November 22, 2014

Traveler's Notebook (FauxMidori) - Video

I've made a new refillable travel journal for my trip next week.



If the embedded link does not work, click here.

Links mentioned in the video:
Sri Lanka Journal
Sri Lanka Journal Inserts
DIY Fauxdori

November 20, 2014

Cinemascope: Twenty Feet from Stardom

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: They are the voices behind the greatest Rock, Pop and R&B hits of all time, but no one knows their names. Now in this award-winning documentary, director Morgan Neville shines the spotlight on the untold stories of such legendary background singers as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Claudia Lennear, Judith Hill and more. These are the triumphs and heartbreaks of music's greatest unsung talents, featuring rare behind-the-scenes footage, vintage live performances, and interviews with superstars Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder and Bette Midler.

I do not recall how I stumbled on this one, but it is fab. I had never given a second thought to backup singers, and this documentary is both informative and entertaining. 

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

November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 11.19.14


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

November 17, 2014

Recent Reads

158. Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima
From the book blurb: Barefoot Gen is the powerful, tragic, autobiographical story of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, seen through the eyes of the artist as a young boy growing up in Japan. 

This is book one of a ten part series, and I am delighted that Project Gen has made English translations available. 

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of manga style comics, so have steered away from that whole section of graphic novels. Reading this book has changed my mind, and I plan to browse the manga shelves looking for other gems. 

I first heard about this book while taking the Comic Books and Graphic Novels Coursera class, during an interview with a high school teacher. This is a book targeted for young adults, but would resonate with adult readers as well. I did not love the graphics (manga style as mentioned above), and knew very little of what life was like for the average family in Japan during World War 2. 

The first volume in this series starts in April 1945, and covers the last months of the war. It is the story of one family - the joys, sadness, loss, tragedies, and heartbreak of life in wartime. 

Loved it, and would highly recommend it.  Rating: 5 stars.


159. Draw!
This is a wordless picture book targeted for the 4-8 year old crowd, and while the art is wonderful, there is not enough of a story here. A little boy is stuck in his room with art supplies and a book on African animals. I love how his creative imagination took him on a safari, but there just wasn't enough to think about. My fave part was how he packed his backpack - art supplies, an umbrella, and half a dozen sandwiches. Kinda how I pack my bag too. Granted, this might be perfect for 4 year olds, and that I am not. Rating: 2 stars.

160. The Metamorphosis
One of the things I really like about The Fiction of Relationship Coursera class, is that it moves items on my TBR pile up to the top, and I am delighted to have finally read this famous story. 

Everyone has heard of the key part of this story - a man wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect. What I did not realize is that Kafka is a funny, bizarre, and insightful writer. This short story is a wonderful meditation on one's duty to ones's family, and the universal feelings of inadequacy, guilt, isolation, and alienation we all feel from time to time. Having read a bit of Kafka's biography, it seems to me that this story is autobiographical in nature. Simply wonderful. Rating: 4 stars.


161. The Snow Queen
This is my book club selection this month, and I listened to the audiobook narrated by Claire Danes. 

Here's the thing about Michael Cunningham, I want to like his work more that I actually do. This is the fourth book of his I've tried - really liked the first one (The Hours), but bailed on the second (Specimen Days), and cannot recall how I felt about the third (Land's End). Decided to shake off the Did Not Finish phobia, and was excited to sink my teeth into this one. And you know what? If this had not been for book club, it would have ended up on the DNF pile as well. Darn it.

This novel revolves around two brothers, and the people in their inner circle of partners, lovers, and friends. The brothers are close, and have no secrets from each other. Until they do. What was this story really about? Maybe the search for meaning via drugs and/or religion? I honestly do not know. There is some beautiful writing, and insight into human nature (hence the 2 and not 1 star rating), but ultimately I simply did not care about any of these people, their lives, or their issues. Rating: 2 stars.

November 13, 2014

Cinemascope: Olive Kitteridge

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: “Hell. We’re always alone. Born alone. Die alone,” says Olive Kitteridge, redoubtable seventh-grade math teacher in Crosby, Maine. Anyone who gets in Olive’s way had better watch out, for she crashes unapologetically through life like an emotional storm trooper. She forces her husband, Henry, the town pharmacist, into tactical retreat; and she drives her beloved son, Christopher, across the country and into therapy. But appalling though Olive can be, Strout  manages to make her deeply human and even sympathetic, as are all of the characters in this mini-series.

This HBO mini-series is based on a collection of linked short stories of the same name. I liked the book, but I loved this show. Richard Jenkins, and the rest of the cast are wonderful, but oh my gosh Frances McDormand is simply fantastic.

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

November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 11.12.14


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

November 10, 2014

Recent Reads

154. Bartleby, the Scrivener
From the book blurb: Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1856) is among Herman Melville's most important pieces, and has been considered a precursor to Existentialist and Absurdist literature.

I attempted to read Moby Dick years ago and got sidetracked by the word circumbambulate. What a word! And that was on the first page. Never got back to Moby, though I have been meaning to. Well, the Fiction of Relationship Coursera class has two stories by Melville on the syllabus, and this is one of them.

This old-timey story set in an office is rather absurd. Imagine hiring someone who after a time prefers not to do whatever is asked of him. What is one to do? It is a quick read and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Melville had a sense of humor. Who knew? Rating: 3 stars.


155. Benito Cereno
This short story/novella should have worked for me. Ships, scurvy, slaves, captains, and what I am coming to recognize as Melville's witty insights into human nature. But his writing is like going on a long blue water sail in bad weather, and unfortunately I get seasick. It could just be my mood at this moment when sailing season draws to a close in these parts. Might try again someday. Rating: 1 star.

156. Pride of Baghdad
Book blurb: In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. 

So, just to get it out of the way, you need to know that The Lion King (movie and Broadway production) makes my top ten list of everything awesome. And this graphic novel starts with a very Lion King like feel. Sure these lions are captive and not free, and Zill and Ali are no Mustafa and Simba, but I was taken along for the ride. It reads like a fable, with wonderfully evocative art, and asks philosophical questions about war and freedom. And as we all know, war is hell for everyone involved, especially for those that are "collateral damage". Rating: 3 stars.


157. The Shining
I'm a King fan, who somehow never got around to reading this classic. Yes, I've seen the movie, but seriously, this is the perfect book to read in October in New England, as the air gets crisp and autumn leaves shower you on long walks as you listen to this audiobook wonderfully narrated by Campbell Scott. REDRUM.

This is a really good psychological horror of a read, with well developed characters, good pacing, and a wonderful sense of place. I especially loved the story as told from Danny's point of view. Who cannot relate to how powerless a 5 year old child feels in an adult world? And this child has "the shining". I'll admit to only reading this book during daylight hours. King can spin a yarn like few others. REDRUM.

If you have yet to read it, or want a great audio for your next road trip, try this one out. And if you are a brave soul, read it after the sun sets. I dare you. REDRUM. Rating: 4 stars.

November 9, 2014

Sunday ramblings

A crisp Fall day on tap in the Boston area.  Met up with some MASALA folks for an early brunch at Daedalus in Harvard Square. Did not get a group pic before people left, but did get one with Minai and Lakshmi.


Next up was tea time at the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square with Andrine and Yasha.


The boat has been moved to her winter slip, and there is much to do to get her ready for winter. The new location means that we have different views - this was what sunset liked like through a porthole.


A chilly night indeed, but we are snug as bugs down below.

November 6, 2014

Cinemascope: A Dangerous Method

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


Released in 2011.

Plot line: From acclaimed director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) comes a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery, featuring two of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) has just begun his psychiatric career, having been inspired by the great Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). When a mysterious and beautiful woman (Keira Knightley) goes under Jung’s care, Jung finds himself crossing the line of the doctor/patient relationship, causing great conflict with his mentor and making Jung question his own morality in the process.

This is my second time seeing this movie, and it holds up quite well. I especially like that it is based on a true story, and that there is a woman lead who is an important character in the story. This is an interesting glimpse into the early days of the psychoanalysis movement.

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

November 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 11.05.14


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

November 4, 2014

One Little Word 2014: October - December

And just like that another month is over.

As you might recall, my word for this year is Cultivate. I am taking a more laid back approach to my word this year. Am picking a theme for each month, and then seeing where I end up.

My focus this month was to cultivate a sugarfree lifestyle 

sugarfree 
adjective
free of sugar.

An overall goal I have for this year is living a healthier, more active lifestyle, and so far I've been quite pleased with my efforts. And then it occurred to me that I need to get off the sugar hill. I have spent the past several years educating myself on healthy diets - and by diets I do not mean something you go on to loose a few pounds and then return to status quo - I'm talking about a lifestyle diet. 

The options are overwhelming: paleo, vegan, south beach, atkins, no-carb, etc. And here is my truth: I have actually tried South Beach three or four times over the past several years, and each time I felt fantastic, the weight fell off, I fixed my symptoms of metabolic syndrome. And then over time, I fade back to not paying attention, and I find myself stalled out. And you know the biggest culprit? Sugar. There is lots of research that shows that sugar lights the same parts of our brains as heroin/cocaine does (look it up!), and I've heard Dr. Oz talk about how sugar is like having really sharp razor blades ripping us apart internally. But I have resisted knowing this. A life without sugar cannot be worth living! Besides, a little cannot be all that bad can it? Well, it turns out that sugar is not just in candy and desserts, but is in almost everything processed, and our bodies treat many carbs just like sugar.


And here is what I have finally admitted to myself: My name is Elizabeth, and I am a sugar junkie. And like all junkies, I cannot have just a little bit. Once I take a bite, I get back on the sugar roller coaster ride, and while it is thrilling for a while, my body and mind do not feel so good.

I have now been sugar free for a month. An entire month! Something that would have been inconceivable to me even a couple of months ago. I have learned how to make sweets/treats that do not spike my insulin. And you know what? I have never felt so good. My mind has never been so clear. The excess weight is falling off. And after the first several days of detoxing, my cravings have completely disappeared. This is so important to me that I have decided that it will be my focus for the rest of this year.

Are you sugarfree or thinking about it? How do you do it?

November 3, 2014

Recent Reads

150. Song of Myself
I'm not a fan of poetry, and am convinced that I must have had so awful a teacher that I have blocked the entire endeavor from my mind. Though it could just be me. Maybe poems have more meaning as one gets older. Whatever the real reason, I decided to rectify this gap in my education by taking the MODERN & CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY class offered by Coursera. And I am smitten. 

I have read this poem by Whitman in parts and in its entirety several times. I have listened to a wonderful reading of it by James Earl Jones on an early morning walk. There are parts that I think I get, parts that I know I do not, and parts that simply take my breath away. This is one I can see going back to again and again. Rating: 4 stars.


151. Kill My Mother
From the book blurb: Kill My Mother centers on five formidable women from two unrelated families, linked fatefully and fatally by a has-been, hard-drinking private detective. 

I found this a confusing graphic novel, partly because I simply could not tell the women apart. While I really liked the sketchy artwork, the story was too choppy for my tastes. Rating: 2 stars.


152. The Sparrow
I listened to the audiobook version narrated by David Colacci.

I am a person who wants there to be life out there. Among billions and billions of planets, we cannot be the only one with sentient life forms. And I love first contact stories - even the real ones that take place on Earth.

Sometime in the near future, Earth picks up alien music transmissions, and a team is put together to go investigate. This religious science fiction story is told as two narratives. There is the present day timeline where we get to meet the characters, get ready for the mission, and have first contact, and the future timeline in which a team of Jesuits try to understand how the mission went disastrously wrong by interviewing Father Emilio Sandoz the only surviving member of the team.

I've discovered that Jesuits and Aliens is a sweet spot genre for me. The writing is good, the characters are well developed, and the mystery and suspense created by the two timelines works well. There is rather much more theology than science in this story, but I quite liked the exploration of the inner human psyche as contrasted to the exploration of alien worlds. The team gathered for the mission are all immensely likable (however unlikely that such a team would actually be selected), and if you can gloss over parts that seem rather too conveniently contrived this is an enjoyable read. Rating: 4 stars.


153. Local
Book blurb: A collection of twelve interconnected short stories. Crossing genres as it crosses the country, Local examines Megan McKeenan, a young woman who sets off from Portland, OR with nothing but a backpack and a bad case of wanderlust. Each emotional vignette is a self-contained story that represents one year in the life of this young vagabond as she struggles to find a place to call home, both physically and spiritually.

I'm not usually a fan of short stories, and though some of these stories were better than others, I really liked this graphic novel collection. The black and white art is fantastic, and wonderfully illustrates the mood and place of each story. What links these stories together is Megan - sometimes she is a really minor character - and each story represents one year in her life. 

My only complaint about this collection is that it could have explored the themes of loss, travel, family, community, and identity on a deeper level, and that final story was a little too tidy in my opinion - talk about putting a bow on it! Still this is really good (but it could have been great, darn it). Rating: 4 stars.

November 2, 2014

Celebrating Michele

We helped a friend celebrate a birthday recently, and since I had not created a layout in a long time, decided to put those rusty skills to work.

(Click on image to view larger)

This 8x10 layout was done using Photoshop Elements and these freebie supplies: Flower element by Jessica and  4x6 collage templates by Liz.

October 30, 2014

Boston Book Festival 2014

October is a fabulous time to be in Boston. There is just so much going on, and one of my fave things is the Boston Book Festival, which took place last weekend. There are so many events with wonderful authors, but honestly my fave thing is being surrounded by people who love reading. The Kids' Keynote was given by Rick Riordan, and the lines went around the block. It made me so happy to see so many excited kids there. The History Keynote was given by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and though I really wanted to see her, I opted out of the long, long lines. Here are the sessions I attended, and got to be in the front row for each one! As always click on photos to view larger.

First session of the day: Fiction with a Twist




Blurb: Thrillers, romances, and fantasy novels have always been segregated from so-called literary fiction on bookstore and library shelves. These days, however, even serious (and seriously successful) authors are embracing genre fiction. Bestselling YA author Lauren Oliver’s first foray into adult fiction is the ghost story Rooms. Ben Mezrich, best known for nonfiction like Bringing Down the House, offers a cinematic worldwide adventure in his novel Seven Wonders. And William Giraldi takes readers to the frozen north in his atmospheric thriller Hold the Dark. What brings these authors to explore new genres? Do they just offer a fun diversion, or are they breaking down barriers between literary categories? Robin Young, co-host of Here & Now on WBUR and NPR, will lead a discussion of these questions and more.


Photo: William Giraldi, Lauren Oliver, Ben Mezrich and Robin Young. Such a great panel discussion.

Second session of the day: South Asian Authors: Impact Across Genres


Blurb: The authors in this session write high-impact works spanning a range of subjects and genres. Vikas Swarup’s novel Q & A became the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, while his latest, The Accidental Apprentice, is also slated to be adapted for film. Vikram Chandra’s latest novel is the thriller Sacred Games; his most recent book, Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty, explores the connections between technology and the art of writing. Journalist Geeta Anand’s nonfiction work, The Cure, about a father’s race to find a cure for the disease afflicting his two children, became the film Extraordinary Measures starring Harrison Ford. Ulka Anjaria, who teaches South Asian literature and film at Brandeis, will lead the wide-ranging conversation with these fascinating, multi-talented authors. Sponsored by the South Asian Arts Council.
(Due to travel complications, Vikas Swarup will be unable to join us for this session.)

Photo: Vikram Chandra, Geeta Anand and Ulka Anjaria talked about fiction and nonfiction in India and abroad.

Third session of the day:My Memoir, My Quest


Blurb: Each of the panelists here writes of a quest for self-discovery, a search for a deeper understanding of a subject with lasting, lifelong impact, or both. In My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead unpacks the many ways that nineteenth-century novelist George Eliot influenced her own life and career. Max Tegmark, in in Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, reveals his theory of how mathematics explains the cosmos while also sharing the triumphs and setbacks of his own life in science. Joanna Rakoff, in My Salinger Year, reflects on a defining year spent answering J. D. Salinger’s fan mail. Moderated by by Ethan Gilsdorf, author of the memoir/pop culture investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Sponsored by May K. Houghton.


Photo: Entertaining and informative panel discussion by Rebecca Mead, Max Tegmark, Joanna Rakoff and Ethan Gilsdorf.


Fourth session of the day: Fiction: Another Country


Blurb: The authors in this session use the whole globe as a canvas for their recent fiction.Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is set amid the singular landscape and complex social milieu of Dubai. In Euphoria, winner of the 2014 New England Book Award, Lily King charts a passionate love triangle among anthropologists working in 1930s New Guinea. And in Secrecy, Rupert Thomsonexplores issues of power, religion, and art while taking readers deep into Florence’s Medici court. Their engrossing discussion will be moderated by James Wood, book critic for the New Yorker.
 

Photo: The Joseph O'Neil, Lily King, Rupert Thomson and James Wood panel was a fab way to end a wonderful day.

If you have yet to check out the Boston Book Festival, you must go. Put it in your calendar for next October.

October 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 10.29.14


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

October 28, 2014

Journal page

I started with a white watercolor page that already had the purple stenciled image on it. This was done using leftover acrylic paint and an alphabet stencil. Decided to sketch the face, and then color in the hair, clothes and background with Sharpie Flip Chart markers. I quite like how this page turned out.

(Click on image to view larger)

Mixed media in my large single signature art journal.

October 27, 2014

Recent Reads

146. Matilda
My 9 year old nephew, Jonah, told me the other day that this is one of the best books he has ever read. How can one pass up that kind of recommendation?

Having never read any books by Roald Dahl, and knowing how much he is beloved by kids and adults alike, I decided to start reading my way through his works with this one. It is hard not to love little Matilda, and her love of books and knowledge. She is an exceptional girl from an unexceptional family, and if that were not enough, she has to face Miss Trunchbull when she starts school. Thanks goodness for Ms. Honey. 

I can certainly see why my nephew loved this story of a young child who was able to get back at the adults who made her life miserable, and I quite enjoyed my time with Matilda, even though some of the melodrama seemed rather over the top. But then again, this is written for the middle grade reader, so the more drama the better I suppose. I listened to the audiobook which was wonderfully narrated by Kate Winslet. Rating: 3 stars.


147. Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim
I am not a fan of cutesy animals, but do like the whimsical quality of the author's art. This book has projects using various techniques and materials to help you to draw and paint animals that might have gone gone extinct due to natural selection processes. Rating: 2 stars.

148. How the World Was: A California Childhood
Book blurb: In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend's graphic biography. Alan's War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope's experiences as an American GI in France during World War II.

Telling someone's biography in Comics form is an interesting choice, and this form captures a sense of emotion that would be harder to do in prose. The art is fantastic, and wonderfully atmospheric, but I was not really interesting in the biography of this person. The telling seemed like snippets of memory, place and time, and not a point to point narrative one would except with a biography, and was too fragmented for my tastes. However, this book is worth getting your hands on to simply gaze at the artwork. Rating: 2 stars.


149. An Age of License: A Travelogue
I keep travel journals while on on the road, and love travelogues of any kind. In this graphic memoir, the author records her experiences while on a European trip in 2011 that involves some business, lots of pleasure, delicious food and wine, and enough angst to make one's hair curl. 

I guess this book would fall into the "New Adult" genre. The publisher touts it as the Eat, Pray, Love for the GIRLS generation, and I would agree with that, sans the Pray part. My complaint with this book is that it does not dive deep, but snorkels on the surface of the author's emotional life. I did love the watercolors and sketches, and I think this might really appeal to 20 somethings. Rating: 2 stars.

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

Boston MASALA

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!

23!

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.