Things I’m Verbing: Send-offs, bad opera and the actual end of the world

Should I be surprised that journalists are suddenly rewriting Jeb Bush as a hapless, cuddly, decent man we all never gave a chance? I mean, Slate, the Washington Post, the New York Times, I understand that he may have seemed like one of the least bad options in an increasingly dreadful field. But at least (she said dubiously) we have Gawker to keep us honest, as Deadspin reminds us that Jeb! is not cuddly/bumbling/upright (nor is his patrician, disastrous-for-America family) and “ugh, the Terri Schiavo stuff” was abjectly and constitutionally horrible.

Some journalists and public figures have been struggling with this urge to play nice in how they talk about Antonin Scalia, but not all. Stephen Colbert is a classy man, and his send-off managed to be neither crass nor dishonest about Scalia’s legacy. Jeffrey Toobin was on-point without being dishonest in his look back for the New Yorker. Yes, Justice Scalia was funny and charming and great friends with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His colleagues and loved ones have every right to be elegiac if they choose. The lawyers and law students on my Facebook feed have largely thanked Scalia for making them better thinkers and analysts, no matter their own politics. But no one responded better than a college friend of mine, Craig Segall. From “Against a Hagiography for Justice Scalia“:

Increasingly, I do not think very much of gentility when it is used as a weapon to protect the powerful, and even less when the powerful used their authority largely to wound those below them. I think the claims of politesse look pretty tinny against the immense harm Scalia did — the harm that will live long after him. If I get the vapors, it is not going to be about failing sufficiently to show my respects to a man who showed so little respect to so many.

Meanwhile, the bench must march on. I am not a legal reporter nor do I have much inside knowledge of who Obama’s likely replacements could be, but the National Association for Public Defense makes a very interesting case for one of their own, a civil rights attorney from Montgomery, Alabama, named Bryan Stevenson.

That intro got long. And don’t we have other things to talk about?

  • Mike Judge gave us both Beavis & Butt-head Do America (still hilarious) and Office Space (one of the most perfect films ever assembled), but I may love him most for King of the Hill. So does the Atlantic, where Bert Clere makes an interesting case for the show as TV’s last true bipartisan comedy.
  • I don’t generally understand audience fascinations with very, very rich people (although I do love shows about the food they eat), but the New Yorker‘s “The Golden Generation” takes a different approach, following the children of Chinese nouveau-riche living abroad (in this case, Vancouver) and their underlying anxieties. It’s the flip side of the ongoing panic about empty luxury housing in cities with skyrocketing rents and demands.
  • Dungeons, Dragons and Disabilities” might be about D&D (though it’s vastly applicable to any kind of writing or journalism), but everyone should read Feminist Sonar‘s Elsa S. Henry’s work whenever she publishes, whether it’s about disability activism or her own great sci-fi.
  • Meryl Streep has not had a good few weeks. However, when she’s in her element as an actress, she does tend to make good choices, and her upcoming biopic Florence Jenkins Foster, about the world’s most enthusiastic bad opera singer, has some real promise.
  • Let’s end on a good note, at least. #ObamaAndKids, anyone?

ETA: Hang on, let’s end on an appropriate note. Today marks the five-year anniversary of @MayorEmanuel’s disappearance in a clap of thundersnow. (If you don’t understand the reference, you are in for a treat.) That Rahm’s creator, Dan Sinker, has saved us from a bunch of missing-the-point thinkpieces by writing his own, in which he wrestles with the account’s legacy and how both Twitter and Chicago have changed in the half-decade since that weird, wonderful, foul-mouthed adventure. An absolute must-read for everyone, Chicago person or not.

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