October 28, 2016

Michael Moore Explains Why TRUMP Will Win (Video)

A reality check for those of us in a certain echo chamber.

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For more information on his take, read his post 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win.

Travel Art Supplies

Often times less is more. Here's what I took along on my recent trip to Las Vegas.

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Links to things mentioned in the video:
Vegas 2016 Traveler's Notebook 
IG: @kisiwa82

October 27, 2016

Cinemascope: What We do in The Shadows

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

Image result for what we do in the shadows movie poster

Released in 2014.

Plot line: A documentary team films the lives of a group of vampires for a few months. The vampires share a house in Wellington, New Zealand. Turns out vampires have their own domestic problems too.

No wait, trust me on this one. You don't have to be a Vampire buff to enjoy this. Really, trust me, This was an unexpected delight. I had no idea what to expect and laughed my way through the entire thing. I'm even laughing as I type this.

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

October 26, 2016

Inktober 2016 Part 2/4 (Video)

Most of this week's Inktober was done while on a trip, which is not a problem if you have a plan, and some basic art supplies.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 24, 2016

Recent Reads

161. Fatherland
Family histories are often complicated, and in this one a daughter tries to make sense of the choices made by her parents. Mom flees Canada and her abusive husband, returns to Yugoslavia and moves in with her parents. She takes along her two younger daughters, but is forced to leave her son behind. Press rewind, and we meet Dad before he met Mom, and get more insight into his life experiences. There are really troubling scenes depicted, and I actually cringed several times. Flash forward to Dad who has joined a terrorist organization, and we circle back to the beginning, and things that Mom did start to make more sense.

Children are so often the causalities of adult wars, and this graphic memoir is the family history of one family set against the politics of the Serbian Wars. I really liked the black and white art, and learned some history in the process. However, I don't think the author was able to mesh the two narratives really well, and so much seemed to simply be skimmed over. Still, this is a worthwhile read if you are unfamiliar with the history of that part of the world. Rating: 3 stars.

162. Panther
Christine is a young girl who lives with a her father, and when her cat Lucy dies, Christine is grief stricken. In the midst of her grief, something magical happens: a panther pops out of her dresser and tells her that he is crown prince of Pantherland.

Sounds like a sweet story right? Well, it starts out that way indeed, but then this graphic novel starts to take on sinister tones that are quite unsettling. Panther is a master storyteller and manipulator, and he soon has Christine totally enthralled with him.

When I started reading this one, I thought it was for kids, the art is whimsical and lovely, and the way that Panther is illustrated is marvelous. But this is not a kid book, though I think that kids reading it might not pick up on the sinister undertones of the story. I read that the author says that the story might be about the sexual abuse of a child, and I can see how it could be interpreted that way. That this explores the slow burn of an abusive relationship is not in doubt, and as an adult reader I was both sucked in and deeply disturbed with how the story unfolds. The illustrations work to set the right ambiance; that slow seduction and isolation and complete control of a child is especially chilling juxtaposed with those cheery colors.

I would recommend this one for adults and older teens, and if you've read it I want to discuss that ending. Rating: 4 stars.

163. The Nameless City (The Nameless City #1)
This graphic novel, targeted for middle grade readers, is the first in a series, and is a fun and quick read.

The story explores the notion of the conquered and the conquerors, and how they view and distrust each other. The two main characters, Rat and Kaidu, represent these groups to a certain extent, and it is fun to see how their friendship develops. I really liked that Rat is a young girl who has grit, is tough, and is shaped like a girl, not a sexy view of what society wants girls to look like. I really liked the first few pages that explain the title, and the art is fun and colorful.

I wanted a deeper exploration of the themes touched on - but then, I am much, much older than the target audience - and I do plan on recommending this one to my nieces and nephews. Rating: 3 stars.

164. Pereira Declares: A Testimony
I read the translation by Patrick Creagh.

One of the fun things about planning a trip is figuring out which books to read to help set the stage, and this one is near the top for books set in the Azores or Portugal.

This novella is light in terms of pages, but not in terms of ideas. Pereira is an aging, overweight journalist with a love of "omelette aux herbes" and lemonade, with lots of sugar. It's 1938, and Pereira writes the culture section of an evening paper in Lisbon, and yes the Spanish Civil War is going on, and yes he seems to have failed to notice the menacing cloud of fascism over Salazarist Portugal, but give him a break. He is a literate man with a passion for poets, and is after all only writing the culture section, he declares. He is not longer a journalist, and has no intention of sticking his head into places it does not belong. One day he meets a young man who propels his comfortable existence into unexpected trajectories.

It's hard to put into words what a delightful read this is. There is much rumination on poetry, and literature, and death, and the resurrection of the body, and other delightful rambles. The repetition of the title over and over is an interesting device, and this little book is a reminder that sometimes we are the heroes of our own stories. Rating: 4 stars.

165. How to Talk to Girls at Parties
I gather that this is a short story from a collection that the artists decided to make a graphic novel. In classic Gaiman style, this is a strange story of two teenage boys who crash a party filled with willowy, exotic, pretty girls. The narrator of this story is Enn, a fifteen year old who cannot seem to talk to girls, so what happens next?

Gaiman has some lovely lines about poetry and art, and the art by Moon and Ba is lovely, but I didn't care for the story. Rating: 2 stars.

October 20, 2016

Cinemascope: Where To Invade Next

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

Image result for where to invade next

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Filmmaker Michael Moore visits various countries to examine how Europeans view work, education, health care, sex, equality, and other issues. From cafeteria food to sex ed, Moore looks at the benefits of schooling in France, Finland and Slovenia. In Italy, he marvels at how workers enjoy reasonable hours and generous vacation time. In Portugal, Moore notes the effects of the decriminalization of drugs. Through his travels, we discover just how different America is from the rest of the world.

The thing about Michael Moore is that he is sometimes over the top, but he also shows us that the emperor really has no clothes, and I'll always love him for that. The topics covered in this documentary is something you won't see covered in the US mainstream media, and is something all Americans should be talking about.

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

October 19, 2016

Indie Icon Amanda Palmer Gets Real About Motherhood & Relevance (Video)

Have you been watching The What's Underneath Project? I'd highly recommend it. This one with Amanda Palmer just makes me admire her more.

“Feminism isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being honest,” says Amanda Palmer in the first episode of the Summer ’16 season of The What’s Underneath Project. The indie artist who turned the music industry on its head is now doing the same with motherhood by embracing her post-mom body and her fears of being insignificant."

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October 17, 2016

Recent Reads

156. Sketching People: An Urban Sketcher's Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces
I'm a fan of this artist and her work, and I was delighted when this book was published. It shows how the artist captures her subjects, the tools and techniques she uses, and is filled with lots of her drawings. There is almost too much to soak up in my first reading, and this is a book I plan to revisit with watercolor pencils in hand. Rating: 4 stars.

157. My Name is Leon
This is the story of Leon. When we meet him, he is almost 9, his Mom has just had another child, and she is having a hard time with postpartum depression and alcohol. Things spiral downwards as you might expect, and social services steps in to take the two boys out of the house. Mom is no longer around/ capable of being a parent, so long term solutions must be found for the boys. The baby brother is adopted, because he is white and an infant, while Leon who is not either has the added trauma of being separated from his beloved brother.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the content to be quite emotional, but the writing is not good enough to really work. I really like that the story is told from Leon's point of view, and since he eavesdrops every chance he gets, we hear tidbits that fill in the gaps of what is going on in the larger backdrop of his family and 1980s British society.

The heartbreak of an abandoned and neglected child is something that is all too common, and stories like these that shed light on the plight of these kids are clearly important. Foster parents and social workers often go unheralded in their efforts, and I applaud the author in her efforts to give them their due in this story. All that said, I expected to love this one more than I did. Rating: 3 stars.

158. Mr Loverman
And the streak continues! Another five star read this year featuring a gay man, albeit a closeted one, and this one was written by a woman.

This story is about Barrington Jedidiah Walker (Barry to his friends), a seventy-four year old Antiguan living in Britain. He is a husband, father, grandfather, and has been cheating on his wife with his childhood lover Morris, for the past sixty years. Based on this description you would think that you'd dislike Barry, but you would be wrong.

