July 30, 2015

Cinemascope: The Last Castle

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

Released in 2001.

Plot line: When three star General Irwin is transferred to a maximum security military prison, its warden, Colonel Winter, can't hide his admiration towards the highly decorated and experienced soldier. Irwin has been stripped of his rank for disobedience in a mission, but not of fame. Colonel Winter, who runs the prison with an iron fist, deeply admires the General, but works with completely different methods in order to keep up discipline. After a short while, Irwin can feel Winter's unjust treatment of the inmates. He decides to teach Winter a lesson by taking over command of the facility and thus depriving him of his smug attitude. When Winter decides to participate in what he still thinks of as a game, it may already be too late to win. 

This is the second time I've watched this one, and seriously people, it is so, so good. Starring Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, and Mark Ruffalo, this is a really good story with superb acting.

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

July 27, 2015

Recent Reads

84. Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 
This book collects Lumberjanes volumes #1-#4. A group of young girls are at camp, and there are badges to be earned. But all is not what it seems.

This young adult graphic novel for "hardcore lady-types" is a fun romp. I love that comics like this exist - ones that are feminist, embrace girl power and "friendship to the max", and showcase a variety of girls with different strengths. 

As an adult reader, I found the chapter introductions as to how one earns each badge more interesting than the story itself. I did not overly love the art either - seemed rather garishly manga to my eye. Still, I liked it enough that I'll continue reading the series (it has a page on Fibonacci!). This would make a fun gift for the middle grade girls in your life. Rating: 3 stars.

85. Crossing Midnight, Vol. 1: Cut Here
This fantasy/horror graphic novel story is set in Nagasaki Japan, and is an interesting mix of cultural memes. The story starts with the birth of twins - one born just before midnight, the other just after. Unbeknownst to them a promise their father made before they were born will have huge ramifications on the course of their lives. 

I liked this one. It has an interesting story line, introduced me to some Japanese mythology, and the art is good. This volume collects the first five issues of the series, and I plan to read the rest of the series. Rating: 3 stars.

86. Daisy Kutter: The Last Train
Have you read The Amulet graphic novel books by this author? If not, put this one down and go start there. 

I decided to try some of his other/earlier works, and stumbled on this one. This graphic novel is the story of Daisy Kutter, a retired bank robber and legendary gunfighter who has decided to open a dry goods store in the small town of Middleton. But giving up on a life of crime is harder than one might think, and when Daisy loses everything in a high stakes poker game, she is sucked back in. But all is not as it seems.

This graphic novel for young adults is a fun and quick read. The sketchy black and white art conveys the right level of bleakness for this story. I especially liked the section in the back of the book where the author walks through the multiple stages of graphic novel creation. Rating: 3 stars.

87. The Traveler (Fourth Realm #1)
This is the first book in the Fourth Realm Trilogy, and I picked it up because it has an interesting premise. Besides, the author lives off the grid? I'm so there.

Maya comes from a long line of people who call themselves Harlequins — a fierce group of warriors willing to sacrifice their lives to protect a select few known as Travelers. Travelers are people who can move between worlds (think quantum mechanics). Travelers have been people in history who have created world-wide movements, but they have all been hunted to extinction. Or have they? Enter Gabriel and Michael Corrigan, brothers who had a very famous Traveler as a father. Then there are the Tabula, powerful people who have hunted and killed all known Travelers and anyone who helped them. But we do live in a new age, and the Tabula has other agendas now.

How much privacy will we give up for the illusion of safety? Who has access to all that data that is collected on each of us whenever we go online? This story has been billed as a techno-thriller, and while I enjoyed all the action and themes explored, this did not live up to how awesome it could have been. The writing is not very good, the characters rather one-dimensional, and the plot predictable.

I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Scott Brick, and it was entertaining enough for summer walks, but I'm not sure I'd even have finished it if I had read it in print. Sadly, I'll be skipping the rest of this trilogy. Rating: 3 stars.

July 23, 2015

Cinemascope: Bloodline (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 2015.

Plot line: The series focuses on the lives of the Rayburn family, who own and run a hotel in the Florida Keys. When the eldest son and black sheep of the family, Danny, returns home for his parents' 45th wedding anniversary, he quickly causes turmoil amongst the family who have a dark past–the death of one of their siblings when they were younger. When Danny gets caught up in the criminal world, he threatens to bring down his entire family and their legacy.

I've been binge watching this Netflix Original thriller-drama TV series. The acting is good, and my fave part might just be that Sissy Spacek plays the mom. If you like family dramas, in a lovely setting, give this one a try.

You can see the Season 1 trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.

July 20, 2015

Recent Reads

81. The Architect's Apprentice
This is historical fiction set in Istanbul in the time of the Ottoman Empire. I did enjoy the sense of place, what with slaves, harems, eunuchs, and a white elephant, and while the writing is not bad, I found myself rather bored with the story. So after 131 pages, I'm bailing on it. I really enjoyed her novel The Bastard of Istanbul, but this one missed the mark for me. Rating: 1 star.

82. Shadow Divers
This nonfiction book lives up to its subtile: The true adventures of two Americans who risked everything to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II. 

In order to fully appreciate my review of this book, you need to know that I am not a World War II (or WWI for that matter) buff in any shape or form. Yes, I've watched loads of war movies, and was that person; the one asking are those the Germans or allies? Am I the only one who did not know that you could tell them apart merely based on their head gear? 

I had never even heard of this book until a I read a review by a Goodreads friend, Carol K. It sounded interesting, so I immediately got it on audio, which is wonderfully read by Michael Prichard, and started listening to it on my walks. I was immediately hooked. 

This story of deep water wreck divers stumbling across a sunken German U-boat off the New Jersey coast in 1991, and how they go about trying to determine its identity is a fascinating and gripping read. This is my fave kind of narrative nonfiction, and the cast of characters alone are worth the price of admission. I have always been fascinated by people who push their bodies and psyches to the extremes. I think it is their obsession that I admire - that single minded focus, damn the consequences. 

I learned much about many things, and plan to watch some U-Boat movies in the near future. The only reason this book did not get the additional star is because the writing is choppy and repetitive at times, but even if you are not a history-war-diving buff, check it out for a fascinating ride. PS. My audiobook had a short interview with the two main divers in this story which was quite fun. Rating: 4 stars.

83. Flight, Vol. 2
I've been dipping in and out of this collection of short graphic novels over the past week, and as with any anthology, some stories are way better than others. Still, I quite appreciated the diversity of artists and styles represented in this one. It is a much fatter book than Volume 1, and a stronger collection overall. Rating: 3 stars.

July 13, 2015

Recent Reads

78. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
Book blurb: What is it like to be a child in the world's new education superpowers? In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, exchanges a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

I listened to the audiobook well narrated by Kate Reading, and this is the second book by the author to receive a 5 star rating from me.

There are some fundamental questions one could and should ask about education:

1. What is the point of education?
2. Do we think education is important? On a personal level? On a national level?
3. What are educational best practices, and do we implement them in our schools?

This thought provoking book reads like a thriller, and I for one found this a fascinating read. Some interesting things to ponder:

1. Can a teacher teach something they do not know? If we believe education is important, then how is it that we don't tap the top 1/3 of graduating seniors and funnel them into education?
2. Does it make sense that athletes and celebrities get paid so much more then teachers? How would it be possible to recruit the best and the brightest talent, when compensation numbers are so skewed?
3. For learning to happen parents must be involved, and there is a huge difference between a parent-coach and a parent-cheerleader. It turns out that the mere act of reading to children has a huge impact on the child's test scores a decade later. Also, interestingly enough, the stats show an inverse relationship between a child's test scores and parental involvement in none academic activities (see # 5).
4. The best countries in the world have rigor built into the system; everyone from students, to teachers, to the media is bought in. Imagine how different it would be if there was as much emphasis and celebration of high achieving students as is currently placed on March Madness and the Superbowl.
5. If the main purpose of school is education, then we seem to be sending mixed messages to kids, what with high visibility sport programs, selling girl-scout cookies, etc. 
6. The practice of tracking is so very harmful to kids, and I know from personal experience that kids rise to or lower themselves to expectations set for them. So imagine a kid tracked into the "dumb" class in 3rd grade; sure it is not called that, but every student knows that is what it is. What message is sent to that kid? If we insist on tracking, do so much later - 16 years.

Sure, the PISA test is not perfect, but it is an interesting benchmark that shows how poorly US students do against the rest of the world. Sure, the USA is huge compared to other countries, but when we still have students who reach the age of 16 and have never heard the word evolution mentioned in school, how is do we expect our kids to compete in this globalized economy?

I grew up in a country and family where there was nothing more important than education. There were no mixed messages; everything else paled in comparison. As a freshman in a US college, it blew my mind that so many students seemed to have little grasp of some of the fundamentals of math and science. Imagine my shock and consternation when I taught for a couple of years in an urban middle school to learn that 7th grade is the first time that my students had ever encountered any "hard" science - it had all been cuddly animals til then. Most of my students had math and reading skills below grade level, and yet got promoted year after year. I've met many wonderful and competent teachers of course, but I've also met plenty of teachers who did not know the material they were teaching. I'll never forget the science teacher who did not know several of the answers on the 8th grade MCAS test. 

This book covers topics that are near and dear to my heart, and while no one country's education system is perfect, does it not make sense that we would learn from the best? We do that in business all the time, so why not in our schools? If you are an educator, parent, or interested in education, I would highly recommend this book. PS. Parents, there is an appendix with questions to ask about your kid's school. If nothing else, I think you'd find that most illuminating. Rating: 5 stars.

79. The Running Man
I save up all my unread Stephen King books for the summer. I get the audiobook, jack in for long walks, and love every minute of it. Summer does not feel like Summer until I have a King story playing in my head.

This book was written under the Richard Bachman pseudonym, and I do think it might be the first Bachman book I've read. Unlike the usual King tomes, this one is a much shorter book, and I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Kevin Kenerly.

First published in 1982, this story is rather scarily prescient of society today - turns out King does not have to find alien bogeymen to scare us, all he needs to do is look into his crystal ball 20 years into the future. As one might expect, humans have continued our downward spiral: the gap between the poor and rich is an unbreachable gulf, the environment is so degraded that the very air we breathe kills us, people are zoned out watching reality TV shows, and there is a terrible sense of apathy. 

Ben Richards has a very ill daughter, and no money for food, let alone medicines for his little girl. He decides to try out for one of the reality shows - if he gets selected, his family gets money. What happens next is part of the fun ride, so I won't spoil it for you. Speaking of spoilers, my version of the book has a introduction by King in which he drops a huge spoiler - so save that for the end. 

I remember watching the movie based on this book ages ago and plan to watch it again soon. If you are looking for a fun, political, social commentary, thriller of a ride, add this to your summer reads. Rating: 4 stars.

80. An Iranian Metamorphosis
Could a cartoon spark riots? One published in the children's section of the paper at that? Well, the modern reader is all too aware of how badly things can go for the artists and their publisher when some people take offense.

This is a wonderfully illustrated graphic memoir with a strong narrative arc, and the black and white art captures well the bleakness of the story. The author is an Iranian cartoonist, and when his cartoons do in fact start a demonstration, his life takes a Kafkaesque turn. One does not need to be turned into an insect for life to become horrifying and unrecognizable after all. This memoir is the story of what happened to the author, and is a stark portrayal of life under a totalitarian regime, especially for those who criticize it. The news often tells stories from a foreigners point of view, and I loved that this one is told from an insider perspective. Rating: 4 stars

July 10, 2015

Roxane Gay: Confessions of a bad feminist (Video)

Have you read Bad Feminist yet? The author reads the title essay from that collection.

When writer Roxane Gay dubbed herself a "bad feminist," she was making a joke, acknowledging that she couldn't possibly live up to the demands for perfection of the feminist movement. But she's realized that the joke rang hollow. In a thoughtful and provocative talk, she asks us to embrace all flavors of feminism — and make the small choices that, en masse, might lead to actual change.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

July 7, 2015

Journal page

I've decided to simplify my journal and art supplies for the summer. You can see a video of my current kit here.

The page above was inspired by Graham Rounthwaite, another fashion illustrator whose work I really like. In the pic below you can see the supplies I used. 

Double page layouts are a little harder to do with spiral bound books, but I can live with that inconvenience for now.

The quote on the page reads: Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not in fact just surrounded by Assholes. (via Elizabeth Gilbert)

These pages were created with pen, watercolors, and a watercolor pencil. As always, click on images to view larger.

July 6, 2015

Recent Reads

75. Mr. G: A Novel About The Creation
I grew up with the first line from Genesis hardwired into my brain: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. This became an issue for me once I started learning about science. Well, this book is the scientific bedtime story version of the creation myth.

Mr. g (lowercase, and not once does the author use the word God), exists with his bumbling Uncle and crabby Aunt in the Void. What, you believe the Bible stories, but are going to questions this premise? Mr. g is bored, so decides to tinker and creates time, space, and matter (the quantum physics kind). Well, as any creative person will tell you, things quickly spiral (pun intended) in manners unforeseen. 

I loved the first half of this book - the science is accurate, and reflects current modern knowledge. As Mr. g stated many times, both inanimate and animate objects were subject to the fundamental three laws, and he was a mere spectator in what unfolded. I loved the dance of this creation story with that told in Genesis. I also appreciated the humor in adding Belhor and his companions to the story, but interestingly enough, I found myself rather bored once the intelligent beings appeared in the Universe. Yes, the story explores many of the philosophical questions that a self-aware mind conjures up, but I found myself not as enamored with the second half of the book as I was with the first. Still, this is a fun and worthwhile quick read, and the audiobook was well narrated by Ray Porter. Rating: 3 stars.

76. Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are
I'm a fan of the author, but if you've read his other books, there is nothing new in this one. If the last time you made any art was in Kindergarten, this might be the book for you. This little book, while delightful to peruse, seems rather like the author had all these journal pages, and decided to create a book around them. Check out of the library rather than buy material. I'd highly recommend two of his books - The Creative License and Everyday Matters - to anyone interested in being more creative. Rating: 2 stars.

77. Cairo
Book blurb: A stolen hookah, a spiritual underworld, and a genie on the run change the lives of five strangers forever in this modern fable set on the streets of the Middle East's largest metropolis.

If that does not suck you in, how about the first line: "So, today I hit one of those stoned camels with my truck." Move over Dickens. This might just be the best first line ever.

This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated, has a really good story, and has some of the most creative curses I've ever read - I kept repeating them out loud while reading. Politics, mythology, human drama, philosophy, with some romance thrown in for good measure, this wonderful story is set in a part of the world we often only hear about on the evening news. I loved everything about it, and GWW is quickly becoming my fave woman graphic novel author. Rating: 5 stars.

July 3, 2015

Cinemascope: Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids

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 tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, BORN INTO BROTHELS is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in Calcutta's red light district, where there mothers work as prostitutes. Spurred by the kids' facination with her camera, Zana Briski, a New-York-based photographer living in the brothels and documenting life there, decides to teach them photography. As they begin to look at and record their world through new eyes, the kids, who society refused to recognize, awaken for the first time to their own talents and sense of worth. Filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski capture the way in which beauty can be found even the seemingly bleakest and most helpless of places, and how art and education can empower children to transform their lives.

This is the second time I've watched this documentary. What I really love about it is that we hear the children's stories in their own words. Delightful and heartbreaking, this one continues to stay with me.

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

June 30, 2015

Journal pages

I've decided to simplify my journal and art supplies for the summer. You can see a video of my current kit here.

Something I love to do in my journals is create a page using all the daily ephemera that accumulates in my life. These bricolage pages are easy to do, and wonderfully capture a place and time

The page above was inspired by Amy Davis. I'm not one for fashion illustration, but really like her work, and wanted to try on her style. The pic shows the supplies I used. Since I was home, I added some markers in to the mix.

Added some text and called it done. So fun. As always, click on images to view larger.

June 29, 2015

Recent Reads

72. Just So Happens
This graphic novel has wonderful sketchy watercolory (yes I just made up that word) art, and is quite lovely to look at. The story/plot however is so thin as to be almost transparent (pun intended). The questions asked are universal ones, especially for those of us who left home and now live in a country different from the one we were born and raised in. Yumiko was born in Japan, but now lives in London. Happily by all accounts, but when she learns of her father's death, she returns for the funeral, and is struck by the rituals of life in her birth country. 

This story disappointingly does not explore deeply any of the various themes it could have, so while I really liked the art, this is not a book I'd recommend. Rating: 2 stars.

73. The People in the Trees
This book was my book club selection for the month. I started out reading the ebook, but found it difficult to get into the story as I did not like the point of view of the main character, and had a hard time looking out through his eyes. So I switched over to the audiobook, and people, if you are going to read this book, I would highly recommend the audio. The one I listened to had three narrators - Arthur Morey, William Roberts, Erin Yuen, and they are so, so good. I found that unlike reading the ebook, having the book read to me created the separation I needed to appreciate the novel.

I love first contact stories, and if you do too, add this one to your reading pile. If you are a fan of this genre, then you already know there there are moral and ethical dilemmas galore awaiting you, but this story ups the ante in so many ways.

To say that the main character is unlikable would be the understatement of year, but I think a huge part of this story works, because of that. The author is wonderfully skilled, and I so appreciated (though did not necessarily enjoy) the journey she took me on. She sets up moral/ethical quandaries, and once you get as comfortable as you can get, she ups the ante. Are you comfortable now? Repeat. How about now? Is there a moral line you will not cross? I gotta tell you I've spent many tough hours in very dark tunnels with only a little flashlight, and I cannot think of the last time a book did that to me.

I heard the author describe this book as "science in fiction" as opposed to science fiction, and I could not agree more. There is an authenticity to this novel that is hard to put into words. Using footnotes, real science and history all helped to create the illusion that I was reading an actual adventurer's log as opposed to a novel. And this is her debut novel? Cannot wait to read her new one.

The book club members were mixed in their reviews of the book, but it sure sparked a fascinating and lively discussion. This is not an easy story in any sense of the word, but is well worth a read. The only reason it did not get five stars is because at no point in the story did I enjoy myself. But I might reconsider and add the extra star after several more days spent in sunlight. Rating: 4 stars.

74. Flight Volume One (Flight #1)
First you need to know that while I'm a huge fan of the graphic novel, I am neither a fan of short stories nor anthologies, and that is what this book is. A collection of graphic stories. I did not know that going in. Mea culpa. 

The stories are all about flight in one way or another, and while I quite liked the art, many of the stories in this collection were really weak. That being said, there is wide variety of stories and artistic styles, and for that reason alone it might make sense to grab a library copy and give it a look-see. 

I've got the next book in the series waiting for me, and will report back if I like it better. Rating: 2 stars.

June 28, 2015

June was a happy pride one indeed

June draws to a close, and with the recent SCOTUS ruling, it has been a happy one indeed. Here is a lovely video to celebrate. #ProudToLove

If the embedded video not work, click here.

June 26, 2015


"It is so ordered."

Huge, huge day of celebration today.

Here is how Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored today’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States, closed his opinion.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered. "

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 2015 Wellesley College Commencement Speaker (Video)

This woman. She is a goddess in my pantheon.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

June 25, 2015

Cinemascope: Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens

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

Released in 2007.

Plot line: This film traces the artistic self-realization of Annie Leibovitz, from childhood through the death of her beloved friend, Susan Sontag, and includes snippets of Leibovitz's last visual memories of Sontag. The film traces the arc of her photographic life, her aspirations to artistry, and the trajectory of her career through phases that included the tumultuous sixties in Berkeley, CA., touring with the Rolling Stones, a mentorship by Hunter S. Thompson, and, later, capturing the last candid moments of John Lennon's life with Yoko Ono. It closes with her reflections on life, children, and the the wake of her relationship with Sontag. The archival material presented here is invaluable for framing an understanding of this immeasurably influential visual artist.

I stumbled upon this PBS American Masters documentary the other day. If you are even remotely interested in photography or creative art, give this biography a try. I love Annie Leibovitz's work. Yes, there is a lot of celebrity work, but her creative genius is undeniable.

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

June 23, 2015

Journal pages

I've decided to simplify my journal and art supplies for the summer. You can see a video of my current kit here.

Getting back into sketching after a hiatus, and I can tell that my muscles need work. I liked this guy's hair - and yes he does look like he's had a bit too much sun.

Opus was down on the boat for a visit, and we had unexpected a unexpected fireworks display in the North End. Both of these sketches were done on the boat with pen and watercolors. As always, click on images to view larger.

June 22, 2015

Recent Reads

68. Re-Gifters
Jen Dik Seong, known as Dixie to her friends, well really friend (singular), is a first generation Korean American girl, who has a black belt in Hapkido - an ancient marital art. She has her first major crush, and this has left her not only distracted, but she has lost her Ki. Will she find it again?

This graphic novel targeted at the teen reader is a lovely exploration of first loves, friendship, and the struggle to figure out who you are. The black, white and grey illustrations are fun, and I especially liked that the story explores themes of immigrant culture, money, positive female friendships, and how we often find what we are looking for in unexpected places. The story line is a little predictable for the adult reader, but I loved that this was a very girl positive book. Isn't it about time we had more of that? Rating: 4 stars.

69. My Pen
This picture book for young kids is filled with wonderfully detailed drawings, but I was not drawn (pun intended) into the text on the pages. Ah well. Rating: 2 stars.

70. The Love Bunglers (Love and Rockets)
Let me start by saying that I've spent zero time reading the Love and Rockets books that this graphic novel draws upon, and I have little doubt that it affected my reading. Even though I had no idea who these characters were going in, I was still sucked into the story. A tale of family secrets, and the havoc that they cause in the lives of everyone concerned. I liked that the tale was told from various points of view, but all centered around Maggie. There were a couple of wordless pages that I was totally lost during - I assume that it was me. The art is really good, and evokes the right mood for this story. I'm now curious about the Love and Rockets series and plan to read them as well. Rating: 3 stars.

71. Fall of Kings (Troy #3)
This, the final book in the Troy Trilogy is a rollicking good ride. The author died before completing this one, so his wife took over, and while I can tell where the transition happened, I enjoyed every moment of this story.

The authors change some of the "facts" of the story, but I was OK with it. I particularly liked how the death of Hektor was done in this version (that should not be a spoiler people). Since that was one of the tough parts of the story for me (never mind the hundreds of thousands of deaths!), I appreciated this touch. Pages before the battle between Hektor and Achilles, I found myself slowing way down, as I did not want to get to that scene. There are tie-ins with some other myths that I also found interesting - the plagues of Egypt in particular. The ending was a little too happily-ever-after for my tastes - but after all those battles and death, I guess a little happy isn't too much to ask for.

The epic saga and the age of heroes draws to a close in this book. There are acts of bravery and courage, betrayal and cowardice, insanity and beauty, love and loss. Those Greeks sure knew how to capture the essence of the human condition. So good. Rating: 4 stars.

June 20, 2015

CY365 | May Done | June Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.

150/365 - 053015 #Memento #cy365
In case you did not already know it, I love all things nautical. These huge anchors are impressive, and it is quite fun to watch little kids use them as slides. #charlestownnavyyard #sailingseason #anchor #onmywalktoday

151/365 - 053115 #RainyDay #cy365
We've had so little rain that I'd almost forgotten the lovely sound it makes. An added bonus is that much of the pollen is getting cleared out of the air. #onmywalktoday saw puddles with pollen slicks. #pollenbegone #puddles

152/365 - 060115 #CurrentlyReading #cy365
Listening to Shadow Divers by #RobertKurson on my long walks.#bookstagram #summerreads #audiobook #ReadingOnTheBoat

153/365 - 060215 #JuneFires #cy365
June starts off cold enough for fleece clothing and evening fires. #whathappenedtospring

154/365 - 060315 #Radiant #cy365
Attended the local middle school's Spring Concert this evening. The approximately 240 students ranged from 5th to 8th grade. My nephew Luke plays both the clarinet and alto sax, and he rocked it. #lovethiskid #thiskidlovesjazz #proudauntie

155/365 - 060415 #TripPlanning #cy365
Family members will be gathering in a month, so time for some trip planning. #Fodor's #Frommer's #bookstagram #currentlyreading #GrandCanyon #Vegas #travel #summerreads #librarybooks

156/365 - 060515 #SummerBBQ #cy365
Fired up the new Weber for an easy summer meal: salad, bbq beef with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions, and bbq pinapple. #delish #foodie

As always, click on photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

June 18, 2015

Cinemascope: Kill the Messenger

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: Based on the True story of Journalist Gary Webb. The film takes place in the mid 1990s, when Webb uncovered the CIA's past role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S. that was aggressively sold in ghettos across the country to raise money for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. Despite enormous pressure not to, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence, publishing the series "Dark Alliance". As a result he experienced a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA. At that point Webb found himself defending his integrity, his family, and his life.

A movie made squarely for a thinking adult audience. I knew nothing about this man and this story, and was both fascinated and horrified as the story unfolded. 

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

June 17, 2015

Gillian Anderson's self-portrait (Video)

Have you seen this? 

Actor Gillian Anderson analyses her reflection while looking down the lens of the camera and drawing her self-portrait on an iPad. Through this intimate process she reveals her thoughts about her perception of her own beauty, her insecurities and how fame has affected her.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

June 16, 2015

Journal pages

I've decided to simplify my journal and art supplies for the summer. You can see a video of my current kit here.

We spend as much time on the boat during the summer months as possible, and I wanted to have a portable kit that could I could easily travel around with.

These are the first two pages of my new Strathmore journal. Yes, I dived in and started right on the first page. Both pages were done on the boat using pen and watercolors. As always click on images to view larger.

June 15, 2015

Recent Reads

65. Roller Girl
This graphic novel targeted at the middle school reader is a wonderful story about the complexity of friendships, and the grit to go after your dreams.

Twelve year old Astrid is smitten when she attends a Roller Derby event, and decides to sign up for derby camp. Turns out her best friend Nicole plans to attend dance camp instead. Astrid has to negotiate new challenges, face her fears, and negotiate some tough stuff. This is a fun and fast read that explores some complex themes, and would make a great gift for tween girls.
  Rating: 4 stars.

66. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why
This volume collections Ms. Marvel #6-11.

Our Pakistani-American super heroine is getting more comfortable with her powers, but that doesn't mean that all is going smoothly on the home front. I really like the exploration of the struggle Kamala has being her bad-ass self, while trying to be the good girl her family expects her to be. In this installment, the Inventor has a nefarious plan. Will he succeed? While I was not really enamored with him, I did like how Kamala goes all fan girly upon meeting Wolverine, and though I am not a dog person, I loved Lockjaw.

This continues to be a fun series and I look forward to seeing what (mis)adventures our girl gets into next. Rating: 3 stars.

67. Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral
My thoughts about a quarter way through: I suddenly feel underdressed without a couple of guns slung on my hips.

My Dad is a huge fan of Westerns, so as kids we watched every one at least a handful of times. I grew up knowing all about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral - though I could not have found Arizona on a map, and had to look up the word corral. 

It is often said that history is the tale told by the victors; well, sometimes it can be the tale told due to a very persistent wife. This historical fiction is a tale many of us heard as kids - the one about Wyatt Earp, the super-hero style lawman, and the events leading up to that fateful battle, when only the good remained standing. Well, the facts do not exactly match the mythology, and it was interesting to read some of the back story of the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, and the various women in their lives. 

I am fascinated by the subject matter, but I did not find the book as compelling a read as I expected when I first started it. Many of the characters important to the story play key roles in the book, but I often found them a little too thinly sketched, and interchangeable. The plot itself drags in the middle of the book, and the last several chapters were rather strange, though important to telling (emphasis on that word) about how the mythology was spun. It also turns out that I was more fascinated by the women in this story, and would love to read a book about them. Still, I look forward to meeting the author this weekend at Booktopia, Vermont, and discussing this famous American story. Rating: 3 stars.

June 13, 2015

CY365 | May Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.

143/365 - 052315 #Open #cy365
An open blank page is full of possibilities. Spent a little time sketching after breakfast this morning. #ArtOnTheBoat #art #sketches #artsupplies #sketchbook #draw #watercolorpencils #waterbrush #strathmore

144/365 - 052415 #Evoked #cy365
Our summer home always evokes a smile. I love #sailingseason in #Boston. #boats #sailing #BostonHarbor #nofilter

145/365 - 052615 #Devoted #cy365
One of the really cool things about the Navy Yard is the devotion that the sailors have for these old vessels. #boats #sailingseason #charlestownnavyyard #onmywalktoday

146/354 - 052615 #Finished #cy365
Just need to add some text and the date, and my #sketch for today will be finished. Inspired by #AmyDavis. #artsupplies #sketchbook #strathmore #watercolor #markers #drawing #artjournal

147/365 - 052715 #Arid #cy365
All the rain clouds seem to disintegrate before they get to us, and we really need the rain. The chipmunks are playing in the drizzles from the garden hose. Saw this lovely window box #onmywalktoday. #flowers #urbangarden #nature

148/365 - 052815 #RightNow #cy365
Much cooler down on the water, and it is quite fun watching the fog bank roll in over #Boston. #boats #BostonHarbor #sailingseason

149/364 - 052915 #Twilight #cy365
There is something magical about twilight on the water. Love my summer hood. #sailingseason #BostonHarbor #boats #onmywalktoday #courageoussailingclub

As always, click on photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

June 11, 2015

Cinemascope: The Missing (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 2014.

Plot line: When Tony and Emily Hughes travel to France with their 5-year-old son Oliver, their family holiday turns into a nightmare when Oliver disappears into the crowd of a busy French street.

This eight episode BBC/Starz mini-series follows the aftermath of a child's abduction. The story unfolds wonderfully, and things we know in present day are slowly revealed with flashbacks. I especially loved how the show weaves in the backstory of various characters seamlessly into the narrative. 

You can see the Season 1 trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

June 9, 2015

My Favorite Things: OnBeing Podcast

My Favorite Things is a regular blog post where I will share with you something that currently delights me.

Plot line: On Being with Krista Tippett takes up the big questions with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers — some you know and others you'll love to meet. Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives.

I love listening to podcasts, and this one is an old favorite of mine. The show releases both an edited and unedited version of the interviews, and I tend to listen to both - I pick which one depending on the guest. 

Early this week I finished listening to the unedited version of the one with Pico Iyer: The Art of Stillness. I tell you it felt like a long, cold drink after months in the desert for my being. Another unedited episode I listened to recently was the one with Mary Oliver: Listening to the WorldIt  nourishes me in countless ways to listen to and connect with some of the great thinkers and teachers of our time.

You can get more information and the downloads here. If you have not already listened to it, this is a podcast worth listening to. 

June 8, 2015

Recent Reads

61. Good as Lily
This Young Adult graphic novel is a fun and fast read, and I especially liked that the story focused on a Korean-American girl and her story.

Something strange happened to Grace Kwon on her eighteenth birthday. She runs into (literally) herself at three different ages - specifically at ages six, twenty nine, and seventy. Her life is complicated enough, what with applying to colleges, and trying to save a school play, and now she has to deal with her past and her present selves colliding as well.

Take a moment and think about what would happen if your past and present selves met today. There are so many avenues and themes that this story could have explored, and I was disappointed that it did not delve into any of them. Yes, it is a YA book, but surely teens can deal with more complex themes than this book portrayed no? The black and white illustrations are sketchy and effective. So while not a book I loved, it was refreshing to encounter some diversity in this genre. Rating: 3 stars.

62. Sandrine's Case
This was my book club selection this month, and I am clearly the wrong audience for it. If it had not been for book club, I would have bailed on it about 25 or so pages in.

Sandrine is dead, and her husband is on trial for her murder. But I'm not sure I'd classify this one as a mystery, or even a crime story. It is more an exploration of a long term term relationship, what the people in it know and do not know, and whether any of our relationships could withstand the scrutiny of a trial. 

I have many complaints about the writing, the lack of character development, the lack of emotional credibility, the unclear motivations of the characters, and the sheer tedium of reading a story I cared not one whit about. However, having read to the end, I did find some nuggets that added an extra star to my rating of this book. Rating: 2 stars.

63. Yo, Miss: A Graphic Look At High School
Education is a subject near and dear to my heart, and as a person who taught for a couple of years in an urban school system, I know that whether a student succeeds or not has as much to do with what happens outside the classroom as within it. 

This is graphic memoir of a long time teacher at Wildcat Academy - a school in New York City where students are all considered at-risk, and are given their very last chance at graduating with a high school diploma. I liked the honesty of this book. The author takes an unflinching look at her students, their environments, and the education system, without giving herself a halo or wings. The black and white illustrations work well, though I did have a tough time telling some of the kids apart. 

As a society, the education of kids affects us all, and every parent should feel comfortable having their kids attend any school. If we do not, we might ask ourselves why that is. I'd highly recommend this book to parents, teachers, and anyone interested in education. Rating: 4 stars.

64. The Fifth Gospel
Murder, mystery, Vatican shenanigans, the Shroud of Turin - all of these should be right up my alley, but after 100 pages, I could care less and am bored. So bailing on this one. Oh well. Rating: 1 star.