Like everything else, spring has its adherents and detractors.
March 18, 2023, 6:23 a.m. ET
I like to be up when it’s dark in the morning, to move sleepily around in the dark, working and sipping coffee and listening to music undistracted. I keep the lights off, which keeps the visual noise off. Outside, only the moon, maybe one neighbor’s television flashing blue and green on the living room wall.
My preference for the pre-dawn isn’t original, but it’s deeply felt. I’m thinking about those deeply felt preferences, the little things we love and loathe, and how each on its own is insignificant but, when taken in aggregate, they make the whole of a personality.
I got into a joking to-and-fro with a friend this week about daylight saving time. When we “spring forward,” she argued, it takes her weeks to adjust, to stop feeling rushed in the mornings, to get over having “lost” an hour. She receives this lost hour as a harbinger of summer, her least favorite time of year, its heat and humidity. I played the smug victor, delighting in my extra hour of morning darkness and its complementary hour of evening light.
I often stumble across this list of Susan Sontag’s likes and dislikes, a quirky assemblage of the mundane and the extraordinary:
Things I like: fires, Venice, tequila, sunsets, babies, silent films, heights, coarse salt, top hats, large longhaired dogs, ship models, cinnamon, goose down quilts, pocket watches, the smell of newly mown grass, linen, Bach, Louis XIII furniture, sushi, microscopes, large rooms, boots, drinking water, maple sugar candy.
Things I dislike: sleeping in an apartment alone, cold weather, couples, football games, swimming, anchovies, mustaches, cats, umbrellas, being photographed, the taste of licorice, washing my hair (or having it washed), wearing a wristwatch, giving a lecture, cigars, writing letters, taking showers, Robert Frost, German food.
Each item taken alone could be passed off as a caprice, but in the list, there are clues to the person — a person who likes babies but dislikes couples, who likes the smell of mowed grass and dislikes the cold. (A fellow vernal equinox partisan, perhaps?) Absent any explanation, the meaning of the list is malleable.
I’ve extolled the virtues of the best-of list before, but the worst-of list has its value too. The lists are shortcuts, ways of knowing each other quickly. It’s why dating profiles and yearbook write-ups are premised on likes and dislikes. Wouldn’t it make things more interesting if, when you met someone, instead of telling them what you do for a living you told them what you like and dislike? Or at least appended those preferences to your introduction?
One’s likes and dislikes are forever changing, too, which permits a person to be complicated and fickle and to change their mind. Today I like being up early, and daylight saving time. I like the idea of spring, the spring frame of mind (renewal, blossoming), even as it’s 36 degrees outside. I like super-subjective lists of likes and dislikes that may reveal bits of who people really are. Tell me yours.
“The writer’s sensibility was, for her, a thing to be studied, pondered, and the questions she longed to ask of the writers she cared for seemed to hold all the answers to her future.” From The New Yorker in 2008, Darryl Pinckney on Susan Sontag’s early journals.
From NYT Cooking, spring recipes our Food staff can’t wait to make.
“The vernal equinox is a momentous poem among moments, overspilling its borders like the swelling of sunlight it heralds.” From 2007, Natalie Angier on the arrival of spring.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
The banking crisis could make borrowing tougher, a threat to the staying power of the economy’s postpandemic recovery.
Silicon Valley Bank was deeply interwoven to an unusual degree into the lives and businesses of tech executives.
The World Health Organization accused Chinese officials of hiding data that might link Covid’s origin to illegally traded animals at a market in the city of Wuhan.
The Justice Department is investigating the surveillance of American citizens by the Chinese company that owns TikTok.
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin’s arrest, a highly symbolic step.
New York City’s go-to fish rescuer? A beautician from the Bronx.
📺 “Lucky Hank” (Sunday): If you’ve been missing Bob Odenkirk since “Better Call Saul” ended last year, you’ll be relieved to learn that he’s back with a new series. In “Lucky Hank,” Odenkirk plays a cranky English professor who gets into hot water with both students and colleagues as he struggles to write his second novel. The series is based on the 1997 book “Straight Man” by Richard Russo, with Paul Lieberstein (“The Office”) and Aaron Zelman (“Silicon Valley”) as showrunners. Our critic James Poniewozik calls it “a sometimes cutting, sometimes empathetic account of the petty battles among people who have found that their career ladders are short a few rungs.” I’m sold.
🎶 “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” (Friday): I recently listened to a fascinating interview with Courtney Love in which she says that Kurt Cobain and Lana Del Rey are the “only two musical geniuses” she’s known. It made me excited for Del Rey’s new album. The singles released so far are lovely, especially “The Grants,” which features vocals from singers who appeared in the 2013 documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Sheet-Pan Fried Rice
Of all the ways to use a sheet pan, “frying” rice on it might be the least intuitive — which is why Hetty McKinnon’s sheet pan-fried rice is so brilliant. A simple combination of day-old rice, frozen vegetables and some eggs, it gets its irresistible appeal from an umami-rich vegan XO sauce, made from shiitake mushrooms and ginger. One enthusiast’s advice in the notes: Double the sauce, then save the extra to drizzle on noodles, roasted vegetables and even salmon. Also gleaned from the recipe notes: To keep the dish vegan, skip the eggs and add crumbled (pressed) extra-firm tofu in Step 4. This adaptable, 30-minute recipe can be whatever you want it to be.
What you get for $900,000: A three-bedroom house in Houston; a penthouse condominium in Blacksburg, Va.; or a 1928 Tudor Revival home in Minneapolis.
The hunt: They wanted two bedrooms and a view in Manhattan. Which one did they choose? Play our game.
Hot springs and hikes: Spend 36 hours in Taipei.
Bundle up in style: 24 coat options from the fashion shows.
A.I. travel: One day, a chatbot could hand you a perfect itinerary.
Wedding playlists: Readers picked these 22 tracks.
Pain relief: It’s safe to go to a chiropractor. But be careful with neck manipulation.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Invest in a cookie scoop
If your spring break plans include baking projects, consider investing in a great cookie scoop for more polished-looking cookies, cupcakes, muffins and more. Not only can it create perfectly round, identically sized cookies, it can also portion out muffin batter with minimal mess, or top your cupcakes with the right amount of frosting. Wirecutter experts like the 2-tablespoon Norpro scoop best — it’s one of the essential pastry tools the kitchen team spent hundreds of hours testing. — Marguerite Preston
N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments: The beauty of the first few days of March Madness is that you don’t need to tune into a specific game. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments are on all day today, from noon till midnight; flip on the TV, or stop by a sports bar, and you’ll probably catch a great game. Potential highlights: Florida Gulf Coast, a No. 12 seed and a favorite pick for a Cinderella run in the women’s tournament, plays at 2:30 p.m. And Furman, which upset Virginia in the men’s bracket, will try to continue its unlikely run against San Diego State at 12:10 p.m.
A historic upset: No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, a small college in New Jersey, beat top-seeded Purdue. It’s the second-ever victory for a 16 seed in the men’s tournament.
South Carolina, Stanford and Iowa all won easily on the first day of the women’s tournament.