Archives for November 2014

Holidays: The Fountain of Youth?

For many of us, Thanksgiving means spending time with our families, carrying out traditions that we’ve practiced for years.

While it can be very stressful, messy, and challenging to spend time with family members you don’t see very often, it can also be a beautiful time of re-centering.

Traditions serve a psychological function. By repeating the same traditional activity with the same group of people over the years, we construct a chronological record of who we’ve been before – and who we are now. It’s a hidden way of staying in touch with the consistent elements of our identities, and it allows us to track ourselves as we develop and change.

Traditions give us an opportunity to become psychologically close to the person that we used to be in childhood, or adolescence – or even as recently as last year. And that’s something to be thankful for.

As always, Drs. Bob Duke and Art Markman are carving it up.

Carrie Fountain

Always Remain a Beginner

Interviews on the Write Up come out more as conversations than a scripted line of questioning. The authors who are featured bring their own spirit and personality into the discussion and the conversation spins to wonderfully surprising places. Our episode with award-winning poet Carrie Fountain is a perfect example. Talking with Fountain is like grabbing a coffee with a dear friend you who leaves you feeling thrilled and more awake to the world about you.

During our talk, Fountain and I explore parenting, mysticism, craft, and her extraordinary new poetry collection Instant Winner. Whether it’s writing her next poem or facing a new parenting challenge, Fountain strives to “always remain a beginner.”

Carrie Fountain’s poems are prayers. Like prayers they carry the earthbound to heaven. Her poems are born from daily life — experiences of motherhood, marriage, traffic and trash trucks – but quickly rise up to questions of spirit and desires for divine connection.

Fountain earned her MFA at the James A. Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin where she began work on what would become her debut collection Burn Lake. That book received the 2009 National Poetry Series winner and was published in 2010 by Penguin.

Her latest collection, Instant Winner, is a sly prayer book of winking meditations and wry observations. Fountain has a gift for finding the miraculous in the mundane, the tremendous in the ordinary. Capturing a fragment of life, a passing moment, Fountain highlights the endless magic moments that fill an average day. Like the best of poetry, her pieces inspire new views on a world we believe we know.

Balancing a family and a writing career can be an incredible trial. Fountain and I chat about becoming a mother and how that has impacted her life and poetry. Fountain is married to acclaimed playwright Kirk Lynn. We chat about how a household of two creatives works and how the two have inspired, supported, and challenged each other.

Fountain has taught at the university level for several years and is now the writer-in-residence at St. Edward’s University. We chat about mentoring younger poets and her love for poets who have inspired her.

Much of poetry in Instant Winner describes encounters with the spiritual. Fountain shares some her own experiences with organized religion and where she stands now on questions of faith, God, and religion. She also discusses the role writing poetry plays in her spiritual life.

We touch upon Fountain’s own process in approaching writing: When she writes, how she seeks inspiration, and the discipline needed to sculpt a career in the arts. She also gives us a peek at how she approaches a blank page. Fountain hopes her style never outshines her poem, instead she aims for what she calls an “invisible craft.”

So brew a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and join us for a conversation on this edition of The Write Up.

Willie “The Lion” Smith (11.23.14)

Willie “The Lion” Smith defined what it meant to be a stride, jazz piano player in 20th century America. As an and African-American Jew, Smith approached the magnitude of WWI, and the early 1900s with a kaleidoscope of perspectives. In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, explores what the life, music, and legacy of Smith can teach us today.

KUT Weekend – November 21, 2014

How controversial Texas textbooks get adopted….the story of Austin’s first transgender police officer….and bottled brains in the basement of the University of Texas. Those stories and more in this edition of KUT Weekend!

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Why We Go To Extremes

From CrossFit to quilting, in this edition of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke talk about the pros and cons of going to extremes.

John Hendricks (11.16.14)

Jon Hendricks is an American jazz singer who is considered to be the poet laureate of jazz. He inspired, and continues to speak to, greats like Bobby McFerrin and even Thelonious Monk. In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Bulmofe, explores the way in which, as a singer, Hendricks’ discipline and skill is a remarkable example of the importance of self-care. When we see our body and soul as the “instrument” through which we can make the music of our life, we hold it dear, as Hendrick’s continues to do.

KUT Weekend – November 14, 2014

People being forced to leave state supported living center in Austin…challenges facing child immigrants to Texas….and how to convince Mark Cuban to give you $1 million. Those stories and more in this edition of KUT Weekend!

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How To Protect Your Brain As You Age

Whether we like it or not, time marches on. And as it does, we age.

One of the most challenging realities for everyone to face in life is that we are all, inevitably, destined to grow old (if we’re lucky, that is).

Aging correlates to a steady decline of functional abilities, both physical and mental. Memory and cognition peak in our early twenties, and we begin a very slow, steady decline of those functions as we near our senior years.

After age 80, many bodily functions – including brain function – seem to have reached the average limit of their operation. So what can we do to preserve our brains for as long as possible?

You know what they say: use it or lose it. The more you think now, the more you will be able to think later, as you age. Activities that are interactive and intellectually rewarding, like having good conversations with people, are not only enjoyable – they’re also good for your brain.

The next time you spend too long talking to someone, lost in a good conversation, there’s your excuse –  you were exercising your brain. And by the same token, physical activity and fitness help preserve brain function. After all, your brain is a part of your body – so you have to take care of your body to take care of your brain.

So: think a lot, move a lot, and live a lot if you want to live longer. Drs. Art Markman and Bob Duke give you more of the details.

You’re only as old as you feel: Continued activity – both physical and mental – protects you as you age.

Don Byron (11.9.14)

Don Byron is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist, rooted in jazz. However, his stylistic influences range from heavy metal to klezmer and more. In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe explores what it means to go beyond the idea of “avant-garde” and remain inspired and open to all elements of musical expression in this post-post modern era.

KUT Weekend – November 7, 2014

Battleground Texas founder on why Democrats lost….how private donations affect public school equity…and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on the thrill of space travel. Those stories and more in this edition of KUT Weekend!

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Artificial Intelligence

The brief history of Artificial Intelligence in this edition of Two Guys on Your Head with Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke.