The other night, I told my partner MaxZine that his spirit animal was a red panda. Not knowing what one looked like, he said I was being ridiculous, and then I showed him a picture of one.
He did not disagree.
Of course, HOW COULD HE? They might be THE CUTEST furry animals on the planet, like ever. Ugh. SO. DAMN. CUTE.
My lock screen on my phone currently uses this image:
Apparently, this is how red pandas often sleep—slumped on their stomachs on a tree branch with their legs dangling away. CUTENESS OVERLOAD. I just can’t.
On a more sobering note, these adorable creatures are actually high up on the global endangered species list with less than 10,000 of them existing in the wild. A loss of natural habitat due to deforestation, an increase in human population, and various extenuating circumstances appear to be the cause of these diminishing returns. A concerted effort carried out by numerous zoos and wildlife agencies around the world to breed them in captivity is currently in motion.
When I am not fighting the urge to watch red panda videos on YouTube, I’ve been making art.
Daily work continues on the piano. I am learning a Beethoven piece in addition to tweaking (and practicing) several of my own original songs. I am also working on my own interpretation of another classic Beethoven piece that I want to film for my channel.
Over on “The Facebook” (aka the Zuckerberg evil empire), I have been posting weekly thankfulness posts. I draw something for which I am thankful, and then I post the drawing on my FB feed. Here are some behind-the-scenes photos of the proceedings from this last week’s drawing.
Since spring is now firmly upon us, I took my camera along on my walk the other day. There was no shortage of splendor to behold. Here are some photos from that lovely excursion:
4. Video and Film
I spent a lot of time over the last week editing video for an event that I filmed recently. It will probably be released some time in late May or June, but I loved how it turned out. (More on that later.)
Lastly, I present to you a side-by-side comparison of my partner and a red panda. Of course, one does not need to look like a particular animal for it to be one’s spirit animal, but in this case, why the heck not?
Director and auteur David Lynch is known for his iconic films and television shows such as Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks. Imagine my surprise when a wonderful friend of mine gifted me with a book written by him. Catching the Big Fish is a collection of thoughts and extended musings about Lynch’s personal philosophies that guide his life. The book’s subtitle “Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity” pretty much sums up the cornerstones of these writings, but the picture he lays out is much broader.
Broken up into small one to two-page sections, the book maps out a primer on how to live a life that includes an expansive awareness of self and the world and an attunement toward persistent ideation. Lynch wants his readers to think about how meditation can be a gateway into a landscape of creative ideas, and he makes a compelling, albeit gently conveyed, case for this. He does so by using his own life as an example from his early days as a painter in the fine arts and through experiences developing ideas for films like Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and others.
For filmmakers like myself, gaining insight into his creative life is one of the best parts of this book. His body of work stands tall among the best in the business. For everyone else looking to nurture a contemplative life rich with artistic fulfillment, Lynch offers plenty to ponder.
Here are the polka dot pros:
Easy to read. The short sections of this book make it much more accessible in terms of digesting Lynch’s ideas in smaller chunks. Even at a length of 180 pages, I could easily imagine finishing this in one long and luxurious sitting. Nonetheless, this book is best enjoyed without the pressure of rushing through it. I took my time over three days, and I’m glad I did. I was able to let his ideas sink in as I read along.
Gentle writing style. There is a casual ease to the tone of this book. You won’t find any moral grandstanding or ultimatums here. Reading this felt like a conversation a person would have while sitting around at a pond and fishing. It is idyllic and sweet.
Insightful about Lynch’s work. If you are attracted to this book because you are a fan of Lynch’s films, this book does not disappoint. While it is far from an exhaustive exposé on his creative output, the kernels of what he does provide are quirky and amusing, and he links everything to how his meditation practice plays a foundational role in all of it.
Perhaps this book would be more interesting to people who have seen Lynch’s movies, but as a case study of the effects of meditation on creative work, this book hits that mark easily.
It is also such a delightful and thoughtfully conceived little book and is certainly worth the leisurely time it takes to read it.
As I noted in last week’s post, we are all stuck in quarantine one way or another in this age of the Coronavirus. Maybe you’re looking to be entertained, comforted, or inspired to help you cope with this new normal? Well, I have some suggestions for you. When I am not making short films for my YouTube channel every week, I seek out various forms of entertainment and inspiration. I generally stay away from television and episodic-style shows because of all the time they take up, but beyond that, everything else is fair game.
The following recommendations align with my tastes and sensibilities. Have a look at some of them and try them out if you are intrigued.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
I loved this book. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I understood within the first few pages why it became an instant New York Times bestseller. Particularly if you are a poetry enthusiast, you will truly appreciate what author Ocean Vuong has written. This book is a poetic memoir about Vuong’s upbringing as a Vietnamese immigrant who migrated to America with his mom to live with his grandmother and auntie in Connecticut. His entire family lives with the trauma sustained from the Vietnam War, and this book chronicles the healing (or lack thereof) from such a devastating set of circumstances in the war-torn villages of their homeland. Family struggles and an immersive first love between two boys fill this book’s pages with many tense and tender moments. If you’re looking for something fun and lighthearted, this is not the book for you, but if you are looking for a masterful work of nonfiction that is as transcendant as it is honest and brutal, give this book your full attention in a quiet space.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Twists and turns, whimsy, and intrigue infuse this novel that is set in 1930’s colonial Malaysia. There is a mysterious and terrifying beast roaming through small villages at night and slaughtering the bodies of villagers beyond recognition. If this sounds a bit too gruesome, rest assured that it’s only one component of this beautifully written story that intertwines the lives of two separate characters who you will find yourself cheering for and worrying about until the end. I’m not going to give anything away, but I enjoyed reading this book for all of the exotic adventure and rich mystery that it brings.
Seven by Taylor Swift
I’ll be the first to admit that I have never been a big Taylor Swift fan. I can appreciate her talent as a singer and songwriter, but outside of a couple of lovely ballads and catchy pop songs that I liked from previous albums, there has not been anything in her output that has fully gripped my attention. Fast forward to this summer with the surprise release of her new album “Folklore”, and I found myself listening to many of its songs and buying a vinyl copy of the album. One song in this collection has been on repeat for me, and if the summer of 2020 had a personal soundtrack, this song would be its centerpiece.
Swift’s vocals subtly shift between lilting resignation and plaintive vulnerability in a delivery that finds a tonal sweet spot that is perfect for this song. It is a quiet and pensive marriage between melancholy and hopefulness. Personally, everything about this song is reminiscent of something Tori Amos would manifest down to its engaging piano riff. The lyrics convey a conflicted longing for a childhood past and a desire to recapture the spirit of those times. The song crescendoes at the end with piano and strings taking center stage in a gorgeous melodic outro. This song is a gentle work about innocence lost and the promise of possibility. It is a piece of art from an artist finding new heights in her craft. I was not expecting to find such an unassuming little masterpiece as this, but I am quite happy to have it now.
This Beautiful Fantastic
I have a thing for movies that are sweet and whimsical. Recently, I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole that led me to this film, and thank goodness for occasional rabbit holes. This film has a lot of elements that I generally enjoy such as beautiful gardens, intelligent British people, striking and rich set designs, and obsessively neurotic characters. Its story embodies a personal journey that a woman experiences in order to find her own footing in the world . Central to the plot is an elderly and certifiably grumpy misanthrope who becomes a mentor and friend to his neighbor. He teaches her how to become a gardener. An unlikely cast of characters forms a family around this relationship. So much about this film—from its script to its colorful aesthetic, performances, and cinematography—is incredibly well done. If you share my sensibilities, watch this movie. You’re welcome.
There you have it. These are some of my recommendations for you to enjoy. Whatever you choose to do, be safe and kind to yourself.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week.
My newest film release is a preview of “The Preservation of Self”, which is a short film I created that comes out on my birthday on 08/28 and expresses some more of my thoughts about colonialism. Have a look right here: