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: 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: CPAC crashers, gene editors and eating for money

You can’t help but click on a story titled “The Case for Becoming a Hermit” in this day and age. It’s actually a well-written book review that makes me wish it answered the questions it raises, but for my part, the response was almost ravenously quick. There are still good things out in the world, though. For instance:

  • One feel-good story for the day: Meet the Black antifascist activist who shows how hate has consequences.
  • I love science writing and science stories. This week, On the Media re-aired two phenomenal interviews about gene editing and human cloning, as well as the ethics of both, as explored in the amazing BBC America series Orphan Black.
  • The Baffler and the Atlantic have two similar stories about the academy and its relationship to public life. First, from Maximillian Alvarez, “The Accidental Elitist,” on the humanities and the way we need to rethink the public intellectual. Then, from the excellent Ed Yong, “How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners.”
  • I loved this Briallen Hopper piece from the Cut: “Relying on Friendship in a World Made for Couples.”
  • Finally, from the Ringer, an actually excellent process/inside media story about food writing. Once I discovered The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show on Netflix, I leaped right into documentaries and travel shows like Chef’s Table, Somm, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Michael Pollan’s Cooked and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Pardon the pun, but the market’s appetite for food media right now is insatiable, and I love it. “Will Write for Food” addresses two problems we don’t really see as consumers. First, in Bryan Curtis’ own words, “If everyone wants to be a food critic, who’s going to pick up the bill?” But there’s also another issue worth exploring: “A food critic is a rock critic that has been ripened and aged.” Really interesting stuff.

There’s a lot of other big stuff going on, of course.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Rebel librarians, CEO presidents and lost boys who need to wander back

We have stripes. I don’t know why I’m amazed by this fact, but human people have stripes! Bless, Mental Floss, this really brightened my day.

  • Other things that brighten my day: confirmation bias. And I don’t just mean backup for my apprehension about gyms. Laurie Penny, who has been writing about Milo Yiannopoulos long and deeply enough to text with him for comment, has a smashing longread at Pacific Standard. “On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right” takes an inside look at what happens when a movement of gamers recognizes they’re not players, but pawns (their subhed, not mine). As good as everyone’s been saying on Twitter. Read it.
  • Libraries are great. Librarians are great. Protect them at all costs.
  • Former colleague and current BuzzFeed ace Sara Yasin has written one of those essays you wish some so-called deplorables would really absorb and understand: “Muslims Shouldn’t Have to Be ‘Good’ to Be Granted Human Rights.”
  • George W. Bush’s administration was supposedly characterized as that of a long-awaited “CEO president,” which was, until recently, historically unpopular. Trump is also a CEO — is this a common thread? Actually, not at all. Writing for the Conversation, business professor Burt Spector explains the huge cultural differences and investor expectations of heads of family-owned corporations.
  • Pour one out for the failing New York Times; this Modern Love column on working in a dog shelter totally made me tear up.

Stay brave, friends.

Image credit: San José (California) Library, 2010 (Flickr)

Things I’m Verbing: Singing fish, skeleton keys and apocalypse crystals

Again, the pace of daily news overwhelms me — are we still talking about Kellyanne Conway? If not, it’s a bit of a shame, if only because I was really looking forward to sharing Erin Gloria Ryan’s recent New York Times op-ed, which includes language so amazing, I can’t resist it even now, when we’ve all moved on:

I watched her the way a person might stand at the kitchen window and watch a raccoon abscond with the first tomato of summer. I didn’t agree with what she was doing, but I admired her chutzpah.

It’s a good, actually pretty compassionate piece. Don’t let it get lost in the churn.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Lunch ladies, wonder pigs and existential bread

I’m a magazine gal at heart — daily news is not my preferred speed, addicted as I am to news Twitter. Almost as if proving my point, the links I had been saving since last week have become, well, not irrelevant but deep backstory by now, particularly in the thread starting from Michael Flynn discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador pre-inauguration, turmoil within the national security community and the so-called “spy revolt” that’s leading the intelligence community not to brief Donald Trump on certain issues because of their certainty he’s been compromised (which he does easily enough on his own anyway). That turned into the explosive revelation that former acting AG Sally Yates warned the administration that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian exploitation, and then seven hours after Kellyanne Conway said Flynn had the full confidence of the president, Flynn resigned.

That was yesterday. And today?

Oy. So that all happened. I’m going to share some more evergreen stories today, because honestly, if you want to keep up with current events, Twitter will have already moved on by the time you read it here.

  • The GOP is right on one thing — it is Valentine’s Day! Please read Laurie Penny’s “Maybe You Should Just Be Single” (“Happy Marxist Valentine’s Day!” she tweets), an actually quite good essay about women who drain themselves trying to find and please “lacklustre, unappreciative, boring child-men who were only ever looking for a magic girl to show off to their friends, a girl who would in private be both surrogate mother and sex partner.” Look, we know she’s not wrong. And to characterize this piece as one more bitter harpy with sharp words about the patriarchy does a profound disservice to Penny and you the reader.
  • You also need to read the Huffington Post Highline’s “Revenge of the Lunch Lady” by Jane Black. Several years ago, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver brought his reality show to the Charleston, West Virginia, school system to overhaul their appalling school food program. Meet the woman who succeeded where he totally failed.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education shares a speech from English professor Kevin Birmingham which lays out the immorality of how adjuncts are treated, consumed and paid by universities. “The Great Shame of Our Profession” is essential reading; follow up with Longreads’A Shot in the Arm,” which also appeared this week, about a tenure-track professor forced by debt to donate plasma twice a week.
  • You can always rely on Aeon for interesting and well-written topical essays. Jay Griffiths argues that we’re looking to the wrong fascists in finding precedent for the alt-right. It’s Italy we need to study, not Germany. Meanwhile, as we try to diagnose the national ills that ail us, psychologists and psychiatrists are debating fiercely among themselves on the ethics of speculating on Trump’s mental health.
  • Want a feel-good story? I promise it doesn’t get much better than the Guardian’s “I accidentally bought a giant pig” (whose name, it turns out, is also Esther!). If you really want to just laugh at stupid things until you start wheezing at your desk, for whatever reason, “15 Hilarious Kitchen Fails That’ll Make Even the Worst Cook Feel Better” honestly made my day so much lighter.

It’s almost paczki season, friends. Stay brave.

Image Credit: Thomas Leuthard, 2011 (Flickr)

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.