Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Fractured Mind

On a spectrum, I’ve been tossed into happy.

Long awaited but not expected, I can feel myself recovering from what has been unveiled to be a once fractured mind. As I walk now, the billowing cold air that sliced at me last winter now feels silky, soothing cinders long burnt by fire. The condition from rehabilitation is brittle, but ready. Ready at last to be fortified.

However, the whitening fear of it being ephemeral still lingers. In either resistance or pure rejection, the thought is not given air to bloom, thereby suppressed only to occasional black gasps.

The perpetrator for the trauma is still at large. Unaware. In introspection, I am as much to blame. We all are. Us, the culprits for our own sufferings, for ultimately we are the ones that let “us” suffer. No one else.

How you may ask.

To answer the how is difficult. It happened, like how lightening happens. Be and it was. Divinity had its crucial role in it, its energy like electricity zapping through tingling tight metal wires. When realization hit, it hit so ferociously I saw it snap out: the fractured mind. Its shape was a scalp, transparent-ly pale in hue but dented in places like a soda can that had been kicked around too much. If anything, it felt like a shedding. The old plating removed to reveal the burnished new. Instead of disappearing it fell to the floor and rolled to stillness. I looked at it oddly, confused by this image that my mind’s eye was screening. I had seconds to realize what was happening. The train I was on had reached its stop and was charging to leave to the next. As the compartment urged on, I realized that this was it. It would stay there, and not follow me. The new scalp, with all its sheen would be what I carry with me. And so I looked at the fractured mind, my lips almost kissing the window as I leaned in for my last glimpse. There it stayed, unmoving. I left it at Union Station.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What is the Difference Between White Eggs and Brown Eggs?
Nothing! Well, not exactly, but for our consuming purposes, pretty much nothing.

Growing up, for some reason I always had this idea that brown eggs were healthier than their pearly white brethren. Their earthy tones, perhaps, symbolized that they were more natural, or less commercialized and bleached similar to white bread and white rice. These tanned hard shell ovals always cost more too; and if I know one thing it's that if it's more expensive it obviously must be higher quality and healthier (organic, anyone? Side note—heard that that might be a scam too but let's keep that for another article).

But the truth is: the reason brown eggs are brown has nothing to do with the nutritional content or the quality of the eggs in and of themselves. Instead, brown eggs are brown because they come from a different kind of chicken. "Terrackk"! That was the sound of your mind cracking! I know I heard it. This piece is similar to the "Unbuttoning the Mystery of Dry Cleaning" article, in that both aim to finally give an answer to a question you’ve always considered but never thought important enough to actually resolve.

So here’s the dirt:

White eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens that have white ear lobes, while brown-feathered chickens with red earlobes are the clucking culprits that lay those pricy brown eggs. So why is brown asking more from our wallets, you ask? Well, it turns out that the chicken that produces brown eggs, a similar species to the brown cow that gives us chocolate milk (okay fine, this one's actually a lie kids), is larger in size and thereby requires more feed. This higher cost of “production” is the main reason as to why brown eggs command a higher price at the grocery store. Farmers and distributors pass on the cost to the consumer in the form of a higher retail markup.

Nutritionally, there is no difference. Some say brown eggs may have more Omega content but this is near negligible. If you find that the yolks have a more vibrant yellow in some eggs than others, this is more due to the quality of the feed than the egg shell's hue. White eggs can have as much neon yellow in their Sunny Side Ups as any brown egg on the market.

And so it is, that another one of Life’s most confounding mysteries has now been solved at the Literartist. With all that hard work behind me, now all I really want is a good 3 egg-ed mushroom omelette. Protein come at me, brah! Adieu.

Works Referenced 
Erdos, Joseph. "What's The Difference Between White Eggs And Brown Eggs?" The Huffington Post., 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Mini-reviews: Mad Max, Ex Machina, Jurassic World and…

So I'll admit, I've been a bit tardy. Some readers have complained (and I'm flattered) that they are yet to know what I've thought of Mad Max (2015) and Jurassic World (2015). Two days ago a message came in for “Straight Outta Compton” (2015). Hold your horses I haven’t even thought of that one yet, let alone seen it. Now the dilemma is how do I catch up?

Well... I've come up with a solution.

Maybe it’s a onetime thing or maybe, depending on the reception, it might evolve into more of a recurring creature. Mini-reviews. Yes, like those Mini-Cinnabons you love. They’ll taste the same, but as soon as you pop them in they vanish while they tease. Much easier to digest, and, you can have a handful of them in one sit down. So here's what's on the light menu today:

1. Ex Machina 
2. Jurasic World
3. Spy
4. Trainwreck
5. Mad Max
6. Imitation Game

Bon apetit. 

1. Ex Machina (2015): 8.7/10

Every now and again you need a movie that will give you a good mind f***. 2015 meet Ex Machina.

Stephen Troughton via Flikr
The psychological titillations remind one of DiCaprio’s Inception (2010) and Shutter Island (2010). This is what an example of good writing is: it makes you work to understand instead of you guessing the outcome by the 30th minute. Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb) and Alicia Vikander (Ava) take you into a stop-go, binary-ish trance that could be tango, if robots did tango. Alex Garland’s (Director) artistic choice of chapters to move the storyline is brilliant. The stark transitions, like switching something on and off, add onto the stop-go feel just like how we never know if AI is on or off. The isolation created in the film by setting, writing, characterization and technology is chilling yet also teasing enough to make you last through the whole movie. That we can fall in love with AI and root for the other side is interestingly scary, and in this truth resides one of the biggest successes of the movie. A definite must-watch for 2015.

2. Jurassic World (2015): 6.8/10

Jiffo1 via Flikr
It was good; not good enough. I think you walk out of it thinking ‘that was great, oh wait, could that have been better? Hmm...’ It’s not a matter of whether you should go see it. Oh no, you are going to see this movie. It’s been 14 years since Jurassic Park 3 (2001) and freaking 22 years since Jurassic Park (1993)—man that makes me feel old. A new sibling has come to us and we, the World, will go greet it. That’s not the problem; it’s more along the lines of making the screenplay credible in all its incredibility (I mean we come in already believing that dinosaurs exist so how hard can it be). The idea of controlling Velociraptors and then giving them characters? Only so much you can do. Apart from Chris Pratt’s (Owen) traffic police hands, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire) and her ever-clicking heels, a characteristic of this movie that audiences will appreciate is the homage paid to Jurassic Park—from nostalgic references and ruins of the first park to the epic resurrection at the end. No spoilers here. There are great moments in the movie, and Pratt is definitely suited for the franchise. I just wish the larger movie atmosphere could do better to give us better writing for a world that is so loved. Could have been better.    

3. Spy (2015): 7.2/10

JPAvocat via Flikr
The difference between this one and Trainwreck (as you’ll see below) are tantamount, which is why this one isn’t as funny but it still is pretty funny. Buried mostly in slapstick comedy and occasional wit, what intrudes upon the film is Melissa McCarthy’s (Susan Cooper) trademark character—the same one you saw in Tammy (2014), The Heat (2013), and Identity Thief (2013), but with a different wig and costume. There is nothing wrong with having that type of repetition it’s just that sometimes maybe we’d like a bit of range to see what else she’s got in her creative arsenal. This movie does have its moments and it gets really funny pretty fast. Having the star-studded cast of Jude Law (Agent Fine), Jason Statham (Agent Ford) and the others does help. It’s really light on content and less believable on the infrastructure (I mean really, did that look like a CIA headquarters to you? Looked more like a budget storeroom on Set D) but as for a few good laughs—it delivers. Satisfactory, and sometimes that’s all you need.

4. Trainwreck (2015): 8.4/10

Had no idea what this movie would be about. When it started playing I then vaguely remembered having seen the trailer in some other movie. The end outcome? My discovery of Amy Schumer—which was worth everything. I know I know, how did I not know about her before? Well I do now and that’s all that matters.

Amy Schumer by Mario Santor 
Why this movie succeeds is because it has potent quantities of realism that are mixed well into its larger comic blend. There are jokes in there that you never saw coming, and things that happen that you think would only happen in real life but they ended up putting it into film—which is great! From the get-go the movie starts off on a high note (so random for an opening shot) with the father-daughter scene, and it carries that quality throughout. I’ll warn you that there are some raunchy scenes, and the endless cast of famous people only adds to the hilarity. I had no expectations for this movie and I walked out thoroughly satisfied. Initially I had my doubts about Bill Hader (Aaron) being able to pull off a whole role to himself but I never thought he could be so lovable by the end of it. Seeing some of the SNL cast in there was also another treat. They really do keep pulling for each other don’t they? Like some big cult—which they are. All in all, if you need a good edgy comedy, give this is a shot.  

5. Mad Max (2015): 7.4/10

Am I missing something here? Everyone kept talking about how great this George Miller (Director) movie was. Poetry on wheels someone wrote, but honestly I thought it was just a good action movie. Think I just heard the "thuds" of people fainting from indignation. Whoops.

Viipeer via Flikr
Maybe I feel this way because I was watching it at 2 A.M with a friend who was already snoring by the first half, but I do think, that to say it was overrated isn’t really too far off. Don’t get me wrong, there are stunning action scenes of the like that we have never seen before, and I liked that the whole movie was filmed in motion via tracking shots (not the first one to do so) making it not your average movie. Also the villains were graphically original and Jenny Beavan’s (costume designer) work with dressing them up is stellar. The feminist tenor wasn’t missed either—Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa) does kick ass, and the depth in character in addition to action is laudable. The plot is simple when you look at it by the end, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It was good. I think it would only qualify as a must-watch because everyone keeps saying “you must watch”.
6. Imitation Game (2014): 8.9/10

BagoGames via Flikr
This movie is brilliant. You didn’t need me to say that, I’m sure all the Oscar nods gave you that precious piece of information. Benedict Cumberbatch as the until recently unknown mathematician, Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi Germany's Enigma code to help win World War II, is so fitting. After seeing him in his element I am now a fan of his adroit acting capabilities. I found myself (and I’m sure others did too) appreciating the attention and balance paid to Turing’s personal and public struggles. The film really does a great job of not only humanizing Turing but accomplishing the hardest feat of all—making the audience empathize with the “monster”. A rather timely feat for our world today. Keira Knightley (Joan) is also solid in the role accompanied by Mathew Goode (Hugh)—who we should see more of in film. The story is told tastefully, and is a definite must-watch movie in your lifetime. Know your history, and who did what, people!

And guess what, there’s a bonus dish—call it dessert!

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

If you’ve watched the first one, you can’t miss the second one. For me personally, it’s not the story or the vocals that draw me in but more so the characters, or a character (cough* “Fat Amy”). This rendition is definitely more politically incorrect than its predecessor and it lampoons itself throughout the movie for that via the dance commentators’ ‘oh-my-God-he-did-not-just-say-that!’ remarks. The vocals aren’t killer, but flashlight, there’s one original song in there that you’ll realize that you like after the movie has ended, or right at the end. There is a nice arc to the story though, that sweetly ties in the generational gap. Brittany Snow (Chloe) looks incredibly cute yet again—big surprise there (not). I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit that I am a fan of these Barden Bellas, because, they are randomly weird and hilarious when malfunctioning as one unit. We’ll give Pitch Perfect 2 a 7.1/10. Adieu.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Furious 7" (2015): Movie Review

Taken by Karimelmahalawy
It’s all about family, this one.

The light scent of Spring that waltzed in late in 2015 was blasted away this weekend by a windstorm of exhaust, carbon, screaming rubber and NOS—like only Vin Diesel’s (Dominic Toretto’s) Dodge Charger can spit out. With this chaotic heated haze also comes both the revisiting of established onscreen romances and the reiteration of reinforced iron-hard bromances in “Furious 7” (2015), the latest model of the “Fast and the Furious”.  

The investment in infectiously amusing characters over the past 14 years reaches a timely maturity period in “Furious 7” to save the movie from much criticism, rendering it almost immune from the usual wrath of critics for these types of movies. Especially true following the heart wrenching tragedy that unfairly stole the ever-smiling blue-eyed Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner) from our lives in late 2013.  

True to its first appeal, “Furious 7” does it right by going back to its roots—flashy cars, high-speed tracking shots, cloth shy women, immersive locations, and outrageous stunts (each one outdoing the next by both spectacle and also, unfortunately, ridiculousness). “Furious 7” screenwriter Chris Morgan and horror film director James Wan (“Saw”) also include improved combat scenes—the main highlight featuring Vin Diesel and Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw). Filmed with quick cuts, and an occasional sprinkle of point-of-view frames, at times even viewers are forced to tumble with the onscreen characters and their metal toys—plunging you face first into the dizzying effects of this turbo charged world.

The need for speed is real but the plot is pretty “meh”. In a nutshell: super villain Shaw is on a rampage to avenge his brother via a manhunt of the Furious gang (of course he is), and in an attempt to make the movie contain an added layer of “complexity” we are also given a tech object of desire, the “God’s Eye”, that is being arm wrestled for by a covert US Government agency and Djimon Hounsou (Jakande)—an angry West African dude on a helicopter ready to blast apart LA as if he’s on some midnight can’t-sleep session of GTA 5.      

The formation of the gang, in their recognizably assigned color-coded cars (or other vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Bugatti Veyron), reminds one of Transformers and the Autobots, or even possibly of a group of superheroes (hint*)—each with their own unique story to tell and skill to deliver. This all works well and fine, and provides for enough high-speed loud entertainment to keep viewers satisfied. Meanwhile, occasional comic relief is provided by Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and also The Rock who has some great one-liners in there, while baritone Diesel keeps repeating the word “family” every 10 minutes. However, it is disappointing that the logical gaps between plot elements were sometimes as big as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s biceps. For instance, how does Decker know to keep appearing in the correct place every time? The gang does all that damage in the Middle East and then meet at midnight after blowing up two towers, abusing Royalty and…it goes on. But then again, sigh, you learn to go with it. You’re in for the ride, the speed, the adrenaline and not for the intricacies of structure, logic and synthesis. Buckle up; don’t question—you’ll be fine.

I have an inclination to believe that critics went soft on this movie for sympathy’s sake, and instead turned a blind eye on the overly dramatized acting, stilted dialogue and the cubbyhole of clichés. It reminds one of action movies in the 90’s, and the "The Expendables" (2010). This is what sets apart movies like the Dark Knight trilogy which have equally explosive scenes but far more substance in writing and plot development.

But honestly though, to me, the success of “Furious 7” rides in another special place—in the metanarrative space between Walker’s tragedy and the winding down story of “Furious 7”. The movie almost speaks to us through the screen, as if it knows too and feels our tugging. Throughout the movie we are on pins for Brian’s fate, knowing Walker’s already. The producers handle this tactfully and respectfully without ever evoking too much of this trauma for the audience, presenting Brian as normal as normal can be. But the end-sendoff is indeed, like another critic put it: “poetry”. A graceful sendoff both in terms of writing and symbolic cinematography—that we never truly say goodbye and that each of us has our own road to ride along when the time comes. Eyes in the theater ranged from dry, misty to downright: dam broken!

For those who’ve already seen the movie—you’ll appreciate that while walking out I overheard one girl, between her sniffles, saying “I want to just cut all those damn trees down so I can still see him!” And that’s it, really, sometimes the last taste in your mouth is what can really shape your overall estimation of something. The sendoff to Paul was flawless, and for that we are very forgiving. Regardless of what critics say, this is a movie you won’t want to not see—I know I personally saw it in the theater for Paul’s sake. The curiosity of the human condition propels us in many ways, and this was one of them. “Furious 7” receives a 6.5/10. Adieu.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Risk of Happiness

Remy Sharp - Untold Happiness (flickr)
The defect in happiness is that it fleets, leaks, and seeps. 

Like a bucket with a gun hole at its bottom, the happy liquid escapes, however slowly (or quickly), to ultimately leave one hollow with an empty pail that is ready for the next filling. 

Much of our aspirations tend towards living a happily ever after life. This notion, or abstraction, of the "happily ever after" for the majority of us, was first drilled into our skulls when we were children. The happily ever after nails were screwed in with color, story, song, and dance, all neatly wrapped in the form of fairy tales. Thank Disney for this.

After Cinderella and Snow White were rescued by their dreamy princes they gallop into the horizon to live "happily ever after." With the thud of a closed book, we, the readers, imagine and know only of their happy closure because we see no more, and assume no morewe believe their happiness must be frozen/sealed. Yet, most of the time this happiness only appears as a flash at the very end: the vanishing tail of the fairy tale. The main chunks of these stories tell tales of struggle, sadness and evil. Happiness is the last wrapping we see, or the tied bow that covers the coarse gift. Who is to say that the gift does not come loose, and then unwrap when it is whisked from our sight after the end-page is turned? 

While to think so would be to think beyond the text, we cannot but wonder. We also cannot deny that we see happiness only when the story ends. We know not how long it lasts for. The "ever after" is meant to be a final resting place for the story so that these questions need not be asked. But still, would we believe it until we see it? Have we ever seen happiness last for an ever after? Our best approximation of this is in divinity and the realms of theology that exist beyond our mortal realms where happiness is eternal for those whose souls are blessed. Aka: Heaven.

So then what are we to make of this earthly happiness that we hold now? I'm of the impression that if we understand how happiness works in this life we might be better prepared to live with it and accept it for what it really is. I see it as a wave, ebbing and flowing, coming and going, never here for extended periods of time but always able to return to oneself. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a resting point, or a plateau, that you reach and set camp in. Not in this world anyway.

They say expectation is the root of all heartache. That is, if one has no expectations then one will never be disappointed. That is true. But to have no expectations runs the risk of not aspiring for happiness. With no expectations you will succeed in never being disappointed, but won't you also risk succeeding in never relishing in the joy of anticipated happiness? Think about love here. Love is a risk. The irony of love is that it proclaims to be absolute and ever lasting, but is it? We've seen time and time again how "love", the eternal binding cord that ties two lovers together, 
can come loose. And yet, knowing this, we still love. Why? Because the risk of happiness is worth it. The risk of happiness is that by having it you also expose yourself to the debilitating possibility of losing it and then missing it. Expectations might be the root of all heartaches, but you expect from lovers with faith that they will spare you from those heartbreaks. For if not, then what else?

Commons WikiMedia
So if your bucket of happiness is at its last drop, remember, you still have a bucket. It only needs its next filling. In this world, it will not be forever empty and neither will it be forever full. We carry that bucket with us, and how fast we want to fill it up again is all in our hands. Would you say so? Adieu. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

AOIS21 Annual Literary Magazine

Nazran Baba, Chief Creative behind the Literartist, was among a handful of artists selected to feature in AOIS21 Publishing, LLC's inaugural yearly literary magazine: "AOIS21 Annual."

The magazine has a wide circulation and describes itself as "a compendium of poetry, short stories, book excerpts, photography and art" that features thirteen contributors from around the world whose works comprise of the 76-page literary magazine.

Copies of the premier issue are available in both digital and print format. Details may be found using the link below:

AOIS21 Publishing is a cloud-based publishing service for authors and readers everywhere, providing key marketing infrastructure, tools and guidance to new authors starting out, and titles that span all genres to entertain every generation of readers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

INTERROBANG (2014): Music Review

A sonic interrogation with a bang! "INTERROBANG" (2014) by local D.C. artist Navid Azeez (“Navi”) is a potent, purposeful mash-up of quip raps, quick beats, and a whole lot of indie funk. Needling through its musical fabric is a sort of loud lament (both vocal and textual), a longing call, for our attention to focus on the ordinary, all the while using a patchwork of extraordinary deliveries to orchestrate the larger vocal stunt of Navi’s fourth solo EP.

Vividly different from the back-story sounds of “Grayscale” (2010), “ITERROBANG” peels itself apart from the ethnic narratives and drops into a world, or a mode, of hyperrealism. The album aims to poke at the ordinary until the ordinary pops out its extraordinary essence. An English major in college, one finds no lack in analyzing Navi’s source texts for their own verbal mastery. A multitalented Sri Lankan-American hip hop artist by profession, he is also a producer, writer, graphic designer, illustrator, and a co-founder of the Washington DC-based collective/record label: Delegation Music. Note that all the images in this article, and the album cover, are Navi's original artworks.

First and foremost, I must admit—I did learn a new word: interrobang.

in·ter·ro·bang noun \in-ˈter-ə-ˌbaŋ\

Merriam-Webster defines this oddity as “a punctuation mark ‽ designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question.” True to its semantics, all seven song titles are trite puzzles—left solely for the listener to disentangle. So disentangle we shall then. The verdict?

Navi - El Jefe!? (8.3/10)
Arguably my favorite of the lot, for anyone whose had that eccentric landlord from Hell (pretty much everybody) welcome to your “you get me!” song. The witty lyrics play on a multitude of themes, from economic lingo to pervasively political themes such as rent, real-estate, Morgan Stanley and even the Sandusky ordeal and wiretapping—all the while aiming to portray the landlord as that annoyingly successful all-seer, the One who sees through Febreeze and Lysol. The wild Western music in the background sets the aura for a showdown type narrative, further abetted by Navi’s on and off rapid fire raps which occasionally flit and then slowdown to a borderline mocking, yet infectious chorus that chants “El Jefe!?” This one's definitely a download for that morning commute.

Navi - Expiration Date!? (7/10)
The familiarity is itching, and the drawl in the vocals is somewhat reminiscent of Drake—I know not if that is a good thing or a bad thing—but I personally liked it. Most sentences are almost the length of phrases and the abrupt “I” that interjects the popular Tove Lo’s chorus is well delivered and even better received. Definitely a different track from the rest of the album, and that kind of variety is a good thing.

Navi - Picnibus!?(6.5/10)
If anything this will make one somewhat hungry; and the music in the background takes you to an almost nomadic trance. It reminds me of gypsies and European travel. Not the easiest song to digest from the bunch.

Navi - Alexandra's Clean Jeans!? (7/10)
Sound Cloud notes that “[t]his song is about laundry” but I’m willing to bet a lot that this is anything but. Once again, loyal to the theme, the song draws on a banal object, this time apparel. But the thrust of the song is in the expression of an awkward momentary infatuation that spins into a day dream!? There is a ghoul-like chorus that wraps itself like a mummy around the song and holds it in place. It plays into the adoration theme, like as if Alexandra is Cleopatra—only in this case it is somewhat mocking. Once again though, this song has an interesting story behind it under all that dirty laundry. The lyrics give us some insight but not enough to make any airtight conclusions.

Navi - Dead Man's Things!? (6.7/10)
As the title suggests, this is an investigation into the remains of a personal history that is now covered with dust. The music itself isn’t the main act, since Navi’s vocals alone carry the weight of the track. A bit more musicality may have helped blend the tome-type preachy feel that hovers till the last note. But then again the current somberness, perpetuated by the depressed mellow tunes, perhaps work to create that sound image of stagnation and mechanic narration—you almost see an investigator poring over a dead man’s things, his thoughts becoming the audible rap.

Navi - The Honey Spot!? (8.3/10)
You can’t deny giving merit to all the different elements that congregate to make this song work. The opening's choppy electronic beats and their hypnotic repetition evoke the type of beehive pulp image that make this song work. The lyrics are sexually charged, almost sickly sweet like the nectarous honey they try to ooze out. Overall this release  hits the sweet spot.

Navi - Expiration Date (Fatback Remix!?) (6.2/10)
A darker version of the previous un-remixed track. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t do as much to warrant itself a place in the album, especially when “Expiration Date” itself does such a stellar job on its own. Not really a bad track, but more a question of—why do we need this one again?

Overall, "INTERROBANG" is quite the intriguing mix of tracks, and its true value resides not only in the sound waves but also in the textual ink. Some of these tracks are without doubt already on queue for download to my iPhone. For doing it right "INTERROBANG" earns a solid 7.2/10 in our books. Adieu.

Be sure to have a listen: