Introducing the most comfortable and secure cell phone stand

Knuckies has launched their full line of cell phone stands, including nine (9) different models, available in nine bright colors.

Where other cell phone stands fall short, Knuckies fill the niche for any application. Whether you need to prop up your iPad to watch Netflix in bed or you want to safely and securely adhere your phone to your dashboard to make sure you don’t miss your next turn while following GPS, these phone stands are the only tool you need to keep your phone on hand, wherever you go.

The Facts

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Knuckies are unlike any other phone stands you see on the market. They’re not some phone case with ugly grooves cutting through them, doubling as a kick stand. They’re not stiff, stuck at an awkward angle to the point where you can’t extend them as far as you like.

“No other stand does that.”

“I can prop my phone at 45 degrees in portrait mode,” said Knuckies inventor and founder Michael Diaz. “No other stand does that. It also has a larger point of contact with your table for wobble-free stability.”

Knuckies are made of a highly durable 3D-molded plastic polymer that allows them to contour to your hand–or any surface you desire–so you can be confident in where you place your phone when you’re busy doing the dishes or even trying to pick up a beer, chips, a napkin, and a coaster all at once, for instance. This phone stand will grip to your hand, making it impossible for you to drop it, no matter what.

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These innovative little guys even spin 360 degrees, so you can practice your mad quick-draw skills and impress your friends.

See something super cool off in the distance that you need to take a photo of? With Knuckies, you don’t have to worry about digging in your purse to find your phone, or wresting it from your pocket in a moment when time is fleeting and you need that phone now.

Just spin your phone and blam! Photo taken. Proof that Sasquatch exists.

Background

Michael Diaz has been all over the place, picking up inspiration, here, and education, there. He was born in New Jersey into a 100% Cuban family who were mostly raised in New York.

Aside from a four-month excursion in San Francisco, he’s been living in Florida for the last 20 years, where he earned his Bachelor’s in Business Marketing from the University of Central Florida (where I graduated, too!)

Now, he’s been bitten by the creativity bug and he can’t stop inventing things, which is why he designed nine different models of Knuckies, right out of the gate.

“I absolutely love inventing and creating things,” Diaz said. “I am sure my future holds many magical gizmos/ projects aimed at making the world a better place.”

The Process

“I had just received an important phone call and my friend was continually interrupting me,” Diaz said. “Afterward, I thought it would be hilarious to see a cartoon of someone with a brass knuckle phone case punching their friend who was interrupting them. I would call it ‘Not Now Knuckles!’ ”
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Then he Photoshopped a sample image and posted it to Facebook. It wasn’t until he woke up one morning in San Francisco that he decided to buy the website notnowknuckles.com. Being consistently exposed to this ambitious culture, he felt inspired to pursue one of his ideas.

“I later went on to change the project name to Knuckies and drastically adapt the model to be a more ergonomic and incapable of being used as a weapon,” he said. “San Francisco exposed me to a community of people who were expressing and embracing themselves for who they were. By embracing myself more fully and learning to follow my intuition (like the people I met in CA) I was able to overcome obstacles and launch this product.”

Diaz chose Shapeways, a 3D printing company in New York, to produce his Knuckies.

“The process is absolutely magical.”

“They are individually 3D printed with a $100,000+ machine (Formiga P110)  through the process of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS),” Diaz said. “Layer after layer of fine plastic sand is shot and fused together with a laser until the entire model is completed. This process allows for super small gaps (.5mm) between moving/spinning/articulating parts with absolutely no assembly required. It is truly fascinating to me and one of the things I find most beautiful about Knuckies.”

There you have it. Knuckies are the future of phone stands. Get this gift for your favorite runner in the family, or someone who is simply very clumsy.

“Over the past few years I have seen Knuckies absolutely transform the way people use their phones for the better. It gives me hope for a breed of products that bring us back into the moment with tactile interaction,” said Knuckies founder, Michael Diaz.

Find Knuckies on Facebook, or visit the official website, for more information.

Tragi-comedy ‘Wilson’ slated for release next year

Some of the scenes for the upcoming movie, “Wilson” (2017), starring Woody Harrelson, were shot in the Twin Cities.

According to the Pioneer Press, producer Mary Jane Skalski says they are shooting over 50 different locations in Minnesota, including Mancini’s and the Farmer’s Market–both located in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The news is pretty exciting for locals, as some may recall film trucks ensconced about certain areas of West 7th Street in early May of last year.

Wilson, the movie

The movie is based on a comic book by the same title, by Daniel Clowes, which sees our main character egotistically interfering in the lives of other people, instead of coming to terms with his father’s death.

Now, the official trailer has been released for “Wilson”, depicting the story as being hilariously true to life, as one can imagine Woody Harrelson might be prone to rag on random people for no other reason, but the sheer pleasure he gets from getting under their skin.

Skalski made no promises that we would see the movie’s debut by Sundance, this November, but “Wilson” is slated for release in 2017. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed they make next year’s deadline!

 

Featured image via The Playlist

High Fidelity: A Charity Art Show Featuring Greta Claire

Local artists, Greta Claire and Ryan James Ryoe are hosting a musical art showing called High Fidelity, during the annual Do the Dow event takes place on Nov. 11, starting at 6 p.m.

Greta and Ryan’s High Fidelity event showcases their art for sale. Half of the proceeds go to the Urban Arts Academy, an organization that encourages children to engage in the tactile liberation of creating art.

Art enthusiasts can run amok through the halls of the building, where they can talk to local artists, enjoy libations provided by New Belgium Brewery, and donate to a most singularly important cause: giving children the opportunity to explore art in its many splendid forms.

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Greta Claire gazing up at her painting, “Atosennim”

Starting young, Greta was taught that painting was a controlled art form.

“I always attempted painting in the more literal sense and since I’m such a perfectionist I was never satisfied with my results… Therefore, painting left me awful grumpy!” she said.

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“Bill Nye <3 <3 <3” by Greta Claire

In the last few years, music has inspired her to let go of those constraints and let her mind run wild.

“Music! There has got to be music (unless a migraine is involved),” she said. She is also an ardent list maker, making the most the personality traits that push her to find some semblance of organization in this topsy turvy world of ours. Sometimes she works on 5-10 pieces at a time, so keeping lists is her way of keeping track.

“Otherwise I generally just stand there and stare at paint and canvases – no plans are ever really in place. I’m always painting on the whim.”

Now, she enjoys painting so much, she rents a space with her boyfriend, Ryan, at the Dow Building to make as much of a mess as she pleases. And the results are incredible.

 

Her canvases are vibrant with chunky acrylic textures that practically beg you to run your fingers over them.

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“I Grow Fake Plants” by Greta Claire

Greta has been hosting art events for the past couple of years, and this time around, she thought, “Why not help raise awareness/funds for someone else that would put it to good use?”

So, naturally she chose the Urban Arts Academy. The UAA is a nonprofit that offers arts education programs to children and families in Minneapolis through preschool, after school, and summer arts programs.

Join Greta, Ryan, and a couple thousand other art lovers, Friday, Nov. 11 for a show unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Seriously, it’s unlikely you’ve seen all of the art currently being created by local artists out of the Dow Building in St. Paul.

RSVP on Facebook at the following links and receive notifications for each event:

High Fidelity
Do the Dow 2016

 

What do you think these sculptures are made of?

Rory King is the head woodworker at KING. He spends most of his time at the back of the warehouse, constructing desks, pegboards for accessories displays, and other functional works of art. Most everyone around the office knows who he is and what he does, but outsiders may wonder where all the art situated in the hallways and in one or two conference rooms originated from. The answer would be Rory.

Printmaker-Turned-Woodworker

He was about 18, and in high school, when he started creating sculptures. Before he delved into the world of wood, he painted with colored lacquer and oil paste in an airbrush style, back when he was a painter/printmaker.

“I needed to make a living, so I taught myself woodworking and I took what I learned from that, after 55 years, and funneled it back into building sculptures.” A lot of his current techniques were inspired by methods utilized during that time.

These days, he prefers building things with his hands.

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Rory King made the front desk, which currently serves as the home base for Jessica Gerardy, KING’s secretary and assistant HR rep.

As you stroll the halls of the KING building in Bloomington, Minn., you can see 8-10 (out of about 50, he’s made over the years) of Rory’s sculptures. Down the main entry hall, if you keep heading back until you hit Randy Nelson’s office, you’ll see about five of his sculptures in a loose cluster juxtaposed with old filing cabinets–his latest resting just shy of direct light.

Take 5 the name of that piece, and it’s currently his favorite.

“There’s a lot of energy in that one. It looks like it’s ready to leap off the platform, and yet it’s all very controlled. I like to contrast, you know. I try to make everything look as wild as possible, yet everything’s smooth and well executed.”

“If it fails, it fails.”

Not all of his ideas are executed in such an exact manner, however. There have been a few times where Rory has tried to produce a form that, to his mind, would have been feasible, but somewhere along the line, the finished product didn’t quite shape up to meet his original expectations.

He said, “If it fails, it fails.”

“Some of them, I don’t like, so you never see them. So, I cut them up and threw them away, because I was embarrassed. I thought it was a good idea, at the time, but then you build it and you look at it, and you think, ‘No. Haha.’ “

Rory King stands beside his favorite piece, so far: “Take 5”. He owes the name to the five balls embedded along the top of the piece.

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Rory King stands beside his favorite piece, so far: “Take 5”. He owes the name to the five balls embedded along the top of the piece.

The Process

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He stores his artwork, out of harm’s way, in his workshop when it’s not on display.

He finds inspiration in shapes, and executing the human form, he said.

“A lot of artists, today, take found objects and they just glue them together or weld the together and create this chaotic appearance, and it isn’t bad, it’s just already been done and I don’t want to do something that’s already been done.”

His favorite part of the process is getting a concept of the idea for a sculpture. He had the idea for the yellow piece when he saw a piece of wood leaning against a wall, and he decided to 3-dimensionalize it.

“The way I do this is very simple. It’s a process that I’ve never seen done before, but it’s so simple. You just cut a miter, then you glue it, and then you back fill it with a tongue depressor, and epoxy, then radius the top and then you’ve got what looks like bent metal, essentially.

This is an example of the curved cornices Rory fashions from a run-of-the-mill miter cut.

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This is an example of the curved cornices Rory fashions from a run-of-the-mill miter cut.

“That’s how I’m able to do all of these fantastic things, is with what they call tape-hinge technology. It’s not really high tech, it’s just using masking tape as a hinge and then of course, when it dries, you take the tape off and throw it away… Anyway, that’s how I’m able to do everything I do, and so much of it, within a short period of time.”

He also likes coming up with names for his pieces. He said he’s even thinking about renaming a few. For example, he’s considering renaming Take 5 as Jazz in Motion. Perhaps, the more he looks at his own work, the more he sees, as if he’s becoming more objective, yet more critical over time.

The Future is Bright for Rory King

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One of Rory’s prints hangs on the wall of his workshop amongst scraps of wood and other projects in process.

He’s been featured in the Minnesota State Fair, where he won $500 for his print artwork, and he’s shown his sculptures at what was then the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center (now called Artistry).

What’s next for Rory King? He’s looking forward to hosting a one-man show, featuring as many sculptures as he can fit inside one chosen gallery at a time. This dream of his makes it difficult for him to part with any particular piece, as he wants to keep them all together in the same location, so he can showcase them later, rather than sell them now for profit.

If you’re ever in the area, stop by the KING facility in Bloomington, Minn. for a chance to see Rory King’s artwork, year ‘round. You could ever meet the man in person and take a look inside his workshop, if you ask nicely.

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This wooden cat carving serves as the inspiration for his side job: Creating urns for posthumously beloved pets

 

Rory King’s Brief Bio:
He went to Marshall High School, where he was the best artist in his graduating class, a title which garnered a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. To bolster his burgeoning art career, he made a living as a woodworker, and after all of these years, he’s been able to channel what he’s learned on the job and transform his ideas in physical works of art.

Want to hear an album written from the perspective of space?

Vangelis just released his new album, Rosetta, last month and this is what space would sound like if somebody wrote a soundtrack to the intrepid beauty of it all.

The album is reminiscent of 80s synth, a la Contact, with plenty of little chimes and echoey alien noises. This is one album you need to listen to all the way through to fully grasp the thrall of the emotional roller coaster that would ensue if one were to decide to actually accept the one-way ticket to Mars.

My guess is, the journey would be scary, dreadfully exciting, and leave you in awe when you first set foot upon the soil of another planet.

Of course, there is no sound in space, due to the lack of molecules for sound vibrations to hinge upon and bounce back to our ears, but let’s just forget about the logic of science for an hour and close our eyes to imagine an infinite amount of possibilities afforded by the great dark blue abyss.

The new Vangelis album, Rosetta, is an achingly beautiful yet terrifying space journey for your ear holes. Listen to the entire album on YouTube or purchase it on iTunes.

‘A Little Book of Abundance’ poetry release party

SubText bookstore, in downtown St. Paul, is hosting a release party, on Oct. 17, for local Minnesota writers and their A Little Book of Abundance chapbook.

At the release party, you’ll hear excerpts from the eight authors who contributed to A Little Book of Abundance.

This special book holds fast to the theme of self-effacing positivity, in contrast to at least three of the authors featured in the chapbook: see “December” by Joan Johnson,  “Death” by Barbara Jones, and this untitled piece by Sharon Hilberer, for example.

A Little Book of Abundance will available for purchase during the release party.

Visit the SubText Facebook page for more information.

The new tune from Animals As Leaders is pretty sweet

Animals As Leaders debuted their new song, “The Brain Dance”, Sept. 30, preceding their upcoming album The Madness of Many.

With drums that just won’t quit, a Spanish samba version of a metal melody, and some whale song riffs, the new Animals as Leaders tune is math rock at its loveliest.

I can’t wait to hear what the three-man band has in store for us, when The Madness of Many comes out on Nov. 11, this year.

 

Featured image via Bottom Lounge

Listen to Beethoven’s symphonies for the first time at the new Masonic Heritage Center

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A portrait of the 13-year-old Beethoven by an unknown Bonn master (c. 1783) via Wikipedia

Ludwig van Beethoven was a mason… and now his symphonies will be played during the grand opening of the brand new auditorium, Sunday, at the Masonic Heritage Center in Bloomington, Minn.

This YouTube video provides a virtual tour of the concert hall, for those who can’t make it to the unveiling:

$20 million dollars went into the construction of the Masonic Heritage Center; $80,000 of which devoted to the sound system alone to make you feel as if you’re surrounded on all sides by the musicians while they play.

There are 450 seats in the auditorium, giving the setting an intimate quality.

Beethoven was the impetus for a movement of beautiful classical music to set in motion a standard that is still in place today.

While most of his symphonies are hours long, you can listen to pieces of each of them, courtesy of the fine musicians who carry his spirit passed the realms of the unthinkable into fruition today.

Business Wire:

The Beethoven concert will feature musicians and ensembles from around the Twin Cities, including MacPhail Center for Music’s premier adult choral ensemble, SONOMENTO, the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra, pianists Roderick Phipps-Kettlewell and Bryon Wilson, and variety of guest artists.

Now, here’s a video of a man playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” using Glocks.

You can hear an arrangement of Beethoven’s symphonies, live this Sunday, for the unveiling of the new Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center.

 

 

Beethoven’s original sheet music via Reddit

‘Versus’ by pg.lost is now available on Spotify

You don’t have to hold your ear to the radio to hear a new song, anymore.

The days of pay-per-play and “hit new single” are over. Now, artists are pushing their new songs out to the public, hitting them in their own homes, via Spotify.

Pg.lost

pg.lostWho is a perfect example of a band who is disseminating their music humbly through the net? Pg.lost.

You won’t see ads extolling the new album. There are no bells and whistles. Their label, Pelagic Records, is even selling the album for 7€ ($7.81) which is unheardof. These guys aren’t looking for celebrity, and yet they consistently make an impact on the lives of their devout fans.

Teasers

They released Ikaros on Aug. 30, then Off the Beaten Path on Sept. 7. These little teasers gave us insight into the new album, showing fans that pg.lost still has their fingers in developing hour-long story arcs of auditory construction that send us on imaginary adventures.

Is there a better band to listen to when you’re playing that one RPG that you revisit every year, ritualisitcally?

Versus

Pg.lost just released their new album, Versus and you can listen to it on Spotify. Of course, no local radio station is going to play lyric-less prog rock, so you’d be hard-pressed to find this tune anywhere, but online.

Listen to Versus, by pg.lost, on Spotify and add a little whimsy to your workday.

Featured image via TEDxTelAviv

Shangri-La Suite is going to be so bloody awesome

From Ashley Greene’s site:

SHANGRI-LA SUITE tells the story of the offbeat star-crossed lovers, Jack (GRIMES) and Karen (BROWNING), and their dark adventure on the road to Los Angeles. After breaking out of the mental institution where they met, the two love birds leave behind a trail of dead bodies to help Jack fulfill what he thinks is his personal life mission: assassinating his idol, Elvis Presley.

Shangri-La Suite debuts at Cannes, May 17-28, 2017.

Saga 37 was well worth the wait

After all this time, three months to be exact, Saga makes a resurgence in the lives of the devout, as the wall of fire that is the Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples team brings us Sage 37. The wait was worth it.

The latest issue of Saga sees Marko and Alan’s little girl souring passed the age of 5. Hazel’s growing up in such a short period of time. She’s been through a lot, yet after being without her father for the last some-odd years, she instantly recognized him as that missing piece of her and she ran into his arms.

That was a couple of comics back.

saga-37Now, we’re all wondering, where’s Lying Cat? She’s back! She’s been with Sophie, the refugee that the Brand lifted from the slave girl colony, and now she wants to be a mercenary, just like her recently-deceased dad surrogate.

I won’t give away too many details, but I must say Fiona’s outdone herself. It’s wonder how an artist can show us a single panel amid five other works of art on the same page, yet instill such life as to lead the mind down a path of motion. Doesn’t it feel like that little rescue boat is speeding forward unto dawn? Charging towards its target? I wonder how long it takes her to conceptualize, sketch, and fill in each panel, bringing the story to life to communicate visually what’s taking place in each scene?

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And we’re getting to know Petrichor a little better, now. Ancillary characters are coming out of the woodwork, and this one in particular triggers a relatable presence to a certain demographic of the Saga audience, I imagine. Not to belittle the term, but I’m sure the topical nature of this woman’s sexual endowments will hit home with quite a few individuals who may have felt left out in the broad scheme of modern literature.

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Just as things are getting serious, they crash-land on the planet Phang to be greeted by adorable little meerkat people. What a way to end a book, I tell ya.

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Like I said, Saga 37 was well worth the wait. And I was introduced to Dept.H during the suspension of the comic, as well, so that works out for me! Not to mention the fact that Magic the Gathering has taken over a good chunk of my time, thanks to my one and only.

I’ve said too much, already! Go pick up the latest Saga, if you haven’t already. And if you’ve never read the series, well, buying the trade paperback versions is a steal at approximately $15 bucks a pop.

Do it.

We’re going to the chapel and we’re going to get married

Except, there is no chapel–this is modern day.

We’re actually getting married in a bomb ass art gallery, so take that, religion!

I’m going to marry one Keith Bohnen and soon my last name will translate as “beans” in German. I don’t think my maiden name has any direct translation, aside from the fact that it has ties to Jewish heritage (I’m pretty sure my great grandpa Snyder was a Jewish refugee who wiled his way into the ranks of the US Army).

This is the main thing on my brain, lately. Not because I regret anything. I do have regrets in life (like, not rescuing my dad’s Heat jacket–which was originally his dad’s–from this storage facility when I intuited that it would be lost forever along with all of my other belongings, at 14) but I really want this.

We’ve only known each other a year and it seems that we’ve been connected for all eternity, somehow. And maybe this is a whimsical 14-year-old dream of mine, but I’m living it, so there’s that.

You can’t deny your fate, especially when it’s slapping you in the face.

I told my friend Rachel the other day that I had found a glowing crystal in the dust and decided it was mine, so I picked it up and put it in my pocket. That’s Keith. He is that crystal. And I’ve dusted him off, put him on a shelf, to remind me every day that there is beauty in this world. And he’s stayed with me. We’ve learned so much about each other, the thought of separation seems impossible.

Where have you been my whole life, dear? Up here, shivering in the cold, while I melted away part of my soul down south, ripening for a taste of you.

It’s really all I can think about. Collision is imminent. And my mom couldn’t be happier. That’s a plus. I’ve lost a cousin due to my insatiable love, but you really can’t help the feelings of others.

You have to look out for number one, right? Number two and number one.

So, here we go. Sept. 24 is the date. And while people are dying, others are having babies, some are creating art by pricking their thumbs and smearing their life’s blood all over the walls, and I’m getting married. It’s a big step. And I feel I’m a little late to the game, but there is no other way. This is the path I’ve chosen. Keith is the one.

 

And here are a couple of photos of our rings, carved from Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams”, courtesy of the artist himself, Jeremy May of Little Fly

350 2 350 4

Ever been to a trucking show?

The Great American Trucking Show is all bright lights and goosebumps in the beginning. When you first walk through the glimmering hallways of the Kay Bailey Convention Center, you notice the Dallas skyline through the floor-to-ceiling windows to your right, and on the left, photos of past plays hang on the wall, highlighting the history of the building.

Then, there’s the escalators–which I totally forgot I was afraid of, seeing as how I don’t encounter them too much on my way to and from the Bloomington office. Nelson helped. He offered to stand a step below me on the way down, just in case I fell face first onto the scary-looking steel traps which would invariably diverge and lash out to grab hold of my shoelaces, rendering me pulverized meat in a slow agonizing death.

However, I have survived the escalators and I am A-OK, in case you were wondering.

Aside from the sweetly warm heat of downtown Dallas, I’d expect the slightly stormy weather near the closing of the show to envelop me in a sticky embrace, much like I’m used to in Florida, but, the environment is quite arid, to my liking, and once you roll down your shirt sleeves, you can find yourself quite comfortable in the frigid indoor area of the trade show itself.

The people are nice, here in Texas. Nicer than I thought. Most people go out of their way to offer up a nod and smile at any passersby, and when they decide to stop by your booth, they take their time looking through the marketing department’s carefully designed literature before scrunching up their eyebrows, hitching their glasses back in place on the bridge of their noses, and asking you questions.

I found that letting them ask the questions, instead of launching into a spiel right away helps. In one case, a lady with two guys in tow, asked, “Howdy. What’s your spiel?” Since I overheard her talking to her compadres about getting wifi for their truck, I simply said, “Oh, we don’t have wifi. This is satellite TV.” And she raised her arms, “See?” She had won the battle that day, preventing further confusion among her friends. I let her walk away.

But! A huge percentage of the people we talked to seemed generally interested in the product, and we even managed to sell a dozen or so, so the trip was well worth it, in my humble opinion.

I also had a chance to walk around the quaint little tourist town of Grapevine, TX one night after the show. I took a ton of photos of strange cactus (I was informed that the word’s both singular AND plural, there) and if you look carefully in one of the photos, you can see a mannequin of a man standing guard way high up in one of the bell towers, next to that Cotton Patch cafe with the unicorn mascot pointing the way toward justice for all foods fit for southern stomachs.

Long story, short. GATS was great. I met a TON of cool people and I learned a lot from Nelson, not only about Dealey Plaza, Lee Harvey Oswald, the World Trade Center, and various architectural marvels employing sound engineering in the form of bridge construction, but I learned about the relationship dealers have with customers and customers have with sales people, face-to-face. I also learned that there’s a difference between local truckers and long-haul truckers. HUGE difference—as far as selling our product goes. Oh, and it’s quite possible the first long-haul truck was made in 1939. Go figure!

The Great American Trucking Show was an eye-opener, to say the least, and I’m glad I had the chance to participate. Now, let’s see what happens at MATS next year, in March.

 

To be published in next month’s staff newsletter for KING… 

Dept.H: Intriguing and downright aesthetically pleasing

Dept.H is a new series by husband and wife team Matt and Sharelene Kindt. Matt writes the story and draws the art, then Sharlene brings the panels to life with her amazing watercolor impressions of the scene.

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The visuals are reminiscent of Jeff Lemire of Sweet Tooth’s sketches, yet the colors are tinged with the taste of oxidized iron, a discarded wheel hub left to dissolve into rust on the sea floor.

First Issue

DSC01706The first comic introduces us to Mia, the daughter of Blake, the smartest man on Earth, who constructed a miles-long lab spanning across the surface of the ocean. Outfitted with super-armor oxygen suits with quick-release fins, an airstream propulsion pack, and safety deployment system, one could explore the darkest depths of the ocean safely for up to an hour, presumably. They also have hi-tech submarines which match in scope the most expensive spaceships you can imagine. DSC01707

Her father left his entire enterprise to the whims of eight crew members, one being her current lover, when her father was murdered.

She is deathly afraid of the water, she could go up into space at any time, no sweat, but there was something terrifying about feeling the weight of the world pressing in on you when you’re 10,000 leagues under the sea. Despite her fears, she needs to lend an outsider’s look on the situation at hand, solve the mystery, and discover what happened to her father.

First Impressions

Reading Dept.H is a new experience, for those familiar with your run-of-the-mill comic book. The texture of the pages is unlike most comics, where the pages are glossy and relatively thin, but Kindt’s work is straight matte, as if the book were printed on watercolor painting paper.

The story is also quite intriguing. Who is the culprit? Will it be her lifelong best friend, or her brother, perhaps? Every member of the crew is involved in the closest aspects of either her of her father’s life, so it seems impossible that any one of them could bring harm to her father, but therein lies the cliffhanger.

Overall, aesthetically, kinesthetically, all the tically’s. Dept.H gets my vote. And I’ll likely continue subscribing to the comic for the next few years, or however long Matt and Sharlene decide to stick it out.

Ever wanted to walk through a real-life maze?

Well, now you can!

This is one of the amazing events that St. Paul has to offer. There are picnics where everyone speaks French, seasonal workshops for beginning taxidermists, and then there’s a labyrinth walk. Who would want to live anywhere else?

Hosted by St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, the Paths of Peace: Exploring the Labyrinth event is open to all ages. Labyrinth-designer Lisa Gidlow Moriarty will educate participants on the history of labyrinths dating all the way back to paleolithic rock carvings, then she’ll bring us up to speed with information about the mazes found in medieval gothic temples and near the end of the journey, it’s likely she’ll share her own creations with the crowd, as well.

What: Paths of Peace: Exploring the Labyrinth
When: Wednesday, 8/17/16, 6:30-7:45 p.m.
Where: St. Paul’s United Church of Christ

Featured image via Live for Live Music

The boss fight that is Guidance, by Russian Circles

a0095785674_10Russian Circles’ recent release, Guidance, proves that instrumental rock is not dead. With their grinding effects, these guys have created art on wheels, hurling listeners into a dreamlike trance where ghosts and goblins lunge for your throat, and Guidance is the soundtrack to get you through the battle.

I first got sucked into Russian Circles with their album, Empros, when I was on a Red Sparowes, pg.lost kind of kick a few years back.

Up until recently, taking the song names to heart, I thought these guys were actually Russian, but they’re from Chicago, Illinois.

For a three-man band, they get creative with a crapload of pedals to construct an orchestral sound that comes at you from all sides. Each song leads you on a journey of the mind, where stories play out behind chord changes and varying rhythms, dragging your mood either into the gutter or lifting you up to fight the next boss.

It starts out, inobsequious, just slow-jamming, tending toward lighthearted melodies as they’re looking forward to new beginnings, then the static of an untapped FM-radio station starts coming through near the end of the first song, Asa, blighting the sound, and the drums slowly pick up to carry you on to the next leg of the adventure.

Vorel would be the perfect song for fending off demons in Gods Eater or Monster Hunter. It’s almost too much to take in, all the sounds colliding. Then it gets dark and grindy, while maintaining the constant hum of Brian Cook’s up/down strokes, and Dave Turncratz goes wild on the drums, manic, yet somehow still maintaining the pace of the song.

All the tracks on Guidance run seamless into each other, as if they weren’t individual songs, but one 41-minute long story.

Mota‘s a little more hopeful sounding, then it changes, and you’re thinking, “What’s gonna happen?” Then Cook comes in with a single powerful note, left hanging in the air. It’s a predictable turn of events, satisfying the need to take a long drought of water on an arduous hike through the woods, and Mike Sullivan backs up the track taking his time, drawing out long bass notes, while Turncratz is just hacking away. Sullivan’s fingers are running like a spider along the fret board.

With some consistent crashing toms to bring us back from a slight pause, you’re not ready for the end. Russian Circles doesn’t give you a break, as individual notes rush into quick strumming and the next song takes shape.

Afrika has this weird didjiredoo-type sound, Cook’s doing, as he fills the room with bass. With their scientific looping thought experiments, it almost sounds like there’s a xylephone coming through one of the lower layers, or someone’s running their hands along telephone keys. Is there an army of flying monkeys banging around on trash cans in the street? Nope. It’s just Sullivan, messing with effects, giving the impression that 10 guys are all playing guitar simultaneously.

There’s no real structure to the songs. They pluck when they feel like it, roll into drums when it seems appropriate, and let the notes hang when the moment’s right.

Taming things over a bit, with Overboard, the sequence ramps back up with Calla, with super dark, grungy riffs. The image of a burly hulk creature materializes into view, Frankenstein’s take on Highlander, climbing sharp rocks cliff side during a storm. He’s seeking vengeance. His name is Calla and he’s here to kick your ass.

The track gets nasty around the 32:00 mark and Turncratz does not relent and Cook starts djenting. Then the song sizzles out, electricity crackling on the surface of the ocean at night. The giant reaches his hard-earned ascent.

Lisboa proves a quaint little ending to the album, slowly reminding us that it’s all over. The song says, “Go home, sucker,” thus leading you to play the entire thing again, while your eyes glaze over, mesmerized by the guitar’s delay, the crashing cymbals, and the beast roar of a blaze that is the bass.

How fast is Cook’s wrist, anyway? As a child unfamiliar with the mechanics of musical metaphysics, you’d never guess that this guy is likely drenched in sweat while he’s working through a nasty breakdown, cutting off the audience from what might have been another 40-minute voodoo ritual.

On the whole, listening to Guidance is twice as satisfying as devouring loads of heavy comfort food during one of those long-awaited holidays.

And now I’m sucked back into the tar pit of instrumental metal, thanks to Russian Circles. Their sixth studio album will have you gripping the edge of your seat, trying to stave off visions of dark beings with an insatiable thirst for blood.

I’ll listen to this album on repeat until pg.lost releases Versus on Sept. 16.

 

Featured fractal by Deviant Artist, zy0rg

‘The Little Prince’ will break your heart…

… then put it back together again.

 “Growing up is not the problem… forgetting is.”

Originally written in French by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the English version of the Le Petit Prince that just debuted on Netflix two days ago lives up to the philosophy that one must never forget his/her inner child.

Children may be able to relate the film’s core message, as they’re stuck in boxes, trying to live up to the “life plan” their parents set before them, before they even figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

In the opening scene, a little girl (Mackenzie Foy) is asked this “big question” and she responds, in front of a panel of judges to determine whether she’s fit to attend Werf Academie. She mistakenly starts spouting lines her mother fed her about why she would be a good candidate, without even hearing the question they put forth. Then, of course, she snaps to reality and promptly passes out.

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“Check. Check. Check. Check.” – Rachel McAdams is the voice for the little girl’s neurotically OCD mother. 

The next day, the propeller off a plane comes flying through her kitchen wall, thus leading her to confront the older gentlemen next door, who lives his life through pure imagination alone, and a pocket stuffed with bologna sandwiches.

The dichotomy of an older “grown up” showing a little girl how to be a child lends the story arc some oomph. In de Saint-Exupéry’s book, there is no little girl or old man, just the little prince (voiced by Riley Osborne, son of director Mark Osborne), who’s wise beyond his years. We don’t know how long the little prince has been “alive”, but you can’t pick apart the facts of a story like this, though the little girl does try.

After the aviator (Jeff Bridges, the old man next door) shares the beginning of the story of the little prince, she breaks it down, as an adult would, declaiming its ludicrousy.

The aviator's front porch, which looks nothing like the other angular, cookie-cutter houses around the block.
The aviator’s front porch, which looks nothing like the other angular, cookie-cutter houses around the block. Do you see the tiles???

Steadily, she becomes intrigued enough to befriend the stuffed fox (representing the fox in the story) the old man sewed together, while neglecting her daily duties to eat an apple with tea at exactly 3 p.m., and study all day, save for clearly laid out breaks as designated by her mother.

As viewers who may not have read the book, you could either become skeptical of the notion that the drawing of a box might better resemble the idea of a sheep, than a drawing of a sheep, or you could entirely swing the other way and start bawling your eyes out when you see the little prince fly away from his home, asteroid B-612, and his first love (Marion Cotillard, the rose), out of confusion, mistrust, and inexperience.

He visits other worlds, asteroids 325, 326, and 327, where he first meets a man (Bud Cort) who proclaims himself as king of the entire universe, yet he cannot command the sun to set, “until conditions are favorable”. The little prince then meets a man (Ricky Gervais) who needs acclaim. “That’s a funny hat you’re wearing,” says the little prince, to which the man responds, “It’s for tipping, you see, clap your hands, praise me, admire me.”

At the third world, there’s a man (Albert Brooks) behind a large desk, stacked high with papers. He’s busily crunching numbers, explaining to the little boy who asks too many questions, “I own all the stars.” “But, why must you own them?” asks the boy. “They make me rich. So, I can buy more stars.”

It’s all sort of revelatory to someone who frequently questions the meaning of life. Why are we here? Are we following the right path in our careers? Do our children respect us? Are we good people?

Then, the little prince lands upon Earth, where he befriends the aviator, who must sacrifice his friendship to the child who taught him so much. The child is a bit like Buddha. He understands that “nobody feels bad about an abandoned shell”, and disappears into the ether, via a voluntary injection of venom (the snake, voiced by Benicio del Toro).

“The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen. The desert is beautiful, because it hides a well.”

The little prince (all grown up), the little girl, and the little fox make their way up a pile of "non-essential" items, to reach their plane, and free the stars.
The little prince (known as Mr. Prince by the end of the film, all grown up, voiced by Paul Rudd), the little girl, and the little fox make their way up a pile of “non-essential” items, to reach their plane and free the stars.

And through all of the danger and the doubt, comes the pivotal moment in the film that veers the little girl on a course toward the conclusion (come on, I can’t give away every single scene, here). I’m grateful it ended the way it did, whether it followed the book or not.

“You’re going to be a great grown up,” the aviator says, cradling the little girl in his arms while he’s sitting upright in the hospital bed. Her mother mouths the words, “Thank you,” while standing in the doorway.

As an adult, if you stick it through, I promise, this movie will get to you. It will break your heart, then put it back together again, as you can relate to all of the struggles of being an adult, while staying sane, and keeping that inner child of yours alive and kicking. And if you’re a movie buff, you’ll find much satisfaction in the beautiful craftsmanship produced by both the stop-motion and CGI teams for The Little Prince.

The lighting, though. Looks real to me.
The lighting, though.

I have a slight obsession with existentialism and allegories, and this one took the cake back in college French class, smashing the two concepts together — like Pie à la Mode — and watching the movie, today, has encouraged me to rethink pretty much everything and put life in a new perspective.

The major takeway? Fly a kite! Take a break. Watch some ants crawl around a leaf and remember what it’s like to be curious about things. Never forget how important it is to never forget.

 

Movie stills taken via screen shot on Netflix

 

 

E.L. Doctorow is too addicting to put down

During Camp NaNoWriMo, last month, I read five books, and started a sixth. Three out of six of these books were written by the same author: E.L. Doctorow.

There’s something about the pacing of his writing that keeps you enthralled. We either see events steamrolling out of control or he’ll pluck his way gingerly through the morass of details, holding fast to your feet as you wade into the mire with him.

My favorite of his, so far, would have to be Homer & Langley, based on the true story of two hermits who hid themselves away in their home in Harlem.

The entire novel is like a poem about two brothers (Homer and Langley Collyer), myths themselves, who have been strung up among the stars, a constellation at last.

Did these two fellows really befriend a mob boss, by the name of Vincent, in a strip club, who promptly forgot who they were when he was in dire need of a place to heal after a gun fight? And how could two millionaires possibly waste away in a house with tiny ivory figurines, a rotting Model T, and thousands of editions of the daily newspaper piled high to the ceiling?

Unlike most of the books you’re likely to read, all of these strange things you interpret through the ears of a blind man.

“I had my own medical theories, perhaps this was a disposition given to the progeny of a doctor, but I believed my eyes and ears were in some intimate nervous association, they were analogous parts of a sensory system in which everything connected with everything else, and so I knew what had been the fate of my vision would be the same for my hearing.”

The rhythm of his words is like music for the eyes. I’m not sure whether he labored over their order within a sentence, but it feels more like they just rolled off his tongue, as if Doctorow was actually Homer typing out his autobiography, while Langley pushed his fingers down on the keys. While he’s speaking, the musician in him comes out in full force, the meter indicative of someone singing in time to the synapses firing in his head.

I’m not sure if anything really happens throughout E.L. Doctorow’s Homer & Langley, like a few of Henry Miller’s more meandering works, but there is a prevailing theme of time and its degrading effect on the human form, dragging with it strong sentiments you hold onto like the grudge of a lost love or the sight of a maid cleaning a chandelier years ago, the memory of which has just begun to materialize, in present day, as the entire crystal assemblage comes crashing to the ground; the result of steady burrowings of unidentified vermin.

Ragtime was the first E.L. Doctorow book I was introduced to. It’s dangerous, living with a fellow bibliophile, there’s never a shortage of material immediately at hand for one to gorge upon…

I must say, I really enjoyed Ragtime; it quite reminded me of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, the latter I have not finished, but I promise to get back to some day. Too sensitive for my own good, I’ll set aside a novel if it affects me in such a way that I become traumatized by developments I might not have been able to predict. In this way, I paused many a time, reading Henry Miller’s works, too, but The Colossus of Maroussi had me hooked straight through. I can’t quite put my finger on a reason as to why I might have suddenly stopped short while reading The Tropic of Capricorn. That man has a tendency to leave the mind unhinged, verging on alternate realities.

Now, reading The March, it’s as if Doctorow was there during the Civil War. The ever diligent historical aficionado, it’s as if his home was ransacked and he and his fellow slaves ambivalently joined the militia, coming out of a few skirmishes unscathed, to put on the uniforms of enemy soldiers on a whim, saying, “This is the life, my man!” as they pat each other on the back, while pulling dregs from a dead man’s bottle. Thus is the appeal of Doctorow’s all-encompassing world building.

But back to Homer & Langley and the sightlessness which lends much to imagination:

“There are moments when I cannot bear this unremitting consciousness. It knows only itself. The images of things are not the things in themselves. Awake, I am in a continuum with my dreams. I feel typewriters, my table, my chair to have that assurance of a solid world, where things take up space, where there is not the endless emptiness of insubstantial thought that leads to nowhere but itself.”

Not all books need to be tied up neatly with a bow. Some plotholes are meant to gouge like a knife hit to the side, leaving you somewhat empty by the end of the ride.

There is something almost warm and cozy about this one, in particular, that I think back fondly on. Somehow I felt the need to write about it before I could continue on with The March, it’s affected me so. And how could it not when the main characters’ morals are so thoroughly mapped out? You can relate to the idea of being hospitable to a few hippies for weeks at a time, who situated themselves into the Collyers’ home as if they were permanent fixtures on the walls themselves. Yet the brothers would push away any propagandizing fiends who tried to darken their doorstep, aside from the one journalist, Jacqueline, who we meet for a brief few moments, then never heard from again.

Either way, among the three Doctorow’s I’ve been priviledged enough to read, Homer & Langley has been my favorite so far. The story is so deeply rooted in philosophy, without a  hint of objectivity as to the main character’s plight while his senses slowly begin deteriorating.

You really don’t know what is real by the end of the book. Is that how it happened in real life? The two brothers didn’t see it coming, as the ceiling collapsed on top of them? Maybe they preferred it that way, blind to the world around them, yet analyzing everyone else with minute scrutiny.

 

Featured image via Dinah Williams Dark Alleys of American History

Hiatus is halfway done!

Hello, and welcome back! You might not have noticed, but I haven’t written for the blog in the last two weeks. Maybe this isn’t so preposterous, as during college or some of my lower points, I would go a couple of months without blogging, but the last two years I’ve been pretty adamant about posting at least once or twice a week, so somewhere in the back of my mind I get a little peeved about the fact that I haven’t been writing little news stories for you, for the last 15 days.

So! This is the halfway point during my speech where I inform you that I’ve made a proclamation to focus my attention on Camp NaNoWriMo, whereby my writing attentions are solely directed toward fiction. I made a Facebook post publicizing the fact, but just in case you’ve been refreshing this page every other day, looking for new content, and you’ve been sorely disappointed, now you know why!

There you have it. Congratulations to all participating in the month-long marathon that is NaNoWriMo. Starting Aug. 1, you can expect to see a flurry of new blog posts (I have, like, five potentials up my sleeve).

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IndieGogo launched for Arthur Radebaugh documentary

From the creator of ‘The Perfect 46′, ‘Closer Than We Think’ shows life behind the scenes of sci-fi illustrator Arthur Radebaugh.

Arthur Radebaugh is the pioneer of sci-fi illustration art. You may not know him by name, but you know his work.

arthur-radebaugh-sci-fi-art
“The technique has already been used successfully in reducing hormone flow from the pituitary, in relieving depressed mental states by ‘cutting’ brain segments, and in treating certain cases of cancer.”

Closer Than We Think is an illustrated series featured in newspapers back in the late ’50s, early 60s. If you were around during this time, you likely either studied these drawings religiously, sinking eye teeth into every intimate detail, or you scanned the page and took in the ideas represented therein subliminally.

There’s no doubt about it, sci-fi is always in the back of our minds.

“When’s the next Apple watch coming out?” 

“Why can’t I take a shower in my car that drives itself while I’m on the way to work? It’s 2016 for Heaven sakes.” 

Where is our technology running off to in such a hurry? Radebaugh’s highly accurate, tongue-in-cheek prognostications are coming to a theater near you, spurred on by director/producer of The Perfect 46, Brett Ryan Bonowicz.

Closer Than We Think is schedule for debut in June 2017. Help the team stay on track of their goal via their IndieGogo page and your name will appear in the credits! It’s a win-win in my book.

arthur-radebaugh-sci-fi-art
“… you will be able to preserve both picture and sound on tape for replaying at any time.”

 

Loss of innocence in ‘The Neon Demon’

via movpins
via movpins

*Warning: This article is full of spoilers*

Somewhere in LA, a blonde girl in a purple dress is gracefully placing one foot in front of the other, lifting her skirts to see where her feet fit into the grooves of the rooftop’s edge. She’s made up her mind to jump into the pit of jaguars and panthers who are weaving figure eights into the tar below, practically pulling her down with them in growling snarls and glints of sharp teeth. She thrives on danger.

That’s what Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is all about. The loss of innocence as a byproduct of giving into the seduction of sin-soaked LA fashion.

The film is dripping with metaphors, hardly hidden behind the persistent pulse of a strobe light timed to the rhythm of synth bass beats. Refn conducted his team toward perfection in creating an art film that leaves you traumatized anew after every scene.

Cinematography

Is The Neon Demon shot in 4K? A reddit user says he shot 60 frames per second, which would be the ideal choice to capturing all those strobing lights. Refn masterfully nails reds and blues flashing in the dark. And his framing is just impeccable. He follows the photographer’s Rule of Thirds almost to a “T” and a lot of his scenes are shot through mirrors. Does that make the entire film as appearing backwards, connotating the wrong perception, a negative reflection of reality?

In one scene, the camera focuses in on Jesse’s face for a full 20 seconds or more, and the shot is framed immaculately. Cut up with black key frames, your eyes first latch onto Fanning’s eyes, which move to the shimmering gold makeup carving into the contours of her cheekbones, the clip holds on, your eyes relax and you travel down her gold-painted neck, to her shoulder blades, and light upon the freckles resting there.

As as the photographer comes closer, her heart rate quickens, her eyes enlarge and you’re hooked in again. Then the angle changes, and you feel as if you’ve been in a trance, thinking, “Wait, what’s happening here? Is the photographer going to force himself on her? Is she going to just stand there and take it?”

Metaphors

Unlike the presentiment intimated by the trailer highlighting the money, the clothes, and the self-destructive glory of living as an LA model, there was no sex shown throughout the film. There is a scene where Gigi and Sarah bathe in Jesse’s blood, while Ruby looks on, as if to indicate there would be no show, without someone watching. The entire scene is unnerving.

via IndieWire
via IndieWire

The main focus forms a panoramic view, inside and out, of the virgin’s psyche. Jesse’s lack of experience, youthful beauty, and natural rebelliousness evinced through an otherwise modest demeanor culminates in the personification of innocence. Refn’s use of interspersing scenes of blues and reds show Jesse emerging from blue light, frightened, to walk boldly into the red. She glides in on silver wings, touches down into the inner circle, and shows the rest of them that she doesn’t belong to their herd, that she will do it her way and she doesn’t need to fuck anybody to do it.

via IndieWire
via IndieWire

Jesse, 16, lies and says she was 19 to pass through the gates of hell. Older models, be it girls yet 20 years old, are scared they will lose their livelihood to new blood. Backed into a corner, the models attack her. Together they comprise the mountain lion that stakes its territory over her motel bedroom.

Jesse isn’t safe anywhere. She’s strong, but there are too many dark forces at play, she’s forced to submit to the knife pushed down her throat. And they bury her. They literally bury the girl and eat her, an ancient ritual of taking in one’s powers. It’s the nature of the beast, kill or be killed.

The Neon Demon is best experienced in a theater. At once, you’re peeking out of the crack of a sterile bathroom stall, watching as the models thrash out with their first initial taunt toward Jesse. Ruby says, “I heard there was going to be a show,” and pulls Jesse behind a curtain.

What unfolds is a microcosmic metaphor that can be extrapolated upon the rest of the movie. Picture a naked girl bound and gagged, being lifted in the air, while people take photos of her. There’s a club bass beat bludgeoning all your senses simultaneously and your body is at once voluntarily extricating itself from the La-Z-Boy you’re reclining in, and you’re shaking a little bit because you’re not sure whether to be horrified or turned on.

Music

Cliff Martinez created the original score for the film. This is the only possible sound that would fit with such a movie.

The bass beats are perfectly in time with the lighting, creating a scintillating story through sound that conducts the emotion of the film. Martinez weaves through the heat of the room with shifting notes like he’s wiping a bloody blade on black leather. Then he cools you off by plucking the synth keys to the effect of cold steel pressed against your back. You’re engrossed and terrified, and your palms are getting a little clammy by the thrall of Martinez’s sweeping musical advances.

Without him, this movie would make absolutely no sense.

Acting

via Cezy
via Cezy

As Jesse creeps closer to these automatons, she finds she’s discovers that the models are not people. Abbey Lee performs Sarah’s character flawlessly, in that she takes on the persona of a dolled-up machine. In one scene, she takes off her sunglasses, as if they were glued to her face, her movements stilted, robotic, and with gleaming plastic eyes, she leans closer to the blue carpet stained with fresh blood to pick up Jesse’s hazel eye that Gigi puked-up, she plucks it into her mouth and savors the taste.

Keanu Reeves (Hank, and what a perfect name for a dirty old man) plays the macho landlord of the motel where Jesse lives. It’s clear he’s only interested in destroying young girls. Reeves comes across as a dirty, drugged-up asshole and with bulging belly he barrels his way through the hall to bust into a poor girl’s room, presumably to have his way with her and kill her.

via The Playlist

Jena Malone (Ruby) is creepy. Why did she have to make love to that dead woman lying on the embalming table? She is the perfect choice as the manipulative lesbian lover who’s scorned by the incarnation of her ultimate fantasy. Her eyes tell it all: the lust, the doubt, complacency, and above all the need to feed.

Jesse is designed to crest the wave of passing over out of innocence and into a world of sin. Elle Fanning performs the transformation as if she were made for the role. With her long legs and transparent gaze, she could have been a model in another life. Or, perhaps through this film she lived the life of a model for a time.

The virgin always dies

That’s the standing motto with horror movies, right? Nicolas Winding Refn stayed true to the caveat and fulfilled his role of creating the next best obscure art house movie for cultish fiends.

In interview with Elle Fanning, she admitted though they stayed true to most of the script, the direction of the film took twists and turns according to the whims of the crew. Halfway through, the team felt they should go darker, and so they created an alternate ending, which ended up making the final cut in the movie.

Everyone was so deeply embedded in the story, from the director down to the composer of the score, that watching the film is like being on set with them, feeling through the balmy caves the perverted inner sanctum of seduction.

The Neon Demon is one of the only original films fully scripted for the screen, in theaters right now. If I had to make the choice to watch Sausage Party or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I would go see The Neon Demon again. 

 

Why upgrading to Windows 10 is no big deal

My first experience with Windows 10 is nothing out of the ordinary. The average person upgrades their OS every 5-8 years. So, if you’ve used Windows-based operating systems for the last 20 years, chances are you won’t freak out when you finally install Windows 10.

UI

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The user interface isn’t all that different from Windows 8. In the native start menu, you’ll see tablet-style tiles for news, Facebook updates, and suggested apps. If you don’t like this revolving flipboard of notifications, you can always install the Classic Shell and your start menu will go back to Windows 7/8. My favorite feature exists for the sole purpose of efficiency. When you click on the little arrow (woh2) near one of your frequently used programs, you have the option to click on one of your most recently opened files. So you can pick up right where you left off.

The Action Center is more for businesses, I think, what with the VPN controls and such, but maybe you want to see your Pinterest notifications, weekly alerts, and system status messages all in one place? I tend to ignore this thing on the right-hand side of the screen (it’s connected to the little thought bubble icon (woh) on the system tray/task bar). blog4

Naming Conventions

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See “All apps” instead of “All programs”, “Quick access” (boop) instead of “Favorites”. I find Quick access very handy, indeed. Quick access learns which folders you’re using the most, whether you’re frequently accessing a folder within your Desktop, somewhere in the cloud, or even on a remote server. So, instead creating a shortcut (how ’00s of you), now you can just click on the folder on the left-hand side of your File Explorer.

Edge

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Instead of Internet Explorer, we now have Edge. The icon (ee) is still quite similar, so I’m hesitant to click on it when I see it in the taskbar. I mostly use Chrome, as this wonderful browser has all my passwords, cookies, and bookmarks saved. And it loads fast. Why would you switch to Edge?

Cortana

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A long-winded sidenote about Cortana:

Cortana lives under the guise of a small circle (cort) lurking on your taskbar. She’s an AI named after the character popular in the Halo franchise, I imagine, and she’s hailed as the Windows equivalent to Apple’s Siri. However, she’s nothing like Siri. Cortana is a glorified search bar. So, instead of the Windows 8 version of the start menu search bar, you have to use Cortana, or look through your files yourself (see Quick Access section above).

Nothing personal about that at all. If I asked Siri, “What’s up, doll?” She responds with, “Helping Liam recycle solar panels, so we can all have a brighter future.” Now, that’s cute. Siri actually understands full sentences, too, so that’s comforting. Like Siri, Cortana does do things I tell her to. For instance, if I say, “Make a note,” she would start dictating for me, just like Siri.

However, when you activate Cortana, the stipulations state she tracks your browser history, she uses your location, she suggests things, and sends you alerts when it seems like you have all these other options to receive reminders (see Action Center above), and maybe you don’t want the office knowing you’re looking up guacamole recipes at work?

I’m disabling Cortana, FYI. (The circle icon then turns into a magnifying glass [meep].)

So, come on, Microsoft. Get with the times already. If you name an app “Cortana”, I expect her to be kind of buggy, severely accurate and timely, yet full of personality. Maybe I shouldn’t have played Halo and/or read the books so thoroughly…

Overall, switching to Windows 10 isn’t all that daunting. Sure, the text seems a little smaller and crisper than you’re used to, but you can always enlarge it in your Settings. So, don’t be scared to upgrade–especially if it’s free.

The sure-fire way to get a job in Minnesota

If you live in Minnesota, you might have noticed simple signs touting, “Now Hiring”, all over the Twin Cities. The economy is booming up here in the Midwest. Whether you’re looking for summer work or something more full-time, look no further than the nearest cross-street.

Who’s hiring?

  • Trucking companies

    hiring-truckers
    via R & J Trucker Blog

    They’re always looking for drivers to haul our general merchandise around. When you’re stuck in traffic on the way home tomorrow, jot down the number on the back of the semi in front of you. Having a CDL is required, but some companies pay for training.

  • Manufacturing companies

    via Venture Outsource
    via Venture Outsource

    Minnesota is known for its prowess in the realm of steel, flour, and all the essentials that serve as the backbone for modern society. If you’re hardworking and you’ve got some cojones, put your car in park and call the number on the sign sticking out of the grass in that cul-de-sac you so love to traverse through day-in, day-out. You may soon have the privilege of getting a workout while you’re at work. (KING is also hiring. Visit kingconnect.com for details.)

  • McDonald’s

    McDonald's
    via McDonald’s

    One of the largest companies in the U.S. also happens to have one of the largest turn-over rates for employees. Feeling a little like Chris McCandless and want to give your butt a break after all that hitchhiking you’ve been doing this summer? Pop into your nearest McDonald’s and fill out an application. You’re likely to get yourself a job there, no questions asked. Plus! You’re significant other will just adore you when you come home smelling like greasy French fries. Yum.

  • World of Beer

    via World of Beer
    via World of Beer

    They’re opening up a new location in Downtown St. Paul, and they’re looking for happy, smiling faces to corral patrons to the trough. Of course, you’d probably rather work at Bedlam, right around the corner and listen to live music while you work, but this will do in a pinch.

 

And there are plenty of other places that are hiring in Minnesota.

So, if you’re looking for a job in a state where foreclosed houses loom like old ghosts and abandoned shopping malls spell dread for even the most accidental tourist, move to Minnesota*.

Forego those laborious internet applications, where you have to type your skill set in quixotic fields over and over to the point where you’ve already stultified yourself long before you’ve even received the automatic reply email. Just walk right up to some shady place with the “Now Hiring” sign clinging to the window. Make a little buckage, and move onto better pastures.

Now, you’re living in the 90s and beating the system. How neat is that?

*I am not being paid by the Minnesota government to recruit out-of-towners, I just like this state. All of the above statements are true.

 

Feature image via DNA Footwear

Is the cake free? I’ll have just a titch more…

I don’t even like cake, but if you were offered cake for free, don’t you think you’d probably have a piece? Then at the Christmas party, Aunt Elizabeth says, “Oh, no one likes my cake. Looks like one person took a piece.” Would you walk away and disappoint her or would you take just a “titch” more to make her feel somewhat fulfilled? Maybe it’s just fun to say. “Titch.”

Slang is one of the wonderful aspects of our ever evolving cultural dialects.

Evernote-Camera-Roll-20151009-0639391-634x360

I recently read that in Ohio, they say such things as, “Where’s me a dog?”, to which “Here’s you a dog,” is the only logical response. Idioms are one of the signs that language has adapted over the years. It’s interesting to find out that what you think a word means in one state could vary in the next.

For example, the word “titch” comes from the name of an irregularly small music performer who went by the name of Little Tich. Fun fact: He was also born with slightly webbed hands with an extra finger on each.

I’ve always been interested in accents and regional slang in particular. In Florida, I remember hearing “funna” a lot, especially among young guys who thought they were “cool”. If you’ve never heard anyone say “funna” before, it’s a rough translation of “going to”. Somehow, along the line, the true nature of the phrase, “I’m going to turn 12 next year,” turned into “I’m gonna be 12 next year,” which in turn melts down into something similar to listening to the sound of eggs frying themselves to a crisp on a hot sidewalk in the summer: “I funna be 12.”

Screenshot 2016-06-18 at 10.49.21 PM
via Odyssey

Or, if you go a little further north, say, Tennessee, I’ve heard people say “fixin’,” as in, “I’m fixin’ to go to the store.”

You might hear this in passing, and think, “What???” especially if you’re equipped with a literal frame of mind. Your brain might conjure up the image of someone who’s gathering up joists and drywall adhering apparatus to add on another room to a local coffee shop.

Now, if you listened to my mother speak for more than a minute, you might think she’d descended from Jewish New Yorkers, what with her accented version of “kwaw-fee” juxtaposed with her frequent bouts of “oy vey”s. Where did she learn these words from? Who knows.

Here is a list of words, I’d like to use in everyday conversation, but I rarely have the chance to, just because they’re so esoteric:

  • Inkpen
  • Heartless wench
  • Gamish
  • Dodgy
  • Smattering

After sitting on this post for three days, I’m realizing I might like synonyms for tiny things, too. See:

  • Titch
  • Minutiae
  • Mite bit
  • Smidge
  • Not a whit more

Are there words so finely tuned in other languages? What are the Spanish or French versions for such minuscule measurements? From my two years of Spanish in middle school and three years of French high school/college, all I got it is gross and/or mas. Which are terms for large items…

Aren’t synonyms fun? Can you think of any weird words that you’ve heard in, say, another country or a different state? Send me a message on Facebook or something and maybe I’ll add them in here.

 

I don’t know what A-Tisket A-Tasket means, but this clip is sort of cute.

Anxiety attacks are a thing of the past

Or, 15 things to help you cope in a pinch

Are you a naturally nervous person? Well, great! I am, too! Let’s hold hands and skip through the tulips together.

But seriously. Like depression, any other personality disorder mildly buzzing near the back of your neck — or some idiot cousin persuing you at every breath — anxiety is a real thing. Whether you believe in the possibility that a person can live with a chemical imbalance and still function — mostly — like a normal human being diagnosed or not it can be quite stifling to simply, well, be.

So, I’ve put together a short list of a few things you can try to alleviate your anxiety… if only for a short while.

1. Put on Your Favorite Shirt/Dress
If you start your day stressed, I find putting a favorite shirt, dress, or pair of shoes can help give you a little extra confidence boost. Even if you end up with a little pool of sweat under the pits by the end of the day, at least the rest of you looks good.

lady-smelling-bread-lol
via Cambria Soup Company

2. Smellums
Lavender, essential oils, flowers… science shows taking a whiff of something nice can boost your mood. So, stop and smell the roses!

3. Distractions
Do something with your hands. Something that makes you think. What can you concentrate on right now to distract yourself from worrying?

4. Read
Along the same lines, reading can pull you out of yourself. I’m a fan of fiction, but sometimes the plotlines can be a little too excitable for the fragile bean, so pick up a book about herbs or birds instead! Now, would’ja look’it that? You’re educating yourself about something new, and getting a little R&R in…

5. Write

scribble
via Brandanew

You won’t always have someone to saddle all your troubles onto, so writing is a nice alternative to really digging into your feelings, to find the root of the problem, and suss it out yourself.

6. Airplane mode
Put your phone on airplane mode, but don’t turn it all the way off… sometimes it takes an eternity to turn back on… but this will alleviate your need to check it every two seconds to see if that person texted you back.

7. Music = Love
Eluvium is nice and droaning, wordless like Ludovico. But if you want something a little more meandering, might I recommend Radiohead’s new album, A Moon Shaped Pool. Especially for those who’s anxiety attacks devolve into self-loathing. Then again, you can’t lose with Mogwai, This Will Destroy You, and Explosions in the Sky. I could go on, but let’s move on shall we?

8. Chocolate
Give yourself a little treat. Engendered from birth, this says, “You’re on the right track. You’re worth it. You’re doing the right thing. There’s nothing to worry about.”

9. Take a Lap
Make your way around the office for a quick little jaunt. Maybe you’ll bump into someone who asks you what you’re doing this weekend? Then you can sigh and shift gears, “Ahh, the weekend!” Legend has it, you’ll feel a little relief from knowledge that the work week is this much closer. Better yet, you get lost in someone else’s story for a spell. That’s nice.

10. Take a Nap

naps
via 1000 Awesome Things

If you’re in between classes, feeling a little peckish after lunch, or just stewing in boredom sitting around the apartment, take a nap. Bam. Just like that, you’re no longer a person. Worries be gone! (Or at least stifled down deep in a dark place until you start reminiscing about money, or whatever, again.)

11. Take a bath
This way you’ll feel clean, sexy, and hopefully a little tipsy from the bottle of wine you brought in with you to add to the overall cozy weightlessness currently pervading every fiber of your being.

12. Masturbate
Are you all alone in your anxiety, without a hot body to curl up into to make things feel all right? (I try not to delve too deep into the nitty gritty on this blog–I’m pretty sure my bosses may spy upon it from time to time, but this is serious). Take time for privacy. The only repercussion is that you’ll ultimately end up feeling relieved… It’s precious to say the least.

13. Rearrange the Furniture

rearranging-the-furniture
via imgur

Not into exercise? How about a little redecoration therapy? When you do this, it’ll totally change your perspective on your living space. This is important, in my opinion, to do every once in a while. Pin back the curtains. Let a little sunshine in. Then you’ll notice that dark spot on the wall that’s slowly been driving you mad is actually a little home for a mouse who’s taken refuge in your humble abode. Take out the camera, shoot some photos of your new friend, and start a blog. Now, everyone will use your photos in mouse memes without giving you credit! Achievement unlocked.

14. Rubber Bands 
Some people have the urge to scratch, and that’s fine, but this leads to cuts, and can cause pimples in weird places too, which will only further stress you out, if you make a habit of touching your skin absentmindedly.”Oh, what the balls? Another one!?” So, if you get nervous talking to people, you can pull on a little rubber band instead of like, scratching yourself inappropriately. If all else fails, launch that sucker and see where it lands!

15. Breathe
Becoming conscious of your breath is the first step in taking back control of your bodily functions, and in turn calming your mind. When anxious people feel in control, they feel confident.

Do you have a cure for spontaneous heart palpitations, clammy hands, or shaking limbs? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll continue the discussion.

 

Whatever happened to the human-powered flying machine?

 

The last person to make an attempt to fly without the aid of a Boeing 757 or personal bi-plane, was champion bicyclist Kenellos Kenellopoulus, who made the 74-mile journey from Crete to Santorini only to see the Daedalus aircraft break apart several feet from his destination. That was in 1988. Why haven’t other athletes tried to top this feat?

Team Social Dynamics

Experts say the personnel on the project failed to work as a cohesive team, their lack of cooperation threw a conceptual wrench in the gears.

It’s hard to imagine athletes, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, cognitive scientists, and journalists all working together without one of the group trying to outdo another.

Those on the Daedalus project came from all walks of life, with some of the most talented people from MIT, Yale University, NASA, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society.

 

EC88-0059-002 EC87-0014-8

 

Daedalus in Action

The flight began at the main airport of Iraklion, on Crete, with a horizontal launch under the pilot’s own power, as governed by FAI rules. During the flight, the Daedalus flew primarily between 15 and 30 feet in altitude, and was accompanied by several escort vessels. The speed of the flight was helped by a tailwind, but this also made a head-on landing approach to the narrow beach hazardous, especially with crowds of spectators on the sand. The pilot maneuvered the aircraft to land more into the wind and parallel with the length of the beach. As the right wing extended over the black sand beach, the heat rising from the beach lifted that wing, turning the aircraft back towards the sea. This effect prevented the pilot from getting the whole aircraft onto the beach.

via Wikipedia

daedalus

The Turn

The flight ended in the water (7 meters from Perissa Beach on Santorini, according to the official record), when increasing gusty winds caused a torsional failure of the tail boom. Lacking control, the airplane then pitched nose-up, and another gust caused a failure of the main wing spar.

via Wikipedia

To understand the process from start to finish, spun from the lips of those who were there, delve into Gary Dorsey’s account of the events as recorded in their entirety in The Fullness of Wings.

The Myth Behind the Name

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Icarus and Daedalus

The name Daedalus has its origins in Greek mythology. Icarus, the son of Daedalus tries to escape from Crete using wings made of wax and feathers, circa 1300 BC. After flying too near the sun, his wings melt and he falls to his death at sea. Meanwhile his father Daedalus flies to safety, unaware of his son’s fate.

Following along the same flight path as this cautionary tale describes, maybe the experiment was doomed from the start? From the time of the Greeks to the last attempt in ’88, man-powered flight has seen history repeat itself countless times.

In the Past

The first recorded attempt flight saw its debut in 1912, when Robert Peugot managed to fly 33 feet with his bicycle-turned-flying machine. Experiments continued on into the 1930s, and cropped up again several times in the 50s and 70s. Yet, you don’t see anyone working on a similar machine today.

AVIETTE_02
Robert Peugot, 1912

In the End

Is there a lesson to be learned? Man flew too close to the sun and got burned.

We’ve seen success in the development and sustainability of 70,000-pound aircraft, magically soaring through the heavens to lift us from one continent and deposit us on another, yet no one man has made the journey alone. Could it be impossible for a championship bicyclist to sustain a steady rhythm for four hours at a time, even with the assistance of chemically-enhanced super drinks and a mathematically perfected caloric intake?

Were there too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, during the last attempt in ’88, staving off any further desire to instigate a similar fate?

Human-powered flying machines have been in the works for over one hundred years, so why have we since ceased trying to develop new ways to pursue this goal, especially since we were so close in thirty years ago?

Dorsey’s book The Fullness of Wings may lend some insight into a possible solution to developing the thought process to accommodate the teamwork necessary to achieve man-powered flight in the future.

Until then, the Daedalus is the last reported event experiment where man attempted to take to the skies, free from the noise of jet engines and the possibility of getting bumped in the elbow by in-flight food carts.

 

Sources:

 

This article was inspired Frank Pace, an engineer at KING.

 

 

Realizations of a nonplussed serpent on the rise of something great, yet unsure

I can facilitate, orchestrate, cheer lead, and purchase things, but I’m not a good decision maker. I’m realizing this about myself.

I’ll instinctively purchase a mic that’s $300 because I believe it’s high quality, merely based on price and the hour’s worth of research I performed before pressing the “Place Order” button.

Only to come to find out the transmitter and receiver are solid, but I need to buy a separate lapel clip for another $300 to get the sound quality we’re striving for, to do voice overs at work.

I have found a sense of balance however. I used to be inconsistent. I was a different person at work, compared with who I was at home or with different groups of friends. A shapeshifter, maybe. A selkie, if you will. But I’ve long since shed that unfamiliar skin and grew into some kind of chameleon hybrid instead.

I think I know who I am now, at 26 and a half.

I used to be highly concerned with what people thought of me. Did they view me differently with straight hair? Contacts or glasses? Do I feel different when invisible? Does my own altered perception of reality influence the actions of others around me?

The answer is no. I am who I was from the get-go. John Locke was wrong. We’re not all tabula rasa, but something else entirely.

No destiny to speak of, we’re already programmed with personalities, we just have to find the truth deep within and come to terms with it.

 

Featured image via THE DIGITAL COUNTER-REVOLUTION

‘If you can’t see me, I can’t see you’

Do you ever think about what you eat? Sure, vegans take great pains to scrupulously sift through and siphon out palatable vegetable matter to satisfy their hunger pangs, but how does the rest of the population fair, I wonder?

We have the meats!

goats
via BoredPanda

I think about meat. A lot. Every day. Morning, noon, and somewhere between the hours of seven and nine at night, I wonder about what I’m going to eat. I’m not what you might call a planner. I’d like to imagine myself as such. I am a Virgo, after all. Try to keep my cubicle tidy at work. I like doing the dishes. But, my meals are of the spontaneous variety–unless I put on the crock pot in the morning, but I’m putting off this stuffed bell pepper recipe, so a quadrant of my brain can feel at ease with the notion.

However, I am very conscientious when it comes to meat. If I had chicken last night, I try to avoid chicken the next day. Pork for lunch? Not going to eat it for dinner. Though I could live off the stuff. Those cute little piggies are naturally salty, and I crave that mineral like a goat on a cliff.

Documentaries and such

dolphins-cove
via Pinterest

A few years ago, I watched Food Inc. and for the ensuing weeks, it was difficult to bring myself to eat anything at all. Regardless of whether it was derived from a plant or an animal. Eventually, you get over such a traumatizing event and relearn the fact that you’re a human bean, teetering atop the heights of the food chain, that you evolved to become omnivorous…

Recently, I saw a video recently about the harsh reality of hardworking chicken farmers and considered cutting poultry from my “diet”. Apparently, umbrella companies–the shareholders, money-grubbing assbags that they are–force farmers to take chickens, whether they can provide for them or not. And if they don’t “perform” well in raising these chickens, if the birds don’t have the highest ratio of meat to bone, then the entire district of farmers gets punished, either monetarily or they’re awarded lower quality chickens.

It’s ridiculous, but I’m still eating chicken. I mean, how could you avoid it? It’s almost way too easy to calculate your budget when you subsist on 10 chicken nuggets for $1.49 for lunch. Yeah, I can do that. Now, I can get beer later. Thank the great lord, Jeshua.

It’s hypocritical, but who doesn’t learn something new about a habit they’ve latched onto, only to consider changing for a moment, then ultimately continue along the same path? *Ahem*

Me, at 14

Now, my habits represent a milder version of my food consumption paranoia. When I was 14, I was acutely aware of the effects of eating animals. I was borderline Wiccan, and felt connected to all the flora and fauna, dead or alive, on this Earth. Naturally, I became a vegetarian. In my soul, I’m a vegetarian. Or vegan. Or whatever the difference between those words are, I’m not quite sure, but I’m one of those people, deep down.

oracle
via The Oracle Body Project

Well, this level of active participation in changing the world, one fewer meat eater at a time, didn’t last long. This is the early 2000s, which doesn’t seem like too far of a stretch for the claim I’m about to make, but there weren’t a lot of protein bars, nutrient pills, or other forms of supplements readily available to me. What was I eating? I’m pretty sure I ate a lot of Cheetos, peanut butter, and some refried beans until I realized, “Hey, you’re feeling kind of dizzy aren’t you? Little vertigo? Got the shakes? Why do you think that is?” I was malnourished in my goth/punk rebel stage, to say the least.

Then the day came when I decided to pick up some chicken fingers, bring them to the lunch table, drench them in honey mustard, and soak in the drama from my friends.

The definition of insanity

It keeps happening, though. Have you ever seen Green Porno? Or The Cove? Eesh, it gives me shivers just thinking about entire pods of dolphins dying in order to feed kids what they label as “whale meat” in Japan.

And no matter what diet you take on, the American meal is chock full of chicken, wheat, salt, sugar, and corn. We’re basically eating the same thing all day, every day, the components are just rearranged. We’re much like dogs in a way, thinking, “Oh, it’s bacon, what a treat my best friend’s given me,” but in actuality, it’s all chemically altered lab rat food.

So, if you don’t think about what you eat, you should probably just keep on living that way. If my lifestyle’s representative of our culture at all–and I’m pretty much just you’re run-of-the-mill, average consumer–a video or a book will take its hold on you, changing your habits for a week or more, then you’ll just go right back to eating the same old junk again.

Maybe someone will read this and change their ways. I’d like to think it’s possible.

 

Featured image via EATER

BODIES themed poetry reading presented by Cracked Walnut

The atmosphere at the Underground Music Cafe, Monday, was a static-charged winter blanket slithering across the shins to simultaneously shock and comfort those who attended the hour-long poetry reading.

Voices dipped and dove under the current of emotions revisited, guts wrenched and spilled out suffering, held fast in the sorrow that is living by the code of the mortal coil.

The theme of the night was BODIES, part five in a series of 16 events comprising the 16 for ’16 Cracked Walnut Literary Festival.

Louis Murphy, Haley Lasche, Annette Schiebout, Chris Vaughn, Rachel Gabriel and Abby Cooper read from sheets of paper fresh from the printer, looking up occasionally to gauge the wariness of the audience.

All genres were represented in the grip of the spoken word. From flash fiction to prose poetry, and excerpts from memoirs, everyone in the space was held in rapt attention. Even the little girl eating ice cream with her mom stared toward the stage with a look of complete compulsion, holding her breath in between licks of the cone.

I arrived in time to catch the tail end of Louis’s round, as he continued:

“I am a white man, in the mumble-mouth of my own experienced, called White Privilege. And I know it is real. It is injurious like a threat, an eviction, a difference that follows you and determines where you cannot live, cannot work; for generations it pushes city block populations from the possibility of walking to work, of owning a business in an area that becomes valued. This is still happening. Two children with differing options for livable situation — pushed toward different schooling. When one child arrives in a place of less understanding and expectation, to hear the phrase, ‘You should feel lucky…’ A child should know less of luck and more of pride.”

Then Haley quickly stepped up to the mic and shared poems featuring multiple metaphors for a life aquatic. She paused between her third and fourth reading, and laughed, “I don’t know if you guys realize this, but, all these poems are about water. Get it? No pun intended.”

Chris’s words were like magic. How he could transpose what you would think were such randomly associated words, until you took a second to think about the last line and realize, “Hey, that makes sense. Did this guy have a dictionary in front of him while writing these? I don’t think I know that word…”

Annette shook the floor with the history of her gastric bypass surgery and all of the shame she endured during childhood, her longing to disappear out of a frame that was “too fat to be invisible,” as discompassionately expressed by her playmate at the time.

The following is a loose interpretation of what she said during the last five minutes of her reading. I’m writing from memory, here, as the entire reading was smashed into an hour of rushing heat, pulsing blood, and I wanted Annette to go on, but apparently, that’s just how these things play out…

“First, I ate my toes. One by one. And I felt lighter already, but I couldn’t stop. I started on my leg, and I felt full, whole, very proud of myself after I finished my left leg…

Until finally, I was nothing but a beating heart. I lit a candle and it reflected off the walls of my cavernous chest, glimmering with all the beauty of self-love.”

I cannot encapsulate the rapture I felt while listening to Annette. She sucked me into a vision of flames flickering against a backdrop of chewed-through flesh and I felt every second of it. Her book, Geography of Scars is slated to be published in the fall.

Rachel read from her memoir-in-progress, focusing on the memory of her youngest girl splitting her tongue in half in a freak accident, where she “must have tripped” over some blocks her brother was in the habit of setting up. “If 911 wasn’t around, we would’ve been a statistic,” she said. Seems traumatizing, not knowing what motherhood entails, only to find out its fraught full of hospital visits.

Sticks and Stones is the title of Abby’s YA book encouraging girls to disregard the naysayings of external influencers in favor of talking yourself into a positive self image.

The hour spent at the Underground Music Cafe for Cracked Walnut’s 16 for ’16 Literary Festival rushed by as a whirlwind of flying glass swept by to slash my skin and rip my bones apart, until Rachel came back up and thanked her past Hamline University students for fulfilling their dreams of pursuing their writing quest.

If you’d like to peek into the lives of our local literary heroes, visit Cracked Walnut’s website for the full lineup of upcoming events.

 

Featured image via Encyclopedia Britannia Kids

Growing backwards, and moving forward

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

– Pablo Picasso

Something Paul Lisicky wrote in his latest book triggered something in me. He was once in the habit of posting quotes from Catcher in the Rye on Twitter. One post, in particular, spiked some angst amongst his followers.

“… that all legitimate religious study must lead to unlearning the differences, the illusory differences, between boys and girls, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold.”

One argued that it’s impossible to unlearn something, but I believe it is possibleDon’t be afraid to build a foundation for knowledge that you can tear down later.

For example: Writing essays. We were taught the 1-3-1 method, where you have your introduction, three body/supporting paragraphs (one example, described in detail, with anecdotes if possible), and a conclusion to wrap it up. In the first paragraph, you open with a powerful statement, a hook, or a question and the last sentence is your thesis, typically including a summary of the three topics you’re planning on discussing in the subsequent paragraphs. The conclusion is basically the same paragraph as the introduction, just worded differently. We were also taught that we should “brainstorm” before we begin, or draw out a web to plot our devices. How stiff and stolid these methods were. There’s no room for improvement here. Then again, the structure of the story might as well have been implemented as a tool to help teachers more easily skim student’s works while they’re lazily grazing on a microwaved meal, propped up on a tray table in front of the TV.

Then you get to college and your professors ask for a six-page paper, no rules, no guidelines, just don’t plagiarise. All right. I can work with this. Let the rants inspired by poorly cited scholarly journals begin!

Leaning toward a more esoteric of model for growth, how satisfying is it to think, “Hey, my parents forced me to sit at the kitchen table until all of the food was gone from my plate, and I’ll be damned if I keep that tradition alive. Come to think of it, I’ll raise my own kids without boundaries. Hell, I might even let them size their own portions, teach them to think about what they’re putting in their bodies. Why not home school them, while we’re at it?”

Along those lines, why can’t we change our minds? We’ve evolved to adapt to living in noise-infested cities as much as we’ve learned to steel our stomachs against high fructose corn syrup. Our nerves are fried, our digestive systems are all gunked up, and it’s just wrong, isn’t it? It’s a privilege to be able to take control of the trajectory of our lives, to be able to put ourselves in the positions of children and take a sick day to restore our mental health. We’re adults, but we don’t have to think like adults. We can play, we can make mistakes, and we can say ridiculous things, make up new words, if we like.

Last night, my fiancé and I were playing Super Nintendo and I was going back through a level, when he said I should never go backward, always forward. This is the one case in which you can safely stray from the “Always forward, never backward,” mantra.

Just look at us. We do what we want. Let’s grow backwards, I say. Society has tamped down our will to create, instead laying the brickwork for self-confidence, modesty, and responsibility in all things. To hell with it. We’ll make our own way. Smash down the walls of our parents’ designs and carve our own paths. We’ll make a mess and that’s OK.

This sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

pablo (28)

 

Featured image created using Pablo by Buffer

The philosophical cess pool found in ‘Truck Stop Rainbows’

41+1bWs+hHL._SY373_BO1,204,203,200_Iva Pekarkova has spent her life writing books. In an interview with Prague Radio, she gives voice to an inner struggle between working for a living and rubbing two pennies together to keep writing.

Her first novel, Truck Stop Rainbows is not just a “road novel” as the English version’s cover portends. It’s much more like a philosophical memoir written in the point of view of a world-traveler who has never left her homeland of Czechoslovakia, as it was called then.

It reads like a memoir, complete with minute details only someone fully immersed in, yet voluntarily separate from, Western European culture would notice.

Like all great novels, the main character undergoes a transformation. In the beginning, Fialka is completely detached from her fellow Praguers. She forgoes the average college-aged woman’s routine and frequently finds herself sinking into acidic mud piles, allowing her body to become ravaged by venomous mosquitoes, all in the name of feeling connected to real life on earth. She takes photos of deformed flowers and hitchhikes to feel like she’s going somewhere in life, while she’s stuck living at home with her grandmother.

I stretched out my leg and lightly kicked a tuft of wormwood. As each fragrant stalk fluttered, it gave off another yellowish cloud of pollen, which settled on my sneakers. I sucked in the air. And each grain of pollen, each small messenger of life and growth glittered as it flew through the slanting sunlight, then continued on its mission. A long mission, and most likely unsuccessful: how many grains of pollen are there in the world and how many of them succeed in fertilizing a blossom… transmitting their essences, their I’s? Each of those grains had its own I, thought they swarmed as chaotically and soullessly as humans… In the slanting sunlight outside Brno, each grain of pollen became my private star–and I couldn’t resist: I was once again looking for parables in everything. Patrik always claimed that I was addicted as addicted to parables as I was to hitchhiking, hopelessly addicted. He said I should write the Hitchhiker’s Bible, who else but me…? Chapter One, Verse 1: In the beginning there was darkness upon the face of the earth and no one stopped for anyone. And God said: Let there be truck drivers! And they were begotten of the mud of sins, and they grew fruitful and multiplied, thanks to the earnest efforts of the hips and crotches of the women of the highway… Hitchhikers by the side of the highway… Hitchhikers by the side of the highway are the most religious of people. They pray for mercy–the driver’s; the ritual of prayer consists in the raising of the right thumb (the left thumb in barbarous lands) and the lowering and lifting of the outstretched hand… Are these not divine offices? In that slanting morning sun, as you travel from the east, your shadow will take the form of an elongate, distorted cross…

And she spends a lot of time listening to Kryl with her friend Patrick.

While other novels may rush toward an inevitable conclusion, try to shove actionable moments into a plot that doesn’t seem altogether feasible in the real work, Pekarkova’s first novel could be the long-form diary of an iconoclast Czech girl. At times, it reminded me of Black Earth City, a memoir set in Russia, in that both authors reveal tangents plausible in everyday conversation, complete with differing views on each side of the argument. Pekarkova’s novel, however is labeled as fiction, but I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in there.

Nothing’s sugarcoated. Her grandmother had to wait in line for three hours to buy milk and eggs, and Fialka didn’t feel too bad about it. During the second phase of the book, as she become Fialka 2, she said shouted at her grandmother, decrying her “duty”. Even while she’s building up a silent rage to let loose on her, inside she’s already regretting the woman’s she’s become.

But now… now, with those piles of bank notes Grandmother never saw and would never comprehend growing in my room, now, because of them and in spite of them, there was growing in me a repugnant form of frugality, a thrift born of fear, you might say obviously I couldn’t take my multiplying deposits of mammon and chattels off to any bank, and the idea was gradually sneaking into my mind that any petty burglar could relieve me of it all at any time. You’ve become a miser, Fialinka.

Then after a shouting match, a lot of crying, and a little forgiveness, the young woman goes to the market herself to learn there are six clerks working on two registers, with a line of people bickering at each other about who gets the next basket, while the four other clerks sneak around stacks of snacks to try to suss out potential thieves.

“It was interesting to see people’s faces become combative when they so much as walked past a store, to see their elbows sharpen, hear their voices become harsher–to see how the law of the jungle ran wild and flourished in Prague, the law that the winner would be the one who fought the hardest and offered the best bribes… it was interesting to observe these instincts in humans enclosed in a barbed-wire cage, it really was. Too bad I had to live there!

This sounds like real life to me, there’s no way she’s making this up. She paints a picture of a darkest and most grey environment that no one in their right mind would want to live in, yet when she gets a free ride out of there, she quickly snuffs out the fire on that one-way-ticket to love train, and becomes comfortable with her communist outlook. She gives up on love quicker than she ever gave into, the thought of marrying a man from Sweden was just too difficult for her to imagine, and after a passionate affair, she settles back into her old routines.

She chastises herself for living in this place, yet simultaneously feels privileged to have the freedom to practically penance herself as a way of coming closer to nature. Then her best friend, Patrik, becomes diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and she everything changes.

Survival of the fittest, as you can imagine.

She thinks his seems grim, but he takes pleasure in the little things, even in his fragile state. He would slam his crutches down the stairs to frighten the neighbors, but he relished in the fact that they couldn’t bat an eye against the fact of his crippled state. They were too embarrassed. And he was having fun at their expense. At their expense! What a way to make your head spin.

The best symbolism could be seen in the way she transformed mentally, dumbing herself down to blend in and even surpass other road whores so that she could afford to buy her best friend a wheelchair, until she slowly lost sight of the reason why she starting taking the unfamiliar, yet economically more viable Northern Road as opposed to the cozy and comforting Southern Road.

She played with her skills in language–German, Russian, and English–to make small talk with truckers, all the while pushing Fialka 1 down into the crevices of her mind, eventually altogether quelling her need to seek out rainbows, the little glimmers of hope and adventure she had once sought as a means to escape her everyday meaningless life, in favor of the spontaneity of the road.

During this time of change, the counterweight for her increasingly addled brain became her mental compass. Patrik was delving deeper into Eastern philosophy and trying to help her see the error of her ways.

Patrick spoke about the ability to drop out of the inane rat’s marathon of life, about freedom of thought unlimited even by incapacitation of the body. He held forth on dualism and monism, and got the two hopelessly mixed up; finally he concluded from all this that moderm society had completely forgotten about the soul, and hence the soul had atrophied. Anything you didn’t use, according to him, withered aweay–it was even possible to neglect the body, to leave it behind, and it would atrophy, it would die, as some might say–but the soul, the soul would still soar freely through space. Only through great knowledge was it possible to redeem oneself from afflictions of the soul and body.

He was the one who goaded her on, the one who told her she couldn’t act, she couldn’t pull it off, couldn’t fake a smile to get what she wanted from the cops who were ever present on the roadways, always trying to stop her in her tracks, to reel her wild nature back into the worldview of the productive citizen.

Patrik held his temples with both hands, as if he thought his head might fly off at any moment. “Has it ever occurred to you, Fial, why it really is that people go insane? Or have all those psychological theories of yours already made you crazy? Have they gotten to you yet? People go insane from too much thinking, not from too little… But as soon as they come upon even the slightest sliver of truth, you psychologists immediately sic the body-snatchers on them with the straitjackets, declare them certifiable, and stick them behind bars. Then they fill them up with Valium. To pacify them. To reorient them. So they become stupid and normal again… behind bars and on drugs!”

Truck Stop Rainbows is about reincarnation, about morals, about the struggle to understand the Self, and it is much more than a “road novel”, as the English version declares. I wish I could read the original manuscript in Czech, but alas the poetry that the translator, David Powelstock, has imbued into this book has given the text a life of its own, and I’m grateful for having read it.

 

Featured image via the International Business Times

Someday River’s EP will transport you back to the sea

Listening to Someday River makes you feel like being a kid again. Without a care in the world, they transport you to that moment when you put the conch shell up to your ear to hear the “whoosh!” of the ocean.

It’s been almost three years since I saw this band live. Thankfully, the internet provides. Now, I can keep up with these guys as soon as they post a new song–and guess what? Someday River‘s releasing a new EP on May 13, but you can listen to two singles featured on the album on Souncloud.

Brief backstory

Greyson Paul Charnock has seen his band Bellows through many iterations and has finally settled on renaming the new three-man-band Someday River. After all this time, the vibe and overall song structure remains unchanged, so you can sink back into that familiar feeling that everything’s going to be OK.

Here is the band lineup as it stands today:

  • Greyson Charnock (Guitar, Vocals, Synth)
  • Sean Boyle (Percussion)
  • Kyle Fournier (Bass)

Two new singles

Day Changer flows like the summer breeze. The members of the band patiently, yet expertly lull you into a comforting state of mind, as you find your shoulders have started on a jaunty little journey of their own volition.

There’s a beachy bend to the guitar riffs that springs to mind visions of the sea. You can almost smell the saltwater drifting through the speakers.

Ever have that feeling when you’re on the way to work, trying to get psyched about your workload, but your brain is still stuck in bed?

That’s how Sleeping Sideways affects you. It makes me want to pull over and take a time-out from the oncoming rush of the future and reaffirm what’s important in life, like calling your lady up and apologizing for the argument you had the night before.

Overall Assessment

Someday River’s new EP is turning out to be the perfect panacea for that anxiety-driven stress-out moment of panic at 3 p.m. on a Friday, when all you want to do is shut down the computer abruptly, and say, “Peace out!” because you’re tired of the monotony of the work week and dying to feel some warm sunshine on your skin.

Their music will subconsciously alleviate the pain of the work day and send you to far off destinations where the ocean breeze is calling you home.

The vocal effects Grey chooses creates a vision of his untethered spirit soaring above the planes of mundane existence. His lyrics show that he’s taken a birds-eye view of the disenfranchised mass of humanity, projecting his voice down into the hallows of an enormous chamber.

He’s trying to remind us to go with the flow, to love each other, and to let the problems of past fade as they should–for at least the length of a song.

Paired perfectly in sync with Sean’s drums, he and Kyle are on the same level when it comes to creating a vibe of simplistic harmony.

So Chill

Someday River‘s sound is so floaty–in the best way–like they don’t have to try very hard. You don’t imagine these guys sitting around recording and nagging each other to get each pitch perfect; it seems to happen naturally. It’s as if they’re jamming, then it works, and someone says, “Let’s do it again, but lets’ record it this time.”

I’m definitely forward to the new EP, Sleeping Sideways, slated for release on May 13.

Why I’m no longer watching Game of Thrones

*Spoilers: If you haven’t seen se6e02, then don’t read this*

First and foremost, it’s all very predictable, really. Aria Stark was just getting good at something, losing herself in the kill, and fighting for a righteous cause–survival. And Sansa has always been a bit of a pansy, let’s be honest. Tyrion’s not doing a lot of anything, except for trying to tame dragons with sheer wit (not surprising, as he’s been doing this metaphorically throughout the series, except now in episode two of season six, he’s actually attempting such a feat physically).

And Jon Stark is alive again. We all knew this would happen, right? I, personally, thought the White Walkers would take him; there was this nonverbal connection between the two leaders of the clans at one point in the last season.

Either way, what a downer. And to see the Red Woman naked, aged to her appropriate stature (what is she, 120 years old?) was kind of a let down.

Trying to introduce this series to anyone two episodes into the sixth season is one of the worst ways to spend your night.

Now, if you were to show a friend any random episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that would warrant a rockin’ time, in my opinion, but don’t just show someone Game of Thrones mid-season, especially if the show has started careening downhill.

 

Featured image via SCREEN RANT

Radiohead’s timing is impeccable, as usual

Radiohead released their new music video, Burn the Witch, on the wake of their stunt to erase the band from internet history. Fans in the UK, last week, received what looked to be a warning. The mailer read, “WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE”

These are dismal times we live in, as the artists behind Radiohead channel the pain of the world through the April 30 Western European custom of Walpurgis Night in combination with (and juxtaposition of) International Dawn Chorus Day on May 1.

Radiohead‘s timing is impeccable, as usual. Their latest music video for Burn the Witch explains it all.

 

Featured image via BGR

What are you saying with your body?

One billion people speak Chinese, four million speak Spanish, with English trailing behind at three million. Seems like an exorbitant amount of people speak English, right? Well, think again.

There’s another way of communicating that no one really talks about: Body Language.

This universal constant can get you by on the bus (when asking a fellow rider for fare, rub your hands together) or on the sidewalk (glance over at someone’s lips when they’re smoking a cigarette), but some people don’t consciously use this tool as a way to communicate with others.

Have you ever talked with someone who said they would love to go out for drinks, Friday night, yet their eyes gave them away instead? Inside, they’re thinking, “No, I actually don’t want to go out with you. At all,” and you’re too busy checking your Yelp account, looking for the appropriate attire to wear to said event, totally oblivious to what the person is saying, without using words.

via Watta Lyf
via Watta Lyf

Next time you’re holding a conversation with someone, why don’t you look at the way they’re standing, or where they’re looking. Are they crossing their arms, closing themselves off? Or are their eyes busy searching the ceiling, looking for an out to the increasingly uncomfortable one-sidedness of the entire affair?

Paying close attention to a person’s posture could also come in handy during a meeting with the higher-ups. Watch their eyebrows when you bring up a new idea. Are they arching in surprise? Or perhaps just one is raised, which could mean that they are skeptical of your next big brilliant design. Pay attention to the way they’re sitting, too. Do they seem more relaxed or are they leaning over into their phone, completely ignoring you?

Subtle social cues can be used to supplement a conversation in almost every situation the next time you’re asking for a raise, or trying to ask someone out on a date.

Just something to think about.

Featured image via Philosoraptor quick meme

Q&A with one-man-band HARBORS

david-shayne-harbors
David Shayne might enlist the help of friends to record occasional songs, but typically records all the instruments himself.

David Shayne plays all the parts in the latest songs for his one-man-band HARBORS. His music is like a soft, pattering rain, providing a gentle backdrop to a work day that demands a steady stream of consistent melody. Part early Rise Against (“Swing Life Away”) meets Goo Goo Dolls (“Slide”), HARBORS is the musical outpouring of a burgeoning LA soul trying to break free from his cage of rust, glass hearts, ghosts, and guns.

During Shayne’s busy schedule, he took the time to discuss his creative process:

 

These days I release every song I record into the wild. A song doesn’t truly exist if nobody hears it.

 

Q: Have you encountered many one-man-bands or do you feel like a fledgling doing his own thing?

A: Yeah, I see one-man-bands fairly often these days. With recording programs like Garageband and Pro Tools it’s possible to write and recording everything on your own at home. I love it.

Q: Would you say you’re surrounded by creative people who boost you up and inspire you?

A: To be honest, not really. Haha!

Q: How long have you been writing music?

A: I’ve been writing music for 13 years or so, but I didn’t get serious about songwriting until about six years ago.

Q: In “I Won’t Mind”, for instance, I hear drums, two different guitar riffs, and vocals of course. Are you playing all of these and putting them together in post? Do you use Audacity, by chance, or some other program?

A: The song “I Won’t Mind” and the rest of self-titled album were recorded at a studio in Canada with other musicians on bass, drums, keyboards etc. However, I do play all of the instruments on the newer songs I have online, and yes, I put the separate tracks together in post using Pro Tools.

Q: All of your lyrics are pretty personal, do you think this goes over well with your friends? (I’ve had a bad experience in the beginning of my blogging career where one of my friends asked me to delete one of my blogs, so I was just curious if the same thing happens for musicians, too.)

A: Surprisingly, I’ve never really had friends ask about my lyrics. If they do say something It’s usually just a compliment. They don’t dig too deep. 

Q: On your Bandcamp page, you have your last album as published in 2011, are you planning on producing another full-length CD sometime soon?

A: Yes! I’m currently working on a new album! I don’t have a release date yet. My last album was recorded in 2011 and released in 2012. I’m not on a label so it took awhile for people to notice it.

Q: Then there’s harborsmusic.com, with new songs like “Rust” and “Daggers”. Did you create those last year?

A: I think I wrote “Rust” two years ago, but i recently re-recorded the demo and changed it a bit. “Daggers” was written 8 months ago. Those two songs might end up on the new album.

Q: What’s your decisionmaker, as far as knowing what to release into the wild and which songs to keep sacred?

A: These days I release every song I record into the wild. A song doesn’t truly exist if nobody hears it.
 

Listen to HARBORS online now, on his official website and on Patreon.com:

www.harborsmusic.com
www.patreon.com/harbors

Back in the day, short headlines were good headlines

Now, it seems like we have to pack every inch of cyberspace with SEO-expurgated copy, GIF ads, color-BAM!, and sound-WHUM! Until our brains are glitching out in time with our poor, broke back browsers.

Gone are the days when puns were artfully hidden within the tiny folds of a headline precariously placed between what precious little space was available on the physical page.

I, for one, was never all that good at coming up with headlines. By that I mean, I could spit out 10 or 20 phrases, each with words that might stick to the fly paper, but mostly it’s crapola. The best way to come up with a good headline is to stand around with your friends, teeth unconsciously grazing thumbnails, heads bowed in reverent concentration, and whisper things like, “Can you kern that line a little?” and “Try 18.265 pt., see if that does it.”

And the phrases go flying:
“Should it rhyme?”
“What do you think about alliteration?”
“Putting ‘killer’ in front of ‘baby’ makes it seem like Chucky’s little monster infant is out there, stalking the streets, hungry for blood.”

Oh, and most of your ideas get shot down in a real newsroom. I’m talkin’ about people cursing each other out. Stress at its peak. Deadlines stretching the time between two minutes like a chasm into which you could pitch the entire orchestra that is your soul’s longing to opine about anything you’re most passionate about, while simultaneously it’s like you’d blink and your story’s past due. Finito. “You’re no longer allowed to write for us.”

tumblr_nt55cxTKGP1uqfp9do3_500
Oh, no, I’m fine. I got this.

Flash forward five years and you’re a different person. You’ve changed with the tides, so to speak, ever evolving with the shifting sea of short attention spans and long-winded titles for articles that might not even have anything relatable in the body. It’s all so marketable now and “Is your landing page up to par?” and “How many clicks did I get today” and “I need more views on my video, so I can look like a badass, like I know what I’m doing and the numbers will prove my worth to all of society!”

Phew. It’s exhausting thinking about how fast things change around here, but really, who are we without change?

I was thinking about this on the way to work today, about Decartes’ clean slate and I’m still trying to figure out which side of the debate I lean towards. Part of me is all, “Mhmm, well, Carl Jung made a point there, with his structure of the Hero’s Journey, like, there’s something to this collective conscious-type instinct we have for speech and predilection towards religion…” So, like I said, still straddling the fence, here. Can people change or are we programmed from Day 1?

“I, too, need structure. A little fucking discipline.”
– Jane Burnham, American Beauty

Overall, I think I miss structure. Though there aren’t exactly enough hours in the day to do everything I was to do (five months since my “resolution” article and I still haven’t learned how to play guitar), but I’m still pretty much free to goof off. And no one’s telling me if I’m doing a good job.

School was degrading at times, depressing at times, sometimes passing through me as if I were made of fog, but at least I had some kind of system whereby I was graded on my progress in life! And college was life for a while, something to focus on, something to believe in. Now, as an “adult”, I’m just making it up as I go along.

It’s kind of like my “profession” in general. We’re all just making it up as we go along. We can show off some analytics and say, “Oh, hey. That’s working,” and “Look, this guy came to our site at 1:05 p.m. through a link I sent him in our eblast and then he purchased an item,” and yes, there are percentages and scenarios and A/B testing, but is that what journalism is about? Being the ultimate crowd-pleaser?

This may be part of my quarterly, semi-silent, psychotic rant phase, but there are times when I, too, feel a sense of doubt. Having read Orwell to pieces, I still can’t help but feel like “slavery is freedom” and when we’re put in chains, we at least have something to push back against, we have a need to find creative ways out of our situations. But, what if your life is like this big net of creativity? How can you tell you’re being creative, really, or are you just assigning yourself the label, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am?

901-On-the-Waterfront
Coulda woulda shoulda

Sometimes I feel I’m being sucked into the tar, and immortalizing these crappy sentences I throw together in some stupendous rage, all because I thought something was interesting (I can’t blog on a consistent basis, because I find random things bloggable, at random times).

But, I mean, is it? Do you like it? Do you? And does it matter much anyway, in the large scheme of things? Part of me feels like I missed a crucial step in becoming a legitimate journalist. I could have traveled more, I could have fought for the rights of the underdog, like I was taught to do through sharing facts and quotes. I could have been another Marie Colvin, who lost her life in defense of pursuing the truth, through any means necessary. Another part of me is sitting pretty, thinking that this life ain’t so bad, and I’m kind of comfy in this chair, though it’s probably making my butt pancake-flat over time.

Who knows. Writing it out kind of makes me feel better, though. I mean, a physical diary just doesn’t quite cut the mustard, when I can satisfy my inner-adolescent’s need to merge tech with words with images and all of the above. Sure, I think I could have thrived in the newspaper world, pre-blogs, but who’s worse off in the end?

This whole thing really just started because I wanted an A+ on my headline test

And now that we’ve got THIS out of the way, there are a few things I’m tossing around up there in my noggin. It’s like playing Hot Potato with blog ideas:

  • On Reading Translated Works
    • Focusing on Truck Stop Rainbows by Iva Pekárková
  • Kombucha Tea
    • Guess the fermenting process is good for your gut. Does the same go for drinking beer, or what?
  • Is it just me or is the 50s-style of singing crooners coming back with reinforced, warbling vigor?
    • See: Tripswitch, others
  • The Future is Unclear–Literally
    • Inspired by a conversation I had with the proprietor at my local liquor store. She observed that her children have bad eyesight, but she sees 20/20. Is there some link here, between focusing on iPads and books (she said her daughter’s a READER!) allowing the muscles that propitiate foresighted-focusing to atrophy from disuse?
  • Nielsen Data
    • The nation is watching itself watch itself watch itself watch itself
  • 10 Ways to Kill Time at the Office While Simultaneously Staying Productive
    • I have some weird ideas for this one, for sure
  • The Cure is coming to town, June 7
  • Lab Girl – a book I want to read

Well, that’s pretty much it for now. I feel like a career hot-air balloon that’s finally descended back down to Earth to gather up its skirts and take a little cat nap.

Maybe this weekend, I’ll take up the keys and drop some knowledge on ya! ‘Til then.

understand
I’m not bald, okay? I shaved my head. Do you understand?”  – Kill Bill

 

Featured image via A Blogger’s Corner

What Type of Tree is That? 10 Topiaries Found in the Wild

Arbor Day (April 29) is only 10 days away! Now that it’s nice out, why don’t you take the kids on an educational outing through your local nature trail to celebrate? You might not be aware of this simple fact, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different tree species thriving throughout the United States. Each have their own individual average lifespan, some grow flowers, and others produce spindles and cones instead of leaves and flowers. If you’re looking for a brief glimpse into the wide variety of topiaries thriving all over America, here is a handful of trees you might be most familiar with:

 

blackgum-black-tupelo-27Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Description: Medium- to large-sized (50-100 feet) deciduous tree. Alternate, glossy leaves (2-5 inches long), generally elliptical in shape, turn bright scarlet in autumn. Male and female flowers are small and greenish white. Abundant fruits resemble dark, elongated blueberries (to 1/2 inch long), with rigid and bitter flesh.

Habitat: Uplands, well-drained valleys and woodlands, though the variety known as swamp tupelo thrives in soggy bottomlands.

Distribution: Southwestern Maine west to Michigan and south to Florida and east Texas

Points of Interest: The nondescript flowers of this otherwise highly attractive tree are an excellent nectar source for bees, producing a very popular type of honey. Black tupelo is also commonly known as blackgum or sweetgum.

 

southern-magnoliaSouthern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Description: Medium-sized (60-80 feet) broadleaf everygreen with a pyramidal crown. Glossy, elliptical leaves are large (5-8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide), as are cup-shaped, fragrant flowers (6-8 inches across), comprising six or more creamy white petals. In autumn, conelike pods break open to release red seeds.

Habitat: Bottomlands, low uplands, and coastal plains in moist, temperate regions

Distribution: Eastern North Carolina south to central Florida and west to east Texas

Points of Interest: The state tree of Mississippi, the magnolia is named for Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), a French botanist who influnced the work of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of the modern system of botanical nomenclature. Linnaeus honored Magnol by naming this genus after him.

 

Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)

monterey cypress

Description: Medium-sized (60-80 feet) evergreen, often with an asymmetrical or flat-topped crown. Bright green, scalelike foliage has blunt tips. Rounded cones (about 1 – 1 1/2 inches long) have a short barb on each scale. Grayish bark becomes furrowed with age.

Habitat: Rocky, exposed coastal headlands

Distribution: Only two native, unmixed groves still exist (both in Monterey County, California), but the widely planted tree has naturalized in other parts of coastal California

Points of Interest: accustomed to the Pacific’s unrelenting winds and salty spray, the Monterey cypress is now a popular windscreen, ornamental, bonsai specimen, and–in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa–source of timber. Naturalists estimate that it can live to 200 or 300 years.

 

cherry_escarpment_blk150Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Description: Medium- to large-sized (50-100 feet) deciduous tree with glossy, elliptical leaves (206 inches long). Tiny, white flowers, arranged in 6-inch-long cylindrical racemes, appear in late spring. Edible cherries (about 3/8 inch in diameter) turn almost black when ripe.

Habitat: Woodlands, fields, roadsides, and bottomlands

Distribution: Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario and south to central Florida and Texas

Points of Interest: As a premium-grade hardwood, black cherry is second only to black walnut in value. The fruit, once used to make pemmican, is now commonly found in pies, jams, and liqueurs. The bark and leaves contain a form of cyanide, which can poison livestock. Wild cherry syrup, made from the bark, acts as a sedative and cough suppressant.

 

holly_american150American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Description: Small- to medium-sized (usually under 30 feet) broadleaf evergreen with a dense crown, often broadly conical or pyramidal in shape. Leathery, elliptical leaves with spiny teeth stay on the tree until the spring of their third years. Berrylike fruit turns bright red when mature; each “berry” contains about four small nutlets.

Habitat: Humid areas, including bottomlands, understory of mixed hardwood forests, and coastal dunes

Distribution: Southeastern United States, as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas

Points of Interest: Settlers quickly endowed this New World species with all the Christmas symbolism associated with English holly. The state tree of Delaware, American Holly has the distinction of being the world’s hardiest broadleaf evergreen tree.


American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

american-hornbeam

Description: Small, shrubby tree (up to 35 feet), often with a twisted or multiple trunk. Toothed, ovate leaves and unisexual flowers are similar to those of birch trees, but fruit is quite distinctive, consisting of paired nutlets, nestled in leaflike bracts, hanging in clusters 2-4 inches long.

Habitat: Bottomlands and the understory of hardwood forests

Distribution: Southeastern Ontario, southwestern Quebec, most of the eastern United States, and south to Mexico

Points of Interest: American hornbeam has extremely tough, heavy, close-grained wood, but its small size makes commercial harvesting impractical. In fact, this species is often eradicated as a weed in forests managed for timber production–despite its role as an important food source for beavers, squirrels, deer, and birds.

 

Sugar Maple (Acer saccahrum)

Description: Large deciduous tree with a dense, rounded crown, growing up to 100 feet. Palmately lobed leaves (about 5 inches long and slightly more across) turn brilliant shades of red, orange, or yellow in autumn.

sugar maple

Habitat: Cool, moist uplands and forests

Distribution: Southeast Manitoba east to Nova Scotia and south to eastern Kansas and North Carolina

Points of Interest: The state tree of New York, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, sugar maple is one of the most commercially important hardwoods of North America. Its durable and often strikingly grained wood is harvested for use in flooring, furniture, and other items: and its sap, which has twice the sugar content than that of other maple species, is harvest for maple syrup production.


Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Description: Largest tree on earth (in terms of mass), sometimes exceeding 250 feet in height and 20 feet in trunk diameter. Evergreen scalelike foliage has sharp tips. Fibrous, reddish brown bark may be 2 feet thick at the trunk base. Egg-shaped cones are 2-3 inches long.

(PC: Yosemite Online)

Habitat: Mixed coniferous forests, generally from 4,500-7,500 feet

Distribution: Western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada

Points of Interest: Giant sequoias’ longevity is as impressive as their bulk; many are believed to be over 3,000 years old. From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, these mammoth, ancient trees were logged extensively, prompting John Muir to opine, “As well sell the rain-clouds, and the snow, and the rivers, to be cut up and carried away if that were possible.” Today, the sequoias outside national parks (about 50 percent of the population) remain unprotected.

 

dogwood_floweringFlowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Description: Small (usually under 40 feet), attractive tree with a broadly spreading crown. Deciduous, ovate or elliptical leaves turn red in autumn, as do berrylike fruit (poisonous to humans). Flowers comprise clusters of tiny, yellow-green petals, each cluster bordered by four large, white (or pinkish) bracts.

Habitat: Understory of mixed hardwood forests

Distribution: Southern Ontario east to southwestern Maine and south to east Texas and northern Florida

Points of Interest: While humans admire its ornamental qualities–over twenty cultivars of this lovely tree are now sold commercially–wildlife appreciate this native species for its high-fat, calcium-rich foliage and fruit. Flowering dogwood is the state tree of Missouri and Virginia.

 

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

live-oak

Description: Broadleaf evergreen of only medium height (to 50 feet) but with a massive trunk (diameter of 4 feet or more) and widespread crown (150 feet or more). Dark green, elliptical or obovate leaves appear leathery with a glossy sheen. Acorns with deep, rounded, scaly cups reach maturity the first year.

Habitat: Coastal plains, barrier islands, sandy areas (including dunes), and marsh borders in temperate regions

Distribution: Southeastern coastal states, from central Texas east to Florida and north to Virginia

Points of Interest: Characteristically drapes in Spanish moss, live oak is the state tree of Georgia and a majestic emblem of the Deep South. Its revered status may explain why its strong timber is no longer used for shipbuilding or other purposes.

 

Can you tell these trees apart? Quiz your friends, or impress your coworkers with your new knowledge of trees, the next time you take a stroll along wooded walkways with them.

 

Descriptions come from the Sierra Club’s Knowledge Cards, printed by Pomegranate Communications, Inc. Photos from Yosemite Online, North Carolina Forest Service, and Drawing from Line to Life. Featured image via Southern Pride Tree Farm, Inc. 

Simultaneously published on KING’s official blog

Who wore it best? Elle Fanning is the new face of Neon

Smash Gia with Plush and then you’ll feel the heartache evinced by the dismal conclusion of the trailer for The Neon Demon.

The Fanning sisters aren’t typically typecast, and Elle’s role in The Neon Demon supports the string of strange parts she’s played thus far. Most recently, she played a transgender boy in About Ray. She also played alongside Angelina Jolie in Maleficent, and she was amazing in Super 8, in particular where she spontaneously zombied out, reminiscent of the talented Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive when she transforms into an entirely different person for a minute while auditioning for a role, then pops back out to normalcy. It’s eerie.

The girl can do anything. It’ll be a trip to see her delve into the life of a supermodel, to see just how “dangerous” she can be in one of my favorite movie genres of all time: The subversive hyper-meta fiction that could be a microcosm for the very industry the actors are currently enmeshed in.

neondemon
via COMINGSOON.net

Jena Malone (Donnie Darko, The Secret Life of Altar Boys, Sucker Punch) is another actress featured in the film. The Daily Mail says the two girls get into it in the bedroom. Perhaps Elle is following in her sister, Dakota’s, footsteps in pursuing a same-sex relationship on-screen.

Keanu Reeves (Generation Um, Johnny Mneumonic) is a main character in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film, along with Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), and Carey Mulligan (An Education) as well.

There’s blood and glass and glitter all over the trailer, therefore somebody’s gonna die (my money’s on Malone. She almost always ends up dead, or missing, in her movies.)

I don’t think I can express how excited to see this film, but The Neon Demon is slated for release June of this year, so we won’t have too long of a wait to witness this train wreck of beauty and madness.

 

Featured image via iHorror.com

Is it your destiny to be a modern day alchemist?

vodka-weed
Pictured: Cannabis-infused vodka. Now, wouldn’t that be something? (via sousweed)

Are you an alchemist at heart, growing bored of drinking the same old peach-flavored vodka and looking to make your own? Or are you that RPG’er who buys out every magical shop in town before NPCs can “grow” their crops back? Now’s your chance to let your freak flag fly… in real life.

Traditional Roots Healthcare brings together the best of both worlds while helping you channel your inner holistician. The company hosts events where you can join a small group of like-minded herbalists in creating vitamin-infused booze, salves, tinctures, and other homemade remedies.

You can schedule an appointment to meet with a dietary counselor, as part of the nonprofit’s business plan, or you can RSVP to the party and take home potions you make yourself.

Follow Traditional Roots Healthcare on Facebook to receive notifications for upcoming events, and you might just find your next-door-neighbors are kindred spirits. Maybe they’re busy brewing up the next batch of locally-made moonshine, and maybe there’s a dash of a little something extra in it that helps you sleep, cures anxiety, or detoxifies your adrenal glands.

Upcoming Events

New Moon Infusion
April 7, 7 p.m.
Suggested Donation: $20

  • Infuse wine and liquor with herbs
  • Provide recipes for other useful infusions
  • Set an intention for spring and how this ties to the element Wood in Chinese Medicine or Aries in astrology

Tonics, Tinctures, and Brews
April 10, 1-3 p.m.
Suggested Donation: $20

  • Salves
  • Tinctures
  • Bulk Herbal Formulas
  • Essential Oil Blends

 

Featured image via The Key of Kels

Helen Mary Horty, the best surrealist of this century

In offhanded homage to Vincent van Gogh (today is his birthday, they say), I present to you another surrealist artist. Her name is Mary Helen Horty. Though she received a degree in art from the University of Minnesota, she is renowned for her paper collages.

Rifling through the miscellaneous pieces leaning against the back wall of the Bearded Mermaid shop near downtown St. Paul, my fingers came to a full stop upon sight of one of Horty’s collages. It is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and I’ve seen some weird stuff in that shop. I actually have a total of three works of art from the Bearded Mermaid, and I catch myself looking at her’s more often than I’d like to admit.

Looking at this piece, depending on your hunger level, you see three identical stacks of spaghetti, leading the eye to the backside of a woman digging vigorously into the depths of her icebox, then maybe you see the egg yolk floating in space in the panel above her. To the left, there are similar iterations of a woman in the stages of getting dressed for a night out, she’s holding her hair up and she’s smiling at the viewer with a look of commercial ambivalence, much like saying, “Mhmm? You like it don’t you? Ech, well, I don’t care how you think I look, I’m frickin’ ravishing, and I don’t particularly like you anyway.” And there’s a jade jaguar walking down a staircase, a layer above the top half of a man’s silhouette, staring out into a pearlescent sunscape.

I couldn’t find this one online, so here are some of her other amazing works:

Though everyone has their own opinions as to what makes a great piece of art, I say the good stuff sticks with you. You may see a cantalope in real life and think about how its likeness is represented alongside a lightbulb in Horty’s “Fruitful” collage. The images are burned into your mind’s eye, and while you’re making a pot of spaghetti or just falling asleep, you think about distinctions in the art you’ve seen. You’re constantly glancing over at it, hanging there on your wall, just to make sure it still exists, that you didn’t simply dream about someone somewhere someday stealing the breath from your chest, making you think, “Gee. I never would have thought to put that there. How did she do that? Where did she get these ideas?”

Background

Mary Helen Horty was born in 1923 and began working in ceramics, then weaving, then painting, until she gravitated toward paper collages, leaving this life in 2005 with a house filled with artwork and a husband, Thomas, who she had been married to for 60 years.

From the St. Kate website:

“Ultimately, since all images are found, they depend on chance or some mysterious affinity between images. A montage cannot be carefully planned in advance because, as new images surface to tempt me, a work is constantly changing through trial and error. This state of flux continues until I somehow declare a work ‘finished.’ “I am often surprised! If asked why I use certain combinations of images, I can only reply, ‘Why not?’ ” – Mary Helen Horty

And here’s her Wild Rice Casserole recipe that my fiancé found online:

Mary Helen Horty’s Wild Rice Casserole

Savory wild rice dish with sausage mushrooms using real wild rice.
Ingredients
1 lb. fresh crimini mushrooms
1 ½ lb. Italian pork sausage (½ hot ½ sweet)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 C. wild rice, uncooked2
¼ C. flour
½ C. heavy cream
2 ½ C. chicken broth
1 t. salt
½ t. ground thyme
Instructions
Clean and slice mushrooms. Chop onions Remove sausage casings, sauté meat, keeping it in chunks3. Sauté in batches, remove and drain on paper towels. Sauté onions and mushrooms in same pan. Return sausage meat to pan and set aside. Cook rice (thoroughly washed) in boiling, lightly salted water for 12 minutes. Drain and add to sausage mixture. Mix flour with cream in saucepan over medium heat and stir until smooth. Add chicken broth and cook until thickened. Add salt and thyme. Combine with rice, sausage mixture. Pour into large casserole (9X13). Bake, covered, 40—50 minutes in pre-heated 375 F. oven. 1 Mary Helen Horty was a talented montage artist, a knowledgeable horticulturist, a great cook, a superb hostess, and my dear friend for many years. 2 Using lake-harvested wild rice makes a difference, if you can find it. The oxymoronically named “cultivated wild rice” now grown in paddies and harvested like a farm crop, does not have the same chew and texture of the real deal. Real wild rice is a grass—the plants growing wildly in the shallow borders of Minnesota lakes and harvested by local native tribes in canoes, beating the rice with sticks to capture only the grains that are sufficiently mature and ready to dislodge and fall into canoe side baskets. Read any online descriptions or store packages very carefully. The commercially farmed version is not bad, mind you, just not as good. 3 I do not recommend buying uncased sausage meat which may seem like a time saver, and is sometimes cheaper. Unfortunately, it breaks up too much while cooking, like ground beef.

 

What an amazing woman, she was, that Mary Helen Horty. Hope you enjoyed this little stint of an exploration into the life and artwork of the Minnesota artist who may not still physically reside in St. Paul, but her spirit lives on in these pieces that are strewn about in the homes of art lovers everywhere.

Oh, and happy Vincent van Gogh day. You won’t be forgotten either, you fascinating individual. We’re still thinking about you guys, so chin up, there. We’ll see you soon.

Augusten Burroughs hits the deadline for his new book

augusten-burroughs
via Rebl Nation

Wondering what Augusten Burroughs has been doing these last 20 years, since he released the acclaimed memoirs Running with Scissors and Dry? Well, don’t check the tabloids or celebrity gossip forums, because he wrote it all down in his new book Lust & Wonder due for release, March 29.

Washington Post says they are not quite looking forward to the sequel, and only devout fans of the cult of Burroughs will want to delve into the “sometimes unremarkable” story of his latest journey through New York.

Having read Running with Scissors and Dry, I’d like to give this one a try. I admit I am curious as to how his life is playing out since he got a handle on his drinking problem. (Reading Dry made me rethink some of my own bad habits, but I have not yet reached the point where I wake up each morning to find the carpet’s completely covered in empty bottles.)

They haven’t made a movie of that one yet, and why would they? It reads more like a Chuck Palahniuk novel, or that Hope They Serve Beer in Hell book (that I didn’t finish, because, why?) with Burroughs’ characteristic sardonic attitude and self-shaming antics painting a picture of a life of mounting incidents–each one more shocking than the last.

Either way, bottoms up, Augusten Burroughs. Cheers to your imminent success with this new novel. I’ll donate a few bucks your way, just to help you keep fighting that good fight.


 

Featured image via Bēhance

Moon Shot: a documentary about daring to do the impossible

Now that government-funded space travel is no longer in the public vocabulary, private citizens are taking matters into their own hands while competing for the XPRIZE lunar landing competition. The project began in 2007, and JJ Abrams just released a nine-part web series called Moon Shot that goes behind the scenes and shows the world who is taking part in the competition.

You can watch every episode, here, on the XPRIZE site.

Google presents XPRIZE or Moon 2.0

XPRIZE’s giving 16 private teams the chance to win a shot at $30 million in funding for their space expedition to the moon. There will only be one first-place winner, but each team had the chance to be featured in a part of the Moon Shot series.

To win the prize, the teams must design a lunar lander that can travel a minimum of 500 meters on the surface of the moon–and they must have high-definition video and images to prove it.

The complete roster of teams was announced in February 2011, but was open to anyone with a little bit of money and a lot of ambition. The XPRIZE website states they have “…teams ranging from industry experts to well-funded high school students who don’t know what they can’t do.”

Basically, XPRIZE wants to see what people will come up with, whether they’re rocket scientists or not.

It’s not about the money

The competition isn’t just about the money, though. The purpose of the competition is to spur people into action, to believe they can achieve the impossible, and shake the concept of space travel down to the foundations as a result.

There may even be a chance that the teams will spend more than they win, as we saw with the 1927 competition for the Orteig Prize. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to make a transatlantic flight. He dared to go 55 hours without sleep, without food, just to accomplish something no one had ever dared before. This feat Wiley Post to fly around the world in seven days, back in 1933, among other amazing journeys that inspired people across the globe to pursue their dreams.

lindberg
Front page of the New York Herald on May 22, 1927 declaring Charles Lindberg’s first transatlantic flight via Airsoc

Moon Shot, the documentary

Moon Shot is not a documentary leading up to an ultimate conclusion, such as we’ve seen with regularly-televised competitions like American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. The purpose of JJ Abrams’ documentary is to enliven the human spirit and highlight the individual personalities embarking on a quest to reach the moon.

As of now, there is no official announcement date for declaring the winner; frankly, only two teams have signed launch contracts and they plan on making the journey sometime next year.

For now, we’ll have to watch Moon Shot to get familiar with the crew, then cross our fingers and hope our favorite team actually makes it to the moon.