December 15, 2017

Non-fiction November

I participated in Non-fiction November this year, and these are the books and documentaries that I completed during the month. You can read my comments on my Instagram account.


December 14, 2017

Cinemascope: Confirmation

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

Related image

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Judge Clarence Thomas' nomination to the United States Supreme Court is called into question when Anita Hill, a former colleague, testifies that he sexually harassed her.

I remember the Anita Hill hearings, and the classic BS of a woman not being believed. This TV movie dramatizes that event, and it made me oh so angry. Again. It's interesting to watch it 25 years later during the #MeToo movement and fallout. It's a straight up account of this historical event, but I did learn a couple of things I didn't know.

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

December 11, 2017

Recent Reads

130. Pen and Ink
Book blurb: Exploring over 100 pieces of artwork by contemporary artists, Pen & Ink highlights and examines the different techniques, qualities, and effects relating to each piece.

This little book is like holding a small curated collection of pen and ink art in your hands. I appreciated the diverse styles on display with this simple medium, and as with all collections some art spoke to me while others did not. I would have liked more information about the pieces themselves, still, this is a good book to flip through when you're looking for pen and ink inspiration. Rating: 3 stars.

131. Hostage
3.5 stars.

Translated from the French by Helge Dascher.

Moved this up my TBR for non-fiction November. If you are familiar with his oeuvre, you know that the author usually writes graphic memoirs about his life as the spouse of a Doctors Without Borders administrator in various parts of the world. This book departs from his usual fare and tells the true story of Christophe Andre, a man kidnapped on his very first MSF assignment. You know that Christophe survives because he is the one telling the story to the author, but I think if you decide to read this book, the less you know about where he's taken, how long he's held, and how he survives the better the reveal.

The author uses his signature illustration style and a limited color palette to wonderfully evoke the right mood for this experience. Boredom and mundane life stuff is intermingled with moments of sheer terror, and the use of first person point of view is very effective. How would one stay sane when held captive and is mostly in isolation? I couldn't help thinking that this would have been a very different story if the kidnapped person was a woman.

I really liked the art style, but this one is over 400 pages and very little happens for most of it. I understand that we don't know anything about the kidnappers and their motivation because of the language barrier, so we only know what the narrator knows, which is nothing at all. On the plus side this created the right level of bleakness in the reading, but on the other hand, there were times when all that day to day repetition seemed tedious. I do think that the author captures the slow manner in which time passed for the hostage effectively, so for that I'll round up. Rating: 4 stars.

132. Lighter Than My Shadow
Book blurb: Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Moved this up my TBR for non-fiction November, and I've procrastinated writing my review for this graphic memoir because I'm not sure I can adequately convey why I love it so. I find that's often true for things that evoke deep emotion. All you can say is "you had to be there."

This is a book that deals with the author's struggles with anxiety, anorexia, and sexual assault, and it's not an easy book to read. I loved the art, and how she tells her story. There are so many panels/pages without words, and it's a powerful way to leave space for the reader's own emotions about the material.

Let's first talk about the physical book. Weight is an issue throughout this narrative. Her weight, or lack of it, in particular, so it's rather amazing that this 500 page volume has the heft it does. The heft of the book is much heavier than you'd expect, or it needs to be. You read this story of a girl/ woman struggling with weight while holding an overly heavy book in your hands. It's a tactile experience. Then there are these dark black squiggly tornado like lines that hover over her head, sometimes it's small, and other times it takes over the panel/page. It wasn't until about half way through the book that I realized that those squiggles actually have texture. I went back and ran my fingers over the pages I had already read. Another tactile clue while reading. So even though I was reading a 2D book, there was additional information being transmitted to my brain.

As mentioned earlier, I love the artistic style of the illustrations. The monochromatic use of color is very effective in setting the right mood. I appreciated the honesty in the telling. The author says in the introduction: "It exists because I wanted nobody else to feel as lost, confused and alone as I felt. I wanted to be honest about how hard recovery is, and how long it takes, at the same providing that it is possible." We might not struggle with her exact issues, but anyone who struggles with something will seem parts of themselves in this story. I looked a long time at some of her wordless scenes as entire worlds seem captured in them. There's an illustration where she's eaten something, and the black squiggly tornado is inside her body. She opens her mouth and reaches her hand down her throat trying to pull it out. There are no words, but I don't think I've ever understood the urge to purge in such a visceral way before.

My library system has the Young Adult label on this one, and I would highly recommend it to anyone struggling/recovering from these issues, and everyone who loves them. Rating: 5 stars.

December 6, 2017

Rushed Bill Goes Far Beyond Taxation

So I guess "Making America Great Again" equals huge tax breaks for corporations (especially ones that deal with real estate, hmm wonder who that'd benefit?), continuing to destroy the environment (who the hell goes to Alaska anyway?), and millions of Americans without healthcare. Oh, and those of you who live in a state with income and other state taxes, you might want to see how you get f#$#ed with this one too.

Want more information? Click here.

December 4, 2017

Recent Reads

127. Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves
If you are a fan of the Humans of New York blog or books, pick this one up. If you are a girl, woman, or have one of those in your life, pick this one up.

It will do your heart good to flip though this collection of photos and quotes from girls. The photos are beautiful, and some of the quotes make me stop in my tracks, look at the girl, and then re-read it. I have a complaint though, and it's not a minor one. This is a collection of mostly white, thin, athletic girls, and there are many who will not find themselves represented here. I'm tempted to get a copy for my nieces, but am conflicted about giving them yet another book they won't see themselves in. I would have loved to see more diversity in all it's forms, so will keep my fingers crossed that this is the first volume in a larger body of work. The other issue I had with the book is that it's broken into sections, and the photos don't match the section headers particularly well. Also, the introduction to each section was rather weak. All those flaws not withstanding, this was a book that made me smile, and the portraits of these girls makes this one worth picking up. Rating: 3 stars.

128. Transfer
I've read several poems by the author that I've loved, but for some reason my library system didn't have the collection I wanted to read, so I tried this one instead.

This collection is a homage to her father and her grief at his death. There is much here that is universal, and I especially liked the ones that dealt with the immigrant/exiled man her father became after leaving Palestine.

I copied some of the lines into my journal, and there were times I stopped reading because I was stunned by the imagery evoked, but overall this is not a collection I loved. I say that knowing full well that poetry is not my usual fare, so the fault might be all mine, and there I'll leave it. Rating: 3 stars.

129. Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4)
I'm listening to The Dark Tower series on audio, and this one continues to be superbly narrated by Frank Muller.

Holy moly, what a long strange trip this has been. So many reviewers hated this installment. It's mostly backstory, and we get to spend time with 14 year old Roland, his first ka-tet and his great love. There's lots of action, gun (and other kinds of) fights, curses, scheming, betrayal, and a love story. I loved every minute of this one. I loved the old timey Western feel, I loved the love story, I loved learning about the events that shaped the Gunslinger, and I developed a crush on the man. There are so many new characters, and for change I don't have to complain about the women, who are wonderfully fleshed out here. As usual King spins a wonderful yarn with lots of tangents, and nods to his other books and popular culture. Oh Kansas, how interesting you are in stories. I loved every minute of this one, and in my opinion it's the best in the series so far, and might well be the best thing he's ever written. Rating: 5 stars.

November 30, 2017

Cinemascope: This Is Us (Season 2)

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

Image result for this is us season 2 poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: The Pearson family's generational story unfolds in this emotional drama. In moments of love, joy, triumph and heartbreak, revelations emerge from parents Jack and Rebecca's past, while triplets Kate, Randall and Kevin discover deeper meaning in their present day lives.

I finished watching the season finale yesterday, and seriously love this show. One of the best on TV at the moment in my opinion. I love the exploration of real issues, complex people, and no easy answers to what life throws your way. I cannot talk about why I love this one more without spoilers, so do yourself a favor and give it a try. So dang good.

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

November 27, 2017

Recent Reads

124. Poppies of Iraq
This graphic memoir shares "memories of her middle class childhood touching on cultural practices, the education system, Saddam Hussein's state control, and her family's history as Orthodox Christians in the Arab world."

It should have worked, as it's not often that we get such a close up look into the lives of people only seen as a problem or collateral damage here in the Western news. It didn't work because it felt too disjointed in the telling, and while there were some really illuminating anecdotes, for the most part this read more like a book written for family records than an outsider like me. The art is cutesy, which I didn't love, and there were family photos interspersed throughout the book that were too small and dark and not labeled, so I'm not sure why they were included, other than as proof that these events described did indeed take place. An OK but not memorable read. Rating: 2 stars.

125. A Bride's Story, Vol. 5
We continue this series with a much anticipated wedding. The twins are finally getting hitched. I continue to love the historical setting, and the art is astoundingly good; the pen and ink details showcases the talents of a master craftswoman. I really loved getting an insider look at all the customs and traditions of marriage in these communities, but overall this was my least favorite of the series so far. The twins are bit too shout-y in this one, and while I empathize with their frustrations, I was glad to leave them behind as our journey along the Silk Road takes us away from what is hopefully wedded bliss for the two of them. Rating: 3 stars.

126. The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
3.5 stars.

I'm listening to this series on audio, and this one continues to be superbly narrated by Frank Muller.

This, the third book in the Dark Tower series, is fantastic and page turnery in parts, and plodding and oh so slow in others. There's not much I can say without spoilers, so all I'll say is that I quite enjoyed the way King plays with the concept of multiverses and the ripples caused by changes in any one. I also enjoyed following this strange band of travelers on their journey, and it's always fun to see how King weaves in tips of the hat to his other books and popular culture. This one, of course, ends with a whopper of a cliff hanger, and I started the next book in the series as soon as I finished it. If this was a standalone book, I'd round down, but am enjoying the series so much that I'll round up instead. Rating: 4 stars.

November 23, 2017

Cinemascope: The Exception

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

Image result for the exception

Released in 2016.

Plot line: German soldier Stefan Brandt goes on a mission to investigate exiled German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Kaiser lives in a secluded mansion in the Netherlands, and as Germany is taking over Holland, the country's authorities are concerned that Dutch spies may be watching the Kaiser. As Brandt begins to infiltrate the Kaiser's life in search of clues, he finds himself drawn into an unexpected and passionate romance with Mieke, one of the Kaiser's maids.

I cannot recall how it is that I requested this title, but it was certainly not what I expected. A wonderful period piece of a dark time in history told through the specific lives of a handful of characters. The themes explored gave me lots to think about. The only strange thing about it is that the characters are all German, yet everyone has a British accent. Not sure I understood that choice, but really good nonetheless.

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

November 21, 2017

2017 Sketchbook Part 2: Inktober Journal Flip (Video)

A flip of the second section of my cheapo sketchbook, in which I discuss the art supplies used and pages created for Inktober this year.



If the embedded video doesn't work, click here.

Link to Part 1.
Link to Part 2.

November 20, 2017

Recent Reads

121. How to Make Friends with a Ghost
This picture book might well be the perfect Halloween read for the littles in your life. It didn't work as well for this adult reader however. The art is cute and colorful, and there are things that made me smile, but there isn't anything that made me want to hug this book, or give it to someone else and say, here read this! And given that it's targeted at kids, that ending is rather strange no? Rating: 2 stars.

122. Shadow of the Lions
DNFed at 47%.

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by James Anderson Foster.

Every year when the air gets chilly and the leaves start to fall I find myself in the mood for a campus novel. This one is set at elite Blackburne, a boys boarding school, with two main timelines, one when the main character is at the school as a student, and one where he comes back a decade later as a teacher. It does have an atmospheric setting, but this is mislabeled as a thriller. Yes, there is a mystery, but there wasn't much of a plot or a compelling enough reason to keep reading. I bailed at about the halfway point, at the play by play account of a football game. There is no character development to speak of, so the characters are all rather flat, and ultimately I didn't care enough to see how this story played out. The writing itself is not bad, but if I'd read it through it might have received a 2 star rating, so why bother? Rating: 1 stars,

123. Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch
Rated M for Mature indeed.

The setting is the near future, and if you are woman who does not conform to what the men you encounter want you to be, you get shipped off to a the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. But how did this come to pass? This volume covers some of that back story.

I loved the first volume, but this one did not work as well for me. I am still totally on board for the premise, the hard look at patriarchal modes and the men and women who aid in keeping the system in place, but something was lost in this installment for me. I can't quite place a finger on it, as I continue to like the diverse characters in the story. My fave parts were the ads between story sections. Loved every one of those. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood and will continue on to see if the sparkle I found in the first volume returns. Rating: 3 stars.

November 16, 2017

Cinemascope: Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

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

Image result for joan didion documentary poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: Literary icon Joan Didion reflects on her remarkable career and personal struggles in this intimate documentary directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.

While I have not read all her work, Joan Didion is a author I admire, so was delighted when Netflix released this documentary. There are criticisms about this documentary, and I would agree with some of it. Having a nephew tell this story means that things are slanted a certain way. There is way too much about her husband and not nearly enough about the author and her critical mind, let alone the fashionista side to her. But then, maybe no-one other than family would have had enough access to make this documentary, so we've got to take what we're given. I'm fascinated by the public/private personas of celebrity figures, and this gave me insights into the woman.

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

November 14, 2017

2017 Sketchbook Part 2: July to Sept Journal Flip (Video)

In which I share a chatty flip of the first section of my cheapo sketchbook.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 13, 2017

Recent Reads

118. A Halloween Treat & Edward Gorey's Ghosts
This little book has two stories. Halloween Treat is a fun tale of trick or treating, and when you turn the book over and start from the back you find a curated sample of his Ghosts oeuvre. This is a fun little book, but I'd only recommend it to Edward Gorey fans. It's all about the art. The words are simply window dressing, and could be skipped entirely. The art though is something else. All that pen and ink. I would love to see some of these in a larger format as as to really appreciate the detailed cross hatching. I love this his artistic style, and it would be a fun exercise to make up your own stories for each page. Rating: 3 stars.

119. Pandora's Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong
Sometimes I wonder why I bother with fiction when there are nonfiction books like these waiting for me to dive into.

We often forget that what we consider advances today come at a cost. Sometimes the cost is bearable, other times it's not. Or at the very least it's not us that bear it. Smart people make mistakes. Smart people believe junk "science". Everyone is influenced by the cultural, political, social, economic, and scientific worlds they live in, and to pretend otherwise is naive. The path to hell is indeed often paved with good intentions, and as this book illuminates, there are many versions of hell.

This book is well researched and well written, and I was horrified, educated, and fascinated from the first page to the last. I knew about some of the events in these seven chapters, but the author does a wonderful job of connecting pieces in a way I had not know about, or even considered, but I don't want to review the specific histories mentioned as that would spoil the reveal. I was really disturbed by this one, so much so that I asked my partner to also read it so I'd have someone to discuss it with.

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by Paul Tremblay, and this should be required reading for every single person, even if the last time you attended a science class was in the 7th grade.

