Once again, the big delicious cookie of a blog post I might have once planned has been stepped on and broken into fragments. A crime, to be sure, for now it is all crumbs, but just the same, crumbs is what I got. Please enjoy the broken bits.
Fiona Apple has a new album out wait what? I knew there was an album coming, as I’d read it in Emily Nussbaum’s phenomenal piece on Apple earlier this year. But I didn’t know the album would just one day be a thing I could have. And now I have it? And it’s amazing?! Okay, listen, Idler Wheel is probably one of my favorite albums of all time. A top tenner. It is raw-boned and throaty and barely constrained in its willing derangement, and it speaks to me in a thousand different ways. So I’m digging into this new one and finding it has its own lunacy — it’s a bit quirkier, but still feels like someone took their heart and their brain and blended them up in a Vitamix and dumped it on a countertop. It’s wonderful. More fun and less flensing than Idler Wheel, but still toothy as shit. Got bite. Got little shrieks. Got dog barks. Pitchfork gave it a rare 10, if you care about that sort of thing.
I remember how I found Fiona Apple. I mean, I didn’t “discover” her and give her to the world or anything. I was working in college for a coffee house — Dillworth, in Charlotte, NC — and we of course played a lot of “coffee house” music. (Think, y’know, Lilith Fair and weird jazz.) We would get random CD deliveries from… honestly, I’ve no idea who. Music companies? Demons? Whatever. They’d deliver weekly stacks of CDs and nine times out of ten they were half-shit. But one time, in the stack came Tidal. And I was working a shift with my good friend and roommate Jim at the time, and we put it in and… I dunno how many times during our shift we listened to it, but I knew it made me feel the same way I felt when I listened to, say, Portishead’s Dummy. And we were like, fuck this, this is too good for the coffee house. So, we took it. And listened to it constantly. Her work since then has been a journey, each album still irrevocably her, but each album also very much its own creature.
I aspire to have my books be that, by the way. I never found genre to be a thing I wanted to be trapped in, or by, but I also want you to read one of my novels and know it’s one of mine, and have it feel like I’m my own damn genre, even if the genre is sci-fi, or horror, or fantasy, or whatfuckingever. Which also is why I can see how some people bristled at the Aftermath series — I mean, besides the usual shitbirds who had problems with the ahh, “content” in terms of who is allowed on the page. But I remember reading a forum post at one point where someone lamented, “Doesn’t he [i.e. me] understand, all we read are Star Wars novels?” and that clarified a lot of things for me. I wasn’t just writing a Star Wars novel. I couldn’t. I had to still write a “me” novel, otherwise, what’s the fucking point? It’s my name on it, too. I have to own it. And that’s my feeling on all my books — that’s me on there, that’s my name, it has to be all of what I bring to the table. Which then makes me think, what are all the authorial things I’m bringing to the table without realizing it? Common themes, but also lazy bits? Hmm. Worth more study. When I’m not trapped in lockdown. This fragile era is not the best time for putting the self under the lens, maybe. Or maybe it is. Who knows.
Oh, to explain the aforementioned dog barks. Yeah, no, it literally has dog barks in it, the new album. It’s the perfect lockdown quarantine album. Because it feels like she just recorded it all last night, in a binge, in her house. (I think she actually did record a lot of it in her house.) Her dogs sometimes bark. It’s amazing. (And for the record, I know she didn’t just record it last night. Its chaos is far too artful — the power of it being in how it feels improvised and mad, but is no such thing. It is her design.)
Pennsylvania is champing at the bit to “reopen.” Which is, at this point, delusional, but never underestimate people’s ability to misread a moment. See, here in PA things aren’t as “bad” as people thought, so like the Y2k bug, you have people claiming it’s either a hoax or that people got it “wrong,” despite the fact that PA arguably did a lot more a lot earlier, and has since clamped down on some of the worst of things. (Also don’t forget, we’re still not testing like we should be. So the true numbers are wildly unclear.) To reopen everything, you gotta go slow, methodical, and increase testing or get antibody testing in play. But you have the local Republicans just wanting to hee-haw their way into kicking the doors open for everyone to come rushing in, back to business. Which will cause a certain spike and surge, because, a-duhhh, the virus didn’t magically go away. Listen, I want shit to get back to normal, too. But we cannot just ignore experts and embrace magical thinking just because we want businesses open. We need better leadership from the top that helps people weather this storm in a way that doesn’t just toss vulnerable folks into the pyre in the name of Mammon, for Chrissakes.
Just the same, I guess we’re doing okay here. I got yeast, thanks to a friend who did a driveby driveway drop-off. We stood 20 feet apart and yelled conversations to one another. It was both nice and super weird. With yeast, I guess I’ll now try my hand at bread like every other carboloading individual out there. If you have good bread recipes, hook me up, because I’ve zero idea what I’m doing.
We have VR, an Oculus Quest, and it’s great. This should be the Quest’s shining moment, because VR actually feels a little bit like an escape (and you can see how Ready Player One actually comes to be). But the supply chain is disrupted and the Quest is hard to get at a meaningful price so, oops. But there are some truly spectacular experiences for it. I need the new Half-Life, but it isn’t on Quest natively, and I don’t have a PC that will load or run it. Is now a good time to get back into PC gaming? Probably not, and yet, I wanna? Because I’m an idiot?
Speaking of apples, since apparently I like anything with the word “apple” in it: did you see about the lost apples, rediscovered? Or there’s this video of an apple detective. Which is what I wanna be when I grow up. I’ll be DETECTIVE COXWORTH “GOLDEN DELICIOUS” PIPPIN, aka “Doc Pippin” for short. I will solve all the apple mysteries. This is my design.
Got me a birthday next week. In the middle of all this, a fuckin’ birthday. That should be illegal. Also illegal: our current autocratic government ineptly and cruelly stomping on all our norms and freedoms. But also, the birthday thing.
Maybe next week I can announce a cool thing? Maybe I can tell you about one of my secret books. Maybe. We’ll see. No promises. Time is goopy. Everything is wet paint.
And now, a bird photo. It’s an oafish cardinal yelling HEY at you. And not a friendly hey but like a HEY QUIT LEANIN ON MY CAR, YOU JABRONI.