peeking into the lives of others

From this day forward, I will always mentally shave off the front walls of apartment buildings, so I can imagine the lives that each little box holds inside.

Firefighters evaluate the scene of an apartment building where the front wall collapsed because of Hurricane Sandy on Monday in New York City.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Via Slate.

attention public radio nerds

Ira Glass is everywhere in the last few days. Yesterday he was on CBC’s The Current. A quote:

“As a storyteller in my civilian life, I am at an utterly civilian level… Like, only somebody who is just at the normal level of being able to tell a story… would go to the trouble to think through what is the completely optimal way to make a story work.”

A few days ago, Ira did an “Ask A Grown Man” for Rookie. (Bonus: crash course in balloon animals.)

Via the This American Life blog.

He was also profiled in The Star last week.

And, finally, Toronto friends: Ira Glass is in your city this weekend to talk about making radio.

(If you want more Ira — who doesn’t? — this series isn’t new, but I re-visit it at least once a year and always seem to learn something new… especially from Part 3, which I think applies to life far beyond storytelling.)

a bougie woman

Terry Gross interviewed Lena Dunham on NPR’s Fresh Air. During the interview, she played a clip of a scene from Girls, which Dunham then expanded on. The scene is one of my favourites from Season 1, and I liked Dunham’s elaboration so much I typed it out for you. Here it is…

Clip — Lena Dunham’s character Hannah, speaking to the guy she’s interested in: “I don’t even want a boyfriend. I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks I’m the best person in the world, and wants to have sex with only me. And it makes me feel very stupid to tell you this because it makes me sound like a girl, who wants to like go to brunch and I really don’t want to go to brunch, and I don’t want you to like sit on the couch while I shop, or like even meet my friends. I don’t even want that.”

Lena Dunham: I think that there there’s a way that Hannah – and by extension myself – she has trouble with certain kinds of earnest expressions and maybe that’s a generational thing, maybe that’s her own anxiety that if she expresses herself in a true way she’s going to get shut down. But I think it was important for her, even as she said this incredibly sort of sweet, heartfelt thing, which is ‘I want you to want to spend time with just me, I want you to want to be with me’ I mean, she wants just what everybody wants which is –

Terry Gross: She wants a monogamous boyfriend.

Dunham: A monogamous loving partner, and yet she feels that she needs to explain that while she wants the thing everybody else wants, she is not like everybody else. And I think that is the important distinction to her, is that she thinks with the desire for a boyfriend comes all of these other trappings of being a sort of like bougie woman that she doesn’t think of herself as. She’s like ‘I’m a writer, and a thinker, and so anything you equate with being a boyfriend is not what you’re going to get with me.’ Even though once they were together she probably would want him to meet her friends, she probably would want him to sit on the couch while they shopped, and, god forbid, she would want him to go to brunch – but in this moment she sort of needs to define herself as this completely other type of woman, even as she wants what women want.

This show is uncomfortably accurate. Lena Dunham, hats off.

How To Be A Woman

We should all be feminists. Feminism basically means that you believe both sexes to be equal, that someone’s opportunities and rights should not be determined by their gender. (Let’s not get into the debate over the meanings of the words gender and sex.)

That said, feminism has become a dirty word — or at least, if you label yourself a feminist, you risk being seen as a raging man-hater.

I think Caitlin Moran can change all that. She has a new book out. Read her interview with The Hairpin.

Choice excerpt: “This whole sassiness thing – everything’s got to be sarcastic, everything’s got to be knowing, everything’s got to be cynical. You’ve got to be on top of your shit twenty-four hours a day. THAT is exhausting. It’s just far better to go, you know what? I’m just basically a monkey in a dress, and the best I can hope for every day is just to be nice, to smile as much as possible, to be gentle, try and be a bit understanding, work really hard, go and smell some flowers, have a cup of tea, ring your mum if you get on with her, just kind of dial it down a bit. There’s a more sustainable idea of being a woman rather than feeling like you’re in a fucking movie twenty-four hours a day.”

Also I love Kate Beaton, and I especially love this comic (which is related to feminism) and this one (which isn’t).

takes time to tinker

“What is extraordinary about this story is that Richard has had no books or access to technical information. He says he does not know where he gets the ideas or the knowledge, and yes, he has given him self plenty of electric shocks.  His father James is proud of his son, and has given him space to tinker and collect bits of gadgetry.”

Things I like about the story I just read on AfriGadget, titled 13 year old Kenyan innovator saves cattle from lions with lights:

a) Richard himself, for being exactly the kind of person we need to hear more about when we talk about sub-Saharan Africa. And at age 13, no less.

b) The dangling modifier. I was really hoping he was saving his cattle from lions that had mastered electricity.

Richard Turere, 13, from Empakesi, Kenya, brings the cows home for the night. Photo: AfriGadget

a semantical bloodbath

I take Jonathan Goldstein to bed on a regular basis. Well, him, or Ira Glass. Or possibly Paul Kennedy. Public radio geeks know exactly what I mean; everyone else is thinking I should consider being a little more modest in mixed company.

Last night, I was enchanted by one of the pieces Jonathan Goldstein read on a May 2010 episode of CBC Radio’s WireTap. A little research turns up the fact that it was also part of a 2001 episode of This American Life. Read it below, or even better, listen — it’s the kind of writing best told in the author’s voice. (It’s the first segment, just sit tight through the promo.) If you’d rather read, here goes:

This first piece that I’m going to read is about love. But, um, aren’t they all.

If there was no such word as love, our vocabulary would be richer, and we’d have to struggle harder to find the right words. Everyone would be so long-winded and Shakespearean in their range of emotional expression. The word love came along and wiped out all sorts of terms in a semantical bloodbath.

Without the word love, people would speak in terms of sensations, like the sensation of standing waist-deep in a tub of warm plum sauce. Or the sensation of being tickled on the back of the knees. Some would say they felt like they had just swallowed a honey-soaked boxing glove, and others might say that they were feeling like their guts had been yanked out and spread across the kitchen floor.

Without the word love, you would get wedding invitations that would say things like, “On July 15, join us at the Five Holy Martyrs Church of Worship to help celebrate Barry Lyscinzy’s feeling of aimless goodwill that he’s decided to direct onto Robin Krupka, who’s receptive to the idea of being with a man she’s fairly certain will never inflict hurt on her.”

Sometimes we call something love because we don’t know what else to call it. When I first started dating Holly, there was one night where I was double-riding her back home from downtown on my bike. And she kissed my neck and rubbed my back through my t-shirt. We were going uphill, and she knew I could use all the encouragement I could get. We had spent the evening with some friends we didn’t especially like, just because we didn’t have the heart to say no to them. “We should go out more often,” she said from behind me. “The way I hate everybody makes me love you more.” Was that a moment of love, or merely an instance of lack of hate?

With Christiane, I thought I couldn’t be in love because her knees were too big. They were the size of grapefruits, and I could not see myself being in love with a woman whose knees were that big. They were ludicrous really. My thinking was that it was a good thing they were so ludicrous because they kept me firmly anchored. If I thought for even a second that I might be falling in love, all I had to do was think of those big, fat knees of hers, and then, one day, I found myself kissing them. I had to leap over a great inner hurdle to get to that, but it wasn’t love that was on the other side. It was just self-congratulatory pats on my own back over how I could move beyond pettiness like that.

When I was 16, there was a summer I spent in Wildwood, New Jersey, where one night while walking down the boardwalk feeling lonely and depressed, a girl a few years older than me came spinning down the boardwalk, her arms spread out. She came right towards me, and then, when we were face to face, she kissed me. Just like that. Because she was drunk or stoned, but she had kissed me. For the rest of the summer, I couldn’t pass a woman on the boardwalk without thinking that we should somehow be meeting in a kiss, that that’s how life should really be.

In that moment, where our lips touched, the way it suddenly brought into alignment the private, unspeakable hopefulness in the heart with the uncontrollableness of the outside world, it felt like as surely as anything else I’ve ever experienced, a moment of love. I say this as an adult who has had serious relationships since, and I can’t think of another word but love to describe what I felt that day on the boardwalk. And that was it. She just walked on.

When I was a little kid, my mother’s favorite thing was to crane her head through a door frame or around a corner and bite me or my sister on the ass while explaining, “Boy, is this a tuckus.” I spent much of my childhood walking around our house always on my guard, always feeling like she could strike at any moment. She was never really any good with words, so this was sort of her version of a love sonnet. At least that’s how I’ve chosen to see it. You could also say it was filthy and damaging, but if you want to see something as love, or even need to see it as love, and you call it love, it feels a lot more like love.