The past few days, I've been watching movies at night and going to bed early. I read whatever on my phone is the furthest from the Internet — built-in light for reading — to fall asleep and wake up exhausted, like I've been running all night. I wish I remembered my dreams more. Stuck in tabs are an outtake and a cover, both of which are more night than day.
So, I got up this morning to see the sunrise. The ball burned for several minutes before the clouds took an eraser to it. I got the evidence above. Then I read about about the piano player in the Istanbul park and saw summer cypresses, which look so much like characters from Dr. Seuss.
Sometimes it's not about strategy, the long game, the hatched plan, the roadmap, the synthesized pieces and pitches, the new idea, the paradigm shift, or the expressed claim of a thought. These projections should come only after you have given care to the moment, the short game, the scare, the block, the scattered messes and unstructured arguments, the known needs, and the unsaid. The former group above is more impressive, more necessary for success. The latter batch is less impressive, more necessary for survival. The former allows you only to go forward. The latter allows a chance to go back. Sometimes it's the best move to go back. To give care, sometimes you have to go back to where you began and take a new path. Or it's, "How are you doing?" And when you get the answer, you ask why.
"All You Did" has a modicum of words, but that's all Kay Ryan ever needs to make or break your heart. "There doesn’t seem / to be a crack…."
"Today Is Work" (pay-walled), which (I think) is an unexpected love poem, by Ben Purkert in The New Yorker, "I’m searching for the right verb / for a dead frog. I want something / large but not so full it floods / my eyes."
"In Another Country" (also pay-walled), by Phlip Levine. Wanders, then pays off in the last line. "The wind kept prodding / at my back as though determined / to push me away from where I was, / fearful, perhaps, I would come to rest." One of those passages that silences you some.
"Casey at the Bat." YES, that one. Whoever chooses the daily poem for the Poetry Foundation must have gone to a Cubs or Sox game the night before because this was an inspired choice. It may not be the best poem ever, but it is some of the best baseball writing of all time. Totally worth rereading.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
And a follow-up. I blogged about Alice Fulton's "The Next Big Thing" in April but happened to come across it again in my notes last weekend. The note made me Google the poem again. What turned up was a tiny great thread in a Yahoo Group about typewriters. I learned a new word! Escapement. I found, too, a man had made a strangely simple-yet-beautiful video of one.
In most regions of Afghanistan, women can't practice the arts. Religious and political restrictions bring beatings or worse for singing, acting, writing, or reciting works. You likely know this much or you could have guessed it.
But among themselves, gathering secretly or calling anonymously to more liberal radio arts programs, Pashtun women have continued the centuries-old tradition of the "landay," Twenty-two syllables, finished before men or the otherwise censorious might realize the act or content, the landay is a rich, intense couplet. As all poetry, the form speaks to life's shared events and emotions, but it also now includes war and their digital acculturation. Romantic, mournful, sexy, angry, amused, frightened, the form bends to the mood of the speaker, brave to participate and sometimes illiterate.
Journalist/poet Eliza Griswold and photojournalist Seamus Murphy have spent parts of the last decade collecting landays in Afghan cities, villages and refugee camps, with the crucial help of women translators and fixers and women daring enough to recite or sing the poems to Westerners.
In June's issue of Poetry magazine, the editors turn over the entire issue to Griswold and Murphy. The entire issue. There are no other poems. There are no letters to the editor. There are no other departments, and Griswold gives the introduction, a truly moving one. It is a substantial claim, I know, to call something the best magazine issue you'll see this year. But I've just finished reading the issue, and I know you're not going to find one better.
The magazine has given the issue special treatment for the Web. Go visit.
Occasionally, you receive a mysterious piece of mail. The letter, from a car company, invites you to a Friday-night event of an unknown nature. How can you say no? Lori received the mailing, and the carmaker was Lincoln.
The event was last night, and I got to drive us around Logan Circle and U Street in a new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and we got free popsicles — Pleasant Pops, mind you. Neither of us are much for marketing pitches, but it was fascinating to see such a high-concept pitch happen. Check in on iPads in a hipster-y event space. Gather around a flat-screen table with other Gen Y-ers present to see a HD map of the route. Troop outside to hop in a mix of new Lincolns, each with a walkie-talkie inside to get directions from a staff caravan leader as we drive. We take off down 14th Street in our Lincolns.
Long story short, the car handles well on corners and a higher speeds. At lower speeds, the pedals are a little touchy. The sound system was quality (THX), but the user interface for all the electronics was a mess. The center console had a lot of power but very little you could manage without taking your eyes off the road. The dual climate controls were nice, and the seats were some of the best I've ever sat in, as a driver or passenger. The drive, though in some of Washington's busier Friday-night neighborhoods, was a good one. The new Pleasant Pops space was cool (hadn't been there yet). The art in the Sundevich alley — the purpose of driving down the alley — wasn't much, but I like alleys. I can't explain that interest of mine except that I think D.C. alleys are the best. Which, maybe, explains why I had a good time last night. High-concept marketing? Fine, terrific. High-concept marketing that lends you a car in the daily D.C. maze? Now we're talking.
The effects of new kinds or combinations of marketing are interesting. Do I want to run out and buy a Lincoln now? No. When I'm ready for a new car, would I consider Lincoln more than I would have previously? Yes. Do I see Lincoln more as a car for young urban professionals than I did before? Yes. Do I want to take a sabbatical from my job so I can sojourn to Detroit and overhaul their electronic and console user experiences? Yes. Do I continue to be intrigued at the evolution of brick-and-mortar marketing amid digital change? Absolutely. The same goes for all random, mysterious mailings.
The loudest quiet album you'll hear all year. It's the recovery album every singer-songwriter hopes to create. The writing, man. "Girl, leave your boots by the bed / We ain't leaving this room / 'til someone needs medical help / or the magnolias bloom." Or a whole bunch of songs later: "Big boy bustin’ in, / screamin’ at his girlfriend, / swinging round a fungo bat. / Bass player steppin’ up, / brandishing a coffee cup, / took it in the baby fat." And these lines don't tell you the half of it. Turn off your phone. Open the windows to the early summer. All the praise in the Times Magazine was right. Kicking addiction, the album is a "It gets better" for everything, and you believe it.
The summer issue of Oxford American is the worst issue of the magazine I've ever read. Nearly from cover to cover, the issue is disappointing and as boring as can be. It's the first issue I'd read from the mag's new editor, and I've subsequent thought long and hard about canceling my subscription.
But — after that sad note — two things. Since reading the summer issue, I've gone back and begun catching up on the spring OA issue, which is also under the new editor. And the spring issue is great. Really great. I have no idea how the spring and the summer came from the same editor. But here we are, and I'm rooting for the fall issue to get things back on track.
The other thing is a graf amid the summer-issue mess. Amanda Petrusich, often of Pitchfork in the last decade, writes about M.C. Taylor, a very, very Pitchfork musician. He is too Pitchfork for me, but I do love this paragraph, which gets to the heart of why Pitchfork exists and yet is totally accessible.
On the drive up to Graham, Taylor and I spent a lot of time discussing what it means for an artist to be "honest," a term (mine) that felt supremely dumb until I start to think there might be some purity in its dumbness — that its limitations might also be why it applies. If you think about art long enough — what's good and why, how it works for you — it becomes clear that every argument for or against a work is predicated on the notion that we're all capable of saying something true. The best pieces are inspired and conjured by our shittiest and most ecstatic selves (also our simplest and most genuine selves), and in the process of accessing those vantages — the deep and thorough excavation that songwriting requires — unknownables not only become known, but broadcast. If the root is disingenuous, if it's too performative or aspirational, if it metastasizes on its way out, if it becomes shielded or mediated or compromised, the results are flaccid, inessential. Taylor is intensely protective of that pathway: where his art comes from, how it manifests.
Well said. Will post more soon on the spring issue, the great one.
Even here in June, the overnights still get cold, dropping to the low end of the 60s, cold to anyone dressed for bed. The smell of the afternoon storm sits at a respectable distance, like a hung note. The band down the street has played a roaring show for an empty room and is unable to vamp to a close. As in your apartment, the windows of the bar sit open. High above, the echo drones sweetly, and you dream of instruments, faded pressors. Humidity registers but ices and cracks in your hands. You wait to sweat.
Saw Marc Maron after work Tuesday night at Sixth and I. I'd never seen him before — or listened to him. Just knew I should. Wasn't disappointed. Maron was smart and funny when reading from his new stories. He was smart and funny just talking off the cuff to the crowd, between passages.
And the crowd, it was the kicker. For every rhetorical question he asked, there was someone in the seats yelling back a response — respectfully, almost trying to be helpful, and he responded well. Same with the Q&A at the end. Q&As always put me on edge some. They're often brilliant, and they're just as often a disaster. At Maron's event, this part of the night landed somewhere in the middle. There were great moments, and there were drawn-out cringe-and-hold minutes. Amid a lengthy run of trying to offer Maron assurance that his life was valuable, a man talked about his album of lullabies that he and his wife play for their children every night.
You don't get the lullaby-album question/statement everyday. But the exchange says something about the storyteller, when listeners want so much to reply and can't help themselves from doing so. Truth rambles.
The best thing to eat at Melibea, a pan-Mediterranean restaurant in the West Village, is called “study of tomato.” It’s a salad of raw and fried tomatoes drizzled with very good olive oil, not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Though there are some cubes of tomato jelly, there’s not much to it, except that the chef, Jesús Núñez, of Barraca, the popular tapas place around the corner, has somehow found the type of tomatoes that you previously thought existed only at a Long Island farm stand in August. They’re so juicy they resemble peaches, and, as if to preëmpt any confusion, Núñez has written the word “tomato” in dehydrated tomato dust on the side of the dish, in breezy italics.