Read Watch Listen: Recs from a Slacker

It’s been an odd couple of months for me, and I’ve broken my regular cadence of book-reading and movie-watching in favor of more easily digestible podcasts and TV shows. Work has been just enough crazier than usual that I haven’t really been in the mood for anything requiring too much emotional investment. On top of that, I’ve been setting aside most of my spare time to relax in the kitchen or work on a personal project.

I do, however, have a couple of things I’ve been able to invest in that I highly recommend. In addition, I’ve got a read, a listen and a watch at the top of my “Get To It Immediately” list. 

Newly Consumed: Pick it Up

onthemedia

I’m always looking for new, palatable ways to digest the news that doesn’t make me cringe and hurl my phone across the room, and I’m only about 20 years late on this one. What I love about On The Media, hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, is that it considers current events, as well as older stories and interesting media artifacts, through the lens of media coverage.

Rather than telling you another depressing spin on the news, it considers how stories are being presented by the media and what is or isn’t being coverage. A recent episode included everything from narratives around the Greek financial crisis to the vitality of the famous “A dingo got my baby” line.

Can you tell this podcast reaches to the deepest trenches of my media and communication nerd soul?

grove

Pick up this book and read it, because it is distressingly relevant to the current state of race relations in this country. This took me an embarrassingly long time to finish, in part because I would read a few chapters and then get depressed at how familiar the cycles of racial violence and police misconduct felt.

Gilbert King tells the story of the Groveland Boys case and Thurgood Marshall’s defense of the three men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County, FL. It’s an engrossing narrative that serves to highlight our country’s horrifying (recent) past and our history of racial police brutality. As my brother pointed out, it’s hard to imagine a time in the 60 years since the Groveland Boys case that this story wouldn’t feel at once familiar and relevant. 

On My List

between

I need to give myself a short respite from nonfiction since Devil in the Grove took me far too long to finish, but as soon as I’m ready this is at the top of my list. It is one of several books from the last year, including Ghettoside and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, that deals with what it is to be black in America. I’ve heard mixed responses about the format-Between is written as a letter to Coates’s son, and something of a follow-up to his 2008 memoir-but everyone seems to agree it’s an important and poignant read. 

misssimone

I tried to make it to see this documentary about Nina Simone at the San Francisco International Film Festival when I was volunteering there, but the timing never worked out. Luckily, it’s now on Netflix so I can watch it without leaving my house. Many thanks to Glen Weldon of Pop Culture Happy Hour (an NPR podcast of which I am a devotee) for his glowing review, and for reminding me of the incomparable Simone song “Four Women.”  

anotherround

Buzzfeed and I have a complicated relationship, but I’m totally excited about one of their podcasts, “Another Round” with Heben Nigatur and Tracy Clayton. I follow Clayton on Twitter and think she’s tremendous (follow her!), and am always looking for new podcasts to add into my rotation since I have the attention span of an easily bored 9-year-old. Plus, how can you not be excited about a podcast with a segment called Drunken Debates? 

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Reading Roundup

2015-04-13 16.28.11

Hello computer, my old friend. After a weekend of no computer and just music and dust everywhere I have to admit just opening my computer has left me a blue. The emails have piled up and tomorrow will be a typically crazy Tuesday at work.  But I’m trying to ride that great-music-no-worries high through the short week until I can collapse in utter exhaustion next weekend.

In the meantime, driven by my dread at the thought of actually having to write/make/do today, here’s a roundup of some of the articles, books and bits that caught my eye over the last week or so.

(Doesn’t that framed woman look like she could use a good reading recommendation? Picture from my trip to the Legion of Honor with my mom a few weekends back.)

The feminism behind Flawless, a great read from literary critic Parul Sehgal.

Don’t spoil it for me–I missed the GoT premier for Coachella! But I loved this roundup of all the on-screen deaths from the last 4 seasons.

“Tell Me Again How You Don’t See Color,” an ever-important response to calls for color-blindness from the amazing Marshall Gillson.

All the things you never realized were wrong with Goodnight Moon.

In Indio I finished The Power of Habit–maybe not a nonfiction masterpiece, but got me thinking about my own unproductive habits (as I stuffed my face with pizza and roast beef and noodles and..).

Up next? I’m dying to read The New Jim Crow and I’ve got Devil in the Grove queued up on audible. Y’know, light, fluffy reading.

‘Ask Me’ End of Year Recap

Back in March I posed the question to friends and family: what would you recommend I do? I wanted to push myself to try new things, but not just the easy things that I had on my own list. Suggestions for books, recipes, trips and activities flooded my inbox. Initially my goal was to finish my full list by the end of the year.

My life was derailed just a wee bit along the way, so I definitely didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I guess that’s to be expected. I’m trying to not beat myself up, because I took some time away from this project starting in August to take care of myself and do the things that I’d been burning to do.

I did manage to get a number of good asks in, and I’m going to keep going through the list in 2015! I want to inject some new life into it, so I’ll be asking for new submissions, but in the meantime wanted to recap all of the things I did off my list.

Top 5: The Asks I Loved

  1. WATCH Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight
    • Courtesy of Film Guru Feinstein, this suggestion came at a perfect time when I was looking for movies to escape into.
  2. LEARN to make donuts
    • This one required a bit of an investment because I didn’t have a rolling pin, cookie cutters or a thermometer. Once I got the goods together, though, I was unstoppable. It definitely requires a lot of time (8 hours of rising dough) and a messy kitchen but donuts have become my new favorite party favor.
  3. READ something important by a WOC
    • I think I might’ve cheated on “important” but I used this as an excuse to read Bad Feminist. While it’s not the best writing out there, Gay has important things to say. Already wrote some brief thoughts about it here.
  4. MAKE Eastern European Cuisine
    • I made borsht. Turns out I love borsht. My roommates probably weren’t pumped that my cutting boards were all dyed bright pink but it was worth it. I also made blinis and chicken schnitzel, and I’m not sure if they count but were delicious as well. (It was a bad day, I got bad news, so I cooked all three at once.)
  5. WATCH Doctor Who
    • I only watched the post-2005 Doctor Who because that’s what’s on Netflix, but I feel like this was one I needed to do to get the whole Doctor Who phenomenon. Am I a diehard fan now? Nah. But I had a lot of fun watching a few seasons with the Doctor, his ladyfriend, and the TARDIS.

The Ones I Finished: 21

  • WATCH Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight
  • EAT sea urchin
  • WATCH an episode of a Chinese soap opera
  • MAKE a list of all the ideas you get
  • READ anything John Updike
  • LISTEN “Fineshrine” by Purity Ring
  • MAKE this sangria recipe http://www.pinterest.com/pin/269441990178564804/
  • WATCH Lost
  • MAKE a list of the goals you want to accomplish in the next three years
  • LEARN to make donuts
  • LEARN to make fudge
  • MAKE friends with a stranger
  • READ The Tao Te Ching
  • WATCH Doctor Who
  • WATCH Waking Life
  • LEARN Meditation
  • VISIT Boston, MA
  • MAKE Eastern European Cuisine
  • READ something important by a WOC
  • VISIT the Palace of Fine Arts
  • LISTEN Nicholas Jaar’s BBC One Essential Mix

Still to Go: 27

  • READ Norwegian Wood
  • MAKE a cheap, easy hummus recipe
  • LEARN rollerskatedancing
  • WATCH Shameless & True Detective
  • EAT this recipe, it’s delicious! http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/04/crunchy-cashew-thai-quinoa-salad-with-ginger-peanut-dressing/#comment-5123
  • LEARN to sew a bathing suit
  • VISIT the Hotel Del Coronado
  • MAKE a bracelet for yourself you’d actually like to wear
  • READ The Goldfinch
  • VISIT the nude area of Baker Beach
  • MAKE samosas
  • EAT fried crickets
  • WATCH a plant grow from a seedling
  • WATCH The Battleship Ptomkin
  • MAKE Tyler Florence’s Beef Wellington
  • LEARN sous vide cooking
  • VISIT The Legion of Honor
  • LEARN Muay Thai Kickboxing
  • WATCH The Feynman Series
  • LEARN jump rope tricks
  • MAKE flash fiction – a short story under 1000 words
  • MAKE cinnamon roll pancakes http://blog.moodifoodi.com/2013/11/recipes-cinnamon-roll-pancake.html
  • WATCH Howl’s Moving Castle
  • LEARN how to make a chocolate croissant
  • VISIT House of Air
  • LEARN to write server-side code

Discarded as facetious or not feasible: 8

Examples include “learn fire breathing”, “eat your greens”, and “make a project that doesn’t suck so much.”

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 2

As promised, more feeling-inducing pop culture. This time, however, I’ve tackled a different beast.

The Inspirational: Pop Culture for Kicking Ass and Setting the World Straight

I do, in fact, do more than just wallow, and lately I’ve found myself reading books & watching clips that give me a different kind of feels. I like to dub them “Miracle moments.” You know what I’m talking about: you’re sitting on the couch, eating rice cakes crumbs off your sweatpants and channel flipping, and all of a sudden the Miracle speech comes on and you find yourself yelling along with Herb Brooks “Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down!”

Obviously Miracle is the greatest inspirational movie of all time so there’s no point even debating that. But there are smaller Miracle moments, more honest & personal, that get me fired up in all kinds of different ways.

Pop Culture for Inspiring

 

“Flawless” Beyonce

I woke up like this, I woke up like this
We flawless, ladies tell ’em
Say I look so good tonight

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t power sing along to this, sneering into the mirror that I do look so good tonight. This song is the fire. Beyonce dropped her album like it was nothing at midnight on a Friday, finally giving us the anthem we deserve. On “Flawless” she growls with confidence as she warns us to bow down. I beseech you to give yourself over to this song, and let it carry you on a wave of feels.

I was lucky enough to go to the On The Run tour just after my breakup, and it might have been the best possible therapy there was. For me, “Flawless” was the best moment of the night. The flashing Feminist lights we came to know and love at the VMAs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie laying down the law about what it is to be a feminist. And Bey, standing there, holding it down and imploring us to post up, flawless.

And let’s never forget that I been preaching the gospel of Bey, long before she was rocking the feminist sign in public.

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“We should be able to say, ‘This is my truth,’ and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot coexist.”

I’ve been making my way through Bad Feminist, reading Gay’s fabulous book of essays slowly as I blast through fiction left and right. This is the kind of book I wish would make it onto high school reading lists. Is it the best of the best when it comes to writing? Not quite, and there are some parts where Gay’s redundancy shouts over the important ideas she’s sharing. But what she’s saying is important, and the writing thoughtful.

Gay has a lot to say about what it is to be a feminist, a woman of color, a large woman, a child of immigrants, and a queer-identifying woman. But some of her most compelling moments come when she reminds us, and herself, that it’s okay to fail. I count myself among the titular “bad feminists” of the world, and the reminder of multiple truths and acceptable failures is one I could use from time to time.

“B” by Sarah Kay (as seen in her TED Talk “If I should have a daughter”)

“I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this. There’ll be days like this, my momma said.”

If you’ve ever needed the inspiration to write something truly wonderful, look no further than spoken word poet Sarah Kay. I was introduced to Kay by a TED Talk (bear with me), which she opens with “B.” She packs the joy, laughter, heartbreak and fear of both growing up female and raising a (hypothetical) daughter into just a few minutes. It’s worth a few minutes of your time just to allow yourself to be taken away by her storytelling.

And because I can’t stop at one quote from Kay: “She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” If nothing else, she’s my inspiration in knowing that some other kick ass ladies out there “get it,” whatever that means.

Watch her here. 

 Sports Moments

 “This is our fucking city”

As I found myself poring through the mental archives of inspirational movies I’ve watched recently, I struggled to find any that resonated as clearly as the aforementioned songs & snippets, or made me want to kick ass and change the world. I kept coming back to sports movies–I had recently watched A League of Their Own, Billy Elliot, and, of course, Miracle. But what can come across as artificial and manipulative in sports movies is exactly what inspires and connects people in actual sports.

Last spring as Boston was trying to find a semblance of normalcy in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing, David Ortiz took to the field and uttered those five unforgettable words. “This is our fucking city.” A beloved player defending a beloved city in the wake of something it was impossible to make sense of.

There is something about sports as a binding agent that gives them the power to inspire, either by way of victory on the field or in moments of terrible sadness. Now is this strictly a sports moment? No. Neither was three nights earlier the crowd taking over singing the National Anthem for Rene Rancourt at the first post-marathon Bruins game. These moments inspire, invoke some sort of visceral feeling, but aren’t truly about the sports. But then again, neither is Miracle.

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 1

Pop culture escapism holds a special place in my heart, because I think it serves a very real purpose. When you’re numb from bad news or tired of crying over a bottle of cider, there’s always another episode of Bob’s Burgers or BoJack Horseman. A bad hangover can be watched away with a Will Ferrell marathon. I myself recently indulged in Mystery Men on a particularly torturous Sunday morning. I owe a lot to the type of pop culture that lets you escape from your immediate reality.

And then, there’s all the rest. Pop culture that forces, as us Internet kids would call it, The Feels. There are some pieces of pop culture that you’re meant to rub in open wounds and let sting you. You know them when you come across them: the end to Of Mice and Men, anything sung by Billie Holiday, when G-Baby dies. (Okay that’s an inappropriate juxtaposition, sorry Ms. Holiday, but losing G-Baby was one of my earliest scarring moments.)

I was going to share my Good Songs for Shit Times playlist, but that would be like opening my diary and letting you in. So instead, I thought I’d share some of the snippets of books, songs & movies that have struck a chord with me recently.

To prevent this from being stupid long, I’m breaking this up into different categories that I’ll share over a few days.

The Sad: Pop Culture for Wallowing

In the interest of keeping it wistful and melancholy per my last few posts, I’m starting with the sad snippets that pair well with a comforter cocoon and long sad phone calls to your best friend and/or mom.

Pop Culture for Wallowing

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

abyss, n.

There are times when I doubt everything. When I regret everything you’ve taken from me, everything I’ve given you, and the waste of all the time I’ve spent on us

corrode, v.

I spend all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust

I don’t know that I would recommend this book to everyone, but you’ll find yourself somewhere in the pages, whether you’re currently in the throes of a relationship or watching one crumble.

I picked this up from the dusty rows of a used bookstore, having seen it recommended before. As I sat down to dinner alone that night I started thumbing through it. Five pages in I felt the lump in my throat, and 10 pages later I was sobbing into my chicken tortilla soup.

Levithan details a relationship through a series of dictionary entries. It covers the moments of intimacy, light-hearted observations, and life-ruining revelations that come with a relationship. The book only takes about an hour start to finish, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhat shallow & quick feels.

“Love Me Like You” Ella Eyre

“I guess I’ll love you forever, I guess that’s all my fault”

I recently started listening to Ella Eyre, the unmistakable voice behind Rudimental’s “Waiting All Night.” She has a voice that won’t quit and sings a slew of great shower karaoke songs. “Love Me Like You” made it into my regular rotation just post breakup, because it’s heartbreaking and also a lifeblood-girl-anthem power source. It recounts the slap in the face feel of realizing you’re the one who has to do the moving on, because your ex’s boat has already sailed. I also recommend “If I Go” for the restless in love, and “Deeper” for when you’re a little less in love than you should be.

“I Will Fall” from Nashville

Just when I think I’ve let you go / your song’s playing on the radio

And just like that it rushes back, / every part of you

I’m not even embarrassed that the Nashville soundtrack has crept its way into my top ten listened to albums (do the kids still call them albums?). T-Bone Burnett pulled together some incredible music for this show’s first season. The songs fit the narrative, but like the Burnett produced Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, they stand alone as well. And no, I’m not saying the music on this show are as good as that soundtrack.

But this song, oh my, this song. The harmonizing, the heartbreak, the pleading to just please stay away because I will fall if you come around. It will resonate with anyone who has ever had to truly get over someone.

The Spectacular Now

Sutter: I almost just killed you and you wanna know if I’m okay?

Aimee: Yeah, I wanna make sure that you’re okay.

Sutter: What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you not see that I’m bad for you?

This is somewhat cheating, because in addition to wallowing to this movie I use it to live out my Miles Teller fantasies. The first time I watched this I developed a huge crush on Teller, and I recently realized it may be because he reminds me of a boy I used to crush on, so there’s that.

My go to wallow movie would typically be Eternal Sunshine, so that’s my most honest recommendation. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch that alone, however, since the last time I watched it was on an air mattress in my ex’s childhood bedroom. So instead I’ve wallowed to Spectacular, a charmingly heart-rending movie about high school love. Teller and Shailene Woodley capture the sadness and vulnerability of a first love.

Plus it has one of my favorite wallowing lines, delivered by the perfect Brie Larson: “You’ll always be my favorite ex-boyfriend.”

Books & Movies & Questions (Oh My)

The Idea

As the summer comes to a close I tried to think of the best way to round up the things I’ve been reading and watching. I could make a list, but that already partly exists on Goodreads. Instead I pose to you the questions that were raised for me as I read and watched, since lingering questions are perhaps my favorite takeaways from those experiences. I appreciate anything that keeps me thinking after it’s over, even if I didn’t love the book/movie, or sour on it as I mull it over (see: The Marriage Plot).

In the spirit of keeping things brief and distilled down, I tried to stick to one or two questions, whether serious or silly, that occurred to me during or after. For movies and TV shows, I only included films I saw in theater or shows I watched regularly, the exception being Hitchcock which I included just because I’ve watched a good amount. I’m certain I’ve left off a good few movies, but if they didn’t keep my thinking well then I blame them.

The Questions

  • How much is one’s own memory terrifyingly apathetic to and ignorant of our role in other peoples’ lives? (A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes)
  • Is it easier if the past never catches up to you? And how awesome is Italy? (Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter)
  • Is there a singular best Hitchcock movie? (Vertigo, Rear Window, Rebecca )
  • Chapter 2 of Cannery Row is one of my favorite two pages of any book. Not a question. And while I’m on the topic of not-questions, nothing has ever made me love California more than the description of Cannery Row as “a poem, a sink, a grating noise, a quality of life, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” (Cannery Row)
  • Why are boys so unable to wait to watch TV shows with their girlfriends? (Breaking Bad) (This may or may not be a question raised by my personal experiences rather than the show)
  • How did Georgia Bird give birth to an 11 lb 12 oz baby and then still go on to have even more children? (Bird: The Making of an American Sports Legend by Lee Daniel Levine)
  • Are Hemingway’s women just fantasy-laden projections at best, or complications at worst? Is it bad that I don’t really care, and linger on every misogynistic anti-Semitic word anyway? (The Sun Also Rises, In Our Time)
  • What does it mean to be a little beast in a big, big universe? And if you’re on a boat that takes you exactly where you need to go, is it the right place to be? (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Can exes be friends? (Celeste and Jesse Forever) (My opinion: yes, but I’m naive and want to see the sliver of good in every boy I’ve ever slept with)
  • Aren’t we all a little bit defined by our obsessive and singular pursuits? Does it stand in the way of “thoughtless being”? (The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach)
  • Will sports books and movies always fail the Bechdel Test? (I’M A FEMI-NERD, GET OVER IT) (The Art of Fielding)
  • Is an ethereal male gaze an inherently flawed way of telling a female story? (The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides)
  • To what extent does Eugenides write a realistic mental illness, and to what extent does he glamorize and fetishize it? (The Marriage Plot, The Virgin Suicides)
  • Is dating really just a big con? And how fun must it be to write this type of book? (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
  • Will anyone be able to get over the obvious flaws in The Newsroom and see it as the “set of stereotypical yet entertaining characters embroiled in love plots” that it is? (The Newsroom)
  • Why doesn’t Julia Louis-Dreyfus do more? (Veep)
  • What is a First Love? And how come Wes Anderson movies make me laugh so much harder than anyone else in the theater? (Moonrise Kingdom)
  • DID BILL COMPTON JUST COME BACK AS A GOD? (True Blood)

Any make-you-think movies and books I’m totally missing?