Where the price for our minds shall squeeze them tight like a fist

The semi-annual YOHJ JUN VIV posts have been a part of this blog for six years, beginning in October 2010. But, as you may have noticed, I couldn’t bother this past season. Most days, I can barely be bothered to formulate anything longer than a tweet or Facebook post really, and the majority of those have to do with music. 2016 has just been so utterly horrible, personally and for society as a whole (hence the other theme of my tweets/Facebook posts, #fuck2016). So horrible, that I actually sat down one day and tried to write up a list of things that haven’t been horrible this year (and the majority of those, perhaps unsurprisingly, had to do with music). That was before the US election, however, and I honestly don’t see completing that list to be a useful exercise. And while that might sound like pure depression speaking (which isn’t entirely incorrect), I don’t necessarily think that’s bad. In times such as these, I feel like hope isn’t always the healthiest response, especially as ‘it’s going to be okay’ really can’t possibly be true for the immediate/foreseeable future. At least for me, hope can set up unrealistic expectations that will only make the next horrible thing seem even more overwhelming, whereas acknowledging how bad a situation will/can be allows for some preparation, a chance to steel yourself. So what I’m focusing my energy on is not inactive hope, but rather an active seeking of both a) information, information, information, and b) moments of comfort/brief escape.

a) The very fact that events of the past few months took me by surprise means that I need to know more. Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show was probably the first thing that made this blatantly obvious, but, well, #fuck2016. And so, to help fill the void, for the first time I’ve bought subscriptions to news publications (The New York Times and The New Yorker, for now), rather than relying on headlines I happen to catch after maxing out the 10 free articles a month. And, rather than resembling a curated list of designers and fashion news sources, my Twitter feed now consists of journalists, activists, and other real, intellectual people whose perspectives I can’t necessarily directly identify with, but who I can obviously empathize with and potentially very indirectly help by at least being aware of what’s going on. I could lay out my political views and such here, but I feel like stating that I’m a firm believer in facts is sufficient for now. Also, I’d highly recommend reading Tavi’s (yes, Tavi’s!) recent editor’s letter; it’s lengthy but important, and makes brilliant use of Bowie lyrics.

b) The only thing about submerging oneself in as many facts as possible is that an overwhelming reality becomes even larger. And so, the comfort/escape thing becomes even more important. In my previous life, during a previous era of concentrated horribleness, my holidays from life consisted of frequent, almost spur-of-the-moment trips to NYC, as well as frequent purchases of custom-made clothing. Fashion though isn’t cutting it for me these days (unless it screams comfort, such as a print of Severus Snape or Spock, or a wearable blanket). There are just too many ethical and technical questions involved (as well as increased usage of unreliable couriers rather than regular post) for me to expand my list of go-to labels, and my health issues over the last 4 years has effectively made me a hermit, meaning I really don’t need more than a few key pieces in my closet to satisfy my sartorial personality. In fact, my plan over Xmas is to reduce the contents of my closet by about half. As for NYC, those trips are no longer feasible, for a variety of reasons.

Instead, for comfort and escape, I’ve worked on always having a literal pile of fictional books at the ready (next up: Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller; Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red and Float; Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and The Favourite Game; Halldór Laxness’ Wayward Heroes; and the 1970s Luke Cage, Hero for Hire comic series), and I’ve thrown myself even farther into music. Indeed, my record store and iTunes receipts from this year have to add up to at least a couple fine Vivienne Westwood pieces, with the vast majority of music purchases consisting of David Bowie, Prince, and Nick Cave. Watching a Prince concert is, apart from hanging out with wolf puppies, my happiest happy place (current favorites being both Montreux 2009 sets, and North Sea Nights 2011 #2). Nick Cave, I hadn’t actually knowingly listened to until the flight to Iceland, during which I put Push the Sky Away on repeat, cementing it as an all-time favorite album of mine (Skeleton Tree, if you can handle more sadness, is one of the greatest releases of 2016).

And Bowie. Well, Bowie could be a whole other lengthy post, but I’ll just say I only just ‘discovered’ and simultaneously fell in love with Bowie on January 8th, only to have my heart broken two days later. Approximately 80% of the music I’ve listened to in 2016 has been Bowie (or Bowie-related things, such as Iggy Pop, Donny McCaslin, and the Lazarus cast recording), with a solid 3-week only-Bowie marathon during the month of January, and reprisals of that for days at a time throughout the rest of the year (FYI, my top 5 Bowie albums are: ★, Black Tie White Noise, Heathen, Low, and Station to Station, with A Reality Tour and the unofficial Outside tour rehearsal album as runners up). His departure is really strange for me because he’s become more alive with every replaying of his albums and concerts, and his lyrics seem to pop out of my mouth in every sort of occasion. And, since I can move linearly in the catalogue from the early 70s to the Berlin trilogy to the 80s to the 90s to the 2000s, it’s easy to forget for a moment until a song from ★ comes on that he’s gone. Sigh.

All this is to say, well, #fuck2016, and take care of each other. I’m not so sure 2017 will be any better, and we need to be ready.

But who are we
So small in times such as these
Slow Burn
Slow Burn

Oh, these are the days
These are the strangest of all
These are the nights
These are the darkest to fall

Though who knows?
Echoes in tenement halls
Who knows?
Though the years spare them all

Like a Slow Burn
Leading us on and on and on
Like a Slow Burn
Twirling us round and round and upside down

There’s fear overhead
There’s fear overground

Slow Burn
Slow Burn*

Title quote and *:”Slow Burn”, from Heathen

(Cover photo of the front window of the Lebowski Bar in Reykjavik, courtesy of my man)