I've always had a symbol that's brought me great peace simply by looking at it, and I'm not sure if this is a positive byproduct of my Catholic upbringing or what. That symbol is the circle with the cross in the center, extending out evenly in four quarters to touch the circumference, very much resembling the Holy Eucharist of Communion during the Catholic mass.
I've always written it at the top of pages, in the margins of journal entries, just to set my mind at ease. The significance has always been that it represents my life, a large circle with everything inside, and a cross in the center holding it all together. Everywhere I see this symbol, and by that I mean not scribbled of my own doing, I stop to regard it and wonder if possibly it's a sign that that's where I needed to be at that moment.
I had this experience almost a year ago when I re-entered the workforce, going in for an interview at an office where in the conference room, there was an entire window of this design. After getting the job, I snuck in there when no one was looking and snapped a picture. I've been on the lookout ever since.
My job is in Homewood, Alabama, and I don't know if maybe there was some city-appointed architect assigned to keep certain themes going in some of the structures, but I came across the symbol again in one of the most appropriate and eerily telling places that Ted Torres could ever find it.
In a library, the Homewood Public Library, a building that I found this week, eight months after I should have. It is as beautiful and inspiring as the Hoover Public Library, very similar in its design, and in the main study area -- where tables are spread out under the glow of individual lamps -- there is a high window that is a circle with a cross in the center. That is all.
I don’t want to write a negative review of “The Lego Movie” here, because as is always the case when I disagree with the hype, I have to consider the fact that I have no frame of reference for the material. I find that this is sometimes the case with most of the comic book movies that are released lately, where when I'm not entertained in the least as a movie-goer, I'm told that this-and-this was something I’d only know if I’d read the source material. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but “The Lego Movie” was still lost on me.
There were times during this admittedly upbeat film that I felt depressed, as though perhaps maybe I was really the cold-hearted sociopath I sometimes suspect I am, not amused by such things and wondering what else in life has possibly passed me by. But I don’t know that this was the case here. I went in ready to be dazzled, wanting to get lost in the 3D world, but was instead underwhelmed and cringing quite a bit.
I know this had everything to do with my not having that connection to the “source material,” in this case, never having played with the toys as a kid and thus not getting any of the inside Lego jokes. While I absolutely appreciated the theme of celebrating the innocent, imaginative spirit that frames the movie, I just couldn’t push that rather-late revelation (about 75 minutes too late, in my opinion) to the forefront of what was otherwise a disappointing experience for me.
I wanted to say a few things here about some recent news items that I have very strong opinions on, not that any of what I'm about to say hasn't already been said. I just want to go on record about where I stand on them. Some stories just don't have a shelf life as far as I'm concerned.
First I'd like to say something about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the incredible backlash I've seen on social media about his being just another privileged star who killed himself and so on. Quite simply put, I see my friends when I see Philip Seymour Hoffman. I see an artist that has fallen victim to a very real addiction that no one has any right to judge the validity of in any way.
And that's simply because he made good art.
I also see a man who in death doesn't need to defend himself from a group of people who are finding the need to politicize it, making divisive claims that fit into a weird Christian agenda that sees both sides posturing according to their beliefs. I have people on my Facebook and Twitter feeds that are Christians, and most of them are raging alcoholics, yet they don't consider themselves addicts nor do they care about an artist that has done what artists do. Artists die.
Call me a lifelong Romantic, but there really are such things as tortured artists. Historically, what has tortured them is substance abuse. Addicts that were able to somehow compartmentalize their addictions to entertain us in some way created some of our favorite books, films and music.
Which brings me to one of my idols, Woody Allen. As artists, we can only dream to have been able to produce the body of work that this man has produced while simultaneously having to compartmentalize and navigate through a culture that is more than willing to be the judge and jury. I don't care what he's done, if the claims are true, or if Woody Allen is not only guilty but a heroin addict like Hoffman.
Unless we're going to do background checks on all of our artists and then judge their art accordingly, I suggest we learn to compartmentalize their personal lives much in the same way the addict does. Compartmentalizing seems to be one of Woody Allen's many talents. And after all of this, I can only hope that he can continue to produce the work that he has in this his postcard years (I call them this because all of his movies are like little postcards from around the world lately).
That's it, really. No main point. We're all addicts, we've all done shameful things, and the art is mutually exclusive and really all that matters in the end.