As some of you may know, I have the good fortune to be married a very creatively gifted man. Guion is the singer/songwriter for a band called Nettles, and they are seriously good. Describing Nettles is a difficult endeavor, but I like to think of it as the music that floats over a misty swamp surrounded by Spanish moss-laden trees. Or the sounds that rise up from a garden in the cycle of growth and decay. Or the harmony elicited by a falling star. It’s a mystical Charlottesville folk band, you know? These kinds of things come up.
Over the past four years, Nettles has been in the process of making their first album. Now, they need your help to finish it. Nettles has a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,500 in 25 days. Would you consider helping them out? Every little bit counts.
Oh, this schizophrenic half-winter of ours: Snowstorm this morning and now, at noon, it has ceased and the sun is coming out.
This weekend: Nettles, the Hill and Wood, and Luke Wilson played at The Southern; Matt Kleberg had a really wonderful opening at McGuffey; I began to re-read and fall in love with Absalom, Absalom! and retract every bad thing I ever said about it; and we got to watch UNC gloriously shame Duke at the McDermott’s on brew day. A very good weekend, by my estimation.
On Friday, I transcribed a painstaking, largely unsuccessful interview with a 106-year-old man, a legend in the industry. These were the important takeaways to me: If you are 106, you have the right to say things like, “Are you here just because you failed in the movie business?” to the unctuous young videographer coaxing you for an answer you thought you already gave. If you are 106, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t feel like it. If you are 106, your brain will start to winnow out all of the unimportant things, so that when the interviewer asks you to talk about your big career highlights, you will instead talk about your sons and how they graduated at the top of their class and how they tried to avoid going to war and how you named them after your best friends.
Lent is all about reflection and about how we’re pretty much down in the dumps when we’re sans Savior. In accordance with that, here’s my seriously truncated list of things I cannot do.
Throw a football.
Do math above a fifth-grade level. (Probably. I haven’t tried. The only math I do on a regular basis is calculate tips, and sometimes I don’t even do that accurately.)
Eat chocolate without melting some portion of it into my clothes. Chocolate is really hard to get out of most fabric, kids. You’ve been warned.
Read anything, anywhere without looking for grammatical or punctuation errors.
Take politicians seriously.
Touch my toes. (Have you seen how long my legs are? I protest! They are too long!)
Wear cable-knit sweaters. (But, really, who can? Welsh or Irish farmers may be the only ones.)
Pass a dog without wanting to pet it.
Watch war movies. See also: Talk about war movies.
Drive a manual transmission car. We got a 10-minute lesson from a car salesman in August, but I felt like we were all going to die in a jerky, fiery blaze the whole time I was behind the wheel and on the clutch.
Watch golf for more than three minutes without crying out from desperate, desperate boredom.
Skateboard. Not that I’ve ever tried. Or have any desire to try. It is easily the most stressful form of transportation to observe.
Watch FOX News without my blood pressure spiking significantly.
Enjoy a trip to the mall.
Hide my emotions from my face.
Open wine bottles without seriously messing up or losing the cork.
Let my feet touch the bottom of a slimy lake or river without wanting to vomit. I can walk barefoot on rocks in a stream all day long, but please, please don’t ask me to put them in the green slime. See: Trip to Rivanna swimming hole, circa summer 2010, in which I bailed and sat on a log near the very pregnant and beautiful Cate.
Kill animals or watch animals being killed. See also: Kill people or watch people being killed.
Tell a joke without making an allusion to Liz Lemon or a member of the Bluth family.
And these are just a FEW of them! I can’t do so many things. Lenten conclusion? Jesus is OK with this list.
To something proud and restless–the spirit, perhaps–that looked out from inside her, nothing must make death more humbling than the idea of its ease: death should have a harder victory. This was stepping through still one more door held courteously open for her. Better to be rooted out hurt, bleeding, alive, like the daisies from the turf, than blow faintly across the lawn like a straw. All these years she had stood by, uncritically, smiling, had she been wanting really, like other women, to be the heart of things, to be what was going on? No wonder she gave such tender attention to small everyday things, living as people wish they could live over again, slighting nothing.
The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen
Happy Friday! Also, if you’re cruising around for something good to read, check out Guion and Caleb’s new music blog: Jams All Year. It’s funny and erudite and will almost certainly direct you to some great new tunes.
Last night, Stephanie of The Charlotte posted a generous and brilliant review of local band Nettles–aka Guion and friends. We were really excited about it! Naturally, I think Nettles is incredible, but people take my opinion with a grain of salt, owing to my conflict of interest (i.e., being married to the front man). It was thrilling to hear Stephanie’s opinion, particularly since she and her husband, James, have such refined and carefully cultivated tastes in music. All that to say, enjoy her review here at The Charlotte.
And if you’re in town this weekend, you’re in luck: Nettles is playing at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar this Saturday night, July 30, at 9:15. $7 at the door. Hope to see you there! If you can’t be there, listen to some of the new tracks on the Nettles Band Camp page here.
I’ve been thinking about gaps in my education lately. These are some things I should know more about:
The war in Afghanistan.
Financial markets and the principles of basic investing.
The human body.
Divisions and functions of the branches of the U.S. military.
How to make things grow.
The Federal Reserve.
How to fix a spare tire.
How to read music.
Calculus (and by “know more about” I mean “learn anything about”).
Currency exchange rates.
How to drive a manual transmission.
The Supreme Court.
Latin and Greek roots.
The difference between Central and Latin America.
The reason why I don’t know more about these things is because, I suppose, I don’t find them fundamentally interesting. Even though I feel like I should. Do you know about these things? If so, enlighten me. I want to know.
It’s starting to feel like summer around here… We’re going to THE BEACH to celebrate our one-year anniversary (!) this weekend and I could not be more excited. We’ll be gone for a week and it is going to be glorious.
In the meantime, here are some Snax:
The Burning House. What would you grab if your house started burning down? Here, find the photographs of meticulously curated collections of objects that other people would save. Interesting and illuminating. (The Burning House)
Rejected Book Covers vs. the Finished Product. I love jacket design and art; I find this collection of original jacket proofs juxtaposed with the familiar covers we’ve seen on shelves so fascinating. Sometimes I liked the rejected ones better. (Flavorwire)
Cliff Diving. These photographs are so surreal; they almost look like paintings. (Max Wanger)
Dear It. What a nice thought about “it.” (THXTHXTHX)
Anna Hanau: A Farmer. This young journalist is completing a cool project in which she interviews 100 interesting people. This week, she interviewed a happy, young chicken farmer in Brooklyn. (100 Interviews)
In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.
I learned how to play the guitar shortly after my father did. I was about 14 and the guitar was one of his new obsessions. He bought a number of guitars to learn on but really splurged on a beautiful (and surprisingly great-sounding) Ibanez acoustic. This, more or less, became my guitar and my emblem of my Teenage Years. We learned that guitar lessons were probably not worth it and it was just as easy to teach yourself chords as it was to watch a really fat man play them. As my knowledge progressed, the guitar became my constant companion. I started playing in the worship band at my church youth group. I would squirrel myself away in my bedroom until the wee hours of the night, playing guitar, figuring out new chords, trying to write super-dramatic songs. I mean, what’s more “teenage” than that?
I brought my guitar with me when I came to college and continued to play it throughout my freshman year. It was also a great source of solace during my sophomore year, which is like the Middle School year for college students (confusing, depressing, awkward).
But then, one night late in my sophomore year, I met this boy named Guion. He visited me in my room and picked up my guitar and started to play it. I was stunned. “I… never had any idea it could sound like that,” I stammered. This kid was a genius. And I suddenly felt very inadequate about my pseudo-musical abilities. We started dating and I started getting involved in other things, like internships and writing. My once beloved guitar gathered a lot of dust in my dorm room closet.
As a disclaimer, this should not sound like Guion is somehow at fault or responsible for my abandonment of my guitar. Rather, it should be seen as a criticism of my own lack of self-esteem. There’s always going to be someone out there who is better than one at any given skill. This does not mean, however, that one should abandon said skill. I wish someone (i.e., myself) had told me that in college. But I had moved onto other things. When I started my senior year, I left my guitar at home and effectively bequeathed it to my little brother (who has, let it be known, now surpassed me in my musical abilities).
Guion has always encouraged me to play the guitar; he hates that I gave it up. But as the years passed and my calluses disappeared, I was too discouraged to pick it up again. After all, I’d forgotten practically everything I had known. So, this week’s challenge was a return to the past, to my former self, and to the guitar. I am still grossly self-conscious about it and I can’t strum to save my life, but it’s coming back gradually. As I type this, the tips of my left-hand fingers sting a little bit. And that’s a good sign.
Unlike some of my other challenges, I hope to keep this week’s challenge incorporated into my day-to-day life. I won’t presume to ever play in front of anyone, but I was never trying to be a musician anyway. Rather, I liked having this therapeutic channel that was wholly separate from reading or writing. It would be nice to have that again.
Next week, I will be wearing a dress every day. Here’s to hoping for warm, spring-like weather!
Another full, enjoyable weekend, despite the weather. I am at the stage in which winter has become personally offensive to me. It is a terrible stage to be in. The first thing out of my mouth in every conversation is now: “Yeah, I’m fine. But WHEN DOES SPRING COME TO VIRGINIA??” I ask it very aggressively, too, as if it were my companion’s fault that sleet, hail, and snow were still on the not-too-distant horizon. I have had enough. Sometimes, if I feel like sinking myself even further into depression, I’ll look at the weather forecast for Davidson or Chapel Hill and a faint tear will form in my eye as I think, “Ah, balmy North Carolina. How I miss thee.”
Winter aside, Nettles (aka my husband, accompanied by other wonderful local musicians and friends) played a great shut-in show at The Garage on Friday night. He dazzled. You really should have been there, but you probably wouldn’t have fit, since The Garage can hold about 10 people inside it, instruments included. And on Friday night I think we had about 20. It was great.
Snax with fistfuls of kale, since kale is having The Best Year Ever, in the words of one J.Hecht:
59 Things You Didn’t Know About Virginia Woolf. I mean, OF COURSE I was going to talk about this. It was, after all, my all-time muse’s birthday last week. Some of these facts are kind of stupid, but some of them are quite interesting. For instance, did you know that Woolf was “a formidable bowler” as a child? Naturally. Anyway, happy belated birthday, Virginia. Thanks for being a constant fountain of inspiration in my life. (Flavorwire)
Living In: Howards End. I am leading our church classics book club on Howards End this week and so I was naturally delighted to see this feature on “Howards End,” the 1992 film with Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, and Helena Bonham-Carter, which is incredibly beautiful and perfect–much like the novel. (Design Sponge)
In Another Man’s Prayer Cap. Jonathan Pinckney–the son of one of our good family friends and husband to Grace’s mentor in India–undertook an interesting social experiment: He dressed as a conservative Muslim while flying home. His experience is graciously expressed and very eye-opening. Highly recommended. (On Islam)
Orhan Pamuk Attacks “Marginalization” of Non-English Writers. Guys, Pamuk is MAD. I think he makes a good point, though. And I think he’s an unbelievably wonderful writer. So, translators, thanks for bringing him to English eyes. But maybe we can bring over some other great writers, too, lest many more go undiscovered. (The Guardian)
The 10 Greatest Child Geniuses in Child Literature. A fun list, because I’ve met most of these characters in my reading life. What do you think? Do you agree with the rankings? If not, who would you vote for as the most eerily brilliant child in fiction? (Flavorwire)
It Doesn’t Get Much Cuter Than This. I don’t know what crimes I have to commit to get a Japanese baby, but I DON’T EVEN CARE. I will do what I have to. Photographs by Kawashima Kotori. (Miss Moss)
FRANCES. The world’s most posh and gorgeous bunny has come home to live with Angela! I swear you won’t be able to get enough of her. I’ve had the privilege of a Skype conversation with Mme Francoise and I must say, she is the ultimate lady. (WXTCHOU)
Magazine Monday: Feng Shui at Work. Can we all just agree that we are totally jealous of Meredith’s gorgeous office and now–completely feng shui–desk? I’m in love! (And Unlimited)
Valentines and Some News. If I ever got a card or letter from famed calligrapher Betsy Dunlap, I think I’d frame it and put it on my wall forever. Such beautiful work. (Betsy Dunlap)
Portraits of Criminals. Haunting vintage photographs of an assortment of Sydney vagrants from the early 20th century. (Wolf Eyebrows)
Better Learning Through Handwriting. Recent study argues that writing by hand strengthens the memory, whereas typing on a keyboard may weaken it. I believe it. (Science Daily)
Am I Compatible With Dad? This is just amazing. And hilarious. And yet I feel like it’s something that would feature in a Franzen novel. (Postcards From Yo Momma)
Model Dude Looks Like a Model Lady. There’s a popular game show in Japan in which contestants have to guess, among a line-up of men in drag, which of them is actually a woman (there is always one woman among them). It’s always very hilarious, because very often, they cannot tell the difference between the men and the real woman. This guy would fool you EVERY TIME. Seriously. He is… upsettingly beautiful. In a thoroughly female way. (Best Week Ever)