Feeling pretty beat today; I managed to drain my social batteries quite thoroughly, as it happens, and spending time on the internet is just putting things in line of sight like people who do not understand how prisms or album art work and people who are mad that M&Ms aren’t sexy enough, or something.

So, a few Delightful Things to share:

  • Anyone else besides me love miniature things? This is a rather charming collection of them; these come with little insights from their crafters.
  • An earnest appreciation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. (No less relatable now than when it was written.)
  • I laughed much harder than really seems plausible at this.
  • Some 90s nostalgia with a side order of history. And geography, of course. I think I’d forgotten how many famous folk had cameos on this show… (Warning: contains catchy theme song.)

I can honestly say I’ve never rage baked.

I recently checked out a cookbook from the library called “Baking By Feel.” It’s got a heck of a conceit: you first decide how you are feeling generally (sad? angry? anxious?), flip to that chapter, and then narrow down the specific vibe you’re having today. That, in turn, will get you to a recipe selected by the author to match that mood.

Lonely? S’mores rice krispie treats. Stressed? Buttermilk pie. Silly? Orange creamsicle cake.

Naturally I haven’t tried any of these yet – though I may be writing some of these into my little collection of recipes for later sampling – but I am sort of fascinated by the idea, however the recipes turn out to be.

I mean, it’s sort of an exercise in emotional naming (itself a mindfulness activity) – you name your emotion and then, I suppose, the recipe is meant to support that emotion in some way. Those rice krispie treats are easy to share, I suppose, and that creamsicle cake is so full of citrusy qualities I could easily imagine it further boosting a happy mood.

I wonder how well it works? I mean, I suppose on one hand we should feel some degree of guilt about anything that promotes “stress baking” – and sure, odds are great that anything I made here I would end up eating on my own, which would not be great for my overall sugar intake. But I sure am curious now. I wonder if you could do a “small bakes” version of this for people like me who love sweets but are surrounded by folks who aren’t fans?

On the other hand, it’s sort of nice to imagine a prescription for upsetting days and such that results in the creation of something. What, I wonder, would the equivalent of this be for other handicrafts? How universal might the benefits of various projects be? What to one person is an unbearable sea of miles of garter stitch in knitting is to another a form of restorative meditation.

Is pottery best for the anxious? Should the furious take up welding or blacksmithery?

I wonder what form of activity would do me the most good right now?

Some other things of note today:

  • Apparently one of the ways Kids Today are rebelling is…by conspicuously not using technology. Everything old is new again, I suppose (though good on them for disengaging a bit; we could probably all stand to do that more.)
  • Ever wondered what your favorite WordArt from the Windows XP era says about you? Now you can know.

At tea time everybody agrees

So, we recently watched a top-10 video, one of those “best songs of 2022” affairs (late, yes, I know, we’re well into 2023 now, but hey, it’s always good to hear from a creator you haven’t heard from in a while) and I got to hear this, which I’d never heard before:

I will be the first to admit that I don’t really know from popular music – I honestly think the only song on the entire list I recognized was Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” which has definitely been on in the background on a number of occasions while I’ve been out and about. I probably couldn’t pick Harry Styles or Kendrick Lamar out of a lineup (never mind that my powers of name-to-face matching have never been all that impressive) and am a lot more likely to catch myself accidentally humming this than anything written in the last five years, most of the time.

I’m sure part of this can be safely attributed to the atomization of popular culture, as well – in prior decades I didn’t really have a clue who was popular either, but at least stood a reasonable chance of picking up enough from the radio to get by. These days, not so much – some of the video folk I follow can introduce me to such musical esoterica as Gaelynn Lea but I don’t hang out on TikTok, which is where I understand The Youth are busy defining what is popular.

“Anti-Hero” is curious, though. True expression of the insecurities of one of pop music’s big names? Another pose? Neither? Both?

It’s relatable, anyway – let whoever among us has not found themselves awake at 4 AM rehashing social missteps cast the first stone. And it’s certainly catchy; I discovered the chorus threading itself into the background music of my inner monologue pretty much immediately after the first listen. When someone eventually manages to infuse modern popular music with a memetic virus of some sort we’re all doomed; they have gotten very good at crafting earworms, out there.

(…Also, I was not expecting to hear Taylor Swift singing about being murdered by her daughter-in-law for the money; that got a bit of a startled laugh out of me.)

It must be a hell of a thing to have to deal simultaneously with being famous and also being a person.

Many of us seem to think that fame is a kind of transcendence – that to gain it is to become something other than you are, better, stronger, more talented, more beautiful. It is less a transcendence, I think, than an addition, or perhaps a division. There is a version of you that is famous, powerful, that lives in the hearts and minds of your fans and detractors. An idea of you that does in fact transcend you, after a fashion.

But the thing is, you’re also still a person. With all the irritating foibles and failings and little weirdnesses that entails. You are still you, just a you that exists in multiple, perhaps somewhat schizophrenic forms, and you cannot escape your self by sometimes inhabiting a public version of it.

Feels rather exhausting to think about, honestly.

I wonder how many people who are famous really just wanted to make art and then had to put up with fame as the price of it, versus people who wanted the fame and make things to that end?

The Misery Index

Back in the days when “Harvest Gold” and avocado green were the It Colors, a thing called the “Economic Discomfort Index” was created – a kind of summation of inflation + unemployment and their effects on the populace.

It would later be re-named “The Misery Index,” because that is what it was meant to be in practice.

I heard the term for the first time this morning, an offhand mention in the New York Times, and thought: Well, it’s pithy, even if it doesn’t really fully express all of it.

I mean…

The prices of food are skyrocketing (I learned this week of the existence of r/dumpsterdiving, and of course that is a thing, but…)

Insane people appear to be uncomfortably present in (if not dominating) most spheres of public life, if not all of them. They are in the media telling us we should be freaking out even when it is completely ridiculous to do so, they are in politics repeatedly failing to perform the most basic functions of governance, they are even now lining up to make everyone’s life markedly worse by privatizing public health care, etc.

They are in faraway lands, invading their peaceful neighbors and killing thousands on thousands for no good reason.

My phone is constantly receiving spam texts and calls, and the only thing corporations seem really passionate about is “monetizing” every little corner of everything I enjoy. Video games are crammed with microtransactions. Tabletop RPGs face the incursion of a new “open” gaming license with absolutely bonkers conditions that are, justifiably, raising objections.

I am not suffering from any of this to the degree that many are, true. So far, at least, I can eat and I am housed, and I am relatively healthy (as far as I know.)

But even I feel…a pressure. It’s not the Big Bad Wolf at the door out there; the Wolf would be here because he was hungry. In a weird, very bad-for-me way, he would care. This, though…this is a greed without hunger, a want without need: give us more. Not just your money. Your data. Your loyalty. Give us the workings of your mind, the boundaries of your creativity. Give us everything that you are. Not because we want you – there is nothing about you that matters. You will become numbers, and we will offer them to our gods.

Our gods do not need the numbers that you will become. But they want them. And their want comes above all things.

…It’s a mood, I guess, is what I am saying. And every time I feel it out there, lurking at the edges of the places where I get by, I feel a strange urge to go and smash a window (if I am otherwise feeling sturdy) or to fortify the last little inch of myself even more, to place it beyond their grasp (if I am not).

There is something almost insulting about this kind of devouring, I suppose. To be sure, you’d end up dead either way; but the Big Bad Wolf would, at least, presumably relish the meal.

The Misery Index should really encompass all of those things, I think. I imagine one of those forest-fire boards one sees in national parks. Misery Index today: Moderate.

Though I do not really know how one goes about taking a daily measurement of existential despair.

It’s not all bad, of course. I have a plan to make a birthday treat coming up, which I will not link here just in case. And someone out there is making this Delightful Thing: Lego mukbangs. (Even if one cannot get onside with the whole mukbang idea, the Lego artistry on display is charming.)

And I think I want to try and cultivate an art habit, however small, for the new year. That’s a good resolution, right? I feel rather disconnected from my creative self of late, and reconnecting with it would, I feel, do me some good.

Let’s see how I do.