Creativity, Questioning Authority and Reality

            It was my last year in college and I was going to graduate soon but one of the classes I needed to graduate was a beginners photography class.  I had jumped through all the hoops of the assignments through the semester and finally it was coming to the final project, which I had already picked out in my mind, but it was at the end of class when the professor had brought in this video. 

            The video showcased a New York artist who was gaining a certain amount of notoriety because of what she was doing.  She was taking pictures of objects that were painted over so that way when she took the photograph the prints came out looking like painted pictures.  It was a novel idea but what struck me the most about the irony or rather the hypocrisy of this artist was how she said that, “regular photography and portraits just seem so setup.  That they were setup beforehand.”  And instantly, my cognitive dissonance kicked in because I felt that she was doing the exact same thing as she was criticizing.  So, in essence, it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 

            And it was from this video that I began to question quite a few things.  The first stemmed from a similar frustration that I was having with the publishing world that books like “Twilight” and so on were getting published and yet dozens of people who had so much better work were getting rejection letters.  Myself included.  Though I’m not saying my work is great but I would hope that I’m at least a step above “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey”. 

            In my frustration and annoyance I brought this point up with the instructor about how it seems certain creativity within certain limits seems to be more rewarded than creativity that goes beyond those limits.  And that brought me to academia and how it seems that creativity is handicapped and stunted with how we, the students, go through these assignments in which so many walls, borders and boundaries are thrown up around is that we have to push our ideas through a cookie-cutter shaped hole.  The words I used for this was that “our creativity seems to come out the exact same shape and consistency like some kind of Play-Dough Fun Factory.” 

            Of course, the instructor was not happy with me about this.  She took me aside and told me never to impugn her in front of the class again.

            Then there were my friends and classmates who brought up the same question that my instructor brought up in this discussion which was, “Why was I in college?”  At the time I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, but looking back on it now I think that the best and honest answer was, “Because I was told to.” 

A Question of Oscar Wao and Literary Fiction

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The French Writer Gustave Flaubert once wrote “A man is a critic when he cannot be an artist, in the same way a man is an informant when he can’t be a good soldier.”  So, given the fact that I am a writer and an artist, might it give me liscence to be a critic?  Perhaps so, but in either event I still want to make this piece known.

A while back, while I was in college, I had “read” or rather was instructed to read this book “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” after I finished I was asked to write an essay about it and I used that essay in my review at Amazon and I also want to write it down here.

“Some may call me a typical geek but I really don’t understand how a book like this gets the attention and praise of critics. Just seems that whenever it’s a book about real life and people doing nothing that somehow we’re supposed to come away with some deep meaning about life itself. When really the story of Oscar Wao seems to be one long drawn out reason of why suicide seems to be such a better option.

And really if one were to want to read that then I say read Chuck Palahniuk. At least then he’ll lay out those observations in front of you.

The title “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is already suspect of either being ironic or just being a really bad joke on Junot Diaz’ part.  For a start we have Oscar Wao whose life seems to be a never-ending road of misery, pain, and suffering. Starting with the obvious of how he is made fun of given the fact that he is overweight up through where his love of “the genres” makes him an easy target by his peers and classmates.

Then there are the “relationships” that he’s had which always seem to turn out badly. Such as the beginning where he’s in love with two girls (Maritza Chacón and Olga Polanco) at once and up through Ana whom he tries to “protect” from her physically abusive boyfriend.

One would think that after that he would have learned what a temporary insanity love can be.

Given all the events that Oscar has had to endure through the course of the tedious 335 pages maybe it is a good thing that he died in the first place. After all if life is going to be that bad then why live through it? Though it is a shame that Oscar, in his readings, never read the philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche otherwise he might have gotten a greater warning or heads up on how miserable life can be and is going to get, especially in his case given what the author puts him through until his death at the end of the book.

All in all, never since “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer had I been asked to read a more teeth-grinding read of a book.”

As I mentioned before with how in literary fiction there is the recurring theme of ordinary people doing ordinary things and coming away with an exestiantial epiphany about the meaning of life, the more I thought about this, the more it occurred to me that literary fiction like this is really just Reality TV dressed up as art.  Yet, for some reason, whenever an author’s work is put out, they are given their ISBN stamp and some self-important media type who tells everyone what to think says that this book is great and that the author is a genius, somehow everyone else is supposed to follow suit and anyone who doesn’t is “small minded”.

And so, I leave with this question:  what is the real point of fiction?  To make ourselves feel better about our own reality or just to try to get away from it?

The Dawn Room

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Recently, I came across a flash video called “The Dawn Room“.  After seeing this flash video it really is a wonderful breath of fresh air on the Internet.  More often than not when it comes to expressing one’s sadness through the web in the hopes of reaching out to another understanding soul, one is often met with such coldness and callous sentiments like: “Man up”, “Grow a pair, “Grow a spine”, “stop being so emo” and the list goes on.

It’s comforting to see that there is still human compassion that remains in an otherwise unemphatic and frigid net culture.

In showing this to a friend of mine, her response was, “There’s a lot of feel good crap on the internet.  It’s no different than a boy band making a song for ‘you’.”

Hearing that, my thoughts began to think about the contrast between this video and the status quo of the internet I had to ask myself the question of whether our technology has made us as cold and numb to human compassion and empathy as the machines that we use?