Three artist documentaries to watch this weekend

As the cold weather settles into your bones, settle in with these newfound documentaries about or by women who unlocked their voice and never apologized for it–despite the bouts of crippling creative doubt.

“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold” on Netflix

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self respect springs.” Joan Bad Bitch Didion

I’m obsessed with Joan Didion’s essays, and this documentary by her nephew Griffin Dunne explores her work, heartache and cult-like following, of which I am a book-carrying member. It debuted on Netflix streaming last week.

“Eva Hesse” on Netflix

“Ennead” by Eva Hesse, 1966. Acrylic, papier-mâché, plastic, plywood, and string.
Untitled by Eva Hesse, 1969-1970. Latex, rope, string and wire.
Eva, painting.

With a life cut short by brain cancer at 34, Eva Hesse’s mark on the postwar art world was nothing short of miraculous. Her abstract and humanistic paintings and sculptures are still relevant today, as is her wise-beyond-its-years self-mastery in a male dominated field rife with land mines. I was particularly stunned at her Jewish family’s devastating story of their escape from Germany when she was just a child–and the effect this traumatizing experience had on the rest of her life. This documentary further proves her rightful place in art and American history.

“Streetwise” by Mary Ellen Mark on YouTube

A friend of mine recently posted this find on Facebook. I knew the name Mary Ellen Mark sounded familiar, and of course, she’s the photographer who took that famously jarring black and white photo of the little girl smoking in a kiddie pool. The rest of Mary Ellen’s work is just like that — difficult to see, devastating, beautiful, a snapshot of the poor, forgotten and frustrating in a modern age. This 1988 documentary by Mary Ellen (soundtrack by Tom Waits!) follows homeless foster kids, teenagers and runaways who live on the streets. Their lives are crushingly sad, but Mary Ellen deftly balanced keeping their dignity and struggle for self worth and pride, ever present. Even as they sold drugs, turned tricks as teens and fought to stay alive. Innocence corrupted. Adult cruelty. Life captured. Violence, cycling. Heavy.


Six things I’m loving this month

Apples. Pumpkins and their spice get all the attention these days, but apples are like the under-appreciated older sibling. I’ve been throwing them onto my sandwiches and into yogurt with honey drizzled on top. Goin fast and lose with the Golden Delicious, y’all! Loved this cover photo’s rendition of brie, Granny Smith apple slices and a cranberry chutney from Blind Faith Cafe in Chicago.

“300 Arguments” and “There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce.” These books of sentence-long essays and poetry, respectively, were on the list of recommendations at the Chicago Lit Crawl’s “Best Books of 2017” panel I attended last month in Andersonville. Read ’em.

From “300 Arguments.”

From “There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce.”

Speaking of our girl. I was surprised to find myself crying during this SNL performance by Jay-Z  of his apology song to Beyonce, “4:44.” It feels shameful and raw. Devastating in its aloneness. Wow.

Look, I apologize, often womanize
Took for my child to be born, see through a woman’s eyes

Still Processing podcast. New York Times reporters Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham host these funny and insightful culture conversations.

The short story “Likes” by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. I don’t even have children but find this story of a father trying to understand his 12-year-old daughter’s Instagram totally relatable. This is also one of the first fiction accounts about life after last year’s election that I’ve heard that really nails its emotional aftermath.

“Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions” by Russell Brand. Brand is back. Thank heavens. After seeing this interview with Bill Maher, I can’t wait to read his new book about addiction recovery. I think a lot of people fear that breaking their addictions will mean they no longer are themselves. This brilliant sober wacko proves that’s not the case at all.

Fun finds from the NYPL digital collection’s music section

I spend a lot of time digging through the New York Public Library’s digital collection public domain to find photos to embroider for Mildly Depressed. Whenever I’m on there I feel like Alice as she falls through the rabbit hole. So much to look at. Curiouser and curiouser. I found a collection of old musical posters and book covers and had to share. Click on an image and it will take you to the library page for more info, should you still have questions about wtf is going on. You will.

Well, OK, but like, it was just a jammed finger. So, you’ll probably be fine.

“Where can I buy a shirt with full sleeves?!”


A love story goes sour.

He may not need to worry, but I would if he was throwing that leer in my direction.


My favorite. Yes, no bananas. What’s a boy supposed to do?

Six things I’m loving this month

That Danielle Steel’s writing desk is made to look like a stack of books. But not any books. Her books. Excellent reporting from the front lines of narcissism-so-gaudy-it’s-charming by Vanity Fair, per usual.

Hello, beautiful. Yes, you.

This ridiculously soft, skin-perfecting Pur makeup brush that makes my BB cream look not so DOA. I put makeup on my face every day so I’m immune to seeing it change. This seems counterintuitive, but each wrinkle deepens so subtly, each crow’s multi-clawed foot grip tightens on the rim of my eye socket so inconspicuously, like the boiling water in the pot with the frog (if you don’t know that analogy by now, you deserve to go look it up). Pretty soon I won’t be able to wear foundation, cream or powder at all lest I look like a founding father. Until then, this brush.


Miranda July’s new short story, “The Metal Bowl.” And Miranda July talking about marriage and how hard it is to write a short story here. Miranda July is so dreamy.

Photograph by Elizabeth Weinberg / NYT / Redux

Atlantic magazine, recognizing the increasingly chaotic nature and overbooked status of even the most loyal and disciplined reader’s everyday life (and the laziness/ distractedness of the rest of us), has started posting audio recordings of prominent stories from its print issues. Listen the “Donald Trump is the First White President” by Ta-nehisi Coates as you wash the dishes, or “When Your Child is a Psychopath” by Barbara Bradley Hagerty as you commute to AA <knowing head nod>. The recordings are often posted in the stories, but you can check out the Atlantic’s Soundcloud station here to binge on all the recordings made to date.

Ariel Pink’s new album, “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.”And its sugar-in-your-veins “Feels like Heaven.”

This old commercial starring old Michael Jordan. Justin makes me watch it when I’m feeling anxious about making new work. Justin listens to NPR’s “Fresh Air” and Rocky’s greatest inspirational speeches while he works out. Justin is my favorite person.