Introducing our Rampant Media Consumption
Welcome to the first installment of our new weekly feature, Rampant Media Consumption. Every Friday, some Microcosm workers will share what we’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and otherwise putting into our brains.
(This feature was inspired by and shamelessly borrowed from the Weekend Reading feature put together by our friends at the Sightline Institute, a Pacific Northwest sustainability and public policy think tank whose rampant media output is also well worth following.)
As far as books, I have trekked through Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck and the new Dwelling Portably, but ….alas…I am only halfway through both. But they have both inspired me to keep on going and BE GOOD to people.
I have also peeped in at some Alan Watts lectures. Specifically Alan Watts ~ You Suffer Because You Enjoy It
I’m reading an old book called Ormond, by Charles Brockden Brown (1771 –1810). He is considered to be the first American novelist, or at least the first to make a serious living from his writings. The book is a tale of ignominy, death by contagion, women’s education, murder, morality, and all set in post-revolutionary Philadelphia.
I’m mostly re-watching soccer matches from the European Champions League in preparation for the round of 16!
Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm – It’s too soon to tell exactly how I feel about this book, but so far it’s been sweeping, lyrical imagery that leads to bold, poignant moments as two (possible?) siblings are reunited after one had long ago disappeared. Is there a word for the negative side of nostalgia?
I picked it up based on some reviews/best of lists I saw and because the publisher, Two Dollar Radio, published one of my favorite books of 2014, Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan (Well, they published it in 2013, but I read it in 2014. You know how these things go).
And due to a recent trip to LA, it’s been accompanied by the actual consumption of some Kenyan beans from Trystero Coffee. The best damn roaster man has ever encountered, with the added bonus of an obscure literary name.
We’re in the development stages of Jaime Herndon’s book, Taking Back Birth, so I spent some time reading up on stuff I don’t normally think about. A friend’s dog-eared copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth blew my mind. Ina May Gaskin has been a midwife and birth activist since the 70s and is super inspiring even if you’re not a baby-haver—here’s a nice multimedia introduction to her work.
On my mom’s recommendation, I read Marie Kondo’s bestselling Shinto decluttering manifesto The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I liked her stories of learning to channel her teenaged extremism into a successful career, and how she learned good boundaries along the way and replaced her anger and resentment about clutter with a strong sense of respect for home and ultimately self. I used her method and put the 80% of my clothes that don’t make me seriously happy on the curb. I can’t say I miss any of the specific items, but heed my cautionary tale: now I have to do laundry every two days.
The best thing I read on the Internet this week is an essay by Oboi Reed on Streetsblog: “Why I Fight: How Biking Saved My Life and Can Help Other Black Chicagoans.”
In non-book media, I chose a movie called Barbara on Netflix because the cover showed a woman riding a bicycle, and it ended up being one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a recent movie, but it’s about the pivotal moment of choice for a dissident doctor in East Germany before the wall came down. I’d have loved it anyway, but it doesn’t hurt that the bicycle is the movie’s symbol of freedom and independence.
Just read Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in research mode to grasp a finer understanding of my roots and to start the polishing for the 20 years of Microcosm book coming out in 2016. While Harvey hits the soul of the city on the nose and I realized for the first time that he actually lived there during the glory years of the 1930s, most of the second half of the book rehashed his existing material and life and was thus a bit disappointing. For a man who was an expert on the city and its history, I wanted more specifics, more depth. There was no shortage of love and I like the idea of hugging format between memoir and city history but if he’s going to tell us about all three of his wives again, then I want the book to be twice as long!
Next up was a documentary, Mentor, about bullying-related suicides at my second high school. The film lays out mostly emotional content about four well-documented suicides with relentless calls for help to administration in as many sequential years while the school continued to ignore that a problem might exist. The film draws the line to the high population of Bosnian war refugees living there and how many of them are targeted by bullies. I wanted a bit more factual analysis and historical context, even though obviously, I know the area where I’m from. It felt a little “every town” when we all know that places are unique.
I followed that up with the Cleveland Tourism Videos and the book that the director wrote, Damn Right I’m From Cleveland but it was totally disappointing. Less depth than reading Tumblr and mostly obsessed with the most boring places to hang out in the city and old moments in sports. I get it, that’s the morale that we hang out hat on. But he missed this time.
Fortunately, Joyce Brabner’s new book Second Avenue Caper was bedside to bring me back to remembering what a good graphic book is. She put a serious plug for Microcosm in the acknowledgements for inspiring her to remember what a group of dedicated people can accomplish and that’s why I tracked down a copy, but it’s also a heartening story of what you can do when you feel powerless: band together with your elegant cast of friends, sell drugs, and ignore government warnings. It’s not a triumphant ending but it does compel the reader to imagine how to engage with problems in the world today and to know that a response is warranted. The power is in your hands.
Oh and also, this interview with Tommy Wiseau about his new sitcom ends with the interviewer pissing off Tommy, who is apparently very sensitive about the fine line of his fans loving his work while making fun of his ridiculous personality.
I’ve been using Duolingo to (re)learn French. It’s a great little app!
Nathan went to the reading at Powell’s for More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High Stakes Testing and reports that it touches on many of the same issues as one of our recent books.