A beautiful mellow mindset

Look at me, just flat-out stealing playlist titles from Spotify. That's how badly I want summer to be over so I can go back to living a normal weather life.

Recent things I've experienced and/or enjoyed:

1. The scene in Walk the Line where June Carter and her parents shoo Johnny Cash's drug dealer away from Johnny's pretty lakeside home while he sweatily detoxes inside, and before that when they're watching him try to get that tractor up that hill and June tells her mama, "I am not going down there," and her mama says "You already are down there, honey." It's so nonjudgmental and supportive. When I watch that movie I always want to hitch up with the whole Carter family straightaway and learn how to warble like a bird and be generous and forgiving of sins. As much as I love Johnny Cash, I don't really need another bad boy redemption story in my life, and instead I always wish the whole thing was about the Carters and their sweet brand of Christianity as presented in those few scenes. Plus Reese Witherspoon and her sharp little chin and costumes and evolving hairstyles are just the tops, as is the fact that June wrote "Ring of Fire," an important fact I somehow always forget. And she really made Johnny Cash get his shit together in order to earn her devotion, I like that, too. "Baby baby baby baby baby."

2. Lily Tomlin in Grandma at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, which was packed to the gills with old cranks (including me). I loved the movie—you just can't have enough Lily Tomlin, in my opinion—but even before the picture started I decided I can never ever return to that theater. The combination of moldy '70s subterranean lair atmosphere and constantly yakking seniors both pre- and mid-flick is just too much for my fragile ecosystem to handle. I usually scoff at the notion of "self-care," which like most lifestyle trends has gotten a little out of hand, but this is one act of personal preservation that will be worth my time and investment, believe you me. (Grandma sounds like the name of a low-budget, mid-'80s horror film, though, right? Pretty sure I"m right about that.)

3. I settled once and for all on peanut M&Ms as my cinematic summer snack food of choice, since popcorn has gotten so boring. (Have you ever in your life wanted popcorn without salt and butter? Maybe once a hundred years ago you made that mistake, and then immediately realized "Why, I'm just eating styrofoam!" What a racket.) I purposely went with something classic and not those weird boxes of cookie dough bites or whatever, which are juvenile. I feel like Siskel and Ebert would approve: TWO THUMBS WAY UP! they shout over my shoulder every time I pull up to the snack bar and slap my bills down on the counter. 

4. Last weekend I read the book Laurel Canyon the whole way through. It is a hugely entertaining look at "the inside story of rock-and-roll's legendary neighborhood" and I had the sense while I was reading it that I wanted it to last forever but also could not, as they say, bear to put it down. I had to know why the music died! (Same reason everything else dies: fame, sex, drugs, greed.) I'm having a similar reading experience this week with The Good Lord Bird, which is the dictionary definition of "a ripping yarn," and an example of a writer who is so completely in control of his voice and narrative that reading it is like standing still and letting a wave wash over you in a meditative yet fully conscious way (?). (What I'm trying to say is, it's immersive without calling too much attention to the fact that you're being immersed, although the way I'm describing it also sounds like LSD.) The last book I can remember having the same effect on me was True Grit: at the end of a chapter I'll just stop and picture Charles Portis or James McBride nodding over their pencils or keyboards and smiling to themselves as they wrote, knowing what they held in their hands. And now here it is, in my hands, and we are tied together through these words on paper forever.

INSERT SIDENOTE: a friend of mine posted something on Facebook a while ago about people abandoning their Kindles and reverting to good ol' fashioned printed matter, and I left a comment about why I seldom use my Kindle anymore, and right after me another friend of hers—who's no friend of mine—wrote "It's not a contest, folks!" which was a real snotty, asshole-type conversation killer, IMHO. My point was that I have never had the type of experience I described above while reading a book on a Kindle (and I have read many!). We just don't have that kind of relationship, me and that device, because the device is always there. I'm never not aware of the device as a device that's sitting between me and the words. Perhaps this is a personal failing, who knows. I guess I'll ask the friend of my friend the next time I need a stranger to tell me my opinion.

5. On second thought that was actually The End.

I wish I were

On lifestyle envy, from Molly Fischer at The Cut:

Tamar Adler loves pasta frittata. Tamar Adler makes parsley oil whenever she has parsley. Tamar Adler endorses lettuce soup. I don’t know if these things are actually good ideas, but when she says so, I start to believe. So far, my boyfriend has allowed me my whims. Still, I know from experience that it’s a cookbook red-flag when you find yourself repeatedly advised to do things like use the best possible olive oil. Like, sure, I'm not going to try to make mayonnaise with some mysterious quasi-virgin blend from the deli down the street, but of course the things you make will taste good if you can afford to buy really good ingredients. This is not a fun tip; this is just a fact. I am not made of $20 bills to throw around on oil.

Swear like you mean it

Did I mention that I saw Wes Anderson at the theater last week? To quote my own self-tweet: "Saw Wes Anderson at the theater last night. We sat in the same row. Me and Wes Anderson. Wes Anderson and I. BFFs."

Anyway, this supercut of "cursing in Wes Anderson movies" is a collection of many of my favorite things in the world, which include but are not limited to Wes Anderson movies and cursing. i.e., many thumbs up!

Source: http://www.avclub.com/article/supercut-swe...

Weekend buzz

Obviously that was a head fake; this weekend featured no buzz, only the gentle jackhammering sound of my air conditioner drilling itself into my brain every second of the day and night. August and I are officially through, in case you were wondering. My bone-deep hatred of summer waited longer than usual to make its appearance this year, which had at least the illusion of personal growth to it, but now even that is dead for me. Turns out I haven't evolved at all! In fact it feels like a doubly, or perhaps even trebly (?), depressing setback that this is something I have to deal with now, on top of everything else, at this late date. I was so close to streaking straight through to autumn but was tragically struck down right at the finish line/third base/goal post/whatever. A real dream deferred.

This weekend was notable for some delicious cheese I bought at the greenmarket ("You guys knocker it out of the park!" says commenter Mike at the Valley Shepherd Creamery website, and I concur) but ultimately will go down in history as the weekend I finished watching Mad Men. Also known as the weekend that broke my heart into a million tiny pieces of sadness and joy and awe. Multiple people have remarked over the years that they were surprised I wasn't a Mad Men fan, but it takes a lot—A LOT—to get me to commit to years-long serial storytelling these days, and sadly, when enough bozos in my Twitter feed won't shut the fuck up about a thing, I feel almost honor bound to opt out just for the sake of restoring balance to the universe. It's a ridiculous and lazy non-position, I know, but usually I'm okay with that. Ridiculous and lazy are two of my best qualities.

Not this time, though. This time I stepped up thanks to the truly and utterly delightful Mad Men series at my number one favorite blog in all the world, Strawberry Fields Whatever. Every week I looked forward to LJ and Liz's Mad Men posts and would read each one happily while having no idea what they were writing about. It didn't matter at all what they were writing about, actually, but I'm glad it was Mad Men. I'm glad I was able to fall in love with Don and Peggy and Betty and Sally and Joan and Roger and Stan and even Mona and Caroline long before I even knew who these characters were. It's nice to meet the friends of friends, even though in this case literally all of these people are total strangers and many of them fictional. And Pete! God almighty Pete. (This was the same way I first fell in love with BSG, btw, back when TWoP [RIP] was still a thing and I would devour the recaps for this crazy sci-fi show I wasn't even a fan of. I'll trust pretty much anything I read if the writing is sharp and conversational yet also light on its feet. I think we all know and accept this about me by now.)

By the time the series wrapped in May I was so sad that they would never post about Mad Men again at SFW that I figured I owed a debt to them to start watching in order to understand what it was they had loved so deeply. So on Memorial Day weekend I started paying up. It took a long time to get through—longer than I expected, actually—and it was heavy, you know? It's a heavy show, no doubt about it, to the point where sometimes I would have to turn it off and go for a walk outside and think for a while. It's a show that takes some pondering. No doubt it colored my summer months and summer routine in ways I'll only come to understand in the years to come. But the best thing was reaching the end and knowing that meant I can go back and start all over again from the beginning with these people I know now and love in an even realer way, and absorb and understand it from a different perspective and be richer for the experience. Perpetual renewal, that's the lesson I learned from my epic summer journey of Mad Men.

What’s it all about, Alfie

What an amazing name for a song! Thumbs up on your smash hit, Burt Bacharach and Hal David (cf). I've never seen the movie Alfie starring Michael Caine, which is supposedly a classic, although I did once walk out of the remake Alfie starring Jude Law, who I typically adore but who really screwed the pooch on this one. I sat through about as much "handsome lad balling lots of babes" as a person can handle before they got to this scene where he's romancing Sienna Miller in a cab—I think—and at that point the dialogue and acting reached such a crescendo of atrocity that I had no choice but to storm out of the theater in a huff. There are some things that offend me on a very basic, personal level and the toxic mixture of tedious storytelling and bad acting is one of them. I was in such a foul mood that I drove straight to Marshall Field's (RIP) at the Fox Valley Mall and bought myself a Swiss Army watch that looked similar to the one Jude Law had been wearing in the film I'd stormed out of only fifteen minutes earlier. I felt strongly that somebody owed me something, even if it was just me dropping clams on myself as a form of stupidly expensive cinematic recovery shock therapy. Obviously I'm a poor decision maker in more ways than one, except I do still own this watch 11 whole years later and wear it all the time, so joke's on you, people behind Alfie! Your movie remains crap while my elegant timepiece lives on and on and on.

Sadly, Alfie has nothing to do with the actual subject of this entry, which was supposed to be how much I loved the movie Ricki and the Flash, which I saw on Friday. But I recently decided to start using arbitrary song lyrics for post titles, which led to remembering this great story about acquiring my favorite watch, which then morphed into a kind of parable about mining shit for diamonds. So factor all that into the cost of my lazy creative brainstorming, and thanks for sticking with it; tenacity and patience will pay dividends in your future lives, it is certain.

Anyway, Ricki and the Flash. I went into it a little skeptical, per the usual when Meryl Streep plays a normal, but ended up loving it pretty intensely and voluminously, which I'm using here to mean both largely and loudly. As I texted to CV immediately upon exiting the theater, it's the only movie I've seen this summer that got applause from Us, the Audience, at the end, which is always the mark of a special experience in a city as blasé as this one. If like me you enjoy small character dramas where adults make the kind of impulsive but human decisions that damage but don't destroy the lives around them, and where just enough forgiveness is what it takes for them all to move forward, perhaps you too will enjoy this movie. And while—spoiler alert—Meryl Streep does indeed sport that aggressively "rock 'n roll" hairstyle throughout the entire picture, it makes sense that a person who cared enough to chuck her family in the service of a dream that ultimately failed would need to cloak themselves in armor to pretend otherwise, in order to simply get through another random disappointing day. As do we all.

p.s. Lyle Lovett is playing at Damrosch Park tonight (Sunday) for free! I'll have to stand in line for a million hours with friends and crabbily entitled Upper West Siders, but still. What a world!

You

Our friends' wedding:
I'd lied, called it a funeral
to get army leave
so I could be with you.

It was a surprise, a present
and your blush of pleasure
cheered me like a crowd.

So here we are on the step
above 'the happy couple'
who will one day divorce—
looking into the future
which is now.

Ten friends together
in that photograph.
Fifty years on
and four are dead.

Who will be next?
Who will be last
and put out the light?

It's time to tell you again
how much I loved the girl
who blushed her welcome.
Forgive my trespasses.
Stay close. Hold my hand.

— "You," by C. K. Stead

Dream house: at twilight

Cameron Maynard/Courtesy of Rizzoli

Cameron Maynard/Courtesy of Rizzoli

This house is too fancy for me, OBVIOUSLY. If I so much as walked in the door I'd probably just pee in my pants or start drooling on myself. I have a weird fight-or-flight response to ancient stone manses, a mixture of claustrophobia and Edgar Allan Poe. They make me twitchy and anxious. Also I have no idea what people do in houses like this, how they pass the time, if they stand around licking gold foil off the wallpaper or teaching skinny wolfhounds stupid tricks, like how to walk on their hind legs or balance teacups on their noggins. But who knows, maybe they're very normal. Maybe they listen to "Gord's Gold" on the hi-fi and have their friends over to play Scattergories. Maybe one person is assigned to bring the Cheetos and sliced jicama, just like any old party attended by any old body, and when the party's over they all drive home to Monaco or wherever. But that's irrelevant. All I really want to do here is stand beneath one of those trees at the hour of dusk and gaze up at the lights switching on, one by one, room by room and floor by floor.

Source: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03...

Acoustic covers

Don't be too cool for things. One of the saddest things in the world is being too cool for things, but even sadder is to imagine that the things you love are cooler than the things somebody else loves. Assigning levels of coolness to fandoms, passions, and hobbies is a super lame-o waste of your own cool time, IMCO (where "C" stands for "cool").

+ see also: Samantha Hunt at New York: 

The reason I love 1D isn’t because they are so good; it’s because they are so good for me. They are a code sequenced specifically for my DNA, made to produce emotions I really want to feel, thoughts I really want to think. The boys and their fans are a reminder that the intellect does not alone belong to suffering and seriousness but populates girly things just as fully. One Direction reminds me that love, joy, giddiness, even hysteria are crucibles of intelligence.

The thing I loved best about Trainwreck was its devotion to middle-era Billy Joel. There's no logical reason for this: love is not logic. Logic sits in judgment. Love flips logic the bird on its way to the soda shop for french fries and a malted.

+ see also: my internet hero Maciej Ceglowski on Fandom Is a Tool-Using Animal:

Well, I'm here by way of atonement, because I used to be a real jerk about fandom, and I used to make fun of them. Then I had a life-changing, road-to-Damascus moment. It involved a strange artifact that got produced partly because of something I did, which I'll describe in a few minutes. It taught me a great deal about community on the Internet. 

As I've gotten to know fandom, I've grown convinced that they have a lot to teach us all. Fans are an example of real people using machines to talk to one another, rather than a manufactured and engineered attempt to graft social life onto a single website.

Willie Moore

For a long (LOOOONNNNNG) time I thought this blog should be about something. I thought it needed to have a purpose, a structure, a through-line, a theme: write about this thing, not everything. If you want to "build an audience," you need to FOCUS. I thought my inability to limit myself to A Topic meant that I'd failed at something fundamental, not only blog-wise but life-wise. Turns out I'm fine with that! Turns out it's all horseshit!

Here's a goddamn song—enjoy it!