‘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 being 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.

and its on

and its on — i alleviate staggered stupidity with a modicum of graceful gratuity — she doesnt notice — rings my tab without checking for a tip and so maybe misses out on the three dollars 84 cents id so bequeathed — she looking probably a lesbian — just a tiny cup of coffee she says with a joke in her eye overhearing the use of the word tiny and disregard for the rest of the sentence — hardly abnormal as a conversation — handy with lowered eyes and no want to meet — cornea to cornea

the women here

the women here wear high to the knee leather boots and drink dark wine — all with laptops open on tabletops — no eye contact — no looking around — uninterest parsed out evenly for all whose sat after ordering — then my food arrives and i cant avoid attending to it — but a bite in i think — they all sit tabled in twos — one with headphones on both encompassed by internetful exploration or maybe homework — no one talks — african music soft in the corner almost a drone of tone — they maybe planned to come together or met here — but now here they hide behind each other — ooh a spared word whispered after a finger tap to alert the other of vocalization — then its slumped shoulders back under plugged ears staring forward a foot below the others eyes at the world in quotation marks — a sad little captioned universe comprised entirely of the thoughts and subsequent writings of others — this internet is become a great pacifier — an enormous toddler our civilization is — just outward limbs seizure spread in hopes of ensnaring an open ear — my story — my life — listen — listen — i have something here — and always its a rerun — do you remember reruns — that was once a relevant word — i even remembered how to spell it for you — the concepts ensnared within its definition will likely be lost on you so i shall tarry no further — onward to a high hung hammock strung up by heart strings — dare you to twang upon the twine tethers

“Have a good day”

“Have a good day” — youre standing staring at me waiting — am i doing it — can you see my day improving by sheer dint of your stuttered vocalization — sprouting rainbow shedding wings and soaring off to the valhalla of days endings — happy little penguino toots trumpeting my arrival — gimme gimme gimme – – – which button …  do i hit credit — i dont know do you have a credit card? — dog captain stab master mcplus

The Myopic Generation: An Experiment in Progress

There’s a social experiment in the works, here. It all started with a conversation at the local liquor store. During the latest transaction, the proprietor motioned toward my glasses and mentioned that her daughter had poor eyesight, but she could see 20/20 herself. Why is that, she asked? We discussed the issue at hand, reasoning that perhaps tech was to blame. I promised her I would investigate this matter further, and here I present my findings as provided partly by my own experiences with nearsightedness (myopia) and myriad articles I found online (via tech, of course, further subjecting myself to the further propagation of this perpetual problem.)

Purpose:

To find out why people believe that new generations of humans will have exponentially bad eyesight

Hypothesis:

Muscles typically used for long-distance vision atrophy as today’s technologically-centric humans train their eyes to focus on objects 6-12″ away.

Research:

  • “Children today have grown up with technology always at their fingertips. It seems as if kids learn how to use a smartphone or tablet before they learn to walk. Whether it’s playing the latest game or doing homework, technology permeates a child’s life and does so at a young age. Because this is a new phenomenon, not much is known about the long-term impact of computers or other digital gadgets on pediatric eyes. However, eye care providers have reported seeing an increase in cases of myopia, or nearsightedness. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 34 million Americans suffer with myopia, a number that is projected to rise to nearly 40 million by 2030.ix Although there is no one specific cause for the increase, scientists point to a mix of genetic and environmental factors, including increasing near-range activities such as the use of digital devices, and decreasing exposure to natural light through outdoor activities.x Digital eye strain can also affect children and teens, whose eyes may fatigue after long periods of use. Computers and smartphones are often tied to every facet of a young person’s life—from school to socializing, there is little respite from the constant use of technology. ” (via The Vision Council)
  • “Single-vision minus lenses for full-time use produce accommodative insufficiency associated with additional symptoms until the patient gets used to the lens. This is usually accompanied by a further increase in myopia and the cycle begins anew.” – Martin H Birnbaum (1973), Review of Optometry  (via Improve Vision Naturally)
  • “Modern living has sparked something of a myopia epidemic. Our children are spending more of their free time indoors watching TV and playing video games than generations of the past, and their long distance vision is suffering.

    In China, a massive 76% of lower middle school students are already nearsighted. Education officials now see to it that Chinese students perform eye exercises twice a day in order to tackle the myopia epidemic.

    In contrast, countries whose cultures place more emphasis on sports and outdoor living – such as Australia and New Zealand – have among the lowest occurrence of nearsightedness in the world. The solution, then, is to spend more time outdoors and actually using your long distance vision.

    Like any muscle – even like your brain – if you stop using your eyes they can become weak. If you’re nearsighted, you probably spend a lot of time indoors performing close-up tasks and your long distance vision has become weak. You can correct this by enjoying the great outdoors more frequently and focusing in the long distance.” – Improve Vision Naturally

Background

Studies show that myopia may passed down genetically, or it may be caused by a steady decline in eyesight, due to external environmental factors. In my case, both my mother and father have almost perfect eyesight. They’re parents also had perfect eyesight. And my great grandparents? I’ve never seen them wear glasses, either. I’ve thought this over, long and hard, and the first implication of the onset of my condition is enmeshed in a memory from the age of 2-years-old or so, when I walked outside, taking a breather from the otherworldly confusion ensuing from the TV as my older sister watched Munsters with her friend on TV. I found myself staring at the sun. What pretty colors there were to be found there. After staring at the TV screen, almost believing the world to consist of the grey-scale palette featured on the show, I saw hues of purple interchanged with blue and red and yellow and the whole UV spectrum seemed to open up to me. Who knows how long I let my retina erode at such an early age. You wouldn’t know it to recognize me today, as we have the most fashionable eyeglasses currently in creation (See: Warby Parker, my chosen frames and contacts, of course) but I have myopia. I actually have astigmatism, which means that instead of seeing the horizon as a flat plane, my eyes actually tilt flat planes into 45 degree diagonals. The average human being may see a little fuzziness around the edges, but I see double. Call me four-eyes, if you will, but when I look at the sun today, the glaring heat giant in the sky looks to be 10 times its size, as my eyes blur the multiple versions of the same object into one, without definition, disproportionate in scale.

After reading a few articles on the subject, I can’t help but think that while part of our brains have evolved over the centuries (See: Multi-tasking abilities, problem-solving skills, overall sense of urgency and a need for productivity) while another crucial part of our anatomy has devolved (See: Paleolithic-era hunters, scanning the horizon for enemies).

The future generations of humans will focus ever more closely to objects within a foot from their faces, and quite frankly (and this is the sci-fi part of me speaking to you, now) we won’t even have to strain our eyes that far, because we’ll probably have contacts within the internet embedded right in the soft faux-factory-induced-plastic material we’ve voluntarily subsumed into our ocular anatomy by the 22nd century.

There’s also somewhat of a spiritual-awakening trend taking place as we speak. Something about seeing what’s right in front of you… “living in the moment”. These messages are secretly seeping into our subconscious. Why worry about the future when you should focus on the here-and-now? Likewise, that object in the distance? Don’t look at that. It’s not important. Focus on the task at hand. The task! Complete it. Now.

Experiment:

To roll with my childhood intuition (or abhorrence toward wearing glasses), I’ll go two days without glasses or contacts and register the time it takes for me to register a headache, and I’ll use the pinhole method (the natural equivalent to using a pair of binoculars to focus on one object at a time) in favor of letting my otherwise lazy eyes strain themselves to focus on objects close up while I’m wearing glasses strategically engineered to sharpen objects at a distance (counter-intuitive, perpetuating the cycle mentioned in Improve Vision Naturally article.)

On Day 1:

I will read from a book (close-at-hand) and after 20 minutes, will stare out the window for 20 minutes, training my eyes to adjust from their natural (or unnatural, at this point?) nearsighted tendencies to focusing on objects at a distance.

On Day 2:

I should be able to focus on objects farther than 20 feet away, without incurring an immediate headache. I should become comfortable looking into the distance, without immediately finding myself fighting the instinct to grab for my glasses. Reading from a book less than a foot in front of my face should feel as natural as focusing on a rabbit running across the pavement on the street below, more than 20 feet away from the window.

Measurement:

This is a hard one. How can someone measure their ability to focus on objects in the distance, when they have made the habit of assuming said objects are out-of-focus? I suppose it’s all about comfort, yeah? I will go a weekend without corrective lenses, and exercise my eye muscles to focus on objects in the distance. Meanwhile, I will record my observations. Success will be measured by my comfort level at Day 1 versus Day 2. I know this is not a lot of time for such an extravagant endeavor, but I believe that by Day 2, I can train my brain to receive light signals off in the distance, instead of turning on all of the lights in the house so that I may focus on a single object close at hand. The method of measurement will be comfort. I will rate my level of comfort using an eye-strain, pain threshold such as 1 equals “little to no pain” and 5 equals “total annihilation of the senses, beginning with the eyes.”

Conclusion:

I will share the results of this experiment on my Twitter page. Just a short, little, 140-character snippet of my findings.

 

Featured image via Little Four Eyes

múm performs live soundtrack to silent films

After releasing six albums, Icelandic band múm is now playing live music to Billy Wilder’s Menschen am Sonntag in theatres around the globe.

Menschen am Sonntag is a silent film from 1930 about everyday people relaxing on the shores of Nikolasse beach. Drama ensues when two couples develop mixed feelings for the other’s partners.

múm-am-Sonntag
via Resident Advisor

Menschen am Sonntag shows another side of life in the 30s, that confusing period between the Golden 20s and the beginning of WWII and múm is revitalizing this avante-garde art film from a decade long forgotten.

Múm brings a new perspective to the film, blending sound effects from mundane objects with otherworldly overtones and discordant notes to flesh out the emotion left unattained when the original film came out.

Listen to múm’s album Finally We Are No One and you will feel like you’re no longer a person. This album lifts your soul from your body and sends it wandering through an imaginary forest to discover intimations of the fountain of youth.

This is, by far, the best album I have listened to in a long time. And I’m confident, without a doubt, that no one could achieve the feat of setting the scene for Menschen am Sonntag, save for the magical minds behind the band múm.

 

Featured image via Area81