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Thoughts

California Dreaming

I was on vacation to LA this week, so my reading was condensed to a few long-form reads. Both the magazine feature and book are thought provoking reads. They told compelling stories while making me think differently about life.

What I’ve Written:

Music, Drugs, Love | NineOverFour – I often fail to find the words to bring comfort to those who need it the most. This essay was written as a self reminder and cheat sheet on how to handle those harrowing moments. As I’m still learning, it’s not about forming the perfect sentence but about showing up and being there.

What I’ve Read:

Everything I Never Told You | Celeste Ng – This was a quick read, as I finished it on my return flight, but a rewarding one. The novel unravels the mysterious story that leads to the disappearance of a 16 year old Asian girl. It was set in a small Midwest town in the 1970s, however the themes that run throughout the narrative could be plucked out of a recent New Yorker piece. Some of the ideas I personally related to were: the weight of meeting unspoken parental pressure and the feeling of being invisible while observing everyone else.

The Agency | NYTimes – Adrian Chen digs deep into the Russian troll machine. It’s quite terrifying and fascinating to think that people are paid (quite handsomely) to tweet and post comments on Facebook. It makes me take a step back and question media consumed on the internet. How much of it is curated and biased toward a certain point of view? If you were stuck in a manufactured echo chamber, would you know it?

Categories
Longform

Music, Drugs, Love

Call me
“Call me” by vindpuss, on Flickr used under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original

American writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag famously mused that “Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except Love.” Many artists seem to agree with her. These artists opt to explain this ethereal emotion by relating it to more tangible experiences. House producer Calvin Harris channels sci-fi when he compares love to a force field in “Feel So Close.” In “Seeing Stars,” indie songwriter BØRNS reaches into the night sky to express his feelings. Pop singer Selena Gomez gets circular with her hit, “Love You Like A Love Song.” The use of metaphors in love songs has become so ubiquitous that the comedy duo, Paul & Storm, wrote a parody titled, “Your Love Is (A Love Song Metaphor).”

This trend continues with the tracks currently blowing up my Spotify playlist. The songs focus on representing the mystique of love with one specific reference: drugs. In “Sober”, singer/rapper Childish Gambino sings about the use of illicit substances as a remedy to heartbreak. Swedish songwriter Tove Lo echoes this sentiment when she has to “…stay high all the time to keep you off my mind” in her hit “Habits (Stay High).” Not being one to waste a good metaphor, Tove Lo taps into the euphoria of being on drugs to describe the feelings of being in love with “Not On Drugs.” Although I’m using contemporary examples, I’m sure artists have been linking these two states together for hundreds of years.

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Thoughts

Old School Shaming

The theme of this week’s reads reminded me of a recent story from NPR. NPR reported on public internet shaming of the drought in California, or as I like to call it cyber bullying for adults. I have to admit that I’m guilty of drought shaming. Although all my shaming is old-school, employing repeated jests offline to friends who eat avocados or almonds grown in California.

What I’ve Wrote:

Why NineOverfour? | NineOverFour – I published my first short story this past week! The essay is an example of the writing that will be posted on the website. The original length of the essay was a tad longer than the 1600 words in the final edit. While making the outline for this story, I was surprised with how easy it was to come up with crazy roommate anecdotes. I had to narrow down the roommate vignettes to keep the piece from dragging.

What I’ve Read:

“What a Horrible Mother:…” | Salon – The first half of the story had me rooting for the mothers who were publicly shamed. But when I read that the author was one of those mothers, I felt a little slimy. In my eyes, the article was biased and fed me only one side of the story. However after more thought, I came to appreciate the article. The author took control of the narrative and got me to think twice before judging and shaming someone, which is what I expect of good writing.

Swearing Off the Modern Man | NYTimes – This personal essay is a finalist for NYTime’s Modern Love College Essay Contest. Although it’s not the winner of the contest, I enjoyed this piece more than the others. I was sucked in by the secondary love story; the tale of romance between the author and the idea of being old-school.

Categories
Longform

Why NineOverFour?

I haven’t had many memorable Valentine’s Days in the first quarter century of my life. There were the ones in elementary school with chalky candy hearts and valentines crafted out of construction paper. In college, there were a handful of singles’ nights involving pizza and poker with the guys. However, Valentine’s Day 2014 blew all the previous ones out of the water because of one particular event. In the following days, I felt like a celebrity in the wake of a revealing scandal. There were paparazzi everywhere; they were stalking outside my office building or hiding in the bushes waiting to ambush me. Everyone wanted to ask me one specific question, “Why 2.25?”

Categories
Thoughts

Is This Really Free?

The first article provokes thought on the internet and how it’s funded. It got me thinking about my own newsletter and website and if I’m really offering it up for free. It is free in a monetary sense, but I am asking for my reader’s attention and support (through the affiliate programs).

What I’ve Read:

The Internet’s Original Sin | The Atlantic – Ethan Zuckerman, the first staff member of Tripod.com, reveals the cost of a “free” and open Internet. He uses witty writing and insider knowledge to provide an engrossing dive into the history of the world wide web. It’s hard to imagine paying money for something that I’ve always accessed for free. However, as Zuckerman points out, is it better than giving up my privacy?

My Long Trek Through Nepal, to Deliver a Stiff Drink | New York Times – This reporter brings the earthquake in Nepal to a micro, human to human, level. She shares a personal story while invoking images of the ruin and devastation in Nepal. The nanny’s mother, Japa Tamang, reminds me of my grandmother, strong and stubborn to a fault. I wonder if I would have the grit to stick it out in my hometown in the aftermath of a major disaster.

What I’ve Watched:

ESPN 30 For 30: Sole Man (120 minutes) – This intriguing documentary from ESPN features Sonny Vaccaro, the king maker of basketball shoes. It follows him as he signs the biggest names in basketball, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and almost Lebron James to multimillion dollar shoe deals. Sonny is also partly responsible for the money making machine that is NCAA basketball. The documentary catches up with Sonny as he tries to right the wrongs of his early years; he believes that student-athletes are being taken advantage of and should be compensated fairly for their efforts. For a cliff notes version of the issue, watch John Oliver’s take on it.

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Thoughts

Changing Minds With… Notecards?

It’s strictly coincidence that what I’ve read this week is an example of what I’ve heard. I actually read the Ryan Holiday piece before listening to the This American Life show. Anyways, the point remains that the article altered my behavior, which was the point of the podcast.

What I’ve Read:

The Notecard System | Ryan Holiday – Ryan Holiday wrote 3 books in 3 years while maintaining his day job at American Apparel and Thought Catalog. He credits the notecard system for helping him expedite the grueling process of writing. After reading the article, I bought three packs of 4×6 index cards and started my own collection of cards. I had a bunch of quotes and ideas scattered across my Kindle, OneNote, Wunderlist, and Evernote accounts. I used the notecards as a way to make everything convenient and easily accessible.

What I’ve Heard:

The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind | This American Life (58 minutes) – The first act of this podcast resonated with me because of its focus on personal stories. Ira Glass and his team follow several pollsters as they try to change voters’ opinion with intimate narratives. I occasionally wonder why I write and if my stories actually make a difference. This podcast reminded me that well-told stories have the ability to change people’s mind. Although I only highlight the first act, all three acts on this episode of This American Life are wonderfully crafted and worth the listen.

Categories
Thoughts

Love Letter to Maria

One site I sorely missed while on my media fast was Brain Pickings. Brain Pickings, ran by Maria Popova, is a collection of philosophy, literature, science, art, and culture. Maria strives to answer the question, “what is a life well lived?” through her curated posts. It provides insight into life’s tougher inquiries and has influenced my writing and worldview. So this week’s links are dedicated to Ms. Popova.

What I’ve Read:

What Do You Do When the Internet Hates You? – Elle | Dani Shaprio, author and memoirist, pens this engrossing article about Internet trolls, haters, insecurity, and writing. She blends in her personal story and a wonderful adaptation to the idiom “not your cup of tea” to drive her point home. Her riff on insecurities hits home as I often fill my head with worry.

The Workhorse and the Butterfly – Brain Pickings | Maria Popova takes excerpts from This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett to highlight the importance of work in creating art. The article brings to mind the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight this past weekend and the emphasis placed on the money made from just one night. The news outlets miss the point that these two boxers have spent countless hours away from the cameras training for the fight of the century.

Categories
Thoughts

That’s so fast-cinating

This week is going to be pretty lean since I’m on a temporary media hiatus. However, I’m back starting tomorrow and should have a cornucopia of interesting links next week.

What I’ve Read:

I didn’t read anything noteworthy this week except for The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It wasn’t because I was deserted on an island with only one book, although living in Hawaii has been compared to living on a rock in the middle of the ocean. I have been selectively ignoring information or, as Ferriss puts it, on a media fast. In his book, Ferriss shows the reader how to live a dream lifestyle while working only four hours a week. When I picked up this book, I thought it was complete bullshit; it was another self proclaimed “guru” extolling his batty philosophy . But as I read on, it started to resonate and I found myself taking small sips of the Kool-Aid.

One of the sips contained the exercise about media fasting. Tim Ferriss takes the old adage, ignorance is bliss, and applies it to the information age. He proposes that the less information we take in, the more time we have for crucial tasks. I can relate to this statement because recently I have been stealing time away from work to read articles or listen to podcasts. This made me less efficient between the house of 8 am to 5 pm and, as a results, I had to work overtime to compensate.

My one week fast is almost over and it has brought a new perspective into the way I process information. I don’t think I am going to keep the media embargo; I enjoy reading, listening, and watching stories way too much to give it up. However, I am going to be more selective about the information I let in. Just like a diet involving food, being a glutton about information isn’t the healthiest thing to do. So with that, I’m going to end with another adage: everything in moderation.

Categories
Thoughts

I got 99 problems

It is definitely a coincidence that both links this week have the number 99 in them. Since it appears to be the theme this week, I might as well throw this in to fully round it out.

What I’ve Read:

Quitting as a Productivity Tactic – 99U | This article urges the reader to get rid of the items that have been sitting on their To-Do list for way too long. It reminds me of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This book features a zen-like approach to organizing, which can be boiled down to one seemingly simple question, “Does it spark joy?” Although the Marie Kondo is talking about physical space, I believe the question can be asked about our digital space.

What I’ve Heard:

The Calendar – 99% Invisible (20 minutes) | This engaging and wonderfully told story brings to light that some systems are just too ubiquitous to change. It reminds me of similarly inefficient schemes that are often observed without much question, such as daylight savings, as pointed out on Last Week Tonight, and the QWERTY keyboard, which was illustrated in this web comic.

Categories
Thoughts

The Start of Something New

Welcome to edition one of my weekly newsletter! In this letter, I’ll link to the things that have piqued my interest in the past 168 hours because everything can be sourced back to the internet nowadays.

What I’ve Read:

A Boyfriend Too Good to Be True – New York Times | An essay from the NYTimes’ Modern Love series that reminds us that modern love is not always between two individuals.

What I’ve Heard:

Cancer Changed Ken Jeong’s Comedy – Death, Sex & Money | Ken Jeong, of The Hangover and Community fame, talks about how he transitioned to a comedic career and how his wife was instrumental in that switch.

Lazy: A Manifesto – The Tim Ferriss Show | Tim Kreider shares an essay from his book, We Learn Nothing. The piece is a refreshing riff on the cultural phenomenon of busyness.