Friedan's Village

A look back at Parkway Village, the birthplace of The Feminine Mystique
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My favorite view of the web is a list of stories that have, according to analytics company Newswhip, achieved “Highest Velocity” on social media. It’s essentially an of-the-moment list of the most-shared stories on social media (you can see a similar public page here).

The headlines, taken together, tell a familiar story: publications’ sensibilities have conformed to the platforms that send them visitors; their sites have adopted the tone and language of social media; news and entertainment, mixed as ever, now mingle according the demands and preferences of the feeds into which they are deployed. It’s a brutal and honest list: sparse and vital breaking news next to aggregated news so partisan as to transcend the concept of truth; TV casting news next to celebrity social media updates; a first-person video of a man firing two double-barreled pistols next to a story about “The Beautiful Origin Of Memorial Day Conservatives Don’t Want To Talk About”; a story about Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti below a remembrance of American Sniper Chris Kyle; a clip from the reality show “Street Outlaws” followed by flood news from Texas followed by an interview with Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas. “15 things you should do with wine this summer. Number 11 made made me drool!” sits a few stories above “Studies Find Ginger To Be More Effective Than Chemotherapy At Fighting Cancer Cells” just up from “Muslims Say Fallen U.S. Soldiers Should NOT Be Honored on Memorial Day.”

It’s soothing, almost, to see these items together in a list. Yes, they’re formally and ideologically disparate, and, like Most Popular lists in nearly any context, they are not a flattering reflection of their audience. But these stories are not mysterious. They share a teleology: this is a list of things that people consume and engage with most vigorously on social media; this is a list of links that very different people share on platforms to tell other people about themselves.

A Most Popular list created by everyone makes a publication for no one. But it’s easy to see where these stories, even—especially?—the terrible ones, find traction. Some of this garbage is my kind of garbage, the kind of stuff that I might welcome into my feed and even cram into other people’s feeds. The kind of stuff the companies that operate my feeds might deem appealing—or at least engagement-probable!—for me. The rest belongs, just as recognizably, to someone else.

More interesting than the headlines is the list of places that produced them.

Don't Call Me 'Mama'

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The loudest and clearest message delivered to prospective parents is that “your whole life is going to change.” It comes from family, friends with kids, parenting books, and websites. Fair enough. But after a couple of months of actual parenting, you realize that, in some ways, your whole life didn’t change so much: You’re still the same person. You still have the same interests and goals in life, even if you have less time to squeeze accomplishing those things in every day. I’m still me. Wonderful, sometimes miserable old Laura. I certainly didn’t change my name.

Our culture has an extreme love-hate relationship with parents and their children. We deify the cult of motherhood, proclaiming that there’s nothing more inspiring than the sight of a mother with a baby in her arms. What a beautiful thing! And yet, as a society, we don’t do much to actually support it: Paid leaves are non-existent in many workplaces; childcare is expensive; and the world around us generally seems to be designed to cater to the childless, with its lack of quiet spaces to breastfeed or pump, changing tables in restrooms (especially if you’re a man looking to change a baby’s diaper), high chairs in restaurants, or ramps into subways. We talk a big game about parenting, but sometimes, talk is all there is.

The first time I remember being referred to as “mama” was months before my daughter could even attempt the word. My husband and I had brought Zelda to a cardiologist’s office to check for a suspected heart murmur. Though our pediatrician assured us such a thing was very common and nothing to worry about, we were stressed out. And Zelda, nude but for a diaper on an exam table, didn’t seem to like it either. The nurse who was there to help us attach the little sticky things with the wires to her body leaned over her. She seemed frustrated that Zelda didn’t want to comply with her request not to move while she attempted to take her blood pressure, as if this were the first time she had worked with infant. In the midst of the ordeal, I was annoyed by this: “Mama, if you can try to hold her body, I will get her arm.” Mama.

A Series of Wholly Unrelated Observations About Vox Media's Acquisition of Recode

weather review sky 052515In 2009, a venture capital firm now called Comcast Ventures led a seven-million-dollar series B funding round in a blog network called SportsBlogs, Inc.; it invested in SportBlogs again in 2010 during a 10.5-million-dollar series B round. A couple of years later, in 2012, SportsBlogs launched a new technology site called The Verge and became Vox Media. Comcast Ventures invested in the company again, this time during a thirty-four-million-dollar series D round; it and Accel Partners were the only two investors in the round. According to CrunchBase, to date, Vox Media has received nearly a hundred and eight million dollars in venture capital from six investors.

Comcast Ventures is the “venture capital affiliate” of Comcast.

When Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg launched Recode in 2014, NBCUniversal News Group made a “strategic investment and content partnership” in Revere Digital, the parent company of Recode and its Code conferences. Its content was distributed “across NBCUniversal News Group’s multiple media platforms,” while CNBC became “Revere’s media partner for its global conferences.”

NBCUniversal News Group, which includes NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC, is a division of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

New York City, May 25, 2015

weather review sky 052515★★★★ The early clouds made the daylight slow-rising too, putting the whole morning on holiday time. There was shade enough by the inner fence of the playground to roll ground balls with a child-safe baseball. Then a booming roar came down and filled the paved yard, as a military jet blasted up at an angle into the smoky blue. After it passed, the softer roar of ordinary, flatter-flying jets kept pulling the eye up, the usual background noise claiming the foreground. The three-year-old and a friend climbed over the low iron enclosure and got down in the mulch. The swings were hot but not too hot, nor would they likely afford such open-ended swinging for months, once the crowds came back. The direct sun was baking by afternoon, but then in the span of a short dip in the kiddie pool—by the time the adjustable kiddie pool floor rose from four feet through three feet and all the way to zero, beaching the stragglers, for adult swim—the sun’s hold broke and mild shade controlled the streets.

Scraping a Living at a Crêpes Restaurant

crepes“Are you afraid of getting burned?” asked my supervisor as I gingerly lifted a floppy, undercooked crêpe with a spatula. I looked at it with dismay as it fell apart. She swept it off to the side with one long motion of her own spatula, greasing the griddle again. “I’m not,” she said as I struggled to spread the thick buckwheat batter evenly on the huge griddle.

“I love cooking, and I’m especially good at making crêpes,” I’d told the cheery woman who interviewed me in the spacious restaurant whose specialties were crêpes and chocolate desserts. I’d visited this restaurant over the summer when one of my best friends from university was visiting Montreal; after overstuffed smoked-meat sandwiches, we’d ducked out of the heat and into the dessert place a couple of blocks away, where we’d lingered over chocolate-raspberry milkshakes while a waiter with an adorable French accent doted on us. I’d sent my résumé to the restaurant that same week, thinking that it would be the perfect place to work. I’d applied a second time after seeing a NOUS EMBAUCHONS (“Now Hiring”) sign in the window, and my persistence paid off. I started the first week of December.

My colleagues were almost all younger than me (I’d just turned 25), a mix of Francophone Quebeckers and French nationals who had landed in Montreal on working holiday visas. When something went wrong in the kitchen, the Quebeckers would curse, “Ostie de crisse de tabarnak,” while the French cried “Putain de merd-euh.” I stuck with “shit shit shit shit shit” as I mopped up the batter oozing over the sides of the griddle or nursed another cut on my finger in the back of the kitchen. The knives we used to chop fruits and vegetables came from the dollar store, so I was averaging a couple injuries a week.

Read the rest at the Billfold.

Syrup the Fruit

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There are a wide variety of sauces made from the delightful combination of fruit and sugar. They differ in the details of their construction, in whether they are blended or strained, in whether pectin is added, in whether they are shelf-stable, and in how snooty they sound when spoken of outside the confines of a restaurant. My favorites are the simplest, the ones that are not sealed in sterilized mason jars or plumped with added pectin, because I am very lazy and also because my favorite summertime drink, the spritzer, requires them.

Typically, jarred sauces like jams, preserves, and marmalades are made at the end of the harvest season, in the fall, in an attempt to secure the glut of perishable items for the hard winter ahead. Though we have barely begun the warm-eating season, springtime is actually a good candidate for sauce-making as well, because the produce of the springtime is so short-lived and delicate.

Jams, jellies, marmalades, and preserves (usually) are all made with added pectin, a gelling agent that’s naturally found in lots of different fruits (especially apples). But today I’m going to talk about the easier, faster cousins of jams and preserves: syrups and compotes. These are done without pectin and are often made at the same time as whatever dish you’re going to put them on (for example, you might be making pancakes while a fruit compote cooks next to it). I like this because I am a terrible planner and am constantly forgetting to prepare things ahead of time.

The fruit slurries that I’m going to talk about today are essentially modified simple syrups—which are nothing more than dissolved sugar in water. The viscosity can be messed with either by increasing the sugar to water ratio or just by cooking it longer, which will cause more of the water to evaporate, thus making the syrup thicker. Simple syrups can be “infused” with various flavors, like spices and aromatics.

“I really despise pop music these days, so I can’t have people walking away humming songs. I’m totally about drawing lines in the sand: We’ve done this postmodern shrugging of the shoulders for a while now, and it hasn’t really worked out, so if I make pop music at this point, it’s by accident.”
—It’s good to see Destroyer’s Dan Bejar heading into the back nine of his career with his spirit intact.#

Horse Racing: How Much Whipping Is Too Much?#

Here's the Email Everyone Got about Fusion CEO Isaac Lee and All His Buddies at Work


Below is the email that was sent to basically everyone with a blog this weekend about Isaac Lee, the CEO of Fusion, by what seems to be a former employee. (It was sent from what looked to be a throwaway Gmail address.)

The email is about a layer of men in upper management at Fusion called the “Friends of Isaac Lee.” This phrase was included in this weekend’s rather critical New York Times article about Fusion—but seems to then have been removed from the story. (I did see the phrase’s inclusion myself; I read the story immediately after it was posted and remember laughing about it.)

Every media reporter in New York (of the very few that remain!) will be assessing these claims, so why shouldn’t we all know what’s being said? So here’s the whole email—with one redaction.

Links in the email include this story about Lee’s magazine Loft, this bad review of This is Not a Ball, this Kickstarter page for Gabriel Leigh film, and this al-Jazeera story about Didziulis’ “right-wing” “war propaganda” documentary on Iran.

Arca, "Washed Clean"

Nightmare soundtrack composer Arca has released a sparse and fitting accompaniment for your reentry into the week. It will inspire you! (To curl up into a ball and roll until Friday.)