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: Nasty women, the privacy paradox and intersectional hummus

Thanks to Bim Adewunmi, I know that the world can survive anything, because once upon a time in the ’50s, Josephine Baker (a literal spy for the French Resistance!) and Eartha Kitt (to-Mrs. Johnson’s-face Vietnam critic! this!), two Black women so extraordinary and marvelous as to defy superlatives, were in the same room together and the universe didn’t simply mic drop and shut it all down.

There’s no news peg, this is just wonderful.

Now, onto the other things we have to survive these days.

  • WNYC has been killing it more than usual this week. First, On the Media examines the failed promise of the internet, which has turned into an overstuffed capitalist hellscape &c, not to mention full of privacy problems for its users. (I mean, even your TV is spying on you.) On that front, Note to Self is running a new project called the Privacy Paradox, which explores both problems in today’s privacy frontier and ways you can understand and reclaim your own identity online. For an excellent windup on the matter (and the Fourth Amendment in general), check out their recent episode “The Bookie, the Phone Booth and the FBI.”
  • If you’re on Twitter, your eyes may glaze over at exhortations to read someone’s important thread, but if you want to understand where the alt-right came from, read these from Colin Spacetwinks (“what’s the inside story on these young fascist nazis” a lot of them ended up in shock humor/lonely dude forums that nazi recruiters joined) and Morgan M. Page (Ten years ago I would not have predicted that geek culture would plunge the world into political chaos).
  • I understand giving voice to voices one part of the country may prefer not to hear. In that vein, I totally get why Vox First Person posted an evangelical theologian’s explanation of why pro-lifers focus so much on abortion. It is a long, nicely worded explanation of why the state needs to dictate a woman’s decision-making process about her own bodily autonomy, a position rooted in a Christianity that is not an official state religion nor the faith of millions of Americans. So, in contrast, please read Tucker FitzGerald’s “Intolerant Liberals,” a broadside that begins as a rebuke of the idea that higher education discriminates against conservatives and ends as a full-throated defense of liberalism and what it won’t accept.
  • Which is important to keep in mind, particularly when FLOTUS just filed a lawsuit to leverage the presidency into branding deals for herself.
  • Ending on a happy note, if you haven’t seen Melissa McCarthy as Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, you must watch it. Especially since you know it’s doing what all good journalism should do — comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Expendable courtiers, boring dictatorships and the end of life

There’s still goodness in the world:

As I type this, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the man too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s, is undergoing confirmation hearings for the post of attorney general. Civil rights lion Rep. John Lewis and, in a first for the nation, a sitting senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, will actually testify against Sessions. Pretty galling that it got this far, but I suspect we’ll be saying that a lot over the next few years. If you need some fortifying banter, I recommend you check out the Says Who? podcast, by journalists/hilarious people/angry progressives Maureen Johnson and Dan “@MayorEmanuel” Sinker. The latest episode is called “Flashlight in the Darknesscast,” to give you a taste of tone.

I’d also like to promote the first of a series of personal essays I’m committing to writing this year, as part of the #52essays17 challenge. Over the years, I’ve come to love online advice columnists, from Dear Sugar to Captain Awkward to Mallory Ortberg’s new, improved Prudence. Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly can be so good when she’s good, but when she’s bad, she totally misses gigantic signal flares and gives a very depressed person the worst advice she could. I should know. Read on in “Our Lady of Broken Pheromones” at Screwball Heroine.


  • Republicans are hellbent on defunding Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that no federal money has gone to abortion care — a legal medical procedure and personal right! — since the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. Women should have access to abortion, and cutting off access won’t make abortions stop, it will only make them more dangerous. Read Rebecca Traister’s latest in New York magazine for more on that (and also). But if you don’t know what Planned Parenthood does, day to day, you should. Comics artists Tillie Walden and Anna Sellheim show you what taking care of women really looks like.
  • I go back and forth on some Vox takes. On the one hand, there’s nothing boring to women or people with health problems about the government taking away access to life-saving medical care for the sake of politics. On the other, Cornell University professor Thomas Pepinsky thinks Americans have a much too apocalyptic vision of what living under an authoritarian state really looks like.
  • Oh hey, speaking of exciting times! In one day — yesterday — sixteen Jewish community centers across the country faced bomb threats. But sure, antisemitism isn’t a thing and Trump’s election hasn’t emboldened bigotry — after all, Jared and Ivanka are observant Jews! Yeah… about Jared Kushner and expendable court Jews.
  • Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk is one of the best grief memoirs I’ve ever read, and so I’m eager to see just about anything she does next. I wouldn’t have necessarily called “In Search of Post-Brexit England, and Swans,” but the bird theme is unmistakable. So much of the conversation around both Brexit and the Trump “win” are about what nations have somehow lost. So, what does that look like? What does that mean?
  • Two very different profiles, on big subjects that we shouldn’t be scared of: First, for New York magazine, a photo essay on what it actually looks like to raise a child with Zika-related microcephaly. Next, for the New York Times Magazine,One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die.” I never expected to read the words “quirky hospice” ever in my life, but this isn’t some twee hipster bullshit — this is about figuring out how to honor your most essential self. Pair with another New York Times essay, briefer, which invites some conversation of its own: “The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage.”

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Abortion, smugness and testimony

Oh my god, what has happened since Tuesday? I mean, there’s the Heartbeat Bill in my native Ohio, which criminalizes abortion at a point before most women even know they’re pregnant. There’s Trump getting the National Park Service to deny permits for weeks around the Lincoln Memorial to prevent the Million Woman March next month. Apparently Trump also just said that internment wasn’t bad because FDR?

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Owning memory, wrecking public parks and vindicating the Nick Fury approach

Who’s strong and brave, here to save the American way? Captain America, who’s a Nazi now, apparently! I’m excited to see how Marvel spins this one — it takes a special kind of willful dismissal to insist that “people who seem good can really be bad!” is a meaningful storyline when the character himself was created by two Jews to shame the United States into staving off the genocide of a minority group.

Come on, Marvel. Let us have nice things for once.

Ugh. Moving on.

  • This is actually perhaps the perfect time to link On the Media’s excellent new episode on the politics of memory, specifically but not solely regarding World War II.
  • Why don’t campus health centers provide access to abortion? Good question.
  • Slate has a long, interesting look at liberal Christianity in the United States, and how it could mobilize as a political force to challenge that of the right. Lots of interesting numbers.
  • Summer in Chicago is all about street fests and music fests. Unfortunately, they’re rarely about actually helping neighborhoods anymore. The Chicago Reader highlights efforts by community organizations to keep major events like RiotFest and the Pitchfork Music Festival out of their parks — because these events are wrecking everything.
  • A lot of these links are about questions of ownership. Who owns Captain America? Who owns the Christian vote? Who owns the places they live? Aeon takes that question deep into antiquity with a really neat examination of artifacts and ancient Iraq. The twist? They’re Jewish incantation bowls. So who gets them — Iraq or the Jews who fled Iraq?

Oh, and if you’re confused by the title of this post, I present one of the few things Joss Whedon added to the MCU that I like: