Martyrs and Masochists

blood-knifeWhat currency is worth more than human blood?

Horded by misers,

fearing red river’s flood.

Who won’t risk a spill

in spite of blood’s call;

Ever beating twin drums

of love and lust’s thrall.

Where passions price

comes in carnage and gore,

Martyrs and masochists will always pay more.

Bloodletting release after eons of pain,

Barters bliss

and the thought

that it ought not

be in vain.

But shaving life’s mane

tempers power in paw,

As angels and thorns

raise a differing roar,

And spent blood is in circulation once more.

eyE[before]Charles

Thcharles-yallowitzis week, I interviewed a regular fixture within the blogging community; the very talented Charles Edward Yallowitz. Though I have been all too certain Charles and I would cross paths eventually due to our mutual love of the fantasy genre, the chance to finally grill him is an exciting one. Charles is a fantasy author from Long Island who published the first book in his Legends of Windemere series at the start of this year, ‘Beginning of a Hero‘, which I am happy to say I recently added to my Kindle reading list. Charles also maintains a dedicated blog, featuring updates on the Legends of Windemere series aswell as tales about his trials and tribulations as an author.

A gifted story-teller, enigmatic blogger and esoteric imaginator; here are a few words from the fantastic Mr. Charles Yallowitz.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“At the age of 7, it sounded like it would help get women and free drinks. Seriously though, it really was a spontaneous spark that I couldn’t get out of my head. I still haven’t got it out of my head. I was 15 and I had just finished reading the first volume of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Book of Lost Swords’. The idea that I could write popped into my head and I started designing characters for a book. I began writing short stories and excerpts for my English classes which got praise and it kept rolling from there.

“I think… it just kind of happened, and I found that it made me very happy. The idea of entertaining and inspiring someone with a story really connects with me. I’ve escaped into books since I was a child, so maybe part of me thinks this is a way to continue that tradition… the spark got set off in my brain and took over.”

Why appeals to you most about fantasy as a genre?

“The fantasy genre has a lot of standards, but a lot of flexibility. There are the traditions of swords, magic, dragons, and various other races. It’s a very time-tested genre. Yet, you can get away with more awe-inspiring moments than in other genres. A character diving into shadows as a mode of transportation is easier to explain through magic than technology. We have technology in our world, so you have people trying to figure out the physics. When you use magic, people are more willing to suspend disbelief.

“In terms of the flexibility, you can get away with changing the standards. In my world, I made orcs different than the wild marauders that most worlds use them for. They’re civilized even though they live in the wild and their species has a beauty and the beast thing going on. The males are ugly, brutish, powerful beings and their women are gorgeous Valkyrie-like beings. In a fantasy world, you can get away with altering stuff like this because there is nothing in the real-world for people to compare it to. If you try to have a human fly around space without a suit then you need to know your science and explain everything. People are a lot more critical of genres that take place anywhere near our reality.”

What do you think is the most important or defining aspect of a good fantasy novel?

“I’ve actually written and deleted so many things here because I can’t think of a defining aspect of fantasy. Typically, fantasy is a story that takes place with magic, or at least in a medieval-type setting. When you get into the future and technology, it becomes science-fiction. Unless it’s Star Wars, because the Force (essentially) turns that into fantasy… but (truthfully), I think it’s just in a genre all its own.

“I think the sign of a good fantasy novel are the heroes. Not so much that the heroes are brave and noble, but believable. A pitfall of fantasy is that you’re working in the genre that is the farthest removed from our reality. The heroes are the bridge between the reader and the world you’ve created. They need to feel relatable to the reader or you won’t draw them into the world. This can be done with flaws, quirks, and anything that makes the character more human. For example, Luke Callindor is cocky and brave, which makes sense for a new hero. To make him believable, I rarely let him get out of a situation unscathed. He screws up a lot, which has led to many readers telling me that he’s a character they can stand behind. The hero doesn’t have to be infallible for the story to be good. In fact, a character like that tends to hurt the story because the reader feels like there’s no risk of failure, so the ending is predetermined.”

As genre definitions continue to blur together, and it becomes increasingly popular to blend traditional fiction categories together (such as science fiction and horror, etc), where do you see the future of the fantasy genre heading?

“Fantasy has blurred with other genres for a long time, so I think it’s going to stay the course. You already see a lot of technology slipping into fantasy with the use of airships and lanterns appearing. The alteration of these objects is that they are powered by magic, so it’s more of a magi-tech society. It could lead to a sub-genre of magi-tech books within the overall genre. The sub-genre trend is probably going to be the big change.  Some people don’t even realize when they’re crossing genres now. For example, having a cowboy in a fantasy setting isn’t far-fetched thanks to Stephen King’sDark Tower. The same is going for zombies appearing in fantasy.”

You have to fight Luke Callindor (the main character from the ‘Legends of Windemere’ series) to the death, armed only with whatever you have in your pockets right now. Go.

“*looks down at pajamas* Well . . . I guess I’d run until I could find something to fight back with. Luke’s dual saber, flipping, jumping style isn’t easy to predict, so I’d probably keep tossing stuff at him. Try to keep him on the defensive with whatever I could get my hands on. I could throw him off his game by yelling secrets or see if I can rework him in my head to change him. You know, get rid of a leg or turn his swords into a pair of live eels that slip away. I wouldn’t win, but I’d like to think the moment Luke kills me, he’d blink out of existence too. Kill your creator and you go down with him.”


Charles’ blog can be found here – Legends of Windemere

And the first book in the Legends of Windemere series is available for purchase here (on sale for $2.99) – Beginning of a Hero – Book 1 of Legends of Windemere

Ani-Maybe

Not everyone is as big a fan of cartoons as I am, of this I am aware.

Culturally, the idea of adult-oriented cartoons is still relatively new to the west and has only really begun to gain momentum in the last 10 years. As with all art-forms however, animation is ever gaining greater and greater degrees of refinement. Where we once were drawing boxy farm-houses with smiley faced suns, ready to be stuck on our parents’ refrigerators, we now paint broad spanning murals and Sistine-Chapel-esque visual epics which elevate the heart and expand the mind. And the development of this modern art form is prevalent nowhere more so than in Japan.

Though it’s sometimes graphic, often lewd, and almost always requires a heightened suspension of disbelief, Japanese anime plumbs the conceptual depths of what animators and animated-story-tellers are capable of getting away with. Still, perhaps the most inaccessible thing about Eastern cartoon culture isn’t the adult themes it perpetuates so much as the ‘culture-shock’ factor. There is no mistaking that there are some very distinct cultural differences between the post-imperialistic Western world and historically isolationist East Asia. Did you know that Japan actually only consented to open its harbours to the world at large a little over 100 years ago (under threat of bombardment by the U.S. naval fleet)? That may sound like a long time to we mortal specks of dust, but from a broader historical and anthropological perspective it really isn’t.

In the interest of mending this ancient cultural rift between intercontinental demographics, I have composed a list of my top 5 recommended anime titles. If you’re uncertain about getting into anime, here’s your jumping on point. Open yourself up to the idea of a potentially perpendicular cultural outlook and check some of them out.

And remember, maturity isn’t the same thing as getting old.

death-note

  1. Death Note – I can’t say enough good things about Death Note. A dark, adult themed anime series which takes the focus away from the usual anime tropes of action and sex. Death Note is about a teenager named Light who finds a notebook which has the ability to kill anybody in the world when he writes their name it. Light takes on the power of a death god and begins punishing the wicked with his newfound power in a misguided attempt to make the world a better place. But the real battle begins when an investigator named L discovers Light’s existence behind the scenes, and a battle of wits commences…
  2. Princess Mononoke – Part of princess-mononokethe ‘Studio Ghibli’ collection of movies, Studio Ghibli have time and time again proven that they are capable of making enchanting epics which capture the hearts of adults and children alike. Princess Mononoke follows a young boy who is poisoned by a strange corruption. His journey leads him to discover the imbalance between the manmade and natural worlds, and teaches us all the value of respecting both the earth and ourselves. Once you’ve watched this, pick up any other Studio Ghibli film and drink it in. Think Japanese Disney.
  3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Not to be fullmetal-alchemist-brotherhoodconfused with ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’, FMA:B is a reboot of an older series and is vastly superior to the original. It follows the story of the Elrich brothers, two young Alchemists who learn at a young age that you can’t make something from nothing. A thoughtful story with a heavy basis on medieval mysticism and religion, FMA:B is a well-made, well-rounded anime series I can happily recommend.
  4. Redline – A more recent movie, but no less deserving as a place-holder. Redline is set in a future where land-based transport has become all but redlineextinct, and the last of the land-racers compete in a race called the Redline; a winner-takes-all, turbo-charged, nitro-wracked dash to the finish. The eye-bleeding animation in this movie takes the genre to a new level. The solid plot and kick-ass action sequences help also. 🙂
  5. Ghost in the Shell – A cult classic that helped define the cyberpunk genre. Ghost in the Shell takes place in a dystopian future, and examines the evolution of technology and the moral implications cybernetics might have on the existence of a human soul. As good today as it was twenty years ago. Fun fact – the architecture in GitS is based on Kowloon Walled City, a tightly compressed architectural nightmare with so many sky-rises squashed in that the landmass was incapable of supporting it. As a result, the city had to be demolished. Great movie, with a stunningly designed backdrop.ghost-in-the-shell

Before I sign off, a couple of quick shout outs. E[b]E friend Dionne Lister is having a sale on her first book, Shadows of the Realm, which is down to $1.99 for the next week. The sequel, A Time of Darkness, came out last month making this a great jumping on point for any fantasy fans out there.

Also, our other friend (yes, all two of them :)) Charity Parkerson is having a sale of her book, The Society of Sinners (first book in the Sinners Series), which is down to $0.99. It’s a good time to own a Kindle, guys. 🙂

 

The Death and Resurrection of Albert Einstein: Super Jesus

It’s pretty common fair to misquote Albert Einstein.

albert-einstein

Ever since a slew of internet memes attributed a string of misplaced sayings to the famous physicist, there’s been a general air of distrust about anything philosophical that has the name ‘Einstein’ attached to it. The misquotes were largely connected with themes of new age spirituality and broad existential philosophy. And ever since these misquotes have been made public, I’ve seen a lot of people say things like ‘what does Albert Einstein have to do with spirituality anyway’?

Good question. 🙂

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

                – Albert Einstein

Einstein actually had a great deal to say on the subject of theosophy. The reason these spiritually inclined misquotes occurred in the first place was because a great many confirmed quotes were in a similar vein. Albert came from a non-practicing Jewish family and went to a private Catholic school. In his later life, he would make friends with a number of empirically-informed philosophers, basing their spiritual assumptions of the world on rational understanding. Though it is not confirmed whether Albert Einstein actually believed in a god, a number of his quoted attributions do indeed hypothesize on the subject.

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

                – Albert Einstein

But it goes deeper still. Though Einstein was himself primarily a man of science and empiricism, his deeper understanding of the universe would go on to forever change the face of modern spirituality. Let us put aside Einstein’s theory of relativity for a moment, which hypothesised the interconnectedness of existential building-blocks such as space and time. Let us simply look at the mass to energy equivalency equation – or E=MC2. As we all know, this equation would go on to revolutionise the physical sciences, not to mention the world at large. It would allow for the invention of the atomic bomb and open the scientific community up to the idea of black holes. It showed the world that nothing was wasted and revealed the innately mutable nature of worldly existence. For what was energy if not the abstract excitation of sub-atomic particles? What was a wave if not the echo of something beyond the particulate spectrum? And what was the metaphysical if not that which had no physical equivalency… until E=MC2?

“…the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.

                – Albert Einstein

As Einstein’s discoveries became culturally ingrained in modern society, new age spiritualists would pick up the cry. ‘Energy’ is a term now synonymous in spiritual circles with ‘chi’ or ‘prana’, and ‘energy body’ has begun to replace what was once called ‘aura’ or ‘chakras’. Albert Einstein might be considered the father of new age spirituality, if only due to the derivative etymology that formed from his work, let alone his admirable balance of rational empiricism and open-minded philosophy.

I understand that there’s a natural urge to assume hard-nosed scepticism is the path of the truly scientific mind, but I simply don’t believe that. Let us not remember Albert Einstein for the times that he was misquoted or used as a branding device. Let us remember him as he was – a brilliant mind, made all the more brilliant for his open-minded rationality towards the spirituality of existence.

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

                – Albert Einstein

Put You In My Oven

If you understood the cryptic title of this post, then I need say no more.

This week, I’ve been a little fixated on the Earl of Lemongrab, a character from the cartoon ‘Adventure Time‘. For those of you who haven’t watched Adventure Time, I highly recommend it. It’s one of those rare kids shows which manages to transcend age limitations, with jokes for young and old alike. Not to mention the totally math animation that goes into it.

For those of you unfamiliar with Adventure Time or Lemongrab, here’s a video of some of the Earl’s best lines. Watch it, and then we shall continue. 🙂

Aaaanyway… the Earl of Lemongrab is a recurring fan-favourite character and I, being a fan, was struck with the fancy to design a heraldic crest for the Kingdom of Lemongrab.

