Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Ferris Bueller Day

My days are not particularly "busy", per se.  Of course, every day I am constantly and endlessly employed with the care of my son, my home, and my family.  Those things keep a body busy. However, I don't go "out-and-about" as much as I used too, and spend most of my days at/near home.  Its a nice little life. Yesterday was an out-and-about day, and by my current standards it felt like my own personal Ferris Bueller's Day Off. 


 (not a "day off" at all, but you follow)

First stop: Social Security Office



Otherwise known as "a day in hell".  What a parade of humanity that was. The office is open from 9am-3pm and is located in Manassas.  MAN-ASS-AS. For those unfamiliar with the sprawling suburbs of Northern Virginia, that means a 45 min drive for me (with no traffic).  It also means that a tiny government agency, with 4 service windows, is meant to serve 3 counties worth of citizens, which totals about 1.9 million people, with a huge immigrant population (people who need SS cards). Here's the short story:


I arrived at 11am (first mistake) and the line was out the door and down the sidewalk in the blazing heat.  I stood there for 30 minutes and didn't move a step.  A very kind officer told us that it would likely be over an hour just to get in the building, then probably about 2 hours waiting inside. (Makes you want to sit down and cry, right?) BUT, he said, if you come back at 2:45, right before "closing", the line goes much faster.  You see, they don't "close" at 3pm, they close the line at 3pm.  They serve everyone who is still in line, and they get people from other parts of the office to help process everyone through.  So, are you kidding me?, I bounced.



Little Man was at grandma's and having a grand time, so I went to do my grocery shopping. I was listening to NPR, as I often do.  Kojo Nnamdi was hosting an awesome show about the DC music scene, and I tuned in just in time to hear them talking about house concerts and local venues.  So I called in, knowing that it is very rare to be let through, but thought it would be fun to participate in the conversation.  And, whaddya know!, I got through and talked on the radio about house concerts and other nervous, rapid ramblings--it was thrilling!  You can listen here, I called in with about 8-10 min left of the show, I think.



Wegman's grocery shopping. Uneventful. Unless you count the heavenly vanilla streusal muffin.

Back to the SS Office



Yup, I went back.  Arrived at 2:30. Huge line, but about 15 people less than the morning.  Everything moved very fast.  Was finished with my business at 3:45.

I picked up Little Man and came home. We have taken to playing in the water on our deck just about every afternoon, but this time he added another element. Earth.


Kyle had to go in to work, so I was on my own with the child. Dinner. Bedtime.

SURPRISE!

When Kyle got home we snuggled down to read Lord of the Rings out loud (cause that's how we roll), and what did I find under my pillow? A big box with a BRAND NEW MACBOOK PRO INSIDE! I could have wet myself! I've been bothering him about a new computer for ages because my trusty Macbook has barely been turned off in over 7 years and has begun to limp along. Turns out, he didn't go to work at all, but went to pick up my present. Oh, this new computer is glorious!  Light! Sleek! Quiet! Updated! Clean! I can't believe how stuck in my old ways I've been and how much has changed in the new stuff.  It is just thrilling.



CAKE

Kyle worked on installing ALL THE THINGS on my new computer and I started baking a lemon wedding cake that will be assembled and gorgeously decorate<id by Saturday. (Said with unfailing faith, as I've never made this kind of cake before and time this week is majorly crunched by the upcoming holiday...it'll happen, it'll happen, it'll happen...)

So, not the best Ferris Bueller Day, but an eventful one none-the-less. And I shall get through this busy week and clean ALL THE THINGS and pack ALL THE THINGS and finish ALL THE THINGS before we leave on our trip out west next week. Major road trip. First in 7 years. With a toddler. I CAN'T WAIT.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

4 Graphs Showing the Ridiculous Discrepency Between the Number of Male vs Female Lead Rolls in Disney Animated Films

The backstory:
I was chatting with my friend Holli about Disney movies.  She is the mother of 2 young girls.  Her almost-3-year-old is obsessed with all things princess.  She seems to have come by this obsession relatively naturally, with far less parental encouragement than one might imagine after observing her intense preoccupation with the illustrious club.  My son is barely over 1 year old, and has not yet shown any interest in watching anything; I wonder what he might become interested in and what there is out there for young boys to admire and aspire to.  So we were discussing male and female leading characters in popular Disney animated films.  I have seen my more-than-fair-share of these films, so when I could hardly come up with a handful of male leads to match their female counterparts (who very readily came to mind), I was quite flummoxed.  I can rattle off the entire princess line with plenty of breath to spare, but when challenged to name male leads, I was coming up short.  My mind hit on a few right off the bat (Tarzan, King Arthur aka Wart, Aladdin), but the names didn't come to mind nearly as easily as I thought they would.

So, I dashed over to wikipedia and began to study the list of Disney Theatrical Animated Features.  What I found was quite shocking.

I had assumed that because I couldn't immediately name a dozen leading men to match the princesses, that such men didn't exist.  I was dead wrong.  I have since poured over this list, and have made a few graphs that I believe illustrate some pretty disturbing discrepancies between the quantity of lead roles divided between the sexes in Disney animated films.  Now, there certainly is a quality argument to be made here as well, but for now I speak only of quantity.

The Science:
I am not a scientist, a statistician, or even a fan of graphs per se.  There are likely many flaws in my research and reasoning.  I am open to suggestions if you believe I have calculated something wrong, misinterpreted the data, or am otherwise way off in my analysis.  But here's what I did:

I took the list from wikipedia and highlighted each film with two colors: pink for female lead character, blue for male.  (A lead character is the person who is singularly at the center of the plot.  In some films, that character is a little hard to distinguish or there isn't one (ie 101 Dalmatians), but in almost all of the films where the lead character was questionable, the top few primary characters were all male anyway.)  Then I highlighted each film to distinguish if the lead character was human or non-human.  The list looks like this:

There are 105 films on this list.  Of those films, 80 had a male lead, 25 had a female lead.
*Including male dominated ensembles and segment films. **Lead females per movie; some characters appear many times.

 That's a pretty ridiculous split, if you ask me. But here's where things get interesting: of all lead roles, 45 (42%) are non-human males.  5 are non-human female (4%).  4 (FOUR) of those 5 films are Tinker Bell movies. *invisible Mickey Mouse glove slaps face*
*Includes segment films ie. "Fantasia", "Melody Time", etc. and films where the lead is both human and animal ie. "Emperor's New Groove", "Princess and the Frog", etc.

*Lady, from "Lady and the Tramp", and 4 Tinker Bell movies.

Its for some grad student somewhere to draw conclusions from these statistics, I don't gots the time.  But I do find it fascinating that there are SO MANY non-human leading males (Woody, Lightening McQueen, Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, Simba, Mickey Mouse) and there are TWO (2...DOS!!) non-human females, a cute, cuddly, dainty, lovely puppy dog and friggin Tinker Bell.  Something is amiss here.

These pie charts show the male/female split in 20 year segments.  Note: the last chart shows the last 12 years; there are more films in the last 10 years than the previous 20, and more films in the last 10 years than the first 40.

Here are some other pie charts that break down these groups further:
Princesses: Mulan, Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Ana ("Frozen"), Ariel, Aurora, Merida. I did not include Jasmine because she is not a lead character.  Non-human: Lady and Tinker Bell. Human Non-Princess: Lilo ("Lilo and Stitch"), Penny ("The Rescuers"), and Alice ("Alice in Wonderland").

Again, I'm sure there are a plethora of conclusions that one could draw from these statistics, and, again, my methods could be flawed, so be gentle in your criticism.  What do you think of these stats?  Would you like to see more non-human lead females?  (I sure do.)  Do you think they care about this stuff over at Disney Studios and elsewhere?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sinister Apothecary Secrets Book

Aaaah Pinterest...thanks for spewing this little gem my way.

This wonderful post came across my Pinterest feed and I had to try it for myself.  It was repinned by about 10 of my friends, so I figured that there are likely folks out there interested in the end result of this project.

CRAFTERS BEWARE: This project took a LONG TIME with a lot of ATTENTION TO DETAIL.  It took much longer than I ever would have thought, but was also super fun.  Like, start heating the glue gun when the kiddo goes to bed and BAM, 6 hours have gone by, fun.

I didn't do a great job of documenting the process, but I'll try to explain how it all went down.  First, here's the end result:



I basically followed the instructions in this post by Seeing Things That Aren't Really There, but made some of my own adjustments, additions, etc along the way.  I started with the generic blank paper mache book found at Michael's.



While at the thrift store, I spotted this ripped, tacky little box and immediately knew I could use it to great affect on this project. 
I proceeded to dismantle it and cut out the designs I wanted with a utility knife.



The material is thick paper board, so it was pretty tedious cutting it out with the utility knife.  Make sure you have a new sharp razor in your knife. I used fine grain sandpaper to smooth the edges and shape the corners.

I'm sure a lot of you reading this will relate, but I have been known to hoard nonsense junk because "I might be able to use it someday".  I have a bag of really junky beads someone gave me (or I saved from the dumpster, can't remember which) that yielded some fantastic finds for this project.  VINDICATION!

Next step, layout embellishments (cut out cardboard, beads, string, or whatever you want to use) on the paper mache book, and start gluing them down with a hot glue gun.


The sun/moon/stars beads came from a really junky plastic necklace.  This was one of those moments when trash transformed into treasure before my eyes.  I was giddy! All of this stuff is hot glued on.

The bright orange, tiny plastic skeleton came from the aforementioned bag-o-junk.  It was a lone earring.  I cut it to bits and glued it down.  Brilliant.

Next: Modge Podge, tissue paper, paint brush.

Start smearing that Modge Podge and, using your finger, press the tissue paper into every crack and crevice of the book.  I was most nervous about this step, because I'd never done this, but it was pretty easy and had a great affect.  The tissue paper obscures some details, but you can also keep a lot of fine detail too.  It unifies all of the pieces and makes the finished product look much more authentic and old.  I used one layer, instead of the two suggested because A) I was being impatient and B) I didn't want to obscure any more detail.
The whole book covered in yellow tissue paper.
I let it dry overnight so the Modge Podge/tissue paper could get good and hard.  Then I painted the whole thing with gesso.


I then painted the outside of the book with acrylic paint.  I mixed brown and black to get a nice dark leather color, and coated that sucker.  2 coats.  I probably should have done 3, even 4, because at the very end, when I attempted to sand some edges to give it an older look, I sanded right through to the white gesso without much effort.  No bueno.  So I touched up the white bits.

Here's where my weak documenting will start to annoy you.  Next, I made some faux pages.  I measured and cut out some cardboard from a cereal box, painted a layer of very light brown, then let it dry for a few minutes so it was tacky.  Then I painted over it with very light yellow.  I didn't mix the paint (yellow and white) very well, because the streaking effect when laid on top of the light brown looked awesome.  I let that dry just until it was tacky, then ran the blade of my utility knife through the soft paint to make hundreds of fine little lines.  I was totally experimenting here, and was very pleased with the result.

 Make 3 "page" panels and glue them in place with hot glue.  Notice in the above picture, I painted the end of the "page" panel brown to look like the rest of the book.  The corners didn't come together all that great, but I'll live with it.

 I got these tiny corked vials at Michaels.  I Modge Podged the labels that I got from the bottom of the original post (here again).  Then filled them with spices from my cupboard.  No one will ever suspect.

I measured the inside of the book, and cut out a practice board from a cereal box.  I laid the vials out on the practice board and measured where I wanted them to go.  Then I used the practice board and measurements to cut out the thick paper board from the thrift store box.  Also, I painted the entire inside of the book and all the boards that go inside of it brown like the outside of the book.


 I cut grooves in the board and notches in the boards that are sitting upright, so they fit together, and hot glued them.
 Then I made little boards that are the exact size of each compartment on the larger board.  I glued some felt on them.  I had this piece of ostrich leather lying around and cut it into small strips.  The ostrich leather was ideal because it wasn't very thick, and the brads that I used were quite small.  I used my dremel to drill holes through the board where I wanted the brads to go and pinned everything down good and tight.

 I added an element to my book that is not in the original post.  I thought, "If I were a wicked apothecary who sells poison to scoundrels, I would need many secret places to hide the unseemly evidence of my misdeeds."  So, a secret compartment in my secret poison book seemed like just the ticket.
I found some pictures online that I liked, printed them, and "aged" them using this tutorial.  I've never dyed paper with tea, but it worked great and I will definitely do it again.  A side note: the picture is of the son-in-law of Queen Victoria, who married her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice.  He reportedly died of malaria in 1898 somewhere in Africa on duty for the British armed forces.  So what's his picture doing hidden in this box full of poison?  Malaria, huh?

 The fake bottom, panels with vials on them, and vials neatly in their spots.  Ready for business.

I forgot to mention the pendent on the front.  It was in the jewelry section at the craft store, has a lovely little octopus on it, and opens like a locket.  I haven't yet, but I will draw something creepy and put it in the locket. Also on my list of potential front cover decor--a skeleton key bracket, other little lockets and pendants, whatever floats your boat, really.

 The back, with that tiny Vitruvian man.
This is the beginning of an apothecary collection that I will display each October until I die.  I'm pretty ridiculously picky about what Halloween decor I like, and this fits the bill.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Figure Painting Workshop with Rose Datoc Dall

Last week I spent 4 days in Buena Vista, Virginia at my alma mater, Southern Virginia University attending a figure drawing/painting "summer camp" taught by artist Rose Datoc Dall.  It was a tremendous leap of faith, and a wonderful experience.

Traveling away from Kyle and Dylan took a lot of planning and a very generous mother-in-law.  I left Wednesday morning and arrived at SVU to what seemed like hugs at every turn--I didn't expect to see so many friends there, both attending the painting workshop and the photography workshop taught by my friend Brinn Willis.  The two workshops were held simultaneously, and were pulled off without a hitch by my pal Taerra Pence and Carrie Brotherson, Director of the Travel Study program (and my freshman English professor).  This is the inaugural year for these summer camps, and they seemed very successful, so I'm sure there will be more in the future.


We jumped right into things on that first day.  The dance studio was transformed into the perfect group art studio.  At first I was disappointed that we weren't going to work in the art studios at my beloved Tucson House, where I spent many-a-long night in my undergrad being an art geek.  I was looking forward to basking in nostalgia, but it was all for the best because the dance studio was bright, spacious, and a perfect workspace for our purposes.  The lovely Kathryn Bouchelle was our model that day.  We watched a drawing demo by Rose, and began with gesture drawings.

Time rushed by, and 9 pm came like the shake of a lamb's tail.  The lovely Jennifer Brotherson modeled for us in the evening, in a pose that was straight out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Day 1, over. 

I decided to take the plunge into this 4 day workshop because it was taught by Rose Datoc Dall.  I've been a fan of her art for a few years, ever since I was introduced to it through the "I'm A Mormon" campaign, of all places.  I saw her video, looked up her work, and was hooked.  Now, by happenstance, we're in the same (LDS) stake.  Last month she opened a solo exhibition at the Washington DC LDS Temple Visitor's Center called "Jesus Once Was a Little Child".  The exhibit contains paintings she has made over the last decade of Christ as a young boy.  The images are powerful, moving, and evocative.  I went to the opening reception and listened to her gallery talk.  She spoke of how she had navigated being a full-time mother and an artist, "stealing moments" to paint after her kids went to bed, and accruing time in front of her easel like "drops in the bucket".  Her message was very impactful and applicable to my life right now, and I knew I had to take the opportunity to learn from her.  The fact that that opportunity also involved my home-away-from home at SVU, was just a fantastic bonus.

Bright and early on Day 2, we ventured out on a 2 hour drive to Richmond to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.  What a glorious drive it was!  Made glorious by a reunion with my dear friend, Amaree.  We gabbed on and on about life and art, and all in the car discussed how to navigate our chosen artistic pursuits and still maintain the high moral standards the Lord requires.  It was so bolstering for me to discuss these challenges with other artist, and I came away fortified.

The Museum as exquisite--more-so than my last visit over 7 years ago.  They've made tremendous improvements and renovations, and their collection is truly incredible.  What a gem!  Here are a few of my favorite finds.
Mucha

Tiffany 




Sargent




The best part of the day was getting a short one-on-one pow-wow with the unsurpassed Professor Doug Himes.  My respect for him knows no bounds, seriously.  What an artist!  Through and through.  He's not an artist because of the beautiful images he creates, or the exquisite drawings he produces, or because of his profession as an art instructor--no, he is an artist because of his soul and his life and his PASSION.  He evaluated my drawings, gave me some invaluable advice, and inspired me as only a true TEACHER can.  I am so lucky to know him.

We were treated to a posh dinner at the museum restaurant (best crab cakes I've ever tasted) and headed back home after a long, beautiful day, talking of living history, faith, and dreams.  *sigh*  When we arrived back in BV, my dear little family awaited me and I hit my pillow complete.

Day 3 began very ambitiously with a 6:30 am jog down the "River Walk".  I forgot how misty BV is in the morning.  How everything smells wet and dewy.  How quiet it is in a small town, and how engrained it is in my bones.  It could have felt like no time had passed in the 6 years I've been away.  But, unusual for the old me, it never felt that way.  I am firmly rooted in the present, and that is an amazing feeling.

 Kathryn was back to model for us, a "long pose".  She sat in basically the same position for about, oh, 6 hours?  Well done, Kathryn.  I began oil painting.  I have never tried painting the figure or a portrait, and I gave it a decent attempt.  However, I am not going to post the results.  I know, with no filters or pretense, what my painting looks like and why I painted it.  It was not painted to be seen but to be painted.  End of discussion.  However, I have no shame in posting pictures of other people's lovely paintings:

It was a very long day, 14 hours in the studio, and I was glad for my bed.

Day 4
I spent the morning drawing the lovely Metta Himes in an elegant sitting pose.  Rose gave a pastel demo, and the time flew by.  Everyone in the class contributed their work for an exhibition, which we viewed over lunch.  It was wonderful to see everyone's work on display, but also slightly harrowing, as I had no desire to show my work to anyone.  I don't mean to be self-deprecating, but the progress I made during the workshop is not really evident in the drawings I produced, but was on a spiritual, intellectual, and theoretic level that will pave the way for real visible progress as I put my shoulder to the wheel.

Our gracious instructor with her pieces from each day of the workshop. 
A few other noteworthy occurrences:

Kyle and I spent the afternoon with the Shirakis, and later discovered a remarkable dirt road through the mountains that I can't believe I never knew about in the 6 years I lived in BV.  Why, oh why didn't I have access too/take advantage of Google earth back in the day?  Tragic.
My favorite adopted family.

 Dylan's first taste of southern style buiscuts and gravy in the SVU cafeteria, just proves that God is in the details of our lives and that he has a sense of humor.
He loved it.
All in all, it was a tremendous week and a wonderful learning experience.  I am so glad for the new friends I made, and the existing relationships that were strengthened.