Thursday, October 31, 2013

India.Arie's "Break the Shell"

I just had to share this song by India.Arie.  Since her latest album, SongVersation, came out back in June, I’ve been trying to find ways to share my love of its material through my blog.  There is just so much to examine on this album, and so many lessons in relation to our lives as we try to better ourselves.  All of this is told consciously through Arie's amazing voice, of course.  And since I like taking a closer look at life here, I felt like this album would provide a perfect source to do so.  

The song I’m featuring is India.Arie’s song “Break the Shell”, a powerful song about feeling and living life while in display of our vulnerabilities.  Many times we allow our past and circumstances to build walls around us, walls that keep us from breaking out into our Truth and living the life that we desire.  How often do we suffocate our Truth to maintain that veneer of personal dishonesty, or to feel connected with others while disconnected inside?  What kind of freedoms do when gain when we break down our walls and allow the world to see us fly?  Listen to the performance, read the lyrics, and decide.

"Break the Shell"

I met a prophet dark as the night
She could see into my soul
Said she'd been watching and had some advice
She said shadows make you whole
A Life without pain is a wolf in sheep's clothes
'Cause if you listen to the lessons that it holds, you'll
find the gold

Child it's time to break the shell
Life's gonna hurt but it's meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly, until you break the shell

I can remember when I was a child
How the grown folks seemed so crazy
Why are they so angry?  Why are they so loud?
And when I grow up that's never, ever gonna be me
That was the moment that I decide
That I would build a wall just shy of 6 feet tall, too
strong to fall

Child it's time to break the shell
Life's gonna hurt but it's meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly, until you break the shell

Courage is not being hard
It's time to peel back all the layers
You put between who you're meant to be
And who you are
And go be who you are

So much disappointment to finally understand
That there is no such thing as perfect
We're all simply doing the best that we can
And we have the choice to live or truly be alive
This is your life

Child it's time to break the shell
Life's gonna hurt but it's meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly, until you break the shell

Child it's time to break the shell
Life's gonna hurt but it's meant to be felt
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly, until you break the shell

Do with these words what you will
It's time for us to be for real
You'll be stuck on the ground until
You finally break the shell

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Digging for Gold!

Well, it's Comic Towel, my mix-up of drawings, literature, and self-help.  Here's a drawing I did per request.  It didn't fit the request, but I love it too much to ignore.  The funny thing is that I started two drawings for the request and got to the coloring part of the other before I realized I didn't like it.  Whereas, I didn't like this picture in its sketched form.  However, I kept digging at it.  Drawing, inking, coloring, experimenting.  And I feel like I dug out some gold.  It might not've fit the request of the individual who asked for it, but I feel like this drawing showed me that I was able to do exactly what I set out to do here.  You got to keep digging.  Never give up.

I put this colorful drawing together during July.  I wanted to post it with a short story but never really got to writing the piece.  So I just held on to the drawing.  Then I realized that--hey--it's in me to want to draw.  I'm an unlimited, abundance system of ideas.  Not to sound cheeky about it, though.  I believe that each drawing is a learning experience.  In any regard, I grew tired of waiting to share the drawing.  So here it is.  The dude kind of reminds me of Wheeler from Captain Planet.  Would you say so too?

This is an archive picture I wanted to share.  For some reason I never quite added it to my Zazzle shop deal.  But I always look at it trying to figure out why not.  So.  I'll just share it here until I get my shit together about it. 

Meanwhile, I need suggestions on where I can start doing commission work.  I had a gig on Fiverr then decided to take it down only because I needed to reconstruct my time and planning.  Any ideas?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thoughts on African American Literature

The category of ethnic literature that focuses on African American literature is many times defined as literature that tackles subjects of black identity, oppression, segregation, and civil challenges.  Historical events such as slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and Supreme Court cases that favored African American individuals helped influence the growth of this literature.  Many African Americans participated in announcing their voice to the public because of these events.  Mothers, fathers, students, scientists, business owners, and artist forced their expression on the subject during the decades that built into the establishment of African American literature.  As African American literature grew to challenge discrimination and social enforcing laws, so did the popularity of its writers.  From the beginnings of Harriet A. Jacobs and Frederic Douglass, to contemporary authors Terry McMillian and Alice Walker, each has contributed to defining the scope of African American literature and what it means in America.  Some may consider this form of literature limited in its subject matter, themes, and conventions as it portrays one condition of the American experience; however, through careful literary conventions and material that echo historical and socio-political events, African American literature presents boundless voices similar to those of “traditional” literature.  

There is much to consider when one embarks on understanding African American fiction.  Like “traditional” American fiction, literary conventions, and themes must be taken into consideration as well as the tone and voice of the material.  Themes spreading from any amount of literature, informs readers what the material is about.  Layers of the writer’s construction through dialogue, setting, and narrative form the theme.  Many times readers decide, through his or her interpretation, what the theme of a novel is.  Nevertheless, theme drives the material just as well as literary conventions.  Therefore, themes ground literary material regarding its reason, and conventions guide readers through the “rules” concerning each event that takes part in the story to make up the theme.

Three examples of African American literary fiction that display an array of literary themes and conventions are "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" by Harriet A. Jacobs, "Sweat" by Zora Neale Hurston, and "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Before African Americans experienced freedom, they largely experience slavery.  Harriet A. Jacobs’s “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” provides a clear illustration concerning the struggles and mistreatment during a period when human rights were of no consideration.  As a memoir detailing the accounts of a slave girl who hid away from her master for seven years, the conventions Jacobs provided to motivate her theme were consistent with the troubles slaves faced.  Her memoir is also driven by concepts of family and separation as well as the confinement one must endure (as well as escape) in his or her pursuit of freedom.  Because the material is a biography, Jacobs chronologically manages to move her material through each preceding event that affects her resolution and purpose in telling her story.

Examples of Jacobs’s chronology of events are the swap between her experience with new masters, her incidents in Philadelphia, and her eventual escape.  These are successfully employed the biography’s convention to uncover the purpose of her biography as well as the theme.  Through expressing the theme of the desire for freedom during the horrors of slavery, Jacobs captured the attention of a period filled with historical and socio-political discord.  Her autobiography persisted with the country’s urging for change during the Civil War era as well as becoming a staple for the nation to consider the horrors of past events when making changes for its future.

Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” features Delia, a washerwoman, and her abusive husband.  It takes the desperation for family from “Incidents” and illustrates a painful view of it.  The washerwoman’s husband is abusive to his wife, angered by her desire to keep the clothing of white people together and in order.  He also cheats on her repeatedly.  As the story progress, so does the time.  The readers see Delia continues to wash, and she remains secondary to her husband as he continues to fulfill the needs of his mistress.  It is when her husband brings home a rattlesnake that Delia’s side of the situation changes.  Through a turn of events, her husband is bitten by the snake, and instead of sending for help, Delia simply watches him die.  She escapes another form of confinement: marriage.

As a fiction story, “Sweat” offer readers a subtle set of themes to explore.  One will start with Delia’s husband’s dependency on his wife as the breadwinner and how this often made him angry.  In large part he is inept in their family situation; therefore, he sought the attention of another woman.  Even the men outside the marriage, who were aware of Delia’s husband’s affection with another woman, choose not to impose on the marriage to save Delia.  However, during the period in which the story was written there were no convenience divorces, especially at the request of women.  This concept was more extreme in the case of African American women.  Therefore, Delia found her way out through the snake that bit her husband, reiterating both the desperate attempts she would take for freedom.

