Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Full Ferry Moon - July

Actually it is the Full Buck Moon, but since I saw Brian Ferry live tonight...

"oooooh catch that buzz... love is the drug I'm thinking of."

Liz, Darcy, Rob & I at Massey Hall. Great music. I remember feeding quarters into the jukebox to listen to this one over and over.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I ended my week-long staycation with a weekend on the Island.

July 15, Rob and I dropped anchor for the first time of the season. Better late than never! Then Saturday night at Queen City Yacht club.

The Island was busy, with the Festival of India, a Comicon meet-up, family picnics and summer parties. During the day there were smiles everywhere, and the city sparkled at night. Such diversity - of ethnicities, languages, ages, cultures, styles of dress. Sikh men in colourful turbans seated at a picnic table next to a crowd of girls dressed in anime costumes and next to that Trinidadians dancing. Hare Krishnas handing out food and Baptists singing by the shore. A happy place where everyone seemed to be celebrating summer.

Next weekend we will be off on a three week sailing tour of lake Ontario, so I was making notes on things that should come on and off the boat for our get-away. Can't wait!

Grated honeydew melon with lichee liqueur. Delicious!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Yoga in the Heart of the City

A week of yoga mornings and afternoon holidays! Yoga in the Heart of the City.  Every year since 2010 I have made the get-away with Marlene at YCT: an hour of pranayama followed by an hour and half of asana. 

The intent is to open the heart, and the sequences focus on keeping the chest lifted.  At the end of the week I feel totally uplifted and renewed. 

I do love inversions and backbends, and since the focus was on opening the heart, there were lots in the sequences. We ended the week with forward bends and twists, and found the backbends in those as well.


Each yoga intensive I find myself doing something that surprises and delights me. This morning we had been doing padmasana and then went to headstand variations that included half padmasana, and since I felt like doing a full urdhva padmasana, I did. The pose was really calling to me. I used to do this one as a kid all the time, and it was a bit of time travel for me. Fun, and exhilarating.
urdhva padmasana

That word, 'exhilerating,' I just realized how close it is to exhale. Inhalation and exhalation are the twin building blocks of pranayama, according to Iyengar. We practiced viloma breathing and kumbhaka, focusing first on inhaling and then exhaling, and observing the different affects.

I experienced how focusing and deepening the inhale is energizing, while focusing on the exhale more relaxing. 

Notes/ set-ups for future pranayama reference:
- for reclined pranayama: 5 blocks (four flat and one as a pillow)
- for seated pranayma: bolster with a blanket and plank on top, blanket wrapped around ankles for increased comfort + seated on a foam block, with legs through back of metal chair and wrists resting against the chair back

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis has been bedtime reading for awhile. I put the book on library hold after learning about it in The Happy Film and have now renewed it the maximum number of times.

Some ideas and quotes from dog-eared pages:

Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing.
- Shakespeare

If Passion drives, let Reason hold the reigns.
- Benjamin Franklin

A wise man chooses not the greatest quantity of food but the most tasty.
- Epicurious

The keys to flow (total immersion and effortless movement): there is a clear challenge that fully engages your attention; you have the skills to meet the challenge; and you get feedback on how you are doing at each step.
- Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "cheeks sent me high")

Many think that people have internal 'set points' for their levels of happiness, and that some people are just born with sunnier dispositions than others. Evidence does bear this out. However, some positive psychologists have come up with a "Happiness formula":  H = S + C + V. The level of Happiness you experience (H) is determined by your biological set point (S) plus the conditions of your life (C), plus the voluntary activities you do (V).
Lyubomirsky / Sheldon / Schkade / Seligman

Gratifications are activities that engage you fully, draw on your strengths, and allow you to lose self-consciousness. Gratifications can lead to flow. Know your own strengths and use them. Choose your own gratifying activities, do them regularly, (but not to the point of tedium), and raise your overall level of happiness. Take the free survey.

Those who think money can't buy happiness just dont know where to shop. Stop wasting money on conspicuous consumption. Work less, earn less, and "consume" more family time, vacations, and other enjoyable activities.
- Robert Frank

Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
- Lau Tzu

The life of cerebral reflection and emotional indifference advocated by many Greek and Roman philosophers and that of calm non-striving advocated by Buddha are lives devoid of passion, and a life without passion is not a human life. Yes, attachments bring pain, but they also bring our greatest joys.
- Robert Solomon

During one of my book shelf purges, I got rid of the book Healthy Pleasures, which I'd purchased in 1990. At the time, it was one of the few titles on the subject. Now, there are probably hundreds of books published every year on the topic. There is only one copy in the Toronto Public Library, and that is in the Reference section so can't be checked out. I wish I'd held onto my original, because it started me thinking in a very concrete way about things I could do to boost my level of happiness. 

The Time Special Edition, The Science of Happiness, explores some of the same themes published in that book almost thirty years ago.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Choose Your Own Graphic Novel

I've always been intrigued by graphic novels, and so for the Book Babes book club, picked the theme of Choose Your Own. We met down at BPYC at the end of a hot, muggy day and the lake was mercifully cooling. There were six of us, and I complemented the evening with sushi, saki and Japanese beer. 

Everyone brought one or two books along to talk about, and the table was strewn with hardcovers and paperbacks.

Book club titles:
  • The Complete Don Quixote
  • Ghost World, Daniel Clowes
  • Suzanna Moodie Roughing it in the Bush, Carol Shields, Patrick Cross, illustrated by Selena Goulding
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engles
  • Gargamel and the Smurfs, by Peyo
  • Bird in a Cage, Rebecca Roher
  • Mom Body, Rebecca Roher
  • Fun Home, a Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel
  • Are You my Mother, Alison Bechdel

To prepare for the meeting, I binged on several more:
  • Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast
  • Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future, by Lauren Redniss 
  • Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories, by Gabrielle Bell
  • Logicomix, by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou
  • Happy Marriage Series (Manga), by Maki Enjoji
  • Sex Criminals (Volume One), by Fraction and Zdarsky
  • Burning Building Comix, by Jeff Zwirek
  • Sloth, by Gilbert Hernandez 
  • Melody: Story of a Nude Dancer, by Sylvie Rancourt 

Happy Marriage, translated from the Japanese, demanded pages be turned right to left, with thought balloons and sound effects reversed from the usual pattern. Burning Building Comix provided the choice of exploring apartments and characters twelve panels down, or across. Thunder and Lightning was one of those beautiful books that could be opened to any page.

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future
Many of the books had linear stories and plot lines, but even then, the page needed to approached in a different way. I usually found my eye taking in the pictures and then the text, but most often there was a ricochet, back and forth and back and forth.

Such a mix of styles and themes: fantasy, memoir, history, philosophy, geography, science, suspense.

In the Happy Marriage manga I read, the heroine tried to figure out if her husband desired her enough to consummate their arranged marriage. There are ten volumes in the series/soap opera, with kidnappings and crazy family members and corporate intrigue. Fun and silly, but I stopped after one.

Logicomix recounted the life and philosophy of Bertrand Russell. Others were sheer fantasy, like Sex Criminals, where the hero and heroine gained the superpower of invisibility after they orgasm (they used the power for good though, to steal money from a bank to keep their local library open).

More poignant was Roz Chast's memoir of taking care of her aged parents, and how honest she was as she confronted her emotional struggles with her parents as an adult and child. 

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
The form is perfect for playing with time, moving back and forth between future and past. It also worked when playing a scene and getting inside someone's head - how people might say one thing and be thinking another simultaneously.

Use of colour sometimes seemed a budgetary constraint, with pages left in black and white or shades of grey when vivid colour could have brought things to life. As a medium the graphic novel allows the author a level of expression and independence that might not be so accessible in film.

Exploring graphic novels was a nice break from the usual texts I read, and I'll keep browsing library shelves for more possibilities.