Tag: 2018

Bring Me Books

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles W. Eliot

This may be a strange thing to say, but I actually fell in love with reading all over again this year–and that’s saying something because I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life and have never fallen out of love with it. We’ve been very happy together since approximately age four. At this point I’ve read well over 50 books so far this year, and that doesn’t count several re-reads of old favorite novels or short stories. And it certainly doesn’t count the sheer amount of newsprint, magazine, and digital media I read on a daily basis.

But this was the year that I really came to understand how much reading helps and grounds me. I think for most of us, besides childhood playacting, books are the first real exercises we get in imagination and projection. These are invaluable tools for processing the world, especially as adults (goodness knows we’re stuck in this phase longer).

In my quest to get healthier this year, I’ve come to the realization that reading helps with all of my brain problems. It stops the anxious skittering of thoughts, it helps me focus on a single (usually enjoyable!) task, and it takes me out of my own head and into another world. It silences my ego. Next to actual therapy, I think it’s one of the best things I am able to do calm myself when worked up over a problem or stuck in a feedback loop of fretting. For me, it’s practically meditation.

When insomnia strikes and sleep is not on the cards, books! When I feel overwhelmed or stress, books! When I just have a spare half hour on the Tube or lying in bed on a weekend, books! I am happier when I make the time and effort to read a lot.

So what did I read this year? I’m working my way through every single book and short story by Agatha Christie. I did a six month dive into the history of Mormon polygamy, which was an important bit of reading for me. I’ve discovered some great new romance authors. I’ve made an effort to read various political and social histories of the US–racial, economic, environmental, and ideological. I’m intentionally mainlining feminist authors in a way that I haven’t since university.

While this is not even close to my most book heavy year, I’m delighted to have discovered an old love in a new way. What books did you read this year, and which were your favorite?

Weekend Links

“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars

Happy weekend, ducklings, we made it through another week.

This week was bonkers in the world of work as I’ve had to work on some of the most high-profile stuff I’ve ever done that wasn’t consumer facing…I loved it. It was stressful and fast-paced, but I enjoyed the opportunity a lot. Now, however, all I want to do is sleep and stave off the migraine attack that’s threatening to strike after a week of all too much coffee and not enough healthy food.

Jeff’s birthday was this week so we’re celebrating that this weekend, and starting to plan for the holidays which kick off next week with Thanksgiving. I cannot believe how quickly November is rushing by.

Here is a nice batch of links to get you through the weekend, share what you enjoyed in the comments!

Relevant to my…well, not interests so much as poor habits.

Answering a political question I have never thought to ask: what happens to all that campaign merch?!

I really loved this piece about charm–a highly underrated thing in this day and age.

This piece is a couple of weeks old, but is still worth a read. What does it say that some of the leading tech and platform developers work hard to limit their own children’s access to the things they helped to build?

Move fast and break democracy. (I am the millionth person to make this joke, by the way.) Joking aside, I think we’ve proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Facebook may not be an evil organisation, but it’s far too powerful for what it is and it’s a mistake to not consider its lasting implications and impact which have had a global scale. No organization is blameless or perfect, but why does a company this ubiquitous, rich and powerful keep getting to screw up on the scale it does without consequences?

Surprising literally no one at this point.

What a wild ride!

Big headline, great profile.

Alex Trebrek is a figure of my childhood and I loved this profile piece.

An interesting piece at Politico about how Republican gerrymandering works…for a party system that no longer exists in the post-2016 world. For better or worse they have a new party leader who has promised new policies and commitments that no Republican would have espoused a decade ago. 2018 has shown how that may cost them future elected positions.

This week in Mormon News, a podcast recommendation and a bit of background reading from the incomparable C. Jane Kendrick. A link to the episode of This American Life in question can be found in her post. She sums up many of my feminist struggles with a patriarchal faith masterfully, “My problem is with the system…it is the power dynamics that I refuse. I refuse men in power and authority over women. I don’t care where it comes from. I refuse it… I believe you could put in a thousand checks to this system, you could go and sit with your child through every interview, you could teach your daughters to be the most feminist, but this system–designed to cultivate absolute obedience–will always seep in.”

This piece by The Cut feels like a good follow up to that. It’s hard, but necessary to read.

Also relevant, this piece by Monica Lewinsky for Vanity Fair. “If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer.”

PUNK’D.

This week in misogynistic nonsense…

Lady Washington is all, “Who the **** is Carol, George?!” But seriously, this thread is amazing.

Copy/paste will kill us all.

Yeah…this feels correct…

It’s the Lester Holt/James Comey thing all over again. Nothing is new and neither is the lack of robust response.

A sad week for pop culture with two losses: Stan Lee and William Goldman.

Brexit. What a shit show.

Speaks for itself:

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Weekend Links

“How pleasant to walk over beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling fallen leaves…. How beautiful they go to their graves!”
—Henry David Thoreau, Diary, October 12, 1853

Wow. What a bad week on the news front, in a year of bad weeks. Domestic terrorism, racism, possible test balloons of anti-trans actions (which my cynical brain interprets as gross attempts to seize controls of headlines or a news cycle), conspiracy theories, acts of violence against people of color…well, let’s process that together in the comments. There are so many ongoing stories that may change and evolve more in the coming week, but it’s still be a disheartening one for the state of the US and parts of the world.

In MUCH happier news, one of my best friends friends is coming to visit us soon and I’ve been looking forward to this literally all year. She’s coming off the back of some brilliant news that I can’t share yet but will once I can because I’m so darn proud of her I could cry! On to the links and watch this space!

What an absolute shit show this has been to watch, and I’m heartsick at how no one will be held accountable in a meaningful sense. Fall guys taking a fall is not accountability. Failure to impose sanctions or really any kind of consequence is not accountability. Even the Crown Prince finally calling this act a tragedy and organizing a photo op with the son of the victim (who has since left the country) is not accountability.

This column by Sali Hughes on family estrangements, especially when necessary, hit me directly in the feels.

All hail our dark queen!

A primer for our times, fellow angry women.

A thoughtful piece of writing on the new awkward age for the modern woman: the mid-30s. Old stereotypes about aging and life accomplishments aren’t uniform and there are more choices for women than ever before, which means that the yardsticks we use to measure ourselves by can be confusing. This is an oft-explored topic in writing, but this piece felt very relevant and fresh to me…probably because I’m turning 33 next year. “At this age, it’s possible to be brand-new or old hat at the same thing. There’s no unanimity, and that can be awkward.”

Oh, my heart and childhood!

This, on the other hand, made me clutch myself and feel old.

I’m deeply interested in third-culture kid experiences, for obviously personal reasons.

What is happening in the panhandle of Texas, pray tell?

The corruption and mess continue unabated.

The administration is demonizing a small group of people currently in Central America and nearly two thousand miles away from our borders, but using them to whip up fear and nationalism in the run up to an election. It’s racist and it’s deplorable.

Meanwhile, the US armed forces are shaping the future of warfare. It’s just not in our official army.

The latest Dr Who episode is for our moment and yes, I cried.

A blunter take on the idea of biological clocks.

What weird and stupid times we live in.

Tell me again how scary it is to be a man these days. Go on. I dare you.

I’m pretty sure this is how every science fiction dystopia starts.

He’s awful, racist, and sometimes only semi literate:

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This is fucking scary.

It got worse on Thursday. And after a single statement about national unity, the President went straight back to attacking the media.

And it got worse on Friday when still more targets, including senators, received explosive devices. An arrest was made (thank god for law enforcement), leaving a lot of conspiracy theorist who had quickly advanced the idea of a “false flag” (that this was a fake incident drummed up by Democrats for sympathy before the election) having to delete their tweets or walk back their (insane) potions. “Outsmarted yourself” indeed, Rivera

And where were these people all radicalized, pray?

Absolutely vital reading: this six month investigation by the BBC.

The presidential twitter feed has been curiously mum on this. To be clear, I don’t think presidents have much to do with the stock market except in the macro and long term, but if you build your PR on the market rising, you own the PR of the market falling.

I believe it, but I’m petty as fuck right now.

This isn’t a “southern” thing or a “racist” thing (though god knows there are elements of racism baked into the core of it). This is a “party keeping itself in power and resorting to increasingly illiberal means to do so” thing.

Finally, let’s end on a nice note. I have learned a new, and highly relevant to me, word!

Weekend Links

“Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.” 
― Edward R. Murrow

I have had a spectacularly unhealthy week. Between travel for work and events, I have been eating like crap and continuing my irregular sleep schedule. Not ideal!

We are still managing the hole-in-our-ceiling situation and sleeping in our living room, but I have a weekend of quality time with Jeff, long chats with friends, and hopefully some writing planned to make up for it. Tell me how you’re spending your weekend in the comments, and let’s review the week together in the links!

The facts around journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s now almost-certain assassination are grim, but it’s equally grim watching a president (seemingly at odds with many in his own administration) try to collaborate on an acceptable and blatant cover story. All of the positive photo ops with the Secretary of State, the President vouching for the Saudi’s ability to investigate themselves, and the reports in the public domain of regional and interested parties openly deliberating ways to apply financial pressure to members of the Trump administration make this so ridiculously suspect it feels like the plot of an extremely obvious and dated spy film. But it’s real life.

Mr. Khashoggi’s last, posthumous opinion piece in the Washington Post is worth a read, if for no other reason than to pay respect to a man who literally died for what he believed.

I feel like sooner or later I’m going to have to apply the same kind of “ethical” cost analysis to my food that I once did to my shopping…

Woof, I can’t look away from the Deciem story at this point. It’s bizarre.

Good idea, from a big picture perspective, but going to be extremely difficult to do.

Our society is screwed

The final lines of this piece are extremely telling in understanding the state of our technological development and why we keep getting into trouble about it.

This whole series on The Cut is just perfection.

It is unfathomable to me how this man has been allowed to NOT recuse himself from overseeing an election in which he is running. And some of his actions aren’t even under the radar.

I don’t need green boots, but goodness Sezanne makes me want them

Not in the least bit shocked.

Anne Thériault has another installment in Queens of Infamy! 

This judicial pipeline project has been known for years, but the more that is reported on it, the worse it looks.

This piece from the New York Review of Books sums up pretty much all of my political and social concerns rather well and grimly: “No matter how and when the Trump presidency ends, the specter of illiberalism will continue to haunt American politics. A highly politicized judiciary will remain, in which close Supreme Court decisions will be viewed by many as of dubious legitimacy, and future judicial appointments will be fiercely contested. The racial division, cultural conflict, and political polarization Trump has encouraged and intensified will be difficult to heal. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and uncontrolled campaign spending will continue to result in elections skewed in an unrepresentative and undemocratic direction. Growing income disparity will be extremely difficult to halt, much less reverse…Trump is not Hitler and Trumpism is not Nazism, but regardless of how the Trump presidency concludes, this is a story unlikely to have a happy ending.”

Relevant to my October interests!

Mazel tov, you crazy kids.

The Cut is doing god’s work. What a series!

This shameful, racist shit is ugly. And it’s working on enough people, I’m disheartened to say

No matter how you lean politically, Mitch McConnell has just encapsulated the big issues of the election for a lot of voters. The tax cuts did not pay for themselves, and he does want to slash benefit programs. You either like this future or hate it. Vote as you please, but please vote, kittens.

McKay Coppins at The Atlantic drops another incredible longform profile on Newt Gingrich, delving into the man who laid the groundwork for our current political culture and believes that this is emphatically for the good.

 

Thank god for this random, sweet story from the Royal Tour. What on earth do we have the royals for if not this sort of heartwarming thing in the face of grossness?

Weekend Links: Bread and Circuses Edition

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.”
– Juvenal

Unpopular hot take: nothing in political news that happened this week is exactly revelatory. President Trump is exactly the same in private as he is in public–which is what interviews, background statements, and his own Twitter feed have been telling us since day one. A lot of people are willing to complain about him, but only anonymously, and few are willing to do anything that actually holds him to account. This is the new status quo.

Here’s a batch of weekend reading for you, my lovelies. It’s not all bad political news, I promise.

Another book about the Trump White House dropped this week and unfortunately (for him) this one’s by an author that a lot of D.C. takes pretty seriously. He’s also got receipts.

