May 31, 2014

iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay

Photographer iO Tillett Wright grew up between genders and sexualities. She's shot 2,000 people who consider themselves somewhere on the LBGTQ spectrum and asked many: can they assign a percentage to how gay or straight they are? Most people consider themselves to exist in the grey areas of sexuality, which presents a real problem when it comes to discrimination. Because where do you draw the line?

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

May 30, 2014

Journal page

As I mentioned last week, I've filled up my little writing/sketch journal and started one in a larger size. 8.5 x 11 inches to be exact. Same brand, means I have the same issues with the paper: it buckles with wet media, and text shows through, but am having fun playing in the larger format.

Here are the first two pages in the journal. Well, actually the last page in the journal and the first. I did the last page first to see how the paper would handle watercolors. As you can see, it is not too bad if the painted areas are small.

(Click on image to view larger)

That dreaded first page. Well, since I had already broken in the journal by testing out the last page, this one was easier. For some reason, there is always pressure on that first pristine page. I did a quick sketch, then jotted down some thoughts on starting a new journal. 

(Click on image to view larger)

As you can see, there is alot more buckling with larger watercolor washes. But I've made my peace with it. And after I turn the page, that dreaded first page is behind me.

How is your art/writing/sketching practice going? 
Thanks for stopping by.

May 29, 2014

Cinemascope: Mr. Selfridge (Season 1 & 2)

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

Released 2013/2014.

Plot line: Much like the department store it depicts, Mr. Selfridge presents a sumptuous display of gorgeous clothing, magnificent hairstyles, and enviable period decor. Jeremy Piven (Entourage) stars as bluff, driven Harry Selfridge, who arrives in London at the start of the 20th century determined to launch a modern retail empire, promoting the notion of shopping as a pleasure unto itself. The series explores the cultural shifts of the time--the rise of advertising, women's emancipation, and more--while following a sudsy series of affairs and scandals among the store's staff, as well as the marital turmoil of Selfridge himself. Most engaging is a young clerk, Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), who's torn between a handsome waiter at the store's restaurant and the dashing French window decorator Henri Leclair (Grégory Fitoussi), who also woos Agnes for her creative contributions to his designs. Unfortunately, the series' writing isn't as enticing as its fabrics; the recurring financial crises and romantic travails never seem to amount to much real emotion or suspense, and the characters never take on much dimension. Piven, who you'd think would be perfect for the role, is oddly leaden and never seems to have much of a fire within for business or sex. His best scenes capture moments of doubt; his brash facade doesn't have much charisma, but when his smile loses its plastic cheer, it's hard not to sympathize with his failing confidence. However, for anyone who's lusted after the outfits in Downton Abbey and other Edwardian dramas, Mr. Selfridge will be a feast for the eyes. (via Bret Fetzer)

I love period shows, and quite enjoyed watching this one. I especially like that the women characters are not mere cardboard cutouts moving about the set.

You can see the  Season 2 trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.

May 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 05.28.14

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May 27, 2014

Foggy morning

The fog rolls in and the temps on the water drops. Time to find a sweatshirt. Love sailing season in Boston.

May 26, 2014

Recent Reads

65. stART Journaling: An Art Journaling Workbook
This book is a complication of techniques from other books, but since I had already read the books it draws from, there was nothing new in this one for me. I really wish that the publisher noted somewhere that this is a complication of previously published works. This is also my second book from this publisher with blank "worksheet" pages, something else I dislike. I have my own blank paper thank you. If however you are staring at a blank page in your journal wondering how to begin, this might give you some ideas to get started.  Rating: 1 star.

66. The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner #1)
This is the first book in the Maze Runner trilogy for young adults, and I picked it up for two reasons:
1. I'm doing a read-along with my 11 year old nephew Luke.
2. The movie comes out this year, and Luke and I have a date to see it together.

There are some really good YA dystopian books out there, unfortunately, this is not one of them. It has an interesting premise sure: a group of boys are trapped adjacent to a maze. The main character, Thomas, is dropped in, and like everyone else, he has induced amnesia. 

Okay, even writing about the plot bores me, so I'll summarize my complaints:

1. There is no character development whatsoever. The characters are cardboard cutouts that move around in the scene, albeit some faster that others.
2. This would have been a more fun read if the scary things (Grievers) were actually scary.
3. The pacing was off, mainly due to not wanting to give away the big reveal.
4. As for all that maze running .... don't get me started.

That said, I did read all the way through, and for that the book gets an additional star. By the way, my nephew loves the books, is almost done with the trilogy, and found it both scary and fun. So maybe it is just me. Rating: 2 stars.

67. I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50
OK, I'll admit that the cover made me pick this one up. Who can resist those pink grannie undies with a touch of lace? The author is turning 50, and this is a collection of essays about what it feels like to be a woman of a certain age. Sure, the problems are mostly first-world ones, as the author readily admits, but that does not make them any less real for her. 

If we are lucky, we will grow old, and whether we do it gracefully or not, with humor or angst can depend on various factors: genetics and disposable income for plastic surgery being the main ones. As with any collection, some o f the essays are better than others. Reading "When Brown Was Going To Be The New Black" has me snorting and laughing uncontrollably, and that piece alone was worth the price of admission. Rating: 3 stars.

68. The Walking Dead, Vol. 07: The Calm Before
There is a lull in the action. Well, by lull, I mean that a baby is born, someone dies, and there is lots of target practice. The book ends in a huge cliff hanger. He's baaaaccccckkkkk.

Why do I continue to read this series? I don't love it, and yet I just can't seem to quit it. Maybe I need therapy for this dysfunctional relationship. Rating: 2 stars.

May 24, 2014

Video: Viva Las Vegas Travel Journal (pre trip)

I've made a single signature journal for an upcoming trip. This video shows the pre-trip version and the prep done before I head out.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to videos mentioned:
Video of my 2014 journal plans.
Video of my completed Turkey journal.

May 23, 2014

Journal pages: Faces

My little journal is full, and I have moved on to one with a larger format. Will tell you more about that next week. In the meanwhile, here are some of the people that caught my attention from the HONY blog.

Her hair.

The wonderful lines on her face.

His eyes.

You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

May 22, 2014

Cinemascope: The World Before Her

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

Released in 2012.

Plot line: Twenty young women from across India arrive for an intense, month-long beauty boot camp - they are the hand-picked contestants for the Miss India pageant. Winning the coveted title means instant stardom, a lucrative career path and freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society.

In another corner of India we visit a camp for young girls run by the militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, the girls learn what it means to be good Hindu women.

Moving between the transformative action at both camps and the characters private lives, The World Before Her creates a lively, provocative portrait of the worlds largest democracy at a critical transitional moment.

I love documentaries that shed light on a subject without beating you over the head with a message. This is a powerful, poignant and often disturbing look at how Indian society views girls and women.

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

May 21, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 05.21.14

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May 20, 2014

Journal pages: EDiM

Every Day in May (EDiM) a group of artists draw daily from a pre-assigned list. Some years I am more diligent than others. This is not one of those years. I've got several creative projects going this month, so doubt that I will get all the prompts drawn. Still, I do what I can, and that is better than nothing. As always, click on images to view larger.

EDiM #9: A shadow

EDiM #11: Something interesting you saw on a blog or the internet

May 19, 2014

Recent Reads

61. Dear Diary
This is a book written for children, and starts out in a straight forward manner: Lucy is keeping a diary, and records one day in her life. The fun twist is that unknown to her, she is surrounded by journalers who record the same day. These include her dog, a chair in her classroom, ladybug, knife and fork, firefly and spider. Love the idea of introducing kids to multiple narrators in this manner. The collage art is fun and whimsical, and there is lots for kids to look at on each page. Rating: 3 stars.

62. Eleanor & Park
I tend to shy away from young adult romance novels, well, romance novels in general really. Not my genre. I read tons of it in my teens, and I think I maxed out my romance limit (when it comes to reading at least).

The only reason this was on my radar is that it made the Tournament of Books this year. I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra. I would give them 5 stars for narration. 

