Things I’m Verbing: False feminists, bad business and a very good cucumber

I’m working on deadline today, so this is going to be quick — but in a short and sweet kind of way, rest easy. They’re all good stories, Brent.

I’m working on deadline today, so this is going to be quick — but in a short and sweet kind of way, rest easy. They’re all good stories, Brent.

  • What does it mean to be a good cucumber these days? Food writer Bee Wilson believes it’s become so watered-down, we don’t even know what that means anymore. (Link goes to the Financial Times; heads up on the paywall.)
  • Small Town Noir: I’m fascinatedNiemanStoryboard asks a Scottish fellow why he’s so obsessively collecting and investigating mid-century mugshots from a small town in western Pennsylvania.
  • You swooned and screamed over the first Black Panther trailer this week, right? (Ohmygod, go do so if you haven’t.) Seems like that kind of momentum would be a great time for Marvel to showcase its Wakanda-based comics, with their excellent writers and illustrators! Or… not, apparently? In the process, they’ve revealed a fatal flaw about how the industry insists it will get new readers into comics.
  • Last night in my corner of the internet, Twitter user Rave Sashayed bravely livetweeted her experience reading the godawful and rightfully canned 2006 Joss Whedon script for Wonder Woman. It’s worth considering where the famous-for-being-feminist Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator went so, so wrong in his approach to women. A Tumblr user named Laurel Jupiter took a thoughtful look at Whedon’s work back in 2015, when we were all still angry about the mess that is The Avengers: Age of Ultron. As she writes:

I wish he hadn’t turned, in twenty years, from the man who wanted to see the blonde girl in the horror movie survive and thrive into the rich bastard who thought it was funny to call Natasha Romanoff a cunt on IMAX and who called her a monster for being the victim of medical abuse. I’m still laughing angrily at Joss being driven off twitter by a mob of angry, betrayed female fans, because wow does he ever deserve it, but man, Joss. It didn’t have to be that way.

  • Samantha Bee is everything, and Full Frontal this week was a glorious poke in the eye to Jeff Sessions. Let’s end it on that:

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Indiana Man, Alabama Man and Florida Man

Today is one of those days where I want to opt out of the news cycle entirely. Any partisan take on shooting up a congressional GOP baseball team’s early morning practice is awful by default, yet I can’t help feeling that it will be become a bludgeon by the end of the day, not least from the president, despite his hopes and prayers.

Today is one of those days where I want to opt out of the news cycle entirely. Any partisan take on shooting up a congressional GOP baseball team’s early morning practice is awful by default, yet I can’t help feeling it will be become a bludgeon by the end of the day, not least from the president, despite his hopes and prayers. Meanwhile, in high Triangle Shirtwaist fashion, a massive fire at a London housing complex has horrifyingly illuminated the low esteem in which society (including landlord MPs) holds working-class life. Remember last night, when we were all simply angry about AG Jeff Sessions’ non-testimony on Russian interference with our election?

  • I clicked on Molly Ball’s profile of a freshman GOP congressman because of a tweet from Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg: “Embedded in this elegant @mollyesque profile of an Indiana congressman is a non-benign Trump dis of Mike Pence.” Yikes, non-benign is right.
  • Writing for Slate, Donna Minkowitz has scared me where I didn’t need to be scared with “How the Alt-Right Is Using Sex and Camp to Attract Gay Men to Fascism.”
  • You should follow Ironed Curtains, a blog collective featuring essays from Americans with Soviet roots. Their most impressive work to date is “Brilliant Blue Sky: Eyewitness Stories From Chernobyl,” sharing accounts from more than 100 people on the disaster’s 31st anniversary.
  • June 12 marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre. In honor of the 49 murdered and those who rushed to help, Dear World assembled portraits and interviews with survivors, first responders and loved ones. I wept reading through these, in large part because of the genuine love for the victims that restores their individuality.
  • We’ve talked a lot about how important Wonder Woman is for its representation of women, including Jewish women. One area where the film fell down, however, is representation of disability. Erin, the blogger behind The Geeky Gimp, presents the clearest argument yet for why the entertainment industry needs to change the conversation on disability, and facial difference in particular, as a signifier of evil.

Grim as the news has been, there have still been some light (or at least darkly humorous) takes to be had. It’s okay to enjoy them.

Stay brave, friends.

Image credit: King Lear, Great Lakes Theater, Cleveland, 2015

Things I’m Verbing: Fake food, bad HR and the act you’ve known for all these years

It is an act of radical self-care to remind yourself there is other news and journalism out there totally unrelated to Comey, Trump and the downfall of the republic!

It is an act of radical self-care to remind yourself there is other news and journalism out there totally unrelated to Comey, Trump and the downfall of the republic!

Chris Evans giggling at his dog is also a radical act of self-care. But also:

  • Let’s start with the Beatles. I love the Beatles. I spent the three years from sixth to eighth grade listening almost exclusively to the Beatles, so I’m honestly pretty chuffed (don’t @ me) at all the coverage of the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (Fifty! Years!) All Songs Considered brought in Giles Martin, the son of Beatles producer George Martin, to talk about how he went back into Abbey Road’s vault to not just remaster but remix the album from scratch. As someone who knows nothing about sound engineering, it’s fascinating to hear the differences in production side by side. See also:
    • Vulture had the nerve to rank 213 Beatles songs from worst to best, always sure to produce hilarious and furious discussion, because obviously it’s going to be wrong bottom to top. (Although I can’t disagree with their No. 1 pick, why “Hold Me Tight” doesn’t occupy the final slot is a mystery.) The piece provides a fantastic history of the band in non-chronological vignettes along the way.
    • I have not read this yet, but I’m thrilled that this 2008 paper exists on PsyArt, a self-described online journal for the psychological study of the arts: “The Space Between Us: A Developmental History of the Beatles.”
  • Also coming from the podcast word, Gastropod, which charmingly examines the relationship between food and science, has an episode on fake and adulterated food (and the cops that stop its proliferation) that could put you on edge in the grocery store for the rest of time.
  • It’s a short response to a larger fawning article by the New York Times, but the New Republic‘s Sarah Jones punches back at the notion that tech giants fund coding programs for kids out of the goodness of their hearts. Speaking of techno-libertarians, a reminder from a former ardent supporter why Julian Assange is garbage. Same with Uber.
  • Journalism is in serious trouble. We all know that, even if we’re not in media. But the ways in which it’s in trouble on the hiring side aren’t always apparent to outsiders. Rachel Schallom, who will soon by starting a job with the Wall Street Journal, wrote up a clear-headed and damning account of what’s wrong with newsroom hiring practices, from the unpaid labor and lost intellectual property the luckiest desperate applicants give away to the ways in which HR performs gatekeeping through the interview process and the job postings themselves.
  • You can’t end a Friday post that heavily, so I present, from NPR: cat cafes vs. dog cafes vs… raccoon cafes?

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: War heroes, late capitalism and the City of Lions

D-Day has a hashtag this year: #DDay73. Meanwhile, last night I finally saw Wonder Woman, taking on a different world war, and it’s spawned a cascade of hot takes ranging from “Is it really feminist?” to “You sheeple don’t realize this film is propaganda!” What a time to be alive.

D-Day has a hashtag this year: #DDay73. Meanwhile, last night I finally saw Wonder Woman, taking on a different world war, and it’s spawned a cascade of hot takes ranging from “Is it really feminist?” to “You sheeple don’t realize this film is propaganda!” What a time to be alive. Still:

  • If we’re going to talk about improperly lionizing the military, let’s start with Adam Serwer’s gut-wrenching demolition of the myth of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. As a childhood Civil War nerd, I had never heard any of this. Serwer’s response to the inevitable “He was a man of his time!” articles (provided, in this case, by the National Review) is equally damning.
  • Wellston, Ohio, is very close to where I grew up. New York Times science journalist Amy Harmon went there to meet the students pushing back against learning about climate change. This story exemplifies all of Harmon’s empathy for her subjects, without editorializing on them, and that kind of reporting may have a payoff by the end.
  • I forget sometimes how engrossing and beautiful book reviews can be. Jacob Mikanowski’s “Wine, Olive Oil and Wisteria: A Sensual Tour of the ‘City of Lions’” is Dictionary of the Khazars-level detailed and fascinating. It’s a tour through time and empire of what is currently Lviv, Ukraine, illuminating both the forces of history acting on the city and the individuals who make it memorable. Book reviews like this are a project I want to take on someday; the Open Notebook has some interesting thoughts on how to get started.
  • Twitter loves its @Alt- and @RogueAgencies. You can even become a Resistance Ranger with an actual wooden badge. Snopes has finally carried out a task we needed from the beginning: creating a directory of verified accounts.
  • I keep thinking about Sarah Jeong’s February comment that “Silicon Valley is obsessed with solving problems that are clearly most efficiently solved with better public works.” In that light, read “Uber, But for Meltdowns.”

If you want to end on a happier, sillier note (goodness knows we all need it):

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Brave geeks, inland farming and Zac Efron’s abs

It’s been an otherwise stupid week for speech; the furor about comedian Kathy Griffin’s Judith-and-Holofernes portrait of herself with the severed head of the president is an exercise in one-sided performative outrage, which the left has self-abasingly internalized from the right.

I make a habit of linking as little breaking news or reaction pieces as possible. Given the ridiculous speed with which this administration’s already imaginary moral center collapses into a gravitational singularity, it hardly seems worth trying to keep up with it all. Every once in a while, though, someone gets so furious and so creative with their fury that I have to celebrate it. This week, snaps to Charles Pierce of Esquire, writing on Trump’s withdrawal (for “negotiating a better deal,” very reality show) from the Paris Accords on climate change. Calling it “the Rose Garden’s dumbest moment on record,” he sold me with “obvious anagram Reince Priebus” and just keeps going from there.

It’s been an otherwise stupid week for speech; the furor about comedian Kathy Griffin’s Judith-and-Holofernes portrait of herself with the severed head of the president is an exercise in one-sided performative outrage, which the left has self-abasingly internalized from the right. That said, my favorite literary take on this administration comes from SFF writer Catherynne M. Valente, who realized back in April that Trump is our first magical realist president.

  • This isn’t all going to be outrage, but personally, I’m fed up with the rapturous response to David Alm’s “I was friends with Richard Spencer” essay in the Point. The surface-level read is a seemingly brave self-examination about why Alm stayed friends with the white-supremacist troll. He doesn’t seem to notice that every woman and minority tells him from the outset that Spencer is bad news. In fact, the entire essay is a master class in falling prey to Geek Social Fallacies, which, as a fellow alumna of the University of Chicago, surprises me not one bit.
  • Speaking of white supremacy, sit with Garrett Epps’ lovely piece for the Atlantic on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue, “The Motionless Ghosts That Haunt the South.” As a Civil War–obsessed fifth-grader, I dragged my parents on two separate Spring Break trips to battlefields and museums. One stopped in Richmond, where a transplanted Northerner working at the Museum of the Confederacy told us the row of statues was also called the Avenue of Second-Place Trophies.
  • From the New Food Economy, consider Chelsey Simpson’s look at who benefits from VC money for food startups, with a case study on the local food movement in Oklahoma City.
  • Death with dignity, as the assisted suicide movement calls itself, provokes strong emotions on all sides of the issue, especially disability rights activists. For many my own age, physician-assisted suicide may raise the specter of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, with its unsettling euphemism “being released.” Myself, I appreciated (and wept through) this New York Times Magazine exploration of a man who attends his own wake. It’s a complicated, thorough look at ceremony, survivors and agency at perhaps the most vulnerable time in anyone’s life.
  • Wonder Woman comes out in the United States today. Among the many preemptive criticisms I’ve seen of the film (most, from star Gal Gadot’s nationality to the studio’s “risky gamble” on a female director, unworthy) stands the odd complaint that Gadot isn’t buff enough to play an Amazon. Writing for Vulture, E. Alex Jung takes on the film industry’s insistence on outrageous swole bodies for male actors. “I’m worried that the Hollywood Chrises are just one scoop of protein powder away from total renal failure,” he writes.

I’m excited for Wonder Woman, personally; I’ll be seeing it in one of the Alamo Drafthouse’s all-female screenings, which I expect will be both delightful and powerful.

Stay brave, friends.

Photo credit: payattn13/Flickr

Things I’m Verbing: Christian seders, future ruins and rappelling for suffrage

I usually don’t share — can we call them incremental stories in the Trump-Russia thing, even when they’re massive, massive revelations? The thing is, it all tends to move so fast, and it’s easy to tune out because it gets overwhelming. But I can’t ignore the Washington Post’s “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel.” This is literally the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel. I will be interested to see how Trump and GOP supporters continue to justify their support for this administration, whether it’s simply calling this reporting fake news, “just some left-wing blog” or shrugworthy, as Rep. Jason “I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more” Chaffetz professes.

Are you ready for more?

  • Let’s start off light with Colin Dickey’s “Building in the Shadow of Our Own Destruction.” If that and the fact that it’s architecture criticism don’t put you off, you’re in for a thoughtful and unsettling look at how great buildings must be designed while already imagining them in ruins. There’s also a story about a man who died because of accumulated pigeon guano, so really, don’t miss it.
  • Further light reading: Noah Berlatsky, for BuzzFeed, “The Zookeeper’s Wife Is Yet Another Gentile Savior Story.” Even though all the trailers tell me otherwise, I was somehow hoping this wouldn’t be the same self-congratulatory grossness that Schindler’s List epitomizes. Easter and Passover are sensitive times for Jews, not least because Easter has traditionally been a period of heightened violence against them. Not all violence has to be a pogrom; appropriative “Christian seders” and playacting Jewish culture are pretty upsetting too. Anyway, Berlatsky makes the point that centering the heroic bystander experience in mass storytelling, rather than that of the oppressed, ultimately dehumanizes the oppressed. All of these are worth reading.
  • Segueing into another aspect of Hollywood, Anne Helen Petersen asks a worthwhile question: “How Many Times Does Nicole Kidman Have to Prove Herself?” Ain’t sexism grand?
  • Meanwhile, from the Establishment, “Why Don’t We Think Fat People Are Worth Fighting For?” challenges thin people, particularly thin women, to turn body positivity into real solidarity.
  • Finally, Elle has a marvelous and poignant longread that I missed in November. “The 20-Week Abortion Ban Bind” sits with the women who need to terminate pregnancies after the “acceptable” cutoff date, and the heartbreak of losing a wanted child that could not survive outside the womb.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Direct action, dirty hands and Asian-Americanness

Throughout my life, I have frequently had to yell at New Yorkers to stop writing, talking and behaving like 1) New York is the only real place on earth and 2) everyone knows and 3) cares about every little New York thing that’s happening in New York at any given second. But I have to indulge in this amazing story that will fill your heart with joy if you are in the know: We can now get Big Gay Ice Cream in grocery stores and indulge in the comforts of our own homes.

And hey, this isn’t entirely New York-centric — the pints are also coming to Philadelphia!

Okay, on to the real stuff.

  • A trio of incredible reporting and writing on Asian-American experiences.
    • First, 99 Percent Invisible did an episode about Manzanar, the World War II internment camp where American citizens of Japanese descent were rounded up and imprisoned in the name of national security. Honestly, I wept listening to this. The text and photographs that accompany the podcast are worth seeing on their own, but there’s always something so haunting about actually hearing oral histories.
    • For Catapult, Vanessa Hua reflects on her feelings of being “out-Asianed” at a San Francisco spa.
    • At the Nib, Malaysian-American cartoonist Shing Yin Khor asks, “What Would Yellow Ranger Do?” There is a straight line between Manzanar and the “innocent” racism she describes in this comic.
  • Meanwhile, the Atlantic‘s Adrienne LaFrance tells us how not to write about Hawaii.
  • From the Chicago Reader, KT Hawbaker-Krohn writes about protest as self-care, and why direct action feels better than consumerism. Pair her exploration of toxic masculinity and rape culture at the University of Iowa with Jess Zimmerman’s “Why Is Male Anger So Threatening?” for Dame.
  • I’m reconnecting with my love of stories about sustainability, which has, inevitably, brought me to the great Civil Eats. This article examines Letters to a Young Farmer, and what farming (speaking of direct action) means both timelessly and in the present.
  • Writing for American Anthropologist, Jonah Rubin deconstructs a viral image about media bias and news literacy, and what extreme political views actually mean about those who hold them. Follow up with famed/respected media critic David Carr’s syllabus for his “Press Play” master class on understanding the news.

Stay brave, friends.