01.08.23

it's been such a long time since i participated in the first and second parts of 600 highwaymen's a thousand ways, a triptych of participatory experimental theatre. the first time, in may of 2021, i met a stranger and a bot on a phone call and we were directed through telling a story together; the second time, a month later, i met another stranger through a big piece of plexiglass in an empty theater and we interacted as a stack of cards instructed us. this time i went up to midtown to what i figured until today was the new york public library's stephen a. schwartzman building (the one with patience and fortitude, the lions, and where i went to try to get my first nypl library card almost two decades ago because i didn't know any better); actually it was the stavros niarchos foundation library, the one southeast of the flagship that replaced the branch where i actually did get my library card. i walked up to the seventh floor, hung up my coat and left my tote bag on a table in an event space, took one of sixteen chairs after reading the card it held, and waited for the door to shut.

we were encouraged to remember what happened simply by remembering it, and i want to honor that by, to paraphrase myself when i'm mocking a camera-happy friend, just taking a picture with my feelings. i will say that at one point another participant came up and put his hand on my shoulder because he thought i was the one, of all of us, who most liked to be by myself - his eyes smiled at me above his mask - and i put my hand on his shoulder: he would know that because he was the one. i think we can smell each other.

as we were walking out and waiting for the elevator i asked one of the other participants if she'd done parts one and two of the production; she had, and she'd even done the phone one twice, because she'd wanted to know what it was like to be person A and person B in the exchange. we agreed that we'd found the first parts more intense than this one; i remarked that those had hit like booze at altitude, and she said it was just like that. did the creators have to wait until now to stage this conclusion to the cycle because of the tricksiness of meeting in person during the pandemic? (there was touching today, as i said, and a few of us weren't wearing masks.) i learned when i got home that it was staged in seattle in march of last year, so - no, at least kind of no. i also said i thought that mimicked what the stages of transitioning out of lockdown had felt like; we entered it together, but each of us left it alone, in their own way, the connections all eroded. her name is molly, and she told me she was going downstairs to use the bathroom; i told her my name was lauren and i was going to go play frogger with my husband. that sounded like an excellent thing to do, she said. i have already forgotten the wording of what she told me she was glad to do with me today and i agreed i was glad to have done with her; i walked downtown to st. mark's place after repocketing the copper arcade token i'd passed around the circle, to molly, and when i got there i fed it into a cabinet and it was gone.

01.07.23 [on the j train]

if i had taken communications classes in college instead of lurching into and through my current career like an ewok in an imperial walker i would maybe know what to call the unpleasant shiver of self-awareness one experiences when one is revealed to be representative of a particular demographic (pardon the word salad here, i've only been awake and caffeinated for a bit) - you know, like when you're showering at a youth hostel in amsterdam and the guy in the stall next to you turns out to know your ex-boyfriend and also be a regular at the indie coffee shop you favor a few suburbs up the freeway back home in southern california. the unheimlich of realizing you're a type? this is not quite like when your phone correctly predicts what you're about to search for, but there is a flip side of this, a bourgeois relief when you realize strangers (or artificial intelligences, i guess) already know what you want. this is all a very inelegant ay of saying i was starting to type WHAT POWERS DOES A GHOUL HAVE and my phone leapt to search results about the speaker of the house, which is in fact the other repulsive and luckless being i have been thinking a lot about this week. on the first or second day of unsuccessful kevin mccarthy coronation i was out for a walk and got an "it's hakeem jeffries" text that i initially thought was from joe - holy shit, i thought, six republicans grew consciences and formed a coalition of the comparatively sane with the democrats! - but it was actually a fundraising bot à la all the "nancy pelosis" that u up?'ed me this fall. i had kind of wanted to get a pool together to take bets on how many votes kev and company would shamble through but i couldn't decide what the prize for the most accurate guesser would be (the buy-ins would go to some charity, i hadn't decided which yet. the aclu?) but i live in fear of getting punished for misrepresenting contest rules, an aversion i developed when i got stuck managing back-of-the-book fine print as a magazine editor that might be with me for good. anyway, congratulations, SPINO, i hope your portrait is a corker.

on ghouls, i just finished bones & all the book, and was reminded in the acknowledgements that the author wrote her "eaters" (it is the story of young people who eat people) as ghouls rather than cannibals, a distinction in her mind that involved their being supernatural beings and not twentieth-century donner partiers or something. this comes up both in the piece that interested me in the book in the first place and in a lithub piece that makes an admirable effort to tease apart the difference between ghouls and cannibals (and the former in camille deangelis's 2015 book vs. the latter in luca guadagnino's 2022 movie with david kajganich's screenplay, which for my money deserves an oscar nomination for some killer edits). there's a lot to break down there, no pun intended, and even more if you engage with the idea that deangelis wrote her book around the time that she became vegan and intended it to address the ethical problems with eating flesh - and i don't want to be unkind, but i think that theme doesn't land very well for me at all, though i certainly care about the subject - but one big clunker is that the layers of compulsion and need aren't exposed with much clarity. in the book the only supernatural power the eaters seem to have is that they can devour whole people (per the title) very quickly and leave only scraps, whereas in the movie eaters aren't that efficient but can smell each other from, in some cases, a significant distance? which seems at least preternatural if not supernatural? (this is the trouble with writing on a train.) in the book the ghoulish urges read a bit more like kink: the antihero can only eat people he despises and the antiheroine can only eat people who desire her (except for her babysitter, which is apparently a different case because she ate her when she was a very small child). also, ghouls are pretty universally, canonically repugnant, and scavengers, and...necrovores? is that what i mean? mark rylance's character, sully, only eats people who have died, but unless you're a massive dragon, a particularly gifted vivisectionist, or the water snake i caught and fed a tadpole on a camping trip in mendocino when i was a merciless tween naturalist, you kill things in the process of eating them (the only character in the book or the movie who eats only part of someone is one who eats their own hand or hands like an autophagous fast-food mascot). inconsistent rules is one of my pet peeves in stories of the supernatural; my other is when vampires get all forrest gump-y and traipse through history only meeting famous people and writing shakespeare's plays.

anyway: ghouls! the ghouls in the book are on their supernatural road trip in the late '90s during clinton's impeachment trial, and its musical references suffer accordingly (no joy division here; one charater asks another if they like shania twain). the villain has a backstory that makes him considerably less interesting, and the endings don't land very well. deangelis was super gracious about and appreicative of all of the strenous adaptation kajganich did, to her credit, though even that adaptation left me fuzzy on the moral and practical distinctions between ghoulishness and cannibalism, but for my part, after watching like 36 hours of congressional shenanigans this week i can't even tell you if house republicans are ghouls or cannibals, so i respect people who can put themselves out there as a general proposition.

completely unrelated: dr. john wyatt greenlee's english eel-rents of the 10th-17th centuries! "any eel-rent noted as having one eel due represent a place where the record is unclear about the number of eels due (such as the rent due for the mill at wolvey in 1251, which called for the mill to pay 1/2 of all the fish and eels caught there to ivo de dene). in each of these cases, the actual number of eels due almost certainly exceeded one."


imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 are house republicans ghouls or cannibals?
02 how many eels does it cost to live where you live?
03 should i report on the train itself when i'm writing on the train?

01.03.23

CONSUMED: A PARTIAL LIST.

bones and all (film). i have loved mark rylance's weird magic ever since i saw his shakespeare-on-broadway double-header (twelfth night's viola one night, richard iii's richard the next!) almost a decade ago, so i would have itched to see this knowing only that he was part of it; i also love joy division's "atmosphere," which promos and the film itself use beautifully and, c'mon, timmy chardonnay as a star-crossed cannibal in a luca guadagnino movie? so much to delight. the cinematography is gorgeous, and i loved the little nods to fraught road movies like badlands (which wowed us at a lovely theater in philly when we spent a weekend there for a friend's wedding this fall). as in call me by your name, guadagnino's last set-in-the-'80s doomed love story starring timothée chalamet, the needle drops are fantastic throughout (along with joy division, there's new order, george strait, a-ha's "the sun always shines on tv," a track that should propel every movie henceforth and be recut into all archives*). i'm now reading the camille deangelis YA novel adapted for the movie, which the author herself has said is not her favorite work? digging into how the story changed is entertaining, even though i'm dreadful at fiction and would never write or adapt it myself.

guillermo del toro: crafting pinocchio (exhibit). it would never have occurred to me to see if moma was open on new year's day; why on earth would moma be open on new year's day? hats off to my sister for asking the tough questions so that she could introduce her sons to jackson pollack** and friends; we had two o'clock tickets for the museum on the first and it was delightful. it also would not have occurred to me to go up there for a guillermo del toro show, for while seeing his stuff up close is delightful (i quite enjoyed at home with monsters at lacma back in 2016, also with jo and my older nephew when he was puppet-sized), i sort of figured another exhibit would be more of the same - and i didn't love nightmare alley, his last project i'd seen. but! this joint was organized during film production, and it did a bang-up job of highlighting all the painstaking work that goes into stop-motion animation and del toro's characteristic world-building. jo's sons are six and four, and i think a lot of the show went over their heads, but i think it would blow a crafty tween's mind; if i'd seen that stuff when i was a sprout i'd be a tattoo artist or/and a necromancer today. i also loved the big wall of photos and titles at the end of the exhibition highlighting all of the artisans and technicians that worked on the movie; the whole presentation deconstructs and celebrates passion projects in a way that makes visitors want to make complicated stuff and support other makers. bonus points for making pinocchio about fascist italy! it's time to bring (talking about the horrors of) fascism back.

splat midnight jade (hair dye). my hair has been various shades of platinum-to-plantain blonde and medium-to-light blue for the last few years; since it never gets more than an inch or two long, i bleach and dye all of it without messing around with sectioning and root touchups. i'm pretty good at it! this stuff was supposed to turn my hair an unprecedented dark green, which felt like a festive angle from which to approach the winter. in practice it's vivid cobalt that sizzles into darkness at at the edges, and it runs down my temples and cheekbones when it gets wet two full weeks after application and several enthusiastic shampoos, so when i get caught in the rain i'm a cross between a blue morpho and rudy giuliani (but the good news is that i have some information that will blow the 2020 election wide open). this dye is not the right dye for me! tantalizing teal (and its soul-frying powder bleach) remains the chemical headsuit to beat.


*i really, really love a-ha. it still saddens me that that my trombone champ "take on me" endorsement didn't make it into that new york times newsletter i was talking about two weeks ago, but they did this, and: heh.

**her sons were unimpressed with jackson pollack. they couldn't get enough of yoko ono's film no. 4, though.

01.01.23

2023: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

i packed up two pairs of light-up 2023 glasses for my nephews.
i renewed my membership with the new york mycological society.
i took some photographs of my bruised toe, then decided against sending one to friends.
i ordered a second(?) copy of this time tomorrow to pick up at emma straub's bookstore.
i sent a photo of my bruised toe to friends.
i revisited yoko ono's film no. 4.
i took a photograph of my sister's drawing of yoko ono's film no. 4.
i packed up two more pairs of light-up 2023 glasses for my nephews.
i stepped in cat shit.