There is so much I loved about this book. I appreciated the humor, the witty dialog, Barry's wisdom and insights into human nature, the exploration of being a gay man of color before all "this gay liberation stuff", the observations of being an immigrant in a country that does not want you, the challenge of raising children in a culture not your own, the ripple effects on the family caused by this double life ..... I could go on and on, but you really need to experience this for yourself.

This is mainly Barry's story, but we also get sections from Carmel's (the wife) point of view, and the juxtaposition of the two is fantastic. The language is wonderful, the story sucked me in and I could not wait to see what would happen next. I slowed down the pace of my reading as I got closer to the end, because I did not want to stop hanging out with the characters in this book. I loved every minute of this excellent book, and would highly recommend it.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Robin Miles and Ron Butler. If you decide to read this one, I would highly recommend the audiobook version. The narrators have accents and a delivery style that added immensely to my enjoyment of this story. Rating: 5 stars.

159. Ghosts
This graphic novel is targeted for middle grade readers, and is my favorite of the author's books I've read to date.

This is the story of two sisters, Cat and Maya. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and the family moves to the coast of Northern California for her health. It's not that Cat does not love her sister and wants what's best for her, but moving to a new town and leaving all your friends is really tough, especially when you are a person who does not make friends easily. Also, the town they move to has ghosts, and while this delights Maya, Cat has no interest in meeting one, thank you very much.

I really liked the push/pull portrayal of the sister relationship, the celebration of culture and tradition, and the weaving in of death as a part of life. The art in this book is the author's best yet, and I especially love that the girls have bodies that look like girls. There is not enough depth in the story for this adult reader, but this would make a fun Halloween read for the tweens in your life. Rating: 3 stars.

160. Poetry Is Useless
I found this one both fascinating and frustrating. What is it? That's a good question. It is part sketchbook, memoir, travelogue, brain dump, and musings. There are parts that I loved, but so much of the text was unreadable - this either needed to be a larger format book, or come with a magnifying glass attached. I love the artistic style of his work, and this volume will certainly inspire you to pick up your sketchbook. Rating: 3 stars.

October 13, 2016

Cinemascope: Trumbo

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

Image result for trumbo movie poster

Released in 2015.

Plot line: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood's top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. Trumbo, recounts how Dalton used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice of the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.

I love movies that educate me about something I know little to nothing about, and this one especially timely. The acting is superb, and I enjoyed the setting and sense of place of this movie. People can sometimes act as sheep, and we often see/believe what we want to, and this movie is a reminder that all is not always as it seems.

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

October 11, 2016

Bring on the female superheroes! | Christopher Bell (Video)

I found this TED talk educational and thought provoking, and I think you will too.

"Why is it so hard to find female superhero merchandise? In this passionate, sparkling talk, media studies scholar (and father of a Star Wars-obsessed daughter) Christopher Bell addresses the alarming lack of female superheroes in the toys and products marketed to kids -- and what it means for how we teach them about the world."

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 10, 2016

Recent Reads

151. Incite 2, Color Passions: The Best of Mixed Media
Book blurb: 109 artists share their zest for color through painting, collage, encaustic, art journaling, jewelry art and more.

I liked this for what it was. It's like having a curated art exhibition in your hands, and reading a bit about what inspired the artists. Colorful and fun. Rating: 3 stars.

152. Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story
A quote from the author's end notes: "Legal access to safe and effective methods of birth control made it possible for us to pursue our lives and dreams without being shackled by our biology. It's amazing the extent to which we now take this fact for granted, but I simply can't imagine a greater gift to humanity." I concur.

I'd heard of Margaret Sanger, but had no idea what a powerful, influential, controversial, and connected woman she was. Why is her face not on our currency? I remember reading a book titled Great Men and Women as a kid, and I hope that an updated version would include women like her. This graphic biography is a perfect introduction to this important historical figure, and while I am not a fan of the art, I was delighted to learn more about Sanger and her efforts and accomplishments. Rating: 4 stars.

153. A Single Man
I listened to the audiobook which is superbly narrated by Simon Prebble.

How is it that two of my five star reads this year are novellas by gay men about gay men? They would not even come close to passing the Bechdel test, and yet I loved them. I guess these books are considered classics for a reason.

I've heard much about the author over the years, not sure what specifically now, but his name seems to come up quite a bit, and I've been curious about his work. Decided to start here, and oh my goodness, I loved it from the first line to the last one. I actually listened to the last ten minutes a couple of times over.

First published in 1964, this is the story of George, a middle aged gay man, who is dealing with the sudden death of his partner (which happens off-screen, so to speak), and is determined to live life by his normal routines. This story unfolds over a twenty four hour period, and explores the textures of life with an honesty most of us reserve only for our private journals. I struggle to put into words why this moved me so. We are most flawed and beautiful when we are most human, and this story is an homage to this wonderful thing called life. Rating: 5 stars.

154. Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)
Why is it that the "abandoned children who have to find their own way in the world" trope affects us so?

This is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, which is the first of several trilogies in the epic Realms of the Elderlings fantasy series. I've heard such fave reviews about this series, so decided this was the summer to take the plunge.

The thing about the book blurb is that is gives too much away, so all I'll say is that this is the story of a royal bastard (I mean that literally), who is raised in the shadow of the royal household. The world he inhabits has magic, but discovering what forms it takes along with our young protagonist is half the fun. There is lots of action and adventure, scheming and betrayal, battles and bloodshed, friendship and loyalty, cowardice and bravery, and I thoroughly enjoyed how this story unfolded.

I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Paul Boehmer, and while I did not love the narration, I got used to it. I've got the rest of the books in this long series lined up, and look forward to seeing what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

155. My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy #1)
If you know me, you probably know that I don't believe that every Tom, Dick and Sally should write a memoir, and I tend to be rather skeptical of this genre in general. Every now and then I stumble across a memoir that proves me wrong, and I am delighted to be proved wrong.

This is a lovely memoir of a family who leaves gloomy England and relocates to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. Their (mis)adventures is relayed by the youngest member of the family, the author. Gerry is a keen observer of the flora and fauna that surround him, and his family gets as close an examination as everything else. The writing is wonderful, and I laughed out loud several times. I was once convulsed into a laughing fit that had me breathless and in tears. The rest of the time I was smiling and shaking my head with affection at the antics of this family.

There are some major things that are not explained - how for example the family could afford these adventures, how the author has such clear and vivid memories, etc. There are also some uncomfortable ways in which the locals and the Mom are described, but in the end I found that I really did not care. This lovely book is a throw back to the days of "free range parenting" (the kind I'll bet most of us over the age of 35 experienced), and is a wonderful recounting of both natural and familial history. Highly recommended. Rating: 4 stars.

October 9, 2016

Inktober 2016 Part 1/4 (Video)

I'm playing along with Inktober for the first time this month. Since I've got several trips planned in October, I've decided to use whichever journal I have on hand each day.

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October 6, 2016

Cinemascope: Shall We Dance

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

Released in 2004.

Plot line: Despite having a great career and a loving family, lawyer John Clark (Richard Gere) is missing something in his life as he meanders listlessly from day to day. On his commute back home one night, Clark notices a stunning woman (Jennifer Lopez) in a dance studio and decides on a whim to join a class for ballroom dancing. While Clark finds a new spark in his life, his wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), grows suspicious of his frequent absences, since he decides to keep his dancing a secret.

I've watched this movie several times, and each and every time I am delighted with it. If you are in the mood for a pick me up movie with great music, give this one a try. Also, if you have yet to see it, check out the original Japanese movie of the same name.

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

October 4, 2016

Journal pages

I always love to see where people create, so I'm sharing a work in progress spread in my #travelersnotebook insert.

The thing about making your own journals/inserts, is that you can customize the papers as you wish. This leads to some interesting creative hurdles to be worked through.

I also created signatures for a project I'm calling Use Up Your Stash. Below is a spread from that journal using drywall tape and acrylic paints.