So I took a break from writing to punch this out. 🙂

lemongrab-crest-coat-of-arms-adventure-time-small

It might look a bit cryptic, but it’s full of fan-oriented references to the Lemongrab mythology. And, better still, it’s also available from the eyE[before]Store as a t-shirt!

lemongrab-coat-of-arms-heraldic-crest-adventure-time-jake-finn-lemon-grab-tshirt-fittedSo, yeah, that’s what I did this week.

And that is why I am royal and you are serval. 🙂

eyE[before]Andrea

moi pxlThis week I got to interview the highly talented, self-aware Andrea Berry. Andrea is a graphic artist based out of Reno, and is also the first artist I’ve actually had the opportunity to interview on eyE[before]E. Honestly, I feel like Andrea’s exceptional talent speaks for itself, both in her awesome design work and through her thoughtful words.

I give y’all the effervescent Andrea Berry.


What first made you want to become an artist?

Every child has a dream of what they want to be when they grow up. At five years old my number one choice was to be an artist. I would spend my days ripping off sheets of paper from the butcher-block reel that my father had given (to) my sisters and I, encouraging our imaginations to run wild.

Like most kids, I went to school because I had to. Yet, I absolutely loved the art classes! Go figure. If I knew one thing about myself it was the fact that I could never get bored creating. All that I wanted to do was to have fun.

I graduated high school in 1997, moved out of my parents’ house, found an apartment and attended Arizona State University. It was time to grow up and start thinking seriously about my career, although I had no idea what to get my degree in. In my heart I wanted to pursue a degree in the field of fine arts but I had always heard that you can’t make money off of it and that’s where the ‘starving artist’ phrase was coined. So, what to do?

After I completed my first year of college I moved into a condo with a good friend of mine. Who would have thought that this move was in divine timing to meeting my mentorsI got to know my neighbors who lived a couple of condos down from me. There were four guys living there at the time, three of them were incredibly talented artists. I became friends with them, as they were my inspiration. Almost everyday, I would swing by to catch up and see the new projects they created.  They opened up my mind to the different paths an artist can take in life, including graphic design. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to learn more.

64306_439206759505390_754931733_n

What are your inspirations in your design work? What motivates you?

My passion for design is what motivates me. I love challenges and I absolutely enjoy taking a set of requirements, putting it together and ‘wow-ing’ my customers. Since art and any kind of creative media are based on perspective, the message that I create isn’t always perceived as I intended – yet… I hope will resonate with some.

At times I will randomly come across a creative design whether it’s on the internet or seen in passing… (and) I will challenge myself to create it. Since I believe that everything happens for a reason and that there are no mistakes, I look at inspirations as something divine, as life presents it to me for a reason.

As a professional graphic artist, how do you reconcile doing something you love as a day to day job? Do you find it difficult to find the distinction?

As I previously stated, I love a challenge. Every project I take on is different, thus fueling my creativity and keeping me engaged. Getting lost in projects is a true form of meditation for me. The fact that I can create and get paid blurs the line between job and passion. Of 860552_421003137992419_813148736_ocourse there are times when it does seem more like a job when I take on projects that require little to no creativity. However, those projects are few and far between. As a designer, the possibilities truly are endless when it comes to my job. In fact, I believe that everyone should pursue his or her passion and make a career out of it.  Not only does it make life more enjoyable but also makes life a heck of a lot easier.  In my experience, I truly feel that this is my path and it’s what I’m here to do.

How important a role do you believe social media and online networking, plays for the modern professional, or semi-professional, artist?

starfriend 3Social media has its role as it allows an artist to get their work out in cyber space for people to see. If people don’t know who you are (it’s) not going to help your business, no matter how amazing your art is. (Social media) is also great for critiquing and obtaining new ideas.  When it comes to acquiring more business, I wouldn’t say that social networking is the best solution. I typically acquire business through people I physically know, word of mouth and advertising. Many people on social networking sites just enjoy looking at art with no motive behind it to pursue a quote, different reasons for different people. I look at social networking sites as what it is, social networking.  I have met many wonderful people through online networking, which have created much inspiration for my work and myself. Social media/networking does however help your web presence and drive more traffic to your site, which is a plus for your reputation as a designer.

What is the greatest form of artistic expression that has never been invented?

Wow this is quite the question! To even define the word ‘art’ is subject to interpretation, however I will give it my best shot! First off there is a scientist by the name of Dr. Masaru Emoto. He has proven that water has consciousness and changes according to surrounding moods, thoughts, and vibration. With kind and loving thoughts the water molecules form beautiful snowflake-like patterns; with lower vibrational thoughts like sadness and anger, the water molecules turn chaotic without symmetry or appeal. I think it would be cool if people could easily and effortlessly take photos of water molecules according to one’s emotions. They could post it on Facebook, frame it, send it to friends and family, add quotes, etc. It would allow people to realize how powerful their thoughts really are. And by seeing this as an art form I believe it would bring a larger sense of creative realization through humanity and one’s own being-ness.  This artistic form of expression would be inspired through Dr. Emoto’s work yet taken to the next level of mass awareness through creativity.

catbird


Andrea’s professional site can be found here – Dre’s Graphics

Her WordPress blog can be found here – DresGraphics WordPress

And her Facebook page is located here – Dre’s Graphics Facebook

dgsig

MSG – Enhancing the Flavour of Intellectual Discourse

msg-of-social-gastronomyI have been known to get a little frustrated with the culture of misinformation in modern  society. There is a common attitude that if a lot of people believe something, it’s probably true. When someone tells me something like ‘everyone knows that’, there’s a quote from the perceptive Sir Terry Pratchett that springs to mind:

The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member, divided by the number of mobsters.

Sadly, I’m inclined to agree. People don’t seem to get more intelligent when they clamour together. As their minds collectively bend towards the same outcome they begin running with the pack, like lemmings leaping over the cliffs of free-thinking despair. This is a bit of a fatalistic view, perhaps. I wholly understand that this largely occurs due to a primitive cultural coding which tells us that there’s safety to be found in numbers. It is why people have difficulty empathizing with someone far removed from their cultural or ethnographic circle, but it’s also the same impetus that makes a person want to play cricket with their neighbours and have them all around for a backyard barbeque.

Have I told you guys about MSG?

The story behind MSG is one of my favourite examples of the ingrained propensity we all have for cultural misinformation. For those of you who don’t know, MSG stands for monosodium glutamate and it is commonly used as a cooking supplement to enhance a dish’s natural flavours. It is used most predominantly in Asian cooking and in the 60s it was linked to a health condition known as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, a loose collection of complaints symptomatic of allergic reaction or food poisoning. To this day, people still believe MSG to be bad for you.

So, what is MSG?

In the early 1900s, a biochemist named Dr. Ikeda, one of the leading researchers into taste neurosensory, identified a substance called glutamate. Glutamate was a naturally occurring chemical compound which was found in highest quantities in foods such as meat, tomatoes, cheese, seaweed and breast milk. Once he had identified this compound which made everything taste better, Dr. Ikeda used salt as a stabilising agent, or monosodium, and went on to found one of the largest monosodium glutamate manufacturers the world would ever see. MSG is little more than salt and glutamate, two highly common, naturally occurring foodstuffs.

msgSo, how did everyone get this idea into their heads that MSG is bad for you?

In the 60s, a gentleman named Dr. Ho Man Kwok published an article in a journal describing a loose collection of symptoms he consistently encountered upon eating out at Chinese restaurants, ranging from headaches, to neck pain, to palpitations of the heart. Dr. Ho would go on to perform a series of tests on lab rats which involved feeding them copious quantities of MSG. When the rats inevitably developed brain legions, MSG was declared a health risk and has been spoken of in hushed tones ever since.

The part of this story you don’t hear is that Dr. Ho fed them ridiculously high quantities of MSG compared to anything that would be fed to you at Chinese restaurant. The part of the story you don’t hear is how food manufacturing companies, instead of not putting MSG in their product, began to relabel MSG as ‘Artificial Flavours’, and other misnomers, so that we never actually stopped consuming it. The part of the story you don’t hear is how there are virtually no complaints of ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ in Asia, despite Asian cooking utilising more MSG than any other cultural demographic. Not to mention the fact that that there hasn’t been a conclusive study indicating that MSG is bad for you since the 60s.

And yet, when I type MSG into a search engine, I see just as many websites indicating that MSG is a health risk as ones that debunk these myths. I myself was still under the impression that MSG was bad for me, until I found out what it actually was and the truth behind the matter.

Beliefs can be hard to change, guys, especially when you have large groups of people telling you that they’re right. Don’t base your truth soley on what’s commonly accepted. Be prepared to ask questions of both those around you and of yourself. Because truthfully, I do believe that wisdom is not measured by the times you are right, so much as the times you’re willing to concede that you’re wrong.

Stay gold, Pony Boy.