Eraser Art In Los Angeles

Eraser Art In Los Angeles

“A pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.” 
J. A. Meyer

The number two pencil is kind of the middle of the road when it comes to pencils. It is not too hard and not too soft. It is not too dark and not too light. In other countries who do not use numbers it might be called the HB pencil. Architects like higher number pencils because the points are harder. Sometimes artists use lower number pencils because they like the softer tone.  American schools have always preferred the number two pencil. It is said that the SAT scanner will only pick up a number two pencil. It is definitely easier to erase than a number three.

I volunteer at an after school writing program in Los Angeles called 826 LA. It is the only time these days that I see pencils. I do all my writing on the computer.

These hand-held pencils have had staying power amid the rise of the typewriter, the ballpoint pen, the computer and all the modern hand-held messaging devices over its century-and-a-half existence. In fact, the U.S. is the single largest market for wood-encased pencils today, most of which now come from China.

Pencils are dependable. The first mark you make with a pencil will be the same as the last. A pen might leak or run out of ink. There are no batteries, crashing, psycho auto-correct or waiting involved.

There is a lot of erasing at 826 LA. A pencil’s eraser tends to dry out and get dirty long before its lead runs down. Europeans tend to buy erasers separately and are more sensitive to this issue. This year we got some new erasers that were not attached to the pencils to deal with the high volume of erasing. We found some other things to do with these brand new very pink erasers. This is our first showing of eraser art.

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I’m not sure why they still spend so much time with pencils and erasers in school. I’m very close to telling a group of seven to ten-year olds that they will never use them again once they get out of school. Especially the ones that have trouble with the physical act of writing but have so many great  ideas.

Write safe,

JAZ

 

Land Mines In Cambodia

Land Mines In Cambodia

“When elephants fight, ants get killed.” Cambodian Proverb

Everywhere you go in Siem Reap you will see disabled beggars. They are victims of war – victims of landmines.

The landmines in Cambodia were placed by different fighting groups (the Khmer Rouge, the Heng Samrin and Hun Sen regimes) during the Civil War in Cambodia in the 1970s. They were put in the whole territory of the country. One of the problems that Cambodia faces is that the people who placed the mines do not remember where they put them.

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Cambodia is still a very poor traumatized country from the cruel years of the Khmer Rouge. Almost every family has lost at least one family member and faced unbearable situations during that time. Most of the adults remember starvation. There are many terrible stories.

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The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may still be as many as four to six million mines. It will take at least ten more years to clear most of them out. They have 40,000 amputees. It is the largest number in the world which makes it the most disabled country.

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Even now about 250 people a year still step on land mines – most of them children. The hospitals are too far away and many of them die. The ones that don’t usually lose a limb.

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Traditionally in Khmer society the person who stepped on a mine was viewed as unlucky, their own bad karma having sentenced them to a life of misery. It was assumed, furthermore, that those with only one leg or one arm could not be productive members of society. This attitude of discrimination is changing and there are now some organizations to help the disabled.

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Some of the organizations have music groups that you will see around Cambodia especially in Angor Wat and the other temples. They sell their CDs and play traditional Khmer music.

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There are many organizations you can give to in Cambodia and in the US to help as well. Unicef, Cambodian Children’s Charity and Land Mine Survivors Cambodia are a few in the US. The American dollar goes a much longer way in Cambodia and even a small amount will help.

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The country is recovering slowly. They are determined to build and succeed, heal the wounded, forgive the unforgivable and have better lives.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

 

 

Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Nigerian?

Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Nigerian?.

“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.’ Noel Coward

I’m a quote person. That is the quote that went through my head as I watched the violence in Paris. My nightmares usually take place in empty subway stations in the evening, dark New York alleys and garages at night – not public places in broad daylight.

I am shocked at the terrorist attack on the satiric newspaper office “Charlie Hebdo” when gunmen ruthlessly shot journalists and two policemen. This was followed by another horrific attack in a Kosher market killing four people. There were fifteen hostages and thirty people who hid in a cold freezer for hours.

I am at a loss to describe the odd feeling of grief I have for the deaths of people I do not know.

I love reading and writing. I think it is important to share a story and for people to read these stories. I don’t know enough about Charlie Hebdo to say if I agree with everything they do. I do know that humor can help you learn about the world in a more appealing way than watching the news every night.

I buy my food in a neighborhood market and go several times a week.

There is a lot of criticism that we care more about what happened in Paris, then the massacre in Nigeria and other third world countries. It isn’t that we care more, it is that we can relate to it more. France is a first world democracy like us. Africa is a place where a lot of bad things happen. Unfortunately when bad things happen all the time, it gets reported in the news less.

Last week  Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 people in the town of Baga and neighboring villages, burning entire communities to the ground. I am horrified about what happened in Nigeria –also by Muslim extremists; but a French cartoonist or shopper in a market in Paris, is probably more like me than an African villager. The African villager cares more about his daily problems than mine – as do the French.

It doesn’t make it right or even make sense but that is how we as humans think. It is why the world is in the mess that it is in –several billion of us thinking about ourselves and our tribes. Maybe it should be “Je suis human.”

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

How To Tell The Difference Between Someone Who Grew Up In Brooklyn And A Brooklyn Hipster

How To Tell The Difference Between Someone Who Grew Up In Brooklyn And A Brooklyn Hipster

“Brooklyn was a dream. All the things that happened there just couldn’t happen. It was all dream stuff. Or was it all real and true and was it that she, Francie, was the dreamer?” Betty Smith

Between the time that I was born there and now, Brooklyn became an overnight celebrity. Brooklyn became synonymous with cool.

But what is a hipster? I’ve never actually heard anyone describe themselves as a hipster. They hurl the term at other people who look and live like them in a derogatory manner.   The word Hipsters seems to be used for people who are putting on an act or have a trust fund.

People who grew up in Brooklyn had a stoop in front of their house and hung out there with their friends.

Brooklyn Hipsters are usually at an awkward stage in their beard growth and have sustainable rooftop gardens.

People who grew up in Brooklyn have an accent – sort of like the one they are trying to have in Newsies or mine if you know me.

Brooklyn Hipsters can work at hedge funds but have a Mumford and Sons look on the weekends.

People who grew up in Brooklyn went on school trips to the Coney Island Aquarium and Nathans. If you were like me, you rode your bike there on Sundays.

Brooklyn Hipsters dress like hipsters. They love anything vintage or “ironic.” It’s old school all the way. They have cool shoes. Hipsters wear eyewear even if they don’t need it – Ray Bans or Buddy Holly style works. They are usually carrying reading material to validate the glasses.

The big sneakers in Brooklyn when I was growing up were Converse, PF flyers and Keds. Clothes were better if they were from Manhattan.

Hipsters are on trend when it comes to technology. What? You don’t have the Iphone 6 yet?

Growing up in Brooklyn, the more “Good Fellas” the neighborhood, the better the Italian food. It was all about the “gravy” (sauce).

Brooklyn Hipsters are not generally meat eaters but if they do it is grass-fed and free range. Coffee, Small Plates, Asian Food and Gourmet Vegetarian are Hipster foods. They love food co–ops, cooking classes and trendy organic restaurants that serve seasonal food.

We had delis and Chinese food. The more preservatives and MSG, the better.

People who grew up in Brooklyn wish they bought up all the real estate around Prospect Park that they thought no one would ever want.

As Brooklyn becomes more unaffordable, yuppie – hipsters are becoming more prevalent. Fancy strollers and cool kid classes are everywhere.

Sports were big in Brooklyn. There was baseball, basketball, stickball, dodgeball,  stoopball and punchball. There was roller skating (not blading) and  ice skating Friday night at Prospect Park (if you did not get mugged on the way from the train station). There was the ocean at Brighton Beach and Coney Island  for swimming in the summer.

Brooklyn Hipsters love alternative music and they have shelves of vinyls.

Brooklynites had records and small closet like neighborhood record stores.

We used to go to the Brooklyn Academy Of Music for local theatre events.  Now it is the larger and trendier BAM.

Gentrified Hipster Brooklyn has outdoor cafes, designer dogs everywhere, expensive baby strollers, sushi bars, health food stores, trendy restaurants, bars and clubs, galleries and coffee shops where you can sip your five dollar lattes among others just like you. Gone are the delis – Italian, German and Jewish, bodegas, ethnic groceries, real butcher shops and poultry markets (the kind with blood on the floor), fish stores, hair braiding salons, bargain stores, check cashing stores, cheap bars, diners,  restaurants and affordable housing.

Most people in Brooklyn grew up on the block. You had everything you needed in a few block radius. The drug store, the bank, the pizza parlor, the candy store, the Chinese restaurant the Italian restaurant, the delis, the newsstand, the market, the bakery, the fruit store, the butcher, the shoe store, the record store, the coffee shop (which was more like a diner but smaller), the movie theatre and the library were all within walking distance.

I could not leave Brooklyn fast enough when I grew up.  But as I get older, the past is never where you leave it, and writing about it, it all seemed pretty great.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko, Japan

Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko, Japan

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps.” Frank Herbert

Being naked with friends and strangers is a traditional practice in Japan. Being American, I’m a little uptight about that. But having been to Japan a few times, I have gotten a lot more comfortable with it.

Staying at a ryokan (Japanese style inn) in an onsen town in Japan is my most favorite thing to do now. I have been lucky enough to do it a few times. I’ve written an earlier blog explaining ryokans and onsens so I’m not going to do it again. Feel free to read that one. http://travelwellflysafe.com/2013/06/11/onsen-and-ryokan-in-japan/

Water is very important in Japanese culture and religion. There are many hot springs in Japan and you are probably never more than an hour’s drive away from one.They are found in remote mountains, on beaches, in major cities, on the edges of cliffs, on the tops of hotels, on river banks and just about anywhere.

This time we stayed in Kinugawa onsen. It is a Hot Springs resort in the city of Nikko two hours from Tokyo by train. It is located on the Kinugawa River where there are many onsen hotels.

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Of course we needed lunch. Yuba (skin of the tofu)  is very popular in Nikko. At one time there were many vegetarian Buddhist priests here and there are still many Yuba restaurants.

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We had soba with yuba. Yuba can be cooked in many  different ways. These were heavy yuba -like matzoh balls –  very filling.

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We stayed at the Kanaya Ryokan Hotel and it was wonderful.  They have indoor bathing and showers for people like me who can’t bathe outside in the cold. The rooms are spacious and lovely.  The food was delicious as well.  http://www.kanayahotel.co.jp/english/index.html

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The bathing areas are constructed of stone, built with fragrant woods and decorated with Japanese ceramics. Everyone was Japanese.

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The main thing at a ryokan are the kaiseki meals. (food photos -Reiko Hirai)

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They consist of six to fifteen different foods.

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They go from appetizers, sashimi, side dishes, simmered, sauced, pickled, seasonal, local, marinated, grilled, steamed, hot pot, rice , miso soup and dessert.

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Kaiseki meals are one with nature and represent shapes and things found in nature. (persimmons, persimmon ice cream)

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The food is always prepared and decorated in a seasonal and visually beautiful way.

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There is always way too much and it is all about mindfulness and being focused on each course.

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The first day I ordered American breakfast and got kaiseki American breakfast. It was smoked meats, cooked meat, steamed meat, sausages, bacon,  salads, pickled vegetables, soup, yogurt, raw eggs, cooked eggs and croissants. The next day I had  the Japanese breakfast which is what they do best.  It is a lot of food as well but mostly fish. The boiling waters and steam of hot springs can be used for cooking. Onsen tamago which are eggs boiled in hot spring are often served.

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I went hiking around the Kinugawa River on the crisp fall mornings.

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The colors were amazing.

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Healing with hot springs has a long history in Japan. Samurai healed their wounds and relaxed in springs after battles.The thing about onsens is it feels good when you just sit there. The water is warm, the air is cold and everything is really quiet. It is a place to make some good decisions about your life.

Yo I sorano tabi o,

JAZ

Thirty Things That I Wanted To Do In 2014. Did I Do Them?

Thirty Things That I Wanted To Do 2014. Did I Do Them?

“Every hundred feet, the world changes.”  Robert Boitano

  1. Go to Colombia. Yes
  2. Go To Southeast Asia. Yes
  3. Go to Seattle. Yes
  4. Read more books on the 1000 Books You Have To Read Before You Die. Yes
  5. Go to the theatre with my son. Yes
  6. Meditate every day. I think this may be like a dieting resolution. I will make it every year. Still not every day.
  7. Do an Urban Art tour in LA. No definitely in 2015
  8. Do a spa day with my daughter. Yes
  9. Watch even less Real Housewives. Yes they are getting boring now that so many of them are going to jail.
  10. Go to Guatemala. No
  11. Go To Miami. Yes
  12. Have more spiritual friends. Now I want to have less spiritual friends.
  13. Eat less sugar. Hmmmmm not sure but probably not.
  14. Go to the Bridge On The River Kwai. No
  15. Try ten new restaurants in LA. Yes Orsa and Winston, Bucato, Sushi Tsujita, Bachi Burger, Cleo, Republique, Wallys, Everleigh, Carousel and Escuela De Taqueria
  16. Try ten restaurants in other places. Yes Andres Carne De Res – Bogota Colombia, Matiz – Bogota, Colombia,  Salou – Cartegena, Colombia, Morning Glory –  Hoi An, Viet Nam, Golden Rice – Hue, Viet Nam, Pepper Tree – Phu Quoc, Viet Nam, Washoku Bar – Tokyo, Japan, The Dining Room – Siem Reap, Cambodia, Salumi –  Seattle, Washington, Anchovy and Olive – Seattle Washington.
  17. Have ten meals with Kitchensurfing. Yes
  18. Go back to Japan. Yes
  19. Spend more time at 826 LA.Yes
  20. Practice tai chi. Yes sort of.
  21.  Go to a ryokan.Yes
  22. Go To Angor Wat, YES ( a bucket list item)
  23. Drink less coffee maybe No
  24. React less. Maybe
  25. Go To Agua Dulce. Not yet
  26. Get more people to read my blog. Still trying
  27. Do more yoga. Yes
  28. Go to Bainbridge Island. Yes
  29. Go to the Grand Canyon. Not yet.
  30. Go to a Grouplove  concert. Yes

Not too bad.  Two thirds yes. I don’t beat myself up over stuff like this. On to the 2015 list. I’ll make it smaller and harder.

25 Things I  Want To Do In 2015

1. Do something big that I am afraid of.

2. Drink less coffee.

3. Go to Rio.

4. Go To Another Grouplove concert.

5. Finish my hamburger blog.

6. Get more people to read my blog.

7. Try eleven more new restaurants in LA.

8. Try eleven restaurants in other places.

9. Go to another place on my bucket list.

10. Read more books – the kind you hold in your hand that smell like books.

11. Go to Sao Paulo..

12. Meditate every day.

13. Look up less random questions on the internet.

14. Go To Brazil.

15. Have more real friends.

16. Go to The Stanley Film Festival.

17. Get more involved at 826 LA.

18. See ten documentary films.

19. See ten foreign films

20. Eat less gluten.

21. Read more of other people’s blogs.

22. Do more beach walks.

23. Be more grateful every day.

24. Finally do that urban art tour in LA.

25. Be a tourist in LA.

Happy New Year and Fly Safe,

JAZ

What Did It Feel Like On Your Last Day Of Being A Child And Other Questions Asked By Children All Over The World

 Philosophical Questions Asked By Children All Over The World

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” Voltaire

In the past  two  years of my blog I have done Proust and  Kant questions on travel and in life  for the new year.  This time, I collected philosophy questions from children on my travels and from the writing program I volunteer in.  I didn’t answer them but they give me something to thing about for the new year.

How do you know if someone is really your friend?

What is imagination?

Is it possible to hold a fair race?

Can animals think?

Why do we cry?

What’s the difference between telling a lie and keeping a secret?

Is it ever ok to steal?

When did you start to think?

What does love mean?

Does my turtle know me?

What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?

Why are we born?

Why are we here?

Why is there evil in the world?

If we all go to heaven, why did God put us here first?

Does the universe have an edge?

Do we have to be sad sometimes to be happy at other times?

If you had a different name would you be a different person?

Why am I me and not someone else?

How do you know life is not a dream?

Do we all have the same rights?

Why does time move slow when we are afraid and fast when we are on vacation?

Does God exist?

Who made God?

What does God do all day?

Who are God’s parents?

If God is everywhere, is he in my class?

Do you want peace and quiet?

What is my job in this world?

Where does time go when it is over?

What did it feel like on your last day of being a child?

Are we here for a reason?

Am I supposed to know this?

Happy New Year and Fly Safe

JAZ