As disturbing as it is the percentage of people who think their personalities and who they are was determined by how close the earth was to the sun when they were born, the people who say everything happens for a reason are more frightening. It's a lot of people, between these two groups. I'd say three-quarters of all people. To the latter group, I always feel like asking, "So women are raped for a reason?" The supposition, of course, is that there's a good, guiding reason behind everything. A larger purpose reason. It's not about cause and effect. It's about a plan that is designed for the best. Likewise I want to ask, "So those children in Uvalde were murdered for a reason? The people at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park? Jews were cooked in ovens for a reason? What is that reason?"
I require someone--in terms of the person I will be with--who is smarter than everyone else. Who is a better person than everyone else. Who is stronger than everyone else. Who is more stable than everyone else. Who is open to having worlds open up to them like they have never imagined. Because that is how it works here. And I realize that if you were not looking for these things, if you did not require them, if you just wanted someone who didn't tell you about astrology and their sign, and who didn't say everything happens for a reason, and who understood how "then" and "than" works, and who could write a complete sentence, and who didn't communicate in abbreviations, and who didn't tell you they were one of the good ones with their imbecilic Facebook filters and signage about BLM and the Ukraine, and who didn't spout off about God, Trump, guns, and country, you'd have to go through 25,000 people before you found this person, who wouldn't even be much to speak of. Who would be some kind of bare minimum of non-suck. The people I describe above are what I think of as negative numbers. The person I described here, with these qualifiers, would qualify as a zero. Not negative. But these things are not enough in and of themselves to be positive. They just make you non-negative. And even that person is almost impossible to locate. Of course, if you are that kind of person, all you need to do is open your door, and you can find what you are looking for in just about anyone. How easy is that? How meaningless is that? These people pair up, but they could pair up with just about anybody. It's the relationship form of lowest common denominators. Very little is true, very little is real.
Yesterday marked 2219 days, or 317 weeks, without a drink. On both days this past weekend I ran 3000 stairs and did 2000 push-ups. Most days I've been doing at least 100 push-ups--there was one day last week I did none, but on another day I did 200--and have missed few days with the stairs. The numbers on the stairs haven't been great, but I was out there every day of that punishing heat wave for at least 1000 stairs. Another day I walked six miles. I think I am seeing some upper body changes:
This is an old, disused toll booth at the entrance of my neighborhood. I’d guess it’s from the 1950s. I like seeing it and do push-ups on the grassy side.
In her autobiography, Billie Holiday describes an early gig where no one clapped. They didn’t hate her, or like her. They hadn’t been told that they should like her, and that is everything, she says, no matter how good you are, especially if you’re doing something new.
Watched American Graffiti over the weekend. It is a hell of a film. Hard to believe the world it plumbs existed less than twenty years before the film itself. The 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s had such distinctive identities, and yet they resonate free of time as well, much like the out-of-body America of Twain. Also: Richard Dreyfuss has the quality of a seventeen-year-old Linus Van Pelt in the picture, and the killer, all-timer of a soundtrack is always in service to the narrative.
Jimy Sohns of the Shadows of Knight died the other day. Been listening to them since high school. He sent me a nice note once after I wrote about them for Rolling Stone. Here’s one of the only vintage live documents from the garage rock era. It’s pretty great.
Tony Dow died as well. A model of a big brother as Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver—a kid that one respected as almost an adult, and with more tact than a lot of adults. “Captain Jack” was the second episode ever of Leave It to Beaver (and the first filmed), and it may be the best. The boys acquire a pet alligator. It’s very sweet, and very funny. Check it out:
Old time radio in the 1950s must have killed so many people with all of the cigarette spots and sponsors. Any break in the action it seems and there is a super aggressive commercial for how wonderful smoking is.
This is one of the most unflinching episodes of Gunsmoke the radio series, “Potato Road,” from 1955. Virginia Gregg plays the woman and is excellent.
I read that people who nap often are more likely to have heart issues. Not to be a fiend, but I found this most reassuring, for the C-Dawg never naps! I’m actually violently anti-nap and judge nappers in sadly uncharitable ways. A character flaw on my part.
The Band’s “The Weight” is a song you’re never prepared for and that always surprises you. That’s what any true artist is going for.
Listened to Grant Green's Standards in the middle of the night Friday into Saturday. Worked until 5 in the morning on Saturday, then went to sleep, got up at 7, and resumed working.
The City of Boston employees who sweep the Government Center stairs I run move slower than the dead interred at Forest Hills. Every last one of them.
There is this other guy who comes out and sits on the granite island at the bottom of the stairs. He's about 400 pounds, I'd say. Neck covered in tattoos. The things that come out of this man's mouth as he talks into his phone. Not good. Some really abhorrent stuff, so I don't feel bad mentioning the 400 pounds, and I bet I'm shortchanging him anyway. He wears all black every day, like he thinks it's slimming or he's a ninja. He watches me run the stairs, and lights up a cigarette. Then I do push-ups, and he watches that too, and lights up another, while drinking his hot Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I wonder what he is thinking. He's looking right at me. Sweat flying everywhere. Then he takes that long drag on his cigarette. Perhaps he's an old time radio fan and the advertising has worked on him after the fact? Probably not.
Went to the MFA again recently. Also saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club the weekend before this past one out in the Seaport. The best active rock and roll band in the world right now, arguably. The Vaccines are something different, I'd say. But for straight rock and roll--though they mix up their styles--BRMC might be the tops right now. I'd say that they have three great albums--the first one, Howl, and Baby 81. I'd put Howl in a list of the best rock LPs. I don't think critics get BRMC at all, going by the reviews. That doesn't mean anything. Well, nothing bad. I'd say it's more likely to mean something good. Here's their set from Chicago earlier in the tour. At the gig I went to they played this awesome version of "American X," which they've never done live that often. There was a couple in front of me and they weren't even paying attention, just talking the whole time, and the guy said, "Wow, that was good," at the end, like somehow the quality of the performance still got through to him, regardless that he was barely listening.
While waiting for BRMC to come on, I took a peek at Facebook, and saw this post by a woman who calls herself a poet, about how she'd been arrested that day, with no specification. Didn't sound like anything severe. Protesting? I have no idea. She didn't seem worried about it. I looked back through a few of her posts, and I came to one in early July, when she said she wasn't functioning, that she'd essentially had a breakdown, and every day was so hard. I sent her the following:
Hello. I happened to see your July 5 post just now having arrived early to a concert. Most people are far too scared to reveal anything of what they’re going through. They spend their lives covering it up—or trying to—which does no one any good, least of all themselves. I don’t know you, but I read that and I thought, here is a person who will find her way out. The courage of admission is no small thing. I wish you all the best. And hopefully you’ve been sprung from the clink since earlier in the day. Hang in there.
She replied with this:
Colin, I've probably read your message a thousand times. While there is courage in admission, there's also incredible courage in extending kindness to strangers. You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that. To me, reaching out to Facebook and letting everyone know how badly I've been doing was just a pathetic cry for help, a drop in a very sad bucket- reading your message really resonated with me. Even the people that love me the most in my life would never describe me as "a girl that will find her way out." It's just not how I've ever been seen. As long as I'm coasting, everyone nods along and says, "Well, at least you're not doing bad." For someone to even acknowledge that coasting might no be my peak is as close to a fantasy novel as I'll ever get. Than you. Thank you for reaching out and being honest. Please don't stop reaching out to me and other people whose courses you can change through your honestly and kindness. I'm always here if you need to talk! I hope you have a great day.
We've spoken about respect in these pages. I respected her for saying what she did.
Watched Orson Welles's Filming Othello (1979) over the weekend, his last completed feature, though no one counts this as a proper film. I do. I think it's brilliant. Most of it is him in his house talking. Nothing else. Footage from Othello is intercut. There are not many people who have ever lived who can be fascinating when it's just them sitting there talking. One sequence involves a lunch between Welles, Hilton Edwards--who directed Return to Glennascaul--and Edwards' partner, Micheál Mac Liammóir, in which they discuss the play and Shakespeare. There's this fascinating exchange on the difference between envy and jealousy, with the three agreeing that envy is wanting what you don't have, or wanting to be someone or like someone--wishing you had their abilities, for instance. Whereas jealousy involves something you already possess, and a fear of losing it, or having it encroached upon. Regarding envy, consider the words of Iago regarding Cassio: "“He hath a daily beauty in his life,/That makes me ugly.” It is that which I deal with constantly in publishing. That is the root of everything. And it goes so far, that root. It's not just my abilities, it's how I live my life, and in these circumstances of pure hell at that. Note the precision of the language: "a daily beauty." Iago is speaking to the resplendence that only comes with living fully, and living in and for truth and beauty, meaning, consequence, and sourcing--a verb we've used several times of late in these pages--and disseminating substance. Living with purpose in everything one does. Publishing people have no purpose, in addition to possessing no abilities. By purpose I mean something larger than "I should put out this shitty book because it's by a Black trans person who race baits on social media and has a lot of followers," something consequential, that requires focus, dedication, commitment, growth--a daily expansion of the self, or at least a daily attempt to expand beyond what one was yesterday. And who is Iago? He is perhaps the worst villain in all of literature. And who is he like? He's exactly like the people of publishing, but smarter, and more self-aware. He articulates what all of these people feel about themselves. Raluca Albu? She feels that way. Christopher Beha? So does he. David Remnick? Scott Stossel? Ann Hulbert? Deborah Treisman? Bradford Morrow? Yep. Of course. And on and on. And you can't be uglier than these people. Not as Iago means that word ugly.
