None of this is necessary

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Ann Friedman Weekly
Bianca Ng, Humans of NJ Transit   

This week
Defending Your Life was the first PG13 movie I was allowed to watch as a child. In it, a recently deceased Albert Brooks has arrived in purgatory, where he is asked to account for his actions on Earth. A judge will issue a verdict: He will either be sent back to try again or allowed to ascend to heaven, where he can slurp spaghetti with Meryl Streep for eternity. A few months ago, I rewatched the movie for the first time in decades. I was struck by the fact that it was possible for this Albert Brooks character to have had a whole earthly life cycle without ever being asked to make a case for himself. And even in the afterlife, he's defending his choices. Not his right to exist in the first place.

I was thinking about the movie this week because the news is full of people forced to articulate their humanity, to justify their lives. The trans kids who just want to show up to the swim meet or hang out with their friends, and instead feel pressure to appear before lawmakers and explain themselves. The 5-year-old son of Congressman Andy Kim who had to correct another kid on the playground: "I'm a New Jersey boy." The 65-year-old Filipino woman who was kicked and punched and told "You don't belong here," as people walked by without pausing to stand up for her. The way the Derek Chauvin trial was referred to as the "George Floyd trial" in some local news reports, a sick inversion. And the way that several of the witnesses—including Darnella Frazier, the young woman who filmed Floyd's death—went out of their way to point out Floyd's humanity because it had been so blatantly disregarded. "When I look at George Floyd," Frazier said on the stand, "I look at my dad, I look at my brothers."

"None of this is necessary," Toni Morrison once noted. We don't have to live in a world that requires some people to continually insist on their place in it. We could opt for a plot in which we are all accountable for our actions, and none of us are forced to defend our right to exist.

I'm reading
"To begin. To end. These are verbs. To middle is not a thing." We all endured something different during this pandemic; "we were not, as it turned out, all in this together." What makes a body trans. Visibility is "a double-edged sword." Yaa Gyasi on what happens when white readers turn Black authors as tools for self-improvement. The Chinatown Block Watch, one year later. Anti-Asian rhetoric is driving women off dating apps. How therapy apps promise a service they cannot possibly provide. Stacey Abrams on the new voting-rights restrictions and what companies should do. The complex legacy of Cesar Chavez. Understanding America in the shadow of Amazon. (I need to get myself a copy of Alec MacGillis's book.) The pandemic uncertainty faced by tech's shadow workforce—the people who used to keep its fancy complexes running. A mind-boggling dive into the ghost kitchens, virtual franchises, and the future of food delivery. Avoiding the Instant Pot, and tracking down Annie of mac'n'cheese fame. Eating healthy doesn't have to mean fat phobia. Motherhood and the fantasy of compartmentalization. Formerly incarcerated people struggle to adapt to the digital worldDigital resting points that break up the infinite scroll. A hilarious deep dive into Newt Gingrich's wife's instagram account that I didn't know I needed. How did Frasier Crane afford his apartment? The long, sweaty history of working out. On Lil Nas X, post-9/11 religious fervor, and leaving Christianity behind. Remembering activist Kitty Cone and author Beverly Cleary.


Pie chart
Working From Bed: 20% Cavalier attitude about inevitable afternoon back pain, 35% Enjoying our laptop's whirring RAM issue as a heat source, 30% Eating a croissant because we are definitely washing the sheets later, oh yes, for sure, 15% Camera-off calls
The WFB Pie

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I’m looking & listening
Portraits by and for the trans and nonbinary community. People are asking a lot of service workers these days. Yes to this Caesar salad chandelier. Post-vaccine selfies are nice, but I am really looking forward to liking every single reunion image, like this one.

GIFspiration
Maleficent from Snow White raise her arms angrily and text below says FOOLS!
Me getting scammed by low-level pranks yesterday

I endorse
Make Your Art No Matter What, Beth Pickens' guide to overcoming creative hurdles. I probably wouldn't be recommending this book to you if it offered advice on the creative process itself. (Everyone makes art differently! No two writers have the same way of coaxing out the words.) But what's great about Beth's book is that it's focused on everything else: time, money, community, fear, marketing, grief. All of the things that can affect your creative practice. Beth is a gentle and friendly voice of reason, and I have already returned to this book multiple times. If you've ever wished you had a therapist or coach exclusively for your art practice, you need this book. 

It's out on Tuesday! Pairs well with Hallie Bateman's Directions


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Testimonials
"while everyone's hot for the 100m dash; Ann is here for the mega marathon" -Delia Cai. This is how I have always aspired to be described! Long games only. I had a nice conversation with Delia this week about the nuts and bolts behind this newsletter. Check it out if you're interested in the nerdy underpinnings of my business.

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