Staff Picks: Monkey Minds, the Singing Butler, and Rum Cookies


This Week’s Reading

Last night Daniel Smith taught me the word anxiolytics. It means “anxiety reducers.” (Dan is the author of Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety, so he should know.) His favorite nonchemical anxiolytic is Singin’ in the Rain. Mine, for now, is “Jesus Dropped the Charges,” by the O’Neal Twins. —Lorin Stein

The 1935 Silly Symphony cartoon “Cookie Carnival” raises so many questions, but most pressing: What is a rum cookie? The highly enlightening Wikipedia article informs us that the animated short, in which various varieties of baked good compete for the title of Cookie Queen, is a take on the Atlantic City bathing-beauty contests of the day, precursors to Miss America pageants. (Incidentally, the gingerbread hobo is voiced by the same actor who immortalized Goofy.) As a friend of mine commented, “Misses Licorice and Coconut were robbed.” And it’s true: Sugar Cookie’s easy victory (after she dons a blonde taffy wig, that is) is a testament to how little standards of beauty have changed, however much baked goods have. —Sadie Stein

Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies, which comes out in early July, needs to be on everyone’s bookshelf this summer. Or, more fittingly, in the pool house. And the latest Vanity Fair has a fun article about the origins of that hideously romantic painting The Singing Butler, which I’m sure you’ll recognize once you see it. —Thessaly La Force

Helpless,” by Poindexter. I heard this song playing in a store downtown and was convinced it was a new track by French electro band Phoenix. Poindexter gets it right with well-placed cymbal crashes and the type of moody synth that sound tracks an eighties teenage tryst on a foggy night. You can buy “Helpless” off fashion’s jack of all trades (Kitsune) album Kitsune America. SO DO IT. —Noah Wunsch

I was infatuated with the 1992 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, more famously known as the Dream Team. Jordan. Magic. Bird. Barkley. Legends at every position. Greats like Isaiah Thomas and Shaquille O’Neal getting the cold shoulder. Has a greater team ever been assembled—in any sport? GQ’s oral history reminds me that, as USA Today’s David DuPree remarked, “there’s 1992, and then there’s all the other teams. You can flip a coin about which was the best of all the other teams. But ’92 ain’t in the coin flip.”  —Justin Alvarez

I’ve been savoring Benjamin Moser’s new translation of Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector. The thick damp heat of the subway complements Lispector’s lush prose, and her poetic meditation on the nature of time and the “mad, mad harmony” of life is particularly suited for those late weekend nights when we wait interminably for the train that will take us home. —Anna Hadfield

Arthur Koestler’s “The Case of the Midwife Toad” tells the story of Paul Kammerer, the Austrian biologist, pacifist, and the last sane man to ever believe in Lamarck’s theory of inherited characteristics. In other words, the loneliest person in the world. Koestler describes the passionate and solitary battle that Kammerer fought against the scientific establishment in his attempt to prove Lamarckism. —Arthur Holland Michel