The Real Fireworks

new-year-cardHere’s what we did on New Year’s Eve. I’d been drawing fireworks in the sky, and that was fun, but it was all part of a plot to pysch myself up to go stand outside in 5 degree weather at midnight. I’m kind of a wimp about these things, so it took some mental prep to give myself the enthusiasm to videotape fireworks at midnight in December.

fireworks-firstnight2When you dress for 5 degree outside weather, there’s a little problem with standing around in 70 degree theaters. So during the first part of the video when we were taping the live music and theater performances,  I was sweating. (p.s. I’m not complaining, because since then, we’ve had sub-zero temperatures.)

But it was fun, all of of it. And like regular blogging, video blogging sometimes takes you to places you wouldn’t go otherwise.

I haven’t mentioned it here before, but earlier this year I suggested that the Springfield Regional Arts Council on which I am currently a board member, needed a Technology Committee. So when the committee was formed, guess who was named chairperson?

If you don’t want to do something, don’t open your mouth! Anyway, since then, I’ve been working on some projects to fulfill what I see as the mission.

I heard somewhere that since we are always changing and adapting, every two years, we are completely different people. What do you think about that? True, false? Maybe?

The Power of Tag Clouds and Vintage Photo Friday

oldphoto-babycarriage

I used to think that tag clouds were silly, but now I’m starting see what they can do if you tag your blog posts.

Yesterday a reporter from the St. Louis Beacon called me to ask questions for a story she’s writing about Quilt National 2009 that’s opening soon at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO — I think the opening reception is September 25.

Since “Paris-Wish You Were Hair” is in QN this year, she was asking some questions about how I made the Wish You Were Hair series of quilts. So I worked on the blog, adding thumbnail photos and tags to my posts related to the series.

Because I wanted to send her this link by email:
http://pamdora.com/blog/tag/wish-you-were-hair/

If you click on that, you’ll see an archive list of posts over the past year about that series. Cool, huh? It would be great if all my posts were tagged, but now I’ll have to go back and do more. So my tag cloud will be changing shape and emphasis as I get more caught up, so it will be interesting to see how it changes over in the sidebar on the right.

What does all this have to do with baby in a carriage? Nothing really, except Donna shamed me into posting another vintage photo. Stuff’s happening so quickly around here I need to start posting more and faster — we’ve got video to edit of Japanese Taiko drums and a Japanese artist making a PaMdora out of candy, Spike’s new book Quilting Art: Inspiration from 20 Contemporary Quilters just came in the mail, and Mary’s show “Stitch Me a Story” opens this weekend!

I can’t keep up!

Circular Writing is like Circular Knitting

circular_knittingI used to think that writing was a linear thing, and it can be if you’re telling a story. Then blogs came along, and it seemed to make sense to write and post things in order, because in the beginning they were kind of just an online diary of events or ideas.

Now there’s the next generation of blogs. What I’m seeing now and starting to write for are blogs that follow a don’t follow a linear time-line — blogs with front pages that link to all different places in the life of the entire blog.

There are ways to do this in WordPress — for example using sticky posts to make a certain post stay on the top of your post order or featured article categories that do something similar — so I’m assuming this is also possible in Blogger and Typepad.

So now I’m learning to write circular, because  you can’t assume that someone will start at the beginning or end, or maybe you don’t even want them to. If you’re going to use a non-linear structure, you’re got to think about things from the reader’s perspective and try to give them some way-finding clues. What I call circular writing is not like circular thinking, a term many people use to describe a kind of obsessive pattern of going around and around in circles and never being able to break out of a vicious cycle.

Yesterday I realized that by “circular writing” I meant something more like knitting on a pair of circular needles in which you start with one loop of yarn and knit around and around making a tubular shape. When you knit in a circle, you are building on the past. Although you may revisit a place, it’s not repetitious, because you’re actually using it as a foundation and adding to it.

Circular writing also seems to me like making art. Over the years, I’ve found myself coming back to a theme or idea, sometimes not even aware that I am revisiting that idea until I’ve made something new and moved on. Only later do I realize the connection to the past.

Last week Karen left a comment on my “On the Road to a Improved Blog” that she wanted to start a one. I hope she does! I often hear or read about people who are are thinking about starting one, but something is holding them back. Just remember that starting a blog is like making that single little loop. Go ahead and get it started now so you can start building on it. It doesn’t have to be important or fancy, just get going now! And I hope that the idea that you don’t have to do things in a set order may be as liberating to you as it is to me.

If you’re still wondering why you should write a blog, here’s a great video from Tom Peters and Seth Godin about how blogging changed their lives, and why it’s important to do. Everything they say has certainly been true for me.

On the Road to a Better Blog

I’m not talking about appearances, I’m talking about structure. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know the look of PaMdora’s box hasn’t changed much over the last couple of years. But I’ve been writing here about four years total, and there have been a variety of looks. PaMdorasBox-2008-2009

Yesterday I played around with a few different WordPress themes, to find one that I could PaMdorasBox-2007work within. This one is pretty vanilla, but in a pleasant sort of way, so I think I’ll work with it for a little while while I’m in the structural re-building mode.

Categories and Tags

My old theme didn’t utilize Categories or Tags, both of which help people (including me, and I’m always having to search my blog to find something I’ve forgotten) to find their way around to find topics of interest in the past articles. So now I’m going back through 500+ entries to properly tag and categorize things.

New Thumbnails in Preview

Also you’ll notice the little thumbnail that accompany some of the teasers when you click on a category or tag topic.  These are being generated automatically by a java script called TimThumb that’s part of this theme. I say “automatically” except that I have to go back into each article to fill in a custom field that will tell WordPress where to look for the artwork from which to generate the thumbnail. So another 500+ edits.

Yet Another Related Post

The good news, is after all that work, there will be some added benefits. If you look at the bottom of each individual article, there’s a list of related posts. These are being generated by YARPP for WordPress. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin by mitcho uses Tags and Categories to suggest these – another reason I’m working on adding them to my old posts.

Nested Comments

Another benefit I’m really looking forward to is the ability to have nested comments. I used to go back and manually edit my responses so they would appear right after the comment I was responding to. Now there is a small “reply” button by each comment. So you (and I) can have the choice to scroll down to the bottom and leave a general comment, or use one of the new reply buttons to respond to something directly. Try it and let’s see how this works  – I’m really excited about this new feature!

Lightbox effects

Here’s a little history of images to show you the lightbox effect.  This is done using the WP-slimbox2 plugin for WordPress by by Greg Yingling. Click on any of the images on this page, and you should get the effect. I tried out several different lightbox plugins before I found this one, so there are a lot of options for plugins in this area.

PaMdora-header-2005-2006

PaMdora-header-february-2006

PaMdora-header-december-theme

PaMdora-header-january-2006

So please bear with me as I work to get all this organizational stuff done. Then I hope to get back to the fun stuff of getting a good-looking header designed for the top of the blog.

The Power of WordPress

Self-imposed WordPress camp, that’s where I’ve been the for the last couple of weeks. It’s not a real camp, but just me with my laptop on the dining room table hooked up to the internet. But I like to use the term to describe the intensity with which I’ve been learning how to better use WordPress.

learn-morse-code.jpgFor those who don’t use it, WordPress is the software that drives my and a lot of other people’s blogs. It’s free and open source, which means that people all over the world are constantly working on it to add to it and make it better.

The reason for my intensity is this summer I started to build a new blog. First I was just looking for a good theme to use. Then it progressed from there…

Themes are the framework of the WordPress blogs. What is cool about them is they don’t effect your content (what you write or the images that you upload). So you can try out different themes, and it’s almost like trying on vastly different clothes when you’re out shopping. You and your content don’t change, just your outward appearance and presentation.

For someone like me who thinks that rearranging the furniture is a great hobby, playing around with different WordPress themes is really fun. There are very simple themes and more complex. You can pay for a theme or write your own, and there are a lot of great themes there free for the downloading.

In the process of looking at a lot of themes, I’ve learned how to use WordPress plugins and widgets. All that has me so excited that I wake up at four or five every morning to work on it. I’m getting close to going public with the new blog and can’t wait to link PaMdora’s box to it.

Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning PaMdora’s Box though. In a few weeks I’m planning a make over for PB, because my theme here is so basic that I can’t even use widgets. It doesn’t access tags either, and when I add that feature to a new theme, you’ll be able to search the archives more easily.

Yoga, the Moon, and the Zone

This morning the old 1904 part of the house where I normally do yoga was freezing! I guess the radiator heat system is broken. Not being able to do my yoga there, I moved my mat, quilts, and other yoga props into the new part of house.

At first I was disgruntled by the uneven terra cotta floor, which I blamed for not being able to do my balance poses, (handy excuse). But over the next forty-five minutes, I realized that I was fortunate to be able to watch the full moon set across the winter sky through the big glass wall in the family room.

Every time I looked up from a pose, the moon had moved a little more, and as it moved behing the winter trees, I saw how big it was. That huge white circle in the dark sky reminded me of a poem I wrote about a winter moon in high school. I always did a lot of creative writing when I was younger. I think the first story I ever wrote was called “I am a Pickle.”

But as a kid I always struggled with the concept of being a writer versus being an artist. It was so unfair, writers could have their work reprinted by the millions and could be experienced by so many people. Artists on the other hand, I thought, could only have one original that would be experienced by a limited audience. And the visual arts were undemocratic too, because buying or owning a work of art was much more expensive than buying a paperback book.

I suppose recently those internal arguments have been softened a little by computers, the internet, and other digital media. And recently I have been working more writing into my artwork in little devious ways.

But back to the moon. I have never watched the moon set, and I think it put me into the Zone. I think the Zone is a meditative state of mind, or maybe a kind of out-of-body experience. Athletes talk about the Zone, artists talked about a creative mental state, yoga masters try to reach some kind of bliss, but I think it all might be a similar experience.

Sometimes I can get into the Zone when I draw or paint. But sometimes I’m not sure how I get there, it seems to happen accidently. All of a sudden I’m just there, and then I write or draw some of my best stuff. One time I was eating lunch, I think it was a hot dog and Campbell’s soup, and suddenly I got up from the table and wrote one of my best poems ever.

I guess that’s one reason I started this blog. I’m not sure how to get to that place where I create the best, but I’m always searching. I could try writing after yoga each morning, but if I add that to my current regima, even though I’m getting up at 5:30 I might never make it to the studio before noon.

I shouldn’t even be writing this right now, because I have a full day with four meetings scheduled, the biggest one being the art quilt group meeting where we are going to review all the work for our show. But you know, probably a lot of great art would never have been created if people always did what they “should.” Not that this is great art. But hopefully it’s on the road to making some…..