Bravado — Lorde
OH MAN LORDE IS SO GOOD.
is the wildness and abundance of humanity that spills out in force. In a place where the focus is on truth and writing and freedom, and in a place with people weird enough to do this job in spite of it all, desks are as you’d expect: overflowing with precariously stacked manila folders, bursting with old newspapers, messy with plant arms tangled. Thousands of bumper stickers and old campaign signs and photos and stories and stuffed animals and cartoons. And it’s the weirdest things I love the most: a prosthetic arm dangling from the ceiling to symbolize the ghost of the journalist that championed the paper, a bizarre quilt tacked to the wall, the books reporter’s hundreds of pristine novels aligned like troops on a battlefield.
This week: a trivia win, more tacos, the totally laughable Man of Steel, two new beaches. Began reading The Secret History, finished up Last Night by James Salter. It’s also my last week on edit board. Next Monday I’m a reporter again.
Here are some things I’ve been reading and thinking about.
Bjørn Bjune, a 62-year-old who grew up in a family of sailors, was particularly fond of NRK’s 134-hour live broadcast of the coastal ferry Hurtigruten as it made its way through the ice-cold waters hugging Norway’s pristine coastline in 2011. He was one of 2.5 million Norwegians—or half the population—to tune into the program.
It was some time after this that I took a long, soft look at my slapdash, half-arsed approach to life, and realised that I am an everythingist. This is a word I have invented to describe the sort of person who is greedy for the benefit of all new experiences, but unwilling to put the work in to fully commit to any of them. An everythingist leaves no experiential stone unturned, which means doing absolutely everything by halves. It is the deadly combination of perfectionism plus narcissism plus utter laziness. It will get you nowhere in the end. Halfway there at best.
that is vaguely unsettling, some potential cheapening of meaning in the poorly-disguised lobby for attention. In that sense I almost prefer the Father’s Day photo from the dude whose status most days reads like “good workout today now for some Family Guy” because at least, it seems, the desire for attention seems a little less neon, the earnestness a little more apparent.
I’m guilty of it too: here’s my mom on Mother’s Day, here’s my family on Christmas. And certainly all these people would be celebrating the holiday with or without this window (well, this constructed photo shoot) revealing their (projections of) their lives. In that sense it’s innocuous. But still, knowing that holidays now also bring inundations of family photos and sentimental prose is a little strange.
For one, the idea of constructing the self and designing an image on the Internet (which we do both consciously and unconsciously at different moments) gets messy on holidays where there’s an expected outcome. (What to do if your dad’s dead or you hate him or you’re fighting or, or, or.)
And then there’s the parading of praise and love that can ring of the self-congratulatory, the statuses designed for maximum exposure (intentional or non), cleverly self-deprecating or deeply nostalgic in just the right way. I did just write a column about tech and our generation, contending that we’re not more narcissistic than generations past, we just use this very personal/very global technology that exposes us more. And I don’t think if social media were around forty years ago that things would be much different. But still, there is that low-grade anxiety underlying, that question of what should I post and what’s the best photo I have and what the hell am I trying to prove, anyway? My dad doesn’t even have a Facebook. He wouldn’t see it if I tried.
for The Tampa Bay Times. Here it is:
I’m a millennial, according to the label that pegs us as those born from the early ’80s to late ’90s. My reputation precedes me.
Apocalyptic tales of my attention-deficit generation abound.
We’re narcissistic and disaffected, reeking of entitlement. A legion of Peter Pans, we’re complacent in our dead-end temp jobs, squatting in our parents’ basements.
We’ve been spoiled by our helicopter parents and coddled with trophies received for every tiny achievement — or just for showing up. We’re Pavlov’s dogs, raised on the instant gratification of social media.
We don’t know what bootstraps are.
All 80 million of us.
But those criticisms ring hollow. From where I sit, the view is far less dire, even as the economic challenges my generation faces are all too real.
Our student loan debt, due to soaring college costs, is a staggering $1.1 trillion. The youth unemployment rate hovers at 16.2 percent. We will inherit a toxic load of national debt incurred by soon-to-retire baby boomers — and lose, in the recession’s aftermath, hundreds of billions in projected earnings.
Yet I know mine is a generation with a new perspective that sets us apart from any other.
