“Cheek to Cheek” by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett:


I’ve been a fan of Lady Gaga since before she was a thing. I vividly recall watching that strange art film she did where she carried a staff around Hollywood and spoke French and it didn’t make any sense, but I didn’t care. It’s been great fun to see her musical evolution and what she’s had to do to have the freedom to create what she wants. She’d often spoken of her love of jazz, something we share (even if I’m more into lounge style crooning), but we didn’t really get a taste until she did that holiday special and sang “Orange Colored Sky.”

That was revelatory, and I’ve been saying that she needs to release an album of standards every since. I say this of Beyoncé, too, and I still hope that one day my dream is realized. I’m also demanding a much needed duet between Dolly Parton and Bey, but I’m not getting much support. Anyway, I’ve been over the moon with glee ever since she announced that she was doing a jazz album with Tony Bennett. I’m not crazy about Tony, but if that’s what it takes to get Gaga jazzy, I’m good with it. The album is finally out and I adore it. These classics are one of my very favorite kinds of music, and there’s nothing more glorious than listening to her sing on “Nature Boy,” which has become my new favorite song. I found the sheet music and I play it on the piano now. You all need to get a copy of this wonderful album.

My Latest Tattoo:


I’ve loved tattoos for years now, and I got my first one a year or two ago. Ever since I went to Egypt, I’ve been meaning to get something inked on my person that means I accomplished my childhood dream of visiting that faraway locale. At first I thought a pyramid might be it, but when I finally stood in front of them, they didn’t really speak to me. Besides that, all the hipsters are covered in triangle tattoos. I’ve not yet figured out what the relevance of that is. Do you know? Comment below. I didn’t want to look like a hipster, so I’ve been at a loss for what to do. I have considered a quote tattoo, too, but I’m not exactly sure how I feel about them. I want one that says, “If you don’t do it, you won’t have done it.” The font choice has driven me insane, though. I’m a bitch about just the right font and it has to be perfect to be put on my skin. Anyway, last week, my best friend Alison and I were going to the Art Center to mock modern art and play critics, but the place foolishly closes at some ridiculously early hour. Why close at four on a Friday? People will want to go out and grab some food and then look at art. That sounds like a lovely evening, but you can’t do it in Des Moines! At a loss for what to do, we decided to get tattoos. Great choice that and spontaneous, too, which made me love it all the more. It took a while to figure out what we wanted, and I eventually decided on an arrow beneath my hieroglyphic tattoo. To me, it points the way to my next trip, and also, by having the hieroglyphs sit on the arrow, it says to me that I went. I love it. It’s simple, but to me it’s perfect. I love tattoos. I want more already. I’ve already got a dozen picked out.

Vetiver Vert by Czech & Speake:


When I was in London this summer, I was an incredible fool. I was spending money like the world was ending, so I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t make a trip to Czech & Speake, a shop I’ve been meaning to visit for a few years now. A while back I became obsessed with obtaining as many cologne samples as humanly possible. I did fairly well, too, and my cupboard is still stuffed to the bursting with various scents that I found repulsive. They weren’t all awful, though. My absolute favorite was Vetiver Vert in a sample pack that I had to pay five pounds for. It came in a charming package and I have used it incredibly sparingly. I still have enough to wear it a few more times and I think it’ll be soon. I feel incredibly fancy when I wear this fragrance. I should have gone and picked a bottle up, and I kick myself everyday for not thinking about it. Why not pick up an expensive bottle at Czech & Speake after going out to dinner at Harvey Nichols or browsing through Harrods? I would smell so elegant and so very beautiful every day. I’m going to have to pick up a bottle online. Maybe you can send me one? Christmas is coming, but Halloween is coming even sooner. We can trick or treat for cologne. Wouldn’t that be a delight?

Marfan Syndrome:


Statue of Akhenaten in the Louvre.

It’s probably odd to put a connective tissue disease on my list of favorite things, but I’m obsessed with Marfan Syndrome. This, like most things in my life, is due to my overwhelming and all-encompassing obsession with ancient Egypt. Arguably my favorite part in the thousands and thousands of years of their history was the Amarna Period. The religion and art took a drastic change when the pharaoh Akhenaten came to power. The art is strikingly different and much more naturalistic that the idealized perfection that was created before and after him. Whenever I see it, I’m charmed. I fondly recall spending a good hour in this tiny room of Amarna art in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Shelves were lined with little bits of portraiture and other scenes. I don’t think another soul came in the room the entire time I was there — it was admittedly a bit obscure and not on the list of sites to see for the casual tourist, which I most certainly was not. The images are just so strikingly lovely that they captivate your imagination. This was even more the case when I was in Cairo to see the Egyptian Museum and then later at the fabulous Luxor Museum. There, huge — and I mean HUGE — statues of Akhenaten were on display, and I couldn’t help but find him incredible. He has puzzled scholars and the casual observer for hundreds of years. He looks odd. He has feminine features and a strangely elongated face. Some claim he’s an alien hybrid. That’s a fun story and an interesting theory to argue over, but not one that I subscribe to. Others say he was hermaphroditic or perhaps transgendered. That certainly could be, but for now all we know is that he clearly was just different from others. The other night I was lying in bed watching another Bob Brier documentary, as you do, and in it he went to a New York hospital to meet with people who have Marfan Syndrome. Reader, my world was rocked. Those people with their lengthy bodies, thin fingers and toes, and their curiously elongated faces looked so much like that heretical pharaoh that died so many thousands of years ago. I was just stunned that the answer to what was wrong with Akhenaten was sitting in front of us all these years, clear as day. He had Marfan Syndrome! It answers so many questions about him and his family and even his psychological disposition. I’m obsessed and so happy to finally have a valid reason to explain this curious man.


The Boulevard Montmartre at Night

I’ve had art on my mind a lot lately. A latent desire to be an artist is buried in my psyche somewhere. It seems rather charming, but I have never pursued this. My grandmother, a woman who died before my birth, was a painter. She painted a lot of chickens and rather garish landscapes. I’ve not seen a lot of her work, admittedly, but it was clear that she had an eye and skill with a brush, even if I am not crazy about her color palate. I do have a painting she did of roses that I’ve been meaning to get framed that I think is rather nice. I’ve always appreciated art, though, and yes I make a mockery of modern art (as I think all sensible people should do), but give me a quality painting and you’ll make me swoon. I’ve been to fine museums all over from the Metropolitan in New York to the Louvre in Paris and to one of my favorites, the National Portrait Gallery in London. I could spend days there and in the future I’d like to do so. I’ve always been drawn to the impressionists. I love that style of blurred lines and vagueness. That could be because I’m blind, and so I appreciate art that looks like the world without my glasses. I have decided that if I ever try my hand at art, it will most likely be impressionistic landscapes, like Monet. Eventually, I might do cityscapes like Pissarro or the kooky and delightful things that Van Gogh did. I love me some Van Gogh. Look at this closeup I took at the Met:


There are so many great artists from the birth of the impressionist movement, and I need to study them more in depth. I have been having a delightful time, though, sketching like an Impressionist. I have no real experience with paints or pastels, so I’m going to need practice. I’m not sure if there was ever an impressionist who used colored pencil. Maybe there was. MAYBE I WILL BE THAT ARTIST?


Caffeine Headaches:

caffeine headache

Well, I guess it’s time for me to sign up for a rehab center. Not for my food addiction, but rather for my caffeine addiction. You can go to rehab for anything, thankfully. Last weekend, I had the worst headache. It ached and ached and I was completely convinced that I had a brain tumor. It was the end, reader! That’s the only logical thing to think, isn’t it? After lunch on Sunday it throbbed all the more, but I figured that was just the large quantity of tequila that I had recently consumed. Nope. I had an espresso after dinner and found the pain in my head had receded somewhat. So I brewed another and then another and then I felt perfectly fine! I guess I am reliant on caffeine and need a certain amount each day. This annoys me. I don’t like having to depend on anything. I don’t take any medicine, and I’ve always felt perfectly able to survive on a deserted island with nothing but my wits. I suppose I should try to get off coffee, but I feel I would end up like that episode of Will & Grace where Karen and Jack lose their minds in a lodge. I like coffee too much anyway. I guess I’ll just make sure I have some each day.

Early Sunset:


I used to really like autumn because it meant that it was nearly Halloween and there would be pumpkins and ghosts and all sorts of nonsense. I still enjoy that tremendously, but as I age I find myself terribly afflicted by the sun. It’s the opposite of this unknown Eartha Kitt song originally planned out for when The Emperor’s New Groove was taking an entirely different and much more dramatic path:

When the sun is not out, I’m just absolutely miserable. It’s a kind of disorder that I need to find a cure to. I haven’t napped in ages, but this weekend I found myself curled up in bed, listless and unwilling to do anything. I can’t be bothered to do the dishes or laundry. I barely care enough to cook myself any food. I’ve gone back to just filling up endless bowls of Cheerios and calling that good. There are worse things to gorge on, I suppose. Soon, the sun will set even earlier and then we’ll have that stupid time change and I’ll just be moody until May. Le sigh…

My Undiagnosed Ebola:

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Woke up in a panic.

A post shared by Benjamin Phillips (@bdphillips) on

Reader, I’m dying. Death comes on swift wings for me, and I am not yet ready. I have so much left to do! Clearly, I have EBOLA, the modern plague. For the past few days, I have felt disgusting. It’s not really a stomach ailment, but an overall feeling of UGH. My bones hurt. My muscles ache. My throat feels rougher than sandpaper. My hair even hurts right now. I just want to sleep and drift peacefully off into the next realm, but the moment must not be quite right. Instead, I’m forced to linger and SUFFER. You may recall that I was in AFRICA this summer when the Ebola outbreak was occurring. I didn’t think much of this. I wasn’t bleeding out of my eyes, so I couldn’t be bothered. I was thinking the other day, though. I did fly from Cairo to Casablanca — an incredibly busy airport — and surely I could have come into contact with somebody from Libya or wherever this ailment is hanging out. I did sit next to that woman who gave me fleas. I wonder how long the virus has been resting dormant, just waiting for its opportunity to DESTROY ME? I should probably google this, but I prefer to tell everybody that I have ebola. They’ll all believe when I drop dead.

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