on the edge
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Akina Cox, “Nip-Nop (1)” from her recent show Apokalypsis   

This week
I have been trying to find an impossible Goldilocks "just right" zone between focusing on the closed-off world of my own house, which is safe and peaceful, and spiraling into guilt and despair about the political incompetence and raw pain screaming through the world at large. It's not right to ignore what's going on outside my walls. And it's not sustainable to engage with it all the time. This is true all the time, of course. But lately this tightrope walk is constant. It's also true that I am lucky to be teetering, trying to find the balance between living in my immediate reality and letting in the struggles and horrors beyond.

"We have so little of each other, now." I have reveled in the smallest kindnesses. I have come to resent my phone as my only means of connection to so many people I love. I have also learned that its facial-recognition functionality definitely does not function when I am wearing a face mask—which is precisely when I most need it to work. I see lots of Instagram ads for fancy hand sanitizers and luxe pajamas, which lets me know that the algorithm clocks me as rich and safe and yet still worried. I have celebrated a few friends' birthdays on large-group zooms, flouting the "no large-group zooms, they're too depressing" rule I made in Week 1. I have agonized and argued over the smallest of decisions, because there is no small decision these days.

Aminatou and I are were interviewed about maintaining friendships long-distance. I was a guest on Michelle Tea's Your Magic, where she read my tarot and told me what to do with my career next. And on the podcast, our guest is the always-delightful Samantha Irby.

I'm reading
A fatal overdose, a stunning coincidence, and a mother’s long quest to heal. A family on the border and of the border. Detained immigrants plead for release. Domestic abuse has become more frequent and more severe. Both parties have settled on a presidential candidate accused of sexual assault, and in Wisconsin, voters weighed health and safety against participating in democracy. The parents are not all right. The single people are not all right. This trio of silver-haired friends seem to be doing ok. We are raging. We are lonely. We are leaving the cult of celebrity en masse. We are listening. We are changing up our look. We are turning everything into an item for our to-do list. We are still failing to find toilet paper on the shelves. We are being zoombombed. We are trying to apply for unemployment benefits, but we are on hold again. We are trying to hope.

Pie chart

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I’m looking & listening
I can't stop thinking about this conversation between Cheryl Strayed and George Saunders. This surreal video about "everything Tyra Banks eats in a day" has the strangest, most hilarious tone. The photos that great photographers are making in their homes. I listened to Cameron Esposito read her memoir, Save Yourself, and really enjoyed it.

A visual guide to finding balance right now.

I endorse
Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a film about two teenagers from rural Pennsylvania who make their way to New York City so one of them can get an abortion. I streamed it this week, and I was shaken by the familiarity of writer/director Eliza Hittman's portrayal of the way the U.S. treats teen girls (and indeed an adult woman). I know the subject matter isn't exactly warm and comforting for this moment, and I was bracing for scenes of violence. Instead, it's devastating in a slower, quieter, more attentive way. Especially at a time when states are exploiting coronavirus to pass extreme abortion restrictions, I want everyone to see this movie. And of course this week's classified ad revenue is going to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Annotation: An audio experiment
I've been making an audio version of this newsletter in which I have a deeper discussion about one of the articles I've linked to. You can listen to Episode 1: She's Her Own Svengali, which is about Fiona Apple. And Episode 2, about Kinfolk and print magazines and Instagram aesthetics, is coming next week.

The Classifieds

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Ann Friedman

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