Weekly Wanderings: September 23 [er, 25], 2016


With points deducted for lateness …

▪ I’m in Philadelphia for the weekend, here for a quick visit and a 90th birthday party for one of my grandmothers. I decided to fly on Spirit for the first time, which I know has a terrible reputation for customer service, but made this trip possible by selling me a round-trip ticket for $80.18.

Since I had no interest in raising the price by paying baggage fees, I had to fit everything I needed for the weekend in a backpack, which wasn’t completely impossible (it helps that I can borrow clothes from my mother) but did lead to some tough choices, especially in the reading materials department. I exercised what I consider heroic restraint by limiting myself to one book I’m reviewing and one I’m reading for fun, plus two magazines.

As a result, as soon as I left my house on Friday morning I was seized by the conviction that two books and two magazines wouldn’t be nearly enough for three days. When waiting for the bus to the airport, I actually considered running into the library across the street to grab just one more book. You know, for insurance. (I didn’t.) Even as I mentally worked through the reasons I knew I don’t need to worry—I probably wouldn’t even finish the two books I brought; it’s not like my parents have a book-free house; I could always download the Kindle app onto my phone and access my Amazon library—I was utterly convinced that I was underbooked for this trip.

I’m not. I read most of one magazine in the airport and haven’t touched anything else. Overbooked, once again.

(“Overbooked” might be the title of my memoir.)

▪ Speaking of memoirs, I’m weirdly relieved to hear that Bruce Springsteen’s, Born to Run* (coincidentally, that song is playing in my ears right now), is apparently a reasonably good book. I was afraid it would be another disappointingly mediocre celebrity autobiography. I should have had more faith in The Boss! I’m number 35 on the library waitlist for a copy, so I’ll be able to form my own opinion of it soon enough.

▪ Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls* is one of my favorite books about contemporary China, and Last Train Home one of my favorite documentaries; I am really interested in how the movement of young women from rural communities to urban factories both produces and reflects changes in society. So it was with great interest that I read this long New York Times article by Ellen Barry on the same topic as it plays out in India. Although female labor migration involved significant adjustments in thinking about gender roles in China, from Barry’s reporting it seems that the transformation in Indian society will be even greater, if enough young women flow onto the country’s factory floors:

The money for the first two weeks’ work comes through three or four days later — after withholdings for pension, health insurance, lodging, food and kitchen furnishings, a grand total of 1,874 rupees, or roughly $28. This sum must last them for the next month. In the hostel room where Prabhati and Shashi stay, the amount of the paycheck is not relevant. They have never earned money before, only asked their fathers for it. A wave of happiness washes over all of them. They do not feel like girls, they say: They feel like boys.

▪ I smiled on Thursday when a Facebook post informed me that The West Wing premiered on September 22, 1999. I remember watching the first episode—possibly the one and only time in my life that I was on board with a hit from the very beginning, rather than coming in months or years later and catching up. Several of my friends and I were taking AP U.S. Government together that year, and I think we would have been West Wing fans anyway, but the combination of an intense course and an excellent show meant that we were really into it. REALLY into it. I’ve watched the whole series a couple of times and, as I’ve mentioned before, love listening to the new West Wing Weekly podcast.

▪ I have mixed feelings about Lena Dunham’s work and resisted signing up for her “Lenny” newsletter for a long time due to those feelings. I finally did a couple of months ago, and although I don’t like all of the articles (and often find those written by Dunham herself the most irritating), this interview with a scientist who’s crocheting a model coral reef is worth checking out. The reactions to Margaret Wertheim’s project are range from encouraging to infuriating:

Although the project has foundations in mathematics and ecology and created so much awareness about one of the most important environmental issues of our time, our support comes exclusively from the art world. I’ve never seen a science outreach project have this kind of grassroots traction, and yet we have not been able to get a single dollar of support from any science fund. A major science foundation said to me, “Margaret, we have basically a bunch of retired physicists running our organization. I don’t think I would be able to convince them that there’s any real science in a bunch of women knitting.”

Heaven forbid anyone try to teach people through knitting!

* Amazon Associates link. If you make a purchase via this link, I will receive a small commission from Amazon. Thanks for your support! ~Maura

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