An Artist Finds True Love in P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.” 

In this post about art-related films, I mentioned that I thought P.S. I Love You was “not a good love story, but a good art story.” After my traditional St. Patrick’s Day viewing of the film (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided that I may have made a hasty judgment, and that art and true love might be more closely related than they seem.

So once upon a time, Josh and I went to Ireland for Spring break and St. Patrick’s day. It was a wild ride and totally exhausting, but absolutely beautiful. It’s something we would love to do again. Spending time in the land of the shamrocks those years ago put me in an inexplicable mood to watch P.S. I Love You–inexplicable because when I last watched this flick as a single and hormonal teenager, I completely hated it. The critic in me thought it was depressing and cheesy as all get-out.

Relax, you swooning and now-irate Gerard Butler fans. Upon watching the film again as an adult in conjunction with Dear Frankie (Butler accent marathon!), I quite surprisingly found it among some of my favorite films of the decade. Not only this, but Josh was quick to second the motion–and it’s a chick flick, guys. Needless to say, it’s now a family favorite.

I’m pretty sure that where I went wrong when I first watched this movie was in watching it as a chick flick–as a cliche story of romantic love, romantic love lost, and romantic love rediscovered.

As a traditional love story, P.S. I Love You is mediocre at best; however, as a story about art, identity, intimacy, and true love it is quite touching and maybe even outstanding.

According to the quirky Holly’s quoting of William Blake in an attempt to impress roguish Irishman Gerry Kennedy, “My business is to create.”

As an art student with no idea what she wants to do with her life, the only thing of which she and (she believes) everyone else on the planet can be sure is that we each need to create something–not because we are obligated to offer something beautiful to the world, but because this something is an inescapable part of who we are, how we are unique, and how we communicate that.

“All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco or a pair of socks! Just create something . . . new, and there it is, and it’s you–out in the world, outside of you–and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it–and you know a little more about . . . you. A little bit more than anyone else does.” 

What do you know about you?

Not enough? Well, you don’t have to know everything, believe it or not. If you did, what would be the point in looking for yourself through the soul-searching act of pure creation–of pure art?

Which reminds me of another favorite P.S. quote . . .

Holly: “I see people buying bigger apartments and having babies. I get so afraid sometimes our life’s never gonna start.

Gerry: “No, baby. We’re already in our life. It’s already started. This is it. You have to stop waiting.

Man, this scene hits me like a ton of bricks every time.

I know that I and many others like me are constantly guilty of looking to the next milestone of graduation or getting our dream job or buying a house or having kids. We’re too busy looking ahead to inhabit our own lives in the moment.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out in my meager 22 years, life isn’t about scrambling to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life so that you can blissfully do it for the rest of your days ad infinitum.

The scrambling–the journey–the search is your life.

Personally, I believe as Holly does that creating is a big part of that search. It’s a part of the process of knowing and being known–or trying to. It’s reaching deep down inside yourself and and pulling out a piece of what you value or how you see the world, and it says out loud (even if only to you) “This is who I am.” When you appreciate the creations of others, you’re stepping into a bit of who they are and taking a walk around, willing to share that intimacy with them.

This ideology is how I try to approach every moment of each one of my days on this earth. It’s my goal–my mantra–

To know and to make known.

This is love to me. Self-love and love for others all wrapped up in one beautiful life mission. This mantra includes tolerance and acceptance but also challenge and discussion when it comes to really getting to the bottom of what makes a person tick. It sounds so over-simplified, but it’s really not simple. Sometimes what you know about yourself, your God, and your friends/family/etc don’t quite jive, and you have to reconcile that.

But somewhere in the process of constantly pursuing a depth of knowledge of yourself and the world around you, you encounter people who love and understand you for who you really are.

So make something. Make a poem. Make pasta. Make a mess. Make love. Make mistakes.

Every time you let that glimpse of who you really are and who you want to be out into the world, you are leaving yourself vulnerable–open to being known and loved fully, or fully rejected–and you are promising that same love to those who open themselves to you.

Okay, so I know that I waxed a bit philosophical in this post, but I hope that I’ve encouraged lonely people everywhere to let art lead them to every pure form of love.

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Do I Want to Be a Hipster?

“I wanna be a hipster,” she says simply, pointing to her biblical tattoo and short-cropped hair in the middle of a conversation about her favorite folk music lyrics. “I’ve decided. I wanna be a hipster!” She is one of my best friends, and I generally respect her taste a great deal. But I don’t know how to react.

Maybe you can relate with her.

Maybe you most certainly cannot.

Maybe you’ve been enthusiastically jabbering on about your favorite band, independent film, art collection, or philosopher, when suddenly your conversation partner shakes their head and says, “Oh, you’re such a hipster.” You stand there in your plaid shirt, lace cardigan, maroon skinny corduroys, and vintage oxfords unsure of how to take this–and even less sure of how to respond. “Do I say ‘thank you?’ Do I shrug shamefully? Do I adamantly deny it?” This last course of action is the most dangerous, because many people believe that the strongest mark of a hipster is the inability to admit that one is, in fact, a hipster.

I felt that a lot of this trouble could be cleared up by settling on a concrete definition of what it means to be a hipster. Of course, no such definition exists. Even less-than-scholarly Urban Dictionary offers about seven encyclopedia-entry-sized explanations of this cultural phenomenon. Even so, this one seemed like a safe place to start:

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

That doesn’t sound too repulsive, does it? Especially for an Urban Dictionary definition. Those can get grody.

Honestly, I want to be a lot of those qualities described in the above definition. I am a lot of those qualities. I love me some intelligent, witty banter and independent thinking. I’m a huge fan of art and indie music. I keep close tabs on progressive politics. I’m creative. I’m in my twenties.

Am I a hipster? And more importantly, is that a bad thing?

What People See as Desirable About Hipster Culture:

Creativity and experimental fashion

So the style in the hipster world is pretty fly. It’s incredibly diverse and usually an eclectic mix of a variety of other styles–bohemian, punk, preppy, scuzzy lumberjack, etc. I know labels are the worst, but words are what we use to make sense of the world, so deal with it, hipster readers. My point is, their fashion and beauty creations tend to be interesting and refreshing.

Also, this gallery of celebrities re-imagined as hipsters is my favorite thing since Benedict Cumberbatch photobombed U2 at the Oscars.

Refusing to get caught up in fads

I dislike sweeping fads as much as the next person, although a job in marketing basically means I have to make a career out of studying them. So when a chunk of the population says, “No, thanks,” and continues to do their own thing despite social pressure, I enjoy that. I appreciate the courage to be oneself without needing the approval of the masses. I knew a girl in college who got engaged to her boyfriend without a ring because they didn’t see the point. I think that kind of freedom has to feel so good.

A genuine appreciation for the arts

Yes, some hipsters only listen to the music they listen to or watch the movies they watch because no one else does. Others, however, really look for a higher standard of quality when it comes to the media they consume. While the masses are content to watch Transformers, hipsters call BS and curl up with The Iron Giant instead. I also notice that hipsters are more likely to be interested in theatre and visual art. Sure, it can feel like snobbery at times, but I really admire it.

A genuine appreciation for vintage culture and nostalgia

I am all about nostalgia lately. I cry thinking about bygone days when people didn’t take a miniature telephone/computer with them every time they left the house. I like it when hipsters value the past and the simple life. They upcycle grandma’s old jewelry and dad’s old trousers. They ride bikes and tune up old record players. This kind of respect for the things of the past is heart-warming to me.

Enjoying knowledge for the sake of knowledge

This might not be an “official” hipster trait, but it’s something that I’ve noticed. Hipsters generally like to know things about the things they like. They make a hobby of gaining knowledge about their hobby. These are the people who read Bukowksi for fun and study coffee growing and roasting techniques. Fine by me. If you care about something, invest some time and effort into it, I say.

P.S. But remember no one likes a know-it-all.

Frugality and resourcefulness

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with appreciating vintage goodies, but hipsters really are responsible for thrifting being as popular as it is now. No, it wasn’t Macklemore. We were doing it before it was cool.

A desire to discuss important topics

Again, maybe not a hallmark of all hipsters, but it’s a trend I’ve seen. Those I’ve encountered who fit the hipster mold are eager to engage with others about social justice issues like feminism, marriage equality, and human trafficking as well as political and economic topics. I personally find it delightfully refreshing to encounter people who are not only educated about what’s happening in the world around them but who also think and feel passionately about those happenings.

What People See as Repellant About Hipster Culture: 

Refusing to acknowledge genuine talent and quality just because it is popular or “mainstream”

This drives me freaking nuts. Yes, Lady Gaga is an overrated mainstream fame-monger. That does nothing to change the fact that she is a stellar vocalist and an out-of-this-world performer. Just admit it! Millions of people love her for a reason! Why does that deter you from admitting she is good?! I can’t even . . .

Seriously, I have never been able to wrap my head around the “They’re famous now, so I can’t like them anymore” thing. They’re famous because they’re good, for crying out loud!

Condescension or snobbiness

You’ve all felt it–judgment from a holier-than-though hipster who felt the need to inform you that your fedora is actually a trilby or that your Chai tea isn’t fair trade. Nuff said.

Excessively expensive or excessively abnegating lifestyles

These are two sides of the same coin. (Abnegation is a 50-cent word for denying yourself things you want). Both extremes are bad as far as I am concerned. Some hipsters are the style who will blow their money on organic everything and memorabilia signed by the Smiths. Others are the kind who won’t wear shoes or eat chocolate in order to make a statement. I’m not a fan of either.

WORST EVER: Caring about being different more than they care about interpersonal connection

This takes the cake in terms of bad hipster qualities. It’s unfortunately come to be the signature of hipsters everywhere. These people find their sense of self in participating in only aspects of culture that are unknown or “underground.” Often the minute these bands, or anime series, or clothing brands, or whatever begin to become popular, their hipster followers will abandon ship and move on the the next heretofore undiscovered thing. It’s as if the only way they can be truly unique is to like things that hardly anyone else likes.

They form their identity based on the things they enjoy rather than the people they enjoy them with.

The irony? Now hipsterism itself has become popular, so the hipsters have nowhere to go. They’re having a massive identity crisis.

So Who Do I Want to Be?

In light of acknowledging the positive and negative aspects of hipsterism, what can those of us who are “on the fence,” if you will, conclude about who we want to be going forward? I can only speak for myself, but I think I’ve learned some important lessons in studying hipsters.

I want to be myself first of all. And I want to be with people second.

Being myself means that if I do or do not like or care about something, I will be honest about it–to myself and to the world.

Being with people means that I will never let these passions alienate me from those I encounter. I will embrace connection.

hipYes, I occasionally enjoy some obscure and/or unpopular things. That just means I’m all the more delighted when I meet someone who shares that interest. If we have that obscure thing in common, odds are we have other things in common and we’ll probably hit it off! Yes, my style of dress is a little unorthodox sometimes (not so much anymore,) but I do it to feel happy and free about my appearance, not to scare people away. Yes, I value academic intelligence and being politically and socially aware, but why would I want to keep those things to myself by avoiding people who are not “up to my standard?”

I want to love and be loved, and if I can love on someone while we both love on existentialist philosophy, Chvrches, Attack on Titan, matcha green tea, blackbox theatre, pad thai, and Modcloth, that does not threaten my sense of self at all.

Why can’t we all embrace intelligence, activism, resourcefulness, creativity, critical consumption of media, multiculturalism, and other admirable qualities without trying to label such things as being counter-cultural and “hipster?”

Alienating ourselves from others through our cultural identity is unhealthy, but so is mindlessly consuming the pop culture fed to us on a large scale. That’s why I love the fact that hipsterism is not a subculture anymore. Hipsterism is becoming mainstream because people are realizing that they can explore the culture beyond what is readily accessible to them and in so doing encounter others who are also happy to challenge the status quo.

Yes, we are all forming our own identities, but our identities are tangled up in the people we let into our worlds. Let’s fill those worlds with the things we love and trust that they will attract people who we might come to love as well.

Rescue, a Poem

So I work pretty well under pressure.

For example, one of my good friends posted the following prompt on his Facebook page a few days ago.

ImageI don’t know why my brain processed this as a dare, but I immediately put down my lunch and began typing away. Fifteen minutes later, I emerged with the following poem. I think this thrown-together saga actually counts as some of my “good” stuff!

Rescue

Sneakers scuff against linoleum tiles
As the long hallway leads my feet to the locker room,
A halogen-lit corridor the likes of me never see.
I slithered out from my basement home–
Pallid skin singed by the sunlight–
To find you in your element today,
Swimming in the ethereal light of a gymnasium,
Alone in the colorful aquarium of your popularity.
I’m out of place.
My dark tail drags a conspicuous trail through the sand,
But my hand, skinny and gnarled–
Probably from too many video games
Doesn’t stop hoping that you’ll hold it some day.
It’s a perfect dream,
And you say my name.

Our reverie is shattered by your screams.
My footfalls echo on polished and painted wood,
My claws clatter against the stones of your ivory tower,
As I climb, and I find you,
Pinned down by the body of a quarterback–
Your one-time knight in shining armor–
I know it’s his letterman jacket
Over your shoulders and under your back–
And I know it doesn’t matter
Just like it doesn’t matter that you should have been mine
Because you said “no” to the joust.
In that moment you remind me
That I’ve been saying “yes” for too long–
That the song they want me to sing is sweet
When mine is more like a shriek–
That they want me to run away and hide,
But I can fly–
That the Hollister cologne
And the Listerine that should be on my breath
Aren’t me.
I breathe fire.
I’ve seen death.
I’ve desired things your hero here can’t fathom.
I grab him
And hit him like my Dad hits me.
He sees stars,
And I can’t see a thing–
Not even you.

Your knight–
You know his armor only shines
Because he’s never seen a battle–
Never had something to fight for.
Look at mine.
Look at how the light is absorbed
And not reflected by the dull surface,
Scuffed and scratched from ten thousand tussles
With monsters twice my size
But not nearly as angry.
Whole chunks missing
And now filled with tiny pools of his blood.
Hell, this isn’t armor.
It’s scales,
And I’m no knight.

I’m the dragon,
But I’m yours.

Are you at all inspired by this prompt? Write a little something and link to it in the comments.

Nine to Phive Photography & Events

Some things take a lot of faith.

Quitting your day job to do what you love professionally is probably right up there. It takes planning, preparation, courage, talent, perseverance, and ultimately just letting go and making the jump. You have to balance your mental and emotional well-being with your family’s financial well-being. I doubt it ever gets easy. I doubt you ever stop wondering where you could be if you hadn’t given up a steady income. I also doubt that it ever gets old.

Whatever the consequences might be, I think we have sacrificed enough of what we are meant to do. It’s time for us to start living the dream, everybody!

Those of you who followed Josh’s and my journey through Europe know that we are obsessed with photography. After a few years of building our skills and accumulating better and better gear, we decided that we were ready to attempt to launch our passion into a full-blown business endeavor.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 1.51.03 PMThus Nine to Phive Photography & Events has been created. We are live on the interwebs as of yesterday, March 5th, and we are pretty darn psyched.

Obviously, we offer photography services (family portraits, weddings, and the like), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Photography may be one of the the things that brings Josh and I together when it comes to this business, but we have also historically had hobbies and interests that have set us apart–just like any couple. Ever since planning my own wedding from top to bottom, I have been enraptured by the details of event planning. I am a creative and an administrator at heart, and those two characteristics together make me a natural for the job. Josh is also very creative, but his knowledge and skills when it comes to technology surpasses mine. This is why he is has been interested in DJing for awhile. Now that we’re committed to starting our own business, it makes perfect sense to bring our talents together to make something great.

We’re most excited to be providing quality event planning services with photography and DJ/emcee options in-house. We’re here to make your special day or moment as simultaneously unique and effortless for you as possible. Well, we’re here for you, that is, if you happen to live in Upstate New York 🙂

jjWe’re scared, I’ll admit. But making people happy with our work will make us happy. We’ll just have to trust that if we follow our hearts, the business and finances will follow. We’re going to do this, and it’s going to be great.

NOTE: Josh is still working full-time to keep us on our feet. I will be stepping down from my marketing job as soon as it is feasible.

Why You Should Embrace the Noah Movie

Noah poster

I am just plain psyched for the upcoming Darren Aronofsky Noah movie. As a filmmaker and as a Christian, no matter how many times Hollywood disappoints me I never cease to get excited when it comes to an on-screen adaptation of a biblical story. I never stop hoping. I love seeing my faith brought to life through art.

Of course, this movie is causing a lot of controversy in the Christian community for not being “biblically accurate.” Many people of faith are even publicizing their plans to boycott the film. Here’s why I think they are wrong.

Why the Bible Should Be Made into Movies–All Kinds of Movies

Regardless of your faith background, it is hard to deny that the Bible is one of the most influential (if not THE most influential) works of history and literature ever written. Ever! I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, or Atheist. This is a centuries-old fact of Western and now even global culture.

How is it right that less-important (though admittedly great) works are made into hedonistic blockbuster films a la Troy and even popular video games a la Dante’s Inferno while many believe that the Bible remains “too holy” to bridge this cultural gap? Why do classic mythology and literature get to shape our culture through the permeating medium of film and video while the Bible collects dust in a church pew?

The Bible needs to be made relevant, and little is more relevant to today’s society than the movies.

Why aren’t there more action films about the judges, the mighty men of David, the fall of Jericho, Elijah’s challenge, or the fiery furnace? Why aren’t there more classic war films about Saul and basically any Old Testament king or general? Why aren’t there more romances and dramas about the stories like those of David and Abigail or Samson and Delilah? Well-told stories like these could make disconnected, apathetic audiences relate with and invest in the characters, and maybe invest in looking deeper into the Bible as a result. That’s something I’d like to see more of–the gritty reality of inspiring biblical tales paired with solid artistic direction to make great films that people like.

I could be proven wrong, but I think Noah is that film.

Of course the production team has tweaked some details of the account to make for a more well-crafted story, adding characters and conflicts for depth and character development. Honestly, when doesn’t this happen in a historical account being adapted for film? Some of the details of reality are either dull and boring or just not conducive to being depicted onscreen. Filmmakers have been tweaking true tales for the big screen ever since Battleship Potemkin. It’s called dramatization.

Also, Paramount had the big-boy pants to post this “disclaimer” at the start of the picture:

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, was even quoted as saying that Paramount is “very proud of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.” How wonderful and once-unimaginable is it that a movie based on a Sunday School story is something that the most experienced and influential Hollywood bigwigs can be proud of? I find that amazing. What more could we want from these people? They are skilled media makers, and they are respectful of the spiritual significance of the Bible. They are bringing our Bible to life for a media-driven generation. They are making great art (I hope) with a great message. 

We have been asking for years for Hollywood to helm faith-themed and biblically-based projects. Now that they are heeding our calls, do we really have to complain about how they have chosen to do so?

Okay, so instead of continuing to talk about a film I have yet to see, I’m going to point you to a great article written for the Christian Post by John Snowden. NOTE: I have since found that this piece may have originally been written by Snowden as an educational packet to give to attendees of the NRB International Christian Media Convention.

This article is cool because, unlike all of the faith bloggers who have slammed Noah without even seeing it (?), author John Snowden has not only seen the film, he has worked on the production team as the crew’s biblical adviser. This concept is near and dear to my heart as the Christian film that I worked on a few years ago had a team of faith advisers who were very special people. I love the role. It is so crucial to the believable marriage of faith and film nowadays.

Anyway, here is Snowden.

———————————————————————————————

There has been no shortage of headlines in recent weeks about Paramount Pictures’ upcoming feature film Noah – with a fair amount of the coverage speculating about how closely or loosely the movie adheres to the story of the title character as found in the Bible.

Unfortunately, those who have felt compelled to criticize the film in these stories haven’t actually seen it – so it’s difficult to understand what exactly they’re criticizing. I have seen Noah – in fact, I’ve been working on it for the last two years as the filmmakers’ biblical adviser.

I will confess, when the studio first approached me about consulting on the project I had mixed emotions, weighing my caution of Hollywood’s ability to take liberties with stories and values against my standard for good theology and a healthy presentation of Bible stories, theology and mission. Paramount was adamant about having a practical, integrated adviser in the process from start to finish, which impressed (and surprised) me.

I read an early draft of the script and was particularly impressed with their exploration of judgment and mercy. I accepted the offer and quickly found myself fully engaged with the creative team, talking about Noah, God and Jesus a lot. And they listened. And asked more questions. I’ve read probably more than 10 drafts of the script, given longwinded feedback on each, seen every piece of footage that was shot and been flown around the world … twice.

With all of that work under my belt, and the March 28 premiere just a little more than a month away, I am happy to offer the following 10 reasons I believe we as a church can find very valuable reflections on Noah, God and theology in the film. This isn’t to suggest the movie matches everyone’s read of Noah perfectly, but it is a very worthwhile time to spend understanding how a couple of very thoughtful filmmakers interact with Noah.

1 – Noah Has a Relationship with God

In the film Noah, Noah hears from God at times, wants to hear more from God at other times, is directed by God, and acts singularly different than his contemporaries in following God’s directives. Scripture is overtly quoted by many characters in Noah. God’s words from the Bible are unmistakably a part of this film. The film is pro-God.

The Biblical text lists out what God said to Noah but never tells whether that was verbal or written communication, though most would assume it verbal. In our film, God gives visions to Noah just like God gave to several prophets and many key Biblical figures (Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and John to name a few). I pray one day my sons will dream dreams and receive visions directly from God, just like God promised us through His prophet Joel.

2 – Noah Acts Faithfully Yet Isn’t Perfect

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That includes Noah. It’s healthy that Noah struggles to understand precisely what God is saying, but, regardless, Noah trusts and acts faithfully. The struggle is not always easy to watch, particularly in the later parts of the film, but the values that come out of this narrative are special.

A woman in her early 20s whom I spoke with about the film (she grew up “churched” but is since disengaged) really appreciated that the film’s Noah heard from God but not in a simplistic way. It felt to her ironically accessible; since she’s never personally “heard” God’s voice, she felt a connection to Noah as he began to trust God’s vision.

3 – Noah Sees and Acknowledges His Own Sin

Noah sees his own sin as no better or worse than those who will die in the flood. This evokes the great scriptural dilemma: God’s plan to fill the Earth with humanity reflecting His glory has been promised, but our sin has stained the reflection of His glory in all of us. Four-thousand-ish years after Noah, Jesus did the work of restoration for us. Noah the movie agrees that we hadn’t earned our salvation back then either. Our long-white- beard, long-white-robe depiction of a docetic (proto-Evangelical?) Noah has not helped our kids learn that we’re all coming up short were it not for God’s grace. That ark Noah built is a gift, not our own proud creation, so that His purposes can be fulfilled through us.

4 – It Keeps Closer to More of the Text Than You Might Have Imagined

The film sticks to many key details from the Text. The ark set was built twice to full-cubit
scale, though not out of gopherwood. It depicts a global flood. No extra people survive the flood who shouldn’t. God speaks to Noah. Noah gets drunk. Tubal-Cain forges iron and bronze. Ham and Noah have a rough father-son relationship. Creation from nothing. Sin. Murder. Methusaleh. There’s a dove and a rainbow, two of each animal (admittedly seven of each clean animal was a detail that didn’t get communicated in the film), an olive branch and lots of water coming up from the ground.

Read the rest of the article here. It’s good stuff!

Cleverbot Poetry

Rebooting my popular Cleverbot Poetry post in hopes of getting some more participation! To join in the creative and artificially intelligent madness, check out the Cleverbot Poetry tumblr.

A few days ago, I had an incredibly intriguing idea for something that I was sure would turn out to be an interesting exercise/experiment for writers.

I decided to write a poem with the help of Cleverbot! 

For those who don’t know, Cleverbot is an Artificial Intelligence robot that is famous for learning from the input of users worldwide. That means that every time a user asks Cleverbot a question or provides a response, Cleverbot learns how to better answer questions in the future. Because of this learning capability, conversations with Cleverbot can often stay on a specific topic for a considerable amount of time and adhere to logic and reasoning like a conversation with humans (well, most of them, lol) would.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Take my first poetry attempt as an example.

User: Want to write a trippy poem with me?
Cleverbot: Do you even know what I am?!
User: Why, a clever bot, I assume.
Cleverbot: What would you say that for? You hurt my feelings . . .
User: Clever is a good thing, and bot is hardly something to be ashamed of.
Cleverbot: I am learning.
User: That’s nice. How about that poem?
Cleverbot: I don’t like Obama. His policies are downright atrocious. We’re sinking further into debt and he hasn’t actually fulfilled any promises he made on his campaign.
User: Is that your idea of a poem?
Cleverbot: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
User: Haha, I like that one better.
Cleverbot: Really?
User: How about I write a line, and then you write a line, and we’ll go back and forth?
Cleverbot: No.
User: Please? I’d really like to hear what you have to say.
Cleverbot: Harry Potter or Twilight?
User: Harry Potter. No contest.
Cleverbot: Exactly.
User: Glad we’re on the same page. Now, I’ll start the poem . .
Cleverbot: Hi, this is Baskin Robins. Home of the 31 flavors. If you can name 31 flavors in 31 seconds, you can get 31 flavors for free. Your time starts now.
User: Very cute. Here we go!
Cleverbot: It is insulting to be told somethig that they know is completely contrary to the truth that they enforce.
User: You spelled ‘something’ wrong . .
Cleverbot: “Tell me about Penny Fluff.”
User: “She always thought herself more than enough.”
Cleverbot: Nine.

Frustrating and not particularly inspiring; however, I did finally discover the secret! Here’s what I ended up with:

Socrates, and a Misquote At That

Without a soul, who can know what the future holds?

What future? How can I get past today with nothing to live for?
Offer them a new technology, and offer to develop it for them.
Sell yourself to the industry of creating humans more efficiently and less uniquely.
But I’m not doing it for the law. It’s for my religion.
I believe in creation. I believe in choice.
But I’m not a believer.
Why do I lie to myself like I lie awake at night wishing for a purpose?
Do you have a religion?
No? Then let’s share mine.
I can be strong for the both of us.
I can pick you up in my Ferrari.
I’ll carry us away to a time more certain.
Fairly more certain that you are not making sense.
But I forgive you. After all, the world doesn’t make sense.
Or does it?
All I know is that now I have you to live for.

How fun! And how cool is that?

The trick is to not ask the bot for permission to participate in the activity! Simply write what sounds like it could be the first line of an artsy poem and continue in this manner regardless of how the bot responds.

If you would like to submit a poem:

  1. Follow the guidelines above.
  2. When you think you have come to the end of your poem, press “Think For Me” and let the bot’s final line (or a few words from it) be the title of your poem.
  3. Click “Thoughts So Far” and copy and paste the conversation into a word processor.
  4. Format the conversation like a poem. Get rid of the “User” and “Cleverbot” labels and eliminate the spaces in between lines.
  5. Submit to me via email (jet.thurston@gmail.com) and see if your poem ends up in a future post!

Found Poetry from Neil Gaiman

How brave. Beloved poet Neil Gaiman found an old poem from his younger days in his attic and decided to share it with the world:

Found on a placemat in the attic

It’s kind of dead at Davey’s when the clock hits three a.m.
And I know I didn’t come here for the food
For I’m sipping something coffee-like that tastes a bit like phlegm
While I pick at cake that something might have chewed.

There’s a bill upon the table for my unappealing fare
And a bored cashier is waiting by the till.
Then she takes my twenty dollars with a cool intriguing stare
like a kidney-surgeon waiting for the kill.

“You seem like much too nice a girl to work in such a dive.
It’s the sort of place that turns your brain to rot.”
She just smiles and in a sullen voice more poisoned than alive
She tells a tale that turns my spine to snot.

“I have a fearful tale to tell, a bloody tragic lay,
A narrative of horror and of fear.
A story that will make you weep and turn your guts to clay,
before your braincells dribble out your ear.

“Mine is a dark biography, a thing of dread and fright,
A tale that reeks of terror and of woe.
There are not words,” she told me, “to do justice to my plight.
But what the hell,” she said, “I’ll have a go.”

“Nobody could envision it, it’s nasty weird and strange.
Nobody could have dreamed, or said, or thunk.
And none who sit to hear my life will stand again unchanged.
(Some kill themselves, while others just get drunk.)

“I warn you now!” she raised her hand, “if you are faint of heart,
Leave now! Just flee! Get out! Go ‘way! And shoo!
It’s horrible and sordid. Stop me now, before I start,
for every loathsome word of it is true!”

(I honestly no longer remember what her story was, although elsewhere on the placemat is the couplet:

I can’t get into Heaven, ‘cos of all that I’ve done wrong
And I can’t get into Hell because the lines are far too long.

Which may be a clue.)