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Monday, December 22, 2014

Work-Life Balance Over The Holidays, Freelancer Edition

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Modern work has major boundary issues. It isn’t neatly buffered from the rest of life by space and time, a distancing commute or fixed hours spent in a physical office. Work spreads like a stain into evenings and weekends; it reaches through the phone when I’m getting groceries or eating dinner. It even bombards me when I’m already working — the emails, the blank page, the endless follow-ups — and ambushes whatever document I have in front of me. Such is life in a digital age.

But as a freelancer/contractor, it gets worse. My work and life are intertwined in no small part because my time is my money. Yet the real kicker is my work is so tangled up with my sense of self-worth that not staring at my laptop for hours on end can precipitate a full-blown existential crisis. So around the holidays, the dilemma I face isn’t exactly merry. It’s rude and maybe slightly neurotic to insist on working on my manuscript when my sister wants me to just relax so we can watch Elf, make cookies, and consume way too many Starbuck’s peppermint mochas together. Yet if I don’t work, I lose all perspective. I feel purposeless. I’m about as full of joy and cheer as a root canal.

To clarify: I have my job-work and my personal/career-work, which are easily conflated. Both involve me stressing out about stringing words together in a coherent, pithy way. When I insist on working over the holidays, I often get pushback from my family, and rightfully so. My mother: “You don’t have any deadlines, do you?” My sister: “There’s nothing you have to do, right?” Well, right. No one is hounding me for copy, except me. The stuff I truly care about — the writing that always gets pushed to the back burner in favor of the writing that allows me to earn a living — is the stuff I feel pressure to do. All. The. Time. Especially over the holidays. READ MORE

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Cool Jeopardy Stories

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The second-best part of Jeopardy! is when Alex Trebek asks the contestants to share an anecdote. The first best part of Jeopardy! is whenever there is a question about The Simpsons, and then it's my time to shine. I like to imagine each contestant submits a bunch of fascinating stories to the producer before the show ("I was raised by wolves," "Alex Trebek is my illegitimate father and I've spent my life trying to get on Jeopardy! to reconnect with him.") but the producers always end up asking them about the most mundane. My all-time favorite is: "My cat is orange, but in certain lights looks kinda pink." READ MORE

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Watch Professional Skier Devin Logan Go “Jeeping” in the Moab Desert

Presented by The North Face.

Chances are, professional skier Devin Logan is more hardcore than you. In the above video from VICE Sport's Off Day series, the Olympic silver medalist discusses her tomboy childhood, the adrenaline high of extreme sports, and Olympic house parties while "jeeping" and camping in the Moab desert.

Six days a week, athletes are playing, practicing, or training. Off Day explores the fun and weird ways our favorite athletes use their limited free time.

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Dominique Howard, the 2014 Microsoft Word World Champion

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Dominique Howard was convinced she’d bombed the Microsoft Word 2007 national competition. As the winners were announced, she let third place go by, then second, then promptly spaced out in front of a cupcake display.

“[My] mind is literally just on the cupcakes,” she told me when we met late last month. “They call first place and I hear my name, but it took a while.”

Her mom had to turn around and say, Dominique, hello, that’s you.

“I hop up, ecstatic, and not knowing how this happened,” she recalled.

Dominique—Nique for short—is 22 and lives in Harlem. She’s a foodie, an avid debater, a couponing addict, and the first American woman to win the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championships in the competition’s 13-year history.

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Your Body As Canvas

Did you ever watch Work of Art, that weird Bravo reality show that was a cross between America's Next Top Model and finals period at every art institute in the world? Essentially, at the end of every episode, the assorted artists were supposed to create an artistic masterpiece inspired by that episode's theme; it was a ludicrous plot line, not nearly as decadent as its fashion-driven predecessors, and the show was cancelled after two seasons. I loved every minute of it.

From that show, though, I was introduced to New York's art critic Jerry Saltz, solely referred to on the show as "Art-Critic-Jerry-Saltz," one of the best critics in the biz, due to his unpretentious reckoning and understanding of the discipline. (I suppose now is the time where I give you the disclosure that I used to work at New York, where Jerry was easily the most pleasant person ever to work in that office. He was always either in pursuit of snack or ready to share his with you. One time I taught him how to use a microwave. He has no idea who I am.)

Anyway! Jerry compiled The Best Art Tattoos of All Time, which, again with that pesky disclosure, I am a part of. The tattoos all range the gamut, from the initials of Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q. to full-blown recreations of Picasso's Guernica and Lichenstein's Drowning Girl. I have the Basquiat crown; when I went to the shop, the artist saw my photograph and breathed a sigh of relief. "You're a girl and you came in saying you want a crown; I thought it was going to be ornate and shit and I'd have to be here all night!" He was not familiar with the work. READ MORE

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A Poem Built From Some Lyrics I Liked In 2014

Help me deserve you, seeing me praise
You love me but you’ll change

Want you to hold me like you’ll drop me and I’ll shatter
And if in the moment I bite my lip
I am yours to have & hold—I'm giving you my lie...

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Weekend Roundup / Open Thread

30rockWill 30 Rock's prescience ever end?! I think not.

The days preceding the holidays are always weird and sort of empty, you know? Except for the sales and free shipping arrangements—Sephora, J. Crew, Urban Outfitters, and Sperry Topsiders (oh my god WHO AM I WHAT I AM BUYING) keep emailing me to tell me about random discounts and free shipping. What if we all took the rest of the afternoon and bought something for ourselves? Who cares if it gets here after Christmas?! Anyway, after you're done doing that: this week, we started off with some petty enthusiasms, had a bloodfeast, revisited some carols, pretended we liked our sisters, interviewed Chelsea Hodson, Kate Durbin, and Melody Nixon, APPRECIATED GENE KELLY'S BUTT, learned about some lady poisoners, offered the hottest take, brought Robert Louis Stevenson and Ludacris together to discuss Christmas, controlled our sexual angst, tried to survive the holidays with the Bog People, interacted with some garbage people New Yorkers, and compiled some book compilations.

All of our favorite women are pulling out ALL OF THE STOPS at the end of the year. Here are some weekend reads for you: Laia Garcia on Naomi Campbell, Brit Bennett on "good white people", Hazel Cillis on the best Hanukkah albums, Anupa Mistry on The Pinkprint, Beejoli Shah on sexual assault, Sara Black Mcculloch on immune systems, Meredith Graves was person of the year, Anna Fitzpatrick on the best books for kids, and Emma Carmichael, Hazel Cills, and Gabby Noone wrote some of "best culture writing" of 2014 for this lil' ol' site.

We'll be back here on Monday, with a bunch of treats lined up for you throughout the holidays, so don't you fret. Enjoy your weekend.

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Make a #WishForOthers This Holiday Season

Presented by Capital One®.

We all know that giving to others feels great, whether you’re donating to a nonprofit, volunteering at a food bank or doing something nice for a loved one. To celebrate the spirit of giving, Capital One is making the holidays a little brighter by helping grant wishes for others through their #WishForOthers campaign. Check out the video above to see more and to start thinking about your own #WishForOthers.

To participate, share your wish for someone else – a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a community – with #WishForOthers on Twitter, Instagram, or the Capital One Facebook page from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23 for a chance to make it come true. Visit www.WishForOthers.com for more information, official rules, and to see the wishes that other people have submitted so far!

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Holiday Style Tips For Introverts

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Death is inevitable, but houseguests are not. Get your home and your person ready for the holiday season (or any season, really) by stocking up on introvert essentials and giving any friends that wander into your domicile the vague, lingering sensation of not really wanting to ever do that again. It’s like that thing where you make yourself invisible in crowds, but for phone contact lists.

Where to start? READ MORE

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Books You Might Like Because Some People on Twitter Thought I'd Like Them

S&GYesterday, Haley had sent me to the library since I've never read any Zadie Smith (I know!! I know!!!!!!!!). I asked Twitter for some additional recommendations, and they gave me more stuff than I could read in a lifetime, so I wanted to share it with you: These Are the Books that My Twitter Followers Think You Should Read. You'll Never Guess What Comes Next. (Books.)

Consider it your holiday homework assignment (after The Pillow Book, obviously). I ended up checking out Changing My Mind, by Zadie Smith, Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, and, of course, the crown jewel— Simon and Garfunkel: The Biography, by Victoria Kingston.

(And just in case you're not sick of the internet: Rachel Syme asked a bunch of people for the best thing they'd written all year. Load up your Instapaper.)

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Recent Interactions With New Yorkers, Ranked

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1. At the bookstore last night a man asked an employee if they had something, I missed what the item actually was, but it was something rare, one-of-a-kind. The employee shook his head and said, "I'm so sorry, someone just came in and bought it as a gift for her husband." And the man looked at him for a second before responding, slowly, "Wait...what did she look like?" The employee blushed, realizing what he had done, and tried backtracking, saying that maybe he was mistaken, maybe it wasn't really a gift for a husband, and we all laughed, and another customer said "Just try to act surprised," and we all laughed again. READ MORE

The Poet and His Postcards

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i ask only that you treat my postcards as you would a frayed string of rosary beads…

David J. Thompson has been sending me four or five postcards a week since I was eighteen. I was beginning my undergrad at Purdue, obsessed with small-press poetry the way a child gets obsessed with dinosaurs or construction equipment. He didn't know me at all, but I knew and loved his poems; they appeared regularly in the little fold-and-staple journals I devoured at the time, magazines like Nerve Cowboy and Staplegun and Barbaric Yawp.

While most writers in that scene were doing bad Bukowski impressions, bumbling around drunken esoteries and humble-bragging about adventures in casual misogyny, Thompson, who lived and taught in a small town near Detroit, wrote poems that were more indebted to William Stafford or Raymond Carver or James Wright. The pieces were rural, domestic, and ribbed with an almost ecstatic desolation. His speakers were down-on-their-luck divorcees, paunchy factory men at their high school reunions, drunk friends marveling over Mexican death masks. I sent him a note saying how much I loved his work; the postcards started arriving soon after, and they’ve never stopped.

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What It Was Like to Date in the 90s

Brought to you by VH1’s Hindsight.

Dating in general is complicated enough, but nowadays we have to navigate our way beyond phones with cords to figure out how to woo our potential significant other via dating apps, social media profiles and more. Whereas twenty years ago, courting and dating was a little more hands on.

Here are seven ways dating has changed drastically from the 90s to 2014 and why that’s a great (or bad) thing for your singlehood.

The Selection Process

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Back in the 90s, you had to go to the mall or local arcade and look for your future bf/gf amongst a few dozen potentials. Now, with dating apps, you can easily see who is single, their sexual orientation and their likes and dislikes while swiping left or right from the comfort of your couch. Photo via Otessa Marie

Getting to Know Someone

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In the 90s you had to ask questions and take notes when it came to learning what music they like, foods they crave, and other top favs. Now, you can Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram-stalk your crush to learn what they like vs. actually talking to them back in the day. Also, you can instantly like or reject someone from a mini paragraph description on their social media profiles. #efficiency! Photo via thepliver

Leaving a Message

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You were forced to deal with the agony of leaving voicemails on landlines within a matter of seconds that felt like eternity. Now, you can carefully construct flirty text messages with just the right hint of wit after having your friends edit every single word.
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Tips For Surviving The Holidays With Your Family

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Yes, we all know that your Uncle Jeff’s views on same-sex marriages are terribly backwards. Resist the urge to call him out on his conservative viewpoints while at the dinner table. Accept that doing so will just make everyone else uncomfortable and the two of you will almost never see eye-to-eye on sociopolitical issues. Instead, try to focus on staying on his good side. His army training will come in handy after the post-apocalyptic landscape, when the mutant Bog People inevitably attack. READ MORE

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Remember This?

Sorry, Mariah Carey; Christmas doesn't really start until someone says "Remember this?" and posts a link to Stephen Colbert's actually-very-brilliant "Another Christmas Song," which I don't think anyone has done yet, so: you're welcome, and aren't you so glad I'm around? (For some reason, I can't find the real video of the song anywhere, so we will have to settle for this janky slideshow instead.)

Today is Colbert's last episode of the The Colbert Report; he starts at The Late Show this summer. What will he be doing in the meantime? Probably reading all the really nice things people have to say about him: Vulture rounded up 49 celebrities and grilled them from some nice words about Colbert. Questlove's is the best:

Once, when the show came to Philadelphia and it was the Roots and Michelle Obama. And we decided we were going to do "The Star-Spangled Banner," Jimi Hendrix-style. And when my guitar player decided to bash the guitar, a piece of the wood came flying right for my forehead. And I had to be all cool, but I was bleeding.