March 30th, 2012 § § permalink
I haven’t been able to write in a long time. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve started and stopped sporadically, writing with urgency for a short time, staring into space, abandoning the urge. These pieces have so far not made it onto the blog. I’m not quite sure what they’re saying.
Things are not exactly okay with me, though they’re not exactly not okay either, if by saying, “not okay” I conjure visions of ledges and medical intervention. But, I’m not entirely okay. That’s just a fact of life for me right now. The last few months have been rough, raw, emotional, chaotic, without precedent and in the midst of all the shit just happening, it’s hard to know what to say, or, even how to say anything at all. In the sprawling feeling you get when your life shifts drastically, there are no edges to write up against. There is nothing by which to measure a feeling of okayness.
And yet, this is what those who care about me seem to need most of all. Out of my silence, they need reassurance that I am okay. This is the question, the desire: are you okay? You seem to be okay. I hope you’re okay… And, of course, I am okay, which is to say, I’m functional, getting out of bed, eating fairly regularly, exercising a little, appearing to the outside world as a capable human person. For me, so far, there has been no option outside of this kind of okay, though sometimes it seems like a little bit of crazy, a binge with the unhinged, an experiment with my life as a John Waters movie would be cathartic. Instead, for me, all that is not okay seeps into the unspoken: an inability to concentrate, a sense of humour worn through, chronic rumination over the loses that have come before, my unwillingness to tolerate banality, pettiness or superficiality, above all my need for vast tracts of empty space and time, long walks through winter suburbs.
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May 22nd, 2011 § § permalink
Only one characteristic of personality and orientation to life and work is absolutely, across the board, present in all creative people: motivation. – Albert Rothenberg, MD, from 35 years of research as the principal investigator for the project, “Studies on the Creative Process.”
Dr. Rothberg’s notion that creative people’s most universally shared trait is motivation is one of those findings that just seems common sense—umm… of course creative people are motivated, why else would we choose to work in very-much-less-than-financially-rewarding careers? Or spend our weekends tweaking semicolons and adjusting colour-balances? Or be okay with appearing in public as pasty, too-long-inside folk of the sort who do their grocery shopping midday, without a child in the grocery cart?
“Motivation” is one of those things we think of as unquestionably good—it’s meant and perceived as a compliment, an ideal, a standard toward which we should all strive. Of course no one really wants to be unmotivated. And yet, I wonder what it is we’re talking about when we talk about someone’s motivation. In terms of creativity, the pretentious have been on the subject of motivation for years—critics and academics want to discern an artist’s motivation, their reason for doing what they do, that inner trauma they’re trying to express in material form. But, as we perhaps move away from the era if the bereted art critic, I can’t help but think that the question of creative motivation has slipped into the realm of motivatedness where we judge creative types on the basis of their production, rather than their motivation. In other words, we move from questions of why or how into wondering to what end or how much. The motivated artist is a different figure than the motivationally-driven artist. I’m not trying to say that the former is not also the latter, but the idea of motivation now seems to mark a person capable of almost unbelievable output, physical and mental endurance and a nearly constant flow from a seemingly unending supply of originality. We conflate the two: the esoteric inner drive that compels an artist to create is harnessed now in the service of prolific production. And, since their work is motivational, fuelled by some deep-seated inner desire, of course the creator will find it personally rewarding, even as the effort it demands is sometimes superhuman. A creative person must love what they do because that love is part, if not most, of the payoff for a career spent in the expression of motivation.
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May 11th, 2011 § § permalink
It’s pretty easy to feel like an asshole when travelling: no matter how lightly you pack, you’re always carrying too much with you, hitting people waiting for the bus with your backpack as you try in vain to orient yourself in the winding streets of a European city. You don’t know the intricacies of politeness in the place you’re visiting, so inevitably you tuck in before your host, accidentally eat the entire small dish of condiments meant to be shared with the table and choke on your shot of Schnapps. However, often the biggest hurdle to seamless travelling—the kind of travelling where you really feel like you can “pass”—is language. You probably don’t speak it, and yet you’re in a situation where you sometimes need to ask questions.
Think you don't need to ask questions? How else are you going to understand what this handsome Hungarian is trying to sell you?
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March 12th, 2011 § § permalink
You might have thought we were finished with collective nouns. Sorely (or happily), you were mistaken. Collectives don’t just win at protests, they also describe gangs, groups and troupes of people. Of course, there are the obvious (and boring): a faculty of academics, board of trustees, crowd of onlookers, or panel of experts. But, there are also the much more whimsical: a melody of harpists, a decorum of deans, a galaxy of beauties, or a glozing of taverners. The are the evocative: a pack of Brownies, a sneer of butlers, a hastiness of cooks, or a stalk of foresters. And then there are the outright apt: a converting of preachers, an obstruction of dons, a flock of tourists, a superfluity of nuns.
Language is far too fun to leave to the linguists, though. And, a bottle of wine and a too-short list of these collective nouns virtually impels one to add to the list. So, in no particular order, and with much further fanfare, how about these? (Disclaimer: as far as I know, though I have not done any extensive or exhaustive research, these are illegitimate and do not [though I will not say will never] appear in any dictionary, thesaurus, or any other listing of such things):
- A piping of plumbers
- A beaker of chemists
- A sextant of sailors
- A meridian of geographers
- A lobe of lobotomists
- A copse of arborists
- A sight of optometrists
- A drill of dentists
- A clef of composers
- A screech of race car drivers
- A scare of poltergeists » Read the rest of this entry «
March 4th, 2011 § § permalink
Walking past The Bay in Toronto this past weekend, I mistook their window displays advertising Madonna’s new “Material Girl” line (which I learned about at that moment) for posters touting a new line of “Maternity Girl” clothing. I’ve heard rumours that teenage pregnancy is becoming faddish, but, for now, at least, I was mistaken.
February 2nd, 2011 § § permalink
From the day I learned of its existence, sometime during grade school, onomatopoeia was both one of my favourite words and described my favourite category of words. (I had a penchant for very large words from a young age—another favourite was antidisestablishmentarianism, which I discovered in grade 2 during a contest I instigated with another brainy nerd to find the longest words we could. This was pre-internet, of course, though not pre-television, recess or toys.)
Onomatopoeia from the cover of Green Arrow #13. Art by Mark Wagner
Words that sound like the things they name: crash, sizzle, slash, flutter, fizzle, whoosh, whizz, burp, bleep, jiggle, croak, tick tock, vroom vroom vroom! Onomatopoeias are always delightful and mostly fun to say. The supreme power of the onomatopoeia was harnessed early by comic book creators with their pages full of Bam! Boom! Wham! Bif! Zing! Kersplash! Splat! Notoriously short on words, for the comic-book artist, all it takes is one well-drawn and colourful Kapow! to describe a thousand punches. Perhaps to mark their indebtedness to the word, in 2002 DC Comics introduced a villain called Onomatopoeia, a serial killer who speaks only in sounds. (Is his comeback “oh, snap!”? It probably should be.) While the question of whether or not Onomatopoeia is a metahuman remains open, he’s certainly a metaquestion for the genre: if one controls the BLAM!, does one control the comic? » Read the rest of this entry «
January 26th, 2011 § § permalink
The Dutch have a saying for those moments when you’re so surprised by something that you can’t respond, can’t do anything, can’t say anything, can only just stand there staring as some flabbergasting detail tries to seep through your ignorance and into your consciousness. In moments like these, the Dutch say, “I just stood there with my mouth full of teeth.”
For instance, you might be recounting the story of how at breakfast one morning your boyfriend abruptly stood up, tossed his eggs in the sink and told you he was leaving you because he was convinced you were dream-cheating on him in a three-way with Michelle Williams and the ghost of Heath Ledger. To say that you stood there in shock, doesn’t quite capture the feeling of having your stomach drop into your feet and root you to the floor (not to mention the ridiculousness of the accusation); to say that your mouth was agape is too high-toned. But think about concluding this story (or insert your own variation on the theme), with, “I just stood there with my mouth full of teeth.” Yes! I think it touches on something about these kinds of moments; the phrase tries to describe the oddly frozen response we can have to shock and awe, the strange disabling of all the neurons that might otherwise direct our mouths to say something, or cause our passions to rise, our anger to spill out into plate-throwing and name-calling.
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