The process of opening a Snapple bottle—the half-hearted shake to loosen the tea leaves from the bottom, the peeling of the plastic, the twisting of the cap until its satisfying, pregnant pop—is a sense memory that’s forever linked to middle school for me, when I’d walk down Fourth Street to Strathmore Bagels and get some sustenance for drama club, or mathletes, or whatever after-school activity I’d signed up for. A few weeks ago, after spotting the company’s peach iced tea on the menu of a sushi place, I got back into the habit. Innovations in sweetening technology and other food-related sciences have caused a lot of taste memories from the pre-organic era to be completely bygone (miss u, Cinnamon Crispas), but the peach iced tea, from the pop to the last sip, had pretty much the same round sweetness that I remembered, even though the tea leaves had somehow managed to become more water-soluble over the intervening years. That first sip was a gateway drug just like it was in the late ’80s, and I’ve been sneaking bottles here and there ever since. (Although in the context of sushi orders, I tend to save them for dessert.)
In addition to the quest for the familiar, this issue features the return of Kevin Fanning to the world of beverage reviewing, which I am thrilled about because Knowledge For Thirst, the drink-consumption chronicle he produced with Josh Allen, is, straight-up, one of my favorite sites on the internet ever.
Back in the dialup era, February was notorious among the denizens of a bulletin board I frequented; without fail, it would be the month when so many long-simmering disagreements would boil over and catch fire, causing multi-post back-and-forths, resigning of conferences, snipey private-conference messages, and, sometimes, real-life dissolutions of friendships. The story went that even though it was the shortest month on the calendar, it was the most brutal, what with the cold (the BBS was based in New York City) and the resultant cooped-upness and the bad feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day for the coupled and uncoupled and the accelerated cycles of various bills and other factors. And then March would come in all lion-like, no doubt in part because of all the fomenting angst that February had caused, and most of the bad feelings would blow away with the flowering of spring and all its attendant new beginnings.
Today is the final day of March 2013’s third week, and I daresay that as far as Internet Conditions go, this month is not all that better than its nasty, brutish, and short predecessor—and it has the added detriment of being three days longer. Outrage cycles have moved along at a constant pace, with actions and reactions bumping in to one another—the Steubenville verdict and certain media outlets’ victim-blaming reaction to the Steubenville verdict, Michelle Shocked’s live-tweeted monologue about her feelings on homosexuality and her long, painful campaign railing against the reaction to it, the announcement of Google Reader’s death and the panicked reaction from people who still read words on the internet. Plus your usual debates over free culture, institutionalized sexism, institutionalized sexism in the tech world, free culture and the tech world, and the tech world itself. Heck, I had to remind myself that Enlightened got canceled only 48 hours before this issue went to press. Even though the news elicited a tweet from me in which I said “fuuuuuuuck you” to a corporate entity’s Twitter account. (Very mature, that.)
Appropriately, then, this issue is all about people on the verge. Not of snapping, mind you (could you imagine a whole issue about that?), but rather on the edge of discovering important things about themselves and their places in the world.
When I was a cheeky, take-no-prisoners music blogger, one of my favorite tags was “lol words,” which I used to spotlight the silly, stupid, and downright horrifying ways that words would be twisted in service of some band or record or what-have-you. I got a lot of mileage out of it, and am a bit sad that my blogging career ended before social media really took off.
Of course, that was during the late 2000s, when words were still the primary method of communication in blogland; they haven’t quite been overtaken by the animated GIF, but the two forms of communication are probably on par with one another at this point. Nevertheless, I soldier on, favoring words over endlessly looped images borrowed from pop culture’s dustier nooks and crannies for the time being, if not for the rest of my career. (That said, I do enjoy taking Vines of my dogs.) This issue, in keeping with my stubbornness, looks at how the following four words and phrases function in contemporary culture: “DIY,” “lean in,” “the,” and “reality.” After you think about the last time you used each of them in a sentence and fired up this issue’s Spotify playlist, feel free to dive in.
I wouldn’t say Devyn Rose’s “Who Am I” is my favorite song of 2013—that honor would probably go to “Northern Lights,” a bratty, stompy piece of electropop from the mysterious Swedish outfit Kate Boy, or “Make Room!!!,” a snarling track from arena-emo stalwarts My Chemical Romance—but it’s certainly the track that I’m most infatuated with at the moment. It’s seemingly crafted from a bunch of items that are defined by their utter malleability (watercolors, Silly Putty, post-shower mirror fog), staying stable for only the briefest of moments before swooning, then repeating the cycle anew. I heard about this track, as one does, on the internet, specifically on a thread obsessing over recent R&B releases on the I Love Music message board. A colleague posted it, saying that he wasn’t quite sure how it had appeared in his iTunes library. Which seems appropriate, given that it sounds born out of a dream—specifically, one of those dreams that leaves a smile playing across your lips as you wake up. It’s a hard listen at first, its swirling elements coming together in that odd way that defines songs by the likes of Animal Collective, but its charms eventually took me over.
This issue is Maura Magazine’s 10th, and it looks at Big Things: American pop idolatry, country radio in New York City, the idea of the “perfect” song, and movies that fall in on themselves because of way too much self-referentiality. You can check out a playlist of songs that are name-checked in this issue (including the Devyn Rose track!) over at Spotify.