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Episode 59 – with Rich Cohen – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on August 23, 2019

By Lisa Birnbach

Journalist Rich Cohen While reading The Last Pirate of New York, the newest book by this week’s guest, the journalist Rich Cohen, I realized that we are not the first generation of Americans to say things are terrible.  Duh.  No one had it easy, ever.  It’s the challenges and how they came about that provides grist for the mill.  I often think that if I had been born in an earlier century I’d have died in a carriage accident thanks to my nearsightedness.  And that doesn’t take into account my lack of upper body strength.  Yet, no matter what I read, I find something disturbing:  Iceland is losing glaciers as the planet warms, and the country predicts all of its glaciers will eventually disappear. Young Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish climate activist is sailing to North America in a small craft with a small crew, in order to call attention to the extravagant waste of carbon fuels, among other issues.  She is heroic but people are trashing her.  WHY ARE PEOPLE SO CRUEL?  She’s a kid with a great heart and great communication skills.  But a kid.  This is why I decided to find 5 things that make life better.  No matter how anodyne or common, these little markers remind me that not everything is terrible.   This week’s guest has written a slew of wonderful nonfiction books and was a co-creator  of HBO’s series Vinyl.  Rich Cohen is attracted to tough guys, and The Last Pirate of New York:  A Ghost Ship, A Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation brings great reporting and storytelling talent to a man who was considered the worst monster alive… in 1860.  So without further ado, my five things:1. The new or newish thing our phones and computers can do, which is to give their password to another person – almost by magic. The person who has the password is asked if they want to share it, and instantly the other person’s device is online. I think this may be a feature of Apple. Preemptively, the negative among us may say our phones are spying on us. Who cares? This trick is a delight.  2. Because so much of our world is digital and virtual, I’ve returned to doing crafts. By hand. No matter how good or disappointing the outcome, it feels good to make something real and palpable by hand. And of course, what’s better than knitting, or doing embroidery, or needlepoint or painting? Doing it while listening to a book on tape or a podcast or two. That is an hour well spent.  3. Speaking of the real and not the virtual, I would be lost if I didn’t carry a notebook with me everywhere. At the moment it’s a small Clairefontaine notebook, which is easy to stow in any of my purses. And it’s colorful so it’s easy to find. I do mishmash my notes for everything in it – so there are pages I don’t quite understand any more, but it’s nice to write things down; those things do stay in my brain longer.  4. Lancome’s “Le Stylo Waterproof” eyeliner. I was looking for a new eyeliner that didn’t run or disappear, and a salesman at a Sephora, calling me “Miss Thing” told me it was the best. Full stop. I don’t wear it every day, but when I do, I’m always surprised that at the end of the night when I’m washing my face, the liner is still where I put it in the morning. 5. This video of 2 Canadian women out in the country. Watch it and enjoy it. A simple pleasure. Okay a simple pleasure recorded by 21st century technology, but still…..  Rich Cohen’s 5 Things: (Click above to listen to the podcast - for more about his five things!)1. Jumping off the dock in Maine.2. David Lynch’s narration of his audiobook “The Big Fish”.3. Bubble Baths.4.  Right Field bleachers at Wrigley Field.5. Fonzie.You can find out more about Rich Cohen at:  and on Twitter @RichCohen2003

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