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A Moment of Real Honesty

betheboy:

Since Robin Williams’ passing I’ve been thinking about addiction and the tenuous nature of recovery.

I stopped drinking a few years ago.

People rarely ask me why but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I need to give them a reason.

Depending on who I was telling the reason has changed but…

http://shananaomi.com/post/94681925952/ive-been-poking-at-this-for-the-past-three-days

shananaomi:

I’ve been poking at this for the past three days but nothing is making more sense the longer I let it sit.

I spent last week in Texas, hanging out with my brother, Max, and his family. He and his awesome wife, Courtney, and their two kids have lived in Fort Worth for three years this summer; my…

Twitter Feeds Reporting from Ferguson

staceysthings:

fishingboatproceeds:

Couldn’t find a list like this, so I thought I’d make one.

Wesley Lowery, Washington Post journalist who was arrested while sitting in a McDonald’s.

Local alderman Antonio French.

Huffington Post journalist Ryan Reilly, who was also arrested…

thebluelip-blondie:

koercion:

A Washington Post reporter.

In America.

fucking christ…

On Why Patience is a Virtue, or: How My Unpublishable Novel Became A Publishable Novel

thestrangestofplaces:

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A little over two years ago, I started this blog with a post about how to write an unpublishable novel. Don’t worry, you don’t have to read it. I’ll summarize. Basically what I said was this: publishers, at that point in time, were still very caught up in post-Hunger…

Once upon a time, a girl sat on my uncomfortable couch in my tiny farmhouse apartment that would eventually be overcome with black mold and said, “I have an idea for a book. It’s about this girl…”

Over seven years later, that idea has become an amazing story, filled with laughter and heartbreak and characters that feel as real to me as that memory. I couldn’t be prouder of Sonia for what she’s accomplished.

Newsflash: it is really hard to write a novel. It is even harder to convince someone to publish your (amazing, now-completed) novel. She worked (and continues to work) tirelessly, always pushing herself and never giving up on what she knew to be true — that this was a story that deserved to be told. 

I can’t wait to hold the finished product in my hand. 

Aug 6

The idea of a maximum wage sounds outlandish today. But though no such maximum wage level has ever been embedded in America law, it’s worth noting that until relatively recently we had a de facto maximum wage policy in place.
The Second World War pushed the top marginal tax rate up to 90 percent. The Kennedy administration adjusted that down to 70 percent and there it stood until Ronald Reagan’s election.
Neither of those was a formal maximum. But they acted as a maximum wage. During the 90 percent top income tax rate, for a firm to put an extra $100 in the pocket of a top executive required them to pay onother $1,000 in salary. Rather than send $900 to Uncle Sam to pay a CFO an extra $100, it makes more sense to give modest raises to five separate middle managers — putting more money in the pockets of your workforce and less in the pockets of the federal government.
~ Matt Yglesias, The Case for a Maximum Wage, Vox.com, August 6, 2014

The idea of a maximum wage sounds outlandish today. But though no such maximum wage level has ever been embedded in America law, it’s worth noting that until relatively recently we had a de facto maximum wage policy in place.

The Second World War pushed the top marginal tax rate up to 90 percent. The Kennedy administration adjusted that down to 70 percent and there it stood until Ronald Reagan’s election.

Neither of those was a formal maximum. But they acted as a maximum wage. During the 90 percent top income tax rate, for a firm to put an extra $100 in the pocket of a top executive required them to pay onother $1,000 in salary. Rather than send $900 to Uncle Sam to pay a CFO an extra $100, it makes more sense to give modest raises to five separate middle managers — putting more money in the pockets of your workforce and less in the pockets of the federal government.

