31 Dec 2008, 4:37pm

Happy New Years

To health, hope, happiness!


May your 2009 be a piece of (healthy, delicious, easy, rewarding) cake.

See you on the flip side!

29 Dec 2008, 8:18pm

Mini News Round-up

IMG_2588 This day has positively whooshed past. Got a chance this morning to meet up with Joanna M Weston while she was in town. We’ve workshopped together for years online but this was our first chance at face to face real time chat. Lovely time. I can’t believe her book has already been out for a couple years.

Speaking of poets this poet has a letterpress chapbook out. That’s a nice treat to get in the mail.

If you’re on Facebook and haven’t seen, both rob and I posted photos from the PFYC launch. It was a good reading. Some read from the issue, some read new material. It all ran quick and smooth. Perhaps I’ll get around to saying something in more detail but I’m a few hours overdue for supper now and think I bypassed the whole lunch thing. Ach. (Bodies, they’re so needy aren’t they? Always with the feed me, feed me, let me sleep.)

I was going to post earlier but then realized I autoposted today. Now, I’m stymied. To post or delay? The time is always now isn’t it?

That reminds me of something I read once, a sci-fi short story [not that one, but it’s an interesting link]. In it a hermit’s life was particularly enabled by technology. He had his lighting systems to change setting through the day, food delivered, all aspects set up on autopilot to give the semblance of interaction and regularity. He actually worked in manic bursts, had the computer parse the work files to his office in regular packets, had his blogs autopost (although I think this story predated the word itself). His computer mail merged automatically-generated contact letters to family and friends. And it took weeks (or was it months) after his death for his autopilot to coast to a stop. It seems admirable and yet macabre both…thus it struck with me.

In other news I finally updated my writing stats so I can enter year 17 of that all up-to-date.

As a result I’m looking at resolutions rise… say, to not run so near flatline for sending out poems in 09. I was surprised I sent out a couple dozen times but next year I have to keep all my records together so I’m not hunting across 2 files and thru sent emails. That was messy. So (knock wood and myself out) better tracking in 09.

At this point I do it partly because wouldn’t it be neat to have that longitudinal look over several decades. I’m not alone in charting. xkcd understands the graph love too.

This post brought to you by the letter C, and sugar. (Good idea and bad idea, this keeping chocolate in desk drawer.)

Quote: “When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run
away, it’s best to let him run.” – Abe Lincoln, Abraham quotes at QB

29 Dec 2008, 10:50am
Communication Health Ponderings
Comments Off on Hard-Wired for Stress of Story Arc

Hard-Wired for Stress of Story Arc

On the (probably wrong) theory that we have not adapted our brain stems since we were cavemen, for hundreds of years, let’s say for argument’s sake, that we used to have fewer stories available and now we have more.

There used to be, if we roll the stone clock back, the story line of our lives, the dramas of those in the village that we knew, in the long cycles of months or years between births and deaths, the gossip fodder indiscretions of who conspired to drag away who’s wooly mammoth in the night. And maybe a monthly or even daily campfire where a long saga was told with dramatic turns and lessons.

Now we compare that to now. Each news headline has a mini story arc, a hook. Each movie trailer with its overamped sound track and plot tracks trimmed to only use the heart-pumping stuff. Commercials use gotcha twists. Book trailers have music designed to accelerate drama, get attention. Novels and movies and tv shows are all set to make a pace that snags you into it. News has spin. Conversation can pick from thousands of sources, access first, second hand and completely fictional(ized) narratives.

It seems like our primary framework for thinking. What to make of a story with no punchline or punch in the gut? Something seems ill-conceived if not obviously designed as a sales pitch, entertainment catch. Let me tell you a story, with no (take-out, deep, fried, battered home) point. Where’s the payoff? It seems frantic and cliche to always have a payoff. Does it not feel like a hamster wheel? Emotion-shmotion. Yes, all terribly important and ex(yawnin’)citing. But meaning is held in the new story. And without narrative, one imposes narrative and the blanks to fill in are quickly overstuffed with meaning.

Once you catch a bit of the archetype arc, you can fill in the rest. If we cross-pollinate what we expect from who, it’s better.

Did you see Stuart MacLean as a host of Newsworld Business? It was splendid.

That was one of a few things that brings home this innate contest we have between hard information and our love of story. And out love of noise and distraction and excitement versus something comforting and amusing. The dynamics of crisis and calm on a tug of war rope.

In How to Rock Climb by John Long he says (p. 152),

“Slow (read: SLOW) immersion into the present fear is the best way I’ve seen for someone to integrate their paralyzing fear of heights. Remember that when these fears take old, the person is terrified about what “might” happen, not what is actually happening, so their condition can be viewed as a trance state that takes them out of the present moment. Grounding them in the present, on concrete ways (engaging the senses), is a proven method.”

We can slowly desensitive ourselves to conditioned over response. Collectively, there’s the glamour of clamour every few seconds. Low grade flight or fight. Biologically, it must be like a puncture in the adrenal gland, a low grade pollution like exhaust fumes too little to smell, or be overwhelmed by, but enough to cause rises in asthma rates and for indicator species to whimper or die. We are meant to save up stressors for crises. I talked about this before.

Our brain is wired for stories. The human face, the anecdote well-told. Tables of longitudinal statistics doesn’t stroke the neural artwork that brain responds to viscerally.

When we used to access fruit and root as food we picked and dug, our bodies could deal with it. When we have highly processed oils, sugars, gums and lab-created flavors and sedentary activity, bodies tend to cope less well.

When I cook at home, I tend to leave out the salt and cut back sugar from recipes. When I get some restaurant food or prepared groceries, some of it actually burns and hurts from throat from the salt scrape of it. My norm has diverged.

We habituate and blank out what we norm to, such as people who wear perfume and can’t smell themselves so continually spray themselves more. If you’re used to it, you may not be able to perceive it but that doesn’t negate it having any effect on yourself or others. We can automatically deflect quite a lot unconsciously, like the frog being boiled by degrees.

Commercial radio has become tweaked to be exciting sound range, restaurant portions have drifted upwards, along with vehicle sizes, ambient city volume. Chocolate is trending to more concentrated cocoa (a 2005 post on commercial aspects of cocoa). Fast, processed meals are getting more salt and sugar and MSG as part of this general trend upward towards boosting the volume on the senses.

All this must have a physical impact. All that is regularly minutiae does.

I think of this weird ache I had to find out my light backpack bounced against that area of my back for an hour a day as I walked. Or think of a cousin who went to the chiropractor who pointed out the wallet in his back pocket.

Small repetitions throw off the works. Food or sound or messages you allow into your perception can have a pebble in the shoe effect.

We saw in 2005 What Stress is Biochemically and relatedly I talked about Flappables and Unflappables a year ago (on each person having a different cut off point for excitement).

How much is our baseline of stress elevated and our buffer zone for calm rejuvenation impinged on by ambient and leisure stories of professional level? It’s almost like escalating spam and spam protection of what we screen out?

Could chronic fatigue, immune system issues and depression be expressions of outcomes of story-hearing burnout for those who have a lower threshold for stress? Or become visible first in those indicator people who are more sensitive, more porous? Or just weaker? Inherantly or by exposure and training?

Remember Sponge People from 2006? Are some people differently wired and what is poison to one, is fuel to another? As we perceive and learn, we have neuroplasticity and our brains change based on what we perceive and how we (en)train ourselves to respond. Is the constant dribble of manufactured dramas of news and entertainment taxing reserves or acting as a calming factor to habituate to stress so head can stay clear and not phased by actual stressors and can see the game aspect?

My upshot questions: Am I structurally designed for this much storytelling? Should I keep an eye on that mental intake as much as I would on quick sugars or caffeine in a balanced diet of carbs, proteins, vitamins? Or is this not an issue?

Related Posts: See the past post Quieting the Mind?

Seen the 2005 posts on Short-Haul Stress Effects,

Quote: “Feelings are like chemicals, the more you analyze them the worse they
smell.” – Charles Kingsley

28 Dec 2008, 12:38pm
Ottawa Photos

2008 Photos of the Months

First up, a reminder of the PF Yacht Club Launch of anarchy issue tonight at the Carleton. [details]

Two favorite photos from each month. (Tricky to pick with over 1600 uploaded in 08.)

Ah, commercializing gender norms.

movement trail
A movement trail while being in by the fire of a coffee shop.

Roland Prevost
Roland Prevost at Factory Series run by rob mclennan

The Beavertail photo which was picked up at the CheapEats blog.

Protest at US Embassy
War protesters outside embassy. Which someone pointed out (correctly) that its selective angle suggested a larger crowd than there was.

panel celebrates
Mentioned here and at Pesbo when I went to the Trent U performance poetry symposium. There were a few panels including this one in mid-communication with Alexis O’Hara, Adeena Karasick, Angela Rawlings and Derek Beaulieu.

bar coded sprouts
Bar-coded and ready to grow.

Michelle Wardman
Michelle Wardman in a window of the Royal Oak before the Tree reading at the old location.

White trilliums, symbol of Ontario, at my folks’ place.

daisy chain
Haiku Canada conference in a workshop on beadwork in Ottawa. The next was going to be in May in Montreal but is now set for Vancouver to spread the wealth of access; the haiku North America conference will be in central Canada, at Ottawa’s National Library and Archives in August.

Inkcap mushrooms.

the British shake
Brian getting his British citizenship.

quiet time
Quiet time at hospital.

Brian‘s grandmother and our cat both died this summer.

Buskerfest street circuses. What steadily applied skill can achieve.

In Edelweiss Valley, Quebec the hills and pastures and vistas were lovely in the end of summer. Hubby and I spent a day exploring the back roads.

Snail from the rail trip.

Ottawa had a baseball team, for a summer. (They folded.) Did I hear right? We’re getting a CFL one?

Gillian Wigmore won a Relit Award for Soft Geography

After going apple picking with a group, we two went to Gatineau to explore the oranges of fall.

Ravioli with herbs and grilled mushrooms at home.

Joan Finnigan's
General Store Publishing is setting up a selection of their titles, like this one at the Neat Coffee Shop in Burnstown

Green as far as depth of field can see.

Looking back at the folks waving goodbye from the window before driving onwards.

27 Dec 2008, 12:05pm
Divertions Memes or Quizzes Photos
Comments Off on Recap Meme: Year in Clippings

Recap Meme: Year in Clippings

The start of first post of each month of 2008, but first,

Quote: “The other day I got out my can-opener and was opening a can of worms
when I thought, What am I doing?!” – Jack Handey

…And tomorrow? My favorite photos posted from each month…

December: Where to begin? Where one left off or somewhere new?

November: Junot Díaz was in conversation with Adrian Harewood on stage about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.


October: pixelated If thoughts turn with the months (to family in December, to love in February, to vacations in June) for October, they turn to warmth, soup and crocheted afghan comfort.

September: Ottawa has a baseball team. Who knew? At least a few thousand, apparently. And Ottawa had its first baseball team in 1898 in the Eastern League.

August: I can exactly picture an image and want to build on. I have a little idea of when I made it…

July: In brief, lately…Enjoyable Canada Day gatherings. Event horizon has a family gathering. Only a few days until we read at Tree on Tuesday as Ottawa’s Hot Voices.

June: A number of the Postmodern conference discussions last month had to do with the struggle to define where one is in postmodernism. How far along are we? What does post-modernism mean at a local and national level?

May: Let’s see. I haven’t posted. Lately I have taken no pictures (nor prisoners). I’ve not read or seen anything to summarize…

April: May 4 is no-pants-day. Not too early to prepare for wearing less?

March: Glad: To have had 2 weeks worth of things to think about over 3 days.

February: Get your own blank license from SBPoet. Also amusing is the Real Writer blank certificate via fantasy novelist Janni Lee Simner.

January: Fill in this empty potential with all the dreams and actions you want to muster…

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