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

30 October 2013

The Colortocracy (A Sexier Shade of Grey)

Shades of Grey is one of my favorite contemporary novels. And no, I am not talking about the raunchy and wildly infamous 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, but the absurdly beautiful novel by Jasper Fforde. It is the tale of a society in which one’s class is determined by the pigment of natural color they can detect. The “Spectrum” of colors determines where one falls, and one’s family name and subsequent rank is of highest priority. In this world, uniquely painted like no other work I have read before, Fforde illustrates a daring tale that is riveting in both its characters, plot, and overall thematic elements. It is truly a work of literary art, and the risks Fforde has undertaken in writing a story such as this is should be empowering to novelists across genres.
Known for his bizarre series dealing with “Nursery Crime” and literary mystery, Jasper Fforde is one of the most unique writers I have read. Specifically in Shades of Grey, the tale follows the life of Edward Russet–a red–who is currently gathering “merits”–points of value for doing a variety of odd and “virtuous” things–so that he may marry “up-Spectrum” to bring value to his family’s name. While this situation may be akin to a variety of societal issues, such as the pressure to achieve goals for the sake of loved ones, Fforde frames the ideaartistically. That is, in a means that is both aesthetically pleasing and unique to convey something in a light unseen by others. In this realm, many other glorious details reside–such as a commonplace and crippling fear of giant swans and ball lightning and the brilliant idea of “perpetulite” roadways that are self-repairing and move like water in a river. These details are original. That is artistic. That is sexy.
So many contemporary works seem to write to an audience, giving them exactly what they wish to hear. They add the desired amount of quirks to make it “unique” enough to receive copyright protection, but they rarely take the risks necessary to create a truly thought-provoking work. 50 Shades of Grey is stereotypical in its appeal to people’s crude sense of entertainment, and it is largely representative of most works created with an audience in mind. Fforde’s work embodies a spirit of adventure and ingenuity that many contemporary works of literature lack. It is a representation of wholesome strangeness–with barcoded megafauna, overly-valued spoons, and unicycle loopholes–that is rare to find in modern times. This nature should not be rare in the literary world, or in any form of artistic expression, but rather, it should be commonplace. While it is an oxymoron to have a commonplace uniqueness, those works that embrace an individuality are the rare diamonds in the slush-pile of similarly stereotypical pieces. Perhaps that rarity is what makes them sexy? The few streaks of color in an otherwise grey world. Become part of the Colortocracy.

23 October 2013

do easy

Gus Van Sant, American screenwriter and director, created a short comedic film titled the Discipline of D.E. in 1982. The video explores the art of “do easy” living, which illustrates highly efficient means of completing daily and otherwise mundane tasks. This 16 mm film, while directed by Van Sant, is based on a story in William S. Burrough’s Exterminator! (1973). Both the film and the story resonate a very entertaining and informative take on the proper manner in which to complete simple tasks. According to the works, it is a lifestyle choice. A willingness to accept that there is a right way to do everything. A willingness to admit the error of normal ways. A willingness to relearn basic functions and master the simple things. A student of D.E. (do easy living) must learn–at the highest possible efficiency–to clear a plate. To shave. To brush their teeth. To walk. To do laundry. To iron a shirt. To sleep. To eat. To breathe. To
do easy.
Muscle memory is a powerfully beautiful thing. In order to master D.E., a student must devote their life to the discipline of repetition in order to build that kinetic memory. When moving through a space, for instance, one must be wary of the objects sharing that space and be willing to move through the same space multiple times if they fumble in a movement. If bumping a chair, one must start from the beginning of the room and walk deliberately around the chair to redo that movement and undo the inaccuracies to right the wrongs. While this may seem ridiculously silly, especially as the film was made with the intentions of comedy, the concept of this lifestyle should still be considered somewhat seriously. D.E. mimics a Buddhist mantra, an undertaking of a very gradual and precise lifestyle, where firm but gentle touches are central. This way of life focuses on leading clear and directed lives with careful and meaningful actions. It is a life devoted to mastering the little things.
In today’s fast-paced world, people often overlook the more humble components of life and do not take ample time to care for the parts that make daily life worth living. Always in a hurry to finish daily chores, but filled with ample time to spend on mindless activity–such as browsing news on social media–people can often forget how meaningful life can be. The act of living, and living efficiently, is a gift that all people should embrace. The crazy wisdom of Discipline of D.E. embodies the balanced ebullient and demanding spirit of Zen. Once mastered, do easy living can provide one with even more time to do the things they enjoy.
Please, sacrifice nine minutes of your time for a lifetime of time saving. View the film.

16 October 2013

It's and Ot's

I am sitting in a tree, a tall maple, whose leaves are preparing to leave. They have on their winter jackets of red, gold, and orange, drained of the chlorophyll that gave them a green pigment. I step tenderly on the thinner branches as I approach the top, where the more flexible limbs are brushing against the telephone line cutting between them. The branches shake with my movements, the browned seeds releasing their grip beneath the leaves and cascading slowly around me. Their wide plumes, like propellers, allow them to slowly descend through the air, spinning like helicopters as they fall through the myriad of limbs. Landing in the carpet of early-departed leaves, they fall to the earth. My hands hold the hardened bark as my feet rest in the nook where the branches stems from the trunk. Leaves and helicopters descend around me, shaken from their fragile holds by my disruption. I am a razor, gliding close along the surface, trimming away the dying hairs. As the shaved beard leaves a beautiful mess over the forest floor, the tight dark branches hold up the shattered remains of skinless limbs. The dead boughs, stripped of bark, fell away from the body, gone to atrophy as they hollowed out along the inside. The tree was going to sleep. It, like me, like you, like the chipmunk living inside the trunk, is on a cycle. We are not so different.
Last spring, as I wandered through the woods, taking in the bounty of life that was sprouting up from the freshly-thawed earth, my mind was distracted with the pronouns surrounding gender inequality. How “he” was one letter short of “she” in English, how all ‘men’ were created equal, and how, in Romantic languages, the default gender of a plural pronoun was masculine unless the group it pertained to consisted of entirely females. I recollected my third grade teacher redefining the denotation of a noun for my class with Schoolhouse Rock. She, as supplemented by the video, referred to a noun as a person,place, or thing–with plants and animals falling under the “thing” category. As I walked through the woods, where the trees and flowers were beginning to grow new buds, people were walking with their dogs, their tails flailing, tongues lolling as they were excited by the freshness of spring, I could not pair these “things” in the same category as listless rocks and the stagnant park bench. To me, those were “its”–”things,” “objects,” not life. They did not contain the sort of life that resonated between us, trees, and our four-legged friends. We were something else, something organic. Perhaps the line between “people” and “things” needed to be blurred? We were not so different from these organic things. The inequalities of gender in the specification of language could be erased by joining the organic things together under one pronoun–”ot.” Organic thing vs. inorganic thing–”it.” Life was sacred and the endless diversity of it need not be segregated. It’s were non-life. Ot’s were life.
As I am sitting in this tree, this fellow ot, I wonder what ot feels. Is this empathy a mirror or a window? Does this tree look at me, standing on ots arms and see an equal being of life or simply a razor shaving away ots dead leaves?

03 October 2013

Do Not Go Near The Dog Park

For many moons, I have wished to indulge myself in the realm of podcasts. For many moons, I have waited for the perfect podcast to jar my ears into listening. For many moons, I have looked up at the floating object in the sky and wondered what it thought about me. Up there, watching. Always watching.
Recently, my ears were robbed of their podcast virginity by the radio show of a fictional town–Night Vale. Welcome to Night Vale is a free podcast production by Commonplace Books. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin and written by Joseph Fink, it is an extremely strange but thought-provoking series of supernatural events occurring in the obscure desert town of Night Vale. The series features announcements about the local community, from weather reports to updates about the Sheriff’s Secret Police. It is saturated in dark humor and has a mysterious and haunting tone that continuously triggers the listener’s imagination. There are many tales of the “Hooded Figures” that lurk around town, participating in many unusual activities. The conversational voice of Cecil, the narrator, makes the absurd announcements of fantastical activities seem commonplace, just like one would report the score of a high school soccer game. What many would call conspiracies in this world are daily news announcements in Night Vale. The series is littered in stories of faceless old women in the corners of living rooms, glowing storm clouds that rain dead beavers, and floating cats in public restrooms. The surrealist nature of the show leads to a bottomless well of interesting tales that fails to disappoint.
When I first began listening, I was immediately told about the new dog park that was built in Night Vale and how it was a gathering place for Hooded Figures. Almost as instantly, I was told to not go near the dog park. While this peculiar statement was not only intriguing, as I wished to discover the dangers of going near the dog park and what was exactly going on there, but I was immensely drawn into the town, for I was addressed directly as one of the townspeople. This direct connection to listeners is a risky move, for it lends itself to vulnerability by making assumptions of the audience and setting up an expectation from then on. The expectation that Night Vale embraces is the acceptance of the unknown. It requires listeners to cope with the ridiculous and revel in that mystery. Like a conspiracy theory, the show lends itself to series of loose facts and speculations and then extrapolates upon them to illustrate the things we do not fully know or understand. In this sense, it encourages its audience to have an open mind and look forward to hearing about something new, regardless of its base in reality.
In a sense, the podcast is a petri dish of ideas. The story-lines, told almost like a series of Twitter updates, are incredibly unique, and they offer a novel insight into many facets of everyday life. For instance, the daily “weather report” is a great collection of music–of many different genres and independent artists–none of which I had listened to previously. This unlikely exposure allowed me to discover new interests in music and inspired me to explore more niche genres. Night Vale is a playground for the mind. It encourages an untamed imagination and willingness to not only accept, but embrace, the unknown.
If you wish to take a listen, beware.