Where there is a will there is a way

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

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Secret of Kells animation-- Turning darkness into light

I have a new favourite movie. The Secret of Kells is an animated movie made by Cartoon Saloon. It's about the books of the times of monks and vikings-- it takes place in Ireland when Vikings attacked settlements and destroyed them in search of gold. In this movie the books were the treasure of the people, turning darkness into light; something to be protected. The "illumination" of the books inspires the animation. 2D exists on the same plane as 3D, and the drawing style is symbolic, not just realistic (a higher art). Intricate movement of the animation brings the essence of the monk's intricate artwork to life. It's awesome. I actually couldn't watch all of it for awhile until my partner and older daughter Savannah were ready to watch it with me. There is a ghost named Ashley, who Brandon (a young boy) meets on a venture into the forest. I will watch this movie many times and study it. This movie is the "book" of my time.

By the way, I just had to do some research, I knew about the old books and how beautiful they were-- I knew the research was based on real books and real history-- but check this out!

This is the real Book of Kells. It was made in Ireland by Celtic monks, and protected by the Abbey of Kells, in about 800 Ad. This type of art, or illumination reached it's greatest elaborateness in the Book of Kells, and Viking raids did stop this sort of art from growing further. There are pages shown in the animation which are from the Book of Kells, only animated further and shown in vivid colour as the illuminations were when the ink was still wet.

In the time of the real Book of Kells, books are seen as religious objects, and the elaborateness of the drawings was seen to reflect the elaborateness of the biblical passages the drawings illustrated (and visually, the beauty of the teachings). The animals morph into shapes, and have religious symbolism. The best information I have found on the Book of Kells so far is a paper called "Manuscripts, Books, and Maps: The Printing Press and a Changing World", found here: http://communication.ucsd.edu/bjones/Books/four.html

The real Book of Kells is the pride of Ireland, a national treasures always on display in a museum-- so obviously is something that inspires hope today.

Themes in the movie
The animated movie The Secret of Kells also showed the very interesting change from pagan beliefs to Christian. Ashley, the forest ghost, was afraid of a dark force called "Cromm Cruaich". (It really helps in researching to know how that is spelled!)

Apparently ancient Irish people worshipped pagan rites, such as human sacrifice. They would sacrifice children to Cromm in order to ask for good favour (such as good crops). He was originally called "Cenn Cruaich", "Head" or "Lord of the Mound". (They would worship him in high places.) The arrival of Christianity stopped this practice (and St. Patrick).

The Religion of the Ancient Britons and Druidism, found at
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cml/cml08.htm quotes an old poem about the pagan practice of human sacrifice called Mag Slecht, or "The Plain of Adoration":

Here used to be
A high idol with many fights,
Which was named the Cromm Cruaich;
It made every tribe to be without peace.

'T was a sad evil!
Brave Gaels used to worship it.
From it they would not without tribute ask
To be satisfied as to their portion of the hard world.

He was their god,
The withered Cromm with many mists,
The people whom he shook over every host,
The everlasting kingdom they shall not have.

To him without glory
They would kill their piteous, wretched offspring
With much wailing and peril,
To pour their blood around Cromm Cruaich.

Milk and corn
They would ask from him speedily
In return for one-third of their healthy issue:
Great was the horror and the scare of him.

To him Noble Gaels would prostrate themselves,
From the worship of him, with many manslaughters,
The plain is called "Mag Slecht".

They did evil,
They beat their palms, they pounded their bodies,
Wailing to the demon who enslaved them,
They shed falling showers of tears.

Around Cromm Cruaich
There the hosts would prostrate themselves;
Though he put them under deadly disgrace,
Their name clings to the noble plain.

In their ranks (stood)
Four times three stone idols;
To bitterly beguile the hosts,
The figure of the Cromm was made of gold.

Since the rule
Of Herimon, the noble man of grace,
There was worshipping of stones
Until the coming of good Patrick of Macha.

A sledge-hammer to the Cromm
He applied from crown to sole,
He destroyed without lack of valour
The feeble idol which was there.

Until Patrick's advent he was the god of every folk that colonized Ireland. To him they used to offer the firstlings of every issue and the chief scions of every clan." The same authority also tells us that these sacrifices were made at "Hallowe’en", which took the place, in the Christian calendar, of the heathen Samhain --"Summer's End"-- when the sun's power waned, and the strength of the gods of darkness, winter, and the underworld grew great."

Another theme in The Secret of Kells and in art everywhere is the classic struggle between art vs. the practical demands of living. Is it silly to sacrifice your time out of the daily activities of life to draw?

What do you think?

Screenshot from The Secret of Kells

Page from the 800 AD illuminated Celtic manuscript, The Book of Kells

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Little Mermaid Original story illustrations by Charles Santore

In the real Hans Christian Andersen story written 150 years ago in Denmark, (in this edition illustrated amazingly by Charles Santore, I especially love the hair), the mermaids did not have souls. Mermaids live for hundreds of years, but then die without immortality as humans did. The story is not just a quest for love, but for a soul. If the Prince falls in love with her, she also gains a soul and life after death. When she trades in her voice to the evil sea witch (a hideous creature) for legs, she also suffers excruciating pain when she uses them.

