Monday, May 31, 2010

Songs That Make Me Smile

Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer - "Timothy"

(Click here to see embedded video)

Athens Boys Choir - "Faggette"

(Click here to see embedded video)

Garfunkel and Oates - "Pregnant Women Are Smug"

(Click here to see embedded video)

MC Yogi - "Ganesh is Fresh" (Partial)

(Click here to see embedded video)

Since I guess I can't ignore the subject completely: I would wish all you Yanks, as the British say, a Happy Memorial Day, but that would make me feel complicit in how our Military-Industrial Complex devalues the lives and deaths of our soldiers. So I'll just hope you enjoy the extra day off, and that we finally have the sense to pull out of countries we have no business being in, risking lives of people who could be at home with their families.

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MC Frontalot's Nerdcore
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Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dalai Lama in Iowa [Guest Post]

This guest post is brought to you today by my dear friend Darcy AKA @darcybl, who works for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), founder of the community building Create Your Own Reality event and an all-around awesome lady.

It is in childhood that our intelligence blossoms and our minds overflow with questions. This intense desire for knowledge is the basis of personal growth. The more we are curious about the world and want to know how and why things are the way they are, the clearer our minds become and the more we develop a spirit of initiative.
— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

On Tuesday May 18th I got to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It was the chance of a lifetime (or several). I enjoyed hearing his views first hand at the the McLeod Center of the University of Northern Iowa. His Holiness participated in a panel discussion on “Educating for a Non-violent World.”

One of the other panelist was Jackson Katz Founder and director of Mentors in Violence Prevention., who is an anti-sexist male activist that I often quote in my grant writing at MOCSA. It was such a great moment to see two leaders I admire discuss topics I am passionate about. The panelists discussed violence in schools, communities, and the workplace. They talked about ways in which we, as individuals and as a society, can address issues of violence, promote civility and enhance understanding through education. The panelists first made presentations about their personal involvement in efforts to educate the youth and less privileged members of the society. They then posed questions to His Holiness on his perception, including on the incorporation of the value of compassion in outreach to the community.

Darcy with a friend

His Holiness said it was his first time in Iowa and he was glad to be participating in a serious discussion. For a good smile watch the clip for his giggle about how to say Iowa. His Holiness talked about the need of education of the heart in addition to the education of the brain. He said there was need to incorporate the study of moral ethics in the education system. His Holiness concluded that a compassionate and warm-hearted individual invariably would be a healthy individual, which would lead to a healthy family, which would in turn lead to a healthy community. He also explored the importance of receiving love and nurturing from a mother early in your life. He stressed the importance of a person who has received that kind of love as they use their life to grow that love.

The kicker of this entire experience was that I was interviewed by the local TV station and they used clips and part of my interview in several stories. I was so happy I drew that experience to myself. To be picked from a crowd of 5,400 to talk about my passion and admiration for His Holiness was an honor. Moreover, I got to remind the entire viewing audience that these qualities of compassion, kindness, wisdom all dwell inside of us as well. His Holiness is but a simple monk, but WOW what a teacher!

Here is a longer interview of just the crowd:

This one is my favorite that has parts of the interview in this longer feature:

And another shorter one:

Another amazing aspect was that there was a scholarship set aside for Tibetan students from money from ticket sales and other funds raised for the visit. His afternoon session addressed the basic oneness of humanity. He encouraged us to look beyond our labels and see each other as human. It was during this time that His Holiness then quoted a Buddhist scripture to convey the importance of education. It said learning is like a lamp that dispels the darkness, a reliable friend that will not waver, and a friend that will show you the path. His Holiness, however, cautioned that education alone is not a guarantee for bringing happiness to oneself or the community. He said for education to be constructive there needs to be a sense of responsibility based on a sense of concern for the wellbeing of others, which in turn is based on the oneness of all human beings.

His Holiness then explained the importance of developing moral ethics to promote inner peace. He said in this there were two options, one based on faith, in which case the complication arose as to which religion to choose. The other is a non-religion path, in which moral ethics are promoted on the basis of common experience, common sense and through scientific findings. His Holiness called this the promotion of secular ethics. His Holiness said his definition of secularism is not rejection of religion but, something that India promotes, namely equal respect to all religions.

