Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on Alice Munro, Lorde, mocking "success", cranky parents, and German children)

1. (Alice Munro) - Okay, so this isn't actually an article, but Alice Munro's short story "How I Met My Husband" is a great read and I randomly found the full-text online, so if you're craving wonderful fiction just click here.

"Women should stick together and not do things like that. I see that now, but didn't then. I never thought of myself as being in any way like her, or coming to the same troubles, ever.

. . . .

Till it came to me one day there were women doing this with their lives, all over. There were women just waiting and waiting by mailboxes for one letter or another. I imagined me making this journey day after day and year after year, and my hair starting to go gray, and I thought, I was never made to go on like that. So I stopped meeting the mail. If there were women all through life waiting, and women busy and not waiting, I knew which I had to be. Even though there might be things the second kind of women have to pass up and never know about, it still is better.

. . . .

He always tells the children the story of how I went after him by sitting by the mailbox every day, and naturally I laugh and let him, because I like for people to think what pleases them and makes them happy."

2. (Lorde) - I'm a little obsessed with Lorde, partially because I really like her music and partially because it's nice to see an intelligent, clothed 17 year old girl become famous. Anyways, her interview for Rookie just made me so hopeful, the media portrays teenagers as empty and valueless, so sometimes (as an almost 40-year old adult) I need to read stuff like this to remember there's so much more to those years than just generic acts of rebellion.

"I am into that whole Virgin Suicides vibe of making even the bad parts bearable. I hate high school so much, but there’s something kind of cool about walking around on the coldest day listening to “Lindisfarne” by James Blake or something and feeling like something has happened, even though it’s the worst thing ever. The album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire was influential to me in that as way well. I just think that record is really beautiful and nostalgic and so well-written. It’s a super-direct way of talking about what it’s like to grow up [in the suburbs], and I think that’s quite lovely.

. . . .

. . . so many interviewers, even ones that I consider really intelligent and good writers, will do the, like, “Oh, you’re not taking your clothes off like Miley Cyrus and all these girls” thing, which to me is just the weirdest thing to say to someone. But then people will say, “She’s always talking about being bored, that’s petulant,” which I feel like is kind of taking the piss out of teenage emotions—just, like, making light of how teenagers feel. When people react that way about things that every teenager experiences, how can you expect to make anything good?

. . . .

I have never done media training. I feel like I probably should have, because then I could’ve better identified some of that baiting in the beginning. Now I’m really good at it. But I think people don’t realize how weird it is to go from being a teenager or being just a human being who has opinions and freely discusses them with other people, to having everything you say scrutinized and taken out of context. In the space of three months, going from never having done an interview to being in Rolling Stone, being in Interview, and not really realizing how that whole thing works. That stuff was so weird. But now I’ve kind of got a handle on it. Now when people are like, “Tell me what you think of Miley!” I’ll say, “What do you think of Miley?” and they like flounder and say, “Well, I think she’s really talented…” and I’m like, there you go."

3. (Success) - Maybe I'm just in a quirky mood, but I found McSweeny's sarcastic rant on "What Is Success?" pretty funny.

"I have found wires and various forms of wiring—specifically electrical wiring— to be quite successful, wouldn’t you agree? But it didn’t come easy for wires. Success never comes easy, unless it does. It was the same for lamps and corridors and metal. After years of proving themselves, their success is now unquestioned. Brooms are an American success story. Piles of paper, too. And jackets. And Liev Schreiber. But can the same be said for chairs? Some people think chairs are very successful. I think those people are out of their fucking minds. What I’m trying say is that success is subjective.

. . . .

The thing is that when it comes to success there are very few certainties, except that you have to be willing to work hard and go the extra mile. Unless your supervisor thinks you are an annoying pissant for going the extra mile, in which case success is the status quo. Unless your cool friends think you are lame for even caring about the status quo, in which case success is failure."

4. (Mom's Time) - The Wall Street Journal's article on "Why Mom's Time is Different Than Dad's Time" helped me articulate why I never seem to read the paper -

"When fathers spend time at home, on the other hand, it reduces their odds of multitasking by over 30%. Which may explain why, a few years ago, researchers from UCLA found that a father in a room by himself was the "person-space configuration observed most frequently" in their close study of 32 families at home. It may also explain why many fathers manage to finish the Sunday paper while their wives do not—they're not constantly getting up to refill bowls of Cheerios.

Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn't just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there's always a pot somewhere that's about to boil over.

"My husband says I cause some of the worry unnecessarily," another Minnesota mother, who was part of the same parenting program, told me when I spent some time in her home.

It's something that I hear a lot from parents. One of them—usually the mother—is more alive to the emotional undercurrents of the household. As a result, this more intuitive parent feels that the other parent—usually the father—is not doing his fair share, while the father feels that his wife is excessively emotional and wretchedly inefficient. But what really may be going on is that the couple is experiencing time differently, because each person is paying attention to different things."

5. (Cranky Parents) - Ruth's Graham's "Why Do Parents Make Parenting Sound So God-Awful?" really hit the nail on the head -

"Then there’s the fact that the parents writing these stories are, almost without exception, very capable women. These are not the “worst moms ever”; they are competent, loving parents who occasionally feel overwhelmed. They are parents who think and read and write about parenting. Almost by definition, they are doing just fine. Yet, culturally, we applaud their “bad” parenting while becoming less and less tolerant of actual bad parents. This is a country that is increasingly willing to prosecute pregnant women and young mothers for their mistakes with drugs, or for leaving their children home alone in moments of desperation. In a middle-class parenting subculture in which self-acceptance is a bedrock virtue, it’s impossible not to notice a disconnect."

6. (German Children) - And finally, because it's important to include something about the world stage in one's reading, I'm recommending this (short) piece on how German children learn about the Holocaust -

"I didn't make the connection between the war my grandfather fought and World War II. Later, we went to the Dachau Concentration Camp (as most schools around Munich do), and it was interesting and informative but not really disturbing. In Germany, the whole idea of "your own people" is not encouraged, and there is not a big feeling of unity (except if it's about football/soccer)."

The article links to another German citizen's answer to the same question -

"The concept of a people was so over the top abused in the first half of the 20th century, not only but most sadly in Germany, that the pendulum in that place swung in the opposite direction. Flags are rarely flown apart from sports events (and even that's a fairly recent development); you're not gonna assemble in school every morning and pledge to your country. Actually, you will never ever do that. Patriotism is still highly frowned upon. You will meet enough adults who can't sing the national anthem. Many people have stronger ties with the region they are from and also with Europe than in other places.

. . . .

Furthermore, as a kid - and you will get in touch with the Holocaust as a kid - history isn't exactly your prime concern, anywhere in the world, unless maybe your parents make it one. You gradually grow up with all the TV, the books, the news and indeed the stories and teachings in school as you slowly start understanding more about the atrocities that happened. You'll hear about many other wars that happened on the very soil you stand on since at least the Romans. First, you tend to lump them all in together as things that happened long ago (what's the difference between 50 or 2000 years to a child) but one, the last one, will start to stand out over time.

I doubt there is a sudden enlightenment, even if one account or the other might resonate with you more for whatever reason (e.g. your primary school teacher telling you vividly how they were constantly afraid of the sirens when he was your age; hearing the explosions coming closer in the bomb shelter) . . . So, while you know all these things and also that they happened on your soil (more or less), it takes getting much older until you realize your grandparents might have been involved.

. . . .

My late mother used to say that it will be a very different world when everyone involved is dead, and for better or worse that could seem to prove true."

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