~ Matt Yglesias, The Case for a Maximum Wage, Vox.com, August 6, 2014

Aug 6

But I didn’t know. I can’t overstate how little I knew about myself at 22, or how little I’d thought about what I was doing. When I graduated from college I genuinely believed that the creative life was the apex of human existence, and that to work at an ordinary office job was a betrayal of that life, and I had to pursue that life at all costs. Management consulting, law school, med school, those were fine for other people — I didn’t judge! — but I was an artist. I was super special. I was sparkly. I would walk another path.
~ Lev Grossman, How Not To Writer Your First Novel, BuzzFeed, Aug. 4, 2014

I don’t think that I can state enough how much this piece touched and heartened me. The part about the pickles, especially, just got to me. This is some seriously smart writing, funny and then sad, with some great advice for writers sprinkled in. 

But I didn’t know. I can’t overstate how little I knew about myself at 22, or how little I’d thought about what I was doing. When I graduated from college I genuinely believed that the creative life was the apex of human existence, and that to work at an ordinary office job was a betrayal of that life, and I had to pursue that life at all costs. Management consulting, law school, med school, those were fine for other people — I didn’t judge! — but I was an artist. I was super special. I was sparkly. I would walk another path.

~ Lev Grossman, How Not To Writer Your First Novel, BuzzFeed, Aug. 4, 2014

I don’t think that I can state enough how much this piece touched and heartened me. The part about the pickles, especially, just got to me. This is some seriously smart writing, funny and then sad, with some great advice for writers sprinkled in. 

Aug 4

While online discourse is often characterised by extreme, polarised opinions, her writing is distinct for being subtle and discursive, with an ability to see around corners, to recognise other points of view while carefully advancing her own. In print,on Twitter and in person, Gay has the voice of the friend you call first for advice, calm and sane as well as funny, someone who has seen a lot and takes no prisoners.
~ Kira Cochrane, “Roxane Gay: Meet the Bad Feminist,” The Guardian, 1 August, 2014

Meet Roxane Gay, amazing writer and my current writer/human being crush. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you soon will.
She’s written two books so far this year, one which, An Untamed State, broke my heart — in the good way — and one of which, Bad Feminist, is a collection of essays and is winging itself to me even as I write this. She is a prolific, sharp and deeply compassionate writer, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter or Tumblr you are missing out. 
And if she is new to you, you are in luck. LongReads has put together an A+ reading primer of her fiction, criticism and essays. If you only have time to read one thing, I suggest you start with What We Hunger For (tw: sexual assault), which is one of the most powerful essays I’ve ever read. 

While online discourse is often characterised by extreme, polarised opinions, her writing is distinct for being subtle and discursive, with an ability to see around corners, to recognise other points of view while carefully advancing her own. In print,on Twitter and in person, Gay has the voice of the friend you call first for advice, calm and sane as well as funny, someone who has seen a lot and takes no prisoners.

~ Kira Cochrane, “Roxane Gay: Meet the Bad Feminist,” The Guardian, 1 August, 2014

Meet Roxane Gay, amazing writer and my current writer/human being crush. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you soon will.

She’s written two books so far this year, one which, An Untamed State, broke my heart — in the good way — and one of which, Bad Feminist, is a collection of essays and is winging itself to me even as I write this. She is a prolific, sharp and deeply compassionate writer, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter or Tumblr you are missing out. 

And if she is new to you, you are in luck. LongReads has put together an A+ reading primer of her fiction, criticism and essays. If you only have time to read one thing, I suggest you start with What We Hunger For (tw: sexual assault), which is one of the most powerful essays I’ve ever read. 

Aug 4

The Boy in the Pink Ruffled Dress

Hi! It’s August. Sometimes I remember I have a blog. My plan was to “start fresh” in August. It’s August 4th. I had to have Tumblr re-set my password. That is, essentially, how I roll. Anyway, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, so for the four people that still follow me (Oh, wow, it’s 19. Hi! You are awesome), I hope to be more present in the coming weeks.

On summer weekends, I work at a couple different farmers markets around Philadelphia for a local company, selling posh preserves and what Will Smith’s character in Six Degrees of Separation once famously called “pots of jam.”  It’s a job that I love, in many ways, and it brings me into contact with a pretty wide cross-section of the city’s inhabitants. I work from home, by myself, during the week, so I (mostly) relish the contact.

Since I’m in the same places at the same time every Saturday and Sunday from May to December, I tend to run into a lot of the same people: some customers, some just visitors. There are a couple that make me groan, but mostly I look forward to seeing familiar, friendly faces each week and having a chat in between sales.

This past Sunday, one of my regular families stopped by my table. They’re a family with a mess of kids, ranging from toddlers to preteens, and not usually in the market for fancy pots of jam, but they stop to sample new flavors and talk. The kids are polite and clever and clearly being raised by hyper-articulate parents, so I always look forward to seeing them, but I can’t for the life of me keep them straight – names, ages, genders, even how many of them there are.

When they approached the table, I complimented one of them on a very cool pink dress. The ruffle game was strong with this one, and it was a great rose color.  It was worth a compliment.  The kid wearing it had a cute short haircut and I didn’t think twice about it, but as they got closer, it was clear – insomuch as anything can be before someone hits puberty – that it was a boy.

I compliment people on their clothes a lot.Partially, it’s a way to grab people’s attention in a crowded market, but mostly it’s because I think people should hear that they look good, especially people who don’t look like runway models.  It’s not just at work – I’ve been known to stop people on the street, too, which I mostly hope is not creepy. I think everyone has days when they are maybe not feeling their best, and a compliment from a stranger might help, at least in theory.

Anyway, the kid’s face lit up, as did those of the other kids, and I got a twirl to show it off to maximum effect before everyone went their separate ways.

A bit later, at the end of a busy day, I saw the mom talking to one of the other vendors they visit every week. It looked like she was crying and I was worried that someone had given them a hard time about it. While we were packing up, I asked the vendor if everything was okay. He said she wasn’t upset – just the opposite.

She was overjoyed because everywhere they had gone that day, people either accepted the dress without comment or went out of their way to compliment it. She said her kid was over the moon.

I have no idea if that kid is transgender, queer, gay, a drag queen in training or just a really big fan of pink ruffled dresses. I know the kid is certainly brave enough to wear it in public and lucky enough to have a family who’s supportive.  But what really struck me was how profoundly different the world has become since I was that age.

The world is still a sometimes hostile place for queer kids – for any kids who feel different, really, and what kid doesn’t at that age? – and the threats and dangers are real. Some kids get hurt, physically or emotionally, by friends and family or strangers.  Some end up homeless, vulnerable and exploited, and some just end up unbearably lonely and isolated. All of that is real.

But the world is changing, and for the better. Kids today grow up with a far more flexible and nuanced understanding of sexuality and gender than I probably still have as an adult. They don’t blink twice at gay friend, bi friends, trans friends, and they don’t seem to find anything odd about whether Heather has two mommies or two daddies or two grandparents that show up at the school recital. It’s a brand-new world for them, as it should be .

What is really amazing, though, is watching the adults around them change.

The little old Italian ladies in our South Philly neighborhood may use language that’s borderline offensive and thirty years out of date to talk about their queer neighbors, but their attitude is, almost to a person, profoundly live and let live. If you shovel your walk and wave from your stoop, they are perfectly fine with you. They might even drop off pizelles at Christmas time.

My very Catholic friends teach their kids that God loves everyone and happily invite their gay friends into their homes and their lives. They ignore the more conservative elements of the church and talk about having their faith renewed by the practical kindness of Pope Francis.

Big, gruff farmers (and let’s face it, that’s also a worn stereotype. Probably half the vendors at a farmers market are twentysomething hippies who probably minored in Women’s Studies in college) go out of their way to shower compliments on a kid who’s outside the norm.

That’s a tiny moment of kindness, but it resonates in the world, and it makes it a better place for us all, not just the kid in the pink ruffled dress. 

Feb 2

Goodbye to Philip Seymour Hoffman, My Totally Explicable Crush

 “Actors are responsible to the people we play. I don’t label or judge. I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think,  ‘What I thought I’d feel about that guy, I don’t totally feel right now.’”

~Philip Seymour Hoffman, in an interview with Michael Krantz, TIME, Nov. 20, 2000

I am devastated by the death by apparent heroin overdose of Philip Seymour Hoffman this morning.

For over a decade now, I’ve been talking about my inexplicable crush on Philip Seymour Hoffman. Since 1999, in fact, when he made his entrance as Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley and managed to be both wholly repellent and utterly, devastatingly charming at the same time, a feat that few men can really ever pull off with anything like aplomb.

While my attraction to the loathsome Freddie Miles probably says more about my twisted psyche and early exposure to private-school boys in their blue blazers than anything else, the truth is that my crush wasn’t inexplicable at all.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was amazing.

He was, by all accounts, one of the most talented actors of his generation. I may have fallen in love with Freddie Miles, but I was asking “Who was that guy?” as early as roles in Next Stop Wonderland and Boogie Nights. He had a way of moving into his characters, however small the role, and making them fit him like a comfortable old shoe. He managed to imbue the men he played with a certain world-weariness, even in roles where he played a variation on the manic pixie dream boy. He brought a sense of compassion to even the most amoral or outright evil characters, and he managed to play an astonishing range of humanity in his career, now cut so terribly, tragically short.

He wasn’t movie-idol handsome, but he was an attractive man, and dead sexy. He had that deep, rumbly voice that made you want to dive into it, lovely blue eyes that always seemed to have a hint of mischief, big hands that still managed to seem delicate. He laughed from his core and smiled until his eyes disappeared.

More than that, he seemed like he had qualities that, as I get older, seem sexier and sexier to me. He was a private guy, but whenever I’d see him in interviews he seemed like someone you might want to get a drink with. He was smart, and not afraid to take his work seriously, but he also seemed to be pretty down to earth. He seemed content to be a working actor with a life that he led largely out of the spotlight. He had a family he seemed to delight in. He carried himself with authority and seemed to be at home in his own skin.

Maybe, in the end, that was just another role he played.

No one just wakes up one morning and decides to start doing heroin. Maybe he spent decades feeling insecure and unloved because of his looks, because of his childhood, because acting is a game of rejection. Maybe he was facing middle age with a sense of panic and foreboding. Maybe he felt the best years of his life were behind him. Maybe he felt unworthy of adulation. 

Or maybe it was all true. Maybe he loved his family with his whole heart and soul. Maybe he woke up every day grateful for a chance to do work he loved with people he admired. Maybe he stumbled deeper and deeper into addiction, fighting tooth and nail every step of the way.

That’s the thing about addiction. That’s the thing about addicts. There’s no one path into it and there’s no one path out of it. Sometimes people find their way. Sometimes they are lost to us forever. Some people are “functioning” addicts for their whole lives, the devastation they wreak on themselves and their loved ones only seen behind closed doors. Sometimes, they’re clean for month, years, decades, only to be pulled under again by a moment of weakness or vulnerability.

We all have gaping holes somewhere inside us that are never filled, no matter how much we love and are loved, no matter how rich and full we strive to make our lives, no matter if we live lives of creation and productivity or quiet desperation. We try to fill those holes in all sorts of ways, each of us, and some of us choose those paths that are the most destructive.

You can’t love someone out of addiction – that’s one of the tenets of Al-Anon and pretty much a universal truth. But you can keep loving them. You can recognize the hard battle they’re fighting, every day. You can offer them your support and your compassion, and you can reach for them when they fall. And most of all you can recognize that addiction is a disease, not a character weakness.

There are no easy answers, and no one solution. But I know that I saddened by the passing of a man I loved and admired, and am thinking of his family, who truly knew and loved him, and of their pain and sorrow.

I’m sorry for all those years that I didn’t call it my “totally explicable crush on Philip Seymour Hoffman,” and I’m selfishly sad that I won’t get to enjoy his work for decades to come. I’m going to try to reach out more often and remind the people I love why I love them, too, even when it’s hard.

And to everyone fighting that hard, good fight, you have my support and admiration.