Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 100

Yesterday, April 9, was the 100th day of 2012. How do I know this? Because it was also Day 100 of my little “Resolution 2012” project, wherein I strive to write something creative every day. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of what I've "accomplished."

1) About 32,000 words, including this post. Not bad, though not as much as I had originally hoped. That said, in the last few weeks, a crazy work schedule and a bit of a creative lull have combined to slow my daily output. I initially tried to compensate somewhat by attempting the NaPoWriMo thing, but it has been an unmitigated failure.  OK, maybe not unmitigated, since I do have the start of a reasonable poem to show for it, but most of the “poetry” I’ve written over the past nine days would barely qualify as horrible prose. I’m not sure I’ll continue to bother with it.

2) Twenty published posts (including this one) on my two blogs, plus several others that I wrote but didn’t bother to publish. In both cases, this is already far ahead of previous years’ outputs. Yay for me!

3) Six or seven poems started, though most if not all need some serious polishing. Still, I am unaccustomed to this kind of output in recent years, so something is definitely working. I’m not sure if I’ll have the makings of a year-end chapbook, but I’ll certainly have some good material to work with. 

4) Quite a few “placeholder” entries. I won’t even bother going back to count them, but it must be at least 15, and perhaps closer to 20. A 20-percent “slacker” index is nothing to be proud of, but I went into this knowing there would be days I just didn’t have the energy to write anything more than “Hi Mom.” So my built-in failsafe seems to have worked… mostly… which brings me to my most shameful admission...

5) Two missed entries. I had really hoped to have an entry for every day this year, but that is not to be. While I was in Cleveland playing The Magic Flute, I missed days 79 and 84. After the first miss, I chalked it up to my absorption in the project and decided to forgive myself. And to be honest, these projects always sap a lot of my emotional energy. I have trouble focusing on anything other than the music, and it takes a huge effort of will to get any other work done. My entries for that week are mostly reflections on how I was feeling; in other words nothing more than diary entries. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s probably the way to go if I’m not going to forget to write during my other musical projects this year. But in retrospect, I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to at least write two words on those two days. 

6) Where do I go from here? By the ides of March, I was feeling very encouraged. I’d written some decent poetry, my blog writing was going well, and I felt like I was back in the writing groove. Then work got really crazy, and suddenly it was as if my brain said “no!” and my inspiration plummeted; I’ve written very little of any consequence since then. But I have enough experience with creativity to know that it goes in cycles, so I’m not too worried. And to be honest, this project has been a fun ride. I’m looking forward to writing a year-end wrap up.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Layton & Jobs: Idealists

The year 2011 was a tough year for the admittedly narrow demographic of left-leaning Canadian Apple aficionados. In August, we lost Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party, to cancer at the age of 61; and in October, we lost the founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, also to cancer. 

At first glance, the two men didn’t have much in common. Layton was a career politician and a man of the people. Steve Jobs was one of the most successful businessmen of our time and an intensely private man. Yet both were highly respected among their peers and inspirational to those who looked to them for leadership. And the public outpouring of grief at their untimely passing was of a scale and intensity that has not been seen for decades for a politician, let alone for a businessman. 

Both managed to take the reins of their respective organizations and lead a gradual but seemingly inevitable reversal of fortune, Apple going from a nearly bankrupt computer maker to the most valuable company in the world; the NDP going from an afterthought party to the official opposition. 
But respect and success will only take you so far. Certainly it doesn’t automatically elicit the kind of widespread public mourning that Layton’s and Jobs’ passing did. Of course part of it is that they died far too young and that their lives were cut short at the height of their success. It’s only natural that we feel the tragedy in this more acutely. 

But it occurs to me that the one important thing these two men had in common was an unrelenting idealism that they somehow managed to preserve in fields where compromising one’s ideals is pretty much par for the course. Idealists in politics are generally don't last long; they either get out of politics or make that deal with the devil. Idealists certainly do not rise to party leadership. But Jack Layton was able to stay true to his principles more than any other Canadian party leader in recent memory, and Canadian voters were just beginning to sense this when he died. Steve Jobs’ unwillingness to compromise when it came to user experience is what ultimately set Apple's products apart from those of its competitors. It was what made him a legendary badass among the Silicon Valley elite, but it was also what earned him the grudging respect and admiration of those who worked for him. And it was what endeared him to several generations of Apple fans. When we use an Apple product, we get the feeling that it has been designed specifically to delight us in a thousand different ways, not simply to coax a few hundred dollars from our wallet. This was Steve Jobs’ doing. 

The incredible impromptu public memorials that sprang up after Laytons’ and Jobs’ passing were monuments to idealism. And in this age when people simply assume that all politicians are corrupt and all businessmen are crooked, the grievers were also tapping into the same sentiment that the Occupy Wall Street protesters were channelling. I know this sounds melodramatic, but in some sense, they were mourning the death of truth and honesty and protesting against cynicism.

It’s tough when we lose the good guys. They’re too few and far between.

Monday, April 02, 2012


So April is National Poetry Month in the US and, according to wikipedia, since 1999 in Canada too. In conjunction with "NaPoMo" is National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo (all together now), wherein we "poets" are urged to write a poem a day for all 30 days of April. 

Needless to say, as a poet who is thrilled to write—or even start to write—two decent poems a month, I've never participated. It always seemed to place the focus on quantity rather than quantity. But in this year of my own "Resolution 2012 project," in which I have basically thrown quality out the window in favour of quantity, I suppose this is my year to take a stab at NaPoWriMo (even if just saying it leaves a bad taste in my mouth). 

Yesterday, I wrote a "poem" so execrable that I'm surprised my computer didn't destroy itself in shame for having to harbour such drivel on its hard drive. It only deigned to keep it because yesterday was April Fools Day. Today I made somewhat more of an effort, though as you'll see below, the results are only just one level from the bottom on the stinking bathroom scale of "pee-ew."

There once was a poet from somewhere
who didn’t write poems or care.
he spent all his days
in a writer’s-block haze,
but he wrote this damn lim’rick, so there!