The Vigilant Robot

a watchful eye of creative complexity

Tag Archives: beauty

The Middle of Nowhere Speaks and it is Beautiful

I don’t really believe that adventures can be life-changing. I don’t think a life changes within the moment of experience. Doesn’t life change only until after we process our experience, when we begin thinking about the effect it has had on us and we make conscious steps to change our present way of life? These are not life-changing moments, but moments of self-realization and self-awareness.

About two and a half months ago I traveled to the southwestern part of the U.S. for the first time—the Grand Canyon being the central focus of the trip. I had qualms about contributing money to the racist state of Arizona; in fact, even though I have always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, I told myself that until things were different I would not give money to that state. An opportunity presented itself and it was too seductive at that point in my life, I couldn’t pass it up. We were only staying for a few days, but our plans were to check out Sedona, AZ and then stay overnight in Flagstaff before heading to the Grand Canyon, where we would spend two days before driving to Albuquerque, NM to spend our final night and day. We arrived in Phoenix, spent way too much time retrieving our rental car, and finally drove north to Sedona. We arrived there much later than we expected—I was feeling famished and sick so we made a detour for food—but we walked around for a bit, soaking in what we could of the bold colors of the Red Rocks. Other than its nature, Sedona was not impressive. It is a very uppity town with large and pretty homes, fancy boutiques, and psychic reading shops; a place to go and meditate and then forget about that peace you just experienced connecting with the world to go make an expensive purchase on a consumer item that you don’t actually need. After a couple hours, we were ready to head to Flagstaff.

Recommended by various travel sites for the view, we drove the Oak Creek Canyon path to Flagstaff. We were not disappointed! The view was unbelievably beautiful and slightly treacherous compared to what our flat, midwestern roads had provided us with for our whole lives. I was driving during this stretch and it seemed like I was going up and around, winding and winding for at least half the drive on this one-lane road. No railings on the edges of the road. Looking down, you only see jagged edges of yellow and red rocks, the ground nowhere in the vicinity. My ears were constantly plugging up from the rising elevation, the pressure in my head pounding, swirling around from left to right. Sitting in the passenger seat looking right over the edges of the cliffs, fear caused my friend to constantly berate me for driving too fast. I could have driven through the Oak Creek Canyon path all day, gawking at the picturesque scenery, such a contrast from the billboard-heavy, industrialized, and gray skies of a March day in Chicago.

We arrived in Flagstaff, ate an okay dinner, and since everything was closed for the night, we went to bed. We woke up early, too excited to see the Grand Canyon. We got our morning coffee from a local shop that sells fair trade and organic coffee (Flagstaff has a lot of local coffee shops!), with a very strange woman ringing us up who thought it was more important to spend a few minutes taping up a tear in a dollar bill than making our coffee. Most of the people in Arizona seem a little odd, and do every task as if it is not important. Everything seems to move slower, including the people. No one ever seems in a hurry. I suppose that isn’t really odd, but it’s definitely something we were not used to. I mean, who cares if the cash has a rip?

On our way to the Grand Canyon we came upon “Bedrock”! We obviously needed to pull over and snap a few pictures with Dino, Fred, and Wilma. Yabba Dabba Doooo! After we stopped forgetting we were grown adults, we hopped back into the car and drove through the deserted, open road to our main destination. I was surprised that we didn’t see any segments of the Grand Canyon while approaching the park entrance. We parked the car and since it was too early to check in to our lodge we got our bags of food and drink ready and walked to the park.

As we walked towards the Canyon, we could faintly see the rock formations in the distance. It did not prepare me for what I would see once we approached. The sight was indescribable. My eyes were filled with Mother Nature, the monstrosity of the canyons and the surprising color spectrum, from light yellow to orange to deep reds and light purples. I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anything close to it in my whole twenty-seven years of life. I don’t think there is anything like it. No picture, I don’t care how magnificent, could do that place justice. It must be seen. I was instantly emotional, something I did not expect. My eyes grew misty, and then more than misty. I could do nothing but stand there and take it all in for several minutes. It was completely arresting. I think the site of this environment, this wondrous landscape, was just so beautiful it touched me; it was extraordinarily engaging with it’s large size and the variety of formations and indentations and color; it made me feel very small yet privileged to be looking at something so stunning, something created from natural occurrences, from God, and not a human being. It’s as though I was looking directly at a dream that I was about to step into, astounded.

Finally getting over our initial shock and wonderment, we hiked the South Rim trail to the right. Every view of the Grand Canyon was different. The location of the sun shifted, along with the colors and the rock formations. The shear size of the Grand Canyon never ceased to amaze us. “Oh my God” and “Wow” started becoming quite repetitive phrases. When we made it to the end and back of that part of the trail, a few hours later, we left the park to have some mediocre dinner. When we reentered the park we decided to drive over to “Desert View,” which is supposed to hold one of the most amazing views of the canyon and the Colorado River, and you can visit an old watchtower. When we reached the crossroads, the sign stated 25 miles to Desert View. We somehow mistakenly calculated that it would only take us 25 to 30 minutes to get there so we would make it before sundown. Why we calculated that we could drive a mile a minute escapes me, but maybe it was the elevation getting to our head. I drove and drove and drove and we passed many viewpoints, saw some animals whose species we argued about because we are not nature people and don’t know anything about wild animals, but it seemed like we would never reach Desert View.  I must have driven for at least forty-five minutes until we decided that by the time we would arrive it would be too dark. At the behest of my friend, we decided to stop at the next viewpoint instead and take in the dusk view of the Grand Canyon; it was more night-time than dusk at that point so the view wasn’t amazing. We drove back to our lodge and spent the rest of the night relaxing and thinking about the day. I looked at the lodge’s guidebook and discovered that we were only two miles away from Desert View. I was quite disappointed and when my friend suggested we go back the following day, I almost got into one of those moods of, “No, I am not driving all the way back there when we were so close and you made me turn around!” Thankfully, the next morning was a different story.

Our second and final day in the Grand Canyon, I woke up feeling horrible. I had a terrible migraine accompanied by its sensitivities to light and sound and worst of all, nausea. I blamed the heavily dry air and high elevation; the pressure was excessive and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t really eat much, but we decided to have breakfast and then go for a drive to Desert View. My friend would drive, while I relaxed and tried to feel better. It was a really wonderful plan and while I still had a headache, I was feeling much better when we arrived at the viewpoint. I was immediately thankful that we decided to go back in the day-time because the view was spectacular. The light tan stoned watchtower was remarkable with its native paintings on the inside and crafted furniture. Seeing the deep blue-green of the Colorado River snaking its way through the Canyon was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe how the earth could so naturally produce such a complimentary color palette or that the river carved the splendor out of the Canyon. The Canyon wouldn’t exist in its current form without the Colorado River making its mark, carving its way through the hard earth, eroding whatever pieces it deemed unfit to stay intact with the rest of the rock. The river left only grandeur and grace.

We spent quite a bit of time allured by the exquisite sights of Desert View, but we finally left and had lunch and then parted ways for the next hour. I wanted to hike down into the Canyon, even just for a little bit, but my friend was too scared. They recommend to not hike alone, especially if you are not an experienced hiker, but even though I probably have only ever hiked once in my life and had a worthless phone, I didn’t want to let my friend’s fear stop me from exploring something new. I was all the way in the Grand Canyon! I needed to explore! I hiked the Bright Angel Trail for a couple miles. To reach the bottom of the Canyon on that trail would require the whole day, so I didn’t go as far as I would have liked, but it was still amazing. To look up and see the massive rock extending into the air, where you originally started, people looking so small above you and below you; I was delighted while descending and walking around through some curves, down some dirt steps, through a short tunnel, constantly stopping to take it all in. The way back up was a little bit sad because I knew I wouldn’t be going back into the canyon again. I enjoyed every minute too much.

After the hike, I met up with my friend and we decided to take the shuttle bus and head to the left part of the South Rim trail, the part we had not hiked the day before. We overheard one of the employees of the park tell another visitor that Hopi and Mojave viewpoints were the best, especially at sunset. We hopped off the shuttle bus at Hopi and quickly discovered that the employee was telling the truth.  We couldn’t imagine that the view of the canyon could get any better, but it did! The composition formed by the rocks, the variation of color, and the Colorado River swishing its way through formed the most exquisite portrait of nature I had ever seen. We decided to hike to Mojave point instead of hopping back on the shuttle. Again, we kept stopping because the views kept changing and we were awestruck by its beauty. We both agreed that these were definitely the best views of the canyon. It was really hard to pull our eyes away and actually pay attention to the hiking path. Yep, I walked into a little cactus plant and it was quite pokey.

After soaking in the view at Mojave, we hopped on the next shuttle bus, getting off at one more stop, the stop that has the best view of the Colorado River. An informational post instructed us to close our eyes and listen to the sounds of the river roaring below us. It said that if we closed our eyes and focused on nothing but the river, we would hear it even though it was at least a full mile below us. We closed our eyes, but could not hear the river. We could only hear the wind roaring around us. Perhaps we did not have the ability to clear our thoughts and isolate the sounds around us, or perhaps it really was too windy that day.

We took the shuttle bus back to the lodge, ate our leftover lunch for dinner and then went to the Shrine of Ages for a talk about preserving the Native American heritage of the area and incorporating it into the park’s events. It was unsurprising to hear that they had just started to work with the actual Natives indigenous to the land; I was surprised they were consulting with them at all. The Grand Canyon is Native land, sacred land to all of the tribes indigenous to that area. Their reparations are free entrance into the park, the land they once needed no permission to enter, no permission to pray on, no permission to stop and reflect on their relationship between themselves and the nature. So kind! I left that talk quite depressed. I suppose it was a fitting end to the joys we spent in the canyon. A snap back to reality of the historic and yet very present struggles of people, especially indigenous peoples.

The next day we spent six hours driving from the Grand Canyon to Albuquerque. We drove through the very large Navajo reservation, the desert, saw some houses here and there, some unopened market booths, some random signs placed into the hills, and drove and drove on the deserted open road. It was the first time I saw a dust storm, pink and red dust flying before me, concealing the view for a small stretch of road. It was the first time I saw tumbleweeds. Driving 90­–95 mph, one hit my windshield pretty hard because of the 75mph winds. I always thought tumbleweeds were funny; when I saw them in the desert my mind always went to the tumbleweed icon on Skype, probably because it is the only tumbleweed I ever see. I then thought of a middle of nowhere country place in Nebraska, a strange, quirky town, the first place I always imagine tumbleweeds to exist. I never imagined I would be driving through a funny little town in Nebraska so I never imagined I would be driving through a place with tumbleweeds flying about.

The drive from the canyon to Albuquerque was a long one, but it was the best drive of my life. We took a few turns, but I sat for a couple hours and never felt so relaxed while driving. The way people drive there makes more sense; they are patient and less petty. They understand that they use the left lane on a two-lane highway to pass people and once they do they go back to the right lane. Everything is stress-free. What a life! Not only is it relaxing and stress-free, but the view is intense: miles and miles of desert and beautiful rock formations with some greenery in the distance. I could drive through there all day, speeding without a worry in the world, allowing the landscape to embrace me.

Albuquerque was quite the opposite of the Grand Canyon. We arrived there much later than we expected, an hour and a half or so before dusk, shops almost closed for the day since it was Sunday. We weren’t there very long, but for the time we were there, we seemed to see a lot of drug addicts (Breaking Bad rings a bit true), and the downtown is very small, not built up at all, and slightly run down in some areas. We happened to be there on an odd and eventful day, when there were protests against police brutality happening with SWAT and Riot police throwing tear gas at innocent, unarmed youth. I felt quite sad for the city and for the state of New Mexico in general. The police presence was too apparent; it seemed much too militarized, and the problems with drugs and alcohol amongst young people and people of color, especially the indigenous community was heartbreaking. We didn’t do much that night besides have dinner—thankfully, New Mexican cuisine is pretty good, unlike most of our meals in Arizona—and witness the last stretch of the protest go by from our hotel window. The next day we went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which was extremely educational, and once again, maddening to hear about the injustice committed against the natives by the U.S. government. It was highly informative and the personal stories were powerful. We ended our trip there, driving to the airport and heading back to Chicago.

When I arrived in Chicago, I couldn’t stop thinking about our vacation. I wanted so desperately to go back. I always get that “Home Sweet Home” feel upon my return from vacations, but not this time. I desired to go back. As I am writing this, I still feel that desire. A desire for a slower life, a life with less “work” and more usefulness, a life with less people, less technology, and more nature, a life with more stillness. While we were in the canyon, we consciously had to tell ourselves to stop taking pictures and soak it all in. We wanted to feel the experience, not recall our experience from the pictures we snapped. Technology can be the ultimate destroyer of live experience and we did not want succumb to it. Thankfully, my phone had absolutely no service the couple days we were at the Grand Canyon. It was fantastic. I shared nothing with the outside world. I focused on myself in the moments I was in that beautiful place; my workplace in Chicago did not exist. My home did not exist. The CTA did not exist. Nothing from my life existed. I can’t remember a time where I had as much fun, relaxation, and peace as I did while on this trip.

Nature is no cliché; it existed before us and it exists with us. Too often we neglect it instead of embracing it. Nature is a part of us, internally and externally. My time in the Grand Canyon, driving in the open desert, few souls around, was not exactly life-changing. My actual life did not change while I was there, experiencing all it had to offer me. It did however, make me realize the kind of life I do not want to have. It is the one I have now. The one where I wake up for work Monday through Friday, commute over an hour to sit at a desk for eight hours or more each day; the one where I get frustrated with people so easily because they always seem to be inconsiderate or do something stupid and selfish; the one where I log onto Facebook to see that people constantly share every moment of their lives, where they went to the gym, where they had breakfast, lunch and dinner, who they are dating and who they broke up with; the one where no one does something for the benefit of others but only for the benefit of oneself; the one that has too many people, too many buildings, too much business, too much McDonalds and Starbucks and less trees and rivers. I want to be able to do something for the sake of enjoyment; do work not because it’s work, but because I like it and it provides some benefit to someone who will see it; I want to live in the woods, in a tree house, nothing but the still air and chirping birds around me, perhaps a small stream. I am no nature girl. I have never considered myself to be one anyway. I actually know very little about nature. For the past several years, I have never cared to spend time outdoors in the grass, hiking, getting dirty like that. I have preferred to stay inside, read a book, chill on my bed, watch a little TV, drink a cup of tea—you get the idea. A homebody.

Now? Being outside in nature is what I desire. I don’t know how much longer I can take sitting at a desk all day. One of these days I will probably snap like a tree branch, fall in the grass, and perhaps then I will find my way to this life that seems non-existent, a tumbleweed rolling through the open land, no specific destination in mind, wherever the wind takes me. For now, all I have are the memories of my vacation and the distant thoughts to provide me with comfort. To those reading: go outside, get dirty. See something that you’ve never seen before. Get in tune with all of your five senses and soul and truly look for beauty in places that you never have before. You will never regret it.


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Marian Bantjes: Practicing “Unsafe Design”

Over the past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Marian Bantjes—an extremely talented and intuitive graphic artist from Canada—give a design talk at the new Chicago Design Museum. If you ask me to think about female graphic designers, her name is always the first one to come to my mind. Her work is unique with a handmade quality, which I greatly enjoy. She incorporates patterns and typography, two things I love, and together, they make an impact on my eyes and my mind so strongly I don’t know what hit me. Pure Inspiration (you’ll know the difference between that and Influence in just a bit)! Ever since I laid eyes on an image of her business card, I was drawn in to her and her work.


And then I saw the poster she designed for Michael Beirut’s Yale Architecture lecture series:


And then I saw this image of text Bantjes made out of sugar for Stefan Sagmeister‘s book, or series of little books, “Things I have learned in my life so far”:


I fell in love with her craft.

It was exciting to see the talented woman behind these beautiful works and get a true sense of Bantjes’ character and personality, which are equally fantastic. She began her presentation by introducing herself, her home, and her workspace. They are all beautiful! She lives on an island off the west coast of Canada, surrounded by nature, and works in a lovely, dimly lit and nicely decorated studio. Everything about her home looked so cozy and so perfect for sketching and writing. After her introduction came one of two very significant elements of her presentation. The first important element was the difference between Inspiration, Influence, and Motivation. Bantjes made sure to clarify the difference between these words because these words are often the foundational questions posed to an artist. She stated that when people ask, “What inspires you?” they often mean, “What are your influences?” When people respond with, “Money,” they are really answering, “What motivates you?” What inspires Marian Bantjes? She said, “Anything, any where, any time.” Inspiration is unpredictable. You may walk down the street and see a statement scrawled onto a building and smile. That is inspiration. You may step into an art gallery and see that one piece of work that takes your breath away and holds your gaze for much too long. That is inspiration. You may see a young boy fall off his bike and a young little girl help him to his feet and feel warm inside, thinking how sweet and beautiful. That is inspiration. It is something that exists and instantly triggers your mind to stop, your heart to flutter, and your conscience to take note, leaving an impression.

Bantjes mentioned that her influences range from past experiences, artists and designers of the past like Paul Rand, and Islamic illumination, which she considers, “the best in the world.” It is clear that her work is influenced by Islamic calligraphy and geometric art, but she is careful not to mimic that style directly. She has her own methods of using curvature, geometric grids, mathematics, and hand-lettering that produces something very individual. Bantjes also collects or remembers things that she likes, but do not specifically influence her. Such things would be a humorous poem she recited for the crowd on Saturday that is about a dentist and the feeling of the work he performs on someone’s mouth and a statement printed on wood that reads: YOU ARE CAUGHT THINKING ABOUT KILLING ANYONE YOU WANT, made by none other than Jenny Holzer.

jenny holzer you are caught

The second significant element of her presentation that is the basis for her entire work is about the role of art in design, and yes, art plays a role. As designers, we know that when we produce something for a client, it must have a concept, be logical, have some sort of reasoning behind it; it cannot just be beautiful, but it must be beautiful and have a point. If it is simply artistic and appeals only to emotions, it is not accepted; it is often shunned. Marian Bantjes’ response to this was, “It pisses me off!” She is all about craft and complexity, intuition and ingenuity,  joy. There is a role for art in design. During her talk, she quoted the oft heard statement, “Practice safe design: use a concept,” to which she responded with, “I have been practicing ‘unsafe design.’ Only until she began bringing her artistic craft to her design work did she find that she created pieces of satisfaction and personal individuality. Her artwork is blended with common design principles and it’s what makes Bantjes the prominent visual artist that she is; her creativity is unique and deserves the recognition.

The field of graphic design wasn’t always about left-brained principles of concept and reason, but it included very artistic elements. Bantjes showed a couple of examples of this type of design. One of the images she presented is the one pictured below on the left, created by Swiss designer Josef Müller-Brockmann; it is a simple, yet artistically composed poster based off of the mathematics of music; it has a concept, but it is very visual and fun; it appeals to emotion, as well as to logic, to the right side and to the left side of the brain. Another designer she presented is Paul Rand, famous mostly for his logotypes and simple illustrations, and less known for his artistic work, displayed in magazine covers and various advertisements. One of his magazine covers is pictured below on the right. If you look closely, you can see his signature towards the bottom right corner. Bantjes was sure to point out his signature because it is unheard of in this day and age for a designer to sign his/her work, especially annual reports, which Rand did. She asked, “Who would hire Paul Rand today?” Only the adventurous, those willing to think outside of the box. I think even the adventurous would cringe at the thought. I quite like the idea of designers signing their work and I think that maybe it shouldn’t be so unheard of any more.

beethoven   Paul Rand Idea Magazine

For Bantjes’ final portion of her presentation, she showed us various examples of her work, including design pieces that were ultimately rejected by the client. One of the pieces she showed was a beautiful poster created for a band called The National. The poster has three different views; each view can be seen under a specific type of lighting. The image on the left is how it looks when it is viewed in daylight, the image in the middle shows the fluorescent pink ink really well and is how the poster looks in Black Light, like at a concert venue, and the image on the right is what you would see in the dark, the elements printed with glow in the dark ink. Awesome!


Another piece Bantjes showed us is a text piece she did for a VIBE magazine article about Jay-Z. VIBE asked Bantjes if she could create something in glitter, and this is what she produce:

Absolutely beautiful and very Jay-Z-esque.

There was so much work that Bantjes showed and I regret that I cannot display all of the images for you here. You will just have to check out her website or do a simple Google search to witness the vast array of beautiful and well-designed work. The pieces I particularly enjoyed during her presentation were the rejected pieces. Even when they were rejected for one thing, she still found a way to use them somewhere, some how, even if just for herself.

I would like to end with some statements and paraphrased quotes that caught my attention and might possibly grasp other people’s attention as well, maybe they will be inspiring.

“Sometimes you get paid to do dumb things.”
Bantjes showed us an image of a logo she produced for Benetton. She referred to it as some “swirly shit attached to normal letters.” We all laughed and she said that sometimes we just get paid to dumb things.

“I think process is overrated.”
She is not interested in process. She does not sit somewhere and sketch out ideas. All of her process occurs in her head.

“Avoid the obvious.”
Bantjes likes to “work against what is expected.” Think outside the box; make something look unnatural in a natural way, or natural in an unnatural way.

I cannot do work for companies who use text that is “detrimental to our intelligence.”
She mostly works with text, so she cannot stomach working with something so meaningless and stupid. Some people refuse to work with tobacco companies and the like; she refuses to work with companies who use pointless text.

“Design needs artists.” It needs people who love to doodle. “‘Design is not a place for doodle’ as an idea is wrong.”

If you are in the Chicago area you can check out some of Bantjes’ work on display. Her work is displayed along with the wonderful Wolfgang Weingart and John Massey posters. You will find some of the work I mentioned earlier, such as her posters for The National and her Seduction poster for the Yale Architecture lecture series, as well as this beautiful piece below, Influence Map.


Images Inspired by the Music of Olafur Arnalds

Only the Winds

Only the Winds
The street was wet and glistening. I saw you in the distance.
You were looking away, out into the world beyond.
You were so close to me. So close.
You were so far.
I could not reach you.
I wanted to yell. I tried to yell.
I could not.
You ascended, higher and higher. Climbing, until the wispy clouds clothed you, made you transparent.
You were bathed in grey, bathed in white.
I ran.
I ran so fast. I stumbled. I skidded in the rain.
The puddles splashing all around me. I was soaking.
My eyes were so drenched. They were burning badly.
I ran. I kept running.
When I came upon the sole of your foot, I collapsed.
You were fading away. You weren’t ascending.
You were falling.
Falling so quickly from the clouds as if they unraveled and threw you.
Tossed an unwanted being. Ridding itself of all that is unnecessary.
I put out my hand for you. For you to catch, to grab.
Instead you looked at me and placed a finger to your lips.
A sweep of blue crashed below you, and instantly, the wind pushed and pulled, carrying you into the sea. Holding you as your eyes closed.
I climbed, ascended. The breeze engulfed me, swallowed me as I followed its current.
Soon I was bathed in blue and I could see you.
I could see your lips, pursed, with a finger over them. Eyes closed.
I smiled.


Words of Amber

Words of Amber


This Place is a Shelter

This Place is a Shelter



We (too) Shall Rest


Carry Me Anew

Carry Me Anew


All images were made—drawn, painted, or photo manipulated—and text written while listening to the named song under each piece. I love Olafur Arnald’s music. It is truly beautiful and evokes so much that the emotion can only be expressed through the songs.

12s of 2012: Articles, Videos, & Artists Worth Sharing

At the end of a year, I sometimes like to go through the past twelve months and pick out twelve memorable experiences, one that occurred in each month. Instead of writing about my experiences, I have decided to pick out memorable pieces of knowledge or interest to share that may educate or inspire others, or simply provide some much needed laughter or entertainment. Best of all, they can be passed around with ease. I have included a list of 12 articles worth reading, 12 videos worth watching, and 12 artists and their artworks worth looking into. I normally do not like making lists or looking at lists, but I found this to be a helpful way to share a variety of information with others. Along with the link to each item, I have included my reasoning for why I find the item enjoyable or important, why I think it’s worth any attention at all.

12 Articles Worth Reading

Stop Documenting, Start Experiencing
Are you going to document this very moment, or are you going to experience it? We live in an age where technology makes it easy to document our experiences and to share it with others. Does that mean we should always do so? Are we missing out on some experience if we don’t document it and share it with others? I do not think we are, but I do think we are missing out on a real experience when we spend the actual experience documenting instead of living in that moment. I cannot tell you how much it annoys me to be standing behind somebody at a concert or show who constantly has his camera in the air videotaping the whole event. Did that person really enjoy the show? Do I really have to stand here and try to look above your camera or succumb to watching it through your camera? Besides it being disrespectful to the people behind you trying to enjoy the show, it’s ruining your experience of the actual show itself. Sure, capture a few photos of the show, the family get together, the dance, the party, the ride at the amusement park. Take a video clip, even. Do not spend over 35% of the experiencing documenting. You will truly lose out on so much. There were moments, events, that I wish I had a camera with me to document because it was just so amazing, but I realize that I remember those moments so clearly in my head that I can relive it through feeling. I can’t seem to remember with my whole body the experiences where I have spent much of it documenting. My memories always seem to go to those photos. Instead of conjuring up specific sensations and moments of the physical experience, my mind sometimes goes to what I remember from photos I had taken. It makes me a little sad and I have realized that my desire to document every moment of an experience has drastically reduced. I was glad to read this article and find someone who felt similarly, since sharing experiences in the moment through technology is the norm. In the article, Daniel Gulati also makes a point that humans crave acceptance so sharing experiences in the moment helps achieve that craving. I think the amount of “likes” someone has on a photo has more to do with showing other people how many “likes” one can receive than feeling satisfied with a particular number of “likes.” I also think this is a silly reason for sharing anything. I also do not want to see what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Instagram.

She’s Got Some Big Ideas
I love learning about the people who make the things I love and this very article does just that. Maria Popova, the subject of the article, is the mastermind behind one of my favorite websites: Brainpickings. I would describe Brainpickings as a collection of individually curated pieces of creative and intellectual products of inspiration. There isn’t so much analysis on the curated collections as it is a presentation of the pieces. Findings. Findings that activate the right part of my brain, the part that loves being activated, but rarely is in a mundane world. It was great to learn about the creator of Brainpickings and surprising to find that the way she works is a bit like me, which makes it a bit unsurprising considering I enjoy her site so much because it represents the clutter in my mind so well. It’s inspiration that Maria started sending to her coworkers and is now a grand website providing bits of inspiration to the whole world.

Spanish Fresco Restorations Botched by Amateur
Anybody who knows me knows that there is no way this article could not be in my list. Cecilia Gimenez has provided me with some much needed laughter this year. I cannot express how funny I find the horrible restoration of the “Ecce Homo” painting to be, but it is hilarious. It still is hilarious. The fact that she has notoriety because of it and is using it to her advantage—sell one of her paintings on ebay to raise money—is amusing. A moment like this, is a moment that deserves all the internet memes created. It’s beautiful. Laughter is a gift, and I would like to thank Cecilia Gimenez for providing me with so much. I hope that doesn’t sound too mean. I know she is just an old lady who meant well, but she screwed up a painting and made it look so humorous that it’s now famous for new reasons and people laugh. It’s okay. My favorite sentence of 2012, straight from the article: “The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic, he says.”

Graffiti Gang Who Caused £150,000 of Damage ‘Should Be Proud of Their Work,’ Says Judge
I think it’s definitely a great thing that a judge would openly admit that these graffiti artists are talented. Even though he believed that what they did was misguided or misdirected, he gave them the lowest possible sentence because they are young and with some direction, could be doing wonderful things with their talent. They didn’t hurt anyone. I hope more people can pay attention to the skill that goes into a lot of street art and graffiti and look at it less as vandalism. There are exceptions, namely tags simply scrawled or gang symbols spray painted anywhere; there really is no value in that type of “graffiti.” Throw ups, pieces, on the other hand, can be beautiful.

Kung Fu Expert in China Beats Up Mob of 50 Trying to Evict Him
Shen Jianzhong is a 38 year old man living in the Hebei province of China. Property developers had been after his home and others in the area for months. Threats and property violence ensued, people stayed. Eventually, a mob showed up at Shen’s home and he used his kung fu skills to protect his family and his home and rendered them all unconscious, at least, the ones who didn’t run away. I find this to be absolutely inspiring and amazing. I do not advocate violence, but forcing somebody out of their home is a type of violence that should be defeated. Throwing somebody out of their home so that the government can sell the land to some fancy shmancy property developers is evil and everybody trying to force Shen and his family from their home deserved what they got. Never back down.

The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture”
We all know the photo of the sailor kissing a woman with his arms wrapped around her in Times Square indicating the joy of the end of World War II. I enjoy articles that debunk the common misinformation spread about something. With the internet, these days it’s so much easier to spread misinformation so it makes articles like this all the more significant. The photo was not of a couple happily kissing after being reunited after the War. It is of a man who decided to grab a random woman in a crowd and kiss her. It is of a man who had received no consent to this physical contact. After one finds out this information, one can tell by actually paying attention to the details in the photo, that it isn’t a very loving embrace. He looks like he grabbed her in haste and she looks like a rag doll. Ignoring that this was nonconsensual is horrid in itself as the writer so clearly states with reference to rape culture, but I also think it’s horrible that humans attribute false narratives to photos in order to prove a point or develop a story that is inaccurate.

Stop Pretending Israel’s Massacre in Gaza is Part of an Even Battle with Hamas and the Palestinians
I read articles about the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the horrendous crimes of the Israeli military on a weekly basis. Many are worth reading and sharing. I decided to choose this one because Mark Steel writes this without going into the depths of history, without boring someone that doesn’t care, without simply retelling the same atrocities that many already know, but with a matter-of-fact attitude and humor and I think something like this can reach another audience of people not used to reading up on what’s going on in Palestine. It’s also short. Steel starts off with a bang, “To start with, why do the news channels ask Tony Blair for his advice on conflict in the Middle East? It’s like asking Gary Glitter for advice on what to do about Jimmy Savile.” The way it continues is even better:

But somehow it fits with the rest of the coverage. A report yesterday morning began with the sentence: “Rockets have continued to be fired from both sides…” Then, to illustrate this, we saw a demolished building in Gaza in which 11 people had perished, and a woman in Israel standing next to her car with a smashed windscreen. Which goes to show everyone’s suffering, what with three generations of a family getting wiped out on one side, and a woman having to ring Autoglass on the other. Honestly, they’re all as bad as each other.

And the whole article continues in the same fashion until the very end. What’s happening between Palestine and Israel is not a war or merely battles in a larger conflict; it’s oppression of Palestinians, occupation of Palestine, apartheid in Palestine. In Gaza, it’s often a massacre. It’s no military versus one of the most powerful militaries in the world (supplied by the most powerful USA). Making fun of the idiocy of the media and people who blindly follow the media has now become one of the best ways to get any sort of real information across. Maybe those people will wake up to it.

The Rose Revolution
As a follower of the Chicago Bulls and a person who truly likes Derrick Rose as a player and a person (no, I don’t know him personally, but after his interviews and speeches you get the sense of the kind of person he is), I was excited to read the GQ cover story on the MVP. It wasn’t disappointing as you get an even greater sense of the kind of person D-Rose is. He seems shy, very private, and well, he likes to not be bothered every 5 seconds by an adoring fan. Who would? He may not function well in the spotlight of cameras and questions, but he functions excellently in the most important spotlight, the court. I cannot wait for his return because the Bulls have just been sucking it up. Thankfully, they are still above 500, 16-12. Don’t forget to look at the GQ photos, all of which the one with him in the blue shirt holding the blue basketball are nice. He just look awkward in that overly blue one.

Should Emanuel Move to Englewood?
An excellent piece of satire, the writer points out the vast inequality in Chicago and the powers that be who don’t care to do anything about it. Chicago is a very segregated city, which is intentional, not something that just magically happened. When you take all of the funding and resources from particular areas and use it to help benefit other areas that are already better off or to fund projects that you find important instead of what the actual community members find important, well, what do you think is going to happen to those neighborhoods who have no funding and few resources? Poverty and mass incarceration are serious problems in Chicago and they also have primary targets: poor people of color and mainly the south and west sides of the city. We can talk about diversification and desegregation when we can reduce the inequalities of the criminal justice and economic systems of the city (and country).

The Progressive Case Against Obama
Obama is known as the least of all evils, or the least of two evils. Voting for a least evil is still voting for an evil. Technically, he is not the least of all evils anyway because there are other people who run for president. There are third parties. Matt Stoller writes an excellent piece about why those who feel that Obama is their best bet should stop treating him that way. He delves into his policies and actions, without going in too much to bore you and points out that there really is no difference between Obama and Romney. There is no difference between the two parties that run this nation, except the puppet. The sooner Americans realize this, the better future we can begin to build.

American Pens Quran Against Islamophobia
Everitte Barbee is a calligraphy artist who began work on what he calls The Quran of Solidarity. It is the first Quran to be written by a non-Muslim and the first to be written completely in figurative calligraphy. He hasn’t completed the project as that will take a few years, but in order to continue he has received sponsors for individual surahs (chapters), of which he sends the sponsor a print. An artist who recognizes the beauty in something and uses his talent to show his appreciation and try to dispel the negative attitudes of something not understood is brilliant. The work is beautiful and I appreciate that Everitte is using his talent in a respectful way to create a new version of a religious text. The geometric and abstract patterns he creates are so gorgeous. I would be absolutely thrilled to own this Qur’an when it’s completed.


The Cult of Done Manifesto
I really like manifestos and this is at least a helpful one — one that I am going to print and tack on my wall as a constant reminder to get stuff done. Tips like “Accept that everything is a draft” and “Failure counts as done” are good reminders to do without worrying about perfection. Perfectionism tends to aid my procrastination. I need to limit both of those.

12 Videos Worth Watching

Meet the 17-year old who blew the lid off racial profiling with his ipod
Because everyone should know about the awful “Stop & Frisk” policies of the cops and be outraged.

When Savages Unite
Because Mark Gonzales is one of the most beautiful human beings on this earth. His poetry is breathtaking, elegant, and full of love and humanity.

Old Man in Nursing Home Reacts to Hearing Music from His Era
Because seeing someone who doesn’t recognize his own family and is generally unresponsive recognize something with such clarity is beautiful. Through music, he is restored to his former self and is alive.

DMX Sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Because seeing a rapper with a voice like DMX sing a Christmas song like this is hilarious. “Come on!”

