Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Randomness--All Kinds of Artsy Stuff

I love this.  The artist felt like she was getting into a watercolor palette rut so she created these color dice to encourage her to think outside her safety zone.  She even offers a template so you can make your own.  Brilliant!

Speaking of which, here is a free online watercolor course that begins on May 28. Mark your calendars!!!  (And if you sign up for the email notification, be sure to say you learned about the course here!)

I really enjoyed E*phi=log's fake journal and was rather pushy (although she says I was merely insistent) about her making hard copies (aka zines) available to other people.  And she's doing it.  Yay!
(She also has this ridiculously cute picture of a girl dangling from her pet giraffe's leash.  Scroll down to an older post if you don't immediately see it.)

This site typically shares disastrous cakes or just laughable ones.  If nothing else, some of these are definitely artsy.  And if you can go back to the Mother's Day post you'll find some really pretty ones.

Bit of you only want to see pretty things or if you want to know how to make your own pretty things, then this cake site may be the answer.  (Albeit, if you end up doing something on this website and end up on the other you only have yourself to blame.)

I love what this artist did--creating individual pieces inspired by songs of the Beatles.  I'm not sure what size each piece is individually.  I posted a comment asking.  Hopefully, I'll have an answer before this post goes live.
Just out of curiosity, what musical artist would you find inspiring enough to do something like this, if you were artistically inclined to do this?

The details in this artist's sketches are mind blowing.

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Army disinvites Graham to Pentagon Prayer Day | General Headlines |

Army disinvites Graham to Pentagon Prayer Day | General Headlines |

"'I want to say this is a victory, but in a way it's a Pyrrhic victory because it shows how far this got,' Weinstein said. 'We're not exactly doing cartwheels.'

Weinstein said he hopes someone more 'inclusive' will be invited to replace Graham."

I agree with what Weinstein says in the article, that Graham should not have been invited in the first place. Of course, one has to ask: Should one statement made in 2001 be the defining statement? Has Graham changed his attitude towards other religions, in this case specifically Islam, or does he still feel the same way?

In nine years many people change their beliefs about other religions and 2001 was a politically volatile time. I have no doubt that a quick search would turn up many people, especially Americans, who said hostile things toward Islam. Unfortunately, too many Americans still cannot or will not differentiate between Islam and Al Qaeda.

Frankly, I think the whole thing is a non-issue as well. As the debate of the constitutionality of having a National Day of Prayer finds itself on the doorstep of the Supreme Court the end result will be the same--someone will be unhappy with the final decision. But if it is decided that this so-called event is not constitutional then at least we won't have to worry about someone saying something offensive nearly ten years ago being a problem in the present.

After all, had there not been a National Day of Prayer, Graham would never have been invited and the news media would have had nothing to discuss.

And I would not be writing this post.


Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush each hosted special events for the day only once during their administrations, PresidentBill Clinton did not hold any such events during his time in office, George W. Bush held events on the National Day of Prayer in each year of his presidency, and President Barack Obama did not hold a formal event for the NDOP on May 7, 2009.

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Children's Books Book Review

I have begun reading Caldecott Medal winners to see what children's books are out there that I might find charming and/or delightful.  Because the medal is given for illustrations, I wanted to see if the content was as interesting and engaging as the imagery.  Here are the ones I chose for my first exploration.

The illustrations are very pretty.

The story is cute but rather dull.

I can't imagine wanting to read this to a child night after night.

In fact, I was pretty bored with it halfway through and, except for the stunningly beautiful pictures, I think the whole thing is pretty forgettable.

Surprisingly, this book includes a story that is one of my mother's favorite Buddhist stories so, naturally, I was pleased to see it included.

The illustrations are lovely and, when the panda, Stillwater, is telling the children different stories the visual change is obvious although not as lovely as the frame story ones are.

I liked this one a lot.  Probably mostly because of the fact that it has that one story in particular.

An alphabet book with abstract and very graphic images of various endangered animals.  Each letter is representing one animal in different parts of the globe.  Why they are endangered and where they live are listed along with how much at risk each species truly is.

The illustrations are black and white with a little red to add a dash of color.

A parent could easily use this book with older children to discuss a variety of things including ecology, biology, geography, etc.

Visually interesting but I don't think small children, ones learning their alphabet will find it irresistible.

A lovely book on many levels.  Visually interesting with some pages almost being like a "Where's Waldo?" except you are looking for Galileo.

There are quotes from Galileo as well as others and some interesting historical facts that add context above and beyond the simple story.

The main text is in print.  The quotes are in cursive, sometimes hard to read, but good practice for the independent reader to read something other than print.

A book that lends itself to discussion and further exploration.

I love this book.  I mean really love it.

I was giggling as I read it.

The illustrations are cartoonish and the story utterly ridiculous and together they make this book a quirky delight.

I want this book.  I want to read this book again and again.

(Rob says it is a cautionary tale.  I won't say why he says this, lest I spoil the plot.  But I think he's onto something.)

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fifteen in 2010 Revisited

I've been making progress through my list of Fifteen in 2010 but I still have a way to go.

To be honest, I've already started two of the books on the list and I haven't included them in this "revisited" post because they haven't been completely neglected.

I'm also not including the other poetry collection I have on my list because I am already reading one poetry book from my list.  I'd rather not read two.

There is something so freeing about this process of clearing things out.  I've actually pulled more than a few other books that I've given away unread or unexplored.  And I feel no qualms about having done so.

What's more, I've already begun my "next year's" list, pulling a random series of books from various shelves with the intention of creating a new list of "Read 'em or be rid of 'em" books.  And because next year is 2011, I am reviving another odd thing I did way back when.

What is that you may be asking?  (Or at least I hope you're asking anyway.)

In 2001 I committed to only reading books by women.  It was an interesting personal challenge because I found very few on the bargain book tables and shelves written by women I would want to read.  I could find plenty of romance novels. And mysteries.  And tons of self-help books on weight loss and self-improvement and rarely any that I felt were truly about self-awareness or even overcoming the self.

In other words, much to my surprise, the quality of books I found on the bargain tables was disappointing.

But that's okay, for you see, I won't be trying to find bargain books or discount books or anything like that.  The purpose of these Fifteen in (insert year here) challenges is to read books I already own and which I want to either read or get rid of.

Sooooo . . . in 2011 I will once again commit to only reading books by women.  Which is why my next year's pile is easy for me to create because I've already narrowed down my choices.  When I was trying to pull this year's list from my shelves, I sometimes felt a bit overwhelmed but because I am only focusing on women's writing next year, I can only consider women authors for next year's pile.

Not that anyone really cares but here's a funny Rob story.

In 2000 Rob and I started dating.  Towards the end of the year I told him about my plan to only read women's books and he went out shopping one day and looked for the thickest, longest book he could find written by a woman.

He found Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Now, to be honest, he could have found many other, longer books but he didn't look further and bought this one and gave it to me with such enthusiasm and excitement.

(To this day I am amazed.)

Somehow, and I am not sure how, Rob was unaware that this book was the fourth in a series of books.  Since I had not read the previous three books I had to go out and buy all three before I could read the fourth book.

Which is precisely what I did and much of early 2001's reading was my catching up with the whole Harry Potter phenomenon.

So there.  A little Rob story mixed in with the revisit of the Fifteen in 2010 list.  Now I need to choose which of these will be the next to be read.  Any suggestions?  Any preferences?  

Things That Make Me Sad on My Morning Walk

The smell of decay and/or rot even when I can’t see the source.
The siren of an ambulance.
The shell of the house that burned down to its foundation.
The pain in my knee.
Political signs on lawns (but mostly when they are not representing my party of choice)
Fresh fruit uneaten by man or beast.
Dead animals 
  • Snakes
  • Frogs
  • Birds
  • Chipmunks
  • Squirrels
  • Possums

The bright blue of a robin’s egg crushed on the ground.
For rent and/or sale signs on front lawns.
Trash tossed to the side of the road, into the gutter or onto someone’s lawn.
The screech of someone trying to stop their vehicle.
Losing my balance.
Neighbors who do not return my smile, my wave, my hello.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Hero Within by Carol S Pearson

The Hero Within:  Six Archetype We Live By by Carol S. Pearson is a slightly feminist look at archetypes, drawing on Jungian psychology, and how these basic mythic figures define various stages in individual emotional growth.  The six archetypes featured are:  Innocent, Orphan, Wanderer, Martyr, Warrior, and Magician. 

Throughout the book, although Pearson presents the material in a very linear manner, reminders that the journey through and within each archetype is not purely progressive.  Rather, the reader is told that the journey is circular in nature, a spiral that goes wider, higher, and deeper as the various types are experienced and realized and revisited. 

Pearson is sensitive to possible New Age oversimplification and openly admits she is feminist, something that is evident in the text before she declares herself.  But she manages to reign in her personal inclinations lending the text a necessary balance.  The author also limits herself to only these six archetypes although she allows that there are many others the reader may encounter and experience on the path to personal growth.

In the expanded edition, Pearson has added some journaling and meditation exercises to help work with each of the six types.  There is also a quiz, to help determine which of the archetypes are most dynamic to the reader’s life at the time.  I would recommend waiting to take the quiz until after you have read the book.  Human nature suggests that if you know which archetype is most dominant we are most inclined to focus on that part of the book.  Pearson does not emphasize these appendices, suggesting that her intention is to allow the reader to come to them after the book’s content has been read and appreciated.

Like Moore’s Care of the Soul, this is a strongly Jungian book so if you are not into mythology and archetypes skip this book.  Over all, this is a good book, perhaps better if I had read it before Moore’s book rather than afterward.  

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beyond Words by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Beyond Words by Sri Swami Satchidananda is a collection of parables, teachings, and sayings from the swami who opened the Woodstock music festival.  Adding to the overall flavor of the text are line drawings by Peter Max. 

When I was a child, my mother and I went to the ashram where Sri Swami Satchidananda taught and during our brief visit he showed up on the final day.  I remember the incredibly energy of his presence, the peace that simply exuded from him.  He invited me to give him a hug and the softness of his beard surprised me.  These are the things I remember.  Later I would learn about the sex scandals but long after he had died and it didn’t influence my memory at all.

Neither of these things influenced my appreciation, or lack thereof, of this book. Not to say that this isn’t a charming book.  I liken it to the type of teachings one often finds in early spiritual training—simplified and often pithy.  The book simply lacks any real depth and doesn’t really challenge the reader. 

For instance, he writes “The more you think that you are a bit, the more you will become bitter.  The more you think you are a piece, the more peace you will lose.”  (170)

In the meantime, the image on the same page is of a wave, not dissimilar from those found in Hokusai prints, over which a winged figure is hovering.  Unfortunately, there are many examples of the drawings by Peter Max having more spiritual depth and even meaning than the words themselves. 

However, I can see where there is a need for a book like this, for those who are not ready to plunge too deeply into spirituality, for those unwilling to have their lives infused and/or informed by spiritual truths, this book will feel safe and perhaps even be a little challenging without ever being threatening.

I wanted meat not milk.  So my disappointment is my own.  And yet, the image on page 29, the chapter title page for “We Are One” is so perfect that I could meditate on it for days if not years or even a lifetime.  I don’t regret reading this book but I cannot recommend it.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Reiki for Anxiety

I came across this article, Reiki for Anxiety:, in which the writer says:

"For Reiki to work the patient has to believe 100% that the treatment method is genuine and that it will work."

To be honest, I disagree with the above statement. I am a skeptic. I was attuned to Reiki because people kept asking me "Do you do Reiki?" I realized that whatever Reiki may or may not be, I was being nudged in its direction. And so I read a couple of books and found a teacher I trusted, one who could share his lineage, etc., and I was attuned.

But I was still skeptical. Until I started doing it on others. I couldn't even trust it was working on myself. After all, if I gave myself Reiki because of cramps or because I needed to feel more relaxed and later noticed that the cramps were gone or I was no longer tense was it really the Reiki or just my desire at work?

Then I gave Reiki to others and I started to believe just a little bit more and then a bit more and . . .

I'm still a skeptic. Ha! Bet you didn't see that coming! I'm a skeptic but I'm open to my experiences with Reiki and I know that I am growing through the experience. I also feel that the more I do it, the more I will believe. In the meantime, I'm here able, willing, and even eager to give Reiki. Maybe this is a way for me to raise that desperately needed $10,000.

Hmmmm . . .

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DIY U by Anya Kamenetz

DIY U:  Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz is a book about how education is changing as technological resources become more prevalent and accessible.  The author begins with a brief history behind secondary education, the purpose of colleges and universities in the United States from their inception to the present day.  She then moves into the economic dilemmas of education, focusing on how students are indebting themselves in order to be well-educated citizens, something that was presumably the intention behind creating the university system to begin with.

I confess that I slogged through the economics chapter and it was well worth it because what follows is the meat of this book.  After presenting a strong argument for where we are and how we got here, Kamenetz pushes forward to offer even stronger arguments for where we should be heading and how we can get there.  Drawing on the experiences of others, she explores the roots of open courseware and other ways in which technology is changing education above and beyond the idea of online courses.  The book serves not only as a why-to or even when-to but most essentially as a how-to.  By emphasizing the resources in a context of practical application, the author invites the reader to dare to dream.  Even if you don't know what you want to know, Kamenetz recommends a variety of tools, resources that are available online naturally, to help focus the knowledge seeker.  Because so many possibilities are already out there, there really is no excuse for not sampling where you might want to be ten years from now right from your own home--at least that is what she contends.

As Kamenetz says in the book, even five years ago many of the resources she recommends were not available.  No doubt, many of the resources she highlights will have come and gone five or ten years from now.  (Hopefully, for most of these websites, such will not be the case.)  That is the way things seem to go on the internet.  Will this book be as relevant then as it is now?  Perhaps not.  Prescience comes at the price of realization.  When one foresees a trend or an opportunity, throws a spotlight on it and asks "Do you see what I see?", when fruition inevitably follows the significance of foresight becomes hindsight and people just tend to move on.  So I would say read this book sooner rather than later.  The invitation on the pages is there but hesitation may make the delivery too late to arrive at the party.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine? by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson

Watcha Mean, What’s a Zine? :  The Art of Making Zines and Mini-Comics by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson is a guidebook for anyone interested in creating a zine or mini-comic sprinkled with a wealth of examples from a wealth of indie comics.  The pages are slick looking although the choice to use beige and light blue as the primary color choices is beyond my comprehension.  I had a hard time reading the book because my eyes simply ached for a little black and white on which to focus.  And layering the light blue on splashes of beige?  Really?  Was this necessary?

I suppose so because, when all is said and done, I genuinely enjoyed this book and found some very useful information on the process of creating a zine with some very practical advice.  For instance, the more black there is on a page, the more likely it is to get stuck in a photocopier.  Hmmm . . . perhaps that explains why there is an absence of black in this book.  Okay.  I’m being a bit hyperbolic because there is black here and there and I am just being old, perhaps too old to not complain about something.

The sections on how to format and print a zine or mini-comic is perfect with suggestions on how to cut and paste, if necessary, or to lay everything out right the first time to go straight from page to print.  Suggestions for mini-books using only one sheet of paper and for how to bind longer projects are also included.  On a technical level, the information in this book is great. 

Where this book feel flat for me, color choices aside, is that I found it completely uninspiring.  When I finished reading it, I had no desire to grab pen and paper and get started.  It isn’t that I didn’t find the book interesting and informative but if someone is hoping to read this book for a gentle push in creative directions then the practical content is simply not going to fulfill.  I can’t begrudge the authors for focusing on the technical of the technique.  There are other books that focus on how to find inspiration.  And after you’ve read one of those books and you have pages of product you are ready to publish then this is absolutely the must-have book for where and how to begin.  If you started and stalled, knowing how you will finish might be the push you need.  It really depends on where you are and what you need. 

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