Serious about Humour

April 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

Humour is my language.
I can speak other languages, but I prefer to express myself in my mother tongue.
Personally, I believe it should be everyone’s language, much like how Americans go abroad and get annoyed that not everyone speaks English.  As understanding and empathetic as I generally am (or appear to be) when conversing with others, I have a difficult time understanding people who just can’t communicate in humour.
If I have to repeat, “No, no. You see, that was a joke.” more than twice in a conversation, you’ve probably lost me.  I just might give up right there.

If human interaction were baking recipes, then humour would be the milk.  Not every recipe needs it, and it would spoil a few dishes, but most baked goods ask for at least half a cup, worked in evenly throughout the mixture.
Well placed, perceptive humour can be an ice and tension breaker.
It can be an open door, as well as a terrific wall — an invitation or a deflection.
There are things you can express through sarcasm that would never work in a serious tone.

My best defense against fighting most of my insecurities is humour.  Self-deprecation can help you own your imperfections and mold them into strengths.

I bought a house a few years ago and quickly realized that green thumbs are not items I possess — not on either one of my hands.  I dug up my front lawn one day with the intention of turning a new leaf and starting a garden, but I then forgot (or rather, didn’t care enough) to actually plant anything.  As a result, my lawn was wonderfully tilled and ideal for lush and fertile weeds.  I like to think I was starting a weed garden, but too many people misunderstood me when I made comments like that.
At its worst, my weeds grew to be about 4 feet tall.
Old Italian men would come around to my house just to point and laugh.
One of them told me to get a husband and have him fix it.  I thanked him for pouring salt on my wounds.

When giving instructions to my house, I eventually found myself describing it as “the one with the ugly lawn”.  This was becoming my home’s most distinctive feature.

My friendliest neighbour Bob, “The Dirty Old Man Who’s Past His Prime” (I swear to you, that’s the way he introduced himself) tried several times to pawn his lawn tools off on me, until I insisted that I had worked long and hard to get my front lawn just perfect like this.
“Oh… Yes.  Yes. I thought so.” He said.  “I didn’t mean to insult you.  I just thought… You know, if you ever wanted to prune it, to be even nicer……  I have a Weed Whacker in my shed.”

I needed to take control of the situation and make sure my other neighbours wouldn’t hate me.
Bob was funny andnd his lawn is dirt, so he would have been the last to judge.

Fix the lawn??  Pfffft.  Not likely.
Making them laugh was the key.

I began to put up signs.  The first one began with a grain of sincerity and read,

“Yes, I am aware of the condition of my front lawn.  But thank you for your concern.”

That sign was put up simply to stop the stares and murmurs from contractors, neighbours and passers-by.

Then came,

“Yeah?!  Your MOM’S an ugly lawn!!”,

“My other lawn’s a Porche.”,


“I do this to make the other lawns feel better about themselves.”

(That my friends, is what I like to call “one-downing”.  Instead of “one-upping”, where one tells a better story, making those around him feel worse about themselves, one-downing self-deprecates and helps to build others up — make yourself plain, so the girl next to you looks glamorous.  That sort of thing.  My lawn was one-downing all the other lawns on the block.  My lawn was the Ethel to everyone else’s Lucy.)

I kept those signs up for over a year.  I grew to care very much for them.  And at one point my mother (a very funny woman) did a drive-by lawn ornamenting, leaving behind a tole painted garden sign in the yard which read, “Quiet please, weeds growing”.

Eventually I realized I had reached a point where I had developed pride over my particular weakness, and my owning of my bad thumbs had now lost its point.  I began to let the lawn get uglier just so I could keep up the signs.
“My place looks like CRAP! Stand tall! Stand proud!” I would think to myself while arriving home from work.

The Fed Ex lady had told me she looked forward to coming to my house, always hoping to find a new sign, and that had made me very happy.
(She would also assure me that the lawn wasn’t so bad.)

I’ve since taken down those signs, and today my inner city lawn looks a lot more like Bob’s.  It’s not glamorous and it’s mostly dirt, but you wouldn’t get lost in it anymore.

I’m no longer insecure about my habit of neglect, but I sort of miss the attention from the signs.
The Fed Ex lady has long since forgotten me.

I’m considering planting corn.

Rachel at the VERY serious St. John's Women's Film Fest, with Kelly Davis and Noreen Gulfman

Rachel at the VERY serious St. John's Women's Film Fest, with Kelly Davis and Noreen Gulfman

Into The Great Beyond

April 26, 2009 by  
Filed under News

Out of the blue (and hopefully not into oblivion) comes my next film, “The Great Beyond”.
The film is in development and will be animated to the song of the same name, by one of my favourite musicians, the very talented and poignant Jacob Moon.



I’ve spent my most of my life staring off into space with glazed-over eyes, imagining all the things that feel<em> </em>as if they should be   feeling as if I <em>should</em> be able to fly, or wondering at how the rules of time seem more foreign to me than those of eternity   feeling as though my pasty, German skin just doesn’t fit quite right.
I’ve always longed for the past, present and future to compose themselves as “Just Is” (and, I suppose as “Justice”).  I want that long and sluggish, straight timeline of events to coil itself up into a tight, little ball, showing me how #5 and #796 could together make sense of #40, and all work for the greater good, if I could just see it from the outside (as if my teeny brain could possibly comprehend “the big picture”).
…Jeez, I sure am getting awfully melodramatic in my old age.

To counter this recent existential meltdown, please take a break and refer to lighter posts, such as “Donkin Donuts”

or take a nice, long stare at a this cartoon.
So, how does one go about representing concepts of eternity in a four-and-a-half minute film?  You’ll have to wait and see.
Note: my understanding of eternity is not that it’s a long event (a concept which is still working under the rules of time, but rather it might be all things, instantaneously.  …I’m just sayin’.
In the mean time, here are some snapshots of development, to get you as pumped up about it as I am.  Here’s just a little taste of what’s to come.
And now I’m off to take more photos of Hamilton’s pigeons and apply for funding.


Painting Prayers

April 8, 2009 by  
Filed under News

While in the middle of painting my latest piece, “Faith”, I realized that my paintings are my prayers.  (With the exception of “Crayola”, which came out making no sense to me at all.)

Not figuratively, as artsy, sentimental mush.  They are very literally prayers.

That’s probably why I’m so emotionally attached to them (“Crayola” aside), and why I’ve never been able to consider selling them (apart from, “Crayola”… Poor “Crayola”).

This also might be why none of them ever feel finished.  Especially the paintings which remain unanswered.

When I look back on them I see that each one was created in a moment when I felt there was nothing else I could manage to do — when none of my own actions could change my life’s circumstances or my own condition and I had run out of words and ways to rephrase my pleas and petitions to God, I could still make pictures.  In a way, to me my paintings echo the tone of Old Testament offerings.

I’ve just finished reading “Disappointment with God” by Philip Yancey, and am now half way through his, “Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?”.

The visual result of such a tumultuous theme over the last year of my life is this ~ “Faith”, a series of three, acrylic on canvas (photographed with a very poor camera).

It’s a request, not a claim.

I can’t hold on to my treasures.  They were gifts to begin with.  I’m not in control of them, and my attempts at grasping at the pile only results in bruised and squashed fruits.  So I only have one option.  It’s certainly not common sense and it seems awfully foolish to do, but it’s the only way out.  Chuck ’em up to God.  It’s the only chance they’ve got, and the only way to free my arms of the load.  I guess my arms are of no use if they’re clinging on to tumbling fruits.
This image to me is the flip-side to the Pilgrim’s Progress idea.  He’ll take care of not only my burdens, but my treasures as well (before grasping on to my treasures becomes my burden).

I’m not yet sure which of the three images is me.

Faith, acrylic on canvas

Faith, acrylic on canvas

Other prayers:


“Day: 1” (which was painted over another painting called “Day: 39”)

Day: 1 represents the first moments of reflection and coming to terms – on the way to recovery and able to rest, but reflecting on how things will never again be quite as they were, before.  Blind faith hopes there will be a purpose, in spite of the thick fog that tries to convince it otherwise.  Day: 1 waits, hoping the pain will become a pearl.
Day: 39 was painted a few years earlier.  It was an image of an emaciated hermaphrodite character, doubled over and dry-heaving on the floor.
40 days in the desert.  40 days of flood waters rising.  The 39th day is that nearly broken state that thinks it will surely last forever and could never guess Day: 1 is just around the corner — the day before a dove returns with an olive branch in beak.  That painting was far too painful looking for me to ever display, so I felt it much more meaningful to start again, over top, with Day: 1.

“Anne’s Blue Heaven”
“I see the eight of us with our ‘Secret Annexe’ as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds. The round, clearly defined spot where we stand is still safe, but the clouds gather more closely about us and the circle which separates us from the approaching danger closes more and more tightly. Now we are so surrounded by danger and darkness that we bump against each other, as we search desperately for a means of escape. We all look down below, where people are fighting each other, we look above, where it is quiet and beautiful, and meanwhile we are cut off by the great dark mass, which will not let us go upwards, but which stands before us as an impenetrable wall; it tries to crush us, but cannot do so yet. I can only cry and implore: ‘Oh, if only the black circle could recede and open the way for us!'”
~Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank


Newest in the “Painting Prayers” theme,

Safe, Acrylic on canvas

Safe, Acrylic on canvas