"there's something slippery about a name, like raindrops or loose keys so they always kept five in their pocket at a time. good luck charms to rub between his thumb when he got nervous or leave on the edge of a gas station counter when they became too heavy to bear. life was one long procession, dragging behind him and snagging on the sidewalk cracks so it was nice to leave something behind for once, to carry less even for a moment. the person he was felt too big for a name, an expansion that was constantly pressing on the edges of the world. he felt divine on the inside, like spirits trapped in a jar or the burn from a pyre. "love me." they would whisper, hands shaking on the steering wheel of their car. "love me." they would say into a lover shoulder. "love me." they would say at the shifting reflection of the mirror. it felt big to ask, even if he had so much of it to give.
if this was his story, then he wanted to write over the pages in big bold strokes. there was supposed to be more magick in the world, it was supposed to mean something. the heartache was a red thread to follow toward glory but he had walked so many paths only to find it tied to lightning charred branches. they disintegrated beneath his fingers and he smudged them under the corner of his eyes as a reminder to never follow them again. he always did. hope was the wicked thing in the box, but he loved the way the light felt.
he wondered if the gods heard his petitions, if the green growth would ever push his rib cage and bloom big enough for someone, anyone to see and marvel at. "it is hardly bearable." he would say, smile licking up the side of his face. and it was, but he bore it.
still, the dawn breaks every morning casting a beam of light across his face. he laces his boots twice with careful hands, throws on a jacket that makes him feel broad and formidable. there is more living to be done, always more and perhaps, it will be better tomorrow."
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we grow not like a flower blooming, so what’s innermost becomes what’s outermost, but like trees, our earliest structures and twists shaping what comes after, hidden beneath the bark.
Sometimes I think we build time in order to escape that raw forever. Sometimes I think we spend our whole lives trying to get back there: chasing castles on hills and green lights at the end of piers and various visions of God. When you are caring for a child—and I think this is especially and particularly true when caring for your own child, in that daily, inescapable way I never managed when I was, for example, visiting with my sister’s children when they were young—you find yourself, every day, in their full and awake presence. And in the presence of what you were, when you were the seed crystal of yourself.
That sensation is… not always comfortable! Back then we were scared and back then we were hungry and back then we wanted as if there was nothing else in the universe and we couldn’t do anything about any of it, not because we were not strong or stable enough, or did not have enough fine motor control, or language, but because we did not quite yet know that these overwhelming feelings could pass, can pass, do pass. We did not know there was such a world as after. But also back then we could stare in awe, forever, at the underside of an iron table outside Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square, at the leaves and the sky through the diamond spaces between the metal. We could stare forever, even if we only stared for five minutes, or two—because the distinction between two minutes and five and forever was not so firmly wrought.
You start to see the children in other people, and in yourself. Humans on the whole seem less fundamentally good or evil and more tired, hungry, thirsty, asserting their independence from mommy / daddy / nurse, needing care, navigating this or that difficult transition, being unexpectedly, breathtakingly kind. It’s not like seeing The Matrix, this weird new vision doesn’t suddenly explain everything, and it certainly doesn’t excuse everything—one reason we try to help one another grow up is that a toddler with the tools of a grown being is a dangerous creature, to themselves and to others. But still, reading parenting books and connecting them with my experience, I gasp—the way you do when a physical therapist finds just the right place to push, or when the couch-and-chair kind of therapist asks just this one innocent question. Oh. Oh, that’s how it is.
Take transitions, for example. (This particular bit is from Tovah Klein’s How Toddlers Thrive.) Toddlers tend to have trouble with state transitions—from playing to eating, from eating to storytime, and of course the big transition to sleep. The problem is (Klein says, and I buy it) one of control, and time. We understand the now, we understand what is in front of us and around us. We understand that we are right here with a book or a toy sheep, and we are comfortable. Even when we don’t like the now, we know it. We can navigate.
The next, though, that’s a problem. That’s an issue. Who knows what happens next? Anything could be out there! In fact, the very prospect of next, the fact that there is such a creature, suggests that we don’t actually have as much control of now as we like to think. Next undermines us. So we cling to now. In those moments, it falls to the parents to help the child through the arc: begin with sympathy for the emotion—of course you want to keep reading, you were happy there, of course you don’t want to get up and sit down for a meal, of course, you have some measure of control and comfort in this moment in this uncertain world and you don’t want to go to bed, because who knows what happens tomorrow—and then, once sympathy and empathy have been established, offer structure. This is what we have to do now. And: continuity.
I’m still here for you. I love you.
So there I am, at my dining room table, reading this Tovah Klein book on a Sunday night, up too late, in the pandemic, still, not wanting to go to bed, because tomorrow I have to get up at six thirty if I want to write before parenting, and then there’s parenting, and then the same thing tomorrow, and the day after, and if I just stay here, reading about toddlers and their transition difficulties, I will know what’s going on, and be happy. And my chest is suddenly tight. Because I still don’t want to get up. Because who knows what comes next.
This makes me think, too, about these little magic mirrors we carry in our pockets or pocketbooks or leave on the table in arm’s reach, about our phones, that is, about all the many ways they talk to us and remind us that they exist. I think about email and slack and SMS and the tweets and the facebooks and instagrams, how they’re always there, how unless we’re careful and clear in our boundaries, they never stop talking to us. I’ve read no end of “distraction crit,” those essays and eleven-chapter books about how what we really need is focus, freedom from the device’s interruptions. I eat that stuff like I eat Thin Mints—too many of them, too fast, because they feel too much like exactly what I want. I want to spend more time in maker time, I want to spend more time in Deep Work, in Flow. I don’t want to get Hijacked by Evolutionary Plains Ape Survival Strategies that don’t match with what I Need to Do as a Knowledge Worker in the Modern Economy.
But: maybe it’s not just the distraction. Maybe it’s not just the evolutionary plains ape whatever. Maybe the phone’s buzzes and dings and pop-up notifications offer not so much interruption as the promise of a life without transitions—a life without time. If we’re in some sense always on email, we never have to get off email and go do something else. If we’re always on Twitter, we never have to put Twitter away. No matter how awful we feel, we are always in that place, which means we always are. There we are seen, and remembered, and loved. However much we are, at the same time and in the same place and sometimes even by the same people and devices, hated.
Of course, your phone does not love you. But it can kick out a little picture of a heart every once in a while, which makes you feel good, because in second grade you cut one just like that out of a piece of rough red construction paper. We are not complicated creatures.
Often, a toddler doesn’t need more than a kiss. A word, a calming touch. To be lifted. To be hugged in a way that doesn’t make them feel they’re falling. “I know how you feel. I get it. I feel that way too sometimes. And we’re in this together.” “I love you.” “I’m right here.”
It’s shattering to realize how little we need, and how much.
--Max Gladstone: Under The Table, Inside The Tree
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I-i I I've actually stanned all the groups on kingdom and I know them all and I'm just so sad after reading all the reviews.... I'm sure they can pull off the stuff you said but a lot of is not in their hand... I just wish the "stage directors" or whatever ppl they keep taking advice from for stages actually point these things out to them.. I agree the strong and add tricks or props has become overused a bit but the next episodes preview showed more rock or punk style so I'm hoping we finally get smthg diverse instead of strong and dark... man idek what I'm saying anymore but thank you for your professional reviews I really did learn a lot and I hope the "experts" that vote on the show can help the groups and give them constructive advice bc they need to know what's wrong/lacking to fix it or else the biased fan voting will just make them think they did perfectly
ah thank you! one thing about this type of show is that the judging is weirdly unfair (not in the normal rigged way) to the groups, because they have very little say in the actual aesthetics and mechanics of what happens on stage. a side effect of this type of gesamkunstwerk*** kpop stage is that because the idols are the established face of the group, they're the ones that get shouldered with the artistic integrity of the stage when in reality there's maaaaaaybe a handful of groups that have anywhere close to enough sway to even suggest a concept, let alone actually oversee the relevant details. it would be insane to think that like, daniel day lewis was in charge of his costume for every movie he's in. that's not his job, he doesn’t have the training for it! side note, never ever ever let an actor have actual power in the costume design process. you listen and collaborate with them, because they know their own body, but the likelihood that they know shit about clothing? slim. the 2017 beauty and the beast is what happens when you let an actor dictate design decisions and that has some of the worst modern costume design i've ever seen.
this is the thing that makes my reviews really only a thought experiment and not much else, other than education for the five people that read them. i'm not actually critiquing a lot about the idols themselves. yea occaisionally i talk about stage presence but honestly? you've either got it right away or you've had the experience and learned it.
give a dark concept some thematic and narrative weight and im all over it. skz almost got there with gods menu/side effects but it just wasnt far enough. i’m actually hoping to see some more tricking next week to see if any of the groups got the message that it works if you do it for a reason. acrobatics have a function just like every other device on stage, and because ateez actually used them well fingers crossed the other groups catch on. but i will be happy to see a change of scenery coming from the song switches next week, and hopefully this will be a chance for the designers to flex their creative muscles a bit. i’m not exactly holding out for much of the 'expert' advice to actually do anything, and even if it does we aren’t going to see it because it will all be happening behind the scenes with the production crews. as long as mnet doesnt change the stage configuration again, so that the designers and directors actually get a chance to adapt to what works and what doesn't.
i do agree with you though the fan voting is fucked and they shouldn’t have it as part of the judging metric because as we just saw, it absolutely fucked over skz and they are unlikely to actually learn constructively from those two performances (especially the intro stage) because the fans are obsessive. i’ve talked about this a few times before but kpop fans gotta learn to let things flop again! it will force the artists to make better work in the future!! don’t you want that!!!
***a 'total work of art.' i can't believe i'm out here applying wagner's favourite word to kpop, but it basically means that every element of the work is combined to create a unified vision. i'm a very big subscriber to this theory even though my personal opinion on wagner is that he's an antisemitic dickweed and he's the reason we don't have pit sections in theatres anymore and no amount of ring cycles is gonna absolve that in my mind.
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