December 31, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 12.31.14

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December 30, 2014

My Favorite Things: Serial Podcast (Season 1)

I love the Sound of Music. The movie. The play (in which I was Max in a school production). The songs. So the title is an homage. This will be a new addition to my blog where I will share something that currently delights me.

Released in Fall 2014.

Plot line: It's Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he's innocent - though he can't exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she’s nowhere to be found.

Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. And we won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it's important to listen to the episodes in order, starting with Episode 1.

I have loved listening to this first season of Serial, and have often binge listened. I love the idea of a story that slowly unfolds every week. This is an example of using podcasts in a new and wonderful way. 

You can get more information and the downloads here. If you have not already listened to it, this is a podcast worth listening to. And if like me you are exhibiting Serial withdrawal symptoms, you'll find this SNL spoof entertaining. Cannot wait for Season 2.

December 29, 2014

Recent Reads

181. Light in August
My first Faulkner, and it will not be my last. Holy smokes can this guy write. This is not an easy read, nor is it a fast one, but it is well worth the time. The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Scott Brick, and while at first the slow pacing was annoying, I came to realize that he is the perfect reader for this story. You need to move slowly. You need to feel the heat, and the dust, and take your time getting to know the characters in this story. You need to get sucked in, one breath at a time. 

What is this story about? Well, in one word: Life. Set in the 1920s American South, there are the expected racial tensions, but Faulkner is not happy with easy answers, and will not let you think you know all there is to know. The people in this novel are wonderfully (and sometimes horribly) fleshed out, and you are swept along, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, as you observe people in the fullness of their flaws, prejudices, demons, and humanity. 

You know that feeling after you eat a wonderful meal? That is how I feel. Absolutely wonderful. I docked a star, not through any fault of the author, but because my mind sometimes wandered. Would have probably been a 5 star rating for the print/ebook format. Rating: 4 stars.

182. The Girl and the Bicycle
I love wordless picture books because the words don't get in the way of a good story. Not only that, but each time you "read" it, you get a slightly different story. This picture book for young readers is pretty straight forward in terms of the story line and has lovely illustrations. Rating: 3 stars.

183. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons
This novella by King was the inspiration for the fantastic movie The Shawshank Redemption. If you have yet to see it you must rectify that asap. 

I've been distracted as I prepared for an upcoming trip, and found that nothing was holding my interest. Whenever that happens, I invariably end up on King's stoop. He hardly ever disappoints, and he does not this time either. A fast and engrossing read set in a prison in Maine. Rating: 4 stars.

184. Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
This is book #2 in the All Souls Trilogy, and it picks up exactly where book #1 ends. The witch Diana, and her paramour vampire Matthew, time travel back to London circa 1590. The plan is to find a witch to help Diana figure out how to use her magical powers, and to see if they can get their hands on that mysterious book. We are introduced to a fun cast of characters including Elizabeth 1 (yes, that one), Christopher Marlowe, etc. I liked how Diana comes more into herself in this volume, but as in in the first book, I think this would have been a much tighter story if entire sections has been edited out. Still, I liked it enough that I'll probably read the final book in the trilogy before too long. Rating: 3 stars.

December 28, 2014

My fave places in Ann Arbor

A trip to A2 is not complete without a visit to my fave haunts. One is Zingerman's Roadhouse.

The food is delish, and I love that the drive through window is an airstream trailer. How cool is that?

Local color that is fun, and the strange thing is that many of the patrons look related. Must be a mid-west thing.

Another fave haunt is in Kerrytown, and that would be Hollander's, my one stop shop for beautiful papers and book binding supplies.

It has always been a wish of mine to attend one of their workshops, but I'm never in town for one I'm interested in taking. Am thinking that I might have to plan a trip to A2 around their schedule next time.

Seriously, these pics do not do justice to the sumptuous papers, so if you are ever in the area, drop in for a visit. Just beware that you might walk out with a lighter wallet than you intended.

As always, click on images to view larger.

December 26, 2014

Doggie in the window

How much is the doggie in the window?

Today I saw a Lassie kind of dog in a shop window, lying on a bed of keys. If this inspires you to write a short story or a poem, you are welcome.

December 25, 2014

My fave present this holiday season

The past six weeks have been rather stressful for my family.  My Dad was scheduled for open heart surgery, and at 77 years of age, we were all naturally worried about the procedure.

The surgery on Dec 10 went without a hitch,  and a week later my Dad was discharged on schedule to a rehabilitation center. He has been there for over a week, and expects to be back home by the end of this week. He has good days and tough days, but has been recovering really well. Seeing his face and those of my beautiful nieces is the best present I could have gotten this holiday season.

December 24, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 12.24.14

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December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays

Can you even believe that another year is almost over? Where the heck does the time go?

I hope you've been very nice (and a little bit naughty) this year. Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday season.

December 22, 2014

Recent Reads

177. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History
The author used to be a sales rep and bookseller, and this little book is a collection of essays, part memoir, part history, of the book industry. And I wanted to love it. It should have been right up my alley - books, history of books, insider information on the publishing industry, etc. The first couple of essays were interesting, but I find that after I put the book down, I am reluctant to pick it up again. There is something about this collection that does not work for me. It's not that the writing is bad, or that the history is not interesting, but after 100 pages it still did not grab me. 

It has lines like this: The most important qualification of all, however, is that the book be compelling enough to to draw the reader into the erotic space of reading, where the mind is enflamed and the body in repose. Well, my body was in repose, but alas my mind was not enflamed. Rating: 2 stars.

178. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
An excerpt from the author's note at the end of the book: The girl sitting quietly in class or waiting for the bus or roaming the mall doesn't want anyone to know, or doesn't know how to tell anyone, that she is locked in a tower. Maybe she's a prisoner of a story she's heard all her life - that fairest means best, or that bruises prove she is worthy of love. But here's the great thing about stories: They can be retold.

I read fairy tales as a kid, and you know what always annoyed me? The fact that boys got to do all the cool stuff, and have adventures, while the girls were damsels in distress, and simply waited for some guy (granted he was Prince Charming) to come save them. So, so unfair. 

This slim volume is a collection of feminist poetry interspersed with surreal photographs targeted at a young adult audience. As with all collections, I liked some better than others, but overall I loved the honest and unflinching look at fairytales juxtaposed against issues faced by so many girls of all ages. This collection would be a wonderful gift for teen girls, and yes boys too. Rating: 4 stars.

179. A Life Force (The Contract With God Trilogy #2)
This is Volume #2 in the Contract with God Trilogy, and unlike the first book in the series, this one is a collection of linked stories - the characters all interact with each other over the course of the book. The depression years were a bleak time for many, maybe especially for the immigrant residents of Dropsie Avenue. People struggle to make ends meet, and as with all bad times, there are those who make/find opportunities to make a killing (literally and figuratively). 

This volume tells the story through the stock market crash and the harsh winter of 1934. A very unsettled time indeed, which brings with it generational issues as many of the young see things differently than their elders. While I loved the art, there was a bit too much text/newspaper clipping style pages for my taste. Still, a historical graphic novel that is well worth the read. Rating: 3 stars.

180. The Empathy Exams: Essays
How would you define empathy? Do you think of yourself as an empathetic person? Does a person's pain/suffering have to be "real" to invoke empathy? Do you think empathy is innate, or is it something that can be taught? Such great ideas to ponder right?

My book club read this collection of essays this month with mixed reviews. The author is clearly a talented writer, but it seems to me that in order to get her on the radar of the average reader, this book was pulled together with a collection of her previously published and new work.

The first two essays in this collection are wonderfully thought provoking, and if the book had ended there, it would have gotten 5 stars. The problem is that it was followed by other essays, many of which I simply did not care for, or even understand the point the author was making in regards to the theme of empathy. There is some great writing throughout however, and I would highly recommend reading the first two essays in this collection, but be warned that the rest are somewhat choppy. Rating: 3 stars.

December 21, 2014

Road Trip to Ann Arbor, MI

We are headed to A2 for the holidays.  I love road trips, and this time we decided to stop overnight in Buffalo, NY. It is always interesting to see what the dining options are in a new town.

This was our best option. Almost missed it as I thought it was a car lube place.

They have interesting details like this door handle to the bathrooms.

It is hard to concentrate on the football game when there is a car flying overhead.

Travel Journal Art Supplies (Video)

Here is a video of the journaling art supplies I took with me on my recent trip to Las Vegas.

If the embedded link does not work, click here.

Links mentioned in the video:
Traveler's Notebook (Fauxdori)

December 20, 2014

Pico Iyer: The art of stillness (Video)

A reminder of something we already know, and yet often forget. Especially important during the holiday season I think.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

December 18, 2014

Cinemascope: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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: For Steve Rogers, awakening after decades of suspended animation involves more than catching up on pop culture; it also means that this old school idealist must face a world of subtler threats and difficult moral complexities. That comes clear when Director Nick Fury is killed by the mysterious assassin, the Winter Soldier, but not before warning Rogers that SHIELD has been subverted by its enemies. When Rogers acts on Fury's warning to trust no one there, he is branded as a traitor by the organization. Now a fugitive, Captain America must get to the bottom of this deadly mystery with the help of the Black Widow and his new friend, The Falcon. However, the battle will be costly for the Sentinel of Liberty, with Rogers finding enemies where he least expects them while learning that the Winter Soldier looks disturbingly familiar.

I've watched my share of dark movies this year, so this was a delightful change of pace. It is a fun movie - action packed with people with nice bods. And while the special effects are great, it also has a plot - what a novel idea! This is a sequel, and I have yet to watch the first one, but that did in no way diminish my enjoyment

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

December 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 12.17.14

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December 16, 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 my hand as a simple stencil and Sharpie Flip Chart markers in large cheapo journal.

December 15, 2014

Recent Reads

174. Barefoot Gen, Volume Two: The Day After
Book blurb: Barefoot Gen's autobiographical story - author Keiji Nakazawa was only seven years old when the atomic bomb hit his hometown of Hiroshima - tells of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary situations, both in the last days of World War II and after the nuclear attack. Volume 1 told the story of the days before the dropping of the bomb; this entry describes the devastation and chaos following the blast.

This is book two of a ten part series targeted at a teen audience, and picks up right where the first one left off. The entire volume recounts the day after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. As I said in my review of book one, I'm not a fan of these old-timey manga style comics, but in reading this book the art provided some much needed relief for my mind. This is not an easy story to read. The author captures the death toll, destruction, madness, physical and psychological damage, and grief of the survivors in an unflinching manner. For you dystopia fans, I'd recommend skipping the fiction and read about the effects of this real dystopia that happened in the not too distant past. War is hell, but I guess we have yet to learn that lesson. 

I plan to read this entire series, but need some space and time before I can even bring myself to read the next installment. Rating: 5 stars.

175. Seven Wonders
I was in the mood for a thriller, and had recently heard the author talk about this book at the Boston Book Festival, so picked it up. The premise sounded good: archaeological thriller with murder, secrets, history and the seven wonders (ancient and modern). And oh yes, Amazons, those women warriors of mythology. Sounds great right? Unfortunately not. The writing is so dang bad, that after 60 pages, I've decided to return it to the library stacks. Still looking for a fast paced thriller .... Rating: 1 star.

176. The Princess Bride
Book blurb: What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

I saw the movie many, many years ago and recall enjoying it, so thought I'd give the book a try. The first half is fantastic - so tongue in cheek that I found myself smiling every couple of paragraphs. Me smiling while reading a book? That has not happened in ages, and is precisely why I picked this one up. I needed some fun reading. Unfortunately, the second half did not hold up as well. Yes, there were still some fun tidbits, but I found myself getting bored with the story. And what happens at Level 5? Was that really necessary to this narrative? And do not get me started on Buttercup! Still, a different twist on a fairy tale that has some original and fun writing. Rating: 3 stars.

December 11, 2014

Cinemascope: The Normal Heart

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: Directed by Emmy® Award winner Ryan Murphy and written by Academy Award® nominee Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Based on Kramer’s Tony Award® winning play of the same name, it takes an unflinching look at the nation’s sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fight to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial. An ensemble of searing performances featuring Academy Award® nominee Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Emmy® winner Jim Parsons, and Academy Award® winner Julia Roberts.

I loved the book And The Band Played On, and the movie of the same name. This HBO movie covers those same early days of the AIDS epidemic in the US from the New York angle. Heartbreaking story with a great ensemble cast. 

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

December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 12.10.11

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December 9, 2014

Journal page

I've been on a graphic novel kick this year, and I love the exposure to diverse artistic styles.

It is always fun to quickly sketch some of the art in my journal, to get a sense of how the artist captured an expression or mood.

As always, click on images to view larger. These were done with pen and markers in my large cheapo journal. You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

December 8, 2014

Recent Reads

170. A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (The Contract With God Trilogy #1)
This is the first book in The Contract With God Trilogy, and is considered to be the first graphic novel. I am reading a wonderful edition, one that collects the entire trilogy, with an introduction by the author, and some new art.

A Contract with God contains four short stories, all examining various characters and life on Dropsie Avenue in the Bronx, a primarily Jewish neighborhood. In the title story a young Russian Jew escaping the progroms finds heartbreak in his new country, and in his grief rejects his contract with God. This poignant story is based on the death of the author's child.

The three other stories all deal with other people in the hood. There is the street singer who serenades the people in the tenements. There are people who go away on vacation in search of love, or if not love, at least a match with someone of better circumstances. And there is the story of the building superintendent, which unfurled in an unexpected manner.

Ordinary people with complicated lives wonderfully captured. Originally published in 1978, the beautiful art, and stories of a place and time still resonate today. Rating: 4 stars.

171. Quest
This wordless picture book is a sequel to JOURNEY, and I'd recommend "reading" that one first.

In this story, a boy and a a girl are sheltering under a bridge, when a door bursts open. A king emerges, hands them some a map, and other artifacts, then he is immediately hauled away by soldiers before they can talk to him. What happens next is a flight of fantasy, and while the art is lovely, I did not like this story as much. There was not the sense of magic, mystery, and adventure as in the first book.  Rating: 2 stars.

Book blurb: In 1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark set out on an expedition to explore the uncharted American frontier. This is the story of the monsters they discovered lurking in the wilds... Collects MANIFEST DESTINY #1-6.

I love travel and adventure stories, and had fun reading this alternative version of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There be monsters indeed. This series has great potential, and my complaint about this volume is that it does not quite live up to it. The art is fantastic, but the characters are rather one dimensional, the dialogue rather stilted, and it is actually hard to tell the men apart. Thanks goodness for the appearance of Sacagawea - though she kinda has a Xena Warrior Princess vibe. Still, I enjoyed the read, and the clever premise, and will keep my fingers crossed for better writing in future installments. Rating: 3 stars.

Book blurb: On a Halloween night, eight boys are led on an incredible journey into the past by the mysterious "spirit" Moundshroud. Riding a dark autumn wind from ancient Egypt to the land of the Celtic druids, from Mexico to a cathedral in Paris, they will witness the haunting beginnings of the holiday called Halloween.

I listened to the audiobook book wonderfully narrated by Bronson Pinchot. Is this my first Bradbury (I heard that gasp), yes I do believe it is. This novel is targeted at a young adult audience, and is a fun read for the season. Traditions are often touted as oh so important, when in reality most people have no idea about the history/reason for those cherished traditions. This story explores the traditions and stories that surround Halloween. The writing is good and often poetic. This is a fun romp through time, history and culture. Trick or treat baby! Rating: 3 stars.

December 4, 2014

Cinemascope: Flawless

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

Released in 1999.

Plot line: An ultraconservative police officer suffers a debilitating stroke and is assigned to a rehabilitative program that includes singing lessons - with the drag queen next door.

I watched this movie again recently, and while it is a little dated and campy, it still has some of the best performances in movies I've seen in ages.  Robert De Niro is good, but Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the limelight in every shot.

