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.

Things I’m Verbing: Gravity, governors and oh wow, the GOP

This would have been such a different list if I had gotten it out on Friday like I intended. But then I would have missed the chance to write about the straight-up nuclear bombshell that was the death of a major and polarizing Supreme Court justice immediately before a GOP presidential debate. Instead of streaming it online, I chose to watch the Roberto Mendoza episodes of The West Wing while checking in on Twitter. Edward James Olmos is still magnificent, and we should be so lucky to get a jurist like Mendoza next. Meanwhile, in South Carolina…

There were a lot of good takes and funny tweets, and everyone has their collection, I’m sure. For those of us certain that the hot takes are only going to get hotter as the year drags on, here are some links that have nothing to do with Scalia, the debate or even the polar vortex currently confining me to my 1BR in Brooklyn.

  • There’s still room for thoughts about “Formation,” right? It’s only been a week, and Beyoncé’s video is, of course, rich fodder for The Discourse. Jesmyn Ward wrote a stirring celebration of the bama identity for NPR, while Maris Jones for Black Girl Dangerous took the singer to task for her use of Hurricane Katrina imagery.
  • It’s also been a week since the Super Bowl, which means you ought to read Gabriel Thompson’s first-person investigation into the workers who staff these events. One beer costs more than they make per hour, and that’s just the start of it.
  • You may have heard that scientists finally confirmed a 100-year-old theory about gravity by Einstein. This is an actual big deal! Try watching the New York Times video explaining it all and not getting a lump in your throat. The New Yorker‘s long behind-the-scenes narrative is next on my reading list.
  • Okay, there are still some politics things I want to share. In October, the Nation wrote about how the GOP’s “current crackup” is the inevitable end result of Nixon’s Southern strategy. Somehow Ohio Gov. John Kasich is emerging as the “most sensible” of the Republican lineup, but plenty of Ohioans (myself among them) have a very different perspective. Here’s an Atlantic profile from last spring. If you’re sorry Scott Walker is out of the mix, this may be the guy the for you.
  • An uplifting note to end on: I just read James Fallows’ long summary of crisscrossing the United States in a small airplane to study how cities and towns of all sizes are pulling themselves together outside the hysteria of The Discourse. A good read on a lot of levels.

Okay, I keep lying about being done. But this ties everything together so nicely, and I just can’t resist: