I hope I’m not overpromising here. But I think there’s especially good stuff this week.
1. Jake Gyllenhaal sings “Finishing the Hat,” and does it well. (Hat tip to Michael Kirby, my source for all things musical.)
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek said recently. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”
The man is a Libyan-born Muslim man, by the way.
This is Islam.
3. Photos of Waves Crashing in Australia, by Warren Keelan and featured on Colossal.
It’s a beautiful world:
Many more at the link.
4. Mari Andrew’s Instagram feed is full of drawings conveying simple wisdom. Her recent rendering of grief is right on:
5. This Dictionary Keeps Subtweeting Trump and Here’s the Full Story. This is about way more than the Trump administration’s creative (some would say sinister) use of language, and how Merriam-Webster is handling it. It’s about creating a social media presence that’s sharp and authentic. The descriptivist stuff at the end is interesting too.
As anyone who studied linguistics in college may remember, most modern dictionaries embrace what is known as a descriptivist view of language. Rather than insisting on the so-called proper usage of a word or phrase (an approach known as prescriptivism), today most lexicographers (i.e., people who work at dictionaries) study the way words are actually being used and make note accordingly. That’s how you end up with, for example, dictionary entries for “they” in the third-person singular form or “heart” as a verb.
Inherent in this descriptivist approach, then, is the notion that a dictionary is a rather passive creature, monitoring the public conversation but not injecting itself into it.
That, of course, is being somewhat challenged by Merriam-Webster having a Twitter account with such a forceful public voice.
6. Mary Oliver reads “Wild Geese.” (h/t Brain Pickings)
Make this poem your mission statement. My personal one is The Journey, but this one’s a close second.
“You do not have to be good…”
7. A Longtime Fitness Editor Does Some Soul Searching (h/t my friend Alison)
Our culture is drowning in listicles and fad approaches to nutrition. The truth is, we know what constitutes a healthy life, and the rest is commentary (and maybe even clickbaity propaganda).
In an email, Michael Joyner, a physiologist at the Mayo Clinic, told me that we overcomplicate everything when it comes to health. He then pointed me to an obituary in the New York Times of Lester Breslow, a researcher who, the Times reported, “gave mathematical proof to the notion that people can live longer and healthier by changing habits like smoking, diet and sleep.” Breslow identified seven key factors to living a healthy life:
Do not smoke; drink in moderation; sleep seven to eight hours; exercise at least moderately; eat regular meals; maintain a moderate weight; eat breakfast.
The rest is commentary.
8. Book Pairings for Every Flavor of Ben and Jerry’s I’ve Ever Eaten, by Tracy Shapley on Book Riot.
Yes, I just posted a link about fitness like three seconds ago. But there’s physical health and there’s spiritual health.
I love that the list is presented without commentary, prompting me to make the connections myself.
9. How Black Books Lit My Way Along the Appalachian Trail, by Rahawa Haile.
I’m still making my way through this beautifully-written essay about books, blackness, femaleness, and hiking. But I feel confident recommending it because it was recommended by Linda Holmes on Pop Culture Happy Hour and she’s never steered me wrong.
For many, the Appalachian Trail is a footpath of numbers. There are miles to Maine. The daily chance of precipitation. Distance to the next campsite with a reliable water source. Here, people cut the handles off of toothbrushes to save grams. Eat cold meals in the summer months to shave weight by going stoveless. They whittle medicine kits down to bottles of ibuprofen. Carry two pairs of socks. One pair of underwear.
…Few nonessentials are carried on this trail, and when they are — an enormous childhood teddy bear, a father’s bulky camera — it means one thing: The weight of this item is worth considerably more than the weight of its absence.
Everyone had something out here. The love I carried was books. Exceptional books. Books by black authors, their photos often the only black faces I would talk to for weeks. These were writers who had endured more than I’d ever been asked to, whose strength gave me strength in turn.
10. “Let America Be America Again,” by Langston Hughes.
Behold, the only version of #MAGA I’m on board with. Excerpt:
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Hughes gets the last word this week.