Honor Thy Inspiration

So I meant to write, when I went to my room, but instead turned a book. This time to a book of arts in northern California. The danger in art books is the inspiration. Now I want to make teapots or bureaus or glassware. Someday I will fill my home with such items, handcrafted and individual. (Who needs unique?) That will take awhile though. After all, mass production was invented to make things cheap, and I’ll have a hard time giving up my parsimony.

Digression: One of the examples Miriam Webster gave for ‘parsimony’ was “She walked five miles to the store just to save a few cents on gas.” My first thought was that Americans are fast because unlike the rest of the world we won’t walk. Perhaps she enjoys the route and can take shortcuts impossible for cars. Or she just loves to walk and watch the seasons change, which you just can’t see from the roads. Or she’s older and retired and this is her day to get out of the house. But given the costs of gas anymore, and depending on where else she has to go, it might not be a few cents (apologies to international readers who may find their way here where Americans complaining about the cost of gas must seem unbearably decadent).

At any rate, if you’ve ever ranted over the epidemic of obesity in this country, you can’t make fun of someone walking too much.

Despite the inspiration that started this post, the middle has been endangered by my current exhausted lassitude. My thoughts move like molasses. A somewhat outdated metaphor, I suppose, because molasses no longer has much of a place outside the cliché. Which is unfortunate because molasses had much more flavor and even more nutrition than our beloved refined sugar. Back to the point, if you’ve ever poured molasses — a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one — you know it’s not merely slow but exceedingly sticky.

Given the associative state of the post, a more apt comparison might be to nearly empty bottle of honey turned upside down… slow and sticky, somewhat crystallized, and dripping from every side of the container. A messy subject.

I keep thinking to bring this to an end that will tie it all together in a nice complete package. But I can hardly remember the idea that started this post in the first place. More than just the emotion of arty and inspiration because I’ve been fortunate to experience it often… Though I’m rarely disciplined enough to do anything more than plan what I want to do with it.

There’s some advice for you. Don’t worry about being worthy of your inspiration, giving it the skill you might think it deserves. After all, no one will ever have your idea. Even a failed effort may inspire someone else at least. Why be disappointed in that?

I’ve just started on a topic I could easily turn into an entire series of posts on its own so it’d better stop myself. Except not to tell myself I can’t write it until I really know what I want to say, because that’s what I did last time when I betrayed my information, and then I didn’t post for more than four months.

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I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.

Play Practice

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (album)

Image via Wikipedia

It’s in the final week of practice now, so at least we’re all most completely off book! Actually, I think next practice, the director isn’t even going to use hers, and today I forgot mine, so I guess we’re already off book!

My lines are still pretty rough, but I only really had trouble in one section. My character is reacting to a shocking story, and therefore not actually replying to the doctor’s comments, just making fairly random exclamations of amazement. So not telling me much in terms of cues.

I think I want to call my youngest brother E.T. here, because his middle name was almost Thomas, and he would have had those initials. Since he feels the missed opportunity keenly, I will offer it to him here.

Anyway, E.T. told me that I’ve been louder on stage lately which is good, but on Thursday’s practice, the others told me that I wasn’t actually acting outside of this one scene. But in said scene, my character is actually angry and furiously protective, and for once has directed movement and sensible blocking. As opposed to just standing there, which is what I usually do. And in the background. And no one tells me what I am supposed to be doing there!

It’s not like I’ve done this before. Because I haven’t.

That reminds me. I keep intending to watch the play on YouTube if I can find it, see if I can get any ideas. Because I don’t even like this play very much and I have no idea on what I am doing.

At least it’s almost over. I just hope that I don’t humiliate myself.

Sketches

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Image by ImagineSpence via Flick

I like to write.

But then of course, all the Real Writers say writing is as breathing and if Real Writers are ever Not Writing, then they are dead. It’s just not possible to live without writing if you are a Real Writer. Or you die.

So I’ve never thought seriously about trying to write. A couple creative writing courses and submissions to school contests, a few spurts of attempted novel-writing, and nearly a lot of how-to-write books that I’d read for fun rather than actually using them to “help me write”. Or whatever it is I was supposed to do. But yes, most of my creative writing happened in school.

It’s the reading, you see. I read too much to create my own worlds. Or at least that’s the only theory I have. Because I have lots of ideas that never become stories. Lots of stories that never quite make it onto paper. My dolls acted out roles in whatever story I was telling, and my mind couldn’t let go of the characters in the books I loved. (Hence, why I was relieved when I found fan fiction as a teenager. Before that, I just thought I was crazy—at least if I am, I’m hardly alone.)

But I’ve never thought much of my own writing, and one of the earliest creative writing assignments I remember—third grade—I was scolded because, before I’d even started, my title resembled that of a real book. Yes, whoever told me so, I’d read it. This story was going to be different, I just liked the idea of the attic. Lots of stories, especially children’s stories, are attic-centered. Because attics are awesome. However much I attempted to explain (not really getting further than ‘but’ and teary), I had to change the title and the concept. Timid and obedient, I wrote something that I don’t really recall and never really liked.

Up until I started this post, I hadn’t thought about that in ages.

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Image via Wikipedia

That incident isn’t why I don’t write. All my anxiety about my art or my writing does not stem from that incident. But I can’t believe it didn’t contribute. Still, my main problem is my distractedness. Which is to say, obsessing over several series, tv and book, and still reading some ten different books in ten different subjects at any one time does not exactly lend ones mental state to creation of any kind, especially writing.

I just get more done than I think I do. Just in little pieces, ideas, like this:

Geraldine opened her phone. At her age, she was probably the only person in the entire world who didn’t actually want a phone. Essentially the only time she used it was when someone called her or she needed to find something out. She hated to be out of the loop. On anything. Her parents used to say she had big ears because she always heard whatever they were talking about, especially when she wasn’t supposed to; now she knew better than to come into contact with former lovers without your spouse’s permission. Then again, her father had never been the smartest person she’d ever met.

It was her father calling of all people. Unusual too, because it wasn’t Tuesday or six o’clock. Not to mention, her mother was the primary initiator of most calls from home.

“Hi dad”

“Hey baby girl. Your mother just got out of surgery and she’s asking for you—”

“Wait—momma had surgery! For what? Never mind, I’ll call back…just give her the phone.” Geraldine juggled her purse to the arm holding the Ross bag so she could more securely hold the phone to her ear without dropping anything.

Her mother’s voice wearied but apparently alert. “Thank you, I didn’t want to worry you girls but I wanted to remind you about Carla’s hair appointment.” Geraldine sighed. Not as lucid as she’d thought. Carla was her spoiled rotten niece, and she and her brother were rarely in contact.

What does it mean?!

I don’t remember where this came from. Not the least little bit. When I first found it on my USB drive, I wasn’t even sure it was mine. And yeah. Between this and the other I have no memory of, I’m starting to wonder if I just stole them:

His nose twitched, twitched once more as he reached his prize. He stopped, hesitated, sniffed. Then, ears came up and he jerked. The sound. Different. Seconds passed, nothing happened. His attention returned to his prize. But then! Wet. Like rain but without clouds. He ran. What insanity was this! Hyper-alert senses told him it was wrong. Now the ground was wet but the sky-water was gone, still he kept alert. The odd sound hadn’t stopped. His tail twitched back and forth in agitation. Otherwise, he didn’t move. Then. It was back! The wet! He ran again and it followed. For now he was free and he shook himself, but he heard it coming again. He reached the tree, just outside its reach. Just in case, he climbed. Tiny claws clutched the bark and he ran, bounded up the tree, hung upside down on the branch for a moment, and then heard the drops falling underneath him. It wasn’t rain. He climbed higher and relaxed. At least it could not catch him here.

Was this an assignment or something? (Title: The Squirrel) Also, regarding the first, I wish I remembered the story behind it, because it sounds fascinating. It’s like the dreams I used to have—I’d be reading, and always wake up right before the climax (come to think of it, I still get those dreams). Of course, I never remember the dream well enough to just write the story myself.

So am I a writer? Probably not. But I do hope I’ll keep it up.

I’ve Been Feeling Protective of Tourists Lately

Several weeks ago I picked up The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (who also wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—and he has awesome titles). I read the prologue and first chapter pretty quickly, and then came back today to read the second, which is all of fourteen pages long.

And then I had to stop and respond.

Indeed, I held the pages open, grabbed my sketchbook, and wrote four pages all at once—it’s a smallish sketchbook. But up till now it was a sketchbook and not another of my random doodles book. Oh wells, it was available it happens. At least I didn’t try to write it on a series of old receipts (although wouldn’t that make an interesting art piece? hmmm).

And then I tried to read pulp fiction after that to actually read something without having to start another blog, and promptly wrote three-and-a-half pages on Star Trek: Killing Time in less than fifty pages. Yeah. I’ve got to stop doing that. Spies, though, by Michael Frayn, seems to be going well. The main character is already super engaging and there’s a mysterious bush that wouldn’t be mysterious if I looked it up but I don’t want to do that because this is definitely a book I could get lost in and I’m looking forward to it but I had to write this post first.

The City of Falling Angels is about Venice. As I am only 45 or so pages in, I’m not entirely sure of the premise although it appears to be primarily about the native Venetians and how they feel about living in such a city, framed by La Fenice (meaning the phoenix) and how it burned in 1996 (hence the picture).

Berendt’s style is very lyrical. The destruction of the Fenice and the reactions of the people watching nearly brought me to tears—especially the glassblower who couldn’t stop creating.

When I tried reading today, I got caught on the description of Venice as a city in the modern era. Now, I don’t actually know really anything about Venice other than its sinking, which is of course shameful. But from the description, so far I don’t have the most favorable impression from a cultural standpoint (don’t worry, most of the review isn’t actually bashing Venice, or the author for that matter).

Berendt calls Venice “dying” but if its centuries of poverty have left it so much like the paintings of the eighteenth century—no “modern intursions”—then I could only call it a dead city.

Much as I lament the loss of old buildings—my first thought when I learned of the controversy of the ‘mosque’ near ground zero was ‘must you take down a 100-year-old building to do so?’—I have to concede that that isn’t the way the world works. Things change. For one thing there are a lot more people (duh). As pretty much everything used to be, they don’t work in the modern world. Which like it or not, we live in. And modern architecture is hardly all bad. Much is boring (and some is bad) but unlike earlier time, they aren’t designed to last forever. Common architecture is not how we make our mark. and anyway, most common dwellings and other structures from the olden golden days were quite gleefully torn down for the next generational architectural statement.

And does no one realize what it takes to make such lovely cities? Berendt mentions Venice’s eight of power when it was a conqueror and an empire. Only in the case of art does this get described as a good thing. Artists definitely live in a happy world where they don’t have to consider things like that. Only in this situation is this description a positive. Try saying the same about the Imperialist United States or British colonialism . To get a pretty city generally requires human suffering.

So Berendt’s blank admiration for Venice for its oldness and prettiness just slightly got on my nerves. Which is totally hypocritical of me, I admit, as I love most old cities for that very reason and why I want to live in one (I never would survive).

As I said, the first chapter of this book made me want to cry. It hurts to hear about the diamonds of history being so easily destroyed—and before I would ever get the chance to see it! Something so beautiful in which went so much work and love, something visited by so many people, and it burns to the ground and everyone loses. I’m not very good at dealing with this stuff, I take it far too personally. I read about libraries burning in Russia and cried for them too. (What book was that?)

Still Berendt gets on my nerves the next chapter  and it has to do with how closely he identifies with the Venetians. What was so lyrical in the first chapter is now rubbing me the wrong way. Because the first few pages of the second chapter is all about how evil the tourists are, and such a pain. (Okay, you’re still not a native, no matter how much you empathize.) And in many ways they are invaders, but as I said before, Berendt has already described Venice as a dead city. People are still living there, but only because the tourists like to visit. I’d hate to think of what would happen to all those beautiful old buildings if they weren’t there to be looked at. And what other industry is there? So far, I’ve read about the art, but art isn’t self-sustainable.

And if there weren’t tourists, it would still be a museum, just not one hat people visited. And once the scholars had their share it would be left to rot—excepting the straggling archeologist and student historian who needs a thesis.

Can I say, here, that I can’t stand people like Berendt describes and transcribes Ludovico De Luigi? As described he’s just obsessed with getting attention. Berendt calls him an artist—but without having seen his art, all I can imagine is one of those post-modernists who confuse concept and flash with art (I don’t think I’m using ‘post-modernist’ correctly, but anything after that art period I don’t know). He (the theoretical artist I’ve switched to rather than the real person) likes to make a lot of noise, and get attention, but his art is nothing that will stand the test of time once people get over the surprise.

*end rant* (of an entirely different subject)

This is by the real Ludovico De Luigi, and is actually pretty cool. If his exploits are true as told by Berendt, though, I still wouldn't want to meet him in person.

Not that I disagree that Venice’s citizens would be an interesting subject. I look forward to learning more about how people deal with living in a dead city—or does their conviction of its ‘aliveness’ convince me? I just wish Berendt had a better understanding of tourists because his whining about them is just a little irritating. (Honestly, it’s rather subtle, and only a few comments over the entire chapter, I’ve just been thinking about it lately.) Why has being a tourist always been such a bad thing?

It seems to be a popular exercise for the intellectual, as far as I can tell, to be intellectual and look down on the plebeians. Which is rather odd because not everyone can be an intellectual and we shouldn’t want them to be—because frankly I would consider myself an intellectual (although I make no claims as to my relative intelligence) but intellectuals on their own aren’t all that useful in regards to practical applications, i.e. getting food to put on the table. Yes, I will make that argument.

Mind you, I’m not referring to stupid obnoxious people (that is, when talking about tourists, not intellectuals) here—because they do exist (and aren’t necessarily American) and they behave exactly the same there as the do at home, I theorize. They aren’t any more loved there either, so give the people who behave at home and abroad a break, eh? (<- where did that come from?) When you have to put up with those people and then find yourself treated like one? Well, I guess that’s what they call a vicious circle. Resentful people don’t make nice visitors and not nice visitors make resentful locals.

That’s my pithy comment for the day.

Great Minds

Have messy desks.  –It’s on a mug, it must be true.

I rather doubt that I have a great mind. But I do have a messy desk. Well, perhaps not “messy”–there are too many papers and a few receipts that I haven’t filed yet. Mostly it’s the twenty plus library books sitting on top.  Unfortunately, the height of twenty plus library books is too much height for a comfortable workstation. Also an unstable one.

So the mess left over has mostly corrupted the top of the dresser, and it’s spread into the bookcase (which is also on top of the dresser). But the bookcase has resisted nearly all but books so far, and the few small invaders have only inspired a few half-hearted rebels.

Part of the problem is simply too much stuff. Not books, so much. As far as I’m concerned, if there is enough room on the bookshelves to hold all the books, however well-stacked, there are not too many. Library books are not a factor in the equation. It’s too much…stuff. Things like pads of paper, ummm, I really don’t know what else…I have little boxes to keep track of my earrings, slides of my art, my camera, a screwdriver…lots of little things without a real “place”. Admittedly, all such things could find a place, and be put away, and not a mess. But because they’re all little things, it’s just going to take awhile. What you get when you just get lazy for a month (or two).

I think I’m inherently messy, though. Surely that counts for something. As an excuse that is…take for granted for now that nature won in the nature vs. nurture debate. I just can’t keep up with myself. Whether I’m bored or distracted, or both, I like to keep plenty of things to do around to go back and forth.

It appears I’m attracted to messy hobbies. Cluttered ones anyway.

As has surely been made evident elsewhere,  I am rather fond of my computer. I like to play the Sims…which many people who find out don’t understand, but I try not to begrudge them that.  I can’t comprehend sports myself. And while the computer fairly self-contained–as a laptop–computer ‘attachments’, as it were, are not. In fact, should I like to play my sims in the living room, I have to have it plugged in too. And I like my mouse.  I keep the printer in my room though, and because my dock isn’t working it’s stuck in my drawer along with my keyboard, lots of accompanying cords and a cd player for a car.  Hopefully soon I’ll be able to afford it in my car…the current one is a little touchy, don’t let him know I said that.

Of course I like to read. Really, though, like is the wrong word. Not quite obsession, almost a habit, but entirely more compulsion-al. If I see a book, I have to pick up, or nearly always. I won’t always read it, but I at least have to pick it up. No personal leanings toward nonfiction or fiction, or any particular genre. Nonfiction is nearly always fascinating, unless the author is simply terrible. Otherwise the subject matter can make up for most other mistakes.  Still reading the pencil book for instance. Turns out it’s about the development of the pencil as paralleled by the development of engineering (as the subtitle suggested), and it is, well, fascinating. Love reading about architecture, biography, the sciences, oddly enough. As for fiction…character is everything, really. I love to reread series, at least when I’ve had enough time in between to forget.

Let’s see. I used to think I would be an artist. From the time I was maybe in second grade, or so I have convinced myself. Now art can be a fairly simple hobby. Technically, all that’s really needed is some kind of writing utensil and a surface on which to use it. Or if you want to go post-modernist, either one alone or neither. I’ve never understood it myself. But I like all the different mediums, to experiment with each, though not so much all together. This means: pencils, pens, colored pencils, soft pastels, oil pastels, watercolors, acrylic and oil paints–in addition to the accouterments: erasers, sharpeners, chamois cloth, paint brushes, easels, blending stumps, etc., etc. And then to store not just the various surfaces on which to work these mediums, but to store the finished pieces as well. And mostly forever, since a lot of it I just can’t toss.

I also knit…or rather, occasionally try to teach myself to knit, I suppose I don’t quite qualify as a true knitter yet. Mostly I have no idea what I’m doing. But it’s not the neatest hobby either. I’ve got quite a lot of yarn stored for those future projects most of which lack patterns so far. But it takes up lots of space, and is something of a pain to carry around. At least the finished stuff can be useful.

So while my desk is only not messy because it’s piled too high with books, underneath the desk is a knitting bag, my computer is on the bed, and easel is set up in the corner. (It’s a work in progress, I swear!) Maybe not a great mind, but at least I keep it occupied.