The Struggle Is Real

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Homework keeps me away from blogging for long stretches of time, and so the traffic dwindles. Looking at that bigger picture, though: My MSW.

Oh, do I long for the days when I was complaining about what I thought was a lack of time. Nary did I realize just how much I could push myself to do in short spans of time. Grad school does not screw around. I’d been out of college for 7 years – there are parts of my brain I’ve had to drown in WD-40.

One of the myriad assignments I’m working on this weekend, is a policy brief for the school’s blog site. Yeah, I’m about to get graded on blogging. And, for better or worse, I’m putting my name on it and planning to link back here. I figure any prospective employer or future client can easily find my blog through a cursory googling of my name, so I may as well just go for the cross traffic.

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Although, I am competing with a doctor in Texas for relevancy.

Afterall, I’ve been watching my stats steadily decrease as this page has fallen to the bottom of the priority list since entering grad school. So, Hello newcomers, those trying to decide whether or not to employ me, and random stalkers! Welcome!😀

As I was saying, I’m trying to put together something decent for this blog assignment. Of course, it made me think of my own poor neglected blog. And so…

I’ve missed you, Blog. I can just be myself with you. You never care about what I’m wearing or how I look – Video always demands that I look my best and then he makes me feel bad because I’m not as conventionally attractive as other Youtubers. He doesn’t listen to me quite the same way. He never wants to just lay in bed and relax in peaceful contemplation together. But, I have to admit that I’ve been seduced by Video. He’s flashy, charismatic, and is quite popular. Can you blame me?
You see, Blog, as much as I love you, there is no way you can ever meet all of my needs, just as Video can never meet all of my needs… I love you both, I…

Ok, that might be the line on literary personification. I don’t see any way going forward with that wouldn’t get creepy. Anyhoo — If you follow this blog, I do recommend checking out the Youtube channel as well. I don’t always link all my videos here, and there have been quite a few. Here is a bit of what you’ve been missing:

-I recently made one of those sped-up coloring videos. The time it took for all the video to render was ridiculous.

-I also managed to pick up one of the 50th Anniversary Star Trek collector Barbies…

The Smell of Melted Plastic in the Morning…

On a day when my energy is all but drained and my uterus is waging war on me, this is how I manage to maintain some semblance of productivity. Hello again, long abandoned reader! Tell me in the comments how you’ve managed to survive without me over the past month – I promise I’ll read it, but I’ll likely make one of the dolls respond. Let me know who your favorite dolly is and I’ll tape them to the laptop with the hair dryer pointed at them until they write back to you.

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Now… updates. I survived my first semester of grad school – I even aced both of the courses I took. I don’t really feel the least bit celebratory about it, though. I’ve been out of school for some years and I’ve never held a 4.0 before. You’d think I’d be ecstatic. I think I’m too busy looking at the 5 classes I’ll have to juggle starting a week from tomorrow. If I come out of that in December with the same success, then I’ll let myself acknowledge it.

I’ve been doing my best to make the most use of these two weeks between semesters: I took a trip to visit friends and family for a couple of days last week, I spent another couple of days doing a major purge of clothes I’ve been hoarding in my closet for 6 years, and I’ve been working on filming videos for Youtube that I can hold onto for when I inevitably get too bogged down with homework to create during the coming semester.

I recently collaborated with the Volunteer Superviser from the Books to Prisoners program I’m involved with to create a couple of videos. The first of these videos serves to break down how the Books to Prisoners program works overall and how to go about connecting inmates to them. The second of these videos, which I’ve just publicly released today, discusses what volunteers do and how to get involved.

Despite having been working with them for over a year, this was a learning experience for me as well. For the most part, the role I play, important as it is, can sometimes feel disconnected from the everyday workings of the organization.

I don’t have a coherent ending to this, so, here are some photos of dolls:

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.