Weekend Links – May Day, May Day!

Well, we made it, kittens. April is behind us and good riddance. Short and sweet today as we’re powering through the last few hours before the weekend…even though it won’t look massively different from our weekdays.

Nonetheless, this weekend I intend to enjoy the sunshine, cuddle effusively with my husband, and cook. Let me know your plans in the comments, and I promise to cheer them on whatever they are.

We elected our dumbest and worst person to be president. You cannot convince me otherwise at this point.

New single from The 1975, one of my favorite bands.

Culture matters in good times, but it matters desperately in rough ones. Take advantage of the artistic generosity swelling forth, but also donate if you can now and commit to funding it when you can later.

2020 is so wild that this barely broke into my awareness this week.

Shall we volunteer, Small Dog Nation?

As I spend more time cooking, I am thinking more about cookbooks (as opposed to family recipes, or what I find on pinterest or online). But I have read few as BOOKS, and plan to rectify this.

Andrew Yang was an unusual candidate in that he seemed fully focused on future problems and did not sugar coat the risks he saw. While he was never my preference, I’m pleased he advocated for certain issues and found this interview with him to be worth a read given the state of the world.

This may be the only time a mediocre book review compels me to read the book in question, because it so perfectly encapsulate a current moment that it might feel remiss not to. “As I read The End of October, I found myself resenting it. It was such a silly potboiler of a novel, with such unbelievable characters, such leaden sentences, such infuriatingly clumsy dialogue. How dare the world in which I am actually living so closely resemble a fucking airport thriller?

Yes, I have read “the nanny piece.” No, I have no further comments beyond “Eat the rich.”

The coming war between venues of all kinds, artists, distributors, and agents is going to be nuts. I don’t think movie theatres or theatrical venues are ever going to go away (if the last five thousand years of human history are anything to go by). But that doesn’t mean they won’t, or shouldn’t change. Concerts won’t stop, but I also hope artists will continue to stream straight to their fans when all this is over. I hope gyms will continue to provide online classes. I hope the ways in which we consume and enjoy all manner of things stays accessible and doesn’t just serve to make a few people rich.

Longtime readers will know that Small Dog Nation stans Yoga with Adrienne, so seeing her process and success detailed was both pleasurable and genuinely interesting. She’s a great exercise resource, especially right now.

Celebrating good spuds and good people.

Either we take sexual assault claims seriously or we don’t. Biden needs to provide answers to these accusations, the public needs to grapple with them and come to a consensus and partisanship won’t cut it. His statement today and call for transparency is the right first step, investigation must follow.

Death to FOMO.

Five Things I Loved in April

What a strange month April was. We left the house once a day, if that, and the most exciting decisions we had to make were around what to eat. And yet, given the uncertainty of work, health, industry, and…everything else, it was still difficult in its own way. We’re very fortunate to be safe and healthy thus far, including our extended families, but continue to be aware that this is largely a matter of privilege and luck. Who knows what May is going to bring but in the meantime, here’s what helped the past month feel a little less locked down.

Share your faves and finds in the comments, ducklings. Sharing is caring.

 

Tiger King

Ok, let’s be clear: this show was a wacky, wild trip and has more than a few flaws as a documentary. It is not an objectively good show in many ways, there are no heroes and more than a little fanciful positioning of characters. False equivalents abound and conjecture is presented as if not fact, then likely. And yet, it’s compelling in the worst way: it’s great television.

Its editors in particular nailed their task of keeping audience sensibilities and allegiances shifting, while also holding them in the uncomfortable space of confronting the fact that none of the characters (in every sense of the word) are likeable or even decent. And yet, it gripped the pop cultural landscape because people watched it and couldn’t look away, myself included. It’s a master class in upping the ante with every episode and genre shift. Just when you think you’re watching a perfectly normal wildlife rescue documentary, BOOM. There’s a cult. Then there’s a murder – or is there? Then there’s polyamory. Then there’s an election campaign. Then a hit man. And it’s a true testament that I have given NOTHING away with any of those statements

I inhaled it, I talked about it with friends, I’m still not done thinking about it.

 

Psycle London (specifically their Instagram TV feed!)

This was a later find in the month, but my goodness what a treasure it has been! Psycle is a very trendy gym brand in London and I’ve wanted to try some of their classes in the past, but the locations stopped being handy when our schedules changed and I never could muster the timing or cash to go for it. Well, like many other brands, they’ve started producing content online and via social media. Apart from being absolutely what’s needed for many right now, it’s brilliant marketing. Several instructors hold their usual 45-minute classes multiple times a day on Instagram Live and, at least once a week, a selection of those videos are then added to their Instagram TV channel. I’ve done a class daily since discovering it and finally getting to try barre workouts – reminiscent of dance days and a killer class. These are all free, though there is pleasingly a way to donate any amount to help them meet costs right now. Once all this is behind us, I will definitely make it to their in-person classes, but I hope they continue an online program in some way – I will definitely keep participating and paying!

 

My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This is definitely going to be Not For Everybody, but this book absolutely gripped and gutted me. It needs all the trigger warnings as the subject matter includes sexual abuse and its long aftermath.  Straight from my Goodreads review: “What a difficult, complicated book. I’m not sure anyone has successfully tackled the layers of complexity of harms, desires, manipulations, and even bizarre affections that can be part of an abusive relationship, but this book gets the nearest I’ve ever come across. “A haze of unspeakable things,” as the narrator puts it when trying to articulate all the questions she has about her relationship with a person who took advantage of his position and power over her. If anything I think this book gives a visceral account of how our own identities can become interwoven with other people’s and the stories we tell (and tell ourselves) about our relationships to others. Even evil people are the heroes of their own tales. Uncomfortable and confronting.

“The second half of the book isn’t as crisply constructed to me and I think could have been edited down, but that’s a minor technical quibble and I’m still impressed that this is a debut novel.”

 

Glossier, FutureDew

I’ve shared this favorite before but I’ve finished my first bottle in record time for any face/makeup product and am already on my second. While I’m certainly not putting on a face every single day, I’d be lying if I said my vanity and desire to look good on video conference calls didn’t mean that I threw some slap on in April. This oil/serum hybrid provided a lovely glowy base for “bare” days and a decent canvas for when I had to look a little more presentable – at least from the waist up. I foresee this being a daily beauty product throughout summer, quarantine or no.

 

Cooking

Nothing like a little lockdown to help you focus on your plans to cook more. I’m determined to expand the family cooking repertoire and really master both classic recipes (boeuf bourguignon, I’m coming for you) and as many different cultural styles as I can try. I’m slowly pushing the boat out on vegetarian options as well, both for health and money reasons. Jeff would like it publicly noted that he disagrees strongly with this, but even he had to admit my first dhal was pretty damn tasty. In the spirit of charity, here are a few of things we’ve made this month:

A beautiful savory dhal dish – my first proper attempt at a lentil-based meal

My go-to baking vice – for something with a bit of chewiness and heft

The BEST breakfast or brunch meal on the planet, do not @ me

Easiest banana bread 

The Year of Back to Basics: April

It could not be more “back to basics” than this past month has been. Between working remotely, barely leaving the house, and just trying to get by, my world has become fairly small, fairly quickly. While this week as I type this I’m having a bit of a down one and struggling with the limitations of lockdown, I have to be fair and acknowledge that I’m fortunate that it’s all bad thus far.

I’m not sure our apartment has ever been this clean, this consistently. Laundry and dishes are being done daily. I’ve organized and RE-organized shelves and storage to declutter and tidy our spaces. I’ve actually hung some of our artwork, which is ridiculous seeing as we’ve lived in this apartment for eight months now…

Who knows what’s going to come our way in May (2020 seems to be trolling us all now), but looking back on the strangest of Aprils, I’m pretty pleased at what I have to report.

 

Money

Even though I’m on a reduced salary (voluntarily) the compulsory asceticism of the past few weeks have some definite financial upsides. We continue to prioritize cooking with occasional “splurges” on meals from local favorite restaurants. Lack of even daily bus or Tube travel has meant that savings from pennies and pounds has added up nicely. We’ve got a reliable and delicious coffee subscription service that thus far has not let us down and is far cheaper than what we’d spend out and about in normal times.

That being said, we did spend some money this month. We restocked the liquor cabinet, and I finally got a pair of decent headphones after sending a series of cheap ones to their graves over the past few months. This and my pin from Paris are going to count as my birthday presents this year, so I feel okay about them. I also picked up a pair of “comfy but high quality” work from home trousers that are pull on, but look like normal pants and could be worn outside as well as in, and a light trench to replace a similar coat that was ripped and stained beyond repair.

Lest you find this horribly extravagant, we continue to operate mostly with cash day-to-day and have even topped up our emergency fund a bit. A good feeling in normal times, a great one right now.

 

Relationships

I’m so grateful to be quarantined with someone I love, like, and feel safe with. Not everyone is nearly as lucky right now, and people in unhealthy or unsafe circumstances deserve kind thoughts, donations, and offers of safe help wherever you can.

In other areas, I’ve kept up with therapy, though reduced the frequency of appointments due to the current situation, and it continues to help keep me balanced. Texts and calls with friends continue, with more scheduled.

 

Basic Bitch

Let me preface this with a firm statement that no one should feel weight shamed or weight shame themselves right now, we are literally in the middle of a public health and economic knock down! Speaking only for myself and my body, I stepped on a scale for the first time in weeks and was annoyed at what I saw. Between a knee injury and then quarantine I have not been as active as I wanted for the first quarter of the year, but in the past month I actually put on weight. Which is diametrically opposed to a specific health goal I gave myself for this year! For some reason, and I’m sure there is a psychological underlying cause for this pettiness, this gave me the motivation I’ve been lacking and I started (and have so far maintained) daily workouts. More details in my favorites post tomorrow, but I’ve found some really interesting options even in the depths of quarantine. I hope that next month I will have lost the weight gained and will be able to report a continuation of the habit. I decided to focus on weight loss this year because my own health process and

 

Elsewhere

Paid off all but one credit card. Death to debt!

Ticked off goals related to gratitude and mood.

Baking and album listening goals continue, though the baking one is definitely going on pause to focus on weight loss!

Nurtured my houseplants

Reading goals also pushing along, I’ve read over 70 books so far this year and started on some classics and biography book goals this past month as well. At the rate I’m going I’m going to read at least 200 books this year, so might as well tick off every single book goal I’ve got while I do it. What else are we gonna do, we’re quarantined!

 

Sunday Check In

I’m not going to lie, piglets, this week was probably the roughest yet. This was the week that tempers frayed, that the tension between old and new work challenges clashed, that the reduced paycheck landed. Thank goodness for the latter, but a grim sort of victory as it compels one to think of colleagues on furlough and how grateful we all are to have a job and something of a social safety net. I also heard from friends and loved ones who are staring down the barrel of unemployment.

Conversation after conversation has the same theme: any sense of adventure is more or less gone, we’re now in the slog, and some of that slog is increasingly scary. The stores are no longer completely bare but we’re still shopping strategically.

This week finally broke me a bit, when it comes to news. My work days have been labor-intensive still so any news breaking through to me is usually related to organizations or clients we work with or industry effects that are rippling outward. When I’d log off from my professional life and into my personal one, the sheer inanity vexed me and I’d log straight back off again. When I saw there was “a conversation” about whether or not people should inject or ingest disinfectants to kill COVID-19, in response to the daily bullshittery of the DC pressers, I nearly threw my laptop across the room. I wisely decided to focus on catching up on podcasts or books instead.

In short, I’m a bit glum. And so to counter the despondency, I’ve scheduled some premium friend time throughout this weekend and upcoming week. Calls and impromptu virtual book clubs, all the better to share and laugh, my dears.

What are you over this past week, what are you doing to care for yourself and other this coming one?

