Booksy Books

I’ve been feeling antsy, and gulping down books in an effort to squash summery mugginess. In the past two days I’ve breezed through five books–the latter five on my list of seventy books read so far. Three books have stood out.

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Published in 1959, its story chronicles pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century.

One: Things Fall Apart, a book we’d been assigned to read in high school–one that hadn’t held my attention long enough for me to finish it. By section three, when the white man and his horse had arrived at the African village to convert everyone once over into Christians, I could understand why we had been assigned it. It mirrored Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but with a far more sympathetic and grounded portrayal of the fictitious African society.

By section three, all I could hear in my head was: White Man’s Burden. White Man’s Burden. White Man’s Burden. I kept naively wishing that the African society in Things Fall Apart could remain as it’d been described…before the Christian converts came riding along with their horses, religion, and forceful government. But that would be to rewrite fiction! ….and to rewrite history.

Soviet Daughter provides a window into the life of a rebellious, independent woman coming of age in the USSR, and the impact of her story and her spirit on her American great-granddaughter.

The second: Soviet Daughter, a comic about the author’s great grandmother who’d grown up impoverished amid World War II. The great grandmother had been fiercely independent, the eldest of seven children, a typist, a nurse, and a survivor of the purges. The author occasionally interspersed sections with her own story identifying with her great grandmother, who, like her, was open-minded, political, and embraced the arts.

The book echoed of MAUS, a book about the author’s father’s experiences in the Holocaust. It was a comic that catapulted itself into the ranks of visual literature. I’m guessing MAUS inspired a whole slew of historical biographical comics, such as the one on the atomic bomb in Japan, and then this girl’s great grandmother’s experiences in the USSR. Oh! The sociopolitical fumes of World War II linger….

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The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century.

Which brings me to the third book: On Tyranny. It not-so-subtly hinted at the pre-fascist-like tendencies that American politics has recently devolved into. It offered twenty tidbits of wisdom detailing how certain American norms have become vaguely reminiscent of those in Nazi Germany and East European Communist regimes during WWII. Its lessons were sound: investigate, beware the one-party state, be wary of the tendency to comply–as a citizen, as a professional. Why? Because institutions have risen and fallen and lied and slain and led people astray in a similar fashion.

Yet the irony lies in the fact that Americans who might benefit from reading this book, in heeding to the lessons of history, likely wouldn’t read it to begin with. I doubt that the masses–specifically, the subset of the population that tosses around the word “fake news” while consistently turning a blind eye to political lies–would ever pick up this book. Those who would pick up this book–people who enjoy reading about politics, thinking about politics–perhaps might be already aware of these 20 lessons, and might be politically active. Those who need to hear these 20 lessons most wouldn’t even begin to listen….

Those are my 2 meta-cents as I read through it. But I may be wrong. Of the three books, I’d most highly encourage others to read the third book, On Tyranny.

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100 Books Reading Challenge

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Started a reading challenge project mid-spring. The goal: read 100 books by summer in a year. I’m inching along, albeit at a slower pace than I’d like. Figured posting the list on my blog would hold me accountable–also, I get to share cool books!

So here’s a list of books I’ve reading; I plan to update every 10 books or so. If you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

