Origami Friday

The Art of Origami

The Art of Origami

It’s a bit hard to explain the allure of origami to the uninitiated. You take a piece of colored paper, fold it into convoluted geometric patterns and somehow (perhaps through a bit of black magic or a blood pact with Cthulhu) you end up with a paper thing that sort of resembles a not-paper thing. It’s not exactly rocket science, but when most people face the terribly complicated world of squash folds, waterbomb bases, and “sinking the tip,” it is easy to cry “Impossibluh!” and accuse enthusiasts of this ancient Japanese art of being paper-folding sorcerers hell-bent on hoodwinking the populace into frustrating itself as countless would-be origamists throw their crunched up ball of paper into the wastebasket after a disastrous attempt at making a crane.


For most of my life, I have viewed those people capable of such a confusing art as somewhat inhuman, as if only a demigod could decipher the baffling code of vague instructions that was origami. But yet I was still absolutely fascinated by the pictures I saw of brilliantly colored flowers and animals and boxes all made out of paper. They were beautiful and intricate and I longed to be able to create such gorgeous artwork out of nothing but a square of paper and my own two hands. It was like magic watching the videos of skillful fingers folding the paper into simple creases over and over again until they fashioned something incredibly complex. It was like witchery, how such effortless movements could produce such beauty.

I vowed to myself that I would learn this art, but lacking an instructor, special paper, or even a particularly coordinated set of hands, the odds seemed to stack loomingly against my favor. Thus I turned to the ultimate source of knowledge, the almighty Google, for help. A few keystrokes later, I was on an origami instruction site browsing the instructions on how to make a simple bird.

It helps to have great nail color!

It helps to have great nail color!

Armed with my raggedly cut square of copy paper I had pilfered from the printer, I followed the first step in making the bird, which was folding the paper into a triangle. Easy enough! I said to myself with a smug grin. I have been folding triangles since pre-school! Maybe this whole origami thing isn’t so hard after all! I looked at the screen of my computer for the next step.

“Now squash fold the triangle to create the square base.” The instructor in the video calmly said as she made a quick movement with her hands and suddenly magicked the formerly triangular piece of paper into a square piece of paper. I was flabbergasted as I rewinded the video and tried to make sense of whatever trickery the instructor had done to make her square.

Maddie teaching Ms. Jean    Michelle

Maddie teaching Miss.Jean & Michelle

“Squash fold” she repeated as I kept on replaying the same two seconds trying to spot what on Earth she meant as her disembodied hands made the movement over and over again. I finally managed to smoosh my paper into a vaguely square-ish shape and continued the video onto the next step.

The Fold Is Everything!

The Fold Is Everything!

“Now fold the four flaps of your square diagonally to create a kite shape.” She said as I desperately tried to find the flaps. Unfortunately, my square wasn’t squash folded so those flaps didn’t exactly exist in my realm of reality. I tossed my paper and started fresh with a second piece. This time, I managed to fold the square base and summon the four flaps into this dimension. I had a kite that looked like a similar, if messy version of the one on the video.

“Now open the flaps of the kite back out and fold them in.” The instructor insisted. I was taken aback by this as I had just been gloating over my victory over the nefarious folded flaps and I was now being instructed to unfold them. This is kind of futile, isn’t it? I thought to myself, all this folding and unfolding. But I obeyed the instructor and reluctantly unfolded my flaps.

“Now we are going to do a petal fold and bring the flaps inside the kite.” The voice ordered. The instructor opened up the paper and did a confusing maneuver and suddenly the flaps were on the inside and the paper was diamond shaped. I grimaced and tried to copy the maneuver but I ended up opening my paper completely up and folding it into a sort of bizarre rectangle. As this current incarnation of folded paper was never going to look anything like the one in the video, I quickly crumpled it up and I hung my head in defeat. I’m never going to be able to do this! I fumed as I tossed my aborted creation into the trash. I looked back at the picture of the haughty completed crane that seemed to be laughing snootily at my inability to copy it. It was mocking me with it’s elegant, perfectly folded wings, graceful arched beak. It was daring me to quit. I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes at the infernal paper bird on the screen.



“I am going to make you, you stupid paper crane!” I hissed. Taking a third sheet of paper and praying fervently, I replayed the video, stopping it at each second mark to copy the instructor’s motions with almost fanatical exactness. I mastered the squash fold and narrowly overcame the petal fold until I had the base of the bird completed to look exactly like the one in the video.

I bit my lip nervously as I clicked on the play button. I had never come so close to completing the bird and the tension was running high.

“Now take the right leg of your base, and diagonally inner fold it to the top.” The voice instructed, completely unaware of the mounting suspense I felt as I copied the motion. The picture of the completed bird taunted me to mess up and my fingers were practically shaking as I slowly folded my crane into being.

Ok, careful now Maddie! I whispered to myself as I folded up the head, you’re almost there, don’t lose it now. The head was up now all that was left was the tail.

“You can’t do it!” the crane in the picture jeered. “You stink at origami!”

You’re wrong Origami Crane! I mentally retaliated, I can do this!

You Can Do This!

You Can Do This!

Then in one smooth motion, I lifted up the tail of my crane and to my amazement it went to the right place. I whooped in delight as I held my completed paper creation in my hands. I was rough all right, and compared to the crane in the picture it looked like one of the after-pictures in a drug PSA, but it was a bird and I had made it and my sense of personal achievement was undiminished.

In that moment, I decided that origami was possible and that I liked it. Placing my crane on the top of my computer I clicked on the next video for another design. My parents came home that day to a kitchen covered with a myriad of paper creations and I furiously folding long into the wee hours of the night.

Once you start...

Once you start…

The cool thing about origami is that it is all about making something out of nothing. All you have is your hands and a flat piece of paper, but with a little bit of folding and a lot of prayer, you can create something really lovely. There is so much to make and figure out! Happy Folding!

Father's Day crane for my dad. Look close, Happy Father's Day written in every space!

Father’s Day crane for my dad. Look close, Happy Father’s Day written in every space!


Maleficent Not Magnificant

Courtesy Disney

Courtesy Disney

Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has always taken me to see movies. It was a part of the very fabric of my childhood, the films, actors, and stories all intertwining like thread in the tapestry of my pop culture education.

Last week, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, my dad looked at me and said it was a good time to go see a movie. We decided on the recent summer blockbuster Maleficent, an alternate look at Disney’s classic animated Sleeping Beauty from the viewpoint of the titular evil sorceress Maleficent, played by the incredibly high cheekbones of Angelina Jolie. As a huge fan of Broadway’s wonderful Wicked, the story of The Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the viridescent Wicked Witch of the West, I was super excited about learning the backstory of one of Disney’s most elegant and charmingly evil villainesses.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you the chance to cover your eyes and ears and scream “LALALALALA!!” at the top of your lungs because here be spoilers. Like serious spoilers. I’m basically going to be giving away the whole plot of the movie so if you want to be surprised when you see it don’t read on.

Maleficent begins with the voiceover of an elderly Princess Aurora (the narcoleptic heroine from the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty, which for those who have lived under a rock for the past 300 years is about of a fifteen year old girl who’s deathly allergic to spinning wheels and somehow manages to prick her finger on the only spindle in the entire country) narrating the tragic tale of Maleficent, a powerful fairy who cursed the infant Aurora with eternal slumber. In an attempt at Wicked-esque revisionism, she gives us a backstory on the delightfully immoral witch.

We first see Maleficent as a young buffalo-horned fairy-girl, innocent and kind in her dealings as she lives in the peaceful democratic fairy paradise that is Sweden… I mean… the Moors. She meets and falls in love with a human boy named Stefan. But Stefan is very power-hungry and ambitious and he later betrays Maleficent by cutting off her wings so he can become King of the humans.

So Maleficent, in her revenge, crashes the christening of Stefan’s newborn daughter and curses her with the whole Sleeping Beauty shtick, except in this version, Maleficent, not the third blue fairy, who adds on the whole true love’s kiss clause.

Aurora is sent to live with the three imbecilic fairies who don’t even know what babies eat and Maleficent ends up raising Aurora herself because otherwise the three fairies would have long let the child toddle right off a cliff.

Of course, Maleficent grows to love the kid but she cannot break her own curse. Her punishment on Stefan for revenge has given her no satistfaction and has harmed her even more. Aurora ends up pricking her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel and in a move directly copied from Frozen, it ends up being Maleficent, not her dashing Bieber-like prince, who gives her the true love’s kiss that wakes the doe-eyed princess up.

Maleficent’s whole deal is that she wants to protect her people, the fairies, from the encroachment of humans. She also hates Stefan’s guts for totally breaking her heart and crippling her. She’s got a lot of hate going on and it’s very justified. Stefan, of course, has always had bad guilt about how he cut Maleficent’s wings off, but now the girl he used to love has just cursed his kid so he is totally justified to hate on Maleficent. The thing is, they both have bad faults and they both have sinned against each other. Now when I saw this movie, I was constantly expecting it to be a meditation of the corrupting darkness of revenge in the lives of two former friends. It definitely goes into that. Maleficent only becomes truly evil after she curses Aurora and Stefan really goes to the dark side when he tries to destroy the Moors to avenge his cursed daughter.

But I ended up being really unsatisfied with the ending of this movie. I had liked it a lot from the beginning to the final act, but it ended without any real redemption for Stefan. Whenever there is a story about revenge, the only way to make it satisfying is through the redemptive power of forgiveness. Maleficent never forgave Stefan and he never forgave Maleficent. They took their hate right up to a climactic tower battle in which Stefan ended up plummeting to his death because he could not forgive her. His character, which could have been as complex and multifaceted Maleficent’s, ended up falling flat (no pun intended) as just another power-hungry psychopath. I know the whole thing about this movie is role reversal, but isn’t the point of a gritty reboot from the bad guy’s perspective to show that there are no true villains? Stefan’s character in this movie was just as two dimensional as Maleficent’s in Sleeping Beauty. Power drove him crazy and he stayed crazy through the whole movie. He never got his moment to forgive Maleficent. He was never a sympathetic character.

I know that the whole theme of the Maleficent/Stefan relationship was to show them as complementary opposites, but I felt so dissatisfied seeing his broken body lying in the ruins of his castle as his former friend turned enemy looked down at him impassively. In my mind, it would have been more moving to see the two old enemies forgive each other. To me it seemed like the entire movie was aiming for them to overcome their mutual betrayals and forgive but it missed the mark. In the end, Maleficent got her revenge from Stefan, who even had the clichéd villainy to try to stab her in the back after she tried to make peace so he could die truly evil in the eyes of the audience. It’s like the whole debatable of making Greedo shoot at Han first in the original Star Wars movie to make him “more heroic”. The whole point of having anti-heroes is that their morality is not drawn on such staunch lines. Everyone has the capacity to make good and bad decisions in life. For a gritty reboot that lauds itself as seeing a story from a different perspective, Maleficent ended up drawing the lines of good and evil just as arbitrarily as the movie it was trying to make more realistic. The whole theme the movie was trying to get at was all about how unforgiveness enslaves the soul and corrupts it. The only thing that can end the endless cycle of revenge is forgiveness, but no one really forgave anyone.

What made me mad with this movie about character complexity was that by the ending, nobody but Maleficent was complex. Take the character of Aurora as the wide-eyed ingénue. The girl got whatever she wanted in life without ever lifting a finger. From her birth she was blessed by the fairies with extraordinary beauty and the literal gift (not joking) of “everybody always loving her”. Want to live in the magic fairy kingdom that no human is allowed in? Sure you can, Aurora! Here’s a hot prince who is desperately in love with you as a side!

The thing I disliked the most about Aurora was that she never made any sacrifices or had to give up what she wanted. All her life she wanted to live in magic fairy land. Since she’s never actually had to deal with a hard situation in her life, I expected the end of Maleficent to show her growing up and taking the responsibility for the human kingdom she’s just inherited via tower pushing. Since Stefan had basically oppressed the humans into oblivion, I thought the ending would show Aurora selflessly sacrificing her childish dreams of a perfect paradise to do the hard thing in the real world that is leading her flawed people who need her. Everyone is always talking about what a good person Aurora is, so why not use her caring, compassionate personality to turn around the human kingdom and make it good again?

But the thing about the ending of the movie is that after the big battle is won, we never see the human kingdom again. Aurora becomes the queen of the Moors (you know, the magical fairy democracy which made a big point in the beginning about needing no king). Yeah, she says the two kingdoms were united under her rule, but all we see is Aurora prancing around in magic fairy land, leaving the people in her actual kingdom to presumably suck it up while their queen indulges her own whims. Aurora sacrifices nothing.

Maybe I’m looking at this too deeply (and I must admit that I have a problem with psychoanalyzing fictional entertainment), but I felt like none of the themes the movie was trying to make actually came full circle. It talked about sacrifice, and betrayal, and forgiveness, and redemption, but it never really dived below the surface into what those things actually mean. The ending of Maleficent, despite being garishly happy and full of big smiles and colorful flowers, did not do it for me. It ended up not satisfying me emotionally or mentally because it did not go deep enough into what writer’s call the “human condition”. Of course, not being deep isn’t what was the problem. I like absurdness and fun just as much as anyone, but the thing about Maleficent is that it was claiming to give us depth. It wanted to be serious and hard hitting but it missed.

I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t see the movie, though. It was good. Perhaps I, like Maleficent, ironically misjudged things. Please submit your own analysis below! Have a great day!


Spring bursts over Tennessee suddenly, like someone pushed a trigger and life explodes around us. Our winters are mild and very tentative most times. There may be only one or two storms a year that blanket our rolling hills with white, and even then, the covering is usually thinner than half an inch. Winter is a time punctuated by inconsistency. It may be so desperately cold one day that a person must wear their winter coats inside only to be followed by a day in shorts and flip flops.

When I look out the window and see the tender green sprouts start to shoot out from underneath the brown Bermuda grass there is a sense of hope. There is a general feeling of renewal and rebirth in spring that you don’t feel any other time a year. Spring is the season of life before the burning summer sun scorches the dry earth into submission.

Though I stand under the cool winter night now, soon I will lounge out in the warm sun, feel the rays soak into my pale, sunshine-starved skin. It won’t be too hot yet and the sunlight won’t meet my face and decide to sting it red as a reprimand for slinking around inside for the last six months. I do enjoy the look of spring, and the warmth of the nearing equinox driving away the shivering of Polar Vortexes that have frozen the land for the last few months. Spring has a certain energy about it, like you can almost feel the thrumming of life vibrate the air, thickening and intensifying with each passing day. Soon the world will burst with color, the dry twigs on the dogwood trees suddenly erupting with crimson flowers and the shoots of thousands of bright yellow daffodils will claw through the earth and bask in the sun.

The streams will gurgle with fresh spring showers as the lifeless yards of suburbia will be transformed into a hive of desperate activity as bags of fertilizer and seeds fill every minivan. Children will begin protesting attempts by their mothers to make them wear jackets outside and will most certainly catch the plague as a result. Millions of allergy sufferers across the nation will feel their hearts seize in terror as they now must face the dreaded spring allergies with all the stuffy noses, hacking coughs, and loud sneezing such a season entails. College students embark on their week of debauchery and/or studying. Easter paraphernalia has long since invaded all the stores; as soon as the Christmas supplies are shelved, out come the bunny-shaped chocolates. People emerge from the darkness of their winter caves and begin spring cleaning. The world is awake with optimism and activity.

Winter and all its worries melt away like the snow. A fresh new feeling takes root in the heart. The slumbering stumbling in the dark is over and it is time to step out into the sun again, regain your consciousness. The world is stirring with action and it is time for you to flurry with life once more. The sun is bright and the air is thick and it is time to move and leave the winter nights behind.

I take one last sad glance at the darkened winter sky, so clear and cold, the stars shining out through the thin bracing air with a certain clarity that cannot be paralleled. They look like someone’s taken a bag full of diamonds and flung them across velvet. Winter is confining but freeing in a strange sort of comforting way. Nothing is immediate and everything seems to slow down when the air is frozen.

But spring is here and life must move on. It is time to leave the mysterious winter stars and let the sun rise over the world, bringing with it the hustle of spring.