Now

Documenting, exploring, and articulating.

Friday June 26

Monday

Rode my bike to the North End for a site visit, listening to Sleigh Bells and Robyn on the speaker and felt like myself.

Friday

Drove to the beach and felt Nahant mapped onto Beach 98. Felt the highway mapped onto the A train. Felt like myself.

I wrote about Designers Available and why I think we shouldn't try to respond to the uprisings and COVID-19 crisis with graphic design. In the sharing, I felt like myself.

Thinking About Space

Bryan C. Lee on Design Justice and Architecture’s Role in Systemic Racism by Martin C. Pedersen for Common Edge

Making spaces like homes and semi public spaces into places for gathering and organizing feels like architecture, too. Protests Aren’t Only in the Streets by P. E. Moskowitz (You should read Moskowitz' book How to Kill a City.)

In the past year I’ve really woken up to climate change. I was really ignorant to the facts and the most mainstream movements were painted as crunchy and ineffective (again, ignorant). After seeing Naomi Klein speak at a Bernie rally in February ( :( ), I read Klein's book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. It was harrowing. It also gave me a glimpse into the ways that climate change affects humanity disproportionately and how its actors prey upon those who are already disenfranchised. I’m interested in seeping my understanding around the links between racism and climate change and learning more about leaders in this fight who have a strong lens for race and class.

Racism Determines Who Gets to Enjoy Nature by Drew Costley on Medium

Thinking About Reckonings 

Amber Guyger Should Not Go To Prison by Elisabeth Epps for The Appeal (Essential reading)

The End of the Girlboss Is Here by Leigh Stein on Medium. Please read We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler.

Related, this article "The “Grateful To Be Here” Generation Has Some Apologizing To Do" seems to acknowledge the harm done by women in the workplace slightly older than the writer but doesn't account for the harm done to the even younger people (women my age!)  who work under her peers. 

Op-Ed: The Nonprofit Case to Defund the Police by Jackie Rosa for the South Side Weekly. This article makes the case for the social services that will be enabled by defunding the police (Great!) via nonprofits (Less great!) Really want to dig deeper and see who's writing what about how we can move away from a nonprofit model of deploying essential social services, with the understanding that our government should be doing that work.

Listening To

This crossover Up First x Code Switch episode "Why Now, White People" where Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji do a deep deep dive into what about this wave of the movement for Black Lives has catalyzed white Americans in a way that past moments have not. If you're a person of color feeling a way about this phenomenon, I recommend a listen. If you are a white person feeling motivated right now, recently or not, I recommend a listen and a good think on how to sustain the feeling. 


Pleasant by SebastiAn feat. Charlotte Gainsbourg on repeat. Pure Josie bait. 

 

Watching

Devs on Hulu. I'm really a sucker for Alex Garland.  I never finish a show and J and I watched this in like, four days. 

Before Sunset (2004). Watching Before Sunrise for the first time in 2020, knowing it's part of a trilogy detracted a little from the will-they-won't-they element of the first film. This second film still feels right and decidedly more grown-up and and a different kind of intense than the first. 

Reparations

I've been thinking and talking a lot with friends about reparations. If you aren’t acquainted with the concept, you might read Coates' essay on the case for reparations. At any rate, I understand reparations to be a systemic solution to systemic injustice, four hundred years of slavery, Jim Crow, and a century of disinvestment, policing, genocide, and incarceration. But short of a sweeping adoption of reparations from the US government (and we are very short of that), what is the role of the individual in administering reparations? How do you go about doing that? I think my thinking and approach will evolve as I try to apply some intentionality to this idea and as we start to build the concept together. Working in and around non profit and institutional spaces, I’ve come to form some opinions around giving and philanthropy. I’ve seen what giving looks like, or rather what the giver wants it to look like - proving the efficacy of programming in harmful ways, wanting to be entertained and catered to, wanting to be treated with deference. I’ve also seen what giving looks like when those who don’t have much find generosity. A recent episode of Reply All talked about a strange practice of white people sending unwelcome Venmo deposits to Black acquaintances as a form of “reparations.” IMO this practice is likely more white guilt and weird relationships to individual Black people and Blackness at large than it is any type of reparations. This episode failed to mention the proliferation of everyday folks dropping their Venmo and cash app links on twitter, hoping for some help, or GoFundMe profiles set up for folks trying to pay for make rent or make it through another semester of college. When I see these requests, I try to give $20. For the last month, and I don’t mean this to be boastful, I’ve been giving pretty recklessly. What I'd like to do is to be more strategic, both so that I can sustain giving money frequently and so that I am putting my money where my values are. My values are that I like to just give cash no questions asked to people of color when they ask for it. I am also getting really concrete and specific in the issues and ideas I want to learn more about and support. Maybe I’m spending too much time adjacent to philanthropy as an idea but it’s almost like building a portfolio. Still working this out and I'm eager to hear what you think, too. 

