How to take down Drumpf

It's interesting to watch how, almost 100 days into what's sure to be a long four years, the Drumpf brand of egomaniacal chaos is shaping the media narrative. Every week, he has another temper tantrum on twitter. He throws his toys out of the pram and the media is flapping around analysing the trajectory of the flying objects. Every twitter fuelled controversy sets the news agenda for the day. The economics of journalism means that what gets clicked is what gets reported and his twitter rampages are a sure bet for clicks. I get the impulse - when someone is egging you on, your first instinct is to jump right into the shitstorm and start throwing punches. But by sinking to his level, we allow him one of his most important advantages: Drumpf sets the agenda and the terms of the debate. In just 100 days, he’s shifted the narrative immeasurably. It’s the first frontier we should fight back on.

The opposition movement against Drumpf has been swift and inspiring. But in our energy to fight back, we should interrogate our methods. There was a moment for grief, a moment for anger, a moment for defiance and now, there is a moment for strategy. It’s time to move beyond internet bunfights and airless outrage. We don't give an inch in standing up to his policies, the ethics violations or his treatment of well, anyone who isn't white, male, and kissing his ass.

But, the media shouldn’t report his tweets with the same earnest authority usually reserved for press statements or presidential speeches. By treating him like any other president, we elevate him. We can’t allow him to govern in 140 character chunks. Meeting him at this pathetically low level represents an erosion of the public discourse, a norm that’s essential for a functioning democracy.

You can’t have a political discourse with someone who has no understanding of the concept of truth. If we try to take Drumpf down with the usual political playbook, we will fail. As Anne Helen Petersen wrote, Drumpf will be taken down not by the rules of politics, but by the rules of celebrity.

He thinks of himself as a star, a celebrity playing politician. We should treat him like we do Tom Cruise, with bemusement and pity. He should not be treated as a respected political opponent. This is not about slagging off his orange-ness, his fake hair, his small hands or his long ties. This is about methodically underpinning the identity he’s built - as a star, a marketer, a celebrity, a business man. He is a punchline, not a statesman.

Petulant toddlers don't get to decide what goes in the trolley when you’re shopping. Drumpf’s twitter feed cannot be allowed to set the prevailing media narrative. As all parents of toddlers know, it’s best to ignore the behaviours designed to provoke a reaction and keep your eye on the prize - getting this bozo out of office in 4 years, if not before. Let him wear himself out on twitter all he wants. We'll be busy knocking on doors, talking to voters, putting together solutions to the big policy questions. We’ll be getting ready to win the next fight.

When I was in college, a joke candidate for student president insisted on answering debate questions through the medium of interpretive dance. It was hilarious, and brought some much needed light heartedness to the intensity of student politics. But obviously, all the candidates didn’t start answering questions through the medium of interpretive dance. They laughed and when the joke was over, they went back to their talking points. We should take the same approach with Drumpf. Point, laugh, and then get back to work. We keep our eye on the horizon, on the long arc of history and on our daily to do lists of action. Anything that keeps us from that mission is a distraction.

P.S. Thoughts on Drumpf's election, why I call him Drumpf, a Drumpf reading list.

Six things I loved in April

Just a quick post today, recommending some of my April favourites.

The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy

I first read Ariel’s heartbreaking personal essay back in 2013, and have been looking forward to the full memoir ever since. She writes beautifully about the loss of her baby, her spouse and her home, all within a few months. She managed to trap something real on the page and it shook me in that way books should. Also loved her press for the book especially this interview.

Big Little Lies

Like just about everyone else, I fell deep into Big Little Lies this past month. The woman-centric whodunnit is this year’s prestige TV drama, with an all start cast. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern & Shailene Woodley among them. No spoilers, just watch.

My Little Steamer

Continuing my penchant to recommend laundry-related things, I gotta shout out the My Little Steamer. This gadget, purchased on recommendation of the Of A Kind gals, has cut my weekly ironing session in half. It’s a relatively cheap hand-held steamer that’s fun to play with (#nerdfun) and works wonderfully.

