late to these festivities there’d be a passive-aggressive price a pay. Luckily for me it was only around 4:30 pm, right? Wrong! It was 5:25pm, I’d been away with the pixies (or Christmas elves in this case) for an hour! I grabbed some previously worn “going out” clothes from the floor of my bedroom which were crinklier than my Grandma (luckily I didn’t to find socks – serendipity!) and splashed on a lot more cologne than I should have to improve my freshness factor. And so, smelling like an accident in a Lynx factory, I proceeded to my destination. Almost.

My trusty car picked this critical moment not to start. Arrggghhhh! I popped the bonnet and found, well, an engine. I don’t know too much about cars, but my old man always told me to check your points and battery connections first if the vehicle is playing up. I retrieved my trusty red toolbox from the boot and proceed to fumble around. I tightened a loose battery connection and the engine turned over. Dad was right about something for once! A Christmas miracle! I threw my trusty red toolbox onto the front passenger seat and hightailed it to the church.

I usually drive defensively but sometimes the best defence is a good offense, so I ducked and weaved through indecisive motorists noodling through the local streets until I hit the motorway. Unnecessarily singing “Get Your Motor Running” by Steppenwolf, I made great time until, a few minutes into my run, I felt an unmistakeable urge. Maybe it was the previous dodgem’ car antics that had upset my stomach, maybe it was the hangover treatment of eggs and bacon, maybe I was worried about disappointing my friend – but man, did I have to throw up! Oh no! The urge was overwhelming and there was no time to pull over. The only thing my addled brain could think about was not vomiting on my clothes. Nobody wants to attend carols looking and smelling like the local alcoholic hobo. There was only one thing I could do. I grabbed my toolbox, flipped the latch and, well – hurled into it. Recalling Jim Morrison’s warning to “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel”, I managed to time my paroxysms to unpleasant intervals in between rapid-fire scans of the road ahead. The expulsions, amazingly, resulted in no unpleasant residues on my clothes. The same cannot be said for my toolbox. I threw it back on the passenger seat and pressed onward at speed.

I arrived at the church with a few minutes to spare but couldn’t find a park in the car park. Or in a side street. Or on a side road. The entire population of northern Brisbane was apparently attending this event. So I ventured down to a dimly lit local park. This less-than salubrious locale didn’t even have a name like most parks do, just a sign that read “No Dumping”. I pulled onto the grass in what may not have been a breach of 21 local by-laws and jumped out of my seat. Some shifty-looking teenagers were loitering around a bench on the other side of the park. I told myself that all teenagers look shifty, abandoned my car to the will of the universe for the evening and entered into a slow jog (very slow considering my condition) towards the place of worship and tunes. Halfway to the venue, I remembered that I hadn’t locked my car. Too late, too bad, I thought and continued toward salvation.

Whist negotiating a swampy miasma at the edge of the park which appeared to exist in order to prevent the unworthy (i.e. me) from entering the church – and muddying my boots in the process – I received another text message. “You idiot, where are you?” It was 6:02pm. Assuming that the word “idiot” was a term of endearment, I responded. “Nearly there, a minute away”. I was expecting to be congratulated for this achievement. I was disappointed. “You know I’m the sound tech for tonight, right? Busy all night, I won’t see you at all. Should have got here earlier, idiot!” (Idiot again. Must really like me).   In fairness, this probably was not new information. I did have a vague recollection of something like this being mentioned previously, but I had forgotten. What can I say, I drink. I extracted myself from the swamp and continued forward to the sing-along, arriving muddied, befuddled and just in time to be late. The celebration had begun. Music wafted over my sweating brow and passed through the air above the fetid mash I had just escaped.

I grabbed a song book and infiltrated the crowd in a vain attempt to show my friend that I had arrived against great odds. I was immediately struck by the fact that nobody in sight was alone. The place was packed with families, couples young and old, extended collections of relatives, groups of excited children performing boogie-woogie moves. I was truly a rogue male in this milieu.   Rogue males are not welcome in places with multitudes of children, and can often find themselves subject to unwelcome scrutiny from “proper” adults. (We are welcome at dinner parties though, and regularly get set up with somebody’s unmarried female cousin who has worked in the Bureau of Statistics or some such fascinating entity for the last twelve years whist being treated intermittently for spastic colon). My move towards front of stage was thwarted by a large and particularly enthusiastic assemblage of primary school-aged children dressed as elves. (I would later learn that they were to be part of the night’s stage entertainment. For a while there I thought I was experiencing DT’s from all the booze). I took this as a sign and implemented Plan B – strategic retreat.

The rear of the arena was actually not such a bad location to spend an evening. I have a singing voice roughly akin to an angry walrus and the term “tone deaf” was invented specifically for me. So it was quite refreshing to find an area of respite, both for myself and fellow participants who didn’t have to listen to my tonal dissonance. I staked out some territory near a sound mixing desk (no sign of my friend here either) and got my groove on.

The first carol of the evening had been a traditional religious song, nicely performed by the church choir and a live band. The next performance however, was a dance routine by some hip youngsters tightly choreographed to a funky Justin Bieber tune. I was not aware that anything Justin Bieber has ever produced constituted a carol. (I was not aware that anything Justin Bieber has ever produced constituted music). I made a mental note that I secretly hated this song. The kids in the audience were enraptured. What do I know?

“Hear the Angels Voices” arrived next, with lyrics projected via digital teletron. The words “Fall to your knees” precede the chorus lyric of this carol – I was ready to do just that at this stage because my hangover was telling me that I really needed some fluids. At this point I contemplated an excursion to the nearest 7-11 store for a litre of Gatorade, but my exit strategy was thwarted by an assemblage of performers behind me who were preparing to run toward the stage costumed as the “ghosts of Christmas past”. I felt that I was in grave danger of becoming a ghost at this point so poorly did I feel, but I stuck it out and, unbelievably, started to feel really uplifted by the performances. The songs were (mostly) familiar – Bieber be damned – and the tradition of gathering together to celebrate something as joyous as Christmas is beautiful. This is collective memory writ large, and what a beautiful memory to have. The whole occasion had an aspect to it that – dare I say it – was holy.

The night’s official festivities went on for two hours. Carols and songs, both old and new, lifted spirits. The band was tight, the lighting was spectacular, the performers were elegant and the assembled families (plus one rogue male) were entertained. This really is the way to experience Christmas.

After the event I finally caught up with my friend. We laughed together about my dumb exploits prior to arrival and made plans to meet up again soon. Christmas wishes were exchanged, and I then beat a retreat to retrieve my vehicle and get home to bed (and painkillers). As I approached my car, I noticed that something didn’t look quite right. As I got closer, I could see that the mirror on the driver’s side of the vehicle had been torn off. It was lying on the ground beside the car. “Damn kids, I thought. They’ve vandalised my car!” The driver’s side window was missing too. Parts of the shattered remnants, still held together by tinting film, were sitting on the driver’s seat. I opened the UNLOCKED door (guys, you didn’t have to break in) and surveyed the scene. They had stolen, along with some other small items, my trusty red toolbox! I don’t know whether it was the joy of the night’s carols, the Christmas spirit in general, or my hangover forcing me to prioritise my concerns, but I just couldn’t help laughing out loud. “Boy are they going to get a surprise when they open that!”

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If you would like to guest blog for Bear Skin please message me on jennifer@bearskin.org

Animal Farm 

I have never fully understood the allegory of communism that George Orwell wrote in 1954. It seemed both childlike and conversely, overly pessimistic.

In the story, the farm animals led by two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball revolt against their human slave-masters and declare independence. Initial glory, success and freedom soon decays into bitter infighting, reconstructed ideals and a dictatorial leadership by lone pig Napoleon who behaves much like the humans he overthrew.

index

However, visiting a communist nation like Vietnam recently illuminated a few things to me about the contradictions the short novella highlights.

Despite being a socialist state, there is almost nothing in the way of social security in Vietnam  – elementary education incurs a fee, as does basic health care and retirement benefits are rare.

When the average monthly salary is only USD $150 per month the problems these expenses cause families on the lower end of the wage spectrum, are immense. Disability and illness, exacerbated by after effects of the war include, unexploded munitions, chemical poisons and genetic deformities.

images

While the people are industrious, gentle and hospitable and there is little begging or visible unrest, the country rests upon an ideology that is not clearly displayed in its social systems. The divide between the richest and poorest is immense.

It does seem that the unfortunate result of communist ideology is “some animals becoming more equal than others.”

Travel Tales 

Laptop malfunctions and some travelling has pushed me offline of late. This post comes started from a tablet (awkward to type) in an airport stop over in South East Asia.

But what bountiful fodder for musings is travel?! No wonder writers , musicians and artists have written, sung and painted from postings far afield, aboard trains, caravans, boats and from mountain tops, desserts and villages.

My travels have taken me to Vietnam and Laos – countries rich with history, narrative and art.
I can’t help but share here my thoughts in coming days.

Summer Storms 

She stands in the evening air as winds pick up. They whip away the warmth and stagnance of day. The sky crackles darkly, it jabs with light and grumbles with thunder.

The crickets schreee. Fat palms and ferns  begin to whip about. There is a smell of ants and frangipani and wet soil.

Soon the night air fills with the rumble of rain, large pellets hitting leaf and ground. It drowns the chorus of crickets and drums the roof and window panes.

In an instant,  the night lights up like day – the verandah, the trees, the driveway – all alight as though by a giant flash bulb.

Then thunder tears apart the air, a whip crack overhead so loud the building shakes. She jumps.

The children shriek but not with fear. They strip off and run in the rain. More lightning, more thunder.

The adults gather on the verandah to watch as – pick! pock! – ice balls begin to fall.

She pulls a cardigan around her. The children gather in and they all watch the lawn turn white.

Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs Productivity

In another delightful post, Maria Popova from Brain Pickings, together with artist Wendy MacNaughton, have devised an info-graphic of writers productivity and sleep patterns.

Her concluding point:

…no specific routine guarantees success, …. Showing up day in and day out, without fail, is the surest way to achieve lasting success.

A summary of her original post is below.

___________________________________

In both writing and sleeping,”

Stephen King observed,

“we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.

Moreover, it has been argued that “sleep is the best (and easiest) creative aphrodisiac” and science tells us that it impacts everything from our moods to our brain development to our every waking moment.

This infographic is the end result — a labor of love months in the making — is this magnificent visualization of the correlation between writers’ wake-up times, displayed in clock-like fashion around each portrait, and their literary productivity, depicted as different-colored “auras” for each of the major awards and stack-bars for number of works published, color-coded for genre.

The writers are ordered according to a “timeline” of earliest to latest wake-up times, beginning with Balzac’s insomniac 1 A.M. and ending with Bukowski’s bohemian noon.

The most important caveat of all, of course, is that there are countless factors that shape a writer’s creative output, of which sleep is only one — so this isn’t meant to indicate any direction of causation, only to highlight some interesting correlations: for instance, the fact that (with the exception of outliers who are both highly prolific and award-winning, such as like Bradbury and King) late risers seem to produce more works but win fewer awards than early birds.

The most important point, perhaps, is a meta one: A reminder that no specific routine guarantees success, and the only thing that matters is having a routine and the persistence implicit to one. Showing up day in and day out, without fail, is the surest way to achieve lasting success.

 

You can view the original post at Brain Pickings here.

More of a realist

I couldn’t help but share this post from favourite Seth Godin.

More of a realist

 

When did being called a ‘realist’ start to mean that one is a pessimist?

Sometimes, people with small goals call themselves realists, and dismiss those around them as merely dreamers. I think this is backwards.

I guess I’m more of a realist than you,

actually means,

I guess I’ve discovered that a positive attitude, a generous posture and a bit of persistence makes things better than most people expect.

Hope isn’t a strategy, but it is an awfully good tactic.

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You can follow Seth’s blog here.

SORT Creative Writing Workshop

For the last few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to facilitate a creative writing workshop for SORT Recycling work-for-the-dole program. At each class 6-8 men and women write creatively and share their work, giving feedback and encouragement to each other.

I have been enchanted by the creative expression of these men and women, each with very different backgrounds, interests and abilities. Their creations inspire long conversations, stories, laughter and questions.

This is the writing of Dan, a young man who has already lived more life than me. He also once ranked 28th place in the world Pokemon championships and has his own YouTube channel:

“THE REMINDER”

From womb to tomb we depend
A family name to represent
Minds think thoughts alone
Til’ the ocean takes us home
Emotions collide
Thoughts and feelings intertwine
Invincibility youth take to bed
While vulnerability leads ahead
Time we try to escape
Trying to find a better fate
But in the end there is dark
The flame of life without a spark.

 

SORT 2

 

This is the writing of Ben, a young man who grew up in remote North Queensland and Ireland who at first described himself as “uncreative”:

Untitled

when the new sprout stands tall and strong in the ground? and giving is loving and loving is sharing but keeping is dwelling and depriving and past? itis now (our time moves forward) o, itis spring goodbye the pretty birds; the wind whispering to wings goodbye the little fish; the sea current silent to scale (so the mountains are dancing, dancing eternal)

SORT (2)

 

If the eyes are a window to the soul, one’s writing is a painting of the emotions, thoughts and memories within.

What is stopping you from writing ?

 

Business as Art

A recent article in Forbes addressed the changing face of work and career, as millennials graduate and become business owners and company managers:

The new social entrepreneur will not only change the world, they will change the whole pattern of the playing field, as we know it.  They will create global engagement and succeed where we have failed.  They will live the meaning in their lives and make it their livelihood.  They will bring the words of David Bornstein to life…”Poverty is not only a lack of money, it’s a lack of sense of meaning.”

The article “Business Not As Usual: The Millennial Social Entrepreneur” addresses the transformed perspective of the current generation, under 30, towards work.

social entrepreneurship

More connected globally that ever, issues of poverty, injustice, and environmental degradation are foremost in their minds and it is meaning and purpose, not security, privacy, independence and financial gain unlike their parents and grandparents, that motivates them.

Poverty is not only a lack of money, it’s a lack of sense of meaning.

Citing “karma” as the zeitgeist of a generation, the article posits that young people will transform business, politics, economics and global trade in the way Jesus, Mohammad, Socrates, Gandhi and Mandela have transformed our world by their lives.

 karma business

Business and work it seems, are moving from the realm of science or craft, into the world of art form, imbued with meaning, purpose and spiritual significance.

Social entrpreneurship is a particular type of business with a social outcome, a hybrid of the charity with a NFP impact focus, but driven by a business engine. Drawing the best of capitalism and socialism together, social enterprise promises to unite the world politically and economically.

For the uninitated,  well known Australian social enterprises include Thankyou Group, a company selling every day consumer items, of which a percentage of the profits of each item directly contributes to food and water projects globally.

 thank youthank you group

This turn to meaning in work is another example of the general societal move away from a modernist thinking to embrace new narratives.  Modernism reduced narratives of meaning to the “fairy story” necessary for human happiness. Privileging rationalism, largely in reaction to the abuses of religion, modernists decried spiritualism as a mental projection or an “opiate” to dull the rational being.

religion

Now however, having found modernism empty, post-modernists and millennialist seek meaning again in connectivity and creativity. 

The current generation is turning back to spiritual concepts of karma and transcendent meaning to seek justice, purpose and meaning with their work.

Is your work an art form? and what narrative of meaning motivates you in your sphere of influence?