Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Uh, oh! Randomities Won the Kreativ Blogger Award!

Oh my, the incredible twitter friend Kirsti, whose blog How Did You Get There features hilarious and educating interviews, among other interesting things, gave me the Kreativ Blogger Award! Thanks so much Kristi! :-D

Hey, why don't you go pay her a visit? It's totally worthy!

Now, as per the rules, here are the seven things about me that you might find interesting:
  1. I'm Italo-Brazilian, but I write in English;
  2. Fantasy is my main thing. That's why this blog is so bizarre sometimes;
  3. I currently live in Italy, but you knew that already if you talk with me on twitter;
  4. I used to be a tax attorney (yuk!);
  5. I'm a dog person, but I really love all kinds of animals, even bats (whaa?);
  6. I do like sharing information and making conversation here and on other places. This is not not only about networking, but also about learning, helping others, and making friends;
  7. I have hazel eyes. ;p
Finally, and very importantly, I nominate another twitter friend whose blog I find very creative and entertaining:

Susan, from the authentic & indie West of Mars.

She rocks! Literally, she's all rock'n roll, heh.

Hey Susan, check out the rules:

1- Thank the person who awarded you

2- Copy the logo and paste it on your blog

3- Link to the person who nominated you for the award

4- Name up to 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting

5- Nominate another Kreativ Blogger to pass the award to

6- Post links to the blog you nominate

7- Leave a comment on the blog to let them know they’ve been nominated

Friday, January 22, 2010

Random Cool Things #1 - George Steinmetz's Camels

Do I need to say anything?

Nah, just click on the picture to enlarge it. ;-)

Note: I found this on Stumble Upon. If you've never heard of it, you might want to check it out. Great stuff there! Join in and give a thumb-up to my stuff, ok? heh ;-p

Ah, you can also Digg it. (See that thing below my profile, saying Share This? There you go, heh.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

I've Decided to Change the Blog's Name

Yes, this blog continues being random, the posting will keep being erratic, and there will still be articles, stories and reflections in here.

It will also maintain the autumn theme, and I'll restlessly point you to pretty things, for yours and mine delight; such as this painting below:

"But if all remains the same, why change the blog's name?" you ask.

Well, maybe my lawyer-self have influenced me when I came up with the previous name,

"Random Articles, Reflections and Stories, by Mariana N. Blaser".

Sounds a bit pompous, no? (uh)

Besides, even not knowing if there's such thing as the word "randomities" in English, I rather like it. So I'm keeping it, ha! ;-P And the blog is new, about a month old, so I feel comfortable changing things that I wouldn't in a different situation. (when I'll have a huge audience and a name changing would confuse way too many people, heh)

Finally, I wanted the blog's title to be as warm and personal as the content. The idea here is to interact, -- that is, make good conversation with you -- exchange information, and show you good stuff that I relate with, and I think you might be interested in too.

Now, why don't you tell me what you think of the new name? :)

"mariblaser's randomities"

Note: That superb painting up there is the "Poplars on the Banks by the River Epte in Autumn", by Claude Oscar Monet, which I found here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Intruder Has Settled In

So, I've got some lovely comments on the cushion-dog story (not here, but on the site I originally posted it) - thanks everyone!

However, some people were really surprised by Moira's strong wording when talking about the intruder, who I had mentioned being my mother's adorable dog, Iris, and whose picture you can see at the end of this post.

Indeed, at first Moira was hard on the newcomer; but soon they settled to a peaceful sociability.

But you see, now... Well, here's how they're doing together:

Moira will never admit (heh), but she does love Iris. Don't they look gorgeous together? :-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Steampunk Hilarities

When I was a little girl (please bear with me) 90% of my friends wanted to be ballerinas when they grew up. Do you know which were my aspirations for the adulthood? Well, I wanted to be either an astronomer, to watch the stars, or a mad scientist, muahahah!
No, I was not a deranged child who wanted to conquer the world or something; I wanted to invent cool things, like Gyro Gearloose's, from the Disney’s Duck Tales.
Well, imagine my reaction when a witch friend of mine (or former witch if you will) recommended me a steampunk on line comic? Er, I actually scorned at it, as back then I was prejudiced about stuff published on line, and freely distributed no less.
I was so wrong! When I decided to take a look, at the Girl Genius Comics I couldn’t stop chuckling! (I wasn't laughing out loud and rolling on the floor, only because it was past 2 a.m. and this is not a reasonable hour to make noise.)

Seriously, the comic is so good that it had me literally clapping hands at some point. Plus, they won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Novel (or Graphic Story, as they call), which is huge!
Right, you already know what steampunk is, you read and love Girl Genius Comics, and you're bored to death... Wait! Here's an extremely cool site you may like (former-witch friend found through Neil Gaiman, no less); you can read some steampunk stories here; there are some awesome steampunk gadgets here; and here's the site of a steampunk workshop! I hope these caught your attention. :-)
Now, if you, on the other hand, had never heard of this steam-thing, here's some interesting (and concise) info:

Steampunk is a genre of speculative fiction usually set in an alternative Victorian or Erwardian world, frequently filled with fantastic elements, where advanced technology is steam powered.
Satisfied? But there's more!
Clockpunk is a steampunk subgenre in which highly technological stuff are based on clockwork mechanisms in pre-Industrial Revolution settings. They generally exclude steam power; so extreme Da Vinci's inventions would make a good picture of it.
Dieselpunk is also a steampunk subgenre in which ultra technological things are powered by diesel and eventually nuclear power, in a 1920's to 1950's setting.

Finally, if you got interested in this steampunk thing, here are some suggestions of readings, "watchings", "playings", and (believe me) "listenings" on the genre:
Some books, starting with the classics (always!):
Never forget the comics: (If you've scrolled till down here, open your mind, will you?)
Steampunk-ish animations:
  • Full Metal Alchemist, by Hiromu Arakawa (There are two sets of series; the second is called "Full Metal Brotherhood" and is on the screens right now. I highly recommend both.)
I'm not into games, but was told that these are good:
Did you know that there are steampunk bands out there? Me neither; just found out about them:
  • Abney Park (seems like heavy rock'n roll with steampunk looks; nice).
To wrap all up, here's an extensive list of steampunk works I found on "master" Wiki.
But hey, if you now some other good steampunk thing you'd like to recommend, please do so! I do want to increase my reading, watching and listening lists! :)

Note: No, I did not forget to give proper credit for the wonderful pictures you saw up there. The first one, with the couple, is from Kyle Cassidy; the second, with the hot guy, is from Nadya Lev. They're both spectacular photographers, so why don't you go pay them a visit? ;-) Ah, of course all Girl Genius illustrations came from free stuff of their website.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Limited Mind Sets

One of the topics discussed on #LitChat last year - a most interesting twitter chat for writers - was the use of stereotypes in literature. During our discussion, someone shared this video of the Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie, who gave a brilliant talk about "The Danger of a Single Story" that inspired this reflection. All quotes below are hers.

Her speech relates to our LitChat topic, because a stereotype is basically a simplified view of someone or something. It's natural that we mentally categorize in our minds people we've just met and things we're hearing about, tasting, or smelling for the first time. The problem is when this categorization process becomes a barrier to absorb new impressions and information on that person or thing.

For instance, when Adichie tells the tale of her going to the US to study at the university; when her roommate pitied her without having ever met her, thinking that Adichie was unable to understand the functioning of a stove because she had come from Africa.

What does her experience tell us? That her roommate had had some previous information about Africa, and had taken the rest for granted. This is what Adichie calls a single story (about Africa) and I call a limited mind set.

Now, let's come clean here. When you think of Africa, which is the first image that comes to mind? Poverty? Famish? Exquisite landscapes? "Primitive societies"? Rape? All the above?

"But, that's all true," you say. In a way it may be, but is it all that there is to know about Africa and its people?
...if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, incomprehensible people fighting sensless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves, and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreign.
You know what bugs me the most? How precise she is when talking about the kind, white savior.

When we have a limited mind set, we usually believe that our point of view is the best for everyone, regardless their cultural background and life experience (and our own too). Sometimes, without even realizing we think ourselves superior from someone else. Are we? Superior?

When talking about her roommate she adds:

In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her [the roommate] in any way; no possibility of feelings more complex than pity; no possibility of a connection as human equals.

This touched me deeply. Adichie summarized in that sentence how the "superior" heart sees people through the limit of its pity. The pitied people become less than human, like Locke's imaginative impression of the Africans back in the XIV century.

I love this anecdote Adichie mentions on the talking:
A student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I'd just read an American novel called American Psycho, and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers.
So, as writers we have the privilege (and the obligation) of seeing our stories from many points of view. We may choose to tell them from a single one, but we know what goes in the heart of each of our characters.

When I read books filled with cultural impressions, especially when they feel alien to me so diverse they are, I also feel privileged. Have you ever had close contact with the Chinese culture? What about the Japanese, the Iranian, or the Pakistani cultures?

This cultural diversity, the astounding difference in which people (even from the same cultural background) see the world, reason and deal with their own feelings and the other people's feelings, is fascinating to me.

I have learned so much from stories that portrait intensely the character's minds and hearts that I like to think that, through them, I've expanded my view of the world, or my mind set if you will.

This is what good stories do; they enrapt the reader, projecting in our heart the character's emotions, transforming a reading into a life experience. We suffer with the characters when they fall, we rejoice when they succeed, love, and are loved. And then we learn, as if their lives were ours.

I won't extend more this post; if you've read this far I'm sure you have much in mind to digest, so I'll leave you with a final reflection:
Stories matter.

And please feel free to share your opinion. I'd love to hear it.

Note: The impressive picture of a Zimbabwe sunset was taken by Steve Evans, and I found it here. The touching picture of the African child I found here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Is This Stupid? Nah!

I wasn't planning on posting anything before Tuesday, when there are deep stuff coming (watch for it! heh), but something stroke my attention; sadly in the most negative sense.

Go to the agent Janet Reid's blog, and see what you should never, ever (!) do during the submission process.

There are natural and understandable mistakes; but there are the emotional, unprofessional, and (sorry) ridiculous ones. Don't do that, ok?

Oh, I know this is obvious for many of us, but there's always someone who can profit from listening to the obvious. Aren't the simplest concepts the hardest to grasp? (Before someone else explains them to us, that is.)

In case you missed it up there, here's the post's title and link again.

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