EPISODE 619: TEAM COCO

to poop on

POP CULTURE SPIRIT WOW

Conan O’Brien ended 28 years on the air on Friday. I haven’t watched the finale yet. I don’t want to, honestly. I don’t want to believe there isn’t somewhere out there in the universe where Conan and his team are doing exceedingly stupid things that feel like they could have been done in your garage after dinner on a school night and yet were also really sweet precisely because of that. Aw, look at this ridiculous thing Conan and his friends did. Those kids are adorable.

Most of late night comedy is about politics or celebrities. Conan’s shows had almost nothing to do with the former, and as time went on less and less to do with the latter either, as his remote spots in foreign countries or playing video games became an unexpected gold mine of comedy all its own.

Those spots in a sense capture what has made Conan such a jewel of the late night pantheon. You could throw him into any situation and he would find the funny in it – and the nice/naughty kind of funny, where you might be a little embarrassed that you’re laughing, but you never feel like anyone is being humiliated (other than Conan or other members of his staff).

His baseline has always been that people are wonderfully hilarious and life, too, and watching him has always been an opportunity to be reminded of the same.

Vulture did a great interview with Conan and also another with many of his writers. Lots of great routines are mentioned. Here’s two that I really love.

And here’s a third which while tone deaf in some moments in the world of today remains for me an all time classic.


This weekend also marks the end of Pride month, which the Pope made a little extra special by writing a letter to Fr. Jim Martin, who has been speaking out on behalf of queer Catholics for some years now, thanking him for his work.

With all the moving I can’t say that I’ve had much time to sit back and enjoy the month, but the overall image I have for Pride is of life opening up. Maybe that’s just me projecting my experience of our country right now onto everything else – Oh my god, look at how that refrigerator is opening up *starts weeping*.

(Okay it probably is.)

But I actually think it has something to do with what Pride is meant to be, too. As well as a celebration Pride is an activity, a movement into a bigger and fuller experience of life and self. And in a way that’s what the Pope is cheering Jim Martin on about – while some voices in the Catholic Church have taught people to hide who they are and be ashamed, to hold themselves back and bury themselves deep, Martin’s work has challenged the Church to see their queer sisters, brothers and friends as on spiritual journeys of their own. Not only is there nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+, it’s a path to life.

At least, those are the little meteor showers of ideas I’m having in between finishing projects and sending stuff across the country and wondering what the future holds. Moving is like that. 


Speaking of moving… I’m spending the next two weeks and change living out of boxes in an Airbnb while I scramble to get things done that have been hanging on for way too long.

I don’t know if anyone else is like this or if it’s just me, but departures are always big work periods. Pretty much anything that has been waiting for my attention – My inbox! That one script! Selling off old comic books! — whenever I’m about to go on a trip, that’s when I suddenly am finally there for them.

The nights before I fly I often get very little sleep, and it’s entirely because I’m suddenly like, “Oh hey, today is the day to clean out my desk.” What? At 2 in the morning? OF COURSE.

It’s the plight of the procrastinator, really. We need pressure to get us going. Travel=that. So too does moving.

And so off we go!

But it’s also going to mean I’m away from the newsletter for a little while. Right now I’m thinking I’ll be back on August 8th, but we’ll see how we go. I just need a little time to finish taking everything apart and then putting it all back together.

You have to love Humpty in a nice toque.

In the meantime, some rapid fire recommendations:

Sweet Tooth (Netflix) — Only watched the first two eps so far, but my shrink said it made him cry, the old softie. Basically it’s about a kid with antlers who is trying to find his mom while everyone in the world is kind of trying to hunt him down.

Ted Lasso (Apple TV) — The second season is coming out soon, and I’m still catching up on season one, but man it is a good show. The hopefulness of Parks & Rec’s Leslie Knope married to a football coach who moves to the UK to become a soccer coach. Apple TV is also free for the first 7 days, and the eps are each about 30 minutes. So there’s that…

Rutherford Falls (Peacock) — Another show I let slip by, co-created by Mike Schur (creator of The Good Place and Parks & Rec). It’s the story of a very well-intentioned white guy still living in the town named after his family, and his best friend, a Native woman who wants the local casino to open a cultural center. A show that has some really dynamite and varied portrayals of Native people, and also a slow burn story about white people confronting their history that is really, really interesting.

Ragnarok (Netflix) — I haven’t watched the second season yet, but the first season, about a teenager who moves to a new town and is sort of chosen by the gods to become Thor and fight off the wealthy family/frost giants that live there, was really wonderful. Not a show you need to be into fantasy to enjoy, those elements are very tightly contained. Really just a wonderful show about a kid and his mom and brother trying to find a home for themselves.

Loki (Disney+) — I mean, I guess? I actually like it, the performances are great, the idea is weird in a good way. Just not sure what the show is actually…about? But if you like the Marvel movies or anything to do with alternate dimensions, you may enjoy it.

Okay, off to the races. See you in about a month. Look after yourself. Have a Happy 4th!

EPISODE 618: UNDERSTUDIES

Down, Rafifi!

POP CULTURE SPIRIT WOW

One of the great Wait What Now moments of my life was learning that when guests come on Late Night shows, their conversations are mostly not happening in real time, that in fact the host expects them to come with material to entertain the crowd.

Now you might say, Wait, in the grand scheme of things, which includes nuclear fission, dinosaurs and the fact that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s dad, THAT was one of the great WWN moments of your life? To which, let me just say, a) What are you, one of those grinches who come home for the holidays and tell the kids there’s no Santa? And b) I’m doing my set here, keep it down.

Okay, it might be a tad bit hyperbolic. But it was a genuine surprise. And it still can be, because the great guests just knock themselves out making it all flow.

Which leads me to tonight’s guest, Broadway legend and Jesuit-educated Jersey kid Nathan Lane. Late Night with Stephen Colbert had its first week back in the studio last week — Stephen’s getting ready for me to arrive, and I just gotta say, the man is a class act — and Lane gave it eveything he had. Watch him work that room.

You’d think he was a stand up, the way he sets ‘em up and knocks’ em down. Except then he sneaks in that story about Anne Bankcroft and Mel Brooks and tell me you didn’t suddenly feel all the things.

And it doesn’t end there.

To me, Lane is like a stand-in for what a lot of people are feeling right now. He’s as giddy as a kid on Christmas, he absolutely can’t stop talking and he just looks like a million bucks. (When I get to New York I am finding those glasses.)


Right now my room looks like a bomb went off in it, and then stuck around, opened all the drawers and threw everything into a pile in the middle of the floor. I can’t usually function if there’s too much mess — actually, let me correct that — I can do mess, but it has to relegated to certain areas. One part of a desk, the top of a small book shelf, the area beside my chair, all good. But this really is like a mine field of debris, where the debris is by turns my childhood, a mini-DV tape from 2003 that apparently I now have to keep forever because you never know (kill me) and new mail.

It’s fun, is what I’m saying. Moving is fun. It’s fun. It is. It’s fun. I like it. This is fun.

It feels like I’m getting near the end — all the shelves are clear, there are many boxes ready to go. But isn’t that the point where you usually discover eight boxes in storage that you haven’t looked at in eleven years? And then you spend three days sorting through class notes and journals and keeping way too much?

Actually I threw about half my class notes away and I’ve still got too much. And I have yet to be able to toss a single journal. I don’t know what it is about that Moleskine binding, but throwing one of those books away feels like lighting the works of Shakespeare on fire. I absolutely cannot do it.

I must say, I am surprised at how much stuff the room seems to have held. I don’t know from square feet, north/south or anything spatial, but I’m pretty sure if you looked at it you wouldn’t think it terribly large. And I’ll tell you, many of my shelves are kept kind of wide open, books on the end and tchotchkes in the middle. I don’t like wall to wall books. But even so—even so—when it comes time to pack them up, it’s like there’s some kind of crack in my wall I don’t know about and books from other rooms are fleeing to get a free trip to the Big Apple.

Someone asked me if I was using Fed Ex for my packages. Which I thought was ridiculous. Oh yes, of course, I want to make sure my truffle oil arrives undamaged.

Then—as I was about to post this—I checked with UPS and Fed Ex, and wouldn’t you know, the boxes are something like $25/box a cheaper. I’m so confused. How can FedEx be cheaper than the Postal Service? And wait, does this mean I don’t have to lug more boxes to the post office? (The first ten went Friday. I was very proud of myself. But I would be okay with letting someone drive to my house and pick the rest up.)


Today I got an email from Criterion about things to watch. I actually quietly cancelled my subscription because HBO Max isn’t going to pay for itself (oof).

Amongst their offerings was this set of movie recommendations from American hero and man about town Nathan Lane, who is in a closet (wonderful) and still has those amazing glasses, now married to a fabulous sweater with Aztec-y birds and colors. It’s more fun, combined with a pitch for a musical version of Being There that is just fantastic.


I warned you last week that today might be a bit short or weird or something. And so here we are, in what feels like an episode inspired by unanswered clues from the New York Times crossword.

I’m writing this somewhere far away from the hellmouth that is my room, and yet even from here I can hear it calling to me. So I should probably go.

Hope you all have a great week. If you’re feeling low, Google Nathan Lane. He’s basically giggles in a great suit.

EPISODE 617: MY NAME IS HAUNTED MANSION

Happy Pride!

POP CULTURE SPIRIT WOW

Just came upon this old routine of Tig Notaro’s, which is basically the genius comedy equivalent of what I did to you all last week.

If you’re still here reading let me just say, in the words of my one time college hall director: you’re a star.

616 is Marvel comic’s designation for its universe. It’s Earth-616; we’re Earth-1218. Last week was Episode 616, so I just thought…

Hello? Is this on?

Hey I just try to keep things interesting.  As does this dog owner.

Real sign, real dog. I imagine its eyes are enormous and terrifying and yet I don’t care, with that name I need that dog in my life.

A lot going on in my tiny corner of the universe. I got back from this crosscountry journey I was on Friday. You might wonder, what’s it like driving cross country? On the way east, I would say it was exciting, in the sense that on some deeper level that I wasn’t even really aware of, I didn’t really believe it was possible to go all the way. I don’t know what I thought would happen, I just didn’t think you could actually do it.

How did people ever get in sail boats and propose it was possible to cross the Atlantic?  Jesus Mary and Joseph were they crazy.

On the way back I had intended on taking Route 66. Because that’s where you get your kicks, amirite?

Except it’s also where the speed limit is often 35 and the towns have been eaten alive by the desert and the absolute lack of tourist dollars in the last 15 months.

I spent one night in a place that was absolutely a murder hotel….

…and one in an absolutely fantastic place in New Mexico where the owner lit a campfire every night and invited people to come out and have a drink. Which I would have done except I had driven 35 hours in the prior 3 days. I honestly almost stayed an extra day in a town that literally had zero to do just for that fire pit. (It was a great hotel.)

But instead I came home and now my world is boxes, which is to say “how much weight can I carry?” I had started packing before I left, bought all these boxes only to discover huh, if you fill the big boxes they are impossible for all but the Incredible Hulk to carry. I could hear my friend Jean nodding as I told her about this discovery on the phone. “Big boxes for clothes. Small boxes for books,” she said. Of course I bought no small boxes. Because big!

This tweet is apropos of nothing and a Star Wars deep cut but I want you to have it.

I thought it would be hard to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, but honestly, the whole thing is happening at such a clip for the moment there’s just no room in me for romance. Yes, I’ve always wanted to read this book, but I have now owned it for 11 years and still have not read it and so no.

The Benedictines, I am told, have a tradition of getting rid of anything they don’t use in the course of a year. It’s a very interesting exercise just to consider. In my experience, you really don’t use that much of your stuff in a year. I mean, it’s embarrassing how much of my stuff falls into the “I said eight years ago I will read this someday and so I still have it” category.

(This is one of the great side benefits of Kindle. You can have a thousand books that you have not yet read, but you don’t have to be confronted by it. On the other hand, when Amazon inevitably collapses all those books you converted to digital to make things easier are going to be very hard to read.)

(Crazy but true: I have literally considered filling a very old iPad with books as a backup for that apocalypse.)

With the Jesuits there can be a certain amount of judgment around the number of boxes you might have. Can you believe he needed a U-Haul? You mean like a normal person? 

It’s a poverty thing, and that’s not bad in itself, but it’ll drive you crazy if you think much about it. So of course I am.

So far I’m actually kind of pleased, though. I really don’t have that much stuff, aside from comic books (which is a rather huge aside, hey, look, what’s that over there?).

And actually I’m going to need to buy clothes, a fact that I realized very clearly when I was in Chicago and this water fell from the sky and everyone seemed ready for it but me.

Honestly, I’ve also been living in shorts for a long time. And that’s maybe a little beyond what dress casual allows in NYC?

It seems crazy to say, Hey, I’m moving: New wardrobe! But when you move from the West to the East, that’s how it goes, I guess?


Me In a Tweet:


So it’s Pride Month! Happy Pride!

Last year at this time I had the privilege of being able to preside online and talk about pride. We sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Rainbow Connection (because of course we did). And I might have gotten a little vklempt.

I’ve been thinking lately, one thing that is never not challenging about being gay in the church is that even if you get to the point where you are okay enough with yourself to admit who you are first to yourself and then to others, you’re still moving in an environment that is undermining to that sense of self.

You might be in a good community where the priest gets it and the people are welcoming and that is a huge help. Huge. But it’s all impermanent. The pastor leaves, the bishop changes, the pope changes or you just ever go anywhere else and all that progress is potentially gone. Which is to say it’s not really progress in the first place, just the beneficence of certain temporary authority figures.

I can’t imagine that’s going to change any time soon, though can one hope. But I think that situation is really important to remember. Until there’s actual change in policy in the church, queer Catholics can’t actually feel safe and at home.

Actually, the position of queer Catholics feels in some ways like how a lot of us are feeling right now pandemic-wise. We’ve been vaccinated, we’re more or less safe to do the things we did before, and to do them without masks or constant hand washing or anything else.  And yet we still feel vulnerable. We see people not wearing masks indoors in public spaces and it’s like, Steer Clear, Baby. And I don’t care if In the Heights is in theatres and it’s incredible (it really is, you guys), HBO Max sounds fine.

In my experience queer people in the church live with that same underlying sense of vulnerability. We’ve lived with it for so long, it might not be as top of mind as wearing a mask is right now. But it’s that sense of things being constantly uncertain. And unlike the pandemic, there’s no vaccine we can look to in order to remind ourselves we’re actually fine. Everything really is okay.

There’s the natural and very good impulse to understand being a support to queer people as welcoming us, trying to make us feel at home. Which is great and beautiful and revelatory.

But another way of creating a place of welcome is to join others who are calling for change. Or, in this month of pride, to be a part of those moments when queer people are celebrating. Dance it out with us and together we’ll create an experience of the reality of the kingdom of God that is undeniable (and also fabulous).


This feels like a weird thing to put directly after something about Pride but I love Aidy Bryant and I hope you like it.

That’s all I got this week. Next week…well, either I’ll be mostly done with packing and sending things away or I will be in nightmare and this newsletter will probably be just a series of goofy tweets that I found. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, wishing you all well in your own journeys through this weird post(ish?) pandemic time. Take the roads and the time you need to. If we learned anything last year, wasn’t it in part the gift of accepting who you are and treasuring the little moments along the way?

See you soon.

EPISODE 616: LIVE FROM KRAKOA

This might be a deep cut.

POP CULTURE SPIRIT WOW

So I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but in addition to doing God and religion and stuff there are some Jesuits that are pretty deep in the world of science. We’ve got Jesuit doctors, Jesuit sociologists, even Jesuit astrophysicists.

And one of those guys is apparently a fan of the newsletter and got in touch recently to point out that I was approaching episode 616 and did I perhaps want to try and do the newsletter equivalent of a livestream from Earth-616, otherwise known as the Marvel Universe.

Now if you’re thinking Wait a minute, now… well, so was I. First of all, how do we know that the Marvel Universe actually exists? But I guess he’s part of a school of thought that argues if we accept the notion of the multiuniverse in which there are an infinite number of universes, then there absolutely must be an actual Marvel Universe. And apparently he’s held this view for quite some time, and has been working on a means of “hacking” into 616.

We were supposed to do it last week, but there was some kind of interference he hadn’t accounted for or some quadratic equation he had not properly solved for x, I don’t know, I try to write pretty words, what do I know from interdimensional coeefficents?

But I’m with him today as I’m writing this and he is nodding at me, telling me that we’re a go. Neither one of us is really sure how this will work, or how fast, but I’m going to give him the nod right now…

Okay, did it. And now I guess we just woh my God I wish you could see this. The work that Jumbo Carnation and his team have put in with each community member to design an outfit that steps beyond the standard human notions of clothing to make room for each person’s unique gifts is just amazing. Like seriously, if Storm can make stormclouds, why not use them?

(Her outfit is not only partially black cloud, it has tiny lightning bolts shooting through it all the time. It is unfreaking real.)

I know you’re probably wondering what I chose. Where you are it probably looks like every mutant on Krakoa is at the Hellfire Gala. But actually even among us it was very much by invite only. There’s all these super important people and a lot at stake — although what exactly has not been made clear even to us. Something to do with Mars, maybe — the planet, I mean. I know that sounds nuts, and seriously it probably is, people here drink WAY too much all day long. But that is the gossip at the Lagoon and so I’m reporting it.

Honestly I’m relieved not to be involved with the Gala. Beast was pushing to use me for what sounded like some very messed up spy thing, and I’m new enough that I was kind of worried I would have to do it or get kicked back to New York—which would not have been a bad thing, if I hadn’t spent six months hanging out with people who can fly or have sixty eight eyes. (Despite being super young, Eye-Boy, as he is known, is absolutely the greatest kid on the island. And he doesn’t know it, which makes it all that much more wonderful.) But I guess the Council got wind and were not having it. Seriously, for those of you whose memories of Hank McCoy are still warm, I felt the same when I got here. The man is part of the 05, for God’s sake. But in person he is pretty spooky. You can see his mind always running angles and keeping secrets. It’s very creepy.

I did, however, get to help welcome people to Krakoa. Just a ticket taker/help people step off their boats person. And in the process I did note a couple surprises.

First of all, Captain America smells bad. Like, real bad. Apparently because they did not have the kind of deodorant we do now, he never got in the habit, and he thinks it’s ridiculous. When in fact what is ridiculous is a dude wearing an American flag that smells like he has been living in an abandoned warehouse for the last 100 years.

It’s real real bad, you guys.

Meanwhile, Iron Man’s armor actually pumps out cologne. One of the Cuckoos read his mind and learned that he tells people he does it to hide the trail of stank that follows Cap everywhere. But in fact he think it makes him a player. But it’s Drakkar, you guys. So out of date and gross.

Who else can I tell you about? Sue Storm was super protective of the kids, and was doing this cool thing where she would constantly render people’s bags or jackets invisible so she could see if there was anything to worry about. It might seem a bit much, except with the whole cascading set of disasters surrounding Franklin — he’s a mutant and Professor X tried to steal him; he isn’t and Professor X wouldn’t even let him come back to get his stuff — I totally get it. Honestly, Franklin was one of the best kids in my class; he was so happy to be with us. What they’ve done just makes no sense to me.

Who else can I tell you about? Hawkeye and Spider-Man each tried to sneak into the party. Emma let Hawkeye in. I guess they have history? Also she insisted that he go by the nickname “Himbo” all night, which is pretty hilarious.

Speaking of which, this has been making the rounds on Mutter. Pretty hilarious (and totally true).

Spider-Man got turned away repeatedly. Literally no one wanted him there except for me and a few other New Yorkers. “They think they want him,” Cyclops said near me, “but give him 20 minutes and he’ll be creating some kind of unintentional chaos that he’ll escape from him unscathed while the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces.”

So yeah. He actually got put in a boat, driven off shore and then dumped in the Pacific. Super harsh, but he didn’t seem too put out. I don’t think we’re the first to do this too him.

What other things are people always asking…Oh right. Magneto is actually handsome in person, but no, not as muscular as he seems. He’s fit, but he is a man is in his early 60s. His six pack days are over.

(UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANYONE TO TELL HIM THIS AS HE COULD VERY MURDER ME FOR SPORT AND I AM TRYING TO KEEP MY YEARS AND DAYS WITHOUT A RESURRECTION STREAK ALIVE.)

Professor X is straight up scary. For those of you who keep DMing me to ask him why he wears that helmet all the time, I am not doing that because he could erase all of my memories of you in an instant.

Lastly, Mystique seems to be spending all her free time punking people. It’s cute, I guess, except part of her act seems to be ruining people’s lives — she has destroyed pretty much every young person’s credit rating at this point.

Other questions I’m getting:

Do you miss Apocalypse? God no.

Is Roger Moore really dead? Yes, Jane, he is. Please stop emailing me. Roger Moore is not a mutant. Or a good actor.

Do your dogs have to be mutants to get on the island, too? Maybe theoretically, but they’ve looked a blind eye so far. Thank God. Krakoa has three writte rules, but LET PEOPLE HAVE THEIR PETS is definitely understood to also be true.

++

That’s pretty much all there is to report at this point. I should get back to the Not-Party we’re having back at the Lagoon. No-Girl is host/DJ and she is killing it.

Miss you all! More wait to see if this will work. If I’m being honest I have my doubts. The Jesuit astrophysicist guy is really still pretty sketchy on the details.

Actually the whole thing kind of feels like this: (Read left to right and stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.)

I feel like I should have some article recommendations or something for you in case it doesn’t pan out. Maybe some stuff for Pride?

Here’s a piece from the NY Times today talking about NYC Catholic parishes that are welcoming to queer people. One of those mentioned is Xavier Parish in Chelsea, which is a community I lived at for a couple years and I am actually going to be returning to next month!

Here’s an interesting piece about six queer TV and film creators who have projects they want to get made and no one will give them green light. Some really great ideas in there.

And this is a great piece about the costumes used in queer-friendly show Shrill (which I’ve written about here before and you should definitely watch; so so good). As I’ve rewatched a bunch of episodes now I’ve been really struck by the costumes and also the cinematography. It’s a sitcom that has put way more time into considering its visuals than most do.

(Oh, and for anyone interested, I got asked to write a little piece about the HBO Max Friends Reunion show recently. I got a little dark at some points — reunions, man, they are not my jam. But lots of fun stuff to think about, too.)

Okay, still no idea if this is ever going to work, so I think I’ll sign out for now. Things are a little crazy right now as I start packing to move but I should be back next week.

In the meantime, hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and working to connect beyond your own universes to this weird old planet we call home. It’s been a scary year, but little by little we get to make a world together again.

Have a great week.

Happy Memorial Day

I’m off for Memorial Day. But next week will be extra special—seriously, we’re going to have so much fun.

In the meantime, if you like dogs, let me introduce you to your new favorite newsletter.

Have a great holiday. See you next week!

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