Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Miasmic Therapy

An associates councilor gave them the following advice regarding friendships:

"If you use the word 'should' you probably shouldn't."

I think this is good advice, duty and obligation do not the basis of frienship make.

There is shit that eats up my time that I resent, like school assesment, that unfortunately you can't get the education (and qualification) without doing the minimum obligatory amount of assesment (which I still find onerous) but if a friendship or any relationship becomes a drag on your time and energy, betteroff alone.

Another piece of sound therapuitic advice to be plucked out of the air is this excerpt from a book I just read regarding people to avoid. I'm pretty good at avoiding the company of psychopaths and addictive personality types and the other obvious ones but this is worth taking note of as well:

"A group of people to be wary of do not fit any specific category of personality disorder. They do not, in general, seek to manipulate or disadvantage others. They are not necessarily self-absorbed or unkind, and their intentions are usually benign. And yet they are hard to be around for long. They are seldom insightful or reflective, though they may be intelligent and capable of useful work. They tend towards a loquaciousness and are not often good listeners. The quality of their thoughts combined with an irresistable need to communicate them are defining characteristics. They are fools." ~ Gordon Livingston

I am a pretty bad listener, having persisted through most of my life thinking I did listen by observing and remembering, without engaging or asking questions. Or for that matter even acknowledging people. But I try, and I shall endeavor not to be a fool.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Epiphanies in Summary

These are the epiphanies that have changed my thinking and hopefully subsequent behaviour in life. Summmarised and presented in neat autobiographical order for you:

1. Parents have no idea how to be parents.

As a post grad student mixing with pre-grad students I see the same sort of behaviour. It's a trust or assumption that the academic teaching you knows what practitioners are like. For me though red flags go up when a lecturer tells me 'in a professional business report, referencing is REALLY important.' my experience tells me this is a bold faced lie. In a professional report, the executive summary and/or the accompanying presentation is important. The rest of the report is just an insurance policy, and the frequency with which real decisions are made, means that they hardly if ever get read.
Similarly it was only when I became aware that there was a great disparity in parenting styles and outcomes that I had the blinding flash of obviousness that neither of my parents had gone to school to learn how to be a parent before having my older brother. They like most parents were just winging it, their foreknowledge of parenting was from the perspective of being a child and impressionistic observations.
This epiphany both increased my admiration for my parents and simultaneously destroyed the reverence/faith I had in their ability to parent. I'm lucky my parents did a good job of parenting. This doesn't mean they are or were infallible though. There is shit they messed up. You need to hold your parents to account, and as you mature increasingly hold them to the same standard as anybody else you choose to associate with. Some parents are bad, some parents are good, the import of the epiphany is that YOU don't have to become them.

2. Other People Don't Think Like You Do.

If I had any clout in management schools I would call this the the one hurdle criteria for being a manager. Some people, and honestly the least admirable, pleasant and desirable people in my experience cling to a belief that everyone thinks the same way they do, value the same things they do and everyone else is just getting it wrong.
It liberated me from a lot of frustration, anger and viscousness to realize that some people are introverts, some people are extroverts. Some years later I learned of Jungian personality types, Myers-Briggs is probably most famous and pretty cumbersom there is also the DiSC model which is pretty user friendly.
The ability to empathise, to put yourself in somebody else's shoes removes a lot of hostility from the world. Quite literally, you realise people aren't trying to frustrate annoy or destroy you, it just doesn't occur to them that you value different things, operate a different way.
Before you can put yourself in somebody else's shoes you have to first acknowledge the fact that other people wear different shoes in the first place.
Every environment seems hostile until you understand it, like playing a video game where an obstacle at first seems insurmountable, then you figure out the sequence and it becomes easy as pie. I can't guaruntee other people will become easy as pie once you understand them, but you will become kinder and it takes the edge off.

3. You have to live with yourself.

This was really productive for me, and it actually came probably before number 2 but who cares. I had 5 years where I was single for 2 months. I had had one girlfriend for the last 3 years of that period and then she dumped me. For the first time in my adult life I was confronted with myself and I didn't like it.
Thus I had to learn to be kind to myself, proud of myself and like myself. I actually made a conscious decision not to reenter a relationship until I had learned to do all these things. It took a lot of effort and I had to do a lot of stuff. But I did it, had another relationship and it was much better because of it. Instead of being a draining parasitical partner, I actually brought stuff to that table. I think the relationship was mutually beneficial and enjoyable. It still ended, but it was fun.

4. The Answer is not another person.

This had the same catalyst as above, but really broadly speaking, everyone is broken in some way. Everyone is messed up. Nobody is 'normal' it just doesn't happen. The people in life that have their shit together are the ones that realise something is broken and make an effort to fix it, and fix it themselves.
What I had been doing wrong was using other people to try and validate me and give me esteem. I eventually learned that self-esteem needs to be generated by me and is actually sustainable.

5. Truth is external and robust.

I have recieved much feedback in my life that I come across as a know-all. The incidence hopefully has been dropping over the past few years.
I used to think there was some greater truth, some universal meaning I could internalise that would give me some edge over the rest of humanity. I persued knowledge, I needed to be right.
I have given up on this notion. I still have genuine intellectual curiosity, and I revere the scientific method of learning about our world. But truth is external, it is the universe itself. It does not require our belief or understanding of it to feel validated and go on existing. It is in our interests to apply our full faculties to touch on that truth where we can, and we are all part of it.
But it is simply to large to ever internalise, thus we shouldn't wrap our egos up in it. We can be wrong, it's okay. We have a perfect right not to know things. We should even be willing to doubt our own knowledge and change our minds when confronted with new evidence. If the map doesn't match the ground, the map is wrong, not the ground.
I will now back down from arguments that I adopted without much thought, the old me was trained through the questionable academic darling of debating to defend arbitrary positions to the death. That so long as people thought we were right then we would be respected. Debating is almost the opposite of a life skill.

It's not much but I'm still young.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


So I just walked through the alcove that joins two crescents near where I reside and there are a crew of workers 'cleaning up' graffiti. Known I believe in graffiti circles as 'buffing.' One of them asked if I wanted to help paint over the graffiti, and it occurred to me that I couldn't imagine a bigger waste of time and resources than cleaning graffiti.

There isn't really any good graffiti around Kew anyhows, it's at best throw-up bubble lettered outlines, and mostly just shitty tags and scrawls. But this:

1. I used to be one of those philistines that said things like 'I don't mind good graffiti, but these tags and stuff are just bad.' But then I became enlightened, or at least had a blinding flash of obviousness and realised this is the equivalent of saying 'I enjoy good music but I can't stand these kids that are just learning to play.'
That is the status quo mentality of the casual graffiti observer is to think that good graffiti is produced by the visual arts equivalent of Mozart like prodigy, they aren't. It takes dozens of shitty pieces to get your head around the tools of the trade and work out your compositions.
Thus I don't really mind bad graffiti these days, because I understand you need it to get the good graffiti. And these aspiring graffiti artists need space.

2. Robert Doyle or Ted Ballieu or one of those liberal douchebags instigated this 'initiative' of cleaning up Graffiti, and while being sure to protect Melbourne's heritage listed and tourist attracting laneways, whose pavements are beaten daily by photogrophers with little talent photographing some of Melbourne's best art, and some glued up posters by Shephard Fairey, they pushed for removal of this 'vandalism.'
I could almost guaruntee, if the genealogy was possible that every featured artist in Melbourne's famous laneways, at St Kilda Junction station etc. have some crappy bubble lettered graffiti thrown up on the side of an abandoned milkbar in Melbourne's burbs somewhere sometime.
What would be nice is if these artists in the making could do their throwups freely, and indeed on top of one anothers. To put some method to the madness of where they choose to practice their graffiti.
If I was a council douchebag, a lord mayor or otherwise I would address graffiti with a piece of policy I call 'fair game.'
This can be observed from almost any of Melbourne's metropolitan train lines - Buildings are built that have slab concrete fronting onto our field of vision. Factories and what not.
Beyond railway facades, these buildings are everywhere anyway, footpaths with sheer concrete walls, 70's mustard coloured brick faces. Footpaths cutting behind a printers shop. It costs money to build pretty, and many build ugly 'direct to public' pasta and bubble wrap factories. These low cost utilitarian ugly facades I would have declared 'fair game' meaning if somebody wants to paint on a wall the property owner didn't bother to paint themselves then they are free to do so. At no risk of incarceration or community service, indeed they need not even seek permission to render a community service.
And if it's bad graffiti people can just paint better pieces over it. If the owner demands a certain standard of graffiti they can commission an artist of their liking to do it, and once painted it would no longer be 'fair game.'

3. Today Tonight or ACA or one of those garbage news programs ran a special report on train graffiti vandals, even from the promo (I didn't watch the story) laying blame at the feet of the graffiti artists for delays to our regularly scheduled train services. To me villafying graffiti artists seems pointless. This is a design challenge.
Metro opted for corporate branding that looks like a prepackaged microsoft office theme. They kept the cream interior and geometric upholstery of connex and added a geometric corporate blue exterior to the trains. They could have decorated their trains with colours and designs that would in effect make it very hard or time consuming for a graffiti artists work to become visible. Graffiti camouflage if you will.
Or again just commission graffiti artists to acctually paint your train. That way you can ensure a certain quality and specify shit like 'don't paint over the windows.' Graffiti artists for the most part seem to respect eachother, and you don't paint over another artists work, or crews tag lightly.

That's all I have to say on that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Impostor Syndrome

The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder, but has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.[1]
Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
The impostor syndrome, in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence, can be viewed as complementary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which incompetent people find it impossible to believe in their own incompetence

That was the most liberating thing I got out of this blog post.

I certainly suffer from this. I was talking to ah... Benjamin Beaumont yesterday about how some friend was my 'straight man' in the comedic sense and he remarked that I was his 'straight man' in the sexuality sense, but I think it's true in the comedy sense as well. Benjamin's run hasn't started on conversating (it's two months away) but in all of the runs I find myself to be the straight man. I say what is boring and predictable - to me at least.

In all honesty, I don't think this is imposter syndrome per se, I think I genuinely aren't as funny as Sarah, Benjamin and Bryce. But humour illustrates particularly well the foundations of imposter syndrome.

Humour is largely based on surprise, it is a pleasurable surprise our brain finds amusing. But when you are the author of a comment you have priveledged 'insider' information. Whatever you say or write or whatever seems quite predictable. When I think about that, and I believe it I don't really know how I can ever commit to trying to be funny - I guess over the years I have developed strong suspicions as to what I suspect other people will find funny. Curiously I also know when I've said something really obvious and not funny.

With my drawing though, I definetly have impostor syndrome. I feel like a complete fraud, again because of the priveledged information. I feel like I'm copying, stealing and impersonating other artists, even after the hours and hours of study I've put in and the leaps and bounds my style has created.

I can for example draw pretty cool pictures now with no reference material in front of me. But this still feels like stealing to me, I've internalised the reference. I can understand that if somebody was watching me draw, (a lay person, that is or non-drawer) they would think I have some skills. I probably do, but I find it hard to believe. The reason being I know exactly what the competence consists of.

I guess it's because no ability is magical. Other-worldy. When you are good at something it feels ordinary, the precise opposite of special. Straight forward and logical and consistent. It feels natural, whereas those 'real' artists you believe to be actually competent execute in a way that seems supernatural to you.

So is it any wonder I feel like a fraud. That I am not yet a 'real' artist? I guess I just have to believe in myself, and as I have said before believe other people that think I am competent.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Let's begin by talking about my mother. I bought Janice a book for christmas called 'All My Friends are dead.' and I read it while having dinner with the fams one night. It's a picture book and contains many funny pictures.

I liked the one of a baker that reads 'all my friends are bread' I find it especially tragic.

But then I turned to a page that had two bearded castaways sitting on a desert island.

I think it read 'All my friends are Ted.' and the other dude said something like 'thanks patrick.'

Then you flick the page and have the same image, but this time patrick is saying 'The only "ship" we need is friendship' and now Ted has his heads in his hands crying.

Sometimes an image speaks to you, and looking into Ted's cartoon desolation I felt an empathic epiphany:

This is what it would feel like to be stuck on an island with Bryce.

I immediately thought it would make for a good if odd daily comic, to just document life on a desert island with Bryce but stuck it on the backburner reason being I had twelvemoments comics to finish (still unfinished), a pile of commissions (still unfinished) and schoolwork presumably to do.

Much of the creative process though I have come to realise is just scaling a project back until it is doable.

The thing with Bryce is, that I love and hate him. I love unprofessional Bryce, 1am Bryce, Balifornian Bryce. But I can't rely on him being the Bryce that I love, so often he is the epiphany of charm and professionalism.

1am Bryce is unpredictably unpredictable. Something I cherish, someone surprising. For a long time this Bryce of the early hours of the morning that made me laugh messily into the face of Suzanne at the high school party we first made out at, was the only unpredictably unpredictable person I knew. Furthermore I thought it was a temporary state.

Time passes and I have since collected a grand total of 4 unpredictably unpredictable people I can call my friends. Furthermore I did not know such a thing could exist With Bryce I have 4.5 friends that I don't understand, can't understand and don't want to understand.

People whom I have to adopt a zen like mindset to converse with, to sway in the breeze like a suple reed rather than fight it like a brittle ah, stick.

If people can be divided into three categories: the predictably predictable, the unpredictably predictable/predictably unpredictable and unpredictably unpredictable. I feel I fall in the middle, I have tried to actively dissociate from the predictably predictable but sometimes they can at least be flattering if not surprising.

These are the people that routinely (and predictably) say: 'Man, what are you on?' to me as if I'm speaking in tongues. I fear for them as they seem to think my mind is complex and labrynthine, which to me seems consistent and rational.

But they are to me as I am to my 4.5 people whom I just don't understand, but admire. These people make me feel smaller in a good way, an inspiring way. A way that fills me with hope that universe is not as grey and drab as I fear it may be.

Somehow I roped 2.5 of them into my latest project, it is my pantheon of the highly unpredictable. I hope my 2D effigies give them the glory they deserve: lostartofconversating.wordpress.com/