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.

Aaron Copland

Currently listening to Aaron Copland (1900-1990). I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Copland recently, likely more than most. Appalachian Spring is my favorite of his pieces. It sounds like an early morning – soothing, and peaceful and patient, but full of the excited energy and possibility of the new.

We in America are currently living through an incredibly momentous and strenuous season as a country – and for better or for worse, Aaron Copland’s work reminds me of a time in this country that is now cast in a warm orange glow of an ethereal past. A time of which I’ll never know or understand much. A time that was objectively worse in so many ways – in discrimination, life expectancy, poverty, war, etc. Yet his work brings me a peace and comfort, carrying with it a wave of longing for a time drenched in proud Americana. Of cowboys and ranches and trains and all the things a child imagines the Wild West to be. Of adventure and destiny.
The America that this music was born from is not an America to be proud of in many regards. We have taken many strides forward from the America of the early twentieth century, and for that I am extremely grateful – but even so, I dream childishly of this simpler era.

In too many areas, the problems that haunted the early twentieth century continue to plague our days and years now. Discrimination and racism are at the forefront and the loyalty and pride in the America built over the last 250 years has stumbled, becoming strenuous in the face of a divided culture, people and government.

Listening to Copland, I am struck by two things.

First: that the weight and power we give to music of the past to encompass its time period as a whole is often uncharacteristic of the past’s reality. I hear Aaron Copland’s work, and it is like looking at my own memories as a child growing up amongst my siblings at home. The strife and disagreements and fights and arguments that pervaded our lives on a nearly hourly rate have drifted conveniently out of my memory, leaving only the warm glow of happiness and nostalgia. Copland encompassed the best, most idyllic (in my mind) version of the early twentieth century, but that does not mean he captured the reality of the time.

And second: it is important to listen, to learn and to reflect on the music of the past, but we must separate the music from it’s period. The peaceful and graceful and lovely notions I hold alongside Aaron Copland’s work should not be attributed equally to the period it was created in. Those qualities should be taken independently, but instead put forward: as a template and model for what the future could look like and feel like and sound like, rather than as a masked image of what we think the past was like.

“To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.”
― Aaron Copland

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.

Collage

The other day, Austin Kleon (gee I’ve been mentioning his name a lot, inspiration comes in phases and waves) posted this. “Kick the world, break your foot.” Both a wonderful sentiment and a beautiful image.
That same day, inspired, I picked up a newspaper off the street and my sister gave me an old illustrated medical text book, printed in 1895.

The paper and the book took a new form today, distracting me again from my official work I’ve kept securely on the back burner for about a week, allowing me a wonderful new sense of play. I have not done any sort of physical cutting-and-pasting collage work in… years? A decade+? In quite some time.

I found it incredibly enjoyable, as well as incredibly freeing to create something like this – multidimensional, colorful, new – away from a screen. I will hopefully be doing more collage work in the future, and will surely post them here when I do.

I highly recommend trying something like this for yourself – share it when you do, and tell me where to find it!

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.

the Social Dilemma

Netflix released a documentary called the Social Dilemma – discussing and demonstrating the dangers of social media on the future of youth, mental health, wellness, politics and the human race
It was incredibly impactful, and I can only recommend you watch it on your own – it is valuable time spent.

While I was watching, I decided to sketch out notes from the film to keep as a record. I made a little zine. Here is that zine.

Hey that’s it my dudes.

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.

Another Something

In the midst of a transitioning season – a month into living and working in Milwaukee once again – I’ve decided to start yet another something.

I often have many somethings. Currently, this blog, which I will be writing daily for the foreseeable future, is my 4th or 5th thing.

I work as the graphic designer for an education start-up in MKE. I work as an animator and consultant for a YouTube channel in LA called Colin and Samir. I create a monthly newsletter-zine called the Pigeon, I design elements for the companies of two siblings, I am currently in the middle of illustrating a book, with discussions of another right around the corner.

Through all of this, though, I have felt unsatisfied with the lack of personal creative projects… Writings, podcasts, art – I have not found a groove of creating work for myself in a little while, and I’m hoping this virtual wall on to which I can tape my typed notebook pages of musings will help to kickstart the satisfaction of personal creativity once again.

Hopefully. Maybe not. I’ll be sharing here, feel free to follow along.

EDIT:
Seth Godin talks about daily blogging as well. Here is a quote from Godin in this podcast, that I found in this blog.

“Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.”
“If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around 6 months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it. Well, isn’t that all we’re looking for? The best practice of generously sharing what you notice about the world is exactly the antidote for your fear.”

The biggest inspiration for this new collection of work I’ll be building is Austin Kleon. Go, now, read his books and blog – he’s great.