Inspiration: Chinese Family Trees

Love this.

Also, I happen to think it’s pretty handy in conversation to be able to easily distinguish between maternal and paternal grandparents and all your different aunts. I’m also fascinated by how the language reflects the honor that the culture places on relationships and familial connections.

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The Problem with Facebook

This video from Veritasium explains why Facebook’s business model makes interactions on the site feel scummy sometimes. It’s sad for a lot of independent creators, businesses, and organizations whose livelihoods depend on the effectiveness of their social media activities. And it’s also disturbing to think of our role as content producers — and now advertisers — for this business who most definitely does not have our personal best interests at heart.

A lot of the links I post on Facebook are about issues that I find important. I hope it hits my friends’ radars, so that conversations around feminism, racism, consumerism, community etc. start to permeate our cultural zeitgeist. Of course, I also post photos and inspirational stories and things I think would make people laugh.

But I wonder about the reach of most posts. Photos naturally get a lot of views.

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More substantial topics that I want people to actually pay attention to…? Not so much.

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(Seriously, you should watch this video about moving the race conversation forward.)

Maybe it was just bad timing–maybe I should have posted this during lunchtime instead of late Wednesday night, for instance. Or maybe posts like this are only seen be my friends who typically already tend to “like” posts about social justice. The ones who see these links are already thinking about these things; I want to reach people who aren’t normally thinking about these things.

Our carefully-tailored and carefully-curated social media streams reinforce our own beliefs; we essentially create echo chambers for ourselves and reinforce our confirmation biases. Facebook is baking “preaching to the choir” straight into the algorithms.

Lately, I’ve been paring down my Twitter stream back to a manageable amount. I have to make decisions about who to follow and who to unfollow, and I find myself wondering if I’m curating myself away from complexity. I want a myriad of inputs, and I want to sometimes hear and read things that don’t fall under my current interests. Because that’s what fuels delight, surprise, and rich synthesis.

And some other questions I will continue thinking about as new projects emerge this year and I have to decide where to post what… Who owns our contentWho makes money off our (credited/uncredited) content? How do the system players encourage or discourage independent creation? How do we best support independent artists, and how can our content best feed our own communities first?

Onward, into this Wild Wild West.

Inspiration: An Undertaking

This is beyond touching. And pretty much fits my mood today.

“You can’t hear about this project and not think ‘death’ immediately to some degree. But it is about life because this entire process is happening during her life. This casket is only brought us together — my grandmother and I. The doing of it is all about our relationship. Which maybe is the strongest takeaway of looking your death in the face is having the comfort to have more life.”

Love that this is as much — even moreso — a story about love and life as it is about death.

“I’d like to think my grandmother will remember me as a worthy diplomat of her DNA, I guess, you know.”

I do want to get better at capturing and writing about the sparkling, effervescent, joyful moments in life as much as I write about the heavy soft spots. But isn’t it interesting that these are the things that spur me to post? Maybe this is the story I still need to tell, right now?

[via Dark Rye]

My Top Read’s of 2013

Have you ever come out of a film thinking, “everyone must see this”? Every once in a blue moon, a book will leave me with the urge to proselytize.

Admittedly, it’s a dubious urge. Just because something is MY FAVORITE BOOK EVER doesn’t mean it will strike the same chord with someone else. It may even fall victim to becoming overhyped by my own praise. I came to the following two books with few expectations myself. I plucked them from other “Best of” lists and added them to my reading queue. Obviously, the books had struck a chord with other readers. That is one of the things they have in common — their writing capture the truth and messiness and hilarious details of larger emotional journeys.

These books were:

To round out the list (3’s always a nice number, isn’t it?) I would probably add a book I read a few years back. I found this book (or it found me) during my 2011 sabbatical, when I was reading every book I could get my hands on that were explicitly about death and dying — including Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s 5 Stages, The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its 5 Stages and the New Science of Loss (better than the 5 Stages, IMHO), Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Motherless Daughters, and a couple unfinished sociology tomes on how different cultures treat death and dying. None of these books that I pulled for my “research” were ever as powerful as the  stories that fell into my lap when I wasn’t looking.

I wasn’t expecting a book about loss when I started reading Wild. Or The Fault in Our Stars. And I knew An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination was about a mother’s loss, but I didn’t expect it to resonate so deeply with my own.

While Joan Didion’s writing never “landed” with me, Elizabeth McCracken’s did. Parts of her story have stuck with me more powerfully than the social-science storytelling of Motherless Daughters — even though those losses directly paralleled mine. Grief is universal after all, and it’s no surprise that I find solace in the specificity of how an individual (not unlike myself) grieves a loss very different than my own. It’s the power of authentic storytelling over how-to’s and data and patterns.

I should also mention that these three “must-read books” are all very FUNNY books. That is what makes them human and heartbreaking and uplifting, which is why I want to sing them from the rooftops.

When I finished reading them, I had the uncontrollable urge to tell you that you should read them too. (I also had the uncontrollable urge to start re-reading immediately. I’ve now read Wild thrice, TFIOS twice, and have referred to certain sections of An Exact Replica as reference for my comics.) I wanted to Tweet-Facebook-Instagram-Tumble-Blog about them. I felt like Wild and TFIOS should be required reading for everyone in the world! Then I realized, it’s not just because I think you will like them (though I think you will), and it’s not just because I think they will touch you (though I know they will).

I realized that I want you to read these books because these books reflect my story, and I want you to know — to really know — my story. I want you to understand my experiences with loss. Not the sadness, but the laughter. Not the shock, but the absurdity. Not the tears, but the rage. Not the tears, but the hate. Not the tears, but the joy. Not the dying, but the living. Not the difficulties of grief, but the all-encompassing love that makes the world a bigger, brighter place.

Any old “5 stages” article will tell you about the valleys I imagine you imagine when I tell you I’ve lost my parents. But these books will take you on the journey that I have journeyed to the glorious mountaintops on the other side of all that. And until I muster the gusto to write down my story…you should read these books.