In Praise of Chairs

I’m writing you from a chair. A large chair. A very large chair, all my own, taking up the corner of my room nearest the window. My feet are up, as it is a recliner. A very large, brown leather recliner that I bought from a woman named Heather on the internet. She was kind enough to help me lug it to my car, which had trouble stomaching the entire mass of my new, very large chair. But we eventually maneuvered the thing through the hatch in the back, where it sat neglected for several days and nights until I worked up the nerve to ask my new housemate to help me lug it out of the car. Then, up two flights of stairs and through my narrow door into a room that simply shouldn’t be asked to hold so many things.

But now, I’m writing you from my chair. And it is delightful. Upright and comfortable, I sit twiddling on my keyboards and computers, grateful to have left the days when I’d come home from work, collapse on my bed for lack of a chair, and promptly fall asleep far too early.

My chair is not just a chair, though, it is a place to work. A place to be. To be awake and comfortable. Because beds are not for sitting and typing, they are for sleeping. Chairs are for working and living. For being awake and alive. Chairs are where things get done.

And I’m not the only one with an affinity for armchairs.

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Above is Eve Sedgwick, an American scholar in the fields of gender studies, queer theory, and critical theory, working from home in a recliner of her own.

And below is Willem de Kooning, an abstract expressionist painter, in his large wooden studio chair.

My Dinner with Willem de Kooning, Painter Hero | by Bradley Wester | The  Creative Cafe

Writer Virginia Woolf supposedly had a favorite chair as well.

“Every morning she would walk down to the basement and into a storage room with a cozy old armchair that she loved. She would write away sitting in the armchair in her peace and quiet.”

Word Counter Blog

And the novelist May Sarton said:

“A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.”

A sentiment with which I whole-heartedly conquer. Writer Alan Garner said:

“Everything I have ever written has been in the same chair, in the same room.”

But the setup of famed children’s author Roald Dahl may be my favorite of them all.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roald Dahl | AnOther
Past simple | Baamboozle

With his blanket and writing board, lamp, pinned up papers, and cluttered desk. His writing shed seems the ideal place to be.

Chairs are one of those things for everyone. They’re all around us, in every shape and color and pattern and texture.

In the wonderful documentary, Rams, product designer Dieter Rams tours a collection of whimsical chairs giving his opinions on some of the outrageous maximalist designs.

And chairs have come to mean so many things. They can be symbols of status and life circumstance. Our actions around chairs communicate much. And chairs are often used in movies and media as pieces of the story, as analyzed in this wonderful video essay from 2015. One of my all time favorites.

Of course, how can you write about chairs without mentioning those highest of all?

Though thrones are quite regal, they often seem to be rather uncomfortable, and occupied by cruel folk. Like the angular throne cut of black marble in Eragon, or the Iron Throne made of the swords of past enemies in Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones symbology: What is the significance of the Iron Throne?
The Iron Throne, Game of Thrones

“It was not a comfortable Throne, this seat made of stone. But power was not supposed to be comfortable.”

– Elizabeth D. Marie, Chasing Cinders

Other times, thrones are full of pomp, showing plainly the disparity between the rulers sitting on the throne, and the ruled kneeling before it.

852 Throne Room Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Neither holds much sway on me. I myself prefer a soft, plain chair. To recline and work away on this and that.

“Every chair should be a throne and hold a king.”

– Ralph Waldo Emmerson

So this old leather recliner I shall make my throne.

Life without a skeleton

There’s nothing really giving my life structure in this season. Sure, I can create my own schedule. I can give myself firm end and start times or specific hours for work. But without any sort of external influences – going in to an office each day, evenings out of the house, Sunday mornings at church, etc – days are passed without a skeleton to keep the different areas of my life supported and suspended.

Instead, everything piles together – work flops into every hour of the day, swapped and rearranged constantly with household tasks. Interweaved with internet musings and nature documentaries. There is no ‘off limits’ time for any of these without any set schedules telling me when I have to show up for work, or when I’m not allowed to simply lay on my couch and read a while.

With the lack of structure in my schedule comes a lack of structure in my energy and emotional state as well. I find myself drifting fluidly, constantly throughout the day into and from states of laziness, exhaustion or purpose-driven energy. Sadness, happiness, loneliness, inspiration – every moment of the day is seemingly fair game for these and more.

