The Art Apocalypse: Is It Real?

I’m unsure if this counts as a fun fact or not but, I’ve never read Hunger Games. I feel like it’s considered a rite of passage of sorts? Like it’s assumed every bookworm/avid reader discovered their love for books with Harry Potter and continued this journey with young adult dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels and less dark but equally detailed fantasy franchises. Honestly, no judgement. Hunger Games sounds great, I just can’t commit to completing series that are longer than two books! I’m either obsessed with an author or will read one of their works and never touch another. I’m pretty sure I started the first Hunger Games and left it halfway. At the time, dystopia as a genre just didn’t seem appealing. I didn’t get the fuss surrounding these alternate worlds with seemingly warped rules and for the most part, normal characters.

Fiction for me meant escapism. Positive outcomes, power-driven characters and of course, the fight and struggle, just not too much of it. Although I still love the “riding into the sunset” endings, I’ve grown to appreciate dystopian art. I get the fuss, they’re a very clever way of artists using their work to showcase reality through fabrication. Dystopia as a genre has so much to offer us, but think about it; art as a whole gets the gears of your brain turning. One looks to literature and film because it’s a show of people like us having experiences and lives that are well, the stuff of movies. Yet, it pushes you to think that you can achieve that ideal too. An underlying motive of dystopian art is just that. It speaks to that “light at the end of the tunnel” craving part of you. The message dystopian narratives relay is that; even if the world as you know it changes, and its order turns upside down, you have a mind. An opinion, the power to think and endure which you must keep alive. You can push back and who knows? Find the Peeta to your Katniss. (I’M SORRY) I have nothing against the Hunger Games couple, it’s just hilarious the way there’s always a strong romance maintained despite the world ending.

On a more serious note, dystopian classics like 1984, Animal Farm, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451 etc. present a more stark reality. We see how this genre has its levels. While dystopian literature’s young adult counterparts follow semi-hopeful, feminist storylines with the protagonists leading and emerging victorious in combat against an oppressive government, Orwell and Atwood’s protagonists are already in too deep. They’ve succumbed to an extremist structure larger than them and far too powerful to fight against. In this sense, dystopian art is a cautionary tale. A guide and a warning. Strongest at times when humanity begins to suspect the error of its ways.

The popularity of the dystopian genre speaks volumes of our psychodrama because when activists declare the need for change and the impending disasters awaiting us, many look the other way. Mainly because we’re terrified of the truth, it’s too daunting. But, through dystopian art; by creating these extreme worlds of ink, these precarious other universes, artists simply pose the question, ‘What if?’ And it’s much easier to stomach through the lens of what if. The artist isn’t directly telling you of their fears for our future. Giving new names to the problems we face, dystopias indirectly make us realise that this “other” world isn’t far from ours. This surveillance, torture, war, hampering of progress and oppression, can you see it happening? The question arises, can we fight back as well?

A picture that reminded me of just how wild the range of dystopian art is

The term ‘art-pocalypse’ was coined in the 2000s to account for the rise in the publishing and subsequent popularity of dystopian fiction, tv shows, films and art. I feel like there was and is so much that contributes to the mindsets in which these works were created and consumed. The very fact that we have our world to compare another’s worst period to adds to the thrill of being an accomplice to a dystopia. Not to mention, the relief that comes with realising that we aren’t subject to these atrocities yet and the chill running down your spine when a part of you wonders, ‘or are we?’. It’s also foolish to think that the creators of dystopian art are conniving psychopaths. They live to tell the tale and dystopian art through the years can be seen as a timeline of the greatest terrors of humanity. We can see this from the way different depictions tackle concepts ranging from dictators to media control to climate change.

Something to remember is that dystopias are nothing to be afraid of. Avoiding them because they’re too dark or twisted means you’re missing out! They’re immersive and a way of championing real-life issues on the part of their creators. Pondering upon the way dystopian fiction brings out this rebellious, defiant, ready-to-fight aspect in people who watch or read it or how often the world seems to be eerily similar, always brings me to the life imitates art v/s art imitates life debate. The way dystopian art makes us want to be unruly, to protest, to surmount complex structures reveals so much about the way words and pictures put us in a sort of permanent mindset. Art has such power. The art we choose to consume builds our personality. I might be exaggerating, but art in its purest form and even in its messiest, leaves us changed in some way. For better or for worse? That’s not for this post to decide.

Down The Rabbit Hole

a glimpse of the very enlightening yet frustrating process we like to call research

Don’t get me wrong! It’s great if you want to learn more about a current issue or a world crisis. The end result is completely worth it when you can understand what’s on the news and have an opinion when people ask what you think of a particular scenario. It’s the process of learning and bringing yourself up to speed that I dread and one you probably do too- unless you like being utterly perplexed for hours on end.

You start with confidence, ‘it’s going to be easy!’ you think. Oh, how wrong you are. You open the first tab- BIG MISTAKE. You should have at least five open! Read the current news on one and look up the terms you’re confused about on the next. Another thing you will be wasting your time on is finding the right website. You see, Google doesn’t take convenience into account. It will always show you the exact opposite of what you’re looking for, forcing you to scour further down the rabbit hole.

Depending on how far back the crisis goes or how complicated it is you could be spending anywhere between all night and three hours doing research. Let’s assume you want to know more about the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s been on the news lately and it’s definitely great to be aware. No amount of research seems to be enough and as you read article after thesis after statistic, you uncover yet another law or party that is unknown to you.

The cherry on top of that cake of annoyance is when you’re in the middle of reading that godsend of a New York Times article, and an immovable notification pops up on your screen asking you to sign up. Where is Gaza? What’s happening there? I guess you’ll never know. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will probably be coming back to that website of basics multiple times. Swallow your pride and just bookmark that tab, we both know you won’t find it later.

When you think you’ve covered every source and somewhere down the rabbit hole you look up and see where you started, that sense of accomplishment is what Da Vinci must have felt when he finished the Mona Lisa after four years. The next day, there’s an update in the news; ‘A new U.S. approach to HAMAS could be in the making’.  The only question on your mind, ‘wait… what is HAMAS again?’ Oh no. Well, I guess you’ll be spending another night down the rabbit hole.

note: I know this is shorter and different compared to what I usually post. But it’s something I wanted to write about. So, I hope you enjoyed it!

Review: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

This was my first Murakami novel and…. let’s just say it was long overdue. I’d heard some great things about his work and quotes from his novels, these words which felt unique, personal and heartfelt made me all the more curious to see if this internationally acclaimed, idiosyncratic author was as brilliant as everyone says he is. Unsure of which book to read first, I picked Sputnik Sweetheart on a whim. At first, I was disappointed. Now, wait a minute, before you come at me, read the rest of this blog post. I don’t know which part of the book let me down. It wasn’t the writing, which was powerful and evocative. He excels at providing strong imagery and descriptions that you cannot get enough of. It wasn’t the characters or a complex storyline that made me discontent either. It was the plot and the fact that I was not used to novels that left me with more questions than answers and left so much to the readers’ interpretation.

I didn’t know this at the time, and I was not about to stop at that. I knew there had to be more to Murakami and I was determined to find out what it was. So, I went down a Google rabbit-hole and read anything about Sputnik Sweetheart I could find. What I found out from Murakami fans (is there a name for them? Like Potterheads? I’m new help me out) online is that the beauty of his books is the fact that he leaves it to you to decide and his storylines give you so many possibilities. I also learned that his books don’t usually have a centric storyline and are more dependent on the themes, philosophies and characters to lead them.

I also learned about a little something known as magical realism, which is the genre Murakami’s books come under. Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. These authors deliberately leave the magic in their stories unexplained, in order to normalize it as much as possible and reinforce that is part of everyday life. This is a concise explanation but I think it gave me clarity on so much of what the book was trying to portray. Sputnik Sweetheart explored the mysteries and possible complexities of the world we live in. How there is much more to it than what we see.

The characters are pretty generic. We have the protagonist Sumire, (meaning: Violet) a witty, ‘better than most’, aspiring novelist, who dressed in an oversized herringbone coat and spent her days deep in thought and a Jack Kerouac novel. Sumire didn’t like everyone’s company but something about her drew people in. She probably thinks she’s unique to this world but little does she know, Sumire is every intellectual/brainy/bookish female protagonist. But although I’ve read about 100 Sumires, this kind of character is just one you can’t get tired of. We then have Sumire’s best friend and the narrator of this book, represented by the single letter, K. It’s true! K remains nameless throughout the book. This decision was probably for the best because K is the blandest character I have come across. I forgot that he was narrating multiple times because Sumire has way more personality than he does. She has her quirks and her writing while K is just… there. I think this was a good decision on Murakami’s part though because the attention would have swayed from Sumire if K had a vibrant personality. He was the perfect narrator. Our third and last character is Miu, Sumire’s love interest. I really like Miu and Sumire’s dynamic.

Miu is the opposite of Sumire, so to speak. She is an elegant businesswoman who speaks three languages, travels and has so many stories to tell. Miu is intriguing. Coming to the story, the plot really starts when Miu calls K from a remote Greek island to tell him Sumire has gone missing, and there are no leads. Following this is a series of revelations and the magical realism aspect comes in with the characters’ unusual experiences all leading up to the question, what happened to Sumire? That’s not for me to say because honestly, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve been trying to decipher the ending, and each time I come to a new conclusion. It’s a baffling, chilling story.

Final thoughts~ I am in awe of Murakami’s descriptions of loneliness, they were profound and different but somehow, you understand what he’s describing. I also loved the way he captured the ups and downs of writing and Sumire’s thirst for knowledge and curiosity and the way she asks questions we didn’t know we had at the back of our minds. The best was the parallel with Sputnik and the characters, I think he brought the title in very well. I’ll end by saying that if it is your first time reading Haruki Murakami, like me- don’t base your opinion on your first impression of this book. If you don’t get what he’s saying at first glance, think deeper, read it again. You will probably be very confused but also on the right track so, give it a try!

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”

~Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Reading with Robin: Sputnik Sweetheart

Sputnik Sweetheart; ENDING ANALYSIS AND SPOILERS

Haruki Murakami- Sputnik Sweetheart

What’s Trending?

From boxed braids to messy buns, from tie-dye shirts to ripped jeans and from hoop earrings to mismatched ones, fashion has truly seen it all. Since its origin fashion has really evolved. It now has the power to make a statement and is often significant of your beliefs. How you dress defines who you are and even though we may not like it, we are deemed a certain way by what we wear. If you’re a celebrity or someone who’s in the public eye where every move you make is scrutinized, the right outfit can get you to the highest places. However, the wrong outfit can put you on the front page of a gossip magazine. Either way, fashion is a huge part of our lives, of how society perceives us.

Essentially, fashion comes down to clothes and materialistic items, but nothing can be as simple as that. Everything has layers, doesn’t it? Similarly, designers, influencers and other flagbearers of fashion keep us on edge with various new styles and trends. ‘Trends’ especially fuel the fashion industry and are the reason for so much of the waste that it produces daily. Trends have been around since the invention of magazines and digital media which connected the world. It’s a fact universally known that human beings are drawn to fitting in. We would rather dress like the rest than stick out like a sore thumb with an individual style. Most brands veer towards keeping what’s in trend in their stores because it’s what sells!

The word ‘trend’ itself originally meant a ‘general course or direction’ in the 1800s and slowly became used to describe ‘a prevailing new tendency in popular fashion or culture’ in the 1950s. So, trends are incredibly restricting and boring if you come to think about them. For instance, when imitating trends of the 2000s or 90s, only particular items of clothing are taken into consideration and bunched together under the term ‘trends’ when there could be so many diverse and unique styles that aren’t looked at because they aren’t featured in movies, tv shows or magazines because again, they only looked at what was trending.

The psychology of trends comes down to something appropriately described by the phrase: ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. According to research, in the Elizabethan era and the 1600s: a trend often began when a king or queen dressed a certain way. Then, following a trend meant you were loyal to royalty and were well informed of your King/Queen’s words. We see the same pattern today, as following a trend means you know what’s ‘in’ or what’s ‘out’. It reflects upon the fact that you are someone who is up to date on pop culture and ‘keeps up with the Kardashians’.

