A day late, but I completely forgot about this beautiful animated short, based on a poem by the inimitable Neil Gaiman.Vodpod videos no longer available.
“Nicholas Was” by Neil Gaiman, animation by 39 Degrees North.
I don’t know how it’s possible to love this man any more than I already do, but every time I see something like this, he captures my heart that much more.
I’m not a terribly big holiday person, perhaps because there was always a lot of pressure and expectation in our household to have a happy cookie-cutter, Hallmark American Christmas. So there are no lights and there is no tree at our apartment this year. But I am baking cookies and making chicken curry for a potluck later on today, and I’m looking forward to having some nice company with which to pass the time.
So whether you are celebrating the festivities or just enjoying the winter, I hope you are warm and happy, and that there is hot food on the stove. I could certainly use a warm body to get cozy with tonight.
One of the things on my short to-do list while I was in Seattle was to take more photos of the whip I made for Max. I ended up taking them on a table with really strong sunlight, so they’re a little higher contrast than I’d like, but here are two that turned out alright:
This past Thanksgiving, I made it a priority to spend more quality time with my younger brother. We had a pretty confusing sibling relationship when we were both much younger, and I really want to build a better connection with him. He is a good, kind person, and in a lot of ways I always felt he was a lot better person than I was (which I resented when I was younger). And while I think he is doing really well, he lives solely with my mother right now, and I can’t help but want to provide another outlet for him, especially with regards to certain topics.
One of the goals of my trip home for the holiday was to create the opportunity to talk about sex with him. This opportunity was actually facilitated by my mother, who worried about not being able to talk to her son so frankly. She approached me and asked if I would be willing to send him some resources or talk with him, and I quickly agreed. I could not be happier that she felt comfortable asking me to talk to my brother about sex!
I bought him S.E.X., by Heather Corinna, and we spent a little time just skimming through the book together. I also showed him the It Gets Better Project and talked to him a little about bullying. My strongest memories of high school are of being miserable and having suicidal ideation, and while I don’t know at all if my brother feels similarly, he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about school, and he’s getting a lot of pressure, both from teachers and from my mother, to perform better academically. I know this created a lot of stress and tension for me.
It has been a difficult balancing act, not wanting to project onto him my own history and my feelings about my mother, while at the same time wanting him to know that the world is a much bigger place than the small rural town he’s in. He knows some of this already, having traveled quite a bit now and having spent a summer taking classes at a university in a major city. And God knows he’s probably already been influenced by me through all the mischief I got into, which my mother has undoubtedly vented about to him (much as she used to vent about my father to me).
The other topic my mother stressed that I needed to address with my brother was the SATs. She has continuously prodded me to help my brother better prepare for the SATs, to give him tips, help him with practice problems, and encourage him to study the many prep books she’s bought.
And I was loathe to do any of this, waiting until the night before I left to grudgingly take a look at a book with him. I felt badly about being so reluctant, but that reluctance was not because I was lazy or didn’t want my brother to do well. I have a very strong opinion of the standardized testing, and while I’ve done SAT tutoring, I absolutely hate the test and think it’s an unfortunate standard to have in our education system. All that said, I did pretty well on the test myself, and I actually tend to do well on tests like this. But I also tried to make the point to my mother that I never even studied before I took the test the first time, and that was only the end of my sophomore year. My brother is currently a sophomore. I personally think he has plenty of time to prepare.
So when we sat down together with the 2-inch thick prep book, I instead spent the entire time explaining how to study the test itself – its format, the way points are tallied, how to guess and eliminate choices. I told him he has plenty of time to study the actual content of the test.
And when my mother asked how our study session went, I assured her that he would be fine. She seemed unconvinced and still worried about him. The conversation we had around this has left me feeling frustrated ever since. She explained all the ways my brother wasn’t prepared for college, from his lack of awards from competitions to his lack of leadership roles in any organizations. She lamented about him not being competitive or aggressive enough in seeking these things out.
And then she told me I needed to help him. She related a story of a friend’s daughter, who was very self-motivated and got into MIT without needing outside help. But her younger brother was the complete opposite, with his parents assigning him private tutors and consultants to prep him for college, and still he wasn’t accepted to MIT. His sister intervened, using her legacy status and asking the admissions office what he needed to get in. They told her, and he was able to get in.
So, my mother concluded, it behooved me to help my brother reach his goals, because he simply wasn’t like me, self-motivated and a self-starter. I’m not quite sure where my mother got this opinion of me, because I don’t remember ever being called that before. Regardless, I left for San Francisco the next day, feeling guilty for not being more supportive (what a horrible sister am I?) while simultaneously still believing that he is the only person who can decide how to form his life, and that I should not be so involved as to direct the path he should take.
I always downplay my own educational background to my brother, where my mother likes to ask him if he wants to get into my alma mater. I tell him it doesn’t matter, there are so many great schools – and great programs – and that he shouldn’t focus on the Ivy brand name. My mother used to tell me I’d never get into anything better than the local state university when I got a less than stellar grade.
So there is this constant back and forth, with my brother unfortunately caught in the middle. I’m not sure what step to take – if I should take any at all. We don’t speak often when I’m in San Francisco – partially my own aversion to phone calls, partially because he almost never has his cellphone on him anyway. I do think I should be more intentional in being a part of his life; I’m just not sure what role I should play.
Of course, while I am sorting all this out in my head (and agonizing over it in conversations with Max), my brother’s life continues to play out. He’s already grown up so quickly without me there a lot of the time. I feel an almost maternal guilt for not being around more.
It’s funny how it’s when my life is joyful and fairly content that makes for the most boring and sparse blog posts. I wrote a lot more when I was more morose, unhappy, or lonely, it seems. Added to the general feeling of contentedness is the fact that I’ve just been consumed with other life happenings, and so I don’t often find the time or space to write here.
Because busy I have certainly been. There was the week of family Thanksgiving back on the East Coast, the flight back to San Francisco, and the flight up to Seattle two days after that. I spent the extended weekend with Max, and there is plenty to talk about there, except I came home and was immediately thrown into host-mode as a college friend was visiting San Francisco for a few days. I spent a couple wonderful days with her and the friends she was with, exploring parts of the city I’ve long neglected.
Still, it’s nice to carve out some time for myself this week, and I have been catching up on all the mundanities of life that constantly need attention, boring as they are to mention. I’m trying to become more organized – in the space I take up, the physical objects I own, and the way I generally go through life. I’ve coasted well enough so far, but that will only carry me so far before I start floundering.
Foremost on my mind is wondering where I will be, this time next year. I have, for the past five or so months, been making moves to apply to a certificate program in Seattle. That portfolio is still underway, and I’ve just discovered that I in fact can’t apply for their Fall 2011 enrollment until the spring. This leaves me a lot of time to think over what, exactly, my life will look like for the next couple of years.
I recently read this journal entry of one Neil Gaiman, and once you get past the funny (and cute) photos of Neil in a ridiculous number of layers of clothes, he answers letters he gets from his readers. The two letters on being creative writing majors had me drawing a lot of parallels to my own experience in the arts department. I found a similar discouragement to draw anything fantastical – though I admit some of that was self-censoring, because the curricula were fine arts oriented, which often holds a very strong bias against graphic design, illustration, and cartoon art. I struggled with conceptual art and art theory because I was more interested in creating characters and caricatures, and seriously had no illusions of creating any deeper meaning to my work.
I have been interested in this particular Seattle program because it is for natural science illustration, and I think it would help any kind of illustration I choose to do in the future. I also believe I currently have the ability to draw from life and draw to anatomical standards, and could do this without shelling out tuition money and uprooting the life I am building for myself in San Francisco.
On the other hand, I have pretty compelling reasons to want to be in Seattle as well…
Bah. It’s late, I’m rambling. I think it’s time to go to bed…