Monday, December 29, 2008
Jeff Greenwald, one of my favorite travel writers, uses a Moleskine journal.
Per Jeff, "I used to write longhand, despite my horrific left-handed penmanship. As soon as the portable computer came around ‹ meaning, like, 20 years ago ‹ I pretty much started to write in that media. I still take notes longhand, in a small black Moleskine notebook, with a fast-drying pen (lefties tend to smudge their ink). But my portable word processor is sort of interesting. It¹s an AlphaSmart NEO, which runs on 3 AA batteries. They last 700 hours, so I could bring this thing into the Brazilian rain forest for a couple of months and never worry about a charge!"
I first learned a about Jeff after reading an interview with him in a book called, A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration.
Shopping for Buddhas was the first of Jeff's books that I read and instantly connected with. It tells the story his journey to find the perfect souvenir Buddha statue while traveling through Nepal. While Jeff's pursuit of the Buddha might seem trite and materialistic to some, I saw it as a search for much more- for perfection in one self, a sense of beginning, or one of closure. Whichever the case may be, I loved it.
Jeff's writing is funny, intelligent, and very human.
If you are in or around the San Francisco area, check out Jeff's show Strange Travel Suggestions, an improvised monologue based on his adventures. The critically acclaimed show continues to draw sold-out houses.
You can read Jeff's blog Here
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Back in October, I had the pleasure of attending an event called "DrumTalk."
DrumTalk brings internationally acclaimed master drummers/educators to Pittsburgh, PA for a four‐day weekend of exciting concerts, informative workshops and energizing drum circles.
This year's faculty included one of my favorite percussionists, the world renowned master of the frame drum, Mr. Glen Velez. Not only did I have the pleasure of watching him perform, (including the Blue Tambourine solo shown above) I also had the opportunity to take one of his workshops. He is humble and gracious and I loved every moment I got to spend in his presence.
A quick side note - the video above doesn't do that solo justice. When amplified, it made the tambourine sound like a marching band was in the room. I wasn't initially sure how he was making the sounds, so after the workshop I asked him how it was done. He pulled the tambourine out of his case and showed me that it was a rather inexpensive plastic tambourine with a tunable plastic head. (Important so you can grip and bend the head) He said that combined with the amplification, it's how he makes it sing. He then proceeded to walk over to the mike and play a part of the solo for me to show me how he grips and bends the head to change the pitch of the tambourine. Amazing.
One of my all time favorite CD's is his Rhythms of the Chakras.
Learn more about Glen Velez on his Website.
Photo of me, Glen Velez, and his Blue Tambourine at DrumTalk, in Pittsburgh, PA
Friday, December 26, 2008
In 4 days, (on 12/31) I'll turn 40.
A birthday on the last day of the year always fills me with deep reflection on the past year, and contemplation for the next. As this birthday also marks a major milestone, it's become a time of confusion, frustration, questioning one's decisions, and deciding what needs to stay and what needs to go. (Literally and figuratively)
2008 was an outstanding year for me, but it also faced me with a number of difficult challenges.
I learned more about myself as a person- on how to grow and keep growing, than in all previous years combined.
I broke free from myself on numerous occasions and tried my hardest to "leave blood on the floor." (And damn if it didn't feel great!)
I took chances and destroyed harmful patterns in 2008 because no one achieves anything they truly desire by playing things safe.
I was ready for more, I asked for more, and it was given to me.
So now, entering into a new year as well as a new decade into my life, I am again ready for transformation and am certain, that 2009 will surpass 2008's level of excellence. And with each challenge that comes my way, I will review it with a clear mind and act accordingly, taking whatever action is necessary to continue moving forward.
Thomas Ashley Farrand's book, Chakra Mantras: Liberate Your Spiritual Genius Through Chanting led me to the following mantra:
Gate Gate Para Gate Para Sam Gate Bodhi Suvaha is a mantra (known as the "Prajna Paramita" or "Heart Sutra") "to develop bodhicitta, the mental desire and state of readiness to receive higher knowledge and enlightenment."
This website states: "Use the mantra of the Prajna Paramita to take you beyond. Let it take you to the other shore. Allow it to awaken you. Let it remind you of your becoming. Let it carry you away without your leaving."
I think I'm finally starting to understand just a tiny little bit about life. It's not enough to just exist. Life is about transformation, and life is about continued evolution. It's about listening carefully when a lesson is being taught, and to freely give that information away to those who need it.
Life is about being sensitive to the needs of others, but also to your own needs as well. It's about being a good person with no hidden agendas.
2009 will another great year of my moving forward.
Of knocking down walls and building anew,
If you wish it, may it be the same for you.
*Note - Gate is pronounced "Ga-teh.", and I have taken liberties with the spelling of "swaha" or "svaha" by spelling it "suvaha" which is how I've heard it spoken.
**Note - If you are familiar with mantra, I don't typically sing them in the traditional sing-songy way. I sing them in whatever way suits me. For this heart sutra, I sing it fast, like someone singing tabla poetry, but with a syncopated feel. Whatever works, right?
My watercolor was created on Arches Hot Press paper. Daniel Smith/Holbein/Schmincke watercolor paints. Mantra written with Sennelier China Black ink with a Cretacolor dip pen. (Drawing Nib)
Monday, December 15, 2008
I and was mortified when I read that this statue was stolen. I had prayed that it would be returned intact, but per today's newspaper, it's gone. I feel horrible that there are people in the world that have no shame.
From Wiki: "Pio of Pietrelcina (25 May 1887 – 23 September 1968) was a Capuchin priest from Italy who is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. He was born Francesco Forgione, and given the name Pio when he joined the Capuchins; he was popularly known as Padre Pio after his ordination to the priesthood. He became famous for his stigmata."
From the mcall.com website:
2 charged with stealing, chopping up statue from Padre Pio site
"An antique religious statue valued at between $60,000 and $100,000 and stolen from a Berks County shrine in September was chopped up and sold for its scrap value -- $952, according to state police.
Theft charges were filed today against the two men state police allege are responsible -- John E. Hammond Jr. 31, of Spring City, Chester County, and Jamie Lee Custer, 31, of Norristown.
According to state police, Hammond and Custer removed the 8-foot-tall statue known as the "Angel of Roses" from the National Centre for Padre Pio, a shrine and museum honoring a Roman Catholic saint, on Barto Road in Washington Township.
The statue, originally cast in the 1930s, previously graced the Hall of Justice in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The angel had a four-foot wing span and held five roses, each representing the five wounds of Christ. The founder of the centre purchased the statue at auction about 10 years ago for $26,000 because Padre Pio bore the same wounds -- known as the stigmata -- on his body for more than 50 years.
According to state police at Reading, Hammond and Custer removed the statue before 4 a.m. Sept. 24 by cutting four nuts and bolts that secured the statue to its concrete base and toppling it into the bed of a pickup truck. The statue weighed between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds.
State police said the men rented a saw from a local store, cut the statue into manageable pieces and sold the pieces for $952 to a scrap metal dealer in Conshohocken.
Charges of theft by unlawful taking or disposition were filed against Hammond and Custer today at District Judge Michael G. Hartman's office.
The statue had been one of the first things visitors saw when they entered the centre's 100-acre property between Route 100 and Old Route 100. Padre Pio, an Italian friar who died in 1968, was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002."
-- Reporting by Tracy Jordan, The Morning Call
Link to the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto, PA.
From the website I can has cheezburger
For those of you unfamiliar to the LOL cat phenomenon, Wikipedia says:
"A lolcat is an image combining a photograph, most frequently of a cat, with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption in (often) broken English—a dialect which is known as “lolspeak,” ”kitteh,” or “kitty pidgin” and which parodies the poor grammar typically attributed to Internet slang. The name "lolcat" is a compound word of the phrase "LOL" and "cat". A synonym for "lolcat" is cat macro, since the images are a type of image macro. Lolcats are designed for photo sharing imageboards and other internet forums. The term lolcat gained national media attention in the United States when it was covered by Time, which wrote that non-commercialized phenomena of the sort are increasingly rare, stating that lolcats have "a distinctly old-school, early 1990s, Usenet feel to [them]."
"These images usually consist of a photo of a cat with a large caption characteristically set in a sans serif font such as Impact or Arial Black. The image is, on occasion, digitally edited for effect. The caption generally acts as a speech balloon encompassing a comment from the cat, or as a description of the depicted scene. The caption is intentionally written with deviations from standard English spelling and syntax,featuring "strangely-conjugated verbs, but a tendency to converge to a new set of rules in spelling and grammar." The text parodies the grammar-poor patois stereotypically attributed to Internet slang. Frequently, lolcat captions take the form of phrasal templates. Some phrases have a known source (usually a well-known Internet meme, such as All your base are belong to us or Do not want), while others seem to be specific to the lolcat form.[original research?] There are parallels between the language used in lolcats and baby talk, which some owners of cats often use when talking to them. The superimposed text is usually assumed to be uttered by the cat in the photograph."
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
It's a meditation you know. Anyone can do this- even those with little to no artistic experience because it's not about creating art. Any art that is created upon completion is incidental to the feeling of release that you will experience while getting lost in the mandala process.
Many people bottle their emotions and have nowhere to release it. Unexpressed emotion will only lead to misery and dis-ease. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow - but it will eventually cause problems that could be relieved if you could only find a creative outlet in which to express yourself.
To create a mandala, you must fist release all judgments about your ability to aesthetically put pen to paper. Throw those thoughts out the window because no one has to ever see it but you, (unless you choose to share it) and it's totally your prerogative to destroy it once completed.
It's a good idea to try this in a safe, quiet environment, (soft pleasing music is fine) because you want to be able to work on it until you are finished. Once you get used to the "meditation" of the mandala, you will probably find that you will be doodling them anywhere, on the bus, train, Dr's offices...anywhere you have a few spare moments and can whip out a pad and pen.
The type of paper is unimportant, as is the pen/crayon/pencil/marker you choose to do it with. Just select a n implement that regularly feels good in your hand. You can always try other forms of media at a later time. For now, it's all about comfort.
To draw a mandala, start at the center, which is in essence, your core. Start with a dot, a circle, a cross, any symmetrical shape that you can work around in a circle. What you are going to do after making your first mark, is to make another mark, a small mark or pattern that can be repeated in a concentric pattern around the center. After that, make another mark and continue in another concentric circle, repeating layer after layer. Make it as big as you want, as detailed as you want, the only thing is that you just stay mindful of the marks you are making. (don't allow yourself to become distracted, and if you do, gently bring your mind back into focusing on what you are doing) None of the marks need be perfect, ever. They just need to be.
Remember to keep from judging yourself on the choices you are making for the design, the straightness of your lines, or roundness of your circles. Just stay with the pattern and keep moving round the circle.
If you enjoy the mandala process as I do, eventually you will build up a library of shapes, patterns and designs that will easily come to mind. If you get stuck, just think of basic shapes, circles, triangles, or even letters of the alphabet. V's M'and T's are good. Whatever works.
There's a certain flow that starts to develop and I often feel compelled to take a mandala to a certain point and it almost always seems to let me know once I'm finished. Sometimes I sit down to create one when I'm absolutely furious with emotion and within 30-45 minutes, I don't even remember what I was upset about.
So go ahead. Try it out. Draw a mandala. I'd love to hear how it made you feel.
Friday, December 5, 2008
For the longest time, I've been searching for sketchbooks/pads containing black paper. I was at such a loss on where to find them that an internet friend actually shipped me two Reeves brand black paper pads all the way from Australia so I could try them out.
Shortly after than, I found the above spiral bound book at Michael's craft store. There was a brand sticker on it when I bought it, but it's since been removed and I'm no longer sure what it was. It could be Strathmore.
The texture on this paper isn't very nice to work on, it's flat and shiny and probably better suited to gel pens. I found this also with the Reeves pads.
Still holding onto my number one spot for "best black paper" to work with, is Canson's Mi-Tientes which comes loose in big sheets, or in spiral pads. I believe it's meant to be used for pastels.
I've also tried a number of different products ON the black paper, and in the example above, those are Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water soluble crayons. The Neocolors are highly pigmented crayons that work great on dark paper, but can also be used on light colored paper. Brush over them with water and they look like you've painted with them. Another alternative is to wet a brush and rub it over the tip of the crayon to paint with it.
Note- my scanner didn't seem to love the black paper, so I did darken the background in a photo editing program. The crayon colors did come out relatively accurate.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Several years ago, when I decided I wanted to try painting with watercolors, I bought the Van Gogh Travel Kit shown above. I always loved the design of the kit because it's small and I could hold it easily with my thumb through the middle hole while I painted. I later learned that there was a big difference in quality and performance between student and artist grade watercolor paints. Since these were student grade, I soon lost interest in this kit and started buying artist grade tube paints and filling them into the palette shown below.
I started to feel like I was using too many colors and also wasn't thrilled with the design of the larger palette. I couldn't easily hold it as I painted and so I removed all of the original Van Gogh paints from the above box and re-filled it with my favorite Holbein, Daniel Smith and Schmincke watercolors. I am much happier now.
You can find similar sets on Blick.com
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This was my first time putting brush to paper in a long time. It was a series of concentric circles, one color blending into the next. I looked at it, and felt like something was missing. I sat down at some ridiculous time of day, maybe 1 am? And started working on this mandala - at the center, always at the center.
The meditation of creating this mandala was quite powerful and all these positive words and thoughts came to me as I was finishing up, so I felt compelled to include them as part of the piece.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I pulled out my watercolors today- something I haven't done in a long time. As I was painting, I remembered back to when I was trying desperately to build a basic palette of watercolor paints. Every site I visited suggested something different. Contrary to popular belief, every color of the rainbow cannot be created through mixing the three primary colors, (red, blue & yellow) with black and white. It's a little more complicated than that. There are warm and cool versions of each of those three primaries. Mix a warm red and a cool yellow, and you might end up with mud - especially if you are using the inexpensive student grade paints.
I also never realized how much difference there was between student grade and artist grade watercolor paints until I broke down and bought some. Student grade paints contain more binder than pigment and they are often frustrating to work with when you try and mix them. This IS one of those situations where you will get what you pay for. I know quite a few people that gave up on painting with watercolor because they could never get the colors to mix right, often resulting in muddy dull colors. Chances are they were probably struggling with student grade paints.
(One of my all-time favorite paintings, I did it almost a year ago to the day.)
When you start deciding what colors to add to your palette, don't do like I did and build a set of colors that might not suit your needs. Think first about what kind of painting that you want to be doing. Me? I am all about the abstract. I just don't do realism. Ever. And I lean more towards warm bright colors than cool ones. So what I'm saying, is that I have way too many colors on my palette- especially in the realm of blue. I don't use half these colors, and artist grade tube paint ain't cheap.
(Click on the palette image above to go to my Flickr page where the image is noted with which colors are which)
As I bought different brands of paint, Holbein, Windsor & Newton, Schminke and Daniel Smith, I began to realize that even if the name of the color on the tube was the same from one brand to another, often times the colors were not. Some were brighter, or maybe the hue was off, and in some cases, some paints were much more pigmented than another.
So if I had to do it all over again? For me and my brightly colored abstract watercolor paintings? I'd buy all Daniel Smith paints. Super pigmented and bright as heck. They are comparable in price to the other brands, and the more you buy at a time, they give you discounts and free tubes of paint. Shipping costs are a little high, so I don't recommend buying just one tube of paint. If you want to try their paints with a relatively low investment, I suggest trying one of their Triads. 3 complementary colors bundled together and shipped for free. Nice, right?
So anyway- it's all good. But if you will excuse me, I need to go and rinse out my brushes from this morning's painting-palooza. :o)
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Several years back, I learned about the power of chant through a workshop by Jim Donovan called "The Yoga of Drum and Chant." Chanting creates sound vibrations in your body that can create great spiritual, mental and physical healing.
Once I experienced how powerful chanting could be, I couldn't get enough of it- reading books like Russill Paul's "The Yoga of Sound", and Thomas Ashley Farrand's "Healing Mantras."
Out of all of the sacred mantras I have learned, the one for me that seems to have always seemed to hold most intense power of manifestation is the Tibetan Healing Mantra, "Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung."
Repeating a mantra for a sustained amount of time, while charging it with specific intent is the way to activate the energy that is associated with that mantra. Whether for healing, abundance, or to remove obstacles in your life, each mantra is a "sound prayer."
To quote Hazrat Inayat Khan in his book The "Music of Life",
"Sound plus intent equals manifestation."
This particular mandala was created with a specific intent to heal those who needed it. If you need healing in your life, than I dedicate it to you as well.
Monday, October 6, 2008
This morning I noticed that people were arriving at my blog after searching for the term "Drawing with a Lamy 2000."
While I write an awful lot, I also draw as often as possible.
In my experience, I've found that firmer nibbed fountain pens are easier for drawing than those that have some level of flex. This being said, I found that my Pelikan M200 and Lamy 2000 weren't the best pens I've tried to draw with.
I like to use my Lamy Safari's for drawing and doodling. I feel that the firm nibs allow for more control and flow - and the notched grip seems to help maintain control of the pen as well.
I suppose this is one of those "YMMV" (your mileage may vary) types of situations, because I'm sure that there are many different kinds of fountain pens that people enjoy drawing with.
Another mandala drawn with a Lamy Safari. Nib is a custom .05 Cursive Italic ground by Pendemonium. Ink is Private Reserve's Arabian Rose.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Purple mandala drawn with a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner marker
All mandalas were drawn in a Fabriano Classic Artist's Journal. Each is a meditation of sorts. I start, and typically don't stop until it's completed. You start at the center and work outwards, expressing yourself as you go.
