Losing a friend

When I was 20 years old I joined a pub football team in New Orleans because I thought if I joined the team they wouldn’t ID me at the bar. Little did I know the guys at Finn McCool’s Football Club would become a second family to me.

One of the first guys I met on the team was Chris Sacco, who died this week in a tragic motorcycle accident.

Chris and I played the same position, and at the end of my first day training with the team it was clear I was probably going to take his spot in the lineup. Instead of getting pissed or complaining, he came up to me, sweaty and exhausted, and nodded at me, as if to tell me he approved of me as a player. Then he said: “I still have better hair than you.”

He was a true legend and a true friend, and he will be missed. He leaves behind a son, Seth, and the Finns guys have set up a fund for Seth’s education. If you can donate a few bucks, it would be truly appreciated. Much much love. http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/seth-sacco-education-fund-christopher-sacco-memorial/180987


On The Rapture of Dancing Alive

(or: I Finally Watched That Future Islands Performance and I Feel Changed)

Doing work on my couch last night, I ended up on Letterman, watching the end of a pro forma interview—Nick Offerman—and then the musical performance of the night, some band Letterman was cracking jokes about before they’d even started. The Strypes. I think I remember Letterman saying something about ‘mom picking you all up’ after the show, which was funny, because look at them. He also apparently made a joke about taking them to play lazer tag after the show, which, ha.

But it reminded me that there was this Letterman performance that everyone was talking about a few weeks ago I had yet to watch, this Future Islands thing. I didn’t know exactly what it was that everyone freaked out about, I just remember there being that typical morning-after Internet peak-chatter level of talk that I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding instinctually, because when you work in Internet, that ubiquitous, concentrated volume of talk about one thing, at least for me, strips away at the joy of it.

So, I watched it.

0:30 (as performance starts): Okay, this sounds very 2006. This all looks very 2006.

0:32: At least that lead singer is moving. Decent two-step. 

[BAD MID-AUGHTS VIBE INTERLUDE: For anyone even remotely paying attention to rock from 2005 onward, the name of the band—Future Islands—sounded gratingly familiar. There were (or still are?) The Futureheads, Islands, and a Jimmy Eat World album called Futures that I’d never listened to. Also: Future (rapper). Everything about it seemed so typical I was pretty convinced that whatever I was missing out on was some sort of schtick, like some band shooting themselves out of cannon. Which, I mean, I love the Arcade Fire, but look at them: In 2014, they’re demanding their fans dress up in costume to their shows. It’s fair skepticism, is the point.]

0:41: Okay, kind of into this post-Morrisey post-synagogue thing and there’s an expressive eyebrow, and is that the thing?

0:45: Wait what’d he just do with his legs.

0:49: Where did his head go what was that, do that ag

0:54: He’s slowing down, maybe that was just a Thing. And he’s touching his chest, is this vamping? Is that what he’s doing? Maybe he’s actually feeling i

1:00: He’s doing the leg thing again and moving his head what even is that? It’s amazing. Okay, I get it, guy has moves. 

1:04: What did he just do with his voice? Wh—Did he grind the note?

1:14: Holy shit he just dropped it to the ground. How did he do that? Where did he learn that mo

1:17: He did the thing with his voice again I swear to god I heard it he’s actually doing that right?

1:29: Oh my god his hand is in a fist and he’s looking out into the audience like the answer is there and they’re all the answer this is really something.

1:33: WHOA did not see that coming, he just punched through the air and followed through with his entire body on that note, it kind of looks like a combination golf swing/victory fist pump but he gets it, I get it, I get wanting to do that at a chorus, that is the physical iteration of that guitar crescendo. 

1:37: His hand in the air, holy shit, there are performances of Les Miz that are less theatrical than what is happ

1:43: And now he’s washing away the light with his hands and he totally grinded that note in his throat, okay, okay, I think I get this now, he’s secretly got a great voice and great moves, this is very solid.

1:52: The camera just went tight on his face and wow this guy is really, truly selling what’s happening here. 

[LARRY SANDERS INTERLUDE: If you’ve ever watched The Larry Sanders Show, you know that the musical performance is usually when Garry Shandling either gets screamed at by Rip Torn about some crazy backstage nonsense or he’s hitting on a celebrity guest. Occasionally he’ll sit there and actually watch the performance, but for the most part Larry Sanders doesn’t care much for his musical guests. I imagine, night in and night out, this is how Letterman feels about his musical guests: A lot of monotony. He’s really seen it all before. And I imagine him talking to a producer or somesuch as the guest is on. Remember, Letterman really loves acts that put their all into it, and say what you will about the Foo Fighters—and there’s plenty to—you can’t say Dave Grohl doesn’t know how to put on a performance, which is why they’re one of Letterman’s favorite acts to have on Late Show. So I imagine this is around the point Letterman looks over his producer’s shoulder, and goes: ‘Hey, wait: Who the hell are these guys?’]

2:07: Ohmygod he’s pounding his chest so hard the mic just picked it up this is amazing bordering on uncomfortable.

2:24: Yes! People do change! They gain one piece but they lose one too! You are making so much sense I am completely on board with this now, this is just, everything, church

2:27: They just went tight on the rest of the band and they’re the most innocuous looking people ever, the bassist looks like whatshername from Chelsey Lately, which I guess is sm

2:30: WAIT WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT he just grabbed at his shirt and made that noise from his throat again! That was real! And he’s curling his lip into a sneer and BAM he’s back into the moves

2:41: He just did it again I’m so not making this up

2:53: Is he crying? This is all so much but also there will never be enough of it.

2:58: BOOM and he launches into the chorus again and he’s pounding his chest and the mic is picking it up and somewhere Meatloaf just jumped out of his Lay-Z-Boy screaming at the TV like “GO MOTHERFUCKER GO GO GO”

3:14: I am sold, I completely get this, I am watching this again as soon as it’s over because why wouldn’t anyone want to feel anything this much? This is what Joseph Campbell called, when asked about the meaning of life by Bill Moyers, “the rapture of being alive,” and 


3:34: And now he’s dancing again and staring out into the audience but dancing harder than he’s danced this entire time and maybe in his entire life, he is dancing with purpose, like he’s going to generate energy or lifeforce by doing so and don’t be over and

3:35: It’s over. It’s all over.

- - -

And this is the point where Letterman comes out and screams: “BUDDY! COME ON! How about that? I’ll take all of that you got!” And Letterman knows what you just saw because he just saw it, and he is equally enraptured himself. Any band who goes on Letterman for the next month, at least—like the one that was on last night—has been completely screwed to hell by this one.

There are so many reasons why this is great, but the three that stuck with me this morning on the way to work were:

1. If you’ve ever danced in the bathroom—and I’ll readily cop to doing so, mostly in high school, before heading out to a party or a date, usually to something as desperate and pathetic, like The Cure’s “Close To Me”—your moves probably somewhat resembled an incredibly watered-down iteration of this. These aren’t bad unkfunky whiteboy moves, either: Dude has rhythm. He’s dancing along with the bassline, and he’s actually moving his feet and hips. 

2. It’s really easy to be cynical about anything so sincere, especially since this lacks the kitsch textures of twee (see: Anderson, Wes) or polished veneer of pop. It’s confusing in the same way Meatloaf and Morrissey are confusing, in that there may be intent and awareness, there may be that allusion to death metal, but where those things normally serve to let an audience know that the artist is in on the joke, here they it’s simply disarming, the acknowledgement that they have you, they’ve got you, you’re done for and now they can do whatever they please with you, like tear at their chest and plead and cry and scare the shit out of you. 

3. Back to dancing in your bathroom: It was so much fun, and in retrospect, expressed so much, and this maybe made you (and definitely made me) recall in a very real way the energy of that stupid fun in a way you (or I) haven’t felt in a while. But more than that, it’s that this band—which has apparently been at it for 11 years now—finally got their shot. They got a spot on Letterman. And whether this is exactly what this guy does every night at his shows, or not, the bottom line is that he went with it, went for it, he did not water down a single thing about what got him to this moment. In fact, he doubled down on it. And the rest of the band played their part, too: They know how to make music, and not complicated music, and probably could’ve thrown themselves into it, too, but that would’ve betrayed what they knew they had to do. They had their one chance in life to make this kind of impact, and they did. And that’s really kind of amazing. Who won’t take all of that?



Fresh off of a record-high November (8.4 million unique users), seven-month-old social news site For The Win relaunches today. “Why so soon?,” you might ask. We want to make it better, is the short answer.

The longer answer is we learned a lot in FTW’s first 200 days. Most important is…

My boss man, laying out the truth.


I wrote about Slow TV last night, and though I generally try to stay away from cross-linking to my stuff on here, I’m going to do it. Pow. Just did.

During the past week I’ve been reading things that made me sort of cynical. For instance: these comments on a piece published by The Hairpin. It’s not really a topic I identify with personally, and I don’t have any terribly strong feelings about the essay itself, but as soon as I checked out the credentials of the young author I was like, “Oh no, there’s going to be a shitstorm in the thread below this post about debt/murder/furniture.” And there was. I’ve certainly read meaner attacks, but not usually on the Hairpin, and though the jealousy (of the author’s privilege, resume, and writing awards) was thinly-veiled (or not at all veiled), some commenters were obviously eager to strike her where it would hurt the most. These weren’t personal jabs in the sense that they tore her down for her appearance or dredged up old LiveJournal posts or anything — instead, they used this essay as the crux of their arguments that the writer wasn’t very good at what she does across the board, and implied that she was somehow a terrible person, fully knowable in this one chunk of non-fiction. That made me sad.

There was also this Buzzfeed story called “What Happens When You Dress As A Boston Marathon Victim And Post It On Twitter." What happens, in short, is that you and your family are threatened with violence and rape, and your entire backlog of poor decisions (offering to trade a follow for a nude pic, for example) is displayed in the context of your most recent (colossally) bad move.

I thought about how it must feel to sit in your room and refresh a page every ten seconds to see what new horrible thing someone had to say about you. I have never experienced death threats for something I’ve written, but that may happen one day. I’ve never been slammed so hard I couldn’t get up again, but sometimes it seems inevitable that a Big Mistake is lurking in my future. I think that this is an anxiety everyone who writes for the Internet has: that eventually, you will be the target — and worse, that you won’t see it coming.

This is all to say that I want to move to Norway and watch cruise ships float for five days or spend a day in the life of a snail. There is no one to cut down (snails are uncontroversial, slippery) and I can’t think of a mean feed that would follow in its wake. Who’s going to diss the majestic fjords? Who can hurt a train on its journey to Oslo? Step up and try. It ain’t gonna happen.


Dear Miley. I can’t stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: “I been laying in this bed all night long.” Miley, technically speaking, you’ve been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there’s an object, i.e. “I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long.” Whatever. I’m not the best lyricist, but you know what I mean. #Get It Right The Next Time. But don’t worry, even Faulkner messed it up. We all make mistakes, and surely this isn’t your worst misdemeanor. But also, Miley, did you know the tense here is also totally wrong. Surely you’ve heard of Present Perfect Continuous Tense (I HAVE BEEN LYING in this bed all night long [hopefully getting some beauty sleep?]). It’s a weird, equivocal, almost purgatorial tense, not quite present, not quite past, not quite here, not quite there. Somewhere in between. I feel that way all the time. It kind of sucks. But I have a feeling your “present perfect continuous” involves a lot more excitement than mine. Anyway, doesn’t that also sum up your career right now? Present. Perfect. Continuous. And Tense. Intense? Girl, you work it like Mike Tyson. Miley, I love you because you’re the Queen, grammatically and anatomically speaking. And you’re the hottest cake in the pan. Don’t ever grow old. Live brightly before your fire fades into total darkness. XXOO Sufjan

Sufjan Stevens is the best.

Getting All Autumnal in Here Playlist

The Can’t Go Home Again playlists are back. This one is for the fall. Getting all autumnal in this motherfucker. CGHA Getting All Atumnal In Here

Writing advice

Honestly the only writing advice that matters is that if you read it aloud and it doesn’t sound like you, or even like something could you feasibly say aloud, then it’s bullshit. 

Made a quick little return to Thought Catalog to celebrate Julia Child’s birthday. 

Alright, Bear, you win this round. I’m going to put on a Netflix movie and turn the sound up and we’ll have a good old-fashioned passive aggressive who-doesn’t-let-the-other-person-slash-shih-tzu-sleep-off. I’m putting on Zodiac, because if anything is sure to put me to sleep it’s this movie. It’s the Ketamine of thrillers.