Sorbet for the Soul, Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.

Sorbet for the Soul, Modern Art

Big Blue Man statue by French artist Xavier Veilhan.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done was volunteer to teach Art Appreciation in my children’s elementary school. Before I entered kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, I thoroughly researched artists. I learned so much about Modern Art, and came to appreciate work I hadn’t understood before. The students and I discussed artists, examined paintings and sculptures, and worked on related projects. Fun? Being called “The Art Lady.” Fantastic? Getting a call from a mom who said that when her family visited a Chicago museum, her son remembered learning about Rene Magritte from an Art Appreciation class.

Stanley Whitney, Fly the Wild, Oil on linen canvas

Helen Frankenthaler, Western Dream, Oil on canvas

Piet Mondrian, Composition, Oil on canvas

Sorbet for the Soul, Henri Matisse

Taking in The Swimming Pool by Matisse, MOMA.

Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists. His paintings and cut-outs, along with French Impressionism, were among the first pieces which stirred my emotions. I love how he played with two and three dimensions, placed his own artwork in scenes, and used lines and shapes to create movement. And the colors! His vivid colors create backgrounds that both emphasize the main subject and give my eyes and mind a place to rest while taking in the whole scene. You can view his work at the MOMA and the MET. Want to know more about his cut-outs? Click here.

Henri Matisse, Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance”, Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse, Lilacs, Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse, The Cut-Outs, paper and gouache

Sorbet for the Soul, French Impressionism

Me and Morgan after visiting the MOMA.

As the inauguration nears, my mind is cluttered and my heart feels heavy. This on top of a global pandemic. One of the things that’s cleared away dread of more bad news, even for a few hours, is art. If I study a painting, I can imagine myself in it. Or I might focus on brushstrokes, color, composition, historical context, and meaning. Recent visits to the Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art were much needed respites. Art is sorbet for my soul.

Hon, what helps you?

Claude Monet, Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899, Oil on canvas

Georges-Pierre Seurat, Peasant Woman Seated in the Grass, 1883, Oil on canvas

Paul Signac, Setting Sun, Sardine Fishing, Adagio, 1891

On the Edge

Images source: Edgenyc.com

While the nation’s been on edge during this tense presidential election, Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary by visiting the actual Edge. Suspended in mid-air 100 stories up, Edge is an “outdoor sky deck” offering 360-degree views around Manhattan. Looking straight down from the indoor windows is dizzying, but amazing. Taking in the panoramic view once outside is breathtaking!

Edge is located in Hudson Yards, a new neighborhood built on top of what used to be open air over train tracks. We didn’t ascend the Vessel, interactive artwork in the form of a spiral staircase, but we walked through Hudson Yards, past The Shed towards the High Line and down to the Meatpacking District for dinner. By the time we returned to mid-town, The Empire State Building was lit up in my favorite color. Exploring a new site and walking in the city was a great distraction and a fun date!

Music Video: mxmtoon’s bon iver

mxmtoon, official image

As the creative director for mxmtoon, my daughter Morgan directed the singer’s two latest music videos. “bon iver” is the first track of the “dusk” EP and follows “almost home” (yesterday’s post), the  last track on the “dawn” EP. The two videos transition from dawn to dusk in lighting and atmosphere. Check out the cool animation that accentuates movement and mood.

The singer/songwriter will be revealing more details surrounding the highly-anticipated release over the upcoming weeks, but today mxmtoon has revealed a new single, “bon iver” — her first taste of new music since dawn.

The single continues to show the range of mxmtoon, and comes with an accompanying music video as well. “When we think of nightfall, we often associate it to the ‘end’ of something. The ‘bon iver’ music video is meant to counter that notion, and to spark thought over the possibilities that are ahead instead,” mxmtoon shares on the music video. “A day does not just end when the sun goes down, you continue to find wonder and joy despite the dark, and a whole other world awaits you as the moon glides overhead. New beginnings are not limited to a rising sun, your world is what you make it whenever you choose to begin.”         substreammagazine.com

Click here to read more about mxmtoon, whose name is Maia.
Click here to read about the concepts behind her albums and songs.
Thanks for watching, hon! 

Music Video: mxmtoon’s almost home

mxmtoon, photo courtesy of You Tube

As the creative director for mxmtoon, my daughter Morgan directed the singer’s two latest music videos. “almost home” is the last track of the “dawn” EP and “bon iver” (tomorrow’s post)is the first track on the “dusk” EP, and the two videos transition from dawn to dusk in lighting and atmosphere. Check out the cool animation that accentuates movement and mood.
Marked by clear singing and mxmtoon’s ukulele and guitar melodies, dawn offers diverse sounding songs that cover depths both pleasing and surprising. The result is a treasure that exudes positivity and satisfies the need for good news in this time.   New Noise
Want to know more about mxmtoon, whose name is Maia? Click here to read about her background. Want to know more about her music? Click here to read about the concepts behind her albums and songs.

Thanks for watching, hon!

Kidlit Opens the Door to Conversation

 

Kidlit is my passion and hopefully my future. Jessica Grose’s June 2, 2020 article in The New York Times, “These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids, The conversation about race needs to start early and keep happening.” is insightful and informative. I’m sharing it in its entirety.

As protests over the killing of George Floyd (and Ahmaud Arberyand Breonna Taylor) spill into a second week, many parents are wondering how to talk about the deaths and unrest with their children. But just as important in the long run, especially for nonblack parents, is how to keep the conversation about race and racism going when we’re not in a moment of national outrage, and to make sure all children see black people as heroes in a wide range of their own stories, and not just as victims of oppression.

In this moment, try to address the killings and protests honestly and in an age appropriate way, said Y. Joy Harris-Smith, Ph.D., a lecturer at Princeton Theological Seminary and the co-author of the forthcoming “The ABCs of Diversity: Helping Kids (and Ourselves!) Embrace Our Differences.”

You can start having conversations about race in preschool, said Jacqueline Dougé, M.D., a pediatrician and child health advocate based in Maryland — children can internalize racial bias between the ages of 2 and 4, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics article that Dr. Dougé co-wrote.

With preschool-age children, you should start by discussing racial differences in a positive way, said Marietta Collins, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Morehouse School of Medicine and the co-author of “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice,” which is a book for children about a police shooting.

Dr. Collins gave the example of a white child asking why another child had brown skin. A parent can take this opportunity to explain what melanin is, and to talk about how wonderful it is that the world has so many different kinds of people.

Older children will be much more aware of what’s going on right now. So find out how much your child knows about the protests, Dr. Harris-Smith said, because kids may know more than we think they do from overhearing the news, their parents talking, or simply noticing what is going on outside in their neighborhoods.

Once you assess what they know, you can have a conversation about the violence against black people without being too explicit with elementary-age children.

Dr. Dougé suggested starting with something like: “There are things happening in the news that are upsetting us. Unfortunately there were police officers that made bad choices for the wrong reasons because of the color of our skin.” Dr. Collins said that with children in elementary school, you should focus on how unfairly black and brown people have been treated throughout American history to the present day, because fairness is something all children can understand.

If you live someplace where people are actively protesting and your children have observed some destruction, “First and foremost, reassure them you’re there to keep them safe,” Dr. Dougé said. But also explain why people are protesting, and show them positive images of protesting now and from history, she suggested.

Make sure to create space for your child to feel however they need to feel about what you’re discussing — they may be angry, sad or scared. “When we’re not validated in how we feel, it makes it difficult for us to be active participants in our lives,” Dr. Harris-Smith said. Dr. Collins suggested that parents can let a child know, “The important adults in her life are working really hard to make sure these injustices don’t continue to happen in our city, country and world.” Respect your children’s feelings if talking about it is too upsetting, but make sure to leave the door open for future conversations, she continued.

In addition to keeping an open dialogue about racism, a way to raise children who are anti-racist is by making sure your home library has books with black people at the center of their stories. Christine Taylor-Butler, the prolific children’s author and writer of The Lost Tribes Series, said that she got into children’s literature because she wanted to see more stories of black joy. “I want stories about kids in a pumpkin patch, and kids in an art museum,” she said. “Not only do we want our kids to read, but we want white kids to see — we’re not the people you’re afraid of.”

“I see students clamoring for books that speak to heart, not oppression based on civil rights,” Taylor-Butler added. And she is also a fan of books that tell stories of black triumph and invention, like “Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions,” by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate, which is about the black engineer behind the Super Soaker water gun.

With that in mind, I asked several authors and Times editors to offer suggestions of books to read to children. Some are explicitly about racism, but others are stories with nonwhite protagonists. They are broken down roughly by age range; see our list below.

Ultimately, words and books should not be the end of your child’s education about race and racism. “The best advice I can give parents is to be models for the attitudes, behavior and values that they wish to see in their children,” said Nia Heard-Garris, M.D., an attending physician at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“It is not enough to talk about racism, you must strive to be anti-racist and fight against racist policies and practices,” Dr. Heard-Garris said. If you have the privilege, “make space, speak up or amplify issues of inequity and injustice.” Children see everything.

Ezra Jack Keats’s books about Peter (“The Snowy Day,” “A Letter to Amy,” “Hi, Cat!,” “Whistle for Willie”)

“I love all of Ezra Jack Keats’s books about Peter, because they show a black boy in the city and the stories are just about his curiosity, his bravery and his being a kid. They are beautiful meditations on the interiority of black childhood without trauma while still feeling very black.” — Kaitlyn Greenidge, NYT Parenting contributor and author of the novel “We Love You, Charlie Freeman

Saturday,” written and illustrated by Oge Mora

“This book is pure joy. A mom and her daughter, Ava, always look forward to Saturdays because it’s the one day of the week they get to spend together without school or work. On this particular Saturday, though, they experience a series of disappointments. Nothing seems to be going as planned. Still, thanks to Ava they figure out a way to enjoy their time together. A quiet yet profound picture book.”

— Matt de la Peña, a Newbery Medal-winning author of seven Young Adult novels and five picture books, including “Last Stop on Market Street.

Hair Love,” by Matthew A. Cherry. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison.

“Written by a former N.F.L. wide receiver and now an Oscar-winning short film, ‘Hair Love’ tells the story of a black father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time and the special bond they share.”

— Meena Harris, author of “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea

Each Kindness,” by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

“A new girl, Maya, shows up at school, and the whole class, including Chloe, our main character, shuns her because she’s shabbily dressed and seems different. This goes on for a while, and then Maya is suddenly gone, and Chloe realizes she’s missed her chance to be kind. This is a powerful picture book that bravely ends with regret.”

— Matt de la Peña

The Youngest Marcher,” by Cynthia Levinson. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

“It’s one of the more shocking and little-known stories of the civil rights movement: In 1963, the City of Birmingham jailed hundreds of kids for joining the Children’s March. Among them was 9-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks, taken from her family to spend a week behind bars, eating ‘oily grits’ and sleeping on a bare mattress. Levinson and Newton keep her story bright and snappy, emphasizing the girl’s eagerness to make a difference and her proud place in her community.”

— Maria Russo, former children’s book editor at The New York Times

Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice,” by Veronica Chambers. Illustrated by Paul Ryding.

“Chambers, who is the senior editor of special projects here at The Times, has pulled together 35 inspiring stories from the past 500 years of history, each with a lesson for our kids about how to fight injustice in their own lives.”

— Jessica Grose

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” written and illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham

“An honest explanation about how power and privilege factor into the lives of white children, at the expense of other groups, and how they can help seek justice.”

— Meena Harris

All American Boys,” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

“This is a brilliant look at the effects of police brutality from the perspective of two teen boys: one white and one black. We get inside both of their minds and watch them grapple with the weight of something that is way too familiar in our country. “

— Matt de la Peña

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

“Reynolds and Kendi have created a book that slyly draws attention to the page itself. ‘Uh-oh. The R-word,’ they write. The word that ‘for many of us still feels Rated R. Or can be matched only with the other R word — run. But don’t. Let’s all just take a deep breath. Inhale. Hold it. Exhale and breathe out’ — and here, the text breaks apart to give us the dangerous word — ‘race.’”

— Kaitlyn Greenidge: Read her full review here.

Ghosted, Emotional Live Action & Animated Short Film, Part 2

2020 Maryland International Film Festival – Official Selection
Live action and animation blend fluidly to illustrate heartbreak in an emotional and beautiful work of art.

Morgan discussed the inspiration behind her newest short film GHOSTED, which premiered online as a Vimeo Staff Pick, a featured video on Film Shortage, and is a 2020 Maryland International Film Festival Official Selection.  “A Broken Leg & a Broken Heart Challenges a Woman’s Sanity in Morgan Gruer’s Beautifully Crafted Short ‘GHOSTED’,” is an insightful interview conducted by Serafima Serafimova for Directors Notes. The full interview and a link to watch the video are below.

Thanks for reading and watching, hon!

Ghosted is a story about a girl in love, but it’s not a love story. It’s a story about the pain of fluctuating between early hope and ultimate despair, the intoxicating revelation of love and the slow, crushing realisation that it’s not reciprocated. Based on her personal experience, Morgan Gruer’s Ghosted follows Grace, a twenty-something who has to deal with a broken leg and a broken heart. Perfectly performed, simultaneously serious and light, the short mixes live action and animation to find just the right scale and tone, never trivialising nor overstating the delicate feelings it explores. The result is a compelling and nuanced work of art. We were delighted to chat with Morgan about her inspiration, process and plenty more.

Was there a specific story or experience that sparked the idea for the film?

Ghosted was quite personal! After an unfortunate cliff diving accident (a story for another time…), I found myself on bed rest at my parents’ house recovering from hip surgery. Within the first week of recovery, I was ghosted by the man I loved. His sudden and uncharacteristic disappearance led me down a path of overthinking that escalated as the months dragged slowly on. Ghosted expands on this, as Grace’s circumstances slowly test her sanity and her well-being.

The animation brings the story to life by adding fun flourishes throughout, and that rotoscoped scene at the end is superb! Why did you decide to blend live action and animation, and how did you land on that particular style and design?

Animation has the ability to express a story in a way that is not possible with film, as it can show the way our minds ‘think’ and ‘feel’. Actions can be hyperbolized without the plausibility being questioned. As the film progresses, Grace’s isolation drives her to the deepest, darkest corners of her mind. We wanted to visually show this retreat as a place that felt far from reality, and animation felt like the perfect way to do this.

The animated phone language was actually decided just a few days before the shoot. While our Cinematographer Dustin Supenchek and I were drafting a shot list, we concluded that there was simply no artful way to film an iPhone. Dustin came up with the idea to execute the texts in hand-drawn animation, which ended up being the perfect precursor to the animated scene.

Animation has the ability to express a story in a way that is not possible with film.

Memory sequences are often too cheesy and overdone (a rather off-putting combo!), but you’ve cut together a dreamy montage which feels fresh, sensual and authentic. How did you go about shooting and editing these scenes?

The goal was to visually dissect the accumulation of different memories when our brains overthink. When describing the tone of this scene to our Editor Chad Sarahina I referenced the childhood game of “broken telephone”. If you’re not familiar with the game, you gather a group of people around in a circle and try to whisper the same sentence from ear to ear. The first person may start with “my ear hurts”, but the second person hears “my beer spurts”. The next person hears something different, and by the end, the final sentence is so unrecognizable that you’re not sure how you got there. This seemed like the perfect analogy to over-thinking.

Memories have the ability to bend toward our preferences, unconsciously but selectively choosing what we want to hear or believe. When diving into my memories, I realized that all of the signs of the situation were, in fact, there – I had just chosen to ignore the parts I did not want to hear. The goal with the montage was to peel away the layers of Grace’s selective consciousness and explore what lay underneath.

Grace could be seen as weak and even anti-feminist, yet her vulnerability makes her disarmingly charming and compelling. How did you shape her character to achieve that balance?

We didn’t want to portray Grace as a saint and Nick as a villain. Despite Grace’s affliction over being ignored, she subsequently does the same thing to the people in her life who care about her. After all, life is not black and white; people are not just good or bad. I am more interested in exploring the in-between moments, the grey zone that makes us human.

Our culture often tells us that “strong women don’t need a man”. While capable women don’t necessarily ‘need’ a man, is it anti-feminist for a woman to simply ‘want’ a man? One can be strong and independent but still crave companionship and connection. I don’t think it should be perceived as weak to admit that.

Grace deals with the physical pain of her broken leg as well as the psychological pain of being broken up with, and there are common threads tying the two (feeling trapped, angry, frustrated) into the ultimate parcel of misery. Why did you want to explore this?

During my recovery, I learned that the longer my body was sedentary, the more hyperactive my mind became. It’s ironic, almost – with a physical injury, one is prescribed clean plans of action for recovery. However, when the pain is psychological, there are no doctor’s orders of how to heal; there are no heartbreak pills or routine check-ups. It is harder to admit when you’re hurting, and even harder to learn how to move past it.

I am more interested in exploring the in-between moments, the grey zone that makes us human.

I wanted to explore the relationship between physical and psychological pain as I found it fascinating that their correlation has the ability to work both directly and inversely. I think this relationship is something to keep in mind during our self-isolation amidst the pandemic and remind ourselves that we need to treat our mental wounds the same way we tend to physical ones.

What’s next for you?

I recently completed another short film called Da Sola, that I plan to release in the coming months (a fully animated one!). In the meantime, I’m keeping busy with freelance work, building out my creative studio, and enjoying quarantine with my current man, who has previewed the film and wouldn’t dare ghost me 😉.Thanks for watching, hon!   Serafima Serafimova for Directors Notes. 4/28/20

BuzzFeed/Tasty Brisket Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Tasty posted the video yesterday, 4/8/20, in honor of Passover & it has over 4 million views–wow!  Thanks for all the love! (Shout out to my kids for plugging this link.)

The original BuzzFeed Brisket video on YouTube, “Jewish Moms Try Each Other’s Brisket,” had over 1 million views. Unbelievable!

Some of the funny comments I received:

Can you send some through the post to Scotland please? We’re on lockdown here.
Hysterical! Thank you for sharing. (Glad I didn’t audition; you women are out of my league!) but I loved this and will share with my kids, etc. Shabbat shalom!

Such a fun video! Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays!

Good for you for doing this and you were by far the best “actress”. Mazel Tov!!!!
Omg Naomi this is AMAZING!! You are a natural on camera, and without tasting them I think you should have won!
And, drumroll, I finally transcribed my mother-in-law’s recipe, the one I used for the shoot. Cecile, as mentioned before, is a wonderful cook of Eastern European Jewish food. I tried to glean measurements from her, and also took notes as I cooked, but amounts may be tweaked. Her recipe is a two-day affair: cooking one day, and slicing and serving the next.
Grandma Cecile’s Brisket

Ingredients:

  • 41/2 – 5 lbs brisket
  • 1 1/2 onions, chopped
  • 4-6 stalks celery, cut up
  • 5 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Spice Mixture: 3 teaspoons Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon marjoram, and  1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • vegetable oil for searing
  • Brisket Sauce: 1/2 – 3/4 combo of sweet-n-sour sauce (such as duck sauce, I didn’t have any so I used apricot jam), 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions:

  1. Dry meat and then dredge in flour/spice mixture. (Cecile shakes the meat and spice mixture in a Ziploc bag.)
  2. Heat vegetable oil in large pot. Sear meat on all 4 sides. (The cut is thick, so all edges need searing.)
  3. Remove brisket from pot. Sautee onions and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add meat back to pot and leave on high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Turn heat to low and cook 10-20 minutes on each side, adding water so that the meat is simmering.
  6. Add bay leaves and Brisket Sauce and bring to a boil again.
  7. Cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Add carrots at 2 hours.
  8. When a fork can lift up the meat in the center, the brisket’s done. (If using a thermometer, it should be 160 degrees F.)
  9. Take out of pot immediately and wrap in tin foil. (I let it cool on the counter and sliced it that night since it had to be ready to serve at the BuzzFeed office the next day, but brisket’s better if it “rests” and is sliced the next day.)
  10. Let cool and store in fridge. Save sauce and veggies.
  11. Slice meat the next day. In 350 degrees F oven, heat brisket in sauce and veggies for 40 minutes.

Yield: Approximately 5-7 people (or more! Again, going w/loose translation of how much for each person.)