Monthly Archives: June 2013

A dream of fire

This night, I had quite a few dreams – or maybe it was just one long dream. The part I can remember best is when I was in a city that I did not know. It had some similarities to Rome but I’m sure it wasn’t Rome. It was some sort of mix of various places I have been to and lived in, I guess. I walked down a street during dusk and saw a big building in the distance burning. It was a rather antique looking building, a mix of old Rome and modern time tower/temple. First I thought it was part of a show or regular feature of the town, so I took photos with my cell phone because I didn’t have my camera as I did not expect anything special to happen. But then the fire was spreading and suddenly I realized I better get out of there because it was coming closer – very quickly. I wanted to run out of the city but it had no end and the fire was surrounding me. Strangely enough there were no other people at all. Then  I noticed some sort of river – the dirty kind of river you find in cities, not a nice clean mountain or forest river. But I knew that the water would be my best bet to survive, so I looked for a save place to get into the river without breaking my bones. When I jumped into the river, I woke up.

Fire can have many meanings in dreams and I have no idea which one would fit best. However, dreams can’t change anything anyway. No Gandalf or Xena this time!

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Our tools and how we use them

Last night, there was a Super Moon – or what people call a Super Moon. It did not look any bigger than usual to me when I went out on the farm to take a few photos. It was just another full moon. However, the idea of seeing a really big moon was tempting and I thought it would be a good chance to practice my skills with my camera at night. I can take good to very good photos (depending on where I am) at day but at night it’s a different story.

Even though I have a really good camera with different lenses and many options (of which I don’t understand many), I never really got into using the options. I always used automatic shots, e.g. “landscape”, “portrait” etc. The terms ISO, shutter speed etc. were more of a turn-off to me. I simply wanted to take photos. During the day, only changing focus, lens and basic options seems to be sufficient but at night, the moon always just turned into a big, round, white blob on the photo.

So last night I set my camera on full manual (as I still have no idea what the other options like “P, Tv, Av and A-dep” stand for) and went through one changeable option after the other. I played around with them, took a photo after every change and started to get an idea what each option can do. At the start, my moon looked like this:

One of last night's first moon photos.

One of last night’s first moon photos.

Nice with the clouds and it’s a pity that they completely disappeared for when I played around with the options but later my photos of the moon started to look like this:

Moon photo after a few changes to the settings.

Moon photo after a few changes to the settings.

So this shows me that I still have heaps to learn. If I wanted to get even better photos I’d probably need different lenses but at the moment I wouldn’t be able to invest a few hundred dollars into better equipment. I guess the next step would be to practice different shot methods during the day and see what difference it makes.

The camera is just one of the tools I have in my life but I guess as with the camera, there are many things I could use better. I could learn more about the things I use and more about what else I could do with them. Are we simply too lazy or too busy to really go into the details of something? With me and the camera it was more about being intimidated about terms I have absolutely no understanding of. So I’ll try to find some time to get a better understanding of the terms.

What about you? Are there any tools that you use but that you could learn to use better? Could you achieve better results with them? What keeps you from doing so?

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Missing days of blogging

To regular readers of my blog it might seem like I’ve been a bit slack last week – and I have to admit that I had a few problems with getting motivated to go to my computer in the mornings, esp. because it’s so cold and dark in the early mornings (we’ve just had the shortest day of the year here in New Zealand). I made the mistake of staying in bed longer the last few days (i.e. getting up at 6.30am instead of 6am). That half hour is what I’m missing, so I simply need to make myself get up at that time again! I’ll just have to have a few warm tops ready next to my bed for the mornings (no central heating here in NZ) so that I at least won’t get too cold!

At least I’m still getting back to the blog even if I missed a day here and there. I hope to be back again in full force by tomorrow!

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The price of quality

My work as a freelance translator and writer (ghost writing and SEO) is my only source of income these days and sometimes I wonder whether I wouldn’t be better off writing my own non-fiction book (e.g. about freelancing) instead of helping other people making more money and not even get credit for what I do. Often my name isn’t even mentioned when I do translations and that’s a bit sad. But then I look at Amazon and see the prices of eBooks – ranging from free to $2 or $3. What would you expect for that kind of money? Of course, there is no printing cost involved and often you get books with a very plain layout – but should authors really give away their books for free? Doesn’t it somehow ruin the market for other writers?

Recently I’ve read a book that I received for free because one of my mini-jobs is being a book reviewer. I enjoyed the book and the author talked about translating the book into different languages in the future. So I contacted him and said I would enjoy translating the book and offered him a very good rate. However, he declined by telling me that his publisher would take care of that if he ever decided that he wanted translations (so why does he mention it in his book if he doesn’t really mean it?).  Also, if I was an author and wanted my book translated, I would not want just any translator to translate it. I’d like someone who actually enjoys the story and puts some effort into the translation. Many “professional” translators simply work like machines and don’t put much feeling into what they do – and then they charge a heap of money for it.

I always price my translations on different factors: how urgent the job is (i.e. do I have to focus on it for a few days for many hours, is it a rush job, is there no time limit etc.), how much fun I would have with the job and how difficult the content of the document is. I want my price to be fair to myself (i.e. not too cheap) and also to the customer (i.e. not too expensive, esp. when it would be a translation I’d enjoy a lot).

When I write SEO articles or simple blog articles that do not need too much research, I usually have a set fee of $1 per 100 words. Academic texts are more expensive, esp. if they need to meet certain standards.

When I look at how other people set their prices, I often wonder what their thoughts are. Some people offer a rate of $0.10 per 500 word article! Why would someone do that? You can earn 10 cent a lot faster – and how good will the quality of those articles be?

Some translators often ask ten times the price of what I would ask for translations – and then I also wonder what their thinking behind that pricing is.

What is the price of quality and how do you find it?

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Time to dream again!

What we dream of as children

When we were children, we believed that we could become everything we wanted to be when we grow up. Some of us dreamed of becoming teachers, some wanted to be nurses, astronauts, vets, scientists, super-stars, artists and some simply wanted to have a fairy tale wedding to a prince. We also display many characteristics and skills during our childhood that would perfectly fit the chosen dream. But woe! Then the adults hear about our dreams. They laugh, they say we should be more sensible, esp. when our dream is something like becoming a singer, a violinist, a writer, a painter or an actor/actress. For us as children, however, our dreams are what makes us smile, hope and look forward to becoming a grown-up. For a while, maybe even for years, we hold on to our dreams, esp. if we have role models who live our dreams.

A lot of criticism for children

Children get scolded a lot. They are told not to daydream too much, to focus on their maths, to look at that banker behind the counter and what a great job he has and how much money he earns. We are told what proper people are and what proper people do for jobs. We also get ideas about what kind of partner we should have in our life, what friends we should have and what kind of activities we should or shouldn’t do. If we spend too much time with something that doesn’t get the approval of our parents or teachers, then we are told to not waste time etc. Some characteristics are also criticised. Did you hear something like “Don’t ask that many questions?” or “Your imagination is running wild.” when you were a child and were told to shut up and be more realistic? Many children have to live with such exclamations and for many children it can be quite heart-breaking. Many children are also told off for telling the truth and soon learn the art of hiding the truth behind the sweet words that people would like to hear.

What the adults in our childhood believe and make us believe, too

Adults that surrounded us during our childhood don’t see much potential in those creative, fun jobs we dream of as children because only people like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Hugh Jackman, Vanessa Mae and Stephen King can make money with their art. What they tend to overlook is that even someone like J.R.R. Tolkien (the fantastic writer and also fantastic human who wrote “Lord of the Rings” and other great stories) had to start from scratch. Stephen King received many rejection letters. No one believed that Michael Jackson’s dream of becoming the best selling artist of his time would come true. Adults seem to believe the success of those people comes out of nowhere.

Michaeljackson (cropped)

Michael Jackson and his bathroom mirror

But let me tell you a story about a talented young man, his dream and his persistence. We all know a lot about Michael Jackson and I might know a bit more than you because I’ve read as much as I could about him since I was eight years old. I have my truth about him – you might have yours. Let’s not discuss that. What’s a fact is that Michael sold millions and millions of CDs. What many people do not know, however, is that he wanted to sell those millions and millions of records. When he was a young man, he used to write his goal on his bathroom mirror after the steam from his shower turned the mirror into a space for his creativity. Every time, steam hit the mirror again, the words appeared and every time he wrote them again. He believed in his dream, he wanted to achieve his dream but he also knew he’d have to work hard for it. And we all know that he worked hard all his life. Too hard maybe. But his life is an example that you can achieve your goals.

We have to dream again

Unfortunately, many of us let go of childhood dreams and dream jobs. We try to become something we are not, simply because we were told that we should be more realistic and that we should follow a respectable career path, e.g. become a banker. Even working behind a supermarket checkout seemed to be more respectable for some adults that trying to become a singer or a writer. Still most adults who criticise their children enjoy movies, books, music etc. They seem to forget that books don’t write themselves, songs don’t compose themselves, movies don’t fill themselves with the right actors on their own and so on. Someone is behind all of that. Someone who started out with a dream and who didn’t let other people stop him or her. Each of us has the potential to be someone like that. We all have the seed that can turn us into a star in our own field, be it literature, modern art, sculpture, carving, acting, singing, managing, accounting etc. We just have to dream again and then work hard.

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Even in dreams Lucy Lawless is elusive

Lucy Lawless

Lucy Lawless 

This morning, I woke up a bit after 4am, the dream I had still fresh in my mind. I wished I could go back to the dream because it did not seem finished. I was in a theatre and Lucy Lawless was part of a play, musical or maybe it even was just a Lucy Lawless show. I have no idea as the dream wasn’t long enough to find out. The audience, however, was seated and quite well behaved, so it did not seem like the usual collection of lesbians that usually attend anything Lucy Lawless to throw bras and panties at her.

I have been to a Lucy Lawless concert last year and I felt quite out of place and disillusioned at the end of it – I felt like I had no right to just be someone who respects and admires Lucy without wanting to tear her clothing off her. Damn it, why does everyone make you feel like you HAVE to be a lesbian to like Lucy? Anyway,  when I learned that Lucy had come out after the show, I was also quite disappointed because I wondered what it would be like to talk to her – most likely something I’ll never find out, not even in my dreams.

In the dream, it was like in many other situation – I was there alone and I even was seated in an area for people who came alone. I was the only one sitting there and the only other person who sat there was seated there because she was waiting for someone who was late. The show started and Lucy looked fantastic, it clearly must have been something more classy.

I wish I remembered what Lucy said. Then there was a break and everyone left the hall. I went back early because I had no one to talk to outside and felt out of place between all the couples and groups of friends. So I went back to the side row for people like me and started reading. Lucy was in an area next to the stage, talking to some of the crew. She noticed me and started walking towards me. And guess what, I woke up….. For no good reason. No crowing roosters, no cats scaring chickens, no thunderstorm, no alarm. Even in my dreams I am not allowed to talk to one of the very few people who might have to say something I might need to hear….

I wonder whether Lucy Lawless would even talk to me if we ever met and there’d actually be time for a little conversation. Maybe if I was a famous author – but would she talk to someone who would like her as a mentor? Probably not. Maybe I’m not crazy enough to get attention. Not loud enough, not outstanding enough. Not lesbian enough.

I wonder whether I will ever see Lucy again in any way. I don’t even know yet whether I will be allowed to stay in the country or not. Maybe I could write a letter to her and if they tell me to leave, I could put it in my will that it was my last will for her to receive that letter. It’s sad. Here I am, I have been in this country most of the time since 2005, have done nothing wrong legally, am no problem for society, don’t need any welfare, don’t even interact with much of the country because I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere… and yet immigration might not let me stay and be the reason for the end of me. At least the energy that is responsible for dreams could give me a bit of a break and let something good happen!

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Reaching for the stars

When I was younger, snail mail (and the telephone) was still the best way to get a message to someone who lived a long way away. There was no email – at least not easily accessible to the public. When you were a fan of someone, then you could send them a letter to a fan address, sometimes, if you’re lucky and also send a reply envelope with the letter, you would get an autograph sent back to you – but of course they were all printed and not original signatures and you wouldn’t ever get a hand-written reply back from the stars themselves. But when I was a kid, I was naïve enough to believe that it was worth a try and that surely my beloved singers and actors would at least read their letters. With Michael Jackson, I didn’t even bother to write a letter because I KNEW he would one day just walk into my life and take me away to a better life and be the true family I needed. Of course that didn’t happen. And I often wonder whether I could have made a difference in his life anyway – but that’s a story for another day, maybe. (On a side-note: if you think this post is a good opportunity for you to vent any negative and unjustified, cruel comments about Michael Jackson, this is the wrong place).

So that’s the past: letters and the hope of a kid that the people she looked up to would reply to her. No one ever did. Thanks, David Hasselhoff. And I wanted to marry you when I was eight!

Today, there is email, Facebook, Twitter and all other sorts of social media. There are stars writing blogs (some really do and some pay others to write in their name) and official websites. There are fan sites and you can learn as much as you want about your favourite stars, download heaps of photos, watch videos etc. In a way, I miss the old days when you could actually be happy when you found a new snippet of information or found a really nice poster – i.e. tangible stuff that could also help to brighten up your room. Anyway, the modern age also gives you the opportunity to get a better chance of making your star notice you and maybe even reply to you.

Twitter is a good example for this. Some stars have their own Twitter accounts and indeed tweet themselves. Many hire writers but there are a few who take the time to really interact with their fans. At least I hope that they aren’t just pretenders but I think the stars I like wouldn’t lie to their fans like that. Lucy Lawless, for example, has her own Twitter. Unfortunately, she has never replied to me but I guess that might also be a good thing because after reading many of her Tweets, I am a bit disappointed in her – so the online world can also lead to a certain degree of disenchantment with stars. It’s easier to notice their faults – not that I expect stars to be perfect but I have certain expectations of all people, star or no star. I.e. just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you should be mean to other people for no good reason.

Other stars, on the other hand, positively surprised me. One day I was mentioning Jery L. Ryan, who played Seven of Nine in “Star Trek – Voyager”, not even thinking she’d notice it. But she actually replied to me. And when I asked her a question, she replied to that as well! There’s also a guy called Gabriel Mann, who used to play a minor role in a series I liked, and he used to interact with fans a lot when he was not as famous as he is now. I guess, he’s just a lot busier now and unlike other stars he won’t hire someone to do his tweeting for him. I also received replies from some actresses who used to be in Xena and screenplay writers are also quite good when it comes to replying to Tweets.

My hope of getting noticed by Patrick Stewart, however, have not come true yet. I guess I am also not on Twitter often enough. It’s not my kind of plattform and I only use it because of a few good people I met online. And hey, sometimes I send out a nice tweet to some star I like and it’s always a nice surprise to get a reply. Maybe I get replies because most of the stars I like aren’t super-big international superstars (apart from Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart).

The times have changed, information about stars is easier available – but I wonder whether some stars would actually be happy about proper fan mail, i.e. real letters? And does anyone ever read them?

Did you ever try to get in touch with a star you admire and respect?

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