sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Author Archive

WHO IS DAVID SEAH, AND WHY IS HE HERE?

A version of this post was published in April, 2015, before the gremlins devoured and destroyed portions of our blog. After you read this, go spend time exploring davidseah.com.  Lots of time. Read other interviews he’s done — no two cover the same territory.
Then, come back here later for Parts 2 and 3 for more.  Michele

Meet Dave, a talented, whimsical storyteller who uses computer technology to bring his stories and creations to life. His serious side is always looking for a better way to organize, systematize, code, and simplify tasks —  these products are spare, beautifully balanced, color coordinated, and do their job well.

Then there’s his other side that loves to explore and tweak options, express how he (and we) feel about life. These creations led me to contact Dave. His very generous sharing of time and ideas fill this post, plus two more to follow.

We exchanged over 6,000 words! How to distill his wisdom, humor, eclectic personality, deeply held and expressed views, took a while. Plan time to go get lost in his website. Discover how he works, what he’s created and shared with the universe.  

But first, enjoy Part 1 of the David Seah saga:

 

Just who is Dave Seah?

I don’t really have a succinct answer for that!

Factwise, I’m a 48-yo Taiwanese-American living in New Hampshire about 40 miles north of Boston. It’s a suburban area without good Chinese restaurants, which makes me sad.

Mostly I work as a freelance interactive developer, though I am trying to transition away from that into making products based on my own design work.

I gather that you were always interested in technical issues, trying to figure out how things work, and how to make them work better.

That’s a valid observation, though I think that I’m more interested in “human issues” that have technical aspects that I can solve.

I find technology for the sake of technology pretty boring. The application of technology, though, in the pursuit of “something better” or “something MORE AWESOME” is hugely interesting to me. It’s about empowering and enabling, and sometimes I’m able to muster the ability to work through the technical issues.

Figuring out how things work is an exercise in understanding how to make some aspect of life better. That said, I like digging into the technology and the principles behind it to find the uncommon and non-obvious effects they have, and thinking of ways that they might be useful or perhaps amusing.

What experiments are you most proud of creating/adapting in your growing up days?

I wasn’t a particularly experimental kid, but I did discover computers when I was in the 7th grade, around 1980-1981.

A lot of my formative beliefs about information sharing and team come from that time of learning in a group of three of us, and I spent a lot of time learning the innards of the Apple II computer.

I would say I learned the bulk of my computer knowledge, or perhaps gained the mindset for using computers, before I went to college for computer engineering.

In high school, I was probably most pleased with winning a school bridge building competition with an interesting load-bearing design that no one else had thought of by a 2:1 margin, or 10:1 if you didn’t include the student who cheated.

I also enjoyed writing, and was in-fact thinking of becoming an English major instead of a computer engineering major. I figured I could always write, but would learn more in computer engineering that I didn’t know, to the chagrin of my English teachers.

 Did you write much as a kid? What were your first doodles and writings about?

Yep! I had a mysterious grasp of essay writing at an early age, which I didn’t realize for years. I would just write-out what I was thinking and present it in an order that made sense, each paragraph building on the previous one. I enjoyed using WordStar, the seminal early word processing program, because I could type as fast as I could think

My first memory of a story was for I think was the 7th grade, when I had stayed up late writing an assignment at the last minute (hand-written, as this predates word processor use in my house).

I had put the names of my friends in the class in the story, which was loosely a Star Wars-inspired story, and the teacher reading it aloud made for a lot of interesting reactions from my classmates. I also spent a lot of time drawing spaceships with my friends (this was the late 70s/early 80s after all), which I started in the 4th grade.

I still have all the drawings too! Generally I didn’t write except for class after the 8th grade, but I think what really drew me was making up worlds…that’s what video games were to me, in the early days of that art form.

I grew up as an Army Brat, and experience feeling a “stranger in a strange land”.  You said on your blog that you spent your first years in MA, then moved to Taiwan for another chunk of your youth. How did that affect you?

I was born in New Jersey, where my dad was the minister for the First Presbyterian Church of Monmouth County. This was a rural area, mostly farms, and we were the only Asian family anyone had ever seen in the area.

I don’t speak Taiwanese or Chinese because when I was in pre-school, apparently I was speaking a mixture of Taiwanese and English and the teachers thought I had brain damage or a developmental disorder, so my mom started speaking to me only in English and I lost the language.

At the time, my parents didn’t think they would be returning to Taiwan because of the government (they were blacklisted as human rights activists by the KMT, the losers of the Chinese Civil War in 1949). In 1976 or 1977 our family moved to Taiwan when I was 9.

The result: massive culture shock. It was already easy to feel slightly out-of-place as the only Asian kid where I lived, but at least there was TV and I could read and understand what people were saying. In Taiwan I couldn’t do that. I went to the American school the entire time I was there, not speaking Chinese and being regarded as a weird foreigner.

Then on returning to the US for college, I unexpectedly went through yet another 5 years of reverse-culture shock (realizing this only 5 years after it was over), because I’d been away for so long and I lacked common experiences with my other classmates.

The effect, I think, was always feeling like an outsider or stranger, to this day. It took a long time to develop comfort in some social skills, but even now it is difficult to put away the feeling that I am an outsider/intruder that doesn’t belong.

Was art your first love, and tech more of an adult decision?

Neither of them are a first love, I would say, as a maker. I’m probably more of a reluctant creative.

I was more excited about stories than anything, particularly ones that I thought I could make. I wanted to (and still do want to) make really interesting experiences. I love animation, illustration, computer graphics, computer game design because of the stories and feelings they encourage, and for the knowledge and experience they deliver.

I’m a frustrated storyteller, and both art and technology are where my efforts seem to have gone because I have wanted good tools and good skills. Where I have fallen short, though, is having the guts to tell those stories and keep practicing.

It feels like I’m only now just getting over that block. Making things that are lovable is hard!

David, thank you so much!

This was my trigger to contact Dave – I LOVE
the Angry Scribble option!I call it my  Grump’s To Do Form. 

 

END OF POST 1. 

NEXT TIME, MORE ABOUT THE CREATIVE PROCESS, HOW AND WHY THE BLOG HAS MORPHED OVER TIME, WITH EXAMPLES, PLUS THE GROUNDHOG DAY APPROACH TO TRACKING. 

PART 3 INCLUDES A FRANK DISCUSSION ABOUT POETRY, COMFORT ZONES, CONFLICT, AND MORE FUN POSTS TO READ ON DAVE’S SITE. 

 

Always Learning: What Do You Call a …?

thumb_IMG_0119_1024Happy 2016, Everyone!

I thought that groups of animal and/or object names had a specific rhythm and form to them, like a “gaggle of geese”. Not always the case, to my surprise.

Harlee, my amazing Standard Poodle, deals daily with several major disturbances in her life. When she barks at any of them, she’s sent to her “place” until she stops barking. Totally unfair, but she goes nuts otherwise.

I looked up the real names for these critters, but think, to her, this describes it better:
Version 2— A Trauma of Turkeys (wild, who wander by her window several times a day, tromp through territory she considers to belong to her and her pack)
 A Sh*t-load of Squirrels (who torment her repeatedly, run up and down the deck railing, moon her when she looks at them, and otherwise create chaos for her. )
— A Damage of Deer (who eat “her ivy”; property of our next door neighbor, but which she’s very possessive towards)

IMG_0117_1024— a Cacophony of Cats (perhaps the most dreaded enemy, and not just because I’m highly allergic to them.)

These are my names for them.  A Rafter of Turkeys, a Herd of Deer — boring. However, a glaring or clutter or nuisance of cats is so right on.

Here’s a science lesson, in poetic form, to teach you some of the true names:

The Grand Scheme of Things

… set out as “a/an … of …”
you can figure it out
imaginatively, I presume

Obstinate Buffalo
(banish “bison” — such a dirty word!)
ooh, Cultured Bacteria!

Business Ferrets
Flamboyant Flamingos
Towering Giraffes
a Stud of Mares in confusion?

Bloated Hippopotami
Cackling Hyenas
Jellyfish Flutter or Smack

Otters Romp
by Squadron of Pelicans
and Penguins Huddle Proud

thumb_Photo on 2011-10-09 at 10.15 #2_1024Prickly Porcupines
Ostentatious Peacocks
Rhinos in a Crash

Buzzards hold Wakes
Cormorants Gulp, poor creatures
can’t swallow the fish they catch

Parliamentary Owls
watch Woodpeckers Descend
and Kangaroos Troop and hop

Unkind, Conspiratorial Ravens
watch Sharks Shiver, while
Swans of the lake, do Ballet

Intrusive Cockroaches
Pandemonius Parrots
Murderous Crows can’t be trusted

a Convocation of Eagles
Emus in a Mob
Crocodiles Float like logs

a Tribe of Goats
Implausible Gnu
Storks Muster for their appointed rounds

Rattlesnakes Rhumba
while Cobras Quiver
and Moles Labor and Mumble

Tigers Ambush
with the Zeal of Zebras
while the Lounge of Lizards
croon amphibious songs

~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: I took great poetic liberty with some of these, but used the following sources for inspiration:  

http://www.patcom.com/pdf/Whatdoyoucallagroup.pdf

https://sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/what-do-you-call-a-group-of/

http://www.namibian.org/travel/misc/collective-nouns.html

http://www.lyberty.com/encyc/articles/murder.html

http://mdc.mo.gov/blogs/fresh-afield/animal-aggregations-or-what-do-you-call-group

 

All photos c. Michele M. Graf, 2007-2016

What I’m Grateful For

Early November through December is the time of year I used to spent locked in my own padded cell of emotionsMichele1-1
. Soured holiday cheer, reminder of what wasn’t right in my life and the world.

. . . Survivor guilt at not dying when I was twenty; if I had, my father would have been sent home from Viet Nam early. A month in the hospital saved me and destroyed the family, when he died under strange circumstances three days before he was to return home. . . . Less than a year later, more guilt at finding the love of my life, my exact opposite, who’s lived with me and my insecurities for more than 45 years. . . .

Steve Jobs noted our inability to connect dots of experience prospectively. We cannot determine until well after events how they link, what their impact is, and how profoundly our lives change as a result.

“But for . . . ” my illness, and my father’s death, I never would have met my husband.

“But for . . . ” NOT getting a job I wanted, I was able to retire much earlier than would have happened if I’d been selected.

“But for . . .” putting myself in the right place at the right time, I’d never have met Carolyn Howard Johnson, which began my poetry-writing in earnest, and the discovery of the Muse OnLine Writers Conference in 2006.

“But for . . . ” that conference, I would not be writing this post today.

I sit here today, grateful for the people in my life, my personal safety and security, my needs met. As much as I complain  about — and fear — the growing list of health issues I’m battling, I’m grateful to live in a time that provides me with care unheard of even a dozen years ago.

I’m grateful for my confidence that ebbs and flows, how I am learning incrementally to trust myself, test myself. I’m grateful for the clutter that drives me nuts at times — what I can share, what it teaches me.

I’m grateful to live here, in this country, despite all our problems and issues. I feel truly blessed to be able to write what I choose, vote as I choose, and speak — or remain silent if that is my choice.

I live the American Dream:

~daughter of a first-generation girl-child born here of stetl dwellers who left the “Old Country” with nothing, before WWI;

~ able to trace my father’s family’s journey on the Trail of Tears in 1839.

~”But for . . .” the holocaust and horror of WWII, these two souls would never have met at a USO dance in Chicago in 1943. Lost and found each other again. Lost each other for good 25 years later, in the next ripping war in 1968.

~ First of my family to attend college, and later graduate.

~ Connected in recent years to extended family I never really knew earlier.

My first post on our Poetic Muselings blog was just over three years ago. It was my introduction to you, our readers and friends. I’m reissuing it here, today, because it struck me as true, still, and what I’m trying to share.

We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. May you find that spark, that “something” to give you peace of mind, courage when you need it, and lots of joy.

Michele

Turning Over Rocks

“Why be difficult
when you can always
be impossible?”

My family’s motto,
when I was growing up.

We lived in clouds,
ephemeral universe,
all or nothing mind-set
badgered us into paralyzing inaction,
circular conundrums,
promises meant to stop questions,
not solve problem

“Don’t answer the phone!” admonitions
when I was home alone, sick,
escaping whatever had me
in its grip that day or week

Blame and shame
games and names
hiding in books read
by shadowed night-light
to tame the monsters
lurking under my bed,
in the closet,
beyond the toys
strewn across the floor
beyond the closed door
to my personal space and mind

Child of parents
whose fractured worlds
never resolved enough to give them
strength to shelter their offspring
the way this one needed

But I was loved
and encouraged to dream big,
reach beyond what was,
by my father
live his words
not the life we had

I gained my own,
tiny shard by shard
years later, loved,
protected, cherished,
with someone who believes in me,
loves me
without needing to understand
more than he does

learn to trust,
push past fears, worries
I’ll never be enough, do enough,
justify my own existence

Learn I have to prove
nothing to the world.
I have the right just to be,
eclectic, whimsical,
inconsistent entity
in love
with my life
as I inch
toward myself

Ⓒ Michele M. Graf
11-7-11

 

 

EAR-WORMS! Lyrically going mad . . .

November is Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day Challenge Month, among other intense writing options. Mary, Anne, Margaret, and I are diligently writing to the prompts, with a goal of something wonderful to publish at the end.

One of my favorite aspects is to see how differently we grab the prompts — or how they grab us. The poem below was written as a “together again poem”.

This post is adapted from one I recently published on my blog,  ship-of-dreams-artimals

RoadWriter: 
Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges . . .
A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

 

When I first heard of “ear-worms”, I felt vindicated. Others heard them, too — I wasn’t alone. Or nuts.

Never heard of ear-worms? I bet you have heard ear-worms many times in your life. Snatches of song lyrics (especially), bits of melody, or conversations playing out over and over and over in your head. They worm their way into your ear and then your brain.

No way to make them disappear. The harder you try, the louder — and more insistent — they get. You cannot win the fight against an ear-worm. You can only distract and/or overcome it by replacing it with something else.

Then, of course, THAT ONE becomes the ear-worm. And so it goes . . .

PAD 2 – 11/2/14 Ear-Worm Imbroglio (a together again poem)

What gibberish pokes
through mind brambles

  • Oh, Sinner Man —
    where you gonna run to?

My personal ear-worms
over and over

  • Snowflakes on roses…
    Whiskers on kittens… 

over and over
over and over

  • I think we’re alone now…
    Beating of our hearts is the only sound…

Until BANG!
Too bad it didn’t work

  • I am the walrus…
    Do do do do, dodo dodo do do do do …

We’re together again
All at once

  • New York hipster,
    Cardiac hero of 2000 years …

Cacophony imbroglio
Madness defined

  • Where were you
    When the world stopped turning…?

 

Michele M. Graf
11-2-14

 

 

 

NaNoWeCanDoMo!

thumb_IMG_0308 - Version 2_1024National 
Novel (Writing)
     (and other things)
We
Can
Do
Month!                             

As Mary explained in her post on November 3, we are engaged in marvelously rebellious behavior, and writing, writing, writing. My Inner Rebel is counting  words in projects 1, 2, and 3 (below), to reach my 50,000 for the month, if needed for number 4.

We’ve each set goals for ourselves. Mine:

1.  PAD Challenge

Robert Brewers’ Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day  (PAD) Challenge, a new poem written each day, from the prompts provided. I posted one already on #2, below, and will share some during November, here.

2.  100 Word Posts

RoadWriter.net, my first site, has been neglected too long. I decided to revive it with a series of short posts, leading, I hope to completing Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges, my years-in-progress book about our decade on the road. Poems, pictures, prose, and lots of memories.

So far, I’ve gone over the minimum on each Post, and am letting the subject matter free-flow. More about this later in the month.

3.  Haiku . . .

Last month, I co-taught a Poetry Workshop at the Eugene Public Library; this was our third year, and a highlight for me. I put together a new unit I called “Haiku Heresy” about variations on the genre — from micro-poetry (Tweetku – yes, haiku via Twitter) through 100+ verses written and shared in real-time. (No, we didn’t actually create these in class, but several University students immediately did their own Tweetku.)

However, I can’t get haiku off my brain, so I went back through my bookmarks on line and dug up Forward Motion’s April Haiku Challenge, and have started adding haiku to my daily exercises. You may need to sign up and log in to reach this, but it’ll be worth it! http://www.fmwriters.com/zoomfm/index.php/forum/focus-april-2014/2888-april-haiku-challenge

4.  NaNoWriMo

The least rebellious action is a new novel,  Resorting to Dreams, officially begun Nov. 1.  Should be fun, since hubby is deeply involved in developing the storyline . . .

I may play with other in-process works if this one gets crazy. Lots of ways to be rebellious on this.

5.  Dream Catchers

In odd moments, finding poems scattered around my office — in poetry journals, Morning Pages notes, backs of envelopes, tiny notebooks carried around over the years, hidden in the deep recesses of my computers, etc. Plus those my Sister Poetic Muselings (like Peggy) have found in our other shared spaces over the years.

Using Scrivener, I want to simply get a copy of each into the program so I can actually account for at least part of my creative crunches.

6.  Stitching my Soul Together

In July, I took an advanced pattern design sewing course, with little advanced skills going in to it. Hardly any, actually. I connected with a wonderful lady to help me prepare for the class, and have worked with her several times a month since then. We’ve  altered a lot of my clothes so the waistbands fit, sleeves don’t hang over my knuckles, hems are where they belong. We have more to do, working together.

I say I’m like the prep chef, washing and peeling potatoes so the Head Chef can create masterpieces. I’m getting very good at potatoes! Much more confident, taking baby steps with the serger and overlock machines; measuring; cutting; pinning. Learning, learning, learning.

We have at least two sessions planned this month. I look forward to that part of my creativity, and know it’s helped wake up my writing.

7.  Big Scary Thing*

Even more rebellious will be to do a weekly Big Scary Thing* — take care of dangling “stuff” that’s held huge portions of my brain, mind, and creativity hostage, while tying up my energy in NOT doing.

Some of these may take up to three or four hours at most to complete, but have been squatting in, and squandering, my life for several years. If I get all four done — one per week — I’ll be soooooooooo relieved.

*idea taken from NaNoWriMo site several years ago, about what we planned to do after NaNo . . . I think they’ve still got a forum for this.

What are your dreams, crazy notions, ready-to-fly hopes for November and the rest of 2014?  Share, please!

Oh, and wish me luck!

Michele

Always Learning: Essence of Tai Chi

Sunrise HSP1_1024

Always Learning

In class today,
Jeff said the essence of Tai Chi
is in the moves we make
at the start

Warm up  spine,
hips, knees, ankles.
Engage finger tips
to explore the air

Bring moves
from core to skin
and back again
and again and again

Fill the space
between vertebrae
shoulder joints, tip of head
and soles of feet

Open, stretch, synchronize
nerves, mind, and heart.

Ah! Form gives meaning,
but embrace and savor foreplay!

Michele M. Graf

Another contribution to the Poetic Muselings Poetry Challenge!

 

 

 

Sew Much To Learn

I recently survived an intensive sewing /clothing construction workshop, which got all synapses bouncing frantically in my head. Here are the first poems in the Sewing Series:

Sew Much To Learn

Part 1

To reach the hidden,
and create the obvious,
I must feel what’s true

Part 2

I must learn to love
vanilla, forgo Cherry Garcia
for a while

feel the fullness of the lone
acoustical note
reverberate into echo of echo

go back to the first
line dance step
that took so long to learn

back to basics
unadorned, Shaker-quality,
where the answer is found

crawl, then toddle through
imbalance, see, hear, smell
what surrounds me

when I understand
the woven thread
I’ll be ready for the wider world

Strip away the complex first,
sew straight lines and curves,
inch (or centimeter) along

To sleeves and swirls

Michele M. Graf

7-17-14

My first contributions to our Poetic Muselings Poetry Challenge. Anne — this counts as two poems, right?

 

 

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