May 5, 2016

Cinemascope: Truth

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



Released in 2015.

Plot line: Truth is a 2015 American political docudrama, based on American journalist and television news producer Mary Mapes' memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power. The film focuses on the Killian documents controversy, and the resulting last days of news anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes at CBS News. It stars Cate Blanchett as Mapes and Robert Redford as Rather.

Finally a recently released Hollywood movie made by and for adults. Don't get me wrong, I like all the superhero stuff, but honestly has that cash cow not been milked dry already? I guess not. This movie will make you mad. It is so much like Orwell's 1984, and it actually happened in the not too distant past. Blanchett is superb (when is she ever not?) in this one, though I'm not sure about the casting of Redford. The death of investigative journalism is a bad thing for us all.

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

May 4, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 11-15

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.

11/100:

12/100:

13/100:

14/100:

15/100:

My mixed media supplies include acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

15 down, 85 more to go!

You can see a video of the journal I'm using, and my thought process for this challenge here.

May 2, 2016

Recent Reads

41. The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir
Something you might not know about me, is that as a kid born and raised in Kenya, I was a huge fan of Muammar Gaddafi. Huge. He was one of the African leaders who created the hope that we would end Imperialism and all its vices in Africa. Well, things did not quite go as planned, but, I think it is important to not gloss over the things we believed in our childhood, as they affect how we develop our world views as adults.

This graphic memoir is set in France, Libya and Syria, and we learn about the childhood of the author and his family as they navigate various cultures, religions, and political landscapes. The author's father is a Sunni Arab who married a French woman, and like many immigrants, he is a contradiction that many people find hard to understand. His father is quite Western and modern in some ways, but also retains much of the values and prejudices he acquired as a child, and like all kids born into cultures not of their parents, the author grapples with these contradictions.

The art is quite basic and sketchy, but I loved the way the author uses color in his panels. I really enjoyed the exploration of different cultures/religions/environments from the point of view of a child, but filtered through adult eyes. This is a rather straightforward memoir, but it is the honest look at these situations that suck the reader in, and reminds us of how much that happens to children is really because of parental whims, and how much our family histories influence the adults we become.

It is not often that we get an insider look into the lives of ordinary people from these parts of the world, and I hope the author's other works will also be translated into English. I highly recommend this one. Rating: 4 stars.

42. Killing and Dying: Stories
This graphic novel is a collection of six stories, and they all deal with regular people, and their dreams and despair. No super heroes, no villains, no happily-ever-afters, and that is what I liked about these stories. They seemed liked snippets of people's lives that you might learn about if you spent a long plane ride with them. The art is wonderful, but I think it's just me - I'm not a fan of short stories, and while I liked most of these, not one of them really stayed with me after I finished reading the book. Rating: 3 stars.

43. Space Dumplins
My 11 year old nephew loves comics, so I'm constantly on the lookout for ones I think he'll like, and this one should be right in his sweet spot.

This graphic novel is a science fiction story with important themes of family, friendship, and the environment, but is not preachy at all. There are cuddly and not so cuddly characters, and I love that the main character is a girl named Violet, and that a quest plot line that carries this story along. The art is wonderful and colorful, and there are enough adventure and thrilling scenes to inspire even the most reluctant middle grade reader out there. Rating: 3 stars.

44. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 9
I'm in the final three installments of this manga series set in 17th century Edo, Japan, and they are getting better and better. I am so often disappointed when a series loses steam over time, but that is not the case with this one. Loved this book which is #9 in the series.

When children feel that their mother loved them unequally, there is usually trouble on the horizon, and in this volume, the anger and jealousy of one generation is passed down to the next, poisons a lovely girl, and sets some unfortunate events into motion. There is the usual intrigue, back-stabbing, and jostling for power, and these women play the game like chess masters - with long term strategies in mind. In the meanwhile, the blond haired, blue eyed giant, also known as Aonuma, has entered the inner chambers, and his mission is to teach the men about the Hollander language and medicine. But will anyone be interested in learning the foreign ways? I really liked the exploration that Aonuma spearheads in regards to the spread of infection, and how to prevent and/or stop the spread of the Redface Pox as well as other diseases that devastate the population.

All the modernization in the land is because of my two fave characters to-date: Hiraga Gennai, the cheeky and brilliant woman who everyone thinks is a man, and the lovely and formidable Tanuma Okitsugu, who has attained the highest rank of political office after the shogun herself - and you know that there are women quite unhappy about that.

I started this one last night and could not put it down until I turned the last page. There is trouble a brewing, and I am tense as I think of all the things that might go badly in the last two books of this fantastic series. Rating: 5 stars.

45. The Private Eye: The Cloudburst Edition
Book blurb: The Private Eye is a detective story set in 2076, when everyone in the United States has a secret identity. Our protagonist is a member of the paparazzi, outlaw private investigators who dig up the kind of personal dirt no longer readily available through search engines. It’s a mystery with lots of masks, but no superpowers. This edition collects Issues #1-10.

This graphic novel is quite wonderful, and explores many important issues, the one of privacy being the one that I loved the most. This futuristic world where there is no internet is an interesting one to contemplate. Today, almost everyone has various online avatars that somewhat resemble who they are in real life. What if we reverted back to a world without the net? Should not be that hard for anyone over 25 years or so to imagine. In this world, people do not leave their homes without a mask/costume/disguise of some sort, and I loved the exploration of identity and privacy. This is a fun and timely comic with wonderful art that should be read by all, especially those of us who are digital natives. Rating: 4 stars.

April 30, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 6-10

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.

6/100:

7/100:

8/100:

9/100:

10/100:

My mixed media supplies include acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick. This project is making a part of my brain stronger for sure. I can feel it flexing.

10 down, 90 more to go!

April 28, 2016

Cinemascope: Testament of Youth

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




Released in 2014.

Plot line: Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman's point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it's a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.

I seem to be watching quite a few war movies lately, but I love that there are from a woman's point of view. I have not read the memoir this is based on, and this is an interesting story about the horror and life altering times of war. I especially liked how this movie explores how turbulent times change society and women's roles in them. I would recommend this one for fans of historical fiction and period pieces.

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

April 25, 2016

Recent Reads

36. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel
This book is a physically beautiful object, and the author makes creative use of an assortment of documents, books within books, maps, notes, illustrations, and more to tell two stories set about 300 years apart. The only problem is that all the beautiful packaging is only skin deep. The writing is not compelling, the characters are uninteresting, and while I enjoyed the setting of stories within stories, and how it is tough to tell which is the present time, and how time folds back on itself, I did not care one whit about the characters and their issues, and found this one a bit of a slog to get through. Too bad really, because this is a physically lovely object, and for that fact alone it gets an additional star. Rating: 2 stars.

37. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 8
The thing about this wonderful manga series, is that 8 volumes in, I am still loving the complexity of the story telling. There are several interesting plot lines in this one, and I so felt for Ieshige. How awful to be the "oafish" older daughter in a world that values outward beauty, and to have a beautiful mother and sister to boot. I was rooting for her all the way, though she is not as good a leader as her Mother, but then, who could really match Yoshimune? Interesting gender role reversals continue to highlight some of the ridiculous norms that are still accepted in our times. Can't wait to see what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

38. Self-Portrait as Your Traitor
"Illustrated essays and visual poems are part philosophy, part art, part deeply personal memoir exposing the universal triumphs and tribulations of being human."

Well, color me confused. This book made the Brain Pickings' Best Books of 2013, and I for one don't get it at all. I did like the hand drawn lettering, and some of the ways the author plays with text as art, but honestly, this one left me shaking my head. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

39. Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words
I love books like this and wish there was one for every city. The thing about travel guides is that while they are chockful of information, they are often rather antiseptic as well, and they have to be I guess. In this delightful book, the author captures a sample of the people and neighborhoods of San Francisco, using gorgeous pen and watercolor illustrations, and snippets of dreams. Do not expect an all encompassing guide to the city, but if you are in the mood for a whimsical travelogue, give this one a try. Rating: 4 stars.

40. Nimona
Nimona is a young shapeshifter, who badly wants to be the sidekick of an evil lord, aka Lord Ballister Blackheart. They team up on a mission against the Institution of Law Enforcement, and the shining hero, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. The names alone are worth the price of admission.

This a fun graphic novel about the battles between the two sides, and lots of death and mayhem ensue. I quite liked the relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin, and was pleasantly surprised at how Nimona does not play the typical girl tropes. The art is colorful and sketchy, and while I smiled at various moments, I did not love this one as much as I expected to. As an aside, my 11 year old nephew read it through in a couple of sittings, and enjoyed it. Rating: 3 stars.

April 23, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 1-5

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.

1/100:

2/100:

3/100:

4/100:

5/100:

My mixed media supplies include acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick. Since my collage skills are almost non-existent, this challenge is forcing my brain to work in unfamiliar ways. I am delighted to find my brain working on compositions and ideas all the time, and sometimes an idea comes to me in its entirety. So fun. I am also using up my stash, which is another thing that makes me happy about this project. 

5 down, 95 more to go!

April 21, 2016

Cinemascope: Restless

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




Released in 2012.

Plot line: Based on the bestselling spy novel by William Boyd, this Emmy®-nominated BBC drama is a tale of passion, duplicity, and betrayal. Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery) is stunned to learn that her mother, Sally (Charlotte Rampling), has been living a double life. Her real name is Eva Delectorskaya (Hayley Atwell), she worked as a spy for the British Secret Service in the 1940s, and now someone is stalking her.

When I saw that this was based on a William Boyd novel, and a spy novel at that, I was sold. There are two timelines in this one, and the story shifts back and forth between the 1970s and WWII. I love spy stories that feature women, and this one does not disappoint. I would highly recommend this one for fans of historical fiction and period pieces.

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

April 20, 2016

Journal pages

I continue to love bedtime sketching in my Nightstand Journal. A pen and some paper. No fuss, no muss.

(Click image to enlarge)

You can see a video of the journals I'm using in 2016 here.

April 18, 2016

Recent Reads

31. Whatever You Are, Be a Good One
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this was not it. This is a book that has inspirational/self help quotes on each page. These quotes are hand-lettered, and often accompanied by a whimsical sketch. The author does make clear that this is a sample set from a project she used to improve her handwriting, but I fail to understand why this book was published. Simply not for me, but if you are a fan of quote books, you might like it. Rating: 1 star.

32. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Originally published in 1968, this post apocalyptic novel imagines the world in 2021, after the World War essentially destroyed the planet and most living things. The majority of humans now live off planet, and the ones that remain on Earth covet any living thing, be it a horse or a spider, and since most people cannot afford the real thing, they buy simulated animals. But that's not the interesting part of this story. The interesting part is that there is a new robot on the market, and this robot is virtually indistinguishable from humans. The only way to tell if one is a robot or not is to have a test administered that evaluates your empathy response to various scenarios.

I started this book in graphic format, and realized that was not working for me, so moved to the actual text itself. It is good, but not great. The exploration of what constitutes life is an interesting one, and while I enjoyed the story, it did not have the impact I was expecting based on the the premise.

As an aside, my nephews and I have a password that we have to say out loud whenever we see each other in order to ensure that they have not been replaced by a robot or alien life form. So far, so good. Rating: 3 stars.

33. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 7
This is the best one in this manga series so far. The court intrigues continue, political maneuvering, murder, all of the stuff that I now expect from these books. What this one had in addition is the story of Ejima, and it is a sad one indeed. The emotional depth conveyed in his story is wonderful. We also circle back to Yoshimune's rise to power, and she is the powerful woman indeed. Loved it. Rating: 5 stars.

34. Giant Days, Vol. 1
This volume collects Issues #1-4.

This graphic novel tells the story of Susan, Esther, and Daisy. They are three weeks into university, and have become friends because their dorm rooms are next to each other. There is much to work out when you first start university, and are away from parental supervision. I was quite amused when the characters realized that they would fail the Bechdel test. This was a fun read, though it did lack a cohesive direction. Rating: 3 stars.

35. The Price of Salt
Book blurb: First published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and touted as "the novel of a love society forbids," the book soon became a lesbian cult classic.

Let me start by saying that this novel is wonderfully narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

Patricia Highsmith has been on my TBR list for ages, and since I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, the stars finally aligned. This is really a coming of age story, and I did not know that going in. Therese Belivet, 19, has dreams of being a stage designer, but in the meanwhile she's got a deary temporary job in a department store over the Christmas holidays. One day her eyes lock onto Carol Aird, a customer buying a present for her daughter, and Therese is smitten. The rest of the novel follows the relationship that develops between the two women.

