I don’t know art but I know what I like — Unknown
One of my favorite Transformers was Grimlock. He was the leader of the Dinobots, and turned into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Grimlock, following the then-current thinking about dinosaurs, was a somewhat slow-witted fellow. He tended to talk with monosyllabic words, and had trouble grasping large concepts. But, he had a pure heart, and could always be counted on in a fight. I’m sure we all have our Grimlock moments. It’s the times where we want to do our best, but we’re just in over our heads. As much as we want to help or take part in the events around us, we just don’t quite understand what’s going on. I had such a moment on the Vancouver trip, and, as always, it led me to a moody and introspective place.
That first day off of the plane was quite overwhelming for me. We had quite a few ours to kill while we were waiting for Unidentified Human Remains… to start. Chuck and L decided that the local Chapters would be a good place to hang out. I find bookstores to be very intimidating places, just because it reminds me that authors are a dime a dozen, and wanting to write is a very common dream. But, its even worse going with Chuck and L. These people are artists. They could grab just about any book off of the shelf, flip through it, and start talking about the symbolism and parallels and stuff like that. L started looking through this book of pictures by one of her favorite photographers. As she started going on about the lighting and capturing the true essence of the subject, all I could do was stand there, grinning like an idiot. If I opened my mouth, I’m sure I would have said something like, “Me Grimlock LIKE pretty pictures!” Things were just as bad after the play. As we drove back to Chuck and L’s place, they started critiquing the acting and directorial technique. Again, since that was just my first play, I could only sit there, grinning like an idiot, going “Me Grimlock liked play. Play like movie.”
Driving down the darkened streets of Vancouver, I just couldn’t help but think if I had a right to be their friend. This is a fairly typical conversation for them, and I can’t even grasp the basics. Should one tolerate a friend that constantly has to have things dumbed down for them? I think, though, that yes, one should. I mean, I do have somewhat of a fascination with this sort of thing, and if I want to be an artist, continue writing, they might be my best opportunity to learn. And besides, I shouldn’t let our difference in education intimidate me. Chuck has a degree in English, mine is in physics. The arts have always been one of L’s core passions, while it’s just a passing interest for me. While they were learning symbolism in novels, I was learning rocket science. I’m sure that if I were to plot the trajectory of a rocket, they would find it interesting. Once I’ve factored in the rocket’s decreasing mass and increasing acceleration, they would find the resulting three-dimensional integral to be somewhat puzzling. As soon as I scratched out an algebraic matrix on the back of a napkin to calculate some of the unknown constants, they would probably look at me and say, “Me Grimlock like rockets.” So, I probably know things that would make them just as intimidated. But still, I was intimidated. Not by them so much as myself.
I often wonder what exactly I’m doing with this column. Is what I’m doing here art? When artists write, they do things like craft symbols and draw parallels to current events. I do none of that stuff. Chuck, who aspires to be a comic book artist, is constantly reading a diverse group of graphic novels and trade paperbacks, looking for inspiration and new techniques that he can adapt to his stories. Myself? I don’t read that much. There aren’t very many authors I look to for inspiration. I’ve never read a diverse amount, looking for new techniques to call my own. As an artist, L has always been a renaissance woman. She can instantly analyze any sort of artistic piece. Her home was littered with a variety of sketches and photographs that she had made all throughout her educational career. Myself? I’ve never had that sort of diversity. There are still many things in this world I struggle to analyze. If these are artists, what am I?
I look around and I see that, as an artist, I just don’t have the tools. If I struggle to comprehend some of the most basic concepts, then I can’t be one. But yet, I continue to write. If I am creating art, then I must be an artist. It is then perhaps time to rephrase the question. Is my column art?
To answer that question, I guess we have to start thinking about what my goals are. When Chuck and L begin talking about some of their upcoming artistic projects, they have visions of changing the world. Chuck wants to create the kinds of comic book stories that knock for a loop and drive people into the sort of moody introspection that seems to come naturally to me. There’s nothing wrong with that. I enjoy the cerebral science fiction stories that do that to me. Some of the best are from the original Twilight Zone. But is that what I want to do? I ask myself that, and, as I think it over, I keep coming back to one answer: no.
Throughout most of my artistic endeavors, there has been one common thread. When I made videos for my German class in university, I did so with one goal in mind: make people laugh. In my physics classes, even as I was preparing my papers on the nature of comets and such, I would insert the odd one-liner, just to make the professor laugh. With this column, I don’t try to stop and make you think. My goal is to make you laugh, or at least forget your problems for a little while. I guess, then, I’m not an artist. I’m an entertainer.
Chuck kept throwing this quote he attributed to Neil Gaiman in my face. Something about how cake tastes good and all, but you can’t live on it. That’s all well and true, but do you really want to live on a diet of liver and broccoli? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the baker, is there? Chuck and L can make you eat your spinach. Come to my place later, and I’ll slip you some chocolate. Sure, there might be someday when you come for chocolate, only for me to hand you more liver, but not yet. I don’t want to yet.
There will still be times in the future when Chuck and L begin their discussions, and I’m once again lost. They will be talking about symbols and such, and I’ll just sit back and try to learn. But I won’t feel as overwhelmed any more. I have a clearer idea of what I’m trying to accomplish here. It all goes back to my favorite filmmakers. Chuck and L want to be Darren Aronofsky. I want to be Mel Brooks. Me Grimlock getting this figured out. Now, Me Grimlock going to chill on beach.