first contact

Recently, I changed my iPhone wallpaper to Hilma af Klint's Altarpiece No 1. It fills me with joy each of the hundred thousand times I look at it every day:

And I watched the Alexander McQueen documentary this week. It's not exactly groundbreaking as documentary, but with a subject like that — images like that, textures like that— how could it not be interesting? You don't have to do anything to make a case for McQueen's genius other than put his work on display. He was such an instinctual artist. The robots and the hologram runway shows were his turns of blustery genius, but I especially loved his tribute to (my favorite film) They Shoot Horses Don't They? It wasn’t just a reenactment. It was more subtle than that. It wasn't mere mimicry; he took the emotional tenor of the film and filtered it into fashion and through his own point-of-view. Watching the documentary, I felt the absence of someone pushing boundaries as he did in any sort of visual culture, not just fashion. People with vision and instincts like that don't come around very often (or rather, they just don't make it to wider public consciousness that way.) Even Isabella Blow’s talent scouting —always hunting for something strikingly new — seems rare in this day and age. Now people wait for things to go viral and consume or capitalize on it. But if something goes viral, it's already too late.

I appreciated the parts of the film delving into how McQueen processed traumas through his work, as well as its picture of his working class background. I won't forget his mother insisting, despite media depictions, “He was never a bad boy.” The documentary made that clear: he was shy, and bordering on arrogant insofar as he was aware of his own talent, but never not polite. What she didn’t outright say, but seemed to imply, was that "bad boy" was the media’s way of class-shaming.

Plato's Atlantis always knocks me off my feet. It was a first contact story told through dresses and heels. That one of the last great visions of the future. But that was ten years ago. What have we got now?

"Dorothy Parker's ashes were sitting in a file cabinet for 15 years." That is what I say to myself whenever and after I send a hundred-and-tenth "just following up" email about something vital to me that is obviously very low on the list of priorities of the email's recipient. By the way, no one in this scenario was trapped in the merciless impasse that was the government shutdown; this is just the ordinary life of a writer in a falling empire. I do everything I can to appear cheery and not frustrated ("Wouldn't it just be lovely if you processed that invoice!") and press send. Then I think, "Dorothy Parker's ashes were sitting in a file cabinet for 15 years."

It's not exactly uplifting like a mantra should be, but it puts things in perspective. Or maybe it is uplifting because I love the story of how the NAACP came to be the executors of Parker’s literary estate (even taking Lillian Hellman to court over it.) And how the executive director of the NAACP offered to build a memorial garden for her in the 1980s when he found out about about the ashes in a filing cabinet (that's where she rests today.) Or maybe it is a mantra as I'm setting an intention: in life I should always aspire to be like the NAACP executive director in this story and not the people who waited fifteen years to figure out what to do with Dorothy Parker. Anyway, I might also take comfort in the fact that LURKING cannot possibly sit in a file cabinet for 15 years, if only because right now it exists on the cloud.

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Part of the reason I pay closer attention to the Academy Awards now is that in ten years, I think the Best Picture race could be an all-out tech titan proxy ego war between Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Google (Facebook, for several hard-to-explain reasons, probably won't get that far.) It's like the modern space race. Have you ever seen a photo of Jeff Bezos at the Golden Globes or the Emmys? He's beaming. The man loves to win. I bet he hasn't seen an episode of The Magical Mrs Magpie, but those gold trophies mean something to him. He wants to run the culture like he wants to conquer space. Not all the Silicon Valley guys do, but the ones who want that are dangerous.

It wasn’t even my favorite, but I find myself rooting for Blackkklansman. Spike Lee is overdue, it makes up for Get Out’s loss, whatever—I think it might win too. Among other reasons, it plays well with a (liberal) white audience. There's a line in there — a line that's not even in the script — that seems to encapsulate 2018-2019 for a number of people. Here's how it appears in the screenplay:

But in the film, it's condensed as, “I’m Jewish, yes, but I wasn’t raised to be. I was just another white kid...” Nothing about passing. Instead it ends with the line: "I never thought much about it and now I'm thinking about it all the time." Seems like every white guy I know has expressed something similar to me in the past couple of years — this feeling of becoming newly aware of having an identity; a privileged identity, but an identity all the same (white and jewish, or white and dyslexic, or just white.) It is a feeling that is hard to express, but that sentence — “all the time” — encapsulates part of it. Having an actor like Adam Driver, in all his driverness, deliver it with that searching affliction, really cuts to the core. Obviously the movie is not just about a white person figuring out their whiteness, but that’s who tends to vote for gold trophies. I haven't thought about the movie much since I saw it, but I've thought about that line.

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A few months ago, I read a short story at WordHack. Someone posted the video to the Internet Archive. Here it is. It’s about Scream the movie and an 90s AOL chatroom (And here's the story "USERS" which appeared in Noon.) Such a fun event series. Worth checking out if you are in New York.

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Thanks for reading.