desk lunch – 2015-10-15

Brought to you this week by… oh it’s still Hamilton. It’s always Hamilton, and falling head over heels for Hamilton reminds me of the last (pre-Hamilton) new musical I loved, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I love this gorgeous, weird little show (and I was lucky enough to see at Kazino in 2013), and the music and story are amazing. Not as epic in scale as Hamilton, but perfect in its way.

I just want people to love Natasha and the Comet as much as I do, okay!!!!


The Shoes Under the Art World

They didn’t have to worry or marry their way into support; and they didn’t have another project, always waiting outside the studio for them to put down the staple gun and canvas. That’s what Virginia Woolf meant: a woman who wants to write (or paint) must have an income. The room of your own is the room you’ve paid for with your own money, with no one needing you—the tug on your body—outside. You need that room, with money left over for art supplies.

Really interesting longread by Pat Lipsky, a visual artist working since the 70s, and the deep-seated sexism still found in the art world. The quote above stands out, as well as the repeated imagery of “whose shoes are under the bed”, i.e., who is the man every female artist must attach herself to in order to make her living?


So, the first Democratic Presidential Debate happened. I highly recommend Alexandra Petri’s rich Maryland/granite mythos developed through the night after a couple of strange comments from the Not-Berns. I kind of love and fear the circus social media becomes during Serious Political Events like these- love for the hilarious running gags and fear because, obviously, we can’t live in the circus.

…Syria is just one of many places across the globe where warlords, separatists, drug cartels, or terror groups have seized territory within a sovereign nation, leaving the government with little or no power—and the people to fend for themselves.

Not quite an interactive feature, but a great visualization of the long-term conflicts happening around the world, the ones intense enough to have destabilized the established government. It’s an awful portrayal of the daily violence happening all over the world, but also this strangely sobering reminder that history isn’t finished. Very often it feels like America officially stopped writing history with the end of WWII, and everything after doesn’t belong with our National Mythology; the same very much applies to our conception of the rest of the world. There’s no forever in empire. HAS NO ONE READ OZYMANDIAS?


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desk lunch – 2015-10-01

Brought to you this week by Hamilton, currently devouring the brain of every person I know. If you’re looking for something linking this week’s three essays together, it’s something thematically similar: stories about how artists make their work and their careers happen.


This Is How You Become an Editor

They didn’t know about Mensah, the name I gave myself when I was eighteen, and if they knew the name, they could search for me online and know everything. Know about my messy relationships, know about my politics. To be unknown by everybody, or half-known, and to have to decide who should know which half of me, but never giving all of me, not even to someone I’d share a bed with, is to be constantly half-powered, half-committed, half-ready to leave it all behind. So I would joke with my coworkers, and we would swap stories over beers or Italian at a local spot for lunch, but I lied to them. I lied to everyone. I presented one man, but I was another man.

This is just a very good, winding story about going from a day job to a writing/editorial job, but I’m linking it for the passage above—finally able to own what you want to do and who you want to be. The day job/writer job split feels like Voldemort and his horcruxes a lot of the time.


“Make sure you value us. …Your students of color have worked twice as hard to get to where your white students are. Appreciate the work it took for them to get there.”

Really interesting quotes from students in MFA programs, but I’m particularly glad they interviewed comparatively a lot of Sarah Lawrence grads. I attended undergrad at SLC and ended up furious/uninspired by all of my writing workshops for the reasons listed in this piece.

LMM: I was like, Don’t look at Busta, don’t look at Busta. Then I look into the second row and Mandy Patinkin is sitting above Busta Rhymes. If there is a Busta Rhymes of musical theater, it probably is Mandy Patinkin. And it was just fucking crazy, when the people you’ve emptied your pockets to see are seeing you.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer of Hamilton and In the Heights, is like an actual ray of sunshine come to life. (See what he said about donating some of his grant money. UGH. ARE YOU REAL.) Every interview with him contains some moment or some line that strikes a little too close, and this interview in particular has a lot of good stuff about being Latin@ at a mostly white school, and working while also working, and. It’s a lot.


desk lunch – 2015-09-24

Brought to you this week by THE POPE, who has been on Philadelphia’s civic backburner for like, at least a year now, the knob on the flame slowly turning every week and he’s gonna be here soon!!!! The city is shutting down on Friday and Monday! I can’t wait for this four-day weekend and all the places I won’t go because of traffic boxes and special pope passes for the suburban rail and NO TRAINS OR BUSES GOING ANYWHERE. Great times. I am rationing my chicken nuggets.


Threesome with Ambivalence by Jameson Fitzpatrick

To make room in the bed then,
slow evacuation of the self: who was I before I
was yours? what did I want

Poetry featuring sex and architecture! YES, AWL, MAKE ME SAD.


Facing into the writing of a piece of fiction, I always feel a lot like Cheever’s Neddy: at once hungover and amped up on a self-congratulatory buzz, at once sure of the strokes I need to make and slowed down by the residue of all the messes I have made before. There is a story, I know; there is a story I can write, a story I want and maybe even need to write, but it is so far away…. There is such a way to go, setting out on a new piece of writing.

There’s this and something Lin-Manuel Miranda tweet about his process for musicals:

And this is something I’ve learned and something I hate that I’ve learned: I can’t develop every idea, because some aren’t right right now, and some aren’t right ever, and I don’t have the time for every idea. So for something to make it out of a note in my drafts folder or grow from one line in scrivener, it has to be good and we have to be right for each other. That requires patience and I have very little patience for myself and the fact that good things need time. Process! It’s dearly miserable fun! No regrets!


Rita Moreno quietly tears Animal and his drumming apart on The Muppet Show. IN SPANISH. I gasped and rewatched like five times because SHE’S SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE. How many times did my grandmother pull this exact stunt on me growing up!!! Like a MILLION.

Related: The Muppets‘ reboot premiered this week and it had one great line:

Miss Piggy: I hate the smell of lilacs in my dressing room. Fix it.

Kermit: Yes, I’ll talk to god about lilacs.


Harold’s Chicken Shack #35
fried gizzards w/ fries
your dad orders it for you
& you are too young
to know what you’ll have
to swallow &
too old to refuse food.

For one of my posts at The Rumpus this week, I included a link to an interview with poet Nate Marshall because I fell into it and his poetry headfirst and it’s tremendous. Link has the interview, but here’s the poetry. There’s more at the excerpt from his new collection, Wild Hundreds.


desk lunch – 2015-07-23

Brought to you this week by our theme: working writer’s block, which I contend is different from writer’s block because it’s not lack of ideas here, but literal lack of time between reading projects, work projects, and a week-long vacation “project” (read: vacation) that will see me reading comic books and Station Eleven and eating enough lobster rolls to make the ocean rise against me and take its revenge. I plan on befriending five sharks. If I happen to write, then well done, fantastic, but I’m off to see the ocean and nothing else.

So on this vacation eve, I’ll link to these two essays about the total unworkingness and unworkability of ~the writing life~ because 1) could be worse and 2) certainly feels as bad as all that on some days.

(If you scroll past the quotes, I talk about musicals.)


What does a middle-aged, post mid-career, multi-genre writer do when she moves to a new community where she knows no one? Firstly, she hits the woods to walk out the demons. Then, she integrates: joins jam sessions, plays guitar or reads from her work at open stages, befriends neighbours, plays cribbage at the Legion, talks to strangers. She brashly calls the local newspaper editor and lands a full-page spread: accomplished new author in town. She hands out business cards: name, address, and TWUC (Writers Union of Canada) web-link on one side, titles on the other. She sells books at yard sales and craft fairs.
Then, she loses her radio job: the company sells, there are cutbacks. Then, she panics.
This may well be where my nervous breakdown will come: here, in this IKEA. Today I am a fake writer writing in a fake office at a real desk, model name KLIMPEN/LALLE. Its main characteristics are whiteness and modesty. Its chair is rather uncomfortable, but IKEA isn’t paying me to be here, so I don’t have to be anything but honest. The Amtrak residency, this ain’t.


If there’s one show I absolutely never need to see again because I saw it like four or five times on Broadway when I was in high school, and because I still have the CDs of the original Broadway cast and the complete symphonic recording despite having no way of playing said CDs anymore, it’s Les Mis. (Don’t worry, they’re in iTunes. Oh, don’t you worry.)(I read the brick when I was 14. Where did I find that kind of fortitude?) I’m definitely inoculated from ever seeing a production of Les Mis ever again. Maybe forbidden. Is forbidden the word I’m looking for?

AND YET!!!!!!!!!!!! When did Les Mis embrace its own true heart and become charged with a transcendent homoerotic SUBTEXT-MADE-TEXT. Let’s look at the tape!!!

  • 0:19– Javert steps out of the shadows, reveals the LITERAL CHAINS he’s holding, waiting for Valjean.
  • 0:52– Javert SLAPS DOWN THE CHAINS. YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE, VALJEAN.
  • 1:10– Second most important action of this movement: Javert climbs on Valjean, gets one cuff on, spends critical moments not restraining the other hand but really getting a hold on him, while singing, because musicals. Because isn’t it wonderful to hold your own true convict against you, both of you sing-fighting for your lives.
  • 1:30– VALJEAN GETS LOOSE and (first most important action) immediately wraps the chain around Javert, brings Javert to his knees, chokes him a little. While singing. Is there anything better than a musical.
  • 1:45– Valjean remembers there’s a dead lady in the room and Javert pants on the floor, half agony, half hope.

I suppose this is what happens when Ramin Karimloo and Will Swenson, Young Fit People who are able to throw each other around, are cast as Valjean and Javert? (God knows Ramin and his long-time MUSICAL GUY PAL Hadley Fraser have had their moments. Moments. Hadley Fraser has moments. WHAT.)

Anyway, which came first: this Broadway throw down or Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe’s ridiculous swordfight from the terrible 2012 movie? Someone pay me to write a performance history on the evolution of homoerotic physicality in Les Mis’s “Confrontation” across the ages. THERE’S SOMETHING THERE.