Thursday, October 20, 2011


The lynx, one of my favourite animals.

Elusive and stylish.

I was surprised to find out that in inhabits areas in both western Canada and Spain (the Iberian lynx), two very different climates.

I wonder if this scene ever happened: a young man walking around the outskirts of Ibiza as the sun begins to rise, after the most hedonistic, devastating and fortunate party experience of his life. He sits on the ground, and sees a lynx staring at him from far away. The lynx stares, then leaves, and the young man watches it go...and then starts running, chasing it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The difference between Toronto and Ottawa

Specifically, the rivalry. The clash, which runs deeper than drunken hockey shouting matches and brawls and Leafs graffiti sprayed in public parks in Ottawa.

Having lived in Ottawa from 2006 - 2008 (as well as spending my childhood there, yet I didn't notice the rivalry at that time) and currently living in Toronto, I've sensed a divide between the two Ontario cities. It could be easy to say that the rivalry stems from basic differences such as Ottawa having the status as Canada's capital whereas Toronto is only Ontario's capital, and the Canada Day celebration in Ottawa is way better, but that's not the deepest it sinks.

Toronto's obviously larger population equals more opportunity. And when I worked as a dishwasher in Ottawa I repeatedly heard people talk about what there really is in Ottawa - what oportunity could be capitalized on, and what room for growth there is aside from the governmental avenues. I remember reading an issue of the Ottawa Xpress wherein an artist was defending his move from Ottawa to Toronto, with the article praising the artist's seemingly imminent rise to fame. I haven't heard of him since moving here, but then again I haven't been paying attention to the art scene that closely. I never really was, though. All I remember was that the article seemed to be aware of the hostility which would be lobbied against the artist for moving.

When I was living in Ottawa a friend of mine said that she would move to Toronto because she wanted to see life at all hours of the night, to see people and vibrancy. And she said I could go anywhere and do anything, that I didn't have anything holding me back. And Ottawa has been compared to Winnipeg, where the small size of the city makes people know each other indirectly. Whenever I visit Winnipeg I almost always see people I've met or seen before. Although a smaller city, like a smaller college or university, can also lead to less impersonality between people since it's more tight-knit. Some people like that. I like that, but I don't think it's impossible to find a tight-knit group of people in a large city. The idea of pursuing artistic endeavours to the extent where you lose your desire to get to know and appreciate other people is disturbing, even though a necessary trait of any art is solitude.

The standard of living is also an important factor. Just as Toronto is thought to loook down on Ottawa, people from NYC or LA probably look down on Toronto. But I met people from NYC and they said Toronto is much better, and I've heard from an intelligent former native Californian that it's every liberal American's dream to move to Canada. As as enticing as living in NYC is, I wouldn't want to deal with mice, cockroaches, bedbugs, thieves, pollution, overly crowded streets, expensive items and living expenses, being looked down on for being Canadian, and other issues that would continually arise in order to live in NYC or LA. How much of my personal well-being would I have to sacrifice in order to say "I live in New York City" ? That's where I see Ottawa as having an edge over Toronto - the allure of a large city doesn't always match the toll it takes on your body and mind. I get stressed out here...but I got stressed out living by myself in Ottawa as well.

At different literary events I've heard the speakers make odd allusions to Ottawa which has sent the audience chuckling. I mean odd in the sense that they weren't being insulting. I can't remember what they said, unfortunately - all I remember is the vibe they created.

But this was the first sign that tipped me off about the tension between the cities: when I first moved to Ottawa I was walking around the Byward Market and saw a large banner that said TORONTO APPRECIATION DAY, but in front of this banner there was only a single little man hitting a small drum in a discordant manner. There was also a guy with a large camera filming him and also people's reactions.
Most people were just puzzled, but I saw the humour in it - the man hitting the drum represented the amount of appreciation people living in Ottawa (Ottawan, though I don't like that term) held for Toronto.
I laughed as I walked by and took it in, and the cameraman smiled and filmed me. I wonder where the footage went. Ruminating on it now, I wonder if the battle is continuing in the same media format, or different.

What was I going to achieve by continuing to live in Ottawa? What would've happened to me if I'd have stayed there? Walking through the Rideau Centre (this is another trait of Canadian cities - they all have a mall which marks the downtown core, somethng that Ottawa and Toronto share), I remember seeing a large poster for nuclear power, touting its benefits. This unnerved me slightly, like seeing a gun shop in the States for the first time.
Did/does Ottawa rely on nuclear power? I didn't know and still don't. But I felt that Toronto held more literary opportunity, and so I moved here. The city of Ottawa is laid out perfectly, its architecture, museums, streets, the parks, Hog's Back Park, the way to Hull...despite the fact that Ottawa was originally built on top of a swamp, it's lovely. I didn't have good luck with people there though, which was also part of the reason why I left. Yet Toronto held more allure for me and still does, even though I'd feel off wearing a Blue Jays cap.

Edit: but now, on April 9th, 2013, I'd feel comfortable wearing the cap. It is a great city.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I - the Play, SummerWorks Festival 2011

I have a role in the play I, which is part of the SummerWorks Festival here in Toronto for 2011, and it's been great to have been a part of it so far. The Pulse Theatre Collective produced the play - written and directed by David Hersh and starring Emannuelle Zeesman - and their website can be found by clicking here.

The play is about a young female writer named Eugenia who moves to Paris (leaving her family and friends behind) to write her magnum opus. She meets the ghost of the playwright, who goes by the name of I, whom she's looked up to since childhood and he proceeds to become her mentor, although he quickly becomes tiresome and then eventually a threat.

My role in the play is small - I'm part of the Chorus and we represent I's mind. Which is a great concept, representing a ghost's mind. We're the ghosts within the ghost, it could be said.

I (the play) is metafictional and intertextual as it's based on a play by Eugène Ionesco. What appeals to me about the play is the role of I himself, who's played by David Macniven. I (the character) is self-aggrandizing, self-unaware and uninformed of basic concepts such as different religions, and cannot treat Eugenia with the respect and intelligence she bestows on him, instead baiting her into allowing him to play more games with her. Although this is interlaced with humour (and the play is very witty and funny, with an Abbot and Costello wraparound style)it still reflects on the character of I in a greater sense.

Because I gives Eugenia advice which is fundamental for success in writing, yet due to the nature of his character it wouldn't seem as though Eugenia would be apt to take it. I tells Eugenia that writing is a discipline, and that it needs to be done continuously - which reflects the advice I stumbled upon from the artist Chuck Close not too long ago.
Yet with all the stress Eugenia has to endure through I's mentorship, and his lack of real knowledge, it would be easy to cast aside his advice and just to do what she wants and feels.

To me this ties in closely to a parent-child relationship, where a parent might not know everything and can repel their children against their (maybe hard-fought) advice. And it also relates to the general idea of an author, and how some people look to them for the answers to all their questions.

Sometimes the artist is better off not known. There can be a transformation from an icon to a human being. Autonomy. I delves into this, albeit in a humorous fashion. Just throwing away all of our impressions and forging our own path is what Eugenia and I represent and also showcases the parent-child relationship where a growing child can decide not to follow the path of their parent. The rebellious artist, not knowing what will come of their endeavours. But if they stick with it, as I advises to, they can succeed.

I also tells Eugenia of what it takes to separate literature (wheat) from books (chaff). How a book has to either be someone cherishes or despises. And what would an author really want to create? One or the other or both? So these opposite ends of the spectrum graduate a book into literature. Which I think is sound advice to give to a young author because reading is only worthwhile if it sparks emotion and intellect.

Friday, July 29, 2011


I've been doing some modeling recently, and I'm represented by the Fulcher Agency here in Toronto.

My modeling website can be found by clicking here.

Modeling and writing don't seem to go hand in hand. One is considered vapid and the other intellectual (or for some, pseudo-intellectual). And I wrote earlier that I don't post too many pictures of myself here because it makes me feel self-ingratiating and self-absorbed.

But I've decided to try out modeling for a change of pace in jobs. After so much manual labour I'd like to make some money doing something fun. And do I really have to justify myself when it comes to this? I know what the boundaries of good taste are when it comes to modeling, and I'm not going to do anything embarrassing which people can look to in the future and ridicule and call me out on. I'm well aware of how someone's image can be tarnished and how public opinion can be swayed.

And it could be argued that there's no potential for literary growth in modeling. That it doesn't add breadth of experience which can contribute to a solid story. But I personally believe that all the arts should be interconnected. I act, I take photos, I play guitar, I paint. Although modeling might not be considered an artform, it relies on artforms in order to grow.

Modeling is not a question of narcissism. I know I'm not the best-looking model. I'm grounded. But it's all cool.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It was recently mentioned to me by a good friend of mine that "All writing is opinion."

I don't fully agree with this, but then that's just my opinion.

We all know what opinions are like. So then everyone has one, and everyone is entitled to one. Which reminds me of the case against vanity publishing, wherein people will freely publish what they want and there won't be any filter of quality. Who's to say that my opinion is better than yours, however researched and polished it may be? It's yours, because the events in your life have moulded it to be so. A person's opinions could be said to play an integral part in who they are, and why should someone's identity (and stability as a result) be compromised to adopt an opinion which will force them to re-think and take steps backwards?

These are all questions I have as well.

Literature wholly comprised of opinion is a disturbing thought to me. What about the stories which were meant to function solely as stories without morals or what the author thinks? Is that possible?

If the question is what kind of literature do I value, that which is rebellious and subversive or that which isn't challenging and depicts common everyday aspects of life in clever and poignant ways which I previously haven't thought of...the answer would be both.
Both can be based on opinion and both can allow readers to glean their own meanings from the texts. But would they be better without?

Throughout this post I've gotten very tired of discussing something which has no answer and only leads to more dead-end questions. Which I suppose is the apotheosis of bad writing. So it would be best to stop now...

...on style and practicality.

...and instead point out various elements of society which, in my opinion, shouldn't exist. Is this necessary? Does memorable literature tie into a blog post about bad trends? Most likely not. Should I overthink it? I feel like writing about it, so I may as well get it out of my system. I'm human, and this is the age I was born into, and in media-saturated times it's important to have a critical edge.
But still - for me, people can do and wear what they want. If they're judged by someone else, does it matter? No. Do what you want, live for yourself. Is true wisdom found in the strict classification of people who do certain things - how their entire future and entire output in life can be determined solely by certain little things they do or what they wear?

Some would say so. Some would also say that wisdom entails knowing all the characteristics of a certain ethnicity, knowing exactly how and why a person will act as a result.

But nevertheless there are still things that irritate me. To wit:

I saw someone wearing these on the subway some time ago. I along with other passengers were just staring. Because these shoes look absolutely ridiculous. There seems to be a push in today's world (or at least in North America) to be "futurized". I've previously discussed how authors (journalists) make attempts to create new words that sound stupid in order to "progress". Ugly shoes like this are the same thing.

Don't drink bottled water. Please don't. Buy a water filter and a water bottle and fill it up.
The sad part is that I've only just done this recently in terms of using a water bottle when I go out to exercise or skate. I rarely buy bottled water but when I do I feel like I've degraded the world just a little bit more. Which of course I have because bottled water is detrimental to the globe as a whole.

Not only Christmas music...
...but all music played in department stores and grocery stores.
I don't have social anxiety disorder. I'm comfortable in public. But I have to take my MP3 player with me when I go into these places because it's very uncomfortable to have to listen to the story of a lover's broken heart told through trite guitar riffs and high-pitched warbling singing as I'm looking for a mop and bucket. There's something wrong with that to me.
The emotion that these songs attempt to convey do not translate into a run-of-the-mill shopping experience at all. Not that the music I listen to is about run-of-the-mill shopping experiences whenever I enter Zellers. But I don't think people who enjoy the music or find something in it as they shop are wrong for doing so, I just find it personally uncomfortable.

I don't see the fixed gear bike (I hear they're fun) or plaid long-sleeved lumberjack shirt on here.
I can't stand being thought of as fitting into the hipster persona. I'm not trying to follow trends anymore, I'm not a teenager. I wear what's classic. I wear old-school Vans and I drink PBR sometimes. I wear hoodies rarely; they're more sporty than trendy though. I wear a painters cap with a Kansas City Royals logo on it and wear V-necked white shirts. Does this all mean I'm a hipster? Or is it separate elements combined with my youth which could make people label me as a hipster? Isn't it sad when people automatically fit you into a corner based on their assumptions and don't want to slightly try and see you as a human being? Or worse, they get to know you and still fit you into a corner despite your three-dimensionality?

The word "your" does not replace "you're". It doesn't matter. Right? Extinction of grammar through technology, it doesn't matter. Is the internet dumbing us down and reducing our attention spans? That's how it feels at times, but we can make the internet what we want it to be. But going with the flow and dumbing yourself (not you'reself, the way people mistake it) down in order to be in tune with the majority should not be the preferred choice. Neither should putting oneself on a pedestal and claiming to be better than most of the world due to not going with the flow, either. I just prefer to have things tighter than looser. Keep it tight, keep it focused.

And that's it for now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Memories of the homeless asking for change

Back when I was nine, I visited Toronto for the first time with my mother during the summer of 1994 and saw a Native homeless man asking for change on the street. A black man came up to him and said "Of course" and gave him some money and I was struck at how polite and gracious he was. Later on that same trip I rode the subway for the first time and saw two kids sitting opposite myself and my mother, with one of them shaping his fingers into a pistol, pointing them to everyone around him including the two of us, and going "bang bang bang".

When I was eleven and living in Winnipeg I bought a Big Gulp from a Seven-Eleven, but I couldn't drink all that soda. There was a man sitting on the curb outside of the store, and I gave the drink to him. He responded by saying "It's too big, it's too big" and my mother laughed but I was genuninely angry with how he responded - that he wasn't thankful and instead critical of getting something for free. If he was joking, I couldn't tell at the time.

When I was nineteen I drove to a beer vendor and bought a 12-pack case of PBR beer in bottles. The bottled beer didn't taste good to me but there was nowhere else to buy PBR in the city. I didn't know what to do with all the beer I'd bought. I didn't have anyone to drink it with and I couldn't bring it home. Driving through Osborne Village, downtown Winnipeg where I lived, there was someone sitting on the sidewalk asking for change; after I saw him I parked the car behind a building on the street, then brought the entire case of beer and gave it to him. I said something like "It doesn't taste that good" but he was so appreciative of it that he didn't care. I saw him a couple of days later on the street and he smiled and gave me a nod of thanks. I was always charitable, I still am.

A story of a story - back when I was a teenager, two kids I knew told me of a window-washer on the corner who had a sackful of change sitting in a bus stop. He told them that he had to keep running from thugs who would chase him with bats and steal all the change he'd received.

The homeless in Ottawa are rampant and when I was living there it felt like a parallel to Washington D.C.. A couple of years ago I came out of a Giant Tiger close to the city centre and two destitute men asked me for change. I responded by saying I didn't have any money, and they insisted that I did. So I insulted them and walked away while they came up with weak insults to fire back with. A little later on I saw a man become angry with a pedestrian because she wouldn't give him money.

