With the government shutdown over--at least for the time being--I walked to Charlestown today to climb the Monument for the first time in over a month, aware that I'd have to basically start all over again and build my way back to where I was. But it was closed. Because of weather. You know--this could have been a day in April. Forty degrees, no snow, no rain. True, I'm a hardy fellow, but a light fleece was enough to render me perfectly comfortable. Get it together, park rangers. I ran three miles towards the end of last week, to test if I was beyond the back issues I've been having. They really weren't back issues, I think. The problem was the muscle on my lower left side, so, in essence, the upper ass. Upon standing, I'd have to remain in place for a little bit to let it loosen up. I then ran six miles on Saturday and nine on Sunday, but this running is not good for me, in a way. It will be better when I can stick to three miles or so, and do my climbs. I have flat feet, so that makes the asphalt pounding a problem. I can understand why people who run have problems with their legs and joints later. I've used these extended runs as a way to maintain my fitness during the shutdown, but I was limping today, on account of some fascia pain under my left heel. Yesterday's nine miles were not pretty. I have solved the nipple problem, though. Some female friends said Band-Aids would do the trick, but unlike my female friends--well, in the cases where I know for sure--I have hair on my nipples. Not that I'm Magnum P.I., but I'd still not like to rip off body hair after each run. So I've been using the Vaseline first. That's done the trick. I've also started drinking a gallon of water a day to combat fatigue and some soreness I should not be having.
I wrote three op-eds and a 2300 word piece on the Beatles. There will be high profile pieces out this week in The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone. Last week on Downtown I discussed the concept of play. I opened up quite a bit about my own life. But of course I am at my ease with that. Rich sent me a nice note after about the quality of these last few segments. What I can say is from my first appearance on the radio in June 2013 that I've performed at exactly the same level. I arrived at radio fully formed. I arrived in this life, as an artist and a writer, with more ability to be those things than anyone had had. But I was not fully formed. I had to work and work and work--it was the whole of my life--to master my talent. Every conversation I had, every film I watched, every time I opened my eyes and looked at the world, I knew, consciously--I was always aware of it; I was aware of it before I formally spoke--that it was part of a process I needed to incorporate into my development as an artist and writer, as someone putting one more horse in a matchless remuda. And every day now--I can feel it--I am getting better yet. Radio was akin to another piece of writing. That's what I discovered the first time I was on the air. My original thought was, "Ah, it's like being Oliver Hardy." That might not make sense at first. I mean Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy. But no actor has ever better understood the relationship between actor and camera than Hardy. Being on the radio is very similar. You can give the scene more power and immediacy by how you mediate your movements for the camera; you can also look directly at the camera and generate that power and immediacy in a different way. Anyone who is great on the radio has mastered that byplay. You are the magnet, and you have all kinds of ways you can pull the metal around. It is the push and pull of the camera, save the camera here is a microphone. You're both an entertainer and an artist at the highest level, which is the most inclusive and beneficial level, the level of transformative outreach and outright pleasure. I'm both when I write, and I'm both on the radio. To me, it is meaningless if you have the art without the entertainment. The greater the artist, the more they can make their art entertaining, while it still reaches you penetratively on intellectual and emotional levels. You will not find a single writer in the world--in fiction, anyway--who does this right now. It's either trash pablum, or it's up it's own ass MFA lifeless, cowardly pretentiousness. There is nothing else right now. What if there were? That's why I am at work on a revolution.
Yesterday I was at Symphony Hall for the Handel and Haydn Society's performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 99 and his Mass in B-flat Major, and Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major. Mozart wrote the latter when he was nineteen. There are some most becoming cadenzas within it, flecked with a youthful spirit that is a challenge to resist, with humorous pizzicato inserts. I found H&H's Messiah subpar this past Christmas, but this concert was recorded for a live album, and it was much tighter. The Haydn mass was his last completed major work. You may know it as the Harmoniemesse mass, on account of a notable woodwind presence. This is a full-throated mass that does not screw around. If this mass were a penalty kill--and I suppose that's what all masses are, in a way--it would be a very aggressive penalty kill. To put it in hockey terms.
Some screenings of late at the Brattle, too. Saw 1943's The Wolf Man, which is rather longer on iconic stature than high-level filmmaking.
Casablanca is this way as well. It's not actually a very good movie. You just think it is because of the quotable parts. The Empire Strikes Back is also this way, a film that is not 1/50th as good as its predecessor as a film. That same night I saw 1935's Werewolf of London. Better film. Books of horror criticism either slag it off and or blow right past it. It gets slept on, if you will. Kind of like the Beatles Star Club tapes. There's a rote consensus that no one ever really challenges, that became the status quo, and the work gets dismissed rather than experienced.
You have to be careful with this. Valerie Hobson plays Henry Hull's wife. She was eighteen at the time. 1935 was a big year for her. She was also Colin Clive's wife in that same years Bride of Frankenstein. Clive was thirty-five; Hull almost forty-five. The plant angle is compelling. I also took in 1961's The Curse of the Werewolf. Is there any visual signature in cinema quite like the color of Hammer blood?
They barely had a film to make here, which is why the part about the beggar stretches on and on at the beginning, and Oliver Reed, the star, doesn't show up until we're forty-five minutes into the picture. There just wasn't anything for him to do. The makeup in all three pictures is excellent, with Jack Pierce, of course, handling that job in the Universal films. I actually prefer his scaled back werewolf of Werewolf of London. If you are familiar with Montague Summer's 1933 study, The Werewolf in Lore and Legend, you know that this makeup is more in keeping with the folklore.
Some sports thoughts:
• This is the most confident I've been about a Patriots Super Bowl victory since 2004.
• It's hard to believe that Gorman Thomas was a center fielder.
• In watching the Celtics v. Warriors game, it was more apparent to me that the Warriors are the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, can make plays that few players in the world can make, but he lacks consistency in that the next time down the court he's just as apt to turn it over trying to repeat what he just did.
• The biggest sports story in a long time--and no one is looking at it this way--is what Kendall Coyne Schofield did over the weekend at the NHL Skills Competition in the fastest skater event. She beat one of the fastest NHL players. A male, obviously. That is insane. She was one second slower than McDavid who is--and I'll be conservative here--one of the ten fastest players in league history (others of note: Coffey, Fedorov, Bure, Orr, Messier). Now, the kind of people whom this statement will be lost on are people who know nothing about sports, science, and who consider themselves "woke" and blindly want to believe, and loudly shrill, that women are as good as men in these matters (MFA'ers sitting in Brooklyn cafes telling themselves they're writers, for instance). I don't know what "good" means here, and it isn't really germane. The reality of body composition, though, is that a woman should not be able to compete with a man in such a matter. It's not a skill thing. It's not an equity thing. It's a science thing. This was astronomical. It's not a novelty point for the news cycle. This was radical. I don't think people have a clue over how enormous her achievement was. What it starts to mean is that if there was no hitting you could have a unisex hockey league, a unisex professional hockey league.
• A fun sports discussion is if you could cut a guy's career in half and argue that each half, if it were an entire career, would be Hall of Fame-worthy. Want a hockey one? Ray Bourque. Another would be Gordie Howe. If you cut Tom Brady's career in half, you could make the case that the player of half two is the greatest player of all time, and the player of the first half the second greatest. Another fun one: What's the earliest someone could have retired and been a Hall of Famer? Here's one you can't beat: Gretzky, three seasons. But: Brady, four seasons. Brady is gaining traction in the best-in-any-sport-ever discussion. Having said that, I think Belichick is better at his job than Brady is at his. What's more, I think he's a lot better.
• Nickell Robey-Coleman is not a very bright individual. He should have cost his team the game against the Saints. Like, what were you thinking, dude, trying to decapitate the receiver--with your own head, no less--with the ball still ten yards away? But now you're going to allege that Brady is taking less steroids than in the past, and that he can't throw like he used to? What does everyone else watch that I don't watch? I hear athletes and former pros and analysts make statements all the time that have no basis in the reality I am watching. I think everyone just talks out of their ass. But this guy? Why would you chirp like this? You can't control yourself? I mean, obviously he can't. This man has no mental discipline. I already know that they'll find a way to exploit that on the field on Sunday.
I have spoken to a publisher about doing my book on Billie Holiday and a different publisher about what will be my first Beatles book, Same Band You've Never Known: An Alternative Musical History of the Beatles. I feel that if I buckle down with both, I will be able to make each happen with these two houses. The Billie one is just a good fit, ideologically, with an arm of that particular press; as for Same Band, this is the best publisher of music books, and I simply think it's a good fit. They know what I do with the Beatles, and we've talked for years, so time to cook the sausage. Two new short stories are starting to emerge in my mind as well, as everything else happens/gets composed. One is called "Orange Needles," the other "Prayers That are Simple." These stories are shadows right now, with certain parts I can see in greater focus; they will make themselves known to me. I like this part. I know, before it has formally happened, that I hold in my head, somewhere, works of art that can shake the world with their power. That which is adumbrated becomes that which is ineluctable, the ultimate in tangibility. The characters will emerge and they'll make sure I know them. That's the thing--it all just comes. I will be told. I wait a little bit--maybe--I do my part, I allow the germination to transpire. Then what I end up with beats the bag out of anything anyone could come up with. Wait, beat. Wait, beat. Wait, beat. Accept, beat.
It appears I am going to be known for the time being as Lord Urine until my body adjusts to this gallon-a-day thing. As this is inconvenient I have cut off the top of a gallon milk container--so as to not have to be so exact in aiming--and have that at the desk with me now. That's not true. But if I were driving some long distance I might bring such a container along just in case.
Each year I note when, after the Christmas season, an episode of some program, in repeats, features Christmas, and then I watch, because I like this. I'm on my fourth such episode already. The future awaits. May it be better than what has been.