Dead People, Alive Art
Our modern culture loves the here-and-now, preferring all our focus tilts towards the latest trends, the newest relevant art, the loudest and most attention-getting current Thought Leader™. But… Will this work and these ideas endure? Some of it, possibly. But a whole lot of what’s applause-seeking now will be forgotten in a year, or decade, or heck — next month.
This is why it’s good for us to notice what stuff has stood the test of time, whose art has endured. There are SO many dead people who still live through their phenomenal work, and in 2021 we should both enjoy it and listen to what it teaches us …because clearly there’s something noteworthy there. Seth and Tsh unpack whose older work affects them today — and who they’ve grown to appreciate even more the older they get.
Support the show — buy the next round of drinks!
Subscribe to the show’s Substack
Find all the episodes
Tsh’s Rule of Life workshop
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
The People Yes, by Carl Sandburg
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
The Presence of the Kingdom, by Jaques Ellul
Requiem Mass, by Mozart
A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane
Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society
Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life
This Beautiful Truth, by Sarah Clarkson
Scroll down for the transcript
Tsh: This is A Drink With a Friend, I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
Seth: And I’m Seth Haines.
Tsh: Seth, what are you drinking?
Seth: This episode is brought to you in part by, I say in part because it’s not sponsored, but in part, because I’m drinking Waterloo but I’m drinking a blueberry Waterloo.
Tsh: Is it good?
Seth: I’ve never had. I’ve got to be honest with you, this one kind of misses of all the Waterloos. And you know how I feel about Waterloo, I love it. This one doesn’t really give me the full blueberry punch in the mouth that I want.
Tsh: I don’t know if blueberry makes good drink, I think I’ve learned. I like to eat them but not drink them.
Seth: I like it when I can get that flavor in a coffee from time to time but I sort of expected to get punched in the mouth with blueberry but instead this is a whiff, if you will, of blueberry. I wish it were a little bit more. Waterloo, if you’re listening, give me some blueberry, baby.
Tsh: Up your game.
Seth: Yeah, up your game. Tsh, what are you drinking?
Tsh: I decided to go really classy and I’m drinking a black cherry White Claw. You stopped drinking after White Claw came out so I’m guessing you’ve never had one. Just guessing.
Seth: I don’t even know what that is.
Tsh: It is like a hard seltzer but in a can. It’s like, I don’t even know what alcohol it is, vodka maybe? I don’t know. It’s basically fizzy water with something in it and I am drinking this simply because it’s almost 5pm and I’ve just had two weeks of staff meetings nonstop and I am a shell of a person. I’m exhausted. I love teenagers but I don’t want to think about teaching them about old books for at least a month if I can help it, six weeks. This is my celebratory, and it’s pouring down rain out here and it feels like a nice day to just veg as soon as we’re done here.
Seth: Is this one of those things that you would take with you on a tubing trip?
Tsh: Yeah, because you can’t be bothered to mix something and it needs to be in a can. You’re not exactly going to impress anyone with this.
Seth: Maybe there’s somebody out there who’s like, ooh, White Claw. That’s super fancy-dancy.
Tsh: Maybe so? I don’t know. All I know is it’s not too expensive and it’s at the grocery store.
Seth: The obvious question is, what does it pair well with?
Tsh: Enchiladas? Whatever sounds good to me right now. Probably tex mex, nothing fancy. Street tacos.
Seth: I think it pairs well with dead people.
Tsh: Hey, nice transition.
Seth: Yeah, thanks.
Tsh: Last week on the episode, we ended half-joking, half not, with let’s talk about dead people whose work lives on and we’re glad about that. We thought what a great idea we had at the spur of the moment. To add some levity to the past few conversations which have been on the heavier side, we thought, let’s talk about not so much death, but the inevitability of death and how some people’s works have lived on because they just did really good stuff while they were alive. You want to go back and forth and talk about people whose work we’re glad is still alive?
