October 20, 2016

Cinemascope: Where To Invade Next

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Image result for where to invade next

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Filmmaker Michael Moore visits various countries to examine how Europeans view work, education, health care, sex, equality, and other issues. From cafeteria food to sex ed, Moore looks at the benefits of schooling in France, Finland and Slovenia. In Italy, he marvels at how workers enjoy reasonable hours and generous vacation time. In Portugal, Moore notes the effects of the decriminalization of drugs. Through his travels, we discover just how different America is from the rest of the world.

The thing about Michael Moore is that he is sometimes over the top, but he also shows us that the emperor really has no clothes, and I'll always love him for that. The topics covered in this documentary is something you won't see covered in the US mainstream media, and is something all Americans should be talking about.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

October 19, 2016

Indie Icon Amanda Palmer Gets Real About Motherhood & Relevance (Video)

Have you been watching The What's Underneath Project? I'd highly recommend it. This one with Amanda Palmer just makes me admire her more.

“Feminism isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being honest,” says Amanda Palmer in the first episode of the Summer ’16 season of The What’s Underneath Project. The indie artist who turned the music industry on its head is now doing the same with motherhood by embracing her post-mom body and her fears of being insignificant."

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 17, 2016

Recent Reads

156. Sketching People: An Urban Sketcher's Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces
I'm a fan of this artist and her work, and I was delighted when this book was published. It shows how the artist captures her subjects, the tools and techniques she uses, and is filled with lots of her drawings. There is almost too much to soak up in my first reading, and this is a book I plan to revisit with watercolor pencils in hand. Rating: 4 stars.

157. My Name is Leon
This is the story of Leon. When we meet him, he is almost 9, his Mom has just had another child, and she is having a hard time with postpartum depression and alcohol. Things spiral downwards as you might expect, and social services steps in to take the two boys out of the house. Mom is no longer around/ capable of being a parent, so long term solutions must be found for the boys. The baby brother is adopted, because he is white and an infant, while Leon who is not either has the added trauma of being separated from his beloved brother.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the content to be quite emotional, but the writing is not good enough to really work. I really like that the story is told from Leon's point of view, and since he eavesdrops every chance he gets, we hear tidbits that fill in the gaps of what is going on in the larger backdrop of his family and 1980s British society.

The heartbreak of an abandoned and neglected child is something that is all too common, and stories like these that shed light on the plight of these kids are clearly important. Foster parents and social workers often go unheralded in their efforts, and I applaud the author in her efforts to give them their due in this story. All that said, I expected to love this one more than I did. Rating: 3 stars.

158. Mr Loverman
And the streak continues! Another five star read this year featuring a gay man, albeit a closeted one, and this one was written by a woman.

This story is about Barrington Jedidiah Walker (Barry to his friends), a seventy-four year old Antiguan living in Britain. He is a husband, father, grandfather, and has been cheating on his wife with his childhood lover Morris, for the past sixty years. Based on this description you would think that you'd dislike Barry, but you would be wrong.

There is so much I loved about this book. I appreciated the humor, the witty dialog, Barry's wisdom and insights into human nature, the exploration of being a gay man of color before all "this gay liberation stuff", the observations of being an immigrant in a country that does not want you, the challenge of raising children in a culture not your own, the ripple effects on the family caused by this double life ..... I could go on and on, but you really need to experience this for yourself.

This is mainly Barry's story, but we also get sections from Carmel's (the wife) point of view, and the juxtaposition of the two is fantastic. The language is wonderful, the story sucked me in and I could not wait to see what would happen next. I slowed down the pace of my reading as I got closer to the end, because I did not want to stop hanging out with the characters in this book. I loved every minute of this excellent book, and would highly recommend it.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Robin Miles and Ron Butler. If you decide to read this one, I would highly recommend the audiobook version. The narrators have accents and a delivery style that added immensely to my enjoyment of this story. Rating: 5 stars.

159. Ghosts
This graphic novel is targeted for middle grade readers, and is my favorite of the author's books I've read to date.

This is the story of two sisters, Cat and Maya. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and the family moves to the coast of Northern California for her health. It's not that Cat does not love her sister and wants what's best for her, but moving to a new town and leaving all your friends is really tough, especially when you are a person who does not make friends easily. Also, the town they move to has ghosts, and while this delights Maya, Cat has no interest in meeting one, thank you very much.

I really liked the push/pull portrayal of the sister relationship, the celebration of culture and tradition, and the weaving in of death as a part of life. The art in this book is the author's best yet, and I especially love that the girls have bodies that look like girls. There is not enough depth in the story for this adult reader, but this would make a fun Halloween read for the tweens in your life. Rating: 3 stars.

160. Poetry Is Useless
I found this one both fascinating and frustrating. What is it? That's a good question. It is part sketchbook, memoir, travelogue, brain dump, and musings. There are parts that I loved, but so much of the text was unreadable - this either needed to be a larger format book, or come with a magnifying glass attached. I love the artistic style of his work, and this volume will certainly inspire you to pick up your sketchbook. Rating: 3 stars.

