Girls Weekend

It’s important to appreciate and celebrate the people who stick around for whole lifetimes. I’ve known these girls (they will always be my girls) since grade school, from band practice to study hall to lunch tables to football games to parades and dances and slumber parties. I know their faces as well I know my own, and they are more precious to me than I can say.

personalKari GComment
An audacious plan to save the world

That headline is a con, suckers. I have consumed X,000 mg of caffeine since 5:30 a.m. while listening to The Blend on SiriusXM, although I had to change the channel when Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” came on. Blech. For the record, these are songs I will change the channel on:

  • Candle in the Wind

  • Sympathy for the Devil

  • Imagine

  • It’s a Wonderful World

  • anything by that flute band

+ Important news: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! starts streaming on Tuesday!

I set some low bars for myself this week.

The song I listened to the most

No comment on all the trash floating through the universe, but this song is the best.

Some things I read

🔗 9 Big Bang Theory episodes that will win over skeptics

In my experience, trying to convince anyone to love anything you love is a useless effort. I have succeeded exactly one time, when I talked my friend SarahB into watching 20 hours of Battlestar Galactica over a single weekend, but that was just me being a good friend. The best kind of friend! BSG was so good! I want to go watch “33” right now!

Anyway, a woman in this sitcom writing class I took back in ’08 tried convincing me that The Big Bang Theory was actually a funny, smart sitcom with well-developed characters, and I said “hogwash” with confidence, because based on what I knew about this sitcom at the time (which was nothing), how could this possibly be true? But it is true. It’s been on for a billion years now and is a prime example of a series that has used those years to expand and deepen its own universe in incremental yet profound ways. Individual episodes can be dumb and lazy, based on who’s doing the writing that week, but name one television show where that is not the case. Sorry, you can’t. Everything has clunkers. Scientific fact.

Over the past five years it has become my blue mood show, the one I seek out when nothing else works, even though I can’t say exactly why, As favored NPR critic/Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes writes, “How do you explain what makes you laugh? How do I explain that Jim Parsons is just funny to me? And that some of the darling comedies of modern criticism, highly valued for their incisive, dark, weird insights, are not funny to me? How do I explain that sometimes I am, comedically speaking, a cheap date? The cheapest date?”

Sheldon has always reminded me of a cross between Jiminy Cricket, Barney Fife, and Mr. Rogers. My #1 episode is the one where he gets all the cats because he’s sad about Amy (“The Zazzy Substitution”). I will watch it repeatedly until the end of time:

A grasp of narrative is the one compliment you can give the country genre even when you can’t give it anything else. Its roots are in folk music, and its towering figures are oral historians like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Not cool enough to be relevant to any streaming age existential crises, the winning country formula has not seen a major change in my lifetime. Two beers deep on Tuesday night, I thought about all the barns and hardware stores I’d heard Womack’s “Mendocino County Line” or “Little Past Little Rock” drifting out of as a kid, and tinkered with the idea that country songs are functionally like podcasts—linear entertainment you’re entitled to enjoy during the workday. A story is more vital than a hook or beat, in that context. A story built from tropes is even better, like falling asleep streaming a romantic comedy you’ve seen before. Country music is maligned—and rightly so—for corniness, misogyny, and flat, unexamined whiteness, but it is unendingly winning at the short story.

🔗 Warren Ellis on withdrawing from social media: “I still get broadcast waves.  I’m still engaged with the world and learning every day.  But I’ve chosen a quiet life in the fog.  I leave you to that other world. I like it better where I am.”

SOMETHING ABOUT SOAP OPERAS

From Worlds Without End: The Art and History of the Soap Opera:

Finally, the genre’s structure encourages viewers to develop certain ways of watching, and the daytime audience’s unique viewing practices help to explain the special power of issue-oriented story lines. Regular viewers have a rich, complex relationship to their favorite programs and possess a dense historical knowledge of the relationships among the characters. Whether they watch in real time or on videotape (ed. !), the daily broadcast of soaps permits viewers to make the shows part of their regular domestic routine, and that repetition works to build an intimate connection with the individual characters.

A clip from General Hospital

It’s all true! I watched the relationship between these two characters develop over decades. Knowing everything about their history is everything that makes this storyline and these scenes deeply resonant and precious to me: the care that they take with each other, the trust between them, even just the way they sit and talk to each other. The way that they grew and changed together. This is what soap operas do. Again I repeat: for all their faults and insanity, there is no other format that enables this in the same way, that allows and demands it, that embeds and rewards this patience and this loyalty in the bargain it makes with its viewers.

One thing I did

I took a cooking class at Sur la Table on Wednesday; it was me and two dudes learning how to make pizza at home. And lo, it was good! Good for the heart and the soul and the belly. My goal for the rest of 2018 is to not be afraid of flour. Cross your fingers!

Your weekly Bruce

Bruce performing an earnest sermon for an audience of thousands beneath a setting sun is one of my favorite Bruces: “A dream of life comes to me / Like a catfish dancin' on the end of my line.” BRUUUUUUUUUUCE. He always makes me happy.

In other news, I like to reward people for reaching the bottom, and your reward is knowing that what I keep thinking are bald spots in my eyebrows are actually, upon closer inspection, only patches of gray. So life goes on! Congratulations!

weeknoteKari G Comments
Check up

I’ve forgotten how to blog, I think. Or how to think, I blog. Heh. Classic blog humor. What else is there to think about lately but the disastrous state of this sad republic, only nobody—NOBODY—especially me—wants to come here to moan over that. I’ve reached my limit on exactly what and how much of this toxic stew I can ingest before it all starts leaching through my bones. Enough already. That world is banging on the lid of my brain box 24/7 and I will not invite it to live here. Not here on this stupid blog. Not here, in this weary head. I will fight the fight where and however I can, but no more shouting into the wind. Enough.

I drove myself to the emergency room a couple of months ago, on a Thursday night, just as the sun was setting, the week before I started my new job. I’d been feeling something strange in my chest for a couple of days and ignoring it, as I generally do, because I am a raging hypochondriac who self-treats through denial. (Every headache is a stroke, every muscle pain is cancer. That type of hypochondriac. The fun kind. But the best part is, someday at least one of those things will probably be true!)

This time, however, I figured I shouldn’t wait until my first day on the job to see if I was having a heart attack, so I finally shamed myself into action. It was a strange experience, and to be honest the smallest and the loneliest I have ever felt in my life, being wheeled down the long corridor of a quiet and almost-empty hospital wing, being tended to—being cared for—by kindly and competent strangers. I felt very sorry for myself, but in the end it was nothing, of course. Vitals were good, blood was good (“good blood” is not a medical diagnosis!), and there was no sign of anything but

Stress

sTress

stRess

strEss

streSs

stresS

STRESSSSSSS

I’ve been experiencing some stress, I guess. That is not easy for me, a sweeper of things under rugs, to admit. It’s been a harder year than I knew, and I could no longer ignore it. That shit was leaching through my bones.

I read this piece by Heather Havrilesky this morning (she of “Ask Polly” at The Cut), where she offered some sage advice way back in 2016 to a fellow sufferer (2016! what universe was that? are we not all of us fellow sufferers by now?) on how to survive in a world gone mad:

Keeping a calm space for yourself, where you remember what matters, where you believe in the goodness of people, is fundamental. Our survival depends on it, more than ever. We have to reach out to each other and believe in each other. We have to believe that we can make our way through this shit storm, and fix what’s broken.

We don’t owe it to the world to wallow in the darkness, to stay depressed, to mourn indefinitely. We owe it to the world to believe in this day, and to believe in the future.

Anyway, it’s perfectly true that this insane country is a crap heap piled on top of a rat’s nest that’s boiling inside the mouth of a gargoyle, etc., etc., ad infinitum. I can’t change that, and I forgive myself for it. This life—my life, your life—is bigger than that. It has to be.

personalKari GComment
Going back to go forward

Among friends I’m known for my serial ravings on trivial, non-controversial topics: hot weather, shredded lettuce, the shocking lack of spatial awareness displayed by tourists on New York City sidewalks in the midtown area or anywhere, really.

It’s true that I love the sound of my own voice and have opinions on many idiot things and also feel friendship has costs that should be silently borne by others. In turn they generally submit, knowing eventually it will burn itself out like the flame of a well-priced Yankee candle. Usually nobody cares enough to fight back, except this one time in college when I was ranting for so long about women’s names that end in the letter “i”—Juli, Sandi—that finally my roommate Debbie (wise) put her hand on my arm and gently said, “Um, Kari?”

Here's what happened this week.

The song I listened to the most

Apple Music and others keep trying to foist new music on me with their crafty personalized algorithmic mixes that mysteriously appear under the presumptuous heading “For You” and I defiantly stand up and shout FUCK OFF at all of them. All I want is this Bob Seger song that I used to listen to on my Sony Walkman late at night late in the summer at my grandparents’ cabin on the lake, when everybody else was sleeping and the world belonged to me. It is wistful and autumnal in all the best ways. Even in my teens I suffered from a gauzy, romantic view of time passing and I have always loved the part where he sings about the cold wind blowin’ from the north and how the summer birds are leavin’. And it’s true! They really are! I can hear them outside right now and my feet are freezing!

Some things I read

I flew to New York for a meeting this week so I finally had time on the plane to read some of the millions of Instapaper articles I save daily. There were so many good ones! Don’t believe the internet when people on it say it’s only garbage. It’s people who are garbage. The internet will save us all.

🔗 Ruby Tandoh on respecting old loves:

Obviously it's good to try something strange and expand your horizons. I don’t want to always tread the same paths. But you can’t go boldly forth if you don’t know what you’re made of, and away means nothing if you don’t know home. All around is bad news and bad men and awfulness, but I’m building a little fortress that’s helping me keep afloat. I’m patching up a ‘me’ that’s been neglected for too many years, and surrounding myself with all the things that make me who I am: Mars bars, that threadbare tea dress, Green Wing. For maybe the first time in my life, I’m really savouring the experience of being the same old me. I'm a muddle of all the boring, weird, melodramatic, awful, saccharine, unglamorous, awkward things that I've loved. And you know what? It tastes great.

🔗 Jazmine Hughes buys a new bra:

Earlier this year, I couldn’t stop buying Woman things. Delicate jewelry with curves slimmer than the white of my fingernail; luminous foundation that costs more than dinner; white wide-legged jeans that emphasized the width of my hips. I wanted to feel ladylike and graceful. Grown-up, deliberate. I wanted to experience the sensation, the sound—or what the sound brought to mind growing up—of my mother’s gold bracelets as they jangled or her keys as they clinked together right before entering our home. For months, I wanted everything to smell like roses. I washed my face and balmed my lips, and dotted my neck, and sprayed my hair with the same scent, trying to smell freshly plucked.

🔗 Justin Illingworth on the journals of John Cheever:

Each entry is perfectly sized, strangely lambent, its effect concentrated and distilled. One is astounded by the lightness of his touch, his piquant or affecting details that bathe an observation in grace. “The storm moves around to the east and finally strikes the valley. The air is aromatic the instant the rain falls. Ben cuts a paper airplane for his little brother. The old dog will not leave my side.” The economy of such sentences belies their emotional weight and inexplicable familiarity. There is no better conjuror of this particular atmosphere: the happy-sad, window-dreaming melancholy of late afternoon.

[ lambent : adjective : playing lightly on or over a surface: flickering ]

Something about soap operas

There is not as much writing about General Hospital online as there should be, but I stumbled across a couple of blog posts last spring while cleverly googling “General Hospital.” These posts from 2014 were actually essays written by an English professor named William Bradley who used to watch the show daily when he was undergoing chemotherapy in his early 20s. This is from “On Soap Operas, or, We Read and Watch Our Stories in Order to Live”:

While it’s dangerous to live in the past, to give in to nostalgia’s deceptive pull, I think we’re well-served by making an effort to remember the world as it existed, as we perceived it at the time. Holding onto what was real keeps us rooted to who we have been, and reminds us of the world– or, perhaps more accurately, worlds– we have lived in. The history books will remember the presidents and the captains of industry. Neither Nabokov nor Twain will ever go out of print. Scholars and culture critics will make sure we remember the Citizen Kanes and The Wires.

But who is going to remember the One Life to Lives? Or the Howard the Ducks? Or The Gong Shows? These things were part of our cultural landscape for a time. People worked hard on them, and surely their efforts and the work that resulted ought to be remembered in some way. They might not have had the lasting impact the works of high art are supposed to have, but they mattered to a lot of people, who labored on them or experienced them as an audience that cried, laughed, or played along at home.

And who, for that matter, will remember me?

That post includes a lovely tribute to the actor John Ingle, who played the role of Edward Quartermaine for two decades and who died of cancer in 2012.

He died of cancer as well, this writer, William Bradley, sometime last summer. I didn’t know him, but we loved the same thing in the same way, and I was deeply, immensely, wildly grateful to him for writing about it. And I will remember that.

A clip from General Hospital

Monica Quartermaine’s breast cancer storyline played out over a three-year period in unsparing yet soapy detail, and as with all soap opera storylines it was cross-pollinated with other subplots along the way—not only diving into its profound effects on her husband Alan and their marriage but also her best friend Bobbie Spencer, a newly adopted daughter, and the affair Monica had with a hot young doctor who later sued her for sexual harassment (and who even later she kidnapped and threatened to lobotomize).

This clip includes a sweet, short scene where Alan and Monica talk about her leaving for treatment at a hospital in Arizona. But it kicks off with John Ingle, as family patriarch Edward Quartermaine, telling his wife Lila about a woman he had an affair with long before who, unbeknownst to him, gave birth to an illegitimate son Edward was later accused of killing and burying in her back yard. God bless soap operas and the people who love them. Vive le soap!

One thing I did

I told my boss I’d like to work from home full time and she said okay.

A blog post that’s making me happy this week

Rebecca Thomas wrote this in her newsletter, which as far as I’m concerned is the same thing as a blog:

This little newsletter is an experiment into what’s possible. Setting aside big plans and the pressure that accompanies all that is the only way I’ve ever propelled myself to something better.

I’ve published seventy-six issues of something no one asked for. I love the dogged obtuseness of that. More than mastery, I’d like that to be my trademark.

I’ve published hundreds upon hundreds of posts that no one ever asked for, that no one has to care about, that no one even has to read. I’ve shared them with you but I wrote them for me.

Your weekly Bruce

Oh it’s nothing, just a used car salesman wearing his daddy’s best jacket playing some rock ‘n roll.

weeknoteKari G Comments
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Thursday morning there was a pair of believers parked on a bench outside the train station handing out their literature. Various twosomes affiliated with some local god machine occupy this bench several times a week, and they are invariably cheery and nonthreatening. My policy regarding religion—and strangers in general—is you don’t get up in my grill and I won’t get up in yourn. Therefore, as always, I smiled and said good morning and kept on walking.

Then when I got into Union Station there was a pair of missionaries standing on the sidewalk warning passersby to repent for their sins. The woman silently waved a sign around while the dude shouted into a megaphone, which seemed like par for the course. I had no choice but to laugh out loud and keep on walking.

That same afternoon on my way back to the office after lunch there was a white van covered in “END TIMES” stickers blasting the word of the looord unto the street over a loud speaker. I could hear it booming from halfway down the block, which was how I knew it was the lord driving before I even spotted the van. I paused on the sidewalk and stared for a while, until the light changed and He pulled away.

So. p.s. Have you ever seen The Leftovers?

Here's what happened this week.

The song I listened to the most

In truth I haven’t slept in approximately one hundred billion years so I have nothing of import to report. My brain simply isn’t functioning up to its normal (tremendously high) standards, so I laid on the sofa and watched three hours of Golden Girls last night. When in doubt, go to the source. I suppose that’s why others turn to religion in the first place, so let my choice be known. Traditional multi-camera sitcoms will have to save me in the end.

This week I listened mostly to a playlist I made for my dear friend Robert G way back circa 2004, which kicks off with this Ryan Adams classic but also includes good hits by Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Everclear, and Hanson. It’s a real crowd pleaser, this playlist, amongst a crowd of me. It reminds me of Diana and of fine autumn days and sometimes it just feels like stepping back into a better world, if only for a couple of minutes. Sometimes a couple of minutes is all it takes (though naturally I would take more if they were offered).

Some things I read

🔗 Zadie Smith is 100% who I want to be when I grow up, although that will be some trick as she is years younger than I. Alas. This is from a piece she wrote for Elle India:

I grew up in a culture suspiciously eager to convince me that an 80-year-old woman with a 20-year-old man was at the best comically grotesque, at the worst, some form of perversity, while Chaplin and his youthful loves, by contrast, were an example of the ‘agelessness’ of men. But the truth is — as I think those teenage boys suspected — age exists for us all. It comes to you whether you believe in it or not. And I am now very grateful to be in a body that reminds me every day of this simple human truth. Which is not to say age does not bring me sadness, that I don’t sometimes mourn for my 27-year-old self, nor miss a certain version of my face, breasts, legs or teeth. I feel all of that natural, human sadness. And I do all the usual things — exercise, eat decently, dress optimistically — in the hope of slowing the inevitable process. But there are limits to that hope: limits like the menopause, limits like the end of my fertility. And thank God for them, because hope without limit is another word for delusion.

🔗 An important twete; i.e., it’s important to find and follow people who randomly and repeatedly tweet short sexy excerpts from Dorothy L. Sayers books. Take your joy where you can find it, turkeys.

🔗 This oral history of Frasier in Vanity Fair is a nice coda to my Year of Frasier and makes me think I should probably start watching from the start all over again. The world is still a shitbox, after all. There is still a desperate need for laffs. cf. multi-cam note above.

Kelsey Grammer: People always ask how Frasier and Niles came from a father like Martin. Martin’s in public service, into knowing what’s right and wrong. That’s exactly what his sons were. On the simplest level, he was a good man, and their hope was to become the same thing.

David Hyde Pierce: I think there’s a parallel there with Kelsey, me, and John. John was a little older than we were. He had his own “Martin” acting style—no nonsense, no fuss, a Chicago-based approach. Kelsey and I came from New York theater with a slightly more highfalutin style, but we both aspired to be the kind of actor John was.

Something about soap operas

From Louise Spence, Watching Daytime Soap Operas: The Power of Pleasure, which is based on a series of interviews she conducted with soap fans over a period of 15 (!) years:

To some, my respondents' cooperation, forthrightness, and sometimes even pleasure in the interview situation might be interpreted as another indication of their loneliness and powerlessness. To others, it will seem like tangible evidence of their freedom, that they are mistresses of their fate. It may be their secret vice, talking about soaps, but it is also a small act of self-affirmation.

A related bonus

This week on an episode of Hart to Hart called “As the Hart Turns,” Max entered Jennifer into a charity drawing to win a walk-on part on a soap opera called “Doctor’s Hospital” that somehow turned into her being asked to write for the show when the head writer was suddenly murdered by an actor whose character was being killed off. It was too far-fetched even for me, a devoted lover of both this insanely stupid series and of soap operas. What soap opera invites a journalist who is not even a fan of the show to step right up to the writers’ table? How would she even know who the characters were? How would she know whose illegitimate baby was secretly whose? I was frankly insulted, even though I watched the whole way through.

A clip from General Hospital

I do however self-affirm this 12-minute, 32-second carnival of idiocy with zero hesitation, only wonder. It occurs during a period of their marriage when they actively loathe each other, and in fact she is getting ready to kick off a long affair with another dope that will haunt them for all the rest of their days. Ah well! Whatever it takes to be a Quartermaine.

One thing I did

I had my new passport photo taken at Walgreen’s and I honestly looked like a criminal. I couldn’t even believe it was my face, or that this lady who took the picture thought I would ever voluntarily submit such a record to any government agency. I wondered why she had it in for me, or why she wouldn’t just tell me the camera exploded, although I guess it’s unfair to blame her for my face. Then I wisely got a flu shot because one thing I am not a fan of is global pandemics.

A blog post that’s making me happy this week

“Happy” isn’t the appropriate word for it, but I’ve already backed myself into this corner and now I just have to see it through. From Rebecca Fishbein at Splinter, a post called “Who Edited This?” about these screwball White House twit vids:

Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted a similarly exuberant 9/11 message. Later, he did a fun fist pump ahead of a memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. And on Tuesday night, the White House permitted him to tweet the above message featuring Trump awkwardly shouting in the Rose Garden along with some interspersed shots of him lumbering around various memorials. I very much liked the image of him presumably glaring at a flag.

She goes on to ask “Who edited this? Was it Eric? I bet it was Eric.”

Your weekly Bruce

Quiet Bruce, somber Bruce, singalong Bruce: very Bruce! In the words of one interplanetary listener, “💟💯💋🌹🌹😭😘🌹😘😭😭💛”

Okay, my parents are coming down today with my brother Todd and his wife so I gotta clean this shitbox STAT. God bless & et cetera, obviously.

Kari GComment
Summons by Robert Francis

Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road. 
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door. 
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light. 
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me. 
See that I see. Talk to me till
I’m half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all. 
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I’m not too hard persuaded.

— Robert Francis, “Summons”