I’m on my third week of self-isolating and I don’t think I’ve got the hang of it yet—but I am feeling way better than I did at the start of this. I feel like I’ve gotten past the point of it feeling very surreal, by which I mean the very Truman Show-esque quality life held for that period between January and March when everyone started to slowly freak out and wear masks and bulk-buy en masse.
That felt like the beginning of a bad thriller about disease. Now I think I’ve gotten used to the idea that this could be our normal for the next few months. Not that I want to freak anyone out; if we (and our government) act correctly, this could be over in a few months. But we should probably come to terms with the fact that this won’t blow over in a few weeks.
With that in mind, I’d like to assure everyone that I too am having a hard time adjusting! It’s still odd to be at home all day, and I don’t think it’s helping my anxiety. I live close to Elmhurst Hospital, and the number of firetrucks I’ve heard in the past few days is either 1) normal because I’m just not usually here to hear them and I’m just being paranoid or 2) frightening because I hear them just about every hour. I can think all these rational thoughts about the crisis and then scroll through Twitter and freak myself out all over again.
I’ve also been having such a hard time falling asleep and waking up. I’ve tried to think about why that might be, and I think it’s because my body is like, “You’re just going to wake up and do the same thing tomorrow. Time is an illusion if today is the same as yesterday, why bother waking up or sleeping?” Sometimes I go to sleep and the only thing I look forward to the next day is drinking coffee. Coffee. Literally coffee is the only thing keeping me going at this point.
Monotony is ruining my sleep schedule, and contributing to my lethargy, so I’ve tried to spice things up. I have a little box with different activities like “meditate” or “journal” (as well as fun ones like “bake” and “bake 👀”) and whenever I start to get restless I’ll pick one at random. I try and do the first thing I pick and give myself the space to pick another. I think that helps keep things ‘exciting,’ but walks also help a lot. If you can, I’d suggest walks the most. You know how happy your dog is when you finally take them for a walk? I understand that feeling now. What a rush!
How are you all coping? What sorts of things have you been doing while holed up? The one thing that is pretty heartening through all this is seeing the internet become weird again. Remember how huge personal blogging and niche websites used to be before the internet got ironed out by tech and social media companies? It feels like creativity is really flourishing again, if only because we’re all forced to use and consider the internet in new ways. Of course, this isn’t the case across the board (RIP The Outline) but it is nice to see independent culture thrive online again.
in my queue 🎶
Easily feels like it could be the soundtrack to classic future dystopias like BladeRunner and Akira (really, could hear it playing over any vaporwave graphic ever)—I don’t know how else to describe the feeling it gives me besides future nostalgia.
Velvety psy-rock that feels plush, hazy, and super luxurious.
I made this playlist after feeling really sad. It’s mostly songs that make me feel upbeat and energize me (including the ones above). It’s over three hours long, so put it on shuffle until you feel ready to tackle whatever is bothering you—or you forgot what was bothering you, whichever comes first.
what i’ve read 📖
The Art of Dying ~ by Peter Schjeldahl
Finally got around to reading this piece in The New Yorker. I’m glad I actually did, and because the headline doesn’t betray much of what it’s about, I won’t either. Just a quote, of many, that spoke to me:
“Advice to aspiring youth: in New York, the years that you spend as a nobody are painful but golden, because no one bothers to lie to you. The moment you’re a somebody, you have heard your last truth. Everyone will try to spin you—as they should, with careers to think of.”
keywords: the art of dying, criticism
What Is the Role of Criticism in a Crisis? ~ New York Times’ Popcast
I can’t embed podcasts so I’m shoving this recc here. I listened to this podcast after it was plugged in the Music Journalism Insider newsletter, and I think it pretty much captures how I feel about writing during this time. What’s the point of music criticism in a crisis? There were some threads here that I found helpful, like dealing with the impulse to project our current mood onto music (even if it has nothing to do with it), wanting music that speaks to our current mood and the simultaneous desire to listen to music that has nothing to do with it. A lot of times it feels like cultural critics at large are having these conversations about art with each other, which can make criticism feel divorced from the average person’s life. How vital is music crit right now? What should it be doing? Who is it serving? I don’t think there are any clear answers on how to write right now, but thinking about it is productive.
keywords: music criticism, coronavirus
Millennial Culture Isn't Youth Culture Anymore ~ by Eli Enis
There’s a lot about this piece that got me thinking. Mostly, I’m wondering about the utility of generation markers and think-pieces about what defines certain generations (which feel broad and incomplete). But I’m also thinking about how each generation tries to hold onto this claim of “authenticity” (please this tweet, and this article on industry plants) while defining it in nebulous terms. What I like is the discussion about “political” art. I don’t know if we can say only Millenials have a habit of seeing “political” art as a stand-in for actual political action, but I would agree that people are becoming a lot more hostile to artists who use progressivism as a marketing tool.
“And as much as I still believe that political art is a valuable tool for channeling abstract concepts about identity and inequality, I also wonder what our obsession with making truth-to-power art has really gotten us in the last ten years. Maybe it's time we take a lesson from the zoomers and be a little less precious about our art—if only because the world it's reflecting back to us needs our hands-on assistance, not our songs.”
keywords: authenticity, millennials, Gen-Z, “political” art
what i’ve written📝
Compiled a few different ways you can help artists for AdHoc! I’ve seen a lot of people get frustrated by how self-isolation is going to wreck their music community, and while I think that frustration is definitely valid, it feels way too early to strike such a defeatist tone. We won’t really know the impact of self-isolation right away, but we can mitigate it by being there for each other.
If you give up now, the music community is doomed. And at the risk of sounding like a meme, you have to support your scene right now—with money if you can afford to! But if you aren’t in the financial position there are also some great tips above for how to support your favorite artists for free.
If you want to remain up to date I recommend subscribing to Loud and Quiet’s new newsletter, the Independent Music Dispatch, which will be covering the myriad of different ways independent culture is trying to stay alive.
Wrote about a song that manages to be released at the exact right time! Sure, if this was released two months ago it still would have been released as an appropriately dystopian time (what with the Earth decaying rapidly around us), but right now I think almost every American (and people around the world) can agree that these are strange times we find ourselves in.
I spoke with Hockey Dad a while back about their hometown in Australia, while bushfires were still ravaging the region they call home. If you ever get the visit the small seaside town, this is a pretty good guide to Windang.
I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but I’m a huge fan of artists releasing their stems so that fans can tinker and toy with their songs in new ways. While this is a practice people did long before quarantine it’s definitely something I hope more and more bands do as we all self-isolate.
Sorta similar is this pack of “digital assets” from the Isolate/Create project which is meant to spur digital collaboration and creativity. It features artists like Metz, Xiu Xiu, Daughters and more. Check it out, and maybe share if you end up doing something with it?
If you are managing to be creative right now, there are a ton of places that are soliciting submissions! There’s L.A.M.E. (Learn And Make Friends), Quarantine Thoughts, Love Letters, Social Distanzine, the Isolation Art Club and more.
Or you could just sit back and be inspired by all the digital cultural programming that is already happening. The outlets above host tons of cool shows, your local bookstores/venues may be hosting their own programming, and New York City Writers Community is hosting free virtual creative writing workshops.
I thought it would be fun to switch this up by having a challenge rather than a question.
The challenge is: pick a record (or album) from your collection that you haven’t listened to in years. Revisit it by playing it in full without stopping—did your favorite songs change? Have you noticed anything different during this listen?
My first remark? I wish people had never introduced the semi-colon or em-dash to me because now I have a problem. All other remarks are serious, no worries. I’d like to say how thankful I am for every nurse, doctor, and healthcare worker at the frontlines who is putting themselves at risk for others. I’d also like to say that they should have adequate protective supplies and that no one should be forced by the state’s incompetency to put their lives on the line. That also goes for other essential workers like garbage men and those working in grocery stores and pharmacies. I’m glad that people are realizing that they deserve more pay and benefits, but the reality is that they’ve deserved these things long before COVID-19.
In my last newsletter, I spoke about the moment we find ourselves in and the radical possibility of the present. I think that holds true. It sucks, but it apparently took a crisis for the majority of Americans to realize the inherent value that everyone holds—I just hope we don’t forget it. It’s heartening, and every time I see a tweet/post/video about how communities are banding together I literally have to hold back a sob (who else is crying more? Or is it just Cancers?)
I’d like to give a brief shout out to a Brain Dings, a CBD brand that has dedicated all of its sales to fund A Million Masks for the next few weeks in order to address the N95 shortage in the U.S. Their products are on sale for the foreseeable future, grab them to relieve some stress and support a good cause.
Okay, final remark. Looking for live-streams? I’m doing my best to post them onto my Instagram Stories as I see them. A lot of artists are being very creative with the streams in terms of imagining fan-artists engagement outside of traditional sets—some are doing live painting, song tutorials, and more. Finally, please enjoy this tweet: