Tag Archives: advice

What I Learned about the Future of Breast Cancer Detection from Joining a Clinical Trial

16 Jun
Helping other women lets me get in touch with my inner goddess (thank you, Wikimedia Commons and the ancient Minoan culture!)

Helping other women lets me get in touch with my inner goddess (thank you, Wikimedia Commons and the ancient Minoan culture!)

Because I just love living dangerously, I am a card-carrying member of the Sloan-Kettering Special Surveillance Program for women who are at a high risk of breast cancer. That means that every six months, as I did yesterday, I pop in to the famous cancer hospital for a mammo or an MRI and a little hands-on quality time with the wonderful Dr. Mangino who runs the program. I call it my Semi-Annual Sloan-Kettering Day of Beauty.  I’m lucky, because I still don’t actually have cancer. And anyway, today I want to tell a happy story. It’s a story about how I got to see the future of medicine.

One of the benefits of being an “interesting” patient who has the good luck to be treated at a teaching hospital is that I have the opportunity to be asked to participate in clinical trials. Last winter, before I went to my last S-K day of beauty, I was asked if I would, in addition to getting my usual MRI, get a special kind of mammogram for this study:


“Comparison of Contrast Enhanced Mammography to Breast MRI in Screening Patients at Increased Risk for Breast Cancer.”

According to the information provided by Sloan-Kettering via the National Institutes of Health, the purpose of the study is “to determine if Contrast Enhanced Spectral Mammography (CESM) will be able to detect smaller/earlier breast cancers as well as breast MRI can.”

What that meant was that instead of just having a plain mammogram, I had an IV needle placed in my hand filled with a special dye. As it circulated into my breasts, it made the contrast between different types of tissue clearer.

Honestly, except for the slight annoyance of the initial pinprick and the tangle of the IV line, it wasn’t a big deal at all. And after it was over, a young scientist working on the study spent time talking to me and showing me some of the preliminary results of the study. He showed me pictures of regular mammograms and contrast-guided mammograms. The results were remarkably different. It looked as if the different areas of tissue were limned in dark gray in the contrast-guided mammos, whereas the regular ones looked much more pale and indistinct. I felt sorry for radiologists who had the terrifying—but boring-looking—job of trying to find suspicious pieces of matter on such a vague field of off white. It looked very easy to miss a cancerous lump in such cases. After I saw that result last winter, I went home feeling very pleased that I had been part of something bigger, something that might be useful someday.

And yesterday, I was even more pleased, because the lovely Dr. Mangino told me that the next time I came, I would be getting a contrast-dye mammogram for real. “The study results are looking great,” she said. “I wasn’t convinced at first. But I’m impressed.” At the front desk, the young receptionist told me that Sloan-Kettering is still one of the few places—if not the only place—in the nation where contrast-enhanced mammograms are done. Yet. But if they’re as good as they look as if they are, they’ll be coming. And when they do, they’ll save lives. And I’ll know I did at least a tiny little bit to help.

Do you have any interest in joining a clinical trial of any sort? You can find out more at ClinicalTrials.gov.

My Grim Gluten-Free Future

24 Feb Goddess Ceres, wheat, France, gluten
Goddess Ceres, wheat, France, gluten

Back in like Ancient France or whatever they weren’t beeyotching about wheat, oh no, they were like, oh thank you Goddess Ceres, here, we’ll make an awesome picture of you with gold leaf in it just to say how awesome le baguettes and la croissants and je ne sais quais else that’s made out of wheat is. But here in America? Non. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain).

