hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

31 October 2012

Strip Down and Show Me the Fruits

Advertising creates clutter. Sides of highways are clustered with billboards waving at the thousands of drivers passing by each day. They are obstructive, bulky signs that stretch their wingspan over the surrounding trees to vie for attention. Advertisements coat the sides of websites, luring our eyes with distracting graphics and colors and mystery-inducing lines like “Language professors HATE him” and “1000th visitor! Click here to claim your free iPad” and “Meet sexy singles (like Ms. I-Swear-These-Aren’t-Implants-And-Every-User-Of-This-App-Looks-As-Sexy-As-I-Do).” They coat our cereal boxes, newspapers (for those old-timers out there), Facebook pages, daily commutes, etc. Each of these advertisements is in competition with each other, constantly swallowing massive amounts of revenue to become slightly better than their competitors. They pile up like layers of paint over a color-slut’s rented apartment. It is a desperate and futile, Sisyphean battle for our attention. As time moves on and we drown in their commercial rank, we become less willing to provide that attention.Like seriously, TMI. We don’t want any more pointless grains of information. We don’t want to be manipulated into spending our money a certain way. We don’t want to be afflicted with IOS. We want to be aesthetically pleased. In a society so cluttered with information and advertisements, we want something simple. Something basic. Something unobtrusive. Eye candy. In a small dose. We want minimalism.
A new movement that seems to have been gaining footing in pop culture over the last few years is the design of minimalist posters. Movies and books and famous characters have been stripped down to iconic details and artistically portrayed in the simplest forms. Superheroes may be reduced to the shape of their mask. Great scientists may be trimmed down to a few crossed lines. Epic films may only contain a single object. This form of stripping down is art in its purest form. Like the naked body, untouched by makeup or product, not hidden behind a layer of cloth, shows the true beauty. It is fruit, freshly plucked from the tree. Unadorned, it is the most delectable.
Plus, these posters embody something that advertisements never can. A wholesomeness. A genuine appreciation for what the topic stands for. They are not trying to sway viewers into buying some product or conforming to some new trend, but simply provide something we can appreciate. It is simplifying an artifact of pop culture that would otherwise be overly bedazzled in manipulative tricks. The art of making the complicated simple is the threshold of beauty. Our attraction is sparked in the simplest of ways. We don’t like clutter, so show us the fruit.

30 October 2012

To Grow Art

Throughout the spring and summer, I punch the clock at a greenhouse in the farming community of Allendale, Michigan. While there is little to no training given by the managers of the company, I am thrown into the indoor fields of flowering annuals like a clueless tourist being dumped into a foreign land. As the days drone on, I quickly learn the alternative names of plants and where they are located in the store. It is not long before I begin understanding care and maintenance procedures and their corresponding relations to other plants. I distinguish annuals from perennials, full-sun from part-sun from full-shade. Heat resistance and zoning become second nature to me. I can tell customers which plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds and which ones repel deer and mosquito. The complexity becomes beautiful and I find myself engrossed by the magic of plants. It is an enchantment I do not wish to flee.

So I make it follow me. As I now gaze into the leafy tendrils of my elephant foot palm on the windowsill, I cannot help but smile. This small palm tree brings a sliver of joy and life to my white-walled dorm room during the lifeless months of fall and winter. The grey ceramic pot creates a micro island, an oasis from the grip of seasonal affective disorder. While the trees lose their leaves and the flowers go dormant, my foot palm remains green and lively.
As humans, plants are our perfect companions. We exhale carbon dioxide while they inhale it. Plants give off oxygen, and we take it. Together, we complete the cycle of gases. They breathe and intake nutrients and water like animals, but are generally sedentary objects like rocks. They are the epitome of living art.
Imagine an empty room, cold and industrial. Not living, not breathing. It doesn’t grow or change. Its ambiance is poor, if not bare. Give it plants and it will grow atmosphere. They stretch their green leaves into the living space and give us something to interact with. Unlike furniture, they are organic and require care. Plants force us to foster a relationship. Care is mandatory for their survival. We must feed them water and sunlight so that they may give us joy. The discipline of caring for them is rewarded subtly by the thriving nature of the plant. From sculpting bushes and trimming hedges to growing crops and fruit trees, one’s care of plants is often correlated with its harvest—be it concretely through produce, or abstractly through beauty. It allows us to grow art. No painting or sculpture can bring as much natural beauty to a room as a vibrant plant.

19 October 2012

On Being 19

On this day, the 19th of October, I find myself pondering my age. At the time of this post, I am 19, freshly 19 and a half to be particular. It is a twilight age. The awkward middle-ground between adolescence and adulthood. I am independent, in some sense, as I live away from home and buy my own food and generally take care of myself alone. However, I am still on my parent's healthcare plan and dependent upon them for occasional residence. I am an adult, legally, but not truly. Not a man, but a boy, under construction to become a man. There are many things I need to learn about this world. I have experienced love and loss and all other basic human experiences, but I have only dipped slightly beneath the surface. There is much depth I still need to cover. My political views are still thoroughly under consideration. My mind is open to new perspectives and I am aware of my background and religious views, so I can recontribute to the greater discussion of such ideologies. It is an interesting age, an awkward age. I am old enough to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets but two years short of purchasing liquor. It is the ideal age for me, as I am a being in constant fluctuation. Eternally weighing out my life and contradicting past ideas. Like any person, I am riddled with flaws and a project waiting to be finished. I am 19.

17 October 2012

Our Noble Steeds of Steel

Like most college towns and urban areas filled with high pedestrian traffic, bicycle lanes and parking structures encourage the inhabitants of an area to bypass automobiles. As a result, the bike has become a pivotal tool used by the residents of Ann Arbor. Like any well-used tool, a relationship comes to form between the user and the object. Not like some Golem-esque petty obsession where the owner screeches ‘my precious’ upon interacting with an object, but a meaningful mutual relationship. By providing the object with respect and TLC, the object can provide proper working condition to its user.
If only this was the case for these poor specimens of abuse…

The following images are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers...

When we become drones of day-to-day living, ants marching about our mundane existence, we tend to overlook the violent disregard of our environment. We are desensitized to the mangled machines and twisted tools we have so carelessly disregarded and left to waste. What were once stallions to carry us through our daily routines, we let our bicycles take a downward spiral and succumb to rust and decay until they are no longer usable, like great horses put out to pasture in a desert.
As I walked outside Mason Hall yesterday afternoon, I could not help but notice the rusted bicycle chained to a pole beside one of the common walking paths. Ever since my first day at the University of Michigan, over a year ago, this bicycle had been tethered here. The tires were deflated to noting. The rims were speckled in blobs of orange rust. The chain had deteriorated off the bent gears. Forlorn, the bike remained bonded to its pole beside the cement path. Hundreds of students passed by it every day, but none held the key to its lock. Nobody cut it free. Just like nobody had come to grease its chain or fill its tire. It filled me with sadness.

I wanted to tear it free from the pole, give it a new chain and scrub the rust from its rims. I would slip on a new tire and polish up its finish. I could install a new seat or replace the handlebars. Refurbish this decaying beast and transform it into my noble steed of steel (if that’s what bikes are made of). Cruising beneath the late-afternoon sun, I would go about my life and draw attention to my stallion. My journeys to class or work would become a daily display of art.  It would instill a sense of pride in my life, in something as simple as a bicycle.
As it turned out, I would not be the first to perform this rejuvenating act. As I continued on my walk, my feelings heightened with this fantasy of restoration. I became even more inspired by the wonderfully original bicycles in motion. Many of these were minimalistic in design; single speed, thin tires, no brakes, no stickers on the frame or unnecessary accessories. Standard hipster bikes. Some adopted more vintage features, with unique paint-jobs and varying seat styles. Some had baskets or uniquely-shaped handlebars. They were each beautiful in their own way. Each a piece of art. While they are simply tools, vehicles to aide in the  day-to-day transport of our lives, these bicycles embody something more. They are a part of us. Let us treat them appropriately. And make them into something beautiful. Something we can call art.


14 October 2012

Tranquilize Me

Claws kick up dirt
Tear free from my shirt
Propel toward the game
Shred the grass, pursue fame
They run up trees, the prey
Like puppets, they act, they play
In pursuit, I climb after
Expecting screams, I get laughter
No wait, no run, they dive
Into my mouth, no drive
To pursue I wish to flee
Drag my way up another tree
Forcing itself down my throat
The game, an anchor on my boat
To new waters, trapped
In a dismal bay, to adapt
I refuse, but like a burr
The game latches to my fur
Too easy, no flavor
No need for a waiver
More game runs past
Fresh and sly and fast
I cannot chase
Drowning in a vase
Focus chained to the little mouse
Wishing to make my belly its house
My teeth its key, its ticket
To my world from its thicket
Pleading for me to devour
Trap me, take its power
I could kill it
And no longer sit
For the easy catch
Rise up and roar
Go after those I adore
Sink my teeth into those who run
Bloody my claws in a passionate race
Up hills, over mountains, across streams
Into the thickest brush, the highest reaches
And fill my wearied body with the meat
Of those most desirable
The ones I have to chase
If you walk into my mouth
My appetite goes south
If you want to discover
Everything I cover
Spark passion in my heart
Or give me the dart
Let me hunt free
Or tranquilize me.

10 October 2012

ArtPrize 2012

Amongst all the great art,
both gnomes and narwhals were represented at this year's ArtPrize.

 in Grand Rapids, MI

08 October 2012

Shipping and Handling

           There was a strangely alluring scowl on her luscious lips as she slapped me across the face. Just like they do in the movies. As her hand connected with my smiling cheek, the ukulele in my lap hit the concrete. An instant moment of regret washed over me. I wish I had mounted a camera from a nearby tree, just so I could’ve seen this hit from a limited third person perspective. I’m sure it would’ve been Hollywood material, something that would win Oscars for Best Short Film.
            It was a good slap.
            Almost as good as the time those “Hollywood phonies tried to give me their autograph” or so said Andy Samberg in his phenomenal Saturday Night Live clip “Threw It On The Ground.” Having attributed a considerable amount of the 39,026,434 views on YouTube, a number of 5,003,078 could properly describe my obsession with the short. It was purely inspirational. Especially to a moody high school sophomore with a closeted “rebellious” nature. It moved me. Particularly the ending lines, or so-claimed “moral of the story,” which is “you can’t trust the system! Man!” My life was given purpose. Although I did not go around throwing free hotdogs on the ground (that would be littering!), I began to live up to my notorious reference to pop culture—Mr. Anderson. Reality did not quite feel the same anymore. Everything seemed plastic and artificial. In a sense, I felt that maybe I had garnered some higher awareness of the world, some extreme knowledge of the inner-workings of pop culture, and that I, like those living outside the Matrix, was not a product of the system!
            The system.
            Man, I was not a part of that! I decided to dedicate the rest of teenage life to fighting it. No scams or products of the man were going to manipulate me. The system would not control me. I made a Facebook account, then deleted it. After 1.34 hours of fame. Because I wasn’t a part of the system. I proved to my eye-rolling friends that I could break free. The system had no shackle on me! Lay’s Potato Chips told me “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One.” I went Chuck Norris on that shit and they lost that bet. I wasn’t a part of the system. High school dances came and went. Did I buy a ticket? Do you really think I wanted to support the education system? I was above their tricks. Or so I thought.
            I entered college, feeling like the biggest hipster on campus. I was too far outside the system to conform to skinny jeans, scarves, and big glasses. Listening to LPs and drinking organic tea was too mainstream for me, so I listened to air particles and drank water. The chemicals in anything flavorful was part of the system. As I drifted along in my self-considered “higher level of thought,” fall turned to winter and winter to spring, and I found myself ordering the boxed DVD collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation off Amazon.com. While it pained me to go through the system of the internet, there was no other way to acquire my long-desired DVDs (Yes, Blu-Ray were too popular and VHS was bordering on mainstream hipster). Being the well-aware off-the-grid system-fighter that I was, I maneuvered through the virtual aisles of the Amazon.com before pinpointing the New & Used price of $0.99. I was so clever. Amazon couldn’t have disposed of them for that cheap. It was a steal. I clicked that “Add to Cart” button as fast an over-caffeinated trigger-happy cop rushing to the donut shop.
            But then the system caught me. Shipping and handling was an additional $7.99. That was 8 times as much as the product itself! Damn system. But then I noticed another chink in the system’s armor. “Eligible for FREE super saver shipping.” That’s what I’m talking about! So I proceeded to checkout and selected the free shipping option and slapped on that “Submit Order” button. I received an error message. The system told me I had to have an order of $25 or more to qualify for the FREE super saver shipping. So I bought a ukulele for $34.99.
            There was no way in hell I was going to pay for shipping and handling.
            Once I received my items after 5-10 business days, I pondered the future purpose of the ukulele. I had absolutely no musical capability and I could not rightly hang it from my wall or put it on a shelf without actually playing it. Considering it cost me so much money, I decided it would have to be an investment. Just to screw the system over more of course. I needed a return on something the system could never get. Not money. Not fame. But sexual favors. Girls loved music. Any guy with a guitar could reel in as much poon as he wants, all guys knew that. But this was a ukulele. That I had no capability of striking a chord on. There was only one option left. The best option in my opinion. A prop for a pick-up line.
            So I go up to this girl, a really good-looking girl I might add, and delivered it. I thought it was pretty clever.
            “Cool ukulele,” she said.
            “You know what else would be cool?” I retorted.
            “What?” (There was actually a smile on those luscious lips)
            “If you could lay me.”
            She slapped me instead. I guess I could’ve gotten that without the ukulele. But hey, at least I got free shipping and handling.
            Then I did the only thing suitable for me to do. I took the ukulele and threw it on the ground.
            The moral of the story is you can’t trust the system. Man!

04 October 2012

Man of Sticks

I am no man of steel
Styx and stones may break my bones

Of which I do not have.

03 October 2012

New Bowls

I have seven bananas because there are seven days in a week. Monday morning, banana. Tuesday morning, banana. Wednesday morning, banana. Thursday morning, banana. Friday morning, banana. Saturday morning, banana. This morning, banana. Tomorrow morning…I don’t know. That’s why I’m putting back these seven bananas. It’s not that I’m sick of them, I’m not. Obviously I should be having more of a balanced breakfast than a cup of coffee and a banana dipped in strawberry jam. Especially for someone at my age. Bananas are probably the culprit for my poor health, but that’s beside the point. I’m not going to violate health code or anything for putting these back on the rack, am I?
Stores get touchy about that sort of thing, you know? That’s why I don’t work in food service. Too much hand-washing, hair-netting, apron-donning, plastic-gloving, germ-cognizance. The closest connection I have to this store is those betta fish up front. You know, the colorful little fish sitting in the stacked little containers. I breed them. I’ve been a betta fish breeder for twenty-three years now. Started as soon as my son could make his own lunch. Since bettas have gotten quite popular over the past decade, I’ve managed to make a decent living for quite some time. Aren’t too many of us around, you know? People don’t always realize that bettas are actually Siamese fighting fish. ‘Betta’ just comes from the genus name. Most stores like this sell Betta Splendens. They spar a lot, as they’ve been bred to over the centuries. It complicates the breeding process a bit. I always have to keep them separate. Females have to be relocated after the nuptial embrace or an aggressive male will kill her as she tries to eat the eggs. Seen it way too many times. I must say, it’s quite gruesome. Most people don’t realize that nature about them. That’s why they have to be contained. I keep very close tabs on them, especially the bubble nests. The males maintain them until the larvae absorb the yolk sacs. The fry leave the nest soon after. This is where I have to be very vigilant, especially for Piscinoodinium. Probably kills 90% of bettas in captivity. I have to check the filters, make sure nothing harmful enters the tank. They have to be kept on a strict diet too, so they’re used to the pellets people feed them. Ground up bloodworms, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae…People don’t know this, but it’s important. People don’t know the bettas’ real colors either. It wasn’t until becoming pieces of décor that they’ve been selectively bred to have the colorful scales. In the wild they used to be a drab brown or gray. But that wouldn’t look too pretty in a vase, would it?
Now I know boys aren’t too particular when it comes to color, but I brought a betta to my son the other day. He’s living in an apartment now down in Phoenix. All the way in Arizona, can you believe it? Figured I’d give him a house-warming gift. Put a real nice plant in there, along with the largest and bluest CrownTail I’d grown. Got a nifty bowl, a new design our company was trying out, with lots of aquamarine marbles along the bottom. You should’ve seen it. I trimmed the plant just right, keeping the roots curled at an angle the fish could easily reach, considering they have upturned mouths and such. Anyway, my boy, Junior, put it on the dining table. It’s the same one he had in my basement. There are still burn marks on the legs, but it’s still in generally good condition. It’s the only thing he had left after the fire. It’s sentimental, you know? It’s the same table I used when I lived down there. Once my father moved out, I kept the one he left in the kitchen. It had a nice bowl in the center where I put my bananas.
It’s hard, letting him go. Had him all to myself for thirty-one years. Homeschooled him, cooked his meals, taught him how to drive…I love my son. His mother didn’t. She wanted to send him to daycare. Wouldn’t raise him herself because she didn’t care. The world was tough. Didn’t want him to get consumed, you know? All those other kids had germs. And Junior was small, the bigger kids would pick on him, you know? He had red hair and none of the other kids had red hair. I was afraid they’d bully him. But he’s bald for now. The flames got to his hair, but the burns weren’t bad. He’ll be ok, I think. He’s no fry. Not anymore. I told him I wouldn’t light any more candles. The glass stand broke when I left for work. I hadn’t meant to slam the door that hard, but sometimes the boy just gets to me, you know? We got in a little tussle, you see, and he broke the bowl on the kitchen table. He could get real mean sometimes. I didn’t blame him for it though. I got mean too. It was hard to live together. Even when we were on separate floors. Now we’re eighteen hundred miles apart.

I can’t just see him when I want. If you have a son, you’d know what I mean. It’s like those betta fish up front. They’re just stacked there, right where I can watch them. Twenty-seven right now, counted them as I walked in. Next week there may only be sixteen. I won’t know what happened to the others. It would worry me. Maybe I wouldn’t care so much if I hadn’t put them in the little bowls in the first place, you know? If I came back next week and all the bananas were gone, I wouldn’t be worried.  There’s a chance I wouldn’t even notice, considering I’m not buying bananas anymore.
So do you like mangoes? I’ve got a new table in my apartment. A new bowl too. I’m looking for something to fill it with.