Rhetorician

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Tacit Endorsement #8

Week of 7.10.2016

Please tolerate this latest installment in my Tacit Endorsement series, a.k.a, an "an annotated list of things that didn't suck too bad." 

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Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

Do we need to create? Is the act of making things somehow essential to what it means to be human? I don’t know. Claims about essences ought always to be met with suspicion. But this sounds like basically a nice idea. And I can certainly attest to feeling ever so slightly less grumpy on those days when I interrupt my busy routine of fretting and brooding to make time for cooking or writing or other makerly endeavors. All this is to say, I enjoyed Krista Tippett’s On Being interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, in which the Eat Pray Love author shares some thoughtful perspectives on creativity. I even wrote a little about the interview here

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Divvy Bikeshare Bikes

Forgive me for mentioning Divvy yet again (See: TE#002 and TE#007). It’s not that Chicago’s bikeshare system is without flaw, or that I even use it all that much. But when I do Divvy, as I did once or twice this week, I’m often conscious of how glad I am that this robust program exists, even if I may at the very same moment be cursing a wonky shifter or an inoperative dock. Divvy is only sometimes pleasing in practice, but it is always pleasing in concept — and I very much like the concept. It’s like Uber, but without the exploited drivers. Oh, and it's bikes instead of cars. 

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Pretentious Potatoes

One of the places to which I travelled via Divvy this week was the Square Roots Festival, one of Chicago’s many, many summer neighborhood street festivals. This one is like all the others, except that the food and the beer and the music are about 28% better than what many of the festivals offer. As evidence: after enjoying a few crafty, local, beer-snob-type beers, I sidled up to a crafty, local, food-snob-type food vendor and placed my order for what was billed as “pommes frites with Gruyere sauce.” The woman who took my order turned around and conveyed to her associate: "One cheese fries!” She was smiling pleasantly throughout the entire exchange, masterfully tending to both a pommes-frites fantasy and a cheese-fry reality, respecting both as pleasurable, necessary, and true. I think it was from reading Sara Miles that I learned to appreciate “feeding people” as always at once symbolic and material, and perhaps for this reason I found something Eucharistical in these saucy spuds on a summer Sunday. Also they were really delicious. 

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The First Week of Pokemon Go

Watching people wander zombielike around the city playing Pokemon Go.

Watching people struggle to explain Pokemon Go to one another.

Watching TV journalists struggle to explain Pokemon Go to audiences. The whole ‘augmented reality’ thing leads to weird interviews with native informants (“young people”) who try to explain the game using terms that can only make sense within the game. I suppose this is in some sense a problem that plagues all journalism, perhaps political reporting most especially. But in the case of animated monsters, the fictions are a bit more obviously fictional.

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Hope is the thing with wheels

Xanadu: The Musical. More campy than you can possibly imagine. Explores some of the same themes Elizabeth Gilbert raises about the human need for creativity. But it's a musical about a roller disco. So.... 

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Et in Arcadia ego

This recipe for Summer’s Last Hurrah Panzanella. It is still “midsummer” as far as I’m concerned, but I like that the name of this recipe invites us to consider the fleeting nature of all things. In fact, when I need this recipe, I pull it up by Googling “summer's last hurrah.” It’s a delicious salad, great for potlucks, and it doubles as a memento mori. As Ina would say, "How bad could that be?

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Yes We Can, pt 1

Many cans of LaCroix sparkling water. To which I have developed something of an addiction. Not that this is quirky or interesting of me. It seems like everyone is going nuts for this stuff. This New York Times “Letter of Recommendation” for LaCroix Sparkling Water by Mary H. K. Choi does a better job explaining than I possibly could. An excerpt from her essay:

"My initial reluctance was partly due to the cans’ hideousness. The first time I drank LaCroix, I half expected it to be filled with self-tanner. Or Axe body spray…. With its bootleg Van Gogh swirls and the not-quite Yves Klein blue logo, Lacroix would look right at home nestled in a neoprene koozie screen-printed to look like an acid-washed denim jacket. Everything about the can suggests trashy fun. The inside of my recycling bin has begun to look like a Cirque du Soleil poster.”

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DuoLingual

When you’re feeling bad about having wasted your day playing with stupid apps on your phone, try deleting them all and switching to DuoLingo. It feels enough like a game to scratch that itch, but this one will teach you Spanish. Or German or Swedish or Klingon, among others. And it is free. After more than two years of dutiful Duo-ing, the app says I’m now “51% fluent” in Spanish. Muy bien.

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Clickbait as Commentary   

What if the folks from The Onion turned their attention to satirizing gratuitously clickable internet content rather than traditional news articles? What luck! They have. I’ve seen some funny and brilliant Clickhole posts show up in my various feeds, but this “Who wore it better?” highlighting the militarization of domestic police forces struck me as particularly insightful when I stumbled on it this week. 

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Tickle Talk

The documentary Tickled is, um, very strange. What starts out as an innocent exploration of the world of “competitive endurance tickling” turns into… well, it goes places. I won’t ruin the surprise. The film is funny and, at times, pretty darn suspenseful. And it’ll make you feel you’ve got new insight into the human condition. It’s fun to watch, and even more fun to talk about at length afterwards. My movie buddy and I came to the conclusion that the film inadvertently propagates some of the cultural norms it seems to want to dismantle, and we wish it would have handled some of the issues it raises with a bit more nuance and sophistication. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t like it. Much like tickling itself, the line between liking it and not liking it is pretty blurry. 

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Curd Your Enthusiasm 

Speaking of suspense: Corridor Brewery has this thing on the menu called Cauliflower & Curds — a pile of fried cauliflower florets and fried cheese curds, all covered in Buffalo sauce, served with blue cheese dressing. When fried cheese is part of a dish, I am not likely to be disappointed. But, bonus: you can’t quite tell which of the fried lumps envelop an unremarkable vegetable and which of the fried lumps contain cheese. One might go so far as to say that, like DuoLingo, this app(etizer) has incorporated an element of gamification. 

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Yes We Can, pt 2

This Channel 4 trailer for Rio Paralympics 2016. Just. Just watch.

I bet if you watched this video every morning during breakfast, you’d live a better life. It’s very good. It’s catchy. It’s inspiring. It’s uplifting as heck. But can I critique it? Yes I can!

Indeed, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express at least some skepticism about the message, and maybe offer a snarky comment about how this could be the opening number in Ayn Rand: The Musical, focused as it is on individual willpower as the force that can overcome all obstacles. Determination is swell, except that much of what makes the world suck has to do with structural inequality that is only reinforced by the belief that individual people should just try harder to overcome their circumstances rather than think about community, policy, social change, etc.

The people in this video are remarkable. Absolutely. But not just because of individual willpower. If you hate social services and hate that you have to pay taxes that help people who need support, you’re going to watch this video and think “See, people just need to try harder.” If you’re sitting on the bus waiting as someone in a wheelchair takes a good four and a half minutes to get out the door, and you’ve just watched this video, you’re going to be thinking, “Wow, why doesn’t this dude just can a little faster?”

This is a persistent problem with representations depicting communities that face various kinds of challenges and discrimination. You show them struggling, you risk making them look pathetic. You show them thriving, you risk making it look like bigger change isn’t needed. This wouldn’t be a problem if our media was full of images of different kinds of folks with different kinds of abilities, such that any one representation would be just another part of a complex story (What? Watch this great Ted Talk). But this video is likely to be the only image of an amputee you see all month.

Anyway. I’ll stop now. This is why I don't have more friends. It’s a great video. Let’s watch it again. 

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Honorable Mentions

Fried rice. 

Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli, from Budget Bytes. Crispier tofu is within your grasp!

A nap.

Several subsequent naps. 

Acetaminophen.