Where I’ve Been



Here’s my personal map. It’s where I’ve been.

It’s all of the places I’ve lived, all of the memories I’ve made, all of the events that’ve made me me.


To have years of memories compressed into pins on a map is unsettling.

But so is the unhalting passage of time, I guess.


Looking back at my map of my room, hardly anything’s changed. At the time, it embodied my disorganization, unkemptness, and disarray–both physical and emotional. Beginning college uprooted me from my home and tossed me haphazardly into an adult life I hadn’t lived before. I was given responsibilities I had never received, and my room embodied the disarray I found myself in emotionally. Now, it’s cleaner, but still much trashier than the typical abode. Similarly, I find myself feeling a bit more in-control, a bit more comfortable, and a bit less in disarray. My room is my temple, and my temple is me.

I decided to choose Liv by the Truth Daily’s map to come up with a story for. Right off the bat, I can tell it’s a room for togetherness, for sharing time with one another. The angles of the chairs direct the energy inwards and convey a deep sense of intimacy. It’s a room for confiding, for community, and for shared experience.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a living room, despite it missing the conventional family-television. It’s a living room for a deeply-connected family who values interconnectedness and shared investment. A true, honest family.

Data Visualization

As an artist, a visual aid is entirely fundamental to my learning experience. Even further, there are many things I simply cannot fathom without the help of visual aids.

They’ve defined my educational career and have shaped my perception of countless topics.

Ergo, this TED talk, personally, rung very true. To me, certain concepts and processes are entirely incomprehensible without the relativism, colors, and proportions that McCandless describes. These things are fundamental to my learning, and, even still, they’re incredibly helpful to most everyone.

To this end, I entirely consider data visualizations as visual rhetoric.

The data’s organization, color scheme, and overall arrangement influence split-second decisions as to what we feel about a visualization. Stark contrasts in color or size can not only represent literal dichotomies, but also emotional ones. These subjectivities are the “visualization” of a “data visualization.” This is perceived as pathos.

The data itself, from a purely objective standpoint, is the definition of logos. The two are intimately one-in-the-same. Through hard facts and statistical observations does one understand the concept of the visualization. It is what is being visualized–the concrete being portrayed abstractly.

None of the above, however, matters in the least without credibility. This ethos is why the data is pertinent. If it isn’t from a credible source, it likely isn’t conveying an accurate visualization.

These aids act as memory palaces because they make visible the invisibilities of our world. Striking images, such as the flower McCandless repeatedly shows, become palaces for the data sets, statistics, and figures. They become the keys to elusive information–the houses of abstraction.

They are personifications of the modern torrent of media. They are faces to the faceless facts we’re fed each day. They allow us to relate to insubstantial, intangible ideas.

They help us to understand the complexities of an ever-changing world.

Failings of the Modern World

Anthony Shadid’s article was immensely powerful and entirely warranted the Pulitzer Prize.

His recount was shocking, highlighting such terrible conceptions of the American people only matched by the often terrible conceptions that we have of them.


For now, we are the bombs we drop.

For now, they are the towers they destroy.


Such is the downfall of a Worldwide Community. Modern civilization calls us to interact with distant lands and distant people, though we have not the means to characterize them accurately. In the end, we truly know so little about them.

It is the duty of these brave souls, journalists to foreign lands, to fill the gaping chasm of ignorance. Only through them can we have the intimate, personal story that we deserve. The people of the world are not facts and figures, as the news would have you believe, but rather individuals. Individuals with goals, aspirations, and relationships. And we don’t give them the attention they deserve.

We cannot possibly know everything about whom our nation deals, but we cannot thereby ignore what we can learn. They deserve to be heard, to be considered, and to be remembered. Anything else would be an immense disservice and deprivation of their rights as people.


As an artist, I don’t write the articles you read. I illustrate them.

I don’t give you the message, I allow you to find it yourself. I give you the choice, just as Anthony Shadid did, to become more than a bomb. More than a blast. More than devastation.

My Remembrance

At the end of the semester, I want to be remembered as The Artist. I want to be remembered for being eccentric, as every artist must be.

I want to be remembered for writing A Spark of Insight. Whether you read it or not, I wrote it for you. I wrote it to be an extension of myself, directed towards you. They were carefully chosen topics, chosen not simply for a grade, but to better express myself to you. A pedestal for my artwork and my opinion. These are the things that I am defined by. If you’ve read a post of mine, you’ve glimpsed into me. Please recognize the level of intimacy between writer and reader.

I want to be remembered for writing a story about drinking the entire ocean. For spending that much time fantasizing about the subsequent obesity.

I want to be remembered for mapping Diagon Alley. For mapping a street on which I will never walk. Too often does that happen, as an artist.

I want to be remembered for leading the Tofurky group to an epic success on our menu. Hopefully first-impressions aren’t so easily lost.


These are the things by which I want to be remembered. They make me who I am, and who I want to be remembered as.



Rhetorical Appeals

In the entire galaxy, not a single group understands the Aristotelian appeals more extensively than the Jedi Order. They are the keepers of peace and the protectors of a galaxy divided, bringing order to entire planets. Consider the difference, purely in scale, of ideological difference between two states and then of two star systems. The jedi use their rhetorical mastery, and maybe a touch of the Force, to settle disputes between entirely different species. Truly they are prodigies.

Below is my memory palace for the three Aristotelian appeals, as demonstrated by one of the most prolific jedi of all time, Mace Windu:

I found, as a visual learner, that the easiest way to remember the appeals was to attach them to body parts.

The speaker’s use of logos refers to the use of facts, statistics, or cold, hard logic. Logos is detached, objective, and undeniable. This is a jedi’s greatest tool. With an interplanetary dispute comes fundamental differences is beliefs, ethics, and ideologies. Logic is, in many cases, the only way to settle such disputes. This is symbolized by the brain.

The speaker’s use of pathos refers to the use subjectivity, emotion, and abstraction. Pathos is personal, subjective, and relative. Jedi try not to utilize such base appeals, whenever possible. When they do, it is from a sense of compassion, a sense of care, and of protection. This is symbolized by the heart.

The speaker’s use of ethos refers to the use of standing, position, or recognition. Ethos isn’t typically used so much as it is considered. Along with the title of a jedi comes a connotation of studiousness, intuition, and an unrivaled level of self-control. The jedi name is known throughout the entire galaxy, meaning their ethos is felt everywhere.


Hopefully this clarifies things. May the Force be with you.


This sparkofinsight is spotty. It’s disorganized. Alot of thoughts without elaboration.

A flurry of sparks that extinguish in the blink of an eye.

The burial of the dead is the earliest form of memorial in human history.

Thousands of years ago, before the rise of civilization, before the gears of human ingenuity began to turn, humankind understood memory. They understood, at our core, we are beings who want to be remembered, and it took not the power of steel or the thunder of engines to reach such a conclusion. Men and women who knew almost nothing about the world understood a fundamental value: memorial.

Memory of us lasts so long as our body endures. Our lives are spent scratching and clawing to be remembered, scavenging for hope in the brevity of our lives.

Our fear is that we are useless. Our fear is that our lives have been wasted. For good or for bad, we want to be remembered. That’s how we become immortal.

Remembrance is our duty as a race, as a world culture. No one deserves to be forgotten, and our mental maps must be complete. But memory is our fatal flaw. Our imperfect brains forget just as easily as they remember. Our works, just as our bodies, crumble in the passage of time.

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Ozymandias by Percy Shelley

Can’t Stop

A still from the music video to the song "Can't Stop."

I always dreamt that, if I was an English teacher, I’d spend a good portion of the curriculum on having my class analyze a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. While undeniably catchy and downright superb, their style is largely marked by spontaneous, abstract, almost incoherent strings of phrases. However, with a bit of patience, I think one can find powerful meaning in such carefully chosen words. I felt like now would be a good time to get started on that. So, here’s the chorus to one of my favorite songs by them.
The world I love,
The tears I drop,
To be part of
The wave–can’t stop.
Ever wonder if it’s all for you.

The world I love,
The trains I hop,
To be part of
The wave–can’t stop.
Come and tell me when it’s time to.


The first stanza of the chorus depicts the narrator loving a world and dropping tears all in order to be a part of a wave. Simultaneously, he recognizes that he cannot stop himself from doing so, and considers whether it is all done for some unknown person.

The second stanza depicts a similiar struggle, this time, however, the narrator also explains that, while he loves a world and drops tears, he also hops trains. While still reflecting upon the involuntary nature of the dilemma, he continues by requesting that we, as an outside force, notify him of when to seek an end to the destructive cycle.


To me, this chorus is a poetic rhyme about the pressures of society. It carefully and concisely depicts the struggles and torment tied to an accepted herd-mentality. The narrator, obviously distraught, details the extreme lengths to which he goes in order to be a part of ‘The Wave.’ As kinetic and changing as the shape of a wave, so too does society change its expectations towards its followers. But it does so while still demanding complete and utter obedience.


To be apart from the wave is to be a leaf upon the surface of the waters–ever still. Singular and alone.


The narrator sacrifices to this end by both dropping tears and hopping trains. These aren’t necessarily literal sacrifices, but symbolic ones. They convey the extent to which he endures both emotional and physical depravity to meet the whims of The Wave. The two lines clarify the scope of the problem.


The final line is a proposition to the listener. He asks for us to tell him when the suffering should end. He asks for us to give him a reason to stop. The torment he details throughout the chorus are, ultimately, all parts of the world that he has forced himself to love. He finds solace through persistance, and he does so for “you.”

“You” is the need to please. It is the compulsion to be liked and the drive to be admired. It is what presses us to our limits and forces us to bend to convention.


The question, then, is when we stop. When can we distance ourselves from admiration? When do we despise convention or revile its regard?

That’s really what’s being asked, here.





Success is Fleeting

I can completely level with Elizabeth’s points. As a creative person, the pressure to create and innovate is high. The pressure to be genius is high. And I don’t necessarily know why that is. But I have at least one sparkofinsight.

I think nonartistic people, typically, solve concrete problems. How do you get water down a hill to a village? How do you build a house? How do you plant wheat? Objectivity.
But artists, knowably or otherwise, attempt to solve abstract problems. They attempt to convey the spirit of emotion, the ungraspable phantasms of human feeling.

And, I think, that’s a lot of pressure. For artists, it’s crushing. Immobilizing. And people understand it. They understand that there is an invisible wall between stroking a brush and standing still. Elizabeth Gilbert would call such a barrier genius. It’s the collapse of creation. So it’s reasonable for people to ask “Are you ever afraid..”

But I don’t think you comfort the man upon the ledge with “Are you afraid?”
You don’t comfort the bullfighter with “Are you afraid?


Because, as artists, we’re on that ledge. The empty page or the white canvas is our bull.

And success and innovation is fleeting. It would be great for people to respect that.

Sparks of Insight from Jon Meacham

The talk by Jon Meacham was just as sparkofinsightful as I’d expected. Probably even more so. He was an utterly fascinating man, and one with a great sense of humor.

He gave me a couple of great sparks of insight that I’d like to relay here.


Firstly, he couldn’t say enough about how important understanding of visual rhetoric was in his news printing career. He solidified all that my graphic design teachers have been teaching me throughout the years, and made me feel justified in my career path.

He also shed some really fascinating light into the future of print-media, which, I mean, come on. No brainer. Graphic artists love magazines. They love newspapers. They love printing with ink onto treeskin. But I’ve been worried about exactly what place they’ll have in the years to come, which is why it was so awesome of that boy to ask the question. Overall, Meacham gave a pretty optomistic answer. Will print as a medium be as prevalent as it is now? As it has been? No. But, according to him, it will find its niche. And that’s good enough for me.


Those were the two things that really stood out to me. He was an amazing speaker, and I was floored when he said I was kind for reminding him that he won a Pulitzer.

I mean, seriously. I was all like:




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