Recommended Reading / 44.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week, via Brainpickings: a snippet from sculptor Teresita Fernández's keynote address at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts. Though the entire speech is worth reading (for me, it was an absolute gift of a find on this slow, post-vacation Monday), this bit on the beauty of broken pottery struck a particularly poignant chord.

In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that, post repair, were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself.

Find the rest of Fernández's speech, here. Photo by Jesse Chamberlin.

A few more, just because:
-A Sylvia Plath mix tape.
-The architecture of American houses.
-Chewing gum masterpieces. (Thanks, Dad.)
-An Instagram account dedicated to dirty corners.
-And, lastly, beautiful words from Elizabeth Kolbert, via Stephanie Madewell: Figueres had brought along a camera to document the Bribris’ lives. She discovered that they loved to see photographs of themselves, and so every few months she would trek out of the village, by foot and by donkey, to get the pictures developed. Once, she also brought back a postcard showing New York City at night: "I thought, Let’s see how they interpret this. So I just showed them the photograph, and I said, ‘What is this?" ‘Ah,’ they said. ‘All the little stars of heaven in rows!’ What a beautiful interpretation. They had no concept of what a lit city was. The only light they had seen at night was the stars."

More recommended reading, here. Also, many thanks to those of you who wrote to me with Detroit recommendations — I loved my time there and will post on those adventures very soon. In the meantime, have a wonderful Monday!


I'm in Detroit for the weekend, exploring a new city for a few days before summer comes to a close. Any and all recommendations, if you have them, are more than welcome! In the meantime, I thought I'd share a blurb from an essay by Sheila Heti called "Stealing Glances," which I found courtesy of Cass Marketos, and which describes the anxieties we sometimes feel about making eye contact (and what she calls "quarter-of-a-second-long relationships") with strangers on the street.

We are naturally curious about other people. From the start, as babies, we are drawn to the eyes of our parents. Imagine a cat, neurotically trying not to look directly at a passing cat. We need eye-to-eye contact. We want to see each others’ faces. It is why we take and keep photographs, watch television, hang portraits in our homes. There is something terrible about looking at each other, only to have reflected back our own (and the other person’s) thwarted, repressed desire to look. 

Somewhere we have failed magnificently. Our culture is such that a greater value even than freedom is productivity, utility. I was having a conversation with a friend about leisure, and she was saying how much she enjoys doing nothing, just wandering aimlessly around her house, thinking. “I find it so productive,” she decided. Even an activity we enjoy precisely because it is not about production we must ultimately justify by way of its productivity. This being the situation we find ourselves in, how can we ever justify to ourselves or to each other the value of those most fleeting relationships, lasting at most two seconds long, with a stream of people we will never see again? What is the utility of the quarter-of-a-second-long relationship? 

Find the rest of the esaay, here — it's beautiful. Have a wonderful weekend! Photo by Emily Johnston.

Non-Career Advice: Hauna Zaich.

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.

Name: Hauna Zaich / Teacher
Also: Poet / penpal / epicure
Age: 29

Sometimes, all they need is love. "On my desk, I keep two written reminders that I like to reference if my patience is being tested. One of them says, the student who needs the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. I think back, and there are so many instances in my life where I wish I'd known that. I could have really used it. When I was younger, I took rudeness personally. I had a hard time seeing past a person's words. Now, especially with my students — but also in my friendships, relationships, and family life — I try to think, you must really be hurting. How can I help you through that pain? Some of the people I've loved the most deeply have also been some the hardest to love — but they need that acceptance more than anyone else. They just may not know how to ask for it."

Thanks so much, Hauna. More from the Non-Career Advice series, here, including wise words from Brian Paquette, Emily Johnston, and Dez'Mon Omega Fair. 

Globe Plotters.

For tired eyes on a Tuesday morning: a dose of old-world magic courtesy of London-based globemakers Bellerby & Co. Founder Peter Bellerby — whose globe-crafting journey began after an unfruitful search for a suitable model to gift his father —outlines the arduous process of licensing, programming, molding, balancing, and goring here. It all sounds very complicated to be sure, but wow. They make it look good.

Visit Bellerby & Co. for more information. (Their Instagram, predictably, is incredibly beautiful, too.) Via My Modern Met.

Recommended Reading / 43.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week via GQ: Stephen Colbert, on embracing discomfort:

"I like to do things that are publicly embarrassing, to feel the embarrassment touch me and sink into me and then be gone. I like getting on elevators and singing too loudly in that small space. The feeling you feel is almost like a vapor. The discomfort and the wishing that it would end that comes around you. I would do things like that and just breathe it in...Nope, can't kill me. This thing can't kill me.

 Find the full story by Joel Lovell on GQ, here. Photo by Sebastian Kim.

A few more, just because:
-Make, don't buy.
-A German book critic reviews the Ikea catalog.
-Millennial (female) morticians offer a thoughtful reexamination of death.
-My First Time: a video series featuring writers discussing the early stages of their careers. Each is "a portrait of the artist as a beginner and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria."
-From Kurt Vonnegut, found via Jesse Chamberlin: "Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."

More recommended reading, here. Have a wonderful Monday.

Weekend Note / 08.

Weekend notes are short-form POVs.

I love borders. August is the border between summer and autumn; it is the most beautiful month I know. Twilight is the border between day and night, and the shore is the border between sea and land. The border is longing; when both have fallen in love but still haven’t said anything. The border is to be on the way. It is the way that is the most important thing. 

Tove Jansson, “Moominvalley in November”.


I've never liked August. It's always struck me as a slow month, and a lonely one, as everyone vacates the city in droves for late-in-the-season getaways. It's also around this time each summer when I begin to lose patience with the heat, taking up Dracula-like residence in my top-floor apartment. "Remind me why everyone looks forward to summer again?" I asked Lily this afternoon, as we sat in the center of an elaborate system of fans, our laptops balanced precariously atop stacks of books to distance us from their radial heat.

Still. Tove Jansson writes about borders beautifully. So beautifully that I feel warmed to the idea of August, if anything, for its in-betweenness and for what lies on the other side.

Mikio Hasui, whose words I posted here last Monday, based an entire photo series on the fog that obscures tree-covered mountains. "I was thinking that if the fog wasn't there, and it was just a mountain covered in autumnal leaves," he says, "the experience...would've been pretty boring. It was beautiful because it was hidden."

August contains all the exquisite romance of moments leading up to something wonderful - of what's perfect and pure and unspoiled because it has yet to happen. Most uncomfortable transitions in life, now that I think of it, have given way to something better. Opened doors to strange and startling places. Illuminated possibilities crisp, bright, brilliant as fall. 

Thank you so much for reading. Wishing you all, near and far, a wonderful weekend.

Photo by Max Wanger.

Every Person in New York.

Jason Polan — an artist who once sketched every piece of popcorn in a microwaveable bag — has made it his goal to draw every single person in New York, a city whose population exceeds 8 million. And while VICE estimates this would take 70 years of sketching 14 people per hour, he's succeeded in documenting the daily doings of 36,000 New Yorkers since starting in early 2008. (The first volume of a book series was released this month.)

Want to appear as part of Jason's New York? Email him at with "a street corner or other public place that you will be...for a duration of two minutes" —and see where you stand among the squiggles.

Follow Jason progress, here. See also: All the Buildings in New York

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

On the Outside, Looking In.

I interviewed an artist for Freunde von Freunden a couple of summers ago who told me about the many afternoons he spent watching his neighbor smoke cigarettes on the back terrace of her apartment building. "She smokes and spits, smokes and spits," he said. "I take portraits of her. I have pictures of her smoking in the summer, in the winter. I could start a series."

I thought of this when I came across Rear Window, a series by Jordi Huisman, a photographer with whom I had the pleasure of working on another piece for FvF last month in Amsterdam. I always thought there was something very intimate about the back windows of a city building, which offer measured glimpses into the deepest corners of a person's home — and Jordi, it appears, agrees. He writes: "There element of the voyeuristic: meticulous exposures resolve small details in the houses and lives of their residents which were never meant to be outwardly visible." Beautiful.

Find more of Jordi Huisman's work on his website, here.

Recommended Reading / 42.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week, via the very cool Maptia: "The Pink Vigilantes", an essay on a 10,000-member, all-female gang based in Bundelkhand, a notoriously poor region of Uttar Pradesh, India. United by a common mission to bring justice to the oppressed, the women dress in a uniform of bright pink, arming themselves with traditional Indian fighting sticks called lathis. Though they aren't always peaceful protesters, the women — led by Sampat Pal Devi, a destitute 47-year-old mother of five —insist that theirs is a different sort of "gang" than ones reported on more often in the news. Says member Bhagwati Devi, "One must understand that a gang doesn't always have to be anti-social. Our gang is a team, a team of women in pink."

