the press is not the enemy – we are the enemy of the press

Nixon in a phone call to Henry Kissinger

Nixon in a phone call to Henry Kissinger

Like many people, I’m finding the increased attacks on the media distressing, and ominous. Reporters are right to feel assaulted, and those who speak out against the attacks, such as Senator John McCain, are right to defend the importance – the obligation – of a free press. Condemnation of the media treads dangerous ground. Our country was founded on the principle of free speech – we’ve never not had it, and perhaps that’s why we’re so indifferent to the attacks. We as a nation don’t know what it’s like to be officially silenced, but just because it’s never happened doesn’t mean it never could. Or can, or is. It’s beginning to happen right now, before our eyes.

However, there is a legitimate reason why people are so confused about what they are taking in, and whom they can trust.

I have a degree in journalism, I was trained to uphold the standards set by three basic principles: Get the facts. Check your sources. Don’t editorialize. When I look for information, I read the news in the same way I was taught to report the news – assessing what are the facts, who are the sources, and whether it is presented in a biased or unbiased way. I read several outlets’ coverage of the same stories, and I’ve amassed a collection of sources that have proven themselves to me to be reliable. My favourites are National Public Radio, PBS News Hour, The New York Times, and BBC World News. I also trust my local newspaper. The local papers are struggling against mass media, but even in desperation to save themselves from extinction, the majority haven’t wandered from their journalistic creed. They’re overall careful and reliable. That’s why the attack Colorado State Senator Ray Scott made on the Grand Junction Sentinel made me so angry. Spewing vitriol against reporting that is not in agreement with an individual’s dogma is a thin-skinned response at best, and menacing at worst.

Before cable news and the Internet, we had limited but thorough news sources – our local newspapers, and the Big Three: CBS, ABC, NBC. Their job was straight up reporting, and the competition was only between the quality of the news, and the skill of its reporters. Now everything has exploded. We have niche news coverage like E! for celebrities and ESPN for sports, and leftist, rightist, quasi-centrist editorializing passed off as unbiased news. Everyone is competing with everyone else for readership/viewership. It’s impossible for the Big Three stations to be everything to everyone – they’ve tried it with snippets of news sandwiched between cooking segments and coverage of some pop star’s latest scandal, and it doesn’t work. They lose credibility with those of us who want the NEWS and only the news, and those of us who can get better niche coverage on specialized networks.

The glut of sources is overwhelming, and I can understand the confusion about who is trustworthy, and on what subjects. There absolutely are “fake” and seriously biased sources out there passing themselves off as legit with a certain “newsy” look or title. We see it all the time, stories picked up from unintentional or intentional sources like The Onion or Breitbart. We need to learn how to properly vet our sources.

But our population isn’t big on educating ourselves. We’re mainly looking for entertainment, and pandering to our own opinions. When we enter a forum which features unpopular opinions, we go on the attack with the zealous righteousness of bible-wielding evangelicals.

“How comforting it is to know we’re RIGHT” – an insightful statement made by a British Nun, an Oxford educated, gnostic, Champion of art, Sister Wendy Beckett. She made that observation in an interview with Bill Moyers about her unbiased, appreciative, and contemplative observations on art of many styles, movements, and purposes. She went on to say it’s only when we allow ourselves to be challenged by those things which raise discomfort in some way—be it offense, confusion, or apathy—only when we open ourselves to truths and statements which may not match up with our own views, do grow in our wisdom, and our respect for others.

I don’t think either side has done this well. I, from my liberal, journalistic point of view, have no respect for made up, unchecked stories and sources. Pandering to the lowest denominator disgusts me. And I see the other side as looking for these very things – rabid, groupthink agreement with a certain set of myopic views, true or not. I don’t get it. I see no value in it. But maybe I should try to understand it in order to promote wider lenses for both sides.

I want purveyors of “news” to get back to reporting the facts, that thing called News. We all need correct, unbiased information on which to base our understanding and come to our individual conclusions. It’s okay if we disagree, as long as we agree on one essential thing – that we know we can trust our main news sources to deliver an unvarnished, starkly factual presentation of current events that we can in turn apply to our own understanding of the world. And we can use these trustworthy sources as a yardstick by which to measure other sources against. With strong foundational material, it will soon be clear to the majority which outlets are promoting fact, and which are doling out fiction.

We’re all responsible for the state of things as they presently are—the news outlets, the dog-and-pony shows, and consumers alike. Together we created this present state of confusion. We have to clean it up together, too.

That means supporting and upholding those that deliver correctly researched and presented information, and turning away from those that want our attention, regardless of fact. Don’t give it to them. We must hold every information outlet to measurable standards already in place: what are the facts, who are the sources, and is it presented in a biased or unbiased way. And we must hold ourselves to the practice of contemplating the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us.

changing the things i cannot accept

angela-davis-quote2016 has been the worst year of my life. My father went through a difficult and painful illness this summer, which resulted in his death in August. The whole ordeal has been devastating. I spent mid June through mid August at his side, then saying goodbye, and now I am dealing with the aftermath. I’m in the midst of executing his estate, which includes the sale of the house. Our family touchstone is gone, and my sisters, nieces, and I are dealing with the loss of that, and working to reform connections with one another. I feel broadsided, bruised, and exhausted.

And then November 8th happened.

Like so many others, I’m in shock, I’m frightened, and I’m very, very worried about what this means for my country, its people, and our reputation as a nation. I feel sick, betrayed, and because I was already down, I am struggling with how I will ever get to my feet and face this.

I’ve been in hiding since I returned home after my father’s death. I do this – I withdraw when I’m in pain. I find it difficult to even lift a hand to reach out to extended family and friends for support. I feel tired at the thought of explaining again and again, and facing my own grief. But now that my grief has doubled, now that an extra layer of confusion and fear have been added to my ordeal, I have to pull myself up, because it’s not only personal, it’s struggle within the populace.

I’ll be honest, I feel defeated. My first impulse is to run away. But I know that’s a feeling, a gut reaction to this struggle. I know that running, hiding, denying is not the way to help myself, or my fellow human beings. So I’m not going to allow myself to be displaced. I have a mind, a voice, and a pair of hands – I’m going to use them.

I’m defining three priorities for myself – three areas in which to direct my energies.

Underrepresented communities

The Environment

Education

Three very large and extremely important areas that directly influence our nation and our planet, and steer what kind of world we live in. I have to pull that in and focus on specific areas if I truly want to be effective, both locally and, ultimately, globally.

When I worked at the university, I served on a minority affairs advisory committee to the chancellor, and on a community building team for faculty, staff, and students. I can use that experience and expertise, and the contacts I made, to continue that work in the greater community.

I have a personal interest in the greening of cities. Composting waste, planting to reduce heat and pollution in highly populated areas, and supporting wildlife by planting to sustain bees and other nectar-seeking insects, and encouraging pesticide-free, wildlife inclusive plant care and gardening. I want to participate in community programs that address and support these goals.

Education is a right. It isn’t elitist, it’s not for a select few nor a means to exclude or compartmentalize, and it’s not a chore, punishment, or humiliation. It’s the means to break boundaries – those we set for ourselves, and those in place as discouragement or disenfranchisement to others. Fuck that. Education IS for everyone, and it IS empowering. This is the great secret – it’s the means to have influence, rather than be subjected to the influence of others. And everyone can achieve it. All those American lies about what it is to be educated in this country have got to be revealed. I’m going to do my part to tear down the deceptions, and encourage exploration of the many paths to education.

These aren’t short-term goals to sustain me until I feel better, forget, or get distracted by something shiny. These are lifelong goals, things I can participate in for the duration. As Doctor Angela Davis proclaimed, I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.

What about you? Which issues do you see yourself working to change?

the present world is too real, the past unknown, and the future calls out to be written: fact and fiction

I try to avoid talking about personal stuff on here. I have a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” philosophy that may not be serving me well amongst the glut of options we now have for sharing much too much. I’m naturally an introvert, and sharing doesn’t come easily even with those closest to me, so the prospect of putting it all out there for the world to see is tantamount to living in a terrifying George Orwell/Aldous Huxley combo universe… which we kind of do. *shudder*

So I tend to keep personal things personal. But the personal affects the professional in many ways, and sometimes inspires it to a point where it is unavoidable to share, because it is the point.

My dad is a much older gent. He’s said that more than once, he was taken for my grandfather when he carried little me about in public. But it never occurred to me that my father was significantly older than the fathers of most kids my age. I didn’t really think about it until his age started to affect his life, and therefore, mine. He’s 90 years old now, and doing pretty well, considering. Considering such things as men of his age almost certainly have prostate cancer, which he does, and while it was fairly low risk for a few years, it’s suddenly become more aggressive. And the damage he suffered to his cognitive functions due to a stroke he had years ago is beginning to catch up with him again, so I’m overseeing more and more of his obligations. He’s past the point of no return, things will inevitably get worse and worse for him, and I’ll eventually lose him. I’m feeling quite realistic and rational about that aspect of life. I just hope, as we all do, that when his time comes, it’s quick, and painless. But for now, I worry about the time he has left.

Worrying about how the end may happen and how he’s conducting his daily life when I’m two states away is stressful. I’m grateful that he can still live on his own – it would devastate him to leave his house, but the separation is something we have to deal with, and one more thing to fret over.

My writing abilities have gone out the window. I can’t compartmentalize and get creative when these things are taking up so much of my energy. I can’t write, and that’s painful for me. It’s like being tied up, blindfolded, and left in a dark and silent room. I can’t move, can’t connect with that vital part of my headspace, and it’s killing me. I’ve been trying again and again to find a way to push out a few sentences, hoping it’ll trigger something for me. So far, no luck.

And then yesterday while I was thinking about this, while I was in fact contemplating posting about my dilemma to my fellow authors, I thought about what kind of advice they might give me. See? Any opportunity to communicate to others is always usurped by that do-it-yourself attitude of the introvert. I thought they might suggest that I write about my dad, since he is in the forefront of my mind. And then I remembered.

Years ago, I started writing a short story loosely based on his life, growing up in Mississippi during the depression. His mother had died when he was 12, his father was an alcoholic and somewhat a hermit, and so he lived with relatives, going from house to house between his grandmother and aunties. He was often left to his own devices, and spent lots of time living like a little wild thing, smoking and drinking and catching squirrels to eat, picking cotton for a few pennies, misbehaving and moving on to the next relative. It breaks my heart to think of him living like that, but it’s also fascinating. It’s one of those southern hard luck stories of poverty and lack told so eloquently by Faulkner and Lee and Capote. And there is an interesting twist that makes his story unique.

He served in the navy during World War II, on a destroyer near Iwo Jima. He was underage for signing up, so he had his father give written permission for him to enlist, or fudge his birth records, or something – I’m not sure what. So he was 17, and off to war. For as scrappy as he was eking it out as a kid in Mississippi, he was now a kid in a world ten times darker than he had ever inhabited before, with no family to turn to when things got rough, and no friends. Or maybe one very special, very good friend. A friend he still has a picture portrait of, and in the early days after his stroke when he was grasping at things to cling to that comforted him and reminded him of who he was, that picture was one of the first things he reached for.

I already knew from the time I was little that the sailor in the photo was special. He had pictures of other mates, but this one stood out, a 5×7 with cardboard backing in a slew of camera snaps. And he told me how this friend watched out for him, stood up for him, and meant a lot to him. My dad was a skinny little string bean of a thing in his youth, and this fellow, a Native American of about 20, was broad shouldered, meaty, and tough looking, with soft brown eyes. I was glad he had someone to depend on back in those scary days of war.

I don’t know the exact nature of their relationship, but I know from how my dad talked of him, and how he reached for him in his time of need, that it was a close one, and deeply meaningful to him. I also know that for a 90 year old man from rural Mississippi, he’s very liberal in his views, and was visibly happy to learn that marriage equality is now the law of the land. I don’t make conclusions, I don’t look for things when perhaps there is nothing to find, and I don’t dismiss the possibility that my dad hid things he felt he couldn’t act on, or have, or realize. If there is something unfulfilled in his life, I mourn for that, and I would have gladly traded the life he gave to me for an authentic life for himself.

