I’ve lived in Toronto since 2004. Yes, with a couple of not-insignificant breaks, but I would estimate that I’ve been in the city for at least eight or nine years in total, and whenever I’ve been gone I haven’t ever really been very far. I kept a relationship with the city, is what I mean. In all of that time I’ve stopped, I think, three people from walking into traffic. I don’t think any of them were trying to do it on purpose, not like I wanted to do for a brief period of time in the winter and spring of 2005, they all just seemed distracted, lost in their thoughts or doing something else. I’ve almost done the same myself, at least once, I think, although it was a long time ago, if it happened at all. Today I grabbed a kid—he looked to be twenty-two, but he was probably even younger than that—just as he was about to walk into the path of a bus at McCaul and Dundas. He was on his cell phone and wasn’t paying attention, and hadn’t noticed that the light had changed. I saw that he hadn’t seen it but the bus was turning and I was sort of incredulous that he was just going to walk into traffic like that so I waited until almost the last moment before I grabbed him by the arm and told him to watch out. I actually just said, “Hey,” in a kind of surprised but firm tone. He just stopped and stood on the curb (got back on it, actually), without even looking at me, while he finished telling a story to his friend and the bus passed through where he would have been. It was like he hadn’t even noticed I had saved his life, or at least saved him a trip to the hospital. After what felt like a minute or two, but couldn’t have been, he turned to me and said a clipped, insincere thanks before immediately turning and crossing to the north side. Like I said, it wasn’t the first time I’ve stopped someone from walking into traffic, but it was the first time that someone had been so flippant about it—usually they’re at least embarrassed or relieved. There’s some kind of recognition of what happened. For sure there was with me. I felt like this guy was on another planet, not because he seemed depressed or distracted but because it didn’t even occur to him that actions in this world could have physical consequences. Like he was walking on a sheet of plastic laid over the intersection, like they used to do when they animated cartoons. It took me a couple minutes to think about what had happened and to feel the adrenaline that was finally kicking in and to realize yeah, I had really saved this guy some trouble, and yeah, it didn’t matter to him. It’s not that I wanted to be celebrated or anything, because I could care less about that, anyone would have done what I did in my situation, I’m not the exception. It was more that I was just astonished that someone could come so close to death or major injury and be more invested in what sounded like a pretty a dumb cell phone conversation with his friend. When you’re young you feel immortal and when you go on the internet a lot or spend too much time on your cell phone reality seems less important, your body starts to feel like it’s just a flesh cage used to carry your consciousness across tabs and through screens, and a part of me wonders if the result of all of this build-up of technology are guys like this kid who don’t care whether or not they’re going to get blown away by a bus, who are naturally more invested in what’s going on in their phones than in the world around them. Which, yes, is probably the case when it comes to checking their news feed while they wait at a bus stop, which is basically how it is for everyone, but I mean to the point of not caring whether they live or die. But that’s crazy, it’s the kind of thing that a bad newspaper columnist would write, the truth is more complicated than that, and probably this guy was embarrassed, and he just didn’t know how to express it, and that’s why he crossed the street so quickly, and when he got to the other side he took a deep breath and told his friend what had just happened, how he had almost died, and talked really quickly because his heart was racing, and looked across the street back at me and made brief eye contact, and felt ashamed or embarrassed because he had let himself get so recklessly close to death.
basquiat = young picasso > henry moore > old picasso
carr = kurelek > lawren harris = yvonne mckague housser > a.y. jackson > tom thompson
lermontov > nabokov > chekhov > tolstoy > dostoevysky
Emily Carr got better with time, Picasso got worse. He started to see the female body as a canvas to be stretched and distorted and hung. It was clear he thought he could do whatever he wanted with women. Basquiat died at twenty-seven and his work never had the chance to deviate much. Henry Moore drowned in Lake Ontario and when they finally discovered his body it was covered in zebra mussels, like it was anything, a boat or a shovel.
I realized today that I liked Moore more than Picasso, and that this feeling has slowly crept up on me, a deepening through association, almost like an arranged marriage. Moore belongs to Toronto and I grew up in Toronto and live in Toronto now. To arrive at this feeling I did not have to walk as far as McCaul, to the public statue I have poked my small body through. I only walked quickly through the Moore gallery in the AGO and I thought for a moment that if art is about putting work into the world that expands the notion of what is possible than maybe Moore is better than Picasso. But it was just Moore in there. I wasn’t sure I could say that he was better than Picasso unequivocally and so I split Picasso into two. Now I wonder if I was being too generous to Picasso in doing so.
This is isn’t about what it is better, except when it is.
Lawren Harris is godless and his work is inhuman. But it is undeniably good even though at times I have looked at his Arctic landscapes with a reflexive disgust. It depends on my mood. I have seen, in person, a single portrait of a woman named “Veronica” by Yvonne McKague Housser and I liked it more than anything I’ve ever seen by A.Y. Jackson or Tom Thompson and I thought it was as good as anything by Harris. Good enough to change a life, or a national destiny. I wonder what this country would be like if “Veronica” was considered our true portrait.
The space between human beings, between past and present, between objects crammed together on a batchelor’s shelves destroys me in Kurelek. The spaces are either too large or too small but there is always a field between one thing and another. His work could never be a national destiny because it is what already is—even his religious work already is. Kurelek is a vein or a heartbeat. To be Harris or Housser there needs to be some disturbance or friction. I mean that part of the disturbance needs to be at the centre of the work. Which is just not the case in Kurelek: even when the sea turns red with the blood of heresy, laxity, apostasy, it is the church on the rock at the centre of the image.
It hurts me to rank the Russians in any order, to point the carrots backwards or forwards, but for some reason I decided that I couldn’t use the equals sign with them, even though I might have put one in every position. Nabokov knows in his heart that he deserves to be on top in any ranking, and that’s true, of course, and Tolstoy and Chekhov deserve more than I’ve given them, and I’m not sure where Gogol has gone off to (he could be at the front or the rear), but I have ordered them according to a feeling and it is not an all-time feeling, it is smaller than that, and where this feeling lives Lermontov is first.
Today the air had a peculiar quality: it made things look like they did when you wanted to import all physical surfaces into Doom, when you walked around the neighbourhood with your parents and imagined using a digital camera to capture the red brick of a neighbour’s house and stretching that on a vertical surface receding to the horizon.
As if that would make not only Doom but reality better somehow.
The air was heavy with the rain that was going to fall later in the day. Colours were brighter and more precise than normal.
It made you also think of your best friend from grades three to five, and how he’d given you Doom 2 on a CD-ROM, and how one of the last times you talked to him on the phone you were playing that game, as if the phone call with a friend that you never saw anymore because your family moved away was not important enough to press “Esc” and pause. But it wasn’t that at all, it was more like playing the game while talking to him raised both activities in importance by association in your mind: as if you knew that of all people on the planet your friend would understand that playing Doom was something that could not be put off.
Even though you are pretty sure, looking back now, that you might have sounded bored, or at least distracted, and he might have noticed. Probably it was going to happen anyway, but you didn’t talk much after that.
Doom has been ported to nearly every game system that came out following its release, as well as to devices that were never meant to play games, such as printers, pianos, and scientific oscilloscopes. The Doom community has a kind of autistic commitment to the propagation of autism. When you felt sad as a kid you played Doom in your bedroom, not for the thrill of killing (because in reality the demons and the dark spaces terrified you, and you killed more out of fear than joy) but as a way of asserting control over your circumstances. Or of finding your trace in the game. You had dreams where your hands frantically typed out the Doom password for immortality (“iddqd”), but without a keyboard or other form of input the movements meant nothing: in the end, you were just another kid running from your fears, calling out to God to recognize your rituals.
What if you could map out your school in Doom? You liked the idea of reflecting the corridors of familiar spaces in Doom architecture, such as your school, the strip mall and grocery store, your house, your neighbourhood. To do so would be to achieve a kind of private mastery over them. An adolescent fantasy in which every door can be unlocked. Before Columbine, which might have altered the tenor of such daydreaming. Nothing to do with death, except perhaps in the Apollonian sense: a second life that could not be corrupted, mapped onto the first, but which belonged to you alone.
I sat down to type this and noticed that my landlord was outside my window. He was saying something to someone else. I had a brief moment of panic because I wasn’t typing in Pages but was reading Kotaku. Why do I care what my landlord—a man who wears a Gilligan hat and recently referred to M as “my purple pen drug dealer”—thinks about whatever I’m doing? I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything wrong with him, he just shouldn’t be an authority figure who determines how I live my life.
Today I went to the JHB to work, but instead of working I mainly surfed the internet and felt incredible anxiety. Of course, the internet creates anxiety, primarily through the way it flattens and erases: flattens information through the suggestion that it is equivalent, erases through its emphasis on what is “new.”
I don’t need anyone to tell me that news about the Witcher 3, a game which I don’t care about and will most likely never play, is not the equivalent to news about ISIS or laws protecting transgender children, but on Kotaku it is presented in a breathless voice that renders it as or more interesting than other issues. I’ve read an estimated ten-to-fifteen articles on the subject. Additionally, in the Gawker media “trending articles” list, articles from Kotaku often place ahead of items that should be indisputably prioritized… Gawker itself sensationalizes news—to a certain extent, of course, all media outlets do—but it does so in a particularly vulgar way, its writers catering to its readers like they were Burger King customizing Whoppers.
I feel eroded by the internet as a platform. After just a couple minutes of using the internet I begin to forget everything that’s happening around me. After hours, this amnesia extends to my past or personal history… I have difficulty remembering past conversations with friends…
I stole some of these concepts from a review of the Entourage movie that recently appeared in the Globe & Mail. I’d provide the author’s full name but I don’t know how to spell it correctly and I don’t want to use the internet right now to check. I’m afraid that if I did I wouldn’t be responsible for what happened and I’d never finish typing this up.
The internet isn’t necessarily the only reason I did not feel successful today. About two weeks ago I suspended therapy, which I have been going to without fail every week for roughly the past six years… I am depressed and I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to cope with that feeling without therapy. Typing this blog entry is perhaps one way.
When I feel depressed I feel terrible anxiety about the future and all forms it might take. Whatever future I imagine inevitably contains some terrible thorn that makes it horrible and incomprehensible… or perhaps “impossible” would be a more accurate term. Weighed down by these potential futures I am seized with the inability to proceed in any direction, while conscious of the fact that to languish in one position for too long would lead to my complete dissolution. Typing the preceeding sentence, writing the word “conscious” caused my head to swim with fear, and I realize that that might be the source of my trouble: the implication that “languishing” is not an option. Often it is the best one. I must accept that. I won’t lose everything, immediately.
The problem is that when I’m depressed I’m afraid of losing time. Often the form this takes is to seek out experiences that feel “timeless”—so that I might inhabit that brief immortality and put off the full loss until much later. This includes using the internet, masturbating, playing video games (that always disappoint me), watching television…
You might have noticed that this entry is written in a stilted and slightly impersonal style. I’ve been rereading Borges and I’ve decided not to fight his influence, which is evidence some of his mind has slipped into mine.
In Borges’s story “The South,” the protagonist observes that when petting a cat he is within an understanding of time which includes a consciousness of the past and the future as well as the present, while the cat’s understanding of time excludes all but the present. Whether or not one believes that (I am not sure I do), being depressed is sort of like being that cat, locked within the present, but conscious that there is a past and a future that you do not have access to. I am afraid of losing time most of all, I think, because when I look at others who seem to be functioning more-or-less “adequately” (this is an illusion, I know), I perceive that they are able to fully inhabit their pasts, presents, and futures, while I am locked in a static but doomed present…
When I give authority over how I feel to people inappropriately, as I did earlier with my landlord, it’s a sign that I’m not feeling great. I want someone else to be responsible for my emotions, hopefully to be able to help me through them… Maybe that’s the solace that therapy provides? But it is also functionally impossible.