Thursday, November 04, 2010

ich bin stumped

As usual, I have some rage to share, so brace yourself.  My friend Wendi calls these grumblings "coin-pursing it" like an old lady opening her coin purse and saying "Kids these days!"  But hey, it's my blog and I do what I want.

Know what inspires me?  A good book.  THE good book.  Kindness.  Humor.  A great example of selflessness and/or productivity.  My fam and kiddos.  New democracies.  A good visit full of controversy and interruption.  An awesome book...did I say that already?  I could go on all day.

Know what doesn't inspire me?  Random stuff you hang up on the wall.  And chairs.  And wallpaper.  And so on.  Is it pretty?  Yes.  Is it cool?  Sometimes.  But it's also just a thing, the only purpose of which is to sit there for people to behold it.  So I am puzzled and a little saddened when I bump into blog after blog and snicket after snicket saying stuff like "That pillow is so INSPIRING" or "your living room INSPIRES me" or "design INSPIRES me" or "that self-portrait of you sipping out of a straw at some restaurant is so INSPIRING" or "your bangs INSPIRE me" or "the new kid's line at this store is so INSPIRING."  Seriously?  Those are pieces of children's clothing, not Mother Theresa. 

I kind of get it, because of course, everyone likes to go out to eat, and to find a cool trinket once in a while.  But those are things you do now and then as a side dish to the main course of your actual life.  WE ARE GROWN UPS.  It seems like we should things to do, like BE grownups, and realize that a lamp is a lamp, not headline news and definitely not "inspiring."  IT IS A LAMP.  Maybe it's cool, and we can high-five you for finding a cool lamp, but it is not a show-stopper.  It is for lighting up the room.  No?  Our whole life can't (and shouldn't) be primping and getting dressed and decorating your house, right?  It's fun and everything, but those are things you do TO FACILITATE living the rest of your life, you know, being a decent friend/spouse/parent/sibling/neighbor, working at your job, doing all the unglamorous but productive or at least necessary stuff like wiping bums and tables and comforting people or making beds and whatever else, contributing to society, reading a book, doing some basic grown-up critical thinking, blahblahblah.  And I guess I can kind of see how a cool painting or something really arty is inspiring if it motivates you or sparks something in you, but that's actual art, or real design, not a trendy rug or whatever.  I am totally puzzled by all of the stuff I've seen lately about people being "inspired" by "design," which seems to be code for "I don't have real hobbies or interests so I shop."

Agree?  Disagree?  Am I missing something that would make all of this make sense to me? 

Grumble, grumble.

Addendum 11/5/10: I think creativity is cool, and I realize this tone is a little harsh.  I am pro-creativity.  I just think stuff is taking over the world and the internet and our thoughts and our hearts and our time, at the expense of more important and more substantive things.  And my rage is directed less toward actual designers and more toward those who spend a lot of time and energy on hypothetical redecorating or other stuff that bugs me.


tatum said...

i disagree! i see what you're saying to a degree, though. design has kind of hit a big wave that everyone wants to be a part of as far as trends go, but maybe people are using the word, "inspires" in the wrong way. good design, such as a great lamp or rug artfully placed or found in a great color or pattern, makes a lot of people happy. having a beautiful home does not just happen, it takes a lot of thought and skill. it's not fair to put down someone else's talent, career even, just because it's not book smarts, need a law degree in, or something you consider "productive" like wiping bums. maybe all this design stuff is a way for people to escape the mundane that is actual life, too. actual life can be bland, and they just want to bring a little beauty and oomph to it.

La Yen said...

This post? InSPIring.

Joyce said...

So I have been secretly following your blog...a result of "next blog"ging it a while back. This post has brought me out of hiding...I couldn't agree more. (BTW - Missed you on your informal hiatus; congrats on passing the bar.)

Mar said...

I. A. Gree. I have such disdain for people and their shit though.

~j. said...

I didn't used to be inspired by people's rooms. And then one day, I saw the word INSPIRE on someone's wall . . .

gurrbonzo said...

Tatum--I can see what you mean. I respect and appreciate people who have an "eye for things," which is not a strength of mine at all. I can see that arranging a cool room is something to be proud of. But I don't always get it when people go on and on about finding random stuff online and saying it inspires them. Inspires you to what? Shop more? Redecorate? Both sound fluffy. I don't mean to put down people who have careers in this at all. I'm just befuddled at the awe and enthusiasm people display about decorative objects that are, at the end of the day, objects. But I still don't think a nicely decorated room makes people happy the way other, more substantive things can make you happy, you know?

La Yen and ~j: you two are cut from the same cloth, and I like it.

Hi Joyce! Thanks and welcome.

Mar: IS IT REALLY YOU??? Your comment illustrates exactly why I love you.

Amy said...

Hey, this is kind of off topic, but just one my drive home I was thinking about you and how you inspire me to be a critical thinker. Or maybe i just ASPIRE to be like you or something. Anyway, I'm listening to this book while I commute and it totally makes me think about you - not because you are anything like the book but because I think you said that you really liked "The World According to Garpish" and this is slightly Garpish although maybe not. Anyway, have you ever read "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"? I like it very much so far.

I wouldn't say I'm inspired by design or decor or such. But if it is something really really simple, like an amazing color that I somehow had never noticed was beautiful behavior, then maybe just that color would inspire me. But not in a makeup or bangs sense or anything like that.

Dorothy said...

Disagree. Interior design is a wonderful creative outlet for some people. I honestly think that interior design can be just as artistic as a Chagall. It's usually not, and a lot of what goes on in design blogs is keeping up with the Joneses and not art. But well-done rooms are art and many pictures of them evoke, for me, lots of different emotions: calm, whimsy, loneliness, boldness, idyll, love, etc. Here is a link to a room I like, and I think a lot of the images remind me of still-lives.

The crux of the issue is what we consider important or worthwhile. For a long time, our culture has been moving toward intellectualism as the pinnacle of important work. The arts and crafts movement has perhaps reminded us of the importance of developing a craft, whatever form it takes, whether it be creating a traditional work of art, designing a sofa, designing a room, or writing a short story. I listened to a thing about it on NPR and I can get you the link if you want. Anyway, I think a lot of these crafts are truly inspiring - they inspire me to think more of my environment, to create a desired atmosphere in my home, to ponder art, etc.

Now inspiring bangs? Yeah, I don't get that one either.

TheOneTrueSue said...

I agree with you. Oh so very much.

In fact, I wrote out all of the ways posts like that make me pre-judge people but it made me hate myself a little, so I deleted it. I guess I tend to make certain assumptions about priorities and depth.

(Why HELLO chip on my shoulder, I almost forgot you were there!)

(But I still agree.)

Holly C M said...

I love your thoughts, here, and also enjoyed the comments of others. A good topic on which to think. Materialism, consumerism, and the like are not replacements for things that really matter. In balance, though, they can provide not only some comfort and beauty, but some peace as well. The word "inspiring" for such things, though, is definitely overused and misused.

Dorothy said...

Another issue that may be at play: most interior design bloggers don't know how to write. Inspiring may be the only synonym for "good" they know.

hate2bcold said...

Oh, how would it be to have a [insert barfy hubby nickname] who's only goal in life is to fund my checking account? Quit stomping on my dream to one day drop an endless amount of cash at PB and Anthro so that I can continually re-decorate, photograph, blog, and ultimately, inspire the world.

gurrbonzo said...

Amy: Thanks, friend! I aspire to be like YOU, too, and you ARE a critical thinker. And I just put the book on hold at the library and am looking forward to it!

Dorothy: Great points. I love it when you disagree with me. (Because it gets me THINKING instead of decorating my house. Just kidding, I don't decorate my house...) I like that room too, and can see how developing a craft is important and dare I say, even inspiring. But developing a craft like designing a room or couch is different from just bookmarking OTHER PEOPLE'S crafts and creations and saying "LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!", right? Creating something is cool.

Sue: I like you. Even though I'm not sure what it says about me that your post similar to this one made you hate yourself...bahahaha.

Holly: Amen. You always put things so nicely. That's pretty much what I meant, but you say it much more clearly and nicely and with kinder nuances.

hate2bcold: You kill me. I have full confidence in you and your ability to find a cash, um, bull?

wajd said...

Thanks for the name drop. And in case you are worried, "coin purse"-ing and "kids these days" will soon be my full time gig. It's only a matter of time. So my 2 cents on design as 'inspiring' consists of this..... women have a strong and sometimes pathological tendency to compare themselves to other women (i.e. their worst traits to others best traits etc..) I think decorating, design, hair bows, sassy jeans, cookie recipes, name brand baby strollers, ridiculously big nice cameras, vacations... EVERYTHING is ammo for this unfortunate tendency. If you are talented, creative and love to decorate - great. I question your need to blog/brag about it. Is inspiring really another word for "I want to be like you/have my house look like that/have my life be happy like yours must be because of your inspiring living room"??
I warned you that I'm a grouchy old lady. :)

Erin said...

i think this post is really inspiring. but mostly just the font.

Mhana said...

I think what I find most inspiring are quotes on distressed pieces of wood or mottoes stitched into cushions. When I see "Live, Laugh, Love" I think WHOA! Why didn't I think of that? Now I will live, laugh, and love more/better/more sincerely/more frequently. Inspiration? Check!

I both agree and disagree with the comments above. In general, I think the word "inspire" is misused, because "inspire" suggests that either you are now going to go do something (presumably somehow great) or you have reached an aha moment in your head because of your experience. Technically you can be inspired to go to Target and buy a glittery spider, but it pretty well degrades the word.

As for the arts and crafts movement -- I think we're talking about a different beast here. There is a difference between being inspired by a work of original art (a carved table, a beautifully illustrated book) and being inspired by painted plywood mass produced crap from overseas. I was in Paris this summer (elitist! elitist!) and in the Musee d'Orsay they have several art nouveau rooms completely and beautifully furnished in period pieces. It was inspiring in the sense that not only was the designer clearly an artist but every piece, every detail was the work of a master craftsperson (probably a man, realistically). If you look and think "this is stunning. What could I make? What talent could I use better? how could I apply my talents to create a space that is this harmonious?" then inspire is a fair word. If you think "pretty! Gimme gimme gimme gimme!" perhaps covet would be a better word.

Final thought. I think inspiration often comes from the Holy Ghost. I have had moments in writing where I felt like something was just flowing through me and beautiful words came tumbling out. I think that moments of creation have a touch of the divine in them. The way people were using "inspiration" in your post it sounds like they meant "that gives me an idea" which might or might not be particularly inspiring. If that idea is "I will recreate what you were inspired to do," so much the lamer.

lifeofdi said...

I was going to say something like Dorothy.

I have no eye for design. My house looks like a college dorm room. However, I have several friends who are artistic and creative and a one who does design/printmaking for a living. So when she says something is inspiring to her, it actually is. She is being inspired in her creativity and her craft.

While I understand what you're trying to say, there are a few points I have. (Former debater, sorry, I organize everything into points.)

a) They are creating a more beautiful place to live in. That tends to make people happier. I know I would be happier if my apartment looked like two functional adults lived there.

b) Most people are not saying design is the only thing that inspires them. Nor do they believe it is the thing that makes them happiest.

c) "But developing a craft like designing a room or couch is different from just bookmarking OTHER PEOPLE'S crafts and creations and saying "LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!", right?"

To an extent I agree. But if you're creative, then you will be inspired by other creative things. What's wrong with just linking to them to pass on beautiful things? I find the similarity in my passing along links to things/commentary I find interesting with minimal comment. That's a large part of the internet, just passing along links to what you enjoy. If someone did it or said it better, what's wrong with that?

This may have been the first time I've commented. Sorry for making it sound like I disagree with everything you say. I really don't.

SMGWinn said...

