Everyone The Light Touches Was In The Pride Lands

Pride Rock on the red carpet at the world premiere after party.

I don’t live in Hollywood, I live in the much cooler (at least temperature-wise) beachy area of Marina del Rey/Venice. But every once in awhile, since this is LA, I like to drop into the “Hollywoody” denizens of this town, like red carpet premieres. Friend Tim (my dorm mate from freshman year at Mizzou) is the executive editor of Entertainment Weekly, so, he gets the good invites.

But we are journalists, not show business people. So we get confined to sitting in the backs of the theaters or up on the mezzanine levels of these exclusive events. You know, up with the riff raff, where we belong. The thing about the world premiere of director Jon Favreau’s live-action Lion King last night is that the stars were SO A-list (Beyonce, Steph Curry, Chance the Rapper, Seth Rogen, etc) that the “riff raff” consisted of almost all celebrities. It was super weird.

The setting is the Dolby Theater, which you’ve seen if you’ve watched any Oscars ceremonies on television. Security locks up everyone’s phones in individually-sized pouches with electronic locks that only the security team can unlock after you’ve left the theater. So no snaps from the theater from me.

Anyway, we were up there in our mezzanine seats, and the following people were in the three rows in front of me: Ali Wong, Leann Rhimes and Eddie Cibrian, Megan Traynor and her husband, who was the kid in Spy Kids (no longer a kid), Chrissy Metz from This is Us, some actor from Game of Thrones I did not recognize because that’s not a show I ever watched (Update: Tim says it was Pedro Pascal), and right behind us was Raven Simone.

“That’s so Raven!” I said. “And she’s sitting behind us,” quipped the girl next to me. “That is so NOT Raven.” (Y’all may know I have used “That’s so Raven” as a recurring bit to react to things for maybe, ten years? Being able to make a Raven joke about Raven herself was a surreal high.)

Before the show got started, aka, before Beyonce had entered the building, I went up four rows to chat with Friend Eric at the WSJ. We were talking about Pittsburgh or something when I’m tapped on the shoulder by someone asking me which seat I’m supposed to be in and it’s … Tracy Morgan. “Ohhhh, I was just squatting here talking with a friend, sorry,” I had to say, to Tracy Morgan, because they put there were so few “normals” at this premiere that they had to put legit television stars with the journos.

Cast gets introduced before the screening. We were there, up in the upper level seats. Still breathed the same air as Beyonce. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

As someone who’s seen the animated Lion King a gazillion times (I also saw the 1994 version in the theater), screening the live-action reboot gave me all the feels. Watching it at the world premiere took things to another level — the director came out and brought each cast member on stage BEFORE the film, which led to a standing ovation before the movie ever started. Given all the buzz and Beyonce in the air, the audience broke into cheers and applause after every song, which made screening a film feel more like seeing the Broadway show. I peered down at Ali Wong if she laughed at the jokes in the film, and she didn’t, which surprised me because Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen and John Oliver were hilarious in their roles.

Huge regret I didn’t selfie with Levar Burton since he seemed really open to it at the after party. Said party took place in white tent that stretched a couple of blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the Dolby Theatre. I love these industry parties for all the unlimited booze and buffet, of course. But this one being a Disney premiere also had amazing kid stuff! DOLE WHIPS (usually only available at DisneyLand), makeup artists doing safari animal face painting, projection machines so you could make your own souvenir video of walking in silhouette with Simba, Pumbaa and Timon, warthog slime-making and Pride Rock-painting crafts, the McDonald’s food truck parked to serve Chicken McNugget Happy Meals with the Lion King merch toys inside … and yet very, very few kids. Then again, it was 11 o’clock on a Tuesday night. How many children should be out at that hour?

Things I’ve Done While Out of Commission, A List

The whole arm popping out of socket situation could have been so much worse that I’m counting my lucky stars that I’m merely stuck in bed in a sling. I just got cleared to return to work, too, so tomorrow I plan on going in, to get off my ass.

