Thoughts on Photo Apps: Prisma

Lately I have been taking a little bit of time to look at different computer applications that let me modify pictures. I am taking a studio art class this semester and I think that helped spark my interest in looking at developing some art myself. Using an application to change the colors and textures of photos I have taken isn't a lot of work and lets me play with looks and colors I don't have the guts to try on my own with a pencil or brush in my hand.

This is a pretty simple and easy to use program. After you open up the program, you can simply upload a picture into it. There are almost forty titled boxes that you can click on to modify and change the image. I intentionally chose a picture with some different shades and textures to play with. Here is my original photo:

Here are five modified pictures using different 'lenses'

This was a fun start. I loved the way the program changed the way the fur and fine details on the ferret are accentuated and brought out with the different ways of shading. What are your thoughts? This is a free app so you can play with it without a lot of extra cost. Feel free to comment with your images if you would like. :)


A Lazy Sunday

Today was much needed. I spent most of the day with my Bug and we hiked, cooked, ate brownies, and laughed. I am finishing the day with lots of drawing and completing of homework for the week. However I thought I would share the joy of the rest today in pictures..... enjoy. :)

I feel very blessed and grateful today. I hope all of you had a wonderful Sabbath experience and day today. :)


What is Early Childhood Intervention and Why Is It Needed?

Early intervention (EI) is the process of developing a focused curriculum and treatment plan that is based on a thorough assessment and evaluation that fully encompassed an individual’s physical, mental, social and environmental challenged interspersed with and related to their diagnosis of a mental health disorder. By recognizing the weaknesses or challenges that a child is having with their development and actively trying to treat and change the way the body responds and reacts to the problem, early intervention has been shown to give those individuals affected with ASD the tools and abilities to responds more positively and culturally appropriately in their physical environments and in relationships with others. One reason that has been suggested for early intervention is that by helping and motivating a child to use areas of the brain that are not functioning well, new neurons and connections in the brain can be strengthened and formed. Other thoughts are that, by forcing the brain to have certain experiences, the ‘flexible’ young brain will begin to grow new connections and form new pathways towards more normal processing of information in the affected areas of the brain.

The process of early intervention should be used for all individuals that have been assessed and found to either be at risk of an autism diagnosis or are diagnosed. Another way of looking at it is that EI should be used for any individual found to have a delay in any aspect of the development process that could potentially be corrected with the use of therapy. Research suggests that the sooner… or ‘earlier’… in the child’s life that the intervention is made, the more permanent and positive change can be created in the child. How the intervention is utilized can depend on many factors including, parental or provider choice, what interventions are available, funding or lack thereof for treatment, the individual’s needs, etc… there are more than a dozen programs used for early intervention which include Floortime, Denver, SCERTS, and RDI. While these programs all have differences in how they attempt to facilitate change in the individual, the typical EI priorities usually work on forming spontaneous functional communication techniques, developing coping skills, and learning to interact and play with peers. Programs also tend to try and work on removing the motivations for negative behavior through different avenues and attempting to prevent the behavior from continuing to occur. Other samples of early intervention services that can be offered are speech or occupational therapy, assistive technology or auditory services, as well as counseling, medical or psychological services.

For a newly diagnosed child, one of the first steps is to create and develop an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan.) As part of that process, location(s) to begin therapy and what forms of beginning treatment should commence. Several kinds of information are incorporated in the IFSP including a rounded out examination of the child’s current development and needs, family abilities, resources, and desires, how and how much services should be provided and for how long as well as who is responsible for certain aspects of the treatment and also the goals or outcomes that are going to be focused on developing and achieving. For a newly diagnosed two year old child, an IFSP is developed and treatment usually consists of some forms of relationship development, speech or other physical therapies as well as work with interaction and self-soothing. For more newly diagnosed toddlers or babies, intervention treatment is usually performed in the home where the child knows their environment and will feel the most comfortable and open to the treatment.

It has been shown that early childhood intervention with individuals that struggle with developmental delays can create more positive social and future life outcomes. if you or a family member has used early intervention what have your experiences been?


Overlapping Identities and Critique on “Ms. Amerikkka”

*A link to the song can be found here.

To truly understand life as lived in America today, it is desirable to consider the issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and nationality and how they intersect in the lives of its citizens. Recognizing that how each individual identifies themselves and how that creates and changes their physical realties and relationship with other people and the social structures around them not only creates and shapes their reality but also changes ours is an important aspect of true empathy and understanding towards those around us. Understanding these issues and how they affect the lives of ourselves and others also gives us the ability to create positive and lasting change for ourselves and our communities. Successful feminist activists in this country attempt to understand intersecting identities and use their understanding and creative abilities to help develop social awareness of inequality, discrimination, racism and other undesirable social practices. One such artist is Edwin Hayes, Jr, better known by his stage name Aceyalone. Mr. Hayes is a rapper from California who has released a few albums as well as his work for other musical organizations. This paper will discuss and critique the lyrics of his song “Miss Amerikkka”, his critique and anthropomorphizing / caricature of the United States of America.

The song starts by giving us an image of a man flying home on a plane to Los Angeles sitting next to a woman who tells him what America looks like from her vantage point. His words go on to give us an image of a large woman, uninhibited and mentally ill, on the quick road to ruin and death unable to see how her behavior is reckless or dangerous to all who depend on her and live with her. The imagery is graphic; a woman eating, digesting and defecating her children… a neglecting mother who abuses and neglects her children as they weep and starve…. her minions locking up or shooting those who disagree or criticize her. It is four minutes of thoughtful but angry commentary on the author’s view of America today.

One aspect of these lyrics is that they adequately express the ways that class, race and privilege intersect in the lives of people in this country. The recognition that minorities and people of color are more likely to struggle with class issues as well as discrimination and fewer opportunities to advance is vital because this helps express how complex our society and its flaws are. If someone faces discrimination due to their skin color or sexuality… or both, they are more likely to have fewer opportunities, less physical and financial stability, and fewer support systems or safety nets when difficulties arise. Without these positive and stabilizing resources, individuals are held down in the vortex of issues that society and culture have created that limit access to privilege and power to the few individuals who do not find it necessary to deal with the consequences of the race, class, gender or sexuality. These lyrics discuss many of the ways that these issues intersect in people’s lives and ask important questions to ask each of us to think and recognize where we fit into the equation that is America. One example reads: “How can people still be hungry, when there’s a surplus?” If we look at that question, really focus and look at the statistics of people who are food insecure in this country, we may not be surprised to see how high the statistics rise if numbers are separated by race or sexual identity. I have asked myself many times how the richest country in the world has so many poor and downtrodden people and I cannot discover a reasonable explanation… at least not one that is healthy for our country or any of its citizens.

Unfortunately this song is also an example of how a lack of understanding of how race, privilege, culture and gender can actually help hold up the same institutions that you are trying to change. In most media outlets in this country, the United States is portrayed as “Uncle Sam” an older white male or father figure. This portrayal makes perfect sense when we look at the political ideas that our culture spreads in its own lands and abroad: America is the nurturing father figure, the world’ super-cop, the patriarchal leader of the ‘Free’ world. However, the imagery in this song gives all the negative characteristics discussed about America to the basic negative stereotypes of women. By keeping the emphasis on negative stereotypes of women and their traditional gender roles- bad mother, no shame, lack of innocence, bad girl, mirror of reflection, disgraced, etc.… it helps keep the questioning and criticism focused away from the individuals who are in power and could more effectively create great social change… the powerful, rich, white men in positions of great strength. Traditionally and effectively, women of any race have very little direct influence in the large power structures in this control and therefore, it is much easier to criticize the status quo if the criticism is put on the ‘backs’ of those who have no power to change it. Even the name of this great lady (Ms. Amerikkka) suggests the author’s intended focus on built in, institutionalized racism in our culture and also suggests a small dig at feminism… for she is a Ms.… the stereotypical feminist without a male to control her… and the lyrics let us know the negative consequences of that choice.

During a lecture titled “Cultural Criticism and Transformation”, bell hooks states, “How can there be an interplay between all of those different forces? Popular culture is one of the places where there can be an interplay.” We are able to watch, listen and understand many forms of creative expression in our society between painting, writing, movies, sculpting, and music. For those with more power and privilege in our society, they can actively create, market and push the images and music that we are bombarded in during our daily lives… from the instrumentals played in elevators and ‘hold’ music… to the music played in stores and available to find and purchase. For those individuals who try to create and market outside the system, the road can be very challenging and untenable. Some artists are successful –Anne DiFranco being an example -but the sheer amount of work and motivation can be impossible for the majority. Aceyalone has created a haunting piece of imagery that in less than four minutes compels us to look at racism and class in our society. He also provides us with the ability to understand how the overlapping of different cultural constructs can both help and hinder us in our attempts for change, financial security and stability. A provoking song, indeed.

pictures found at: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15-love-hate/, https://aceyalone.bandcamp.com/track/ms-amerikkka-bonus-track, http://genius.com/Bell-hooks-beyonce-is-a-terrorist-annotated


Remembering Loss and Combating Violence in Select Communities: The Development and Activism of “Hell You Talmbout”

* a link to the song critiqued can be found here....

The last few years have been punctuated by fearful sounds and guns, the grim pictures of black men and women, and the tiptoeing in the media of the circumstances of their deaths at the hands of either police officers or overly zealous vigilante citizens in their communities. Each of these deaths, especially when the circumstances are examined, has opened up an opportunity for all American communities to analyze and attempt to understand the pain, racism , privilege, and class issues that are slowly breaking our communities and society. While there are many conversations that need to be had on this subject and the various means that can be used to create more opportunities, less fear, and more lasting change for all, this paper will focus on the activism inherent in the song “Hell You Talmbout” released in August 2015 by artist Janelle Monae.

This protest song was born from the pain and injustice witnessed by Ms. Monae. The day before she released the song, the artist recorded her thoughts and described how the song came to be developed and published those words on Instagram. She states, “This song is a vessel. It carries the unbearable anguish of millions. We recorded it to channel the pain, fear, and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters. We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue. Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves... Won't you say their names?” This song is not the first written by this artist to try and illustrate her views on racism and state violence in American society- other songs on similar topics include ‘Cold War’ and ‘Sincerely Jane’.

A few things about this song help make it the powerful commentary that is has become. While some of the lyrics are sung to music, throughout the song a drum roll will start and the artists will shout out the name of one person who was either a victim of police brutality / murder or of violence and/or death primarily due to their race. As the name is shouted out, others join in saying “Say His (Her) Name”, encouraging the individuals surrounding them to join in. It is a moving performance that is intensely powerful whether listened to or visualized and uses catchy music and passion to draw itself into your head. The artists shout out the names of nineteen people through the song. As I listened, I felt drawn into the passion expressed and active interest in the individuals who were named. It was not hard to find information on the unfamiliar names that were mentioned. Another aspect of this song is that it reminds members of the black community that they matter as well as reminding members of the privileged community that their community isn’t whole or realistic without the acknowledgment of its minority members. In a few short minutes, “Hell You Talmbout” forces open a door in each listener’s mind to admit the pain and anger felt by many people and the fear and confusion felt by all. It is a rare work of art that can accomplish this.

There are many ways that individuals can help raise the consciousness of others in their communities to social problems and general need. Whether through campaigning or art, through service or advocacy, like-minded individuals tend to form groups to try and understand the unique problems that they face and how to confront or change them. Communities come in all sizes and many names- family, religious congregations, volunteers at non-profits, workplaces, support groups, social communities, friends, etc… Some of these groups can be voluntarily joined and exited while others may be difficult to fully leave without significant work and possibly a lifetime of difficult consequences. By recognizing not only need but specific desires and motivations in individuals and groups, each individual can carefully recognize the differences both in members and motivations of various groups and also potentially recognize how the actions of one group can affect others. With this song, Janelle Monae is making a few clear statements.

• The Black community at large is scared and angry and tired of being scapegoated and discriminated against.
• As a society, we simply allow too much racial violence to happen unchecked… and complacently accept blaming of the victim to help stabilize the status quo.
• Our society has too many layers of discontent and ignoring them will not make them go away.

I am still unclear – or fairly lazy- about some of the small things that I can do both as an individual and as a part of a group to affect positive social change and justice in the communities I am a member of. I have started by writing a few letters to my congressmen and I am going to attend a local transgender support group next week and see if I can not only learn something, but how I can potential help. I also express that I am an ally on Facebook so that vulnerable individuals will know a person they can talk to or ask for help from. It isn’t enough… but it is a start. As I learn more about how different ideas and social constructs intersect and collide, I learn more about myself and the communities I am a part of. For that I am grateful.

pictures found at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janelle_Mon%C3%A1e,