Branson beats the house blend

"This energizing tea is perfect for an early morning foxhunt or preparing for the dramas of the day."
“This energizing tea is perfect for an early morning foxhunt or preparing for the dramas of the day.”

Here is the thing about Republic of Tea’s Downton Abbey Grantham Breakfast Blend: it’s really quite nice for about ten minutes. The label promises a sort of “sticky ginger pudding” experience with a splash of milk. And it’s true, the tea tastes pretty good at first, while it’s still piping hot. Better drink it quickly, though — or maybe let it steep longer than the suggested four to six minutes. It gets as dull and pointless as the Earl himself once it starts to cool.

You don’t need to be the acid-tongued Dowager Countess to see a one-liner there, so I’ll just leave things at this: I have switched back to my other Republic of Tea favorite, their Lucky Irish Breakfast black, which does, in fact, have the kick that makes you want to riot for suffrage and elope to Dublin. (Maybe not die in childbirth, though.)

I’ve been up to more than just having conversations with myself about tea. Last weekend I had the chance to see actual live theater that isn’t improv, which was a lovely outing. The show is running in Chicago now, and if its title, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, doesn’t intrigue you, the fact that it’s about creating a triad lesbian relationship while also confronting terminal cancer in a way that actually works might. Plus the dioramas are freaking hysterical — absolutely worth the price of admission. And of course, there are mammoths.

You may have noticed that I have missed a week, and that this is a bit late. There’s a good reason for that, and a nice one too. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes work as a copy editor at PolicyMic, which is a super hopping news site by and for Millennials. I’m still not over seeing stories on the front page and having a proud little moment of “Hey, I edited that!” But yeah, journalism work! I’m really pleased to be part of the PM team, who have been great to a person. Three cheers for work in your chosen field! (This is, incidentally, a classic example of burying the lede.)

It’s a good week to feel inspired by other working journalists, and I’ve got some amazing stories to share this time around, so hopefully the wait was worth it. 

The first story that I think everyone should read is Hanna Roisin’s new long piece for The Atlantic: The Overprotected Kid. This was literally the first thing I wrote about on M&W, and it’s a thing that’s been close to my heart my whole life. When we don’t let kids take risks, we harm them, developmentally, socially, in general.

Strandbeests! Look at them go!
Strandbeests! Look at them go!

My next essential link is about Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests. They’re super cool! They also inspired one writer to ponder what makes a thing alive. The answer is more elusive than you might think. (Turns out you can also observe the Strandbeests in your own home: they’re available for purchase via download for 3-D printer. Of course they are!)

For another look at something that is certainly alive, though only in a less conventional sense, check out How Kermit and the Muppets Got Their Mojo Back. (Some might have you believe that they never lost it.)

Looking for something definitely alive but also old school? This photographer took tintype photos of movie stars at a film festival last year. By turns haunting (Philip Seymour Hoffman), stunning (Anne Hathaway) and jarring (Jack McBrayer), they’re all worth a look.

For some strange and wonderful photojournalism, spend some time with The Seven Churches of Antarctica. If that isn’t the name of someone’s short story collection by year’s end, the writing community has failed. If Antarctica is too far afield, you might try this newly unearthed half-hour video of Chicago in the 1940s.

Relatedly, you should know about IsumaTV, “an independent online interactive network of Inuit and Indigenous multimedia.” If you remember the Fast Runner trilogy of films meticulously researched and framed within Inuit language and culture, this is the way that effort has expanded.

Video games are a medium and a mode of storytelling of which I am almost entirely ignorant, which is a damn shame, because I keep hearing about amazing things happening there. Like Devil’s Tuning Fork, which is, believe it or not, the result of a class project by students at DePaul University here in Chicago. It upends the very way you navigate through space, because thanks to the narrative, the only way you can see is through sound waves. You can download the game for free on their site, though it might be PC-only at this point. Still, check out this trailer, holy cats.

Other great things that people have made: How about a $65 standing desk that’s entirely made of cardboard? I’m getting more and more sold on the whole notion of standing desks, but like many, I’m not interested in dropping $500 or cobbling together a hack. This already-funded Kickstarter campaign from Chairigami, run by an established cardboard furniture maker and Yale engineering alum, looks super cool — and I’m not just saying that because he encourages you to deface and customize your desk too.

Doing it yourself is such a fundamental American ideal, but it turns out when it comes to scientific research, more and more the government is handing it off to billionaire philanthropists rather than funding grants itself. The article lays out many of the benefits of privatizing research, but I also want to note that John Hammond was just such a man, and look where Jurassic Park got him.

The instinct is still alive and kicking, though, and we have a lot of opinions about it, as Layla Shaikley found after releasing her recent “Mipsters” (Muslim hipsters) video. “The mixed reactions within the Muslim-American community excited me because it proved the idea that Muslims are not a monolith,” she writes. “But the criticisms made me realize I’d been naïve to think that the video could be a personal celebration. Inevitably, people saw it as a representation of our community.” The video itself is awesome, and the greater lesson even more so. “The way to counter feelings of exclusion and marginalization,” says Shaikley, “is to write our own narrative at a national level—a portrait that includes academics, community builders, leaders, artists and intellectuals worth being proud of.”

Excellent words, excellent advice. Worth discussing over a nice cup of hot tea.


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