While I liked your post and agree to some extent, I think you're being a tad hard on those who get a serious sense of self-worth and accomplishment by "designing things." That's in quotation marks because the reality is, they're not designing anything new--they're copying. But that's ok, I think. In fact, in the design world, I'm not sure there is anything created ex nihilo--"new design" is always inspired by other design.

And when a non-designer, homemaker is "inspired" by a chair, I think she is inspired to not only shop for it or something like it, but then also to mix it into her own environment to create something beautiful and new and hopefully comforting or whatever. And voila, inspired by a chair to ultimately do good for her family.

What bothers me, though, is if the "doing good" ends there--with just the right chair in your house. In other words, This designing bug is kinda freaky if it's totally replacing all other avenues of productivity and becoming the one thing women do...

Brooke said...

I loved this post, and then especially this comment by Dorothy, because they both made me think about what I value and what inspires me. Especially this quote from Dorothy's comment: "For a long time, our culture has been moving toward intellectualism as the pinnacle of important work." It got me going on some albeit related but not-so-design-centered thought trains. Dorothy -- if you still have that link to the NPR story, I would love to have a listen: Thanks!!

gurrbonzo said...

Wajd: You are a therapist so I trust everything you say times ten.

Erin: I thought the same thing about your comment!

Mhana: Good points, and yes, I should have clarified (and in fact, I will in a moment) the importance of the distinction between creating something and the "GIMME GIMME GIMME" response. And I get what you mean about inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and how different that is from, say, coveting an overpriced coffee table or whatever.

lifeofdi: Hi! I think in bullet points too. And I can see what you mean about a cool room or apartment or whatever making people feel good. I'm not griping about creative people and their artwork as much as I'm griping about the dozens and dozens of blogs and facebook posts I see devoted solely and entirely to stuff, stuff, stuff. And it IS cool to see something you love and think about why you love it and how you can incorporate more of whatever you like about it into your life or house.

SMGWinn: You're right. I was a tad hard on people, and was way grumpier in this post than I should have been. (What can I say? I'm an excellent grouch.) But I'm not attacking actual designers as much as saying our obsession with THINGS at the expense of other worthwhile pursuits makes me hurl. (But I still have time to blog, which is SUPER productive, right?)

Brooke: I agree. Dot, we need the link!

Ru said...

I like the grouchiness, and think it is well deserved. While I agree with everyone above who pointed out that there is value in creating a beautiful space or project, the OVERALL point is that our society is very object-oriented.

My grandma had an amazing eye for design. She belonged to art clubs and collected art. She collected antiques and redecorated her home every few years. She understood the value of creating and maintaining a lovely place to live ... and she would also be the first to acknowledge that a place can really only be as lovely as the people who live there. No one is saying "all creative people are shallow" -- far from it -- but I agree with gurrbonzo that there is a big trend of "design for design's sake" out in InternetLand today.

I also kind of think of it like this, for all your Mad Men fans out there -- season 4 finale, Betty has purchased a new house. Don tells her it has a lot of character. Betty's first and only response is, "I will probably have to rip out the kitchen." There are a lot of people out there "ripping out the kitchen" -- and then bragging about it -- for no good reason at all.

Dorothy said...

Here's a link to the npr interview:

It's actually not nearly as good as this excerpt from the dude's book:

I was thinking of another response, and in my mind I was explaining, "It's not just a couch." Do you remember that line from American Beauty? :)

KT said...

Design, blah. I can't being myself to even read design blogs. Even the word bores me. Maybe that's why my house is cold and empty?

I like your blog.

danielle said...

hahaha - love this. will you please next do a post on blogs that are dedicated to girls taking pictures of what they are wearing every single day and telling us where each item of clothing is from?

Colt said...

One of the things that bugs me is people hanging pictures up of landmarks they have never been to or have no personal connection to it. I also hate going into a home and seeing only pictures from someone's wedding. If the only pictures you have are from your wedding there is something wrong and you need to do something interesting and take pictures of yourself doing it.

Mrs. Clark said...

Okay, as a sort-of "design professional" who regularly reads your blog, I have to comment here! (I have worked as a part-time decorator for 10 years).

I agree completely that the word "inspire" is over-used when it comes to decorating. Yet, I think a beautiful interior is like a work of art, and a serene, well-designed room is soothing. They don't just put any old thing in the temple, you may have noticed.

That said, it is very easy to get caught up in whether a particular pillow exactly matches the rug, and I have seen people get very worked up over their design projects. I want to say, "Hey! It's just a pillow, okay? This isn't brain surgery!" This stuff is expendable and largely unnecessary.

I love Mhana's remarks and I agree with her about the coveting. At the same time, though, making a house pleasant and comfortable teaches children that it is important to pay attention to one's environment and to behave properly therein.

I am a little disturbed when I hear people say, "Oh, I'll get nice things when the children are grown." Bad idea. Kids need to be taught to respect stuff and to care for their own things. I don't think anything should be off limits to them, but they need to be taught in their home how to respect property.

And I agree about the wedding pictures. I think family pictures should be displayed in the more private areas of the home. My husband and I have always collected art; it's not expensive stuff, but things with meaning for us, such as a woodcut from the Renaissance Faire, a framed Postum ad from the 1930s, posters we like. We don't have any vinyl lettering--and frankly, gang, Pottery Barn sofas are crap. Ikea stuff (and I do have some!) is REALLY crap. You're better off looking for good quality stuff at yard sales and thrift stores and reupholstering it! And then you don't have that cookie-cutter look Gurr is dissing!

Rynell said...

Calling something inspiring suddenly makes it very uninspiring.

Toomeilangi said...

gurrbonzo: I find your bloggings amusing and funny yet thoughtful at the same time, and I can kind of see what youre getting at. So I TOTALLY agree with you =).
btw, I`m with someone who wrote up there somewhere that Ive been following you as a result of "next blog" ging lol.

katie m said...

It's all such a hard balance. I can see why people get caught up in the design/my-rug-and-lamp-and-anthro-bedding-are-amazing infatuation. When we have a living space, it's concievable to understand (though I can't spell) why we work hard to beautify it and make it pleasant to our eyes. I'm in this boat right now. New house- want to make it attractive and colorful, etc etc. BUT!!! There's always a but.

I'm torn about the documenting it thing and people responding in about being inspired. I agree with you, I do. But then I remember that what inspires me may not inspire others. I've been guilty of documenting recipes:) and running and goals that I have. They may not inspire one other soul, but they do me. I am personally not inspired by blogs that post their *cute* vintage cribs or vintage this and that... it only makes me feel disgusted and turned off from materialism. Maybe it's jealously, maybe it's envy that I choose not to spend our money like that. And in my own opinion, aside from all of our hobbies, there are so many more worthy experiences to be involved in that don't require a large bank account, shopaholic's guilt, and a blog to show it all off for. I think of all the time our culture spends on shopping and repeatedly updating their homes. Couldn't we use that time to help people instead? Couldn't we do our visiting teaching a bit better? Couldn't we read an uplifting book that inspires us to make a contribution to peace in the world?

Blah blah blah. At any rate, interior design, loving to decorate, beautifying our home isn't evil. But it isn't inspiring; it does not make me want to be a better wife or mom. And I think we need to recognize and define that the things in life that are truly inspiring usually have little to do with outside appearences (i.e. wardrobes and home decorating) but more to do with kindness, selflessness, and compassion.


Good post Gurr. Love the inner workings of your rage.

Jason Bernard said...

This is exactly why I am really struggling decorating my office. I just dont care

griffin said...

I've read your blog for a while, but just noticed this post and had to add a comment. As a little background, I am a creative director at an advertising agency.

I agree with the fact that the word inspiration is generally misused. It should probably only be inserted if the piece of furniture, bangs or whatever cause a person to have a new thought and create something "inspiring" of their own.

You should check out a book called A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. It talks a lot about inspiration and thinking with the right side of your brain. It does a good job of explaining why something that seems as simple as a lamp to you can actually inspire others.