158 Reblog

1 year ago


Literally the Best Thing Ever: Nikki Giovanni

For teaching me that poems were about more than just rivers.
22 Reblog

1 year ago

The Believer Logger: Interview with Michelle Orange: The Search for Home



Michelle Orange and I grew up a few neighborhoods apart in the woodsy, conservative university town of London, Ontario and, after high school, we both studied English Lit and Film in Toronto. Yet wasn’t until 2009, in New York, that we got to know each other. Canadians have a knack for finding each other in that city—even those who, like Michelle, consider it home.

Michelle has published an epistolary travelogue, The Sicily Papers (2006), conceived and edited an issue of McSweeney’s inspired by F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s notebooks, and has written for The New York Times, The Nation and The Village Voice, among other publications. Last week, FSG published This is Running for Your Life, Michelle’s first collection of essays, which has been described as “whip-smart,” “intriguingly different” and “probing,” and has earned her comparisons to Susan Sontag and John Berger.

The book’s diverse subject matter (the aging Ethan Hawke, Hezbollah, digital photography, etc.), is unified by her keen critical eye, acerbic sense of humor and a writing style that crackles with wit and insight. On any page one is liable to stumble onto cheeky imagery (in a photo of the 2009 inauguration, Barack and Michelle “embrace like lacquered wedding toppers”) and acute cultural diagnoses: “The new American dream is to build a really bitching personal brand, and the result of all that tap dancing on all those individual platforms is a pervasive kind of narrative decadence.”

Yet these essays aren’t hand-wringing missives about the state of things. Each piece braids multiple narrative and thematic threads to create almost an impressionistic interpretation of how we experience, negotiate and document the times in which we live. This is careful, considered writing that demands commensurate thought from its reader. About halfway through the book, I started to appreciate why it had taken us so long to become friends.

Our interview was conducted, to Michelle’s dismay, over Gmail. - Pasha Malla


THE BELIEVER: When I asked to interview you by IM and email, you said, “I feel like one of my few innate skills has been made obsolete.” Why do you prefer the telephone? What’s wrong with computers?

MICHELLE ORANGE: I’m partial to the phone. Probably because at 14, pre-email, I attempted a very dramatic, Wharton-esque jump in social stature, and the telephone was key to its execution. On the phone I could relax and feel and sound like the person I had more trouble being in a group. With boys especially, obviously. You could sidestep the horror of being looked at and try at being liked in a way that felt earned. Plus I am very big on voices. I would always make a note of the people––Glenn Gould, Stanley Kubrick, Marlon Brando, and Michael Jackson come to mind––who were obsessed with the telephone. Maybe they got trapped, by fame or their personalities, in teenage limbo. The thing about email interviews is I worry that they contribute to the decline of the well-spoken word. Mostly I worry about that with regard to myself. Add to that a real aversion to talking about writing or my own work and I have no idea why I chided you about insisting we do this over email. Probably to hide my own relief.

BLVR: Is This is Running for Your Life a book about nostalgia?

MO: I think I had some ideas surrounding what became the first essay, and I concentrated them there. But nostalgia is a loaded word; it could mean a number of things. I don’t think, for instance, it’s a book about longing for the past.

BLVR: No, and I think you’re in fact very much writing against that sort of cosmetic nostalgia—the empty, sentimental pop culture reference, the whimsical sigh of a Ghostbusters t-shirt.

MO: Right. Well, I wasn’t at all interested in saying: here’s why Ghostbusters was awesome and how come we don’t have movies like that anymore, guess I’ll have to settle for the T-shirt. I wanted to avoid those kinds of oppositions and binaries and, yeah, write against them. But thinking through certain subjects and experiences in terms of home and homesickness really interested me. And I thought it might be a way to get at something shared in modern life. The fact that more cosmetic versions of nostalgia have cast such a pervasive spell complicates things nicely.

BLVR: You write, “The question is what we are leaving to be found.” Is the book also a lament for what might become this generation’s future nostalgia?

MO: No. I didn’t want to send anything as straightforward as a lament into the world. That’s what I mean about nostalgia—I just don’t feel that way. I wanted to think more about new ways of engaging with the world, what’s different—not good or bad—and what it means. I wanted to think about the role that plays in the way we mark time and organize and identify ourselves—generationally, culturally, nationally. I wondered how those associations will be made going forward. You can already see it on something like Twitter. My memories of the Osama bin Laden news, for instance, are all tied up with Twitter. Same with Hurricane Sandy. I had a few people over on election night and although we had the television on there were some who preferred to experience the night through their Twitter feed. The Superbowl the other night, same thing. So you could argue that the collective has found a way to resurface and assert itself. That has its own implications, like how certain things will find their rightful place in memory when we’re so busy shaping and “remembering” them in real-time and moving on to the next. There’s an equalizing effect. But the point is it’s all very interesting to think about, there’s nothing to lament in that regard.

BLVR: Is that a necessary for you, in order to write about something—to be open and curious, rather than coming at a subject with hard opinions or biases?

MO: It’s very necessary. Working as a critic that’s one of the biggest parts of the job—you have to be open to each new thing you’re considering. With the book figuring out my own experience of some of the things I describe was part of the challenge. In certain cases it seemed important to stay true to my own ambivalence, that that would be my best shot at getting somewhere. I wanted to be open and curious but I also didn’t want to shy away from my own confusions and contradictions. I thought they might be the source of understanding.


BLVR: You break down nostalgia to its Greek root (homesickness, basically) in the first essay and, in the last essay, claim that, for you, running used to be a “pathetically physical solution to a metaphysical problem of homesickness.” I wondered if writing might have become the metaphysical solution?

MO: Yes, in that sense I think you are right. And with the first and last essay I did want to create a frame that had to do with the search for home and the problem of time.

BLVR: Where is home to you?

MO: The biggest scare I’ve had at the border followed my having casually told the customs officer, in response to her question about why I was heading to New York, that I was “going home.” Her back hit the ceiling. “If New York’s your home where’s your green card? Show me a green card if that’s your home!” I had said it without thinking, and here this agent was threatening to keep me in Canada because I was a lowly visa-holder pretending I had a home. She wasn’t happy until I put it correctly: “I’m returning to the place where I currently live and work.” I thought, Wow, it’s like I’m fighting with my metaphor. I had been living in New York for eight years at that point; it’s almost ten now. I was approved for a green card last summer and that triggered a real shift for me. I bought furniture for the first time in my life. I am settling down a bit and that feels good. 

BLVR: A decade in New York despite the fact that your first visit, in high school, filled you with melancholy. Though maybe it was melancholy that made you want to go back?

MO: I think my response at sixteen had to do with the fact that New York is an exciting but not a very welcoming city. It’s very easy, especially if you are sensitive to that stuff, to feel excluded from the idea of an elusive, “real” New York. Discovering that you desperately want or need the city to accept you and give your sorry ass some context can be painful. I just remember feeling lovesick and frustrated. But determined. The city is a source of joy and (mostly joyful) depletion for me now. I’m comfortable and I have a great life here but I’m not a die-hard, it’s not New York or death for me anymore. If anything I think the city helped me realize and accept that writing is and should be my true home.

BLVR: What about London, Ontario, where you grew up, but which exists in the book mostly in shadow?

MO: I don’t go back very often, but I dream myself back there—specifically the house that I grew up in and where my father still lives––on a pathological basis. Story-wise, very few of them are about the house, but they’re all set there somehow. Most annoying is when the perspective of some pleasingly arcane scenario pulls back to reveal the old kitchen tiles or the outline of the garage door––yep, our London house. And I’ll go, dammit!


BLVR: Has your relationship to time changed having produced a book about your relationship to time?

MO: I’m still working on slowing it down, I’ll let you know how that goes. I remember my grandmother telling me, when I was a teenager, that the days seemed to go so slowly at my age, but that this would change. She was trying to comfort me, but looking back from a point where the years have begun to taken on a stretchy, accordion-like quality, it sounds more like a warning. (Isn’t it strange the way the gap between your age and your parents’ age closes over time? Like how when I turned 30 my mother was exactly twice my age, after having been three, four, five, twenty times my age. Now she gets less older than me every year.) Writing the book helped draw out and shape my relationship to my own memory, and set a couple of periods in my life into deeper relief. It helped connect me to the past—my past, other pasts—and that made a certain sense of the present and the future. Partly it’s getting older – your perspective opens up and you can either turn away or assume the position and find a way through. It was really in writing this book that I began to feel like there could be a life spent this way. I hadn’t quite felt that way before. It’s very comforting.

BLVR: Each essay weaves together a lot of seemingly disparate ideas and experiences; “War and Well-Being at 21° 19’ N., 157° 52’ W.,” for example, touches on modern psychiatry, celebrity, death, Hawaiian tourism and tribal coming of age rituals, among other things.  Did the material create natural connections or were you selecting and arranging parts into a whole?

MO: The current revision of the DSM had such a vast range of implications that it was hard not to see all of the connections and hear the cross-talking. Much of what happened and what I observed and thought about seemed to nest together of its own accord, such that I began to take closer notice. You can’t spend your life that way, it would probably take a week or two to go bananas. But it seems to me that experience of the world is available the moment the protective shields that help a person through the day come down—you know, breathe deep, turn your sensors on high and take a good look around. All writing does this on some level; maybe the vague sense that there is or must be order in what feels like chaos is part of the drive to tell any story. It tends to be the way I try and make sense of things.

BLVR: By organizing?

MO: By seeking form, and some context. A story, basically.


Pasha Malla is the author of the story collection, The Withdrawal Method, and, most recently, People Park, a novel.

(Source: believermag)

581 Reblog

1 year ago


Tell It to My Heart

A Galentine’s Day photo album.
10 Reblog

1 year ago


The EU Council of Ministers is due to vote on plans to restrict discarded fish, caught by accident, in a bid to protect stocks across Europe’s fishing grounds.

Spy-in-the-wheelhouse CCTV cameras trialled in the UK are said to have cut cod discards from 38% to just 0.2%.

Fishermen on the trial are obliged to land all the cod they catch, whatever the size.

They have been rewarded with increased quotas and permitted extra days at sea.

9 Reblog

1 year ago


I just found these pins that have been organised by one of the collections review teams. THIS is how pedantic you need to be to work in museum documentation! We like order!
32 Reblog

1 year ago


We are loving this batidor [whisk] which is used for stirring chocolate in Mexico City, Mexico. (31.226, acquired by the museum in 1931).

12 Reblog

1 year ago

The Believer Logger: They're Not Dead, They're Just Not Here


I. Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here

by Stanley Booth


Death has mewed behind my footsteps since I was child. Or written its name on the wall: was it a regional postbellum practice to have sepia photographs taken of newborns, usually wearing what I later learned was called christening attire, who succumbed after only a few months on this planet? I don’t know, but they seemed a familial domestic fixture and were usually hung in spare bedrooms. “Why do I always have to sleep with the dead baby?” I remember asking, on yet another visit to yet another relative. I was further confused by the inherent gender issue: “Why do they all wear skirts? Are they all girls?”

My great-grandmother complicated things even more. Obviously a girl at one time, she didn’t die until I was thirteen, and by then she seemed older than God—especially because she, too, dressed habitually in robes. Granny lived on a vast country plantation and would buy anything sold from a car. City or country, it pays to be a smart shopper, except when it comes to cure-alls, though she doubtless demanded a discount. Her death was followed by her son’s, my famously lazy great-uncle Bunyan, the family’s Biblical scholar and collector of the Saturday Evening Post from time immemorial. “Bunyan knows the Bible,” she would say. “But Bunyan don’t live the Bible.” No one knows how he died, except that he was found in a chair, his body partially devoured by fire ants.

More details, and fairly interesting ones, surround my father’s demise, which was caused by my mother. She called on the last Thursday night in June 2005. Diann, my wife, answered the phone, listened without speaking for about a minute, and handed the receiver to me. I heard my mother’s voice. “Darling?” she purred. “I want to ask you something. There’s a man in the bedroom, and he says he’s Stanley Booth. He says he’s either you or Daddy, but I’ve never seen him before in my life. And Daddy’s gone, and he’s been gone for a couple of days. But both of the cars are here.”

My father was eighty-eight, my mother a year younger. For the better part of twelve months, my mother had been saying that my father had Alzheimer’s disease, and their doctor agreed, though he said the condition was only incipient. My mother, I learned too late, had senile dementia. My father had what he called “the wobblies,” and I’d brought him a walker, which enabled him to creep around the house. But my mother said he’d disappeared, wandered off somewhere, and I knew, given his physical state, that was impossible.

During the evening before she called, I’d had most of a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Nothing ever frightened me so badly as what she told me. Suddenly nauseated, I lay down on the floor and felt every last one of my pores open. All at once my body and clothes were soaking wet.

 “Call Ernest,” said Diann. Ernest Gilbert, our attorney, the man who presided at our wedding and to whom we refer as “His Holiness,” suggested that we dial 911 immediately. We hadn’t done so in the first place because we had no idea what to say. “Help!  My mother’s brain has fallen out and she can’t pick it up!” “Give them your parents’ address,” Ernest advised patiently, “and tell them there’s been an emergency there.”

