Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Beyond Hegira

Most of you probably don't know much about my history, probably because I enjoy and guard my privacy and share information on my own terms. I think it is time to share just a few stories so as to demarcate a slight shift in the theme of this blog.

I started this blog a few months ago and it is the first non-academic writing I've done in a long time. I used to write a lot in the mid-1990's. I wrote, painted, sketched, colored. This was mostly up until high school. I just stopped writing around the beginning of my senior year, though I did take an art class that year where I finished a few projects on religious imagery. I also painted a mural for my high school which depressed the hell out of people. Maybe that's a good place to begin . . . or, maybe, exactly a year before that.

I had been asked to paint a mural. In our high school--like most high schools--they have something called Battle of the Classes (you know, an exercise in class warfare). So each grade level competes with the others in a series of events that include tug-of-war, various relays, and among other things, a mural competition.

During the previous two years of high school, I had sat back and let other students paint the mural on behalf of my class. We did not win either year. I was fine with it probably because I was mostly uninterested with the event. But in my junior year, some committee who organizes the event asked me to paint the mural (because I was always known as a good artist). My condition was that I get full control and that I wanted a good friend, Adam Schwartz, to work with me. Adam knew more about mixing paints and brush techniques than I did. In fact, Adam has since graduated from a good art school in NY and does some digital design work. Anway, I gave my conditions; the only condition I had in return was that the committe could pick the "theme" of the mural. I said OK.

So I was saddled with "Animal Kingdom" for my theme. That's a pretty shitty theme, but not so shitty so as to be unworkable. I'll spare you the details of the actual process, but I kept most of the ideas a complete secret, with Adam and I being the only ones working on the project. I had a general idea for it and Adam chimed in with some good ideas, back and forth we went, building the foundation of my folklore.

Now keep in mind this event is a happy event. Previous murals had peace symbols and such nonsense as flowers and random hideousness that most high school students prefer. But you know me, I can't help myself. I wish I had a picture of the mural to show you
We played on the theme of "Animal Kingdom" and envisioned the modern animal kingdom as a zoo--a prison of sorts. So we painted on half of the canvas a bald eagle. We then covered the canvas with aluminum wire and shaped it like a steel fence. On the other half was a picture of a lion. We painted the lion with its paw poking out of the canvas. We attached some molded forms onto the canvas in the shape of claws, giving the effect that the lion was ripping through the actual space that we--the authors--were relegating it to. It was rebellion. Genius and scandal--my humour.

You can imagine that most people found it off-putting. A few yelled at me or Adam or both of us, but nothing out of hand. One or two people didn't want it displayed at all. But others interpreted it as a kind of political message about the environment--one that I myself didn't really think of consciously while painting. So it was a mixed reaction. We won the competition.

Then comes my senior year. People knew they couldn't really trust Adam or me in terms of subject matte because of what happened the year before. But we won, so they offered Adam and I the position again, though I was surprised that they didn't want more oversight over the project. The same bargain, only this time we were afflicted with the theme, "SENIOROPOLY." That's right folks: SENIOROPOLY. Apparently the powers-that-be thought this was a good theme. I assume it was a mix between the term Senior and the game Monopoly.
Adam and I went to work. I thought why not go out with a bang. I'll give them something they'll remember. I figured why not use the Monopoly imagery--the hotel, the railroad, properties--and play with the term "Senior" by depicting Uncle Moneybags as a decrepit senior citizen. The only difference of course is that Uncle Moneybags is bankrupt. His cubical green house has a broken roof. The letters "SENIOROPOLY" are featured on the mountainscape, fashioned like the Hollywood letters, except only they are falling down and broken. A lighted train is shown derailed in the background as well. I'm smiling now just thinking about it; I was such an asshole for doing it. This painting was DARK. Not just thematically, but literally. Adam and I figured out a way to make it look almost black, very subdued. It was downright dreary.
And when we brought it into school for the unveiling some blew a gasket. Some people yelled and others demanded that the painting was not "proper subject matter" for the competition. Surprisingly, it was only students saying things. The administration didn't say one word. One of the art teachers--Carl Strand (a.k.a. Carl Strand, Superstar)--was one of the judges and also knew Adam and me pretty well. He said with admiration, "Why the fuck does everything have to be so happy?"
Needless to say, Adam and I won again. Neither of us showed up the night when they announced the winners. We were such assholes.
Adam still is an asshole.

Well, after 2000, I kind of shut down inside--at least in terms of creative writing. I just couldn't paint or draw anymore; it literally hurt to do so. As if tapping into that part of my self where I get ideas and inspiration was emptying me out. Of course, I had a lot of academic writing during my four years at Syracuse University. I was churning out critical theory papers like nobody's business. Two papers a week, I became an analytical monster.
I still love critical theory and psychoanalytics. I have fond memories of Syracuse (I never really did anything creative until my last few semesters there, when I started work on an Honors Thesis. I'll talk about that thesis project some other time though). After I graduated, I moved to Berkeley and started law school. It was at the end of my first year when this blog started.
To make a long story--well--as long as it needs to be, I have finally come to my point. Writing this blog has been fun. It started easily enough, with some tech and movie reviews, an album here or there, and a lot of commentary on advertising. This is subject matter where I can offer an opinion but not necessarily share much information.
Well, I feel that feeling again; the desire to author conent. It's not strong. I still have to force myself to write. It might take the form of altered academic writing, movie or technology reviews, or general expositions on various political or religious topics.
You might think this shift is of marginal importance, but bear with me. I'm learning how to speak again. I've been away for awhile.

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