Monthly Archives: October 2016

Link Party: 10/24-10/28

Last week I got to see Kanye West in concert and I am still not over it.

Last week I got to see Kanye West in concert and I am still not over it.

My freelance life has completely consumed the rest of my life lately, which is both a good and bad thing. October was one of the busiest months I’ve ever had, and I’m looking forward to a slower-paced November.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. Hillary Clinton and the populist revolt.

2. Bill Clinton and the legacy of the First Lady.

3. If women wrote men the way men write women.

4. The brilliance of the Saturday Night Live David S. Pumpkins sketch.

5. Why are there so many books with “girl” in the title?

And a bonus: If you don’t have a Himalayan salt lamp or an aroma diffuser, get on that ASAP.

Have a great week.

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Link Party: 10/17-10/21

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. Bob Dylan’s first interview with Rolling Stone.

2. How Hillary became Hillary.

3. The ever-shifting symbolism of lace.

4. The weird economics of Ikea.

5. Bill Cunningham‘s memorial.

And a bonus: I’m not planning on dressing up for Halloween this year, but if I was this would be my costume.

Have a great week.

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Culture Connoisseur: My Los Angeles To-Do List

LA, as seen from the Getty Center.

LA, as seen from the Getty Center.

I have a long, long list of things I want to do in Los Angeles that I’m constantly adding to: restaurants I want to eat at, events I’m interested in and neighborhoods I want to visit. I’m so lucky to have access to a place with such a vibrant culture and storied history, and I’m determined to make the most of it. Here are the top items on my LA to-do list.

1. Grab a donut at Mr Holmes Bakehouse.

This Highland Park outpost of a San Francisco-based bakery just opened up a few weeks ago, and every Snapchat and Instagram story I’ve seen features a line out the door and trays upon trays of cruffins and donuts. Since the Metro Gold Line now extends out my direction, it would be fun to make a day trip out of stopping in Highland Park and jumping back on to go to The Last Bookstore in downtown. Also, their “I got baked in Los Angeles” sign is genius.

2. Have brunch at Commissary.

I follow a lot of LA-based creatives on Instagram, and they always seem to be at Commissary — a restaurant inside the Line Hotel that looks like a greenhouse. I first found out about Commissary when I was working for a food media company in Santa Monica last year, and mentions of the food would pop up a lot. They have a baller Sunday brunch that might be in order for the next celebration — prime rib, bottomless mimosas and made-to-order entrees.

3. Get a drink at Block Party.

Here’s another spot that I found out about through social media — Block Party. This is another Highland Park establishment, and I really want to take my friends here for a LA night out. Next time we go to Jon and Vinnys, I say we skip the beer and head to Block Party instead. I can’t wait to try the Highland punch snow cone and the Michelada with a watermelon paleta.

4. Experience Clifton’s Cafeteria.

I’m planning to cram a lot into my short holiday break in December, and Clifton’s Cafeteria is on that itinerary. This historic cafeteria reopened last year after five years of renovations, and at its height in the 20th century was serving 15,000 diners every day. The idea of going to a five-story cafeteria to have lunch in the 1950s is mind-boggling when you think about the hold fast food has on our eating culture in 2016, and I want to be able to say that I’ve experienced lunch at Clifton’s.

5. Visit the Watts Towers.

As someone who has visited most of the big art museums in LA, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never visited the Watts Towers. An Italian construction worker named Simon Rodia built them in his spare time over 33 years, and in every photo I’ve seen of the towers they look magnificent. The project has an incredible history, and one that’s a testament to the importance of preserving public art. The towers remind me of another labor of love that’s just in my backyard.

6. Watch a movie at Hollywood Forever.

Cinespia puts on outdoor movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and every time I think about going the plan always falls through because of double-booking. There are a couple of things that make Cinespia special: they make a big event out of the screening with photo booths, DJs and special appearances by people involved in the movie. I was hoping to catch a Halloween flick to make the experience extra spooky, but unfortunately didn’t get to it this year. I want to assemble a big group of friends, a few picnic baskets and make a weekend night out of it.

7. See a LA Philharmonic performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

 

I’ve never seen a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA, but I’m a big Gustavo Dudamel fan. This winter, I’m definitely getting tickets to a December LA Philharmonic performance so my grandmother and I can see them in a different venue than we’re used to. The building is just so gorgeous, and it would be fun to get a little dressed up for an afternoon at the concert hall.

8. Stroll through the Venice Canals.

I worked on the West Side for six months, and unfortunately never really got to appreciate my proximity to the cool things to do there. One of the places I still really want to visit is the Venice Canals. These canals also have a really awesome history, and it would be fun to go and see the Christmas Parade.

Do you have anywhere in LA you really want to visit? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 10/3-10/7

Fridaze.

Fridaze.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives the best advice.

2. Barack Obama on five days that shaped his presidency.

3. A letter of complaint for Cards Against Humanity.

4. Elena Ferrante and the myth that female artists owe us something more than just their work.

5. An excerpt from a book about haunted places in America, which I’m planning to pick up.

And a bonus: Bruce Springsteen on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Enjoy your weekend.

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What I Read: August & September 2016

To help me stay on track in my 2016 goals, I’m documenting the books I read all year. I normally write a few paragraphs about each book, but to switch it up and challenge myself I’m only going to write three-sentence reviews. Let’s go — here’s what I read in August and September:

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer.

This is an extremely poignant novel about a young half-Vietnamese man living in the 1970s United States as an undercover Communist agent, framed in the form of a confession. This book delves deep into the complexities of political identity and war, and made me think about how we blur the lines between history and mythmaking. Reading The Sympathizer taught me to seek out different perspectives of American historical events than the ones I’m conditioned to look for and believe.

William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is probably one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Finnegan writes such poetic prose, and his storytelling was so engrossing that it made me care deeply about surfing and the sport’s place in people’s lives. The only downside of this book was that while reading it all I wanted to do was lay on a Hawaiian beach and watch the waves.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

This essay-in-the-form-of-a-book is required reading for every single human on this planet. Adichie’s candor makes me proud to be a woman and a feminist. After you read this short book, read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad is a good novel that is conceptually imaginative and engaging, but it is horrific and will make your heart hurt. This novel about a young slave running away for her freedom on an actualized underground railroad system is well-researched and well-written, and I learned a lot of historical events I didn’t know about. I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, but I’ll say it is not the best Colson Whitehead novel — try The Intuitionist or Zone One first.

Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

This is another novel that will make your heart hurt, especially if you’re very passionate about animals. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves takes a closer look at who and what make a family, and also how we write our personal histories within larger histories. It only took me a few days to read because it’s extremely engrossing, so it’s a good pick if you’re looking for something quick.

Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn.

Battleborn is a collection of short stories set mostly in the hot Nevada desert. Watkins is the daughter of a Manson family member, and once she tells you that you can’t shake it from the book’s background. Watkins does an excellent job of straddling the line between fiction and nonfiction, and making the physical landscape and setting the most powerful player on the character roster.

Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Other Essays

Susan Sontag drops truth bombs. The best essays in this collection are “Against interpretation,” “On style,” Happenings: an art of radical juxtaposition” and “One culture and the new sensibility.” The only drawback to read Against Interpretation in 2016 is that a chunk of the essays center on movies or books or people I’d never heard of, which made it harder to truly grasp the gravity of Sontag’s arguments and follow along.

Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s The Career Code.

The Career Code is written by two awesome women who know a lot about fashion, editorial and running a business. It’s full of evergreen advice for young women who want to be professionals. None of the advice is particularly deep or earth-shattering, but I have a feeling I will revisit this book often.

Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type

I picked this book up because I want to be a better editor, and it helped me get acquainted with typographical terms and layout design. In today’s world, a journalist has to know more than just the writing (coding and layout included), and you have to seek out the resources to be better. Even if you’re not a journalist, this is a good The More You Know kind of reference book.

Alice Walker’s Revolutionary Petunias.

Alice Walker is a goddess and a national treasure. “Be nobody’s darling; / Be an outcast. / Take the contradictions / Of your life / And wrap around / You like a shawl, / To parry stones / To keep you warm.” struck me to my core. If you read Revolutionary Petunias and like Alice Walker, try Sandra Cisneros’s poems.

Ali Smith’s Artful.

I went into reading Artful thinking it was going to be a novel, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s more of a fictional criticism and essay hybrid. That sounds weird, but Smith is very inventive — and I am still in awe of her creativity and command of language. If you like books that defy genre, you’ll like it.

What have you read lately? Let’s chat in the comments.

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Tune Time: August & September 2016

Here’s what I’ve been listening to for the last two months:

Frank Ocean’s Blonde.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way — Frank Ocean’s Blonde is a masterpiece. It withstood all of the hype, and was the best way to cap off the summer. I was instantly hooked the moment I heard the first few seconds of the first track.

I interpret Blonde as an album about identity, specifically the pains of growing into oneself and finding the right place in the world. It’s also an album about capital F Feelings about love and friendship, and authenticity in ambiguity. I think we all go through a period of introspection as we enter young adulthood, and Ocean has translated that into music with interpolation. It reminds me of collaging.

If Ocean never makes another record again, Blonde would be a great way to go out. My favorite songs are “Nikes,” “Ivy” (which I think has joined my list of favorite songs of all time), “Pink + White” and “Nights.”

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam’s I Had A Dream That You Were Mine.

Speaking of Rostam, I’ve spent the last month eagerly awaiting the arrival of his album with Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkman. Rostam left Vampire Weekend last year, but the more he does without VW the more excited I am about where his career is going. I’ve had I Had A Dream That You Were Mine on a loop for a week now.

What I love about this album is that it has such incredible storytelling, both on the overall album level and within each track. It’s about moments, and unpacking the feelings and emotions that are tied up in just a brief flash of time. Take “A 1000 Times,” for example. It tells a story about the narrator’s attempt to unstick himself from unrequited love. When I listen to it, I get this sense of tugging between the past and the future — the narrator is stuck on replaying his life’s scenes in his head, but using it to propel himself towards the future and whatever that might look like. You can hear that too between Leithauser’s voice and Rostam’s sonic choices.

 

My favorite songs are “A 1000 Times” (which I’ve probably played that many times), “Sick as a Dog” and “In a Black Out.” If you like this album, go check out Rostam’s solo work.

Grimes.

In late August, my sister Willow and I went to the first day of FYF Fest — which is a capital E Experience if you like peoplewatching and don’t mind being in the same space as tens of thousands of people. We went mostly to see Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar, which were the two last acts of the night. We headed to the festival’s main stage to get a good viewing spot. When we got there, Grimes was up on stage performing. Whenever I look at music festival posters, I almost always see the name Grimes somewhere in the lineup, but have never looked her up.

I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize for sleeping on Grimes’ music, because I should have seen the light a long time ago. Grimes is the performance name of Claire Boucher, a young woman from Canada who writes and self-produces all of her own music. She is a genius when it comes to laying down beats and using cool electronica techniques, and a superb performer. Her lyrical inspiration can come from out of left field — “Kill V. Maim,” for example, is apparently written from the perspective of a vampire Michael Corleone. But when she combines the electronic sounds with the themes she’s dealing with — ambition, agency and trauma, to name a few — she makes such an overwhelmingly strong case for the importance of self-expression and feeling strength in femininity. The interlude from one of my favorite tracks she performed goes:

I know most likely

How I used to be a frail and silly thought in your mind

Call me unkind

You’re so far behind me

In essence, Grimes is a straight-up badass and everyone should take some inspiration from her. I remember Willow and I turning to each other and going, “Damn, she’s good.” In my Sunday after-festival haze, I made it a priority to look up her FYF setlist and download the songs I loved the most: “Kill V. Maim,” “Realiti,” “World Princess Part II” and “Oblivion.”

Father John Misty’s “Real Love Baby.”

My first exposure to Father John Misty’s music was through the Alabama Shakes Spotify radio station (which is an A+ radio station, if you’re in need of one.) Father John Misty, aka Joshua Tillman, is kind of a weirdo — lumberjack hippie is the best way to describe him. He has a few albums under his belt, and just came out with a single called “Real Love Baby” that I can’t stop listening to. It’s got a little bit of the Beach Boys essence with a country twang — on the track, he sings about yearning for a love that’s pure and incredible.

I also think that this song might be a little commentary on living in the social media age. Father John Misty the performer likes to make really meta comments about social media and the world it has created — he had an amazing Instagram project, and everyone’s pretty sure he stole the crystal from Moon Juice. He even deactivated everything last week. I would not be surprised if he felt that he needed to reboot with a love song that differentiates the “real” with throwback sounds. I hope it results in a full album.

Do you have any music recommendations? Share them with me in the comments.

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Link Party: 9/26-9/30

Last week was a hard week. This week will be better.

Last week was a hard week. This week will be better.

Here’s what I read last week:

1. The writer Michael Chabon took his son Abe to Paris for Men’s Fashion Week and wrote an outstanding article about it.

2. The entire latest issue of the California Sunday Magazine. My favorites: Kendrick Lamar’s five rules, a violin master, preserving the quietness places on Earth and the app that puts people to sleep.

3. This story on Hillary Clinton’s policy agenda is a must-read.

4. These Julia Child facts reminded me of how much I loved her after reading her autobiography. I need to appreciate Julia Child more.

5. What we see when we look at travel photography.

And a bonus: This new bakery is at the top of my Los Angeles to-do list.

Have a great week. I’m rooting for you.

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