Liz Hand is an author, critic, punk and teacher of all three; these are her good things.
Good things to read.
Helen Zahavi’s brilliant 1991 Dirty Weekend (published in the US as The Weekend) featured a complex, vengeful, takes-no-prisoners female protagonist decades before the current crop of noir anti-heroines. Referencing Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and Ernst Pabst’s classic silent film Pandora’s Box, among other works, Zahavi’s novel cuts like broken glass, is often very funny, and can be devoured in one reading — I whipped through it in about two hours.
The Complete Poems of C.P. Cavafy, translation by Rae Dalven, introduction by W.H. Auden. I first read Cavafy’s elegiacal poems when I was a teenager (Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet pointed the way) and have never stopped returning to them — he is among the greatest modern poets exploring desire. I have a sentimental attachment to Rae Dalven’s translation, but there are excellent, more recent ones by Daniel Mendelsohn, Edmund Keeley, and Stratis Haviaras, among others.
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. If you weren’t there for the birth and flowering (mal-fleuring?) of punk, you’ll be able to fake it after reading this. Based on trailers, the forthcoming CBGB movie ripped off all the best parts.
Good things to watch.
Man on Wire. An amazing documentary about Phillipe Petit’s extraordinary 1974 tightwire walk between the newly-completed Twin Towers. An elegy for a lost world that moves like a brilliant caper film. Watch it and you’ll feel like anything is possible.
Insects. Research shows how important it is for us to maintain our connection to the natural world, something increasingly difficult to maintain as more and more of it disappears. But you can still find insects everywhere: in a garden, on the sidewalk, on houseplants. I find it weirdly meditative to watch them — okay, maybe not cockroaches — residents of an unimaginably complex world that we share. I’ve seen moths that look like bumblebees and hummingbirds, and seen pearl-sized spiders change color from ivory to green when they’re moved from one rose to another. They’ll be around long after we’re gone: probably a good idea to be nice to them.
Top of the Lake. A co-production of BBC Two, the Sundance Channel, and Australia/New Zealand’s UKTV, this seven-episode miniseries is the best thing I’ve seen since the first season of Twin Peaks. Gorgeous NZ setting and stellar casting, including Jacqueline Joe as the pregnant twelve-year-old who goes missing, Elizabeth Moss in a role that will that erase memories of her turn as Peggy on Mad Men, and Holly Hunter as a stone-faced cult leader who seems to be channeling Patti Smith via Georgia O’Keefe. Worth it just to hear Hunter rail “What are these crazy bitches doing?”
Good things to use.
Sunscreen, SPF 30. Don’t argue: just put it on.
A worm farm. Mine is from the Worm Factory, and I bought it used (worms included). It’s small enough to fit in a corner at the top of my basement steps. You save all your kitchen waste — basically, everything except for dairy and citrus (and banana peels, which draw fruit flies), put it in the top drawer along with some dry leaves or damp newspaper, and a few weeks later it’s magically ALL TURNED TO DIRT. And worms. I put the compost on my garden and grew the best tomatoes I’ve ever had. It doesn’t smell, the design is elegant and efficient, and if you have kids they’ll probably love it. Plus it’s a great use for coffee grounds.
An iPad. I have an iPad 2 I bought a few years back and love it, despite the fact that I only upgraded to IOS 5 a few weeks ago. It really is like having the entire world in your hands. Except for the insects and worms.
Connect with Liz on Twitter, @Liz_Hand.