A sneak peek into my culture diet

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music cassette tape

W magazine reporter Stephanie Eckardt recently did a fascinating Q&A with Neil Gaiman for the Culture Diet column. In it, Gaiman described all the wonderful bits of art and literature he’d recently consumed. Eckardt’s questions were fun so I decided to answer them as well.

First thing you read in the morning:

The breaking news alerts that have piled up on my phone while I slept. Unlike most people, I’m not addicted to my phone. I don’t even keep it by my bedside; instead it rests in a holder on my desk in the library downstairs, merrily buzzing away all day while I sleep in the Batcave that is the master bedroom. Once I’ve showered, dressed, fed the kitties and come downstairs, then I’ll stop by the desk to see what madness has occurred during the day. If there’s nothing hugely pressing — or nothing I can do anything about for another hour anyway — I make breakfast.

Books on your bedside table right now:

Currently I’m rereading “It” by Stephen King, a deliciously scary, 1,168-page horror novel that Hollywood is adapting into a movie (again). I last read this book when I was 12, the same age as the kids in the story. Now, 30-some years later, I’m reading it again, and remembering parts that once filled me with dread while discovering new bits I’d forgotten entirely. I’m also marveling over the fact that I’m now older than many of the adult characters. Yesterday, I finished rereading “Zen in the Martial Arts” by Joe Hyams, a nonfiction lesson-filled collection of essays by a writer who once trained with Ed Parker and Bruce Lee. I’ve read this book several times over the years yet I still manage to glean something new from its pages.

The TV shows keeping you up at night:

Well, until Netflix canceled it, I was utterly enraptured by “Sense8.” Those of you who follow me on social media know how terribly disappointed I was by the show’s abrupt and ridiculous cancellation. Best show on TV, by far. Such a waste.

Last movie you saw in theaters:

“Wonder Woman.”

Last show you saw at the theater:

“Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett” at the Boch Center in Boston. She was a hoot.

Last piece of art you bought:

A Silas the Gargoyle statue.

Last museum exhibition that you loved:

I haven’t been to a museum in ages, something I hope to rectify very soon. The last exhibit that truly blew my mind was Annie Leibovitz’s “American Music.”

Release you’re most eagerly anticipating:

Stephen King and his son Owen have a new book coming out in the fall titled “Sleeping Beauties.” I can’t wait to see how that collaboration turns out.

Last song you had on repeat:

Last concert you saw live:

Henry Rollins at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Mass. It was a week before the election so now it feels like ages ago.

How you get your news:

Online.

Do you read your horoscope?

If I stumble on horoscopes, I’ll always read mine and the one before it (I’m a cusp baby).

Last thing you do before you go to bed:

When I’m alone, I read before falling asleep. On those rare and delicious times when I get to share a bed with my husband, cuddling ensues.

What’s your culture diet?

–Photo by Eduardo Schäfer

Stocking up on wards and superstitions

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Unlucky

The most hopeful thing I’ve read recently was this 2013 article in The Atlantic by Julie Beck. The story focused on a study in The Journal of Experimental Psychology that attempted to explain why we cling to certain rituals to get rid of bad luck. In the end, to change your fate, the study showed you had to physically “push” away bad luck.

So that’s my new goal because the past week has been bloody awful. I didn’t walk under a ladder, acquire a tails-up penny or break any mirrors, and I didn’t do anything to karmically bring a plague upon my house. Yet bad luck has definitely dropped by for a visit and I had the misfortune of answering the door.

First, M was in a car accident, a bad one. Some distracted idiot crashed into the back of his Prius at about 45 mph. The other driver hit so hard that his airbag blew. The impact also pushed M’s car into a third vehicle. After inspecting the damage, the insurance company informed us that M’s car was a total loss. This blows for many reasons, not the least of which was that we just bought the damn thing in March. M also spent $500 on new tires earlier this month. Now we have to either figure out a way to afford a new vehicle or remain a single-car household for a while.

M didn’t walk away scot-free from the crash either. For the past week, he’s been on a course of painkillers, muscle relaxants and cold packs for the minor whiplash he sustained. That said, his injuries could’ve been a lot worse, considering the condition of his car.

A couple days later, my glasses broke. Now, anyone who’s ever peered through my specs knows that I’m nearly blind. While I do own a backup pair, I can’t stand them. The lenses don’t seem to focus right, even after having them processed twice, which makes it difficult to read. Good thing I don’t need to read for a living… oh wait, I do! Wearing them for too long also gives me a headache.