If you don't have my contact info already, you can reach me at hi (at) joelleriffle.com or on instagram at @okayjoelle.

 

Sunday June 14

Listening

All the bluejays, grackles, and doves outside my house. This Resident Advisor house playlist. LP by Discovery. So many helicopters and so many fireworks. Grateful for the bass of my neighbors' many layered musics and the sounds from cars passing by that make our house feel connected to all the other houses, all on the same pulse. 

Reading

"What Is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?" by Lauren Michele Jackson. I've been moving through and interrogating some deep skepticism around the work that white people are finding themselves doing right now and this piece by Lauren Michele Jackson was a real balm for me. I’m skeptical of the idea that reading novels written by Black Americans will be enlightening for white people discovering and unsettling racism for the first time. I would like to encourage white people to read watch and listen to the same shit they always do and instead look for whiteness. It’s too generous, pleasurable, and comforting to read some of the greatest thinkers of the century speak on their experiences, their experiences of Blackness in this country and to seek some kind of enlightenment around race from that. Someone I used to work with at a youth literacy nonprofit once referred to my favorite book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, as “just a book you get recommended in high school”. White people do not currently deserve. Do most people generally read books this good when they aren’t reading for diversity? The classic and canonical texts chosen and repeated speak so clearly to the “twice as good” standard that Black Americans are held to. My proposition is that we recommend, if we insist on teaching about race through novels and text this way, mediocrity. Black folks deserve space to be as normy and mediocre as everyone else. What are the beach reads by Black women, crime thrillers, airport books? What kind of books would you normally read if you weren’t reading for your new homework? I’m trolling obviously but maybe not? 

"The first thing to point out is that police officers don’t do what you think they do." Mariame Kaba in the New York Times

Revisiting Omayeli Arenyeka's "How to think differently about doing good as a creative person".

I'm bouncing between a couple different books. 'm appreciating how easily I can become enveloped in The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston but I'm taking a break to take advantage of my "digital copy" (I understand why we can't all use the same ebook at once but...) of The Third Plate by Dan Barber. Dan Barber cowrote this piece on the state of small farmers amidst Coronavirus in 2020. I'm becoming increasingly interested in food systems, the inequities and possibilities of it. I've fostering a growing interest in people's relationship to the earth, particularly that of Black and Indigenous people in the United States. I've started reading Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy, an extremely rich and layered document of the land that we call America. How it's places got their names. How each piece was stolen and guarded. There's a lot more I'd like to know. 

Will the Coronavirus Make Us Rethink Mass Incarceration? 

When Josh and I visited Austin in February, our last stop before leaving town was the Blanton Art Museum. I was so pleased and moved by the collection featuring so many pieces and artists I'd never seen or heard of. It felt like a really special place. So I was so excited when I read this piece that Francisco shared about how the museum's director repurposed so many roles to keep her staff employed during the shutdown. 

 

 

 

 

Making

Cocktails. We had mint at home for some reason so I decided to try out making a mint julep for Ally's going away Zoom call and remembered I don't like whiskey so I made it with gin instead. I made a gin julep with muddled mint, a shot of gin, simple syrup, and some seltzer. Fresh as hell. I dug up the instructions James sent me three years ago for making iced coffee and today I added a shot of rum, simple syrup, and half and half for an afternoon treat.

Watching

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The Long Goodbye (1973), directed by new-to-me favorite Robert Altman and starring a young, hot Eliot Gould. I stand by that, I really do. If you are looking for more young, hot Eliot Gould you can watch California Split (1974), another Altman and clear influence on Uncut Gems (2019). I'm don't understand gambling or the appeal of it but I sure do like watching movies about it. During this time, I also watch Paul Thomas Anderson's first movie, Hard Eight (1996) which stars G. Paltrow herself, Philip Baker Hall, and my forever fave John C. Reilly. You can see in this movie the seeds of many ideas that will come into fruition for PTA in later movies. If I ever finish the last twenty minutes or so of Inherent Vice, a movie I really can't stand, I'll be a PTA completist. But at what cost.... Hard Eight has a brief yet incredible Philip Seymour Hoffman moment. When I see that guy on screen, I just light up. Craving more Hoffman, Josh and I watched Capote (2005) for the first time. I wasn't so psyched on it (maybe because I haven't read so much Truman Capote, including In Cold Blood, the story of which is being written in the movie) but it was extremely worthwhile to see Hoffman fill out that role and just to watch him move through a scene, interact with characters. I wasn't so into film before PSH died in 2014 so I feel his loss only now, exploring these special roles and appearances of his. What an incredible artist.

The Age of Innocence (1993) is a lush vision of New York City society life directed by Scorsese and made me feel like I was in the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum.

I finally, finally watched Before Sunrise (1995).I think it's easy for me to take for granted how intimate and well-crafted this movie is. How seamlessly and naturally the relationship between the two main characters progresses and swells. I could imagine another time in my life, this movie would have really destroyed me. Needless to see, Ethan Hawke is fine as hell. Julie Delpy, fine as hell. Richard really did say they'd link later, SMH.

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One of my favorite artists, Howardena Pindell did a webinar for the Rose Art Museum

Doing

I'm trying to make space for planning and acting, in the immediate and long term. I guess I can consider myself "lucky" (I mean, in so many ways but specifically) in that I'm damn near fixated on this question 365 - how to maximize myself, make the most of my time, my resources, my attention, my life. It's something I really struggle with and I've been trying to address more directly during quar. Now what feels like my constant internal homework, the homework of figuring out how to to live my life not only with the most meaning for myself but how to make myself useful for justice, feels prescient and essential. As someone who becomes easily consumed by thoughts of not doing enough and not being enough, becoming more grounded, moving slowly and intentionally, and being strategic does not feel optional to me. I'm grateful to understand this about myself and to already have some tools at my disposal about how best I learn and process.

For one, the only good things* to do are to process thoughts alone (I journal every morning) and to talk 1:1 or in small groups with people. I use social media to gather and scour but it's not where I synthesize, where I share in the messy work of learning and unlearning. I'm not succinct or clear enough to do meaningful work there. I am not quick to think or speak. I take a lot of time.

Second, I know that being organized and making information legible for myself is one way I learn and feel the stability and confidence I need to grow. I'm starting by making a list of all the things I see in my vision for the world which helps me identify the gaps and to get clear on what's important to me. From there, I'll gather some resources to learn more about how these aspects of the world are the way they are. Next, I'll research and see who is doing the work currently to make the world more like this vision and what they're asking I do. Then, I can do it. I don't have to start from scratch — people have been doing this work and I have to join them, not start something new. 

I've made donations (in case you're looking for some new places to donate to!) to the Parsons Scholars Program Self Care Fund (Venmo and Cash App @pspselfcarefund), Transgender Emergency Fund of MA, Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sisters Unchained, Justice for Breonna Taylor, and Reclaim the Block.  

A couple weeks ago I organized a zoom conversation with twenty-some friends to start thinking about what each of us can bring to the movement for Black lives right now. I wanted to explore the idea of asset-mapping and relationships to see where we might be useful, motivated, and productive. Here's a sample agenda if you want to try something similar.

 

*for me

 

Thinking

Before quarantine, I was really struggling with loneliness. I wasn't really ready to confront the homesickness for my friends and for New York that I still feel more than a year and a half, soon to be two years after moving to Boston. I visited my friends in New York in February and that melancholy became sharp and present. And now, in some ways, that sadness, loneliness, and homesickness (even for the towns we still live in, left empty and quiet without the life of our favorite places, our favorite people animating them) is for all of us to share. In many ways the past three months of quarantine have created opportunities to connected to my far flung friends, as we find time to talk on the phone during the day, text about the birds that live near our respective houses, talk about projects and ideas and things that are coming up for us. I feel especially connected and in community when I know that we are all making something, together though independently. Knowing that we are all thinking and learning and moving at this time, even when I just take a minute in  my day to think, I wonder what Eva is doing right now. I wonder what Kendra is doing right now. I wonder what James is doing right now. I feel connected through the making and sharing and even in what we keep to ourselves, what we don't share. I can't wait to see everyone and right now I see them through our making, through our little texts here and there, through audio messages, through watching reality TV together.

My loneliness is coming back new and in a different shape as people start to gather in real life, outside hangs and porch hangs. On Friday night, I fell asleep to the sound of a group of woman having a hang through twilight into full night, surrounding some candles in a patch of the grass in the garden outside my house. I heard their laughter and their intimacy from all the way up here and I felt relief in being able to name the ache. An old loneliness is new as I try to find a way to explain myself and the acute and specific pain, fear, and empathy I feel in the wake of these recent murders of Black people by police. As I try to describe myself, make myself known and understood more clearly and accurately without centering myself. I found connection in mobilization, in feeling moved to mobilize and gather, which I hope is a gift that I can offer right now. Are you lonesome, too? 

Sunday May 24 2020

Listening

A playlist I made in early April called SUPER REP which started with me copying in tracks I liked from a spotify user's playlist I found by searching "super repetitive dance." Now I just add big bouncy dance music that I like here as I find it.  

Reading

"Over and over, I’ve had this experience where I wrote something or I made something, and in retrospect it became very clear that a lot of the material, and just the pathways of thinking involved, were building up long before the 'on period' in an 'off period.' So, I don’t want to make it seem like all off time is actually productive." —Jenny Odell on The Creative Independent (On taking the time you need to notice, think, and grow) 

I'm not sure how I became interested in reading Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters. I've never considered myself someone interested in the world of food in any meaningful way but I like learning about people's creative practices. The book is the memoir of restaurateur and chef Alice Waters who started and has run a pioneering local and organic restaurant in Berkeley since the 1970s. She attempts with the story of her early life what Waters seemingly aims for in her food, breaking it down to its most fundamental, most clear, honest and special parts. Waters tidily connects her upbringing by an uncharacteristically accepting family in 1950s, her travels in Europe, the people, particularly lovers and friends who move through her world to the opening of Chez Panisse. I've been feeling inspired lately, even more than usual, by learning about other people's practices and work. I love to hear about communities of creative people coming together around a big vision, as cheesy as that sounds. Something about building something new together, throwing your weight into a shared project. I got different flavors of that a couple weeks ago watching Spaceship Earth, McQueen, and Filmworker back to back on a Saturday. I do wish that Alice Waters was more specific about how she was influenced by the Free Speech Moment and counterculture. I'm always craving models of how people square and embed their politics with creative outputs and try to build the world they want to see. And it's feels like a missed opportunity that the book ends with the opening of the restaurant. But this book doesn't have to be everything to everyone and now I get to follow this lead to learn more about Slow Food. Water's commitment to beauty and her admiration and relationship to creativity and the arts is really lovely to read about. Her passion for light, design, space, flowers, dress, film, and music make my heart sing. It's not a perfect memoir but I liked immersing myself in this book and I feel full of daydreams about whatever my Chez Panisse will be. 

Making

Last week, I celebrated my one year anniversary at my job, a quiet milestone that meant a lot to me. In the last year, I've regained some creative confidence and tried to learn how to be a graphic designer again. I've relearned how to be comfortable at work in a way that makes sense for me right now. I can see everything that is so special and interesting about the organization I work for and appreciate and grow with the people who put their all into it. The work I've done isn't super visible or flashy but I like doing it and I hope it's working/helping and I'm proud of it.

