An Interview With Synesthesia Expert Maureen Seaberg

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Maureen Seaberg is a Synesthesia Expert who writes the Tasting the Universe Blog at Psychology Today; here is a link to her blog:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sensorium

 

 

Q: What is Synesthesia?

 

A: Synesthesia is when one sensory stimulus results in a normal sensory response “plus one”. For example, if I look at the word Wednesday, I know it is the fourth day of the week, but I also see the color indigo.

 

Q: What research has been done about it?

 

A: Since the mid-1970s, synesthesia research has grown enormously. It is now a very popular topic of inquiry.

 

 

Q: What causes it?

A: It is normally genetic and inherited, but sometimes it can result from injury or disease.

Q: What made you interested in writing about it?

 

A: As it was a book (THE MAN WHO TASTED SHAPES by Dr. Richard Cytowic) that helped me know about synesthesia for the first time, I hoped to pay it forward and help raise more awareness of this interesting trait. Now I’ve written two books on the subject and blog on it for Psychology Today.

 

 

Q: How can it help an artist?

 

A: Synesthesia is directly tied to creativity, of utmost importance to an artist. I believe it also gives us an affinity and fluency in color, and depending on the medium, that could be very useful.

 

 

 Q: How can it hinder an artist?

 

A: I don’t believe it can hinder an artist; on the contrary it is a very helpful skill.

 

 Q: You were a stringer for the New York TImes; what kind of stories did you write about?

 

A: I mostly covered breaking news, usually crime, for the Metro desk.

Q: What was your most memorable New York story?

 

 

A: There have been so many. They’re like children — you love them equally, but in different ways. I suppose the next thing I’m working on is always central to me, so I would say at the moment it’s the story of my ancestor, Ellen Walsh/Ida Mayfield Wood, who was the antebellum Holly Golightly and a fascinating eccentric. She made up a new identity for herself (imagine this in the mid-19th century for a woman…), lived a fabulous life at the center of society in New York City from just prior to the Civil War through The Great Depression and is the topic of my next book. The working title is THE RUSE and it’s like Edith Wharton and Truman Capote had a baby.

 

I also hope to write a book about tetrachromacy which is a favorite new topic for me. I was just diagnosed with the DNA for an extra cone for color in my eyes. I see 100 million colors as opposed to the “normal” 1 million. Tetrachromats are always women.

 

 

Q:  What is the biggest difference between blogging and journalism?

 

A: I think the rules are the same, particularly regarding ethics. Blogging is more about brevity and immediacy than traditional print journalism, though.

 

 

Q: What kind of educational background do you have?

 

A: I have a bachelor of arts in journalism from Penn State University and a minor in Spanish. I also received a certificate in superior-level language studies from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where I studied abroad. I also won a scholarship to the inaugural Norman Mailer Writers Colony in 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Swedish Country Singer Hicks

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Hicks is a Country Music singer who hails from Sweden, here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.hickscountry.com/

 

Q: What made you interested in country music?

 

A: I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves and Hank. My Grandpa and Ma were big country music fans. I didn’t know it was country music I listened to. To me it was just great music. When you’re a kid you don’t care so much about what genre it is, as long as you like it.

When I got up in my teens it was a lot of rock, I played in different rock bands, but them country songs were always there.

Then Garth Brooks came in the nineties and BAMM I was so hooked. I mean I love the old stuff, but what Garth did was something else… And I guess that’s one of the reasons I sound the way I do.

 

Q: Is country music big in Sweden?

 

A: Not that much. It’s starting to grow. I’m doing what I can ;o)

TV shows like Nashville and Heart Of Dixie sure helps to put country music on the map over here.

 

Q: What distinguishes you as an artist?

 

A: Energy… Energy… Energy… Having a good time. Forget your troubles for a while and cut loose.

Me and my band are a real power house live. There’s so much energy coming off from the stage that you can’t sit still. And the songs are the same. There’s lots of energy in the songs. I want people to dance, sing along and party…

 

Q: Who are some of your country music influences?

 

A: Like I said before Johnny, Jim and Hank were my first heroes. And that off course have inspired me. But I think Garth made a bigger impact on me with his larger than life shows. Brooks And Dunn, I have all their albums and both Ronnies solo albums. It bummed me out when they split.

Eric Church, love his latest album The Outsiders.

 

Q: What inspired you to write “Unreachable Dream”?

 

A: I wanted to write something that is very close to my heart. Never give up on your dreams. No Matter What!

I’ve been told that I’m too old, to this, to that… don’t write country music it will never work… and so on… But I never listened to that. I kept walking my own way and reached for the Unreachable Dream.

I want my life to be an inspiration both for me and others. And I guess my message is Anything Is Possible.

 

Q: What is your oddest backstage story?

 

A: Well if it’s that odd I don’t know… But to me it was very funny…

We played a big festival (won’t reveal which one) and I wasn’t the headline but played just before the headline. That band had never heard of Hicks or what happens at a Hicks show… They were a little cocky backstage and kinda talked down to us. Just before we went on stage they told me “Go out there and warm up the audience for us” “Sure” I said… and we did… and then some… We did our show to the fullest. As usual the crowd went crazy and so did we. We played so many encores that we ran out of songs…

When we came back stage the singer in the headline band was furious. Started yelling at me… “What are we supposed to now” “We can’t top that”

I just told him that “You wanted me to warm them up, they’re warm now”…

 

Q: What was your greatest triumph as a songwriter?

 

A: I’ve had a few… My first cut with another artist was a country song. It was certified Gold and the band got a Grammy for best album. That was just way beyond my wildest dream. What a great start as a songwriter.

The Jimi Jamison album “Never To Late” I co-wrote the whole album with Erik Martensson who produced the album. I’m so proud of that album and Jimis singing is out of this world. I’m a Survivor fan and get to work with one of my heroes is just mind blowing.

An other big thing for me was to write for W.E.T featuring Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Talisman) they have released two albums W.E.T and Rise Up. both albums won Album Of The Year at melodicrock .com. Amazing.

Little River Band recorded my song “Cuts Like A Diamond” and they named the whole album after that song. That’s HUGE…

 

Q: What sort of themes to you like to explore in your writing?

 

A: As mentioned before inspiring songs like Unreachable Dream about following your inner calling what ever that is.

Party songs like Hayride… hanging out with your friends and having a good time.

But I also enjoy writing about things that really matter like family (Mamas Kitchen), faith and being real… about exploring your self (The Steps)

And off course drinking songs (Bad Call After All)

 

Q: What do you like about going on tour?

 

A: Meeting the fans… That is just amazing.

And that feeling when you know that you have put a great show together and it’s time to go out and show the world what you’re about. Love that…

The interaction between the band and the crowd. I love to throw a party and invite everybody in the audience to be a huge part of it.

I love almost everything about being on the road. I guess there must be some gypsy blood flowing in me hahaha…

 

Q: What classic country song sums up your live?

 

A: I don’t know if you can call it a classic country song (yet) but Tim McGraws “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” It’s got me written all over it.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Psychology in Seattle Host Kirk Honda

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Kirk Honda is a psychologist and the host of the podcast Psychology in Seattle; here is a link to his website:

 

https://psychologyinseattle.squarespace.com/

 

Q:  What made you interested in psychology?

A: Psychology involves many things I enjoy: philosophy, history, culture, politics, meaning, biology, etc.  But mostly, I just enjoy helping others.

 

Q:  What is your therapeutic approach?

A: In my approach to therapy, rather than adhering to one specific school of thought, I utilize an integrative approach that carefully and thoughtfully selects from several useful models:

Relational psychodynamic theory and attachment theory states that people are affected by their early attachment figures.

Experiential therapies involve helping individuals and families emote more freely and healthily.

Humanistic psychology focuses on the good in people and their growth potential.

Systems theory states that individuals are a part of an interconnected whole.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a practical approach to helping in which the therapist helps the client find solutions by changing the way the client thinks and behaves.

Feminist theory that questions our cultural understandings and advocates for fairness.

 

Q:  How did your radio show come to be?

A: In 2008, I was listening to a lot of podcasts (e.g., This American Life), and I thought maybe I could provide something that wasn’t being offered at the time: an informative AND entertaining podcast on the topic of psychology.

 

Q:  Is the psychological make-up of the average Pacific North Westerner different than that of other American’s?

A: There have been many studies on the topic of personality by U.S. region.  When groups of people are studied, there appear to be some differences between groups of people by region.  However, many of the current claims in the media are dubious and not supported by evidence.  For example, it is common wisdom that people in Seattle are cold and distant — called the “Seattle Freeze.”  However, research has yet to convincingly support this claim.  Furthermore, anecdotally, reports vary from “Seattleites are the coldest people ever” to “Seattleites are the friendliest people ever.”  So, at this point, it is difficult to determine if there are indeed personality differences and what they are.  In my opinion, as a Seattleite myself, people are just as warm and friendly as anyone else, however, they might communicate it differently that others.

Q:  How do you go about procuring guests?

A: Some people ask to be on the podcast, and I also reach out to people.  As a professor and clinician, I run into a lot of interesting people.

 

Q:  What was the most controversial thing you have ever done a show about?

Strangely, my podcast on Milton Erickson has produced the most controversy; some people love it and some people hate it.  Other controversial topics have been Elliot Rodger, Sexual Objectification, and Spanking Fetish, among others.

 

Q:  You’ve done a couple of shows about Elliot Rodger, what made you interested in that particular case?

A: At first, I thought Elliot Rodger was just another spree killer, but when I started looking into it, I found the story to be fascinating.  I also found our reaction, as a society, to be worth discussing.  There are wide-ranging implications regarding feminism, materialism, elitism, racism, mental health, gun laws, police procedure, internet forums, etc.

 

Q:  What do you think the mainstream media has missed about the case?

A: Since so much has been written and said, there does not appear to be anything missed by the media.  However, in my opinion, the gun law debate tragically overshadowed the discussion regarding our mental health system, e.g., allocation of public funds for more psychiatric beds and a lower threshold for psychiatric holds.

 

Q:  Do you think his killing spree could have been prevented?

A: It is difficult to predict what would have happened if things were different.  However, I believe we can prevent some spree killings if we had a lower threshold for psychiatric holds and a greater number of psychiatric beds available.  There is strong evidence that this small measure would reduce the rate of these events.

 

Q:  I certainly do not advocate censorship in any form, I am no psychology expert and have no idea how this could have been prevented. However, I did read the manifesto and couldn’t help coming up with my own armchair analysis of one aspect of the whole thing. Elliot Rodger writes that his dad Peter Rodger gave him the book The Secret to read. The Secret would suggest that people can attract material wealth and success to themselves just by wanting it badly enough and asking the universe for it. I don’t think that Peter was demonstrating the greatest parenting skills in the world by giving this book to a child who already had delusions of grandeur; what do you think?

A: Determining causality of behavior is next to impossible, so it’s impossible to tell if the book was an influence or not.  But it is a question worth pondering for the sake of learning from this event.  However, in my opinion, given all the factors that contributed to the development of his personality, if the book was an influence, it was probably slight at most.  But again, there is no way to test this hypothesis.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Filmmaker Charles Sporns

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Charles Sporns is an aspiring filmmaker, here is a link to his website:

http://www.charliesporns.com/home/

 

Q: What made you interested in filmmaking?

 

 

A: I know that as soon as my parents started telling me bedtime stories, I started telling them some as well. As a kid I would make up stories about everything from kindergarten drawings to my mom’s set of keys. It wasn’t long after that that films became fascinating for me. I remember wanting to do everything I saw on screen, but better. I would watch films and re-imagine them as if I’d made them. You could say that I approached films the same way I approached bedtime stories: by re-telling them differently.

 

Q: What kind of training do you have?

 

 

A: As far as diplomas go, I have a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Filmmaking and a Diploma of Digital Photographic Imaging. Before settling in visual arts I studied music, social science, and computer science, but I didn’t get any degrees in those.

 

Q:  What inspires you to write?

 

 

 A: I don’t think I can narrow down any one thing that inspires me to write as far as subject matter. The easy answer should be “my personal life experience”, but that’s pretty vague. When I look back at my last two films though, they’ve both dealt with women who are looking for some form of affection, so I guess that’s been my inspiration lately.

 

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your filmmaking?

 

A:   My day job is basically freelance filmmaking in one form or another. People rarely pay me to write or direct, so I make due by writing musical scores, editing, shooting music videos, and doing various set jobs. Doing that definitely helps my filmmaking through exposure and experience, but it also takes away from the time I can devote to my own projects. It can be hard to turn down a paying gig, but sometimes I feel I have to. I’m scared of sacrificing my own projects.

Q:  Who are some of your filmmaking influences?

 

 

A: My early directing influences were Tim Burton (“Beetlejuice”, “Batman”) and Steven Spielberg (“Indiana Jones”, “Jurassic Park”). I was crazy about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Carrey films as a kid and I’ve been very influenced by popular comedy cartoons like “The Simpsons” and “South Park”. More recently I’ve been influenced by Asian filmmakers such as Park Chan-wook, Zhang Yimou, and Wong Kar Wai aswell as the likes of François Truffaut, Sergio Leone, and Woody Allen.

 

Q:  What famous actor would you like to direct and why?

 

 

A:  I’d say Joaquin Phoenix. He strikes me as someone who really embraces the vulnerability of his characters and who knows how to work with subtlety. I like actors with complex personalities; they’re more interesting to watch. I think Joaquin Phoenix’s complexity  makes his performances very layered and truthful. He’s hard to predict and I love that.

 

Q:  What is “Banzai War Machine” about?

 

 

A: “Banzai War Machine” is a feature film script I’m writing about gun culture and art. It’s an action/adventure film set in post-apocalyptic Japan in which a love-struck art dealer finds himself in the middle of a fight for gun powder. Think a blend of “Star Wars” and Hayao Miyazaki films. The development of the film will be on hiatus until I’ve completed my upcoming feature film, “Serenities”, which is a more feasible, lower-budget project to be shot in China in 2015.

 

Q: What do you like about the film industry?

 

 

A: It allows us to make a living out of telling stories and it enriches our culture through the sharing of ideas and life experiences. I like to think it does, at least.

 

 

Q:  What would you change about it?

 

 

A: I’d put creative people in charge of the money and ban superhero movies for a while.

 

Q:. What is your oddest LA story?

A: Sleeping in an open stranger’s garage in Beverly Hills. It didn’t seem like such a good idea when I woke up the next day.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

 

 

An Interview WIth Comedian Dobie Maxwell

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Dobie Maxwell is a comedian who has appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson; here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.dobiemaxwell.com

 

 

 

Q:  When did you know you were funny?

A: I was in fourth grade, and whenever I answered the teacher’s question I couldn’t resist going for the laugh. Everything she asked me was a setup to a punchline. It was like my own version of Hollywood Squares. After a while, she’d stop calling on me because she knew I would be going for the laugh. The other kids loved it, and it was too hard to resist.She used to yell at me and keep me after school, and say things like “You’re not stupid, young man. You KNOW the right answers, but all you ever do is crack jokes. You actually think you’ll be able to find a  JOB where someone PAYS you to tell JOKES/” I had no idea that was an option.

Q:  What’s funny about bad luck?

A: Without question, when it happens to someone ELSE. Anybody else. We’ve all gotten into the wrong checkout line in a store, and as soon as we get there we see it slow down because some imbecile is trying to cash a traveler’s cheque from Guatemala. I have more bad luck on a daily basis than anyone I have ever met. It makes people LAUGH. Period. I wish it weren’t so unfunny to live through personally, but at least I can turn it around and make others feel better about their own struggles.

 

Q:  How do you train someone to be funny?

A: The first thing I tell each and every one of my comedy students – and there have been more than 2,000 – is that NOBODY can ‘make’ another person funny. It’s just something one is born with…or they aren’t. Not many don’t have at least a little something to offer, and those people usually wind up in middle management in corporate America.

Q:  Who are some of your comedy heroes?

A: There were three names on my personal “Holy Trinity” of funny people that stood out from all others, and I was fortunate enough to meet them all in person and have it be a pleasant experience. In no particular order, they were Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rodney for a morning radio show I had in Salt Lake City. His wife Joan was from there, and he was booked for a show. He had no idea I was a comedian and had been studying his career, so he asked me to come to the show because he wanted to meet me. We hit it off, and at the end of the night I asked to get a picture with him. I brought along one of the technical engineers from the radio station, and he ended up not getting the picture. He didn’t tell me until after we got back, so I didn’t get my picture. Still, it was a thrill to meet him. George Carlin came to a club where I happened to be working, and we met before the show. He told me to go out there and ‘show me whatcha got’, and that was very intimidating. When I got off stage, he had left. I was crushed, but the club manager said he had a plane to catch, and that he came all the way back from the cab to make sure the manager told me I was very funny. Whether he thought that or not, it was a classy thing to do and I’ll remember it forever. Bob Uecker is not known for his standup comedy, but he is one of the funniest humans I have ever heard. He’s from my home town of Milwaukee, and I’ve been listening to him him broadcast Milwaukee Brewers baseball games on the radio since I was a kid. He’s hilarious, and I loved him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as well.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and why does it make you laugh?

A: Standup comedy has been my ‘day job’ since 1985. The only other thing I’ve done since than is morning radio – but I never stopped doing comedy. It’s a craft, and the only way to improve is to keep doing it. I love it more now than I ever have, but it’s harder and harder to make a living. Gas prices are killing everyone, both comedians and fans. When someone has to choose between food, clothing, shelter or comedy – guess who loses 100 times out of 100? Plus, the road life gets harder as one gets older. It’s brutal, and the thrill wears off very quickly. The shows are still fun, but getting there is a major hassle. I’m based out of the Chicago area, and I’m trying to keep my work as close to home these days as I can.

Q:  What has been your greatest onstage triumph?

A: When I was first starting out, there were no comedy clubs in my hometown of Milwaukee. There was a jazz club that had comedy on Monday nights, but none of us were professionals. It was a showcase where newbies would start out. There was a neighborhood alcoholic pharmacist that showed up seven nights a week to drink, and he was known to everyone as “Drugstore Bob”. He was a nasty and downright abusive heckler, and the drunker he got the more nasty he would be to the comedians. He would sit at the bar and yell up his lines, but  he’d know exactly when to step on a punchline and be a gigantic pain in the shorts to everybody. He loved all the attention, and the bar would never throw him out because he was a good customer. On more than one occasion, he would heckle some poor newbie to tears. The guy had no mercy, but he wasn’t an idiot. He was like Simon Cowell with about six cocktails in him, and he pulled NO punches on his opinions of who was funny and who wasn’t. Well, I worked my way up the ranks in that venue, and before long I could handle myself with any heckler – even Drugstore Bob. He started in on me one night, and I nailed him to the wall over and over again. It got huge applause from the regulars, and I knew I had what it took to do this. It isn’t for the squeamish, and I came through my boot camp with flying colors.

Q:  How do you deal with a heckler?

A: One important point I think that needs to be brought up is that not everybody that talks during a comedy show is a heckler. Sometimes it can be a great compliment to the comedian because if a person in the audience starts to talk it means the comedian made a connection with somebody. I’ve been doing it so long that at this point hecklers just annoy me. It’s like Mike Tyson going into a bar for a drink and having someone idiot think they’re tougher than him. I have a microphone, lights, a stage and a lifetime of experience. That’s like having a 7th degree black belt in karate. I’m able to defend myself with the best of them, so I’m not worried in the least. For some odd reason I have never been able to figure out, there are people that think they’re ‘helping’ by heckling. I’ve never figured that one out, but if you’re reading this and you think that – you’re WRONG. Stop it.

Q:  How did you get booked on Craig Ferguson?

A:I happened to live not far from a comedy club in Chicago where he was booked, and his plane was running late. The club asked me if I would mind being on hand in case they needed me to kill time until he got there. Not a problem, and I ended up doing over an hour. There was a CBS lady that was there and saw the whole thing. During Craig’s show I went into the club office and her purse happened to be sitting there. I took a big chance and wrote her a note and included one of my CDs and asked if she would please pass it along to the talentbooker. She ended up doing it, and that’s how I ended up on the show.

Q:  What trends in stand up annoy you?

A:‘Alternative’ comedy. What a joke. That’s just an excuse to not have an act. Standup comedy is HARD, and not everyone is able to do it. If the entertainment genres were to be compared to our solar system, standup comedy would be Pluto. Whether it’s a planet or not, it’s still the furthest from the sun. Standup comedy is THE hardest performing art to master, and if one can do it it will make anything else seem like child’s play. No offense or disrespect to other crafts like acting or improv or music – whatever. They’re hard too, but a good solid standup comic is very hard to find. Another trend that bothers me is how downright filthy newer acts are getting – for no discernible reason. I’m far from being a prude, and there’s no swear word in any language that could offend me personally. BUT – one should learn the craft first before venturing down that road. Whether anybody likes it or not, being able to work clean is a lot harder but it’s also the best way to start getting paid the fastest. “Clean makes green” is something I tell my students, even though some don’t listen. Smart people in it for the long haul will look at comedy as a craft. Others are in it as a hobby, but they’ll soon tire of it and start playing video games soon enough.

Q: Tell me a blogger joke.

A: How many bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It doesn’t matter, as long as somebody likes their latest post. Sorry, that’s pretty weak.  I’ll have to work on that. Good thing I have enough other stuff to use on stage. :)

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Poet Aline Soules

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Aline Soules is a poet whose work includes the anthologies Evening Sun and Meditation on Women; here is a link to her website:

 

http://alinesoules.com/

 

 

Q:  What is the theme of Evening Sun?

 

A: Evening Sun is a journey through the challenges and emotional turmoil of widowhood.  While it is my personal journey, my goal was to make that journey universal and also to celebrate my life with my amazing partner.  That’s why I threaded music through the work as well, connecting our experiences with the related stories of composers.

 

Q:  How did you come to write it?

 

A: My husband dropped at my feet of a brain aneurysm.  All I could salvage from that event was being able to donate his organs and tissues to help someone else have a better life.  The woman who got his heart wrote to me (letters are anonymous and go through the transplantation society) and I realized that the experience of widowhood was one that many shared.  Researching the U.S. Census for an essay on widowhood for an anthology, I read that 13 million are widowed annually in this country, 2 million men and 11 million women.  Some months after my husband’s death, when I began to recover from shock, I decided to write about the various stages of this experience, partly to cope and partly because I came to understand that not enough has been written about the emotional changes we undergo.

 

Q:  What is the overall theme of Meditation on Women?

 

A: In Meditation on Woman, my theme is every-woman.  Women have so many roles in life and I wanted to celebrate as many of them as I could by creating this one woman in multiple short pieces, all of which go together into a complex whole.

 

Q:  Why did you choose this subject?

 

A: Being a woman in the latter half of the 20th century and now into the 21st century is one of the biggest challenges women have faced.  As someone who went through the feminist movement, I am aware of how impossible it is to “do it all” or “have it all.”  My generation was the first to try to work full-time through marriage, childbirth and child rearing, elder care issues, and so on.  We were exhausted for years, but slogged on in spite of it all.  That said, I’m grateful to feminism because it has enabled me to own my own home, buy my own car, have rights that the young women of today take for granted.  In fact, as a teacher of information literacy, I’m amazed at the bad rap women in their late teens and early twenties give feminism.  They are shocked when I talk about how they’d have to have a man sign for a car or a business or a home, if we hadn’t fought for those rights.  Their lack of awareness was another drive to write this book.

 

Q:  Who are some of your writing influences?

 

A: There probably isn’t enough “air space” to name them all.  While I read work written in English, mostly, I also read work in translation, particularly after a Nobel Prize winner is named.  I read poetry, short fiction, essays, novels, articles—whatever comes to hand.  I’ve been known to read the cereal box on occasion!

 

As for influences, my strongest ones are probably poetic:  Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Stephen Dunn, Thomas Tranströmer, Seamus Heaney, Louis MacNeice, Emily Dickinson…

 

I am also influenced by prose writing.  I love the work of Isaac Babel, particularly his descriptions.  I read Dickens and Thackeray and Scott and Trollope.  I adore the work of P. G. Wodehouse.  Every year, I wait for the Nobel Prize announcement and pick up books I might not read otherwise—Doris Lessing, Orhan Pamuk, Kenzaburo Oe, John M. Coetzee.  Of course, poets have also won—Tranströmer, Heaney, Wislawa Szymborska, whom I forgot to name above.  I think of everything I read as an influence although my work isn’t like most of them, but I aspire to greatness.

 

Q:  What is the secret to good flash fiction?

 

A: Flash fiction implies a story—a single idea, focus, and pithiness—all given in the heightened language of poetry.  In Meditation on Woman some of my work is prose poetry and some is flash fiction and there is a thin line between the two that’s hard to detect.

 

Q:  What have you done to promote your writing?

 

A: Marketing and promotion are aspects of writing I never thought I’d need when I began, but I’ve learned that writers must be “out there” and offer content on an ongoing basis.  I have a web site, http://alinesoules.com, which is linked to Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.  Every day, there are new, similar services popping up, but I’ve stuck to those three for now.  I try to blog regularly, ideally once a week, often more like twice a month.  As I haven’t given up my day job, time is a challenge.  I also do readings locally, if opportunities arise or I can make them.  Interviews, such as this, are a gift.  Some books are easier to promote than others.  Meditation on Woman is an unusual work because it doesn’t “fit” in a category.  Evening Sun: A Widow’s Journey has already been easier to promote because the chapbook has been chosen by bereavement counselors to share with clients as well as by poets.  This has been most heartening because it confirms that I am achieving my goal of making the journal universal and expanding the conversation about the emotional aspects of widowhood.

 

Q:. What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?

 

A: I am an Academic Librarian.  I work at California State University, East Bay, teaching information literacy, working with collections and reference, and acting as liaison to the Departments of English and Geography/Environmental Studies.  As a faculty member, I also have the joy of research and publication (yet another type of writing), and participation in academic governance.  It’s a full plate, but very rewarding.  It influences my writing because I am fully engaged with that work.  I have found that when my writing doesn’t go well, something’s not going well at work.  Similarly, if things aren’t going well at work, I don’t write as well.  They’re symbiotic.  I also think that it’s important to be out in the world—at least for me.  I know that many writers, especially when they achieve sufficient monetary success to quit their day jobs, stay home and write, but I’m not sure that would work for me.  I need people. Living fully in the world gives me material for my writing.

 

Q:. What is your oddest library story?

 

A: I don’t know if “oddest” is the right word for this story, but here goes:  I have worked in four different academic libraries in my career—public and private; in the U.S. and Canada; large, medium, and small.  In all of them, within one week of starting, I have found a used condom somewhere in the book stacks.  When they say that the library is the crucible of life, they mean the intellectual content of what is found there, but, for me, it has an added meaning.

 

Q:  If you take a writing class from Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath who would you pick?

 

A: Even though I have written more poetry than prose, I would pick Virginia Woolf.  Her work is so insightful and who can resist A Room of One’s Own? I have a great fondness, too, for Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.  The whole Bloomsbury Group was a passion of mine for many years and I immersed myself in both the works they’d written and the works about them.  I loved, too, A Boy at the Hogarth Press by Richard Kennedy, that fabulous book about the idiosyncrasies of working at the Hogarth Press and growing up in that charged environment.  Perhaps I may need to work in the outer world, but I love to read about the inner writing world as well as participate in it.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Clinical Psychologist Ryan Howes

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Ryan Howes is a licensed clinical psychologist who created National Psychotherapy Day; here is a link to his website:

 

 

http://www.ryanhowes.net/

 

 

Q:  What made you interested in psychotherapy?

 

A: I went to therapy as a 10 year-old after my mother died. It was one bright spot of hope and clarity in an otherwise devastating time. I found myself intrigued by the idea that some people made a living by sitting and talking with others about the most important areas of their life. That’s a career?? In high school and college I found I was having these deep talks with people all the time and loved it, so it was natural to pursue therapy as a profession. The power of a healthy, positive relationship never ceases to amaze me. But I sit down too much. I need to be the founder of treadmill therapy.

Q: What kind of training have you had?

 

A:  I was a youth worker for a while, I sold books at a Barnes and Noble, I worked in psychiatric hospitals and community therapy clinics, and I went through a six year PhD program. I learned plenty about disorders and treatments in my clinical work, but I learned a ton about patience and grace under pressure from my time selling books. Psychiatric patients have a lot of severe problems, but bookstore customers are annoying. “I heard about with this one book about this guy, do you have it in stock?” Now I’m in private practice in Pasadena, California (www.ryanhowes.net), I write for Psychology Today, I teach, I form holidays, and dabble in a few other things. But no more bookstores. Get a Kindle and leave booksellers alone.

 

Q:  What are some popular theories in Christian psychotherapy?

 

A: I double majored in psychology and religious studies in college, and my favorite course was Psychology of Religion, where they explored how and why we form beliefs as we do. I was fascinated, especially about the studies looking at the interaction of shrooms and religious experience. I didn’t continue that research in graduate school, but I did learn to respect a person’s religious background as an important facet of their cultural and moral makeup. Christian psychotherapy takes the religious and cultural experience of the client into account, particularly where issues of love, forgiveness, commitment, and life after death are on the table. Which is a lot of the time.

Q: What did you to at eHarmony?

 

A: A few years ago, the eHarmony call center was getting a lot phone calls from people in emotional distress looking for free advice. eHarmony was the world’s biggest matchmaker, for gods sake, of course they could offer free advice about depression and loneliness. As a psychologist and writer, they asked me to put together a handbook to help their team tackle these questions in a helpful way that wouldn’t turn eH customer service into the Internet Dear Abby. As far as I know, it turned out alright. But don’t blame me for your horrible eHarmony dates and failed marriage, I had nothing to do with that.

Q: How did you go about creating National Psychotherapy Day?

 

A: One day on the radio I heard it was National Pencil Eraser Day. Then a local restaurant advertised Banana Split Day. Everything has a day, why not psychotherapy? In fact, therapy needs a day more than many of these other superfluous days: therapy is a proven effective form of treatment for many mild to severe mental issues, it has few side effects, it’s cheap relative to lost jobs and relationships, and yet the number of people coming to therapy dwindles every year. People need to know there’s an alternative to pills and suffering in silence. It’s a revolutionary idea: talk about your issues with someone who cares and has tools to help. We need to fight the stigma surrounding therapy so more people will seek the treatment that can help them. I gathered together a few graduate students, picked a date (September 25th), and declared a day. Now we wear turquoise to show our support and socially network like crazy. They say it’s going to be named a national holiday soon. And we all know we can trust they.

Q: What is the criteria for being on the American Board of Professional Psychology?

 

A: Most MD’s are board certified in their chosen specialty, but only about 5% of psychologists seek certification. They say a license assures the public a psychologist has competence in the field, but board certification is about excellence in their chosen specialty. I had to submit written and video samples of therapy sessions and then endure a three-hour oral examination that scrutinized every facet of my work in order to prove myself. All this so I can join a club no one has heard of and spend an extra annoying second writing four more initials behind my name. But in all honesty, it was kind of a fun experience. Or maybe I’m a masochist.

Q:  Do you believe psychology is more philosophy or science?

 

A: Psychology is a science, the study of human mental processes and behaviors. Psychotherapy is the artful application of that science. But it’s all based on philosophical principles stating that we do exist, we have free will, we are the product of our genes and environment, and we have some power to willfully change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some of the time, at least.

Q: To what theories in psychotherapy do you ascribe?

 

A: In Psychologese, I’d describe myself as a relational psychodynamic existentialist. In English, I’d translate to say I believe we are influenced by early life experiences, we all seek to find meaning and purpose in our life, and relationships are key to discovering that meaning and purpose. Practically speaking that means that the therapy room is both the lecture and the laboratory, that we explore what makes the client tick as well as talk about how these findings show up in the room between the two of us. In plainer English – the two of us are on a quest to understand who the client is and why. It’s a fascinating job. A job that would be better if I didn’t sit all day.

Q: Could you treat an atheist? (how would you go about this?)

 

A: Of course. I do all the time. Being a therapist who is Christian doesn’t mean I only see Christians or I try to convert non-Christians. No way, it just means I have a bit of insight into the Christian culture and worldview of some of my clients. My theories and techniques are the same regardless of the client’s religious background, and I treat everyone with the same dignity and respect. In fact, I stopped advertising myself as a Christian therapist years ago because perspective clients kept coming to me hoping I’d give them the fellow Christian discount. Nope. I’ll occasionally slide my fee in cases of financial hardship, but not because we’re on the same theological team. On second thought, I’ll give you 10% off if you’re a Pearl Jam fan. Just name 10 songs.

 

Q:  What make doing your job in LA unique?

 

A: Very little Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seriously, LA is unique in that therapy is accepted here at a much higher rate than most of the world, but there is still a noticeable stigma. My bland Pasadena office building houses over 100 therapists, but people rarely make eye contact in the elevator. Of course they’re here to attend therapy, everyone is either a therapist or a client in this building, but still the shoe gazing and slinking down the hall prevails. Lots of Los Angelinos have their own therapist, personal trainer, and dog walker, but they don’t talk about going to therapy. Let’s get over the stigma and admit we go to therapy. It helps.

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview with Actor/Model Daniel Sobieray

 

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Daniel Sobieray is an actor and model who appears in A Tale of Two Sillies; here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.modelmayhem.com/178015

 

 

Q:  What is A Tale of Two Sillies about?

 

A: A group of community college students in Southern California in the 90′s and they quest to find their identity.

 

Q:  What role do you play?

 

A: Yendis Nortrac

 

Q:  What did you do to prepare for the role?

 

A: Watched a lot of party of 5 and everything Lou Diamond Phillips did. LOL.

 

Q:  What do you think was the funniest thing about the ninties?

 

A: Only cause we can look back now but pagers and Hairstyles.

 

Q:  What kind of training have you had?

 

A: School of life…. and Theater school… lol

 

Q:  To what method of acting do you ascribe?

 

A: Once I make up my mind of who what what and where of the Character. Then I get the proper information on that character. Then I use a from of method to try it out and get comfortable with the new skin I am trying to fit into.

 

Q:  What’s your strangest backstage story?

 

A: Once I was doing a play of Balm of Gilead and when I went to my dressing room after the show a female from the audience was in my room waiting for me with champagne and chocolates. It was a nice but very uncomfortable she was like 80 yrs old. Still not sure how she got in there and past the security??? Lol

 

Q:  What does your average workout consist of?

 

A: I try to workout everyday and its a combo of weights and cardio.

 

Q:  What has been your greatest triumph?

 

A: I have been told as I have made my way thought this industry that I would be a real actor due to being a model and athlete ect. So every time I book a project its that reminder that I am only one in control of what I am and do.

 

Q:  What would you change about Hollywood?

A: I wouldn’t change anything Hollywood has been around much longer than I have and my short time and experience in Hollywood. I feel I don’t have enough experience to have opinion…… yet! hehe

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview WIth Woodcutting Artist Loren Kantor

 

 

 

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Loren Kantor is a Hollywood based woodcutting artist; here is a link to his website:

 

http://woodcuttingfool.blogspot.com/

 

 

Q: What made you interested in woodcutting?

A: I first became interested in Woodcuts after seeing an exhibit at LA County Museum featuring German Expressionism.  I encountered the Woodcut Prints of George Grosz, Kathe Kollwitz and Karl Schmidt-Rotluff.  I was mesmerized by the stark lines and bold imagery.  The characters expressed emotional angst and the images focused on the shadowy and uncomfortable aspects of society.  The art was broken down to its constituent elements:  black lines on white paper.  Simple but deeply nuanced.  I was blown away.  I never envisioned attempting woodcut carving myself at the time.  But the images remained in my subconscious and whenever I saw a woodcut print I felt a sense of excitement.

 

Q: Why film noir?

 

A: During my college days, I took a film noir class and immersed myself in the classics: Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Laura.  I fell in love with the stark black and white photography, the sinister shadows, the cynical heroes and enticing femme fatales.  The idea to carve images from Noir Films came about because we needed art for our walls at home.  I realized the stark imagery of black & white films was a perfect match for the carved lines of a woodcut.  The roots of film noir cinematography came from German Expressionist movies.  Film noir explores the dark shadows beneath the bright lights.  Woodcuts are all about dark and light so this provided a nice link to woodcut printing.

 

Q: What kind of wood do you use?

 

A: Friends are always bringing me small pieces of wood and plywood for my carving.  The important thing is that the wood is clean otherwise it won’t yield an effective print.  I first started carving on soft woods like pine and cedar.  These are easier to carve though the wood sometimes compresses during printing.  Hard woods like cherry and birch yield the best results but the wood is incredibly difficult to carve.  These days I’ve taken to carving on linoleum which I mount to a wood block prior to printing.

 

Q:What is your process in creating a carving?

 

A: The process begins when I find an image or a photo that moves me.  From here, I’ll make a loose pencil sketch on paper that I’ll hone over a few weeks.  The sketch is crucial since the half tones of a photograph must be converted to line art.  Once I’m happy with the sketch, I’ll transfer the image to a wood or linoleum block with a burnishing tool.  Now I’m ready to carve.  I use standard carving gouges and blades.  The carving can take 2-3 weeks depending on the complexity of the image.  The area I carve does not print.  The area I do not carve does print.  As such, you need to think in reverse.  The carved block serves as a “negative” much like a film negative.  Any text must be carved backwards so it prints forward.  It’s a bit of a mind warp, but this makes it fun.

 

Q:Of which of your sculptures are you most proud?

 

A: I’m most proud of my carved portraits like David Lynch, Billy Wilder and Charlie Chaplin.  It’s always exciting when an image comes to life and evokes the personality of the subject as if the print were a photograph.

Q: What made you interested in sculpting the Torah?

                                               

 

A: My interest in carving the Torah came about because my paternal grandfather was a Torah scribe.  He spent up to a year scrawling a Torah scroll by hand with a fountain pen and an inkwell.  Small mistakes he could scrape away and ink again unless he made a mistake writing the name of God.  This could not be scraped away since God’s name can never be erased.  Woodcuts are similar in the sense that once a gouge is carved, it’s permanent.  Small mistakes you learn to live with.  If you make a big mistake you have to start from scratch.

 

Q: What was your most challenging sculpture?

 

A: My most challenging print was Billy Wilder due to the nature of the shadows.  I was working with an iconic photo of Mr. Wilder and I was trying to depict his face in half shadow much like Wilder’s classic movie Double Indemnity featured the characters.

 

Q: Who are some of your artistic influences?

 

A: My favorite woodcut artists are Paul Landacre and Lynd Ward.  Both were American printmakers from the early 20th Century.  They gained notoriety from their cross-hatch engraving yielding detailed and meticulous prints.  When I see their work I’m dumbfounded.  I can’t even imagine attempting the work they created.  I think I would go insane from the subtlety and repetition.  When carving my woodcuts, I’m inspired by music.  I’ll typically play music that has a connection to the image I’m carving.  When carving Thom Yorke, I listened to Radiohead.  When carving Jim Jarmush, I listened to Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke (whose music was featured in Jarmusch’s film Broken Flowers).  When carving Charlie Chaplin, I listed to Caruso since it evoked the early 1900′s.  Obviously, classic movies inform much of my work as well.  I love film noir, screwballcomedies and classic thrillers like North By Northwest and The French Connection.

 

Q: How did you get your first show?

 

A: My first art show was somewhat bizarre.  My wife and I were checking out some galleries in Downtown Los Angeles when a young woman came over with a plate of bacon.  (Though I’m Jewish, I can’t resist a good piece of bacon.)  The woman was advertising her own art-music gallery called Bacon Social.  We spoke for a few minutes and she invited me to display my work in her next show.  The event was a kind of all-night pseudo rave with blaring music, flashing lights, flowing alcohol and of course, tons of free bacon.  I didn’t sell any work that night.  Flashing lights and loud music are not the best scenario for viewing art.  Since then I’ve exhibited in several dozen art shows, none of which included fried pork bellies.

 

Q: Who is your bestseller?

A: My best selling Woodcut Print is a piece called “The Open Road.”  It features a carved image of US Highway 163 winding through Monument Valley in Arizona.  The location was a backdrop to many famous movies including The Searchers, How The West Was Won, Easy Rider and Forrest Gump.  In my early 20′s, I took a drove through Monument Valley and took several rolls of black and white photographs.  The woodcut is based on one of these photos.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Screenwriter Philip Lee

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Philip Lee wrote the screenplay for Nowhere Street; here is a link to his Twitter account:

https://twitter.com/PhilipDavidLee

  Q: What is Nowhere Street about?

 

A: Nowhere Street is about one man’s journey into the dark side of life. It’s my take on an old theme. The most interesting thing about Nowhere Street is that it was a feature length film shot on a 3K budget. It’s not perfect, but it works for the most part.

 

Q: What made you want to direct it?

 

A: When I had met John Lore back in 2005 at The Santa Fe Film Festival, he was looking for a script to shoot. He had just graduated The University of New Mexico and wanted a film to DP. I had half a script so when I went back to Redding, CA, I finished the script and sent it to him. He thought it was doable so I moved to Albuquerque in April and we started production. I really had no experience so it was a challenge considering the limited resources we had to work with. Everyone needs a new challenge.

 

Q: What have you done to get it in front of an audience?

 

A: Because of the budget and lack of name talent, distribution was tough. I did hook up with one distribution company, but they went bankrupt and sold their library to an individual who was reluctant to let me out of my contract. Right now the film is sitting in limbo and will no doubt remain there until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

 

Q: What made you want to be a filmmaker?

 

A: I could give you all of the patent lame answers of wanting to make art or having an avenue to express myself, but that would just be a bunch of pompous crap. Filmmaking is fun and when you’re surrounded by good people, it makes for good memories. Indie filmmaking especially, because, everyone’s ego is pretty much on the same level. Once you get to bigger budgets, a larger pay scale makes some people think they’re a lot more creative than they actually are. I have heard some of the dumbest suggestions come out the mouths of people that would be better suited if they were mute and just cashed their checks. At its basic core though, I would like to make entertaining films for the general public.

 

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?

 

A: I have two jobs that do not inspire me on any level.

 

Q: You have written 18 screenplays, What genre do you like to work in?

 

A: I have actually written more, but I say 18 because if you can’t find anything in the first 18 that you don’t think will bring a return on an investment, then I don’t need to work with you because you’re a moron. I focus mostly in the action genre, but I have a few comedies and horror scripts in the mix. I think you have to have some diversity, but I also have to be excited about the concept. Don’t ask me to write a drama. I can’t stand them. I’ll have dramatic elements in my action stories because you need that, but a straight drama, ugh. They are called “motion pictures” not “emotion pictures.” That might piss off some hard core dramatists. Let it. They always need something to get dramatic over.

 

Q: What inspires you about New Orleans?

 

A: I’m no longer living in New Orleans and when I was, nothing inspired me there. I don’t get inspired by locations unless it’s the back drop or setting to a good fight scene. Yes, stories tend to change tone depending on where they are set. The same story shot in New York will have a different feel if it were shot in London, blah, blah, blah. I don’t have the resources or the luxury to choose my locations. I make the best of where I am.

 

Q: What do you like about the film industry?

 

A: Not much right now. I find myself extremely disappointed with some decisions directors are making. I hate hand held and shaky cam filmmaking and I see too many young directors relying on the style too much. It’s jarring and obscures the image you’re trying to film. You see it on news footage because 100% of the time the guy filming it is in fear of losing his life. I don’t think it adds anything artistic to the film unless you consider motion sickness an art form. Use a tripod you bunch of bobble-headed bozos.

 

Q: What would you change about it?

 

A: There are so many problems with the film industry right now and they will never be fixed. The money people and distribution entities are driven by complete greed and corruption while the creative personnel are subdued by their own growing and crippling egos. All the underlings have to be yes men because the egos don’t want to be wrong or the underlings really have nothing creative to add. Nobody seems to know what a “plot hole” is nor do they seem to give a damn. I could go on and on, but what’s the point. I’ve learned a long time ago in this business that nobody wants to hear the truth unless it’s what they have already decided is the truth.

 

Q: What do you think makes a producible screenplay?

 

A: A producible screenplay has to be balanced because it’s not just a story; it’s an undertaking that has immense risk to it. It has to be calculated to reduce the risk to the investors and still be able to entertain the general public. I was talking to this one screenwriter and he was taking about writing the next big drama. I told him that dramas were a big risk that I had backed up with some data I had researched. He said, “I don’t care about the numbers. All I care about is the story!” People like that are very selfish in that they don’t care about anybody. They don’t care about their investors. They don’t care about their distributors and most disturbing, they don’t care about their audience. Numbers ARE people and if you’re not entertaining your audience, you won’t be hitting the numbers you need where investors will want to work with you in the future. What makes a great script? Who knows, who cares. I haven’t agreed with the Oscar winners for the last ten years. What makes a producible script? A producible script is one where a realistic estimate of the box office is at least 5X the budget. It’s up the creators and the investment group what criteria are used to construct a realistic estimate.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)