The Theory of Everything (Defining Logos)

Throughout my life I’ve heard the same mantra over and over again.

Many people state that the english language is intuitive for native speakers, but very difficult to learn when you already have another language or two under your belt. Not counting all of the weird cultural idioms that have developed over the centuries, and the regional dialects that exist inside of countries like England, the United States, Australia, and Canada. But what about the differences across states, provinces, and cities? Not to mention the fact that the english language is full of grammatical problems, oh so very many problems – the kind that can drive a professional writer into a state of madness.

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And not the shit-kicking kind of madness which induces literal pitfalls from Gerard Butler, but brain madness from literary pitfalls that are more worse than a brain freeze but less worse than a lobotomy.

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But now you’re probably thinking about what a lobotomy would feel like aren’t you? But that’s not really what this post it going to be about.

Well not literally, anyway.

No, I wanted to dig in a bit more, and poke around with a word that is near and dear to my heart, the word LOGOS. You’ll see why shortly. If we consider the words etymology, which I just get a kick out of writing, but more on that later, you’ll begin to see where the opportunity is for you to think about the principles of language differently as a creative professional.

Origin Stories

The study of the origin of words can be a downward spiral all to itself, but let’s take a tour of the word LOGOS. The word has Greek origins, and is one of those words with numerous English word equivalents, all having their own meanings – thought, speech, meaning, reason, proportions, standard, logic, order, wisdom, truth, and word (of all things), as well as a few others.

When we layer in the field of philosophy, LOGOS brings life and order to the known universe. Taking the mythical, the unknown, the fantastic and making applying a principle of organization guided by state of change.

And as someone with Christian roots, it’s compelling to learn that the term became significant in Christian doctrine to define the role of Christ within the created world. I mention this not because I want to go down the road of religion, spirituality, et al., but because as creators ourselves it is important to figure out how we order and shape our own personal created worlds. Do we created self-contained universes that only materialize once? What about sharing stories across works? Or what happens when you intertwine a series of work with yet another and bring a new level of connectedness through the broader framework?

Ultimately, what I’m really looking to share is that in the beginning was the LOGOS, and the LOGOS was with THE CREATOR, and the LOGOS as THE CREATOR.

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Of course, none of this development is going to come to you easily dear readers – I can guarantee you that much. Defining something so complex as the direction you should be headed in takes time, but I think there are ways to arrive at the destination while maintaining enjoyment of the journey. As Aristotle defined in his Ars Poetica concerning the three modes of persuasion. LOGOS is an appeal to logic, PATHOS is an appeal to emotions, and ETHOS is an appeal to ethics.

Not one of these methods is more or less relevant than the other, but we have to start somewhere. And defining LOGOS is a good place to start. In the future I will spend some more time demonstrating how to articulate a LOGOS using my own art practice as an example, but PATHOS and ETHOS will definitely factor is as well.

It’s all important in the development of your creative voice, at least that’s my theory.

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Having said all of this, that doesn’t mean that the definition of LOGOS is fully and complete resolved yet, and much like the English language, it’s not the pack leader for most the difficult ideological concept (or language) in the world either. And did you know that Russian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Arabic all hold some difficult aspects that make them strong candidates? Fun tidbit right?

I’m just about out of theories for now my friends, but come back tomorrow for an album review of 2x mothers.

Tim!

Visionary Storytelling (Byron Martin preview interview)

 

Every good project tells a story.

A story about goals, its members, deadlines, and what is required for completion. It also requires management to understand the story they need to tell, and to deliver it with gusto. Also, a REALLY good story follows a proper story arc, no matter if it’s an urban myth, a made-for-TV movie, a comic book or a stage play. Heck, even an improvised musical follows an outline to get to where it needs to be.

When you are in theatre (or any professional setting), you have the same kinds of responsibilities as any other business operator. You set a budget, plan out the year, and set meetings to ensure everyone is onboard as things happen.

No matter what you might think, communication and teamwork are at the centre of it. When you have a vision, and you bust your ass to see it happen, time movies along quite quickly. Every self-made business person will tell you this…

Learning to coordinate others and juggle the program is at the centre of it.

If you look at it in a very simple way, there are really seven major steps to consider as the process unfolds.

  1. Define project goals.
  2. Have daily, weekly, monthly deliverables.
  3. Set and then celebrate project milestones.
  4. Build an annual budget.
  5. Assign team members.
  6. Produce progress reports.
  7. Assess risks.

 

It seems like an easy set list, but not everyone is up for the task. Marrying a vision to an agenda is essential.

Byron Martin has a big vision for the Edmonton arts community, and while some of the projects his theatre company Grindstone Theatre puts on, like Henry V, might start out with conversations at a local pub, he’s learned to keep track of his ideas and commit to his vision with a myriad of tools.

He has intimately committed these steps to his vision and can do them without consciously thinking about it, and he has fun at the same time. Another good friend of mine, Byron Martin is a much needed presence in the Edmonton theatre scene.

I hope you enjoy this preview of our chat.

Yes, I am out of theories for the day friends, but I’ve got a vision for 2017 and this upcoming full length Byron Martin interview is a part of it. For now let’s focus on the good things which have been shared, and the exciting possibility of another week with Gord Downie.

That’s right, I just might have another album review coming which features the Tragically Hip frontman. But that could just be a theory.

Tim!

Destined For Great Things (Arnold, The Eduation of A Bodybuilder)

This is a story in progress.

It’s not finished yet because… well, I’m not dead. Yes, I realize that’s something of a graphic and incredible overstatement of a point I haven’t even made about the importance of living in the moment, but I suspect you already knew that dear readers.

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I’ve always wanted to be better. When I was a boy, I imagined a better life for myself, something far behind the loving family environment of my middle-class upbringing. It was a typical and uninspired belief for a white kid in a first world country, in a province on the rise. I had everything going for me. I should have been happy to have what I had available to me and just ease into a life of what was supposed to be full of comfortability.

Politics, gender norms, and cultural appropriations aside. Of course. Of course.

But as I got older, I couldn’t shake that feeling. I tried dammit, I tried. I suspect it started around junior high school, but this isn’t a post about my story, no. It’s a story about following a feeling.

To indirectly quote from the first episode of Netflix Original – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

And I noticed an acceleration of strangeness in my life. A continuing series of intense and extraordinary events, which, up until a certain point, seemed unconnected, with the exception of each being separately bizarre.

Perhaps ever day before then was, for the most part, been humdrum and inane, my life a mundane, unvarying slog through unfulfilling jobs, shallow depression, and boring, boring sex.

And then suddenly, everything changed, and my life became a swirl of interesting activity.

This is a story about one of my heroes. Well, it’s a story about the story one of my heroes wrote about his own story. Still following me?

Reading Into It

This month, I decided to take a book off of my own shelf for The Reading List. A book which I have been meaning to read before I ever even had this idea of undertaking a project to expand my mind and demonstrate a way to get myself thinking creatively often.

I did this to show you, that you too can achieve results if you set up a reading regimen for yourself AND want more than just success. That’s why every month, I use the Reading List for another book to read and another artist for you to consider in your own personal journey.The 5 L’s of Language give us LIFE (Biographies/Art/Music) LOVE (Classic Fiction/Non-Fiction/Graphic Novels) LEARN (Business/Leadership/Self-Help) LABEL (Philosophy/Sociology/Psychology) and LEET (The Internet).

This month is all about LIFE, because it’s almost the end of the year, I’ve seen another wave of personal growth and it’s in the holiday season that I purchase most of my movies. Which reminds me of one of my favourite actors – Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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It might be a tumour…. no, it’s not a toomah, it’s not a toomach, at all.

Arnold Schwarzenegger co-wrote this great book called Arnold The Education of A Bodybuilder with Douglas Kent Hall in 1977. This is well before he had broken into Hollywood and definitely before he was the governor of California (remember that?). Arnold had already taken the international bodybuilding scene by storm – First he became Mr. Europe, then Mr. Universe, followed by Mr. World and shortly thereafter Mr. Olympia.

He did all of this because he wanted to be the best bodybuilder in the world. Not the best of the season or best of a particular year. His vision was for a perfectly balanced and well considered champion that was undisputed by the world at large. He worked hard and challenged himself every day to accomplish over 18 titles in bodybuilding. Over time he has acquired several businesses related to practice and education of future generations of bodybuilders.

Schwarzenegger is one of my heroes because he knew he achieves results before he achieved them. Yes that last sentence is a bastardization of the English language, but that’s the point. You have to work at the rules before you can break them proper. Work them over, and over and over. This man has continuously committed himself to his vision, lived his life while in pursuit of goals he wanted to realize, and believed he would do what he wanted. And he has.

What this has to do with the arts is both everything and nothing. It’s nothing if you choose not to be effected by others success and see inspiration in the world around you. It’s everything if you want to be an artist and see that no matter what the stakes, I will be a cultivator of the arts for you. This always has been and always will be digital curating at heart.

And I too am destined for great things. A theory for now.

Tim!

 

Origami That’s Fun And Easy (Kubo and the Two Strings review)

Sometimes a movie does something new, using something old, and reminds you why you love the format so damn much. That’s what this weeks’ movie review is all about, duality, memories and recognizing the importance of story.

It’s kind of baffling that I would get so excited about a good story, but it really is integral in any art form.

 

 

 

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei
Director: Travis Knight
released on blu-ray November 22, 2016
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: *****/*****

 

Travis Knight is an American animator, producer and known for his work as lead animator for Laika Entertainment. And now he is known for directing Kubo and the Two Strings, which is his directorial debut.

Since 2005, Knight has been essential to the stop motion animation of the Laika team, wearing several hats and contributing to both CGI and stop-motion animation for its productions. Namely feature length films such as Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. He also serves as a member of Laika’s board and was recently nominated for Best Animated Feature on his work for The Boxtrolls.

But what do I think, you ask? Well, this is an amazing film dear readers. Brilliantly animated, with excellent voice acting, and an original story.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a one-eyed boy who lives with his sick mother, Sariatu (Charlize Theron), in a cave atop a mountain. He tells stories to the local villagers by magically invigorating origami through his three string shamisen. His favourite story is about a warrior named Hanzo who goes on a quest to fight the Moon King. Kubo must head home before sunset each day or her Sisters (Rooney Mara) and his grandfather the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) will come for his remaining eye.

One day, Kubo attempts to communicate with his father, the deceased Hanzo… Nothing happens and he becomes angry, staying out past sunset. Sariatu’s Sisters arrive and attack Kubo, but his mother defends him, and impassions him to find Hanzo’s armour. When Kubo awakens the next day he learns that his little wooden monkey charm has been given life by his mother’s magic. Monkey tells him that his mother is dead and that he needs to move to survive. One of Kubo’s origami has come to life in the form of a little Hanzo, and during the quest they find an amnesiac named Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), a cursed samurai apprentice of Hanzo’s that has taken the form of a beetle. He offers his services to Hanzo’s son.

The first leg of the quest has the three battling a giant skeleton for the sword unbreakable. Next, Kubo uses magic to create a boat of leaves and the expedition sails across Long Lake for the breastplate impenetrable. Beetle and Kubo dive in to retrieve the breastplate. One of the Sisters attacks and Monkey manages to defeat her, but is badly wounded in the process. Kubo realizes Monkey is his mother reincarnated.

Monkey reveals that originally she and her sisters were meant to kill Hanzo, but she fell in love with him, which incensed her family. Kubo dreams and is greeted by Raiden, a blind old man who shows him the location of the helmet invulnerable, the final piece of armor. They head to his father’s damaged fortress, but are ambushed by the remaining Sister, she reveals Beetle is Hanzo, whom the cursed. Beetle is killed, and Monkey sacrifices herself. Two strings of the shamisen are broken in the process Kubo learns his village’s bell is the helmet, breaking the last string and flying back home.

He takes the helmet, but Raiden appears, now the Moon King. He wants Kubo to become blind and immortal like him. Kubo refuses and fights the Moon King, but loses badly. Shedding the armor and re-stringing his shamisen, Kubo uses its magic to recruit the spirits of the deceased villagers, proving memories are more powerful. The spirits shield him engulf Raiden in their magic. The Moon King is defeated, becomes human, and has no memories of his past. The remaining villagers and Kubo create a positive new identity for him. Kubo then communes with his parents spirits and sets their lanterns afloat.

Pros: The themes of spirit, memories, and death are strong, delivered with great emotional care. The animation slowly pulls you into this story, and once you are there it’s impossible not to appreciate the depth of characterization and inspiring message.

Cons: If you like your narrative delivered to you in direct terms, quickly establishing roles and character arcs, this film will not serve it up to you on a silver platter.

Runtime:  1 hour 41 minutes

Points of Interest: The boat sequence took 19 months to shoot, and the entire film consists of at least 145.000 photographs turned into a stop-motion film. The two strings of the film’s title is a theme of duality featured throughout: Mother and father. Night and day. Life and death. Creativity and destruction.

It’s refreshing to see an animated family film that features a prominent and mystical quality to it. A film that prefers to be driven by narrative first and then demand for visual quality, and as a consequence achieve something rare in cinema. An engaging story that pretty much any age group could enjoy thoroughly, but you have to be prepared to listen to it.

Let’s consider something for a second. Have you ever seen origami used so effectively in an animation that is about stories within stories? Kubo is a storyteller that uses song, performance and paper to make stories. That he and his cast of characters are made of the same materials is a point not to be trivialized, these forms can be understand by any age group or culture for that matter. And it makes the use of magic seem that much more significant. I loved this movie, and I hope you take the time to go see it for yourself creative cuties. I’m out of theories for now, but rest assured, I’ll be back tomorrow with something about what’s coming.

Tim

Liar, Liar (Snopes)

Snooping can be quite a rush.

You know you are looking at something which isn’t really for you, but it feels good to look at weird things, so you do it.

I’ve done some snooping on the internet from time to time, dear readers. It’s similar to research, but is a lot more cathartic, because I could get lost in one topic or another fairly easily, and I could spend moments or I could spend hours on said topic.

Though I’ve always been skeptical of what I learn online.

This is because I know that people lie on the internet, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident, and because of the scope and scale of the internet, it is very difficult to be sure when someone writes anything with authority.

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Though I’ve never been one to side with the Snopes.

In case you’ve been living under a metaphorical rock, The Snopes are a family from a triliogy of novels by William Faulkner. A really weird family to boot.

Which is probably where the website snopes.com got their name from and which I will refer to as Snopes for the rest of the blog post. Snopes is going to be the source of this post but not the source for your wisdom today.

For all of those who take Snopes at their word, if you really want to to know something and figure out the truth of the matter, I think it’s time to reconsider their value proposition.

If you really want to know the truth of a story, you need to do exactly what your teachers in primary school used to tell you – do your own damn research first and cite your sources.

You see my friends, the authors of Snopes do exactly what most of us already do, run a Google search and mark it down on their website. And that’s a good thing, researching and investigating.

Unfortunately though the team at Snopes don’t have a background in investigative journalism, so it’s not like their research skills are that much greater than your own, and it also means that there are no guarantees that what they conclude are more accurate then your own findings. Granted, they just might spend a few hours on a given topic, but how assured are you of that fact at this point?

And I’m quite confident that you have friends or colleagues that’ll run a search on Snopes, find out that the authors have debunked that theory/urban legend/story you shared, and then they’ll ultimately say “see, I told you!”

Which your friends SHOULD do, because we shouldn’t be able to just get away with shit. No one should. George Washington demonstrates it best with this quote.

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You want some more info on Snopes, now don’t you? Well, Snopes is run by a husband and wife team, no office, no bullpen, no mail room, no team of lawyers, journalists, and administrators, and definitely not a library. David and Barbara Mikkelson started their website in the early oughts, but much like Wikipedia, it’s run by two enthusiasts who are human and flawed.

Humans have spiritual, social, and political leanings, and we should celebrate that diversity, but never give absolute authority to one group.

You have to take your sources with a grain of salt, dear readers. Only then can you gain more perspective and become a better artist. After all, artists are the lens through which ideas are filtered and transmitted, and so we have a responsibility to take in the world, fully.

And those are all of the theories I have today.

Tim!