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  • These Things I loved in the 2010s Will Change Your Life.

    It would seem that I have the dubious distinction of blogging for so long about things that will change your life, as they have mine, always, that I'm onto my second decade-ending list. At the time of the end of the last decade I wrote the following: 

    "Are we jumping on the decade-ending bandwagon? Way. Still, when your goal is to change lives, its not always clear how you're going to accomplish this. So, as we began prepare our year-end Top Ten lists we started thinking about the last decade as well and like everybody else we thought we would weigh-in on what we liked and/or influenced us and/or brought us joy. Over this week we are going to hit books, movies, television and music. And then next week, or shortly thereafter, we will begin rolling-out our year-end lists. Cool? Great."

    Can I write same and get away with that? 

    Which is not to say it's all the same as it ever was. When I wrote that last set of decade-ending lists I was still at the beginning of something. A ten-year period where I was getting started at all this, whatever this is is, blogging, influencing, promoting, sharing, podcasting, writing, especially writing, and still trying to find my way. 

    I still am.

    But that's not going to change, I will always want to produce, consume, hype and fanboy more than I am. And there will always be new things to produce, consume, hype and fanboy about. So, today, this, is another sort of beginning, the end of something, a decade anyway, with another to come, and then, God-willing, another one after that, and so on and so forth.

    I will not be running separate lists this week though, one decade-ending post seems fine, though I will run a year-end list as well in a couple of days. I am also sharing groups of my Top-Ten favorites over the decade, but not ranking or rating or anything like that. Nor am I doing a straight forward music list per se, records anyway, because I'm no longer sure how to listen to albums (is that even a word) in their entirety anymore. 

    But we'll see what happens, yes? 

    Yes. 

    Onward.

    These Top Ten Books of the Decade Will Change Your Life.

    Bones Buried in the Dirt by David S. Atkinson (2013)

    David S. Atkinson has gone on to write many fine, weird, wonderful books, but nothing (or many books period) has quite affected me like the stories in this one. All awakening, coming of age and pain. Indelible.

    Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith (2014)

    What a beautiful introduction to a beautiful writer whose words glow and who makes sexy just so, you know, sexy. 

    Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz (2014)

    I read it in a fever dream and fugue state, really, I was crazy sick, but I can't imagine how else one can experience this book as it takes you in its twisty grip and never lets go. 

    Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010)

    Art, making it, eating it, searching for it, and at all and any costs. Beautiful and nicely, oddly, touchingly matched by Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2015).

    MEATY by Samantha Irby (2013)

    As glorious a debut as you will find. Like a rocket ship, a fucked, funny, fantastic rocket ship.

    Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children by Dave Newman (2012)

    As absorbing and in touch with everyday life, the struggles and quotidian moments, as any book one could hope to read.

    The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna (2013)

    The boldest, most lived-in book I read, soaring and detailed. A triumph.

    The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan (2015)

    This could have been just as easily been Crapalachia (2015) or Stories V! (2011), because Scott is fact and fiction and fiction and fact and a blur of boundaries and stories that feel so real and visceral you can taste them.

    They Can't Kill Us Until The Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (2017)

    Is there anyone who does pop culture, race, personal stories and political commentary better? No, really, please let me know, because I can't imagine who that would be.

    We The Animals by Justin Torres (2011)

    Of all the books here, this is the only one I truly stumbled into. How I didn't know it existed before I found it is quite beyond me, but it is tender and real time, a gut punch of the highest order.

    The rest (and there are certainly others I loved, and represented, or blurbed, all good, but this makes for fifty books in total this past decade, a good number, with these in no particular order at all): The Fugue by Gint Aras (2015), Belief Is It's Own Kind of Truth by Lori Jakiela (2015), Wheatyard by Pete Anderson(2013), Code for Failure by Ryan W. Bradley (2012), Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan (2014), Gay Zoo Day by Mike McClelland (2017), Gideon's Confession by Joseph G. Peterson (2014), The Damnation of Memory by Mark S. Brand (2012), Swarm Theory by Christine Maul Rice (2016), Volt by Alan Heathcock (2011), The Expanse Between by Lee Krecklow (2017), The Mimic's Own Voice by Tom Williams (2011), Salt Creek Anthology by Jason Fisk (2012), On the Way by Cyn Vargas (2015), Patricide by D. Foy (2016), Kinda Sorta America Dream by Steve Karas (2015), The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod (2016), Zero Fade by Chris L. Terry (2013), Aviary by Seth Berg (2017), Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra (2014), What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Boomarked by Brian Evenson (2018), Staggerwing by Alice Kaltman (2016), No Good Very Bad Asian by Leland Cheuk (2019), Barack Obama: Invisible Man by David Masciotra (2017), Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink (2012), Harbors by Donald Quist (2016), The Temple of Air by Patricia McNair (2011), Doll Palace by Sarah Lippmann (2014), The Dead Wrestler Elegies by Todd W. Kaneko (2014), The Place You're Supposed To Laugh by Jenn Stroud Rossmann (2018), What We Build Upon the Ruins by Giano Cromley (2017), A Tree Born Crooked by Steph Post (2014), Mesilla by Robert James Russell (2015), Hustle by David Tomas Martinez (2014), A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst by Hosho McCreesh (2013), Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias (2015), The Voyager Record: A Transmission by Anthony Michael Morena (2016), DEBT by Christopher Bowen (2017), ENJoy: Stories by the Sea by Glen Binger (2017).  

    These Top Ten Movies of the Decade Will Change Your Life.

    Boyhood (2014)

    This could be Before Midnight (2013), it could be a lot of things, which is just to say, that Linklater makes movies like I try to write, raw, real, happening now and evolving over time.

    The Florida Project (2017)

    Such a lovely, lively, sad movie, and full of the kind of live-wire energy found in few movies except maybe the director's most excellent previous movie Tangerine (2015).  

    Fruitvale Station (2013)

    If this isn't quite the beginning of Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan's world domination, it's a stunningly crafted piece of work. Devastating.  

    Logan (2017)

    So many superhero movies I know, and so many good ones (and yes, maybe too many, for many), but so crushing this one, and literate, and everything I might have wanted as a kid, but didn't know I could ask for.

    Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

    My favorite movie all decade. Raw and slamming and so much fun.

    Minding The Gap (2018)

    Race and class and poverty and abuse, but just terrific, which seems like the wrong word, but isn't.

    Moonlight (2016)

    Nothing more beautiful all decade.

    O.J.: Made in America (2016)

    The most audacious work of recent memory as it takes on the full sweep of race and violence in Los Angeles and America. Not pretty. But impossible not to watch.

    Shoplifters (2018)

    We loved this so much, I'm not even sure I can pinpoint why. I just know it was engaging and full of joy and tension and mystery. Bravo.

    Winter's Bone (2010)

    The young J Law alone makes this worth watching. That it's so riveting and scary and a picture into a world of poverty and violence so few of us witness makes it a stunner. Which isn't to overlook the director's other movie this decade, Leave No Trace (2018), no less riveting, and full of ache.  

    The rest (and again, in no particular order): A Separation, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, The Immigrant, Whiplash, Get Out, Green Room, Drive, 12 Years a Slave, The Kids Are All Right, Selma, Straight Outta Compton, Lincoln, Girls Trip, Parasite, Captain Fantastic, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Spring Breakers, Hell or High Water, Booksmart, Mud, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Marriage Story, Bridesmaids, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Inception, Slo-West, A Life in Walk, Inside Out, Ingrid Goes West, Deadpool.

    These Top Ten Television Shows of the Decade Will Change Your Life.

    The Americans

    A spy story, which is really a story about marriage, hopes, dreams, communication, all of it.

    Atlanta

    Striving, succcess, failure and trying to be the person you think you can be. Also weed, race, rap and magical realism. Nothing like it.

    Better Things

    I hate to use a word like real, or refer to the greatness, abrasiveness and warmth of this show as a salve of Louis CK's ongoing horribleness, but it is that, and I love it.

    BoJack Horseman

    So fucking weird, funny, surreal, and the most incisive exploration of mental illness, substance abuse, family in all its fucked-upedness, and celebrity, happening anywhere in any fashion.  

    Catastrophe

    Is it the dialogue, timing, the messed-up chemistry, or the desire to make the unworkable work? I don't know, but other stabs at relationship and all the madness inherent therein pale in comparison. 

    Game of Thrones

    It could have not made the list, but it was too big, too brash, and almost completely engaging to the very end.

    The Leftovers

    Dude, what despair looks like, which I mean in the best way. 

    Rectify

    An elegiac and beautiful rumination on truth and grace and what it means to be free.

    Succession

    Call it a story about the rich, abuse, ego and the media, both new and old. That's all true. But in doing so, don't fail to call it a story about family in all its Oedipal and Shakesperian horror. Because it's so that.

    Transparent

    Family, family, family, Jews and identity, so many, so much, and so fucked-up and messy and wonderful. Love.

    With Extraordinary Special Props to these Limited Run series (and all somehow from 2019):

    Chernobyl

    Almost too unreal to be believed, almost science fiction, but leaves one with the sense that no entity can be trusted.

    Unbelievable

    See the above. But also see it for the most empathic and upsetting, yet uplifting police procedural ever produced.

    When They See Us

    See the above, and the above, and then cringe, cover your eyes, and keep watching. Infuriating and unprecedented.

    The rest (yeah, no particular order): Justified, Orange is The New Black, Girls, True Detective, Big Mouth, Fargo, Insecure, Westworld, Black Mirror, The Fall, Broadchurch, Jessica Jones, Happy Endings, Orphan Black, You're The Worst, Mr. Robot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Silicon Valley, The Handmaid's Tale, American Vandal, Watchmen, Lodge 49.

    These Top Ten Musical Moments of the Decade Will Change Your Life.

    Straight-up, I don't listen to enough music in the ways I was once accustomed to any more, though I listen to it all of the time, but there are albums (again, is this a word or concept any more) and shows, that broke through during the 2010s, and I don't know that I feel like trying to describe any of this, or them, because ultimately what I really feel, or felt, when I experienced them is joy, which feels like enough, right, yes. So here we go.

    Courtney Barnett/Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)-Courtney Barnett-Chicago Cultural Center (2018)

    Chance the Rapper/Coloring Book (2016)

    Girl Talk/All Day (2010)

    The Hold Steady-Empty Bottle (2017)

    Jason Isbell/Southeastern (2013)

    Jenny Lewis/The Voyager (2014)

    Matt & Kim-The Riviera (2019)

    Killer Mike/R.A.P. Music (2012)-Killer Mike-Pitchfork (2013)

    Ike Reilly-Schubas (2013)

    Sufjan Stevens/Carrie and Lowell (2015)

    The rest (you know the drill): Billy Bragg-Lincoln Hall (2019), 21 Pilots-The Aragon (2014), Justin Earl Townes/Nothing is Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2014), The Peekaboos-Empty Bottle (2013), NAS-Riot Fest (2016), Run the Jewels/Run the Jewels (2013), Jamey Johnson/Guitar Song (2010), Julian Velard-Joe's Pub (2017), Kendrick Lamar/To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy/Kanye West (2010), Billy Joel-Wrigley Field (2016).

    These Top Ten Podcasts of the Decade Will Change Your Life.

    Other People with Brad Listi, WTF with Marc Maron and The Slate Culture Gabfest

    The ongoing standby's, making my runs, drives, the laundry, day-to-day life and brain better and more joyful.

    Dolly Parton's America

    A rumination on storytelling, spirituality, race and sexuality, and just wow, fantastic, moving and wonderful.

    Mystery Show

    Greatly loved, endlessly missed, and possessing of a weird, beautiful, searching energy.

    Making Obama

    I don't ever want to not be thinking about him.

    S-Town and Searching for Richard Simmons

    Both felt more than kind of voyeuristic, and at times just truly icky, while never being anything but wholly engrossing.

    Running from COPS

    From the creator of Searching for Richard Simmons, and anything but icky, fascinating and horrible.

    Serial

    There may be never be anything like the first season of this show in terms of appointment podcasts, and utter fascination, but the third season makes for a head-spinning, and terribly saddening, companion piece to Running from COPS.

    The rest (and not so much, but yeah): Homecoming, Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan, To Live and Die in L.A., Heavyweight, In the Dark.

    Which, may be enough for now, no? It is. But I'll be back in ten years, though more importantly, for now, I'll be back in a few days with my These Things I Loved in 2019 Will Change Your Life list. And that might I add, will include a special guest. Mysterious, yes? Yes. Also exciting. See you soon. 

  • A moment to pause and appreciate all the glory that is This Podcast Will Change Your Life soaring passed 100,000 all-time downloads, even as I must admit that I expected it to all go down somewhat differently than this.

    On the cusp of releasing the 200th episode of This Podcast Will Change Your Life, I definitely had a different narrative in mind.

    It appeared that the show would cross 100,000 all-time downloads upon the release of that episode, a neat sort of synchronicity and alchemy that I could not have orchestrated on my own, nor would have even tried to plan.

    But, I do love finding a story, and I'm always trying to craft the proper narrative, and so the idea that these events were clearly about to coincide delighted me to no end.

    Then reality fucked with my plans, in a good way, certainly, this has been a huge month for the show, following many now, but huger still, and it soared passed 100,000 dowloads some time early this morning and ahead of when I anticipated.

    Is that less sexy?

    I think so.

    Is it cool though?

    Yes.

    Do I think this number is especially impressive, maybe not, not when I think about the shows I listen to (OTHERPPL with Brad Listi, WTF with Marc Maron, Heavyweight, The Culture Gabfest), and have listened to (SERIAL, Mystery Show, Sampler, S Town, Missing Richard Simmons), and what their numbers must be, but it's big and round, and the earliest shows from way back in February 2010 only got around 10 downloads or less.

    Yes, that's possible, traffic can total 10 downloads or less.

    The numbers never bothered me, I was talking to authors and writers, ideamakers and changemakers, and I always wanted that, one-on-one or group time with creators, and this was a path to that.

    I always hoped it served their work and that I did them justice.

    And I still do.

    There were mishaps along the way.

    The first 50 plus shows were recorded in a primarily drunken state, not a problem in and of itself, but one time, I did fail to record an entire conversation when the audio files were full and I overlooked that completely, and another time I drank so much with one major author that I had become friends with, that they decided not to record the show with me, a first, and we never got back to it. Another time I was so excited to meet someone after loving their book and then their presence so much that I fanboy'd beyond the norm during the interview and found the conversation fun, but somewhat unsharable. When I asked the author if they would re-record it they said we'd never be able to capture the weird, awesome vibe we had worked ourselves into.

    I never ran that one.

    I also once accidentally dosed myself before a show and was certain that it was a disaster, it wasn't, whatever I sounded like in my head, I kept my shit together for the show itself.

    I've always tried to talk to authors big and small, and I'm thrilled to have caught some authors I know and admire on their way up, Lindsay Hunter, Jac Jemc, Gina Frangello (who was pretty up already, but now, yo, come on), Scott McClanahan (for the first ever walk and talk episode) among others, as well as many who remain obscure, though loved by me, or even stopped writing or publishing.

    I love them too. Most of them.

    I've had some multiple guests, and while this is reflectigve of meeting them early on, and their ongoing productivity, it's also a reflection of not just loving them, but falling in love with them along the way. They include Pete Anderson, Keidra Chaney, Wendy C. Ortiz, Amy Guth, Joseph G. Peterson, Giano Cromley, David Masciotra, Patricia Ann McNair, Hosho McCreesh and Jason Fisk, among others. And if I missed you here, big apologies and please let me know so we can fix that.

    I have favored Chicago writers, in part certainly because I live here and they're easier to find, but also because the show has paralleled the ongoing and extended emergence of the Chicago indie lit scene as the center of all things literary.

    I've spoken to at least one hero of mine, Rick Kogan, and made many new friends because of the show itself, people I was dying to meet, or reached out to me, which is always a thrill, and which we most always made work.


    The single biggest episode remains my discussion with the glorious Jen Pastiloff (Episode 116, May 2015), who didn't have a book at the time, I just wanted to somehow capture her amazing energy, but she has one coming out now, and that too will no doubt be as glorious as she is.

    When that show became so big, I decided to formalize things a little more, cleaning-up my iTunes page, and adding both Stitcher and Spotify as platforms.

    I didn't know that it mattered to me before that, but not being all-in after that seemed ridiculous.

    It also led to the one review the show has ever received, which came as part of the piece "The 10 Best Podcasts to Change Your Life," in Elephant Journal.

    Before I close this out, I want to thank the podcast Bad at Sports, and especially Duncan MacKenzie (Episode 125, January 2016), for both existing, and for introducing me to the idea of podcasts at all, when I interviewed them for the now defunct Third Coast Press (thank you Keidra Chaney for that) and thought maybe I could try this.

    All of which is to say, that I remain in the love with the medium, and all, most of, the guests, I also remain lo-fi, and a little scuzzy, my tech skills are still not all that, and I will continue, next with the 200th episode, and then beyond, wherever that takes me.

    Well that, and thank you, first to all of my wonderful guests, but then also, unquestionably, to all of my listeners, whoever you are, and wherever you are, for all of the support along the way.


  • This Newsletter Will Change Your Life #6 - The "Wow It's Been Awhile Since I Last Received A New Edition of This Newsletter Will Change Your Life" Edition is quite live.

    This Newsletter Will Change Your Life #6 - The "Wow It's Been Awhile Since I Last Received A New Edition of This Newsletter Will Change Your Life" Edition is here. Read. Hype. Subscribe.

  • A Be Cool pause. And a goodbye to all that. For now.

    It was one year ago that Be Cool was supposed to be released. There were some glitches, and it didn't come out until February, but I've still been hustling for a year, and that seems like enough.

    For now.

    While we never know what might become of our books down the road, hence the pause, nothing more may happen at all, because that can happen too, and so if that's the case, than this is goodbye to all that.

    Still, to say goodbye and not take a moment to recognize all of the goodness and good people I connected with, and who supported Be Cool, along the way would be most unfortunate indeed.

    There was a kick ass kick-off reading with the Rob Hollywood and Zoe Zolbrod at the Book Cellar; followed by a kick-off road trip with Be Cool's publisher Dockstreet Press and Dane Bahr last August, which took us to Phinney Books in Seattle, and time shared with the inestimable Sean Beaudoin and Josh Mohr, great writers both; reading in Portland as part the Get Nervous reading series with the quite awesome Cari Luna and John Barrios; and then on to Boise for the truly cool Campfire Stories hosted by the truly cool Christian Winn at the truly cool Modern Hotel.

    Along the way I also got to read at Kill Your Darlings; Volumes Bookcafe for a second, and now official launch with the Jason Fisk and Eric Spitznagel, easy on the eyes both; Boswell Book Company and Quimby's, with Lee L. Krecklow, Robert Vaughan, Caitlin Scarano, Tasha Fouts, and Seth Berg, great readers and great friends, new and old, all.

    Even if the book itself didn't quite be what I wanted it to be, and who knows what that truly is, there were terrific interviews with The Rumpus, Five Questions, Steph Post, and Rick Kogan; wonderful reviews at Spectrum Culture, Atticus Review, and The Coil, among others; and the endlessly cool opportunity to appear on a panel at Printers Row Lit Fest talking memoir with Jason Diamond and Michael Phillips.

    Ultimately, I want to thank everyone who did anything to support Be Cool, especially my blurbers Sean and Robert, see above, as well as the Wendy C. Ortiz and Megan Stielstra, who now and forever, will serve as great inspirations and literary guides of mine.

    I would also like to recognize some of the many journals who ran pieces from be Cool in different forms at some point, including, but not limited to The Rumpus, Nailed, TNBBC, Thought Catalog, decomP, The Weeklings, Manifest-Station, Collected Poop Stories (for real), Midnight Mind, RAGAD, Entropy, In Case We Die, Revolution John, CCLaP, and Rated Rookie.

    Thanks as well to those who read Be Cool and posted comments and ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, you know who you are and I love you for that, and those I never met, but took the time to read the book.

    I will always welcome more reviews and more ratings, sorry for that, but it all helps, though I am otherwise going to work on letting Be Cool go, which is always hard, and move onto the next thing.

    I'm sure I missed some of you who supported me and I apologize for that, but know you are appreciated and loved as well.

    A lot.

    Anyway, thank you all, and goodbye to all that.

  • Quite self-absorbedly geeked to let you know about The TNB Self-Interview I did for Be Cool.

    So please do check it out here. Or even here. Cool? Cool. And excerpt? Most definitely.

    Welcome.

    Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here, and I appreciate the chance to talk with you about my new essay collection Be Cool—a memoir (sort of) from Dock Street press.

     

    Well, great, congratulations, truly, should we get right into the questions?

    Yes, of course, soft ball questions, right, I hope.

     

    Yeah, sure, anyway, so, navel-gazing…?

    What?

     

    You know, the activity of thinking too much or too deeply about yourself, your experiences, your feelings, etc. That’s from Merriam-Webster.

    Is that a question?

     

    No, not exactly, that was more of a reaction to your question, which was in response to my initial query. But if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask the questions here.

    You know, I had a therapist say that to me once.

     

    Yeah, how did that turn out?

    Not so good. But to your non-question, question, am I concerned about there being too much navel-gazing in Be Cool, no, I don’t think so, that never even crossed my mind. Really, it seems like writing personal essays would almost automatically engender that.

     

    Does that mean, that from your perspective, writing an essay collection, memoir (sort of) does not involve thinking too much or too deeply about oneself?

    Oh no, it does, but writing, ideally, is still something else entirely to me. You are attempting to craft a narrative that taps into universal themes, which just might offer the reader insight into themselves, if not actual entertainment and escape. And these are good things, and certainly the reasons why I read what I read.

     

    So, do you consider yourself an entertainer?

    At times, yes. Am I consciously engaged in the act of amusing or entertaining, also Merriam-Webster, absolutely. I want the reader to be engaged, and moved, and in my head. Does that also mean there is pain and confusion? Yes, of course there is.

  • Be Cool is quite kick-ass blurb from the quite kick-ass Wendy C. Ortiz.


    "Whether he’s dreaming of the alternate reality of tacos, surfing, and art-making in Los Angeles or running through the neighborhoods of his youth or present-day Chicago, Tanzer takes hold of the reader with a kinetic pull of a voice that courses like blood through the body of this book. The essays in Be Cool circle the poles of sex and death, covering the terrain of family, marriage, children, and the act of writing in ways that are fresh, deep, funny, and unexpected.

    Relax. Be cool, indeed. You’ll want to stay with Tanzer’s voice a while."  -- Wendy C. Ortiz, author of Excavation and Hollywood Notebook

    And more to come. Not to mention more information at Dock Street Press for those who want it.