During the question and answer session, in a response to a question on whether all religions were the same, His Holiness said they were not. He said that while all religions had the same message; that of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance, etc., at the philosophical level they were different. He said even within one religion like Buddhism there were different philosophical viewpoints. He said such variety was needed to meet the need of different dispositions of the individuals.

In the morning session (where I was in the 8th row on the floor!) I struck up a conversation with the gal next to me. I asked her if she had traveled far to get there and she said about 8 blocks! She was with her husband, a professor of philosophy for the university. She gave me her card so I could email my many photos to her. I was touched by what she wrote back, she said "I'm still pondering many of the things said that day...I'm sure that is as it should be. But it was balm to the soul to hear a global leader to have such faith in human nature and our ability to change...and also to recognize the power of women." I think she really hit the nail on the head. One of the things I enjoyed about seeing His Holiness in a rural area of Iowa was that this was the kind of place that earned to be exposed to his ideas and his blinding light. This was no "Buddha-fest" it was an exploration of a broader way of thinking with a mixed audience of people not always exposed to these wider views.

Many thanks to May for the forum to share this experience. You'll find I gathered factual info from HHDL's news section.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

InfoLadies Provide Answers to Common Problems

Image from

I'm excited about the InfoLady program in Bangladesh, which I heard about via @MC_HFCS (aka Matt on Twitter) and The Guardian Weekly. According to reporter Davinder Kumar:

In a place where women dutifully give birth in dingy huts, the men know of little outside their fields, and the world revolves around the local mosque; the sight of a "modern" woman visitor astride her bike is a spectacle. The more so as Akhter zaps around with gadgets like a netbook, GSM mobile, blood pressure monitor and pregnancy kit, all deftly packed in her shoulder bag. "It was a scandal when I started my rounds two years ago with just a mobile phone", says Akhter. Now it is more of a phenomenon. She is treated like a champion by people whose lives she's shaping with once "scary machines".

Akhter belongs to a motley band of "InfoLadies," who are piloting a revolutionary idea - giving millions of Bangladeshis, trapped in a cycle of poverty and natural disaster, access to information on their doorstep to improve their chances in life.


The 2009 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report says over 36% of the country's population lives on less than US$1 a day, and almost every second child under five is underweight. Women are far worse off as they remain at the bottom of the heap in religiously conservative rural societies. According to Unicef, nearly 90% of women in Bangladesh give birth at home without medical assistance, and half of them never seek any antenatal care.

"The access to information campaign is strategically fronted by women to bridge this divide", says Munira Morshed of Bangladesh Telecentre Network, an umbrella organisation for all telecentre networks in Bangladesh. The tactic has worked well. "Women feel free to discuss their gynaecological problems with me, which they don't even share with their husbands," says Somunu Akter Labony, an InfoLady from Sagatha. The 20-year-old, herself a mother of one, is aware of religious and social sensitivities and provides confidential contraception advice to women.

Finding a confidante in an InfoLady, victims of domestic violence are also coming forward to seek help, says Akhter. "I inform them about their rights and warn their husbands they could go to jail," she says. The impact is palpable as every man she rides past in the village nods his head in acknowledgement. "She is a terror - the men are scared of her; even the clerics fear her," says Najma Begum, the Chandipur telecentre manager.


The army of InfoLadies, however, is turning the corner regardless. They are busy telling people how to save their crops or send violent husbands to jail. It's hard work for young women who are new to their own freedom. So are there any problems? "Just that after 6pm I change my sim as I get calls from angry or besotted men," says Akhter. "They are scared of me in the daylight, but they all want to marry me after six." (Read the entire article).

First off, this is a great example of how educated women help raise the living standard for everyone around them. It's also exciting to see how people are able to take technology and run with it in unexpected ways like this.

My second thought is how strange that the InfoLadies are so feared/awed by men. Why is it that women with any sort of authority or confidence seem to terrify men so much? Why do feminists create such emotional trauma by trying to help other women?


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Retro Stockings from Vintage Vixen

Edit 7/1/10: I just heard from the Vintage Vixen store. Apparently they are completely unaffiliated with the fashion blogger, though she does sell clothing occasionally. IDK how I found them since I thought I followed a link on her blog. Weird.

I have been wanting to start wearing stockings and garter belts again, but I didn't own stockings anymore (since I hadn't worn 'em for years). Locally, places that carry stockings charge a ridiculous ~$20 for them and/or carry stockings that I have NO interest in wearing: ones that have seams up the back or bows on the top. Not my thing. I was getting a little frustrated when I remembered that Vintage Vixen (above), a fashion blogger I like who wears only vintage clothing, has a store.

I headed over there and was excited to find that not only does she carry vintage stockings, many of them were on sale for the AMAZING low prices of $1-4. I ordered myself several pairs and waited eagerly for them to arrive.

They came over the weekend, giving me a chance to dress up for no good reason...except, you know, I had to try them on. Vintage Vixen has amazing style and her store reflects it. I'm very happy with them and the speedy delivery was an extra bonus.

Now I just need more excuses to dress up.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Shake Your Booty for the Community

I'm really excited about this upcoming FUNdraiser on May 26th to provide InterPlay for the girls in the Kansas City, Kansas YMCA Summer Camp, because it's for a good cause AND it gives me an excuse to do something I already love.

InterPlay is a unique program that is based in dance, improv and bodily awareness. It's also a community building program that teaches you to be aware of your body and how silliness can lead to inner wisdom. The InterPlay website puts it this way:

InterPlay is easy, fun, and life changing. It is based in a series of incremental “forms” that lead participants to movement and stories, silence and song, ease and amusement. In the process, we unlock the wisdom of our bodies and the wisdom in our communities.

Life has become so fragmented. InterPlay helps to pull everything back together so we can reclaim our lives and get more of what we want—whatever that might be.

InterPlay is devoted to fun. It teaches the language and ethic of play in a deep and powerful way.

If you are convinced that seriousness is the path to inner wisdom, then you might want to look elsewhere. If you would like to become a "recovering serious person," then InterPlay is for you.

You don’t have to think of yourself as creative in order to do InterPlay. We can teach you that part easily. InterPlay is firmly based in affirmation and looking for the good. We get far too much criticism in our lives already. We need to spend more time in the warm bath of acceptance.

InterPlay is the perfect antidote to stress and cynicism.

InterPlay is a community of people around the world who speak the shared language of a wide and deep variety of play. It is a body of bodies who enjoy contact and connection. You can skim the surface and learn some wonderful new ways to live, or you can dive into the deep end and really change your life. It is up to you!

InterPlay has been developed by Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter over the last twenty years and has spread around the world. [Original emphasis]

My friend Devi started the local branch of this world-wide movement and having experienced it myself, I know it's worth supporting. Every time I've gone to an InterPlay event I have had so much fun, gotten more exercise than I thought I would, and felt so much more relaxed afterwards. It's almost as relaxing as a massage. Sometimes I have so much fun while we're playing that I can't stop laughing. That's a great problem to have.

So I'm excited that this program could spread and I'm excited that this event to raise money for it will be full of fun and dancing! People just don't dance enough.

The evening's schedule is as follows:
  • 7:00-9:00 PM Appetizer Specials and Community Networking
  • 7:30-8:30 PM Mikal Shapiro and Shane Ogren present... magical music.
  • 9:00-10:00 PM Interplay Demonstrations
  • 10:00 PM Dance, Dance, Dance!!!

It's only $5 so please consider helping.

Hope to see you there :)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Heart of Activism

Jesus was an activist.

Earlier this week, The Unapologetic Mexican posted "Politician, Represent Thyself," in which he captured the heart of what drives activism (in my opinion and experience) and challenges politicians on their racial bias on immigration issues. I was moved to share some of my favorite parts with you:
IN POLITICS, PHRASES ARE HURLED ABOUT with a repetition that becomes a song; a pattern of mouthsounds spelling out a sonic shape with a predictable, recurrent, and lulling rhythm. Mind, you, the message is a lie, but the beat is so on time, that we find our feet stepping along in a shuffling, delusional line.


I remember as a child being so amazed that so many (everyone, insisted my immature mind) took everything in stride. I mention this now and then: the sensation I had that the world was upside down and burning and everyone in the world (i.e., school, stores, etc) was happy go lucky and not talking about it. (I am sure this had something to do with the conversations and teachings in my early home and community.)

So, I grew to feel out of touch with society’s reactions and evaluations of life as presented in larger settings, TV, newspapers, general social dialogue. And I suppose that is part of the age. These are normal conflicts we have to evaluate at a certain age.

In too many cases we simply have to accept untruths or mechanisms that confuse the mind. We read the real thinkers in college, and then we pretend it was just for a course. We accept that when X is really going on, the TV will frame it as Y. We accept that advertisements, essentially, lie. We learn to restrain, perform, operate in society. We are taught not to be ourselves, as it does not pay. We are sent on job interviews to offer a well-groomed doppelganger which may have little basis on truth, but have more to do with how you can appear a valuable commodity to a corporate mechanism. The media helps sell wars that feed the fatally wealthy, and focuses on celebrity nose jobs while the public is robbed blind on the backside by the bankers.

You know how this goes, top to bottom. Same as it ever was.

But did it jam at you in your adolescence? Did the first sweeping vista of disappointment make you weep? Did that initial understanding of how little we expected of ourselves make you angry? Did it nearly topple your mind to gaze out at the wasteland of hypocrisy? Did the wrongness matter? Did it touch your inspired soul, your feeling soul, your uncallused soul and provoke a reaction?

There was too much pretend-truth and too much noise and too many lies in the world, and too much apathy. When I was young, it chewed at me. It would not let me be. I could not imagine why there were not armies of citizens banding together to fix every ailment facing the People. I was a little naive.

But to me, this is adolescence in US society as I’ve seen it, in more than a couple cities and states. Children, those vast stores of human possibility, reach the end of the playground grass. They must grapple with letting the reality of our sickened culture overwhelm the childheart with one, long, coal-tinged static-studded sigh.


And with this body and mind…with this amazing system meant to rebel against untruth and to wade toward joy, we must force non-sense and illogic and ignorance into our own tubes. You are required to Get Over It and Learn How to Manage. It makes us ill.

Get on a few stomach drugs, some head drugs, have the doc say its cool, grind out the salary. Protest virtually. Do what you can and have time for which is mostly go mad or be distracted.

The American Dream?

Too cynical?

As I grew up, those times when someone was inflamed about injustice and saying “HELL NO, THIS IS NOT RIGHT AND WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THIS!” I felt my spirit respond in kind. The scales, as they say, fall off of my eyes. I could feel that truth ringing sharply right behind my breastbone, a massive silver bullhorn calling to me. And I loved them for that. For taking that on. I thanked the universe for whatever it was that compelled that person to speak, at that very moment, from a place that was truthful and outraged at whatever entity or action was trying to establish itself in our world. That voice belongs to nobody, it belongs to all of us. We access it when it is time, when the moment calls for it. There will always be that moment in this very flawed world!

There is another voice, too. One that rises in the absence of reaction, maybe. One that needs a bit of stillness to emerge. One that listens, and hears those things being said, and lets them melt into the moment. And finds where they don’t quite nourish. Finds where they fail to adhere to a true shape. And seeks not to batter, deflect, crush, or challenge…but only to question. Only to probe and discover what may be overlooked.


Political gamers, humanity is in dire shape.

This challenge comes to us in many forms right now. Wars over petroleum. Poisoned oceans with petroleum. Police state pre-pubescent and gangly. Class divisions becoming untenable. Economy severely unstable. Political dialogue false. Media turning to sheer propaganda stations. Banks taken over our economy. Corporations taken over the courts and both wreaking massive havoc on our national security.

It is an age old reaction to blame the powerless when we panic. We are better than this. California already apologized in the 1930s for panicking and shipping Mexicans to Mexico—many who had never been there in their lives! The focus now on Mexicans does not feel so different to me.

Our society is, in the next few decades, going to undergo some drastic changes. We must secure our own hearts and minds and be ready to deal with these changes in a way that is reasoned, loving, progressive, broadminded, flexible, and kind. We must first secure our own consciousness in grounded, positive place before we can pretend to represent millions of human beings.
Read the complete post here.

(All emphasis was mine).

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The Unapologetic Mexican

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Vintage Transit (Video)

In more transportation "news"...

Via a friend's Facebook post, I found this adorable (that's right, history is cute to me) video. The YouTube posting includes this information:

[S]cenes from a video shot from a streetcar traveling down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905. Before the earthquake/fire of 1906 destroyed the area.

It's so great! See the road back when cars, horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians and cyclists could go anywhere in the road... at a snails pace. Really demonstrates what people mean when they say we have a fast-paced lifestyle these days, huh?

It also shows how we've significantly shifted from a largely pedestrian/public transit society to the car-centric lifestyle currently en vogue.

Plus, I LOVE that everyone used to wear hats That's one of the neatest things about the past IMO (and yes, I know I'm a dork).

What catches your eye in this film?

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Urban Planning for Pedestrians

Helsinki Bike/Pedestrian lane [Image from]

Architect and professor Roger K. Lewis wrote in the Washington Post last week about the importance of pedestrians and what needs to change about city planning to make them pedestrian-friendly. As someone who walks pretty much everywhere, I was excited to see these great tips, which would make city dwelling MUCH more pleasant for me and many others.
-- Street patterns must be easily navigable and latticelike, with blocks that are not too big and intersections that are not too far apart. Streets must be continuous and interconnected, providing motorists and pedestrians with more than one path for traveling to a destination.

-- Public streets must be artfully proportioned. Widths of sidewalks, planting strips, cart ways and medians are critical, as are the heights and setbacks of buildings flanking streets. Well-configured street spaces balance a sense of architectural definition and enclosure with desirable exposure to sky, sunlight, air movement and views.

-- To make walking truly pleasurable, streetscape quality and amenity are important. A thoughtful mix of shade trees and vegetation beautifies streetscapes and makes them ecologically greener. Good lighting and signage, convenient street furniture and attractive paving materials enhance a streetscape experience visually and functionally.

-- It must be safe to walk, day or night. In addition to good lighting and durable walkway paving that doesn't trap high heels, streets need well-marked crosswalks and synchronized traffic-control signals. Police or other public safety officials should be seen regularly patrolling streets.

-- Buildings facing public streets need lots of windows, entrance doorways and storefronts. These benefit merchants looking for customers and pedestrians looking for merchandise. Because there is safety in numbers, streets lined by eateries with outdoor seating are even safer, not to mention livelier. People will walk along such streets because walking is delightful.

Look at cities such as New York, Boston, San Francisco, London, Paris and Barcelona. These cities have beautiful streets that encourage walking. Commuters in these cities happily walk 15 or 20 minutes from a subway or rail station, or from a parking garage, to their home, workplace or school. They don't hesitate to walk a half-mile to visit their favorite shop, cafe or friend.

Read the entire article here.

Do these sound right to you? If you don't walk often, would changes like these induce you to walk more? Is there anything missing in this evaluation?

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Re-upholstery 1-2-3

Man, I am TIRED from yesterday. We helped Matt's sister clean out their mom's basement and take donations to GoodWill. While we got it done quickly, I'm still pooped. On the plus side, cleaning out her basement left us with lots of loot by day's end. Including this great piano bench that used to belong to Matt's grandma who died last year:

The cats thought I needed models or something...

Which is great, except for that fabric covering the seat. Not at all my cup of tea, so I re-upholstered it this morning in 3 simple steps.

1. Remove old upholstery

I started with the push pins and the trim around the base of the seat. I thought that would be my only obstacle, but there were also some nails tacked in beneath that:

But it all came up rather quickly and easily (I just used my nails), and soon I was discovering that this was not this seat's first re-upholstering. Apparently the original seat was a blue velvet (which was very faded):

2. Prepare new upholstery

I used a nice heavy cloth I had on hand for another upholstery project a friend has in the works for me:

I ironed it, remembering from my girlhood sewing class that this step is supposedly important:

And then I used the old seat cover for a rough pattern by which to cut the material:

3. Attach new upholstery

This was just reversing what I'd done in step 1. First I tacked down the material:

Then I re-attached the trim and the push pins:

A few minutes later, I was done!

Looks pretty cute if I say so myself.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Yoga Pose: Chair

I recently added a new pose to my morning yoga routine. Called "Chair" or Utkatasana, this pose, according to Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide, works "thigh and calf muscles while strengthening the ankles and Achilles tendons." This is a challenging exercise for thighs and butt that immediately started having results for me.

The first several days that I did it, I walked around with two deep spots of pain in my ass as a result, because it was working muscles like nothing else had. Eventually that faded and instead I started noticing a wicked, lovely burning sensation in my thighs and butt when doing my usual walking around everywhere, as if I'm burning more calories or something. Anyway, I'm always excited about sculpting my marvelous bum, and this is GREAT for that.

All the online sources I can find have a much simpler, modified version than the one Essential Yoga taught me, but I like theirs best so that's what I'm going to suggest. (Also, it's a really great resource in general, so if you like yoga, you should check it out).

Here's what you do:
  • Stand with your feet directly under your hips with your arms an hands straight out in front at shoulder level. Keep your shoulders relaxed, back and down.
  • Inhale. On exhalation, slowly begin lowering your body into a squat position as though you were about to sit in an imaginary chair. Do not go beyond 90 degrees at the knees.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, with your knees over your ankles.
  • Breathe slowly as you gaze beyond your arms. Keep your neck relaxed and extended.
  • Raise your toes off the floor, rocking back on your heels. Hold for a count of 5 breaths.
  • Return to a standing position with arms remaining at shoulder level.
  • From this standing position, in hale and life your heels off the floor.
  • On exhalation, slowly begin lowering your body into a squat position.
  • Breathe deeply and hold for a count of 5 breaths.
  • Inhale and raise back up to a standing position.
  • Repeat 3 more times.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Vlog: Temporary Teetotaler

(Click here to see embedded video)

Once again, sorry that the camera's internal fan gets picked up by the darn microphone. I tried to talk loud enough to be heard over it, but my voice is naturally soft so I know I kinda drift in and out of hearing range.... My bad!

Also, I forgot to mention that I was also experiencing some acid reflux lately, which I feel was related to the drinking. So that's one more reason why I decided to quit for a while. My accidental saki helped confirm this hypothesis because the next day I had acid reflux but during the several days in which I hadn't drank, I hadn't been bothered by that happening.

Anyhoo, May out!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May's Machete Is 3 Years Old!

Can you believe it's been three years? A lot of things have changed for me in that time. I graduated from grad school, moved back home from Seattle, left my husband, became estranged(er) from my parents, got a job at an environmental nonprofit, shacked up with Matt, rescued three cats, started doing yoga, became a vegetarian, gave up cigarettes, gained and then broke up with a girlfriend, started painting, somewhat reconciled with my parents, got engaged to Matt, self-published a book of poetry, lost my job.... and that's just the highlights! Whoo!

Thanks to everyone who read, commented or otherwise contributed to the success of this crazy project.

Without you, May's Machete would just not be the same.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bill Carman's Fantastic Paintings

Bill Carman was born in Korea and raised in California. He is an artist, illustrator, and blogger who make paintings that make me squee with glee! They are silly, sinister, surreal and yet simple and often sweet. I also find it interesting how he fuses animal, human and robotic qualities in his paintings. Looking through his photo set on Flickr, I swore I was having an eye orgasm... that's possible right? And if all that wasn't awesome enough, he has tons of squidgy cephalopods lurking in his art.

See more on his website, blog or Flickr.

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