On Feeling Sympathy for Jeffrey Toobin

First, the news. Vice, fittingly, broke this story:

The New Yorker has suspended reporter Jeffrey Toobin for masturbating on a Zoom video chat between members of the New Yorker and WNYC radio last week. Toobin says he did not realize his video was on.

“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers,” Toobin told Motherboard.

“I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video,” he added.

One way to react to this news is with distrust. Oh yeah bullshit he didn’t know his camera was on. Another way to react is with indignation. Grown-ass men shouldn’t have to be told not to jerk off during a work meeting! But I’ve been Jeffrey Toobin, I probably still am Jeffrey Toobin, and I’m here to react with sympathy, if only because somebody has to.

And why does somebody have to? Because there are millions of Jeffrey Toobins out there—female and male, queer and str8—who’ve read all The Takes, and feel sick with fear and self-loathing right now, and I’m here to say: You don’t have to hate yourself.

Let me start with the distrust. The Zoom chat “was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars,” according to Vice. (Masha Gessen got to play the president.) There’s a chance that Toobin was jerking off to this content, that he was aroused by the idea of the election simulation, or his New Yorker coworkers. Or, perhaps more likely, that he was aroused by the idea of jerking off to his coworkers’ unwittingness, the way sex in public is hotter than sex in your own bedroom.

We can’t really know any of this, because we’ve set up a society with a relationship to sex that makes having a conversation with Toobin about his desires flat-out impossible, and we’ve called that progress. Instead, Toobin’s career is over, and probably it should be, given the discussion I’ll have below about restorative justice.

But if you ask me, Toobin wasn’t jerking off to that content, he was jerking off during that content, and he thought he could get away with it. He thought, Okay yeah this meeting is in a different desktop window and now there’s a breakout room thing going on so I’m going to just look at this other open browser window I have and play with my dick.

There is a problem with that thinking, but it’s not the problem The Takes think it is, which brings me to the indignation.

Here are some screengrabs representative of The Takes—many, but not all, from Twitter, a medium that proves again and again to be incompatible with understanding. (And this is my blog, so indulge me while I get snarky in my replies to these takes. I’ll return to compassionate argument soon.)

The weird thing about sex, the thing that’s making me write a book on it that nobody in The Takes is going to want to read, is that we so commonly decide to respond to it with righteous ignorance, rather than look to experts—which is to say sex workers. We hate and fear sex so much we don’t even teach it in schools, and here, above, is yet another call against understanding. And people online love this ignorance. It feels very good to hear and agree with.

I (literally) love this one, its implication that “those people” list jerking-off-at-work on their resumes, and the problem is how dupes keep hiring these workplace masturbators!

This one’s a twofer. The quote-tweeter’s indignation involves the common idea that compulsive sex is something most of us have matured from, but that some of us have not. Some of us remain little boys touching our penises inappropriately. The reality of mature sexuality is that it has little to do with age—but I’ll get to that in a bit.

And then Travis…. I thought this was a joke tweet until I found other Tech Takes, all of whom sincerely think the solution here is machine learning. (And if you wonder what kind of imagination Big Tech has regarding human sexuality, remember this, how it can’t even imagine that shutting down Zoom whenever a dick appears on screen might put millions of sex workers out of work, to say nothing of ruining the sex lives of long-distance couples.)

These next two I’m calling The Knowing Knowers.

Note the retweet numbers. I know I’m grabbing the low-hanging fruit here. I know I’m shitting on people who think solid argument involves posing a Why-question and then writing, “I’ll tell you why—I have never once felt compelled to masturbate while I was supposed to be doing my job, but I will tell you everything you need to know about those who do.”

But also, if Toobin has had “defenders” they aren’t helping our understanding either:

This is from a NY Daily News op-ed, so again: low-hanging fruit. But that this guy thinks the issue is about masturbation’s relative shamefulness compared to partnered sex means that some of The Takers are only able to think about this from an old, tired, hetero-male value system, and so rightly people are pissed.

I’m pissed, but for different reasons. Here’s why I’m pissed. Here’s The Take that brought me to the NY Daily News piece:

Fuck this person. I don’t care what you think should happen to Toobin, I’ll never want him punished as much as I want this person punished. Anyone who thinks there isn’t enough shame in the world around our sexual desires is a public health menace. They remind me of the fish in the old joke, asked How’s the water? by an older fish.

“What’s water?” asks the fish, drowning in it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of reading and writing and thinking about sex it’s that heterosexuals can rarely talk about sex without letting power and gender control the conversation. Indeed, to many heterosexuals (and some righteous queers, which the angriest above poster identifies as), this isn’t about sex at all. It’s about what men think they can get away with, and it’s about intimidation, abuse, and harassment of women in the workplace.

Harassment of women in the workplace is real, and it’s a crime (or I hope everywhere it is, Jesus, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn some states don’t feel the need to protect women from this). But if jerking off of any kind during a work meeting—particularly somebody jerking off at home while allegedly believing nobody could see him—becomes sexual harassment, regardless of the motivations and desires of the masturbator, then what does that make harassment?

It makes harassment less a criminal action somebody chooses to do and more an interpretation (or even an assumption) of a bad feeling somebody receives. It spotlights female passivity in ways that make me very unhappy to see in 2020.

Which leads me to restorative justice.[1] This read on harassment might actually be necessary. For so long men have hid behind ignorance, or have been protected by frattish Boys Will Be Boys justifications. “Oops, sorry ladies!” After decades of men in the workplace denying their intentions to harass women, and then being excused for their behavior by the other men in power, restorative justice might demand that we start doubting the men. We might need to assume that any dick out at work is an intentional form of harassment. If you think this is unfair, if this makes you mad, get mad at the lying men who have ruined it for everyone. Don’t get mad at the women trying, at last, to be heard.

So I get it. But I don’t think any of this is going to stop dicks from coming out at work.

Here’s where the sympathy comes in, and the potentially shameful admissions. But I’ve worked through my shame on all this. I understand who I’ve been and who I am, and I no longer have use for shame, even though it still falls on me like a weighted blanket I can’t get out from underneath.

I’ve never jerked off on a Zoom call, and I’ve never pulled my dick out during a meeting or a class. It’s never even occurred to me to do this, even though I have jerked off to studio porn clips of guys getting secretly sucked off under a conference table surrounded by coworkers. I’m sure there’ve been any number of sex-at-work clips I’ve jerked off too, and countless more I haven’t even seen. And my belief is that if there’s a porn of it, it’s because there’s a sizeable enough fantasy about it among the population.[2]

So: secretly getting your rocks off while everyone around you is hard at work (forgive the pun) is something people of all stripes find hot enough to jerk off to. Now, I will agree with one of the above posters that the ability to discern between fantasy and reality, and to accept the place of fantasy within your reality, is something people learn as they mature.

But how, exactly? We don’t do a very good job of teaching this, or even talking about it. We just sort of throw up our hands and say, “Well, just learn it! I did!” We abandon each other to the righteousness about sex we’ve each been handed by our puritanical country. We fail in our imaginations of others’ sexualities. And that’s the kind of mutual abandonment I’m writing a book to try to stop.

If Toobin were jerking off because his coworkers were “in the room”, then he’s got a lot of learning to do about consent and the fantasy-reality divide. But it’s just as possible that he was jerking off despite his coworkers being in the room. I’m not worrying the difference to let him off the hook of potentially creating a hostile work environment, I’m worrying the difference to better understand the problems our sexualities can cause for us.

Because I too have jerked off and had sex in settings I know I shouldn’t have, settings where if I got caught I could lose my job and a lot worse. I’m talking about a time of my life that I like to think is over. I’m talking about old jobs, past choices I’ve only recently been learning to understand.[3] And when I made those choices, it was never about the nearby presence of other people. It was about me, it was all about me, and what I felt were my needs, and what I felt I deserved.

There was a time in my life that I went to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings. It was a short-lived time. SAA was not for me. (I don’t think it’s for anyone, but that’s a topic for another time. Or buy the book when it’s done.) But one concept from SAA that I still find useful was called “The Bubble”—which is an image of both (a) separation from others and (b) protective isolation that surrounds the “sex addict” when they’re “acting out”, i.e. doing whatever it was they were doing sexually that made them ashamed and risk their lives/careers/relationships.

The Bubble isn’t real, but that feeling? God, I’ve felt it just zillions of times. I have done things with the full assumption that nobody could see me, that nobody even knew I existed. I was bored, or lonely, or feeling insecure, and I had time to kill, I had nowhere to be or nothing to do, nothing I wanted to focus on, and amid all those uneasy feelings I had sex and porn to turn to, again.

Don’t get me wrong: sex and porn are great. It’s just that my relationship to them was not.

