Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Eating With Ethos

July 17, 2014

ShehakolBlessing10FROM THE MOMENT IN CREATION when G-d ‘breathed’ the soul of life into Adam’s nostrils, we were made to understand how noses and souls are gateways to experiencing our existence. Shortly thereafter, Adam and Eve were instructed concerning the source of their nourishment: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it, for on the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Overcome by their curiosity, they disobeyed, giving birth to the history of religion and its consequences. Oddly enough, scholars and rabbis reasoned, the first couple were not punished merely for eating forbidden fruit, but for the way in which they ate it; without the intention of holiness, without gratitude for its Source.

How does one define gratitude? In its simplest form, a ‘thank you’ suffices for most occasions, but doesn’t really do justice to the more deeply felt emotions when you are on the receiving end of altruistic largesse whether it be a kind word, service or unexpected material gift. That is where blessings allow us to be more creative in expressing those emotions, not just to our fellow humans, but to the One whom we credit as the Source of such gifts.

When it comes to food, which is undeniably physical, a blessing does more than address what we are about to consume. Yes, we eat to strengthen our bodies to healthfully house our souls, but each time we eat, we also recognize our senses of sight, taste and smell which connect our physical and spiritual essences.

Judaism offers many opportunities to spiritually acknowledge all the wondrous elements of life on this planet, yet sometimes when the object of our gratitude does not fit clearly into a category specified by one of the many existing blessings, say for particular foods that we enjoy, there is the Shehakol or ‘everything’ blessing for those singular forms of nourishment. It is recited before eating or drinking any foods other than ‘fruits’ of the earth or trees, wine, or breads.

The types of foods included under the Shehakol rubric are: meat, chicken, fish, cheese, mushrooms, wild herbs, some edible flowers, eggs and soy-based products. Drinks include: water, fruit juice, fruit smoothies, tea, cocoa and coffee.

This blessing also covers some ‘manufactured’ foods or those prepared with a combined ingredients such as soups, candy, ice cream, peanut butter or baked desserts like apple pie; however, the ingredients used for these combined foods should not be recognizable within the product in their original form to qualify for the Shehakol. If they are still recognizable after cooking or processing, they would require individual blessings such as the ones recited for fruit of the trees or the earth.

Much specific information on this blessing and the rules for its application may be found online*, in contemporary publications and in classic texts such as the Mishnah Brurah and the Shulchan Aruch*, but for this book, I’ve illuminated the Shehakol (#36 out of 36!) for An Illumination Of Blessings! as just an appetizer so to speak, to provoke your curiosity and learning.

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To learn more about this successfully funded Kickstarter project and pre-order your own book and prints, please visit: 
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330347473/an-illumination-of-blessings
and: http://winnlederer.com/blessings/index.htm
PLEASE NOTE:When you visit my Kickstarter page you will see that the top reward level of your $500 contribution towards this project entitles you to have your name included on my Dedication page! This offer will stand until August 15, 2014 when I hope to have the book ready to go to press! You may contact me with your offer at: ilene@winnlederer.com.
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* http://oukosher.org/guide-to-blessings/
  http://www.ravaviner.com/2011/01/which-blessings-to-say.html
  http://www.englishtorahtapes.comguide_to_proper_blessings_fo.htm
  http://www.vharevnu.org/About%20Mitzvahs/Bruchos/dairy.htm
  http://www.kof-k.org

** The Mishnah Berurah or Clarified Teaching (by Polish Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838-1933) is   a commentary on the first section of the Shulchan Aruch  or The Set Table (Yosef Caro-Venice,1563)-which addresses the laws of prayer, synagogue, Shabbat and holidays .

-Wikipedia

Sailing The Soul Of Creation: A Blessing For The Seas And Oceans

June 11, 2014

BlessingForSeas+OceansRGB15Although orbiting satellites send us spectacular images of the clouded Earth amidst its swirling seas, these views pale in comparison to our physical comprehension of their vastness and power from our perspective of dry land or from the decks of our ships that carry us over them. As we marvel at the unknown depths from where some pre-conscious form of us emerged, the magnitude of the sea speaks to the essence of what we are. The sea, if you will, is the soul of Creation.

Observing that the Earth’s waters dance on its tectonic armature in time to the moon’s allure and the mercurial winds has provoked the fear and wonder inspiring the religions and myths of many cultures whose livelihoods depend on the seas. Prayers for the safety of their fishermen, travelers and for the lands on which they live are central to these systems. Where these prayers were once directed at individual deities deemed to control our planet’s natural forces, in Judaism, such prayers are enhanced by the Birkat Ha-Yam, a special two-part blessing for the seas and oceans.

Since I have lived mostly in Mid-Atlantic cities and experienced the oceans rarely except through my travels, it is very special to me. One part acknowledges Creation as it addresses the large-scale wonders of nature while the other is directed at a specific large body of water that must have existed since the six days of Creation and must not be land-locked. It seems that no one has ever agreed upon which ocean fits this description, but according to certain rabbis* the Birkat Ha-Yam blessing was intended for the Mediterranean Sea, most likely the largest one in their own experience.

Unlike those prayers that are entreaties for divine mercy and protection from the elements, the verses of the Birkat Ha-Yam are statements that acknowledge our humility in the face of our Creator and our wonder at the constancy of Creation.

When I began to work on this blessing, I thought that a prosaic rendering of a seascape would suffice. But I soon learned that I wouldn’t get away that easily. Given our ancient and complex relationship with our aquatic ecosystem, the Birkat Ha-Yam begged for a more nuanced visual narrative.

The image that immediately came to mind was a detail from one that I’d created for Parashat Eikev (Book of Numbers/Devarim) in my previous book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009). It showed a grandfather and granddaughter listening to the still, small voices in their hearts through the  metaphor of a conch seashell.

I chose this metaphor to express the subtlety of such an experience because I have a similar shell in my collection of oddities and have always imagined the sound of the seas echoing from its inner spirals. So a large conch shell became the centerpiece of my illustration, open to reveal the ‘heart of the sea’.   Within the conch is a tiny 15th century Spanish caravel sailing perhaps on a trade mission for its merchant owner. With a nod to the Biblical Leviathan, the piscine creature swims lazily in wait for the time of Messiah.
Below, the conch’s compatriots nestle among a watery scape of seaweeds. In the morning sky above, a faint moon observes the four winds competing to guide the ship to its destination as the seagulls survey their boundless territory.

At last, even when I thought the illustration was nearly done, I still couldn’t resist playing with one last image; do you see the fanciful little beast** hiding among the sea wrack?

Dear Backers: The Birkat Ha-Yam is the 31st of 36 blessings to be completed for An Illumination Of Blessings! We’re almost there! 
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Please Note: Even if you are not a backer on this Kickstarter-funded project, you may still pre-order your copy (ies) of An Illumination Of Blessings and/or prints from its illustrations here: http://winnlederer.com/blessings/index.htm   Also, if you visit my Kickstarter page at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330347473/an-illumination-of-blessings you will see that the top reward level of your $500 contribution towards this project entitles you to have your name included on my Dedication page! This offer will stand until July 15, 2014 when I hope to have the book ready to go to press! You may contact me with your offer at: ilene@winnlederer.com. *******************************************************  
* In the Shulchan Aruch 228:1(The Code Of Jewish Law) compiled in 15th century Safed by Rabbi Yosef Karo.
** Hippokampus (from the Greek for horse (hippo) and sea monster (kampus), named for its resemblance to a seahorse.

Codex Gastropoda #8: The WaterDaughter’s Dream

April 5, 2013

ImageThe WaterDaughter’s Dream is the eighth and newest to date in my Codex Gastropoda series of drawings. The melusine-like figure of the title is an iteration of the topiary figure in ‘Daphne’s Daughter’ which can be seen at: http://www.magiceyegallery.com in the Magic & Mysticism gallery under the drop-down menu. Together with my fondness for swimming, a longtime interest in legends of mermaids throughout many world fantasy traditions most likely informed this image. Do you suppose that tiny submarine is carrying little mythographers busy documenting this latest sighting? 

The WaterDaughter’s Dream is available from The Magic Eye Gallery as gicleé print on archival paper (11″x14″, 16″x 20″, or 22″ x 28″, unframed). This image may also be adapted for a wall mural in your home or office! Email : ilene@winnlederer.com for quote.

