The ideal...and the not ideal.
Watching, listening, thinking, writing...and not.
The weekend felt a little bit like a luxury — the rains in the rear-view, lots of productive moving on Friday and Saturday which would mean no moving on Sunday; the gloriously successful introduction on Saturday night of Bananagrams (and wine) to my partner — she generally hates games but has made it a resolution to embrace them and, you know, not flip over the table if she’s losing; a Sunday morning of delicious pour-over coffee, good food, then watching my 49ers win another playoff game, followed by a switch over to a really good Warriors game that then turned sour and, as a tonic to forget that, the superb second episode of “The Last of Us.”
Those are the memories if you parse them like that, a little judiciously, leaning into the good moments, but it’s not always illustrative of how life actually works, is it? I mean, from that Friday through end of Sunday, this also happened: my partner’s mother went into the hospital, I had a dementia-fueled talk with my brother, there were some migraines and some worries about mixing muscle relaxants with wine; there were outrageous bills (health care in this country is so fucked up) and then, there was this whole weird Substack billing situation. Among other things.
But that’s life, right? Everyone has various similar distractions and shit that happens to them, all mixed in with great moments and wonderful memories. I bring this up only because there’s always something funny and real about life and how you want it to be and how it is, the hopes you have for it and the rules you put in place for it, and then what the universe does to all that dust.
Look at you. You’re killing it! You would look really good as a paid subscriber.
Among the resolutions I said I would talk about here, one of the aims, goals, plans, dreams, hopes — whatever you want to call them — that I have for this specific thing I’m doing here is to, as I wrote down on a piece of paper in December of 2022, “find the ideal.” By early January I found it. I find talking about resolutions and plans invigorating and necessary brain fuel to think them all into reality, or at least try. It’s just how I’ve always operated since I was a teenager. So I told my partner what “the ideal” was. (Side note: I’m tired of writing “partner,” even though we like that term; her name is Karen but beyond A BUNCH OF KARENS ruining that name for the time being, Karen is also the name of my sister, R.I.P., so yeah, we don’t really use Karen and she mostly goes by KB, as she’s always done and I call her Kabes, and that’s what I’ll write going forward).
Sooooo, I tell her that for 2023, my ideal for this Substack is to be “ahead of, instead of behind,” the cycle. She looks at me weird. I say, “Remember when I really hated being on the critic treadmill of churning out reviews and industry pieces and whatever, and never stopping?” Of course, she said — she lived through it and it wasn’t pretty. OK, I said, that’s behind the cycle. The cycle of topics. Like, my old work life was coming up with whatever reviews were going to happen next week, try to finish what I was currently watching and then catch up with ongoing episodes, then frantically and time-consumingly, watch the shows for next week’s columns, like a list of chores — especially if the shows were bad — and then write the reviews and repeat the process.
That was not ideal. Here’s what’s ideal, based on my current life of a maximum structureless void of creativity that’s as rewarding as it is profitless: Don’t plan things out. Just do. Meaning, don’t feel like you’re forced to find three or five things to watch and write about each week. That’s work. Just do. Live. You’re in this weird new phase of the journey, might as well enjoy every part of it. Watch some obscure show on BritBox. Watch a Fellini movie on Criterion Channel. Stumble into an old movie theater in San Francisco and watch something new and probably foreign and unlikely to be on my streaming services soon.
Do those things first. Then write about that That’s ahead of the cycle, I say.
It’s a great plan, we agree. It’s a good life. Yay 2023!
I just want you to know I haven’t done any of that. I mean, I moved a bunch of stuff and got a brutal headache that wiped out most of Monday. I’ve watched the aforementioned Ep. 2 of “The Last of Us” and was surprised by the twist — and still looking forward to more episodes, which is a strong sign. I watched sports, I cut my dog’s hair — no, really, that’s a true story and he looks pretty suave, too — but life is a ball that rolls over your pins and sends them in all directions, so here we are.
I went looking for inspiration to help me get these thoughts out, to help me try to explain whatever creative process decides it wants to work or not in the present, and I only got there by — wait for it — going to the Criterion Channel website on my Apple TV set-up and getting super excited. So much awaits me! Where that time will come from, well, who knows. It’s not just time, after all, it’s motivation/want-to. It’s the lack of, say, being on hold with PG&E which, if you have’t heard, is experiencing extremely long delays. (Yes, I left my number for a call back — I’m not Progressive ad — but for two days straight they never called me back.. Whatever).
Oh, but on my Criterion Channel home page I had tons of inspiration. It worked. I watched the trailers for all the genres — now that’s a trailer/preview I’ll endorse — and I watched Werner Herzog talk about Les Blank which was lovely and inspiring and I flipped around making notes on all the stuff I want to add to my waiting list of things to watch. You know, when I’m ahead of the cycle.
Motivation and creativity are interesting things. I haven’t been on as many really long walks as in the past and as I would like — so much good comes from them — and I’m tired of living in this liminal space between two places. I’m nowhere near in the right frame of mind to work on the book but I’m moving forward on something else and, as illustrated here, just past my First Year Substackversary, I’m still excited to figure things out on this particular avenue, where the immediacy is keeping me sane.
I closed the night, then, writing this post, listening to Spotify and a bunch of new and old songs and I found creative motivation and excitement in them, not just enough to finish this column but to make some notes on others to come. I mean, I still have a brutal headache but things will be fine. If the muscle relaxants don’t derail me, I might even start a new series tonight.
Speaking of being behind the cycle, I'm just getting to this column. Would have been able to resist commenting, but I wanted to send my hope KB's mom is ok. I shall refer to her as KB as I also have a good friend Karen whose good name has been sullied and we call her KB and Kabes seems too intimate until we have taken muscle relaxants and wine and flipped a table together. Hi ho.
Hey Tim, first things first. I received a number of bewildering emails from Substack but I checked my credit card and it looks like you got paid (it said pending but I think that's a bank technicality). Please just let me know if for some reason you didn't receive payment. Like I got a weird $.08 refund email, and then a cancellation email today, just bizarro. But I figure the credit card statement plus the paid Substack still working means we're good?
I really enjoyed this line from you, because it's the truth:
"So much awaits me! Where that time will come from, well, who knows. It’s not just time, after all, it’s motivation/want-to."
Not only do we lie to others, we lie to ourselves about this. Yes, I will watch X, read that long article, crack that book open. And then we don't. And we SAY it's because we're too busy or don't have the time. But the reality is more "no motivation/didn't want to". I am not sure what the solution is. You can't fully control your mood. I sort of do a hybrid of the 2 extremes you mentioned. I have a plan of what I want to watch but when I sit down to watch, I usually go by mood. The exception is when there is an element of obligation. I am in a book club so I do read the books assigned. And I do suffer some element of FOMO so I stay current on shows my friends/family or the outside world are actively watching and talking about. Which brings me to ...
I really should quit The Last of Us. It's way too scary, and I find it actively stressful to watch. I don't like the bleakness, and if I am being honest, despite loving the cast, I haven't been able to connect to the characters. But ... everyone is talking about it. It's the Show Du Jour of the moment. Even the "take your time" Bastard Machine Substack is watching it!! So apparently Sunday night is when I stress myself out each week? Well, we'll see. My initial goal was watch the first 3 episodes and then decide. We'll see if I am strong enough to drop it despite all the hype. That pressure is real! Or maybe I will start enjoying it.