Do you remember what it was like to be young? I mean really remember, not just intellectually looking back, but feeling what you felt? The highs and lows, the ecstasy and the tragedy, the surety that no-one had ever loved like you love? If you have forgotten, this book will remind you. I have no idea how the author is in touch with all those feelings as an adult. Most of us lock them up and throw away the key; how many ups and downs can one really manage in a single day and still hold down a job as an adult? 

This is the story of Eleanor and Park, and is told in alternating voices. They could not be more different, or have more dissimilar family situations, but a spark is ignited. First love. The highs and lows, the insecurity and embarrassment, the obsession. Communication starts via comics and music. 

Yes there are scenes that are so sickly sweet that my teeth actually ached, and some tough stuff seemed a little glossed over, and the lack of physical intimacy (read sex) was a little unbelievable, especially on Park's end - I mean he is a sixteen year old boy! - but I found myself smiling in parts, and indulgently shaking my head in others, and overall I quite enjoyed this story. The author captures the rawness of being young and in love really well. I would highly recommend the audiobook version. I think I would have knocked a star off for the print edition. Rating: 4 stars.

63. The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life
Volume 6 contains issues 31-36.

One would think that an escape story would be a happy thing, but there is so much dark stuff in this book. I actually found myself cringing while reading parts of it. Is there a light at the end of this tunnel? Rating: 3 stars.

64. Julio's Day
Book blurb: It begins in the year 1900, with the scream of a newborn. It ends, 100 pages later, in the year 2000, with the death rattle of a 100-year-old man. The infant and the old man are both Julio.

This graphic novel covers 100 years of history in 100 pages, and is done in an interesting manner: the juxtaposition of personal lives against historical/global events. All things do not make sense in the end, but that is kinda like life no? Why did Julio's father go walkabout? Threads merge and diverge, and we might never know how things turned out. If you decide to read this one, do not miss the introduction, as it sets up the story. Rating: 3 stars.

May 16, 2014

Journal page

Another mixed media page using acrylics, stencils and marker. It is so fun to repeat a stencil and see how many variations on a theme I can create.

(Click on image to view larger)

May 15, 2014

Cinemascope: Call the Midwife (Season 3)

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

Season 1 released in 2012. Season 3 currently on BBC & PBS.

Plot line: Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth; the story follows twenty-two year old Jenny, who in 1957 leaves her comfortable home to become a midwife in London's East End slums. She expects to find a hospital, and is surprised to find that the clinic is a convent: Nonnatus House. Working alongside her fellow nurses and the medically-trained nuns, Jenny has her eyes opened to the harsh living conditions. But she also discovers the warm hearts and the bravery of the mothers; each one a heroine in Jenny's eyes.

There is something quite fun about this show. I cannot quite place my finger on it, but I quite like historical stories like these. A time and place when the world was changing, and women had career options their mothers did not. Also quite like that the focus is on women. The men are all incidental.

You can see the Season 3 trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.

May 14, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 05.14.14

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May 13, 2014

Journal page

Hands. Would it be one of my journals without hands? I doubt it. A theme that comes up again and again for me.

(Click image to view larger)

This one was done by first doodling some lines on both pages. After that, I traced out my hands. Next I added color using Sharpie Flip Chart makers. Have some left over from some work place, and decided to try them. Love the juicy colors. 

May 12, 2014

Recent Reads

57. Refresh, Refresh: A Graphic Novel
"This is what we all wanted: to please our fathers, to make them proud - even though they had left us."

War is hell, and we've all read books that describe that hell well. What happens to those family members left at home though? This graphic novel explores the lives of three teenage boys whose fathers have shipped out to the Iraq war. Set in Oregon, and told as vignettes, we see how three teenage boys cope with not knowing if their fathers are still alive. The title refers to obsessively checking email to see if there is a new message from their Dads.

I really liked the exploration of the themes in the story, but did not love the art, and found the way the story was structured too fragmented for my tastes. Rating: 2 stars.

58. Poseidon: Earth Shaker (Olympians #5)
This graphic novel is the fifth volume in the Olympians series for kids.

Poseidon is one of my fave male gods. Did you know that he is a middle child? Explains a lot no? There is not much known about him, and the author cleverly has Poseidon narrate stories that help us understand him better. So you know about the trident, but why horses? The story posits a theory. Fun. Rating: 3 stars.

59. The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme #1)
This is the first book in the Lincoln Rhyme series, and introduces us to Lincoln, a brilliant criminologist who was injured on the job, and is a quadriplegic considering suicide. Every one needs a side kick: enter Ameila Sachs, a cop who is so beautiful (no surprise there!) that she once worked as a model. Our duo is on the trail of a serial killer loose on the streets of Manhattan. 

This is a fast paced police procedural that reads like a historical novel. Lots of "Old New York" stories, and looking up something in the yellow pages. Does anyone under 40 even know what those were? Even though the fast pace at which crimes get solved is a bit ridiculous, the forensic science is fascinating. 

The book is certainly better than the movie, and I could not help but picture Denzel and Angelina as I was reading. I liked the characters enough that I'd consider reading the next one in this series. Rating: 3 stars.

60. Life After Life
Here is what I knew going in: a character is born, dies, is born again, dies, is born again, rinse, repeat. So I went in expecting a reincarnation story, and it sorta is, but not really. 

Ursula Todd is born and dies yes, but she is born into the same family, on the same day, surrounded by the same characters. This is a fascinating premise, and I loved how the author played with life events and time. I do not think I have ever read a book where I looked forward to a main character dying. After all, she will be reborn, so that really isn't a problem is it? The interesting thing was to discover how she died, at what age, and how in the next-go-around, she avoids making those same choices. I loved the characters in this story, and setting the story during the years when both World Wars took place is a stroke a genius, as there was much political and social upheaval that the author leveraged to add drama to the story.

I do however have a quibble with the book. While I enjoyed each time that "darkness falls", it did get rather repetitive, and there were portions that I found boring. Seems to me there was a bit of filler stuff that could have been edited out to make a tighter story.

It you are a fan of quantum theory or multiverses, you will enjoy this read. If you had your life to live over and over, what would you change? What would you do the same? I quite enjoyed the humor (mostly as asides), and the feeling of Déjà vu evoked while reading was delicious. Rating: 4 stars.

May 10, 2014

Look Up by Gary Turk

A reminder of what is really important. Loved this.

(Via Margie)
If the embedded video does not work, click here.

May 8, 2014

Cinemascope: Reaching For The Moon

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: Based on the true love story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares. This sumptuous English-language 50s period piece recounts the years of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto, Lord of the Rings) when she left America to live and write in Rio de Janiero where she would fall in love with well-off architect Lota de Macedo Soares (beautifully handsome Brazilian star Glória Pires). 

If you were to watch mainstream Hollywood movies, you get an impression that love stories follow a particular arc. This wonderful movie shatters that mythology. This is a moving, complex, intelligent love story with superb acting, wonderful cinematography in a historical setting. Loved everything about it.

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

May 7, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 05.07.14

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

May 6, 2014

Journal page

Another mixed media page using acrylics, stencils and marker. It is so fun to repeat a stencil and see how many variations on a theme I can create.

(Click on image to view larger)

May 5, 2014

Recent Reads

54. Playing with Stencils: Exploring Repetition, Pattern, and Personal Designs
I'm on a stencil making jag, so my nightstand currently has several books on the topic. This one has some good tips if you are a complete beginner, but the projects in this book are simply not my thing. I did enjoy the gallery section where other artist's work is showcased. Rating: 2 stars.

55. Pure
The final book of this Young Adult dystopian trilogy was recently released, so I decided it was time to jump in and see what all the rave reviews were talking about.

I like dystopian stories, and this one has an interesting premise. Nuclear bombs destroyed the world and there are two groups of survivors: those who experienced the blast and radiation and were burned and disfigured, and the other group who were lucky enough to be pre-selected and escaped to "The Dome", where they are unharmed but not necessarily happy. The ones on the outside have things fused to them - birds, kids, metal, etc, while those inside the dome are blemish free, hence "Pure". 

Told from different perspectives, this novel starts out well, but quickly gets boring. There are too many examples of the horrible ways that the people on the outside fused with stuff, and while this will be a fun CGI problem to solve for the movie (the rights have been optioned), it makes for tedious reading. The story has little plot or spark, the characters are one dimensional with unclear motivations, and I almost quit it several times. It gets a generous two stars for some of the fun world creation. Here is what I know for sure though, I have absolutely no interest in reading the other books in this trilogy. Rating: 2 stars.

56. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity
This was my book club selection this month, and I listened to the audio-book wonderfully narrated by Sunil Malhotra.

The author spent four years following and interviewing residents of Annawadi, a slum outside Mumbai, and in a narrative non-fiction style writes about their lives. Poverty is awful no matter where you find it.

This book won many awards, including the National Book Award, and I have to ask why. Is it because it is sanitized version of Indian slums for a Western audience? There are so many wonderful books by Indian authors who cover this topic masterfully to much less acclaim. Why is that? 

There is an afterword with the author that describes some of her interviewing/immersion process, but I question how much of what she wrote about was personally witnessed versus hearsay. The entire time I read the book, I kept wondering where she was: was she at the birthday party for Asha? Was she at the hotel party to witness the waitstaff? I agree with her choice to write in the third person, but it raised questions for me.

Overall, I felt disconnected from the people I was reading about, and other than some of the particular stories, there was not much new material covered for me. If however, one has never been to, or read about India, and is unaware of the misery of poverty there, or even here in the US, then this might be a really good introduction to the topic. On a positive note, I really liked how the author writes, and plan to read her other reportage. Rating: 2 stars.

May 4, 2014

One Little Word 2014: April

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 gratitude

noun: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I have a gratitude practice. There is honestly nothing I know that changes your mental, emotional and physical state more than a simple gratitude practice. And it is not complicated to do. 

Here is how I do it. At the end of each day I write down five things I am grateful for that day. Some items are big ones, and some are small kindnesses. And you know what I notice every time? I spend the day looking for things to be grateful for because I need to write them down before I fall asleep. And as we all know, whatever we focus on grows. So I notice things, little things, that I probably would not have, because of this practice.

Here is what we know about the human mind: it is always grasping. For more. For better. In years past we used to compare ourselves to our neighbors. Remember keeping up with the Jonses? Today, with 24/7 TV, movies and Internet access, our neighbors are movie stars and pro athletes! And still I see people trying to keep up: a new car, a bigger house, a larger TV, etc. etc. etc. A captive audience for marketing departments sure, and but here is the thing - the wanting NEVER stops. When you get what you thought you needed/wanted, the bar moves, and you now want/need the bigger/newer/better thing. 

A gratitude practice makes you focus on what you have. It keeps you grounded in the present moment. How many times are you grateful for the simple fact that you got home without getting in an accident? See what I mean? If we really take the time to notice all the ways in which our lives are abundant right now, it calms that grasping mind, which settles our emotions and bodies as well.

This month, I focused on gratitude, and that practice continues to change me in so many ways, and one of the most significant mental model change is this: it could have been worse. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Comparison is the thief of joy. Practicing gratitude helps me to experience joy. Over the big stuff sure, but more importantly over the little, everyday moments in my life.

These are some of the ways I cultivated gratitude this month. How do you do it?

May 1, 2014

Cinemascope: Game of Thrones (Season 3)

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

Season 1 was released in 2011, and Season 4 is currently playing on HBO .

Plot line: Nine noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros. Political and sexual intrigue is pervasive. Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros, asks his old friend Eddard, Lord Stark, to serve as Hand of the King, or highest official. Secretly warned that the previous Hand was assassinated, Eddard accepts in order to investigate further. Meanwhile the Queen's family, the Lannisters, may be hatching a plot to take power. Across the sea, the last members of the previous and deposed ruling family, the Targaryens, are also scheming to regain the throne. The friction between the houses Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryen and with the remaining great houses Greyjoy, Tully, Arryn,Tyrell and Martell leads to full-scale war. All while a very ancient evil awakens in the farthest north. Amidst the war and political confusion, a neglected military order of misfits, the Night's Watch, is all that stands between the realms of men and icy horrors beyond.

This TV series is based on A Song of Ice and Fire series of books. I love both the books and the TV series. Since we are not a cable house, I am always a season behind on the show. This 3rd season is not as fabulous as the first two, but still really good. Winter is coming!

You can see the Season 3 trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.