No! Bad! Stop!

This is a conversation I hate to have, at work:

“I was thinking, uh…could you do it like this?”

“Like that, in what way?” (The awkward shapes? The messy lines? That sense of deliberate incompetence?)

“I don’t know. Just…like that. The feel, y’know?—if you could do something like that, but in your style.”

“So, draw you a horse?”

“But like that horse.”

“A spotted horse?”

“Not spotted, necessarily. Just sort of…the look of it. The general…when you look at a picture, and you’re like, that’s what I want. You know it when you see it.”

(I don’t, though. I really don’t. I see a horrible glob of horsey confusion…and it’s leering at me.)

There’s a literary equivalent, too—you get a bit of awful writing: “and this is the style we’re after.” And you read it, and you laugh, ’cause it says “the sound of the wind blew over the waves, and the sound of the ocean was also perfectly audible,” and that’s not how you describe the shore. That’s not how anyone describes the shore. But at the same time, you despair, because how do you emulate that, without seeming like you’re poking fun?

I suppose you get that in every job. All the creative ones, anyway. Probably in software development, too: “make it like Microsoft Word, only not, and with the cloud.”

Damn it, man…you and the horse you rode in on, huh?

4 thoughts on “No! Bad! Stop!

  1. Somehow, the fact that he’s named Mr. Horsy makes him all that much creepier (also, these aren’t legs, these are tentacly appendages designed to suck out your soul)… But at the same time he’s oddly adorable. I’m confused.

    You know, when something is truly awful, to the point of triggering uncomfortable laughter* or confused stares** in those subjected to it, the usual saving move is to claim that it is avant-garde. I mean, that quote about the wind and waves sounds like the beginning of something T. S. Eliot would write.

    Also, I remember you complaining about a quiz that told you that your favourite word is “thing”, but really, “thing” is the best word. Something is either a thing, or isn’t, everything else is miscellaneous specification. And in fact, if something that is not a thing can still be mentioned or described, it’s still a “thing” in a way, so you get degrees of “thing-ness” (or fridge magnet level Kantianism). I may have said the very same thing back then too, by the way, but I don’t remember that.

    *Because you’re “tackling deep social issues”.

    **Because you’re “questioning the very nature of reality”.


    1. I just drew the worst thing I could think of, as an example (one doesn’t, after all, like to name and shame an actual artist). I may’ve been influenced by the horseypasta, just a bit. The Mr. Horsypasta.

      Y’know, this one time, I didn’t get a writing job because I couldn’t bring myself to write badly enough. I mean that without ego: the guy actually “corrected” the samples I’d sent him, to show how they should be “improved” for his audience. Basically, he’d sprayed them with adverbs and swapped all the adjectives for stupid ones. Like, “I laughed” became “I laughed loudly and uncontrollably.” A “slab of granite with legs” became a “dominating desk.” A woman’s legs became her “long and luscious legs,” and she was the narrator, and all she was doing was crossing them. He stripped out all the humour and replaced it with…I don’t know what he was going for. But he SAID he wanted romantic comedy, and what he showed me was aggressively unfunny. Like an episode of “Friends,” only WORSE! (Man, I hate that show.)

      I remember that quiz. It was more of a…a tag cloud thingy. It went through your Facebook posts and picked out the words you used most. Most of mine were expected: birds, drawing, Ilya Nikolayich Dolgonosov–but then, there was “thing,” right in the middle in huge type. But you’re right now as you were, then. Sometimes, “thing” IS the word you need. “I hate those things” sounds a lot more natural than “I hate the boxes piled up in my hallway,” once you’ve already mentioned the boxes. Even filler words have their place.


      1. I once had a month long stay at a house where nothing but “Friends” on the tv. I don’t remember any of it. The most unfunny experience I had in recent years was attempting to watch the movie “Airplane!”, which somehow always gets brought up on the internet as a standout comedy with “the greatest frequency of jokes per minute”. Which already suggests a crushing triumph of quantity over quality.

        Also, by the way, I’ve just noticed that your sprinting rat in the header contains the ladder. So even for those reading the blog, it’s still looming in their peripheral vision.

        In the same way just realised that “Dolgonosov” means “he of the long nose”. I don’t remember if you described him as having one, but even if he didn’t, it’s still a very “grumpy old man” surname.


        1. I had a friend, once, who loved that show–I was also subjected to a whole lot of episodes, all of which have run together in my head. I remember laughing exactly ONE time: when one guy’s TV guide was addressed to the wrong name, and it was quite a silly name. But then, someone told me it was meant to sound like an Indian name, which made it a racist joke, which ruined the one and only funny moment in the show. Never watched “Airplane!”–the one outtake I’ve seen from that discouraged me completely.

          The ladder HAD to be in the header, of course. That ladder is in the header (and footer, and body) of my life. Ha, ha, ha.

          Dolgonosov did, indeed, have quite a beak on him. That’s why I called him that. He looked like a bald, long-nosed Vladimir Putin. (Especially when he took his shirt off in the yard. The landlord was always trying to get him to put it back on, but he never did.)


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