apr 30 2020 - such attn

witnessing performance, audiobooks, texting, & zooooom

as semi-alluded to last time, here’s a slightly edited thing that I wrote for the April 1 slushee ! today’s first quarter moon moved into Leo this morning so I guess the energy is right!

If you’ve ever been a performance date/pal with me, you might remember that I usually like to sit in the back, as a default. This isn’t true all the time. sometimes I like to be right in the middle of it all, with the most logical choice there to just follow my senses—whatever’s moving right in front of me, whatever gape in the ceiling to tune out. One idea of experiencing something live is that one gets to choose—where to look, listen, smell. No adventure chosen is the same or wrong. If I miss something, I’ll have to ask someone else about it later and let time keep passing. But to watch something from the front row is a performance too, especially in a field where I can no longer claim anonymity as easily as I could’ve a few years ago. This essay is not about the challenges of fame, I promise ;)

In the back of the ‘theater’ (or wherever), I get the wideshot. This view complies with the logic that this distanced total vantage point is more worthwhile than the close-up, that from far back and up, one can see the larger effects of composition, use of space, depth. Brilliant pal Anh Vo has written about this inherently flawed inclination. The way I watch from the back is not subject to judgement because the only person whose view I obstruct is the team running the light board and they’re too distracted to notice my eyes picking one performer, one part of the set, one clump of people that may not be the ‘main action’ intended for my focus. In the back, I like to think I can drift away unnoticed.

The idea of a critic or an expert in the field more broadly is that their perspective is more intelligent, more attentive, more knowledgable than an average person’s. Beyond the bullish tendency to write down what one’s attention finds interesting (ofc i’m looping back to this slushee), the normie version of a critic is meant to filter out the inevitable mind wanderings and lift the 500 essential words that cuts relentlessly between the wide view and a select few close ups. Or else, the normie critic’s recounting of a random anecdote conjured by a random moment in performance is rendered vital, rigorous, and provocative, even if it’s unrelated to the performance lol ;)

Me, knowing I’m not saying something ~original~ : all our meanderings are vital!

Thank goodness for paragraph breaks and long takes and open tabs I once wanted to read or finish but if I’m being real, may never return to.

I’ve been on this big audiobook kick for the past year. With longer books, I’ve even taken to listening on my commute (something typically reserved for good tunes only!) so I can finish a text, front to back, before the deDRM snatches it back. In the middle of a denser non-fiction book, I took to rewinding 15-seconds every few minutes and became self-critical about the time-wasted re-listening to something I hadn’t understood (text is dense!) or wasn’t paying enough attention to the first time around. Then I realized that I need to do this all the time when I’m reading a book. My active consciousness can only take so much in at a time (to be a younger millennial worker with all the interfaces!) and I sometimes notice that I let my mind wander of need to take in a sentence a few times to let its meaning or significance float up. this cliché has new applications now!

Oh nooo polar bear - Imgflip

The ~re-calibration~ that happens all the time is one of the tertiary joys of reading. I’m not calibrating towards some ideal of disciplined focus or rate of pages read per minute but re-orienting towards where my brain is at, where my attention has been fractured, and how to bring it back to the conversation between my imagination and someone else’s ideas. When adding another layer of sensation, listening, and mediated through a sound recording, the joy becomes friction and I wonder about content overload and what if I just didn’t read or listen to something for the five minute walk between X and Y but if I don’t optimize my time and learn all the things, I’ll fail at late capitalism, ugh.

I’m generally someone that hates to be texting about anything but logistics. Sure, I’ll check in to see how you’re doing but it’s just biding the time til I can hang out with you. Now that that eventual time seems impossibly far away, uncertain to ever arrive, I’ve come to love texting. And it’s so nice to get a text back, to know someone’s spending a few seconds acknowledging me, and then to move back to my present moment. It feels like an easier engagement of my frenetic attention span than most other things. This somewhat less recent technology now comes with an odd nostalgic affection (omg human interaction! but not demanding?! I love) while the ~latest mechanism~ is the new target of my frustration and derision.

In zoom, work has required me to scan the gallery view of faces staring blankly at their webcams since 2017. #zoomseniority ew lol. When facilitating a discussion or workshop, gallery is obvioulsy preferable to speaker view, which lets one think that the person making noise is the most important thing to notice. When I was leading a few 2-hour, 8-person zoom workshops each week, I became attuned to the ways people’s eyes darted across the screen, their act of browsing during work time reflecting back from the lens of their eyes to the lens of their screen to the pixels of mine. Without having the wide shot of everyone and their energy in a room, I could only adjust my sensors to the small rectangle each participant occupied in my plane of view. I’ll leave the workplace surveillance commentary to this piece.

When someone’s wi-fi connection to the meeting room is weak, the corner of their rectangle blips yellow or more concerningly, red. Your internet is unstable. Wait, sorry, could you repeat that? Sorry, you cut out for second. If I’m trying to hide my own inattention for a zoom mtg I don’t care about, I’ll massage my legs out of view of the camera, or find some small gesture or behavior to reclaim that’s mine. I make this kind of friction is made invisible. When people’s sense of connection to each other is weak ~IRL~, I can leave if I don’t care but more likely, I’ll stay and try to gloss over my own discomfort. I’ll shift my attention away and let the moment pass or find someone else to talk to. But in the contrivance of a Zoom Meeting, I can’t just flee. We’re meant to speak to each other. Cue bio break, self-mute, camera off. There’s the text-only side chat and there’s pointedly looking outside the frame altogether.

The flirtatious back and forth of daring your lover to hang up on the phone is a cute cliché. When we wanna hang up on zoom, I feel like we need to say bye three extra times before wiping our images from reality. It doesn’t feel dramatic to say this quick erasure feels more violent than the gentle walking away. The niceties that end a pandemic-era zoom call are awkward and I need to have more zoom mtgs with Aries ppl. Since I wrote the beginning of this graf, different people in a few zoom chats have championed the utter grace of an abrupt zoomexit. By now, it feels like not getting a quick text back is less often read as a personal slight. People give their attention when they can. Unless this is a work situation with insufficient boundaries lol

Post-show chats were/are(?!) a vital part of the performance viewing. With the dissolution of my anonymity (last comment about my ~fame~ I promise) has come the running into pals I hadn’t seen in awhile at a show. (post-)performances as community spaces as social interaction, etc. When over it (the day, the wk, the show), I would make the quick exit and text pals and performers my love instead of hugging them in person. I can maybe feel regret for convo’s I didn’t have ~before this all began~ but on those nights, especially in the worst of fall 2019/winter 2020 burnout (it must end, i’m sure!), honoring my desire to have my attention fold inward felt more important.

(this won’t embed cute but): https://www.tiktok.com/@koolkidkenzieee/video/6813749229094309125

by the next first quarter moon, this slushee will have transformed into a TikTok! what if i’m not joking lol

bn

april 14 2020 - fuck sorry, just

a 3rd quarter meme special

today’s third quarter capricorn moon special post is brought to u by Aries season and ur fellow readers (mostly off twitter) who appreciated these quick takes and fun vids
so wanted to share more! so scroll for quality internet-age content or move on
regular content as regularly scheduled (if that even applies to me) coming next time maybe xoxo

[click to see the image —>]

hahahhahaha imagine, worrying about seeing an ex IRL rn hahahaha

this is 2000s white girl pop culture history in 2 twitter threads:

cute puppy interlude:

some physicaldistancing-friendly dance collabs [don’t @ me saying it’s not 6 feet]

classics, on a few levels

imagine being this bored you made this video:

imagine having this kind of patience

ab to make this my email auto-reply:

fuck, sorry we’re here
bleghghghghhgg, bn

apr 1 2020 - somehow cogent

but mostly memes, tbh

a few days ago, I started writing this slushee and it somehow turned into something cogent again, something with complete sentences and logically divided paragraphs. guess i’m on a roll or something

still, I don’t trust my sense of judgement right now. I saved those thoughts for another time, another context - maybe the next slushee i’m scheduled to send at the end of the month. maybe my essay on experiencing time online will feel cute and dated. I suspect it’s more likely it’ll still be apt, though not improbable that someone will have articulated some of the same ‘points’ I was exploring, that is, if they haven’t been already (i’m sure they have) don’t already feel redundant.

I then thought about compiling some favorite tweets and memes, which is also redundant ofc, but you can move on and i’ll never know. or u can scroll down if ur curious 🤪

happy Aries szn lol !

and 😪😌🤷🏻‍♀️

this is terrible,
bn

mar 2 2020 - romanticism, not always for the 'gram

quick spoiler-free notes on TATBILB2, West Side Story, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire

dear readers,

there’s a vein of (not necessarily untrue) thought that explains the outsized popularity of superhero movies through their propagation of narratives on the discovery of one’s exceptional power, to be used for vigilantism (ofc!) in ~dark political times.~ or the recent resurgence of rom-coms, romance, or romanticism for the lightness, the potential, and real-time escape they offer in ~dark political times.~ sure !

I was excited to watch TATBILB2 with some friends the day it came out. Lana Condor is charming and her face so expressive. I had many misgivings about the first movie, but you know, problematic faves blah blah, and I wanted to see what happened. the power of a franchise!

with a streamable rom-com that makes easy background noise (this is not a dig!), repeat viewings have helped me understand the first film through its infuriating omissions (he has to drive across town ~in his jeep~ to get the yogurt. big deal! 🙄; she still doesn’t get her scrunchie back!) as much as for its portrayal of Lara Jean’s so sincere coming of age among different characters and plot obstacles.

sequel-ing a rom-com is an impossible task and ofc, P. S. I Love You let down in more than a few ways. Besides sanitizing Gen’s pretty awful behavior, it asks us to spend an awkward amount of time watching Lara Jean and Kavinsky doing instagrammable date activities and likely, instagramming their joyous fun for their classmates whose judgement Lara Jean rejects. to be a teenager today… I couldn’t! its narrow focus on Lara Jean with Kavinsky or with the equally charming Jordan Fisher as John Ambrose made other subplots less meaningful, Lara Jean’s character development less rich.

beneath the thick aspirational sheen coating nearly every scene in the movie (that expensive retirement home, the luscious basement of the retirement home, the perfect suburban tree house and time capsule), there was also a missed opportunity for a meta-commentary about how this film celebrates the joys of being in relationship as getting to go on dates that not only look good on film, but are made to look fun to other people online in the same filmic universe. gazes on mirrors on gazes! meanwhile, millions of people, rapt, watched all this happen from their own screens. and I was one of them 😎

during the Valentine singing in the cafeteria, I heard for the first time that song that apparently catapulted a certain multiple Grammy winner to fame ‘out of nowhere.’ imagine being a white American pop star singing about "napalm skies," invoking US violent imperialism as tragically romantic backdrop for a mediocre ballad, and potentially not even being conscious (or very intentional) of how resonant such a nostalgia is for white America, how much is erased by her singing those words.

in Kavinksy’s cotton candy selfie as in the Valentine's song, one can spot a vicarious romanticism: in the former, it’s to not only be romantic but to be seen and commended being romantic by one’s peers, an act that’s partly PDA, part posting your relationship status on Facebook again (apparently, Instagram official is a thing?), and again, and again, in case someone hasn’t logged in recently.

in songs like Billie E*lish’s, it’s the idea that to have found love after trauma or violence (that in the case of ‘napalm skies’ specifically, she has not lived) is more special, more important than love found under plain blue skies. this is perhaps indicative of the supposed popularity depressive cultural content has among zoomers, who are (according to the research) miserable. (I qualify this statement not to cast my derision, but to not make a sweeping statement about another generation). BE’s skies are exaggeration, artful metaphor to capture the pain one feels (and aloso, at odds with her recent comments about ‘fiction’ in rap!). Unfortunately, the image is also indicative of white America’s obsession and performative grief over the violence and trauma it has enacted. under this lens, they get to transform their remorse into romance, use it to serenade each other for all their friends to see how deep their love is. blegh!

at the same time, I’m wary of how ‘instagram’ (and its implied shallowness and performativity) itself has become a ubiquitous ~filter~ (heh!) through which art is critiqued when it’s not always the right one.

a recent review derided Broadway’s new West Side Story as an ‘Instagram show.’ it’s not a good show, hard to justify reviving at all (see Carina del Valle Schorske’s review instead, or my tweet storm here), but I didn’t experience it as a show built for the ‘gram. It’s live theater, and the choreographed 2-dimensional choreographic images that stick out from this show conform more to musical theater and commercial dance’s compositional conventions than any image meant for us to capture with our phones and share with our friends.

that said, there is a dialectic in how instagram has trained our eyes to appreciate minimalist aesthetics as easy or beautiful—see book covers and subway ads.

but also, if I can’t go back to the beach, watching other people frolic at the beach and live in castles with just 3 people (the sparseness!), is a passable substitute for viewing beauty. I found ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ moving and appreciated Melissa Anderson’s discussion of this movie’s quieter romanticisms; a heavy-handed scene here, an easy inter-class friendship there. There were many beautiful, romantic shots featuring one or two of the actors against spare backdrops, but I wouldn’t say it was an Instagram movie. Much else has been written about how it actually resists the (male) gaze with the camera chasing after the back of Héloïse’s head. Later I realized Céline Sciamma also directed ‘Girlhood’ (2014), which, as much as she tried to center the film’s Black actors, was still an exercise in the white gaze. Awkward! Veering into a white history of white France with Portrait, Sciamma is able to talk about the male gaze and run away from her awkward responses around race from her previous film. Convenient! When I first saw the film a couple years ago, I hadn’t known who had directed it at all, so maybe I should research more before seeing things.

or perhaps, learning about the context (besides ~dark political times~) of a film’s making would’ve ruined my blissfully ignorant consumption of it. maybe it should have? That Sciamma dated Adèle Haenel, who spoke out about being sexually harassed by director Christophe R*ggia this past fall and walked out in protest of this Saturday’s César awards after P*lanski won a directing award, after working on a previous film together makes me feel ____ ?

I don’t know enough about this gossip to want to say more
but see you on the gram 😉

benedict

extra slush mush:

  • one of you noticed I didn’t send a slushie last month and asked me in person where i’ve been and I thank u so much for missing this missive. I was, of course!, drowning in this grantszn

  • and of course, happy pisces szn! today’s first quarter moon is in gemini

  • I had to delete this graf from talking about TATBILB but wanted to share my cleverness : I have not seen the famed scene, but it makes me wonder if certain multi-oscar nominated actress, one who’s been lambasted on twitter for her Very Dramatic performance in that nuptial movie, has ever expressed such subtlety but alas, I don’t remember and will not do the research to find out. I’ll just spend some words subtweeting her here instead.

  • while this is slushie reaches more towards coherence than I necessarily have before, I insist on lower-case to remind you how quickly these are written because i’m casual! this is fun!

jan 2 2020 - canonizing a year? nah

withholding some of my wittiest content !

dear reader,

i come to you from a previous decade, one you might have been in since people started frantically anticipating its arrival with the countdown’s and best of 2019’s and best of the decade lists whose integrity i questioned. how many spots were earnestly chosen? how many spots were paid for by sponsors? but ofc, most Mainstream Content has already been filtered by the Patrons - i saw that movie because everyone was talking about it, but only because the media was hyping it, but mainly because the marketing dollars got behind that film and dumped CATS (lol), which still got reverse hype notoriety, if not as many of the dollars that things/people get for being BAD (see; NYT columnists, US politicians, etc.). i was also here before this panic about the gregorian calendar moving and have already left and will be back soon ~

i’ve also been thinking about my last slushee and how those pieces of content crossed my consciousness with the right kind of relevance. here’s another succession mash up that’s very ‘on the nose’ - delusions of homoerotic american grandeur. but what fantasies and rhythms (i see you 2012 LDR) and erasures are these expressions of self-knowing white nostalgia predicated on?

i could find out perhaps, following another curiosity towards a precise unraveling of imagery, symbolism, and forms i’m not expert in. but for this object, i don’t feel deeply compeled.

this question was at the crux of the last slushee’s back half. sure, i was nervous by a few deadlines but the imposter syndrome is old. do i know enough to write enough? does ’knowing’ mean ‘knowing the white canon’ and even if it doesn’t, one could spend a lifetime reading old things and not write anything now, not that writing now is the benchmark of a life lived.

i’ve read and watched and listened to a good # of things over the last year — i started an attempt at compiling a deliberately incomplete list of some memorable and less-talked-about books, songs, TV, movies, etc. that i chose or that the algorithm chose for me that i didn’t turn down or skip. a small act of canonizing, if you will. it was cute and funny and so incomplete. i thought about this recent piece about how people don't read anything and how writers now write in a style that anticipates that and i felt nauseous at the idea of spending even more time somehow culling together what would always be an ‘imperfect’ list and, as i’ve whined before

there’s so much content !!

so in the vein of doing less, i pasted the very fun, witty, cleverly self-referential (i need to compliment myself on my labor well-spent!) multimedia list into a place that maybe (gasp!) doesn’t (eek!) need to be shared publicly on the internet b/c i do not currently possess the fortitude to contend with all the ways context spirals out gets squished in even the clearest of concise internet writings.

and you know how i tend to write ;)

in a time where it feels like most of the internet-content is meta-content about meta-content and meta-data, writing about writing, writing about reading, reading about the internet while necessarily online (don’t talk to me about clouds in this way), critiquing how our criticism has devolved, long-form pieces about short-form twitter fights, and some of this is good and important and my body is tired

today’s first quarter moon shifted from pisces to aries, so this is the best i can do:

if you wanna reply with a piece of content/culture you’re still thinking about, i’ll respond with one of mine

if i had an intention for arbitrary turns of the calendar page, one for now might be to be so intentional about spending time with gud things b/c it’d be so easy to spend all the time laughing at bad twitter memes and while that’s nice sometimes, there’s this queue of new music and articles and books that i hope to take in as well so i can gush and guffaw about it in person next time we might meet

to dialectics in context and good cheer ;)
bn

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