Bumble & Bumble

I’ve been using the same hair stuff for ten years, but somehow got the idea that perhaps curly hair specific products might be worth the investment. On a whim, I ordered a bunch of Bumble & Bumble bits and I’ve been very impressed. They cost more than I’d like to admit considering they’re mostly washed down the drain, but they make my hair feel soft and princess-y while smelling nice and not getting tangled. Win, win, win.

The Perfect Woman Supplements

I’ve spent a lot of time slagging off the hormonally attuned supplements I bought when I got tired of being tired, until I got lazy with them for a few weeks and noticed that same dull fatigue return. I eat relatively healthily (I think), but my body definitely benefitted from the extra push. You’ll also be glad to know that they don’t come in a pink box (though The Perfect Man version does)!

Thinx

Though they’re (deservedly) having a very difficult PR moment, Thinx is a great product. They’re absorbent, reusable period underwear that manage to be comfortable, hygienic and a little sexy. Company problems aside, I do recommend that all menstruating humans add a pair or two to their rotation.

Podcasts I love

I’m a big podcast fan. I like interviews and stories. I love the intimacy of the form, and the flexibility of it. There are dozens I dip into from time to time, but these are the handful that I always return to.

A Few Things with Claire and Erica

I’ve already touched on my love of all things Of A Kind over here, but this remains a favourite. They are so damn enthusiastic about the simplest of things. The intimacy of their rapport warms my heart. They always manage to do things in a slightly off kilter way and I always end up wanting to buy all the random things they talk about. This is content driven by the two women’s voices and perspectives and that’s what makes it work. I listen every week, usually more than once. Start with: the one about Permanent Collection.

Longform

Long term fave. Always start with female interviewees. The boys are semi-woke which is good. The worst ones are those drowning in self-importance and privilege. I’m less interested in the really well established writers, and drawn more to the up and coming young writers who are finding their way through a rapidly changing profession. Start with: Leslie Jamison, Mac McClelland, Ann Friedman.

Death, Sex and Money

A podcast about the things we need need to talk more about. It’s the intimacy of these stories that draws me in. They also do a good job of making the experience more dimensional - with online projects, meet ups, watch alongs etc. Newsletter is also great and Anna’s view on podcasting as a form is fascinating. Start with: cheating happens, living alone.

Call Your Girlfriend

The ultimate comfort show. The central conceit of a catch up phone call between two best friends, where they cover everything from periods to Kardashians to political activism. It’s smart, funny and also has a great newsletter. Start with: the one after the election

Still Processing

This leads with great energy and humour, but is grounded in thoughtful criticism and original analysis. Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris are great, hilarious and their rapport is what makes this work. Start with: this tearful episode from Nov 9th.

The West Wing Weekly

A weekly podcast re-capping and analysing a 20-year old TV show should not be good, but this is. With interviews with the cast and crew, insights from the set and most depressingly of all, painful contrasts between the idealism of that show and the real world buffoonery emerging from the White House. I loved the show and now I love the podcast. Start with: the one where Richard Schiff cries.

Slate’s Culture Gabfest

This is smart and thoughtful and they must do so much prep because they sound so effortlessly smart and considered. I always feel a little dumb after it, but also glad that it’s stretched me a bit. Start with: tearful one after Drumpf’s election. (Are you sensing a theme here? Podcasts were essential to my post-Drumpf trauma processing..)

Another Round

I don’t listen to this every single week. It’s so raucous and sharp that it’s sometimes more than my sensitive insides can take. If you couldn’t already tell, podcasts for me are about intimacy and softness. But this is wicked smart, hilarious and from a worldview so different from my own. I always walk away feeling smarter. Also has a great newsletter. Start with: Ta-Neshi Coates, Hillary Clinton (sob!)

Making Oprah

Making Oprah is a three-part audio documentary about how the Oprah show came to be. With interviews with her producers, rivals and the woman herself, it’s a cleverly composed look at how something becomes a phenomenon. Start with: episode 1.

Pod Save America

Billed as a political podcast for people not ready to give up or go insane, I thought this would be drowning in self-important white male bro-eyness and it is a bit, but mostly it’s funny and informative and biased in a very entertaining way. They do a good job bringing on more diverse voices, though a woman/non-white person on the show regularly would certainly bring this from an occasional listen, to an everyday one. Start with: the one before the Women's march.

Fresh Air

I always wish I listened to this more than I do. There’s just not enough hours in the day. But Terry Gross is a masterful interview. Start with Sarah Hepola, Zadie Smith

New York Magazine’s Sex Lives

There’s so little good writing/listening about sex, though it’s among the most popular topics among readers. This is funny, well researched and gets into some of the more complicated issues about sex. Start with: this interview with David and his wife, this one about being single at forty. (Really should listen to this more.)

Young House Love has a podcast

Comfort listening on a topic I care very little about (houses!) but their rapport makes it cozy. They’re also very smart on how internet is shaping our lives and careers. Start with: what quitting our blog taught us.

Pivot Podcast with Jenny Blake

Smart, career related interviews and fascinating insights into Jenny’s own experiments. Start with: behind the scenes of her book writing process.

Bad with Money

I’ve only listened to a handful of these but they’re damn good. Start with: this interview with Ashley C Ford.

New Yorker Radio hour

An occasional listen. Start with Lena Dunham, Zadie Smith

Not by Accident

Being a single mother by choice. I didn’t stick with this, but the short-form audio documentary format intrigues me

Monocycle by Leandra Medine

The tightness of these episodes means that they pack a real punch. I’m not up to date, though I’d like to be. Start with: Not Pregnant. (Bring tissues.)

Women of the hour

Expertly made audio tapestries. I don’t always listen. I feel like they need 100% attention which I don’t always have to give, but these dense, diverse stories are fascinating. Start with: the one before the election

Lastly, David Axlerod’s exit interview with Barack Obama was maybe the best I heard. Particularly interesting to hear who he was, before he was in the public eye.

Book reviews: Spring 2017

I set a goal to read 50 books this year, and 3 months in, I’m already 7 behind. I read a lot for work and a hell of a lot of articles/internet too, so it’s work to really carve out my book reading time. But of course, some of what I’ve read this season will be with me long after the internet has moved onto the next fad.

Here’s the round up:

Swing Time, Zadie Smith

I have this romantic idea that I should try to read a big, meaty novel every summer and over Christmas. Theoretically, I’m supposed to have more time and headspace then. I’ve only managed this once, in 2015 when I read A Little Life (Summer) and Fates and Furies (Christmas), both of which were excellent. Last Christmas, I spent a few days with Zadie Smith’s wonderful ‘Swing Time’. The latest in a series of “serious books” about female friendship, it focuses on the unnamed narrator and her best friend Tracy. It traces their lives from childhood to adulthood via dance, a pop star and an African aid project. Smith is one of my favourite writers and this didn’t disappoint.

All this has nothing to do with me, by Monica Sabolo

This packed more punch than I expected. It’s the story of a failed relationship, told alongside a collection of artefacts that defined that relationship. It goes further to examine the romantic past of the protagonist’s family. Usually, these conceits (it’s a story with pictures!) can be a little gimmicky, but in this case, the images supplemented the story well. What let it down was the execution - the images were grainy and poor quality. It’s a quick read though, and a worthy addition to the world of “I can’t understand why he dumped me” books.

Trauma is really strange, by Steve Haines, illustrations by Sophie Standing

I guess you’d call this a comic? It’s a very short, illustrated pamphlet about trauma, what it does to the body and how to overcome it. It manages to be both informative and quirky, particularly with the cat and mouse metaphors. It wears its scientific research very lightly and would be a good introduction to someone just starting to figure out what trauma means for them. Also, I should read more/some/any graphic novels.

The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing

Fascinating study into the concept of loneliness. It’s part memoir, part character study of various artists. She writes beautifully (start with this) and it manages to be both emotionally resonant and intellectually stimulating.  I loved the memoiristic parts most. For a topic as alienating, abstract and personal as loneliness, it was the author’s willingness to talk about her own experience that guided me through this. Plus, it echoes my own experience moving to New York, a city where I knew almost no-one and built a life quite deliberately, piece by piece, and then packed it all up to come home. My copy is heavily annotated which is perhaps the best compliment you can give a writer.

