If family drama doesn’t inherently grab your attention, you may find The Missing a bit of a slow starter. But, those who stick with it will soon be rewarded. Each short chapter throws more coal in the fire until the train is racing full steam ahead. Taylor shows a deft hand at mixing clues with misdirection, and while careful readers may solve the puzzle before Claire does, the end is no less devastating--and no less satisfying.Read More
Despite everything, he remains invincibly happy just to wake up and be alive every day.Read More
Despite its missteps, the updated IT was still a thoroughly entertaining film. The production values put the miniseries to shame, and pretty much everyone in the cast delivers a spot-on performance.Read More
My recommendations for this week: Mother Go to nourish the mind, chia pudding to nourish the body, and First Aid Kit to nourish the soul.Read More
This is what makes today's nostalgia entertainment so appealing: it lets us enjoy everything that was fun about the 80s without having to deal with the oppressive baggage. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Do historical fantasies rehabilitate our history or merely suppress it?Read More
Television: Better Things
On Hulu, created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C. K., it follows the misadventures of a single mom (Adlon) and her three daughters living in L.A. We went through the whole first season in about a week. Hilarious, poignant, honest, and captivating, the narrative arcs are messy, like the characters themselves. Reminiscent of Louis, High Maintenance, and Master of None, each episode is a short story that will leave you thinking. Great soundtrack too.
This podcast has been around for years, but I love it so much that I want to recommend it to anyone who still hasn't tuned in. Hosted by veteran screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin, this is ostensibly "a show about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters." I think ScriptNotes would actually appeal to anyone who is interested in how we tell stories (i.e. writers of all kinds) and/or anyone who's interested in how television shows and films are made (i.e. tv/film buffs and culture critics). John and Craig are just great company for your commute, your household chores, your evening dog walk, etc. Always entertaining, thought provoking, and educational.
Activity: Barefoot Hiking
A couple weekends ago, my wife and I did some barefoot hiking on one of the many local trails near our house. We generally think that shoes are great, especially in our day to day activities where we're interested in getting from A to B and we don't have time to worry about stepping on something gross or dangerous outside the safety of our house. Even when we're out in the wild, enjoying nature, we're usually interested in getting exercise, which means moving quickly.
When we hike barefoot, it's more like meditation. We're no longer focused on the path ahead but on the path exactly where we are. The pace slows way down. It's amazing what a variety of tactile sensations you can have walking just a hundred yards.
With shoes on, the ground beneath your feet is always the same texture, the same temperature. Without them, there's suddenly warm, cool, wet, dusty, grassy, bumpy, squishy, smooth, mossy, leafy, and more. It will completely change your experience of the trail.
We recommend starting small. You don't have to do the whole trail barefoot, but try it for ten or twenty minutes. Push your comfort zone a little. If you come to a rocky place, go extra slow. If you come to a patch of mud, don't be afraid to get a little dirty. Maybe bring a small towel to wipe off or dry your feet when you're ready to put your socks and shoes back on.
What are you recommending this week? Leave me a comment below!
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr
"War. Good God, y'all. What is it good for?"
A couple weeks ago, one of my Monday Recommendations here included a clever bit of fiction, "The Practical Guide to Punching Nazis," by Alex Shvartsman. I’m opposed to violence as a general rule, but after what happened in Charlottesville, the idea of punching some Nazis—at least in a work of fiction—seemed maybe not so bad after all.
I think I let my emotions get the better of me, and I’ve spent a lot of time since then reconsidering. Given my continued ambivalence about this topic, I would almost prefer to keep my mouth shut and leave the opinionating to those with greater moral certitude. But my endorsement of that story means it’s too late for that. To set the record straight, here’s what I think today:
Everyone has a right to defend themselves from a violent attack.*
However, when activists on the left uses violence to disrupt and suppress white supremacists--regardless of whether they feel justified—it actually enables white supremacists by reinforcing their white victim narrative, by making it easier for people to draw a false equivalency between the two sides, and by helping the forces of darkness to undermine our political institutions, which leads to greater instability and the need for greater defensive violence. In some cases, for reasons of survival, it may be necessary, but...
Violence almost always leads to more violence. As a tactic by activists on the left, it may win the battle, but it will lose the war.
Ergo, violence should be only in self-defense as an absolute last resort—i.e. in response to a violent attack or the clear and immediate threat of a violent attack.
People spewing a hateful ideology in and of itself does not count as a violent attack or the clear, immediate threat of one.
With all that said, a few caveats:
As a straight, white, cisgender male, I am not a primary target of white supremacist violence or threats of violence.
I’m not absolutely convinced that I’m right.
Whichever side of this debate you come down on, if you are absolutely convinced that you’re right, you’re probably missing something. I would encourage you to consider opposing arguments until you have room for at least a little bit of doubt about your position. (Remember, nobody loves certainty more than fascists and fundamentalists. A little doubt is a good thing.)
For those who are certain that violence from the left should be condemned, check out “How Liberal Attacks on Antifa Uphold White Supremacy.” Here’s a sample:
"As a Black woman and survivor of domestic and sexual violence, I am heartened to know there are people like the Antifa who will recognize that the police isn’t here to save us. The police violence against counter-protestors and leniency on white supremacists in Charlottesville and Boston only further undermines that—and that’s without diving into the police brutality, murder, sexual assault and other abuses that occur across the country. How can you expect me to feel protected by the institution that dehumanizes and abuses the most vulnerable in our society—and complains that they’re the true victims because now we want them to be held accountable for their actions on duty? They see Trump protestors as a bigger threat than KKK members."
For those who are certain that violence from the left should be encouraged, check out “No, Don’t Punch More Nazis,” (like the first piece quoted above, also written by a woman of color). Here’s a sample:
“Some people think that the ends justify the means, but this is false. To believe this is to put oneself in the position of a dog chasing its tail. You can never get there from here — never reach justice by setting your face toward injustice. Worse still, to accept or to fail to repudiate political violence, supposedly in pursuit of justice, is like trying to climb a mountain by walking steadily downward. Once political violence activates, shutting it off is exceptionally difficult.
Why should anyone believe that people who have been committed to political violence will change their minds and recommit to peaceful forms of litigating conflicts? That kind of distrust erodes the foundations of stable political institutions. The path to justice always lies through justice, including the basic moral idea that immediate self-defense is the only justification for the use of force.”
*(Addendum: the defense should be in proportion to the attack: if a someone pushes you, shooting them in the face is out of proportion.)
hot sun on the deck
dogs content in the long grass
the long grass
soft breeze through the curtains
naps in the hammock
sailboats on the lake
driving with the windows down
long, easy walks at dusk
bare headed, ungloved walks
all the things we planned to do
and hope to do
Today, I'm doing research for my novel, and writing a blog post about adjusting to life after MFA graduation. I wanted to finish that post this morning, but I've been at it for an hour already, and I can tell it's not going to happen before I need to be at work. So here are some quick recommendations instead.
Have you ever been addicted to your phone and just cannot put it down? Forest provides an interesting solution to beat your phone addiction. You can plant a seed in Forest. In the following time, this seed will gradually grow into a tree. However, if you cannot resist the temptation and leave this app to check Facebook or play a game, your tree will wither away. With this interesting mechanism, the sense of achievement and responsibility will drive our users to stay away from their phone with no pain.
Every tree you plant is added to a virtual forest for that day, allowing you to track your progress over time. I know they're just virtual trees, but I haven't killed one yet. It works great for limiting my phone addiction, and it's a fun twist on the pomodoro timer I usually use for productivity at work.
What I'm regretting: We missed the Perseid meteor showers this weekend when they were at their peak. However, celestial debris from the Swift-Tuttle Comet will continue to fall through our atmosphere for at least another week, so we may go out and do some sky watching still.
What I'm reading: I read this story last week, and in light of recent events, it seems worth sharing. "The Practical Guide to Punching Nazis," by Alex Shvartsman.
What I'm listening to: "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons. Interesting video, too.
So what's new with you?
Every day, usually after dinner, I take our dogs for a walk. One could just as easily say that my dogs take me. They compel me. The older dog will come rest his head on my knee, beseeching. The younger dog--not so young any more--will sit near the front door, watching for the slightest indication of my getting ready.
When the time comes, they literally jump for joy, eyes shining. They can barely contain themselves as I clip on their leashes. Can you imagine feeling this excited about something that you do every day?
Some nights, I'm not up for walking. I usually go anyway, because I know that it's good for me. It is a scientific fact that it is better to give than to receive, and therein lies the greatness of dogs. They make giving easy. I always come home feeling better than when I left. Some of their happiness goes into me, and whatever cares I've accumulated through the day are diminished.
I also understand that my opportunities to walk with each of them are limited. They are ten and twelve years old. Our vet assures us they are in great shape for their age, and because they are smaller dogs, they might each live to be eighteen or twenty.
Then again, they might not.
Then again, even if they did, when the time does come to say goodbye, I know that all I'll want is one more walk. If you are lucky enough to have a dog in your life, there's a good chance you'll feel the same.
So get off the couch, and go.
*Addendum: Having had further time to reflect on this post, it occurs to me that taking one's dog for a walk may be impossible for some people. Some people have limited mobility, or may live in a neighborhood that isn't safe. (I actually drive my dogs across town to walk because it's more pedestrian friendly there.) If for whatever reason, walking is not an option for you, I recommend that you take at least some time--more than you might feel you have--to engage with your dog--or your cat or your bird or whatever non-humans you share your home with. And make sure they get enough exercise somehow, even if you have to outsource that job to somebody else. Your dog may or may not be the most important person in your life, but you are almost certainly the most important person in theirs.