While the dogs stand with tiny paws at the window barking at the humans who dare cross the church parking lot on the other side of the driveway, a moment to share my thoughts between “hushes” while still fresh-ish…
From its opening moments soundtracked by Max Richter’s stirring “On the Nature of Daylight” (an artistic masterstroke that unfairly precluded Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score from Oscar eligibility) to its final denouement, again bookended by Richter, ARRIVAL — anchored by career-best performances from Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner — projects a composed assurance as it reveals its beautiful secrets layer by layer, its message of unity in the face of the unknown permeating each frame. It is a rare film, one that made me say, “This is the best film I’ve seen in a long time,” without hesitation.
I’m still processing it.
I’m sure I will have more thoughts to share on ARRIVAL as processing continues but these blurb-y notions are the first; post-percolation thoughts might show up either in future installments of these first draft ramblings or in next Sunday’s email dispatch, though who knows.
Currently reading: Chang-rae Lee’s ON SUCH A FULL SEA.
During my time as an archivist and later executive director at a Cold War deep history / JFK assassination non-profit, there were two dates which we held aloft as goalposts of survival: the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, on 22 November 2013, and today, 26 October 2017, the day that, at long last, the remaining files on the JFK assassination would be – as a 25-year-old law dictates – released. Now that we are here (and I am not), what incredible morsels will be found inside these three thousand documents? What earth-shattering revelations will stand exposed?
Having spent 2005 through 2009 immersed in the millions of pages that were already released, I can safely say: probably nothing , or at least nothing that would be considered earth-shattering on its own. At best, the unseen pages will help connect disparate dots in the murky patchwork that constitutes modern American history; history, after all, isn’t made of paper: it’s made of people, an always-fluctuating dichotomy of conflict that more often than not stands in stark contrast to the written record.
Unless I’m very mistaken — and I’ll be the first to admit if and when I am — the biggest story out of the files will be that they are now no longer invisible. Beyond that, it and the stories they tell will—unfortuntately—fade into obscurity as something else shiny and new barrels forth in our landscape of the new new new, now now now.
Reading: A DEATH IN BELMONT, by Sebastian Junger.
When I write meta-Informalities it’s clear that I lack the clarity to have something to say; the discipline, however, requires that I must push through and find something, anything, to say — exorcism via keyboard.
I’ve lost count of many times I’ve gone meta. Reboot/recount with this volume.
These pieces are how I bring myself back to the work and back to myself while doing the work. They declutter the brain from the New York Times, the newsletters, and the omnipresent clusterfuck that constitutes the world of 2017. They are my way of signaling to myself that I am alive even if I sometimes feel the opposite before/when/after I write them; they remind me that there is something resembling a brain in here and that it hasn’t turned into an inert morass of overloaded inputs, corporeal and digital.
To the work.
Reading: Faulkner, THE HAMLET (still) / Listening: typing.
In which this home briefly returns to being just a house.
Izzy, the newest member of our family and my little rescue, is spending the day and night at the vet to earn her post-spay cone. It’s only been a short time since the little dog came into my life, but in the hour since K dropped her off, her absence marks a striking and disconcerting return to this house being simply a house.
I know that tomorrow, the Puppers will come back, slightly groggy and with a ring of plastic around her head and that home will return. In the ten ensuing days of Izzy’s JURASSIC PARK-dilophosaurus cosplay, The Morkie will no doubt attempt to teach her her trick learned during her days of beconement: how to scoop up gravel and hurl said pieces with abandon.
Until then, this is a house. And I am here.
There is no comfort to be found regardless of how one contorts oneself in the pleather waiting room chair: there is only the view of buildings or parking lots, a months-old Sports Illustrated with the address label amputated, and the persistent sense that all is out of one’s control, be it the patient or the waiting.
The persistent ding of elevators and the air raid drone of equipment wheeled across shined floors with scuff marks intact. Floral wallpaper / stark lines, anesthetized against the world outside allowing only its own ecosystem of perpetual waiting and perpetual motion to rise above the din.
Legs over the side of the chair or legs crossed / slouched or straight / upside down or rightside up / the address label is still removed and one struggles to remember which section of the parking garage one is parked in and whether the parking will still be free when one leaves. (Seventh or sixth?)
The question of when the patient will leave, the waiting for the results and the waiting to find out that the results require more testing and more results; the only thing interesting on television is QVC and there is no room for opinion except for a universal disdain of the gold zippers on the floral bomber jacket that might match the floral wallpaper or the mauve of the exercise ball behind the windows of the physical therapy center, the hum of a treadmill.
The question of when the waiting will get to leave and wait no more (until tomorrow); begrudging acceptance that one doesn’t necessarily cede control when one passes through the glass doors and the non-smoking campus signs but the moment one wakes up.
(Happy birthday, Dear Morkie)
With their incessant and hypocritical drum-banging for states’ rights, the Republican party (or whatever passes for its present iteration ) governs as though they are perpetually the opposition party; they are an anomaly: historically it is the minority party that pushes for states’ rights while the majority attempts to maximize federal reach.
However, it is impossible to see this drum-banging as anything but a smokescreen to expand Republican donor power from the top down: for example, Graham/Cassidy would have transformed Medicaid subsidies into block grants under the discretion of the states, but nearly 70% of those states are under Republican governorship.
They are always on the defensive, their Koch/Mercer policies too unpopular and out-of-touch with the majority of the population to stand on their own legs; they must instead be persistent repudiations of forward progress, efforts to dismantle and tarnish the legacy of a progressive administration. Maybe that’s part of their strategy (if they even have one beyond bluster and premature keggers): it’s far easier, the messaging far more simple and visceral, to stand in opposition to something than it is to be for something — especially when the policies for which they must stand are indefensible, the cruel wants of a donor class steeped in hypocrisy and the 140-character ravings of reprehensible conman.
I recognize that I am talking to myself here, thinking out loud. And that’s fine. These unpolished scribbles are for me, a way to unclog my brain matter before the day’s work and explore ideas that would otherwise accumulate with no possibility for exorcism. They also function as a form of connective therapy. A way to push me to publish again, to pull myself out of a shell in which I’ve encased myself since the first book came out.
For almost a decade, I’ve let the Twitter slot machine (a brilliant comparison whose source I now forget) of promised reassurance mask itself as a balm for my shell when it was only feeding my OCD — indeed, these 30-minute “post and forget” pieces are a way to share without caving into the self-inflicted torture of caring what people think about these snippets of vulnerability and forcing myself to not seek to allay my insecurities about existing in a digital world by making them worse. Hence, a two-week disappearance from Twitter and–for now–a stream reduced only to sharing these pieces as quickly as possible and the movement of the Twitter app to an iOS folder called “Reassurance Seeking”; if someone communicates with me, I’ll see a notification and respond in kind, but my days of putting my face into the stream and drowning are on indefinite hiatus, if not at an end.
(Of course, this could change tomorrow: one of the key things about this digital world of ours is that it is always changing; there is never a right way or a wrong way to go about anything because the right way and the wrong way could swap places in a split second).
At the same time, I recognize the fact that being connected is essential in this little career of mine, even if it’s to a community of one. To cut myself off from tools of connectivity is insanity; to be a tool to connectivity even more so.
These pieces are an effort to utilize the medium / media in a manner with which I’m comfortable and, in offering a much more minimalistic existence, present an honest expression of who I am, for better or worse.
Reading: THE HAMLET, by William Faulkner // Listening: SEX, by The Necks.
“I got a room at the top of the world tonight
I can see everything tonight
I got a room where everyone
Can have a drink and forget those things
That went wrong in their life”
— Tom Petty, “Room at the Top,” from ECHO (1999)
Music is uniquely singular and universal; it is the power of the language to transcend boundaries and speak to all as it speaks to one. Few spoke as personally and universally as Tom Petty. And few had as good a time doing it.
The power of geniuses is that they operate on three planes: theirs, as the works they create are for themselves first, because they simply must (“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men—that is genius,” Emerson said); the collective world, as their works are heard/seen/read/studied by many or even all at one point in their lives (again, Emerson: “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”); and our own personal listening.
Tom Petty operated across all three with equal aplomb.
For all of his innumerable classics, it is his rarely-played 1999 album, ECHO, that remains the most important to me. It was my gateway drug to all of his music, to his thoughtful and relentless crusades against artistic injustice wrought by record companies and publishers. It is a distillation of him: vulnerable, relentless, rocking. Seeing him in concert the following year was a revelation: an artist fully in command of his talents with an unparalleled connection to his audience and his band.
A line in a 2000 interview in the Oxford American, published shortly after the release of ECHO, distills Tom Petty to his essence and longevity: “I just don’t want to do anything that I can’t feel like I’m doing honestly.” Tom Petty did everything with a stark honesty; his music will remain a roadmap to his path and the immortal sounds with which he left us.
Oh my my, oh hell yes.
Unclear if contemplating / executing a return to these pieces is the solution to an actual problem or the solution to a problem erected of my brain’s need to have problems to solve that are far less challenging than the narrative problems in the work in progress.
But I am here, so I might as well make the most of it.
The problem that I hope this iteration of my unvarnished meanderings will solve is a general lack of gusto upon returning to my office after breakfast as well as my recurrent quarterly loathing of online existence (but that can wait). I’m up here by 0600, depart to eat a diabetically-mandated breakfast at 0700, then return around 0750-0800, after the feeding of the dog children and subsequent general revolving door and a persual through the morning’s news (which may be at the root of the problem as I’ve yet to convince myself that I can safely avoid the news during these writing hours).
Whereas writing in my journal is the opening illegible release of the first block, its luster is lost upon the return, an obligation rather than a joy (before reverting to a joy as the WIP slog marches on). And so here I am, typing and hoping that these pieces will help return my brain to the writing and to the blank pages of the work in progress and perhaps, gasp, even give me something approximating enjoyment for even a scintilla of time before they too become relegated to the domain of obligation.