February 21, 2020

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Llamas are cat horses! This scheme makes sense to me, although goat must be much closer to horse because in my experience there is no love in those beady eyes. Have a great weekend!

  1. The 2020 Election Will Be a War of Disinformation, The Atlantic. “I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions.” Something I’ve learned in teaching information literacy is that the more you think you’re a critical thinker and immune to propaganda or disinformation, the more vulnerable you are. I thought the concept of “censorship through noise” was interesting, and harmonizes last week’s advice to decide how much information you need to make a decision on a candidate, and then step back from the coverage. I’m especially interested in this story from an information literacy perspective, thinking about how I can help equip students (citizens!) to navigate this confusing, relentless, and upsetting landscape. “Disinformation” sounds stale and sterile, but it preys on our emotions, and this article gives some chilling examples of how. And this is important: “By the time [President Obama] left office, he told me, he was convinced that disinformation would continue to thrive until big tech companies were forced to take responsibility for it.”
  2. Family Business, Truly*Adventurous. What a wild story. Con men continue to be interesting to me (and a lot of people), and this story scratches that itch. True crimes, but no murder. Refreshing.
  3. What the coronavirus forcing me in lockdown’s taught me about cooking, Reddit user mthmchris.That is why ‘authenticity’ in food is a valuable goal, despite it being a… controversial word in many circles. It’s not that cuisine can never change, or that there’s only one recipe for any given dish. It’s about respecting the idea that (1) the generations that came before us were probably much better cooks than we are and (2) you can generally find a lot more interesting food by looking back, by peeking in dusty corners, than you can by inventing your own hack or whatever.” I’ve been thinking about this essay ever since I read it, especially the parts about fusion and innovation. I highly recommend this one!
  4. The Case Against Italicizing “Foreign” Words, Khairani Barokka. “It wouldn’t hurt, however, for anyone using forms of italicization in a highly specific way to examine the antecedents of these standards; to take a beat and sit with what exactly is meant, really meant, by italicizing a word in a specific context, including those not mentioned here. What it means in terms of power: who deserves it, who defines it, who has more or less of it.” Language and power are all wrapped up together. Plus, when writing for the web with accessibility in mind, italics are becoming less recommended for emphasis (bold is preferred).
  5. Poetry Month: What Resembles the Grave But Isn’t, Anne Boyer. This prose poem is a little bit of a puzzle and I recommend reading it aloud to yourself to follow the mantra-like rhythm. But you will find this poem rewarding. “…sometimes falling into holes with other people, with other people, saying “this is not our mass grave, get out of this hole,” all together getting out of the hole together, hands and legs and arms and human ladders of each other to get out of the hole that is not the mass grave but that will only be gotten out of together.”

February 14, 2020

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Happy my mom’s birthday! Last night, David and I went to the Y with a pair of friends and moved our bodies and then soothed them in the Y’s steam and sauna rooms (Charlotte: “Would you like to be grilled or steamed?” We said, both). This Valentine’s day, I’m really feeling grateful for community and friendship, for the people who are always rooting for you and who inspire you to be your best self. Love all you good, good friends!

  1. Why is Jeanine Cummins’s ‘American Dirt’ a Thriller?, The Cut. “There’s a reason that most people who go through the kind of traumatic events exploited by American Dirt choose not to write their stories as thrillers. Traumatic events have to be survived in the moment, and for many years after. Writing about past trauma is often a means of self-preservation. Thrillers are at cross-purposes with this: They require oversimplification and demand a source of exhilaration. I have yet to meet someone who finds their own trauma exhilarating.” This is really thoughtful criticism of a controversial book (that also sounds pretty poorly written, though I haven’t read it).
  2. We need to move on from self-care to something that cannot be captured by capitalism, The Guardian. “Wouldn’t it be great if this decade we took the self out of self-care and strived instead for communal care? Self-care is saying “I need to look after me”, while collective self-care is saying “we need to look after each other” …Collective care exists outside the market and can’t be captured by capitalism, turned into a product that we buy back and, by definition of its price, excludes many from participating in it.”
  3. Missouri lawmaker proposes bill criminalizing public libraries’ drag queen story hours, NBC. This is the same proposed bill, the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, that I talked about a few weeks ago here. It’s written with the intention to limit public library book collections, but also events. If you don’t have little kids or don’t go to public libraries much, you might not realize how hugely popular drag queen story hours are. Kids love the glamour and performance, and they are open to absorbing the messages of diversity, self-love and self-expression that come from these storytimes. The impulse to restrict LGBTQ content and events from the public library, especially with the “think of the children!” premise, really makes me sick.
  4. The Very Real Mental Ramifications of Extremely Long Elections, Vice. “What we do know: “They are telling us they feel tired,” Arceneaux said. “They feel less interested in following along with what’s going on. And we know that, outside of politics, people have a certain emotional reserve to deal with things. After a while, you just run out of emotional wherewithal to respond.” I definitely feel tired! I like this recommendation in the article, to focus on quality coverage of the election and candidates. “Consider how much information, and what kind, they need about each candidate to make a voting decision, and once you reach that threshold, take a step back.” This is absolutely what I do in other areas of life (see: buying my wedding dress, where I tried on precisely three (3) dresses and picked one the same day), so this advice resonates.
  5. 5 Awesome, Immediate Self-Care Resources For When You Feel Like Actual Garbage, Let’s Queer Things Up. Perhaps a companion piece to #2, I like this round-up because it’s accessible and immediate. “If you’re struggling to get through this moment, this won’t magically solve all of your problems. However, it can certainly help you cope.” In particular I like the “You Feel Like Shit: Interactive Self-Care Guide” that is recommended here. Take care of yourselves, friendies, but also reach out to your people, you don’t have to struggle alone.

Bonus features:

February 7, 2020

This was a really long week — the first of the semester, which is always chaotic, but there’s also been a little something extra dragging my eyelids closed. Maybe it’s the rain, maybe it’s my mental health, but either way I want a nap. Here’s a mix of advice columns, poetry, and prayers today. I’m not going to say they’re all light, but that they are all enjoyable.

  1. How To Write A Love Poem, The Awl. “It’s not about being judged or getting a genius grant or being remembered for all eternity. Writing a poem could just be about making other people think about art for a second instead of, I don’t know, Work and Money and Troubles. The world is a little better when you believe in poetry, too. Even if you never get a genius grant, you still might get laid or loved or even liked. And you might make someone’s day. And get an invitation out for drinks. It’s nice to be liked and to have poems written about you. Especially is the poems are interesting and alluring. How many poems dedicated to you about how great you are ended up in your inbox today? Don’t you wish there was at least one? Yeah. So do I.” This is an oldie but new to me.
  2. “I Imagine the Butches’ Stripper Bar”, Jill McDonough. Lovely poem. “Fantastic grow the flannel plaids…” I like how sonnets always sound like they end with a mic drop, because of the rhyme of the final two lines.
  3. “My boyfriend doesn’t do chores, help!” Here’s the Thing. “Your boyfriend MUST participate. There is no “or else” here any more than there is an “or else” about wearing shoes to work. You just have to. That’s it. You just do because you’re an adult now. His attitude cannot be “I’m doing this to appease you.” Or “I’m doing this so you aren’t pissy or nagging at me.” That is fucked. That’s a full-on bad partner. I’m not saying anyone’s dick is getting hard at the thought of vacuuming, but you should like making your partners life better. You should like taking part in caring for your shared home.” I like that thing about wearing shoes to work. I have been guilty of being the no-chorin’ partner — and of course I have all my reasons (tired! I don’t mind mess!), but I know I’m in the wrong. Sharing this as an act of accountability — Emily, do the chores!
  4. Trans Prayer, Ritual Well. I came across a similar prayer on Tumblr, but this was the one I was able to track down and I think I like it even more. “When I doubt my existence, / Remind me I am yours.”
  5. Hello, 911?, by Samantha Irby, New Yorker. Samantha Irby…love her. “Hello, 911? Which line is moving faster, the one I’m in or that other line, and do you think I should switch? Does it matter? It’s not like I have anywhere to be, but just standing here makes me feel like my organs are going to burst out of my skin. I can’t prove it, but I think this line is moving incrementally slower. Why does that make me feel like I’m losing a race? Should I just stay where I am, or do you think it’s O.K. if I ease over to Lane 8 in a way that silently telegraphs to the checkout girl, “I’m not mad, just having an inexplicable panic attack, please ignore me”?”

Bonus features:

January 31, 2020

Hey hi happy Friday, etc. Listen, are you into wigs? Do you know anything about wearing, purchasing, caring for, or styling wigs? Like a kid after doing that dizzy-baseball-bat thing, I’ve stumbled into a new hobby and I seek the wisdom of my fake-hair friends. Anyway here’s some stuff to read!

  1. Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village, Crime Reads. Avoid all vats, because “in English villages, vats only exist for drowning people—in beer, in pickling brine, in whiskey, in jam. This is doubly true if the vat was built by 14th century monks. If anyone offers to show you a vat, say you need to get something from your car, then start the engine and run them over. The police understand this sort of thing. Tell them about the vat.” This is funny!
  2. NK Jemisin’s Dream Worlds, New Yorker. “I need to know how that person became who she is—a woman so angry that she was willing to move mountains,” she told me. “She was angry in a slow burn, with the kind of anger that is righteous, enough to change a planet. That’s a person who has been through so much shit that she has been pushed into becoming a leader. That’s an M.L.K. I needed to build a world that would explain her.” She’s talking about the main character in The Broken Earth Trilogy, which is the best fantasy series I think I’ve ever read. (Big spoiler alerts in this profile though!) I love the way Jemisin approaches world-building and I’m so inspired by her!
  3. ‘Weird News,’ ‘Dumb Criminals’ and the Media’s Monetization of Human Misery, The Appeal. “It may seem like humorless scolding, but the consequences of this type of demonization are real. A key feature of these stories — as seen in follow-up stories about the Taco Bell break-in by The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Fox 5 Atlanta, and several others — is mug shots that spread to hundreds of websites complete with the arrestee’s name. As I’ve reported elsewhere, this process of “mugshot shaming” ruins lives and stains one’s online reputation for decades to come. At the other end of these clickbait stories is a real human being, and to the extent that these are “news,” they are only so because the police see to it that they are.” This got me thinking and seeing those stories in a new light. After someone pointed out how crappy some of the viral autotune videos are, especially ones featuring Black folks (one about a brother protecting his sister from an assault, another about escaping an apartment fire), it clicked in a new way and I realized that I was consuming something without empathy. That line “at the other end of these stories is a real human being” is something I want to remember always.
  4. Opinion | How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change, NYT. “Imagine dense but livable cities veined with public transit and leafy parks, infrastructure humming away to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, fake meat that tastes better than the real thing, species recovering and rewilding the world, the rivers silver with fish, the skies musical with flocking birds. This is a future where the economic inequality, racism and colonialism that made decades of inaction on climate change possible has been acknowledged and is being addressed. It is a time of healing. Many ecosystems have changed, but natural resilience and thoughtful human assistance is preventing most species from going extinct. This is a future in which children don’t need to take to the streets in protest and alarm, because their parents and grandparents took action. Instead, they are climbing trees. This future is still possible. But it will only come to pass if we shed our shame, stop focusing on ourselves, join together and demand it.” Some actionable stuff here, as well as genuinely inspiring/encouraging words.
  5. Podcast Passivity, Real Life Mag. “If early radio programming was meant to “get into the home atmosphere,” the 21st century version belongs to a smaller, more contained theater: it’s like a podcast is set inside your own skull. More than a decade into my listening habit, I find myself on what feels like cellular, neurological intimacy with people I’ve never met — who don’t know I exist. And as podcasts have exploded, I’ve started to wonder about their cumulative effects. At what level do these encounters remain world-expanding and empathy-provoking? How much is too much other people to chug into your head?” I use podcasts to keep myself company, but yesterday my phone died on a walk with Persey and I was (the horror) left with my own thoughts. I could hear the sound of wind in the trees and the honking/snuffling noise of Persey’s nose in the grass. It was nice!

Bonus feature:

 

January 24, 2020

I’m struggling to keep up with my writing this week! In therapy a few weeks ago, I agreed not to take on any new commitments in my personal life, to spend extra time on self-inquiry and exploration, which has been a lovely intention. Big however, I apparently shunted that sign-up energy into the workplace, and the last week or two I’ve spent crawling out from under a scary long to-do list. I’m approaching balance again now, whew.

  1. ‘There should be clear warnings’: hair dye cancer risk stokes fear in black women, The Guardian. Wow, I did NOT know this risk. “A new landmark study that tracked almost 47,000 American women over eight years has found that using permanent hair dye increases a black woman’s risk of breast cancer by 45%, compared to an increased risk of 7% in white women.” Later the story reports that chemical hair straighteners also increase the risk of breast cancer. “About 74% of black women reported using chemical straighteners compared to only 3% of white women. “Black women straighten their hair to assimilate,” said Amelia Govan, 31, a sales rep who as a teenager straightened her hair every month. “We have to fit in – you never see black women with braids working in corporate.”
  2. Here’s Your 2020 Literary Film and TV Adaptation Preview, LitHub. The Turning looks like a spooky fun one. There’s some cool things on here as well as some I’d watch knowing they won’t live up to my own imagination — it’s fun enough just hanging out in that book world.
  3. Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians, PEN America. Yikes! Did you know that most books that have been challenged and/or banned at schools and libraries in the past few years have featured LGBTQIA characters or themes? This is an extension of the same impulse, with the intention of putting the weight of legal consequences on people who uphold the right to access information. “Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.”
  4. The Royal Museum for Central Africa’s Fraught Update, The Atlantic. “Museum professionals can now turn to a sudden plethora of books, symposia, workshops, and advice blogs about “creating conversation, not controversy,” “future-proofing” a museum, and handling protesters. The main problem, of course, is that so many monuments and museums were built a century or more ago by people who took colonialism, racial hierarchy, and slavery (or at least a benign Gone With the Wind view of the American South) for granted. You “can easily rewrite a textbook,” Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (and now the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), has said, “but you can’t rewrite a museum.” This is fascinating and disturbing, I’m glad I read it.
  5. The New York Public Library Has Calculated Its Most Checked-Out Books Of All Time, NPR. What’s your favorite on this list? Mine is Where the Wild Things Are! Also, a related Slate story a friend shared with me: “Why Goodnight Moon is missing from the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.” Librarian taste-maker drama!

Bonus features for some lighter fare: