We're digging ourselves out of the blue and making summer playlists to share with each other. If you have one, or want to make one, and write a little about it, send them to Meowmeowpowpowlit@gmail.com (Spotify or any platform, or just write the songs down)
by Tim Jones-Yelvington
Svalbard is an Arctic archipelago located around 80 degrees north, and 600 miles from the North Pole, held by Norway through treaty. I visited in mid-May 2023, traveling along the west side of the island of Spitsbergen, and into its fjords, in a 50-something person expedition boat, with daily Zodiac raft excursions. When Kim saw my photographs of dazzling snow-covered peaks rising from the water, tessellations of sea ice, and craggy glaciers, he naturally asked whether I could make a playlist illustrated by one of these images, to dive into the seeming disjuncture between summer and snow.
When traveling, it is my practice to teach myself about the political history and current struggles of a land's indigenous people. Svalbard is so remote that no indigenous cultures settled there permanently. Its indigenous inhabitants are, in a sense, the polar bears, walruses, reindeer, arctic foxes, auks, puffins, fulmars, and kittiwakes, each of which we experienced with some intimacy, and many of whom, in various ways, have experienced the fallout from colonization.
Svalbard is so remote that no indigenous cultures settled there permanently, but it's considered a credible theory that its first visitors could've been the Sámi people, who chose not to settle. On the boat, I spent some time reading about the Sámi, whose homelands and ways of living have been continually disrupted throughout history by the State-making objectives and continuously redrawn borders of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, in various and shifting configurations.
Later, when colonizer Europeans came to Svalbard, they/we settled, and in our typical form, commenced extraction—first through the whaling industry, later through coal mines, a couple of which remain open, including the Russian coal mine we were told is staffed largely by Ukrainian workers, trapped in place.
How to build a playlist around this experience? I worried that my moody song choices, with their frequent references to snow, ice, avalanches, and the sea, might veer into cliche, or else just land a little too on the nose. But as I settle into this playlist, I hear a lot more variation than might be immediately apparent. Similar to how, when folks look at their photographs of Svalbard, they wonder whether they were accidentally taken in black and white. But look more closely, and the landscape lives in color.
A disclaimer: For a "Svalbard Summer" playlist, the snow is actually a bit of a mislead. We visited during the spring in part in order to appreciate the snow and ice along with warming temperatures and 24 hour sun—by the time we returned to the settlement of Longyearbyen after our seven days on the boat, most of the snow that had coated the town before our departure had already melted away, and the frozen river was thawed and running. The snow would continue to melt, quickly, following our departure. By summer, many of the snow-covered mountains will be dark rock. As you sink into this playlist, I invite you to dwell inside the simultaneity of the steadfast vastness of nature, geologic time, and the near constancy of often rapid change and transformation.
A change I believe we are each called in our own way to shape toward liberation, land stewardship, and all that affirms life.
Get a copy of Don't Make Me Do Something We'll Both Regret by Tim Jones-Yelvington from Texas A&M University Press
by Michael Seymour Blake
This is one of the only movies set in NYC that made me feel like I was heading to an unglamorous, low paying job. I worked a crappy office job in Times Square for over ten years. It’s all here: the slight filth on everything, the rumbling of engines and clamor of horns, the patter of hurried footsteps, the myriad of expressive faces and voices. You can smell the sewers, sweet pastries, and hot coffees. But there’s other factors as well—the texture, weight and general NYC vibe shine through in a way that will feel familiar to the daily grinders out there. Working with a limited budget, director Ramin Bahrani and cinematographer Michael Simmonds capture it all with an honest, simple, naturalistic style. And they depict our weary-but-determined protagonist’s struggles with just as much honesty and care.
One of the reasons Man Push Cart feels so authentic is because some of the people you see, even those with speaking roles, don’t actually know they’re being recorded. Like when Ahmad (whose actual name is Ahmad Razvi) tries to sell bootleg porno DVDs to a man who turns him down because, he says, he can find them much cheaper in Brooklyn. This interaction was not in the script, and the man is not an actor. What we see here is an authentic response from a New Yorker who had no idea he was being filmed (of course they told him afterwards). Even a few of Ahmad’s (the character’s) friends are Ahmad’s (the actor’s) friends. One of his pals—a lively, confident man called Duke (Farooq “Duke” Muhammad)—bursts into a rap at a karaoke bar. Although he knows he’s on camera, what we’re watching is pretty much the actual Duke. There are scenes in a cart garage where it’s business as usual in the background, just real New Yorker’s doing their thing. Strengthening the realism even more is Ahmad’s (the actor—this is getting old now) lived experience as an actual cart vendor.
Man Push Cart follows Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant who works in a stainless steel coffee cart which he has to lug to and from a garage every day. He’s quiet, and it’s clear there’s a lot of mental/emotional turmoil whipping around his insides. He’s been scraping by for a while. Most people know him as the guy they buy their bagels from, but back home he was a rockstar. Why he ended up in a cart in NYC is left a little ambiguous. In the context of the story, it doesn’t even matter. He’s here. We’re with him now. His wife died, leaving him with a child he’s been estranged from. All that’s left, it seems, are damaged familial relationships and his cart. He sells crappy DVDs to make some extra side cash.
One day, he meets Mohammad (Charles Daniel Sandoval), a successful man from a very different kind of NYC. Mohammad recognizes the former rockstar and claims he can help him get back on his feet. Ahmad also befriends a young, Hispanic newspaper vendor named Noemi (Leticia Dolera). A potential romance begins to develop between them. I won’t say more about where it all leads, but I was relieved when the movie ended with the same gritty, realistic voice it opened with.
Ahmad’s cart takes on mythic qualities, looming like the carcass of some silver-scaled dragon he’s been cursed to haul around (or, more obviously, a Sisyphean boulder). It’s grueling to watch him shove, pull, and push the burden that is also his livelihood. I kept wishing I could run over to help. Even when the cart is stored at the garage, he must remove the gas tank and take it with him. There’s no escape from the burden that drains him of energy but grants him life. The expressions “Good morning” and “Have a nice day!” are printed on the cart. Albert Camus would love all of this.
I was just as interested in Ahmad’s enervated face as the camera was. I think this is the first time he’s ever acted, yet he shows impressive restraint and natural talent. His character is damn exhausted, a shadow of his younger self. But like the tiny dinosaur sticker on his otherwise-unremarkable cart, an ember still burns somewhere within him. Or is it just a decaying relic?
We get to travel with Ahmad into nice apartments and fancy clubs, places he navigates like they were different countries altogether. Some pretentious guy even patronizingly tells him to “fake it till you make it!” I know people like this—out of touch, smug, assuming they have all the answers for everybody’s problems.
I’m not sure why, but my favorite scenes involved Ahmad organizing his cart for the day; the morning routine of stacking cups pre-filled with tea bags, placing the bagels and sweets in the display, and lighting the gas. It’s those little moments that drew me in. Maybe because I’m all too familiar with mundane morning setups.
It’s refreshing to watch a movie about the working life that doesn’t romanticize, idealize, or pound our faces in with spoon-fed ideology. Many movies attempt this, and although their heart is in the right place, they often end up deflating the intended message. That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have an opinion. It’s just skillfully presented to us. We are shown the absurdity of existence and left to draw our own conclusions. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say it left me contemplating whether the physical presence/absence of the cart matters as much as what it represents—the drudgery and toils of the working life. If it ain’t one thing, it’ll be something else, eh?
Ahmad has hope, otherwise he wouldn’t be pushing forward despite everything. But how deep is that hope? What is driving him to continue? Many of us carry this same question. Why bother? What’s the point? Man Push Cart might reply, “because what else is there besides nonexistence?”
“Is one to die voluntarily or to hope in spite of everything?”
-Albert Camus, Myth Of Sisyphus.
We're digging ourselves out of the blue and making summer playlists to share with each other. If you have one, or want to make one, and write a little about it, send them to Meowmeowpowpowlit@gmail.com (Spotify or any platform, or just write the songs down)
Summer = Music + Sojourning
by: Joey Gould
When I left 17 years and 11 months of work as a produce clerk to finish my first book, The Acute Avian Heart (TAAH), the first thing I did was book a random hotel in the Berkshires for shower beers in a beige room before *ahem* Heading Into Nature. Since I’m a sorta bumbly person, I typed “mt greylock trail” into my phone & ended up on a weird dirt road on the side of the mt opposite the nature center, but randomness cuts both ways so the trail, mostly a tight set of switchbacks under tree cover, was named “Gould”. Probably not after me.
I sat in my car texting a friend in crisis (boy trouble + 30th birthday) while listening to “Bill Murray” by Phantogram:
Am I lonely?
I think of both art & astrology as avatars for our feelings. I felt & my friend felt change, unbelonging, hope, fear, movement, time, loneliness, friendship, solipsism, yearning. How could I say all that? It’s easier to send a link to the song, or the poem, or say I’m in my Pisces era.
I set out on the deserted, narrow 1.5 mile path. It was cool, even a bit dark under dense tree cover. A brutal summer mountainside downpour started when I reached the end of the trail about a half-mile from the summit. It poured the entire time as I descended. This is my luck & it makes a poet.
I flew on a whim to California to visit my glittershark friend July, who named it “Going West(hale)”. I wrote every afternoon in her small trailer parked in their driveway just off Telegraph in Oakland, where every night I’d fall asleep to the sounds of a restaurant on the other side of the fence. Each day served summer sun. We walked to restaurants with takeaway ice cream cones for dessert. I found a couple dark dives to daydrink my feelings in. When I remember this time fondly, I’m writing with earbuds in, t-shirt, hot sun, under a peak-season fig tree, unlearning trauma, chatting in a midnight kitchen with July, writing myself into a more whole person. When I remember realistically, I’m smoking butts outside the trailer, squinting at the sun, worried about drama & grief.
Back then I identified as a man, even while I wrote a series of poems called when i was a man. Practicing poetry is learning & admitting to one’s own obliviousness, often delighting in it.
July had written a poem, “American Literature”, on the occasion of my retirement--a monumental, incomparable gift, a tribute to many of the themes of TAAH: America, sojourning, desert highways, wrong turns. Brokenness yet joy. They wrote, “ you’ve gone West to find everything or me”; well shit, I found both. I love how it ends in haphazard misdirections & an em dash, as if the speaker jams on the breaks of a poemy car.
I don’t fall for much of America’s propaganda, but I do love driving. Driving : summer :: cuddling by the fire : winter.
July also introduced me to brat pop darlings HOLYCHILD. As huge a gift as any poem, tbh. A friend sends you a link & you end up unspooling a band’s entire catalog. It feels good to vibe on a frequency. To discover that the frequency is good. In this way, writing communities & writing partners break my heart open. When I put together a playlist of songs that would act as a soundtrack to the book, I put “Best Friends” by HOLYCHILD first because most of what I felt in the process of publishing TAAH was gratitude, gratitude that felt bottomless. For the kindnesses of July & my editor Eileen & my mother &
I have the best friends
So much felt possible. I quit my stifling retail job, took the summer to travel, finished my book, & got it to print. And praised, I praised how much my friends teach me. When the sun hits you while yr swimming it’s brighter but uncomfy, like yr too close to god. Like July in July.
We made fig jam with July’s cat, too. The photo is blurry because I was too excited to calm my fragile nerves.
Early-2000s: I was working 5a-2p in a produce department, often driving there straight from a concert in Boston. The first time I saw Isis live was at about 1:30 AM back when you could smoke indoors (yuck). The Middle East Upstairs was not the most cozy venue when smoke filled & I nearly passed out, but they were tremendous & 27’s Maria Christopher came out to sing her part in “Weight”. I wanted to invoke its texture like a wadi filling in the dry expanse of Maktesh Ramon, the methodical build to crescendo like the ten years it took me to write TAAH. Listen: the rising tide, the beginning of the flood.
My first tattoo, interlocking hummingbirds, was the cover image from 27’s ep from the edge of the wing. On Christmas eve one year they played Upstairs & baked vegan cookies to share. “Easy Trigger” is a perfectly unhurried song.
In the late nineties I chipped one of my front teeth in an honestly pretty unexpected mosh pit the night Far played at Espresso Bar in Worcester, opening for Incubus on the S.C.I.E.N.C.E. tour. Jeremiah, my sister’s dreadlock-wearing, straight-edge high school boyfriend, introduced me to Tin Cans with Strings to You, featuring Jonah Matranga’s plaintive & puissant vocals, along with an indie/screamo aesthetic in both music & cover art. The crayon art relating counter-culture lyrics.
None of my ivy-bound high school friends liked them. Ha! “What I’ve Wanted to Say” seemed like an obvious early playlist choice.
I wish for you what I wish for me.
Yes. This gives us (both I and you) permission to appreciate & curate our own experiences. Yes. Matranga is a charismatic, lovely person, who still does house shows & will sit on the floor at the Worcester Palladium to play an acoustic aftershow. When I think about art with a loving, moral center I think of him.
OKAY BUT THERE’S A BOOK & it starts in the hot summer desert, it starts in wandering like the liberated mimitzrayim Jews of the bible. “Obedear” by Purity Ring sounds like sojourning. The album Shrines rightfully appears often in the playlist.
As a trans NB I have felt a spectrum of genders that my poems should honor faithfully if I’m to record any sort of poetic truth. Not that the poetry must be true, but that the speaker should inhabit the gender I felt them in at the time. I feel like I have dude poems (like the one where the speaker operates a chop saw while drinking High Life) but also gurlesque-inspired poems (like the one where the speaker watches a robin feed its chicks with their queer crush).
I was an egg when I put together TAAH & a hatchling when I held my first copy.
Anyway, the Young Judaea tour guide wouldn’t let us sleep on the way to Kineret, & he originally spoke a couple of the lines in “Devarim”. I equipped my headphones & put PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire? in my cassette player to help me fall asleep.
The last tweak I made to TAAH was swapping the places of the first two poems. “Devarim” properly jumped to first, with its promise of agency, promise of love met with kindness, because that’s a center of poetry.
Not the center, a center: like Gaiman’s Dreaming, Poetry has several hearts. The Judaean desert contains (comprises?) one of my hearts. I return to it often because of its significance to my faith that FSU Hillel Chaplain, Gary Bean, called “paradoxical Judaism”.
At least one of mine is in the marshland of Broadmoor Audubon sanctuary in Natick, MA. It’s the place where I saw a blackbird fight a heron. Sanctuary. There’s a long, accessible boardwalk, a frog pond,
A lot of the poems in TAAH use Broadmoor & its birds. Here’s a photo of me there:
I am asking myself whether this is a summer playlist. My defense is two things:
First, that I have played all of these songs too loud with my windows down. A hurricane took out power once & all I could think to do was drive around listening to A Camp, side project of Nina Persson (The Cardigans). I assert that “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost” pairs well with downed trees, impromptu four-way stop intersections, & the candlelit decision to eat an entire quart of ice cream that will otherwise melt.
Second, that summer moments form much of the viscera of the book: driving, birdwatching, the construction zone outside Jenn’s house when we 45’d every piece of decking, & rappelling through the back doors of a burnt out van on a 115-degree day.
That van really happened. We hiked through the desert for a week with a roll of TP & heavy red jerrycans. There was a 60 degree difference between daytime & nighttime & the stars were, in the words of Chino Moreno, “much than more”. I met a scorpion & only sunburned once, but brutally, when I forgot to reapply sunscreen while swimming in Kineret.
September 2009: a frost warning. I nearly fell asleep in the tutoring office before speeding west on the Mass Pike to my stepfather Frank’s house. I was listening on repeat to the saddest song I had on hand, Sufjan Stevens’s “Casimir Pulaski Day”. A song about cancer, a night about cancer.
My mother & I had been switching off as Frank’s night nurses for a week, & I hadn’t slept in my bed since he was lucid. The last unfragmented thing I remember him telling me was that infidelity is in many ways the deepest kind of love. “It says, I would destroy my life for you”. I didn’t argue. I could have said that the sneaking isn’t the destroying part, but once a man’s hair falls out he’s entitled to some level of deference in the time he has left.
When I got to the house he was still breathing a couple times a minute, so I said hi & then I sat down on the couch to watch a sci-trash tv program about The Most Dangerous Explosions in the Universe. Number two was Long Gamma Ray Bursts. The host introduced a trained marksman to demonstrate the power of a LGRB by shooting a watermelon, then the show went to commercial. There was a moth buzzing close to the ceiling fan & I climbed over Frank’s uncomfortable beige leather couch to catch it & send it through the sunroom door out to the deck that we built together in his first summer of retirement.
I went to the kitchen for a glass of water as the show came back with #1: THE BIG BANG. Obvious choice but I looked at Frank on the hospital bed & he wasn’t breathing. A succession of phone calls, hospice procedures, I collapsed in the front yard at one point while my friend Julie told me about butterflies. I called out from both jobs then went to sleep in a wave of grief mixed with intense relief, for his suffering, which radiated on all of us as his loving caretakers, was over. I got up in the morning, went for coffee in the sun that was too bright. I thought I should make a new darker one or just use the moon for a while. I turned the key,
All the glory that the Lord has made
Happy first friday of gemini season pups and tragic angels. Do you have a summer playlist or would like to make one and write a few words to go with it? We want it and would love to feature it here on the blog! Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. We're friendly!
You also have plenty of time to submit to our current theme: CAT*S OUT OF THE BAG! Submissions are open until June 28th.
Something has been revealed. What was the cat and why was the bag and now it's out and it can't return to what it was. Was it a detective story with a twist ending? Did the detective suffer from insomnia and flashbacks? What is the shape of a secret? Dig it out from between the tender cushions with the old candy wrappers smelling sour and lay it by the window like a brand new feeling. Maybe cool embarrassment, a lump of coal the size of a fingernail and stuck. Right there. Watch it. Maybe being able to breathe again after a long, long time. The new cat in the old apartment running. Give it a name and fill the gaps. Write it down.
Meanwhile, this is what we're listening to while reading submissions and basking in warm weekend sunlight. Please enjoy this judiciously curated summer playlist for our queen, Vanderpump Rules' capricorn mvp Katie Maloney:
We're digging ourselves out of the blue and making summer playlists to share with each other. If you have one, or want to make one, and write a little about it, send them to Meowmeowpowpowlit@gmail.com (Spotify or any platform, or just write the songs down)
Return of the Cheese Fries and the Fairytale of Old Mixes; My 2023 Summer Playlist
by: Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
A decade ago, I was laid off from the Canadian Yellow Pages’ outsourced US office, located in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. We had gotten the notice regarding the layoff six months earlier and several days before Thanksgiving. The obscenely early heads-up was due to our severance package and benefits. By giving so much notice, our severance and unemployment benefits were contingent upon the notification of the layoff and not the end date. This also meant that we stopped accruing hours for PTO, vacation, and sick time.
In the tepid blue grey office, padded from floor to ceiling like a cell, my coworkers and I spent the remaining six months training our replacements in Canada. Or, if you were me, you spent six months throwing away bundles of work orders for complex publishing, watching Netflix, and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed to the ground.
Summers have always been a time of renewal in my life. Moving, quitting jobs, getting laid off from jobs, starting school, graduating school: all of these have come during the summer months. When June arrived and my unemployment began, with framed office-place inspirational posters tucked under my arm, one of my best friends who worked at YPG (a Ms. Liz Bergland, otherwise known as the art editor for MMPP), one of our coworkers, and I went to the Cork Tavern in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The Cork was a small tucked away little house converted into a green-carpeted bar with wood paneled walls, a more-plastic-than-TV big screen TV mounted in a corner, and “don’t drink and drive” posters from 1985 framed on the walls (including one of Stevie Wonder that I think of often). The whole bar smelled of smoke, a blissful nicotine holdout from cigarette bans, and the only food available were dusty mini bags of chips and pretzels. Three bodies in a row at the bar, we were “allowed” to leave YPG at noon, and the afternoon sun broke through the smudged small windows in oily prisms. Liz, my coworker, and I all in dresses and illuminated by the defiant rays, drank cheap pitchers of golden beer, smoked Camel blues, and crushed gin and tonics. Progressively getting louder and drunker, the hours moved in speeding currents as curious regulars filtered in and out of the bar around us.
By the time the sunshine swapped to slate blue night, a dense fog of smoke shadowed the atmosphere above our heads. And as blast-assed drunk folks will do, in between gossiping and chain smoking, my coworkers and I commandeered the lime green glowing jukebox at the end of the bar. We played Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl,” three times in a row, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder (in honor of his poster), “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” by the Pogues, and, when the alcohol was hitting harder shortly before the drunken crying would begin, Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” I remembered the sweat pouring down the back of my peter pan collared dress, the thick fringe of my bangs sticking to my forehead, every pore smelling of smoke, and our three bodies huddled around the orb of the digital jukebox. The click of nails against the screen tried to tap in whatever song jumped into our addled minds. Someone was laughing loudly; it might have been me.
The next morning, my cheeks the texture of cotton and head several sizes too big for my neck, I was unemployed and would be homeless within three months. Buoyed by the confidence of my wanning twenties and the sweet summer child assurance that things would work out alright, I committed to having a weird summer. With my cats, Liono and Easy Mac, beside me in the bed, I took some Tylenol and put my “chill playlist” made years earlier on Windows Media Player. The ancient silver Dell computer whirred with effort from its reachable position on the thrift store desk nudged up against the bed. The solar lines from the Media Player danced lazily to “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters.”
The years before YPG, and graduate school before that, I would celebrate summers with themed playlists burned, and decorated, and distributed to friends. During summers back home in San Diego, the chronically bugged family desktop would dolefully bleat out mix CDs struggling under the invasion of whatever was plaguing the computer as a result of LimeWire and Kazaa before that. Following graduating college before I moved back to the East Coast, and in between shifts at the Michael’s Arts & Crafts off Midway Boulevard, I would burn copies of CDs to mail to my friends in Glenside, often including Dizzy Rascal, Ben Folds, the Libertines, and Arthur Conley.
“3 Small Words,” from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, “Under 21” by Save Ferris, “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion, and “Anything Anything” by Dramarama were standards from the San Diego summers in between my undergraduate years. A mix called “Cowboy Fuck Fuck” included the Groovy Ghoulies, Pinback, The Black Heart Procession, Jurassic 5, and De La Soul and was compiled with help from my friends Schwarzey and Tim the summer between Freshman year and Sophomore year, and to this day it makes me feel SO COOL to listen to it. And even years before *that*, there was the mix CD that Kelly made our friend group, Loser Hill, after senior year of high school and the summer before we all left to go our separate ways across the country. I have carried these summer mixes with me throughout moves and major life changes, they live in cobwebby corners of my apartment, but they are never lost to time, space, or memory.
Then there was moving back East, and quitting my office job, and graduate school, and YPG, and the antiquating of Walkmans, and the shuffle of Apple products, and the consumption of time that comes with adulthood.
I am a year, and some months, shy of a new decade. I have a job, apartment, cats, and stacks of gem cases filled with old CDs, many of them burned and the bottoms filled with scratches. I have no time. I have the bodies of old Apple products that were used just for music, now plastic shells of their former selves. They will not wake up. I live in a home filled with ghosts. I have a phone that is a computer, that is a crutch, which has an app that has more music than I will ever listen to queued and played at random in the background of my life. I have a framed painting in my living room that used to hang in the women’s bathroom of YPG that I stole off the wall the last day of my employment there. I have regrets that I call “life experiences.” I have a longing for summers spent making mixes, or the three hot months spent as a degenerate wearing hot pants and drinking Bloody Marys and listening to a mix with NKoTB songs threaded all throughout and eating hydrogenated oils in a baseball field.
Sometimes it hurts my heart when a song from carefree times comes up randomly on the Shuffle of Spotify. I used to skip those songs, songs that hurt. I decided this summer to stop doing that. One time, years ago, my friend Melody told me that they had “to forgive the music,” from bad times. I am taking this summer to forgive the songs from a decade lost, and sometimes lost to very bad times.
A week ago, I made a playlist on Spotify titled “Summer 2023: a return to cheese fries.” It’s not a burned CD made off a dinosaur Dell, or a mixtape made with friends sitting on a bed in San Diego, or the sweltering intensity of the last summer of my twenties spent with as much free time and summer-themed playlists as I could compile. It is a playlist made up of songs that I’ve forgiven from certain years of my life, and the joy of past summers, and the recollection of dirty feet moving in dance during 90-degree days, and concerts I’ve attended, and songs that were once played at a house transmuted into a bar where three young women bullied the jukebox.
I made the playlist in a fever, adding as much as I could, eager to go on a walk to the park so I could get lost in the summertime songs. When I finished, I ambled around my neighborhood, so different from Glenside but with the same abundance of flowers and smudgy sunlight.
By the time I made it to the park by my apartment, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder was playing. It reminded me of the day spent in the Cork that turned into night. In between the songs we put on, I had pulled out a stamp and stamp pad I filched from YPG’s office on the way out the door. It was the stamp to indicate which orders were to take daily priority, a stamp that stamped the word “HOT” At the bar, sticky with indulgence, and freedom, and the fear that comes with that freedom, I stamped the word “HOT” on my bare arms and legs and then on my coworkers’ arms. I tried to convince my coworker to let me stamp her forehead as we giggled like maniacs around smoky coughs.
The Stevie Wonder song that sparked the memory played and rattled my eardrums with the volume up too high. Someone was laughing loudly at the memory; I think it was me.
What makes a good summer album? Last summer I had It's Almost Dry by Pusha T on heavy rotation and it felt like a perfect summer album. My sister and brother inlaw visited and I remember that playing while we sat outside in the sun having drinks and talking. In some ways I think of summer music as happy, as hopeful, after a long winter. Listening to while outside, cooking, hanging out with friends or family. Harry Styles album fit into that too last summer but I don't think they have to be happy-sounding or upbeat. In 2019 I listened to Jesca Hoop's Stonechild while laying in a hammock in late summer and had an almost religious experience. It was more private than communal. I don't know what will become the summer albums for 2023 for me but here are some contenders, some albums I'm listening to now and feel "summery".
1. Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? by Kara Jackson
I started this album the other day while walking home and the first two tracks felt different and interesting so I kept listening while doing some chores, not paying close attention, but loving it. Now it might be my favorite album of the year so far. It's so intimate and spare in places but also so big, symphonic. Every song feels like a captured moment, not necessarily perfected, but real. The vocals never phone it in but keep surprising. It's not a happy album but it feels like summer. All the little sounds. Play the first track, which feels like a one take bedroom demo, while walking somewhere in the sunshine. I'm not sure how to define the type of music. It's folk, maybe, "singer-songwriter", even country in places, but feels like its own thing. I didn't know anything about her when I started listening, that she's a poet, but the lyrics are fascinating, and I'm only beginning to really listen to all the words. The almost 8 minute song Rat is absolutely stunning and you need to listen to it right now. I'm in love with this whole album.
2. Soul,PRESENT by Q (or Q Marsden)
This is more of a happy summer album with a retro 80s dance pop sound. Is this guy known? He should be a superstar. I've been wondering if there would be an album since I found the single Stereo Driver last year which should be a SMASH HIT. It feels like a timeless song that's always been around. If you're working on a teen show and you need a song for the school dance scene this is it. There are other songs on here that should be hits too, like SOW and LUV (I KNOW I WANT THIS FOR REAL). I just love his sound and this album is full of bangers.
3. Wait Til I Get Over by Durand Jones
It's friday and the skies are blue and cloudless but you've been feeling kind of low and you don't know what you're doing, how to get out of it. Put on Wait Til I Get Over, Durand Jones (of Durand Jones & The Indications)'s first solo album, on full volume in your living room and open the windows, and it might get you out of it. I guess I'm on a retro kick. This is Black southern roots music: gospel, soul, rock, and it already feels like the kind of album I will keep playing because it just makes me feel good. The first song, Gerri Marie, will cut you into pieces. So good! We're having a small gathering for mother's day and I'll definitely be playing this.
4. On Grace & Dignity by the GOLDEN DREGS
If you're looking for a more melancholy summer experience this might be for you. This album was released back in February but I keep returning to it and Benjamin Wood's deep baritone vocal musings. He's from Cornwall and I know nothing about Cornwall but if this is how it sounds I want to go. Sad indie cornish pop? It's an album to curl up with on one of those summer thunderstorm evenings after a hot humid day when large drops of rain starts beating on the window. Not a lot of music has stuck with me this year but this is one and I'll keep playing it this summer.
5. 79.5 by 79.5
More retro sounds and this time disco. I don't know how I found the song Club Level but it's such a good song. It had me follow this band and I was excited to find out they released an album last week. Their spotify bio starts: "Far from the predictable center of the radio dial lies 79.5, a station that may or may not be entirely real. The soundtrack shifts smoothly, from '70s underground disco to addictive adult contemporary to sugary sweet girl pop." It's a fun album and a cool vibe! More saxophones in songs people!
6. That! Feels Good! by Jessie Ware
This isn't a small album by a lesser known artist but I just love Jessie Ware! This album is a full party, and I guess retro. What the fuck does retro even mean? This is timeless. Try playing That! Feels Good! and Free Yourself or Pearls without feeling like like you're on your way to somewhere. This whole album. It's summer.
7. Secret Life by Fred again..., Brian Eno
I was only going to do 4 or 5 of these but now I'm up to 7 because I want to add this quiet ambient album by Fred Again... and Brian Eno. I'm not sure what the collaboration is here but I take daily walks in the woods and I've been playing this a couple of times. It makes you want to lie down in the grass somewhere. Secret Life is borrowed from Leonard Cohen's In My Secret Life and Fred samples sounds and words and creates dreamy soundscapes. His singing sounds a bit like James Blake. I'm into it. It is definitely a more private than communal experience and I expect to return to it this summer when I want calm.
That's it for now. Hope there's some stuff here you'll dig here! Let me know about your summer albums.
Welcome to Beach Reads. This is a feature based on the Date This Book feature that Janie originated on this blog back in 2018. Instead of dating a book that will inevitably break our heart, we will, at a safe distance, ask a book some questions to find out if it's a good Beach Read. Look, we know that's a big cliché. Maybe we're a big cliché. In the words of Logan Roy: You are not serious people. Fuck off. We will look at the cover to see if it would work well on a beach. Do we want to take a beach selfie with this book and post it to our 7 Instagram followers? Do we want to ponder the mysteries while reading this book drinking a cool refreshing beverage and eating pistachios with sand in our hair?
First up, Gina Tron's memoir Eat, Fuck, (Write About) Murder. It is now available for pre-order from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press and will exist in the world later this month, which is perfect timing for the beach. It's important to have enough time to coordinate your beach outfit with the cover of the book you're reading. This is what Eat, Fuck, (Write About) Murder's cover looks like:
It's a pretty cool cover. It reminds us of the Hellraiser labyrinth but everything reminds us of the Hellraiser labyrinth. We don't know if that in the foreground with the title is a pool of blood or a plate of blood. Or a plate of heavily sauced pasta. And a neon sign with the writer's name in pink. The sign feels out of place. This feels like an eerie dream where there's a party in a dungeon somewhere and it's a bad idea but you go anyway, hypnotized by a strange underground beat.
This is what it says about the book on the site: "Gina Tron takes you to a perfect world cushioned with safety and sweetness like a plump Gusher. In Eat, Pray, Love, the protagonist travels around the world following her divorce to find purpose, meaning, and then love again. Eat, Fuck, (Write About) Murder is a much bleaker version of that story. In the midst of breakups with a serious boyfriend and a literary agent, Gina does some traveling, some eating, and writes about murder for work, but — spoiler — she does not fall in love again."
We don't know what that means ("like a plump Gusher"?) but we think if you were reading this book, holding this cover in your hands, on the beach, you would look pretty cool. People would be like, "Eat, Fuck (Write About) Murder? What in the hell kind of a book is that?" and be intrigued. Maybe they would even ask about the book and allow you to reply mysteriously and vaguely, wearing your book-cover coordinated beach outfit of serious greys and pink, peering behind dark, large sunglasses and a wide sun hat like an Italian actress: "Oh it's impossible to explain! Really... you have to read it yourself." Other people would probably be more like: "Hey! You in the dollar store hat! There are children here. This is a family beach! A family beach!"
We're undecided but think we're going to give it a pretty high beach cover score. It's ominous. It has pow factor. It has weird factor. It will upset fathers. If it makes you friends those friends will probably have issues that lead to unnecessary clusterfuck drama and misery.
"They say women's intuition is strong, but a book's intuition is never wrong."
MMPPL: Hi Gina. Your memoir Eat, Fuck, (Write About) Murder is coming out soon. Please let your book answer because we're trying to Separate the Art from the Artist and be objective. Firstly, Book (not Author), what the heck is going on in Vanderpumps Rules? If you were a cast member on Vanderpump Rules who would you be and why? Send a photo of a VPR cast member that encapsulates you.
EF(WA)M: Well, the annoying person who wrote me is obsessed with that show, and she created a lot of me while watching it. So I would like to think that I'm pretty well-versed in the drama. Right now, on the show, some of the cast members are starting to suspect that Tom Sandoval is sleeping with Raquel Leviss. And he is. They say women's intuition is strong, but a book's intuition is never wrong. Gina is eagerly awaiting the next episode and the reunion. I'm ready to watch the episodes of Jersey Shore again, where the cast visits Italy. They look stupid there and out of place, just like Gina.
I bet that Gina would like to think I'm like Ariana Madix because I was written in the midst of a breakup. But the breakup at the core of me does not involve betrayal. Ariana did deal with the breakup shortly after the loss of her beloved dog and grandmother. Gina was coping with body image issues after cancer surgery in addition to the breakup. So there's some extra pain involved, but Ariana is very beloved, and her breakup was groundbreaking. Gina is not that beloved (I'm sick of her because she keeps editing me and I want her to stop as I think I'm perfect now) and her breakup was pretty unremarkable. I'd say I'm more like Katie Maloney because Katie is also going through a breakup and she is out in Europe right now, sitting on a beach in Spain. Like Gina, she is rebounding. Katie found a younger man named Satchel; I doubt they will last. I won't even comment on Gina's ridiculous dating choices she made within my beautiful pages.
MMPPL: Wait there is a man named Satchel? Like the bag? Incidentally our new MMPPL theme is The Cat's Out of the BAG (please submit!)! It's a small lit world. We hope it works out for them, or not. It sounds like Gina went through a lot and if this interview was about her we would follow up on that. But back to the premade questions: Imagine that you'd get murdered soon and could only eat ONE egg meal before you die, what would you eat? How would you eat those eggs book??
EF(WA)M: I am an American big boy of a book, and yet I am set in Sicily. Do you understand how difficult it is to find a traditional egg meal for breakfast there? There are cafes on every corner, and yet all you will find are delicious pastries. Some of the best pastries you'll ever have in your life. Cannolis and cassata and things crammed with sweet ricotta. But no eggs for us big American boys who want a healthy four plates of bacon and eggs with an extra large, creamy iced coffee for breakfast. And all the eggs at the store are not in the fridge. So I'd ask my deranged creator to please smush a warm-temperature egg in between each one of my pages until I am satisfied and full. I hate her, and I wish she would stop editing me.
MMPPL: We think you should do that, with the eggs. Or your writer. As a promotion stunt. Like the book promotion stunts people used to do back in 2012 when they had energy and believed in things. It occurs to us now that it might be hard to Separate the Art from the Artist if the Art in question is a memoir so maybe this interview will be a failure, but that's fine. We're fine with failure. Why memoir? Do you feel like a memoir? How many memoirs is Gina going to write? Like there should be a limit. Are you the best one? Are there any memoirs you look up to? Or hate with a passion?
" Typical. Here I am trying to show how beautiful a beach in Sicily can be but you guys are gonna like Gina's stories where she whines about being bullied in high school or cries about psych ward food not being tasty enough more instead."
EF(WA)M: I feel like a memoir but also a remix of a much more famous memoir. The thing that created me (Gina) likes writing memoirs about parts of her life. This is her second memoir to be published. She has a third one coming out this year. As Gina has taught in some of her classes, memoir is not the same as an autobiography. A person can write many memoirs. A memoir captures a small part of a person's life, often a moment of struggle or a learning lesson. It is not a life story. I am the least dark out of her three memoirs and I resent my two siblings for being so goth. I am the best one yet I will probably be the least liked. Typical. Here I am trying to show how beautiful a beach in Sicily can be but you guys are gonna like Gina's stories where she whines about being bullied in high school or cries about psych ward food not being tasty enough more instead. I'm a big happy American boy who wears bright clothing and complains less than them. While all of Gina's memoirs are often dark and capture moments of pain, Gina actually spends most of her time laughing. Nobody wants to read about the boring, happy times when there is no drama. Everyone loves drama. I also don't like when Gina is happy. I resent her for editing me. Gina was reading Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts while writing me. I like that memoir and I think of it as an aunt of sorts. While that book is a memoir, it touches on the American obsession with violence. I do that too. I like to show how embedded violence and trauma are in Gina and Americans in general. I am also proud to say that I reveal how America's feelings of identity are strongly linked to our productivity. Gina likes memoir that weaves in elements of journalism. She likes to write about her own life when it says something bigger about society, or at least that big-headed writer would like to think that. I hate her other memoirs because they aren't me.
MMPPL: Ooh tell us more about the beaches of Sicily. How do the beaches compare to other beaches? This is a Beach feature. We've been to Italy but not Sicily and it was... fine. Why did you end up there anyway? I guess that's in the book. Gina seems to move around a lot. We're also interested in the American obsession with violence. How do you touch on that?
EF(WA)M: Gina spent a lot of time looking at the Tyrrhenian Sea. One of the Airbnbs she stayed at was just blocks away from the water. She'd walk down and enjoy its turquoise beauty, daily. She also took a small boat out to the Tyrrhenian Islands, some of which are active volcanoes. One of the beaches on the island of Vulcano was full of black sand. Unfortunately, (honestly, I am laughing at her for this) she didn't lay out on the beach too much because it was winter. The weather was in the 50s and 60s when she was there. That space cadet even wore sandals a few times when true Scilians were wearing coats and scarves. Because it was off-season, Gina ended up being the only tourist on some islands and the isolation triggered her own experiences with violence. Between trying to overcome fear from an attack and writing about men attacking women all day for her day job, I try to make a lot of commentary on how hard and scary it can be to maneuver in the world as a woman. Especially when alone. Gina wrote true crime for a living and as we all know, women are usually not the perpetrators. This did not help Gina feel safe when walking down alleys alone to get to her temporary apartments.
She chose Sicily because her mom's side is Sicilian and it seemed like a beautiful place to visit. Gina felt bad that her mom and grandma had never made it to Sicily, despite talking about wanting to go. After undergoing cancer surgery, Gina's sense of mortality changed. She wanted to travel more than ever, especially since her job was remote and allowed her to do so. Living in Sicily was less expensive than living in New York City. It was quite affordable and also delicious. After Gina went through a breakup in 2018, she decided it would be wise to rebound somewhere far away. She had been planning on settling down in Vermont before that breakup. Ironically, she has now settled down in Vermont and with the character she longs to connect with the most in me. Gina is so pathetic, she was longing to see this man, her decades-long crush even when she is visiting Tunisia. It's like, Gina, get a life. They are married now and he designed my sexy cover. They are pretty cute together so I guess her longing had some root in reality. Anyway, I hope you read my pages.
"That being said, do not place me on the shelf next to any Virgos or Scorpio books. They are jealous of the thiccness of my spine."
MMPPL: That's all very... cute. We're just trying to find out if we will look cool reading this book or if we'll be made fun of. We're thinking about the beach and being less depressed, for our heads to be empty and our toes buried in hot sand. We want a very cold beverage. We know that Gina is a libra (obviously) but what sign are you? Or do you think astrology is just a big waste of time?
EF(WA)M: Gina's libra ass likes to see the good in everyone and that's partly why I look down on her. I am an adventurous and tactless Sagittarius. I am an independent and sexy big boy of a book. I do not put much stock in zodiac signs. That being said, do not place me on the shelf next to any Virgos or Scorpio books. They are jealous of the thiccness of my spine.
MMPPL: Did your writer always want to be a writer? It seems like such a terrible and self-obsessed profession. We are imagining a serious child wanting to be a writer using big words, being insufferable. Does she collect a lot of weird things? What posters did she have on her walls as a serious writer child?
EF(WA)M: Gina has wanted to be a writer since she was a weird young bud. She has a lot of Slimer and egg things, mostly gifts from people because they know how much she likes things that don't matter. I for one dated Slimer and he's nothing to write home about. When she was a pre-teen she had a lot of posters of dogs on the wall when her peers had posters of male actors. To make herself seem more normal, she put up posters of Devon Sawa but she really had no interest in him. Then as she aged a bit, she began cutting out magazine ads of clothing she liked and stuck them all over her ugly bedroom walls. The walls were not as beautiful as the pages inside of me.
MMPPL: We liked Devon Sawa in SLC! Punk. That was good acting. And one of our friends has a Devon Sawa fan club. Do you dream of being made into a movie? Who would be in EF(WA)M if it was a movie and what kind of a movie would it be? A romantic comedy or a horror movie?
EF(WA)M: I would like to be a movie. The stories behind Gina's two other memoirs have already been optioned. One was funded and a full feature-length script was written. But in the end, it didn't make it to the big screen. The other was recently turned into a pilot and it is a quarterfinalist for a screenplay contest. But I don't think those two books got what it takes. I'm a big boy that knows that if I was optioned, I would be turned into a movie within a week. And Danny Devito would play Gina. In fact, he would play all the characters. I should be a one-man play of a movie. It would be a romantic comedy, except for the lack of romance and comedy.
MMPPL: Seems like the other memoirs are doing pretty well for themselves. We're bored now and hungry so we think we'd like to conclude this interview and go for lunch. Does the book have any lunch suggestions or any final words for why EF(WA)M would be a good book to read on a beach? This is your last chance to make your case before we make our final decision. In truth, we mostly read fast paced detective stories with miserable sad protagonists and erotic thrillers so we're not thrilled about Memoirs. We're torn, we're discombobulated, but the cover looks like it could be a fast paced erotic detective thriller.
EF(WA)M: Yes. Grab a slide of lo sfincione, aka Sicilian pizza. This chonky boy square of tomato sauce and anchovies will make you a hit on a hot, windy beach.
I'm a great book to read on a beach because, despite my dark parts, I am very funny. You can laugh at Gina as she tries to communicate with men on Tinder in a different country. She already had trouble talking to men in America. She also gets very uncomfortable when one man tried to put some "romantic" moves on her, so I laugh at that a lot. If you are perfect, like me, you can laugh at how awkward Gina is from your elegant and non-awkward beach towel.
Final decision: REJECTED.
sick jokes stick to the roof of the mouth. can taste it again and again. preferable to some other tastes, to be honest.
come shining and shy. be mismatched in existence for the sake of a sound. a series to go with the entrance as silence will be all there is for the exit.
ancient and reckless. nothing left to lose. everything important already fell off.
there's always nowhere else to be. then there's here and now in West Bubbafuck with two options not to choose from but two options are given anyway. two options are always available as options but not really as choices. there's a difference but only in the dialect of this land.
this place is somewhere and it doesn't matter. not much these days.
the sun is restless. relentless. never takes the hint. will bark up every tree and write home about all the wrong ones. there are situations to be in and situations to leave. live by the situation and die by the situation but leave a beautiful corpse. a supernova of a dead star.
in the mean time, Mars loves Venus.
and the telescopes all sing sad songs.
the maps go back to telling stories even though the globe has no sense of humor.
the truth is no better than the lies but it's more affordable. the truth is a lie bought from the clearance rack. so last season.
running on empty is just second nature which just a-okay since first nature wasn't any good anyway.
always check the expiration date.
don't drink the water.
tip the bartender.
tomorrow should be clear skies and warm weather. a high in the lower highs. t-shirt weather for some and a hoodie for others. wearing a heart on a sleeve will never be a good look but when in Rome take a vacation in Sicily or get out of the country. see the world.
Utopia is up ahead and the Land of Nod is a couple more exits down the road. almost is never almost enough. should've left the backseat back in the Elysian Fields. should've picked up some more sorrows for later in the Garden of Gethsemane.
hey, what's the big idea? how does one get off? where does one get the gall? well, dear inquisitor, the gall is coming from a sentence that can finish itself as any good sentence should. communication is not a fucking mystery to be solved even if there are a million questions to be asked between the subject and the verb.
inside out. the wrong way fits as a glove could if and only if one did what one was accused of doing.
eventually eventually every boat sets sail if it is a sailboat and the sail has been hoisted and somebody puts it out on a body of water. a boat won't venture out on its own. of its own free will. now, accidents happen. tides pull and winds push. things have a way of getting loose.
sooner or later are not opposites. the opposite of sooner is surprise and the opposite of later is never. or not the opposite but an equal force exerted upon a moment to come in one's mind that has yet to arrive if ever an arrival will come.
hyperbole is always so much funnier in private.
it's not 4 in the morning. it's a quarter to one in the afternoon. stomach growling but also should've been in bed at least an hour. work hard enough every night just to afford to stay up late into the day doing not a goddamn thing. show up every shift to be able to pay for all this stupid daydreaming. to be so fortunate as to have a window and be close enough to somewhere with some wifi.
when will people stop dick riding intuition so fucking hard? oh well, maybe sensation gets its rocks off by just watching. who knows? that sort of knowledge is never really known. it's more felt or maybe more thought of and about but rarely confirmed and once that is added to one's own personal bias, shit starts getting political. instincts and the innate are big talking points. nature is debated. especially human nature. so then the political comes back for revenge upon the personal and one can see that shit clearly now the rain has gone.
can see all the obstacles in the way. gonna be a fight fight fight in a money-minded kind of way.
when the shadow can't find Jung to explain itself to where does it go for advice? Kristeva maybe. wait, is Kristeva dead?
don't want to send anybody to meet the Maker before the bell has actually tolled but then again, that coast is always clear. smooth sailing into the next world. a harbor is sure to be found somewhere.
words are failures. the tag team partners of the imagination. put into a submission hold. tapped out. uncle. mercy. by God, stop the match.
redemption is a punchline. aspirations are the setup. there is no applause. there are blank faces. sometimes a narrative arc just bombs. reality rarely kills but every day is a funeral.
nothing ruins a good day the way that sharing a good time with the wrong somebody else does. maybe one should just be grateful. maybe but it's not gonna happen. at least not today.
appreciation can be so meaningless sometimes.
a memory is a jealous twin. only one half of what has been born into this world from one's own mind. the other half of this Athena-esque chimera is experience who is not jealous but is an actual imposter. nothing honest ever happens. there's no bigger con artist than existence. but damn what a fine fucking huckster. never oversells the show. just let's the acts and attractions be all that needs to be said to get a buck. every soul deep down is just begging to be a mark. every spirit is the antithesis of the fakir. every essence, every aura just wants to give it all away but not as a form of charity or to get closer to the divine but simply to disappear and see what that means. see if that has some kind of a value.
high and mighty but long gone. high and mighty due to being long gone.
oh, nobody believes this nonsense. nobody is buying this. this is another scam. it has to be one big act. a routine. a real laugh riot. well, a riot at least. this is not a peaceful resistance. this is not non-violent. distractions are not meant to keep the peace. no sleight of hand is here to uphold the status quo. tricks are the one surefire way to change the world. or at least to question it in a lasting way. the empirical has to be put on trial constantly. make everything unbelievable. the only thing that can be proved is the absurd.
one has to kick the serious cold turkey. go through withdrawal for a bit. check in to a rehab. join a support group. get over what makes perfect sense. let go of so many explanations. but maybe, come up with some new ones.
be new. but don't ever think that one can be original. be reborn. be an afterlife. be undead. be nothing. that would be new.
the greatest lie the truth ever told was that it exists. no, that's a lie. the truth is, the truth exists but it has a bad memory. bad not as in forgetful but bad as in villainous. so sympathetic but so misguided.
is this a cop out? and is that any better or any worse than selling out?
it only takes 5 minutes to write 5 years of new work. everybody knows that. well, not to write it write it but to think it think it. some work is invisible. some products are also. not everything comes with a hard copy. a thought is a year in the making. not a year but time works differently in different places. gravity affects time. this is both scientific and absurd but there's no reason to talk about time. time does enough talking but never enough thinking. anyway, the point is meant to be missed. nobody wants to get to a point. the point is the end and who wants to be on the wrong end of the end? there are lots more questions to ask the point but nobody here in these thoughts is an investigative reporter so it makes sense to ease up on the questions a bit.
no hurry, just wander. that's the problem with problems these days, there are only two reasons to end up in these situations: 1) thoughts and 2) feelings. but, these situations aren't problems that ever needed a reason. the maze has always been here. the city was built on it. the maze is a graveyard for some and a harvest to be had for others. a game of hide and seek for some and a stroll in the woods for others. it's haunted but maybe also fun. it's not welcoming but one is invited in. look, a story is not meant to be seen, especially not its ending. it's to be understood or felt but to be felt brings one back to reasons and problems and that's a threat. understanding also leads to thoughts or arose from thoughts and what is one to do with that line of thinking, that reasoning? the maze is more innate. the teller or the tale needs to follow this lead but also take the lead even if every story told is a tale being retold and really one maze and only really one maze was well-known for its relationship to a thread.
"... metaphor can also be irresponsible, especially when an image shares its territory with a strongly held belief." (Claire Cronin – Blue Light of the Screen: On Horror, Ghosts, and God)
dream logic? perhaps, dream bullying or dream legislation. the law and order of dreams. the protect and serve of the subconscious over the conscious as most readily understood in night terrors.
spent too long looking for a shirt that was never found yesterday. it's still irritating and will be until it is found. spent the morning looking too long for a piece that was clearly labeled as opposed to most other pieces in these diaries. may tomorrow come with no looking for anything.
one does not need to have courage to face repetition. one needed to have had courage or one needs to eventually obtain courage. repetition will always catch up to where one is or where one has been.
"... the tape runs on in silence." (Samuel Beckett – Krapp's Last Tape)
is this a conversation? no, it's a routine. ah, could be worse. could be a piece. could be material. could be a stanza. it's a miracle. but still not happy to be here. yes, here. right now. but such is the curse of a miracle.
the best writer in the world is no longer writing. the second best is. the best living writer in the world is dead. the second best pulled the trigger and wrote the best-selling eulogy.
could just sleep this life away. and dreams are made of emotion. flirt with the counterfeit, elastic eyes, telescopes and microscopes. be released from outtuition (?), the extuition (maybe) of the everyday. the world swirling around in the know. the rumors, the gossip, the deja vu for some and the jamais vu for others. a feeling on the street. a thought on the tongues of loiterers and passers-by. nothing on the inside can help in a situation such as this so better to be a bore. say nothing. be of no interest. return to the underworld. look back and keep on looking back.
OK, how else can it be explained? never mind. some things are easier done than said.
it's a miracle. it's a miracle. it's bullshit. shut up. shut up. silence. stop talking. shut the fuck up. just kidding, nigga. there's nobody else here. it's just a one on one. a one in one. a hole in one. an ace. a tête à tête in one single tête. hand in hand and out of pocket.
and dreams are made of emotion.
wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey. winner, winner, chicken dinner.
it's a miracle.
cute little dog there but hold on, could've been George Washington in a past life. nice cat, could've been Anne Oakley. pet reincarnation. find out more about all sorts of furry friends. lazy puppy, could've been Marcel Duchamp. the bird won't stop squawking, maybe Marcel Proust. never hear a peep out of that goldfish? perhaps Marcel Marceau. what human beings were these companions?
what's on next? hopefully another commercial. need to pretend. no disbelief to suspend. just follow the plot to its happy conclusion.
the weird used to be tied to the wayward but now it's not and that's why it's not what it once was. would prefer the askew. that which is just off. whether by a little or a lot, it's never on the level.
things are always different but tomorrow will be mostly more of this same shit. all of this time and all of this money. all of these miles in uncomfortable shoes wasted on nothing altogether new but not exactly more of the same old same old.
this text was supposed to be engaged with another text by now but the other text turned down the proposal.
and the tape plays on in silence.
shut up. shut up. shut the fuck up. shut up. shut up. silence.
it's a routine. what would the dead sea do? leave room for mistakes. but make it all float. not just the cream deserves to rise to the top.
themes are made of emotions.
" 'because' is a fantasy" (James Hillman – the Politics of Feeling)
what follows does not follow but appears next on the scene. in the scene. in on the act but always a headliner never an opener. not exactly a fan favorite but a usual. what follows is what happens. what happens is a mystery. always a mystery and never a hunch. always a mystery and never a clue. always a mystery and never any evidence.
a halt. grinding down.
"a connective tissue of obsession and bewilderment, obscene craving and total disorientation. futility of the fever-dream." (Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh – Omnicide: Mania, Fatality, and the Future-In-Delirium)
formally. Sunday's best. sign on the dreaded line. reply all.
erase the start of the sentence about the gears being of no use and start another one about the grease being wasted drop by drop. erase. drop by drop and rethink what it means to be wasted. the grease served some purpose in the moment.
once in the ocean. twice in a river. half in the tub. about ready to get out of the shower and arrive about 15 minutes late.
no grace period has the grace of a period.
sadboi and fangirl both disappointed together for different reasons.
nobody here is telling anybody any jokes and that is a waste of this space. there's something about everywhere that really lends itself to a bit of parody. everybody should be writing jokes after every armistice as so seen on the big screen whether it was nominated for an Oscar or not.
Horkheimer and Engels always sit through the credits waiting for one last scene.
there is no author worth crediting when it comes to listing all those scrolling names but somebody wrote that. published it.
rest in peace to recognition. this is Hollywood complete with class traitors. lights, camera, action.
these words will be read in black and white. these words were spoken in gray. most people forgot how to hear colors a long time ago. colors are too over the top anyway and black is so melodramatic while white is so tragic. gray is the most Gothic quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; saturation or chroma; hue.
there needs to be no further explanation that was not also copy and pasted from the dictionary and not properly cited.
but if one sees these definitions in the street, it's on. on sight means on cite.
how the comedian begins a set is not the same way that a musician does. a fork, knife, and a spoon are a set of silverware and even the fucking poets don't want to talk about that. all of the sudden people are too good to get the food off of the plate but love that act of having eaten. what kind of bullshit is this? but some foods are finger foods so that's ok. one can forgive the novelist if a narrator chooses to eat cake. the speaker of the poem on the other hand had better give glory to the cup or else may there be only tummy aches to come for the inobservant but more so for the lyrical desire to skip steps. only a memory can play hopscotch. to be sentimental is to be it. to have been tagged and to yearn to tag someone back.
when the comic enters the stage the comic goes over the topic of the day and seeks to address the elephant in the room. the playwright put that elephant in the room and called it cruelty. called it as was seen fit to be called. a calling is not the same as an address. nobody puts a calling on envelope with a Toni Morrison forever stamp.
everything that was ever heard around the world was mistranslated by every individual listener. not on purpose but never put faith nor trust into one's own ears. be Odysseus. just stop listening for a second. it's for one's own safety. meanwhile, for the rest of the crew...
no discussion is needed but it will most assuredly come to pass as so one generation will beget another one and a curse becomes a family's pride and heritage. as one becomes a half and half becomes a quarter. as long as the arithmetic stays simple.
everybody has enough shit to do without ever doing it especially the ones who are out there doing all that feeling. a mood is a fucking job and one surefire way to be fired is to think. nobody is paid to be thinking but may have received a payment for having had a thought. in fact it was Spinoza who once said something that nobody in here can either confirm nor deny since nobody here was there when Baruch said that one thing that one time. everybody in here had something better to do than to travel in time and across the globe to hear out what a poor lense crafter had to say. it's ok but this narrator will neither forgive anybody here nor forget about such transgressions. every listener is a Hatfield and this narrator is a real McCoy.
one could become a one trick pony if only one could learn how to commit to the bit. and that's the problem with niggas out here nowadays, can't commit to shit. these niggas ain't loyal.
the hills out here are crazy and that's why can't nobody trust anybody who says that the world is flat.
somewhere over the rainbow there is a more inclusive version of the rainbow.
with enemies like these, who needs friends? no fight left in this dog, just a longing look.
at a loss for silence, words are set up to fail. who has a a good pep talk for these morphemes on the losing side of this game? nobody? see again, everybody here is just here to let somebody down again. thanks.
"ashes of memories still aglow" (Ultravox – Visions in Blue)
the letters are looking at the numbers again. don't bother. it isn't fair. and nothing will ever make any punctuation feel wanted. it's a goodamn shame the way people treat certain marks. guess, we're all in this together but some are just more together than others. and that is why we always ask, who all's gonna be there?
got some skin in the game. got some nail clippings also. best part of the day is being asleep. the worst part is waking up but goddamn anybody who would wax nostalgic about what occurs between the extremes.
been making dreams mad since before Y2K but Y2K is still partially to blame.
don't give the soul any warning. the anima/animus/animx can't have too much prep time, it's the Batman of the self.
destiny is willing to pay the fine. but if destiny is coming then Fate won't want to come. and Outcomes might also back out.
