Thursday, April 24, 2014

some recent (photo) fun

Cuteness Everdeen

Since when were White Walkers so darn adorable?

A floating island of seaweed and it's coming for us

Might as well build a sand castle

Tae Kwan Do

Practicing her moves

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

some more feng shui reading — done

My quest continues, to improve my health, my life, my surroundings. I have recently been making some changes around the house, utilizing the age-old practice of feng shui to improve our surroundings. Feng shui must be big in the British Isles, because three out of five of these books on this list were written by Brits. I'm not sure if that means anything, but it is interesting that most of the books that I am picking up to research the subject turn out to be either written by, or published, in Britain. Here are the latest from my reading list.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feng Shui, Third Edition, by Stephen L. Field, Ph.D. 
There was altogether too much math in this book. I found myself doing all sorts of calculations to try and determine what my Personal Trigram is, and what the most (and least) auspicious directions would be in my house. Once I got to the Four Pillars of Destiny I gave up. The emphasis is squarely on improving one's luck and fortune, rather than a harmonious living space, which is more what I'm after. The luck, I believe, will come, once I am feeling happier and more at peace in my home. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feng Shui also tries to debunk, in a very snobbish way, some common feng shui "cures" which can be found in just about every other book that I have consulted, such as mirrors used to fix problem areas in the home. According to this book, only the five phases (fire, earth, metal, water, wood) can be used to remedy and enhance feng shui. So with all that math and very little return I am filing this book as a big flop. 
The Feng Shui Handbook: How To Create A Healthier Living & Working Environment (Henry Holt Reference Book), by Master Lam Kam Chuen 
This is a nicely illustrated, general guide to feng shui principles. It includes a good history of feng shui, and has some sample room layouts and cures for common problems. The focus here may be more on the exterior of homes, and would come in handy if one was purchasing a new home and was wondering if its position was auspicious — how it relates to nearby hills, water, and other influences. A nice book to dip your toe into feng shui, but not one to consult if you are looking for some real, practical things to do inside your current home. 
Feng Shui for Your Home: An Illustrated Guide to Creating a Harmonious, Happy and Prosperous Living Environment, by Sarah Surety 
Another nicely illustrated book that offers both feng shui basics and some real-life feng shui cures. The author talks about cleansing a space, which I did recently, as well as other elements to introduce into your home to increase prosperity, such as plants, mirrors, and light. It is an easy, user-friendly read, and one that I might go back to often to consult, if I was going to rearrange some furniture in a bedroom and wanted some tips on where to best position the bed, for example. 
Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever, by Karen Kingston 
This is a nice little book that makes the connection between clean house, clear mind. I like how the author covers not only the real day-to-day clutter that we all accumulate and should regularly clear out, like paperwork, old clothes, magazines, etc., but also focuses on how that clutter, whether it is your own, or a partner or family member's, affects your health and energy. A quick and easy read, but one that will make you think a little bit about what you hold onto. Hopefully you will decide that you don't need to be featured on the next episode of Hoarders after reading this book. 
Feng Shui In A Weekend: Transform Your Life and Home in a Weekend or Less, by Simon Brown 
This is a very user-friendly, how-to sort of book, with bright, bold graphics and lots of photos. It includes loads of tips and projects — there are actually many weekend projects to choose from. The author doesn't intend the reader to be able to completely rearrange their home in one weekend, but they could implement many of these cures over time. Like Clear Your Clutter, I liked that the emphasis was as much on taking care of your personal well-being as that of your surroundings. One thing feeds off the other, and the greater goal is to achieve harmony in all aspects of one's life. This is another book that I could find myself going back to for suggestions on quick fixes, such as what colors to paint my daughter's room to help her study, or ways to enhance a bathroom or the wealth area of my home.

I'm not completely done on my feng shui project yet, but I have to say that just a few of the changes I have made around the house since I started, such as reclaiming a space and introducing more plants and changing the flow of our main living space seem to already have made an impact. I feel like our home is more beautiful, more peaceful. There is alway room for improvement, of course, but I really do feel like I'm on the right track. Wish me luck as I continue my journey.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

poppin' up in westeros

While there has been a lot of internet speculation (and outrage) over the latest Game of Thrones episode, "Breaker of Chains," I have been preoccupied with a new acquisition, the Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. Designed by renowned paper engineer Matthew Reinhart and illustrator Michael Komarck, the book is a blast, with not just the cool buildings that populate the fantasy series, but lots of fun pop-up surprises and pull-out guides to all of the warring houses from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels and its current television adaptation on HBO. There are some detailed instructions on how to layout the intricately rendered Westeros. The book really goes from being book art to art and sculpture. It's lots of fun for fans of both the books and the television show.

You really need some space to get a lay of the land

And Westeros was worried about dragons ...

I love the pop-up member of the Kingsguard

Winterfell, the Wall, and what the heck ...

Watch out for the White Walkers!

HBO has always diverged from the books, especially with its frequent scenes of "sexposition," but many fans think that the show runners took things a bit too far last Sunday. An already outrageous scene in the book A Storm of Swords between incestuous siblings (and twins) Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), was pushed to the limit in the episode "Breaker of Chains," with Jaime forcing himself on his sister. The book depicted that as well, but with Cersei going from resistant to compliant — at least from Jaime's point of view. As shocking as that scene may have been, it's a shame that it is drowning out some other really good things that happened in the episode. I don't think Jaime's redemption arc has been as irreparably damaged as many are saying. As stated before, the scene in the book was pretty crazy, too. But at least I have my pop-up Westeros to guide me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

the nut job

Universal Studios is releasing on Blu-ray and DVD The Nut Job on April 15. The animated film is set in the fictional town of Oakton, which, as far as its wild animal inhabitants are concerned, is in the middle of an extreme food shortage as winter fast approaches. Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett) and his mostly mute rat buddy named Buddy march to a different drummer, and are constantly getting in trouble with the rest of the local animals. ...

Andie and Surly form an uneasy alliance
Surly checks out downtown

... The story is more than a bit frantic, and there are no real break-out characters that make an animated film a classic, but The Nut Job is amiable enough to entertain the kiddos. Whether the adults will be engaged or not depends on how much they like the look of things. And The Nut Job is great to look at - from its retro-inspired style to its bright colors and attention to detail. Especially impressive are the individual hairs on characters and rendered textures like wood and stone. The look of the film, from the styling of the buildings and backgrounds to the whole heist scenario, brings to mind classic Bugs Bunny encounters with the gangsters Rocky and Mugsy. Alas, none of the characters in The Nut Job have quite the personality of Bugs, but then, who does?

You can read my complete review on Cinema Sentries.