"We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar follows “Incident” and “Sweat” as a poem that furthers the African American experience by best describing the emotions within the two.  “We Wear the Mask” illustrates the African American experience of hiding oneself to appeal to the public, particularly during slavery, and the Jim Crow era.  Dunbar wanted to express how a person will look one way in his or her outer appearance but what goes on inside is of a different accord.  Much like Jacobs’s narrative, and Hurston’s character of Delia, the women have to resource to containing her inner struggles because of the consequences expressing them will have.  However, when desperate, their true feelings emerged at the thought of freedom from suppression.  Nevertheless, Dunbar’s poem encompasses the struggles of many African Americans throughout history.  These individuals relied on inner strength to battle persecution, and Dunbar asks that individuals of the present learn from the past to no longer hide themselves or suffer through the ideal that an individual cannot be free from another.

African American fiction employees a variety of literary conventions, themes, and subjects to make up the entirety of American literature.  Whether the material is a biography, piece of fiction, or poem, its purpose is to provide a voice to a group of individuals who remained disregarded in “traditional” literature as well as reality.  Providing elements of myths and traditions, this category of literature is filled with messages related to family and self-acceptance.  It is literature that stretches the problems faced during slavery to the conditions faced in return during today’s era.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tao and Satisfaction

I’m pretty sure we all believed or have stated that we don’t ask for much from people and life; whether that‘s outwardly true it's what we inwardly believe.  We attempt to be comfortable in our given--or created--situations.  We focus and strive for the biggest, most desired bit of transformation that we feel is required to bloom order and fulfillment into our lives.  We think that maybe if we get that one thing to happen, everything else will fall into place.  Or maybe those other annoyances concerning life wouldn't matter; fading away as we travel through our passions and destinies toward greatness   So when we've obtained our “big picture”, lying comfortably within it, where do we go from there?  And what is it about wanting more after receiving?

As I've read the third verse/chapter of the Tao through Dyer’s book and Derek Lin’s translation, I come to realize that learning how to be satisfied with life’s little unfoldings might be more of a fantasy than reality.  Like many, I've been condition to want so badly that I don’t believe it is even possible for me to reach such a level of content.  A level so strong that it blocks out all of my egocentric-driven desires.  See, I’m not sure where and when it happened, but life always just feels like a fight.  Like everybody else, I’m constantly contending with deep levels of inner habituations and outer influences.  So what am I (or we) left with when we travel through the two different verses of the Tao’s third verse/chapter translation?  Verses that ask us to let down our guard and relax ourselves on this plane by being auto-piloted by our spirits.  As always, let’s look at Dyer’s version then Lin’s.

Dyer’s translation reads as:

Putting a value on status
Will create contentiousness.
If you overvalue possessions,
People begin to steal.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will
Cause the people’s hearts to remain undisturbed.

The sage governs
By emptying minds and hearts,
By weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.

Practice not doing…
When action is pure and selfless,
Everything settles into its own perfect place.

And Lin’s reads:

Do not glorify the achievers
So the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain
So the people will not become thieves
Do not show the desired things

So their hearts will not be confused

Thus the governance of the sage:
Empties their hearts
Fills their bellies
Weakens their ambitions
Strengthens their bones

Let the people have no cunning and no greed
So those who scheme will not dare to meddle

Act without contrivance

And nothing will be beyond control

As always, I connect with Lin’s version better.  Yet, I always read his like poetry while in need of Dyer’s interpretation to sort of reorient any of my thoughts.  Nevertheless, I think at its basis, this verse/chapter is simple and clear:  let life do the heavy lifting and just show gratitude for what is as is unfolds into the purist form of your desires.  If you can’t accept things as they are and be appreciative, then you’ll always be in want of something.  Nevertheless, as I mentioned, it would take me tons of work to get pass my ego in order to reach such a state.  However, in many ways it really comes down to a single conscious thought for promoting inner change.  That nugget of information is there--it's with you now.  Depending on how persistent you are for change, you'll always have access to it.  So if you can at least program yourself (unless or until it comes unconsciously) to recognize situations that ask you to allow life to be, then you can make the conscious decision to do so when said situation arises.  That's a good place to start in my opinion.  It's an idea that helps many people who are just starting on spiritual paths or paths for change.  Because think about it, at one point you didn't have the tools necessary to change.  You were just bumbling about.  So maybe that'll be enough for now.  Recognizing the opportunities to step back and let life do the heavy lifting.


Dyer, Wayne W. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2007.

Lin, Derek.  “Accurate Translation of the Tao Te Ching.” Accurate Translation of the Tao Te Ching. N.p. <>.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Along the Way

Having grown up in Florida, Blias felt better outfitted to navigate the death trap of I-95 during tourist season, not winding Connecticut highways during a loose snow storm.  All she wanted to do was go back home to Jacksonville.  This singular wish ruled her thoughts as she squinted through the out pour of white powder smothering the windshield of Mick’s truck; the wiper blades cracked like concentrated lightning in an attempt to clear her view.

Home was where the heart was--as well as suntans, thatch palms, and sandy beaches.  And besides the ugliness of this thing called snow, Connecticut contained her in-laws.  In many respects, this undoubtedly traumatizing drive back to her husband’s parents’ house wasn’t as terrifying as her destination.  Should she be lucky, Mick’s truck would spin out of control and flip into a hill of snow to spare her the unpleasant scenario of sipping wine across the table from two pre-geriatric control freaks with a less than tampered need to remind her that she was not of a wealthy assort.  Those recriminations delivered over fine china, of course.

“At least the heat is working okay.”  Blias told herself with a fading sneer at the thought of her in-laws.  There was no turning back at this point.  She was on the road with Mick and they were coming back to her in-laws house after a night out.  She fought the urge to yawn from the coziness of warm air blowing in her face instead, deciding then to adjust the air vents away from her just a little.  “Maybe a little too hot, though.”

The snow kept coming, as if God stood ripping apart reneged contracts before chucking the shreds down in fury.  And if the snow was truly God’s doing, then Blias was certain that it was his way of broadcasting displeasure at her husband’s drunken state.  Dancing in those thoughts, she spared yet another dark glance toward the passenger seat as an inner burn tugged at a muscle in her right arm.  

Releasing the steering wheel with the risk of drifting off the road, Blias rocketed a hot--yet sloppy--backhand across Mick’s dozing, pale face.  Blias quickly pulled the truck to a gentle left, nearly sending them into the neighboring lane.  She regained control of the truck with a satisfying grin on her lips as Mick scrambled alive with a terrifying cry and a choke.  His eyes widen as one hand lost the lifting of his glasses and the other braced into the door handle.  And although the truck had yet to roll outside of his muddled awakening, he anticipated the first tilt with a glisten of slob lining his o-shaped mouth.

Heart hammering, Mick waited.  He closed his eyes, tight.  Caught his breathe.  Winced at the burn in his nostrils.  And waited again.  Nothing.  No crash.  So what had hit him hard enough to sting his sinuses bringing tears into his eyes?

The truck rattled over an island of powder, and Mick hurled his hands and fingers around the JC handle with a whine.

“Jesus ain’t coming to save you yet, Mick,“ Blias said.  “But I’ll slap you again if you don’t wake your ass up and help me keep him from coming to collect us both.  Well, me anyway.  I don‘t see why Jesus would come and try to save some old slumped fool like yourself.”  Her grip curved over the steering wheel and she lowered her chin to screen her focus as a veiled bend in the road came about.  Her footing loosened on the gas, she applied easy pressure to the brakes.  Focused.  

The truck continued to rattle and bounce, eating up patches of powder as it went pass exits where the barest snow-globed vision of hotels, gas stations, and diner lights could be seen.  Blias drove forward, reminding herself that she was grateful for the heater working and grateful that she remembered the exit number.  Or hoped she did.  And if she wasn’t close enough by now, God forbid they would have to swoop into an exit and get a motel room.  She didn’t like Mick’s parents, but her luggage was at their house.  With her luggage, came a cab, and with a cab came a trip back to the airport so she could get back to Jacksonville.  Preferably tonight.

