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Extra Extra: Alisa Wilhelm Loves The Internet, So She Blogs Blogs Blogs

4 Nov

One of the last pages in Issue No.2 is something called “Our Job is Awesome.” The words on that page are a mini-play, a transcription of a real-life seven line conversation between John and Andrew in which they discuss the merits of a shared workplace. This dialog was captured by Alisa Wilhelm and originally published on her eponymous blog. We were hoping to find a couple of short pieces for the second issue when we stumbled across Alisa’s blog and saw that little gem nestled in her blog (and tagged “crumbs”). We asked permission to publish it, and she agreed.

Alisa’s blog is more than crumbs. It’s student art projects, art projects detached from school, thoughts on travel to distant lands, thoughts on studying at the University of Arizona, and more more more. We interviewed Alisa to find out why she puts pieces of her life on the Internet for all to see. Because she’s an artist and photographer, we also asked her to choose some images from her blog to repost here. She obliged us with answers and images. Enjoy.

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Dove&Snake: When did you start blogging?

Alisa Wilhelm: I started blogging in 2003. I was 12, and I used Yahoo Geo Cities instead of a blogging platform. I had to manually archive all of my entries. We had dial-up internet at my house.

D&S: Why did you decide to start a blog?

AW: I’ve always been obsessed with documentation, preserving, trying to keep remembering. Even before I read about Anne Frank, I wanted to be used like she is used today: a historical record for future generations. When I started blogging, it was just another expression of me documenting my life. I didn’t care to attract an active audience, but I secretly hoped that I would.

D&S: Why do you continue blogging?

AW: For a while, I really wanted to be a part of this cool blogging community called 9rules. It is very exclusive. You have to submit your blog to be reviewed and approved, or more likely denied, and they only accept submissions during certain times. I wanted to be a well known blogger, that’s why I wanted to be in this cool blogger’s club, and that’s what drove my blogging.

9rules accepts blogs that have a very narrow niche. The niche could be in any field, but it has to be specific. I knew that, so you can see points in my blog of me being like, “Concert reviews! THAT is my niche!” or “Life of a university student! MY NICHE!” However, I really didn’t care enough about those things to base every single post around them (also, they aren’t narrow enough). I stopped caring about how many people read my blog and I turned my visitor trackers off. I like pretty blogs, so now I just try to make my blog posts pretty. I continue blogging in order to create a pretty blog.

Colorblind

D&S: Do you know your readers?

AW: I know some of them. I stopped using visitor trackers a couple years ago, so I have no idea how many people read my blog.

D&S: How are the readers you know of connected to you in real life? Do they read your blog because they know you, or do they know you because they read your blog?

AW: I would guess that the majority of readers that I know of read my blog because they know me. None of my family members live nearby, and I have friends who are far away as well. I think they’re curious to find out about what I’m doing. When I read blogs from my friends and family, I find out things about their life that I might never think of to ask about. It’s probably a similar situation.

D&S: Do you get much feedback from your readers? What do they say?

AW: I used to get a lot more feedback than I do now. I don’t invite feedback. Some bloggers ask a question at the end of their post to get a discussion started, but I don’t. Lately I’ve been getting more non-traditional blog feedback than I have actual blog comments. Strangers email me encouraging notes saying that they like what I make, and people that I come into casual contact with often start conversations with, “I hope you don’t think I’m creepy, but I was reading your blog the other day…”

D&S: Have they (the strangers who hope you won’t think they are creepy because they read your blog) ever been creepy? If so, how did you respond?

AW: One time I was in a park, and a man came up to me and asked if I was Alisa and if I had a blog. I thought that I must have met him somewhere before, but I hadn’t. That was kind of creepy—an adult man approaching a teenage girl to ask her about her blog that he found. I was guarded, but I answered his questions. It turns out that he is a librarian who found my blog by searching for “Casa Grande Public Library,” a library that I have a love-hate relationship with. I used to volunteer there, and I love books, but I’ve had some bad experiences involving a very stereotypical, stern, shushing librarian.

D&S: What blogs do you read?

AW: Right now I’m subscribed to 283 blogs. I’ll give you a sample of my favorites: Ample Sanity, a deluge of New York Times blogs (Idea of the Day, The Moment, Schott’s Vocab, and others), artist’s blogs (Camilla Engman, Fine Little Day), and Things Magazine.

D&S: How do you encounter other blogs? What makes you want to subscribe to certain blogs?

AW: I find other blogs by reading other blogs. My favorite posts to read are ones that show photos, have a paragraph or two of text that might not even relate to the photos, and share a couple links. It’s those links that I find most valuable. They usually lead me to other blogs that I’ll like. When a blog is pretty consistent with my idea of a good post, I’ll subscribe. I don’t mind a lot of text if it’s interesting to me and well written.

D&S: Do they influence what you post on your blog?

AW: The most influential blogs that I read come from European women artists. Their photos are so calm and nice. I try to do that, but it’s difficult.

D&S: How do you decide what events from your life become blog posts?

AW: If I’m proud of it, then I post it.

D&S: This summer, you were out of the country and unable to access the Internet. Did you miss updating your blog?

AW: Not really. I wasn’t editing any photos, and I didn’t make much art, so I really had nothing that made me think, “I want to blog this.” I was more worried about my archive list looking less complete. I didn’t blog for two months, so the list goes: April 2009, July 2009.

*Alisa went to China. Here are 1723 photos compiled into a timelapse journey to East Asia:

China 2009 from Alisa Wilhelm on Vimeo.

D&S: Your blog is quite the miscellany. You post school projects, personal projects, observations about your university, notes and images from your travels, and more. What do you hope to communicate by posting these kinds of things?

AW: I want to give interested people a sample of what I’ve been thinking about, working on, and looking at. I used to think that my blog could give people an example of what my life is like, but there’s no way it could ever do that.

D&S: Who are the “interested people” who you are communicating with in your blog? Do you know who they are and what they’re interested in?

AW: Some Blythe doll owners read my blog. They are interested in Blythe dolls, haha. The community that forms around Blythe dolls is very close knit—adult women, strangers, gather for tea parties for their dolls, and they send people they don’t even know little gifts that are Blythe-related. I have a Blythe doll, her name is Marcie, and I read blogs about the lives of other Blythe dolls. Those people (and their dolls) read back. Other people have varied interests: family and friends care about me as a person, instructors are interested in seeing what I do out of the classroom, other artists like to see art.

D&S: Do you ever read your old posts? If so, what do you think of the you from the beginning of your blog?

AW: I try to avoid reading old posts, as anything older than a couple months I find to be extremely embarrassing. I guess it’s good that I’m not stagnant.

D&S: You started a joint blog project with Adam called Adam+Alisa. Who is Adam?

AW: Adam is my boyfriend! He’s an artist and photojournalist, among other things, and he lives in Boulder, Colorado.

D&S: Why did you start that blog with him?

AW: We have very long lists of things that we want to do together, and a blog was one of those things (Adam started the idea). We also have a very long list of future posts to make for the blog. Adam sometimes thinks of it as PDA, but I don’t. I think of it as an ongoing collaboration project with someone that produces work that I know I’ll like.

D&S: What will readers of Adam+Alisa find there? How is it different than your individual blog?

AW: Everything that has been posted on Adam+Alisa so far has been a collaboration project. We make each other a poster every month and mail a hard copy of that, but a jpeg diptych is posted on the blog. Along with that, we send each other preview swatches of the poster, and those are posted as well. Photo diptychs and audio are also there. It’s different from my blog because we both have access to it, and we come up with little assignments for blog posts (example: take a picture of a tree today). I don’t give myself assignments for my blog.

D&S: How long do you think you’ll keep blogging?

AW: As long as I keep loving the internet, I bet I’ll keep blogging.

Extra Extra: An Interview with Matthew Helmke

14 Sep

Matthew Helmke let us publish one of his short stories in Issue No.2. He was also gracious enough to answer some question we had about Morocco, supernatural beings, people who believe in supernatural beings, setting stories down in books, and publishing those books yourself.

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Dove&Snake: Your story in Dove&Snake Issue No.2, “A Wife from the Mountains,” is from a book you wrote called Nowhere Else to Turn. What is the basic premise of that book?

Matthew Helmke: The book retells stories of interactions that various Moroccans, who I met firsthand, have had with the supernatural. I published it as fiction solely because I added some details to certain stories to make them longer and fuller, or because I changed some details to protect the identity of the source. All of the stories were experienced either by me with a Moroccan or were told to me directly by the person claiming to experience it.

D&S: “A Wife from the Mountains” mentions something called jinn. What are jinn?

MH: In Islam, jinn are spirit beings that can be either good or bad, may fear God or serve themselves. Like men and women, they are created beings. However, as men were made from earth, jinn were made from fire or smoke, depending on who tells you the story. They will also either go to Hell or Paradise, just like humans, depending on their actions and God’s mercy on the Day of Judgment. Belief in them is pervasive in Moroccan, Arab, and all Islamic societies. They are considered common knowledge, but not talked about terribly often out of fear of reprisal from the jinn who may not want to be exposed. They are different from angels or demons, which are explicitly good or evil.

D&S: How did you first hear about jinn? When you first encountered stories like this, what was your reaction?

MH: I believe the first time I heard of them was from the story of Aladdin, which in English uses the term “genie.” There was also the tv show called I Dream of Jeannie. In those contexts, I reacted as kids usually do to stories of supernatural beings (like fairies, elves, etc.) and simply thought they were a cool addition to the mythical creature lexicon. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that not only do people believe in jinn today, but that some do so quite deeply.

D&S: What was your first encounter with a jinn story in Morocco?

MH: I honestly don’t remember the first time I heard about jinn in Morocco. It was very likely within days of my arrival, as they are mentioned in conversation regularly (both seriously and in jest). We did have a lady that came to the house once a week to help clean, and she would not put hot water down any drain in the house because she was convinced it would anger the jinn that live in the drains.

D&S: How often did you hear stories like those in your book, the supernatural told as matter-of-fact?

MH: These kinds of stories are extremely difficult for a foreigner to hear. Moroccans are generally reluctant to talk about them, either out of fear of the jinn, which all other Moroccans know about anyway, or out of fear that the foreigner will lose respect for the informant and think they are either crazy or superstitious.

D&S: If it’s difficult to hear these stories as a foreigner, how did were you able to collect so many?

MH: The first step involved learning Moroccan Arabic well enough to convince people that they could talk with me and I would comprehend them. This also meant learning a lot of cultural subtext and the meaning of many idiomatic expressions. Second, I had to convince people that they were not going to be mocked, regardless of what they told me. To do this, I would try to build bridges by discussing stories, ideas, and other things I had heard about the supernatural and clearly state that I believe the events we were discussing could happen–not necessarily that they did, but that they could.

D&S: How do you view stories like this in the context of your own spirituality and theology?

MH: I think there are several possible answers to this. First, there are times when unexplained events may have natural causes that are simply undiscovered, so I would be careful not to take every supernatural story at face value. However, there are also things that happen that cannot be explained by any known natural occurrence. What then? I think it is probable that these could have supernatural cause. I mentioned building a bridge with my Muslim friends for these discussions–this is part of the bridge. I believe the supernatural realm exists, not so much in the woo woo, X-Files sense, but in the Biblical sense. I believe angels exist, demons too. Jinn aren’t mentioned in any Christian context, but could certainly fit in as a subcategory of demon. Admitting that I don’t have all the answers and that I believe there is a God, etc., forces me to confront the possibility that there is more to this world than what may be observed by and proven with the scientific method.

D&S: Is Morocco a highly spiritual place? Do most of the people believe in the supernatural?

MH: Morocco is an Islamic country where all but 0.8% of the people are Muslim. By definition, Muslims believe in the supernatural. Morocco is also a place where Islam has been mixed with pre-existing animistic folk religion and other non-standard Islamic practices and beliefs. A belief in the supernatural is pervasive in the society, but not universal. It would be reasonable to estimate that at least 80-85% of Moroccan people believe in the spirit world and that God, angels, demons, and jinn are active.

D&S: How does that belief in the activity of God, angels, demons, and jinn, play out in the everyday lives of Moroccans?

MH: It really depends on the person. The answer would be very different if we were to discuss an urban-dwelling, university educated Moroccan scientist versus a rural, uneducated farmer. I will say that, on the average, people in Morocco are far more open to the possibility of the existence of the supernatural realm than people in America or Europe. For many, they will make a verbal assent to the existence of jinn, etc., but not give them much thought. Many others will make a point of avoiding behaviors that the culture says will offend the jinn, just to make sure they are safe. This is what the entire book is about: exploring the differing perspectives on the supernatural that exist within diverse parts of the culture of Morocco through stories told from many different perspectives.

D&S: What made you decide to set these stories down in a book? Most people would have just kept them as interesting anecdotes to bring up in conversations.

MH: Primarily, there are almost no examples in print of these sorts of anecdotes in English (there may be in French, but I didn’t find any), and I had the permission of my sources to record their stories. Second, these sorts of stories and beliefs are difficult for foreigners to learn about because of the things I mentioned earlier, but they are vital to understand if one wishes to adequately understand, communicate with, and engage the culture. So much of Moroccan culture will make more sense to people experiencing it for the first time or living in it if they have read the book or heard these sorts of stories.

D&S: Where did you look for stories like these in French?

MH: Bookstores, libraries, and online. I’m afraid that most of what I found was rather belittling in tone, and that made it less useful for my purposes. The French literature I encountered primarily took the view of “Isn’t this quaint?” and were attempts to document the beliefs of the “backward, but noble savages.” Perhaps other materials exist in French, but I didn’t have the pleasure of finding it.

D&S: Why did you self-publish the book and not try to go the traditional publishing route?

MH: I self-published the book for two reasons. First, I wanted the book to be accessible to as many students of Moroccan culture as possible and decided to license the book in a special way (using Creative Commons license) to allow people to make copies of it and share them or to make derivate works (like study guides or recordings) without fear of lawsuits (see the book’s license section for more information). Also, I didn’t feel that a major publisher would be interested in publishing a book that wasn’t likely to be a best seller even though the information was of high quality and worth publishing. However, by publishing myself and using a print on demand company, I can list the book on Amazon and make it available and easy to find for people with an interest in the topic (and I’m selling approximately one copy every two days, which is better than I anticipated).

Extra Extra: Images from Kenya

10 Sep

Now that Issue No.2 is out, we’re going to publish a few extras on the blog that relate to the content in the print issue.

Issue No.2 includes the journal entries Kaia Chesney penned while spending a couple of months in Kenya. Kaia also gave us some of the photos she took during her time in Africa.

Brad Butler Does Not Want to Be a Sucker, But a Tootsie Pop Would Be Nice Right About Now

1 Apr

Here’s Brad Butler’s “Nobody Wants to Be a Sucker” playlist, with videos and Brad’s explanations of suckers and suckerhood. Turn it up and try real hard not to be a sucker.

1. Flavor of the Week – American Hi-Fi: A song about how the girls that chase the “bad boy” image are just a temporary trophy and/or conquest.

2. Don’t Trust that Girl – Ace Troubleshooter: A song about when a guy is totally in love with a girl who doesn’t share the same feelings and the pain that comes with that situation.

3. The Best Deceptions – Dashboard Confessional: A song about being deceived by the one you love.

4. So Cold I Could See My Breath – Emery: A song about giving into lust and the aftereffects of it in a relationship.

5. There’s A War Going On For Your Mind – Flobots: No one wants to fall for the propaganda that we face on a daily basis. Do you recognize it or fall victim to it?

6. Redefine – Incubus: Don’t let society play you for a sucker and tell you what to do! Be yourself and be creative!

Album Version:

Bonus Acoustic Version:

7. Your Knife, My Back – Kids in the Way: Finally learning your lesson and choosing not to go back and be with those “toxic” friendship relationships that we all have had at some point in our life. We can either choose to move forward with change or continue to be hurt by the same friends for the same old reasons.

8. Lost Myself In Search Of You – Matt Nathanson: The story of one person being in a committed relationship while the other person is not so much into the whole just dating one person idea.

9. Little Devil – Mindy Smith: The constant struggle of giving in to temptation, feeling guilty about it, and then repeating the process.

10. Pythons Awake! – Pompeii: Just because something is a fad doesn’t make it the right thing to do! Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it!

11. Boys Lie – Signal the Escape: When do you stop trusting those people that always lie to you? How much and how many times will you let them hurt you? Plus, “big kids lie!”


 

John Weatherford Does Not Want to Be a Sucker

28 Mar

The theme of Issue No.2 is “Nobody Wants to Be a Sucker.” It was a phrase I heard somewhere sometime. That phrase is on the first page of the zine in lieu of an editor’s note, and each piece of writing in that issue connects somehow to the idea of suckerhood.

As a little extra extra, we asked several friends of Dove&Snake, who are into what one might call an eclectic assortment of music, to each put together a playlist based on the theme “Nobody Wants to Be a Sucker.” We’ll post the playlists here on the blog, along with streaming links and/or videos, if possible, so you can listen in on our musically inclined friends’ collections of songs.

Here’s John Weatherford’s 13-track “Nobody Wants to Be a Sucker” mixtape, complete with some links, videos, and liner notes:

JW: I tried to build in a rise and fall to the mixtape like I would a real album. Here they are in listening order, with explanations.

1. Sexy Sadie – The Beatles: This song is a response to being a sucker. The Beatles became big followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid sixties, only to realize that he was playing them for fools. This song was written in defiance and was originally supposed to be called “Maharishi.” Producers thought that was a bad idea because they hadn’t yet learned the record selling value of a beef. This song was ahead of its time; calling people out wasn’t the art form it is today.

2. Popular – Nada Surf: Nobody wants to be a sucker, especially in high school.

3. Fidelity – Regina Spektor: Getting your heart broken can make anyone feel like a sucker. Then you just get over it. Or maybe not. Maybe you just play “what if” forever.

4. Uncle Walter – Ben Folds Five: Everyone has that guy in your family who has ridiculous stories, and the whole time he is telling them you are thinking, “This guy must take me for some kind of chump.” Well, I have that guy in my family and the stories turned out to be true. I saw pictures.

5. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson: Once upon a time, Michael Jackson was a lot less creepy. Then a lady tried to say that her baby was Michael’s, so he wrote this song saying he wasn’t a sucker and he wasn’t going to pay his non-baby mama.

6. Naive – The Rentals: Everybody knows that they really are a gullible fool. Sometimes you just have to decide if you want your friends or your girlfriend to figure it out first.

7. Steven’s Last Night in Town – Ben Folds Five: Sometimes a guy will come around, and he seems really charming, and everyone loves him. He tells great stories, good jokes, can mix a mean rum & Coke, juggles. You get the picture. But then the guy stays on your couch and doesn’t leave for a long time because you are a sucker and don’t have a spine. This happened to Ben Folds, so he wrote a song about it. Seems fair.

8. Barrier – Jorma Kaukonen and Tom Hobson: Nobody wants to be remembered as a failure, so we spend an absurd amount of time trying to leave a sucker-less legacy. It doesn’t work for most people.

9. I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams – Weezer, featuring Petra Haden: This is one of my favorite songs ever. If you ever get head over heels for a girl or a guy and then figure out it isn’t gonna work, it can suck, but if you still obsess over them after the fact it can be even less bearable. But that is what great synth-rock love songs are made of.

10. Lovefool – The Cardigans: This song is a guilty pleasure of mine from high school. I guess sometimes you just embrace the fact that you are indeed a sucker. That’s kind of what this song is about. A girl falls for a guy, and since she can’t stop thinking about him, she just confesses her love and then tells her love that he doesn’t have to actually love her as long as he will tell her that he does. It’s pathetic, but I think I identify more than I would care to admit.

11. I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You – Jens Lekman: Brutally honest anti-sucker Swedish super pop.

12. Be Careful with a Fool – Johnny Winter: When a crossed Albino warns you that he might hurt you in the end, PLEASE DON’T BE A SUCKER!

13. The Greatest Man that Ever Lived – Weezer: If you are ever revealed as a sucker and you want to convince yourself that you are instead a true hustler, this should due the trick. You will also become a chauvinist pig, but at least you ain’t a suckah.

I Was Too Intrigued With Clouds

23 Mar

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll post some content related to the almost-ready Dove&Snake Issue No. 2. Here’s a little something from the travels of Matthew Helmke, whose story “A Wife from the Mountains” appears in both Nowhere Else to Turn, his self-published book of supernatural tales from Morocco, and our soon-to-be-available pages:

“Get up! You’re going to be late!” Oh, if I had a penny for every time I heard those words. Sigh. Here we go.

I rise, wipe the crispy remnants of sleep from my eyes, and attempt to face the day. Through the fog I feel about for my glasses.

Oh, yes. My glasses. How they once defined me! I remember the day I received my first pair, walking out of the optician’s shop filled with wonder and the strange, new world around me.

“Look! You can see the leaves on the trees!!” I exclaimed, repeatedly reminding my well-meaning parents of just how blind I actually was. How sad they must have felt. To tell the truth, I didn’t notice. I was too intrigued with clouds, with the odd new perspective with which the world appeared to me, and with remembering the words of the optimetrist as he fitted my frames: “Be careful. It will take a few days for your eyes to adjust. Things will look a bit odd for a while.”

He was right. Doors looked crisp and clean, but strangely bowed toward me at the center. The sidewalk seemed to move at unexpected times and in directions I could not anticipate. My entire perspective had shifted.

The doctor was right. It took some time to adjust, to adapt myself to a newfound clarity of vision.

How often has this been repeated in my life? I can’t really answer that. I mean, there were the constant physical changes that always took me by surprise during adolescence, the days when my shoes suddenly wouldn’t fit and I would spend all day tripping over myself. There was the time in my late 20s when I had eye surgery, laser vision correction, which eliminated my need for glasses. That last one was freeing, but neither of these had the impact of the day I first saw the world clearly.

Is that how life is intended to be lived? I kind of think it is. We innocently pass the time, believing we see things as they are, then suddenly, and with no real warning, we receive a gift. Our eyes are opened and we gain a perspective and a clarity that we never had before.

I live for those moments. I long for them. I realize that there is so little about this world and the next that I truly comprehend and something within me screams out, “There must be more! What am I missing? What am I not seeing here?!” I pray. I read. I ask questions. Sometimes the search is easy, sometimes it is not. Regardless, the question compels me and I must search.

Written on the train from Fez to Rabat, February 19, 2008.