Not Knowing

Reading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts
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New York City, May 5, 2015

weather review sky 050515★★★★ Thin clouds took the most intense solar warmth off the mild morning air. Downtown, midday, the sun was burning through. The new-planted tree where the jimsonweed had been was belatedly putting out tiny leaves. The towering maples by St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral were full-crowned. A dead rat lay pressed flat on new pavement, chopped red spreading out behind its furry back. The iced-coffee taps on the fourth and third floors hissed and spat foamy dregs. Clouds returned to temper the sun and threatened, obliquely, to perhaps do more. Where the open front of a restaurant spilled out onto the sidewalk, sloppy beachwear was showing. Rush hour was gray and seemed quenched even without rain. The rat had been flattened more and blackened till only its tail still identified it.

The 10 Funniest Moments From 'The Last Man on Earth'

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH: Will Forte as Phil Miller. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is set for a special One-Hour Season Premiere Event, Sunday, March 1 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and makes its time period premiere Sunday, March 8 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

This post is brought to you by Hulu. Don’t be left out of the conversation! Be sure to catch up on the episodes of Last Man on Earth and Saturday Night Live.

After just one season, The Last Man on Earth has emerged as one of the funniest and most unique comedies on TV today. Will Forte plays Phil Miller, a self-obsessed oddball who rallies a small community of survivors in post-apocalyptic Tucson, Arizona. After meeting the equally strange Carol (Kristen Schaal) at the end of the first episode, social dynamics in Tucson become increasingly complicated as fellow survivors Melissa (January Jones) and Todd (Mel Rodriguez) join the group.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with The Last Man on Earth, we’ve collected some of season one’s most hilarious moments – all of which are available on Hulu.

Phil’s ‘Castaway’ Moments at O’ Rozco’s Bar and Grill | Watch the episode on Hulu
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH: Will Forte as Phil Miller. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is set for a special One-Hour Season Premiere Event, Sunday, March 1 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and makes its time period premiere Sunday, March 8 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

When Phil’s loneliness gets out of hand, he finds comfort in a Castaway style brigade of sports balls and inanimate objects.

Anyone Want to Learn How to Milk a Cow? | Watch the episode on Hulu
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH: Todd (Mel Rodriguez) finds the cow after she escapes in the second part of the ÒShe Drives Me Crazy/MooovinÕ InÓ episode of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH airing Sunday, March 29 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

One of the great dynamics of the mid-season episodes is how Phil’s jealousy and vindictiveness toward Todd is held in stark relief to Todd’s good-natured attempts to help the group. This moment from the “cow” episode is a perfect example.
Phil has a thing for Melissa, even though he’s married to Carol. But you can’t stop a guy from dreaming — even if that dream turns into a nightmare.

All Night Long | Watch the episode on Hulu
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH: Phil (Will Forte) is startled by Carol in the first part of the ÒShe Drives Me Crazy/MooovinÕ InÓ episode of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH airing Sunday, March 29 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX

One great recurring joke of the early episodes is Phil’s swimming pool toilet, where he does his “thinking.” Add on top of that a pun on Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and you have comedy gold.

HGTV and the Fantasy of Home Improvement

Prop brosHere are some scenes from my rich inner fantasy life. The paint is buckling on the walls of my living room. It is because there is certainly mold, or water damage, or ancient knob and tube wiring, causing it to distort. The floorboards in my apartment are possibly original, but could be stripped and sanded. I should dust the chandelier that hangs precariously in my living room, but I should check to make sure it’s right for the time and era of my home before I put in the work. The wall that separates my kitchen and bedroom is surely unnecessary and most likely not load bearing; I will take it down to the studs. I will punch through the sheetrock and the plaster with a sledgehammer, and create a flowing sanctum of peace. There will be clean linens and the trim will shine. I will do this all and stay under my budget. I have been watching a lot of HGTV.

HGTV gets you good by shedding light on your insecurities. What you are living with is inadequate, so here is a neat tidy solution. It succeeds because it packages the great American Dream of a custom home into bingeable, half-hour and hour-long chunks. The shows on HGTV have the same appeal as the shows we love to consume in great gulps, but somehow feels more edifying. We watch “Game of Thrones” for the drama, the beautiful settings and the complex political machinations. It makes for excellent water cooler discussion, to be discussed with great breathlessness in various work chat rooms and lunch breaks. We watch a four-hour marathon of “Rehab Addict” to live out our fantasy of packing up our tiny apartments, buying an old house in Detroit and renovating it to the Pinterest-ready home of our dreams. These shoes are entry-level fantasy, tempered with just enough reality to make you think that you could actually do that, too.

I have been on board with HGTV for a while. I stumble upon it one weekend at my dad’s house, and spent an entire day under blankets on the couch watching house after house transform from weird and smelly to shiny, antiseptic and gleaming. The best thing about every show is that there’s no need for prior knowledge. If you tune in to the middle of a “Love It Or List It” marathon, you find yourself hooked immediately. You don’t need to know what character did what with whom and when, because everything you need is right in front of you. There is a house. There are people with a finite amount of money. They will get the house they want, after a solid 20 minutes of renovation porn, and they will be happy. It is, as Philip Maciak at Pacific Standard notes, a procedural. Like that marathon of CSI that you end up watching as morning gives way to afternoon, it’s easy to process. Its the best kind of television, but it’s especially delicious if you live in a tiny apartment in a crowded city where viable housing options are scarce.

Not Knowing

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From the beginning, I knew a mother: the body in which I was grown. And then, mothering: my mom, the caretaker. I picture her holding baby me, saying, “Those are your pants! Those are your eyes!” and talking into my fuzzy head like a mic, my brain recording her voice, the soundtrack to a field of long grass: Shhhhhh, shhhhh, shhhh. I remember the sound. Words change depending on who says them. Even a shush.

There’s a video of me, age three, telling the camera what I intend to be: A bird, so I can fly to California. A declaration I would later carry out, leaving New York for Los Angeles, for mileage, for daylight. Now when my mom and I talk, our voices pulsing through a cable under so many fields between LA and Baltimore, she says I’ve hurt her by withholding words.

As for the part of you that makes us uncomfortable, well, you need to come clean. Is this just something you are doing​ or are you gay? This needs to be made clear.

I try to explain that nothing, especially identity, is ever clear. I sound hurt, which is her cue: I’m just kidding, don’t take it to heart, you have no sense of humor.

In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeannette Winterson writes that “no emotion is the final one.” Even remembering that line, telling my mom to stop talking to me felt final. I pecked out a text from California: I’ve made my own family and don’t need to feel attacked or like I owe you information.

Every Day Is a Disaster

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At 10:15 am on Monday, I got a text from Zelda’s nanny, who we expected at around 11:30 am: She was sick, and she needed to stay home. I wanted to throw the phone across the room, but I just stared it, then looked at my daughter. “It’ll be fine,” I told myself. “Today will just be a disaster. Like every other day.”

I pulled out my calendar for the day, flipping to Monday (it’s made of paper). I hadn’t done any work since Thursday, and I’d spent all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with my family. On my list, in order, was: Shower (yes I penciled that in); write column; edit another piece; call with an editor; brainstorm and write a different piece; grocery store (followed by a list of things we needed); find a dog groomer (we just moved so I don’t have any go to services); find a plumber; make travel arrangements for a wedding in July; make doctor’s appointment for Zelda; and finally, “have new ideas.” I put this into my schedule every week, because these days, I’m left with so little time to simply sit and think that “having new ideas,” something I’ve never been short on, is now a chore I add to a list. All of these things would go a hundred percent undone today. I would instead spend the day playing, reading, singing, and just hanging out with my daughter. Sounds pretty great, right? It is, I know: I’m fortunate to have another wonderful, dependable person to care for Zelda when I need to work, and I’m fortunate to be able to spend entire days at a time with her whenever I want to. But.

Twist Satisfying

The unexpectedly moving story of an internet commenter who, after three years of posting, realized nobody could see him:

It never really made sense why over the course of three years I never got one comment or upvote/downvote for all of my posts. Reddit is an absolutely huge site, but after a couple years you begin to have your doubts. I decided to check to see if I could see my posts in an incognito browser and saw that none of my posts existed. What the fuck?! It was at that moment I realized that from my first post I was shadow banned and all of my contributions over three years never was viewed by a soul. I can’t fucking believe I never caught onto it sooner. I’ve had my hand raised for three years and no one could ever see me and I never questioned it.

A useful thought experiment: What if the last three years of your online posts, wherever you put them, were revealed to have been private and totally unseen? What if those sparse assurances of your content’s existence turned out to be the results of either automation or hallucination? Then: Are you sure this isn’t the case? Can you prove it?

Then, finally: Wouldn’t it be, on some level, a huge relief?

Photo by Fernando Rodríguez

“A new study finds that teens who mix alcohol with energy drinks are four times more likely to have an alcohol disorder than teens who have tried alcohol but never mixed it with an energy drink.”#

Amy Schumer's Body, Our Selves

12angrymen-insideamyschumerIt would be really hyperbolic to compare Amy Schumer to Jesus, but Amy Schumer is basically exactly like Jesus. Last night, for far from the first time, Amy Schumer sacrificed her body for all of us. Kind of. If you’re a woman.

Amy Schumer was barely in last night’s episode of Inside Amy Schumer, but we got as in-depth a consideration of the outside of Amy Schumer as we ever have. “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” was a remarkably faithful remake of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, if 12 Angry Men had involved dildos, accusations of “muppet tits,” and revelations about Paul Giamatti’s boner. A cast of actual movie stars (Giamatti, John Hawkes, Jeff Goldblum, and the second Inside appearance of Dennis Quaid), TV luminaries (Vincent Kartheiser), comedians (Nick Di Paolo, Kumail Nanjani, Chris Gethard, Henry Zebrowski), Inside Amy Schumer regulars (Adrian Martinez, Kevin Kane, Chris Beetem) and one very old man (George Riddle), turned out to recreate the jury room drama about a patient, methodical man (originally Henry Fonda) who sows seeds of reasonable doubt in his fellow jurors. In the original, Fonda was trying to persuade them that the accused was not guilty of murder; in the remake, John Hawkes is open to the possibility that Amy Schumer might be hot enough to be on television.

It seems a little bit indulgent to assemble an ultra-impressive cast and then use them to debate the physical appeal of your show’s star. It seems even a little more indulgent to do so via homage to a movie that Comedy Central’s main audience may have, at best, slept through in last year’s Civ class. But it’s also pretty brilliant, and really, really well done.

Is there a link between “dadbod,” one of last week’s more prominent Idiot Meme Of The Hour candidates, and a company which sells shorts to adult males? Sure, why the hell not. Terrible is often the father to horrible.#

Titus Andronicus, "Dimed Out"

There is no more reliable guitar-based source of endorphins than Titus Andronicus, nor is there really any way to work with music like this playing in the background. So take a three-minute break. Just type numbers into an Excel spreadsheet to the rhythm of the song, nobody will notice. Maybe they’ll add up to something!