Highsmith wonderfully evokes a place and time in New York, and I could almost smell the cigarette smoke, and taste the cocktails. I also really liked the exploration of power dynamics in relationships between the various couples: Therese/Richard, Therese/Carol, Carol/Harge, and the author captures really well that shock of recognition when you fall in love for the first time. However, the story moves at an incredibly slow pace, there are really tedious scenes that add little to the overall story in my opinion, and I found both women not very well fleshed out. Okay, so I do know that it was first published in the 50s, and the world was a different place back then, so there is only so much that Highsmith could get away with, but still, I expected more of an emotional depth to this story given what the main themes were. I did not love it as much as I expected to, though I was delighted that the author did not end the book the way most books/movies of that era seemed to end gay/lesbian tropes.

As an aside, the book blurb contain spoilers that, though I saw coming, might be very spoilery for some. Rating: 3 stars.

April 14, 2016

Cinemascope: Ricki and the Flash

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





Released in 2015.

Plot line: Meryl Streep is a hard-rocking singer/guitarist in Ricki and the Flash, In an original and electrifying film loaded with live musical performances, Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, a guitar heroine who made a world of mistakes as she followed her dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. Returning home, Ricki gets a shot at redemption and a chance to make things right as she faces the music with her family.

I am a Meryl Streep fangirl, and it was so fun to see her play something really different. Women have been vilified over the millenia for not conforming to some standard set for them by the men in their lives, and it is refreshing to see a woman be true to herself, damn the consequences. Yes, it is a little too lifetimey for my tastes, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

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

April 12, 2016

Journal pages

I continue to love bedtime sketching in my Nightstand Journal. A pen and some paper. No fuss, no muss.


(Click image to enlarge)

You can see a video of the journals I'm using in 2016 here.

April 11, 2016

Recent Reads

26. A Burnable Book (John Gower #1)
I'd been saving this one, sure that I would love it. And you know what? If it were not for the fact that I listened to the audiobook, superbly narrated by Simon Vance, this would have ended up in my DNF pile.

This is a historical mystery of sorts, set in London, circa 1385. I really liked the gritty atmosphere the author captures, but I was bored with the overall story. I'm not sure I've read Chaucer, or if I did in school, it's lost to the mists of time. Maybe if I was a Chaucer aficionado this would have worked better for me, but alas I am not. The story starts with a bang - a murder, a book, a mystery - but then seems to plod about trying to find it's way home. I absolutely loved the maudlyns and their part in this story, but could have cared less about much of the rest of it. It does pick up a bit towards the last several chapters, but I have little doubt that if I had read this in print form, I would have bailed about 50 pages in. So I'd give it 2.5 stars, and will round up to 3 because I so loved having Simon Vance read me a story again. Rating: 3 stars.

27. The Sandman: Overture
I am a huge Sandman fangirl, so I'm not even going to pretend to be objective about this book. It's a prequel to the Sandman graphic novel series, and if you have yet to read those, stop reading this review, turn off all screens, and go start now. I loved that series, so was delighted that Neil Gaiman decided to go back to that well again. And for those skeptics who say you can never go home again, you are wrong. This one is fantastic on every level. I loved the creativeness of the story, and the art - holy mother - the art is a thing of beauty. Am I the only one who noticed how much Morpheus looks like Neil Gaiman in this volume? There is nothing coherent I can say, other than I loved everything about this one, and took my time in reading it so as to make it last longer.

If you a Sandman virgin, I would not recommend starting here however. I'd suggest starting with the original series, and after you have read them all, read this one. Speaking of which, it might be time to revisit the original series myself. Rating: 5 stars.

28. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 6
I continue to really enjoy this manga series set in 17th century Japan, where the Shogun is a woman, and the harem is filled with beautiful boys. There are so many characters in this series, that I sometimes have to remind myself who is who, and what would really help is a family/character tree in the appendix of each book, along with the excellent footnotes. The drama, intrigue, and scheming continue unabated in this volume, with some murder added in for extra flavoring. The art and story continue to be excellent, the old English continues to annoy forsooth, and I cannot wait to see where this series goes next. Rating: 4 stars.

29. Go Set a Watchman
This one was my book club selection for the month, and given that Harper Lee died a couple of days ago, it seemed a very appropriate time to meet and talk about it.

At the time the book was released I read a bit about all the hoopla, but I decided to ignore all of that and see what I thought of it. Well, color me delighted. I'll admit that for the first bit of the book, I was disappointed. Not because the writing is bad, but because I loved Scout as a kid, and was unhappy that she had turned out to be this whiny woman. I realized that my attachment to Scout was adversely coloring my reading of the book, so decided to uncouple this one from Mockingbird, and read it as a completely new book with characters with the same names. No prequel/first draft/ sequel hullabaloo, and low and behold, the magic and mastery of Harper Lee shines through.

There are so many themes explored in this one, but at the heart of it, it is really a coming of age story for our girl, Scout. The novel is filled with scenarios of us/them: men/women, white/black, quality/white trash, North/South, rich/poor, and how Ms. Lee gives us so much to chew on with so few pages is something I still do not understand. I loved the flashback stories, and can see how Mockingbird is the gem that it is, but I also really liked the exploration of how one becomes an adult. When is that exactly? When we understand that things are not black or white, but that there are shades of grey. When we decide that our values are not necessarily those of our parents, or community. When we realize that life and love is complicated. When you realize that parent you idolized as a kid has feet of clay. That scene between Scout and Atticus after she confronts him had me sobbing over my breakfast omelet.

Half of my book club did not like the book, so it clearly resonated for me in ways that it did not for them. The only reason this is not a 5 star read is that it does need some editing and feels unfinished, but holy smokes, I hope there are other first drafts that Ms. Lee left lying around for us to delight in.

A note on the audiobook. This book was narrated by Reese Witherspoon, and at first, I was not sure that her twangy voice would work for me, but it turns out that she was a great choice for this story. Rating: 4 stars.

30. The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook
Everything about this little book makes me happy. I love the author's art, and work, and was delighted to get my hands on this collection of art from unfinished projects, finished work, and sketchbooks. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the mind and creative process of this artist/author, and flipping through this book is like exploring a delightfully curated art installation. Rating: 4 stars.

April 10, 2016

National Siblings Day

It's National Siblings Days here in the States. I wonder who comes up with these holidays. Still, it gave me a reason to look through some old photo albums, and this one of all my sibs is from bygone days that feel like from a different lifetime. 

April 9, 2016

The100DayProject Prep (Video)

Here is my #the100dayproject planning and journal video. Am both excited and nervous about this challenge.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

For daily updates once the challenge starts follow along on my Instagram account.

April 7, 2016

Cinemascope: Before Midnight

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





Released in 2013.

Plot line: Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) first met in their twenties in BEFORE SUNRISE, reunited in their thirties in BEFORE SUNSET, and now, in BEFORE MIDNIGHT, they face the past, present and future; family, romance and love.

This is the final movie in this trilogy, and it has been quite a journey. I love the idea of checking in with a couple over several decades, and the fact that the director uses the same two actors is wonderful. Hollywood and romance novels have created an illusion of what relationships are supposed to look like, and I really appreciated this more honest look at the reality of how couples age together. A movie made for adults about adult things. Unlike so many movies made these days, there are no car chases and aliens, but there is lots and lots of talking.

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

April 6, 2016

The 100-Day Project prep

I've got things I need to be doing, but instead of doing them I'm making a new journal for #the100dayproject.


Video of what I've decided to do for 100 days, and the journal I'll be using coming soon .....

The 100-Day Project

I love challenges, and I especially love challenges that hold me accountable because I need to blog/post about them. Some of the challenges I've participated in over the years include December Daily, One Little Word, Capture Your 365, Every Day in May, 12 Weeks of Summer, and Project Life

This year I am doing a challenge that is new to me. The 100-Day Project. Are you playing too? If so, do let me know so I can follow along.


You can learn about the challenge here, and read an interview with the creator here.

I'll be posting weekly recaps here on my blog, and you can follow me on Instagram to get daily updates on my progress.

April 5, 2016

Journal page


I created this page during the warm days of March, but as I look out at the snow I have to shovel this morning, I fear I might have been too optimistic. 

(Click image to enlarge)

It's so fun what you can create with a few supplies. I started with a pen sketch of this girl while running an errand, and finished up the page when I got back home. Art journal pages do not have to complicated or take hours to complete. Playing with splashes of color always make me happy.

This was done in my small traveler's notebook, You can see a video of the journals I'm using in 2016 here.

April 4, 2016

Recent Reads

21. 1984
I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Richard Brown.

The really scary thing about this book, which was first published in 1949, is how accurately it describes so much of the world we live in today. This classic has been dissected in so many ways over the years, so I'm not sure I have anything new to contribute. My only regret is that I waited so long to read it. This book is bloody marvelous, and should be required reading for every citizen (no matter the country) every decade or so. Rating: 5 stars.

22. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 5
I am slowly making my way through this manga series, and they continue to be really good. How often can one say that about a 10 book series?

When one's most important role is to produce an heir at any cost, things tend to get crazy. This volume introduces new characters, brings back some old dearly loved ones, and the intrigue, and plotting continue unabated. Deliciously fun. Rating: 4 stars.

23. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1
I've seen the Blade Runner movie several times, and was curious to read the book the movie is based on. What I did not realize is that this is not a graphic novel in the classic sense of the word. It is really an illustrated novel; it contains the text of the novel in its entirely. As you might imagine, this leads to some clunky solutions as every descriptive word, scene setup, etc. are faithfully captured, while at the same time the art show you what you are actually reading. It does not work well in my opinion. I quite like the art, and really like the story, but though I also read the next volume in this series, as I already had it in hand, I'm abandoning the comic series, and plan to finish up by reading the novel itself. Rating: 3 stars.

24. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #2
Below is my review of the first volume, and it applies to this installment of the series as well.

I've seen the Blade Runner movie several times, and was curious to read the book the movie is based on. What I did not realize is that this is not a graphic novel in the classic sense of the word. It is really an illustrated novel; it contains the text of the novel in its entirely. As you might imagine, this leads to some clunky solutions as every descriptive word, scene setup, etc. are faithfully captured, while at the same time the art show you what you are actually reading. It does not work well in my opinion. I quite like the art, and really like the story, but though I also read the next volume in this series, as I already had it in hand, I'm abandoning the comic series, and plan to finish up by reading the novel itself. Rating: 3 stars.

25. Playing with Sketches: 50 Creative Exercises for Designers and Artists
If you are a creative type of person looking for inspiration I'd suggest you get your hands on this one. The book delivers on what the title says, and it is full of fun and creative ways to play and get your juices flowing. Each exercise is accompanied by a gallery of art that pertains to it. I have no doubt that I will dip into this fun and informative book again when the well runs dry. Rating: 4 stars.

March 31, 2016

Cinemascope: Before Sunset

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: A sequel to "Before Sunrise," this film starts nine years later as Jesse (Ethan Hawke) travels across Europe giving readings from a book he wrote about the night he spent in Vienna with Celine (Julie Delpy). After his reading in Paris, Celine finds him, and they spend part of the day together before Jesse has to again leave for a flight.

The movie blurbs give away important plot points, so do not read them. This is as lovely to watch as the first time I saw it, and I was thoroughly delighted by the range of conversational topics the two actors cover. As I said last week, these movies are an ode to magic of conversation.

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

March 29, 2016

Journal page (before and after)

The thing about always having a sketchbook on hand, is that when inspiration strikes you've got a piece of paper handy. I was at my local Barnes and Noble the other day, and while looking through a magazine, I saw an image that caught my eye. I whipped out my small DIY traveler's notebook and started to sketch this girl. The photo below was taken right before I left the store, and you can see all the supplies I had on hand - my journal and a pen.

(Click on image to enlarge)

The photo above shows how much I got done while at the store. What you see below is how I completed the page at home later that day.

(Click on image to enlarge)

This page did not take hours to create, and I did it in two sessions. Sometimes we do not have the time or energy to do complicated art, but with a pen and paper in hand it took me about 5-7 minutes to capture the essence of something that caught my eye. Later, it took another 10 minutes to finish up the sketch and add some watercolor. And that's all there is to it. It looks nothing like the image that inspired me, but that was not my goal. All I wanted to do was capture a moment of inspiration. Done and done.

March 28, 2016

Recent Reads

16. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 4
Dynasties move forward with different figure heads, and usually we die before we have to contend with more than a couple of rulers. That is not the case with this series. You know how you get attached to particular characters in a story, and then they get old, or die, and the world continues to turn while you are still gasping for air? That's how I felt during this one. So much happens, and clearly this is a transitional novel in the story arc, so people come and go at a neck snapping pace.

There are really several story lines that play out in this manga series. There is what happens in the Inner Chamber with the Shogun, her concubines, and all the gossipy men. Then there is what happens in Edo and the rest of Japan during the time of the Redface Pox. And, finally, there is the exploration of how society changes as women are now widely acknowledged as heads of family. Absolutely fascinating.

