Resolutions: checking in and checking out (reprisal)

Here’s how this went last year.

And now, checking in on those resolutions made for 2012:

Do awesome photo projects

Started the Brooklyn Bathroom Blog and have been going on fun photo outings. Also bartered grantwriting help with a photography lesson. Definitely giving space for photography exploration, though I’d like to enjoy what I do in physical form instead of just digital, too. 

Maintain strong connections with important friends and family

Very much so! I was proud of doing a better job than ever making space for people I wanted to spend more time with and spending that time in what I felt were meaningful ways. CARRY FORWARD the goal to continue this!

Continue to explore professional and personal growth opportunities

Did a lot of informational interviewing (aka chatting with people who do cool things about what they do), so that was exciting. Big victory too was developing and teaching four courses at the Brooklyn Brainery that have been successful as professional classes and also for me personally. I went to a few workshops and conferences to build professional skill sets, and jumped on various consulting opportunities that came my way. Oh, and I think getting a blogger profile with Huffington Post is a positive thing!

Function better in unplanned, last-minute scenarios or blips in plans

Yes. I like that this was a goal, and I think I overall executed. I got a bit less crazy when people were late, and went with the flow more in general. Accountability buddy Sam was a key part of this, and I hope to keep that partnership in place in the coming year. 

Make this blog or another writing venture something more public, as long as I keep enjoy doing it

See two bullets up. Also, I think more people read this blog than I think, because people randomly mention a post that stood out to them in conversations. Also, on the point of “as long as I keep enjoy doing it,” I am 1) aware that this was not an example of good editing and 2) still very much enjoying writing, and have realized that I love it because I can write in the exact style I’d like and about the exact content that strikes me. For now at least, this is the primary type of writing that excites me. I will CARRY FORWARD a more polished version of this goal!

Wear makeup a little bit more, but never spend more than 120 seconds on it.

Fail. And fine with it. Though I have taken more time to put together ‘a look’, which accomplishes a similar thing.

Take more improv classes, and continue to formulate what I want to do with it as it relates to longterm goals

I took Level 3 at Magnet and was also on a team this Fall. I continued to guest on as it worked with my schedule. I think the aspects of improv that are most appealing to me are groupwork, listening skills, creativity, and sincere fun. I’d love to integrate improv that truly embodies each of those elements into my life this year. Also, I took a storytelling class this year, which was profoundly impactful both because of the people I met and the power of the craft. I want to grow stronger roots in that this year. 

Become a member of a nonprofit board

Sadly, no. Silver lining #1: wouldn’t have had the fair amount of energy to give to it this year. I’m currently on my last planned year of co-chairing Young Friends of Tufts Advancement, which will hopefully free up some time for board membership. Silver lining #2: I spent a lot of time thinking about what my ideal role on a board would be, and what sort of organization that would work best at. CARRY FORWARD!

Cook more in cost effective, healthy, and fun ways

Embarrassed to say no. I think I didn’t accomplish it because I had no real driver and truly didn’t make the time for it. Chalk it up to city living?

Work on building a sustainable skillshare of some sort among friends

Didn’t end up doing, but mostly because of the wonderful community I found at the Brainery.

Get Anderson Cooper to come for dinner

Let’s just leave this one alone.

2012 was a good year. There were other successes on non-explicitly stated goals, Obama got re-elected, home feels even more like home, and I am overall quite simply excited to be doing everything I’m doing with the people I’m surrounded by. 
Onward to the new year! Here are some 2013 goals:
  • Maintain strong connections with important friends and family
  • Explore and activate professional and personal growth opportunities
  • Continue writing, publicly and privately, with enjoyment and while pushing limits of what I think I can do
  • Be more vulnerable
  • Seek out improv and storytelling opportunities that capitalize on personal creativity and fun, or that allow for meaningful group work
  • Send more snail mail to friends
  • Become a member of a nonprofit board
  • Travel at least once for me (and not just for four incredible weddings)
  • Read books in time that is otherwise wasted online
  • Exercise regularly while pushing myself a little bit harder
  • Learn to fix a bike if something simple goes wrong

Cheers! Happy New Year!

Interview: Josh Gondelman, Postcard Sender Extraordinaire

I’m endlessly fascinated by people who communicate in new or different ways. Josh Gondelman, a writer and comedian based in NYC, decided earlier this year to send a postcard to anyone who wanted one because he loves letter-writing. My friend Barry told me about it, and of course I eat these things up. I signed up and promptly forgot about it, and then got a wonderfully hilarious mystery postcard in the mail a few months later. It took me a whole night to figure out who Josh was, and that in and of itself was lots of fun. Then, I interviewed him.


Jen Bokoff: From whom and where was the first postcard you ever received?

Josh Gondelman: I don’t remember exactly the first postcard I ever got, but my grandmother, my dad’s mother, used to travel all around the world when I was younger, and so we’d get postcards from Russia and Greece and China. I don’t remember whether Antarctica has a post office for commercial use. Sometimes the mail took longer than my grandmother to get back to America, which was confusing to little me. I thought she was faking the cards and just sending them from her house, because I’d already seen her.

JB: Have you ever developed relationships beyond just a few interactions by sending random people postcards?