(My favorite comment on it so far: “The Millennials , lacking parental oversight and relying on a collective wisdom (See: Lord of the flies ), have succumbed to mob wisdom and homespun morality. Obsessing with video games and I-Phones, acquiring unrealistic student loan debt and living in denial , bodes poorly for a group led easily by others.” Yes! What a clear understanding of my entire premise.)
That’s right, we won ten whole dollars in trivia tonight. (The final question was about muppets.) I love these people. I love this summer.
My boyfriend has this game where he pretends he’s someone new every time he takes a cab, so today we played over email (fuck long distance, am I right). His was about having a sick sister who needs a dehumidifier, or something. So I trumped him with this:
Hey. Cecilia but my friends call me Cee because my full name makes me sound like I’m from fucking Pride & Prejudice. Grew up in Lubbock, Texas, the shittiest place you’ve ever seen in your whole goddamn life. Piles of trash, urban dump. Now I’m here. I live above an auto shop about twenty minutes from here. My boyfriend does the night shift as a janitor at a middle school nearby but I think he’s getting switched to the high school soon. I’m a substitute gym teacher there, trying to work my way up to full time but who knows if gym teachers are even gonna be around anymore, I mean these fat kids just wanna lay around and shoot stuff on their TVs. But ya know it goes. So I’ve been here like four years and who knows where I’ll be in four more. Maybe Sarasota. I always heard that was a cool place.
Anyway, cool game. Fun exercise. A good way to not be at work for three minutes.
This is the first edition of Lately, which will run every week or so. Hi.
Summer in St. Petersburg is thick and heavy and the air practically shimmers with the water vapor it holds.
My entire last week could probably be distilled into a slideshow featuring black bean quesadillas, column rewrites, swimming in the Gulf, stacks of books and late-night popsicles in bed.
Here are some things I’ve been reading and thinking about.
“Christ, what a story of youth and the mess of morality — and especially the power of knowing one’s own truth.” My review of Tobias Wolff’s Old School, which earned a solid 5 stars.
“If a baby is born after the 22nd week of pregnancy but before the 25th, not even the smartest doctors in the world can say what will happen to it… About one in 750 babies arrives in that awful window of time, suspended between what is medically possible and what is morally right. One of them was born on April 12, 2011, at Bayfront Medical Center. My daughter.” This is a very long series, but it’s by far the most powerful writing I’ve ever been witness to.
A wonderful commencement speech: “He showed me that to read means to become vulnerable to the text, that, with humility and honesty, you have to lay bare not just your ideas but also your deepest convictions, your longings, and your fears. He taught this by his brave example, by letting us see him open himself to the voices and frankly to the pain of the dead. He made it look easy. It wasn’t.”
I reread my favorite essay of all time the other day and it’s still incredible. Cheryl Strayed, ‘The Love of My Life.’
Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling
all around me, and me unable to stomach
that I might catch five but never ten thousand.
Is everyone out to steal my umbrella? And what should I presume when it’s taken?
“Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat… The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.” Jonathan Safran Foer reminds us to control the balance of technology in our lives, to be neither unquestioningly pro-tech nor foolishly against it. And he reminds us that our work in life is to be attentive to the needs of others.
A perfect comic about feminist media criticism problems, and a good opinion on how to fix that unnecessary battle.
“I started healing my relationship with my body through a kind of side door, while trying to accomplish something else entirely: learning mindfulness.” A great intro to focused thought. Also, Rookie is great. Highly recommend for all (not just teen girls, though I wish it has been around when I was 14).
For Mad Men fans, critical analysis through the lens of fashion, focusing on the incredibly illustrative choices of genius costume designer Janie Bryant.
“Quest is elemental to the human experience. All road narratives are to some extent built on quest. If you’re a woman, though, this fundamental possibility of quest is denied.” On the lack of female road narratives and why it matters, from the fantastic Vanessa Veselka who brought us The Truck Stop Killer.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett
I STARTED A NEW SERIES. I HAVE A ‘WEBSITE.’ GO FORTH.
Writer, reader, journalist. 20.
I like road trips, reading everything, making lists and drinking beer on front porches.
All these things I lived through—the strange and fugitive beauty of the desert and the mountains, the primitive realities, the sky and the sand, so easily dissolving in mysteries and visions. All the quiet common things of the earth I came to love, and the simple and useful human beings—life going on, going on.
— Ray Stannard Baker, American Chronicle