Where there is a will there is a way

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jonny Hannah's awesome typography

Words and pictures by Jonny Hannah, Walker books.

Link for Jonny on agency website: http://www.heartagency.com/artist/JonnyHannah/gallery/1

"Jonny Hannah was born & bred in Dunfermline, in the kingdom of Fife. He studied illustration at Liverpool Art School, where he was taught by the legendary Peter Bailey, & then The Royal College of Art. Since he graduated in 1998, he has constantly worked as an illustrator in most fields."
(from http://www.imagesofdelight.com/client.asp?id=87)

I am awesome doesn't work

One thing I notice, besides the "don't excite your emotions" too much thing is that it's only when you humble yourself that you really are able to do good work. The moment you say to yourself, "I am so awesome", it all goes out the window.

If you are blind with ego and imagine yourself to be powerful, then you are not able to align your true weak human abilities to the powers of nature. Once you connect with the task as yourself, a faltering human, I think, then you are able to listen for some of those ways nature uses, and in using them as well, find strength.

detail of landscape in larger artist impression I am working on

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Waiting in agony

Still dying to garden! Feel the instinct strongly. When I thought our house had an offer I ran around planting strawberries into pots, later to transfer to my new garden. It seems land is pretty essential for a garden. Still waiting...

By the way, the tomatoes from that last "gardening log" post didn't do too well. I still have so much to learn! I have Xanthe White's organic gardening book ready though.

Really quick way to clear out compost from your worm farm

A few weeks ago I had to carry out the dreaded activity of clearing out the worm farm.

Having a worm farm is pretty easy most of the time, you just throw in food scraps, and once in awhile I add torn up pizza boxes or newspaper and toss everything in that layer round and round wearing rubber gloves. But when it gets totally full and you need to remove compost-- or more accurately, remove worms from the compost --that's a different story.

But I have found a lazier, easier method that I use, and although I don't always feel like starting, I always feel really healthy and envigorated while I am doing it-- clearing out and getting all that nutrient rich compost actually feels really great. You sort of get into this earthy, green thumb vibe, and then you get into distributing all the nutrient rich compost to your garden plants. It gives you energy.

My lazy way is to pour the layers that are ready into a large container (like an empty rubbish bin, or a plastic tub) and pour in alot of water. I used to get worms out quickly by pouring the water through a colander (no, they don't drown during this process), but now I found it's really quick just to drag something through the water to dredge out most of the worms (and anything else that you don't want to pour on your plants. Your garden won't mind the compost diluted with water, it's just very nutrient-rich water that the plants can access instantly, and IT'S REALLY FAST. As disgusting as it is I have found a simple potato masher dragged through the brew will drag out a large number of worms, than you just sluice them back into your worm farm layer that is staying. Worms tend to hold onto an object dragged through the water. (Try dragging a stick, you'll see.) A potato masher has alot of places for them to hold onto.

That's my trick! Here are some photos of us doing it, with Troy volunteering as worm farming apprentice.

One cleared out happy worm farm (and garden).

Crazy in the stores

Man it's crazy in the stores. I went with the kids Thursday shopping (Thursday stores are always open later) and people were crazy in the mall. One lady came by with her cart in the Warehouse and nearly knocked Lucan over, so aggressive was she. I was both proud that I was staying out of (that level of) the frenzy, but also seriously disturbed that society has gotten so out of control. Creating piles of crap is the last thing we should be doing, but there were mountains of things, toys that were going to last five minutes, pink frilly packages containing bottles of toiletry items, every kind of item that could be dreamed up. But look into people's faces, and they looked stressed, it was difficult keeping up the level of expectation that we have in our society. They did not look happy. I compared it mentally to the innocent activities of the past, such as riding on horse-drawn sleighs with bells on them and laughing.

I am still really enjoying the gift-making theme. One thing our family seriously loves doing is making things. Christmas my entire life has always involved late nights, using gifts as an excuse to create something, or paint something. Making things involves alot of energy and motivation and bravery to use your skills, especially with artistic endeavours-- when I was making something for someone I loved, this helped me to do it at all. Also, I had a supportive reception. Anyways, also loving buying proper materials and tools, it's not all spartan. I used Christmas as an excuse to buy well made scissors. We've been using a piece of crap for years.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ray Ray, by Fat Freddy's Drop

How about this:

Men will die, to live forever.

--by Fat Freddy's Drop, from Ray Ray

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Making gifts for Christmas this year

We are really enjoying not buying gifts this Christmas-- it started by our family really needing to save financially as we are trying to sell and buy a house. We decided only to make each other gifts, only buying materials. It's so cool, that even though money flowed upwards a bit, we are still really into it! Shane and I are going to make Lucan a marble run out of parts from the hardware store, and I am making Troy a costume for her pretend games. More on that when they're done.

I find myself looking up words to carols to sing the kids at bedtime, finding Christmas spirit that way. It's really really cool.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tips on drawing swirlies in Illustrator

There is a great tutorial on how draw basic "swirls" or spiral shapes (the golden ratio pattern) by Bittbox called How to make custom swooshes, swirls and curls, where I first learned, which basically takes a tapering brush stroke to a spiral made with the Spiral Tool. You then Expand Appearance (no longer a line in the centre, but outlining the edges). Then you can cut out and add to your pattern using the Pathfinder tool. I am going to gather together here a few basic techniques in Illustrator that I use in illustration, if you don't know about them already. You can use the Spiral tool, as in the tutorial above, or, I often enjoy create spirals to my liking by drawing them manually with the pen tool, roughly at first then adjusting the nodes with the white selection arrow.

ADDING OR CUTTING USING A CIRCLE: After having created a few tapering swirlies, you can cut using simple circle shape and the Pathfinder tool. Or you can add the ball, which does the same but to your negative space. Know what I mean?

I can also just create a regular stroked line (not stroked with a tapered brush shape), expand that [Object then Expand or Expand Appearance], and just manually adjust the width of the shape's edges. Here I used the spiral tool.

Below, I created a shape to fill the space between the two swirls. Then I selected the shape, chose the eraser tool, set the size of the eraser brush to a small size and stroked the shape evenly with the eraser. (How cool is it that you can erase vector shapes? Another cool way to draw.)

My biggest advice for vector drawing anything in Illustrator or other such programs is to keep the shape loose in the beginning. Don't draw it perfectly as you go, you will just waste energy! As you get used to the pen tool, you can roughly make points for how many you need to make the curves you need, and how many you will need. Although your shape starts out wonky, you will control them in a moment using the Direct Selection (white arrow) tool.

Lately I've been "committing" to a shape. Instead of having many separate shapes, but which look like one (in case you want to change or go back) I've been truly merging shapes so it's one as-simple-as-possible vector, which is a beautiful thing. (Also great for printing T-shirts.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Finding a home on land

Ok, so my husband and I are looking for a home with an actual yard (called a "garden" here in NZ). There is that classic irony of course of needing to work more in the city to purchase the land to "return to nature". But there is also the problem that's been happening over the last few hundred years, and at a critical point now-- of overdevelopment! Just as you buy a place with some wild land near it, it quickly also gets swept up and developed.

So, should I become active politically to plead for city zoning laws to change? How do I make a home on land???

The area where we would love to live is currently near a huge forest, and estuary. The forested area is zoned for development, and we all know, it won't be long. There is also a huge bridge in the plans which will cut through the estuary, through the neighbourhood. This is the most "wild" place we could find that we could afford to live.

Even in the real story of Laura Wilder, in her books "The little house on the prairie", the family made a home just beyond the wave of settlement. But now, we are carving up every metre.

The people of the future will reintroduce greenery where they can, and strike a balance. I am going to move there, and fight for all the wildness that I can.

Friday, November 19, 2010

LA county bans plastic bags

I heard about this from care2.com's website, who got their information from a LA Times story.

I copied and pasted the original story as follows from the LA Times website, including their photo, link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/11/la-county-passes-sweeping-ban-on-plastic-bags.html

L.A. County passes sweeping ban on plastic bags

November 16, 2010 12:46 pm

Enacting one of the nation's most aggressive environmental measures, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban plastic grocery bags in unincorporated areas of the county.

The vote was 3-1, supported by Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Zev Yaroslavsky, and opposed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. Supervisor Don Knabe was absent.

The ban, which will cover nearly 1.1 million residents countywide, is to the point: “No store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag.” An exception would be made for plastic bags that are used to hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat in order to prevent contamination with other grocery items.

"If grocers choose to offer paper bags, they must sell them for 10 cents each, according to the ordinance. The revenue will be retained by the stores to purchase the paper bags and educate customers about the law.

“Plastic bags are a pollutant. They pollute the urban landscape. They are what we call in our county urban tumbleweed,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica environmental group Heal the Bay, said previous county efforts to promote recycling of plastic bags at grocery stores was a failure.

“You cannot recycle your way out of the plastic bag problem,” Gold said. “The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment.”

The measure is a significant win for environmental groups, which suffered a major defeat in Sacramento at the end of August with the failure of the state Senate to pass a sweeping plastic bag ban that won the support of the state Assembly and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger amid heavy and costly lobbying by plastic bag manufacturers.

But the ban could cause confusion. The action by the Board of Supervisors only covers the unincorporated areas of L.A. County, covering some neighborhoods like Altadena, Valencia and Rowland Heights, but doesn't cover 88 cities in L.A. County. City councils could adopt a similar ordinance.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich raised the prospect that small mom-and-pop shops could suffer financially because they won’t be able to buy paper and reusable bags in great volume, and could force low-income people to buy bags to pick up pet waste or carry their lunch.

“At a time of economic uncertainty, with a large number of businesses leaving our state and community this would not be an appropriate time ... to impose this additional regulation,” Antonovich said.

Opponents of the ban told the supervisors that a legal challenge to the ban is still a possibility.

With the Tuesday vote, L.A. County’s measure is more stringent than similar bans adopted elsewhere in California, Gold said.

San Francisco’s ban, which passed three years ago, is less restrictive because it still permits grocers to offer bioplastic bags made from corn starch, which are imperfect because they also do not degrade in the ocean, Gold said. Bans in San Francisco and Malibu also do not add a surcharge on paper bags, Gold said, which does not give consumers an incentive to switch to reusable cloth bags.

Washington, D.C., decided to tackle the issue not with a ban on any kind of bag, but a 5-cent surcharge per any item of disposable bag.

Gold, however, said an outright ban will be more effective on reducing the 6 billion plastic bags that are used in L.A. County every year, which according to the county, account for 25% of the litter picked up here.

Government figures show that just 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

Last week, the American Chemistry Council, one of the chief opponents of the ban, warned L.A. County leaders that the proposed ordinance and fee on paper bags fall under the voting requirements of Proposition 26. The initiative, which passed this month, reclassifies most regulatory fees on industry as "taxes" requiring a two-thirds vote in government bodies or in public referendums, rather than a simple majority.

County Counsel Andrea Ordin said Tuesday that the 10-cent surcharge on paper bags is not a fee covered by Prop. 26 because the revenue is being kept by the grocers and not directed to a government agency.

--article ends--

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cat Stevens -- Where do the children play?

I just discovered Cat Steven's song, Where do the children play? and I got shivers, while working on the computer. Buy it on itunes, or wherever. (Our credit card is linked to itunes, so we can explore and find a song or two of various artists we come across. I don't even have an ipod, but itunes is great.) Music is really important.

I feel artists pick up, and channel messages bigger than them.

Here are the words, as I want to really listen to them. But just listen to it k.

Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes.
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything.

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off.

Oh, I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher
'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

As a mother, all I do is herd my children beside and away from roads. They can't run free outside because of roads (or developed space). So I really understand this. I also realize by my instincts, how much they need to be running around in a country wild setting, outdoors, in the grass and trees. Because there isn't that space.

It's about our culture's belief that we have come to a great place in our culture, but actually, what do we lose? I challenge this assumption. What we lose when we develop everything is of far greater value. Freedom, wildness, birds...forts...being somewhere outside ourselves.

(Another amazing song of Cat Steven's is of course Father and Son.)

P.S. Also check out Ben Harper's Better Way.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just an observation

Just making banana cake today, and a stick blender, I was thinking about how much skill has travelled. We used to have to be very skilled users of simpler tools, and now the skill has shifted towards the makers of the tools. It's the same with movies, every area of our society-- watching a movie is very easy, and requires less imagination and participation from the watcher, but so much creativity and effort from the makers. I feel it all the time, driving around, watching my body weaken, and the bodies of others that are unhealthy at various degrees. We need exercise, and to feel proud of ourselves. People always dream of what they aren't getting enough of, wish for something different than they are experiencing. Island people want long for city life, English people want to experience tribal life. At this point in my modern, intensive-resource wasteful life, I wish for more effort and skill and pride.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Farm Through Time

I have wanted to blog about A farm through time for some time, illustrated by Eric Thomas, written by Angela Wilkes. I finally found this treasure again and scanned it in.

All the images are small "details", as I can't show the wide pages of the book here.

The book is meant to be about farming and how it has changed over time, but it has a very strong gleam of meaning about sustainable living. The book shows the same spot over the centuries, so you can see at a moment what took ages to experience. Some things are clearer at that speed as well. The first stage is "Clearing the land", 800 (England). We clear away forest to grow crops, and the forest provides building materials, fuel and many other things. We grow food on a farm surrounded by woodland. People rent land from a lord, who owns everything.

In the next stage, "Two hundred years later, the country looks much the same, but there are fewer trees." You can see stands of trees everywhere, and cleared areas. The lord cuts down trees at will to use. It's really interesting how they make their clothes from flax (linen) and sheep's wool and cook on a fire in the house. Lots of skilled work to do and everyone is working together.

"The farmer's wife spins the wool into coarse thread on a spindle, then weaves the thread into fabric on a big loom. The woollen fabric will make warm clothes and blankets. The girl is winding flax onto a distaff, ready to spin into fine linen thread. Underclothes are often made of linen as it is less scratchy than wool.

"Inside the house, a fire burns brightly on the stone hearth. The farmer's wife bakes flat loaves of bread for the family on the hot hearthstones. Meat and thick, filling soups are boiled in the pot hanging over the fire."

A few hundred years later, the men repair hawthorn hedges that line the fields, they've been there for hundreds of years but need to be reworked and repaired.

"The men are warm despite the bitter cold. Their homespun tunics and leggings are made from coarsely woven wool, held together with leather thongs. They wear stout leather boots and felt hats to keep their heads warm, and around their waists they carry leather flasks of ale for refreshment."

1300A new house is being built by the farmer, but unfortunately, "In the countryside beyond, most of the woodland has been cut down, but a few mature trees still grow in the hedgerows." So, what was once woodland remains in the cracks and grooves of the land.

Just that. A little gleam, the farmer becomes quite prosperous, the pages follow with illustrations of dairy farming, making cheese (in a press) and so on. Later with a soul-less flutter there is the tractor sitting there on the lonely farm and no more people. No community drinking ale and fixing the hedgerows!

Well, this is the way of life that our current way life is based upon. Just notice the trees.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ian Beck's crosshatching technique

Illustrator Ian Beck from London, "Shaking the Dreamland Tree" page (from the book of rhymes Ride a Cock-Horse):

In his work, I love the cross-hatching technique. On this page, both the imagination and craft were good-- it's great. Look how he shows the light falling on the tree.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How to make a long-lasting magnetic fishing game with wooden fishing rod

When I was a child our church had these great family fairs where you could "fish" for prizes using a stick with string, tied to a magnet. The fishes had magnets on them too, and were numbered. When you got one, that determined your prize, often old passed down toys which were THE BEST if you are a child. Any material plush toy or object is fascinating and wonderful. When the Kohanga Reo Troy was involved with had a stall at a fair to raise money and needed to think of a few games, I right away knew I wanted to create this game. Then the coordinator bought cheap fishing rods at a $2 shops which only lasted literally 5 minutes, which is very wasteful for the environment. Here are some instructions for how to make long-lasting toy fishing rods that have magnets on the end for picking up toy fishes.


