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Taking in good (and difficult) things, to make good things.
I’m in California right now, checking in on my mother. I’m managing some legal and administrative affairs, taking a break from the studio.
Just before I left New York, I saw Wangechi Mutu’s much-talked-about work at the New Museum (on view through June). There are three floors of fantastical metal giants, disquieting pin-up collages; sleeping faces in water; the silence of queens.
On the surface, her work has little to do with my experience. It was a slow Saturday afternoon and my guard was down. Two thirds of the way through, I began to feel overwhelmed; heat under the collar, a sort of pressure under the sternum. Waves of intensity began to build: grief, fear, fury. I was grateful to be alone, wearing a mask. I craved, suddenly, a canyon: my echo returning from the slammed rocks larger and more powerful than the voice it came from.
Art pulls so much out of me when I’m least expecting it, and puts back things I didn’t know I needed.
Take in good things, to make good things
Here’s some of what I’ve been (or soon will be) taking in:
👀 Belly · I love the apparent skimp on plot and what SOTW calls the “focused indeterminacy” of this kooky little story. SOTW is a great way to discover short films, animated or not. They’re thoughtfully reviewed by industry professionals who’re often filmmakers themselves.
👩🎨 Live drawing at the Oscars · Neighbor, subscriber, and New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly was at the Oscars again this year. Fun stuff.
🍿 The Banshees of Inisherin · Speaking of the Oscars, this nominee is a brutal indictment of the Irish Civil War through allegory: a man ends a friendship seemingly, and bafflingly, overnight, going to great lengths (primarily by hurting himself) in order to enforce his decision. Exceptional storytelling.
📚 Stay True, by Hua Hsu · I know I’m late to the party. Even the title, author said out loud has a nostalgic rhythm to it, and I marveled at the elegance with which history is treated in this memoir. I finished it on the plane from NY to CA, somewhere over Colorado.
📚 Birnam Wood · I haven’t read Eleanor Catton’s new thriller yet but wanted to call it out. I loved The Luminaries and have high expectations for this one. I’m bummed to have missed her recent book launch at the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn.
🗞 “A New Drug Switched Off My Appetite. What’s Left?” · A vulnerable and unexpectedly moving article by Paul Ford.
🍰 Hallongrotta · Swedish for “raspberry cave,” simply “thumbprint cookie” for us American plebs. The ones at Fabrique Bakery back in NYC where I recently discovered this confection, are more like cakes of shortbread. They’re heavy with butter and jam, each as big as an open palm. Luxurious and comforting; savor with steaming cups of bitter tea.
🇰🇷 KimC Market · I just started ordering from this Brooklyn-based purveyor of Korean grocery. I’m a particular fan of their grains and dried vegetable packs, which I mix in with Queen’s rice before cooking—nutty and delicious.
👂 KCRW · Whenever I come to LA, I live in the car, stuck in traffic on the 10 like most everyone else. I grew up listening to this Santa-Monica-based public radio station while driving, with its eclectic music alongside news, and strange, magical programs late at night (I discovered Joe Frank on KCRW long ago, and will forever be indebted).
🎵 Sarah Davachi · I’ve been seeking solace in this Canadian composer / experimental musician’s mainly wordless work. A soundtrack for rainy days of reading, rumination, and writing.
Among other exhibits and shows I’ve been taking in, to heal and unstick, a few more notables: Crafting Pinocchio (through April 15th), Virginia Woolf: A Modern Mind, Oppenheim, and The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.
Mom and I watched the Oscars over the weekend, a quiet little party of two, with glasses of bubbly and some soft cheese. It was surreal to watch in Pacific Time for the first in years, with my different mother, against a backdrop of financial chaos. I cried with Ke Huy Quan and put hand over heart with Michelle Yeoh. Also—Brendan Fraser?! These are incredible stories. They’re all over 50 years old (Yeoh is 60), Fraser had all but disappeared for over a decade, Quan for nearly two. The film that swept was weird, unformulaic, and filled with people that looked like me.
I soaked up the inspiration and uplift as if I’d never drink again.
Don’t give up, friends.