The reality that I had a partner at home who had no idea where I was or what I was up to—in the thick of pursuing a certain kind of sex, this never occurred to me. Being in The Bubble feels great, really. And when The Bubble bursts, especially when it’s burst for you and not by you, it feels like sickness. The word nausea doesn’t begin to touch on what that feels like. I’m still trying to figure out how to capture it.

I have felt so sick by being caught with my pants down, so afraid and so confused by who I was and what I was doing.

You can choose to have sympathy for people who are caught in this feeling, or you can choose to say Serves you right.

I know there are others out there who feel this sickness. Or worse, who fear this feeling, who know it’s coming someday but can’t figure out what to do to prevent it from happening.

I’m writing today for them. Or for you, if you’re finding this.

I know it’s easy, and probably useful in terms of justice, to see Toobin’s jerking off through a lens of power and violence, but I also know—or, that is, I’m assuming with the same level of insight into his sexuality as anyone else has—that he was thinking absolutely of nobody else at the time. Until suddenly he realized The Bubble had burst. He wasn’t as careful as he knew he was being. And then life as he knew it was over.

What happens to us when our sex practices consume us so much that we completely ignore the fact of others? Their needs and desires? Their sexual autonomy? What does that do to our relationship to our bodies? These are hard questions that many people don’t even believe are worth asking. To me, given who I am and what I’ve gone through, they’re vital questions. I’ll even go so far as to say they’re life-and-death questions, given some options I considered when all of this was such a mess.

Stop thinking you know anything about Jeffrey Toobin. Stop thinking you know anything about sex. Few of us in this country do. Other than sex workers and a handful of sex therapists (many of whom still believe sex addiction is real), nobody knows a thing about sex, and we all need to stop talking as though we do.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. I might mean reparative justice. I haven’t yet read enough about these new-to-me concepts to know whether one encapsulates the other. Please comment if you’re smarter on this than I’m being.
  2. Which is why it’s been fascinating to watch and read about the rise of step-sibling porn. What’s that about America?
  3. If you’re wanting more specific details right now, I’m curious about why you want this, and what you think you need to follow, or even buy, what I’m trying to say.

Some Pollyannaism in a Debbie Downer Year – TV/Movies

This is a series of posts looking for enjoyment and pleasures in a time when both are in short supply. The first one was about music. The second one was about books.

1. Lodge 49
Full disclosure: this show was created by a guy I’m friendly with. A friend? We hung out at a writers’ conference and text maybe once a year. We’re friendsly. So while I’ve always been eager to support Jim’s pilot he was trying to sell, I didn’t necessarily have to like it, much less love it as much as I do to now want to come on here and write about how it’s one of the most important series I’ve seen a while.

Lodge 49 ran for two seasons on AMC and is now bingeable on Hulu. It’s about another Pollyanna: Dud, a surfer in Long Beach trying to recenter his life after his father dies, who wanders into Lodge 49 of the Order of the Lynx—something like the Lions or the Masons or what have you, but women and people of color are also allowed in.

That aspect of the show shouldn’t be undersold. Watching Lodge 49, I was repeatedly reminded of something Tina Fey writes about in Bossypants, about the total absence of what she calls “human faces” on TV. Instead we get Hollywood Faces, and I’m sensitive about the effects on us humans of watching so many unhuman faces perform at us what they consider the everyday drama of being human. Instead, look at these people:

Those are the stars of the show. That’s the main cast. Here’s maybe the secondary cast, “led” by Liz, the sister of Dud, also grieving her father’s death:

Lodge 49 shows us, without fanfare or self-righteousness, what kind of TV stories we can tell when we start assuming diversity as a fact of the U.S. present, and understand that while racism is real, not every POC narrative is about identity struggles. Here’s something Lodge 49 cast member Vik Sahay posted on social media about it:

Again, this isn’t “race blind” casting, it’s casting with an eye on the realities of the time and place the show is set in: Long Beach, CA in the 21st century—another thing I don’t want to undersell. TV does a much better job of this than movies, but how many shows do you love that are on the air right now are about real people living in the here and now? I don’t want to disparage sci-fi or fantasy or historical dramas, but more and more I feel that Hollywood (or all of us, in the art we choose to consume) has outsourced the task of telling stories about our collective present to the news.

I understand how, say, Lovecraft Country or The Crown are about back then but are really about right now, the way all sci-fi is So Totally About Right Now If You Look At It Right. What happens here is that art becomes partially an act of translation toward commentary. We watch the story we’re given with an eye on what aspect of our present is being satirized or critiqued.

What we don’t do is watch people live lives that could be happening right down the road from us. Any potential curiosity or imagination about our present is squelched in another exercise of receiving an opinion of it. And I for one feel there’s a dearth these days of us imagining others’ lives alongside or even into our own.

Lodge 49 gives so much to its viewers, and it seems to have given a lot to its cast. Maybe it was engineered to give character actors depths that other gigs don’t give them—look especially at the very funny David Pasquesi in pretty much every scene they put him in. Liz, played by the really good Sonya Cassidy, was probably my favorite character, someone we just never get to see on TV—an unambitious woman who is mostly fine with her choices and often perhaps because of that the wisest person in the room.

I haven’t even touched on the alchemy. I’m so glad AMC gave Lodge 49 a chance, if even only for two seasons. It’s streaming in its entirety on Hulu—which if you’ve decided you don’t need because you have Netflix I can tell you that Hulu has better shows: The Great, What We Do in the Shadows, Rick & Morty, The Golden Girls, The Joy of Painting, Bob’s Burgers. Go get Hulu, and then go binge Lodge 49. No need to thank me.

2. The Criterion Channel
Neal got me this for my birthday back in May, and I spent much of the summer watching every Mike Leigh movie. My favorite of his used to be Career Girls but now it’s without question Happy Go Lucky—a movie committed to how an unending sense of humor forms you into a serious and compassionate person (and how the lack thereof can do the opposite). Watching them all within a couple months, screen up close to my nose on my laptop, helped me see the quirks and beauty of his cinematographer, Dick Pope’s, careful framing. E.g.:

Now I’m watching every Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie in order. I’m sure I must have been told how queer Fassbinder was, but I must not have paid attention. Queers in every movie, and they’re not all getting beat up or killed—some are even our heroes! I’m bored, chiefly, by ’69–’71 avant-garde Fassbinder. Warum läuft Herr R amok? has a juvenile, Solondzian understanding of violence that I’ve read Fassbinder gets smarter at later in life. Whity is a racist mess, but I did like the gorgeous pastiche of The Niklashausen Journey (some of these I had to find elsewhere; The Criterion Channel has most but not all Fassbinders). My fave so far has been Katzelmacher, where all the disaffected touches seem to smartly condemn the youths embracing them, in their xenophobia against the title role.

Plus Fassbinder can get it:

At any rate, coming up are the mid-70s Sirkian domestic dramas: Petra von Kant and Maria Braun and all them. By my count there are 31 movies to watch, the last of which is Querelle, Fassbinder’s adaptation of Jean Genet. I’m looking at it off in the distance as like a champagne bottle at the finish line.

Some Pollyannaism in a Debbie Downer Year – Books

This is a series of posts looking for enjoyment and pleasures in a time when both are in short supply. The first one was about music.

Yesterday was hard. The blunt fact of Neal’s and my living situation hit us again, as it does, despite our attempts not to think about it—viz. we are a couple in our 40s living in a cramped 500sqft 1-bedroom at the whims and mercy of our landlords who, while mostly okay, would like nothing more than to get us out of this rent-controlled unit we’ve been in for 7 years so they could start making even more money. To move into something larger, we’ll have to either leave the city and spend money on a commute, or pay around $3,500 a month, and given that Neal was among the people his company laid off this summer for COVID reasons, it doesn’t look like that’s happening soon.

So the prominent feeling of the home we’ve been mostly trapped inside since March is that we’re trapped.

I spent my whole childhood and adolescence dreaming of living in a big city. People continually tell me, a tenured MFA Program director in a big city, that I have a dream job. Yesterday felt like every dream is a nightmare if you see past all its bullshit.

But wait, I promised Pollyannaism, and what does this have to do with books?

At some point during yesterday’s nightmare, I considered the ways higher ed either bred insecurity in me, or capitalized on my insecurities (or most likely I entered into and engaged with higher ed out of insecurity), presenting insecurity as the foundation for an intellect—such that if I wasn’t the first person in the room to name the precise form of artifice behind, say, the stylized tableau depicted on that box of lemon cookies over there, then I was then clearly an idiot with nothing to show for myself.

In other words, I usually see the world as an ongoing grift, a series of people and mass-produced objects trying to lie to me about what’s real, and the only way I know not to get screwed is to be smarter than them.[*] Critical Thinking is what I call this tool I use, and it starts with the question, What is this thing I’m looking at trying to get over on me?

I love lies, it should be said. I’m usually happiest when art is delivering me good, new lies I’ve never seen before. But given the overwhelming presence of lies in the world over truths, my thinking about thinking should feel good and healthy. But often it doesn’t. Often it feels like another trap, this home I’ve made for myself that I no longer fit inside. How, exactly, did this happen, and how to think instead about thinking?

Enter Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty. Picking up this book helped me to think again, in a time when I’ve been overflooded with feeling. I prefer thinking over feeling. I find feeling confusing and unsettling. I don’t know what to do with myself when I feel.

I know: thinking isn’t the antidote to feeling anymore than exercise is the antidote to sleep. Thinking and feeling are in relation to each other, and the good life seems to call for the right balance of both. But lately I’ve been on a feeling binge, and those feelings have been mostly doomy.

Nelson’s project here is to consider forms of art (visual, literary, performance, cinematic) that take either cruelty as their subject, or that enact a cruelty on their audiences. She is disinterested in explaining-away what cruelty may signify. Cruelty and violence for Nelson are not slaps in the face art gives us to “wake us up” or “bring us back to our true nature”. She’s got pages effectively calling bullshit on artists who have historically felt they needed to brutalize their audiences toward truth. A welcome counterexample she returns to once or twice is Cage’s 4’33”, which she says excels as art and as bringer of truth by providing the space audiences need to be delivered.

That said, the book is not a critique of the uses of cruelty or violence, either. Nelson loves a lot of violent works that depict the most brutal cruelties—Paul McCarthy, Mary Gaitskill, Francis Bacon, Marina Abramovic, and Brian Evenson are touchpoints. If there’s anything she is aiming to wake people up about, it’s that art doesn’t affect us the way we often assume it does. Violent art neither begets violence nor, via Aristotle’s catharsis theory, calms our violent urges.

So what does it do instead?

Before I get there, I want to go back to Mary Gaitskill, because it’s Nelson’s reading of the former’s debut story collection, and then her novel Veronica, that brought me to some new ideas about thinking. There are some pages of summary about Gaitskill’s books, which maybe you’ve read (I read Veronica the first semester of my master’s program back in 2003), but the long and short of it is that, in the stories, “the principle task of intelligence … is to slice through the veil of cant and cliché,” whereas Veronica explores additional forms of intelligence that emphasize what Nelson calls “blur”—i.e. accepting that the truth rarely comes as a crystal beacon:

When [narrator] Alison recalls [her dead friend] Veronica’s story of being raped by a stranger in her apartment—a story Veronica ends by saying, “My rapist was very tender”—Alison has the following train of thought: “Smart people would say that [Veronica] spoke that way about that story because she was trying to take control over it, because she wanted to deny the pain of it, even make herself superior to it. This is probably true. Smart people would also say that sentimentality always indicates a lack of feeling. Maybe this is true, too. But I’m sure she truly thought the rapist was tender.” What impresses me here, especially in contrast to Gaitskill’s earlier work, is the space made by allowing there to be more than one way for “smart people” to respond, as well as the suggestion that while “smart people” might offer incisive, imposing diagnoses, they might also miss the boat entirely. That an intelligence focused solely on puncturing or mastery may end up deaf, dumb, and blind to other ways of knowing, of perceiving. Or that, at the very least, such an intelligence, with all its probing and psychoanalyzing, may miss the surface truth of what another is actually trying to communicate.

The feminist way to distill this is to pit vaginal thinking (or uterine, really, in that Nelson’s pointing not just to accommodating, but incubatory space) against phallic thinking—which I seem to unconsciously be doing, like when I paraphrased that Cage’s work “provid[es] the space audiences need to be delivered.” Nelson is very big on space, and she favors art that can provide a space for the varying, shifting responses audiences will have.[**] The best cruel art, Nelson shows, creates a space that allows for audiences to think for themselves, feel for themselves, and come to their own conclusions.

Space is distinct from alienation. It is fundamentally about volume, rather than about distance. Space also defies the vertical logic of revelation, which insists there is something beneath the surface of our every day—be it ultimate meaning, the face of God, our fundamental nature, a final terror, ecstasy, or judgment, or some combo of the above—that will be revealed when the veil is finally lifted. In lieu of this logic, space offers a horizontal spreading, the possibility of expansion into dimensions no one yet thoroughly understands.

In needing to be the smartest in the room, I’m rarely giving myself the space to think.

