(If you’re American and angry about the amazingly terrible tax plan and state of politics, may I recommend making a donation, however small, to some local progressive campaigns? A few bucks at that scale makes a big difference:
And of course there’s Doug Jones, the attorney who put away the KKK terrorists behind the Baptist Church bombing, who’s running against a child-bride rapist and nightmare creep whose redeeming characteristic for voters is apparently that he’s a racist theocrat Republic-of-Gilead wanna-be, idk I can’t even. So: donate!)
(Something different this time for the holiday:)
These are songs and notes of things to think about for a nice six or seven-mile run, at about eight minutes per mile, since it’s finally getting cold and rainy and that length in this weather is a good way to manage difficult emotions and unwanted thoughts – to get back to equilibrium in dark days (literally and metaphorically).
RAGANA, “You Take Nothing”: Starting from the angry place, with one of the most awesomely angry songs ever written. Slow, deliberate, steadily more powerful, vengeful music for our time and place, doom and black metal hybridized in Oakland by way of the forests of the Pacific Northwest; Maria on vocals and guitar, Nicole on drums, completely implacable. Be like them: steady, calm, deep-breathing, furious, with an even cadence.
Anna Meredith, “Nautilus”: Colors. Start in the deepest violet you can, almost black. Focus on it, see it before you, don’t let it change. Then slowly warm it up through violet into indigo and ultramarine. See each shade distinct. Carefully into lapis lazuli blue, Yves Klein blue, cyan, turquoise, aquamarine. Run in the aquamarine awhile. Into the green of pines, moss, ferns, emerald and jade. Run fast, listen to the music, ratchet up your cadence, and watch the colors very slowly change. Into yellow now: limes, chartreuse, pears. Focus! Chrome yellow, gold, daffodils, a block of sulfur, egg yolks, turmeric – edging into orange. Don’t rush the spectrum, don’t lose your place. Marigolds and poppies. The color is getting hotter and deeper (as Meredith’s amazing music morphs into a dubstep monster), into mango, saffron, and sunrise. The faster you run, the slower the colors go. Run faster to stay in vermilion a long time: the scarlet of the oxygenated blood in your veins, growing shade by shade darker into carmine and madder, into burgundy so dark it’s turning black. The radiant infrared heat of the final color, going beyond the human visible spectrum: feel it on your skin as you run as fast as you can.
Jaga Jazzist, “Toccata”: Ease off. Shift back into your shoulders, your traps and upper back, if you’re starting to lean forward into the run. Try to still the crown of your head; think of it gliding in a steady line. Feel the pads of your feet as they land and push off. Your heel includes a pad of calcaneal fat, dense and fibrous and found nowhere else in your body. Your sweat comes from your blood – it’s essentially plasma. Humans and certain kinds of wild dogs, wolves, and hyenas are persistence hunters. We’re not terribly fast but good at not stopping, sweat-cooled and relatively hairless with nets of veins in our scalps, running prey to exhaustion in the sun. (Of course it’s much more complex and debated than that, but it’s a good thought for this moment.) (The only large species that thrive on every continent but Antarctica, the way humans do, are roseate terns, barn owls, and ospreys.) Picture the movement of life behind you: picture the beating of flagella, twitching and gliding, in Archean seas; the propulsion of jellyfish, the gorgeous sweep of the shark’s caudal fin; salamanders and crocodiles and caimans; aurochs, dogs, big cats, loping coyotes, chimpanzees, us. The three sets of footprints fossilized at Laetoli in wet volcanic ash, toes spread, walking upright and heading south three and a half million years ago. The steady cadence, running upright, across the Bering Land Bridge. See the (speculative) vegetation: artemisia, rushes, birch and spruce, Arctic willow.
Savages, “She Will”: Pick up the pace; you’ve been loping along. Get back into your anger. Jehnny Beth’s voice is your adrenaline, Ayse Hassan’s bass is your pulse. Run like you’re beating through the bulletproof glass of some oligarch’s limousine.
Shogun Kunitoki, “Montezuma”: Slow down a little again, back to calm. The five Platonic solids, one after another. Start with the tetrahedron. Picture it in front of you, perched on a vertex. The tetrahedron is blue. Put a red dot on one facet, and then slowly spin it by one axis and then another, always knowing where the dot is. Once you’ve rotated it a few times, do the same for the cube (yellow), the octahedron (orange), the dodecahedron (green), the icosahedron (back to blue). Each one gets a dot, spin each one through all axes slowly. Make sure you see every facet; if you lose track, start over with the tetrahedron.
Philip Glass Ensemble, “The Grid”: Then counting. Stay with a nice, even cadence; feel your heart beat. Count up from 0 and down from 100 alternately in decades – 1 to 10, 100 to 90, and so on. Then do it by threes and sixes, then do it by sevens and twos. If you lose track, start over. Then count up to 100 and down by 1, 2, and 5 in another language, and then another (a wonderful way to learn numbers).
Depending on how fast you’re going, count in a grid. I like shiny objects for this, like Hershey’s Kisses: set one in front of you. See the light on the foil. Set another down beside it, see them both, add a third and a fourth, and then begin the next row. Four to a row, four rows to a square. Continue seeing that first square as you make the next one, kiss by kiss. Then the next. Keep going until you have 256, four rows of four squares of four-by-four kisses, seeing all of them at once. If you lose track, start over.
Slow to a walk. Slow breathing. Enjoy the cold rain.
The amazing April Larson has made a gorgeous, dreamy soundtrack to the Dune books: You Stand in a Valley Between Dunes. Not just great desert music, but music about the dizzying sense of time in the Dune series: hundreds of generations, thousands of years, ecological and geological scales. Each song feels like a slice from something that began long before you were born, quiet and persistent. “Truth is an empty cup,” y’all.
Valentin Dikul power juggling 80kg kettlebells
Two million beautiful, free images from the Biodiversity Heritage Library
“Notable for his unsuccessful attempt at faking his own death in 1974”: the increasingly bizarre life of fraud, spy, politician, and manufacturer of hotel safes John Stonehouse
An app for identifying and sorting seaweed
Marian Spore Bush, dental pioneer and spiritualist painter whose work was advised by the ghosts of long-dead artists
(Thanks for reading, as ever.)
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