I don’t know John Edgar Wideman’s work, but…

This passage from a recent Esquire Classics interview with him, via the Sunday Long Read email newsletter, is good, particularly Wideman’s thoughts on how completion of a creative exercise — in his case writing a book — affects you. One thing I’ve struggled with on a personal level throughout my digital work is how the multi-tracked, iteration-heavy nature of digital creation leaves you, at times, without clear breaking points, moments of celebration, cyclical energy, etc.

EC: Are you pleased with how [the book] turned out?

JW: Yes, I am. Of course you always think writing a book will change your life.

EC: You mean how well it is reviewed, how it sells?

JW: No, not in that sense. Not that it will get you something concrete but this sense that everything fails, this pessimisim of being human, being vulnerable. When you start out on a book, you’re hoping that when you finish you’ll be different. How different? What different? If you knew that you wouldn’t need to write the book. You can’t say. Just that you are going to be a different person. That is hope in its most amorphous, shimmery, vaporous sense, but I think it’s part of the artistic urge. To write something, to make a piece of music, you really think you are going to change the world.

You’re not a new person when you’ve finished a book. The world hasn’t changed. But it’s not bad that you were able to sit down and do it. And it’s not bad that it ends. Then you try to sit down and do it again if you get the urge, if you can stretch yourself and make the leap.

Checking in with Moose

From the CBS affiliate in New York:

As head basketball coach at Montoursville High School in Pennsylvania, the 270-game winner has more anxiety about his team’s 2-5 start than seeing if he will move closer to the 75 percent balloting mark needed for election to Cooperstown. Mussina saw a significant gain a year ago when he garnered 43 percent and has momentum that could get him there in the next couple years.

As of today, Mike sits at 60.5 percent. Momentum!

Favorite things from the holiday Hammacher Schlemmer catalog

I’m just happy these things exist and appear in the same catalog.

  • The Traditional Handcrafted Han Dynasty Brass Gong
  • The Indoor Flameless Marshmallow Roaster
  • The 80 Foot Snowball Launcher
  • The 15′ Inflatable Rudolph
  • The Messless Chocolate Milk Mixing Mug
  • The Faceless Watch
  • The Spinning Spaghetti Forks
  • The Levitating Bluetooth Speaker
  • The 15 Ft. Inflatable Bumble The Snow Monster
  • The Only Six-Person Sandless Beach Mat

Visiting the Renwick

A great idea from Lori for my vacation week. Most of last year’s Instagram-bait is gone (and while that label sounds judgmental, I don’t mean it that way). But a few pieces remain, and they’re joined by a wonderful collection of subverted forms. Full-size pianos and cars made from clay, metal-like sculptures made from wood, vases that look ancient but droop and break with 21st-century thought, quilts that look like Americana but are political statements when you get up close.

The lost streets of Swampoodle

One of my favorite Internet time-wasters is near-history research of the neighborhoods in my life. So, it made my day recently to discover there had once been a street in the middle of a block I’d walked hundreds of times.

The fantastic Old Time D.C. Facebook account (a public one absolutely worth following) sent me hunting. An 1962 photo of North Capitol Street, looking northward from Eye-ish toward H, begged the question of what street the foreground people were crossing. The street was too close to H to be Eye.

In well-known Gonzaga history, the Eye Street on campus had once been a real street. The street had also extended across North Capitol, through to First Street NE. I didn’t know, though, that there had been a street between H and Eye Streets NE, in the block where Gonzaga’s football field and an office building now sit.

The street, a skinny one, was Defrees Street, named after the first head of the neighboring Government Printing Office, John Defrees. Via the Ghosts of D.C. blog (also worth following), click on the 1888 map below to expand and get a better view.

I’m posting this information half because I promised I would to my uncle, who also went to Gonzaga, and half because I love how the Internet, amid all its mess, makes neighborhood history more available for learning and the imagination.

One of 2016’s smaller, better decisions

Friend Brian tweeted a link this morning to Wired‘s 2014 oral history of the movie-making of The Right Stuff. Lori and I are both big space-movie fans — remember when she starred in Gravity? — and one of the best movie-night decisions we made in 2016 was watching The Right Stuff for the first time.

There are dozens of good and fascinating moments in the oral history, especially around how they shot different complicated scenes in the era before CGI. And Jeff Goldblum, to go with his small-but-funny role in the movie, appears briefly and is very much himself. About filming on an aircraft carrier:

RIP John Glenn, who, through virtues of a grade-school book report, was a childhood hero of mine. He didn’t like the movie. But what he did — and the way his actions and attitude came across in the film — made space seem so possible.

Owner of that difficulty

From a profile of Pedro Almodovar, but that’s beside the point.

“I spoke in a very direct way through the character,” he explained. “He’s a psychopath, close to what it is to be a director.” He noted that Truffaut once defined a director as someone who is driving a train without brakes and trying to keep it on the tracks.

“… The more money there is in the budget, the more compromises you have to make with that money.” Small-budget films, he added, come with plenty of problems of their own. “But you are owner of that difficulty,” he said. “And that is of the greatest importance.”

Poems during a stressful season

How Wonderful” by Irving Feldman.

How wonderful to be understood,
to just sit here while some kind person
relieves you of the awful burden
of having to explain yourself…

Asleep You Become a Continent” by Francisco Aragon.

asleep you become a continent—
undiscovered, mysterious, long,
your legs mountain ranges
encircling valleys, ravines

Fiction” by Howard Nemerov, via Lori.

The people in the elevator all
Face front, they all keep still, they all
Look up with the rapt and stupid look of saints

“Something in the Night” by Bruce Springsteen.