Curmudgeons I Love

June 15, 2018

Two brief anecdotes, to begin:

1. When I was in high school, my French horn teacher (I know, I know), a sweet but wan young woman who lived with her mother, often wore latex gloves just like, around.  I was always very curious about this: was she OCD?  Was she trying to protect her precious instrument-playing fingers?

2. Right before the release of my book, my editor, my agent, the publicist at my agent’s office, and I went out for coffee to discuss pre-book buzz.  One of the things that came up was potential blurbers––you know, people who provide one or two lines of praise you can slap on the book jacket.  Because Lionel Shriver had recently written a book about her brother’s obesity (my book was about weight issues, to put it broadly), someone suggested her.  My agent got a grave look on her face, and silently and slowly shook her head, “No.”

The reason she did that, I later learned, is because Lionel Shriver is fucking terrifying!  She’s also at the moment (and maybe just generally?) loathed, for lots of un-zeitgeist-y views and what appears to be a broad disdain for people.  At times in interviews, she refutes that, but mostly the impression she gives off is that of a reed thin, slightly eccentric battle-ax.

Recently I was reading old profiles of her because I find her whole persona mesmerizing, and I noticed that she’s often photographed wearing cheap knit gloves.  She reminds me immediately of a strict Muslim who just forgot to wear a burqa but remember to cover her hands.  One article I read said she wears them because she refuses to pay for heating in her house; another said she had a circulation disease.  Is it possible she just wears them to bolster the “weirdo” image?  I get the sense she thinks of herself as very authentic, and not that she isn’t, but there is also a delight evident in knowing that she is very different from the rest of us bare-handed mite brains.

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Thimble Islands

May 28, 2018

A few of the Thimble Islands in Connecticut (there are between 100 and 365 of them “depending on where the line is drawn between an island and a mere rock,” according to Wikipedia.  Twenty-three are inhabited.)

Horse Island

Money Island

Governor Island

Rogers Island

Bear Island

Davis Island

High Island

Pot Island

Outer Island

Hen Island

East Stooping Bush Island

Potato Island

Smith Island

Cut in Two Island (East and West)

Phelps Island

Wheeler Island (aka Ghost Island)

Mother in Law Island (aka Prudden Island)

West Crib Island

East Crib Island

Little Pumpkin Island

Lewis Island

Kidd’s Island

Reel Island

Beldens Island

Burr Island

Jepson Island

Wayland Island

Frisbie Island

Goals

May 17, 2018

EP: I want to watch more home invasion movies

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

Unknown

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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.