I recently got the chance to interview Joshua Greene, Harvard philosopher and author of Moral Tribes, one of the more interesting pop-psychology books I’ve seen. Greene gets interviewed a lot, so I tried to ask questions he hadn’t heard before: It worked out pretty well!
“Witt’s religious awakening was outside my realm of understanding. I wondered if it was really a coincidence that her new relationship with Jesus began at a retreat where she’d begun new relationships with a few dozen Christian friends. Why would God wait to find her on a dock in the woods when she’d been going to church her entire life?”
“As I look upon this crowd—with your narrow shoulders, your pimply foreheads, your dumb, bovine gazes—I almost pity you. You must have been overwhelmed when Yale opened its gates to you, for some inexplicable reason. Perhaps you were Australian, or a mediocre synchronized swimmer. Perhaps your mother was an especially talented applications-essayist.”
I haven’t read most of the interviews ever, so the title is hyperbole, based on this series of posts from Gevinson’s Rookie Magazine. But reading this conversation between two teenage girls at the top of their respective games and industries makes me feel better not just about Kids These Days, but also about my own recent past as a Kid, and about the power of journalism to create transcendent moments.
(If you don’t know who these people are: TaviGevinson, Lorde. They write their own stuff.)
Some choice excerpts:
TG: I want to start out by saying that what I want to do with this is…I’m in a unique position in interviewing you because we’re the same age–
TG: And I feel like everything I read about you is like grown men writing—
L: Oh my god, that tweet you made where you were like, “She laces her Converse…” I was like, “This is so accurate!” There’s a definite viewpoint of the think piece by an adult writing about kids.
“She giggles, lacing her Chuck Taylors. She may be famous, but she’s still just a kid.” -end of every profile of a well-known young person
I really like the final edit, but since about 6000 words wound up in one draft or another and were cut before the end, I’d like to throw in some footnotes/addenda/scraps from my reporting notebook. Ordered according to the relevant spot in the piece:
1) When I was eight years old, an eight-year-old friend of mine had me declare my faith in Christ in his basement. I was told this would save me from Hell, so I was glad to comply. I later learned that Jews don’t believe in Hell. Damn!
2) In the course of having an evangelical best friend, I attended his church a few times. It was a lively church. Lots of singing and dancing, which was confusing, because the rabbi at Temple Beth Emeth never danced. At one point, after the service, I compared the pastor to a kangaroo. This led, five seconds later, to a knock-down, drag-out fight with the pastor’s kid. My friend never took me back to church with him.
These keep getting longer, but Carl was much too interesting for me to cut our conversation much. I’ve now covered Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Australia, South Asia, the Middle East (on hold), and Ghana (coming soon!). South America seems like the next step. Or maybe Texas.
There are meatballs on the menu the night I sit down with Carl, but they are more than one inch in diameter and not served with lingonberry jam, and thus do not count as Swedish meatballs.
But that’s okay. Carl is Swedish enough to satisfy the rigorous VG requirements even without brown sauce or pickled cucumbers. (I’ve been craving meatballs since I began writing this blog post.) As my classmate in a course that integrated politics, economics, and philosophy, he could be relied upon to bring the Swedish perspective into any debate.
Fun fact: Sweden’s most notable philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg, not only has Sweden in his name, but is known for claiming he’d entered the spirit world with God’s permission, starting a new branch of Christianity, and influencing such luminaries as Kant, Goethe, Borges, and Helen Keller. Johnny Appleseed—who was a real person, it turns out—was also a Swedenborgian missionary.
I read a lot, which is not the same as being worldly. Rather than read the books of global citizens, I decided I’d talk to them directly, which is one less degree of separation. Thus, the Vicarious Globetrotter was born.
These are mid-length pieces, each of which covers a dinner conversation with a Yale international student. So far, I’ve taken secondhand journeys to Australia, Poland, Sweden, Dubai, Ghana, and India (twice). Three of these have been written up; Sweden will soon follow. Enjoy!
The link to this has been broken on the Herald’s website for a while, so I’ve re-posted it. I took a photo of the hair: you’ll see it soon enough. (Note that all this is nearly a year out of date at this point; the site has only gotten cooler since.)
