30 Day Writing Challenge

30 day writing challenge

I haven’t done anything like this, so I thought it might be fun to try. 

Day 1: List Ten Things That Make You Really Happy

In no particular order:

  1. My son (he really makes my day brighter)
  2. Playing Dragon Age games (Origins, Awakening, DA2, or DA: Inquisition)
  3. Writing – blog posts, poetry, and Dragon Age fanfiction
  4. Reading during any spare minutes I have – esp if they’re ARCs (Advanced Readers Copy so I get to read and review them before anyone else)
  5. Talking to anyone who will listen about art and sharing my knowledge and appreciation of it – doubly so if I get to teach an art program like Art Explorers or the ones I used to do for Kids Cafe
  6. Having intellectual conversations with cute educated guys
  7. Nerding out/Fangirling while watching Star Wars/LOTR/Miraculous Ladybug/anything vaguely Anglophile (see my Pinterest page for more of what Nerdy/Geeky things I mean)
  8. Going to Comic-con in Phx – maybe one day I can do the big one in San Diego
  9. Traveling – last trip was to Alabama to visit my family so not sure that really counts but last trip before that was to Prescott/Sedona/Northern Arizona area which I hadn’t really explored since before I moved here to AZ so that counts. I haven’t been on a good trip since college, esp a “dropping me in the middle of a country where I don’t speak the language but still manage to have fun”, but here’s hoping for more in the future. 
  10. As corny as this sounds, doing my job at work. I got a Masters Degree in Youth Services in a Public Library and I really do love helping kids and their families, so anywhere I get to do that is awesome, i.e. during Preschool STEM storytime, during Baby Storytime, Kids Cafe, Reference Desk, Readers Advisory, or helping out with other programs. 

Paul Pletka

Paul Pletka painting in his home studio in Santa Fe, NM

It’s been ages since I wrote a proper blog post (about 3 months) and even longer since I did a proper art post. I’ve been wanting to talk about the Our Lord, The One Who Is Flayed painting for ages, ever since I first saw it a year or so ago in the Phoenix Art Museum. I had never heard of the artist until I saw the three-paneled work below. Paul Pletka was born in 1946 in San Diego, California and has made his name painting Native Americans, especially those from the American Southwest.  His style is neo-surrealistic and has been described as “both realistic and deeply spiritual, being highly sensitive to the inner thoughts of Native Americans.” Paul has a local connection to Phoenix by going to nearby AZ State University. “Interestingly enough, Pletka has never taken a painting course. His focus in college was printmaking. Through an extensive process of experimentation, his heroic-sized visions of Indian mysticism are distinguished by exacting details that can only be achieved when technique is coupled with dedicated research.” He currently lives in New Mexico. 

I am always curious when someone outside of one cultural group decides to concentrate on something different (like Children’s author/illustrator Ezra Jack Keats being a white Jewish guy creating amazing books about African American and Hispanic children in the 1960-80s) , as I want to know why they have chosen to do this and is his work accepted by the group he is trying to interpret. The artist himself said this about his decision to paint predominantly Native Americans: “When I was a youngster and first became enchanted with Indian costume, lore and artifacts, I would sometimes pretend I was an Indian. I soon realized that was not intellectually reasonable. I am not an Indian. I am simply an interpreter.” He is considered one of the best painters on the subject and his work has been in exhibitions since 1964.

The painting below, While the Ravens Laughed, is one of his earlier works. It depicts the human form of the Hopi Crow Bride/Mother Kachina, aka Angwushahai-i. “Dolls and dancers representing the Crow Mother generally wear masks with ears of huge crow wings.” She is connected to the renewal/growth of corn crops in the spring. 

Paul Pletka - While the Ravens Laughed, 1976

While the Ravens Laughed, 1976

The piece below (here is the larger version) is probably one of my favorite ones from Phx Art Museum. It just draws your eye with the bright reds, oranges, blues and greens and makes you want to study it to find out what all the little details mean. The painting depicts a re-enactment of the Passion of Christ, which is done by Mexicans during Lent (the liturgical season leading up to Easter in the Catholic and Protestant calendars). The Passion of Jesus refers to the suffering enduring by Jesus starting at his entrance to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the trial in front of Pilate and finishing with his crucifixion The difference here between traditional representations is the mixing of Catholic and pre-Hispanic elements, i.e.the inclusion of the Olmec/Toltec/Aztec god of fertility, seeds, metalsmith/goldworkers, maize and spring. Xipe Totec was typically depicted wearing the flayed skin of his enemy’s and you can see that on the face of Christ on the cross and possibly the rest of the skin showing on his body. The flayed skin was supposed to renew or grow crops, which goes in well with the idea that Christ on the cross is there to give us salvation/renewal. The title refers to both the flayed body of Jesus and the flayed skin of Xipe Totec’s mask is scene on the far right panel underneath the banner of Jesus/John the Baptist. 

Xipe Totec

Xipe Totec – The Flayed God

The altar in the back of the painting is taken directly from the artist’s studio, as seen in the first picture above. Complementary colors play an important part in moving your eyes around the picture. The greens complement the red (ex.the dark green of the cross vs the bright red of the drapes), as well as the blues and oranges (ex. the turquoise of the ladder with the orange of the woman’s shawl in the center of the painting). The red symbolizes the blood of martyrs, in this case the ultimate martyr – Jesus. It is also specifically used on Palm Sunday in anticipation of the death of Jesus. As the author of the post on Yo So Art has commented on her blog post, in the center of the painting is one of the most interesting juxtaposition of images. The priest standing on the ladder has purple vestments which “depict missionaries preaching to the Native [Mexicans]  from a book in front of a giant cross, on top of a scene of some conquistadors on horseback stabbing [these same Aztecs].” 

Paul Pletka - Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed - 2004

Nuestro Senor el Desollado (Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed), 2004

Resources: 

Bratcher, Deborah. CRI, 2013: http://www.crivoice.org/symbols/colorsmeaning.html   

askArt, 2000-2017. http://www.askart.com/artist_bio/Paul_Pletka/82216/Paul_Pletka.aspx

The Eddie Basha Collection, Paul Pletka, taken from Art Fortune, 2016: http://eddiebashacollection.com/collection/paul-pletka 

Yo Soy Art, Dec 2012.Paul Pletka, Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed, 2004: http://yosoyart.blogspot.com/2012/12/blog-post.html 

Norse Mythology

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Published: February 7, 2017

Taken from Goodreads.com: In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I’ve never had the opportunity to advance read one of Mr. Gaiman’s books, so I jumped at the chance when I saw it on Netgalley. Plus it’s about one of my favorite subjects that I have loved since a child, and I could identify with Mr. Gaiman’s similar experience, in regards to the introduction of Norse mythology into his life, in the foreword. His writing is beautiful as it always is and I discovered stories I had never heard before, but I guess I just thought it would be different and a better interpretation because of his past work involving Norse mythology (Odd and the Frost Giants and American Gods). 3-1/2 stars. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publishers, WW. Norton & Company on Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. 

I can never take a good photo of myself

Portraits reveal a desire for human connection; a desire so strong that people who know they will never see me again open themselves to the camera, all in the hope that at the other end someone will be watching, someone who will laugh or suffer with them. What could be more simple and more complex, […]

via On Portraiture — Steve McCurry’s Blog

I hate taking photos of myself  as I think I look horrible, and avoid it like the plague, nearly always using comics or some other kind of illustration in its places on sites such as FB. I’ve followed Steve McCurry’s blog for awhile now and he always takes amazingly expressive portraits of people from all over the world. Check these out!

Freedom of Speech by Donalyn Miller

I rarely get really political, but our current president kind of demands it with all the uninformed and stupid decisions he makes to the detriment of the country. Freedom of speech is really important in times like these.