October 13, 2016

Cinemascope: Trumbo

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Image result for trumbo movie poster

Released in 2015.

Plot line: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood's top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. Trumbo, recounts how Dalton used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice of the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.

I love movies that educate me about something I know little to nothing about, and this one especially timely. The acting is superb, and I enjoyed the setting and sense of place of this movie. People can sometimes act as sheep, and we often see/believe what we want to, and this movie is a reminder that all is not always as it seems.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

October 11, 2016

Bring on the female superheroes! | Christopher Bell (Video)

I found this TED talk educational and thought provoking, and I think you will too.

"Why is it so hard to find female superhero merchandise? In this passionate, sparkling talk, media studies scholar (and father of a Star Wars-obsessed daughter) Christopher Bell addresses the alarming lack of female superheroes in the toys and products marketed to kids -- and what it means for how we teach them about the world."

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 10, 2016

Recent Reads

151. Incite 2, Color Passions: The Best of Mixed Media
Book blurb: 109 artists share their zest for color through painting, collage, encaustic, art journaling, jewelry art and more.

I liked this for what it was. It's like having a curated art exhibition in your hands, and reading a bit about what inspired the artists. Colorful and fun. Rating: 3 stars.

152. Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story
A quote from the author's end notes: "Legal access to safe and effective methods of birth control made it possible for us to pursue our lives and dreams without being shackled by our biology. It's amazing the extent to which we now take this fact for granted, but I simply can't imagine a greater gift to humanity." I concur.

I'd heard of Margaret Sanger, but had no idea what a powerful, influential, controversial, and connected woman she was. Why is her face not on our currency? I remember reading a book titled Great Men and Women as a kid, and I hope that an updated version would include women like her. This graphic biography is a perfect introduction to this important historical figure, and while I am not a fan of the art, I was delighted to learn more about Sanger and her efforts and accomplishments. Rating: 4 stars.

153. A Single Man
I listened to the audiobook which is superbly narrated by Simon Prebble.

How is it that two of my five star reads this year are novellas by gay men about gay men? They would not even come close to passing the Bechdel test, and yet I loved them. I guess these books are considered classics for a reason.

I've heard much about the author over the years, not sure what specifically now, but his name seems to come up quite a bit, and I've been curious about his work. Decided to start here, and oh my goodness, I loved it from the first line to the last one. I actually listened to the last ten minutes a couple of times over.

First published in 1964, this is the story of George, a middle aged gay man, who is dealing with the sudden death of his partner (which happens off-screen, so to speak), and is determined to live life by his normal routines. This story unfolds over a twenty four hour period, and explores the textures of life with an honesty most of us reserve only for our private journals. I struggle to put into words why this moved me so. We are most flawed and beautiful when we are most human, and this story is an homage to this wonderful thing called life. Rating: 5 stars.

154. Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)
Why is it that the "abandoned children who have to find their own way in the world" trope affects us so?

This is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, which is the first of several trilogies in the epic Realms of the Elderlings fantasy series. I've heard such fave reviews about this series, so decided this was the summer to take the plunge.

The thing about the book blurb is that is gives too much away, so all I'll say is that this is the story of a royal bastard (I mean that literally), who is raised in the shadow of the royal household. The world he inhabits has magic, but discovering what forms it takes along with our young protagonist is half the fun. There is lots of action and adventure, scheming and betrayal, battles and bloodshed, friendship and loyalty, cowardice and bravery, and I thoroughly enjoyed how this story unfolded.

I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Paul Boehmer, and while I did not love the narration, I got used to it. I've got the rest of the books in this long series lined up, and look forward to seeing what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

155. My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy #1)
If you know me, you probably know that I don't believe that every Tom, Dick and Sally should write a memoir, and I tend to be rather skeptical of this genre in general. Every now and then I stumble across a memoir that proves me wrong, and I am delighted to be proved wrong.

This is a lovely memoir of a family who leaves gloomy England and relocates to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. Their (mis)adventures is relayed by the youngest member of the family, the author. Gerry is a keen observer of the flora and fauna that surround him, and his family gets as close an examination as everything else. The writing is wonderful, and I laughed out loud several times. I was once convulsed into a laughing fit that had me breathless and in tears. The rest of the time I was smiling and shaking my head with affection at the antics of this family.

There are some major things that are not explained - how for example the family could afford these adventures, how the author has such clear and vivid memories, etc. There are also some uncomfortable ways in which the locals and the Mom are described, but in the end I found that I really did not care. This lovely book is a throw back to the days of "free range parenting" (the kind I'll bet most of us over the age of 35 experienced), and is a wonderful recounting of both natural and familial history. Highly recommended. Rating: 4 stars.

October 9, 2016

Inktober 2016 Part 1/4 (Video)

I'm playing along with Inktober for the first time this month. Since I've got several trips planned in October, I've decided to use whichever journal I have on hand each day.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 6, 2016

Cinemascope: Shall We Dance

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2004.

Plot line: Despite having a great career and a loving family, lawyer John Clark (Richard Gere) is missing something in his life as he meanders listlessly from day to day. On his commute back home one night, Clark notices a stunning woman (Jennifer Lopez) in a dance studio and decides on a whim to join a class for ballroom dancing. While Clark finds a new spark in his life, his wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), grows suspicious of his frequent absences, since he decides to keep his dancing a secret.

I've watched this movie several times, and each and every time I am delighted with it. If you are in the mood for a pick me up movie with great music, give this one a try. Also, if you have yet to see it, check out the original Japanese movie of the same name.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

October 4, 2016

Journal pages

I always love to see where people create, so I'm sharing a work in progress spread in my #travelersnotebook insert.

The thing about making your own journals/inserts, is that you can customize the papers as you wish. This leads to some interesting creative hurdles to be worked through.

I also created signatures for a project I'm calling Use Up Your Stash. Below is a spread from that journal using drywall tape and acrylic paints.

September 26, 2016

Recent Reads

146. Clive Barker's The Thief of Always
I read an omnibus edition of this graphic novel that contained all three volumes, so I'll review them as a set here.

You know that saying, be careful what you wish for as you just might get it? This graphic novel is adapted from a book of the same name by Clive Barker, and I plan on reading that as well.

Harvey Swick is a bored little boy, and time seems to go by at a glacial pace. He wishes he could run away and have adventures. Then one day he meets someone who promises to take him to a place where all his wishes will come true. What happens when Harvey gets there, and the characters he meets is a fun read. The art is wonderfully evocative, and this would be the perfect story for young readers around Halloween. Spooky without being too scary. Rating: 3 stars.

147. Descender, Vol 1: Tin Stars
I really liked Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth and Trillium, and if you have yet to read those graphic novels, stop now and read those first. He knows how to tell a story with an emotional punch, and his art is very evocative of the mood he sets.

Based on his earlier works, I'd been waiting to start this new series until the second volume was issued, but there is something missing. It's a humans versus robots world, but the main thrust of the story is one I simply could care less about. What I love about this one is TIM-21, a young robot boy and his confusion upon waking up after a ten year nap, to find himself in a universe where all androids have been outlawed, bounty hunters lurk on every planet, and most importantly his human family missing.

Lemire does not really explore new territory (pun intended) with this one, and while I like the loose watercolor art, it takes a little getting used to. I like this enough to continue reading the series. Rating: 3 stars.

148. Descender, Vol 2: Machine Moon
This volume collects issues #7-11, and while the action picks up in this installment of the story, the dialog is uninspired and feels like place holder lines until the writer comes in to work. I'm also ambivalent about the watercolor artwork in this series. While it works really well for large scale scenes, it's rather too loose for close ups in my opinion.

I continue to love TIM-21, and the fact that his emotional setting is rather high compared to everyone else just makes me love him more. It's the people around him and their motivations that I could care less about. P.S. Could have told you who the masked dude was after the first two panels. Not sure if I'll continue with this series, though maybe I'll feel differently when the next volume appears. Isn't that the definition of insanity? Rating: 2 stars.

149. The Goblin Emperor
I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Kyle McCarley.

Having read several dark books lately, I was in the mood for some fun and light fantasy, and this book delivered just that. At about a third of the way in, I thought this would be a four star read, but then the plot starts to meander in unnecessary ways, and took too long to close.

This is the story of Maia, the forth half-elf/half-goblin son of the emperor, who has lived in exile his entire life. When there is already a heir and a couple of spares around, one does not expect to suddenly be Emperor, but this exactly what happens to Maia one morning. He has not been educated for this position, so has to be a quick study, and things proceed from there.

There is something about stories that feature abandoned/rejected/abused children who suddenly make good that cheers us immensely. Take a minute and thing about it - bet you can name at least a handful of stories you've loved with a similar premise. Like most of the books in that trope, this one is a feel good story that made me smile and root for our boy Maia. The world building is good, but the names of people, places, and ceremonies were ludicrous. It's as though the author threw darts at an alphabet board whenever she needed a name, and went with what the fates gave her. Thank goodness the narrator figured out how to say all those words. The only problem is that my brain kept thinking I was immersed in a new language, and worked very hard to learn it. {smile}.

As I mentioned earlier, the story does get rather too long winded, but if you are in the mood for a light fantasy tale you might like this one too. Rating: 3 stars.

150. The Girl on the Train
I recently saw the movie preview so decided it was time to read this much hyped book of last summer, and it unfolded as I suspected. I simply don't know why it is that a book loved by so many often does not resonate with me.

I really like the premise. Who has not sat on commuter trains, gone by the same houses, and wondered about the lives of people in those houses? Heck, I do that on late evening walks around my neighborhood. What I don't do is go totally nuts, which is what the main character in this story does. This all starts when she sees something that jolts her out of this fantasy world she created in her head about a particular couple in a particular house. She then proceeds to do things that are simply mind boggling, and what's more, everyone around her must have grown up in incredibly dysfunctional homes because they put up with her crazies. Honestly?

The story has three women narrators, and I usually find it interesting to see events from various points of view, but the writing voice for the three women is identical, so they all blur together. It was fairly obviously what happened early on, so I spent a long time waiting for the nutty one to figure things out in her nutty way. The writing is pedestrian, but the chapters are really short so it does make for a quick read.

There is not a single likable person, of either gender, in this story, but unfortunately none of them were fleshed out enough for me to push back on. A deeper dive into some of the experiences of the women in this story would have made this a much more compelling read. So yeah, not for me. I read this a week or so ago, and barely remember much other being annoyed most of the time. Rating: 2 stars.

September 22, 2016

Cinemascope: Meet The Patels

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Image result for meet the patels

Released in 2014.

Plot line: This documentary is features an Indian-American man who is about and turn 30 gets help from his parents and extended family to start looking for a wife in the traditional Indian way.

This documentary is laugh out funny in places, and if you are either of South Asian descent, involved with a South Asian in any manner, or simply want to understand a culture through the particulars of one family's story, you have to watch this one. I was laughing and cringing, and even though I am not a Patel, we have a lot in common.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

September 19, 2016

Recent Reads

141. The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw
This graphic novel has an interesting premise. Can you take the basics of how to draw, and incorporate them into a story? This book shows that you can. It's a cute story of a young boy who has a passion for drawing, and along the way the reader learns along with him the fundamentals of drawing. This would make a good introduction for young artists. Rating: 3 stars.

142. Lucky Penny
New Adults. Emerging Adults. Whatever you call them, this genre tends to deal with collage age-ish people and their woes and misadventures. I can see how this would appeal to many in a similar situation, but unless the story sheds some new light they don't work for me.

This graphic novel is about a young woman who loses her job, loses her apartment, and ends up living in a storage unit. The story is light and fluffy, and given some of the issues lightly touched upon, this would have been a much more interesting read if the author had dived deeper. The art is cute and manga-ish, with all those large eyes. A fast read that I will not remember having read in a week or two. Rating: 2 stars.

143. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (Delilah Dirk #1)
This graphic novel is about the swashbuckling (mis)adventures of Delilah Dirk. I especially like that the story starts in Constantinople and includes a Turkish angle. The art is good, and while I enjoyed all the action, I'm not sure that there was an actual plot. Still, this a fun read with an unorthodox heroine. Rating: 3 stars.

144. The Muralist
I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Xe Sands, and I bailed about 32% in.

This story has so many elements that I usually love. It's a story with two time lines. The earlier one is set in the 1940s, and centers around a young painter in the days of the WPA, and her cadre of painters, who are household names today. The second story line is set in 2015 and centers around woman number one's grand niece. Painters, artists, missing people, authenticating artwork, the plight of Jewish refugees, etc. All these should have added up to something with more meat, but alas did not.

The writing itself is not bad, but the plot seemed to rely on the reader's emotional response to events surrounding World War 11, without the author earning those emotions, and that felt somewhat like cheating to me. There was not enough character development for me to know, or really care, about any of the people in this story, and they seemed to be generic stand-ins for historical figures. I don't have an issue with very specific stories that use war time or historical events as their backdrop, but the author must earn the emotions in the writing, and not simply move characters around while dropping clues that tell the reader what to feel.

On the plus side, this is the first that I'd heard about the history surround the MS St. Loius, and I plan to read more about it. Also, this book reminded me that I really should move a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt higher up my TBR pile.

This is the second book by this author that I have DNFed, both for similar reasons: books with a wonderful premise that do not deliver. Rating: 1 star.

145. Shelter
Someone close to me once said that he knew how to be a son, a husband, and a father, but not all at the same time.

I read this book in three sittings, and I don't recall a book that has so haunted my dreams in a very long time. The premise is a deceptively simple one: what does it mean to provide for one's family? It is what the author does with this question that makes this very hyped book deserve all the hype.

This is an example of a book that the less you know going in the better. The author explores so many themes really well in this slim novel. We get a look behind closed doors at a couple of marriages, parent - child relationships, and violence in various forms. There is much to ponder about humanity and yourself while reading this one, and you will not look at things the same way after you are done.

I really cannot say more without giving away things that are better discovered while reading it yourself. I docked a star because this is a debut novel, and it shows in parts, but I cannot wait to see what else this author uncorks in the future. Rating: 4 stars.

September 18, 2016

Vegas 2016 Traveler's Notebook - PreTrip (Video)

Here's the new journal I'll be using on an upcoming trip.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to videos mentioned:
Creative Tip: Re-use Sticker Backing as Stencils
Turkey Travel Journal
Journal Tips

September 15, 2016

Cinemascope: Underground (Season 1)

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Image result for underground tv show

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Underground centers on a group of slaves planning a daring 600-mile escape from a Georgia plantation. Along the way, they are aided by a secret abolitionist couple running a station on the Underground Railroad as they attempt to evade the people charged with bringing them back, dead or alive. As an aside, it is really wonderful to see so many people of color on the screen.

This is an interesting show, and while it has its flaws it is an interesting and disturbing show that looks at various angles surrounding a significant part of US history. History is an accounting of what happened as told by the victors, and it is always a good thing to balance the telling of it from various points of view. Injustice and oppression affects every single person in the sphere of their influence, not just the victims, and I think this show explores some of that as well.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching

September 12, 2016

Recent Reads

136. All Things Cease to Appear
I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Kirsten Potter.

The basic premise is that a man comes home one day to find his wife dead, and his three year old daughter alone in the house with said dead Mom. Who dunnit?

I knew within the first several chapters who did it, but was interested to see how the author would spin out the yarn. The writing is solid, the character development interesting, and the setting very atmospheric, but, and it a huge but, the plot itself lacked any drive. There were too many character points of view, many of which did not add to the story in my opinion. The supernatural touch was entirely out of context, and did not work at all. There were two things that kept me reading:

1. The exploration of how marriages can deteriorate over time and circumstance.
2. The manner in which the author addresses mental illness and the unraveling of a mind.

The final chapters of the book were rather predictable and completely unbelievable, and I might be the only person who liked the ending for the killer. This is quick summer read, and while I enjoyed it at the time, it has not stayed with me. Rating: 3 stars.

137. Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy #1)
I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Will Patton.

The final book in this trilogy was released recently, so decided to dive in. This is the first King I've read that is a detective story. I don't think he's done it before, and it shows.

The title refers to a person who used said car to plow through a crowd, killing and injuring many. The killer escapes. The protagonist is a retired cop, who is haunted by this unsolved crime, and is not handing retirement too well. The story goes back and forth between the cop and the killer, with a smattering of other characters to help flesh out the story.

In classic King style, this is a fast paced and fun ride. However, there is not much character development, there are so many implausible things that happen, and do not get me started on the ridiculous women characters. Does King really not know any woman who can parallel park a car? Sigh.

If you can ignore the flaws I've outlined above, this would make a good beach/airplane read. I've got the other two books on audio, and in spite of the superb narrator, I'm in no hurry to get to them at this time. Rating: 3 stars.

138. Hamilton: The Revolution
This Broadway musical hit is impossible to get tickets for, so I opted for the next best thing. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Mariska Hargitay. Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates his annotations at the end.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up this audiobook, but what I got was a delightful back stage pass to the show's inspiration, creation, and production. Also included was a short biography of all the major players, both in the cast and those behind the scenes.

This is a really wonderful look at how work gets done, and if you are person who enjoys seeing how the art (or sausage) is made, you'll enjoy it too. What I did not expect was to be in tears at various points of the book. I've got the original cast soundtrack on deck to listen to next, and plan to read the biography by Chernow as well. Rating: 4 stars.

139. The Rook (The Checquy Files #1)
"The body you are wearing used to be mine."

That might well be one of my top 10 fave first lines ever. Imagine that you wake up with no memories, and then find letters in your pocket that inform you that you are now inhabiting the body of someone else, who sadly has been separated from it. What do you do?

This is clearly a case of the right book finding the right reader at the right time. I cannot even begin to explain why I enjoyed this one so much, as much of it is ridiculously over the top. It's like a Jason Bourne/ Harry Potter/ Men in Black mashup, and I enjoyed every minute of the ride. The story alternates between letters from the woman who used to inhabit said body, and the current day resident of the body as she tries to figure out what the heck is going on. The humor had me laughing out loud several times.

This is a fun romp of a read, and while it might not be for everyone, I'd suggest giving it a try. Rating: 4 stars.

140. The Geek Feminist Revolution
"There are many ways to silence a woman, and not all of them involve getting her to stop speaking. Sometimes it's enough to simply ensure all she speaks about is you."

If you are looking for a fun, fast read look elsewhere. I found this collection of essays educational and thought provoking. It is always interesting to see how the younger generation deals with feminist issues. The author takes on popular culture, and holds everyone, including herself, accountable. There are so many lines that I highlighted in this collection.

I deducted a star because there was a bit too much repetition in several of the essays, and some of the essays addressed issues faced by writers, particularly women in the science fiction and fantasy genre, and I'm not really the target audience for those, even though they were enlightening.

This is the first book I've read by this author, and I'll be trying some of her fiction next. Rating: 4 stars.

September 11, 2016

Creative Tip: Re-use Sticker Backing as Stencils (Video)

A fun and easy way to get more bang for your buck from stickers.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to other videos you might be interested in:
Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook
2016 Journals and Planner, plus a Sketchbook Flip Through of my Nightstand Binder Journal
Turkey Travel Jounal

September 6, 2016

Journal pages / Journal Flip Through (Video)

I've completed the first insert of the fabric Traveler's Notebook I'm using this summer, so here's a journal flip.

If the embedded link does not work, click here.

Links to other videos you might be interested in:
Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook
2016 Journals and Planner, plus a Sketchbook Flip Through of my Nightstand Binder Journal
Turkey Travel Jounal

September 5, 2016

Recent Reads

131. Brown Girl Dreaming
This book won several awards including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (2014). A novel in verse for kids you say? I was intrigued.

I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by the author.

I'm not sure that novel is an accurate label for this one. I'd go with memoir. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it before, and it took a little while to understand that this was really a memoir told in short, very short, poems. Once I settled into the groove of the narration, I enjoyed the ride.

This coming of age memoir reflects the personal, familial, societal, and political waypoints of a young African American girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s. We still live in a world where the color of one's skin matters, and I really liked how the author explores the concept of home in a world that tells you that you don't belong. I was especially delighted with all the vignettes that highlighted her relationship with her grandparents.

The language is lovely, and the author evokes her childhood with such clarity that I questioned how it was possible for her to "remember" events that happened when she was so young. Memory is a strange thing, and in the afterword, the author outlines her sources.

This book would be a wonderful way to introduce middle grade readers to the themes covered here. A quick and lovely read. Rating: 4 stars.

132. Lonely Planet Washington, DC (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet is one of my go-to travel guides, and this one was exactly what I expected. Easy to use, clearly laid out, and I especially liked the updated information section. Came in very handy on a recent trip. Rating: 3 stars.

133. Saga, Volume 6
This volume collects issues #31-36.

“Anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.”

I do the happy dance every time I get one of these volumes in my hands. This graphic novel series continues to be smart and funny and inclusive and all around lovely. The art is really great, and Hazel is growing up so fast. There are scenes in this one that actually left me with my mouth open in disbelief. Such a fun series, and if you are not reading along, whatever are you waiting for? Rating: 4 stars.

134. Our Souls at Night
This is the first book I've read by the author, and based on all the rave reviews this book has garnered, I was sure I'd love it. Alas, no.

The premise is an interesting one. A lonely widow, aged 70, decides to ask her neighbor, an elderly widower, if he would consider sleeping together. Not for sex, mind you, but rather like a sleepover, for companionship. Such a wonderful premise right?

What I really liked about this novella is that the story is based on a relationship between two elderly people - not something that is usually given its due. I also really liked that Addie, the woman, is the instigator of this arrangement. This is a simple, quiet story about two ordinary people, living ordinary lives, and there is a beauty to that.

However, I found the writing itself to be rather pedestrian, and there was too much telling and not enough showing. They did this, then did that, then did this. That did not work for me at all, and I found it a really distracting style of story telling. Without going into details, so as to not spoil the story for those who have not read it, I found certain details implausible and I could not suspend my disbelief enough to really go along for the ride.

It seems that everyone I know loves this author, and this book in particular. It works well as a stand alone, and I'll be curious to read his earlier beloved works to see if they work better for me. This one gets a 2.5 stars, and I'll round up to 3 because of Addie. Rating: 3 stars.

135. Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons
This volume collects Issues #11-15.

This installment, while fun, is not as engaging as the first two. The one focuses mainly on Hannah, and fleshes out more of her back story. The other Queens basically sit around while all this is going on. The art is really good, but in this installment everyone seems to have had some plastic surgery to enhance the usual areas. Why is it that we can't have kick ass women that don't look like porn stars? Sigh. Rating: 3 stars.

September 2, 2016

Journal pages (Video)

Remember those glue gun stencils and my new traveler's notebook inserts? Well, here's what happened with those. 

You can see a video slideshow of the steps to creating this page below.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 1, 2016

Cinemascope: The Night Manager

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Based on John le CarrĂ©'s novel of the same name, `The Night Manager' is a crime drama following the work of former British soldier Jonathan Pine. Hotel night porter Pine is contacted by an intelligence operative who asks for his assistance to spy on international businessman Richard Roper. The entrepreneur is believed to have forged a criminal alliance between the secret arms trade and the intelligence community, prompting the need for surveillance. Pine attempts to infiltrate Roper's inner circle by becoming a felon himself, while keeping his mission a secret from his hotel colleagues and girlfriend.

If you are a fan of spy/espionage books and movies, you have to try this one. I have yet to read the book, but this show is wonderfully produced. I realize that so many of the movies or TV shows I've been recommending lately are based on books. Not a surprise really right?

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

August 30, 2016

Current creative projects

I've been working on a couple of things lately. First up, I decided to make some new inserts for my #travelersnotebook. I'm planning on using these for my #useupyourstash project.

My plan is to try various art journaling techniques in these journals while only using supplies currently in my stash.

Keeping with that theme, I pulled out a glue gun and tried my hand at making some glue stencils. Easy, fun, and addictive.

August 29, 2016

Recent Reads

126. Pablo: Art Masters Series
I have yet to read a Picasso biography and thought this graphic biography might be a good place to start. I was mistaken. There were lots of people coming and going, and since I did not know many of them, it made for a rather confusing read. I gather this is also a collected edition, which might explain some of the choppiness of the reading experience.

I was expecting a biography of his entire life and work, but this one is rather narrow in scope, and is restricted to the first several years as an artist in Paris. There is all the usual artistic angst, and what I really liked is that this story is told by Fernande Olivier, his lover, obsession and muse for the years they were together. The woman behind the man and his paintings in an interesting angle. I really liked the art and the mood evoked by the color palette used. The story does capture the excitement of Paris in that time period really well. I clearly need to move a biography of the man, and maybe the memoir of Fernande up my TBR pile. Rating: 2 stars.

127. Ballpoint Art Pack: Cool Techniques and Creative Explorations for Drawing with an Everyday Pen
Creative people tend to collect supplies. If you create art, then your hoarding tendencies run toward art supplies, paints, etc. There is this strange phenomena where we often think that if we only knew what paper/pen/ink/insert your crazy here, we would also be able to create in the manner of artists we admire. In the midst of all that collecting of supplies it's easy to forget to actually create, and this wonderful little book reminds us that all you really need is a pen. A simple Bic will do. There are examples that cover various techniques, and the gallery of art is a wonderful reminder that less can be indeed be more. Rating: 4 stars.

128. Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author.

When we think about Pandemics, most of us think about them in a historical context, and there seems to be this strange belief that we'll be able to successfully deal with whatever pathogens come our way with the aid of the super duper drugs churned out by Big Pharma. Boy, oh boy, are we wrong.

How the topics and events in this book are not the headline news every single night is something I simply do not understand. Well, I do understand, because it is much more entertaining to hear about an escaped monkey, than to address the microbes said monkey might be spreading about on it's jaunt.

The topics covered in this book are a clear and present danger to all of us. Not those people over there, but all of us, and if we learn anything from history, it should be that microbes will find a way to become pathogens, and these in turn will find a way to spillover to humans.

I know there are other highly reviewed books out there on this subject but if, like me, you are new to really diving into these topics this is a great place to start. It is easy to read and digest, and the author makes complex subjects accessible to a layperson. This book explores not just the life cycle of pathogens and the history of pandemics, but also explores how medicine, big pharma, global travel, population numbers, habitat and environmental destruction, cultural norms, etc., all affect and contribute to the problem.

There are so many dots this book connected for me, and I learned about events that should have been major news stories that got little, if any, national coverage in the media. I found this a fascinating, educational, and terrifying read. I just picked up the ebook, and have not doubt that I will re-read it. I highly recommend this one. Rating: 5 stars.

129. Dogs and Water
This graphic novel is all about the journey, so don't even think about getting to any particular destination. It's a quick, if rather surreal, bleak, and dreamlike read. There is is guy walking down a long road with a stuffed bear strapped to his back. It's not clear where he came from, and equally unclear where he's headed. What is fascinating about this book is that the author is able to convey such a variety of emotions within this stark and lonely landscape. The simple black and white art is quite effective in evoking the right mood, and when I turned the last page I was unsure who was doing the dreaming. Rating: 2 stars.

130. The Vegetarian
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016.

I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Janet Song and Stephen Park.

The fascinating thing about reading translated works is that the worlds you step in are at once both bizarre and familiar. This South Korean novella is setup in three parts, each with a different point of view. I cannot quite explain why this story wormed it's way into my psyche, but I could not stop listening to it.

On the surface this is a rather simple story. A woman decides to stop eating meat, in spite of the title she is technically a Vegan, and as anyone who decides to buck popular culture knows, there are huge ramifications. I love that we don't really get her point of view, but rather each of the three narrators tell us about her and how her decision ripples out in their lives. The narrators are her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister, and from their accounts we might actually get a better understanding of the situation than if we had simply heard from the vegetarian.

This little story explores really big themes quite deftly. In a sexist, patriarchal world, does a woman have agency over her life? Can she even make a decision about something as simple as what she puts in her mouth? Mental health is still a taboo subject, especially in many communities of color, and I admire the author for the way she handles it here. Once you decide to discard one social norm, does it make sense to follow any others? So much to chew on with this one.

The only reason I docked a star is because I felt the ending was rather rushed and I was left wanting more, but maybe that was intentional on the author's part. Rating: 4 stars.

August 27, 2016

Journal pages

Here are a couple more pages in my traveler's notebook. As always click images to view larger.

Are you ready for some football? This Hobonichi prompt reminded me of Green Bay Packers fans. I've been dipping in and out of the prompts. Many simply do not call to me.

How is it that I know so little about Margaret Sanger? This woman should be on stamps and currency. Created an homage page to her in the style of this graphic biography.

August 25, 2016

Cinemascope: The Forsyte Saga (Seasons 1 & 2)

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2002.

Plot line: Chronicles the lives of three generations of the upper-middle-class British family, the Forsytes, from the 1870s to 1920.

