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Arts & Letters

Humanity’s exquisite corpse

One benefit of following speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo is getting the occasional lead on marvelous pieces of writing—most recently, a link to Exquisite Corpse, a haunting flash fiction piece by Caroline M. Yoachim. In just 900-odd words, Yoachim manages to capture the anxiety of precognition without context, and the head-spinning awe that comes from contemplating infinity. I compared it to lying on a hillside and trying to “fall” into the sky, something Carl Sagan used in Contact to frame childhood perceptions of the numinous. Yoachim deftly pushes those same buttons in her short work, and the effect is just as dizzying.

Its own form of freedom

Earlier today, and as if to drive home the conclusion of my previous post here, I finished Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein’s electrifying memoir. There still is a lot for me to unpack from the book—but I found resonance in its immediate theme of tearing oneself down at all times in order to be steadily [re]building a better version of that same self. Then I reached the point where she quoted Sleater-Kinney’s singular song “Jumpers.”

Be still this old heart
Be still this old skin
Drink your last drink
Sin your last sin
Sing your last song
About the beginning
Sing it out loud
So the people can hear
Be still this sad day
Be still this sad year
Hope your last hope
Fear you last fear

There was a time when I’d have thought otherwise, but now I take it to be about living, not about dying. And it makes perfect sense.

Sounds of summer

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a proper summer jam, something that breaks me out of July’s heat shimmer stupor and captures the frisson of August’s headlong rush into fall. In 2012, it was “Broad Sky Blues” by Nebraska band UUVVWWZ, which I can best describe as a protest torch song, captured perfectly in Michael Thurber’s haunting music video. The following year, when my wife and I volunteered at the Maha Music Festival in Omaha, I developed an instant crush on Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, spending the rest of 2013 immersed in the title track from We the Common. Then life took some weird swerves and a dense emotional fog settled over 2014 and 2015. I retreated into old unhealthy habits, regained a lot of weight, and shuttered myself mentally. Breaking out of that rut has been a frustrating grind occupying most of this year, with more sudden lunges in positive directions coming in just the past couple weeks. Enter the Seratones:

“Lose what you learned to fear,” indeed.

I’m taking it as a sign: 2016 is the Year of Fixing Shit. Let’s go.