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.

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.)

Poem: The Art of Capture

This is a piece I wrote a while back inspired be the issues that I touch on in my last post.

The Art of Capture

Quick.

Click.
Snap and trap it.
Once the shutter falls,
There’s no need to fear
That the shapes and colors of this flash in time–
This one-hundred-twenty-fifth of a second–
This hour–
This day–
Will ever fade
Or fall away.

Write.
Every sight and sound–
Even though you don’t have a pen
Or laptop or tablet on you just now–
Let the paragraphs form in your brain.
Never mind if the composition
Takes you far away.
At least you’ll know you caught
Today.

Wind tight the reel of celluloid
As the word rolls by in real life
Sadly not in slow motion,
So you might want to hurry up.

Hold the canvas still with one hand
As it teeters on the edge of time,
And dip a brush in the paint you’re bound to spill.

Now stand still.

Immortalizing vs. Inhabiting: 2014 Blog Re-Vamp

writing

Hi all! Welcome back to my little web world.

So I’ve decided that I’m done apologizing for blogging absences. Nobody follows Nine to Phive closely enough that they are devastated or even put out when I go a little while without posting–okay, nobody except maybe my mom and second cousin. Anyway, I’m back! Rejoice with me!

I hinted awhile back that I was thinking of quitting blogging altogether, the reason being that I didn’t like what it had turned me into. I had slowly become more interested in “living life” in hopes of getting a good blog post out of it than just for the sake of living. Sounds scary, I know, but I think many media-makers, especially journalists and other social storytellers, struggle with this same feeling. There’s an ongoing tension between experiencing one’s life and “capturing” it. Weddings are a prime example. We’re all too busy immortalizing the moment via photos and videos to actually inhabit that moment with our minds, bodies, and emotions. I did not like these qualities in myself.

However, I’ve realized since taking a break from the blog that it turned me into something else as well–a writer.

Well, at least it was trying to. The creative discipline required to make constant contributions to a literary publication curated only by oneself is both invigorating and challenging. It is a very healthy way to get into the habit of simply putting aside time to write. Of course, I didn’t always put aside time to write. That’s why towards the start of my most recent hiatus I was posting a lot of photos, videos, podcasts, links to other sites, and Awkward & Awesome Thursdays. So many Awkward & Awesome Thursdays . . .

I want to tell you about two of my many resolutions in this 22nd year of my life (this last Wednesday was my birthday. I accept your congratulations gleefully!) The first is to be more present. I’ve been working on this since taking a break from blogging in the fall and getting a demanding full-time job around the same time. Both of these things have helped me realize how precious my time is and how I don’t want to miss out. The second is to write more quality content. I want to write well, and I want to write often. I no longer care about views, comments, followers and the other mires in which today’s social storytellers can get entrapped.

I care about making good art.

I’ve realized that I need to keep a blog for me. Not to delight the populace of the interwebs. Not even for my family and friends to keep tabs on my life. I need to do it because I am a writer, and doggoneit, writers write! (Shoutout to fellow storyteller Rachel Henderson for reminding me of this, even if you didn’t realize it.)

What This Means:

You can definitely expect some changes from the Nine to Phive norm.

  • Less posts about me and Josh (and our cats), but seriously, it’s hard to be a writer and completely ignore what’s going on in your own life. We’ll still be around.
  • Not quite so many photos. Josh and I still love photography, but I’m thinking that maybe Nine to Phive is no longer the place for that particular passion. Maybe I’ll start a Tumblr!
  • More words. Sorry in advance to your brain, it just has to be this way 😉
  • Diverse content. Some of the same old, but a whole lot of new. Film, gender identity, food, social justice, comics, travel, experimental performance art, folk culture, mental health, fashion, pop culture controversies, commentary on the works of other storytellers . . . heck, I might even take requests!

I’d like to end this post with a challenge to my fellow bloggers. I know many of you who read N2P regularly are already doing this, as you are among the people who have helped inspire me to make this change, but to the rest of you–

Ask yourself why you keep a blog. If the answer reveals something about you that you don’t like, change it. Commit to saying something that people need to hear.

God bless you, your new year, and all of your creative pursuits! Thanks for reading.