Frequent Fascinations: April 2019

While I’ve been catching up from my time away, a lot of my posts have become long-form dedications to those things and ideas that have inspired me since my last routine round of posting. I still have a couple more in the works to pass along so I momentarily thought about skipping the frequent fascinations this month. But I wanted to share all of the cool things I’ve been obsessing over that may not be as relevant to merit an entire post on their own.

(If you are new around here, first off, hi! At the end of the month, I compile a handful of my favorite things that I’ve encountered in the past thirty or so days. You can check out my previous lists here.)

First off, “The Bold Type” started back up again a couple weeks ago and continues to blow me away with the way it addresses and demystifies so many struggles that both women and men face in their careers, relationships, and representation in their society and media. If you want to know more about the show and my initial thoughts when I fell head-over-heels with it last year, check it out here. It almost makes up for the fact that “Dancing with the Stars” is not airing a season this spring. Almost.

Dessa

I first heard Dessa on “The Hamilton Mixtape” singing “Congratulations,” a cut song meant for Angelica to sing to Hamilton after he publicized details of his affair with Maria Reynolds. It is an already biting number that spits and sighs with Dessa’s incredible command of rhythm and tone.

I shelved Dessa’s name away as someone to look back into but never ultimately got around to checking out her other discography until I heard her song, “The Bullpen,” featured in “RBG.” (Check out my review of the extraordinary documentary here.) It captured everything I’ve ever wanted to express about how it feels to be a woman trying to get ahead in a man’s world. It’s also insanely catchy. I’ve found myself blasting it on repeat to pump me up for any intimidating obstacle I’ve had to face in the last several months. “The Bullpen” opened me up to the rest of her music, all of which exhibits the same intricate and audacious play with language, mixing haunting melodies with invigorating rapping.

I was surprised to see her name come up again on my radar when NPR named her book of essays, “My Own Devices,” as one of their Best Books of 2018. I didn’t even know that she had released a book. But my goodness. This book is something else. It’s funny. It’s heartbreaking. It’s poignant. It’s evidence of a powerful mind at work. It’s like a four-hour conversation comprised of all of the things that cross your mind before you fall asleep at night.

Some of her stories are deceptively simple, exploring the depth of everyday experiences. I found myself keeping a pad of sticky notes nearby to scribble down phrases that sum up feelings that take pages for me to work through. Here are some of my favorites:

“Too much is not enough” by andrew Rannells

I’ve adored Andrew Rannells since I first saw him perform “I Believe” from “The Book of Mormon” at the Tony Awards in 2011. So, when I found out I could preorder his memoir, “Too Much is Not Enough,” back in December, I jumped right on it. (Side note: I love preordering books because you forget about it and then you open up a lovely package and it’s like a mini-Christmas. I’m told you can get the same feeling when you peruse your Amazon cart after a couple drinks, but I would argue preordering is much safer.)

Anyhoo, back to the book. I read it in one afternoon, enthralled by the depth of Rannells’ reflection and captivated by the vulnerability he managed to spill on the page as he detailed his unique artistic pathway. I was initially disappointed that the book ended before delving into a behind-the-scenes look at the successes of his career that I was familiar with. Ultimately, I realized that would have taken away from the sometimes tragic beauty of sacrifice and connection that dotted his life before he “made it big.” It is a must-read for anyone who has ever questioned their dream.

Headspace

A couple of weeks ago, I could not get to sleep for the life of me. It was 3:00 a.m. and then 4:00 a.m. and then 5:00 a.m. and I still wasn’t tired at all. So, of course, the following afternoon, I took a five-hour nap and completely messed up my rhythm. I’ve been having some trouble sleeping anyway for a while and what has finally done the trick for me (beyond a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency Benadryl) are the meditation courses on Headspace.

Image Credit: Business Insider

I discovered the app a couple of years ago when I was first developing an interest in meditation and went through their free Basics course to get a sense for how it all worked. I hadn’t realized how much the app had to offer, however, including an entire tab just for sleep guidance. Recently, I’ve been able to get to sleep in a matter of minutes using the Sleepcasts, sleep music, and wind-downs that they offer.

They also have a whole bunch of unique courses that help to improve different areas of your life like stress, productivity, life challenges, and health. I’ve found the Navigating Change course to be surprisingly helpful in this major life shift I sometimes feel trapped in.

I always feel like I need to reiterate that I am not sponsored at all by any company. I am just genuinely obsessed with Headspace to the point that I’ve reached cheesy corporate commercial levels.

“What You Should Know About Politics…But Don’t” by Jessamyn conrad

If you’ve read my last post, you know that I’m strongly considering eventually contributing my voice to politics to hopefully be a part of the change that our nation needs. However, a year ago, most of what I knew about politics was from “The West Wing” and even then, I’m not sure I could tell you what was going on in a given scene.

Beyond my interest in political speechwriting or journalism, I felt it was important for a 21-year-old like me to understand more about the world my generation is beginning to inherit. So last fall, I stumbled across Jessamyn Conrad’s “What You Should Know About Politics…But Don’t: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues That Matter.”

I started working my way through it, section by section, looking up relevant information online to follow along, and finally finished a couple weeks ago. I am still baffled by how much information is crammed into this book while remaining entirely comprehensive and engaging. It explores the basics of elections, the economy, foreign policy, the military, health care, energy, the environment, civil liberties, culture wars, socioeconomic policy, homeland security, education, and trade.

Reading the book made me realize just how much of my opinion on these issues was half-formed and molded to fit the exact opinions that I’ve read time and time again. It’s empowering to be able to take control of my own ideas and process the cacophony around me a little more clearly.

News Routines

I’ll admit, I’ve been following the trend of countless others in tuning out the news recently because…well, pick a reason: a) there is too much to catch up on, b) everything makes me want to alternate punching a pillow and burying myself under it, c) it’s hard to make the time, d) there are so many platforms that finding the “right” source(s) can be stressful.

However, as campaigns kick off for the 2020 election and as I am making my own place in this world, potentially in the fields of journalism and politics, I’ve spent the last couple months trying to figure out how to get my daily news effectively and…without raising my blood pressure too much.

While I’ve been finding my own routine, I’ve become fascinated by the daily practices of other writers or journalists and have fallen into many a black hole researching how different people get their news. I thought I would share a few of the most fascinating that I’ve found.

Daniel Lippman, who co-authors Politico Playbook, naturally wakes up at 3:30 a.m. and searches through countless articles online to compile into his newsletter which goes out at 7:30 a.m. Only then does he grab breakfast, often with a news source, before making an appearance to discuss politics on networks such as MSNBC.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi works in reading several newspapers before a 45-minute power walk along the Potomac, during which she talks with staff, plans her day, and updates herself on overnight developments. A 2011 article about her routine states that Pelosi rarely watches television except for sports. I’d be curious whether that still holds true for her today given how drastically the media has shifted in the last eight years.

In a hilarious segment on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” guest and fellow host Trevor Noah took the wheel and interviewed Colbert. Noah asked him about where he got his news from. Colbert said, “Before I go to bed each night, I look at ‘The New York Times,’ I look at ‘Drudge’ to see how the news story is being spun in one direction, I look at ‘HuffPo’ to see how it’s being spun in the other direction. I’ll look at Reddit, the front page, the politics page. And then when I get up I look at Twitter to see what the number one things that are trending…and then I’ll check [Trump’s] Twitter feed to see what he’s been saying.”

My half-formed routine has been inspired by each of these that I’ve come across and, currently, exists as follows:

  1. After my alarm goes off, I turn on the ten-minute daily podcast “Up First” by NPR to get a sense of the big stories for the day.
  2. As I get up, wash my face, make my bed, steep my tea, put together my breakfast, etc. I either make a playlist on the NPR app of stories from “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” or I’ll listen to NYT’s “The Daily” podcast.
  3. I’ll sit down with my cup of tea and read through the “Morning Briefing” from NYT and CJR’s “The Media Today” before scrolling through the top stories on BBC because I enjoy an international perspective on what is going on in the US and the world.
  4. At this point, I’ll take a look at the news on sites that tend to spin stories towards my ideological viewpoint, since I’ve already encountered the news in a fairly unbiased form and made up my own opinion. I try to view these sites and shows as responses to what is going on, rather than rely on them as direct sources.

This routine has empowered me the same way Conrad’s book has by making me feel more informed and in control of the way I react and respond to what is going on in the world. Why wouldn’t I be obsessed with that?

Anyway, my lovelies, this wraps up our latest installment of “Elena is Obsessed with Nearly Everything in Her Sight.” It also marks my 50th post here on The Folding Chair! Woohoo! 

Here is wishing you all a happy and healthy May.

xo Elena

P.S. If you have any thoughts on this or any post, feel free to send me a note at thefoldingchairhistory@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you, my friend!

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