‘Effective Evil’ or Progressives’ Best Hope? Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama Presidency
Because this is an excellent debate on Barack Obama and what his Presidency will do and will not do for Americans. Glen Ford is against Obama, saying he embraces right-wing policies and is effective in neutralizing any opposition, whereas Michael Eric Dyson is for Obama, saying he is the best out there to create change within the current system. Watch.

Blast Interrupts Interview in Gaza
Because this brings the situation in Gaza straight to your home. Watch this CNN moderated interview, when an Israeli blasts hits the media center in Gaza and shuts down Mohammed Sulaiman from the interview. Those blasts are not an unfrequent occurrence for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Poverty, Power, and the Public Airwaves
Because this was hands-down the best event I had attended throughout the whole year and it’s for all to see on youtube. Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, and Amy Goodman discuss the state of the media and the role of the people. If you have the time, please watch this. Cornel West and Amy Goodman killed it.

Worst Movie Death Scene Ever
Because everyone deserves a good laugh. Apparently in the original film scene, he’s not really screaming every time he is shot. It’s still funny though.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s Requiem for the Static King Part One
Because this is one hell of an emotional, haunting, yet beautiful video set to a wonderfully crafted piece of music.

“Death” Tales of Mere Existence
Because this guy Lev has an outstanding style of storytelling, complete with a bored voice, great marker drawings in the moment, and humorous, very relatable tales. “Death” was the first video of his that I had seen, and I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon it, but I am so glad I did because I thoroughly enjoy all of his videos. I really love the drawing style, too.

This 12 year old gets it…Why don’t you
Because everyone should understand how the banking system of many countries is sucking the people of those countries dry, throwing them in a life full of debt, crumbling our existence. Regardless of whether this 12 year old wrote this speech on her own or someone else wrote it and had her memorize it and present it, it’s a good piece of truth to acknowledge whatever age you are. The sooner it is acknowledged, the sooner we can free ourselves.

The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl — Episode 1 “The Stop Sign”
Because this is the best new series I have seen all year. It is like nothing on tv, something I can somewhat relate to, and is downright hilarious. It’s a piece of entertainment missing from the mainstream wave that many people could relate to, yet never could find before. I am cracking up watching this again.

12 Artists (& Designers & Projects) Worth Checking Out

Vincent Castiglia
He paints with his own blood! The paintings are stunning, too. I wish he would redo his website, though, because the process of looking at his paintings is frustrating.

Steven Spazuk
He paints with fire! Well, the soot from the fire is what makes the image. They are beautiful paintings and the monochromatic scheme of the soot makes for smooth blending and a serious feeling. I first discovered him in this short documentary about him.


Carne Griffiths
He paints with tea and alcohol! The colors he mixes within the paintings are subdued, yet gorgeous. They look like watercolors, but the tones do remind you of drinks. I love tea and this artwork reminds me that anything can be used to create beautiful art if you have the right style. Carne has the right style.

Project Mooncircle
Project Mooncircle is a Berlin-based label or collaborative that combines dope beats with interesting artwork. Anything that incorporates good, instrumental music with decent visual art will have my attention.

Ingrid Dabringer
She creates map paintings with figurative interpretations using the lines of the map. I haven’t seen many people use maps to paint figures like the one’s Ingrid makes. I find them inspirational.

Ingrid Dabringer Painting

Nicole Martinez
She is a designer and illustrator who simply creates the type of designs that appeal to me. I was introduced to her through her “Nerdy Dirty” series, which I absolutely love. Her use of typography, illustration, and color are excellent and the compositions are well balanced.


Emily Baretta
She makes what I call Stitch Paintings. She stitches colorful thread through paper to make images, some of which are really beautiful. I don’t know anybody else whose primary artform is making paintings with thread, so I delight in this find.

emilyBstitch art

Reclaim NYC
Reclaim NYC is an initiative that gets artists and designers to make furniture and useful items out of the debris caused by Hurricane Sandy and then sells it all to raise money for relief efforts. Good design for a good cause is definitely my thing. I want this lamp…


Kseniya Simonova
She is a Ukrainian artist who makes images and tells stories out of sand. She creates art using other mediums, but her storytelling with sand, or sand animation, is what spoke to me. I first saw her in a video that a friend shared, which was of Kseniya on “Ukraine’s Got Talent.” She created a very moving animation of the horrors of war. She accompanied her sand animation with music mixed with sound clips of war. I think it adds to the sadness and beauty of her storytelling. I don’t know if she won on the show, but she’s definitely got talent.

Ursul Wehrli
This Swiss man is funny. He “tidies” up modern and contemporary artworks; he “fixes” them; he makes them neat and orderly, more structured, so that it is more clear. It’s just funny… and so is his website.

He/She/They is/are (a) Spanish street artist(s) whose images range from political statements to simple elegance. Here are two I really enjoy:

panoptico_escif    escif_bombtree

Danny Fein & Litographs
Danny Fein founded Litographs, a creation of prints made from the text of classic books by a team of artists. Using the text from these classics, images are created to represent the essence of the story. Many of the 24 x 36 inch posters are actually created from the entire story. Amazing. Typography + Literature = Win!

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 10.13.31 PM   Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 10.12.50 PM