Since my mother died, we’ve been able to enjoy a much different relationship. My mother, bless her, sat in the center of her universe like the regal sun, and we all revolved around her. We’ve had to adjust our orbits, and there was a rough ride for a while as my father, sisters, nieces and I found our places within the new space opened up by her death. I’ve learned things about my father I hadn’t known before, and have heard new stories from his past. If he ever decides to tell me more about his days as a sailor, I’ll gratefully listen to and support his truths.

And in the meantime I’ll retrieve a story I began a few years ago, and see if I can meet up with it again somehow. I don’t know if I’ll be able to have any more luck with it than with my other pieces waiting for attention. It seems like a good idea to at least try, and at the same time it seems nearly overwhelming, and possibly painful. But I need something, and maybe he needs me to create a memory dedicated to his life while we still have time to explore the past.

And so it begins:

I remember the cicada hot summers, air so thick and soupy it swarmed with the sound of them, and with the smell of tree bark and leaves roasting in the sun; molten ropes of moss that dripped off of branches, and puddled into dusty ground that singed little bare feet. You and I spent every day down by that lazy bend in the river. Stripped of our clothes, we’d swim and splash, chase each other with striders and little green water snakes. It was our oasis in the heat, our escape from obligations awaiting us in the world beyond; it was our shared youth.

the thought police are after our vocabulary: the progress of dirty words

How did feminism become coupled with misandry? There seems to be a notable misunderstanding, a missing of the point. Feminism isn’t about proclaiming superiority of one sex over another, it’s about insisting upon equality. And no, things aren’t equal, despite what some may wish.

Racism is not eradicated because we have a black president. Homophobia isn’t a thing of the past because marriage equality has been reached. Anti-religious and spiritual phobias, hatreds, and mistrusts are still firmly in place, in spite of the many steps forward that have been taken. And acknowledged. And achieved.

Women are not on equal grounds with men. Consider that nearly 100% of women have been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted in one form or another. Nearly 100%. Consider that there are barriers to careers, to religious orders, to physical and psychological respect granted to more than half of the human population. Think about that.

Now consider feminist strivings and goals and gains, and losses throughout recorded time. Consider the right to vote, the sexual revolution aided by reliable birth control. Gains, yes. The end of the conquest? No. There is no end, and there is no sense in pretending we have reached the close of our prejudices. And even having to point this out is one more barrier in the way of progress.

Feminist is as misunderstood and reviled as atheist. Declaring one’s self a feminist does not equate to “I hate men” any more than atheist means “I hate morals,” yet both seem to raise the same fears of destruction of society and a frightening new world order. Finger pointing would be so easy at this juncture, because the source of these unfounded fears trace back to the same rule keepers. But I don’t want to add fuel to the fire by pointing out difficult truths that the world seems as yet unable to confront. No need to encourage further digging in of the heels – we’re unable to move as it is.

Do I sound angry? Yeah, I am, just a little bit, yeah. Angry women – that goes against every projection of Mother we’ve had to fulfil since the start of the human race. Sex and child rearing don’t go off well with angry women, now give us a smile make yourself amenable, please – there’s a good girl.

…Why is it not okay to take a position against this warped view? The answer to that should be clear. And it is very much not okay. It is at the crux of this issue, and of most other prejudices, too. Superiority against inferiority, right against wrong, quite literally white as opposed to black. Unquestionable declarations made by the ancient authorities on everything. Aren’t these antiquated proclamations beginning to sound a bit outmoded? Slowly, we’ve been crawling along toward the realization of yes, they do. That Yes has only really picked up true forward momentum in mid twentieth century, and when thought of in that light, we begin to see how daunting this is, and why.

The forces that be are very good at vilifying the words that define opposing ideology. So effective, that 20 year old women seek to distance themselves from the word Feminist. Marriage is so sacred that even the word was sought to be divided from nonhetero unions, and now is qualified with the word Gay. Black Lives Matter somehow is twisted to imply that all other lives do not. Words are powerful, and can be used as very effective weapons. Against progress, against ideas, against us.

Words are essential in communicating our views and experiences. We can’t allow them to be taken and distorted and used to block progress. The words aren’t dirty, nor are the thoughts behind them. Take them back and use them proudly, and without hesitation. We very well might make our voices heard after all.

quickie

First post of the new year, and it’s going to be a shortie, a very quick summary of what’s on my mind so far in 2016.

David Bowie – NOOO!

Alan Rickman – NOOOO!!

State of the Union Address – finally, some content!

Presidential race – fuuuuuuuck.

Theism – see above.

Fear Mongering – stop.

Echo – better.

Telly – documentary bingeing.

Weather – BRRRRR

Friends – new.

Father – steady on.

And that’s about it.

dorian gray is gay (and edward larson betrayed us all)

dorian gray as portrayed by hurd hatfield in the 1945 movie

dorian gray as portrayed by hurd hatfield in the 1945 movie

I’m re-reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I do every so often. In a scant few pages are packed philosophy and idolatry, a cautionary tale, a revelation of adoration, an abundance of clever wordplay, all wrapped up in gorgeous prose.

The book also was infamously used as evidence against Oscar Wilde during his trials. Using books as legal stichomancy is disreputable; but if certain passages were selected to condemn him, others can be pulled to defend him, and perhaps all artists.

In the story, Basil Hallward tells Lord Henry Wotton that he doesn’t want to show his painting of Dorian Gray at an exhibition because he’s put too much of himself into it. Basil says he has unintentionally revealed his artistic and personal worshipful admiration of Dorian, things he especially doesn’t want Dorian to know. If others were to see it, “…the world might guess it; and I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope.”

Basil goes on to say that artists should put nothing of their own lives into their work, and that art should not be treated as a form of autobiography. But of course we all do to some extent. Wilde did, too.

In order to create something beautiful and meaningful, revelations will occur. Some things can be cleverly concealed with a bit of creative manipulation, but artists will uncover parts of themselves, it’s inevitable. And, it’s intentional. Artists want to generate stories as experienced through their personal lenses. They create the path, and we navigate using our own perception. Neither has complete control of the exchange, and that’s what makes art beautiful, and imperative to human experience.

Those who hold nothing back willingly subject themselves to scrutiny, but the audience has the responsibility to scrutinize with the expectation of no absolutes, and refrain from censorship and misapplications. Without the synergetic relationship between art and audience, there can be no meaningful exchange.

As for those who try to use art against the artist, against others, and for dogmatic gain, they reveal an ugly image not of the artist, but of themselves. An idiot extracts what they please to uphold their own beliefs; a philosopher takes the opportunity to question beliefs. Why pander to ignorance, even to save judgement? At times, there may be little solace in knowing your own heart and head, but there is great dignity. In the end, that is what Wilde exemplified, and it has made him a champion as well as an artist.

the old romantics

Since Saturday is Valentine’s Day, let’s talk romance, shall we?

turner had a thing for turbulent seas and turbulent landscapes sprinkled with a few idylls, just for confusion's sake

turner had a thing for turbulent seas and turbulent landscapes, sprinkled with a few idylls, just for confusion’s sake

Romance as in the period of Romanticism in philosophy and art that came about out of the French Revolution and Industrialization. Yes, the French Revolution and Industrialization. I didn’t know that.

I didn’t know much of anything about Romantic art and literature, only that it involved Keats and the Shelleys and Turner and, apparently, Goya? None of which appeal to me, so I had little reason to explore it. However. I came across a three-part documentary on the Romantic period (1800 – 1850), and found it completely fascinating. It’s called, funnily enough, The Romantics, and the three parts are Liberty, Nature, Eternity. It’s written and presented by Peter Ackroyd, a well-known critic of English history and culture. Oh, and includes some very good looking actors playing the roles of Keats and Shelley, and David Tennant is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who shows up first and was a big plus for me. He’s what kept me watching for those first few minutes, and by the time his role was finished, I was completely sucked in.

And now I come to the part in which I’m asking myself why the hell I’m writing about a documentary on the Romantics, apart from the flimsy excuse of Valentine’s Day? Well, because I love it when something unexpected shows up to pull at me and interest me in something I previously gave little thought to. True love, that is. Because everything is so much more complex than it may seem on the surface, and finding that out is fun. I found out The Romantics weren’t just some flopsy poets and painters fluttering by, leaving soppy poems and strange paintings in their wake. It’s an entire movement, which, for the time, was completely radical. Dangerously so, to the powers that be. Atheism, cynicism, protest and drug experimentation and free love – it’s all here, and it all stems from huge changes that were happening in Europe, Britain, and yes, the United States, too. It was a sort of domino effect brought on by the masses being fed up to the eyeballs by the gentry, and taking matters into their own hands, for good and ill, along with and followed up by advances in science and technology and a whole new aesthetic. The jail sentences for daring to think differently, and simultaneously for the inherent guilt of privileged birth; the slaughter of thousands by the very convenient and efficient new toy, the guillotine; the renewed appreciation for nature brought on by industrialization, the sorrows of child labour and people used as cogs in the machines – it’s all pretty intense, and it begets some intense responses from the thinkers and artists of the period.

goya just freaks me the fuck out

goya just freaks me the fuck out

I joked about the actors, but really, they play a helpful role in enhancing all of these things for the audience, not through tepidly role-played days in the life, which doesn’t happen, thank god (or rather thank Ackroyd) but by offering quotations from the words and thoughts of the time. Romantics are kind of tittered at today, foisted off as fodder for adolescents in the throes of hormone rages, but it just isn’t so. Wordsworth and Coleridge and Blake and Diderot pointed out some pretty egregious pitfalls in the roads mankind were taking, and thanks be to them for it. Who else but the thinkers and poets and painters do such a thorough and graphic job of reflecting back the failings of human nature? And the triumphs, too, because of course it wasn’t all blood in the streets and soot covered children. It was progression.

This is a most brilliantly done exploration of a time that abruptly and sometimes violently pushed society forward, right into the place we now find ourselves. It’s helpful to know how we got here, and perhaps gives us a glimpse of, or at least an inkling about, where we’re headed.

throwing words al dente (or when all else fails, talk about the weather)

Okay, let’s try this again. Apparently I was experiencing brainfreeze yesterday – it reached a whole 3 degrees for a high, and there really isn’t any siding on my house, it’s quite draughty in here. But things are rallying, we’re expecting to make it to 17 today, a veritable heatwave.

We went from a record high to freezing cold, and several inches of snow on the ground. Not the gentle slide into winter I was hoping for. Don’t let this be a taste of what’s to come.

I haven’t updated since the height of summer, haven’t had the wherewithal to post one of my diatribes or talk about old movies. The empty space niggles a bit. I’ll see what I can do about that.

spit out the kool-aid (it’s a sugary trap)

If art can’t tell us about the world we live in, then I don’t believe there’s much point in having it—Robert Hughes

but is it art?

but is it art?

I just spent a depressing hour and fifteen minutes watching Robert Hughes’ documentary, The Mona Lisa Curse. This was made in 2008 – I’m always the last to discover nearly everything, and this is partially due to my avoidance of the media. That’s a choice, and I pay for it by remaining unconversant. But eventually I’ll come across things on a journey that is most likely motivated by a need for inspiration or a necessity of research, and that’s how I stumbled upon this documentary.

Hughes’ statement was made in the last few minutes of the program, which focused on the monetization of art, and art appreciation being usurped by monetary value driven up by clueless but rich investors rather than artistic merit.

I mostly avoid the media because nearly everything in it is scary and sad. The scene he painted for us is very scary, terribly sad, and that’s because it’s pretty accurate. It’s not a fantasy depiction of dystopian society, it’s fact. But this quotation, “If art can’t tell us about the world we live in, then I don’t believe there’s much point in having it,” which is meant to denounce contemporary art, is, I think, somewhat missing its own point. Contemporary art is telling us loads about the world we live in. It’s a chilling point, but a precise one.

Modern humanities scare the shit out of me. I suppose that looks to put me squarely in the camp of those who shake their fingers and say “when I was young,” even though a) when they were young is was fundamentally no different, and 2) it’s a little early for me to be setting up my tent. Aside from being untimely, I’m also outside of my demographic in my tastes and viewpoints. I know this, and yet I solidly agree with him in my existentialistic way: Everything’s shit, it’s all shit, and we walk around with this shit on the soles of our feet, oblivious to the fact that we’re the ones spreading the stench.

I’ve tried really, really hard to understand contemporary art. I’ve studied and observed, and I want to see the meaning, the beauty, the reflective messages, but more often than not, I can’t. Hughes stood up and pointed out the nakedness of our praise, and that’s a brave action to take. He was not afraid to be loud, clear, and direct—the way he laid into Jeff Koons was turn-your-head-away “ouch!” And the really painful thing of it was the integrity behind the observation. I think Hughes earned the right to make his declarations based on his nearly 50 years as a professional art advocate and critic. And before you think, “50 years? Yeah, but he was ow-uld!” consider that he started out in the 60s, right when pop culture had stepped into the forefront of expression. He was a young man in the thick of it, so I think his perspective has a generous dose of validity.

Art is subjective, I’ve echoed that sentiment a million times, and I believe it. But it’s also become subject to a popularity contest driven by mob rule. Artistic culture is being piloted by publicity and profit—the very things it’s meant to analyse and decry. Scary and sad, scary and sad.

Why am I so obsessed with this? Because we’re standing around letting it happen, and I really do think that we, the non-moneyed masses, are better than this, and much more powerful than we believe. Unfortunately we’re also apathetic, and more than willing to go with the flow if it means we don’t have to pick up an oar and paddle against the current. Politically, artistically, theologically, we’ve castrated ourselves. And you know what? That sucks.

sad peonies

peonies in happier days

peonies in happier days

Do you know what a sad peony looks like? Its little red heads, all swollen and ready to burst, lay huddled beneath a layer of prophylactic plastic, calling out to be set free.

This is what happens when it snows in May. Lilacs have frozen smiles on their wee little purple faces, roses look shocked and offended that they’ve been caught half dressed out in the cold, hollyhock leaves are sagging mopily on the ground, and columbine blooms are defiantly standing erect, shouting out “fuck you!” to the grey skies.

And me? I’m tromping around in the cold and wet, two layers of woollen winter socks shoved into rubber gardening clogs, t-shirt sopping and too-loose yoga pants sagging lower and lower as I beat the snow off of newly hatched leaves, stooping to peek underneath makeshift shelters for the smallest and most tender lodgers to make sure everyone is still with me. I never fully dried out yesterday, and this morning I was in past my ankles in last night’s freshly fallen snow – that’s a brisk waker-upper.

Tonight it’s supposed to freeze. And to that, I say FUCK.

one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

the bumblebee is one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

I used to think gardening was such a leisurely and refined little hobby, effortlessly sinking perky plants into soft earth and plucking a stray weed here and there while I stroll around, admiring my lush and beautiful borders. Ha. It’s plunging a shovel down with gusto, and ricocheting off of a boulder one half inch beneath the soil. It’s scattering seeds and seeing nary a sign of life. Ever. It’s bending down to smell a rose and coming face-to-face with a wasp, or reaching out to pick a flower, to meet up beneath the stem with the ugliest damn spider on eight legs. It’s surrendering to the weeds, which have launched an overthrow in numbers so vast, it’s useless to fight back. It sucks.

And yet, I am compelled to begin again and again, a staunch pessimist turned eternal optimist every spring. It’s a joke on me, my masochistic nature forcing encounters with arachnophobia, fear of hard physical labour, and continual disappointment. Are the occasional blooms from struggling survivors worth all the pain and heartache? I don’t know—when I see the lilacs in full bloom and contemplate crawling in between the bushes to live there for the next two weeks, when the roses are budding out and the peony is showing off and I’m excitedly waiting to see what colours the hollyhocks will be this year, I feel like Gertrude Jekyll and Beverly Nichols all rolled into one. I’m a gardening fool, a horticultural stud.

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

So yeah, I’ll continue to tromp around, shivering and hoping for the best as I fight to save my budding buddies from snow in May, cursing and dripping and crying on the inside at the very likely possibility that not all these little beauties will make it through the storm. And when the sun comes out again, I’ll peel back the plastic and give everyone an encouraging little fluff, hoping the little beggars will perform for me.