Random, perhaps embarrassing thoughts, insights and opinions relating mostly to popular culture vol. 6
Random, perhaps embarrassing thoughts, insights and opinions relating mostly to popular culture vol. 5
--I suppose I'm late to the game but I love St. Vincent.
--I don't like the phrase 'late to the game.'
--I love games but am not a fan of organized sports, however this has nothing to do with my dislike of the phrase, 'late to the game.'
--If you discover the work of an artist at any time, and their work moves or inspires you, how can that ever be late?
--However, trends are real and tastes are, too.
--I love the word conundrum.
--St. Vincent's album with David Byrne is brilliant.
--David Byrne is a refreshing example of a popular artist with integrity and expansive creativity.
--I've been listening to a LOT of Sade.
--Back in the day, I would have said, "I worship Sade."
--Some people pronounce her name: Shar Day. This is incorrect and I judge whoever does this.
--I've been listening to meditations to be more compassionate. They work. However I'm still judgemental.
--Someone publicly wondered why Beyonce didn't seem to be able to use her own message of female empowerment in her own life and relationships with men.
--Solange certainly made her mark last year. I love that album.
--I read an article that Bruno Mars couldn't be appropriating Black culture because he's part Puerto Rican.
--The idea of appropriation gets all slippery when you think about art and popular culture.
--Broadchurch is a delicious TV show.
--Humans are fascinated with death stories.
--I enjoyed the parade of powerful women at the Oscars.
--Sherman Alexie has been accused of sexual harassment/misconduct and a friend of mine who's a huge fan says she's giving all of his books away because of this.
--I'm reading an old spy novel and one of the conceits is a character who's a known 'pansy'--therefore corruptible and morally suspect. It's odious. Reading this reminded me that there are new anti-gay marriage laws being introduced in the legislature. What does this mean for folks like my husband and me, who got married in September of last year and wore flowers in our hair, like real fairies? I suppose in another era we would have been called pansies and considered morally suspect. What we really want is beauty and truth and to live lives of meaning, like most people. What's so wrong with a pansy, anyway?
--With all of the advances in EVERYTHING, why does hair in film still pose such a problem? We can see the cheap dye, the bad wig--stop it.
--I haven't watched a soap opera in years but I wonder if it's still common practice for a VO to come on to announce a change in casting for a well known character? "The role of Angela will now be played by..."
--Is "Hack!" the worst insult you can fling at an artist?
--I'd kill for one of Judi Dench’s pieces of vulgar embroidery.
--Does Aretha Franklin work out?
--I'm enjoying the latest wave of pop musicians creating names/personae for themselves: St. Vincent, Sia.
--A friend turned me on to a Korean rapper/pop star named CL and I love her.
--I'm troubled by the number of commercials, and the details of them, I remember from my youth.
--What is Sheena Easton doing now?
--I get the impression that Hall and Oates barely tolerate each other.
--Do all country music stars long to go mainstream?
--When is the last time we had a dance craze, the Macarena?
--I think someone should start a non-profit called Piano in the Parlor, designed to bring the family piano back to prominence.
--I'd like to see a musical featuring the lesser known siblings of famous stars: Lorna Luft, Crystal Gayle, Stella Parton.,
--I'm just now realizing what a HUGE influence the B-52s have had on my life.
--I wonder about bands with no article before their name, do they know that people will mostly get it wrong for eternity?: Eurythmics, Smashing Pumpkins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Random, perhaps embarrassing, thoughts, updates and opinions relating mostly to popular culture. Volume 3.
--Will there be a Nancy Kerrigan movie? Will anyone care?
--The other day at the gym I heard the Isley Brothers’ Fight the Power and thought: Is this the best funk song ever?
--Chaka Kahn’s is one of my favorite voices.
--I also love Boz Scaggs.
--Remember years back when Mary J. Blige came out at the Grammys in that gold dress?
--I can't remember the last time I watched the Grammys.
--I used to be so snobby about Whitney Houston (that’s not soul music!) and now I pretty much love her.
--Why do so many women’s TV shows rely on an ensemble of 4? (Golden Girls, Girls, Sex in the City, Hot in Philly.)
--I like the idea that de Kooning’s later paintings were made and/or finished by his wife, Elaine de Kooning.
--Did Jackson Pollack and Lee Krasner paint together?
--I saw Iman in our small local market once—she had bed head.
--I once ran into Uma Thurman at a gas station on the Palisades parkway; she was taller than me.
--Last fall, I stood with Susan Sarandon at MoMA, looking at a Louise Bourgoise sculpture. We chatted briefly, but I resisted telling her she saved my life once at a traffic light in the East Village.
--My husband saw Beyonce at ABC Carpet and Home one Christmas Eve, plopped down on an Indonesian bench, surrounded by dozens of shopping bags, while her mother negotiated with a salesperson.
--This may be limiting, but Angela Bassett should always play queens.
--I loved Black Panther, now wouldn’t it be great if there were a movie just about all of those women?
--Susan Somers refers to herself as an entrepreneur.
--I am out of the loop on Young People’s Music.
--I adore Janelle Monae.
--I have made one Snapchat post.
--I bought a cd from a musician whose work I didn’t know and it’s completely wonderful.*
--I think I want more people to paint their houses in bright colors but then, when I see a brightly colored house, it often looks wrong.
--Reading The Color Purple changed my life when I was 17.
--Is Steven Spielberg a good director?
--I really want Meryl Streep to take more risks.
--I regularly create potential new drag personae. My latest is: Divinity Fudge.
Why do people not finish things? So many reasons.
What I am making is no good.
It's too late. (That's a biggie.)
I haven't looked at it in too long.
It's a dumb idea.
Who cares what I think?
What do I have to say?
Does the world really need another [fill in the blank.]
I just had another weekend workshop, this time in Kingston, NY--first time teaching at Sari' Bottons' Kingston Writer's Studio. Really great group of people, wonderful writers. I am lucky in that I get really great people in my workshops. Anyway, over and over this idea comes up: I can't finish! It wears many guises (see above.) BUT, it all boils down to not being able to show up for ourselves and our creative work.
Look, there are so many reasons to not finish, hell, there are millions of reasons to not even start. BUT, here's the thing: there are TONS of reasons to begin, to endure and to see something through. Most of those involve focusing on our own needs and dreams and wants. This is why it's so hard to finish. The world demands our attention. It wants us to be nice. To play along. To say YES to things we may not really want to do but we feel obligated. We get told we shouldn't say certain things or want certain things. But, inside of each of us is another voice, perhaps quieter, saying DO IT, MAKE IT, RISK IT. It whispers over and over again, do the thing you want to do with your life. NO MATTER WHAT. It doesn't matter what becomes of it, or what people think of it-=-what matters is that you do it. No one else can. And, really do it--meaning, finish it.
--This morning, during meditation, RuPaul appeared to me.
--I propose a five-year, national moratorium on all productions of Shakespeare.
--Call Me By Your Name is a really good gay movie for straight people.
--Disco is the most underappreciated popular art form of the 20th century.
--I believe that disdain for disco has roots in homophobia and misogyny.
--Remember when Meg Ryan was America’s Sweetheart?
--America’s newest sweetheart is Adam Rippon; will he make decisions in several years that will cause him to disappear from public life?
--I have never seen a Star Wars movie.
--I am always surprised when people say that they re-watched a movie or re-read a book over and over again.
--Tangerine is one of my favorite movies of the recent past.
--Do Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush keep in touch, maybe meet for coffee?
--While watching Project Runway Allstars, I can’t stop wondering how much Georgina Chapman knew and when.
--I enjoyed the heavy male gaze of the Blade Runner reboot.
--The last scene of LadyBird ruined it for me.
--The PR around I, Tonya doesn’t capture the incredible tonal achievement of the film.
--Having grown up in a non-soda home, I struggle to fully understand that fruit juice is bad for me.
--One of the most intimate relationships of my life is with my iPhone.
--James Baldwin is one of my heroes and I worry that he might not respect me.
--I’d like to have tea in Paris with Kristin Scott Thomas.
--The novel I’m reading right now details a person’s bodily functions, smells and quirks, and I am reminded that I’m a bit of a prude.
--Sometimes I think that I read too fast.
--I highly recommend a Julie Christie film festival: pick any five of her films, watch them, be satisfied.
Random, perhaps embarrassing, insights, updates and opinions relating mostly to popular culture:
—The Deepak/Oprah meditations are bringing me unexpected peace.
—Phantom Thread was dumb.
—Juana Molina’s music is giving me LIFE right now.
—I’m obsessed with a Coldplay song.
—Just completed Whole 30 and it might become Whole 365.
—Life without sugar cravings is a wonderful thing.
—The way that RuPaul’s AllStars works really bugs me.
—Shape of Water was sublime except for several moments of extreme violence.
—Excited to see Black Panther tonight.
—Roxane Gay scares me and I might want to be her friend.
—Junot Diaz writes beautifully.
—I’ve been wondering if I should wear more jewelry.
—I really need to see the Hockney show at the Met. I realize I don’t want him to die.
—Never a Billy Joel fan, I wonder how his supporters defend Uptown Girl (was playing in the supermarket yesterday, ugh.)
—Who is Bruce Springsteen’s understudy?
—Wouldn’t it be great if Bette Midler understudied Bruce Springsteen? Altho maybe not for the Bruce fans.
—The clerk at our local CVS just now reminded me of Kevin Spacey and I wondered what he might be up to now, and I thought: well, maybe he just found himself a job at a drugstore in some small town somewhere.
—I miss Madonna.
I've been taking a course on REVISING. It's been a revelation. It's taught by Chloe Caldwell. Four Tuesdays, the last session is tomorrow night. It's been really helpful. I'm thrilled to be heading into revisions on my own book. Thanks to a very kind, generous and capable copy/line editor, MARIANNE!! my stories are in the best shape they've ever been. I'll have the final fixes on the final four stories later this week and then I'll implement them. THEN, I begin the overall revision.
For those of you who know my stories, you know I write short pieces. The book, It Will Work Out, is a collection of stories that are in roughly chronological order (with major digressions within the pieces themselves.) The challenge is how to have them work as standalone pieces (which they already do) and still have the book succeed as a book a memoir. The subtitle of the book is A Life in Stories. So, there's the big challenge.
I'm going away in the winter with my pal and writing partner, Sari Botton, and we're going to work on our books together. I'm excited--up until now I've been rather intimidated to move from the short, discreet story format to the overall book format. However, the combo of working out the fixes/edits from Marianne and taking this revision course with Chloe AND, the time that it's taken, which has allowed me to STEP BACK and begin to see what I have. Well, I now feel ready. To contain the larger work. To hold the entire thing like I do a short piece and to refine the whole, thread the pieces, braid the themes.
I'm getting ready to finish this incredible project which has been years in the making. Some of the stories are 8/9 years old, some are from this year..
“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” -- Neil Gaiman
What are you working on? What are you eager to finish? What's keeping you from finishing? Let's finish together, shall we?
I just got an email from a former student--he sent me a great blurb about the workshop (btw, if you've ever taken the workshop and haven't given me a blurb and you want to, please send it to me)--anyway, Sylvan Oswald wrote this:
"I brought in a project I was about to abandon. Chris Wells’ workshop helped me get back in gear with my own process and locate images that resided deep within the material that it would have taken me ages to find alone. His workshops act as accelerators, as powerful magnets that draw writers swiftly towards the core of their own creative planet."
Last weekend's session of Writing Life in NYC was particularly intense. I was more emotional than usual--edgy. I apologized at one point for being mean to my students--they said I wasn't. But I do think I feel a more urgent need to help folks get their work done and out into the world. Maybe it's my age--I don't feel so young anymore and and I see how time passes and windows close. Or maybe it's the season--fall is such a time for embarking on new ventures, new projects. Or maybe it's the era of divisiveness and fear and polarization--we need to make the things we want to make NOW. There is nothing to be gained by waiting for the "right moment" to create. Thoughtfulness has its time and place, yes, but so many of us are distracted, overwhelmed, anxious--Put It In the Work, I say. MAKE IT NOW.
Here's a shot of last weekend's group--they were great. I get the best people in my workshops. Thoughtful, kind, smart, engaged--I have a one day check in this Saturday in NYC (you can join virtually, too) and, 'm adding another NYC session in January.
If you're reading this for the first time, meaning my blog, my site--please join us. I promise I won't be (too) mean. Instead I will be passionate and excited about you and your work and your ideas--I will act as an accelerator, a magnet moving you swiftly to the core of your own creative planet.
WOW! Love that. xx
I'M NOT A MORNING PERSON; Most people know this about me
So why did I agree to show up for a video shoot at 6am on a SUNDAY--meaning, wake up at 5 to get my shit together, then get picked up by the nice PA from Philly who's name was Klementina, all in the pouring rain. Driving to an OUTDOOR LOCATION where we would shoot all day. And I was wearing a SUIT. Most people also know that I don't really rock a suit anymore these days--I more of a pagan, hippy, athleisure kinda guy. SO WHY DID I AGREE TO ALL OF THIS?
Amanda Palmer, of course.
AMANDA PALMER or Amanda Fucking Palmer, as she is commonly known, performed at The Secret City this past summer in Woodstock. It was, as you can imagine, amazing. She did the Ukulele Song, which is one of my faves. And it was beautiful. We became friends. She's an extraordinary person. She had Bobby and me over for dinner a few times--her house is about 5 minutes down the hill from us. Candlelit dinners in old stone rooms, a circle of artists and freaks, talk about music and love and work and art and community. All the things I love about being alive.
So, when she asked if I'd be in her music video, for a new track called MOTHER--and maybe we'd be dancing together and I'd be a sort of politician wearing a blond wig and a suit and by the end she would have seduced/calm/entranced me into her lap and maybe even breastfeeding would be involved...
Well, Yes. SAY YES TO THAT, right?? THAT is the shit you say yes to.
So, we drove through the dark, through the rain, Klementina and I. And we arrived at Opus 40, an amazing large scale art project that one man built with his hands over 37 years, out of local stone. It's a huge monolith in the woods. We would be shooting there, along with 25 dancers, a group of politicians, a string quartet and, yeah, a huge crew of really great folks. It was INSANE. And beautiful. And hot and steamy.
My pal Claire Fleury was there, she designed an outfit for our gathering of The Secret City last June at Joe's Pub. And Coco Carol was the choreographer--she's incredible. Just got married to my pal Sxip Shirey, a wonderful performer/musician/composer and one of Amanda's bfs. She certainly surrounds herself with a beautiful tribe.
THE NEW SONG comes out this month sometime, which means the video comes out this month sometime. Which means I'll tell you more as we approach. And you can watch it. And see me dance with Amanda. And watch her seduce/calm/entrance me. And see whether breastfeeding ended up being involved. The song is incredible--and might be recognizable to some of you (tease, tease, hint, hint...)
And be amazed by MOTHER, and Amanda, and art and connection and community and making things in these perilous, extraordinary, radical times.