May 31, 2019

Was reminded of this incredibly cool (and sexy) 2008 photoshoot with Carrie & Big (Sarah Jessica Parker & Christopher Noth) this week. His stance! Her foot coming out of the shoe! The 1930s Hays code almost-kiss! Swoon. Anyway, I had a pretty good week save a cough that won’t leave. Hoping for a weekend of romance in every definition of the word — I’m going strawberry picking tomorrow.

  1. Dividend of the Social Opt Out,” Jennifer Moxley. “How nice not to hope that something will happen, / but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that / nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think. / It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.” This poem sets the tone for my weekend!
  2. How brands get their names, explained by a professional namer, Vox. Ok the use of language in branding is fascinating to me. If I think too much about advertising I feel gross, but I like this interview with someone with jobs called “Director of Naming” and “Vice President of Verbal Strategy.” It’s one of many examples of where your English or language degree could take you. I thought this was interesting: “Masculine and feminine used to be something that would appear on a clients’ creative brief in early days of my career and it was easy to understand what that meant. Feminine was soft and liquidy sounds, like “ooh” and “aah” or lots of vowels. Masculine sounds were always going to be hard stops, rougher edges, or shorter. And now, they’re just not useful. Culturally, we’re expanding a lot more in what our definition of femininity is and what masculinity is, so they’re just not as useful as they used to be.” She also talks about how the sound (and pronounceability) of a brand name is important again, as in the days of radio advertising, because of podcasts and voice activated technology.
  3. Against Advice, The Point Magazine. The author picks apart the relative uselessness of advice we receive from successful people in a Q&A or brief contact context. She makes a distinction between advice, instructions, and coaching, where instructions are specific steps to a certain goal and coaching is a more ongoing and relational type of guidance. “Instructions make you better at doing what you (independently) valued, whereas coaching makes you better at valuing—it cues you in to what’s important, at an intellectual or physical or emotional level. Coaching takes many forms—teaching philosophy is coaching, and I see my therapist as a coach of sorts—but one thing it always requires is the kind of time-investment that generates a shared educational history. Coaching is personal.” And when we’re looking for advice, we want the practicality of instructions with the meaningfulness of coaching, but advice cannot reasonably provide that in such short contact. We long for mentors and other sources of wisdom to speak into our lives, but that kind of human connection feels rare. It makes us search for that meaning in self-help books and advice threads on Twitter. As a lover of and someone who has benefited from advice columns, this reflection is food for thought.
  4. From Bars to Basements, The Frederick News-Post. A local story on the Friday5! This story is thoroughly researched about something my friends have been talking about for a while — how difficult it is to develop live music venues in Frederick. The article explains some of the intricacies of residential zoning restrictions and liquor laws that make a music venue difficult. Some of the cited objections to local music read as lame excuses to me. Cafe Nola’s manager saying “musicians have to learn to play a room” because “some people” just want to enjoy a cocktail is kind of rich, for example. Some people are there to see the band and enjoy a cocktail. Which patrons (and their money) matter to you? And the police objecting that music events cause “early morning calls for drunk and disorderly conduct, DUIs, and, occasionally, violence,” does not ring true to my observations downtown. I’m not seeing DIY musicians and their show attendees causing early morning fights; I’m seeing out-of-towners and wedding after-parties at the Shuckin’ Shack. Frederick wants to be known for being cool and creative. In my opinion, a lot of downtown residents want exposed brick with a suburban gloss, and they’re allergic to any discomfort or difference. You can’t call yourself an artsy city, move in next door to a venue, and then call the cops “frequently” to complain about the noise. These restrictions are driving local talent elsewhere, to Baltimore and other more receptive cities. Investing in your local area’s arts is worthwhile, but it can’t just be the extremely expensive and polished arts of the Weinberg and Festival of the Arts. The poor, the strange, and the independent arts move the needle.
  5. Audiobooks: The Past, Present, and Future of Another Way to Read, Literary Hub. This author, who is vision-impaired, talks about his experience with audiobooks over time. The debate, or what I prefer to call bullying, over whether reading an audiobook “counts” should really be over. For one thing, it’s unnecessarily ableist and snobby. For another, audiobooks are welcoming an entirely new readership, one that can read a book almost anywhere and anytime. We should be celebrating that! The author says it best at the end of this essay: “Nowhere in this piece have I used the word listening or consuming to describe what we do with audiobooks. Some will quibble with this—I have perused the comments sections of essays I’ve written about reading with my ears. To those who are protective of the verb to read, I ask what is gained by insisting on the distinction? If a quarterback can read a defense and a computer can read a file, it doesn’t seem like a leap to call 10 or 20 hours of processing words that happen to enter our brains through the ears reading. To put it another way, responding to the question of whether audiobooks count as reading, author and book critic for Slate Laura Miller replied via email, “What does ‘count’ mean? Who is counting? We’re not in school and completing assignments anymore. If the point of reading is to enjoy it and you’re enjoying it, why would anything be lacking?” For millennia, until Johannes Gutenberg’s marvelous invention, most stories were shared orally. No one I’ve spoken to believes print will ever be replaced, but a new, old-fashioned method is allowing written words to reach larger audiences.”


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