Monday, May 24, 2010

Life of Pi is my favorite book

Life of Pi is the story of an Indian teenage boy who loses both his parents in an accidental sinking and finds himself shipwrecked on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, a hyena, a zebra and a orangutan. Pi attempts to co-exist with these strange animal friends aboard the constricted raft. The raft becomes subject to the rules of the jungle and not before long it is apparent just who is the head of the food chain. During the 227 days the crew drift at sea, the Bengal tiger, named "Richard Parker" disposes of all of Pi's friends. When they manage to reach the coast of Mexico, Pi is interrogated by the Japanese authorities who do not believe his story. Pi is forced to then tell the "truth" of the story in a second, controversial telling that exposes the religious undertones of the story.

Martel's novel won the Man Booker prize in 2002 because of the story's originality, reflection of the dominant ideologies of the times and the marketability of the obscurity of the author.

The story is certainly entertaining. The characters described vividly and personified. The Indian boy creates a subplot for each animal on the boat and bases his interaction upon this inner story. This can be seen as an attempt by Martel to metaphorically represent the way an individual ascribes to a fundamentalist approach to religion based on subjective information. There is no way for this boy to validate the truth of the characters on this boat. The boy practices a blind faith in their humanity through a creation of an inner story based on an emotionally subjective experience. He has been traumatized by the loss of his parents. These animals are now his surrogate family.

Martel is passionate about writing simple books. He says about his style, "I view my readers as my equals. In a novel you must amuse as you elevate"

Life of Pi uses a simplistic premise however the story unfolds in a very entertaining fashion. There are layers and layers of complex religious and psychological inference weaved into the plot. The ending of the story reveals the story to be an "untruth". This is a clever tool used by the author to complicate what seems to be a simplistic structured, escapist tale of a boy and his animal friends.

The story fell under review after it was revealed that Martel borrowed the premise from a Brazilian author, Moacyr Scliar, who told a similar tale about a teenage Jewish boy shipwrecked on a boat with a panther. Martel admits to borrowing the idea and says of the controversy, "I saw a premise that I liked and I told my own story with it".

The problem with selecting a book to win the Man Booker prize is that it is a subjective act. Every year 130 books are selected from publishers worldwide. The judges can fall prey to bias based on their reputation in the academic and literary community. Man Booker Judge Louise Doughty supports this notion that judges select books based on what makes them personally appear respected, "academics always have their eye on their reputations and always have a vested interest to pick someone as literary and obscure as possible/I think academics automatically feel it will reflect on their career"

The Life of Pi is an interesting choice for the Man Booker prize. Yaan Martel was an unknown author that had been rejected by several publishers before he found one. However, this factor added to the marketability of his story as an author and contributed a sensationalist factor to the story of winning the Man Booker Prize.

This story is an example of a excellent adaptation of a simple premise that unravels in an unconventional fashion. The present setting is an advantage for this author and the book opens with action and excitement only continues to build from this heightened place. There is never a dull chapter in this novel.

The social and religious undertones of this book present a good debate about the purpose of "faith" and the difference between blind faith and truth. Martel has used a simplistic vehicle to transfer complex, culture shaping ideas. He tells a story that connects with a world of people striving to come to common ground about the existence of, truth and purpose of faith.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Burton's Wonderland Well Worth Visiting

Burton has crafted a solid reputation in the film industry for his unique style of cinematography. His works, namely "Ed Wood", "The Corpse Bride", "Sweeney Todd" showcase his preference for escapism emphasizing absurdity and profundity. From imagery to characterization, he has a reputation for impressing his audiences with cleverly crafted mis- en- scene and unpredictable plot choices. Adapting the story of Lewis Carroll's, "Alice In Wonderland" for Disney represented a challenge that his devoted fans were eager to see. His execution hyped for months prior to the film's release and opening weekend the film banked 160 million dollars in sales at US box office.

Critics were just as keen as fans of Burton's to see what his take on Wonderland would be like as this is not the first time that Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland has been adapted for film. The novel has been remade time and time again; the most well known version being Disney's animated version. The question on everyone's lips was whether Burton's adaptation would take a direction of preserving the original content and intention of Carroll's novel or deviating from this path. Burton went with the latter. His version was distinctly different from the original novel and any adaptation to date.

