07 July 2012

Turning 32...

... somehow didn't seem as tragic as hitting 30 itself.

Am looking forward to doing a lot of things this year, meeting targets and ticking things off my bucketlist.  Here's hoping 2012 will turn out to be splendid! 

I've been incredibly busy with work in UNICEF, and I hope to post more updates soon. Ever since the social media boom, life in the digital age has been a bit more complicated.  Aside from maintaining Facebook and Twitter accounts, I'm forever doing stuff on my Instagram, TripAdvisor and Flickr accounts. (lol, such problems) Sadly, my blogging has seemed to have taken a backseat in the age of instant-gratification Facebook posting.

Will try to be back very soon! In the meantime, you can check my amateur travel photos in Flickr. I've started uploading my travel photos bit by bit. :)

05 April 2012


Well, this video, for example.

Who would have thought that, in this day and age, dancing to the tune of "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music would be so cool? For a few minutes, this wonderful flashmob made passersby stop and forget about their day's tasks and obligations. People stood and watched, and smiled and even danced on the spot.

Childlike expressions of delight are always a nice sight to behold.

25 March 2012

My Met

Because I have this never-ending love affair with The Met, I couldn't help but join the museum's newest social media campaign: My Met.  Talk about a perfect way to get people emotionally engaged.

I was just expecting to be one of the many people submitting entries without ever getting an acknowledgement; with The Met's thousands and thousands of visitors and fans, it's hard to expect anything. So you can imagine my happiness and surprise when I got a notification from The Met on Twitter just this Friday saying that my submission is the featured entry of this week!

It is really so sweet of them. They even linked my entry on their Facebook page, and I'm amazed to see that their announcement on my submission garnered 200+ likes and 40+ shares. Wow, thank youuu!! I hope the MyMet campaign spurs more people to submit.

Me being such a big starry-eyed fan of The Met, I took the opportunity to make a screen grab of my submission, which I hope stays in the museum's web archives forever! If you want to see previous MyMet submissions, click here.

What also bowled me over is that The Met has now started following me on Twitter. Oh. Wow. I'm starting to feel pressured.  Should I come up with less inane tweets about my life?

So here's the screen grab of my featured entry. Okay, I know, 'home' must be quite boring and corny for so many, but The Met is really just that.  It's the place where I feel most at home when I'm in New York.  I've been there around 10 times, and I still feel like I can't get enough of it. There's this sense of familiarity, of belonging that washes over me whenever I step inside. Even the lamb gyro and coffee stands in front of the museum have become solid favorites of mine, because they're all part of my Met experience.

Last January, before I was set to return to Manila, I was feeling rather morose going around The Met and The Cloisters, knowing it was going to be a long while before I'd see these places again. So there I was, wandering around the galleries and desperately snapping up whatever souvenirs I could afford to get.

Seeing the MyMet campaign online made me miss my favorite NY hangout even more.  The campaign asks you to choose up to eight favorite art pieces--a difficult task, if you ask me. I have loads of favorites.  Here they are (and I'd most probably update this blog entry to add the ones I unintentionally forgot!) in no particular order.

(All the following images are from The Metropolitan Museum's website, so please don't use them for commercial purposes.)

Vincent van Gogh's Wheat Field with Cypresses

Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat

Okay, this isn't obviously an image from The Met collection; I just had to squeeze in a photo of me looking really happy to be inside a room full of van Goghs at the Met. You can tell he's my favorite guy!

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's Ugolino and His Sons. One of my all-time favorite sculptures. It is overpoweringly huge and beautiful to look at from any angle. More people should see this; I feel that it's so underrated.  Someday, I hope to sketch this in full...

Georges de La Tour's The Fortune Teller. I love how this painting tells a very interesting story.

The Unicorn in Captivity (from The Unicorn Tapestries). I took the long journey up north to The Cloisters TWICE just to see my favorite tapestry. Seeing this and the rest of The Cloisters are always worth it.

Saw Alexander McQueen's 'Savage Beauty' Exhibit during my first ever visit to the Met. This Oyster Dress is magical. McQueen WAS magical.

Marc Chagall's The Lovers. Just like a dream. :)

Shiva as the Lord of Dance. I drew this once for a history paper on Hinduism which I had to do back in high school. I made it a point to see Shiva on my last winter visit to the Met. It was one of those full-circle moments. :P

Salvador Dali's The Accommodations of Desire. Dali's a genius. And his paintings always give me the heebie jeebies.

From A Hotel in the Cours d'Albret, Bordeaux. In the Met's European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Wing, there are rooms and rooms containing all these priceless artifacts and furniture found in the grand mansions of the European nobility. I stumbled into this wing by accident; I didn't know at first that The Met would have these kinds of sets!

Model Granary from the Tomb of Meketre. Dioramas fascinate me, and anything about Egypt is automatically interesting for me. This miniature model is so wonderfully preserved. I saw other models in the American Museum of Natural History and, if I'm lucky, I look forward to seeing more like it in the Cairo Museum.

The Temple of Dendur. Saved from destruction and carried brick by brick to US shores.

Another shameless photo plug. As you can see from this picture, the Egyptian Wing is a heavy favorite because of the Temple of Dendur.

Johannes Vermeer's Young Woman With a Water Pitcher. For some strange reason, I'm so attached to this painting. I had to see her again on my last visit to The Met. I stayed in the room where 'she' was until it was time for the museum guide to tell me that the place was closing. :(

I have so many photos taken at The Met that I'll probably upload an entire Facebook album of it one of these days.  I miss the place dreadfully.  When I visit New York again (hopefully in the next 2 or 3 years), The Met is sure to be at the top of my to-see list. After all, it's always a second home.

18 March 2012

1001 books in one device

Right now, my printed copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is about as useful as a doorstopper.

It's too heavy, so I keep it on my office desk wedged in between other books. It's pretty to look at, but even as a reference book, I don't get to use it much (weirdly enough).

So I was pleased as punch when I was browsing ManyBooks.net during the Christmas holidays, looking for free e-books for my Kindle--and I came across this massive collection of e-books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

The best things in life are indeed free.

This blogger (I love you, whoever you are) has painstakingly compiled and linked all available e-book editions of public domain books from the pre-1700s to the 1900s. Naturally, majority of them are Kindle-formatted. I tried not to be too eager, and just downloaded a few (only just for starters)--those which I haven't gotten around to buying such as Aldous Huxley's Crome Yellow and Herman Hesse's Siddharta. This list is just crazy beautiful, and it gives people like me the chance to access books that aren't necessarily on top of one's 'Books to Buy' list, like, uh, Gargantua and Pantagruel, for example.

Books printed in the 21st century aren't available yet due to copyright concerns, but that's alright. Amazon sells Kindle e-books at a good rate of $10-12 if these are hot off the press or are bestselling ones. And then there are those random sales that are held for around 2 hours only; I find myself scouring the Amazon site and even Twitter for sale announcements on a daily basis so as not to miss out on anything good. I managed to get Neil Gaiman's Tenth Anniversary edition of American Gods for less than $4, as well as new titles by up and coming authors for FREE.

The trouble with Kindle, I suppose, is that my list of books to read is now longer than ever. I haven't even managed to touch the ones I bought at The Strand in New York last August 2011...!    


07 March 2012

It's a paper world

In case you've been following me lately on Instagram or on my Twitter account, I've been going gaga over this paper miniature Japanese sushi bar I've been working on at home for the past several nights. It's now done--and I just realized I don't know what to do with this miniature set, haha. I guess the joy is more on the making of it.

Here it is! Any takers? It's a lovely little thing, albeit with a few tiny imperfections. I asked my sister to put her hand on the roof top just so you have an idea on how small the set is.

Yup, it's all made out of paper. You can download this sushi bar template for free at Paper Museum.  Good luck, though, because the website and the instructions for all the templates are in Japanese!

But if you've been doing papercraft for a while, the set of instructions for the sushi bar should pretty much be a no-brainer.

I started first with the sushi bar's foundation and the entrance to the restaurant, which looks so very Japanese.

My favorite part of the project was making the sushi bar itself. A lot of detail, and a whole lot of patience.

I wouldn't have been able to do all these little things without glue and my X-Acto knives.

My bottle of Elmer's Glue looks like a giant standing next to the set.

There are a few more miniature sets in Paper Museum which are irresistibly cute, like the cafe and the bakery and the vegetable market, but I went for the sushi bar because it appealed to me most.

This Japanese sushi bar isn't my first papercraft project. Since October of last year, my officemate Thess and I have been going crazy over paper miniatures.  It all started when we were brainstorming with the rest of the fundraising team on how we were going to decorate our work area in time for the annual Halloween Trick-or-Treat party for children in our office.

Thess started scouring the web for decoration ideas and came across this fantastic site, RavensBlight, which offers fun Halloween-themed paper projects for free (FREE! Don't you just love these artists who are so unselfish about their work?). Although we ended up making large-scale art stuff for the Trick-or-Treat event, the girls and I created some Halloween papercraft miniatures on the side during our free time.

Being such newbies, we printed on bond paper, cut the designs out, and stuck them on used cardboard. It's amazing what paper, old cardboard, glue and scissors can do.

I made this paper haunted house for my 3-year-old goddaugher, Ashley, to play with. The monster dolls were prepared by Thess, her mother. Fun! Template can be found at RavensBlight.

The haunted cliff house--another miniature which you can download from RavensBlight and assemble. Very easy.

The first paper tree I made for Halloween. A ladder is a must.

Another of my Halloween paper tree creations, which I placed along the corridor

Although the trees I made for Halloween aren't exactly diorama small, I had great fun making them. I taped large black cartolinas together, stuck them on the wall, drew the trees and cut out the parts I didn't need. A lot of the excess cartolinas were used to make the branches. Thank God I don't have any fear of heights, because I was on the ladder most of the time, working on the branches. 

The Halloween trees are largely inspired from the tree wall art I saw in MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York when I visited last August 2011. My trees aren't perfect--and I would have wanted to add more branches, had I the time to do so--but a few people said they found the trees really lovely in a Tim Burton-esque way. (Wow, that already means a lot to me!)

The beautiful paper art beside my trees were made by my colleague Nina, who is the real artist in the team, by the way. As you can see, we had a Haunted Forest Graveyard theme going on here. The rest of the team had a blast sticking cobwebs everywhere, making paper coffins, setting up creepy ambient sounds and placing dry ice in strategic places for that desired fog effect.

I have a pretty good idea already of which paper miniature set I want to work on next. I always want to keep graduating onto more complicated miniature stuff just so I won't get bored. (At some point while I was making the Japanese sushi bar, I was watching a few Doctor Who episodes with my sister Steffi.)

Some castles and a few dioramas would be great to make, although if I keep doing all this papercraft, I'd run out of space at home! My sisters think I'm a bit of a freak, hunched over the table, creating little paper maki rolls. Maybe if I did a paper miniature set of Jersey Shore (cringe cringe), Karla would have a wee bit of appreciation for my papercraft obsession.

 More papercraft blog posts in the near future!

20 February 2012

Happiness is...

 ... getting an autographed copy of Children of the Philippines from its writer and photographer, Dr. Terrel Hill.

Dr. Hill, the former UNICEF Philippines Representative in the late 90s up to 2003, is one of the sweetest people I know. I'd gladly adopt him as my grandfather if he'd let me. He turns 69 this year and is as sprightly as ever despite an injury on his right arm. Last year, he gave me such a strong bear hug that he actually lifted me off my feet for a few seconds. I think if it weren't for his present injury, he would have done the same kind of hug again.

Today, he wrote the most loving message on my copy of his book, which he insisted on giving to me for free in spite of my protestations. Children of the Philippines is a book containing beautiful photos which Dr. Hill took during his stay in this country. He loved the Philippines and its children so much that even when his term as Representative ended, he decided to set up a foundation for Filipino children and make this book.

He visited the office today, on a Monday that's normally like other Mondays which come with a barrage of tasks that all need to be accomplished A.S.A.P.  Whenever Dr. Hill visits, I feel calmer, lighter. And loads happier. People in the office tend to gravitate towards him, smiles breaking across their faces--because he does generate that kind of reaction from individuals. You can tell that he's always welcome in our workplace.

Thank you, Dr. Hill, for your hugs and for your written message, which gave me a galvanic kick to the heart on a day when I welcome it most.

12 February 2012

sketching Victory

Sketch and photo © 2011/Gina Sales
I wish I had the time to sketch more.

It seems I only get to do it during moments when I have to save myself from perilously falling asleep. On one very important yet--sadly enough--dreary conference where you could actually do a counting game on how often the term 'Excel spreadsheet' crops up, I decided to keep my eyes and hands busy even though my brain cells were somewhat shutting down.

So I started sketching on my Moleskine an image of the winged goddess Victory of Samothrace based on a photo I took of the actual sculpture when I was in the Louvre last March 2010.

I can never draw the human form from memory; that's a skill I sorely lack.  But I feel a sense of happiness from being able to sketch on paper whatever I can see from my own eyes. I normally use a black tech pen like Pilot for informal amateur sketches like this. I never use pencil. Art class in high school taught me to be conservative in pen strokes so that I don't have to depend on using a pencil for drafts so much.

I ended up having an affinity for pen-and-ink and even charcoal. I remember bringing home a rough charcoal sketch I made of Charles Dickens to show to my mom.  I'm fearfully disastrous when it comes to watercolor, so I have made black ink my comfort zone. I don't consider myself an artist because I can't create something out of my imagination, but I'd gladly do a decent sketch of anything I clap my eyes on.

Most museums, unfortunately, don't allow pens for sketching. So when I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (for at least 10 times, damnit), I could only take high-res, close-up photos of sculptures which I would have wanted to sketch then and there. I'll probably set aside these photos for future moments of ennui that would allow me the time and luxury of drawing on paper.

So here's my finished sketch of the goddess Victory:

Sketch and photo © 2011/Gina Sales

It's not perfect, and God knows I would have wanted the wings to have been less 'heavy-looking.' I remember gazing up at this sculpture, surrounded by fellow tourists and art lovers, and admiring how the artist captured Victory in mid-action, as she strode forward with a purpose, her wings elegantly outstretched.  She seemed even more beautiful and mysterious without the head and the arms.

I hope I have done this favorite sculpture of mine a little justice somehow.

I remember too as I sat beside a young Italian man inside the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence on that same month I went to Paris. There was a large crowd, as always, in front of Michaelangelo's David.  It was sheer pleasure just to look at David (for aesthestic, purely non-sexual purposes) and study the tension in his limbs as he held his sling over his shoulder. The young man beside me (who looked like a local student about 21 years old) was using a pencil to sketch the sculpture, and I admired his efforts to capture THE David.

I'd be afraid to try it myself, actually. And if I did, it would take me days to finish the sketch.  But the young man was drawing him reverently--hesitantly too, I'd say, as if he was dreadfully afraid to mess up on paper what was perfect right in front of one's eyes. His drawing was still rough, for he had just more or less started. I could tell he was struggling with the face--which has always been my own Waterloo. At least the young man and I had something in common.

We chatted a bit (he in halting English and I in my atrocious Italian) and I made sure to compliment him on his draft. He seemed grateful and emboldened by my praise, and so he went back to sketching David's face with a noticeably steadier hand. I left his side eventually so he could spend the rest of the day drawing without much distraction. The entrance fee to the gallery wasn't exactly a trivial amount, so I'm sure he wanted to maximize his stay indoors.

Sometimes, I idly wonder how his sketch turned out. And I wonder too if I would dare to sketch something as complex as David one of these days.

09 February 2012

Kindle worship

I received a Kindle Touch for Christmas while I was in the U.S. and it's honestly the best gift I've ever gotten.

It amazes me how much reading I get done with this Kindle, and it's pretty handy to carry around while traveling.  I read in the NYC subway, at the bank while waiting for my turn at the counter, at the doctor's waiting lounge, and any other place that forces me to be in a state of inertia for more than 5 minutes.

In a span of 7 weeks since I've gotten the Kindle, I've finished seven books and am in the middle of the eighth, which is Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. Considering how awfully slow I was last 2011 in tackling my book backlog, doing an average of one book a week on my Kindle now is a major improvement.

I find myself scouring the Amazon Kindle bestsellers list for good sales on a regular basis.  Was able to buy Neil Gaiman's 10th Anniversary edition of American Gods for less than $4 (!!!) and bought Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy at a discounted bundled price of $18.50.

I also managed to download a whole bunch of Kindle-formatted public domain books for free. This means I can finally attempt to re-read James Joyce's Ulysses and Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace without straining my wrist from the weight of these books. Hurray for Project Gutenberg and all those groups who labor to make such great literature free and accessible.

And now for the vain part. My Kindle in all its Kate Spade-covered glory. Yes, I had to buy a Kate Spade Kindle cover--because my beloved reading device shouldn't be decked out in anything that's less than Kate Spade.

Straight from the box. And my first free Kindle e-book download was Popular Tales from the Norse.

My Kate Spade Jubilee Stripe Kindle cover. Cheery blue-and-green stripes on canvas.

I got this in Target. It's amazing how many Kindle e-books one can buy with $50. I'm trying not to use it up as much as I can. You now know what to buy me for my birthday or for Christmas.

My Kindle is small enough to fit into my Kate Spade Call Me Hayden shoulder bag (which, by the way, has the most adorable bag lining ever).

The Kindle doesn't change my love for printed books. Just this evening, I found myself reading A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, and I know that there's still joy to be had in the physical turning of pages in one's hand. But the Kindle does make reading on the go beautifully easy.

And oh that notion of having 3,000 books in just one device...! I can imagine growing old with you, Kindle.