The Week of Virality

On Wednesday, I had the joy of watching a piece I helped edit for The Metropole go viral--well, viral by academic blog standards. The post, a history of integration efforts in Shaker Heights, Ohio, was shared on Facebook by Black Lives Matter: Cleveland and on Twitter by Celeste Ng! It brings me so much satisfaction to see the post reaching beyond academic historians, because segregation in the housing market is still a critical problem in American society. Although the piece focuses on efforts made in the 1950s and 1960s to integrate this Cleveland suburb, the author argues that American cities and suburbs could benefit from some of the strategies used in mid-century Shaker Heights. 

A view inside the Lego grocery store I built with a friend this week. He's two years old.

A view inside the Lego grocery store I built with a friend this week. He's two years old.

Here's what captured my attention this week...

I'm reading: I confess that I abandoned a book half-way through this week, the first time in a long while that I've done so--there's just too much good stuff out there, and not enough time to read. In search of something different, I picked up Thomas Vinciguerra's Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker. The book was a graduation gift from a beloved friend, and part of the joy in reading it is that I think of her and her husband every time I pick it up.

This morning, I also read this dynamo article in The New York Times: "Becoming a Steelworker Liberated Her. Then Her Job Moved to Mexico." The piece is laudatory for presenting Shannon Mulcahy, its subject, as a three-dimensional, contradictory, and compassionate woman. In doing so, author Farah Stockman helps the reader understand that the American working class is equally dynamic and complicated. What I think will go overlooked in the conversation about the piece (and shouldn't) is how the movement of manufacturing to Mexico and elsewhere also affects middle class Americans. Stockman writes that The Rexnord Corporation, Mulcahy's employer, decided to move the plant to Monterrey, Mexico in order to generate bigger returns for the company's shareholders--the majority of which are the mutual funds that many Americans have invested in to save for their retirement. The problem, which Stockman never explicitly addresses but which is implied in the piece, is that quality goes down when manufacturing shifts abroad to poorly trained, less experienced workers; as a result, Americans' retirement funds are now invested in companies whose products are less dependable and may decline in value. So it may not be only steelworkers who are losing when corporations send manufacturing abroad.

I'm listening to: Beck released a new album on Friday, and I've been listening to its uptempo tunes on repeat all weekend. 

I'm looking forward to watching: Yesterday I started watching GLOW on Netflix, about the 1980s show of the same name. I'm captivated by the scenes of petite Alison Brie learning how to wrestle, and I've found the ensemble cast delightfully weird. So I'm looking forward to finishing the first season this evening. 

What are you reading, listening to, or watching this week? 

The Week that was Hard Fought

Looking back over what I've accomplished this week, I'm quite shocked. I completed two major projects for clients, volunteered with two different organizations, and taught two classes--one Living Room Learning session, and one class for teenagers at the JCC. I also networked, socialized, practiced yoga, and got my annual flu shot. 

Yesterday, then, was a well-deserved break. I spent it outside in the unseasonably warm, bright sunshine, first at a friend's sporting event and later at a neighborhood block party; it was an opportunity to soak up some precious vitamin D before the onset of the grey Pittsburgh winter and a chance to meet interesting new people, expanding my world ever wider. 

Flagstaff Hill, Schenley Park

Flagstaff Hill, Schenley Park

Here's what captured my attention this week...

I'm reading: I finished The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne--my Book of the Month selection for August, read only a bit behind schedule--and although I devoured almost 600 pages in five short days, I don't know that I loved it. It's the story of a man coming to terms with his sexual identity in mid-twentieth century Ireland, a time and place that was unfriendly to gay men (to say the least). The Heart's Invisible Furies reminded me of Hanya Yanagihara's  A Little Lifebecause both books tell the story of a character's life from birth to death in order to show how trauma and violence are passed from generation to generation. The suffering the characters endure was shared with them by adults in their lives, and in turn the characters pass it along to those who love them, replicating the cycle. Boyne's novel follows Cyril Avery, whose love for his best friend Julian causes him to flee Ireland in exile. Although Cyril eventually finds true love with another man, he continues to experience pain and loss as a result of being gay. The Heart's Invisible Furies ends on a lighter, more optimistic note than A Little Life, but by the time I reached the end I felt that Cyril had been reduced to his identity as a gay man. 

I'm listening to: Tom Petty's Wildflowers on an endless loop. I cried for the first time in months upon learning of his death, and I'm not one to get emotional about the loss of famous people. The Slate Culture Gabfest also had a nice segment about Petty's legacy this week, which made me feel less alone in my melodramatic response to his loss.

I'm looking forward to watching: the new season of the Kardashians, of kourse!

What are you reading, listening to, or watching this week? 

The Week of a Meaningful Fast

I spent Yom Kippur reflecting on compassion and forgiveness, and the relative lack of these attributes in the American (in)Justice system. On this holiest day of the Jewish year, we ask god to forgive us--yes us, the collective, the community, all Jews--for our misgivings. Our fate is bound together, and if we as individuals expect forgiveness and compassion when we make the wrong choice then we as a community should grant that same respect to others.

Getting ready for Living Room Learning at East End Brewing Company

Getting ready for Living Room Learning at East End Brewing Company

Here's what captured my attention this week...

I'm reading:  I finished On a Farther Shore, the Rachel Carson biography, which I found informative but uneven. I've since begun The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which was my Book of the Month selection for August. In just the first fifty pages, I googled "Irish Independence," "Kyrie Eleison," "rates of incest," and "taoiseach," which I still cannot figure out how to pronounce. I'm captivated and can't wait to report back to you next week. This morning, I also really enjoyed a travel story in the New York Times by Sarah Khan, "A Muslim American's Homecoming."  

I had crisscrossed the country expecting to find cowboys and megamalls, humble churchgoing folk and racist old grandpas. But it’s hard to distill a nation into a series of tropes, no matter how easy Third World-bound travel writers make it seem. America is as much the cowboys bowing their heads to pray for their livestock before lassoing them in a ring as it is the New York couple who spend their summers rodeo-hopping, only missing shows to observe the Sabbath. It’s the Nashville mosque partially funded by Cat Stevens, so fitting in Music City. It’s the Venezuelan Elvis cover singer who hails the king for “the fulfilling of the American dream.” It’s malls not far from the Mall of America that are more African than the ones I frequented in South Africa. It’s the family reading from Sarah Palin’s autobiography while waiting in line at the National Civil Rights Museum, and it’s the B&B in Montana where I found a Quran on a bookshelf.

I'm listening to: I enjoyed Switched on Pop's new episode about Calvin Harris's "Feels," which has since been stuck in my head all week. I subsequently listened to Harris's new album, Funky Wav Bounces Vol. 1, which was a good match for the unseasonably summery weather this week.

I'm looking forward to watching: My bae and I have gotten into BoJack Horseman, which is a crushingly accurate depiction of how ridiculous and awful depression can feel--we're really enjoying it! I was never interested in the show until Kevin started it, because, well, the description isn't so appealing is it? But somehow it's funny and charming and genuine as hell, and we're already cruising through the third of four seasons. 

What are you reading, listening to, or watching this week? 

The First Year

Whereas 5777 overlapped with my last year of graduate school, 5778 will be my first full year in a new career, one entirely of my own invention. I'm an "academic-adjacent entrepreneur," which is an unusual but increasingly common hybrid. Like an academic, I'll be teaching several classes this fall and will continue working on my research projects, conferencing, and applying for grants. I'll also continue to serve as co-editor of the Urban History Association's blog, The Metropole, and to participate in the active online community of #twitterstorians. At the same time, I'm knitting this work into a new business where I lead interesting discussions with cool people in the community, motivate and support other researchers, and write and edit compelling, persuasive messages for clients.

So while I devoted 5777 to finishing up the requirements to earn my doctorate, in 5778 my goals reflect my desire to grow into this new hybrid identity:

1. Build the readership of The Metropole blog to 2500 visitors per month.

2. Send out a new article to a history journal.

3. Write and submit a book proposal to a publisher.

4. Grow my business's revenue to equal to what I earned as a graduate student.

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The Week of Apples and Honey

The past seven days were filled with the old colliding with the new. I coincidentally had the good fortune to meet several new, interesting people this week, and look forward to continuing to connect with them. And this week I also spent two days immersed in Jewish rituals that are thousands of years old. As the prophet Pete Seeger wrote, by way of the Book of Ecclesiastes, it has been "A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together."

Here's what captured my attention this week...

I'm reading:  I finished Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere and loved it. Now I've moved on to On a Farther Shore, William Souder's biography of Rachel Carson. The book has deepened my admiration for Carson as a nature writer, but to be quite honest Souder's descriptions of Carson's naiveté and tunnel vision have made me think that she is not someone with whom I would enjoy spending time. That was not the case with Kaitlyn Greenidge's op-ed in today's New York Times, about a family road trip to four historical sites that preserve and commemorate the contributions of important black women. I wish I had been invited along too.

I'm listening to: The most recent episode of the podcast Judaism Unbound features an interview with anthropologist Riv-Ellen Prell about the Havura movement of the 1970s. Prell not only provides a thorough overview of Jewish life and practice in the mid-twentieth century, she also masterfully identifies the continuities and deviations in how Jews have built community and advocated for change. She literally gave me goosebumps. #publichumanities #goals

I'm looking forward to watching: David Simon's The Deuce. 1970s New York City? Right up my alley.

What are you reading, listening to, or watching this week?