Help Me Not Be Such an Ass: Dec 14-Jan 9, 2016



Anne Lamott offers us “three essential prayers” (lovely I think whether you are a pray-er or not): Help, Thanks, and Wow. She also names a bonus fourth: Help Me Not Be Such an Ass. In my experience, keeping this one set to “heartily invoked” is enough to draw nigh much that is brain-breaking and beautiful. Here’s some…

1.  The Real Cultural Explanation for School Shootings: “The problem isn’t video games per se but a particular narrative about power, violence and domination. In one of their better insights (cribbed from their son Eric), the Singulars look at two hit movies released in 1999: “The Matrix”and “Fight Club.” These movies were never really bugaboos for cultural conservatives or nervous parents; the popularity of “Fight Club” built slowly, and “The Matrix” had artistic merit and a positive message about thinking for oneself. But both stories — along with that year’s “The Boondock Saints,” which completes the dorm room poster trilogy — are about white men transforming the world according to their will, using their hands (and guns).”

2. “Clouds in a Teacup”: this is a friend of a friend, and oh, how I wept with joy! This will make your whole life.

3.  The Most Important Writing from People of Color in 2015. There are 28 pieces here. We get the white male perspective piped in through the air vents…here’s some different air to breathe. Ohhhhh it’s nice.

4. The Stax Museum of American Soul and the National Civil Rights Museum, both in Memphis. Stax taught me history I didn’t know I needed; the NCRM is beautiful, and has pictures of people my family had connections to, so I felt proud of my parents, and I think it tells the story from a resistance-rather-than-resilience frame, and amen to that.

5. Craig Cardiff’s album “Mothers and Daughters,” and Star Wars. Craig Cardiff is a Canadian singer, and Star Wars is…Star Wars, but both made me feel, because both are a) culture produced/directed by white men AND b) feminist as hell. Both made me go “oh my god: that is in fact what it feels like to be a strong girl…and look, a man understands!”…and weep with that recognition and at the tragedy of how rare it is to get that from a piece of widely accessed culture.

6. Land Mines, an essay on racism and education by Eula Biss. (In “No Man’s Land, which go find…the link above will get you a few pages.).

7. Sometimes what I need help with is remembering how much bigger it all is than me, and nothing helped me know that more than Aretha Franklin singing “Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors for Carole King.

8. Well, nothing except maybe all these photos (“46 News Photos You Probably Did Not See”).

9. Snow Tha Product: female rapper from San Jose/San Diego. My god just go learn.

10. Yolanda Wisher (Rhapsodist of Wherewithal for the US Department of Arts and Culture) has a book of poetry (“Monk Eats an Afro”) and you should probably just go get it right now.

That’s all for this time. If you have suggestions for not being such an Ass, I will always take them.



And hey PS! The US Department of Arts and Culture that I love so much… it’s going to help me learn all kinds of everything! I’m in the just-announced third cohort of Cultural Agents (see this list and/or this press release). There are about 10-15 instances I can think of where I felt in my guts “oh…this is life beginning,” and hearing this news was one.

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