I was in the first semester of my last year of college when I began listening obsessively to Robyn, the self-titled dance album by Robyn Miriam Carlsson, best known for her 1997 hits "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know (What It Takes)."
The album arrived at the precise moment I needed it. As I faced graduation from college, adult life felt to me that clothes that didn't fit because I was made wrong for them. When I got a job in Washington, I initially felt more lost than found. My first great romance ground to an inevitable, and inevitably humiliating, end. I had very few friends in the city. I remember one day when I sat on the floor of one of the bathroom stalls in our office trying to regularize my breathing so I could go back to my desk and seem normal. And worst, I was young and unworldly enough to miss that I was going through a rite of passage, rather than a unique and unprecedented catastrophe.
Robyn became my guide to living in that sorrow and fear--and to moving beyond it. In the first video for "Be Mine!" a song about the impossibility of the title plea, a heartbroken Robyn embraced awkwardness and ugliness. "I'm just pretty some of the time" she said, declaring herself knowable in "Who's That Girl?" She sighed over a guy she knew wasn't good for much in "Bum Like You," and smacked down one who was beyond the pale in "Handle Me."
And "With Every Heartbeat," released later, updated Tina Turner's "Don't Turn Around" for a new generation. Turner may have not wanted her former lover to look back on her agony, insisting, "I'm going to be strong / I'm going to be fine." But Robyn was the one who walked away, declaring "I don't look back / Though I'm dying with every step I take," acknowledging that things are only "just a little, little bit better." She's not okay, and that's alright. Her songs were a guide to living alone with defiance and honesty, a willingness to acknowledge pain, and a refusal to lose herself in it, or anything else.
Given how intensely I feel about Robyn, and Robyn, I guess it's a little strange that I felt so ambivalent about seeing her in concert. I know the risks of loving an ideal from afar. But when she and Kelis, also in the process of reinventing herself as a dance star, announced that they'd be co-headlining the evocatively-named All Hearts Tour, I couldn't resist. I bought tickets for Monday's show at the 9:30 Club in Washington. What I didn't predict was that it would be so hard to share her with anyone else.
I don't go to shows that often. I'm short, which can negate the impact of going to see your idol if the crowd turns out to be tall. And I get nervous in crowds. My sense that Robyn was a sympathetic spirit only increased when she released the video for "Dancing On My Own" off her latest album, Body Talk, Pt. 1, a good illustration of how disconcerting clubs can be. But I've still never been in a crowd like this one. Instead of easing back between sets, the audience packed closer to the stage, a mass of sweat, confetti, nerves and impatience. One guy, who had committed the cardinal sin of thinking that if you leave a prime spot close to the stage you're entitled to reclaim it, shoved past me so hard I thought my glasses might be broken.
And that same guy, the one who I shot mental and ineffective daggers at during the set change? Once Robyn came on stage, he danced along next to me, his hand over his heart for most of the next hour and a half. We threw our hands up in the same bouquet, reaching for the same light when Robyn roared into the final chorus of "Dancing On My Own." We all jumped up and down, screaming "Don't fucking tell me what to do!" with the tiny, hyper, hyper-efficient woman who was dancing so hard she was losing clothes and earrings onstage. We gave ourselves over to joy for the night to heed her instructions to "cry when you get older." And we let her lift us up from heartbreak with a slowed-down encore rendition of "Show Me Love," the song that made her famous the first time around. By the end of the night, I'd kind of forgiven the guy. We were both there because we love the same woman.
In a song off the upcoming Body Talk, Pt. 2, "Hang With Me," Robyn warms up a little, though she warns her listener not to "fall recklessly, headlessly in love with me." It's a caution that comes five years too late. All of us who come to her shows are goners. But no matter how private and incandescent, no matter how pushy our love for her is, for one night, at least, exulting "I can't believe it!" into the mic, she loved us all back.
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
Four hours after learning about Saturday's devastating earthquake in Nepal, I received a Facebook notification I had never seen before: Sonia, a journalist friend based in northern India, was "marked safe." An hour later, the same notification about a different friend popped up. Then another. Soon, several of my friends wrote that they, too, had learned via this strange new notification that their friends in Nepal were okay.
A few hours later, the mystery was solved. On Saturday afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on his timeline that the notifications came from Safety Check, a service the company launched last fall. "When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe," he wrote, "It's moments like this that being able to connect really matters."
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal early on Saturday, centered 10 miles below the surface, less than 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. At least 1,100 are already reported to have been killed by the quake and subsequent avalanches triggered in the Himalayas. Historic buildings and temples were destroyed, leaving massive piles of debris in streets as rescue workers and neighbors work to find and help those still trapped beneath rubble. Below are images from the region of the immediate aftermath of one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike Nepal in decades. (Editor's note, some of the images are graphic in nature.)
“People skills” are almost always assumed to be a good thing. Search employment ads and you will find them listed as a qualification for a startling array of jobs, including Applebee’s host, weight-loss specialist, CEO, shoe salesperson, and (no joke) animal-care coordinator. The notion that people smarts might help you succeed got a boost a quarter century ago, when the phrase emotional intelligence, or EI, entered the mainstream. Coined in a 1990 study, the term was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book . Since then, scores of researchers have shown how being in touch with feelings—both your own and other people’s—gives you an edge: compared with people who have average EI, those with high EI do better at work, have fewer health problems,and report greater life satisfaction.
Today was the latest installment of the never-ending Clinton scandal saga, but it won’t be the last. Yet in some ways, the specifics are a distraction. The sale of access was designed into the post-2001 Clinton family finances from the start. Probably nobody will ever prove that this quid led to that quo … but there’s about a quarter-billion-dollar of quid heaped in plain sight and an equally impressive pile of quo, and it’s all been visible for years to anyone who cared to notice. As Jonathan Chait, who is no right-wing noise-machine operator, complained: “The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy.”
“All of this amounts to diddly-squat,” pronounced long-time Clinton associate James Carville when news broke that Hillary Clinton had erased huge numbers of emails. That may not be true: If any of the conduct in question proves illegal, destroying relevant records may also have run afoul of the law.
After more than a year of rumors and speculation, Bruce Jenner publicly came out as transgender with four simple words: “I am a woman.”
“My brain is much more female than male,” he explained to Diane Sawyer, who conducted a prime-time interview with Jenner on ABC Friday night. (Jenner indicated he prefers to be addressed with male pronouns at this time.) During the two-hour program, Jenner discussed his personal struggle with gender dysphoria and personal identity, how they shaped his past and current relationships and marriages, and how he finally told his family about his gender identity.
During the interview, Sawyer made a conspicuous point of discussing broadly unfamiliar ideas about gender and sexuality to its audience. It didn't always go smoothly; her questions occasionally came off as awkward and tone-deaf. But she showed no lack of empathy.
There is a tendency, when examining police shootings, to focus on tactics at the expense of strategy. One interrogates the actions of the officer in the moment trying to discern their mind-state. We ask ourselves, "Were they justified in shooting?" But, in this time of heightened concern around the policing, a more essential question might be, "Were we justified in sending them?" At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems—homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one's children, mental illness—are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can't be every place.