It’s an odd way to live. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Often it’s frustrating.

I have much more than others, and I’m sorely lacking much besides. But days, weeks and months spent without a skeleton can be a messy way to walk for anyone – no matter what else they’ve got.

Interesting people are people with interests

In March of 2020, right at the start of the Covid-19 U.S. quarantine, a playwright named Lauren Gunderson put on a series of playwrighting masterclasses, hosted live on her Facebook page. I gleaned many journal pages worth of information through those livestreams. One of the things that really stuck with me – like an arrow in my skull – was the adage “Interesting people are people with interests.” Gunderson said this was something her Grandmother would often tell her.

She talked about it in the context of creating fictional character – maybe her Grandmother simply referenced it in discussing the neighbor down the block who created large metal statues from scraps in their front lawn, who knows. Characters with interests are characters who interest.

Austin Kleon wrote on the same subject in 2017, though flipping the perspective from fictional characters to the authors wrote them into being. He bring in several quotes from other thinkers and authors on the topic of being interesting, but my favorite has to be advice J. Maureen Henderson gave to students in an article she wrote:

Work on being an interesting person other people want to be around and are willing to open doors for…. There are many roads to becoming an interesting person, but they all involve developing your curiosity and your desire to know and understand — yourself, others, the world around you. You can read. You can pursue a new activity like knitting or rock climbing. You can volunteer. You can commit to asking three people a day an open-ended question about themselves and really listening to their responses. You can share your information and connections freely.

It’s not just that interesting people happen to like interesting things. Rather, their interest in the world leads them to interesting things, which makes them an interesting person.
Austin Kleon sums up my thoughts better than I can by saying this:

If you want followers, be someone worth following. [“Have you tried making yourself more interesting?”] seems like a really mean thing to say, unless you think of the word interesting the way writer Lawrence Weschler does: For him, to be “interest-ing” is to be curious and attentive, and to practice “the continual projection of interest.” To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.

Interesting follows interest.

Picasso’s Letter

“Everybody has the same energy potential. The average person wastes his in a dozen little ways. I bring mine to bear on only one thing: my paintings, and everything is sacrificed to it – you and everyone else. Myself included.”

This is a quote from a letter Pablo Picasso wrote to a lover, discovered through this video about the daily routine of the artist.

It seems quite a dreary way to live, but effective. Isolating, but inspiring. Like so many things, there are positive things to glean and add to my own life, and things to leave behind.

It seems as if Picasso was the ultimate hustler.

Characters from Milwaukee

Standing in a gas station next to a white van, long blonde hair and a beard. A Burley face. Really wide shoulders a tight long sleeve black shirt, with a contracting company printed on the back. But wearing extremely tight feminine jeans, and tall black boots. His body looks like a triangle.

Lewis worked at an auto dealership. He wore an extremely large felt gray pea coat, and had a very small head. Circular. He was very apologetic.

Tall, with a short scruffy beard, squeaky voice and warm demeanor. He wore his flannel shirts tucked into his black jeans. On the table next to him, as he got ready to go, sat a thick, canvas roll of tools held by 2 sturdy straps, with a black felt fiddler cap laying on top. The kitchen chair held a black violin case and a large black pea coat flung across the back. A lunch box sat on the table, next to the stark, bare wooden body of a violin in the making.

A small toddler, in his winter hat, coat and mittens, cheering excitedly each time his father split a log on the pile with his axe. “oooooo!” He said, throwing both hands straight in the air.

An elderly man crossing the street with a black balaclava on. Walking with his walker, upon which sat a small dog, maybe a terrier, wearing a green and red flannel fuzzy jacket.

A man in a mask, wearing a long black pea coat over a navy hoodie. Hood up, black top hat on over it. A long, loosely wrapped bright red, yellow and green striped scarf.

Griffin’s to-do list

My housemate, Griffin, has a lot of “gottas” in his life. He is someone who is just comfortable living how he’s living, and not too worried about fixing those small annoyances that drive me crazy. For example… Griffin chair in the living room where he sits 85% of his waking hours, and his bed are both too far from an outlet to plug anything in comfortably. To solve this problem, Griffin has a short extension cord he uses to bridge the gap. The issue? He only has one extension cord, and every day he unplugs in the morning, brings it out to the living room, plugs it in and sits down in his chair.
We’ve talked about Griffin getting another extension cord, but the answer is always “yeah, I gotta do that soon.”
I write this with no shade or ill-will, only with amazement and intrigue at how differently me and him operate. The other day, I started a list of Griffin’s “gottas” that I will add to as I hear them. Here is the list so far:

“I really gotta get a hard drive soon…” (2/3/21)

“I feel like I gotta keep screen time in mind moving forward so I don’t… Get dementia.” (2/3/21)

“I gotta get my website up soon… I’ve been saying that for a year now.” (2/4/21)

“I gotta start eating more.” (2/4/21)

“I think I’m gonna have a sale for my posters. Print a bunch out and sell them. I gotta do that soon” (2/5/21)

A lack of graphic design in film?

This evening, I watched a new Netflix movie called The Dig, set in an English village in the months leading up to WW2. Watching it, I noticed a stark lack of any sort of design or imagery within the setting of the story. The only graphic I noticed through the whole movie was a small matchbox held up for a moment while lighting a pipe…



In contrast, Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in nearly the exact same time (though in a fictionalized version of our own history), and is CHOCK full of beautiful graphics. Letters, notes, books, tickets, signage.

These stories are Very different – the former is set in the country of a remote village, the latter revolves around a large hotel a quaint little city – but the difference still struck me. I think Wes Anderson uses graphics and design in a way that few other directors do, at least that I’ve noticed. I think it’s a very cool tool that I wish (maybe selfishly) was used more often in film. It’s something I want to think about more intentionally when ever I get around to writing something for the screen!

I can’t wait to see how and where Wes uses graphic design in his upcoming film, The French Dispatch.

Media of the Month | January, 2021

MOVIES:

1. Ratatouille (W). 1/1/21 | 9

2. Knowing. 1/1/21 | 2

3. Castles in the Sky. 1/2/21 | 6

SERIES: The Queens Gambit. 1/5/21 | 9

4. Mulan (2020). 1/7/21 | 5

5. Togo. 1/8/21 | 8

6. Independence Day. 1/10/21 | 6.5

7. Let them all talk. 1/14/21 | 7.5

8. One Night in Miami. 1/15/21 | 6.5

9. Kajillionaire. 1/16/21 | 8.5

10. Outside the Wire. 1/17/21 | 6

11. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. 1/20/21 | 5.5

12. Hoodwinked (W). 1/23/21 | 6.5

13. First Cow. 1/26/21 | 6.5

14. The Dig. 1/30/21 | 8

BOOKS:

1. 1/8/21 – Ready Player 2. (Ernest Cline) – N, 13.75h

2. 1/16/21 – A Rogue of One’s Own. (Evie Dunmore) – N, 16h

3. 1/27/21 – Fellowship of the Ring. (J.R.R. Tolkien) – N/R, 526p

4. 1/29/21 – Tom Sawer. (Mark Twain) – N, 7.75h

Stores + Employees

Isn’t it interesting that stores seem to attract employees that seem to fit right in?

I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods today with my sister, and every employee we saw was decked out in Adidas and Nike active-wear, stocky and ready to run a marathon at a moment’s notice.

At Trader Joe’s, the store is fully of young and hip-looking folks, who I’d like to be friends with. The same type of people that often crowd the aisles buying food of the shelves instead of restocking them.

And of course, GameStop is chock full of the goons and gals that play video games deep into the evening – gaming levels and quests are part of the interview process.

We migrate to where we feel comfortable, even for such menial things as a part time job after class. We go where feel a belonging.

The Action Paradox

I was driving the other day to pick up Potbelly with two dear friends, when the conversation somehow dropped into the realm of the philosophical. One of them, Ian, said as a passing comment in a response to a story, “youth is always wasted on the young.”

There are two key factors when it comes to living life. There is energy for action, and wisdom to choose which action to take. It seems that the energy fades as the wisdom grows, making the wisdom negligible.

Youth is wasted on the youth, and adulthood is wasted on adults.