Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Website on the Way

I've been at this same little blogspot for almost five years, but I'm in the process of expanding what I'm doing here and will be moving to Wordpress shortly. I have a couple reasons for this:
  1.  I want to get spiffy. I want a new look that Blogger isn't providing. Something more magazine layout style. I think I've found a good template that you will be happy with.
  2. I want to expand my writing. Though I'll probably keep the more personal ranting over here (I know you love my trash talking and terrible language), I feel that I've really expanded as a writer in the past couple years. (Don't feel the need to tell me if you disagree, please.)  I am interested in pushing this even further.  Maybe I'm a writer and not a campaigner after all. Maybe I'm not even a writer or a campaigner. Maybe I'm something entirely different. Who knows. But I'd like to see where it goes. The new website will contain more feature like articles and I will be challenging my style a bit more to see where I can push myself. If I can push myself beyond the style you have been reading for all these years. My fiction writing as well has turned a page recently, that writing I will not be sharing with you on this or the new website unfortunately. You'll just have to wait for my first book! 
  3. I'm interested in exploring things beyond politics, nonprofits, and my puppies, though we all know those things will still play a prominent focus. I guess when it comes down to it, while this started as a way to reach out to my family and friends on the issues (like PVC and brominated flame retardants) I work on in a way that makes sense and more specifically to breakdown stereotypes that liberals care about one thing while conservatives care about another when in reality humans care about protecting their families and their communities just the same. But I think ultimately what all this writing and reading has allowed me to do is bring out a piece of my personality I might not have otherwise developed. Your years long stream of words telling me to keep writing and sending me emails and skype messages and making jokes about the stuff that I write has indeed encouraged me, so thanks for helping me to be a better writer. (Don't feel the need to tell me you do not think I'm a better writer or a good writer or a writer, please.)
So as soon as I choose a new blog title and learn all the new things on Wordpress, I'll be up and running. I'm guessing another week or so. I'll probably repost some of the posts here that have the largest hits to get started and add new content weekly.

Reneé Claire 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Morning Listening

Thank you Joss Stone Pandora station.

Ain't No Sunshine - Buddy Guy and Tracy Chapman

These Arms of Mine - Ottis Redding

The House of the Rising Sun - Tracy Chapman

Right to be Wrong - Joss Stone

Try a Little Tenderness - Ottis Redding
Summertime - Joss Stone and LeAnn Rhimes (because its become difficult to remember that LeAnn Rhimes is actually an incredible singer, remember Blue? The song was originally written for Patsy Cline. The video is amazing!)

Fell in a Boy - Joss Stone

There's Hope - India Arie

Easy Like Sunday Morning - Lionel Richie and Westlife (no idea who Westlife is, but they look like an Insync type of group with maybe a little soul) This is a much better version.

Also, some great quotes on why writers write by famous authors including Georgia Orwell saying "I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Social Entrepreneurship

Business is often thought of, in the United States anyway, as a clear path to putting money in your pocket or the pockets of whoever is in charge of said business. And it is, but I believe we have forgotten as a country the other benefits of entrepreneuralism outside of profit making, such as providing jobs, enabling infrastructure growth, and providing access to health care in the form of the benefits it offers employees so that its employees are healthy enough to keep the business operating. All these things help both the community at large and the business owners and the employees. So in reality business isn't just about making money, its also about creating a healthy and functioning community. Money is just one mechanism that enables an entire ecosystem to be successful. That ecosystem is our community and in a broad view, our nation.

New Orleans and its surrounding towns is an area often abandoned by not only the federal government but also the state. The state of Louisiana notoriously allows large corporations to use and abuse and throw away its people. Why else would oil companies be allowed to forget about the thousands of miles of unused and abandoned oil canals of the oil companies making? The result of these canals is our entire state eroding into the ocean, in fact a football field of Louisiana land disappears into open water every 38 minutes. In addition to the impacts of the oil canals is mans attempts to control the wild Mississippi River, preventing the soil build up that has given our state its land mass for centuries. By ignoring the impacts of oil canals, we are prioritizing corporate profits over peoples lives in Louisiana and calling it a free market. In place of the state, is a rising tide of ordinary folks taking things into their own hands. They are losing this battle everyday and are in desperate need of government help and there will be a day where folks on the Gulf Coast will be either swept into the Gulf or forced to evacuate, but they do it nonetheless.  This is exactly why governments exist, to wield a larger hand when individuals aren't able to do so for themselves.

As the business community (and those in political office and trade associations that represent the business community) in the United States continues to move away from this understanding leaving its employees and patrons struggling to successfully access and utilize healthcare, the financial system, and struggle with decaying infrastructure, while bringing in record profits resulting in a collapsing economy except for the very very rich, community members are rising up to find solutions. The long term result of this shift of responsibility for uplifting a community away from business towards social justice organizations is that our businesses will  eventually be run by people who are better able to be productive members of the community. Business will once again regain a sense of respect for the community that allows it to exist. One such solution is social entrepreneurship.

What do I mean by social entrepreneurship?

"Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society's most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change." - Ashoka

Social entrepreneurship is the recognition of a social problem and the uses of entrepreneurial principles to organisze, create and manage a social venture to achieve a desired social change.  - wikipedia

I also see social entrepreneurship in the work of very large companies such as Toms and Seventh Generation. These companies make a profit but part of the way in which it does is by doing good for the communities that need it. These models are slightly more traditional business than say Kiva, which is a non-profit that lends out micro-loans to small business people.

I am more and more attracted to the social entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo of both business and government. I no doubt will run my own business one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, and do not see my role as solely making money. I firmly believe that profits over people is not sustainable and we only have to look at our world's current financial problems for proof. That was never business's sole purpose and it shouldn't be now.

Update June 30:

I just found this article that says New Orleans is seeing an entrepreneurial rate 40% higher than the national average.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Language is Yours for the Making

Just found this amazing letter from C.S. Lewis to a child fan who wrote him a letter asking for writing advice. It's like he is reading all those long winded, whiny, nonprofit emails demanding we strongly care about their issues while excluding the many everyday people perspectives and instead choosing to speak like a hostage in a political science office of a higher education institution with me!

Writing advice from C.S. Lewis to a young American fan named Joan Lancaster:
The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
26 June 1956
Dear Joan–

Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same.

His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.

About amn’t Iaren’t I and am I not, of course there are no right or wrong answers about language in the sense in which there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. “Good English” is whatever educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be so in another. Amn’t I was good 50 years ago in the North of Ireland where I was brought up, but bad in Southern England. Aren’t I would have been hideously bad in Ireland but very good in England. And of course I just don’t know which (if either) is good in modern Florida. Don’t take any notice of teachers and textbooks in such matters. Nor of logic. It is good to say “more than one passenger was hurt,” although more than one equals at least two and therefore logically the verb ought to be plural were not singular was!

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’timplement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love
C.S. Lewis

Fresh Air

I love Fresh Air with Terri Gross as you already know since I often link back to interviews of hers. Here is another one with Louis C.K. I know very little about him and after listening to this interview tried to watch his show, which I got maybe 3 minutes into and turned it off. But nonetheless this is a great interview. He talks about writing about serious issues, in particular a suicide moment where he is put into a situation to help prevent someone from killing themselves only to realize that writing such a moment is made up of pure ego where he gets to be the hero. Then have one of his best friends kill himself in real life a few years after writing this episode.

Worth the listen. 

Also as the Olympics are getting ready to start let's remember 1968. I loved the Olympnics when I was younger, yes, I spelled that correctly. Here is a good video (even if it is CNN) about how every moment is an opportunity to seek justice if only we would let it be.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Protest Comes in Many Forms

I just found this amazing website targeting the Prime Minister of Canada. Every two weeks (on Monday) a writer sends a letter to the Prime Minister suggesting a book that he should be reading. Here is an excerpt about why . . .

"I was thinking about that, about stillness, and I was also thinking, more prosaically, about arts funding, not surprising since we fifty artists were there in the House to help celebrate the fifty years of the Canada Council for the Arts, that towering institution that has done so much to foster the identity of Canadians. I was thinking that to have a bare-bones approach to arts funding, as the present Conservative government has, to think of the arts as mere entertainment to be indulged in after the serious business of life, that—in conjunction with retooling education so that it centres on the teaching of employable skills rather than the creating of thinking citizens—is to engineer souls that are post-historical, post-literate and pre-robotic; that is, blank souls wired to be unfulfilled and susceptible to conformism at its worst—intolerance and totalitarianism—because incapable of thinking for themselves and vowed to a life of frustrated serfdom at the service of the feudal lords of profit."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So What If I'm Suppose to Be Working

 . . . its national Bourbon Day!!!

I can drink Bourbon and get a whole bunch of writing done. Actually, no I can't, but I can dream about drinking bourbon while I get a whole bunch of writing done today.

Also, I made awesome sangria yesterday with Frangelico and Grand Marnier, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and peaches along with Barefoot Savignon Blanc and Moscoto white wine. Wow. . . I think that's the only real indicator that my life has actually progressed. My sangria has more expensive ingredients.  I've been making my own sangria for almost 10 years, but in 2005 I was living in Brooklyn chain smoking Newport Lights and making home made sangria with a gallon of Carlo Rossi, cheap fifth of Peach Snapps, and frozen fruit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And There Goes the Reporters

Just wanted to share with you an interesting article in the Atlantic about the dismantling of New Orleans' paper Times Picayune, which is a damn good paper and not just by Louisiana standards. Its competitive to almost any other major city paper on content, but looks at what it gets to report on. Highest murder rate in the country, highest prisoner rate in the world, best artists, biggest fuck ups (education, environmental protection, letting the city drown, etc). It also has one of the highest percentages of community people that actually read the paper in the nation. And exactly how  do people read an online newspaper when they have no internet connection?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

9 Year Old Shames School Into Better Lunches

by writing a daily blog with photos of her lunches and then rates each meal. The revolution will be blogged by the kids. Even Jamie Oliver mentioned her.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dog is Not God Spelled Backwards

It's a direct translation of "shut the fuck up". Georgia has picked up the habit of loudly barking at me when she wants food, a walk, a belly rub, Beau to play with her, me to stop working at the computer, or when she wants to climb on my lap and pretend she is a 7 pound Shitz Shu. It's really annoying. I'm just letting her bark until she gets tired and walks away. It's helping but in the mean time oh my fucking god, just shut the fuck up Georgia!

This weekend I have Zuki back. You might remember him from such blog posts as "Zuki Wants to Cuddle With You!"  and "Sister and Brother from Another Mother".  My cousin Justin who lives just outside the city, that city being New Orleans my stuck up east and west coast and European friends, and adopted Zuki not long after I rescued him. You'll be happy to know I have yet to replicate the Summer of 2011 where I rescued 5 dogs off the street. Now I just pretend I don't see them out my car window. I've become a monster.

Zuki and Georgia are on the verge of homicide at any given moment, though they are also deeply in love, as it always seems to go. However, Zuki has some real separation anxiety, he was chained to a tree for who knows how long before I found him. He has some problems sleeping without Justin. And when I say sleep, I mean pacing the entire house whining alternated with walking around the bed the entire night and peeing in the laundry room. I have had serious sleep problems for as long as I can remember which means the only one sleeping when Zuki visits is Georgia. Another reason to hate her.

On another note, I just bought a stove top espresso maker. I have a percolator I bought in a garage sale for $3 in Oakland but this is a different kind called moka pot mini. here's a boring youtube video of how it works versus a traditional percolator.  I've learned through reading so many coffee websites and blogs that these folks are pretty boring in their explanations so consider this video par for the course. They obviously need some Renee Claire to spice up the industry. The moka pot mini is kind of awesome. I'm really excited for it to come in. With my new butcher block that I rescued from my moms garage this weekend, I now have an official coffee making station currently set up with two different types of grinders, two different types of cones, two french presses, and soon to be two different types of percolators. A big gap in my equipment is a Turkish coffee maker, which I use to curse loudly when I worked at a Turkish place in DC, but have now fell in love with after all those terrible Amsterdam coffees (Turkish coffee is much much better than anything you can get in Amsterdam). Of course a major part of the coffee station, is the liquor cabinet that sits just beneath it so if I make shitty coffee I can just pour in some Frangelico and call it brunch.

off to the gym! hopefully zuki won't tear apart my window unit like he did last year while i'm away.

Reneé Claire

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Books and New Chairs

I just transported nearly a hundred books from my moms house this week. Boxes and boxes of books that I had collected in high school, college, and while traveling. I need two new bookcases to store these all. I think I should open up a library in my house with the hundreds and hundreds that I have collected over the years.

I read a new one while in Montreal called The Power of Habit. It breaks down habits into the parts of the brain that control them and the individual pieces that create and sustain them. It was amazing! And a relative easy read as I finished it in two days.

Here are a couple interesting sections:

(page 175)

"Sometimes, one priority - or one department or one person or one goal - needs to overshadow everything else, though it might be unpopular or threaten the balance of power that keeps trains running on time. Sometimes, a truce can create daners that outweigh any peace.

There's a paradox in this observation, of course. How can an organization implement habits that balance authority and, at the same time, choose a person or goal that rises above everyone else? How do nurses and doctors share authority while still making it clear who is in charge? How does a subway system avoid becoming bogged down in turf battles while making sure safety is still a priority, even if that means lines of authority must be redrawn?

The answer lies in seizing the same advantage that Tony Dungy encountered when he took over the woeful Bucs and Paul O'Neill discovered when he became CEO of flailing Alcoa. it's the same opportunity Howard Shultz exploited when he returned to a flagging Starbucks in 2007. All those leaders seized the possibilities created by a crisis. During turmoil, organizational habits become malleable enough to both assign responsibility and create a more equitable balance of power. Crisis are so vaulable, in fact, that sometimes it's worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down."

I've worked with several organizations who live this daily and that is why I run all the time. . . I mean actual running, like for exercise and with expensive running shoes and crappy old campaign t-shirts.

I finished Wild late last week. It was a great novel, but lacked an ending that didn't draw on cliches. I almost wanted it to end in some non life lesson with her getting to her new Portland apartment and chowing down on a pizza. I feel as though the journey was enough, I don't need the story to get sappy. Of course she found something bigger than herself and her lost on the trail. But it's worth the read regardless. Also turns out Oprah reignited her book club after reading this book (and terrible OWN ratings) and Reese Witherspoon's production company is making it into a movie. Opal and Harv are so ahead of the times! 

I'm on to a new book called "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar" about a sister team that travels to the middle east during the early 1920's, not a time known for its adventurous independent women travelers, though "Out of Africa" is also about the same time frame and continues to be one of my go to movies when I want to see a woman kick some ass, which Kill Bill also fits. Anyways, the new book is interesting, though has a slow start so far. I think maybe the last two books were so easily drunk that anything less is proving a little more difficult. Good thing I just create two new sitting nooks in my house for extra comfy reading and writing time. Maybe I'll grab a copy of the book "Out of Africa" was based on for my next read.

Reneé Claire

Friday, June 1, 2012

No Sleep . . .

Till Florida!

Got home last night from Montreal, had a couple drinks at JJ's (love you trashy bar begging for a lawsuit), and was finally in bed snuggling with Georgia by midnight. Woke up at 6am, dug through my still packed luggage replacing the dirtiest clothes, switched out my books and magazines, walked the boxer around the block and hopped into a cab for another flight. Arrived at airport and realized I had forgotten my coffee on kitchen counter!

One more trip and then I'm home  . .  . for a couple weeks and then no more traveling for a very good long while as my favorite folks will be visiting me over the next several months.

Found this lovely statement today:

A revolutionary woman can't have no reactionary man

Sing it!

Renee Claire