Dreams – Futuristic, Nostalgic, Genuine

hat young urban planners want right now is for everyone to realize that they like and want walkable communities. Because if everyone wants it then it will be easier to get it. We think that these changes we want to make will make humanity happier in general.

Daniel Burnham, the first great American urban planner of the Columbian Expedition and of many cityscapes including Chicago’s lakefront and Magnificent Mile, thought this, too. Of the implementation of cars, he said “When this change comes, a real step in civilization will have been taken. With no smoke, no gases, no litter of horses, your air and streets will be clean and pure. This means, does it not, that the health and spirits of men will be better?” (From Devil in the White City, p. 378)

He wasn’t only wrong that cleaner air (our air is much cleaner than any air Burnham breathed back in the 1890s) would come with the automobile, he was wrong that cleaner air and streets would make humans’ health and spirits better. Our health suffers from laziness and exhaust. Our happiness is hard to find when all this technology helps us forget to be grateful and mindful.

I think it was good for the planners of the World’s Fair in Chicago to dream so big. I disagree with Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City’s author, in saying that he steered America toward its own greatness of architecture and landscape. Modernism took a huge toll on the undeveloped land of our country throughout the 20th century. Why should we be building greek-looking buildings, people like Frank Lloyd Wright asked. That’s not our heritage. You can now see the  our heritage’s design, the prairie house, in any city. It is beige/brown brick, one story, with horizontal lines and large windows.

People at WorldChanging and other “Think bright green future” blogs stress the importance of thinking of new solutions instead of going back to old ways of thinking, such as the small town model accented in New Urbanism. But all those images of futuristic buildings and green landscapes with the sun shining impossibly bright are just as frightening as a post-apocalyptic dirty industrial landscape with muddy skies and polluted ground. At least, they are to me. I am afraid to assume that’s a better world for the generations to come, for our children. We are in an age where we don’t like to assume, claim, or presume anything about anyone else. Parents are letting their kids make their own choices more and more.

I’m not saying this is all bad, but it raises the question of what we are to do with what we have on this earth today. When we artistic types write poems, paint pictures, make films or sculptures, we realize how fully what we have read, seen, experienced impacts what we will create. We spend a lot of our work paying homage to those who have gone before, who have made us see ourselves in a new way. Taking what we have learned, we create new art that is relevant and fresh to our present circumstance, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, it will have delved into the unspoken currents of our collective emotions and will stay relevant for ages to come.

So as you create new dreams for yourself and the ones around you, don’t worry about trends. Just make sure you are being genuinely you. Most large dreams have several thousand flaws and bad outcomes, but no one blames the genuine motives of the creator.

This is from the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Americans put this vision far into the future and continued building prairie house suburbs. Maybe we like the idea of places like these, but not for ourselves.

The plans and dreams of our future continue in the same fashion. This image is a plan for South Korea. Phallic?

The Green Projects???

WebUrbanist Post called Retrofuture Urbanism

How do you envision America’s future?


What I Am Doing

I finally used my Schuler’s gift card and bought One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects.  Love it! Now I need fabric. Apparently not much fabric though!

I read Occult America hoping for juicy stories about weird occultist meetings and happenings behind the scenes of the American Government in the past 100 years. But it was an American history of ouija boards, ghosts, new age, mysticism, eastern thought, Christian science, and self-acceptance. Not a bad disappointment at all! So interesting. Now when I see the dollar bill, or The Secret, or even those vampire movies, I realize this fascination of ours will never die. Perhaps it is an unconscious search for life after death, or truth, or God.

I’ve been working on my novel, re-writing it in the present tense. When I hear authors talk about their first, second, and third drafts I get so overwhelmed, but it’s actually nice to rewrite. It beats brainstorming new scenes. I don’t know what I’m doooinnnnggg!  But it’s fuuuun!

Is Creativity Dying? or Everything that Happens Will Happen Today

I sense that in the long run there is a greater value for humanity in empowering folks to make and create than there is in teaching them the canon, the great works and the masterpieces. In my opinion, it’s more important that someone learn to make music, to draw, photograph, write or create in any form than it is for them to understand and appreciate Picasso, Warhol or Bill Shakespeare — to say nothing of opry. In the long term it doesn’t matter if students become writers, artists or musicians — though a few might. It’s more important that they are able to understand the process of creation, experimentation and discovery — which can then be applied to anything they do, as those processes, deep down, are all similar. It’s an investment in fluorescence.

his is from David Byrne’s Journal, an installment about how much money goes into opera and how private funders would rather pay for glamorous, self-indulgent stuff than things like education.  I was really surprised to read this paragraph. I didn’t think Byrne would feel this way about education. I guess I always felt that my writing classes weren’t as effective as my reading the classics. Some people can write poetry or a novel because they’ve read so many. They have an innate sense of how things should sound and feel because they have immersed themselves in the works of others. But Byrne’s last sentence about experimentation as a skill applicable to anything really makes sense to me.

We attach creativity too much to Crayola and kids crafts. It’s a childhood thing, and we are not supposed to think outside the box unless we want to be regarded as ten year olds. Maybe this habit of educators to teach what has been done instead of how to do something is more destructive than I thought. Personally, the works in which I have tried to emulate another writer’s accomplishment have fallen flat. I wanted to say something with my writing, to grasp ideas too big for my abilities. I was forced to read Candide before I was taught to understand what it was doing. After my grammar class, where I learned half I know about writing, I understood literature, nonfiction, and even poetry a thousand times better than before.

When I paint something or sew or crochet or draw, I feel kind of immature and the comments I get don’t help against this. I just feel the need to create, and I know other people have creative talent they are not tapping into. Just try. People are so afraid of sucking at what they do, or they are so convinced they have no talent, that they think creating is not worth it. It is so worth it.  It’s alarming the low self-esteem I’ve encountered in almost everyone I talk to.

A similar situation was with my boyfriend, who has started an incredible blog, finally. He was so convinced he couldn’t do it, but he has more to say than anyone else I know.

Nothing I’ve created has been fantastic. Everything is mediocre by most standards. But it’s a gift and a skill to dive into something and just try it and to boldly make mistakes. I am thankful for every creative soul out there. David Byrne is one of them.

The real problem with our economy right now is not that we don’t have enough money to do what is necessary. It’s that we’re not doing what is necessary. We have so much potential that we’re robbing from each other by sitting in front of the TV. There are solutions, you can think them up, you are worth something to the world around you.

I wanted to post about the absurdity of our society, how at 12:30am when I’m driving home from work, I have to sit at a red light, by law, even though there is not another soul on the road. It just struck me as a symbol of what this country’s coming to. We created all these laws that made sense at the time but they have no flexibility for when the situation changes. What if someone did get creative and wanted to open up a store or an art exhibit in an old warehouse? Too bad. Zoning says they can’t.

It’s more than just having faith in a system, it’s letting the system be an unnecessary prison around you. People have found ways to work around laws, to manipulate them to their favor, with good and evil results, so it’s still very possible to fix things without proposing a bill to the House.

My main point: we’re sucking at living right now. And we totally don’t have to. Once you realize you have things to say and do, that you’re not a talentless piece of crap, that people like you and even love you, that you have nothing to lose, you can do a lot. That’s my Christmas Wish for everyone. (“And damn anyone who calls this sentimental” to quote Jack Ridl.)

Locus Novus: A New Way to Read Online

I was surfing Aimee Bender’s website, since she is one of my favorite contemporary authors.

On her link page, I found Locus Novus, which she is published on. It serves as a literary magazine, except that it’s multimedia and online. It’s a totally different reading experience. The background moves, and you can, in a way, turn the page to read the next section of the story. The music and movement force themselves on the piece, affecting the way you read it and picture it in your head. But it’s interesting nonetheless!

I found another website featuring digital storytelling, but it’s more interactive. Dreaming Methods

Deep in the Idea Pond

How novel writing can be a lonely and tedious process, but rewarding and important.