This is probably material for a post on its own, but it’s worth pointing out here how little space Twitter and social media in general give you. Picture it: you’re sitting on the toilet, phone in hand, trying to occupy your time. Maybe you’re in a good mood for a change. Then here’s a post that kicks you into feeling something you weren’t already feeling, and you weren’t prepared to feel. What is the effect of that disruption on your thinking about the subject of the post? This isn’t about letting people stay ignorant to the world’s abuses and cruelties, it’s about giving people space to consent and agree to think alongside you.

It’s one reason why I blog. Let’s come over here for a moment, whenever you’re ready to. And it’s one reason why I try to read the news just on Sundays. On Sundays I know I can be fully ready to face it.

The Art of Cruelty has risen to become my favorite of Nelson’s books. The Argonauts is still a wonder, a masterpiece, but while that book’s greatness was buoyed by its perfect synchronicity alongside developing public conversations about gender, The Art of Cruelty came out about 6 years before we needed it. (It was published in 2011.) It’s the book I’ve needed every year of this nightmare administration. We should be issuing it door-to-door.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Or “…than they are”? My intellect only goes so far.
  2. She taught a class with this book’s title, and talks here about encouraging her students to take stock of the array of feelings they had throughout their experience with a work of art, and not to privilege just the one they ended on.

Some Pollyannaism in a Debbie Downer Year – Musics

My last post was written from and about gloom, and those feelings are real and fill at least half of every day. What’s also real is that other parts of the day are still filled with joy, and it’s mostly owing to the internet: the art and music and movies I’m still allowed to access. (Also the people. Zoom is sometimes great.) Perhaps this is the silver lining of our country’s long decline—it will always be more profitable to a market oligarchy to let me pay for streaming art consumption than ban it because of the ideas it gives me.

Call me naive … please.

Herewith starts a series of posts to share what is new to me that I’ve loved these last few months. This post is on Spotify.

Back when everyone started talking about Spotify, they sold the All The Music In The World angle, as though having access to that was useful for people like me who suffer from choice paralysis. (They called me Dithering Dave at the Cribbage table back in grad school.) Nobody really did a good job selling Spotify’s more useful feature: its recommendation algorithm. It is very good. Unsettlingly good. Not only does my Discover Weekly playlist dig up songs I’ve forgotten I love, but it has either led me to explore, or introduced to me wholesale, some very good bands:

  • Amanaz – A Zambian band from the 1970s, who themselves introduced me to a subgenre: Zamrock, which is this mix of African and psychedelic musics. I love “I Am Very Far” but the big perfect hit is “Khala My Friend”.
  • Alex Chilton / Big Star – Many people know that Alex Chilton was only 16 when he sang “The Letter” but up until a few months ago I was not one of them. I never enjoyed Big Star’s first record, and I still might not. Ditto the second. But Third/Sister Lovers is a perfect, perfect record. It’s like the best Smog record before there was Bill Callahan.
  • Minutemen – My friend in middle school loved this band and I dismissed it all those years ago as punk noise (he also loved the Ramones and as much as I respect those folks I’ve never once wanted to, like, put on their record), and then Spotify suggested “History Lesson Part 2” and I was sold by the brotherly love between Mike Watt and Boon. Current fave is the two-disc Double Nickels on the Dime. (Plus Mike Watt can get it.)
  • Elton Motello, “Jet Boy Jet Girl” – English lyrics over the same backing track as Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi”, which you’ve probably heard on a soundtrack somewhere. This one’s about running after a rich dude who fucks you when he wants but also lets you fly around on his jet: “He gives me head” is the refrain. It’s the party song I’ve been needing in my life for 2 decades.
  • Bill Fay – Long forgotten English 70s balladeering Cat Stevens type. I first loved “I Hear You Calling” (“All my time is lying / on the factory floor”) and then I fell hard for “Let All the Other Teddies Know”:

Months and months ago, my high school friends Chris and Beage and I tried resequencing records from our youth, which I blogged about here and here. I’ve since picked it up with college friends Beth and Steve. The idea is one of us creates a playlist challenge the others have two weeks to create. Steve just made us do Roxy Music mixes under 45 minutes exclusive of “Love is the Drug”. Before that Beth had us make mixes of songs about platonic friendship. Here’s my friend mix:

Here’s a comprehensive playlist I’m keeping of songs with just 2 chords:

Making playlists is a weak form of creativity, but it’s a form of it, and when the world’s this unsafe to step out into, I’ll take all the weak creativity I can get.

Next time: movies.