"nothing is lost but nothing is ever the same. each present is an inaccurate replication... recategorizing of all [of one's] pasts." (Leo Bersani – Marcel Proust: the Fictions of Life and of Art)
been running on momentum, drugs, and lust. when can things just go back to the way it wasn't? can it be the way it was when it was only a scheme? this was about getting rich quick and now it's a long con.
trust and believe.
got divorced before being married. makes more sense to get the easy stuff out of the way first. now all there is are kisses mismatched and piling up. stars crossed up worse than Jordan was. twice on one play by a rookie.
with the electric being what it is, who needs "friends"?
what makes anybody's day? don't answer that. nobody wants to get a conversation on a special outfit. this thing ain't nothing special but nobody wants to do more laundry than is absolutely necessary. except for maybe some Virgo somewhere.
visions in blue. vision thing. revisions and yet this still remains?
the things that dreams are made of are much too rich for this blood.
perhaps this subconscious died in a car crash years ago.
been burning this ritual at both ends. bring a tradition down its center or off-center if the ends aren't burning evenly. this is not the plan. nobody is trying to play favorites with any sort of superstitions. that's how things go awry and the midnight oil is already pretty rancid.
been spending way too much time just trying to get the gist of some shit.
this is called circling the drain. a title should always go in the middle since titles are stupid and quite often so forgettable also. such as that one movie with that one person. came out a few years back. was snubbed for an Oscar. that one. that title was perfect.
also the bio. the time used to write that bullshit could have used doing something else equally if not more narcissistic.
just remember, as Visage said, "the damned don't cry."
in too deep, standing here waiting. breaking in two. the mage and the fool. lost in a familiar place.
if a camera can add 10 pounds then just imagine what a memory is capable of. but also, remember that Wittgenstein said that "a picture is a fact" so jot that down.
it's not Friday night and that is pertinent information that will not come in handy again at some later date. a lot of information is entirely unhelpful outside of certain specific moments. from here on out there will be no more collecting of data. nothing else will be recorded for posterity.
carsick. going too far away from home for no good reason. overpriced and underwhelming. excitement is always a no-show. oh, don't be that way. there's always somebody new to meet. well, that's not really selling the scene but ok, it's something to pretend to consider.
could live behind a computer screen forever. could become a computer. this is actually ChatGPT.
nothing is actual. in all actuality this is nothing. what occurred really didn't and there are pictures to prove it. one thing is real and that is that nothing ever ends on a high note. or maybe that's a mistake. consider revising. don't consider it for too long. don't ever be too considerate to the work.
this whole thing was a mistake. don't believe anything that was said or will ever be said again as relates to this.
duped. turns out that one can fall for the same trick twice. Benjamin Fondane said there would be days like this and then he was murdered. should've listened to him earlier.
by Michael Seymour Blake
Do-do-do-do you have it? GUTS!
There’s a lotta talk about guts in Kinji Fukasaku’s (Battle Royal) crime/action/drama, and our main man Gunji (Kôji Tsuruta) has’em to spare. He walks headfirst into bad situations with a monomaniacal confidence that demands respect—kind of like a calmer, more compassionate Captain Ahab. Gunji’s unwavering audacity keeps us glued to the screen.
Unpacking the subtext of this film is way outta my league (commentary on colonization, post-war Japan, American imperialism, etc.), plus more informed people have already delved into that stuff. All I’ll say is there’s a lot going on if you care to look.
But the movie is strong enough without any knowledge about the backdrop or inspirations (one of which being Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers). Everything we need to know is right there on the screen. These are men who have no place in the new Japan, and who want to go back in time when things were a little more chaotic, a little less organized. Chaos, for them, means opportunity. Their way of life is being squeezed dry as bigger, more corporatized gangsters move in. So they travel to Okinawa where there’s a heavier American presence and a little of that magic chaos remains. There are “last stand of the old west” vibes all over this.
The jazzy soundtrack sets the mood perfectly, inviting us into this crime-riddled underworld. It’s dangerous and dark, but still cool place to be. Even as one of our gang members dies, he admits he had a “great time.”
Is the bloody ending a message that crime don’t pay? Are we supposed to walk away feeling disgusted at it all? Are we supposed to cheer as our underdogs go down swinging? I don’t know. But it leaves a mark.
Everyone is doing great work. Tomisaburô Wakayama’s performance as Yonabaru, the brutish one-armed gangster, was my favorite. His character feels mythic. Anyone within range of his hand or feet ain’t gonna last long. He’s old school tough. One of the best exchanges in the movie (and there are a few to choose from) is when Yonabaru confronts Gunji, who’s moving in on his turf.
“This place is ours,” Yonabaru says in a gruff, no-nonsense tone.
“This place belongs,” replies the imperturbable Gunji, “to whoever the fuck takes it.”
Ain’t that the truth in life?
Would make a great compare/contrast with Takumi Furukawa’s Cruel Gun Story.
3/6/2023 1 Comment
Upon first glance, if you didn’t know that memoirist Hannah Sward—author of Strip—and I are both Jewish women who graduated from Antioch University Los Angeles, you might not think we have much in common. She is a recovering addict (meth and alcohol) and former sex worker who suffered early childhood sexual abuse—three boxes I cannot tick. But isn’t the human condition so much more nuanced than that? When I read, “I waited for this terrible [yearning] in me to go away…an aching that I didn’t like, a longing to find comfort in another,” I thought—yes. I felt seen. I kept turning the pages late into the night, my bedside lamp a source of light through some dark moments in Sward’s layered life.
“The saddest girl in the world,” Sward is abandoned by her mother in her youngest years and finds herself wondering “what kind of woman I would be like if my mom hadn’t left.” Her poet dad meanwhile, though a mentor to her, is also busy with his pursuits—from typing all the “poems in his head” to spirituality to women who are not Sward’s mother.
While my own parents didn’t leave physically, both were unavailable in their own ways, so I was familiar with that deep sense of childhood loneliness (for which I was put on anti-depressants at age ten), and, later, with a desperate neediness for which I too sought counseling at the same Beverly Hills, sliding scale center as Sward did. Fortunately, I never got into drugs (my father was a habitual pot user, and I very much resented the foggy haze that separated him from us, even when he was around), but I certainly had my vices. Though I never made a career of it, I—like Sward and her mother before her—was promiscuous and probably could have benefited from a 12-step program for addictive tendencies of my own, love among them.
So, when I say that I kept seeing myself on the page, I don’t just mean on the surface level, even if Sward and I do share a similar hair color and Canadian roots. I mean that, in baring more than just her skin, Sward taps into the universality of what it means to be human, and this is what kept me invested in her story. “I was unhappy. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life…I loved the ritual,” she writes of her descent into meth use. I made a checkmark in the margins. I could have written the same sentences about myself, only my ritual of choice was getting ready for dates. Those dates, and the two drinks I usually ordered on them, helped to take the edge off—the edge being how alone I was in the world, an edge Sward and I (and so many of us) share. “Maybe I would have…made choices that weren’t destructive, if I had formed a [healthier] sense of self,” Sward muses, and I often thought the same as I found myself in an endless loop of date-going—countless, interchangeable dates on which I almost always had casual and unprotected sex—until eight years ago, entirely by chance, I met my future-husband on one of them.
As my grandpa says, life is a series of accidents. In my case, ninety-three sexual partners in, I accidentally met someone (my 94th) who loved me in spite of the childhood wounds that shaped me into the needy woman holding onto her wineglass as tightly as I’d hold onto any man who’d let me. In Sward’s case, she accidentally got hooked on drugs—which she only planned to use temporarily to lose weight—and caught in a cycle of sex work—which she only planned to do in the short term to make cash for college. My path wasn’t so divergent from Sward’s, until it was. My series of accidents could have led me down a different (and much darker) path entirely—one that included sexual assault or sexually-transmitted infections, for starters—and I have only luck, not good decision-making, to thank for the fact that it didn’t.
For Sward, there is luck, even if bad luck, and then there is the deliberate choice to get clean, which altogether alters her course for the better:
I was thirty-six, lying on the floor of my pink bathroom on a Saturday night in Los Angeles, torn red from fighting with vines in the garden…I don’t like gardening…but on meth it was very interesting…I saw no escape…How many years had I spent in the bushes with my head down, tangled in the weeds…of my life?
I told you as much in the first paragraph, so you already know that our heroine finds a way to untangle herself from addiction, and I’m so grateful that she does. But it’s not only sobriety that she works hard at. She also “face[s] the lonely, frightening” prospect “of sitting with [her]self…in the hours…with the words” to write this book—a fact for which I’m equally grateful. Before ultimately finding redemption, Sward—always with the loveliest, most lyrical language—shares her lowest moments, her secrets, and her very soul with us, so we readers can see our own imperfect, complicated, sometimes-ugly-but-more-often beautiful souls reflected right back.
Tortoise Books, pp. 264,
Sept. 6, 2022 publication date
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