Seth: I think that would be great. As a predicate, there’s so much content that’s generated. We’ve talked about this so much over and over again and so much of it is borrowed, some of it is straight-up stolen from dead people. So much of it is borrowed. So much of it is recycled. Some of it is just real vacuous, is that fair to say? That so much of the content generated in our internet age is vacuous. I think for both of us, we’ve been grounded in some ways and lifted up and encouraged and pushed on by the really good, new, fresh work of people who were here sixty, eighty, one hundred years and moved on and some of those people have been gone quite a while but their work has endured. I think both of us have this fascination with enduring work.
Tsh: I remember us talking about this in Italy on the grass in front of that monastery, not just you and me, but a whole group of us talked about what work that’s being made now is going to still be read or enjoyed in one hundred years? Our guess was not that much because that’s the way it has always been. It feels especially ephemeral now with the way social media works and how quick it is that perhaps there is something we can learn from these people whose work has remained. Why has it remained? I think there’s a certain timelessness, at least who I have on my shortlist, that to me maybe speaks to us. They might be talking about a time from a century ago but it sounds like they could be talking about today.
Seth: I agree with that. With that said, who’s first on your list?
Tsh: I don’t know how you narrowed it down because there’s no way I’m going to talk about everybody.
Seth: No way!
Tsh: Not at all. I picked five people. I don’t know how many you did. You know what? I say that, I picked five categories. Maybe as I go, I’ll decide who I’m going to talk about with each category.
Seth: That will be fun because I only picked three so maybe I’ll get to think of some additional on the fly.
Tsh: Okay, let’s just see. If we get to three each that will be fine. The first one that I have I went with storyteller because why not? Storytellers are the things, stories are probably what endures more than anything else in human creation. The one I picked is Jane Austen. I don’t know if you've read much Jane Austen. I just had the torturous job of trying to narrow down what we’re going to read this next school year from my juniors and seniors so I’ve been flipping through a lot of old work, a lot of dead people’s writing. There’s tons of great stuff. I went with Jane Austen because I was re-reminded of how her stories feel so timeless because we all know how many times they’ve been remade into movies, modern adaptations, versions of the basic plots of her stories are told even now in most rom-coms or some version thereof. I picked her, specifically Pride & Prejudice because it is just so funny. I don’t know if you’ve ever read her work? She’s a very funny lady. Her humor seems to stand up. I really admire her and her very short life. She died young which like lots of people whose work endures seems to have done. That’s my first choice.
Seth: I have to say, I haven’t read a whole lot because 1) as a man you’re told that this is women’s lit and that’s really unfortunate. I actually thought about that for the first time, I guess it was last year, I’ve never really read Jane Austen. I wasn’t made to read any in high school like we read other things and that’s really unfortunate. I think I’m going to try and remedy that. I don’t know that I’m going to remedy it this year.
Tsh: I get it. You’ve got time, I think? Right?
Seth: I hope so. Lord willing. The days of man are numbered, Tsh.
Tsh: That’s very true. As we know from this topic. Who’s your first person?
Seth: I won’t go in order of how I had them listed. I will stick with your category of storytellers.
Seth: I think one of the ones on my list is Ray Bradbury for a very good reason. 1) I’ve always loved Fahrenheit 451. But I really, really loved his short stories that are in The Painted Man and then some of his Martian Chronicle stuff. I’ve always really liked him as a writer. I think the reason that I like him so much as a writer is because he pulls together words in super interesting ways. I’m going to read a little bit, this is from Fahrenheit 451 and it’s about Montag who’s the protagonist at the firehouse. It says,
“He hung up his black beetle-colored helmet and shined it. He hung his flameproof jacket neatly. He showered luxuriously and then whistling, hands in pockets walked across the upper floor of the fire station and fell down the hole.”
What I love about that is a couple of things. 1) The interesting descriptions that Bradbury uses. Using things like beetle shape, it indicates, we all know exactly what that means but you would never have thought to have said it that way. Black beetled colored helmet. The other thing is, we talk as writers a lot about striking unnecessary adverbs and I’ve often said to people when I’m coaching or writing with them or editing, and I don’t know who I got this from. It was from somebody. Number your adverbs one through three and if it is a weak adverb like he ran quickly, well duh, he ran. Number that as a one. But if it’s something that’s a little bit more unexpected, label it a three and if it’s in the middle label it a two. Strike all your ones, consider keeping your twos, and keep all your threes. I think that sentence that I just read is really indicative of that. He hung his flameproof jacket up neatly. That’s probably a two, right? It shows that he has this rumpled, daily use jacket that he runs and uses in these fires. But he takes care of it so it says neatly, it actually says something but he doesn’t just throw it on a hook, he hangs it neatly. It says something about his character. Then he showered luxuriously, it tells you everything you need to know about that world. That this is actually a pleasure, a luxury, and something that you really take time to enjoy. It says a lot about the character. I’ve always liked Ray Bradbury. I like the way he uses imagery but I also really appreciate the way he uses adverbs particularly in light of the fact that so many writers will tell you, never use any adverbs. Which I think is B.S.
Tsh: Did you know that you actually helped me with this? For listeners who don’t know, I hired Seth to edit At Home in the World for me before I submitted it to my publisher. Did you know you did this with me? I don’t know if you remember this.
Seth: I forgot that, no.
Tsh: You actually did that with me a few times. You pointed out, you’ve got a lot of boring adverbs here. You were exactly right. I hadn’t noticed. I was too thick in the weeds to see my own writing and you made it better because of that. You’ve got the good adverb radar going and I’ve thought of that ever since. I love that you brought that up.
Seth: I think that it’s important. Again, a simple takeaway from this episode, if you’re a writer, could be, or a communicator of any sort is, label your adverbs one through three, get rid of the weak ones, consider what to do with the semi-strong ones, and never delete the strong ones.
Tsh: What I tell my students now is if you’ve got a lot of adverbs maybe that just means you need stronger verbs.
Tsh: Maybe you need to change that up. Good one. I like that.
Seth: Absolutely. Alright, what is for you, I guess we’re going in categories. What’s your category two and what’s your pick.
Tsh: Oh man, this is hard. I went with poet. There are a lot of great, dead poets. There’s no way that I could pick all of them but I went with the most recent favorite of mine, a favorite of mine who most recently died who is Mary Oliver. She died in 2019, just two years ago. I think what I appreciate about Mary’s work, that sounds wrong. Oliver’s work, it just sounds too colloquial. I don’t know her. She made poetry accessible. I have read some critiques of her collections that said that as though it were an insult. I thought it was a compliment. To me, she made poetry accessible for me. I remember back reading her many moons ago when poetry seemed intimidating and she made it not so intimidating. I really appreciate her enduring work. I thought I would actually read a tiny snippet of probably her most well known, called The Summer Day. I’m not even going to read the whole thing even though it’s short, I’m just going to read the last half. She says,
“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
That’s the end and a lot of us know that last line. That’s probably one of her more famous quotes but I love everything that precedes that. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is, but I do know how to pay attention.” I just get chills and I’ve read it a hundred times. She just takes ordinary words and ties them together in a way that just makes sense to the average listener. If anyone is listening and they feel intimidated by poetry or they don’t know where to start, try with Mary Oliver first because she’s really accessible.
Seth: Mary Karr, has an essay called “Against Decoration,” I think you can find it in the back of her collection by Viper Rum. “Against Decoration” talks about this very thing. It talks about the poet who tries to gussy things up and make it sound super smart and I think all of us have been, who have dabbled in poetry, have been guilty of that, particularly in our 20s. The older I get the more I appreciate plain speak.
Tsh: I was just going to say, “plain speak.” Yep, I agree.