Story and photographs by Sanjit Das.

Three more, just because:
-The benefits of eating out alone.
-President Obama's summer reading list. (Also: revisiting children's books.)
-From Ashley Brooke Toussant via the brilliant Pep Talk Generator: "SPF 30 always. Stop tanning. Your pale skin is just right. Read books in the shade and everywhere else. Keep that precious brain healthy and active. Keep that side of yourself that needs to listen to 'perhaps lame' music. Remember the good feelings. And all the feelings for that matter. You are lovely, smart and charming. Your older self realizes this more. Know it now."

More recommended reading, here. Have a very happy Monday.

Why Time Flies.

For those (like me) who are astonished at the fact that there are just four-and-a-half months remaining in the year, here's an interactive timeline that explains why life seems to pass us by faster as we age. The site was designed by Maximilian Kiener, who ends with this: "We tell ourselves we can always do this or that thing later. Open a bar when we get older. Put off that trip we've been thinking about for a while. Life is short. Do things now!"

See for yourself at Why Time Flies. Thanks, Tina, for sharing!

More on age (one of my favorite subjects):
-First steps.
-100 shots of 100 people of 100 ages.
-From Andrew Solomon: "I would like to be young again — for the obvious dermatological advantages, and because I would like to recapture who I was before the clutter of experience made me a bit more sagacious and exhausted. What I'd really like, in fact, is to be young and middle-aged, and perhaps even very old, all at the same time — and to be dark- and fair-skinned, deaf and hearing, gay and straight, male and female. I can't do that in life, but I can do it in writing, and so can you. Never forget that the truest luxury is imagination, and that being a writer gives you the leeway to exploit all of the imagination's curious intricacies, to be what you were, what you are, what you will be, and what everyone else is or was or will be, too."

What My Hands Doing?

I like sifting through Instagrams listed under #whatmyhandsdoing for a number of reasons, not the least of which has to do with its very cute wording. The man who started it all is an Indonesian artist who goes by ponypork, and it's his heavily tattooed arms that dominate the selection. Here they are gathering flowers, examining x-rays, grasping at rainbows — and there's much, much more from many other Instagrammers, too, if you're willing to scroll. It's a wonderful, whimsical (and literal) show of hands.

Explore #whatmyhandsdoing, here. (And find Romo Jack's account, here.)

Paper City.

Paperholm is what artist Charles Young calls a "growing paper city," having added one new structure to its scaled-down streets daily for an entire year. Each is crafted by hand from paper and glue, and many — including windmills, carousels, and tiny, teetering trees — have moving parts. When I saw it, I thought immediately of Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, which is centered around a wooden model of a neighborhood in Paris, and which I read in one go, wide-eyed, on the plane from Amsterdam to New York.

See more at Paperholm, here. Many thanks to Colossal for the introduction.

Recommended Reading / 41.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week: gorgeous words from Nagano-based photographer Mikio Hasui, courtesy of FvF.

My new photo series is on fogs. They are all white – just fog, with a bit of landscape. So when you go to the gallery, you walk into a room with white photos on the walls. When I went to shoot these images, it just happened to be foggy. I was thinking, I can’t shoot today. I couldn’t see anything, so I waited a bit for the fog to clear. When the fog lifted for one moment, I saw the mountain, covered with trees in bright autumnal colors. But I was thinking that if the fog wasn’t there, and it was just a mountain covered in autumnal leaves, the experience and shot would’ve been pretty boring. It was beautiful because it was hidden, and because it was only revealed for that one moment, just that one part of the mountain.

I felt like it was a metaphor for my life. I’m living in a fog. Even though I’m facing forward, I’m not sure which direction that is. I don’t belong to or work at a company, and I live life day by day. Sometimes I’m like, is this all right? Is this okay? But that’s the kind of thing everyone thinks about. I wonder what’s ahead. Work, marriage, kids – everyone has those questions. But when you’re inside the fog, when everything is foggy, you can’t see what’s ahead of you. When that fog lifts and you can see even a bit of something, you’ve got to believe in what you just saw, right? When the fog lifts, there’s that mountain covered in trees with beautiful leaves and colors – you can’t see it right now, but it’s there. You’ve got to believe in that.

Three more, just because:
-A bird-shaped treehouse.
-Jewelry made from blueberries and biscuits, chocolate and cherries. Also: clothing with patterns inspired by personal stories.
-My friend Sean Santiago, an editor at Refinery29, has launched a Kickstarter to fund his amazing queer zine, Cakeboy.

More recommended reading, here. Have a wonderful Monday — and thank you so much for your lovely comments on this weekend's birthday post. So happy and humbled to have you as readers.

POV: Thirty.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

Every now and then, my seven-year-old niece and I play a game.

“Guess how old I am,” she says. And I pretend to think.  “Three,” I say, and she shakes her head.  “Five?” I ask, and she tells me I’m getting closer.  “Hmm,” I say, pausing for effect. “Twenty-two?” And she shrieks.

A couple weeks ago, we had dinner as a family, walking afterward to an ice cream shop on the Lower East Side for dessert. “Guess how old I am,” I said to my niece. She’d just finished tying my wrist to hers with a black elastic hair tie.

She shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “A million?”

“Guess again.”

She looked at me and pulled at the elastic band, daring it to snap. "Was I close?" she asked.

Wild & Free.

With its patchwork houses dotting over 7,000 acres of Northwest Spanish mountainside, Matavenero is something of an eco-village paradise. Once abandoned, the village is now inhabited by a community wishing to preserve its lush surroundings, and who rebuilt its ramshackle houses and instituted cable transport for more convenient access. I've always loved alternative living spaces (case in point: these staggering Swedish tree houses I was lucky enough to cover for VICE), and these photos by Kevin Faingnaert have been perfect daydream fodder for this hot, humid NYC Thursday. See more — including villager portraits— here.

Visit Kevin Faingnaert's website, here. New POV to come tomorrow!

Chelsea Miller on FvF.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chelsea Miller, a Brooklyn-based knife-maker (and a neighbor of mine) for Freunde von Freunden. Chelsea's windowless Williamsburg studio, wallpapered in palm trees and festooned with plastic flamingos, is about the size of a toolshed — and it feels like one, too. It's not short on warmth, though, and neither is Chelsea, whose hand-crafted knives are made entirely from repurposed materials – wood from her family’s home in Vermont, old mechanics’ files, horseshoe rasps.

She says, "I wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember, which is why I moved to New York when I was 19. I wanted to be a storyteller. And I feel that I am, in a way. Knife-making is another form of storytelling. Take a look at a knife – there’s a story behind that wood. There’s moisture in the grain; there are markings. Each one is so different. And since my knives are made from other tools, there’s a story there, too. They belonged to other trades altogether. And, of course, my own personal story is part of each piece. These things have lives beyond what we can see."


Find the interview in its entirety on Freunde von Freunden. Photos by my talented friend Nick Vorderman.

Other recent work on FvF: Nawab Khan / Linda Derschang / Henry Hargreaves. (More, here.)

Recommended Reading / 40.

Every Monday, words to start the week. 

This week: a short film about Neil Harbisson, a colorblind artist with a surgically-implanted antenna that allows him to hear color.  Harbisson hears hues of cities, the sky, human faces. (As it turns out, people, no matter their skin tone, are all varying shades of orange.) "Now that I can hear color," Harbisson says, "I can relate [sounds] to an object or a color. When I hear the G sharp of a taxi...that, to me, is related to limes. It sounds just like a lime." Watch (and hear) more at The Atlantic. Film by Greg Brunkalla; photo by Lars Norgaard for The Guardian. 

Three more, just because:
-Posing with polar bears: a long-lost pastime
-Watermelon ice cream that's coconut-based and exquisitely colored.
-Teju Cole's commentary on New York Magazine's coverage of the Cosby case is impressive and important: "We must fight rape culture, even in its allegedly mild manifestations, we must be grieved with the grief of those who commit the crime and those who benefit from a world built on such crimes, we must oppose men who wade in with stupid explanations and caveats and distractions, we must surrender the poisonous sentimentality that makes us believe a 'great artist' over a less well-known woman."

More recommended reading, here. So happy to be returning after a short break while I was traveling with family — and looking forward to sharing more about the trip tomorrow. Have a wonderful Monday in the meantime!

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