Empty/Emptiness: that was a good way to describe Ghost’s feelings towards Annie Leibovitz. He did not dislike her work. How could he? Her photographs were beautiful images of beautiful people. But Leibovitz’s entire leviathan oeuvre was completely ignitionless. The question every image must answer is: Who gives a damn? Leibovitz’s answer to this question was obvious: her images are cultural documents. As such, they are the provenance of Cultural Studies, and as Ghost had learned from reading Walter Benjamin, Cultural Studies is an exercise in empty/emptiness.
A peasant boy, leading his family’s dairy cow back from grazing, came across a troll who offered him a trade. For your cow, dear boy, I will offer you an orgasm, said the troll.
That night discussing Jamison’s failed antiarrhythmic therapy and her cardiologist’s inability to pick up on her alcohol abuse wasn’t the first time I’d heard a doctor say, “When you’re a hammer, all you see is a nail.” Doctors often throw this phrase around when we explain missed diagnoses or a surgeon’s refusal to consider non-operative therapies or even a patient’s insistence that her headache is due to a brain tumor. But we’ve also employed this cliché to describe how we don’t turn off our doctoring outside the hospital or clinic. We wonder aloud if our neighbor has a pituitary tumor. We tell our uncle he will die of a heart attack before he retires if he doesn’t lose fifty pounds. We comment on the salt or fat or carbohydrate content of meals. We speculate on why some of our kids’ friends are always covered in snot.
I realized that I really had always been interested in crazy, ambitious, possibly-endless projects -- I love Diana Nyad, Ernest Shackleton, people who walk across continents, that kind of thing. What a way to live, you know? I am very low-energy and non-extreme myself, and would probably die on the first day of any expedition, so part of my attraction is sheer mystification.
For the majority of women and girls just trying to live our lives, it comes down to this: when we are raped, it’s usually by men or boys we know who are so confident in their ability to overpower us, they don’t even think they need a weapon. As insulting and depressing as that sounds, it’s not the worst news. This is an enemy we can beat.
What you said/ sent the cockroach/ under the refrigerator.
I figured I could make a king cake. I figured I should make a king cake. Being from Mobile, Ala., the home of the first Mardi Gras celebration in America (not New Orleans, Mobilians are sensitive about that), I thought it’d only be right that I tried once, at least. Maybe it’d be on par with a local Louisiana bakery? The bar was high according to my father. But at the very least it’d be homemade by me and there are points for that, and I could always blame a screw-up on the recipe. I’d bring it in to work, because what did I need with a bunch of king cake at home. I’d be an authority on king cakes.
Certainly to be an adult is to be many, many things we think of as childlike: vulnerable, mistaken, confused, petulant, afraid, irrational, and despairing. We never stop making missteps, learning, and growing up. But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes have our shit mostly together. Just like many children do.
I confessed to my older brother that my outbursts, all the yelling I was doing combined with the physicality required to control Mateo, felt like a form of emotional and physical abuse. “If a hidden camera was following me,” I said, “and you watched that footage, you’d say there was something seriously wrong with the father.” My brother, who has four children, empathized but warned against continuing this pattern. He’d done the same thing with his youngest child, and he now felt guilty seeing how often she, at age nine, erupted. Neither of us extended the conversation to its logical conclusion – had we failed our children? – but perhaps that point was already understood.
This diagram was drawn in rage and terror, working against subjection and abjection in attempts to objectify "the paradigm" so that it may be exposed and embarrassed as "a construction." How does such a diagramming process "work"? To flatten and position epistemes and influences is to perform a semblance of control, but isn't this very definition of "control" the same will-to-power that constructs binary gender and other coercive and oppressive orders for human qualities and properties in the first place?
Then the two artists talked about committing themselves to an insane asylum for the winter. They talked about how warm it would be in the insane asylum, with television, clean sheets on soft beds, hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes, a dance once a week with the lady kooks, clean clothes, a locked razor and lovely young student nurses. Ah, yes, there was a future in the insane asylum. No winter spent there could be a total loss.
He was aware of the dump truck/ And he knew it would squat on him/ If he wanted it to
Hardly the most naturally gifted musician or performer of his generation, he is one of the very few one can imagine triumphing as anything other than as a rock star. Musical compositions were as much a means as an end, and it is impossible to gauge his legacy without taking into account the interdisciplinary multi-media nature of the finest creation of the lad born as David Jones in Brixton: global super-star David Bowie. In line with a raison d’être pursued throughout his life and career, his art collection accrued significant economic and symbolic capital, whilst allowing him to adopt an almost avuncular role.
Though I fetishize anachronisms like typewriters and newspapers, I’m only pretending not to be as technology-addicted as everyone else. In practice going through a day phoneless feels like I’m trying to do everything while wearing mittens. I have to stop and ask a stranger for directions, like no one has done in America since 2008. When I see the beautiful view of the city from the Morningside Park cliff, I can’t Instagram it. I feel momentarily bereft. But it is beautiful! What did I used to do with beautiful things before I had a smartphone? Oh yeah. I wrote them down.
Orla’s Ethics professor starved himself to death; her brother cycled off a cliff. The cantor climbed the church’s steeple and stepped into the air. All in the wake of Orla’s death.
There are cuts on paper,/ Scissors on cuts,/Paper on scissors,/Hands on scissors,/ Scissors on paper,/ Paper on hands,/ And our hands on paper./ Ours is a war on paper,/Rather than on scissors.
There is a river that runs through the center of Kyoto: I first heard it here. A few have suggested it might be the sho, a mouth organ that is used in gagaku court performances. Wikipedia tells me that gagaku literally translates to "elegant music." That is a genre, which is also a judgment, which is also a historical fact.
"Well, that’s cool. What is god, but a self-reflexive tautology?"
Who is educated by Mozart at the Emperor’s Opera house? Or by Velazquez’ Las Meninas – which only hung in the royal palace until very recently yet somehow affected all of subsequent art-history. We are “enlarged” and “educated” by art in a language beyond words and by osmosis and incrementally. Often we don’t even know how or that we’ve been “enlarged” and “educated” till years later.
My calendar informs me that that November gala 13th will be my 87th of 2017, and probably in the neighborhood of the 400th of my seven-year career. In that time I’ve visited schools in rural Guatemala and a community center in Soweto, South Africa. I’ve shared lunch with women in domestic violence shelters and served lunch to the homeless in food kitchens. I’ve donned a blue jump suit and emptied trash cans on the Upper East Side with formerly incarcerated men of color working to put their lives back together.
The body is the seat of the mind, where the mind happens, but it does not set the boundaries of the mind. If the body is a cage, Wallace’s creation is proof that the mind can make itself smaller than the gaps between bars. Wallace’s confinement was undoubtedly torturous, surreal, and painful, and he expresses this in his letters to Sumell. In the virtual tour of his house, he gives explanations for certain features, such as the master bedroom’s jacuzzi bathtub, six square feet larger than his cell. In the words of Sumell, “[The House That Wallace Built] illustrates not only what is wrong, but also what is possible.”
I wonder if Marina Benjamin considered another title for her excellent book, The Middlepause. Specifically, I wonder if she thought about using “Mental Menopause,” a catchy moniker used by one of her friends as they discuss their mutual exploration of middle age and beyond. “It’s more a mental menopause I’ve been struggling with,” this friend shares, “with every significant choice I’ve ever made suddenly up for review – education, career choice, where to live, children; even your key relationship, which is so established, it requires work.”
I think it's rather vulgar to refer to oneself in the third person. I rarely say my name aloud. And I rarely say anyone's name when addressing them, usually just stating something or saying, "Hey, uh, statement xyz." Do you do that?
MAX from MAD MAX: FURY ROAD: I know that it is hard to be in a relationship with someone who has such severe PTSD. I’m not even sure he’s capable of opening up emotionally to another person after what he’s been through. But if he’s willing to try, then I will bring all my reserves of patience. This is someone with a genuinely good heart.
After that one time, I knew she couldn’t endure chemo. She was so small and her hair fell out, her mottled charcoal/pink skin turned solid black from the drugs, leaving just her tiny black Chinese Crested face, like a little spider monkey. When a little boy on the street looked terrified and tugged on his mom’s pants to point at Nina, that’s what I said: “She’s a monkey”, and smiled. And thought, you-- you-- little boy, will be old and look like shit one day and by then your mother will be dead, so fuck you.
So many of us have been to art school and graduate school now and there's a lot of investment in a parochial way of looking at art. I think it's good to try to keep that out of the studio. Artmaking is not a good place to be dancing for judges. No one really knows anything about art! Rather than a conversation or a game, I like to think of art as a totally random collection of heavily cathectic matter-poems thrown up by regenerating but definitely dying spiritual-biological animals on a planet in space.
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side.
One very amusing Oasis documentary, and a short stop in Amsterdam later, voila, I landed in Brussels, finding it a puzzling Southern California-esque 85 and sunny. I napped for four hours as everyone advises you not to, then rose a la Lazarus to wander around in aimless circles. Getting lost was OK, then awesome, then scary, then fine, then fun, then alarming, then I stopped caring. Time didn’t stand still so much as flopped around in a haze of cafes, cathedrals, splendidness, garbage, beggars, tourists (U.S., China, India, U.K. most represented), squares, cobblestones, statues of that peeing kid, ornate windows, waffles, and chocolate shops. Euros are pretty. So nice to hear French. Dutch is hilarious. The youths are as tattooed and bearded as they are yonder U.S.
Art museums should have beds that lovers can climb into and nuzzle. Art museums should have choices of spectacles with colored lenses, red, purple, kaleidoscopic. Once an hour or so, or it could be once a day or week, art museums should play, loudly, a piece of music that people can dance to. Art museums with tall ceilings should offer bungee jumps to their patrons. This may be a perk of membership. Museums should have pits of foam so that we can look at a work of art and then fall backward safely and softly. Trampolines?
These honest recollections, confessions of how the mind and the body will grasp at anything to survive the residency years, how Kalanithi found his “munching apples” moments in the trauma bay with some harmless jokes and a soggy ice cream sandwich, are why I consider When Breath Becomes Air essential reading for any doctor-in-training, why I push the book on so many medical students, residents, and fellows.
When I finish a chart, I feel a great sense of closure that dance never gives. Because in dance there are so many mitigating factors for anyone to see your work and for the work to be seen as it was intended to be performed: a dancer can be injured, a dancer can turn away from your work, a new production is usually out of reach, things can go wrong on any given night and make the piece not the piece, the house can be empty, the house can be full, the tickets are priced out of reach of your audience, etc.
I told Chimamanda that I’d love for her to sign her book, "We Should All Be Feminists," for you. I offered her a Sharpie and she quickly and decisively wrote: “Summer keep writing. Keep doing,” and added a smiley face. I told her Summer was only six and I would wait before giving her the book. She looked me straight in the eyes, not unlike Gloria, and said: “She can get it now.”
Have you too been accosted by the sad flashing dogwalker?
One is often told that he/she should not think and act in binary terms - there is always room for gray. However, just as something can be on or off, one must be told to either "rock on" or "fuck off." (Certainly, I feel that people must often be told this! They can't read my mind. These switches will help facilitate this in a less combative manner.)
“The Paperweight Show” is the inaugural exhibition for the Fisher Parrish Gallery, run by Zoe Fisher (formerly of 99¢ Plus and HANDJOB) with Patrick Parrish of the namesake gallery.
Dear Mom Who’s Not My Mom, I’m bisexual, but my Mom Who *Is* My Mom doesn’t know. She’s a very conservative Christian and I don’t want to upset her, but I don’t like keeping things from my family, despite their disapproving nature. Is it important for our relationship, do you think, that I tell her? It would not be welcome news to her ears. Sincerely, Child Who’s Not Your Child
If I hear dogs barking in the night, my heart breaks; if I hear their distant clamor, my heart stops hastily. And I go back to look at the ancient orchard, the garden of those years, the smell of peas, cows, horses grazing in the moonlight. Then, the men meet in the olive grove; they speak of the coming harvest, of the ghosts that at that time are appearing like birds, the specters with wings made of sheets, and they steal all the fruit.