What Bowie Taught Us

Sunday Content #22: January 17, 2016

One night, during a hard summer when I continued sleeping with someone who didn’t love me back, and I smoked cigarettes too often, and I was drunk too many nights, I nearly lost an eye. It was an accident; I had been setting up a tent. We were both sober. It was just one of those things.

In the E.R., late, my left eye a red marble I didn’t know I’d get to keep, a doctor explained this injury often looks a lot worse on blue-eyed people like me, and like David Bowie.

“This is the David Bowie injury,” she said.

I was like, “Cool.”

Bowie taught us that everyone is weird, and everyone is afraid, but that you can stand up in the face of that alienation and fear and you can choose to be yourself—or someone even more strange—and you can choose art, and you can choose love. You can choose to use your fame, if you get some, to call out bullshit to its face.

Bowie taught that to actually choose to make art, especially art that is both popular and good, you have to be smart and brave and you have to work hard and you have to have judgment and humility. You have to love the work. You have to start again if you fail. You have to love other artists and you have to love to read.

You can rock that weird eye.

http://amandalanzone.com/ via Vice

If what you want to do for the rest of the day is read lovely stories about David Bowie, Sasha Frere-Jones has been collecting good ones here. Of the many I’ve read this week, I especially liked Helena Fitzgerald’s essay in her newsletter. I also liked this tribute that Matt Berninger (of The Nationals) and Jon Batiste got together in time for Monday night’s Late Show, which was the Monday we’ll never forget, the Monday we all woke up and this is what had happened.

It was the first thing I learned. I put on Blackstar. I think a lot of us did.

And Bowie asked, almost taunted:

Where the fuck did Monday go?

Where the fuck did Monday go?

I asked a friend I respect a lot — especially when it comes to matters like music and art and how to live a good life—whether he’d begun listening to Blackstar yet. He was in town Tuesday. We went to an opera that was totally bizarre.

He answered, “I’ll need to be back at home, nestled into the Iowa winter before I can fully understand Blackstar.”

I have listened to it only a few times so far, in part because it makes me cry, but I find it to be so beautiful, and such a thing to aspire to, to give the world as much as he did. To release your 25th album on a Friday and then, giving few notice, leave.

Signing off:

Oh I’ll be free

Just like that bluebird

Oh I’ll be free

Ain’t that just like me

If you read one thing today, make it Jenny Zhang’s essay “How It Feels”, published in Poetry, which was nominated for a National Magazine Award this week.

Here’s how it opens:

(Read it all the way to the end.)

This piece on The Cut about Camille Cosby and Hillary Clinton and other women who’ve been made to answer for their husband’s sins is worth a read:

Don’t miss Katie J.M. Baker’s latest, which is about a couple of female comics who tried to warn other women about a sexual predator in their community online — and what happened next:

This essay, published on The Toast by Nicole Chung, begins with a story about a white woman at a dinner party telling her she looked like “all” the characters on Fresh Off the Boat:

Watch this Guardian video featuring Marlon James:

Güd twetes™:

Here is an account I suggest you try following for at least one day. (Hey why not make it MLK Day?) Here are the most edited Wikipedia pages. Here’s an analysis of how badly Hollywood fails the Bechdel Test (h/t Jeremy Singer-Vine). Here’s an IFTTT extension that’ll help you keep your past Discover Weekly playlists. Here’s a lovely way to remember Alan Rickman. Here’s an actually helpful analysis of drugstore makeup that also calls out brands that don’t bother to make products for people of color.

Here’s a New York Magazine feature you should click around called “Beginnings,” in which a lot of interesting people talk about their breakthrough moments.

It includes this photo of Martha Stewart, which I had to show you:


Here’s a Smitten Kitchen pancake recipe that like totally disrupts pancakes.


p.s. I saw a stand-up set this week that I will never forget. His name is Erik Bergstrom. He also draws:

p.p.s. Speaking of Jon Batiste, did you know that not only is he like the most amazing piano player I’ve ever seen, but he’s also hilarious?


h/t Nick

Author of A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE (Scribner, 18) | Host of podcast MAD CHAT (www.madchatshow.com) | www.hellosandyallen.com | they/them

Author of A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE (Scribner, 18) | Host of podcast MAD CHAT (www.madchatshow.com) | www.hellosandyallen.com | they/them