Seth: Even in, I think about William Stafford’s poems from Kansas. He is very artful, beautiful, but super plain-speak and amazing. He has a poem called, “Scars,” if you haven’t seen it you should look it up. That’s not who I’m going to go within this category. You’ve chosen a category, there’s no way I could possibly pick my favorite dead poet so when you said that, I was like Theodore Roethke. No, T.S. Eliot. No, E.E. Cummings. Then I just obviously said someone else, Will Stafford. But I think I’m going to go with Carl Sandburg.
Tsh: Oooh, good choice.
Seth: I have read The People, Yes, twice. It is a book-length poem and it is such an amazing work. I just want to read a little bit to you here. It’s about our country and actually, I find it’s really prophetic for this time in our country’s history.
He was a mystery in smoke and flags
Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,
Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
Yes to the hopes of government
Of the people by the people for the people,
No to debauchery of the public mind,
No to personal malice nursed and fed,
Yes to the Constitution when a help,
No to the Constitution when a hindrance
Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?
Lincoln? Was he a poet?
And did he write verses?
“I have not willingly planted a thorn
in any man’s bosom.”
I shall do nothing through malice: what
I deal with is too vast for malice.”
Death was in the air.
So was birth.”
He has an amazing book full of that kind of stuff.
Tsh: I’ve never read any of his, honestly.
Seth: It’s amazing.
Tsh: That’s really good. The People, Yes, you called it?
Seth: The People, Yes. That’s the name of the book. You can get it on Amazon and it’s just a book-length poem. Everything in it talks about really, today’s age. It’s the struggle of the working class versus the non-working class. The struggle of America in the early 1900s. What is your category three?
Tsh: This is a real cop-out category because I’m calling it Thinker, which I know is, everybody is a thinker. But I’m calling this person a Thinker because he has written fiction, he’s written a ton of non-fiction, and I like it both. He was also known at the time for being a good speaker. He spoke on the radio. To me, he’s an overall Thinker and that’s G.K. Chesterton.
Tsh: He is somebody that I had heard of in high school and he just sounded old and dead, frankly, not accessible, back to that word. I found him again later in life and I’ve grown to appreciate him the older I get because of how he spoke truth about his time, which was the early 20th century. I want to say early 1900s to about 1930-1940, is when he was at his height, and the things he wrote about his time read timeless. Leading Literary London, doing research about all the greats over there, I came to learn how many people were influenced by him. People that you would be surprised about that count Chesterton as an influence. Ghandi counts him as an influence, Agatha Christie. People of all sorts of genres. Neil Gaiman. I’m just continually surprised by how many people loved Chesterton. I really appreciate him. I love how funny he is, I love his Father Brown character. I love his conversion story of becoming Catholic. There’s a few quotes of his that I love, I just read them quickly because they mostly come from non-fiction essays about religion, about politics, and about the need for good stories. Those are things that I find myself thinking about a lot as I get older. One of my favorites that he says is, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.” To me, that’s fantastic. I love the idea of, Substack readers of mine will know this quote because I’ve already mentioned it several times. This quote really connected with me during quarantine whenever we were stuck in place and couldn’t travel last year. It says this, “Of all modern notions the worst is this: that domesticity is dull. Inside the home, they say, is dead to quorum and routine. Outside is adventure and variety. But the truth is that the home is the only place of liberty. The only spot on earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment, or indulge in a whim. The home is not the one tame place in a world of adventure, it is the one wild place in a world of rules and set tasks.” That was a lifeline. Last year when we had tickets bought and trips planned and we couldn’t take any of them. Just to re-read his thoughts a couple of times that the home can be a place of adventure whenever we make it where we’re meant to be. The spot on earth where we can make an experiment or indulge in a whim and I’m not saying we did it perfectly last year but it was a least a reminder that we don’t necessarily always have to be going somewhere interesting to be interested in things. I like the guy.
Seth: If I didn’t know any Chesterton and probably not Father Brown, we’re talking about Thinkers, not novels right now, where would I start? Where would you recommend I start?
Tsh: I would start with Orthodoxy, even though it’s going to be a slow read. Orthodoxy is where he packs the most punch. I feel like he says what needs saying. He says, maybe it’s what I need to hear. I really like how he processes thoughts and how he comes to conclusions and decides something is true and therefore chooses to believe it because he’s come to the understanding that it’s true. I really appreciate watching him process in that way. If that concept is new to you, it’s going to feel heady but not as heady as Aquinas. Not as heady as some other dead people.
Seth: Truth. I dig it.
Tsh: Who’s next on your list?
Seth: My dead Thinker would be, and this was not in my category so this is really fun for me, Jaques Ellul. I think Ellul gets a bad rap sometimes because of his association with Christian anarchy, which is deeply misunderstood but that’s a topic for another day. He has a book called, The Presence of the Kingdom that was actually super-instrumental in my understanding of two things. There was a time when I would have said, we are not people of the world. How are we supposed to vote? This binary system that gives us choices that aren’t any good. How am I supposed to navigate that? He helped me really understand a couple of things. 1) The role of your faith in the world and 2) the role of the world influencing faith, which are both very important things. He was dealing with a very particular crisis in the 1940s and 1950s in France in the Protestant church in particular because he was Protestant. The Protestant church was getting hyper-involved in politics and he was saying, warning, warning. This is not going to go well if you start making deals between church and state, the state is going to influence you far more than you’re going to influence the state. You think you’re bringing a Christian perspective to this political problem of the day, what’s going to end up happening is the state is going to infiltrate you and ruin you and bring down the Protestant church in France. I’m no historian but I can see what exists in the Protestant church in France in 2020. I think Ellul was probably onto something.
Tsh: When was he around?
Seth: He was around for a while but he was being published a lot in the late 50s and early 60s.
Seth: He was, I believe he was a philosophy professor. I know he was a professor but I think it was in philosophy. He also wrote a lot about technology, which he would have called technique and innovation and how technology and innovation needs to be humanization which is really interesting stuff. Let me read you a bit from his book, False Presence of the Kingdom. This is particularly on the topic of politics in the church.
“Christians who are conformed to the world introduce into the church the value judgments and concepts of the world. They believe in action. They want efficiency. They give first place to economics and they think all means are good for the spread of the church goes without saying. The Protestant thinks to adopt the means which the world employs since he finds those means useful in his profession or in his leisure time, they stand so high in this estimation that he cannot see why he should not introduce them into the church and make the things of the Spirit dependent upon them.”
Sounds like today.
Tsh: It does, doesn’t it?
Seth: What he’s saying is you go out there and you look at all of these mechanisms, whether it’s speed or efficiency or entertainment or celebrity or whatever and you bring those back in and you introduce them into your own faith practices that will ultimately lead to the demise of your faith practices. Again, he was Protestant and Christian but I would say that that applies to any denomination, to any religious structure or religion. To anything that is related to the inner life.
Tsh: I want to read it now.
Seth: It’s great, it’s amazing. It is a slow read, too. I did have a friend that I recommended it to who scoffed at me and then five years later in 2016 told me that he made his entire voting decision based on that book.
Tsh: Oh my gosh.
Seth: No pressure. What is your next category?
Tsh: My next category was musician. Again, like the poets, it’s impossible to pick because if you think of all the dead musicians, it’s impossible. I went with a classic which is Mozart. Which sounds weird because I was debating him, Marvin Gaye, so many other musicians, I was wondering why is he standing out to me? I think he stands out to me because he is such a head-scratcher to me. Amadeus was one of my favorite movies.
Seth: Me, too!
Tsh: As a teenager, I would watch that on repeat. What teenager does that? I would watch that, all four hours. That was my summer fun. I just find him so fascinating. He died young, he was a jerk, he had a lot of issues, he had relationship issues with his dad who started training him to play music when he was four but he was a prodigy and he supported the family financially so he was put to work right away. He was estimated to have an IQ of 160.
Tsh: He composed about 600 things that most are still around. And he’s one of the only people to have composed works in all the major genres of the time like from operas to symphonies. I don’t know classical music very well, I just know that he has a lot of breadth in that world of things. In 100 of those pieces, he wrote before he was fifteen. He just boggles the mind. One of the great bits about Amadeus is the story of jealously with Salieri, I believe is his name? Which I think we can all identify with a little bit. Watching his jealousy, because he’s just so good and it’s true. You listen to Mozart, you think, ah, classical music is classical music but if you were to search him out on Spotify, play some of his great works you will just be, you’ll freeze because you’re just in awe of the man’s work. In particular, the piece that keeps coming to mind is the Requiem. His Requiem Mass is just phenonomal. That’s the piece that comes to mind whenever I think of the philosophical debate is beauty objective. I cannot imagine listening to that and thinking, I mean, I could imagine saying that’s not my taste but saying that’s not beautiful, it just objectively is. Mozart’s Requiem to me is one of those, whatever killed you man, I’m just glad your work is still around hundreds of years later.
Seth: Every year, I get back into the Requiem, every year since I was thirteen, the first time that I heard it. Almost every year, I feel like I learn something new about it. It’s the most unending piece of music. It’s just enduring. It goes and goes and goes and it’s always a new surprise. When you listen to different composers do it, it’s super surprising.
Tsh: Good. Do you have a musician? I know I threw that one on you.
Seth: I have two. One is super-metaphorical, so I won’t go with that one but I’ll just say it out loud which is The Beatles. I know they’re not all dead, but aren’t The Beatles dead?
Tsh: They are dead as a group, so that’s a good choice.
Seth: I was thinking in that vein and we love The Beatles at my house. We play The Beatles all the time in my house. My youngest is obsessed with The Beatles and would probably love to be a Beatle if could have a time machine. Since that’s only metaphorical, I will go with John Coltrane.
Tsh: Ooh, that’s a good choice.
Seth: I love jazz music in general. I just love Coltrane’s story. He had his own deep conversion from this hard, drug abuser, his own genius with the saxophone, and then playing with Miles Davis and the amazing musicians of the era. Then, releasing A Love Supreme as this transcendent experience with God and naming that almost as a worship album. I’m with you, I use that worship album in a very loose sense but in the highest sense. I’m with you, when you listen to John Coltrane, particularly when you listen to A Love Supreme and if you know anything about his backstory and his bouts with addiction and ultimate freedom, it’s hard to listen to that and say there’s is no such thing as objective beauty. It is, riff after riff is so rich. It’s such a good piece of music.
Tsh: Nice. That’s a great choice. I debated something like that so I’m glad you said it. It’s a really good one.
Seth: Next category. Is this the last category?
Tsh: Yes. This is my fifth and dang, it’s a fifty-fifty tie for me. I went with actor, artist/actor, actor/artist, couldn’t decide. I went with actor as a form of art. There are two that come to mind, nearly tied for me because I get a pang anytime I see them on screen because I know they are not alive anymore. The first one is Alan Rickman. When he died, that was a gut punch I felt because I love his work as Snape, I love his work as Colonel Brandon is who I think of because that’s where I saw him first on Sense & Sensibility. The man is fantastic. I love his voice. I love what he does and what he does to his craft. The person though, that comes to mind is Robin Williams. It really hit me this year because we watched, Tate and I, I showed her Dead Poet’s Society for the first time. One of my all-time favorite movies. I adore that movie and I was in tears the whole time not because of the storyline but because I knew that he was no longer with us. The man was brilliant. I love his work and it is sad he’s not with us. But I am grateful for the work he did put out while he was. That’s my choice.
Seth: That’s a good one. He and also Philip Seymour Hoffman, are really difficult ones for me because they were both so talented and so plagued by darkness. There was something to that that led to their creative genius, I think. At the same time, when I think about those losses, it just feels, I don’t know why, it’s like Anthony Bourdain, it feels close to home and I don’t understand why. I don’t know them. There was just something that was utterly human about them.
Tsh: I think we’re getting into why their work matters because if we’re talking about sacramentality on this podcast, that’s a reason. They spoke to something bigger than the thing that they were doing.
Seth: Yeah. My choice in the category, and I actually thought that you might mention an actor today. This is going to be a really weird choice because this really is only based on one movie. It’s Jimmy Stewart.
Tsh: That’s a good choice.
Seth: The reason that I say Jimmy Stewart is not, maybe he was an amazing actor, I don’t know. When I watch older movies, I have a hard time telling who was an amazing actor and who wasn’t because they’re so over the top…
Tsh: Yeah, there’s a style.
Seth: “Evertying’s crazy!”
Seth: People were like, he was such an amazing actor for the day. Was he really, though? Anyway, I love Jimmy Stewart. The reason that I love Jimmy Stewart is that even in all his over the top-ness, I guess Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, that’s another one, that character I resonated with. Even in all his over the top-ness, that nostalgic good guyishness came out. Every year we watch It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas. It is not Christmas until we watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I force-fed my kids this one and I felt super bad about it. This year, one of my kids was like, it’s not Christmas until we watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and I was like, my job is done here.
Tsh: I was just going to say that! You did a good job.
Seth: Totally. We were watching it. This is probably the fifth or sixth year in a row that we’ve watched it as a family. I’ve watched it every year since Amber and I have been married, which I had never seen before that. It’s not like it reminds me of my childhood. It’s not like I have some fascination with the forties or fifties. It’s not like I have this huge taste for nostalgia either but there’s just something about the story of a good man who’s down on his luck, realizing what it means to live a good life. Jimmy Stewart gave us that character. When I think about work that endures and I think about dead actors, I don’t want to speak of the rest of the corpus of his acting career because I don’t know much about it, but he gave us that. He gave us that character and that makes me really, really happy.
Tsh: It does. We talked about this briefly around the holidays and I do know a bit about this movie because my dad is diehard It’s a Wonderful Life as in has art on the wall for It’s a Wonderful Life, that’s always up year-round.
Seth: That’s amazing.
Tsh: He used to host watch parties, play trivia games for people. I do know that one of the things interesting about that movie is it was not a huge success when it first came out. It was seen as a dud. I want to say until a decade later or so and then it was dusted off and revived. To me, I’m the same, it’s not Christmas until we watch that and I know some people don’t like it because it’s a slow burn but I think it’s the humanity of that movie, I appreciate it the older I get. I think that’s the thread that’s come in on all of this stuff that we have mentioned. For me, the older I get, the more I appreciate this really good art that has stood the test of time.
Seth: That’s true. I hope that some of the stuff that I listen to and read right now by living people will be around after me. I think some of it will. I think the older I get the better I am at identifying some of that. I am really grateful for these people who have gone on but have left us some really amazing work.
Tsh: I am, too. For those listening who are thinking about the summer coming up and it’s typical of you to grab whatever is on the new table at the bookstore, maybe consider, though that’s not a bad thing, maybe consider adding some older work to your repertoire, in your earbuds, in your library holds, whatever it is. You might be surprised at how timeless it is and how you might like it more than you think you do. Don’t use high school English as your only experience for some of this. You might find how much you have grown to like it as an adult.
Seth: That’s right.
Tsh: Weird to talk about this right after we just went through all this work but do you have anything that you are reading, watching, or listening to, maybe it’s newer, maybe not, that’s bringing more beauty to your life?
Seth: I would say that this falls in the middle category. It’s not newer, it’s not older. Amber and I love science fiction. I think you know this? We’ve talked about this. If I could do anything under a pen name it would be to write pulpy science fiction. If you’re an editor out there and you’re listening and you’re looking to acquire someone to write science fiction under a pen name, give me a shout. My fascination has led us to several shows that we really love, one of which is Fringe. I think I’ve probably talked about that before with you. The other, though, oh, The Expanse. We’ve definitely talked about that on this show. The basis for all of that was Battlestar Galactica. The new Battlestar Galactica.
Tsh: Okay. I saw that you mentioned something where you were watching it again.
Seth: Yeah, which is to say the one from the early 2000s. We decided to start watching it again and we decided that we were going to create a parent’s guide for it because there’s not one online and there is some stuff on it that’s, if you have a sixteen or seventeen-year-old you can be like, okay, listen kids, but if you have a nine-year-old, you can’t really watch it. We’ve decided to make some timestamps and some marks so that everyone can watch it if you want to watch it. Which everyone should want to watch it. As we were watching it, I’m thinking, I thought it was really timely during the Afganistan war and now I’m thinking, this is super timely stuff for right now. Again, truth be to your goodness, that’s a broad guidelines and broad characteristics but I think definitely this falls in the truth bucket. There are some things that happened in that show that yes, that is where we find ourselves right now. Or yes, that is the most human expression of anything I’ve seen on television in the last year. It seems to keep getting, like the work that we’ve talked about, it seems to keep getting better as the years pass and it’s phenomenal.
Tsh: I want you to create that parent guide because we’ve never watched any of it and it’s been on our to-watch list because we think at least two out of three of our kids would love. It’s something we want to get into as a family.
Seth: It’s amazing. We’ve already completed the mini-series and I think Amber is going to make me throw it up on a blog whenever we get it all completed. What are you listening to, watching, reading that’s bringing truth, beauty, or goodness to your life?
Tsh: I haven’t had much free time because of all of my meetings and my book edits. This came in the mail about a week ago. It is by a friend, Sarah Clarkson. I know her mom maybe a little bit more than her, Sally Clarkson. This is her oldest daughter. She’s an American who is married to an Anglican priest in England and it’s called, This Beautiful Truth, which I think is pretty fitting for this podcast. We might need to have her on. It’s her story of, I’m only on chapter two, I’m going to say that point-blank. I don’t know how it ends up. I really like her work. I like how she thinks about life. I like what she says when she is online which isn’t often, which I also appreciate. This is a story about her struggle with mental illness and what she’s learned about God, specifically OCD but I think it’s applicable to all sorts of mental illness or even just struggle when you’re questioning why God allows bad things to happen to good people. She ended up studying that at Oxford, the Odyssey, getting multiple degrees in it just out of interest in her own life of this issue that has never been resolved in human history. This is a really well-done job, so far, as I start chapter three. We’ll find out. I’ll put it in the show notes.
Seth: That’s fascinating. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Tsh: It’s a good read right. I’ll keep you posted. Alright, it’s time to wrap this up. You can find this episode, as well as all episodes, at adrinkwithafriend.com. You can support us over there at adrinkwithafriend.com as well for just a few bucks if you want to buy the next round of drinks, it helps keep the lights on around here because what we do isn’t free but it’s free for you to consume so if you love it, that’s how you can partner with us and we super-duper appreciate it. You can find me and all my work, especially my newsletter and books, at tshoxenreider.com — Seth, where can people find you?
Tsh: With an “I”?
Seth: Well, people always spell it like the underwear and I don’t know who that Seth Haines is.
Tsh: I thought you meant Instagram with an “I”, I was like, how else would you spell Instagram?
Seth: With a “Y”? Sometimes Y?
Tsh: An “E”, Enstagram?
Tsh: Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, editing is by Kyle Oxenreider, and Caroline TeSelle is our transcriber and assistant extraordinaire. I’m Tsh Oxenreider with Seth Haines, and we’ll be back here with you soon. Thanks for listening.