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Archive for June, 2009

Cotton pickin’ cottonwood, detail of the cotton produced by
the female cottonwood out near our back patio, photos ©
2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
 
…or is it prolific?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’m a giant cottonwood, tall and stout
I make lots of cotton if there is no drought
When I get a bloomin’ then I shout
Just watch my cotton blow all about

 
 
 
 
Whatever the case may be, this particular Rio Grande cottonwood produces a heck of lot of cotton. The tree is female. You can tell by the seeds she produces in early spring, which by late spring dry and split open, revealing tufts of cotton. Breezes pick up the cotton, carrying it for miles.

Yesterday, almost eight weeks after this tree starting shedding cotton everywhere, I drove slowly on my way from work on the look-out for other cottonwoods that still had giant blobs of cotton yet to shed. I didn’t find a one. Within about a mile from home, I noticed the small white cottony seeds, floating like snowflakes past my car. Is that from our cottonwood? I wondered.
 
For two months, we’ve raked cotton out of flowerbeds, picked it out of potted geraniums and roses, and scooped it out of our pond. Each time after we clean up, everything turns white again. We have never seen a tree produce this much cotton. Ever. And we’ve lived among Rio Grande Cottonwoods almost all our lives.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Last night, as has been the case many nights, this female cottonwood is the topic of our conversation. Jim and I gripe about the fact that there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. It is almost July and cotton is still dropping in clumps on the patio and in the pond. Dee, listening to us, interjects.

“My science teacher said the Cottonwood will become extinct in my lifetime.”

Jim and I stop complaining and look at one another. “Well, that may be,” Jim sadly concurs.

The Rio Grande Cottonwood is a flood-plain tree that reproduces by seeding. Described this way by Southwest journalist Jay W. Sharp, Once free, a seed, with a viable life of no more than a few days to a few weeks, begins a desperate, and usually a hopeless, race for survival. It must land on moist alluvial soil and swiftly extend roots toward subsurface water. If the soil dries too quickly, the seedling dies. Given sufficient moisture, however, the seedling may put down roots three- to five-feet deep in the course of a summer. If it survives trampling, fire, flood and animal feeding, it will become a fast-growing tree, always heavily dependent on a reliable water supply.

But because of Rio Grande water management — dams and channels that hold back spring floods — and overgrazing and population growth, which reduce the water table, the tree is in peril.

As is often the case, a child’s innocent statement snaps us out of our disgruntled state. Instead of focusing on the work it’s taken to keep up with this one female tree, we should be sitting back and admiring her abundance. Surely a handful of her many, many seeds will make it to wet soil somewhere out there and go on to perpetuate that most characteristic feature of this Rio Grande Valley — the cottonwood.
 
 
 

Rio Grande Cottonwood Facts

 

  • Cottonwood trees are dioecious, meaning they have male and female flowers on separate trees. The female tree produces cotton, and the male tree (cotton-less) produces pollen.
  • The Cottonwood is a member of the Willow family and the poplar genus. The Rio Grande Cottonwood (populus deltoides) is a fast-growing tree; it is a variety of the Eastern Cottonwood, which is the fastest growing tree in North America.
  • The Rio Grande Cottonwood was often a welcome sight to travelers in the desert because it signaled the presence of water nearby.
  • These trees typically reach the height of 50-60 feet, although some of the grand old trees in the bosque (forest) are 90 feet tall, with trunks five feet in diameter.
  • Young cottonwoods take years to mature and flower, which is why some female cottonwoods can suddenly start producing cotton after years of no cotton production.
  • Some municipalities have ordinances against female cottonwoods, as the windborne cotton is viewed as a public nuisance.
  • The Southwest’s riparian forests — woodlands along banks of streams or rivers (what we call the bosque) —are now among the most threatened woodlands of North America.
  • Local carvers have traditionally used roots from the cottonwood that have been undercut and swept downriver to make their spiritual art (Pueblo Indians make kachina dolls and Hispanic santeros make bultos). As cottonwoods vanish, the carvers are forced to buy their wood.
  • In many communities along the Rio Grande, there is now an effort to plant and repopulate the cottonwood to ensure its survival, as it is part of our history and our culture. Time will tell whether these actions succeed.




The Rio Grande Cottonwood’s disappearance from the banks of Southwestern streams and rivers can now be regarded as a metaphor for our relentless abuse of the environment of the desert Southwest.

~Jay W. Sharp



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Farrah Fawcett as Jill Munroe circa 1978 (public domain)Oodles of words have been spilled about the deaths this past Thursday of both Farrah Fawcett, at age 62, and Michael Jackson, age 50, and oodles more will be said. There’s little I can add, except perhaps this. 

When I think back to my youth in the 1970s, I will fondly remember one gift among the many that these pop icons gave us, and that is their hair.

Ah, Farrah’s mane. Long, thick. My God, did she ever have thick hair! And all different shades of blonde on one head.

She was Jill, the sexy athletic Angel. Sabrina (Kate Jackson) was the smart Angel and Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) the girl next door. But we all wanted to be Jill. Or at least, most the girls in my graduating class did.

We knew nothing of “blow-outs” then. Why today, with the right cut, I could replicate a Farrah Fawcett hairdo in no time, thanks to styling gels, leave-in conditioners, multi-sized barrel curling irons, diffusion blow dryers, and round bristle brushes. But back then we had few tools at our disposal.

Class of 1979, high school graduation portrait, me donning a bad Farrah Fawcett hairstyle, 1979, image © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reservedNonetheless, I tried my best to turn my frizz into Farrah’s layered mane. As seen in my high school graduation photo, I managed to feather my bangs, which I did by slowly pulling out (and in the process, singeing) the strands of hair clamped in my curling iron.

I settled with partial feathers, a sort of ready-for-take-off look that alone required hours to achieve. The rest of my curls I left be, except for the very ends, which I halfway straightened.

Some girls were excellent at emulating the ‘do, and I was excellent at hating them and their blonde streaks. But most girls, like me, failed miserably at transforming their natural waves into Farrah’s sexy look. And then there were the girls, in hindsight the courageous ones of our day, who didn’t even try to, through their hair, be anything other than who they were.




Class of 79, classmate who had the Farrah Fawcett hairstyle down pat, streaks and all (I'm sure I hated her in high school)

                      Class of 1979, a classmate who tried the Farrah Fawcett look (with mixed results)

                                                  Class of 1979, a classmate who went with her own hairstyle




Michael Jackson 1979 (public domain)My hair was probably better suited for the male ‘do of the time, which in the late 1970s was donned by Michael Jackson, pre nose jobs, skin bleach, dimpled chin, and straight wig. 

In 1979, his song Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough was in the Top Ten. We danced to his music and tried his moves. And the most fashionable guys — the foxes, as we called them — wore polyester shirts, vests, and slacks.

Not every boy could pull off a Michael Jackson ‘fro, but this had to be about the only time in the past 30 years where men yearned to possess curls worthy of clown wigs. For some, the ‘fro came naturally. For others, it was just a bad perm away.




        Class of 79, a classmate with the Michael Jackson afro and polyester shirt AND vest

                            Class of 79, a classmate with the Michael Jackson afro and polyester shirt




You gave us many gifts, Michael and Farrah. How can a legacy in music and dance compare to the short-lived afro that even you, Michael, discarded once you hit mind-blowing fame and fortune? It is minor, I admit.

And Farrah, you were much, much more than the sum of the seemingly infinite hairs on your head. But in the late 1970s, those hairs were the goal of every female my age, and I don’t think we have ever worked in tandem to achieve a singular style since.

Thank you both. For being the ones who impressed us most when we were at our most impressionable.

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Vietnam Purple, blooming flower in the jungle of south Vietnam, May
2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
We leave on two buses for a hydroelectric plant in south Vietnam, near the forest where later in the day we will tend trees. I wear jeans, a blue t-shirt like everyone else, and a black baseball cap. The bus I am riding is half-full. It winds through narrow roads, and after an hour I start feeling carsick and have to sit up tall so I can see over the high-backed seats out the window.

My company has a strong tradition of volunteerism. In the past year I joined work colleagues from my department in painting the interior of a Peanut Butter & Jelly preschool for low-income kids in the town of Bernalillo and preparing care packages for families supported by Roadrunner Food Bank. On my own I have over the years volunteered in my daughters’ classrooms and in the process earned the schools matching cash grants. But I have never volunteered outside my greater community, much less outside my country.
 
The area we are heading to now was hard hit during the Vietnam War. Vegetation was and continues to be contaminated by Agent Orange. My Vietnamese colleagues earlier in the year planted a type of tree known for its ability to grow quickly. As they grow, the trees pull toxins out of the soil. After 20 years the trees are cut down, taking the toxins with them.

But the trees are planted in the jungle, where vines can choke the saplings. Our job is to tend to the trees, clearing away vines and other invasive plants with hoes, allowing the trees to flourish.

But first we stop at one of the largest hydroelectricity plants in the southern part of the country. We get a tour of the facility and meet up with students from a local high school who will join us for lunch and then for the tree tending in the afternoon.
I’m not one for being fascinated by things like hydroelectricity, not to mention the tour is conducted in Vietnamese, but I honestly enjoy seeing the place. It is located in the lush countryside, about two hours from Saigon, with rivers and a reservoir created by the dam. Especially interesting are black-and-white photos from when the plant was built.
 
 
 
 
 

∞   ∞   ∞

 
 
 
 
         

         

Hydroelectric Plant (one through four), old black-and-white photos of the building
of the plant in south Vietnam, photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

∞ ∞ ∞





After the tour, the students join us for lunch in a thatched-roofed restaurant where we eat build-your-own spring rolls made with tiny prawns from the reservoir. I have never seen such miniscule shrimp. They lend new meaning to their name.

Soon comes a round of Vietnamese toasting. With arms stretched toward the center of the table, mugs in hand, we count to three and yell, “Yo!” Always the instigator, I urge my table mates to roar the loudest. We definitely succeed.




Youth Volunteers, three students who volunteered with us in the forest (and, man,
did they work!), May 2009, photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





It is steamy by the time we stand ready, hoes in gloved hands. In groups of three, each team begins work on two rows of trees. Even though it often rains in the afternoons this time of year, the yellow-red earth seems bone dry. I let loose on the vines that are choking the first tree on my row. I am, after all, hardy and not afraid of hard labor.

Sun bears down, sweat seeps from under my cap. Whack! Whack! Whack! I stop between chops to drink water.

By the time I am halfway down the row, I am dizzy and queasy. I sweat large amounts of water, and I drink large amounts of water to replace the sweat. But the more water I drink, the more nauseous I get. I squat near the base of the tree I’m working on and tug weakly at the vines. When I reach the end of the row, I sit in a spot of shade and regain my strength.




∞ ∞ ∞





  

Fast Grower, Seeds, Leaf, and Scorpion, scenes from the forest, including scorpion in a bottle, May 2009, photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




∞ ∞ ∞





After all the rows are done, we gather our tools and ourselves on blankets set under the shade of large trees. We gobble down fresh pineapple and papaya spears, peeled pomelo sections, and slices of watermelon. Everyone is laughing and talking. I am delighted to have been a part of the effort yet relieved that the work is over.

I pick up a couple of empty water bottles as we get ready to leave. Someone points to one of the bottles in my hand and I nearly drop it. Inside is a scorpion, caught and trapped by whoever was sharing the blanket with me. This is a different world!

The rain comes as the bus heads down the red dirt road out of the forest. I sit near the front, where I can look out the window. On the TV monitor above me, a beautiful Vietnamese singer croons a sad folk song. Life is not perfect, but this moment is.



Moon Swoon, video of a famous singer performing Vietnamese folk songs, the bus ride back to Saigon, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


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Baby Eagle 5, fledgling eagle in nest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2009 by SkyWire7. All rights reserved.










feathers fly above
eagles on Summer Solstice
learn to leave the nest










Post Script: It’s Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in this part of the world. We didn’t have a formal Summer Solstice celebration this year. But on Friday, we walked a few blocks down the street from the inlet where our friends live and past Murphy the ferocious dog (Guardian at the Gate) to view this eagle’s nest. It does a heart good to see eagles thriving on such a populated lake near a booming city. Seeing a nest of this size and scale is humbling.

You can’t quite make it out, but there’s another baby eagle (a fledgling or eaglet) to the right, hiding behind a clump of leaves. We could see its ruffled feathers through the binoculars. (Did you know a group of eagles is called an aerie or convocation?) Liz got a few more great shots (link at photo above). Her Canon point-and-shoot has a closer telephoto than mine.

It’s also Father’s Day. And yesterday we walked for hours around the Stone Arch Festival of Arts on the Mississippi River across from the famous Gold Medal sign. All in all, a good weekend to kick off the beginning of Summer. Happy Father’s Day to Jim and to my brothers who are good fathers. Also to my Northern and Southern fathers — thank you for everything you have taught me. I’m thinking about you today.


Eagle’s Nest & Baby, Eagle’s Nest Wide Angle, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Father’s Day, Summer Solstice, Sunday, June 21st, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), 15 Hours, 36 Minutes Of Light, Diamonds & Light (Summer Solstice)

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The Ant & The Peony, a garden haiku, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

benevolent myth
growing in gardens worldwide
do ants open buds?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do Ants Open Peonies?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

When the peonies on the side of our house start to bud in June, lines of ants quickly follow. Until a moment ago, I believed that ants licked the sugar off the peonies, helping their transition from bud to bloom. Turns out that’s a myth. According to Robert F. Gabella at GardenOpus, the ants’ annual ritual of  “tickling of the buds” occurs because they are attracted to the sweet resin on the peonies; the buds would open regardless of the ants.

Of course, it’s more fun to bury my head in the compost and keep believing that the ant has a reciprocal and benevolent relationship to the peony, much like the mythology surrounding the ant and the grasshopper — (for more detail, see ybonesy’s post The Ant & The Grasshopper – Ann Patchett & Lucy Grealy). For me, the myth is more delicious than the truth; perhaps the ant wants to keep its little secret.

 
 

Do Ants Open Peonies?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

A few other Fun Facts about peonies:

 
 
 
 

  • they may not flower until after the first season
  • established peonies can be heavy feeders
  • peonies are especially needy of potassium (essential for stem strength and disease resistance)
  • herbaceous peonies are known to remain in the same position, undisturbed, for over a century
  • after cutting, you can remove ants from peonies by using a mild soap spray or dish detergent (from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)
  • ants do provide protection–they attack other bud-eating pests by stinging, biting, or spraying them with acid and tossing them off the plant (also from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)

 
 
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time digging in the dirt and constantly have questions about plants and gardening solutions. Do you know the names of your flowers? Maybe you have trouble with groundhogs or slugs, or need advice about seed startingpassion flowers, or orchids. You can read more tips from award-winning horticulturist, hybridist, photographer and author Robert F. Gabella at GardenOpus (also found on Twitter!)

 

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, June 18th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Ghost With A Green Thumb, PRACTICE: Digging in the Dirt – 10min

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Coffee (Get Your  Motor Runnin), Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Coffee (Get Your Motor Runnin’), outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, a great place to write, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s a rainy morning and I’m slowly waking up. It’s been a strange week. Many irons in the fire, not enough focus, distracted. I have felt like a Duncan yo-yo spinning and “sleeping” at the end of its string. Since most yo-yo tricks are based on learning to “sleep,” it’s important to master the art of spinning. What was it going to take to snap back to the wrist and safely into the palm? Back to basics: practice, structure, community.

Amid continued job hunting, gardening and yard work with Liz, meetings with ybonesy around red Ravine, I’m researching and doing the ground work for a new mandala on canvas, progress on a series that’s been in my head for a while. And after Art-a-Whirl, I was reenergized for the writers’ photo series I’m working on. But I also have a commitment to honor from the last Kansas City writing retreat, a goal to focus on writing memoir essays for print submission — half day, 3x a week, mornings.

Where do I spend my time? It’s a matter of prioritizing the structure of each day. And staying grounded. Do other writers and artists struggle in this way? Is it a block or simply fear. Is there too much on the plate? Or do I just need to settle down and get back on track.

I carry creative projects in the belly a long time. Then they spew out all at once and nearly whole. It is the way I have always worked. I hold my work close to the vest, only talking to a few trusted people. It often takes a deadline to push me to completion. This is good to know.

Another thing that grounds me is looking to writers and artists who have gone before; their sage advice is hard earned and welcome. Recently, I perused paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, the infrared photographs of Minor White, and a book of Judy Chicago’s stunning clay work in The Dinner Party. I’m inspired by the work of others; it wakes me up.

 
 

Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

I also pulled Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft off the shelf. I read it years ago, before I called myself a writer. It’s on my list of classic books on writing — books I go back to when I need to feel that it’s okay to be struggling. I’ve always been fond of the way he dealt with rejection slips early in his career. I have never forgotten it:

 

I had a desk beneath the room’s other eave, my old Royal typewriter, and a hundred or so paperback books, mostly science fiction, which I lined up along the baseboard. On my bureau was a Bible won for memorizing verses in Methodist Youth Fellowship and a Webcor phonograph with an automatic changer and a turntable covered in soft green velvet. On it I played my records, mostly 45s by Elvis, Chuck Berry, Freddy Cannon, and Fats Domino. I liked Fats; he knew how to rock, and you could tell he was having fun.

When I got the rejection slip from AHMM, I pounded a nail into the wall above the Webcor, wrote “Happy Stamps” on the rejection slip, and poked it onto a nail. Then I sat on my bed and listened to Fats sing “I’m Ready.” I felt pretty good, actually. When you’re still too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.

By the time I was fourteen (and shaving twice a week whether I needed to or not) the nail on my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.

  -from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, ©2000

 
His perseverance, what Natalie teaches as Continue Under All Circumstances, Don’t Be Tossed Away, has always stuck with me. Do you have books you turn to when you feel ungrounded or like your head is going to fly off the top of your spine? If you do, pull them off the shelf again when you get stuck. They will turn you around.

Below are a few tips plucked from paragraphs in On Writing. They were easy to find; they jumped out from the page in fluorescent yellow, the highlighter I used 9 years ago. Ah…..I feel better already.

 
 

10 Tips On Writing From Stephen King

     

  1. If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut….Every book has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.
  2.  

  3. There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level…there’s stuff in there that will change your life.
  4.  

  5. Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do….What you need to remember is that there’s a difference between lecturing about what you know and using it to enrich the story. The latter is good. The former is not.
  6.  

  7. Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot…You can only learn by doing. For me, good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else. In most cases, these details will be the first ones that come to mind.
  8.  

  9. I would argue that the paragraph, not the sentence is the basic unit of writing—the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words. If the moment of quickening is to come, it comes at the level of the paragraph. It is a marvelous and flexible instrument that can be a single word long or run on for pages…You must learn to use it well if you are to write well. What this means is lots of practice; you have to learn the beat.
  10.  

  11. Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?
  12.  

  13. A series of grammatically proper sentences can stiffen that line, make it less pliable. Purists hate to hear that and will deny it to their dying breath, but it’s true. Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes…
  14.  

  15. I predict you will succeed swimmingly…if, that is, you are honest about how your characters speak and behave. Honesty in storytelling makes up for a great many stylistic faults…but lying is the unrepairable fault.
  16.  

  17. Before beginning to write, I’ll take a moment to call up an image of the place, drawing from my memory and filling in my mind’s eye, an eye whose vision grows sharper the more it is used. I call it a mental eye because that’s the phrase with which we’re all familiar but what I actually want to do is open all my senses.
  18.  

  19. As with all other aspects of narrative art, you will improve with practice, but practice will never make you perfect. Why should it? What fun would that be? And the harder you try to be clear and simple, the more you will learn about the complexity of our American dialect. It be slippery, precious; aye, it be very slippery indeed. Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then to get on with your story.

 
 

Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Grounding, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Grounding, vintage lamp inside the vault at Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script — On Spinning: I wrote this a week ago Sunday and have since gotten back on track with my projects. It’s good to have resources to turn to when I feel like I’m spinning. And to believe that the tide will turn, even when I am rejecting my own process. Writing is the art of rebellion — then snapping back into place. Replace the nail with a spike, and keep on writing. One day at a time; it’s not a race. Eventually, my work will be finished.

 
Footnote — A Little About Yo-yos:  One more historical tidbit I stumbled upon while adding the links on this post. Yo-yos and Slinkys (listen to the Slinky song here!) were popular toys when I was growing up. Did you know that the slip string that lets the yo-yo “sleep” at the bottom was a Filipino innovation? And that “Reach for the Moon,” “Loop the Loop,” and many more tricks in the familiar repertoire of yo-yo virtuosos were created by a group of professional demonstrators, mostly Filipino, hired by the Duncan Yo-Yo Company during the U.S. Great Depression?

The Duncan Yo-Yo Company started in 1929 when entrepreneur Donald F. Duncan Sr. purchased the Flores Yo-Yo Company from Filipino immigrant Pedro Flores. Check out the film of 77-year-old Nemo Concepcion, one of the first yo-yo demonstrators and originator of many yo-yo tricks. The film Yoyo Man was made in 1978 by filmmaker John Melville Bishop. Here’s a link to the film guide for Yoyo Man from Documentary Educational Resources.

 
 
-posted on red Ravine, Monday, June 15th, 2009

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ootb avatar 90 pxls widered Ravine -- a writing & art community blog

red Ravine -- a writing & art community blogootb avatar 90 pxls wide

 
 
Whom and what do you ENVY? Who has envied you? What’s the difference between jealousy and envy? How has ENVY impacted your life?

Barbara Rick, a Peabody & Emmy award-winning filmmaker/journalist based in New York City, and president and founder of Out of The Blue Films, Inc., explored these questions and more in Tuesday’s essay at red Ravine, Cracking Envy (Or How I Learned To Stop Romancing A Deadly Sin).

Now it’s your turn! The Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine has officially launched. This is a call for entries to share your essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, photographs, and music about envy. One of you will win a new Amazon Kindle. And any and all entries, or excerpts of them, could end up in the groundbreaking documentary on ENVY from Out of The Blue Films, Inc.

Is ENVY the worst of the Deadly Sins? How does it look and sound to you? Can you touch, smell or taste envy? To get the juices flowing, you might want to read a bit of history at WRITING TOPIC – THE 7 DEADLY SINS. Then do a few Writing Practices that you can turn into a polished piece. 

Below are the details you’ll need to submit your work. Contest ends at midnight, August 15th, 2009. Don’t miss this opportunity to feature your work in film. Or the chance to win an Amazon Kindle from Out of The Blue!

 
Amazon Kindle (from amazon.com website)

 
 
_______________________________________________________

Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest”

 
 

Submission Guidelines

ENVY is the latest project from Out of The Blue Films, Inc., in keeping with the company’s longstanding mission to tell inspiring stories that explore, articulate, educate, and celebrate humanity. Below are the guidelines for the Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine.
 
 

♦ What To Submit

All original writing and artwork is accepted for prize consideration. This includes, but is not limited to, essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, collages, drawings, photographs and music. We will accept entries in most formats, but prefer doc, rtf, txt, pdf, jpg, tiff, wav, mp3. Please limit your writing to 1000 words or less, and keep all attachments under 5MB.

 
 

♦ How To Submit

Send all entries electronically (do not send originals). If submitting more than one work to the contest, please send a separate email for each. Write ENVY CONTEST in the subject line, include the following information in the body of your email, and attach your submission:

 
Full Name: (If you prefer to remain anonymous please put the word ANONYMOUS in caps, after your name.)
Email:
Address:
Type of Submission: (short story, essay, poetry, photography, drawing, oil, collage, haiku, watercolor, audio, other)
Format of Submission: (doc, rtf, txt, pdf, jpg, tiff, wav, mp3)

ALSO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT: “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions of this contest and I certify that this is my original work.”

 
 

♦ Where To Submit

Send all submissions electronically by August 15th to Out of The Blue Films, Inc. at contest@outofthebluefilms.com.

 
 

_______________________________________________________

Terms & Conditions

The following conditions apply to the ENVY Contest sponsored by Out of The Blue Films, Inc. Before submitting, please read the Terms & Conditions:

 

June 11, 2009

Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and/or Barbara Rick, Inc. (together, “Producer”) welcome you to submit any writings, artwork, photographs, poems or other materials created by you (all of such materials being “Materials”) for possible inclusion in Producer’s documentary (the “Film”) currently titled and whose subject will be “ENVY”. By submitting any Materials, whether via this website or otherwise, you agree as follows:

1. Producer and its assigns and licensees will have the perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty free right and license (without the obligation to pay you any sums or other consideration), throughout the universe to use all or any portion of the Materials in the Film and in the distribution, advertising, sale, licensing, commercial use or other use thereof in any and all media, whether or not now invented (including theatrical or television exhibition, viewing via DVD, the internet, on cell phones or other devices), and in the exploitation of any and all ancillary and subsidiary rights relating to the Film, including merchandise, soundtracks and books based on the Film. Producer need not return any Materials, however as between you and Producer all underlying copyright and intellectual property rights to the Materials will remain your property. Producer’s sole rights to the Materials will be the uses described in these terms.

2. You waive any claims against Producer and its officers, directors, principals, employees and representatives, assigns and licensees for any alleged or actual infringements of any rights or privacy or publicity, moral or other rights resulting from or relating to any use of the Materials contemplated by these terms, and you warrant and represent that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the Materials and that the use of the Materials by Producer, its licensees or assigns will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party.

3. It shall be entirely in Producer’s discretion whether or not to make use of any Materials in connection with the Film. Should Producer wish to use any of the Materials in connection with the Film Producer will notify you that it plans on doing so (but Producer will have no obligation to make such use regardless of a notification). If the Materials do in fact appear in the Film you can receive on-screen credit under your real name or a pseudonym, whichever you prefer. You may also not be credited at all if you wish. If the Materials are to be used you should send an email with your credit preference to: info@outofthebluefilms.com.

4. An Amazon Kindle will be awarded as a prize to the person who submits what Producer deems, in its sole discretion, to be the best Materials. The criteria to be used for making such determination will be up to Producer, the decision will not be subject to any appeal and Producer need not explain the basis for its determination.

These terms shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York, and any suit or action relating to these terms may be brought only in the courts located in New York County.

PLEASE NOTE that (i) by submitting any Materials you agree to all of these terms, and (ii) Producer reserves the rights, at any time, to revise these terms, and the terms as so revised will apply to any Materials submitted after the time of revision.

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red Ravine is a vehicle for the promotion of this contest. red Ravine is not liable for any actions by the Producer, nor the Film. Any submissions are made directly and solely to Producer and not to red Ravine. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for submissions nor for any outcomes from the contest.


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By Barbara Rick
 
 
envy 1
Envy Green, New York Botanical Garden, 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Barbara Rick. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
It’s a hard, rotten knot of a word. Sinister. Secret. Has a way of gripping me by the throat and squeezing my soul of rational thought, patience, and generosity. Keeps rolling in like a black wave. ENVY.

After a crushing professional disappointment a while back, I found that I was brooding. Dark and long. Gnawing on the ‘injustice’ of it all. Sneering as I licked my wounds.

I became aware that I — as spiritually evolved and as peaceful a meditation warrior as I like to believe I am — was hobbled by something much bigger and darker than myself. Something slithery, lizard-like and primal. I was on to ENVY.

Touching its long thin tail. Up to my shins in it. And if it was giving me this much trouble, wrestling with me backstage in my accomplished, prosperous, abundant life, chances are it’s doing a number on everyone else as well. 

So I began digging, peering back through human history, and what I saw knocked me out.
 
The story of Cain and Abel, for starters. That’s when Cain, a farmer, turns on his shepherd brother because God liked Abel’s gift better. Cain, who by all accounts hadn’t even given much of a gift, was enraged anyway and ‘set upon’ his brother in a field. At the root of this first recorded homicide? ENVY.

Treatment of the Jews in the Holocaust? Not just the scapegoating, but the Germans preferred to actually lose the war than let up for a second on the extermination campaign against the Jews. ENVY, again.

Driving those planes into the Trade Center towers on 9/11? Yes.

Hostile, implacable, illogical, petty, deadly ENVY.
 
What a juicy, throbbing idea for a new documentary! We are intensively at work on this as we speak at my company, Out of The Blue Films, Inc. Seeking and receiving support and insights from some of the best minds in the world on this subject; scholars and artists musing, informing, inviting, seducing others to look at something most dare not. This film will be a bold, insightful, humorous exploration of the causes and consequences of this most corrosive human emotion.

Why and how is ENVY at work? It has a chameleon nature. First you see it, then you justify. It’s the squirming worm under the rock of history, hiding from the light. Exposed occasionally and brilliantly by Shakespeare, Dickens, immortalized in Salieri’s encounters with MozartIago’s loathing of OthelloCassius’ for Caesar … Claggart’s Billy Budd.

Viscous and vicious… elusive… a most urgent threat: between siblings, neighbors, nations. The evil eye. Often confused with jealousy, which, our ENVY scholars tell us, is often easier and softer for many to admit. Jealousy involves three people, and the fear of losing something you already have, while ENVY is typically between two people: that painful, searing feeling you get when someone else has what you long for and fear you might never get.

It’s the most shameful of the deadly sins, the mother of all others, writes Chaucer.

The driving, writhing force beneath most beloved fairy tales from Cinderella to Snow White. Scholars agree it casts a long, long shadow on humanity and its greatest power is that we are afraid, unwilling, or unable to look at it. Its care and feeding in secrecy under our dark collective psyche is the most damaging of all.

So we are calling it out, conjuring it up, exposing it to the best of our ability.
 
 
 
 

Trapped, Tucson, Arizona, near the Santa Catalina Mountains, 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Barbara Rick, all rights reserved

Trapped, photo © 2005-2009
by B. Rick. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
We’re asking you, and others: Whom and what do you ENVY? Who has envied you? How has ENVY impacted your life?
 
 
 
 

London, 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Barbara Rick, all rights reserved

London, photo © 2005-2009
by B. Rick. All rights reserved.

 


We’re using unique storytelling techniques to tell this dark, dangerous and ultimately triumphant story of human good over human evil — embracing the worst of ourselves to coax out and harness the very best.

What long and twisted roads has ENVY chased you down? When did it sneak up and scare the daylights out of you? Chain your heart and mind? How did you escape? Or didn’t you?

Please share with us your essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, collages, drawings, photographs, and music. One of you will win a prize: a bright and shiny new Amazon Kindle. Any and all entries, or excerpts of them, could end up in our revolutionary and groundbreaking documentary. No promises, of course. Remain anonymous if you wish, that’s fine.

Shine a light on your ENVY. Chisel at it with your pen or paintbrush – splash some sunlight on your darkest corners. Walk together with us, deep into it and out onto the other side. It will be a hell of a ride.




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TOPIC – ENVY (A PRE-CALL FOR ENTRIES)




The  Out of the Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at  red Ravine avatar officially starts in two 

days, on Thursday, June 11. That’s when we publish here at  red Ravine avatar    

the  Out of the Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest Submission Guidelines. Your writing or

visual entry may be selected as the winner of an Amazon Kindle.



So come back on Thursday, June 11, to read the ENVY Contest Submission Guidelines. We’ll tell you What creative forms are accepted and in what formats, and Where to send your entry and How. We’ll also provide the Terms & Conditions for the ENVY Contest.

Don’t miss your chance to win an Amazon Kindle, the reading wireless device that you hold in your hands like a book and that can carry in its memory thousands of titles that can be downloaded from the Amazon library — so you can read anywhere, anytime.



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Barbara Rick is a Peabody & Emmy award-winning filmmaker/journalist based in New York City. She is president and founder of Out of The Blue Films, Inc., creators of exceptional documentaries on important social issues that ignite positive action and promote open dialogue.

Recent films include ROAD TO INGWAVUMA (ing-wah-VOOM-ah), which chronicles the unique delegation of some of America’s most respected artists and their families to post-apartheid South Africa, and IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, one American nun’s battle with the Vatican over the rights of gay and lesbian Catholics.

ENVY is the latest project from Out of The Blue Films, Inc. in keeping with the company’s longstanding mission to tell the most inspiring stories that explore, articulate, educate, and celebrate humanity.





red Ravine is a vehicle for the promotion of this contest. red Ravine is not liable for any actions by the Producer, nor the Film. Any submissions are made directly and solely to Producer and not to red Ravine. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for submissions nor for any outcomes from the contest.

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Strange Bird, self-portrait, May 2009, pen and ink on graph
paper, doodle © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
Sitting on a United Airlines flight, San Francisco to Hong Kong, I am relieved to find the middle seat empty as the last passengers take their seats. The plane starts its slow taxi to the runway. I buckle my seatbelt.

This is Economy Plus, a section touted for its extra five inches of leg room, which on a 14-hour flight impress me about as much as the dinner selection of chipped beef or poached fish.

Before the plane lifts from the tarmac, Frank in the window seat asks about my nose. We have already introduced ourselves, and I have already answered his queries about my ethnicity and where I’m from.

“Where’d the nose come from?!”

The question jars. Does he always ask about physical traits of people he’s just met? Are those breasts real? So, how’dya lose your leg?

“It’s Apache,” I say. A lie, although I’ve always thought that my great-grandfather, José Inocencio, looked like Apache chief Geronimo. The bump on my nose, which forms a contiguous line with my cheekbones, definitely comes from José, as does the hook.

I stick my beak back into my journal. I’ve been working on a doodle I started almost two years ago but never finished. One of the side benefits of being held hostage on a plane for 14 hours is that I get to finish what I started and start a bunch of new stuff that I won’t finish.

“Whatcha workin’ on?” Frank asks. For all his annoying questions, he seems genuinely interested.

I open the book so he can see the picture of a fish walking down a city street. Frank is a lawyer, which is about all I know of him. He notices that a sign on one of the buildings in my drawing says the word LAW. I flip the pages to show him other doodles, and when I land on a picture of a bird next to the word Anxiety, I tell him that I did that one for a piece I wrote about Anxiety.

“Do you have anxiety,” he asks.
 
And with that question, I divulged to a man I’d known only as long as it took to reach cruising altitude that I sometimes suffered from anxiety, that my mother was also anxious, and that I tried anti-anxiety pills but weaned myself off of them.

Then I opened a fresh page in my journal and sketched the outline of what would become my next doodle: a half-woman-half-bird sitting in a cage, naked except for a cape of feathered wings. 
 
 
 
 
bird boobs
 
 
 
 
This tendency toward self-disclosure—I’d like to think it’s a positive trait that comes from my mom. Mom was, still is, the kind of person who’s easy to be around. Troubled friends of mine or my brother’s when we were teenagers often sought refuge at our house. Mom fed them tortillas off the griddle or hot rolls with butter. She asked a few questions of the kids; mostly she let them be.

Uncle Henry, who is married to Mom’s sister Erma, used to visit Mom on late afternoons. He taught Drivers Ed after coaching track at an Albuquerque high school. Many times I walked home from the bus stop to find some pimply kid slouched behind the steering wheel of a car in our driveway. Who knows how long Uncle Henry had been inside, drinking coffee or tea, eating a snack, and talking to Mom?

Mom also has a way of telling it like it is. She’s unlike most women I know of from her generation. Rarely private, never proper. She’s our own Dr. Ruth; she’s told some of us, her daughters and granddaughters, that married couples ought to have sex “about three times a week.” I won’t go into why she once received a ceramic jar labeled Mom’s Farts.

Mom can be riotously self-deprecating. For Father’s Day a year or two ago, we all watched Dad open the usual array of gift cards: Lowes, Borders, Barnes & Noble.

“You shouldn’t get him gift cards,” Mom chided. “Why didn’t you give him something useful, like a hoe?”

“I already have a hoe,” Dad objected.

“Who, me?” Mom asked, at which point they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

We’re on the look-out now for HO-themed presents: Christmas gifts wrapped in HO-HO-HO paper, and a HO-HO-HO t-shirt found at a store in Denver, which we got for Mom this past Mother’s Day.

My mother (and my dad, for that matter) has always been transparent. As a former boyfriend used to tell me, “Your parents are WYSIWYG.” What you see is what you get.
 



bird boobs




There is such a thing as over-exposure. I don’t always know where to draw the line, although I’ve gotten more discerning each year that passes. I won’t hesitate to pop in the earbuds and keep to myself if I feel the need to stop emitting honesty.

For example, I could have told Frank that besides inheriting her anxiety, I’m also prone to Mom’s tendency to bloat after sitting in one spot for too many hours.

Speaking of which, on the return flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, there was no Frank, but there was an Indian man hopping from foot to foot and doing knee bends in the waiting area near the bathroom.

It was the middle of the flight, shades drawn and the plane completely dark to simulate nighttime. I made my way past sleeping passengers, their legs, pillows, and headphones spilling into the aisle. The toilet was occupied. I looked to the Indian man and asked, “You in line?” He nodded and kept running in place.

We waited for what seemed like a long time, being as how the man wouldn’t stand still. When the door popped open, he hesitated, then looked at me.

“You go next,” he said. He’d finally stopped moving.

“Are you sure??” I asked. Maybe he was about to pee in his pants.

“Yes, yes, I’m sure! I’m going to be a loooong time, and after I’m done you won’t want to go in there.”

“Ah,” I said and made for the door.

I didn’t know whether to thank him at the time, although looking back, I’m really glad he shared.






Disclaimer To Frank, In Case He Ever Sees This

You truly were a nice seat mate, nose question notwithstanding. I should have mentioned that I’m known to write about people on planes. At least I didn’t draw you.

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