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Et In Acedia Ego
New podcast w/Christopher Bollen, revising my Seven Deadlies, & more
As a Jew, I treat the Seven Deadly Sins as a clinical curiosity, and maybe as a set of self-help/self-assessment guardrails, but as a member of Generation X, I have long identified with the weirdest of them: Acedia, a.k.a. Sloth. We are, after all, the cohort that spawned Slackerdom (although the notion of Slack precedes us by a few years).
In the ’90s I started — but of course never finished — a story about a bunch of slackers in a dorm lounge, who don’t realize one of the group died an hour earlier. I’ve abandoned enough projects, procrastinated on so many more, and failed to follow up on enough lines of thought that I felt Sloth was indisputably My Jam.
Only recently have I had to admit — after
11 years of making the Virtual Memories Show,
20 years of blogging and then making this weekly e-mail,
launching a nonprofit trade association & running it as a one-man show for 9 years,
becoming active/fit/jacked in the past ~4 years,
teaching myself to draw/paint in the past 2+ years —
that maybe I’m not quite the slacker I once made myself out to be.
Sure, I haven’t finished any stories or Written That Novel, and maybe I keep myself crazy-busy as a FORM of Sloth, to keep myself from actively pursuing The More Important Work, but I suppose it’s just about time to retire my self-conception of laziness.
The problem is, I’m on the fence about the remaining batch of Deadlies — Pride, Greed, Wrath, Envy, Lust, and Gluttony. If they had Vanity in there, that’d be a no-brainer, but Vanity seems — theologically speaking — to be somewhere between Pride and Envy. (Per Wikipedia, Pope Gregory put it in the Pride camp, while Aquinas was Team Envy.)
Problem is, Envy doesn’t characterize much else in my behavior; I’m happy for others to get the possessions, etc. they want. And when it comes to excessive Pride, if I wrote here about the humility I have toward what I’ve achieved, it would defeat the purpose, but I really do give a lot more credit than I take (the podcast is more about my guests & my listeners than about me, I couldn’t do any of my professional exploits without the support and guidance of my member companies, etc.), so Pride isn’t exactly it.
I’d put together a list of Seven Modern Neurotic Sins, with prominent places for Anxiety and Vanity, but I’m way too busy and/or lazy to do that this morning.
But speaking of Anxiety & Vanity, here’s me from last week’s Congressional briefing. Anxiety because I was up at 12:30 the morning-of, worried about all the ways I felt unprepared. Vanity because I looked pretty good in that suit.
And speaking of Pride, I wouldn’t have achieved even a smidge of the success I’ve had with the trade association without my pal Cornell, also pictured.
This week, I posted Episode 530 of The Virtual Memories Show, featuring Christopher Bollen as he return to the show to celebrate his thrilling new crime novel, THE LOST AMERICANS (Harper). We talk about his childhood obsession with ancient Egypt and how it led him to set the novel in Cairo, what’s gotten easier & tougher after 5 novels, what it was like to write this one while under lockdown, and why he dived into politics and the global arms trade this time around. We also get into our respective (and multiplying) midlife crises, the tarot reader who told him he’d only write 9 books (!), the reading education he got from judging the PEN Faulkner awards, the debts he owes past writers, and why he’d like to learn to paint. Oh, and we discuss our share postcard fetish, the horror novel he’s writing, his rediscovery of Philip Roth, the loss of artistic reputation, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go read The Lost Americans! (And go listen to our 2015 conversation!)
Last week, I posted Episode 529 of The Virtual Memories Show, featuring Dean Haspiel as he rejoins the show to talk about his first Kickstarter (open through 3/30/23) in support of a new comic, COVID Cop. We get into how his approach to storytelling has changed in recent years, how he felt about the COVID-delayed debut of his play The War Of Woo, the thrill of making his short movie There Is No Try, and what it’s like to work in hyper-collaborative mediums like theater & film. We also talk about the experience of drawing Superman at Yaddo, returning to his fave character, Billy Dogma, and wrapping up one phase of his The Red Hook series, his take on AI art for comics, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go support COVID Cop! (And go listen to our 2018 and 2020 conversations!)
Links & Such
New book from Daniel Clowes this fall! (Maybe I’ll get him on the show, if you all wish with all yer might.)
Fun, name-droppy piece on what it was like to work for Robert Evans.
Speaking of LA institutions, this George Lucas museum looks bananas and I hope I get to visit it someday.
Try not to have nightmares about this piece of performance art (h/t Warren Ellis).
Eva Hagberg writes about work, life, love, and the Yurt of Silence.
As someone who has had to learn more about the function (and dysfunction) of lymphocytes these past few years, I appreciate this chart by xkcd.
Happy 25th blogiversary to Jason Kottke!
On my drive up to Boston last week, I found myself wondering how women-only colleges like Smith have adapted to trans and nonbinary students. (Smith’s policy is “People who identify as women—cis, trans and nonbinary women—are eligible to apply to Smith.”) Coincidentally, I came across an article yesterday about how Wellesley is figuring out admissions for trans men. I have absolutely zero comment to make about this.
V. - by Thomas Pynchon
Best Minds: How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry from Madness - by Stevan M. Weine
Still making some sketches, but not too often & nothing I want to share with you (yes, yes, Team Anxiety, etc.). Below is Monday night’s quick brush-pen sketch of myself, seemingly put through the Aeon Flux-ifier. You should go to the Flickr album of most of the art I’ve made & find something you like.
Sound Body, Fractured Mind
I got in all 5 days of my weights & yoga cycle, Friday-Tuesday; glad to be back on schedule. So here’s The Thing: I take a (tastefully cropped) Accountability picture of myself each Sunday after I work out. I tag each one with the date & my weight that morning. I started doing this about a year ago, because after largely giving up running, I’d gotten up to 183 lbs., which maybe doesn’t sound bad to you, but isn’t great for me. I felt gross, wanted to feel better, and also wanted to track my progress without keeping spreadsheets and getting number-obsessed, so I thought an ongoing visual record would serve me better. I started working out — low-weight dumbbells, a bunch of reps — then added yoga, and tweaked my food intake a bit. Within a few months, I was down to 170, which made me laugh. I never got lower than that, even though my informal goal was to get back to running-weight of 165 or so. The ‘problem’ is, in the last few months I put on a lot more muscle (by my standards), as well as some winter-pounds, and I generally liked how that looked/felt. On the 1-year anniversary last weekend, I weighed in at 176 , and looked a bazillion times better than a year ago. I won’t
thrill you with subject you to before/after pictures here, but if you ask nice, maybe I’ll let you look. My point isn’t (exclusively) my aforementioned Vanity, but the idea that, at 52 years old with dormant leukemia and creaky bones, I managed to transform my (upper) body by exercising regularly. I’m sure glad today’s a rest-day, though. Go, Team Sloth!
Until Next Week
Thanks for reading this far! I’ll be back next with a new podcast, fun links, maybe some art, & maybe a little profundity or something.
Well the pressure's down, the boss ain't here / He's gone North, for a while / They say that vanity got the best of him / But he sure left here in style,