This is going to be a quiet Internet week for me, because I’m bringing my boyfriend home to meet my family (!!!), but before leaving I wanted to pop in and say this: I’m so, so happy for Jason Collins — like, unimaginably happy, the same way I’m happy for anyone who has the strength to come out and live their fullest, best life. I’m so proud, too: proud to be gay, proud to love and play basketball, proud to find myself in communities who universally rejoiced over yesterday’s news.
I saw a few people turn a critical eye towards yesterday’s events: will he find a team next season? Would this matter more if he was a more talented, individually successful player? Was the response from his peers littered with double-speak and iffy support? And I get that, I do — I’m usually one of those people, observing and inviting discussion. But not yesterday, and not even today. All I want to do right now is celebrate Collins’ courage, so utterly ordinary and yet also incredibly extraordinary. Here’s to a bright future, for him and for everyone.
See you in a few days!
A valid question!
I bought a bunch of tank tops last summer in a burst of therapeutic shopping after suffering some predictable romantic distress. I don’t even remember the particular guy, not without looking it up. I think they were purchased at the end of May. It was already apparent at that point in the season that a) getting through the next few brutally hot months would be easier with less fabric, and b) Toronto’s ravenous gayboy hordes were mostly sleeveless. It’s absolutely preposterous to suggest that only gay men wear tank tops, and I don’t mean to make that suggestion, but grabbing some of my own and wearing them out and about after work and on the weekend felt like a small gesture of pride, a wink and a nod that was mostly internal but still meaningful.
I wasn’t just doing it out of pride, either: I honestly love the way I look in a tank top. My arms look nice, I develop a little bit of a glow, I’ve grown a spattering of chest hair that peeks out in a way I think might be appealing. I try to wear them as much as I can because I want to revel in that feeling of total confidence and positive body image; I want to present the sexiest, happiest version of myself, and in a small way wearing a tank top helps me do that.
I remember one night in June when I had been cajoled into waiting in line for a horrid pub/club hybrid in the Entertainment District, Toronto’s home for straight club-goers. It’s a world of double-digit cover charges, stamps and cover bands, watery beer and palpable testosterone wafting over everyone’s heads as twenty-something business dudes flare their nostrils and flex their biceps, engaging in primal mating rituals. It’s a zone I try to avoid, but I had been drafted into a “wingman” role that night. We slowly advanced to the front of the line; I moaned and groaned quietly while my friend chatted with a girl he was seeing. I was wearing a yellow tank top. Upon reaching the bouncer, we were denied entry — no male tank tops allowed. In that moment, I could feel meathead eyes on my bare skin; it felt like “faggot” was lurking just below the surface, unsaid. But I felt empowered, beautiful. We got out of the line and went somewhere else. I think about that night every time I put a tank top on, even if it was ultimately just a dumb dress code violation at a fratty straight bar. There’s a voice in the back of my head saying fuck a dress code, fuck a straight bar. Work that tank, own it. Be proud. I am, and I do.
(And honestly, there are two reasons I talk about tank tops so much on the Internet: it makes me laugh, and it’s a way to distinguish myself/develop a “character,” so to speak. I’ve talked about this before on the podcast, but everyone on a social network is performing, presenting a 2D version of themselves. The 2D version of Jamieson Cox loves Diet Coke and burritos, the NBA, and wearing tank tops. And of course I honestly, truly love all of those things, but there are deeper, more nuanced parts of me that get expressed through Tumblr posts and Gchat conversations and emails. Tank tops are just one of a few “personality crutches” I employ for humour and recognizability, I guess. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to chug a Diet Coke while twerking to Beyoncé.)
- I spent a lot of time listening to Devendra Banhart with my friends in high school, specifically Rejoicing in the Hands and Cripple Crow. The most difficult song I ever learned to play on guitar was “The Body Breaks.” I remember reading Rolling Stone and stumbling upon the review for Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, and then arranging a trip to the CD+ outlet in the mall to pick up a copy. I think four or five of us saw and heard in Banhart the image we had fashioned for ourselves: a bit arty, a bit whimsical and off-kilter, a bit weird, but still possessed of a sense of melody and purpose. His output trailed off and faltered towards the end of the decade, but his newest album Mala occasionally recaptures the magic that ran through his earliest work, never more so than on the mid-album instrumental “The Ballad of Keenan Milton.” I didn’t know the name before hearing the song. Keenan Milton was a skateboarder who accidentally drowned twelve years ago at a Fourth of July party, and the song perfectly captures the ache for someone long lost, sadness and anger having mellowed into something softer and sweeter. The first night I heard it I fell asleep with the song on repeat. It makes me feel that same ache for a few years ago, playing an acoustic guitar in the bowels of our high school’s theatre, bullshitting and cackling and making future plans.
- Charli XCX’s debut True Romance hasn’t left my speakers since it began streaming on Pitchfork Advance a few weeks ago. I don’t exactly recall what I was expecting, but when listening I always think, “This is completely exceeding my expectations!” Most of the standouts are singles that were previously released — “Nuclear Seasons,” “You (Ha Ha Ha),” “You’re the One” — but at least one new cut has immediately joined the ranks of the finest Charli songs. Everything I need to know about “So Far Away” is contained in the spinning kaleidoscope of a synth that forms the song’s backbone, a sound I found immediately affecting; when I think about dizzying, ultra-powerful infatuation, this is the sound I’ve been hearing all my life. (“Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad.”) When I make the effort to focus on Charli, I sense the same dark energy and charisma that drives her intrigue on every one of her other songs, papering over a few iffy lyrical moments, but most of the time I just let her fade away. This is one of those rare songs where the sound immediately takes me somewhere and I choose to ride that feeling to its ultimate destination, and she functions as just another component of that sound here. (I learned while zipping around YouTube for a link that “So Far Away” might’ve been recorded as early as 2009, and pulls heavily from a song of the same title by a British producer named Paul White, which itself seems to sample Todd Rundgren, and that Charli’s version was included on the UK and Australian releases of the You’re the One EP AND her Heartbreaks and Earthquakes mixtape from last year. The more you know!)
- I’ve spent maybe a week and a half focusing on EDM, and here are a few of my incredibly amateur conclusions: 1) almost every producer is like a baseball player that either hits a home run or strikes out, and there isn’t much variance in the batting averages (certainly no one is smacking singles and doubles and frequently getting on base) 2) the only two components affecting a song’s success are melody and magnitude, the former’s meaning being obvious and the latter meaning the size of the release that arrives upon hitting the chorus 3) there’s something called the Womp Spectrum with Avicii at one end (nearly pure house) and Skrillex at the other (once and future king of the drops), and everyone else falls somewhere between those two poles in their own work 4) there are a disturbing, startling lack of prominent women producing, from what I’ve seen 5) Calvin Harris’ “Sweet Nothing” is probably the best song ever recorded 6) Cazzette’s “Beam Me Up” has already taken over college campuses and has a good chance of being everywhere this summer 7) Avicii is my favourite producer going out of this scene — he has a certain touch and handle, especially on his longer mixes (“Silhouettes,” “X You”) that i) isn’t too far distanced from critically beloved stuff like Todd Terje and Lindstrøm and ii) is much more apparent than in everyone else’s work. I still have some diving to do.
- Smarter, more invested people are going to say a lot about this than I am, but the video for “Body Party” came out last night, and suffice it to say that the presumptive favourite for the year’s best song now has the brilliant cinematic rendering it deserves. I want to focus on the dramatic interludes between Future and Ciara quickly, only to say this: I know that they’re celebrities and so every interaction between them needs to be taken with one hundred grains of salt, and that it’s commercially beneficial for Future to appear in this video, and that I and everyone else in my Twitter feed are way too invested in this relationship to be considered healthy, functioning humans, BUT I’ll be damned if my eyes didn’t start to water when they introduced themselves and Future held her hand for a few seconds longer than necessary. (P.S. I’m leading the Future for Best Supporting Actor campaign, please email for more details. “They don’t call me the Future for no reason.”) Their whole conservation is adorably awkward but crackling with a true chemistry that’s immediately palpable to anyone who has ever been attracted to anyone else (I think.) I want to believe in CiBandz, I really do.
- One more thing: allow me to remind you that I’m visiting New York from May 10-13 and that you should contact me if you’re available to get together quickly for a meal or a snack or whatever. I’m also soliciting food recommendations, because if I’m being absolutely honest 90% of my hopes and dreams for this trip revolve around food. I’m already going to Shake Shack once and probably Mighty Quinn’s for barbecue stuff — please tell me your favourites and I will probably eat them. (And get in touch so we can eat them together!)
Let’s make a list:
- Camera Obscura released a single today. It’s called “Do It Again,” and like most Camera Obscura songs, it’s absolutely excellent. My Maudlin Career is a horrendously underrated record that had the misfortune of being released in 2009, a year that saw career defining releases from several indie heavyweights and peak #chillwave coverage. “Do It Again” is perfect pop craftsmanship in much the same vein as that album’s lead single, “French Navy,” light and bittersweet and totally charming. The summer release calendar is already looking very crowded, but I’ll find plenty of time for this song and its parent album.
- I’m not sure if it still exists, but Esquire once had a running feature focused on things that men shouldn’t do. I used to read this magazine regularly, and one month it was mentioned that men should never use emoticons. (This was maybe four or five years ago.) And while it’s lame to admit that I tried not to use emoticons because some haggis-brained editorial assistant tucked it into a magazine, that’s exactly what I did. I mention this because in recent months I’ve started to sneak the odd face into my communications, usually a :) or ;) or ;( or my personal favourite, :’). I sent one in an email to a coworker today. It felt right. A man knows when his emoticons are appropriate and uses them to augment his communication at his own comfort level. >:( to Esquire for the unnecessary waste of half a decade of solid faces.
- I tried to create a Branch last week to talk about Deerhunter’s new album Monomania, which had leaked a few days earlier. I’m intrigued by the possibilities of the platform, because I think it could fill a niche for conversations that are too long or detailed for Twitter but unfit for email chains or continuous reblogging. It failed fairly quickly: just a few posts, a handful of participants. It was a quiet death. There are plenty of potential reasons why this particular effort failed: Deerhunter isn’t quite popular enough to sustain a discussion, the time of day choice was poor, I don’t have the social sway necessary to involve people. But there’s one in particular I want to focus on: Branch’s removal of the “Ask to Join” feature. Up until recently, you could set up a discussion and post the link, and potential participants could request entry into the group pending your permission. This made a lot of sense to me! However, it seems the button has recently been removed. This means that there are only two ways (to my knowledge) to involve people in your conversation: open invite links that grant permission as soon as they’re clicked, and more direct invitations via email, @-mention, or DM. I think the removal of this feature is a major mistake, because it a) underestimates the power of the hierarchy of Internet intimacy, and b) skews the system towards power users. It’s easy to go into detail with both of these points, but quickly: Internet relationships are like real relationships in that you need a bit of history before you DM or email or engage in more direct forms of communication. You might have a mutually following relationship with someone, but that doesn’t mean you feel comfortable DMing them to talk about something. This dissuades conversation starters from inviting potential and/or obvious participants. Power users with more experience, stronger connections, and larger follower bases will feel more comfortable directly contacting people for participation, and will have their “open invite” links more widely circulated. I don’t know what the tipping point is for that positive experience, but I think I found myself on the wrong side of it.
- I spent much of March listening to “Pressure,” by Danish duo Quadron. The producer half of the group has fallen into prominence as one half of Rhye, whose album from earlier this year remains one of my favourites of 2013 thus far. Quadron’s second album is coming out in June, and it’s poised to find similar levels of success — if anything, their chance of breaking into something like the mainstream is probably much greater than Rhye’s, because they work within a more accessible pop framework. Anyway, “Pressure”: this song is flawless, achingly sung and radiating a palpable warmth. There’s something about that descending vocal in the chorus, slowly falling like a finger traced along a sleeping spine; I want it to soundtrack movies, moments, humid drizzle. I want that sound in my life forever!
I’ll finish this off tomorrow evening with Devendra Banhart, Charli XCX, EDM, and NYC food solicitation.
Then the elite men came, a half-dozen tiny black men from Kenya and Ethiopia, beautiful as always, gliding more than running, covering the ground in a whisper. There is a feeling that these men weigh no more than necessary. How much does a heart weigh? How much does a femur weigh? How much does a tooth weigh? Add the necessary weights, no more. That is how much these tiny men weigh. They are magicians.
I’m not religious or spiritual by any means, but if I believe in something, I believe in the first few seconds after a long run: a glimpse of ultimate mind-body communion, a chunk of sweaty, salty, thirsty transcendence. I dream about running the Boston Marathon someday. It’s one of running’s high temples. My heart is broken today, it’s absolutely splintered, and as much as I’m angry at the world and dark with the thought that irregular, senseless acts of violence are part of being alive, I’m mostly just aching for all those people who were out there on the course, fighting for 3:59:59, struggling just under. An ecstatic, shining moment in their lives has been forever tainted; around the world, a sanctuary has been compromised.
After posting this, I’m going to tie on my running shoes and head outside for a bit. It’s the first real day of spring here. Every step is a tribute. I don’t know what else to do.