Chopin, Rain and My Neighbourhood

Walking to Jiyugaoka in the rain. It’s cold but I’m dressed warmly and have waterproof foot ware. I’m a bit bored so I play some music, but what to play on a rainy-misty day? It’s cold and gray and then I see these tulips outside a local flower shop in Okusawa.


And the answer hits me, this is Chopin weather, Nocturne No.1 in B Flat Minor Op 1-9.

I recently bought the Chopin: The Complete Nocturnes played by Dang Thai Son. 

Chopin is one of my favorites. Mozart can be exhausting and Beethoven can be too dramatic though I like both composers. I soon realized I didn’t own any recordings by Chopin. When I went to iTunes, there were heaps of choices. But what to buy? For interest sake I researched who was the best Chopin interpreter and enjoyed this link:

It’s really far beyond my scope of true appreciation and discernment but I enjoyed the discussion and is how I decided to buy recordings by Dang Thai Son.

So back to the tulips and the inspiration to play Chopin. The music was complex, soothing and the perfect balance of contemplation and energy.

I recommend this as your soundtrack for rainy day walking in Tokyo.

Tokyo Artbook Fair: Interview with Marie Wintzer

The fourth in the series of interviews from fellow Tokyo Artbyte Critique group, who are participating in the Tokyo Artbook Fair presents Marie Wintzer.

Marie Wintzer is a French artist who also works in the field of neurosciences. She currently lives in Tokyo. Each of the books she will have available at the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014 are unique, one-of-a-kind constructions.

What kind of art do you do?
My work is based on mail art exchanges and consists of collages and books using Jjapanese magazines, newspapers, comics, books gathered from second-hand stores, along with altered pictures / photography of my own, and poems.

Book photo courtesy of Marie Wintzer
Book photo courtesy of Marie Wintzer

That sounds pretty complicated. What is your process?
In my work process I aim to find aesthetics through matching, pairing, comparing, contrasting. Aesthetics can arise from unexpected, apparently chaotic or incoherent structures, and I am particularly interested in the subjective notion of beauty, in unveiling the harmony in items / settings / contexts that are not obviously seen as pleasantly ordered and arranged.

This work process naturally leads me to the study of repetitions of patterns and the breaking of those patterns (asymmetry) by chance or choice, of the unique combinations that can be created from a single unit through repetition and modification. In relation to this, I am fascinated by the endless possibilities offered by layers and transparencies.

How does poetry fit into the visual aspect of your work?
Poems take an increasing importance in the making of my books, and are a layer in their own right. Very often they are the starting point or the basis for the creation of a new book.

Is there a website where we can learn more about you and your work?

Mission Inspiration: Helsinki

City and Sea

Photos from walking around Helsinki in January. I convinced my husband to walk around Helsinki for hours by luring him with the promise of food at Hietalahti Market Hall. It was a loooong nice walk and the food was good.

I really enjoy scandinavian food. The bread is always good and hearty, there are lots of sandwiches with vegetables. I’m totally into sandwiches since I got back.


For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the Marimekko shop. I love their prints but the clothes just don’t work for my body type. There are many Marimekko shops in Tokyo. I like the simple, minimalism design I saw. The clean lines make me feel really relaxed.

Some Helsinki winter color palettes:

Mission Inspire: Tallinn, Land of Marzipan and Gingerbread

When you decide to go someplace on the spur of the moment, the anticipation is all about discovery rather than expectations. We decided to go to Tallinn on January 1st because almost everything in Helsinki was closed. We had no idea if Tallinn would have shops open or not, but we figured we could walk around in closed up Tallinn as easily as closed up Helsinki. Lots of stores were open in Old Town Tallinn, apart from my yarn mission, I fell in love with the marzipan and gingerbread I saw in the windows.

Marzipan figures for sale.Marzipan is made of crushed almonds and powdered sugar. It can be molded into like clay shapes that are painted with food dye, layered on top of a fruitcake like icing or used as a filling for a chocolate bonbon. There are many, many ways to use and consume marzipan. My favorite way to eat it is as a bonbon, but visually, the molded and painted marzipan is stunning and can look extremely realistic. As a sculptural material, marzipan has a slightly translucent quality.

Marzipan’s origins date to the middle ages, with two towns of descended from the Hanseatic League (doesn’t that name bring back memories of High School History?), Tallinn and Lübeck claiming to be it’s origin. Originally marzipan was produced as a medicine. Eventually production was taken over by sugar bakers and then chocolatiers. There’s lots of good information about marzipan on the kalev website.

kalev_2_wMaiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) is a café in Tallinn Old Town. According to the AS Kalev, the Estonian chocolate company which owns the café, Maiasmokk is “the oldest constantly operational café in Estonia.” It has been operating in the same location since 1864. They have been using the same marzipan molds since the 19th century, hand molded and hand-painted.

Kalev also has an impressive history. Established in 1806, it is the biggest and oldest sweets company in Estonia. The main market is Estonia but they also export to neighboring countries. While in Finland, I had many cups of espresso accompanied by a Kalev chocolate. I bought a lovely selection of individual chocolates and some marzipan chocolate bars for friends back home. I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to actually give them away. I wanted to keep them all for myself.

The café was really busy so if you are in a hurry, go around the corner and you get to the part of the shops selling. The shop connects to the café through a hallway. There may be a line for chocolate, but the staff is really efficient so you won’t have to wait too long. I meant to make more shops of the walls which had old tins and memorabilia but I was really focused on buying chocolate.

Maiasmokk (“Sweet Tooth”) Museum
Mon-Fri 8 am-9 pm
Sat 9 am-9 pm
Sun 9 am-8 pm
Mon-Sat 10 am-9 pm
Sun 10 am-8 pm
Pikk tn 16, Tallinn
Telephone +372 64 64 079

Marzipan Motivation Inspiration
Fine detail
Sense of translucence of the marzipan
Very retro-style, makes me think of old Valentine’s Day cards

gingerbread_4_wIn Estonia gingerbread is called piparkoogid. They are a bit on the thin side and decorated with icing. I saw lots of gingerbread window decoration, cookies, houses and biscuits of all sorts. This store completely enchanted me. I bought several cookies. They were fabulous, bit on the spicy side maybe heavier molasses taste than I have been used to.

Gingerbread Genius Inspiration
The snowflakes completely blew me away. The idea that you could hang gingerbread as a kind of mobile seems so out of the box.

I’ve seen gingerbread houses before, but the window display of the town underneath the snowflakes mobiles was so thoroughly thought-out.

The gingerbread scenes remind me that you can build and be creative with many types of materials.

I’ve come back with lots of inspiration for polymer clay designs and a desire to do some Estello or toy photography with a set I’ve created instead of on location.

Window Mania
I’m ending this post with a gallery of other interesting window displays I saw in Tallinn.

Revisiting 15 Authors Who Influenced Me Because It’s My Birthday.

It’s weird when you come across things that you wrote a while ago. Reactions fall into two camps, Completely Cringeworthy or Still Resonating. It’s my birthday today and birthdays for me reflection. Usually I make a list of good and bad for the last year and make a list of goals for the next. But I came across an old post from three years ago and I decided to revisit and update it a tiny bit.

My friend, Missy Taylor, tagged me with this challenge to list fifteen authors “who have made some sort of lasting impact on [my] life, from early childhood to now, whether it was to make [me] read, write or both.”

Intriguing. It soon became apparent I had two categories: authors I love, authors who have caused a paradigm shift in the way I see the world. Here is the list sort of in the order I encountered the authors and the their work that influenced me.

Dr. Seuss: I Wish I Had Duck Feet
This is the first book I was able to read to myself and my siblings without help from an adult. The imagination of Seuss, the silliness and weirdly wonderful are a basis for my aesthetic today.

A.A. Milne: Winnie the Pooh
My mom gave me a hardcover. It was lovely. It had nice black and white illustrations. I loved them so much I wanted to color them. I did. Mom was not so happy. Coloring the pictures was my way to interact even more with the characters. Ernest H. Shepard, thank you for the lovely illustrations. I think this is the book that made me want a best friend. Piglet FOREVER!

Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach
I read this, then I read everything he wrote. I mean EVERYTHING! Similar to Dr. Seuss, Dahl’s way of seeing the world really affected me. I’m still attracted to the ludicrous and the darkly funny.

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey
Greek Mythology and the basis for thousands of plots in the future. And so begins an addiction to classics. I didn’t read the version I linked to, but I did read a rather kid-friendly version. I was a bit shocked to re-read it as an adult and see all the sexy stuff. Nothing wrong with the sexy stuff, it just surprised me that I just missed all that as a kid.

Anne McCaffrey: Dragon Song.
One of the first books I read with a strong, and actually interesting, female character. I don’t count Anne of Greene Gables. She was just way to girly for my tastes. Nancy Drew just seemed way too wealthy to be real. And then there is the McCaffery’s Pern series.

Frank Herbert: Dune
First there was Dune and way after there was Star Wars but that is not the order I experienced them. My first intro to complicated world building. I wanted to be Paul Atreides. Or date him. I think I spent hours trying to move just a single muscle like the Bene Gesserit. And Paul’s challenge of proving he was a human and not an animal by thinking instead of reacting to pain really challenges me to this day.

I also loved Herbert’s The White Plague. Scary book. Never piss off a geneticist who experiments with viruses.

Robert Browning: “My Last Duchess”
Okay, he is a poet, but still… MAJOR influence. This was the first dramatic monologue I encountered. Excellent example of people saying one thing and meaning it, but reality being completely different. I’d experienced that in life but to see it as a literary device blew my mind.

Ray Bradbury: “Sound of Thunder”
This is the story where the butterfly effect comes from. Pick anything by Bradbury. You won’t be disappointed.

Edgar Allen Poe: “The Cask of Amontillado”
Similar to “My Last Duchess” in terms of what is said and what is real. I imagine Poe must have scared himself so much he needed all those drugs just to be able to close his eyes. To be honest, that tv show, The Following, has kind of ruined Poe for me.

Isaac Asimov:
I think I have read everything that he wrote but I did so in my teens and twenties so now I don’t remember specific plots as much as I remember being in awe.

William Shakespeare: Macbeth
Macbeth is my favorite because I think that play is all about choices. It’s what happens if you decide to believe in prophecy instead of making your own decision free and clear. Proof positive that a story that taps into human motivations will always be relevant. Humans are still fascinated with glimpses into their future, but I think that “knowing” your future means you give up the ability to make decisions based on your free will. The knowing influences you to make events fall out differently than you might if it were simply based on your beliefs. I suppose I’ve over simplified this but distill it to the core and I think this is what you get.

Ursula K LeGuin:The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Amazing story of choices and prices for our leisure. I’m not so into her other stuff. I never was able to finish The Wizard of Earthsea.

Jane Yolen:
Her fairytale reinventions are intriguing and inspiring. Real proof that a modern storyteller can use the same plot but it is ALL in the way you tell it.

Mary Jo Putney: The Rake
The Rake is a regency romance with a realistically flawed hero. He’s and alcoholic with some serious issues and a believable redemption. This is the first romance book I read where I thought, “I want to write romance!”

Amanda Quick a.k.a Jayne Anne Krentz: Reckless
Hello Regency! I think Reckless was the second regency romance I read after The Rake, then I got hooked on Amanda Quick. Really, I like them all and I read most of her books during a summer in San Diego. I also like how her heroes were never really described in minute detail. I think her heroes and her heroines are not particularly beautiful, but they are beautiful to each other and that is more interesting. Suddenly, historical fiction was fun! I based almost a whole trip to London on visiting places I encountered in her novels.

I’d love to read what the 15 is for others. You don’t have to add commentary, but it would make it much more interesting.

Playlist Your Work Habits

A few days ago I wrote a post about music and work habits.

This evening has been an editing evening and I thought I’d share another playlist.

Finally Moving by Pretty Lights is a song I really like to listen to. Electric hip hop soul. Great for thinking or writing a rainy scene set in the city. Maybe you have another idea. I love listening to this song when driving in the car at night except it makes my husband sleepy. He drives and I don’t so that is a problem.

Frohlocker is a staple.  I was listening to Hipbrass and decided to move onto Malaga-la-la-la (Frohlocker’s Sweet Duck Edit). Frohlocker tags are funk, latin, and world music. Hipbrass is a bit more contemplative, a kind of techno-swing but with a steady beat. Malaga-la-la-la is pure energy. Better for cleaning my room. I’m going to try playing it when I’m getting ready for work tomorrow.

I adore Cinnamon Girl by Dunkel Bunt. I think if you can listen to this electro swing song and not become cheerful, there is something seriously wrong. But there are lyrics which, while fun, make it a song for doing something other than writing.

Chambermaid Swing by Parov Stelar cheers me up immensely. I always imagine some kind of heist. It’s been integral to writing an action scene in my graphic novel. Libella Swing by Parov Stelar also will do but it’s less vivid in my imagination.

And more or less, that takes care of tonight’s playlist… except for the Def Lepard and TopGun 80’s flashback that somehow got on my genius playlist.

As always, if you have songs that motivate you or work for you in certain situations, share them and what they do for you.

Burning Out Inspiration: Music While You Work

Music while you work, inspiration or irritation?

I thought everyone liked to listen to music while they worked. Then one day I talked to a friend who said he needs complete quiet to work. It was a revelation to me.

I can deal with a lot of background noise when I’m working on something. But lately, when it comes to music, I’m paying a lot more attention to what I’m listening to in relation to how much I can get done. The results have been interesting.

If it’s housework or working out I need strong beat, vocals are fine and fun. TV in the background is a no-no. I will sit down and watch.

If it’s photography or illustration, anything can be playing in the background. It all pretty much just fades to a buzz.

If I’m writing, music with vocals is the kiss of death to getting anything done. Lyrics get in the way of the words I want to get out of my head. But writing in silence makes me sleepy. I’ve tried to keep writing even when I’m nodding off and the results are not good. Once I sort out the typos, I still end up with unrelated ramblings. This is not redundant. Often my ramblings are at least on the same tangent. Not so when I am almost asleep.

Finding music that inspires me and keeps me awake but doesn’t distract me has been a problem. Movie soundtracks are often the solution for me. When I find something that works, I end up listening to it over and over until I burn it out and can’t listen to it anymore.

My current burnout target is Nero on the album Archangel by Two Steps from Hell. I first heard it when looking at a video of an image developed in Photoshop. The song has a really nice cinematic scope to it and definitely keeps me interested and awake yet able to focus on my own words.

Current Playlist

Nero on by Two Steps from Hell on Archangel

Work by Clint Mansell from The Fountain soundtrack I love every song on this album. It’s not happy music but it’s amazing.

Victor’s Piano Solo by Danny Elfman on The Corpse Bride Soundtrack  Not a big fan of the whole soundtrack but I love piano.

Ruthless Gravity by Craig Armstrong on As If To Nothing

Death is the Road to Awe, The Fountain

Liz on Top of the World by Jea-Yves Thibaudet on Pride and Prejudice soundtrack I bought this album for this song.

Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18: 1. Moderato, Rachmaninov

Any Chopin Nocturne  I love Chopin. Music for all moods.

L’Autre Valse d’Amelie by Yaan Tiersen Amelie Soundtrack I have burnt this one out so bad I couldn’t listen to it for a couple years.

O-Kagura from the Zato Ichi soundtrack The soundtrack is fascinating and the finale of tap dancing in geta is also worth watching.

Dracula soundtrack the the  Cronos Quartet. DEFINITELY check this out. It’s music from the silent film Dracula.

Blood + soundtrack. Yes, it’s anime but the music is good. A local TV station even uses some tracks as BGM for variety shows and news.

So what music works for you? Is it all good or all a distraction? Do you burn out your inspiration music?

Share your creative work playlist!

Motivational Snail Poster!

This was made from a photo I took along the Tamagawa. I created it for a little snail back-talk to tack on the end of my post Snail Geometry.

But remove it from the back-talk context and I think it’s pretty motivational. I can’t help it. I just had to give this its own post. Because nothing is more motivational that a snail!

When it comes to motivational pictures or quotes I need something unconventional. Footprints in the sand at sunset with some humbling quote meant to remind me about my place in the world really gets my back up. The famous “Hang in There” kitty just about drives me nuts. As much as I love animals, when I see that poster, I always wish the kitty would drop the wire and find something else to occupy its time.

Hmmm… I see a top five motivational images or quotations post in my future.

And you? What kind of stuff works for you? What gets you motivated?


Supermoon. Image by Gladson Machado, May 6, 2012

A project I am working on requires some research about the moon and its effect on Earth. The moon fascinates me because of the variety of things to follow: physics, geology and superstition. Each subject on its own makes interesting reading, but mix them together? The possibilities for stories multiply!

My current passion has to do with supermoons. A supermoon occurs when the moon in in perigee (closest point to Earth in moon’s orbit) and full. If a full moon is not also in perigee it is not a supermoon. A supermoon will appear fourteen percent larger and thirty percent brighter. The size difference may not be so noticeable, but the difference in brightness is.

The occurrence of natural disasters is linked to the appearance of the supermoon but no hard science has been found to back up these claims. Of course, perigee and full moons affect the tides and the combination of the two events do even more so, but the changes in the water level is not considered numerically significant world wide. There have been claims that link supermoons to the Tohoku Earthquake last year and the 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Science doesn’t really support the claims. I find it fascinating that people will jiggle their guidelines for cause and effect to fit the two events together. But yea or nay, I’m still enjoying the reading.

I happened on this article about supermoons.

Think bad things don’t happen during a full moon? Consider the quote below.

As TIME’s Michael D. Lemonick reported earlier this year, two physicists found that the combination of the moon’s perigee with Earth’s closest approach to the sun on Jan. 3, 1912, could have been responsible for the Titanic’s sinking that April. The combined gravity of this positioning led to a cycle of unusually high and low tides, Lemonick explained. In fact, the tides were higher than they’d been in hundreds of years, helping set free icebergs that were usually grounded and send them on a collision course toward the ill-fated ocean liner.

That full moon may not have sunk the Titanic per se, but if, as with many things on the earth, small changes can trigger bigger events maybe there is a link. Given the long odds and confluence of all these things; the astrological events, the high tides, the path of an iceberg through a vast ocean, human error, happening to sink a ship, it can be hard to ignore the idea of fate. With our human compulsion to seek, and sometime impose, order on random events, no wonder we have so many superstitions about the full moon.

Me Versus My Inner Critic


The beginning of August was spent purging my house of old documents and images, old clothes, old things and old ideas. I’d spent the summer away from home and coming back I felt bogged down by the presence of stuff that needed to be used or released. If I could recycle things or give them away, I did.

After my space was purged,  I felt lighter but I still felt something was missing.  Since I was heading to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a week’s holiday it seemed that this might be a great time to do a mental purge while sitting by a pool.

I grabbed some of the documents about writer’s block and care for the creative soul  that survived my purge and away I went.

The thing that I have a hard time with when it comes to tips about writer’s block or motivation is hat they all seem to be really common sense things. I always feel like I know this stuff, so why aren’t I doing this already? Ah, if anyone could really answer this.

One set of exercises that caught my attention was a handout from seminar I went to by Robin D. Owens in 2006 (or 2007?) about dealing with the inner critic. There were a bunch of writing exercises to analyze the source of the inner critic and then exercises for affirmations to exorcise the inner critic. The exercise that resonated with me the most was not a writing exercise but to draw your inner critic. You see the result above.

The image gave me a lot more to think about compared to the writing exercises. I could probably go back and do a better job on the written things now. So all of this is food for thought, especially about how I need to work.

Ironically, this is the most creative thing I did this holiday. I had brought a set of wax-oil and water color crayons to do some sketches of scenes in Kuala Lumpur and I never got around to drawing the scenery. I spent a lot of time beside the pool working on this image. I have some good photos of Kuala Lumpur, but this drawing is a better memento of my trip. Every time I look at this drawing, I remember vignettes of the city. More importantly the drawing  represents a time I had to relax, reflect and be meta about being creative.

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