  1. One! Hundred! Demons!, Lynda Barry
  2. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
  4. Here, Richard McGuire
  5. Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks
  6. Burned, Ellen Hopkins
  7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling
  8. Walking Dead 1, Robert Kirkman
  9. Walking Dead 2, Robert Kirkman
  10. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelous
  11. Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur
  12. Partner Track, Helen Wan
  13. Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen
  14. Kafka, R. Crumb
  15. Project Jennifer, Jill Rosenblatt
  16. Dignity, Donna Hicks
  17. Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant, Roz Chast
  18. Ginny Moon, Benjamin Ludwig
  19. Autobiography of Barefoot Gen, Nakazawa Keji
  20. Meow Meow, Jose Fonollosa
  21. Beautiful Darkness, Fabien Vehlmann
  22. Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
  23. The Skin Above My Knees, Marcia Butler
  24. Essential Poems (To Fall in Love With), Daisy Goodwin
  25. Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins
  26. Future Tense, Paintings by Alex Gross
  27. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  28. Thirst, Poems by Mary Oliver
  29. Global Street Art, Lee Boffkin
  30. Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami
  31. Vintage Cisneros, Sandra Cisneros 
  32. Have You Seen Marie, Sandra Cisneros
  33. Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros
  34. The Quiet Eye: A Way of Looking at Pictures, Sylvia Judson
  35. Blue Nights, Joan Didion 
  36. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  37. This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
  38. The Embassy of Cambodia, Zadie Smith
  39. Love Mad Poems, Rumi
  40. The Wolves In The Walls, Neil Gaiman
  41. Forms of Distance, Bei Dao
  42. 73 Poems, E.E. Cummings
  43. The Love Bunglers, Jaime Hernandez
  44. Little Book of Little Stories
  45. Shoplifer, Michael Cho
  46. Rick & Morty Comics
  47. Fresh Complaint, Jeffrey Eugenides
  48. Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg
  49. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  50. South and West, Joan Didion
  51. Dear Dumb Diary
  52. Stories Julian Tells, Ann Cameron
  53. Stitches, David Small
  54. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
  55. Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka
  56. Pretty: Stories, Greg Kearney
  57. Night Watch, Malin Lindroth
  58. Constance and the Great Escape, Pieere Le Gall 
  59. Rapunzel, Paul Zelinsky
  60. Jane and the Fox & Me, Isabelle Aresenault 
  61. I’ve Loved You Since Forever, Hoda Kobb
  62. Corduroy, Don Freeman
  63. Buck, MK Asante
  64. Chemistry, Weike Wang
  65. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
  66. Soviet Daughter, Julia Alekseyeva
  67. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  68. LIFE 70 Years of Extraordinary Photography
  69. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder
  70. SHOCK

(Updated June 17th, 2018)

To Love and To Be Loved

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I’ve slipped back into life as it’s been: seeing friends, talking to my boyfriend, spending time con la familia. I hear about relationships fragmenting and forming. It’s strange how relationships, by default, are in flux. I imagine that friends in the mid-to-outer circle are changing–not so much for closer relationships. But I guess that’s an illusion.

Life is too short to not spend it with the people you love, I murmured. Did you just read an Instagram caption? my boyfriend asked. I huffed. I said that it was a midnight musing–not an Instagram caption. But it’s true. To me, at least. From reading children’s books to books about death and illness and meaning and regret, I gather that this abstraction–love!–that poets wax on about and singers warble on about and writers scribble on about is what matters most. It isn’t money or material items or career or achievements or resumé markers or positions or charm. It’s the simple, deceptively simple! equation of existence: to love and to be loved.

Heart

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SO you take it upon yourself to judge the content of someone’s heart without ever having the chance to rip open a chest to peer inside. Instead you look at the way their arms flail or their facial expression, the way they extend a hand or recoil in fear. On a bench or through a friend of a friend, you decide on which adjectives you’ll use to describe this heart.

You decide that:

the heart is open, the heart is cold, the heart is kind, the heart is distant, the heart is hardened, the heart is shut-off, the heart is readable, the heart is murky, the heart is big. The heart is stony. The heart is a million things except for what it simply is: a heart.

It never occurs to you that: maybe we’re all just wasting our time trying to superimpose these value judgments on an organ. But that doesn’t stop us.

Insomniac’s Rmble

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The insomniac has a song. It’s not a song, it’s a warble. It does math problems at 1:29 in the morning and curses at small bladders. It tallies up why the studies show that we lose two friends for every romantic relationship you gain and why it doesn’t matter. I kept things from you anyways. 

It ruminates over slander, and how it can’t be slander if it’s true.

The insomniac has a cry. A cry about blacklisted tags. About puffs of light brown, one, two, minus three. On existentialist concerns, but mostly practical ones. On critical tirades, on bi-monthly tantrums. And nightmarish things. This is why you don’t binge horror on a plane.

The insomniac has a dream. A daydream. An elaborate daydream about coconut cream and custard and condensed milk at the cusp of a cup. It wants to listen. All it wants to do is listen. And it dreams, more, of listening. Of evolving into a massive, massive ear. So tight-lipped, you are.

A Crime of Beauty

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Crumbling concrete walls. Dilapidated trains. Bleak subway entrances. Clouds of vaguely formed color snake their way across the surface. Street art. It’s become an integrated chunk of most cities. In every city I’ve visited–Chicago! NYC! Austin! Philly! LA!–I’ve been on the look-out. From creeping ghost-monsters to blasé kitties giving viewers the bird to colorful blocks of illegible tags, the pieces have covered a whole range of wild, beautiful subjects.

It wasn’t until this past summer that I got a wee taste of making street art. My boyfriend and I went to Graffiti Park, mere white spray can in tow, and sprayed a massive (mediocre) face on the wall. It was lopsided; I tried again. It was still lopsided, puffy and dripping. I realized that, as effortless street art appears, it’s harder than it looks.

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Over the summer, I checked out a book on the history of graffiti, which massively broadened my understanding of the art. In the US, its roots stemmed from the 20’s, and sprouted up in New York and Philly. By the 60’s and 70’s, it has its resurgence. Artists would claim fame through uniquely tagged names. They’d graffiti up subways, freeway sides, walls and trains with nicknames and distinctive styles.

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Every single [train] car was tagged by massive, puffy graffiti, not yet appreciated as the important art movement and political statement it would become. It was a crime of beauty.

– The Skin Above My Knee, Marcia Butler

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Since then, it’s evolved from being a mark of underground illegal edginess to a form of twenty first century semi-exalted art.

Nowadays, street art occupies a funny place in society; few things parallel it. It’s respected, it’s looked down upon. It’s art; it’s trash. It’s revered; it looked down upon. It’s subversive. It’s not. It flouts authority; it’s sanctioned by authority. It ignores its surroundings; it flirts with its surroundings. It composes its surroundings.

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It thumbs its nose at–speaks to–argues with–its surroundings. Unlike traditional art, street art isn’t confined to cold empty eerie rooms, shrunken beneath towering white space. Instead, it yawns over piers and stone blocks and garage wall, to the delight of phone cameras and tourists and passerby’s.

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April 2018 | Daily Art

Here are daily art pieces from April 2018.

I’m looking ahead; it’s the final stretch. I’m anticipating sunnier days ahead, dreaming of the beach, shutting my eyes, peering over the balcony of somewhere tropical. It won’t be nearly that sunny or beachy, but the thought’s getting me through the weeks.

april 1st

Missed deadlines. You know the way water suddenly stimulates creativity and forgotten reminders? This was one. I missed the design deadline. And it’s been on my mind.

4.1.18 | Daily Art


april 2ndd

Crooning mellow tunes, soul’s skyrocket to fame banking on the nostalgic dust-coated memories of an idyllic high school days. We’re just like that one song, young, dumb and broke, except we’re not broke, just young and dumb. 

Khalid’s been playing on repeat, from early AM origami folding to concentrated midday digital doodles to nighttime vibes.Numbers saved lest one day you chalk up the pride to come back and say hi. Tell me where your love lies, love lies.

4.2.18 | Daily Art


april 5th

If I had a spirit cartoon, it’d probably be Diane Nguyen from Bojack Horseman.

Diane’s this smart and nerdyish character who’s into writing (she’s penning Bojack’s bibliography) and third wave feminism and books. Not one for social gatherings. Freaks out when her husband throws parties and does wild gestures. Hates surprises. Is a “misunderstood intellectual.” On the stubborn side. Quiet. 

Granted, I’m not Diane Nguyen–it’s just that, of all my favorite cartoon characters, I identify with her most. I love Stewie, but I can’t identify with Stewie; Louise Belcher is great, but more adorably conniving than I could imagine; Rick Sanchez is a wild, slightly sociopathic genius, but he’s a kind of his own. Ah! Diane it is. 

4.5.18 | Daily Art


april 6th

You learn to curse on the playground. You’re doing cartwheels to synchronize to songs by the Cheetah Girls. Everyone’s got their legs and back straight, pinwheels dancing on rubber nuggets.

Meanwhile, you’re spitting shit so it rolls off your tongue, easy, and when your substitute teacher compares you to the dark-haired girl in Peanuts, you say, talk to the hand. And when your second grade best friend stares at you wide-eyed, incredulous, you laugh.

If every petal was one bad word, another angsty thought. That’s a lot of angsty thoughts.

4.6.18 | Daily Art


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Lo and behold, a watercolor watermelon.

4.7.18 | Daily Art


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There are no mountains where I live. Nor are there cherry blossoms. But this image, of flowers in bloom, nature’s puff, of tiny yellow homes by the mountainside, struck nuggets of peace in my heart.

The city, in contrast, is so loud. Angry hum of bus engines, people scuttling around, loud. Cars on concrete continually. Whirs and roars and squeals and squeaks. Chorus of ambulance sirens every. half. hour. Sounds I tune out over time. But in the morning, when I tried a solid minute of meditation, all I could hear was the din I’d learned to shut out.

Madness. I’m channeling nature instead, albeit in 2D illustrations.

4.8.18 | Daily Art


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Sometimes I’ll feel little spurts of gratitude–this time, it was for the closest people in my life. Ah! What are you grateful for?

4.9.18 | Daily Art


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A nebula of nebulous thoughts, decisions, plans–or lack thereof. Of paths less traveled, of roads well-worn.

One day, it’ll seem so obvious–an epiphany, albeit late, will hold the answer to every qualm. The next day, one naysaying opinion in the middle of design will cast long shadows of doubt.

Nebula, nebulous. In looking ahead, I can opt either to diverge, or to trudge upwards. But towards what?

4.10.18 | Daily Art


A visual attestment to the importance of brows. This is a late-night sketch of a random girl, whose face I merged graphite with digital medium. Toyed around with the brows for kicks and giggles. Same image, parallel face;
she looks (subtly) different!

4.11.18  & 4.12.18 | Daily Art


april 13

I asked my boyfriend from caption ideas. “Beauty covers beauty,” he suggested. Like: Beauty over beauty. Beauty superimposed upon beauty. Beauty of nature. Beauty of reflections.

4.13 & 4.14


april 16

Toying with pastel-colored paints. There’s something so dreamy and slow and beautiful about clouds.

4.15.18 & 4.16.18 | Daily Art


april 17 and 18th

West-coast cliches, like California dreaming, palm trees swaying in the wind. I’ve been fantasizing about the beach, of sprawling under the sun, marmy, sleepy, toasty.

4.17.18 & 4.18.18 | Daily Art


april 15

Sunset, and sunrise.

4.19.18 | Daily Art


april 19

A mojito, please, and here’s our ID. I had my first mojito at the Venezuelan place downtown, the one with the meat pockets so good I stashed a palmfull in my purse. The lime and mint mojito paired with it perfectly.

4.20.18 | Daily Art


april 21

It’s remarkable when somebody understands. 99.9999% of people don’t understand, can’t understand, probably won’t ever understand. And it isn’t through any fault of their own: to understand is a true feat, really, and to expect it from others is a tall damn order. Even when it comes to close friends, or family, you can’t expect another person to know entirely where you’re coming from.

So you can imagine my borderline astonishment when, after confiding in my best friend a personal experience, she empathized with it in a heartbeat. She relayed her own experiences, mirror images of my own, back to me. I’d had my words fall on so many deaf ears in the past, to the point that I felt like a real odd one out. To have had them fall on an understanding one, years later, was absurd and comforting. To others, it’d marked deviance, something unjustifiable. To her, it was utterly normal. I only wished we’d been friends earlier.

4.21.18 | Daily Art


WHALE

A deep-sea dive into the beauty of watercolors, of mixing and blending. The technique I used here is called wet-on-wet watercolors, where you paint an invisible watery layer, then dot it with pigment. It creates a beautiful watery effect, as with the adorable diving whale above.

4.22.18 | Daily Art


 

april 23 and 24

Swoops, dips, presses: calligraphy’s a precarious dance between ink and brush control. Recently, I’ve been toying with watercolor calligraphy, handlettering with paint instead of ink. The past week of Daily Art pieces was spent experimenting with styles, sizes and fonts.

4.23.18| Daily Art

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With a stiffer, thinner brush and concentrated watercolors, I’ve been able to produce cleaner and brighter texts:

4.24 & 4.25| Daily Art

It’s had a recent resurgence in popularity over the past year, littering blogs and IG. Inspired by style, curious about the form, I got a calligraphy pen last summer, black tip marker from the local crafts store with the inspirational quote notebooks and books on minute physics.

So I took a stab–metaphorically and literally–at handlettering. The letters turned out a bit  uneven. And it was hard to get clean edges, at least on white paper. Part of it had to do with my wobbly hand, but the marker itself also wasn’t terribly ink-y, so it’d lose ink halfway. (I’d also use the marker to sketch cartoon-esque portraits)

4.26 & 4.27 | Daily Art

april 29

I tried using watercolor brushes for both the handlettering and designs, but the text ended up looking bubbly instead of sharp, childish instead of sophisticated. This, in part, had to do with the actual brushes I was using–the brush hair wasn’t stiff enough, so it didn’t hold the paint well enough to create the crisp edges I was going for.

4.28 & 4.29 | Daily Art