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

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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

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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 

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.