Film: I Am Not Scared

Category: Books and Movies

Sometimes it’s good when films come on the TV that we’ve seen already. Especially on evenings where the television landscape has more in common with a desert than an entertainment medium.

Like last night[1].

I’m Not Scared directed by Gabriele Salvatores is truly one of my favorite films. This morning looking for something to help me convince you not to miss it, I found the slightly misleading trailer. It’s not a fast-paced action film, it is a story about right and wrong, beautifully filmed and lovingly told with plenty of deep, patient, breath[2] for your imagination and that great Italian width for your eyes.

The main characters, Michele and Filippo are two boys who come across as having vastly more courage than most of the rest of us put together, but who, on second glance are only doing what we all wish we could, still - what we all wish we could still do.

They are childish in the important ways, the ways many of us, and maybe some of our children even, have lost. They don’t already know so they are open and willing to entertain any possibility. They are curious with no interest in judging, still they know right from wrong and they struggle to act appropriately.

If that sounds like a lot to ask of ten year-olds, the film asks us adults to consider why exactly, the children get it so right while the grown-ups have it all wrong? What are those essential qualities we lost when we gave up our childish ways?

What do you think? Have you seen I’m Not Scared? Did you love it? Hate it? Let’s talk in the comments.

[1] Last night was a clear example of why my grandmother regularly referred to the-box-in-the-corner-of-the-room as either “the idiot box” or “the boob-tube” (less for the number of breasts shown on an average evening, although that was the 60’s and Americans were more anatomy-tolerant than we are now, no, she used it more in the sense of the dictionary definition

[2] Typos happen, it’s true, but in fact I meant breath not breadth. Thanks for keeping an eye on me.

Tiny Hack to the Octopress Isolate Command

Category: Creatives, Octopress, for

Firstly: Hello! to new subscriber Paul. <enthusiastic waving> Welcome!!

Nextly: Hi Reader, have you been around Octopress awhile? Know what you’re doing? I added the shortcut path just for you.


The Laughingmaus has been around since 2002 and slowly but surely my build times were raining on my parade. I’m one of those bloggers who has to try out photos and edit and read aloud and edit some more, then get a cup of coffee while my site built so I could begin all over again.

Octopress to the rescue with the isolate/integrate commands. Damned if I could get them to work though. No matter what I tried, my _stash folder remained stubbornly empty.

It took me awhile to figure out that my pain-point was the way that I daintily sort my posts into folders by year.

Solve This Problem

Have a look here: In your Rakefile search for the “isolate” function (mine started on line 169). There is that bad boy:

Dir.glob("#{source_dir}/#{posts_dir}/*.*") do |post|

You see out there just before the “do” command? The original code is asking for the isolate function to move *.* (anyfilename.anyextension). But a directory is not a file in that sense so let’s change the move specification to * which is broader and includes folders.

Dir.glob("#{source_dir}/#{posts_dir}/*") do |post|

And, in case you are curious, “#{posts_dir}/*” tells the isolate function to include everyeverything in the posts_dir folder. And, the posts_dir variable is specified towards the top of your Rakefile. The default is _posts.

Ok, now you’ll need to do this to the “integrate” function too, it’s just a few lines down from isolate in your Rakefile. The original reads:

FileUtils.mv Dir.glob("#{source_dir}/#{stash_dir}/*.*"), ...

And you are going to change yours to…?

FileUtils.mv Dir.glob("#{source_dir}/#{stash_dir}/*"), ...

You had probably already seen the pattern, hadn’t you? It’s the same as above and you’re going to change it in the same way to achieve the same effect: the moving of directories as well as files back into your posts_dir (_posts) when you are finished.

And finally, the only trick to this is that you should keep your recent posts in the _posts directory and wait to file them in the year directory until you are relatively sure you won’t be editing them anymore. The reason for this is that the command above can only move an entire folder. It doesn’t search the folder and move the file it finds out for editing.

Octopress for Creatives

Is a long ignored section of this blog. I hope to change that this summer. Please tweet me (@laughingmaus] or send me a mail if you are a creative with enough technical knowledge to think it might be interesting and fun to walk away from Wordpress and Co. Knowing that a real human being is waiting does shift priorities.

What Everybody Knows, Someone Had To Say

If you are reading about software hacks on my blog, it is not illogical for me to mention that: The * symbol is a basic regular expression and retains its meaning of “every-everything” all over the command line. So, if you’re a newbie to tech matters, and you might well be if you are still reading, I’ll add this friendly warning that back-in-the-day I was very grateful to have been given in advance: Think long and hard before using * with the rm command.

And ok, now you might be thinking that * gone wrong can rain embarrassment down on your head and you’d be right. But that’s what it’s all about, and I hope you won’t even think about slowing down over a little embarrassment. Just keep on experimenting and testing your limits and the limits of your tools and the next thing you know the moment is gone and forgotten - and you, brave reader, are permanently smarter.

Kelly Writers House TV - Brunch With TC Boyle

Category: Inspiration

It all starts with Al Filries, Kelly Professor and much more at the University of Pennsylvania, asking TC Boyle how he stays so trim.

I have the metabolism of a weasel. A weasel. That’s what does it. I have a lot of energy. I mean, I don’t know about you people, but I wake immediately and spring out of bed with the names of my enemies on my lips. Every day.

Let the fun begin. The rest of the interview overflows with all that energy. TC Boyle reads from his books, answers questions of readers, and points a generous hint-finger towards his writing processes. Al, as always, the perfect host, takes care that the audience has time for their questions (unlike the way things usually go when audience questions are saved for last). There is no lack of inspirational writing-inspiration talk. It’s worth the sixty-six minutes you’ll spend the first time around, and to be honest, I was happy to give another hundred ninety-eight minutes to watch it again and again.

The link is below, don’t miss the rest of the fun.

My Favorite Moment

“And again”, TC Boyle said “I’m repeating myself for the students, I’m sorry. I hope you’re not too bored. If you’re bored back there, you heard this yesterday, do your math homework, ok?”

“They don’t take math classes.” Al said this softly but clearly into his microphone and we all laughed, but underneath the words and their arguable truth, you can hear conviction and loyalty and staying-power. It’s Al doing what Al does: sharing always his unshakable belief that this thing we do with literature, with poetry, this, is not lesser.

Maybe it’s even better? I imagine him suggesting with a daring twinkle in his eye.

Here is the link: Kelly Writers House TV: Brunch with TC Boyle. Enjoy yourselves. If you’re looking for me, this afternoon. I’ll be writing.

There is great pleasure in making art. - TC Boyle

More about:

And Then? No Way!

The “South Park” co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk about storyboarding and have a nifty trick for checking that Story is moving along and not just standing around on it’s own tail. Six minutes and six seconds. You know you were gonna procrastinate another twenty anyway…

Click On, Writers!

Get More: www.mtvu.com

The Finished Product

One of those days when it’s good to be me.

Markt Stories - Autumn Tomatoes

Category: This is My Life

Yeah. And that’s only half of them! Mmmm.

What are the wonderful things about Autumn? The harvest; the last really warm rays of sunshine; the apples and pears; the anticipation of brussels sprouts and snow – and the tomatoes.

If you don’t live here in the heart of Southern Germany, you might not know that of all the things you can’t plan, the one thing you can is that you can’t plan the Samstagsmarkt. And especially you can’t plan mio bello Italiano who usually, but only usually and in no way always - and really without warning, towards the end of the season sells the last tomatoes for €1/kg.

“Si, si, Signora, maybe oooonly this week. Maybeeee next week too?” The answer to my hopeful question is accompanied by an expansive Italian shrug and he smiles confessionally, “I can not tell. I do not know. You know what is tomorrow?”

Saturday was the third week this year and the Roma tomatoes are lovely but they are small. Suspiciously small. Like they may be the last ones for real this time. So, even though I have a few jars put up already it was in a measured moment of panic that I heard the words “What do two flats weigh?” fall from my mouth.

And the sun came out for just a minute to warm my neck before a blast of Northern wind blew my hair over my face and dried leaves rustled winterly. I handed over my money feeling secretive and pleased. Taking my tomatoes I find myself actually beginning to look forward to winter, to chili, to porcupines and spicy tomato soup on a Sunday afternoon.

Bucking the System

In the past, I’ve tried buying my tomatoes the American way and reserving a given weight of them “for next week” so that I could organize helpers and jars. But then, when I arrive next week I find my usually laughing, sometimes singing Italiano, arms on his nearly empty table looking desolate – a little pile of lemons, an even smaller pile of red onions, and three green peppers arranged artfully to look like more - or to look like less, I’m never sure - in front of him.

I pull up looking innocent, and I thank him generously, innocently even, for keeping my reserved tomatoes somewhere under the table.

“Ohhhhhh, sorry!” (shaking head) “I’m so sorry, Signora.” He holds his hands helplessly in the air and looks first to the left and then to the right.

Clearly another customer had already been there, some few moments earlier than I, and spying my reserved tomatoes under the otherwise empty table, must have offered him an admirable sum of gold … surely I understand? Maybe I had been detained? Maybe my reserved tomatoes would rot, unloved and unsold under the otherwise empty table. One never knows…

I am the sheriff and he the well-intentioned, bumbling bad guy. Genre: Spaghetti Western. Where’s my poncho?

Consequences of Bucking the System

Following a performance like that, I must, of course, punish mio bello Italiano (and my dinner table!) by simply ignoring him for a while. It would not do to act as though I was less than desperately disappointed, as if I hadn’t trusted him - as if there wouldn’t be nights, in the dark, freezing winter when we would wrap our paltry shawls about our shivering wheelchairs and peer into our empty pantry wishing only for una piccola spaghetti

Yes, I must play by the rules or risk my entire professional relationship with mio bello Italiano and playing by the rules means no “Good Morning”s, no gay waves on my way home, not even a coolish glance at his wares. At least not for awhile. Not until he has huge piles and crates full of sweet oranges and that won’t be until around Christmas. Then, protocol allows me to drive closer and look tempted. The next week I may deign to buy one or two delicacies from him and so on and so forth until we have patiently built our vendor/customer relationship back to normal by the end of January.

The Germans say: Die klügere gibt nach (the clever person walks away). It is their version of Discretion being the better part of Valor and let me tell you, after all that, and because I really like mio bello Italiano, it’s just feels more clever to throw my hands in the air, look left, look right and buy now! I’ll arrange help & jars later.

Coming Home Again

Category: ModPoPenn

Endless exhale – this
coming home – again
this endless relief
re-turning changed
re-discovering change
this endless change
never changes
- Nancy Carroll

What Are You Talking About, Maus?

Are You Serious? A Poetry Course?

Yes, I am, this course is the pointerto. It’s the triggerfor. The Noticer notices this endless relief. They bubbleup together from my deepest self, pointificating myself’s very own Self.

Me! Me! This Self. Over here. I am the one…

Did you really think that meditation was the only way? Maybe it’s time to try poetry.

Why Am I Still Blogging?

Category: This is My Life

Well, here is a story for you, one that you won’t find anywhere else on the whole internet. It’s only here and in the fuzzy memories of the lucky few who were present.

Setting: It’s those swingin 70’s and my baby sister, who is so chic that she was born wearing white patent leather go-go boots, is learning to express her world-view and her musical talent in ways that we been-here-awhile folks can grasp. It’s a steamy summer afternoon and we somewhat-grown-upper kids are hangin over the back seat of Mom’s blue Vista Cruiser station wagon, fourth in line at the first drive-through bank in all of Kansas City. Our armpits are sticking to the vinyl.

Little, that’s my baby sister, has crawled over the back seat and claimed the entire backend of the car for herself. Fine, it is too hot to argue and the air conditioning comes from the vents up front anyway. We are all waiting semi-patiently for Mom to do her banking so the teller-lady will put suckers for us in the cannister along with Mom’s money. (I already have dibbs on the purple one.)

And that is when Little starts singing:

Here we are
at the Pee-pls Bank –
and youuuuu — are alllll –
my Peeps!

There in the middle, at the “youuuuu” point, she spreads her arms out like a miniature Ethel Mermann. I think I never saw Mom laugh that hard on a steamy August afternoon in the city.

The end is always the beginning - and this is the end of story but the beginning of getting to the point.

I struggled for the longest time (and my capacity for struggle is immense), about what to write at my blog. I can confess this now because I think I’m getting there… These days everyone says you need a theme in order to have a successful blog. Me ‘n the mauses rumbled with that idea for awhile until they called bulls**t on it and said their theme was Mauses, thank you very much and anyway, maybe I should just get on with being the change I want to see.

Begin Middle-Point Marginalia

I miss my internet - the one where I met Jens - in 1994. (I knowit we hardly even had a <blink> tag back then!) I miss the seven hundred other people who were hanging out etherierally[1] just wanting to share what they knew about stuff they found fascinating. Nobody thought about SEO or making enough money to fill a semi-truck with twenties, or even about their popularity. We just kept our link lists and made links to other people with cool link lists and surfed around winding up in the most impossible places being introduced to stuff we didn’t even know was interesting. I never felt like I wasted time surfing back then.

That’s all gone now. The internet is surely very convenient these days, but have you noticed: it’s a consolidated trash heap of commercialism, sensationalism and their boring love-twins: sensational-commercialism and commercial-sensationalism!! Before you find something to delight your soul you have wasted the better part of two hours looking at shoes you don’t need, sucking down news about horrible happenings you can’t effect and viewing gossipy pictures of people you don’t know. And their cars.

End Marginalia

My nutcase mauses were right. Of course. I started consider: Maybe thousands of popular bloggers have already said what I want to say - and maybe, if I had gotten off my a** in the 90’s, I would be a popular blogger too … Yep, and it was just that quick that the whole thing spun off a tail of its own looking a lot like self-recrimination and how-could-you-have-wasted-a-prehistoric-chance-like-that and I was going down for the second time, waving my hands in the air and gasping for breath when I noticed those mauses all siting around with their little heads cocked at dozens of different angles (they do this to get my attention - they know I’ll laugh cause they look so funny) waiting patiently for me to drop the drama-lama so they could say:

Oh. Did you want to be a popular blogger?

Yeah. Well, no. Not necessarily. I just want to be popular with my peeps, that’s all.

So this post is to say thanks especially to my dear friend Brianne who wrote to me and told me that I am indeed succeeding. That’s really, really important to me.

[1] Etherially is Mausisch for in the ether.
More Mausisch here

How to Learn Math, Here We Go Again

Category: Unexpected Encouragement

Really, that’s what always happened to my train traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles. It left Baltimore at 4:00 pm on a Thursday and traveled South at 40 mph until it reached the Rockies. That’s Lake Rockie right there… ahem.

If you know me, you know I’m stubborn uh, persistent and that because of errr - in spite of this thoroughly excellent character trait I was a top-notch failure in math class. Well take this: I am really enjoying the Stanford University OpenEdX course How To Learn Math. It’s a cool pre-course intended for parents, teachers and others with contact to children and young people learning math.

I know. That’s not me, but (shhhhh) I’m sitting in the back and being verrry quiet.

The first set of lectures and thought-problems have centered around discouragements and math stereotypes that are deeply integrated into our society through the way we think and talk about mathematics. What’s cool is that based on the information and ideas that Professor Jo Boaler gets from this course, she will be developing a course for students who want to improve their math-learning skills. I think that is extra high class and when I was a student, I would have been relieved to know that help was on the way; that twenty thousand (mostly only slightly disturbed) ex-math students were, as we speak(!), combining their creative What-If imaginations to help me learn math better.

That would have freaked me out in the very best way possible.

The (minor) psychological tics I acquired in 9th grade Algebra are healing. Taking part in a course actively searching for ways to avoid scarring creative young minds is making me wildly happy - as if all that struggle was worth it after all - just like Dad said it would be - except that I think he meant he wanted to see something besides an “F” on my grade card.

I’m taking the philosophical out: Maybe, just maybe flunking Algebra has helped to make me an A-grade human being. Yeah.

The course is available until 27 September, 2013 and is self-directed so you can start anytime. I have to finish by the end of August though because then it is that ModPo time of the year. It needs a little jingle, in my mind it has become a season of its own and I’d no sooner miss it than I would Autumn.