Nota Bene: Shirley Jackson and Lucille Ball

Via A.M. Homes’ introduction to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery:

When reading Jackson, I can’t help but think of the stories of Raymond Carver, who had a similar ability to create a sort of melancholy emotional mist that floats over his stories. But Jackson also had the ability to be savagely funny: at one point in her career, Desi Arnaz reportedly inquired about her interest in writing a screenplay for Lucille Ball…

Somehow this is actually true. Jackson’s son confirmed it to Michael Schulman at the New Yorker, who couldn’t help noting:

Jackson declined, but one imagines a vial of poisoned Vitameatavegamin…

A world where this had come to pass would be a better one for it.

Screening Room: ‘Is Gone with the Wind a Classic?’

My article ‘Is Gone with the Wind a Classic? Or How Things Change’ went up yesterday over at Eyes Wide Open:

A couple years back, a Memphis theater decided that, because of complaints, they were not going to show Gone with the Wind again. One would imagine conservatives would appreciate a small business not wanting to anger its customers. But by definition, conservatives tend not to like change. It’s in the name…

Reader’s Corner: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered

Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, hosts of the true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder, are currently bringing their show to thousands of “Murderino” fans around the country. They also have a book publishing at the end of May.

My review of Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered was published in City Pages:

Stay Sexy is a two-handed memoir, with Kilgariff and Hardstark trading off anecdotes and threading them through a survivor’s approach to therapy and how to get by in a world seemingly designed to take advantage of women…

Department of Lists: 2018 Edition

(image by KangZeLiu)

Since it’s the end of the year, and there’s only so much champagne one can drink while watching Andy Cohen/Anderson Cooper and hoping that 2019 will show 2018 how things should have gone, it’s time to look back at some of the best that the year that was had to offer.

To that end, I contributed some pieces to a few different publications who make a point of cataloging this sort of thing:

Now you’ll have something to do this January besides catch up on new TV shows and ignore your dieting pledges.

Friday Music Break: Tom Waits and the Resistance

For his latest album, Songs of Resistance 1948-2018, guitarist Marc Ribot collaborated with other musicians on a numerous of old and new protest songs.

He enlisted Tom Waits to sing the old anti-fascist Italian folk ballad “Bella Ciao” (“Goodbye Beautiful”). You can hear it here, via the video directed by Jem Cohen (who also shot the classic Fugazi documentary Instrument) which collages footage from recent demonstrations in Washington, D.C. behind Waits’ growling protest lyrics.

Screening Room: ‘The King’

The new documentary from Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) tries to figure out the legacy of Elvis and turns into a big, messy and overheated but fascinating metaphor for America.

The King is playing now. My review is at The Playlist:

Jarecki isn’t the first artist to turn a pop culture icon into a metaphor for America — there are whole phalanxes of culture critics who make a living doing just that. But usually, those metaphors, while complicated, are ultimately positive. By the time Jarecki is done with Elvis, the lanky, and projects-raised, rockabilly kid just one generation removed from sharecroppers has been cast as everything from an opportunist and grasping capitalist to addled addict to just plain sucker. If he ever was the King, the movie suggests, it’s long past time to retire the crown…

Nota Bene: Afrofuturism in Chicago

There’s an exhibition right now at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago called “In Their Own Form.” According to the museum, it explores “the myriad ways blackness might hope to exist without the imposition of oppression, racism and stereotypes ever-present in Western cultures, mediated through Afrofuturist themes including time-travel and escapism.”

The Guardian had a simpler take, titling its piece “Before Black Panther“:

The goal of the show, says curator Sheridan Tucker, is to show a wide range of the Afro-diasporic experience through photography and video. “I wanted to show escapism, nostalgia and time travel, recurring themes in afrofuturism,” said Tucker. “I’m excited people can tap into what I’ve been talking about for a long time.”

Nota Bene: Pageants, Parades, and Mardi Gras

Now that Mardi Gras is upon us once again, it’s time to ponder what indeed it is like to miss New Orleans:

We end, as many things should, with the timeless poetry of Professor Longhair:

Nota Bene: The Prince Edition

The September 2017 edition of The Journal of African American Studies was devoted entirely to the study of one artist: Prince.

According to the editors:

It is our hope that this special issue will inspire readers to access previously untapped reservoirs of creativity, help reorient the thinking of those who endeavor to pursue similar ventures that place Prince at the center of analysis, as well as prompt scholars to devise nuanced and unconventional ways to probe, study, and analyze an artist whose persona and life’s work defied convention…

In Memorium: Grant Hart (1961-2017)

From Bob Mould’s Facebook page today, on the sad passing of Grant Hart, the brilliant drummer and co-lyricist for Hüsker Dü and ringleader of the great but underrated Nova Mob:

It was the Fall of 1978. I was attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. One block from my dormitory was a tiny store called Cheapo Records. There was a PA system set up near the front door blaring punk rock. I went inside and ended up hanging out with the only person in the shop. His name was Grant Hart.

And now, probably Grant’s greatest song (make sure to play on repeat):

Shameless Self-Promotion: ‘Monty Python FAQ’

Have you any inkling what this T-shirt refers to?

Did you ever hop around on one foot while shouting, “’tis but a flesh wound!”?

Can you sing “The Philosopher’s Song” without referring to notes?

Was there a point during the United Kingdom’s recent snap election where you wondered whether there should have been a candidate from the Very Silly Party?

If you answered “yes” or asked “what’s all this, then?!” then it’s about 583% likely that Monty Python FAQ is the book for you!

Scribbled down in crayon by yours truly and his boon companions Brian Cogan and Jeff Massey, and then lovingly transcribed into proper book form by the dedicated editors at Applause Books, Monty Python FAQ is just about everything you ever wanted to know about the Python boys. That includes:

  • Words! Pictures! Lots of ’em.
  • An exegesis of every single Monty Python’s Flying Circus episode.
  • More than one could ever want or need to know about fish-slapping.
  • The deep, dark secret behind the one American Python, who hailed from the mystical, faraway land of … Minnesota.
  • Exploding penguins, dead budgies, Grannies from Hell … you get the picture.

It’s on sale now. Here. And hereAnd here. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

And now … this: