Monthly Archives: November 2015

Link Party: 11/23-11/27

Brush lettering fun.

Brush lettering is fun.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. People actually used to talk at the movies.

2. The Paris Review’s author interviews are really the best. Here’s a fantastic one with Ernest Hemingway.

3. How the New York Times’ City Room blog helped spark its digital evolution.

4. The millennial housing crisis.

5. I first read Nora Ephron’s “My Life as an Heiress” in one of her essay collections, but it popped up in a New Yorker newsletter this week and I remembered how much I liked it.

And a bonus: I can’t stop watching/listening to this classroom instruments version of Adele’s “Hello.” Jimmy Fallon is a national treasure.

Have a wonderful day.


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Think Tank: Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Despite the history and commercialization (which are complete downers I’m not going to talk about tonight), I think Thanksgiving is a moment that Americans need and need to share. Beyond the food, the thing I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s an opportunity to look closer at your life and realize why it’s worth living. Life can be tough, and everyone has days where it seems like everything is ugly and unfair. But this holiday is an annual moment where we gather with the people who mean the most to us and talk/think about what makes our lives full, and that makes me happy. I try to wake up every day of year and be thankful that I’m Zoë. I’m exactly where I want to be at this point in my life, surrounded by people I love. Last year I wrote a post about what I’m thankful for, and it all still stands. I do, however, have a few additions. I’m thankful for:

My English degree, and the fact that I was allowed to get one.

Having work to do, in all aspects of my life. 

Oscar Isaac. 

Living at home.


Access to whatever I want to read.

Art supplies.

The New Yorker.

Having no student debt. 

A bright future. 

Have a wonderful holiday.

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Link Party: 11/16-11/20

Give me a fence covered in vines or shrubbery or just general greenness and I am a happy camper.

Give me a fence covered in vines or shrubbery or just general greenness and I am a happy camper.

1. This is a magnum opus on selfies. If you only have time to read one thing in this week’s party, make it this.

2. This article really makes me miss video stores as a cultural institution. Netflix is really and truly The Worst.

3. The history of the siren on Starbucks cups.

4. The phenomenon of fake Instagram.

5. Bento box culture.

And a bonus: These teacup votives are my next DIY project.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Link Party: 11/9-11/13

Echo Park Lake water lilies.

Echo Park Lake water lilies.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I loved this article about how the world is still interested in the tenants of punk rock.

2. The Four Seasons is offering a round-the-world trip in 24 days for $120,000. It actually sounds terrible.

3. Let’s talk about why people from Southern California, including myself, through the word “the” in front of freeway names.

4. This was an incredibly poignant essay about what it’s like to go to a summer camp for disabled kids.

5. Doc Martens as a sartorial canvas.

And a bonus: If you’re in the L.A. area, you should really visit my new favorite stationery store.

Have a great week.

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Culture Connoisseur: “Hamilton”

I love this play /so/ much, you guys. And I haven't even seen it.

I love this play /so/ much, you guys. And I haven’t even seen it.

If you haven’t heard of the broadway musical “Hamilton,” I’m sorry — I’m about to ruin your life in the best way.

I don’t even remember where or when I first heard about this musical, but I was curious from the very beginning. Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and composed the play, which is based on a 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was inspired to write a musical based on Hamilton’s life while on vacation from his play “In the Heights,” and stars as Hamilton himself. The exceptional aspects of this musical, however, are that it is interpreted through a hip hop lens and that most of the actors are people of color. This video is a great introduction to the backstory and premise of the play.

One day I decided to listen to the soundtrack while I worked, and within the first few songs I was hooked. I’ve been watching videos from #Ham4Ham (this is the best one), following Miranda on Twitter and devouring any and all news about the play. I’m not the only one who finds this musical enjoyable. The soundtrack has been in the Top 5 on the rap charts and is racking up millions of streaming sessions. Tickets are notoriously hard to get and expensive, and the show has already made tens of millions of dollars in sales.

Just because you probably haven’t seen the play doesn’t mean that you can’t listen to and enjoy the soundtrack. If you have basic knowledge of Hamilton’s life, you’ll understand the play via its music. Miranda told Charlie Rose that the music from Broadway musicals were a significant part of his childhood in New York. His parents didn’t have money to go to the plays, and instead they bought cast albums. It was important to him that people could listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack and still understand the story, all while forming their own interpretations of Hamilton and his place in United States history. Genius is also a great resource for listening, as Miranda has made his own comments.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you as you uncover the brilliance that is “Hamilton,” but listening to Miranda discuss his artistic process or reading interviews where he talks about Hamilton as a person are magical experiences. The emotion just pours out of the music and the actors’ singing. The lyrics are fantastic and smart even out of context of the soundtrack, and it will put all of your favorite rappers’ songs to shame. I’ve wept while listening to a few select songs, and I’m emotional now just writing this / listening to my favorite one. I can only imagine what it’s like to see the performers live. This is what all musical theater should strive to be like, and I think it has set the benchmark for creativity and engagement. Miranda is a genius.

You can listen to the entire album on Spotify. The best tracks are “Alexander Hamilton,” “My Shot” (not going to lie, this is my anthem), “The Schuyler Sisters,” “You’ll Be Back,” “Satisfied,” “Wait For It,” “The Room Where It Happens” and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”  Even if you’ve never seen a musical or don’t like them, give “Hamilton” a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

What do you think about the soundtrack? What are your favorite songs? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 11/2-11/6

Earlier this week, I heard Ira Glass on This American Life use the word "janky." I didn't think my life could be any more complete. However, I heard Ina Garten in the flesh say "Oh, shit" and now my life is truly, truly complete.

Earlier this week, I heard Ira Glass on This American Life use the word “janky.” I didn’t think my life could be any more complete. However, I heard Ina Garten in the flesh say “Oh, shit” and now my life is truly, truly complete.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. A deeper and comparative look at Humans of New York. (For the record, I’ve never been a big fan of HONY.)

2. The Tetris effect is exactly why I can’t play puzzle games on my phone anymore.

3. Dorms for grownups, in the vein of coworking. (This sounds uncomfortable.)

4. I wish I had written this great story about Pantone.

5. The Amazon bookstore sounds like a dismal experience for the customer, but it’s fascinating from a business perspective.

And a bonus: I loved these unearthed photos of Madonna, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and more stars of the 1980s.

Have a great weekend.

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Culture Conversation: The Denim Jacket and Personal Style


I’ve been working in Santa Monica in an office that is essentially an icebox. When the temperature in California cooled down this week, I decided that I’d bust out my denim jacket I purchased over the summer.

When I checked myself over before leaving for work in the morning, and even when I caught glimpses of myself in the bathroom mirror or reflective surfaces I walked by throughout the day, I felt waves of boosted self-esteem pass over me. I feel like this jacket was made for me. More importantly, I feel chic and like I actually have some semblance of my shit together when I wear it.

As I’ve worn the jacket throughout the week, I’ve thought about the genesis of the denim jacket and personal style.

1. Levi Strauss & Co. made the first denim jacket in the early 1900s. The cowboys and workmen who wore denim jeans and jackets weren’t particularly interested in fashion, but more about function and durability. Beginning in the 1950s, movie stars wore denim jackets as a symbol of rebellion and anti-establishment. In the 1960s, the members of the counterculture movement wore them as a symbol of youth, and throughout the 1980s and ’90s punk rockers and hip-hop artists made the denim jacket part of their own images. Many, many men have worn denim jackets on film, helping to establish it as a universal signifier of youth. I couldn’t find anything specific about when women began to wear the jacket, but I suspect it started somewhere in the counterculture era.  The Levi’s blog notes that “Trends come and go, but the jean jacket continues to reinvent itself, time and time again,” and I completely agree.

2. When I was in middle and high school, I was obsessed with fashion. I kept up with Fashion Month and watched all of the slideshows on I pulled out my favorite ads from fashion magazines, in the hopes of using them to wallpaper my closet. I read biographies of all of the power players, and watched as many documentaries as I could. This was my first real foray into the general art world, and I realize now that I was learning about the transformative power of personal style. Changing your clothes was not necessarily just you trying to be trendy, but you expressing yourself in an artistic way that makes you feel good to be a part of the world. Haute couture is a good example of this. The designer has created something dreamy and one of a kind, and the wearer feels that magic while wearing it. It isn’t haute couture, but putting on a denim jacket — or a striped shirt, or a pretty necklace, or my favorite lipstick — makes me feel like my best self.

3. Personal style is still a social construction, and is tied strongly to things like body issues, capitalism and media. We’ve decided as a culture that being naked in a public setting is illegal, which is partially the point of wearing clothes (the other parts of the point being both about hygiene and protection from the environment). We’ve also decided that certain articles of clothing are more appropriate to wear than others in particular situations, and that pieces can be trendy or passé. Money is also strongly attached to personal style, and so is the media’s representation and coverage of fashion. When we walk around the world, the clothing we wear becomes advertisements for the brands. I found a great handout for a class offered by the Utah Educational Network (it’s the first link on the page) about how personal style is a form of nonverbal communication, and how it’s the way that we project our inner selves to the world. The people who create the clothing are trying to do the same thing. But the same time, the people around you use your clothing to make assumptions about you and your place in the world. Like what I mentioned in the first point about the denim jacket being a symbol of youth, we’ve attached meaning to what we wear. Personal style isn’t so personal anymore.

4. The artistic aspect of fashion might be a response to those notions, in that if we have to wear clothes and people will talk about them we should at least make them interesting to look at, let several people come up with variations and create a space for meaningful criticism.Man Repeller is a great publication that is always talking about this in some way, and that the discussion around style isn’t shallow or meaningless. Reinvention and the ability to try many different styles of clothing might also be a different response, in that if we have to live in this world we’ll wear whatever we want. While I’m not even quite sure what I’m trying to tell the world when I wear my denim jacket, I find the psychological and social power of clothing and how it makes me feel fascinating.

How do you feel about personal style, and what article of clothing makes you feel invincible? Let’s talk about it in the comments.



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