Remembering & Being Remembered

sandStefani Twyford is a video biographer in Houston, and she is also a wonderful writer and thinker. I just rediscovered her blog post about an African proverb, and it haunts me a little bit:

…The proverb recognizes two spirits. “Sasha are spirits known by someone still alive, while Zamani are spirits not known by someone currently alive.” According to James Loewen in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me: “The recently departed whose time overlapped with people still here are the Sasha, the living dead. They are not wholly dead, for they live on in the memories of the living … when the last person knowing an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the Sasha for the Zamani, the dead.”

Walsh’s use of the proverb was in illustrating the power of oral and personal history. As a Personal Historian, I spend a lot of time educating people on the power and value of leaving your story for future generations. As long as people are alive and can pass your stories on to future generations, you will retain some degree of immortality. But like the game Telephone, each iteration of the story becomes less and less reliable and more anecdotal until what is left after a few generations is, if you are lucky, merely a name on a genealogical chart and some mention of characteristics… Read the rest

“When the last person knowing an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the Sasha for the Zamani, the dead.” Wow. It’s a powerful way of thinking. And it does make you think about keeping track of your family stories. Ask about them, and then write them down!

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What She Learned About Jack

micRead this article and you’ll understand why I’m interested in gathering and writing personal histories.

It’s called What I Learned From Jack, and it’s from Barbara Allen Burke’s excellent blog I Am Story.

An excerpt:

For the past 2 ½ years, I’ve had my version of Tuesdays with Morrie. I’ve had “Wednesdays with Jack.” Just about every week—with occasional breaks for holidays or travel—I’ve spent a couple of hours with a bright, engaging 89-year-old former military colonel and inveterate sailor. Each week, I’ve gone to Jack’s apartment, armed with a tape recorder, my laptop computer, and an atlas. Jack sits in his favorite chair and I set up my equipment and sit next to him. And then we talk. Read the rest

Click over and you can read a little bit about Jack, and why putting together his family and personal history was so satisfying and rewarding to Barbara.

What a life! (Bonus points if you get it right: Am I talking about Jack, or about the writer?!)

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Writing Clearly

writing1As I motored along this morning with NPR on the radio, I heard this story “And The Award For Convoluted Legalese Goes to….

As my livelihood is all about not writing convoluted anything, my ears perked up and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.

Here’s a little tidbit from it:

Mr. MALKI: …I definitely acknowledge that there are legal terms that need to be portrayed, you know, certain guidelines laid out in a very clear and legal way in case it’s ever contested. However, there are a lot of freelance writers who need some work. And they could easily be hired.

Ms. CHEEK: Right. Writing clearly is not easy. And I think writing is one of those things that many people think I don’t need an expert; I can do it myself. But I think it is something that needs an expert, particularly when you have a team of technical people and legal people, I think a critical third member of that team is someone who knows how to write clearly. And very often that team member is not there at all.

Hear the rest of the story at NPR.

I am a clear writer. I don’t like reading things that only make life harder, and if you are suffering with this sort of writing in your business or life, you should call me. I can help.

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Ciao Bambino!

I was asked to guest blog at the very cool Ciao Bambino, and my post is up now. The blog’s tagline is “Inspiring Families to Explore The World.”

Ciao Bambino has helped hundreds of families successfully experience the joys of traveling together in Europe and now our portfolio covers Hawaii, the Caribbean, and other popular tourist destinations. We don’t believe parents need to give up staying somewhere amazing just because they want to travel as a family!

That is one neat blog. It’s about traveling with kids, something I love and always look forward to doing more of — traveling with my kid, that is. It’s accessible, dream-inspiring, informative and sophisticated all at the same time. I am so impressed with that blog.

Ciao Bambino

My article is about being on “The Big Island of Hawaii with Kids” and it was fun to write. Have a look.

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Why I’m Bad At Scheduling Meetings

calendar

Wow, this article, which my Twitter friend Pierre Omidyar posted about today,* really resonated with me.

It’s called:

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

and it’s by Paul Graham, and it starts like this:

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

 

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started….

[The bold is mine.]

Read the rest here. It’s really a good read.

This article made me sit up straight. It sounded in my head like the loudest tuning fork. I never thought about it these words, but it’s so true. Needing to schedule a meeting can throw off the rest of my work day. It felt comfortable and reassuring to see someone else describe something I’ve often struggled with.

Now: I hesitate to post this because I don’t want you to think for a second that I don’t want to meet with you. If you have a potential writing project and would like to sit and chat about it with me, I would be happy to meet with you. It’s part of the job and I’m happy to do it.

I’m good at making time away from my desk useful — and everybody needs to step away from the desk, out into the world and get things done from time to time.

But I was just so interested in this article and wanted to share it. If you’re a writer or other creative type who needs hours at a time to get anything done, you will understand this!

* Pierre Omidyar is my friend in the same way that anybody can follow Oprah on Twitter. 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theogeo/ / CC BY 2.0

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New York Times: News Without Newspapers

An article in tomorrow’s New York Times is titled ‘Hyperlocal’ Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers.

If your local newspaper shuts down, what will take the place of its coverage? Perhaps a package of information about your neighborhood, or even your block, assembled by a computer.

A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.

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It’s very much like what has sprung up over at FBI blogs, to which I belong. (And when I say “sprung up,” I mean “consciously created by forward-thinking Damon Tucker.”)

The FBI blogs site it not quite as hyperlocal (the article talks about areas as small as a block). By definition (“From Big Island”) we FBI bloggers are from around the whole island.

I think it’s really a terrific idea. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that I browse the site everyday and learn all sorts of things that aren’t in the local paper.

From the article:

But many hyperlocal entrepreneurs say they are counting on a proliferation of blogs and small local journalism start-ups to keep providing content.

“In many cities, the local blog scene is so rich and deep that even if a newspaper goes away, there would be still be plenty of stuff for us to publish,” said Mr. Holovaty of EveryBlock.

Sounds familar.

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Macario’s Big Island

Macario is publishing a new online magazine and you should have a look. Wow. It’s eye-popping.

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His photography is always great, and in this new magazine, called Macario’s Big Island, he combines his photos, interviews and commentary to illuminate some of the Big Island’s most interesting people in the world of arts, food, music and more.

He just put up what is only his third post there. It’s a feature on the Waimea architect Clemson Lam, and in a stunning turn of events – I’ve just now been able to get my jaw to shut again – he had 300 hits in the first day of it being up. It’s only his THIRD POST! How did he DO that?

He actually made WorldPress’s “Growing Blogs” List, which is a list of the top WordPress blogs in the world in terms of how fast they are growing in popularity. He came onto the list at 97. Isn’t that amazing? I find that amazing.

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Our “On The Cheap” Sites To Launch 3/10

Leslie: “Oh, nothing much; what’s new with you?”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
Leslie Lang
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
808 964-1494
Twitter: @LeslieLang  

Kris Bordessa
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
530 295-0887
Twitter: @KBordessa

“On The Cheap” Websites Highlight Best Bargains on the Big Island and in Honolulu

Hilo, HI – March 6, 2009 – Tuesday, March 10th is the official launch of two new online sites – Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap – which are dedicated to bringing Big Island and O‘ahu residents and visitors up-to-the-minute information on free, discount and cheap things to do and other local deals.

Motivated by the current coupon-clipping climate, Big Island writer Leslie Lang and former Hawai‘i writer Kris Bordessa started the websites, which are updated most weekdays, to help Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors get out and about “on the cheap.”

To celebrate the sites’ launch, both Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are having daily contests for the first week – or more – starting March 10th. “We’re all about deals, so we’re getting off to a good start by giving away all sorts of great Hawai‘i-related gifts,” says Lang. “Chuck Moore hula girl t-shirts, Macario photographic prints, locally created ceramics from the Hilo art gallery High Fire Hawai‘i, some Hawai‘i-related books, a gorgeous woodblock print donated by Volcano Artist Margaret Barnaby and there will be some other surprises, too.”

In addition, Big Island On The Cheap.com is offering printable, discount coupons to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Honolulu On The Cheap.com is offering discount coupons to the Waikiki Aquarium. “We are excited to promote both of these great attractions that we ourselves enjoy,” says Bordessa, “and also honored that they were so enthusiastic about offering support to our new venture.”

Over the past several weeks, thrifty readers of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap have learned about free Hawaiian music concerts, yoga classes, history lectures and even an Avocado Festival. That’s in addition to dozens of deals on everything from malassadas and sub sandwiches to hotel rooms.

“Everyone—including us—is looking for deals right now,” says Lang. “And they’re out there. We’re just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

Listen for Leslie Lang on the radio Tuesday morning; she’ll be discussing the websites and their official launch at 8:05 a.m. on the Big Island’s Mynah Bird show, which is at KHBC/92.7 FM and KONA FM at 92.1 FM.

Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are part of a rapidly growing network of independently owned and operated “On The Cheap” sites, which are launching nationwide on March 10. A complete list and links to Cities On The Cheap websites are available here.

About Leslie Lang
Leslie Lang is a Big Island–based freelance writer who works as an editorial consultant (writing press releases, newsletter items, blogs, speeches, reports and more for businesses), as well as a freelance magazine writer and book author who specializes in writing about Hawai‘i. She blogs at http://blog.leslielang.com.

About Kris Bordessa
Kris Bordessa, formerly of Hawai‘i and now living in California’s Gold Country (where she also runs Gold Country On The Cheap) is the author of several books and writes regularly for national magazines about family travel.

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The Magic of Letters: I Believe It, Too

Wow. I am a huge believer in reading and writing and the power of it all — but have a look or listen to this woman from Nepal, who was a child bride and didn’t learn to read until she was 21.

The story she tells — her story — is enormous and beautiful. Now that is somehow who has learned to appreciate the power of the alphabet. Wow.
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It’s another This I Believe story from over at NPR. What an amazing collection of essays they are gathering, saving, sharing.  People have the most incredible stories. I think everybody probably has one. This woman’s story really struck me.

From her essay, which someone else read in English:

…Before learning how to write, my life was like the nearby Indrasarovar Lake, always stagnant. I had the pain of child marriage, my husband did not support me, abject poverty was my way of life and I didn’t have any skill or courage to do anything. But I saw that the number of people learning to read and write was growing — and their lives were improving. I then realized it was neither wealth nor beauty that I lacked, but letters…

Powerful.

Edited to add: I just stumbled upon a TED presentation (do you know those? fascinating) by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors. In her video, she discusses passion and also women. Specifically, the plight of women in much of the non-privileged world — and it brought me back to thinking about this one Nepalese woman’s words. 

Her talk is really worth a listen. It’s humorous (she says someone asked Sophia Loren how she can look so sexy in her 70s, and she replied something like, “Posture. My spine is always straight. And I don’t make old people noises”) and also poignant and important. Listen to it here.

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“This I Believe” on the Importance of Preserving Family Stories

I mentioned that I’ve become a member of the Association of Personal Historians, and I just listened to an interesting “This I Believe” audio story by Stefani Twyford, one of its members, on Houston Public Radio. She talks about family stories and working as a personal historian. From her essay:

Each time I coax a story out of a client, I am excited at the richness of each person’s experience. When the son or daughter of a subject says, “I’ve never heard that! How did you get that story out of her?” I glow inside and feel that I have worked the magic that is my job. I rejoice when extended families get together to watch the video biographies I’ve created for them. And when I hear how many boxes of tissues were needed while viewing the video, a part of me gets emotional, even though it isn’t my family or my story.

It’s an honor and a privilege to help people tell their stories and put it down on a medium that will last. I know that when a great-grandchild asks, “Who was my great-grandfather?” there will be not only a photo and a story, but the child will hear his great grandfather’s voice, see his mannerisms, and hear those stories first-hand.

Listen to it here.

She really captures the magic of capturing people’s stories and preserving them for future generations.

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