Siesta

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? A lot has transpired since my last post. I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’m making a lot of big changes so expect more from me soon! I will be updating the blog more as well.

Here is some of what I have been up to:

I did an interview with Jim Rodgers from Nearly Native Nursery. We talked about native plants and their effect on the ecosystem. Check it out!

I started a podcast with some friends! If you enjoy odd, irreverent humor, check out I Got Nothin’!

Also, I’ve been appearing on Brandon Jay’s podcast and vlog, Startup from the Bottom.

Thanks for reading (and your patience)! Follow this blog and my social media for more stuff.

The Joy of Caterpillars

One summer my mother had broken her foot and I was tasked with watering her tomatoes. I hauled the hose to the backyard and stood for what felt like hours pouring water on the plants. It was hot and humid and I just wanted it to be over. However, tiny visitors changed my perspective.

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

These charming little worms enraptured my attention. Luckily, my overindulgent parents let them live as long as I kept them away from the tomatoes.

Moth (Manduca sexta)

Ever since that moment I have been obsessed with these little guys. I have kept Wagner’s guide close and have sought out as many species as possible. Recently, I have been trying to culitvate more species of caterpillars by planting host plants.

Early instar of Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The relationships between the caterpillars and their host plants are some of the most fascinating to study. The plants influence their developement to such an extreme degree that the life cycle insect cannot be separated from the plant.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

These little worms are an indispensable part of the ecosystem. For example, 96% of terrestial birds rear their young on insects.  Breeding season for the birds conicides with the emrgences of caterpillars making them a primary food source for breeding pairs.

Caterpillars come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors that their beauty and interesting behavior is inexhaustible.

Monkey Slug (Phobetron pithecium)
Puss Caterpilllar (Megalopyge opercularis)
Saddled Prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta)

Nothing

You’re scared if something happens. You’re scared if something doesn’t. If you are going to be scared anyway you might as well do something.

Failure is still something.

Nothing is what you are scared of. That’s what you are going to get if keep procrastinating. Procrastinting isn’t quite what you’re doing, is it?

You’re running.

Nothing will catch up with you eventually unless you actually create something.



An Introduction to the ‘Korean New Wave’

Out of all the media I have consumed, nothing compares to the roller coaster of excitement that is seeing a new film out of Korea. After a turbulent 20th century (and even during the 20th century), the pennisula has produced some of the most celebrated films of recent memory.

My aim is to create a short guide that you might benefit from viewing first as you delve in to Korean Cinema. These films are often the most accessible foreign language films available and simply wonderful to watch.

The Good The Bad The Weird directed by Jee-woon Kim (2008)

Korean New Wave

Who doesn’t love a good Western? The Good the Bad the Weird is a Korean Western set in the 1930s in the former Japanese province of Mantruria. Two outlaws, a bounty hunter, and a whole host of others set out to posess a treasure map.

This film has got it all! Shoot outs, fight scenes, epic chases, Barbarians with hammers, you name it!

The Good the Bad the Weird succeeds in delivering a classic genre film in a truly unique way. It is funny, supenseful, and full of heart. I would recommend starting with this film first because it perfectly encapsulates what is so great about the Korean New Wave.

Train to Busan directed by Sang-ho Yeon (2016)

Korean New Wave

When is the last time you were actually emotionally invested in a Zombie movie? Wait no longer! Train to Busan is the story of a group a passengers survining the outbreak of the Zombie virus while stuck on a train from Seoul to Busan.

At its core, the film hangs on the relationship between the two leads, a father and young daughter. It keeps you emotionally involved throughout the entire film. It is very touching and saying more would ruin the film.

The zombie stuff is still awesome! It is the only film that I know of where you can watch someone puch Zombies to death!

Joint Security Area directed by Park Chanwook (2000)

Korean New Wave

Joint Security Area is the story of an investigation of a shootout in the DMZ between North and South Korea. Instead of uncovering malice and hatred, they uncover the tale of tragic friendship.

Joint Security Area is one of the best dramas I have ever seen. It is poignant and eternally relevant. The film is powerful and stays with you forever.

You can read more about my thoughts on it here.

Korean New Wave

I hope this will serve as a useful guide to start on your journey with Korean Film. There are still many wonderful films premiering every year, so don’t miss out on the fun of the Korean New Wave!

Thanks for reading!

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Negative Visualization

Positivty.

Everyone wants to be a optimistic person full of happiness and kitschy inspirational quotes. While there is nothing wrong with positivty or optimism, it doesn’t provide you shelter from the storms that blow through our lives.

True adversity shatters this view. While it is easy to maintain an optimistic attitude when things go your way, what do you when things do not?

Premeditatio malorum

negative

Premeditatio malorum,” is a Latin phrase that means “the pre-meditation of evils.” It was a practice championed by the Ancient Stoics. Instead of minimizing the bad things that can happen in our lives, the Stoics argued that we should periodically meditate on what could wrong and losing what we now have. The practice has found a resurgence, in more recent times, under the more concise name, “Negative Visualization.”

The Stoics, despite advocating thinking negatively, did not spend all their time brooding in the dark being sad. Instead they became more grateful of the things they had and more prepared when adversity faced them.

“It is not that we are given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”

– Seneca the Younger

Gratitude and Joy

negative

As someone who suffers from OCD, I understand your natural reservations on negative visualization. No one likes to imagine the worst befalling themselves.

Since consciously practicing, I have experienced nothing, but good results. The natural restlessness that usually accompanies me has softened, I feel less bored, and I have take more interest in surroundings. Instead of feeling dissatisfied with my situation, I feel grateful to be alive.

“By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent . We will no longer sleepwalk through our life. Some people, I realize, will find it depressing or even morbid to contemplate impermanence. I am nevertheless convinced that the only way we can be truly alive is if we make it our business periodically to entertain such thoughts.”

-William B. Irvine

Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a wonderful 2019.

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Mastery by Robert Greene

Mastery by Robert Greene is one of the first books I read this year and it will shape how I will approach the rest of my life. Honest, thorough, and engaging, Robert Greene instructs you how to truly devote your life to your inner calling.

mastery

Real World Examples

“Darwin could have played it safe, collecting what was necessary, and spending more time on board studying instead of actively exploring. In that case, he would not have become an illustrious scientist, but just another collector. He constantly looked for challenges, pushing himself past his comfort zone. He used danger and difficulties as a way to measure his progress. You must adopt such a spirit and see your apprenticeship as a kind of journey in which you will transform yourself, rather than as a drab indoctrination into the work world.”

– Robert Greene

I discovered Robert Greene (like most people) through his book The 48 Laws of Power. I quickly fell in love with his writing style and sought out more of his work.

Greene tends to collect his ideas into a “law” or principle that he has observed during his own personal experience or through his research. Then he codified it with a historical example of that law being played out either in that person’s favor or to their detriment.

The real world examples add an extra dimension to the idea being presented, helping it to be digested, as well as helping the principle stick with you. The laws come alive in his writing with the historical characters acting them out.

In Mastery, Robert Greene pulled from historical examples as well as contemporary sources that he interviewed himself. The figures featured in this book that have stuck with me the most are Hakuin Zenji, Wolfgang Von Goethe, The Carolina Islanders, and Cesar Rodriguez Jr.

Practical Advice

It is not a matter of studying for twenty years and then emerging as a Master. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.”

– Robert Greene

The advice in this book is immensely practical regardless of your interests. Greene stresses that you achieve mastery through hard work and constant improvement. To gain mastery in a field, first you must master yourself.

Conclusion

I would recommend Mastery to anyone who is interested in self-discipline and wants to achieve something great.

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Don’t Vote

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

I visited a local veteran’s memorial recently.

vote

The monument depicts all of the major conflicts that the United States participated in from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. The individual bricks make up the names of people who fought, where they fought, and when they died.

There is a lot of names.

I have fretted over writing this. I don’t expect a good reaction. My countrymen seemed to whipped into a frenzy over this midterm election, but I think this something they need to hear. It is something that no one is saying, but its truth is no less sound.

Don’t vote, improve yourself.

Voting Won’t Save You

They have begun to realize that the difficulties confronting us are moral problems, and that the attempts to answer them by a policy of piling up nuclear arms or by economic “competition” is achieving little, for it cuts both ways. Many of us now understand that moral and mental means would be more efficient, since they could provide us with psychic immunity against ever increasing infection.

But all such attempts have proved singularly ineffective , and will do so as long as we try to convince ourselves and the world that it is only they (i.e; our opponents) who are wrong.

-Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols

I’m not implying that you shouldn’t vote because things are fine (like this pathetic, manipulative ad). Things are bad and will only get worse if we don’t improve as individuals. Voting is a distraction, not a solution. People think they can vote for a candidate, instead of actually bettering themselves. It is away to abdicate responsibility for their own heinous behavior.

Nothing is inherently wrong with voting itself, be an active citizen, but a vote will not save you from evil.

Shall I tell you what the real evil is? To cringe to the things that are called evils, to surrender to them our freedom, in defiance of which we ought to face any suffering.

-Seneca the Younger

Ideology

People are not evil. I think ideology is evil. The memorial is filled with names kiled by ideology. Ideology incenses people with religious-like fervor to kill each other because of mere differences of opinion.

I have been alive for two years (approximately) where my country has not been involved in “major military operations.” President Obama was at war for both terms and it looks like President Trump will be too.

Both of our political parties are ideological and corrupt. It will not change anything if one or the other is in power, so we, the American people must save ourselves by improving ourselves.

There is no greater evil we face than the lie of a Political Savior, but luckily we can save ourselves.

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Thanks for reading! This was difficult to write given our current climate, but it feels good to get it off my chest.

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Stillness and Vulnerability

The first fourth of my day is dedicated to mustering up the courage to write, the second fourth is about procrastinating, the third is thinking about what I will write, and the last one is actually writing.

I don’t think the act of writing is very difficult, but looking my own consciousness in the eye is quite the task. I’ve started and stopped Zazen meditation numerous times for that reason. Something about stillness is frightening to me.

I have been a lot more focused lately and I have been trying to become more disciplined. Some of my goals have been to read and write something everyday and to get my sleeping habits under control.

My sleeping habits and my writing habits are very similar.  I usually try to sleep listening to music, movie reviews, or anything really even though it just makes it harder. I consciously put them off as if I am afraid of something, but what am I afraid of?

Perhaps, it has to do with vulnerability? You have to feel safe to both write and sleep. I’m not attacked by predators or criminals, but I do often have a dream where my teeth fall out and I am exposed as something.

That feels right.

There is vulnerability in stillness. Whether it be writing, sleep, or meditation.  I become open to harm whether it be internal (doubt, dreams) or external (predators, weather). I have felt many times when I have written something that I have held back for some reason.

I understand now.

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The Human Condition Trilogy

The Human Condition is Masaki Kobayashi’s harrowing ten-hour trilogy about a Japanese pacifist in WWII.

The films are beautiful, heartbreaking, and a true testament to the human spirit.

No Greater Love

human condition

We meet Kaji, our protagonist, as he contemplates the upcoming war. He gets married to his sweetheart Michiko despite his worry for the future. His luck seems to change when he gets exempted from the draft and gets a job managing a labor camp in Japanese occupied Manchuria.

human condition

The labor camp is a very interesting setting both narratively and visually. The rolling hills of dirt are not the epic location you think of when of WWII. However, after watching the film, I cannot help, but think of them whenever I imagine the Eastern Front.

At the camp, it is very clear that they are under staffed and overworked. The Manchu workers themselves are worked to death and there is every incentive to do just that. Kaji insists are treating the workers like human beings, but his superiors blow him off.

But, things aren’t that bad until the POWs arrive.

The Military Police orders that the POWS be kept behind an electric fence. Things slowly deteriorate and some of the POW are accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Kaji tries to strand up for them, but they are still executed.

Kaji is taken to prison, interrogated, tortured, and then drafted into the military.

Road to Eternity

human condition

Kaji fares well in the military. He is a model solider, but is under constant suspicion because of his past.

This film was the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. The Private Pyle subplot was completely lifted from Road to Eternity and many shots look very similar.

After training, Kaji gets sent out to the front and combat deeply changes him. After the vast majority of his unit is wiped out in his first battle he is desperate to make it back to his wife.

A Soldier’s Prayer

human condition

Kaji and two other soldiers make the arduous journey back towards friendly territory. Along the way they see what the war has done to the land.

This is definitely the most heartbreaking of the three. Eventually, Kaji is captured by the Soviets and works at a labor camp in a situation that mirrors the first film. The situation is even worse than when they were wandering in the middle of nowhere.

Kaji tries to advocate for himself and his people with the Soviets, but it is no use. Eventually he escapes and vanishes in the snow.

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I intentionally glossed over some major points in the film. You should definitely check it out! These are some of the most important films ever made and are (for at least now) my favorite films.

The Human Condition shows us the evil of war and ideology, but also gives us hope for a better future.

The trilogy is available to watch (in some form) on Filmstruck, Amazon, and YouTube.

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