September 17, 2021

Amor Alien, Laura Molina

Hello there friends. Here’s a few things I read in the last week+ (Week+, the premium, approximately 10-day week that I’m operating on right now):

  1. Octavio Medellin: Maya Toltec Temples and Carvings, 1938, Google Arts & Culture. This month (9/15-10/15) is Hispanic Heritage Month, and Google Arts & Culture has some seriously cool exhibits of Latinx and Hispanic art! This one caught my eye, a Mexican-American sculptor who studied Mayan ruins. “In 1938, [sculptor and artist] Octavio Medellin spent six months studying the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá and Uxmal, located on the Yucatán in Mexico, and documented his travels with 181 black and white photographs that he compiled into a scrapbook entitled Maya – Toltec, Temples and Carvings, 1938.  The following images are selections from this scrapbook.” It’s cool to flip through and see how the photographs influenced his later art.
  2. Ted Lasso’s fantasy, Dirt. If you haven’t watched Ted Lasso, and you don’t mind HBO-rated jokes alongside the ~wholesomeness~, I would highly recommend the show. “I consider The Andy Griffith Show and Ted Lasso both part of a broad category I’d call “moral television”: that is, television that is intended to be morally instructive. The defining sitcom of the following decade, M*A*S*H, was moral television of a different kind– morality through pessimism.” Thought this placement of Ted Lasso in the genealogy of Andy Griffith and MASH was interesting! “The show’s good-guy protagonist, Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce, is in many ways a moral television hero in the tradition of Griffith. He is unerringly decent and kind, with an infallible sense of right and wrong, righteously striking down racism and jingoism at every turn. He delivers sermons on the evils of war that drive home the moral lesson for viewers.” And this sums up part of why I like Ted Lasso: “The show is successful because the premise is twofold: “what if all people were good at the core,” and “what if you could bring that goodness out of them just by being nice.” 
  3. Borderbus, Juan Felipe Herrera. “We are nothing and we come from nothing / but that nothing is everything, if you feed it with love / that is why we will triumph // We are everything hermana / Because we come from everything” This poem is a dialogue between two immigrant sisters, and I’m moved by how the dialogue puts you in the bus with them. As Naomi Shihab Nye says in a similar poem, immigrants “are the bravest people on earth right now, / don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe / swirling as many details as yours.”
  4. What If People Don’t Want ‘A Career?’, Charlie Warzel. “The author framed her employee’s decision to put boundaries between his work and personal life as a fundamental weakness. She’s not alone. Many in positions of power misinterpret those who strive for a better relationship to work as weak or selfish. I’d argue that what they really want is obedience — or for one worker to do the work of one and half workers without more pay.” WHEW boy reading the recap of that article, I felt heat crawling across my skin. This is well-said: “When you talk to people who reject the modern notion of a career, many of them say the same thing: They crave more balance, less precarity, and better pay. They also, crucially, want to work. But they want to work for places that see them as three-dimensional human beings and that actually invest in them and their futures without expecting workers to sacrifice everything. They want to be a part of organizations that recognize that meaningful and collaborative work can bring dignity and create value but that work is by no means the only way to cultivate satisfaction and self-worth.”
  5. Drone Photo Awards, 2021. This is, in my opinion, what drones were made for: to give us new perspective and stun us with color. Which photo is your favorite? I love the footprints in this wedding photo, called First Meet, I would hang this piece called No Stress in my home, and I couldn’t stop staring at the details in Bank of Buriganga.

September 3, 2021

Anna Atkins

Hi! I hope your roads and basements are dry and your sky is blue today. My semester is in full swing, I’m stressin about Covid, I love my dog, you know — the usual. Here’s what I got for ya:

  1. If the Shoe Fits, Julie Murphy.  Such a cute re-telling of Cinderella meets The Bachelor, by an author I trust! It’s an adult novel by a YA author, so I think it has cross-generational appeal. The main character is fat, unbothered by it, and the fatphobia she experiences in the reality tv-show world is real but not cruel to the reader. And the love is gooey and good, a perfect pool read for the last few weeks of summer!
  2. Negative Space: Close Reading Trauma Porn, LA Times. TW: Discussion of sexual assault and other forms of abuse, referenced but not in detail. “When one person speaks the unspeakable, aloud, and publicly […] it provides both permission for the next victim to speak, and also a template as to how.” This made me think hard about why I watch this type of documentary (the “abuse doc”), and why it’s different than other types of true crime. “This is the key to the abuse doc genre and its connection to histories of sentimental and sensational recitation. Unlike true crime, which is concerned with the dirty deed and tracking down the dirty deed doer, in abuse docs, the Recitation at the center of the documentary always gets situated within a framework of social critique. Always. Abuse docs never ask: “Who did it?” They ask instead: Why did no one stop it? How was this allowed to happen — and then continue? Why couldn’t we see? Why didn’t we speak?” I also appreciate these intense, not-for-everyone documentaries, for centering survivors and their voices.
  3. Fatness & Feminism: A Conversation on Unruly Bodies and Representation, ArtNews. Roxane Gay and Jenny Saville in conversation. “In most art, when a woman is fat, she’s not actually that fat—she’s just sort of plump. She doesn’t have any rolls or wrinkles or stretch marks. And here I saw fat bodies, unadorned and unapologetic. It was really surprising. We know that representation matters, but when you see the kind of representation you didn’t even know you wanted, it can be really meaningful.” And this line, which quickened my pulse: “…We think of poetry as kind of quaint and gentle, not as something that’s threatening to the government.” AND this line from Gay, who continues to be one of my favorite intellects of this generation: “If nobody is criticizing you, and if nobody is disagreeing with you, then you haven’t done your job. Universal appeal is not my ministry. I’m glad to be an acquired taste.” Girl.
  4. Butt News Movie Club #1: Sleepless in Seattle, Lindy West. Just found out the incredible Lindy West has a newsletter where she recaps a movie and makes it hilarious. Instant subscribe, and here’s the first issue! Here’s a sample: “Cut to Baltimore, where Meg Ryan (female journalist) is engaged to Bill Pullman (allergic), because this is a thoroughbred-ass ‘90s cast. They go to Christmas dinner at Meg Ryan’s parents’ house, where Bill Pullman embarrasses everyone by being allergic to strawberries like a huge piece of shit. He sneezes during their engagement announcement! Red flag!!! […] Annie (Meg Ryan) tells the “cute” story of how she and Walter (Bill Pullman) met: “One day [AT WORK, WHERE HE IS HER BOSS] we both ordered sandwiches from the same place and he got my lettuce and tomato on whole wheat, which of course he was allergic to, and I got his lettuce and tomato on white!” I’m sorry. So many things here. Well, two things. 1. He’s allergic to…. The bran of the wheat? He can eat white bread but not wheat bread? What the fuck allergy is that? 2. You not only ordered but had someone drive to you with a lettuce and tomato sandwich!?!?!? WHAT KIND OF FUCKING ARCANE HORROR IS A LETTUCE AND TOMATO SANDWICH?????????????????? Do you eat olive and sour cream tacos too? Oh, you know what’s good? PASTA WATER.” Lmao. The “wheat bread/white bread” allergy has always bothered me! 
  5. Image, Public Perception, and Lego Librarians, Mr. Library Dude. A treasure of the profession. He created a bunch of Lego librarian personas with cute lil captions, highly recommend a flip through.  “I’m an approachable guy librarian. Look at me! I’m on the fast track to Administration!” made me lol 

August 20, 2021

Oh hi. I decided to take an unannounced writing hiatus around the end of 2020, for a lot of reasons that are probably not surprising. But I miss it, and I miss you. In the earlier days of this blog, I wrote less and quoted more, and that will be my approach for a little bit. This is my humble offering:

  1. It’s Unfair and It Doesn’t Make Sense, Mari Andrew. “The whole-hearted feel like they have something of worth to say to the broken-hearted, the denizens of the healthy think they know more than the sick. Around those who are in pain, people suddenly assume the role of expert: “I suggest feeling your feelings. Be grateful for the good in your life.” Why do the perfectly-fine presume they have tools for the suffering?” Oh this meditation on not giving advice, but instead being present, is powerful and making me tear up. “When New York was overwhelmed with suffering of every kind, it felt just as unfair that I’d hear a saxophone playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on a perfect mid-summer day in the park. Why do I get to hear this? It’s completely backwards. It makes no sense. It’s unfair. “Why me?” applies to goodness as much as it applies to suffering. Why do I get to hear this song? But I do.”
  2. You’re Still Exhausted, Anne Helen Petersen. “Life is still exhausting because the pandemic was and remains exhausting in so many invisible ways — and we still haven’t given ourselves space to even begin to recover. Instead, we’re just softly boiling over, emptying and evaporating whatever stores of energy and patience and grace remain.” She also describes the pandemic year and a half as “isolated, extended, slow-motion trauma,” and how perfect a sum is that, of the ever-present dread, confusion, fear, monotony. She ends with mercy, and if this sounds like it’s for you, it is: “For some of you, [actually taking rest is] easy. But for others, addicted to the feeling of constant utility, that’s the hardest part. But your refusal helps set the impossible standards for everyone around you. You are beloved and worthy of rest. Now act like it.”
  3. The Trash Heap Has Spoken, Carmen Maria Machado. TW: Talk about fatphobia and disordered eating. I encountered this gorgeous piece about fatness and the power of taking up space in a beautiful anthology called Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Lives. Here’s an example of why Machado is one of my favorite writers ~of our time~ “I have an intermittent daydream in which I’m a queen straight out of an epic fantasy novel. I am draped in red silk and sit in a large baroque throne, crowned with a grandiose headdress dripping gemstones that tick tick tick like Yahtzee dice when I turn my head. My feet rest on snoozing bears. I am so fat I can only leave the throne on a palanquin borne aloft by twenty men. I am so fat it takes the air out of the room. I am so fat no advisor tells me no. I am so fat would-be conquerors flee the room in fear. I am so fat the members of the court do their best to look like me by eating onions cooked in lard, but none can match my sweeping vista, my strength, my power. I am so fat I can take as many lovers as I please. I am so fat that fatness becomes culturally inextricable from a firm, wise, no-nonsense attitude. I am so fat the citizens who come before me for advice or assistance feel safe in proximity to my orbit, and afterwards they go home to their families and tell their children that I am even larger and more exquisite in person. I am so fat their daughters shove pillows under their clothes during play and say, “I’m the queen!” and then argue over how many monarchs are allowed during their game.”
  4. “The Low Road,” Marge Piercy. How can you stop them? / Alone you can fight, you can refuse. / You can take whatever revenge you can / But they roll right over you. / But two people fighting back to back / can cut through a mob / a snake-dancing fire / can break a cordon, / termites can bring down a mansion […] It goes one at a time. / It starts when you care to act. / It starts when you do it again / after they say no. / It starts when you say we / and know who you mean; / and each day you mean / one more.”
  5. The 100 Best YA Books of All Time, Time. How many of these books have you read? (I’m only at 23/100!) Any you see in this list that you’d forgotten about, and the sight of the cover drags a core memory from you like “Ohhhh THAT one!” Any that you think this list is missing?

December 11, 2020

Pretend the extremely pixelated quality of this photo is ~artsy film grain~

Hi again, she says sheepishly. I feel like I’m starting an entry in a long-neglected diary, and feel like I need to explain that “things have just gotten so busy,” or “there hasn’t been that much to write about.” The truth is closer to, “I’m so tired of writing about 2020, and each week it gets easier to Not Write.” But I started this project to hold myself accountable to the things I read and having coherent opinions on them, so I’m back to give it the ole college try!

  1. Will Anyone Ever Love Me?, ¡Hola Papi! I read this weeks ago and it’s compassionate and sweet. “Yes, UL, like you, I am lonely. The loneliness is a reliable ache that at times asserts itself into full-blown torture, depending on the day. The balm is elusive, and I would give it to you if I could. But what I can give you, and I hope it will be enough for now, is what I feel you’re looking for in your letter. I can give you understanding, I can believe you. I’ve heard the same things you have. It can be incredibly unsatisfying, depressing, even, to feel like your reality is being dismissed, even if the heart is in the right place. But I’m here too, aching and wanting and hoping and making peace with things, and you know what, UL? I think most people are. I think most people are lonely, even people who are in relationships, even people who have been married for most of their lives. I think loneliness is part of the human condition. […] Love, wherever we can find it and whatever form it takes, can at times be so close to our faces we don’t even see it. Romantic love isn’t the only or most important kind, and if you have some love in your life, I would encourage you, UL, to meet it happily and let it be enough for a while.”
  2. Dear Fuck-Up: Why Won’t My Friend Text Me Back?, Jezebel. Another advice column I’ve been sitting on for weeks, but still feels relevant. “Covid has obviously eroded or destroyed countless things in all our lives including, for me and perhaps for your friend as well, the ease with which we maintain a lot of our relationships. That vast array of people you talk to somewhat frequently but not every day, the people you have dinner with every few months, the people you would see but not stay with if you are visiting their city. All of those relationships that add immeasurable texture to a life and are predicated on the simple joy of catching up. The problem, for me, is that it feels like there is simply nothing to catch these people up on anymore. Too many things are happening but also nothing much is happening at all, and I find I have nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Life is dull and that has in turn made me a dullard. Even the things that qualify as events don’t feel like enough to sustain any real contemplation. How have I been? Well, I moved to a new city, and now I’m in a new place doing the same things as before, mainly dishes and fretting.”
  3. Deconstructing The Instagram Aesthetic, Ssense. This piece is about antiracist IG accounts that create slideshows for stories on police abolition and other social justice topics, and about how (despite the potential for misinformation/oversimplification) co-opting the IG aesthetic for radical politics is a pretty effective design strategy. “As I meditate on the efficacy and purpose of these slides, I start to see all this DIY design and education as a visible fight between the application design of Instagram and a wing of radical users.” The essay ends with some hope too, which I’m thirsting for: “We lack the resources of the truly powerful, so we must attack with a tiny thousand cuts. Dismantling the mythos of capitalist design is one cut. Combating propaganda in every form with our own is another. When I see young people and organizers galvanized by this movement creating a message of their own design, I see a tiny blade, in sync with many others.”
  4. Are COVID-19 Bubbles a Good Idea?, The Atlantic. My takeaway from this article is to keep my pod small (tiny!) and closed, and to have regular conversations with pod-members about risk and exposure. This was compassionate: “None of us should be shamed for relying on people we don’t live with, or for wanting to maintain our emotional health. We need one another. But we also need one another to exercise caution and restraint so that thousands more will not die in the name of preserving the nation’s social well-being.” 
  5. Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema, Lindy West. Very few comedy writers make me LOL IRL, but Lindy has my number. I’ve been cackling into the pages of this book all week. She recaps familiar movies (Forrest Gump, Love Actually, The Fugitive, Rush Hour, to name a few) and there’s a transgressive pleasure about being like “Hey, this movie everyone loves is ‘shit, actually.’” She has perfected the balance between feminist killjoy and lover of human absurdity, and I highly recommend this read for a wholesome belly laugh!

Donation Station:

  • The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs – Normally around this time of year, David and I have gone to the Weinberg to see It’s a Wonderful Life, which fundraises for the Religious Coalition. Obviously we’re not doing that this year, so I’m donating $10 toward the Coalition to assist with families experiencing homelessness and other effects of poverty. (They have a minimum donation about of $10, but if 9 other readers pitch in, our donation will help keep utilities on for one family ♥)

Bonus features:

October 30, 2020

Liu Bolin. Iron Fist.

Oh hi, I guess this is going to be a bi-weekly blog for a little bit. I’m hanging in there, but dang, am I burned out! Are you? I love you. We’re gonna get through this.

  1. 10 things you need to know to stop a coup, Waging Nonviolence. Just sharing this article, no particular reason…just kidding. If we need to, we should prepare “for the possibility of a coup while keeping people focused on a strong, robust election process.” Some of these tips are pretty comforting. The importance of the regular citizen in stopping a coup gave me courage: “Coups tend to fail when government institutions (like elections) are trusted, there is an active citizenry and other nations are ready to become involved. […] A failed coup in Germany in 1920 gives an example. The population felt beaten down by defeat in World War I and high unemployment. Right-wing nationalists organized a coup and got the help of a few generals to seize government buildings. The deposed government fled but ordered all citizens to obey them. “No enterprise must work as long as the military dictatorship reigns,” they declared. […] The moments after a coup are moments for heroism amongst the general population. It’s how we make democracy real.” These lines in tip #9 are a good place to end: “Let’s aim for calm and avoid hyperbole. Be a reliable source by double-checking rumors and spreading high-quality facts. Sure, read social media… but spend some time, you know, doing real things that ground you. Breathe deeply. Remember how you handle fear. Play out scenarios, but don’t become captured by them. We’re doing this to prepare, just in case.” 
  2. Sunset on 14th Street, Alex Dimitrov for The Iowa Review. “I’m standing right in front of / Nowhere bar, dehydrated / and quite scared / but absolutely willing / to keep going. It makes sense / you do the same. It’s far / too late for crying and quite / useless too. You can be sad / and still look so good. […] Look at the sky. Kiss everyone / you can for sure.” This was a lovely piece with the vibes of a carpe diem poem.
  3. The feminist history of the cardigan, The Week. Didn’t know the first cardigans were called Sloppy Joes but I like it! “A 1947 article in Life lamented the sweaters and was shocked that these women “sometimes even ventured out of dormitories in rolled-up blue jeans and large men’s shirts with the tails out. … like a girl who does not care whether or not she looks like a girl.” GASP, what kind of girl?! 
  4. Dear Fuck-Up: Why Won’t My Friend Text Me Back?, Jezebel. “The problem, for me, is that it feels like there is simply nothing to catch these people up on anymore. Too many things are happening but also nothing much is happening at all, and I find I have nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Life is dull and that has in turn made me a dullard. Even the things that qualify as events don’t feel like enough to sustain any real contemplation. How have I been? Well, I moved to a new city, and now I’m in a new place doing the same things as before, mainly dishes and fretting.” Aw this advice column was so compassionate for the letter-writer and the girl the LW is writing about. 
  5. How to Make Socially Distanced Holidays Actually Feel Special, S. Bear Bergman for Vice. I loved the ideas here. If you like celebrating the holidays, treat the day like it’s special even if you don’t do all the traditions you usually do. Dress for the day, incorporate some games or conversation starters if you’re doing a Zoom dinner, and my favorite suggestion: Make videos of your relatives cooking their specialties, an intergenerational cooking class as the author calls it. It’s painful to see more traditions postponed or transformed by Covid, but if we miss each other this year, we give ourselves the chances for many years together to come.