Illustrations for the original Little Mermaid by Charles Santore. Ariel consults with the sea witch.

When she finds the prince and his court, she cannot speak, but her eyes communicate her heart. Also at one point she dances "as noone has ever danced before". The Prince and he become friends, but in the end he falls for another woman. Ironically, if he had known who saved him, he wanted only that person, but she could never speak to tell him. Upon his wedding day, she would instead die, as per her bargain with the sea witch-- changed into foam upon the sea. As the dawn of the morning light comes, and her death, her sisters arrive. They had cut off their hair and given it to the witch to allow her to return into mermaid form and live out her life. But she actually refuses, so sorrowful is she to see the person she loves with another that she gives in to death-- but there is reprieve. The sun looks down kindly upon her so she doesn't feel the pain of death- and she turns into an angel.

"She saw the bright sun, and above were floating hundreds of transparent, beautiful creatures. She could still catch a glimpse of the ship's white sails, and of the red clouds in the sky, across the swarms of these lovely beings. Their language was melody, but too ethereal to be heard by human ears, just as no human eye can discern their forms. Though they had no wings, their lightness poised them in the air. The little mermaid saw that she had a body like theirs, which kept rising higher and higher from out of the foam.

'Where am I?' she asked, and her voice sounded like that of her companions--so ethereal that no earthly music could give an adequate idea of its sweetness.

'Among the daughters of the air!..."

Treating Ammonia Build-up in Re-usable Cloth Nappies --Don't Give Up, Gain Skill

Troy as a baby, modelling cloth reusable nappies for local provider Snazzipants.

Ok, so I use cloth nappies on my child. Lucan just turned 3 though, he only uses them at night. I guess since he is pretty much toilet trained, I just stopped being as careful about sanitizing them-- and lately those things have started to reek of ammonia! Also, the built-up ammonia in the nappies caused some nappy rash on my son's skin recently --it's due to the soap buildup as well, that can occur if you're not looking after them well enough-- which just caused my husband to get frustrated with me that I wasn't using "proper" nappies.

People haven't always had disposables, and something I have observed is that in modern culture we are so spoiled we are unwilling to let our children suffer the slightest bit. It just doesn't make sense to ruin the earth so we can reach that high level of perfection, not give our children the slightest mark-- but ruin the environment totally for future children. I think that if people knew that they were making that decision, that tradeoff, I don't think that they still still would. So 1) it's not the end of the world. 2) cloth nappies require something called "skill". (Many of us have forgotten what that is.) It's that thing that allows us to use far less of a resource, as we use it with care, intention and, well skill.

With skill, one is actually meant to keep those things clear of ammonia build-up! I didn't give up, I looked up my online resources, and reminded myself of how to rid the nappies of the chemical buildup-- from a local nappy provider, "Snazzipants", who have a good website FAQ.

To summarize their advice, do extra rinses as the soap buildup provides something for the ammonia to stick to. Do regular oxygen soaks (called "Napisan" here), but not bleach as that is too harsh for babies' skin. If they do get unbalanced, you can soak them in baking soda. (And from other research I have done, alternate washing them with vinegar as well.)

In their words, from http://www.snazzipants.co.nz/

"How do I wash Snazzipants nappies?

You will quickly work out a wash routine that suits, and I'm not going to prescribe one here. If it works for you, and your baby's butt is happy, then stick with it. However, there are a few tips I've picked up through my nappy obsession so far, so I thought I'd share.

You may like to use a nappy soak such as Napisan, but it is not imperative to use every time. These products do eat away at the fibres and thus make your nappies wear out faster if you use them daily, but some people find this system easy, and that's fine too. If you are concerned about the use of such products on the environment, you can clean nappies using ordinary washing detergent, but there are some things to remember.

  • Too much detergent can cause a build up on nappies (especially microfleece). Some babies have such delicate skin that it reacts to residual detergent. Use a little less rather than more.

  • If you get a detergent build up, it might cause your nappies to smell. Ironic I know, but try washing them on hot and see if you get suds. If you do, use less detergent.

  • Do an extra rinse at the end. This will help stop build up and remove any residue that may irritate your baby's skin.

  • If you have a frontloader be sure that you use the 60 degree water setting (no hotter or you may damage the PUL) on a long cycle. Front loaders use less water than top loaders, so you need to be quite sure your nappies are being cleaned and rinsed thoroughly. (I'm not a fan of frontloaders - always use the special frontloader powder and give your nappies the occasional Napisan soak if they start smelling odd!)

  • Soap based products like Lux are notorius for causing build up on nappies, and are no good for covers. Avoid them like the plague!

  • Hot water will help sanitise your nappies, as will the hot dryer and sunshine. Sunshine is FANTASTIC for killing bugs and removing stains.

  • I would use an antibacterial nappy soak if baby has an upset tummy, and after vaccinations. Hygiene at these times is super important.

  • If you use a nappy soak you don't need to wash with a detergent. Read the instructions!! Using too many different cleaners means they can react and causes rashes. Keep your routine simple.

  • If your nappies start to get a bit whiffy add a couple of capfuls of Dettol Fresh to the wash cycle once in a while. It will immediately freshen them up. Alternatively you can try a soak in baking soda.

  • If you have nappies that are constructed from man-made fibres (aios and pockets with microfibre inserts) you will need to hot wash them to keep them clean.

  • Don't use chlorine bleach (like Janola). It is far too harsh and apart from ruining your nappies it will give your baby a very sore bottom!

  • Don't use fabric softner!! It will coat the fibres of your nappies and make them less absorbent. It also may cause rashes on a sensitive baby.

  • Nappies shouldn't smell when they come out of the dryer, off the line, or get a fresh wee in them. If they do you need to give them a soak for a couple of hours in something with sodium percarbonate as the active ingredient - Napisan, or a similar nappy soak. This is sometimes referred to as oxygen bleach. Older babies' overnight nappies may need this treatment more frequently, otherwise every few weeks should be enough to keep your nappies smelling sweet as a daisy :)

You'll know if your nappies are clean because they whiff if they're not!! If you start to get whiffy nappies give them a soak in oxygen bleach or add some Dettol Fresh once in a while and it should clear right up. Man-made fibres hold smells more than natural fibres, so do hot wash all-in-ones, pockets and microfibre inserts regularly."

P.S. Stand up for all your "green" behaviour. I know it can seem a drag to your family, your children and partner, compared to what others are doing, but that's obviously because we are first to be aware of this. Keep connected with some others who also understand to support you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Genesis the documentary (2004)

This documentary had important seeds of wisdom which I want to condense and share, for those with less time. I wrote down all the subtitles in a few areas, not all of the subtitles, just the most meaningful parts - they are in the same order as they appeared in the documentary. The headings are my headings. Screenshots are all from Genesis.

Words: Claude Nuridsany, and Marie PĂ©rennou
Narrator: Sotigui Kouyate, as ancient storyteller


Matter attempted a new way of existing
that resists the devastating power of Time:
tiny closed-in, self-contained bubbles
created the notion of inside and out,
like so many hermetic worlds,
tinier than grains of sand.
These were the first offspring of Life.


If you add a drop of milk to water
for a moment you will see regular shapes appear
that seem to be alive.
But this is not life.
The shapes gradually break up
And chaos prevails.
Even smoke can create shapes.
They vanish as quickly as they are born.

Life is a form that endures.
A form fighting against time.
A form that continues despite the universal law
that drives all organized things towards disorder and chaos.
Stranger still: a shape that remains the same
whereas the matter it is made of is constantly renewed.
My tongue, my lips which speak to you now
have constantly renewed their cells since my life began.
Every hour of every day billions of them die
and are replaced in my body.
Yet I am still me
like a river remains a river even though fresh water runs in its bed.
We are not beings of matter.
We are forms irrigated by matter,
living rivers that snake their way through time.

Life is a vortex that sustains its own motion, over and over again.


The world is a great labyrinth
full of mysteries and perils.
Lost in this vastness,
Each living being raises an invisible barrier around itself.
Inside this magic circle,
in this familiar space
in which it knows every corner,
it feels safe.


1 + 1 = 3.
Yes, life has an interesting way of counting.
That is how it has spawned masses, and fabricated multitudes.
But, before making 3, one must unite with one.
Like two magnets, these islands of form unite and merge into one another.
And so, love was born.

We are all born of love.
Born of this rule in the game of life that declares it takes two entities to produce a third.
Each of us possesses only half of what is required to create another.
There is only one way to attract the second half: to seduce it.
Seduction is a power that operates at a distance.
Like the attraction of bodies.
It's a beckoning -- overpowering, insistent.
Never has a beauty put up with an impatient suitor.
In love, the shortest path, is always the most sinuous.


Love is what drew me from nothingness.
Then I had two lives.
One in which I lived in my mother’s womb.
The other in which I lived in the great wide world.

From the time I was conceive to the moment I was born,
I lived a condensed version of Genesis.
In the beginning, I was a sea creature.
The water pocket replaced
the primeval sea of the world’s beginning.

At this time when I was no bigger than a bean
I had a striking resemblance with animals.
In that age in which our bodies are slowly conceived and kneaded,
we are all spitting images of one another.
For we are like rivulets of water surging up from the same source.
Like the veins of the same leaf,
the branch of the same tree.
We are members of the same tribe,
The great tribe of the Living.
And so I was part fish and part frog while still living in my mother’s womb,
with gills in my throat
and fins on my sides,
swimming between two seas
in my round, elastic aquarium.


Matter moves toward chaos
like the river flows down to the sea.
We, the living, are like canoes
Beating against the currents of time.
We cheat with time.
And time knows only one road, runs down only one slope,
That which leads to decay.


We preserve our living form
by destroying other living beings.
Our existence is always
the consequence of plunder.
For life is cannibalistic.
Life devours life.