Things I’m Verbing: Hidden tracks, open theft and the world’s greatest elephant seal

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This is one view from my apartment. The light was doing great things yesterday afternoon. Maybe this picture should be more exciting, but YOLO, I like it — not to mention I definitely own the rights.

While the curiosity gap is certainly still a thing, sometimes the headline that just lays it all out for you is my favorite. One recent winner from Jewniverse was “Trotsky’s Yogurt Is Alive and Well in NYC, And You Can Eat It.” I have to credit the Cheezburger network, though: “A Sassy Elephant Seal Enjoys Her Day in the Sun, While Destroying Everything in Her Path” is maybe the most inspirational thing I’ve read this week. Live your best life, Molly. We will follow.

  • Do you have 17 minutes? You have 17 minutes for this staggering Radio Diaries episode, “A Guitar, A Cello and The Day That Changed Music.” Some days I find things that make me remember how much music moves me, and how amazing music journalism is (and could be to do). This is about history’s greatest blues guitarist and greatest cellist jamming together on the same day in 1936. It made me feel so many things.
  • In that vein, Atlas Obscura has taken a look at the vanishing hidden track. (The formative one for me was Alanis Morissette’s “Your House,” a song that seemed to me, at 11, to upend all of Jagged Little Pill in a way I didn’t know you could do.)
  • “All You Americans Are Fired.” BuzzFeed did a long investigation of discriminatory hiring and firing in seasonal agricultural work. I was ready to get angry at this for playing into some “Foreigners are here for our jobs!” argument, and instead I got angrier about something much worse. (Sorry not sorry about that curiosity gap.)
  • The Fader takes corporations to task for stealing culture from the people who are making it: black teens on social media.
  • My first political cause was Free Tibet. For a time, I read everything I could and got angrier and angrier about a thing no one seemed able to make China fix. The New York Times Magazine has a long profile of the Dalai Lama, now 80, who some argue has ultimately not been good for Tibet. Now the Dalai Lama poses his own question: Should he be the last one?

Things I’m Verbing: Tiny houses, big systems and even bigger hair

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This is my mom’s apple pie recipe, minus all the butter, cinnamon and sugar you pile and brown on top shortly after taking this photo. Thanksgiving is delicious. Pie is delicious. This holiday is great.

Sunday was a big night for me: Though I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month several times and finished that 50,000-word story a few times in the past, this year was the first time I crossed the finish line a full day before the end of November. The story is all over the place and I’m trying to take a break before I revise it, but I’m pleased with it, as a start and as a personal symbol. It may not be writing for money, but it’s a good reminder that I can get the big jobs done.

Last night was my first night off from noveling in four weeks, so I did what any sensible person who can only handle so much amazing-but-harrowing Jessica Jones would and discovered The Great British Bake Off. It’s somehow both incredibly stressful and incredibly soothing to watch these earnest, lovely people put together gorgeous baked goods in a beautiful tent on an English country manor. Everyone is just so nice and helpful and genuinely interested in each other’s success. Time to make the world Mary Berry & Co. think we could be.

Things I’m Verbing: How we got here

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It’s getting cold out, but it’s good to get out and walk every day. For instance, if I hadn’t done so on a particularly lovely afternoon this week, I might have missed knowing that someone in my neighborhood has lawn art made from a radiator.

I bought my plane tickets from New York to Columbus, Ohio, six weeks ago. This was to avoid the Greyhound I was forced to take last year — well, not forced, but yes forced: Because of the timing of my move from Chicago, I found myself priced out of flying. Even buying Thanksgiving travel in early October, I had to shift my travel days so as not to pay totally absurd amounts of money.

Last year, while taking the bus was its own adventure (the surprise decision to make the entire bus watch a direct-to-waiting area Scooby Doo movie at top volume between 10 and midnight was great), at least this year I only have to deal with a worldwide travel alert. Usually these don’t scare me, having come of age during a certain era of security alertness, but I confess that this time, I’d just like to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Which means I should probably pack soon. But first:

  • The Establishment says what we all need to hear about poverty appropriation, which should always make you remember how you felt about Derelicte.
  • Slate, in its best Slate-iest fashion, reminds us to think critically about some claims of cultural appropriation, particularly when it comes to things like yoga, which India has been trying to export to the West since the 19th century.
  • I too have fallen deeply in love with Jessica Jones, and part of that is for its amazing sex scenes, which have focused almost entirely on female pleasure. (Is this what it feels like for media to represent your gaze? Holy cats.) It brings me back to something YA author Foz Meadows wrote on Twitter this spring: that you can learn so much more about female desire from reading fanfiction than porn.
  • I’ll always read stories about why No Child Left Behind and the testing industrial complex are destroying childhood. Last month, Salon had a good entry in the field, about how toxic expectations can seep into your own life, because no family is an island.
  • Patti Smith stopped by New Hampshire Public Radio to talk writing for 10 minutes. What a great, brief workshop in keeping it real and keeping it you.

Things I’m Verbing: Blindfolds, blackwork and white noise

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Yup, still the Cloisters. That walk is too nice not show off from every possible angle. Doesn’t this make you feel peaceful? And to think, there’s a highway, like, a hundred feet below this. (I don’t know if it’s 100 feet. For an entry about fact-checking woes, I’m going to let this one slide.)

You can never turn off being a copy editor or a fact-checker. Even when you’re trying to unwind, it ruins everything. Case in point: Last night I was finishing up a novella by a writer I both respect like hell as an artist and can never decide how much I actually enjoy her work.

It’s a fairy tale set in the Jazz Age, and it relies heavily on ’20s-era slang throughout. Which was a freaking delight, except early on, the writer describes characters wearing victory rolls — a signature hairstyle of World War II, meant to imitate the swoops of fighter pilots. (I can’t find evidence that they weren’t in use before the 1940s, but certainly to use imagery so associated with a very different decade is careless, if not confounding as a deliberate artistic choice, in this context.)

Anyway. I also got mad at this writer in another book for claiming a character alive in the 17th century knew how to speak Akkadian, a dead language not fully deciphered until the mid-1800s. The things we discover are deal-breakers.

  • It’s not actually my intention to closely repeat topics or outlets, but two great articles about Tori Amos found their way to me this week, so I’m not going to ignore that. The first is an examination of Boys for Pele on its 20th anniversary; it’s not only my favorite of her works, but one of my favorite albums of all time. The other is a great interview with Interview magazine about her musicalThe Light Princess. Pair with Sady Doyle’s wonderful article for BuzzFeed last year “Where Would Music Be Without Tori Amos?”
  • Aeon also does video, and you need to watch this short animation it made to accompany narration by Radiolab‘s Robert Krulwich, about why blindfolded people can’t walk in straight lines. It’s an intriguingly simple question, and stunningly rendered.
  • This isn’t serious business, I just like tattoo blogs, despite not having any. Tattoodo is hitting the spot for image-based listicles for me right now. This post on blackwork is a highlight.
  • I’ve found that learning about improv has helped me figure out so many different kinds of expression and communication, including journalism (let characters drive the story, not plot!), so I’m super excited to check out Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy: The Harold by Matt Fotis.
  • It’s the final third of National Novel Writing Month, as well as the true wind-up to The Holidays, which may mean you need the perfect white noise to block out… literally everything about the world. I live next to some very noisy neighbors, and I have a lot I need to get done at home. For those of us who can’t seem to accomplish work at coffee shops (and aren’t even into that kind of noise anyway), I present the best 10-hour YouTube video of them all: crackling fireplace. You can probably accomplish literally anything that requires focus and relaxation with this on. There are so many other white noise generators out there, but I haven’t found one that beats this.

Things I’m Verbing: English, Yiddish and whale cabaret

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, from a weekend day trip that included the Cloisters, some really A+ ramen and a long stroll past Columbia and Barnard. Sometimes the perfect light happens, and you get to be grateful that iPhone cameras have come so very far.
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, from a weekend day trip that included the Cloisters, some really A+ ramen and a long stroll past Columbia and Barnard. Sometimes the perfect light happens, and you get to be grateful that iPhone cameras have come so very far.

It’s important to cultivate a few irrational beliefs, and one of mine is that Tuesday is the strangest day of the week. I suspect many of us of a certain age could blame David Wiesner for this, though I’m also of an age where I blame it more squarely on Tori Amos. Either way, Tuesday should always be when things start. End of irrational beliefs mission statement.

I like to share links. Every few days, I’m going to share about five things that are really moving me and pushing me somewhere, journalistically, story-wise or just plain because they’re amazing or entertaining. To start:

  • Popular Mechanics highlighted the Croatian Sea Organ, which sounds something like Tom Waits doing whale cabaret.
  • Javier Munoz, the Sunday “Javilton” of Hamilton, spoke to Vulture about what it’s like to have such a close creative partnership with actual genius Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he did when he finds out celebrities, including the president and first lady, are in the audience.
  • Aeon has a great, easy-to-understand essay up about exactly why English is so weird.
  • I have a lot of thoughts to unravel about the Forward‘s personal essay by Anthony Russell, in which he, as a gay black man married to a rabbi and performing in Yiddish, challenges preconceptions of Jewishness and of yiddishkeit.
  • McSweeney’s wrote about why grammar is important. It seems like a silly, pedantic tirade against passive voice, but make it to the end. It proves its point.