Torsten Krol's 2007 novel Callisto offers a brilliant, insightful, and hilarious look at modern day American politics, delivered in a highly unlikely package. Krol's narrator, Odell Deefus, is a naive, eccentric, and just plain dumb Kansas native who finds himself launched into a series of tremendously unfortunate events after his car breaks down en route to an Army recruitment center to join the fight in Iraq. His car troubles stop him in Callisto, where he meets Dean Lowry, a quiet and not-so-friendly local who offers to tow Odell's car the following morning.

After a few drinks, Dean opens up a bit more to the stranger he so generously offered shelter and a free tow. Odell shares his intention of signing up for the service, which causes Dean to share his own views on the state of US politics, involvement in Iraq, and even religion. Once excessive drink sends them both to bed, paranoia overcomes Odell who begins to suspect Dean of murderous intentions. These suspicions get Odell into the worst kind of trouble in the most accidental of ways - and things only grow progressively more troublesome from there.

Throughout the course of the novel, Odell gets wrapped up in drug trafficking, terrorist threats, televangelists, car bombs, murders, and even the FBI. Krol takes readers on a completely unpredictable and unexpected journey that is comical and satisfying. The author's commentary on the Bush administration (which was a primary intention in the creation of this novel) is cutting though often intriguingly veiled. Krol's unique blend of humorous political commentary offered within the confines of a novel narrated by a bumbling non-thinker makes for a most entertaining and one-of-a-kind novel that is more than worthy of all the praise it has come to receive.


Weekly Recap

Monday: Mike and I took a day trip to New York. We spent the majority of our time wondering around Central Park before Mike performed later that night at Caroline's on Broadway. Good times all around!

Tuesday: Though I was never a potato lover as a child, I've come to appreciate these tubers more and more in my adult years. The purple potato is one of my favorites - just slice them about 1/2 inch thick and saute with olive oil and plenty of salt for a delicious side dish. I couldn't resist taking a shot of this marbleized potato cross-section which reminded me of those cut-rock crystals you can buy at science stores and such.

 Friday: The zucchini just keeps on coming from my single squash plant out back. And, surprisingly enough, I have yet to tire of eating it sauteed with just olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Saturday: What to do when hurricane-preparedness warrants purchasing bread and milk in excess? Make a bread pudding of course!

*Apologies for the lack of photos as of late. I haven't been so good at capturing things this past week but I promise to get back on track for next week's review post!


Pumpkin Puree Possibilities!

I've been craving the flavors (and temperatures!) of fall lately. Since I've had an extra can of pumpkin puree in the back of my cabinet since last autumn, I thought I'd rush the season a bit (as I am quite wont to do) by making some delectable pumpkin treats!

While searching the vast and extensive Tastespotting archives for pumpkin dishes, I bookmarked quite a few intriguing possibilities. But I was absolutely sold when I came to this recipe for Pumpkin Challah Bread. One of my absolute favorite flavors fused with one of my favorite baked goods - what more could a girl ask for?

I also was pretty smitten with this one - a Lump Crab and Pumpkin Flatbread. Though lump crab is readily available in these parts, it isn't quite in my budget. I ended up just using the pumpkin sauce portion of the recipe as a base and utilizing whatever else I had on hand for toppings, including swiss chard, oyster mushrooms, chicken breast, and Parmesan cheese. The outcome was pretty tasty and made for a unique way to satisfy my pumpkin cravings!


The Last American Man: Eustace Conway

Long before Julia Roberts starred in the film version of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love, the name most closely associated with Gilbert's was Eustace Conway. A National Book Award Finalist, her book The Last American Man is in fact a biography of Eustace Conway, an environmentalist unlike any other.

I won't go into too much detail about the book other than to say that it is truly phenomenal. Gilbert became a frequent visitor to Conway's Turtle Island Preserve, a remote valley in the Carolinas where Conway teaches visitors how to live off the land and out of the city. Her story touches on all aspects of this remarkable but oftentimes impenetrable man's life, from his middle-class childhood to his seemingly radical brand of environmentalism and even his personal life. Eustace is the sort with whom few can form lasting, close relationships but whom many find truly inspiring. He plays the role of pioneer, modern-day Thoreau, environmental advocate, spokesman for the Earth, educator, welcoming host, and so many more. And I couldn't be more excited to meet him in just under a month's time!

Eustace hosts two free open houses each year, on top of the countless (but more costly) camps and events that run throughout the warmer months. Mike and I had talked about taking a visit down to Turtle Island for this past spring's open house, but with all the wedding hubbub it was not realistic to do so. Instead we've marked our calendars for this September's open house and have every intention of taking the trip down the last Sunday of the month.

Read more about Gilbert's book here. Read MSN's interview with Eustace here. Learn more about Turtle Island Preserve here. And below are a few quotes from Eustace and the book to give you a better idea of what Mr. Conway is all about.

"Show up for your own life…Don’t pass your days in a stupor, content to swallow whatever watery ideas modern society may bottle-feed you through the media, satisfied to slumber through life in an instant-gratification sugar coma. The most extraordinary gift you’ve been given is your own humanity, which is about consciousness, so honor that consciousness. Revere your senses; don’t degrade them with drugs, with depression, with willful oblivion. Try to notice something new every day…Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you’re not in the woods, be aware at all times. Notice what food tastes like; notice what the detergent aisle in the supermarket smells like and recognize what those hard chemical smells do to your senses; notice what bare feet feel like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is – your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbors, and this planet. Don’t pollute your soul with apathy or spoil your health with junk food any more than you would deliberately contaminate a clean river with industrial sludge.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, paraphrasing the philosophy of Eustace Conway in The Last American Man

"I live in nature where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is the planet around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and build my fire in a circle. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost site of that. I don’t live inside buildings because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn’t flow, and where life stops. I don’t want to live in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in a real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life. Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box. 
Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.
 - Eustace Conway

Man you guys have alot of material possessions. Just imagine if you took all the money you’ve spent on these things and traveled around the world with it instead." - Eustace Conway

…we Americans, through our constant striving for convenience, are eradicating the raucous and edifying beauty of our true environment and replacing that beauty with a safe but completely faux “environment”. … Clever, ambitious, and always in search of greater efficiency, we Americans have, in two short centuries, created a world of push-button, round-the-clock comfort for ourselves. But in replacing every challenge with a shortcut we seem to have lost something… We are an increasingly depressed and anxious people-and not for nothing. Arguably, all these modern conveniences have been adopted to save us time. But for what?…we can now fill these hours with? -Elizabeth Gilbert, paraphrasing the philosophy of Eustace Conway in The Last American Man


Weekly Recap: A Collection of Photos from Deep Creek Lake

This past Friday ended my week-long stint at Deep Creek Lake on vacation with the family. Our gorgeous lake-front house was the perfect hideaway for relaxing days spent on the dock, reading, and kayaking. We took plenty of trips to local artisan's shops and studios, area restaurants, and nearby Wisp resort to keep things interesting and wile away some of the rainier days. 

This vacation marked one of the best I've yet shared with my family. I've found that the older we've all grown, the more we (generally) seem to have fun together... until we all get on one another's nerves. But it was still an excellent opportunity to reconnect with the whole family as well as a perfect chance to work on getting some true, deep, and total relaxation.

Since coming home, I've also got to work on resurrecting my Tumblr. It's been a while since I've put much effort into it, so I apologize in advance for the poor condition of my page!


One Day

Part of me really didn't want to like David Nicholls' novel One Day, which has been made into a feature film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. I think the fact that the trailer looked like that of a typical romantic comedy made me a bit averse to the story - would the book or the movie really be significantly different, better, or worse than any other rom com I've read or seen? Once I immersed myself in the first few pages of this story, however, I was pretty damn well hooked.

The story is based upon your basic boy meets girl premise. Brits Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley share the night of July 15, 1988 together when we first meet them. Though this first encounter, an end of college one-night stand, turns into a long lasting relationship, it isn't a romantic relationship at first. Nicholls revisits Dexter and Emma each consecutive year after 1988 on the anniversary of their first meeting, July 15th. These little annual snapshots taken make for an interesting narrative course. We are sometimes left to guess what has happened during those seasons to which we are not privy, as we are also sometimes initially led astray by our narrator, only to realize that Dexter and Emma are still in friend territory. By only revisiting these characters for one single day out of every year, Nicholls creates a constantly interesting and intriguing storyline that makes this romance a little more mysterious and enticingly convoluted.

I think I was also such a fan because I was in the market for a good beach read at the time. Too many serious, dense books left me wanting something a bit more frivolous, comical, and feel-good. One Day completely delivered and left me satisfied for days I was done. Even more so, I related a lot to Emma's character - a recent college graduate who is motivated to change the world in some way, shape, or form with no particular idea of how to do so. Her lack of defined direction and lack of confidence were easy for me to identify with and also a source of comfort - though Emma Morley is a fictional character in a book (and now a movie too), having that small morsel of commonality made me feel just a little better about my own general uncertainty.

