November 22, 2019

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Raisa Suprun via The Atlantic

The reads I picked this week are pretty life-affirming, in my opinion. I’m always on the hunt for the good stuff. Last weekend David and I watched Elizabethtown, and there’s a background story of a couple getting married with all this personalized merch with catchphrases on it (like “Chuck and Cindy: The Wedding,” and “Lovin’ You 24/7”). My favorite of the catchphrases is “Lovin’ life!! Lovin’ You!!” Anyway…

  1. This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad, NYT. America’s sweetheart, Tom Hanks. “I think a long time ago, I learned how important it was to show up a little bit early,” Hanks told me. “Be ready to go, you know? And to respect the whole process, and I think that you could respect the whole process even when the other people don’t.” There are so many golden little moments in this adoring story: “In our interviews, he says “oh dear” and “geez” and “for cryin’ out loud.” He is a history enthusiast. He is an information enthusiast. He is an enthusiasm enthusiast. At one point, I can’t remember why, he recited the Preamble to the Constitution.” Highly recommend this read.
  2. The Myth and Magic of Generating New Ideas, New Yorker. “I had stumbled upon an instance of what is called an abundant number, a phenomenon first studied by the ancient Greeks. An abundant number is smaller than the sum of its divisors: in my case, the sum of one, two, three, four, and six (twelve’s divisors) is sixteen. That morning with my dad, I didn’t have a name for this phenomenon, but I was happy nonetheless, and maybe even happier because I was ignorant of the larger picture. It was my own surprising little discovery, born of walking and puzzling. Magic all around.” I like how this author talks about the process of thinking and discovery, “an initial period of concentration—conscious, directed attention—needs to be followed by some amount of unconscious processing. Mathematicians will often speak of the first phase of this process as “worrying” about a problem or idea. It’s a good word, because it evokes anxiety and upset while also conjuring an image of productivity: a dog worrying a bone, chewing at it to get to the marrow—the rich, meaty part of the problem that will lead to its solution. In this view of creative momentum, the key to solving a problem is to take a break from worrying, to move the problem to the back burner, to let the unwatched pot boil.” It reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote from “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” where he describes the process of creating a story as one that starts with an idea bubbling in his mind, until it becomes “a thing inside him pawing to get out. […] This nags him all day long and gets in the way of his work and his sleep and his meals. It’s like being in love.”
  3. How High Can High-Waisted Pants Go? New Yorker. “Personally, I want my pants to be so high that they can double as an underwire bra. I want to feel like Humphrey Bogart playing an exaggerated version of himself for Halloween.” I just like feelin’ like my tummy is safe! I enjoyed this piece of fashion writing.
  4. How to Write a Condolence Note, Cup of Jo. Some very good advice in here. In particular, I liked this, “Tell stories. I loved when people wrote specific stories about Paul that I’d never heard, and told me how he had impacted them, what they loved about him, positive things they observed about our relationship. I personally think, the more detail, the better. The grieving person is thinking about the person 100% of the time; nothing you say is going to make her sadder; instead, the stories you tell are going to make her feel connected.”
  5. Here Are More Pictures of Cows, The Atlantic. Exactly what is promised!

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