Art, Nudity and Necessity

On Friday night, I kicked off my weekend by going with a friend – an arts journalist – to a theatre production wrapping up its run.

Overall, I liked the play and its messages.  (You can visit Play Anon’s blog for her take.)

But near the end, the leading actor (and central character) – in what would have been the emotional height of the play – took off ALL his clothes and just stood there on stage. Stark naked.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taken aback.

A couple of times, I cast a sideways glance at my friend. She was partially covering her mouth with her hand. I could only guess at any number of things that could have been running through her head. But among them, she probably wasn’t thinking:

“I can’t believe I’m looking at this guy’s junk.”

Sophmoric and unsophisticated? Well, I’ve never professed not to be.

But it did get me to thinking … Was this necessary?

I know I’m not asking an original question. But I think it’s one occasionally worth raising.

When is seeing an artist nude crucial to the message they’re trying to convey? And when it is just gratuitous ? 

With respect to the production I saw – and without going into much detail – I think I understood why he did it. Within the context of the piece, he used his body to represent, among other things, vulnerability and discomfort at facing a personal truth.

That also probably meant also getting us to face our own personal discomforts … making us in the audience feel just as uncomfortable  … to address the matter head on (so to speak).

For as he stood there in all his naked glory, save for his pair of socks, I found it difficult to look at him – and to look away.

Was it relevant? In this case, yes, I think so. But I still hold my reservations.

I’ve never considered myself to be the most liberal person around – who truly is? But I don’t think I’m a complete prude, either.

Neither is the friend with whom I saw the play. But I think even she has her limits.

When we hung out on a previous occasion, she recalled going to an art charity event a few weeks earlier. One actor – a friend of hers – did this piece in which he performed au naturel.

She said the performance made her a bit mad. She felt as if her colleague had gone for that “gotcha” moment, doing his bit naked, because he thought he could get away with being able to do it for art’s sake.

I remember another instance, a handful of years back, in which I went to the film festival here in town. A friend of a friend had a free movie ticket at the last minute; I thought, why not?

Granted, when she was like, “We’re going to see a sex film,” almost gleefully, I knew what I was getting into.

The film itself – based on the blurb I read beforehand – focussed on the anatomy of a relationship from just the physical perspective.

Was there nudity? You bet. Was it explicit? Yes. Was it a cinematic achievement? Hardly. I just thought it was a bit excessive.

Looking back, I wonder: did I just spend almost two hours in a theatre on that late summer evening watching glorified pornography? Or art?

Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. So consider this:

For the last couple of spring semesters, another friend of mine – a high-school art teacher – goes through the process of finding people to work as nude models for her students’ sketch class. 

Is this acceptable?

To me, I don’t see a “gotcha” element to this. It’s for educational purposes – learning to sketch and draw a live form.

Do I think it’s the only acceptable circumstance? No, of course not.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll see nudity in an art piece or production. Perhaps as I see more of them, my personal standards will expand.  

Or maybe I’ll never stop questioning its relevance.

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I, The Kite-Killer

Miscellaneous 022As a kid, one of the things I’d look forward to during warmer weather was flying kites with my dad.

I remember he’d bought this one kite, which I think was supposed to be shared between my younger brother and me.

I can picture it in my mind: black, plastic, triangular-shaped – “delta”, I think the design’s called – with two, bloodshot eyes, and a little ragged “tail”.

We’d go to the park nearby and he’d show us how to get it up in the air, providing there was enough of a breeze.

When there was a good wind, man, how high that thing could go! It would dart and swoop. And when it was time to go home, he’d reel it in and off we’d go.

It’s memories like these that sadden me as I say the following:

I now HATE kites. Okay, maybe “hate” is a strong word. But they irritate me.

It’s not as if they’re bigger and more ostentatious these days. Or that they make annoying sounds or give off crazy emissions.

It’s almost as if there are TOO MANY kites. Kite pollution, if you will.

The source of my irritation:

There’s a huge park close to my parents’ house. On warmer, windier days like the ones we’ve had lately, people and their kids are over there flying their kites by the dozens. 

Kites of all colours, shapes and sizes … that seem to hang suspended in the air … that list and dip and dive … that soar to incredible heights …

And then end up dangling into – or over – our backyard.

Grrrr.

Yes, I sound like a miserable, Grinchy neighbour. I should have a heart and think of the children.

I completely agree. But here’s the problem:

‘Cause of the great heights, these kites drift over, and the string gets caught and all knotted around something – the edge of a roof or the top of a tree.

Most of the time, the kites are too high to retrieve, so they’re left twisting in the elements, to “decompose” for the rest of the year.

Sometimes you can reach the string. But it’s so taut, it can cut your fingers as you try to pull it down.

Even if you successfully get the kites down, you can’t even return them to their rightful owners, because the friggin’ things flew over from almost a kilometre away.

Worse still, there’s kite string EVERYWHERE. Which means some animal will probably end up choking on it.

The picture above was taken last Sunday, when the weather conditions were prime for kite-flying. And bingo – not one but TWO kites dangling in our backyard.

So THAT’s what I did when I got my hands on them. And they weren’t the mass-manufactured types, either. Someone’s dad or grandfather probably helped make these.

Do you know how much that SUCKED to toss them out?

Oh, but yes. I, the Kite-Killer, feel pain for these innocent wind-vehicles of joy. But hey. This property ain’t big enough for the three of us.

I suppose there’s no real “solution” to this problem.

So for now, I will have to continue crushing little kids’ summer hobbies with a pair of scissors and the recycling bin, until flying season is over …

And the kites that survive are stored away.

Why I Want to Write Books, Reason # 3

“Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed … I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph.

“I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”

– Rapper Kanye West in a recent interview, on why he doesn’t like reading books. He is the co-author of the book, “Thank You And You’re Welcome”.

<smites own forehead>

 Seriously? SERIOUSLY.

Um, Kanye? Books can actually be like TV shows. If you don’t like the one you’re looking at, you can CHANGE it.

Oh, and by the way? If you haven’t seen this (it’s been out for over a year), I think you should:

As for all you folks who have kids who “don’t like books”, please keep them away from me.

Because if I see them, I will smite THEIR foreheads. Repeatedly. And then you’ll have to call the police.

Siiiigh. I think it’s now time for a lie-down …

To Tweet (Or Not To) …

twitter_logo

Once upon a time, there was Friendster.

Then it was replaced in popularity by other social sites, like hi5 …

Then MySpace. And of course, the Facebook.

And now? Twitter.

Do I join? Or renounce?

I’d been doing a pretty good job of the latter … until a former co-worker of mine – who’d since left to work overseas – sent me an invite through my work e-mail to join.

Since then, I’ve been flip-flopping between “Bah! I refuse! This thing is a passing fad” and “I dunno … it might be fun”.

I’m in an industry where a number of my peers use it as a communication/networking tool and, I suppose, a way to keep in touch with various friends and colleagues. So in a way, it would be logical for me to use it.

But isn’t that what other already established media  – ie. Facebook, e-mail, cellphones, etc. – are for?

And, while I realize that there are other functions to Twitter as well, the one I’m most familiar with is the Facebook-esque status updates, in 140 characters or less, letting people know what you’re doing – the “tweet”. (Don’t I sound un-hip?)

I bet I’d be FASCINATED the first week or so. But I’m not sure my interest would hold. I mean, unless I’m bungee-jumping off some gorge one day and doing a road trip to a bunch of little towns the next, why would someone want to know what I’m doing? Do people actually care what I’m having for lunch, or where I happen to be going after work?

I’m already highly engrossed in Facebook, to the chagrin of some friends who live an FB-free existence. Could I handle the world of tweets, twit pics and TweetDeck as well?

(I haven’t pressed “delete” on my Twitter invite just yet.)

What do you folks think about Twitter?

Has it got a few miles to go before it hits the dust? Is it here to stay? Or is it the party guest that’s overstayed its welcome?

Grilled Cheese? Yes, Please!

cheesevictoryAt a birthday party over a month ago, a friend and I were talking, and somehow we veered on to the subject of cheese.

Grilled cheese sandwiches, to be exact.

About six minutes later, a funny conversation morphed into a fun idea for a theme party.

And last weekend, my friend threw a grilled cheese sandwich party for his birthday.

Awww YEEEAAAAAH.

To clarify: I am NOT professing to be the first person to ever think this up. CBC Radio 2 held its Grilled Cheese Invitational last Friday, the day before our party, but I had no prior knowledge of it until someone mentioned it to me at the party.  

I’ve also learned that said event was based on/inspired by the original Grilled Cheese Invitational created in Los Angeles six years ago. 

Big disclaimer/acknowledgment aside, this was probably one of THE tastiest party ideas ever.

We were well-stocked with more than enough breads, cheeses, two kinds of butter (plain or garlic) and other “go-with” ingredients to make the magic happen, as well as the crucial tools to bring all these things together …

Two George Foreman sandwich grills.

Oh, but YES.

As a bit of a grilled cheese purist (if you don’t count grilled cheese bagel sandwiches), I loved the party ’cause I got to try different combinations …

Like grilled cheese, marblelized with maple syrup, and sweet, carmelized pear.

Or brie and Nutella. Yes.  Together. (Don’t judge me.)

There are probably only two, if any downsides to this:

(1) If you’re lactose-intolerant or don’t eat dairy, you wouldn’t be at this party. And you’d hate us. And we can’t spread the ooey-gooey love to people who can’t appreciate.

(2) If you don’t come with a big appetite, the novelty of filling one’s  insides with cheese could wear off. But maybe it’s just a matter of pacing yourself … or learning some special technique to stretch your tummy.

But really, I highly recommend trying this at least once.

And if someone were to do this again in future, I’d only have one question:

“What time should I be there?”

Viva la queso!

Changing the Pattern

Although problems seem to be thrust on us by an unfair destiny, they are all made to meausre as a result of our attitudes. We choose the cloth, cut and colour of our garments. If you don’t like what you’re wearing, change the material.

Thus spoke my daily newspaper horoscope several weeks ago.

I’d been at work a little over a week,  and I could already feel the old surliness creeping in.

Not that I consider my horoscope to be a source of absolute truth, but the message that day seemed pretty apt.

Outside of my personal situation, the environment at my workplace hasn’t been the greatest lately. People have been losing jobs. A handful are choosing to take retirement packages. Most are in limbo, waiting to see if their names are on the list of casualties, or be spared in some way.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to struggle between being grateful for working, period, and feeling even more cemented in a rut than ever before.

On top of which, the one thing I thought would be an avenue out of my rut has been roadblocked – for at least the next six months, anyway (if one of my friends – who knows the area I want to work in – is to be believed). 

So over the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly trying to change my attitude and make the most of my job. ‘Cause let’s face it: where I currently am is, for now, not in danger of disappearing. So I might as well try to keep myself busy instead of sitting like a bored little bump on a log.

Hopefully this updated “pattern” can last me at least through the next several months, or until the right material comes along to make a whole new garment.

It has to.

And The Winner Is …

Yes, I know, I know. I should have posted this two days ago WHEN IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. But I had better things to finish writing.

Anyway … In case you missed all the coverage, this is the winner of the most coveted job in the world – six months as caretaker of Hamilton Island off the Great Barrier Reef, promoting the area on behalf of Tourism Queensland.

Sadly, they weren’t Canadian. *sigh*

But their significant other apparently is … so maybe it’s kind of a win-win?

Meh. Either way I’m jealous.

But in all seriousness, to the winner I say, congratulations! You truly do have the best job in the world. And I’ll be happily reading your posts when you begin blogging in July.

(Hell, if I’m going to be house-bound and unable to travel, it’d be nice to live vicariously thorugh someone who’s living the dream!)

And for the rest of you, you can visit the Web site to see the winner pasted atop the front page, and see the application video that caught Tourism Queensland’s attention, if you haven’t already.

Happy Friday!