--a dowel rod from the hardware store (or broomstick from a broken broom)

--a piece of sandpaper

--a box of "eye screws" (these are neat, see step 3 for image)


--cord or string

--a set of chair tips from a hardware store plus round magnets that will fit inside

OR a horseshoe magnet (I found one closed off by a piece of metal across the two ends)

--plastic fishes from a $2 store


1. Saw the dowel rod or broomstick into pieces about a half metre long (50 cm).

2. Sand off any rough cut ends of the sticks with rough sandpaper so they won't give anyone a splinter.

3. Hand screw in an eye screw (photo left), which is basically a screw with a loop on the end of the stick, so you can tie a string to the stick. (Or if you have a drill you can drill a hole to pull string through.)

4. I used some black lovely cord from the hardware store that they cut for me from a bit reel, it was nylon (plastic based). After I cut a length a bit longer than the stick and tied it to the loop, I used a lit match to melt the end so it wouldn't fray.

5. If you want to use my original chair tip method, buy chair tips from a hardware store and round magnets that can fit snugly inside. Then cut a small hole in the bottom of the chair tip, and thread the cord through hole (see image below). Glue a round magnet into the cavity of the chair tip overtop the knot, which also seals the knot.

Warning: You can also use horse-shoe magnets sealed off at the end with a piece of metal because some children, if left too long to their own devices, will definitely attempt to pilfer the magnet out of the chair tip...

You can hand-screw in the eye screws into plastic fishes, and then the magnet on the end of the rod will pick them up-- glue gun around the base of the screw to seal water out OR we have found it's actually really fun to use laundry pegs (the kind with a metal spring) as fish! See how many you can get at once, have them take their catches over to the couch to make it more challenging-- more use of the imagination is better anyways.

Kids really love playing with the fishing rod.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

At the Edge of the World-- documentary (2009)

I just saw At the Edge of the World, a documentary about the Sea Shepherd's fight against Japanese whaling. It was as gripping as any show on a dangerous activity. Truly the good guys against the *insert rude word here*. In modern times, the pirates are good, and the people about their offical business in the sea are evil. Every season thousands of whales are killed (will get their stat.) People from all over the world of every background risk their lives to stop/bring attention to whale poaching-- which was banned from the world in 1986. Way to go Japan NOT.

I was just really disappointed that the Japanese would do that. I know it's part of Asian culture that one can take in the power of the animal by eating it/using its essence, but in this case they are destroying that special thing and taking it from the earth. (And apparently their flesh is very polluted now due to human impact anyways.)

Must watch it! It's really good.
For those of us who aren't going to jump on the boat and risk ourselves from our families, fear not, we can donate. I am definitely going to as soon as my family can handle the diversion of resources. http://www.seashepherd.org/ 
More about commercial whaling and the poor state of whale populations: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/oceans/whaling/

Update October 2012 - since this post I bought my son a tshirt from their organization to support them, and will be going to an Auckland fundraiser (expensive) event soon, to support the cause of protecting whales.   (It just makes me sick that people are still killing them!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Craft Advice

1. Relaxing music is best. Not as you would think, intense music. I listen to classical music, folk music most of the time. ANYTHING CALM. Let your spirit be calm, not excited.

2. Believe in yourself. Not too much, and not too little. The craftsman's edge is the humbleness, and critical eye, but also you have to believe in magic. Always be aware of how you are feeling-- know your nature-- curb yourself if necessary, urge yourself if necessary! Make a leap.

3. Good enough. Don't be perfectionist, you won't be able to move on. Just do "good enough". You'll get in the flow then, and when you are in a higher flow, will go back and fix easily what you now can, naturally.

4. Listen, listen, all the time. Otherwise, what is the point? I often find myself knowing I should do one thing, and ignoring it for a minute-- but a minute later I change it, as I know I should listen.

5. All the time, you can work on your discipline and patience. If you are about to work, but have to do the dishes first, but feel impatient-- do the dishes! After all, that is how you will work.

It's worth it. After all, what could be better than being the universe's pencil?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to cut out a Real Six-sided Snowflake (aka Stellar Dendrite)

Awhile ago I found some photos of real snowflakes on the web, and also remembered that kids activity people did with me where you fold and cut out snowflakes. But the one my mother knew of resulted in 8 sides, not the real six! I tried to figure it out mathematically, but we couldn't figure out a simple way.

I recently ran across this meteorology book with a really simple way to cut out a six-sided snowflake! You just use a compass (I used a mug) to make a circle, and then you fold it in half, then into a third (see image below) towards the middle. Then you fold it out and just cut out the inbetween spaces between the fold lines. (I think you fold it in half again to cut out the decoration along the edges to ensure greater symmetry.)

Credit: Meteorology by Graham Peacock, Wayland Publishers, East Sussex, England (1994). Credit: Snowflake Cut-out by Savannah Dale.

Here is another diagram that shows how snowflakes are formed that I found on the web, "Snowflake Morphology" (Translation: How snowflakes change.)

I don't know enough meteorology to understand it fully, but I get a gist from this diagram! They turn out different ways due to different conditions.

The amazing photo at the top of this blog was photographed by Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at California Institute of Technology. He photographs snowflakes in the field and in his lab. To see more snowflake photos, go to


You can also learn more about the snowflake types! The beautiful crystals we picture when we think of snowflakes are called stellar dendrites.

Tibetan Children's Colouring Book

A great find! Ok, I found it awhile ago, but I wasn't blogging then! (Or finishing any goal quickly, let alone sharing something in a simple, finite way. I ran across Eternal Creation awhile ago, clothing made by tailors in Dharamsala- the home of Tibetan refugees, and the Dalai Lama. I loved the Tibetan-western fusion clothing and amazing design, but couldn't afford the clothes. But I DID order something called a "Tibetan Children's Colouring Book. It really is the ornate drawings of monks, that your child can colour in. It's so special. Definitely something I love for my children to soak up.

Click here to order a "Tibetan Children  Colouring Book" from Eternal Creation.  If the link gets changed, it's at www.eternalcreation.com, then Gift Ideas , then Children's Books.

Oh, hey, something strange I forgot until I just ran across it! On the back of the book was a curious message, emploring the receiver.

No matter what is going on 
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart
Be compassionate
Work for peace
In your heart and in the world
Work for Peace
And I say again
Never give up
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up

- H.H. The Dalai Lama 


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Article on Dr. Seuss

I am fascinated by Dr. Seuss. He is a huge role model for me. I am most curious about his creative process. The Lorax is the work of a genius-- even if that genius did have to work at it.

Here is a quote from an article about him, from a December 1979 issue of Palm Springs Life when he was the age of 75:
(Found at http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/December-1979/Dr-Seuss-We-Love-Youse/

All his writing is painfully hard. In the trade he is classified in the bleeder category, agonizing over every syllable. He dodges the obvious question, "Which comes first, the drawing or the writing?" One seems to challenge the other. An obsk should look like an obsk, if not, to the guillotine. Apparently "Judge Seuss" makes the right decisions for the text and drawings are happily compatible.

"Each book takes about a year," he says. "I put my working drawings on my study wall, work on something else, and eventually as I pass by I detect what's wrong. But the best thing to do is to go to Africa."

He means it. He was stuck on The Lorax. His wife Audrey said, "Forget it. Let's go to Africa." They did. When he was sitting by a pool looking at a mountain about a quarter of a mile away, over the rise came a herd of elephants and, with spontaneous combustion, The Lorax fell into place.

"The only piece of paper I had at hand was a laundry list, but I used it to outline the book. The structure was there. It had nothing to do with the elephants as such. The scene just triggered the plot. The logjam was broken. I've tried to do it since but it hasn't worked. Perhaps the clue is complete relaxation to let the subconscious in."

He pooh-poohs the word "genius" when applied to him, saying, "If I were, I wouldn't have to work so darn hard."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)

The Story of the Weeping Camel--directed by Mongolian director Byambasuren Davaa and Italian co-director Luigi Falorni. Distributed by THINKFilm
Release date: 6 September 2003 (2003-09-06) (Toronto Film Festival)
Nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 Best Documentary

The Story of the Weeping Camel is a "narrative documentary" featuring a real nomadic family that live in Upper Mongolia, in the Gobi desert. (Above China.)

