Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Break

Been kinda quiet on the blog lately- this was my Spring Break week so I actually tried to relax (a little).

After living in our house for three years, I finally got around to repainting the bedroom. I also set up the porches for the spring/summer months,.

I worked on some art projects:

-more about this one in a future post-

I binged on Feud: Bette and Joan. I have to say that I'm developing a thing for Ryan Murphy. I always enjoy American Horror Story, and Feud was another example of excellent story telling. I think I know more than a lot of people about the Golden Age of Hollywood, but watching this definitely inspired me to do more research. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are flawless in their performances, and there are more than a few cameos by other notables (John Waters, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kiernan Shipka) as well as other Murphy alumni (Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson).

I was also in search of a new show to binge on, so I tried out The Mindy Project. The show is okay, but I don't find the title character very likable or believable. Mindy Kaling plays a young OB/GYN doctor, but the character seems kind of shallow and ditzy. This show seems to be in the same vein as The New Girl, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: a 30 something woman who is still single and wandering the world in a haze of 80's/90's nostalgia. That formula works better when the character goes through periods of unemployment and still lives with roommates, or was locked in an underground bunker for a couple of decades, but I just don't buy the same type of character as a doctor. She seems to have waaaaaay too much time to engage in the same trivial pursuits- shouldn't she be like, delivering babies at the hospital a lot more often?

I drank a lot of tea (out of my new Ariel mug) and ate sesame bagels with avocado on top.

Then it was my husband's turn for his break (Maine and NH almost always have different schedules for winter and spring breaks), so it was another unusual week.

But I'll be posting again very soon about some of the creative endeavors I've been dabbling in.  .  .

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Gene Luen Yang at the Carle Museum

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Gene Luen Yang. I've mentioned his name a couple of times recently here, and that's because he is the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and his platform in this position is a challenge he calls Reading Without Walls.

I saw him speak a few years ago when I was a grad student at Simmons, and I remember him being one of the best authors I've seen speak. He's funny and intelligent, he has a great speaking voice, and his powerpoint slides work flawlessly. He seems like a really nice guy- before he got on stage to speak, he was introducing himself to people in the audience, greeting them, and thanking them for coming out to see him. Plus, he's adorable.

He spoke a little about his own story: what led him to become the author and cartoonist that he is now. He is a self-proclaimed nerd, which he bases on his passion for comics books and computers. He talked a little bit about his experience as the son of Chinese immigrants, growing up first generation American and how he often felt that he inhabited two different worlds at once- kinda like Superman.

He points out the similarities between Superman and Asian-Americans: two different languages, two different names, black hair, a hyphen in his native name, etc. I'm no comic book expert, but when it was my turn to get my books signed, I pointed out that he missed a piece of evidence for this theory: Superman has actually been played by an Asian American actor before.

Dean Cain, who portrayed Superman in the 90's TV series Lois and Clark is half Japanese, his given surname is Tanaka.

I still think that Dean Cain was the most handsome Superman.

He also outlined the basic ideas behind Reading Without Walls:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn't live like you or look like you. Check- I did that with The Pact.

2. Read a book about a topic you don't know much about. Check- that's why I read The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda.

3. Read a book in a format that you don't normally read for fun.

I'm working on the third part of the challenge now. I'm pretty willing to try any format: chapter, verse, non-fiction narrative, graphic novel.  . .one of the formats I struggle with though is audio book. I guess it's because I'm a very visual person, and it frustrates me when I can't see the words on the page, and look at them as many times as I need to. When I listen to an audiobook, I don't feel like I'm absorbing it, I feel like it's just washing over me. But I guess I better find one to try now.

I brought the library's copies of Boxers and Saints and Comics Squad for him to sign, and I bought a copy of his book Level Up for my own personal collection of signed books. The book I had him sign years ago is titled Prime Baby, and I didn't see it for sale there so I'm glad I already had it.

The event was at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. It's over three hours away from my house, but it's one of my favorite places to go. I've seen some iconic authors and illustrators there, viewed art in the galleries that I would never be able to see otherwise, and every time we go there, we have a wonderful experience. It's even better now because I can share it with my son.

We looked at the current exhibit, which is from the Eloise books by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight.

We sat inside the giant caterpillar-

You can kind of see that John and I are both wearing tie dye shirts.

and then John sprouted some wings:

Of course, I had to buy some postcards in the bookstore. It's always a good time at the Carle.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda

In the spirit of Gene Luen Yang’s call for Reading Without Walls, I picked up a book the other day that had never intended to read.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a book that I’ve seen a million times: on the library shelf, for sale at Walmart and Target, and in the hands of many middle schoolers. I have no interest in origami, never even attempted it because I find folding pieces of paper to be very boring, and I also have no interest in Star Wars. (Luckily, my disinterest in “a galaxy far, far away” is not a deal breaker for my husband).

But I wanted to try something new, and this book is pretty short and very easy to read so I decided to give it a shot. I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

It’s not really about Star Wars, either. It’s about a weird kid who wears a paper Yoda puppet on his finger. ‘Yoda’ dispenses advice on everything from romance to self-acceptance. The other kids can’t figure out if ‘Yoda’ is actually helping them, or if this kid, Dwight, is 1) playing some elaborate joke or 2)actually believes that Yoda is an independent being that lives on his finger.

The set-up of the book and the humor in it remind me of the Wimpy Kid series, which I loooooooooove. The Wimpy Kid books never fail to make me laugh, and I did laugh out loud when I came across this sentence: “He’s as crazy as a bald gorilla.”

I'm not sure if gorilla's with receding hairlines are actually crazy, or if they are, how the two are connected, but it's one of my favorite new expressions now.

I might try to read the next book in the series:

I'm feeling kinda crazy.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

TBT: I'm Not Who You Think I Am

I haven't written a Throwback Thursday post in a while. This book was recently withdraw from our library because it's dated and doesn't circulate anymore.

I was always a big fan of those dime-a-dozen mysteries/ghost stories that had bad cover art and cheesy titles. I decided to give it a read just for fun. As I suspected, there wasn't anything significant in there- no great character development or plot twists or surprise endings. Ginger is approached by a woman who believes herself to be Ginger's biological mother. However, Ginger lives with her biological parents (and siblings) and this woman is unstable, and has attempted to kidnap other children in the past that she believe are her daughter. Her own daughter died as a newborn, but she believes her baby was taken. When she tries to convince Ginger to come with her, Ginger thinks fast and notifies the police. It's basically just a novel that teaches the reader about Stranger Danger.

Here are a couple other books I'd recommend if you're in the mood for a read like this:

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Snowy Start to April

It's now April, but it looks like January outside. Not only did we have quite a bit of leftover snow already on the ground, but it started snowing again late on Friday, and continued ALL Saturday.

Since we couldn't really go outside, and I didn't really want to anyways, I found things to do in the house:

We moved this shelf upstairs, and I organized all the books on it.

Then I organized all my beads. The next time I want to
 make a wind chime, they'll be ready to go!

And since laundry is the never ending 
story, I also organized my tie dye.

One of the teachers at school sent me a link about making these fairy lanterns. They're so easy, and I already had all the supplies, so I've been making lots of them. 

I was working on a painting when John woke up from his nap and came looking for me. As soon as he saw what I was doing, he wanted to paint too. My wooden 'canvas' used to be a religious carving. It wasn't really my style, but I thought the lines and the different woods used to make up the image would look interesting as a foundation. This is what it looks like so far; I still have a few more steps to go.

And of course I started watching Thirteen Reason Why on Netflix. It's based on the 2007 YA novel by Jay Asher, and was adapted into a mini-series.

The book focuses on Clay. Clay's classmate Hannah committed suicide, and instead of leaving a regular note, she recorded her story on thirteen cassette tapes. She left specific instructions as to who should receive the tapes, how to listen to them, and when to forward them to the next person on the list. The people who receive the tapes find out while listening what impact, negative or positive, they had on Hannah's life. As Clay listens, he finds out all the factors in her life that conspired against her and led to her sad decision. I loved this book because YA novels that focus on teens with emotional/mental health issues are one of my favorite themes. The series is good, but of course the book should be read first.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Scary Teeth

I’ve written before about how a character’s teeth can often inform a reader/viewer about the character’s personality; is this character on the side of Good or Evil? A character that has a nice smile is often (but not always!) a good guy, and a character whose teeth are stained, rotting, very crooked or missing is often a bad guy. I know that it’s not just me that notices these traits in fictitious people, and I also don’t think it’s a coincidence. If an author/creator wants to craft someone with malicious intent, someone who does not have anything good inside them like consideration or morals or a conscience, then it’s only natural that something in the character’s appearance would indicate the decay within. And the place we usually associate with the word “decay” is teeth.

With the 6th graders that I see once a week, I read to them from Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories books, and I match up the stories with episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Last week we were watching an episode and one of the students specifically commented on the villain’s teeth, and I asked why she thinks that the bad guys always seem to have bad teeth. I don’t know if she completely understood the metaphor I was trying to communicate to her, but just the fact that she noticed and commented told me that the kids are observing the the tales and piecing together themes and ideas that are consistent in horror/folk tales.

Marie, the mysterious shopkeeper in "The Tale of the Vacant Lot" has yellowed teeth, and infected skin

Dr. Vink, a recurring character, also sports corn-on-the-cob colored teeth

Nosferatu the vampire in "The Tale of the Midnight Madness"

Yikes- I guess vampires don't get dental plans.