Kites

I have been thinking a lot about kites lately.
I passed a kite today while driving. I liked seeing it hanging there. I turned in my seat and stared for a couple seconds.

I wonder what it was like to fly a kite before humans had reached the air themselves. To feel so close to the sky, to feel the wind tugging at your hands – yet to feel the weight of that thin cord connecting you so firmly to the ground. To feel your feet anchored firmly beneath you as your eyes gazed upwards.

I wonder how long it was before people started to think of themselves as the kite. To think of themselves riding the kite. How soon it was before the thought of riding the wind and sailing the clouds crossed the minds of those holding the spools. Was it right away? Was it the first time a kite was thrown up to catch the early breezes, or did it take a imagination of youth later on to think such fanciful thoughts?

I wonder how many people lived their lives dreaming of flying, but passed on never knowing the beauty of seeing the ground from above. How many people flew a kite, but never knew what it was to see what the kite saw. To see people and places and nature and cities – from the skies. To gaze downward.
Maybe we take that privilege too lightly.

I’m excited to get back in a plane again – not just to go somewhere and visit places and travel again, but to be reminded of the beautiful things humans can make. Like kites and airplanes and cities seen from above.

Saying no?

I take on a lot of projects.

I’ve taken on a lot of projects.

I’m excited for all these projects.

This blog is one of them.
It is not difficult for me to say no to things in general – I’m a fairly forceful and strong-willed person. I’m confident in a frank and deliberate “no,” even occasionally to the detriment of others.
But it is much more difficult for me to turn down work that excites me. Projects that pay, projects with people I admire, projects right up my alley & right in my field. These are a difficult “no.”
I’m excited to work on these projects, and excited to finish these projects, and excited to have done them. But right now, tonight, I’m feeling the impending weight looking forward to many months that look fuller than the last several.

It is indeed a lot of projects.

And they will hopefully lead to more.

Lists

Lists are a passion of mine. I keep many in my notes app, all in a folder to scroll through, effectively acting a singular list of all my lists. I could describe the many lists I keep, but I will keep those for other days – today, there are three that caught my attention.

I have a list in which I mark down how many times I wear each of my four current baseball caps. I call this my Hat Log, started almost exactly one year ago, October 13, 2019, on my very first and very enchanting visit to New York City. I bought a black heathered cap from a street vender for $5, ‘New York’ stitched in small white print across the front. Since that day, I’ve worn this cap 62 times.
I have a white cap that I my sister gave me on April 1, 2020, a patch from a favorite local restaurant sewed to the front. I’ve worn that hat 53 time in the shorter time I’ve had it, and the ware is showing through. It is desperately calling to be thrown in the wash, along with my towels and mask.
My last 2 hats, both acquired in the last month, have a combined wear count of only 3. I like my hats. I have two fisherman beanies, one beige, one black, that I did not keep track of when I first acquired them – and the lack of data frustrates me to this day.

The other two lists in the same category list out two pairs of shoes and two vests, counting the individual wears for each item. The first of the shoes, a pair of gray velcro New Balances, lasted nearly a year before retirement, in which I wore them 280 times. The vests, both recent purchases, have both been worn six times.

I do not know why I like to keep track of these things. But it brings me comfort. I love to see the history of things. The evolution of things. The data of things. I love to see some aspects of normal life that always fly unnoticed under the radar quantified through tracking and diligent notetaking. I like to see how I use my things, and in turn see the value they give me.

It’s weird, but it’s fun – I recommend the practice, even just to try.

Writing Craft

This morning, I spent an hour or so discussing stories and writing with a sister of mine, at my kitchen table. Writing is something I’ve always found alluring, and something I’ve wanted to pursue in some form or another – but in talking with her, it quickly became clear how few tools of fundamental writing I had strapped to my toolbelt.

This afternoon, I got two months free on Skillshare from a YouTube video I watched, and dove in. It is absolutely wild how many high-quality courses there are on myriad creative topics, with hundreds in the realm of creative writing.

This evening, I took two preliminary writing courses. One about an hour in length, the other only 25 minutes or so – I found both very valuable. I found revelation even in truly rudimentary things, such as a character’s desire, what’s at stake and story context. These are all things I’ve known about forever of course. In my head, I know that a character has a desire, and that’s how they spur the story forward through action pursuring that want. In my head, I know that a story needs conflict and clarity – but so many of these things have never actually been presented to me in a teaching / educational format, and hearing many of them strung together cohesively in one course was extremely helpful.

Perhaps my favorite tool from the second course I took was the difference between Plot and Story.

Plot = Physical: the journey, the challenge, the action.
Story = Emotional: the thoughts, the character’s change, the reaction to action

Take these ramblings as you will… I’m excited to continue learning, and I’ve decided to try and put 30 minutes of my time every day into taking a course on Skillshare. This is my public resolution.

That’s all boyos – excited to keep trying things and learning stuffs.

Sports Rivalries

It’s late. 11:07 PM.
I’m back at my desk after a day of work culminating in an evening of sports – the Chicago Bears played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, led by the legendary former Patriot, Tom Brady. I was expecting a loss, but instead a messy game dominated by a Chicago defense that excelled, far exceeding their play of the last couple games, resulted in a Bears win 20-19. The Bears record is now 4-1 for the first time since 2012, but we have a long road, and the road we’ve travelled thus far has not been a smooth one.

We’ll see what happens.

For now, I don’t have a lot more to say, but I do have a recommendation. John Green, author of young adult novels Paper Towns, the Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska among authors, hosts a podcast called the Anthropocene Reviewed. It is brilliant.
He reviews aspects of a human-centered planet, such as Prom or the flavor of Dr. Pepper. It may sound gimmicky, but the show is really a collection of essays about the deepest aspects of humanity, and the beautiful stories wrapped up in the objects and items all around us.

He has one episode in particular that I thought of tonight as I sat next to my dad on the couch, cheering for a sports team I have no real connection to – and yet feeling the emotional turmoil of seconds and scores.
Go listen to a review of the Notes App and Sports Rivalries – I’m going to listen to it now too. I hope you find as much value in the words as I do.

(I’m going to write more about John Green in the future, he is fantastic – one of my favorite creators in the world. Sometimes we talk about wanting to meet celebrities or have dinner with a famous person – but I think most times that wouldn’t actually be enjoyable… John Green is one of the two people I would genuinely like to have a conversation with over a warm beverage.)

The Beauty of Children’s Entertainment

Hayao Miyazaki (79) is the co-founder of Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli. He wrote and directed hallmark features including Castle in the Sky, Ponyo and won the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2001 for Spirited Away. His work is enchanting and imaginative – some of the most revered animation in the world. I didn’t really know any of this until I was a freshman in college.
Growing up, we did not watch the studio Ghibli movies – except, strangely enough, Castle in the Sky. That is the only Ghibli film I’d ever seen before watching My Neighbor Totoro just last week. I was skeptical when sitting down to watch Totoro. I have never been a fan of anime, and I assumed this would be no different – but I found myself immediately enchanted by Miyazaki’s directing and animation. The world was peaceful and serene, moving slowly from scene to scene, beat to beat. Much slower than most animated features I’ve seen before.

We are used to children’s entertainment being as loud, colorful and flashy as possible. The result is often garish and unenjoyable for most older than the target demographic. It seemed the opposite for My Neighbor Totoro, though, and I was shocked to hear that the film had been a childhood favorite of the friend I watched it with.
Thinking back to my childhood movie taste, I don’t know if I’d have liked the movie then – I can say for certain that I appreciated the craft and care Miyazaki put into the film much more watching for the first time at 20 than I would have at 10. All the things that likely would have bored me in my youth were my absolute favorite elements today, the exact things that make me want to explore more of the Studio Ghibli canon.

It was that realization that sparked a revelation: a majority of the work I love and find the most impactful and inspirational was originally created for a younger audience. The Harry Potter series, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Calvin and Hobbes, Ratatouille, Peter and the Starcatchers, Little Women – and now Studio Ghibli. Whether I discovered it in childhood or adulthood, I continue to find beauty in works for children.

All of these works do something in common: they press into themes and ideas and plot points that are not generally found in children’s entertainment, that push the viewer or reader outside of their comfort zone. Harry Potter is a series that can be seen as considerably darker than many other children’s novels – JK Rowling forced her young readers to develop and grow through reading her stories, right alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. And growing up, each time a reader goes back, they may discover or understand more and more of the story as they see deeper and deeper into the narratives and ideas that JK sewed throughout this “children’s” series. The books appeal to everyone, because they force everyone – children and adults alike – to grow alongside the characters in the story, facing the same challenges and obstacles.

Fantastic Mr. Fox, a brilliant children’s film by writer / director Wes Anderson has the spectacle, goofiness and scale of a traditional children’s animation, but at the same time it deals with incredibly human and adult themes of honesty, occupation, parenthood and relationships. Not only that, but it juxtaposes a childish world of talking animals and cookey farmers with the realism of a genuine world – with a badger’s real estate office, an invented sport and inter-race relations. Anderson, like all the best animation directors, laces things throughout his movie that children just won’t understand when they’re younger – but these things make for an even better experience for the child as they grow up re-watching the movie, understanding and growing more with every return.

So far as I’ve seen, Hayao Miyazaki does the same thing with his films – and I can’t wait to watch more. I’ll let you know how I like them when I do.

“The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it – I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics is hopeless.”
― Hayao Miyazaki

See more Miyazaki quotes here, they are brilliant.

Inktober, days 1-5

Today marks the 5th day of Inktober 2020, the annual art challenge created by cartoonist and comic book artist Jake Parker in 2009.
The challenge is simple: Jake puts out a list of 31 words at the end of September, with each word correlating to one day in October. The goal is to create a new ink drawing every day of the month, inspired by the word of the day.

I have participated in Inktober in the past, but decided against it this year. Five days in, the words that have passed thus far are: Fish, Wisp, Bulky, Radio and Blade (notice the lack of the Oxford Comma – I hate the Oxford Comma. It is clunky and unnecessary).

Instead of drawing, I decided to take a stab at writing something inspired by these words – all 5 today. Perhaps I’ll continue the trend, every 5 days or so this month. Sitting here on my couch, I will now craft something hopefully coherent inspired by Fish, Wisp, Bulky, Radio and Blade. Wish me luck. Or don’t, I’ve already written this… The time for luck has passed.

       A bullfrog croaked just beyond the window, lamenting the cool chill that had swept through on the heels of shadowy clouds that afternoon. Benson looked up at the noise, his hands still fiddling with the dial on the large radio. It was temporarily tucked into the corner between two oversized squashy armchairs, harder to reach than usual. The bulky cabinet had been a chore to move into the cramped little cottage, and filled more than its fair share of floor space in the newly cluttered sitting room. 
       Benson was the new caretaker, watching over the large park the quaint little cottage sat in. Benson was also a gnome.
       Having moved in just days before, near the end of the summer holidays, he was still finding his way round the place. He had just now gotten to plugging in the large radio, planning to listen to the weekly programming on the consortium channel, but had been finding issues dialing and tuning correctly, unable to find the right frequency now he was so far from where he’d been listening for years. 
       Hearing the croaking again, he wondered if it was the same friendly frog who he’d seen fishing by the pond that morning while making his rounds. Trying to recall his name, and turning back to his dials – a crack split the night suddenly, much louder than Kettlemoor’s – ah, that was the bullfrog’s name – louder than Kettlemoor’s croaks. 
       Benson dashed around the patterned armchairs to the frosty window and peered through the glass, one hand shielding the glare of the lantern swaying high on its pole outside the cottage door. A wisp of wind fluttered through the park, rustling the tall grass and rippling the surface of the glossy pond – as a small thud came from outside the home. 
      Quickly making up his mind, Benson donned his short squirrel-skin cloak, grabbed his crook and marched through the front door. Closing it behind him, he felt the cool air brushing his cheeks – fluttering his short beard as the sound of a knife being drawn sounded just feet away. 

Okay! That’s the beginning of a little story? Perhaps I’ll continue down this trail for the rest of Inktober 2020, we will see. It was fun to just write a little bit of fun fiction for the first time in a while – I got into it more than I expected. Anyway… that’s all for today! See you tomorrow.

Palaces for the People

Among the myriad things that I miss amidst a pandemic, the one that stuck out in my mind clearest today was libraries.
I feel like they are buildings we don’t think enough about – centers for community, learning, education, entertainment – and do not utilize in any way to the fullest. I have many a fond memory walking through library aisles, choosing books based solely on the spine and stacking DVDs into my open arms. The smell of the quieter second floor, full of the learned silence that grows alongside rows of non-fiction, stretching to the ceilings and back.

I miss the library – especially in a season when I’ve begun to more fully appreciate the beauty of books and pages, and a space built to appreciate them.

There is a wonderful podcast episode on 99% Invisible, based on a book called Palaces for the Peoplewhich I’ve regretfully neglected to read as of yet – talking about the importance of libraries in communities and societies, and the ability they have to lift up individuals. I highly recommend it.

In honor of my sentimental reflections on libraries today, I plucked a book from a Little Free Library on my walk through Milwaukee today. After bringing home, I tore out a page at random and created a blackout poem (ala Austin Kleon). It has nothing to do with the subject above, but here it is.

That’s all for today – I’m excited to go to libraries again. This time more intentionally than before.

Woes and Websites

Please, I truly don’t ever want to hear, from any individual or company, that building a website is an easy or beautiful process. It is not. It is never.

I have built many a website through the years, and with each of them I dive back into WordPress with giddy optimism, thinking I’ll have finally figured it out – that this time I’ll find the right theme and settings, and I’ll finally have it looking the way I’d like.
Lies. All lies.

Squarespace? Unintuitive and clunky. Wix? Cheap and limited. WordPress?

This stupid, basic, fairly ugly blog took me a rock solid 3.5 hours to figure out and set up to a point where I’m content with it in the hard glow of zero-readership. That does not include the actual information… That doesn’t include my portfolio, about me, links to other platforms or work that I’ve done in the past – that is just the basic, most fundamental structure of the site, which I’m still not pleased with. No images, no actual writing, nothing. Just a blank black background.

Alas, maybe one day I’ll like WordPress and Websites. Sorry dad.

I think I’ll always end with a color, so we all know it’s the end.