Monday Snax

Today, importantly, is Guion’s 24th birthday! I wish I could have just stayed home to celebrate with him all day long. I love that man very much and I think I love him more every day, as totally absurd and romantic as that sounds. He’s the best. I hope his unsurprising birthday present, Bon Iver’s LP, comes in the mail today… G., love you forever and always. Happy, happy birthday!

On Saturday, we went adventuring in the gorgeous wilderness of White Hall with a band of friends. We bought a wheel of gouda from a Trappist monastery and then went to a forbidden but wonderful swimming hole on the Moormans River.

Sam
Sam in the very green Moormans River.
Band of trespassers
The band of trespassers.

After we’d had our fun and settled down with some gouda and wine, we were discovered by a pair of old and understandably grumpy farmers, who kindly asked us to leave and stop trespassing on their land. We complied. Although we won’t be going back there again and felt bad about clearly violating their “no trespassing” signs, it was definitely worth it.

Snax with Trappist cheese and wine on a rock outcropping:

Catching the Bouquet. Here, Emma gives prime advice on how to catch the bouquet at any of the zillion summer weddings you’ve probably been invited to. Heed her wisdom, friends. She “caught” my bouquet and saved that moment from an otherwise awkward end. She’s a pro. (Take Two)

Finally in English: The World’s Best Type Reference Guide. Oh, want it. (The Atlantic)

Brooklyn Moms Now Need to Get High to Play with their Kids. This is sad and funny. I love the comparison in the last paragraph between a high mother and a toddler. (Daily Intel)

Gay Talese: What I Read. A day in the life of the Internet-free human. How nice! (The Atlantic Wire)

The Mind and Fog. So gorgeous and haunting. As you can probably tell by now, I’m a sucker for foggy field photos. Can you believe this woman lives here? Jealous. (La Porte Rouge)

Sebastien Galtier: Beautiful Friends. A collection of dark and dramatic photographs of modern ballerinas. Love. (The Ballet Bag)

Yann Gross. Fascinating photographs of high-fashion models with unusual animals. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Please Have a Seat. A collection of pretty place cards from calligrapher Barbara Kua. (Barbara Kua Calligraphy)

Stereotyping You By Your Favorite Rapper. I don’t know enough about rap to verify these generalizations, but it’s a funny catalog nonetheless. (Flavorwire)

Good News! I’ve reached the point where Etsy just makes me viscerally angry. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. (Regretsy)

Dog and Orangutan BFFs Are Today’s Reason for Living. Um, yes, please. I can never get enough inter-species friends (we’re not kidding, mac!). The dour expression on this hound’s face in all of these photos is priceless. (Best Week Ever)

Tell me something I don’t already know

Source: Content in a Cottage

Like most people, I love reading things that tell me what I want to hear. I love blabbing to people about “this great article I just read” that bolsters what I already believe about politics, food, religion, or dog training. It’s obnoxious. But, simply, it’s gratifying to see someone else espouse your deeply held convictions out on the great plains of cyberspace. This is why I loved reading the hilarious memoir-like piece about a nightmarish trip to Disney World by John Jeremiah Sullivan in the New York Times Magazine last week, “You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” One of my principal beliefs is that Disney World is a materialistic swamp of America’s lowest common denominators and one of my top life goals is to never go there. Sullivan’s article simply reinforced this conviction.

As enjoyable as it was to read that essay and others like it, I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not good for my brain–or my spirit–to read only things that I already believe. Sue Halpern’s article in the New York Review of Books, “Mind Control and the Internet,” helped bring me around to this moment of enlightenment. Halpern’s article is a terrifying one. In it, she explains how, right now, Google and Amazon are creating a detailed profile of you and figuring out just what it is that you want to hear, read, and buy. Through complex algorithms, which I do not understand, Google also tailors your search results and your e-mail ads to your interests, a fact which most people now recognize. As soon as you start telling your friends that you’re engaged via e-mail, you start seeing all of these weird “discount wedding jewelry” ads pop up.

We’ve come to placidly accept the fact that Google is watching us. While this Big Brother factor is creepy enough on its own, Halpern’s article posits that the more insidious consequence of being profiled by Google is the fact that we are sheltering ourselves from the marketplace of ideas. The Internet is becoming less democratic. Google figures out what you want to hear and it keeps telling you those things. As Halpern suggests,

a search for proof about climate change will turn up different results for an environmental activist than it would for an oil company executive and, one assumes, a different result for a person whom the algorithm understands to be a Democrat than for one it supposes to be a Republican. (One need not declare a party affiliation per se—the algorithm will prise this out.) In this way, the Internet, which isn’t the press, but often functions like the press by disseminating news and information, begins to cut us off from dissenting opinion and conflicting points of view, all the while seeming to be neutral and objective and unencumbered by the kind of bias inherent in, and embraced by, say, the The Weekly Standard or The Nation.

This is scary to me. It is also scary for the American public sphere as a whole, which seems to get more polarized every day. FOX News is proof enough that we can no longer bear to listen to opinions that differ from our own. I think that’s a very dangerous state for any supposedly democratic nation to be in.

I think back to my mom and the free-spirited way in which she gave us kids access to information. She turned me loose in the library as soon as I could read. Unlike most of her conservative, homeschooling peers, she never censored my reading habits. She even taught us about evolution, God forbid! I read everything I could get my hands on. I will always remember my mom’s quiet and humble defense to the other moms who were appalled at what she was letting her innocent daughters read. “If we think we know the truth,” she would say, “why are we so afraid of untruth?”

Her defense is more applicable to those Christians who were afraid that their children would lose faith in God if they saw proof that seven-day creationism wasn’t true. And yet I think I see it in myself today. What am I so afraid of? It is far more fun to read things that tell me what I already believe. But it is better for me, as a thinking, developing human, to encounter some disagreement, some divergent opinions. To understand why, for instance, some people actually and sincerely love Disney World.  I’ll never know unless I start reading.

This is a roundabout and self-important way to tell you that I’m trying to read more nonfiction. Courtney asked me about what nonfiction I was reading lately and I realized that I’d only been reading dog books. It’s time to challenge the brain, AFP. So I just started The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright, in which Wright argues that God has been evolving with the human race and is only getting nicer over time. It’s interesting, for sure. I also write to ask you for nonfiction recommendations to add to my already burgeoning list. Anything important I should read that I also might fundamentally disagree with? And no, Twilight does not count.

Web-weary

Things I am tired of seeing on the Interwebs:

— “Vintage-themed” engagement shoots (e.g., guy in suspenders with Ray Ban glasses and the girl with a flower in her hair and red lipstick. Standing in a field. Occasionally with paper moustaches and/or a red balloon. Ugh.). I automatically unsubscribe from any blog I’m following that posts one of these photo shoots. SO over it.

—  Stuff that Taylor Momsen is wearing.

— People using the adjective “Mad Men-esque” to describe stuff.

— Blogging about Twitter. Isn’t that silly?

— Bloggers posting photos of babies, followed by comments like: “I could just eat him up!” “I want to snack on his cheeks!” Eew. Gross. Please. Contain yourself. Baby cannibalism is not cute.

Things I will never tire of seeing on the Interwebs:

— Puppies.

— Articles making fun of Sarah Palin.

— Anything that Daily Intel ever does.

— Pretty photography that isn’t trying to make a statement or be anything.

— My friends’ photo-of-the-day Flickrs. Love them to death, particularly since mine ended today! I’m happy to be done, even though I know my mom will be bummed. (Will be posting those last photos sometime tonight.) Don’t be sad, Mom. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take it up again in January. But I’m not making any definite promises.