Tag Archives: Arts

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

I finished reading A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut a couple of days ago and found it a little disappointing. The book felt like Kurt dropped a box of post-it notes at my feet and said “well, I’m out to lunch.” Being the observant reader, I was able to take home a few nuggets of value away from the text though. First and foremost is his quote about the arts. This has been circling social media outlets for some time but I enjoy repeating it.

If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding [his way of making sure the reader knows he’s not being sarcastic from earlier in the book]. The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.  (p. 24, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York)

How can I argue with that? It dovetails into my quote from watching Press.Pause.Play. The arts aren’t about money, anyway. Really. Sure, we’d all like to roll around on a bed full of money a la Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, but how many of us will really cash in on that? How many of us have the real support of the people around us and others who know how to make stuff happen for writers, actors, comedians, etc.? We can’t all be professional writers. We all can’t be baseball players. We all can’t be Hollywood-types.

There’s just too many of us, and some of us have friends in very high places. It’s a game to some, but not me. It’s only a game when you make it about money. At this point in my minute existence, all I want is to leave something behind much like a slug that leaves a trail over a sidewalk. You may get the same sense of discomfort or disgust while reading my work, too. Good on you.

The current book I’m reading is Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, and he would say it’s not a matter of technical ability or money. To him, it’s a matter of creating an idea to circulate material to as many people as possible. This kinetic, wide-eyed thinking is the amusement I miss in my economics classes back in the day. It totally misses the point, the one I just told you in the last paragraph. This is not to be confused with an “it’ll sell itself” attitude, because that’s not what’s being discussed.

Vonnegut also spoke of how he was regarded at English departments. “Critics feel,” he writes, “that a person cannot be a serious artist and also have a technical education, which I had.” (p.15) This is very meaningful to me, as I’ve found myself in the same boat. What I have to ask myself is “do I want to be recognized as a ‘serious artist’?” It’s a legit question, and I suppose I couldn’t say at this point. Maybe if I were younger I’d be gung-ho about the idea. Now, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, I’m still here. I’m still breathing, writing, and working. Maybe someday I can look back and laugh at this? I certainly hope so, because it’s pretty damned depressing.

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Friday, March 14th, 2014

These past few days have been very reflective, and not much has been said on here. I know I excitedly discussed the options I had over the last weekend, but Sunday brought a certain withdrawal of such claims. There is a lot to be said about The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and I’m not entirely sure it could be done justice with a blog post. To say that Americans are in a better position financially now than 100 years ago is truthful. A person of my station at that time would not be able to afford a house or possessions without the use of graft or other crime. On the flip side of the coin, there has been a deep sacrifice in family to procure such things today. Sacrifice. Something tossed about these days, as if it were a foreign war. As it stands right now, I am staring down the barrel of acquiring a second job. It’s nothing new for a guy like me, as I have been there before, but it does make me wonder if others aren’t fully recognizing the damage done to this country. This is the point in my life that I fully understand the honest man isn’t the common man. The honest man is the uncommon man, which is only paid lip service by those who “know better.”

Naïve? Yes. I will not argue the naïveté of such. What should it matter, at this point, to anyone anyway? Being frank is a part of who I am. Should anyone hold it against me that I try to make it work? It was that hope which made this all naïve.

There are brighter notes to this, and I’m willing to move on to them. Tuesday night brought me an acquaintance for a chat. He learnt I wrote, and was very enthusiastic about the idea. He’s a potter, painter, and teacher. In the middle of discussing motivation and inspiration, he recommended the documentary PressPausePlay. Having a deep respect for Eliseo, I watched it the following afternoon piecemeal between projects. They key for this particular movie is to take it all in without expressing an opinion until afterward. It touches on many aspects of what the artist has to grapple today.

My take had multiple thoughts, but initially there was only one. It takes time for me to sit and think for the rest to come to light. Regardless, I wrote a note to myself which eventually found its way to my home office wall. It reads:

Nate,

You cannot spend your life worrying about the ends. The only true end is death. It’s the process of making [creating] that means more than death.”

I found something personally useful this week,  and with a bit of spirit, I won’t forget it.

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Saturday March 8th, 2014

Today I have a couple of things to say for a change! There is reason enough to believe I should break them out into separate posts, as they’re different topics. What fortune! I think I’m more excited about that fact than I am the actual material but what happens next is still a bright spot on the grey-matter-gone-black that is my mental faculties. There may have been a spider or two that scurried away as I cracked open that cellar door.

Last night was shaping up to be a real Emo-city, cut-and-not-so-dry, window-gazer of an evening. All dressed up in suit and tie from a seminar I attended that day, I went to eat dinner out. The hurried, mechanical pace of American restaurants and a waitress too young to flirt with didn’t satisfy what I craved. Fortunately I keep a book at my side, being that dining alone is a way of life here. I thumbed the pages of The Jungle before setting out for a different venue. Ho-hum. That’s not in reference to the book, just the atmosphere.

Next stop was a swankier bar downtown. I’m not entirely sure why I went there. Maybe it’s because the women dress better? With better dress though can come attitudes, especially with the clientele being employees of a large corporate headquarters a few blocks away. Just as a side note, it doesn’t take much money to gain a sense of superiority in the Fields. A yearly salary of $70,000 could cultivate a behavior similar to that seen on “The Real Housewives of…” It’s slightly amusing, as I have been to much more wealthy locations in this country, but mostly tragic… and annoying. Most annoying was the woman so drunk she was laughing like Salacious B. Crumb and loudly.

Scratching cold starts in my journal, I could only stare out the window in efforts to find some sort of inspiration. A video comment by Ira Glass found on Jodie Llewellyn’s blog was running through my mind at the time, and I felt I needed a running start to have the spirit move me. I ended up walking out with little to show for it. The gloom of a failed evening was starting to follow me. So, I did the best I could: change cities.

Driving about 20 minutes north reveals a small college town with a better tone throughout, in my opinion. I set up camp at a sports bar near the highway just to sit and read. Those are what I’ve decided to be the staples in my life right now: reading and writing. Most of the time there was being conscious of a presence sitting next to me. Cocksure and country alpha, I could feel a pissy nature emit from the turned back of a patron. Was he jealous that I was reading, or just a jerk? Later in the evening he was joined by another and his dialog only assured me of the latter. Foul with crass etiquette (i.e. spitting), his  conversation covered a gamut of gems ranging from aggression to sour grapes.

Not quite ready to give up the ship, I stopped by a bar I usually visit for some tonic and whatever else I could squeeze out of Upton Sinclair. I don’t like the idea of being so frequent to an establishment that I either lose interest or wear out my welcome. Last night was not one to mull over that fine point. It turned out to be a great decision, as a girl broke my concentration with an inquiry of the reading material. After a well-received joke, I went back to reading as her significant other body-blocked our field of view. He was definitely jealous of our rapport, and I relished it like a villain.

Stepping outside for another broken promise, I had the pleasure of meeting two gentlemen from the local university. Both were philosophy majors with a interest in books. Naturally they opened up with my selection for the evening and we had a delightful conversation that ran almost an hour in the freezing cold. Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sinclair, Dick, Asimov, Kerouac, Bradbury, Heinlein, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald were all under the same roof. I could not have been happier even if I wasn’t a fan of some of the authors. The spectre of depression had been banished to the void for at least a night. Happily, I drove home content for a change.

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What Commercial Covers Should Be

I caught this Thursday night on Huffington Post. From what I gather, it was done as a Halloween “trick” with the truncation at the end. It’s a cover of a song from a plucky, sixteen year-old Kiwi (that’s not a pejorative, is it?) called Lorde. It’s interesting to juxtapose an original and a cover side-by-side, or at least it is for me. Observations are my hobby.

The lyrics are untouched, which is a folk music way of covering a song. He’s singing in a female point of view, however the first noticeable departure is the technology. It is stripped down to upright bass, snare/bass-drum, and piano. That means the level of difficulty is much higher. I’ve worked with music before, even if at a compulsory education level, and intonation, synthesis, and timing are a right pain in the ass.

What is enchanting, which shouldn’t be given the nature of the original, is how they capture the message. It’s 100% more effective. The original is done in a faster tempo, which in my opinion is an influential mistake. That’s a product of modern pop music. The cover uses better elements to demonstrate the disparity of wealth (think of poor musicians at a black-tie event), and slap down a message that is sad yet concessionary. The whole picture just got turned on its head and is much easier to relate for the billions unmade in the world.

The reason I say it shouldn’t be so enchanting is that these entertainers are much older than Lorde. She has quite the long road of training, like how to avoid straining her voice (drop your jaw and open your windpipe for airflow), before she would have a level playing field with people like “Puddles.” In the end, though, this is what a cover song should do. If you’re going to sell something you’ve not created, then you better make it interesting. The only straight-em-up cover bands I’ll listen to are the ones I’m paying a $3 cover charge for in a dive bar.

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Reciprocity

rec·i·proc·i·ty (n): a situation or relationship in which two people or groups agree to do something similar for each other, to allow each other to have the same rights, etc.

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This is one of my favorite words. It rolls off the tongue in a circular motion which coincides with its meaning. The definition also has importance in my life, as its something I wish to employ at times.

To be frank, I consider this WordPress account an invention of isolated creation. That is to say, I create stories that I like reading. I post them here for various reasons of taste (i.e. organization, documentation, affordability, etc.). The blog posts are a way of making sense of the world around me, and I do feel better at the end of the day if I can articulate my problems well. However, that is not to say I exclude an element of display. There is the idea of display in any blog, isn’t there? Some may say it’s the primary purpose.

This is very much in contrast to my business review account (private, not professional), in which that relationship is between me and the business. Any other reader is very much a distant third party, in my mind. Woe be it to the person who drags me in on their review. It’s never because I’ve written something they’ve liked; I can assure you that. In fact, a few weeks ago I had a delightful woman from Florida suggest I eat at home because all my reviews are terrible. Once I stopped laughing, I told her to get her nose out of my business.

It didn’t occur until recent that there might be a sort of tacit exchange going on here I wasn’t considering. People want to be a part of a community, albeit digital, and obtain that satisfaction through checking up with others from time to time. I suppose I realized this to some extent, but not necessarily with this lens.

With that in mind, I would suppose this post be less of a forced writing exercise so that I may not lose steam, and more a post to provide something here as a way of letting people know I’m having a bit of a fit. It includes the trashing of entire ideas and drafts, along with the distractions everyday life. I could certainly create something out of thin air and call it a story, but then again, I wouldn’t enjoy reading it. I want to enjoy my stories.

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Back in the Saddle Again

Eleven hours (combined) of painting over the weekend and the house still isn’t done with its first coat. Stonefield is two-storied, and I am painting it by myself. I shouldn’t be completely disappointed in my progress. Eighty percent complete is better than zero, but I should have done this earlier in the year. It was only the unexpected disappointment of not finding a painting company to perform the job before winter hit. Being the fresh homeowner I am, I was completely unaware of booking seasons in advance. On the bright side it will save me $2,000 (a little over £1,200 or 2,100 AUD), and I’m getting more than one coat out of the deal. The first has cleaned up the siding tremendously, which has caught the admiration of the neighbors.

Although I despise the ego stroking when people speak similar phrases, housework is not mentally challenging work. That’s not to say I don’t have to problem solve from time to time, but painting leaves a lot of time for the mind to wander. It wanders all over the place in search for amusement. Songs, memories, Tarantino-esque musings, scheduling, and task reminders all pass through the extra human RAM provided by the activity.

One of the fabulous little mind gems yesterday was the concept of a Hi-Q. I’m not going to say I started it, because it’s too simple an idea to do so. However, it occurred to me and it had not before. I have not seen it anywhere else on the Internet as of today. So, it’s at least “new to me.” I’ll take that.

In my creation, a Hi-Q is a haiku dealing with less-than-common topics. They are often intellectual in nature. Traditionally, a haiku deals in sensory activities but I find senses and emotions are close enough together to be included. I did so below with the theory of universal “Heat Death.”

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“Heat Death of the Universe” by Corvidae in the Fields

More borrowed upset

Space doomed through simplified terms

A proud man’s hot air

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Do We Really Need Another Intergenerational Fight?

I love Paul Lynde. In fact, I do a mediocre impression of him. He’s one of the lost Hollywood personalities I miss today. He had personality; he was an identity. His uniqueness and camp gets me a little nostalgic when I watch Bewitched or clips of Hollywood Squares. It made me more than delighted to have a topic tied in to the above show tune.

Whether this was supposed to be a joke, satire, or just plain soap-box stomping, I’ve seen it many times before. There are older generations pulling the same routine their parents did in their prime. It’s always the same thing, a tired broken record.

My question becomes why is it that hard to stop this recycled nonsense? Is it that ingrained into a human’s behavior to think the “youngin’s ruining the country”?

In the near future, I’d like to put up some more writing. I have some house repairs to do, but there might be a little time to be creative.

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Mixed Messages

There’s a lot of writing advice out there. If you’re the type of reader I am, you would have said, “no shit” after you read that sentence. However, it embarrassingly bears repeating as I still find many new writers (sometimes myself) unsure on how to move themselves with their words.  I’ve observed quite a few people, and it seems now I understand what happens.

People are a variation on a theme. We have similar experiences, traits, emotions, languages, and so on. On the other hand we have different interpretations based on those experiences, traits, emotions, languages, etc. Two people could experience the same event and come away with two different thoughts. These thoughts and reactions are not to be considered infinite, as there’s a reason emotions can be displayed on a wheel, there are only so many words in the English language and languages on the planet. There will be some common ground for everyone.

However, what I find when listening to authors is advice can contradict one another. For example, let’s take quote from Anaïs Nin:

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.

Now let’s sidle that up against a commencement speech with Neil Gaiman:

These paths are very different. One is that of a quasi-Quaker speaking when the spirit moves her, and the other is the that of the child constantly writing but only when it isn’t work. How does that work? Simple, it doesn’t.

What needs to happen is that the writer needs to take charge of his or her life and respond to what resonates. That requires more thought on the part of the writer, as they are the ones who know themselves better than anyone else (or so I’d hope). It’s like going to the doctor and being diagnosed with an illness you know isn’t right. Why? Because you are feeling the symptoms first hand and are asking a secondary source to tell you what is wrong. Granted, there are some very good diagnostic doctors out there, but I only have access to the budget variety. No offense, doc, but your services aren’t sterling.

This whole notion of tailoring advice reminds me of a brilliant young writer I caught on here trying to decode Ernest Hemingway. In his own right, he has made valuable contributions to literature. That’s something I acknowledge, even if I think he’s a pompous windbag. He also spoke in what I call “red herring,” a dialect Hell bent on confusing you. This is one of the reasons I severely dislike Joyce, by the way. When speaking in riddles, please don’t feed the egos. I’m convinced if this young author took a step back and listened for advice not coming from big-name writers, her personal picture would have been much more clear.

I will shoot you right between the eyes and say I am neither a Nin, Gaiman, or Hemingway. I am the machine. I am the gun steel mecha-man that needs to crank and crank and crank and crank and work and work and work and work but evaluates what he’s cranking out and is only satisfied when it dazzles him. That’s my path to achievement, but it very well may never be yours. That’s for you to decide. It’s your rodeo, after all.

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Dave’s Hot and Juicy

English: Wendy's logo Français : Le logo de We...

I often question a company’s intent on anything, even if it’s a bit jaded of me to do so. Corporations such as Wendy’s should know when marketing could be taken the wrong way. That’s why I’m of the belief businesses start these controversial campaigns just to get publicity. They aren’t making a naive blunder; they’re trying to get some press. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Right? Just ask Noxzema.

Aside from it being my creative station on Sunday, places like Wendy’s are where I often write. Restaurants, bars, and other common locations get the honor of being my work space. I find these as good a place as any, and don’t seem to do very well at home. I often want to get out of the house, unless I’m renovating the place. I can’t very well create a Virtual Private Network and renovate remotely.

What bothers me is that I don’t know if that’s just the way I operate, or if I’m satisfying another need that takes precedence in my life and the writing could be improved at home. I’ve met many creative types with their home as their studio, and they become reclusive when they create. I find my best work still off the cuff and in the thick of people. Is that odd? If that’s the way I’ve been built, then I’d like to own that style but I don’t find too many people writing in restaurants and bars.

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What to read? What to read?

I’d like to grapple with the idea of being “well read” in a typical sense. When we discuss being well read, the assumption is being knowledgeable about books. There is no definitive set of books, as being well read is based on personal judgment. Be warned, there will be plenty of other people who’d love to tell you differently. They misunderstand the rules of conduct, which is similar to a doctor’s visit: you know yourself better than anyone.

While the staff at NPR would like to defecate their britches over the statistical impossibility of being well read, I find persistence a little more useful. Are we to cry into our thimble full of knowledge because the ocean is vast? No, we should take pride in the fact we picked up a thimble and drank from that water. That means we wanted fulfillment beyond basic human sustenance.

As NPR is wont to do, it assumes people naturally want continuous scholastic achievement. This is how out of touch with the ordinary person they are. The typical American doesn’t give a flying fig about reading, and to a lesser extent being well-versed in any genre of music. That concept of erudition is limited to a lesser number of people.

The good folks at NPR reek of guilt, which always gets my dander up. Why? Because it’s often based on the notion you should feel guilty, too.  For example, the author of the NPR piece is lamenting through the whole story statistics will surely make us all feel sad we can’t “see it all.”  I’ve got news for you. The people who punch the cookie on the east side of Hooterville are only interested in Here Comes Honey Boo BooPawn Star, and/or Real Housewives of [insert location]. They’re not going to shed one tear that they didn’t see Pagliacci or read Infinite Jest. They are comfortable in being simple, and find their minds more preoccupied with monetary matters than scholastic.

How could anyone, then, gain a feeling of being well-read or otherwise accomplished? Know thyself. With the proliferation of books and other media, all of us can customize a more meaningful list of reading material. I’m fairly certain my material is in classical literature. Ergo, that’s my emphasis. This will not be the same set of books for anyone else.

Well… well… well… how can we tell if someone is well-read when we have no standards to compare them with, Nate? I mean come on! We all need standards, right? To that point of view, I say I think we’re beyond harnessing any sort of discernible standard. Funny how humans think they can control everything. The upshot of this is people have less of a reason to be judgmental. Great googly-moogly, Nate! How will the literary elite survive without their ability to look down their nose at the Twilight readers?! The short answer is they still will, but for more subjective reasons. I think that more honest than hiding behind the veil of academics.

This idea could be very beneficial to the American educational system. The concept of identifying meaningful literature should be the goal, not telling you what literature is meaningful. It would move them away from their manufacturing mentality, and embrace something a little more elastic. I come from the position it’s more important to exercise discretion than regurgitation.

But… but… but… OMG STANDARDS, NATE! STANDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRDS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH… what a world… what a world… what a world…

(If you couldn’t tell, they just melted into a controlled puddle of goo. )

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