Ezra Jack Keats
I’m back in the reading saddle this week! After browsing some cool bookstores in Colorado, my to-read list got ridiculously long and I ordered a whole bunch of books from my library. Of course, they all come in at once and now I’m sitting on 13 books to get through! My weekend is (wait for it) booked. (nice)
- The Rich, Complex History Hiding Within Chinese Plate Designs, Thrillist. This essay about the iconic Chinese plate design talks about “the nostalgic element of going to a Chinese restaurant and seeing certain plates on the table.” I also liked their thoughts at the end: “I think that’s why that red bowl pattern appeals to me so much: it’s an honest admittance that the way I grew up wasn’t fancy or exotic. Rather, the fact that it’s a gorgeous cultural art product condensed into a mundane housewares design feels right to me, as someone who feels like a simulacrum of a real Vietnamese person, after being estranged from my family’s origin point my whole life.” The ceramic artist mentioned is Stephanie Shih, here’s a write-up of her work!
- Whole 60, Laura Lippman. This piece has some weird moments (watch out for some specific weight numbers and diet habits early on, though they are critiqued) but overall the message is so great, about embodying yourself exactly as you are right here and now, against all odds. “All the women I know look at old photos and say, “Da-yum” or words to that effect. […] But if you believe you looked good when you were younger, then simply imagine your future self in a parallel universe, studying 2019 photos and saying, “Da-yum” at how you look now. Stop waiting. Stop entrusting praise to others, especially to sad deluded men who think our bodies are theirs to judge. It is not the trolls or the blunt dance teachers or even our partners who get to tell us we are beautiful. No one can lift us up until we choose to leap.” There are a lot of great lines, but that section was one of my favorites.
- If Men Carried Purses, Would They Clean Up Messes? The Cut. A lot of women in my feed/newsletters were talking about this article this week. It made my blood boil here and there, as with quotes like “A new study shows that visitors to a disorderly home will judge the female inhabitant if they believe she’s responsible for the mess but give the male inhabitant a pass.” I like the idea that not only should men start carrying a bag (be it tote, laptop bag, or backpack), but that women, if they want to, should enjoy some purse free days. I especially like to travel light on a day where I’ll be walking a lot, and for me that’s easiest in the winter, with my coat’s deep pockets. One source is quoted, “I do it to be free. […] To walk fully. After you carry a bag and then you don’t, you feel like you can fly.”
- A Last Look at Ebony’s Archives, Before They’re Sold, NYT. Photographs are my favorite kind of archival material. I think they make history so immediate and intimate. “You can’t really tell the story of black life in the 20th century without these images from the Johnson archive. So it’s important that whatever happens in this auction, that these images are preserved and made available to scholars, art lovers and everyday folks.” As of yesterday, it was reported that the materials will be donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is great news! Highly recommend looking through the photos collected in this article!
- The Crane Wife, CJ Hauser. I loved this short story. A woman breaks her engagement and goes on a crane-watching research trip, but the story is more than that, as the best short stories are. “Even now I hear the words as shameful: Thirsty. Needy. The worst things a woman can be. Some days I still tell myself to take what is offered, because if it isn’t enough, it is I who wants too much.” It reminded me of past relationships and making myself and my needs smaller so they were less inconvenient. I can definitely relate to feeling ashamed of needing so much, a need to define the relationship or talk about where it’s going, the need for reassurance about silly things, over and over (thanks, anxiety). I am afraid of being called needy, as if it’s the worst thing someone can be. But this is not a sad story — it ends with community and the healing process. Everyone has needs. And we’re responsible for each other. The story made me want to be kinder to myself and other people.
- Whitney Catalano’s weekend challenge – “My homework assignment for you this weekend is to be radically messy and try to have a little fun while you’re at it. Cry in public. Tell people how you feel. Let your belly hang out and go eat some ice cream. Do what you gotta do to break your own rules”
Hi! While I was away I read so much that my eyes crossed, and walked miles and miles of Colorado sunshine, and I’ve come back to tell you that, well, I just don’t have it in me to share anything serious or grim this week. So here’s another round of the nice and the interesting:
- A Toast to When Harry Met Sally..a Romantic Comedy for Grown-Ups, Vanity Fair. This week was the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite movies! This author expresses my affection for the film well: “Watching When Harry Met Sally… as an adult, it feels as if the movie spills some secrets that grown-ups aren’t supposed to share—about the messiness of attraction, the circuitous path of romance, the erotic tension in spirited antagonism. It’s about how another person can become a part of you despite your best intentions. Behind the film’s wryly entertaining tone, there’s a wild liveliness that animates the characters, a combination of deep-seated longings and carnal passions.” I also really love this line, about the author’s marriage: “When Harry Met Sally… has served as this example I could keep in my pocket of what love should feel like—an endless, unspooling conversation with a partner who, like a counterweight, provides equilibrium.”
- In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas, The Atlantic. “In a country increasingly wary of meat, more open than ever to non-Western ingredients, and anxious about climate change, the chickpea’s expanding role in the American diet is less a trend story than a logical inevitability.” Chickpea!! David loves a hummus and I am experimenting with other uses for chickpeas in our cooking too, so if anyone has any recommendations I’m listening! Also this makes me smile: “Chickpeas just aren’t an intimidating bean,” Kennedy says.”
- The Frankfurt Kitchen Changed How We Cook — and Live, CityLab. “the only fully-outfitted kitchens were, prior to the 20th century, true workspaces where household staff labored in the service of a well-to-do (or even middle-class) family. For the poor and working class, dwellings generally had no discrete kitchen. In a one- or two-room home, be it an apartment or a farmhouse, a large cast-iron stove was likely to be the only major appliance, and might also be a family’s primary heat source. A table or set of shelves might serve to house utensils and tools, but there were no standardized cabinets or kitchen “furniture” as we know them today.” Interesting look at the history of something I’d never considered! The original designer of the apartment kitchen took inspiration from the dining cars on trains. There are a few photos in this piece worth checking out. It’s also cool how gender politics comes into play as architects design kitchens — Schütte-Lihotzky created a kitchen for the working wife and mother to do housework more efficiently, and in the 1920s that was liberating on its own.
- Where’s Simba’s mom? In real life, female lions run the pride, National Geographic. “Females define their territory. They’ve grown up there and have been listening to neighbors roaring their whole lives […] And if their pride gets too big, the females will even carve out a new territory next door for their daughters to take over and start their own pride. Ninety-nine percent of all the members of a lion pride are related females.” Lionesses are so cool.
- The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need to Go Away, Serious Eats. This article busts a bunch of myths about cast iron pans, which I use but barely understand. “Cast iron is tough as nails! There’s a reason why there are 75-year-old cast iron pans kicking around at yard sales and antique shops. The stuff is built to last and it’s very difficult to completely ruin it.” That’s a big reason why I like them! Although he also points out that they don’t conduct heat evenly, so it’s good to have other cookware too, in my opinion. Some controversy here about soap though. Read with caution.
I wrote this post early because by the time you read this, I’ll be on vacation! Just a couple short or light pieces this week:
- The Oral History of the Super Soaker, MEL magazine. I kind of love inventor stories. Super Soaker was one of those toys whose makers really cared about the product, and I like the design loyalty that comes with that over the years. This piece also made me realize that Nerf guns have gotten very militarized looking, which I don’t care for at all. “Part of the reason Super Soakers did so well is because they look nothing like a real weapon. They’re these things with giant orange nozzles, and they’re made to look like these space-alien things. To be honest, when we were kids, my friends and I would cover them with black tape and stuff, but for how they actually looked, you can’t mistake them for a real gun.” Plus a lot of people now like to make their own water blasters and modify their old 90s ones! “I started Waterarms Over Firearms about seven or eight years ago. It started with my own love of Super Soakers as a kid, and when I rediscovered it as an adult, I began acquiring old Super Soakers at yard sales and eventually via Amazon and eBay. Then I’d organize events where I’d give them to children and spread the philosophy that this is a peaceful gun — a water-arm that actually has a life giving ammunition. My hope is to help change these children’s attitudes about guns. I’ve made a point of visiting children in places that are heavily affected by gun violence — many of which are children of color — and I let them know that this peaceful gun was invented by a black inventor and that they can use it to have fun and give life as opposed to taking it away.” Now, who would like to have a water gun/balloon fight ASAP?
- Why Those Plus-Size Model Mannequins Matter, Glamour. Curvy plus-size mannequins at Torrid made me feel seen the first time I walked in there. “To place a plus mannequin on the store floor, front and center, is to proudly state that you stand for every single size you offer, that you believe that no matter the number on the shopper’s tag, they’re valuable and should have options to choose from. It signifies a mentality change from selling clothes by pushing an ideal to embracing who your customer is when they walk in.” I think this is true, but fashion retailers could all do better, from actually carrying plus sizes in-store and not online-only, to design that isn’t just a stretched out version of the straight size (my mom’s nemesis is the huge scooping neckline, like I saw in this review online: “Why do plus clothes makers think we need 2 foot round neck holes . Its crazy . Just how big do they think our heads are ? The size of beach balls ?”) “Brands need to have a long, hard think on their demographic and who they are selling their clothes to,” Scriver says. “So often I see brands introducing a plus-size line, but when I walk into the store or scroll through their online pages, there are no plus-size mannequins or models on-site to display or signal to me how the clothes would fit on my body. If you want to profit from my fat dollars, then you need to signal to me that you truly want to promote inclusivity and all shapes of all sizes.”
- Maryland voter registration to allow for ‘X’ gender identity, Baltimore Sun. Pretty cool news! This is to go along with a new law that starting in October, the MVA will allow Marylanders to use “X” in the gender field on their driver’s licenses and state IDs. Other coverage I read said that the database already had an “unspecified” option, so this change won’t have a fiscal or logistical impact. Love an easy, life-affirming change!
- The Why of Cooking, Sarah Miller. This essay is pretty funny. “My mother was always saying she just wanted to be alone with her book but it seemed like whenever this dream looked as if it might actually become a reality she would decide to make a pie.” This passage feels true to me: “People cook—particularly women, but not only women—because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but no one thinks about who made what they’re eating or how it got on the table. They’re just hungry, and they eat, and they sometimes say thank you, and then they forget about it.” I don’t really feel the same resentment for cooking as this author, but I understand where it comes from and I believe she came to her conclusions honestly.
- Jessica Francis Kane’s Rules for Visiting in Real Life, Slate. “Studies show that when life gets too busy or too difficult, the first thing we drop is time with friends.” This author wrote a novel about a woman who decided to travel with the sole purpose of visiting friends, and then she did her own challenge and I really like that concept. “I’m after the kind of visit you get when you are present for all the intangible in-between times—coffee before everyone is up, a chat with one of the children when other grown-ups aren’t around, the sounds of your friend’s house at night—that somehow add up to more than the sum of their parts.” Yes! This is what I’m after in my visit to Amanda in Colorado this week!
I was talking to a friend this week about my summer goals: making memories, and joyful movement of the body. So far, so good — been doing a lot of swimmin’ and even a little bit of baseball playin’! What are your summer goals? Or if “goals” feels too productive for the season of lazing, what are your summer ~themes~?
- Mr. Rogers’s Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Kids, The Atlantic. This article is a bit old but it resurfaced for me in a newsletter and it’s very sweet. “There were no accidents on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He took great pains not to mislead or confuse children, and his team of writers joked that his on-air manner of speaking amounted to a distinct language they called “Freddish.” […] Rogers was extraordinarily good at imagining where children’s minds might go. For instance, in a scene in which he had an eye doctor using an ophthalmoscope to peer into his eyes, he made a point of having the doctor clarify that he wasn’t able to see Rogers’s thoughts. Rogers also wrote a song called “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” because he knew that drains were something that, to kids, seemed to exist solely to suck things down.” The examples make this piece precious. “As simple as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood looked and sounded, every detail in it was the product of a tremendously careful, academically-informed process.”
- Here’s What a Good LGBTQ Ally Looks Like, Vox. “As a queer trans woman, my life is often misery. So when I see corporations or big-name artists trying to tap into some sanitized version of my identity that’s only about the fun parts, I feel alienated and that huge parts of my experience are erased,” Diavolo tells Vox. “Being queer is about joy, but that joy is often tempered by a great deal of pain; it is through that bitterness that the sweetness is that much sweeter.” I learned a lot in this article! “June 1969 is an important turning point in LGBTQ history because it fostered a new approach to queer organizing that was “more direct and confrontational,” as Iovannone notes. But focusing too heavily on Stonewall turns it into a historical queer awakening that began in New York City, as opposed to a major event that led to further calls for LGBTQ liberation across the US. In other words, hyperfixating on Stonewall as a coming-out celebration runs the risk of depoliticizing the whole point of the riots in the first place. “When we situate Stonewall as the genesis, the point of origin, of the modern Gay Rights Movement, we exclude the impact of labor movements, the Black Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, youth counterculture, and the broader sexual revolution on gay liberation,” Iovannone warns. […] Pride is more than just Stonewall, and it’s certainly more than just a couple of floats. […] Sure, Pride Month should be celebratory, but it should always center the queer community’s resilience, its struggle to survive, and the issues that impact all of its members — and do so all year long.” The main recommendations here to support the LGBTQ community are: offer financial support to individuals and organizations who need it, amplify and listen to the voices of the most marginalized, and show up for votes, town halls, and other political actions that can improve the lives of your brothers and sisters. This was motivating and educational.
- Fixing the Internet, Harvard Business Review. I was watching one of the Crash Course videos on navigating digital information and the host said that we wonder whether the internet is a net positive or a net negative for humanity, but that is a question “wrongly put.” Instead we should be asking, “How can I make the internet a more positive force in my life and in the lives of others?” As someone drawn to the critique of the internet’s worst qualities, this question has me thinking. This article from the HBR is in a similar vein. “In order to improve the internet, we must fight against the tendency to ignore its tremendous potential. A few years ago, a Reddit user wondered what would be the hardest thing to explain to someone arriving from 50 years in the past. One user answered: “I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man,” adding: “I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.” I love that quote, because it so perfectly captures our inability to put the internet to good use. Surely we can do better.”
- How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell. This book was denser than I expected; I went into it expecting a practical manual for withdrawing from the “attention economy,” the idea that human attention is a resource that content creators and corporate powers want to harvest online. Instead Odell’s book contains a lot of philosophy on the self, utopias, performance art, and bird-watching. It was a challenging read, but there were a lot of gems like this one: “A real withdrawal of attention happens first and foremost in the mind. What is needed, then, is not a “once-and-for-all” type of quitting but ongoing training: the ability not just to withdraw attention, but to invest it somewhere else, to enlarge and proliferate it, to improve its acuity. We need to be able to think across different time scales when the mediascape would have us think in twenty-four-hour (or shorter) cycles, to pause for consideration when clickbait would have us click, to risk unpopularity by searching for context when our Facebook feed is an outpouring of unchecked outrage and scapegoating, to closely study the ways that media and advertising play upon our emotions, to understand the algorithmic versions of ourselves that such forces have learned to manipulate, and to know when we are being guilted, threatened, and gaslighted into reactions that come not from will and reflection but from fear and anxiety. I am less interested in a mass exodus from Facebook and Twitter than I am in a mass movement of attention: what happens when people regain control over their attention and begin to direct it again, together.”
- How a Janitor at Frito-Lay Invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, The Hustle. Montañez also developed the philosophy that “it’s not about who you know — it’s about who knows you.” This is a seriously hard-working dude. I have a feeling my dad is going to enjoy reading this story. Everything the man says is quotable, listen to this one: “Recently, a student asked him how he was teaching without a Ph.D. “I do have a Ph.D.,” he responded. “I’ve been poor, hungry and determined.”