Sunday, July 22, 2012

Heath Ledger and Insomnia

Insomnia can make your life miserable. A living hell. You try to catch a quick nap with maybe a beer or wine to help, but that doesn't work.  Your doctors don't take the problem seriously. Ambien, diazepam, Ativan, valium--you try it all.  Your brain is in 5th gear but your body is exhausted. Unfortunately, your tolerance for drugs increases and you need more pills. At the start, you only used two and now it is up to six, with a shot of whiskey on the side. If you are lucky that should give you 3-5 hours of sleep.

I too have had insomnia for years.  I guess Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole, Marilyn Monroe and Heath Ledger suffered through sleeplessness too. I wish insomnia were treated as a 'disease'.  I know my insomnia is caused by my multiple sclerosis which affects the brain---sometimes my ankles move involuntarily for hours.  All that can sure keep me wide awake. I have medications to help me sleep and I could not sleep without them.  Insomnia can kill us! Too many pills, too much alcohol, driving a car while exhausted, a bad fall, a swim in a pool after taking sleeping pills.  A friend of my mother's drowned in her bathtub after taking her pills and a glass of wine.

Heath describes over and over how he could not sleep. I wish people had listened to Heath and realized that his insomnia was killing him.  Insomnia is serious.  It is not a joke.  One day it will be treated as a real symptom and we will lose fewer Heaths to sleep medication overdoses!

In a New York Times interview, published on 4 November 2007, Ledger told Sarah Lyall that his recently completed roles in I'm Not There (2007) and The Dark Knight (2008) had taken a toll on his ability to sleep: "Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night. ... I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." At that time, he told Lyall that he had taken two Ambien pills, after taking just one had not sufficed, and those left him in "a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing."

Prior to his return to New York from his last film assignment, in London, in January 2008, while he was apparently suffering from some kind of respiratory illness, he reportedly complained to his co-star Christopher Plummer that he was continuing to have difficulty sleeping and taking pills to help with that problem: "Confirming earlier reports that Ledger hadn't been feeling well on set, Plummer says, 'we all caught colds because we were shooting outside on horrible, damp nights. But Heath's went on and I don't think he dealt with it immediately with the antibiotics... I think what he did have was walking pneumonia.' On top of that, 'He was saying all the time, 'dammit, I can't sleep'... and he was taking all these pills to help him.' "

In talking with Interview magazine after his death Ledger's former fiancée Michelle Williams also confirmed reports the actor had experienced trouble sleeping. "For as long as I'd known him, he had bouts with insomnia. He had too much energy. His mind was turning, turning turning – always turning."

Turning, turning no more. RIP Heath. Now you can sleep.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leonardo di Caprio is the Great Gatsby!

 Perfection. Leonardo is cast as Jay in the upcoming movie the Great Gatsby. It's not just the way he looks on camera in this role, it is his innate ability to become the wealthy man in 1925--with all the shiny benefits and the dark side that accompanies the good parts.. Leonardo understands well the edge of the sword rich men have to teeter on. One slip and they are down.

 It does not matter what era, the precipice is always there beckoning.  Alcohol often helps push toward the wrong road. But it is so much fun--at the time. 

I cannot wait to see the movie but will re-read the book first.

Note-This blogger got to experience a lot of the extremely wealthy side of life in New Haven, Connecticut USA. Our house had a full working bar with tables in the basement where my grandmother held parties during prohibition. There was a lot of drinking that I remember too even after WW2 when my mom, sis, dad and I all moved into 239 Everit. .

A sad note- both my grandmother and uncle who was attending Yale ran over two men in New Haven in separate accidents, killing both. I know my Yalie uncle must have been drunk.

More  Details-
The Great Gatsby is a novel by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The book was first published in
1925, and it republished in 1945 and 1953. There are two settings for the novel: on Long Island's North Shore, and in New York City. The book is set in 1922 from the spring to the autumn.

The Great Gatsby takes place during a prosperous time in American History. In 1922, America
has fully recovered from the First World War, and is enjoying prosperity during the Roaring
Twenties, when the economy soared and emotions ran high. Yet, at the same time, Prohibition,
the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, was gaining traction.The ban on alcohol made millionaires out of bootleggers, who smuggled in the now-illegal substance. 
That scenario is the backdrop for the novel, which contributed to its popularity.

The Cover Story
The cover of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of jacket art in American literature. A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel, with Fitzgerald so enamored of it that he told his publisher he had "written it into" the novel.

Fitzgerald's remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that
the eyes are reminiscent of those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (the novel's erstwhile optometrist on a
faded commercial billboard near George Wilson's auto repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as
"blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from
a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose."

Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the "girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs".Ernest Hemingway recorded in A Moveable Feast that when Fitzgerald lent him a copy of The Great Gatsby to read, he immediately disliked the cover, but "Scott told me not to be put off by it, that
it had to do with a billboard along a highway in Long Island that was important in the story. He
said he had liked the jacket and now he didn't like it."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Art Rises From Destruction in Baghdad~Iraqi Artist Qasim Sabti and the Phoenix Create Collages from Remnants of Burned Books

(Reuters) - As Baghdad burned, Iraqi artist Qasim Sabti headed for one of the places he loved the most - the Academy of Fine Arts - only to find thousands of its books and archives on fire.
It was April 2003 and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, begun in March, had reached the capital.
Sabti, who had seen the blaze from his balcony in central Baghdad, recounts the destruction of 6,000 books on art and how he tried to recover just a handful from the flames.
"I tried to save a Russian landscape book. I loved it, I always looked at Russian artists for how to do landscapes and used them to teach my students," he said.
"I see this book and this huge fire, so I put my hand out to save this book. The fire touched my fingers and the text fell into the fire and the only the cover of the book stayed in my hand."
The loss of the books was a huge blow for the academy, which had struggled to build up its collection in recent years as a result of sanctions and meager funding.
But for Sabti, the damaged books also became a source of artistic inspiration that stayed with him for nearly a decade.
"When I looked at this cover, I saw something artistic - the secret life of the text," he said, pointing to the delicate webbed binding of a hardback book, dissected by fire and water.
Sabti used pieces of the books to create angular abstract collages, layering the tactile covers with pages and paint.

The 58-year-old encourages visitors to his small gallery in Baghdad to touch the artworks and stare closely at pieces that make up the works, such as a librarian's stamp or scribbled Arabic notes in the margins. He later started printing enlarged images of the books on canvas.

Since 2003 he has held exhibitions in Paris, New York, Tokyo and Kyoto. In his home country artists struggle more than ever to make a living, if they remain in Iraq at all, he said.
"Very few people have stayed. It is like we are the Last of the Mohicans," he said from his gallery, which exhibits paintings and sculptures from Iraqi artists.
Frequent power cuts mean that Iraq's ceramics tradition has all but died out, Sabti said, gesturing towards a handful of small pieces in the gallery made by one of the teachers at the academy.
"It has been 10 years without ceramics. There are maybe now five ceramic artists in all of Iraq. Maybe before you could find 500."
Baghdad now hosts only two private galleries, he said, whereas before 2003 there were more than 20. Officials, middle class Iraqi families and foreign visitors have fled, leaving a dwindling number of people who might promote or buy art.
While violence has eased in Iraq from its post-war peak in 2006-7 when sectarian attacks killed tens of thousands, a series of recent bombings has highlighted the huge security challenges still facing the country.
Last month at least 237 people were killed and 603 wounded in attacks, mainly bombings, making June one of the bloodiest months since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of last year.
Yet there is a glimmer of hope for Sabti and his peers. Last week the government promised him funding for 24 exhibitions in his gallery to showcase the country's artistic talent. He says it the first time he has ever been offered state funding.
"Because there used to be many visitors interested in art I did not care if the government helped me or not. Now, really, we need some help," he said.
"I have not got this money yet, when I have it, I will say that help has come.".

Monday, July 9, 2012

Red Leggings-Art by Edwin White


Edwin White (born, South Hadley, Massachusetts 1817; died Saratoga Springs, New York 1877) was an American painter who studied in Paris, Rome, and Florence and later 
taught at the National Academy of Design, in New York.
Works by White, mostly in storage, are in the collections of Yale; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; New-York Historical Society.

A notable moment in White's career was noted in October, 1855, when he met the painter Sanford Robinson Gifford in Paris and told Gifford that he was about to return to New York, was destitute, had no commissions, and might have to return to portrait painting. However, when White did return to his NY studio, he went to work on his Mayflower painting, which he sold off the easel for $1,000, and a new and successful stage of his career was launched. His painting of Washington resigning was painted on commission by the state of Maryland, for $6,000, when White had returned to Paris.
The Mayflower painting was the basis for a 5-cent stamp issued in 1920 as part of the Pilgrim Tercentenary.An apparently later, unfinished painting of the same subject, from 1867, was left by the artist to Yale, and the university art museum has a collection of some 24 sketches White made preparatory to painting.
The artist was cousin to Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell University. 

Influential works
The Compact of the Mayflower 1855-56
Washington Resigning his Commission c. 1858
Pocahontas Informing John Smith of the Conspiracy of the Indians
Major Anderson Raising the Flag at Fort Sumter 1862.

Minor works
Fisher boy, Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut. A lovely, sentimental genre subject of a boy and his dog.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Impact of Compassion-Alameda Sangha July 8th 7-9pm

Sunday, July 8th: Impact of Compassion 7-9pm
Alameda Sangha
Buena Vista United Methodist Church,
2311 Buena Vista Ave.Alameda, CA. 94501
All welcome

Anthony will be leading the group this Sunday,
The topic that he will bring up this week is the impact of compassion.
There are many different angles from which he would like to approach this subject.
Some of these include: how our compassion impacts others, how our compassion impacts our own lives,
how the compassion of others affects ourselves, how an attitude of compassion can impact awareness
of each arising moment, and more.
As a reflection prior to Sunday, Anthony would invite you to think about the phrase'Impact of Compassion.' How do you hear it? What does it mean for you? What questions do you have?
I hope to see many of you this Sunday evening, and I wish you a good end of the week,

Alameda Sangha
Every Sunday at Buena Vista United  Methodist 2311 Buena Vista Ave Alameda Ca 94501
The Alameda Sangha is a place to practice and discuss mindfulness meditation and Buddhist teachings. Founded in 2008, today we are led by three teachers of the Theravada tradition, 
Pauletta M. Chanco, Rebecca Dixon, and Anthony Rodgers. Find more about our teachers here on our website.
We meet Sunday evenings from 7-9 pm at the Buena Vista United Methodist Church,
2311 Buena Vista Ave. in Alameda, CA. Please find directions or contact us at our website.

Visit our blog for practice guidance and past dharma talks.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alameda Sangha - Peace in Every Moment

 Peace in Every Moment


Monthly Yoga
Dina Hondrogen, a sangha member, offers 45 minutes of yoga before our regular meeting on the last Sunday of each month. Yoga can aid settling in and deepening your practice experience. 

Please read more about Dina and the practice offered here

The Alameda Sangha is a place to practice and discuss mindfulness meditation and Buddhist teachings. 
Founded in 2008, today we are led by three teachers 
of the Theravada tradition, Pauletta M. Chanco, 
Rebecca Dixon, and Anthony Rodgers. Find more 

We meet Sunday evenings from 7-9 pm at the
Buena Vista United Methodist Church,
 2311 Buena Vista Ave. in Alameda, CA. Please find 

Visit our blog for practice guidance and past dharma talks.

Meeting Schedule

  •  1 Pauletta        Upekkha
  •  8 Anthony        Impact of Compassion
  • 15 Pauletta        Urgency to Practice - Reference Sutta
  • 22 Rebecca*     Moods & Attitudes
  • 29 Anthony       Reviewing the Path

* Please note that on nights when Rebecca teaches, the meeting will be held from 7:00 - 8:30 pm.

TBA - To Be Announced

Japanese Internees and Internment Camps in Turlock CA 1940s

There were many internment camps out here in Turlock, California. Doesn't this photo capture the profound sadness of these boys? They are not forgotten!'

"The temporary detention camps (also known as 'assembly centers') represent the first phase of the mass incarceration of 97,785 Californians of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Pursuant to Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, thirteen makeshift detention facilities were constructed at various California racetracks, fairgrounds, and labor camps. 

These facilities were intended to confine Japanese Americans until more permanent concentration camps, such as those at Manzanar and Tule Lake in California, could be built in isolated areas of the country. Beginning on March 30, 1942, all native-born Americans and long-time legal residents of Japanese ancestry living in California were ordered to surrender themselves for detention. 

The Turlock Assembly Center was at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in the town of Turlock. Occupied from April 30 to August 12, it held a total of 3,699 evacuees from the Sacramento River delta and Los Angeles areas."  


Info on what is going on today to rectify this:

Thursday, July 5, 2012