Monthly Archives: January 2016

What I Read: January 2016

To help me stay on track in my 2016 goals, I’m documenting the books I read all year here. Here is what I read in January:

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow: As you may know, I loved the musical inspired by this biography of the Founding Father of the United States and the country’s first Treasury Secretary. Alexander Hamilton emerged from squalor in the Caribbean to become a Revolutionary War hero, a supreme law scholar and a history-changing public officer. In reading this huge book I now understand that Hamilton was a colorful and incredible human being who did so much to get the American government on its feet, and he certainly does not get the recognition today that he deserves. I loved that Chernow also gave part of the narrative to Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, who was responsible for preserving her husband’s legacy and just the ultimate badass. Hamilton, most definitely, did not throw away his shot

I don’t remember where I read this, but someone on the Internet said that what makes a biography exceptional is that it gives the audience a portrait of a person in a broader cultural context, helping us to think about the world we live in today and make new observations. While I expected to love it, I did not expect that I would sympathize with Hamilton so much and that I would mine so much insight about my own life from it. I highly recommend this biography to anyone. Chernow does a great job of explaining all of the history and what was happening, far better than what a textbook will tell you.

On The Road, by Jack Kerouac: I never had to read this novel for a literature class, so I decided to see what it was all about. Drawing from personal experiences, Kerouac wrote a story about the 1950s-era travels of him and his friends across the country and thinly disguised it as fiction. A lot of things happen in the novel that in 2016 seems unfathomable, mostly because the world we live in today has too many people and too much bureaucracy. Thinking about the country pre-freeways is hard to do. But part of the beauty of reading this novel now is that it presents some of the same crises about identity and purpose we still deal with today through culture. I can see why so many people thought it was disjointed or subversive when the novel was first published, because the world Kerouac creates in the novel seems to exist parallel to reality. 

In thinking about the book now as I’m writing my thoughts, I’m easily able to pull apart all of its aspects and come up with an answer for why it’s worth reading. While I was reading it, however, I was really underwhelmed and constantly wondering when this a-ha moment of why it’s the hallmark of the Beat Generation was going to come to me. If you decide to read this and feel sluggish at any point, know that the a-ha moment happens after you read it.



Do you have recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments below.



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Link Party: 1/25-1/29

Homemade peanut butter cookies.

My mom makes really good peanut butter cookies.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. The performance of race, gender and identity on Vine. If you use or know of Vine, you should read this.

2. This story about the role of Facebook’s community standards for the Internet brings up some important questions about Facebook and the public.

3. The world of fake books.

4. I 100 percent agree with this article in defense of Instagramming your food.

5. Let’s talk about the cognitive gap in spatial skills between men and women.

And two bonuses: “Wood” from Rostam Batmanglij is such a good song. I’ve been following the poet and artist Cleo Wade on Instagram for awhile, and lately I’ve found her posts particularly inspiring.

Have a great weekend.

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Gold Star For The Internet: DJ Khaled’s Snapchat

This dude is living his best life. Photo via MTV.

This dude is living his best life. Photo via MTV.

I actively use Snapchat, but up until recently I only used it to see updates from my friends. That all changed when I read a story a few months ago about DJ Khaled getting lost at sea on his jet ski, and that he documented the entire experience on his Snapchat account. The videos I saw were pretty funny, and I wanted to see what this guy was up to. Ever since then, I have basked in the good vibes of DJ Khaled’s snapchats.

DJ Khaled is a Miami-based rapper, restauranteur, radio personality and record producer and label executive. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the hip hop industry, including Kanye West, Jay-Z and Rick Ross. You might know his song, “All I Do Is Win.” While he’s had a storied career in the music business, his popularity has grown in the last year because of his snapchat and his online store Since October, he’s been snapchatting @djkhaled305. This is a great primer on his best snapchats.

When I first started watching Khaled’s snaps, I thought that it was just going to be another source of entertainment. Like any other social media outlet, Snapchat is a way to present a very curated view of someone’s life and cultivate one’s Internet identity. For all we know, DJ Khaled stages his Snapchat stories to get more publicity for his growing business and music. But the more I watch it, the more I am certain that DJ Khaled fully believes in his ethos and in some way, he’s validated by the amount of people that watch it. The dude is living or purporting to live his best life, and I think there’s something we can all learn from that.

If you’re a new viewer, these Snapchats can be a little confusing and hard to keep up with — Khaled has a lot of -isms. Plus, his popularity has led to people using these -isms in other capacities elsewhere on the Internet. To help you fully understand and keep you in the loop, I’ve compiled a short dictionary. I think DJ Khaled deserves a huge gold star, and I think you will feel that too.

“Another one”: The phrase originated in this video for “How Many Times,” where DJ Khaled is kissing a woman and keeps asking her for “another one.” It has become a meme in itself. Khaled uses it all the time, seemingly as a nod to his popularity.

Another one. Another one. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

Another one. Another one. Via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

“Bless up”: This is just a greeting / general statement of well wishes that Khaled likes to use.

“Business is booming”: I haven’t figured out who Ben is, but there’s occasionally this kid named Ben in the videos. DJ Khaled always asks him how business is, and Ben replies, “Booming!”

Chef Dee: Khaled has a personal chef named Chef Dee, who makes daily appearances in his snapchats. Khaled always greets her with “What’s good?” A DJ Khaled breakfast is almost always egg whites, turkey bacon or sausage and water, and Chef Dee makes it all.

Chef Dee /is/ bae. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

Chef Dee /is/ bae. Graphic via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

“Don’t ever play yourself”: This is DJ Khaled’s wise, wise advice to always be on top of your game. The phrase originated in this interview for Complex.

Elliptical talk: Khaled is very invested in his personal fitness. He likes to give his viewers pep talks while he’s working out on an elliptical, and calls these speeches elliptical talks.

Fan love: Fan love is very, very important to DJ Khaled. It’s a reciprocal thing: he snapchats about where he’s going to be and that he wants to meet his fans, and his fans show up to both get in the Snapchat videos and show him some love. They make regular appearances in the videos, and are always screaming about how much they love him and various Khaled -isms.

“I’m up to something”: Khaled says this when he’s with someone famous or working in the studio, presumably to get you hyped about forthcoming projects. When he’s with another celebrity, like Drake or Jay-Z, he’ll snapchat them with this caption.

The key emoji: Khaled has made the key emoji ultra-popular, because they almost always show up in the caption when he’s talking about a major key alert. If you see someone using the key emoji elsewhere on the Internet, this is probably why.

Lion Order: When he’s talking about Lion Order, he’s talking about an elite group of people who are ultra successful and are kings of the jungle — a nickname for lions. You should be striving to be part of the Lion Order. DJ Khaled has a lion statue in his yard, and he goes out and waters it and his plants every day. As a Leo who loves plants, I am on board with this.

“Major key”: Khaled has many things he calls “keys to success.” These things include cocoa butter; coconut and normal water; regular manicures, pedicures and haircuts; Dove products; plants; and much, much more. Sometimes he’ll say “major key alert” if he really wants you to pay attention.

I love plants too, DJ Khaled. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

I love plants too, DJ Khaled. Graphic via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

Mogul talk: Pay attention when Khaled says “mogul talk.” He’s about to impart some incredible wisdom.

“Ride with me through the journey of more success”: This is exactly what it sounds like.

The slide sandals: When he’s not wearing sneakers, DJ Khaled wears slide sandals with various -isms printed on them: We The Best, Bless Up, and more. He wears the ones he sells in his store and a pair of Miami Heat slides, especially when there’s a game on television. You can buy DJ Khaled sandals for $65.

The sneaker closet: Khaled loves his sneakers, and he has an epic closet solely for his shoes. Sometimes he’ll give us a glimpse of his favorite kicks. Recently, the “Daily Show” toured the sneaker closet.

Special cloth alert: Have you heard of the phrase “cut from a special cloth”? This is Khaled’s interpretation. Anything that is ultra-special gets the special cloth alert designation. This also sometimes means actual clothing, like one of his shirts from

“They don’t want us to win”: This is my favorite, favorite, favorite thing DJ Khaled says. The “they” in question are your haters that don’t want you to be successful or do the things you like to do, so you know what Khaled says when they don’t want you to win? “You know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna win more.” (I need someone to write an academic philosophy paper about “they”.)

I LOVE IT. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

I LOVE IT. Graphic via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

We the Best: This is the name of his store, but he frequently reminds his Snapchat viewers that “we the best.” This is the core of what makes his Snapchats so great: he believes that he, his crew and his fans are really and truly the best. That kind of positivity is extremely admirable.

What do you think about DJ Khaled? Let’s talk about him in the comments.






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Link Party: 1/18-1/22

Plants, man.

Plants, man.

What happened to all of my time this week? I have no idea. Back to regularly scheduled programming next week.

Here’s what I read:

1. This is a fascinating article on the future of parking — I have reservations about self-driving cars, but I’m all for making cities more livable.

2. I originally listened to this story about a woman who self-diagnosed her own genetic mutation on “This American Life,” and found the accompanying article in the Atlantic equally compelling.

3. This guy listened to an album every day for a year and had some great insights about how we consume music.

4. You know I love the entire Dirtbag series, so you shouldn’t be surprised I loved Dirtbag Hera.

5. These short story vending machines make me believe in the goodness of humanity.

And a bonus: I love this parody Twitter account about Bernie Sanders’s thoughts.

Have a great weekend.

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Link Party: 1/11-1/15


Downtown Los Angeles.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. On Sunday at 11:30 p.m. I got a New York Times notification that David Bowie had died, which left me feeling empty as I tried to sleep and gutted at the beginning of the week. I remember the very first time and the very first Bowie song I listened to (“Suffragette City” on my iPod nano in ninth grade, from a two-disc best hits CD), and listening to his music has indelibly shaped the person I am today. No one will ever be like Bowie. In reading articles about his legacy, I found that this seems to be the case for a lot of people. I loved this article about bringing your kids up Bowie, his New Yorker obituary and this one about discovering his music when you’re a teenager.

2. This interview with members of the cast of “Hamilton” is very, very important.

3. The reaction shots at the Golden Globes.

4. Why Wikipedia might be the most important invention ever, in celebration of its 15th birthday.

5. The use of “they” as a singular pronoun in the 21st century. I like this idea, or even coming up with a third official English singular pronoun.

And a bonus: Biggie Stardust.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Think Tank: “Treat Yo Self”

In the “Pawnee Rangers” episode of the fourth season of “Parks and Recreation,” Tom Haverford explains to the audience that he and Donna Meagle set aside a day every year in which all they do is pamper themselves. They splurge on clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas and fine leather goods. “Three words for you,” Tom tells Donna. “Treat. Yo. Self.”

This is a side storyline in the episode, but out of all of the incredible plots and jokes “Parks and Recreation” came up with in seventh seasons, “treat yo self” is the one thing that I see on a near-daily basis. A Google search for “treat yo self” will give you 4 million results, and the actress who plays Donna, Retta, said in a recent interview that she hears the phrase at least 10 times a day. There are tens of pages on Etsy of joke-related t-shirts, prints, mugs and more. I see it on my social media feeds when people decide to publicly justify their splurges, and it’s a standard response in my friend groups when we’re waffling on whether or not to buy or do something we think is nicer than normal. Recently one of my friends posted a Snapchat of some caloric food with the phrase as a caption, which got me thinking about how pervasive the mantra is. I realized that as a phenomenon there’s more going on than just a funny joke.

It’s a thing a lot of people (especially millennials) know about, probably because of Netflix.

I’ve written about Netflix before and how streaming is changing our cultural experiences, so it’s unsurprising to me that something that’s actually pretty funny is a well-known thing. All seven seasons of “Parks and Recreaction” are on Netflix, so millions of people can watch and revisit them whenever they want. Because it’s available whenever and wherever, the jokes stretch much farther in the cultural psyche than if the show was only broadcasted live once or just put on expensive DVDs. People that discover “Parks and Recreation” through binge watching on Netflix get fresh takes of “treat yo self” and are let in on the joke, while fans of the show who rewatch “Pawnee Rangers” get to revisit the joke and file it away in their brains. And when I say it to myself, it’s an in-joke that somehow helps me justify buying a new sweater or expensive coffee from my favorite spot.

From one angle, something like “treat yo self” is a cultural shibboleth that’s made possible by something like Netflix. If you like “Parks and Recreation” and drop the “treat yo self” joke to someone and they get it, you know that you probably have similar cultural interests. Knowing what my friend meant in her Snapchat by “treat yo self” enhanced its meaning for me — in some way she wanted to justify why she was eating badly without a special occasion — and shared with me that she also watches the show. The widespread availability of the art makes this possible.

It’s resonant because of the economic conditions young people currently live in. 

If you watch the clip above, Tom clearly says that this is an annual thing — something he and Donna say is “the best day of the year.” From a broad view, it seems that people aren’t really paying attention to the joke, or that they just want to seem funny to people who would know it.

But the more I think about it, especially since I also use the joke differently, the more I realized it’s a facet of its role as a cultural shibboleth. I know so many people my age who are very worried about their financial situations and whether or not they’ll ever be able to make money, so anything that seems extra gets the “treat yo self” justification and a few laughs. Both Tom and Donna have secure, full-time government jobs, and can afford to set aside one day to buy things they don’t really need. Considering these details of the show are important in understanding the impact of the joke on its audience, in that the context that Tom and Donna find themselves in is something that a lot of people are striving towards. Comedy is a method many people use to feel better about their current conditions, and I think that’s what happening here in a broader way for the millennial set. I’ll be very interested to see if in the next decade “treat yo self” will still have the same meaning amongst members of my age group.

What do you think about “treat yo self”? Let’s talk about it in the comments.




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Link Party: 1/4-1/8

El Niño skies.

El Niño skies.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. An abridged history of red lipstick.

2. I did not know that private, off-the-record briefings between Barack Obama and media members were a thing, but now I’m glad I do.

3. The parallels between web design and architecture.

4. The deep space of digital reading.

5. The second-season title cards of “Mozart in the Jungle.” (I wrote about the first season here.)

And a bonus: Kanye West’s American Idol audition is golden.

Have a great weekend.

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