October 23, 2014

Cinemascope: Tim's Vermeer

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: Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

Have you ever tried to paint? Have you marveled at Vermeer's paintings, and wondered how he might have painted with light like he did? Well, this documentary film is a fantastic exploration about one man's obsession with these questions. Absolutely fascinating.

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

October 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 10.22.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

October 21, 2014

Journal page

Every now and then I do a page like this. A week in review of sorts. A fun way to jot down random thoughts as they occur to me.

(Click on image to view larger)

I used a DIY stencil and Sharpie Flip Chart markers in large cheapo journal.

October 20, 2014


The other night, Boston's MASALA group had a party celebrating its 20th anniversary at Club Cafe. 

It was a fun night reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Recent Reads

144. Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a name that I've known for as long as I can remember, and yet I do not recall ever reading this book, so I was glad to have it moved to the top of my To Be Read pile by The Fiction of Relationship class I'm taking with Coursera.

First published in 1847, this book has many themes that are still relevant in our times, and while some of the events seem a little contrived, there is much to admire about the author's talent and skill. 

While Jane Eyre is no Elizabeth Bennet - but then who could be? - I quite enjoyed this bildungsroman. I loved how the story started - well, I felt bad for Jane - but her character built in those earlier years helps her in later ones. I assert again that girls become way less interesting once their hormones kick in, and yes Dear Reader I heartily endorse romantic ties, but I would suggest that while they are fun for the couple, it can be rather tedious for outside observers. As for Mr. Rochester, I did not like him one bit. Not one bit. Still it is said that love is blind, and based on events at Thornfield Hall that Jane seems not to bat an eye at, she was blind indeed! 

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Classics are books that should be read to me. I imagine (rather nostalgically) sitting in a drawing room with my knitting, while someone standing by the single lit candle reads the book aloud to me. Yes Dear Reader, I know that I conveniently have left out the smoke in my eyes, the chilblains on my feet, and the fact that I would have died young in those times, but please allow me my conceit. This audiobook is superbly narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and I have decided that she should narrate all classic works I will listen to hereafter. 

I was thoroughly engrossed in the story throughout and was often to be found walking and muttering aloud, "Run Jane. Run." I found it to be quite a fun feminist text, albeit there were attic issues. Still, a book I would recommend listening to if you have yet to read it. Rating: 4 stars.

145. Americanah
Even though this is the first book I've read by the author, I am quite a fangirl of Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is wonderfully articulate on a variety of topics and I was delighted to discover that her writing skills do not disappoint. 

I can not summarize the book better than the Guardian review (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013...) did, so I'll quote them here: It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness.

Immigration stories are similar in many ways, but can be quite different in their particulars. An an immigrant from Africa to the US, I was alternately delighted and sobered to read how many of Ifemelu's first contact experiences were similar to mine; the author could have picked those stories out of my own journals!

I was not as enamored with the love story portion of this book, as I was with the exploration of race and skin color. The honest, unflinching manner in which the author explored these themes was quite refreshing. The plot is interspersed with blog posts, and while I enjoyed them, I did feel that many of the characters introduced in the book (that appear once and are never heard from again) were means to simply get in additional speechifying on specific topics, and that detracted from the flow of the story.

This was my book club selection for the month, and I think it was a great choice for all the discussion topics that it raised.  Rating: 4 stars.

October 18, 2014

The What's Underneath Project: Jacky O'Shaughnessy (Video)

Stumbled across this incredible project with this video. Honest. Searing. Real. Love it.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

You can see more videos from this project here.

October 17, 2014

Bryan Stevenson Extended Interview @TheDailyShow

The opposite of poverty in this country is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.

I have a new hero to add to my pantheon.

Bryan A. Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, and is a professor at New York University School of Law.

You can watch his extended interview on the Daily Show here.

Manon @ the Royal Opera House

Have you heard of Live Cinema Season? Well, if you haven't you are in for a treat. It is the time of year when you can watch world class ballet, plays, and musicals at a theater near you. 

Last night The Royal Ballet’s Manon was relayed live to cinemas across the world. Well, it was not exactly live for us in the Boston area, but this Kenneth MacMillan’s 40th-anniversary staging stars Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli. And it was simply fantastic. If you are at all interested in the arts, check out what is playing in theaters near you.

October 16, 2014

Cinemascope: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia

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: This documentary follows people from the LGBT community in Russia after new legislation in 2013 prohibited so-called gay propaganda in the country. We meet various people who have been attacked for being gay, get to know how hard they struggle, and how they try to live with being gay without making it public.

This HBO documentary is tough to watch and really upsetting, but I think it is important to learn more about the issues discussed.

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

October 14, 2014

Journal page

There is something so satisfying about using colored pencils. Being surrounded by all those pencil shavings reminds me of being a kid. This page was inspired by an artist who doodles on photos of faces. So fun.

(Click on image to view larger)

Pen and colored pencils in my large single signature art journal.

October 13, 2014

Five reasons Microsoft CEO's gender gaffe is worrisome for women

Here is the link to the CNN article.

In his apology, Satya Nadella apologized for being inarticulate. He was not inarticulate. He was offensive. Would he have dared to tell a roomful of men not to ask for raises, but to wait for "good karma"? The problem is not only that he thinks that women deserve less pay for equal work, but he felt totally comfortable telling a roomful of women that he thinks it. Unbelievable!


Babes and I are celebrating another anniversary today. 23 years! Where the heck does the time go?

Happy versery Babes. 82.

Recent Reads

140. Manon Lescaut
I am currently enrolled in the Coursera class The Fiction of Relationship, and this is the first in the list of assigned reading. I had never heard of this French novella, first published in 1731, and am delighted to have made its acquaintance. 

This is the story of the Chevalier de Grieux, a nobleman who falls in love with the beautiful and poor Manon Lescaut. While on the surface it reads like a romance novel, this is really a story of obsession, passion, betrayal and class set in 18th century Paris. The entire story is narrated by Des Grieux, so we only have his version of the story, and I love how the author does not judge either character, but lays out a story and lets the reader decide how to feel about the characters.

At times I had to remind myself that the narrator was only in his late teens, a time when passions can rage out of control, but this complex story asks some important questions of who we are in relation to others and how much love can blind us. This was originally going to get at least 4 stars, but I got rather annoyed by the Chevalier's reluctance to take responsibilities for his actions. Rating: 3 stars.

141. Amulet, Vol. 6: Escape From Lucien
Book blurb: Emily, Navin, and their friends continue to battle the Elf King in hopes of destroying him forever, but one of his most loyal followers, Max, isn't making it easy for them. The crew journeys to Lucien, a city that's been ravaged by the war. Emily has more enemies there than she realizes -- and it'll take everything she's got to get herself and her friends out of the city alive.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the best young adult graphic novels work really well for adults as well. Our heroes face new dangers on many fronts. Will they survive? This story will not make any sense unless you read the books in order, and I plan to revisit the entire collection once the story concludes. The art only is worth the price of admission. Rating: 3 stars.

142. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
Sometimes comics can capture a mood so much better than prose, and that is the case with this graphic memoir. The author describes with endearing honesty the love, and sorrow, and loss, and frustration, and craziness, and expense, and the laugh out loud moments that the final years with elderly parents can entail. This is a memoir, so is very particular to her experience, but the author's storytelling skill makes it seem like an universal experience in an uncanny way. 

I am not an only child (unlike the author), and am happy that both my parents are alive and well. And yet. They will not talk about end of life issues either! Might this book make a good birthday present for them? Or would it be too much "unpleasantness"? Rating: 4 stars.

143. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Reading this book is like taking a class on Comics History, and like any good class, there are parts that are a bit of a slog and parts that blow the top of your head off. There is something magical about learning about Comics in a book written as a Comic. I took my time with it, reading slowly and letting the ideas sink in, and you know what? It has enhanced the way I read graphic novels! 

I have long felt that Comics can often convey many concepts better than prose, and I've struggled to understand why that is. This books helped me to understand. I see things that I was blind to before. You know that old adage, you see what you are prepared to see? Well, my eyes have been opened, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to begin the Comic Books and Graphic Novels Coursera course in a couple of weeks. 

I would recommend this nonfiction book to anyone interested in learning about Comics History, and it should be required reading for those of us that read Comics on a regular basis. Rating: 4 stars.

October 10, 2014

It's time for a Malala Festival

This just makes me so happy. 

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi win 2014 Nobel peace prize.

Pakistani teenager and Indian children’s rights activist beat Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, the Pope and Vladimir Putin to the prestigious prize 

You can read the Guardian article here.

"Why is my daughter so strong? Because I didn't clip her wings." - Malala's father.
You can watch his TED talk here.

