The Character in the Sharkskin Suit

Intriguing, isn’t it, how what we admire in one we might fear in another; how sometimes a single characteristic becomes so entwined with our perception of the whole being that we are unable (or at least unwilling) to see the subject except through that distinctive illustration from a photo

Take the shark, for example. We anthropomorphize its curved, elegant mouth and its very pointy dental array as a wicked grin because they form so ironically (we think) bloodless a ‘smile’ for an ideally designed killing machine, and subsequently we are content to identify those people whom we find wicked, bloodless, or murderous as Sharks. Never mind that the shark itself is simply being what it is naturally meant to be and doing what it is created to do. Never mind that, often enough, the person we are happy to affiliate with that same stereotyped vision may also be doing what s/he is naturally inclined, expected, and/or paid to do. If the person in question is good at carrying out dispassionate or relentless action, we’re likely to find a convenient metaphor in the illustration

I have long thought, myself, that the mere mention of a character as being dressed in a sharkskin ensemble gave him an air of sangfroid that I suppose must have been similarly associated with the archetype of the coolly relentless shark. I, too, am apparently guilty of stereotyping the creature, and very likely in turn, the person. So it is: we are always looking for shorthand ways to describe and understand those around painting from a photo

But I would hope that I can also remain cognizant of those positive and laudable qualities that might also be anthropomorphically applied to a shark, and credit similar ones to my fellow bipedal creatures as well: swiftness, strength, tenacity, fearlessness, and a driving desire to move forward at all times. These are characteristics to which I can only aspire for the most part, never mind being as handsome and sleek as a shark can be in appearance. While I doubt anyone will tend to equate me with the supposedly shark-like attributes of cruel indifference or cold-bloodedness, perhaps I would do well to pursue association with those better ones and see if I can’t be identified with such admirable aspirations after all.

When Wonderfulness Jumps Up and Bites You

. . . you can’t be ready for a surprise, beyond living as close to ‘expect-the-unexpected’ as you can manage at all times. But it pays to give attention when the serendipitous does happen. In a magical used-book store, I was enjoying as much as all of the great tomes and illustrated wonders and history-breathing music scores the antics of the shop cat, a rambunctious adolescent intent on caroming like a pinball off of every available surface of the building and its contents. His determined hyperkinetics and failed stealth resulted in more pratfalls than the king of the jungle magnificence through whose lens I suspect he saw himself: it was hard not to anthropomorphize and laugh. I may have irritated him a little with my own self-important patronizing–whatever the inspiration, when I leaned near him as I was headed for the counter, he jumped up blithely and bit me on the eyebrow.

Not that I’ve learned my lesson in any way, but that little moment of being put in my place by an upstart juvenile feline reminded me that despite being myself a creature of a parallel universe in some ways, I operate within the confines of the real one on a quotidian basis and so I constantly carom off of it (and its varied denizens) in unexpected ways too. At the least, I should be happy to find wisdom and inspiration in the results.

One such collision-of-worlds that frequently cheers my existence is the translation of text from foreign languages to English, or often, of bad English into worse English, that occurs in commercial and public applications. So I made a digital collage as homage to that gift.

digital collage of happily mis-translated malaprops

Good cheer comes in imported packages