5 Weekend Reads

I decided to change the name of these weekly round-ups, because I usually don't write them on Fridays in the first place :) Enjoy! 1. The Teachable Moment of Frozen

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Animated films bring a certain type of joy to my heart; they are funny, genuine, clever and most of all, usually about some sort of big lesson that applies to adults just as much as it does children.

Frozen fits that mold, but in an exceptional way: it's not a love story. Or at least, not the one we're used to seeing from Disney. Read why one father appreciated this movie on behalf of his two small daughters.

(Another reason why Frozen is exceptional: Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. The singing and the songs are so excellent and catchy enough to stick in your brain for days.)

Go see Frozen! And if you're interested in other reviews and critiques of the movie, check out this, this, and this.

2. Unlearning the "Busy" Story

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Everyone I know is guilty of answering the question, "How are you?" with "Busy!" It's nothing new; Google "the busy trap" and you'll find endless think pieces from the past two years about this current societal trend.

Yes--"being busy" is a trend of sorts, which Laura Vanderkam points out usefully in this FastCo essay. She writes about her experience as a journalist, wherein it's often typical protocol to find three anecdotes to prove a trend. Vanderkam correctly notes that humans do this all the time without thinking, in almost all of our environments and interactions. If a person is slightly standoffish or quiet three times in a row? That person becomes rude or snobby or bitchy. If the food at a restaurant isn't up to snuff a few times, we decide it isn't any good and avoid ever going there again. And so on--there are millions of examples at work, at home and within our love lives.

Vanderkam says, "Because I write about time management, I see this when people decide that 'my life is crazy' and 'I’m so busy!' and 'I have no time!' If you decide this is your story, you can certainly find three pieces of evidence in any given week that this is true." She uses her personal life as an example: she could claim she had a "crazy busy" week, but it's also true she had time to read a magazine, go out for coffee with a friend and take a long walk.

I've been a long proponent of talking about time management in terms of prioritizing instead of blaming it on being "busy." When I look back on my week, yes, it might have been "busy" with deadlines and obligations, but at the same time, I managed to make it to yoga most days, catch up on my favorite television shows, take a Sunday nap, and putz around on the Internet. Whatever else I failed to do was simply because I didn't prioritize it, not because I didn't have enough time. Sometimes that's just fine, and other times it means I need to manage my own time better.

Still, when I talk to a family member or friend, the urge to chirp "Busy!" is far too strong. I make a mental effort to say anything but that, and honestly, it's really hard. "Busy" feels validating and important. But it's not. So this week, I challenge you to remove "busy" from your vocabulary. See what other data points from your life you might discover along the way, and construct a new narrative about your days and weeks.

3. The Resistance

Great piece by Seth Godin (naturally) about how to fight creative resistance. Best takeaway: "You – everyone in fact – have all it takes to be a brilliant designer, creator, or author. All that’s holding you back is . . .  that little voice in the back of your head, the 'but' or the 'what if' that speaks up at the crucial moment and defeats the joy and insight you brought to the project in the first place."

This happens when people sense risk, and it's insanely easy (not to mention risk-free) to be the person who says "That isn't going to work," or "That will cost too much" or "We don't have time to focus on that" -- etc. It's easier to be a problem-noticer than a problem-solver.

As Voltaire says, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good." Make things happen. Create. There will always be reasons not to, but none of those will get you anywhere.

4. Stop Trying to be Everything

I do feel like this essay targets women, mostly because we tend to be the gender that obsesses so damn much over whether or not someone likes us. It's something I constantly struggle with--the desire to connect and build relationships with the reality that the magic of those things does not happen with every person on this earth.

But I appreciate Jennifer Pastiloff's words: you cannot be everything to everyone. On the days where I feel like a failure because my coworker thought I should have handled a project differently, and I forgot about the volunteer meeting, and I had to reschedule a coffee date, and I didn't call my mom back, and I didn't email a long-distance friend--I'll remember that it's all okay. I'm doing my best. And so are you.

(A generalized question, but something I'm continually curious about: do men have any reaction to this sort of piece? Do you read it and think, well, duh, instead of feeling reassured? Do you ever worry about making people happy, or feel down when it seems you didn't make someone happy?)

5. Why You Should Know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This isn't new, but I continually want to share this TEDx talks because it's extremely excellent and important. Adichie, a Nigerian writer, has recently become a little more well-known due to her words being used in a Beyonce song. I haven't yet read Americanah or her other works, but her speech in the link above is outstanding.

Friday Favorites

Some great reads to share from the past few weeks: 1. Yoga, Spinning and a Murder

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This article is kind of old now, but it's stuck around in my mind for a few weeks. Mann's anecdotes ring true to the basic fact that many lucrative organizations and companies tend to promote a very particular lifestyle that often results in employees falling prey to certain guidelines and ways of thinking. Lots of companies have their cults and converts, so what Mann shares in this piece about her time at Lululemon doesn't surprise me in the least, and some parts of it are comical for sure ("talked shit about gluten" - HA).

But it left me feeling uneasy. Maybe because she brings up a lot of stereotypes related to yoga--working for little pay, obsessing about the perfect outfits to practice, eating as clean as possible, exercising all the time, etc. I think some of these things certainly translate to other fitness fads or trends, like Crossfit, except there isn't a comparable business surrounding those the same way Lululemon surrounds the yoga community. Maybe because some of those stereotypes are true, and that can be hard to swallow even if you absolutely adore the benefits of yoga. Here's the thing: the tone of her piece mocks an environment like Lululemon, and that feels icky to me. Like some of the commenters, I'm confused why this became a tirade on one particular company and lifestyle instead of a story that went like this: "I worked for this store, and I didn't like it, and it didn't fit with my preferences, so I quit and moved on." Right? (Not to mention the way she includes the Maryland murders, which seemed unnecessary and mildly inappropriate to me . . .)

Anyway, I wanted to share it even though I didn't particularly like it because it made me think about all sorts of other things. So maybe it will for you, too.

2. A Dad and a Dream

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Just read it. And this one. I remain eternally confused as to why other people are hateful (seriously, sickeningly hateful) toward individuals who are . . . being good parents. Because of their race or family construct. Or whatever. And I am grateful to men like Doyin Richards and Kaleb and Kordell for sharing their stories.

3. Lessons from the Obamacare "Horror Stories"

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Lesson one: just because a story is on the Internet does not mean it is true. Part of it might be true. I repeat, might be. So when I hear and read story after story about how Obamacare sucks, I immediately look for the sources and the facts. I'm not a liberal who is dying to defend our President and his choices at every turn, nor am I someone constantly looking for holes in Republican arguments. But I'm certainly skeptical of media coverage when it comes to politics these days, and you should be too. Facts and details matter.

4. Ignoring the TL;DR Criticism

Godin clevely and concisely argues in favor of long-form content:

"Here's what I've found: When I read in checklist mode, I learn almost nothing. It's easy to cherry pick the amusing or the merely short, but it's a quick thrill with very little to show for it."

I'm clearly a word-y person, so I favor his perspective.

5. Wearing Fur

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My sister and I were recently gifted with our grandmother's mink coat (to share). She wore it to a holiday party, I think without contempt, and I haven't yet worn it. I'm not sure if I will, but I appreciate this writer's story about the complexities of wearing fur as part of today's fashion aesthetic. If you know and value where your fur came from, is it okay to wear? What if you buy it used rather than new? Is it always wrong to wear fur? I'm not sure.

6. Estrogen and the Golden Globes

Soraya Chemaly presents some astoundingly (awful) statistics related to women in media and entertainment these days. I hadn't heard about Kyle Smith's (of the NY Post) comment that the Golden Globes had "too much estrogen." Here is Chemaly's powerful retort:

"The night [Golden Globes] was a celebration of an industry in which women are remarkably discriminated against, hypersexualized, and subjected to double standards regarding how they look, age, paid and invested in. . . . First, let's put Smith's disgust in context. He makes the miserly complaint that Sandra 'Bullock had ten times as much screen time as her costar, Clooney being reduced to playing her coach.' This is the perfect example of how this works. It is a ridiculous distortion of the facts to suggest some sort of equivalence between opportunities for women and men to play lead roles in Hollywood. What Kyle is actually saying, with a straight face, that even one film out of 250, in which a woman is the protagonist and a man is supportive is JUST TOO MUCH."

Be sure to read this entire article; it's an important one.

Friday Favorites

So many great, thought-provoking and fun reads this week--which is fitting, considering Christmas break is right around the corner! That (hopefully) means downtime with friends and family, relaxing afternoons on the couch, sleeping in, reading all those books you haven't gotten around to (I know I have a long list) . . . and maybe a few runs or yoga sessions to balance out all the holiday cheer in the form of cookies and cocktails. Enjoy! Also, if you only read one article of the many below, make it #10.

1. 5 Ways to Do Nothing and Become More Productive

Do Nothing Be More Productive

How fitting for this time of year (also, I like that this dude is in a yoga pose. Rock on.) James Altucher recommends that people do nothing when they are angry, paranoid, anxious, tired or wanting to be liked. He says that anger dangerously blurs perspective; 99% of what we're paranoid about doesn't come true (so why let our minds run loose); anxiety tricks us into thinking we can control situations (newsflash: we typically can't); lack of sleep actually decreases the quality of our productivity; and that making choices for the approval of others doesn't fill our pocketbooks or feed our dreams in the long run.

2. Luxury Shopping, From the Other Side of the Register

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Carmen Maria Machado writes about her experience as a salesclerk serving affluent customers, and how her exposure to extreme amounts of money brought forth a sense of self-isolation and depression. She cites some interesting articles and studies about the relationship between money and how we treat others; one example states that money-primed people may be less inclined to help others, and likelier to eschew social intimacy. A worthwhile read, considering the time of year.

3. The CG Story: How Pixar Saved "Toy Story" From Becoming a Disney Disaster

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I love behind-the-scenes stories like this, and this book excerpt about how "Toy Story" came to be is absolutely fascinating. Read this:

The first few months of development were a period of noisy to-and-fro discussion — sometimes raucously funny, sometimes argumentative — around a table littered with a Toys “R” Us–like inventory consisting of action figures, dinosaurs, Slinky Dogs, G.I. Joes, and Mr. Potato Heads, some of whom would be reborn as characters in the movie. Here were four grown men feeling their way back to childhood, but there was one rule in place that was distinctly adult. There would be no complacency. Nobody’s ideas were immune to criticism. On the contrary, every effort should be made to shoot holes in each other’s ideas, however sound they might seem on first inspection. This was in fact more than a rule, it was a creed, and the license to criticize, combined with the ability to take criticism, became a strong bond between the members of the Brain Trust. Not that this way of working was always easy. As someone who does his writing alone, seated in front of a computer, I once told Pete Docter that I envied his situation of developing a story in a group situation. He laughed and said, “You should try it sometime. It can be brutal.”

4. Waxing Extravagant

No, this is not about waxing. It's about candles--hella expensive ones, in fact. Thanks to the likes of Instagram, I too have seen the trendy Diptyque candles and wondered why they are so pricey . . . while admiring their cool-factor. I think the most I've spent on a candle was $15, and it was a gift for someone else. Even then, I was like, damn, I just paid $15 for something that will melt away completely. So $75-445 for something that doesn't last? No way.

5. Don't Wait Until You're Ready

Oh, Glennon Doyle. I just love you. In this blog post, she covers a lot of subjects related to a personal situation, but concludes with this gem:

Anyway, here’s the secret. Not a damn one of us knows what we’re doing. You cannot wait till you know what you’re doing to get started. I NEVER know I’m doing. So I just do the Next Right Thing, one thing at a time. . . . Sometimes you’ll belly flop and it’ll sting and everyone will laugh and sometimes you’ll do a perfect screwdriver and everyone will clap. But after a while you will learn that you don’t jump for everyone. Everyone doesn’t even matter. You jump because at the end of the day- when your head hits the pillow- you want to Be One Who Jumps.

6. Stop Wasting Money - Buy the Cheaper Version

Buy Store Brands

I think all of us have fallen prey to brand loyalty--you know, when you buy Campbell's instead of the generic Hy-Vee chicken soup. Because "it tastes better" or "that's what I grew up with," when really it probably is all in your mind. I still do this. It's a hard habit to break. BUT this article really lays out the relationship between generic and designer brands. Check it out, and share these fun facts (i.e., Costco's bourbon is made by Jim Beam!) at a holiday party this year!

7. Danielle Brooks Is the Breakout Star of the Year

Otherwise known as Taystee on Orange is the New Black. If you haven't yet watched the show, get after it during your next day off. Taystee is hilarious and the woman who plays her, Danielle Brooks, seems so charming and genuine in this interview.

8. House of Cards Season 2

Speaking of time off . . . here's another show to catch up on! Can't wait.

9. Anne Fulenwider, Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief

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Great interview with Anne Fulenwider via The Everygirl:

"What I really want is to live a wide-ranging, fascinating life that allows me to see the world and meet interesting people and maybe even affect a little bit of change in women's lives."

10. R. Kelly, Terry Richardson, and the Power of the Bankable Creep

There's a big debate happening (not that it's new) about how to remain a feminist (if you want to call yourself one in the first place) in the entertainment industry. Amanda Hess, the author of the piece, really puts it starkly: if you're a young R&B upcoming star, for example, do you work with Chris Brown, despite his abuse record? Should Lady Gaga, a role model for many young girls and an activist so powerfully in favor of equality for all, collaborate with someone like R. Kelly, who been repeatedly accused of raping teenage women? And do Terry Richardson's excellent photography skills (now transitioning into music video skills) excuse the fact that he's been accused of sexual harassment? This piece also makes me question how I balance my own personal values while enjoying certain songs, films and magazines. I can imagine these sorts of debates are particularly difficult for parents as well.

11. Keep Your Day Job

Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon tells creatives to keep their day jobs, while pursuing other interests on the side:

Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today. The “meaning” in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.

12. 2013 Life Lessons from Pinterest

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Haaaaa haha. Pinterest is so ridiculous. I love to hate on it. Favorite line: "if it can't be stored in a Mason jar, then why the f*ck do you own it in the first place?" Literally spend 5 seconds on Pinterest and you understand.

Friday Favorites

Another round of Friday Favorites! 1. Couple Tweets Arguments

Couple Tweets Fights

This couple from Chicago posts all their fights to Twitter. Here's what I want to know, without being judgmental -- is there any way this can end well? I mean, they've been dating less than a year and are creating a public record of their fights. Though I can kind of understand their reasoning (outlined a little more here), I still cringe.

2. Lena Dunham Interview Mindy Kaling

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Wonderful questions (unsurprisingly from Lena) and fantastic answers. My favorite:

[Mindy Kaling] "I love women who are bosses and who don't constantly worry about what their employees think of them. I love women who don't ask, "Is that OK?" after everything they say. I love when women are courageous in the face of unthinkable circumstances. . . .  I love mothers who teach their children that listening is often better than talking. I love obedient daughters who absorb everything—being perceptive can be more important than being expressive. I love women who love sex and realize that sexual experience doesn't have to be the source of their art. I love women who love sex and can write about it in thoughtful, creative ways that don't exploit them, as many other people will use sex to exploit them. I love women who know how to wear menswear."

3. Ash Beckham Explains Coming Out of the Closet to a 4-Year-Old

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This is wonderful.

4. The New World of Hyperemployment

hyperemploymentIncredibly interesting read:

"Increasingly, online life in general feels like this. The endless, constant flow of email, notifications, direct messages, favorites, invitations. After that daybreak email triage, so many other icons on your phone boast badges silently enumerating their demands. Facebook notifications. Twitter @-messages, direct messages. Tumblr followers, Instagram favorites, Vine comments. Elsewhere too: comments on your blog, on your YouTube channel. The Facebook page you manage for your neighborhood association or your animal rescue charity. New messages in the forums you frequent. Your Kickstarter campaign updates. Your Etsy shop. Your Ebay watch list. And then, of course, more email. Always more email.

Often, we cast these new obligations either as compulsions (the addictive, possibly dangerous draw of online life) or as necessities (the importance of digital contact and an “online brand” in the information economy). But what if we’re mistaken, and both tendencies are really just symptoms of hyperemployment?"

 

Friday Favorites

It's been a while for some friday favorites, but I'm excited to start it back up! 1. A few reasons why Eva Chen is so cool

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Eva Chen, the new (well, not so new anymore!) Editor-in-Chief of Lucky Magazine shows so much personality in this interview. I particularly like what she says about print v. digital media: "Digital is the daily day-to-day inspiration and then print is the monthly WOW."

2. Why can't long-lost works by Matisse and Chagall show up in MY apartment?!

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Some of you may have heard about the recent major art find--more than 1500 works of art, some of them by extremely famous artists, just laying around in an apartment in Munich. What a neat discovery, despite the bit of controversy that has since followed.

3. Curious why Starbucks got all fancy with their new pastries?

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When I saw that Starbucks introduced La Boulange products, I sort of thought it was just another way to make money by making food items smaller and seemingly fancier. Not true--it's actually an effort to source food locally, so these products are different throughout the U.S. depending on what's available and what can be the most fresh.

4. Julia Roberts, back in action

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Favorite part, her response about why she's not on social media and doesn't Google herself: "It's kind of like cotton candy: It looks so appealing and you just can't resist getting in there, and then you just end up with sticky fingers and it lasted an instant . . . There's an anonymity [online] that makes people feel safe to participate in hatefulness. I like a good old-fashioned fistfight if people are pissed off at each other. I just feel like if you're really mad and want to have a fight, then put your dukes up."

5. Did you ever wonder why school buses are yellow?

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I actually never wondered, but it's kind of interesting!

6. How technology could save world monuments

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Pretty neat.

7. Even if you aren't trying, you already have a personal brand

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Tara Street says, "Your signature style, the first impression you always seem to make (good or bad), what you’re “known for,” are other ways you and people around you describe your personal brand. And intentionally, accidentally, or incrementally, it’s the personal brand you’ve been cultivating ever since you’ve made your entrance onto the stage (or stages) you’ve chosen: work, school, community – or the spotlight of your own creative business." I'll definitely have to do the exercise at the end; it seems useful no matter your industry!

8. LOL--I would have paid money to see this happen

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Brilliant.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday Favorites

1. What kind of procrastinator are you? field_guide_to_procrastinators_20pxTOO funny. I am the cleaner, list-maker, sidetracker and snacker. And probably all of the above at one point or another. Which type are you?

2. Boom Brands of 2013

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Oh, Grumpy Cat. Your grumpiness makes me so happy. I learned a lot from this quick peek into boom brands of 2013, such as Tumblr, Chobani, and One Kings Lane.

3. Live Lit in Chicago

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Apparently there is a growing live-lit scene in Chicago. I actually don't know much about this type of performance art (is it even considered that?) but it sounds pretty neat. And intimidating. I tend to labor over writing stories and so it could be both scary and freeing to simply show up, stand up and speak without much preparation. I think I'd have to go to this sort of Story Club event to fully understand what happens. So if you're in Chicago and interested in literature, try to check it out and report back!

4. Reading for Better Social Skills

A recent study claims that reading fiction improves one's capacity for empathy because of the imagination required. This makes a lot of sense--great fiction involves deep, complex character development. Even if you absolutely hate the protagonist, or find another character annoying/dull/exciting/whatever, you are receiving and interpreting one version of reality from one fictional person's perspective. That certainly broadens your mind.

5. A Local Interview

Shameless plug: I was interviewed for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network here in Des Moines. Enjoy learning a bit more about me!

Friday Favorites

1. Misinterpreting the "Sell By" Date for Food Sell By Date

I actually keep a lot (okay, not a lot, that sounds gross) of food items past their "sell by" date. If it doesn't smell bad, there's no mold, and it doesn't taste weird, I assume I'm fine. But I wanted to share this piece due to some of the numbers brought up related to the relationship between misinterpretation of food labels and global food waste. Pretty intense. The lesson here: don't throw away food and only buy what you need or will consume!

2. Why Louis C.K. Hates Smartphones -- And He's Right

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Louis C.K. is one of the best comedians of our age, and he is so spot-on about how and why smartphones can be destructive for human beings. He talks about how phones are a distancing and disconnecting mechanism, both for kids learning empathy for the first time and adults coming to terms with just being alive. The entire video is really thought-provoking.

3. Exercising v. "Exercising"

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I'll admit it--I often put exercising in a little box that I can check off, when I squeeze in a run or make it to a yoga class. But really, moving around and stretching and sweating should be a way of life and a general mentality. There are definitely days where I end up walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and then I tend to think "something is better than nothing," but what if I had just gone for two 10 minute walks that day instead? I probably would have gotten more out of that instead. If you're truly going to exercise, make it worth the time; otherwise, just move around a little more.

4. Why Does Food Stick to Your Knife?

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If you like to cook, these tips are super helpful. I'm always getting stuff stuck on the sides of knives and then I end up worrying about cutting myself as well as being annoyed and frustrated. Now I can dice my veggies in peace! (Ha.)

5. The Problem of Complaining About Being Privileged

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Thought Catalog posts are shared left and right, at least in my demographic of friends (and here's an interesting article about why these posts tend to be so sharable in the first place), and most are funny or harmless. A recent poster wrote a fairly long diatribe about the fact that she shouldn't have to feel bad about being privileged. Thought Catalog producer Nico Lang responded, pointing out why her perspective sucks--in his words, "I don't hate Kate Menedez because she chose to be rich. I hate her because she chose to be an asshole." I agree with him; I have many friends who might be "rich," but that's not why they're my friends--it's because they are kind and smart and generous and interested in making the world a better place because of their talents and good fortune and background. Attitude seriously makes all the difference.

6. Claire Danes and Lena Dunham = Perfection

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Watching Claire and Lena be BFF on the red carpet just makes me happy. Click on the link for the full video, and enjoy your weekend!

Friday Favorites

1. iTunes Radio v. Pandora and others iTunes Radio

If you're an iPhone lover, I'm sure you've updated to iOS 7 by now, but have you explored iTunes Radio--and if so, what do you think? I sort of forgot that it was a major new feature of this update.  I recently converted from Pandora to Spotify, and I think this breakdown in PC Mag nicely explains the pros and cons of iTunes Radio in comparison to such services. Like Wilson says, I think iTunes Radio is very accessible and easy to use, with some fun perks like the Guest DJ sections, but it's nothing new. That being said, it still has the ability to become the most used streaming music service simply due to Apple's hold on the market and enthusiastic fanbase.

Also, the new iOS 7 in general makes me feel like I'm tripping out every time I touch an app. So colorful!

2. People Remember "Nice"

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Peter Shankman claims that "nice companies make 30 to 40 percent more than not nice companies . . . being nice can and will set you apart from your competition. That's why your personal reputation with your social network, both online and off, really, really matters." This seems obvious, as well as the rest of the tips included in the piece, but serves as a good reminder that people remember how you make them feel more frequently than what you do for them.

3. Abandoned Places

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Above is a photo of the now defunct Michigan Central Station, built in 1913 as a transportation hub, but closed in 1988 due to oversight. The full link includes 30 other places throughout the U.S. and the world that have been abandoned. Kind of crazy to think about all the physical things humans build, and how they decline over the years because they can't last forever; I'm particularly fascinated with old ruins and places like Pompeii, so I thought this photo collection was really cool.

Friday Favorites

A few longer pieces to share this week. Enjoy! 1. Lara Setrakian and the Reinvention of Digital Journalism

Syria Deeply

Setrakian is an Armenian-American journalist who speaks four languages and has covered the Middle East extensively, including key moments such as the Iranian presidential election, Lebanon's 2008 unrest, Arab Spring and more. Late last year, she created a single-topic news site called Syria Deeply--what she hopes to be the first of many sites to come that will delve into complex topics.

I'll be the first to admit I know the bare minimum about what's been going on in Syria, and what I do know certainly comes from mainstream media; likewise, it's pretty hard for me to avoid tuning out when it does come up in various articles and news pieces... and I consider myself pretty educated with an interest in news and an undergraduate background in political science. I'm sure this is true for many people my age, not that I'm proud of it in the least, and it's likely tied to a combination of factors, but mostly these two: first, it's really confusing, especially if you're not even somewhat versed on Middle East politics, and second, it seems so far away from daily life here in the U.S. Those reasons, however valid, don't excuse me or anyone else from caring or learning about Syria, to continue to use that example.

Now, go take a look at Syria DeeplyThis is helpful to me. This is a place I can go that provides a lot of visual, consolidated information that explains the who, what, when, where and why of today and of the past few years. Setrakian explains that she viewed the site as an opportunity to fill a critical gap in the current news climate: "It only makes sense that people are thirsty for knowledge. We just accept that we live in a not very well-informed society. We don’t have to, you know? If people came to our site and understood who is who in the Syria crisis, what they watch on the evening news is gonna be a lot more interesting. This is more of a plug-in than a disruption.”

2. How to Say No

According to this article, the best way to say no to something involves reframing with one question: Is it that you can't or that you don't? Research shows that the difference between those two words--can't and don't--affects our ability to say yes or no in the face of distraction and temptation. Thinking that you can't do something puts the focus on your limitations, whereas thinking you don't do something feels like an empowering choice.

James Clear writes, "There are situations everyday when you need to say no to something. For example, the waiter who offers you a dessert menu… or the urge to skip a workout and stay home… or the distracting call of texts, tweets, and updates when you should be focusing on something important. Individually, our responses to these little choices seem insignificant, which is why we don’t make a big deal about telling ourselves that we 'can’t' do something. But imagine the cumulative effect of choosing more empowering words on a consistent basis. 'I can’t' and 'I don’t' are words that seem similar and we often interchange them for one another, but psychologically they can provide very different feedback and, ultimately, result in very different actions. They aren’t just words and phrases. They are affirmations of what you believe, reasons for why you do what you do, and reminders of where you want to go."

3. Justin Timberlake Continues to Thrive

Justin Timberlake

Oh, JT. Swoon.  Consider this your fluff piece for the week. I particularly liked Timberlake's position on technology's presence in music culture these days; he says that in the last decade, "All the soul of it [music] was removed. It was made for whatever the trending medium was." Very true, which maybe explains why so many songs on the radio (with a few notable exceptions--I mean, Gaga) sound exactly the same nowadays.

4. Can, and should, emotional intelligence be taught?

Emotional Intelligence NYT

This lengthy NYT Magazine article dives into the pros and cons of social-emotional learning (known as S.E.L.) strategies used at the elementary school level. Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at Yale, explains the need for such programs: “It’s like saying that a child doesn’t need to study English because she talks with her parents at home . . . Emotional skills are the same. A teacher might say, ‘Calm down!’ — but how exactly do you calm down when you’re feeling anxious? Where do you learn the skills to manage those feelings?”

The anecdotes of how such strategies worked on young students are powerful, and I do think that children need to be taught how to deal with their emotions in a productive, healthy manner. At the same time, does that merit actual class time? Should it compete with or take away time from traditional teaching objectives, like test scores? Aren't parents supposed to be doing this sort of thing in the first place (which I realize is a privileged thing to say...) I could go on and go, but basically I really don't know if S.E.L. strategy is a good investment or not. Since I have zero teaching background, I'd love to hear the opinions and insights of my teacher friends.

Also, note this issue of NYT Magazine is a comprehensive look on education in general. Well worth perusing!

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, all! 1. What's It Like to be a Food Critic at the NYT?

NYT Rest Critic

Remember the opening scene of My Best Friend's Wedding, where we learn that Julia Robert's character, Julianne, is a food critic? Man, I wanted her job. (I also just Googled the movie and realized Julianne is supposed to be 27. I'm 27. Are there really food critics at age 27??) Anyway, these five food critics from The New York Times share funny, thoughtful insights about what it's like to eat and write about food, as well as how the type of restaurants affects diner conversation (one star means you'll talk about everything except the food; four stars means you won't be able to talk about anything BUT the food in front of you), why criteria for ranking has changed over the years, overused adjectives ("yummy," "eatery," "slathered," "crispy") and foods they won't eat (cow brain, honey, sea urchin, canned asparagus and insects).

2. How to Get "Level Three Eyes"

Yet another example of why I read Glennon over at her blog, Momastery. In this post she writes about the three levels of looking at and thinking about other people. Level three folks know that "usually it's wiser and more gentle and more helpful to point out strengths and leave the weaknesses be." I love this.

3.  The "I Feel Like..." Tendency Among Women

Back view of two young female friends communicating while sitting by water fountain

How often do you start a sentence with "I feel like"? If you're a woman, it might be a regular habit. I know I use it way too much, usually subconsciously (similar to the other verbal tics mentioned in the piece). When I take a moment to say "I think" or "I want" or "I know" instead of "I feel like," I do sound more authoritative and assured. And based on my own personal observation, most men don't use the "feel like" phrase, at work or at home. So... why is it a thing among women? Is the author right in that it's an attempt to soften our opinions or seem less aggressive? Or is it not a big deal?

4. Caitlin Moran's Advice to her 13-Year-Old: "Resolve to Shine"

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Caitlin Moran is a British TV critic and columnist who happens to be absolutely hilarious. I can't find the original column for this bit of advice toward her young daughter, but it cracked me up and touched my heart all the same. Best part:

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’."

5. Awesomely Creative Business Cards

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Tons of useful design tips here in general, and such cool, creative cards! The yoga teacher one and the mini chair one are my favorites, but the guitar pick one is pretty neat too.

6. Imagine a 1950's Miley

1950s Miley

Seems impossible, right? Watch this doo-wop cover of "We Can't Stop," and then imagine a beautiful world where Miley wears ModCloth instead of a flesh-colored bikini and sways instead of twerks.

7. Lord, oh Lorde

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If you haven't yet listened to Lorde, go put it on repeat for the rest of your weekend and thank me later.

Friday Favorites

Labor Day Weekend always feels like the last "do whatever you want" celebration of summer. That being said, I hope you do just that (assuming it is fun and safe and legal), and here is a bunch of great things to read during your downtime. 1. Feeding the Kiddie

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Kicks Off Summer Tour

I feel pretty lucky that my parents never forced my sisters and I to eat exclusively off the children's menu. Sure, if one of us wanted chicken nuggets or grilled cheese, that was fine, but we typically shared adult meals (still do, in fact) or ordered a bunch of side items like cottage cheese, green beans, fruit, etc. This article traces the history of children's menu, and I learned a lot about how we got to the fried food era of today. It's good to know that some restaurants are working to reverse this trend, no doubt in light of the obesity epidemic and societal health in general.

2. Always Go to the Funeral

To me, funerals serve as an opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one and celebrate a person's life alongside family and friends. I understand that some people hate attending them, and for good reason--they can be so sad and scary and weird--except . . . funerals aren't about your feelings. It's either about the person you knew, or about the person(s) who need your support, whether they ask for it or not. It's a sign of respect to attend. Even when it "makes sense" not to go due to travel, expense or circumstance, I still always wish I had gone as a gesture of love.

In this short "All Things Considered" piece, Deirdre Sullivan beautifully describes the same reasoning: "Always go to the funeral" means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don't feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don't really have to and I definitely don't want to. I'm talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex's uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn't been good versus evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

3. 6 Toxic Habits

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Be honest: what on this list of relationship behaviors have you not done? Yikes. I know I've pretty much done them all or experienced them from another person at one time in my life or another. Here's what Manson recommends instead: deal with individual issues as they arise and then let the past go, clearly state feelings and needs to receive support, communicate criticism without threatening the relationship, take responsibility for your emotions, trust your partner and face emotional issues instead of buying or burying them away. Good stuff.

4. "Summer Reading" Exhibit in NYC

Summer Reading Exhibit

A giant reading room with art and books? I want to go to there.

5. Star Ingredient of a Snack Mix

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I'm not a food blogger in the least, but I sure do love trying the recipes of other talented folks out there, like Karly from Illinois. In her post for this great, simple Cheddar Snack Mix, she says (and I LOVE THIS): "Like all mixed foods, there is a star ingredient. It's that one ingredient that everyone wishes they were getting in every single bite, the little pieces that people dig around for when no one else is looking, the star of the show, if you will."

Umm, YES. The baby breadsticks in Gardetto's (even though I was a freak and loved the rye toast discs). The olives in pasta salad dishes. The pink Starbursts. The limes and hearts in Runts candy. The red Sour Patch Kids. The cherry Jolly Ranchers. The chocolate in any "healthy" trail mix. Everyone has their own list; I'm giving you an opportunity to put your own in the comments.

6. Decisions AND Responsibility

Godin notes how certain systems amplify stereotypes, citing the story of Aditya Mukerjee. I hadn't heard anything about what happened to Mukerjee, and... wow. It's bad. I know a lot of shit happens in the world that is horrifying, but I'm not surprised this story went viral due to this man's complete lack of respected rights in what should be a pretty standardized environment, and the current public controversy over the government's ignorance of individual privacy. I agree with Godin--there wasn't one person throughout Mukerjee's entire scenario that thought, wait, this seems off (besides him)? No?

I'm also realizing lately how often I rely on my own levels of privilege to make sense of things. For instance, I definitely have assumed that the TSA/FBI will "of course" only do what's necessary for the safety of the public. But just because I haven't been personally affected by racial profiling, for example, doesn't mean lines aren't being crossed with others supposedly on behalf of the American people.

7. Alabama Republican Wants to Ban Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" from Schools

Toni Morrison

I do not believe in banning books. It's one subject that genuinely makes me angry, because books hold ideas, and ideas are meant to be spread for consumption and criticism. Books take people outside of themselves and their own lives, which is incredibly vital to personal growth and education as well as a more developed sense of community and the world around us.

Toni Morrison is one of the best, an esteemed novelist with a Pulitzer, Nobel and Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her books are the kind that scrape something deep inside you as you read, because she directly confronts the hard stuff. The Bluest Eye is on the recommended reading list for 11th-graders; I remember reading it in high school. It's about a young black girl who wishes she looked otherwise. Does it deal with racism, incest and child molestation? Yep. Do I think a 16 or 17-year-old should read about those topics? Sure do. Why? Because they exist, and reading about such horrifying, complicated topics is pretty much the safest way to encounter something. If we're going to ban fictional stories that deal with dark themes, then we should just ban history courses, too, with all their battles and wars. (It also doesn't escape me that the push for banning comes from a male, Republican Southerner. . . but I won't go there today.)

8. Amy Poehler on Taking Advice From Your Future Self

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Amy Poehler is like everybody's cool aunt, who just does her thing but happens to be hip and wise at the same time. She says, "Sometimes when I feel in crisis or down, I try to think about what a 90, 80-year-old version of myself would say. And it's like, 'You're beautiful, you're great, it's fine.'" I know often I will ask myself if what I'm stressing over will matter in a year (let it be known the answer is usually no), but Amy takes it to a new level. Preach on, girl. Let's all be nicer to ourselves today to make our future selves happier.

Friday Favorites

Lots of great reads this week! 1. 7 Key Lessons from The $100 Startup

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I first heard of Chris Guillebeau from my close friend's husband, and while I haven't read Guillebeau's work in full, I appreciate these lessons he's shared in this piece. The key ones for me: 1) figure out the link between your passion(s) and how they're valuable, 2) apply your skillset to multiple opportunities and 3) you need to work hard AND hustle verbally.

2. First Trailer for David Sedaris' C.O.G.

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Can't. Wait. Sedaris is hilarious in general and the movie looks like a great interpretation of his Naked short story. Also, Troian Bellisario is in it and she is one of my girl crushes.

3. Fix Your Posture

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"Stand up straight. Don't slouch." -- I have heard this approximately 43782391743 times from my mother over the years. She is right and yet I constantly forget. I always find myself slouching, particularly at work on the computer, and I know it's terrible for me. (Same with all those recent studies about moving around every 30 minutes because sitting all day is horrible for you.) Luckily, a clever little animation now exists to show you how to sit properly! Watch it and do it.

4. 8 Ways to Improve Your Communication Style

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I basically want to send this to every person I know until they reply, "OKAY. I GET IT." #5: "Read and Respond to the Entire Email" is quite possibly my communication pet peeve of all time; I actually fist-pumped while reading it. All in all, excellent reminders for the workplace and in general to produce better conversations and interpersonal skills.

5. 40 Days of Dating

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Saving the best for last, let me introduce you to an unusual project: Tim and Jessie, two good friends and incredible designers in New York City, decide to embark upon a 40-day experimental challenge to dig deeper into their relationship habits. So they start to date each other. My first thought: oh my god. Who would do this? This is crazy.

It is, and it isn't. First, the site is visually awesome and appealing; it is also user-friendly with individual sections for each day's recap. Jessie and Tim both write really well, which certainly helps add to the allure of the project, but what makes them stand out is that they offer up their personal reflections regarding where they're each at in the experiment. It's funny, serious, intimate and thoughtful regarding the cycles and patterns of typical relationships. The further they get in the experiment, the more their story becomes a narrative about how we choose partners and how we sustain relationships. Think about how often you've heard that two people need to have a solid friendship for a successful, long-term romantic relationship--so if that's true, why not look at your best friend (opposite or same sex, depending on your preference), and wonder if there's anything there? The difference here is that Jessie and Tim are actually trying out that concept.

I'm obsessed and check it every day, because it's better than any reality show. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I promise that you will get sucked into their story, so be sure to set aside an hour!

Friday Favorites

Delayed Friday Favorites, because I spent the past four days recovering from wisdom teeth surgery. The past two weeks have been a reminder that good health trumps all, and I'm looking forward to operating at full health starting this week. Now, for your reading pleasure:

1. George Saunders's Advice to Graduates

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I haven't yet read anything by George Saunders (though Tenth of December and others are on my list), but this convocation speech that he delivered to the Syracuse class of 2013 is perfection. It's so good that I'm going to print it out and pin it to my bulletin board at work.

The best excerpt: "Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been."

What a beautiful maxim to live by, to err in the direction of kindness.

2. Fashion Inflation: Why Are Prices Rising So Fast?

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For me, a fashion splurge involves a Kate Spade handbag or a J Crew dress, so the languages (and prices) of Hermès, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin remain unfamiliar and entirely unaccessible. That fact doesn't make me sad. The typical cost for a luxury fashion item boggles my mind, and it simply doesn't fit into my priorities or preferences. I mean, I would rather have a vacation instead of a $1,000 pair of shoes. Every time I read about these high-level brands, however, I wonder: who is buying this stuff? Like this article asks, at one point is the cost too high for a fashion item, no matter the quality? And why do these things cost so much to begin with? Lauren Sherman at Business of Fashion answers.

3. In Defense of Caffeine

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Leandra Medine writes a completely hilarious, thoughtful blog called The Man Repeller, where she muses about all things fashion-related that may or may not--you guessed it, repel men. Once in a while, she'll detour to another random subject, and this piece defending her love for caffeine cracked. me. up. She concludes, "But what I haven’t done and won’t do is ascribe to some glossy version of monkhood for the sake of self-denial. Life’s little luxuries—coffee and cabernet and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—are too delicious to resist."

Sing it, sister.

4. 'Picasso Baby' Live: Jerry Saltz Goes Face-to-Face With Jay-Z

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Jay-Z is so weird and cool and hip. Can you imagine any other rap artist doing this at an art museum? No, you can't. (Except for maybe Beyonce, OF COURSE.) Be sure to watch the video.

Friday Favorites

Boy, this week was a doozy. I'll just say that toothaches are no joke. Ow. Anyway, happy Friday and happy weekend! 1. Could Wearing a Lab Coat Make You Smarter?

lab coat

Professor Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University conducted a recent study to answer the question: do our clothes affect our actions and thoughts? And if so, to what degree? He and his colleagues found that "our psychological processes are shaped by the symbolic meaning we attach to the clothes we wear." I certainly expect a certain level of dress from authoritative figures because it creates, for me, a sense of trust and security. It's true that when I dress up, I tend to work harder and smarter. I guess because I am putting on the attire of Professional, Has-It-Together Julia. I've also read many articles that say people who work from home should not do so in sweatpants; getting dressed for the day will shift their mindset to be more task-oriented. Do you agree or disagree that clothes make the mentality?

2. Difficult Women: How "Sex and the City" Lost Its Good Name

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Like many women my age, I spent hours in college with my best girlfriends gossiping, drinking boxed wine and lounging on a dorm futon all while watching SATC. We'd observe the clothes (Ooh, I love it! and What the hell is she wearing? were the typical responses) but primarily discuss plot points in reference to our own life experiences. This piece by Nussbaum is fantastic; she dissects the rise and fall of the show for viewers and critics, and what makes SATC both classic and unique. I'm not embarrassed to say I learned a lot from SATC, because I truly did. Each character showed me their best and worst behavior as a female, mostly in terms of relationships, and it was continually comforting to observe both their mistakes and successes.

3. Thoughts on Creating Controversy as a Blogger

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First, if you haven't read anything by Shauna Niequist, you should. As I delve into this world of blogging, I appreciate her take on Internet controversy. She writes, "Some people use their online voices and platforms to highlight the differences between us. Some people use their voices to police the highways and byways of world wide web—that’s wrong! That’s bad! That’s not what I think! There are open letters and link ups, shout outs and name drops. I don’t have anything against those bloggers. But I’m not going to be one." Love it.

4. Frankie Valli: Proud to Be a Jersey Boy

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I saw Jersey Boys last night at the Des Moines Civic Center, and it was amazing. Going into it, I knew who Frankie Valli was, but I didn't really put two and two together in terms of the Four Seasons and their music. It was such a treat to hear the foursome break into song with hits like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." I found myself thinking, Oh yeah! They sing this? I know that song! The performers portraying the quartet were more than impressive (the guy who played Valli--his voice was incredible), the tickets were affordable and the seats were great. Oh, and the Civic Center sells sippy cups FOR WINE, if you feel so inclined to drink during the 2 1/2 hour performance. All that being said, I found this interview between Frankie Valli and Pat Gallagher ten times more interesting now that I've seen the show.

5. I Do Not Want My Daughter to Be "Nice"

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Newman explains the pitfalls of being a "nice girl," as she raises her daughter full of attitude and independence. I used to fall victim to the "nice" syndrome--always smiling and doing the polite thing, saying sorry when it wasn't my fault, being agreeable in class and in friendships. When I stopped doing that as much, I definitely experienced backlash that was a little hard to take at first. If I passed a man on the street, I heard, "Come on, sweetheart! Life's not so bad, give me a smile!" If I pushed back with a cashier or receptionist, I felt like I was labeled as being bitchy. If I heard a male friend say something sexist or racist, and I called him out, I was told to take it easy--he was just kidding.

Annoying. But I learned to stop caring about it. I can be kind, thoughtful, opinionated, focused, helpful generous, empathetic, honest and friendly (and a million other things) without subscribing to the generic "nice" attitude that society expects women to have. I can be nice without being "nice," if that makes sense. And I'm so glad that Newman sees the same for her own daughter.

6. Winners of the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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Wow. The third place shot, "Say Cheese," is my favorite--can you imagine touring Kenya and all of a sudden witnessing a cheetah that close? Crazy. Which one is your favorite?

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! The weather has finally cooled off a bit (to 70-80 degrees, so it's definitely still summer), and the week was full of fun activities with friends, including a free Everclear concert on a bridge. Random. I have so many excellent things to share, both fun and serious. Here we go:

1. "Florence Welch Drunkenly Hijacks a Cover Band's Show"

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Um, can you imagine hanging out at your favorite pub and then Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine decides to jump onstage just to have a bit of fun? She's so cool. Florence's voice has been a long time favorite of mine, mostly because it's insanely awesome with a massive range. Watching this reminds me to stay on the hunt for concert tickets to see her live someday. Also, that hair! That style! Again, she is so cool and talented.

2. The New Potato

The New Potato

If you're a foodie at ALL, go check out this food and lifestyle site. Tons of recipes, interviews with restaurateurs, city guides and much more.

3. "Malbec: A Deeply Rooted History."

Something I never knew: French vineyards were once almost totally destroyed because of a bug, but right before this happened, a Texan man imported vine cuttings and graphed them onto rootstock, which saved the French wine industry.

4. "How Naps Affect Your Brain and Why You Should Have One Every Day"

Sold.

5. "How to Get J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler On The Phone"

Interesting piece on how J. Crew's aesthetic has changed over the years, and how that affects an older demographic. I'm obsessed with the brand, but I can see this woman's argument that it's starting to veer quite young and hip as opposed to its traditional roots.

6. "It's Time for an End to 'Women's Stories'"

I hadn't thought about this before, but I too am a bit tired of the types of "women's stories" I've come across lately. As Anna North points out, so many are trend pieces that obscure more important tales. Definitely check out the additional links in the piece.

7. "Permanent Record"

As a UChicago alumni, I receive The Core: The College Magazine, which is usually full of great articles. Enjoy this one about Marilu Henner, who has HSAM: highly superior autobiographical memory. She claims she can remember every single day of her life since she was 12.

8. "The Blip"

Robert Gordon, a Northwestern economist known for his declinist views, makes two arguments. First, he believes that the economy will grow at half the rate it averaged since the 19th century; second, he argues that the second industrial revolution is an unrepeatable event. If both are true, Gordon wants to know what will happen to American progress. Yikes.

9. "Aubrey Plaza Mopes Through the Fake 'Daria' Movie Trailer"

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Flashback to my childhood years! Daria Morgendorffer, the epitome of dark humor, sarcasm, angst and disinterest. I sincerely hope this becomes a movie. Also, Aubrey Plaza looks hilarious in The To-Do List.