Then, we received word from Chase that one of our credit card numbers had been stolen. The bastard thief used it to charge up a variety of items, none of which would indicate he/she was simply in dire need of necessessities. Of course, in the modern era, credit accounts are tied to online accounts as well as physical cards so now we have to update a bunch of auto-bill sources once the new cards arrive. (They haven’t yet.)

On Friday, we hired a guy to come over and do the annual maintenance on our home’s HVAC system. This process, we were told, would cost about $90. Once the guy was done with his inspection and repairs, we had to write a check for $1,300. Oh, and he discovered major issues with the system that the home inspector should have caught before we purchased the house, issues that need to be addressed in the next year or so. Cost for those repairs? About $20,000. There goes any plans for updated appliances, solar panels, home decorating, vacations, etc.

Amidst all this ill fortune, we’re terribly worried about a dear friend who is very sick. My job continues to be both stressful and trying. And Summer, my least favorite time of year, the season of heat, bugs, humidity and migraine-induced misery, has unofficially arrived.

Time to burn sage, light candles, toss salt and knock wood. Anything to make our luck change for the better.

The media you trust

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“When we’re on the Internet we very rarely look at a front page. We mostly look at what’s on our feed. And what goes into a feed isn’t controlled by experts. It’s often controlled by our worst instincts. It turns out when the ‘hive mind’ decides what’s on the front page, it becomes drama and opinion and controversy and demonization of the other and self-congratulation. And thus the hot takes have gotten so hot, I’m worried the whole country’s going to catch fire.” —Hank Green

I completely understand where Hank is coming from.

News outlets are laying off experienced and knowledgeable journalists by the thousands every year and shuttering newspapers in communities that desperately need solid coverage. To stay afloat, publishers are using clicks/ratings as measures of success, and dedicating more resources to what’s trending rather than in-depth investigation and technological innovation. Even under these difficult conditions, many in the mainstream media are still fighting to shine a light on the machinations of the rich and powerful.

Yet to maintain control over society, the titans of business and government hide their dealings behind closed doors. These men and women utilize bureaucracy to withhold vital information, eliminate regulation that allows for the free-flow of ideas and use misdirection to obfuscate the truth and foment distrust. They’ve become trained practitioners — and sometimes owners — of partisan hype. Or, they hire experts who can spin their talking points into coverage that plays into confirmation bias.

So how does one become an informed citizen? Read widely and think critically.

For the past 27 years, I’ve honed my skills as a journalist to better serve the readers’ needs. While the rest of America sleeps, I investigate, question, critique, edit, fact-check and report the news. I also consume vast amounts of information from a wide variety of sources. In the spirit of transparency, here is my daily media diet:

The New York Times
The Washington Post
HuffPost
AP
Reuters
NPR
NECN
The Los Angeles Times
The Boston Globe
BBC News
The New Hampshire Union-Leader
The Concord Monitor
BuzzFeed
Mashable
USA Today
FARK
CNN
The New Yorker
Time
New York Magazine
Forbes
Fortune
Business Insider
Mother Nature Network
Scientific America
Smithsonian
Digg
People Magazine
Entertainment Weekly
Variety
The Hollywood Reporter
IMDb
Facebook, both my personal feed and this page of more than 175 news sources
Twitter, both my personal feed and this list of more than 1,500 journalists and outlets

This is simply my starting point. Each night, I launch a browser and open these many tabs, but I don’t stop there. I also conduct searches, follow links and travel down rabbit holes looking for… well, interesting stories. The more informed I am, the better I’m able to help readers avoid getting caught up in the fiery hot takes of the hive mind.

As always, I’m here to serve you.

Now, I encourage you to dive in. Set aside your biases. Open your mind. Be curious and explore. The more you learn, the better off our world will be.

Friday afternoon decompression

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spring rain and tea

I should be asleep, I know.

It’s nearly 1 o’clock — way past my bedtime — and I’ve had a truly exhausting week.

The dog is already in Morpheus’ realm, snoring near my desk, urging me to follow suit.

I have no doubt the bed is comfortable, the covers warm and the pillows soft. There’s a Kindle on the nightstand with a virtual bookmark holding my place in a tome I’ve been rereading with pleasure. But I’m not quite ready to climb the stairs, undress and recline.

There’s so much I want to do: boxes to unpack, treats to bake, stories to write, books to read, animals to pet, laundry to do. Yet sleep is the wisest course of action.

Still I hesitate. The work week is done. My errands are complete. Rain is pattering against the windows. I just made a cup of tea, and I’m finally able to breathe.

“I, Too” by Langston Hughes

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us flag

I, too, sing America.
 
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.
 
Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.
 
Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—
 
I, too, am America.

–Photo by Krystle Fleming

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