What would Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kirsten Dunst + Lena Dunham say?

12 July 2013

Last week, my little cultural bunny, Kelsey, introduced me to a project called “We Think Alone” by performance artist, Miranda July.

Besides her perfectly messy crop of dark curls, cerulean blue eyes and sartorialist fashion sense, July is probably best known for writing, directing and starring in the film “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Along with the interactive project “Learning to Love you More,” that was completely crowdsourced and inspired thousands of visitors to take part in assignments at home, such as “braid someones hair, “make a field guide to your yard” and  “feel the news.”

Her most recent project, We Think Alone is a bit more straightforward and only exists in our email inboxes. July asked a group of ten friends that included, Retired NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, actor Kirsten Dunst, Kate and Laura Mulleavy (of the fashion brand Rodarte) and Girls creator Lena Dunham to scavenge through their out-boxes for emails they’ve sent to loved ones, agents, friends, the more mundane the better on 20 selected topics.  July then buckets them into themes and sends them to the public. Last week’s topic was “money” and this week’s topic “advice.’

The advice compilation really struck me.  Think about the advice you’ve received from your parents, bosses, and best friends over email.  How to prepare for an interview, negotiate the rent on an apartment, what to do on a first date or how to heal a broken heart.  These are all topics i’ve sought advice with the answers coming through to my inbox. There’s a level of thoughtfulness, openness and well, frankness that’s achieved.  I keep them saved with a gold star in my gmail account to reference or share when needed.  Reading through this weeks emails from the project felt rather voyeuristic but also comforting seeing such personal exchanges from celebrities.

“Our inner life is not actually the same thing as our life on the computer.  How they comport themselves in email is so intimate, almost obscene — a glimpse of them from their own point of view.” – Miranda July

You can sign up to receive the weekly email that is delivered every Monday with a selected topic of Miranda July’s choosing.  The project will run through November.

A few of my favorite excerpts from this week on “Advice.”


———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Lena Dunham
Subject: Re: facebook
Date: Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 7:42 PM

To: K

Listen to me. I am a woman who loves and adores and, I believe, understands you. You did nothing wrong. He is NOT NICE. He says not nice things in a nice voice so they seem nice but they are not. He isn’t kind or careful with you, he wants to suck the kindness out of you, and if he’s like this after 10 years of group therapy then G-d help us all. He’s not for you bc he’s not for anyone. Do you hear me? Good. I understand SO much the appeal, but he’s not worth your energy and someone like art guy may not be perfect or right but he’s starting on a good foot by offering some of himself to you and wanting to give you pleasureful times

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: KAJ
Date: January 15, 2013 3:03 PM
Subject: Becoming a Pro Basketball Player
To: Max

Hi Max,
Thank you for your recent email. I’m glad you enjoyed my visit to your school and that I was able to autograph your book. I’m just happy kids your age know who I am let alone ask me for advice. You wanted to know the best way to become a professional basketball player.
The first part of my advice you’re probably not going to like very much. Ready? Here it comes: Go to college, study really hard, and get good grades. I know the life of a pro looks pretty glamorous with fancy cars and lots of money, but the truth is that money doesn’t make life interesting and neither does just playing basketball. What makes life really fun is interacting with all kinds of people and if all you can do is talk about the shot you made or the ball you stole, you won’t be very interesting to people.
Also, life is long but basketball careers can be short. Injuries, age, or just better players make the average length of the pro career about six years. Mine was twenty years, but that’s unusual. Even with my long career, I’ve been retired from the game longer than I played it, which is why I’m so grateful I studied so hard at UCLA. My studies in history and English have made it possible for me to become a writer rather than just a guy who used to play basketball. Now, if that scared you off, then you never really wanted to be a pro, because a pro can’t be scared off. He or she can’t picture anything else but themselves playing on that court night after night. There is no one path to becoming a pro, but there are some general guidelines that might help:
1.     Practice every spare moment you can.
2.     Never neglect your studies for basketball.
3.     Don’t rely only on the moves you’re already good at. Keep developing new skills. Each skill you have that someone else doesn’t makes you that much more valuable on a team.
4.     Go to college and play your heart out, but don’t go to college just to play. Treat it as an extra-curricular activity—one that you love, but that’s not as important as your studies.

Hope that helps, Max.

Good luck to you.



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