What I Read Today – March 13th, 2019

I could not bring myself to do what I set out to do today, which was to create my first “video media” item for posting.

The thought utterly pained me. “Talk to a computer as though it were an audience?” I thought. “How does anybody make a video of themselves without simply trailing off out of sheer purposelessness?”

I considered directing my monologue at my cat, but cats are flighty at the best of times, and certainly not trustworthy enough to sit patiently through a questionably entertaining sociopolitical rant.

And anyway, she said she had other shit to do.

So, what was supposed to be the first edition of my new video series, “What I read today,” is instead this, um…well, this.

I’ll record my face saying words another time, I promise.

Is It Safe to Come Out Now?

Winter has been, shall we say, a little trying this time around. That going from downtown to the suburbs is to blame for my inordinate level of hermiting is an attractive theory, but it’s a trick of timing. I still have everything I need in (slightly longer) walking distance. I suppose the significant trade-up in dwelling could be considered a factor, but I’ve always been an expert nester.

No, it was the weather. Was? Is? Do I trust the sudden shift in conditions? The wind certainly belies a seasonal change. (Wind. Yes, now I’m hiding from the wind, but this should, at least, be a shorter-lived atmospheric assault.)

I tended the window sill herbs this morning (and by morning, I mean around 1 PM because I’m a writer and this really shouldn’t surprise you). I stood at the dining room window gazing dreamily into my backyard, crusted with partially melted snow, the slow reveal of grass like a striptease.

“…So tedious is this day
As is the night before some festival
To an impatient child that hath new robes
And may not wear them.”
(Romeo and Juliet 3.2.30-33)

The virgin Juliet understands how I feel about my backyard, which I have yet to enjoy in spring and summer. The herbs are outgrowing their starter pots.

Let’s get this show on the road, Earth.

Embracing winter solitude

Via thespec.com

It’s my first winter as a homeowner, and it’s the stormiest winter in recent memory. In other words, I’ve been spending a lot of time shut in with my new-found peace and quiet. I’m not used to such serenity. For the most part, the only noises I hear are the ones I make, or that my partner makes, or our cat makes. He travels for work, and her meow is very small, so small that sometimes she opens her face and no sound comes out.

So, it’s very quiet in my house, and it’s got me thinking about how we spend time with ourselves, in our homes, and specifically about how we entertain ourselves.

The sort of weather we’ve had in recent weeks has an isolating effect, or ice-olating, if you will. Any form of travel is hazardous. Last week, the ground was so thoroughly ice-slick that I had to boil water to thaw a path out the front door.

Lately, I’ve been holed up for days on end, and although many folks still need to get to their places of work, I know I’m not the only one hibernating through the worst of the winter onslaught. I also know that being stuck at home, especially alone, can elevate feelings of depression and frustration.

In our tech-based society, we often try to combat loneliness with easy-to-digest entertainment — TV, movies, video games — anything that makes noise and distracts us from the ticking of the clock. (Oh right, the clock. For some ungodly reason, I have two clocks that tick in opposition. I haven’t yet bothered to take the batteries out of one.)

But what if, instead of constantly trying to mask our solitude, we embraced it?

Something fascinating happened when I decided not to put a TV on the main floor of my house. Guess what happened. Just guess.

That’s right — I started to watch a lot less TV. We didn’t get rid of the TV. It’s in the basement. I simply no longer have a TV in my main living space, waiting to distract me from myself.

I think that what we believe soothes our loneliness in fact hinders our ability to be alone in the first place. Don’t get me wrong — I am not claiming any superiority, here. I am still wont to put Netflix on my iPad while cooking and doing housework, but my comfort with being alone has significantly increased since designating a separate space in the house for television and video games. It now seems like more of a hassle than a quick entertainment fix to get myself all set up in the basement for a TV show binge, and a lot easier to slap my iPad case shut in the middle of a show, when I’m ready to do something more productive.

I’ve been reading more, which can be difficult when you have an aversion to quiet. I’ve always been a reader — a passion for reading is nigh indivisible from a passion for writing — but in recent years it’s been more challenging to stay focused. My attention span has increased along with my tolerance for silence and solitude, a tolerance which I forced upon myself in the layout of my home.

TV shows and movies are wonderful things, but with increasing investment in fictional characters, we seem to become more alienated from ourselves. I’m a self-identified independent introvert, and I feel like, by distancing myself physically from my television, I’ve taken a step forwards in reclaiming the joy of my own company.

I’ve always been one to take solo walks out for coffee and errands, to take the time to reconnect with myself, but these are not the days for neighbourhood jaunts, unless you want to strap on a pair of skates. I don’t skate. I find it far more dangerous than it is fun. So, in the midst of our collective winter-imposed isolation, I thought it apt to share my strategy for happy house arrest.

Now, pardon me while I go pull the batteries out of one of those damned clocks.

Laura Furster is a Hamilton-based writer and artist. Twitter/Instagram: @laurafurster. Visit: www.laura-furster.com. Contact: laura.furster@outlook.com.

 

Find this column at thespec.com

Yaymaker: Growing empire or sinking ship?

YaymakerFeb23

 

Via thespec.com

 

The art party company formerly known as Paint Nite has rebranded as Yaymaker — the maker of “yay.” Yaymaker is meant to consolidate Paint Nite and its spinoff ventures, including Design a Sign, wherein participants design their own wooden signs, and Plant Nite, wherein attendees put some plants in bowls.

(To be honest, the name Plant Nite elicits in my mind images of potted houseplants growing to human size and terrorizing their owners. I may watch too many horror movies.)

My first column in The Spectator was about what I believed to be the self-limiting nature of businesses like Paint Nite, and the creation of Yaymaker might, at first glance, seem to contradict my prediction. I mean, they’re doing so well that they need a whole new name to represent all of their myriad offerings.

I don’t buy it. I think this recent business move illustrates the point I made nearly two years ago.

If the painting party business model were sustainable, I don’t think Yaymaker would exist. The very need to create more new party concepts demonstrates that the initial service offered lacks endurance, much like technologies invariably become obsolete as they’re replaced with newer and more desirable versions. However, unlike innovations in the tech industry, I don’t see this string of night-out class concepts going on ad infinitum.

Paint Nite instruction is not far off the concept of paint-by-numbers, and I can say this with authority because I’m a painter who once worked for a competitor. This is not meant as criticism of the experience of participating in a painting party. I had fun hosting them, and I’d venture to say that most participants have fun as well but, with the exception of a few who attend events on a regular basis, they don’t actually learn much about painting. If they did, I would imagine that far fewer people would enjoy it, since learning to paint is not all wine glasses and giggles.

Attendees often don’t end up with a finished product that they deem good enough to display, and sometimes the process is just plain disheartening because nobody can actually learn to paint in one booze-soaked sitting. While instructing, I spent time at the end of each event assisting troubled painters who occasionally asked me to fix or finish their work myself so that they could enjoy the end result a little more.

The painting party business model is not sustainable because it doesn’t offer a genuine learning experience or a valuable finished product, which leaves novelty as the key seller. While I’ve never personally instructed a sign-making or plant-bowling class, I’m confident that these offerings are much of the same.

Paint N — err, Yaymaker’s fallibility ultimately rests on the reality that nobody wants 50 crappy paintings, or 50 wooden signs, or 50 bowls with little plants and rocks in them, cluttering up their house. It’s super fun to make these things once or twice, but unless you’re a serious painter, or sign-maker, or terrarium-designer, there is a pretty hard and fast limit to how many of these items you have the space or desire for. I have garbage bags of teachable paintings in my basement. I’m a professional artist, and I don’t want them, either.

The reason why it’s fun to make these things a couple of times is that it’s a new experience. I’ve done a couple of escape rooms, and they’re really fun, but I’m never going to do the same escape room again, because once the novelty is neutralized, there’s no more excitement in the activity. Sure, there’s a variety of paintings taught by companies like Yaymaker, but there are only so many, and the same ones are taught over and over, especially the more popular ones.

Teaching the more popular paintings more often doesn’t make sense for a business looking to retain long-term patronage, but it does seem reasonable for a business looking to maximize short-term profit.

Even just renaming a business that already boasts a household name doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless that business is struggling to attract customers. My phone service is through Wind Mobile — by which I mean Freedom Mobile, but I never call them that. Wind’s rebranding, if I were to guess, was an attempt at distancing the company from the “budget” descriptor their name had become synonymous with.

A little inside bird told me, some time after my first column ran, that canvas sales were dropping. I’m not saying that painting parties will go extinct tomorrow, or in a year, or even five years, but I certainly wouldn’t invest in a franchise now and expect to be buying into a lifelong career.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the rebirth of Paint Nite and its offshoots as Yaymaker is a sign of a growing empire — I think it’s the first flare of a sinking ship.

 

Laura Furster is a Hamilton-based writer and artist. Twitter/Instagram: @laurafurster. Visit: www.laura-furster.com. Contact: laura.furster@outlook.com.

 

Find this column at thespec.com

Metapostmodernist Ramble

In a sociopolitical climate wherein there is much ado about nothing, and no ado about much, discerning minds must be both cynical and optimistic; literal and interpretive; passionate and measured. In a world where traditional news sources are mistrusted and web media is the scapegoat for a fundamentally unchanged and unchanging species, writers must be all things. We must be at once tapped into the pulse of humanity, of our cities and communities, and egocentric enough to create and sustain our own self-satisfied blogs.

Humanity doesn’t change–at least, not in any sensational manner. I think that’s why social movements appear with such ferocity. If we believed that we were capable of transcending our humanity, we would trust in sheer momentum to bring us ever closer to what we arbitrarily call “good.” Instead, we shout and wave our hands at our humanity as though it were a mountain lion. Ultimately, the mountain lion will take out our illusions of transcendent goodness with the swat of an oversized paw. I don’t mean to say that we don’t learn and flourish with public discourse and intellectual advancement. But, the mountain lion lives on.