Thursday, January 9, 2014

Femme Fatale

Another shoot with the wonderful Jeff Cantrell! I made this particular dress with some assistance from my mother (we made three, in red, white, and blue respectively, for a 4th of July parade!). As always, hair and makeup and edits by me, photographed by Jeff.

Some of my favorite photos from this shoot are NSFW, depending on where you work (lingerie, some implied topless, no total nudity), so they're not on the main blog but you can see them here.

Dia de los Muertos 2013

Another shoot with Jeff Cantrell, done on Dia de los Muertos, which is also when we did the Japanese Yukata photoshoot.

I made the skirt and the shirt, but not the corset that's over the shirt. I made almost all of the hairpieces that are in my hair, which is to say I glued the birds and flowers to barrettes. Makeup by me. Photos by Jeff. Edits by me.

I Went Down In The River To Pray

Another favorite photoshoot I've ever done. Photographed by Jeff Cantrell. Edited by me.
I made the hair wreath, I don't know where I got the green dress, and the fabric is just fabric.

I'm leaving out a lot of my favorites because they're nude and this blog is supposed to be PG-13 I think. To be fair, while they are nude, they are artistic nude and not really sexual at all, at least no more sexual than Ancient Greek statuary, and it kind of upsets me that we live in a world where I would choose not to post them here.

Maybe I'll link to them.

Maybe I will post them. We'll see what I feel like in ten minutes.

I'm linking to them. If you work in a place where artistic nudity is not appreciated, these are NSFW.

Yukata Second to Look at This?

You have to really try to come up with a pun that bad.

This is one of my favorite photoshoots I've ever done. The yukata and obi I picked up on Miyajima during my summer studies in Japan, I made the headband (you seen it around here before), and the geta and parasol were purchased in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, fondly known by some as Japangeles. Hair and makeup by me (as always), photographed by Jeff Cantrell.

As you can see, I've grown my eyebrow back. It was kind of an accident. I kind of want to shave it again, but I have an important photoshoot I'm waiting on first, and then I'm doing it. Probably.

That amazing lipgloss is Lime Crime's Carousel Gloss in Candy Apple Red or whatever their bright red is called. It might have been over something, not sure. Don't think so, though. Maybe a liner.

Regarding School and Real Life

This was originally posted on my other blog, Notes on Books and Other Things, on June 15, 2013. That blog still exists, but I'm trying to condense all my blogs here because I like this one best and it makes sense to me.
     Growing up, I often struggled between loving to learn and hating to go to school.

     I went to school and often enjoyed it simply because I loved to learn, but hated memorizing things that I thought were essentially useless, or at least not taught in a way that made them engaging and made their use apparent. I was always learning on my own, pursuing extracurricular interests, and reading voraciously--in fact, I spent most of fourth grade reading under my desk with my head on the table as if I had a terrible headache; I even thought I'd been clever enough to get away with it until the last day of school when Mrs. Takashima congratulated all of us on a "year well done, even those of us who spent the whole thing reading under their desks."

     I was embarrassed to have been caught, but looking back I'm really glad that Mrs. Takashima recognized how valuable my love of reading was to my education, and that in the grand scheme of things, as long as I was doing the work and passing the tests (and I always did very well), and as long as I was not being disruptive, that it was alright for me to pursue learning on my own, even in her class. Man, what a great teacher.

    The next year my family moved cities and school districts, and because of the different district requirements my parents seriously considered having me repeat fourth grade over again. Thank god they saw sense and didn't--thirteen years of public school was tedious enough without repeating one of them.

     I often wished I could go to some other school... a private school or a boarding school where they only taught things I was interested in... or some fantasy school in my mind. Or, I wished I had a governess like so many of the characters I read about had in their books, to teach me languages and history and math in a way that was interactive and engaging, and at a pace that moved as quickly as I learned without having to wait for 35 other students to not only understand the material but to settle down and stop talking (the settling down often took much longer than the learning, after all).

     What I'm getting to with all this is that I think I would like to homeschool my children. Obviously, we're talking a good many years from now, because I'm currently 20, unmarried, and unemployed, and you certainly cannot homeschool children you don't have. However, I really think I could offer my children a much fuller, more engaging, more interesting, and more well-rounded experience than the one public school was able to offer me. I managed to get a lot more out of public school than many students do, because I filled waiting time with reading and drawing and writing; I pursued the study of foreign languages independently; I was fortunate enough to have parents who were in a position to put me in piano lessons, voice lessons, girl scouts, drum lessons, art lessons, cotillion, band, choir, opera... you name it; and especially because my parents were very involved in my learning.

     My dad is a chemistry professor at Caltech, and every year of elementary school (and even once in middle school), he would arrange to come in and do fun science demonstrations for the class: the whole class got to see a pickle become a lightbulb; they got to see seven beakers of rainbow liquid poured into each other all become clear and mixed again became the seven colors of the rainbow again; they got to see a marshmallow expand to twenty times its size in a vaccuum and then shrink down to the size of a raisin. They got to see all these things, but I got to go into the lab and learn how it all worked, and help engineer each experiment so it would work on the big day.

     My mom is a doctor, and one of the most multi-talented people I've ever met. Any medical questions I had have always received (long-winded but) detailed explanatory answers. She grew up in Texas going to school with astronauts' children, and fascinated by space and space exploration, and when I was in kindergarten she helped my whole class build a moonscape and a papier mache Apollo 13, she sewed two kindergartener-sized astronaut suits and took pictures of my whole class. She loved to garden, and built an animal garden with my third-grade class (butterfly bush, kangaroo paw, zebra grass, snail vine, etc...). I remember riding in the car while she drove to a not-nearby museum to borrow their giant plastic model of a flower so that she could teach my class about plant sex organs. She taught me to sew and she taught me to cook, and I'm still learning from her all the time. I will never be as good as she is at decorating cakes.

     Both my parents travel often--my dad would always tell me stories about his business travels, and my mom would plan our camping trips and other excursions for weeks. Even vacations I was not always excited about before (I didn't always know how good I had it) have become integral to the way I see the world around me.

     I am absolutely certain that I have learned at least twice as much from my parents as I have from my teachers before college, and I still have much more to learn from them. Beyond that, I am fairly certain that, with the flexibility to work with the pace, interests, talents, strengths, and weaknesses of my own children, I could teach them much better than a public school system could. Mind, I don't say this out of disrespect for teachers: I strongly admire and believe in the public education system and have often considered becoming a teacher myself; my boyfriend is a substitute teacher, and I respect the work that is done in the public school system infinitely, but if a child's parents are passionate about their child's learning, and able to foster and support it, I don't believe that the public school system is able, by nature of its size, to offer the depth that a one-on-one (or at most a few-on-one), individually-tailored, home-based, exploratory education experience can offer.

     That said, I don't understand how anyone can afford to own a home, let alone own a home with children in it on one income. I know there are people who do manage to do this, but as an about-to-be-college-senior hoping to move to Austin after I graduate, I can hardly even imagine renting an apartment on one income. I don't think I'll have to, but it's still a scary prospect. It's for this reason only that I regret my fancy create-your-own-not-science-major; I do believe that I am a more well-rounded and better-educated person for having studied the things I've studied, but they're not about to get me into medical school and I don't want to go to medical school anyway.

     I decided to study English and Japanese and Art because those are the things that interested me, but I've recognized recently that if I'm ever going to be able to manage my own finances, let alone have my own finances to manage, I'm going to have to get good at it now, and I'm going to have to become employable now. There is no time to wait until I am unemployed--that's not something I can afford. So, I've spent the last few days updating my Linkedin and my resume, today I made (and handpainted) business cards (in Japanese and English), and I've been researching jobs for which I am or can become qualified and which hopefully would not bore me to death. Next semester I'm registered to continue my study of Japanese, and I'm taking a class on Entrepreneurship. I'm also finishing up the requirements for my degree program and starting work on my Honors thesis(!).

