Ingest/Digest #2

November 29, 2020

Hi all and happy Thanksgiving! 

Hope everyone found some food happiness, mild togetherness, and gratitude in whatever way possible this year. I'm personally very thankful that many of you let me know that you enjoyed or shared the first digest! And for those who gave feedback for improvements of all kinds. With that, a few housekeeping notes:

1. Last time I recommended Amy Schumer's HBO documentary, calling it the made-up "Becoming Amy" - it's actually called "Expecting Amy" - apologies!

2. A friend in the education sector brought to my attention that the New Yorker/ProPublica piece by Alec MacGillis that I suggested last time received an enormous amount of attention, but placed an unfair burden on the responsibility of teachers in dealing with the glaring issues of education inequity exacerbated by the pandemic, and did not account for, among other things, the horribly failed gov't Covid response or why such disparity in education and access has come to exist in the first place. They recommended Rachel M. Cohen's more nuanced view in The American Prospect for additional reading. Thank you very much!

Happy digesting,



The Secret of the Unicorn Tapestries

by Danielle Oteri, for the Paris Review (READ OF THE WEEK!)

This piece is a lot of terrific things: an ode to a friend, a boundary investigation between connoisseurship and amateurism, details of power and snobbery in museums, a study in simple happiness, and an artwork analysis. It's about the marvelousUnicorn Tapestries at the Met Cloisters, and the obsessive night-shift security guard, Howie, who made a 25-year-long private study of them. 

Howie's solo undertaking to analyze the notoriously opaque tapestries exposes much about the limits of the knowable in art history, and in particular how it can fail to see what's right there to be observed. It is fair to say that Howie spent more time with the tapestries than any curator, which is often the case of gallery attendants, whose contribution to museums is nevertheless, across the board, completely undervalued. Listening in on guided tours, "[Howie] was amused that the lecturers frequently contradicted one another, and it bothered him that few ever seemed to look at the tapestries, that they took no joy in them. Their explanations to an enraptured audience were just an academic exercise of enforcing the museum’s sanctioned scholarship."

It seems Howie wasn't too bothered, though - in the end, communing with and studying the tapestries made him happy: "Howie was an amateur, a disparaging word in academia, though it derives from the Latin root amare, to love." 

Diversity Work

by Maya Binyam for Columbia Journalism Review

A damning look at unionizing inside media companies, with a particular focus on the unions' efforts to negotiate clauses to increase staff diversity. With only a few exceptions, they've met with the non-committal antics of management who pay only vague lip service to these demands. 

Sin City: New York nightlife never stopped. It just moved underground.

by Brock Colyar, for New York Magazine/The Cut

New York Magazine's cover story this week, chronicling the very much still active, maskless and pandemic-be-damned party scene in NYC. I suppose this shouldn't have been too surprising, but I was still pretty shocked. The willful ignorance and reckless endangerment of the partygoers, whom we inevitably encounter in grocery stores, is reprehensible and very difficult to swallow. Nevertheless I found the writer's tone interesting, as by the end my reaction was not only to hate everyone--recognizing the undercurrents of privilege, belonging, the death of cities and communities, and precarious mental health that inform life in the pandemic.

"Emily in Paris" and The Rise of Ambient TV

by Kyle Chayka, for The New Yorker

Very on-the-money cultural comment describing our multi-screen, unsatisfactory, attention-diminished relationship to TV. I loved to hate (loathe, really) Emily in Paris and this article helped me articulate a bit of why. Reading it also coincided with a favorite recent tweet, describing the weekend as "Another day of staring at the big screen while scrolling through my little screen so as to reward myself for staring at the medium screen all week."


Verse by Verse

This site is self-described as "An experimental AI-powered muse that helps you compose poetry inspired by classic American poets." You choose your poet muses from a finite list, specify format and rhyme scheme, write one line, and from there you may select from auto-populated suggestions that mimic those poetic voices. It's pretty fun! I was impressed and creeped out by how effortlessly Dickinson my little poem was. At least our soon-to-be computer overlords have a literary side?


"On Female Rage"

by Leslie Jamison, on the "Sunday Read" from The Daily


"Man to Man"

by Wil S. Hylton, on the "Sunday Read" of The Daily

Complementary (totally unrelated to each other) explorations on gender and anger - female rage, biting its tongue, and male, permitted, even idolized. (If you only have time for one, go with Female Rage.) 


A very goofy new wellness/comedy podcast by funny women Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak. They deep dive into all corners of the wellness and healing industry, from gluten-free and keto diets (despite "tragically not having any known dietary restrictions"), skincare, and psychic practices. "Poog" is Goop (of Gwyneth fame) backwards, signaling the hosts' winking self-awareness of the industry's spurious yet addictive pull, describing it as "an end in seek and never to find."  


Like many I've been happily busy with The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, and The Undoing, which are great but you don't need me to suggest! Otherwise, briefly:

Priya Cooks a Minimal-Waste Thanksgiving

It's wild how purposefully wasteful a holiday Thanksgiving is (not to even touch on the facts of its cruelty and hypocrisy, you all know the drill), and this year in particular it felt somehow more important than ever to take extra comfort in all the abundance, and this despite knowing how many Americans are food insecure. Among the oodles of cooking content, I therefore appreciated this NYT Cooking feature, where Priya Krishna cooks with Dominique Drakeford, co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn, while discussing how to reduce waste. 

The big takeaways were making plant-based food, composting, and the insight that when we all eat the same thing (turkey) it unnaturally over-stresses the cultivation and supply system. More powerfully, it was that Sustainability has been co-opted as a capitalist enterprise, which conveniently fails to recognize the highly logical and inherently sustainable food practices mastered by Black, Indigenous, and Immigrant communities over centuries.

Netflix Presents The Characters

Available on Netflix, obv

Standout episode Kate Berlant (#4)

The Characters features excellent lesser-known comedians who write and perform/inhabit multiple characters for one full episode. Kate Berlant is mega brilliant as the eccentric, untouchably luminary artist Denise St. Roy, as well as many others in her universe (gallerist, husband, admirers). Deep satire of the ridiculousness of the art world. Trailer here. Also loved Natasha Rothwell (#5) and John Early (#2). 

One tragic and funny TikTok
Speaks for itself!