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.