Sunday, December 28, 2008

simple pleasures post--awkward carpool edition

There are few things more thought-provoking than an awkward carpool with a random, slight acquaintance who is bordering on being mostly a stranger. Not only is it cost-productive and energy efficient, hitching a ride from upstate to NYC is like performance theatre--you're given a shot to not only learn some new and foreign take on the world--but you're asked to participate and create your own as well. The best situation is with someone you have a slight memory of in your past, who has some personal/relational connections (so you're not silent the entire 3-hour trip), but is distant enough that you will probably not see or hear from them for another few years (making it easier to conscience a fib or two on your end).

With the onslaught of voyeuristic--scratch that, M.Snowe means--social networking sites, it's become more and more easy to set up these impromptu car-ride visitations. Such an acquaintance (we'll call him "John") made this very transportation-proposition to M.Snowe a day before she was scheduled to head back to NYC, on what promised to be a very noisy, uncomfortable train ride back, once more, into the concrete trenches. M.Snowe quickly agreed--she loves new adventures into the unknown lifestyle reaches of old grade-school classmates.

After exhausting all talk of other people we mutually knew (ex. "Did you hear she got pregnant straight out of high school?" or "My grandma knows your mum from getting her prescriptions filled at the Rite Aid on Eastern."), it was time for John to turn down the ACDC and actually make reference to himself, and vice-versa.

It should be said that John had come across our path before--randomly at a social occasion in Boston, dressed as a movie character on Halloween. At that point, the situation was assessed and we realized, while we wouldn't ever be "besties," John was decent and friendly, despite a slight, what you might call "post-frat sheen," (which has something to do with too many beers and a style of talking that is usually heard on Friday nights at the local college campus). But the kind spirit was enough to secure M.Snowe's calm acceptance of a ride back to the city. M.Snowe isn't always looking for comfort or like-mindedness. Sometimes she just wants to observe, and be entertained.

One observation from these random car-ride glimpses into other peoples' lives is this: Our lives are a lot more diverse, and weirder than we actually think they are. In other words, because we live with our situations everyday, they become normalized to us, even just through repetition or reinforcement. For instance: John relayed to me his apartment situation. In his apartment, he lives with his girlfriend. Normal enough. But also living in his apartment: his younger sister, and her boyfriend. Fine, but weird.

After this strange bit of information, John decided to call all his buddies in preparation for the big party he was attending later. One of his friends was named Cookie. This was a male lacrosse player, by the way. He referred to Cookie, while acknowledging the strangeness of the name, but never explained its origin. M.Snowe has to assume that Cookie isn't actually his real name, but was frustrated to have no back-story. She imagines that perhaps he has strange moles that resemble chocolate chips, or has unfortunate, doughy skin. Hopefully it's not just due to an affinity for the baked good. Perhaps it's better to live in the mystery. At least she knows that this name actually has traction in the real-world of this old classmate, outside her wildest comedic dreams.

The best part of the ride came as we approached the city, and were getting ever-nearer to the George Washington Bridge. The afternoon had faded from a partial sunlight to a completely clouded and eerily foggy mess--the cars zoomed in and out of sight, and the trees ahead were barely visible through the thick clouds of condensed air. John turned to me and said "have you ever seen the movie The Mist?" Surely, M.Snowe hadn't. He went on to recreate the story, complete with spoiler ending: The Mist was the sign that evil animal creatures would overtake you and eat you alive. The very end of the story follows a car of four people--a father, son, the father's lady-friend, and another random girl. The mists are about to overtake the car as it has run out of gas, and the father has a gun with only three bullets. Instead of seeing his son and the women eaten alive, he uses the three bullets to kill them, and then awaits his own death at the hands of the creatures in the mist. Only after the apparent euthanizing does the father realize it was not the creatures approaching, but the help they had been so sorely seeking throughout their journey away from the monsters--the father had killed all three unnecessarily. Given the morbid and hilarious nature of such a tale, M.Snowe found it relevant, if not to this car ride, then to the experience of carpools and similar possibly-uncomfortable situations as a whole. We are quick to kill things before we can even see the dangers. Foresight is one thing, blind fear of the unknown is quite another. So do yourself a favor and allow the foggy memories of a past time to take the wheel once and a while, literally or figuratively speaking. You never know what you might discover. Also, sometimes the terror is just plain funny.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Ocular Renaissance

This weekend, M.Snowe found herself at her other apt. overlooking the park (yeah, right!): the Met. (Note: M.Snowe isn't trying for pretension here, but merely suggests that given the amount of time she's there, the docents could justifiably start charging rent). Like any reasonable perspective tenant, M.Snowe surveyed the newly renovated space, which this month consisted of an exhibit, "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy." What first struck M.Snowe was the deep, rich color of the walls that housed this new installment, and sadly or otherwise, the depth of the walls was almost as impressive as the first few rooms's art, which was largely marriage goods (such as plates and jars). While some of the jugs and starter plates looked like recent acquisitions from a Medici-themed Pottery Barn, the dark cobalt blues of the wall washed over the art. The red of the next room was that of creamy indulgence--an intense red with brown undertones, a color similar to the tint of someone's blood as it has just begun to dry. The high ceilings made the rooms impossibly enveloping, and for the first time in a gallery, M.Snowe realized the empty walls are just as much of a canvas.

As the exhibit progressed, the walls got drabber, or at least unnoticeable--but the paintings increased in number and intensity. The paintings increased in a way directly proportional to the number of naked women on display, which isn't entirely unexpected in Renaissance art. M.Snowe takes great satisfaction in the idea of people in the "dark ages" and the Renasissance that came afterwards appreciating realistically portrayed women's bodies, if nothing else (because to be a woman in the Renaissance, like most ages, was a bum deal). This isn't to say the women weren't idealized--but somehow the definition of beauty seemed a bit more broad than today's version.

Browsing the paintings and their respective titles and artist names, M.Snowe was faced with a very general observation--the Met, or more likely whoever comes up with the titles of pictures, are just a little bit sexist, or at least a bit unbalanced. Not talking specifically of this exhibit, M.Snowe understands that curators often give names to paintings that are otherwise untitled by simply describing the major factors of the painting, for example: "Portrait of a Man,"or "A Bouquet of Flowers in a Crystal Vase." Many, many pictures, especially in the European paintings rooms of the Met, were the simple "Portrait of a Woman"--many more than the men. Why are the men more accurately labeled? Was it due to some lack of records on the female paintings, because they were females and Renaissance painters didn't feel the need to give names? Perhaps they were more fictional women, making naming unnecessary? Unless at least minor nobility, the "real" women often remain unnamed, and though men in portraits also were sometimes unidentified, the anonymous women outnumbered them sizeably. M.Snowe wasn't shocked or surprised, as the same situation happens in literature, etc., but what struck her most this time was the way that some unidentified women were described. For instance, M.Snowe came upon a captivating portrait of an anonymous youthful woman with a pale face, and fresh eyes, in the Renaissance exhibit. Her eyes seemed to leap out at you--they were alive. But looking at the caption, it said: "Young Woman in a Green Dress, Holding a Box." M.Snowe had to look again--and sure as the label, she was wearing a green dress (at least you could see the emerald neckline) and she held up a small metal casket, very Portia-esque. But the fact was M.Snowe had noticed neither of these attributes. The woman had been measured by her accoutrements--as if she was a vase or tapestry. It was nearly impossible to find any male portraits that described them "in blue suits" or "wearing pointy hats," etc.

M.Snowe is most definitely over-analyzing, but she can't help it--given a person's way of viewing art is often how they view beauty, and that translates into desire, which further develops and speaks to everything we are and do--it is blatantly Darwinian. The Renaissance artists valued the human form, the eyes, the pose of lustful anticipation--and they were less concerned with the outer shell of insignificance--more concerned with the emotional connection formed between art and art-viewer. Are we more worried about dressing up or analyzing what is already naturally beautiful? Have we lost focus?

PART 2 : Ocular Communion
Renaissance (and to some extent Medieval) artists believed that art was a form of transcendence for the viewer--that paintings were not a one-sided transaction, but a mutual communication that allowed the viewer to be inwardly effected by the external triggers engineered with the piece of art. Scoff if you will, but the concept still exists in a lesser form today--most believe that art has some emotional, philosophical, or other-mental effect on the viewer. But Renaissance thought held that when viewing an erotic portrait, the viewer could literally enter into raptures. Talk about hard-core porn. And funnily enough--the same raptures were said to take place when viewing religious iconography. In today's world, we are so used to, bombarded, and gorged with images that they no longer take any effect. They are commonplace--completely unspecial. These paintings were singular and unique to the Renaissance viewers, they held power and sway over the audience unlike most things could do today. In a sense, this kind of art has become the marijuana of our generation--it gets us hungry but we've moved onto much harder drugs sometimes just for shock-value (which also explains the deterioration of good taste). M.Snowe thinks the test of good art and good life is when something, or someone, is able to force a rapture by the simplicity of ocular communication--eye to eye consumption. Who would've thought just looking could be so sexy?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Definition (and Necessity) of True Hate

(M.Snowe doesn't have a good handle on the nature of love--but she does know a thing or two about hate.)

The most common misconception when people form their definition of hate is this: it is the opposite of love, and the opposite of love can be defined as an anguished ire at a person, place, or thing. The opposite of love engenders ill-will and anger; it eats away at our good natures.

While all these things may very well be hate (as we commonly use the word), or at least hatred--this definition is not true hate, and certainly does not make up the opposite of love.

The opposite of love, or the concept of true hate, is smothered up and suffocated by one simple word: apathy. No matter what your definition of love, indifference would be its counter. Because no matter what, when you love, some emotions must be involved. When you truly hate, you are stoically separate--completely cut off, and often at peace with the notion that you have no reactions and no concern. True hate is like an inner death, an oblivion. True hate is a part of all of us. For instance, when those outside our circle of concern suffer, and we feel no worry and express no sense of alarm or wish to help--that is true hate; and the worst form at that. We all are truly haters in the larger scheme of this strangely plotted world, whether we admit it or not--it would be impossible to care about everything.

Reading As You Like It, it is clear Orlando despises his brother Oliver, and rightly so. But his hate is tested to the extreme: walk away into the forest, and his brother surely dies by the teeth of the lioness. Stay and fight the creature, and he lives. Some might say the opposite of love is to seek out and murder, the destruction of life. M.Snowe says it would be to stand by, unaffected, watching a murder--and feeling nothing at the destruction of a life. Had Orlando simply kept on walking, both siblings would have been damned, Orlando truly expressing the ultimate opposite of love. Orlando's decision to save Oliver may not have been out of love, but out of something baser, and something that allows us to pity. It was a good thing.

While M.Snowe thinks true hate should be used sparingly and with good counsel (and never when a life is in jeopardy), she can't help but think also that perhaps, in some cases, true hate is a gift to human nature that we should utilize. Disregard is a powerful weapon that is hard to establish and execute, but can be absolutely beneficial.

Apathy can, in some circumstances, be something to aspire to.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Problems with English.

M.Snowe used to think bocce ball was “babci” ball, named after people like her grandmother, a Polish “Babci” who was faintly perfumed with pickled herring and shuffled around lightly in quilt-patterned slippers until two in the afternoon. It was always satisfyingly ironic to think that the goal of bocce was to get your colored balls close as possible to the main ball, whereas Babci made no effort to get close to her grandchildren, as if the idea of intimacy was in any way a game-winning aspiration.

Sometimes spelling things and forming concepts of words is difficult when you're young. If you pronounce something wrong the first time you come across it and continue to do so for a while, then for the rest of your life, while you know the “correct” spelling and pronunciation, you may be condemned to remember your misinterpretation every time you see or hear the word. For the longest time during childhood, M.Snowe thought “approximate” meant exact—for no other reason than the word sounded official, and had the thrust of judicial finality, like a word you might find in a legal dictionary. But we are all in a state of nolo contendere against Webster’s 5th. But the effect has been that now, whenever someone "approximates," M.Snowe gets the sneaking suspicion they know more concrete facts than they’re letting on.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Defense Against Fear-Mongering Women into Submission.


A Modest, Concerted Proposal

Last night, M.Snowe was at a concert for one of her new favorite bands, who will probably turn out to be a one-CD-wonder (which is all the more reason to go and see them now when they're at the probable apex of their career). The music was good, the crowd was large and loud, and there was a fair mix of people of all ages, sexes, etc. (although naturally, it was a pretty white crowd, given the performers were skinny punk dudes from the UWS influenced by an eclectic mix of ska, African, and classical music). But what really grinds M.Snowe's gears was this: after the concert, while approaching the coat-check, a group of young men, without any pretense, yelled "Sex!" right in my friend's, and my own face, and preceded to stare us down like we were a steak they ordered at the chophouse. And some other dudes definitely tried to feel us up in the horde of people approaching the exits. Whatever, all these guys were obviously assholes, or at the very best just drunk, but either way, it got M.Snowe thinking about how some men assert themselves in such stupid, yet completely power-affirming ways.
M.Snowe could decide to try and bitch out these jerks (and all jerks who do similar things), but in the larger scheme of things, all that does is acknowledge an inability to counteract it--it makes me a hard-done-by victim--and these guys probably get their jollies from seeing feisty girls "act all defensive and shit." Isn't her anger adorable? Or super hot?
The real problem is, no matter how M.Snowe responds, guys like this will inevitably interpret the response in ways that cannot escape the fact that yes, she is female. So what's a femiladyist to do?
Here's one suggestion: give it right back to them. Women should do exactly as men do. Yes, this might sound first-wave-feminist crazy, but just think about it--it's like a form of social disobedience. M.Snowe doesn't suggest anything too despicable, but she modestly proposes that women need to think more with their own sexual organs, and their respective needs, instead of some dude's. Women should not blush at the idea of yelling out requests for sexual favors, or even giving a friendly pinch once and a while. If everyone did this, then it would no longer be seen as the determinant of whether a woman is a floozy (because let's face it--there's a huge double-standard where, in sexual situations, outgoing men are super cool but women are just whores). Once the playing field is level, everyone will see the utter ridiculousness of continuing such pursuits. And perhaps that's why women aren't as ridiculously/publicly sexually assertive in most cases--because some men make out-of-bounds sexual comments and act disrespectfully, and women immediately recognized the stupidity of it all, and abstained from such behavior. Hopefully, if those abusive dudes begin to feel the sting of their own harassment, they would get wise. Unfortunately, it would take awhile, given that these guys would treat it as a new game. But soon enough they'll feel like pieces of meat. And hey, M.Snowe isn't asking you to eat your young--she's just modestly proposing a social counter-revolution. Enjoy the concert.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sub-Poetry (#1)

[M.Snowe creates quiet found poetry from the warnings and ads on a noisy N Train]

#1---N Train

Spicy Character
Take One,
Do Not Hold

Dark wheat.

Do Not Lean
The next


** If you find some poetic subway verses--please send them on, and please note what train you found it on. M.Snowe wants to collect at least one poem from every Train.**

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Autumnal/Winter Meditation

Sometimes M.Snowe considers our "choices" as just a clever name for unavoidable circumstances. Self-determination is a fact, but underneath the Self, who is pulling those Determinant strings? M.Snowe doesn't think she has the right or the ability to name it.

Going back home, moments of meditation often occur right at this juncture--the entryway to a well-known street, with two seeming choices. You can no longer go straight, but must turn. You must alter your path--it involves manuvuering, and composure--a steady hand, especially in icy weather. Sometimes, it might seem easier to sit at the edge of the road, and peer down each way, or perhaps turn back.

Anyone who knows the area will tell you that if you turn left, the street continues, with copious houses and a turnoff onto the main street through town. If you go right, you hit a dead end, and a few hidden driveways. M.Snowe realizes that while she always turns left, her choices end up pulling her inner reflections irrevocably to the right. (clarification: "right" has nothing to due with political leanings, for certain.) And she's not alone. Charging down the main street, pulling up to residential spaces--all our thoughts are ensnared by that dead end, and the hidden driveways that surely hold nothing more than a junkyard, nothing less than our captive imagination. But we have promises to keep. And miles to go before we sleep.