In observance of Veterans Day, we are sending this week’s Folklife Friday digest a day early.
Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
Under the Banner of New York
In the wake of last week’s Manhattan terror attack, writer Zadie Smith paints in this essay a moving portrait of New York City. “We are every variety of human,” Smith writes. “Some of us are dopers and junkies. Some of us are preschool teachers and nuns. None of us deserve to be killed in the street.” Weaving together stories of both bravery and brutality, she concludes, “We cannot give up on offering alternative stories… We are a multiplicity of humans in an elastic social arrangement that can be stretched in many directions. It’s not broken yet.”
The Secret Lives of Our Immigrant Parents
“I’ve always respected my parents,” says Fresh Off the Boat star Randall Park, “But as I got older, my parents became more and more multidimensional, fully formed human beings.” In this episode of the Mash-Up Americans podcast, hosts Amy Choi and Rebecca Lair talk to Park and others about the construction of identity and the role parents play in shaping those narratives. “Whether it be pursuing a career or standing up for your community, it gets difficult,” Park adds. “But if you love your community, you’re going to do it.”
1,200 Messages in 1,200 Bottles
“I have all the time in the world, and instead of talking with other old people, I love to walk on the beach and see the surprises,” says Wim Kruiswijk, who has been collecting messages in bottles along the shore of Zandvoort in the Netherlands for thirty-four years. In this video, he revisits these collected messages—notes as valuable to him as they are to their senders. “When you’re talking with somebody, you’re interrupted and getting an answer before you expect it,” says Kruiswijk, who responds to these notes as often as he can. “When you write something, you can write on your own, no one is interrupting you.”
Investigating Pennsylvania’s Very Particular Penchant for Potato Chips
Pennsylvania leads the country in the production of “America’s guilty pleasures,” among them, chocolate, pretzels, and potato chips. The popularity of these snacks, as Dan Nosowitz explains here, stems from state’s early investment in factories and manufacturing plants as well as its convenience-store culture. “Wawa, in eastern Pennsylvania, and Sheetz, in western Pennsylvania, have what [Jason] Sheehan describes as a ‘cult’ around them,” Nosowitz writes. “The devotion to these convenience stores is something no 7-Eleven customer in California or Illinois or Florida would ever experience.”
Imagining the Anthropocene: Anne Carson’s “The Anthropology of Water”
Where does a pilgrimage end? It’s a question Rachel Edelman poses in this review of Anne Carson’s essay, “The Anthropology of Water.” Taking as her starting point the Camino de Santiago, Carson examines the “constellated meanderings” of her protagonist’s journey. “A pilgrim moves through a foreign space in the act of questioning,” Edelman writes. “Pilgrims were people wondering. Whom shall I meet now?” With these questions in mind, Carson “crafts a speaker whose vast and disparate inquiries engulf the reader in a fevered, feminine, consummately human voice.”
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason for their contributions to this week’s digest.