Search

Sam van Zweden

Writer

Category

Uncategorized

Never for nothing

Last week I went and saw The Decemberists play at Hamer Hall in Melbourne.

Their lead singer, Colin Meloy, is masterful at between-song banter. Because of this, Decemberists shows seem to be as much about the theatrics between songs as the music itself – which is exactly what makes crazy Arts Centre ticket prices worthwhile.

Meloy shared a song with us which he’d written to encourage his son, Hank, to eat. This is obviously ‘a bit’ that’s been appearing throughout the tour. You can view a similar bit that someone on YouTube filmed below.

This seems like a cute and entertaining ditty a dorky dad has written, until Meloy sings a riff that fans already know. They know it because it shows up in ‘Calamity Song’, from the latest Decemberists album. Meloy morphs into Calamity from there, the crowd goes wild.

What’s not included in the clip above is some preamble we got in Melbourne – Meloy described ‘Hank, Eat Your Oatmeal’ as ‘utilitatian’, explaining that sometimes little bits of creativity seem silly, but they just haven’t found their home or application yet. It’s just part of the process. You never make something for nothing.

It reminded me of why hold onto everything I’ve ever written, which I wrote about recently. Seeing Meloy’s entirely endearing explanation of the same thing, I wanted to immediately rush out and get a tattoo reading ‘Hank, eat your oatmeal’. I didn’t know where to put it, so that didn’t happen.

Point being, it’s so important to remember this. It’s never for nothing. It’s all useful. Keep coming back.

 

2016-04-05 12.28.08 (2).jpg

About to embark on a new food-themed project, it seems like a great time to use one of these gorgeous Bold Ideas ‘a cup’ notebooks.

For what it’s worth, I went with the peach spritzer.

Today’s research

Some days the research I’ve done in the name of writing just looks plain strange.

Today’s search terms:

Offal
Gyutan
How to cook tongue
Tripe
Define: duplicity
How long should a book outline be?
Landscape with the fall of Icarus
How many people in Australia eat offal?
Lucky Peach lava cake

I recently finished reading…

FW_Small acts

Nineteen ideas for an essay, or What’s On My Mind.

2946943615_c95e521e6a_z
Image via Flickr CC / Turinboy

How about writing and family and betrayal? This is too big. How about writing and ‘truthiness’ disclaimers? How about writing family without seeking permission? How about the slipperiness of story? How about accidentally changing memories by writing them? How about you remember the last remembrance, not the original memory? How about memories of photos, and remembering outside the frame? How about attempting to write beyond the frame? How about the idea that we’re not writing experimental nonfiction because we’re not really aware that other people are – we’re not aware enough of its existence? How about a ‘how about’ article – how about this list as essay? How about my NonfictioNOW paper – it’s probably too academic. How about a more accessible article about the difficulties of writing food and memory? Maybe that paper already is accessible. How about something based on my trip? How about Tall Poppies and the difficulties we have as Australians talking about ourselves and our own work without feeling some deeply internalised and fucked-up shame and terror that this ability to speak will make us unlikeable? How about a polemic about owning who you are and what you do? How about travelling and writing? How about the way that I felt entirely averse to writing down my experiences because their lived importance felt permanent and unforgettable, but then almost four weeks of this kind of living meant that it all blurred together and now I’m remembering through tweets and photos and ticket stubs? How about, going back to that idea of photos and decreased ability to remember outside the frame; how about the idea that all memory uses props? How about empty frames being more useful for memory because they don’t erase anything? Their emptiness creates room, rather than eliminating other possibilities and pushing anything less than certain out?

I am tiny. Beyond that. Nothing.

Grand Canyon w flag

 

When we got to the top of the rise in the car park, the Grand Canyon appeared – sudden and immovable. Huge. Hilarious in its immensity. My eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden abundance of depth and distance. Immense. Haha. What. the. fuck. My boyfriend and I walked along a pathway for about half an hour, stopping to take photos. I gave up on the photos quickly, not seeing the point in trying to do this landmark justice in a frame. The path veered away from the rim occasionally, and each time it came back I felt newly affronted by just how massive a piece of the Earth this is. I laughed. What even *are* my problems?!, I joked. I felt insignificant, and this was comforting.

Small metal markers set into the path represented a ‘geological timeline’ – each large step I took corresponded to a million years of the Canyon’s existence. I thought of the act of flying forwards in time, as we’d done to reach the US. Here I walked backwards in time, and my mind similarly struggled to make it a reasonable act. Pieces of rock placed periodically alongside the timeline displayed the changing colours and patterns that we might see if we were actually further down, in the Canyon. These rocks looked foreign to one another – as though they were from different parts of the planet. Or perhaps from different planets entirely. After half an hour of long, million-year steps, I didn’t reach the end of the Canyon’s formation story.

We sat on white rocks and stared out into this negative-space wonder. We held hands. I looked at the rock around us and thought of Hanging Rock – there, people had etched their names into the surrounding trees and boulders. In response to the Australian landscape, this gesture seems to be some kind of feeble protest against the intense discomfort that particular experience can provoke; against the fragility of our tiny lives. At the Canyon, there are no etched names. Along the path on the way back to our starting point, I saw names carved into a bench – so many names that they crowded and took up every inch of the man-made objects. Perhaps these small-time vandals could deal (existentially, I mean) with carving their initials into something they could comprehend the creation of. On the other side of the path, the sheer force and might of the Canyon screamed silence. Why bother trying to leave a mark on that?

Its expanse is terrifyingly beautiful. It is also comforting. It is the hole I feel open inside me at times, and the place I want to disappear into when the shame of existence gets overwhelming. It is a place where I could get truly lost, despite all the visitors to this site, and never, ever be found. I want this. This is my nightmare. I am pulled toward the edge, a scream in my chest; the knowledge of that self-destruction on this site would mean nothing, would be forgotten in a breath. Not even half a step.

Periodically, American flags dot the rim. As if this site could be claimed.


cityoflitlogo

This trip was kindly supported by the UNESCO Melbourne City of Literature travel fund. 

We eat the world

Image via Flickr CC / darwinbell
Image via Flickr CC / darwinbell

“Psychologists say that the action of eating, of taking in food is simply enchanting – because it’s the way we can take up the world inside ourselves, how what is around us becomes part of us. We eat the world.”

— Antije Krog.

The Interrobang

Today the Wheeler Centre have announced their forthcoming ‘festival of questions’, which will take place on November 27-28.

This promises to be a unique festival. The Wheeler Centre has launched its Interrobang website, where the public are asked to submit their ‘best question’. These questions are being compiled into an archive, where you can click a love-heart to show that you’d like to hear a particular question discussed at the festival. The questions with the most votes will become part of the festival’s program. You’re literally being given the opportunity to give direct input on a crowd-sourced festival program.

Just a quick A++ shout-out to the person who’s submitted a question as to why people overlook Cameron Frye’s importance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I had a moment of realisation recently where I understood, all of a sudden, that that film is about Cameron, and not Ferris. The IMDB blurb doesn’t even mention Cameron. Ferris is the same at the beginning and the end of the film – his story has no arc. For Cameron, things change… This might seem tangential, but I encourage you to vote for the Cameron Frye question. I want to see this character celebrated for the hero that he is, and this is the only opportunity we may get to make this happen.

The line-up of guests for The Interrobang (the ‘Brains Trust’) has already been announced, and it’s full of people with multiple job titles and areas of expertise. A few particular favourites of mine have me beyond excited – Cheryl Strayed! Meghan Daum! Nakkiah Lui! This is gonna be good.

So go have your say on what needs to be discussed – submit a question, and vote on those you think belong on the program. The full program will be announced on October 12, and the festival takes place in Melbourne’s CBD on November 27-28.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