Monday, June 23, 2014

Ann Arbor Book Festival 2014

This year's Ann Arbor Book Festival was even better than last year's! There was a street fair and we had a book crawl, which is like a pub crawl, except instead of drinking alcohol, you listen to writers read their work and talk about stuff. Apparently at the Vault of Midnight (local comic and game shop) event, the comic artist had his friends and family act out scenes from his comics, which is a really neat approach. 

At Crazy Wisdom, we had poets Dawn Richberg and Jill Halpern and true crime and memoir author Mardi Jo Link. Mardi was also the key note speaker of the writing conference, so I got to meet her twice, once at Crazy Wisdom and then again the next day at the luncheon where I was selling her book. She is a pretty cool lady with some interesting stories. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her speak and talking with her. 

After the luncheon, I packed up and took over our booth at the street fair. I didn't wander around much, but it seemed like a good turnout. And Hello! Ice Cream was there selling gelato! That was the most delicious part of my day. The rest was very hot and very humid as I was basically standing in direct sunlight for four straight hours with few breaks. I slathered on sun screen thrice and tried to keep well hydrated. There is only a swipe of sun burn on my back where I couldn't reach with the sun block and my shirt didn't cover. 

I had some great conversations with attendants and my fellow booth sitters. I learned more about Art Prize in Grand Rapids, which I have never attended. I definitely want to check it out now. Violin Monster played on Main not too far from the fair, and I saw he added a dapper hat to his costume. I also kept noticing people posing against the wall of the alley across the street and snapping photos, so naturally I had to investigate that. Turned out there was a spiffy mural painted there! 

So even though I got a little too much sun, I still had fun at the street fair. Everyone seemed pretty pleased with the turn our and a few people said they couldn't wait for next year. Considering how much it has grown since last year, it will be fun to see what they come up with next year. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Grow, Garden, Grow!

This is a follow-up to my post last month, Our Second Garden. In it, I talked about all the seeds we'd planted and the good harvest we were hoping to reap. I have sad news, everyone. We lost a lot of those little shoots to spring thunderstorms. When they were healthy enough, we put the trays outside to soak up the sunshine, but instead, they got poured on and many of the seeds were washed away. My beloved kale sustained the worst damage. There was hardly any soil left in the trays. (Moment of silence for the lost kale.)

The shoots that did survive ended up withering under brutal summer sun that popped in to surprise us after the storms. It was a very sad week for us. Luckily for Sawyer, his cat grass survived, though he has since nommed it down to almost nothing, and it is struggling to come back. It stays outside for now to take advantage of the sun. Sawyer keeps a careful eye on it everyday, monitoring its progress.

Greg decided to get some already thriving plants and some friends generously gave us some leftover onions. The onions have really taken off! Look at these pictures I took of their progress:
Go, onions! Whoo-hoo! 

We also now have a tomato plant that has grown up quite tall very quickly and is currently baring fruit, and Greg picked two huge cucumbers off that plant a couple days ago. The escarole that came back from last year (didn't know escarole did that) is going nuts in its pot, and the replacement spinach is also looking quite full. It's almost time for some olive oil, ground sea salt, and a frying pan. Yum-my! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Why I Like Burlesque

Burlesque is beautiful. And not because I get to see a bunch of sparkly titties spin hypnotically on an otherwise bare torso, though it certainly has its charm. No. It's not that.

I like burlesque because women of all shapes and sizes perform burlesque and they are all cheered and appreciated. Big boobs, little boobs, drooping boobs, perky boobs, bouncy butts, no butts, they are all there. Women with tattoos, surgery scars, and cellulite are all up there moving and shaking and having a damn fine time doing it. Tall, petite, slender, or boxy, doesn't matter.

Some women make all of their costume pieces entirely from scratch because they are badass seamstresses. Others piece together disparate clothing items because they have good eyes and are skilled coordinators. And all - all - are good dancers. I didn't say they're all great dancers, though many are obviously quite skilled, I said good. When you are confident enough to get up in front of a room full of strangers and share your creativity and your body, you are good. In fact, that might automatically make you great.

Burlesque may be sexy and naughty in one light, but it is a sexy and naughty art form. These women - and occasionally men! - are artists sharing their creative souls. They build costumes, choose music, choreograph routines, and then perform. That's a damn lot of work! And they show a lot of bare skin, which takes courage. 

So when I watch a burlesque show, I don't just see a bunch of hotties with nice tits and asses, I see strong, proud, talented artists performing their craft. And that is sexy.

Click here to read about my time at the Inaugural Michigan Burlesque Festival in Detroit 2013

Follow this link to the Facebook page of the Detroit Dizzy Dames, my favorite local troupe. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Samurai at the Detroit Institute of Art

Me in Japan 2003.
I love Japan. Where this love originated, I do not know. An art teacher in high school suggested that in a previous life I must have lived in Japan, and this is entirely possible. While I was there in 2003, Japan felt like home in a way that Michigan never has. I truly felt like my life was complete while I was there, and a part of me has been missing since I left. Thus, whenever I see things that are in any way Japanese-related, like, say, the exhibit that closed Sunday at the Detroit Institute of Art entitled Samurai: Beyond the Sword, I MUST SEE THEM. 

One of my majors in college was in Asian Studies with an emphasis on Japan, so a lot of exhibits I come across don't show me anything particularly new. The DIA exhibit, however, was pretty good! Everything they had was in remarkable condition, and there was, as the name implies, more than weapons and armor. (Though there was plenty of that, too. My favorite suit of armor was of a lower ranking samurai who had compiled his suit from cast-offs of other samurai. I thought he did a fine job, keeping it in a lovely blue and purple scheme.)

No photos were allowed
at the DIA. Here is a
 picture of armor I took
from a temple in Japan.
This exhibit had a room devoted to literature and paintings by the samurai class, another for noh theater, another for the tea ceremony and tea accouterments, and more. It wasn't just about being a warrior class. Also, they had Japanese guns on display, which the samurai admitted were a superior in strength weapon (they did manage to invade Korea and capture Seoul using firearms in 1592), but only until close combat ensued, when the sword reigned supreme. They also believed that the gun was a weapon that didn't require skill or discipline (farmers were occasionally armed as gunners in battle while the "real warriors" went out with swords and spears), therefore it was over-all inferior to the sword, which was all about discipline.

I guess my only complaint is that not enough attention was paid to samurai women. It would have been fantastic to have had even a corner of a room that talked about onnabugeisha (though they did have the actual picture featured on the page of the previous link, it was just in a line of other Forty-Seven Ronin prints). There was talk of the Genpei War (1180s), but I didn't see Tomoe Gozen's name anywhere. I saw one naginata, yet nothing about the close ties it had, and continues to have, to women. (While in Japan, I was lucky enough to learn a basic naginata maneuver. I tried to pursue the study upon returning to the US, but I guess it just isn't as popular as the katana here.)

Samurai historical reenactor
at Eiga Mura (Movie Village)
in Japan.
There were a couple of handwritten, hand-painted novels, at least one of which was written by a woman, The Tale of Genji (Genjimonogatari). The highly convoluted court language of the late Heian period was barely understood even 100 years after the novel was written, so consequential copies were extremely, and beautifully, illustrated so that "readers" could still follow the story. (Yosano Akiko was the first to translate it into modern Japanese in the early 20th century.) I had to straighten out a couple of guys here who refused to believe that Genji was the world's first novel. They insisted it had to be something European like Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Though Don Quixote is considered "a founding work of modern Western literature" (Wikipedia), it is far from the world's first novel. The younger was impressed and we chatted a bit. The elder man, however, wouldn't even look at me. (C'est la vie.)

Overall, I really was pleased with this exhibit in how it showed the beautiful artistic side of samurai and not just the awesome killing. I have seen two samurai exhibits previously, one in Osaka Castle in Japan which featured a sword that, it claimed, still had on it the dried blood of the last man it killed, and another more recently in Montreal of last year that had a ton of armor, helms, and weaponry, as well as a focus on the spiritual side, mostly Zen beliefs and philosophies. This latter truly complemented the DIA exhibit. If they could be combined into one giant exhibit, I think it would be the best samurai exhibit ever!

Now I want to look into the history of onnabugeisha and other samurai women and write an article on them. Or maybe just a blog post. Ah well. As they say in Japan, ja ne!