The 29-Year-Old Who's Chosen to End Her Life Speaks Out (Video)

Brittany Maynard, who is suffering from brain cancer, explains why this is the right choice for her. I am in awe of this courageous young woman, who has decided to end her life with dignity. It still boggles my mind that there are only 5 US states that allows a person this option. 

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

You can also read the interview she gave with Good Housekeeping here.

October 9, 2014

Cinemascope: Queen

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: A Delhi girl from a traditional family sets out on a solo honeymoon after her marriage gets cancelled.

This is a Bollywood film in Hindi, and I watched with English subtitles, though I was surprised at how much Hindi I actually understood. This is not your typical movie from either Hollywood or Bollywood - not your typical boy meets girl story. It is the coming of age of a young woman from Delhi, whose life does not roll out as planned. There are so few movies about young girls coming of age, and many of the ones that exist tend to play out in ways you might expect. This is an unexpected delight, but be warned that in typical Bollywood style, there are songs, and the movie is long.

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

October 7, 2014

Journal pages

I'm a huge fan of graphic novels, and I often find myself sketching while reading them. Here are a couple of pages that are just that. Doodles while I was reading.

On this page I had the blocks of acrylic paint already on the watercolor paper.

I could not resist these faces, and quickly sketched them in my journal one night before bed.

As always, click on images to view larger.
Pen, acrylic paint and markers in my large single signature art journal and my large cheapo art journal.

October 6, 2014

Recent Reads

136. Through the Woods
'It came from the woods. Most strange things do.' 

Isn't that a great way to start a story? This graphic novel is targeted at a teen audience and is a collection of five stories. The kind that you tell as a kid, in the dark, around a campfire. The cover art is what captured my attention in the first place, and the art in this book is wonderfully atmospheric and moody. The stories though were disappointing, and I am puzzled by the rave reviews this book has gotten. Rating: 2 stars.

137. Blood Safari (Lemmer #1)
Book blurb: Lemmer is a professional bodyguard. Silent, invisible, he never gets involved. Emma le Roux is convinced she's seen her brother on the news as a suspect in the recent killing of four poachers. But her brother is supposed to have died twenty years ago. When le Roux hires Lemmer to watch her back while she goes looking for answers, it becomes clear someone wants to keep them in the dark. And when that someone tries to murder them both, for once in his life Lemmer steps out of the shadows.

I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Simon Vance. This mystery/crime novel is set in South Africa, and introduces us to Lemmer in this first book of a two book series. This is not really a thriller of a read, but more of a meditation on the many issues faced by the people and animals of South Africa. Don't get me wrong, there is some action, but I did not find the mystery itself really compelling. I did however enjoy the setting and the well developed characters. I also liked how the author weaved in political, environmental, conservation and poaching issues into the story. This is the first time I have read anything by the author, and I enjoyed it enough that I will try his other books. Rating: 3 stars.

138. Fourth of July Creek
I've decided to leave my Catholic school girl guilt aside and stop reading books that do not grab me. At page 99, I have decided to do just that with this debut novel that gets rave reviews, and one I was looking forward to getting lost in. There are some wonderfully captured scenes, but overall the writing kept jarring me out of the story - something about the way it is written. A social worker whose life is as nuts as those he tries to help is an interesting premise, but I simply do not care about Pete, and am not invested enough to see how this ends. Rating: 1 star.

139. Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art
This little book might be good for the absolute beginner, or in an art classroom, but in my opinion it is mis-titled. I expected to see art drawn "freehand", but much of the art was digitally manipulated in some manner. And while the art is fun to look at, the written blurbs that accompanies each piece of art is rather rudimentary and not really informative.

October 4, 2014

Until We Could - Richard Blanco (Video)

Until We Could, a gorgeous new video poem written by Richard Blanco, celebrates love and the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The film is narrated by Golden Globe winning actress Robin Wright and actor Ben Foster.
If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 2, 2014

Cinemascope: Her

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: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.

I was rather skeptical about the premise of this story; how many more movies with sexy bots is Hollywood really going to make? I really like Joaquin Phoenix as an actor though, so got the DVD from my library and settled in with low expectations. And was pleasantly surprised. He is wonderful in this role, and this movie explores themes of love and loss and community and friendship and reality. A wonderful exploration of humanity in a virtual world.

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

September 30, 2014

Piper Kerman @ UMassLowell

I spent this chilly and rainy night at UMass Lowell's new student center. And holy smokes, the area around the North Campus has dramatically changed for the better.

I was there to hear Piper Kerman talk about her book Orange Is the New Black, which is also a Netflix series hit I mentioned in my Cinemascope post last week.

Piper gave a riveting and educational talk tonight @UMassLowell. One of the top ten author talks I've ever attended.

There were long, long lines to see Piper tonight. The room was full, so people were directed to overflow areas with a TV feed. The book gods smiled on us - we were pulled out of an overflow conference room and given seats front and center!

A fun evening at my old alma mater with Charlene and Janice (a senior in Chemical Engineering I met in line). 

Journal page

The thing about art is that it helps to center me when I am out of sorts. I created this page over several weeks, a little bit at a time. The page started with some leftover acrylic paint slapped on from another project. Then I added the girl in pencil. Decided I wanted her to be in the background of a two page spread, so added text blocks with white acrylic paint.

While reading Americanah, I came across a quote that I thought would be perfect to use for these pages, so made a note of it. Added it to the white text blocks with a blue pen, and played with the font by simply making lines thicker. 

The girl on the left side of the spread was inspired by a singer in a magazine. Added texture to her dress with a pencil, then painted her in with watercolors. Added in some shapes and colored them with Sharpie Flip Chart makers. Gave the layout a black border with the same, and added textured white dots using the end of a paintbrush dipped in white acrylic paint.

Here is the completed spread. A true mixed media project.

As always, click on any image to view larger.

Mixed media in my large single signature art journal.

September 29, 2014

Recent Reads

133. The Whale Rider
I saw the movie based on this novella when it came out years ago, and remember really liking it. I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Jay Laga'aia, and would recommend the audio as there are Maori phrases and music that add to the enjoyment of this story. 

I love creation stories, and this one retells an ancient Maori legend juxtaposed with the present day lives of the Maori. Kahu is a young Maori girl who has the misfortune of not being born the boy her Great-Grandfather desperately wanted. This story switches back and forth between her struggle to find her place in the world, and the reminiscences of the ancient whale of legends. The book is populated with wonderful characters, and explores themes of holding on to one's culture in a modern world, gender politics, and coming of age in a changing world. While written for a young adult audience, this one is a lovely read for adults as well. Rating: 3 stars.

134. Outlander (Outlander #1)
I've had this series on my TBR for years. Many people I know love it, and I'd socked away these books for a rainy day. So what was the compelling event to start? The STARZ original series of course. I love chunkster books, so imagine my disappointment when this one did not grab me, and I almost quit several times.

I love historical fiction, so did enjoy the setting and time frames, but that is about all I liked. I like a good romance as much as the next person, but this one read like the Mills and Boon stories I devoured as a teenager. Also, there is no science fiction to this story. Walking through a circle of stones to a time 200 years earlier does not science fiction make people. It is an easy way to create time travel without having to explain how it works, and while I was OK with that, sci-fi fans beware. There were some fun characters in this book, but they all seemed rather one dimensional - the hero, the damsel in distress, the witch, etc. I needed more depth to these characters to connect with them. An interesting aside, the bad guy is one of the more multifaceted people in this story. 

So let's say that you suspend disbelief and go along for the ride. Is it even remotely possible that you walk through a portal, end up 200 years back in time and seem to have no distress at all? Okay, there is some shock when you figure out that you are in a different era, but then nothing? Really? Spoiler ahead: [And given the choice to stay there, or go back to your time, you choose to stay? Really? All eras are tough for women, but you, an educated woman with options, chooses to stay in a era 200 years before your own for love? Right. Must have been great sex!].

Unfortunately I was bored for much of this book, and will certainly not be reading the rest of the series. Ah well, at least I tried. Rating: 2 stars.

135. The Shadow Hero
Book blurb: In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

A Chinese mother decides that her son should be a superhero, so makes him a costume - never mind that he actually has no powers - and what an outfit it is! This was a fun graphic novel with wonderful art.  Rating: 3 stars.

September 25, 2014

Cinemascope: Orange is the New Black (Season 1)

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: The story of Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money for her drug-dealing girlfriend.

I was a huge fan of Season 1 of Prison Break, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the prison setting. If you have yet to watch it, I would highly recommend that as well. I also tried Oz, but was not sucked into the story or characters, so bailed after a handful of episodes. Then along comes Orange is the New Black, based on a memoir of the same name. The story is set in a women's prison, deals with themes of sexuality, criminality, class, race, etc and is so good. 

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

September 24, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 09.24.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

September 23, 2014

Broken Monsters Tour

I love indie bookstores, and am always on the lookout for author visits. Tonight at Porter Square Books, the South African author Lauren Beukes was in town.

She was interviewed by the author Joe Hill, who came prepared with "essay type" questions followed by a "speed round".

The dynamics between these two authors was quite enjoyable to watch. They riffed off each other really well.

Lauren gave two readings from her latest novel Broken Monsters. She is a dynamic reader and left me wanting more. This book will be moving to the top of my TBR pile.

Lauren is funny and articulate and a natural story teller. To this Kenyan girl hearing her say that "Johannesburg is the New York City of Africa" made me laugh out loud.

A fun evening is always better when shares with friends. Here is the requisite selfie taken with book buddies Julia and Cate.

Just why does the NFL have tax-exempt status?

Top of my head blew off today when I learned that the NFL does not pay any taxes because it is a non-profit!  

Journal page

I've been playing with faces and colored pencils lately. Colored pencils are remarkably portable, and I do not need to worry about the cheap paper buckling. Here is a face on HONY that captured my attention.

(Click to view larger)

Pen and watercolors in my large cheapo art journal. 

September 22, 2014

Recent Reads

129. The Heist (Gabriel Allon #14)
I'm a huge Gabriel Allon fan, but I humbly disagree with many of the rave reviews of this, the 14th book in the series. 

Can it really be summer without time spent with my fave Mossad assassin and art restorer? I think not. Every year I have the publication date marked in my calendar, and eagerly await the new release of one of my fave characters in a contemporary series. As I look at my reviews of the previous books in this series, I see that my ratings have been dropping, but how can I resist attending the reunion of the Barak team every summer?

This one is the worst in the series so far. It is rather formulaic and the writing seems rote. The characters are recycled without any additional depth added. The story is almost the same as a couple others in the series, just updated with Syrian troubles. I almost did not finish it, and that makes me sad. If you have yet to read about the exploits of the man named like an archangel, I would highly recommend reading some of the earlier books in this series. But skip this one.

And yet. I'll be waiting to see if there is a new installment next July. Come on Mr. Silva, give this junkie a good fix. Please. Rating: 2 stars.

130. The Polysyllabic Spree

Book blurb: In his monthly column "Stuff I've Been Reading", Nick Hornby lists the books he's purchased and the books he's read that month - they almost never overlap - and briefly discusses the books he's actually read.

This little collection of essays is a delightful read. Some people can vegetables, the rest of us hoard books. If you are the type of person who buys books whenever you walk by a bookstore, because even though you have 1000 or so unread books on your shelves at home, you are concerned about the coming apocalypse and are never sure that you have enough reading material to get you through those dark days ahead, then this is perfect book for you. Reading each short essay is like having a drink with a literate reader friend, and every essay adds more books to that pile you must someday read. 

Funny that I have yet to read any of the author's novels, but there are 4 books in this essay series, and I plan to slowly savor my way through them all. Rating: 4 stars.

131. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Book blurb: Sum is a dazzling exploration of funny and unexpected afterlives that have never been considered–each presented as a vignette that offers us a stunning lens through which to see ourselves here and now.

What do you think happens when you die? Do you believe in an afterlife? Well, I'll bet that you have never considered the afterlife scenarios explored in this little book. This book is what you get when an incredibly imaginative mind ponders the afterlife. Each story is about a page or two in length, and this is one to read slowly, or read aloud and then discuss. Some of the stories are just OK, hence the deduction of a star, but I highly recommend this gem of a book. Rating: 4 stars.

132. 11/22/63

I've spent the past two weeks walking about a hundred miles while listening to this audiobook wonderfully narrated by Craig Wasson, and for the majority of those 30 hours and 44 minutes, Stephen King had me enthralled with this yarn. He would have made a great traveling bard in the land of ago.

If you could go back in time, what would you change? Humans have probably been asking ourselves that question ever since we conceived the notion of time. I think we all believe that knowing what we know now, we would be better, braver, more courageous. I'm not so sure.

This is not a horror story, nor is it a science fiction one. Sure, there is time travel - but basically there is a portal in the pantry of an old diner that lets one step back to September 9, 1958. Same place, same day, same year, every single time. There is no dial you can move to switch things around. Enter Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who steps through and has the chance to change lots of things, including trying to stop the assassination of JFK. Note that he gets there in 1958, so has several years to kill (hah!) while waiting for the main event. There is a lot of time spent on him trying to build an ordinary life while waiting, and some of that strained my patience. King is wordy, as usual, and there could have been some editing that would have made the story tighter in my opinion. I did like getting to know the various characters in the story, but felt that the ending was rather rushed compared to the sedate pace of the rest of the story. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable yarn, well worth the time. Rating: 4 stars.

September 20, 2014

Mac Barnett: Why a good book is a secret door (Video)

Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn't children's books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 19, 2014

September morning

Waking up to a lovely sunrise on this chilly September morning. The geese have started heading South my friends, and we are sucking the marrow out of sailing season before it is all over.

Winter is coming!

September 18, 2014

Cinemascope: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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: The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

Comedy is a very personal thing, and this one really worked for me. With a wonderful ensemble cast, this story is about the misadventures of a concierge, and had me laughing out loud.  

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

September 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 09.17.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

September 16, 2014

Journal page

YouTube is a wealth of art instructions, and Steve Harpster has some fun cartoon sketches you could do with kids. They are easy to follow ans quite delightful. Here is my dragon.

(Click on image to view larger)

Pen and watercolors in my large cheapo art journal. 

September 15, 2014

Recent Reads

125. Finding Nouf (Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi #1)
You know what occurred to me the other day? It has been way too long since I read a book with camels in it.

What caught my attention about this book is the premise: In a blazing hot desert in Saudi Arabia, a search party is dispatched to find a missing young woman. 

I poured myself tall glasses of passion ice tea and settled in for what I hoped would be a great read. Alas, it was not. There is a mystery at the heart of the story, but as far as mysteries go, it was rather light. More interesting were some of the behind the scenes cultural insights shared, but it also felt rather cliched and written for a Western audience who might not have read other books that take a reader behind the veil. And while I appreciate the author's writing skill, it is not enough to read the next couple of books in this trilogy. Rating: 2 stars.

126. Boxers (Boxers & Saints #1)
Book blurb: China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers - commoners trained in kung fu - who fight to free China from "foreign devils."

This historical graphic novel is targeted at a teen audience, and is an excellent reminder of all the gaps of knowledge I have about China's long, long history. War is hell. For all sides. This colorful book explores the cultural differences, propaganda, misunderstandings and consequences of this chapter in China's history from one perspective. I will be reading the companion book Saints, which explores this same period in history from the other side. Rating: 3 stars.

127. Saints (Boxers & Saints #2)
Book blurb: China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name by her family when she's born. She finds friendship--and a name, Vibiana--in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. 

This historical graphic novel is a companion novel to Boxers, and I would recommend reading that one first. Yes, Boxers does have spoilers for Saints, but in my opinion the story is stronger for reading it first. 

I quite like how these two books complement each other. Often we only hear one side of a story, but we all know full well that there is another version that is equally true and valid. One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. 

Targeted for a young adult audience, this graphic novel explores an alternate point of view of the Boxer rebellion, but more importantly how the personal struggles of a young girl can be a part of a national and historic moment in time. Rating: 3 stars.

128. Beautiful Darkness
Book blurb: This unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny.

This fairy tale is disturbing on many levels. The art is light and quaint, and then you see what you are really looking at, and there isn't anything quaint about it. This dark tale explores a different type of prince and princess, and how things can escalate until the world around you is unrecognizable. This is not a graphic novel I'd recommend for kids. Rating: 3 stars.

September 13, 2014

Strathmore Online Workshops

Have you heard of the Strathmore classes? They have three free classes a year, and you can watch them at your leisure. If you are interested in art, or sketching, or keeping a journal, these classes are should be right up your alley.

You can check them out here.

September 11, 2014

Cinemascope: Whale Rider

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: A small Maori village faces a crisis when the heir to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived only by his twin sister, Pai. Although disregarded by her grandfather and shunned by the village people, twelve-year-old Pai remains certain of her calling and trains herself in the ways and customs of her people. With remarkable grace, Pai finds the strength to challenge her family and embraces a thousand years of tradition in order to fulfill her destiny.

I saw this at my local indie theater when it first came out and loved it. I recently read the book the movie is based on, and while while there are some significant changes made for the movie, it still holds up many years later. I loved this story of a young girl fighting to find herself in a changing world, and the challenges the Maori people face holding on to their traditions in these modern times.

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

September 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 09.10.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.