Goals

May 17, 2018

EP: I want to watch more home invasion movies

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Eulogy for an Essay

May 9, 2018
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Contact Siobhan for framing options.

A Tweet

May 4, 2018

I’m about three minutes into the Rachel Dolezal Netflix doc and I’ve already learned a lot.  For example, no one knows how to pronounce the last name “Dolezal.”

Spare Me the Hallelujahs

May 3, 2018

You guys probably saw that there was a “Beyonce mass” at a church in, I believe, San Francisco.  I could Google it and confirm, but I find it too depressing, so I won’t.

Why do I find it depressing?  This is yet another example––perhaps the most damning one of all––of our culture ceding morality and expertise to celebrities.

Listen, as far as celebrities go, Beyonce is a fine one.  She donated all that money to historical black colleges for scholarships, she donates money for clean water in Burundi, she preaches female empowerment (although interestingly, often single female empowerment, over a period of time when she was coupled).  But this is also an individual who likes to symbolically claim that high fashion is radicalism (it can be radical, but it isn’t principled), and who dresses her six-year-old in Gucci.  This not someone who is qualified for the position of saint.

To be clear, I think Beyonce would dig the idea of the mass, but I don’t think she wants to be a saint.  I think in this case, a lot of it is because we project onto her.  A lot of celebrities-turned-something-elses actively portray themselves as fit for their other roles.  Cases in point: Jenny McCarthy, whose medical advice people actually took (it still boggles the mind.). Less egregiously, Tom Hanks and Sean Penn, who offer up mediocre literary offerings and then are deemed “authors.”  Of course, who could forget the leader of free world?  Celebrities are now our pediatricians, politicians, clothing designers, childcare experts, and UN ambassadors.

“You should read this great new book about the true cause of depression,” my friend texts me.  “Elton John gave it a fantastic blurb.”  My first thought: why on earth would I care what Elton John has to say on a book about depression?  When I think about who should be vetting a book on depression, the people who come to mind are doctors or cultural critics or sometimes both––Gary Greenberg, Allen Frances, Peter Kramer, Andrew Solomon, Daphne Merkin, and so on.  When I say I’m not particularly interested in what Elton has to say on the subject, she responds, “If you don’t like him, Emma Thompson also gave it a blurb.”  I don’t think she was getting my point.

Now, they are also our moral guides and our prophetic proxies.  This is truly disturbing.

Shout out to a few people who saw this coming and said DOOM: Jarrett Kobek, author of I Hate the Internet.  Here’s an excellent interview with him in which he sounds off on this topic for a long time.  My favorite part is when he says to cure ourselves of this problem, we need to start thinking of celebrity as a disease: “If we think about the conflation of celebrity and politics, we start to understand this disease’s socially debilitating effects. We’re trying to use entities which are no longer human and thus no longer contained by our social constructs to have long and pointless discussions about major social issues defined, primarily, by those constructs.”

DFW also foresaw this, in Infinite Jest among other places.

And of course, my main squeeze, George W. S. Trow: “Celebrities have an intimate life and a life in the grid of two hundred million.  For them, there is no distance between the two grids in American life.  Of all Americans, they are the most complete.”

My fellow Americans (and everyone, because let’s be honest, many other societies are following us toward certain cultural oblivion): we can do better than this.  We can see past the sheen and choose instead to look to the possibly unsexy but still better educated experts in their chosen fields.  We can elect politicians (or the otherwise qualified!, read books by writers, trust in the medical advice of our doctors, and venerate our saints.  Join me.

Who Wore It Better

April 25, 2018

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All thanks to my brilliant husband for pointing this out.  Also this gave me an excuse to re-watch The Holy Mountain trailer and may I just say, *raises gathered fingers to puckered lips* mwah.  Exquisite.

Huh

April 20, 2018

It occurred to me this morning while playing Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for my son that some of the things he suggests brushing off are actually totally worth worrying over.

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
Oh, ooh ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh don’t worry, be happy
Here I give you my phone number, when you worry, call me, I make you happy, don’t worry, be happy)
Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got no gal to make you smile
Don’t worry, be happy
‘Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy
Except for being single, which is not necessarily worrisome (depending on the context), you really should be concerned about being homeless, unstylish and poor!  (Somehow this theoretical person in need of cheering up manages to be both homeless and behind on his rent, though.)  At the end of the song, Bobby sings something like, “I’m not worried, I’m happy!”  Of course you’re not worried, Bobby!  You’ve got all those nice top ten hit royalties!

Design Blogging

April 16, 2018

I wish I were a design blogger so I could just post these pictures of drawings by Lithuanian artist Aiste Stancikaite and be like, “Day’s work: complete!”

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Sidenote: pink satin underwear would be nice to own.

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Also nice.

Who Is This Reader

April 12, 2018

On my favorite listserv of all time, Freecycle, a Brooklynite gives away the following selections from his/her library.  What kind of picture can one draw from this?  (Keeping in mind, of course, that these books are the ones the poster does not feel inclined to hold on to… )

1. Portnoy’s Complaint
2. The Romanov Prophecy
3. Captain Underpants
4. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
5. The Deep End of the Ocean
6. Sybil
7. The Kiss and Other Stories

Personally I am not planning on schlepping out to Bensonhurst to grab these.  Portnoy’s Complaint was hands down the most aggravating book I have ever read.

Utterly Confused

April 10, 2018

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This was on Netflix’s home page.  Is Netflix just… buying whole people now?  What does it mean that they’re “all-in”?  Is anyone else thoroughly creeped out by this?!

A Very Literary Problem

April 10, 2018

I really dislike openly displaying sentiment, or attachment to things, particularly things that a lot of people feel sentimental about, but I can’t really avoid it when I discuss this topic.  Brief disclaimer.

So probably you guys remember almost seven (!) years ago, I stayed at Shakespeare & Company, the famous English language bookstore in Paris.  I danced a drunken jig outside the shop after a Will Self reading, I read Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan late into the night, I had a mystical experience afterward: it was all gravy.

Fast forward to 2016.  The history book on the shop, which I had done the tiniest bit of work on when I was there, came out.  Though it was something like 40 Euros and I had to pay for shipping to London, I splurged and got it for myself.  But then, some very thoughtful people ALSO got it for me.  And now I have two.

I don’t really like to own multiple copies of books (I blame Marie Kondo) but I can’t really bring myself to just give the extra one to Goodwill or put it on my stoop.  I feel like it needs to go to a good Tumbleweed home, but I can’t really find any sort of online group that is like, New York City Tumbleweed alums.  (Not being on Facebook does not help my cause here.)  The only NYC-based person I can find who definitely was a Tumbleweed is Molly Crabapple, but she’s KBD and will probably be like, “Why is this weirdo writing me frantically insisting I take her coffee table book?”  (I know she loved it, because her LitHub essay told me so.)  If she sees this and reaches out, she’s got dibs, but I’m not holding my breath.  So now what?  Help me, Internet!

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(Not Shakespeare & Company.  Just another thing Molly Crabapple and I have in common.)