BIG CHANGES! After thinking about this for too much time on my drive from New Orleans to my campsite near Tupelo, Mississippi, I have decided that this series should actually be called 5 Things I Loved This Week instead of 5 Things I Love This Week.
Good decision? Bad decision? These things come out on Fridays and they’re about what I loved over the last week. Though, I do still love them, so its’ a tough call.
If you have strong feelings about this — or even weak feelings — sound off in the comments. Otherwise, buckle your safety belt because it’s time for another 5 Things I Loved(!) This Week.
5. Fry-day Fish Fries!
As a Jew from the northeast, I knew very little about the Catholic/Lutheran/Methodist/Anglican tradition of Friday fish fries enjoyed in many part of the U.S. I wrote this Top 5-04 article about it last week and now I know A LOT more — and I’m very happy I do.
In New Orleans, those Fry-day fish fries typically happen during Lent, and — as I prepared to write this piece — I ate a lot of fried fish. (I even got to judge a Fried Fish Battle.) I thought I was tired of it, but after a four-day break, I’m back, baby!
Get your fried fish while you can, and check out my article for a history of the tradition, as well as my favorite NOLA spots to get your fix. Also, listen to this song to get yourself in the mood. I have at least 4,000 times in the last two weeks.
4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Mariana and I have been (very slowly — everything we do is very slow, if you haven’t notice) book-clubbing Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. To me, it’s been revelatory. I’ve really appreciated how he uses examples to show how things like myths, diet, religion, money, capitalism and more have set our species on the course we’ve been charting for 200,000 years.
I don’t agree with everything he writes, but he obviously put in A LOT of time to research, so when I find something that strikes me as untrue, the act of disagreeing with him is a challenging and worthwhile brain workout.
He’s also a very good writer. Here is one excerpt I thought was beautiful, but also hopeful. It considers how we know so little about the things that took place in the tens of thousands of years our ancestors existed before recorded history. But Harari pushes us to acknowledge that just because we don’t know what took place in those many millennia doesn’t mean little of value happened.
This curtain of silence shrouds tens of thousands of years of history. These long millennia may well have witnessed wars and revolutions, ecstatic religious movements, profound philosophical theories, incomparable artistic masterpieces. The foragers may have had their all-conquering Napoleons, who ruled empires half the size of Luxembourg; gifted Beethovens who lacked symphony orchestras but brought people to tears with the sound of their bamboo flutes; and charismatic prophets who revealed the words of a local oak tree rather than those of a universal creator god. But these are all mere guesses. The curtain of silence is so thick that we cannot even be sure such things occurred — let alone describe them in detail.
Scholars tend to ask only those questions that they can reasonably expect to answer. Without the discovery of as yet unavailable research tools, we will probably never know what the ancient foragers believed or what political dramas they experienced. Yet it is vital to ask questions for which no answers are available, otherwise we might be tempted to dismiss 60,000 of 70,000 years of human history with the excuse that ‘the people who lived back then did nothing of importance.
The truth is that they did a lot of important things. In particular, they shaped the world around us to a much larger degree than most people realize. Trekkers visiting the Siberian tundra, the deserts of central Australia and the Amazonian rainforest believe they have entered pristine landscapes, virtually untouched by human hands. But that’s an illusion. The foragers were there before us and they brought about dramatic changes even in the densest jungles and the most desolate wildernesses. The wandering bands of storytelling Sapiens were the most important and most destructive force the animal kingdom had ever produced.
3. Judas and the Black Messiah
Great movie, currently available on HBO Max (and some theaters, as well). It’s the story of FBI informant William O’Neal ( the story’s “Judas”) and how his actions led to the death of Fred Hampton — the young chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (and the “Black Messiah”).
I love that the film focuses almost exclusively on a very tight chunk of Hampton’s life, and Daniel Kaluuya was masterful portraying him. He won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, and even his acceptance speech was awesome — featuring the technical glitches this past year will be known for.
2. Piety and Desire Chocolate
If there’s better chocolate in the world, I haven’t found it yet. I really think chocolate maker Chris is the best at what he does (and also a great guy passionate about his craft and his city).
And he ships anywhere in the country! I recommend ordering a 24-piece Bonbon box (or 12-piece if you’re a weakling). Besides being a mix of creative, delicious flavors — you can see some of them here — the chocolates are also so beautiful you might hesitate before eating them. But you will eventually eat them and I promise you’ll be happy you did!
1. The (Very Old) Music of Johannes Ockeghem
I went to college for music performance (a trombone player!), so I’m very aware of how my mood soars when I listen to classical music. But I basically just listen to the same composers — Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak — over and over again. Everyone I listen to was alive within 100 years of each other, so what was I missing?
I found this timeline of classical music composers that begins in 1400 and the plan is to spend a night on each composer.
I’m still in the Renaissance Period, but I loved the music of Franco-Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem. He wrote this 550ish years ago and it still fills my heart to the brim. (Maybe someone in 2575 will feel the same way about this blog? I’d better up my game.) Give it a listen!
Alright, another 5 Things I Loved This Week in the books! If you love one of these things — or want to share something else you love — let me know in the comments. Plus give me a Follow or Like on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — and sign up for my newsletter. Thanks for reading!