Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Though They May Gang A' Kennin' Wrang, To Step Aside Is Human"

I am a Koala bear. Here me roar. No, but really, there are some startling parallels going on. About a year ago Patrick told me that of all the animals in the land, I looked the most like a Koala bear. I liked that comparison--they're small, cute and cuddly, so I really had no reason to argue with his astute assessment. But now the similarities have become so much more than skin deep! I will now include an excerpt from wikipedia’s page on Koala bears, with only a few minor adjustments in wordology in order to illustrate my point:

"The Koala lives almost entirely on Diet Dr Pepper. This is likely to be an evolutionary adaptation that takes advantage of an otherwise unfilled ecological niche, since Diet Dr Pepper is low in protein, high in indigestible substances, and contains compounds that are toxic to most species. Koala has a very low metabolic rate for a mammal and rests motionless for about 16 to 18 hours a day, sleeping most of that time. Koalas spend about three of their five active hours eating. Feeding occurs at any time of day, but usually at night. An average Koala eats approximate 4500 g (140 oz) of Diet Dr Pepper each day. The liver deactivates the toxic components and the gut is greatly enlarged to extract the maximum amount of nutrients from the poor quality diet. The Koala will partake of a wide range of diet sodas, and occasionally even some non-diet sodas such as Dr Pepper and Mexican Coca-Cola Classic. However, it has firm preferences for particular varieties of diet soda. Koalas that are disturbed during their resting state are known to be violent, their teeth and claws capable of causing considerable injury to others."

I rest my case.

And you know that even if Koalas don't actually roar, they would totally sneeze like me.

I had an uneasy experience last week on the bus home that is prompting me to make an apology and a promise. I solemly swear, with a hand upon my bosom to show my sincerity, that I will make the utmost effort not to hum in public ever again. Because despite my belief previously that it was a harmless habit coming from boredom or happiness, it turns out that when you don't know someone and you're in a public place, it's just downright creepy.

Roommates: don't hold your breath, this does not mean that when I take my occasional leisurely afternoon shower that I will stop belting out arias and torch songs. That's just too much to ask for, and besides I'm sure you already find me creepy to some extent or another.

Sometimes the Universe just hates you. And when that happens, the Christian maxim of “turn the other cheek” should be the very last option you consider. Cause when the Universe sucker-punches you, the only rational response should be to punch back whatever way you can. My most recent tactic has just been to scream as loud and as long as my substantial opera-singing-trained breath support will allow.

This is facilitated by the fact that I live off of Geneva Road now, which is possibly the perfect pastoral setting for verbally gutting oneself of frustrations. It's best to be in a car while doing this: partially because feeling your breath get whipped out of your mouth by the raging wind adds to the experience, and also because then if the 3.87 people living in the area look up from their cinderblock-bound trucks to see what's going on, you're already out of the area.

But, if you are frequently carless, or the Universe decides to smack you down while you are in the comfort of your own home, I can now testify that it works just as well to scream your bloody guts out in a standing position.

Because when I dropped on the floor my entire helping of yet-unsampled-over-processed-deliciousness-still-slightly-steaming bowl of mac n cheese on the floor, shattering the bowl and sending pasta everywhere, I just let out a rebel yell. I wasn't quite crying 'more, more, more,' though, it was more of a barbaric yawp or bellow of disdain for everything the Universe stood for when they picked my midnight snack as their target.

Speaking of barbaric yawps and our own Mr. Whitman, my favorite part of that quote is actually the line just preceding: "I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslateable/I shout my barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world" Untranslateable is a narcissistic but appealing concept, the idea that you are so much an entity unto yourself that you can't be dissembled by the passing examinations of your peers.

And I would rather walk across hot coals discalced than allow the thought stick that I am 'tamed.' I know I'm fairly normal in most respects, I follow the rules of hygience and some of the nods toward social graces, but it's incredibly uncomfortable to apply to yourself a term that can also be applied to a parakeet or a pit bull.

And yet all the same I have no trouble at all proudly proclaiming that I am the epitome of Koala bears.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Post-Mortem Modernism

Nature shoved its face into my world, uninvited, and I didn’t like it one bit. I popped into the break room to grab my morning Diet Dr Pepper and after I had put sixty cents into the machine, there is was. Staring at me. Twitching it long inelegant limbs, twirling its antennae. Mocking me with its very presence, daring me to do something drastic, like move at all. A bloody huge white praying mantis was in my break room, crawling up the side of the soda machine and making its way to the buttons on the front.

No, I didn’t have any sappy reactions, like being struck by it’s alien beauty, and the sight of nature and the cold office world side by side didn’t make my lifestyle seem hallow. No no no, I was thinking what the hell is this doing anywhere near my perfect, pristine, not-remotely-tied-to-nature world? Except that sentence had a lot more profanities in my head.

What I did next is a pretty telling statement about my personality—don’t ask me what it tells, but I’m fairly certain it’s significant, whatever it is. What I did next was: nothing. I didn’t squish it, I didn’t gently catch it up in a cup (yeah right, like that great beast of an insect would have fit) and set it free, I just slowly pushed the Diet Dr Pepper button (with my extended toe, keeping hands and face as far away from the machine as possible), grabbed my soda, and ran—well, stumbled rapidly down the hallway in my heels—back to my cubicle, telling no one of what had happened.

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t touch it! If I had, I would be completely incapable of working right now. I’d be going through some sort of weird cleansing ritual over and over, or trying to scratch off the top layer of my skin, either way making myself like unto an insect. If you touch them you become like them, and that’s what they want!! I had to stand strong.

As a sidebar, the effects of this encounter are insidious in their far-reaching impact. As if it wasn’t hard enough to keep my legs smooth after shaving when I wear a skirt to work in a frigid basement, after this morning’s invasion I’ve just given up. The prickly legs aren’t going to be stopped, what with me thinking about that unholy praying mantis (pun partially intended) and every time getting covered in goose bumps by the thought. Also, I'm quite caffeine deprived.

This entire incident is reminding me of the X-files episode “War of the Coprophages.” David Duchovny and I had very similar thoughts on bugs. Mmm Mulder is so my man. That epic X-files marathon I had this summer has possibly done some permanent damage to my brain. Nothing serious, I just go weak at the knees if the combination of a strong jawline and a vague conspiracy theory presents itself.

I don’t know why I’m suddenly becoming more prolific on this here slice of the blogosphere. Maybe it’s the oncoming of fall that is restoring rigor to my blood and brain. Maybe it’s the books I’m reading. Or maybe it’s the so-early-morning-it’s-late-night two hour commute to work that gets me so bored I’m forced to think of abstract subjects to distract myself. That's right, thought other than motor functions has apparently become a last resort.

But this schedule is pretty much opposite of what my life was like all summer—sleeping in until four, realizing the time, showering just in time to show up at the diner, work until I’m stupid with tiredness, watch TV until dawn, sleeping again. Didn’t really leave much room for ponderings or philosophizing, which is how I got into the bad habit of allowing the status quo to rule my head.

But that's all changed now! Once again, I think everything that passes through my consciousness has a kernel of profundity and even if it doesn't, how can we be sure until we've shared it? I’ll let you decided whether or not that’s a good change.

Or maybe we can blame all of this on the return of Becca to Provo! Maybe she’s my muse, like Xanadu! Except she doesn’t have cankles like Olivia Newton-John. I can guarantee that Becca would be very embarrassed/distressed if she knew I was accusing her of being my muse, but that’s what a best friend gets when she takes a stand against ever ever reading my blog. What a punk of a muse.

The world needs order! In this chaotic time of strip searches at the airport, an economy crashing around our ears, a political climate about as friendly as the surface of Mercury, and a decade that seems entirely bereft of my favorite childhood snack (graham cracker Dunkaroos with the chocolate frosting), I cling to any semblance of a Grand Plan. And I promise you, if there is any grand plan, not only would it have me swimming in a lake the Dunkaroos frosting, The Plan would make sure that my box of paper clips would not constantly be meshing together to form one huge net of paper clip bunches.

When I have a deadline to get wires out by the end of my shift and I still have twenty different papers to collate and send hither and thither, the very last thing I need is to try to detach eight different paper clips from each other in order to finish my job. We aren’t making office jewelry, people! If we can split the atom, then we as a society can get the right people on the job to figure out how to store paper clips in a way that they won’t be tempted to join together and, I don’t know, mate or something. Maybe that’s why my paper clips always come in assorted sizes, they’re self-perpetuating. Gross. Paper clip sex.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sackcloth and Ashes

Damn you Joseph, this is all your fault.

The subject is: Art and the holier-than-thou approach that actually perverts only your own soul and experiences, and saves no one.

Scenario 1: First day of a college-level art history class, the teacher puts up a slide of “The Rape of Persephone” by Giardon. The teacher then procedes to inform the class that the human figure is so paramount to the development of art that even BYU is not going to have a curriculum that doesn’t include some nudes. A few students stand up and leave the class immediately, shaking their heads and hiking their self-righteousness up higher onto their shoulder.

Scenario 2: An art history book is bought second-hand at the bookstore for a class and, after it’s brought home, it’s discovered that on every applicable page of the book various cartoon stickers (obviously left over from someone’s scrapbooking project) have been placed on prints of masterpieces wherever “offensive” bits of anatomy are being displayed. When the new owner flicks to the title page again to find out what the hell is going on, they find that in addition to the title “Art Through the Ages” there’s a neatly written subscript just below that says “edited by Paul’s mom, because she loves him.”

You should be aware that when both of these scenarios occurred, it produced a strange physiological reaction from me. Lots of sputtering and fist smacking and red-faced evil eyes, with half-formed words spewing out of my mouth. It wasn’t pretty, it was even humorous to some, but most tragically it wasn’t a coherent way to communicate. This will be my attempt to provide a more structured demonstration of my frustrations, in hopes that I can let you understand why I react so violently.

Nudity is not always about sex. Even when it is in reference to sex, this does not make it automatically pornographic. The Greeks devoted themselves almost exclusively to the depiction of the nude because they believed that they were formed in the image of the gods, and that to carve out a perfect model of the heroic physique was to celebrate all of the beauty and gifts the gods had given them in life.

Renaissance artists who revisited the nude form pinpointed a place in history when man’s mind chose to shun the medieval belief that this life was only a trial to be endured, and instead became open to the infinite possibilities of mankind’s potential: embracing our time on earth as one of discovery and knowledge. The flat depictions of medieval art gave way to vibrant anatomically accurate forms that showed an arrival of perception, and a hope for growth. The use of the nude at that time demonstrates a celebration of man’s own great potential, and it was that attitude that made the Renaissance one of the single brightest moments in our entire earth’s history.

The nude (and let us be clear here that there is a difference between nudes and naked people) is important. More than that, it’s beautiful. It evokes emotion, it gives clues to the ideals and dreams a civilization had, and it’s mastery is the highest level of skill an artist can demonstrate. And if people refuse to--or are incapable of---being able to distinguish between the intent behind the creation of The Discus Thrower and a Playboy pinup, not only are they showing a shocking level of ignorance and lack of judgment, but I genuinely believe that they are causing themselves irrevocable damage to their souls and their outlook of the world.

Because if you can’t discern that one photo is exploitative and an ugly distortion of the human form while the other sculpture is a celebration of the strength and capabilities of man, then you are bringing ugliness and perversion into the world. It cuts both ways—thoughts are as powerful as actions, and when you see ugliness where there is none, you have made yourself a darker place to reside in. You have shut out potential enlightenment and inspiration, and instead remain sullenly determined to view only the worst intentions in people.

So go ahead and glory in how much more ‘sensitive’ you are to evil influences, how you are just so much more pure because your constitution can’t handle such crudeness, because all you have flaunted with that attitude is the sad state of your rapidly spoiling mind.