Citizen, by Claudia Rankine

I’ve been meaning to read more poetry and started with this hybrid collection of poetry and short prose pieces on the broad topic of race. I read it in one gulp, which is the best way to do it I think. It’s distinctly rattling to go through each of the topics (Serena Williams, Obama, Trayvon Martin, Hurricane Katrina) in her relentless and sparse style. It’s visually stunning too, so do get a print copy rather than a kindle version. Here’s a section excerpted in the NYT mag to get you started. 

How To Murder Your Life, by Cat Marnell

As soon as I read this excerpt in NY Mag, I marched myself to the bookstore planning to get and devour this in one sitting. It was too intense (& I was too tired) for that, but I still really enjoyed it. Over the last few years, a particular kind of female self destruction has gotten much more popular and yet it’s still daring for a women to talk about drug use/abortion/any of life’s various messiness in real, visceral terms. There have been a couple of vaguely infantilising reviews calling on her to “do better because we all know she can”. But, that misunderstands the book’s goal. Part of what makes this work is the author’s resistance to stick within the same old narrative structure.  Her stories (and their resolutions) are messy and chaotic. There’s no “I’m cured” revelation. Though, there’s a big ethical question at the book’s centre- should we fund someone in addiction because the stories they tell are entertaining?

It’s a nuanced question, but I really enjoyed this. My one critique is that she skipped the most interesting section - going to rehab in Thailand - in favour of dramatising the downfall even more. But I’m hoping that’s what book 2 is for. This profile of her is also great.

Now, We Make The Beast Beautiful, by Sarah Wilson

I loved this. I’ve been a fan of Sarah’s since I discovered her blog a few years ago. She’s a wonderfully clear writer with buckets of empathy and a curious mind, forever looking for answers to the question: how we can make life better, sweeter? This is a beautiful, carefully constructed story of her struggles with anxiety. She’s gently didactic as she guides us through her own story, the best scientific research and myriad of things (big and small) that she does to feel better. It’s written in that same direct tone the internet has made so popular, and you can hear her Australian turn of phrase throughout. It’s an endearing read, and a helpful one for anyone who ever gets anxious (which is basically everyone, I think).

My one gripe? I couldn’t get a print copy in Ireland, and it’s a little awkwardly laid out in eBook but that’s a minor thing. (Coming soon: a rant about how much I hate the kindle)

Six things I loved in March

Another month, another set of favourites. Here are six things I loved in March.

Girls

I am loving this last season of Girls. The narrative has matured into something darker, more nuanced and funnier than ever. Marnie is on a "psycho sexual hamster wheel” with her addicted ex husband. Shosanna’s idealism has melted into despair, Jessa’s off self-destructing all over Adam and Hannah has become a modicum more mature and considerate, though she’s still tornadoing her way through the world wondering why it’s not all going her way. The American Bitch episode was a perfect bottle episode (following on from One Man’s Trash & the one when Charlie comes back). I’ll miss it when it ends. 

The Americans

When the actual news got too much for me, I sank myself into this 1980s era show about Russian spies. It’s a cat and mouse thriller, without being a whodunnit. It has secrets and intrigue, great costumes/disguises and a reminder of what a pre-internet world was like.  More than anything, it’s about the treacherous intimacy of a marriage. I also have a (somewhat obvious) theory about why we like spy shows. Because we’re all shifting our identities and hiding the truth.

Mari Andrew's illustration class 

I spent a cozy Saturday working my way through Mari’s lovely illustration class. Her drawings often capture something poignant or funny about being alive. This class is a series of prompts and formats, that are designed to make you think as much as to get you drawing something. I really enjoyed it.

Having my own washing machine

This might full under the category of ‘duh!’ and/or modern luxuries that no right thinking person would include in their list of favourites, but I love my washing machine. It broke before Christmas and it took a while to get it sorted. (Still chasing that receipt btw Hotpoint, you really do have atrocious customer service). I trekked to the laundromat every fortnight with a giant bag of stinky clothes in New York and sat on the floor with the bugs hand washing my clothes during a long summer in India. I often think of my grandmother doing it by hand, for 6 kids. There’s something endlessly lovely about hearing the washing machine going while I’m reading or doing other jobs, knowing that this modern convenience is saving me 3 hours of my life. I am always dorkily grateful for that. Love you washing machine, hate you hotpoint!

Moonlight

I might be one of the last humans on the planet to have seen (& loved) Moonlight, but if you have also missed it, do yourself a favour and catch up now. It’s short, poetic and (both emotionally and aesthetically) beautiful. I didn’t know too much about the story going in and that made it better. In sum: it’s a coming of age story centred on a young, black boy. It’s only about 90 minutes long, and every one of them is exquisite. It earned every iota of that oscar, despite the hoo ha.

Memory Bomb Map 

Another great Laura Olin-created crowd-sourced project that blends emotions with technology, which seems to me among my favourite blends. It’s a simple google map where people have imprinted their strongest memories. Very moving to read, and an idea I’m filing away in my mental ‘to do’ vault.

Today I noticed (the travelling edition)

There’s always a moment when I’m travelling that I wish I could just snap my fingers and teleport home to bed. Of course, if I could teleport, I wouldn’t for fear that I’d mis-use it and end up accidentally teleporting myself from the shower to a broadway stage.

Instead, I gotta schlep through the airport. I’ve travelled a lot and gotten the routine down - the clear plastic baggie of toiletries, the perfectly packed carry-on, the right airport outfit. This time, I wore my new balloony jumper - tight at the wrists, waist and neck, voluminous everywhere else. Perfect.

I slept fitfully. I always do before an early flight. I saw the clock at midnight, at 1am, at 2.03am and woke with a start when the alarm blitzed at 5.30am.

Then it was bus -> plane -> train -> hotel room -> conference room for 3 days, followed by the whole journey in reverse order.

Conference was OK. I ate a vegan chia pudding and decided I didn’t like it much. When did the world get so obsessed with coconut? (2010?)

Late on Friday, I made my way home again. I was early to the airport and ravenous. I choose the restaurant with the decor aimed at kids. It had neon lights and samba music. As the hostess led me to a table, I was silently wishing for a soft seat. (She obliged.) I ordered a burger (chicken breast, single onion ring, big mushroom, tomato, lettuce, mayo, BBQ sauce) with healthy greens and chips.

The flight was stuffy and full. Based on where I was sitting, I can confirm that only men pee on places. They must have pea-sized (pee-sized?) bladders. I have only peed once on a plane and that was a long time ago. And I have spent A LOT of my life on planes. One woman did brush her teeth though.

I hate the celebratory fanfare when a Ryanair plane lands, as if we weren’t expecting that to happen. Typical of those guys to pat themselves on the back for nothing at all.

The best part of all this travelling was the people watching. The lad who got on the train with a litre of chocolate milk and a packet of cold cocktail sausages, the fella with his eyebrows permanently raised - he looks disapproving, but that’s actually just how his face is, the parents trying to exhaust their toddlers before boarding. I leave my headphones in (international signal for “don’t talk to me!”) and listen in on the conversations around me. Nerdy boys laughing too hard at their own jokes (“you sound just like Theresa May”), teens slagging off their relatives for social media faux pauxs, earnest business men talking about KPIs.

It’s my favourite way to be: going about the world collecting things to write about, like an artist scavenging for materials for their palate.

P.S. Click here for more writing using the same prompt.

How I read

I love to read. I read a lot. I have my reading system and my reading lists and a list of my monthly faves in my newsletter. I use Goodreads for tracking the books I’ve read and set an annual goal. I approach reading with the nerdish focus of an olympian. It is a core facet of my self care, of my work, of how I understand the world and what I hope to contribute to it.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m reading, what I should be reading more of and where my blindspots are. I find most of my reading material via my RSS feeds, my favourite aggregators, newsletters and reading lists. I try to be led by my own instincts as much as possible. I do try to read people I disagree with. But mostly, I use my reading as a way to find spaces where I see myself reflected. If something is cropping up everywhere, I will try to read it even if I’m not that interested in it. (like this piece on black male sexuality.)

I rarely buy magazines or newspapers.  The physical mass of stuff is wasteful and inconvenient. I’d buy the Sunday papers and end up with a mountain of recycling and maybe 3 articles that'll stick with me longer than the time it took to read them. 3 is ambitious, usually it was less than that.

Traditionally, women’s magazines have served advertisers more than they’ve served women. It’s boring to be sold stuff I don't need to fix problems I didn’t know I had. (My pores are grand, thanks!) That's changing. Women's magazines have gotten better at thinking of women as being interested in more than fashion and beauty. Two topics which strike me as among the most boring on the planet.

One of the pleasures of the internet is finding fresh angles on cliched topics. For fashion stuff, I like some theory, some minimalism, some sustainability. This series captures a more holistic concept of beauty - like this one about running as an anti-depressant

Reading is an opportunity to follow your own instincts and tastes. In the intersections of those ideas, I find something that resonates uniquely with me. Following the threads of the internet makes reading a more communal experience too, a means to connect with like minds.There’s a kind of intellectual intimacy in it. I try to weave in some non-timely work too, so it’s not all hot takes and flashes in the internet pan.

The internet puts a premium on individual voices. I love to follow an interesting mind at work, across a whole range of topics. I like opinion columnists who look at data, who do some reporting, who go do something and tell us about it.

This discursive marketplace of ideas shapes the writing landscape too. There’s a sizeable difference between what we say we read and what we actually read. That’s most obvious when the long, worthy story that takes 90 mins to read is tweeted dozens of times just as it goes live. There were countless “how did Trump happen?” stories circulating just prior to the election (back when we thought it was a lark and not a reality). They were popular on social and so likely to get funded, even though we maybe didn’t need 30 versions of the same piece.

We curate our lists to communicate something about who we are. It’s a performative practice. As a reader, I’m loyal to aggregators and curators more than publications or brands which, of course, changes the economic and landscape for writers.

The challenge here is in the technology. The iPad is the best for reading, though it’s not ideal. I have a kindle, though I don’t love it. It’s not unusual for me to spend most of the day in front of a screen. By the time I close my eyes, there are tingly and sore.

Instapaper can be annoyingly buggy too, which frustrates me endlessly. Reading the internet has no end point. I am perpetually battling to keep my queue under 50 - a goal I’ve achieved only a handful of times. Every so often, I go cull it ruthlessly and it still remains above 100 pieces to be read. The pace of the internet churn cycle can be exhausting/overwhelming. It can shape your brain in all kinds of crappy ways. I’m embarrassed at how my attention wavers while I’m reading an actual book, even one I’m really enjoying.

Reading in bed on a weekend morning feels like such an unbelievable luxury, especially if it was a tough week. After reading for a few hours, I feel the internal seas calm and the squalls pass. Not everything is resolved, it is not perfect but it is better. I do not feel that this time was a waste. Often, I’ll have learned something, felt something, laughed or (very occasionally) cried. But more than that, reading gives me a priceless sense of grounded-ness.

Further reading:

On coming home

The moment the airplane tyres jerkily touch down at Dublin airport, my heart does a little leap. I’m home. I beam, with pride, relief and exhaustion. Emotion swells up in me, but I hold back the tears. I don’t want to be a cliché, the ultimate object of derision in Ireland. As a nation, we’re not an emotional bunch unless there’s cause for it, or alcohol is involved.  If I’m flying Aer Lingus, my heart swells again when the prim voice of an air hostess welcomes me home as Gaeilge “fáilte mór roimh go Baile Átha Cliath”.

I step out into the chilly Dublin airport. I feel my shoulders relax; I’m among my own people again. They get me and I get them. Instinctively, we know each other. I notice the accents, the inflections, the posture, the gait and the outfits of each passenger, placing them within a context. I feel less like an alien, because these are my people.

A middle aged fella with fuzzy hair poking out from under his flat cap walks not with a limp but a crooked-ness, as if his left side is his favourite and he’d rather go easy on it. I hear a lady clear her throat. Through that guttural sound, I locate her accent; south county Dublin. She’s irked to be in among us economy folk. During the boom, she flew regularly but only business class. She considers Ryanair’s cheap seats as just one step above transportation in a cattle prod.

There’s a kid crying. I notice the sharp, scary intake of breath.  The cabin braces itself for the roar to come. “waaaaaaah” he bellows. It doesn’t stop. An air hostess hands him a bright yellow lollipop. He sucks it, and then fires it into her hair. His mother’s face reddens, mortified. 

In the airport, I feel Ireland embrace me. I see how clean and organised it seems, but know that it’s only for show. We’re trying to impress the visitors. It’s nice to be in on the joke.

I can pick out the retuning Irish folk from the immigration queue. They’re sauntering, silently appraising the tourists in the queue as if they had the power to deny their entry. The flat-capped farmer clears his throat loudly. It’s a sound intended to establish his presence, “all you visitors are encroaching on my territory” he seems to say. The foreigners shrink, I smile.

The guard at immigration has a twinkle in his eye. He likes to see young Irish people coming home. “What are ya doin’ in New York?” he asks, not because he wants to know but to remind me that I’m in Ireland now and my high flying New York routine won’t work here. “Ara sure, workin’ away”, I respond dismissively. “Good”, he says, and stamps my passport. My nonchalance is the key to the door.

I am of this tribe. This is where I belong. Among this flawed, imperfect nation of tribal, island people. We tell self-effacing stories, work like maniacs and drink too much. We’re generous souls, but critical thinkers. We’re warm if we like you, and dismissive if we don’t. We are proud and humble, small-minded and curious, forgiving and contrary. I am of this tribe. I belong here.

P.S. Since I'm loving staycations so much, I might never leave again!

How am I coping with the Drumpf administration?

Not very well.

How are only 4 weeks into the Drumpf administration? I’m already exhausted, despondent, planning to move to Mars. In the interests of getting through the next four years (or hopefully less) with my wits intact, I have been: 

Six things I loved in February

Nuala - A documentary

This is another of those recommendations I’ve held off from including, lest I not adequately convey its brilliance in a short paragraph. But I'll try.

Nuala O’Faolain was an Irish writer. If we’re living through a memoir renaissance, Nuala was the original. Her first memoir, ‘Are You Somebody?’, is among my favourite books.  A few months before she died, she was interviewed on radio by her friend Marian Finucane. I remember listening to it live (MP3) and being completely floored. My own mother had died just a few months earlier and I was still very sensitive. It was one of those moments when the whole country stopped in its tracks. That interview spawned the documentary, which is worth watching just for the look on Marian’s face as she interviews the man who broke her friend’s heart. It captures Nuala’s contradictions - a feminist who wanted to belong to man, a writer and a woman trying to navigate all the things that were expected of her generation. Also, here she is telling Gay that she sometimes had sex just for the exercise

The criticism of Anne Helen Petersen

Is there a writer who has made you interested in something that you had a neutral/negative attitude towards? Since reading Anne Helen Petersen’s criticism, I have become a person interested in celebrity gossip. It’s not about the gossip, though, it’s the cultural conversations that the celebs enable. Her Buzzfeed archive is full of great stuff. Start with this on Angelina and this on Drumpf. Her path from academic to journalist is interesting too. As discussed on the longform podcast, here and here.

Idalia Candelas' llustrations

It shouldn't be revolutionary for an artist to depict women living alone, enjoying the kind of delicious solitude that comes from fully inhabiting a space.  And yet it is. These beautiful drawings capture something of who women are when they're not being looked at.

Cliteracy

While writing this piece, I was reminded of cliteracy. It had its five minutes of internet fame 2 years ago, but the “undertold and overdue story of the clitoris” is definitely worth revisiting. It begins: "In 1969, we put a man on the moon. In 1982, we invented the internet. In 1998, we discovered the full anatomy of the clitoris." Interesting too from an online storytelling POV.

The Breakup Survival Guide, compiled by Death, Sex and Money listeners

I love a good crowd-sourced project about emotions. And in the dark January days of Trump and chaos, don’t we all feel a little dumped? This selection of practical things (watch this, read this, do this) and actionable advice is lovely. I come from the generation who thinks the solution to every problem can be found via a deep google. It’s the modern version of that old saying about the solution to all life's problems being salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. I'm not saying using the internet as your guru is a perfect solution, but you could do worse than to plan your rebound via this list.

Combination of the 'Make America Drumpf Again' and 'Make America Kittens Again' plugins for Chrome.

Oof, how are we only 4 weeks into what could be a four year administration? I’m already exhausted and despondent. One thing that has helped is a combo of these two plugins which replace all images of the current POTUS with images of cats and all mention of his name with the word ‘Drumpf’. It started a jokey, fun internet thing but has been surprisingly useful in keeping me happy. (via Michelle