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!
Unschooled: CT’s Most Radical Homeschoolers (in the cool surfer sense of “radical”)
Review: Janelle Monae, Electric Lady (the album was good, this review isn’t)
“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?”
Yale University Commencement Address, May 2014 (Yale jokes)
“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.”
Indiana Jones and Printing at Bass Library (Yale jokes)
A Playlist for Your Worst Moments (Yale jokes, pop music, fourth essay down)
“Heaven has a plan for you, and the plan is that you will grow old and die, like everyone else.”
Long Day’s Journey Into Cambridge (Yale jokes) (alternate universes)
Gourmet Heaven, Wage Theft, and the Convenience of Indecision (warning: angst)
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.
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
— Tavi Gevinson (@tavitulle) November 4, 2013
The miracle workers at the New Journal compressed my 5400-word rough draft into 2800 words of tight prose:
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.