Bass Café is a terrible place to meet up. Because it’s such a great place to meet up, the tables are packed, and I’m wandering fruitlessly in search of Dorian Grinspan SY ’14. Yale Facebook tells me he’s a worried, bushy-haired brunette who looks nothing like the future king of college fashion. No one seems to fit—but then I turn and see someone who could indeed be that king.
His smile brings extra sunlight into the underground coffee shop, though he hasn’t picked up a tan from the glow. His sweater looks hand-woven. And his hair is spectacular—a waterfall in defiance of gravity, it pours away from his forehead and washes over his temples.
My review of a show featuring photographer Robert Adams at the Yale University Art Gallery (now closed, but appearing in many other cities for the next year or so).
“Adams shoots stunning landscapes, often with miles of visibility, but despite the title of the exhibition, you don’t feel as if you could live there. His houses are mostly abstractions, claustrophobic, while his forests are dense and wild or slashed apart and scattered over barren mountainsides. In one of the many segments of the exhibition, “Summer Nights,” he closes in on suburban life, capturing happy parents and children, as well as cars and stores that provide a sense of plenty rather than imposing themselves on the landscape. But even Adams’ vision of the standard American Dream can feel disconcerting. A tilt-o-whirl spins without a rider in sight, looking very alone in the wide, gray night; tree shadows envelop a house and block out the windows; another home is shot in a cloud of what could be fog or smog. ‘We call that one ‘Murder House’,’ Chuang notes.”
“Strange to say, I liked this verbal movie most when Chbosky’s voice is stilled. There are a few marvelous depictions of Charlie on drugs, embracing a soft and wobbly world, and when tragedy sharpens his perspective, scowls and bruises speak louder than words. When Charlie falls in love, cinematography and Emma Watson’s eyes do more work than any voiceover possibly could. Unfortunately, the last third of the movie leaves too much unsaid—which seems to be the fault of the source material.”
“Harris has a signature sound when you hear his work plastered together.Trouble is, that sound is nothing to write home about—and the further you get from the dance floor, the more certain aspects of his method confound you. Listening to 18 Months alongside his first two albums, I Created Disco (2007) and Ready For the Weekend (2012), you might think they’re in reverse chronological order. His present melodies call to mind Philip Glass getting drunk and discovering Ableton Live, banging out repetitive chord structures while forgetting to add new ideas after the first minute.”
I lounge awhile in the Big Apple’s fanciest ping-pong club.
“I can’t compete with the stars of my college basement, but my slice is on today, giving me an edge over my girlfriend, who sends balls sailing in every direction. At first, we give in to the urge to run for them, but soon it becomes clear that our bucket will never empty. An employee wanders the floor, using an ingenious basket-on-a-stick device to grab what rolls away, dumping his collection into customers’ buckets from time to time (even in the mid-afternoon, there are a few other players; mostly tourists, I’d guess). I ask Gordon whether anyone’s ever slipped. ‘Not in three years. The balls crush under the pressure before you lose your balance.'”
A selection of my work for the Yale Record, the world’s oldest college humor magazine or maybe just the nation’s but if anyone is reading this and wants to correct me for sure I’ll think about them late at night before I drift off to sleep and I will smile a little smile. For what it’s worth.
Topics include AN INTERVIEW WITH FAMOUS MAN JEPH JACQUES, Pokemon, Harvard vs. Yale, and Mythbusters. For more fine work from all the writers of this publication, much of which now gets edited by myself, click HERE!
“1890: Mysterious time rift opens and transports both starting teams to the field of Super Bowl XXV, 100 years in the future, immediately after kickoff. Since helmets and 250-pound linebackers didn’t exist in the 19th century, seven Ivy Leaguers die in the ensuing collisions. Result: Yale’s bench beats Harvard’s bench 21-14.”
“Round Earth Theory: Starting with the secretive scribbles of Pythagoras, this myth was picked up by the infamous Ptolemy, who continued to spread it despite Biblical scholars’ sensible efforts to refute him. Have you seen the “curvature” of the Earth lately? Has anyone you know fallen off the bottom of the world and into space? Could our home planet really be…spherical??”