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The Brush without the Hand
New podcast with John Kropf, much nothing about ado, + links, an art idea & more
This is my first installment in a few weeks not written on the road or immediately after getting home from biz travel, for which I’m thankful but . . . wary? Definitely weary. Next week’s got a day-trip to FDA for a meeting (train + car service), and I just registered & booked my hotel for the BIO annual meeting in Boston next month, so I’ll be getting back to writing in transit.
I hate to say I don’t have anything to say, because I can prattle on ad infinitum/nauseam, so it’s more like I don’t have anything to share this week. Honestly, a triple-whammy of deaths last weekend — Bruce McCall, then Chris Reynolds, then Sam Gross — has me pretty down. I write about that below, among the Links & Such.
Up here, I’m just trying to stay ahead of The Nameless. I hope to report back with something more fun/profound next week.
This week, I posted Episode 538 of The Virtual Memories Show feat. John W. Kropf and his new book, COLOR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD (University of Akron Press), which explores the history of the American Crayon Co., Sandusky, OH, and his own family, while telling a bigger story about America. We get into the family lore that led him to write the book, what crayons meant to him as a kid, and when he realized that the story would involve the history of American immigration, innovation, chemistry, industry, public education, labor, and the rapaciousness of finance. We also talk about how he met the challenge of including personal memoir in the story of a company town, the contrast of his multi-multi-generational history in America with my rootless cosmopolitanism, his writing life, and who he’s been reading lately. Give it a listen and go read COLOR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!
Last week, I posted Episode 537 of The Virtual Memories Show feat. John Wray and his A-W-E-S-O-M-E new novel, GONE TO THE WOLVES (FSG), which explores the metal scene of the 1990s, from Gulf Coast Florida to LA to the wilds of Norway. We get into his metal-history (starting with AC/DC), why he wanted his lead characters to be fans with no musical skill, the brief era where a band like Cannibal Corpse could sell hundreds of thousands of records, and why this was his most fun (& personal) book to write. We also talk about the theology of Norwegian black metal, John’s favorite drummer, his realization that his parents did not take his writing seriously (when he was an 8th grader), the process of renovating a brownstone in Prospect Park and renting out rooms to other writers (like Nathan Englander), becoming a dad in recent years (& failing to teach his son how to fly a kite), the risk of getting sued by Vince Neil, and plenty more. Give it a listen and go read GONE TO THE WOLVES!
Links & Such
JFC the hits are coming fast & furious: RIP Sam Gross (tribute by Michael Maslin, tribute by Bob Eckstein, tribute by Michael Gerber, tribute from New Yorker) . . . RIP Bruce McCall (NYer appreciation) . . . RIP Chris Reynolds (no obit yet) . . . RIP Newton Minow . . . RIP Vida Blue . . . RIP Dooce . . .
Here’s my 2014 conversation with Sam Gross, who was an all-time great gag cartoonist, one of the funniest people I ever met, and a mentor to so many humorists over decades. Read those tributes above.
I never got to record with Bruce McCall; by the time I pitched him in 2017, his Parkinson’s had already affected his speech too much for him to be comfortable with an interview. But here’s a mini-story: After I finished recording with Roz Chast the first time, I asked her about cartoonists or other figures she’s plotzed/been tongue-tied around, and she mentioned a few celebs she was kinda awed by, then said, “But really — and it’s weird because I’ve known him for years — we’ll be at dinner or something and I’ll just say to myself, ‘Holy shit, you’re sitting next to BRUCE MCCALL!’”
But, Ben Schwartz writes, they may replace studio executives before they replace writers.
I hope never to subject Bendico to a plane trip, but I find the opening pic of this article very funny.
Apparently, dressing like you’re on Succession is A Thing. It all puts me in mind of W. David Marx’s book, Status and Culture, and the conversation we had about it. I don’t really have a social persona wardrobe, because I barely go out in the world for non-work stuff. For work, I wear understated tailored suits to conceal my true dimensions. If I’m going out specifically for a podcast, I’ll dress well — jacket or casual suit — as a sign of respect to my guest or of my own respectability, I guess. When I’m out walking Benny, it’s generally exercise shorts-pullover-cardigan, weather permitting.
That story also reminds me of The Leopard, one of my all-time fave novels, when the nouveau riche merchant shows up at the Prince’s home, and the royals see through & sneer at the merchant’s expensive-but-wrong clothing.
Affinities: On Art and Fascination - Brian Dillon
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
I decided to jump-start my art-inertia by creating a benefit for paying subscribers of this newsletter (there are two of them!): I’ll draw/paint a postcard every month for them, because I need more self-imposed responsibilities. In fact, I’ll get started on one right after I send this out. You should go to the Flickr album of most of the art I’ve made & find something you like.
Sound Body, Fractured Mind
I made up for last week’s travel-truncated workout schedule by doing SIX days of my yoga & weights cycle, Thursday-Tuesday, instead of five. Plus I was irrational enough to join a couple of my running pals for a SLOW run on Sunday morning, even though I haven’t run since December, right before I got COVID. We wound up doing 5.8 miles, and while my heart/lungs held up fine, my left knee & right everything weren’t too happy with me. Also, doing my weight-workout 2 hours later that day wasn’t the smartest move, as I was totally drained from the run and pretty weak. My quads/thighs are still sore 3 days after the run, but that’s to be expected.
Until Next Week
Thanks for reading this far! I’ll be back next with a new podcast, great links, maybe some art, & maybe a little profundity or something.
Got no human grace,