They live in tents supported by a wood frame, richly decorated inside with so much colour, all the woven tapestries and creations of their hands (or someone else's). The camera's eye simply observes all the details of the way they live with curiosity, as we are curious. Unlike modern surroundings, their surroundings are beautiful, and these people are beautiful and richly decorated as well. They live with camels, goats and sheep. They grow up touching animals, touching their world, the woolly camels...everything is so much more tactile, and full-on that way. Even the woolly camels are so beautiful! I was fascinated to see how they lived.

The Story takes place during the seven weeks in spring in Mongolia when the camels give birth to their calves. The last camel gives birth to a white calf, a beautiful white calf, but the birth was difficult and the mother really did reject the calf. The other mothers are bonding with their calves, but the unwanted white calf just cries! The family keeps the calf alive by milking the mother and feeding the calf her mother's milk from a hollow horn, all the while gently trying to help the mother and calf reunite. The mother had been traumatized by the birth, and doesn't want any of it. They are so gentle too, and persistent-- but they don't force anything. Neither do they give up, either. Eventually they send the two young boys into a larger settlement to find a musician to help with a "Hoos" ritual to help the mother accept her calf. Also, they attempt an earlier ritual first where they bring offerings to a place they build with a post in the ground, a raised place, and I've written down exactly what they said (in English anyways, the entire film is in subtitles as they speak Mongolian). It's so cool. From DVD Chapter 7:
"We, the Mongolian people, honour nature and its spirits.
Nowadays, mankind plunders the earth more and more in search of her treasures
This drives the spirits away...that should protect us from bad weather and from diseases
We have to remember that we are not the last generation on earth...
Now we'll pray for forgiveness so that the spirits may come back"

ALL people used to think this way. According to the quick research I just did, the Mongolian people are generally Buddhist. A "Lama" led this ritual. (FYI-"Dalai" means Ocean, so "Dalai Lama" means Ocean of Wisdom.)

Also I really enjoyed what they said about TV when the young boy was asking his Dad for a TV after seeing it for the first time on his trip. His grandfather said:

"You don't need that. You'd spend the whole day watching the glass images.
That's no good."

The "ger" was so colourful, and perfect for the conditions of the place, the windstorms that arose. The film showed it naturally, you could imagine being comfortable there, living there yourself. In an interview afterwards (on the DVD) Luigi Falorni says that it was a conscious choice not to create the film of the "exotic nomad", which included the shock of butchering an animal etc, or the other common portrayal was the intellectual and critical examination of their culture, as in women's roles, etc. When the Mongolian director Byambasuren Davaa told him of the ritual that they had, the Hoos ritual to bond the mother to a calf she has rejected, he loved the simplicity of the story. I loved the way they made this documentary too.

I am just so curious about how we are meant to live, how these people live, and they were so magical in their realness. They were just natural, the mother singing to her little toddler, as I do, when I follow my instincts. All the beauty in the documentary was a beauty we find through everything. And that I also yearn for that is missing in the modern life that we have chosen.

When they came to the town, with it's material benefits, you also just lost all that colour they had, and beauty they had in their nomadic lifestyle.

I am fascinated by what I know we are missing.

Here is what looks like a Mongolian website about itself: http://www.mongoluls.net/mongolia.shtml

Ten Black Sins
To kill any animal. To steal, betray. To exploit other people. By mouth. To lie. To swear, scold or call names. To slender. By spirit and heart. To be greedy for status, money and fame. To envy. To be stingy. To be mistrustful and unsociable.

Ten White Charities
Always save the life of any animal. Be generous and openhanded. Talk with good manners. Don't gossip. Be peaceful. Don't lie -- only tell things that have really occurred. Don't say bad words. Don't deceive. Don't have a disputing heart. Don't allow a greedy spirit. Don't have a bad opinion about other people.
--from www.mongolulus.net