Within twenty minutes, we met a full squad of personnel, along with various vehicles and their flashing lights, in my parents’ driveway. Strangely, one of the policemen was an amateur magician whom I’d known since, years before, my daughter and I had met him at a demonstration he’d given for guests of the local library. Having someone there I knew, especially a magician, made the ordeal easier.

My father wasn’t dead, but he lasted less than a week. My mother had given him a pillow and a blanket on the floor and left him there for seventy-two hours, the same span of time he was allowed to stay in the hospital. Summarily ejected despite the muscles that were “crushed” (the medical term) during his ordeal, he couldn’t walk or do much else, but we were most grateful that his physician was able to secure a bed for him in the nursing wing of the best local assisted living facility. We thought it obvious that my mother should join him there in the non-acute section, which offered the equivalent of small apartments. No pets allowed.

For at least two years, Diann and I had made post-Mass, Saturday evening visits to their enormous Mediterranean-style home, and my parents were either to be found in the bedroom, watching the Weather Channel, or in the small nook off the kitchen, eating Raisin Bran. Diann was puzzled by the contrast between these paltry meals and the well-stocked, double-wide pantry, and I explained that it was an indication of my parents’ upbringing during the Depression, akin to my father’s ability to tell you, at any time of any day, the precise amount in his various bank accounts.

Can after can of tuna, soup, vegetables, plus multiple packets of freeze-dried, alfredo-flavored noodles—nothing ever seemed to have been taken out of the larder and cooked. Its floor was notable because of its overflowing bowl of Meow Mix.

I’d been instructed by my father on his deathbed to return to the house and take the shotguns there home with us. “Your mother,” he said, “is ultra-confused.” This, of course, we knew, and perhaps most definitely when we left to follow the ambulance that took him to the hospital on that humid midnight. “It’s dark,” she said, following us outside. I grasped her hand and, after we moved toward one of the driveway’s lanterns, showed her my watch. “I thought it was nine in the morning,” she responded, a note of suspicion in her voice.

Diann sat with her while I waited with my father for the EMTs to arrive. She later told me that my mother kept pushing her red wallet between the cushion and the side of the chair in which she was sitting. Diann asked why she hadn’t called on any friends for help. “Sometimes people will pretend to be your friends just to get your money,” she whispered.

Within a week of hospitalization, then transfer to a nursing home, my father died. His doctor told us that six months previously he had advised both of them to enter an assisted living facility. “They had the good sense never to come back,” he advised us. In fact, we learned that they had stopped going to their cardiac rehab program, church, everywhere except to the grocery store and my mother’s beauty parlor. Each time we visited their house, the same scenario: my parents, the Weather Channel or the Raisin Bran, and Angel, the cat. Cats, being naturally neat, don’t like messes. Angel did the best she could to remedy the one she inadvertently made each time she ate. Thank God the water bowl was filled only to a manageable level; otherwise, she would have drowned or died of dehydration.

I took my mother food several times after my father died. She remained as resistant to the idea of assisted living as she had when my father was alive. She didn’t want, she said, to leave her “nice things.” All of which were covered with dust.


Among the missing: Dewey Phillips (who played the first Elvis Presley record eleven times in a row), Brian Jones, Otis Redding, Gram Parsons, Charlie Freeman, Mike Makris, Mike Alexander, Miss Frances Markert, Jimi Hendrix, Dumar Jardine, Shawn Miller, Ian Stewart, Joe Newton, Walter Smith, Isaac Hayes, Shelby Foote, Levon Helm, Douglas “Duck” Dunn, Doc Watson, various aunts, uncles and classmates, one of the few nurses who treated me like a human being when I was hospitalized after breaking my back again, and Jerry Wexler, the record producer for Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and also my surrogate father. As of this writing, what we grimly call the Blakely-Booth Household Body Count has reached sixty-two in slightly less than three years and includes many others, eighteen by suicide. A duo of Diann’s belovèds remains Larry Brown and Barry Hannah, the latter dying, like Jim Dickinson—not to mention the former poetry editor of the Oxford American, Jimmy Pitts—of massive coronaries at unexpectedly early ages. Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards—whom Diann once met, and said her small white hand disappeared into what looked like an enormous, and enormously gentle, black paw; an electric shock went up her arm, she further reports, when she realized that this was probably the same hand that last touched Robert Johnson’s.

Barry and Alex Chilton—whom I’d known perhaps a little too well in his Memphis days and had to eject forcibly from my home several times before he reached twenty-one—died days apart from each other. Between the double parentheses that constitute “the facts, ma’am, just the facts,” Diann lost her best friends from high school and college, but neither had remained in close touch, as she had with Larry and Barry, and as regards Alex, you’ll have to read her part of this essay. For the moment, all I can reveal is that she sat for two weeks at the kitchen table, fingering and trying to re-read letters from Larry and Barry without much success: fierce she may be, but when those she loves suddenly disappear from the planet, she weeps and weeps for days on end, lights candles, murmurs Voodoo Episcopalian prayers …


Jerry died on August 15th, 2008 at the age of ninety-one, and not quite a year later, my own best friend from Memphis State, Jim, the record producer, had two heart attacks and a triple bypass, during which he died and was revived four times. Then he died again, like Jerry, on August 15th at Methodist Hospital in Memphis: his great heart, sealed in 300+ pounds of walking barbeque, simply quit beating. Eerily enough, he died one year to the day after Jerry. “Dylan, the Stones … I’ve had a good run, haven’t I?” Jim said in our last phone conversation.

He asked that his tombstone be inscribed with the following: “I’m not dead; I’m just not here.” Or, as Jimi put the matter in “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “If I don’t see you no more in this world / I’ll see you in the next one / And don’t be late.” Which suggests that hope remains for us all. And that we should keep an eye on the clock.

II. P.S.

by Diann Blakely


When Dylan accepted his three Grammys for Time Out of Mind, he not only thanked Jim Dickinson, the album’s keyboardist, but also called him “my brother.”  Jim’s talents in this arena and as a producer made him legendary, though to most his fame is restricted to having played the piano on a 5:41 Rolling Stones song called “Wild Horses.” You might say that we first met there. Less than two decades later, Jim growled his way into my house, ears, and heart with “Down in Mississippi,” a track on one of Oxford American’s most stellar annual compilation discs. Jim chose his company as carefully as Dylan, Keith, and Stanley (Booth, my husband), and on the 1997 Southern Sampler he joins forces with Skip James, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Carl Perkins, the Meters, Phineas Newborn, Jr., and Lucinda Williams in “Pineola,” her dirge for Frank Stanford, the suicide whose poems retain an ur-Southern surrealistic landscape of levees and battlefields.

Jim serves as a pinnacle—though he would probably prefer the image of a gigantic circus tent—in the history of the American vernacular music, though this second image comes from Furry Lewis, who averred that the circus would never be unbroken. Furthermore, Jim deserves what Keith Richards once said could serve as epitaph for all great bluesmen (and women): “He passed it on.” Some day there will be a plaque marking where his two trailers stood in Mississippi, one in which he and Mary Lindsay lived and raised Cody and Luther, a/k/a “The North Mississippi Allstars” et alia, and the other which Jim used as a studio. “Zebra Ranch” it should read, as the home from which Jim practiced and preached his truest gospel: “World boogie is coming!” Perhaps Keith’s words could serve as a postscript.


Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, with a new introduction by Greil Marcus, was recently re-issued by Canongate in the UK / Australia / Canada, as well as Italy, Spain, and France.  A Cappella will be following suit in 2014 with a 30th anniversary edition.  Diann Blakely’s most recent collection of poems, Cities of Flesh and the Dead, won the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award and the seventh annual Elixir Press Judge’s Prize.

(Source: believermag)

1 Reblog

1 year ago

Resistência, 95


Li o Indignai-vos há uns tempos. Achei-o mais branco que vermelho, mais redondo que aguçado. Se bem me lembro – e confesso que me lembro de pouco, tão fundamental me foi o pequeno livro –, não me comoveu uma linha. A questão não é indignar-me: é indignar-me para ir aonde, em que direcção. É uma pergunta, não tem exclamação. E não cabe num panfleto. Nem mesmo se tiver prefácio.

3 Reblog

1 year ago


Aos 15 anos lançou o primeiro álbum de estreia, e agora, aos 18, a londrina Misty Miller amadureceu com uma pequena ajuda dos seus “amigos”: Patti Smith, The Sonics, Iggy and the Stooges são apenas algumas das influências que a cantora/compositora cita como influência. The Girlfriend EP saiu no início da semana e pode ser escutado gratuitamente.

97 Reblog

1 year ago


“The Kingdom of Bahrain’s Industry and Commerce Minister, Hassan Fakhro, issued an unusual decree this week: he banned the importation of a plastic face mask. Anyone caught importing the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask now faces arrest, as anti-government protesters in the country have been using them to stay anonymous.”
Anti-protest: Bahrain bans import of plastic Guy Fawkes masks - Middle East - World - The Independent