A fairly complete list of what I “accomplished” while convalescing this week:

Caught up on the Taylor Swift/Scooter Braun rift
Listened to a recording of Curtis Sittenfeld reading her short story, Creative Differences
Sent articles to friends, according go their individual interests
Reviewed my doctor’s notes from Ireland
Saw an American doctor, got new x-rays
Canceled a bunch of previously scheduled trips and engagements
Started watching Black Mirror based on a handy ranking of all its episodes
Watched the full season of State of the Union
Watched 13 episodes of Jane the Virgin
Saved a list of movies to watch on Netflix based on this “100 Best” list
Read the following books: Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, Lifespan by David Sinclair
Approximately ten squats and nine lunges
Made a dessert involving lots of puff pastry
Wrote newsletter
Read some poetry curated by Friend Patrick
Played with Luna with my good arm
Talked on the phone with Friend Janet
Ordered Amazon Fresh
Ordered Amazon Pantry, after learning they were two different offerings
Checked my credit card points
Asked realtor to drive me around to see some houses, since I can’t drive
Updated my DC tenants’ lease
Walked to order a cake, found bakery closed
Walked to another bakery
Intermittently g-chatted with Kat, Reeve, Danny, Fiscus and Mike (individually, not as a group)
Called mom four times

International SOS

We were somewhere near the town of Dingle, taking in these breathtaking sites and letting the girls slide down steep grass-covered boulders at a prehistoric fort on the edge of the land jutting into the Atlantic when I slipped, my right arm overextending back behind my head. I heard two cracks in my shoulder before ending my slide and losing my vision briefly because of the excruciating pain.

There was not a prettier place I could have dramatically dislocated my shoulder, requiring an ambulance ride and copious amounts of morphine. Eventually an x-ray revealed a full dislocation but not fracture, sparing me surgery and allowing the doctor, Tricia, to pop my shoulder back in while I was breathing in huge gulps of some sort of gas to “take the edge off.”

Before and after.

My right arm spent hours out of socket so I’m going to be recovering for several weeks. The health care I received was nothing but caring and thorough and considerate. The doctor even got me tea and toast after popping my arm back. Thank you, Ireland.

A limerick:

To Dingle town we herded the crew
To take in spectacular views
I slipped down a grass boulder
Dislocating my shoulder
Now it’s opiates for the black and blues

Day Two In the Ring of Kerry

The roads here and suuuuper narrow but we had to rent SUVs to fit all the humans. So I’m constantly driving too close to the curb on one side and oncoming traffic on the other. Throw in the harrowingly narrow alleys in town and it’s a wonder we are all in one piece.


Pet sheep and goats and rabbits
Driving though, still not a habit
Squeezed trucks through an alley
Almost entered death’s valley
Perhaps next trip we’ll all just cab it

My big highlight of the day was a farm in which you could really get up close and personal with pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, birds and so much more. An old barn was converted into an indoor playground and outside, as if the animals weren’t enough, there were playgrounds for kids everywhere.

Obligatory sheep selfie

Limericking in Ireland

A momma duck and her ducklings at Ross Castle.

Hello from an estate in Killarney, Ireland, on the island’s Eastern coast. Our family friends the Wan-Yau’s met up with us in Dublin as one of their stops during their epic monthlong traveling adventure around the world. Like us, they are repatriating after living in Asia for several years (Seoul then Singapore) and decided to travel as their furniture and belongings are shipped back to San Francisco.

This is our NINTH squad trip together since we met in 2015. Together our two families have traveled to Jeju Island, Cebu, Osaka, Okinawa, Sydney, Taipei, Bangkok, Danang/Hoi An and now, an Ireland road trip. Eva and their oldest, Jonah, met as toddlers in swim class and through those two we grownups became friends. Amazingly, Eva and Jonah are still super close and love spending time together. “I’m surprised they play together so well since they are both obviously Alphas,” Sarah remarked.