You know what’s better than a piece of freshly-buttered sourdough toast? A piece of freshly buttered sourdough toast with a Belgian waffle and an everything bagel on it, that’s what. But now two (2) doctors have nagged me sufficiently to throw up my hands and say ALL RIGHT, I will TRY your stupid “GLUTEN FREE” diet even though I had an endoscopy and it did NOT show that I had celiac disease and I don’t even believe in gluten free anything and I hate the idea of being that “special” person who has to have that “special” thing at the restaurant and ask how everything is prepared. I know, I know, that’s just a form of snobbery on my part. Why shouldn’t I care what I eat? Food is life’s fuel. And, honestly, I generally eat pretty well. Much of that is the husband’s doing. He grows a fabulous garden each year and it’s always a race to stuff in as much produce into each meal as possible. He also has made me much more willing to give up on the super-cheap deals on chicken and beef in favor of the painfully expensive organic cuts where each cow has its horns hand-rubbed each evening and each chicken is knitted a pair of leg warmers so it doesn’t get cold as it roams freely over the acres and acres of Happydale Farm. Yeah yeah, I love the planet. But now I’m going to have to hunker down and do the walk of shame in Trader Joe’s and look at that package of oatmeal to see if it’s Gluten Free. Why shouldn’t oatmeal be gluten free? I guess some places, wheat hangs around the oat schoolyard and acts as a bad influence on the virtuous oat students, contaminating their virtue. So you have to make sure that they are kept away from each other. Sigh. There’s so much I have to learn. Another thing I’m confused about is that one of my doctors wants me to give up dairy and the other wants me to give up sugar. I guess it makes sense to give up sugar–even more than wheat, really. But does that mean maple syrup and honey, too? And isn’t something like organic Greek yogurt actually a very healthy food? Does anybody have any advice about how I can survive the next two heinous months?

Writing Prompt: Help a gal figure out how to go gluten free–I beg you.

135Journals Art Corner, Pinterest Fail Edition. The World’s Worst Crayon Candle

26 Jan Crayon Candle of Shame by Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Crayon Candle done right, by Rachel at the Evermine Blog

Crayon Candle done right, by Rachel at the Evermine Blog (evermine.com).

Okay. So I have this box of crayons from the dollar store that are so bad that they’re like little tubes of colorless yet probably highly toxic wax. So I think to myself, what would Pinterestistas do with such an item? Toss them out? Oh, nay nay. A true Pinterestista would Upcycle them into something else. She probably doesn’t even buy glasses–she melts down old bottles and puts them into the Mason Jar mold she sculpted out of an old pallet with the help of a little Mod Podge. (Don’t ask me how this would work). I just know that if I keep reading Pinterest, I probably will be serving every meal out of a Mason Jar, while lounging on the Pallet Couch that I just Chevron striped with a Sharpie.

Anyway, for some reason, I am COMPELLED to look up crayon candles on Pinterest. And. . . they looked kind of nice. Like this one, by the very talented blogger Rachel at Evermine.com  (https://www.evermine.com/blog/diy-crayon-candles/), who gives helpful instructions and a list of materials, and came out with a lovely, professional result.

But . . . I didn’t exactly follow instructions. Nor did I have half of the ingredients. I didn’t have paper cups. I didn’t have popsicle sticks. I didn’t have wax. I didn;t have wicks. What I did have was a used jam jar, a couple of half-burned candles, and those infernal crayons. So I peeled the crayons and stuck them in the microwave. Rachel said to microwave wax ffor a minute and then use 30 second intervals. Since I didn’t have any wax, I just stuck a regular ceramic cup with some green crayons in the microwave for a minute, then 30 second intervals. They did not melt until I added some water. Then, I poured the first layer into the jar and stuck my candle in. It did stick, but it left streaks of green all down the side of the jar. I tried that for the first color, green. Then, I went for blue. By this time, I had learned a very important lesson. That is, it is boring to keep pushing the button on the microwave every 30 seconds. So, I decided it would work much better if I just put it on for three minutes and let myself drool over other Pinterest pages while I waited. This strategy did not turn out to be as efficient as I hoped. I heard a “Plop” noise from the microwave followed by a “splat” sound. I rushed to the microwave, opened up, and there was a crayoncano. The entire inside of the microwave was spattered with blue wax. Hastily, I poured in the contents of the wet, disgusting waxy blue cup–which was also coated with wax at this point. Oh, and I spilled some on the table and floor, too.  So then I spent the next hour picking off little specks of wax with my fingernails and using some language that wasn’t exactly family friendly to express my feelings about peeling wax. I knew that my husband would find out if I had made another Pinterest mess, and it would be one of those Lucy and Ricky situations that I realllllly didn’t want to have. So I picked and swore, picked and swore until I got the place absolutely immaculate. Two hours later, the husband came back to the Casa HH, and the first thing he said was, “Somebody’s been doing SOMETHING with wax today.” Damn, why did I marry Sherlock Holmes? He’s like a forensic craftologist, always able to sniff out that one stray bit of paint that I missed, or tiny blob of glue still stuck to the top of the kitchen faucet.

Crayon Candle of Shame by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Crayon Candle of Shame by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

I guess one lesson of the day I learned is that looking at a picture of an enticing handmade object is not the same thing as actually reading and following the instructions about how to make it. The other lesson is that I still don’t know what to Upcycle those damn crayons into. But it’s going to be something good. And I also learned that if you want to make crayon candles, don’t ask me. Go visit Rachel at Evermine:  https://www.evermine.com/blog/diy-crayon-candles/ because she is the real deal.

Crayon Candle Fail

Top view of Crayon Candle of Shame.

Writing Prompt: Did you ever not follow instructions? What happened?

about how to

135Journals Art Corner: Pink, Green, Yellow Circles 1

16 Jan
Pink, green, yellow circles 1: Watercolor, acrylic, markers, and more. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Pink, green, yellow circles 1: Watercolor, acrylic, markers, and more. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Lately I’ve been doing tons of pictures with circles in them. I have always liked drawing mandalas, but this is a different kind of process, rougher and quicker and using more colors. I wanted to try using different materials. First, I did a watercolor background. Then I added circles of greenish acrylic paint. On top of that, I practiced some different patterns that I am trying to make my own–and by my own, I mean that they come to my mind and hand instinctively. One of them is the spiral. Another is the wavy arrow border. There are also several kinds of flowerlike motifs and a sunburst. And dots. I used markers, gel pens, and maybe even a regular pen. I also bought a kind of white ink pen that you have to shake before you use it, I forget what it’s called, because I thought it was getting too dark. I am not sure that I’m done with it yet. That big green circle in the middle seems ripe for some kind of detail. But maybe not.

Writing Prompt: What are some motifs that you doodle?

135journals Art Corner: Tiny Diamonds

13 Jan
Make yourself a diagonal grid and get yourself some markers, and hours of fun shall ensue. By Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

Make yourself a diagonal grid and get yourself some markers, and hours of fun shall ensue. By Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

In some ways, I am soooooooooo lazy. You just go ahead and ask my husband. But in other ways, I am incredibly diligent. Lookie here at what hard work I put into making this picture of tiny diamonds. I not only had fun coloring in boes with markers, but in devising little patterns to put into some of the boxes. I think they help to give the composition a little variety. I also left some spaces blank. You might have fun doing such a project yourself. I found it meditative, but it also helped me develop more small iconic images that come naturally to hand. I also got to see for myself color combinations that looked better than others. I want to develop my eye for what colors work together. It is interesting how different look next to each other. It was good compulsive fun, and a person could do this over and over (with regular grid paper, too), and still learn something and even make something kind of pleasing.

Writing Prompt: What is something you do compulsively?

Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, even if it’s for five minutes

17 Dec
Beanitos bus stop ad, photo by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

The writing process needs lots of fiber to keep things moving (from NYC bus kiosk, photographed with loving care and a sophisticated sense of humor by Alexandra H).

Hello friends,

I am writing from Starbucks, where I am taking my last chance to get a fancy drink for free after signing up for one of them there Starbucks cards the kids love so much these days. I don’t know why they want me to have a chai latte for free but it is giving me the opportunity to do what I sometimes do with my friends—write a five minute email. It’s not that I have too little to say, it’s that I have too much. So whatever comes out in that five minute is at least a down payment, if a rambling one, on the friendship. I have incredible friends and I feel the joy of them in my mind.

