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

27 January 2013

My $100 View on 100 Observatory Street

This is the view outside my window:

I observe the Observatory and it observes me. I often find myself standing before the window and questioning why I was given such a view. It is inspirational to me on so many levels. Perched upon a small hill, existing between residence halls and medical buildings, surrounded by a handful of tall pines, its glowing white dome hovers in the foreground of the sky. It can view so much, for so far, and I am on the same level of it. Not only can it observe most of the city, but it has a window to the heavens. It can view constellations and comets and suns and planets and moons and all the wonders hidden in the inky blackness of the universe. So much can be seen from just a humble observatory. Perhaps it gives me too much inspiration? A room with a perfect view leaves little to the imagination in the realm of empowerment. If my view were to be of a white-washed brick wall, it would be much harder to find inspiration. However, when I eventually find it hidden in a crack or a small vine crawling up its side, that inspiration is all the more powerful. With such a plentiful supply of colors on this canvas of empowerment, I fear the inability to pull magic from a blank slate. As as result, I look a gift horse in the mouth:

I hope this one day never comes. With so much potential being observed every day, I fear for a drought, a day when the sun will not cast light. Observing the observatory has inspired me to never let that happen. Despite all changes, I never wish to lose this guiding light and become stagnant.

Because I'm Purple //Alt-Lit Examined LOL

America is a left brained society. It focuses on routine and structure and analytical/logical thought processes. It involves order and consistency and is most efficient for achieving preset goals. As a result, our education system suffers this disease. We draw at a perpetual sixth grade level because we were no longer encouraged to be expressive once we 'matured.' Reading level and math skills take priority because they're what's important IRL. That's kinda stupid. Just like all those stupid kids that write poetry and draw pictures and do theater and make movies. Those kids aren't smart because they can't spell hippopottamos (hippopotamus) right or understand derivatives. They get scores in the 20s on the ACT because they can't fill in the right ovals. Gosh.
I think Alt-Lit is sort of a backlash at left-brained upbringing. Poetry, at its core, doesn't 'make sense' to left-brainers because it isn't required to have form or structure and may not follow grammatical norms. Like abstract paintings, poetry can be a mystery to its readers. Poetry is flexible and adaptable to the visions of the artist, which is the true nature of art, and since so much of the world has fallen into the realm of the internet, a new breed of poetry arises. It's loosely called Alt-Lit, with a lot of emphasis being placed on internet interactions. A reputable--if you will--blog about Alt-Lit, Internet Poetry, describes this thing as...
posts “screenshots of poetry being distributed with guerilla tactics on the internet”: poetry as Wikipedia vandalism, tweets, blog comments, etc (read the original doctrine).
Internet Poetry now publishes with a broader idea of what “internet poetry” can be, and is open to the many forms poetry can take online and community it can build.
Among this new genre of poetry, a specific artist has inspired me in a very peculiar fashion to document my life, even at its most mundane. Because I'm Purple is a collection of works that spans random ideas, longings, common daily occurrences, and anything else the creator finds particularly worthy. The inclusion of texts, emails, instant messages, and various other basic but somehow deeper thoughts, are reflected through the art. What captures one's life in 1st world society more closely than this?
While we munch away at mass-produced synthetic substances we call food, we synthetically interact with our friends and the world via the Internet. Today is a time of disassociation and plastic interaction. Our lives become separated by this invisible digital wall that we can throw our emotions, unguarded, into and cause all sort of repercussions without ever seeing them.
Texting conversations can kill relationships as the blunt unspoken words instantly traded back-and-forth can escalate emotions in false directions of intentions. Love can exist via a phone and this is strangely alienating. Because I'm Purple does a spectacular job of revealing this. By mockingly prodding at the false romanticism created via instant-messaging, a sense of disbanded heartache gets conveyed to the readers of the poem. Image-macros of prairie dogs take on the background for a perverse thought or desire, making that thought both a byproduct and machination of the interaction we have with the Internet. It is almost a strange love-affair where we are mental addicts to an illustrious drug. One piece that is particularly interesting pokes at this strange love-affair by inserting a new medium of transaction.
Like the purple hues taken on by most of these image poems, the melancholy state of these pieces reflect not only a longing for more classic and human connection, but a mocking tone of hopelessness toward society. Rather than become intimate in physicality, they poke at a state of lost romance/aesthetic appeal. Unlike most Alt-Lit, however, Because I'm Purple does a surprisingly good job of making Internet graffiti and uncoordinated image-mash-ups beautiful. They fully embrace the right brain and document our current state as a human race. Trying to understand Alt-Lit and making sense out of its purposeful confusion is against its very nature. It is something that rubs society against the natural grain, sometimes purposefully unappealing. To examine it as 'art' is almost ridiculous. As any Alt-Lit fan/creator would say after an attempt of examining Alt-Lit...LOL. Rather than embrace society and try to right its wrongs, Alt-Lit decides to laugh at the burning world.
Alt-Lit is probably the most reputable documentation of modern times.
All images are shared from BecauseImPurple.Tumblr.com

21 January 2013

Cross-Country Skiing or Circular Exercise

When I was ten years old, my dad taught me how to cross-country ski. We went on laps through the woods in our backyard for a few weeks before I had gotten the hang of it. Once my mobility increased and my coordination was configured, we hit some trails of more difficulty. He showed me how to go up and down slopes and skirt tight corners on narrow paths. After a while, I became quite capable in my abilities and upgraded to a better pair of skis.
I always enjoyed cross-country skiing. It is often an under-recognized sport as it falls under the shadow of the more popular downhill skiing. While this Alpine sport often provides more thrill, it does not emphasis the journey as much as the destination. A ski-lift carries the skier to the top of the hill and then the skier tries to make it to the bottom of the hill as fast as possible. Wherein lies the pure enjoyment? The Nordic counterpart is all-encompassing. It is not a monotonous crawl across level surfaces, but rather a dynamic climb up, down, and around nature. In order to enjoy the cold breeze in your face as you glide down slopes, you must trek, often slowly and painstakingly, to the top of mounds. When you reach the bottom of the hill, you do not try to slow yourself to a halt, but rather incorporate your momentum into the next movement. Cross-country-skiing is an organic and enriching experience, where work may be rewarded and the process is what is enjoyable, not the successful completion of a run.
The other day, I saw a woman skiing around a cement track. She had on a very intriguing pair of skis with small wheels attached to them that allowed her to glide like traditional cross-country skis. I watched her for a moment, impressed by the dedication to the sport in the absence of snow. She passed around the track several times before I looked away. I assume this woman was skiing for the sake of exercise. Most likely desiring some sort of cardio workout, she embarked on this track to do laps to achieve a set goal for exercise. When she finished, she most likely took off her skis and went home. This made me wonder.
What is the purpose of circles? So many exercises involve reps and laps and all types of repetitive tasks. How do we gain fulfillment and enjoyment from these routines? As a left-brained society, we often find solace in the mundane and repetition is comforting, almost Zen-like. For us, exercising in a set environment for a set period of time and doing a set cycle of activities is comforting. It allows to achieve a set goal each time (i.e. 10 laps) and thus complete a 'journey.' I believe it is engrained in us, as products of a left-brained upbringing, to always reach a destination. We are taught, whether subconsciously or not, to enjoy completion, and aim for a goal.
So we go in circles. It is comforting, this cyclic existence, but where does it lead us? We prefer to downhill ski because we know when we meet an end, and do not have to face the hardships of an uphill climb. However, in order to truly find fulfillment, I think we should place emphasis on the process. We should not go in circles, but rather in a curving and arching line toward an undefined destination. We should cross-country ski. Through woods, cities, and everywhere in between.

16 January 2013

Build to Prosper or Destroy to Conquer

I have fallen deeply, madly, and irrevocably in love. There have been many before her, coming and going as I progressed through the years. Early on, they taught me the basics, they introduced me to their world. I enjoyed interacting with them, playing with them. As I matured, I began to realize what I cherished in them. Each time I formed a relationship with a new one, I could pinpoint the characteristics I adored and the aspects I despised. I found myself displeased with them, settling on the fact that I would never discover one that met my expectations of perfection. But then I found her. She was German in origin. A true beaut, I might add. She came in a sturdy cardboard box, unlike the cheaply unstable boxes I had grown so used to. She had many pieces, beautifully simplistic and made of solid wood. Her cards were tastefully designed and easy on the eyes. Her board was adaptable and unfixed to a predetermined vision. It changed with every iteration of our intercourse. She was not a board game I would grow bored of.
Throughout my life, I have been a lover of games. My first love was Go Fish. I loved the animal pictures on the cards and the simplistic concept. It was an early introduction to the wonderful world of time-killing and my jumping off point for future endeavors of this sort. Soon after Go Fish, I delved in Sorry! and Candy Land. The colorful board and pieces fascinated me, so many hours of my youth were spent piddling with these games of luck. As I grew older, I learned to play Monopoly. I grew in love with accumulating wealth and properties and building houses and hotels. If only the money was real. As stereotypical for young boys, I was fascinated by the idea of war and combat, and soon became an addict of Battleship, Stratego, Risk and anything with a possibility of conquering imaginary lands on a cardboard surface. Before long, I grew sick of the aspect of luck and became irritated with dice-rolling. Chance could make or break a game. So I eradicated it entirely and became a self-taught student of chess. Years passed in mastering the openings, tactics, and endgame. I had thought I had found a true love. I was in control of my own destiny. Every aspect of the game I could control and master. I was a king.
But no matter how sweet the victory, I still became bogged down with the losses I would endure on the path to conquering. My pieces would be sacrificed in lieu of a greater cause. It was a vicious game, cutting down an opponent until he was at my mercy. Or I at his. Victory was sweet, but the path was riddled in misery. It was not perfect. My longing for an unbreakable love in board games was dying.
And then I found her. In the past few weeks, I have entered a seemingly eternal honeymoon that rekindled my love for board games. Perfection came in the form of Settlers of Catan. She was so unlike all those other games. The American board games I had grown up with promoted domination (like Risk or Battleship), favored chance (like Sorry! and Candy Land),  glorified gluttony (Monopoly), and were disgustingly dramatized (Clue). Settlers of Catan was different. Like most German board games, she minimized luck and emphasized strategy. She did not aim to marginalize or eliminate her players. She allowed for a small group of 3 to 4 people to play, encouraging interaction but minimizing conflict and direct competition. As opposed to the militaristic nature of many American games, she was more economic in nature. She wanted players to build and prosper, not destroy and conquer.
Settlers of Catan more realistically mirrors actuality. It teaches us that there are many roads to success and stomping out opponents will not lead us there. Rather the structure of the game allows one to work with opponents and form mutual arrangements, as there are limited resources necessary to build and no one person can do it alone. The goal of the game is to accumulate 10 Victory Points, which can achieved in a variety of ways. Players can build roads, settlements, cities, and development cards, which are each worth point values. Considering there is no currency in the game, the accumulation of resources cuts out a middleman in the construction process and allows a more direct connection with the adaptable board which provides those resources. In the lack of money, a ‘thief’ piece is present to punish gluttony and the hoarding of resources. This encourages the players to be more clever in their moves and thoughtful of the limited resources. The game encourages trading and agreements, which involves social interaction and strategy. With the variety of ways to win, the game pushes players to be adaptable, changing their the strategies as the game progresses, reminding us that, unlike chess, we can never fully be in control of situations. While dice-rolling is minimal, the small insertion of luck keeps the game interesting and more representative of life, where we must take risks and factor in chance. The game length itself is ideal in length (approximately 90 minutes) as it allows for the game to still remain fresh and interesting without getting tedious. It is relatively easy to learn but supports strategy so more experienced players can earn what they deserve. The theme of the game gives it character but does not control the game itself, making it both original and elegant.
For true lovers of board games, Settlers of Catan is the perfect fit. It is a design of pure masterpiece.
My praise Klaus Teuber.

01 January 2013

The Art of the Bonsai Potato

Alas, the year of 2012 has closed and the year of 2013 has opened.
Many accomplishments were made during the past 365 days, and I am relatively satisfied overall. However, significantly more is planned to be accomplished in the upcoming 365 days. Is this not man's obvious expectation? While these 3.65 hundred revolutions around the sun are a generous period of time for a great number of goals to be set and fulfilled, the innate state of the human condition is subject to under-performance. As both individuals and society, we are subject to delay and procrastination, sloth and laziness, in addition to all the other Seven Deadly Sins. Almost always, there is an ample amount of time to achieve goals and cap mountain peaks, but we so often resort to pointlessly cutting down that time and rushing at the last moment. We are the hare, but we need to be the tortoise. My overarching goal for the new year is to become the shelled reptile. In order to achieve this, I need to learn proper Zen. Slow and steadily.
The art of bonsai is an act of patience and a practice of Zen. It is a discipline, a meditation, and an expression of beauty. Originating in ancient Japan, this process has been a great practice of peace and reflection, as it allows the mind of an artist to be removed from the body and exist in a larger period of time. Small intervals of work--such as trimming, watering, and transpotting--are completed daily for years. This continual maintenance allows for a gradual growth and fullness of completion.
In celebration of Christmas this year, I received a small box. It contained everything necessary to begin the art of the bonsai potato. Not true bonsai, but potato bonsai. Supposedly, this alternative means of achieving "Zen" originates from the Irish agenda of adopting Japanese culture, circa 925 A.D. This poorly-funded and low-priority initiative resulted in a single volunteer of questionable mental ability, Kieran McGlynn, traveling to Japan to explore the culture and arts. Having poorly documented accurate details about bonsai plants, he returned to Ireland to begin cultivating potato growths. Considering potatoes are self-sufficient vegetables, care for them does not involve feeding, watering, sunlight, or TLC. Stems and sprouts grow from their eyes and become branches that can be pruned and formed in unique fashions. After reading the diminutive 31-page palm-sized manual, I discovered this was a satirical poke at the fast-paced and commercialized existence of modern times.
"There just isn't enough time for discipline and patience. The art of the Bonsai Potato can change all of that. You can achieve inner peace in less than 10 minutes a week, guaranteed!*" (7) *This was not actually guaranteed.
 I laugh. I chuckle. I giggle. I weep. Wherein lies the simplistic beauty in the world? Persistence in achieving a goal, by chinking away at it bit-by-bit without seeing a large difference, is an act of authentic wonder. This little bonsai potato kit, with its plastic tweezers and miniature scissors, represents the miserable state we subject ourselves to day-in and day-out. It is a mockery. It is something we hide away in the desk drawers of our cubicles*, where we are slaves with white-collars rushing to complete tasks in the quickest way possible. We crave for meaningful lives and purposeful existences, but cannot take the adequate time to achieve them. We run on a tight-clock in a tight-structured world. Junkies for 'efficiency' and addicts of routine, people in this left-brained society are shackled to the drab life they walked into. They pull up mass-produced paintbrushes to artificially illuminate their world.
In other words, we buy yoga mats and imported tea to grasp at some form of peaceful meditation. We create melted crayon portraits from step-by-step directions on Pinterest and call it 'art.' We desire class and style, so we buy pre-ripped jeans or pre-sun-bleached furniture. We live under artificial light and claim to see. We are living the art of the bonsai potato--the act of passive existence--by missing the most important aspect of anything--the spirit. In order to truly achieve the peace or satisfaction we desire, we have to slow down and act with wholesome consciousness. Art cannot be rushed and Zen cannot be scheduled.
This year, I aim to step further away from the art of the bonsai potato and search for achieving Zen in  its true spirit. I will continue to grow as a person; mentally, physically, and spiritually by subjecting myself to new, uncomfortable and challenging experiences. I will live in different environments, continue to sharpen my skills and focus on my areas of interest. Most importantly, I will chink away slowly and steadily at my largest projects and loftiest goals.

*Potatoes are placed in drawers because they grow best in dark, warm, and moist environments.