I’ve been a rather shitty blogger this year, but it’s not because I’ve neglected my hefty diet of reading. Over the next few days I’m going to be posting links to articles that made me think, made me laugh or made me cook under a few categories that tend to get covered here on my personal blog. Next up:
Sunday papers are a big ritual in my world. Here are some of the more memorable things that added an extra jolt to my weekly jumpstart for my brain.
Children are “not adults, so why this whole school of thought that they should be treated as if they are, long before they can perform such basic tasks of civilization as driving, say, or decanting?”
Professor Schüll, a cultural anthropologist, spent considerable time in Las Vegas casinos as part of her research. She met players who told her how they sought to enter a mindless state, a “zone,” in which all else is obliterated, and to stay there as long as possible.
“You aren’t really there — you’re with the machine and that’s all you’re with,” one subject said, describing the zone “where nothing else matters.”
This isn’t the only place where gamblers can reach such a state of mind. It’s also known to occur at table games and at the racetrack. But casino machines arguably supply the most immersive, distraction-free gambling experience.
The characters in my students’ stories were not quite jumping off the page. The characters were clear and beautifully described, but sometimes I felt a bit impatient reading them. The problem was not with the descriptions — my students skillfully created characters with nouns and adjectives, constructing the characters and their world so that I knew them. The issue was that everything seemed to be still and perfect as a photograph.
“Stop thinking about nouns and adjectives when you’re creating characters,” I told my students one day. “Think verbs.”
MY favorite thing is a bakery, and my favorite thing about where I live is how many bakeries are a dog’s walk away. Dogs aren’t allowed in bakeries, but many Manhattan bakeries have little benches in front so you can tie your dog’s leash to a bench leg and keep watch out the window to make sure your dog isn’t dognapped while you are buying a croissant.
Several years later, an interviewer asked Taylor if he had ever composed “any screwball songs [he] wouldn’t dare commit to vinyl.”
“Oh, sure,” he said. “I wrote ‘Mona,’ a tune about a pig of mine. I was thinking about killing the pig because she was old. . . . In fact, I once saw it kill another little pig. They can get ornery in old age.” Taylor was also concerned Mona might hurt his young children. He sang a few bars of “Mona,” which he eventually did record. One verse ends with: “Oh, Mona, Mona, you can close your eyes/I’ve got a 12-gauge surprise/Waiting for you.”
“That’s a sweet little song, huh?” Taylor told the interviewer. “I occasionally play it at picnics.”
Girls took home economics. Boys took shop. Girls learned to cook lasagna and bake chocolate cake. I would be learning to use a lathe. I preferred lasagna. So I did the sensible thing: I signed up for home economics.
Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.