Of Memories And Realities

June 8, 2012

As always, I am surprised at how the stories and lessons in the Torah are able to transcend their times and reach into our own. Understanding how requires projecting and transposing their symbolism into our present era. This week’s reading, Parashah Beha’alotekha , addresses a range of instructions and events in the Israelites’ post-Exodus sojourn that include Tabernacle/Mishkan rituals for the Levites (priestly class) and the establishment of a second Passover (Pesach Sheni) for those who were not permitted to participate in the first one due to ritual impurities. These are further detailed in the AfterImages section of my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)

Today, I’ve decided to focus on a third element that is also addressed in this parashah; the events caused by the sometimes tragic disconnect between what we remember and what is.  The images above are selected from the illustrations for this parashah and presented here with a brief explanation of their symbolism.

The figure floating above the sand is an allegory for some of the Israelites who have come perilously close to idolatry in their weariness and boredom with the abundant supply of manna (buried in the sand). I imagined them as a hybrid creature of man and fish; a parody of the pagan fish-god Dagon angrily demanding meat while voicing idealized memories of Egypt’s plentiful cuisine. He is holding a backwards-facing letter nun’ that appears twice in this section of Parashah Beha’alotekha, surrounding the account of the Israelites leaving Mt. Sinai and their subsequent rebellious demands. Rabbi Shlomo Efraim of Luntchitz, also known as the ‘Kli Yakar’ explains this phenomenon. In the Aramaic language, the word for fish is ‘nune‘. A fish instinctively turns towards water, as it understands where it can remain alive. Conversely, the Israelites, in their eagerness for the Promised Land, left Mt. Sinai without remorse, turning away from their source of life; acting metaphorically as a backward ‘nune‘ or fish. God’s retribution for their attitude comes at Kivroth HaTaavah (also called ‘The Graves of Craving’), a day’s march from the Sinai wilderness. A multitude of quails descend on the camps, sating their hunger, but leaving behind a devastating plague. Accordingly, the second backwards nun appears just out of reach near a hand protruding in the agony of death. A discussion in the Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma 75b) offers a mystical foundation for God’s choice of quails as meat. This type of bird is naturally saturated with fat and oil. Oil, in mystical texts is often compared to the sefirot of Chochma, or wisdom. So the oily quail meat may have been an altruistic attempt to impart wisdom to the Israelites, but one that failed since they were too attached to their own bodily needs to attend to their spiritual needs.

Moving forward, I find a potential parallel between those ancient Israelites and our religious fundamentalists, politicians and the wealthy 1% who support them. In their ideological nostalgia for the 1950’s, an era of burgeoning national prosperity and civic growth fueled by two disastrous world wars, those fatalistic desires have become a foundation of quicksand beneath us, eroding moral behavior, political and social balance within a gravely ailing economy. Despite the often clairvoyant voices of media pundits and commentators, we seem stuck in that quicksand. Like those unfortunate Israelites eager to satisfy their hunger, we too are enslaved by our creature comforts and the tantalizing consumer culture we’ve created that enables them.

Nevertheless, I believe we have the potential to be better than our material needs by looking inwards and trying to understand the essence of our humanity that such materialism is decimating. Do we truly need the latest SUV, grand McMansion or expensive ocean cruise? If so, why?

Bits Of Whimsy: Sushi By The Sea Of Tea

May 21, 2012


Each painting or drawing I have made over the years usually disappears into its own secret place, perhaps within a portfolio, a drawer, a private/public collection or simply my memory when a collector contacts me. Which is what often prompts me to re-engage with an older work just for a clue to who/where I was when it was made. This idea was translated graphically (see below) when I set up The Magic Eye Gallery(www.magiceyegallery.com)last year.

Here are my thoughts on the genesis of Sushi By The Sea Of Tea:
August 26, 1998-The image shown above actually began about ten years ago as a sketch entitled ‘Sushi Under Clouded Moon’ following business trips to New York and Los Angeles, where my taste for these Japanese delicacies developed. I have always admired the spare, yet colorful sensuality of Japanese graphic design and the ways in which this sensibility translates to every aspect of that culture… particularly the presentation of food. The finished painting was put on hold in deference to a continuous stream of other projects, both personal and professional, yet always came to mind when I found myself in a Japanese restaurant. On a recent trip to NY, I made a few sketches of the restaurant staff and customers in such an establishment and considered these experiences part of my ‘research ‘. This year at last, everything seemed to come together; the choice of watercolor as the medium and the images of Madame Ginger and Master Wasabi … exchanging spicy stories of their travels amidst a feast of sushi. The tiny fisherman, guiding his craft on silky waves, is the eternal Guardian of The Sea of Tea.

The original art and gicleé prints of Sushi By The Sea Of Tea may be ordered at The Magic Eye Gallery: http://www.magiceyegallery.com.

Voyage Of The Snail Queen

November 29, 2011

Though journeys require literal time away from domestic doldrums, some require only an investment of imagination. So for today, still in a state of surgically enforced enervation, I’ve decided to revisit my Codex Gastropoda series with Voyage Of The Snail Queen. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skimming the seas above her domain
The Snail Queen surveys all in her reign
One kingdom lies far beyond her reach
For want of a treaty to heal the breach

Within her shells of memories rerun,
She sails to the islands of her renegade son.
Beneath a pale moon, her dragonship flies
The shadow of a dream traversing night skies.


Sanction & Censure

March 26, 2011

Kashrut is one of the central concepts in observant Judaism. Characterized by its complex laws and associated rituals, it requires extraordinary vigilance in and out of our homes regarding choices of food and its preparation as well as the separation of meat and dairy products. Underlying these laws is the basic understanding of the concepts of sacred and profane in relation to our spiritual development. Parashah Shemini, read this past Shabbos categorizes all animals known to us as either kosher or unkosher (trayf) so that we may choose the components of our diet with care and prepare them for consumption accordingly. As I began to illustrate this parashah, I was as delighted as a child at the extraordinary artistic challenge of depicting the diverse array of life forms on our planet. Digging further into the laws of keeping kosher however, I found the restrictions way too complex to be arbitrary. I wondered about their true meaning for us beyond straightforward obedience. Though I understand and observe the basic tenets of kashrut, my imagination is attracted to the esoteric. So if the animals I have drawn seem, upon closer examination, to have unique personalities, they do, indeed. Their ‘personalities’ were suggested by the Hasidic idea that each creature deemed kosher contains ‘nitzotz’ or sparks of holiness and that, when properly blessed and eaten, those sparks are released, inviting the Divine Presence into our material world. The creatures that appear fully colored underscore this idea. Those bearing an amethyst tint are considered inappropriate for the performance of blessings and commandments. As an ironic postscript to this entry, I should add that for reasons of health and social consciousness such as the prevalence of heart disease and animal rights issues, vegetarianism is experiencing growth among Jews. Perhaps that was the Plan after all, hmm?

Illustration from: Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html

Amazon: http://bit.ly/gRhg0g

The Snail Queen’s Soliloquy

March 17, 2011


Many writers and philosophers have made brilliant and erudite attempts to comprehend and court the ‘soul’ of imagination, but it remains a capricious creature, cultivated solely on its own terms. When, in rare moments, we are attended by one of its minions, it is a privilege to be treasured and shared. So, with barely more than what was given to me, this sixth drawing from my Codex Gastropoda series comes courtesy of The Snail Queen who crashed my dream with her little quatrains:

I am of the water that flows through me
Weaving my hair like the silk of the sea.
Memories color my undulant waves
Tales of seafarers, pirates and knaves

But these are only artifacts of Time,
Barely a ripple in this vast sublime.
With purple-black ink I’ve filled my fine quill,
Hungry for visions to appear at will.

In your dreams I travel through phantom worlds
Mining images that briefly unfurl
Savoring some that speak to the ages
Leaving others for you to grace your pages…

A Mundane Magick:Cleo@Cockfosters

January 18, 2011

Imposing strange images on ordinary observations seems to be the outgrowth of my developing visual vocabulary. As though seeing is an invitation to knowing or perhaps just imagining, as in this latest entry from my Notes From The London Underground series. What began with a casual glance at a pregnant passenger waiting at Bank Street station evolved into a vision that tells a story which can be interpreted at multiple levels. It is encapsulated in the framed text next to ‘Cleo’. The rooster and crocodile found their way into this image in response to the wordplay in the Cockfosters tube stop name, with which I couldn’t resist tampering. The crocodile represents the Egyptian deity Sobek, associated with ancient creation myths and agricultural fertility. A bit of research revealed that the rooster symbolizes the ancient sun gods and as the male principal also associated with fertility, it is charged with the protection of family and community. The name Cockfoster’s originated somewhere around 1524 and referred to a family estate in the North London suburban boroughs of Enfield and Barnet. The name may also be a mash-up of the words ‘cock forester’, the residence of the estate’s chief groundskeeper.


So even when an image presents itself to me, I don’t always understand all the reasons why that is so and in that sense, it doesn’t seem complete. I’d enjoy hearing your interpretations; it’s part of the magick…

This and other drawings in this series are available as limited edition prints. These may be seen throughout this blog and at my webfolio: http://www.winnlederer.com/underground/index.htm


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Publish Or Perish? Yes and Never!

January 13, 2011

This month, with the release of Stitchburgh from my imprints, Imaginarius Editions and TatterTale Press, I’ve brought an old dream to life. While the majority of my posts here have highlighted individual images, I’ve often been asked the eternal question: where do you get your ideas? The short answer is from everyone and everywhere. But today, I thought you might like to know the story behind Stitchburgh which in itself is a clue:

One day in 1979, when my children were young, I attended an exhibition of handmade quilts. Created by a Pittsburgh craft guild called The Quilter’s Triangle, their intricate colors and narrative quality moved me to research the history of this unique and personal form of expression. As a mother and an illustrator, I was inspired to create a work of art for my children. It would reflect my new interest in quilts as it enriched awareness of our neighborhood and daily lives. So I created an illustrated alphabet that I decided to make into a quilted wall hanging. First, I drew and painted everything onto a large canvas. Then, I chose the stuffing and fabric backing materials that would be needed. Since my skills do not include needlework (except for the occasional darned sock), Mrs. Fava, an elderly Italian seamstress in my neighborhood helped me put it all together. At bedtime the next evening, I told my children the first of many stories about Stitchburgh, an imaginary world where everything is made from the colorful patches of an old quilt. In this original tale about a little blue goose named Fanny Featherbottom and her beloved Aunt Madras Goose, a writer, Madras’ stitchwriter suddenly breaks. Her story, now tangled into knots, is lost. You are invited to follow the writer and her niece as they adventure around Stitchburgh in search for it and discover where good ideas are really found!

After that quilting exhibition, it would be eighteen months before I finished the first illustrated version of Stitchburgh in 1980, but this version would be far from the last. After countless submissions and revisions of the illustrated manuscript by editors who were probably wondering what it would take to make me go away, I was sitting on a thick stack of rejection form letters from dozens of mainstream publishers and had reached the bottom of my proverbial barrel. Suddenly it hit me. Why waste my energy staying mad when I could put it to better use?

You see, I remembered a story about Beatrix Potter, the renowned children’s author. Though she came from a comfortably wealthy English family, she was harboring stories that begged to be let out to play. She too experienced rejection from several publishers at the time. So, she gathered up her pluck and determination, printed a small edition of them privately and simply distributed them as gifts to friends and family. The printer whom she retained for her project was Frederick Warne & Co. who soon came to understand the potential value of her work. In time, they went on to turn Peter Rabbit into an international media and merchandising star for generations to come. On the tail of this memory, I asked myself, ‘why accept rejection as the last word?’

So with renewed hope, I gathered up one of my illustrated manuscripts and made an appointment with a local commercial printer to see what was involved in publishing my ‘masterpiece’ on my own. When I explained to the print salesman what I wanted, he looked at me incredulously. ‘Just a small run of a full-color, 32-page children’s book? You have to be kidding; are you aware of the costs? I was beginning to get nervous as he listed everything necessary to publishing a book, from layouts to finished art, from films to plates and paper, to press time and bindery charges. I was sinking into my chair when he gave me the final figure. At the time, the minimum press run for a picture book was 5000 printed, bound copies of my book: $18,500. The huge quantity was necessary in order justify setting up the gigantic four color press and to establish a fair market price for each copy sold.

In 1980, this was equivalent to a down payment on a modest home! ‘And,’ he added ominously, ‘that’s only the tip of the iceberg; what about the costs of marketing and distribution? How are you going to handle that? Stunned into silence, I imagined myself buried under a mountain of 5,000 books and quietly thanked him for his time. I slunk out of the office, feeling like a complete idiot.
Never mind pursuing other bids on the job; they were all in the same ballpark. As I packed away my dreams and resumed my life as wife, mother, teacher and freelance illustrator, I was again discouraged, but still hoped that I could somehow, someday make it happen.

Myriad other projects kept me busy over the years and in time, even as I illustrated other writer’s books for mainstream publishers, I cooked up some new ones of my own. During these years, print technology was advancing so that my early self-publishing experience would become an anachronism. While there had always been small private publishers snootily referred to as ‘vanity presses’ or ‘subsidy publishers’, authors who retained their services were not taken seriously. Rather, it became a stigma as their work was presumed to be substandard by the mainstream industry and therefore unpublishable.

However, early in 2000, as I began to explore the growing self-publishing industry, the mystique associated with mainstream publishing became more transparent. With major changes in the tax laws and the decline of the world economy, authors were no longer treated as celebrities unless they were entertainment media stars or prominent political figures. We could no longer depend on publishers to cover the expenses of heavily promoting our books. With a few exceptions, it looked as though mainstream publishers were not much more than glorified printers with the presumed aura of ‘marketing caché. To make matters worse, the giant bookstore chains on whom they depended for their marketing and distribution venues were struggling financially. These began to close many of their brick and mortar establishments and not surprisingly, corporate mainstream publishing is quaking in its boots. In addition, self-publishing, with ‘print-on-demand’ technology at its core is a rapidly growing industry that, partnered with the vast online merchant network is proving to be their formidable competition.

Happily, the vanity press stigma was being obliterated by the developing print technology because authors who became literate in its techniques could now publish their work with the newly emerging “print on demand’ industry. Though it would take me years to feel comfortable with the tools of computer aided design and sophisticated graphics software, I was fascinated to observe how these were driving a paradigm shift in the way books are produced, marketed and distributed.

Last year alone (2010), 764,448 self-published titles appeared – an increase of 181 percent from 2008. That compares with 289,729 titles from traditional publishing houses. These numbers come from the R.R. Bowker Co., the agency that grants ISBN numbers and compiles the bibliographic data that must appear in your book before you can release it for distribution. Such information is necessary for booksellers and libraries to catalogue and identify your book in the vast publishing marketplace.

Online companies such as CreateSpace, AuthorHouse, Blurb, Lulu, iUniverse and XLibris have made it relatively easy and affordable to put your ‘masterpiece’ out in the market. There are gigabytes of information out there comparing profit and loss to authors in both self and mainstream publishing, and you might want to look at these as you decide whether to self-publish or continue to submit your manuscripts to mainstream publishers. But numbers can be overwhelming and can do much to squelch your desire to venture into this market as an author.

As a typical artist and writer consumed by their art, I gave these figures a cursory nod, shrugged my shoulders and became absorbed in my fantasy of self-publishing. I worked to enhance my technological skills and happily imagined the fame and fortune my efforts would generate. I published my first effort, The Alchymical Zoodiac: A Celestial Bestiary in 2009 under my own imprint, Imaginarius Editions.

Though my sales of The Alchymical Zoodiac to date have just covered my expenses, I decided that after 31 years, Stitchburgh was still begging to become a reality. Paraphrasing the immortal words of Star Trek’s Captain Jean Luc Picard, I decided to “Make it sew!” Maybe at some point, if they still exist, a mainstream publisher will become interested in what I have done and consider producing a subsidiary edition and ancillary products. Maybe even, some bright star at Pixar might see animation film potential in it. You never know. But most encouraging are the kind words and support from all of you! Both Stitchburgh and The Alchymical Zoodiac may be purchased @my webfolio via PayPal: http://www.winnlederer.com