Blue mandala drawn with a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner marker
This one was done while waiting for a phone call.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This is a Remo Buffalo Drum. It's made of synthetic materials, and I painted the original designs with fabric paint purchased from a local hobby shop.
While frame drums are common in many cultures across the globe, the Buffalo Drum is typically used for ceremony and shamanic journeying by Native Americans.
Unlike a Celtic Bodhran or a Middle Eastern Frame Drum, the Buffalo Drum typically has some sort of support on the reverse side of the drum for it to be played (held) in one hand, while striking it with a padded drum beater in the other. You can play a buffalo drum with your hands, but they are usually played with a beater.
I've used this drum at drum circles, and to be quite honest, it may just be a matter of personal preference, but it's got a pretty different tone that I'm not sure blends well with traditional drum circle instrumentation. It may have to do with the way the drum is constructed, because these Remo Buffalo Drums don't really allow for a lot of tonal variation- and in some ways, it's hard to make them sound musical. Sometimes I'll stand it upright on my lap, and strike it with one hand and hit the side of it with a cowbell beater so it's a mixture of thumps and knocks.
The lack of tonal variation makes them ideal for shamanic journeying. When inducing a journey by drumbeat, the drum is typically played at a very steady 80-120 beats per minute which alters the brain's alpha patterns and induces a dream like state for the journeys may take place.
Click here to learn more about Shamanic Drumming
Or take a look at Steven Ash's book on Sacred Drumming
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
How was I supposed to know that the Hollywood sign wasn't lit up at night?, originally uploaded by biffybeans.
The first time I visited Los Angeles, my friends Lisa and Steve took great lengths to take me to see the "Hollywood sign."
We didn't realize that it wouldn't be lit up at night.
Believe it or not, I'm actually quite close to it. I don't know where we were, or how we got there, but I was able to see it by moonlight.
When I went back a year later, I managed to make up for missing the photo op by having my friend snap this from outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. This was the same day that we went to see a revival of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (The Pat Boone version) at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre.
Friday, September 12, 2008
It's Friday, it's raining and I'm tired. Still another 2 hours and until the work week is over.
It's been a screwy two weeks for me. Lots on my mind.
Visited the doctor on Wednesday, and if you don't know me, I'll tell you that I do everything in my power to stay out of the doc's office. I am a firm believer in holistic medicine, but in this case, I feared that it could be a situation that I couldn't handle so it was time to have things checked out. Hopefully it's just hormonal BS that women my age start to experience and nothing more. Several tests were performed, and have another one next week. Fingers crossed, "Everything gonna be allright."
Yesterday on my way home from work, I stop at the local Library book sale. I buy a few books and 4 very random CD's. Bad Company, Bete Midler, Creed, & Tracey Chapman. Then I drove home to find that my husband couldn't wait for me to get home and he had shredded open the Amazon box to pull out and start playing the new Metallica album. It pissed me off because I was the one that ordered it like, eight months ago and I wanted to listen to it first. Oh well. Whatever.
I noticed that two flies had gotten in the house but I didn't pay much attention to them. I also wasn't into listening to the CD right at that moment so I went upstairs and laid down on the bed for about half an hour. When I went back down, Jeff had fallen asleep on the couch and I was on the computer when I got buzzed by a fly.
Er. I really hate flies. I get up to find something to chase it down and kill it when I see the other one. But wait there's more - more flies... ERRR. Now I'm pissed.
I grab the nearest thing I can find, a copy of Tony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential in one hand and Jeff Greenwald's Scratching the Surface in the other, (so sorry guys!) and get whacking. I grab the magnifying glass and confirm that these little bastards are ugh - get ready - flesh flies. (reddish eyes, cool silvery black checker board pattern on their backs - in case you really wanted to know.)
This happened to us before, about 10-12 years ago. Fly infestation overnight. Woken up by flies buzzing my head. The exterminator told me not to bother to use chemicals to kill them. That something most likely died in the wall or roof or whatever (there was no smell) and to just swat them until they were dead. And that's just what we did the first time, so that's what I've been doing this time as well. Except this time, I decided to pull out the heavy artillery and suck them up with the vacuum cleaner wand. I killed about 10-12 last night, and Jeff got another 4 this morning. Here's to hoping that we don't have any more when I get home. That's it's not all Amityville Horror with the flies and a pig named Jody. I had heard scratching in the walls a few weeks ago, and thought it may have been a mouse. Now I'm guessing said mouse went and up and died somewhere that's beyond our faculties to detect. (Meaning once again, there's no smell.)
I can't wait to go home and pour myself a nice glass of wine....
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I am a firm believer in "everything happens for a reason," even if it's not immediately apparent. I also believe that "there is something in everything," meaning that there is something to be learned or gained from any situation.
In my case, I've had good, bad, and seemingly trivial things happen over the course of my almost 40 years that have made me who I am today. There is one small incident that happened to me over 12 years ago that has radically affected my current life in a VERY positive way- but it didn't become immediately apparent for the first 9 years....
So when a certain something happens, I like to look back and reflect how I've arrived, because it helps you to understand how everything and everyone is connected. Once you start to see patterns, (good or bad,) you can see if you need to move more in one direction or away from another. You start to develop foresight. You learn how to protect yourself from making repeated mistakes, and you learn how to move in a direction that allows you to create a rewarding life.
Once in a while we get dealt a hand that seriously challenges us in many ways. Mentally, physically, spiritually, or financially, they can cause us pain and much suffering. When we are in the midst of one of these situations, it's not always easy to step outside of ourselves and see what we are supposed to learn, or what we are supposed take away from it. It's not usually until after a situation has passed that you can gain clarity through hindsight. But you need to take that hindsight and LEARN from it. And sadly, again, the reason for the hardship isn't always going to be apparent.
They key to this- and it's a tough one, is to not take the situation personally. If you wallow in self-pity, or if you suffer from needless guilt, you can't grow. You will ultimately end up shielding yourself from what you were supposed to learn, and limit your growth. The same can be said for people that insist on complaining all the time. They worry so much about how a situation is affecting them, but they don't use that energy into attempting to find a solution to the problem. Their complaints, worries, suffering, and guilt become like a protective wall around them that they keep adding to, rather than tearing it down and supporting themselves through positive energetic actions.