I’m writing a novel. I spent the last ten years telling myself I couldn’t do it, that I’m not the type, that no one reads anymore. BOO YOU KANYE WEST. What’s worse, selfishly dreaming up your own American novel, or writing a crappy book of cliches for money and self-promotion?

I’m reading Ulysses by James Joyce right now and when I read it, I get the itch to write. But when I read Wicked, which I’m also in the middle of, I wonder if I could ever imagine worlds like that. And I’m reading nonfiction southern starlet Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and wondering why I even try when such good writers create beauty out of reality.

I feel so lonely about this novel. I have about 5000 words. I think about it a good chunk of my day. Why do I get that lonely pit in my stomach when I think about actually writing it?

And I’m stealing stuff from my life. In fact, everything is stolen from my life and American culture and other writers and their ideas.  I think that is okay, though. I do take a Woody Guthrie view on life.  We gotta stop this idea-individualism. It’s not just my life, not my own idea pond. You gotta know how to fish those ideas correctly. And you gotta go deep.

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you have to go deeper.” David Lynch

Sometimes you throw fish back for other people to catch, sometimes you eat the fish for dinner.

In the 19th century, painters would copy other painters to learn their technique. This not only taught them how to paint, but it gave them income, because originals could only be copied in this way. Sophia Peabody, wife of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, painted copies of classic pieces until one day, when she got one of her migraines. With that terrible migraine, partly from her exposure to mercury as a child, she got incredible imaginative ideas for paintings. She painted her own original work from her mind.

The pain involved in creating art, along the amount of copying and adopting and tracing and thinking it requires, is age-old and normal. I am not special and it makes me incredibly happy. My contribution to the literary world will only ever be microscopic, but dangit, I AM here in this pond!

Writer’s Blah

I’m freezing up. I don’t know what to write. I feel I need to read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, buy Moby Dick, read that too, swear off the computer and write in my notebooks by hand. Or take some narcotic that will mess with my brain.

Last fall I started this blog out of boredom at my internship, but it turned into a place for me to voice my opinion. And it was a time to have opinions. I was in Chicago when Obama was elected. My blog posts were charged with a life force other than my own, and tons of people were reading them and commenting. That has died down, and my skepticism always holds me back from getting so enthusiastic, out of fear that I could be wrong.

Since graduating college with a bachelor’s in English, I’ve felt my only career choice was writing, that it was my only skill. In college, the advisers always said you have to be a good writer but just as important, you have to know something else–so you can write what you know. It has to be married with something else.

But what? There are so many topics to choose, so many audiences to address. Adolescent girls, vacationers, tree huggers, job-seekers, taoists, evangelicals, liberals, hippies, pregnant women. I could write about other cities, my own city, musicians, books, photos, websites, recipes, mantras, Bible stories, Muslim culture, glass candy dishes, antique shopping, bicycles, land use…I could write about how my head is swirling like a Philip Glass soundtrack and how the scenes in my dreams are going by too fast and all the flame-thoughts burning in my mind, eating away any complete and tangible thought until I’m frozen and glassy eyed, red veins pulsing but no blood pumping….

But I think I already have the answer, Glinda. I think I need to live my life.

Poet Mystic Jack Ridl, my poetry professor in college, told me that writing is his last priority. Everything in life but writing wins over writing. Writing is our tool, not our life. Some people are ridiculously talented with this tool, and we could get jealous of them. Or we could focus inward for awhile and reprioritize:

1. Life
2. Writing

Taoists tell us to live in the moment.  “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life,” says Omar Khayyam. I have to stop. I have to stare out at a sea. I have to wash the dishes to the best of my ability and focus on my hands, the water, the gorgeous bubbles, the smooth glass. I have to listen to what others are saying. I have to listen to what my mind is saying. My mind is trailing off in dreamlike patterns, to places I choose to ignore when I am internet-writing.

I must chase those storm patterns. I must be silent and listen before I can speak.