I * may * have taxed our relationship by writing about turnips and baby books in my last newsletter. What can I say, I overestimated your desire to learn about root vegetables! (I am willing to die on the hill that, when properly prepared, turnips are sublime.)
To make it up to you I have all things hilarious, insightful, danceable, and delicious! Read on for viewing, listening, podcasting, and snacking news below. All good ways to deal with the unprecedented heat we’re experiencing this summer.
It was 116° F here in Portland. Honestly, opening the front door felt like, well, being slammed into a heat wall. Then our AC went out. We hunkered in front of the TV for a binge watch to take our minds off our discomfort. Two fans going, multiple bowls of very buttery popcorn, gin and tonics in sweaty glasses + HACKS…that is how we passed five very pleasant hours.
If you haven’t yet watched HACKS, oh man, I am envious that you get to watch it for the first time! I laughed so hard. The writing is smart, smart, smart. The storyline is moving, relevant to politics and women, aging and the well founded (see the recent climate change related heat dome) existential worries of twenty-somethings. The premise is, an aging comedian (the absolutely fantastic Jean Smart), once the vanguard of women in comedy, is being relegated to the remainders bin. But she refuses to go quietly and is forced to work with a young woman (Hannah Einbinder), a comedy writer, who has gotten into trouble over a tweet. The young woman, Ava, is meant to revitalize and update Deborah Vance’s career. Here’s a snippet of how it begins:
After reading some of Ava’s pitches, Vance says: “They’re not jokes. They’re like thought poems. I had a horrible nightmare that I got a voice-mail.” Vance stares at the joke for a couple of seconds, as if it will make sense to her if she looks at it long enough. Then she turns her gaze back to Ava and squawks: “What?”
Generational conflict gets a lot of laughs, and we also understand that for both women, laughter is what keeps them going in a world that still (looking at you Louis CK) doesn’t make a lot of room for women.
Hey writers, I also want to point out the heavy lifting done by secondary characters in this show. They are, to a person, so wonderful, funny, have their own agendas, and are perfectly cast. Keep this in mind as you people your novels, stories, and memoirs.
Do not skip the soundtrack to Questlove’s film, SUMMER OF SOUL. If you’re missing summer music festivals, treat yourself to seeing this film in a theater. AC blasting, good music on the screen, and so many beautiful faces! I was deeply moved to witness so much joy. Music that my mom blasted in our apartment when I was a kid lit me up inside and had me dancing in my seat, but it was seeing how much the concert meant to the Harlem community that brought me to tears. The festival, which ran before Woodstock, had been largely forgotten, the concert tapes moldering in a basement. Questlove, of The Roots, worked with hours and hours of music to bring us the film. In a NYTs interview he says:
History saw it fit that every last person that was on that stage now winds up defining a generation. Why isn’t this held in the same light? Why was it that easy to dispose of us? Instead, the cultural zeitgeist that actually ended up being our guide as Black people was “Soul Train.” And so, I’m always going to wonder, “How could this and ‘Soul Train’ have pushed potential creatives further?”
Read about Questlove’s passion project here. The film is both a pleasure and heartbreaking because little has changed for black people in our country. We have so much work to do.
Continuing my love affair with CREATE OUT LOUD, a podcast about the creative life from Jennifer Louden, my pal and a creativity expert, I recently listened to two episodes that entertained and brought insights. The first is with Angeline Boulley, whose book, FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER, is being made into a limited Netflix series by the Obamas. Pretty amazing news for a debut author! Boulley, 55, spent 10 years working on her novel, delving into everything from the intricacies of illegal drugs, (she learned how to cook meth!) to law enforcement, to hockey, to the ways of her own tribe, the Ojibwe people.
An insight from Jen: Once again a guest talks about self-compassion. How many times does that come up? Beating yourself up for what you are not doing, always raising the bar, expecting things from yourself in your creative work that don’t fit in your life, pretending that you can be someone you aren’t in terms of time or energy, is not gonna make it possible for you to create out loud.
Another episode, a conversation with Maggie Shipstead, has spurred me to want to read Shipstead’s work. Particularly ASTONISH ME.
An insight from Jen: Maggie didn’t have an identity of herself as a writer, she didn’t have a set of expectations… identity has to support the fullness of our self and our creative expression. And it needs to be fluid. It is not armor that we put on. If calling yourself a writer, painter, actor, helps you to take it more seriously, yay. If it becomes a pressure, an oppression… throw it out. Make up a new word. Make yourself a hybrid.
There are many more episodes with all kinds of creatives. If you like nerdy (in the best possible way) conversations about creating… this could be your jam.
I’ve two tasty snacks for you (still making up for turnipgate). Everyone waxes on about the deliciousness of summer fruits, and or course they’re correct. I’m going to try and balance the scales with two recipes that take advantage of glorious summer vegetables. (I know a tomato is a fruit, okay, you got me!)
First from this recipe from my chef/writer friend, Alison Wonderland Tucker. She has a terrific newsletter you may want to subscribe to for delightful stories and recipes. Here’s the latest recipe which I’ve made three times in two weeks.
COTIJA CORN DIP
Full disclosure, when I made this the first time, I didn’t have the recipe handy so I made it up as I went along. I did not cook of any of the ingredients, just made a crudo salsa and it was delicious. I also substituted honey for the agave and Padron peppers (I used 3-4 as they are mild) for the serrano because that is what I had on hand. It was a success! Alison’s version is here.
Next this salad from the NYTs. This I’ve made multiple times in the past week.
GRILLED HALLOUMI CHEESE WITH TOMATOES
Thanks for spending a minute with me. Stay tuned as I have a fun fall writing project brewing. Something for all of us to do together, to get words on the page. Meanwhile, relax, swim, read, hike, rest, rejuvinate! Do whatever it is you enjoy and whatever means summer to you.
Stanley is keen on his donut anytime of year.