Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Role Models

"Living creatively is really important to maintain throughout your life. And living creatively doesn't mean only artistic creativity, although that's part of it. It means being yourself, not just complying with the wishes of other people." - Matt Groening

Another “Guys Read” sessions today; this time at Denali Elementary, where we read a portion of a trendy and popular manga title “Legendz” (written by Rin Hirai and drawn by Makoto Haruno). Guess I’m a little bit of a cynic about manga; seems that aside from stylistic and cultural differences, the genre is about as good as ol’ American superhero comics in that the overwhelming majority of works out there aren’t very impressive or possess any distinctive content. In fact, this particular book was such a blatant excuse for product placement and training kids to be consumers of crap that I felt a little awkward peddling it to the class. It was full of the usual one-dimensional comic booky characters with lots of punching and fighting (featuring sound effects that were fun to get the kids to yell along with) - special emphasis on beating other kids at games, and still more gaming industry toy tie-ins on just about every page.
I also have to question the wisdom at using manga as an enticement to read for this particular group, as it is confusing to follow the Japanese style of layout (back to front/right to left), which kinda defeats the whole purpose of our being there. And as someone who constantly champions the legitimacy of the comics medium it sucks to see it undermined by promoting such crappy and stereotypical stuff. But then again, I’m old, not very cool or hip, and an elitist snob to boot. Anyways, far be it from me to cast dispersions upon cheap entertainment (I’m old enough to remember playing the original D&D when it came out), plus the kids loved it. Give me Captain Underpants any day…

It got me thinking about “role models”, and how it’s slowly been occurring to me that there is a common thread running throughout the work of some of my own personal heroes: Julia Child, Bob Ross, Pete Seeger and Carl Sagan. I would add Steven King to that list now, as I’m reading a copy of his 2000 memoir “On Writing”, which so far seems to have some interesting observation that might apply to creating art - more to follow. All those people excelled at their respective crafts and were also famous celebrities, becoming personalities indelibly linked with their fields. They also pissed off a lot of folks in having the audacity to not only popularize but also demystify and democratize cooking, painting, music, science and writing. Sure, there are better representatives; I don’t consider everything they did as the very best that each individual field of study has to offer – instead of idolizing them I simply respect what they each did to share and bring their passions within reach of the average person. There aren’t any short-cuts to craft; skills are developed over invested time and disciplined practice, but the job isn’t made any easier or attractive by copping a some stuck-up attitude. Hence my above-mentioned suspicions over manga for example are tempered while presenting in the classroom, there are times it’s prudent to keep my lofty opinions to myself. I often wonder at what would’ve happened had I ever had the experience of someone telling me that what I wanted to do as a kid was ok, and was encouraged along in a different direction. Or if I even would have listened anyways?

“We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.” - Paul Gauguin

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I believe one of the reasons I have had such a hard time at my winter job is that I don't play well with the elitists. I can never remember whose butt to kiss and am not in the habit of kissing any. I respect genuine skill AND THE ATTEMPT TO ATTAIN IT. In other words, I like a good student better than a dedicated poser. I've had the privilege to meet accomplished but obscure people in every activity I've explored.

    Work on the work first. Let the recognition take care of itself. It may never come, and that has to be okay, too. Work on the work.