For your laughing pleasure

I am trying to spend much of my "living with the bears" time this week deeply immersed in my dissertation study. It may come as some surprise, then, that I found it suddenly Very Important to go through and organize my computer. It was urgent. Trust me. No work could happen until the computer was thoroughly explored and diligently tidied. (My mom calls this productive neglect. I'm a champion productive neglecter. Ain't nobody got time for that!)

Along the way I unearthed an old bookmark folder of Things I Found Funny Once Upon A Time. Come time travel with me to enjoy some good old online laughs from the past few years:

1. A spoof of Ken Burns documentaries: The Vowels

2. A local horse herpes outbreak forced the Utah rodeo circuit to substitute the usual ponies with stick horses. Seriously. (I can't post the video clip here but please click over for a ridiculously awesome news story.)

3. An internet musical sensation, Web Site Story:

4. A favorite Aussie ad:

5. And, finally, the old classic Facebook in Real Life:

What are your favorite online laughs? 

14 x 14

In social work and public health, there's a well-known parable (sometimes attributed to community organizer Saul Alinsky) that goes something like this: A group of friends are having a picnic by a river when suddenly they see someone caught in current, flailing down the river on the verge of drowning. Someone leaps up, jumps in, and brings the swimmer to safety. And then another drowning swimmer goes by. And another. Increasing numbers of struggling swimmers keep coming down the river, clearly in trouble, and the friends do their best to keep up in helping them to shore. All of the sudden, one friend gets up and takes off running along the riverbank.

"Where are you going?! We need you here!" his friends yell.

He responds, "I've gotta go find out why everyone's falling in!"

In that spirit of running upstream, a recent Cincinnati Enquirer piece caught my eye. After a string of deadly incidents in Cincinnati involving 14-year-olds as both victims and perpetrators, journalists Krista Ramsey and Cara Owsley turned their attention to understanding more about what it means to be 14 in Cincinnati. The resulting longform article is a heartbreaking and illuminating and educating look at life from the perspective of fourteen 14-year-olds from the area. 

Photo credit: The Enquirer/Cara Owsley

Photo credit: The Enquirer/Cara Owsley

As the article's preface notes, "In some neighborhoods, 14 is the sweet spot between childhood and adolescence, a time of unguarded emotion and untempered enthusiasm. In others, it's an abrupt introduction into a complex, confusing and sometimes even violent world...We don't have the answers to the violence and hopelessness that has taken hold of some young people in those neighborhoods. Neither did the 14-year-olds we interviewed. But as they opened their lives to our questions, we understood that we will never find answers unless we listen better to them." 

It's a worthwhile and (I think) important read--I'm bookmarking it to use the next time I teach adolescent development. Read the article here and watch a clip of some of the interviews here. (By the way, I first discovered the article via Longreads.)


Here's an idea that kind of rocked my world. A few weeks ago, my friend Bridget posted this on Facebook:

Isn't that brilliant?! It feels satisfyingly rebellious to wrest technology into using it the way WE want to use it. When I asked her more about it, she said it's been working really well--keeping up on details, sharing celebrations, revealing daily worries and joys--basically using the technology to help feel closer as a family. She said, "I figure that's what social media should really be for anyway--keeping in touch with those you truly, deeply care about. And who more important than family ties?"

So now I'm curious. Here we are on the other side of the world from extended family and I'd love to minimize the distance and be better at being a part of each other's lives in real ways. (This is why I started blogging in the first place, to provide distant family with a portal into each other's worlds.) What other creative/rogue/connecting ideas am I missing out on? Do you use social media to keep in touch with family? How do you connect across the miles and generations?

Harrowing tales of adventure


I wouldn't necessarily say that it's easier to find things to do with my girls, but they will watch Steel Magnolias with me as many times as I want. And then we quote the movie together -- because we are Southern women and snarky-ness is embedded deep within our souls.

Lately, however, Parker and I have been having a great time watching a new-to-us series on Netflix called I Shouldn't Be Alive.  These human survival stories are all about fighting natural elements, persevering through hardship, and glorying in the triumph of the human spirit. Aside from being an interesting watch, they have sparked a number of conversations about what we would do in similar situations (which is a nice break from how we would prepare for the zombie apocalypse). Recently we've seen "Nightmare on the Mountain," which follows an 18-year-old boy who is attacked by a grizzly bear while hunting, and "Boys Adrift" -- an excruciating story of two teenage boys stuck at sea for six days in a tiny rowboat. The episodes do contain a bit of gore (okay, a lot in the case of the grizzly bear), and one of the boys in the boat contemplates suicide -- so exercise some caution with younger kids. But overall, they are good, clean fun. Well, fun and sorta stressful.

What about you guys? Any boy-ish shows you can recommend?

Parker also was really affected by Blackfish, a documentary on the captivity of killer whales. He swears he will never visit Seaworld (or a zoo) again.

A few good gems

Friday finish line! Happy May to you all. I feel like this is the time of year when the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere overlap for a few short weeks (days?) with similar temperatures as the north heads to summer and we here in the south head to winter. Let's all high-five as we pass each other, shall we? The northerners enjoy cheery tulips while the southerners tuck our tulip dreams to bed and plant the bulbs for next year. On to a few good gems for this weekend:

Aren't  these botanical posters  fantastic? I'm seriously longing for a couple of them to (finally) fill the vast empty wall space above our sofa.

Aren't these botanical posters fantastic? I'm seriously longing for a couple of them to (finally) fill the vast empty wall space above our sofa.

  • This cookie cutter set is pure genius! You can set the message of choice to customize them to the occasion. Put me down for a set, pretty please.
  • Ina's lemon chicken has been a big favorite lately in my kitchen. It's terrifically good and simple, one of those meals you can serve on an ordinary weekday, a special occasion, or take to your friend who just had a baby.
  • "Don't touch me," said Canada. "I won't!" said the US. So they moved 20 feet apart. Radiolab on the clear margin of land between the two. (Radiolab is always a big favorite around here with Sam.)
  • I can't wait for my next trip to NYC to try out Taza's guide to the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights. (And, hey!, I was born in NYC and we lived right there on the border between the two. I was a grad school baby and although we only lived there a few years, I like to consider myself a New Yorker at heart, haha.)
  • Did you see that the Pioneer Woman took a college trip with her daughters to Texas A&M? (Sarah! To Houston! Your BFF dreams may just be realized.) It'll be fun to follow right along while they navigate to the big college launch--especially since it looks like the timing will coincide with Maddy's college search and launch.

Reading: Oscar and Lucinda (Peter Carey), the 1988 Booker prize winner about a couple in 19th century Australia--I love it so far!

Also, just finished The Storied Life of AJ Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin), an enjoyable literary beach read. Essentially a love letter to books and the reading life.

Listening: to the brand-new Australian digital radio station Double J and it's pretty good--a mix of new music gems and indy faves over the past decades. Great for music lovers and if you like both remembering old, off-the-beaten path favorites and discovering new songs. You can listen online here.  

Alternative cinema for big kids: The Shop Around the Corner

Oh, have I got a gem for you today. Have you seen it? The Shop Around the Corner is a terrific 1940 film starring Jimmy Stewart and Maureen Sullavan.  Directed by Hungarian Ernst Lubitch while he was in exile from his country, it feels like a sweet tribute to the ordinary life whose loss he must have been mourning. I can't help imagining what an enjoyable oasis of a movie it was, there in the dark days of WWII.  It was based on the Hungarian play Parfumerie and in turn inspired the movies In the Good Old Summertime (a 1949 musical starring Judy Garland) and the 1998 romantic comedy You've Got Mail (in fact, remember how Meg Ryan's book store was even called The Shop Around the Corner?) as well as the musical She Loves Me

Budapest store clerk Alfred and newly hired shopgirl Clara despise each other almost at first sight, not realizing they are secretly falling in love with each other as mysterious penpals. That's not a spoiler; it's pretty obvious from the start (and if you've already seen You've Got Mail you know that part already anyway) but the sweet story and its multiple subplots and characters in the little universe of the Hungarian shop keep the film moving along in an engaging way. And its themes of loneliness and heartache are lightened by many doses of comic relief. Maddy and I watched it together a few weekends ago when the boys were both gone and we both loved it (but I think the boys would enjoyed it, too).

shop around the corner 6.jpg

Admittedly, we're not the first ones to love it. It's listed on Time's list of all-time top 100 movies among many more favorites lists. Film critic Pauline Kael said that The Shop Around the Corner is "as close to perfection as a movie made by mortals is ever likely to be" and called it "an airy wonder with steel underpinnings" (via this essay).

The Shop Around the Corner is not rated but I'm fairly certain it would get a PG. (See the parent guide here.)

  • Received 100% on Rotten Tomatoes
  • Available on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.
  • Probably for ages 10 and up (but check the parent guide, above)
  • If you loved You've Got Mail or It's a Wonderful Life, this one's for you
  • Fun fact: "To make sure his film was stripped of the glamor usually associated with him, Lubitsch went to such lengths as ordering that a dress Sullavan had purchased off the rack for $1.98 be left in the sun to bleach and altered to fit poorly" (via IMBD)
  • And, hey, if you have a nice stretch of time, why not turn it into a marathon of all three movies--The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, and You've Got Mail

Be Jauntful

We've been lucky to travel a bit as a family and to live in some pretty interesting places over the years. Every once in a while a friend will email and say "you know how you used to love to drive down to NYC now and then? Well, we're going there on vacation and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for what to see, where to stay, what to eat...?"  I love it.  I love a good journey and I really love sharing great places along the way. But sometimes it's hard to remember or explain the recommendations in a narrative email. It takes a little time to look up all the links and addresses and directions. Over the years I've wished there were a way to put together an itinerary complete with map and links and notes. 

Well, now there is! I'm really excited about Jauntful. (You might remember I briefly mentioned Jauntful's concept a while back but they've recently launched and I've started exploring their site. I'm seriously excited to use this service. By the way, they don't know me at all nor have they paid or asked for my endorsement. I'm just a giddy oversharer is all.) You type in favorite spots--cafes, activities, hotels, must-sees--and they map it and fill in the nitty-gritty details. And they create a shareable, printable map from the suggestions you provide! Genius.

My friend Alyson is coming to visit next week (huzzah!) so I've been exploring the Jauntful guides to cities nearby. I think we'll probably try this one for Sydney--I love that there are hotel/cafe tips along the way, too, with suggested sequence and insider tips.

I tried Jauntful out by documenting the Melbourne trip I posted about last year and I'm hooked!  Oh, the possibilities.

p.s. If you do join Jauntful, let me know! I'd love to get your take on your hometown or your favorite destinations. Armchair travel is almost as fun as the real thing (um, with less jet lag, too).