What I'm Reading

A President We Don’t Deserve

Photo by Pete Souza / White House

Photo by Pete Souza / The White House

In 2007, I sat on the phone with a loved one as he explained why he would be not be voting for Barack Obama. After we hung up, I cried the kind of tears that leave you gasping for breath. Maybe because I knew that underlying that vote was years of racial tension, small-town groupthink, and the kind of deep conservatism formed by religious ideology. It hurt to imagine he could be like those people who are so hell-bent on protecting their own interests that they could not be bothered to look out for the interests of others.

When Mr. Obama became president, I wept again. This time, it was standing out on the National Mall as frigid tears streamed down my face. It was a moment that felt like the start of everything, and I walked the 2 miles home, surrounded by throngs of people, feeling the same things.

It has been a long and contentious 8 years, but one that has manifested, if only in glimmers, all of the hope Mr. Obama foretold. In small, but meaningful ways, things are better for many people. Women, and those in the LGBT community, especially, but also the untold many without healthcare, 774 people who have been unfairly incarcerated, and the Supreme Court. Imagine what might have been possible if Congress had been a willing partner to this administration?

In my lifetime, I don’t know that I will ever feel this way about an election again. I worry that our current iteration of politics will discourage people from seeking office—but we need these people who understand the value of hope, of measured confidence, of an American dream that extends out like bright sunshine and warms us all.

There is so much more I could say about this moment in our history—including the exquisite benevolence of Michelle Obama—but there are others who have said it better than I ever could.

Thank you, Mr. Obama. We don’t deserve you.

Eight Years in America: Hope, and What Came After

“…No president since at least LBJ, and probably FDR, has arrived in Washington at a moment of greater historic urgency than Barack Obama. The man who took that oath of office seemed cut from American folklore — a neophyte politician elected senator only four years before, a prodigious and preacherly orator from the “Land of Lincoln” and the South Side of Chicago of the Great Migration. An embodiment not just of the American Dream as it had been imagined by the Greatest Generation of his own maternal grandparents but of a new version, too…” (New York Magazine)

My President Was Black

“It is said that Obama speaks “professorially,” a fact that understates the quickness and agility of his mind. Once, I watched him effortlessly reply to queries covering everything from electoral politics to the American economy to environmental policy. And then he turned to me. I thought of George Foreman, who once booked an exhibition with multiple opponents in which he pounded five straight journeymen—and I suddenly had some idea of how it felt to be the last of them.” (The Atlantic)

Moving Stars

“Of all the accomplishments of Michelle and Barack Obama, individually and together, this may be their greatest: They leave the White House not only strong, but actually stronger than when they entered. All visible evidence points to two people utterly centered, at perfect peace with themselves, each other and their place in history.” (The Morning News)

Now is the Greatest Time to Be Alive

“Given the chance to immerse myself in the possibility of interplanetary travel or join a deep-dive conversation on artificial intelligence, I’m going to say yes. I love this stuff. Always have.” (Wired)

Barack Obama and Doris Kerns Goodwin—The Ultimate Exit Interview

“Goodwin likes to tell the story of the day in the spring of 2007, when a young Illinois senator phoned her, out of the blue, requesting that they meet because he’d just finished reading Team of Rivals. That call would begin a friendship.” (Vanity Fair)

Obama After Dark

““Are you up?” The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed.” (New York Times)

Obama’s Way

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” (Vanity Fair)

Photographing the Real Barack Obama

White House photographer Pete Souza has chronicled the most intimate, candid and comical moments of Barack Obama’s presidency. (The Guardian)

Michelle Obama: Hugger in Chief

“Hugging is how I connect to people–how I show warmth and make folks feel at home.” (White House)

Barack Obama: Dad in Chief

He particularly loves babies. (Buzzfeed)

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Intention, What I'm Reading

Inbox, Managed

Like most people, the way I have been using email has changed over the past decade. As the number of personal emails I receive grows fewer, I’ve been reevaluating how to make my inbox less burdensome.

For a few months now, I’ve been pretty aggressive in hitting the unsubscribe button; I even thought about just letting unroll.me do the heavy lifting for me. Yet, the whole process has turned into an act of digital meditation—not to mention a real exploration of the “unsubscribe” user experience—and it forced me to get intentional about what I let into my digital homebase.

Listservs

When I worked for Borderstan, I had subscribed to every DC neighborhood listserv. I loved hearing how other neighbors were connecting and sharing ideas across the transom. Not long after Borderstan folded (update), I unsubscribed from most, and moved others to a daily digest. Recently, however, I left all listservs, except my very own Adams Morgan.

Even with the reduced flood of emails, however, I have found that I just don’t have time to read the AdMo listserv’s daily digests, and their unopened presence in my inbox was creating some serious FOMO. There is no RSS feed for this closed group, so this week I shifted to the “no email” membership, knowing that I can always head to Yahoo to read the listserv online.

Finally, what about the other types of listservs I had voluntarily opted into? What about JMU Alumni Metrodukes or WRTC Alumni Committee? If I was able to find them on Facebook, I liked their page there. Otherwise, I evaluated how often I had actually opened the emails they sent and began to opt-out.

Notifications

I have a number of Google alerts set up: my own name, clients at work, and even the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Why? Because even though I follow a lot of Adams Morgan businesses on social media, my Google alert has consistently brought me more news about happenings in and around the neighborhood than just about any other medium. I’m keeping these alerts, along with the ones for my own name, and killing the rest.

And about those social media notifications? Most of those are gone now too. Now I mostly receive emails only when someone tags me directly. I login to these platforms often enough that their email notifications are duplications of things I’m already certain to see.

Sales, Promotions and Offers

Gone. All of it. I was ruthless.

Welcome to my Inbox

With as consciously as I’ve been removing emails from my inbox, I’ve also been adding them. Tiny Letter has made my inbox interesting again. Ultimately, I wish each of these emails was also a blog post, making it easier for me to add to Feedly and pick up on my own time: there are undoubtedly weeks when the majority go unread, and given the wealth of ideas, stories and perspectives here, that’s a damn shame. Here’s a look at what I’m reading via my inbox.

The Internet

Ann Friedman Weekly

One of the greatest tragedies associated with the death of Google Reader was the social reading list. You could argue that Twitter has made a social reading list out of every retweet, but it’s not the same. On the left panel of my Google reader page, I could see all of the things my friends were reading and it was often a place where one might come upon a new favorite serendipitously.

These days I’m relying on strangers to help me find new sources of interest. I receive random emails from Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post, who sends links she would gchat if we were friends; Ann Friedman, pop-culture references and POVs on feminism, race and so much  more; a wide-ranging look at long and short form from media from Jason Hirschhorn’s MediaRef; and web theories from a vocal Internet ingenue Melody Kramer. I also regularly check out the New York Times’ What We’re Reading newsletter.

Food

NYT Cooking Newsletter

I love Sam Sifton’s daily emails from the New York Times‘ food team. Not only can I hear him in the writing, but the carefully selected recipes are almost always what I need and want them to be. Feeling rushed on a Monday night? Sam’s got me covered with an easy dish. Thinking about a weekend in the kitchen? Sam suggests bread-making. It’s a quick bridge between food and imagination.

Podcasting

Hot Pod logo

There is a lot on this blog about my love of podcasting, so I’ll save you some preamble and just share that a wide swath of my podcasting information comes from three sources: Nick Quah’s Hot Pod, Sam Greenspan’s “‘You Should Listen to’ Friday” and The Timbre’s weekly Postmortum.

Media + Publishing

Muck Rack Daily

I’m a bit of a newshound, and since a kid I’ve been fascinated with the evolution of media and publishing. Every morning, I get several newsletters that combine whats happening in the world, with what’s happening within the media industry. Muck Rack Daily is my first start—it reviews the most popular news content and reactions from journalists on social media; Nieman Lab’s Daily Digest discusses the latest innovations in news/media; finally, the American Press Institute’s Need to Know newsletter provides insight into the evolution of modern journalism.

What’s in your inbox? Anything worth adding to mine?

 

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What I'm Reading

A List to Make Your Bookshelf Proud

Thanks to you guys, I received so many great recommendations for my book club reading list. I’m sharing our final selections below, but in case you’re looking for a new book, I’m also adding our collective nominations, as well as the titles I received from many of you. 

Very happy reading indeed.

2015 Book Club Selections

More of the Same

Worldly Reads

Classics

Modern Sensibilities

Non-Fiction

Suspense

 

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What I'm Reading

For People Who Don’t Read Nicholas Sparks

I work on the Internet. Most of what I read is scaled for 140 characters. Lately, I had been missing the kind of immersive, pleasurable reading that seems to only happen when one’s head is buried deep in books.

I’ve joined a legitimate book club, friends, and it’s not one for the weak of heart. No chick lit or beach reads here—we’re diving deep into canons, we’re exploring oeuvres, we’re owning non-fiction like a boss.

This month: Nabokov’s PninI had to ask the other participants just how exactly to pronounce the title character’s name (puh-neen, if you’re curious). Did I mention this should also be an act of deep humility?

The next time we meet, we’re each suggesting five book titles to the group. We’ll collectively review the selections and choose which books will round out our 2015 reading list. With eight readers of various intents, it’s bound to be an eclectic list.

I’ve been shuffling around my list of book selections for awhile now.

Some of these book selections are selfish, friends. I’ve been meaning to read Saunder’s Tenth for months. Recently, Jezebel brought Elena Ferrante to my attention and I haven’t quite been able to get her out of my mind. Perhaps you have some suggestions for me? To make my list a little less selfish?

Add your suggestions to the comments below.

More of the same

“One of the funniest and most interesting questions you can ask a group of couples at a party is whether or not they have combined their bookshelves.” Alexander Chee describes the act of combining bookshelves with the one you love.

If Elena Ferrante has abandoned her books, J.K. Rowling has been a generous ambassador for hers.

I’m a long-time fan of the Longform newsletter, so I’ve recently decided to give the Longform podcast a go. It’s mostly a roving conversation about writing, style, process and the public, but with people I really like and admire. Start with Alex Blumberg, then jump to Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I came to The Handmaid’s Tale late in adulthood, but it ripped wide open some feelings about how comfortable we’ve become in our third-wave/post-feminism world. The Verge asks an improbable question: Does Atwood’s dystopian classic hold up? (Hint: Fuck yes.)

Also, Margaret Atwood: Smartest Woman Alive.

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What I'm Reading

Heremione Gives Zero Fucks

Hermione in Harry Potter 7

Lady Stuffs

What would happen if Hermione were the main character in the Harry Potter films? It’s probably be more like Hermione Granger and the Goddamn PatriarchyBuzzfeed takes this premise to epic proportions, practically rewriting the entire Harry Potter genre.

Related: Do you know who would make a perfect adult Hermione? Ruth Wilson. Not that I’ve given it thought or anything.

Past

If you know Elizabeth Bishop it’s likely because her poem “One Art” was required reading in high school. But quite accidentally, I keep stumbling upon her works and small anecdotes from her life, like this piece in The Paris Review on Bishop’s footprint in New York.

Present

David and I live in world consumed by podcasts. We’ve regularly found ourselves forgoing television for the shared experience of listening to a podcast. Serial introduced the rest of the world to podcasting and I’m happy to see its explosive growth. This week I found Nick Quah’s Hot Pod newsletter and my cup runneth over with great new podcasts and a community of people who get it. My long-abiding nerdiness is now justifiably hip.

Future

I used to complain that tipping had become a problem because who carries cash anymore? Technology has set out to solve our mutual problem by making is easier than ever to leave a tip—unfortunately New York Times has found there is a good chance you’re paying a larger tip than you had intended. I’m generally a robust tipper, but when my $2 coffee is suddenly $3, the numbers can start adding up and that’s just what new “smart tipping” features hope for.

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