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

December 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 12.3.14

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December 2, 2014

Chicago O'Hare

So, the plane I was originally scheduled to be on had a mechanical problem, and the flight was delayed by 4 hours. Got re-routed via Chicago with a 3 hour later arrival in Boston. However, there is an earlier flight that I'm on standby for .... Keeping my fingers crossed.
In the meanwhile am delighted at some of the facilities now available at airports.  Have never seen this one before.

The holidays are less than a month away, so fun to see some of the decorations.

Leaving Las Vegas

As much as I love traveling, it is quite wonderful to be heading home.

December 1, 2014

Recent Reads

166. Bad Feminist: Essays
In the midst of reading this book, I tweeted this: Reading an essay or two from Bad Feminist by @rgay when I awake calibrates my anger to just the right level for the day.

Ms. Gay is fast becoming one of my fave author/thinker/feminist. I want her to be my BFF, so I can tease her mercilessly for her penchant for bad TV shows and Sweet Valley High love.

What is this collection of essays about? Well, everything really: TV shows, gender, movies, politics, social media, women, men, society, books, music, sexism, racism, Scrabble. No, that's not all, I'm simply tired of typing. Just read it for yourself. This collection is a thought provoking critique of our society today. Not all the essays are fab, but they are all worth reading and pondering.

This collection of essays is going to make you angry, and if you are already angry, it'll make you angrier, and if you are not already angry and you are woman, check your pulse. I would not recommend reading this collection in one or even two sittings. Give yourself time for your blood pressure to return to normal for a few hours before reading the next one.
  Rating: 5 stars.

167. Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything
Maira Kalman brings her signature artistic style and wit to this biography of Thomas Jefferson targeted at the very young reader. I am a fan of Jefferson, and Maira captures a balanced portrayal of both his greatness and his flaws. While reading this one, I was reminded of my visit to Monticello last year, a place well worth a visit. Rating: 3 stars.

168. To the Lighthouse
The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Remember how I said she was going to read all the classics to me? Thought I was kidding did you? I was not.

As far as I can recall, this is the first book I've read by Virginia Woolf, and it popped to the top of my TBR pile as assigned reading for the Fiction of Relationship Coursera class I'm taking this Fall. 

This is a story told in three parts, and the writing is luminous throughout. I loved Part One. The cast of characters are delightful. The random stream of consciousness and scenes captured fun. And Mrs. Ramsay. I think I've got a crush on Mrs. Ramsay. Part Two is wonderful at capturing the atmosphere of an empty house, and has some of the best writing I've ever read about loss, and the passage of time. Then we get to Part Three, and I'm not sure what point the author was making. Is it that you might not be around to see an idea come to fruition, but others you have inspired will? I honestly do not know, and I am so glad to have a series of lectures to help educate me.

Still, a book worth reading, and I am sure it will not be the last book I'll read by Ms. Woolf. Rating: 3 stars.

169. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
I've been patiently waiting for all the books to be published before starting this first book in the All Souls Trilogy. Vampires, Witches and Daemons Oh My. I should have loved this book. It is right in my sweet spot.

The planet is populated with four sentient beings - humans, witches, vampires and daemons - and there are strict rules about how the creatures must behave so as not to attract human attention. And after a history of witch burning and vampire hunts, who can blame them for wanting to keep a low profile? Enter Diana Bishop. She is no ordinary witch, but the offspring of two powerful witch genealogies. While doing some research, she finds a long lost book. One that all the creatures want. One that might explain everything. And if that were not enough to put her in danger, she finds herself attracted to a vampire, and cross species liaisons are forbidden. Supernatural beings, a book mystery, and an interesting exploration of evolutionary biology. See what I mean? My sweet spot. 

Now, I'll admit that Anne Rice set the vampire and witch genre bar really high, and the vampires in this story do not sparkle - that would have been a non starter - but while I liked the story, it would have benefited from tighter editing. There were too many tangents that did not add to the story line. Also, I am not a fan of romance novels - paranormal or otherwise - and there was more than a whiff of that. Another issue is that when an author starts out to write a trilogy, they have 600 x 3 pages or so to fill, and there is a lot of filler stuff. This would have been a much tighter story if it had been a standalone novel. 

Still, it is a good debut novel, and the 600 or so pages are a quick and fun read. I plan to read the next book in the trilogy hoping that the writing is better and the editing tighter. Rating: 3 stars.

