City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Another title from the “just caught my attention” collection. This book caught my eye last year when I attended my second Mama Gena’s weekend in the Ziegfeld Ballroom. That site isn’t actually the building where the Follies were performed, but it still had a potent resonance, walking in the spiritual footprints of the Ziegfeld Girls while doing Mama G’s program, and then learning about this novel about 1940s New York showgirls all at the same time.

Full disclosure: I’ve never read anything by Gilbert before. I know Eat, Pray, Love was a huge phenomenon, and that Gilbert followed it up with another memoir (or two or three) as her life took additional twists and turns. It wasn’t ever a definitive decision I made against reading her stuff, I just never got around to it. (So many books, so little time…)

Still, knowing what little I know about the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing, I was truly puzzled about what type of “New York showgirl” story this particular author might want to tell. Would it completely eschew her introspective memoir thing to go all the way into glitz and escapism? Would it tell an anachronistic story of female sexual liberation and expression? What exactly would I find behind this pink feathered cover?*

A closeup of the book cover for City of Girls, showing the title in front of a picture of pink feathers.

The answer? A little bit of all of the above.

Continue reading “City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert”

Toasting my ancestors in Whamhalla

It’s December 1st,* which means it’s time for that beloved holiday survival game:

Whamageddon

A black and white photo of the pop duo Wham! in all their mid-80s glory.

The rules are simple:

  1. The objective is to go as long as possible without hearing WHAM’s Christmas classic, “Last Christmas.”
  2. The game starts on December 1st, and ends at midnight on December 24th.
  3. Only the original version applies. Enjoy the ?#!$&%! out of remixes and covers.
  4. You’re out as soon as you recognize the song.

Now, you might remember me mentioning that I have a lot of CDs. (Like: a LOT.) As such, I think that no one will be especially surprised to hear that I also have a healthy number of holiday CDs.

So I usually go into each annual round of Whamageddon with a decent advantage, because I’m going to spend a lot of my time listening to my own collection of holiday music. Which means I can consciously program around that track for as long as I have other CDs to listen to.**

The main Whamageddon risks to me are when I’m out in the world where every store, restaurant and gas station has their own holiday playlist going.

Which is why I thought I had it sewn up for 2020.

Continue reading “Toasting my ancestors in Whamhalla”

Surge on surge on surge

I was gonna write an entirely different post tonight. I finished another “just for fun” read over the weekend, and was gonna do that one last fluffy book review before coming back to more serious topics.

But then I saw this tweet from NBC news:

So I guess it’s back to seriousness sooner rather than later.

Although, in all honestly, I’m not sure what more I have to say aside from.

What the fuck, America?

A picture of the red Angry Bird wearing a medical mask.
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Selective empathy: a deeper dive

As if often the case with me, my recent meditation on the concept of “selective empathy” in the context of the 2020 election led me down a merry rabbit hole to learn more about the concept of selective empathy in general.

Hi, I’m Sherri and I like long walks on the beach, obsessively learning new things and brain science…

Now, I am in no way pretending to be an expert after reading a few online articles, but what I have read so far has me grappling with things in a way that is valuable to me. Like I can almost feel my brain expanding past some prior limitations and blind spots.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but also one I absolutely love.*

So here’s the provocative statement I’m mulling over tonight:

What if, by focusing on “empathy,” I’ve been barking up the wrong tree all this time?

Continue reading “Selective empathy: a deeper dive”

Beauty Mark by Carole Boston Weatherford

Unsurprisingly for me with a few days off, I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading. This latest book steps outside of my two main categories for 2020* to be part of the “books that randomly caught my eye” category that is always in play for me, year in and year out.

I stumbled across this book in a newsletter (weekly? monthly?) about new titles sent by a local indy bookstore. It may seem hyberbole to say I “stumbled across” something in a newsletter that I’m actively subscribed to, but I stand by my sense of fortunate chance here. Frankly, y’all, I hardly ever open those emails, so let’s just ponder the odds of me just randomly opening this middle-of-the-pandemic issue to see something so patently designed to catch my eye: a YA verse novel about Marilyn Monroe.

A close-up of Marilyn Monroe's face in full glamour mode, but with the black & white tonailty overlaid with bright, bold, unrealistic colors (blue lips, rainbow hair, pitch black and red diagonal neck)

I prefer to think of it as a small, blessed piece of good fortune.

The title stayed on my mind until things with COVID settled down to the point where books could once again travel on interlibrary loan**, whereupon I put in a request for it, and then happily picked it up.

Continue reading “Beauty Mark by Carole Boston Weatherford”

Considering who counts

Mr. Mezzo and I have a monthly Datebox subscription. I gave it to him as a Christmas present last year, and we enjoyed it enough that we re-upped once the initial subscription term ended.

For the record, this was not one of those passive-aggressive “you aren’t bringing enough romance into my life” kinds of gifts. Between my workaholism and my mental health, I have been the less-romantic member of this partnership for a long damn time. Instead, the gift was offered in the spirit of “I know I’m often too busy or distracted or depressed for romance, but this is my commitment to you to regularly carve out time together“—and I’m pretty confident that was the spirit in which said gift was also received.

I’m sharing all of this because one of the activities in a recentish Datebox involved rolling dice to randomly get questions to answer so we could learn new and quirky things about each other. One of the questions was “If you could have one wish, what would it be?”

I don’t actually remember how I answered that question, but I do remember that we then organically and nerdily moved from there into the question “If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?”

A close-up of two Itty Bitty dolls: Batgirl and Wonder Woman.

That, I remember my answer for:

Universal Empathy Bomb

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The unexamined majority

Finally back to my election post-mortems! Here’s the prior in the series:

Anyhow…

So, one of the things that’s been pissing me off this election season is all the calls for liberals and progressives to dig deeper and understand the Trump voter. NY Times think pieces on how we don’t understand America if we don’t understand Trump’s appeal. CNN op-eds on how we need to listen differently. Politicians and pundits alike have been telling liberals to reach out, to empathize, to build bridges.

And why has this been pissing me off? Because 4 years ago, after Trump won in 2016, democrats, liberals and progressives were inundated with the exact same advice. Listen. Learn. Understand. Build bridges.

It’s almost like there’s certain groups of (*cough*white*cough*) people who want to make sure they stay at the center of the universe and the center of all American discourse.

Hogging the spotlight, as it were.

A black and white of three spotlight beams merging to form an illuminated circle on an empty stage.
Continue reading “The unexamined majority”

The way things are now

This post feels a bit like a cross between recent meditations on living in these COVID times and on calling things by their real names.

Or maybe, I should just call it: I may be a sad sack about my solo Solstice, but I am NOT going to be a selfish, solipsistic, self-destructive shithead.

(That kind of alliteration has to be kind of impressive, right?)

A 1970s era pattern made of titled S'es in orange, hot pink and purple.

Basically, this is me riffing further to expound on a comment from yesterday’s post. Someone’s initial response to my sadness from last night was to go see my family anyhow—cos life is short and nothing is guaranteed, anyways.

And I know that advice is coming from a place of individual compassion for me and my pain. But it is not counsel I can take in good conscience. ‘Cos I only have the tiniest bit of epidemiological understanding, but I know enough to know the importance of public health and to know how important it is to listen to public health and medical experts when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic.

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The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

Contextual set-up: aside from Shakespeare Project the Second, my 2020 reading has been deeply preoccupied with sociopolitical analysis—both anti-racist texts, and exposes of the Cheeto POTUS’s administration. This book doesn’t fit clearly in either of those sub-categories, but it’s definitely part of the same reading family that has been so front-and-center for me since I emerged from my first bout of “pandemic brain” and started actively reading again.

An screencap from MezzoSherri's Libby shelf, showing the thumbnail for Kamala Harris's book The Truths We Hold.
Thank you, Libby!

It wasn’t till I started writing this post that I realized The Truths We Hold is a campaign book.* But of course it is. Released about a week or two before Harris launched her Presidential campaign in January 2019, and with the flag-waving subtitle An American Journey, it has all the hallmarks of the genre.

And no shame on that. This sort of book has a long and respectable lineage, from JFK’s Profiles in Courage to Obama’s Audacity of Hope to Warren’s This Fight is Our Fight.** Good on Harris for writing her own, and I hope she continues to earn healthy royalty checks throughout the remainder of her long career in public service.

Still, I think I’m glad I read the memoir when I did rather than during the heat of the primaries.

Continue reading “The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris”