On My Mind

I should be working on my midterm paper for my human development class right now. But I keep getting distracted and checking my personal Facebook account. My heart is so sad right now…

I don’t even know what to say or where to focus my grief. A couple of weeks ago, I posted this video on Youtube:

Already overwhelmed by all of the important news stories going on throughout the world, I didn’t know what I should say or how to process it. I needed to tune out and take a break. In just the couple of weeks since that video, even more chaos has erupted. There have been terror attacks by ISIS in Istanbul and in Baghdad, during Ramadan of all times. I considered whether I should change my profile picture to an image of the Turkish flag but then decided not to because I didn’t see how that would help any more than all of the well meaning, but ineffective, thoughts and prayers. And this coming in the wake of the Orlando shooting that I was still processing.

Now there have been more lives needlessly lost on American soil as two more black men have been murdered by police. Unfortunately, this is not a new story. This has happened time and time again, more times than we have news coverage for. There is a long standing pain being felt in African American communities that I have never experienced, but have heard about from the voices of members of those communities. Then just the other night, a group of police officers in Dallas lost their lives by sniper fire that, from accounts I’ve read thus far, came from a couple of black men. And I feel pain for the loss of these lives as well. As much as it seems the media wants to have us believe that this is an either/ or situation, it is not. I recognize and commend the men and women in law enforcement that put their lives on the line to serve and protect – but we also need standards and accountability.

There is so much pain and hate and hurt and sorrow…

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A Transition and A Shameless Plug

     A couple of fairly significant changes have taken place over the last few weeks. 10 days ago I officially started Graduate School. I knew this was coming, I’ve done my best to ready myself for entering into full time school again after getting my BA 7 years ago, but I am admittedly still scrambling a bit. My first paper was due yesterday morning and I only managed to finish it 8 minutes before class started. (I may recycle some of my homework here if I ever find myself in need of subject matter >:)  )
I also handed in my resignation letter and left the full time job I’d had for 3 years on the same day. I had intended on continuing to work full time, but, about a week and a half before my (former) co-workers and I were all handed letters saying that the shelter would be closing and we were to be reassigned within the agency. I chose to leave rather than chance jeopardizing school with an uncertain but likely fluctuating schedule.  I am a day-walker once more.

     Fortunately I was eligible for student loans, so as long as I stick to a budget, I will be able to survive. However, being loans, I will have to pay them back eventually. I don’t even want to do the math on what my student loan debt is going to be when I’ve finished this program. Why is higher education in the United States so damn expensive?
Thankfully, I’m still generating some kind of income from my gig with Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners. The downside however, is that I can’t budget it as there is no way of knowing how many books I will sell from one month to the next. So, if you’re reading this, whether you’re a regular reader or someone that happened across this one post, consider buying a book from my Amazon store, AikiFox Books, and helping to support both myself and this pretty cool non-profit. Especially now since this is now my primary income source. I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything (totally a guilt trip)  ;)

And for all of you that haven’t followed me on Youtube yet (what are you even waiting for? Go subscribe to me, damnit!) here is a video from earlier in the month (perhaps a week before finding out about the shelter closing) that shows you what is pretty much a typical night at B2P:

Photographer Lammily is Here!!!

After roughly a year of waiting from the time she was available for pre-order, my new photographer Lammily finally came home this weekend! It was very hard for me to not immediately take her out of the box to introduce her to the rest of the dolly family. But I was good and I waited until I had the time to film her unboxing:

Here are some close-up shots of her. I really like how her feet and hands are a lighter shade:

I’ve still not decided upon a name for her, but I like the idea that she grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the pleasure of going to New Orleans in October of 2015. I really enjoyed myself there and would like to go back someday.

After filming her unboxing and taking close-ups yesterday, I introduced her to some of my other dolls. A group of them – Aideen, Mitsuko, TJ, and Morrígan (with her bağlama in hand) – took a ride out to a local park in my backpack with our newest friend. Morrígan played and sang for us while the photographer and I took a bunch of photos.

It would also seem that our new lady and TJ are pretty cozy together…

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Youtubing with My Mother

A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip out to visit family. I spent the early part of the day hanging out with my grandmother, and then took my mother out for some shenanigans later that evening.

My mother works overnight shifts also, and we both had the night off. There are very few options of things to do at 2 AM in the morning. So, we went out to a local Meijer store to entertain ourselves. I had my camera with me and she agreed to let me film her and put her on the internet. How much love can I get for my mom?:)

Re-Use Art Show: The New IDEA Store Event Space

Above: Classic photo recursivity – me taking a picture of Melissa Mitchell taking a picture of me taking a picture of her…

Long time readers of this blog will recall both my love of art and my previous posts about The IDEA Store and creative re-use art. On two separate occasions I participated in the Hatch Art Show. Recently, The IDEA Store expanded to include a new classroom as well as event space. This past weekend, on May 20th, 2016 to be specific, they held their grand opening of said event space. My camera and I were in attendance.

Before I get to the actual art, I’d like to share this photo of area artists Cindy Sampson and Melissa Mitchell. I don’t think I can fully express just how wonderful these two women are and how much they inspire me. Not only are they talented artists but they are good, kindhearted people and great friends. While I had taken a couple of standard photos of these two together, I managed to snap this shot in the midst of genuine laughter and storytelling.

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And now, on to the art! These are only a small representation of the works currently on display at the IDEA Store gallery – my understanding is that they’ll be on display through at least June 3, 2016.

 

 

David Spears, “Conundrum”

I just thought this was a really interesting and clever way to use all the stray puzzle pieces that end up scattered about.

Christina Nordholm, “Dance Club”

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Christina Nordholm, “Ready to Burn”

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I particularly like the way she incorporates tree bark into these pieces. I really enjoy the texture. Of the two, I prefer “Ready to Burn” because I personally enjoy the energy coming from it. I’m not sure whether it’s more like looking into the heart of a bonfire or Hell itself. Either way, I like it.

Grace Savina, “Paintings Past”

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I’m not quite sure what it is I’m looking at, but I kind of like that she managed to find a way to use old paint scraps. They almost look like little islands.

Grace Savina, “Dualities of Being”

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Again, not sure what the artist intended for these to be, but, to me, they look like really colorful intestines. Like someone gutted a unicorn. Or it exploded and this was just a section of gut splatter. I kind of doubt this is what she was going for, but this is where my warped mind took it.

Barry Land, “Love is Dead”

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I always get a kick of out this kind of artwork. I have absolutely NO skill for it myself, but scrap-metal sculptures always make me smile. This one also makes me sad, though.

Barry Land, “Untitled”

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Perhaps “Ode to Johnny 5” would have been copyright infringement? And yeah, he also looks like Wall-E. But we all know Wall-E was just a rip off of Johnny 5. If you don’t know who Johnny 5 is, I feel sorry for you, bro.

Jason Rackow, “Untitled”

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Jason Rackow, “Sentience”

This is one of those pieces I would totally hang in my apartment, provided I had the money and the space. I don’t really have anything profound to say here, this piece is just Cool. As. F**k. Look that the close-up shots of that texture. Who knew all those little bits and pieces scattered about the garage could look like this?

Cindy Sampson, “Landscape”

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Cindy Sampson, “Lone Tree”

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I wish I could have gotten a better shot of this one. This was actually my favorite piece of the show and I couldn’t even really capture why. Because I’m too short and it was hanging too high for me to get a head on shot. The glare from the lighting at this angle does this piece a serious injustice.  I’m sure you can make out the main tree of in the painting. It seems to stand amidst a field of ghost trees. What you cannot see well in this photo, is that the paperwork underneath has faded building plans printed on it. To me, it seems to say suggest that this tree lost all of it’s friends and family to ever increasing urban expansion.The fruit and rust stains have the look of blood to me. Yeah, my mind is dark. I am very drawn to artwork like this where I can find and this kind of haunting meaning in it. It’s the kind of art the speaks to me on some deeper level.

 

 

 

Introducing the Misty Copeland Barbie

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     If you haven’t heard yet, Mattel’s newest collector doll and part of their “Shero” initiative, is the Misty Copeland doll. I was fortunate enough to get one of these dolls and she’s absolutely beautiful. I actually felt bad about unboxing her because her display was so pretty. I did manage to film her unboxing, and I’ve put up a Youtube video for you all that I’ll embed at the bottom of this post.

Before I get into the doll, I want to take a minute to talk about how awe-inspiring this woman is. If you’re aware of who Misty Copeland is at all, you likely know that she’s a ballerina with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. You’re also likely aware that she’s the first African-American woman to be the principal dancer at ABT or that she used to collaborate with Prince some years ago. But, did you know that she grew up poor? Like, spent-her-childhood-moving-around-with-her-single-mother-and-6-siblings-including-time-spent-living-in-a-motel poor. Misty didn’t start dancing until age 13 – which is generally considered too old – and she took her first lessons through her local Boys and Girls Club. She’s also tougher than I could be, dancing through her first major performance as the Firebird with a stress fracture in her tibia so severe the bone had nearly broken all the way through. I’ve broken some bones in my day – I can’t even imagine working through that kind of pain. If you’re interested in learning more about her, here is a link to an interview CBS did with her in May of 2015. Her entire story gives me hope.

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There was a bit of a kerfluffle just after the Misty doll was released, as the photos for the ad on Amazon showed the doll with extremely light skin tone. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how she would look when she arrived, but I’m happy to say that in-person, her skin tone is much more true to life to match the real Misty. Although, I still wish this were reflected in the ad photo rather than showing a whitewashed doll.

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You can see very clearly that Misty’s calf muscles are much larger that those of a standard Barbie. Misty herself has very muscular legs and strong calves to do all of those jumps and dancing on her toes.

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You can also see how her bust is larger than that of a more recent Barbie (this is the Asian Made-to-Move doll). Of course, so many of the older dolls already had enormous busts, but Misty herself actually is fairly busty.

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Not surprisingly, because she is a collector doll which Mattel seems to  assume will be for display only, her outfit is sewn shut. However, all it takes are a few snips to these strings. You could easily add your own hook and eye closures, snaps, or a small zipper. I don’t think velcro would work well with the way the outfit is made.

I did remove her dance outfit, though I did not want to mess with her hairstyle, as you can see. She has more articulation than the typical articulated dolls, but not nearly as much as a Made-to-Move. However, I can deal with this because those calves are pretty sweet.

To see her being unboxed and for a more in-depth look at how she moves, check out the Unboxing Misty video I’ve posted over on Youtube. While I’m posting the video here, please be sure to go to Youtube to like and subscribe there and maybe even send me a WordPress shoutout in the comments:)

Making Nightshift Survival Guide

I had this idea a couple of weeks ago to make a video on the topic of working graveyard shifts. As you may or may not be aware, I switched over to regular overnight shifts at my full-time job a few months ago. There are certain benefits and certain challenges that come with existing on a schedule out of sync with the majority of the population – Your body has to get adjusted to it, you spend significant chunks of time alone, and even when co-habitating you may only see your significant other awake for a few hours during the week.  (I’m not complaining, though. I chose this shift in order to better accommodate the demands of grad school, which starts in just over a month.)

I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take this project at first. I just wanted to tap into some of these experiences. The items of the basic survival kit are what I frequently make use of myself to get through the work week – and even with melatonin and caffeine, my body will still want to fall back into the natural circadian rhythm. Sometimes on my nights off, I get really sleepy around 3 or 4 AM and it is hard not to just allow myself to sleep. But, I know if I do, I will wake too early and throw myself off track.

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Falling asleep at work can be hazardous to your health!

Everything in the video is done by me. I don’t have anyone else willing to hold a camera, or act, or help to edit. I’d actually had a few ideas that would have been nice to try if I’d had some other actors, but I have to work with what I’ve got.
Also, I had no idea how time-consuming this project would be.I had originally intended the video to be up either yesterday or the day before, but I actually spent the majority of the day/night editing. Then filming more footage to tie pieces together. Then more editing. Then making a run to the store and spending nearly $8 on supplies to make fake blood – and having to make way more than I needed in order to get a decent color and consistency (I’d found a recipe online, but straying from that in an attempt to make a smaller batch failed miserably so I just made the whole thing). I wonder how long fake blood will keep in the freezer? I’d hate to waste the better part of $8.
As it is, I still need to finish editing the final pieces – and debating whether I do that this morning or after I get some sleep, as I would like to get it posted today but also would like to spend some time with my boyfriend while he is awake. Choices will have to be made and something will need to be sacrificed.

One of the nice things about this project, is that it has allowed me to play around with and learn more aspects of this editing software. I can clone now!!  I’d like to learn how to clean up the audio – delete background static and have an even volume from one clip to the next. Maybe for the next video. Right now, I’m trying to avoid getting so caught up in wanting everything to be perfect that I spend hours learning how to do things while never actually getting around to making anything. So, I hope you can forgive my less than perfect videography – I’m teaching myself and learning as I go.

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