Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective; it is a city. As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each other. We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.

-- Olivia Laing

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The signature to a life requires
the search for a method
rejection of posturing
trust in the witnesses
a vial of invisible ink
a sheet of paper held steady
after the end-stroke
above a deciphering flame

- Adrienne Rich, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2016

Wood's own feelings about the photo have evolved. He remembers feeling angry at Arbus for "making fun of a skinny kid with a sailor suit." But today he thinks of the image as one of the great conversation pieces of all time. And Arbus clearly fascinates him. He riffs about her for a good 15 minutes.

"She catches me in a moment of exasperation. It's true, I was exasperated. My parents had divorced and there was a general feeling of loneliness, a sense of being abandoned. I was just exploding. She saw that and it's like . . . commiseration. She captured the loneliness of everyone. It's all people who want to connect but don't know how to connect. And I think that's how she felt about herself. She felt damaged and she hoped that by wallowing in that feeling, through photography, she could transcend herself."

Wood remembers that his interest in guns and grenades prompted teachers at his Catholic grade school to suggest he see a shrink. ("They thought I was deranged" is how he puts it.) His father dismissed the idea. Wood ended up working for years with his father, a former professional tennis player who invented, and for a long time installed, a new kind of court surface. Wood tried a few different careers after that and eventually moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. He found the auditioning process humiliating and he quit. Now he sells insurance.

He doesn't talk often about his cameo with Diane Arbus but it's been a long time since he was embarrassed about it. Once he wanted to break into theater, and when he started his own production company he knew what to call it: Grenade Boy Productions.

- "Double Exposure," Washington Post (just got the new bio)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What do you fear when you fear everything? Time passing and not passing. Death and life. I could say my lungs never filled with enough air, no matter how many puffs of my inhaler I took. Or that my thoughts moved too quickly to complete, severed by a perpetual vigilance. But even to say this wold abet the lie that terror can be described, when anyone who's ever known it knows that it has no components but is instead everywhere inside you all the time, until you can recognize yourself only by the tensions that string one minute to the next. And yet I keep lying, by describing, because how else can I avoid this second, and the one after it? This being the condition itself: the relentless need to escape a moment that never ends.

- Adam Haslett

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ali was attending a rally for fair housing in his hometown of Louisville when he said:
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.
This is not only an assertion of black power, but a statement of international solidarity: of oppressed people coming together in an act of global resistance. It was a statement that connected wars abroad with attacks on the black, brown and poor at home, and it was said from the most hyper exalted platform our society offered at the time: the platform of being the Champ. These views did not only earn him the hatred of the mainstream press and the right wing of this country. It also made him a target of liberals in the media as well as the mainstream civil rights movement, who did not like Ali for his membership in the Nation of Islam and opposition to what was President Lyndon Johnson’s war.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

books read in June 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

26. To the Power of Three, Laura Lippman (2005)
27. True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, James Renner (2016)
28. End of Watch, Stephen King (2016) (not as good as the second one -- also features an evil ambitious policewoman, boo)
29. Under the Harrow, Flynn Berry (2016) (quite good)
30. Imagine Me Gone, Adam Haslett (2016) (wildly overpraised; Franzen Lite)
31. The Girls, Emma Cline (2016) (terrible, so disappointing)
32. Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body, Jo Marchant (2016) (okay, v pop-sci)
33. While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness, Eli Sanders (2016 ) (So many. Sentence fragments. Not bad, much less gripping than the reporting it's based on)
34. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing (2016) (pretty good)


all 2016 booklist posts

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

There is an Indiana Jones–style, “It had to be snakes” inevitability about the fact that Donald Trump is Clinton’s Republican rival. Of course Hillary Clinton is going to have to run against a man who seems both to embody and have attracted the support of everything male, white, and angry about the ascension of women and black people in America. Trump is the antithesis of Clinton’s pragmatism, her careful nature, her capacious understanding of American civic and government institutions and how to maneuver within them. Of course a woman who wants to land in the Oval Office is going to have to get past an aggressive reality-TV star who has literally talked about his penis in a debate.

- New York Magazine

'we're just basically a punk band'


Saturday, May 28, 2016

When Ophelia appears onstage in Act IV, scene V, singing little songs and handing out imaginary flowers, she temporarily upsets the entire power dynamic of the Elsinore court. When I picture that scene, I always imagine Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Horatio sharing a stunned look, all of them thinking the same thing: “We fucked up. We fucked up bad.” It might be the only moment of group self-awareness in the whole play. Not even the grossest old Victorian dinosaur of a critic tries to pretend that Ophelia is making a big deal out of nothing. Her madness and death is plainly the direct result of the alternating tyranny and neglect of the men in her life. She’s proof that adolescent girls don’t just go out of their minds for the fun of it. They’re driven there by people in their lives who should have known better. I think Shakespeare probably understood that better than most people do today.

- B.N. Harrison

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm a chronic depressive and I can't be unhappy when I hear this

I'm in love
what's that song?
I'm in love
with that song







(How ancient am I? I REMEMBER SEEING THIS ON MTV. HANG ME UP ON THE WALL IN A BAG.)

The 'mats had the best anti-video videos:






Sunday, May 15, 2016

books read in May 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

17. Alligator Candy, David Kushner (2016)
18. The Long Goodbye, Meghan O'Rourke (2011)
19. David Koresh Superstar: An Unfilmable Screenplay, Simon Indelicate (2014)
20. Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sue Townsend (2004) (reread)
21. Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, Sue Townsend (2009) (reread)
22. A Long Time Dead, A.J. Orde (1994) (reread)
23. My Life and Hard Times, James Thurber (1933) (reread)
24. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (2016)
25. Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? Paul Cornell (2016)


all 2016 booklist posts
I miss her hands, which I shall never see again, for we have burned her body into fine, charcoal ash and small white bone fragments, and that is what is now left of her voice and her eyes and her fingers. That loss is not recuperable, regardless of what one believes about the afterlife.

 - Meghan O'Rourke


 ....I am certain that [the dogs] thought that, as I was returned, my Sisters were not far behind -- but here my Sisters will come no more. Keeper may still visit Emily's little bed-room -- as he still does day by day -- and Flossy may look wistfully round for Anne -- they will never see them again -- nor shall I -- at least the human part of me.

 - Charlotte Bronte

Sunday, May 8, 2016

unmothered

CALL MOM” said a sign the other day, and something inside me clenched. In my inbox, at work, an e-mail waited from the New York Times: a limited offer to “treat Mom” to a free gift. It’s nothing, I tell myself. A day for advertisers. So I shrug off the sales and the offers, the cards and the flowers. I press delete. Still, I now mark Mother’s Day on my private calendar of grief. Anyone who has experienced a loss must have one of those. There’s August 29th, my mother’s birthday—forever stopped at sixty-four. September 17th, my parents’ anniversary—a day on which I now make a point of calling my father, and we both make a point of talking about anything but. There’s June 6th, the day she was diagnosed—when a cough that she had told us was “annoying” her and a leg that she had been dragging, thinking she must have pulled a muscle, turned out to be symptoms of Stage IV lung cancer. And then there’s October 16th: the day she died, four months and ten days after the diagnosis. The year becomes a landscape filled with little mines.

There’s a word in Hebrew—malkosh—that means “last rain.” It’s a word that only means something in places like Israel, where there’s a clear distinction between winter and the long, dry stretch of summer. It’s a word, too, that can only be applied in retrospect. When it’s raining, you have no way of knowing that the falling drops would be the last ones of the year. But then time goes by, the clouds clear, and you realize that that rain shower was the one.

-- Ruth Margalit

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'as if I had been born in a mood as some are born in a caul'

My most pervasive memory of young childhood, however, is of being in ‘a mood’, which really consisted of just the one mood in several shades of monochrome: a spectrum that ranged from a comforting solitary dreaminess inside a softly enclosing gentle shadow at one end to, at the far side of the continuum, the grimmest darkness in a hard-frozen, fractured icescape. Always it was me on the inside, them out there, beyond my enclosure, unable to reach in. And me, sometimes not wanting, sometimes not able, to reach out.

- Jenny Diski

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

'a rehearsal for the yet more impossible losses still to come'

In the Metamorphoses, there is a myth in which Baucis and Philemon, an old married couple, are the only people hospitable to Zeus and Hermes when the gods come to a town in disguise. As reward (along with destroying the town), the gods offer the couple any wish they want granted. They ask to die at the exact same time. On their death they become two entwined trees. The older I get, the more this story haunts a central room in my brain. I used to wonder why they didn’t ask for youth or beauty or riches. Now I don’t question the choice at all. When I think of my parents, I always end up at this story, the pleading humanity of it. Surely, it must happen this way for them, I think. Surely that’s the only way it could happen. Then I remember that this is as likely as them transforming into trees, and I close the door on the thoughts entirely.

Our culture has celebrities in place of myths, and we have grief twitter instead of byzantine lore about the journey to the underworld and the proper ways of burial. When celebrities die and we mourn them in a massively public way, this is a safe way to practice mourning for our parents and our partners and our friends, to try to force ourselves to make the unthinkable familiar. The generational quality of this grief comes from the fact that, as the celebrities with whom we grew up die, it signals that we are at the age where people are dying, and we look ahead to the inevitable disasters, the wave that grows larger on the horizon. If our public grief is a performance, it’s a performance in the way that a disaster drill is a performance. Our grief at losing an icon who meant a great deal to us is a real grief but a bearable one. But that bearable grief is a test-drive for future unbearable ones. We practice together in the hope that we can be prepared, so that the idea of loss does not seem so alien. Complaints about the inappropriate nature of grief on social media -- that it’s a circle-jerk, a joiner’s club, an obligated performance -- are as defining a part of these mournings as the remembrances themselves. But to call this grief a performance is to miss the point – it’s not a performance, it’s a rehearsal. It seems right to me that grief be public, and messy, and inconvenient, that it make everyone in its path uncomfortable. Small amounts of discomfort, after all, increase our tolerance for large amounts of pain. Mourning celebrities who mattered to us is a way to remind ourselves that no one is spared, not even those who seemed immortal, larger than a human being with petty little organs doing their pedestrian little jobs inside their skin. Speaking things aloud removes their terror, dulls the power of their unfamiliarity. We speak this over and over to try to come to terms with something that cannot possibly be made familiar.

- "Forever"

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"White Kimono," Mark Doty

Sleeves of oyster, smoke and pearl,
linings patterned with chrysanthemum flurries,
rippled fields: the import store's

received a shipment of old robes,
cleaned but neither pressed nor sorted,
and the owner's cut the bindings

so the bales of crumpled silks
swell and breathe. It's raining out, off-season,
nearly everything closed,

so Lynda and I spend an hour
overcome by wrinkly luxuries we'd never wear,
even if we could: clouds of--

are they plum blossoms?--
billowing on mauve, thunderheads
of pine mounting a stony slope,

tousled fields of embroidery
in twenty shades of jade:
costumes for some Japanese

midsummer's eve. And there,
against the back wall, a garment
which seems itself an artifact

of dream: tiny gossamer sleeves
like moth wings worrying a midnight lamp,
translucent silk so delicate

it might shatter at the weight
of a breath or glance.
The mere idea of a robe,

a slip of a thing
(even a small shoulder
might rip it apart)

which seems to tremble a little,
in the humid air. The owner--
enjoying our pleasure, this slow afternoon,

in the lush tumble of his wares--
gives us a deal. A struggle, to narrow it
to three: deep blue for Lynda,

lined with a secretive orange splendor
of flowers; a long scholarly gray for me,
severe, slightly pearly, meditative;

a rough raw silk for Wally,
its slubbed green the color of day-old grass
wet against lawn-mower blades. Home,

we iron till the kitchen steams,
revealing drape and luster.
Wally comes out and sits with us, too,

though he's already tired all the time,
and the three of us fog up the rainy windows,
talking, ironing, imagining mulberry acres

spun to this unlikely filament
--nearly animate stuff--and the endless
labor of unwinding the cocoons.

What strength and subtlety in these hues.
Doesn't rain make a memory more intimate?
We're pleased with our own calm privacy,

our part in the work of restoration,
that kitchen's achieved, common warmth,
the time-out-of-time sheen

of happiness to it, unmistakable
as the surface of those silks. And
all the while that fluttering spirit

of a kimono hung in the shop
like a lunar token, something
the ghost of a moth might have worn,

stirring on its hanger whenever
the door was opened--petal, phantom,
little milky flame lifting

like a curtain in the wind
--which even Lynda, slight as she was,
did not dare to try on.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

you don't have to be beautiful to turn me on

The “Kiss” video confirmed it: slim and made-up, this singer was challenging our limited sense of “man,” yet he was the manliest thing I’d ever seen—in an asymmetrical half-top. Moving in a way my young self couldn’t place as masculine or feminine, he was singing about someone being ‘his girl’ and there was a badass woman—fully clothed in a red suit—playing guitar. He was dancing half-naked around her (Wendy Melvoin). It was Derridean recognition at first sight. Not just of androgyny or gender-bending, but of sheer queer possibility.

- K.T. Billey


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q&A with Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, Spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department

The heroin crisis has affected your family?
Yes. Two years ago, my older brother passed away from a heroin injection. An overdose. He was 44. It was incredibly hard. I found out about it while I was up working in Oso during the landslide. We were close all our lives. As we both grew into adulthood, he struggled with addiction. It was hard to watch. My brother didn’t have much of a criminal history. He’d been to treatment. We didn’t know he was using heroin. I suspected it. But I also worked in drug court. I worked with people who struggled with addiction. I saw hundreds of people like my brother.
And based on what I experienced, which was eye-opening, people need to make choices about their lives. You can direct them, you can prod them, you can plead, you can coerce. But they have to choose. You can’t make the choice for them.
I couldn’t choose sobriety for my brother. So the best thing you can do in the meantime is make sure you’ve got sound policies around the issue and make sure it’s a compassionate approach. It’s a deeply personal reminder of how vicious and unforgiving and awful the heroin epidemic is. Police see that all the time. Firefighters see it. The public sees it. It’s not something that gets talked about.
Under Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s leadership, we’re finally able to say that SPD bike officers are going to be able to deploy naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, to people in need who have overdosed. It’s a relatively inexpensive drug that police can use during an overdose to save someone’s life. It’s a big commitment, but it’s time. It absolutely would have saved [my brother’s] life. He died in a restroom in North Seattle.
What else should people know?
The Good Samaritan law grants people immunity when they’re reporting an overdose to 911. People still think they’re going to get in trouble, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. In a state of overdose, seconds count. You have to get the person help right away. It has to get into the collective psyche that you need to call for help. It’s very risky to inject. We’ve said it before: If you’re going to inject, at least do it with someone else in case something goes wrong, so they can call and ask for help.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

PSA

My mother died of mesothelioma last month, so I might not be around for a while. Her music is still here.




Wednesday, April 13, 2016

books read in April 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

11. The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell (2016) (poorly written, and DREADFULLY inaccurate in nearly every Bronte detail)
12. Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS, Martin Duberman (2014)
13. Maskerade, Terry Pratchett (1995) (first reread in quite a long while)
14. Downfall of the Gods, K.J. Parker (2016)
15. Daughter of Hounds, Caitlin R. Kiernan (2007) (reread)
16. Them: Adventures with Extremists, Jon Ronson (2001) (v funny but ultimately too shallow for its subject, just like the public shaming book)


all 2016 booklist posts

hush your mouth


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

two quotes

I listened to people say consoling things to my mother, and I was glad that my dad's family had turned up, had come to where he was. I thought I'd remember everything that was said and done that day and maybe find a way to tell it sometime. But I didn't. I forgot it all, or nearly. What I do remember is that I heard our name used a lot that afternoon, my dad's name and mine. But I knew they were talking about my dad. Raymond, these people kept saying in their beautiful voices out of my childhood. Raymond. 

- Raymond Carver

***

We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there. First we were sitting up, then one of us lay down, and then we all lay down, on our stomachs, or on our sides, or on our backs, and they have kept on talking. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night. May god bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away. After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

- James Agee