20 July, 2013


Over the years I've cut my media usage. I First eliminated TV and then video games. Being at the ecovillage, I've drastically cut my internet use and plan to keep it that way because I see what a time drain it is. But I've always hesitated cutting movies entirely out of my weekly existence. Be it the new superhero or action flick or a drama or foreign film, they've been a consistent presence in my life.

But aside from "Fiddler on the Roof" which I recently saw and was quite impressed with, all the movies I've seen recently play like video game cutscenes- devoid of subtlety, character development or any real sense of story or drama.

Dialog, which used to be an art is now so across the board horrendous(and not just in superhero movies but in recent romcoms and regurgitated comedy flicks) that it does not interest me in the least even if the special effects are kinda cool.

George Lucas was famous for saying something to the effect of "special effects should always be in the service of story."

He then blew his credibility by making a pale prequel trilogy to stand in the shadow of the original, still corny but infinitely more relatable original trilogy. I think the influence of Star Wars still echoes to this day, except instead of being influenced by the novelty of that movie, movies have tried to copy them over and over again in search of the almighty dollar. This has led to an obsession with special effects, blockbusters and set pieces over story and character and dialog.

There are some good movies which followed the hero myth but nowadays you get ten of them a summer and they're all the same. Hero is an outsider. Hero struggles. Hero saves the girl. Hero cries. Hero dies and is resurrected.

 On top of these you have regurgitated animated movie after animated movie, devoid of the animated essence that makes animation so much fun in the first place.

As a lover of comics and a novice animator myself, all of this is embarassing. Perhaps it would be better if I stuck to foreign and independent movies or at least stop being so cynical and just accept hollywood for what it has become.
Or maybe I should just stick to reading books.

18 July, 2013

Gotta Eat!

It seems like everything I read about nutrition or food contradicts something else. Canola oil is good for you. Canola oil is bad for you. Eat your raw veggies. Make sure to cook them so you get all the nutrients. A whole grain diet is the most well-rounded. Whole grains are bad for diabetes and place a lot of stress on the body. Eat lots of fruits. Too many fruits could put you at risk for pancreatic cancer.
A few general guidelines seem to hold true across the board- stay away from smoking, overdrinking and sugar. Experts opinions are mixed on things like chocolate, coffee and how much meat is good for you.
Spinach- should you cook it? Some say raw spinach has more enzymes while others say it has compounds that make it impossible to digest. Similar concerns surround chard, collards, kale and many cruciferous vegetables. Some stay completely away from all plants in the nightshade family(which includes everything from potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and more) while others swear off everything in the animal kingdom.
My grandmother, who is 99 was never a great cook or eater. My other grandparents lived similarly long lives, but none of them ate particularly well diets. Perhaps some of it was luck or perhaps some of it had to do with the fact that none of them were terribly obese- I really don't know.
One of my favorite books on diet and nutrition is Nourishing Traditions, and at the center is the idea that whole foods are at the center of our problems with obesity, diabetes and many other conditions.
I'm sure it contradicts half of what you are currently hearing from Dr. Oz or any other expert on the subject and who knows, maybe in 5 years we'll have conclusive proof that broccoli really is bad for you, sugar is good for you and coffee should be drunk at every meal.
But until that time, I think I'll enjoy the confusion along with my broccoli and coconut oil.

16 July, 2013


I like to think of myself as open-minded. For example- I am skeptical of astrology, but my logical mind reminds me that the yearly solar cycle influences our hormone production and the time of year often influences food choices as well(greens in the spring, berries in the fall, meat and kimchi in the winter) and consequently, influences behavior and mood aspects. I have trouble believing your birthdate influences your entire fate, since there are so many other factors at play but am willing to believe that perhaps there is a small bit of truth in there somewhere. Perhaps.

Acupuncture, Meditation, Ayurvedic Medicine, Chinese Medicine- they're still a little strange to my westernized mind, but they really do seem to work and the ideas presented for each body type in Ayurvedic seems to hold true for many people. Meditation has been scientifically proven and I have high hopes for the other perspectives as well.

But homeopathy(and its twin, Bach essences) as well as some of the more obscure alternative health therapies and ideas, including Numerology and Cranio Sacral therapy are just so beyond ridiculous I have trouble taking anyone who advocates for them seriously.

In other words, I believe homeopathy is nothing but sugar pills, Bach essences are nothing but water, numerology has no basis in anything except randomly assigning values to random numbers and perhaps it makes me closed-minded to not respect these therapies, but so be it.

13 July, 2013

What's in a Name?

Out of boredom, I try to think of names to name the children(or dogs) I will never have. I have a feeling that next to designing your own landscape and restaurant and dreaming of how you'd spend the Mega Millions winnings, this is a national pasttime.
I don't like my given last name Fortenbaugh(pronounced Forden bocgk) unless I want to bestow a first name such as Ludvig or Bela or something equally Eastern European sounding. With the last name Thomas, I have experimented with the first names Kafka and Dean(literary genius and the antagonist of On the Road respectively) I have also thought of using the name Joseph(the same as my late grandfather), perhaps relegating Kafka to a middle name status, which both sounds somewhat normal and serves as a literary reference if one uses the spelling Josef and simply abbreviates the middle initial(Josef K. appeared in many Kafka stories).
As for female names, I am prone to admiring the names Appalachia and Cheyenne. Gertrude also, the name of my late grandmother is a name I like. Appalachia can be shortened to Apple, which I like, but I fear it may be too cute. Cheyenne can be shortened to Shy, but again, maybe too cutesy. Gertrude shortens quite readily to either Gertie or Trudy, but there are many who feel this name is too old fashioned.
I have no idea why I spend so much time thinking of random things like this. I remember when I was 12 and I spend months picking out names for the dog I was going to pick up from the pound. Names such as Sebastian, Winsor and Eugene passed through my mind(I was an odd child), but when I found my dog I almost instantly knew that his name had to be Bernard.
I have no idea where it came from but it fit perfectly and I'm glad I went with it instead of Sebastian.

Disney Mind

Disney World was a big deal for me growing up. I dreamed of being an animator from the time I was about 4 and had made Bambi, DUmbo and Donald Duck my favorite friends. Disney was the place I wanted to go and work when I got old because it seemed magical. Aside from my collection of action figures and cartoon books, our family had a jar of Pixie Dust(just really a jar of glitter) on our bookshelf and I liked to open it and sprinkle some pixie dust in my hair much to the disgust of my mother.
I created comics with Top Duck, who I decided was Donalds unknown brother. Top was very friendly, unlike Donald, and he wore a green turtleneck and newsboy cap and went on adventures where he would talk to ghosts and animals and free the liliputians. As I got older my stories got more complex and I made many of my own characters, but the original inspiration remained.
As I got older, my love of Disney faded as I realized the difficulty of being an animator and the poor conditions DIsney workers actually enjoy. Interests in nature, philosophy and a growing disconnect with my peers in school led me away from the Disney animator path and into the path of the eccentric artist/traveller, but the lure and attraction of Disney and other related ephemera stayed with me.
I hate to admit it sometimes, but those childhood joys of Disney cartoons as well as associated memories of going to McDonalds after school are things that still bring a smile to my face.
Although there are plenty of more wholesome memories- memories playing cards with my grandfather, hiking and camping with scouts and biking, the early memories of Disney are particularly strong ones.
Although it's way too simple to think of Disney as the bad guys and to simply become disenchanted once you realise the mechanics behind animation or the simple economics that fueled your favorite theme park(MGM studios was created to lure people away from Universal), I can't say that there is absolutely no lure left to work for them(nor for Klasky-Csupo, a company I almost took an internship with).
Ideally, I like to think that there are other, more wholesome outlets for creativity. And realize that as a human, I'm capable of a hell of a lot of self deception, so maybe it's better not to work for Disney and to work on being OK with that, rather than work for them for peanuts, destroying my soul in the process.
I read a book recently that really caught my imagination. It was called No Logo and it talks a lot about branding and Disney in particular. It talked a lot about how companies started out creating products first and then making a name based on that reputation. Newer marketing makes the name first and then makes the products second.
As a result of this, you get the poor working conditions of Disney(as well as other chains) as well as outsourced jobs, dumbed down movies and a general disregard for the public good.
Top Duck would not stand for that.

05 July, 2013


They're not always what you think they are. There are the obvious addictions like cannabis, alcohol, TV and gambling and then there are the more subtle addictions that come from simple living patterns that no longer serve us.

I've given up junk food and TV, video games and chocolate, cannabis and prozac and most recently movies and the internet. I meditate, run, eat well and do yoga just about every day and on the surface seem to have no addictions. Except I do.

My mind is obsessed with suicide and I have no desire to live. I've tried in the past to go to college, to find a normal job, to engage in my twin loves of art and nature in various ways- through animation, through botany and nurserywork, through illustration work, but in the end, I am still alone with my own mind and it tortures me endlessly.

I used to think yoga or medication or even cannabis would cure me. I used to hope that if I just found the right job or martyred myself for the right cause, everything would be OK. I used to think that if I just ate the right foods, I would feel better or if I just moved to the right place, I could start over and everything would be OK.

I'm in a place right now that I love dearly. There is nature and beauty everywhere. I am doing a little bit of art and have plans to do permaculture animations. I don't have a solid plan for the future but have a lot of good prospects with either making a small garden or doing some permie/activist art and yet I feel like shit and hate myself for it.

It's a strange condition in our modern world that we can often have so much and yet feel so disconnected from people and from life itself. I honestly have no reason to complain but just feel so disconnected from the stream of life and so naive about how to make it in this world that I push people away and I think about suicide all the time.

I've given up the internet and movies, chocolate and soda, but this might be a hell of a lot harder.