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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Earth in Human Hands by David Grinspoon

There is an awful lot to be learned from reading this book, and while I know the author, and would have read it in any case, I am highly recommending it to people who have not read it.
The thing that I like most about it is something that is also true of the author in general.  It is optimistic.  The evidence for climate change is overwhelming and long standing.  It goes back literally a century or more.  So he doesn't engage with those who want to go down that rabbit hole.  It is all about how to address where we are and how to move forward, and he does this from the viewpoint of a planetary scientist. 
I liked the perspective of climate on planets over the time that we can study them, and the valuable information that we have from space exploration.  He and I have literally grown up in the age of being able to get out into the universe to explore it and not just sit here at home.  So that was a cool perspective, full of knowledge that I did not possess. 
So take some time and learn a bit about what the future might hold for our beautiful home planet.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Him? (2016)

James Franco is so good as the very undesirable appearing tech millionaire boyfriend.  At its core, this is a silly movie, with an overabundance of potty mouth and highly sexualized views of women.  Which is not really my cup of tea.  But there are some really good points driven home here that are worth paying attention to, especially if you are of an age where you might have offspring who might in fact bring home someone who is not exactly who you visualized your child ending up with.  I myself have tried to stay completely out of that game, and truthfully, my kids bear a greater resemblance to the James Franco character (minus the misogyny, of course, and the pervasively sexual art works) than anyone they have brought home on a regular basis.  This is a good lesson on keeping an open mind, and trying to find the point of attraction for someone that your 20-something falls in love with.  That is past the stage of high school crushes and into the realm of this could be the one.  If none of that applies, it is a light movie that probably shouldn't be watched with the family, but is good for a plane ride (where I saw it), or equally low intellectual energy times.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pushing Sixty

Here I am, pictured at a life changing moment for my brother.When he was six and I was fourteen we got a chance to sit in part of the Alaska pipeline and now he lives there, and has for a couple of decades now.  I feel like there have been quite a few life changing pinch points in my life and one of them is having cancer.
I always took it for granted that I would have time after my retirement.  That I could do more of the things that I love once I didn't have to spend a third of the day at my place of work.  Having cancer changed all that and it wasn't even a given (and really, still isn't) that I would get out of my fifties.  Yikes, that really sounds young to me.  So in a lot of ways it feels pretty good to be nearing sixty.  I am thankful to be alive.
When I turned fifty, I realized that I really needed to start doing the things that I wanted to do in retirement more if I expected to be any good at them when I had more time.  That is why I started this blog, I wanted to write more.  This past year I have really gotten back into quilting in a big way.  The way I was 20 years ago, but with a better sense of what I need in order to maintain the momentum that I have.  So today it feels good to have a birthday.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

New Parenthood Path

Today is the day that we celebrate the upcoming birth of my eldest son's baby.  I have spent most of my time thinking about this event focused on what I should make for it (and yes, that has been going very well), but now, as the event rolls nearer, it is actually time to think about what this means for all of us.
First and foremost, it makes me think of when we brought our first child home.  We were so bad at it!  We couldn't even hold the baby right, much less figure out what it was he wanted.  Which we were clearly doing badly because of the amount he cried.  Once we got a couple of weeks into it, we improved and he was more accustomed to being out of his warm wet previous environment, we settled into the sleep deprived haze that characterizes becoming a new parent.  It was never that way again (well, all the babies cried, and one of them more than the first, but I never felt as helpless as I did with my first).
And then there is becoming a grandparent.  I really liked what someone said to me the other day.  Her grandfather was excited about her being born, but he wasn't excited about being a grandfather--so he had her call him by his first name.  Which she did and still does.  So that is the route I am going to go.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen (2017)

This film is largely cut from the tried and true teen drama tradition that has been going strong since The Breakfast Club made it's debut.  This one is stronger in that there is more grit, more real life trauma, but the same neat draw up at the end.
Hailee Steinfeld, who garnered an Oscar nomination for her role in the Coen brother's version of True Grit, further reveals her versatility as a whip-smart yet socially moronic teenager named Nadine. Her one and only friend since childhood is the perky and slightly better-adjusted Krista. Her older brother, Darian is the golden boy who can do no wrong. Her widowed mother, Mona (played by Kyra Sedwick), works hard to support the family as a frazzled mom.  The whole family is surviving the sudden death of the father, and no one is completely adjusting well to those roles.
Nadine is the typical smart kid who sees everything through narcissistic eyes, falls for the bad boy, but has a really decent kid who likes her for who she is.  She makes her brother's life unbearable, and then he makes hers just as challenging because he starts to seriously date her best friend.  There is a lot of material to work with here, and if you like the genre, this is a good one.  It also has Woody Harrelson as a not creepy teacher who actually helps Nadine to cope.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Finest Hours (2016)

This movie is a Disney rendition of an actual event that happened.  In January, 1952 during a Noreaster storm off of Cape Cod, not one but two ships broke in half.  Navigation around the cape was an issue, and the first crew went the longer but safer way around.  The storm made travel very difficult to get to the second wreck, but despite that, the Coast Guard commander sent out a small rescue boat to attempt to rescue the remaining crew.  The movie apparently follows the trip out and the rescue.  It was harrowing to watch this tiny boat go through huge waves and manage to get over the land mass in the ocean.  Chris Pine plays the pay-the-book Coast Guard captain who maneuvers his tiny boat and despite there being more than 30 crew to rescue and their boat being for 12, including the four of them, he says "We all live or we all die, we are not leaving anyone."  He is a do-the-right-thing kind of guy.  And he plays that role well.  Casey Affleck plays the highly unpopular but very knowledgeable ship maintenance man who gets the wreck into a place where they can be rescued.  It is an entirely different role than others I have seen him in and he is also excellent.  This is still considered the most heroic successful rescue in Coast Guard history.  Very enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Health Care For All

This is exactly how I feel about health care.  Today my younger brother would have been 56 if he had not died when he was 8 years old, and on this day I always try to picture him moving forward in his life on some other space time continuum.  He had polio when he was a baby, between his second and third immunizations, and while he survived that, he ultimately succumbed to complications of the disease.  He is a great example of how public health is important to each and every one of us.  Otherwise we would still be facing some of those issues on a daily basis.  We are a herd.  We live together and that means sharing burdens in order to get the good things that come with having a community.  Health care should be one of those things.  The House plan is going to lead to death and destruction.  Oh, but not for them.  Or their staff.  Just other people.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Koshare Kachinas

I got completely thrown off my goal of posting art this year.  In my defense, the rate at which the government has sought to enrich those who supported their election and not the people who they theoretically represent has been even more staggeringly awful than I at first anticipated, and secondly, I spent the entire month of February watching movies that were nominated for Academy Awards and that was an immersion in art of a sort (and I highly recommend it.  I had never done it before, but will try to do it again).
So here I am starting up again.
My youngest son has been taking an American Indian art history course, and since I read everything to him, I have been learning too.  The only Native American art that I had previously had knowledge of is the West Coast tribes, so the end of the semester has been a bit easier for me to follow.  I have always loved the Hopi Kachinas, but did not really understand what they represented.  The Kachina doll is a sacred object, and to make one is to pray to the spirit world.  This kachina is Koshare, which is the clown or trickster.  Like Enki for the Summerians, or Eshu for the Yorumba.  Koshare is represented at ceremonies, passing through the crowd and pointing out the foibles.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tian Zi Fang, Shanghai

 This is a super funky neighborhood which is hard to really give the feel of, but these pictures do do it justice.
The maze of streets are filled with little galleries, and it is an area associated with art and artists.
Tian Zifang is the earliest recorded painter in China. Mr. Huang reworded the last word ‘fang 方' into ‘fang 坊' meaning mill, quarter, lane or workshop. The stele with Tianzifang written on it was hung over the entrance of Lane 210 in 2002.
Chen Yifei, one of China's most renowned contemporary artists, took over two abandoned factory buildings in Lane 210, Taikang Road, and converted them into his oil painting, sculpture, fashion and photograph studios in 1998. The cross-street sculpture - 'Art Door' designed by Cheng Yifei now stands at the eastern end of Taikang Road, famed as the 'Icon of Taikang Art Street'. Monthly opera concert in Deke Erh Art Center become regular community gathering. Then resident artists from ten countries and regions followed suit. The name of Tianzifang is coined by Huang Yongyu, the dean in Chinese painting circle.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Family Stone (2005)

I am not sure how I missed this movie when it came out, because it is packed with people that I like, and unlike many of my close family members, I do like a dysfunctional family oriented Christmas movie.  That was the short story of my whole childhood.  Also, for a moment my whole family was thinking that we had seen this movie already because we had  just watched Love the Copper's, which also stars Diane Keaton as the mother in yet another family which anyone with their head screwed on straight would avoid coming home to.
But come home they do.  In this case all five kids.  The golden boy of the family brings home a woman who is wholly unsuited to him and he brings out the worst in her.  Which becomes abundantly apparent under the scrutiny of his entire family.  But not to worry, they just picked the wrong sibling.  There are scenes that will remind you of Much Ado About Nothing, and once you get over being annoyed in the beginning, it is a good movie.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Jade Temple, Shanghai

