Fat Mogul vs. Art

I once had a landlord named Art.  We didn’t always get along.  However, this article is not about him.  It’s about the much more obvious topic, the creative arts.

As tends to be my norm here, I’m going to make a broad statement to begin and then spend most of the rest of the time noting how it’s not actually all that true…even if I tend to believe the broad statement.

Art is a thankless endeavor.

Like I said, I tend to believe that’s true.  If you’re creating, truly creating, you’re pouring your heart and soul into something unique, something which is a physical manifestation of your soul.  And just like you thought in high school, not everyone is going to ‘get’ you.

Because Art is subjective.  It means something different to everyone.  Just like everyone sees you a little bit different from everyone else, and everyone definitely sees you quite a lot different than you see yourself, Art just so happens to be something where what other people see is not the same as what you see, or what you intended.

As such, it’s really easy to believe, right off the bat, that even those who may appreciate your Art, just really aren’t appreciating it ‘correctly’.

Of course, we all know that there is no real true ‘correct’ way to appreciate any piece of Art (even if your high school Art Appreciation teacher may have told you differently…or literature teacher…or music teacher…).  Because, again, Art is subjective.

Although I know most of you know what I’m getting at here, I’m going to use an example, just because I happen to have one immediately at the ready.  Pixar has become amazing effective at the emotional pull.  It seems nearly everyone of of their recent movies have had those moments where even the most unaffected of us find it difficult to not have to wipe away a little bit of ocular lubrication.

For my wife (and…you know, not me, not at all, because I don’t actually suffer from tearing up at anything ever), there is no moment in cinematic history where this is more true than the opening sequence for Up…specifically the montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together.  Even more specifically, the moment where they appear to suffer a miscarriage.

This moment brings my wife back to the day we should have been celebrating one year of marital bliss, where we were told that the child we were expecting no longer had a heartbeat.

While I’m sure many who have not dealt with the heartbreak of a miscarriage can see the pain in that sequence, especially considering how quickly it comes after they are preparing a room for their child, this brief moment in the film actually takes my wife right back to that moment.  It’s painful.  Beautifully so, but painful nonetheless.

Because Art is subjective. We take it into ourselves, apply all of our personal experiences to it, and it comes out filtered.  Different.

It’s why so many of these remakes and sequels struggle so much, because people are going into the film with previous knowledge and expectations.  No matter how hard those writers, actors, directors, and every other single person in the film army may have worked to make something truly unique (although, you know, still a rehash of someone else’s hard work), we still go into it having our own thoughts, our own expectations, our own filters. It’s truly amazing that any of these are able to succeed, considering this.  Except…of course…a part of these experiences brings back memories of our time enjoying the original movie.

A person who watches The Force Awakens without seeing any other Star Wars film is going to have a completely different experience than a person who has A New Hope memorized.

That’s a very detailed way of saying, no matter what you intend with your Art, it’s never going to be experienced the way you expect it to.  One last example to get this all completely squared away.  Imagine your most embarrassing moment.  I’m sure you’ve thought that moment over and over again, you’ve considered all the different ways you could have acted differently.  You’ve prepared, just in case it were to happen again.  Looking back on yourself, you may be able to state that you were an absolute idiot.  So is Art.  It’s everyone being able to look in on you from the outside, with their own knowledge and experience, and being able to state that you are an idiot…or not.

When you decide to place yourself out there as an artist, you are putting a piece of yourself out in the world which can’t be changed.  You may look back at it in future days and realize how dumb you were, but that’s you.  A piece of you.  A photograph of you.

But the best Art is the Art that doesn’t care.  The Art that is willing to be wrong, that is willing to be embarrassing, that is willing to truly showcase the heart and soul of the Artist at that one specific point in time.

And this is where Art gets so damned troublesome.  Because, even if you put all of your entire being into something, it doesn’t mean any single person will care.  Because, even though Art is subjective, it’s also incredibly personal.

As an artist, I’m constantly amazed by my artistic friends and their abilities to show confidence amid their insecurities.  To put themselves on display, naked and afraid, and be willing to do it more and more.  I’ve been writing for 8 years now and I still find myself nervous to even tell anyone about it.  Nervous that they won’t accept me for me.

Interestingly enough, it’s never the bad reviews that get me.  I’m actually cool with them.  Someone doesn’t ‘get’ my writing.  I can live with that.  But there’s still some piece of me, deep down, which fears being in that moment when I was young, where a classroom full of kids were pointing and laughing at me because I was too stupid to understand what was going on.  Because I was naive.  Because I just simply hadn’t had all the information.

But I hold on to that fear.  Simply because I’m of the opinion that if your Art doesn’t scare you, you’re not doing it right.  Sure, many of my stories may appear to be rather innocuous.  But they’re all still a part of me.  And sometimes, it’s just really damned hard to be proud of yourself, especially when you’re putting the deepest parts of yourself on display.

Luckily, very few people read anymore 🙂

So, for all you artists out there.  Be proud.  Strip yourself down to your birthday suit (the intention here is figurative, but, you know, to each his own) and show everyone who you truly are.  Because that’s Art.

Fat Mogul vs. Reboots, Remakes, and Rehashes

I am a sucker for nostalgia.  Just this past weekend, in fact, I found a version of the old game, Lode Runner, for my phone and found it incredibly difficult to put it down.  Well, it wasn’t actually the old Lode Runner game.  It was a new version.  Had the basic mechanics, but the puzzles weren’t quite the same.  But still, it was the basic thing.

However, I kept finding myself wishing I were playing the original.

Then I found that they even had the classic levels on the mobile app, just reskinned with their new look.  It still just didn’t quite feel that same, although I did smile at the memorable layouts of gold and bricks.

That is a 100% true story, but one which also does a perfect job of highlighting what I think is 100% wrong with the entertainment of today.

We keep asking for people to redo the things we used to love.

You know when you have that one amazing party.  The one where you and your friends talk about it for years afterward.  And then you decide to do it again, invite all the same people, make sure you have the same music, the same games, the same meal.  You make certain that every single aspect of that party is the same as the first one you all have been dreaming about for years.

And it sucks.

It just doesn’t feel right.

The answer, of course, is because it isn’t right.

Now let’s look at recent entertainment.  Since I’m a big fan of Superman, I’ll use the fantastic example of Superman Returns.  At the time of commencement on filming for Superman Returns, Hollywood had been working on a new Superman movie for decades.  It went through numerous directors, writers, actors, and all around concepts before we got Superman Returns.  One of those versions even included Nicolas Cage as Superman.  That one got far enough that we even have a documentary out about it.

But instead, the movie we got was Superman Returns.  Brandon Routh looked almost exactly like Christopher Reeve, they even decided that it wouldn’t be a remake, or a reboot, that they would just ignore the most recent two movies and say this happened after the second Chris Reeve flick. By all means, it would appear that we were getting the Superman we all loved in our childhood back.  Heck. they even had the guy who directed some amazing X-Men movies come around and take over the show.  With a scene like the opening sequence in X2 with Nightcrawler, this movie should be freaking epic!

And it sucked.

Terribly.

Because it was like that party.  Where we got together all the pieces, but ultimately, we just tried to force people to have a good time, instead of trying to do something legitimately unique and original and fun.

But that’s the problem with Hollywood today (as well as most other avenues of entertainment).   Money is made by convincing people they can have the same fun they had before.  And some folks are even getting good at making movies which make people think they are having the same fun (I’m looking at your Force Awakens and Civil War (yes…fun movies, but not nearly as fun as the movies they were trying to get you to remember)).  What this means is we very rarely today find ourselves getting a truly new movie.  Or even a truly new take on an old favorite.

I believe Batman v Superman gave us a new take, but I totally understand how people wouldn’t get behind it.  I mean, the whole Martha thing is certainly a dealbreaker, but at the same time, it’s not the Batman and Superman people expect.  And the motivations behind all that happened weren’t overtly played out, causing many to question why they were happening at all.  BvS is a perfect example of a movie which tried to make a new party with some of the same pieces, while making people think they were going to the old party.  And most of the people left thinking, “But last time we had popcorn!”.

But then we get Wonder Woman…

Now, I haven’t seen it yet.  Life has just been too stupidly busy.  But I trust my wife’s thoughts about flicks and she came out of it saying it is absolutely amazing.  So did everyone else in the world.  It has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And the source material was almost entirely unknown to a majority of its audience.

I mean, come on, we finally got a full fledged kick-ass female superhero movie.  That’s amazing!  We can ignore how it shares some incredible similarities to the basic premise behind the first Captain America movie (again, haven’t seen WW, just going of the basic concepts).  And it was directed by a woman!  And, from all I’ve heard, has a spectacular script with absolutely no Marthas.

I read one reviewer say something to the effect of “Wonder Woman was the best Superman movie I’ve ever seen!”.

Because it wasn’t a Superman movie.

That’s not to say that the movie wouldn’t be as beloved if it were the script for a Superman movie, I honestly couldn’t say.  What I am saying is that there were very few expectations moviegoers had going in outside of wanting to see a woman kick some ass.

That’s a much easier expectation to cope with than someone who has spent their childhood watching Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, and Tom Welling take on the iconic red and blue.

I’m incredibly eager to see Wonder Woman, both because of wanting to see a female superhero finally get a good flick on the screen (because she’s not the first, it’s just that movies like Elektra and Catwoman were terrible), and also because of my absolute love of the comic book character.  She stands toe to toe with the likes of Batman and Superman and has never gotten the attention she deserves in filmed entertainment.  And I’m definitely happy to see her flick as the first DC movie people rally behind, even if I wish the others had seen some more love.

Or a better movie…I’m looking at you Suicide Squad…

Have fun out there!

Fat Mogul vs. Adulthood

I’m nearly 36, but in my head, I still think of myself as being in my early 20s.

That is until I am woken up at 6am by my five year old son and begin to feel the pains from that short walk I took yesterday, while craving coffee because I feel like I haven’t gotten nearly enough sleep even though I was in bed by 10pm the previous night and I can’t help but fret over the three billion things that need to get done throughout the course of the day even though I’d much rather sit down and play video games for hours on end during the brief period of time between when the kids leave in the morning and when they get back in the evening and I have to get dinner ready and amuse them until bedtime when I can finally actually sit on my butt for about an hour before I simply must fall asleep.

(Just a quick note that although I didn’t mention my wife in any of the previous, she is most certainly involved in the work effort noted above.  However, she doesn’t generally cause me to feel old, until I realize that we’ve been married for nearly 10 years now and have 401ks and a house and all sorts of other stuff that old people have).

I’ve had a difficult time in accepting adulthood.  I feel I do it pretty well.  Just a weekend ago I got complimented on my Dad-flexes (a term which refers to some fathers’ ability to have incredible reflexes when it comes to things like a child jumping to their death from the top of a slide…apparently there are a wide variety of youtube compilations under Dad Saves that you can watch if you’re interested, there’s also a reddit at reddit.com/r/DadReflexes).  But accepting adulthood has been difficult.

That’s probably why I still think of myself as being in my 20s.  Which can be problematic when I find myself with an opportunity to go out and enjoy some beverages until way past my bedtime.  I find myself in need of recovering for weeks afterward. As I write this, I’m still recovering from a night out I had with my wife from weeks ago.  And no, I don’t mean hangovers, because I’m awesome and rarely get them…kinda…I mean just the need to catch back up on sleep.

Of course, part of that is because when I was actually in my 20s, I could take a day to go into a brief coma and recover after weeks and weeks of poor sleeping decisions.  Now as an adult, with kids, a two hour nap on the weekends happens only if the stars align perfectly where I’m caught up enough on tasks to feel I can take a break while also having the kids all nap at the same time as the puppy.

And all this talk I’ve had here has caused me to realize my biggest issue with adulthood…There just isn’t enough time for sleep.

Why isn’t there enough time for sleep?

I have never, in my life, wanted naps as regularly as I have since I’ve officially transferred over to adulthood and the opportunities for them are so few and far between.  I’m not one of those folks who wishes I had listened to my parents more about naptimes as a kid, because I had energy then.  I’m one of those people wondering why kids get all the luck and actually get forced to take naps when I end up having to use the downtime from parenting to do things like weed the garden.

So, I have determined a new life goal for myself, a new form of social responsibility. I’m going to find a way to change the social code in America to enforce a regular nap period.  There’s science behind it, I promise.

Donate now!

 

 

Fat Mogul vs. The Fourth of July

Can there really be anything more American than the Fourth of July?  Obviously it makes sense for it to be such a definitive American moment, what with it being our country’s birthday and everything, but we’ve really taken the whole concept to heart.

Sure, fireworks may be a Chinese invention, but the idea of blowing things up whilst holding a beer (fairly German, right?) in one hand and an apple pie (first found in Britain) in the other, eating hamburgers and hot dogs (both rather German, aren’t they?) while listening to The Star Spangled Banner (Hey, Francis Scott Key was American!) at high volume on our music device which was most certainly made somewhere overseas.  Heck, Democracy first came about in Greece, cowboys originated in Spain, and French Fries are (wait for it…) from Belgium!

But these are just a few of the things many people see as being inseparably American.  This cultural appropriation (to use an en vogue term) is commonplace within the history of the United States and the Fourth of July is a celebration of a moment in history where a population of people from incredibly disparate backgrounds determined that they wanted to become their own nation, their own community, something new built from many things that are incredibly old.

The term melting pot has been used to describe our country (although, it has recently been updated to the much more appropriate idea of a salad bowl) which is, in many ways, a showcase of how America likes to take in new cultures and make it part of their own…well…we used to anyways.

Our current string of nationalism isn’t anything new, but it’s certainly something which strikes hard on a day like our nation’s birthday.  When the tired, poor, and/or huddled masses are no longer welcome, doesn’t that bring one to question the definition of our country?

Now, obviously, at some point there may be a need to limit how many of these masses we allow in.  I’m not saying this definitively, by any means, but just as a philosophical concept.  If all the masses are coming, at some point you’ll reach peak masses allowance.  But I don’t believe that’s the case today.  The case today is that we simply don’t want them.  We fear them.  Those same masses we sought to bring into our nation to allow for a better life are now seen as the masses which will bring us to ruin.

I’m not saying America has always met this ideal of accepting new cultures with open arms.  Just saying the word slavery is a simple way to shoot down how this ideal has had its troubles.  And our current views on groups like the Muslims isn’t anything new, considering items like how many Americans treated the Irish upon their initial arrivals on our soil.

We’ve failed on the ideal so many times.

But the ideal has nearly always been there.

This concept living in the heart of every American that if there is someone in need, we will offer our assistance.

Heck, one of the reasons our nation gives for a majority of our wars is that someone needed our help.  Because we like to be the protector, the father figure, the socially responsible.

But today, I can’t help but feel America is straying from that ideal, that we are looking toward scrubbing ourselves of the old history of being the country that accepts everyone for who they are.  We’ve become a nation focused on ourselves.  And not of ourselves as in as a nation, but ourselves as in each person.

So, on the upcoming 241st birthday of our country, I offer you one thought as you blow up, drink, and eat:  How do we want our country to act with regards to those in need?  Do we turn our backs and suggest that we simply don’t have enough to share?  Do we tell them the country’s full?  Do we close our borders in fear because we simply aren’t strong enough?

Or do we face the need as our country has always pretended it will: with open arms willing to accept those who are simply looking for a place where they can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Have fun out there, and be safe!

Fat Mogul vs. Envy

Hi, my name is Adam Oster, and I am an envy-holic.

Okay, so, I know my life is pretty darn awesome.  I’m fairly certain there are folks out there who envy it.  And I’m definitely happy with the majority of it.

But…I have so many friends who are doing things I wish I was doing or wish I was capable of doing.

Or, so I think sometimes.

Alright, so, to start, the inspiration for today’s post comes from a moment last week when I realized that a friend from high school is starring in the upcoming season of Big Brother (yeah, I didn’t realize it was still on the air either!).  My immediate thought was, “(whining internal monologue) I wish I could be on Big Brother!”.

Which, for the record, isn’t true one single bit.  Not only am I certain I would kick myself off the show within the first few seconds of dealing with the manipulation I’m fairly certain is a strong part of the show, but I’m really not one who wants to be on camera constantly.  Although I love the creative arts, the fame which sometimes comes with it has never been a highlight of that love.  I sometimes find myself appreciating my relative obscurity because it allows me to just be me.

And I don’t think that initial response I had is necessarily all that different from what other folks might have for a response.  It’s the basic grass-is-greener mentality that all too often becomes our initial thought process when seeing that other people have something we don’t.  And, I want to note that this wasn’t a long period of wishing I could be the one to be in the Big Brother house (or whatever term it has…I think I watched one episode once…).  It was an immediate response which was followed by an immediate laughter at myself for the absurdity of the thought.

But, that immediate, albeit fleeting, envy got me thinking about other Keeping up With the Jones’ moments I have in my life.  Quite particularly would be how I spent two weekends ago at a local music festival called Eaux Claires watching people like Chance the Rapper, Francis and the Lights, and Paul “Freakin'” Simon play music a few minutes from the town I have spent the last 20 years of my life.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I remember going into the event with a bit of a dark cloud hanging over me.  Not a huge one, but it was there.  You see, this show was organized by a fellow many might know as Bon Iver.  A local to Eau Claire who managed to hit it big in the music scene (well, you know, big enough to partner up with folks like Kanye West and have a couple of Grammys to his name).

Inside me, not overtly, there was this thought of “(whining internal monologue)I want to run my own music festival!”.

Which, for the record, I don’t.

So, slight background here, Justin and I, for a brief period, ran in some loosely connected circles.  I don’t remember him at all from any of that, and have had to be reminded multiple times by my wife of how we did cross paths.  It’s not like I know the guy or anything.  Heck, when we went to his debut album release party (the one he happened to win a Grammy with), I kept asking my wife why we were going to see this guy I didn’t know at this bar the two of us never liked going to and she would remind me of how we had seen him playing in a different band with one of our friends on a number of occasions.  When his song showed up on a tv show a few months later and my wife noted it excitedly, my response was “Who?”.

I note my obliviousness only to highlight how little my connection to Justin was/is.  Yet, when heading into that music festival, that green little envy monster wanted to scream about how this guy I was loosely connected with had achieved all this success.

I’m proud of Justin.  I really am.  It’s amazing to me that anyone I have any connection with could have reached the level of notoriety he has.

But here’s the thing, I get the same feeling with many of my friends, many of whose success levels aren’t nearly as great.  Like the other guy I saw playing music in that same basement so long ago who has a thriving arts magazine/community development center(Not entirely certain that’s an appropriate label for what his organization has been up to, but I’m sticking with it).  Or my brother-in-law whose effects pedals and synthesizers are used by folks in Nine Inch Nails and Beck and so many other world-renowned bands.  Or another friend of mine from high school whose animation work has ended up being used by Kevin Smith. Or the —

The list literally goes on and on, because not only do I find that I have some incredibly successful friends, or at least friends who are doing amazing things, but this green monster comes out whenever I see someone doing well.  Heck, just seeing that a friend of mine has released another book causes that monster to crop up again.

Each time the little monster appears is just brief before I realize that it’s my response to people achieving their goals, or at least getting closer to them.  There’s a pride that comes up immediately after, which is followed by my own motivation to push myself further forward.  People who are “less-successful” than me still cause that same response.

Because it’s not actually about success. It’s about creativity.  There’s this ripple effect that shoots through me (not unlike a disturbance in the Force) which reminds me that I’m part of this same creative force and I haven’t been pulling my own weight.

I have some amazingly talented friends and I am so incredibly proud of them. But the response to seeing their talents and their successes is not entirely envy, but inspiration.

When I watched Justin on stage with John Prine and…well, he kinda brought every single person he could up on the stage including his sister, my thought wasn’t actually that I wish I was in his place, or that I deserve it better than him.  It was this feeling of how much more I could be doing.

So, friends and family and minor acquaintances, all of you, keep pushing me forward.  It really really helps.  Even if it might cause me to be thinking of my next project while you’re listening to a love letter from Michael Perry on stage with every musician you could cram up there.

But the reality here is, fame is not what I’m envious of.  It’s your creativity and your ability to focus it into whatever art form you’re using.  And envy is really a terrible word to use, because it’s more just a wish that I could dedicate my energies even more to my own creative pursuits.  While also being damned proud of what you’ve done with yours.

Have fun out there and keep being awesome!

 

Fat Mogul vs. Weeding

Someone said something once that went something along the lines of “Weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place.”

But who the heck gave them squatter’s rights?

Seriously, the image I share here, that’s the current state of my garden.

Now, yes, my garden might be a little bit of overkill.  It’s approximately 4,400 sq feet.  Add onto that how we are still in the midst of moving into this new place, tearing down some buildings that our insurance company isn’t a fan of, training a new puppy, housetraining a 2-year old, and, you know, just trying to, in general, live our lives…you’ll see that this is an insurmountable task.

You may also see, in the picture, that’ we’ve now given up on actually weeding the entire plot and utilizing plastic to remediate some of the overgrown weeds. My hopes are high, but even this process is going to take way too long to see any real success.

Because weeds are much worse than just plants growing in the wrong place.  Weeds are evil demons intent of devouring your soul to ensure that you determine gardening is not something you could ever enjoy.

Weeds are the absolute devil, making everything else in your life have to wait as you deal with these simply unwanted plants who are trying to devour the lifeblood of your fruits and vegetables so as to ensure you will go hungry.

That’s right people, we need to wake up.  Weeds aren’t innocent little seeds that fell in the wrong area, weeds are the bullies of the plant kingdom.  Actually, bully might be oversimplifying it.  They are straight up murderers.

And the best thing I’ve got against them is a big sheet of plastic…

So, today’s post is going to be short.  I’ve got some weeds to make pay for their crimes.

Have fun out there!

Fat Mogul vs. Thumbs

My youngest is really good at counting.  He can’t figure out colors for the life of him, but counting is something he’s been solid at for a while.  And he loves to count.  I’ll often find him going through items and listing off how many items he’s gone through up to that point.  Now, he’s two, so I’m pretty sure he can’t quite make it to twenty, but I can say for certain he’s solid up to 14.

And he loves to verify his knowledge of quantities.  He’ll look at me during mealtime and point at his food and tell me, I have two broccolis.  And he’ll repeatedly tell me until I verify that yes, he does have two broccolis.  Then he’ll eat one and ask me how many he has left…because, I think he thinks I need help with my numbers.

So, yesterday, we were sitting around doing whatever we were doing on a rainy day to keep the kids busy, and he holds up his hand to me and asks how many fingers he’s holding up.  He opened and closed his fingers constantly so as to make the number impossible to tell correctly before it would change again.

Which I relayed to him the insurmountable task he had given me, and he finally held up two fingers and said, “is this two fingers, dada?”

I counted to verify.  Counted again, just to make sure he wasn’t tricking me.  And yes, they most certainly were just two.

Then he opened his hand completely and said, “is this four fingers, dada?”

And my response was a stammered one.

Because, of course, like Pluto, the thumb is in a weird place.  It’s sort of a finger, but sort of not.  Just look at Mirriam-Webster’s take.  “Each of the five…” and “especially: one other than the thumb”.

This is because the thumb is quite different than the rest of the fingers.  In fact, many animals have fingers, but so few have these wondrous opposable appendages we call thumbs.

Ultimately, because I didn’t want to get in a huge debate with him over the difference between thumbs and fingers, and I definitely didn’t want to get the question wrong and thereby prove his theory that my math skills are lacking, I told him, No…but I may have put a bit of a question mark at the end of that, in case he was caught up on his phalanges classifications.

He looked at his hand and realized he had held up more than he had intended and worked those digits until he could get just four up, and tested me yet again.

I’m happy to say I passed.

But the question remains, at what point do we teach our children the reality here?  Should we press on under the false pretense that they have ten fingers when, in reality, there are only eight?  Schools teach we only have 8 planets now, even though Pluto is a dwarf planet…I mean, it still has the word planet in its classification.  We don’t generally refer to our thumb as a thumb finger, do we?

In the end, I was too tired to go over toe science at that point, especially with the other two kids in hearing distance, which would mean I would have to go into great details about how the thumb isn’t exactly a finger, but the big toe is still a toe, even though they both have only two phalanges, while the rest of our digits have three.  And then, inevitably, this would bring us to the necessary discussion about the old episode of the Dick van Dyke show where everyone lost their thumbs and couldn’t even do things as simple as typing.

So, I’ve decided to go about continuing the false premise of the ten finger theory.  But I’ve also chosen to keep them under the faith that Pluto is still a planet as well 🙂

 

Have fun out there!