collected – august

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In the spirit of encouraging myself to blog more in the face of laziness, busy-ness, and perfectionism, here is a balls to the wall collection of things that passed through my mind in August.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed this article on “Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman” as a thought provoking piece, but found it more convincing as a critique of capitalism than a feminist statement.

For example, there is a bit about Sweetgreen (a fast casual health lunch chain in the US) and the Black Mirror levels of optimization we find in the efficiency + wellness + productivityforadsandtech + adsandtech world, in which Tolentino writes:

“the worse things get, the more a person is compelled to optimize. I think about this every time I do something that feels particularly efficient and self-interested, like going to a barre class or eating lunch at a fast-casual chopped-salad chain, like Sweetgreen, which feels less like a place to eat and more like a refueling station. Barre feels like exercise the way Sweetgreen feels like eating: both might better be categorized as mechanisms that help you adapt to arbitrary, prolonged [capitalist] agony.”

This led me down a rabbit hole about chopped salad (note from December: I like barre now, still don’t like Sweetgreen, but don’t mind a chopped salad in general). The other day, as I was eating a very spicy pho,  I realized that having a brothy noodle soup for lunch is the antithesis of Sweetgreen/Pret-a-Manger/Soylent.

Pho demands your full attention – as you tear off strips of basil and plop mung beans in your bowl, as you finagle slippery rice noodles into your mouth, as you sip hot soup (and probably burn yourself the first time, then have to wait a bit longer) – this is essential in 2019, and probably why I love having Thai and Vietnamese and other hot spicy and difficult foods so much: because it means that during that time, you will not be looking at your phone.

Reads:

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I was looking for a book to read during my long journey home from Rome to Melbourne and this cover drew me in with its combination of pleasant turquoise, old school prison tattoos, and the strangely alluring stares of these homicidal men. I had never really wanted to read In Cold Blood, because I wrongly thought the book was about gangsters in New York and gangsters are not my jam, but it ended up being the most enthralling read I’ve encountered in months/this year.

Other things I read:

  • The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield – more of an occasional nuggets-of-wisdom read than a fast one, an incredible and lovely introduction to Buddhist psychology.
  • Eye Level by Jenny Xie – a poet I already knew I liked (see here). I tore through her debut collection of poems in one insomniac night.

Mish mash:

I was craving dou hua at home recently – dou hua, or 豆花 , is a Taiwanese dessert consisting of silken tofu pudding, usually served with more soy milk or gingery sugar syrup and toppings ranging from stewed mung beans to taro to coconut jelly and so many different brightly colored glutinous things.

A quick Google unearthed this easy recipe, and I can confirm that you can make a great (if not technically traditional) dupe with just gelatin and soy milk at home. Can also confirm that if you make your ginger sugar syrup with brewed rooibos (I’m assuming other tea will work well, too) instead of normal water, it will add flavor and depth to your dessert – I happened to have a little pot brewing as I made my dou hua, decided to get creative, and it turned out perfect!

To finish off, this is my last semester of my prolonged undergrad studies, and the first time I’ve ever read Sappho.

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Two thousand and some years later, and I think: thanks Sappho, and goodnight.

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