Monday, December 29, 2008

One of my favorite travel writers uses a Moleskine...

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

Glen Velez and his amazing Blue Tambourine

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.

Me with Glen Velez

Photo of me, Glen Velez, and his Blue Tambourine at DrumTalk, in Pittsburgh, PA

Friday, December 26, 2008

I'm about to turn 40! Mandala and Mantra for continued transformation.

Watercolor Mandala and Mantra for Transformation

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,
Of transformation,
Of evolution,
Of action.

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

2 charged with stealing, chopping up statue from Padre Pio site

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 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.

I'll admit it. LOL cats make me laugh.

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.[4] 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

Oh the Mandala.....

Native Mandala

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

Mandala : Art on Black Paper Part 3


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.
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