Trends were also mostly followed by those at the very top of society that is, royals and nobles. There remains to this day in the 21st century, a similar class divide, where your clothes are seen as a symbol of which strata of society you belong to. Royals translate to celebrities, fashion bloggers, people in politics and others who are seen wearing a trend on the front page. Meanwhile, the nobles watch them and follow in their Prada- adorned footsteps.

Trends not only condemn innovation but stifle an individual’s creativity and dictate their self-worth on superficial lines. They also create so much waste in terms of resources and wealth. Trends literally originate from a sense of general direction and change overnight. Trends often make people feel bad about what they don’t have or who they aren’t like. They gave rise to terms like ‘fast fashion’ and ‘conspicuous consumption’. Obsessively keeping up with what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ is letting fashion own you when it should be you dictating what you want to wear. Do you know the saying, ”a human being is a single being. Unique and unrepeatable.”? Trends oppose that in every manner.

Read more about fashion trends and their influence in the links below.

SOURCES:

What Fashion Trends Really Represent

Fashion Trends and the Psychology behind them

Theories Of Fashion

Enjoy not Endure

Why are we so blatantly obsessed with getting our hands on the unattainable? With being the unattainable? Let’s face it, when something’s inherently hard to achieve, it automatically goes higher on the scale of achievements, or when a product is less in number, it automatically becomes expensive and in demand. Like in March 2020, when everyone rushed to hoard essential supplies before the lockdown, and when stores were empty the price of things like toilet paper increased online. But, this isn’t true only to essentials. Take uber-luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci for example; because they’re expensive, few people have them and as a result, they’re put on a pedestal.

The thing is, most brands work this way. Having year-end or 24-hour long sales, or selling limited editions of a product is a great way for brands to draw customers as crowds form endless lines to attain the unattainable. It is because of this obsession, that the economy even works. There’s even a name for the theory- it’s called ‘The Scarcity Principle’. The principle means that humans place a higher value on objects that are scarce and a lower value on those that are abundant. Diamonds are more valuable than rocks because diamonds aren’t as abundant. Not only value but our perception of anything changes with it being scarce as well.

The principle works because we’re wired to think that way, nurtured in a society that lives on this principle. The education system is an example of this: the schools that take only the best of the best and have limited seats, are most people’s first choice. Even in terms of grades, few kids get the highest score and so of course, we all want it. This attitude is what creates the rat race, that never-ending need to get to the top and working to stay there.

If you think about it, the trope in fiction of the ‘popular boy’ going for the ‘only girl that doesn’t fall at his feet’ or even the one where the most eligible bachelor is the one that doesn’t want company in the first place is sort of a product of the scarcity principle mindset. I’d be rich if I had a penny for every time I heard the male lead in a movie talk about his longing for the female lead that’s playing ‘hard to get’.

So, there’s a thought process behind why a ‘one-time-only’ event seems more valuable than an event that happens every week. But, don’t get me wrong I am not condemning once in a lifetime opportunities. Working towards being a part of the crème de la crème and achieving your goal, is a wonderful feeling! However, once you’re at the top your worst fear is going back down. So, you’re doing everything in your power to stay there even when nothing is threatening your position.

Having said that, the mindset has its pros. It keeps a person driven. So, enjoy your accomplishments and keep alive that hope and drive for your goals.

I am of course, no expert and haven’t covered everything in this blog post. Definitely do your own research and you’ll surely learn a lot more about the principle. I’ve provided some helpful links at the end!

SOURCES/ MORE ON THE TOPIC:

What Is The Scarcity Principle?

The Scarcity Mindset

The Psychology of Scarcity

Dwell in Possibilities

Last blog post of the year! Usually, at the end of a year I recount the things I’m thankful for, so this time I want to emphasize one of the things that got me through this nightmare of a year- nostalgia. When I think of nostalgia, buzzwords like memories and dreams come to mind. I once read that being nostalgic means you’re stuck in the past. I’ve even read that nostalgia is a form of day-dreaming! However, this year, I’ve realized that it is anything but. I realized what being nostalgic truly feels like. As the world came crashing down, nostalgia was my getaway. Thinking of good times from 2019 or earlier became a coping mechanism.

