Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio (iTunes, Soundcloud). I started listening to this podcast last year when I was getting into more punk / post-punk music. Broadcasted every few weeks for the past 3+ years, it’s a wonderfully curated collection of underground, garage rock from every decade that garages and rock have existed simultaneously (rock the music genre, not the geological amalgamation of minerals).
It has introduced me to several bands that I now listen to quite regularly. Sadly, the podcast and zine is now ending, but if you didn’t know about Dynamite Hemorrhage before now, you’re welcome. You can now go binge-listen to more than 64 hours of it.
Frances Ha (Baumbach, 2013). I think I put off watching it because I thought it would be a pretentious New York hipster movie, similar fears as reviewer Linda Holmes of NPR. But this morning I thought I ought to give it a shot. Glad I did, because it was thoroughly enjoyable. Frances is so awkward and weird, but in an authentic way. The things she says are at times very juvenile, but unlike other films with immature characters, she’s also capable of very deep observations. At one point in the script, co-written by director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, Frances says “It’s almost hard to be happy about it because I didn’t have time to anticipate it” about seeing her best friend who she thought was in Japan. There’s no way a teenager could say that, even if Frances seems like a teenager at times, including one particularly awkward dinner scene I literally could not watch because it was just so embarrassing. Still, she’s not completely clueless, and that nuance is nice.
Candide by Voltaire. I’m trying to read more books by women, POCs, and/or underrepresented groups. Voltaire obviously does not fit into any of these categories. Yes, Candide is considered a “classic,” but come on, what does that term even mean except that at one time it was popular and its popularity snowballed from there. Time is the only thing that separates “classic” from “viral.” Maybe time matters but maybe it doesn’t.
Anyway, I started reading it mostly because in several evolutionary biology classes I took in college we discussed the dumb idea that every trait that exists is the direct result of adaptive processes. As in, that trait would not exist if it did not confer some advantage now or at one point. I at one point thought this was true, but have learned that it is not after taking several evolutionary biology classes. Meanwhile, people who have no idea what they’re talking about often use evolutionary rhetoric to try to prove a point about human social behavior, and I’m like “STOP. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” But they go on and on and on. I don’t know what I dislike more, when people say they do not believe in evolutionary processes or when people say they believe in evolution, but use it incorrectly to try to prove a point.*
Anyway, in their paper, evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin take examples from art, architecture, and Dr. Pangloss from Candide, to make claims about adaption. I really like how Gould and Lewontin used non-science examples to illustrate science principles. I feel like as a creator of things that may be called “art” and as someone who has a degree in “biology,” I’m in a good position to do this with the things I make. So I wanted to read the source material. Overall, I’m enjoying Candide so far. I’m about 70 pages into the 130 page book. It’s a critique of Leibniz philosophy – all the craze at the time, I suppose – that suggested that everything in our world is the best and that everything exists to make this world the best world ever. Under the tutelage of Dr. Pangloss, Candide grows up with this mindset. But a series (I mean literally the whole book is just episode after episode) of unfortunate events causes him to rethink this. The episodic nature gets a little tiring, but this is okay because it’s so short. Also there are some gems in there, like when a castrato exclaims: “oh what a misfortunate to be without balls!” I mean, if that doesn’t make you laugh out loud, what will? Despite the satire, there’s also deep stuff: “Divert yourself, and ask each passenger to tell his story, and if there is one of them all who has not cursed his existence many times, and said to himself over and over again that he was the most miserable of men, I give you permission to throw me head-first into the sea.”
I have not finished the book yet, but I have a habit of reading the last sentence when starting a new book (it has only ruined one book for me so far, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw), and the last line seems like a nice sentiment I will carry with me: “We must cultivate our garden.”
*Sorry ’bout that rant. But also, see, my Princeton degree wasn’t a waste! I remembered something about evolutionary biology**!
**Probably incorrectly. Hope my thesis advisor doesn’t read this.