Just remember, no matter how much a situation sucks, there's always something to be taken away from it. Always. No action is ever wasted except for those you didn't take.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Last night while working on the computer, the TV was on in the other room and I caught a piece of John McCain's speech. This piece really moved me because I am a firm believer in taking action to change something rather than sitting back and complaining about it.
Too many people vent and complain, allowing it to fall on deaf ears. The key to change, is identifying the problem and then coming up with an idea of something YOU can do to make a difference. I have found that the quickest way to see change implemented is to either take your own action to fix it, or to offer suggestions to a person that can put the change into affect.
From John McCain's Acceptance Speech 09/04/08
"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself."
The part that really hit home for me was "Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself."
So many people live according their own personal agenda. They work to better their own lives and they do nothing to give back. Can you imagine if every person, regardless of age, were to do one small thing to help another? A truly selfless act of kindness? Doing something with no motivation other than to lend a hand in making the world a slightly better place?
I try and do what I can, and I hope you will too.
Make a difference today!
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I guess maybe I'm the last person on earth to learn about Amy Winehouse.
I'm not much for current music, and I don't read the gossip columns, so I only had a faint recollection of who she is. All I really knew was that she was a singer that had a drug problem and was often a subject of media attention.
So last Friday, I met a friend for dinner, and as she pulled up, I could hear this really cool 50's music coming from her car. Since my friend is a cool decade younger than me, I was impressed that she had an affinity for the old stuff, even if the artist wasn't immediately apparant to me. After dinner, I asked her what she had been listening to. Imagine my surprise when she told me it was Amy Winehouse. She happily loaned me her copy of "Back to the Black" and I listened to about half of it on the way home.
I need to quickly interject that while I have a VAST appreciation for all kinds of music - many genres spanning many decades, I really do not care for most female singers. The ones I seem to admire most are from a different generation- like Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, Whitney Houston - they sing with so much emotion that I feel them connected to something so much larger than themselves.
Listening to Amy Winehouse, a 24 year old Britsh girl, I hear that. She's glorious. Each song on the album shows such range and versitility. She had a depth to her voice that just goes on and on.
Some of these songs literally give me goosebumps while listening to them. The break in "Back to the Black" - the part that goes. "Blaaaaaaaaaaack" just rips me up. I'm not exactly sure that I've ever been so affected by a song.
Hearing parts of "Tears Dry on Their Own" pull me right back to the 1970's, listening to oldies play on AM radio. It's THAT intense for me. "Me and Mr. Jones?" Oh my God. The arrangements on these songs are brilliant. I close my eyes and can smell the cigarette smoke in the air of an old dance hall - the smell of the leather booth - martini glass in hand.....
She's timeless. And this poor soul is a mess. I'm worried that she is going to die.
I hit the internet that night only to learn that Amy has extensive alcohol, drug and self abusive problems. I watched one live video after another where she was visibly under the influence of one substance or another. It was heartbreaking to me that this beautiful soul could be so....lost.
It's hard to understand why someone, anyone, doesn't reach out and help her. I have friends in the music industry, and to the best of my understanding, it's sometimes difficult for an artist to get anyone to be truthful to them. Since you are signing their paychecks, they aren't always going to give you the straight shit because they don't want to see their meal ticket end. So the artists get really distanced from reality. This can especially happen when popularity hits (seemingly) overnight.
I personally don't want this beautiful flower to wither and die so quickly. Amy's birthday is coming up on the 14th. Maybe for just a moment, we could all just say a little prayer for her survival and send some positive, healing energy her way.
God's already got a pretty awesome band. Let's see if we can keep Amy here with us for a good while longer.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Quotes from Jim Donovan - at his "Yoga of Drum and Chant" workshop at this year's Rhythm Renewal.
Jim teaches wonderful drumming workshops, but they are an even better means to self improvement through living in the moment. He's an excellent teacher with much to share. Some of you might be familiar with his old band, Rusted Root.
Website: Jim Donovan Music
MySpace: Jim Donovan on MySpace
YouTube: Jim Donovan on You Tube
Friday, August 29, 2008
Summer comes up so fast. It doesn’t officially start until Jun 21st, but I always feel like the best part of it is over by the 4th of July. The fireworks go off and the sweltering heat and humidity starts and lasts well into September. The days start to get shorter around June 20th and I feel that the days with the longest amount of light are the best.
If I could live somewhere where it always stayed daylight up until about 9 o’clock, I would. Short days depress me. I still have this memory of taking the 5-6 o’clock bus home from working at the mall and the interior bus lights were on because it was dark outside. I also remember working at the warehouse- going to work in the dark, and coming home on the dark. I hate that more than you can imagine.
The illusion of a longer day makes you feel like you have more time to get things accomplished, rather than parking your ass in front of the TV and feeling like the days are squashed into the tiniest space imaginable.
Summer also reminds me of days spent “Up Home” at my Aunt Evelyn’s house. The sound of blue jay’s calling always reminds me of being a child and having no responsibilities except having to come in for dinner when called.
We’d have sleepovers, staying up late to watch old scary black and white movies long after our regular bedtimes. We’d wake up early and go swimming in my cousin’s pool. The small above ground pool that took up their entire cement “back yard,” sounds coming through the windows of the adults playing cards inside.
I remember running 5 times down to the corner drugstore for candy, only to be yelled at by the clerk the 5th time around because I wasn’t wearing shoes. (She had claimed to have told me each time prior but because I was a young child pumped full of sugar and excited to be away from home and swimming on a beautiful day, I probably didn’t hear her.
We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, and I often times remember never having all of the necessary changes of clothing when I would go and visit somebody. Meaning that I sometimes couldn’t go swimming because no one had anything that would pass as a suit for me. Or I’d have the wrong shoes. My feet were and still are very sensitive. I have a hard time finding things that don’t rub, or make my feet burn. So I don’t think I always had proper sneakers or flip flops for the occasions at hand.
One time I remember going down to the local community fair with sandals that were ripping my feel to shreds with blisters. I think my Aunt Evelyn managed to find a band-aid at the bottom of her purse and that kept me from losing my mind.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
For a while, I was on this kick to create art on black paper. Without the proper drawing impliments, it's somewhat of a challenge. You need a product that's highly pigmented so it will show up well on black paper.
I also had a little difficulty in finding black paper that I liked working with. Artagain and Strathmore have black paper tablets available, but my favorite black paper is Canson's Mie Tientes. It's not a cheap paper, but since I don't work with it all the time, it's worth it to me to have a little on hand for when I do want to use it. It's silky smooth....
I tried lots of different implements on the paper that didn't work out. Crayons, (like Crayola) had too much wax content to show up on the paper at all. Oil pastels worked but smeared easily and have a very offensive odor. They were also too large to work with for small detail. I didn't want to work with pastels due to the smearing issues. (I have a hard time keeping my hands from touching the paper as I work.) I also tried gel pens. Have I mentioned how much I hate them? I had about a dozen different kinds and none of them would write without skipping on any kind of paper I tried. Paint pens worked pretty well, until they start to run out and you have to shake them to get them going again.
My favorite product for working on black paper are the Caran D' Ache Neocolor II water soluable crayons. They can be sharpened, they don't smear on the paper and are very vibrant in color. They were used on the above image on the Mie Tientes paper. The Neocolor crayons come in both regular and water soluable versions. The water soluable version is just that - draw on paper, run a wet brush over it and they act like watercolor paints. (They are not suitable for painting on the black paper.) You can also take a wet brush and just touch the tip of one of the crayons to add a bit of color to your brush for painting. They are very versatile. They sell sets of 10 that could be used in place of a pocket watercolor set.
The image above was created with Prismacolor colored pencils, but there's a trick involved. I did not test every brand of colored pencil to see what worked on the black paper. I tried my Prismacolors and a few colors, (mostly pastel) would show on the black and then others wouldn't. The above image was created by drawing the design in white colored pencil first, and then adding color on top. The white pencil acts as a primer for the colored pencil.
In this last image, I used one of the cheapest methods of getting color on black paper. The red came from a what I call a Grease Pencil. Some call them wax pencils, or China Markers. The cost about a dollar and are nice & pigmented & smooth to write with, but the available colors are limited. The silver in this image came from a paint pen.
I had not set out to paint on paper, but if you do- there is a type of watercolor paint called "Gouache" that is highly pigmented and should work well.
Strathmore Artagain Pad
Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluable Crayons
Canson Mie Tientes Paper
400 Series Black Field Drawing Books
Sunday, August 24, 2008
There is a blind man that lives in my neighborhood.
Over 20 years ago when I worked in a mall, my friend Don worked in a shoe store across the hall from me. That same blind man entered the shoe store and my friend Don sold him a pair of shoes.
After the sale had been completed and the man left the store, Don came over to me with tears in his eyes and said, "I just sold a pair of shoes to a blind man."
I understood where his tears came from- that the blind man had to have faith that Don would sell him a pair of shoes that fit well, were reasonably priced and respectably fashionable- a pair that wasn't some ugly cast off from five years ago that nobody wanted to buy.
He entrusted Don to not take advantage of him because he was blind.
Every time I see that man, I think about a person placing their complete trust in someone else's hands.
Sometimes placing blind faith in a person can be difficult, especially if you've been hurt before. It's just too easy to shut down and become distrustful because you don't know a person's true intentions.
Not everyone in life is going to extend you this level of trust, but when they do, try to do everything you can to not sell them an ugly pair of shoes so that your relationship will continue to grow stronger with every action.
As with every relationship, it boils down to an equal exchange of energy. If someone is willing to put themselves in your hands, honor them by giving back until the exchange feels right.
Monday, August 18, 2008
(Originally written 03/07/07)
This is a bunch of scribbles & doodles from trying out different pens on black paper. This is Strathmore paper, which I just can't stand. I just bought some Canson Mie Tientes black paper but haven't tried it out yet. (See a future blog posting on how much I love the Mie Tientes paper.)
There's several types of Gelly pens represented here. Did you know that there were different types? While most of them will put down nice color on black, they skip, get thin and are otherwise inconsistent.
My favorite was a silver/blue pen that had a lightning bolt on the cap - and while it laid down a perfect silver line, sadly, the silver smudges when dry.
There's a Pilot Extra Fine Silver marker here, and it's pretty nice except when it starts to sputter & run out. (Then you need to shake it to continue.) Nice to doodle with but don't get into something detailed or you might end up disappointed.
Crayola crayons are too waxy, and other than the white, are pretty much useless on black. There's a Stabilio yellow multi-surface marking pencil that did ok, but not great.
Next up are the Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Water Soluable crayons. They were pricey, so I only bought 2 - purple and white. Wow Wow Wow. They are niiiiiiiice. Oh - and they can be blended with a wet brush, and you can do wet on wet with them. This is a mighty bad-ass product. I want more.
Lastly, are the winners - el cheapo China Markers/Grease pencils in white and red. (Of note is that I've also tried various colors of Prismacolor colored pencils and some laid down better than others - but they are not represented here. Same goes for my Cray-Pas oil pastels.)
Strathmore Artagain Pad
Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluable Crayons
Canson Mie Tientes Paper
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The Mandala is a form of self-exploration through meditation. It doesn't matter where you start, or where you end up... What matters is tha tyou took the time to be introspective. To be creative without judgement. To allow yourself a moment of time to be PRESENT.
For me, much like drumming or chanting, the repetitive nature of the work puts my mind at ease.
Art heals your mind, AND your soul.
Create it, ponder it, then give it away. 08/08 SMS
Mixed Media Mandala -
Lamy EF Safari filled with Private Reserve Burgundy Mist ink.
Pelikan M200 .07 CI filled with Noodler's Bulletproof Black ink.
Prismacolor (yellow) colored pencil
Winsor & Newton watercolor paints (Bijou Box)
Cachet 7x10 watercolor book
Thursday, August 14, 2008
From 07/01/08: Fountain pen art. Drawn with a Pelikan M200 Fine nib, with Noodler's Black ink in a Blick 8x10 sketch pad. Yes, a little larger than I usually work with. I would have worked on this one straight through but I had to put it down to watch Hell's Kitchen. The eye came out in the 2nd session.
The mantra is for removing obstacles: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha.
PS - Happy Birthday Mom!
I have come to the conclusion in my almost 40 years on this planet that all of the people you encounter in your life, be they friends, relatives or co-workers, have all entered your life for a very specific function.
The purpose may not always be immediately evident.
Sometimes they are there to console us through troubled times and sometimes they are there with us to enlighten us to our own higher purpose in life.
Sometimes they are there to bring joy into our lives, and sometimes to make our lives more difficult but with the purpose of us learning from these encounters.
Sometimes these people are aside us throughout most of our lives, and sometimes they are there for only a fraction of a second to pass along a simple message about ourselves.
Upon occasion, it becomes frustrating when people seemingly vanish from our lives without so much as a goodbye, but those people are often the ones that we should consider as having served their purpose and look closely at the message our relationships with them have left behind.
Sometimes it's also necessary to re-think a particular relationship if it is no longer serving your higher good. People can change, and your relationships with them can change as well.
Be grateful of the people in your life now, as well as those you are no longer in contact with. They have all served a purpose in your life and without them, you would not be the person you are.
Every relationship is important. Overlook no one. It's all important. And remember that you are just as important to another person as they are to you.
Remember you are at the center of it all. Take nothing or no one for granted. Appreciate everyone no matter how frustrating at times. Everyone is a part of you and you are a part of everyone else. Take nothing for granted. Appreciate everyone in their own way.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I just back from Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal and it's really difficult for me to put this experience into words. It was my third year attending the event, and each year has been more transformative than the last.
The Rhythm Renewal is held in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, at St. Francis University, where Jim is an instructor of music. The event consists of 4 days of drumming, dancing, concerts, impromptu jam sessions and plenty of opportunities for self exploration.
Although held on the grounds of a Catholic University, the event is not religious by nature, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that there is a certain spiritual and uplifting nature that comes from the music, the dancing, and being around so many like minded people.
Jim Donovan is at the center of it all - teaching a workshop each day, and having his band "Drum the Ecstatic" perform at a concert on Saturday night. Jim is one of the founding members of the band Rusted Root, but left the band in 2005 to raise his family and to teach - something he felt that he always was meant to do. (And he's pretty darn good at it!)
Having been a longtime Rusted Root fan, I first because aware of Jim in 2005, when he came to perform at a local music festival. Shortly after that, I attended one of his "Yoga of Drum and Chant" workshops, and I can literally say that the experience changed my life forever.
I attended the Yoga of Drum and Chant workshop because I wanted to drum - but ended up walking away with so much more. In this particular workshop, Jim uses simple drum rhythms played on a West African goblet shaped drum called a djembe, combined with vocal toning, (chanting) to allow people to turn off the constant mind chatter and learn how to be more "in the moment." Repetitive drum patterns played at a specific tempo allow "entrainment" to occur. Entrainment happens when both halves of your brain come into balance (synchronize) which can result in a truly transformative experience. The chanting, typically ancient Sanskrit and Tibetan mantras such as "Om" or "Om Mani Padme Hum" and are made up of syllables which can be thought as vibrational devices for deepening one's thought.
So if the drumming and chanting weren't already enough to keep me coming back, there was Jim's underlying messages of presence, (the opposite of multi-tasking) of removing bad habits and patterns that no longer serve your higher good, as well as openness and internal growth.
And so for the last three years, I've attempted to get to every one of his workshops within reasonable driving distance, culminating each year with the Rhythm Renewal in Loretto. You start to see familiar faces at each event, because so many people are tuned into what Jim is all about. Registration day at the Rhythm Renewal is always a treat - meeting up with such wonderful people that you haven't seen since the previous year's event.
The Rhythm Renewal also brings together a wonderful faculty of instructors that teach such classes as African Drum and Dance, North Indian (Tabla) drumming, Didgeridoo, Introduction to Shamanism, percussive workshops, and Women's Rhythms for Everyone. There is also an opportunity for any participant to be part of Saturday night's concert event by performing with the Rhythm Renewal drummers.
This year, I made new friends, talked to old friends, played a lot of drums, (kit & djembe) danced my ass off, took my shekere playing to another level, spent time to be introspective and generally had a fantastic time.
If all this wasn't already enough of a blessing, Jim invited me onstage to play shekere during the last song of Saturday night's Drum The Ecstatic International concert. The song was Santana's "Jingo" and yes - there is a video, and I will post the link as soon as it's available.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
02/02/08 Lehigh Valley Day of Drumming : Moe Jerant and the Jamani Drummers perform "Fire" with special guest
Jim Donovan (Rusted Root)
February 2nd, I co-organized an event called The Lehigh Valley Day of Drumming.
Morning and afternoon drumming workshops were taught by
Moe Jerant and Rusted Root drummer, Jim Donovan.
Later in the evening, we held a concert which featured Moe Jerant and the Jamani Drummers, with special guest, Jim Donovan.
The video above is a performance of the song "Fire" an adaptation of Ubaka Hill's song, "Fire on the Mountain."
While I am no longer performing with Jamani, I owe a great deal of gratitude to each of these people. To Moe Jerant, for everything she has done for our local drumming community, and for giving me the opportunity to perform with Jamani. YOU helped get me to that next level and I will forever be appreciative.
To my fellow Jamani sisters, I love each and every one of you. Each one of you had so much to teach me about myself. You are all unique and wonderful souls. Don't be strangers.
Originally written 02/22/08
Was in Atlanta on a business trip Tuesday-Friday of this week. Was to fly back from Atlanta on an 8pm flight, Friday night. (Through Philly, as I couldn't get a direct flight from my local airport.) So around dinner time on Thursday, we hear of the impending snow/ice storm that's due to hit the Northeast. I jump on the phone to US Air and manage to book us an earlier flight (2:40pm) in which they have miraculously waived the $100 change fee (because of the weather) and $240 difference in price. (Strange, the flight time & price difference was the same...)
Leaving work at about 11:15am, we head to ATL. Having checked the web numerous times before we left, we see that planes to the Northeast are running about 5 hours behind, but amazingly, our 2:40 flight is still on time. 3 miles from the airport, I get a text message that our flight has been canceled. We take the rental car back and head in to the US Air ticket counter and sit in a line with about 20 people in it that does not move for what seems like an hour. An hour and a half later, we make it to the ticket counter and are told that everything is booked, no flights, flights canceled, other carriers full....
The agent (ED) finally finds a way to get us home. He books us from ATL to Boston, then to Philly, and then to ABE. Ha. I surrender (check) my bag and never expect to see it again.
We push, bully & beg our way through the millions of people going through security because we have less than 45 minutes to make it to our gate, and it takes about 30 minutes to get through security, (on a good day) then another 10 to take the train (inside the airport) to the D terminal, which of course, is the last stop. We run to our gate and make it with about 5 minutes to spare.
But everyone is still just sitting there. For 5 minutes, 10, 15..... I finally go up to the counter and ask what the delay is, because nothing was posted at the agent's desk. I'm told that they are waiting for the Captain to come up to let them know if we are going to fly. (??????) And so I say to the agent, "You mean this flight might get canceled?" to which she responds, "Yes. It's probably going to get canceled." I try deep breathing, I imagine my happy place, but I can't help getting a bit snarky & frustrated. I go back to my co-worker and tell her that I'm furious with the guy back at the ticket counter (Our buddy Ed) that booked this flight, since he probably knew that this flight was also going to get canceled and he just needed to do something for us to get us out of line and on to the next person.
I sit down, sulk, trying to surrender to the fact that weather is not something I have control over.
Unbelievably, we are eventually called up with a quick "Flight 9011 (yes, that was really the flight number - and trust me, I got the heebie-jeebies when I saw it) is now boarding and the gate will close in 1 minute. There are only 13 (OMG - not thirteen.... I'm afraid of the number 13.....) of you, come on up."
As I clap with joy and run to the jet way, I hear a man say, "But they said there weren't any more flights going to Boston...." and that cooled my heals and made me sad. I didn't even want to go to Boston, but it's the only way I could get home.
Once on the plane, the captain comes out to talk to us about the flight. He too mentions that with there being so few of us, that we are welcome to spread out and sit where we like. I tell the captain about the man that said he couldn't get to Boston and how there might be people out there that would like to get on this flight. They call back out to the agent, who I assume makes as announcement because they found about 20 more people who were able to switch their tickets and get on this flight. (Ironically, the man that made the original comment did not get on the flight) This holds up take off for about 45 minutes. But it doesn't matter, because we are still going - yay! It doesn't even occur to me that we might get stuck in Boston, because nothing is really flying anywhere. We are also told that this particular flight will eventually be flying back to Philadelphia and we ask if we can just stay on board. :o)
And so, we take off for Boston. A 100 mile an hour tail wind gets us up there in no time, but.....the airport is closed due to snow removal. Sigh. We sit in a holding pattern, (read nauseating circles) over Provenance, Rhode Island for about an hour.
We are eventually cleared to land, and my friend smartly avoids telling me that planes slide off the runway at Logan airport all the time....
We have to get off the plane and re-book our Philly flight because due to all of the delays, we have now missed our connection to Philly. We only have a few minutes and as I run to the bathroom, I try looking for a store where I can buy a Red Sox hat for my Braves loving husband. No dice - not enough time. Ironically, we do end up getting right back on the same empty plane, same captain, etc. We will now not be able to make our final connection and are placed on a stand-by flight for 11:05 to get back to ABE. I am fairly certain that we will not be flying into ABE that night.....
We sit on the ground for another good hour until the plane is de-iced and we are cleared for take off. Because of the delay, it's almost certain that we will not be making our final connection. (And where are our bags? Where are they going to end up?) Luckily my co-worker has called her husband and has asked him to pick us up at the Philly airport. We land in Philly, pick up our ride, and an hour and a half later, are home. This doodle was created while in the air from Boston to Philly.
Just in time to kiss my husband and wish him a happy anniversary which had actually ended at midnight, but since I hadn't been to bed yet, it still counted. :o)
US Air did a great job of taking care of us in this crappy weather and to Ed, the ticket agent in Atlanta, I'm sorry I was silently cursing you out when I thought the Boston flight was going to get canceled.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Clear your Mind through Art
Be Free if only for a few Moments
Breathe then let it go.
Sometimes you need to take a little time to do something.
A little something that lets you clear your mind. To rid your mind of the constand chatter. The chatter that keeps you from thinking clearly. to clear your mind so you can hear the right things to do.
For 6 years, I created and sold my handmade jewelry at craft shows, art festivals, etc. I started with simple beaded designs and ended up doing a lot of wire weaving and metal work. Everything I did was cold connected - cold connections being various ways to attach things together without the use of heat.
All of the skills I acquired through the years were things I taught myself through books, or by reverse engineering a design I found interesting. The piece shown above was my first completed piece of metal work. I had been inspired to work with copper after seeing Jesse James (the bike builder) build a motorcycle out of copper. (Copper Chopper)
Once completed, I named this piece in memory of a former co-worker.
I used to work with a man named Bob- a simple guy that used to enjoy walking around the hardware store to get ideas for home improvements. Sadly, Bob died at an early age from an inoperable brain tumor. When I first started doing metal work and was stocking my toolbox, I couldn't help but think of Bob. This piece was sawed from copper sheet, hammered for texture, filed smooth, drilled & tumbled. I attached the handmade jump rings and oxidized it with liver of sulfur.