Traditionally Alice In Wonderland tells the tale of a girl's exploration of a dream like society inhabited by eccentric characters. This storyline remains the premiss in the modern adaptation. However thats about all Burton keeps the same. One of the most noticeable differences was the characterization of Alice. He boldly depicted Alice not as a youth but as a lady in her early 20's struggling with a relational predicament. Alice's character evolves through the plot and we understand this story to be a journey of self discovery. The character of the Mad Hatter was explored with psychoanalytical depth as was the Queen of Hearts. Burton's choice to replace Carroll's original language with metaphoric dialogue was one that allowed Burton to show a modern audience a distinctive interpretation of his characters motivations. Interestingly he chose to tell the audience that Alice had been to Wonderland once before. At times like this it felt as if Carroll's story wasn't being told accurately and Wonderland had lost some of its authenticity but to the most part it was intriguing to watch and wait for the next Burton stamped surprise.

The film is visually spectacular for 3D cinema and does not disappoint fans looking to see (larger than life) visual representations true to Lewis' descriptions of Wonderland. Burton uses hyper-realistic costuming and color to drive characterization and define the structure of the matriarchal society that inhabits Wonderland. CGI and animation effects allow a fantastical feel and explore the imaginative elements in the novel. Burton connects with traditional Alice In Wonderland fans by juxtaposing (Carroll inspired) animation with realism; the animated cheshire cat appears and disappears into the background and Alice grows and shrinks realistically.

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland is not the traditional Alice story. This is an exciting, unorthodox adaptation about a Wonderland that had a strong impact on my heart because the film's storyline was distinctly different to the ofiginal novel. The changes in the character Alice made her easier to relate to in a modern context. Her personal evolution in the story was inspiring to me and I left the film with a message encouraging me to follow her lead in cultivating personal strength and willpower to slay any dragons in my reality by first gaining confidence in practising this in fantasy (my writing). As a fantasy writer, I was inspired by Burton's fearless response to a challenge to depict an imaginary world that has been described by many other artists with his own unique flair and intentionality. The poetic dialogue made me get excited about creating characters like the Mad Hatter; that play with conventions of language to communicate even deeper subtext. Wonderland is well worth visiting.

Feeling Number 14, 1960

I have a penchant for abstractism and I am excited about artists that continue to reinterpret the definition and use of traditional oil painting as an art form. Art is no longer purely subject oriented. Abstractism and expressionism combined is an exciting hybrid of the two styles that allows a greater freedom and range for the artist with the aim of inspiring connectivity. As a newbie to the art world, I appreciate the various styles and genres that are available to me to draw insight and inspiration from. I love Mark Rothko's famous color field work because of its primitive style. The use of simple line and color draws me in and invokes a depth of emotion and intensity that is imaginatively cataclysmic.

The "Number 14, 1960" purple and red painting is one of my favorite works from Rothko displayed in the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art. It was painted in a series and during Rothko's last decade of art. Its a simple, constructed duo of vibrant rectangles framed with a deep, undefined border. There is a striking contrast between the violent, passionate red and sensual purples in this piece. They are blended with fast strokes of complexity. Rothko layers strokes of oil paint on top of each other over an uncoated canvas to create the effect of a depth in frame and an illusion of being engulfed. The colors overlap. I am captivated. The first thing I notice about his painting is how it makes me feel. His piece invokes a deep, sensuality and juxtaposes that with anxiety. It inspires in me a sense of nostalgia and tragedy. What appeared first glance to be a simple arrangement of primitive color blocks is, upon closer inspection, a carefully concocted blend of proportionate placement that influences the mood and depth of the painting.

Rothko inspires his viewers to enter the realm of his color field and engage with the painting. He entices me with the large size of his canvas to take a brief departure from figure, fact and reason and enter the world of the emotional. He has explained his deliberate choice in larger sized canvases to be influenced by his desire to establish a deeper intimacy with his viewer. Rothko says "The reason I paint them, however . . . is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command"

A Latvian born American painter, Rothko moved to New York in 1923 and began an intitially reluctant interest in painting from watching students sketching a model. He was originally interested in theatre and acting however did not have the kind of commercial appearance that made for a successful acting career so he enrolled in the New School of Design NY and studied at the Art Students League of New York under still life artist Max Weber who taught him that art was "a tool of emotional and religious expression".

I notice the underlying emotive tones of his work and I tout him a master of rebellion for creating a new form of abstractism. His color field work uses no symbology or form yet represents abstract expressionism at its best; different, non-conformative and powerfully stimulating to the imagination. It is what you cannot see in his works that makes the strongest impact. His paintings appear about externally introverted but are internally extroverted. Rothko has himself quoted that, "there is no such thing as good painting about nothing". He was very concerned with controlling the semiotics of his works and purposely allowed his viewers through lack of explanation of his works a freedom to perceive and interpret his art in their own way. There are no titles in his color field paintings other than the numbers of the paint colors he used to paint them.