November 30, 2014

Desert Sunrise

I love early mornings, and have been getting in long walks every morning while here in Las Vegas. Vegas is in the midst of a fabulous weather window - mild and sunny days with cool nights. Here is the view of sunrise during my walk this morning. No filter.

November 29, 2014

Ain't your grandmamma's Monopoly

You learn something new everyday, and today I learned about the Electronic Banking version of Monopoly.

Seriously people, how have I not heard about this before? No more paper money, and all the prices are adjusted for the 21st century - though the sheer number of million of dollars I flung around today was a little unnerving. Spent several fun hours today in cutthroat play with my nieces.

November 26, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 11.26.14

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November 25, 2014

Journaling at 30,000 feet

A quick photo of my tray table journaling station. I have some basic supplies with me - pens, watercolor pencils a water brush,  some washi style tape, a couple of stencils, and of course my new journal.

November 24, 2014

Vegas Bound

Starting my trip to Las Vegas on a warm and rainy Monday morning. Expected horrendous traffic, so gave myself lots of extra time. Thank goodness for the HOV lane - shaved at least 30 minutes off the trip in.

Love the art installation trend at airports. 

These are parts of an underwater sculpture by Chris Williams at Logan Terminal B.

Recent Reads

162. The Giver
I've had this on my TBR for ages, and wanted to read it before seeing the movie adaptation. 

Targeted at the young adult reader, this is an interesting story about what we gain and what we lose when we give up the messiness of what it means to be human. This is a dystopian novel of sorts - though without an apocalypse trigger. Everyone has assigned roles, everyone is the same, everyone knows what is expected of them, everyone is safe. Until they are not. Our glimpse into this community is through the eyes of 12 year old Jonas. At 12, all kids gets assigned their roles for life, but Jonas does not get assigned a role, he gets selected to be The Receiver. What this means, and the consequences of "sameness" changes his life.

This is a fast read, and being an adult reader, I found it rather predictable as I knew things that Jonas did not know as of yet. I quite liked the exploration of what we gain and what we lose in a color blind and amnesiac world. I plan to read the next book in the series to see where the author takes this story. Rating: 3 stars.

163. Prom
Book blurb: The high school prom is an American tradition, a rite of passage, and one of the most important rituals of youth in this country. The internationally recognized documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark took on the extraordinary challenge of working with the Polaroid 20x24 Land camera to produce this fascinating look at dozens of young people from a diverse range of backgrounds on this memorable night in their lives.

Having not grown up in the States, the only prom I attended was my college one, and I find that there is something precious, and fleeting, and captivating about high school proms. Maybe it is that these kids are on the cusp of the rest of their lives. Maybe it is because at that age, many wear their hopes and dreams and fears right out there for everyone to see. These 127 large-format, black and white photographs are a wonderful window into the souls of these kids at the very brink of adulthood. 

Note: This book comes with a DVD of a film with the same title that the photographer's husband produced featuring interviews with the students. I have yet to watch it. Rating: 4 stars.

164. Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006
This is a collection of the author's cartoons and covers her work from 1978 to 2006. That is a huge span of time, and while this is a good introduction to her body of work for someone like me who had not read her standalone cartoons, it suffers for the same reason that most collected works do. There are sublime pieces, really funny ones, and ones that were simply meh. Some of the things that go on in her head made me laugh out loud, but overall I did not love this collection. Still, 3 stars means I liked it, and think it is worth a read. Rating: 3 stars.

165. Seconds
This graphic novel is targeted for a teen audience and is quite a fun read. 

Katie is a 20-something talented chef with a successful restaurant. She has plans to open a bigger, better one, when suddenly things go awry. Who does not have moments that we wish we could do over again? Well, Katie is given a second chance. All she has to do is:

1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew

And viola! you get a do-over. A Mulligan. But as we all know, magic does not come without strings attached, and Katie gets addicted to do-overs. If she can make her life better, can she take it a step further and make it perfect? Do-over junkie Katie spirals out of control. Will she stop before it is too late? Rating: 3 stars.

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

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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.