newsletter

Overzealous Recycling 005: This world would be unlivable without art

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If you missed the last Overzealous Recycling, you can read it here

We usually save something inspirational for the end of these (not a) newsletters. But Steven Soderbergh has been doing quite a bit of press for the release of his new film, High Flying Bird, on Netflix. (I hope to post a review this coming week.) And in one interview, he responded to his 2001 Academy Award acceptance speech being used by Oscar telecast producers as an example for the ideal acknowledgement for winners.

Steven Soderbergh talking to Bill Simmons is a fascinating conversation

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the speech Soderbergh gave upon winning the Academy Award for Best Director. (Traffic was the film that earned him the honor.)

Weekly Affirmation

Succinct and to the point. It’s definitely a good example for other Oscar winners to follow. Here’s the key passage, the one which really spoke to me and so many others:

“I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music — anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unlivable without art, and I thank you.”

As an aspiring writer, that meant something. I’ve cited it many times in my own writing, in classroom settings, and to contemporaries. It was important to hear, occasionally providing a little nudge to try a little harder, to finish that idea I was shaping, that story I was writing.

In an interview this past week with IndieWire, Soderbergh downplayed that speech, saying it was a result of “alcohol and adrenaline” because he didn’t expect to win. He seemed embarrassed that it was cited as a template. But he shouldn’t be. Modesty aside, what he said is a great example of creativity on the fly and the sincerity of articulating a feeling without preparation.

Meal Plan

The older I get, the softer I prefer my scrambled eggs. (I don’t think that has anything to do with my teeth getting soft. Still in good shape there.) While listening to an older House of Carbs podcast (I’m determined to listen to every episode), I was hooked on Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan’s description of the signature soft scrambled eggs they make for their sandwiches.

Naturally, I figured that there had to be videos of preparing those eggs and I wasn’t disappointed.

Having the patience to stir and fold eggs in a cold pan that slowly warms isn’t necessarily the way to go if you’ve gotta have breakfast RIGHT NOW. (It helps to have some bacon to munch on while you’re standing at the stove.) So maybe it’s better for a Saturday or Sunday morning.

But the payoff is worth it. The eggs are creamy and have more flavor, even without cheese, chives, or even salt and pepper. (And no, I don’t add caramelized onions. There’s only so much time in a day.) It’s been pointed out to me, however, that I spend far more time cooking the meal than eating it. I always eat too fast.

10 to Read

** Frank Robinson, who died this week at 83 years old, wasn’t a household name among casual baseball fans and those who don’t follow sports. But he was a momentous figure in baseball history — 586 career home runs, MVP awards in both leagues, Rookie of the Year, a Triple Crown winner, and baseball’s first black manager — as Barry Svrluga reminds us while recounting his experiences with Robinson. [Washington Post]

** It’s difficult to argue that articles about Donald Trump’s tan accomplish very much, and maybe the NYT should be above such stuff. But Trump’s skin tone is something many people notice, so why not ask how he gets that orange color? [New York Times]

** Late to this, but this is a stunning story of how a Minneapolis dancer’s reputation was terribly smeared by two writers (one of which is Kevin Powell, whom you might remember from the first season of The Real World) in retaliation for something she didn’t write. It was a horrible case of mistaken identity, and Powell and his wife didn’t even bother to do the bare minimum in making sure they called out the right person. [City Pages]

Musical Interlude

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Sparklehorse’s Good Morning Spider. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed that album until re-listening to a lot of my music collection while converting my CDs to digital files. (I know, I was like 15 years late in doing so.)

Annie Zaleski writes about Good Morning Spider in far greater depth than I could ever hope to achieve for Stereogum. Yet she also distills the album down to the key point that Sparklehorse — and songwriter, the late Mark Linkous — played with so many different styles that the music couldn’t be easily defined. Yet what could’ve been a creative mess turned into truly memorable.

** Are people really saying that “books are dead”? In my circle (which I’m not saying is expansive), most everyone is reading something. Devices like Kindle or services like Audible allow us to fit reading in rather easily. Watching cable news and even sports studio programming, it seems like just about everybody is writing a book. [TIME]

Maybe the novel is in a more precarious situation? I’ve certainly been guilty of reading far more nonfiction than fiction during the past 10 to 15 years. It feels more difficult for my brain to get in the right mode to lose myself in fiction. I’m trying to change that this year.

** Michael Bloomberg probably won’t run for president among what’s already become a ridiculously crowded field of candidates. But he could provide significant help to Democrats campaigning against Donald Trump with “all the data” and a system for applying that information toward potential voters. [The Atlantic]

** Dana Perino became an unwitting Super Bowl meme by tweeting a photo of what looked like very unappetizing queso dip. What are the origins of chile con queso, how did it become a thing, and what are some tasty variations? [Eater]

** Bob Mould’s new album, Sunshine Rock, was released on Friday and I’m spending a good chunk of the weekend listening to it. In this interview, he says he’s tried to be more positive in his recent songwriting I admire the guy for moving to Berlin without knowing how to speak German. [Rolling Stone]

** It’s been five years since Shane Salerno’s documentary about J.D. Salinger and accompanying biography was released. But Salinger’s son, Matt (who played Captain America in a 1990 film), says there is plenty of unpublished material that could be released over the next 10 years. But it needs work. [The Guardian]

** Fielding Yost is a football coaching legend at Michigan, but his name isn’t often cited among the coaching pioneers of the game. That made it notable when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick cited Yost among those he learned from in reading vintage football books. [MVictors]

** I eat a lot of pickles (cucumbers, peppers, garlic, okra, asparagus and more), which leaves jars of leftover pickle juice. Just tossing it down the sink seems like a waste, but what can be done with it? I typically use pickle juice for salad dressings, but might try some of these other suggestions. [Garden & Gun]

writing

Always be checking your practice

snoopy_stormyHere we are at a new year, so here comes some new resolve. For me, that usually means some sort of resolution to write more — and especially keep this blog updated. In 2019, I’m hoping that sticks. And I hope you stick as a reader too.

During the last half of 2018, I really tried to achieve a better work-life balance. But I also spent much of that time grousing over how I wasn’t writing as much as I’d like. Getting into podcasting provided some fulfillment, and I hope to learn and do more there as people increasingly listen to podcasts, rather than read blogs.

But if I’m going to complain about not writing, well, I have an outlet for that — one which has led to some degree of professional success. I haven’t gotten much return on that investment in recent years, however. I can claim to be a writer, especially to prospective employers, yet can I really call myself that if I’m not writing?

Just writing more isn’t enough, though. Have I reached a plateau? Have I already been as good as this as I’ll have ever been? Am I just repeating myself?

A writer I admire tremendously is Warren Ellis. He’s been very influential on my blogging and social media. Now, that’s expanding to writing. Over the holidays, I caught up on several issues of his newsletter (Inbox Zero in 2019!) and this passage from the June 24, 2018 edition resonated with me:

check_practise

(I tried to pay my debt to Ellis back in some way by purchasing a bunch of his comics from Comixology, albeit as part of their DC and Marvel holiday sales.)

“Always be checking your practise.” Am I performing as well as I could be? Have I improved or declined? Am I just doing the same thing? Am I evolving or dying? If I wasn’t worried about answering those questions in the negative, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Far too often in online sports media (and online media, in general), the work is more about producing content and catching clicks, rather than telling a story, informing the reader, and improving craft. Getting out of that grind, at least occasionally feels important. It’s vital, unless it’s just about doing a job. (And there’s nothing wrong with that, if drawing a paycheck is the priority.)

Maybe I’ve done all I’ll ever do as a writer. That would be disheartening, but I’d have to accept that I didn’t push as hard as I could have with my personal ambitions. I suppose I’m not ready to accept that yet.

Along the way, I might find out whether or not people really read blogs anymore. I’ve read a few writers say that they’re returning to blogging, and I admire that. But more people might prefer reading Facebook and Instagram, or listening to podcasts. If so, that might be a cue to commit to doing a true newsletter.

Ultimately, that shouldn’t matter, though. Not here. This should be where I write, regardless of how many people read that work.