Late realization (the wannabe cat lady’s lament)

Sometimes I think back and wonder what the hell I was thinking,
staying so long with someone whose objection to cats was cat hair
and the commitment that might be involved in getting someone
to feed them if we ever went on the vacations we didn’t take all that much,
that and protecting all that hand-me-down furniture we never paid for.
I could have been cuddling (for decades) a wet-nosed purr-ball of love
instead of someone afraid of mess and commitment. After all,
if you can’t fix it with duct tape, a swiffer, and other friends
who have cats, you need to reexamine your choices.

I’m off to the pound.

Spines through the water

I’m reading reviews of the Godzilla film (film, like it’s art and not just a circus, projected onscreen) and thinking— boy, Anthony Lane just doesn’t get it.  Sure, snappy dialogue & good jokes would be nice, good acting too, but the point of any and every Godzilla film is Godzilla.  Period.  Exclamation point, even, dig in with the tips of one of the spines on his capable back.  If you get some token A-lists to chew scenery and one of them happens to know how to say the monster’s name with the “right” “Japanese” intonation, then, well, they’ve done their job.  Of course there’s going to be some kid in peril, some stupid sideline love story to propel the “action” along, a landmark bridge or three to threaten or wreck, a city or five that gets smashed.  You can throw all the ecological or cultural subjugation/appropriation or globalization or global warming or nuclear threat metaphors you like at the screen— heavy-handed dialogue about all the wasteful and stupid things humans do is all well & good, it’s not like it isn’t true, but the point of it all is this, at the end:

Spines, rippling through water.  Strong, scaly thighs stomping onto the shore.  A monster so big he re-defines awesome each time we see him, each time we re-do him in clay or plastic or hi-def CGI— he’s hard to grasp except in glimpses— lashes of tail, swipes of his stubby yet capable arms, that instantly recognizable (and always surprisingly higher-pitched than we thought it would be) roar that he has, as he throws his head back and says, in his way— move it, I’ve got this, this is bigger than anything that you can handle, and I’ve emerged, yet again, from the depths of your oceanic subconscious to defeat all the monsters— the Mothras, King Kongs, the aliens from outer space— that your small monkey brains can only shoot guns at, or nuke, when we all ought to have learned from the last dozen films that the nuclear option is not the end of the story, it’s just a waste.   When Godzilla roars, it’s just the buildup, and while he might go down, he always gets up— in the end, he rips off Mothra’s head and screams lightning down her throat, crisping her into insect BBQ that always has us roaring hooray, even as Godzilla himself thows his head back again to let loose that primal yell of “I did it, all by myself.”  Sure, the humans might have lit a nest of eggs on fire, maybe, but who’s to say Godzilla wouldn’t have gone back and done it himself once the real fight was through?  The point of Godzilla is this— the monster, rising once again from the dust and the wreckage, surveys the bodies of the more monstrous monsters strewn about, then snorts to himself in private amusement as the monkeys on shore cheer and he slides, once again, into the ocean, cool and home.  Godzilla, the king of the monsters who saves us from ourselves when we don’t know what to do.  Godzilla, Prince Charming, swims off to his underwater castle again, spines cutting through blue-green until it’s time to submerge, and we, a whole race of Princesses, wave from the shore, not certain when he’ll return.  We know one thing for sure; poets will tell tales of the deadly lash of his tail and the blast of his death-ray until those spines through the water are sighted again.

(Easier than) waiting around to die

(Trigger warnings for discussions of suicidality, family drama, and other A+ parenting issues.  Also, as usual, language.  This is a sort of undecided, sort of open-ended piece because I need to tweak my meds again and am feeling more than a little blue, but I have already called my shrink & let my therapist know I feel lousy, in case you’re wondering.)

I read some author’s line someplace that we sometimes feel like can’t be who we really are until everyone who’s known us is dead.  Sometimes, it’s even true by circumstances of money or other constraints– you don’t have the freedom to tell other people and their expectations to go screw, and sometimes just heading out for the hills and reinventing yourself somewhere, somewhen else is not in the cards. Continue reading

Lost & found

Again with this job, like the last retail one, I started off at a small store, moved to a big one.  I always make the mistake of wanting to believe that my work friendships are more than they are, that they’ll last my leaving a place.  I’m usually wrong.  I thought that this time, it might be different because of all the hippie-dippie values and the bonding experience (war trauma?) of opening a store and becoming one big retail family.  Turns out, not so much.  Continue reading

Ways of looking

I follow the English public thinker Alain de Botton on Twitter, and while I don’t always agree with him, he does provoke thought in his posts, books, and links, which of course is the whole purpose of being a live, working philosopher.  Yesterday, he tweeted about the “evils” of photography versus learning to draw and linked to an article in The Philosopher’s Mail about phone-photography versus sketching.  I don’t agree with the article, by and large.

The points I chose to take away from the article were:

1) we shouldn’t be living our lives through our gadgets, and that phone camera snaps shouldn’t substitute for being actually present in a moment, for noticing the minute details versus just collecting proof that Kilroy Was Here before we move on quickly, because there’s a (socially constructed and inherently false) schedule to keep to so that we can document to the next snapchattable moment, and,

2) by cultivating a “slow” skill such as drawing, especially when it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to us, we learn to take in the world in a different way, to truly notice the depth of beauty all around us and all the fine details that we can breathe in if we just look,

3) the ability to look and perceive both the whole and its details is important.

I agree, fully, that there are too many of us who are distracted in our everyday doings, but it didn’t start with the camera– perhaps with the telegraph, or same day post.  The fact is, life is fast and has been getting faster since the invention of the printing press (darn that Gutenberg, he had no value for the small quiet value of hand-inked vellum), and “drawing” as a way to stop & smell the roses is all well and good as a metaphor.  It’s not so great as a general moral proposition.

The points inherent in the article with which I take issue are, if not legion, ones that have been brought up by people far more articulate than me–

1) that a camera phone photograph cannot inherently capture finer details,

2) that the takers of camera phone photographs are all rushing, rushing, rushing, rather than– pausing to notice and focus in on that detail– the cornice of that building, that tulip, that couple embracing,

 

3) that the takers of camera phone photographs do not take the time, later, to share that captured detail with other people later, either in print or on one of the many social media sites where photographers congregate to share photos, look for those details they personally find beautiful and worthy of documentation and sharing (Instagram? Flickr?  Twitter?  Does Mr. de Botton not know about photography social media platforms, or that photos can be shared on the platform he uses?)

4) that all the details & moments captured on camera phones are inherently “shallow”– selfies or fashion shots or pictures of expensive meals or other consumables rather than externally objective objects of beauty– travel, nature, animals, smiles, architecture, “what a wondrous thing is man” when he manages to capture a macro of a peacock feather– when, in fact, a review of any mobile photography website will show you the whole range of human and earthly existence,

5) that drawing is inherently and always better than phone (or any other) photography, and that photography is not, therefore, art, however “art” is defined,

6) that camera phone photography, as an “art” and a “skill” is something that does not inspire the doer toward improvement, toward other forms of the art, toward more technique or toward gatherings with like-minded persons who likewise seek to gather & appreciate the beauty out there in the world.  (One word/hashtag: #instameet.)  I didn’t start out with a camera phone, for my own self, but my little point & shoots, and my desire to improve my own naked eye shots of the things out there in the world have certainly caused me to read more about how to frame, how to compose, whether to upgrade to a DSLR (and I did) so that I could capture better, finer, more beauty than I had been able to heretofore.  I have met and know many, many, many folks online & in person whose “gateway” drug was the point & shoot or the iPhone, but now they go on photo safaris & print out real art, real beauty, real moments that reflect our world as it is– or as we’d like it to be.

I have no problem, at all, with people who have the time and perseverance to sketch, paint, or engage in other forms of non-photography art.  I admire the talent and ambition and stick-to-itiveness that it takes.  But it is an unassailable truth that life does move quickly, and all the slowing down and taking time to smell the roses (or sketch them, as the argument would suppose) doesn’t change the fact that in the every day churn of it all, sometimes we don’t have the time to stop and sketch, because we haven’t got the concatenation of timing, life circumstances and courage to choose to do anything other than get to work and take care of our selves and our loved ones in mundane, material ways.

It would be nice, lovely, ideal, to live a more artistic, more reflective life in more moments over the spread of a lifetime– but sometimes, realistically speaking, a camera phone shot and five minutes to notice whatever image you saw is all the time you have in a day to notice the beauty and humanity around you.

Five minutes’ pause on your way is better than none.

I also freely admit that there are a hell of a lot of pretty pictures of flowers and beloved children and cats of no particular artistic inspiration on the internet and in photo albums all over the world– though I would also argue that art isn’t always the point of a photograph, because it is also useful in capturing a moment, preserving a memory, and whether it does it with more or less technique or artistry is less important than the preservation itself.

In that regard, photography in its speed does what sketching (and those without patience or time or talent or any combination of those you choose to combine in your moral judgment) does not– it preserves a moment in time which, looked back upon, recalls happiness, even if it is done artlessly.

I’d also argue that today’s selfie might be someone else’s coup de foudre– art is at least partly subjective, after all, and however much sarcasm someone else might inflect the term with, to the aficionado, an iPhone shot of “nail art” has meaning and increases the general quantum of happiness– if some of it is at the shallow end of life’s pool, why does everything have to be deep? I’m not trying to say that there is no objective truth, or larger, important set of truths, but if a shallow happiness works for that person in that particular moment, or if something that seems trite to one person is meaningful to another– well.  I’m happy to wait while someone is standing on the sidewalk before me, taking a camera phone shot of something they find to have meaning.

 All pictures taken on my Google Droid phone, and uploaded to my Flickr, via Instagram & its various automatic filters.