Watching

 

Revisiting warpaint and this video which fills me with feeling. 

Burning (2018) was more like reading a short story than watching a movie.

Frances McDormand is so perfect in Burn After Reading (2008) and I relate to Brad Pitt's character's energy right now.

There Will Be Blood (2007). Now that's a movie. Great take on the life of W.B. Mason.

Girl Friends (1978) is a proto Francis Ha.

Doing

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👩🏽‍🏫 Gave a "presentation" to some friends on what makes a comfort movies and heard presentations on topics like the color blue, birds and their legs, the inequity of quality ice cream in Boston, and more. 

😎 Spent all day Thursday and Friday working from my patio. It's almost too much joy to be allowed.

🥯 My neighborhood bagel place has been doing special pick-up batches and I finally got an order in after 2-3 previous attempts. Now buying bagels has the level of tension and exact process as buying big concert tickets or registering for classes. Happy for this HUGE simple pleasure. I think this is the longest I'd gone without having a bagel for 10+ years.

📺 New Girl is a good rewatch while doing something else (like sewing.)

 

Thinking

I can't seem to consistently feel ease or abundance around time. I know the scarcity and fear is all in my mind which doesn't make it less difficult. It's been interesting to see (some!) people online talking about feeling like they have so much more time in quarantine and how they fill those extra minutes with new diversions or find themselves simply not knowing what to do with the time and experiencing vacuous boredom. Because I'm working from home, I've been able to cut out commuting and all out-of-home extracurriculars are off the table, of course. I don't have any additional (or any, period) caretaking responsibilities. And yet ten weeks into working-from-home and quar, I don't feel like I have that much more time than I used to (again, inability to feel abundance) and I feel anxious about how I spent each non-working minute and hour. I'm trying to let some of this feeling go, appreciate more what I'm doing in the moment and dread less the end of that moment, not feeling like I have to be doing anything meaningful all of the time or even most of the time, etc. I'm just trying to be easy on myself. 

 

 

Friday May 15 2020

Listening

Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, Perfume Genius 2020

Making

Screenshot 2020-05-05 19.33.35I'm sewing from a pattern for the first time ever, using this jumpsuit pattern from Peppermint Magazine. I bought this rusty linen fabric from Fabrics-Store.

Watching

Moses Sumney - Cut Me 

Swingers (1996)

I'd consider this movie part of a series of 90s movies that feels so obviously dated but even the contemporary comment on them doesn't reflect that. All the letterboxd reviews for this movie are like, this is just like me and the boys! I sure hope not! (See also: High Fidelity. Both are about the pursuit and entitlement to women's attention, care, and sex.) I'm so curious about how the 90s swing moment happened. Why did all these guys and gals suddenly think, you know what this culture needs is some 1940s influence. Vince and Jon F are cuties here if not pretty gross dudes.

Doing

Patio lunch
Seedlings from Matchstick Market
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🌞 Enjoying the sunshine on my patio during the work day.

🌱 Drove to Clinton, MA to pick up some seedlings from a Matchstick Market sale. I'll pot them on the patio after next week and do my best to protect them from the squirrels and grackles.

🌲 I've walked in Franklin Park near my house almost every day this week. Everything is so spring-lush right now. 

🧘🏽‍♀️ I've been starting my day with yoga every day for like a year (?!) and I've recently started using Alo Moves to mix it up a bit. I like this morning series and this one, too. 

 

Thinking

I can see a nest on my neighbors' patio from all the west-facing windows of my house, most importantly my office, where I now sit 8+ hours a day. About two weeks ago, I noticed some activity. Three baby robins had hatched. I could see them sticking their freaky little heads up out of the nest when their parents would come with food. At first they were grey and naked then seemingly very quickly, they grew beautiful speckled feathers. Their bodies grew quickly too. I could see them easily through the binoculars I kept nearby because they were getting too big for the nest, sitting awkwardly on top of one another. I googled to see that they would probably leave the nest about 9 to 14 days after they were hatched so I knew the day was coming. On Tuesday, I watched them flapping their wings so much, so eager seeming. On Wednesday, I looked out the window while making coffee and the nest was empty.