JG: I have! There are people I correspond with pretty regularly now that I’d first “met” through the project. Plus there are acquaintances that I’ve gotten to know a lot better because of their involvement. There’s one person who I see out a lot at standup shows (I am a standup comedian), and we’ve exchanged letters and met in person, but it’s a little awkward bridging the gap to casual, running-into-you friend. I’m trying to be more relaxed and natural about it. I always come off as, “Oh. It is so pleasant to see you in the world of buildings and bodies. What? Why did I say that?”

JB: You have nice handwriting. Do you think that’s becoming rarer as typing becomes more common?

JG: Oh gosh! Thanks! I do imagine probably people are less proficient at writing by hand now than they used to be. You must have received one of my early in the morning postcards. If I write a whole bunch in a day, by the end it’s just a lunatic scrawl. I try not to be a dinosaur and sob about how the decline of handwriting indicates a larger societal problem. On the other hand, it’s off-putting when someone writes down a takeout order, and it looks like something out of a serial killer’s diary.

JB: What’s the most memorable postcard you’ve ever sent?

JG: One guy requested that I write to him with my thoughts on medical marijuana, and I wrote back: “I think they should legalize pot but outlaw white guys with dreadlocks.” That was pretty succinct. I felt like I got it just right.

JB: Do you write other things besides letters and your tumblr?

JG: I do! I’m always writing for my standup act, and I write a lot of humor type pieces for Thought Catalog. Right now I’m actually working on a proposal for a memoirish book about this postcard project. So we’ll see if that becomes anything. It’s very exciting to think that anyone might want to read that! Ideally I’d love to get it so my job is some triangulation of standup, prose writing, and tv writing. We’ll see if I make it there!


Check out Josh’s blog featuring many of his postcards, his humor writing, and everything else (including his upcoming performances).

I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it ~ overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby

(shared earlier today by the best Friday afternoon spot, Ample Hills)

Three rodents with defective visual perception
Three rodents with defective visual perception
Visualize how they perambulate
Visualize how they perambulate
They all perambulated after the agricultural spouse
Who severed their appendages with a kitchen utensil
Have you ever visualized such a spectacle in your existence
As three rodents with defective visual perception?

Flesch Score = 0. This is why Three Blind Mice was written as it was and NOT like this!

by Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation, as shared in Clarity for Charities by Big Duck. Great article.

From the National Archives:

“In Event of Moon Disaster”, July 18, 1969.

White House speechwriter, William Safire, was asked to write a speech that President Nixon would make in case the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It was never delivered, and this speech was quietly tucked away into Nixon’s records. 

From – “American Originals” Treasures from the National Archives

Source: Nixon Library

This is so fascinating. I wonder what other speeches were written where the course of events rendered them useless and their anticipated significance was overruled by some other occurrence or outcome.

I do tend to be an anxious fellow and I do tend to see the world as a little darker than perhaps it genuinely is, but I also do appreciate much more than a rosy scenario, I appreciate straight news. I appreciate honesty. I appreciate confronting something head on and being given all the details first — and then responding to them in whatever way I might. At best, it simply confirmed who I am to myself. It helps me. For me, it works.

David Rakoff, November 27, 1964 – August 9, 2012, in a Fresh Air interview in 2010. 

I feel very lucky to have gotten to see, hear, and feel his brilliance recently at the This American Life live show.

People don’t get heard as much as they’d like. It was a great realization for me as a writer that people really want to be listened to. They are surprised that someone is interested, really interested. And you have to really want to hear somebody. A big part of it is tapping people’s natural desire to be listened to, especially since they know they’ll never have to deal with you again. It’s the same principle that underlies therapy, confession, conversations with strangers on airplanes: it’s a kind of duty-free intimacy that people really crave. If you can provide it without tricking people — because it’s not duty-free; it gets published — you can tap into that incredible appetite. It’s more appealing to talk with someone you’ll never know. It’s almost like talking out loud to yourself. And there is no limit to how unnoticed people feel by the media. It’s just the nature of what is considered newsworthy. If a person is living a life that is not newsworthy, it’s appealing to have someone say, “I want to hear your story.” Most people say, “Really, really? You really want to hear?” And people have amazing stories.

Susan Orlean

Job Hunting, Children’s Book Style!

You Can Do It, Bunny! is a fun and encouraging tale about staying positive while job-hunting, starring cute and endearing animals.

Bunny is a recent graduate from Animal School. She’s smart, capable, and determined. However, she is not totally sure what the right job for her is. On top of that, the economy is very bad in Animal World, making each job she applies for very competitive.

With persistence, determination, and the support of her awesome friends and family, Bunny will find a creative solution to her problem of finding the right job despite the poor economy … though it might take a little bit more time and trial and error than she was expecting.

This adorable book written and illustrated by fellow Tufts Jumbo Tina Mercado is relevant, fun, and encouraging for a recent grad or friend who’s just not scoring their dream position. I like how this book takes the seriously stressful situations of unemployment and rejection and simplifies them to something manageable. There’s even a happy ending, though I won’t say any more than that!
To get an autographed copy or two of the book, support Bunny’s kickstarter fundraising campaign (just over 20 days left!). It’s such a great gift! As a teaser, check out part of the cute plot and enjoyable illustrations: