Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 6

Food for Thought (…See What I Did There?)

Unspeakable Appetites” (Lenny Letter)
In film, you’ll find a lot of female characters who are also cannibals. This short piece offers some thoughts on the matter.

Revenge of the Lunch Lady” (Huffington Post)
In one of America’s most unhealthiest counties, Rhonda McCoy, a food-services director, revamps the oft-dreaded school lunch.

There’s a Massive Restaurant Industry Bubble, And It’s About to Burst” (Thrillist)
Citing unreasonably high expectations from consumers, rising labor costs encroaching on already-thin profit margins, and pressures to compete with trendy fast-casual places, this harbinger of doom of an article predicts the death of the independently owned sit-down restaurant.

Learning to Make Lasagna in Kyrgyzstan” (Bon Appetit)
A writer recounts how cooking became a form of self-care while serving in the Peace Corps.

Journeyman” (New Yorker)
Here’s an excellent profile of Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and world explorer.
Further reading: “Fiction Confidential” (Eater)

Alpha Gal” (Radiolab)
Amy Pearl learns that she might have an unusual food allergy. What’s a person to do when she discovers that eating meat might kill her?
Further listening: “May Contain Nuts, Pt. 1: Alpha Gal Returns” “(The Sporkful)

Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow
This is truly a coffee-table cookbook, full of beautiful and at times perplexingly styled photos, dazzlingly complicated recipes that veer into impracticality, and lots of vegetables. I may never cook anything in its pages, but I still want it on my bookshelf.

Links

Nobody Is Home” (Aeon)
Thanks to our modern times, home might not be where the heart is anymore.

You Want to Marry My Husband” (New York Times)
Children’s author  Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer last fall, creates a dating profile for the husband that she’ll leave behind in this touching and heartbreaking Modern Love column.

Losing Streak” (New Yorker)
Kathryn Schluz reflects on the experience of losing things, both trivial and profound. She writes, “We lose things because we are flawed; because we are human; because we have things to lose.”
Further reading: “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop

Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness” (The Huffington Post)
Despite seeing gay rights achieve huge gains, gay men still feel incredibly alone and alienated.

‘I Feel Like a Fraud’: Confessions of a Broken-Down Domestic Violence Lawyer” (Vice Broadly)
A lawyer learns just how Kafkaesque the criminal justice system is when it comes to domestic abuse.

‘They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals’” (New York Times)
This photographic essay documents the horrific brutality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent anti-drug campaign in the Philippines. It is not for the faint of heart.
Further reading: “The  Tough Guy” (New Yorker)

The Prairie Wife” (New Yorker)
Gender Studies” (New Yorker)
I am now currently waiting in anxious anticipation for Curtis Sittenfeld to one day release a short story collection.

Podcasts

Amok” (The Memory Palace)
What does a 19th century news report about zoo animal escape have to do with our present day? Spare five minutes and take a listen.

MGM Stories, Part 12: Lana Turner” (You Must Remember This)
In this episode from the archive, Karina Longworth explors the rise of Hollywood’s  “Sweater Girl.” There’s also a gripping account of her daughter’s murder trial. (Cheryl Crane was the talk of the town after she killed her mother’s boyfriend.)

No Hollywood Ending for the Visual-Effects Industry” (Freakonomics)
Stephen Dubner takes a deep dive into Hollywood’s visual-effects industry to learn why America’s studios are going bankrupt.

Millennial‘s  four-part series on Cuba
Megan Tan travels to Cuba to explore what it’s like coming-of-age in a country so different from ours.

Adulthood Made Easy
I bid adieu to a podcast that was always earnest, often reassuring, and occasionally aspirational. Each episode was full of sound advice and the comfort that comes from other people agreeing that being an adult can leave you scratching your head.

Television & Movies

Season 4, Rectify
I expected nothing less than a stellar final season of this beautiful, thoughtful show. In many ways, Rectify is the anti–crime procedural; whereas most crime shows treat viewers to fast-paced plot twists, splashy action scenes, and forensic science, Rectify is never really interested in who commits the rape and murder that upends the Holden family’s lives. Instead, it’s won my everlasting devotion because it takes its sweet old time (only a few months elapse over the course of the entire show) and feels introspective in a way that many other shows are not.

Search Party
Looking for more hilarious shows about really annoying twenty-somethings that live in Brooklyn? Look no further! When Dory learns that a college acquaintance has gone missing, she enlists her ragtag group of friends and her boyfriend to crack the case.This show, which can be best described as a satire, is sharp and self-aware with plenty moments of humor and existential ennui.

Moonlight
Just go watch it. I promise it’s excellent.

Books

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Paul Beatty’s Man Booker prize is well-deserved for this absurdist tragi-comedy, in which the protagonist tries to reintroduce segregation to save his hometown in California. You’ll laugh out loud, feel deeply uncomfortable, and learn something about race in America.

Honorable Mentions

Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 5

Links

10 Streets that Define America” (Curbed)
Full of cinematic gifs of boulevards, thoroughfares, and tree-lined avenues across the United States, this interactive showcases how new developments and changes have affected ten different cities and neighborhoods. Put it all in perspective with a nifty feature that lets you see how a profiled town compares to your current address.
Further reading: “Return to Ohio” (The Atlantic)

Brand New Hue: The Quest to Make a True Blue M&M” (New York Times Magazine)
Natural blue food coloring is notoriously difficult to make, but with consumers eschewing artificial anything, food chemists at Mars Chocolate put their thinking caps on and try to recreate the bright hue so easily provided by Blue No. 1. Fun fact: Blue No. 1 is the only food dye that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Spoiler Alert” (Pacific Standard)
On the topic of food, a bureaucratic nightmare of regulations and 15 federal agencies maintain the safety of our food supply. Ironically, these rules might make us more susceptible to the next outbreak of foodborne illness.

How Cubans Live as Long as Americans at a Third of the Cost” (The Atlantic)
Take a peak inside a country where health care is protected as a constitutional right and a holistic and primary care physician–centered approach.

Speak, Memory” (The Verge)
When Roman Mazurenko passes away, his best friend creates an unusual digital memorial: a bot that responds to texts from his loved ones so uncannily reminiscent like the deceased.
TV accompaniment: “Be Right Back,” Black Mirror

With Child” (Harper’s Magazine)
With our current administration, we might see more states looking a lot like South Dakota when it comes to abortion access.

Sex, Drugs, and Bestsellers: The Legend of the Literary Brat Pack” (Harper’s Bazaar)
Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, Donna Tartt and Jill Eisenstadt give the Lost Generation a run for their money.

Launch Pad” (New York Times Magazine)
Arunachalam Muruganantham made it his mission to design an affordable sanitary pad for the women in his life.
Further reading: “Code Cracking,” “Look Again,” and…actually, the entire Design Issue is worth reading from front to back.

They Speak Gilmore, Don’t They?” (HazLit)
When I watched the reboot at home, my brother, who was also in the living room, turned to me after the opening scene and asked, “Why are they talking so fast?” Well, here are some thoughts.

My President Was Black” (The Atlantic)
Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on the promise, disappointments, and experience of America’s first African-American president.

My Friend Sam” (New Yorker)
Curtis Sittenfeld writes a touching essay to her best friend Sam. Their friendship takes them from their college days to Sam’s cancer diagonsis. I won’t spoil the ending.

My Son, the Prince of Fashion” (GQ)
Michael Chabon reflects on accompanying his son to Paris Fashion Week, where he begins to understand who is son really is, his passions, hopes, and dreams.

Every Body Goes Haywire” (n+1)
An author reflects on the neurological disorder that inflicts her and her mother.
Further reading: “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain” by Leslie Jamison

The Hygge Conspiracy” (The Guardian)
All those cozy nights spent around the fireplace with hand knitted socks, hot cocoa, and the company of family and friends have a dark side.

The Soccer-Star Refugees of Eritrea” (New Yorker)
The Eritrean soccer team has a field day as they plan a mass defection after a World Cup game. (Sorry for the bad pun.)

Profiles

The Afterlife of a Ballerina” (Elle)
Alexandra Ansanelli is exceptional in the ballet world: a prodigy who discovered dance years after most aspiring professional ballerinas put on their first shoes; a principal dancer not only for the New York Ballet but also the Royal Ballet; and in a move that surprised everyone, a rare talent who decided to quit at the height of her powers.

The Attorney Fighting Revenge Porn” (New Yorker)
Meet Carrie Goldberg: the lawyer fighting in the new frontier of sexual privacy.

The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close” (New York Times Magazine)
Chuck Close has made his career with larger-than-life, exquisitely rendered portraits, but he has entered a new phase in his life—divorcing his wife, disappearing to Miami Beach, and developing a new mode of painting that is a departure from the pieces that made him famous.

Books/I Recently Read a Lot of Non-Fiction

The Argonaut by Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson reflects on family life, motherhood, and her partner’s gender transition in this wondrous essay-memoir. The writing spills over with beautiful turn-of-phrases, and Nelson intersperses her prose with just the right amount of critical theory to keep your brain on your toes.

The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson
For those who are interested in learning more about systemic racism and oral histories, I got you covered. Life for African-Americans was marked by constant terror in a world whose byzantine rules life-threateningly fickle at best.

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
If you’re looking to escape your liberal bubble with a book, skip Hillbilly Elegy and pick up sociologist Arlie Russell Hoschild’s empathetic, candid account of the people she met in a deeply conservative county of Louisiana.

TV

Stranger Things
I know, I’m late to the party, but who knew I would like this nostalgic, creepy, and endearing show so much?

“The Inherent, Unsullied, Qualitative Value of Anything,” You’re the Worst
This episode does impressive work in terms of both its form and content. We pick up (kind of) full-circle with the gang at a wedding, where the continuous camera shots do a wonderful job of depicting the small dramas of the guests. By putting the characters with lots of feelings about their lot in life and their significant others in a social setting that is meant to be celebratory and requires them to be on their best behavior, it’s no wonder that conflicts come to a head.

Black Mirror
Black Mirror continues to excel in pinpointing the uncomfortable and unsettling facets of our technology-filled world and taking them to their logical, dystopic extreme.
Further reading: “The Speculative Dread of ‘Black Mirror‘,” New Yorker

The Crown
This serialized is simultaneously captivating and excruciatingly boring in its careful attention to detail, but if you’re as obsessed with Queen Elizabeth as I am, then you’ll love every minute and be unusually forgiving of the bad CGI animals. The show shines with its nuanced portrayals of the monarchy and the toll it takes on Elizabeth and her relationships with those around her.

Podcasts

Heavyweight
In this introspective show, host Jonathan Goldstein takes listeners as he tries to right past wrongs, mend broken hearts, and resolve petty squabbles. Plus, Heavyweight’s theme song is the catchiest.
Highly recommended episodes: “Toby,” “Tara”

Boy in the Picture,” Reply All
There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet, which means that there are a lot of stories behind the items that wind up there. PJ, Alex, and Sruthi try to track down a boy that’s featured on a meme and create an episode that has a crime-procedural flair and plenty of moments of suspense.

Revisionist History
Malcolm Gladwell takes his signature blend of pop social science and passioned polemic to the airwaves with ten episodes that want to challenge your assumptions and make you reconsider the forces that lead to certain decisions and historical events.

Movies

Manchester by the Sea
I saw this movie on a Thursday afternoon in a theater filled with senior citizens, one of which fell asleep and snored loudly in a back corner. And it was the perfect way to watch Manchester by the Sea. What this movie does best is capture the funny awkwardness and small tragedies of everyday life. I laughed and cried, sometimes all at the same time, and it’s the type of thing that gels well with my (very) dark sense of humor.
Further reading: “The Cinematic Traumas of Kenneth Lonergan,” (New Yorker)

La La Land
This movie was just so, so charming.

Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 4

Links

We Were the Only Plane in the Sky” (Politico)
After planes struck the Twin Towers on 9/11, George Bush was shepherded onto Air Force One. This oral history describes what happened during the eight hours the President spent in what was then considered the safest place to be: the sky.

The Blob That Cooked the Pacific” (National Geographic)
Thanks to warm ocean water created by El Niño, an algae bloom has taken over the West Coast. The toxic algae has decimated populations of local marine wildlife and might provide a preview of the ecological carnage that could result from climate change.

“‘I Had No Choice But To Keep Looking‘” (New York Times Magazine)
Five years have passed since a tsunami swept across Tōhoku, but a husband and a father continue to search for their missing family members.
Podcast accompaniment: Act One of “One Last Thing Before I Go” (This American Life)

From Hiroko to Susie: The Untold Story of Japanese War Brides” (Washington Post)
When WWII ended, as many as 45,000 Japanese women followed their American husbands to the United States. These war brides faced challenges when it came to adapting to the mores and culture of a new country, but many thrived in their new homes, including the author’s mother.

That Dragon, Cancer” (Wired)
When Amy and Ryan Green’s one-year-old son is diagnosed with cancer, Ryan channels his experiences into a video game.
Podcast accompaniment: “The Cathedral” (Reply All)

The Arctic Suicides: It’s Not the Dark That Kills You” (NPR)
Greenland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. In a country where nearly everyone seems to know someone who has taken their own life, communities struggle to save their youth. The piece considers the prevalence of suicide in the context of Greenland’s colonial history and its lack of mental health resources.

Marvel, Jack Kirby, and the Comic-Book Artist’s Plight” (The Atlantic)
Jack Kirby fights Marvel for his original artwork.

Flight Risk” (Slate)
It turns out that airlines don’t quite know what to do with creepy passengers who can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Women and Guns” (Marie Claire)
This interactive feature casts a spotlight on an issue normally not associated with woman. There are opinions from both sides of the debate, colorful and informative graphics, and pieces written by Hillary Clinton, Carla Fiora, and Roxanne Gay.

Making House: Notes on Domesticity” (New York Times Magazine)
A home is something that is presented, polished and showcased to others. But one of its main functions is to also serve as a living space, which inevitably begins to bear the traces of its past and present inhabitants. This essay explores these two sometimes contradictory roles that we ask our humble abodes to play.

Framed: She was the PTA mom everyone knew. Who would harm her?” (LA Times)
This six-part series explores a personal brouhaha between a PTA mom and a two married attorneys in Irvine, California. It’s a sordid tale with reality television twists and an inside look at how the other half lives.

Profiles

Huma Abedin on Her Job, Family, and the Campaign of a Lifetime” (Vogue)
Huma Abedin is probably best known for being Anthony Weiner’s ex-wife, but she has thrived in the political realm in ways that her husband never will. Nathan Heller’s profile explores Abedin’s unique position as Hillary Clinton’s right hand woman and the sacrifices and rewards that come with it.

Continue reading “Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 4”

Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 3

A Handful of Links

The Emails of Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer” (New York Times Magazine)
I had the best time reading this profile. It was delightfully bizarre. It made me wonder whether Jonathan Safran Foer really did divorce his wife because of Natalie Portman. It revealed how thoughtful the actress was and how self-indulgent the writer was. And what am I supposed to make of the fact that Foer eventually unearths an email that was supposedly deleted? It definitely deserves closer scrutiny and a closer reading than I’m giving right now.

Fences” (New York Review of Books)
Zadie Smith eloquently shares her disappointment with the Brexit. Aleksandar Hemon makes a brief cameo.

Their Bodies, Ourselves“(The Atlantic)
I am fascinated by gymnastics because of its contradictory demands. Few sports require enormous athleticism, bedazzled pageantry, and an insistence on aesthetics all at the same time. This article draws parallels between the demands on Olympic gymnasts and notions of femininity in our culture.

Ralph Lauren’s American Dream” (Racked)
According to recent news headlines, clothing retailers are having a rough time. Ralph Lauren presents an interesting case where the very things that have made it iconic are now working against them.

Train to Nowhere” (The Verge)
Surprise! Cincinnati once tried to build a subway system, the remnants of which languish beneath the city’s streets. Recommend for anyone who has a fascination with America’s dismal investemnt in infrastructure and public transit networks.

Why Are New York City’s Streets Always Under Construction? ” (New York Times)
While we’re on the topic of infrastructure, there’s also this fun piece about the “modern spaghetti” that lives below ground of NYC.

I Finally Caught Up on a Two-Month Backlog of New Yorker Magazines

Love in Translation” by Lauren Collins
Collins’s husband is a native French speaker, and when the couple relocates to Geneva, her goal to learn French reveals surprising insights about her relationships to language, the people around her, and culture. It’s a familiar subject for an essay, but the piece has lots of small, wonderful moments. My favorite include: the author’s husband using the word “capillarity” in common parlance, the author discovering that her husband uses the French-equivalent of “dude”, and this wonderful metaphor: “English is a trust fund, an unearned inheritance, but I’ve worked for every bit of French I’ve banked.”

Citizen Khan” by Kathryn Schulz
In the early 1900s, Zarif Khan began amassing fame and fortune by selling tamales in Wyoming. It’s a fun historical anecdote that ultimately has larger implications on today’s attitudes about immigration and who gets to be American.

The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face” by Patrick Radden Keefe
There’s a police force in London comprised of detectives who have are excellent at face recogition. Keefe presents the crimefighting possibilites of “super-recognizers” and also made me wonder whether we’re creeping towards a dystopian future.

The Philosopher of Feelings” by Rachel Aviv
Around campus, I knew that Martha Nussbuam was An Important Scholar, but I never quite understood why until reading this profile. It turns out that she’s a pretty cool lady.

Nan Goldin’s Life in Progress” by Hilton Als
Nan Goldin is also a cool lady.

Women’s Gymnastics Deserves Better Coverage” by Reeves Wiedeman
I know, it’s another gymnastics article, but bear with me. I didn’t have a chance to watch much of the Olympics this year, but thanks to what I heard about NBC’s dismal and droll coverage of the events, I wasn’t too disappointed about it. Wiedeman points out that NBC does gymnastics fans a disservice by assuming that the technical details of the sport uninteresting to its audience. (P.S. Wiedeman’s profile on Simone Biles is also excellent.)

The Shadow Doctors” by Ben Taub
In Syria, hospitals are often intentionally targeted as a war strategy, leaving the country with a critical shortage of doctors and medical personnel. NGOs and doctors from across the work have banded together to help create a network of underground hospitals.

The Daredevil of the Auction World” by Rebecca Mead
After reading this profile, I’m waiting for Martin Scorsese to make a movie about the glamorous, high-stakes world of art dealing with Leonardo DiCaprio in his next new role as Christie’s auctionner Loïc Gouzer.

The End of the End of the World” by Jonathan Franzen
I may have mixed feelings about Jonathan Franzen as a writer, but I did really like his description of the avian specimens that he saw during his trip.

Podcasts

Longform
I always thought that I wasn’t a fan of interview podcasts, but I was proven wrong by Longform, which features interviews with a different nonfiction writer each episode. I spent a weekend binge listening and learning fun things about my favorite journalists and writers from Emily Nussbaum to Ezra Klein.

Photo Credit” (99% Invisible)
Roman Mars dives into the history of Lucia Moholy’s photographs of the Bauhaus. There are two interesting threads to this episode: the idea that buildings from a prominent architectural movement survives mostly through photographs and how hard it is to receive credit for your work.

Playing God” (Radiolab)
In times of emergency, how do you decide who gets medical care and who gets to make the decision? This episode receives high marks for asking tough questions about triage and the allocation of scarce resources.

When Women Stopped Coding (Planet Money)
There are a lot of factors that explain the gender gap in coding and computing. Planet Money offers one theory.

Invisibilia, Season 2
The wait for Invisibilia’s second season was long, but it was worth it. Whether it was about teaching oil rig employees how to express their emotions or using compassion to fight Islamic radicalization in Denmark, each episode features excellent reporting and compelling insights.

10 Ideas to Make Politics Less Rotten” (Freakonomics)
This episode makes the list mostly because I was excited to learn about different ways of voting.

“On the Shore Dimly Seen” (Love + Radio)
This episode featured a performance piece that draws from the interrogation log of detainee 063 at Guantanamo Bay. It was creepy and captures all the horrors of no-touch torture.

The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist” (Radiolab)
Radiolab’s latest episode features a girl who was born and raised in Texas but has left no paper trail her entire life. Things get complicated.

TV

Season 4, Orange Is the New Black
I have mixed feelings about the latest season. The last few episodes broke my heart, but I have a lot of nitpicks about the story arc as a whole and the final cliffhanger. If you’re a longtime fan of this show though, all thirteen episodes are definitely worth a watch.

“Mother” (Veep)
Full disclosure: I have not finished the latest season of Veep (thanks to lost access to HBOGo). “Mother” has been my favorite episode of the season so far. It showcases the show’s wonderful dark comedy and acerbic satire. Plus, it gives you another reason as to why Selina Meyer is one of the most colorful characters on TV right now.

BoJack Horseman
The clever pop-culture oriented puns! Animals and people coexisting! Existential ennui! Will Arnett! I’m totally onboard.

Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 2

Long Things

How Mark Zuckerberg Led Facebook’s War to Crush Google Plus (Vanity Fair Hive)
Earlier this month, Vanity Fair launched a “new mobile-first site devoted to Wall Street, Washington, and Silicon Valley.” As you’d expect, it’s full of articles that give an inside look behind closed doors or their best guess at what’s happening. This piece in particular shines when it describes Facebook’s work culture and lets you see what it’s like to be a part of their world.

Ripple Effect (Wired)
About two weeks ago, I received an email from the DC Public Library system notifying me that seven drinking water sources in libraries throughout the city have high levels of lead. I soon read this article, which follows water engineer Marc Edwards and his quest to protect our water supply from dangerous substances. It’s a sobering reminder that safe drinking water is not something that can be taken for granted.

Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City (New York Times)
My first introduction to school segregation in a present-day context came from This American Life. I’ve always imagined segregation to be a long-abolished relic from the Jim Crow era, but lots of articles like this one have proven me wrong.

Ethics and the Eye of the Beholder (BuzzFeed)
There is a particularly poignant irony in knowing that a philosopher who is celebrated for his stance on ethics fails to applies these same principles to his personal life.

Fandom Is Broken (Birth. Movies. Death.)
Ghostbusters, Frozen, and the Strange Entitlement of Fan Culture (AV Club)
Is the customer always right? Both pieces say no and that the intense sense of ownership that some fans feel about their favorite works do more harm than good.

The Good News at The Washington Post (New York Magazine)
These days, it sounds like everyone wants to be a media company, especially one armed with buzzwords and innnovation (ahem, TRONC). The Washington Post is no exception, but while it has embraced alluring, click-bait headlines, it’s also trying to figure out how to be a sustainable news organization and adapt to an audience glued to its smartphones. I really like learning about the history of publications, and this article offers a look at how one institution confronting change and using the considerable resources of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to its advantage.

New York City, No Filter: On Voyeurism, Social Media, and Life in the City (Brooklyn Magazine)
This lovely piece explores our collective fascination with the quotidian. Plus, anyone who can eloquently explain the appeal of Snapchat earns lots of points in my book.

Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid (Vela)
Is there a conflict between being an artist and a mother? For this author, this is not quite the right answer to ask. In this essay, she eloquently reframes the debate with the following assertion: “The conflict is between the selfishness of the artist and the selflessness of a mother.”

The State of the Domestic Goddess (Serious Eats)
This piece reviews cookbooks from Gwyneth Paltrow and Chrissy Teigan. In doing so, Emily Gould carefully analyzes what exactly each so-called domestic goddess is trying to sell their readers.

On Swarm (Gawker)
A confession: I was never a regular reader of Gawker and probably never will be, but I was intrigued by this essay. It presents a fairly interesting ideas about that type of fake civility and moral high ground that people use to defend themselves in arguments, but it can be a little petty and unnecessarily confrontational. It’s also very long, possibly too long.

Continue reading “Chronicling My Media Consumption: Vol. 2”

Chronicling My Media Consumption: An Introduction (and Vol. 1)

As anyone who knows me can confirm, I consume a lot of media. I also have a lot of pet projects. Hence, the start of this new series of blog posts, where I collect all the favorite things that I’ve come across in the last month.

Inspiration for this project came from the weekly newsletters that arrive in my email inbox and from just being on the Internet in general. Lately, a lot of link roundups have been popping up on my radar. And they’re currently one of my favorite ways of spending my time. I’ve always been a generalist. It’s why I double majored in very different fields in college and why I’d make a terrible PhD student. It’s also why I love the link roundups I’ve been reading. The articles that I’ve discovered through these pages run the gamut when it comes to subject matter and format. There’s always something that’s relevant to today’s trending subjects. There’s always something that’s completely random as well. Every week, I shake my head in wonder and think, Boy, there is a lot of cool stuff out there.

So why bother adding my own link round up to what already exists? My memory for the things I’ve read/listened to/watched is unfortunately short-lived, unless I tell something about it or write down my thoughts about them. Luckily, this is where the blog posts come in. Thinking about the things I’ve read and why I like (and occasionally dislike) them will help me remember them better. I’ll have better answers when someone asks me what I’m reading/listening to/watching.

Without further ado, here are the favorite things that I’ve come across about in the month of May (and some extra stuff from March and April slipped in there too).

The Internet
“Yet I’ll Speak”: Othello’s Emilia, A Rebuke to Silence (The Toast)
I’m a sucker for thoughtful readings of Shakespeare. I haven’t read Othello since high school, but Moran does an excellent job of explaining why Emilia’s line, written centuries ago, remains so salient in the present-day.

India’s Dying Mother (BBC)
I highly, highly recommend reading this article on your phone. Scrolling through this is a joy. Text, images, and video flow together flawlessly, and it’s a gorgeous piece of storytelling that shows how well different forms of media can be integrated.

Same But Different (The New Yorker)
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s An Emperor of Maladies is one of my favorite nonfiction books, and I was more than a little excited to see excerpts from his forthcoming book in the New Yorker. Since their appearance, Mukherjee has received a lot of flak for dressing up unsound science in beautiful prose, but this article still makes it onto my list because I enjoyed every minute reading it.

“You want a description of hell?” OxyContin’s 12 Hour Problem (LA Times)
Purdue Pharma is despicable. That is all.

How Blac Chyna Beat the Kardashians at Their Own Game (BuzzFeed)
I had so much fun reading this article, and Obell does a fantastic job of teasing out what the drama between Blac Chyna and the Kardashians reveals about race and the construction of celebrity.

Unearthing the Secrets of New York’s Mass Graves (New York Times)
This piece conjures all the morbid thoughts that cross my mind from time to time, especially now that I live in a city where it’s so easy to stay anonymous. It’s also an unsettling reminder of the ways institutions and systems can fail people, even after death.

If You Are What You Eat, America Is All Recipes (Slate)
I’m a card-carrying home cook foodie who’s into obscure vegetables and farmers markets, but I learned how to cook from All Recipes and still sometimes uses sour cream as a substitute for ricotta cheese. I’m glad that someone else was also thinking about the different ends of the food culture spectrum.

How Empowerment Becomes Something for Women to Buy (New York Times Magazine)
My favorite kind of think piece: how something is commodified to its detriment.

How Lifetime Became One of the Best Places in Hollywood (BuzzFeed)
As if I needed more reasons to start watching UnREAL.

The Voyeur’s Motel (The New Yorker)
One of my favorite things about this piece is that it might reveal just as much about the author as it does of Gerald Foos, the voyeur himself. There’s plenty of moral ambiguity to go around.

Continue reading “Chronicling My Media Consumption: An Introduction (and Vol. 1)”

On Pretending to be a Morning Person

After I returned from my trip to Guangzhou, one of my coworkers asked me whether it was harder to beat jet lag after traveling to my destination or after returning home. Six hours fresh from my landing at JFK, I told him that in this case going was more difficult than coming back. After all, I had a conveniently timed flight. I boarded my plane in the wee hours of Tuesday morning in China, which would give me plenty of time to sleep and be ready to hit the ground running at 5:00 am on Tuesday morning when I emerged in New York.

Reader, I was terribly wrong.

I did not have a restful flight. Because I’m a kind person (read: pushover who fears passive aggressive glowering from the elderly), I gave up my coveted window seat in the emergency row aisle to an old woman who wanted to sit with her traveling companions for a seat between other two elderly ladies, both of whom were extremely chatty and interrupted my attempts to watch Argo without interruption.

These past days spent in Eastern Standard Time have been a confusing time.* On Tuesday, I only made it until 11:00 am before I felt a sleepiness so overwhelming that it felt like someone had wrapped a heavy blanket around my brain. On Wednesday, I walked out the door and made it downstairs before realizing that I’d forgotten to wear my glasses and that was why I couldn’t see. On Thursday, I was wide awake by 4, despite having successfully stayed up until 10:30 the night before. I’ve temporarily resorted to writing everything down on old receipts because my memory has become sieve-like, thoughts breezily passing through and then vanishing without a trace. The “20-minute naps” that I’ve begun taking before dinner have left me awfully confused about why it’s suddenly 5:00 am the next morning instead of 8:00 pm yesterday evening.

A more interesting and less miserable side effect of being jetlagged is the chance to masquerade as a morning person. Prior to this trip, my mornings were a frenzied affair in which I would wake up, make myself presentable, and remember to bring my lunch under 20 minutes in order to arrive at the office barely on time. When you’re awake at 5, there is time to watch an episode of Broad City in between brushing your teeth and getting dressed. While I didn’t want to spend more mental energy than I usually did with my clothes, I liked having the option of carefully crafting an outfit. There was time to eat breakfast in the comfort of my own home. There was even time to decide whether to make scrambled eggs or walk three blocks to buy a bagel or in my case, do both. This past week has been filled with bagels, and I’m beginning to suspect that I’m really using bagels as an excuse to eat an otherwise socially unacceptable amount of cream cheese. (Side note: I got distracted by this Serious Eats article, which tells me that I can save money by slathering my bagels with cream cheese myself.)

Because I live in New York, there is no such thing as a completely quiet morning. When I took the subway from the airport back to my apartment, there were already enough people on the E train to fill the seats in my car. That being said, the trains are less crowded. It is easier to maintain the illusion of personal space. There are also more school children, whose existence I was skeptical of but I guess I was just never awake early enough to notice them. I also found out that arriving to work at 8:30 isn’t too bad. While I’m never the first one there (thanks to a boss who is truly a morning person), I like how the rooms are half-dark and that the desks are unoccupied and that the normal soundtrack of Pandora playlist and furious typing is absent. When I’m not running late to the office, brewing myself a cup of tea is something I can dwell on rather than something to do as quickly as possible so I don’t feel like I’m behind with my day.

But there are costs to suddenly become a morning lark. My leisurely mornings come at the expense of a misallocated day. The time I spend doing things slowly at the beginning of the day mean that there is less time and alertness for the personally productive things that otherwise fill my time. I’ve found myself devoting my shortened evenings to getting ready to sleep rather than reading, journaling, browsing social media, or thinking about the next hobby I should try. The solution to this problem is that I should start doing some of these things before I head to work and when I’m still attentive and still actually awake.

It was this mini-dilemma that made me realize what the hardest thing about being a morning person. And it has nothing to do with waking up early. What I dislike most about my hopefully short-lived tenure as a morning person is knowing that there is a time later in the day when I will not be at my peak. At work, I felt that I was racing the clock, knowing if I didn’t complete tasks A, B, and C before the early afternoon, the likelihood that they’d be done with same amount of attention and speed would plummet. The option of doing something later wasn’t truly available anymore, and as a person who is used to being more alert as the day grew on, I had trouble organizing my day. One of my coworkers, who also used this week to experiment with being a morning person, described how there was an intensity to starting your day much earlier. And intensity is an excellent way to describe it. Instead of settling into my day, I needed to start it at my best and knowing that it was as good as it was going to get. I’m sure it’s a system that works well with a lot of people, but as someone who is used to being most alert at night, it was something that was difficult to get used to. (I’m also sure that being jet lagged has a lot to do with it too. My anecdotal evidence and sample size of four days are not very impressive or very statistically rigorous.)

Luckily, I don’t have to get used to being a morning person. With any luck, I’ll be back to my normal sleeping schedule in no time, and while being a night owl is not conducive to a society organized by a 9-to-5, it’ll be a state of being that I’ll know how to navigate.

* I’ve spent some time thinking about why I’ve been having much more trouble with jet lag than I remember ever experiencing. My first thought was that I’m just getting old, but if that were the case, I would have had a much miserable time during the beginning of my trip. My current theory is revolves around the fact that I had to go to work right after returning from my travels. With previous run-ins with jet lag, I generally didn’t have any real responsibilities besides staying awake until a reasonable hour whereas I’m obligated to use my brain for 8 straight hours, regardless of how much sleep I did or didn’t get.

On Learning Turkish

I’ve never not had class on a Friday, and this was the reason why I was dressed, while my roommate, who enjoyed the luxury of spending the entire day at home, had only recently decided to change out of the sweatpants she had worn all day. We were about to walk to a friend’s apartment where we would find a party, our other roommates, more friends, and maybe one or two strangers. While she blew dry her hair, I waited on a rickety Ikea chair next to the island counter. As usual, I had a book in my hand.

At the time, what I had really wanted to read was a Patricia Highsmith novel. I had been in the mood for a smart thriller, but as luck would have it, Powell’s did not have a copy of Talented Mr. Ripley or Strangers on a Train. I picked up The Black Book instead because the blurb on the back cover promised a detective novel-like plot.

In the dim kitchen light, I tried my best to read carefully. Orhan Pamuk’s prose was dense. It was easy to breeze through the pages and still form the images written on the page, but the book also rewarded you for paying attention. The sentences were woven together with an eye for detail that felt lush. They were also long.

Take, for example, this one:

Although the radio was on from the first thing in the morning till the last thing at night, the thick-coated and not-at-all Turkish-looking china dog curled up on top of it never woke from his peaceful slumber.

The first time I read this sentence, I tripped over its syntax. The second time around, I was only half-paying attention. But then I tried again. A radio, a china dog, a peaceful slumber. I reread it one more time before running to my roommate’s room.

When she saw me at the doorway, she held out a skirt in each hand. “Peach or black?”

I pointed to the black one. “Do you know what’s really cool?” I didn’t wait for her to reply. “You can tell that this book was translated from Turkish! I just read this sentence…”

I tried to explain how the verbs in Turkish were always the last words of a sentence and how it was an agglutinative language. My professor had told our class how Turkish sentences and words could often go on forever, with clause after clause and suffix after suffix piled on top of one another. I described how reading through the short, simplified passages in my textbook was strenuous, even on the best of days, because my English-accustomed brain was not used to sifting through so many words to find the actions that drove a sentence. But that was why the sentence about the radio and the china dog was so astonishing. I had just read a string of words that managed to capture how meaning in Turkish revealed itself in peaks and glimpses, and once you understood, you felt a little silly because the message had been there all along, waiting patiently for you to put the pieces together.

The next morning, I read the translator’s afterward at the back of the book. Maureen Freely talked about devrik cümle, or a sentence “in which words appear in an order different from that ordained by custom and practice, and cascading clauses create a series of expectations that are subverted by the verb at the very end.” Quoting the poet Murat Nemet-Nejat, she described Turkish “as a language that can evoke a thought unfolding.” Thinking of my jumbled explanation from the night before, I admired and envied her eloquence. Continue reading “On Learning Turkish”

People Watching #6

I’m sitting next to the three of them because I wanted tacos, and instead of waiting until 8 to eat, I went at 7.

I wanted to eat at 8 because 7 is still peak dinnertime, and I was on a schedule. I wanted to read one more chapter of Little Failure and finish aimlessly scribbling in my journal. There was still one more cover letter to write for a job posted over a month ago, and I am so sure that a day could make all the difference between a missed opportunity and the perfect amount of good luck.

But I was sitting in the courtyard at the National Gallery, and on this day, it didn’t want its visitors to forget that it was once an outdoor space. I was so cold that goosebumps grazed the arms of my long-sleeved shirt. I wondered why I’d left my coziest sweaters in a basement in suburban New Jersey and why I still wasn’t convinced that temperatures dipped below the forties below the Mason-Dixon line. I was unsure how the clean lines of the courtyard’s wavy glassy ceiling and the smooth gray tiles, which felt soothing in the summertime, were now too sleek and spare. How sixty minutes were suddenly too long to spend in the company of its trees, too green and wispy from their cultivated lives indoors.

Because it is a weekday and the sidewalks around the Metro Center are empty, I think that 7 will work just fine, but when I walk into District Taco, there are too many people and too many taco combinations, and it takes me ten minutes to figure out what to even order. When the cashier asks me whether I want my food to go, I tell her that I rather stay because I am too distracted, still trying to remember whether barbacoa is made with beef or pork. And when I realize my mistake, the next person in line is already nudging me out of the way, and there’s nothing else I can do but wait for my food and squeeze into the one empty chair next to these three strangers.

The trio are smartly dressed, their outfits perfect for a workplace where dark-rinse jeans are reserved for Friday. Person A wears a blazer over a lace embossed dress while Person B has draped a cardigan over a chiffon blouse. Person C arrives late in a green sweater and khakis.

They never say their names as they eat, but A and B tell C how they are going to the ballet and how they’re so glad that he could stop by for dinner. And C apologizes for being late because he had to help clean up the holiday party he had work today. How was it? It was great! The first one that they had in their new building, but they had to pay out of their own pockets. Was there an open bar? Everyone had really strong gin and tonics. Did he make anything? Pulled pork!

It’s Christmas next week, and C still hasn’t finished shopping. His plan is to make a list, cross-check it with the other relatives, and shop while he is in New Mexico. A and B are intrigued, and C explains that his family lives there. He’ll upgrade his flight to first class, because he can. He also has TSA clearance and double knots his shoelaces.

A complains that she has to work right after the holiday weekend, but it doesn’t matter because no one else will be in the office, which means she’ll probably do nothing. But there’s been exciting things happening because of Cuba. C tells the group that he’ll probably be flying there soon. A nods. Of course, Cuba is so interesting because there’s a lot of potential for both private investment in its health care, especially in the primary care sector.

B says that the last time she traveled was to go to a wedding in Italy. A complains that one of her friends from college is getting married on New Year’s Eve, but she’ll go anyway because it’ll take place on a rooftop. She’ll stay until midnight. The couple sent e-vites.

What is everyone doing for New Year’s?, C wonders. There are friends who are worried about the neighbors and will kick everyone out right at midnight, champagne barely emptied from their glasses. Where do they live? Columbia Heights, and A is excited to hear that because Columbia Heights is “the port to Washington DC.” What a great location!

I finish my second taco when it’s time for the trio to see their ballet. The three gather their trash and leave while A explains to the group how she makes her own preserves and would be happy to send some jars over. As I discover that barbacoa is made from beef, I think how fun it would be to work at a health care company that sends its employees to travel-restricted countries. Or can fruit at the peak of its ripeness. Or believe that a single stop on the Green/Yellow line is enough to convince you that you have an entire city at your disposal.

But I think cooked fruit is more comforting in a pie crust than a mason jar. A grandma sweater is just as fashionable as a structured blazer. I’d choose Prague in economy class over Havana with TSA privileges. I’d rather live somewhere that I can’t fold up and put in my pocket because it will always keep me on my toes.

Second Impressions of DC

  1. According to Google Maps, the distance between the Jefferson Memorial and the White House South Lawn is 1.2 miles. It’s a 24-minute walk, and on the morning that I took this route, it was windy, and the grass was muddy and covered with geese droppings. I wanted to see the National Christmas tree because nothing pleases me more than a city dressed up for the holidays. When I finally reach the southern edge of the park, I discover that because it is before 10 am, public access is restricted. The tree from the distance looks puny and plastic-wrapped. I am not impressed.
  2. Near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street, there are a four park benches, placed perpendicular to the sidewalk curb. If you sit on the side next to the street, you’re close enough to the traffic that to stretch out your hand means running the risk of amputation. Chunks of gravel and small pebbles clatter along the gutter. Breathe at the wrong moment, and you’ll inhale a lungful of exhaust from a passing 42 bus. This is my favorite place to read.
  3. In a city known for brunch, I am still waiting to find a place that does not oversalt their hash browns or make me miss Valois.
  4. The best way to find your way to the Jefferson Memorial is to follow a group of women carrying little lunch bags from Pret A Manger.
  5. I’ve been told that while DC is not a literary city, it is the most literate city. Someone is always reading on their morning commute.
  6. The bonsai trees at the National Arboretum are surprisingly impressive. (I also like all things miniature, so the impartiality of the above statement is dubious at best.)
  7. The best place to people watch: 11 o’clock on the corner of U Street and 12th Street, right outside the U Street Metro station.
  8. My favorite museum: the Hirshhorn, or as a friend once called it, “the poor man’s Guggenheim.” Second place goes to the Phillips Collection because of their Rothko Room. But all this doesn’t matter because you’re most likely to find me at the National Portrait Gallery at the end of the day.
  9. During the summer, I waited for a bus in Adams Morgan in the company of a homeless man. Skinny with a buzz cut, he wore a neon jersey (the kind a traffic director would wear) and sat on a milk crate, selling copies of Street Sense and talking to the voices in his head. Four months later, I am waiting for the bus outside McPherson Square. As the Circulator headed towards Woodley Park pulls up, I see the same man, still dressed in his jersey and holding a milk crate under his arm, walk towards the stop and board the bus. The world feels extraordinarily small.
  10. At Dupont Circle (the roundabout), there is a healthy growth of moss and algae on its fountain. Crabgrass and clover have displaced most of the grass in the park. Amateur brass bands play show tunes during the summer. I watched pigeons and sparrows devour an apple core that someone dropped on the walkway. Across town, there is a roundabout in Capitol Hill that is always emerald green, which might also make it inhospitable to urban wildlife for there are no vicious birds hunting for food. Instead, you might run into an outdoor wedding with guests walking in their Sunday best from the doorsteps of their townhouses.
  11. Nothing is more frustrating that a Metro system that refuses to run 24 hours, even on the weekends.
  12. And why does it take up to 3 business days for the money I add to my transit card online to be usable?
  13. The fact that DC does not have a real also Chinatown boggles the mind. But at least there are a lot of interesting grocery stores.
  14. The city is pretty in the rain.
  15. Any of life’s sorrows can be cured by the white peaches or the free samples of apples found at the local farmers market.
  16. The National Mall has its perks. Like many other vast green spaces, it offers opportunities for pickup soccer games, scenic walks, impromptu picnics, and suntanning, among other things. But it also spans nearly two miles. The walkways are unpaved, and there is shade only on the outer perimeters of the park. In most cases, the only way to go from one place to another is to go by foot. I am totally uninterested in wasting my energy and time traversing a giant patch of grass.
  17. From The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (this year’s pick for DC Reads): “That’s the dirty little secret about D.C. For all its stature and statues, the city could just as easily have been one of the grander suburbs of America, an appendix hooked to Virginia or Maryland. As the joke goes, everyone who has lived here long enough suffers from an inevitable inferiority complex, size not being the least of it.”
  18. I’m pretty ready to go.