A few writers came up in yesterday's conversation-based entry on here. Just to fill in a little background--or, let's call it fill in a little typicality. Because people should know how this works, and how bad the writing always is. Laura van den Berg, for instance. Let's sum up quickly: soulless, Stepford wife type fiction. I'll put it another way: if a Stepford wife wrote fiction, it'd be exactly like what Laura van den Berg writes. She's awarded. Not only did she receive a Guggenheim in 2021, but her husband--who writes every bit as badly and blandly--got one as well. The same year. So, the Guggenheim people poured $80,000 into the home of these talentless people who already were swimming in money they never earned with any ability. Here. Go and read for yourself. Then we have Matt Bell: nonsense; always nonsense. Again, go and read for yourself. Stunning, yes? What is worse than what I've just shown you, writing-wise? And yet, she is awarded, celebrated, and he is routinely given book deals with major publishing houses. You want to read 400 pages of that? Because that's all he does, and all he can do. Who is that for? I'll tell you who it goes to: people just like him. His friends in academia and in the incestuous world of publishing. Why does he have friends? None of these people actually have friends. They have people like them. They are achievable, and so a Laura van den Berg and a Matt Bell provide comfort. I'm not achievable. I don't care who you are, you can do what they do if you wanted to, in the next five minutes. That comforts the publishing person, the would-be writers, and the pretend writers. These two people also teach writing at the university level. How do you think that class goes? Can you even imagine how much that must suck and how counterproductive that is if you actually want to write well? These are the people tell to do it? As they put similarly awful works by their pretend friends on the syllabus, so you have to read that garbage. Do you see how shit becomes the approved standard? What are you going to do, fail that class because you have ability? You'll conform. Then you will go out into the subcultures of academia and publishing, and you'll be a representative for this shit, which is also the shit you do, the shit you're told to look for, unless you want to be an outsider, the shit that gets awarded, the shit that The New Yorker publishes, the shit that fills up Conjunctions, which no one reads at all. The shit that makes up the writing of the world now, when it's not genre, and has resulted in a culture in which nobody reads and communication skills devolve. This isn't just these two yahoos. This goes so far.
You want to tell me any of this is good? Tell me. Tell me how. And spare me the "well, it's all subjective." No. It isn't. Tell me how this works. Tell me what makes it good. How about this: If the lives of your children depended upon you answering the question of "is this good?" honestly, would you ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, say "yes"? Even if you are their pretend friend. If you are a diehard publishing crony. The embodiment of this system. You're going to say hell no. You wouldn't let little Cindy's brains be spilled against the wall. You know. Those could be their blurbs--real blurbs: "Soulless, Stepford wife type fiction," and "Nonsense; always nonsense."
Do you hate me for saying that if you're a publishing person? First of all, that isn't going to matter, because if you would've done just that--hated me for these accurate statements--you already would've hated me because of what I can do and do do constantly. What I produce. What I know. What are going to say back to me, though? How are you going to rebut that? How are you going to argue that what I just showed you was any good? You can say, "He's an awful person! Doing his attacking!" This journal makes that impossible, though. it is plain the person I am. This single entry makes plain the person I am. So that's not going to work. Give me one sentence that speaks specifically to how those examples above succeed as strong writing. One sentence as to how they compel. And it's always the same. They don't mix it up. You get the same exact thing every time. They can do nothing else. No other kind of writing. They have no knowledge about any subject. There is no range of styles. Tripe with the one, nonsense with the other. Everyone celebrated right now by this industry is the same. You get one bad thing from whomever that person is, and it is always that one bad thing. You shouldn't be mad at me, because this is true. You should be mad that this is what is rewarded. And if you're that deep-in-denial publishing person, you should be mad at yourself for enabling any of this. You should be mad at yourself for not trying to fix the situation. You should be mad at yourself for living a lie. You were supposed to be someone who got into this industry because you loved literature, and believed in what it can do. You should be mad at yourself for turning your back on that person, if they ever existed. And if they didn't, you should be made at yourself for wasting your life by substituting lies and artifice--deception--for merit, for a search and a striving for that which could better people's lives. Thrill them, entertain them, impel them, stir them, reach them, shake them up, move them. Because no one honestly likes the above examples at all. They may lie to you, but that is what they will be doing. And that person who is doing the lying, will always be someone in publishing and they are always some significant degree of broken, from which they are unlikely to ever come back. Because your neighbor could never read this, and be like, "Wow, that is amazing." That is impossible. Any anger towards me, is misdirected. The truth here speaks for itself. I just didn't try to shut it up. If you have a major problem here, it's with something else that doesn't have to do with me, save that I don't try to shut out reality. Sorry? Should I apologize? Any example I show you on here is more than enough for anyone to see the truth. And the same goes with my writing. In the other direction, of course. Want to see the difference yet again? Stick around for the next entry. I'm not the problem, and there is nothing anyone can concretely say to suggest I am. They can just seethe, if they're bent on denying and stoppering up their ears because the truth is tantamount to an attack on their personage. I'm the solution.