March 1, 2019

Who killed the weekend?

In The Guardian last year, Katrina Onstad asked: who killed the weekend?

Her piece is worth reading entirely, as the demise of the idea of having two days off to do nothing is something I am incredibly sad about, but what struck me most was how she described her weekends of her youth and how they differ from her weekends now. It got me wondering: what did my weekends look like? What do they look like right now? What do I want them to look like?

Growing up in an era where we weren’t always connected—forget mobile phones and the web, my internet use was sporadic and limited to searches on Gopher and chats on IRC—the weekend was a time for hobbies. Aside from copious amounts of reading (hours of devouring books a day, which I did more on the weekend but still enjoyed on weekdays), weekends were filled with walks and explorations in the neighbourhood. Often, I would find myself in the public library, making friends with patrons and librarians and discovering things on shelves. Sometimes, I would find myself in the park or the local basketball court, making new friends that were a little closer to my age. Once in a while I would be inspired to make something—a kite, a boxcar, a mini planetarium—and would scavenge for materials and spend the weekend mired in making. Aside from the religious education classes every Saturday morning, my weekends weren’t regimented, but instead open for spontaneity.

These days, my weekends are a lot more scheduled: Saturdays are filled with meal planning and grocery shopping, and Sundays are reserved for laundry and meal prep. Sunday evenings are a delight, but still planned: we have dinner with our friends, alternating houses, every week. Saturday afternoons are usually open for delight, but we plan our adventures weeks in advance these days, eliminating spontaneity. They are good weekends, and joyful ones, but often exhausting; they do not feel like a complete departure from the five days that came before or the five days that will follow.

What would a perfect weekend look like? Probably not much more different than they are now, but with a bit more room for serendipity. I’d love more unplanned activities, more aimless walks, more time in front of the fireplace with games and crossword puzzles and books without a goal for what needs to be done. I still need to do things like meal planning and laundry, but around those chores, I’d build in time for nothing, where I would let the world take me wherever it wanted, without a need to be productive or get anything accomplished. (I’d also do much less work; I try not to work on weekends, but inevitably spend a few hours staring at my screen answering emails or doing things for my non-profit work.)

What would a completely free, ideal weekend look like for you?

Poems of the week:

Margaret Atwood (1970)

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
     the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

Marriage as Koi Pond
Nicole Cooley (2018)

Scrape the pot into the sink, another burned surface,
then another brick-red linen cloth to sheet the table.
Follow me to the yard where the fish
drift like cool dimes on the water, where
I drop my dress, a slur of mesh and lace.

A few things to read and explore:

I love the idea of eschewing greatness for the good-enough, and it’s something I’m striving for more and more these days.

Being good enough is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of work to smile purely while waiting, exhausted, in a grocery line. Or to be good enough to loved ones to both support them and allow them to experience frustration. And it remains to be seen if we as a society can establish a good-enough relation to one another, where individuals and nations do not strive for their unique greatness, but rather work together to create the conditions of decency necessary for all.

The world has been designed for men’s bodies and experiences, and that can prove dangerous or even fatal for women. These hidden design disparities need to be addressed.

Going back to the theory of Man the Hunter, the lives of men have been taken to represent those of humans overall. When it comes to the other half of humanity, there is often nothing but silence. And these silences are everywhere. Films, news, literature, science, city planning, economics, the stories we tell ourselves about our past, present and future, are all marked — disfigured — by a female-shaped absent presence”. This is the gender data gap.

This illustrated history of sharing books” and libraries hits home: we need more library funding now more than ever, as our society and democracy depends on it. (Couples well with this tweet about using libraries for nighttime congregation.)

Illustration talking about the importance of libraries

The one and only time I met Whoopi Goldberg, I was in high school and I didn’t realize just how fantastic she was. Now, I’m a huge fan, and this profile by Ottessa Moshfegh makes me love her even more.

While she is beautiful, she is more fascinating and dear than she is an object of beauty. She’s sensuous and real, and yet she has the innocent, rascally androgyny of a kid. She has virtually no eyebrows. There is nothing perverse or strained about her. I’m glad she’s been given the alien space in Hollywood to be who she is, that she wasn’t stressed into some other kind of persona by the industry. She isn’t caked with makeup. Her beauty shines from a place so irrevocable: It is there in her Sister Act nun’s habit as much as it is in her fuchsia and lime green peek-a-boo mermaid gown from the 1993 Oscars. She got flack for her poor” fashion choice, but if a Jenner or Hadid sister wore it today, we’d all go gaga. Whoopi’s beauty came through even caked in white makeup and crowned with a preposterous wig, dressed as Queen Elizabeth I when she hosted the 1999 Academy Awards. Good evening, loyal subjects. I am the African Queen.” Her beauty is like her humor—innate, honest, divine.

One of the best compliments I ever got at work was from someone who said I was a master at self-observation and self-reflection. After reading this interview on self-observation being the skill of the future,” I’m even more chuffed by the compliment:

It’s the ability to hit pause, take a moment to evaluate yourself, and take stock of where you’re at. Ask yourself,  “Am I breathing?” I mean really breathing, not just panting at your desk while you frantically write emails and hustle to meetings. It also extends to your emotional state. What’s the most common emotion you’re feeling lately? Are you in control of the emotion or is it controlling you? Is it triggered by someone or something? Are you able to manage it? Trust your intuition and check in with yourself frequently.

A beautiful piece by Mateo Askaripour about racism, history, growing up, and why we write about our oldest wounds.

It isn’t enough to make you think everyone you know would receive what you said with the same degree of understanding. Because you’ve learned, through skin-splitting experimentation, that when people are forced to view their flaws in the mirror, most look away. You believe that many people in your hometown fall into this category. A hometown you fled as quickly as you could. A place full of people who raised you in one way or another, and supported you; an area not defined by any geographical location, but by memories only you and those who experienced them with you can access.

Topic asked over a dozen people how gifts, insurance payouts, the MacArthur Genius Award, book deals—ranging from $8,000 to over $1 million—were spent, and the answers are varied, diverse, and insightful. I loved this answer where astrophysicist Sara Seager said her money would go to paying people to help her so that she could spend more time on herself and her family; that’s such an important part of living a healthy life, and we don’t talk about it enough.

When I got my MacArthur award in 2013, they asked, What are you going to spend the money on?” I said, I’m going to spend it all on household help so I can spend more time with my kids and more time on my job.”

If you have kids, or a person who relies solely on you, not only do you have to take care of them and want to spend time with them, but you have to make their breakfast and their lunch, if they’re really little. And then clean up after them. There’s this endless series of chores. I got tons of responses from people saying, I can’t believe you said that,” because people won’t admit that. People don’t want to admit the price you pay for working.

I had never thought about how The Truman Show can be mapped to today’s connected society, but after reading this analysis, I need to re-watch the movie again with my contemporary perspective.

The internet has become essential infrastructure, the repository of all knowledge and the fascia that stitches together modern civilization. Cars are computers we drive in. Houses are computers we live in. Phones are computers we can’t live without.

We do not have the luxury of refusing Christof’s offer. The algorithms that shape our lives are too useful to lay down. They answer our questions, connect us to loved ones, guide us to destinations, improve medical care, and filter the digital infinite into the relevant finite. They are miracles that we take for granted; real-life magic. We cannot give them up.

I could spend hours exploring this interactive map of the 2,000+ sounds humans use to communicate without words.

Roald Dahl’s Rotsome and Repulsant Words is a children’s dictionary of Dahl’s insults and expletives, and I’m already excited to buy a copy.

Ever wonder what it would feel like to win a lifetime’s supply of something? Here are the stories of a few people who won just that, and how it changed them.

An Old Fashioned is a Negroni but you replace campari with bitters, replace sweet vermouth with simple syrup, and replace gin with bourbon.” This experiment in cocktail comparison—the cocktail edit distance,” as coined by Tom MacWright—is fascinating.

This series of photos of offshore drilling rigs by Francesca Piqueras is mesmerizing.

Photo of offshore drilling rig by Francesca Piqueras

One of my favorite cities to explore on foot is Barcelona. I knew the city was planned beautifully, but you can’t always tell from ground level. These aerial shots by Márton Mogyorósy show just how beautifully the city is designed for urban exploration.

Overhead photo of Barcelona city block

Andrew McCarthy took nearly 50,000 images of the night sky and put them all together to create an 81 megapixel composite image of the moon and it is as gorgeous and stunning as you would expect.

Composite photo of the moon

I hope you’re able to create the weekend of your dreams, this weekend or one very soon, my friends. Until next time.

→ Weekend Reading