I get addicted to podcasts. It’s not a problem because it’s a free addiction, it’s just a fact. Normally, it will take me a couple of times listening to different episodes to get really into a show. After that, I’ll race through the entire back catalogue available on iTunes and gorge until I’ve listened to everything interesting to me.
Recently I have been suffering from writer’s block. If you read this blog, you’ll know this. I just cannot seem to generate ideas on what to write about. Partly, this has been driven by how incredibly busy my job has been in the last few months. I just cannot seem to build up the energy required, mentally or physically, to write anything.
To bring those two paragraphs together, I have become addicted to The Mental Illness Happy Hour, a podcast presented by comedian Paul Gilmartin on which he interviews friends, mostly from the comedy world but beyond also, about their mental illnesses. Most of this encompasses depression but other issues are also explored.
As a long-time devotee of WTF with Marc Maron, on which Maron will open a vein with his comedy industry guests to explore their craft and psyches. If Maron opens a vein in his discussion, Gilmartin slices open his chest and lays his heart down in between the microphones.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour has had the impact of driving me to push harder to kick-start my writing again. The guests on the show are open and honest. As with WTF, having comedians on proves enlightening and emotional as they have an uncanny, and probably completely necessary ability, to access the darkness in their lives and to articulate their psychological problems and demons in an accessible manner.
The show is self-indulgent in places and occasionally struggles to find the balance between serious and funny, but it’s a really worthwhile, powerful project and I will push myself harder to avoid my life passing me by.
I used to run two podcasts and I fully intend to start one of those up again. But there are two hundred other things I’m constantly too tired to achieve and I need to prevent myself from falling into the trap of putting it off so far that the chance is gone.
Gilmartin’s show is brutal at times, but the way his guests are willing to open up to him, and to the audience, is inspiring. Many will argue that they don’t give a shit about the problems of these people. No doubt there is a level of hyper-introspection on the show and, as I said, there is an intense self-indulgence. But through that the show manages to find universal truths about the modern psyche and it’s inspiring me to push myself harder and not let myself drop back into lethargy and passivity.
A quick note. Apologies for the lack of posting still. A couple of things in the works at the moment so time has been difficult to find. I intend to get back onto a pretty good posting schedule again very, very soon.
- Not really a very long read, but Chuck Klosterman manages to nail so much of why Louie is the best show on TV at the minute in his piece for Grantland. In other news, please ensure you follow Grantland as it’s probably my favourite new site of the year.
- The original article, from New York Magazine, which coined the Brat Pack moniker for that group of actors in the 1980s. Quite illuminating, especially with the consistent arguing that it would be Sean Penn, never really though of as a Brat Pack member, who would transcend that generation.
- A four-part study (Part One, Two, Three and Four) of the creation of the Unabomber, specifically as regards the role of Harvard in fostering personality traits which would eventually make him infamous.
- Cameron Crowe’s 1973 article on The Allman Brothers, surely one of the inspirations that went into Almost Famous.
- One of my absolute favourite writers, Alex Ross, moves away from his inspired classical music pieces to pen an absorbing essay about Oscar Wilde.
- But the best of the week is the GQ oral history of the Dana Carvey Show, the swifty-cancelled mid-90s folly which comprised some amazing talent and has worn really well. At the time though, the outre sketches were far from at-home following Home Improvement on the Disney-owned ABC. Just to give a taster, the writing team alone included Dino Stamotopoulos, Robert Smigel and Louis CK, and this doesn’t go into the on-screen talent, which included the likes of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Watching it now, from the opening sketch (from CK’s mind) of Bill Clinton breast-feeding puppies, you struggle to believe this show was on primetime network TV. Watch the first episode here and marvel.
- Great read on the CIA’s secret sites in Somalia from The Nation. Always a great site for solid investigative reporting.
- Slightly cloying Peter Biskind profile of Warren Beatty and the making of Reds. Not a film I’ve ever felt quite as fond of as Biskind appears to, but undoubtedly the kind of film that you would never get made, let alone seen, today.
- Nice mini-memoir of a life growing up with Christian contemporary music in the 1990s alternative scene. Not music I know personally, but still an engaging piece.
- Terrific profile of Bridgewater Associates founder and guru Ray Dalio. Read this article with the thought in your mind that his man manages the largest hedge fund in the world and, further, note the justification he gives for blending his spiritual enlightenment with a socially bankrupt form of finance.
- The best though… an astonishing account of the revolution in Yemen from those on the ground. Utterly superb journalism at a time that is vitally important.
- A long profile of now-former CIA director Leon Panetta, focusing mostly on the difficulties he faced from the lingering impact of Bush administration interrogation techniques. Panetta comes across as a pragmatic and committed character, both of which should come in handy as he takes on his new role as Defence Secretary for Obama. As a companion piece to that, Jane Mayer’s exposé of CIA interrogation techniques give more insight into the problems Panetta faced and the acts that took place under the Bush administration.
- I’m on a bit of a Woody Allen kick at the moment, though this Peter Biskind profile is perhaps a little too forgiving of Woody given some of the movies he’s made in the past decade. It did, though, raise a point about the sheer number of fantastic movies Woody has made in his career, enough to put him alongside the likes of Scorsese, Kubrick or Fellini in my mind. Just a sampling for the memory of movies I would consider genuinely classic: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanours, Love and Death, Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan Murder Mystery. There’s lots of crap too, but that’s a pretty good number of superb films to be going on.
- George Packer’s outstanding recounting of the crimes and trial for Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon hedge fund, provides a pitch perfect example of the kind of greed and cynical regard for human nature that drives the kind of financial crime we have witnessed in the past few years.
New album out today and definitely going into the collection as soon as the pay packet arrives. This cover, widely circulated from Fallon a week or two back, of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, peppered with a taste of Donnie Hathaway’s ‘Song for You’. Ridiculously beautiful.
**If you haven’t seen The Shadow Line, and its currently available to watch on iPlayer in full, then don’t read as some major plot spoilers will be brought to light and anyone planning to watch the series who has yet to do so will sour on me and all bloggers discussing the show with the fury of a thousand suns. You have been warned. Also, if you’ve not watched, I haven’t spent much time explaining what happens, who it happens to and why it happens, so I reckon you’ll be super-lost and really not enjoy the experience both of reading this nor of watching the series after reading this.**