I’m going to try and remember each day with a limerick. Here’s yesterday’s (which was an epic travel day from LAX to DUB then caravaning to this lush farm in Ireland, where we are surrounded by rolling green hills, cows and sheep grazing, and clouds resting atop mountains in the distance. It is as green as you imagine.

Ten hours by plane, four by car
To Killarney we traveled far
The girls made a fuss,
Matt tried not to cuss,
Luna threw up, her forehead is marred.

And for today:

After jet leg and traveler’s rest
Yesterdays’s spirits we tried to best
In the town we explored a castle
The children were not too much hassle
Dined at home to avoid any stress.

I’ll try to keep going!

That One Time At Lawrence Welk’s House

A cozy salon with Manohla Dargis, with blue-hued vistas of Los Angeles behind her. “It looks like the LA of a Michael Mann movie,” she said.

In the megalopolises of Asia, experiences are often marked by their scale — a health scare happening in a “small town of two million people,” or how one protest can draw 300,000 into the streets on short notice.

In Los Angeles, experiences are marked by the random intersections of cultural touchstones: That book party on Sunset to talk foreign policy, featuring the Obama national security guy and some former spies, which was at a clubby Soho House because Ron Burkle owns it. Or last night’s salon for NYT film critic Manohla Dargis at Lawrence Welk’s sprawling former home where an Indian-American musician entertained during cocktail hour by playing “Old Town Road” on the sitar. (That song lineup, which included sitar arrangements for A-ha, and Coldplay, and Marvin Gaye, was wholly delightful but Old Town Road marked the high point, IMHO.)

This was so dope.

Also all the caterers were clearly male models, which a Swiss one admitted when I confronted him over his serving platter of mini chicken and waffles about how ostentatiously good-looking the bar and waitstaff was. I mean, it was almost obscene to have all that bone structure tending bar.

I grew up only coming to know Southern California from the movies and TV, so living here in real life is a mix of recognition and surprise. Almost a year in, I really just love it. Not because of the randomness of the parties but primarily because it’s a place of many cultures, many peoples — and they meet-up and mix-up in interesting ways.

When LA campaigned for the Olympics, the organizers talked about it as “the Northern-most city in Latin America and also the capital of the Pacific Rim” — LA is how America faces outward and into the future rather than inward and back.

Friend Liz now comes to mock me when I say I feel like my soul was always here and now my body just caught up, but I mean it! I am feeling more at home here than anywhere else I’ve lived, and it’s taken such a short time, thanks to the weather (I am perpetually high on vitamin D) and the way the place embraces its cultural quirks and collisions. How nice for a place to be so many things, and to encourage that its people be so many things, too.

30 Years Since Tiananmen

The crackdown started, infamously, on June 4, 1989. But the movement had been swelling by this point, made so tragically clear as we revisit images from that time and remember.

“We know now that one side was arguing for restraint towards the demonstrators and for wider reforms, while hardliners pressed for a crackdown. It was almost unbelievable to witness the open massive challenge to the authority of the CCP. It went on for days, then weeks, numbers growing. But something had to give.”

Greg Girard, China-based photographer who spent weeks documenting the movement and the massacre. He’s been posting his film photos from thirty years ago on his Instagram, which you should check out.

For further reading, I recommend my former colleague Louisa Lim’s The People’s Republic of Amnesia

Pain Reactions

My entire team at work is reading/read Homo Deus, which is about post-humanism, the central topic of our video show. Despite its weight, the book is a pretty smooth read. The most interesting thing I learned from it is about the narratives we create around pain: Nobel-prize winning research found that in our memories we average the peak pain point and final pain point of experiences. So when given a choice between a shorter experience of moderate pain and a longer painful experience with a higher peak pain point, we choose the longer experience, so long as the ending was not-that-painful.

So if you’re getting a colonoscopy and your peak pain was an 8 and your final experience was a 2, you’d choose a long colonoscopy over a short procedure with a sustained pain level of 6. Ditto childbirth, etc. Harari:

“Every time the narrating self evaluates our experiences, it discounts their duration and adopts the ‘peak-end rule’ – it remembers only the peak moment and the end moment, and assesses the whole experience according to their average.”

A scene from Closer, starring Natalie Portman.

This reminded me of an interview that director Mike Nichols gave about his film Closer, which follows a quartet of miserable relationships, or they end up feeling that way, anyway. He talked about how he wanted to bring the play to film because it features only scenes of the beginnings and the ends of relationships — that’s all the audience gets to experience — you don’t get all the quiet mundanity in between. Nichols said something about how that’s exactly how we remember our romances, too. The peak pain and the bliss at the beginning; but not much in between.

Science seems to bear out the play/film’s idea … about the end points, anyway.

Like everyone else, I think Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius and recommended Fleabag to every reader of my newsletter when season one came around a few years ago. I did not expect a second season (season one was so self-contained) so when it dropped a few weeks ago and was PERFECT, it was like finding a twenty in a purse you hadn’t used in months and then having a friend come by to offer you an ice cream sandwich.

Kristin Scott-Thomas guest stars in an episode and gives an epic speech about a woman’s pain:

“Women are born with pain built in,” she says. “It’s our physical destiny: period pains, sore boobs, childbirth, you know. We carry it within ourselves throughout our lives, men don’t.

“They have to seek it out, they invent all these gods and demons and things just so they can feel guilty about things, which is something we do very well on our own. And then they create wars so they can feel things and touch each other and when there aren’t any wars they can play rugby.

“We have it all going on in here inside, we have pain on a cycle for years and years and years…”

Audiences loved it.

I recently started reading the work of Leslie Jamison, a writer who is my age but writes like she’s been alive for 200 years and has all the wisdom and experience to show for it. Her collection of essays, The Empathy Examsends with the essay “A Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” which catalogues her own pain, examines the pain women carry, and the literary trope of the wounded woman. “I’m tired of female pain and also tired of people who are tired of it,” she writes. If you don’t read the book, here’s the piece. 

It raised a lot of questions for me but a key one is this: When a woman’s pain and suffering is so often expected and cliched, how do we best carry our actual wounds? She riffs on the notion of the “post-wounded woman,” a generation of us who grew up doing everything we could to avoid the identity of a wallowing victim/woman. I recognize this in myself:

“Post-wounded women know that postures of pain play into limited and outmoded conceptions of womanhood. Their hurt has a new native language spoken in several dialects: sarcastic, apathetic, opaque; cool and clever. They guard against those moments when melodrama or self-pity might split their careful seams of intellect. I should rather call it a seam. We have sewn ourselves up.”

Then, she asks, What if some of us want to take our scars seriously?

And answers:

We don’t want to be wounds, but we should be allowed to have them, to speak about having them, to be something more than just another girl who has one.

The pain is what you make of it. You have to find something in it that yields.


Snapping the arena, flanked by the chancellor, a curator and the grad school dean.

Columbia, Missouri is vintage shops and cheese-laden appetizers and the state’s flagship university columns at dusk. It’s downtown streets no wider than a driveway. It’s ice cream shops with so many yarn dolls as decor that the ones that aren’t on display are “sleeping” in an extra fridge. It’s hair stylists from Utica.

I called Columbia home for only a blink of time, so few semesters that I really only remember the final one, and the summer that followed it which my tribe refers to as “the lost summer.” It was wedged in between a time of school responsibility and work responsibility. For that summer, there was neither. I never have spent a summer like that since.

You do get to go home again, and ideally it’s under the circumstances I went back this weekend, as a sage advice-giver type. The new dean, David Kurpius, asked me to be the commencement speaker for the Missouri School of Journalism’s May graduating Class of 2019.

My remarks focused on things I’ve learned in the 15 years since leaving Columbia. The main thrust of anything I talk about regarding my adult life is how accidentally lucky I’ve been; how timing and circumstance have collided to go right, without much planning at all.

Being back after so much time away meant a nostalgia tour of the things that I loved eating and doing, so, to review:

Booches ✔️
Toasted ravioli (many times) ✔️
Shakespeare’s ✔️
Lakota coffee ✔️
Tiger Stripe ice cream ✔️
Chokes ‘n cheese at Flatbranch ✔️
ΠΒΦ house ✔️
Drunkenly leaving wallet at Harpo’s ✔️

(Country Kitchen is closed, so, sadly, that couldn’t happen. Never did get drunk enough for Gumby’s Pokey Sticks, but thought about it.)

Liz and our happy place, Shakespeare’s Pizza

Friend Liz, who has a history of gamely going on random weekend trips, is also a Mizzou alum and a former Pi Phi, so she joined me in the trek to the middle of Missouri (and the arduous journey back home, which required extra nights in sad hotels and a lot of time sitting idly on tarmacs).

I can’t express how meaningful it was to be back in Missouri, and have Liz there to enjoy the old haunts together, to marvel at the newness of the student center and rec center (which is basically a five-star resort now), and to share the memories of yesteryear.

Speaking at Mizzou Arena, May 2019

I wouldn’t go back in time if you offered, because I did as I said in the speech and inhabited those moments fully when I lived them. But it’s nice to drop in on the past when you can, especially if it involves toasted ravioli.

Graduating at the Hearnes Center, May 2003

May is Mayhem

When I look back on 2019, I hope that things never get as chaotic as May, when everything I agreed to do back in, I dunno, the fall, converged in one month. We launched Future You with Elise Hu, my new video series for NPR, which was supposed to be ready earlier but as with many of these creative projects, a lot of twists and turns happen along the way.


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Plus there’s Mother’s Day, my two wedding anniversaries (legal and observed), end-of-school obligations, my brother’s birthday and my spouse’s birthday, which we had to skip over last weekend because, well, I couldn’t be around. Eventually we are going to have to find a day to celebrate “Matty’s Birthday, Observed” because there’s so much to do, there’s never enough tiiiiime … I sound like Jessie Spano in one of the most unforgettable episodes of Saved by the Bell, but it’s true.

Just after we started rolling out the first episode, I flew to New York where we do our annual meeting for the non-profit news org, Grist, where I’ve been a board member for many years. New York is so fun this time of year; it pulses with a kinetic energy, it smells of all the smells, there’s a sense that anything in the range of human experience can happen RIGHT NOW, on the very street corner on which you’re standing. It’s like being in Shanghai, where really, anything and everything could just pop off, right then.

One of my closest girlfriends in the whole world, Mari from Tokyo, happened to be in New York this month so we had a date night on Thursday featuring a lot of eating and drinking and meandering from one West Village place to another. This was the first time we’ve hung out OUTSIDE of Japan and just one of the best gal pal get togethers … she’s an actress and writer for whom all sorts of new projects are coming her way and I’m so proud. I love how New York is just full of possibility; it makes it magical.

I stuck around for more magic. And more reunion dates, and an Adam Driver/Keri Russell play and most importantly, for Friend Alex’s wedding. Friend Alex is my partner-in-jet-lag. Both of us were Asia correspondents at the same time (she for CNN, I for NPR) and so one of us was always up at some strange hour for rapid fire text banter. She taught me not to wash my hair for days, which ends up building great volume (you just have to use good dry shampoo to keep it from getting gross). And she’s the classiest, New Yorkiest of my girlfriends, so she threw the classiest, New Yorkiest of weddings overlooking Central Park, from one of those exclusive Upper East Side clubs that didn’t let women become members for most of its history. The affair was black tie and beautiful, and she wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Alex and Andrew, a modern wedding for a modern couple.