     Because of my artsy, liberal, non-conformist side, I've always kind of shied away from "corporate" ideas like networking, business cards, linkedin, suits, natural hair colors, and desks... because I held the attitude that "If a company doesn't want to hire someone with blue hair, then I don't want to work for them," but the truth of the matter is it may not be that the company discriminates against alternative taste--if you are looking for a serious job with blue hair, it says that you are not willing to compromise to be a part of their company, which is something that you absolutely have to do. If I'm not willing to make a compromise on something as trivial as my hair, why should they pay me? They shouldn't. So, I'll also be phasing out the blue hair this year. I'm going to miss it, and someday I fully expect to be a member of the rainbow head club again--once I've proved myself in the workforce and have a good enough reputation that my hair will not precede me.

     My current plan/goal/strategy is this: work for and learn from established companies/organizations/etc., to gain experience, real world workforce knowledge, connections, and funding for my own projects; in the meantime, write, do art, and develop my own business plan/s; and start my own business(es) and get them functional enough that I have flexible work hours and/or can work from home. At that point, perhaps I will be able to afford the time and money to have and homeschool children. Those last steps are a long way ahead, and I know it... but the years are going faster than ever, and I want to be able to give my children a childhood of experiences that is as good as or better than what I was blessed to grow up with, and if I can't do that, then I can't afford to have children.

The Infinite Library

This was originally posted on my other blog, Notes on Books and Other Things, on January 12, 2013. That blog still exists, but I'm trying to condense all my blogs here because I like this one best and it makes sense to me.
I should probably tell you why this blog is located at, why it is my infinite library, and what an infinite library is.

I don't have all the answers. That's what an infinite library is not.

In fact, my infinite library is very different from other infinite libraries. It's a concept that was introduced to me by a professor from Germany who taught a course called Modernism and Beyond in European and World Literature to me when I studied abroad at Universiteit Maastricht in the Spring semester of 2012.

I liked this professor because he knew we would not like everything we read in his class, and he did not ask us to like it or even try to like it--he only asked us to try to appreciate it and learn from it, and to try to understand why we did or did not like each book we read. What all did we read? Gosh... DemianNadjaTo the LighthouseHeart of Darkness, "The Wasteland," "Waiting for Godot," Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man... perhaps something else. That sounds comprehensive to me. Perhaps I'll talk about those books later. Demian in particular changed the way I look at the world, and it was fantastic. I regret that the books were provided by the school and I did not get to keep my notes.

In any case, the professor presented in passing an idea he called the infinite library, and which I have probably revised since hearing it. This idea is the biggest thing I garnered from this class, and has changed my world view more than anything we read or anything else we talked about. I vaguely remember him crediting this idea to T.S. Eliot, but have found nothing to support that. There is apparently an infinite library concept introduced by Terry Pratchett, but it is rather different insofar as I can tell. The infinite library as I think of it is this:

When you are born, your infinite library is essentially empty. It is an infinite room full of infinite shelves full of no books at all. From that point on, every single thing you hear, taste, smell, read, touch, or experience becomes a book in your infinite library--but each book is not free-standing. Oh, no! Each book is affected by every single other book already in your infinite library, and as your infinite library grows, everything you experience thus become deeper and more multi-layered and more meaningful, more connected. In the physical world, a poem is the same every time someone reads it. The words stay the same in spelling, meaning, order, and juxtaposition; the punctuation is constant; the number of lines is unchanged; and so on. But the infinite library is another matter! In the infinite library, every time you read the same poem, an entirely new book is added to your infinite library, because it was an entirely different experience for you. Even if nothing else has changed, the second time you read it you already know how it is going to end--and more than likely, other things have changed. You may have undergone more and more varied struggles, you may have fallen in love, you may have read another book--and so this new experience of reading it is separate from the first and any other previous times you may have read it.

This can be applied to anything, not just literature--when I rode carousels as a child it was for the novelty alone; now it is for the novelty as well as for the nostalgia, and when I do I think of the carousel I rode in Paris and how it was next to a beignet stand and it was a foggy day; how all the horses on the Disneyland carousel are white so children don't fight over them; how Griffith Park refuses to accept help to refurbish their carousel; how I used to be a member of the Santa Monica carousel when I was very little, and once met Sean Penn and his kid there; what my own carousel would be like if I had one--you can have your very own for just over five hundred thousand dollars! (I know, I know... I can't afford that either)... and so on.

Anyhow, that is that. I don't know how much I'll talk about the infinite library on this blog, but I talk about it a lot in real life, so there you have it.

Happy New Year!

Standing Up For Stargirl

If you are reading my blog and you haven't yet read Stargirl and its sequel, Love, Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, then go read them and then come back and read this. They are very quick reads, so that's a totally manageable request. This is a copy-paste of a review I wrote on Goodreads of Love, Stargirl, because I disagreed with what some other reviewers were saying. IT HAS SPOILERS!!!


I'm writing this review to stand up for Stargirl.

A lot of other reviewers seem to have really hated this book [Love, Stargirl] in comparison to its predecessor, Stargirl. The main reasons I've read for this are that, first, the whole point of Stargirl written from Leo's perspective is that Stargirl Caraway is mysterious, ethereal, and otherworldly, and therefore a sequel written from her perspective spoils the magic and mystery; and that, second, If Stargirl is supposed to serve as an example of what people should strive to be, then she oughtn't to spend so much time moping over her ex-boyfriend, Leo.

I picked up Stargirl and Love, Stargirl to read because I'm starting a part-time job as English teacher to two of my friend's homeschooled children (that's two children, not two friends, the apostrophe's in the correct place), and I was looking for a selection of enjoyable reads that were both low-level and well-written (an astonishingly rare combination), and Stargirl came up on someone's list. I started reading it (and its sequel) via the Amazon "Look Inside" preview, and the first time they omitted a serious chunk of text I went out to the used bookstores, bought both, and read through them immediately. The books are VERY well-written without being too SAT-word heavy for 7- and 9-year olds to get through easily (I hope!). The reader picks up interesting, odd facts about mockingbirds, solstices, weather patterns, and rat breeds if he/she is paying attention, which is one of my favorite things in books about particularly knowledgeable characters. All the characters in Love, Stargirl (as in Stargirl) are entertaining, and each is likable and charming in his/her own way.

I was attracted to Stargirl at first for I think a different reason that the publisher expects most people to be. The promotional writing on Amazon indicated that readers would be mystified by Stargirl and relate to/align themselves with Leo, who has to choose between Her (Stargirl, a shining beacon of love, light, truth, and adventure) and Them (the rest of the MAHS student body, motivated only by passing fads, rules for popularity, and basketball; in other words, victims of the human psychological condition). However, I relate very closely to Stargirl. I was never homeschooled like she was, but I was never properly a part of any clique at school. I spent my entire schooling up to late high school with few to no close friends, because I would rather be forming relationships with books. Somehow, towards the end of high school, my confidence and sense of adventure blossomed, and the following quotes about Stargirl Caraway could easily be direct quotes about me:

"Several times in those early weeks of September, she showed up in something outrageous. A 1920s flapper dress. An Indian buckskin. A kimono. One day she wore a denim miniskirt with green stockings, and crawling up one leg was a parade of enamel ladybug and butterfly pins. "Normal" for her were long, floor-brushing pioneer dresses and skirts."

“Throughout the day, Stargirl had been dropping money. She was the Johnny Appleseed of loose change: a penny here, a nickel there. Tossed to the sidewalk, laid on a shelf or bench. Even quarters. 
'I hate change,' she said. 'It's so . . . jangly.'
'Do you realize how much you must throw away in a year?' I said.
'Did you ever see a little kid's face when he spots a penny on a sidewalk?'"

"She saw things. I had not known there was so much to see. 
She was forever tugging my arm and saying, 'Look!'
I would look around, seeing nothing. 'Where?'
She would point. 'There.'
In the beginning I still could not see. She might be pointing to a doorway, or a person, or the sky. But such things were so common to my eyes, so undistinguished, that they would register as 'nothing' I walked in a gray world of nothing.”  

I wanted to read these books because she and I had so much in common, and there are things she is better at than I am, and things I'm better at than she is, and I wanted to learn from her, and I wanted to read the story of someone who was so much like me. As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed in Leo over the second half of Stargirl, but Stargirl herself was never disappointing to me.

Okay, now that I've given you my background info, I'm going to actually address the complaints about Love, Stargirl, that other reviewers have expressed.

Stargirl is not mysterious. She is not an alien. She is not superhuman. She is not any of those things. She is, just like Spinelli insists via his Wise Old Man, Archie, totally human--more human or at least more in touch with her humanity than most of the rest of the book's cast, in fact. She is very in touch with her own humanity and the earth on which she lives, and with the humanity of those around her. She's adjusted her habits accordingly, and is generally better at being selfless than most characters and most real people are. She's certainly better at it than I am.

If Stargirl is a real, regular, non-mysterious human just like you, as becomes rather more clear in Love, Stargirl, if you weren't paying close enough attention to Stargirl and Archie in the first book, then Love, Stargirl should be a beacon of hope. It is a glimpse into the inner workings of the mind of someone who actually cares about humanity and living each day to its fullest. This is actually amplified by the fact that she spends the first part of the book moping over Leo, about which others have complained.

Every bit of Stargirl's struggle with her feelings for Leo is real. When you are a person who loves as easily and as deeply as Stargirl does, that love does not go away easily, and it shouldn't. You don't have to stop loving someone to move on to the next part of your life. I think most people today, when they are broken up with (pardon my dangling preposition), even if it was with someone they were really crazy about, someone who was maybe a really great person, they try to demonize the ex-partner. That's really not necessary, and often really detrimental to our personal growth. Stargirl isn't exactly Miss Psychologically Healthy as she doesn't-even-try to get over Leo in the first two thirds of the book, but even then she understands and implements something that most of us don't: she can be upset with Leo for turning his back on her, and recognize that he doesn't deserve her, while still realizing that his weaknesses and faults do not make him a bad person, and while still loving him despite those weaknesses and faults.

Even worse, the other thing that many people do when they're broken up with, if they don't demonize the ex-partner, is that they turn against themselves. I've seen friends after a bad breakup insist that it was all their fault, pick apart every conversation over the course of the whole relationship to find some little thing (or collection of things) they said wrong to steer the whole 'ship astray, or insist they're too fat, or stupid, or ugly, or somehow were never good enough for the other person in the first place, even often when it's perfectly clear to uninvolved third parties that this is not the case.

Stargirl also does not do this. I was a little disappointed in her when she became Susan in the first book, but when she decided to be Stargirl again, she never looked back, and had no regrets. She recognized that becoming a better person and becoming a different person are two different things, and she should only have to do one of them. Leo wanted her to become Susan, a DIFFERENT person. Stargirl just wants to be a better Stargirl, which is the challenge she faces in Love, Stargirl. She never blames herself for Leo turning from her, which is good. She DOES let herself become a little unhealthily obsessed with linking her happiness to Leo's presence (in his absence), but any of you who have been through a similar experience cannot tell me that her misery is unrealistic. And, in the end, we come to a thematic conclusion. There's no point spending all that time mourning Leo's absence, because Leo is yesterday and maybe tomorrow, but he's not today, and TODAY is today, and there's only one of those each day, and they all become yesterdays so quickly, and once a today is a yesterday there's nothing you can do to change how much of it you spent moping or mourning and how much of it you spent joyfully.

The climax of the book is the Winter Solstice sunrise, something you really can only see once a year, and the way Stargirl set it up, maybe only once in a lifetime. Stargirl almost gave up on it, and was afraid that no one else would want to live for today enough to be up on a snowy hill before sunrise... and then pretty much every character in the book showed up, including Betty Lou the agoraphobe (who usually lives in some combination of yesterdays and tomorrows, but was the very person to give Stargirl the advice from the Buddhists about living today) and Charlie (who spends each day at the cemetery with his wife who is buried there, reliving all his yesterdays with her; even Charlie the yesterday-man is convinced to go see this sunrise).

In summation, if you're disappointed because you found out Stargirl is a regular human being who's just a few steps ahead of the rest of us, you shouldn't be, you rather should see that as a hopeful sign that you, too, can improve as a human being; and if you're disappointed that she mopes over Leo you should recognize that she's a lot more healthy about moping than most people are and that in fact the whole point of the book is that she stops moping over Leo when she realizes that she's supposed to live today for today.

The end.