January 2013 Playlist


Here it is – my first monthly playlist of 2013! I haven’t done this before but I thought it would be a good way to share all of the music – old and new – I’ve been listening to. There’s a bunch of stuff that I coudn’t include here because, well, Spotify doesn’t have any of the ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’ remixes that have come out this month. (Hopefully, one of these days, I will graduate from Spotify to some more sophisticated method of mix-making. But, alas, it’s all I can do for now.) Anyway, this is what I’ve been keeping warm with most days!

Link to Spotify playlist: January

Reading How Should A Person Be?


After I started this blog a few months ago, I posted a couple of book reviews. Then I stopped posting book reviews because I felt that no one was reading them. And now I feel like, who cares? I’m going to start posting them again because I like to talk about what I’m reading. And if I can’t have a dialogue with other people about that, then I might as well have a dialogue with myself. I’m pretty sure I’m thinking like this because I read Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be?, though it could also be the years of psychotherapy.

When I first heard about this book, I didn’t want to read it. I definitely didn’t want to like it. The entire premise of writing “a novel from life” sounded pretentious. However, I changed my mind about that for a few reasons. Firstly, my friend Rachel had raved about the book and Sheila Heti in general. The book was recommended to me on Amazon during this time and it was only then I decided to buy it, along with like ten other books because I recently got Amazon Prime for no reason other than I wanted my brother’s Christmas present to arrive on time. But really, I had started writing a lot more around that time while simultaneously going through what I’ll call a philosophical phase, so the book sounded much more appealing to me while I was in that state of mind.

Anyway, I started reading it almost immediately after I’d finished Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels, which is a very engaging memoir that I thought lacked any real emotional honesty. Though how much emotional honesty can one expect to get from an upper class British woman writing in the middle of the twentieth century? Anyway, it left me feeling wanting. Within the first few pages of How Should A Person Be? I think I found what I wanted, which was a lot of weirdly beautiful and honest and reassuringly self-indulgent introspection.

When confronted with the question of the title, the narrator, who we come to assume is the fictional Sheila Heti, says, “For years and years I asked it of everyone I met. I was always watching to see what they were going to do in any situation, so I could do it too. I was always listening to their answers, so if I liked them, I could make them my answers too…You can admire anyone for being themselves. It’s hard not to, when everyone’s so good at it.” Immediately, I realized that she’s just like us, but more thoughtful and forthcoming regarding her insecurities.

Now, every review I read about this book mentioned that one of Heti’s inspirations for this novel was watching the Greatest Scripted Reality Show of Our Time, The Hills. Knowing this, I could see the parallels. Like The Hills, the book has almost no plot, though there were times when I expected I would discover a plot, especially at the beginning. But as I read further, I realized that Heti was, in one way or another, scripting her life and editing it for the audience’s enjoyment. (How long should it have taken me to realize that, when the book’s subtitle is ‘A Novel From Life’?)

We’re all deeply interested in our own lives, which are never as interesting to anyone else. I’m apparently so deeply interested in my own life that I, like many others before me, decided to write about it on the internet. We pull out the best parts and dramatize them for others all the time. We’re the stars of our own stories, though that version of ourselves is neither who we really are, nor who we appear to be to others.

Sheila Heti is the star of her own story – or novel or play or email or whatever form this story takes as it’s told – which is why, before I picked up this book, I thought I might find it contrived or overly cute or self-indulgent. But I found something much deeper in How Should A Person Be?  than I could have found in any recent reality TV show. (Ha, duh. I know.) Her explorations of modern female friendship, the creation of art, and the way the past and the future influence our present struck me in such a way that I’ve been thinking about them since I finished the book a few weeks ago.

I’ll end this here as I didn’t want to write a full-on essay about this book. (Essays require too much thought/planning/finding of quotes, and I haven’t even attempted writing anything academic in years.) I just wanted to talk about how much I liked it and want others to read it! So, if you’ve read it or read it in the future, please please tell me because obviously I’m dying to talk about it.

A Thing That Happened Over the Weekend: I Accidentally Double-Baked Dessert

I decided to bake a tart yesterday because it’s an easy way to make myself feel like I’ve accomplished something. So, as I was finishing the first season of Scandal on Netflix, which I know everyone else was also doing yesterday, I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking by James Peterson. (I turn to this book whenever I have a question about baking technique.) I found a recipe in there for a blueberry tart, which seemed like a good choice for my second attempt at a tart and a nice thing to eat while we watched Downton Abbey later.

My first attempt was this pear and almond tart recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made it for a dinner party a few weeks ago – I even poached my own pears! – and I must say, it was very good.

For this blueberry tart, I decided to use the sweet tart shell recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I had used in the pear and almond tart. I whipped this up in my mini-prep food processor. Once the dough had formed, I immediately pressed it into the fluted tart pan and put it in the freezer for 45 minutes.

One of James Peterson’s suggestions for the filling was a hazelnut frangipane, which I thought would go well with the blueberries. While the crust was freezing, I roasted 2 cups of hazelnuts for about fifteen minutes. I then ground those with some sugar, eventually adding some butter, corn starch and 2 eggs.

I threw the frangipane in the fridge and began pre-baking the tart shell. After baking it for about 30 minutes total, until it was nice and brown, I realized I shouldn’t have baked it at all because the blueberry tart recipe didn’t call for that. (It called for the whole tart to be baked at 400 degrees for 1 hour.) Oops! I let it cool for a while, added the filling and blueberries, put it all in the oven and hoped for the best.

Before baking with the filling & blueberries

Before baking with the filling & blueberries

After thirty minutes, the edges of the tart shell looked very brown but the middle didn’t look done so I left it in for another ten minutes. Which turns out was a huge mistake. Because the outside of the shell turned black.

After second baking. The edges and bottom were darker than they look here.

After second baking. The edges and bottom were darker than they look here.

We ate it while we watched Downton Abbey anyway and it tasted pretty good after you got over the slight ash flavor and also the fact that you had to stab it repeatedly in order to break off a bite-size piece.

Friday Roundup

Oh man! This week. It was a short week, but a long week. And a cold week. I don’t even remember what I did this week, other than eat everything edible that I encountered and read the following things:

The Rules of the Game: A Century of Hollywood Publicity (The Virginia Quarterly Review)

Anne Helene Petersen – who writes Scandals of Classic Hollywood for The Hairpin, which I very much enjoy – explores the evolution of Hollywood publicity. (If you read this and then fall into the deep, dark hole of Wikipedia articles about old Hollywood stars, call me. I had a similar experience.)

Family Full of Pretty Good Skiiers (The New York Times)
Reading this made me think about how it’s probably every yuppie parent’s dream to have a brood of athletic (or whatever, really) phenoms and at least one person is going to read this article and move their family to a remote compound where they practice fencing for hours on end, expecting results and success without realizing that they’re going to be unfulfilled by living vicariously through their children and also pretty disappointed when at least one of their kids sucks. Anyway, it seems that ‘the Skiing Cochranes’ happened pretty accidentally and that’s cool.

Why You Never Leave High School (New York Magazine)
Haha! So this is why I felt really emotional while listening to Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things? (I don’t feel like I have to justify it – the act of listening to The Execution of All Things – but the reason I did is that I read about someone having a tattoo of the cover, which I now wish I had thought of doing while I was a teenager.)

How Lives Begin (The Awl)
Read this. I thought it was neat.

The McDonald’s at the Center of the World (The Awl)

This is fun. And really made me regret not getting a McHomard while I was on my food tour of Montreal.

And finally, OMG, I don’t even care if this is a duet and it’s for someone else’s album, a new song featuring Joanna Newsom: