When did kitsch get to be so bossy?
Si las Buenas Familias se retratan para consagrar su manejo de las formas y las apariencias, los pobres lo hacen para certificar ante sí mismos la existencia de su principal patrimonio: la familia. — Carlos Monsiváis, Maravillas que son, sombras que fueron: La fotografía en México
- There are few songs that could not be improved if only Klaus Nomi were still around to perform them. I think this every time I hear that annoying Sugar Pie Honey Bunch song played at a grocery store or the dentist.
- Every day it's a new Christmas carol stuck in my head. Today, it's The Beach Boys' Little Saint Nick.
- I'm sorry, now you hear it too.
- And just what does the "ave" in Ave Maria mean?
Every time it rains, the yard grows a fuzzy green, like a chia pet. It's all weeds but it's kind of pretty until the weeds get taller and start looking like themselves and then out come the gloves, the rake, and the podcasts.
Lately, I've gotten in the habit of tidying up the yard on Saturday mornings. I get up early and listen to podcasts while I'm doing it. Often, the yard doesn't actually need work, but I want to listen to my programs so there I am with my earphones in, raking, pruning, potting. It's one of those things where you combine something you don't like doing with something you enjoy to trick your brain into thinking you're having fun. Like when we had to go the laundromat on Saturday mornings, we'd stop at Frank's Diner for breakfast on the way, so our brains didn't think we were doing laundry. Our brains thought we were eating pancakes. At least at first. By Friday, we'd even stop saying "You know what we have to do this weekend? The L word." The L word being what we called the unmentionable thing we didn't like doing at the laundromat on Saturday mornings. But by Friday night we'd have stopped saying that and we'd be talking about tomorrow's breakfast at Frank's.
We're back from our Thanksgiving road trip. We had a very California experience. We ate vegan frozen yogurt on Sunset Boulevard. We learned a new word: chipster (Chicano hipster). We got lost walking ten miles all over downtown Los Angeles. Do they still say nobody walks in L.A.? We saw lots of people walking. Hello! we'd say and people were mostly friendly and said hello back and offered directions. Others were crazy and didn't notice us at all, including the angry guy chasing after the babbling guy with a length of steel pipe. But that was okay. You can't always talk to everyone. On the 5 we saw rain and rainbows, snow, cows, and lots of different types of fruit trees. We listened to audiobooks. Anne Lamott and Joan Didion had lots to say. David Sedaris and Kiese Laymon did too.
Santa Cruz was cold and green and beautiful. The friends we were visiting there live in the hills of Aptos. Hiram was meeting Julie and Lesa for the first time. As he drove the winding road up through the hills to Julie's house, I expected to see Ewoks and he wondered aloud if she lived in a cabin with whistling dwarves and little birds that do housework. She doesn't, but there are squirrels and deer and joggers. They jump from tree to tree, pass through the yard, and make their way up and down the street. Lesa doesn't live in a cabin with dwarves either, but she does have stylish children. I didn't ask if they whistle.
Julie turned us on to Santiago Artemis's “No Time for Shame” on Netflix. "Every episode is about the shoulder pads." Then we wanted to turn her on to “La Casa de Las Flores.” Have you seen season one? Isn't it outrageous? A telenovela for the smart Gen-X Mexican demographic. It did feel a little slow and desaturated after Santi's many outfit changes, so if you're going to watch both shows, I'd recommend starting with Casa de Las Flores; then, when you're warmed up, move on to Santiago.
Also, it's important to watch Casa de Las Flores in Spanish. There's an English version but with the dub you miss out on Cecila Suarez' staccato delivery. I wouldn't want you to watch the show without it.
Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.
― Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices
Sooner than later all sorts of people will be up in arms about people saying Merry Christmas again. I think I'd settle for people just saying good morning to each other again.
What if the novel in you is one you yourself would never read? A beach novel, a blockbuster, a long, windy, character-driven literary drama that ends sadly? What if the one novel in you is the opposite of your idea of yourself?
― Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
Sometimes it's harder to notice a place you think you know well; your eyes glide over it, seeing it but not seeing it at all. It's almost as if familiarity gives you a kind of temporary blindness. I had to force myself to look harder and try to see beyond the concept of library that was so latent in my brain. ― Susan Orlean, The Library Book
How effortlessly we forget the Spanish word for chard.
We’re sitting there eating our lunch and talking about the overdue library book we just finished and a dozen mariachis walk in and sit at the next table. It totally made my day.
Hiram took this photo of me getting a shave at the shop "Famous" near where we are staying in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. This is the first time I have gotten a shave at a barber shop. I don’t think the barber, Diego, believed I speak Spanish because we both had to repeat ourselves a lot. Or perhaps this being my first shave in Spanish, I was speaking Spanish but not the Spanish you use when getting a shave. Perhaps because I didn’t understand what he was asking me to do or perhaps because I continue to be haunted by the beautiful film Roma, when Diego put the chair down and told me to stretch out, I tried to put legs up like the film’s protagonist Cleo at her OB Gyn appointment. It was a good shave.