November 24, 2016 (Thurs.)

by Yule Heibel on November 23, 2017

And so it’s Thanksgiving today. I let myself be pulled into clicking on a Washington Post article as I went to my phone to look for the Focus@Will app I like to use during #MorningPages. It was a “cheat sheet” for Black Friday, and I learned (as if I need to) about which stores open today (Thursday, Thanksgiving) at 3pm, at 6pm, at midnight, and so on. I glimpsed photos of people in check-out lines, pushing carts loaded with flat-screen TVs the size of boats. (The photos presumably were last year’s.) I did not need to see this. It was a bit like looking at photos of war atrocities or really bad pornography.

I can compare those pictures with what I see looking out my window right now, perched as I am on my hill, three or four stories above a house-lined state route below me. There’s a football field not far from me – about 1/3 mile or less on this street, and I guess there’s a big game there this morning. Consequently, I can see large numbers of people – nearly crowds by these more suburban standards – walking down the street’s sidewalks to the stadium. Fathers and daughters, bros, white and black kids, middle-aged women carrying poster board (to hold up during the game?, aunties who aren’t needed – yet – in the kitchen?), and so on. I look at them – look down at them, but only because of the relative great height I view them from – and think, “Are some of you going to participate in the Black Friday wars?”

I can hear the pounding of drums, like tribal tom-toms, the rival dreams revving up their fans and players. Soon there will be approving roars from the crowd. The drums will beat out their rhythm, the football players will be silent. They will be silent, like the workers staffing the stores open at ungodly holiday hours today and tomorrow.

And the crowds keep streaming, crossing the street in great clumps, forcing traffic to stop. Many people will be parking on my hill and walking to the stadium from here. When they cross the street, the dogs at the corner house will go nuts, as they have been incessantly. It’s a field day of orchestral barking for them. I hope their vocal chords snap.

It’s 9:40am now, the pedestrian crowds are thinning out, but here comes another bunch, four middle-aged men and a petite woman. The dogs bark, the drums drum, the former to my right, the latter to my left. It’s a cacophony in stereo. The men look like they played at the stadium when they themselves were high schoolers here. It’s a pageant of an historical type, if not exactly epic, then definitely local. How many of the middle-aged women walking past had their first affairs with the football jocks of their day? How many guys recall their favorite cheerleader when they sit in the bleachers this slightly-warmer-than-yesterday-but-hinting-at-damp-weather-to-come Thursday? Many of you will soon be home again for turkey dinner, after which some of you will go to work or go to shop and keep the game going.

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So Last Year

by Yule Heibel on November 22, 2017

For many months now I’ve kept to a journaling routine called #MorningPages, popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Writing longhand, avoiding pixels and screens, the routine has helped me get back to writing, an activity I love, but which got badly damaged and smashed to bits by the floods of social media.

While initially not intended for public consumption, I realized after a few months of writing longhand that some of what I wrote wasn’t bad, if perhaps a tad surreal – or slow, or ponderous, or just different. Best of all I realized that while I, along with every other media-inundated American, was living through a period of upheaval and change (the bottom – or top, depending on your perspective – still isn’t in clear view), I could write my Morning Pages without looking over my shoulder or to the side, without measuring (comparing!) in some kind of social media metric (or regime) how my thoughts were perceived (or, horrors!, how they weren’t – because of course the absence of resonance in media is death). Frankly, in the Morning Pages I didn’t care: it didn’t matter. This was for me.

Then I realized that what I was doing had another effect. Not only did it calm me, but it slowed down time. I was spending a lot of time surfing on the relentlessly pounding waves of “news,” and every nano-second seemed to demand that I should be here!, no,  there!, no, that way!, then, this way! But here, in the Morning Pages, I could write about the clouds in the sky, not politics or trends or anything related to current affairs. Paradoxically, the former could at times take me to more interesting places than the latter.

That’s when I thought, Hmm, I wonder if I could post these Morning Pages with an exact one-year-to-the-day-of-the-week lag, and call the project “So Last Year”? The name, So Last Year (which curiously enough has SLY as an acronym) points to the value of not being current with whatever is rushing down today’s media sluice. I was still being informed by the world around me, obviously, but in publicly (insofar as anyone at all reads this) slowing my interaction with it down by exactly one year, could I make something else visible? I was also inspired by a book I read a few years ago, Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock, a book of quirky diary notations. I’m no Heidi Julavits – her book is quite unique and fun to read – but it seemed like some kind of model, if not for a book, then at least for a series of blog posts. Maybe they could become a book, but that’s another project not currently on the horizon.

I missed the actual beginning of when I set out on my Morning Pages as the beginning date of the “So Last Year” project I’m now starting, not least because I’m afraid of posting these entries. Then I thought, Well, SLY: you can pick your own start date, not the actual date you started writing Morning Pages, and you don’t have to tell anyone you’re even doing this. Everything I post here, while not exactly in stealth mode, doesn’t have to be announced anywhere. If someone finds and reads it, so be it. I don’t need to drive people here, though, and if no one reads it, so be it, too. In a year, if I persist, I might have an interesting map of something, though.

I bucked up and decided to pick Thanksgiving Eve to start, with this introductory post. Tomorrow, Thanksgiving 2017, I’ll post my Thanksgiving 2016 entry, and go from there. Of course the very second entry after that, as I discovered when I began rereading my Morning Pages entries yesterday, is highly personal. I immediately thought of abandoning the project right there. Then I thought otherwise. Then back to abandoning. Then back to staying the course. If I’m going to avoid washing mindlessly along an other-created current of information, I have to see this counter-project through: my dam, my goddamn, my sluice, my clear pool of water, my tiny bit of peace of mind amid the turmoil.

This will be rocky. I’m still not sure of how to title the entries, nor how to deal with writing about living people, or to what extent I should edit myself. It’s a work in progress, it’s sly, it’s So Last Year.

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Living and Selling the Dream: Exploring Lifestyle Aspirations through California Design

April 4, 2014

Here’s my review of the exhibition California Design, to be published in Art*Throb next week (where it will be illustrated with a Julius Shulman photo of The Stahl House, but I don’t dare wade into those copyright waters here, so I’ll leave you with a link, below, to the photo in question…): Just a few […]

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And the conversation continued on Facebook…

February 26, 2014

…well into the night. (Actually, over the course of a couple of days.) The conversation I mean is of course the one I started with my Feb. 20th post, Online conversations: some observations. Here’s a sample of some of what transpired on my Facebook wall in the comments: Dean Landsman, Jon Husband, Kat Herding and […]

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Online conversations: some observations

February 20, 2014

I don’t blog anymore and instead I occasionally scatter my thoughts on Facebook, or, in 140-character shorthand form, on Twitter. For some years now, I’ve been using third-party applications, which are “free,” but which I don’t own. I don’t post to my “Harvard/Berkman” blog, nor to my own yuleheibel DOT com blog. (Update: since writing […]

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