Frances and Jack Ha
And a whole lotta blastin'
Est. Read Time: 5 minutes. Read Time brought to you once again by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections.
Mama Shelter Tuesday 7PM: Always a good time, I’m hosting this one.
Hi Sternal Journalists,
I was laid up for a couple days this week with food poisoning, or as I called it around the house “a whole lotta blastin.” While I was writhing in pain on or near the couch on the first day, I watched two things:
The Apple Music Zane Lowe interview of Jack Harlow, for the release of Jack’s sophomore album Come Home The Kids Miss You.
2012 black-and-white Noah Baumbach-Greta Gerwig collabo (angling to bring back collabo instead of collab) Frances Ha.
I really enjoyed both of them, and/or they were exactly the right mix of enjoyable, fulfilling, and easy-to-follow to distract me from my annoying-but-dumb pain. But I realized after the fact both are in some way about young artists trying to navigate their respective arts landscapes.
Frances Ha more directly—a story about a young(ish—27, so… ish) dancer who I think we in the audience are meant to lose faith in early so that we can then comfortably and gut-wrenchingly watch her lose faith in herself.
It has a happier ending than that sounds, but none of the things she or you want to happen along the way quite pan out. And for being fun and breezy in many ways, I whole-heartedly stand by its gut-wrenchiness. One particularly haunting exchange occurs at a dinner party when a guest asks Frances what she does and:
Frances: It’s kind of hard to explain.
Guest: Because… what you do is complicated?
Frances: Um... because I don’t really do it.
Eek! I, a young-ish artist-who-doesn’t-really-do-his-art and whose “ish” is really doing so much of the heavy lifting, almost rolled off the couch I felt so seen (The fact that these lines are delivered and share a writing credit from a woman who is increasingly becoming one of the most celebrated writer-directors of a generation only makes this more… complicated and/or hard to explain).
Then you’ve got my boy Jacky H. Say what you want about his album. Pitchfork said it was a 2.9/10 in what I thought was a pretty boringly self-obsessed review, but even they admit that he’s incredibly thoughtful and charming in interviews.
(Quick aside: is it better to be a charming good interview or a totally uncharming good interview?)
The thing that I keep remembering is that when Zane asks if Jack ever gets writer’s block, Jack says (paraphrasing because I couldn’t find the timestamp at this late hour of Sternal Journal publication) it happens all the time, but manifests as him getting caught up in a rhyme scheme rather than actually focusing on what message he’s trying to deliver while rhyming.
Translation: when he gets writers block, he’s still writing. He’s just writing aimlessly. You can look at this two ways. It could be seen as an annoying humble brag: “Wow, he’s saying that not liking what he writes is the worst writing ever gets for him.”
As sort of uplifting. The next time you have writer’s block, you could think “Well, this Grammy-nominated workaholic writes shit he doesn’t like all the time; I might as well not be scared to write down my bad ideas also.”
And though “I feel like I’m not writing sometimes even when I’m literally writing” feels like such a far cry from, if not the total opposite of “I don’t really do the thing I do,” I like to think that everyone has a little bit of Jack and a little bit of Frances, including both of them.
Because Jack Harlow might get real, true empty-brain capital-dubyabee Writer’s Block one day. If Frances Ha was still dancing in a non-world-class but charismatic way in 2022 (plus if she was not a fictional character), I can think of a social media platform or two where she might find some roaring success and suddenly never not be doing what she does.
In any event, while still sick, I tried to will myself to have a fever dream where Jack Harlow and Frances Ha are at a dinner party, but I couldn’t quite muster it. I still wanna see Harlow and Gerwig chat it up. It’s not totally impossible that her Barbie movie and his White Men Can’t Jump reboot come out at the same time. Maybe they’ll sit for the SternJourn. I’m pretty certain they haven’t met yet:
Non-Disclosure Agreement. Short Story. I couldn’t put down this sinister, sometimes funny story by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh about an overeducated man whose dream job turns out to not be one.
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Album. First new Kendrick album in five years. Obviously incredible. Have listened once through, I have to and am excited to listen many more times.
The Man Who Controls Computers With His Mind. Article. This article from the NYT health issue was the first thing I’ve read or heard or seen about brain-computer interfaces (e.g. NeuraLink) that made me feel vaguely like I know understand what they are, where we’re at with them, and where we might be. All the normal mixes of interesting, exciting, scary that future tech stories bring.
That’s all for this week. I’d like to acknowledge before we go that some really terrible things happened this week in the world, including the horrifying white supremacist shooting spree in Buffalo, New York. If you’re looking for ways to help, GoFundMe has aggregated the verified fundraisers supporting individuals and families affected by the shooting here.
Sending much love as always,