But that is not to say that I don't have my gripes. There are so many people in this series, and because the art makes many of the key characters look alike, it is sometimes hard to keep track of them. The formal way of speaking continues to annoy me, but in spite of all that, I continue to love this series, and cannot wait to see what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

17. Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
Book blurb: Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit. This volume collects issues #1-5.

I've been so looking forward to this graphic novel series, after all what is not to love about booze guzzling, feminist kick-ass-take-no-prisoners women friends? However, it takes a while to build up and get really good. In the first half of this volume, the plot line is weak, and the characters rather one dimensional, but thankfully the second half is better, way better, than the first half. Yes, the hype about all the diversity is true, but what I really appreciated is the the refreshing look at the friendship and rivalry between the four friends. The world building is interesting, and it is so wonderful to finally have a selection of comics that appeal to women. Bloody, raunchy, and fun. Rating: 4 stars.

18. Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations
You'd think that just based on the title of the book that I would love this one, but you'd be wrong. And you guys, this book is a thing of beauty to hold and flip through. How did such a wonderful premise go so wrong? Yes, it has lovely maps (something I always geek out about), and there are some interesting nuggets, but overall this one simply fell flat in the execution. Each location has about a page of information, and a map, and maybe some diagrams. After randomly reading six essays, am bored, and disappointed, and have bailed on it. What a bummer. Rating: 1 star.

19. Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth
This volume collects issues #6-10.

Bilford Bogin, but this volume is even better than the first! This volume opens with the-morning-after frames of Betty, Hannah, Violet, and Dee, and not everyone is happy with how the night went. There are plots and intrigue afoot, so lots of action scenes with lots of blood soaked frames. This volume has flashbacks to key occasions in the women's back stories, and these are so good. I continue to really enjoy the humor, friendship, and loyalty of our Rat Queens, and cannot wait to see what our smidgen, dwarf, elf, and Cthulu priestess get up to in the next volume. Rating: 4 stars.

20. How to Relax
Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we relax, we “become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we’re not calm, the image we reflect will be distorted. When the image is distorted by our minds, it’s not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering.”

This is a little book, and I mean teeny weeny, with a big message: Relaxation is important, nay, vital for your well being. And if you don't think that's important, then think about how your well being affects not only the well being of your loved ones, but that of the entire world. It's enough to make anyone feel rather anxious!

This little (I keep saying that, don't I?) book has one or two page meditations to think about. And by meditations, I don't mean the Om kind, though it has those too, but the things-to-ponder kind. There are also cute illustrations to help remind you to not take yourself so seriously. Feel free to dip in and out at your leisure. This little (there I go again) gem is a reminder that we are way more than our to-do lists. Rating: 4 stars.

March 26, 2016

2016 Journals and Planner, plus a Sketchbook Flip Through of my Nightstand Binder Journal (Video)

Here is a quick video of the journals I'm using this year.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 25, 2016

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator (Video)

While having lunch the other day, watched this funny and really quite motivational TED talk. After watching it, do let me know if you don't suddenly see your life and time differently.

Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn't make sense, but he's never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we're really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.


If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 24, 2016

Cinemascope: Before Sunrise

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


Released in 1995.

Plot line: On his way to Vienna, American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets Celine (Julie Delpy), a student returning to Paris. After long conversations forge a surprising connection between them, Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna. Since his flight to the U.S. departs the next morning and he has no money for lodging, they wander the city together, taking in the experiences of Vienna and each other. As the night progresses, their bond makes separating in the morning a difficult choice.

I recently learned that there was a third movie in this series, so have decided to watch the first two again, and oh man does this one hold up. It is beautifully done, and it makes me rather nostalgic for a time without smart phones and internet cafes. A lovely exploration of how a random encounter can deeply affect you, and the part I loved most is that this movie is an ode to the art of conversation.

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

March 22, 2016

Journal pages

I continue to play with art supplies in my journals. This is my smaller DIY traveler's notebook, and I love the portability of it. 

(Click on image to view larger)

Supplies used were a Sharpie pen, and Sharpie Flip Chart markers. Love how it turned out.

March 21, 2016

Recent Reads

11. Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine
Collects Volume collects Issues #1-5.

I am so loving the graphic novels that women are creating these days, and this one is the best of the lot that I've read recently. It tackles so many issues head on, and with a wonderful sense of humor. Women come in all shapes and sizes and colors and attitudes, and I simply love that this story goes boldly where few comics have gone before.

