One of my greatest joys in life is discovering things that perfectly entwine a selection of my interests. Those treasures that hit the bullseye or the sweet spot right in the middle of multiple things I love. In Center Of My Venn I’ll be sharing a monthly collection of the findings that I’m crushing on the most.
I’ve done quite a bit of traveling over this second half of the year, and it’s created a contemplative mood that has me simultaneously craving adventure and yearning for home. I’m thinking a lot about our planet and my place in it, the countless ways to find inspiration, and the artists who articulate it.
This month’s collection, which is unintentionally but undeniably female-centric, includes things and people that have provided me with insight, information and indulgence: A podcast showcasing the intoxicating personality and riveting life of a country superstar; a poignant essay collection from an unexpected source; an environmental advocate changing my perspective through Instagram stories; experimental feminist animation; and a new kind of mindset to carry in your suitcase abroad, and your pocket at home.
Here are some of my November favorites that I hope you find as enchanting as I do.
Dolly Parton’s America Podcast
Dolly Parton is an incredible singer, songwriter and musician. We know this. We also know that she’s a business woman, humanitarian, author and an actress. I think we can also all agree that she’s a cultural icon. I knew and loved all of this about her before diving into the podcast Dolly Parton’s America, but I had know idea how much more was in store. In this nine part series hosted by Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad, a new Dolly appears. Beyond the breast jokes and heaven-reaching hair, a fascinating figure emerges. A reluctant feminist, the namesake of a cloned goat, an interview ninja, a musical prodigy, and a well of empathy that seems bottomless. The series is not merely biographical, though. Along with being captivated by Dolly herself, Abumrad’s dexterity as a producer leads you down paths entirely unexpected. You get to peek into the home his family fled in Lebanon, and Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. You hear one musician trace the history of the banjo and connect it to cross continental slave culture, while another one writes an imagined fourth verse of Jolene with homoerotic overtones. It’s difficult for me to restrain myself from telling you more, but I really want you to just go ahead and listen for yourself. There are still three episodes to be released (it’s coming back December 3rd), but I’ve already got a trip to Dollywood booked for 2020. Listen to Dolly Parton’s America here.
One of the largest focuses for me over the last year has been to live more sustainably. Making shifts to clean beauty, reusable everything, eating more plant-based — I’ve been working on all of it. It’s been an exciting journey and something I’m really proud of, but at times finding information and resources can be totally overwhelming. Enter Kristine Claghorn, or @claggie, an LA-based creative producer and sustainable living advocate. I don’t remember how I stumbled across her Instagram, but I do remember that it was an immediate follow. Kristine does the nitty gritty research so you don’t have to, and breaks down issues into extremely digestible and inspiring pieces. I’ve learned loads from her about climate change, waste, sustainable tips for home, food, beauty, travel, and so much more. Her story highlights alone can help you transform your ways of thinking about the environment and our place in it. She provides easy-to-embrace suggestions for small changes in your day-to-day life, and freely shares her findings from various resources. Her love for the planet is infectious, and her passion and lens for nature help remind you exactly what you’re protecting. Now if those reasons weren’t enough to have a crush on her, she runs a chic but affordable second hand shop called Cabin Vintage. Doing her part to make a dent in our world of fast fashion and clothing waste, she has an online store and does regular Instagram sales. Do yourself, the planet, and your closet a favor and check her out. Check out Kristine’s website, Instagram, amd clothing shop Cabin Vintage.
The Concept Of Flâneuring
The term flâneur is a 19th century French word meaning a “stroller” or “saunterer.” Once reserved for Parisian dandies of the 1800s ambling through cobblestone parks, the phrase has recently been appropriated and infused with new meaning by travel author Erika Owen. The basic concept is that to flâneur is to wander without intention — no destination in sight. In her new book The Art Of Flâneuring: How To Wander With Intention And Discover A Better Life, Owen proposes that flâneuring is a way of life that allows you to more deeply connect with and appreciate the environment around you. I had the luck of listening to this interview right before taking a trip to Spain, and I carried the concept with me. Instead of building out a huge itinerary, I chose one thing to do each day and flâneured for the rest of it. The result was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable trips I’ve ever taken. Without destination or expectation, I had some truly magical experience I never would have had otherwise. Stumbling onto a Gaudi masterpiece one day, finding a vintage coat for five dollars at a local flea market the next. One evening I unexpectedly encountered a party in the streets celebrating an old Catalonian tradition of building a tower out of humans. My travel companion (a natural flâneurer) and I joined the crowd and before we knew it, we were drinking cava from the bottle and joining a literal conga line through the neighborhood. Since my return, I’ve found myself having deep pangs of missing that spontaneous and fulfilling attitude. So I bought Owen’s book and have been discovering new ways to flâneur in my day to day life, finding many delights along the way. The Art Of Flâneuring. $12.76. Get a copy here.
Suzan Pitt’s Animated Shorts
In the early morning light of the final way-too-hot Saturday of the year, I stumbled into the living room to an unfamiliar but beautiful soundtrack. I discovered my dude watching an animated film that was foreign to anything I was remotely familiar with. It turned out to be Asparagus, the 1979 experimental animated short by painter and animator Suzan Pitt. I joined him, captivated, then proceeded to watch all seven of Pitt’s shorts — just released on the Criterion Collection’s streaming service. Every short (averaging about roughly 20 minutes) is highly distinct in style and context, but what is persistent throughout is an unbridled imagination. Easily considered surrealist, but undeniably idiosyncratic, Pitt’s work ranges from charming to grotesque, and left me with such a sense of new, despite some of the pieces being forty years old. I specifically recommend Asparagus and Joy Street, both eerie feminist journeys infused with humor, metaphors and emotional fluctuation. Not only is the psychological content compelling, but the animation techniques are innovative and diverse. Stop motion one frame, sand drawings the next. El Doctor even features drawings done on individually crumpled then re-smoothed papers. The intensity of patience and precision involved is truly astounding. I’ve worked in animation for years and found myself replaying scene after scene trying to figure out how they were done. Pitt described her films as “visual poems,” which makes perfect sense. They’re narrative while feeling hallucinatory (10/10 recommend watching after a trip to the dispensary), and, much like dreams, leave you asking “what the hell just happened?” — in a good way. Check out Suzan’s website here.
“As the image of myself becomes sharper in my brain and more precious, I feel less afraid that someone else will erase me by denying me love.” This beautiful and cutting composition is not necessarily what I expected from the voice of Marcel the Shell, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. While processing the collapse of her marriage, the 2016 election, and an overall crisis of self, actress and comedienne Jenny Slate started writing what would become this delicate, absorbing, and beguiling collection of essays, released earlier this month. The tone of the book manages to be both offbeat and classical, and the depth of Slate’s talent surfaces in a very new way. Slate’s writing is as eloquent as it is fanciful. She has the ability to pinpoint things about the internal journey that are difficult to articulate, and as a result I can’t loan this book out to anyone, lest they see the multitudes of phrases I’ve underlined. She makes me feel things and makes me feel ok for having so many feelings. For a small taste of this ripe collection: she imagines whimsical relationships with animals, confesses a deep and real fear of ghosts, and enunciates the nuances of a broken heart without malice. I inhaled the book with ravenous immediacy, and I have a distinct feeling you will too. Little Weirds. $16.69 Get a copy here.