Archive for the ‘I Hate Writing’ Category

Long Post

July 19, 2020

I’ve really been hoping to do a longer post for a while now, but you know, pandemic living has got me (and basically everyone else) down.  So I’m just posting this dumb thing in hopes of looking like as diligent a blogger as Jason Kottke––better a stopgap measure to save face than nothing at all!

Here’s my thought: I saw a think piece on why Twister is the best 90s disaster movie the other day.  I say “saw” because I didn’t actually read the think piece––who has that kind of time?!––but instead just nodded in bemused agreement.  Sure, that seems reasonable to me.  (Also, what else qualifies as a 90s disaster movie?  I guess I was thinking “natural disaster,” although when you Google the phrase it suggests films like Titanic and Independence Day.)  So I put it on when I was cleaning the other day, was mildly amused for the first fifteen or so, and then just started doing something else and didn’t bother to finish it.  But what those first fifteen minutes made me realize is that I am really missing something from my life: the thrill of the chase!  Not romantic chase, of course.  More like, that feeling when you’re with your pals and you all want a glimpse of something mighty and ephemeral and then someone says, “It’s close!” and you all race to jump in your cars and you’re radioing to each other, “Make a left!” and “Don’t let it get away!”  You know, the chase.

I think maybe I just want to be a storm chaser, although I don’t love tornadoes.  A monsoon could be cool.

Good talk eh?

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Hahahaha

June 12, 2020

For work I get the online dispatches from the medical journal JAMA, and today one of their headlines is below.  What an understatement!

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Tehching Hsieh’s Lessons for Quarantine

June 2, 2020

Earlier on in #quarantinelife, I was a virtual ideas machine.  Seriously golden nuggets were just falling out of my mouth every time I spoke.  I actually was a little annoyed, because I had more ideas in the span of eight weeks than I had in the previous three years, when I actually had at least a little free time to execute them.  Now that time is basically over, which is sad but also perhaps freeing, in its way.

One of the ideas I had during the brief moment of intellectual fertility was to interview the performance artist Tehching Hsieh about what he has to say about how to live under quarantine.  Hsieh is famous for his series of One Year Performances: for one year each, he punched a time clock every hour on the hour (sometimes called Time Clock Piece), never went indoors, lived in an 11’6″ x 9′ x 8′ cell (Cage Piece) and remained tied by an 8-foot rope to fellow performance artist Linda Montano (Rope Piece), with whom he was not romantically linked at the time and actually didn’t know before the piece began (this feels important to point out).

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The one I thought spoke to the most to our current moment was the performance where he lived in the cell, because of the obvious comparison that while we were all feeling cooped up, he was quite literally cooped up: no Netflix, no sourdough starters, no Times digital subscription or Quarantine Chat or anything at all.  He didn’t even make eye contact with the visitors who were allowed in every three weeks (totaling nineteen times a year).  This is how he described his life during that year:

Thinking was the focus of this piece and was also my way of survival.  While doing this piece, thinking was my major job.  It doesn’t matter what I was thinking about, but I had to continue thinking, otherwise I would lose control not only of myself but also of the ability to handle the whole situation.  It was difficult to pass time.  I scratched 365 marks on the wall, one for each day.  I had to calculate time; although I may have broken the rule of no writing, it helped me to know how many days I had passed, how many more days I had to go.  

More:

What I needed was the use of my confined body to carry out the work, while at the same time, my mind, detached from the confinement, was free to think and to advance. I am as free in the cage as outside.  My work here is not focusing on political imprisonment or on the self-cultivation of Zen retreats, but on freedom of thinking and on letting time go by. 

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He also talked about dividing his cell into different “rooms” in his mind, and breaking up his day by going on a walk “outside” (aka around the cell) and then returning “home” (his bed).

But then the more I thought about this, the more I realized that for me, actually the most analogous situation was the piece he did with Linda Montano.  I am, after all, not alone in my quarantine, but inside a decently-sized-for-NYC-but-not-big apartment 99% of my time with two small children and my husband (so actually, my version of this would be being tied to another artist and two young monkeys).  I’m sure some young-and-in-love types would hear about this piece and be like, “Oh, that sounds so lovely, being with someone all the time!”  But my response is: OMG no.  And it turns out that actually, Hsieh and Montano ended up really disliking each other.  Hsieh puts it diplomatically (“Linda and I were exposed to each other.  That brought complexity.”) but Marina Abramovic, in supplementary material provided for the publication of the book Out of Now, which chronicles Hsieh’s work, provides more insight:

But with Tehching and Linda there was no love.  I was really puzzled by scratches above their two separate beds where they slept.  Later on, I heard that they didn’t get along and in frustration they scratched the walls with their nails.  They had made this promise and they are both very fatalistic in their work so they didn’t want to break it.  

Interestingly, my husband felt like the piece that best mirrored our current times is the Time Clock Piece.  Why?  Because he is being asked to “clock in” without any sort of actual supervision and without actually going anywhere, I think was the gist.  Not to say that Hsieh didn’t have people to whom he was accountable––usually lawyers or other third parties were in charge of making sure he was doing what he agreed to.  And my husband also pointed out, intelligently, that the homeless populations in cities affected by COVID-19 might be represented by the piece where Hsieh stays outdoors entirely for a year, as many might be trying to actively avoid shelters, where crowding makes contagion even more likely.

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So I wrote to Hsieh, asking him if maybe he’d be willing to be interviewed and tell me a bit about how he feels his art relates to this moment, etc.  And he responded quickly!  And nicely!  And said no.

The beginning of his email read: I’m open to the connection you are building between the current situation and my work, at the meantime my work is about passing time, rather than how to pass time, I’m afraid it won’t the best for me to talk about my work in relation to the current situation.

Which reads a little like fancy art world speak for, “You obviously didn’t get my point, plebeian” to me.  But yes, of course I do understand that allowing time to continue on passively is not the same thing as figuring out what to do with your time (eye roll emoji).  That doesn’t negate the obvious question here: what on earth did you think about for an entire year?!

Hope you are doing well, although we all feel constrained in a way, at least we still have free thinking.

Said a person living with two toddlers… never.

The Playlist in Hell

February 13, 2020

I was working at a Joe & the Juice in Manhattan a few months ago, and they were playing the following songs on an interminable loop, and while I like a few of these songs on their own, by the end of a few hours I was seriously ready to die.  I think I missed a few titles but it honestly couldn’t have been more than 25 songs total.  I started to write them down for posterity’s sake, but then zoned out every so often as a means of self-preservation.

 

 
Genesis “Invisible Touch”
Chaka Khan “Ain’t Nobody Love Me Better”
Dolly Parton “9 to 5”
A horrible updated 80s version of “In the Jungle”
Fleetwood Mac “Everywhere”
Luther Vandross “Never Too Much”
The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams”
A-ha “Take on Me”
Kim Carnes “Bette Davis Eyes”
Eric Carmen “Hungry Eyes”
The Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited”
Wham! “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
Michael Jackson “Beat It”
Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up”

This Is Good

July 9, 2019

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Performance Art

June 28, 2019

I’ve always not-so-secretly wanted to be a performance artist––bummed Marina Abramovic’s school is never gonna happen!––and I remember recently one of my only good ideas for an endurance piece, which was embedded in the text of a sort of pretentious poem I wrote a few years ago:

I retype the entire text of War and Peace on stage at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires in one sitting.  If a success, I go on tour, and “perform” Infinite Jest atthe Paris Opera House, Remembrance of Things Past at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, and Gone with the Wind at the Sydney Opera House.  All performances will be recorded and available for purchase through Apple.

I could add more performances, too!  I can think of long books and storied opera houses for days.

 

Rage!

May 10, 2019

A few years ago, I wrote about how Tennessee Williams’s brother refused to honor his last wish to be buried at sea.  This week, while reading Assia Wevill’s biography, I learned that Ted Hughes also refused to honor her wish to be buried in a small country cemetery in England, and for her epitaph to read, “Here lies a lover of unreason and an exile.”  But of course Hughes the SCOUNDREL had her cremated.  Okay, so he did apparently spread them in a churchyard in Kent somewhere, but that isn’t good enough!  Since there is no body to be recovered here, I suggest we erect a gravestone as a memorial.  If I were a conceptual artist I would do this.

I know it’s cliched to hate Ted Hughes but I do, I really do.

This post brought to you by someone who one night this week downed a glass of port and cried copiously about the untimely end of Shura Wevill-Hughes.

Additions to List

April 28, 2019

Back in this post, I said there should be names for films that use either regular people to play characters much like themselves/non-professional actors exclusively or a mix of professional and non-professional actors.  Kind of like, filmic auto-fiction?  Anyway, I named a few movies that fall into this category, but I have some more to add: La Pointe Court (Agnes Varda) and Man of Aran.  I’m sure there must be a name for this type of cinema, so please, by all means, can some snobby first year film MFA student school me on this?

Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, Trans-Asians (Alternative Title: Ugh)

March 26, 2019

This just strikes me as the most entitled white male writer shit ever.  A TIBET OF THE MIND?!  If these guys were alive and tweeting in 2019 they’d be flayed alive.

“Thinking to have a horoscope of Durrell drawn up, [Miller] asked for details of his birth.  Told that he had lived on the borders of Tibet, close to the Forbidden Land, he was thrilled, he said, because he himself was a Chinese at heart.  Miller‘s interest soon took Durrell back to his childhood in Darjeeling, and, soon after, he discovered My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neal, who had gone on foot to Lhasa in 1923.  It confirmed his Tibetan ‘ancestry’ and he began to cultivate his ‘Tibetan’ side, claiming he lived in a sort of Tibet of the mind.  If Miller was a Chinaman, then he himself was a Tibetan.”

Through the Dark Labyrinth: A Biography of Lawrence Durrell, Gordon Bowers

True Crime

March 21, 2019

You know how true crime is big?  Of course you do!  And true crime podcasts are the BIGGEST!  You are definitely plugged in enough to know that.  Well, while researching an article about an Amish thing, I came across this old news story, and I’m convinced it’s the next big true crime podcast subject (it’s basically a solved murder, but they’ve made well-reviewed podcasts about Charles Manson, so I don’t think knowing who did it is that much of a deterrent).  I would love to do some of the work on this, but the thing is, only some of it: pitching it, organizing interviews and travel, arranging for advertising, etc., I’d prefer someone else do.  Do you think Sarah Koenig is free?

A trailer:

The break came in 1987, when Reader’s Digest published an article about Little Boy Blue. A woman in northern Ohio, a member of an Amish community, read the story and wondered whether the mystery boy was a relative who had not been seen for several years. She contacted authorities, who, in the days before forensic DNA testing, used a fingerprint to confirm the identification.

Little Boy Blue was Danny Stutzman, a 9-year-old from Dalton, Ohio. The sheriff and Nebraska State Patrol investigator Jack Wyant furiously searched for the boy’s father, Eli Stutzman. They found him in Azle, Texas, almost two years from the date of Danny’s discovery in Nebraska.

I mean, it’s a gay Amish murder story.  Gold, Jerry!

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