July 21, 2022

The strange loneliness of liking too much

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by chavisory

A Facebook memory from about four years ago popped up in my timeline recently; I’d been looking for someone, anyone, else to talk to who’d been listening to both the Rabbits and Point Mystic podcasts. Rabbits was another podcast by the creators of TANIS, a mystery involving a missing woman and something that might be an elaborate role-playing game or might be something much darker or might be all in the imagination of the narrator. Point Mystic in its early days was kind of like if Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman had teamed up to write a family-friendly horror podcast for old Millennials (and if that sounds like something you’d be into, well, I highly recommend it).

Two friends had heard Rabbits. None had heard Point Mystic, and so obviously none had heard both, and I was just helplessly desperate to find someone to talk about common themes and symbols between them with, and I was completely out of luck.

To the best of my knowledge, I still am.

Or I saw a slightly older horror movie a few years ago called YellowBrickRoad, and wanted someone to talk to about its parallels to both LOST and Limetown, and there was just…no one. Or no one interested enough, anyway. Even though Limetown had been hugely popular at the time, and the movie had come out the same year LOST had ended, it was an indie release that just not enough people had seen, I guess. Or they did, but no one saw what I saw.

Lately I’m really into the relationship between ghosts and time travel, and that’s a hard one, even though it seems like it shouldn’t be. I was reading a book called Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon last summer and I’d love to see someone discuss Twin Peaks in light of that work, and it seems so obvious to me, like they were written for each other, but no one really has, as far as I can tell.

I was also stewing about this in relation to question about what the things are that you feel are chronically under-appreciated. And the problem for me isn’t quite that, although those things do exist for me, being autistic and all. I do have a lot of favorite media that not very many people are familiar with, but the people who are love it a lot, even if they’re few and far between.

But the thing that really gets me, that leaves me feeling alone in what I love so often, is seeing relationships and parallels between my niche interests—or sometimes even between things that aren’t really niche phenomena but that just don’t tend to share a common audience—and the combination of uncommon interests and uncommon pattern recognition is what will really leave you without anyone to talk to, going “I can’t be the only person who’s seeing this, right?”

Take for instance Amazon’s Outer Range, which, with its initial appearance of being more of a Western family drama, seems somehow to have captured an audience that overwhelmingly doesn’t watch any other fairly popular television sci-fi. Reviews mentioned superficial resemblances to Stranger Things occasionally, but there should’ve been people yelling about the ways it was invoking tropes from the X-Files, Fringe, and Doctor Who.

And I half suspect that the rise of binge watching (and the production of much shorter seasons more suited to binge watching) might actually be accelerating the phenomenon. (A recent Tumblr post confirms that at least I’m not the only person perceiving this to be the case.) Where even shows that become massive smash hits are a flash in the pan as far as how long they really stick in the popular consciousness, as opposed to building a presence in the public awareness over time, so that a story’s language becomes our language. Instead, a show that’s a year or two old, let alone five or seven, seems to just have no grip on public memory anymore. And things don’t build followings by word of mouth over time, so that there are fans in various different stages of engagement. Everybody saw something when it came out a year ago, and now nobody has any sense of its connection or relationship to anything else.

I think there’s an aspect of age to it, too. When I was a teenager, you couldn’t really be too sincerely enthusiastic about much. Now you can, a whole lot more, but younger people watching the same things as you just don’t have the same background knowledge. So I watched the first season of Good Omens a couple of years ago, just constantly going “So we’re really not going to talk about the whole dialogue with the Screwtape Letters happening here? We’re really not going to talk about that at all?”

Anyone?

Bueller?

And I feel like there’s an inclination lately to ask whether an experience like this is ~an autism thing~ but I hesitate about that, because I don’t think it’s something just intrinsic to that or something other people aren’t capable of experiencing. Although I think it’s probably more likely to be a corollary of having a fairly broad range of somewhat niche interests, a stronger than average attention to detail, and a much longer than average memory.

There’s a loneliness to having too narrow a range of interests, to being in love with something that nobody else is, or that’s very displaced in time compared to the rest of your social circle (being obsessively in love with the music of Buddy Holly when you’re eight, or the Moody Blues when you’re 13 will not get you any conversation partners). There’s another kind, ironically, in having too broad a range of enthusiasms.

I want to talk about Radical Face’s “Family Tree” album cycle and Ray Bradbury and “The Nevers.” And Ray Bradbury and Tales from the Loop. And even though JK Rowling is totally canceled, I want to talk about all the X-Files easter eggs in Harry Potter. I want to read about time travel and trauma, about time and memory and the precise relationship between the Austin and Murry O’Keefe families. Sometimes I go searching fanfic archives, sometimes academia.edu or JSTOR for the kind of meta-discussion I want to be reading, though rarely to much satisfaction. Lately I really want to talk to somebody about Josh Ritter’s The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All and also Willa Cather’s My Ántonia.

I know entirely too well that what a lot of people would say is “Well, you could write about all of that!” That you have to write the things you want to exist in the world if no one else is going to do it. I am borderline afraid that this is what finally drives me into grad school, just for the opportunity to pick a topic no one else is ever going to and spend several years writing 200 pages about it.

But I could spend the rest of my life writing essays about this stuff just to placate my own restless brain, and it’s still not the same as getting interpretive feedback with people who can also see what you see. As getting to have a conversation.

“Is this something no one else has noticed and that’s why no one is talking about it?” I spend a lot of time wondering. “Or is it actually so obvious it doesn’t bear mentioning?”

In most cases, it’s a question I never get an answer to.

February 18, 2020

Falling backwards (A tiny late valentine to Pluto)

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:20 pm by chavisory

I learned from a Twitter friend this morning that today is the 90th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto by researcher Clyde Tombaugh! (I meant to make this post for Valentine’s Day, but this is better.) Only recently did I learn that the now-famous heart-shaped region of Pluto, the Tombaugh Regio, is named for him, because somewhat coincidentally, I’ve become obsessed with this song this week:

But the even neater coincidence is this song, whose lyrics conclude

“The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity.
The heaviness that I hold in my heart’s been crushing me”

…was released in November of 2013.

The photographs revealing the heart of Pluto, the Tombaugh Regio, were not released until July of 2015.

(Some notes from the artist on the song and album are here.)

April 14, 2019

Discovering the Disintegration Loops: Read the comments

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 3:02 pm by chavisory

We’ve been dealing with a big data entry project at work and so I’ve been doing a lot of podcast listening while I slog through it. A recent Radiolab episode contained a short feature on this piece, and I was so smitten I went and looked it up and found the whole thing.

In a break from standard Internet survival protocol, I really think everyone kind of owes it to themselves to go read all the comments on the YouTube link, but by some serendipitous happenstance of comment ranking, these were the first two, in this order, when I first went to listen to the entire piece.

distintegration loop comments

Anyway, I feel like this is probably one of those pieces of music that finds people when they need it to find them. So if that’s you today, well, I hope it did.

October 29, 2018

Top of Act 1!

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:32 am by chavisory

FullSizeRender 2View from the top of our first Act 1 work-through of The Hello Girls!

June 8, 2012

Great minds thinking alike

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:16 am by chavisory

“You take all your interests and all your preoccupations and you kind of fill up a bucket.  And the stuff that runs off, over the top, is a song, or is a novel.”  -Josh Ritter

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.  The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”  -Ray Bradbury

Two men whose writing has meant the world to me.

Josh had just better plan on sticking around a while longer….

December 6, 2011

Nerd fun at the NYPL

Posted in City life tagged , , , , at 11:25 pm by chavisory

I just got home from the New York Public Library, where I went to hear to Josh Ritter, Wesley Stace, and Steve Earle discuss the relationship between music and writing.  All three were lovely and marvelously intelligent, and though I went to hear Josh (of course), I think it was Steve Earle who said the most intriguing thing of the evening:

“What separates us from animals is not opposable thumbs; it’s that only humans make and consume art.  That’s what separates us from the beasts.”

And while I don’t want to denigrate the quality or value of animals’ emotional lives…I suspect he may be right.  I don’t tend to believe that humans are vastly superior to the rest of the animal kingdom in morals or capacity for empathy or emotional complexity…but I cannot think of another species that produces and consumes art for art’s sake.

Discuss?

June 15, 2011

Memory

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 11:14 pm by chavisory

“Today we don’t remember kings and queens…but we remember our poets and we remember our musicians and artists.”

–Josh Ritter

I could listen to that man talk forever.  I really could.

Full interview with Tift Merritt here.

March 29, 2011

Remembering the girls of Triangle

Posted in Reflections tagged , , , , at 11:01 pm by chavisory

For the vast majority of my life, I never felt like I had much in common with other girls.  Most of the people who ever tormented or abused me were girls or women, and so before I was very old, I didn’t have much desire left to have anything in common with them.  I could never call myself a feminist.  I read Mary Pipher’s much-discussed book about the emotional lives of adolescent girls, Reviving Ophelia, in high school, thinking “surely this expert will be able to articulate what’s really wrong with my life and then I’ll be able to explain it to everyone who’s getting it wrong (and not least of all, to myself).”

I was bitterly disappointed.  It was a marvelous book (and I still think so), but it was like reading a very fascinating book about a completely alien species.  Not me.

Then there was a sequel of sorts, Ophelia Speaks, a compilation of teen girls’ own responses and reflections on their lives and the original book, seeking to let girls speak for themselves about their lives and somewhat fill in the gaps they felt were left in Pipher’s book.  I ran out to buy it.  “Now someone will tell the truth for me, surely now someone will get it right!” I thought.

Nope.  It was another fascinating book, this time in the words of the fascinating aliens themselves.  But I recognized myself nowhere among them.  I started to accept that either there were no girls like me anywhere, or I wasn’t a real girl at all.  I don’t even remember there being any women who made me think “I could grow up to be like that.”

And then (to make a very long story short), I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and in reading the blogs and books of other autistic women and developing supportive relationships with them, I found a way to identify with other women at all for the first time.

***

I don’t write much about my work, for a variety of reasons, but it’s been no big secret lately that I’ve been working on a particularly difficult production, which has taken more or less everything out of me in the past couple months.  It was a choral music piece called From the Fire, about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which had its 100th anniversary this past week.  On March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers, mostly teenage girls and young women, either burned or jumped to their deaths because they were locked in on the 9th floor of the factory building near Washington Square when a fast-moving fire broke out in a bin of cotton scraps.  The tragedy proved a watershed moment in the social history of America, for workers’ rights and unions, mandates for workplace safety, and voting rights for women.

Within the first couple weeks, the rehearsal process had become so hard that I felt myself starting to shut down emotionally and detach myself from any real feeling for the show, which was the last thing in the world that I wanted, since what this kind of show can accomplish is exactly the reason that I wanted to work in theater in the first place.

Then one night in vocal rehearsal, I sang along silently in my head as the chorus of girls sang a line of a song: “Blessed are you oh lord our God who made me a woman, yes, a woman who can work.”  And it hit me: I am one of these girls–the ones in front of me.  I was there to look out for them, backed up by a strong union, in no small part because of what happened to the girls of Triangle.  Performing artists are still a vulnerable population in many ways, and I was one of them, and as hard as things were still going to get, my job was to protect them.  I was there to be on their side.

***

In the final song of the show, a cascading canon of voices sing out the names of girls of the Triangle factory, both survivors and the dead.  The performers had been directed to abruptly face outwards, to an individual member of the audience, as each one sang her line.  It wasn’t until the third performance, which happened to fall on the actual anniversary of the fire, that I realized that one of the student actresses, in the down right corner of the stage, was turning directly to me (where I was calling the show from an improvised platform) when she sang “Lizzie will be remembered.”  I teared up.  I couldn’t hold her gaze for more than a moment.

I could practically feel the ghosts of the Triangle girls around me.

And they were all my girls.

***

More on the production:
From the Fire production homepage

Remembering the Dead as They Were (NYT City Room blog)

Dept. of Commemoration: Echoes (The New Yorker)

March 2, 2011

Do you hear the people sing?

Posted in Reflections tagged , , , , at 12:34 pm by chavisory

A friend shared this video on Facebook the other night; it’s several years old, being from the 10th Anniversary concert of Les Misérables, in which 17 actors who have played Jean Valjean in productions from around the world join in singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “One Day More.”

I remember reading the book in high school, and then seeing the musical, and mostly wondering whether, if it came down to it, I’d be capable of the incredible acts of bravery and love that characters like Valjean, Marius and Eponine were.  I wonder it again now as I follow the coverage of the democratic uprisings in Yemen, Egypt, and Libya.  I often wonder how much what looks like bravery in retrospect only felt like the only possible or acceptable thing to do at the time.

So I dedicate this to all the brave people of the Middle East.

Note: Copyright issues apparently will not allow the embedded video to play here.  Use the link provided in the error message to watch it on YouTube.  Sorry!

January 23, 2011

Forgotten pictures and being out of place in time

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:28 pm by chavisory

I took some pictures on my digital camera in the last couple weeks, of the latest New York Snowpocalypse (can it really be the “snowpocalypse” if it happens every year?) in Central Park, and of certain mysterious phenomena of my apartment.  When I went to upload them to my computer, there were a dozen pictures in the batch that I’d forgotten were on the camera, from a short, whirlwind trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado back in August for my cousin’s wedding.  I remembered I’d disregarded them because most of them were taken quickly, some from a moving ski lift, and my camera’s battery was having trouble deciding whether or not it was imminently dying, so I’d assumed they couldn’t have turned out very well and written them off.  But a few of them were okay.


Something touched me about that single, abandoned tram car sitting alone in a field.

What strikes me is the huge sense of peace that emanates from them, even though very little about the weekend, and nothing about my life at the time was peaceful in the slightest.  A lot was going on personally.  I had gotten a 6 AM flight to Denver and was delirious from going nearly 24 hours without sleep at one point, and cranky and strung out from altitude sickness.  I was working on two shows at the time–one going perfectly swimmingly but the other descending rapidly into hell–and was in close contact all weekend with my partner stage manager concerning the latter one, and playing frantic phone tag with two other people about the schedules of possible upcoming gigs.  There was apparently some family drama that I didn’t even hear about until much later.

Only far in retrospect is that bright, sparklingly vivid tranquility that was there the whole time apparent to me, as I take a last few peaceful hours to myself this morning, before I begin tomorrow my next long, hard slog through a production that I can already tell is going to take everything out of me for the next couple months.  It’s like the assurance of peace only now caught up to me in time, or I caught up to it.  The sense is resonant of a verse of one of my current favorite songs:

I am assured, yes, I am assured, yes, I am assured that peace will come to me.
A peace that can, yes, surpass the speed, yes, of my understanding and my need.

–Josh Ritter, “Lark”

A thought that I’m going to try to hang on to…as it’s becoming apparent that my next few weeks are going to feel more like this:

Remember: Every situation is different with respect to the bear, the terrain, the people and their activity.

Stay calm.