Fascinating Patterns Found in Nature

Sometimes, in our search for the next extraordinary thing to astound us, we tend to tune out what Mother Nature has to offer. I think it’s only fitting to remind ourselves from time to time that, regardless of the human tendency and compulsion to create something beautiful (and sometimes some of them can reach sublime heights), there are truly beautiful and fascinating things in nature that any human creation would be hard put to match.

These include colorful plants, fruits, flowers, fungi, and invertebrates that look commonplace at first glance but as you look closer, you will see fascinating shapes, whorls and patterns that will make you appreciate just how complex and inscrutably beautiful nature can be. Consider these few examples.

1. Romanesco broccoli (Brassica oloracea; also known as Roman cauliflower)

2. Sunflower (Helianthus from Gr. “helios” = sun). There are about 70 species in this genus.

3. Kiwifruit, or just plain kiwi (genus Actinidia; also known as Chinese gooseberry) comprising about 60 species)

4. Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus; also known as toadstool); around 14,000 mushroom species have been described

5. Cucurbitaceae flower (also called cucurbits) — a plant family comprising 95 genera (including squash, cucumber, etc.)

6. Starfish (Class Asteroida) — star-shaped echinoderms; there are roughly 1,500 starfish species around the world

7. Zebra Stripes Hosta (genus Hosta; also known as plantain lilies) — hostas are shade-tolerant foliage plants

8. Skeleton flowers (Diphylleia grayi) are actually white flowers that become transparent when they come in contact with water

9. Aloe plant (genus Aloe, of which Aloe vera is the most popular), showing fractal patterns when seen from above


Random Anime Gems

Although I no longer watch anime shows (TV series, films, OVAs/OAVs) as assiduously as I used to, I still manage to check out the lineup of new shows each season, and then decide which ones to watch during my free time.

Most of the time I don’t even bother to read the synopsis or take note of the cast (voice actors or “seiyuus”), because I prefer to trust my gut in these matters.

Cast of Barakamon (lit. “energetic one”)

I have no particular yardstick as to which shows to pick up and follow until the end, but usually it takes me no more than 2 or 3 episodes to decide whether to dump or stick with a series. As a rule, I tend to go for comedy, slice-of-life, adventure, and fantasy shows, although very often, a series would be a combination of genres. It’s not particularly efficient, but this system works for me.

Every once in a while though, I come across anime shows that I instantly feel good about — some of them can be so compelling that I just cannot imagine myself NOT watching them. I haven’t made a definitive list of these shows, but I can remember each one of them vividly because I tend to rewatch (several times!) them later.

Life according to Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Over the years, this fluid list kept expanding and realigning as more noteworthy shows appeared and I became more “discerning” (so to speak). These shows — in no particular order — include Barakamon, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (or Erased!), Working! (Season 1), Flying Witch, and lately, Made in Abyss (which is about to end soon). This doesn’t include other shows that I also happen to like, but which — despite their sterling qualities — will never make my list of favorites because they lack consistency, coherence, or staying power, and because they failed to leave a sense of urgency that would compel me to stay around and watch them repeatedly long after they first aired.

Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (Erased!)

I loved the shows I have listed above for various reasons. For example, I was utterly entranced by Barakamon because of its memorable characters (Handa-kun, Naru, the village people), simple story, lush art, and quaint humor. And if there is a second season, there is no doubt I would watch it, too. This also goes for Flying Witch. It’s not much of a standout compared to some of my favorites, but its lush scenery, laid-back pastoral charm, and gentle humor have a way of tugging at your heart and stay there for some time.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun was just a sheer delight. It’s one of a handful of shows that literally left me gasping for breath as I struggled to contain my laughter (with tears streaming down my face, to boot!). I loved its endearingly zany characters, even the minor ones, and the catchy soundtrack. One reason why Barakamon and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun fared so well among viewers was their well-cast seiyuus, who effortlessly turned in pitch-perfect performances with top-notch comedic timing.

These people are Working!

I usually stay away from psychological trillers, especially when they are burdened by a suffocating tragic event, but Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi is one of those rare shows that creep up on you, then grab your heart and never let go. Its opening episode is probably one of the best I have ever seen in this field. Before you know it, you’re well and truly hooked, and you know you will never have peace of mind until you find out who the real culprit is, and if the protagonists and his friends will survive until the end. Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi is more popularly known as Erased! among Western viewers (presumably because it’s easier for them to remember and pronounce?).

There have been 3 seasons of Working! to date, but really the best season was the first one because it had novelty on its side. It has a quirky plot, an outstanding soundtrack, and a bunch of wild and wacky characters, who seem to thrive in bringing out absurd levels of hilarity even in the most mundane of situations. At its core, Working! is a silly and heartwarming restaurant-themed show that will leave you chuckling.

The main characters of Made in Abyss — Riku, Reg, and Nanachi

I’m reassessing this list because there is one show — Made in Abyss — that will most likely push its way up (high!) in my list. Its last episode airs tomorrow (Ep. 13; Sept. 29) as a 1-hour special. I am already bracing myself for its emotional and visual impact, because — yes, it’s that good. Everything about it is so well done that it’s hard to nitpick over the details — awesome cast, beautiful animation (the breathtaking vistas, the intricate details, and the sheer breadth and width of the abyss will leave you gaping in awe), perfectly calibrated soundtrack, rich source material (manga), and a plot that is simultaneously simple and complex. Its well-nuanced visceral punch will put your unprepared heart through the wringer before leaving it in a quivering heap after it’s done with you.

The expanded cast of characters of Made in Abyss (note the difference in height among the characters)

One only needs to check out the countless video clips that show up in Youtube (live reactions, reviews, comments, discussions) as soon as an episode is aired to know that Made in Abyss is now basically a phenomenon among anime fans. If you don’t have enough time to understand why, just go and watch Ep. 10 of Made in Abyss. If you can go through this episode without emitting an involuntary wince, whimper, scream, or a curse, then leave a comment below and let me know why.

Pictures from Starbucks Japan

I am a big fan of Starbucks Japan — specifically, its Twitter page (@Starbucks_J). Sometimes I go there just to look at the pictures and sigh over the strategically arranged food and wares. For some reason, this seems to make me feel better equipped to face the rest of my chaotic day.

Now, I know that Starbucks is generally good at selling/promoting its brand, as there is a plethora of Starbucks-related material (images, promos, links, etc.) littering the Web these days, enthusiastically proliferated by customers, bloggers, and coffee fans, but its Japanese arm is really taking things to a higher level. Those guys really know how to highlight their message with a deft mixture of colors, lighting, and props. They certainly know what it takes to achieve more with less fuss and clutter.

Below are a few examples:

So, when I see a nice picture that I particularly like, I can’t help but save a copy of it in my local directory — with some vague plans of writing a post about it later.

Well, I guess this is it. 🙂


A Quick Note

Wow. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to come back here and actually take more then a peek, but here I am.

This is going to be a quick note, as I have things to care of (don’t I always?). Long story short, I intend to make a concerted effort to keep this blog going — now that I am more or less forced to leave my comfort zone. Now, that sounds as though I am being awfully constrained to do this, but it’s not that really.

I did a lot of thinking lately and came up with a couple of uncomfortable conclusions about the direction in which my life is going. So, I finally decided that — regardless of where life takes me — I am going to take the time to do something that I actually enjoy. This, of course, includes writing about subjects that keep me stoked: anime shows, movies, absurd topics, occasional rants, books, food (shhh…), famous and not-so-famous folks, a few tangential posts about my work, etc.

So keep your hats on, folks, and let’s keep things moving along. TTFN!