Light Rafts for Flagging Spirits | Vol 13

Believe in miracles, in cures, and healing wells ... What a week! I'm such a fan of divine reversals and so many seemed to unfold before us over the last several days, when hope and history collided.

1. Derek DelGuadio’s In & Of Itself | Hulu

Please believe me when I say just watch this. It’s so singular and enduring, if you haven’t seen it yet, I feel confident you’ve never seen anything like it before. Ever.

My husband and I bought a ticket for In & Of Itself the day the film premiered back in November during the DOC NYC film festival (which moved entirely online because of the pandemic), knowing almost nothing about it except that it was directed by Frank Oz (of Star Wars and Sesame Street fame) and executive produced by Stephen and Evelyn McGee Colbert.

In a word, we both were poleaxed by the film—a hybrid of documentary and performance, a filmed version of illusionist Derek DelGuadio’s off-Broadway one-man show that ran for more than 500 performances at the intimate Daryl Roth Theater in New York City’s Union Square, between 2016 and 2018.

We immediately wanted to talk to friends and blasted out texts encouraging them to pay the $12 to watch the film during its too-short DOC NYC run. Alas, we would have to wait two months for In & Of Itself to make it to Hulu (debuting Thursday 1/22), where we pray it finds the broader audience it richly deserves.

There is so sooooooo much I want to say about this film. But I’m not going to, at least not here and now, because I want you, dear readers, to have the same experience Maury and I did, and just … watch it. Sight unseen. Please don’t Google it or look for reviews. Trust me on this one.

And if you don’t trust me, trust Stephen Colbert who said, “Evie and I are honored to have helped Derek and Frank create this beautiful and mysterious film.”

Beautiful and mysterious. After what we’ve been through for the last year, hell, for the last five years, each of us could do with 90 minutes of beauty and mystery.

Watch In & Of Itself on Hulu HERE.

2. Lin Manuel-Miranda recites Seamus Heaney’s Cure at Troy | NYC

In case you missed it during the Presidential Inauguration Concert online Wednesday night…

As you likely already know, Seamus Heaney is also my favorite poet, and Lin-Manuel is a national treasure. In a day full of cathartic, grateful, hopeful tears, this was the big boo-hoo moment for me.

The entire inaugural concert was a triumph, artistically, emotionally, spiritually. (Bravo to Stephanie Cutter and her team at Precision Strategies for producing some simply gorgeous television.) It was pitch perfect, in my opinion, so if you missed any of it—from Bruce Springsteen’s solo-acoustic opening with “Land of Hope and Dreams” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to perhaps the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life—here is the whole 90-minute megillah, via the PBS NewsHour.

3. Umberto Eco choosing a book from his huge personal library | Milan

This precious video of the late Italian author/philosopher that made the rounds online was one of my favorite not-related-to-the-inauguration moments of the week. It’s basically book porn.

Eco, whom The Guardian described as “a polymath of towering cleverness,” died five years ago next month at the age of 84, amassed an enormous personal library of reportedly 30,000 books at his home in Milan.


4. Astronautica: Voices of Women in Outer Space | Coming 1/27

Beginning at 7 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 27, New York’s Voices of Ascension Choir and Orchestra will present a newly commissioned work of music, voice, and video by women composers. Astronautica: Voices of Women in Outer Space, has a libretto “drawn from the words of the women who have traveled in outer space and seen our world from a dramatic new perspective.”

Originally scheduled to be performed in theaters last May, Astronautica’s creators—the Trio Triumphatrix of Lindsay Kesselman, Hai-Ting Chinn, and Kirsten Sollek—determined that the show must go on, and transitioned to a unique online experience.

Astronautica is an artistic evocation of the transformation that happens when one sees our small planet set against the endless blackness of space. Without borders. Without the artificial boundaries that divide – and could well destroy – humankind.

Tickets are $15 and ticket holders may watch the performance live or on-demand at a later date. Click HERE to purchase a ticket.

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5. Amanda Gorman’s poetic performance at the inaugural | D.C.

Didn’t I tell you last week that this young poet was one to watch???? Holy Moses.

Here is the text of Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”:

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.

But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain.

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

And if you didn’t catch Lin-Manuel surprising our nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate on Good Morning America the day after her historic oration at the inaugural, here’s your moment of joy. (It begins at the 6:00 mark.)

6. Gaelynn Lea: “Music has always been a little windy thread” | ACAF

This week on the Season 2 premiere of the Artist Care & Feeding podcast, we had the immense pleasure of welcoming a musician I’ve been a massive fan of since she won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest five years ago: Singer-songwriter, fiddler, composer, writer, TEDx-er, and disability activist Gaelynn Lea.

Gaelynn is a joyous force of nature, a badass with a huge heart and creative energy that is contagious. She’s played with the likes of Wilco, the Jayhawks, The Decemberists, and … the industrial music supergroup PIGFACE. When COVID ground virtually all live performances to a halt—especially those that involved singing—Gaelynn, who’d been touring nonstop since 2016, pivoted with her usual grace and determination, and turned her attention to fostering a community online, giving free concerts every Sunday on her YouTube channel (last Sunday she was joined by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his sons!), and started working writing a book-length memoir.

Listen to our conversation with the exceptionally talented and extraordinarily inspirational Gaelynn Lea below or on the ACAF website.

And in our Kait + Cath minisode, this week we tackled the affront to fashion and history that is the Vogue cover featuring Madame Vice President Kamala Devi Harris.

Kaitlyn, Mark and I have feelings about this. Buckle up.

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