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Faintly falling

Monday 3/4/19

Snow is general over Boston. But melting.

For some reason my hands keep being clammy on Mondays. Gross. Walked three miles on Friday. Climbed the Monument twice. Ran three miles on Saturday, walked two, went to the BC women's Hockey East playoff game vs. UConn, which I took Emma to. She used to play hockey. It was interesting to see how the gold medalists from the Olympic team played for BC, after their year away with the national team. I will not name names here, but one showed a lot of drop-off. She was a good step slower than when I saw her play two years ago. Laurel-resting, I suspect. And another, who was always a liability in my view with the dumb penalties she was prone to taking, played with far greater discipline. So, one worse, one better. I didn't like the look of this team. They were losing puck battles to a weaker squad, and I noticed they were laughing sometimes before lining up for face-offs. Like we're getting our jollies here? Where is the business-like attitude? You're an underachieving team and it's a playoff game. Anyway, they won 5-4 in OT, against a sub-.500 team, with no one close to Olympic level on it. UConn tied it up with less than a minute to go in regulation.

Came up with a new story while there, which I worked on in my head. "Drag Snap." My focus was on the mood and voice that will permeate, more so the mood. On Sunday, I worked out more of the plot. Walked five miles. The most upsetting thing in my life, perhaps, for how awful and painful all of it is, is the knowledge that the choices I am making that will render a story a work of art, that will render it as entertaining as anything can be, to make it matter to lives right now, if they see it and it comes from a recognizable platform, to make it last 2000 years, are the same choices that make it almost impossible to publish right now, before we even get into the bigotry issue. An editor at one of the main book sections in the country was fired. I like this person. Even though they hadn't given me work since 2017. The industry is dying. They were a victim of slashed-coverage. Because there is no market for these books, but the publishing industry keeps forcing their demigods upon the public. It cannot die fast enough. I want to kill it quicker. Provided there is something infinitely better that can replace it, regrow reading. I am reading's best bet. If it is to continue and, essentially, start again. I am the regrower.

These people are so deep up their own asses--which are basically like ass forts that protect them from reality, which they loathe--that they can't see what they've done. They have no idea, in their stupidity and hubris, that they are entirely to blame. No one or nothing else has anything to do with it. It's these people, with their prose vomitorium. No one wants to read this. No one wants to read this. No one wants to read this. No one wants to read this. No one wants to read this. No one wants to read this. No one wants to read this. Writing 101, some slop, and nothing of any consequence or value. You're getting shipped to a desert island, and you tell me you're taking any of this, and I know that you've led the league with the biggest lie of the season. You could be the mother of all of these people and you ain't taking any of it. There is not a shred of life in any of it, none of the guts of humanity, no power of voice, of personality, no quality or depth of ideas, zero entertainment value, no humor whatsoever, nothing more indelible than some half-assed chalk stripe on a dirt road just before it rains. Any good writer has their soul in their throat, and the life-force of humanity in their fingers, and both soul and life-force can't but come out, from word one, of line one, and you instantly know it. It's not the chalk smear that is wiped out by the rain a second later; it's the blade that incises from the top of the earth, through the bottom, so that you can study all of the layers parts of an all-viewable, brilliant, dynamic, meaning-possessed, fiercely human, and, paradoxically, transcendently, supernally, human, stratum. You're in there, I'm in there, and we're all in there. You can just focus on seeing the part that is yourself--maybe it's some geode off to right--or you can look at the whole. Measure where you are in relation to it. And really see what you are, too.

But they tell you it's awesome. Rather, they tell each other. Normal people stopped paying attention a long time ago, because normal people know shit from silver. And they always will. But the thing right now about normal people is is that they are not going to act via individuality in isolation; they need numbers to go along with anything and further seek it out. It's always been this way, to an extent. Shakespeare could live in your building. You could tell yourself you're a huge reader. But if no one is talking about Shakespeare, and you're just seeing some links of his, you're not going to launch your own Shakespeare party saying how awesome he is. You'll do that later, when enough other people are doing it. That's how people are.

The Beatles' first records were released in 1963 in this country and did nothing. People heard them. But they didn't know who they were. They were not a recognizable name with a recognizable platform. It would take until the marketing campaign of January 1964 to make that exact same music successful in this country. Without those two things--name and platform--you don't have traction--quality doesn't give you the traction. It doesn't get the traction. Quality, with the name and the platform, is what produces legs. Then the work can walk anywhere, run anywhere, and the work also sprouts wings, and there is no limit to what the work can do, because then it is about what that work can mean to lives.

The work has control at that point, based upon the capacity it had and has to add value to those lives, be it entertainment value, artistic value, emotional value, spiritual value, mental value, epiphanic value, human value, hope value, recharging/restorative value, direction value, humor value, drama value, and, when it is at its very best, a glorious combo. And it is total control. But not before then. That's why you see these godawful writers get their awards, get their fake praise, their manufactured platforms, and then they die, they bleed out from chopped off legs, or can't ambulate because the legs were always phantom limbs. Hello, Wells Tower. And hundreds of them like you. Whoever that cat person person is. There is not a lick of talent there. The manufactured moment happens, then it all goes away, like that person never even existed.

I screened The Devil Thumbs a Ride and The Unsuspected, two 1940s noirs. The former is sufficiently rare that it's not even in a number of surveys/round-up books of noir films. It was not very good. I'll accept a lot in terms of plot in a noir film, but what a battering credulity takes with that one. The latter is lesser Claude Rains fare about the host of a crime radio program who gets hands on in his researches. You know the kind of thing.

This is the official announcement of the upcoming 33 1/3 titles for 2020 and 2021, including my Sam Cooke volume. I am also interested in the From Elvis in Memphis and Judy at Carnegie Hall, which I had also considered proposing--I had a list, and they were on it.

I am glad that 33 1/3 got rid of their last group of editors and went with better people. Kevin Dettmar was one of the people in that last group. He is a professor at Pomona College. Last year he said I could write a book in the series on Billie Holiday's Lady In Satin. That was on a Thursday. By Wednesday of the next week, he reneged, saying that he was not comfortable, on second thought, with me writing on that subject because of my skin color and gender, and he also told me--in an email--not to tell anyone, lest he get in trouble. Great person, right? Glad he's gone. But he's still out there--that's who could be teaching your kid. That's not racism? That's not sexism? You decide that the person most qualified to do something won't be allowed to do something, after you said they could, because of their gender and skin color. And this is funny: he's the director of something at the college called The Humanities Studio. Ha. Of course he is.

Today I listened to the Emerson Quartet's three disc set of Beethoven's late string quartets, Andrew Hill's Black Fire, and the soundtracks to 1951's The Thing from Another World and 1935's Bride of Frankenstein, by Dmitri Tiomkin and Franz Waxman respectfully. Sunday marked 1015 days without a drink. I went to a late afternoon screening of Detour at the Brattle.

Plays really well on the big screen. Tom Neal is like a dumpier Henry Fonda. People in the theatre laughed at the end when Vera (played by the perfectly named--for this film--Ann Savage) dies, given the methodology of her demise, which is different than what happens in the 1939 Goldsmith novel. But, then again, he wrote the screenplay. There aren't a lot of noirs with a mise-en-scene reliant on close-ups, but Detour works that way. I think in part because of the non-existent budget. But Ulmer gets a lot out of this. Watch Neal when he's in the payphone at the NYC jazz club. See the beads of sweat on his forehead? He's clean-shaven. Then in the series of cuts, as he goes across the country, hitchhiking, he has more sweat, more beard growth, but it was that phone shot that established the root of the visual progression. It could have just been a guy making a phone call to move the plot along.

I came up with a half dozen op-ed ideas today. Pitched something on M.R James's "A Warning to the Curious," for Easter, which I read this afternoon, along with James's "The Mezzotint," "The Tractate Middoth," "A Neighbor's Landmark," and "A View from a Hill." I also read a number of stories by H.D. Everett: "The Death Mask," "Parson Clench," "The Crimson Blind," "Over the Wires," "The Lonely Road," "A Girl in White," "The Whispering Wall." Not a lot is known about her. Best was "The Lonely Road." A man is leaving the house of a woman he hopes to marry as evening comes on to catch a train. She is widowed. On the long, rural walk to the station--some ten miles--he notices some men pursuing him. An unexpected protector arrives.

On Sunday I went to the USS Constitution museum. This is a letter opener--imagine the tales from home it brought to news-starved men--on display:

Kyrie Irving: Is it possible for you to close your mouth? Do you really have no idea how arrogant and ignorant you sound? Your teammates hate you. He uses every word wrong it seems, like the drunken idiot blowhard at the party who thinks he's smarter than everyone else because he scanned some Slate piece that was "trending." Stupidity and arrogance is one of my least favorite blends. (The other day on Bumble, a woman actually said to me, "You seem to have some skill for writing. Keep looking up words when you don't know their meaning, and continue to focus on your word choice." That's good, right? Um...if this was a man, wouldn't that be mansplaining? I encounter this kind of thing a lot from arrogant, entitled people on these sites. Their own profiles are littered with grammatical and spelling errors, they are invariably witless, and they believe whole hog in astrology, which they cannot wait to tell you about. And they carp about mansplaining. As they prove themselves to be every bit as sexist, if not more so, as men have ever been. Could it be that all people, regardless of gender, suck to the same degree, more or less, with pockets of history where one side surges a bit in front of the other in terms of suckiness, but then gets passed the next decade? Seems pretty obvious to the non-moron, I should think.) Is he one of the best fifteen players in the league? Top twenty? He's not top ten. Dominique Wilkins was top ten. So what does that mean? I'll go one better: Dominique Wilkins was more valuable because he wasn't physically compromised at twenty-seven or whatever age Irving is now. And no one thinks of Wilkins as this all-time amazing player. Irving is frail, with a shit knee. Those don't get better. This guy is not that good, and he's a cancer. He destroys teams. I'm impressed that LeBron James could make it work with him. Speaks to how good James is that he can overcome a cancer. The Celtics are never going to win with this guy.

Speaking of all of this: tomorrow on Downtown I will discuss...well, I will just paste in the little pitch I sent to Rich this AM: So, I think the internet is destroying humanity more than anything has ever come close to doing. It may end what it means to be alive and to be human. It is destroying identity, individuality, leeching out souls, spreading depression like a great, subtle digital plague. I thought we’d discuss the right way to use the internet—which is mostly how I use it—and the wrong way. While touching on what I view as the new forms of depression. Look up Adam Silver’s recent comments on the mental health of the NBA. These rich young men are all sick and unhappy. Look at Kraft—a gross stupid boob, yes, but a profoundly broken and unhappy person. I have a worse life than anyone, but my problem is not depression. It’s external factors. Depression is internal. That’s why millions of dollars don’t fix it. And why the millions I have coming to me and the deserved recognition and audience and quality of life and domicile will play a part in my eventual happiness—provided I get there—because I am all sorted internally. And I will touch on all of that. The internet could have made humanity wiser and better than ever if it had been used the right way. But hardly anyone did that.

And as I thought about this, I thought about how there is a book here for me to write. I think it could be an important book that captures the spirit of an age, like, say, Between the World and Me, but actually good and not an exercise in race-baiting all the way to the bank in turgid prose. I have also been thinking about a book looking at the best B-sides and have started compiling a list when I am doing something like brushing my teeth or making the coffee. There's a whole fascinating secret history to B-sides. Having favorite B-sides, and knowing B-sides, and seeking out B-sides, says a lot about your wiring and psychological DNA, too, I would say; who you are. The what of what you are. I have also been thinking about that new novel I hit upon, Wing Wax, and the story it was going to be, as there was a chance it'd be one of each; the story is coming clearer, but it will be different than what I at first thought, and it will have a different title, perhaps "HAAT." That stands for Height Above Average Terrain. Or maybe "Sympathetic Ink." Do you know how happy I would be if I had the outlet ready for the masterpiece that was newly created or about to be created? Do you know with what great joy and alacrity I would compose? Because the world would be waiting, and it would be up to me, the challenge would always be on my shoulders, to surprise everyone anew and deliver, to prove that I could always do it again, and again, and again, and again, and make people think, "damn, this is as good or better than the last, I don't know how this is possible, I don't know how there is so much, from all directions, but I am glad there is." Right now, this is hell. It is worse than hell. It is tailored hell. That, what I just described, is heaven. Everything is in place, save the name and the platform. This is a discussion on Downtown from last week, looking at the recent John Wayne controversy, John Ford's Stagecoach, and Howard Hawk's Rio Bravo.

I was supposed to go to the cardiologist today, but rescheduled my appointment, as I don't want to face my doctor until I am climbing the Monument ten straight times the week I go in. I haven't been to a primary care physician since I was eighteen, but I have a heart guy. I like having a heart guy. It is now one year since I gave up all potato chips and the like. Doritos, taco chips and salsa. Someone recently told me that an Italian sub at the 7-Eleven has 4000 mg of sodium. I will rarely have anything with more than 200 mg. I eat no cold cuts, I will not buy processed meals over 250 mg--so there are only a handful of things you can get that meet that requirement, like a kind of burrito at Trader Joe's--and of course there is the no-drinking thing. Besides not drinking enough water--which is made worse by my coffee habit--I must be pretty good. Last time I went in I was in tip-top shape. My heart was perfect. And add on more healthy living, and healthier living. But I'll just feel better going in in Zulu chief mode. I expect by the end of this month, if the weather cooperates, I will be back up to ten straight climbs. Starbucks bathroom selfie here. Vaccines sweatshirt. And the Patriots hat has been retired until next winter, with baseball season coming on.

I will drink some water now.


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