  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people…

Source: Freedom of Speech by Donalyn Miller

Moments of Zen: Jan 9-16

Feeling a bit better this week, thankfully no longer as if I will drown in the curtain of mucus at the back of my throat and over my lungs, which makes me cough until I can’t breathe. Graphic description I know, but there it is. I am proud of myself for finally cleaning my house up as it was a gigantic mess. 

Mon Jan 9: Worked on DA2 story “The Librarian” that I just started a few days ago. Hopefully one of these days I can actually finish one (I currently have four started). I have mentioned my profession in other works I’ve done, but this is the first one where the main character is a part-time librarian. I also made her a two-handed warrior b/c that makes her pretty bad-ass and able to protect her future love interest. 

Tues Jan 10: Worked on a previous DA2 story “Elf-Blooded” I started awhile back after playing the in-game character on Monday night. I haven’t romanced Merrill before, mostly because she’s a blood mage, so this story has a half-elf main character. 

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Wed Jan 11: Finally got Liam back after five day break. We watched more Star Wars: Rebels and went to Liam’s parent-teacher conference where I learned how well he was doing in school, esp in regards to testing. Only needs a few more points in Math and he’ll be set to continue in the gifted program. 

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Thurs Jan 12: Finished Season 1 of Star Wars: Rebels and have been reading the prequel comic about the Jedi Kanan Jarrus from Rebels and how he got his name, with Liam. He’s my favorite character on the show, as he’s part scoundrel/part Jedi badass. 

Fri Jan 13: Finally finished the ARC of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods, review to follow soon. Thought it was a good retelling. Got two books I was waiting for, i.e. Bisco Hatori’s newest manga series Millennium Snow and the aptly named memoir, I am Brian Wilson, about the most famous Beach Boy (been fascinated ever since I saw Paul Dano/Jon Cusack as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy – great movie by the way). 

Mon Jan 16th: Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 marathon with Boo plus snuggling. 

Moments of Zen: Jan 3-8

This week has been really slow for me because I came home from Alabama with a really bad cold/cough/bronchitis or whatever this horrible thing is. Not getting much sleep for the past few nights (well less than normal) hasn’t helped either. This is my first week back since my trip. 

Tues Jan 3rd: Honestly, it was napping after I dropped off my son at school because we got home so late from the trip the night before. Well that and playing Dragon Age 2 after a week’s hiatus. 

Wed Jan 4th: I had picked up a copy of Star Wars: Rebels animated TV show before Christmas intending on watching it with my son but we never got around to it. So we started it on Wed and enjoyed it so much, I let him watch 3 episodes. 

star-wars-rebels

Thurs Jan 5th: Watched a few more episodes of Star Wars: Rebels with my son and we both agree that Jedis are pretty awesome. I was pleased to find out that Freddie Prinze Jr, who also voiced Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition (one of my favorite game characters), also voiced the Jedi in Rebels.

Fri Jan 6th: Getting back in the storytime groove again as I haven’t done it since end of Nov 2016. Today we were talking about robots and a co-worker who was observing me today said I did a good job and called it “stand-up for 3 yr olds” which cracked me up. I had not been feeling great and it perked me back up. 

ouran-vol-18

Sat Jan 7th: Finally got a copy of Ouran High School Host Club Vol 18 by Bisco Hatori, though I am very sad the series is over. 😦 I also managed to find a copy of Star Wars: Kanan, the Last Padawan which I discovered while looking for some Star Wars: Rebels books on our library’s catalog. I think it is so cool that they did an origin story from the most interesting character on an older children/YA TV show. 

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Sun Jan 8th: Played pretty much the entire DA: II Legacy download and loved it. The final battle with Corypheus was nearly as hard than the final battle in Inquisition, even in Casual mode, in my opinion. I loved the dialogue between Hawke, Anders, Varric and Fenris in this premium content. I wish I had gotten the content sooner as this makes so much more sense to do before Inquisition because it explains so much of the storyline before you see Hawke in Skyhold.