September 27, 2019


Whoa I’m about to turn 28! To celebrate, David and I (and anyone else I can peer pressure) have been watching a kids show called Gravity Falls. The premise is two siblings who spend the summer with their great-uncle, who runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack in Oregon. Most of the mysteries in his shack are fakes, but the twins find real mysterious and surprisingly dark things (for a Disney show) in the town of Gravity Falls. It has a very satisfying conclusion and is affirming of siblings, friendship, adventure, and teamwork. And anyone who believes in Bigfoot or Nessie. I recommend it!

  1. The Latest Online Craze is Submitting to the Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known, The Verge. David doesn’t get why this meme is funny but I love that line: “If we want the rewards of being loved, we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” It’s also kind of wild to hear from someone whose turn of phrase has gone viral, untethered from the original and personal meaning and into something universal, comedic, and also kinda tragic.
  2. The Great Everywoman Outfit Contest of 1915, Narratively. “They were drawn to the Polymuriel for the way it might make life easier for women of their class, allowing them to move between teas, concerts, meetings, dinners and other social engagements without the need for expensive and time-consuming costume changes. Mrs. Palmer, in particular, wanted an inclusive style that would suit women of all shapes, sizes and ages. A widely syndicated article about the contest quoted her requirements in detail: “Its silhouette should not too strongly suggest an umbrella, a knitting needle, an hour glass, a pyramid, inverted or otherwise, or other of the geometric forms into which women have from time to time tortured their bodies.” In The New York Times a few weeks later, she made a demand that still resonates today; when asked what she most wanted in the Polymuriel, she said: “Let’s have pockets.” This is an interesting story about women in 1915 trying to develop clothes that would be easy to move in, stylish no matter the trends, and take about as much time to think about and put on as a men’s suit would. People still talk about finding their “uniform” to free up mental space (which is kinda funny because if you actually wear a uniform for your job, they’re a little less of a romantic notion). “The question of how to balance professionalism and fashion, femininity and anonymity, has preoccupied working women ever since. Today, to walk through midtown Manhattan on a summer weekday is to be struck by the uniformity of men’s business clothing — shirts in 50 shades of blue. By contrast, womenswear is all diversity: subtle calibrations of formality, coverage and color. A work uniform for women is still elusive, perhaps because there is no outfit that will make a woman disappear. Equal treatment in the office, in the street, in politics, and in private life, is a matter of more than clothes.”
  3. In Defense of Screen Time, Bjorn Jeffery. I thought this transcript of a talk was interesting, in part because I am naturally inclined to want to reduce my time looking at screens whenever possible. This is a short read and I encourage you to check it out, but here’s his 4 takeaways if you’re pressed for time, or don’t want to read anything else on a screen today:
    1. What matters is what is on the screen, not the screen itself. Help your kids find the right thing for them. There’s so much great stuff out there. Don’t assume that your kids have necessarily found it themselves. And if they have found something – help them to use it the right way. What matters is what is on the screen, not the screen itself.
    2. Consider the context. How are your kids playing? Are they doing it together with others – siblings, friends, online friends? Is the screen the main part of the activity, or actually a facilitator of something else? If you think Fortnite is about shooting each other, you haven’t been paying attention. Is there an opportunity for you to participate in the activity? You can probably add layers to any activity that is going on, creating both a learning opportunity as well as a shared space between you and your kids. Consider the context.
    3. Encourage variety. I think there’s much to be gained from Fortnite, but I wouldn’t suggest playing and streaming it for 8 hours straight everyday. But come to think of it – there are very few activities I would recommend for 8 hours straight everyday. Go beyond the screen and ensure that your kids have varied activities in all places – including with screens. Encourage variety.
    4. Treat the screen like you would anything else. When I was the CEO of Toca Boca and tried to explain my job to people, almost everyone said “ah, you mean educational apps”. It was precluded that if you make apps for children, their primary purpose must be education. There’s no other area in kids lives that you would hold to that standard. What if all food you served your kids had to have a specific nutritional formula? That’s interesting in theory, but anyone saying that has never been in a car with a hungry toddler. Different circumstances call for different solutions.”
  4. You Too Can Have a Viral Tweet Like Mine, The Paris Review. Another “writing about internet phenomenon” pieces I read this week, but with some fun digging into poetic meter and the ways you can switch out lyrics or lines from poetry with each other (famously, singing Emily Dickinson poems to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme). My favorite example of conspicuous iambic tetrameter in speech is when Maude talks about the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers, yes, “and PROUD we ARE of ALL of THEM.”
  5. The Awkward But Essential Art of Small Talk, NYT. Whenever I start a new job or enter a new place I temporarily forget how to have a personality and make small talk. These tips are pretty good, including preparing a few anecdotes ahead of time (Mr. Bennet: “May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?” Mr. Collins: “They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.”), and remembering to ask questions of the other person. This article also introduced me to the “Shake and Fold” method of drying your hands with paper towels and it’s a real game-changer.

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