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I finished another book for my writing project over break! This one is "Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers" by Shozo Sato. (Like tea ceremony, flower arrangement appears to be seen in Japan as something either sex can do. Shozo Sato is a man.) I'm here to write a review.

One of the things I found interesting about this book is that, unlike the tea ceremony book I wrote about previously, this isn't a guidebook full of philosophy. This is a straight-forward and to-the-point crafts book. If you actually want to get into ikebana and make a simple start, this is definitely the book for you.

It has lists of materials and what each tool does, diagrams, precise geometric calculations, and basic lessons in three different styles of ikebana. There are lots of pictures and countless examples, each one explained in detail. Shozo Sato's abilities are even complimented by a grandmaster of a major Japanese school of ikebana in the foreword.

If, however, you're looking for information - history, philosophy, etc - this may not be best. While there is a brief history section, for the most part this is a craft's book. It's a how-to book.

It was an interesting read and if you want to get into the practice, I'd recommend it. One thing I learned is that ikebana is NOT putting pretty flowers into a bouquet. It's more like a kind of temporary, artificial sculpture using plant-based materials. Like tea ceremony, it has strong connections to the seasons and what each one signifies in nature (especially Japanese nature).

So if you're any kind of model or sculpture based artist, I'd recommend giving this a try. Just remember - the "sculptures" don't last very long! ;)
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I have finished another book - The Tea Ceremony by Sen'o Tanaka, translated into English - and, funny enough, it's about Japanese tea ceremony. I'm here to write a review.

I have two criticisms about the book:

1) It's very... technical. If you're not into technical details of a culture or ceremony, this may not be the book for you.

2) You should already know the process of a tea ceremony before you read the book. He doesn't really ever give you the whole picture. This is more of a book for someone who's already researched tea ceremony, at least online, and wants to know more about it.

With that said, it's a wonderfully detailed book. It goes into so many subjects in such an in-depth way, and is excellent at communicating the beauty and serenity of the ceremony itself through the various details and practices he describes. He even goes into the philosophy of tea ceremony, and its connection to Zen.

I also thought it was interesting that he said tea ceremony has always technically been a co-ed art, because I've always seen it as more of a feminine art. I've now started a new book on ikebana - Japanese flower arrangement - and this author is also male! It seems that Japanese men have much less compunction being what might be called "femininely artistic" than Western men do, which is something I definitely applaud. Yay for no defined gender roles!

Anyway, if you're interested in learning about the above, this is definitely the book for you. I used it as research for a writing project, and it provided all the detail I needed to deeply understand the subject - at least to understand it enough to write about it. This book and my online research together were enough to give me a good idea of Japanese tea ceremony.
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I know it's been a while... I've been so busy with classes, hanging out with my sister's and my mutual friends group, and I do at least an hour of creative writing every day.

But I just wanted to post this. This is so cool! I totally want this to happen to my ashes when I die!


Feb. 1st, 2016 03:27 pm
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I decided over Christmas break that I needed something to occupy my mind that didn't require a lot of effort or forethought.

Bipolar people cannot achieve resting state neural connectivity. Research has proven this. What this is means is that we can't just sit around and do nothing and relax or be comfortable. We can't binge watch on Netflix or sit around watching TV, I even have trouble meditating without a guided audio to listen to -- the audio helps me focus my mind on something. I've talked to other bipolar people who experience the same thing -- an innate feeling of restlessness with doing nothing. You sit around doing nothing and your mind starts spinning and you start worrying.

To combat this, I have taken up crafting. More specifically, latch hooking. I may move on to sewing, knitting, and embroidery once I've mastered latch hooking. I usually have a mug of warm milk and calm myself down with some latch hooking at night before bed, or on a boring weekend afternoon. I find a good feeling fills me after I've done the crafting. So not only is it relaxing, it fills my brain with feel-good chemicals.

There's another problem going on concerning my bipolar disorder. I have a generalized, vague anxiety that follows me pretty much everywhere I go. My psychiatrist and I agreed meds aren't the answer, and the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques I've learned can only do so much.

Multiple people have talked about the option of an emotional support animal. I like the idea, I just don't know if I have the time and money to take care of an animal. If the animal were an officially trained service animal for psychiatric disorders, then it might be different -- I could take the animal with me to public places, etc -- but those apparently don't exist.

So I'm just going to have to go through my options and decide what I want to do here.

But for the most part, I've been feeling great lately. I've fallen into regular sleep and eat schedules, and aside from the occasional cold or bad experience I've been feeling calm and at peace. Christmas break was good to me and helped me gain some perspective.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I read this book in particular for a writing project I'm doing. I've read one book on astrology, one on personality psychology, and this one. I still have -- wait for it -- NINE more books to read for research before I even start the writing project I have in mind. It's a fanfic, which I contend can be just as cool and meaningful as regular fiction books. I will keep you updated on which books I read for the fanfic I'm researching. See the "fem Naruto story" tag at the bottom.

Anyway, I'm reviewing this book on yokai. It's called "The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore" by Michael Dylan Foster. I read all 244 pages in less than two weeks. It's a really great read. I recommend it.

What is a yokai?

It's a Japanese demon of sorts -- more broadly, a Japanese mythical creature that can perform dark acts. I began my fascination with Japan through watching manga and anime as a kid. From there, I branched off into learning more about the culture behind these fictions I loved so much -- I read up on Japan and took on several Japanese pen pals at one point or another, read and watched blogs and vlogs on Japanese travel, tried cooking Japanese meals, researched various aspects of ancient Japanese culture, read interviews of famous Japanese artists, watched Japanese films and sampled Japanese music. I know at least something of typical Japanese religions and philosophies. I plan on starting Japanese language classes this summer. The more I learn about Japan, the more I love.

Especially given my love of fantasy in Japanese anime, it only made sense for me to buy a book on yokai.

It was a fascinating read. A lot of elements from modern Japanese stories that I had always thought were random or made up -- it turns out? They were actually deliberately referencing ancient Japanese folklore! And I've probably only just scratched the surface. Isn't that great?

Even for people who are skeptical of why ancient Japanese folklore is important should read this book, however. Foster really gets at the importance behind yokai -- their various meanings, their cultural relevance (both ancient and modern, national and international), and how they help us see the world differently. He talks about yokai history and philosophical categorization, and only then does he actually go on to discuss the yokai themselves. He gives you good background reading before diving into the various yokai there are. I really liked that part of the book.

I think this would be a good textbook for a class on Japanese culture. That was one thing that really struck me as I was reading. And it was written in 2012, so it's pretty recent. He references a lot of Japanese scholars and has a native Japanese artist render his yokai drawings, has lived and studied in Japan for a time, yet is Western himself and so can explain Japanese culture to us in a way we would understand it.

That ends the "personality research" section of my writing project. I know how this female Naruto is going to be and how being (spoiler alert) part kitsune fox demon would affect her. Now comes the "experiences research" section. More fun times ahead!


Oct. 25th, 2015 04:17 pm
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On Thursday, I met up with a friend on campus. We walked downtown and got some pumpkin pie and hot apple cider at a little local coffeehouse and pub that plays live music. Then we went to the nearby independent theater and watched National Theater Live.

Let me explain. National Theater Live is a program that broadcasts live from a major theater in London, showing up on the screens of hundreds of different movie theaters around the world. It's a mere twelve dollars to get in and watch a live theater performance from the safety of your screen.

My friend and I watched Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch. It was pretty spectacular. He was very emotional and unexpectedly funny in some places. He was very good at playing the character in a way that seemed believable. They also tried to update the production a little bit for modern audiences, which I thought was interesting.

They definitely took very set stances on certain characters. Gertrude was definitely a moral character, while Claudius was definitely not. Ophelia's madness was definitely not feigned, while Hamlet's definitely was.

It's just always interesting to see the ways different people interpret Shakespeare.

Rude People

Sep. 5th, 2015 03:07 pm
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I hate rude people. The thing is, rude people in real life usually think they're being nice.

Some random woman came up to me the other day and said, "Did you know it takes less muscles to smile?" So in her defense, she was trying to get me to smile. She just in the process implied that there's something wrong with my normal face. Rude people are always like that -- they're socially retarded.

I took a beginning poetry writing class last year in college and we had what is called workshop. In workshop, all your classmates would read your poem and then sit around and tell you all the things that were wrong with it to your face. You weren't allowed to speak till the end. So, sensitivity in criticism was a must, especially because poems are usually so personal and first-person.

Well, one pretentious asshole had no idea what sensitivity even was. I had done a poem on my favorite childhood stuffed animal, a little yellow rabbit I carried around with me everywhere. In the poem, I called the rabbit "my best friend." One guy said, "So she didn't have any other friends besides her rabbit? That seems kind of sad and pathetic."

The thing is, I hadn't intended it like that. I'd had friends in elementary school; I just wanted to emphasize that the rabbit had been my BEST friend. So I could see what he was trying to say -- that that hadn't come across. It's just in the process he majorly insulted me.

Here's what a socially savvy person would have said: "What I'm getting from this is that the rabbit was her only friend in school. Is that what she was trying to say here?"

But rude people aren't socially savvy -- they are, in fact, what a normal person would call "socially retarded."

I encountered another rude person today in fiction writing class. She critiqued my story by calling it "boring", "meager", and "cliched" and by telling me she hated the entire plot.

Here's what she should have said: "I'd have liked more detailed description and a few nice surprises in this story. Perhaps you could try this __?"

And honestly, if she'd put it like that, I'd have been a lot more willing to listen to her.

This is why we need lessons on how to critique politely in K-12. Because no one fucking knows how to do it. I think it would eliminate a lot of rudeness and unintentionally offended people.

Now, don't get me wrong. On none of those occasions did I get really angry, or go home and cry. I'm an artist who's been bullied and I'm used to being criticized. I've learned through hard times to be proud of my flaws, and to keep my feelings and my feelings about myself in separate places. When I'm criticized these days, my NT side kicks in and gets really clinical and "fuck you" about the whole thing.

But I still find rudeness kind of annoying. And I wish people would just learn to be polite. It's not that hard.

You see this in celebrities all the time. Just recently, Keith Richards began in interviews to criticize all sorts of bands, from Black Sabbath to Metallica to The Beatles to rap, calling them things like "a joke" and "a pile of rubbish" and "music for tone deaf people." And I get that he gets to get away with a lot because everyone thinks his shit comes wrapped in gold foil, and I get that by this point he probably thinks his shit comes wrapped in gold foil too, but that's still really rude.

I'm not saying he can't criticize those bands. I'm just saying he shouldn't have made blanket comments about music so many people like -- he should instead have explained specific technicalities, the parts of the music being made that he didn't like. I mean, I get that that takes more words, but I'm pretty sure everyone's okay with hearing Keith Richards talk about music.

For God's sake.

I dunno, though, maybe this is just me. I've never had any time for angry immaturity. I was always taught to wait till my anger simmered down into a cold, vindictive thing, and then to use that to sophisticatedly and politely shut down whoever tried to hurt me. And I have no patience for people who can't meet me at that level.

Needless to say, I have no patience for a lot of people.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Very interesting article on quantum mechanics:

This ties in very strongly with what I believe. It's not that physics isn't true, it's just that there's a deeper layer to the universe. We have both individual energies and a collective energy. This is the moment when science finally catches up with religion.

I've always believed the two are very closely intertwined.

As I've said before, I don't really believe in organized religion. But that doesn't mean I don't believe in God, souls, or morals. I read an article once that a Russian photographer photographed heat signatures of dying people -- he saw a collective energy leave them upon death. I saw another article that claimed the energy of the Earth changes around a certain area whenever hundreds of thousands of people experience a horrific natural disaster.

We are all interconnected.
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Saw this interesting article on one of the spinoffs of Humans of New York:

I actually participated in one of the spinoffs of Humans of New York once. My college has one.

I was at a local coffee shop one day, and the barista accidentally gave me two coffees instead of one. I sat down in a chair, and asked a boy nearby with a camera if he'd like my other coffee.

He turned out to be a photographer and interviewer for our local "Humans" chapter. He asked if I'd pose for him, and then he interviewed me. I ended up talking about really personal stuff, like my struggles with depression. Later, I began to regret the conversation.

I emailed him with the address he had given me and asked him not to reveal to anyone that I was mentally ill -- there was too much stigma attached to it. He agreed, and instead put up a quote about my discussion of introversion and how undervalued it is in our society.

I've actually been approached since then by people who think it's "so cool" that I've appeared in a "Humans" chapter! :)

Art Ideas

Jul. 12th, 2015 07:38 pm
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These are just some random art ideas I've had over the years. I'm keeping track of them in case they ever become useful.


- Put your ears underwater in a bathtub. Put a fan over your face and let it run. Move your mouth around making different shapes. Record the sound this makes from underwater. Turn it into a musical track.

- Instead of using instruments for a song, shriek different notes and then put them all together into one flowing musical track. Sing normally along to this "instrument": your voice.

- Play "Revolution" at the rock n roll school in Kabul, Afghanistan.

- Go around to various prisons. Talk to the inmates about what kinds of books and music they like. Write a book on the extracurricular interests of criminals.

- Dress a woman in traditional Muslim garb. Slash the dress in different places to make it revealing, fashionable, and trendy.

- Pose for a photograph nude. Except unshaven, with no makeup, and in a tough unsexy pose.

- Play two songs, each in the spaces between sounds of the other, one backwards and one forwards.

Fun Times

Jul. 12th, 2015 03:47 pm
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So far, my most important blog posts have all been fairly depressing. So this time, I'm going to reflect on fun memories and things I enjoy doing.

I've indulged in many hobbies throughout my lifetime. Musically, I've taken guitar and swing dancing lessons, and sung in several choirs. (My vocal range is closest to the range of Hayley from Paramore and Florence from Florence + The Machine. I've sung both soprano and alto.) I've also engaged in a multitude of sports: yoga, pilates, ballet, tap dance, horseback riding, ice skating, swimming, rollerblading, and karate. I like to hop from activity to activity, getting a little bit of everything. Even now that I'm not involved in any sports, I enjoy taking invigorating walks.

In high school, I spent a year in NJROTC. That's right, I once considered a career in the military. I found the other members of my squad to be far too focused on winning competitions and far less focused on comradeship, so that didn't last long.

(My commanding officer was my favorite. Once, during our mile runs, I threw up and passed out. He backed away from me quickly, commanded me to throw up far away from him, and then didn't help me back to the classroom -- he waited until I'd woken back up and could walk myself. Another time, a mock torture interrogation was given. The interrogator kept asking the commanding officer to stand up. Said commanding officer hid in the back, because he considered his life much more important than ours'.)

I spent one summer taking acting classes, and indulged in plenty of creative writing classes even before college. I took a photography class once. I was for a while as a kid involved in a Christian youth group. In middle school, I was in the honors society.

I've been to several concerts.

My first concert was a Hilary Duff concert, all the way back when I was a little girl. (I loved the Disney show Lizzie McGuire, and admired Hilary Duff for being a strong, human, three-dimensional girl without feeling the need to act like a bitch all the time. She was sweet and wholesome, but not weak or docile. Or at least, that's how she always came across to me. I really respected that. I admire Taylor Swift for the same reason.)

My aunt took me. Everyone else was just standing still in the dark, listening to the music. (They were mostly adults, there on the behest of their young daughters.) I couldn't understand that at all! How could people stay still when they listened to music? I was dancing and jumping around like crazy, having the time of my life!

My next concert was a rock festival in high school. I had a best friend in high school; she was very into dyed hair, goth fashion, morbid humor, and rock music. She invited me and we went to see the very first iteration of the Projekt Revolution festival. I got to see My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park, and Mindless Self Indulgence all in one day.

Certain memories stick out. At the Mindless Self Indulgence show, which was on the small stage during the heat of the day, Jimmy jumped up on top of one of the speakers while singing. It began swaying precariously and some roadie had to run out in a panic and hold it in place. Jimmy had tall, huge hair I could see from all the way at the back of the audience, and he wore a long, shiny coat that had "As Seen On TV" on the back of it. Lyndsey was wearing noticeable, skintight hot pink pants, and she had girl thighs, which meant she was a girl playing at a rock concert, and that was SO COOL.

After MSI, we bought Projekt Revolution T shirts and bags, and made our way to the big stage where all the major bands were playing that night. I still remember how hilariously people were dressed -- dark clothes and eye makeup. It was all so cliche. (People who dress to fit a certain style make me giggle inside. They look funny.)

That night, we sat away from the main part of the show, on a grassy hill above the stadium. We lay back in the grass and could see the stars as the music played. On one side of us was a group of teens smoking pot -- a security guard kept coming up to them and scolding them; countless times, they would move to go away, and then when she left they just sat right back down and started smoking pot again. On our other side was a couple making out on a blanket.

At one point, we looked around and they'd disappeared. My friend and I stared at each other. "Oh my God -- they exploded from lack of oxygen!" We both started laughing hysterically.

Taking Back Sunday was godawful, but for the most part the shows on the big stage were really good. My Chemical Romance stood out as the best of the night, a bunch of black-garbed skeletons jumping around on the faraway stage. At one point, a girl threw a pair of underwear at Gerard on the stage. He picked it up to show the audience. "Huh huh -- cool," he said, thus proving himself to be every man playing at a rock concert ever.

Linkin Park were probably the best showmen. They started out behind a screen, the flashing lights turning them into ghostly silhouettes -- the screen slowly raised to reveal them standing there. They played videos full of nature footage on the stage behind them as they did their set. They thanked their fans for sticking with them, because they'd just changed their entire sound recently.

("BOO!" my friend called as they spoke. She hated their new sound.)

All in all, it was a pretty incredible day.

I also saw MSI separately once at the House of Blues. I stood on the ground floor in the back, shadowed, away from the crowds, wearing a long black coat, watching underage teens grab bottles of beer from off to the side and no one stop them. (One pair of teens had come from hours away just to hear MSI in concert.)

One man dressed like Jimmy was so high, he kept stumbling to the back of the audience and passing out. Then he'd just get right back up and throw himself into the fold to dance again. A thirty-year-old man once asked my high school aged friend to dance. (She said no -- over and over again as he kept asking, pretending not to hear her.)

MSI's predecessors were funny -- "I'm gonna throw up all over this keyboard and it's gonna be really fuckin' funny," said one musician with long white hair, grinning as he chugged water.

Jimmy was particularly outrageous that night. He took a soiled pair of underwear thrown at him onstage, and tied it around his head like a bandana. He also invited a girl in a Tigger costume to come up on stage and dance with him. ("This is going all over YouTube! I'm really gonna get a job at Kinko's -- yeah, like a fuckin' tigger!" Jimmy shouted gleefully.) At the end, he led everyone in a mock prayer for all the drunk and high people not to get pulled over tonight.

I've also been to San Diego Comic Con twice. Both times were with my sister and an aunt and uncle, though for one of the cons I met my friends there and went off to spend most of the day with them. Comic Con is incredibly crowded -- I once was physically carried away by a mob -- and has incredibly long lines -- one line once had so many twists and turns it made me nauseous; we got to the front only to be turned away because the auditorium was already at full capacity. But the excitement in the air is so palpable, the convention center so vast, that it's pretty hard not to enjoy yourself, decked out as you are with your bags and badges.

Some images stand out:

A necklace made out of clock parts. A bunch of fairy art. Countless little comic booklets. Shelves full of manga volumes. A massive LEGO statue.

I met Chandra Free there, and also Jhonen Vasquez. Jhonen signed things for a friend and for my sister. He rarely looked up from his signing, so he never actually physically saw me, and frankly he seemed pretty bored (though no one seemed to notice that but me). One teenage girl with blue pigtails asked him to sign her sandwich. He seemed rather bewildered and amused. He tried to sign the sandwich, but ended up dotting his name because it was surprisingly hard to write on wheat bread.

So don't get me wrong. I have had fun, too. An incredible amount of it, actually.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I thought I'd share this photo series:

It's one woman's effort to show through art what depression is like. She's a photographer and she uses these photographs as a form of catharsis and a way of communicating her feelings. The article points out that many people have no idea what clinical depression is like, so this could be good even for people who aren't depressed.

I was inspired by her to talk a little bit about depression myself.

Depression is not sadness, sadness is not depression, they are not the same thing. Depression is a kind of numbness. It's a creeping feeling of overwhelmed exhaustion, even when things are going well. Depressed people don't like doing things, don't like talking to or meeting people, and frankly don't really particularly like anything. They feel guilty, often for no reason, and worthless, almost always for no reason. They feel like their life is going horribly and will never get better. Good events are diminished in their mind and bad events are magnified -- it's like living in a surrealist painting. (The same thing happens with delusions -- things that support the delusion are magnified and things that go against it are diminished.)

Depression can be triggered by stressful events, but -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- it can also happen in a perfectly happy person's life.

I would also add that depression is a chemical illness. The person has no control over how they feel, what they think, or even really how they act. Thus, depressed people are not "selfish." Depression is a not a personality trait. It's a disease, like diabetes or the flu, only it happens in the brain. Often, the only reason depressed people stave off suicide for as long as they do is because they don't want to hurt the people around them. For others, depression creates the thought that their loved ones would be better off without them.

I could go on and on, but who wants to hear something morbid like that? Instead, I choose to talk about what I do when I feel down to make myself feel up again. Here's a list of some things to try:

- Take a warm bath.

- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation is particularly useful.

- Have a cup of relaxing chamomile tea.

- Go for a walk, or try some yoga. Do something that gets you out exercising without being overly stressful. Exercise releases relaxing endorphins through the brain.

- Do something very small, like answer an email or make a phone call, that makes you feel productive and like you've achieved something.

- Try going out and having fun with others, even if you don't want to. I usually go to the movies or go swing dancing. You'll feel better after you've forced yourself to get out there and try it.

- Take a break from your usual stressors and watch something you like on Netflix.

- Cry. This may seem counterproductive, but crying as a way of recognizing and releasing our emotions can actually make us feel better. Acknowledge the pain.

- Find a way to express your depression -- write, paint, or music out your feelings. They may become clearer to you afterward.

If the down feeling doesn't go away after these steps:

- Go see your therapist.

- Make an appointment with your psychiatrist.

Things NOT to do when you're depressed:

- Don't change your medications without checking with your psychiatrist.

- Don't drink.

- Don't do drugs.

- Don't try to eat your problems away.

- Don't try to sex your problems away.

- Don't sleep all day -- too much sleep can create depression/make it worse. Mentally ill people are also more prone, in my experience, to experiencing night terrors (hallucinations, sleep paralysis, nightmares) than mentally healthy people.


- Give yourself a break. You're doing just fine. Sometimes we all need that little reminder.


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Hopeless Dreamer

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