an open letter to craig ferguson

 

hello again, andrea’s readers! i have returned with a second installment in my feeble attempt to relate to the world again without incorporating a therapist. this entry has little to do with the last, which was more or less a list of complaints towards the opposite sex. rather, a roundabout composition of feelings towards a figure i find relevant and fascinating: late late show host, craig ferguson.

being free and done with grad school is both liberating and debilitating . although i somewhat have a job – or rather, some work lined up – feelings of being in a perpetual state or crisis and/or panic have vacated. it leaves a lingering feeling of guilt. before, there was always something – a model, a drawing, a task, a fragmented thought – that some where, some time, was left unattended. and in the midst of attending to and completing other models, drawings, and coherent thought patterns of mediated streams of consciousness, some of these were left (temporarily) incomplete. when time permitted one would presumably complete them, and the sense of urgency to complete them intensified as they accumulated on your desk/pallet throughout a given semester. it was just as much about quantity as it was about quality. this is harvard, for gods sake, there is no half-assing in the midst of a sea of alphas. i must admit, i had a difficult time keeping my head above water. there was even a moment when i thought i might drown, that my academic and consequentially professional career as an architect were over.

with this type of fatigued and simultaneously energetic state being completely not the case now, i am finding that i must readjust. but how? and to what? i’ve been waiting for this freedom for three and a half years now. from the moment i finished reciting my final thesis presentation up until now, the whole thing has hovered in the realm of ‘unfulfilling’. don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been a complete state of sloth. i have set up a routine for myself that i have been longing for for many years: i go to yoga regularly. i have a skin regime (my skin had gone to complete shit as did my eating habits and exercise routine in the last 3 years). it took some time but now i sleep when the sun goes down and wake when it rises (i sleep in rather late, however. it is out of my control). i pay attention to people again – real people. not post-modern critics and authors whose brilliant essays i must dissect and be able publicly interpret and critique the next day in class.

for the record, i am a very shy student. i managed to refrain from contributing to all theoretical discussions in the public forum during my time in school. it just simply was not my thing at the time. it was beyond my capability. this is where i must confess further that school does not come naturally to me, contrary to the popular belief that all harvard acceptees must be naturally gifted students that have managed to work and manipulate the academic system (mine and andrea’s old friend katharine, however, matches this description to a t). i am not one of those. in fact, i detest them just as much as the next guy. on the contrary, i have always struggled in school. it’s not to say it was from a lack of interest, although looking back, perhaps some of it was. but my mind has a hard time retaining and storing information. i am terrible with names, terrible with dates. i can never recall upon something i have read – maybe even multiple times – and use it to structure an argument of my own. i also lack a certain logic. by that i mean there is never a rule or pattern that i uphold as absolutely and necessarily true – because of this i would make for a terrible programmer, engineer, or scientist for that matter (unlike my dear friend andrea, who has always maintained a clear and concise view of the world around her. i attribute my parents uncompromisable trust in her to this quality that she so genuinely possesses). i am more limber, because i base my view of the world off of what i know. and all i can deduct for sure right now is that what is true today will not be true tomorrow. no matter how long i analyze and anguish over something, it will always be up for grabs again. so the best i can do is be observant, and try not to miss anything, since more often than not, my grasp of it will be lost in the next minute.

and so was the strategy of my academic career. everything – my opinions, my logic, the concepts which i tried to formulate and incorporate into my work – would always be some derivative of the fleeting. it is only now that i begin to see that maybe some of that was flawed, because in school – architecture school especially – our task is not to be able to come up with brilliant astounding ideas and execute them in the most graceful and aesthetically coherent manner. rather, it is to be able to logically work through a puzzle which we set up for ourselves – to show coherency and consistency in the decisions we make throughout the various stages of the project. those who maintain that the gsd didn’t give a shit about process are delusional, because i have seen some very mediocre work (mine included) receive high praise, while very promising work (mine included) get crucified. it took me 3 years to learn that harvard’s job is to teach you how to win an argument. it is of little wonder to me now as to why i struggled so much, because as i have mentioned before, my mind is not structured like a sponge, and i am always in complete awe of those whose are. it truly is a gift. or a super power.

