By Michelle Le Blanc
In a world cluttered with both useful and useless information, it’s ever more essential to our development as humans to make the space and the time to reflect on what it all means to us. Absence created by white space can inspire active versus passive engagement with art and reveal meaning.
Advertising expert Keith Robertson looks at it this way, “White space is nothing. White space is the absence of content. White space does not hold content in the way that a photograph or text holds meaning and yet it gives meaning through context, to both image and text. In fact, white space can make or break the effective transmission of image and text.” Artists – visual and literary – make statements about the world and evoke emotion through the use of white space in the surrounding context.
In Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Cross, New Mexico, the white space is black. The cross divides the canvas into four distinct scenes and dominates the painting. Seen through a cultural lens, people can interpret this painting in a myriad of contradictory ways. A predominantly Roman Catholic state, the New Mexican landscape is dotted with mission-style churches and the tenants of the religion often mix with and overshadow the native culture and spirituality. Many of these Roman Catholic missions reside on the pueblos, which are considered by law, and the people who have lived there for centuries, to be sovereign nations. Black Cross, New Mexico directly challenges and draws attention to this irony. For a person native to New Mexico, he may see O’Keeffe making a statement about the dominance of religion on the landscape and the Native American culture, anger at that culture for being compromised, and feel like tradition was lost along with the purity and self-determination of a people and individuals within their culture. From the same painting, a non-native person may see progress, triumph, and truth throughower or the power of truth when viewing one of O’Keeffe’s black cross paintings. Another person may see strength and wish to worship.
The contradictory reactions to the same painting don’t matter, but rather that people have observed, reflected, formed ideas and interpretations of their own, and allowed the painting to impact their life.
Likewise, Ansel Adams simultaneously draws attention away from the subject of Moonrise, Hernandez by filling the bulk of the photograph with indistinct mountains, shadows and sky. But he also emphasizes the adobe village in the bottom quarter of the photograph. The angular structure of the homes and especially the church, stand out against the white space created in the other three-quarters of the photograph. Adams creates a human connection by over emphasizing what is not human at all and then layers in the homes, the cemetery, the lights, the banners and ribbons.
“A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into,” said Adams.
Cormac McCarthy diverged from his Faulknerian, lyrical style in his most recent book The Road. McCarthy makes white space part of the book’s structure which creates an overall metaphor for drama even though his writing is terse and truncated.
To intensify the impact of the spare dialogue, character, and plot, McCarthy often ends the dialogue and the passage itself, prior to the section break, with a question that goes unanswered. Followed by a large amount of white space provided by the section break, McCarthy gives the reader pause to react or reflect on the possible answer to the question.
McCarthy uses dialogue sparingly throughout The Road in order to convey the limitations of the situation the man and the boy are in as they travel. This is white space.
What is it, Papa?
Morels. It’s morels.
They’re a kind of mushroom.
Can you eat them?
Yes. Take a bite.
Are they good?
Take a bite.
The boy smelled the mushroom and bit into it and stood chewing. He looked at his father. These are pretty good, he said.
Each line is short and comprised mostly of questions. Some lines repeat, such as, “Take a bite.” The space to the right of the words, as seen above, which causes the reader to pause before moving on to the next line of dialogue. In the context of the boy eating, this split second of time gives the reader unconscious time to reflect and surmise meaning, and the opportunity to feel or heighten emotion. Thus far in the novel, food is extremely scarce and never found naturally in the environment. Therefore, it is not surprising that a young boy would be skeptical about food growing in the charred land. The white space here draws the reader into his skepticism, wonder and the relief of the father who can now feed his child.
David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, asks, “How much can one remove and still have the composition be intelligible? This understanding, or its lack, divides those who can write from those who can really write. Chekhov removed the plot. Pinter, elaborating, removed the history, the narration; Beckett, the characterization. We hear it anyway. Omission is a form of creation.” However, McCarthy goes even further than the writers Shields mentions when he removes words from the page completely.
Through the white space and because of it, readers can feel the void and the fear of the unknown, and yet still understand why McCarthy’s main characters persevere on this journey of survival. If a reader does not heed these cues to slow down and feel, he or she will miss meaning, missing the unbearable emotion of the story and at the same time miss the author’s statements about humanity, its failings, and its enduring spirit.
When we fail to take time for nothing, everything becomes white noise without meaning or significance in our lives. If we take time out to find white space of our own – silence, space, wide open spaces, fasting – we can hear and see what is around us and in us, and therefore, decide what gives our lives meaning. We can then find and live as our better selves in an overwhelming world.
Bill’s / Defunct by E.E. Cummings
Buffalo Bill ‘s
defunct by E.E. Cummings
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
*** the run together words and the large spaces between lines and words is intentional
schweigen schweigen schweigen
schweigen schweigen schweigen
schweigen schweigen schweigen
schweigen schweigen schweigen
Silence or noise? Schweigen, 1954, Eugen Gomringer. “Schweigen” is a German word relating to silence.
APRIL 1: Iceburg’s 17 minute investigation into April Fool’s Day
While April 1 should evoke a mandatory grin followed by a, “By-the-pecs-of-Poseidon, what’s that mega-crap on your shirrr – made ya look,” the scrolls of time tell us there were people who and events that replaced the frivolous, laid-back attitude that April Fools’ Day is celebrated for with the motivation to be forever recognized within the highest echelon of killjoys.
Humor is to wellbeing as a tightened fist is to a lighthearted crotch-shot: they both leave you breathless, on your knees in a rejuvenating stupor (or in a red-rain of pain!), and eager to contribute to or reciprocate the joke (or low-blow) with giddy enthusiasm.
With this month being helmed by All Fools’ Day, we’ve never been more accepting of the hysteria that comes with being barraged in the funny bone; regrettably, history doesn’t share our excitement. While April 1 should evoke a mandatory grin followed by a, “By-the-pecs-of-Poseidon, what’s that mega-crap on your shirrr – made ya look,” the scrolls of time tell us there were people who and events that replaced the frivolous, laid-back attitude that April Fools’ Day is celebrated for with the motivation to be forever recognized within the highest echelon of killjoys.
Those people and events include…
The Pope Who Fooled the French
New Year’s Day was originally on April 1. No, really. Several ancient cultures, like the Romans and the Hindus, marked the now notorious day for practical tomfoolery as the beginning of the year because the date closely aligned with the Vernal Equinox, which is usually around March 20.
In 1582 Pope Gregory “Me So Fresh” XIII ordered the use of the new calendar. It placed New Year’s in January, and when the change was made, rumor says that many of the French were either unaware of or rebelling against the date change and continued to celebrate New Year’s on April 1. These traditionalists became one of the most rotund butts in the history of jokes, and April Fools’ Day was born.
The Volcano That Burst Forth (Probably Because It Took Offense to a Joke)
If we’ve learned a single piece of [mis]information from the science portion of our grade school education, it’s that a volcano’s ease to anger is only equaled by its unwillingness to be a comedic punch-line. You’ve at least witnessed parts of the eventful life cycle of a volcano on the Discovery Channel (before reality shows like Rise of the Stink People began oozing their irrelevance over the airwaves); its dome was seemingly sedated, calmly drooling its molten effluence down a thirty-degree grass patch at speeds that an infant in flame-retardant pajama bottoms could out-roll. Unexpectedly, like the quick snap of a sucker punch, the cameraman or the millionaire working pro bono as an expert in lava composition cracked a bad joke at the volcano’s expense, and all hell leaked, boiled, blew, and broke loose.
This might have been the case on April 1, 1793, when a collapsing lava dome — Mayu-yama from Mount Unzen, an active group of volcanoes on Japan’s Kyushu Island — triggered a landslide that rioted through Shimabara City and belly flopped into the Ariaka Sea, creating a pant-fertilizing megatsunami that reached the titanic heights of 330 ft., which combined with the land slide killed an estimated 15, 000 good humored citizens.
The man who offended the snoozing goliath with salty humor was never found (or existed), but if he was (or did exist), we’re assuming: (A) he was a white guy (because that’s provocative), and (B) he was a would-be galactic samurai, i.e. the megalomaniacal ancestor of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (AKA Tom “The Pleasure” Cruise).
The Novelist Who Sneered at a Royal Suggestion
You don’t tell royalty no, unless, of course, you’re Jane Austen (or a free spirit dying to experience exile). On April 1, 1816, Austen responded to a letter from the Prince Regent regarding a suggestion to write a historic romance by saying, “I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.”
Maybe it was a joke: “Prince Regent, your story pitch is awful; I wouldn’t consider it unless my life was on the line… April fools!”
Claire Harman, author of “Jane’s Fame,” talked on NPR on March 25, 2010, about Austen’s personality in addition to her popularity, and it turns out everything you’d imagine Austen to be is probably true: she was witty, cynical, and judging by her response to the Prince Regent, a little bit headstrong.
Harman says that Austen’s fame was, in a way, rekindled by the biography written by her nephew. “James Edwards’ memoir of his aunt made her into a sort of sentimental object. You know, and people loved her as a person and as a character, as well as the books and sometimes instead of the books,” Harman said.
The idea, however, that Austen had a meek and mild personality would not be accurate. Who would have thought?
“She wasn’t necessarily a nice person at all. I mean there’s really nothing in the letters to suggest anything other than a very sharp-witted and at times rather acid-tongued woman,” Harman said.
So the whole “screw you Prince Regent” thing probably wasn’t a joke then. You go, girl!
The Theory That Big-Banged Science
Melodramatic male studs who claim ladies to be the ficklest of life’s challenges need to escort Science on a dinner date or two: During the appetizer (cheese sticks), Science would intimately observe your surface area to get an estimate of your internal composition. She’d alleviate your physical insecurities by assuring, “Your name’s Pluto? How cute! I hear that small planets are in touch with their emotional side.”
But the moment the dessert platter (Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Mousse served on an Astronaut’s face shield) lands on the table, she’d be all curled up on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, bragging about how she recategorized you as a Dwarf Planet, Science’s way of catapulting you into the “friend zone.”
Science played the Steady State Theory in the same sort of way; prior to April 1, 1948, cosmological opinions were split between whether Steady State Theory or the Big Bang accurately described the origin and continuing development of the cosmos. But once the Big Bang Theory was officially proposed on the date listed by subjectively sexy, objectively brilliant geniuses Ralph Alpher and George Gamow in Physical Review through the essay “The Origins of Chemical Elements,” Big Bang began to gradually earn more favor within Science’s academic bedchambers. Science has been developing excuses to keep Steady State in the “friend zone” ever since.
The Revolution That Preferred Loss-of-Life over Laughter
Remember when McCarthyism was a thing? It was kind of a blip in American history. Luckily, China out did us. How often do you get to say that?
Roughly ten years after the red scare settled down in America, the Cultural Revolution in China became the cool new trend. Just by chance, the nationwide witch-hunt for capitalists started on April 1, 1966.
Admiration for market economies is no joke.
This was the era of Mao Zedong and communism was at its peak. Zedong feared the country was headed in the wrong direction, so he called on China’s youth to put the country’s political ideology back on the right – well, left track.
Nearly 1.5 million Chinese lost their lives and tons more felt the wrath of a large group of angsty, nationalistic teenagers. Take that, laws of supply and demand.
By Leviathan Robb & Ginger Jones
Profiles of our beloved supreme leaders – Kim Jong-Un, Paul Ryan and Chris Brown
Three men who want to rule the world and are the truest examples of what a supreme leader should be.
At only 30 years old this bright individual is the supreme leader of North Korea. Not only has Kim Jong-Un legalized pizza he has also forced employees at the local gourmet restaurant, McDonalds to serve breakfast until noon. Sure he threatens people with nukes every day, what teenager who plays Call of Duty doesn’t? Kimmy is such an inspirational figure to local teens, they can really learn how to be a social success and loved worldwide. Rumor has it that Kim has sent all local redheads to South Korea so that they can find Seoul—whatever that means. If your bratty little brace faced sweetheart won’t listen, why not pick up a copy of Kim’s new book, “The Nukes of Hazzard.”
Paul Ryan looks like a model straight off a package of Hanes boxer briefs—the look every politician strives for. Who cares if he has just graduated from pampers to public dampers. After recently announcing, “We are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system”, his ratings went through the roof– taking with it your average American’s basic personal rights. Ryan is the guy you can go to with all of your personal problems, sure he won’t listen but you’ll be sidetracked by his baby blues. Like Kit-Kat give him a break! If Paul Ryan were an item at Big R he would be the perfect tool bag. Paul Ryan has the kind of personality only a mother could love—which is totally in right now.
If young men want to know how to be the perfect guy look no further than Chris Brown. When Chris was a child listening to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” he took it to heart by utilizing the lyrics and incorporating them into everyday life. Brown likes his women like he prefers his eggs; beaten and over easy. When Rihanna (Browns’ current girlfriend) told Chris that she wanted a “black guy” he misheard her and gave her a love stamp right across her face—now that’s love. Recently, Rihanna had taken up a career in stand-up comedy at high school proms but soon gave up another one of her dreams due to Brown’s embarrassing behavior. Reports say he kept “beating her to the punch line.”
Talking to the ‘that’s what she said’ girl at your mom’s house
Her name is Lauretta Scapini, and she is the “she” of “that’s what she said.” I ask her the hard questions.
I recently sat down with a woman we all know, but few would actually recognize. Her name is Lauretta Scapini, and she is the “she” of “that’s what she said.” I ask her the hard questions.
Iceburg: Hi Lauretta, thank you so much for meeting me today.
Lauretta Scapini: Of course, thank you for having me.
Ice-B: That’s what she said.
LS: Yes, yes it is.
Ice-B: Nice. So how did this whole thing get started? How have you taken the blame for so much, and please excuse my lack of decorum, but sluttiness?
LS: That’s a great question, thank you. Well, as many people probably know, the phrase “that’s what she said” gained tremendous popularity on the NBC hit show The Office. You know the one where the boss tries to screw over his employees?
Ice-B: That’s wh- um of course.
LS: I knew some of the guys on the set, you know, as a woman in my profession would–
Ice-B: Which would be what, exactly?
LS: Isn’t it obvious? I make wax sticks to light on fire. I’m a candlestick maker.
Ice-B: Excuse me?
LS: It’s a very erotic field, and I mean come on, look at me. I’m a California “10,” which is like a New Mexico “87.” Don’t take it wrong.
Ice-B: None taken. So tell me more about being a candlestick maker and how that brought you to work with set guys at The Office.
LS: I’ve always been fascinated by my ability to mold wax into shapes, then just watch it burn. The scent combinations is probably the most exciting part of it. Anyway. I had a series of videos that were posted on YouTube that have since been removed where I walked the audience through the process of making candles, step by step. I know how men — and even some women — look at me, so I knew the best way for me to really market myself and my candles would be to play up my sexuality. So everything I said was meant to taken as euphemism. (Editor’s note: We love to take euphemisms.)
Ice-B: What would you say to those who criticize that sort of behavior? Discussions about who “she” must be inevitably turn to accusations of promiscuity and defamations of “her” character.
LS: It’s the cross I choose to bear. As much as I loved Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I can’t help but feel more connection to the work and theory of Audre Lorde, specifically her discussions of intersectionality. As a beautiful, intelligent, mixed-race woman, I’ve found it frustrating to live and accept any sort of authentic experience that posits we live in simple binary oppositions that serve to differentiate men from women. Lorde maintains that there are a whole slew of categories and subdivisions for characterizing women because each experience is authentic and different and beautiful and can’t possibly speak to the whole experience of being a woman; of being a feminist.
Ice-B: So by being overtly sexual, you’re helping women? I don’t understand.
LS: We’re taught using the master’s tools. Our culture is a patriarchal one that we’re wholly dependent on. So I take what’s expected of me and blow it… out of proportion.
Ice-B: Has it been hard?
LS: That’s what I said. [Laughs] But yeah, it has been. It’s been a long, hard, road full of bumps and bruises, leather and lace–
Ice-B: Ample alliterations.
LS: Exactly. But my work isn’t done. We tend to categorize everyone: races, religions, genders, sexual orientations. If the world was meant to be black and white, we wouldn’t have colors. As much as women are forced into specific roles, men are, too. They need to know that they’re not sex machines, expected to fertilize the earth. And until I can get people to accept and own their sexuality, I won’t quit. I’m not finished yet.
Ice-B: That’s what he said.