I mean, it feels a little less crazy this week, right?
The Dingbat In Chief has lowered the volume from like 20 to 15 (out of 10). Saturday Night Live saved America this weekend. Civic responsibility has turned into like a regular thing. Things are terrible, sure, but they're not as apocalyptically hopeless. At least that's what I think. Anyway, it's definitely freed up plenty of time for me to get back to the things I love most: The Things I Love Most!
I read Annie Baker's astonishing play The Flick this week. Unfortunately I did not get to see it performed, but a while ago I read this great article about reading plays, this play specifically, so I didn't feel too broken up about it.
I was drawn to the play originally for the same reasons I was drawn to Clerks like 20 years ago (!!!). "Oh cool a bunch of people like me, I like me." And The Flick is definitely populated with convincing versions of people a lot like me and people I know. There's this scene, though, that perfectly encapsulates how this play goes way beyond just a charmingly accurate version of people who like cool stuff. Avery, who works in a single screen movie theater in Massachusetts (oh, did I mention the whole play takes place in the seats of a movie theater? That's the whole stage?), is on the phone with his therapist. And he's describing a dream he had about getting to heaven:
...Suddenly I'm surrounded by all these shelves and on every shelf is every movie I've ever seen. And like some are DVDs and others are like old VHS tapes from like the '90s and some are even like old thirty-five-millimeter reels, like movies I saw in the theater. And like--yeah. Everything is there. Like The Wizard of Oz, which is the first movie I ever saw. And like old Jim Carrey movies and the entire Criterion Collection...and then they hand me the ISBN scanner and I realize, like, I realize that the way they decide whether or not you get into heaven is through, like, looking at all the movies you've ever watched or all the books you've ever read and figuring out whether there was one book or movie that you truly truly loved. Like one movie that like symbolizes your entire life.
Here, Baker shows that she can get all the details right and, if this were a Clerks, that would probably be enough. But she digs into what those details mean to a character. Why are they so obsessed with movies? What does it mean that they love the particular things that they love? And what do the things that they love really mean to them?
I won't spoil what Avery's movie turned out to be in this dream, or any of the dozens of other things that happen to him or Sam or Rose over the course of the play. I'll just say it was beautiful and honest and thoroughly heartbreaking. The play won the Pulitzer in 2014, and when I first saw the button saying as much on the cover I figured, "Oh so it must get into some, like, heavy, societal shit, right?" But it doesn't (spoiler alert). Not really. What it does do is perfectly illustrate what it's like to be a human being in the 21st Century. And I don't mean that in a "Boy, aren't smartphones weird?" kind of way. It's about youth and poverty and culture and fear and sadness and love.
It's just absolutely great. Read it, so we can talk about how great it is.
I read like soooo many comics this week. I've been trying to shovel through my backlog, so there weren't that many things that jumped out at me as fantastic (and most of the things that did, I'm going to have to wait until next week to talk about), but there were a few reads that stood out.
- Deadly Class #26: I'm going to be writing a lot more about this comic in the coming weeks, but this was a perfect, relentlessly buoyant issue.
- Doom Patrol #4: I don't know that this comic is as perfectly strange as Gerard Way's previous best, The Umbrella Academy, but Ian Edgington puts in a ton of work to make this a completely essential book.
- Giant Days #23: Just read my review here. This book rules.
I also watched The Nice Guys and holy crap what a thoroughly enjoyable movie that was. It's like Shane Black saw the trailer for Inherent Vice and then saw Inherent Vice and was like "I want to see the movie that trailer was for, not the movie I just saw." and made The Nice Guys.
(I was thoroughly disappointed with Inherent Vice. I thought it would be a slam dunk. The director of my favorite movie ever [Magnolia], adapting a fantastic book I just finished, and the trailer was the funniest thing I'd seen all year? But no. I never thought I'd want a director to be less beholden to the source material but, well, here we are. Aside from the bits from the trailer, it never got as good as the opening title sequence to that Can song.)
Even without its top shelf political work this week, that was an extraordinarily good episode of Saturday Night Live. Kristen Stewart was really fantastic. Hopefully one "Slate" won't keep her from being asked back.
And don't forget Portlandia. I know it's probably IFC's most popular show, but it feels like no one watches it and damn it's so smart and funny.
wow that's what i call music!
I've actually spent some time whittling the mix down this week to make it extra effective. Hope you find my hard work worthwhile.
- "Cherub Rock" by Smashing Pumpkins. One of my favorite things to do is play this song and remember the first time I'd ever heard it. It's a song that sounds like, honestly, nothing else, and it's the beginning of inarguably a perfect record. My first time was at a listening station in the Carle Place Tower Records. I bought it immediately and finished it in the car all the way through.
- "Ribbon" by Superchunk. This was the first Superchunk song I'd ever heard, on a CMJ magazine CD. Can you imagine being introduced to any band by a song this good? Closest any other band came to that, for me, I guess would be hearing Arctic Monkeys play "A Certain Romance" on SNL. (Although I'm almost positive they played "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor" first so maybe that just didn't hit me as hard? Anyway, Superchunk is great.)
- "Hot Cheetos & Takis" by Y.N.RichKids. FFFUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK this is the hottest jam of 2017 FULL STOP. Play it, play it, and then play it again. Repeat. (I don't actually know if this song came out this year. I found it on a Facebook thread about Bandcamp stuff to buy on Friday's huge and amazing charity drive by the site. Shop Bandcamp. It rules.)
- "Red Paint" by The Promise Ring. Okay. I admit it. I only picked this song because they sing about Cherry Coke and even though I'm only ten minutes into The Young Pope, "I'm going to sit here and wait for my Cherry Coke Zero." is Line Of The Year.
- "Claire Hates Me" by Lilys. I know this band isn't new (or rather I think this band isn't new), but they were in that thread I just mentioned and after a brief sample listen were an easy choice for inclusion in my Bandcamp Blitz. But this particular song. You know when you hear something and you can't believe it's been around for so long without you ever having heard it because it's so perfect? This is a song like that.
- "Joey" by Concrete Blonde. When I haven't been listening to Bandcamp stuff, I've been working my way through Fluxblog's 90s Survey Mixes. I've been struck by how sad and gorgeous popular music managed to be in the early 90s. This song in particular is just heartbreaking and it's hard to imagine how it ever got played on the radio without all of America slowly walking itself into the ocean.
- "Over The Ocean" by Here We Go Magic. I love this song. It's so weird and slow and beautiful. I listen to it all the time.
- "Old To Begin" by Pavement. Same as #7, but a little less slow.
- "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You" by Heart. Another one from the 1990 Survey Mix. This is one I remember listening to at the time and going "COOL! This song is about a woman who just wants to FUCK!" I mean, I was, what, 14? And this week I listened to it, really listened to it, and it's like "WHOA. This song is about a woman who JUST wants to fuck!" It's another deeply sad, weird, beautiful song from a sad, weird, beautiful year.
- "The Only Living Boy In Omaha" by Simon Joyner. When I'm not finding songs from Fluxblog or my old gigantic CaseLogic CD books, I find them on Drip. This one was a lovely surprise.
- "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" by DJ Shadow. I've put my 94-98 monster iTunes playlist back on my iPod, so you can expect a lot more "College Favorites" showing up on these mixes. When they're this good, though, what do you have to complain about?
- "No Happy Birthday" by Hayden. Am I going to put one of his songs on here every week? I DON'T KNOW, MAYBE I WILL. I don't know why, but when this one came on shuffle I just kept starting it over like a dozen times, even though it was so crushingly sad. And that was BEFORE I read what it was really about. Fair warning: This will break your fucking heart.