The premise is that women who are non-compliant in any way, are shipped off planet to a prison on another planet. The tongue in cheek manner in which many issues women face daily is explored is simply brilliant, with shades of The Running Man meets Orange is the New Black. My favorite part are those ad pages that each issue ends with, selling all sorts of things to fix you and make you the "right kind" of woman.

My only complaint is that I'm not totally loving the art, and this one does more world building than character/plot development, but that is a minor nit compared to how much I loved it. This series is labeled M for Mature Content, and I'd recommend it to everyone 17 and older. Rating: 5 stars.

12. Girls Standing on Lawns
Book burb: This clever book contains 40 vintage photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, more than a dozen original paintings by Kalman inspired by the photographs, and brief, lyrical texts by Handler.

Here's the thing, I read and really loved the second book in this collaboration series, but this one did not work for me. Yes, I think there is a sweetness and innocence captured in these anonymous photos, but I did not love Kalman's art as much in this one, and Handler's text did nothing for me whatsoever. Overall this was OK, but I do know there is a third book in the series which I will be checking out. Maybe it's just the freshmen effort that doesn't work for me. Rating: 2 stars.

13. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 2
I am so enjoying this manga series, and am reading them slowly as to make it last. Don't you just love books like that?

Okay, we are in 17th century Japan, and the Shogun is a woman, and the harem is full of beautiful men. How did that happen? If you've read the first volume, you already know that the Redface Pox is wiping out Japanese men at an alarming rate, but then the story picks up 80 years later. What happened during those 80 years? This volume is a prequel to the first, and we rewind the clock 80 years as the current Shogun, Yoshimune, reads the Chronicle of the Dying Day. We meet new characters, and fill in the parts of the story that we've all been wondering about. Beautifully told and illustrated, funny, violent, sad, and tragic. The author wonderfully fleshes out the characters and their life stories, and makes the events that unfold seem believable. I love the real history woven into the story, but am still annoyed with the clunky formal manner of speaking. The translation is jarring, and yet I am fully immersed in this alternate history of Japan. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is Games of Thrones with Samurai.

I recently picked up the next five books in the series, so there will be a binge reading session soon. Rating: 4 stars.

14. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 3
Book blurb: The tale told in the Chronicle of the Dying Day continues as the young female shogun Iemitsu tries desperately to conceive a male heir. But her lover Arikoto seems unable to give her a child, and they must betray their hearts to save their country.

I continue to love this manga series. In this installment, we remember what we all already know, that sometimes life is too good to be true. Our woman shogun and her lover are very much in love, but she has a duty to beget (don't you just love that word?) a heir, or else chaos will ensure. And our shogun is not one to shirk her duties. What happens next and how the story unfolds is such a great read. Rating: 4 stars.

15. Do the Work
This slight book (really an essay) is a swift kick in the butt. If you have a project, any project, and find yourself procrastinating, this little book is a wonderful guide to help you get going. It has wonderful nuggets like, "Start before you're ready." There is nothing totally new in this book, but I found the concise advice and tips very useful, and this quick read is akin to having a personal trainer help give you the push you need to get better at whatever it is that you are trying to do. I have no doubt that I will re-read this as often as needed. Rating: 4 stars.

March 18, 2016

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Encryption (Video)

The erosion of privacy is a clear and present danger in my opinion. I love that John Oliver explores the topic.

"Strong encryption poses problems for law enforcement, is weakening it worth the risks it presents? It’s…complicated."



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 17, 2016

Cinemascope: The People vs OJ Simpson

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: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story explores the chaotic behind-the scenes dealings and maneuvering on both sides of the O.J. Simpson trial.

People, this has got to be the best show on TV I've watched in ages. There are so many issues of real importance explored in this show, and the cast is really great. I am so mad most of the time - so be warned, this is not a show to sit and watch if you are looking for a feel good evening. This show has resurrected so much of the debates we had in my home during the actual OJ trial, and there is still much to discuss. Absolutely worth your time.

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

March 15, 2016

Journal pages

I continue to love my new DIY leather traveler's journal. I've been reading loads of graphic novels lately, and if I like the art, I try to recreate some of it in my journals. These pages were inspired by this book

(Click image to enlarge)

Pen and watercolors.