The Catalogue: No. 33

Friday, May 24, 2019

San Francisco, CA, USA


This week's roundup of interesting reads:

A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read | Ocean Vuong for The New Yorker
The first time you came to my poetry reading. After, while the room stood and clapped, I walked back to my seat beside you. You clutched my hand, your eyes red and wet, and said, I never thought I’d live to see so many old white people clapping for my son.
In San Francisco, Tech Money Doesn't Buy Happiness | Anna Wiener for The New Yorker
San Francisco, where streets are named after union organizers and Mexican anti-imperialists, and local landmarks include murals from the Depression-era Public Works of Art Project, is becoming a paradoxical urban space: a homogenous corporate campus run through with threads of public pain. People struggling with addiction and mental illness sleep on the streets outside unicorn startups and shoot up in front of City Hall. Some of the companies that the city has incubated are now seen to be invasive, rapacious, extractive, creepy; in the local economy and national imagination, they eclipse serious work being done elsewhere in the Valley, in industries such as biotech and robotics.
 Opinion: Breaking My Own Silence | Min Jin Lee for The New York Times
I write novels, and now and then I give lectures. I come from many tribes — immigrant, introvert, working class, Korean, female, public school, Queens, Presbyterian. Growing up, I never knew that people like me could write books or talk in public. To this day, I worry that if I mess up, others like me might not be asked or allowed. This is how outsiders and newcomers feel. It is neither rational nor fair. I know.
Goldman Sachs, Patagonia, and the Mysteries of “Business Casual” | Troy Patterson for The New Yorker
The amazing thing about the recent Goldman Sachs memo is that it decrees a standard without stating its terms. In its metaphysical proclamation that “all of us know what is and is not appropriate for the workplace,” the memo bespeaks a Babylonian code of unspoken rules. It says that professional conduct is identical to ruling-class savoir-faire, and its manners are too circumspect to say much else. “This memo should be taught in business schools,” Matt Levine, a former Goldman employee, wrote, in a Bloomberg opinion column. “Goldman’s dress code is that you should dress the way you’re supposed to dress at Goldman. If you have to ask, etc. The difference between a middling banker and a great one is this sort of tacit knowledge.” This is the essence of Manhattan business-casual, less a style of dress than an enigmatic language of power. It’s not necessarily exclusive in terms of price, but it’s exclusionary in terms of intent. 
How to Build Your Confidence and Spark It In Others | Brittany Packnett @ TED 2019
"Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows," says educator and activist Brittany Packnett. In an inspiring talk, she shares three ways to crack the code of confidence -- and her dream for a world where revolutionary confidence helps turn our most ambitious dreams into reality.
 Spadework: On Political Organizing | Alyssa Battistoni for n+1 Magazine
It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”
The Pink: Happy New Vagina | Andrea Long Chu for n+1 Magazine
The critique of the pussyhat came to be dominated by two slogans: not all pussies were pink, and not all women had pussies. The first objection, which amounted to an allegation of racism, seemed to turn on widespread but largely unremarked confusion about the multiple senses of the slang word pussy, which can refer either to the vagina, being the muscular birthing canal of the female mammal; to the vulva, which includes all the external genitalia (labia, clitoris, vaginal opening, even the mons); or to both taken together. Add to this the fact that the word vagina is often colloquially used to denote the vulva, and all bets are truly off. Vulvas do tend to reflect skin color, often having a darker hue; vaginas, however, are always pink, as sure as blood is always red. (The same is true of the vulvar vestibule, that little curtained foyer you or a loved one may discover by parting the inner labia with your fingers.) This is not to say that broader critiques of the whiteness of the Women’s March were unfounded — quite the contrary. But when it came to the pussyhat itself, what felt like a pressing political question about coalition building, representation, and feminism’s long love affair with racism could well have been put to bed with a simple hand mirror.
Sexism in the Academy: Women's Narrowing Path to Tenure | Troy Vettese for n+1 Magazine
There are still two tenured men for every tenured woman, a ratio that increases with the prestige an institution has. In the US, the share of female full professors as a proportion of all female faculty remains stuck in the single digits, increasing only modestly since the early 1990s. In medicine, female first-authorship has either stalled or declined in the most prestigious UK journals in recent years, after substantially increasing since the mid-2000s. Among the most serious expressions of women’s hardship in the academy is the case of US black female scientists, who often experience desolate isolation in addition to sexual and racial harassment, according to a recent study. The proportion of black women among tenured female faculty in the US has actually fallen since 1993.
Zuck's New Scam | Lizzie O'Shea for The Baffler
There is something stunning about this cultural shift in a corporation that holds such significant global power. It shows that when people speak up and agitate around privacy and data mining it can have a material effect. The idea that people don’t care about privacy, that they are willing to give it all away for the convenience of free services, has been debunked. Facebook specifically has been unable to ignore the waves of criticism it has experienced of late. The capitalist behemoths of the digital age often seem untouchable, and it is easy to forget that they operate in a social context. Like any powerful actor in society, Facebook is subject to the influence of organized people who will not shut up.
Love always,
LC


The Official CL: One Year Later

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


OCL turns one-ish this week, and we're celebrating with a new look!
I'm so grateful that CL indulges my terrible attention span, my listless creativity, and my tendency to sort of steam-roll over most decision-making. OCL is our digital platform to experiment with design and prose, and I love having this space to try new things, especially when so little else in my life is as generous. And, you know, f*ck consistent branding. We aren't a corporation. I wouldn't have it any other way.

One thing hasn't changed, though: OCL will continue to document how we cultivate joy and purpose through the pursuit of well-rounded, well-read lives.

I'm also obsessed with the word "cultivate." Though all plant-like things wither under my care, so much more grows in my life with proper discipline, passion, and relentless effort. This is all, of course, by design. With labor, care, and study, we create the conditions under which we believe we will flourish. And flourishing, we are. Mostly.

See you soon,
LC




The Catalogue: No. 31

Friday, May 17, 2019


Dirty thirties, we have arrived!
Here's what I've been reading:
The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over | Taylor Lorenz for The Atlantic
Anything that feels staged is as undesirable for Blutstein’s cohort as unfiltered or unflattering photos would be for older influencers. “For my generation, people are more willing to be who they are and not make up a fake identity,” she says. “We are trying to show a real person doing cool things as a real person, not trying to create a persona that isn’t actually you.”
Intellectually, I know that individuals and communities are complex and can care about/advocate for/be outraged by multiple things. I know it's reductive to accuse us of caring more about shitting on the Olivia Jades of the world than uplifting the newest generation of powerful, well-spoken, fearless leaders. But I do want to shine my own tiny little light on initiatives like JUV Consulting, an extraordinary venture by now-teenagers born into a fucking dumper fire and asked to survive, somehow.

‘Lit’ Is Over, and Other Things You Can Pay Teens to Teach You | Rainesford Stauffer for The New York Times
“Don't talk about teenagers, talk to teenagers,” said Ziad Ahmed, 19, JÜV’s C.E.O. and a rising sophomore at Yale (major undecided). He co-founded the consultancy firm in 2016 with Nick Jain, 19, the company’s C.O.O. and a rising sophomore at Princeton and Melinda Guo, 19, who goes to Stanford and serves as a member of the board. To be clear, the JÜV team scoffs at the idea of a “Gen Z expert”: anyone who pretends to speak for a generation, whether that’s a peer or adult. They aren’t a research firm, they say. They aren’t a focus group. They are, according to Emma Himes, JÜV’s 18-year-old director of development and a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, “a really diverse group of trained teen consultants who can help you.” 
 Rise of Populists in Taiwan: “End Of Taiwan As We Know It”? | William Yang for Ketagalan Media
A KMT-leaning political staffer who asked to remain anonymous said that the reason there is a sense of doom right now is that Taiwan has long used fear as a political tool. “The DPP exploits the “fear of unification with China,” and the KMT exploits the “fear of isolation and war from independence,” he said. “But both scenarios are still some distance away from reality.” He believes that unification between Taiwan and China requires working out how two constitutional systems would interface with each other, which is very difficult.
Instagram Food Is a Sad, Sparkly Lie | Amanda Mull for Eater
This is why Instagram stunt food works: It transforms an indulgent meal or snack from a physical activity to a status performance. In the most successful of Instagram food operations, the posting of a particular item signals both affluence and leisure. Lines can stretch for hours for rainbow bagels with birthday cake cream cheese, or milkshakes bedecked with an entire movie theater snack counter’s worth of candy, so if you’ve obtained one, not only did you spend $15 on a pile of novelty sugar, but you can afford to spend two hours on a Tuesday waiting for it, not to mention the time required to lovingly photograph it in natural light.
Inside Ivanka's Dream World | Elaina Plott for The Altantic
Washington is a city where people are even quicker to forgive—to reclassify whatever once outraged them as nothing more than noise. Take that January evening at the Metropolitan Club: a gathering of people who privately bemoaned Ivanka’s complicity in this and that but who were happy to show up. Happy to sip the white wine, applaud the usual platitudes, and enjoy the soft air of comity. Call it a favor to Dina. Or call it what it really is: Polite society, in the end, will always take back those who are polite.
The Other Notre-Dame Was Not Rebuilt | Amy Wilentz for The Atlantic
Haiti doesn’t have a lot of billionaires hanging around, ready to take special charitable tax deductions by giving huge donations to rebuild the church. Nor is the Haitian cathedral a “world” building in the way that Notre-Dame de Paris had become. So when people saw Notre-Dame de l’Assomption in ruins on TV in 2010, they didn’t know what it had been before. As a piece of architecture and a monument, it had no real meaning outside Haiti; very few people outside Haiti felt it was a part of their lives as humans on the planet—unlike the cathedral in Paris, with its 13 million visitors yearly. Rightly, those who saw reports of the Haitian earthquake turned to more human-focused organizations and projects when they decided to make charitable donations.
Caster Semenya Loses Case to Compete as a Woman in All Races | Jeré Longman and Juliet Macur for The New York Times
A group of scientists has charged that the I.A.A.F. relied on faulty data in trying to establish the precise advantages of athletes with elevated testosterone levels. Semenya’s lawyers and other supporters have argued that science has not conclusively shown that elevated testosterone provides women with more of a significant competitive edge than factors like nutrition, access to coaching and training facilities, and other genetic and biological variations.
The ruling by the arbitration court was also watched closely by transgender athletes and by officials of the International Olympic Committee as they prepared to set guidelines for participants in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Transgender athletes are no longer required to have reassignment surgery to participate in the Olympics, and those transitioning from female to male can compete without restriction.

 Have lots more to share in the coming catalogs.

With love always,
LC

Surviving "Achievement Culture" & My Modified 2019 Resolutions

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Sorry for the dramatic-ass title, but most days I really do feel so overwhelmed. I haven't yet transcended "achievement culture," which means, at a real advantage to everyone I work for, I tend to tether my self-worth to my productivity. I also have multiple side gigs/passion projects that at times feel like full-time commitments within themselves. Add to that my complete unwillingness to delegate, my intense (rarely rightly so) personality, and a vague determination to be well-read and well-exercised... and you understand why a lifetime of sleep deprivation has left me a meager 5'1". I know "busy" is not a substitute for a real personality, but busy is what we're working with until I have a man I get to sacrifice for my career.

I know I'm not alone in this. All of my friends are ambitious, well-rounded, highly disciplined people - even when they don't always acknowledge this in themselves. But I think while there's so much glorified tiredness/stress and commercialized self-care, we don't talk enough about the stigma surrounding the poles of effort and failure. What it's like to visibly put in 110% every waking moment and still feel inadequate. One of my modified resolutions for the year - because sorry, but the "generosity, love, and light" bit is really not working out - is to be more transparent about how my big, fiery temperament has also led to big, fiery failures. I am as abrasive as I am passionate, and struggle to balance my own tunnel vision with the need to work among giants.

So here are the modified resolutions and affirmations for the rest of this year. You can read my January 2019 version here, and while I'll certainly aspire for that level of human grace, I've had to set goals closer to my current, haggard state of being.

Service over self.
One of my greatest peeves in life is people who chase titles and accolades with minimal intention of actually earning them. One night, I told my sister over drinks that I was going to be a "very important person one day" (as a joke, to warn her to stop telling people embarrassing shit about me) and my uncle told me to sit the f*ck down and focus on how I can serve the people around me first with no expectation of praise or reward. The people truly deserving of those honors have no qualms about when or if they'll receive them. At the same time, I can be hugely insecure and cling to my little titles as a form of validation. I'm hoping this will be the year I learn to put work first, worry about credit later. (But like, is this also a woman thing? Where we aren't as egocentric as men and that's why we fall behind in "traditional" ways? Will revisit in Q3. For now, the goal is just to keep it low key.)

Chill the f*ck out. Or at least keep it to myself.
I got a teeny little Moleskine where I jot down all the (hundreds of) petty thoughts I have instead of texting/Snapchatting/saying them out loud, and I'd equate the catharsis to getting a bit of froyo when you really want a fat-ass cone of ice cream. It's functionally equivalent, just enough to keep you from doing something you'll really regret. I just don't want to be notorious for talking trash when I'd rather be known for doing solid, at times excellent work. I also want to be held more accountable for the times when my temper tantrums are just that, masquerading as full-bodied critique. My vision board is be more Toni Morrison, less The Bachelor suite confessions.

Hope everyone else's Q1/Q2s have exceeded expectations.

More love -- the most love,
LC

The Catalogue: No. 30



I've decided to revamp the way I do catalogues to match LC's style. This will help me be more well-read on topics outside of my usual reads, aka juicy stories about Anna Delvey, the scammer, who tricked NYC into thinking she was a German socialite or why the new stylish top knots are great for babies.

We Tried The Food At The New 'Clean' Chinese Restaurant Lucky Lee's...
| Ben Yakas, Gothamist
The language Haspel initially deployed to describe her vision for the restaurant—and the language used in the Instagram below in which she attempted to defend her intentions against criticism—sparked a conversation about cultural erasure, long-standing stereotypes about Chinese restaurants, and the manipulative nature of the food-wellness industry. "Every restaurant has the right to tout the positives of its food. We plan to continue communicating that our food is made with high quality ingredients and techniques that are intended to make you feel great," the Lucky Lee's post states.

[…]

"It's an odd experience, walking into this beautiful, place—I mean, being on University Place between 10th and 11th Streets is not cheap—that's proclaiming 'clean' and #feelgreatchinese and knowing that when my grandparents came to this country and opened a Chinese restaurant, because that was one of the few businesses they could go into as immigrants," Chung said. "It feels like a lot of privilege to assume this take on Chinese food would taste 'better' than all other Chinese food."

"I think her approach would have been better as, 'Hey, I'm a nutritionist, I see so many people with dietary issues now. I love Chinese food and came up with these ways for my clients to enjoy it... and I wanted to share it with you now,'" Chung added. "I just have a lot of questions: Did she study Chinese cuisine? Or work with Chinese chefs or go to China to better understand the roots of the cuisine she loved? I wouldn't claim to make 'Better tasting Italian food' without going to Italy to actually understand it. Right now, there's no acknowledgement that she's done any work to understand the culture she says so interested in."
I actually went to try it this past weekend as I was quite curious (and my mom had told me to go try it). I personally thought the food I got was pretty good and the storefront is so cute, but it's definitely overpriced. The store is handicap accessible which I think is rare for restaurants / places in NYC in general. However, it still says something like "Feel Great, Chinese Food" on the side of the store and they seem to have hired a token Chinese chef. The restaurant also was half-full of customers. Hard to tell if they came because they were curious (like me) or because they had stumbled upon the place or because they actually wanted her "clean" Chinese food. The implication in her marketing that other Chinese/Asian food is unhealthy is still there. Until she improves that, I can't support her or her business. Her apology sucks and she 1. lacks effort 2. issued what reads like a fake apology 3. hasn't done more to improve. I have more thoughts on this, but this is supposed to be a summary catalogue of articles I want to share so I'll stop. Another great article about Lucky Lee's is here on the NY Times though.

Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered (How to Shop, Cook and Eat in a Warming World) | By Julia Moskin, Brad Plumer, Rebecca Lieberman and Eden Weingart, Graphics by Nadja Popovich, Illustrations by Carl Vander Yacht, NY Times (Food, Interactive)
It’s true that one person alone can make only a tiny dent in the global climate problem. It’s just a really huge problem that requires large-scale action and policy changes to address. And food isn’t even the biggest contributor to global warming; most of it is caused by burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and industry.

On the other hand, if many people collectively made changes to their diets, that could start to add up.
There's also a quiz NY Times created so that you can see how your diet contributes to climate change. I'm not the best at being sustainable and more environmentally friendly, but it's good to know there are small changes like eating less beef (I already don't eat lamb) or being better about food waste can make a change.


With love,
CL

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