The Academy walks it back!

Hideous, but not surprising. I’m immensely sorry to say.

Equally horrific and unsurprising at this point.

Mix me the perfect green, someone.

Somebody check on Sandra Bullock and George Clooney real quick.

A compelling longform piece about, ah, enhancements.

New Gambino video!

I have been pondering lately on the reality that an entire industry exists to put people in financial thrall to the government, making the government quite a tidy profit. The more I think about this, the angrier it makes me.

I genuinely teared up reading about this news story this past week. Cultural heritage is human legacy and it’s irreplaceable.

?!?!?!?!

Okay, I put it off for a bit and tried to get some fun content in…but we’ve got to talk about it. Even by the absolutely topsy turvy standards of the times, this op ed was astounding. And the theorizing commenced immediately. Lots of theorizing. It’s fun to speculate (I mean, as “fun” as the public debate over whether your democratically elected leader is in fact 1) unfit for office and 2) is actually being managed by a shadowy cabal–either of these options being bad for said democracy in some way or another–can be) but my possibly unpopular take is that this op ed feels self serving and cowardly instead of brave: either sign your name to your opinions and quit like a principled public servant, or protect and serve an administration you genuinely support. To do anything other is to be complicit in destabilizing the country. These background style interviews and exposes are of decreasing value to us as citizens. Go on the record if you feel the situation is really so dire, or shut up.

Another option is that this is signalling to supporters of the policies, if not the man, to stay the course. Which also feels  like cowardly way to go about governing a country.

Finally, here’s a piece arguing in favor of Anonymous, positing the like-minded civil servants are really all we have between us and bad leadership. A cynical if ruthlessly cleared view of a government based on the honor system and how we cope with the reality that no one is playing by the rules right now.

This piece is both about Tucker Carlson, and not. Either way, it’s good.

Maybe don’t buy the fish

I have been following the Judge Kavanaugh hearings but only in small briefs from trusted news sources. I’m too angry to take in more than curt, factual summaries and at time of closing on this post, the story is moving too quickly for me to link anything. Between grandstanding politicians, leaked documents, and protests, I have no idea how this story is going to end…but I’m going to guess with a partisan confirming vote. No links, only gnashes of teeth.

Here at least is an op ed I can get behind.

Beauty YouTube drama, explained.

This is a statement. The risks for a campaign like this are not small for any business, but you have to admit it got people talking. I love it.

 

The Best Things I Bought Last Year

“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

Inspired by Janssen over at Everyday Reading, I thought I’d run through a few things that I spent money on last year that sparked a lot of joy. Budgeting continues to be a big thing in the Small Dog residence this year and posts on this theme will continue to flow as I continue to think about consumption and responsible consumerism, as well as debt management. All of which I’m sure you guys find riveting.

That’s right, ducklings, come for the political angst, stay for the sensible money talk!

So, while I’m in the midst of a three month-long personal spending freeze to kick off the new year, here are the best things I bought in 2017.

Vintage Chairs

We took an apartment at the upper end of our budget when we moved into this place, negotiating a better rent rate in exchange for furnishing it ourselves rather than asking our landlord to do so. This has had tradeoffs. We live in the nicest place of our married life but have had to curtail spending elsewhere as a result; we have an amazing home, but are taking literal years in putting it together and saving up for big buys one at a time. But both of us were in agreement when we saw this pair of vintages chairs show up at one of our favorite antique stores that we wanted them. They were our only big budget item for our house this year but they’ve leant our place charm, personality, color, and a much needed place for people to actually sit. I love them.

Party Dress

It had been years since I bought a party dress that didn’t come in the LBD variety, but this past holiday season I had enough events to go to (with a broad range of dress codes) that an update to the wardrobe was justifiable. This dress was in my December favorites post, but deserves another shout out because I have definitely gotten my money’s worth out of this thing.

Lea Stein Brooch 

I picked this up on our long weekend trip to Paris with the glorious Caitlin and her lovely husband Jose. I fell in love with Lea Stein designs years ago and stumbled across an amazing shop in the Rue Jacob that sells vintage costume purely by accident. This was the only purchase that came home from Paris this year and it’s a wonderful bit of treasure.

Greek Vacation

Without fail, the best thing we spent money to me this past year was a week in Greece just the two of us. I’m very bad at relaxing, and this trip was a much needed reset. Even though we were crazy and flew into and out of Athens in less than 24 hours, we had a wonderful day in the city and an amazing six further days on Santorini with hiking, sailing, and an awful lot of food. It was amazing and has really helped me remember to prioritize time off better than I have before.

How do we feel about social media these days?

“Distracted from distraction by distraction” 
― T.S. Eliot

A genuine question, kittens. I ask because Katarina and I had a delightful hour and a half long conversation on the topic the other day and I have not been able to get the conversation out of my head. I joked about it when I mused what I’d like to give up in 2018 because I didn’t quite mean it…but didn’t quite not mean it either.

Last year I started logging out of Facebook for extended periods of time. I don’t really enjoy it as a platform and haven’t for years, but I’ve kept it because it’s an easy way for people all over the world to keep in touch with me. A military brat and an expat, my friends and acquaintances are scattered across the globe and I justify keeping my Facebook account to make it easy to connect with them…but maybe I need to be more honest about the fact that most of the friends I keep in touch with regularly, I keep in touch with through other means. My best friends and I talk, text and email weekly. I have a lively correspondent base and Facebook isn’t how I keep in touch with them. I’m holding on to it for a purpose that I don’t actually use in real life. My logic is flawed.

Less personally, I don’t really like Facebook anymore. My feed is a constant stream of advertisements and wannabe viral videos and memes. For a long while I watched and uptick in people sharing content I didn’t like or agree with (this was a few years ago) so I started culling my list of “friends” until it actually represented friends. From 2014-2106 the content turned political and the tone turn downright vicious so I went through another culling period and started muting people whose views troubled or angered me.

In other words, I became part of the problem so routinely ascribed to Facebook these days: that it shows us content we already agree or align with, reinforcing our views.

I’m now trying actively to correct this by widening how I consume media, and Facebook is not the way I do that. I’ve subscribed to newspapers that I previously enjoyed mostly for free (got to support journalism now more than ever), and I make a deliberate effort to read commentators and platforms or publications that represent different views than me. I might not share them as much because, hey: my blog, my rules, but I do read them.

Instagram is a platform I still enjoy, even though it’s owned by Facebook and I haven’t liked a lot of the changes that have been made to it as a platform (a non-chronological feed for one thing). But it’s a place where I find beautiful images and interesting people and so it’s still a fun thing for me. I follow friends, a lot of beauty and style editors and writers, vintage sellers, some bloggers who I either know or have interacted with in some way over the years, and a few theme feeds that give me a much needed daily dose of pretty.

Twitter I’m torn over. I didn’t really use Twitter all that regularly until the 2016 campaign and now I feel a bit like a junkie who needs it to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I subscribe mostly to journalists, editors, writers, bloggers, and podcasters whose content I enjoy, and politicians whose views are relevant to mine or to my life. But let’s be honest, as a whole, Twitter is a hilariously overly-dramatic place. If you acknowledge it and don’t believe everything you read, you can enjoy the ride. But if, like me, you’re a person who tends to take a lot of things very (or too) seriously, it will convince you that the world is on the brink of self-destruction or that people are mostly garbage if you give it too much of your time. It’s not a platform that encourages good mental health or stress management.

As for all the other social media platforms, I’m either barely or not at all active on them. Bad blogger!

I’m not sure what this thinking will coalesce into but it’s an idea I can’t really get out of my head. Katarina and I had a lively discussion about whether social media will stay as relevant or how it may change in coming years. I don’t think you can write it off entirely, especially given the current political landscape of the world, but it’s been interesting to watch how it’s been leveraged or monetized past the point of authenticity for so many people. We also chatted about blogging and how that medium has changed over the past decade, but that’s another rambling post altogether!

I think I’m going to keep off of Facebook for as long as I can avoid logging in. Other platforms I’m still up in the air about. How about you guys, how do you use social media and how has your use changed over recent year? Is it weird I’m thinking about this so much, or do you guys ponder this stuff to? Lend me your thoughts!