Weekend Links

Happy Friday, ducklings. It’s been a hell of a week. Work continues to be rewarding but tiring, the news continues to be bad (PLEASE don’t inject yourself with bleach, team…)

Ouch. This one landed right in the feels.

Pop culture critic and unabashed musical lover Lindsay Ellis took on CATS. And she is 100% correct.

Some really good ideas and tips in this vlog about taking some time whilst we’re all at home to maintain your wardrobe items.

How are cities going to change in the future? It’s not original to say they are expensive and stressful to live in (even those of us who love them), but how might COVID-19 force societal shifts, even if they were already in the making?

Good for them. No one is required to be complicit in their own abuse, especially after having taken the decisions they have to reduce their public obligations.

Another potential positive outcome to this whole mess: a correct recalibration on the importance of science over anecdote. I’m on record as finding the Anti Vaxx movement dangerous and, in my opinion, a by product of other pernicious elevations of opinion over reason and bizarre tribalism. I’d be delighted to see their platforms and influence vanish.

Bleeding hell. There’s been some stabilising since but it’s an example of exactly how bad things can get – and how the economy is NOT the stock market.

Yes, Stanley, I think we all need that drink right about now.

Big Data for union busting. Yay…

If you’re looking for some quarantine exercise routines, Instagram is here to help! My newest find is Psycle London’s live feed and subsequently posted classes. Send me your recs in the comments.

Reminder – this is classic and academically documented troll behavior, and there is a history of tactic coordination that appears local but isn’t. Apply healthy scepticism accordingly.

Active force for good in the world.

Active force for depression, but worth reading.

Me reading this story:

Sunday Check In

Hi ducklings, how are we all doing this week?

This week an additional group of colleagues was furloughed, one that contained many of my favorite coworkers and work friends. I know it’s temporary but I’m going to miss hanging out with these people (at least digitally) until they are back. We have awesome group chats!

Other than that, this was also a week where I’ve had some uncomfortable exchanges with people, personally and professionally. Stress is getting to lots of people, myself included, and our experiences are all individual and personal. It can make common ground harder to establish. I’m trying to remember my own calls for kindness while also speaking up when I feel is necessary. It’s a balancing act – some days I nail it, other days I get it wrong.

How about you? How was this week? What are your personal circumstances? What would you like people to better appreciate about your experience or point of view right now?

Weekend Links

Sharp and sweet this week, my ducklings. It’s been another frantic one and I’m out of energy to do anything but read and veg. Check in and let me know how you’re doing!

 

No kidding

On the one hand, it’s nice to know my wacky dreaming is not just my brain short circuiting. On the other, share your most bizarre ones in the comments!

I’ve been screaming for a more creative society where we experiment with solutions far more than we do now, and here was a refreshing attempt. What would you experiment with? Tell me in the comments again, I’m highly interested in hot takes!

The legend of Mary Magdalene, a thoughtful read following Easter Week on the individual, the history of christendom, and evolution of religious belief.

Well, this is grim

What an ugly, small, vainglorious awful man.

He’s going to get people killed. More of them, I mean.

Not great, team.

No, I’m still not over Tiger King. This is just gravy at this point.

I am among the many Animal Crossing widows.

PROTECT CAPTAIN TOM AT ALL COSTS.

The economist who has made me think and rethink my opinions on more financial issues in my lifetime is Mark Blyth, based out of the Watson School for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. He’s given many informative (and entertaining) talks over the years, about macro and micro economic histories with an emphasis on how fiscal policy affects political and cultural trends. Two virtual podcasts/seminars to shout out this week from him, one serious and the other more fun. “Facts are behind paywalls, rumors are free of charge.” 

A question we badly need to answer and soon.

I delight in museum Twitter battles!

Their strategy has always been to drown out inconvenient facts with a noisy barrage of distortions—to “flood the zone with shit,” as Steve Bannon once put it. But in recent weeks, the president and his allies have been waging a dystopian campaign of revisionist history more brazen than anything they’ve attempted before.”