When I started this newsletter a month ago I couldn’t have imagined what the world would look like now. Because of that, I’d love to know what you want to see here. Send me an email and let me know what kind of things you need and want to read during this time of uncertainty.
The human mind is an amazing thing. Earlier today I was chatting with friends online about how quickly my brain has gone from full-on panic — last Monday I quite literally cried myself to sleep — to acceptance. Everything sucks and this is how it’s going to be for a long while, and I am feeling very stoic about that fact. Then I realized that acceptance is as much of a coming mechanism as anxiety is. At the moment I am holding some of myself back emotionally because I fully expect that things will get worse before they get better, and if I’m at 100% now, I’ll have nothing extra to give when the time calls for it. The thing I am very much watching out for is letting that acceptance turn into complacence. I look at it this way — I am giving my sympathetic nervous system a rest because I know I’ll need to call on it later.
How am I doing that? Mainly by knitting (as previously mentioned) and watching lots and lots of trashy reality TV. I have already binged all five available seasons of 90-Day Fiancé (haven’t yet moved on to the spin-off, but they are plenty), Love Is Blind, and Next in Fashion (which is not at all trashy but instead absolutely delightful). Also this week I watched Casablanca for the first time, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Handmaiden and Danger: Diabolik.
Casablanca is of course probably the greatest film of all time, and even though I’d heard several of the movie’s famous lines many times, seeing them in the context of the story was so powerful. The Handmaiden is a gorgeous and clever adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith — instead of being set in Victorian England, it’s set in South Korea under Japanese colonial rule. It is fun, erotic and beautifully shot.
By comparison, the other two films are incredibly lowbrow. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) was originally intended as a sequel to 1967’s Valley of the Dolls, but in the hands of writer Roger Ebert and director Russ Meyer, it became much more a satire. This film deserves nearly every content warning you might throw at it — what begins as a seemingly playful morality tale about the ravages of fame devolves into something completely unhinged and, as one critic called it, “needlessly brutal.” Gene Siskel, Ebert’s future partner, gave the movie zero out of four stars lol.
Danger: Diabolik is also an adaptation — one of Dino De Laurentiis’ two comic book adaptations released in 1968 (the other being Barbarella). Diabolik is like an episode of Batman produced by De Laurentiis and scored by Ennio Morricone, which is to say fun and frivolous, with a surprise ending.
Both movies were welcome diversions, and I recommend all four if you need to get out of your head and go to another place or time.
Here are some other things I found helpful this week:
Be Your Own Parent 👶🏻
This week in her newsletter, my writing coach Carrie Frye talked about how many people are experiencing a lack of structure — staying up late, drinking too much, over-doing it on news consumption. It’s like the late-night hours of a slumber party, she writes, when “you just really want a parent to appear and make you all go to bed.” Her advice: Be your own parent. She’s created a Daily Sequester Checklist to help you plan and give structure to your day.
In addition, this list of questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling freaked out, along with solutions, is extremely helpful to me. Don’t forget to drink water, put on clothes, and take a nap or shower when you need to.
The Friends Game 📞
This weekend, I talked to a friend on the phone for half an hour. A phone call! It’s been so long since I just shot the shit with someone on the phone and it was so refreshing.
When I quit Facebook a few years ago I knew I wanted to devote some time to interacting with friends in a more meaningful way than social media. I read this article about how to systematically stay in touch with people, and I’ve been using a version of that system ever since. One way I facilitate this is an app called Garden, which lets you record when you last visit with someone (even if that’s virtually) and sends you reminders for when it’s time to check in again. If you are struggling with social distancing, are experiencing loneliness or just missing your friends and family, both tools are a good way to make sure you stay in touch with people.
Give this moment the weight it deserves 🖌
Some advice for artists and creative types during this crisis from Heather Havrilesky of The Cut (paraphrased by me):
Populism embraces a herd mentality that shames individuals for meeting their own needs outside of the group’s dictates.
We were already living in a time when people shame each other for showing any dimension of their humanity.
Now we’re experiencing a shared crisis, but there’s already this burgeoning cynicism around making art or writing thoughtfully and emotionally about the extreme experience of watching things shut down and fall apart.
Whether you’re an artist, writer, journalist or smthg else, feeling the full force of this moment & recognizing the cultural, economic & sociopolitical impact it'll have on us for decades to come isn’t just creatively useful & emotionally necessary. It’s you tuning in to reality.
Entire thread here. It’s worth a read.
Knitting in a pandemic 🧶
Last week on Instagram I asked my friends: what’s a hobby you always wanted to learn but never had time for. Well, now’s the time. (You do not need to write King Lear tho).
Alanna Okun, author of the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater, has put together a doc of resources for anyone who wants to learn how to knit during this downtime. I highly recommend knitting, it is incredibly soothing and can be done while you binge-watch trash tv. It’ll also keep your hands busy from constantly refreshing Twitter.
Animal Bedtime 🐄
A shared recommendation from my friends at Study Hall:
Tucked away in the upstate New York village of Montgomery is a 92-acre sanctuary for horses and other animals, bordered by farmland and a wooded county park. The sanctuary, Squirrelwood Farms, tweets a short video of their animals (horses, goats, cows, pigs, donkeys, a small gang of boxer dogs) going to bed every night around 11:30 pm. If you, like me, get into bed, turn off the lights, and then read an hour of anxiety-inducing tweets, I highly recommend watching the Squirrelwood animals make minor pandemonium instead.
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