“That Jesus stuff again, huh?” Mick’s voice croaked as he relaxed, still gathering his surrounds.  He blinked a few times, patted a hand against his stinging nose then pulled it away.  As if blood was on his palm, he frowned.  “I’m starting to think you slapped me, but I know better, B.”

They each cut their eyes at one another, but saw neither expression.

“Had to,” Blias said.  “And I’ll hit you again if you don’t help me figure out how to get back to your devilish parents’ house.”

“You ‘had to,’” Mick’s voice mocked with disbelief.  “Whatever happened to just shaking my shoulder?  Or hollering my name?  Matter-of-fact, aren‘t you not suppose to hit people?  Did Christ every hit anyone?”  He leaned back to wait for his wife’s answer.

Blias reached to turn the heat down.  She needed to be awake.  To be slightly chilled.  To give herself time to think of something to change the subject.  There came nothing, so she let her chin remain high.  At least Mick was up and running like usual, challenging her at whichever turn he could.

Eyes pinching from a sneaky wave of nausea, Mick rubbed the back of his head as the liquor started to bubble back across his senses and memories became muddled with thick questions.  He was seconds behind realizing that his wife called his parents devilish, and fighting off a passing upchuck to respond at the moment. 

Blias swallowed within her focus, chin still high.  

For the pass hour since Blias hauled Mick into the truck and away from his hometown drinking buddies (who kept giving her looks for what she perceived was because she was black and married to Mick), she let him doze, hoping it would taper down on his beer intake.  With him awake now, she couldn’t judge whether the doze worked.  However, the guilt inside her was there.  While she tried to get to know some of Mick’s friends’ wives, she should’ve been regulating Mick reliving his college days at the bar, chugging and taking shots.  Just the thought that she should’ve been watching him, instead of worrying about what his friends thought of her, upset her more than him being drunk.  Blias was upset that she let Mick’s friends intimidate her from stomping across the bar and taking her husband by the collar.

Guess there was nothing she could do now.

Rising himself up just enough to give his diaphragm air, Mick looked out over the road and broke the silence asking, “Are we in the I-95 corridor, because I can‘t really tell?”

Blias shrugged.  “I guess, Mick.  Does it look like I’m from Connecticut?  Do you think I can tell with all this snow falling?  Maybe if you would’ve-”

“Alright, I got it.  You‘re pissed at me,” Mick cut her off.  He raised a traffic hand to pause her mouth, then turned to use it to smooth down the crown of his head before taking a large breathe to soften his tone and nausea.  “But seriously, how fast are you going, B?  There could be black ice forming over the roads.”

Giving her seat belt a ginger tug, Blias didn’t answer.

Mick sighed.  “All right.  Get us killed then.”  He slammed his back into his seat after catching a peek of the speedometer.  Blias was doing nicely, as he knew.  He just couldn’t stand the hush.

Silence spread between them, except for the scratching snow and the roar of tires breaking through street powder with a clank in the undercarriage.

Mick shuffled in his flannel hunter’s jacket, watching the road carefully for signs.  “Mind me asking do you even know the exit?”

“You’re asking me this now, Mick?” Blias turned to look at him with a  jerk of her head.  Her dreads slapped back into her face and she threw them away with a huff.  “Matter-of-fact, are you too drunk to drive?  Do you want me to pull over so you can get us out of this?”

He looked at her without a shift in focus before crying, “I just asked a question.  You want us to get to the goddamn house don’t you?  You miss the exit and we’re gonna have more problems up the road in this snow, smartass.”

“Oh, I’m the smartass?  You’re the bastard that should’ve thought about what you were doing throwing up beers like you’ve got no sense.”  Blias had the mind to swerve into a bank of snowy mounts on the edge of the road, but managed to contain that rip of desire.  Instead, her jaw tensed, then unlocked to say something far more deadly.  “I watched you sit there like a fool, getting drunk with those scary, prejudice freak-buddies you call friends looking back at me while you were glass-eyed and twisted.  Were you even thinking about your wife when you were up there getting laughed at, thinking you were laughing with them?  Do you even remember what you were laughing at when they kept sliding that devil juice in your face?  Huh, Mick?  Tell me what you remember since you were having a good time being the punch line to a joke, or four?”  Satisfied, Blias kept her chin up and breezed pass Exit 54 in Branford.  

Mick’s eyes narrowed, searching left to right as if trying to pull in and compute what his wife had said.  At first he thought maybe the beer distorted his hearing.  But when it clicked, “What the hell are you talking about my friends for, B?  Prejudice?  Really?  My friends?  I haven’t seen them since I moved to that backward ass city in Florida where your home girls,” Mick emphasized this with widen, exaggerated eyes, “tried to get rid of me so that they could hook you up with a brother instead.  Do you ever see me bitch about them, or tell you what you should do about them?”

Blias’s eyes flinched.

“No,” Mick spat.  “I don‘t, nor have.  Even though I know they’re always talking about me to you and anyone else that‘ll listen.  So you talk about my friends, who were cool with you the whole time, even their wives but-”

“You were drunk, Mick,” Blias shouted, blinking as if to keep herself clear and reasonable.  “You didn’t see how your friends kept looking back at me while I had to listen to their stiff wives talk about orangutan sanctuaries and early bird prices.”  A hot breath went into Blias’s lungs straight from the heater‘s burning scent.  “You were just up there, slapping the bar and chugging them down while your buddies looked back at me smiling over your back.”

Mick’s face screwed up in confusion, fingers spreading aside his head as if he could pull out the answer before gasping a resounding: “HUH!?  Because they looked at you!?”

“Yep,” Blias was unrelenting.  “They looked at me.  I know that kind of look.”

Mick settled back, scaling his wife with wide eyes, as if she were someone else.  

That’s when the truck’s shocks absorbed something large and thick in the road.  Whatever it was caused both Mick and Blias to gasp out, their heads barely scrapping the roof of the truck as it bounced.  In her fury, Blias hadn’t seen what she ran over, and it all happened to quickly to calculate.  Whatever she hit was eaten by the front wheels of the truck, rattling underneath like wooden spoons on pots, before throwing the rear of the truck up then down.  Blias cried out as both her feet slammed on the brakes while her hands struggled to tug the wheel in place as she feared they were about to plummet over and sideways.  The brakes didn’t seem to stop the truck, however.  Blias’s nightmares were coming alive as the truck skidded through the snow like an Iberian bull prepping for a fight, tossing powder onto the windshield.  At some point the truck had stopped, but it felt like whatever she hit was inside the car and they still weren’t safe.  Blias’s eyes were pinched and she recoiled when she felt Mick’s warmth reach for her, whispering that he had her.  That they were okay.  A voice that seemed distance over the clicking of the engine.

“What the hell was that?” Blias finally hissed.  Another fear rose up in her mind.  What if she ran over a dead, frozen body?  

To afraid to look back, she left that up to Mick as the shift of his head grazed her face when he turned to look back at the road.

“I don’t know,” Mick said, his voice slow with fear and wonder.  “Probably some kind of… animal.”

Blias’s lips pursed.

“I’ll go see,” Mick said, moving his warmth from her.  He wasn’t surprised when Blias suddenly grabbed for him, and it set her a little at ease to hear his chuckle.  “You watch too many scary movies, B.”

“And the black person always die first,” she retorted.  

Mick peeled from her, taking her face in his hands, waiting on her to open her eyes.  And when she did, he kissed her forehead.  “Chill,” he said into her face.

The smell of beer took to Blias’s nose and she held back a cringe before nodding.  “I’ll come with you.”

When Mick looked ready to protest, he knew better seeing the glare in Blias’s eyes.  So he nodded, reached to shift the truck into PARK, and took his wife’s hand.

The cold ate them the minute they stepped out of the truck only to find nothing in the road behind them, but the sound of a baby wailing over the wind.


Another writer's workshop drafting piece used to bring a little productivity to the blog.  Eh.  It is what it is.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Manga Realness: "Ultra Maniac" by Wataru Yoshizumi

The last series in my favorite completed manga set is Ultra Maniac, by Wataru Yoshizumi.  This is quite possibly my favorite between the four I've recently written about, and for serveral reason.  Besides the franatic storyline underneath a schoolhouse backdrop, the artwork (or line work) is clean beyond belief.  Taken with an artistic eye (not that I'm a professional of any sort), the drawings are very clear.  Even clearer and cleaner than Naoko Takeuchi's work.  Maybe it has a lot to do with the different time periods the two series were released, but I noticed Ultra Maniac was very much on par with Absolute Boyfriend's line work.  Perhaps, a smidget cleaner and more meticulous.  Never mind, they both are nicely done.  I just notice it much more in Ultra Maniac.

Yet another manga series I followed through each English adaptation's release, Ultra Maniac also brought me comfort during some frustratingly lonely times.  Also as a note, this one of the few manga series where I own the anime version also--which is just as clean and wonderfully put together.

Ayu Tateishi.  Rei Hino, anyone?
Rei with her secret crush, Tetsushi
So those who are unfamiliar with the short series, Ultra Maniac, let me first summarize what it’s about before why I like it.  For starters, the series combines comedy, romance, and fantasy.  It’s magical, with extended emphasis on celebrating our uniqueness and the friends we gather from doing so.  The story revolves around Ayu Tateishi (who I’ve attributed has an attitude and likeness similar to Rei Hino in Sailor Moon).  As a middle-school girl, Ayu is somewhat of an inspiration to her classmates.  She has a maturity about her that many of her peers admire.  She isn’t one to let loose her emotions or super-express her feelings in concerns to school crushes and chasing idols.  Also, she firmly states that she isn’t one to believe in magic and fantasies.  Ayu has a smooth and practical personality, which I identified with from the jump on some levels.  Nevertheless, Ayu hides a lot of her feelings behind this demeanor--through a personification built mostly because of her interest in a certain student named, Tetsushi Kaji.  Much of her development comes from accepting and projecting her inner desires, trusting that she can believe in the impossible becoming possible.  And this is where Nina Sakura--the teen witch--comes in.  

Nina Sakura and her little spell-tool box
Tetsushi Kaji, the popular boy
From the beginning, Nina comes across as somewhat of a scatterbrain.  Yet, that's a part of her cute, spunky, and likeable charm.  She is like the antithetic to Ayu, or the Pippi Longstockings to Ayu's calm personality.  Nina has just about the same level of energy and gusto as Pippi Longstockings, as well as the unwavering passion for believing in the unbelievable.  However, just like Ayu, Nina hides many of her insecurities behind her jubilant personality.  Somehow attracted to Ayu’s resonablities, Nina is in distress after losing a personal item related to her witching.  It’s a big issue because Nina is in this “world” to prove she is capable of becoming an outstanding witch, considering the people from her world don’t seem to trust that aspect of her.  Once Ayu finds and returns Nina’s magic tool, Nina sees Ayu as the perfect individual to divulge her secrets to.  This includes confessing her desires to be an outstanding witch.  I suppose Nina felt she could share this with Ayu because of Ayu's smooth personality, but now thoroughly attached, Nina does anything she can to make Ayu happy.  To her, they are friends now.  However, Nina's magical antics doesn’t always turn out in Ayu’s favor.  And this is where the adventures begin.

Opposites attract, leading the girls down exciting paths encouraged by one another’s differences and inner similarities as they develop a close friendship filled with trust and adventure.  Between the two secondary male roles expanding onto the friendship, and friends from Nina’s witch world entering many chapters, Ultra Maniac makes for a comedic five-volume series. 

Tetsushi's best friend, Hiroki
As I outline Ayu and Nina’s characteristics and differences, I want to make it known that those elements are what made me love the series.  Particular because I spent my middle school years in somewhat of the same circumstances where I had to cover up myself just to survive the experience.  The funny thing is that in middle school I was more like Ayu, calm and collected.  It wasn't until the second year of high school that I became out going like Nina.  It balanced out eventually.   And necessarily so. 

Nevertheless, that's only half of my identification with the manga series.  While I wasn’t the most popular in middle school I had enough “credence” to associate myself with a few of the more popular students.  I suppose in many respects I was that in-between kid.  Nevertheless, my best friend was one of the students who was forever looked over and bullied by others.  He was the kid I would have to defend from ignorant tormentors.  It had a lot to do with him coming from a family in economic straits (like who wasn't?).  Straits that showed in his tattered shoes and daily repeating outfits.  On top of this, his family weren't that nice to him.  I remember a time when I had extra money and got us both Snicker bars out of the school vending machine.  He took his home.  The next day I asked did he enjoy it.  Sadly, his dad took it away from him and told him that he didn't deserve it.  What kid doesn't deserve candy?  I was angered of course.  Months later I bought two copies of a collection of ghost stories.  Nobody took that from him.  

Nina flagging down Ayu
Maybe because I've always tried to remain receptive to people, but I see no other way to find acceptance in yourself but through the accepting of others.  Nothing is more bonding than being genuinely emphatic and sympathetic to another.  What he and I shared was a love of Stephen King (which may say a lot) and the imagination.  Not Air Jordans or Mustangs.  Just books and some creative thinking.  We could be ourselves while everyone else was shooting to be relevant to others.  Therefore, I enjoyed his company and considered him a friend.  I needed one just as he did.  

Now, while there is much, much else to speak about in Ultra Maniacthe story of two girls who seem to support and compliment each other inspires me to remain open to people.  Have you been open to people lately?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mythos and Logos Revisited

Powell’s final comprehension of mythos and logos was defined by a line of others’ attempts to define the term.  According to Powell’s A Short Introduction to Classical Myth, fifth century BC Pindar defined the terms as a “difference between a tale” [mythos] and “one based on reason” [logos].  Eventually, the definition of myth and logos took on a socialistic view, described as the passing of stories and parables that provided a reasonable solution to human endeavors.  This definition insisted that traditional-style stories, or mythos, contributed to the way a society modeled their behavior.  Or as I personally believe, offered itself as a behavior correction mechanism that laid “heavy numbers” to keep some parts of society in line.  However, logos are the concepts that relies on delivering the truth, or a reasonable explanation.

Nevertheless, I found that Powell’s eventual definition of mythos and logos as indefinite as its source.  However, myth will seemingly always carry the definition of being somewhat irrational in concerns to storytelling.  Whereas logo strives for the rational.

Jones’s book, The Marriage of Logos and Mythos, begins with his supporting of Powell’s view on mythos and logos in his “Aspects of the Mythic Imagination” text.  Here he highlights four aspects of mythos and how we apply the definition of it on a personal scale of comprehension.  Like Powell, he believes mythos is a means to provide insight into an individual’s own direction, even describing its purpose as a means to shift individuals onto a “timeless learning journey.”  His views take on an imaginative, even esoteric, approach to the definition of mythos.  However, like Powell, his understanding of logo continues with the “logical” approaching concept.

The marriage between the two appears to be explained by Jones’s view of: “with the rise of the industrial economy, we found ourselves in a world out of balance.  Scientific logos quickly rose to dominance and the mythic life feels into disrepute.”  Nevertheless, Jones concludes that, in the context of leadership, both mythos and logos have to become one.  It’s this union that provides a leader with a logical--yet creative--approach to leading generations to come. 

Just revisiting some old ideas related to literature.  I wonder which do I live in most.  A world filled with mythos-like ideas?  Or the practicals of logo-like ideas?  It's fair to say both.

Jones, M. (2010). The Marriage of Logos and Mythos: Transforming Leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 4(3), 73-76.

Powell, B. B. (2002). A short introduction to classical myth. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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