Tag Archives: commencement speech

A Few of My Favorite Things from 2013 (Part 1)

The time-honored tradition of end of year lists must be… er… honored (must it?), so here we go. These are a few of my favorite things to read/watch/listen to/cry at/laugh at/bemoan/enjoy from 2013. 

  • Radio: The two-part series on Harper High School from This American Life. Who knew radio could do that to a person?
  • Editorials: Tim Krieder’s NYT editorial about the power of “I don’t know” in a world full of people who claim to know for certain all kinds of things one can not really know for certain. “I’m always ill at ease when I find myself conscripted by the media into the role of Expert on some subject about which I have rashly written. I felt like the explanatory caption beneath my name on-screen ought to be: PERSON IN WORLD.”


Related Post: A few of my favorite things from 2012.


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S(Monday) Scraps 108


1. AUTHORS: 50 places every literary fan should visit, according to Flavorwire. I’ve been to one…

2. OITNB: If you are not watching Orange is the New Black I don’t even really know what to say to you anymore. Anyway, Autostraddle has an in-depth look at the differences between the memoir and the show.

3. RACE: After Don Lemon’s awful advice to black people (pull up your pants!) Jay Smooth takes him to task on the Ill Doctrine and explains how pulling up one’s pants does diddly squat to solve institutionalized inequality.

4. PRIVILEGE: Doug Muder’s The Weekly Sift very articulately picks apart the “distress of the privilege” with examples from Pleasantville to Chick-fil-A.

5. BRAZIL: Suketu Meta (author of Maximum City) writes for the New York Review of Books about his experience traveling in the favelas of Brazil.

6. ADVICE: George Saunders, who I love, gave a stellar commencement address to Syracuse about kindness.

Related Post: Sunday 107: Millennial worry, mermaids, Amanda Palmer, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 106: Dustin Hoffman, sex education, Rob Delaney and more


Filed under Books, Education, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People


Carrie Nation

We’ve been watching Prohibition, the Ken Burns documentary, and it’s pretty amazing. So many fun facts! So many pictures of alcohol being poured into glasses! So far, Carrie Nation has been the break-out star, if one can be a break-out star of a documentary released a hundred years after one’s death.

This woman literally took a hatchet to the saloons of Kansas (while singing and praying, as one does) in her quest to rid the country of the evils of alcohol. Bars started hanging signs that read “All Nations Welcome Except Carrie.”

I first heard of Carrie Nation because her biography was the launchpad for Rachel Maddow’s 2010 commencement speech at Smith College:

I watched the speech again, and I still love pieces of it:

“I would like to offer this hypothesis, on this beautiful graduation day, that personal triumphs are overrated…Be intellectually and morally rigorous in your own decision making, and expect that the important people in your life do the same, if they want to stay important to you. Gunning not just for personal triumph for yourself, but for durable achievement to be proud of for life is the difference between winning things and leadership. It is the difference between nationalism and patriotism. It’s the difference between running for office and devoting yourself to public service.”

What I didn’t remember, however, was that in the arc of Maddow’s story, Carrie Nation is the villain. She’s the cautionary tale about pursuit of personal triumph at the expense of the public good. She’s the example of the dangers of achieving a goal without fully understanding the terrible implications of one’s achievement. In this speech, Carrie Nation is equated with Jack Abramoff, BP, and politicians who pursue bad policies looking for an immediate bump in the polls.

It makes me a little bit sad for Carrie Nation. At the time, was she really in pursuit of personal triumph? Or did she believe that the scourge she was hatcheting was in fact a great evil? Maybe both? In retrospect, the outcome of her battle was what Maddow calls a “stupid era in history,” one in which gasoline was added to rubbing alcohol, but could Nation have known that at the time?

Related Post: Another commencement speech I enjoyed.

Related Post: More fun history geeking out, this time about perfume!

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Sunday Scraps 31

1. STEVE: There are a ton of great profiles this week of Steve Jobs. Rather than read those, spend 15 minutes listening to his 2005 commencement speech to Stanford University.

2. FEMINISM: This is the latest in the Tropes vs. Women series of clips from Feminist Frequency. Anita Sarkeesian digs into the “straw feminist” cliche, in which feminist characters are pushed to extreme views in order to distance more likable characters from ever identifying with feminism.

3. SPORTS: ESPN‘s “Body Issue” is out, and the gallery is jaw dropping. Spend some time gaping at Apolo Ohno, Gretchen Bleiler and Blake Griffin in the buff.

4. CRAFT: Bettencourt Chase is one of my new favorite all-things-pretty blogs. Crafts, photography, recipes, they’ve got it all. Look at that cake batter sprinkle bark. That’s just ridiculous.

5. POLITICS: Jon Stewart has a grand old time with old footage of Mitt Romney, the flip-flopping king of spin.

6. MICHAEL: Here’s a fun profile in NYMag about writer Michael Lewis and and the fame and fortune that seem to follow his pen (or, as is more likely, Macbook.)

Related Post: Mindy Kaling, soda bottle lamps, cereal boxes, and the Oxford comma.

Related Post: Suri’s burn book, Michael K Williams, “shorty.”


Filed under Art, Body Image, Education, Food, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sports