When I look at a Rothko work I am engulfed with sensation. It is a rare artist that can promote personal nostalgia in a person with color. He achieves the intimacy he talks so strongly about. He also communicates through color his emotional life as an artist, which is represented in the themes of violence and obsession in his deliberate choice in color. I think he is brilliant in his execution. Through color hue, he has a way of evoking the memories of times that we have had unmanageable emotions. "Number 14, 1960" was something I have felt before and through experiencing it I remembered how it felt it again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ill have me some real Ventilum

How big is a heart. Really? Im talking about size in terms of emotional capacity. Because the physical size of a heart is rather small in comparison to the rest of our body mass.

How do you measure the size and capacity for one person to love? Do people come with greater capacities than others?I ask myself these questions from time to time.

I thought I had a big heart but I reckon it could get bigger.

Have you ever been to the doctor and done a lung capacity test? They make you breathe into this contraption that measures the volume of air that your lungs take in as you blow out. When you suffer from medical symptoms of asthma a poor reading is one of the ways that a person can tell if they need to get on a medication such as Ventilum. Ventilum allows a better flow of oxygen into the lungs without restriction and I guess expands the body's natural capacity for oxygen.

I sometimes feel as though I would like to take some Ventilum to allow myself to grow a bigger heart when my heart maxes out. Sometimes I feel I cannot fit anything else in there. Like having asthma I let a lot of stuff into my heart that clogs it up. I don't think about what measure of my heart I give people. Where I see a need I donate. There is a point where you donate so much of your heart that you run out of the red juice yourself. Thats how I have felt lately. I have turned to God to restore me because I am finding that I haven't been very good at picking good use by dates on the juice boxes I've been drinking from. The ones from the shop I purchase from are making me sick and loading me with toxins. I know that God is the only spiritually approved juice source when you're that thirsty for true sustanence.

But before you drink, first, you have to detox...

You may have read in a previous blog that I quit smoking about a month ago completely. I have since seen so many benefits. I breathe calmer, deeper and sleep better. I can run further and feel generally clearer in the head. My skin is dewy again and my teeth whiter. I cannot remember why I thought smoking was so attractive to me before now that I am recognizing just how good I feel without smoking.

The benefits for me are just not aesthetic though; they are spiritual. My capacity to breath more air in and replenish my body with the real fuel it needs is helping me to see things for what they are and make changes in my day to day. Replacing the toxins I was inhaling in is causing me to identify and avoid toxins in many aspects of my life. Just as my lungs cant take the toxins anymore my heart is following suit by purging too.

I want to know if there is a way of purging the toxins in the heart like quitting smoking. And if I could find it, would I experience the kind of restorative benefits for my heart that my lungs are reaping?

No. I don't believe you can purge the toxins in your heart that easily. It takes time. But I do think you can at least switch the bad stuff you're feeding your heart with good solid stuff to see the beginning of transformation on the outside. In my lifetime I have seen the work that people have done on their hearts manifested on the outside by noticeable character change. This is a very rare thing that I have only seen a few times in 28 years. I am learning that its never the exterior superficial that indicates true purging and renewal; its the persons deeds.

When you quit smoking you remove the effects but you can't undo the damage completely. You leave remenents of what you did to your body that wasn't healthy and you carry that story with you until you die. The heart can be renewed but it will never forget.I guess thats why its so so so important to guard your heart dearer than anything you hold in your life. Because its the thing that has the greatest capacity to touch others and its the thing that allows you to let love in. If you have not love you cannot enjoy the goodness life has to offer.

You can only love well if you turn to God to provide it for you first. No human has a Ventilum for the heart. I know he is changing me entirely and I hope to see just how in due time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti needs more than 90999

I feel terrible for the people of Haiti. I can’t even imagine what the people there must be feeling or going through. It’s really not fair that nature strikes hardest in some of the poorest nations in the world that do not have the infrastructure or resources to help their people manage and cope. Im pleased to see the world coming together to provide aid and relief for the Haitians, albeit the US government has been slow to follow through on the delivery and administration of supplies. Its times like this where you feel helpless to do as much as you can for something that seems such an atrociously large and violent mess. I mean, where do you begin?

I was thinking about ways I could help beyond texting 90999 to donate to Red Cross. If I could I would put together sponsors from various food companies and send trucks down there with masses of branded food products for distribution, shoot a documentary to create advertising for the companies and feed the hungry simulataneously. Apparently this is not possible because of rules and regulations about government aid. I think this bites. To think that beaurocracy gets in the way during a crisis is just heartbreaking. I personally don’t have the money to compete with Red Cross, UNICEF or Wyclef Cef but I would like to help and yet the fact that I wouldn’t be able to in the way I think would be the best way I can physically help really annoys me. But putting my need to be involved in a key role in a mission to save the world aside, there must be something else people like me can do?!

What can a person do that does not have a lot of financial resources or worldwide fan club for a poor and terrified nation of Haiti aside from pray? Who’s responsibility really is it to ensure that something will be done effectively? What about the people who are useful but don’t know HOW to help beyond donating $10 to a hotline?

Its easy to complain about how the rich of this nation should be forking out their money first. Its easy to speak in hypotheticals such as; “If I was worth a 200 million dollar empire I would certainly not miss 1 million” and give the responsibility to the rich to provide for the poor. But the world does not work this way. The problem is that just because you have it doesn’t make you the kind of person to spend it. A lot of people who are in a position of power and financial abundance do not feel they are obligated with the responsibility to use it to save the world.

Dont get me wrong. Celebrities are on board the aid train; donating their face and concerts to bring relief in dollars for NFP organizations. I think there ARE people in a position of power and abundance that are using their affluence to help. However, though aid is a really important, fundamental concern right now, I also believe we are forgetting the need for service people to rebuild and develop an infrastructure down there to shelter the people and bring them clean water, electricity and comfort.

Could there be an agency in the USA that enlists people to volunteer their time to go down to Haiti for a few months and receive a tax break to physically commit to this? Google has the money; it could get on board. It has a search engine that spans across the globe! There are a lot of people in the States and abroad out of a job right now. Surely on a national level the government could pool together funding from an airline and create a NFP organization that hosts volunteer engineers, construction people and laborers plus psychologists, doctors and nurses, caretakers? This would be something that has not been done before. It would create a bridge from our individualist society towards a collectivist one. I think it would represent a transformational America. One thats not every man for himself but every man for his people and planet.

Working and such

Because Im so inspired to write due to a combo of torrential rain and a shiny new macbook I would like to post a SECOND entry today.

Why do people need to define themselves by their jobs? Its so silly. I wonder how relaxed people would feel if they knew they could be and do many things because NONE of those things were their identities?

I have been a model for 13 years. But I don't consider myself a model. When I was younger I wanted to be a journalist but I took five ballet classes a week and made cakes. I studied media but I went to rave parties and I worked in a clothing boutique. Then I studied Advertising and worked as a cocktail waitress in a casino followed by music manager.

I meet so many people who ask me "what do you do?" and I don't know how to answer the question because it takes so long to explain that I do many things for work plus include that what I do outside my work is also important to who I am. I feel like being asked this question I have to explain my identity with the brevity of an elevator pitch.

I was talking to a friend who was conflicted about choosing a vocational goal or a career opportunity. Said he couldn't do one because it would affect the time available for the other. My take on his predicament was that he was the one in control of how one could affect the other so it was quite possible if he changed his own expectations of choosing either or that he could very well pursue both simultaneously.

There is one thing I didn't think of though. Sometimes in life you have to sacrifice one thing for another because time doesn't allow you the liberty to do two things at once. What do you do when you come across this kind of scenario - where two things compete for your time and attention? Two things you care equally about continuing to enjoy. Maybe more than two things?

How do you prioritize your time is the discussion topic.

How do I prioritize? Well I used to be a hedonist. I would choose what brings ME the most pleasure. If I had to work I would only work if the pleasure of the pay off was great. I had the luxury of circumstances that reinforced this attitude and it worked for me. I thought balance meant time divided between work that paid for a lavish lifestyle.

Since going broke a few years ago when the work input was not as great as the lifestyle output I have started to rethink my priorities and figure out a better strategy. Though I think its important to enjoy your lifestyle I now see the necessity in working a job to afford it. I don't think we are created to sit around and wait for money to float in nor do I think that a life lived to store up treasures that aren't enjoyed is

But what do you do if your job doesn't afford you the time to enjoy your life? Several friends of mine have been finding their career choices limit their lifestyle significantly. I want to tell them to quit their jobs but then that is just what I would do because I personally value my personal free time higher than earning a higher salary. In essence I am happy to do just as much work as to afford the lifestyle that is suitable for my wellbeing.

So is free will really the question here? How much do you value your free will to pick and choose the ratio between your lifestyle and your work?

Does it matter what you do for a job and how much time you compromise to have success at it?

I personally do care if the bread comes home because I like making toast with it because it allows me the ability to help others. If I don't bring bread home I am no use to myself or anyone else. I think the balance gets outta whack when Im only working to serve myself and cannot afford the time to disperse the benefits to my relationships and community. My personal opinion is who cares how much bread you have if you can't share the toast with someone it affords.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How to do better according to a Zen master

I love Virgin Airlines. Richard Branson has made flying for me a treat. Not only has he created an airline that looks modern and feels fresh but it delivers a congruent message from start to finish. You fly fresh and get more than what you pay for. Here is why:

When I fly Virgin I get more than just great movies and additional leg room. I get friendly staff, unlimited booze, the seat I like and (best of all) I always get put next to interesting people that tell me the craziest stories. I leave the plane smiling, relaxed and full of wisdom. Virgin has got me hooked on flying with them because of their customers!

There is nothing better than the concept of seat allocation to illustrate the synchronicity of life. Believe me from 13 years of flying that there is no such thing as random coincidence when it comes to the person you get a seat next to on a plane.

There is something special about flying solo and sharing a flight journey with an unknown random. You're ever so slightly risking your life to travel with someone you may not ever see again. Its vulnerable when you think about it, to sign up to get in a flimsy box that man created years ago with a propellor that now uses jet power to go up in 20,000ft in the air and transport you to a destination sometimes unreachable by car. You and the person you sit next to both silently agree to a certain level of trust during vulnerable conditions the moment you arrive at your seat. You know that this person may be someone you might have to share an air mask with and they hope you feel the same way.

I sat next to a Zen master on the way to Los Angeles. Yes. A Zen master who was fascinated by integrating martial arts principals into the daily grind. He told me all sorts of interesting things about the exercises he learned and their useful application. I asked him a question that led to a conversation about achieving goals. I want to share a little about his thoughts...

There is this philosophy in life that if you want something you have to go after it. There is the opposite belief that you should let things go when you want them to come back to you. I have always been interested in finding out which principle is more effective. I have also wanted to know what to do when you cannot get something right that is something you want badly. This could be a mental, relational or physical task. My question for the Zen master was how do you teach yourself to do better at "life" with practice?

The man on the plane illustrated how he learns to do his exercises to answer my question.

He began with the very basics of the importance of focus in getting simple things right. His theory was that you learn to master something at the base level and build confidence from that point forth. You cannot skip the basics. I am someone that likes to skip basics such as reading the fine print in manuals before I use digital equipment. That is why I do not know how to use my TV remote control to its fullest capacity.

Mister Zen then told me about star throwing. Since I would like to play a ninja in a movie one day I listened closely to his story. He told me that when you throw a star at a target you begin by throwing it at a very close proximity so that you get a higher ratio of hits and not misses. Only when your hits are perfected at that distance you take a step back. Then you repeat. If you notice you are missing more than hitting you have to return to a closer distance. The aim is to get good at further distances through repetition. He said to me that the most important thing to achieve during this whole process is to get confidence in your skill through hits and to choose distances that minimize misses. He thinks the psychology of hitting more than missing makes you think yourself into getting better. He illustrated how powerful his practice was in transforming his life in many areas from the affirmation he received from mastery in martial arts.

I know if I want to be a ninja I would need to be completely deserved of it both psychologically and physically. I imagine that even if God gave me "natural ability" I could only feign a ninja for so long before a seasoned opponent would pull out a move that I hadn't experience mastering and I would be revealed as a "poser" plus be beat.

Its my belief that there are no flukes in life that last and having the luck doesn't make you a master. I think a person wears their mastery on the outside because it comes from the inside. Sure God gives us gifts but he also seasons us with experience where we get to test them. Like there is a difference between a person who stands tall in a job interview because he knows he has earned the position. Just like a person who has lots of smiling lines on their face in old age - you know they let a lot into their hearts in their lifetime that made them laugh. I like these people especially.

Mastering the simplest effort in small things can make others seem possible too. I think when we master the little things we learn to become confident in our ability and this then bleeds into other areas of our lives. We have seen and now know with a little effort we can indeed make anything happen. Im starting study at some point this year to go back to learning basics and its going to be a freaking challenge but I think the discipline just might pay off in more than one area. I will complain but I wont relent.

"The closest distance between two points is always the longest way around"

Thank you V Australia aka Virgin Airlines. Richard Branson you rock my world.