A weekly update

Well I'm determined to keep going even though I'm exhausted (by life & more, etc.) and have nothing to say. It's been 14 years since I started and I'm sure as shit not going to quit, but this is what blogging has become now. Sorry. You had it pretty good for a while there.

The song I listened to the most

I have to be honest, it was this:

I recently finished reading Carl Wilson's book Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste and found this unexpected and charming connection to Meatloaf explained a lot about the world of Celine:

Answering complaints about her records being “overproduced,” Dion has very smartly said that to her, that’s “not a bad thing—it’s a big thing, it’s big time, it’s Gone with the Wind.” I’m with her when we’re talking about the kind of overproduced she gets out of Meatloaf collaborator Jim Steinman, pedal-to-the-heavy-metal numbers like “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” from Falling Into You.

Gone with the Wind? Of course she's bananas. I'm not sure we're surprised. But how normal are you and on what are you basing that assessment? So after reading this I had to listen to the album version of this song 85,000 times. It's appropriately Meatloaf-sized (over 7 minutes long!), bombastic, and genuinely insane, all of which are high markers of quality for me, ear-wise.

some things I read

🔗 An ode to cassette tapes: "You know what you forgot? How you just have to hit play and wait until the side ends. And how that side was made for only half of your listening experience—not infinite aural time. And the other half, if you flip the tape over, is like, another half of that album. Mind=blown. It’s different, but the same."

I made a mixtape in high school that was just a loop of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on one side and a loop of "Jessie's Girl" on the other. In case you thought my cheeseball tastes were a new development to worry about or anything out of the ordinary.

🔗  "Would You Rather Be The Last Days Of Summer Or The First Days Of Fall?": "I think you still have to believe good things can come, like sweaters. Maybe you’ll get a new sweater you like. You’ll get to walk around drinking coffee in your sweater. Reading a book around fall foliage. Maybe something exciting will happen to carry you through winter; you don’t know. A new romance. A new job. A new baby, though for that one you probably would’ve seen it coming. It’s possible. Everything will feel new again before it feels old again."

Observed from a Podcast

🔗 "You can either feel uncomfortable growing or you can feel uncomfortable stagnating.” – The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo

I briefly considered adding this podcast to my usual rotation but this woman seemed glued to the notion that earning $100 million dollars a year is inherently noble as a life goal, and I can't take anyone seriously who thinks that's worth striving for or achieving, or even spending time thinking about. It's like saying "I'd like to smoke 85 cigarettes during a round of frisbee golf while a baby goat shoots darts at my head." It's just nonsense words strung together. Good luck if that's what you're into but I'd rather take life advice from people who make weird art or write cool blog posts, or watch soap operas.

Something about soap operas

Blake Wandesforde in Soap Opera Confidential really nails who I am:

Thanks to All My Children, to One Life to Live, to General Hospital, I was immersed in the language of operatic approach. Rather than learning to control my story, I was learning the language in which to tell it. It is a tongue made up of the forgiving, soulful words of encouragement. I was learning less about romantic love and its potential for loss, and more about romanticism and its power to soothe and comfort. I was learning the oft-dismissed utility of sentiment. Delusional, maybe, but it gets you back on your feet. Life isn't a job for journalism. When your bootstraps are out of reach, it is the yarn spinner who will tell you how beautiful it is to run barefoot. The yarn spinner will backlight you, rub your lens, and cue the strings. The women in Pine Valley and Llanview and Port Charles never stayed down for long. Nor did my mother. A good raconteur needs not only the quixotic urge to explore and create, but also the publicist's compassionate spin when things fall apart. It is how we care for ourselves. Not by avoiding romance, but by bathing in it. The romantic discovers there are no happy endings and sees possibilities through the vocabulary of resilience, elasticity, and silver linings. This language is a gift.

Plus that name "Blake Wandesforde" sounds like she stole it from a soap opera.

A clip from General Hospital

Circa 1987: Alan has amnesia and wants a divorce! Watch at 5:15, where Monica orders a martini at a restaurant and he asks the waiter if they have lemonade.

A story

Last night whilst lying in bed—i.e., sleeping— I was awakened by a noise coming from upstairs, in the loft, some THING or some BODY moving around, so I did what any sane person would do: I grabbed a weapon out of the shoe basket by the front door (a Birkenstock, weighty) and crept up the steps in the dark to check inside the closet. Long story short, it was devoid of murderers. But for some reason the stupid wi-fi printer had decided to install some software updates proactively and then reboot itself, loudly, so I was free to print a few vital documents at 2:37 a.m.

A photo of a dog I liked on instagram

One thing I did

Quit Twitter. It was about time!

Your weekly Bruce

My boy is not too cool to sing with Sting, who's looking florid and consumptive as usual:

Kari GComment
3 things for today

1. 3 things are seldom "3 things." Please note!

2. I got to the station early Wednesday night and hopped on the wrong train home, forgetting that suburban transit lines don't function as inter-city subway lines do; i.e., a train is not a train is not a train. Ultimately it took me 3x as long to arrive at my destination as it would have if I had waited 10 extra minutes at the station in the first place. Other than that it was a nice week, my first week at work. I think I'll be okay there. I think I'll survive.

3. This tweet is the truest thing I know: 

People are as tired of me bitching about this as I am about living through it, I'm sure. Don't check on me, though. Obviously I don't want to talk to anybody about anything. Except seeing Lady Gaga in Las Vegas next spring. CV and I have talked a lot about that.

4. John Prine in the New York Times: “I’ve been subscribing to Archie for 40-some years and I just like to receive it in my mailbox. I subscribe to it under the name ‘Johnny Prine, Age 71,’ and I give my correct age and you know, you go to the mailbox once a month, and there’s an Archie comic there with your name on it — it’s kind of a nice feeling.”

Semi-related sidenote: in 2013, Mel Brooks wrote a piece in NY Mag about growing up in New York, and it remains a stellar gem that I revisit approximately once a week. Reading about people who appreciate small, weird, personal things is one of my favorite hobbies, just as appreciating small, weird, personal things is one of my own favorite small, weird, personal things.

5. For example, this song:

6. I realized last night that in the past 5 months I have completely and successfully changed my life. Still humble & chill though. I also watched "The Fugitive" and thought about how tired I was, and then I went to bed.

7. About "The Fugitive": I read a number of appreciative posts re: this film in the last week, and luckily it was available to me for free as a subscriber of HBO (that word "free" meaning in excess of $X00 per month), so I wrote a note to myself mid-week to "watch "The Fugitive" and support movies for grownups!" So I did that. The best moment in the film is when TLJ is chasing a man he thinks *might* be Dr. Richard Kimble down the stairs at the county jailhouse or courthouse or wherever they're supposed to be on St. Patrick's Day and he suddenly just stops and takes a chance and yells "Richard!" down the stairwell and my longtime lover Harrison Ford stops and looks up at him, because he can't help himself. That was such a smart story beat to hit, calling on a small, recognizable, natural human reaction to hearing your own name called, even when you're fleeing for your life, and it blew me away that it existed in the world and in a major Hollywood mid-90s production. So, support movies for grownups! is what I'm saying, even if they're 25 years old.

[ see also: "Richard! Richard!! Richard?!! REEEECHARD!!!!?" ]

8. I read a thing somewhere about how blogggggers shouldn't apologize or offer excuses to nonexistent readers for not posting regularly and while it was written in a snide tone, AKA "who gives a shit what you're doing?", it was also a kick in the can that I owe explanations to no one about what happens on this lazy blog.

9. Two newsletters I pay for: famous people and two bossy dames. Support writers you love, dummies! Help them shine on!

10. Warren Ellis on the future of online communication: "Invisible Monasteries and Black Mountain Colleges.  Not the worst way to deal with it. Private accounts and locked spaces and phantom movement and communication via the Republic of Newsletters and RSS signals across the Isles of Blogging.  We are as ghosts and might as well get good at it." You can subscribe to his newsletter for free.

11. Samantha Irby on eyeliner: "i have a few marc jacobs eyeliner pencils that are smooth and pigmented and beautiful but the last time i wore one this dude asked if i had an eye infection and that was the end of that."

12. Remember when Jeremy Piven scandalized America 'n Broadway with his random sushi addiction that ultimately caused him to withdraw from a Mamet play co-starring Peggy Olson and my longtime lover Raúl Esparza? Well, I've eaten sushi for lunch three days in a row, because I wanted to, and I'm afraid now I'll be visited by some spicy tuna parasite or develop sudden brain fever. Please advise.

13. Another note I wrote to myself this week, about my devotion to soap operas: "I’m not claiming these are great art, but why do they have to be? Why should 'quality' (an arbitrary, subjective rating) be the only measure of a creative property? Why should there even be a measure?" So no apologizing for soap operas either. They're as valid a frame of reference for social interaction/civil discourse/entertainment as a big-budget mid-90s action movie about a vascular surgeon chasing a one-armed man across Chicago while being pursued by the feds.

14. A note about soap operas from this book Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women:

...soap opera is opposed to the classic (male) film narrative, which, with maximum action and minimum, always pertinent dialogue, speeds its way to the restoration of order. In soap operas, the important thing is that there always be time for a person to consider a remark's ramifications, time for people to speak and to listen lavishly. Actions and climaxes are only of secondary importance.

“Lavishly” is a nice touch.

15. And boy is that true: all my favorite GH scenes involve two or three actors sitting or standing or walking across a room while they sip brandy and talk to each other. There is zero "action" happening. This can best be demonstrated by the following clip I watched last week, where the same three actors repeat the exact same stupid conversation four or five times in 12 minutes.* You can skip right ahead to 10:40, which is where the actress playing Monica Quartermaine decides the dialogue is too boring to pretend to care about and just inspects her nails for a while. At around 10:57 she actually sighs out loud before she finally gets to deliver a line:

God I love it so much. Early-80s soaps still had that cardboard set look with flimsy doors and shabby furniture and once in a while you can see a boom mic drop into the frame. They are a glorious artifact sealed in an amber time capsule buried deep inside my heartlight.

*The repetition is, as they say, a feature, not a bug. Soaps originally broadcast live and were designed to allow busy, distracted housewives to move in and out of the room during an episode without missing critical plot points. The same extends across weeks, months, and years of narrative, since episodes air daily but only once and, if skipped, are lost to the ether (more true in the days before DVRs and streaming, obviously, but still a defining feature of the format—there's no official long-term archive available to viewers, which makes it more like theater than most other TV series or film. Although in theater they're not producing a new script every day for 60+ years.).

16. Don't worry there's plenty more where that came from! Stay cool, etc.

Summer Kitchen by Donald Hall

In June’s high light she stood at the sink
            With a glass of wine,
And listened for the bobolink,
And crushed garlic in late sunshine.

I watched her cooking, from my chair.
            She pressed her lips
Together, reached for kitchenware,
And tasted sauce from her fingertips.

“It’s ready now. Come on,” she said.
            “You light the candle.”
We ate, and talked, and went to bed,
And slept. It was a miracle.

— Donald Hall

Reading lately

The purposes and goals we create are phantom bodies — vestiges of and memorials to the people, places and things we stand to lose and strive to keep. Purpose indexes the world’s impermanence, namely our own. Sure, my grandfather’s T-Bird will function well as transportation once I’m finished. But, that goal only makes sense as an enduring reminder of the stories and memories of him. Purpose is about loss, or at least the circumvention of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We create purposes to establish happy endings in a universe where endings are simply that — endings.

Dig the caption on this one (& props to my friend Judah for flagging it):

I did a dry run of my morning commute yesterday and resisted the urge to read on the train or even listen to the 8 million podcasts waiting for me on my phone. I just stared out the window on the way downtown and back. My romantic* fascination with becoming a suburb-to-city commuter is owed exclusively to John Cheever stories and Mad Men, none of which ended well. It is my lifelong habit to learn all the wrong lessons from dubious source materials. But my resistance to stacking stimuli atop stimuli did speak to this (from Raptitude.com): 

One evening last week, I was sitting on my front stoop waiting for a friend to come over. I brought a book out with me, but instead of reading I just sat there and let my senses take in the scene.

I didn’t look or listen for anything in particular, I just let the details of this particular moment in the neighborhood come to me: the quality of the air—heavy and warm, the incoming summer storm kind; birds; two couples having a conversation down the sidewalk; the clinking of dishes coming from inside the house to my right; distant hammering from a construction site somewhere in the blocks behind my house.

There was also a scent that I only recently learned has a name: petrichor. It’s the earthy scent of rain having just fallen on soil after a dry spell. You definitely know it. It was a big part of the overall flavor of the scene.

I engage this kind of receptive awareness often, particularly when I’m waiting for someone, and there’s something very satisfying about it. Every scene in our lives—whatever’s unfolding at any given time in a front yard, a living room, a doctor’s office, a grocery store—has its own unique tone and emotional signature, which you can notice if you’re not talking in your head, which we usually are.

My head never shuts the fuck up, but I'm honestly trying.

*I'm using "romantic" in the sense of "having no basis in fact : IMAGINARY" rather than Judith Krantz. (Do people still read Judith Krantz? Or is it all YA dystopia these days? I do not know the current landscape, I only want the Danielle Steel Palominos and Changes of yesteryear.) 

3 things for today

1. I tried keeping my robe on a hook on the bedroom door but every time I passed it I thought it was Slender Man.

2. During my elective short-term "time off," I've embraced only sloth and soap operas. I tried feeling bad about this but eventually gave up: it wasn't worth the effort of caring who was watching me, since I don't believe in omniscient deities (except Stephen Sondheim) and don't think non-stop activity is the key to a good life. Also nobody was watching me (except Slender Man).

I spend most of the day lying on the porch reading magazines and trashy novels, and sometimes I move inside to the sofa to take a nap. Sometimes I go to Target and walk around. Sometimes I go to a movie. At night I watch reruns of General Hospital and Hart to Hart. People who keep asking me what I do during the day: this is it.

I very much subscribe to the theory that you find what you need when you need it, and in this year of constant change and dramatic, occasionally painful life upheaval, I indeed found what I needed: familiarity, comfort, and home. My summer has essentially been a rewind of 1982, minus my mother yelling at me to go outside and play.

3. This opener by Dwight Garner, in a review of Donald Hall's final book:

Donald Hall, who died on June 23 at 89, was not a particularly nimble poet. His verse had a homely, bucolic, beans-on-the-woodstove quality. He was more cabbage than tulip. To borrow an analogy from baseball, a sport he loved, he was the sort of batter who got on base thanks to walks, bunts, bloopers into right field and a good deal of hustle. He was a plugger.

In a single paragraph, why I love both Donald Hall and Dwight Garner.

personalKari GComment
3 things for today

1. I have a new job for real that starts very soon so I can finally let out this breath I've been holding in since March. We'll talk more about this later (the time of unemployment, not the job), but let's just say: WHEW.

2. Yesterday I pulled into a parking space downtown and realized I was worrying about X number of stupid things so I said "Hey Siri, take a note: you don't need to feel guilty about enjoying your life." Siri got it all wrong as usual so I cursed at her and we engaged in a minor inter-car tiff before I remembered I could just stop talking to nobody.

3. I'm always wary of people handing out koans for free but this fit into my current frame of mind so well I drank it up like soup:

“What if there is no ‘next level?’ What if it’s just an idea you made up in your head? What if you’re already there and not only are you not recognizing it, but by constantly pursuing something more, you’re preventing yourself from appreciating it and enjoying where you are now?”

I mean seltzer or beer or anything but soup, obviously. Soup is the worst. "Here, drink this salty hot garbage with chunks of mush in it." Really, the worst.

4. This profile of GOOP founder Gwyneth Paltrow at the NYT is well worth the read, as is every single thing written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It's generous but skeptical and critical but not mean-spirited, although my favorite parts had little to do with GP:

My phone rang. It was the mother of my son’s friend, back home in stupid New Jersey, and I realized she wouldn’t be calling if not for something gone awry. I apologized to G.P. and picked up the phone. The mom told me that my son was insisting that I was supposed to be picking him up. “I’m in California!” I whispered. “I’m with Gwyneth Paltrow!” She said she’d pass the message along and proceed as usual. G.P. said something, but I couldn’t concentrate because I was trying to understand how my 7-year-old didn’t know that I was out of town. Had I not said goodbye?

I get that it's dicey to make yourself (as the writer) a heavy part of the profile, but I dig it. It adds texture and meaning, as long as it's tied to the larger story.

I drove back to my hotel to find that a family that owned a Mercedes dealership would be hosting an impromptu all-night party around the pool and that I would never get any sleep. I thought about my children, one of whom plays the flute, but unwillingly, and therefore won’t practice. Yes, I thought about my children, only one of whom might shake your hand while the other would sooner spit on it, though they will both reliably do an elaborate orchestration of armpit farting while I’m trying to hear myself think. I thought of my mother and father, and an earlier conversation I had with my sisters that day about where to arrange our parents in a room for one of our kids’ bar mitzvahs so that they wouldn’t interact, so raw still are the wounds 35 years after their divorce. I thought of my big, disgusting Size 11 feet, which are wide and flat and have the look of scuba flippers and which designers have shod only begrudgingly. I thought of the third child I don’t have, the one I ache for. The car salespeople danced below.

5. A few other keepers by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who as I mentioned is always worth reading:

Any boob can take and shove a ball in a pocket

Linda Holmes at NPR did a deep dive on 'Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man back in 2014 (which she notes was written in 1957 and set in 1912):

It's just worth taking a moment now and then to remember that people have long believed the culture was collapsing, the world was going dark, the music was all junk, the books were all corrupting, and the new thing replacing the old thing meant the new people were going to be worse. And that panic has always been built in the same ways, and always used to motivate people to do things and spend money and join causes.

And earlier:

And ragtime! Shameless music that will grab your son, your daughter in the arms of a jungle animal instinct.

Well, it wouldn't be a classic cultural panic without a little appeal to racism about a genre of music that originated in black communities and how it's going to bring out the out-of-control, sex-having jungle animal in your nice little kids (including daughters, mentioned here for the first and only time during a rant that's been mostly about boys).

And then he yells:

Massteria!

He just told them he's inducing mass hysteria, but that's okay — they're not listening.

“But that’s okay—they’re not listening.” It always is as it always was.