28 April 2010

Labor of Love of Labor

It occurred to me while watching the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop, that labor is one of the only qualities an artist cannot insert artificially into her work. Invested time cannot be faked on the cellular level, the level of the art's effect on the artist. Labor is not a quality that appears in any measurable sense in a finished work, or course, but it does, I think, have a permanent developmental effect on the creator. The transformative power of extensive personal effort is an ineffable but vital component of most interesting pieces. For one, investing a huge chunk of your life in something is the surest way of developing a style that combines the best qualities of intellect and instinct. One artist's style can be faked by another of course, but this is beside the point. I am only interested in what is happening to the artist in the process of laboring to earn that style.

16 April 2010

Napoleonic Apocrypha

"Pumpernickel" -- it's a fun word to say, and that alone should ensure its longevity. In our earliest days of idle chatter, my brother and I made a habit of teasing out the strange sounds of certain words or phrases. "Crush" was a particular favorite of his, especially when fronted by the word "Orange". Every time he said it he'd slosh the words around in his mouth like a cold slush of flavored ice. I was always partial to "tapioca" after Shel Silverstein's dapper lion Lafcadio pointed out its virtues along with "marshmallow". Tapioca, tapioca. It pops and clucks at the right speed, just like a spoonful of pudding in your mouth.

As is the case with a number of strange words, Pumpernickel has an interesting etymology -- and would have more than one, if it were possible for all the rumors to be true. I'm going to ignore all of them except the one LEAST likely to be true, just because I love the story so much.