Things I’m Verbing: Celebrity skin, the right-wing PC and magical thinking

A few years ago, when it seemed like my mother’s second surgery and chemo regimen had given her a clean bill of health, I bought myself a ukulele. I had never played a string instrument before, being strictly a piano/oboe/bassoon girl growing up (yeah, I know), but my reasoning was that a ukulele can make literally anything sound happy, including Hamlet meditating on suicide and murder. I can’t pretend that in the time since, I’ve become some sort of Jake Shimabukuro, but music is an act which adds something to the world, and as draining as the past year and a half has been and as horrible as it seems like it’s going to get, I’ll take any nourishing thing I can get.

All of this is to say that while I’m still a little shaky on the folky version of “The Star-Spangled Man With a Plan,” this week I managed the Nouvelle Vague cover of “The Killing Moon,” and that made me forget all this nonsense — that is, the Cold War-throwback news that Russia may have swung the election for Trump — for at least 20 minutes.

  • So, any time Anne Helen Petersen writes about celebrity, you ought to sit up and listen. “The Key to Trump Is Reading Him Like a Celebrity” is excellent, excellent work for BuzzFeed. Also unmissable on that site, from author Jesmyn Ward: “This Was the Year America Finally Saw the South.” Absolutely not the “pity the white working class” piece you might think it is; much more essential. (Though of that genre, though not really, Susan Faludi’s “Trumped and Abandoned” for the Baffler knocks it out of the park.)
  • As if they weren’t already, language and rhetoric are going to be more important than ever going forward. Read the libertarian Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh on patriotic correctness, the right’s stifling counterpart to that favorite bogeyman, political correctness. See also, from Tina Dupuy, “So We Elected an Autocrat: What to Do Now.” (One hint: Don’t adopt language like “MSM” or “mainstream media.” Do you flinch every time you see liberals use “flip-flop” as a verb? I do.) See also: the Teen Vogue broadside against Trump’s gaslighting that everyone is rightly talking about.
  • There’s magical thinking (the Electoral College and then the Republican-dominated House of Representatives are going to save us) and then there’s “Trump and the GOP won’t get rid of Obamacare; it’s working too well for us.” Heartbreaking.
  • What, you thought I wouldn’t post any Jewish stuff? Come on, on a scale of 1 to unmissable, “My Name Is Loolwa Khazzoom and I Won’t Change That to Come Off Less Middle Eastern” is off the charts. Given last week’s “are Jews white?” hubbub, if you have time, read Richard Jeffrey Newman’s “The Lines That Antisemitism and Racism Draw: Reflections on White Jewish Intersectionality” (multipage; one page). It was originally commissioned for a series of essays on #BlackArtMatters; you might think the two are unrelated, but read the piece. It will open up some things for you.
  • I started this on ukuleles and things that are joyful, didn’t I? Let’s end on some uplifting notes. For instance, someone found an entire feathered dinosaur tail inside a chunk of amber, and the photos are just staggering. See also:

(How are you real?!!)

Stay brave, friends.

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