.  In the western part of Shanghai, a very modern and flourishing city, there is a venerable and famous Buddhist temple, Jade Buddha Temple.   The Jade Temple is a traditional temple and active monastery surrounded by skyscrapers In 1882, an old temple was built to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Fortunately the statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928.
Here is one of the two really massive jade Buddhas in this absolutely gorgeous complex with multiple rooms with other beautiful Buddhas.  My sister-in-law and I were both struck by the peacefulness of this religious space that doubles as a tourist attraction.  It is definitely a place I would recommend for a Shanghai visit.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Galugadza'yi Mask, Kwakwaka’wakw

This mask, also known as the Crooked Beak Mask, is used in the Hamatsa Dance of the Winter Festival and was carved by the well known carver, George Wal.  I always thought the masks and artistry of the Northwest Indian tribes to be so uniquely beautiful and dramatic.  They are, but it turns out they have a darker side as well, and this mask is a perfect example.  The Hamatsa dance is also known as the Cannibal Dance.  The dance comes from the spirit of Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ (The Man Eater from the North End of the World).  In ancient times, this supernatural being lived far in the mountains with his family. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ would fly down into nearby villages, capture people and carry them back to his home to eat. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ killed many people. Few saw him and lived. Some lucky ancestors had spiritual gifts that protected them.  Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was unable to harm these people. On these occasions, as a gift for discovering him, he was willing to give them some of the rights to his ceremonies.  In some legends, Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was killed, and through his death the ancestors could claim his songs, dances and names.  Not so peaceful.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

I don't often blog about the crime drama aspect of my life, even though it takes up a goodly portion of both my reading and viewing life.  Recently I have been mired in the post WWI world, and this is just one symptom of it.  I just finished a Charles Todd book featuring Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector who often has auditory and visual hallucinations of a fellow company member who died in the war in front of him.  I have spent the last month reading a number of books featuring Maisie Dobbs, a detective in 1930's England who was shaped by her experiences as a nurse in WWI.  And now this, a series about a female detective in Australia in the years after the war.  Miss Fisher is very charming, a bit of a flirt, and always incredibly well dressed.  The costuming alone is worth watching the show for, but the stories are also pretty good.  They last an hour and are perfect for an exercise session--added bonus.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dreamland by Sam Quinones

This is an investigation into two converging events that can together to produce the opiate problem that is rampant throughout white middle class America.  The first is an extraordinary change in illegal drug delivery of heroin. A community in Mexico with access to black tar heroin.  They developed a network of men from the community who transported it to the San Fernando Valley, sold it to users in a concierge fashion, and returned home.  The drug dealers are not interested in immigrating to the United State.  They only want to make money and go home. They took the difficulty out of buying heroin by bringing it to the client.  No fear, no wrong side of the tracks.  When they got caught, they had very little heroin in their possession and were usually deported home.  They also had no interest in cornering the market, so when competition rolled into town, they let them. they spread out from Southern California, but to medium size cities without organized crime involved int he drug trade.  The other thing that happened was a massive increase in prescription opiates for chronic pain, which has led to widespread opiate addiction.  It is an interesting saga, told a little on the long side.

Duck Duck Duck

And one more duck, if all goes well.  We have been having our house tuck pointed for about a year now, off and on. Please note how beautiful the brickwork behind this nest is, because it has all been reworked. Apparently the process of this tromped down the mint bed just enough for it to be attractive to a duck couple.
So here is what is cool about this (and what may be it's demise in the end)--we walk right by this every day, as do our dogs.  What made ducks think this was a good idea?  I am a bit worried that they will abandon it altogether for this reason, but the ability to watch small ducklings grow up and leave the nest makes me hope that I am wrong about this.  I am pretty fascinated by birds, and love seeing them in the yard, and am happy to have a few families raised here every spring and summer.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Paquime Pottery (1100-1450 CE)

I really love this pottery that hails from the archeological excavation at Casas Grandes.  Above is the jar stretched out so that you can see the plumed snake biting the tail of the macaw headed snake, who in turn is about to bite the tail of the plumed snake.  The era that it represents is the Ramos polychrome era, which is most likely influenced by Mesoamerican rather than North American native tribes, but to my eye looks like some Acoma pottery that we have.  I love the colors, mostly black on white with some roan coloring to make it more colorful.  I love the fantastical beasts who are identifiable as snakes but also improbable.  I also love that people a thousand years ago made things this beautiful.  So here we are, back to some art very week or so.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Malevolent Government for the Rest of Us

So here is what is going on, in my eyes.  The House Republicans are trying to see if they can get some momentum going their way.  But they in no way want to be in harm's way.  Nor do they want anyone they know to be affected, because it would just be unpleasant to have to live with the consequences of their actions.  So they pass this bill, with themselves and their staff exempted from it.  What this says to me is that understand exactly how bad this will be, and they just do not care.  People will die, that is a certainty, but let it not be someone they know. 
They have been able to easily pass bills to repeal Obamacare when they knew that they didn't have the votes to defeat a veto, but they have not spent quality time figuring out a solution that they could live with.  They themselves that is.  A healthcare bill that would impact their healthcare.  No, instead they pass something that the Koch brothers could have dictated in their sleep and call that governance.  Bought and paid for.  That is what we have instead of the governance our forefathers foresaw.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Month of May

While it is true that I too was born in the month of May, the first birthday we celebrate in May in my family is my husband's sister's.  My sister in law (pictured here with my second son) is one of the most generous of spirit people that I know.  I do not get how she does it, but it is a thing of beauty to behold.  When people toss mean spirited things at her, they just slide off.  It is not that she doesn't notice or that she doesn't care.  She is just able to let go of it in a way that is really enviable.
This year I got to spend more time with her than I have since the year that she lived with us for a month, which was literally three decades ago. We ventured to Shanghai around the time of the Spring Festival.  We were shepherded around by her son, my nephew, otherwise we would have been in difficult straights, but at no point did I really worry.  We were in good spirits, we could navigate the subway, and we were able to really enjoy the place and the foreignness.  Perfect, all in all.  So it is fitting to spend a little time talking about her on this day, her birthday. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Celebrate Mexico!

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which is a very minor holiday that celebrates Mexico's improbable victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla.  So not a huge deal in the scope of history, but I want to take a moment and think about all the things that I love about Mexico and it's culture.  The first is that it is a spectacularly beautiful country with miles and miles of gorgeous coastline and equally beautiful mountains. It is populated by a wide range of native people who continue to make things with their hands.  I love that, and I always come home with more than I left with as a result.  The second is the food.  The cuisine of regions varies widely, and everything that I have tried, both in restaurants and at home of upscale Mexican food has been an adventure in multilayered flavors and I just wish it was more widespread in the United States.  And I do enjoy Sonora Mexican food, do not get me wrong.  I love the culture of celebration and I hope to travel back soon.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mexican Shrimp Bisque

We have access to very good shrimp on a very intermittent basis, and so we buy it and freeze it is quart sized mason jars filled with water.  The winter is a time when we can never get it, so we stock up and this year we really over estimated our shrimp needs, so while it is now srping and we can once again get shrimp, we have a lot on hand, which we are paradoxically eating like crazy!
This is a good low carb recipe that is well away from traditional shrimp bisque.

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  •  2 cup stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Fresh cilantro, cubed avocado 
  1. In a small saucepan, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in flour until blended. Stir in the stock, cream, chili powder, cumin and coriander; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cut shrimp into bite-size pieces; add to soup. Simmer 5 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Gradually stir 1/2 cup hot soup into sour cream; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Heat through (do not boil). Garnish with cilantro, avocado and additional shrimp if desired. Yield: 3 cups.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Doodling Paisley Quilting

I have been machine quilting for many years (thirty years to be exact), but I have never taken a class in it.  Not once.  So when I took one recently, I was amazed by how much I absolutely love this stitch.  It is called the paisley stitch, and you kind of meander around in a very controlled kind of way, and end up with these lovely swirls.
I knew that I needed some guidance to make any progress in this arena, but I didn't really have a sense of how far behind I was.  Not only have I not been in a quilt guild for many years, but I haven't kept up with who is who in the quilting world.  The class was more about figuring out what I did not know and how I was going to try to move forward.  So hard, sobering, and a little bit of excitement.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Power Station of Art, Shanghai

 This is a really cool museum space in Shanghai that is devoted to contemporary Chinese art.
There was a really interesting video piece on the differences between people of northern China as compared to people from southern China, to the point that made me really aware that even within a highly homogeneous population, people still search for differences that make them better than or different from others. 
The caption on this painting is emblematic of the museum's works:

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day!

This year I feel that there is a double meaning for this.  Or so I thought until I read that back in the day, when English was not the language of commerce and diplomacy, that the word was actually "m'aider", which is French for "Help me".  It was traditionally transmitted three times, and hopefully, help would be on the way.
So there is the need to be politically active and let our elected officials know exactly what we feel about the way they are running our country.  The corollary of that is that there is definitely a need to celebrate and protect workers and work conditions that is humane.