This book gave me a new framework with which to discuss these topics, educated me on things I didn't know about, and connected dots in a way that changed my understanding of the world. One of the best books I've read this year. Rating: 5 stars.

120. Night Waking
I've struggled with how to rate this book. There are 5 star sections, and 2 star sections. I was compelled to read on while I had it in my hands, but reluctant to pick it back up once I had put it down.

The setting is an isolated island in the Hebrides. Anna Bennett, her two kids, and husband have moved here so that hubby can count the puffins. Anna, a historian, in unable to get any work done as she is sleep deprived, and has her hands full with motherly and wifely duties. One day while digging in the garden the bones of an infant are uncovered. Whose bones are these?

There are stories within stories within stories in this novel. It is very atmospheric, and I was delighted with the frank and honest way Anna's ambivalence at being a mother is described. It is not often we get such direct light shed on this holy of holies. Work family balance? No such thing here. I was intrigued by the history of childhood, and the paper that Anna works on is interspersed throughout the novel. It was interesting reading about Anna's inner life and her struggles. However, I could have cared less about the mystery at the core of this story, though it was interesting to learn more about the natives and their history. All these various plot lines get rather muddled in the final telling, at least for me. This is a quiet, character driven story, so if you're looking for a fast paced plot, skip this one.

The author is wonderfully skilled at crafting these worlds within worlds, and as I've already said, there are sections of breathtaking beauty. I am still hard pressed to give this a higher rating because of my ambivalence with it overall. That being said, I do plan to read her other books as there is real talent here, and this is one of her earlier ones. Rating: 3 stars.

November 9, 2017

Cinemascope: Gerald's Game

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

Image result for gerald's game movie poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.

I'm not really a fan of scary movies, especially slasher types, but I do try to creep myself out with season books and movies around Halloween. When this showed up on Netflix, I started to watch it, got totally spooked so had to stop watching. Then went back after several days, during day light hours, and finished watching it. This is based on a Stephen King book of the same name, and it's really good. It's not what you think it's about when you start, but don't read any reviews, go in cold and see what you think.

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

November 7, 2017

2017 Sketchbook Part 1: Supplies and Background Prep (video)

In which I answer questions about my current cheapo sketchbook and supplies.




If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 6, 2017

Recent Reads

115. Paper Girls, Vol. 3
I think I might need one of those universal translator thingies so I can figure out what the heck is going on here. Every installment has the four girls and their future selves in different times and places, and this one is the craziest of them all so far. Are we in the future or the past? Does it matter? Time folds in on itself in dizzying ways, but the art continues to be really good, the girls continue to be brave and work on figuring out what is going on, and usual teen stuff keeps surfacing. Speaking of surfacing, monsters do that too. A fun if still confusing romp. Where the heck is this headed? Rating: 3 stars.

116. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second
It actually hurts me to give this such a low rating. I love the premise of this graphic novel series, and I really admire the diversity of the characters and the issues discussed, but this installment felt like reading a PSA (public service announcement).

There are essentially three story lines. The first is a straight forward get out the vote pamphlet, and since it was released after the US elections I'm not sure why they bothered with it. The second story line is about the internet and gaming, and while I agree that we should all be kinder and treat each other respectfully, did we need this entire section for that PSA? And finally we zoom over to Bruno in Wakanda. Am I the only one who didn't recall what he was doing there? Anyways, hi-jinks ensue, but they seemed rather forced given the players involved.

I continue to like the art and the overall themes, but the writing felt really weak in this installment. Has it Ms. Marvel finally run out of steam? Rating: 2 stars.

117. Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002
30% in and on the DNF pile this goes.

I'm a fan of his essays, but this collection of diary entries felt tedious to read. While there is some humor, I found myself mostly annoyed with this one. The author expects us to dip in and out, and maybe I'll do that at some date if some reader I trust tells me it's worth pushing through, but in the meanwhile I'd be better off going back and reading my own old journals!

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by the author, but don't care enough to continue. Rating: 1 star.

November 4, 2017

Journal pages

Here are my final drawings for Inktober 2017. As always click on the images to view larger.

27/31:



28/31:



29/31:



30/31:



31/31:



I always have such a fun time with this challenge, and having done two of these now an certainly learned some things that I'll put into effect for next year. As usual I love some of the sketches better than others, but I'm quite proud of myself for holding to a daily sketching and posting schedule for 31 days. Done is better than perfect.

October 31, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

23/31:

24/31:

25/31:

26/31:

October 30, 2017

Recent Reads

112. The Heart's Invisible Furies
Here I go swimming against the tide again. I see why so many people love this one, but it fell short in some significant ways for me.

This story starts in rural Ireland where a pregnant teenager is dragged out of the church one Sunday and booted out of town. The first line or two of this novel is pretty compelling and I settled in for the ride. This novel starts in the 1940s and spans about sixty five years (give or take a few), and the author is clearly making a statement about Ireland's trajectory over the course of those years. The story is initially told from the POV of this young girl, but then switches to the child, Cyril Avery, who is adopted by a wealthy couple in Dublin, and the rest of the story is told from his perspective. Life in Ireland, or most of the world, was not a friendly place for an unmarried mother, let alone a boy who might be attracted to other boys. Over the course of this story, the author uses Cyril's life to explore some of these issues.

The writing itself is good, and there are some wonderful sentences that I read again to savor the imagery invoked. My biggest complaint is that this book is all tell, tell, tell, and no show. This happened, then this, then this. Dramatic and tragic events all seem to happen of-page, and that might have worked if we got to dive into the depths of emotional turbulence these events caused, but at no point that does happen. So that left me looking into a life through a very thick pane of glass where the characters were not fully fleshed out, and I couldn't connect emotionally with them. The actual issues brought up are all important and there has been much suffering in Ireland and throughout the world because people insist on labels and boxes and everyone being the same, and I appreciated that the author exposed these issues to a reading public that might not know these stories. I however struggled with reading tragic events that didn't really make me feel anything. I didn't really know or care about these characters as they didn't seem real, but rather like props to express observations the author wanted to make. In terms of actual plot, the sheer number of coincidences boggle the mind, and it was hard to suspend disbelief. Yes, it's a small world in some ways, but not this small.

This is the first book I've read by the author and while I liked his writing, I'm reluctant to pick up any of his other books, because from what I can tell they all have some serious issues at their core, and unless he dives deeply emotionally I doubt they'll work for me.

If you have yet to read it, I would highly recommend And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts. Yes, it's non-fiction, but you will not be able to put it down. Rating: 3 stars.

113. Another Brooklyn
There are times when I wonder if the world will ever be a safe place for every girl and woman in it.

What is memory? This novella is a bit like watching a beautifully filmed old fashioned movie of your childhood. Not on DVD. I'm talking about movies on those reels where the frames are a tad jerky, and every now and then a frame bubbles up and burns out. I guess you have to be of a certain age to understand that reference, but I also think you have to be of a certain age to appreciate the wonder of this book. If you are looking for a straight forward linear story this is not for you. Like memory, this weaves moments in time, beauty, tragedy, and the trails and joys of growing up. This is not a story, but a long poem about girlhood, and I loved every minute with it. The only reason I docked a star is the length felt too short and I wanted more, but maybe that's the very point the author is making.

I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Robin Miles. I highly recommend this one on audio as you really get to hear the poetry in the telling. Rating: 4 stars.

114. Paper Girls, Vol. 2
I continue to be both amused and confused with this graphic novel series. I quite like these girls, and the time travel plot problems are fun to think about. What would your 12 year old self think about you if they stumbled across you in town one day? Questions like these give the reader much to think about, though the story itself is a bit garbled, but maybe that's just the effects of time travel. The art is fun and colorful, and I'll continue with the series to see where all this craziness is headed. Rating: 3 stars.

October 29, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

19/31:

20/31:

21/31:

22/31:

October 28, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

15/31:

16/31:

17/31:

18/31:

October 27, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

11/31:

12/31:

13/31:

14/31:

October 26, 2017

Cinemascope: Mona Lisa Smile

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

Image result for mona lisa smile

Released in 2003.

Plot line: Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) is a recent UCLA graduate hired to teach art history at the prestigious all-female Wellesley College, in 1953. Determined to confront the outdated mores of society and the institution that embraces them, Katherine inspires her traditional students including Betty (Kirsten Dunst) and Joan (Julia Stiles) to challenge the lives they are expected to lead.

Remember how I said I really enjoy campus stories this time of year? This is the second time I've watched this movie, and it's a fun one this time of year. It's not without its flaws, but I enjoy the themes explored, and the setting is lovely.

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

October 23, 2017

Recent Reads

109. Imagine Wanting Only This
The thing about navel gazing is that it's only interesting to the person with the navel being gazed at.

This is a graphic memoir about a twenty-something woman who is mourning the death of a beloved uncle. She somehow connects ruins and dilapidated places with this loss, and the book is her working through all her feelings. The art is really good, but the book itself felt pointless, almost like a final project for her MFA. If not for the art I would have bailed on this one, so for the art alone I'll add an additional star. Rating: 2 stars.

110. Paper Girls, Vol. 1
I was excited to pick up this graphic novel series. The story centers around four 12-year old girls who have a paper route. It's Halloween, so you know things are going to get weird, but this weird I did not expect. The art is fun, but I was left confused as to what was going on with all the strange happenings. Hopefully things make more sense in future installments. Rating: 3 stars.

111. The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus
Narrative non-fiction is probably my favorite genre, so I was really looking forward to this one. An Ebola outbreak in Virginia? What? How did I not know about this? Where was the 24/7 media coverage on stuff that actually matters? Yes, I realize I'm getting of topic, so back to the book.

This book starts in Kenya, and takes you along on the experience of a person who is infected and dies in such a horrible manner that you certainly do not, under any circumstances, want to catch this disease. We are talking about Marburg and Ebola. We are introduced to various people, doctors, military personnel, and ordinary people who were affected and infected both in Kenya and the US. There's a monkey facility in Reston VA, and the monkeys suddenly start dying. What happens next is the stuff of horror movies, and that we are all even alive to read this review (or book) is pure luck.

This is a compelling story that is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. For the first several sections I thought I had found my next five star read, but then the author starts to meander. I didn't care about what people made for dinner, and learning about the pets they had at home didn't add to the story one bit. There were simply too many tangents that detracted from the urgency of the main event. The final sections where the author goes to Kenya to see for himself this cave which might be the source is simply gratuitous and annoyed me.

This is still a worth while read, and with tighter editing I would have rated it five stars. If nothing else it gave me lots to think about in terms of pandemics and the experiments carried out on animals. This book was first published in 1994 and I can only hope that we have better processes and systems in place to handle the next pandemic, which denial aside we know is coming.

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by Richard M. Davidson, and if you have not read about this event, this book would make an excellent entry point. Rating: 3 stars.

October 19, 2017

Cinemascope: First Position

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

Image result for first position

Released in 2011.

Plot line: Every year, thousands of aspiring dancers enter one of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix, where lifelong dreams are at stake. In the final round, with hundreds competing for only a handful of elite scholarships and contracts, practice and discipline are paramount, and nothing short of perfection is expected. Bess Kargman's award-winning documentary, First Position, follows six young dancers as they prepare for a chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries, all while navigating the drama of adolescence. A showcase of awe-inspiring talent, tenacity and passion, First Position paints a thrilling and moving portrait of the most gifted young ballet stars of tomorrow.

This is the second time I've watched this documentary, and I loved it just as much as the first time. I smiled, I was amazed, and I was in tears. This is a wonderful documentary about talent, skill, hard work and resilience in young people, and I am in awe of such dedication.

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

October 18, 2017

Travel Art Supplies - Summer 2017 Edition (Video)

It's been over a month since my Oregon trip, but I'm finally getting around to uploading this video.

I love seeing what supplies people take on trips too, so please do share a link to your videos/blog posts. Do you travel with the kitchen sink? :-)



Link to the Pre-trip journal prep video.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 17, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

8/31:


9/31:

10/31:

October 16, 2017

Emma Thompson: Harvey Weinstein 'top of harassment ladder' - BBC Newsnight

"There just aren't enough women in positions of power to balance out the system." Harvey Weinstein is just at the top of this particular iceberg, so let's not pretend that he is somehow unusual. Talk to the girls and women in your lives and take your blinders off.



If the embedded video doesn't work click here.

Recent Reads

107. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II
3.5 stars.

I always excited to get my hands on Ms. Marvel installments, and I particularly loved the sections in this volume that flashback to Partition and that part of the family's history. Also, there is this awesome science competition with very cool and somewhat dangerous inventions. The conflict between being a good superhero and being a good friend comes to a head with this installment, and it's always hard when you realize that your hero might not be worth all that worship. I also really liked the tie-ins to some current affairs, and the art is really good. I had some issues with the pacing of this one and don't love all the fight sequences, but I loved the Partition/Pakistan plot lines enough to round up. Rating: 4 stars.

108. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
DNFed at 60%.

This book is much loved so I'll be swimming against the current, but that's never stopped me from being honest with my thoughts so here goes:

Let me first start by saying that I was a huge fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and when Trevor Noah joined I gave it six weeks before deciding he was just not for me. Something about him rubs me the wrong way, so I wasn't planning on picking up this book, especially since it was a memoir. Then my local book club selected it for this month and I decided to at least try, maybe I would be pleasantly surprised. That did not happen.

I did not know going in that this was a collection of "eighteen personal essays" which explains some of the somewhat disjointed style of this book. It was interesting to hear about this mother and the decisions she made, and this is clearly an ode to his Mom, but why would I care about any of this? While I did smile at some of the humor, I found myself mostly annoyed both with him personally and how he talked about his experiences. Was this a difficult childhood, sure, but so what? As someone who grew up in Kenya, there wasn't much he described that was new to me, and the fact that he talks about his "mischievous" acts where there were no consequences without a sense of regret was something I found deeply disturbing. The longer I listened the more unlikable he become, and when I got the section of his Matric dance when it suddenly occured to him that he and his date didn't even share a common language I called it quits.

I was completely blown away when almost half of the book club members "didn't know about Apartheid." How is that even possible? The group had a mixed reaction to the book, with many feeling that he left out significant bits about how he got to host the Daily Show for example. However, given that this book might be a way to introduce people to some of what happened in South Africa I'm glad Noah wrote it. I'm just clearly not the target audience.

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by the author. I did enjoy listening to his various accents as he switches back and forth between South African languages. I would not have read this far if I'd read it in print, but if you're a Trevor Noah fan, or somehow who doesn't know anything about Apartheid this might work better for you. Rating: 1 star

October 15, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

5/31:

6/31:

7/31:

October 13, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

2/31:

3/31:

4/31:

October 12, 2017

Cinemascope: This Is Us (Season 1)

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

Image result for this is us cast

Released in 2016.

Plot line: The Pearson family's generational story unfolds in this emotional drama. In moments of love, joy, triumph and heartbreak, revelations emerge from parents Jack and Rebecca's past, while triplets Kate, Randall and Kevin discover deeper meaning in their present day lives. Successful businessman and father Randall searches for information about his biological parents. Kate finds love and self-acceptance while battling obesity. Kevin pursues a more meaningful career, which brings some difficult choices.

I honestly think that the less you know about this show going in the better. I'd been hearing buzz about this one, and it got some Emmy nods and wins, but all I really knew going in is that it's a family drama. I didn't have very high expectations, and was blown away by the themes this show tackles, and tackles well. Once I started watching I couldn't stop. I was in tears most shows and right out bawling in others. No car chases, no gun fights, just a powerful look at humanity and our pain and our joy. Loved it.

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

October 9, 2017

Recent Reads

105. The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2)
The thing about King is that he has books where one word can bring back an entire yarn. For example, if I say RedRum, doesn't a whole tale play out in your mind? For this book the word is lobstrosities. Holy smokes!

I didn't love the first book in The Dark Tower magnum opus so wasn't sure about picking this one up, but when a constant reader said it got much better I jumped in and was hooked by the first page or two. Classic King. In this installment Roland, the Gunslinger, meets up with other characters, and understanding what the title means will take you until the last sentence or two. I don't want to spoil the reveals, so all I'll say is that if you quit after the first book, do yourself a favor and try this one. Fans of King will get a thrill with references to his other works. There are lots of loose ends in this one, so I'm waiting impatiently for the next book in the series to arrive. Yes, I should have planned better, but I really had no plans to continue on so that's on me.

I listened to the audiobook which is superbly narrated by Frank Muller. If you have yet to read it I 'd highly recommend this one on audio. Rating: 4 stars.

106. Stay with Me
This debut novel has been getting lots of buzz and I was intrigued by the premise, but even though it has gotten rave reviews, it didn't work as well for me.

The story unfolds over multiple timelines in Nigeria, and personal dramas are juxtaposed with the larger political ones unfolding in the country. A man and a woman meet at university, get married, but alas do not live happily ever after. When the couple remains childless, the family intervenes, and one day the woman learns that her husband now has a second wife. You know things are not going to end well.

I have no issue with polygamy as long as both genders are free to partake, and am always disappointed when books don't address that option, a sure sign that patriarchy is still deeply entrenched in our societies. There are many juicy themes explored in this novel, love, marriage, familial obligations, polygamy, the importance of a male heir, a woman's agency or lack thereof, are the ones that come to mind. Any of these themes could be explored in a full length novel by itself, and I think that is part of what weakened this novel for me. There are so many things going on, and with such a short novel the author tells and tells with very little show. There are big emotional plot points, but the author does not dive deep or flesh out any of the characters in this novel enough, so the foundation doesn't really support the structure. A scene is laid out and we the reader must infuse it with emotion that doesn't really derive from the words on the page.

Another issue I had is that we alternate between two points of view - the wife (number one) is the main narrator, while the husband inserts his POV from time to time. I suppose that this device was used to garner sympathy for the husband, but it didn't work as he wasn't fully developed enough for me to care about his issues. There isn't a likable character in this story, and I was okay with that, but there just wasn't enough meat on the bones of these people for my tastes.

The writing itself was easy enough to read and this is a really quick read. I liked the slow reveal of things known and unknown, and the customs and traditions described. While there is real heartbreak in this story, it felt rather like listening to a disaster story on the news - lots of sound bites without the punch that remains with you when you are done. And do not get me started on that ending. Oy veh!

Still, it's a good debut novel, and the author has enough writing chops to make me pick up her next book. Rating: 3 stars.

October 7, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

1/31:

October 6, 2017

Journal pages

Am inordinately proud of my third attempt at sketching one of the actors.

October 5, 2017

Cinemascope: Dead Poets Society

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

Related image

Released in 1989.

Plot line: A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its ancient traditions and high standards. He uses unorthodox methods to reach out to his students, who face enormous pressures from their parents and the school. With Keating's help, students Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) and others learn to break out of their shells, pursue their dreams and seize the day.

I've been disappointed with the movies I've tried lately. So much hype that they just don't live up to, so I decided to go back and watch an oldie but goodie. Also, Autumn always makes me think of boarding school stories, so I picked this one, and am delighted at how well it holds up. So good on so many levels, and asks an important question: what is education for? All these years later and I was still in tears during that last scene.

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

October 4, 2017

Journal pages

Buildings are harder to draw than you'd think. The next six pages in my journal is me learning about perspective. I kid you not.


Insomnia isn't so bad when you've got art supplies. Swipe left for the October setup in my morning pages composition journal.


Setup the first week's gratitude/ good things record page.

October 3, 2017

Journal pages

Inspired by my reading material.


Continue to be inspired by my reading material. This graphic memoir didn't work for me, but I did like the art.

October 2, 2017

Recent Reads

102. Wide Open: Creativity Notebook & Card Set: Inspiration & Techniques for Art Journaling on the Edge
When you are jetlagged and wide awake at 3 am, art books might be just the thing. I enjoyed flipping through the art cards, and really like the color palatte used. Since I'm no longer a beginner, I didn't love it as much as during my first reading, but there are still some interesting ideas in this deck.
---------------------------------------------------
First read in 2012 with a 4 stars rating.

This is not a book per se, rather a stack of cards that prompts you think about how you use your art journal. I own this set, and tend to read through them about twice a year. Have yet to use the notebook, as I prefer to make my own journals. A fun way use creative prompts.

103. Pretending is Lying
This graphic memoir is translated from the Belgian by Sophie Yanow.

If you know me you know I have issues with memoirs in general, and yet I keep picking them up, go figure.

The author recounts events of her life pertaining to her father, lover, and daughter, and what I did like about the telling is how episodic these events seem to be. That's exactly how we remember things. Memory is not like a film that plays, but is more like tuning into a channel. Sometimes we get a clear sharp image, other times simply static. While that really makes sense to the person with the memories, it's rather a disjointed experience for me the reader. I get (I think) what she was going for, but something seemed lost in translation to me. You know that experience when you are trying to describe a really vivid dream to someone, and you cannot convey how it felt? Reading this book felt like that. I'm not a fan of the art style either, pencil with some color, and there were panels I puzzled over trying to understand what was being conveyed with the strange figures and positions. There are people who love it, but there was something lost in translation for me. Rating: 2 stars.

104. Twilight (Twilight #1)
You know that ole adage not to make life changing decisions in the middle of the night? Yes, well, I'm currently still on Pacific Standard Time, so while flipping through my tablet for a book to read at 2 am last night I stumbled across this one. I have the entire series checked out of my library because I love vampire stories, lots of people loved these, and most importantly, my 14 and 15 year old nieces love the series. While mediocre, it is a fast read and I found myself at around page 60 when I decided that no, this was absolutely not the book for me. I'm not dissing all the fans of this series, it's just not my cuppa tea, and I'll be deleting the series from my device shortly.

PS. If you loved the vampire angle do yourself a favor and read Anne Rice. Rating: 1 star.

September 25, 2017

Recent Reads

99. Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood
"To quote the poets ... it is possible to drown in information ... and die for lack of wisdom."

I adore this graphic novel series and tore through this volume, though I did go back and flip through it more slowly so as to better savor the art. The art is fantastic and might be some of the best I've ever seen in a comic. Combine that with a wonderful story and color me delighted. We get to meet a whole new cast of characters, and learning more about the worlds this story is set in is delightful. The Isle of Bones is especially wonderfully illustrated, and the various factions and their agendas makes this a compelling read. It's hard when you don't fit neatly into any of the boxes, but can Maika come to terms with her dual nature without turning into a monster herself? I docked a star because some of the plot lines are rather murky but I expect things will clear up as the series continues. Sexy, violent, wonderful. Cannot wait for the next installment. Rating: 4 stars.

100. Frommer's Portland day by day
This little guide book is a wonderful and practical introduction (or review) for a visit to Portland. Easy to use, chock-full of information with good maps and fun itineraries. If you're looking for just one guidebook to take along with you for a city visit, I'd suggest trying this one out. Rating: 4 stars.

101. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Book blurb: "The Oregon Trail" is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules--which hasn't been done in a century--that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

I love reading books about or set in places I visit, so moved this one up my TBR in anticipation of our Oregon trip for the Great American Eclipse event in August.

This is a memoir of a trip that two brothers, Rinker and Nick Buck, plus dog, Olive Oyl, undertake to traverse the trail the old fashioned way. I quite enjoyed learning about both their day to day predicaments and achievements, and the history of the early pioneers on the trail. The early section on mules alone makes this one worth picking up. As you'd expect with a story that has two dudes, a dog, and three mules, there's a bit of repetitiveness to this story, but I learned many things I didn't even know, for example Hollywood did mules a huge disservice when they pretended that horses did all that glorious work in getting the early travelers across the country. It wasn't horses, but mules that made Manifest Destiny possible, so where are all the odes to mules I ask?

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the author, and I would not recommend going that route. He's got a way of reading that emphasizes incorrect parts of a sentence, and there were some strange pronunciations that kept pulling me out of the yarn. I really liked the historical facts woven into the story, but felt that there was much that could have been edited out to make this a tighter story. I tend to love travel/adventure stories, and this one while good wasn't great. Still, I enjoyed learning about prairie schooner travel logistics, and it gave me a better appreciation for the ease of air travel as I flew across the country. Rating: 3 stars.

September 21, 2017

Cinemascope: Narcos (Season 3)

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

Image result for narcos season 3 poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: Now that the bloody hunt for Pablo Escobar has ended, the DEA turns its attention to the richest drug trafficking organization in the world: the Cali Cartel. Led by four powerful godfathers, this cartel operates much differently than Escobar's, preferring to bribe government officials and keep its violent actions out of the headlines.

I love this Netflix series. You learn much about the drug industry, the cartels, the US culpubity in all of it, and the reason why the moeny spent on "the war on drugs" was essentially money flushed down the toilet. The acting and production quality is really good. I am often to be found talking to the characters while I watch, and my blood pressure increases with every show. So good.

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