3 things for today

1. Weeks ago I promised I would only be reading romantic fiction from X day forward; this proved not to be true, but you can get your sweet & dirty romance-novel-themed summer playlist here (courtesy of @mrsfridaynext for NPR). It's officially the only thing I like about summer:

2. 25 Alice Munro stories you can READ ONLINE RIGHT NOW (c/o Lithub). What a world!

3. I'm still making my way v, v slowly through 1980s episodes of General Hospital, full seasons of which exist on YouTube. I've also been searching for some kind of academic intel on the soap opera genre, which occupies the same gendered cultural space as romance novels, gossip, and boy bands; i.e., "exclusively female," therefore fundamentally unserious and disposable. Unsurprisingly there's not much out there, but here's a general primer from the Museum of Broadcast Communications:

In the United States, at least, the term "soap opera" has never been value-neutral. As noted above, the term itself signals an aesthetic and cultural incongruity: the events of everyday life elevated to the subject matter of an operatic form. To call a film, novel, or play a "soap opera" is to label it as culturally and aesthetic inconsequential and unworthy. When in the early 1990s the fabric of domestic life amongst the British royal family began to unravel, the press around the world began to refer to the situation as a "royal soap opera," which immediately framed it as tawdry, sensational, and undignified.

Particularly in the United States, the connotation of "soap opera" as a degraded cultural and aesthetic form is inextricably bound to the gendered nature of its appeals and of its target audience. The soap opera always has been a "woman's" genre, and, it has frequently been assumed (mainly by those who have never watched soap operas), of interest primarily or exclusively to uncultured working-class women with simple tastes and limited capacities. Thus the soap opera has been the most easily parodied of all broadcasting genres, and its presumed audience most easily stereotyped as the working-class "housewife" who allows the dishes to pile up and the children to run amuck because of her "addiction" to soap operas. Despite the fact that the soap opera is demonstrably one of the most narratively complex genres of television drama whose enjoyment requires considerable knowledge by its viewers, and despite the fact that its appeals for half a century have cut across social and demographic categories, the term continues to carry this sexist and classist baggage.

I'm eternally fascinated by the ways in which the world discounts the inner lives and interests of women while elevating historically "male" pursuits to hysterical status.

4. Related, and heartening in re: respecting the tastes of teenage girls: this Bob Lefsetz post on seeing Harry Styles in concert (+ Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone & Two Bossy Dames forever)

Good morning!

Great things happening in the world! We're all doing just fine!

Says Vogue: "Just Friday, The Guardian reported that Swedish model Arvida Byström received rape threats after she appeared in the Adidas Originals campaign with unshaved legs, even though her blonde hair and petite frame otherwise match most existing beauty norms."

Interesting how randos with keyboards (and, presumably, fingers) still toss out rape threats at the drop of a hat, isn't it? Interesting how that remains the default go-to response to any woman who steps over the arbitrary line they've drawn for acceptable behavior and/or comportment for 49.588% of the world's population?

These are all exclams and question marks of aggression, btw. Do not mistake me.

In other news, my name is Kari, I'm 48 years old, and I like Dave Matthews. Hope you can handle it!

3 things for today

1. Every time I cook a microwave burrito, the burrito splits halfway through cooking and the guts spill all over and sort of fuse themselves to the plate: beans, cheese, modified food starch, natural flavors, microbial enzymes, etc. It’s a real mess. Perhaps you’re thinking, well, try experimenting with a different power-level-to-time ratio or maybe stop making microwave burritos altogether. Sorry, that is not the answer. If you own a microwave I believe it’s incumbent upon you to make burritos. What else is the point? Imagine it’s a mandatory law passed down to you by a court elected by a minority you don’t subscribe to and then you’ll get the idea. Just do it and hang the consequences! Let future generations pay for your new plates! You'll be too dead to care!

2. Tonight on one of the Hart to Harts (Harts to Hart?) the local sheriff was played by Barry Corbin, aka Maurice Minnifield. It was good to see him although he was a villain (spoiler alert) and had a truly inspiring mustache, and a deer head mounted on his office wall, I assume to remind him of previous kills. In this picture I captured at the beginning of the episode, though, it just looks like he has horns, which is effective small-screen foreshadowing (of course Jonathan is wearing a leather vest, they're on vacation!): 

3. This Hallmark spinoff channel plays the same commercials during every break, including one where Dorothy Hamill complains about not being 19 and they mention the word “crepey” no less than 18 thousand times (it’s for a scammy-sounding skincare product called Crepe Erase, made for skin that’s “loose, crinkly, low volume.” Not only does "low volume skin" not sound like a real thing, why on earth would you want an unguent with that name sitting on your bathroom shelf, or anywhere near your house? It's like you're begging to be visited by witches.). Tonight I noticed that they had to blur out all the other brand names from this ice rink shot, probably assuming nobody would notice or care, but I did both. Once a proofreader always a proofreader, dummies. Also, thanks to this period of unemployment, I currently have a lot of time on my hands. Could use a few new hobbies though.

4. As a special bonus, here’s me with a Dorothy Hamill haircut, circa 1979. Good stuff, I know. Nothing screams "1970s!" like rust-colored sateen drapery and oversized, avuncular spectacles on a female child.

“I have some updates”

I'll be honest: my favorite kind of blogging is dumb blogging. Not dumb as in "idiot" (although I enjoy that, too), or silent, but dumb as in...nonessential, I guess. I'm crafting my own definition to suit my needs, but it falls somewhere along the lines of this entry I just stumbled across in my trusty Merriam-Webster app:

5 : lacking some usual attribute or accompaniment ; especially : having no means of self-propulsion • a dumb barge

Interesting formatting and punctuation choices employed in that app, by the way.

"Dumb blogging" as I mean it is best demonstrated by these two tweets from Matt Jacobs (@capndesign), who I do not know but have followed for a very long time, probably because I enjoy tweets like these (and what are tweets but v, v short blog posts without titles?):

To me those are perfect tweets, and the best, most tolerable kind of social media interaction; i.e., "having no means of self-propulsion." They do nothing to advance any dialogue; he's having a conversation with himself. Again, I don't know this man personally but I do know X, Y, and Z about him, and it doesn't matter whether I share any of his interests or opinions (although I do, which is also why I follow him on Twitter). But that's not really what it's about, either: it's just about opening the channel, and keeping it open. I can mark it and draw from it what I will, and move on.

All of this harks back to the good olde days, when blogging was still A Thing and Twitter was young and unafraid, although to some people it has always been anathema. Navel gazing. Worse than death! (I am too tired to search for examples of those sad opinions so please self-google if you care to learn any more about this important topic.)

But it also reminds me of this old post on "phatic communication" by danah boyd, which I have handily bookmarked for my eternal reference:

I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It's good for society. And what they're doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness. They want to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling, even when co-presence isn't viable. They want to share their state of mind and status so that others who care about them feel connected. It's a back-and-forth that makes sense if only we didn't look down at it from outer space. Of course it looks alien. Walk into any typical social encounter between people you don't know and it's bound to look a wee bit alien, especially if those people are demographically different than you.

I've heard from so many friends lately who are despairing at the state of the world (as am I, for the love of Christ!!!!!), but small, brief glimpses like these, from total strangers, are still something I look to for hope and encouragement. They're lightweight and frictionless and only as large as they need to be, and sometimes that's enough to help speed the way, bit by bit, just a little bit, on any given day.

One of my favorite things to do when I lived in New York was to take the M10 bus home in the evening and look up into the apartments lining Central Park West as we passed, and just...get a peek at what lives other people were leading. They were strangers, too, and separate from me in many unfathomable ways, but also not; we were sharing the same street and the same city with each other in our own private/public fashion. That is its own form of community. And opening up a window here is what I love, still, about this dumb blog.

3 things for today

1. Tonight for dinner I made middle-school tacos (so-called) but I refused to fancy them up, chef-style. Who would be fooled? I summoned no neutral oil, added no garlic, cornstarch, or chicken broth: just an Ortega taco kit, ground beef, chopped onions/tomatoes/lettuce, sour cream, and, ahem, "taco sauce." Screw that prima donna salsa.

I gave these tacos no more attention than they deserved, and they were perfect. Which is to say they were a disaster, functionally speaking: there is no mechanism as far as I can tell for inserting fixin's without cracking the shell, unless you are an ant-sized sprite or are somehow able to devise a scoop out of toothpicks and can then figure out how to eat without biting. In the end I just chucked a bunch of shit on a plate and went to town. I suppose that's how it should be. And it worked: they tasted like supper on a Wednesday in 1982.

2. Here's some space for you to think about your life for a while:

 

3. Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette" on Netflix: I have no words for how good this special is. She caught me with a line very early on, about how she finds the overt enthusiasm of Pride events off-putting—"My favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of a teacup finding its place on a saucer"—and that wasn't even close to the heart of the show. (These are words, aren't they.) It's life-bendingly good.

4. David Letterman interviewing Howard Stern is thoughtful and surprising, or not, if you're familiar with the trajectory of the lives of these men. People used to ask me all the time if I ever saw Howard Stern at work. In fact no! We did not exist on the same plane. We were not even in the same building.

5. Inkoo Kang at Slate appreciates the ladies of Thirst Aid Kit ("Lusting Out Loud"):

The brasher yet primmer Adewunmi speaks in a cosmopolitan London accent, while the quieter but more moan-prone Perkins drawls in a slight Tennessee twang. The contrast in their voices and backgrounds adds to the sense that these are disparate women who have come together through the irresistible force of horniness, and who willingly crack themselves open for each other (and the listeners) to partake in the pleasure of lusting out loud and sharing one’s desires, especially when the objects of one’s longing don’t always line up with one’s politics.

"Moan-prone."

6. My favorite long-time lust blog: WOULD

7. This bit from Meg Wolitzer's book The Wife

When Joe was finally sprung from the household, he found himself both enormously relieved and fully educated. He knew things about women now: their sighs, their undergarments, their monthly miseries, their quest for chocolate, their cutting remarks, their spiny pink curlers, the time line of their bodies, which he'd viewed in unsparing detail. This was what would be in store for him if he fell for a woman one day. He'd be forced to watch her shift and change and collapse over time; he'd be helpless to stop it from happening.

I am so enjoying her deflating of dear Joe, victim of his own small vanities. 

3 things for today

1. This from Jami Attenberg's #1000wordsofsummer daily email:

I write because it is the thing I have to offer, the one skill I have. I write to make people feel less alone in the world. I write as an act of service. I write because I want to communicate messages with the world. I write because it's a political statement, because I'm a feminist, and I want to exercise my freedom of speech. I write because I believe in myself, and that I have something worth saying. I write because I'm an artist, and if I didn't make my art I'd probably go mad.

2. This from Cloe Madanas at Alternet (via Kottke): Here are the 14 habits of highly miserable people:

Fearing economic loss has several advantages. First, it’ll keep you working forever at a job you hate. Second, it balances nicely with greed, an obsession with money, and a selfishness that even Ebenezer Scrooge would envy. Third, not only will you alienate your friends and family, but you’ll likely become even more anxious, depressed, and possibly even ill from your money worries. Good job!

3. This text from a fellow childe of the 80s* who understands my heart; we discovered last weekend that we share many of the same SXM faves:

*Technically we are children of the 70s, but the 80s was our defining decade, when we had sentience and Top Gun cast upon us.

4. A reminder that there are glories still:

5. DITTO:

To be or not to be

On one hand: some people might argue that posting only when I have something "important" or "thoughtful" to say would be the true path to righteousness, writing-wise.

On the other hand: write! every! day! say many other people. Writing begets writing and any way forward has to be marked with drafts and mistakes and general, plodding, quotidian dullness: the simple act of attending is all.

Aside: interesting semi-related theory:

My personal rule is that if you aren’t quite certain that a certain action will be good for you and the world, you shouldn’t do it. Do nothing, which is likely to be pleasant and unlikely to hurt anyone. Few atrocities have been committed by people lying in bed, whereas the urge to Do Something has led to serious catastrophe. Productivity is extremely dangerous.

On the other hand: here's Katrina Lenk performing "If I Were a Rich Man," which is your reward for showing up:

3 things for today

Like all writers, I don't get plot. I don't understand it, I don't like it, whenever I try to come up with it outside of a story, it makes me crazy. So one thing I've found is that if you spend a lot of time creating and then revising one of these voice-driven monologues, and really working with it as text, you know, trying to make it sing, what happens I think is that the lens gets very fine. And a very small tendency in the person as a character will sort of get heightened a little bit, and that's where plot comes from.

Linda Holmes wrote a beautiful piece on Anthony Bourdain yesterday, and in it she mentions that he had been one of her guides, along with Roger Ebert: someone who demonstrated for her how a life could be lived ("a guide to being, as to paraphrase John Muir, in the world rather than just on it"). George Saunders is this for me—a generous voice of calm and reason, as well as a gentle nudge, and a necessary reminder that there are many, many ways to be a writer.

2: I always walk out of a heist movie feeling taller and stronger and a little aggressive, like I'm tough enough to evade a police chase or punch a worthy perp in the chops and sail away with a cool million. Ocean's 8 is no great heist movie (nor a great movie period: objectively, it is not a very good movie), but it was great fun, and a heist movie, so I will let it pass. There's something about watching a group of confident, breezy hucksters perform utterly frivolous magic tricks on scandalously wealthy villains and/or corporate entities—and get away with it—that just really fires me up.

Serious query though: what's the difference between a heist and a caper? I feel it’s largely a matter of tone, or sensibility, but can't quite put my finger on the divide, only that capers feel more madcap, more screwball, more Cary Grant. More Muppet? That's my general theory, anyway; feel free to crowdsource this one amongst yourself.

3: I was reminded again this morning via SiriusXM's THE BRIDGE that sometimes the old joys are the best (as is SiriusXM's THE BRIDGE):

Words, recently

We haven't checked in on my list of favorite words lately, which is a shame. Everyone should keep a favorite list of something. What else do people love in the world, if not random words? Flowers, I suppose. Birds. Somebody has to love the birds. You may love superheroes or hoagies, I don't care. It doesn't matter—just love something stupid and frivolous with your whole great heart. 1980s soap operas! It can be something that means something to you and you alone, or something you only share with a blog. Just fave your life away.

p.s. I got a new phone last winter / surprise surprise / and had to re-download the Merriam-Webster app, which wiped the slate clean vis-à-vis my old list of favorite words. Life careth not, nor I: there are always new words to like. Thus is the magic of renewable resources! Somebody tell Scott Pruitt.

Also props to the adjectives, clearly. Every writing lesson I've ever sat through/read/thought about has been crystal fucking clear on the directive to KILL THE ADJECTIVES ("they encourage lazy writing," eschew surplusage, etc.) but alas. Adjectives (and exclams! & parentheses!) are the lifeblood in my vampire veins. I love them the way an artist loves paint, or clay, or light. Why would you cast away a tool, when sometimes it’s the only tool you need?

In order of "Newest," as of this a.m.:

redolent. adjective :: exuding fragrance; aromatic

sacrosanct. adjective :: most sacred or holy; inviolable

replete. adjective :: fully or abundantly provided or filled; complete [NOTE: I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral last weekend, and John Hannah describes Simon Callow as "replete" in his eulogy. M-D says the word also means "fat and stout," but I like to believe he means "complete" when he uses it. There is no better description for that character, who has relatively little screentime but is rich and fully drawn.]

fungible. adjective :: being something (such as money or a commodity) of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in paying a debt or settling an account [NOTE: this feels like a needlessly complicated definition]

axiomatic. adjective :: taken for granted; self-evident

redoubtable. adjective :: formidable; worthy of respect

shipwright. noun :: a carpenter skilled in ship construction and repair

stygian. adjective :: of or relating to the river Styx; extremely dark, gloomy, or forbidding

protean. adjective :: displaying great diversity or variety

catholic. adjective :: comprehensive, universal; broad in sympathies, tastes or interests [NOTE: see Sondheim, Stephen]

spiv. noun :: a man who lives by his wits without regular employment; slacker

riffraff. noun :: disreputable persons; rabble

flinty. adjective :: stern, unyielding [NOTE: see Something's Gotta Give]

revenant. noun :: one that returns after death or a long absence [NOTE: ick, like "The Monkey's Paw"]

elide. transitive verb :: to suppress or alter something by elision; to strike out; to leave out of consideration

rum: ??? [NOTE: I have zero memory of looking up this word]