Monday, December 12, 2016

Making Art in a Time of War: Part One - We Must Keep Creating

"I can't believe I'm etching cups with birds at a time like this."

"My art is so useless."

"I feel sucker punched. What's the point of trying to finish NaNoWriMo this year?"

"Everything I do feels trivial."

In the past couple of months I have had a large number of conversations with friends who, with each new socio-political announcemnet, fatal disaster, and world news event, questioned the worthiness and validity of their artwork.  Usually prolific writers I know put down their pens or spent hour staring at blank screens before giving up entirely on getting words down for a day, then for a week, then for a month.

With each new blow to the artistic community, I have listened to sculptures, painters, and writers question the importance of continuing to tell stories and create art.  It is disheartening to hear artist who know the collective value of art question their own worth within the community and up until now I have had difficulty in articulating my own internal railing against both the state of things in the world and my friends' despair in responding to them.  So here it is: when making art feels useless and writing fiction seems trivial or unimportant, it is even more imperative that we continue to (as said recently at the Night of Writing Dangerously) "battle our dragons" through our fiction and paint our stories in canvas and clay.

It boils down to this: 
We Must Keep Creating.

Artists and writers throughout history have been warriors in their own right.  Continuing to create art and stories in the face of disenfranchisement, overwhelming hatred, and violence is, and has been throughout history, a subversive act.  I would posit that not only should artists and writers continue to create beauty and splash their messages across the social environment for all to see, but that we also have a responsibility to do so.   Whether through our writing, or our photography, art, sculpture, music, or dance, we must put our stories out there. The stories and art of individuals are important! They are vital and necessary, and without them we are lesser as a whole.   

We Must Keep Creating.

"If I see someone hurting, I must speak.  Even if I am afraid, I must speak.  My fear of speaking puts us all at risk."


Fear of speaking puts us as risk, in many ways just as much as speaking out puts us at risk.  Silence in the face of violence kills.  Silence takes lives and destroys souls.  Not everyone is a fighter, we cannot all take up arms against oppression and destruction.  But we are all warriors.  Yes, even you, whose clay sculptures and handmade fairy dresses are sold at local art fairs, whose fictional heroes and heroines battle demons and ride dragons across blogs and novel pages, whose paint is often washed from the side of walls or the underside of bridges.  If you doubt this, or feel burdened by overwhelming fear or sadness, channel that into your work.

Our art is our speaking out. Our stories are our voice, sometimes when we have no other way of fighting back.  Our words and our creations are our responsibility.  And for those whose voices are at risk of being drowned out in the storm surge, we must reach out and lift them up as well.  Share, credit, reblog, quote, point a giant flashing sign, or in some way bolster those whose voices are being lost to tragedy, to prejudice, discrimination, or pain.  If we help hold each other up then perhaps the next hurdle won't feel like climbing Everest when you've never even hiked through the woods.  Stay strong, my fellow writers, artists, musicians, dancers... and lift each other up.  Now is the time to make sure that our stories are written and our voices stay strong.

We Must Keep Creating.


Monday, November 7, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 - Tea, Finnish Pancakes, and Ricotta

Contrary to the evidence (my current word count which is sitting a good 2000 to 3000 words below my target), NaNoWriMo is well underway for me, and I'm feeling confident in making it to 50,000 words before midnight of this November 31st.  Of course, I need to cut back on my baking and cooking experiments if I am to really catch up this week.

I have managed to avoid doing more with my Adagio account this month. Well, unless you count putting together one more writing blend to add to my Writer's Room tea blends: Writing by Candlelight.  I'm actually quite proud of this tea blend, and I can't wait until my tin arrives so that I can start brewing it before I sit down for my nightly writing sessions.

Earlier this year I was given a recipe for Pannu Kakku, a Finnish pancake made of
(at least now) equal parts flour, sugar, and milk with 1 egg and a pinch of baking powder per 1/4 cup of flour plus optional additives of lemon zest or vanilla.  It's baked in an oven safe skillet (cast iron) that has been preheated at 350*F with about a TBSP or 2 of butter so that it's hot and melted.  Roughly 30 minutes later (times vary with ovens I have found) and ta da! a really tasty and easy dish that always feels like a step up from the standard pancake.
 
I love this recipe so much I make it all the time, each time playing a little bit with the ingredients, experimenting with substitutions, adding different spices and flavorings.  But it is a bit time consuming and I need to cut back on making it so that I can focus more on my writing (at least for this month).  So yesterday, of course, I made another batch - basic recipe only, no crazy experimentation.

Of course, while I was in the kitchen I realized I had about a gallon of whey collected from the batch of yogurt I made (because of course I decided November was a great time to restart doing that) and decided I should try my hand at making ricotta cheese. (That did not work out at all - probably because it wasn't fresh collected whey, and had been sitting in a container in my refrigerator for a day).  So despite making a good push towards catching up on my word count last night, being at home near my kitchen has turned out to be too great a temptation away from my keyboard.

Not to worry, I've left the homestead behind for the day and have decided to go back to writing in cafes and coffee shops for the time being (at least until I am above my target word count), where I always seem to feel the creative bug a bit more keenly than when curled up with my cat, next to a kitchen smelling of cooking dough and hot spices.

And now - back to the noveling. Write On my fellow Wrimos! Write On!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Costumes, Choreography, and Cookies

October is almost gone, which means that my favorite holiday is almost upon us: Halloween! If you follow my Instagram, you already know that I have been decorating up a storm at my new place - stringing twinkly lights and autumn garlands, putting out figurines and witches hats, carving pumpkins and brewing apple cider.

This year in lieu of my normal All Hallow's Eve Mystery Party I will instead be attending a Night Circus Soiree.  My costume is well underway, all black and white with circus reminiscent stripes on the main skirt.  I have yet to figure out what or where I will put my Reveur's red accent but that shouldn't be too difficult to figure out.  Pictures will be posted to Instagram for anyone interested in seeing how it ends up :)

A couple of my aerial friends and I are beginning choreography for a silks and/or aerial rope duet (possibly group) piece.  If we ever get this circus tent completed we'll even have a place to perform the piece once it's done and we've had a chance to practice it.  Even if we're unable to perform it, we'll probably get a few videos of it to share.

Last but not least for this well overdue update: COOKIES! Below is a pic from my first foray into cookie decorating. Pretty cute, if I do say so myself!


Friday, October 14, 2016

The Witch is IN

Halloween is coming, and I finally - finally - had a chance to do a bit of house work in preparation. And by housework I mean pulling out the tubs of Halloween decorations I've collected over the years and start going crazy while listening to my All Hallows Eve music mix. So far I've decorated the fireplace (that we're not allowed to use for fire anyways), the stairwell, one of the windows, and a bookshelf, as well as hang one of the wreaths.



Monday, September 19, 2016

Musings on Yellow - Nail Polish

I’m organizing my nail polish collection when I realize that I don’t own any yellow polish. When I’m at the store, browsing through the various colors, trailing my fingers over the sparkly, glittered specials - I skip over yellow as if I can’t even see it.  It’s not intentional, I’ve just never thought about it until now.

It’s not that big of a deal. I don’t wear yellow. Not since I was 5 years old, dressed in a yellow dress with green tights, spending the day pretending I was a daffodil.

Maybe I'll look for yellow glitter polish next time I'm in the store.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The latest from the Cake Files

I realized today that I haven't posted any of my cakes in a while. Last month I did two cakes decorated in fondant to look like gift boxes.













The first cake was a black pepper spice cake I got out of an old copy of The Spice Cookbook - 1964 that was given to me a few months back.  The cake was good, but not nearly as spicy as I wanted.  I think next time I make it I'll add a bit more cloves and fresh ground black pepper.  I filled the cake with coconut cream. 

The bow was made with gum paste the week prior, and since I've been thinking a lot on the color yellow recently, I put yellow fondant polka dots over the main color fondant of pink.

The second cake I did was a two tier cake, the first tier being red velvet with a whipped cream filling, and the second tier was a funfetti cake (like the one I did for Mother's Day) with a dolce de leche filling.  Like the first cake, the bow was done out of gum paste and left to sit/harden for a week. I wrapped the base of each tier in a fake silver rhinestone ribbon. 

As I was carrying this cake to the person whose birthday it was, a woman told me she loved my "hat."  Looking at the photos, I can kind of see it now, actually. At the time I thought it was really funny that I had made a cake that was mistaken for a fancy hat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Movie Review - Mohenjo Daro

I haven't done a review in a long while - years, actually - and yesterday I felt inspired to finally sit down and write up another one.
           
A touching, heartfelt film that manages to breathe life into familiar story architecture against the artistically inspired backdrop of the ancient city, Mohenjo Daro.
Rating: (out of 5)

Have you heard the story of the orphaned farm lad who dreams of life beyond his provincial borders, so goes to the city/capital/castle and discovers he has a much deeper connection to the province/kingdom/royal family than he ever knew? Along the way he saves/falls in love with a woman of a higher station, and takes on an evil tyrant while learning the truth about his parents/heritage.

Yes? I should think so. It's a pretty standard Hero's Journey story across a lot of cultures and Mohenjo Daro hits all of those beats as well as a few other major tropes (see below).  But if I avoided every story that utilized storytelling tropes or followed a Hero's Journey, I would never pick up a book or watch a film ever again.  And in doing so I would miss out on the richness stories bring to our lives, and completely overlook gems like Mohenjo Daro.  This is a film that shines because of its heart, not its cutting-edge storyline.

Mohenjo Daro is about the farmer Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) who travels to the title city against his aunt and uncle's wishes, where he discovers the extent of the injustices carried out against the people by the evil Senate Chief Maham (Kabir Bedi), and falls in love with the beautiful Chose One, Chaani (breakout performance from Pooja Hedge) who is destined to bring in a New Era.  The acting is on point across the board, from the main actors to the supporting cast, and every character comes to life with heartfelt sincerity.  While I watched I could feel the joy, wonder, love, and turmoil from each character as they went through their stories and hardships. Hrithik Roshan was wonderfully sincere in his portrayal of Sarman, and Pooja Hedge had a strength and screen presence that I can't wait to see again.

Visually and musically the film is absolutely stunning. There are a couple of points where the special effects felt a bit... not rough, but perhaps unnecessarily dreamlike?  There was really only two minor points when I felt the visual effects pulled me out of the story, otherwise it was seamless.  The music more than made up for it.  The soundtrack was... hauntingly beautiful.

I was disappointed that we only got two song and dance numbers, despite three songs being released as promotional material and my assumption there would be more considering the length of the film (just over 2 and a half hours).  The two songs we did get, Mohenjo Daro and Tu Hai, were amazing.  Watching Hrithik Roshan dance is never disappointing. That aside, I also loved the soulfulness of the dances, and the ability of Roshan and Hedge to bring their characters to life through their dancing.

I really appreciated that Hedge's character of Chaani was not reduced to a weak love interest turned prize, and was given at least a couple of chances to show strength in her role.  For that matter I felt that the few female characters who had speaking roles (4) were given real character, even if it wasn't for very long.  It almost made up for how little women had to do in the film overall.

Despite complaints from other viewers and critics about the historical inaccuracies, I really enjoyed the costuming. The variety, the colorful simplicity, and yes, Chaani's headdresses, added to the overall beauty and color of the film.  It was splendid.

Halfway through the film, a Big Reveal occurs, and it shifts the direction of the story.  Everything comes to a head, and there are a couple of pretty brutal fight scenes as the characters face the repercussions of the conflicts from the first half of the film.  The pace picks up from there and keeps up until the credits.  I didn't feel this was a disjointed shift, it was definitely eluded to early on that this was coming, though I can see how some might feel like the film seemed to change genre.  I disagree, but then this is all opinion anyways.

Conclusion:
Was the movie perfect? No. Was it wonderful? Yes. Definitely.  I walked out of the cinema knowing that I was going to get the soundtrack, that I wanted to go see the film again (I did), and that I can't wait until it is released on DVD.

Ratings by Category:
Story


Cinematography/Appearance


Visual Effects


Music/Soundtrack


Acting



Tropes (may be spoilery)
I find it fun to look up what type of tropes stories have on TVTropes.org, so I thought I'd include a list (not comprehensive) of what I spotted in this film.  This is in no way a criticism of the movie on my part.  You should see the lists my friends and I come up with after going to see the popular American blockbusters - easily twice as long in some cases, and these are considered tropes for a reason after all.
Farm Boy/ The Heart / The Unchosen One
Rebellious Princess/ White Magician Girl / The Heart / The Chosen One
Nephewism
Locked Out of the Loop
Really Royalty Reveal
Arranged Marriage
End of an Age




Links in the text (in order):
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3859980/
http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/mohenjo-daro/
http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004335/?ref_=tt_cl_t1
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001934/?ref_=tt_cl_t3
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5249562/?ref_=tt_cl_t2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izb4mHrd3Zk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7epv31JmJrE
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FarmBoy
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheHeart 
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheUnchosenOne
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RebelliousPrincess
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WhiteMagicianGirl
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheChosenOne
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Nephewism
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LockedOutOfTheLoop
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ReallyRoyaltyReveal
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ArrangedMarriage
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EndOfAnAge