July 5, 2019

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~?

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.”

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