Discover more from The Virtual Memories Show News
New podcast w/Scott Samuelson, purpose & productivity, + links, peony-art & more
“Soto! Explore thyself!
Therein thyself shalt find
The ‘Undiscovered Continent’ —
No Settler had the Mind.”
Emily Dickinson, #814
As part of my morning rituals/habits — stretch-yoga-plank-pushup-clamshell, coffee while icing my knees, journal, postcard, Macanudo — I recently added “try to read 2 pages of poems by Emily Dickinson.” Not try as in “I might forget to some mornings,” but “make some degree of sense out of these lines.”
I often struggle to parse what’s there, but occasionally there’s a more grokkable one, typically about death, or the seasons, or both. Yesterday morning’s 2 pages included #814 above, which was pretty explicable, but also re-sparked something I’ve been meaning to write/work on for a few months. In that moment, I felt productive, and I thought about how the harder-to-parse poems were bending my brain to no discernible purpose, and then I found myself getting angry at the notion of purpose and productivity.
Purpose: that need for something less than meaning, more on the level of mere function, poems — and my reading of them — as tools. I gripe about how we become cogs, economic production/consumption units, rather than souls, but I let that non-mentality, that instrumentality, permeate my own act of reading. I make obligations and measurables/deliverables out of what should be play. Or I just need something else to beat myself up over.
SPEAKING OF: The new issue of my ’zine, Haiku for Business Travelers is at the printer, so if you want 32 pages of my poems, essays, art, comics, photography, an excerpt of my conversation with Clive James, AND my step-by-step guide to making great coffee, then make sure I’ve got your mailing address.
It’s print-only and it’s free, but if you want to give me some money to help defray the costs, then either subscribe to this here Substack or kick me some cash at paypal.me/vmspod. I’ll start mailing ’em out in mid-June.
This week, I posted Episode 540 of The Virtual Memories Show feat. philosophy professor Scott Samuelson & his wondrous new book, ROME AS A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE: A Philosophical Grand Tour (University of Chicago Press). We get right into how he fell in love with Rome, what it means to engage with the city philosophically, and how he blended place, history, philosophy, art, poetry, religion and more in his exploration of Rome and the vita beata. We talk about mortality and mercy, the way Roman philosophers remind him of jazz musicians, critiques of Roman imperialism and why the city of Rome itself is its best defense against its colonial-critics, and what he’s looking forward to when he returns to Rome after a 3-year hiatus. We also discuss his experience teaching philosophy to non-traditional students, why he resisted specialization in his field, his love of cooking and the last meal he made for a dying friend, the importance of forgetting and/or externalizing memory, whether my “Virgil is to Homer as Kobe is to MJ” comp holds up, and more! Give it a listen and go read ROME AS A GUIDE TO THE GOOD LIFE
Last week, I didn’t post jack. But that’s okay.
But two weeks ago, I posted Episode 539 of The Virtual Memories Show feat. Brian Dillon about his new book, AFFINITIES: On Art & Fascination (NYRB), which completes a “loose trilogy” around his connections to art, writing & the world, this time through a series of amazing essays about photography, dance, video, and other art forms, as well as the drift-nature of affinity itself. We get into the tendrils of influence (and how he has to shake himself loose of the reticence of Barthes & Sebald), his family history of close looking, and why he embraces mood over argument in his essays. We also talk about his decision to rewrite by hand the previously published pieces for this book to see if new connections revealed themselves, the challenges in wedding the critical & the memoiristic, how much personal info is too much in an essay, the writers he discovered late, why he doesn’t shy away from calling Affinities an essay collection, and more! Give it a listen and go read AFFINITIES (+ Essayism & Suppose a Sentence)!
Links & Such
Here’s Ed Pinsent’s tribute to the late Chris Reynolds. I won’t apologize for posting these when they come up; Chris was an underappreciated talent and his comics & fumetti were unique & spellbinding.
Go read this conversation between James Cromwell & Matt Zoller-Seitz. A bunch of it is about a big speech JC gives in Succession, but I’ve only watched 1-2 episodes of that so I just kinda let it wash over me, but Cromwell’s an interesting person.
Instead of Succession, we’ve been working our way through the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Barney Miller, M*A*S*H, and the Bob Newhart Show. Rhonda Garelick wrote about the new Mary Tyler Moore documentary.
Ooh, hey, CAR-T treatment for my version of leukemia looks promising.
Some of his co-stars and collaborators reminisce about Alain Delon (who’s still alive, don’t worry).
Invisible Wounds - Jess Ruliffson
Gravity’s Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
I wrote in a postcard to a friend this morning, “When I started drawing, I ached for looking, but over time I’ve reverted to anxiously scanning the world.” On Monday, I sat outside on my little stool and tried to sketch one of our peonies. They didn’t bloom last year, but in 2021 I made a garish watercolor of them, inspired by a sketchbook page from Joe Ciardiello. Maybe it was too late in the day when I started, or too late in the bloom, and that’s why my sketch is so ragged. I need to find what’s inside all those lines. You should go to the Flickr album of most of the art I’ve made & find something you like.
Speaking of looking, I really dug this piece on Lucian Freud’s etchings. My entré to Freud comes entirely through recording with Celia Paul (and reading her memoir, SELF PORTRAIT). As I’ve gotten to know her — a subsequent podcast + correspondence & conversation — and to have read/recorded with art critic Sebastian Smee, I find myself kinda drawn into the mystery of Freud as an artist, human, viewer. Marina Warner shared an anecdote about him with me that verged on Hannibal Lecter-like creepiness, in terms of how closely he observed people. I wonder what he saw in looking. One of the pieces that most affected me in the Freud exhibition at the National Gallery last year was his drawing of his mother after her death.
Sound Body, Fractured Mind
I only got in 4 days of my weights & yoga cycle, Friday-Monday. On Tuesday evening, after posting this week’s episode, I thought about working out, but wasn’t too into the idea. Then Amy asked if I wanted to go for a walk around the neighborhood (~3 miles), so we did that instead. Supposed to go on another walk with The Guys later this morning, so that’s something. Between the antibiotics I’m on and Whatever Else, my weight is WAY up, but I’m only beating myself up about it a little. You should go read this Caleb Crain piece about his 3 years of CrossFit:
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.
It’s driving me mad / It’s just another way of passing the day,