vocabulary

This morning, Wonder Twin Boy (WTB) and I were looking frantically through the laundry for his chess club t-shirt.

WTB: We are never going to find it.
Me: Don’t be such a cynic.
WTB: What does cynic mean? Does it mean asshole?
Me: Does it mean WHAT?
WTB: Asshole.
Me: Who told you that word.
First Son (from the other room. he always wants to know what other people are talking about): What word?
Me: A bad word.
First Son: Which one?
Me: Asshole. Don’t say it again. It’s a curse word. And that’s not what a cynic is!

I assumed they heard it from school but when I was laughing about the story later with Husband, he said he has probably said it recently. *sigh*

the nature of passion and work

I read So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, because I heard him on the 10% Happier podcast. What he said about work blew my mind — that follow your passion is terrible advice. Passion does not necessarily lead to the right line of work, it’s more that work leads to a passion for it.

I think about work a lot. Makes sense, since I’m there for the majority of my waking life. Sometimes, my day is not bad at all and other times, I want to win the lottery — so truly, I can always think of something to complain about but if I’m being honest, my lot in life is pretty good. I’ve read pieces on the idea of work, like Toni Morrison’s piece that ran in The New Yorker. Her father taught your job is not your life; your life is the part outside of the job. With this in her pocket, she said she could work for and with any number of geniuses, ding bats, toxic people, and some pleasant people. It didn’t matter.

The New York Times ran a piece in the NY Times on passion and work, which seemed geared to people who feel dissatisfied about their job unless it was meaningful or a calling. That in itself seems like a luxury, because most people have to work to pay the bills and would die to nab an office job where physical labor is limited, there a benefits, and a better than average pay. But in the end, it was about how passion and meaning are confusing or misleading measures for job satisfaction.

Cal Newport said the idea of passion comes later. Steve Jobs always lectured to follow your passion, but Newport points out that he was not remembering his origin story correctly. Right before Apple started getting kicking, Jobs was equally enamored with meditation. It was only when he and his friend got orders for thirty computers did he begin focusing on Apple. Newport reports something like the majority of passions listed by high school students is the arts and sports. That was sobering! Sports as a career has always been presented as delusional to me.

I was once at a book launch in an elementary school in Harlem with two well-known politicians. They went around to each child in this third grade class and asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. (All the kids were African American). Every time a little boy said “basketball player,” these two politicians sighed and shot the kid down with “Many are called, few serve.” Dang! I mean, sure on one hand, I feel like there’s history where they don’t want all little African American boys to become sports starts because not everyone has the gift and cash flow of a LeBron James (Is he a basketball player? Can someone confirm? I’m so bad.) — they want these kids to be upwardly mobile. At the same time, THEY’RE KIDS! Is there really a need to shoot them down and pop their dreams? What do you understand of life in third grade? (Or at my age for that matter.) In third grade, I wanted to become a waitress. That changed. This is just one of the thousands of ways African American children are discouraged that never makes the news (but more on that later).

Anyhoo, I found this finding fascinating because I always presumed my interest in the arts was a passion and I wanted to make my living at it, and I think I’ve always kind of looked down on myself for “giving up.” (Um, though when you’re an aspiring professional actor, what are you giving up exactly?) Newport says passion is derived from putting time in, by becoming an expert by working hard — then the passion kicks in. It doesn’t matter what you pick, as long as you pick something, and bust your butt at it. This is terrific counsel for someone like me who is often wondering if she should take a left or a right. Who the heck knows the next steps in life should be? Nobody. We are all struggling, we are all trying to figure it out.

rats and joy

I read this crazy article in The Atlantic, “The Game That Made Rats Jump for Joy” by Ed Yong. Apparently, there is an experiment where scientists successfully taught rats how to play hide and seek. They removed the reward system of water and food, and instead, tickled the rats in order to teach them the rules. The rats were able to understand the rules of the game and switch roles. In other words, they understood when they were to hide versus when they were to seek. It reportedly was important because it demonstrates sophisticated brain activity for animals, but rat lovers/people who keep rats as pets were not surprised as they have observed firsthand the playful nature of rats. The rats in the lab left each day completely spent, just like a toddler apparently, and would sleep hard at night. It was the happiest experiment in the entire lab for both rats and the scientists.

I opened the entire article slack-jawed and could not stop laughing in horror.

First of all, could they think of a scenario more opposite to all my hopes and dreams? Tickle rats? I cannot think of anything more terrifying than looking for rats; oh wait, I can — that would be to be hiding from rats and being found! Eeek! Shudder! Also, like what happened to these people that this is their job? What steps lead to something so strange?

I couldn’t stop laughing as I read the article, and when I explained the horror to Husband, he did not get why I couldn’t stop laughing. Oh well. We’re still married, but it’s awkward. (Just kidding. Maybe.)

As much as there is so much to make fun of in this article, it also served to be a mini wake-up call. Lately, I’ve been very absorbed in the doom and gloom of society — the racism, sexism, massacres by deranged, crazy white men, climate meltdown, etc., etc. but this article gave me some perspective. No matter what, I need a space to have fun — have fun everywhere, at home, at work, on the subway, etc. Because sure, we might get washed away by a hot ocean, I’d really like to giggle before that happens. Like the incredible Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Summit — she is amazing to watch. I feel her urgency and it’s energizing to see someone so authentic, but my god, I hope someone sneaks her a whoopee cushion once in a while, because you cannot continue in activism if you are consumed by rage. Anne Hathaway recently talked about a role where she described the character as more angry than alive — that made sense to me, and we’re all in danger of becoming that state some days.

My depressing posts to come! But for today, enjoy the photo of rats I forced myself to google! (Barf.)

six pack

Wonder Twin Son has decided to follow a 22-day Abs of Steel workout he stumbled across YouTube.

Me: Why?
Him: so I can have abs of steel.
Me: You already have abs of steel. Your abs could not be any steelier.
Him: I want a six-pack.
Me: You have more than a six pack. You have like a 16-pack.
Him: This other kid on YouTube put duct tape on his stomach in the shape of a six-pack to get his six pack.
Me: Whoa, did it work?
Him: Not really. He ripped the tape off and the skin was lighter where the tape was.
Me: Ouch.

I learn so much from this kid. I see him performing plank and ab curls around the apartment. But I think he stopped on Day 2.

billy porter/lizzo


i’m late in posting this but these two major life forces gave me a nice pick-me-up this summer.

Do you know Lizzo? Do you know Billy Porter? I don’t mean to lump these two major life forces in one post, but dude, both of these peeps are the light! Whew! What joy! They are both exceptional singers and are way out of the bounds of what’s considered normal.

Lizzo, unapologetically full-figured, celebrates her self and her desirability all the time. She is a professional-level flutist and has discussed her crossroads of going either the classical orchestra route or the hip-hop/pop/composer/church-influenced singing route. A lot of her current hits incorporate flute music.

Billy Porter is a star of FX’s “Pose,” but really broke out when he was cast as a lead in Broadway’s “Kinky Boots.” A graduate of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon acting program, he’s a late bloomer (love that). At drama school, actors were told to be authentic and themselves and real, but he always felt that message did not include him, being told that he was too gay and too black. When he was cast a high-heeled, larger than life drag queen, he has said that it’s the first time where he felt liberated — it was the first part where he felt what was traditionally considered his weaknesses were an asset. Once he made that connection, his career boomed. I find that fascinating! In any case, I didn’t really click with who he was until I heard his joyous, impromtu performance of “Gypsy” songs during the commercial break during the Tonys, which I linked above. He’s also made a name for himself because he flirts with gender lines, often pairing a tuxedo blazer with a large gown.

Both of them, embracing what makes them different, asserting their authentic selves, really makes me feel relaxed. It’s not like i have an inner Phoenix-cross-dresser inside me, but I am inspired. If they can be themselves, I can too.

Hooray!

SsingSsing/Intangible Cultural Assets of Korea

I was minding my own business, reading an article on Linda Ronstadt (and why was I reading it? I don’t take any particular interest in Linda Ronstadt, although I love her voice. Check out “Blue Bayou.” Killer. [Incidentally, when I went to look up this song, I searched for “Spanish Eyes,” which apparently does not exist. “Blue Bayou,” it is.])

In the interview, Ms. Ronstadt said she caught a group called SsingSsing on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series and says she feels like she saw the future. This South Korean band fuses traditional Korean folk music with rock, glam rock and disco. Say what now? Among the traditional music style they incorporate is Gyeonggi Sori, which is Asset #57 on the Intangible Cultural Assets of Korea. Other styles of traditional music they use include Seodo Sori (from the northwest provinces of North Korea), Hwanghae/Pyeongan folk songs, and the shamanistic-ritual based Seoul Gut. (Don’t know what that means, but am fully prepared to research.)

They also dress in costume and crazy makeup, using cross-dressing as a tool, so that the male singers can emulate shamans — who need to channel both male and female spirits. One of the singers said he tries to be as gender neutral as possible.

First off, thank you linda Ronstadt for putting them on my radar. Second, thank you Wikipedia and SsingSsing for putting the phrase “Intangible Cultural Assets of Korea” on my radar. (Doesn’t that sound like a Beastie Boys lyric? Don’t you think Lin Manual Miranda could create an entire musical from the that turn of phrase? It is also cracks me up — such an official take on something that can’t be officially, realistically captured. Nice try though.)

I think you need to see the visual before listening to their songs, and I’m not positive the music is as compelling without their showmanship, but oh my god, I am not freaking hooked. I am looking for up all sorts of concert links, made one of my friends promise to come with to a concert (he said yes but only if he could eat an edible), and am considering crimping my hair in homage to the lead singer. I’m so inspired iI might try to teach myself Korean so I can understand what the lyrics are.

stranger things hair

I was in a rush so I went to a turbo-fast-hair-salon for a haircut. That was a mistake. The guy took the scissors and dragged them through my hair, a technique I hate (an aside: people on occasion tell me “hate is a strong word,” as in, they are implying I shouldn’t use it. I think the word itself is fine. It’s all about context. For example, “I hate cilantro” is not as horrific as “I hate [certain demographic of humans].” Also, only because I don’t really like when people try to pin random rules, I break it freely. SORRY HATERS!!!).

I’ve gotten enough haircuts to know that when a person starts dragging scissors through your hair to create layers, they are beginners. They have learned a template of cutting and never got better. It totally gives the person split ends. After the scissor dragging, the kid also thinned out my hair with random cuts. I was over it. The good new is the haircut only took 15 minutes and I was out of there! The bad news is my hair looks like Steve from “Stranger Things.”

But Steve from “Stranger Things” is a terrific character. I had forgotten about the show, but the mullet I haver reminded me to watch this 1980s-period series and it is simply a delightful show. Husband and I are enjoying it very much.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall seems too good to be true. A beautiful, English scientist, she found her calling without much training – she went to Tanzania in 1960 when she was 26 to study wild chimpanzees with a notebook. The thing that made her different was she excelled at listening and observing. Through that talent, she discovered chimpanzees were quite similar to humans (points for evolution theorist) – they make tools, eat and hunt and hunt for meet, and have humanistic social behaviors (taking care of each other, forming families, fighting wars.)

Anyway, that’s all the stuff you can find out online. I think it’d make a great feel-good movie that probably already exists. She’s a global conservationist and a lot of people look to her for inspiration. She did a Reddit conversation a few years ago, and she says a lot of encouraging things. Here’s a quick summary: how to fight despair and apathy over how cruddy the world is? She says we have a few things going for us: 1) The energy and commitment of young people; 2) our awesome human brain; and 3) the human spirit.

Here’s what she said that trips me out:

“I think there’s a growing tendency to explore the intellectual ability of all kinds of different animals, and now we even know trees and plants can communicate through pheromones spreading messages in the wind or through micro fungus in the roots sending messages through the ground. And because science has now opened its mind to the possibility of intelligence in creatures, we are learning so much more and it’s a very exciting time.”

I have heard this concept once before on a podcast interview with Ann Harris who says she has observed that there is behavior in trees that indicate they are COMMUNICATING. Are you actually telling me that trees and plants are sentient beings? That blows me away. What the heck.

Laundromat

Husband took Wonder Twins to the laundromat the other day, and they were slightly crabby and were squabbling, as per usual, but when they entered the facility, they calmed down. He said Wonder Twin Boy noticed a dryer with a window, spinning a white and black sheet. He sat in front of that dryer and remained very quiet and calm, mesmerized. Husband asked Wonder Twin Boy what he was looking at, and he said this:

“The white sheet and black sheet were in a fight. I was rooting for the white sheet.”

They can make the ordinary world very interesting.

who’s raising these kids

Husband found fifteen dollars in the bottom of the Wonder Twin Boy’s backpack

Husband: Wonder Twin Boy, where did you get all this money? Let’s put it in the front pocket so you don’t lose all of it.

(My ears perked up because the kid owes me $3. I would also accept five recycling bucket emptying jobs as payment.)

Wonder Twin Boy: I got it from First Son.

Husband: Why? For what?

Wonder Twin Boy: He gave it to me so I don’t ever tell on him again.

This was the best story I’ve heard all week. As Husband and I discussed, this was pretty shrewd of First Son. First Son bought lifetime rights with only fifteen dollars –- absolutely worth it. In the end, Husband made Wonder Twin Boy return the money, and cautioned all kids that if they spend more than a dollar, they needed to check in with a parent. Both boys wept intensely –- First Son wept because he was cornered into admitting the parameters of the arrangement (which he absolutely knew was shady) and because he lost out on a super sweet deal. For Wonder Twin Boy, it was simpler: a loss of fifteen dollars’ worth of tiny plastic figures, rubber balls, and fake teeth he would have bought from the quarter machines on the corner.

Oh my god, parenthood is so hard, but I love moments like this. They are not robots. They have heir own ideas and practices.