Early Spring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Literally translated as “mountain water”, Shan Shui is a specific style of Chinese landscape art that rose to prominence in the 5th century during the Liu Song Dynasty (wikipedia). In the depiction of pristine rivers, ethereal mists, and hallowed mountains, the artist’s ultimate goal is to capture the ch’i, or vital breath, of the world around them. This ch’i must be caught even at the expense of realism, for if the artist misses it, they have lost the very essence of the landscape. In this way, Shan Shui paintings are only expressions of art, but also provide insight into how the artist, influenced by culture and society, views the natural world.
I recently came across the work of a modern artist who sought to introduce modern human presence and impact into Shan Shui paintings. Commissioned by the China Environmental Protection Foundation, Yong Liang Yang utilizes the traditional art style in ads to promote awareness of major environmental problems. The paintings and the associated video highlight the effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization within a Chinese context, providing insight into modern cultural perceptions of nature, environmental protection, and sustainability. The following are my musings.
Stumbling onto the animated version of Flight of the Hummingbird, by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.
While writing my essay on The Flight of the Hummingbird several months ago, I had asked my partner to read over the piece and give her thoughts. She liked my interpretation that the ultimate outcome depends on the motivations of the hummingbird. She went further to provide another perspective: Is Dukdukdiya really doing all she can?
Many deeply affective and moving narratives have their roots in tragedy; there can be no light without the dark. Stories that revel in beauty without exploring the shadow dimension of grief, death, and despair can occasionally come across feeling artificial, shallow, and incomplete. In contrast, those that accept and embrace tragedy can take on dimensions of substance, becoming deeper, rounder, and whole. They linger in our memories, and stay with us for a long time, profoundly shaping our identity and our understanding of the world.
This week’s Reconnect explores three poignant and bittersweet Ekostories. Continue reading
Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the Legend of Zelda is one of the most iconic and celebrated franchises in videogame history. What I love about the series is that it continually incorporates inspiration from various real-life mythologies into its own world. Each mainline iteration is a self-contained story, but they can all be seen as discrete reinterpretations of one central legend, a core narrative that revolves around the hero of Courage, aided by the heroine of Wisdom, embarking on a quest to prevent the villain of Power from acquiring the Triforce, a sacred artifact that grants its wielder’s desires. Two games in the series struck me as being particularly intriguing in the content and delivery of their monomyths from an Ekostories perspective. The first I’ll touch on is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, released for the Gamecube in 2003.
I usually have to think to come up with catchy titles for my entries, but the work has been done for me this week. Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is a Nebula-winning short story written by James Tiptree Jr., a pseudonym of Alice Sheldon. A trailblazer in fusing “hard” science fiction which focused on science and technology with the sociological and psychological ideas of “soft” science fiction, Tiptree was also a master in exploring the vantage point of the other, the female, and the alien. I first came upon her work in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever and was captivated by the mastery of her prose and the bleakness of her tales. Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is my favorite story out of that compilation.
Unlike the utopian future of the Star Trek universe, Tiptree’s science fiction stories tend to be dark and pessimistic, often exploring the inexorable force of biological determinism and the futility of existence as self-aware individuals. Her tales force me to wonder: Are we as human beings ultimately slaves to our biology? Despite our intelligence, are we doomed to behave like other creatures, to overwhelm the carrying capacity of our surroundings until we experience precipitous plunges in population as a species? Although Love features no human characters, it provides an opportunity to ruminate upon these very important questions through the perspective of Moggadeet, a terrifying yet lovable and sympathetic alien.
“I don’t believe there’s a climate change. I know there’s a climate change. [chuckles] Because I’ve lived off the land most of my life, and I see what’s happening out there on the land, especially in the northern region of the Yukon. I see how the permafrost is melting, how lakes are going dry, how the water’s low…”
- Gentleman from the Yukon Territories in Canada, Climate Voices
We can encounter compelling stories in the most unexpected of places. I stumbled across Climate Voices on a flight home from a long and emotionally draining trip. Unable to sleep after watching an entire season of No Reservations, I noticed the short film while flipping thorough the documentary section. Initially hesitant to watch an educational film in my sleep-deprived state, I decided to give it a chance after realizing the hours of insomnia that lay ahead of me. What I discovered was a remarkable series of personal stories from people across the world.