So what’s this got to do with you, the reader? I have a feeling that one of the things that makes it really hard for most people to develop a writing habit is that they don’t write enough actual words, so the cost of each word is way too high. To me, writing is like plumbing—you have to have a certain amount of flowing clean water wasted and going down the drain to keep the pipes moving and not to get, um, unsightly clogs. Or, maybe it’s like eating. You’ve got to have enough fiber—i.e.; stuff that doesn’t provide nutrition in itself but functions as Nature’s Broom. Just keep it moving. In other words, although of course different people have different writing processes, but for most professional or at least frequent writers I know, their writing flows because they just do a heck of a lot of it, and a lot of it is to crap. Of course, sooner or later, serious writers need to learn to edit. But very often they need a safe place to write. (As I sit here, a young woman is writing long Christmas cards. She shakes her wrist, she’s written so many. I look at her, a pretty 20-something black woman in a green woolen cap, I am filled with admiration. I feel like saying to her, “Your friends are lucky to have you.” Heck, maybe I will say you.
I started a new journal today. Again. I started one last week, and I lost it. The reason I started one last week was because I left the LAST one, almost completed, on the bus. It may be hard to believe, but the proprieter of 135 journals.wordpress.com cannot lay her hands on every journal that she has ever written. I have left a few on the bus or god knows where else. You may wonder, isn’t that horrifying that somebody could know so many personal things about you? Yeah, it’s kind of a bummer, honestly, but I have to slap myself. I wrote to keep a record, but I also wrote to express my feelings, to find relief, to try to add up different parts of my life and make sense of them. I also drew, painted, doodled, thought of ideas that have no doubt been strengthened by the eye-hand connection. Maybe someone will find it and be amused. Maybe they will be disgusted. Maybe they’ll be inspired. Maybe it will be swept up and tossed out—the most likely scenario. It was a very small book only 4” by 6” with a black cover. It probably didn’t look like anything special from the outside. But it was practice for me.

Part of me hates that I have to start again. But I whisper to myself that Time’s Arrow moves only forward. What will happen if I don’t write start writing in a new journal book today because I mourn the loss of the last (2) journals? I’ll lose the good and bad of today. How I went Christmas shopping in the quaint little shops of Montclair. How I went to my memoir writing group and got to hear some of the hilarious family misadventures of my fellow group meetings. Best of all, how my son Jacob stayed up all night so he could cook my husband a chorizo and mozzarella omelet for breakfast and so he could make a test batch of latkes for me before I left for said memoir writing group. Okay, the staying up all night thing may not have been a direct result of wanting to make breakfast latkes. But I love his creative spirit, the hunger in his hands to create exquisite food. Of course, not everything has been perfect. I lost $30 of Christmas presents I just bought. I forgot to bring the present I made for the person who is leaving the group. My dawgs are barking from tromping around town. It’s getting dark and my art room is still in chaos. But I was excited and happy about being able to shop, and about thinking (probably too ambitiously) about all the things I want to make people I love for Christmas. No time like December 17 to get started, right?

Just a few little moments from December 17, 2014, the only December 17, 2014 I will ever have. Complete with doodles of trees, feathers, flowers, stars, leaves, and zigzags. Because writing is a long unfurling over time.

And now, half an hour of writing is passed. Time’s arrow is moving forward. Something is here that wasn’t here half an hour ago. Good? Not good? It doesn’t matter—it is all part of my great river of words that seek to move.

Writing prompt: What has happened to you this one precious day? Can you write something—anything—for five minutes? Or more if the spirit strikes?

135 Journals Interview: Meet Kid/YA Author Timothy J. Bradley!

4 Nov
Timothy J. Bradley

Timothy J. Bradley uses illustrating as a way to get a feeling for the books he writes.

Recently, I reviewed a quirky and entertaining book called Infestation. (check out: https://135journals.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/135-journals-ya-and-kid-book-club-infestation-by-timothy-j-bradley/) This book made me realize just how much I didn’t know about huge mutant ants–a shameful knowledge gap, I know! Writing the review gave me the opportunity to communicate with Infestation’s author, and he kindly agreed to answer some questions about how he writes (and illustrates) and what inspires him. Read the interview below to learn more.

Infestation cover

Infestation (cover design by someone else) is about Andy, a boy who is sent to a very strange reform school with an outsized insect problem.

  1. It seems in the book as if each of the main characters has a weakness that turns into a strength. For example, the main character’s roommate’s love of blowing things up comes in handy. Is that true of all the characters? Will it show up in future books?

Yes, I tried to give each of the characters some kind of talent or interest that ended up being a benefit to the group of boys in some way. I think that people in real life are like that—we all have hobbies or interests, and it’s fun when we get a chance to put that part of our personalities to good use. In Pyro’s case, it’s probably the only time in his life that blowing things up could serve a constructive purpose! I definitely would want those character attributes showing up in future installments, and more as we find out more about them all. Right at this point in time, INFESTATION is a stand-alone adventure, although I certainly left the door open to possible future books (I’ve thought a lot about what would happen in those, and they’d be a blast to write and draw). INFESTATION has been nominated for the 2014-2015 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (I’m pretty sure it’s the only book with giant, mutant ants), which might spark some interest with a publisher.

  1. How did you get the idea for Infestation?

I was a big fan of monster movies when I was a kid, especially the “giant bug” films, which were made in the 1950s and 60s. When I started writing fiction, I thought it might be fun to write a story that was an updated version of one of those 1950s “creature features”. One thing I knew I had to do is to come up with a logical method for actually making a bug really huge—in real life, bugs can’t grow beyond a certain size because their muscles wouldn’t be able to move their limbs. Muscles attached to an exoskeleton aren’t as effective as muscles attached to an internal skeleton (like we have). Once I thought of a plausible way to accomplish that, the rest of the story just fell into place.

  1. How long does it take you to write a book, and how do you do it? Do you have a special place where you work or a special schedule?

Typically, what I’ve done is to let things percolate in my brain for a while before I actually sit down to start writing. I also spend a couple of weeks nailing down the plot and significant story events, sketching up lots of thumbnails of things from the story. Once I actually start writing, it might take 2-3 months to generate a first draft. Then I send it out to an editor, and usually do several rounds of rewriting and revising.

I have a studio at home that I use to write and draw, but I can be creative anywhere—it’s something I had to master when I worked as a freelance artist. I don’t have a set schedule—I’ve always been pretty disciplined about taking advantage of little bits of time here and there to write. I usually spend a lot of time during the day thinking about the part of the story I’m working on so that when I am able to sit down and write, I know pretty much what I want to accomplish.

Soldier Class ant illustration by Tim Bradley.

Soldier Class ant illustration by Tim Bradley.

  1. You said you liked horror movies from the 50s. Can you tell us more about that and what they were like? What interested you about them?

My favorites were the ones that at least attempted to have a thin layer of science attached to them, along with the explosions and destruction. I also really disliked if the “monster” was obviously just a guy in a rubber suit (like “The Thing From Another World”). I really liked any kind of dinosaurian-type monster (like the original “Godzilla” movie), or stop-motion animation creatures. But my all-time favorite monster movie is “THEM!”, which was about giant ants in the New Mexico desert, mutations from the original atom-bomb tests. The creatures in the movie were life-sized “robotic” ants that looked pretty good—remember that this is waaaaay before computer graphics had been invented. Not only were the creatures great, but the story was well-written and very compelling. So when I decided to do an updated version of a monster movie, I put in plenty of nods to that movie (the setting is one of them).

  1. Did you study bugs in high school or college? Were they a special interest for you? Are the facts about bugs in this fictional story accurate? If so, why did you think it was important to be factual in a fictional story? If they are accurate, what kind of research did you do? And was doing research fun or was it torture?

I’ve always been fascinated by bugs—they’re so different from us, yet, if you go far enough back in time, there is an ancestral creature that gave rise to both arthropods and us. I have always found that mind-blowing. Although I never studied insects in any formal way, I did do a lot of reading on my own, and I watched the bugs that lived out in my back yard when I was a kid.

The insect information in INFESTATION is accurate—I’ve always enjoyed stories where the adventure aspect is balanced with a helping of actual science information, sort of what Michael Crichton was so good at. I had written a nonfiction book called PALEO BUGS: Survival of the Creepiest, which contained information about prehistoric insects. The research I did for that book involved traveling to the London Natural History Museum, and having a paleontologist walk me through their amazing fossil insect collection. All that information helped when I was writing INFESTATION. I also read a bunch of book from my local library, and did some research on the internet. I actually find researching a book a tremendous amount of fun—I end up learning so much about a topic as I go.

Illustration of a running mutant ant by Tim Bradley.

Illustration of a running mutant ant by Tim Bradley.

  1. Did you also like to read when you were a kid? What are some of the books that influenced you most? What about as an adult?

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid, and I discovered many of my favorite authors at the little library in my town. The books that influenced me most were Rendezvous With Rama and 2001: a space odyssey, both by Arthur C. Clarke, The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury’s collections of short stories. I still love to read as an adult—my favorite authors now would be Connie Willis and Robert Charles Wilson, as well as Michael Crichton.

  1. Do you have another job outside of writing, or is that your full-time job? How did you break into publishing? I know it’s a tough field!

I do actually have a full-time job—I am the in-house illustrator for Teacher Created Materials, an educational publisher in Huntington Beach, California. I write at night and on weekends, for the most part. Getting a book published is a challenge, for sure, but I think what I have in my favor is that I’m pretty disciplined about getting things done, I’m not afraid of putting my work out there (my years spent as a freelance artist made me used to doing that), and I’m pretty tenacious. I don’t give up on something easily, which is good, because it can take a long time to break in. I’ve been pretty fortunate so far, and it’s been a tremendous amount of fun. Breaking in was just a matter of continually knocking on doors—sending out queries, following up, all the nuts-and-bolts that have to be done in order to get a publisher to read your work.

  1. If you were to offer kids advice about how to become a writer, what would you say? What helped you?

I would say to go for it, but realize that writing, (or art, or music, or any creative endeavor) is a lifelong journey. It’s more important to enjoy the work itself (and it is a tremendous amount of work), and not worry about making it big as an author. It’s a very competitive field. Patience and perseverance are essential qualities for a writer. Also, I think it helps to read a lot, and try to figure out why a particular author’s work appeals to you.

  1. What are some other things that fascinate you?

Anything with a high weirdness factor. Zombie ants, parallel dimensions, black holes, prehistoric animals, other planets, future spacecraft, robots…yikes, there’s a lot of stuff. It’s all great source material for the type of stories I liked as a kid, and that I write now.

10. Why do you like writing for kids?

I think I enjoy writing for kids for 2 reasons. I think there’s a part of my brain that has never matured past the age of 8, and “8 year-old Tim” still gets excited about some crazy science story in the news. The second reason is that I remember vividly how awesome it was to discover a book that really reached me. I still enjoy finding a great book as an adult, but the sense of having these huge ideas that I had never thought about leap off the pages of a good sci fi novel was a very powerful force when I was younger.

I have the third book in my “Sci Hi” series, called TIME JUMP, coming out in November [ed. note: It just came out on November 1], and I have started working on a new middle-grade, illustrated, sci fi novel called EXPEDITION, which mixes my interest in natural history with my fascination with robots. I am very excited about it—I think it’s going to be a fun read (and I can’t wait to work on the illustrations!).

Covers that Tim designed for some upcoming books

Covers that Tim designed for some upcoming books.

(Oh,  I also forgot to ask where you live, at least in a general sense, and if you have kids, and if so, if they like reading your books). Are you familiar with the Southwestern setting because you have spent time there, for instance?)

I grew up on the East Coast, north of Boston, but I currently live in Southern California (I love the sunshine and palm trees!). I have a wife and a college-age son who is interested in a lot of the things I am, which is really fun). I use both my wife (who also writes for children) and my son as “sounding boards” for my ideas. My wife is great at spotting where I need to add description or character development, and my son has a nicely warped sense of humor, which can lead to some interesting points of view. I couldn’t have accomplished the work I’ve done so far without them.

Writing Prompt: Did you get any ideas from Tim to spur your creativity? What inspires YOU?

Insanely Insane Photo Essay Part 3: New York, New York

1 Nov

And now, the final installment of one girl’s dramatic adventure of crossing New York City.


girl on subway elevator in NYC

This young lady was on the escalator down into the bowels of the subway, looking rather put out about life. But what a pity, because . . .


man sells candy in subway store, New York

There are many stores down in the subway station that sell CANDY!


Selling flowers in subway. New York.

And if you don’t want candy, you can buy flowers in the subway station.


silver shoes, New York subway

You might get some new fashion ideas, like wearing fabulous silver shoes.


Christian against whoremongers

Or you might get some helpful advice. Whoremongers, you have officially been warned.


Mosaic ladies, New York Subway

These mosaic ladies certainly seem to be enjoying themselves on the walls of the subway.

And then, I reach my destination, Port Authority, for a bus back to the Garden State, all too soon. Thanks for joining me!

Writing Prompt: Where did you journey today? Or, if you prefer, In Defense of Whoremongering.

The Weirdest Advice that Ever Worked, Oprah Style

11 Oct

My accidental prize from my last visit to a doctor’s waiting room was my inadvertish purloining of the October 2012 issue of O Magazine. Sometimes I swear I just DO not know what I am doing. But fortunately for me, Oprah is offering up “the 101 best pieces of advice forever.” And do I look like a woman who needs 101 pieces of advice? Why yes I do. My own dear son was curious at how many times I need to learn the bananas and pocketbooks don’t mix rule and I had to tell him that the last time I put a banana in my pocketbook was today. However, this magazine, so rich in color and style, is a wonderland of treasures that I am sure I will find many pieces of advice that will bear repeating in a way I will be very interested in listening to, unlike Mr. H’s many admonitions about what happens when you leave Singletons on the floor. M

It is so rich that I’m actually going to start with one (1) piece of advice that was given to in O magazine’s Contributor’s section to photographer Ruven Afanador, who, to his credit, did manage to find yet another way to make Oprah look stylin’ for another month, despite the fact that she was fully clothed, unlike every other magazine cover lady. Anyway, Ruven Afanador, who appeared quite monkish in his small photo, said the best advice he ever received was going to Milan—BORING! I already saw that stupid movie where that English actress was playing a rich guy’s wife and she has an affair with this workingman because he cooked some orgasmically delicious snails or something, and everyone was so impressed because she was fluent in Italian but then had to do Italian with a Russian accent, and when they finally had their fling there were a lot of shots of buzzing bees around flowers. That movie was set in Milan and that’s all I have to say about it the city of Milan. I hated that movie, by the way.

But in answer to the question of what was the “weirdest advice that actually worked,” he said,

“An Indian shaman told me to travel to the Amazon to photograph ‘a real life Tarzan.’ I went to Colombia and found a man who showed me the jungle and its environs—the experience was deeply enriching.”

1. This is my favorite piece of advice, even though the shaman seems a bit confused about Tarzan’s actual address. However, I found it a bit cryptic. Is this similar to the advice given by the Oracle as she sat over the steaming volcanic vents at Delphi, offering deeply meaningful but mysterious advice? Like the advice she offered in 560 BC to Croesus:

▪                I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea; I understand the speech of the dumb and hear the voiceless. The smell has come to my sense of a hard shelled tortoise boiling and bubbling with a lamb’s flesh in a bronze pot: the cauldron underneath it is of bronze, and bronze is the lid.[6]

▪                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oracular_statements_from_Delphi (Thanks Wikipidia)

Now how about that for advice? Sure beats “Don’t bitch about your friend’s ex after they’ve broken up.” I will have much more to say on that subject in future posts. But honestly, what fun is it NOT to bitch about your friend’s ex?

But,  back to the Shaman. Enriching, Schmenriching. Surely it means something more than that. Perhaps something like., hmm, what does the Amazon mean. Well, it’s a river system. And, it’s a powerful woman. And yet, he’s supposed to go there and take a picture of a powerful man. A powerful, primitive man. Could there be some sort of anima/animus tension there, speaking in a Jungian sense? Why does anyone need to be overly confused by their sexual identity in our common era of LBGTIQ???? We’re all half-man, half-woman these days. Or at least we’re Q (Questioning—something). And so, I think of the river system, running from the mountains to the sea. The mountains must trap the clouds as they sweeps in, and then, at the continental divide of the Andes, slowly stream east or west. Could it be, that in a land of many tributaries, in a land where networks of moving water all have a common goal of getting to the lowest possible elevation, a powerful man stands tall? And that the advice receiver must somehow “capture” him in film. Okay, let me put it through my little advice processor and  . . . wait, I’m getting a reading: . . . It’s coming . . . . It’s “You’re 50 years old, move out of your mother’s basement and get a real job. And when you take her out to the International House of Pancakes, YOU pay.”

Man, I’m good. Only 100 pieces of advice to go!

Writing Spark: So what’s the weirdest advice that YOU ever got that worked.