Monthly Archives: February 2017

Link Party: 2/20-2/24

Spring is coming.

Spring is coming.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. The rise of Roxane Gay.

2. Janet Mock brilliantly articulates why the federal government should protect trans rights.

3. Inside the diversity shakeup at the Oscars. (I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s unsurprising to know that the behind-the-scenes lobbying and strategizing is very suspect.)

4. The nostalgia for now, mostly in the context of social media.

5. This essay from a woman who worked at Uber will make you want to go take a nap for 1,000 years, but you gotta read it.

And a bonus: This video.

Have a great week.

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Gold Star for the Internet: KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”

On weekday work mornings, I listen to music to focus myself and tune out ambient office noise. There are two things that happen to me quite often:

1. I end up listening to the same bands and records over and over and over again.

2. I feel like a slug from 8 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m., even with coffee.

In the fall, I discovered a solution that has worked for me every morning and puts me in the right headspace. It’s the KCRW Radio app — specifically the Morning Becomes Eclectic show.

KCRW is a National Public Radio member station that operates out of Santa Monica College, and it seems to have a cult following in Los Angeles. Its programming is mainly for the Southern California and Greater Los Angeles area, but anyone can tune in on its website or its app. Their music director, Jason Bentley, hosts the Morning Becomes Eclectic program every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon. For three hours, he plays all kinds of music: new stuff from new artists, genres you don’t hear on mainstream radio and super deep cuts. A few times a week, the last hour will feature realtime live performances with mini-interviews.

I discovered Morning Becomes Eclectic when I saw social media advertising that Iggy Pop had dropped by to play a live set in support of Depression Cherry. I downloaded the app one night to listen and look through the rest of the recordings, and found out they came from a daily program. The next morning I tuned in, and I was instantly hooked.

Bentley plays a lot of my favorite artists — like Spoon, Angel Olsen, Real Estate and Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — that have stellar tracks I sometimes forget about, and rediscovering those songs through someone else’s set is like experiencing them for the first time. I’ve also been introduced to or further acquainted with so many good artists and bands over the past few months, like Rubblebucket, Ty Segall, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Cherry Glazerr and Jim James. These new influences spill into my music library, as I have a running list of tracks to buy on Bandcamp or iTunes. Sometimes the show has tracks I don’t really care for, but I never consider it boring. The artist/song variety is the stimulation I need to focus and get my work done, and I’m simultaneously exploring what’s happening in the music world.

The other thing that I’ve come to appreciate about Morning Becomes Eclectic is its place in both Los Angeles and public radio culture. The programming is a reflection of the best of the LA music scene. That’s partly because some of the the track picks for the day often coincide with the artists being in LA that night for a show, but mostly because Bentley is attuned to what Angelenos like. The music is diverse in origin but always refined in tastes, just like the people who live here. I also love that Bentley’s daily sets are ephemeral, and the latest show disappears from the app and website after a day. It’s refreshing in a world where everything else is always on-demand, and to know that the only people who have had that particular listening experience are you and the others that happened to tune in too.

People often think about the news, traffic alerts or programs like This American Life when they think about NPR, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know there was anything like Morning Becomes Eclectic before I discovered it. Both types of programming are equally important when it comes to public access and community building. When politicians want to defund the public agencies that support the arts, it makes me angry. It’s crucial that we support those public agencies by both listening and donating, so that everyone continues to enjoy them. The producers, journalists and creative professionals behind KCRW and other public radio stations deserve more recognition for the work they do, and I’m giving them a huge gold star.

Do you listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic, or other public radio programs? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

 

 

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Link Party: 2/13-2/17

My at-home deskscape, coming together.

My at-home deskscape, coming together.

Here’s something I want to share that recently came back to me — in an episode of Twin Peaks (side note: I have a soft spot for this show and I hope the revival isn’t garbage), FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper gives the Twin Peaks sheriff, Harry Truman, a solid gold piece of advice. “Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” he says. “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”

That’s the advice I also have for you. I’m not a big fan of the treat yo’self ethos that millennials like to use as an excuse for spending money, but both you and I should enjoy life’s small joys when they come. I hope you feel the same way.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I already pre-ordered Joan Didion’s South and West weeks ago, and this review makes me excited to get my hands on it.

2. Meet George Howell, the dude behind the third-wave coffee craze and the originator of the Frappuccino.

3. A tale of fighting a Spotify hacker.

4. The next big blue-collar job is coding.

5. The fear of a feminist future. (This essay was written back in October pre-election and makes the assumption Hillary Clinton would be president, which makes this extra oooof.)

And a bonus: I’ve become a Candle Person and this one is my favorite so far.

Enjoy your week.

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Link Party: 2/6-2/10

Adventures in keeping plants alive.

Adventures in keeping plants alive.

I had a good week, and I hope you did too.

Here’s what I read:

1.  This article about how the media treats leaks is good on its own, but I want to point out a sentence that contextualized John Podesta’s emails in an eye-opening way, at least for me: “the conversation around the emails became a battle over what they really were and the significance of how they came to be.”

2. Meet the editor-in-chief of the new Vogue ArabiaPrincess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz.

3. A young Wikipedia editor decides to fight back against the Internet trolls that harass her.

4. Lady Gaga‘s political messaging at the Super Bowl.

5. When things go missing — a reflection on loss.

And a bonus: The Dry Down, a newsletter about perfume.

Have a great week.

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Link Party: 1/30-2/3

Another art journal closeup.

Another art journal closeup.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. This article on how Taylor Swift made her career on being a victim has the Receipts. (This blog is vehemently anti-Taylor Swift. Don’t @ me.)

2. Rahawa Haile on being a black female thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail.

3. The heart-breaking stories of Filipinos who work on cruise ships and the horrible conditions they suffer through to provide for their families. I had no idea.

4. We need to hold Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook accountable for its political involvement and non-involvement, now more than ever.

5. The story of a new homeowner and her despair sparked by paint colors.

And a bonus: My good friend Klarize took me to this wonderful wine bar in downtown Los Angeles that I’m still thinking about and know that I will return to over and over again. Find your wonderful wine bar that you’re still thinking about and know that you will return to over and over again.

Have a great week.

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What I Read: January 2017

2017 is my year of reading books written by women. Here’s what I read in January:

Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth has been on my to-read list for quite some time, far before Shire’s involvement in Beyonce’s Lemonade. You may have seen the Somali writer and poet’s words in the news recently. In response to the Trump administration’s recent ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, protestors have quoted from her poem “Conversations About Home” (which is in this book): “No one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark.”

These poems are about Africa, trauma, tradition, gender, displacement and precarity in all of its forms, and they are often uncomfortable. The common thread is Shire’s searing observations on the female body in Muslim culture — the prize of virginity, the things women must do to keep their husbands’ attentions and the othering of her body when juxtaposed against white women. But Shire’s narrator also seems to urge her female readers to view their femininity as a source of exceptional inner strength. My favorite poem is actually the last one, “In Love and In War”:

To my daughter I will say,

‘when the men come, set yourself on fire’.

This was actually the last book I read in January: I wanted something short to fill in the last few days, and I read this 38-page pamphlet of poetry in about an hour. If you don’t normally read poetry, try reading this pamphlet — I think you’ll find it extremely enlightening in today’s political climate.

Nayyirah Waheed’s Salt

I became a big fan of Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry when I followed her on Instagram, where she reposts a lot of the poems you find in Salt. I wanted to read the collection in full, and I’m so glad I did — Instagram screenshots of the poems don’t do the words justice. Most of the poems are often two lines and rely extensively on enjambment — line breaks in middle of sentences.

Waheed’s poetry touches on so many points all at once: the black woman experience, the magic of femininity, the fragility of masculinity, the power of the earth and the elements, and the importance of a resilient relationship with your own self. Waheed’s intended audience seems to be other black women and women of color, and I had to assess my own role as a white woman reading these poems. I think reading and supporting the work of women of color is crucial to working towards being truly intersectional, and I want to make an effort to understand their experiences more fully.

Each poem tells its own story, but it’s all extremely cohesive and breathtaking. I am in awe of how Waheed can turn simple words into such profound and complex ideas, and she makes most of the poetry I’ve read up until this point seem clunky and inarticulate. That’s how much I love Salt.

knowing your power

is what creates

humility,

not knowing your power

is what creates

insecurity.

— ego

It’s impossible for me to pick one favorite poem from Salt. Every single poem is beautiful, insightful and haunting. I will return to this poetry collection over and over again.

Suzanne Roberts’ Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail

In my mission to read more books about California written by women, I came across this delightful memoir. After she graduated from college in 1993, Roberts and two friends decided to hike the John Muir Trail from Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley. Along the way, they run into all of the problems you think they’d have: tense group dynamics, bears, injuries, food shortages and weird dudes. In her travelogue, Roberts reflects on her thoughts about her future and often leans on Muir’s words and writings to contextualize her feelings.

The main thing I liked about this book is that it’s a testament to how powerful the human and nature relationship is, and that believing in that power can provide spiritual and emotional clarity. In the California context, it made me realize how important it is to preserve our natural heritage so that people can have those experiences. Roberts-as-her-character isn’t particularly sympathetic, but by the end you’re rooting for her to find her way. And it did make me want to attempt the same trip, even though I am definitely not a hiker. It’s a solid 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

Swing Time, which is named after a Fred Astaire movie, follows two British women and the course of their friendship: an unnamed narrator, who is an assistant to a pop star, and her childhood friend Tracey, who attempts to pursue a career as a dancer. Both women are biracial living in 1990s England, and dance is their common interest. As they grow up, their lives diverge and intersect. But the main thing to note about the plot is that it’s framed in the unnamed narrator’s firing and her explanation of how it happened, which is engulfed in her history with Tracey. You learn about all of the characters through the narrator’s lens, and because she’s not particularly likable nor introspective you stay at the surface-level.

Here’s my deal with Swing Time: Smith executes the plot flawlessly and everything comes full circle in a satisfying way. This joins My Brilliant Friend in the vein of real, complex female friendship dynamics. The ideas of black bodies in white spaces, class differences and political privilege come up over and over again in smart and nuanced ways — especially when mirrored against dance, which is arguably a social equalizer.

But although this book made a lot of best of 2016 lists and I did enjoy reading it, it’s not my favorite Smith novel. I read On Beauty in 2015, and that novel’s universe was more immersive with dramatic stakes that that felt higher — a refreshed, academic, American version of E.M. Forster’s Howards End. Smith also has some really good essays and short fiction, and I would recommend starting with those first.

What have you been reading lately? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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