The Forsyte Saga, first published under that name in 1922, is a series of three novels and two interludes published between 1906 and 1921 by Nobel Prize–winning English author John Galsworthy. 

I have yet to read these books, but this PBS series is really, really good. I cannot wait to read the books. The cast is great, the opulence smothering, and the familial issues explored still relevant today.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

August 23, 2016

Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook (Video)

DIY Fabric TN that I'm using this summer.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to videos mentioned:
Fabric Journal Covers: https://youtu.be/ku89vT86j18
Easy-Peasy Journals: https://youtu.be/cdiSw1BlPyo

August 22, 2016

Recent Reads

121. Death: The Time of Your Life
I'm a huge fan of the Sandman series, and have been intrigued by the sibling spin offs for a while, so thought I'd try this one. If I had to pick my favorite Endless sibling, after Dream, of course, it would be Death.

This graphic novel tells a story I did not expect. It is a coming out story, and while it was interesting, Death herself only makes a cameo appearance. While, we would wish that she visits us that infrequently in real life, I wanted more of her, and less of the melodrama of the coming out story. That being said, if you are in the closet and have coming out drama, or if you want to revisit those angsty days, you might like this one very much.

I, however, did not have the time of my life while reading this one. Rating: 2 stars.

122. The Golem and the Jinni
I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by George Guidall.

A golem and a jinni walk into a bar. Well, not a bar exactly, but New York city circa early 1900s.

I've been saving this book for just the right moment, after all, it is not everyday that I am in the mood for magical realism. I was pleasantly surprised that this one is more historical fiction than magical realism. There is the golem and the jinni and other magical stuff to be sure, but their story plays out against the backdrop of 1901 New York city.

The scope of this novel is wonderful. It is an immigrant story, a coming of age one, an exploration of various cultures and the clash of said cultures. History and mythology all swirl around seamlessly in this lovely tale. The author wonderfully juxtaposes the innate characteristics of a golem and a jinni against each other, and one cannot help but see all of humanity in this exploration. I was expecting the magical realism, but the philosophical musings were an unexpected delight. This is a fun and fantastical tale that really asks what it is to be human.

The only reason I docked a star is there is some repetitive stuff that could have been edited out to make this a tighter story. After finishing this I see that there will be a sequel, and I look forward to spending more time with Chava (the golem) and Ahmad (the jinni) during the Great War. Rating: 4 stars.

123. Cowboys and East Indians
"We were the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming."

While in college I worked in an after school program, and a five year old girl asked me if I was Spanish. When I said I was Indian, she paused, squinted her eyes, and then calmly said, " I thought all the Indians were dead."

Another flashback. When we were kids playing Cowboys and Indians in Kenya, all of us wanted to be Cowboys, because they were the good guys, besides the Indians all got killed. Sigh.

The immigrant experience tends to be unique to each immigrant, but so is the American experience. It is too easy to cast all Americans into one bucket and call it done, but the author quickly dissuades you of that notion. These stories all have an Indian at their center, the dot not feather kind, which is also the category I fall into.

I'm not a fan of the short story format, but I really liked the voice and glimpses of the American experience captured in this one. As with any collection, there are stories I loved, and others I did not, and the ones I loved have stayed me. Rating: 4 stars.

124. The Fireman
I was in the mood for a thrillery summer read, but do expect that a few brain cells will be engaged while I read said thriller. That is not the case with this one.

This post apocalyptic story has all the summer buzz this year, and it has two things going for it in my opinion: spontaneous human combustion and about 800 pages to wallow about in for a good while. You've probably heard of the premise by now, but in case you missed it, the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, and people are a flame, literally. You know you're infected when cool markings that look that tattoos start to appear on your body. Death by spontaneous combustion is right around the corner, so how is it that there is this guy who's infected but not burning to death?

On the plus side, I really liked the premise of the story, and some of the interesting plot points. The negatives however tip the scale. The characters are not fleshed out and do not develop at all over the course of the story. Given the ecological adage of move, adapt, or go extinct, the main characters should have gone extinct. After the initial setup and world building, the plot is rather ridiculous, and predictable. I'm no rocket scientist, but I knew where this was heading the entire time. I was annoyed by the magical realism touches as they were not developed enough to really belong to this genre story. The writing is rather pedestrian and simple and might have worked better if targeted at a young adult reader. I could go on and on, by why bother? The only reason this does not get a 1 star is that I actually finished it, and that is mainly because it was a really fast read despite its size.

This is the first novel I've read by the author, though I'm a fan of his graphic novel series, Locke and Key, and if you have not read it, I would highly recommend the series. He brings some of that talent to this book; so much of the dialog felt like it was a speech bubble. Ah well, I cannot love them all I suppose. Rating: 2 stars.

125. Finding Wild
The art in this children's picture book is gorgeous, and I really like the message of getting out and exploring the natural world to "find wild", however as an adult reader the text is rather underwhelming. This one is geared for the very young, and maybe it's just right for that audience, so if you've got littles in your home this one might be worth checking out. Rating: 2 stars.