A little while ago I was here in downtown Toronto walking past Union Station with a girl who'd later fight me and try to pull my hair out. We passed a homeless man sitting on the street asking for change and she looked into her purse. I told her that homeless people choose their lifestyle - there's a better way to live but they've made the choice to ask for change and live off of other people. By giving them change we only promote them to no go out and try to make a better quality of life for themselves. But I didn't try to stop her from giving him money, I only said it to give a new perspective.

There've been times where I've wanted to request a dance in exchange for the money, and the homeless man or woman and I would perform a spontaneous, perfectly choreogrpahed dance through downtown. Of course I never have.

"You can always depend on the kindness of strangers". This phrase should never become archaic. But it shouldn't justify panhandling.

Friday, May 6, 2011


A equals X

X equals Y

A equals Y : definition of a syllogism.

Logic and order. You don't read a book backwards. Sentences shouldn't have words that are unnecessary. Paragraphs shouldn't have sentences that are unnecessary. Just like with music - there shouldn't be notes that don't have to be there. Everything is focused. The craft of writing can be understood, but not the soul of writing. Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer who focuses on apartheid, mentioned that creative writing classes did nothing for her because the soul of an artist can't be taught in a classroom.

I've taken a creative writing class before. I sparodically attend a writer's group. I never saw either of these as necessary for my work, I just believed and still believe that it's comforting to be around people who are in some respects the same as me.

Good music -

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Old Wives' Tales

* If you still get pimples after 30, you have the skills to build a lawnmower.

* If you're renting a new apartment and the previous tenant is a friend of someone you've seen before but haven't introduced yourself to, you'll eventually break a mirror.

* The best way to cure a broken arm is to start running everywhere you would normally walk to even if you're not in a hurry.

* You will give birth to octuplets if you won a surfboard in a Pepsi under the cap contest.

* A nine-year-old girl can cure chicken pox by trying to drive her parents' vehicle.

* The way to make leaves bloom early in the spring is to start smoking (19th-century logic)

* If you slightly burn yourself on a hot frying pan, an attractive older woman will smile at you someday.

* The best way to find a great new pair of sweatpants is to start pronouncing your "r"s as "w"s. (such as Wingo Staww)

* If you enjoy telling white lies, one day while singing karaoke you'll be ridiculed so badly by a group of teenagers that you'll want to be a teenager. And if you already are a teenager, you'll want to be friends with the teenagers ridiculing you.

Whispering and still, the wives wove the superstitions that we hold close. (but not really)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This is what I look like. There aren't any photos on this website demonstrating that. I honestly don't want to post too many photos of my face or me in general because it gives me a feeling of self-absorption, but one can't hurt.

There are times when writing reminds me of how as children we would place one hand or fist on top of one another to see who would go first in a playground game, like Four Square or Mr. Wolf.

I was nineteen and twenty years old when I wrote Disassociation and I had it published when I was twenty-one. And since then, the range of people's reactions has been fascinating - from people who absolutely don't care to people who want a copy strictly for the purpose of selling it on eBay in the future.

And through it all it always feels like there's a sense of intimidation (an oft-cited word nowadays, like intense and confident - I wonder why that is) that's carried with me whenever the subject's brought up. It feels like because I wrote it, there's a level of expectation that people attach to me and it never feels like I'm fulfilling it. Expectations like having an unmatchably quick wit, having incredible stories at my fingertips to tell whenever I like, of looking into my eyes and seeing innumerable points of wisdom, having a certain swagger, a je ne sais quoi. That certain something that just draws people towards you...which I don't believe in and never will.

Once when I was volunteering in a rest home an elderly woman said "Your eyes, they seem to have so much in them...".

But then again, when I was volunteering in a different rest home I walked by an old man who looked at me and kept saying "It's all your fault. It's all your fault."

What I feel I've cultivated with publishing Disassociation is intimidation...and jealousy, which is what I never wanted to follow me. This is why I don't immediately bring it up in conversation - I've noticed how it creates a barrier between people. I can't have any more barriers, but at the same time I don't want my writing life to become a secret identity. This is yet another dichotomy in my life that I've had to contend with.

There's no doubt that the novel is juvenilia, which people generally don't want to read. I don't take offense to people who say they'll buy the book or read the book and then don't - I have my reservations about empty pleasantries but they're par for the course in our society. Even the title itself is challenging - the word 'disassociation' exists but it isn't normally used, the word 'dissociation' is used. I like the challenge of the title, but people could easily see it as a huge spelling error when it wasn't meant to be.

And I've changed since publishing it. I've greatly changed from being a teenager. But I haven't changed drastically.

The life I live has always been lonely, and writing feels like it only increases that pressure. Where the girl whom I'm in love with and is two years younger than I am thinks I'm too sophisticated for her. Where writers are expected to be lonely in order to continually create. I've had to fend off the ugly premonition that I've been alone for so long, I've become too used to being alone.

And people might think I'm revealing my weaknesses, and therefore can't be an artist of any worthwhile measure as a result - with the word 'artist' not conforming to the higher-status platform that others use it for. But this is real.

One of my flaws is that I dwell on the negative too much, and this post reveals that. I've had a lot of support from a lot of people in my life as well. I won't lie, I need people's support in order to maintain my work ethic and drive. Even though I've had to depend on my own resolve a lot more than others, I can't say that all I need is myself. I don't find that healthy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rumination on Television

"IT ROTS THE IMAGINATION DEAD" - lyric from an Oompa Loompa song about Mike Teavee's obsession with television, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

"Television is the opiate of the masses." - Bill Watterson spoof on Karl Marx's famous saying "Religion is the opiate of the masses."

But this is not a rant. None of these posts will ever be rants.

I don't watch TV anymore. Of course I used to until I was about nineteen, but I never set aside a certain amount of time to watch TV except for The Simpsons on Sunday evenings. Then I pretty much stopped because I didn't get cable and the two channels available were fuzzy. When I moved out by myself a year later it was the same deal.

When I was twenty-two I moved into a place with free cable. I watched a couple episodes of Friends and then unplugged the cable, gave it to my landlord, and said I didn't want it in my place because it was distracting.

A year ago when I was working in a bread factory I told a kid I knew, a co-worker, that I didn't watch television and he responded, "So what do you watch when you're high?" I don't get high any more, so I didn't have an answer.

I still think there's value in some television programs, but not for the majority of it. Shows which aren't a variation of philosopher Robert Nozick's Pleasure Machine Thought Experiment, wherein cables are inserted into a person's brain and stimulate the person's neural activity to do nothing but receive pleasure, essentially making the person immobile and lifeless save for the continual feelings of pleasure.

That's not the kind of life anyone sane would want to live...
...and that's not how I view television.

The reason why I stopped watching television is simply because I felt I didn't have time for it any longer. I know for a fact that wanting to create effective literature is not an easy task. It takes a lot of consideration, research and development of style. It's a different discipline than a lot of other facets of life. I stil watch movies, and clips of older TV shows on Youtube. I have a few DVDs of TV shows I liked. I don't watch them that much any longer, but I still have them.

And sometimes I think I should keep watching television due to how it's a meter for current times. But then again the internet can serve as the same.

I can't really imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn't watched television when I was younger. If my parents hadn't let me watch TV at all. I don't know exactly who I'd be - I'd look the same (presumably) but it seems logical that I hypothetically wouldn't be as "in tune" with the rest of the world.

By in tune I mean, for all the years that I abstained from watching TV while my peers did...and going through the motions of dying to watch it in order to fit in as a child, and eventually accepting how I didn't need it, and then becoming very critical of seems that I would be more wary and cynical about developed world culture than I am now. But that's only my initial, unresearched opinion. (And this isn't 'concrete' as William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White would say)

I asked a friend of mine once if he would give up buying a brand-new TV in order to donate the money to an underdeveloped nation and he said no. But before you think my friend is evil, countless other people all over the world have responded the same way, just not out loud.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Libyan Protest Rally - Toronto, March 2011

I attended a Libyan protest rally in Dundas Square here in Toronto a couple weeks back and shot the above photos.

For the most part, I'm not heavily aware of politics around the world. But I'm half-Libyan and I felt it was necessary to show my support for a new Libyan government from all the backlash I've heard about Gaddafi's regime.

The rally itself was for the most part well-controlled. There was no disparagement of North America or Jewish people, as some might expect from any Arabic protest. Any political uprising can never be effective if it promotes narrow-minded thinking and I would've left if that had been the case.

The two problems with the protest were that for one thing, some of the chants were trite (for example "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Gaddafi has to go"). Since that formula has been used so many times over it becomes clichéd and can be ridiculed easily. But there were also direct and powerful chants that I chanted along with.

The second problem was that there was a St. Patrick's Day Parade marching across Dundas St. People were watching the parade and simultaneously watching all of us show our support for a new Libyan government and it felt incongruous to me. It was beneficial because the rally was noticed by more civilians, reporters and photographers. But even so, it felt like we were impeding on the festive time people were expecting of the afternoon.

I also noticed two members of the actual parade try and mock the rally. One started to pretend to dance along to our chanting. Another started shouting "Gaddafi is a legend" and some older men in the rally turned their thumbs down at him. These were actual members of the St. Patrick's Day parade, acting like that...but that's what can be expected. Mockery in the face of rallying for peace, from anyone.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Just a reminder

1) That V. Which

- "The car that I was driving got a flat tire."
- "My son's car, which I was driving, got a flat tire."

- The distinction between restrictive and nonrestrictive adjective clauses affects the choice between that and which. In nonrestrictive adjective clauses, which is nearly always used now instead of that.

- Use only that in restrictive adjective clauses...we distinguish restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses in writing by putting commas around the nonrestrictive ones.

2) Lie V. Lay

- Rule of thumb: You lie around, but you lay something down.

Lie - conjugation:

Present tense: lie/lies
Past tense: lay
Past participle: lain
Present participle: lying

Lay = conjugation:

Present tense: lay/lays
Past tense: laid
Past participle: laid
Present participle: laying

- The past tense of lie and the present tense of lay are the same thing (i.e. lay)...this can create a lot of confusion.

Source: The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2005.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy birthday, mom. I love you as I always have.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"It's so easy to be a poet and so hard to be a man."

That was written by Charles Bukowski, pictured above. When people were saying in the early 90s that computers were "glorified typewriters", he was embracing the new movement...that was the impetus for me to use this photo. I'm not promoting his writing or his beliefs because I don't agree with all of them, but nevertheless it's important to discuss him.

I always wonder about authors like him, and how they would view me (and if I achieved success in my writing, how they would see me then).
I never starved, although life's been hard since I moved out by myself five years ago. I never had parents who didn't care about me - they give me money to help me live. I never absolutely had to work a deadening job in order to survive, although I've worked those jobs before. I've never had a delibitating illness or physical handicap. I've never had to go to war. I've never suffered a great loss (such as the death of someone very close to me, yet). I've never had to run for my life.

But I don't see myself as better than people who've gone through these misfortunes. And I don't try to hide myself from the misfortunes of the world. I've never wanted to live off of my parents for as long as I could, I wanted to live on my own terms and support myself...but money is addictive when I have little of it. And I never believed that I was special and the world needed to know - I've only known that I'm taking a path which few people take, and I'm using the talent I have to press through it. And does it really matter what they would think? Do I need to dwell on it? (Not really.)

Yet if they saw me as unwise and uninformed as a result of not going through what they've gone through, and as a result they didn't see me as capable of creating great that tolerable? Do I need to suffer like they've suffered? Will that allow me to write better? (No.)

A lot of soldiers want to write their life story. And they do, and they take it to a self-publishing company and have it released. They're proud of having written their story. Does the fact that they've been through the depression of war mean that their work automatically has more substance than my own (assuming their experience/position led them to experience the sickness war can hold)?

I don't think so, but some would say that it's true. And this is another part of the interior struggle I have to contend with, being on my own and having a passion for literature.
Bukowski's quote above disgusts me - I never want to become someone who writes like they mean it yet can't maintain a stable life outside of writing. Who just leeches off of everyone and doesn't sculpt their own place in the world, who can't support a family, who only thinks of himself, who doesn't believe in charity. And yet still he strives to write meaningful literature. Again the question of autonomy comes up.

The quote ties into a mantra of mine that I've been thinking of for years - "It's so easy to fail and so hard to succeed." The two thoughts, when intertwined in my mind, create a parallel between how hard it can be for people to maintain a respectable position in life.
Many people, once they learn the discipline and craft of writing, can write a poem. And I'd like to believe that the meaning of that poem is based on how respectable the poet is outside of their writing, although that isn't always the case.

The image of me standing on the street, with clothes that attempt to look upper-class but are still fraying, with nothing to my name and no family, holding only my published makes me wonder how far can the romanticism of art be pushed. People set themselves up to fail all the time. The lamentations of writers regarding how little literature has given to them in contrast to how much devotion they've given to literature is frightening.

So I shouldn't think about it and I shouldn't waste time, don't talk about it, only do it. Virginia Woolf wrote two pages a day. I told a friend of mine years ago that I wrote two hours a day (but nowadays I don't) and he was surprised at my level of dedication. I don't know where that dedication is going to lead. Yet it won't let me melt into the person I never want to become.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Artist as Creator of Propaganda

(photo courtesy of
Mural of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, with his face removed. I wonder who painted it, and removed his face...maybe it was the same artist. As I wrote that last sentence I actually had a faint moment of déjà vu.

Is the freedom artists have to not create government propaganda one of the few freedoms that is never taken for granted? Or do people here in North America forget about how we can create whatever piece of art we think of?

It doesn't seem as though people, when they want to create, will create vast poems, stories, music and paintings to praise the government. That would be funny - going out on a warm summer evening to a grassy hilltop by my villa...with a soft breeze and the recent memory of my wife's legs wrapped around my body as she sits beside me...and painting a picture of Stephen Harper shaking hands with George W. Bush based on the inspiration of my surroundings and memories.

It's abnormal for anyone creating art to have that level of patriotic compassion. We create art to look inside ourselves and to express what we admire, or desire, or detest, or disagree with...not to indulge in patriotism (unless commissioned and depending on their morals). There are artists that take it upon themselves to do so, but from what I've seen they comprise the minority.

Which fuels the paradox of anti-conformity. "So what if I write stories promoting our Prime Minister's that what's popular? I don't think so. That's why this is the cutting edge."

You'll be the name to know, a mainstay on the Oprah Network, praised by every famous literary convention and conference including the Meat Loaf with Dijon Mustard Box Social, winner of the Governal General's Award, wined and dined by the ghosts of Virginia Woolf and Hunter S. Thompson on a celestial plane, invited to partake in a seminar at the York Woods Public Library.

Maybe the real artists in our society don't forget that they have freedom of expression because they let it wash through them every day they choose. But I'm forgetting that people are still people, and one quality in a person doesn't rule out any other quality (as Thomas Harris wrote, I like his work). The issue of censorship in art is a huge issue - "You can say what you want but we still have to regulate it."
Does that mean that it's pointless to say anything at all?

It's plausible that people who don't create art are those who forget about their freedom of artistic expression.

I always marvel at concerts where people go crazy for musicians. It seems to me like these are people who've never attempted to create music themselves. If everyone who attended a concert was a musician, I think they'd be more grounded and not as fame-struck. They might have more appreciation for the artist's talent, but there'd be a common ground.
The audience should never forget the potential they have to learn what they want to learn.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Abandoned Factories/Royal Coat of Arms

Large abandoned buildings have always held my intrigue. I'm sure it's like that for a lot of people. Their immensity and complexity contrasted against their emptiness is undoubtedly appealing, as is their prospect of exploration. I can't really do anything but look at them and admire them. I've never been into an abandoned factory, warehouse, prison or any other building for that matter - they might be better left to my imagination.

Back in 2006 when I was living in Winnipeg, I drove a line cook home one night from the restaurant we worked at. He had a band and I wrote them a song for fun, but it wasn't very good. It was the only song I've ever written so being older, it seems like the music should come before the lyrics.
Along the way, he asked me to make a detour to this one abandoned house because he wanted to show me some graffiti that was written. I said alright - I wasn't afraid that he was going to do something dangerous, he was a good kid. It was January and there was snow everywhere, so I parked a small distance away from the house and we walked through the snow so he could show me what he wanted to.

We get to the house and he shows me one side. It said "FAKE STREET KIDS GO HOME" written in large letters. "See", he said. "Fake street kids go home." He looked at it for awhile then we trudged back to my car and I took him to his dad's place.

He didn't to show me the graffiti in order to teach me a lesson. I had no idea the house existed, nor did I pretend that I had lived on the streets at work. What I believe he wanted to show me was that there were kids trying to pretend as though they lived in poverty and abuse, and that they were known to do so by the kids living hand-to-mouth every day. The "cool" that the fakes wanted to inhabit was unacceptable. When I thought about what he showed me afterwards it seemed incomprehensible that the struggling kids had to write graffiti on a house they used for shelter in order to ward off others trying to feed off of their lifestyle, and who could even bring attention to the house and perhaps have it sealed off.
But that's what happens in many instances - when an aspect of life is untouched and appreciated only by those who truly care for it, the risk of it being overexposed and losing its meaning becomes that much greater.

What does this have to do with royal seals/emblems/coats of arms? I would say it's only the same complex imagery. Like large abandoned factories (and buildings in general), a country's coat of arms has always appealed to me visually (that is, when it's very detailed and not sparse/trite in design).

The point I want to make with a coat of arms is that even though they're aesthetically appealing (the two examples above are the Bahamas and Canada), they still run the risk of standing for injustice, hypocrisy and lies. Ian MacKaye from the band Fugazi stated that flags were ugly things based on how they stand for a country's misgivings. I think that statement could extend to a coat of arms as well, especially since it might be more prevalent in a military. There is a contrast between their appealing style and what they stand for.

This then asks the question, "Can I really look at a coat of arms with the same admiration?" It's like the issue of literary autonomy - can I read an author's work with the same comfort if I know that he or she stands for something wrong or has done something unforgivable? I can't, because it matters to me who the author is as a person. With a coat of arms, I'll admit that they look stylish - I've always wanted to create a line of shirts and sweaters with full-bleed (meaning covering the entire front or back) coats of arms on them. And I suppose I could, since families create their own crests all the time. Yet the point still remains that any appreciation of a coat of arms is always tarnished by the wrong decisions of a country - it's the hiding behind appealing visual symbols that feels impure.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Music

Not my favourite movie.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Nothing's Sacred"

"You're an artist Clifford, it's your job to give offense." - Jennifer Wallace, character from Martin Crimp's The Treatment.

And that's the bottom line...I try to rebel against that idea. It's not impossible to write literature that doesn't offend yet still challenges and stimulates an audience.

When looking at comedy for example, even though it can't be taken seriously (no matter how much the comedian tries to assert that they're making a dire statement), there's comedy that directly offends other people (for example Don Rickles) and comedy that doesn't attempt to provoke and offend and is just as popular without becoming pablum (for example Mitch Hedberg RIP).

If this is true of one "artform" then it should be true of all of them. If comedy can hold this dichotomy, then so should literature, painting, et al..

To write and challenge without offending is a non-conformist idea to me. What I hold valuable in writing is the concept of appealing to audiences without creating unnecessary offense or barriers between people. I don't try to write wild claims in my work that I can't back up solidly just to get attention.

This is one of my golden rules when trying to create effective literature, whether it's successful or not time will tell. But then there are other maxims for success (in a lot of the business world, at least) which have translated sucessfully into art that I have trouble with...

...for example, "sex sells" and "anxiety sells", with the former being more well-known. To incorporate both ideologies into art - but in a manner that creates inspiration and knowledge rather than insecurity - isn't an implausible direction for me to work towards.

The "sex sells" attitude is detrimental in my mind to progression as an author. I have nothing against sex itself, no hesitation, disgust, perversions, dismissal. A lot of people say they have no issues with sexuality, but they still harbour discomfort surrounding it. I'm heterosexual but I believe in rights for homosexuals and women. I wish sex was a part of my everyday life to tell the truth, and that's not because of the fact that I'm twenty-five either. To me it's integral to health and to relationships...but it seems to me that sexuality has been tarnished by an overabundance of media regarding it, as well as it sinking so quickly into humour. Its meaning can become dulled as a result.

I don't take sexuality completely seriously (as should be the case), but I think its power, importance and its complexity is diminished by an unceasing flux of media content which exists mainly to generate profits. It's common sense that too much of anything doesn't result in positivity. Yet since it's an integral part of life (as should be the case) it needs to have a place in art. What sort of place it has, and should have, in today's society needs to be taken into deep consideration by artists.

"Anxiety sells" when it comes to aging, comfort in your home, countless other issues...the problems that could arise or be there already, but you don't know, but buy this product just in case they happen, or buy this product to save time because time is money...
...and it's easy to get caught up in this. I recently bought tea tree oil for my hair because I'm worried about losing it from stress, and I think it's healthy to use. Will it work? Time will tell. Are natural health products a huge goldmine which all stem from fostering anxiety? Does just thinking you have a problem lead to you having an actual problem? Paranoia should never be the only sane state of shouldn't exist at all. No one told me or suggested that I'm losing my hair, or to buy tea tree oil - it was all by my own volition. And I'm not saying that health and beauty products are unnecessary, they can definitely be beneficial. Only in cases where a business will convince people that their lives are lacking without certain products, and trying to foster instability and a sense of self-loathing which can be cured by buying their merchandise, pressuring people to consume and not allowing them freedom of choice is what's repulsive.

I haven't separated myself from regular consumer choices. I choose not to purchase certain products, yet I still own pairs of Nike shoes, I still wear clothes with logos, and it's rare but I'll go to malls if I need something like electronics or dress shoes. I don't see doing so as being tricked into supporting devilish industries. But I still try to stay aware of what I buy and what shops and industies I support because it's incumbent on me as an educated member of society. Most advertising depresses me and I choose to ignore it, for example the ad which starts this post and promotes violence against women. But when I saw the ad pictured below for the first time, it gave me some hope for the future of the advertisement industry.

There are people who would completely do away with the ideas that sex and anxiety sell and strive to create meaningful art without their backing. If this has been attempted and it works (outside of children's literature that is), then I'd applaud the author who managed it...

...and simultaneously ask the question, did they do so just to be different from everyone else to try and achieve attention that way, or did they have a genuine interest in subverting creative norms?

And is the attention they might receive a result of the public as a whole becoming sick of how much sexual content and anxiety are inundating society, or would it be based on the right timing, a welcome change of pace that opens people's eyes before they inevitably close, to go to sleep once again?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Words of Chuck Close and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Rilke - the poet.

Close - the painter.

I was reading a book called Wisdom which featured interviews with prominent cultural icons and Chuck Close was one of them.

I agreed with two statements of his and have since taken them to heart: he mentioned he wouldn't create if he didn't have an audience, and that you can't rely on inspiration in order to create since it's based on discipline and devotion.

The former statement goes against what a lot of people base their ideology around - how they would create even if no one was around to see their work, how it doesn't matter if no one cares, because what matters is the fact that they're expressing themselves and working.
But I found Chuck Close's statement to be refreshing and honest - he's working (despite his paralysis) because he knows other people care about his efforts and not simply to satiate the need (if it is a need) to create for his own purposes.

Does this contrast what Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet? He stated that "if one feels they could live without writing, one shouldn't write at all".
I originally interpreted this to mean that if you think you could work at another profession aside from writing, you shouldn't write. This mode of thinking places a limit on an author - how they're expected only to write. Look at Sherwood Anderson or Franz Kafka, who had prominent positions as president of a manufacturing company and for a worker accident insurance company respectively.

They were working and writing. The question is if they were writing for an audience. Or maybe the bigger question is if their love for writing is what really mattered. Because that's also what Rilke could've meant. But people can enjoy something yet still live without it, and I don't think that if people write for simple expression or enjoyment that they should be deprived of it.

What Rilke may have meant is that if you're not serious about the progression of literature and write only for fame or money, then you're not writing for the proper reasons. And I would agree with him on that. But if he's saying that the only people who write should devote themselves to literature and not have the potential to become something else (even if it's something they don't have as much enthusiasm for), I disagree with that because it limits our freedoms.

Which ties into another statement by Rilke: "Don't write love poems." To which I think, "Don't tell me what to write and what not to write." Which may seem immature, like I'm going against one of my parents, but it's true. Just because the love poem can easily become bathetic, that doesn't mean it doesn't have potential. To write one and not make it trite (while retaining a high level of truth and emotion) is I think an admirable effort.

Chuck Close's statement of not letting your work be guided by inspiration also ties into Rilke's. A lot of writing is inspired by love, and rightly so. But at the same time, if I write solely because I was inspired by an attractive girl I saw and left writing alone for the rest of the time, would I really be accomplishing anything of value and demonstrating my love for the artform, or just trying to use the artform without appreciating it? I think it's perfectly alright to be inspired and to draw upon the strength from that - that's what I do on a regular basis. But I now believe that the dedication stokes the fire of the inspiration, thanks to Close's comment - a support that lacks in my life more often than not.

Friday, January 14, 2011