minute thoughts 5.23.19

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Thoughts while ordering entirely packaging-free Earl Grey milk tea with boba (shoutout to Gong Cha)

1. I just started Street Food on Netflix at my sister’s recommendation and I am in love. For some reason, I never really connected with Chef’s Table, possibly because I lack the palate for fine dining. But street food feels very familiar to me because of all the time spent in Asia. I remember walking through Old Town Shanghai and being horrified by the tiny baby birds being tossed in a wok, eating late-night dim sum in the streets of Hong Kong, exploring the night markets of Kuala Lumpur with hostel friends, and eating mochi rolled in peanuts in Ximending only an hour after stepping off the plane in Taiwan. I like that they celebrate street food to the same degree as elevated cuisine, because it’s truly an art. It’s a universal language. And what’s amazing is that unlike Western chefs, they’re not trying to reinvent anything; instead they’ve spent their entire lives perfecting one dish, and people come from all over the world to try it.

I’ve only watched a couple of the episodes, but I think my favorite so far is the “Delhi” episode, because it really showcases the beauty of food as a shared experience and the power of connection it has. And the cinematography and food photography is absolutely stunning. It reminds me of my old boss in Singapore, who said that his drop-everything-and-do-it-dream if he ever were to leave strategy, would be to open up a hawker center in America.

2. A hallmark of getting really old is subscribing to the Apartment Therapy and Clever newsletters and actively browsing /r/IKEAhacks. I’ve started lusting after peoples’ kitchens. Like whenever I see food bloggers or Food Network hosts in their kitchens, all I can think about is how jealous I am of how much counter space they have. My coworker and I had an entire discussion nerding out about kitchenware, because he mentioned that he’d received some All-Clad pans for Christmas, and we ended up gushing over our favorite kitchen appliances. Yes, I do want to know 27 of the best laundry hacks of all time. Sign me the f*ck up.

3. I admit that the Met Gala is the only day out of the entire year that I am interested in fashion, but it’s an extraordinary day! I don’t think any theme for the rest of my life will ever top Heavenly Bodies, but Camp: Notes on Fashion was definitely an interesting one, in the sense that it forces you to examine what constitutes “fashion” and how it’s expressed, almost as performance. I actually read Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’” and went to the exhibit at The Met to get a better understanding of what exactly it was:

Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization.

It seems that Camp is generally understood as an earnest indulgence in extravagance. My interpretation of it was that it’s a little too everything—too loud, too decorated, too garish. It reminds me of shopping at Forever 21, because I always think I’ve found something cute and then there’s just one thing wrong with it. One of the most fascinating things I learned from the exhibit was that the word “Camp” comes from the French term se camper, meaning “to pose in an exaggerated fashion,” and evolved into an aesthetic style popularized by gay men, especially the effeminate stance.

4. This brings me so much joy for no reason at all.

5. I love data visualizations (some of my favorites here) because even the simplest ones can radically change the user experience. The word “data” often sounds very technical and intimidating, but I think visualizations take some of the abstraction out of it, and mindful design like this can make life a lot better. I doubt the traditional paper receipt is top of mind for anyone and I think it’s just something we’ve become accustomed to, but it could definitely benefit from a redesign.

6. PSA: Tan France from Queer Eye now has a Youtube channel and it’s the purest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m excited to attempt to make roti, because it’s been my obsession for almost three years now and I have yet to find some really good roti in New York (I’m sure it’s here, I just haven’t found it yet.

7. I’ve read a lot about the zero-waste movement recently, and I understand what Vox is saying about it becoming feminized (and commoditized), but I’m still astounded by how little reporting unpacks the privileged involved in going zero-waste. It’s difficult. It requires time, money, and resources, which a lot of people simply don’t have. I can afford to buy a $10 pack of metal straws, but for some people, that $10 is better spent on a meal. And I have the ability to go to three different grocery stores because I live in New York and have an unlimited Metrocard, but for a lot of people, that’s neither realistic nor practical. I read something a while ago about home cooking being a status symbol, and it was absolutely spot-on because one of the key ingredients of being able to prepare fresh, home-cooked meals for your family (and what so many people get wrong when they point out that fruits and vegetables are “cheaper and healthier than McDonald’s”) is privilege. It’s having the time and the mental energy to be concerned with your family’s environmental impact. It’s having the disposable income and resources to buy from the co-op rather than the grocery store (hint: you can’t just waltz in and pick up loose nuts or spices). I’m not really interested in shaming people for not being environmentalists, when in truth, if companies were more diligent about their own CSR practices and less greedy about their profit margins, we probably wouldn’t be in this position. CNN published a very ill-received tweet, suggesting that consumers concerned about climate change should “eat less meat,” “swap your car or plane ride for a bus or train,” and “use a smart thermostat in your home and upgrade to more efficient appliances.” These are all very well-meaning, but impractical for many people (explain to me how people in LA can get around without using a car?), and CNN neglects to mention the fact that 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions, an omission that podcast host Adam Johnson called “journalistic malpractice.”

On a lighter note, I’m not a great environmentalist but I am trying to make small adjustments where I can; I’ve found a lot of great resources from Harper’s Bazaar and Fast Company about going zero-waste, and my next two areas that I’d like to work on are makeup/skincare packaging waste and food waste. I’m planning on starting a little scrap bucket when I move apartments, so give me your best composting tips in the comments!

8. This piece about overcoming perfectionism resonates very strongly with me because I’ve struggled with perfectionism and imposter syndrome for almost my entire life. But I think what’s made the difference is understanding that perfection is never as important to anyone else as it is to me. I remember reading a quote by Ira Glass:

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

This was so refreshing to read, as someone who works in a creative field and whose work is mostly evaluated in abstract metrics. It’s always hard to bridge that gap. Part of it is simply practice, but part of it is also acknowledging that your taste is shaped by your admiration of other peoples’ work. But to compare someone else’s finished product to your process is fruitful and unproductive.

9. This Twitter thread warmed my heart and made me cry at my desk. So many of these are simply kind words from strangers, and it’s a reminder that you should always be kind because you never know what someone is going through. I read something that was along the lines of “everyone is doing the best they can with whatever they’ve got,” and I’ve adopted it as kind of a mantra. I like to think it’s helped me become a much more empathetic person, especially on a crowded subway. It should also be pointed out that, with the exception of the environment, the world is the best it’s ever been—the number of deaths from preventable diseases has decreased dramatically, mortality rates are lower and life expectancies are higher, education has improved, undernourishment is down. Globally, there are now fewer victims of murder, war, rape, and genocide.

Bill Gates did an AMA on Reddit last year (how cute is it that he introduces himself as "co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation"? We know who you are, Bill) and was asked a very thoughtful question: "With all of the negative headlines dominating the news these days, it can be difficult to spot signs of progress. What makes you optimistic about the future?" and his answer is one of the most optimistic things I've read in a long time. Mean world syndrome is real, and because of the way the news cycle works, attention is currency, and so the sensational stories are what make it to the front page. The news is no longer an accurate depiction of the gravity of events, and it’s important to remember that the world is, in fact, getting better, so despite the U.S. electing a four-year mistake and Alabama and Georgia being predictably stupid (Alabama ranks 50th in education; no surprises there), all is not lost. They are the stupid exceptions, not the stupid rule.

10. Okay, so one time around a year and a half ago, my cousin was visiting me in the city so I took him out. We went to Brass Monkey and a girl in the bathroom complimented my tattoo. My cousin and I talked to her for a bit, and ended up adding her on Facebook. We don’t really talk anymore; we just occasionally like each others’ posts (which honestly is more interaction that I have with most of my friends on Facebook), and she recently posted her senior thesis from SVA and it’s incredible. She’s working at Pixar now, so I guess it’s not that surprising, but I was so insanely impressed by this. It’s called “Material Girl” and it fits Pixar’s aesthetic and rules of storytelling perfectly. Congrats, Jenna!