Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Octopus, Craft Shows, and Nautical Nonsense

I don't usually go for kitschy crafts, but I suppose there's something about constructing something undeniably cute out of tentacles and a strange green colour that is appeallinig to all demographics--or at least whatever bizarre demographic I fit into.

If you want to know what I'm talking about, go to this link: I found this site through Blogs of Note and spent some time looking through back posts (as in back issues; I may have just made this word up). Suddenly this amazing, adorable, tentacled girl appears, and I'm just smitten. At this point I really encourage you to use the link, because otherwise it sounds like I sport some very strange fetishes. Not that I have anything against people with strange fetishes, but, you know... You could also look at the picture to the left, I suppose.

Not that I expect someone to jump down my throat (what an odd expression) about dissing kitschy crafts, but in case someone does, I'd like to pre-empt them. I spent what seemed at the time to be a lot of my childhood at craft shows. In case you don't know what a craft-show is, imagine an annual or semi-annual flea market (or farmer's market or trade fair, if you're more familiar with those) where assorted vendors can sell handicrafts that they make. There's usually a variety of merchandise--my parents originally sold Femo (sp?) jewellery but then moved almost entirely into woodcrafts of the planter, garden stake, bird-feeder, and seasonal decoration variety. My brother and I, in a few of the smaller events, had a table where we sold Christmas ornaments, wooden puzzles, and home-made chocolates. When we were abroad, especially in the US, we would often visit craft shows so that my parents could get ideas to use in Ontario, since they tried to avoid using designs of people circulating the same market; not everyone, incidentally, held the same moral code that they did. During our frequences of craft shows, my brother and I would often hang out in the van or in the trailer (if we brought one, as we often did when selling at larger events) reading, writing, horsing around, and generally staving off boredom. At least once, however, we would go around and see what was all available at a craft show, and sometimes there would be something which would interest one or the other of us. The point of all of this is that kitschy crafts, and non-kitschy crafts, were a formative part of my childhood. They partly defined how I understood employment, how I undertook amusing myself, how I measured seasonal cycles, how I conceived of artistic expression, and how I spent money and engaged in consumer-tourism. I may not decorate with woodcrafts a lot, but you will usually see in the sorts of useless items I bring to school with me a sense of the craft-shows I grew up in.

A while back--just before I left Fort McMurray--I may have mentioned that I was nostalgia-tripping. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Finally, I want to vent a little about a book I read for class by E. A. Poe, called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. If the title seems somewhat drawn out and inclusive of irrelevant details, it may be symptomatic of the aimlessness of the work as a whole. In class we determined that it's largely a case of an author screwing with us; I think Poe is trying to figure out how little plot he can include in a book with it still remaining a 'narrative.' He's also trying to figure out how many unrelated 'events'--and here we're stretching the definition of event--he can string together without any real connective tissue, by merit of agentless drifting and spontaneous decision-making. To top it off, the editor of the edition has some mad scheme about hidden allegories Poe is making in the text, something to do with mirroring, Christ-figure revelation, and Poe's love of his mother and brother. The whole reading rests upon similarity in word-choice between select passages in the first chapter and the last half of the book, with some strange relation between albatrosses and penguins. If this seems unlikely and ridiculous to you, that's because it is. The editor is on crack--metaphorically more than literally, though I suppose I can't know that he isn't literally on crack as well. I didn't actually read the introduction he wrote, mind you, but instead surmised this from the assorted endnotes he gives. These endnotes also like to point out where Poe "almost certainly" got the information he included, which seemed far fetched to me and largley irrelevant. For instance, the editor placed an endnote after the word "spermaceti," and I assumed this note would tell us what a spermaceti was, but instead explained which nautical texts Poe lifted his nautical knowledge. Fortunately, I know that spermaceti is neither a pasta nor a reproductive organ but instead a sperm whale, and has I not known this I could have determined it from the fact that cetology is the study of whales, and thus sperm-a-ceti is likely a sperm whale. However, I really doubt your average reader, even of Poe, would have this information. A good editor would include that gloss. This editor chose not to.

Pym, while enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way, is the textual equivalent to LCD, especially at the mind-numbingly improbable end, where water is gelatinous and stratified, and albatrosses migrate out of a top-less spray of sea-foam... and then things implode from there.

Well, that's an insight into the mind of English Clergyman today. I suppose I left out the fascination and speculation on the Canadian Federal Election, and the similar events south of the border. But I can save all of that for later. I'll write a review of it another day.

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