To some, nostalgia is a picture, a memory, a book. To me, music is what unlocks nostalgia, is what unlocks that overflow of bitter-sweet memories that you can’t help but smile at. This year, I think we all needed an escape sometimes and that’s okay. Recounting memories isn’t living in the past, but is cherishing it. When I’m nostalgic, I find myself thinking how fast something went by and it makes me all the more intent on enjoying the present. Nostalgia also has more of a motivating factor for me. It gives me that rush of adrenaline I need to finish that last bit of work or read that last chapter as my eyes get heavy. Sometimes you need that boost from the past to enjoy the present.

This post doesn’t really have a lesson, rather I want to bring to light an underrated emotion. Think about it, in every book or movie, when nothing seems to work out for the main character or they lost the love of their life or their idea didn’t go as planned- what helps? They flashback to a better time in their lives and they are inspired to continue, to start anew. Then follows the happy ending.

Nostalgia also gave me hope. Hope that things will get better, hope that the next day won’t be as bad. Hope is always followed by something good. If anything, 2020 was a year filled with hope. Even if it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, we had our good moments. I certainly did, and nostalgia got me there. Even now, as the year ends and we say ‘I hope 2021 is better’ that’s hope. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever came our way, we never stopped hoping. For me, a part of that hope came from nostalgia. From the bitter aspect of it, which reminded me of all my blue days, and how they didn’t last.

So, thanks nostalgia. You can keep collecting my memories and letting them out when someone asks me ‘What’s a memory that you cherish?’ or ‘What’s a time you’d wish to relive?’ and then, follows the sudden rush of joy and a dash of longing I like to call nostalgia.

As 2020 ends, there are some moments I’d like to remember but overall, I think this year will be a reminder to me, that disaster struck but we went on, times changed but we slowly adapted, and that no matter what happens you have to keep going.

PS.- Of all things, I’ll remember this as the year I started this blog:)

Happy New Year!

Is History Trying to Tell Us Something?

In two of the last books I read, Pachinko and The Bastard of Istanbul I saw a common theme; that our past lives within the present, and history often repeats itself, when we don’t know it. Now, these thoughts are much too overwhelming to analyze. I don’t know about you, but knowing that certain instances I’ve seen are just the past recurring? To me, that sounds like the plot of a fantasy novel, where the world is stuck in some sort of punishment. Considering the human race is one that thrives on the idea of ‘different’, I am shocked that we even let history repeat itself!

What’s common between the people that history, that the world idolizes? What makes them inspiring? It’s the fact that they all thought unique. They innovated and brought unconventional ideas to the table. When someone doesn’t stick to the ‘status quo’, that’s the start of every great movement, the beginning of every revolution. No-one wants to be ordinary! We’re ordered to think differently. Yet, every revolutionaries’ story begins with society condemning them… But that’s a debate for another time.

I’m not saying different is bad, uniqueness makes the world better. But I’m surprised that history can still repeat itself when all each generation wants to do is make their mark, ensure that their new ideas are recorded in history books.

source: https://pin.it/3WrAgwK

Above is one of the many common quotes you read about time. We’ve all heard or read that phrase: history repeats itself when we choose to ignore it- or a variation of it. I completely agree. We see it happening even now- with the same tragedies, discrimination, and issues faced by us decades ago, still prevalent. Every day, I see yet another disturbing act of violence making the headlines, another case of injustice taking place, and think: why? Why aren’t we learning from history?

So, as I pen this blog post I realize that yes, history does repeat itself when we ignore the past when we rule it out because we often feel that the world has evolved. But, that posed yet another puzzling question in my head. As the world fights the COVID 19 pandemic, analyses have come to show that a full-scale pandemic seems to occur every 100 years. Examples of this are the Plague in 1720, Cholera in 1820, and the Spanish flu in 1918. Finally, right on time, we are currently in a pandemic in 2020.

We also see striking similarities between these pandemics whether in their effects or how they are conducted. Now, here’s where I am confused. If this is another act of history-repetition, what exactly are we to learn from it? If the past indeed repeats itself because we ignore it- what about the Plague or even the Coronavirus are we disregarding? This is truly something I want to understand so if you have a theory do tell me about it!

OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE TOPIC:

Why Does History Repeat Itself?

Infinite Loop

Does History Repeat Itself When We Refuse To Acknowledge It?