virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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Rabbit, Rabbit: Welcome to March

Rabbit, Rabbit: from doodle to superstition

Rabbit, Rabbit: from doodle to superstition

Rabbit, rabbit. I hope that March brings you plenty of good fortune.

Rabbit, rabbit? What?!?!

Growing up learned to say “Rabbit, rabbit,” first thing on the first day of each month for good luck. Before, “Good morning.” Or, “I’ll be right there…” If we could remember to say “Rabbit, rabbit” before we uttered anything else we could expect plenty of luck for a month.

It was easy to forget. It still is. But I still try to say it. And this morning, for the first time in quite a while, I remembered.

Odd Habits & Good Luck

I’ve acknowledge elsewhere that I grew up with an unusual menagerie of habits and superstitions.

We celebrated all sorts of holidays that my friends did not. Christmas, yes. But also Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and another near-to-Christmas night when we placed our shoes at the top of the stairs and St. Nick (I think) came and filled them with treats. Pistachios. Chocolates. Silver dollars.

Year round, while going to bed, we observed a few of the normal soporific mutterings like, “Night, night. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” But we also had another odd pre-sleep utterance: “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” Why? No clue. But we said it. Sometimes I still do. Pity my perplexed but accepting bride.

There were other oddities too, in some cases a bit more embarrassing, like the fact that I grew up referring to a woman’s breasts as “boogens”. Why? No clue. Middle school locker room braggadocio quickly exposed my peculiarity.

I long assumed that our top o’the month “Rabbit, rabbit” was a similar entre nous oddity. Wrong. It turns out “Rabbit, rabbit” isn’t just a curious family tradition. It’s a curious [likely] British tradition that seems to have colonized most of the English speaking world like tennis, gin and preposterously poor second language skills.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbits…

NPR’s Rachel Martin interviewed Martha Barnette (host of A Way with Words) on December 01, 2013:

MARTIN: This is the hard thing, right? Like, you’re supposed to wake up first thing and the first thing out of your mouth on the first day of the month has to be rabbit, rabbit. And then you’re lucky for the rest of the month?
BARNETTE: Exactly, yes. That ensures luck. And we don’t know why, you know, rabbits have been associated with luck of one sort or another – usually good luck – for more than 2,000 years. But it’s only in the early 1900s that we see written references to this superstition. (NPR)

According to the collective wisdom of Wikipedia, the origins of the “Rabbit, rabbit” tradition are British and showed up early in the 20th century. Not much additional clarity is offered but a few interesting references are dished up for you curiosity.

Mad as a March Hare?

The White Rabbit

The White Rabbit (Wikipedia)

Update: A couple of quick quips from readers raise the inevitable question, “Have I gone as mad as a March hare?” From rabbits to boogens to an unfair dig at English linguistic limitations, I seem to have plunged into March with the reckless abandon of Lewis Carroll’s second most memorable character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice. ~ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Nobody asked mine either, I suppose. And I am swerving erratically, brainlessly.

Thanne þey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare
(Then they begin to swerve and to stare, And be as brainless as a March hare)
 ~ Blowbol’s Test, c. 1500

Rabbit, rabbit! Take some more tea?

 

Wild Life with Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver (“The summer day”)

Wild Life: Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

Wild Life with Mary Oliver

Will you spring up from your pillow in the morning, heart racing, mind wild with questions and dreams? Will you sing softly then louder – to your spouse, your child, your dog, your view – an extemporaneous anthem of wants and wills and when’s and why’s?

Will you step into a steaming shower and listen to the raindrops and streams and oceans as you suds yesterday from your skin and hair? Or will you stride past the shower, the bathtub, the sink and dance directly to the lake? Will you dive in and swim until the shore calls you home again.

Will you pluck swollen raspberries from the brambles, grapes from the vines that wind through the fence around the garden, an apple from the gnarled tree in the first meadow?

And then, rested and clean and sated, how will you live this wild and precious morning?

Good luck! (And thank you, Mary Oliver.)

Mary Oliver Resources

New Tech, New Wants

A Sony WM-FX421 Walkman, for stereo cassettes.

Sony WM-FX421 Walkman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Technology creates our needs faster than it satisfies them. (Kevin Kelly)

My Monday morning muse for your ruminating pleasure is actually not mine at all. It’s a quotation from Kevin Kelly’s 1998  New Rules for the New Economy. No longer new, of course, but if you missed out before you’ll find that it’s still relevant and eerily prescient. And did I mention that the blog version lives on his website? And that it’s free?

According to Kelly, we’re hurtling forward, inventing technologies to satisfy our desires and — in the process –  discovering new desires.

Our wants are compounding exponentially… technology creates ever new opportunities for those desires to find outlets and form. (Kevin Kelly

Although the illustrative example, a $50 Sony Walkman (remember cassette tapes?), seems practically ancient, I can’t help but transpose an iPad or even a Kindle Fire.

When a merchant sells a consumer a new Sony Walkman for $50, he is in fact creating far more demand than he is satisfying–in this case a continuing and potentially unlimited need for tape cassettes and batteries. (Paul Pilzer)

Transposed for the digital age:

When a merchant sells a consumer an iPad, he is in fact creating far more demand than he is satisfying–in this case a continuing and potentially unlimited need for digital products (ebooks, videos, games, apps, etc.), physical accessories (from practical screen protectors and card readers to fashion carrying cases), non-physical accessories (warranty extensions, maintenance contracts, customer support, etc.), software updates/upgrades, and–let’s be totally honest–hardware upgrades because sexy new models with more memory, faster processors, longer lasting batteries and retina displays are the MSG that keeps consumers coming back for more!

With writers, publishers, editors, agents and booksellers wandering the Wild West known as the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm, it’s more evident than ever that technology creates more demand than it satisfies. Increasingly tech-centric publishing and storytelling is catalyzing an avalanche of new non-book formats to satisfy consumer demands. New options are invented daily, and yet we’re only beginning to glimpse the world of storytelling possibilities around the corner. Technology is simultaneously sating and creating new demand, seeding storytelling innovation and inventing new consumer desires… Suppose I’m bullish on storytelling in the digital age?!?!

Print Books: Purge or Hoard?

Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the last few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as a decorative and intellectual art form… When I voiced my reluctance to ship my books, one of my editors, horror-stricken, said: “You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!” The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did… In the end, I decided to leave 80 percent of the books behind, donating them to bookstores and even throwing some old, tattered volumes in the garbage. Readers, what would you have done? (NYTimes.com)

Books

Image by henry… via Flickr

Old news. Familiar question. Sort of…

I just returned from the Writer’s Digest Conference where the question of jettisoning or clinging to print collections came up several times. No consensus, but an interesting question.

This winter/spring is “out with the old, in with the new” time for me, so I’m lightening my load in as many ways as I can. My 2012 word-of-the-year? Agile. I’ll revisit this in the months ahead. Am I throwing too much too fast for you to follow my line of reasoning? Yes, I am. Concept still jelling. Actually the concept and the conviction have jelled, but I’m still sorting through how to explain my mission. Dump nonessential baggage and travel light. Simplify. Cut the crap. Chase the dream… As you can see, I’m still in beta on this!

Nick Bilton‘s July 27 post, “Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go?” cuts right to the chase, and I suspect that his decision to pare print down to 20% of his collection will be an increasingly common phenomenon.

I’m not there. I like digital, but I’m a sucker for ink and paper and bindings. I’m passionate about marginalia-filled white space and flattened relics which tumble out of books instantly transporting us back to an orange poppy in Big Sur or a teenage romance. I’m not ready to swap my bookshelves and floor/windowsill/desk stacks for a slim digital facsimile. Not yet. Purge I will, but not the books. Not now.

What about you? Do you feel the urge to purge?

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Born Again Books

Book Sculpture by Guy LarameeWith the increasing popularity of electronic readers and e-books, the future use of hard-bound books also comes under question… French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tackles it from a decidedly philosophical — and creative — perspective, carving intricate, three-dimensional landscapes that look amazingly real up close. (TreeHugger)

Based in Montréal (only an hour and a half north of me), French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tickles the already ticklish debate over the destiny of printed books. Fusing art and anthropology Laramée carves books into sculptures which arrest the viewer not only with their intricate three dimensional beauty, but with the cascade of questions each piece compels. Why books? Why vintage books? What are the implications of destroying words and ideas in order to create romantic, usually natural scenes? Read the rest of this entry »

Can Square and iZettle Revolutionize Busking and Micro-Philanthropy?

You’ve heard of Square. Buy on the fly. Accept credit cards through your mobile device. Cool, right? Listening to a Salvation Army bell ringer the other day I imagined a chilly Santa passing his iPhone around to pedestrians to swipe their cards instead of tossing change into the dangling cauldron. Off thought. But not out of the question.

In fact, universalizing (and lowering the bar for) credit card transactions could revolutionize micro-commerce. Remember that “clever web-based platform for social action, fundraising, group action” called The Point? A whole new boom in micro-philanthropy could emerge virtually over night.

While Square has been the darling of the venture capital world lately, its honeymoon may be coming to an end…

Enter iZettle, a smart new way that anybody can transact commerce on the fly.

Take card payments. With your iPhone or iPad!

Now anyone can take card payments. You and your friends. Your business. All you need is an iPhone or iPad and iZettle. (iZettle website)

Jag tar kort

iZettle (image by JonasG106 via Flickr)

Hold your horses, fellow Americans, the Swedes have pole position this time. We’ll have to wait until it deploys in the US. Or move to Sweden!

Why might this nifty gadget and service give Square a run for their money?

iZettle… is Europe’s answer to card payments app Square, only it is a better solution. While Square uses the magnetic strip on your credit or debit card, iZettle securely handles the card’s chip… this could be one of those technologies whose time is about to come. (WSJ)

Having lived in Europe (1999-2003) I’m quite familiar with these smart chips. I’m not a finance tech wonk, but I suspect there’s an added security element when the chip is integrated. Maybe not. Whatever the case, much of western Europe used these cards, so even a non-US, European roll-out of the iZettle could make some waves. And it seems already to be receiving a warm welcome.

iZettle offers huge advantages over other systems that let businesses accept chip-card payments. (Forbes)

iZettle — the New, Better Square — Coming Soon to America? (Huffington Post)

I’m not one to prognosticate in the world of finance, but I can’t resist good storytelling. And this little video is good storytelling. The story arc is compelling, and the mashup of realistic video with cartooning is intriguing. It transforms a boring topic (credit card readers, financial transactions) and into something hip and fun.

Doodling plays on our earliest memories of drawing fantasies into realities. A scribble on a page was actually a friendly dragon just waiting to carry us across the river to a fantasy land filled with chocolate and trampolines. And if they can de-business-ize (It’s my blog; I can make up words if I want to! Consider it blogger’s license.) credit card transactions, make them easy, accessible and romantic, well then they deserve to give Square a run for their money. And hopefully along the way, some good will trickle down to the rest of us. I’ve mentioned micro-philanthropy (imagine a church service in which an iPhone with a card reader is in the collection bowl with the cash and envelopes), but the image that really tickles me is a busker entertaining an audience on a street corner and then tip via credit card using the busker’s mobile phone. That’s the day I slip away to wander the globe as an itinerant storyteller!

Doodles and SuperDoodles

SuperDoodle, by Warren (The Doodle Daily)

SuperDoodle, by Warren (The Doodle Daily)

A while back I stumbled upon (tweetled?) The Doodle Daily, a clever creative crash course in the art of doodling.

Actually, Warren, the blog’s creator wouldn’t call it that. He’s a fair share less pretentious than that. He originally set out to create and share a doodle each day for a year. He succeeded. And he got stuck succeeding, so we all can benefit from his so-far-bottomless fount of doodles.

I’d actually almost forgotten about Warren and his addictive designs until yesterday. He materialized out of the ether. Poof!

Okay, so it wasn’t really a poof. But he did post a comment that sent me somersaulting back to his doodle blog to catch up on his creative enterprise. And much catching ensued including the dazzling image above.

Deft doodle design! I like it a lot, but why? It’s just another dandy doodle, dude.

Or is it?

There are doodles and there are doodles. There are dumb-ditty-doodles and there are whipper-doodles. (Also Labradoodles, but they’re really far off topic, and I’m hoping to limit my present acrobatics to merely-slightly-off-topic…)

So what makes a whipper-doodle special? What defines a super whipper-doodle? Warren sums up his SuperDoodle thus:

Simple, clean
classic

He’s on to something. Of course whipper-doodle rules are far from universal, but it does seem that at least a few essential ingredients can be found. Perhaps simple, clean and classic should be on the list. Classic might be too limiting, though I understand what Warren’s going after here. It’s a familiar design despite being original. Or it seems familiar. It exudes familiar canonical design roots, perhaps…

I’d suggest that there’s more to it though. In this doodle, for example, there’s symmetry or near symmetry. Warren’s SuperDoodle combines two separate, reverse mirror images. The symmetry is instantly appealing, especially so because the design is a bit complex, a bit ornate. And yet Warren’s inky oracle plays with the symmetry, plays with the viewer really, by distorting the scale of the nearly symmetrical half. Perhaps the composite consists of two conceptually symmetrical halves that deviate in execution. Now I’m approaching the sort of gassy verbiage upon which dissertations are built!

Suffice to say that a whipper-doodle is more evolved than a dumb-ditty-doodle. It contains a sort of universal design appeal. I think of the glorious paisley in its infinite iterations, or the minimalist lines of prehistoric hieroglyphs or globally familiar brands such as the Red Cross, the Jewish star, the Nike swoosh. (If tucking these dissimilar entities into a single rucksack and calling them “brands” offends, please excuse. This is not my intention. Simply overlook that last sentence and leap-frog to the next paragraph!)

After the first flush of my aesthetic crush fades, I catch myself asking what compels me, what draws me into Warren’s doodle? It’s clean and elegant, but it’s also playful. The near symmetry flirts with me, cocks her ringleted visage coquettishly and bats her eyes, smiles just enough to draw me in. I study the image, my eyes volleying back and forth, back and forth verifying accuracy, chuckling at the elements shrunk and stretched just enough to intrigue… I am drawn in. And I am smiling. Thank you, Warren.

Waffling

Waffling, by virtualDavis

Waffling, by virtualDavis

Monday morning is Sunday night.

For me.

Which is to say, today… is yesterday.

Sleepless night.

Exhausted by 9:00 p.m. but unable to pull the darkness or the dreams deep enough.

So rested. In bed. For hours. Mind wandering.

To Machu Picchu. My parents journey to Lima tomorrow, and I follow in less than a week with my bride. Ready. Eager.

The reverse of jetlag is jetleap, I think, when the soul leapfrogs ahead of the journey. I’d better start catching up.

Why the waffle photo? I’m not waffling. Not really. But it’s an intriguing snapshot from the weekend to balance the onslaught of Halloween photo booth documentation, n’est-ce pas?

Digital You

“Like it or not, a digital you is out there.”
Lawrence Joseph

Lawrence Joseph’s latter day truism is sandwiched between layers of post-9/11 offal like a slather of mustard or a thin slice of onion, a piquant but ancillary ingredient trying to mask the repugnant meat of the poem.

Digital display 2

Digital display 2 (Image via Wikipedia)

It fails. The poem “So Where Are We?” (Granta, Issue 116) and most of the other sketches and reflections in Granta’s Ten Years Later, edited byJohn Freeman, are deeply disturbing. But that’s the point, I suppose, looking back on a decade that scrambled and irreversably transformed much of the free world.

And yet Joseph’s assertion about digital redundancy clung to me. The notion of digital clones has become ubiquitous. It needs no explanation. It is a contextualizing, familiar point of reference that justifies the grotesque world conjured in this collection.

Like it or not, there’s a digital you out there. In fact almost every aspect of your life is probably reflected in some computer somewhere. You could say that information, that data, has a life of its own. If you have anything to do with modern society, you are no longer a purely biological, analog being. (New York Times)

I’m not altogether uncomfortable with this idea as the name of my blog plainly suggests, but I am fascinated with the implications of this analog/digital duality. I’ve said before that we’re living through a storytelling renaissance. Though we don’t always see it that way (teachers lament ever shortening attention spans for reading and literature; publishing executives panic as books become ebooks become Vooks become…), the proliferation of digital selves and the near universal acceptance of digital identities suggests a convergence of real world and narrative world. We are becoming our stories. Or vice versa.

The one big idea from the original “Tron” that maintained relevance was that some binary version of you is running around out there in all those ones and zeros, to a certain extent under your control but also, in a profound way, forever beyond your reach. Now we can all have multiple identities all the time: just make another user name, and you’re someone else, right? That conceit is not always accurate… (New York Times)

Are you keeping track of your digital selves? Are they still in your story, or have they defected? I’ve seen a few new faces wandering around in my own stories lately after all.

Skin Deep Accidents

Clipped from: shellartistree.posterous.com (share this clip)

Is it an accident that the palm of the hand is cool and inviting, a brookside grotto inviting us in to rest and listen to the water burbling past? Is it an accident that the index finger knuckle suggests an eye awakening a children’s book character from the hand, index finger and thumb? Is it an accident that the fingers and their shadows echo the sensuousRubenesque topography of a woman’s legs and posterior?

Yes. Accidents.

Just as the grotto feels safe and calm, like sitting in the earth’s gentle hand. Just as the improvised puppet inspires a child’s laughter and imagination despite being “just your hand”. Just as the nude napping in early evening light suggests cupped fingers, a shadowy hand gathering sheets.

Thanks for these accidents, Michelle Rummel (@shellartistree).

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