Friday, December 18, 2015

books read in December 2015

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

112. Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, Stephen Puleo (2003)
113. Charlotte Brontë: A Life, Claire Harman (2015)
114. Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll, and Mental Illness, Mary Forsberg Weiland (2009)

all 2015 booklist posts

Thursday, December 17, 2015

this just made me really happy

Kings Hall niter, Stoke-on-Trent on 18.7.15 - Clip 2274 by Jud

Gene Chandler - There Was a Time

Beethoven Flashmob Mensa Heidelberg #HDFlashmob

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Road of Broken Hearted Men (Live at SXSW)

That is pure amazing full-throttle joy, right there.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Stone Temple Pilots, "Pretty Penny" (live at the 1994 VMAs)

(I gotta love how at the height of the grunge era, Scott is wearing boots, jeans and I think a thermal underwear top, but his bleached hair is neatly styled and he's got a sparkly unbuttoned shirt draped over the top. Was this before or after their Unplugged? the set's remarkably similar.)

Stone Temple Pilots - Pretty Penny (Recording Session 1994)

sickness unto death

I also hear a fascinating and affecting theme of mortality and human frailty throughout your records, specifically on songs like “The Sickness Unto Death” and “Summer Home” that seem to explore your struggle with Lyme disease and the bug that bit you. What are some ways that struggle has informed, or not informed, your songwriting?
I wrote that song “The Sickness Unto Death” not only about me, and my “death,” but I’d also been reading the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and he wrote his book The Sickness Unto Death, which I plagiarized the title from. And maybe songs aren’t the right …form for those kinds of ponderings, but that’s the only thing I’m interested in writing about. With music, it’s a very interesting synthesis for me – especially trying to make the themes in the instrumentals reflect the themes in the words. It’s difficult.
Even going back to Greek philosophy, and this idea that as you get older, you start to lose your desires, which can be a good thing and a bad thing, this losing of desires for sex, or for food, because all those things are causing you pain. But I imagine, because on the other hand I see a lot of bad coming from people’s desires, and desire itself being kind of an interesting point. So that’s why I have an album called Hunger and Thirst, meditations on why we want to be anything.
When I started realizing all the things I wanted to do with my life, I didn’t want them, I just imagined wanting to be this person who was doing those things. And then I got sick [with Lyme disease], and it kind of ruined all those plans I had and I had to adapt, and it caused a lot of bitterness in me for a long time. It still does. I never grew tall, I never had the childhood that you’re supposed to have, without pain. But then maybe you don’t –maybe no one has that.
Letting go of the idea of what we thought we were promised?
Yeah. All these promises, they’re tenuous. On this last record, on the song “Summer Home,” and in lots of songs, you will see that reference to a bug that bit me, which is just –this beast, you know? This thing that affects your life, and never even seeing it. It’s almost not even the tick itself. It’s the implications of it. It becomes a symbol. It’s when you first realize that some of these promises you have, assume or take for granted that you deserve it, and that’s a pretty sobering moment.
I think “The Sickness Unto Death” does feel, at the end, like a quiet and dark place of death, but then there is also definitely, as a listener, this feeling of rebirth as it swells and explodes into “The Honest Truth,” which is like the next step – at least in my mind.
Yeah, I’ve been trying to research this for a long time, but music — I imagine its early roots being tied and intertwined with early religion. And nowadays, the world is such a secular place, but we still have music, and it still has something sacred about it. There’s glimmers out there.

Friday, December 4, 2015

please, mother of mercy, take me from this place

Scott Weiland and the Doors - "Break On Through, One in Five" (live)

I remember sitting through this whole dumb special when it came out (I was bored, it was pre-web-two-dot-oh, what do you want from me) and Weiland was the only one who seemed to be at all channeling Morrison, despite not having That Voice.

Which, in hindsight, might not actually have been a good thing.

Scott Weiland October 27, 1967 – December 3, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

I can’t be on Facebook because of my desire to humiliate myself. Were you ever on Myspace or Facebook or Twitter? Or did you never go there?
I love that you own the desire to humiliate yourself, even if you eventually had to back away from it. You know I never did those things that you mention, those online things, nor have I ever been tempted to, not even for a nanosecond. These days it seems like one is making a big statement by saying that, but since I barely know what they are or how they work — they’ve just kind of passed me by — it isn’t something I think about very often. And since there’s so much built-in obsolescence, I often feel like it all comes out in the wash — i.e., I never knew what Myspace was, and now it seems no one else knows either.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

epigraph to Penelope Fitzgerald's letters

Will dich im Traum nicht stören,
Wär schad’ um deine Ruh’,
Sollst meinen Tritt nicht hören –
Sacht, sacht die Türe zu!
Ich schreibe nur im Gehen
An’s Tor noch gute Nacht,
Damit du mögest sehen,
An dich hab’ ich gedacht.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

* (My Internet is so slow, I cannot download images, you will have to google the two Durer images, compare and contrast. My above neighbors got Optimum to come by because their Internet is so slow too. Oh mine is too, it's really slow, I tell my neighbor, a Goldin-esque photographer who wears in the late fall this striped poncho I always vocally admire.  You should get it fixed, she tells me. But I realize that I like the slow, I am liking the slow, I am liking not knowing everything, not reading everything, not being able to link to everything. The link Sheila sends me today, the article everyone is circling, I don't want to read it, I don't want to respond to everything, I don't want to read responses to responses to responses. This blog is fast, I worry over how unmediated these words are. Yet these are notes towards notes, this is not anything yet. Is it fast because I know it will be read? The slower is to write for invisible readers, the slower is to write for ghosts? For that is always who I want to write for, I want to write for ghosts, for the already dead, for those on the margins, the outsiders, the losers and the suicides, and then my living elective affinities. Lately I write for David Wojnarowicz and Nella Larsen and  Herve Guibert and Robert Walser and WG Sebald and Bolano and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and Clarice Lispector and Ludwig Wittgenstein and Enrique Villa-Matas and Louise Brooks, I write for the quitters and the Bartlebys and the queer bachelors and the feminine monsters, I write for Bhanu Kapil and Sofia Samatar and Danielle Dutton and Clutch Fleischmann and Sheila Heti and Douglas Martin and Jenny Zhang and Azareen van der Vliet and Suzanne Scanlon and Amina Cain and Pam Lu, and out of  love and envy for the work of Renee Gladman and Claudia Rankine and Valeria Luiselli and Lydia Davis,  I would never write for Jonathan Franzen or Philip Roth. We must be able to elect our elective affinities and not have them elected for us - I am so tired of reviews or essays naming the same group of white women writers, sometimes that writer whose name uncannily resembles mine cringingly included, as the ones breaking boundaries or being applauded for subverting autobiography, even though I of course intensely admire many of these writers often named. However, I could  write an essay over the terrible specter of Susan Sontag, who I do feel I pander towards, I so want her to write an essay about me, my eventual and hoped for luminous opacity, why in every book I'm reading does Sontag or William Gass write the introduction? I am in constant conversation with them, it's oppressive,but I cannot help but think almost everything they say feels right, they are my professors, I who had none, no writing mentors, no workshop environments. I also feel every time I discover a writer, say in translation, Sontag has always discovered them. Another point to explore later on: Why does almost every straight white male writer always bring up Susan Sontag to me? They always want to know what I think of her, or talk about me with her, or reference her constantly, maybe they just bring up Sontag to everyone, I don't know. There are some people I have no desire to discuss Susan Sontag with.) 

I Am the Daughter of Winfried Georg Sebald
There is no reward for being the good girl. There is no moment when the universe sends you a note saying, "Because you are thin and quiet and helpful and don't take up space, here is your solid gold house." There is just you, waiting for this and, when it doesn't come, deciding that it's because you won't deserve your reward until you're even thinner, or until you stop ever asking for what you want, because you did that like three times in the last year and clearly need to be punished for your appalling selfishness. The good-girl reward never shows up. (In the case of things like raises, the reward will only show up if you ask for it, which is why silent martyrdom is self-sabotaging.) People far more selfish and thoughtless than you will always seem to be doing better, and no, it's not fair, but you have to stop doing anything that you are only doing in the hopes of getting a gold star or you will drive yourself insane. If you do something stereotypically good-girl-ish because it's genuinely something you like to do, rock on. But pay enough attention to your own motivations to know the difference.

Speaking of differences, telling yourself, "The house needs to be clean," versus telling yourself, "I want the house to be cleaner," can change entirely your attitude about housework. At least it did for me, this morning. Also helpful: thinking about standing in front of Anubis' scales with various other women and having him say, "Okay, the only thing I'm putting in this scale is whether you kept your house spotless, and anyone who didn't gets eaten by the crocodile demon," and even the crocodile demon saying OH COME ON.

- Burning My Study

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

'Might Boredom Be My Form of Hysteria?'

It seems correct I think that having not logged into Blogger for something like 2 years I have either forgotten how to use it or the medium itself has forgotten how to be used - it seems only right to attempt to write in such an ephemeral and outmoded form, since that is the only thing that holds my interest nowadays - is it a failure, is it going to drift away, has it gotten so small to be on the verge of disappearance... To blog is seemingly not at ALL like riding a bike - I have completely forgotten how this works. This sense of the private in public. I have forgotten what it's like to have readers. Have I been asleep for two years? Have I written anything? How am I somehow still here?


I think I have clung so much to Bartleby lately because it is a story of antagonism to professionalism and New York, it is the New York no, the refusal of concepts of success and industriousness, of participating. And that Bartleby refuses to tell anything about himself, which is a desire of mine, (the dream to write a book about nothing, as Sofia writes me). And that Melville, I read online, wrote it after the failure of his most recent book, its dismissal in the press, and so I like to think of it as a portrait of a failed writer as well. Last week there was the big reading of Melville's Moby Dick at the Whitney, I was asked once to do it when I moved here, and I said no, because I said, I have never read the book, which I'd like to, perhaps when I retire soon to a farmhouse in Massachusetts, since moving here I am asked often to do events, of some character or another, usually interviewing authors, usually involving my gender and its various discontents, and my strategy is usually to say no to everything, and then occasionally, say yes, and for the ones I say yes to I dread and drag my feet and usually cancel at the last minute, but sometimes show up and am quite competent and professional, although sometimes like Barthes bored and paralyzed at the panel, while the next day I wilt all day to attempt to restore any semblance of my self. Luckily since I say no to everything I'm usually not asked to do much anymore, even though I live in Brooklyn I've never been asked to do the festival, here, I found myself complaining to Sheila about this this summer and she responded, quite rightly, that if I was asked I would say no, and would be irritated. But as I was waiting for my daily identical bagel order at the cafe just now, jittery from a morning of too much coffee and a surprising burst of writing, I mused to myself that there should be some sort of alternate public reading of Melville's shorter, other work, only nobodies should be asked to do it, it will be sponsored by no one, everyone will cancel at the last minute or not show up because of nerves, we will not be able to locate a space except at the back of a bookstore that doesn't carry our books, we will all refuse to read or somehow sabotage the performance, there will be no one in the audience.  Really, since no one will read, and no one will attend, it's best, really, at this point and time, to just indefinitely cancel it.


I love how outmoded the blog has become, how nostalgic and quixotic this meandering long-form. I like that this is so long that no one will read it. The same conversation where John asked me if I had read Bartleby, I told him my favorite discovery of yesterday, was writing the word "digressions," and thinking instead "depressions," and I wonder how that would look as a form - a "depression," a kind of digression, sinking deeper and deeper, would I have found then, the ultimate melancholy form.

- I am the Daughter of Winfried Georg Sebald

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015

“Here I am!” shouted the desert, loud with life, for there was still life in it, waiting, stored like seed. “Here I am. Did you forget me? Forget me despite your dreams of the sun and the rain and the antique tribes who roamed me one with their herds and their weird ways? You, who moaned and whined, covering metal-tape with cries and yearning, you, you effete thalldrap. Now’s your chance to prove you can do more than sit on your tail complaining and drinking sapphire wine with your tears of self-pity. Come, come and do battle with me, come and fight me. I’m more than a match for you. I’ll devour you if I can, but I’ll do it cleanly and openly, not with words and dark little tanks in Limbo. Don’t be afraid of human death and human age. I’ve see it all, and I know it. It’s just dust blown over the rocks. Look at me, how dead and old I seem, and yet, watch me grow, watch me live. Come on. Come and find me. I’m waiting.”

- Tanith Lee

Saturday, November 21, 2015

what doesn't kill us makes us stranger

We watched Jessica Jones from 6 PM yesterday to just about 5 PM today (with time out for food, sleep, ahem other activities and 10-15 minutes when Netflix froze in the middle of the finale) and DAMN, it was amazing. I don't know when I've seen a better show. I think I liked every single minute of this and Agent Carter and Mad Max Fury Road. I've been really happy with a lot of TV and movies (this, Gone Girl, Ex Machina, Dark Matter) and it's really nice, after a long while of feeling out of step with critical and popular darlings (Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Age of Ultron, Interstellar, Foxcatcher, Birdman, American Sniper) to get that big hit of loving something again. Burning through that was like reading a great book, getting all swept up.

(There's a shot at a pivotal moment in "AKA Take A Bloody Number" where Jessica jumps down from a balcony onto a moodily blue-and-purple-lit stage and lands in that characteristic action heroine pose of knees deeply bent and feet planted, and it is I swear to God nearly a shot for shot remake of a famous moment from the second episode ever of Buffy that used to end the opening credits. It's like this huge signal that Jess is now going to KICK ASS, and I actually yelled something like, "That's Buffy! She's Buffy!" even though Trish is in a lot of ways more like Buffy, more consistently. I would be really surprised if that doesn't get pointed out on the DVD as a deliberate homage. There are some other similarities, but that was pretty amazing.)

(I told a dear friend "no fucking lie, this show is like 'Faith and Buffy 2.0 with bonus Gunn if Whedon hadn't fucked it up and the two of them really were the most important things in each others' lives'.")

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Warren Zevon - My Shit's Fucked Up (Live on Later)

anti-depression playlist

The M.V.P.'S - Turnin' My Heartbeat Up
Shirley Ellis - Soul Time
The Younghearts - A Little Togetherness (featuring the Northern Soul film dance club)
Four Tops - Standing in the Shadows of Love
Four Tops - Sugar Pie Honey Bunch
Four Tops - Reach Out I'll Be There (someone needs to do a Sam Wilson fanvid to this song)
Chris Clark - Do I Love You
The Combinations - Whatcha Gonna Do
Frank Wilson - Do I Love You
Sugar Pie DeSanto - Soulful Dress
Sugar Pie DeSanto - Git Back
Aretha Franklin - Think (The Blues Brothers Version)
Tiny Topsy - Just a Little Bit

(How sad am I? I sat there and played Frank singing Do I Love You via UTU like FIVE TIMES last night to motivate myself before I could get up off the sofa and take my medz. No. Really. FIVE TIMES. Christ almighty.)

Goes along with anti-depression breakfast: poached eggs on whole-wheat toast spread with hummus, sauteed fresh pineapple and red bell pepper, coffee with milk.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

books read in November 2015

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

106. Poison, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (2006)
107. Tea From An Empty Cup, Pat Cadigan (1998)
108. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy, Stephen Witt (2015)
109. The Poisoner's Handbook, Deborah Blum (2010)
110. Bryant & May: London's Glory, Christopher Fowler (2015)
111. The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson (2015) (choked with theory)

all 2015 booklist posts

Friday, November 6, 2015

random Twitter pretty

Sunday, November 1, 2015

First mistake on page nine, "White Light/White Heat....only had three chords" - "White Light/White Heat" has five chords.

Ahhh, music snobs, I fucking love you.

(I saw Lou perform that live at Bumbershoot in 2002. It was FUCKING AWESOME. What you can't hear is all of us screaming "WHITE LIGHT" and "WHITE HEAT" during the refrains.)

Pass Thru Fire

The exact line is “ . . . Pass thru Fire licking at your lips. . . .” My other favorite line is “ . . . there’s a door up ahead not a wall.” There are many favorite lines of mine that run through the album “Magic and Loss.” It was originally intended to be about Magic, real magic, the ability to make oneself disappear. I had heard stories of magicians in Mexico with strange powers. I thought if I put out songs about magic they would get in touch with me and tell me their secrets. After all, people are always telling me their secrets, and I often put them in song as though they happened to me. Unfortunately two friends died of a virulent cancer within one year of each other while I was writing and so “Magic” became “Magic and Loss.” I wished for a magical way to deal with grief and disappearance. I wanted to create a music that helped with loss. It seemed we are always starting over, given a chance to deal with things again.

- Lou Reed, Pass Thru Fire

Saturday, October 24, 2015

But while the war in Iraq is widely accepted to have been a disastrous mistake, another crucial event during the George W. Bush administration has long been considered unfit for political discussion: President Bush’s conduct, in the face of numerous warnings of a major terrorist plot, in the months leading up to September 11, 2001.

The general consensus seems to have been that the 9/11 attacks were so horrible, so tragic, that to even suggest that the president at the time might bear any responsibility for not taking enough action to try to prevent them is to play “politics,” and to upset the public. And so we had a bipartisan commission examine the event and write a report; we built memorials at the spots where the Twin Towers had come down and the Pentagon was attacked; and that was to be that. And then along came Donald Trump, to whom “political correctness” is a relic of an antiquated, stuffy, political system he’s determined to overwhelm. In an interview on October 16, he violated the longstanding taboo by saying, “When you talk about George Bush—I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”
Trump’s comments set up a back and forth between him and Jeb Bush—who, as Trump undoubtedly anticipated, can’t let a blow against him by the frontrunner go by without response—but the real point is that with a simple declaration by Trump, there it was: the subject of George W. Bush’s handling of the warnings about the 9/11 attacks was out there.

Friday, October 23, 2015

And again, this is all part of consensual sex, the kind that is supposed to be women’s feminist reward. There’s a whole other level of confusion around the smudgy margins when it comes to experiences like the one I had at college 20 years ago. It was an encounter that today’s activists might call “rape”; which feminist hobgoblin Katie Roiphe, whose anti-rape-activist screed The Morning After was then all the rage, would have called “bad sex”; and which I understood at the time to be not atypical of much of the sex available to my undergraduate peers: drunk, brief, rough, debatably agreed upon, and not one bit pleasurable. It was an encounter to which I consented for complicated reasons, and in which my body participated but I felt wholly absent.
“A lot of sex feels like this,” Gattuso wrote in May, after her popular Crimson columns drew the attention of Feministing, a website at which she has since become a contributor. “Sex where we don’t matter. Where we may as well not be there. Sex where we don’t say no, because we don’t want to say no, sex where we say yes even, when we’re even into it, but where we fear … that if we did say no, or if we don’t like the pressure on our necks or the way they touch us, it wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t count, because we don’t count.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

....and sticks to you

Being stuck in the middle is a big responsibility. We are the sole conduit for the Millennials to communicate with the Boomers. Basically, we know it all! That is a huge responsibility! Think about it for a minute. I can not only locate a book on Amazon that I want to read and then proceed to download it and read it digitally, but I also can find that same book using the Dewey Decimal System. I am really great at taking pictures with my phone and then backing them up on the Cloud for future use. I can also use a slide projector and an overhead projector, and I still have my first camera, a Polaroid....a huge benefit that my generation has over both the Boomers and the Millennials is our ability to see both sides, and then act accordingly. We are like glue holding this mess together. 
- via

This is too fucking chirpy and cutesy for me to embrace fully, but yeah: Gen X is the true sandwich generation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Beyond the Veil," Henry Vaughan (1622-1695)

They are all gone into the world of light!
  And I alone sit lingering here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
          And my sad thoughts doth clear.
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,        
  Like stars upon some gloomy grove,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest,
          After the sun’s remove.
I see them walking in an air of glory,
  Whose light doth trample on my days;        
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
          Mere glimmerings and decays.
O holy Hope, and high Humility,
  High as the heavens above!
These are your walks, and you have showed them me,        
          To kindle my cold love.
Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the just,
  Shining nowhere but in the dark,
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust,
          Could Man outlook that mark!        
He that hath found some fledged bird’s nest, may know
  At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
          That is to him unknown.
And yet, as Angels in some brighter dreams        
  Call to the soul when man doth sleep,
So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes,
          And into glory peep.
If a star were confined into a tomb,
  Her captive flames must needs burn there;        
But when the hand that locked her up, gives room,
          She’ll shine through all the sphere.
O Father of eternal life, and all
  Created glories under Thee!
Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall        
          Into true liberty.
Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
  My perspective still, as they pass;
Or else remove me hence unto that hill
          Where I shall need no glass.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

books read in October 2015 the fuck is it October already? Usually I hit the hundredth-book-read mark well before now, I think. Anyway, my reading dropped off precipitously, partly due to bouts of illness/depression, partly due to a burst of actual writing, and mostly due to screwing around on the internet. Fuck that. Back to reading. I find those "read only books by women/minorities" challenges interesting -- I'm thinking I'll try women-only authors for the month of October. This has already knocked out Pratchett rereads! (Rereading is my other big drag right now. It's comforting, it's familiar, I've done enough of it this damn year.)

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

94. Representing Sylvia Plath, ed. Sally Bayley and Tracy Brain (2011) (yes, I am either stupid or hardcore enough to read 'academic' shit like this even when the last time I was near a grad school program was 1997) (PS it was terrible)
95. A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George, Kelly Carlin (2015)
96. Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt, Kristin Hersh (2015) (amazing, heartbreaking)
97. American Pain, John Temple (2015) (pretty sensationalistic, plus the main POV character is a raging asshole, and no sympathy for addicts is really displayed at all)
98. Disclaimer, Renee Knight (2015)
99. Asylum, Jeannette de Beauvoir (2015)
100. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1962) (reread of childhood book)
101. Twain's End, Lynn Cullen (2015)
102. Fanny & Henry: An Alternate Ending to Mansfield Park, Sherwood Smith (2015)
103. Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin (1985) (reread)
104. The Little Men, Megan Abbot (2015)
105. The World Before Us, Aislinn Hunter (2015)

all 2015 booklist posts

you'd think if the Internet is truly the bestest 'library' ever one damn person could source something this good

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Phil Ochs - There But For Fortune (live 1964)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Snowpiercer (2013)


the fuck did I just watch even

what? What

It's all kind of a big whirring bloody blur but according to T I said things like:

"This movie is weird."

"Okay, this is very very weird."

"This movie is tripping balls."

Uh. It was very well-done and very pretty! Even the balletic sequences with slow-mo and masked dudes with axes and blood drops flying around? But I don't think I'll ever see it again. And the end was like the end of Matrix Reloaded all over again. WHY, DIRECTORS, WHY. Why do you have a Godlike Figure Explaining It All in the final fifteen minutes? Gahhh.

Resident Scientist in the House says: "If a hundred people didn't survive they're going to have a mutational meltdown in a couple of generations due to Muller's ratchet anyway." WELL THAT'S NICE DEAR

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chris Gillen 1970-2015

And then after all that thinking about death, I found out (a month late) a college friend died suddenly, in his sleep, at 45 (heart attack I guess). I was shocked all the way down to the soles of my shoes.

Even when we think we know, we don't know.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nirvana - Lithium (Live at Reading 1992)

Neil Young & Pearl Jam - Rockin' In The Free World 1993

Neil Young - Rockin' In The Free World (Glastonbury 2009)

Pearl Jam - Keep On Rockin' In The Free World (Live At Pinkpop)

out of the blue and into the black / once you're gone you can't come back

Sheff: You disagree with Neil Young's lyric in Rust Never Sleeps: "It's better to burn out than to fade away..."

Lennon: I hate it. It's better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. If he was talking about burning out like Sid Vicious, forget it. I don't appreciate the worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or dead John Wayne. It's the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison – it's garbage to me. I worship the people who survive – Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo. They're saying John Wayne conquered cancer – he whipped it like a man. You know, I'm sorry that he died and all that – I'm sorry for his family – but he didn't whip cancer. It whipped him. I don't want Sean worshiping John Wayne or Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it's garbage you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so much, why doesn't he do it? Because he sure as hell faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No, thank you. I'll take the living and the healthy.

- Playboy, 1980

Read this. Read all of it. Now.

Not only are female MFA students at high risk of sexual harassment, they remain dramatically underrepresented in many of the aspects of literary culture that they might enter after graduation, that they might need to get tenure. They get less prize money. They show up less often in anthologies. Their books are reviewed less often and they are reviewers less often. While total MFA and undergraduate creative writing degree recipients identify as women close to 70 percent of the time, neither the writers for mainstream media nor the authors published by small presses nor the winners of major prizes are 70 percent women. Instead, they are around 70 percent men. The percentage is exactly flipped in all those arenas where one might obtain something, from visibility to wages. The intensity of the disparity is numerically intense and repetitive. 

....While we do not have data specific to creative writing faculty, a 2011 AAUP report shows that full-time tenure track faculty were 58 percent male that year, and a 2009 study by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that women make up 51 percent of all adjunct faculty. A more recent, smaller survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, in which adjuncts self identified, shows the proportion of female adjunct faculty to be closer to 60 percent. Again, race and gender orbit around the same planet but at different rotations and rates. A report by the American Federation of Teachers notes that “underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are even more likely to be relegated to contingent positions; only 10.4 percent of all faculty positions are held by underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and of these, 7.6 percent — or 73 percent of the total minority faculty population — are contingent positions.” It’s often noted that in the 1970s 30 percent of faculty in higher education were contingent and that this percentage has since flipped, such that contingent faculty now comprise 70 percent of all faculty in higher education. The faculty in the 1970s was mostly white and male. The erosion of tenure has overlapped precisely with the entrance of women and those who do not identify as white.

- 'The Program Era and the Mainly White Room'

Sunday, September 20, 2015

none of you ever get to fucking criticize poor dead Stieg Larsson's writing ever again

As a child he sought refuge in his own worlds. He immersed himself in fantasy literature, read poetry and biographies, adored Sylvia Plath, Borges and Tolkien and learned everything there was to know about computers. He dreamed of writing heart-rending novels about love and human tragedy, and was an incurable romantic who hoped that great passion would heal his wounds. He was not in the least bit interested in the outside world.

- The Girl in the Spider's Web

(Also there has been like ONE mention of Billy's Pan Pizza. Maybe two.)

another GIANT backlog of books wished for

Power, Resistance and Liberation in Therapy with Survivors of Trauma, Taiwo Afuape
The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories, Joan Aiken
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, M.T. Anderson
The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins, James Angelos
Lady Susan, Jane Austen (audiobook read by full cast)

The Great Influenza, John M. Barry
America: What Went Wrong?, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
The Betrayal of the American Dream, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration, Richard Barnett
Ted Hughes, Jonathan Bate
The Howling Man, Charles Beaumont
Dancing with the Devil in the City of God, Juliana Barbassa
Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten Victims, Paul Begg
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, S. Bear Bergman
The Food Matters Cookbook, Mark Bittman
Leafy Greens, Mark Bittman
A Singer's Notebook, Ian Bostridge
Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales, Ruth B. Bottigheimer
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, Don Brown (hard copy)
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir, Carrie Brownstein
Days of Rage, Bryan Burrough
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Edwin G. Burrows

John Clare and the Bounds of Circumstance, Johanne Clare
New York Observed: Artists and Writers Look at the City, 1650 to the Present, Barbara Cohen
Hearts Grown Brutal, Roger Cohen
At the Sharp End, Tim Cook
Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance during the Vietnam War, David Cortright
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, Elvis Costello
Wilfred Owen, Guy Cuthbertson

Custer Died for Your Sins, Vine DeLoria
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction (Everyman's Library), Joan Didion
What I Don't Know About Animals, Jenny Diski
The Clockwork Universe, Edward Dolnick
How Dante Can Save Your Life, Rod Dreher

The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back, Clark Elliott

Breaking the News, James Fallows
Victorian Afterlives: The Shaping of Influence in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
Unpleasant Ways to Die, Elan Fleisher
Running with Monsters, Bob Forrest
Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth
A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and Her Characters Went to the Ball, Susannah Fullerton

The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George, Denise Gigante
Vita, Victoria Glendinning
Murder and Mendelssohn, Kerry Greenwood
One Life: My Mother's Story, Kate Grenville

George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends, Ellen T. Harris
Mozart, Hayden, and Early Beethoven, Daniel Heartz
Magic and Loss, Virginia Heffernan
Strange Meeting, Susan Hill
Hippocratic Writings (Penguin Classics)
Augustus John: The New Biography, Michael Holroyd
The Porcelain Thief, Huan Hsu
A Companion to Greek and Roman Sexualities, ed. Thomas K. Hubbard
The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Andrew E. Hunt
Reckless: My Life as a Pretender, Chrissie Hynde

David Koresh Superstar: An Unfilmable Screenplay, Simon Indelicate
David Koresh Superstar: Lyric Book, Simon Indelicate
Eleven Short Plays, William Inge
Four Plays, William Inge

Empire City: New York Through the Centuries, Kenneth T. Jackson
A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen, Richard Jenkyns
What Doesn't Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth, Stephen Joseph

The Great Mortality, John Kelly
The Longest Winter, Alex Kershaw
Clara's War, Clara Kramer

Jane Austen: The World of her Novels, Deirdre LeFaye
The Lives of the Greek Poets, Mary Lefkowitz
A Life in Books, Warren Lehrer
Wounded Minds: Understanding and Solving the Growing Menace of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, John Liebert
In War's Dark Shadow: The Russians Before the Great War, W. Bruce Lincoln
The Iliad, Homer (new tr. by Stanley Lombardo)
The Singer of Tales, Albert B. Lord
Faces in the Crowd, Valeria Luiselli
Sidewalks, Valeria Luiselli

Mystery Train, Greil Marcus
Loving Someone with PTSD, Aphrodite T. Matsakis
At War with PTSD, Robert N. McLay
A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities, J.C. McKeown
Plagues and Peoples, William H. McNeill
Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary
The Knife Man, Wendy Moore
My Five Cambridge Friends, Yuri Modin
And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II, Evelyn Monahan
The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty
The New Winter Soldiers: GI and Veteran Dissent during the Vietnam Era, Richard Moser
The Last Town on Earth, Thomas Mullen
The Revisionists, Thomas Muller
What Nurses Know...PTSD, Mary E. Muscari

Grim Tales, E. Nesbit
The Power of Darkness, E. Nesbit
The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis, Sherwin B. Nuland

A History of Greece, Victor Parker
The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Helen Phillips
Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter
The Grass Dancer, Susan Power
Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook, Terry Pratchett

Smokejumper, Jason A. Ramos
The Black Count, Tom Reiss
Katrina: After the Flood, Gary Rivlin
The Quilt: Stories from the Names Project, Cindy Ruskin

The Witch of Stalingrad, Justine Saracen
Thunder Through My Veins, Gregory Scofield
Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, Jonathan Shay
Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, Rob Sheffield
The Greenlanders, Jane Smiley
M Train, Patti Smith
Getting Away With It: Or: The Further Adventures of the Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw, Steven Soderbergh
Wild Girls, Diana Souhami
My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem
The Price of Inequality, Joseph E. Stiglitz
Desert Reckoning, Deanne Stillman
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, Jan Swafford
The Voice of the Dolphins and Other Stories, Leo Szilard

The Mourner's Song: War and Remembrance from the Iliad to Vietnam, James Tatum
Behind Hitler's Lines, Thomas H. Taylor
Blue-Eyed Boy, Robert Timberg
The Nightingale's Song, Robert Timberg
Notebooks & Journals, Volume I: 1855-1873, Mark Twain

The Women who Spied for Britain, Robyn Walker
The Martyrs of Columbine, Justin Watson
Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946, Tom Weaver
The Real Traviata, Rene Weis
America's Secret Jihad, Stuart Wexler
Table Talk of Oscar Wilde, audiobook read by Tom Baker
Landfalls, Naomi J. Williams

Goddess of Love Incarnate: The Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr, Leslie Zemeckis

Monday, September 14, 2015

Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts — between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.

-- Will Durant

Friday, September 11, 2015

This is not a story about 9/11.

I wasn't there. I was across the country. I remember getting up and hearing the news on my alarm clock radio saying something about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, and I thought it was an accident with a private prop plane, surely, and then I had to hurry to get to work, and on the bus people were confused and groggy and thinking about what they had to do at work that day, and everything was still garbled. Two planes? At once? No way. This was before iPhones, before Twitter, before YouTube. (I was apparently one of the very few people in a workplace without access to a TV set or radio, and even when it became clear what had happened, what was happening, our boss's boss, El Jefe I called him, came out and said What's happened is awful but we shouldn't let it distract us from what we need to do today. No, really. People got even less work done after that, out of resentful spite.) All the news sites were down; I was getting some news from Metafilter, but even that was patchy. At least two coworkers just left because they had relatives in the Columbia Center, which was the tallest building on the West Coast at the time and had been evacuated (I think later the 9/11 Commission confirmed it was a possible target, which, fucking duh, but what was freaking people out was the so-called Millennium Plot). I didn't see the footage everyone else had been watching on loop all day until I got home, by which time I was really dreading it. But I watched it along with everyone else anyway.

But even then, I didn't really see it, because as usual I had gotten off the bus about eight blocks past my stop so I could go right into the grocery store, get two bottles of wine (two liter bottles of wine, let's be clear here) and then walk back to my house, because it was faster than getting off at my stop, saying hi to T, relaxing, and then going out and getting the wine. That's the addict mentality for you: the sacrifice of whatever else in service of the fastest hit. And if you think I opened the wine as soon as I got home before even taking my coat off, you are correct. So I watched the same stuff everyone else had been watching all day, except I didn't really take it in, and I don't really remember what I did. Not quite a blackout, more like memory cutting in and out, but close. I know I cried, but I didn't feel it. That night is erased, a vague patchy blank, which was the point. I might have even gotten more drunk than usual (if that was possible at that point) because of the terrible thing which had happened, because that's a perfect excuse for an addict, and is embarrassing to admit even now. T probably had three or four glasses, if that. I had all the rest. And passed out on the sofa in front of the TV, and then later on, I guess, woke up, undressed, and passed out again in bed. Most people weren't there, they were all virtual witnesses, unable to escape the endless video. But I hadn't been there even for the virtual part.

I don't like saying that I sobered up "because of" 9/11 because I didn't; I didn't quit until April 1, 2002, about six months later. I do know a few people who sobered up on September 12th, 2001. Not many. I also don't like saying it because it feels fucking tacky: I used this national tragedy, which resulted in the immediate deaths of thousands of people and eventual death of millions more, and changed history and global politics permanently, to improve my tiny individual life! Go me! But what stuck with me was the image of the people who worked at the same university where I did at the time, riding our express bus to get to work, not knowing what was happening, while it was going on. Utterly clueless. In that sense we'd been the same as the people running to catch subways, to cross against lights, to pass that one slow bastard, in New York, or, just six years earlier, in Oklahoma City, or other places. The truth is we all die, and we don't know when or how. It could be at any moment. The other truth is, we don't know this; we can't know it. The idea of life as placid, routine, boring, even, is an expensive fiction, a beautiful lie, one propped up by a lot of other lies. But occasionally the truth punches through, usually catastrophically: You don't have the time to waste that you think you do. Those thousands of people who died, in the Towers, they were rushing to work, not thinking about anything big, probably, worrying about spilling coffee, about the mid-morning meeting, about the quarterly figures, all those little things. And then they went through unimaginable suffering, and then they died. And the rest of us didn't; all we could do was witness, from further and further away.

I thought about that quite a bit, through the rest of September 2001, and on and off through the months after that. It wasn't even the feeling that I had dodged a bullet, because there was no bullet to dodge, and nobody can dodge what's coming for us, anyway. We're all going to die. I could die, right now, for whatever reason, that I can't foresee. If I die, right now, this is what I'll be doing, we're all in the middle of our own lives, like those people in the towers. Do I want to die, right now, doing this? Precisely this? (Which was, let's be clear again, getting passing-out drunk nearly every night. It was a full-time non-occupation.) I thought something like that, or more accurately, felt it, in a very cloudy, incomplete, almost wordless way (because I was still drinking, because I'd been drinking since I was seventeen). It seemed flat wrong, unethical almost, to keep wasting my life, when all those people had lost theirs, and they hadn't known that it was their last day; the last time they'd see their families, the last time they'd draw breath without pain, not knowing, unable to know, how wonderful it actually is, to just breathe.

Nobody can live with the knowledge of their certain death in full view, all the time, accepting. ("Saints and poets maybe....they do some.") But every 9/11, that's something else I remember. This could be my last moment. It is my last moment. 

What will we be doing, if it is? Will we be present? Will we be here?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

....Tied up in this mandate to write every day is the question of who is and isn’t a writer. The same institutions and writing gurus that demand you adhere to a schedule that isn’t yours will insist on delineating what makes a real writer. At my MFA graduation, the speaker informed us that we were all writers now and I just shook my head. We’d been writers, all of us, long before we set foot in those hallowed halls. We’re writers because we write. No MFA, no book contract, no blurb or byline changes that.
So if writing every day is how you keep your rhythm tight, by all means, rock on. If it’s not, then please don’t fall prey to the chorus of “should bes” and “If onlys.” Particularly for writers who aren’t straight, cis, able-bodied, white men, shame and the sense that we don’t belong, don’t deserve to sit at this table, have our voices heard, can permeate the process. Nothing will hinder a writer more than this. Anaïs Nin called shame the lie someone told you about yourself. Don’t let a lie jack up your flow.
Winehouse got shunted into one of two boxes: Whore or infant, filthy degenerate or misbehaving little girl, sometimes both in the same article. She was sick, yes. But her greater crime was to be unladylike—blunt, risk-taking, rule-breaking, openly and unapologetically sexual. When a man sneers in the face of convention, he’s a rock star. When a woman does it, she’s a dirty joke. The feeding frenzy around Winehouse was a way to shove her back into a more stereotypical femininity: To make her a Slut, or a Crazy Bitch, something we already knew how to talk about. It was a way to avoid dealing with her on her own terms, and to demonstrate that girls who colored outside the lines got punished.
Now, she’s a Dead Girl—the most helpless, passive feminine stereotype of all. She's been punished for her sins with death, and can sin no more. And now, we love her. Or we love the tragedy of her. Or we love being right about her. It’s hard to say. It’s not just NME that did an about-face; the Daily Mail, the same outlet that told us to deplore Amy Winehouse without pity, ran the headline after her death, “Don’t judge Amy Winehouse by her demons.” That dichotomy—the awful, stupid, ugly woman, and the beloved, brilliant, beautiful corpse—defines how we talk about Winehouse to this day.