Hark! A harbinger!

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Ann Friedman Weekly
weathered white wood frames surround 5 areas of tattered fabric scraps in pink, white, blue, and brown.
Noah Purifoy   

This week
Two harbingers of the after-times: I saw art in person for the first time in more than a year. The textures and colors of Noah Purifoy's assemblages made my brain light up in a way I've desperately missed. A few days later, I saw Big Friendship in a bookstore window, with my own eyes, for the first time ever. Both of these things were tangible and satisfying in a way that screens rarely are. And so, despite the fact that the wider world remains full of gut-twisting violence, I feel a non-negligible amount of hope today.

A "harbinger," way back in the 16th century, was a person who kept a lodging house. Later it came to mean someone who went ahead "to find lodgings for an army or for a nobleman and his retinue." Today, of course, we use it to mean something that signals or predicts a change. But in the historical sense, a harbinger is less about novelty and more about finding a place to stay.

This tracks. When I was 16 and got my driver's license, I had envisioned myself alone in a car so many times that I expected to feel a transcendent joy when it finally came true. And I did feel extremely happy as I unlocked a new level of freedom. (Small town-moment: My friend's father saw me drive by on this day, and even from afar he could make out a huge grin on my face.) But mostly it just felt... right. That this wasn't a startling joy or a special treat, it was already somehow familiar, a mode I immediately settled into.

This new-but-comfortable feeling, I suspect, is going to define my transition back to the many things I've missed: languorous meals and long hugs with friends, travel, strolls through bookstores and art installations. Not the wild-eyed high of something fleeting, but a happy exhalation at finding myself in a place I'd like to stay.

I'm reading
On puddles, tears, and seeing "a glimmer of yourself, or how you are seen." A letter from R.O. Kwon to her fellow Asian women, whose hearts are still breaking. Just keep working hard. How much human potential has been lost to the pandemic? Gun control is a public-health issue. A gutting story about migrant families surprise-deported with zero information. Historian Daphne A. Brooks places Black women at the center of popular music. Remembering Tina Bell, the Black "Godmother of Grunge". The United States vs. Nipsey Hussle and YG's "FDT," the first major anti-Trump protest song. On Mr. Miyagi, "the perpetual foreigner who exists to serve the whiteness that surrounds him." Finding Asian joy on TikTok. Pop-culture lists are not activism. How anime legend Hayao Miyazaki's son squandered Studio Ghibli's legacy. "Everything that was once considered lowbrow is now triumphant." Brandon Taylor on the Internet Novel. Alexis Coe's serialized biography of Jane Grant, the first woman reporter at The New York Times and co-founder of The New Yorker. A smart, candid look at inherited wealth. A non-binary take on breast reductionMenstrual cycles have gone haywire in the pandemic. A hilarious and intense blow-by-blow recounting of a chemical facial peel. On Zillow and haunted-house novels. RIP, the dining room table.

Pie chart
What won't be joining us in the after times? 30% underwire, 40% that one "quick and easy weeknight pasta" recipe we've made approx. 1,000,000,000,000 times, 10% virtual museum tours, 20% air hugs
The Pandemic Relics Pie

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I’m looking & listening
I love these photos of Wei Li, who always wanted to be a dancer and started taking lessons in her mid-50s. I'm also excited to watch this Twyla Tharp documentary. Patricia Lockwood and Lauren Oyler in conversation. On the importance of age 17 in pop music (and a corresponding playlist). Lil Nas X bringing us psychedelic angel/demon glittersex. Drone videos of volcanoes erupting.

animated gif of austin powers stuck in a hallway trying to turn around a cart, with a shipping container image overlaid
At some point, we have all been the cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal. Turning it around slowly, not without effort.

Also, in memoriam:
actress Jessica Walter, as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development, wears a purple blazer and flicks her eyes up and down judgily

I endorse
The dictionary over the thesaurus. All that stuff above about the history of "harbinger" was brought to you by the most helpful writing tip of all time, courtesy of John McPhee: Use the dictionary, not the thesaurus. Now you know all my secrets.

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