The first thing I noticed when watching the premier of HitRecord on TV, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s latest artistic endeavor, is that everyone is recording.  Phones, tablets, hand-held cameras, all on and all pointed at the man on stage, JGL himself.  While everyone else and every other venue is discouraging recording, this show is encouraging it.

Gordon-Levitt and his brother began the website HitRecord.org in 2005, and since then have produced feature and short films, books, music, and now, a TV show.  And it’s one heck of a show.  If you loved the Tiny Book of Tiny Stories series, just wait until you see the show.

It’s a variety show but none like you’ve seen before.  It’s post-modern in nature, due to heavy use of multi-media formats and multiple users.  It’s crowd-sourced art, taken from ‘records’ contributed on the website.  Art of all forms is remixed and spliced together to form new art,  and the results are astounding.  Not only is it quality, but it’s heartfelt and cutting edge.

Every episode is themed, and that theme is looked at from various angles and perspectives. The every first episode was, of course, RE: The Number One.  The prompt for one collaboration for this show was titled “Do you remember your first time?”  First time meaning the first time you ever did anything.  A standout from this episode is a short film, mixed with animation and video of a story contributed by a writer in Nebraska, who narrated the first time she ever saw the stars in the sky.  Beautiful and soul-shaking, and completely unexpected.

There is nothing cliche or trite about this show, and I think that derives from the fact that it’s not just one person’s vision you see: it’s hundreds or thousands of artists, writers, animators, and other artistic folk who come together to create something new.  I think it’s a real testament to the artistic sensibilities of the creators that so many people worldwide have become members and contributors to HitRecord.  It’s nothing short of visionary.

I was lucky enough to get the box set from the publisher (Dey Street Books) and with the digital downloads comes lots of extras:  books for each episode, music from the show, and behind-the-scenes extras.  Season 2 is in the works, and there are open collaborations in production now.  I’ve been a member of the HitRecord.org family since 2011; fingers crossed that someday, something I contribute will be used.

I’m not a religious person, and so when asked why I wasn’t in the ‘Christmas spirit’ this year, I was surprised.  Yes, I do normally participate in all of the pagan rituals of Christmas, without the church-going.  But this being a tough year for me, and with my aversion to leaving my safe apartment and actually going out into the world and being around people, I really don’t want to shoulder any of the shame or feel the retributions of others who feel I should be ‘in the spirit.’

I’m not; and regardless of the many reasons, why should I feel bad about that?  Why am I required to feel a certain something just because it’s December?  This may be a national holiday and it may be a long-standing tradition, but that in no way impels me to participate.  I’m not bitter. I’m not opposed to anyone celebrating any damn thing they please.  I’ll give to charity and I’ll gift my family members.  But my spirit will be what it always is, one that is always giving, one that is a non-believer.

I’m the Charlie Brown of Christmas: I know I should feel something, but I only feel let down.  This is the same feeling I had when I actually realized that I was in fact, an atheist. I used to feel like I should feel something, but it just wasn’t there.  It was a lie that I told myself.

And I’m allowed to feel what I feel, right?  This is another frequent argument I have with others.  Don’t tell me how I should feel; I have a right to feel whatever emotions that come, regardless of what others want me to feel.  I think this is where empathy is very important; allow others to go through their emotions and stop dictating what you think those emotions should be.  Stop saying “Oh you shouldn’t feel that way!” and start allowing emotion to run it’s natural course.

Allowing me not to get the ‘spirit’ is only fair, to be honest.  I don’t go around proselytizing to you about becoming a non-believer, so stop pressuring me to participate in your religious rituals.  I feel this is a good compromise.

And, considering all the times I wrote ‘feel’ in this post, I feel I should end it here.

Just caught a glimpse of this wild fox right in my neighborhood!

wild baby fox

wild baby fox

I’ve had a life-long aversion to pills; I’ve written about it, I’ve talked about it, I’ve cried about it.  I’ve never, ever trusted man-made chemicals, and this is mostly based on my sensitivity to any of them.  I’ve long sought out herbal or natural remedies over pills, and most of the time, this has worked.

A visit to the psychiatrist this week (who has been pushing SSRI’s on me for the last eighteen months, none of which I’ve taken) surprised me this week with a new test.  DNA testing can now determine what liver enzymes you have, which will tell you what drugs you can/can’t metabolize, and how fast you will metabolize a drug. It can predict whether or not you will have side effects.  INSANE.

There are many implications for this kind of science.  The consumer, for one, might be much better served and find a more tailored treatment for their specific problems.  Instead of throwing random pills at a problem, doctors might actually be able to find the right drug sooner.  I also wonder how this will affect Big Pharma.

I gave the nurse a saliva sample and should get results back in ten days. Will I ever conquer the pill?  We shall see.  The likely answer is that I will continue seeking out herbal or natural remedies.  But knowing how my body will respond to certain medications– efficacy, side effects, etc– is kind of exciting.  Science is just crazy pants some days, but in a good way.

I get super-excited about midterm elections:  there are no lines, and you get to focus on the local government.  I was so happy to go cast my vote today.  It makes me feel a little empowered, even if my candidates don’t win.  There’s a particular amendment relating to women’s rights on this ballot, and I’m crossing my fingers that it will not pass.  Nothing to do now but wait, and know that I did my part.

Exercise your rights today and ROCK THAT VOTE!

Was awakened super early Saturday morning to the sound of destruction.  A quick peek outside my front door revealed this: photo (2)

I am not a fan of change, most of the time.  I must be dragged to it, kicking and screaming.  And in the past several years, my neighborhood has been one of the ‘hot’ spots for new condos and apartments, new roads, new stop lights.  Which all means more traffic, more noise, more people.

This place used to be a hidden gem:  right off of a major road, close to downtown, quiet.  Nothing gold can stay, though, right?

I’ve heard through the neighborhood grapevine that it was my landlord, in fact, that has purchased this plot of land, and had the house dozed.  Which is all fine and good, as long as nothing new goes up in its place, save a nice garden.  We’ll see.  It’s all speculation at this point.  I’ll try not to obsess, but, no promises.

Three non-fiction books and one short story collection is not necessarily a great mix.  I think the proportions are a little off, though, in truth, the short story collection reads like actual stories taken directly my childhood.  I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and Lorrie Moore’s collection Self Help reads exactly as the title suggests:  a manual for your childhood and early adulthood.  I love it, painful and uncomfortable as it is.

I just finished reading Alan Cumming’s memoir  Not My Father’s Son.  The title suggests some paternal issues, but it’s so much more than that.  There are many revelations in this book (none of which I will spoil here) and to a sensitive soul such as Alan, they prove difficult to navigate.  Cumming’s journey begins with the TV show “Who do you think you are?” — a show that searches out your roots, your genealogical secrets.  There are dual stories running throughout the book, as well as dual timelines:  the present (2010, during which he is filming the TV show) and chapters of “Then” which flash back to his childhood.  Cumming’s father was a brute of a man, abusive to his family in multiple heartbreaking ways.

What sets this memoir apart, in a spate of celebrity memoirs, is that Cummings is incredibly insightful; he has a strong sense of self. He is articulate without being self serving. Yes, he is emotional, but who wouldn’t be in the midst of the family revelations and drama he weathers? At an early age, Alan decides he will not feel shame about himself; this, to me, is in large part why he stays so strong.

Cummings writes short, descriptive episodes, writing dual stories about the present (which was 2010) and his childhood (only titled Then). There are some delightful photos throughout, and candid revelations. A quick, interesting read.

Two other outstanding books I’ve read recently: The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison, and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Both incredibly smart, talented writers who put together two brilliant essay collections. (See also what Cheryl Strayed had to say in the New York Times regarding the “golden age for women essayists– why do we need a qualifier?)

Next, a return to fiction.  Can’t decide between Tartt’s A Secret History or Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay.  Any thoughts?

I think David Lynch broke the internet this morning with news that his 90’s TV show Twin Peaks will return for a (somewhat late) third season.  In 2016, 9 new episodes, all directed by Lynch, will appear on Showtime.  Happy Dance!!

I was completely obsessed with this show during its short-lived TV life.  I had to tape it, though, because it aired on date night, and there was no streaming at the time.  God, this really reminds me of my age:  I taped it on VHS, commercials and all.  Huh, imagine!

So, time to binge-watch the first two seasons and get ready for the weirdness to come.

This has been my life the past few weeks. I’m reading two books right now that I highly recommend: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, and Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming. Non-fiction is my genre of choice for reading and writing, though it can take a toll on me. Though light-hearted at times, both of these books touch on some difficult subjects.
I’ve also been submitting some non-fiction essays and hope to hear back soon. Or I’ll be wailing about rejection. Either way, I’ll report the results here!

It’s my favorite time of year:  Fall.   Nights are getting cooler, leaves are turning and falling.  Fall equinox is next week (Tuesday, September 23), and Halloween is just around the corner.  And, inevitably, pumpkins are appearing surreptitiously.

So it seems the perfect time to review a new book out from Dey Street Books:  the making of the classic TV show “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”  The TV show first debuted in 1966, about three years before I was born.  I grew up watching it, along with the Christmas special and about a dozen other Peanuts outings.  This one has remained a favorite, though, and I still watch each year.

Most Halloween television revolves around gory, nauseating fare, which may be one reason I still love the Great Pumpkin.  I still love it when Lucy snatches away the football from Charlie Brown at the last minute.  The Flying Ace gives me fits of laughter.  I identify strongly with Charlie Brown’s misshapen costume and his bad Halloween luck (all rocks, no candy).

You’ll get a nice behind-the-scenes look at the making of this classic, and you might even learn some interesting trivia too.  I did: when Sparky (aka Charles Schulz) talks about how he came up with the idea for the Great Pumpkin, he basically claimed it was “a kind of a satire on Santa Claus” (p 19).  A satire!  On Santa!  Linus writes to the Great Pumpkin, just as a kid would write to Santa, asking for gifts.  When he doesn’t get them, and the Great Pumpkin doesn’t show, he is disappointed, but he survives.

I’ve asked around to friends and family to get their take on The Great Pumpkin.  They still love it, and even my young nephews and niece watch it.  Another generation will grow up watching Peanuts, and that’s a great tradition.

If you’re a fan of Peanuts, this is definitely a great book to pick up.  There’s a lot of insider info and history, not to mention the gorgeous illustrated script.   Happy 48th, Great Pumpkin!  I can’t wait to see if Charlie Brown will actually kick the football again this year.

**The complete title is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown:  The Making of a Television Classic” and is published by Dey Street Books, and imprint of Harper Collins.

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