i digress…

truth is, i have no right to complain. i have been offered a generous role as an interior designer on a project. it is the kind of opportunity that i should not see until years, maybe even a decade, of office abuse. if this sounds cynical and unromantic, it’s because it is. architects, in my opinion, have it just as bad as actors. we must somehow develop the skin of one by the time we exit school, because the amount of rejection and violence done to the ego will lead to the type of alcoholism and suicide rates as that of the acting profession. the world doesn’t like architects. my theory is that it’s because the role of ‘designer’ in any capacity is a very pompous position to bestow upon oneself. who the hell am i to tell you how and where to make breakfast every morning? or how to experience the art which the walls of a museum subject you to? other than the fact that i’ve been trained for nearly a decade, which in theory should grant me some authority over those who lack this training. still, i’m not completely sure how non-architects view architects. i know how i do, and most of the time the recurring thought is “who the fuck designed this?” it is a parallel that was recently drawn upon by local/global comedian craig ferguson, who assessed that he was receiving the same attitude in comedy. he articulated that people assess what’s funny and not funny on their own accord. what is funny to you is not necessarily funny to me. the whole game becomes so subjective that communicating in an sort of universal terms can turn futile. but this is what distinguishes him as an award-winning comedic. his training. his perception. his ability to communicate globally. to add insult to injury, craig was told when he first started by producers that he would have to wait to be forgiven by his audience for trying to make then laugh (!), as if it were some invasive act.

to preface i must explain something about my own behavior. upon realization that i have genuinely taken interest in another human being, i find that not only do i begin to read in the vocaularic tone of the them, but also comprise sentences and thoughts like them. the past 24 hours i have been the belarussian reincarnation of craig ferguson. following this acknowledgment i fall victim to a pattern that goes something like this: i will develop a crush on the subject (usually a hollywood celebrity whom i have little in common with and no possible chance of ever crossing paths with in real life) based off some attention-grabbing observation made over something they have said or done (usually a convincing portrayal of character i liked or a candid attitude towards their own success) . i’m pretty sure the rest of the world works in the same way, thus we arrive at the term ‘celebrity’. something about them makes us relate without contact and want to know them better. i’m sure it is this particular characteristic in which casting directors have been trained and base their sustenance off. this month it happened to be craig ferguson, whose late night talk show i have found myself catching more and more, as during my final thesis semester i was up working nearly half the night every night. (*i have made many a brilliant and disastrous scholastic designing decisions in the presence of his overbearing scotish banter; most often my chosen form of light background noise to make me feel like there are still people outside of my 250 square foot studio apartment). i didn’t know where he came from or how he got the gig, considering the man is from BFE old world, talks with a thick accent, and generates his act based on his own humility. i, for one, rather enjoy it, but mostly because i am an immigrant and take no patriotic issue with anyone who invades my television with an accent. rather, i am interested in why america is interested. i equated him with the nigerian singer sade, who albeit still classified as british in some regard, maintains her place of birth as abadan. she has the most incredible voice. but my fascination with her lies in the fact that although incredibly talented, her starting point was a small primitive town in the third world. yet this town somehow had managed to produce an artist with universal appeal. not to sound insensitive, but in america, who the fuck gives two shits about this small town on an african continent whom most people have never heard of? and what’s more, who the fuck cares about what this woman has to say? who is going to give her the time of day, especially when scantily clad superficial pop singers like britney spears are running around with their multi-million dollar deals and agents? yet somehow, here she is. making music, which people purchase, in stores. it is rather mind-blowing to me, since her chances of success were so small. the way i see it, the same goes for craig. considering his tendency towards alcohol, and all odds withstanding, he should have been back in glasgow by now curled up, nursing a bottle of stoli (he mentions in his book it was a favorite) seeking solace in the gutter because sometimes, it’s just the most comfortable place to be. yet here he is, on prime time network television, earning recognition and developing one-way relationships with the nocturnal – or in my case, studious – community of the united states. unbelievable.

i didn’t truly become obsessed – and even as i write this i feel my preoccupation with him fleeting – until i moved back to LA, which is where he has spend the past 15 or so years. to know that somewhere nearby he is living a life made of happy endings, where surviving misery and risk is rewarded with unprecedented success – this is somehow important for me. because pondering over the reasons why this man has any significance in my life i’ve come to the realization that perhaps i am rendered fearful that all of our efforts to lead a fulfilling life, where the skills that we have harnessed, devoted our lives and mental space to, are potentially futile. there is no guarantee that anyone is going to give a shit about us or what we do, and like the famous and brilliant writers and painters of generations past (poe and van gough come to mind) the reward for our life’s work are potentially misery and poverty. people like craig transcend disparity. it was never about masking the fear or distracting youself from it (i believe at one point he had convinced even himself he was going to die of it), but someone continuing on despite of it. he was nearly a quarter of a million dollars in debt when he migrated here, and day after day, continued on with his life, going on auditions and facing rejection after rejection. rejection started to comprise his regular day, with the occasional deal that had a 50/50 chance of resulting in development past a conceptual state (of the movies he managed to have a hand or significant role in, more than half were economic failures). yet someone was still willing to take a chance on him. this, perhaps, is the most mind-bending of all. as an immigrant and devout pink floyd fan, i was brought up with the notion we are only given one chance – and if we fuck up, that’s it. done. (“one slip, and down the hole we fall/ it seems to take no time at all…”). the idea that one man could recover from alcoholism at a relatively old age, emigrate to an entirely culturally different country, carry with him astounding amounts of debt, and on a half-whim survive in a profession and industry as cut-throat as the HOLLYWOOD industry, really somehow gave me a small – and again fleeting – glimmer of hope.

I went to a taping of his show a few weeks ago. since my family lives in LA now we are finding new and unorthodox forms of entertainment. this includes being a member of a live studio audience. i was profoundly disappointed with the whole process of a live taping of late night talk show television – it required a lot of cued and exaggerated laughter from the audience for the sake of taping, and my most detested form of human abuse: the hoarding and containing of a large group of people. we had to stand in lines, wait on benches, walk up flights of stairs single file – all of the things about elementary school that leaves one permanently scarred. i also was very much put off when the staff attempted a pep talk  about the mood of mr. ferguson, explaining that depending on the day and the audience, his comedy will dither be brilliant or mediocre. as if we would either be rewarded or punished depending on out behavior. further agitating me was craig’s hypemaster or whatever you wanna call him and his deeming us audience members as “show enhancers,” like we were inanimate props who had jobs but no entitlement to pay. my immediate response was resent. i was ready to walk out and just catch the show from the comfort of my bed later that night, the way producers and god had intended. (i believe at one point, the hype guy was very clear about this: that craig was there to address the audience sitting and watching from home, not us. we were but a group of show enhancers who no longer had feelings). but i must confess, throughout the tedious and unnecessarily long process, i was never disappointed with craig. his energy level exceeded my dads (for those that know my dad, he is probably one of the most intense and energetic people on the planet. maybe all proprieting immigrants have to be). granted, craig is a rather attractive man, which is why it is of no wonder to me why he had never had a problem getting a girlfriend – hundreds of beautiful ones at that – the man was like a magnet, hilarious and cunning. i couldn’t take my eyes off him. and it was because of this that i somehow managed to partially play along, laughing on cue and managing to slightly exaggerate the whit and cleverness of his jokes on that particular day, leading me to believe that clearly, on behalf of the effort made by us as an audience, this was one of the days that craig was putting forth the minimum.

recently i picked up his book and read it cover to cover, starting the first few chapters at the english bar ‘cat and the fiddle’ in hollywood on sunset (evidently the oscars were taking place not 3 blocks away). i ordered a  sandwich and 3 beers (not all at once) and began his narrative. i finished it that night around 3 am. it was hard to tear myself away, since what i was looking to get out of the book came in the last 20 pages or so, when he talks about the risks he took which would eventually lead him to one of the most coveted roles in the industry. the story seems relatively edited and i’m sure he started and would have preferred to release a more vulgar and honest account of the whole thing, but since he’s famous now and has to maintain relations with the people who have helped him over the years i suppose it’s fair to accept it for what it is. my favorite part was towards the end, when he was waiting to receive word about whether he would get this late night gig or not, how badly he wanted it, how unlikely it seemed like he was going to get it, and then finally collapsing to his knees in a verbal ‘thank you’ when he got the call. i was truly moved in a way that no architect should ever be moved by a hollywood talk show host.

then, last night, my habitual routine of fascination kicked in, right on time. at this point in the process the object of fascination enters my dream sequence, and i have a good few scenes dedicated to the person, one where he inevitable hurts me and renders me useless to him, but ultimately has a genuine fascination with me as well, like a soft-spoken exchange that grants me permission to care about this person but only to a superficial degree. meaning, i will continue to watch the late late show, observe craig’s exchange with the world he finds himself, try to adopt some of it in my own life. he seems to have a good portion of things figured out.

sincerely,

annalillia

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