Apologies for going full Pollyanna—especially among our hellscape of a news cycle—but I kinda like the month of January. My parents owned a lamp store for 40 years and it’s where I spent my entire childhood. Business boomed in January, when folks were craving light in their homes after discarding their Christmas trees and staring down several more weeks of winter darkness. So the first month of the year was the best time to be in the store—unlike, say, July, which was a drag—because it was bustling with chatty customers, the brightness inside contrasting with the gloomy weather outside.
Today my question for you is: How are you finding your bright spots this winter? I threw in some ideas below and am always looking for more!
If you read only one thing this weekend, make it this incredible essay by Holly Connolly, “His Ex-wife’s Plates,” in which she writes, “I like people who have made mistakes.” The way she annihilates a pair of underwear (polyester) is superb. (Paris Review)
Two items came across my desk this month that referenced the outdated idea of women having it all: This newsletter from Kimberly Harrington that flips the absurd phrase on its head and “When Having It All Means Falling Apart,” which features a slew of messy days. Those are my people right there. (Honey Stay Super, Wall Street Journal)
On that note, how delightful is this literary analysis of Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Sometimes a day is just a day. (New Yorker)
As an Internet junkie, few things make me more excited than when I see people using interactive tools in fresh ways. A web design firm in Kansas has paired up with writer Robin Sloan for this musical short story. Press play! (Brand New Box)
Speaking of being an Internet junkie, I’m admittedly ambivalent about the current state of AI. I recently tinkered around with the photography software for the first time and was totally blown away. You can’t push against a tech wave but where will this leave photographers and writers? Loved Aubrey Hirsch’s take on what humanity does or does not bring to the art that moves us. (The Audacity)
Samantha Irby’s tips on how to blow off your New Year’s dieting resolutions are LOL. (Food and Wine)
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend going to an actual movie theater and watching M3gan. It’s such a fun movie to experience with a crowd. I especially loved how the set designers kept adding Memphis furniture to amp up the creepiness. (Architectural Digest)
The first time I tuned into Marc Maron’s excellent interview with Courtney Love, I was puttering around the house doing chores, only half listening. So I listened a second time because I didn’t want to miss any of her bombs of wisdom. She’s truly an icon at this point in what she dubs our “overculture.” (WTF with Marc Maron)
OK I know I already raved about I Hate Suzie in this space, but it’s back for a second season and, again, I need to state that this is one of the best shows on TV. While not exactly relaxing—it has zero chill, actually—each episode is like a funny panic attack that satisfies the Fleabag-sized hole in my heart. (HBOMax)
What are you watching this weekend? I think we’re going to start Paul T. Goldman. I’ve heard good things and am into the idea of a funny true crime series. (Peacock)
I’m bringing dinner to a vegetarian friend tonight so I gathered all the ingredients for this vintage JTB recipe for spicy veggie chili. Then, of course, I’ll make a batch for our family so the kids have a suitable vehicle for their beloved oyster crackers. As Joy wrote back in 2010, “Smell up your house. Warm up your insides.” (Joy the Baker)
Jewel Wicker digs into revenge songs: “There’s a release that comes in watching or listening to our favorite characters go low when we cannot.” I appreciate the connection she makes between Miranda Lambert and SZA. (Oxford American)
I only lived in NY for two years but could relate to this piece on the bond you form with your local bodega dude. Now, in the burbs, I find a similar connection with my grocery store clerks. I consider it my civic duty to learn their names. (Hell Gate)
Pumped to see Asheville on this list of the best places to eat in 2023. (Eater)
Finally, in case you’re wondering whatever happened to my family’s lamp empire, my brother is making these nifty nightlights. They’re little orbs of radness and I love scattering them through the house. (Etsy)
Joy Netanya Thompson
Saving so many articles to read later…couldn’t resist the Samantha Irby piece, though, and LOL indeed! Great roundup, as always!! (also I wish I could travel in time to spend a January day in your parents’ lamp store? sounds dreamy)
Great reading in rainy Los Angeles after the playoffs. Thanks for some excellent entries and hope you have a wonderful week ahead. I understand your sentiment about January, good lighting works wonders for the Winter doldrums.
So if I can put a word of caution about “funny true crime series” … remember that each of those true crime stories has real-life victims. And where the crime story is about people who were wrongfully convicted, there are multiple victims — the victim of the crime, and the person who endured the horror of wrongful arrest, prosecution, conviction and incarceration. (And the crime victim and family had to suffer the confusion of the wrong person being held out as “the one,” and the right person having never been brought to justice.) Not trying to be a wet blanket, but there’s nothing funny about any of that. In consuming true crime media, please look for projects ethically created with the consent and participation of as many parties as possible, without mockery or scorn. HBO Max’s “Mind Over Murder,” directed by Nanfu Wang, is an excellent example.
What a amazing piece to read over my hot coffee and silence. Where are my kids?? I’ve been procrastinating on finding my next binge entertainment and now, I am set for a week. Unless my kids come back then it’ll probably be longer. Thanks for sharing! <3
Toby, wow, what a great Sunday line up! Those plates… I think I need a Paris Review subscription. I think everyone (and every relationship?) deserves a fresh start. Either K takes those plates with her, or they get smashed or burned up with everything else in one cathartic swoop. Honestly, I’d like to do that with most of my household items right now. I’d like a fresh start.
Bright spot this winter: cold plunging! Twice a week I meet up with a best buddy and we break the ice along the shore of a local pond and immerse ourselves in the 36*F water for 3-5 minutes. Takes your breath away, then settles you down with the eeriest calm and most wonderful high for the rest of the day. Plus it’s great for joint pain and inflammation *and* bonding with my friend!
Thanks again for great links! Have a wonderful week!
Cold plunging?! You are an actual hero. I can’t give up hot coffee or hot showers tho it does sound like a super-fun friend activity.
All good finds! I love your lists. Definitely need to read the one about AI as it has been on my mind.
Your brother must be even busier now! I just checked out his lamp store and it is VERY COOL. I love the way he upcycles old toys, tins and other unique things into beautiful lamps!
thanks, susan, i happen to agree :)