Taffy Brodesser-Akner, 'A 40-Something Looks Back at "Thirtysomething"' (5 June 2019) —

The sadness is always there, I told him. It’s never going away. It is not resolved, just shoved into the background until I do stupid things like this — like write a novel that was supposed to be about marriage but ends up being about divorce, like look at my present through the prism of the past, like look at my success through the prism of failure, like watch all of “Thirtysomething” in what was supposed to be an academic exercise but ended up as part of a continuing, thorough inventory of how I got to be this messed up.

Claude stood up and raised the shades in our bedroom. Sunlight illuminated the dust suspended in the air. He said that it was beautiful outside; we should take a walk. I said I hadn’t showered in two days, that I was too disgusting to go out.

The thing about small moments is that if you are trained to recognize them, they will kill you dead every time. Claude took the remote out of my hand and told me that this was New Jersey in the spring and we never know when nice weather will turn. I told him I had to do the interview. He said it wasn’t for another hour. So I stood up, put on my shoes and we walked out the door. I turned my face to the sun. He was right. There was the past and there was the future, but right now it was beautiful, and I had been inside, missing it all this time.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner on sadness and sm…

Alice Kemp-Habib interviews Brandon Taylor about his Filthy Animals short story collection (21 June 2021)

One thing I observed about Lionel is that he had a very clear understanding of his own mental health. He knew the warning signs and was able to check himself into the hospital. He wasn’t portrayed as powerless.

That's one of the things I get frustrated about in stories that depicted a character in the middle of a mental health crisis, because they're often depicted from the outside as being harried and not being very lucid and not knowing what's going on. But, for me, I remember very viscerally making dinner one night and feeling short of breath and panicking and thinking, “What do I do?” and then remembering that I had read Joan Didion's The Year Of Magical Thinking. She called the paramedic and she had this list of things that she was supposed to do. So I walked myself through calling 911, getting my health insurance card, very calmly putting my things together and then waiting by the door for the ambulance to arrive to take me to the hospital that first time.

I wanted to write about a character having a mental health crisis from the inside and not as an observer watching a person go to pieces. Every crisis is different, and I'm not always lucid about what's going on with me, but it felt important to represent this character in this moment who has this bit of lucidity about his condition and his status.

Brandon Taylor on writing 'a mental hea…

Mimi Wong, 'What Winning a Grant for my Art Writing Meant to Me', Hyperallergic (17 December 2020) —

Even in the best of times, most writers I know do not support themselves with just their writing. They teach, work day jobs at tech start-ups, or as bookkeepers, or have some side hustle. (I do video editing.) Sometimes writing is the side hustle — the thing you dream about doing full time. If only we lived in a country that properly funded the arts.

I’ll be honest: Before I received the call that I had been awarded the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, in late 2019, I was starting to have doubts about whether or not I could hack it as an art writer. Who am I to call myself a critic? I would think. I have no background as a visual artist. I did not study art history. I had been an English major who wound up working in film and television for the last 10 years.

Prior to receiving the grant, I had been covering exhibitions — primarily in New York City where I live, and featuring Asian and Asian-diasporic artists — regularly for about three years. During that time, I had applied three times for the grant. While unsuccessful that first year, my application ended up being selected for AICA-USA’s Art Writing Workshop, a partner program that provided much-welcomed mentoring from former ARTnews editor Robin Cembalest. I was such a newb. Robin gave me a necessary crash course: from shepherding me around to the different art fairs, to reminding me to sign the guest book whenever I enter a gallery (something I still forget to do).

Jessica J. Lee, 'Budding History: On Nationalism and Cherry Blossoms, Catapult (23 Jul 2020) —

In cherry blossoms, scientists now find something more vital and potent than these prior imaginings. As our world warms, the sakura stands as sentinel for anthropogenic climate change.

Since at least the 1930s, Japanese scientists have been collating data on hanami and cherry blossom festivals: for when the festivals fell offers a unique insight into temperature changes over time. Accounts of Japanese cherry blossom festivals go back much farther than usual datasets on flowering trees: The cultural significance of the plant means abundant records stretch back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries—with some reaching back to the ninth century. The records follow the period when the cherries were markers of the agricultural year, a symbol of vitality and romance, and the decades in which they took on the darker sheen of nationalism. In centuries’ old diaries and court records, the traces of a cooler climate remain.

The data show that cherries have typically bloomed over a six-week range from late March to early May. Much as the timing of the blossoms historically portended fruitful or dire harvests, these trees of the past offer a stark warning. By the 1980s and 1990s, the cherries began consistently flowering earlier than at any other time over the past 1200 years. Spring pinks arrive earlier each year.

In Berlin, in December last year, the temperature hovered well above freezing. It was the second winter in a row I’d left my parka packed in a vacuum-sealed bag under the bed; the second without snow. The trees replied. Autumn flowering cherries kept their blooms through the holidays: for ten winter weeks in total. The blooms were smaller—the size of a quarter—but fully formed, the petals tightly stacked and luminescent. Instead of snow, pale petals dusted the ground in January.

When the cherries bloomed again in March, the pandemic was upon us. Wearing masks and sunglasses, my husband and I strolled with our dog beneath the cherries along the Wall. We marveled at their pinks against the grey. This was a land marked by loss—but the trees stretched their roots beneath it, and scattered the path with petals, indifferent perhaps. It seemed wondrous that cherry blossoms could hold the weight of histories we’ve laid upon them, even briefly, before the flowers fell again.

Cherry blossom season as data for clima…

What I'd like to do

In Peter Frase's Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, he writes about 4 potential futures for the world: 2 dystopian, 2 utopian. I'd like to do a set of a few short writing pieces that explore this idea of multiple futures that can occur after the COVID-19 crisis.

I may choose to exclusively focus on potential utopias, partly because it is very easy to focus purely on the negative/dystopian, and imagining a better future helps us articulate what we want from the world and how to get there.

Principles and guiding ideas:

  • The utopian futures emerge through political solidarity, not magic. I don't want to write futures of the form a vaccine for COVID-19 was developed and it was perfectly effective and everything went back to normal, but rather dystopias that engage with current institutional problems (a vaccine was developed, but weakened healthcare systems meant it wasn't distributed to the poor) and utopias that come from collective care, solidarity, and intersectional engagement (a vaccine was developed, and a new wave of Democratic politicians passed bills to fund universal vaccine distribution, which became the foundation of socialized healthcare in the United States)
  • Utopias should be radical and imaginative and demand everything that is possible—they should not be overly conservative and practical but envision what a just world could look like
  • We are not asking for a future that contains the scraps of whatever institutions, the wealthy, the powerful are willing to give us; we are demanding a full, robust future

Form and style

Types of futures to explore

  • The future of art and arts/culture/museum funding
    • Utopian: new funding for the arts that mimics what produced the Abstract Expressionist movement
    • Dystopian: the arts sector collapses as people are encouraged to retrain
  • Utopian and dystopian obits about technology?
    • Utopian: the obit for unregulated tech monopolies?
    • Dystopian: Prop. 22 passes in California, gig workers become a permanent precariat
  • Indigenous issues — The future of indigenous rights and autonomy
  • Racial justice issues — A post-George Floyd future. How will our societies engage with racial justice issues (in a dystopian or utopian manner?)
    • Utopian: a future where stolen art and artifacts are repatriated and brought back 'home'
  • Austerity and social programmes — Will austerity get worse? Will it get better?
  • Social housing
    • Utopian: A new world of building social housing, energised by a tenant organising movement
  • The rise of far-right nationalist movements — Can we envision the death of far-right movements? What would an obit for Bolsonaro's Brazil look like? What would survive after, what would be rebuilt?
  • Climate change, the Anthropocene — Will we be able to save our climate? What is a future where we radically cut our energy consumption? Maybe interesting to think about notions of a carbon budget, and a dystopia/utopia around whether Third World countries are allowed to industrialise and build infrastructure or not
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