celebrate with me

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Won’t You Celebrate with Me?
Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lunchtable TV talk: Prisons of your own making – The Shield and You

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In the closing shots of the now-old (though, for some, not forgotten) “bad-cop” serial The Shield, the show’s anti-hero, Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), has – against all odds – gotten away with it. “It” being all the Machiavellian and self-serving things he did to profit and stay one step ahead of everyone else. That is, he and his crew, The Strike Team, perpetrated some of the most heinous acts in the name of “justice” during the course of the show’s seven-year run. They came under considerable suspicion but always managed to slip the noose. Not without casualties of course. The Strike Team anti-gang police unit – Mackey’s crew of rogue, line-crossing, law-breaking guys  – had once been friends, had once trusted each other implicitly. This trust erodes as the team had to do increasingly dangerous and illegal things to cover their escalating malfeasance. In ‘getting away with it’ – most of the characters here lose everything, up to and including their lives. At the very end (spoiler alert), Mackey finally gets out of trouble, dodges all the bullets that have been chasing him for years… only to end up getting assigned to a desk job with ICE – friendless, trustless, with his family in witness protection, and with his hands well and truly tied. He was the classic adrenaline junkie, corrupt and not above betraying everyone and everything that stood in his way, thriving on chaos and being at the center of colossal messes of his own making. In getting – kind of – what he thought he wanted,  he built a prison that probably ended up being worse than if he’d been caught early on or killed, or even if he’d gone to actual prison.

I thought a lot about this ending at the time, and how well Chiklis conveyed Mackey’s inner torment at suddenly being rendered useless, off the streets, chained to a desk… the worst punishment he could have imagined. But it was not until I half-watched the end of season 2 of the stalker-centric series, You, that The Shield returned to my conscious thought. It’s not my normal fare (but what is, really?), and the subtle parallels between it and The Shield did not reveal themselves until I saw the conclusion of series 2. Or rather, all the parallels became clear in the closing scenes of series 2. In both shows, events that the main characters undertake escalate, get out of control, and the rest of the time is spent trying to cover those tracks, which always results in new missteps that require more cover. You get the point. Finally (spoiler alert), You‘s main character, Joe (Penn Badgley), finds someone who is painfully just like him only even more calculating, more cunning, more deluded, and while this won’t lead to an epiphany or self-awareness, he has reflective moments in which he can see, once he is a victim, how his victims felt once his obsessive behavior was revealed.

One would think – even Joe himself – that finding someone just like him, who truly understands and sees him for exactly what he is, would be liberating. In fact, it’s the opposite. We, as humans, project and see what we want to see. Throughout the second series of You, the signs were there if Joe had really seen the person he was chasing. But he was consumed by the chase, not by what was right in front of his eyes. If we discover another person who is so eerily similar to us, do we feel comforted by the similarity and potential for understanding? Or do we feel more vulnerable than ever and feel trapped by what we sought and invited? I’d argue that Joe’s dual problem is 1. he had never been truly seen, and now it’s too ugly to have it mirrored back to him, 2. he got what he thought he wanted, but it’s the thrill of stalking, discovering, creating delusional narratives and justifications, that drives him.

While these two shows are almost nothing alike, it’s that imprisonment – ending up through a mad, wild series of dramatic events of the characters’ own making – that lands them in the same place.

passing love

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Passing Love
Langston Hughes

Because you are to me a song
I must not sing you over-long.

Because you are to me a prayer
I cannot say you everywhere.

Because you are to me a rose —
You will not stay when summer goes.

“I feel most colored when…”

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I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background
Morgan Parker

After Glenn Ligon after Zora Neale Hurston

Or, I feel sharp white.
Or, colored against.
Or, I am thrown. I am against. Or, when white I sharp. I color.
Quiet. Forget. My country is a boat.
I feel most colored when I swear to god.
I feel most colored when it is too late.
When I am captive
The last thing on my mind is death.
I tongue elegy.
I color green because green is the color of power.
I am growing two fruits.
I feel most colored when I am thrown against the sidewalk.
It is the last time I feel colored.
Stone is the name of the fruit.
I am a man I am a man I am a woman I am a man I am a woman I am protected and served.
I background my country.
My country sharp in my throat.
I pay taxes and I am a child and I grow into a bright fleshy fruit.
White bites: I stain the uniform.
I am thrown black typeface in a headline with no name.
Or, no one hears me.
I am thrown bone, “Unarmed.”
I feel most colored when my weapon is I.
When I get what I deserve.
When I can’t breathe.
When on television I shuffle and widen my eyes.
I feel most colored when I am thrown against a mattress, my tits my waist my ankles buried in.
White ash. Everyone claps.
I feel most colored when I am the punchline. When I am the trigger.
In the dawn, putrid yellow, I know what I am being told.
My country pisses on my grave.
My country bigger than god.
Elegy my country.
I feel most colored when I am collecting dust.
When I am impatient and sick. They use us to distract us.
My ears leak violet petals.
I sharpen them. I sharpen them again.
Everyone claps.

 

Spring into action – Random gum 2020

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Spring into action – Random gum 2020

It was a good run, making monthly soundtracks to chronicle life’s ups and downs. But inevitably other priorities clashed with best intentions, and here we are. I’ve just added a few bits to a playlist I intended to share in February/March 2019 – a whole year ago. How much has changed in that year, even though on a day-by-day, drip-by-drip level, it feels numbingly same-same.

Follow along on Spotify if inclined… I was, once upon a time, burning CD copies of MP3 files of all this stuff, and mailing them out with various candy/sweets from different spots in the world, but this too has fizzled out.

Usually when I produce these lists in a timely fashion, I nod respectfully to the dearly departed by including a song from those no longer on this earthly plane. For some time, something by The Cars lingered in the playlist as a ‘remembering Ric Ocasek’ thing, but it was like a nagging splinter that’s visible but unextractable. I removed the song; it didn’t belong. But the same can be said of so many things: remove because it didn’t belong – whatever ‘it’ was.

1. Jeff Russo – Star Trek Picard Main Title
Because it’s the sound of a mild but windy winter turning to spring, and of inevitable moments of turning away from
2. Roxy Music – Both Ends Burning …do I have the speed to carry on/I’ll burn you out of my mind…
3. Julia Jacklin – Good Guy …tell me I’m the love of your life/just for a night/even if you don’t feel it…
Missing Julia in Glasgow in December. Big regret. “I don’t care for the truth when I’m lonely/I don’t care if you lie”
4. Pavement – Range Life
I have no idea why I stumbled on this and placed it here.
5. Stone Poneys – Different Drum …I see no sense in the cryin’ and grievin’/We’ll both live a lot longer if you live without me…
How often this one pops up in life.
6. The Wild Reeds – Be the Change …conclude my story with a degrading phrase/because I never meant to be this way…
7. Fat White Family – Feet
8. Habib Koité – I Ka Barra
Always returning to Mali in some way, as one does
9. Angel Olsen – Lark …Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again, it’s no surprise I’m on my own now/Every time I turn to you, I see the past…
I missed out on Angel Olsen in Oslo in February. Ambitious, I bought tickets to all kinds of concerts in the autumn, and by winter, my ability to face crowds and noise withered
10. Sleater-Kinney – Hurry On Home …You got me used to loving you…
11. Maggie Rogers – Fallingwater …I never loved you fully in the way I could/I fought the current running just the way you would…
12. Karen O/Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
13. ALA.NI – Cherry Blossom …Blowing through the flowing of my heart…
14. Sharon Van Etten – Consolation Prize …The moral of the story is/don’t lie to me again/To find a better conversation/So I can be your consolation prize…
15. Jim Croce – I Got a Name …they can change their minds but they can’t change me…
I can’t hear Jim Croce without thinking of being a child, looking at an album my mom had that was just a close-up of Croce’s face, and my mom telling me that Croce died when he was 30. I was four so 30 sounded like a perfectly reasonable old age to die.
16. Dean Wareham, Britta Phillips – Mistress America
17. King Creosote – Surface …And now it’s my turn to hide, if not out here then inside/it’s both of us have run to ground…
Scotland, of course
18. Peter Schilling – Terra Titanic
For S and Deutschland love, and how Peter Schilling will always make me think of 1989 and college radio
19. Jane Weaver – You Are Dissolved …Even I am not amazed by you…
For Ade and the fights one can get into at Jane Weaver concerts
20. Heaven 17 – Temptation
21. New Order – Touched by the Hand of God
New Order, and more importantly, Kyle and Anne in Prague and seeing Naomi’s doppelganger. Will never forget the video for this song and how it entertained the adolescent Terra and me
22. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb …there is no pain/you are receding/a distant ship’s smoke on the horizon/you are only coming through in waves/your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying…
Because, according to S, I am the only person on earth who listens to Pink Floyd without being high
23. Ride – Vapour Trail …thirsty for your smile/I watch you for a while/you are a vapour trail/in a deep blue sky…
Still the nightly sleep filled with reawakening of old Terra memories
24. Belle & Sebastian – Meat and Potatoes
Dear Green Place music with a chuckle
25. Billie Eilish – all the good girls go to hell
Not normally my thing but this is a catchy one
26. Angel Olsen – Too Easy …one could make me laugh forever/I’d do anything for you…
27. Alvvays – Next of Kin …if I’d known you couldn’t swim/we would never have gone in…
Sometimes a band will just remind you of one specific moment, one specific person, and you can’t escape it
28. U2 – Red Hill Mining Town …A link is lost/the chain undone/we wait all day/for night to come…
Last year I listened to The Joshua Tree on repeat; my long-ago obsession with that was probably the last time I was ever that connected to such blind passion for something. It was also probably the last time it seemed like U2 wasn’t just going through the motions.
29. Nils Frahm – La
With love for Andreas; this one is best listened to in headphones
30. Vashti Bunyan – Train Song …What will I do if there’s someone with you/Maybe someone you’ve always known/How do I know I can come and give to you/Love with no warning and find you alone…
Another musician whose existence I trip over, so connected to discovery at a specific moment in time. Incidentally this also serves as the theme song for a tv show called Patriot, which I watched and forgot all about and started to watch again. Luckily I immediately realized I’d seen it. But we’re way beyond peak TV now…
31. Morphine – In Spite of Me …You seemed so close but yet so cold/For a long time I thought that you’d be coming back to me/Those kind of thoughts can be so cruel/So cruel/And I know you did it all in spite of me…
32. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors …I’ve been watchin’ all my past repeatin’…
33. Belle & Sebastian – The Party Line …I am on this morning quite distracted/The tug of war begins in our emotion/I am leaving many people feeling/worse than before…
I know I have included this song on another playlist before, but I don’t care. I love it that much.
34. Lana Del Rey – Mariners Apartment Complex
Also not my normal thing. I’m NOT a Lana Del Rey fan but at some point I listened to this particular song enough that it just became a part of this list, and I couldn’t remove it.
35. This Is the Kit – Bashed Out …and blessed are those who see and are silent…
36. The GoGos – Our Lips Are Sealed …there’s a weapon that we must choose in our defense/silence…
For S, J, and others. Somehow many people who should know better had never heard of this, and if they knew the song, they only knew the Fun Boy Three version. The two versions are tellingly different, but the GoGos’ version came first; the song was written by The GoGos’s Jane Wiedlin and Fun Boy Three’s Terry Hall.
37. Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright, end-credit theme, Auf Wiedersehen Pet
Um, yeah… thanks to S, this past year has been a learning experience about 80s-era UK television. This gem is the end-credits theme for a show about a bunch of unemployed English construction workers who go to Germany to get a job. Funny that with Brexit and its inevitable economic consequences, Germany and the rest of Europe won’t be an option for this type of out-of-work bloke any more
38. Tori Amos – Putting the Damage On …I’m just your ghost passing through…

Oughta Be a Woman

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Oughta Be a Woman
June Jordan
Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there’s food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she’s able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

ganymede

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Ganymede
Jericho Brown

A man trades his son for horses.
That’s the version I prefer. I like
The safety of it, no one at fault,
Everyone rewarded. God gets
The boy. The boy becomes
Immortal. His father rides until
Grief sounds as good as the gallop
Of an animal born to carry those
Who patrol and protect our inherited
Kingdom. When we look at myth
This way, nobody bothers saying
Rape. I mean, don’t you want God
To want you? Don’t you dream
Of someone with wings taking you
Up? And when the master comes
For our children, he smells
Like the men who own stables
In Heaven, that far terrain
Between Promise and Apology.
No one has to convince us.
The people of my country believe
We can’t be hurt if we can be bought.

 

Said and read – January 2020

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“It isn’t the risk of death and fear of danger that prevent people from rising up,” Leonel once said, “it is numbness, acquiescence, and the defeat of the mind. Resistance to oppression begins when people realize deeply within themselves that something better is possible.” He also said that what destroys a society, a state, a government, is corruption—that, and the use of force, which is always applied against those who have not been convinced or included. He was always talking about corruption: trying to prevent it, expose it, eradicate it. He was dedicated to the task of bringing the sin to the eye.” What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and ResistanceCaroline Forché

As a new year is well underway, I can’t count the things that have changed. I can’t explain how trying to care for someone ends up driving them away. How the silence that is normally a welcome comfort feels isolating as it never has before. How people can surprise you with both extremes of pettiness and kindness. How different perceptions can be – what seems insignificant to me is serious to someone else. And most of all how there are so many people in the world lacking in self-awareness, who exist as sexist, passive-aggressive bullies, and as men, plow blindly and blithely through the world despite the wreckage they leave in their wake. How is this knowledge newly and repeatedly a fresh surprise to me at my age?

Something else that surprises me is the search terms that lead people to this blog. Sometimes they are astounding. Today: “Is Phoebe Cates HIV positive?” I have no idea how they’d end up here based on that search, but that’s the fun of the internet, is it not?

I’ve gone a bit crazy on reading in January (cracking through 61 books during the month). I don’t know how to explain how I managed this either except that I felt myself crumbling underneath extraordinary stress — and just needed some outlet to forget it.

Here’s what you missed in the last nearly two years: 2019 – December, November, October, September, May, April, March, February, January. 2018 – NovemberOctober, SeptemberAugust, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

Thoughts on reading for January:

Highly recommended

“But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.” –Dept. of SpeculationJenny Offill

*Magical NegroMorgan Parker

It’s poetry, and it’s powerful.

*Blue Nights Joan Didion

“On this question of fear. When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them. The ways in which for example we write novels “just to show” each other. The ways in which our investments in each other remain too freighted ever to see the other clear.”

Good – or better than expected

*Dept. of SpeculationJenny Offill

A slight but naggingly thought-provoking wee book. Written in a distant, impersonal tone that nevertheless draws you in and makes you feel all the “fog” of never questioning until suddenly you find yourself questioning – speculating about – everything. Open your eyes. Suddenly everything seems different.

“The wife reads about something called “the wayward fog” on the Internet. The one who has the affair becomes enveloped in it. His old life and wife become unbearably irritating. His possible new life seems a shimmering dream. All of this has to do with chemicals in the brain, allegedly. An amphetamine-like mix, far more compelling than the soothing attachment one. Or so the evolutionary biologists say. It is during this period that people burn their houses down. At first the flames are beautiful to see. But later when the fog wears off, they come back to find only ashes. “What are you reading about?” the husband asks her from across the room. “Weather,” she tells him.”

*What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and ResistanceCaroline Forché

“I would try to learn from Leonel how to listen to what was said but also to what was not said, and I would also try to learn how to detect deception in others, which, he assured me, is a skill that can be acquired. I would learn to review my experiences for the missed details, and to keep in mind that while I was observing others, they were also observing me, and I would become less (how did he put it?) readable, and when necessary, I would attempt, in his words, to “manage the perceptions of others” so that, of the “five versions of the truth,” in any given situation, mine might prevail. “This place is a symphony of illusion,” Leonel often said, “and an orchestra needs a conductor.””

Poet Caroline Forché recounts her experiences in 1970s pre-civil war El Salvador in a stark memoir. As a young, and arguably naive, American woman, Leonel Gómez Vides, an activist and organizer, turned up on Forché’s doorstep demanding that she come to El Salvador to truly see what was going on there in a way that he believed only a poet could see or explain.

“So you can’t say it. You can’t write it. Even in a poem. If you had a photograph of the goddamn thing no one would believe you. As for your man in the basilica, your observations are imprecise. Next time pay closer attention. Someday you will be talking to your own people. Writing for your own people. I promise you that it is going to be difficult to get Americans to believe what is happening here. For one thing, this is outside the realm of their imaginations. For another, it isn’t in their interests to believe you. For a third, it is possible that we are not human beings to them.””

*Girl at WarSara Nović

What is one’s personal experience of war, and is it ‘war’ when it’s an indirect and mostly symbolic thing? Nović’s book begins to draw out these kinds of questions by contrasting the breakup of Yugoslavia and horrors that accompanied it with the post-9/11 war on terror (“more an idea than an experience”).

“It was now six months since the attacks, and the everyday things were returning to normal, first through an attitude of compulsory courage—fear means letting them win—then in a slow reinstating of routines, until we were again wrapped up in the mundane inconveniences of city life: knocking radiator pipes, subway construction reroutes, and the usual array of vermin. The country was at war, but for most people the war was more an idea than an experience, and I felt something between anger and shame that Americans—that I—could sometimes ignore its impact for days at a time. In Croatia, life in wartime had meant a loss of control, war holding sway over every thought and movement, even while you slept. It did not allow for forgetting. But America’s war did not constrain me; it did not cut my water or shrink my food supply. There was no threat of takeover with tanks or foot soldiers or cluster bombs, not here. What war meant in America was so incongruous with what had happened in Croatia—what must have been happening in Afghanistan—that it almost seemed a misuse of the word.”

How does one go on after war of the Yugoslav or Afghan type, how to reclaim some of the everyday that permeated life almost unnoticed before everything fell apart?

““What about a portable air conditioner?” I said. “In New York people get little window units.” But the suggestion was met unanimously with looks of horror. “Air-conditioning will give you kidney stones,” Luka said. I was gradually recalling those mundane moments—the ones that had until now given way to more traumatic memories—of a childhood governed by collective superstition: Never open two windows across from each other—the propuh draft will give you pneumonia. Don’t sit at the corner of the table; you’ll never get married. Lighting a cigarette straight off a candle kills a sailor. Don’t cut your nails on a Sunday. If it hurts, put some rakija on it. I tried to think of a singularly American superstition. I’d learned a few from the Uncles—something about not letting one’s shoes touch the kitchen table—but those were all imported from the Old World. Perhaps a country of immigrants had never gotten around to commingling the less desirable pieces of their cultures. Either that, or life there wasn’t difficult enough to warrant an adult’s belief in magic.”

Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof

*Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and the WorkplaceMarissa Orr

“In the early twentieth century, employees who left their job on an assembly line didn’t take the company’s resources along with them. Their vacancy was filled with another warm body to perform the same mechanical tasks. When knowledge is the currency, however, employees who leave their job take a precious piece of supply along with them and often leave their teams scrambling to fill the gap.”

Much of Marissa Orr’s book, Lean Out, struck a nerve. The whole Lean In ‘revolution’ is predicated on the idea that all women – and all people – want to be climbing the same corporate ladder. I don’t care to climb; I don’t care to take on the responsibility and the politics that come with executive-level positions. The idea that we lack ambition, drive, passion, interest in our jobs or companies, if we are not building our lives around making this climb, is pervasive.

“I often wondered what would happen if, instead of the parade of powerful women, a lower-level manager juggling a household, kids, a husband, and a personal life took the mic and said, “Raise your hand if you’re apathetic about your job because it’s all politics and bullshit anyway.” Would the majority of us once again have our hands in the air? Perhaps. We can’t know for sure because nobody ordinary appears onstage, and it’s a question no one ever asks. The lack of authenticity wasn’t isolated to public conversations on female empowerment. It also governed the politics of our individual careers. As I discovered right away, the first rule of being a woman at work is to never tell the truth about all the reasonable feelings and concerns you have about being a woman at work. I’ve always been bad at knowing what I can and can’t say in certain situations, so I learned this painful lesson early and often. “

_____

“Indifference toward climbing the corporate ladder is treated universally as a negative. The entire goal of women’s leadership seminars and training programs is to help you advance along with your male peers. Voicing reluctance is tantamount to exposing some secret failing and is a betrayal to our identities as modern, empowered women. As a result, there’s a distinct lack of honesty in the public conversation about women at work. Dominated by a singular chorus of voices, we focus on tangential things…”

Orr has done a fine job in telling this story, and what it means for the many who do not conform to the expected desire to climb.

“Part of the reason we’ve failed to solve the gender gap is because the spotlight is on the trunk of the elephant, which we’ve mistaken for the whole animal. Do women who were born to be the boss suffer penalties for acting out of type? Absolutely. But would the majority of women say that being punished for their bossiness is the biggest obstacle to their career success? I doubt it. We’ve over-indexed our time and attention on problems that plague a smaller subset of women, while ignoring the ones that are more common and perhaps more troublesome. You can see them only if you zoom out to see the whole elephant. And that’s why it’s so important to hear various perspectives from women on all rungs of the corporate ladder.”

——–

“Imagine that we asked women, “Do you aspire to be a corporate executive or CEO?” If the majority of women answered yes, then helping them climb the corporate ladder would make sense and be a worthy endeavor. However, as previously stated, the majority of women have said no, they don’t want to be corporate executives. The leadership ambition gap works by disregarding the answers as irrelevant, suggesting that the only reason women say no is because they’re culturally conditioned to say that. Taking our thoughts, feelings, and desires into consideration is pointless, I suppose.”

She also touches on the other side of the coin: what it means for employees and companies when the wrong kinds of people are eager to – and do – ascend.

“Perhaps the biggest threat to trust and profit are bad managers. According to a Forbes article, “Regardless of one’s level in an organization, your day-to-day relationship with your direct manager is invariably crucial to your well-being.”16 If employees feel, among other things, that their supervisor takes a real interest in their development, or offers frequent praise and recognition, they’re likely to be engaged. No matter how many perks or how fancy one’s office space, they hardly compensate for a tyrannical micromanager lording over you and your work every day. It’s impossible to improve organizational trust without rethinking the scope of a manager’s authority and how companies deal with bad bosses. Management is a universal prize given without consideration to whether a person is capable of the task. Given the steep price a company pays for a bad boss, it’s astounding how little attention is paid to the matter. Being a great manager, or even just a moderately good one, requires a specific skill set.”

So, I liked this a lot because I hate the lean-in idea that we should all want the same things – that we are not valid or successful if we are not climbing the same ladder. That we should strive to do what men stereotypically do. There is a lot of good stuff here, marred only occasionally by a few too many name-dropping moments that seem almost bitter. And maybe Orr was bitter. It appears that by unshackling herself from expectation, she landed on her feet doing something that suits her better.

*All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial CrisisBethany McLean

It’s impossible when reading as much as I have been not to have all kinds of crossover and coincidence appear. No sooner had I read a Robert Coles book, Doing Documentary Work, on how the observer’s influence and perspective cannot help but drive the work, and in which he discussed Dust Bowl era photography, e.g. Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, than I was digging into something related to help a friend do research on something entirely different but which was heavily influenced by Lange and Walker.

In the case of Bethany McLean’s gripping (as all of McLean’s well-researched backstory/exposé works are) account of the chain of events that led to the 2008 financial meltdown, I ended up with a strange crossover with Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. In Mbue’s book, things fall apart for two immigrants to the US, in part, because of the unraveling of the entire financial system’s deceptions and fraudulence. I happened to read this the day after reading McLean’s opus on the crisis. Incidentally, Behold the Dreamers was a good book, too.

I’d recommend just reading the book for yourself, but one thing I took away was actually McLean’s citation of Robert Rubin‘s memoir (italics mine):

“His fear stemmed from something almost no one else in government could claim: actual experience with a derivatives meltdown. It happened in the late 1980s when a sudden, unexpected shift in interest rates – unforeseen by Goldman’s risk models, needless to say – wrecked havoc on the bond and derivatives markets. ‘Bonds are derivatives products began to move in unexpected ways relative to each other because traders hadn’t focused on how these securities might behave under the extremely unlikely market conditions that were now occurring,’ Rubin writes in his memoir. ‘’”Neither Steve nor I was an expert in this area, so our confusion was not surprising. But the people who traded these instruments did not fully understand these developments, either, and that was unsettling. You’d come to work thinking, We’ve lost a lot of money but the worst is finally behind us. Now what do we do? And then a new problem would develop. We didn’t know how to stop the process.’ He concludes: ‘What happened to us represents a seeming tendency in human nature not to give appropriate weight to what might occur under remote, but potentially very damaging, circumstances’.”

Biggest disappointment (or disliked)

I didn’t hate anything I read in January although I read a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t bother mentioning, as it had no influence one way or the other.

those winter sundays

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Those Winter Sundays
Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

evening song

Standard

Evening Song
Jean Toomer

Full moon rising on the waters of my heart, 
Lakes and moon and fires, 
Cloine tires,
Holding her lips apart. 

Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm the moon, 
Miracle made vesper-keeps, 
Cloine sleeps, 
And I’ll be sleeping soon. 

Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters where the 
        moon-waves start, 
Radiant, resplendently she gleams, 
Cloine dreams, 
Lips pressed against my heart.