Oct 21, 2012

Remember Laughter?


This blog was started as a means of celebrating a sense of "play," both in work and in life. Lately that element has gone sorely missing in my life.

Amidst stresses personal and professional, playfulness is often the first thing to be jettisoned; it's as if the dour responsibilities of adulthood stand diametrically opposed to smiling whimsy of play. Why is this? Why do we dump fun things when the going gets tough? Maybe we have to give ourselves permission to have fun, without any guilt "oh-I-should-really-be-doing..." Maybe we have to give up our inherent need to please everyone around us. Maybe we have to throw open the door to a tiny bit of fun chaos every now and again.

An old friend visited recently, which afforded the opportunity of pulling out some old toys we used to share, enjoy, and occasionally war over as kids. In that magical moment, all the trappings of our dour adult lives got put aside: the complicated jobs, the painful relationships, the pressing money issues, the maybe-maybe-not plans for tomorrow, the droning ugly siren's call of Monday morning. Silliness and imagination took precedence; neural pathways of joy were blasted open in a joyous expression of carefree loveliness. Nothing else mattered but living in the moment of our shared creativity. It wasn't a drunken series of incidents, either; amidst bites of tomatoey veal and sips of red wine, there erupted much laughter, as we posed superheroes and bits of every day ephemera in a sort of cacophony of cartoon surrealism. Our old worried selves became carefree kids once more.

I'm thinking about those moments of play a lot right now as I face a particularly stressful series of situations yawning, with ugly, hooked fangs, before me this coming week. Something about the joy of that experience feels light, instructive -redemptive, even -and beautifully pristine, as if I can always return to the warm, nurturing arms of play. Those arms are never really as far away as I'd imagine. I don't have to wait for the proverbial "tinkle trunk" to access that joyousness: it's already there. Just takes a bit of reminding, a bit of time away from the computer, thinking everything has to be done right away, this very instant. Allowing myself permission to laugh freely at silly things is good. Giving myself permission to smile is grand. Discovering I had the keys to the kingdom all along is a shock. There's a sort of divinity at work I'd never imagined.



A few superheroes still sit on the kitchen table. Far from being false idols, they're talismans, reminders, fortifiers. Cheerleaders for play. Adulthood doesn't have to be all misery; sometimes it's good to allow play in to brighten up the room, the week, the grey pallor of grown-up-hood. I'm glad I did. We plan, God laughs. Maybe it's time I started laughing more.

Oct 10, 2012

Look and Like

This is my most popular post on Tumblr. Hell, it's probably my most popular blog post. It's not my most popular post online ever... yet. What makes this photo so beloved? How did it earn 1,313 notes, exactly?

I came across this in June as part of the Hyperallergic newsletter that lands in my inbox twice a week.

"Oh," I thought, "that's kind of pretty and creative - I bet the kids om Tumblr would like it." It has just enough unusual-ness, mixed with just enough eye-catching design, and a certain crafty appeal that made me think it'd be perfect.

Um, yes?

I do stop and wonder if anyone who's liked or reblogged this from me has actually tried this; more than that, I'm curious how much traffic Sugar Nails (the originator of the photo) has seen from it. But mostly, I'm amazed - just flat-out amazed - at how much Tumblr-ers like and share this around. One thousand-plus notes?! Wow.

My big regret is that I didn't pull a meta-moment and take a photo of this to stick on Instagram - because the popular photo-sharing service has now surpassed Twitter for users. How many more "likes"? How many more "notes"? How many more shares? Following the numbers can be a breathless business, and more than a little addictive. It's nice to be popular, even (or especially) when you don't have to reveal a thing about yourself in the process. No one knows whether or not I paint my nails, or indeed, I may've tried the nail art above (confession: I haven't). But the more I work in digital journalism, the more I'm determined to keep my private life private; I curate what I share from my real life the way I do with links, news, @s, photos, and status updates. But what to do when something awfully personal goes viral? How would I feel if an awfully personal aspect of my life had 1,313 notes?

Online culture is, in many ways, a numbers game: how many followers, how many "likes", how much, and how fast. It's less about originality (hey, these aren't my nails after all, much less my photo) and more about who's first and who gets noticed when. That can ratchet up personal drama online, resulting in a sometime-CAPS-lock style proselytizing. Some are able to channel drama into a meaningful expression and assessment of their experiences (see: my friend Diana Rodriguez' smart blog). Some are able to build a solid brand through their particular sort of online sharing. And yes, I could gain tons more followers by publicizing various aspects of my life, but the price feels too high.

And so, I find photos of things I find curious, interesting, share-worthy, and I post them, and people share. Sometimes they share my professional (/original) work -which is even better. Every time that happens, I'm reminded of my gratitude toward my followers across various online platforms -my Facebook subscribers, my Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter followers, my blog and Digital Journal readers: I'm grateful for all of them -you, that is -and always will be, nails or no nails. Now here's a neat online thing - please like and share it!

Oct 1, 2012

Up There

"Everyone should see this."

That was my first thought upon leaving Discovering Columbus, the new art project from Public Art Fund in New York. There's so much going on in Tatzu Nishi's incredible installation -from climbing the six stories, to the views, to the wallpaper and TV in the "living room" -that it's hard to take in on one visit alone. Beautiful, deep, shallow, troubling, whimsical... it's a lot of things at once, just like its (immense) subject matter, America itself.

Nishi comes at Russo's statue of Christopher Columbus, and its busy locale, with an outsider's perspective; I was especially taken with the books lining the shelves in the installation. The works of Woody Allen, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, Malcolm Gladwell, Jeffrey Toobin and Steve Jobs and many more were like little glints of inspiration, offering exquisite, lacey detail to the fantastically-fitting dress that is Discovering Columbus. The statue itself is scary up-close -scary, and perhaps a bit bitchy; the exaggerated pose, hand on hip, imperious stare, and judging expression wouldn't be out of place anywhere in Manhattan.

I'm in the midst of putting a feature together on it - but seriously, GO AND SEE IT.

Addendum: Feature is now up. Go see! Go like! Go comment! Yay!