Welcome to our second feast (and henceforth an annual tradition)! At the end of the year around many traditional holidays, it’s fun to come together, reflect, and share. In this context, we’re sharing the things we’re thinking about, as per our newsletter title. Perhaps because we work together, many of these things follow similar themes, yet they’re expressed in different unique ways across our multi-faceted teams. We hope you enjoy and find something new here with us!
The most impressive piece of web design/dev I've seen this year is Bartosz Ciechanowski's Mechanical Watch. The interactives he builds are tremendously impressive and pack a mind-blowing level of detail into a very approachable and effective piece of writing. I didn't think I'd spend as long as I did reading about mechanical watches this year, but, well... here we are. Check out the Archives on his site — all of his work is stunning!
Like most Americans, for me the idea of rye bread conjures olfactory and gustatory memories of caraway seeds, which add a gentle fragrance to the delicious "deli" or "Jewish" style. In northern and eastern Europe, however, rye evokes something else entirely: a dark, dense, nutty loaf often served with pickled or smoked fish. In a 2016 interview, Stanley Ginsberg, the author of The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America, explains that immigrants moving from Europe to America adjusted their traditional recipes to use more wheat, resulting in a bread that uses more light flour than the traditional rye.1
In trying my hand at a full rye bread myself, I quickly found that the process is involved. Compared to wheat, rye contains less gluten, absorbs more water, and converts starches into sugars readily resulting in more water, longer proof times, and quicker caramelization (read: burning). After learning a few tricks — like baking the breads for long periods of time at low temperature and waiting days to cut into them to allow water to redistribute throughout the loaves — I finally got the hang of it. The results, if I say so myself, are pretty spectacular. In feasting on the bread, the science, and the history of rye this year, I've developed a newfound appreciation for both the grain itself and the people who have used it to sustain themselves across centuries, continents, and cultural contexts.
No matter how many times I read this poem, it manages to break my heart at the end. It's not just the stellar line breaks, effective alliteration, theatrical punctuation, and playful descriptions that stick with me. I think it could also be the effective personification of this object — but also the fact that, yes, the plant is alive! — and the speaker's need for (and fear of) consistent companionship, which is also our own need, that lingers with me. How many of us have named a plant? Gotten to know the quirks of a beloved old appliance? Or felt and cultivated the personalities of rooms, sweaters, other tokens? I love this Geranium for what she endured because, on some level, it's what we endure too.
This site is interactive in a way that had me feeling like I was at play while navigating it’s offerings, rather than operating a prudent and sensible sequence of nested filing cabinet drawers. It was unfamiliar through and through. Videos playing in different areas of the screen invited me reconsider which portion I thought contained the most important information (ooh, I hadn't seen that cartoon! What a nice quotation!) The presentation broke away to ambient music and slides periodically, both releasing you from narcotic effect of video (considerate tech? no way!) and taking advantage of shift for denser information representation, like placards between displays in a gallery. The vertical full-height menu buttons you get from the top-left tag might be the most on-the-nose. It's the web version of a play structure xylophone with the silly inviting colors to match.
This is an article about clown school. It’s about how “clowning” and “masks” are powerful (and dangerous!) psychotechnologies that, in our here and now, have mostly been gathering dust on the shelf of parody and cliché. Or worse, the author might argue, we’re all operating them without a license! In Canadian clowning — I am not making this up — practitioners fashion grotesque, comical clay masks. Through introspective and intersubjective exercises, they bind these masks to characters, personas, sub-selves lurking in the latent space of their being, throwing around impressive psychological weight in the process.The mask takes power: imbued with subjectivity and intent, it forces the clown into dances of submission, and subversion, and integration. And it gives power: tracing the contours of mental machinery, it shows the clown what tools are already at their disposal to meet, accept, and thoughtfully co-create the self and the present moment. I am not a clown, at least not in the professional sense, but after reading this piece I am prepared to take the art of clowning much more seriously.
I read a lot of media criticism, but my favorite place to read is Myles McNutt's Episodic Medium. As an editor, McNutt shows careful curation of both what is getting attention on TV and how that reflects trends regarding media diets and television. (I don't watch most of the shows the newsletter highlights - I just like their approach to criticism!) McNutt's exploration of webseries' place within cultural consciousness reminded me how important that kind of media was to me five or six years ago, and how webseries did seem to disappear from my media consumption entirely. Is the webseries a form lost to platforms' algorithms and shifting audiences? Where do webseries fit into the rise of Peak TV? Should we all be watching Headless: A Sleepy Hollow Story?
I lost my pair of nice headphones at the gate right before boarding a plane for an 8-hour flight to the UK. I thought I was going to have to sit in silence for the duration of the trip, but was saved by a small gift from the flight attendant: a pair of flimsy black and red earbuds. They were far from comfortable, and I couldn't tell the left from the right, but I was nonetheless able to hear the movies and shows that I had diligently pre-saved on my phone. I even used them on the flight back too!
In this podcast, Nguyen discusses his book Games: Agency as Art, and describes that games are a way to pursue a goal because of struggle. For example, basketball is fun because the hoop is ten feet high, not three. The restrictions via rules allow us to think creatively and assert autonomy in discerning when pushing the boundaries is playful (good faith) or cheating (bad faith) in the context of striving towards a goal. In another work, Nguyen describes “intellectual playfulness… [as] the disposition to try out alternative belief systems for fun — to try on radically different perspectives for the sheer pleasure of it.” Even though it’s hard to context switch, these works have invited me to bring a lighthearted gameplay mind from Monikers, Coup, and Code Names to how I think about the problems that face me in life (at work and otherwise).
Lately, I've been thinking about sacrifice.
Life is a journey that presents several paths.
To live with a purpose greater than self?
As I reflect on the impact of sacrifices made,
I am encouraged. The sacrifices of others come into sharper focus.
Stirrings of thanksgiving spring forth in my soul.
The day is misty gray; colorful fall leaves carpet the ground.
Still, the trees appear full. A songbird outside my window persists in accompanying the melodious air.
Temesgen. Seasons come, seasons go.
Give thanks, O' my soul.
Temesgen for strangers. Temesgen for friends. Temesgen for colleagues working towards similar ends. Temesgen for family and unconditional love.
The sacrifice of many is the road I am grateful to behold.
A minor character in Tommy Orange’s There There calls poinsettias “the most beautiful flower.” What might be most characteristic about this plant, in its cultural projections as christmas décor, isn’t the flower but brightly-colored bracts, or leaves, that surround the true flower. This character I mentioned in the Orange novel keeps poinsettias year round. It’s something I’ll be doing this year.
Health is wealth. Knowledge is power. I like knowing what people buy to eat. I’ve seen this brand at the grocery store before and have bought their products but I never knew how deep their selection went. My neighbor lives a good life and she’s in the bean club. She told me about it and I figured I’d follow her lead. And now I’m sharing it here just in case this might help someone like it helped me. The beans are all great. Feel free to reach out if you want some recommendations but I highly suggest choosing your own adventure. This is a feast, right?
I’ve jot down tidbits from conversations with my eight year old because she makes me laugh.
Do you wake up one day and have puberty? Like, is my body different when I wake up when I'm a tween? I'll be a tween this summer, technically. A girl in my class is already 9 and she's much bigger than all of us... I think she's in puberty already. Probably has her period already. Everyone in class is worried about puberty and things like that. Mom, why do you have more pimples lately? Does everyone get pimples during puberty? Ugghhh, I really don't want pimples. Boys are disgusting. All the girls in my class think the boys are gross. Their voices change and sounds weird, right? Will my voice change? What will it sound like? Why does Helga pretend not to like Arnold, when she's in love with him? Today, Brody held my hand. He's in a wheelchair. It was fine. I want to die! Because someone, somewhere in the world doesn't like me because it's impossible for everyone to like you, so that means someone doesn't like me. I'm dead inside.
In my youth, I had never thought to question some fundamentals of my identity even while being a queer black male. These days I am learning some things about being a cis-male that we know (but we don’t recognize that we know) regarding sex and the use of violence. I am not saying sex and violence are exclusive to men, nor do I want to homogenize the male hormone system, nor should masculinity be reductive to the two, but if you hear of a murder, rape, or robbery it is highly likely a poor man was involved. We are an order of magnitude away from anything else in killing itself too.2
In general, the patriarchal order we habituate is regressive, with manosphere has a choke hold on radicalizing males. We should look for a new order instead. That is why I am thankful for bell hook’s book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. In this text, she shows men how to express the emotions that are a fundamental part of who they are — whatever their age, marital status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. She has led much healing for me in confronting these issues.
~ qwelian tanner
With the increased popularity of hiking, folks are looking to get out in nature but still have that feeling of being alone in the wild. As such, hikers are looking for less frequented trails and exploring spaces on their own away from the crowds. STRAVA, a physical activity tracking app, curated a number of these herd paths and informal trails in the Catskills and Adirondack high peaks wilderness, mountain ranges that I explored in my youth. Next time you’re looking for an adventure, try to explore remote areas with a little collective memory.