Thursday, October 8, 2009

Still Alice - book review

I usually write about the books that impress me in some way- good or bad, and I couldn't but share my thoughts on this one, because I feel it's really important to let people know about it, read it, think about it and their lives.

This is not one of the books you love.
This is one of the books you appreciate exists.
I highly recommend the book for the value of the author's experience shared on the pages,not for it's value as a piece of literature.

This is a book that every person should read, no matter personally affected or not by the disease and it's mandatory for the people who are experiencing the disease or have relatives suffering from it.

However, the author is everything but a writer. The same topic would be better written by many other writers, without the scientific knowledge Lisa Genova offers. The characters are not likable and in places I felt like she treated them unfairly by forcing them to act unnaturally. This I think is due to a lack of experience in writing, maybe her next book will be better, who knows, but I really hope she writes with a co-author that writes better than her. She can contribute immensely to understanding the disease, but although you can see her compassion for the people who suffer from it, she can't recreate it in writing.

Her characters are mechanic, the emotions are like statements, overall the book feels like a raw material. Which is not necessary a bad thing, if she improves her way of writing.

The book was engaging most of the time, although sometimes I felt like the author included scenes that she even wasn't sure why, just for the purpose of having them. They didn't build the character or benefit the book in any way.

The book is like one of those none-sugarcoated pills that you have to take and you know it's going to make you better ( and give you understanding in this case), but you'll have to taste the bitter wrapper of it.

Read it! You won't regret it!
Even if it's not the best piece of literature you've read, it might be the book that will change you forever!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Native American Festival Saratoga 2009- Part II

As a person who appreciates and creates art, I cannot but be pleasantly surprised that in times like this, when it is so difficult for everybody, there are people who are really blessed to to be able to earn bread and butter with their unique talents.
I feel so inspired and so motivated by what I saw at the festival, that I really wanted to share with you the amazing work of these people.

You might think that the child-like excitement is unusual for me but I am really extatic about the things I learned and the people I met and I deeply admire the talents of each and every one of them.

You can check out here the first part of this article.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was the pottery of Ada Jacques ( Onondaga, Turtle Clan). Here pottery is not just like a regular pottery. You can see the spirit of the past in them, telling you stories from long ago.

These amazing baskets were in Kenneth Thompson's vendor booth.

Here are some “bells” as well:

Can you imagine the amount of detail in these?! They are very small! Inconceivable!

Then I stumbled upon this talented lady's booth and saw here making a turtle totem pole, right there! It was so unbelievable watching her work that I didn't want to bother her with questions, but a little boy was so interested in the totems that she left here work and started explaining what a totem means and why it has turtles, how you make one etc.
Here totem poles were beautiful works of art! Her name is Andree Dennis Newton and she makes many more things, not only totem poles.
The things you see here are Adirondack Spirit Gourd masks. Preparation of the hard shell gourds involves wetting them down, scrubbing clean the outer shell, cutting, soaking, and scraping the interior, and then drying them again before beginning the mask facing. The gourds are colored with stains, oils, acrylics, and sand, then adorned with unique materials including feathers, horse hair, porcupine quills, glass, stone, bone, beads, and tamarack cones, as she writes in her website.

I believe this purse is hers too:

The amazing bone bracelets and chokers are some of the things that were plenty and from beautiful to incomparable. They were worn as ornamentation and for protection too ( They provided physical protection of the neck and the jugular vein during battle and fighting ). Bone chokers varied in style from tribe to tribe. Usually they are made from hair pipe bones,leather strips and both glass and metal beads.

I found this amazing article on bone chokers, that explained that on top of physical protection, bone chokers are also believed to provide spiritual protection of the voice. By wearing it, the spirits of the animal they come from can provide protection from all kinds of sicknesses.

It is also believed that the spirit will also provide you great speaking ability, to speak from the heart so to say. In this article the author was explaining that there is a different meaning for each strand the choker has:
1) One God
2) Affirmation
3) Completeness
4) Earthly Situations/Seasons/The Four Directions.
5) God On Top
6) Human Accomplishment
7) Spiritual Perfection
8) New Beginning

Take a look at the website, it has very interesting information you might like!
And what is a native American festival without dream catchers? The dream catchers are believed to entangle in their “web” the bad dreams and slip the good ones through the center whole. Check out this very interesting legend about the dream catchers.


I have always been fond of dolls, but the Native American ones hold a special charm for me. Made out of clay by Tammy Tarbell-Boehning these are the dream of every girl- big or small and an amazing collectible too!

Made by hand, the uniqueness of these dolls just stuns you!

One of the big surprises of the festival for me was this craft, that I had never imagined to be done this way! Michael and Tonia” Iakonikonriio” Galban are an artistic duo in craft and real life too.
The craft that Michael was demonstrating was porcupine quill work. You can read more about it on Michel and Tonia's website here.
I asked Michael to demonstrate for me how exactly he does it and he gladly obliged.
First, he soaks the quills, then he cut's the ends and then he sews them on piece of leather.
The amount of work you put in such a piece is breathtaking! He said that it takes 25-35 hours to finish a piece! He is making reproductions for museums, historic sites, movies and private collectors.

Talking about talented people, check out this video that was made on of James Durand Flint Knapper, introducing the Ishi Stick and who it was named after on the day of the Native American Festival.

He was even nice enough to let me capture him work. He is self taught, can you believe this?!

This was his booth:
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Check out his videos on YouTube about arrowheads and more.

Steven John, Master craftsmen, Artis, Sculptor and Stone/Wood/Bone Carver as he describes himself blew me away with the detailed work on such a hard media to work with as bone is.

Just look at those antlers!

A very talented master flute maker and recording artist Al Cleveland shared his knowledge of flutes in the morning part of the festival.

I have listened to him and I was thinking....I always loved music. I myself play the piano a little bit, but always enjoyed others to play for me better. However, I have a thing for flutes and bagpipes. If there is an instrument that I believe plays right from the hearth and into the soul...I believe that is the fluite. Don't believe me? Check out his CD and then tell me about it!!!

Aren't they beautiful?

Last but not least of the vendors I want to tell you about two people who devoted their lives to preserve the tradition of Abenaki basket making. Sherry and Bill Gould are Western Abenaki Brown Ash basket makers, making their baskets the traditional way. I had the privilege to watch them both work and I was amazed how simple yet effective this method is!
Bill makes a tiny cut, then with a wooden hammer hammers on top of the wood and thing strip peels off the tree.
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Then Sherry moistens and cuts the strips down to the size splint needed for any given basket.


Two artists also captured my attention.
David Kanietakeron Fadden ( Mohawk painter and storyteller from the Wolf clan) who grew up in a traditional family of artists, naturalists and storytellers. His illustrations have appeared in books, periodicals, animations, and the Discovery Channel’s “How the West Was Lost: Always the Enemy.”
Here is one of his books for children, When the Shadbush Blooms


The second painter was Dawn Dark Mountain( Oneida tribe of Wisconsin), that had presented the most incredible watercolor paintings and prints I've EVER seen! Her work is so crisp and inviting, I don't believe anybody who sees it can easily forget it.
I encourage you to check out her website, you wouldn't regret it!

There was a lot of fun for the kids too! A whole tent of things like basket weaving with plastic cups, scavenger hunts, bead accessory, face painting etc.
The scavenger hunt was organized by Children and Nature Saratoga .
Check out their website, you can find out about awesome feature events for kiddos, books etc.

And since every good Native American festival needs storytellers and singers this one had plenty!
I want to mention the brilliant, engaging and amusing performances of James Bruchac, author, animal tracker, cultural eduator and wildernes expert( see picture left), Perry Ground ( see picture right), Kay Ionataiewas Olan, Kontiwennahawi ( women singers), David Kaniatakeron Fadden, Downland Singers, Nettukkusq Singers, Tom Obomsawin, Iron River Singers( check out their videos here ), Rez Dogs and Shenandoah Dancers.
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You can check out the videos feauturing some of the story tellers and musicians

I wish there was time to show you more, unfortunately there were so many people, that I would need to write a book to be able to fit them all in.

Next part would show the traditional dancing and a special post dedicated to a special person.

You can check out here the first part of this article.

Native American Festival Saratoga NY 2009- Part I

Native American Festival Saratoga 2009

As you know from my previous postings about it, this past weekend I attended the Native American Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY with the intention to write about it again.


Two years ago I have written an article in 2 parts on my blog, that you might find interesting, since it's very educational about the nature of the festival.


I would be very short on the Native American terminology and basic rituals, since I've already published that in 2007, because this time I spent significant amount of time talking to the people presenting their art and their crafts and I learned so much more about them, that I can't wait to share all this with you. I highly recommend you read post 1 and post 2 from 2 years ago, since it is quite different from this one and by knowing what the festival is all about it would make you appreciate this article even better.

Since the first time I've attended the festival in 2007 I was very eager to go again, because it was an experience I just can't compare to any other.
There are all kinds of festivals- different nationality, different cuisine, religion, even types of fruits and vegetables, and I have visited many, but not one of them had touched me in such a way, as the Native American Festival.

Some might say, it's just cultural thing, but it's not. It's the way you feel when you are there, it's the kinds of things you learn about the people around you and about yourself too. I admit I have cried at least 2 times when I was there and I laughed 200 times more, but most importantly, I've discovered a part of me, that I never new existed and a hunger I don't think can be easily satisfied. I want to know!


I want to know everything and I want to learn even more after that, because the Native American traditions and culture are as long as the longest river and as wide as the widest field multiplied by the size of the sky and the depth of the ocean.

I was so impatient to get there that I printed the wrong directions and we took a wrong turn. :-) For 10 min we were so close, yet not enough to the festival that I could almost feel it but not quite. I felt like a teenager on a date! :-)


We finally got there and now I have to mention that I want to say thank you to the people organizing the festival ( The Ndakinna Education Center& the Saratoga Spa State Park) for being so kind to provide me with a press pass for the event! Thank you!


My first impression was, that the festival grew smaller and not in the sense of size, but as attraction variety.
There were not as many dancers as before, there were a lot more storytellers and musicians and some of the demonstrations that I really liked ( like the Birds of pray, canoe making, wigwam presentation) were missing.

I wasn't disappointed! On the contrary, it kind of gave me a different perspective on the festival. When you go to a place like that, usually the vendors are just that- vendors. And here is the misconception that made me miss this important part of the festival the first time. I was so busy hoping on from attraction to attraction, from performer to the next, that I spent very little time in the vendors area, just casually going through it. True, I really liked the crafts, but that was about it.


This time, it really gave me the opportunity to go and talk to the people making these crafts. You wouldn't believe how much I learned! It was unbelievable to hear the stories they had to tell, to watch the way they were making their craft ( and there were a lot of them doing in on the spot!) and to my surprise they were even letting the people try and make it themselves!
It was totally different experience than the first time, but in the best sense possible.


The next post will show you dancers through my eyes- who I met, what I learned and how fascinating this experience was! Check it out by clicking here!

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