like seven inches from the midday sun
Wow, it’s been a minute. I meant to do these things weekly, but, sheesh. Life is just a lot sometimes, you know? I’ve been insanely busy with my ~real job~ and when I haven’t been busy with that, I’ve been busy writing, and when I haven’t been busy writing, I’ve been busy being horrified by the news and when I wasn’t busy with that, I’ve been busy being extremely fucking tired!!! In short: I’ve been DOING THINGS THAT AREN’T THIS.
Anyway, the four day weekend has given me time to churn out some fresh content that literally none of you were beating down my door for, so here you go. Stay cool out there and hydrated and don’t forget to donate to RAICES.
okay thanks sorry love u bye,
SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
me, an adult: yeah so i’m thinking about running away
I could move to a small town and become a waitress. Say my name was Stacey and I was figuring things out.
“Waitress Song” is one of the lesser played tracks on Swedish sister folk duo First Aid Kit’s third album (their first on a major label), Stay Gold, released five years ago this past June. But like many of their most popular songs, it melds a ‘70s folk-rock sound straight out of Laurel Canyon with lyrics that speak to the present day concerns of young women living through a time littered with buzzwords like “burnout” and “ambition” and “anxiety.” Over the past few days, I have listened to it no fewer than 21 times.
I ran away a lot as a kid. Or, at least, I tried to. Once, I called an aunt who lived an hour away and told her I’d meet her on my corner if she’d come pick me up. Another time, I hid behind a neighbor's shed until the sun began to set and I could actually hear people finally start to look for me. But otherwise, the farthest I ever got was behind sitting a bush in the backyard or hanging out at the elementary school playground a few blocks away or riding my bike aimlessly around town for hours until I got tired or thirsty or had to pee badly enough that I would skulk into the house with my tail between my legs, both ashamed I hadn’t made it on my own and embarrassed that no one really noticed I was gone.
As a child, I had an enormous, unrelenting imagination; I’m not sure if my perpetual dissatisfaction was born out of that or was just a contributor to it. All I know is that I was always dreaming about a big, romanticized life that was more exciting and more fun and better — even though I couldn’t put my finger on exactly how — just waiting out there for me, in reach if I could stretch hard enough. I can’t remember ever wanting anything more than to get out of my small town and away from my suffocating family, waiting for the day my life — this big gigantic experience I was so certain I was destined to have — to start. Back then, wanting so much, so badly didn’t seem dangerous.
College was a step towards this supposed big life. Internships had their moments. And starting at Condé Nast two years after graduation, I thought, had to be it. The day I walked into One World Trade for orientation was the day my life truly started, wasn’t it? Except no one ever told me that happiness isn’t always found on the next ladder rung up. Sometimes, you take a step forward, feel accomplished for a fleeting moment, then feel badly for not being further ahead already.
Sometimes, when I catch myself feeling exasperated and asking what’s next, when I feel like my life is middling I find myself stuck with 12 year old me’s impatient brain — the one that thinks that something should have happened to me by now, that, no, my life hasn’t started and I’m getting so tired of waiting — I have to remind myself that it already has. Twelve year old me would be pretty satisfied, surprised even, by how it’s turned out so far, even if 28 year old me still feels like the goal post keeps moving back. This, of course, is ends up becoming a reassurance I can easily counter argue, as if I’m not allowed to feel okay with where I am and what I’ve done for more than a few minutes.
I’ve been finding myself fantasizing about running away again lately, though. Maybe it’s my saturn return. Maybe it’s all this astrological eclipse cancer season mercury retrograde garbage. Maybe it’s that I’m at a weird in-between point in my career, at the precipice of something more, but not for certain. Maybe it’s burnout. It’s probably all four.
But lately I keep thinking about how part of me wants to quit this medium-sized life I worked so hard to build for myself, throw in the towel, move to some small town where no one knows my name, and live a simple life free of the disappointment that comes with constantly chasing something greater. I think it would be easier that way, happier maybe. Maybe we’re not supposed to want as big and desperately as I have for so long. Sometimes I wonder: What if I didn’t dream for all these mile markers I have yet to reach, this life I still don’t have? What if there was no longer a pressure to be successful, to climb to the top of the mountain and show everyone how much I had done on my way up? What if I could downsize my life to being another anonymous soul in any old town, not wasting energy trying so hard to be special? I wonder if I wouldn’t be so scared and overwhelmed and unable to relax all the time.
Girls, they just want to have fun, First Aid Kit sings. And the rest of us hardly know who we are.
And the funny thing is that I thought I knew who I was earlier than most people my age. I thought I knew what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be since I was 6. But lately, I’ve gotten pushback. The economy millennials like myself have entered into forced us to become jacks of all trades. We’ve become anxious overachievers in competition with each other for dwindling opportunities, filling up our resumes with side hustles and special skills and varied interests and areas of expertise — anything to give us an edge. “I’m not giving up on the things I came here to do,” a friend said recently over dinner as she talked about a new gig. “I’m just trying this for now, because I have a lot of things I’m good at and want to do, and I just have to go with whatever sticks in the moment.” This is the kind of answer I wish I could give all those real grown-ups, the ones in job interviews and therapy sessions and talks over wine, the ones who stare at me for a moment too long, like they’re trying to read me with invisible x-ray glasses, before they ask “Who are you, though? Who do you want to be?” Because the truth is that answer is something I both know for certain and not at all.
“Higher Love” - Whitney Houston ft. Kygo
Two cool things that happened in 1991: I was born (I know many reading this are enough years older than me that this will elicit a heavy sigh and eye roll; I set this up as a gift just for you) and Whitney Houston released a cover of Steve Winwood’s 1986 synthpop bop “Higher Love.” The track never really went anywhere — it was born from a 1990 live performance in Tokyo and was only officially released as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of her 1990 album I’m Your Baby Tonight. It was the kind of one-off that seemed destined to only ever live in cult status, there for the most hardcore of fans to love and trade amongst themselves, but never coming close to the kind of mainstream, generation-spanning, meme-worthy popularity of superhits like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” or “How Will I Know.”
Until this past week, that is. In the final days of June, as the weather grew increasingly sweltering and our collective longing for the kind of infectiously joyful jam — the ever elusive Song Of Summer — to serve as some sort of relief was met with attempts ranging from meh (Katy Perry’s “Never Really Over”) to downright laughably terrible (Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down”), Whitney Houston’s estate came to the rescue with her first posthumous release.
Posthumous releases have been touchy subjects for years. How do we know the artist wanted all their material to be heard? How can we serve fans who face a gaping hole where this person once existed? How can we be sure that any of it isn’t just entirely self-serving, another attempt to line pockets of those who have for years financially benefited from the musician without actually creating any of the art that reaps these rewards? But the 21st century, with all its technological advances, seems to bring the practice into even more ethically dubious territory.
The newly-released “Higher Love” cover has been retooled and remixed in collaboration with electronic music producer Kygo in a way that, at best, can be described as making it more friendly to the exploding festival dance scene and, at worst, comes across as Gen Z pandering. Can we really trust that Whitney Houston’s legacy is best reflected by releasing a track so heavily remixed and EDM-ified, full of artificial snaps and drumlines and ubiquitous warped-into-repetition vocal breaks, as opposed to a remastered version of the original? And what are we to make of the estate’s announcement to release more music this fall along with the most yikes-inducing of all posthumous plans: a new hologram tour?
Houston’s estate claims this is all a part of a plan to give back to her longtime fans and “keep her alive for a whole new generation,” but is she really going anywhere? In the seven years since her death, Spotify has grown by nearly 1000% — from 20 million active users to 217 million. More than 55% of those users fall in the 18-35 age bracket; Houston’s catalog boasts more than 18 million monthly listeners, with her most well-known hits garnering stream counts ranging from 100 to 350 million. So who really benefits from this new track? The fans? The estate? Kygo? Streaming services? Houston’s overall legacy?
There’s no easy answer. Until I figure it out, though, I will be listening to the “Higher Love” remix on repeat (something Last.FM tells me I’ve done at least 50 times in the past 10 days), letting its anthemic joy wash over me like a sugar rush from a bodega popsicle on the soupiest of summer days, as only the best Songs of Summer can.
All That You Leave Behind: A Memoir - Erin Lee Carr
David Carr was one of the most celebrated journalists in the country, known both for his remarkable insight into media and culture as a columnist at the New York Times and his unflinchingly honest account of a drug-addict past in his acclaimed memoir The Night of the Gun, when he died suddenly in the Times newsroom in 2015. Nearly five years later, his daughter Erin Lee Carr, a documentary filmmaker behind incendiary HBO docs like Mommy Dead and Dearest and At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, recounts their relationship and attempts to unpack grief in a new memoir.
It’s not a spectacular read — as in life, her father’s presence overshadows her on page, though often by her own volition — but it’s a compelling one, offering raw takes on coming of age, grief, father-daughter relationships, addiction, and more.
Me: So about this Elaine May movie—
You: Can you come up with something else? Can you come up with something else!?
I mean, sure, but when I’m deep in the process of writing about something (because a fun thing about being a writer is that sometimes you can actually pitch things you love and other people are like “Okay!”), I have a tendency to go way down the research rabbit hole and saturate myself in the subject or topic’s world to the point where I don’t really want to talk about anything else. Lucky for you, this process is almost over, and May’s oeuvre is brief, so I’ll run out of things to talk about soon. But until then, a few words about the much-maligned Ishtar:
You know how sometimes there’s that one thing in an artist’s work that gets such a bad rap, you stay away from it, for fear that it will tarnish your love for that person? That was me and Ishtar, from like ~17 until a few months ago when I finally caved and watched it as part of an Alamo Drafthouse series on films about men made by female directors. In recent years, it’s been the subject of countless “this movie isn’t actually that bad” think pieces, ranging from exposés on how the studio set it up for failure and ridicule to insight into how remarkably ahead of its time the film’s politics were, but there was still that inkling of “oh no, what if the worst things I’ve heard are true?”
Friends, I laughed out loud so hard I cried. Like, throughout the entire film. It’s currently streaming on Showtime for free (and available to rent on other streaming platforms), and has been carried over into a second week of screenings as part of a current Elaine May retrospective at Film Forum. In the past week, I’ve gone back to see it twice with friends, and if our shared loud laugher reverberating with the rest of the much-older audience, I think it’s safe to say that Ishtar is not only hilarious, but very much was ahead of its time. The more I watch it, the more I can’t help but think it’s the kind of film Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and James Franco would have remade at the peak of their late-aughts popularity. And also that ‘80s Warren Beatty was possibly hotter than ‘70s Beatty. A contentious take, I know, but I stand by it!!! Anyway. Rethink it. Give it another chance or a first chance. Feel free to harass me in the replies if you disagree.
friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.
okay that's it that's the end thanks bye