Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Masks for Shambhala Children's Day

I have had fun drawing these for our solstice celebration this weekend, and want to share them with anyone who would like to make a mask for the kids.

Click on each to be directed to a higher resolution version (scanned at 150dpi, so I guess you would want to print it at that as well.)

Happy Solstice!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writing "The End"

It is a glorious feeling, writing "The End" (I will spare you the all caps and the exclamation marks) after a month and some of intensive writing. Of course, the piece is not finished, but the first draft of it is.

I'm tickled pink.

I thought I would be this self-satisfied on the 30th, after successfully completing the target 50k words for NanoRhino, but that feeling was, if I could sum it up in a word, meh. It took three more days and 6k of writing, and I finally got that full frog feeling.

Now what?

Finish the rewrite of last year's book?

Play that damned fiddle tune in tune for my animation?

Finish the meandering and malingering book that I've been working on for a couple of years?

Write that new one that I'd laid out, planning to use it for this year's November folly, but changed my mind at the last minute?

Paint in every spare second?

Meditate? A lot?

Shockingly, one thing I will not be doing is catching up on all of the Doctor Who episodes from this last season. I am trying to divest myself of some paunch, and, did you know, you consume 70 calories per hour more doing nothing of interest or value than you do when watching television? Or some figure like that. I didn't actually stop to calculate, but perhaps you will, after reading this article.

Hah! I need not exercise!

(Yes, I know, that isn't true about not needing to exercise... )

I have started reading Emily of New Moon to my daughter. She loves it, it seems, as much as I did.

My sister saw me reading it to her, and wondered why I was inculcating my child with mysogeny from the Victorian era.

I have to admit, Lucy Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , written in 1908, does smack of that "females must be squashed to be good" flavor, the same that keeps me from reading to my daughter the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Ugh. I can't stand that "I must try to be good" ... um... dung.

But maybe A of GG was written earlier on L.M. Montgomery's marriage, the one she only entered into because she saw no other way to survive in a brutally sexist time.  (Just checked, thanks Wikipedia, and it was written before she got married.) Which may simply have lacked imagination on her part, as she seemed to do just fine as a writer and a journalist. Still, she let society pressure her into getting married, as she freely admitted, and suffered her own and her husband's terrible depressions for the rest of her life.

So Emily of New Moon, written in 1923, feels more honest to me. Emily is never the happy innocent that that god-awful Anne is, and she is a moody artist, a writer, rather than a milk toast version of Pippi Longstocking who submits willingly to being tamed by close minded puritans.

So those are my thoughts on that subject. And I thank L. M. Montgomery for hers.

Now what?

Other posts about NaNoWriMo, and writing: The End of NaNoWriMoSoutherners must be laughing...,  NoMo what?Preparing for National Novel Writing Month,  Novel Inspiration, and How to Get Some,  and  Fiddle Advice, Noveling Novelties, and Wildness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mid Month Doldrums

I'm currently feeling that a daily word quota is not the shortest path to great literature. But I made a cover for my book, even though the book has yet to be written!

And I added sound to my Dakini animation, which I am now calling "Onion." It's all up in the air. And flat. Unintentionally so, sorry. I'll work on that...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fiddle advice, noveling novelties, and Wildness

Oh, I love researching novels. I previously had no idea that clouds were formed around "cloud seeds", or "cloud condensation nuclei". I thought it was a simple matter of water temperature, but no, there are seeds. How delicious.

Even more fun, those seeds can be any number of odd things. All kinds of aerosols, bacteria, sulfur... Climate science has suddenly become more magical.

On another note (heh heh hem), my violin teacher may be classically trained, but he sure is saving me some pain with the fiddle. First was the suggestion for a chin rest that slanted down and out away from the tail, instead of biting into my chin. Second, instead of my massive sponge for wusses, I now have a tall, hugely malleable shoulder rest that tips my fiddle forward, toward my bow arm rather than flat toward the sky. This has been saving my jaw, my neck, and my shoulder, allowing my to play for more than 20 minutes without a headache. In fact, now I can play for hours without a headache.

Now, in addition to all that pain saving, I am also protecting my bow arm shoulder while droning on a second string by applying this simple advice: you almost don't need to press harder in order to drone. Just play in the right spot. He even suggested playing the piece without the fingering, using the "one thing at a time" approach to learning, just to get a sense of string changes and droning. I tried this for Mairi's Wedding, (version by Noel McLoughlin here) and I think it helped. But man, is it hard to play a song on the right string without resorting to fingering.


Laurent and I just finished watching Where the Wild Things Are. Lucy hadn't wanted to watch the last 20 minutes. "I feel sad after watching it. I don't really know why."

Emile, however, did see the ending, and howled and sobbed for a good long while. "Max... des amis... les monstres... perdu..."

I loved this film. It is not a film for young kids. Obviously, given Lucy and Emile's reactions.

What an honest look at the pain and anger of childhood abandonment! Not knowing why one is so angry, not being able to keep from acting out, not being able to communicate the sad, soft little kid that got left all alone. Wow. Poor Maurice. I feel you. Thank you for your truthfulness.

All that said, it still leaves place for the softening heart. Max learns a bit about the way others see the world, especially those he wants to love him. He, and his Wild Thing version, Carol, both learn about tenderness. Lovely, sappy, true stuff.

Here is the trailer (sorry about the ad in the beginning).

We left the door propped open because it was so warm, and we had visitors...

For more of my posts on fiddle tunes: Improving on the Fiddle,  Giraffes and, well, fiddle songs about drugs House Sings Saint James InfirmaryLearning Vibrato as an Adultand Setauket, a Mystery So Far

Other posts about NaNoWriMo, and writing: The End of NaNoWriMoSoutherners must be laughing...NoMo what?Preparing for National Novel Writing Month,  Novel Inspiration, and How to Get Some,  and  Writing "The End".

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

Last year, I hit 40k. Not in income, alas, but in the November novel writing event, known as NaNoWriMo. Produced by NaNo bugs, of course (for those of you with elementary school children obsessed with the newest gadget...) The goal was 50k, which means filling about four 8.5x11 sheets of paper per day. That's a lot.

I wasn't too disappointed not to have hit the limit, however, because I did something that I find pretty challenging. Namely, I resolved the story.

After rewriting the story, and adding another 6k, I asked my friend Sarah to beta read the short novel. She confirmed my fear, that I never let anything really bad happen to my characters. No suspense. No pain. Only resolution. I'm now in a second rewrite.

So this year I am trying to allow bad things to happen. This is counterintuitive. I spend my whole life trying to make sure bad things don't happen. Why would I intentionally make bad things happen to people I like? I guess because I want to prove that they can handle it. Or, more honestly, because I want to write a good story, and I read over and over that there is no story in happiness.

Is that true? I think that, in my unhappy times as a little girl, I wanted to read happy. And I still dislike the parts of stories where bad things happen to characters I love. So I think I don't believe in the mantra of happy is boring. Or maybe I simply don't mind being bored in that way.

Still, this year I will stick to the script, just to see if I can do it. If I can create true drama. I have been looking at the more interesting of formulaic approaches, on, yes, "How to Write a Book Now dot Com." It's detailed. The author suggests addressing requirements, costs, dividends, requirements, forewarnings, etc. "Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed."

It isn't that I am not aware of these elements when I am reading or thinking about stories, but I think I get lazy about them while I'm writing. I want to write the honey, and skip the comb.

About one more week to settle on a plot. I've got most of the other elements down, including goal, inciting incident, characters, setting... I think I will do what I did last year, and write brief chapter summaries. Which, it almost goes without saying, will be ignored. But at least they will be there, defining my work by their opposition.

Here are the posts I wrote about the 2011 NaNoWriMo: The End of NaNoWriMoSoutherners must be laughing..., and NoMo what?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spot the Chicken

We have chickens in our back yard. They are roaming free, though they aren't supposed to be. They're ours, sort of. Also sort of Laurent's coworker, so we are chicken hosts to their two, and we have two. One for each collective child. Lucy and Emile named theirs: Saphire and Chouchou.

I'm too tired to chase chickens all around the yard, back into their pen. I had a fun weekend.

I took part in the animation challenge by Zorobabel. You can see the results here.

We were called on to create 24 seconds in 24 hours, using a prompt of a bunch of geological and cloud shots they posted on their site.

I had the brilliant idea to use a paint on glass method, painting Emile in the clouds(ish). I should mention that I had never tried this method before. Paint on acetate, to be dried and scanned, yes. However, paint on glass, to be smoodged around and sculpted, no.

Next time I will try using vegetable oil instead of dish soap as the medium. What was I thinking, using something that dries?

24 hours easily became 36. So, yes, I cheated. And I slept. But I didn't wash or change clothes, or even eat, really, so I'm sure I made up for lost time.

I can't wait for next year's challenge.

Lyrics to the music on the animation:

Il pleut il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
Il pleut il fait beau temps
C’est la fête du serpent

Il pleut, il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
Il pleut il fait soleil
C ’est la fête à l’arc en ciel

Il pleut il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
La grenouille a fait son nid
Dessous un grand parapluie.

Il pleut , il mouille
C’est la fête à la grenouille
Il pleut, il fait beau temps,
C’est la fête au paysan

Il pleut, il mouille
C ’est la fête à la grenouille
Il mouille, il pleut
C ’est la fête au poisson bleu

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beasts of the Childhood Wild

A friend of mine took me to see The Beasts of the Southern Wild a few weeks ago, before the return of the cold season. Still, a month later, I am still thinking about it. Stories of difficult childhoods often mesmerize me, especially when the magical mindset of youth sways the tides of reality. This makes me a sucker for really good children's lit, and even some that's mediocre. I imagine that some people think adults who read young adult fiction haven't grown up, but I think it may just be a sign of having had a really difficult childhood. The reader searches for other voices to illuminate the unfathomable jungle, one step at a time.

The Beasts of the Southern Wild is one such piece of artwork, one that takes the messy and unworkable, screws it up into another form, and proclaims it as our own. The main character is no victim, as much as I cry for her, and her father is no devil, as flawed as he is.

Wow. This movie still gives me chills.

I have often complained that CGI is taking the art and humanity out of film. I will go for a wonky puppet and a whacked animatronic any day over the slick near reality of most contemporary CGI-enhanced products.

Brave excepted.

I will watch spray-painted bubble wrap with more glee than I will a highly detailed, shockingly life-like monster. I love old Doctor Who's, for example.

So, not surprisingly, I adored that the reality of this child's life transformed itself into some massive, costume bedecked boars, super-imposed old style, maybe even using an optical printer, over the footage of one courageous little girl. It was so much truer to childhood, where the old bear rug is real, the shadow on the wall is a monster, and the wind in the trees is the banshee's cry. No CGI steals away this reality.

I don't have the vocabulary to tell you about the actors. Except to say that the little girl in the lead, Quvenzhané Wallis, has to be the best small actor on the planet. Without any exaggeration. And her father, Dwight Henry, is the best King Lear I've ever seen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Postmodem (sorry) for my first online class

I wanted to write down every detail of my recently completed online class, to enrich the world with a scrap more info about what distance learning is really like, but I'll have to settle for a foggy overview. As I so often do.

I'm no stranger to learning things online, but it's usually through my own motility, not guided by a syllabus with a professor behind it. So I did find myself chafing a bit whenever I noticed that I lacked complete independence and discretion, more so than I would in a face to face class. However, I really appreciated the amount of student input into the discussion. I had never heard everyone's completely formed thoughts in this way, and really appreciated the weekly writing of other students.
The class was “Writing Theories in Second Language Instruction”, taught by Katherine Kiss through the UMASS Boston online masters in Applied Linguistics program. I'm not sure I feel better equipped to teach writing as a creative and useful endeavor than I was before, but I am certainly more aware of the issues of second language writing, and have a couple of lesson tricks up my sleeve if backed into a teacher's corner. And I did an impressive amount of reading and writing, myself. Meaning I impressed myself with the amount of reading and writing I did...

The biggest surprise to me, content wise, was the degree to which first language literacy affects literacy in the second language. I would have thought that the genius human mind could equally well learn writing in any language it could speak (if the mind had lips... and lungs... and a larynx... never mind). This may be true in some ways, but the efficacy of the learning is tremendously greater if the student is first brought to literacy in the first language. For example, if you have a group of students for four months who need to improve or begin their literacy in any language, and you take half of the group (call them Group A) to study the second language, and half of the group (Group B) to first study the native language for two months, and then follow with the second language, Group B will end up outperforming Group A. Interesting, right? (Read more about this in Cheryl A. Roberts' article: http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/files/rcd/BE019750/Transferring_Literacy.pdf )

So, thinking about the importance of the first language on second language writing development, I decided to try starting aliteracy group for immigrant Haitian Americans. I'm calling it the HCLP – the Haitian Creole Literacy Project. Here's a blurb I wrote about it:
According to the 2002 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 46.2% of men and 50% of women (defined as over the age of 15) are not literate in Haiti. In addition, while only 10% of Haitians are bilingual in French and Kreyol, (http://www.cal.org/co/haiti/hlang.html) almost all school instruction is in French. Therefore, as an ESOL teacher interested in learning Kreyòl, and fluent in French, I hoped to create a trilingual literacy group in Providence, focusing on writing down personal stories, children's stories, and personal introductions, in each of these three relevant languages.
The HCLP is, theoretically, meeting every Thursday from 5 to 7 pm, in the picture room downstairs at the William Hall Library, in a room so ancient that it doesn't have electrical outlets. It does, wonderfully, have two large windows. Yay! And a wall of dark, metallic, flat files. And local history photos gussied up 30 plus years ago for various displays. All in all, it kind of feels like my old catholic grade school. It's kind of comforting, in that way, because the school library was always my refuge as a kid.

Anyway, I said we were “theoretically” meeting there, because I have yet to find students, at least that can come to this location. Not surprisingly, illiterate students don't read flyers and emails, and I am reluctant to make announcements in any of the local churches that have mass in Kreyòl, due, see catholic school reference above, to my fear of christians. Yeah, so this sounds like it will be successful, right? We'll see.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ashokan fall

My new favorite way to practice the violin is to make it quiet. I feel the vibrations that way, resonating in my skull, buzzing at my teeth. I do this by wearing earplugs and equipping my fiddle with a mute (like this, not that I am endorsing anything - just to give an idea). Unfortunately, I think I still hear all my mistakes just fine.

You might wonder what the point is of playing a quiet fiddle, and I can only answer that it makes it feel really far away, and especially nostalgic. This coming from over the hills feel works particularly well with my current favorite practice piece, "Ashokan Farewell." Written in the style of a Scottish Lament, I can feel it floating across the rolling and rocky landscape of Scotland. Granted, I've never been there, but I have seen The Highlander, and Brave...

Jay Unger, who composed the piece, wrote this about it:
“I composed Ashokan Farewell in 1982 shortly after our Ashokan Fiddle Camp; Dance Camps had come to an end for the season. I was feeling a great sense of loss and longing for the music, the dancing and the community of people that had developed at Ashokan that summer. I was having trouble making the transition from a secluded woodland camp with a small group of people who needed little excuse to celebrate the joy of living, back to life as usual, with traffic, newscasts, telephones and impersonal relationships. By the time the tune took form, I was in tears.”

Summer is nearly over, season-wise, and this lament fits my mood. Still, I find it a very friendly and playful piece, in spite of its longing: jumping octaves, tickling the expected timing, doing major arpeggios slightly out of order to make us feel (I'm guessing) a romantic feeling of out of placeness, of homelessness. For example, the D major arpeggio normally starts with a D, but here it goes ADF#ADF#, instead of DF#ADF#A. I have no idea why, really, but starting on A completely changes the way I hear that scale. Sad, wistful, sweet, hopeful, but definitely not bright and triumphant. Which is good, because I hate bright and triumphant.

As an aside, Ashoka was an Indian Emperor from approximately 304-232 BC (thanks, Wikipedia), and the name "aśoka" means "painless, without sorrow" in Sanskrit.

Nice twist, I think.

Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism after waging a great, deadly war, having returned to fields of burning corpses. This is a common theme in Buddhism: see the story of Milarepa. Maybe a few of our presidents could take their example, and express some regret? He erected a series of pillars, which were inscribed with a kind of monarchical dharma. Nineteen are still standing, and in beautiful condition, with carved lions at their pinnacles.

Here's my teacher, Cathy Clasper-Torch, playing Ashokan Farewell for our class - learning purposes only!

For more of my posts on fiddle tunes: Improving on the Fiddle,  Giraffes and, well, fiddle songs about drugs, and House Sings Saint James Infirmary

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No, really, the GRE?

I have committed to the idea of getting my Masters in Applied Linguistics at UMASS Boston, and so I am now applying to the program... And realize I have to take the GRE. Seriously? In my advanced and addled age? Worse news, the GRE now actually requires knowledge of the quadratic equation, or so I am told. I have now set about learning this albatross. I can honestly say that, in all of the math I have done outside of high school, I have never before needed this thing. At least I found a cute mnemonic youtube video to help me along! Oh, and I am fiddling around with my dakini animation, but at glacial (pre-global warming) speed...

Dakini Sketch from Julia Gandrud on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reception of online degrees at brick and mortar universities?

I'm still digesting the idea of online versus in person degrees... So I wrote this quick email:
I am currently considering enrolling at the University of Boston in their online Applied Linguistics program.

I am doing an informal survey for my blog, trying to get a sense of how online programs are received at other universities.

Do you admit any students into your program who might have received a degree from a real institution, but did their degree online?

At this point, would you be aware of it?


I sent it to Professor Bertram Malle, in the Brown Linguistics Department, among others. He was kind enough to give me this reply:
I have not encountered a case, and if I did encounter one I would do additional research into the institution and the program.  Ultimately it's the whole application package (incl. research experience, letters, etc.) that raises students to the top.  I could imagine that online study may have negative consequences for some of the package elements (e.g., research experience) even if the degree itself is of credible quality.


Bertram Malle
I received a short reply from Professor Buckley, who has been grad-chair for the past several years of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Linguistics. He replied:

We would presumably judge as when a student has limited
background in formal linguistics (NOT applied). We have
never received such an application.

Dr. Katherine Kiss, the professor of the class I am currently taking at Umass Boston's online program, responded this way:

I am not sure I am one to respond to this[.] I teach only in the online offering of the UMass apling master's. I can only say that the few students I am aware of from the online MA who have applied to Ph.D. programs have gotten into excellent programs in the country, and in one case in the UK. Others have gotten University jobs. Others have started publishing in peer reviewed journals, including their original research even if our MA is not intended to have a research component.

I think that UMB IS a real University so the question strikes me as strange. Having been involved in the application process, it was never evident to me if the courses on a student's transcript were done online or in a f2f classroom. That was irrelevant to the process. What we looked at included the statement of purpose, the transcript, the accreditation of the degree granting university and the references, among other things.

I'll post more on this subject if I hear anything from the other people I contacted.

Update here!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Post class debriefing

As I have written about earlier, I am sampling two graduate classes, one from the online Applied Linguistics program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the second from Rhode Island College's Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language.

The first summer session at Rhode Island College is over, and I now feel ready to begin digesting my experience. Three issues seem the most salient.

First, my physical absence from my house, both from transit and from class time, was significant. Beneficial to me as a student, in that I did not have little distractions running around, biting each other, screaming my name from the bottom of the stairs. Detrimental to little person equilibrium, in that they both have become more clingy than before, and complain loudly when they see babysitters arrive. Plus the house is a mess. More so than usual.

Second, the teacher modeled good teaching brilliantly. He (Professor Jaime Ramirez) deployed some really inventive teaching tools, having us circulate in very useful problem solving groups, having us reteach to each other, theorize as teams, etc. He scaffolded (how I hate this jargony word. So I will change it) He guided us through the stages of our final paper very effectively throughout the semester, giving us a continuously solid work load, rather than one impossible avalanche at the end, and both my output and my learning benefitted from this.

Third comes the downside. I received high marks on all of my tests and papers – not normally a thing to bemoan, but this time it was strange, in that there were a small number of us who did very well, and the rest did so poorly that the teacher, doubtless to protect us from scrutiny, hid our scores from others. It is usually the low scorers who are given anonymity, but not here... I don't really take this as a good sign, for my sense of belonging, for the department's standards, or for the quality of the students.

Okay, there is still the fourth point. If I did this program, I would have to stay in Rhode Island for at least one more year, possibly two. Rhode Island has its merits, but winter isn't one of them, and I'm ready to leave that behind.

Whistling in the Wind

As for the class at Umass, I have mixed feelings there, too. We write online responses to our readings every week, but they are not always read by someone... And the teaching being modeled is all about the software, which is buggy...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I participated in the Rigden Weekend, taught by Acharya Eric Spiegel, at the Boston Shambhala Center this past weekend.

Their gong is bigger than ours is.

But back to the weekend... We received teaching for the lungta, or windhorse, practice. I'm trying to practice it on the fly, but it isn't so easy. Still, I really appreciated Acharya Spiegel's clarity. There was no nudginess, no nuts, no preciousness, no excessive claims of knowledge. And I came away feeling like this was someone who knows of what he speaks.

Lucy, coincidentaly, serendipitously, made me this drawing while I was away.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Form and space

I am supposed to be sleeping, but instead I am thinking about Japan.

I started musing about what it was I learned while I was there, as a very raw 16 year old. I thought of space, and silence. Japan can be very loud, and very busy, full of tchotchkes. But there is still usually space in the form, and often you can only hear what is being said by ignoring what is actually being said, and listening for what is not. That sounds awfully mystical, but you only have to think of the stereotype of the perpetually nodding, acknowledging, supporting Japanese conversation, and remember that "hai, hai, hai" often means no, rather than yes.

And the game of Go? Empty territories.

Tea ceremony? Silence, then the "toc" of a bamboo ladle, and waiting.

Of course, the ultimate example of calligraphy, with space in form and form in space...

Sounds ideal, as a society, except that I don't remember much true individuality. More like comic book sketches of individuals. Which I'm sure allows for more space, as a mask permits you to make whatever face you want. Still, I like the bravery of honest individualism.

Which the US has. But it isn't very elegant. The form of our dialogues, and buildings, and infrastructure, is not usually beautiful. And we have space, but that often bleeds into neglect, and numbness.

France, on the other extreme, has very precise, energetic, frequently elegant form and activity, but zero interest in spaciousness. Fill that pause right up. Sattori, gap moment? Fill that sucker up.

Sleep, now? I hope so. I have an exam tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

End of May list

Once again, things I have wanted to say are piling up, and now I am going to throw it all down at once.

1. Talking to my therapist as if I were writing a blog (non-interactive) is tedious for all involved.

2. The choke in artichokes is not dangerous, and the word actually comes from the Ligurian word for pine cone.

3. Choosing between online degree programs and in person degree programs is not easy, especially if it is not exactly the same program. The University of Massachusetts, Boston, has an online degree in Applied Linguistics, while Rhode Island College has a Master's in Teaching of English as a Second Language. The first is ostensibly more geared toward theory, and the second toward practical, sociological and historical classroom issues. At first glance, the applied linguistics degree sounds more interesting for me (always love the geekier side of things) but here is a negative review. Positive one here, and discussion here.

I am taking one class from each place this summer, to compare my experiences. I'll get back to you on that one.

4. I have recently taken two weekend classes with the Providence Shambhala Center.
The first was a class called Dharma Arts, where we read parts of True Perception, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I am still reading this and enjoying it now. A quote from what I just read while nursing Emile:
We do not accept our individuality. We would prefer to have a prepared menu or a travel guide so that we could take the journey without being hassled by our own individuality.... When individuality exists, as what we are, there is a sense of confusion, uncertainty, and chaos. But there's more room to explore the world and experience the given world and its relationship to ourselves personally.
This feels particularly relevant as I try to find my place in the world. First I tried to see myself as classy gallery artist, then funky art teacher, then quirky mathematician, and now cat-loving linguist with crazy jewelry. So much easier to try to follow a pattern, but ultimately unsuccessful.

Two weekends ago, I took the Shambhala Training Level V, Open Sky. I felt unconvinced that being in touch with reality would not just lead to immensely more intense pain when my seasonal affective disorder swings back in gear (months from now, I know.) Even Buddhists have numbing vices to keep the pain at bay, so why would I want the pain to be more present? Still a question. We will see how this, our last year (I think) in Rhode Island, answers that question.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Improving on the fiddle

I had my first violin lesson when I was about ten or eleven. I loved the violin. But I was really terrible at it. No one at home played any instruments, and I only ever practiced the day of, and maybe the day before, my lesson. My violin teacher once told me that I "looked right" playing it. Another later told me that maybe I should try the viola, because it was easier to hit the right notes... But what I always really wanted to do with it was to play the fiddle in a blues band. Or just sit around and jam in a Celtic Ceilidh (pronounced kaylee). It is a real pleasure to have my weekly fiddle classes with Cathy Clasper-Torch and five other students. It feels almost like a jam, aside from our extremely slow speed. This week we worked more on Soldier's Joy (earlier post about that here), trying to find a way to play it fast without being sloppy, and to drone on the D string or the E without sounding to labored. Haven't mastered either of those yet.

Here's my teacher playing Soldier's Joy for her class - learning purposes only!

For more of my posts on fiddle tunes: Giraffes and, well, fiddle songs about drugs,  Ashokan Fall, and House Sings Saint James Infirmary

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Crow flight animation

I think having two children at home is getting to me. I keep filming crows flying. And here's my animation study on that flight:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lucy flight

From my good friends Anu and Anurag:

Friday, April 27, 2012

House sings Saint James Infirmary

My fiddle class (taught by the stellar Cathy Clasper-Torch) just started learning Saint James Infirmary a couple of weeks ago. Okay, I prodded and wheedled, and so she taught it to us. I had heard the song in an old Betty Boop animation by the Fleischer Brothers, drawn by Roland Crandall, performed by Cab Calloway and his band.

Later, while browsing my friend Ysanne's website (ilovestrings), I heard her new version with David J., and I had to use it on my demo reel.

So, yes, I geek out about this song.

And then, happy day, today I heard one of my favorite actors, Hugh Laurie (of Jeeves and Wooster and House, M.D. fame) discuss and perform a tidbit of the music on Fresh Air. If you want to listen for it, it's in the last three minutes of the interview.

He says that it could have originally been an English song, about the infirmary that was once in the Saint James Palace, although he only learned it through Louis Armstrong.

 Wikipedia (yay!) goes on to mention that this infirmary was dedicated to leprosy in the 1500s...

The song was also known as "The Unfortunate Rake." Makes me think of David Hockney, and his series of etchings for The Rake's Progress. (The image below resides at the Tate Gallery)

For more of my posts on fiddle tunes: Improving on the Fiddle,  Giraffes and, well, fiddle songs about drugs, House Sings Saint James Infirmary,  Ashokan Fall,  Setauket, a Mystery So Far,  Fiddle Advice, Noveling Novelties, and Wildness,  Learning Vibrato as an Adult, and  Improving on the Fiddle

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What next? Crows.

I have to admit that I am disappointed. The (fully funded) post-bacc program in math at Smith College told me that my math grades were not high enough. True, I did goof off a fair amount back in the day...

So, now what? Laurent suggested thinking about what was important to me in a career. Here is my ordered list:
-Helping adults
-Using my brain
-Being creative
-Getting some recognition
-Living wage

This looks quite a lot like teaching, to me. I had been planning to teach math, and haven't given that up completely, but I'm still thinking about teaching art and English for foreign language learners.

In the meantime, I have started doing studies for another animation, this time on crows:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Les bon mots d'Alain

My mother in law gave me a book of writings by the French philosopher Alain. This quote is from short essay written in 1906:

Quand on voit les choses en courant, elles se ressemblent beaucoup.

When you see the world at a run, all things look alike.

Wouldn't he have been surprised by the blur today?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Playing with that trope. A little.

There's this thing called whimsy, a style of painting that is known for it's sincerity, and for it's tendency to include unicorns and pretty colors. And my paintings from grad school did fall loosely within the category. Not in a cynical, edgy kind of way, but featuring girls with girl power and unicorn horns to bring down their enemies. No (whimsically) tilted heads and outsized eyes, but still within the trope, I would say.

I got some skepticism, and probably never brought home my point, that imagination can be under threat in a world that wants only hard, cold reality. Or maybe I did, but for the wrong audience. Who knows? I was interested in the vulnerability that comes to people who have lived through bad situations and still manage to be tender and authentic. I think this still interests me.

So, I've been working on a painting I never finished from before graduate school. Notice the critters? Those are new.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring colors

I have been working up to this painting for a while. The canvas itself has been in my possession for ten years, and has crossed the country once. It's about four feet by two, and was meant to hang in our bedroom. But I realized that I prefer blank walls, or animals, or landscapes, in a bedroom. Not people. So, where do I put it?

We finally destroyed the support for the jacuzzi (I say "we" because I tried to do it, and eventually had to hand off the axe and hammer to Laurent. Not much for physical labor, I have to admit.) We found that the underside was infinitely more beautiful than that monstrosity had ever been. Wisteria roots had pried up bits of rubber and glue that I couldn't, and made us a landscape. Laurent took photos.

Lucy is still enjoying horseback riding, and Emile is working on his Tai Chi. Actually, no, he is trying to stretch himself from one side of the door frame to the other. It's all about positioning. Sometimes he manages, and then the joy is great.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The kid without a chance

I have been feeling a lot of guilt and mourning during the discussions about Trayvon Martin. Mourning for obvious reasons, that a child was murdered, that someone now has blood on his hands, and that so many parents are afraid of this happening to their children.

Guilt, because of the quick judgments I have made, and about the one boy I evicted from a class of mine, when I was teaching "at risk" (quotation marks just because I'm quoting, not because I think it's false) kids in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He harassed his teachers, he used violent language, he mocked, but, ultimately, he just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately, I, finding that I could not teach him, and frustrated by the disruptions, asked that he be removed from the program. I now wish I had just quit, and let the director take over. After all, I was the one who couldn't handle it. And now where is he? He is an adult now, and I wonder what chances he has. I wish him well.

All that to say, as horrible as it is, I understand feeling threatened when there is no threat. I hope Mr. Zimmerman finds peace. My apologies if I sound pious, I just really do wish that for him. Because I wish it for myself.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

There's art, and then there's mathematics

Many people comment on young people's future. I have now reached an age where people politely decline to hypothesize, being as I clearly have no future, I suppose. At any rate, back in the day, I remember many people urging me to find a way to combine art and mathematics, through design, or through animation, or computer graphics. I never really listened, because art was art, and never took any lessons from rulers and coordinates, and math was all about playing with abstract ideas. So I played with one, and then the other, and resisted any attempts to meld the two.

Now, much later, I am thinking about the two in the same sentence, mainly to find out if I believe that it is possible to put them believably together. I have seen many illustrations of mathematical ideas, and, while interesting, I don't always buy that it qualifies as contemporary avant-garde. You know?
So I did a quick search, and came up with a few images that I believe. And now I am starting to think.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cheetah painting colors

Choosing a background color for a cheetah. The colors of the room it will hang in are bounding the drawing: rose, pumpkin, aubergine (to be botanical about it.) Opinions?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I was watching Sesame Street when I was Lucy's age...

Lucy has been having a very hard time falling asleep, because she is too hot. Why is she too hot? Because she has the covers over her head, but there's no winter, so she's too hot. Why does she have the covers over her head? Because she's afraid. Why is she afraid? Ah... I don't know. It could be the caffeine-like effect of chocolate in her after school snacks. Or it could be the bickering with a younger brother. Or it could be the pressures of school and extracurricular activities.

Or maybe our reading Harry Potter, The Girl Who Could Fly, and The Sisters Grimm to her.

So, We are cutting down on the chocolate, putting on cooler pjs, and reading the I'm-sorry-Lucy-I-can't-read-this-because-I-can't-stop-laughing book, Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker. This is the Petit Nicolas of the English language. Thank goodness we have found it!

Laurent used to tell her made up Harry Potter stories in the car, before she got the books. We may have to go back to that. It gave him a break from the constant Jojo Lapin on-the-fly oral fanfic fare she usually demands in the car.

Thinking about doing an artist's retreat in Minnesota. Northern Minnesota. Good idea, right?

Still hemming about animation. The industry seems brutal, but I can't stop making animations (like this one. Just play, of course.) What do I do with that? Should I apply to an animation studio, like this one? Or just keep playing, this time with the 11 second animation club?

On another topic, related to the state of the world, what charity do you recommend for children? The Rhode Island Food Bank? Being in Rhode Island, I'm afraid of graft... Or a more global one, like Save the Children?

I'm writing a story right now about a fourteen year old who needs to get away from an aggressive older date. I'm not sure how far I'm going to take it, but the research (this site and that one, for example) brought me to a couple of sites that talk about strategies and risk factors. I have begun trying to talk to Lucy about it, but I'm afraid of scaring her. My mother laid it all out from an early age, and I have never hesitated to walk briskly, say no, bang on doors if I'm being followed, keep my keys in my hand, walk in the light, watch out for corners, alleys, public bathrooms, etc... If this sound like I'm paranoid, maybe I am, but it has visibly saved me a few times. But I remember being afraid when I was a little girl...

In the world of small academics, Lucy is embarking on the wide world of borrowing, and I see that it is a big, cumbersome, awkward thing the way it is currently taught. There must be something more elegant, no? So here are two versions: one is traditional; the second is less so. Opinions?

Subtraction across zeros:
My best advice, and my colleagues agree, is to not try to get the students to regroup into a ten when there is a zero and then subtract from the ten to make nine. I tell my students that you regroup from "whoever" is next door. If "someone" is there, then you take 1. If "no one is there, then you keep moving down the street until you find someone home and you subtract from that entire number". So if you're subtracting 89 from 306, you cannot subtract 9 from 6 so you go next door. But no one is there so you keep moving. Using the marker, you have marked through a 30 so you subtract 1 from 30 leaving a 29. Bring back the one you took making a 16. Then you can subtract. It's the same principle but leaving out the middle step and my kids always get it quickly.
Using whiteboards, I ask, "What is 1 less than 5000?"
We do several of these questions and then move to:

1000-224= 999-224+1.

Then there is no regrouping.

April seems to be very near, with the extraordinary warm weather, and I'm thinking about this as a birthday present for Lucy. She can't really have too many wings, can she?

Finally, some photos from Laurent's birthday, and from the opening of Christmas presents. Emile slept through our outing to Beaver Tail Lighthouse in Jamestown.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Alice Coltrane makes the harp cool

 Happy New Year! And happy new viewing/listening recommendations...

I have to admit that the harp makes me nervous, in that it's too often twee and ethereal, and I don't really think Lucy needs either of those qualities, having both in excess already. But then my friend Anurag pointed us to Alice Coltrane. Lucy sat and watched the entire nine minute jazz solo on the harp. She seemed to get it.

And on other topics, I am feeling acquisitive. I want this painting of a girl with red, and this painting of a woman and a white wolf. Silly, since, I already have so many paintings lying around the house...