Five Things: October 14, 2021

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Our Brains Were Not Built for This Much Uncertainty | Heidi Grant & Tal Goldhamer

“When things become less predictable — and therefore less controllable — we experience a strong state of threat. You may already know that threat leads to ‘fight, freeze, or flight’ responses in the brain. You may not know that it also leads to decreases in motivation, focus, agility, cooperative behavior, self-control, sense of purpose and meaning, and overall well-being.”

Last year, my father died from COVID; we missed both my wife (PhD) and daughter’s (High School) graduations, along with a long-planned California vacation; my son unexpectedly became a front-line worker when supermarkets became an essential service; we all got COVID in December, and my wife still can’t smell; and I had a damn stroke back in June.

The pandemic has officially kicked my ass and I’m exhausted.

There are some solid coping strategies offered in this HBR article, all of which came in handy during F+W Media’s slow-motion trainwreck of a bankruptcy a few years ago, and I’ve instinctively used them all to stay relatively zen throughout the pandemic, which has also included a few good but also stressful things—like home ownership, an old car, and a new job. The brain has its limits, though, and can only be tricked for so long. I’ve recently been edging into nonstop fight mode and even took an impromptu mental health day last week to drive around aimlessly in the Corvair, and read a book in the park. It was glorious, and it had completely worn off 48 hours later.

My mantra — “Go with what is. Use what happens.” — is getting a serious workout this year, but I’m still hanging in there. I sincerely hope you’re hanging in there, too.


Thousands of kids lost caregivers to COVID-19 | Lilo H. Stainton

“Nationwide, more than 140,000 minors are estimated to have lost a primary or secondary caregiver to COVID-19 between April 2020 and June 2021, according to findings from researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Boston Children’s Hospital and multiple universities in England and South Africa. Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of these youngsters are from families that are an ethnic or racial minority, researchers found, making them as much as 4.5 times more likely to lose a parent than white kids.”

Focusing only on deaths obscures the still unclear effects of Long COVID, not to mention the continued disruptions of financial, mental, and emotional stability for millions as the main emphasis remains on “getting back to normal” by any means necessary. The ripple effects of this pandemic will be felt for generations, and the impact, as usual, will be disproportionately meted out.


The World’s Manga Love Affair Is Just Beginning | Eric Margolis

“Holistically, manga’s long-growing ascendancy has brought two cultural worlds closer together than ever before, exposing orientalism on the American side as well as some unsavory, politically charged aspects of Japanese society.”

This is one of the best overviews of manga I’ve read yet as Margolis goes beyond the obvious anime-driven franchises and digs into the diverse appeal of the medium itself—cultural warts and all. Even if you’re not into manga, understanding its place in the current media landscape is absolutely critical for anyone who considers themselves a student of the industry.

If you’ve engaged with the “kidney discourse” in any way, consider this an opportunity to clear your palette with a far more interesting and growing category.


Don’t sleep on budget brands, stop being so pretentious and other unofficial bourbon rules | Dana McMahan

“And I love what Peggy Noe, founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and the world’s first female master bourbon taster, had to say: ‘I truly believe that part of the reason the bourbon industry is special and different from any other spirit, and/or the wine industry is that we did not force rules on consumers, or make them feel uneducated (like ordering the ‘right’ wine at dinner).'”

Unlike beer, where I’m a bit of a reformed snob, and wine, where pretentiousness was a complete turnoff, I came to Bourbon with no preconceptions or assumptions about what was good or bad, I was just looking for a mature alternative to my default house vodka and cranberry. I initially had a good friend take me on a tour of whiskeys at the bar we used to run a poetry series in, but I quickly realized her taste for Scotch was too rich for me, and decided to explore Bourbons instead. That was ~13 years ago and Bourbon (and sometimes Rye) is now my go-to drink, surpassing beer over the past couple of years.

I only have a few hard rules that guide my own enjoyment of Bourbon: 1) Always drink it neat; ice and/or mixers are for when I’ve chosen poorly, or for fun in a fancy bar. 2) Always under $100/bottle, $15/drink. That’s mainly for my wife as I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $60 on a bottle for myself, and the difference in taste has rarely been so dramatic to justify the super premium stuff. I will accept and (hopefully) enjoy gifts of any value, though! 3) No more than 4 open bottles at a time, and no waiting for special occasions. The former gives the latter a little wiggle room, but also ensures I’m never being selfish, with others or myself!


The first indicator that I needed a break last week was when the Trap Bangers playlist on YouTube Music nearly caused me to have a panic attack. Fifteen minutes in, I had to switch to Sweet Soul Revival and it was the soothing balm I didn’t know I needed, and has been on heavy rotation since.

There isn’t a bad song on the playlist and I’ve made a number of new discoveries, but my hands-down favorite has been the Black Pumas, specifically their song Colors. I thought it was a remake and was surprised to learn not only is it a relatively new song, they’re a relatively new band. When concerts become a thing I’m willing to do again, they’ve also jumped to the top of the list of bands I want to see live.

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