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Book Review: The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai

The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai book cover

By Jaye Marsh

In general, North Americans are stressed, overweight, stuck to our desks, and disconnected from the world we live in. With The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai attempts to help us address these issues by offering tools, including online resources and email support, to “hack” a more balanced lifestyle.

I really wanted to like this book, but it was a challenge. The writing style is the culprit here, not the content. I was pulled out of the messaging, and the information to be gleaned here, too many times not to mention it.

The Urban Monk reads as if the publishers are Millennials/Generation Y or whatever generalization is currently en vogue. Our supposed readers are the ever-taxed and ever-busy 30- to 45-year-olds replete with children, mid-career angst, mortgages, housing problems, and stuff problems, and are in need of a current version of Zen to help them find a way to sanity that allows for who they are rather than completely. To that end, this book has its place, but it ignores a huge segment of depleted populace in need of help: those who don’t live an urban lifestyle. None of the case studies offered in the book take place in non-traditional settings like freelancing, consider people juggling multiple jobs, or explore those facing financial struggles.

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Taming time

Lion tamer

A lion tamer at Bertram Mills Touring Circus, Ascot/Edward G Malindine/
Collection of National Media Museum/ CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIAL-SHAREALIKE (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

By Jaye Marsh

Time management was a popular topic to start off the year for Editors Toronto branch meetings.

A full house of approximately 40 people greeted the guest panellists at our new venue. Thanks to Greg Ioannou, lifetime member of Editors Canada, the Toronto branch now meets at the Centre for Social Innovation, a lovely multimedia-capable space on Spadina Avenue near Queen Street West.

The evening’s program, held on September 26, was about “Time-management for busy editors.” Program chair Lee Parpart invited four panellists: Jennifer D. Foster, Jeanne McKane, Dr. Nicole Lyon Roccas, and Jayne S. Huhtanen.

Jennifer gave us a list of practical tips and guiding principles that work for her: knowing your needs, discipline, attitude, and creating the right space in which to work. She reviewed her unsuccessful experience with the Pomodoro technique (setting tasks and using timers); making lists; using a hard-copy calendar; the importance of checklists to relieve the memory banks; taking regular breaks; exercising; setting rewards; and learning to say no. At the end, Jennifer stressed the importance of surrounding herself with positive, kind people who are supportive and respectful of her and her work. The end result? A favourable effect on productivity, motivation, and efficiency. (more…)

Book Review: Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from around the World  by Yee-Lum Mak 

(Chronicle Books, 2016)

By Jaye Marsh
Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from around the World by Yee-Lum Mak 

Jungian analyst Robert Johnson’s oft-quoted words from his book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden have stayed with me: “Sanskrit has 96 words for love, ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one.” Given the English language’s predilection for absorbing new words from many cultures, it still has a paucity of beautiful and concise terms for the eternal and universal concepts of love, pain, and the sublime. In her search for the sublime in language, Yee-Lum Mak created Other-Wordly in which we find “komorebi: the sunlight that filters through the leaves and trees” and “hiraeth: a homesickness for a home which maybe never was”. Mak is from California and currently completing advanced English studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her love of words began when she stumbled across the Portuguese term for “the love that remains” (saudade), which sparked her search for other “strange and lovely” words.

Some words are striking, respectfully highlighting different cultural norms. Others show a sense of humour about the human condition. Two paired Japanese words let us peek at cultural values: “tatemae: what a person pretends to believe” and “honne: what a person truly believes.” A lovely Spanish word describes my favourite activity, “sobremesa: the time spent around the table after dinner talking to the people with whom you shared the meal.” Not wanting to spoil the joy of discovery, I expect most of us in the editorial world can relate to page 13: buying books, hoarding books, books piling up – there are words for that! (more…)