Fragments after Alice Birch

Explanations, imperatives, language, love, death, and other short things that can take place in the theater, and did: Revolt. She said. Revolt Again, at the Soho Rep, and me in the audience.


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Deadwood: Drinking Dame’s Edition

Having watched HBO’s Deadwood to the point of time singularity—am watching Deadwood, have watched Deadwood, will be watching Deadwood—with Maddi (resident and residential partner in Westerns and boozecrime), I am starting to sense its effect on our lives. It’s done the obligatory wear and tear on my cocksuckin’ loquacity, and I blame it, tacitly, for the $60 bottle of bourbon that’s now resting thronelike on top of our fridge. Which is going to get used. I mean, we could just drink it, but what fun would that be? No: we are two girls with a feel for booze and a date with Deadwood and an all-consuming speaking memory of the show, and we can do one better. And seeing as it’s a good show for community and drinks, without further ado, I’d like to invite you into A VERY DEADWOOD COCKTAIL CABINET: cobbled together by two girls with one liquor cabinet and one thoroughly-worn DVD set, it serves as a primer to everyone you need to know.


  • ALMA GARRET – Widow Jane bourbon, Firefly sweet tea vodka, St. Germain, French berry lemonade. Fruity, girly, delicious, the kind of drink that calls for a pretty glass, the kind of drink that will leave you legless if you drink it too quick and don’t think about what you’re doing. In accordance with how yours-truly watches the show, I definitely put the most thought into this one. (Bury me shouting about the way Molly Parker delivers monologues in that sinuous whisper of hers. I mean, I do that fully sober.)
  • TRIXIE – Cranberry juice, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, heavyhanded slug of cranberry vodka. Tart and harsh enough to cut through that sweet, never you mind that you can taste the sweet all the same.
  • JOANIE STUBBS – French lemonade (limonade, the fizzy stuff) and Tennessee Honey. We may make these forever. They are softly Southern-sweet and have a weird lovely refinement for all their low-maintenance making; basically, the martini-glassed equivalent of those dainty gold boots she wears.
  • CALAMITY JANE – Pick up bottle of Widow Jane. Put mouth to neck of bottle of Widow Jane. Glug. Continue reading “Deadwood: Drinking Dame’s Edition”

“That’s the place where I trace my bloodline” | Review: Justified, season 1

Near as long as I’ve been running this blog, I’ve been wanting to do reviews of all kinds. That’s been hit or miss—like, one hit, I know, I know, but this January, if I’d had the internet and been making resolutions (I never make resolutions, I’m crippled by my own latent perfection on that count, alas!) I would’ve made a post resolving in the public eye to get my shit together and DO THIS THING. Well, no time like the present: this week I’ve started rewatching (with Maddi, my star of a roommate, meaning rewatching intelligently, with a side order of never shutting up about) the finest show currently airing on American TV, which is not Breaking Bad or Mad Men or any of HBO’s current disasters but is in fact FX’s Elmore Leonard adaptation, the definition of “bigger than its source” and weirdly neglected in spite of its consistent triumphant expectation-defeat, Justified. Maybe you’ve seen the posters, for the one week in winter where they’re all over New York. Timothy Olyphant’s face is on them, under the rim of a ten-gallon hat. It doesn’t look like a televisual miracle, but it takes a baseball bat to your expectations from pretty much the start of things: I didn’t come to it loving Westerns or cop shows and I came out swooning, hard, with a taste like bourbon and scripture ghosting around in my mouth.

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A Renaissance hysteric takes the Internet

Excerpt from my medieval & Renaissance studies seminar notes today:

Fra Angelico

Fra Angelico—for context—one of the better medieval religious artists, was said to have been unable to pick up a paintbrush without shedding tears. Calm down, Fra Angelico, I wrote him through the ether. I imagine that makes your job a bit difficult, as you are a painter.

Only we were spending a class on artists and Pygmalions of assorted calibers, and after a long litany of artists and observers struck dumb with revelation, knocked flat with beauty, spun into tornados of tears, arousal, or tearful arousal, Fra Angelico’s sort of the natural capper. Pretty much everyone in the Renaissance who’s writing about art cries at least once—the just-once is a rarity.

We were talking about art as the face of God, sure, but the historical-hysterical affective response to art is bigger than divinity. Or maybe nothing’s bigger than divinity,  but the tornado of Looking At Art broadens the umbrella of divinity, makes every emotion as big as God, all kinds of profanes turned sacred. Pygmalion wasn’t thinking about the goddess when he looked at his stone, after all; he was thinking about the women. We talked about audiences wanting to press their hand to oil, to marble, sure for a minute that they’d brush flesh, walking away with astonishing insatiable hungers for figment women and beautiful stone ideal boys. But mostly they wept, they shook, they knelt and bowed their heads and gave themselves over to the indignity of loving art to the point of abjection. We have diaries over the ages of people racked with agony and ecstasy in the name of art—not only of making it but of looking at it. Everyone’s a little Pygmalion at least once: that dude started by looking. Everyone’s a little Pygmalion, no matter what the emotion guiding them.

The class discussion was, in large part: Really? You start to wonder about the truth of these accounts after you get to maybe the fifth diary of collapse. Can they all have been crying like that? Maybe, maybe not, but you have to give the tears some credulity. They track us all the way up to the Victorian age: these weepy, adoring diarists certainly can’t all have been lying.

So the discussion gets to psychological discrepancies. The historical mind, we are taught, responded differently. Not from biology, but from conditioning. Different world, different place for art in the world. The ghost in the room: the idea that knowledge, perhaps, hems us in, that we don’t cry because the magic’s gone, that Pygmalion’s under too much scrutiny to feel the flesh under his stone.

I hate that ghost. I bit my lip and found I’d skipped the really? altogether. I spend time on the internet, y’see. (Says the blogger. We know, we know.)

I spend time on the internet, where I see the words “shaking”, “sobbing”, “screaming”, and assorted other emotional sibilants thrown around on the daily. Our record, when it comes to Looking At Art, is not going to be altogether different from the revelators that came before us—the emotional vocabulary of online reaction is all powerful emotional hyperbole. Hyperbole, yes: it’s taken for granted that not every typist is, in fact, shaking, sobbing, or screaming. We all spend too much time on our laptop in public for that. It doesn’t matter if maybe some of the diarists lied. We’re still doing the same thing.

It doesn’t matter that it’s hyperbole, that your lips are closed as you type your howls, that your face is smooth at the café when you type your crisis into being. You get good news, bad news, media news, and something in you throws your soul’s hands to the sky. In your head, still as you are, you see a version of yourself that’s flung itself bodily to the floor, Pentecostal with emotion over a favorite show, a new book, a good movie. There’s something inside you that’s screaming, capable of ecstatic overwhelm even in silence. The internet’s for hysterics, and the catalogue of them makes them sincere.

Perhaps I give everyone too much credit, or too little for their control—I know overreact, that at least once when typing “shaking” my hands have in fact shook the keyboard, that I have in my personal ridiculous overaffective manic artloving obsessive tactile thoughtless youth thrown my body to the ground more than once and probably more than five times and probably will grow out of this and probably have not done it for the last time, walked once full-body into a plate-glass wall in an agony/ecstasy fugue thinking about Battlestar Galactica, bit down hard on a fistful of knuckles and clutched hair at the last Borgias trailer because I was in a café and couldn’t make a sound out loud. But I can’t shake the sense that even those who have better control and far better physical deadpans than I do are still tapped into something cosmically earthshaking. We—the big We, not just art-lovers, not just people at their keyboards, the big fuck-the-caveats We of humanity through the ages—are capable of caring so deeply about unreal things that it racks us to the bone. It doesn’t matter that the words are exaggeration. Some piece of us is always shaking. Some piece of us will always be shaking. Someday this will be our record, and it will be true.

(The fact that it’s been a month, by the way, is not altogether to do with irresponsible blogging habits and more to do with the fact that my new place is—to this day, over a month after moving in—getting methodically dicked around by the wifi guys. Living a Santigold song is not all it’s cracked up to be.)

Reinventing love, fiction edition, feat. robots

PostChristmas this year mostly reminds me of postChristmas last year, when I gave Battlestar Galactica my heart. (And the very next couple-of-months, it gave it away. (Seriously, that finale’s just as bad as everyone says.) But then I got it back!)

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Another pagan at the Vatican

To the woman who was praying at the David back when I last visited the Accademia: I understand. A month or so later, I understand.

Not that I didn’t understand then, when I was talking around the magnitude of him and thinking, this, this is something you can’t reproduce (not on postcards and not in the Piazza della Signioria’s clumsy duplicate). When I was staring up at him at that just-right angle where his head looks normal, because you’re looking at him right under the jaw and he’s meant to be adored at that angle. When I took stock of his huge hands and the marble hollow of his sternum, when I walked around the plinth and caught his furious marble eye. There are two kinds of famous artworks: the kinds that are capturable in reproduction, and those that aren’t. The kind you see in person after seeing the pictures and go yep, or go Oh. The Mona Lisa is capturable. Klimt, huge and golden, isn’t. The David is impossible. Worth any kind of overwhelm, and what’s prayer if not a kind of catalyzed overwhelm? Lady, I didn’t begrudge you then.

And I understand now. Viscerally. Have made the skip from sympathy to empathy, as it were.

I just got back from Rome—I just got back from the Borgia Apartments.

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