Tag: art

Snowflakes

How do you feel about Facebook? Is it a wonderful gift to improved human communication or a divisive force that’s driving us all into echo chambers and filter bubbles?

It’s certainly getting more hectic. At least, my feed is. I’ve never ‘unfriended’ anybody, you see, so get to read stuff from all sides of the political spectrum.

Most of the time I’m just a spectator, watching the clumsy wrangling and immature name-calling unfold like a slo-mo pie-fight – or else a desperate scrap in the dark that makes me feel somewhat nostalgic for my old school debating-society with its dignified dance of thrust and counter-thrust. A choreographed verbal joust conducted face-to-face and a friendly handshake at the end …

Maybe I’m looking back through rose-tinted spectacles. It’s tempting to paint our youth as a golden age when everything was hunky-dory, buffeted and bruised as we are by an ever-changing present. Something of this same injured innocence fuels the following Facebook post – received yesterday – although its increasingly bizarre and highly unlikely turn of events reveals the underlying message to be anything but innocent:

Image may contain: text

Phew! Where on earth does one start? Well, we are expected to sympathise with the protagonist – a poor martyred victim of ‘political correctness gone mad’ – when the reality this implausible fable seeks to obscure is almost its opposite. In real life the social groups mentioned are victims of inequality, yet here they are implausibly caricatured as oppressors in a sinister conspiracy. If there’s anything truly sinister going on, however, it lurks between the lines of this hysterical little story.

That’s between you and me, of course. In the public arena of Facebook the mask must remain in place. Sometimes it seems that only two questions are permitted:

  • What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?
  • What’s the matter, can’t you feel my pain?

Oddly, the passive-aggressive post above managed to combine them both. This stuff is fiendishly difficult to answer because it’s quite artfully done – it may be that art itself is the answer. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Let the battle of the stories commence!

Image result for comedy tragedy masks

Bearing this in mind, I responded with the following Facebook reply:

By a curious coincidence … made a group of snow figures holding hands to represent tolerance between people of different genders, races, faiths, nationalities, political viewpoints and sexual orientations. Just woke up after a well-deserved nap and looked out through broken windows to see they’d all been flattened. Left here wondering who I could have offended …

So far, I’ve got one Like. Not being dramatic – well, OK, being dramatic! – that’s somebody else who’s stumbled into the soundproof silo … sssh! … perhaps another snowflake. Nothing wrong with snowflakes. I hereby take the word as a badge of honour …

Image result for snowflake

My favourite riposte to the derogatory use of this word came from comedian John Cleese:

After one unamused follower used the term ‘snowflake’ as an insult, Cleese, 78, couldn’t resist tweeting a response. Adding his trademark humour, of course.

In his cutting reply, Cleese said: ‘Yes I’ve heard this word. I think sociopaths use it in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy.’

Next post: How to Tell a Good Story!

A Change in the Weather

With a little help from online friends, I’ve figured out that the glitch in my blog-post production-line is down to disappointment with the world.

Not the natural world, of course, but the rowdy human element that threatens its stability. Crown of Creation, my arse! Oh, we know enough as a species to make things better but currently we seem hell-bent on making them worse. We resemble nothing so much as a bunch of toddlers throwing our toys out of the playpen.

I say we but too often it’s us and them as our much-vaunted global communication network splinters into weird cabals, soundproof silos and oddball obsessions. Knowledge itself is under attack, with truth obscured beneath a toxic cloud of clueless prejudice and wilful falsification. Once upon a time rules governed what was published. Nowadays, it seems, anything goes! I suspect today’s most widely-read author is named Anon.

As a matter of indisputable fact, I have just become ruler of the universe and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it …

Fake news, of course, because Donald Trump beat me to it. Probably.

As to genuine tidings, here’s an update. My loss of voice – notwithstanding this hysterical babble! – is really dismay that nothing I can possibly come up with will make a blind bit of difference. My mum’s withering comparison for something – or someone – utterly useless springs to mind:  like a fart in a colander!

Come to think of it, that’s a handy descriptor for a fair few things you read on social media. Wind and hot air. Let’s hope the warming doesn’t go global … whoops, too late!

Ha, now there’s an example of my problem. Everything, it seems, plays out on the big stage. And here am I, waiting in the wings for a walk-on part afraid of fluffing my only line and dropping my spear.

Those encouraging responses to my cry for help previous post come back to me … start from where you are … stick to what you know … keep it short and sweet … write what makes you happy … all of them solid-gold suggestions when the currency of public discourse is so debased. A world in uproar is a good place to set your own house in order. Home truths hit hardest, they say, and shine brightest … enlightenment is the only thing denialists truly fear.

This isn’t to limit what you can write about. Reading some short stories by Herman Hesse, I learn that his childhood ambition to be a magician stemmed from a dissatisfaction with what people conventionally called ‘reality’. Later in life, by magic he came to mean the transformation of reality – the creation of a wholly new reality – in his writing. Northrop Frye observed that ‘fantasy is the normal technique for fiction writers who do not believe in the permanence or continuity of the society they belong to.’ JRR Tolkien defined fantasy as ‘the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds’ and Hesse’s stories often display the ‘arresting strangeness’, the ‘freedom from the domination of observed fact’ that Tolkien called the essential qualities of fantasy.

All of that leaves plenty of wriggle-room, I reckon. Truth doesn’t have to be mundane. The other day I was puzzling over my very young grandson’s invariably scatological response to perfectly reasonable questions like Who did you play with at nursery today? and What would you like for your dinner? Instead of admonishing him, I decided to have a little fun myself. Adopting a cod French accent, I would launch into something along these lines:

Ah yes, your words, zey take me back to zose far-off times in gay Paree – in 1923 – ze Café Royale in Montmartre – oh, such music, such dancing! – and ze most beautiful dancer of zem all, ze leetle French ballerina Pupu – what was eet we call her for short? – ah yes, Pu – and Oui we cry as her lurvely leetle dance ends Oui Oui Encore Une Fois Pupu Oui Oui …

You get the idea. It wasn’t long before my peculiar little outbursts started to do the trick. Now he gives a straight answer, more often than not. Like most audiences, he may be aware something has gone on but he won’t know exactly what …

 

Image result for colander

 

Image: Amazon.ca

Far Gone (2/3)

Satireday

Greetings, Earth Dwellers!

Zog from Alpha Centauri here. So far my old steam-driven inter-galactic language-transposer appears to be working – touch wood! 

Well, I wood if I could but must wait and hope that quaint idiom of yours retains none of its superstitious force as there isn’t a single tree left standing within four light years!

That was a joke, by the way. Even the loss of our beautiful forests can be turned to laughter. We have learned this from your own comedy magicians.

Impatient for a reply to my previous communication – eight years is an eternity when worlds are burning – I opened your 1960s music box anyway and streamed its contents across our stricken solar system.

Who knew tears and smiles were so close? Unlike you, we grin when unhappy and weep for joy but such minor distinctions vanish in times of overwhelming emotion.

Overnight, it seems, our helpless mourning for dying nature has transformed into visions of beauteous renewal. Had we forgotten that art can be an open portal to fresh futures? And what else but shared dreams – especially ones catapulted across space and time – can move mountains and waken sleeping giants?

What you experienced over years, remember, has arrived here all at once. Perhaps continuous grief sharpens perception and deepens understanding but somehow the zeitgeist of your 1960s has become ours in an instant.

After all, we have our own folk tales. It comes as no surprise that four young men can bring exhilaration and relief to a society still in shock at the loss of a charismatic leader. Or that competition can turn into collaboration and catastrophe become triumph in the twinkling of an enlightened eye. Or that joyous economies of shared pleasure can supplant sad profligacies of solitary gratification.

When the time is right, my broodmother never tired of telling all 94 of us, everything is possible. 

Touch wood. Today I went out and planted seedlings. May Alpha Centauri (I won’t trouble you with the local name as it’s all consonants!) replenish what her children have squandered!

 

 

 

So What?

 

Any education system that puts too much stress on getting ‘right’ answers runs the risk of crushing the natural instinct young people have to experiment. You don’t learn new things to impress others but to discover them for yourself. Extrinsic motivation is no substitute for the intrinsic purpose of finding out how the world works and determining your place in it. Making mistakes is the only way to learn what works. It’s all too easy to repress the discovery urge in children and to make them fearful of change.

Herbie Hancock’s story about Miles Davis has inspired me to riff on the theme. The uncertainty of the future calls for a creative response which is fearlessly experimental. Rule nothing out and incorporate everything. Natural evolution itself proceeds by accumulating past success and the cultural evolution that is our special invention should never be hijacked by political elements who wish to exclude particular influences. Art and science must remain open to the world.

To help myself argue from first principles, I’ve revisited the WordPress Daily Prompt site – now extinct – and its fitting final word: Retrospective.  I had to dig down in my own Archive for this draft post which, without a hasty bit of improvisation, might never have seen the light of day. And a word by itself is nothing – alongside others it can become everything.

Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped Freight
Of a delivered syllable
‘Twould crumble with the weight.

Emily Dickinson

At risk of crumbling, then, here is my poem:

R each back into those days gone past.
E mbrace mistakes and forget fear.
T rial and error’s long and winding
R oad has led you thankful here.
O pen up your heart and mind to
S eek the lessons you have learned.
P erspective is the hard-won prize when
E very corner’s safely turned.
C oming up and straight ahead
T he way is still as yet unclear.
I f your SATNAV screen go dead
V alue common sense instead.
E ach step into dark bring cheer.

 

Image result for broken sat nav

 

Image: Imgur

These Fokkers Were Messerschmidts

Don’t know about you but I’m drawn to wild and woolly generalisations. I like how they become entangled with one another, thickets of thought that can’t be pulled apart by pedants.

I adore big ideas that rise far above the petty concerns of everyday life like barrage balloons, defying nit-pickers with their puny pop-guns to shoot them down in flames.

My fondest fantasy is of concepts so compelling that divisions in the body politic fade like old scars to reveal the unbroken skin beneath.

Metaphors, huh? Oh well, below are some ideas about art that I came up with a while back, inspired by the haunting music of Riders On The Storm from The Doors. After each idea I have added another phrase, in italics, something I’ve read and remembered that seems to connect with it.  

What it all amounts to is anyone’s guess but, hey, I get a kick out of putting stuff like this together. And it’s a damn sight easier than, er, actually being creative …

 

hold a mirror up to nature
be true to the earth
intuitions give rise to explanations
first thought best thought
seek unity in diversity
things being various
make new meanings from old ingredients
the proof of the pudding is in the eating
character is choice under pressure
we are what we do
suffering yields insight
what doesn't kill you makes you stronger
enact a better world
beneath the pavement the beach
truth is beautiful fiction
trust the tale not the teller
turn subjectivity into objectivity
forget yourself
create as if life depended on it
when you watch the world carefully


the words take care of themselves


 

After that little lot, there’s no excuse – my next post will have to be a bloody masterpiece!

If you’d like to read my original post, here’s the link:

https://davekingsbury.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/the-art-of-the-possible/

Image result for book gif

 

Image: Free Animated Gifs @ Best Animations