Now I'm just uncertain as to whether I want to watch the film version or not. The novel was a page-turner for me as it offered a pretty mindless escape from the stress of work and figuring out what to do with my life (a seemingly constant struggle for me these days). I devoured all 400-plus pages relatively quickly, but I'm not sure how much of that can be attributed to the story itself (which would translate well to the movie) and how much to the way in which it was written (which would not). I'm sure that somewhere down the line, I'll give Hathaway and Sturgess' interpretation of One Day a try, but for now, I think I'll savor the written version and all the accompanying images I've created in my own mind.


5 Spice Scallops with Avocado Corn Salsa

I'm slightly addicted to Trader Joe's Tomato-less Corn and Chile Salsa. A jar of the stuff is lucky to last more than a day around here as it's consumed with all sorts of foods, from standard tortilla chips to crackers, sandwiches, and even fish.

Armed with the last vestiges of a jar of the stuff, I decided to treat Mike to a nice, tasty meal of scallops with salsa. I also had a bit of avocado on hand to further bolster the salsa topping for my scallops and make a complete meal of it.

Though the salsa itself is pretty simple (chop avocado and mix with Trader Joe's salsa), preparing scallops is not always such an easy task which is why I decided to post the recipe for this dish. I love scallops but have definitely been disappointed by my fair share of under- and over-cooked scallops. Having worked in a restaurant preparing these little guys, I'm (finally) fairly confident in my abilities to perfectly cook a scallop. The trick - getting the pan nice and hot before placing a single scallop in it and doing a simple stick test.

As with most fish, it is easy to overcook scallops, but often in the struggle to achieve the perfect degree of doneness, an undercooked meal emerges. With scallops, and pretty much any other fish you pan-fry, the most important aspect is temperature. The fish shouldn't be too cold, but rather room-temperature when it goes into the pan. And that pan needs a few minutes of heat before oil or fish are to be added. Room-temperature fish and a warm pan make for the perfectly cooked fish - just flip it as soon as it stops sticking to the pan. A sticky fish just needs a little more time to finish cooking before it should be flipped to the opposite side or served.

5 Spice Scallops with Avocado Corn Salsa


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb U-10 scallops
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe's Tomato-less Corn and Chile Salsa
  • 1 avocado


1. Warm pan over medium high heat.
2. Remove feet from scallops (the small strand of meat that wraps around the side of the scallop) and dry the scallops with a paper towel. Season with salt, pepper, and Chinese 5 Spice.
3. Add a few rounds of olive oil to the pan and place scallops in the pan, seasoned-side-down. Season the reverse side of the scallops.
4. Meanwhile, chop avocado and combine with corn salsa. Set aside.
5. Check scallops for doneness after 4 to 5 minutes. They should no longer be sticking to the pan when they are ready to turn. Cook other side another 4 to 5 minutes until slightly springy to the touch.
6. Plate scallops and serve with salsa. Enjoy!


Weekly Recap

Sunday: Dinner was individual quiches filled with fresh garden veggies and a delicious cheesy crust. 

Monday: I was craving fall and all it's scrumptious and warm flavors. I found a 30 oz. can of pumpkin in the back of my cupboard and got to work seeking new pumpkin recipes. Topped with pumpkin puree, chicken, swiss chard, oyster mushrooms, and parmesan cheese, this unique pizza was quite a winner.

Tuesday: I've seen mushrooms popping up all around on my walks with Louie this week. I found these little guys in one of my potted herb gardens. Luckily they didn't last more than a day or two.

Wednesday: Pumpkin challah bread anyone? 

Thursday: I got to work making meals for Mike to eat while I'm away with my family at the end of next week. With all this zucchini on hand from my backyard garden, I tried out Martha Stewart's Zucchini Lasagna recipe which uses thinly sliced zucchini in lieu of lasagna noodles. I ran short of zucchini and needed to use a few lasagna noodles, but it was still a delicious and innovative way to use up more of my summer squash harvest.

Saturday: Mike and I headed out to Deep Creek Lake to join my family for a much-needed vacation. The 'rents found a gorgeous and sizable lakefront house, perfect for relaxing on the dock, getting lost in a good book, and morning kayak sessions. It's already shaping up to be a fabulous vacation, we just hated having to say goodbye to Louie for a few days!


Bread Bowl Baked Eggs

I came across this recipe on Noble Pig months ago and have been meaning to post it for some time. I love eggs and use them in lots of dishes where most people would never want to see an egg -  in pasta, on my  sandwiches, with my meats, in my veggies. I think they're such a versatile ingredient, even more so because they can be incorporated into a meal any time of day.

I particularly like the fried egg, the over-easy egg, the poached egg - anything that leaves the yoke a bit runny and the whites still bright. So I was salivating a bit over this recipe when I first saw it - an egg baked in a bread bowl so as to remain a bit runny in the center but firmly incorporated into the bread's center. Plus there's a little sprinkling of Parmesan on top for extra flavor. Truly a one-of-a-kind dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

It's also a great dish for adaptations. Change up some of the herbs and cheeses used for a slightly different flavor profile. Though the original is all Italian, a bit of chili powder and some Monterey Jack cheese would bring a little more heat while some thyme and sage with a thin slice of Gruyere cheese would make an elegant and tasty breakfast. And though the recipe calls for basic dinner rolls, I imagine that challah bread or pretzel rolls would be particularly delicious! Let me know what variations you come up with!

This recipe is for just one roll. Simply multiply all the ingredients by the number of bread bowls you'd like to make!

Bread Bowl Baked Eggs 
adapted from Noble Pig


  • Crusty dinner roll 
  • Large egg
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs, chopped (parsley, basil, tarragon)
  • 1 tsp heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice the top off of each dinner roll. By hand, gently remove some of the doughy bread in the center to create room for the egg. Reserve tops.
3. Arrange rolls on a baking sheet. Crack an egg into each roll. Pour the cream in each bowl and sprinkle with herbs. Season each with salt and pepper, then top with Parmesan cheese.
4. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes until eggs are mostly set and the bread begins to toast. Add bread tops to the baking sheet for last five minutes to toast until golden brown. 
5. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Serve tops on bread bowls or alongside. Enjoy!


Eating the Dinosaur

I consider the majority of Chuck Klosterman's work a joy to read. I'm usually not the type to laugh out loud while reading (though I have burst into tears while engrossed in a novel from time to time), but Klosterman's essays are often the exception to this general rule. His musings on pop culture, riddled with sometimes obscure and other times not-so-obscure references, are always funny and never dull. And they make me chuckle to myself and sometimes burst into full on laughter at unexpected and unpredictable moments.

With equal doses of self-deprecation, mindful consideration, and trademark humor, Klosterman has written yet another clever and engaging compilation of essays on topics as varied as the Unabomber, advertising a la Mad Men, Ralph Nader's love life (or lack thereof), the psychology of an interview, Garth Brooks' alter ego Chris Gaines, the horror of the laugh track, and football. The topics covered in Eating the Dinosaur are, quite obviously, as diverse as Klosterman's interests. But what I find especially remarkable is Klosterman's ability to write with such a particular voice as to make all thirteen of these essays, focused as they each are on such specific and disparate subject matters, flow seamlessly in a single volume.

Reading through most of these pieces, I felt compelled to post about each individual essay rather than the volume as a whole. I think that is what I love most about Klosterman's work - he always draws questions or raises points of consideration that are compelling conversation starters (see "The twenty-three questions I ask everybody I meet in order to decide if I can really love them" on page 126 in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs). Rather than posting a blanket review to cover all my bases, I wanted to take the time and go through piece by piece, sharing all of Klosterman's most interesting insights while working out my own responses to his perspectives. I figured this would bore the majority of my readers and take the fun out of it all, so I'll just hope that someone out there has already found themselves similarly impressed, entertained, and/or engaged by Eating the Dinosaur. There are a few points, however, that I just couldn't help myself but dedicate at least a few moments to meditating upon.

"The upside to knowledge is that it enriches every experience, but the downside is that it limits every experience." Klosterman makes this statement in a chapter on voyeurism, the classic Hitchcock film Rear Window, and whether or not ignorance really is bliss. He takes readers on an interesting journey among these topics, but I find this particular conclusion to be more interesting of all. Sure, sometimes having knowledge can improve whatever it is that we're experiencing. Having an understanding of why things work the way they do or of the context of a particular situation opens up windows of intrigue shut tight to those who are kept in the dark. But sometimes knowledge limits our real experience of life. Klosterman analogizes this point to the experience of being a wolf. Wolves are "more engaged with the experience of being alive" because the wolf's cognitive limitations make the world a more confusing and constantly surprising place. Not knowing produces a sort of eustress in the body, a physical sensation that makes us feel truly alive, excited, and engaged. If we know too much, there is less opportunity for those mysterious, dynamic moments that we thrive upon to occur. 

Klosterman is no stranger to the media and its pervasive nature - nor does he try to avoid it. His observations on the extent of this permeation, however, are pretty spot on. Especially when it comes to the laugh track. We're socialized to laugh at things when we hear laughter because of TV sitcoms - not necessarily because we find something to be particularly funny. In examining modern TV hits that avoid the laugh track in lieu of the reality TV show feel (such as The Office and 30 Rock), Klosterman recognizes these laugh track-less shows as multidimensional in that they allow audiences to decide for themselves what is funny and appeal to irony in ways a laugh track never could. Ultimately he thinks the laugh track is a crutch for a self-conscious society composed of individuals who aren't confident enough in their own senses of humor. But he thinks that this particular social problem is a product of the pervasive laugh track which has become a prompt for canned laughter and mundane humor. Being the wife of a stand-up comedian, this one was cause for plenty of further consideration. How much easier is it to laugh at something that you find funny when everyone else in the room is laughing too? How can a single comedian appeal to hundreds of fans of comedy at once, fans with distinct and separate tastes in humor? I think some of this can be linked back to the laugh track and its role in shaping our sense of what's funny and its crippling role in our comedic confidence.

There's plenty more within Eating the Dinosaur that calls for discussion, sharing, and further questioning.  I think that learning should always be fun and that's exactly what a Chuck Klosterman book is for me: an entertaining learning experience. I always finish the book more knowledgeable and in a better mood than I started. And what more could you really ask for when reading?


Weekly Recap

Monday: Eggplants are finally blooming and ready for the eating.

 Tuesday: Locally-grown and backyard-harvested veggies make for a delightful pasta dinner.

Thursday: I love these adorable mini Milk Bone treats we bought for Louie. They're the perfect size for training!

Saturday: More eggplant is quite alright with me.

Sunday: Had the perfect lazy weekend with the dog and Mike.


A Meditation on Meditation

Earlier this summer I began teaching myself about meditation upon coming to the realization that negativity was wreaking havoc on my life. Okay, maybe not wreaking havoc, but nonetheless holding me back from fully enjoying life and all the joys in it little and large.

Sarah from Teacup Adventure took a free meditation seminar during the spring semester and we had often discussed the benefits of simple meditative practices. I couldn't fit a formal class into my schedule then and allowed this to keep me from pursuing any sort of meditative practice. But then I turned to my most favorite resource - the local public library - and found plenty of helpful literature that made it impossible for me to make any more excuses and guided me on my way to daily meditation. Since it has become such an important part of my life and highly vital to my sanity, I thought it apt to share my piece on meditation in the hopes that someone out there may benefit in some little way.

Before doing all the proper research, I had plenty of misconceptions about meditation as a practice. The act of meditating brought to mind cheesy visualizations and over-the-top nature soundscapes. Come to find, I had actually been practicing meditation in plenty of ways that I never termed as such. When I traveled to India, for instance, our daily yoga practice on the rooftop incorporated plenty of the meditation techniques I use today. I knew that our morning practice was more authentic than the yoga classes offered in the states. Our instructor stressed correct breathing practices for the majority of our sessions, rather than guiding us through a series of yoga poses as most Americanized practice does. And the more I learned about meditation, the more those invigorating and calming morning yoga sessions came to mind.

Other simple practices, like focusing on your breath, giving deep and intentional thought to problematic situations, and reciting positive mantras, are part of what meditation is all about, though most people who utilize these strategies wouldn't categorize themselves as regular practitioners of meditation. It ultimately boils down to gaining control over the mind, through both concentrated thought on certain topics and dismissal of mental distractions that destroy focus. Breathing is also an integral part of meditative practice, as simple breathing exercises are great introductory meditations and can be used to help ease the transition from the hustle and bustle of life into one's daily practice. Mastery of breathing meditations lends easily to all other sorts of meditations as well, so a simple exercise in focusing on each in- and out-breath while gently dismissing other thoughts as they come to mind are great preparation for further practice.

After checking out a variety of meditation books from the library, I created my own meditation journal in which I keep some of my favorite practices and exercises, as well as important quotes and reminders to help me stay focused. Since you can easily search for meditations online, at the library, and even follow them on TV, I won't include any of those in this particular post. Rather, I wanted to share my thoughts on the benefits of this practice and include three reminders that I find to be most vital to successful meditation for me.

First is "What are you choosing to meditate on?" This is an important question to ask yourself both in and out of mediation practice. During your daily routine, where does your mind drift to? When you find yourself deep in thought, what sort of thoughts dominate? Are they positive or negative, productive or destructive, useful or wasteful? What is the content of these thoughts - dreams, complaints, regrets, desires, worries? Being truly cognizant of what you spend your time meditating on, both when you are consciously practicing and when you aren't, is the first step toward successful meditation practice. Having this kind of constant awareness makes it easier to recognize and correct patterns that hinder or detract from the benefits of your meditation.

Next is "How you think determines your reality." As I said earlier, meditation won't do you a bit of good if you don't bring the right mindset to the table. Though related to the first reminder, this one focuses more on your mindset than the content of your thoughts. If you spend a lot of time focusing upon your problems, do you do so with the mentality that they have attainable solutions or from a defeatist frame of mind? While what you're thinking about is extremely important, so is how you think about it. If you don't bring a positive, compassionate, generous, and patient frame of mind to the table, you will be missing out on the full benefits of meditation regardless of the content of your thoughts.

And finally, we have "Attention, intention, and wholeheartedness." For me, these three words are the perfect recipe for successful meditation. One of the traps I found myself falling into most often as a beginner was allowing disruptions to ruin my focus. Constantly paying attention is crucial to a successful meditation session. But beyond staying focused, the intentions behind that focus matter as well. If your heart is not truly in meditation - if you don't believe in its potential to improve your life or if you don't truly want to make it a part of your daily ritual - then you won't receive the benefits as fully as possible, if at all. Wholehearted and good-intentioned meditation is the only kind that succeeds.

Meditation isn't for everyone but I firmly believe in its benefits for those who come at with the correct mindset. It's something I'm still learning about every day, but something I am so glad to have been able to incorporate into my life. Does anyone else practice? Any recommendations for good meditation-related literature?


The Continuation of My Photographic Education

In an effort to further extend my education concerning photography, an artistic medium of which I am extremely fond, I recently checked out Photo: Box from my local library. I loved that so many photographers were profiled, 210 total, in one volume but wished that there was more of a collection of each artist’s work, rather than a single image chosen to represent an entire lifetime of photos.

Nonetheless, there were plenty of artists profiled within that I found particularly appealing, even if all I had to go on was a single photo and a short description of their work.

I studied Sociology in college and really spring a sociological framework to all aspects of my life. I’m not sure if this is on account of my general constitution or if my education has made me this way - it’s one of those the chicken or the egg situations. Nonetheless, I find it to be a very apt way to view the world, its people, and its problems. So I was extremely drawn to plenty of the photographers covered in the reportage section, particularly Steve McCurry and Martin Parr.

McCurry is probably most famous for his arresting photograph of a young Afghan refugee girl with piercing green eyes which made it to the cover of National Geographic. I was particularly moved by Mother and child at a car window, an image captured in Bombay in the mid-1990s. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the same side of the car window as the photographer in the vast metropolis that is Bombay (Mumbai) or maybe it’s the dual vibrancy and destitution McCurry captures so completely in his images of South-East Asia. Whatever the reason, I find myself completely captivated by his images. Here are just a few of the most compelling ones I’ve come across yet. 

Sometimes it takes me a little while to “get” certain pieces of art. There is definitely a lot to be said for personal interpretation - if a work of art moves you in a certain way, even if that way does not fall in line with the artist’s intentions, the experience is still a highly valid and extremely important one for the viewer. I have found myself in this situation plenty a time and hold those particular works very dear.

When it came to Martin Parr, however, I felt like, for once, I looked at an artist’s piece and knew what was truly being said by the artist himself. Parr’s images are not necessarily known for being aesthetically pleasing or full of beauty. Rather, he exposes a lot of the absurdities and ironies of modern society. He puts a lot of things we take for granted as a part of modern day life and culture into a new perspective to reveal its very foundational ridiculousness. Bringing a classic British sense of humor to his photographs, Parr is the photographer who captures seemingly ordinary life but turns it on its hand to challenge our misguided notions of normalcy and sensibility. I guess part of the reason I'm so drawn to his work is that I feel like I actually "get it." Parr comments on the nonsense of modern day society from the same vantage point that I tend to bring to the table. 

This is definitely not a comprehensive review of Photo: Box and I could never possibly offer anything nearing complete coverage of all the valuable photographic genius contained therein. I do highly recommend that anyone interested in photography as art, especially novices, pick this one up. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the photographic art in a wide variety of settings and circumstances. And since it contains some 250 photographs, you are bound to find an image or an artist within that has true meaning for you.
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