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: 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: Bitter pills, thundersnow and big questions for feminism

How you holding up, East Coast? Or the entire northern Midwest, for that matter? For my part, I discovered this morning that thundersnow exists outside of Chicago. Living on an island, for someone who grew up in a river valley and lived for 12 years next to a lake, is a real trip.

I want my news today to be virtually all un-Trump, because screw that guy and his tweets, but I can’t resist sharing these entirely too-apt tweets from earlier this month:

  • Masha Gessen warns us about making Russia a conspiracy theory in itself, more rhetorical weapon and distraction from immediate domestic issues.
  • So, about that new Muslim travel ban: Vox reports on how it’s going to harm health care in the reddest parts of the country. See also the latest empathic-but-scolding “rural voters who supported Trump have the most to lose from losing Obamacare” piece making the rounds.
    • A blast from the past, well worth reading if you never have: Steven Brill’s massive Time story “Bitter Pill,” on why patients pay thousands of dollars for a cotton swab when they go to the hospital.
  • You’ve got to lose yourself in the New York Times Magazine’s interactive feature on the 25 songs that show us where music is going. Pair it with All Songs Considered’s audio piece on Resistance Radio, how musicians and producers reimagined the music of the ’60s for the Nazis-won-WWII show The Man in the High Castle.
  • If you have strong pre-existing opinions on either Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour or Zionism, don’t get mad at this link; read it. In response to a piece from the Nation, Berkeley law professor David Schraub addresses the intersectional movement’s argument du jour: “Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Who Knows!
  • I’m looking for a full-time journalism job (hello!), and naturally I’m concerned, to a major extent, with my online presentation. Writing for Quartz, Noah Berlatsky has some thoughts about what the obsession with personal branding implies for the future of work. In that same vein, I recommend “cyborg rights activist” Aral Balkan’s “Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons,” not least for its distrust of Facebook’s stated goal of “bringing people together.”

On one final lighter note:

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Central Asian dictators, elegiac hillbillies and the nature of reality (or something)

This morning’s hideous Cabinet news: Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man literally too racist for the 1980s. It seems obvious that, like during the election, Trump is working to numb his enemies with a fire-hose of soul-crushing and shocking news, every one bit of which should be immediately disqualifying. President Obama is trying to keep his chin up, but this week we’ve seen Japanese internment cited as a positive precedent for Muslim registries, requests for security clearance for Trump’s children and their spouses, literal fake news straight from the horse’s mouth, accusations that protests are paid and thus should be punished and suppressed, media outlets tamping down their descriptions of racists and bigots taking top roles in the new administration…

What I’m saying is you should all be following Central Asian dictatorship expert and St. Louisan Sarah Kendzior on Twitter, although she’s going to scare the shit out of you every single day.

One tip from that last link is taking a moment to clarify for yourself what’s most important to you politically and personally. I still have no idea, in my inmost lizard-brain heart, why Trump’s campaign rhetoric wasn’t a deal-breaker for so many voters. You can talk to me about economic anxiety and feeling ignored and beaten down and disparaged until you’re blue in the face, but minorities and people of color in this country, not to mention Native people (who have the most right to rage of all, frankly), have been treated far worse by society and the government and still didn’t buy in. If you have links to an argument otherwise that truly convinces you, I’d love to see it — please share in the comments if you can.

Things I’m Verbing: Giant Meteor 2016

Growing up, I always wanted political lawn signs at our house, and I was always disappointed we didn’t have any. It’s not like it would have been a drastic statement of any kind. We lived in a college town surrounded by some of the last New Deal Democrats of an increasingly red Ohio. Was anyone going to be surprised if we had a Clinton/Gore or a Ted Strickland placard out front?

I mentioned this to my dad the other day. “Well,” he said, “we wanted to, but your mom didn’t think her patients should have to worry about how their therapist was voting.” I don’t know why that never occurred to me, and it makes all the sense in the world. Now, as a journalist, I’m also in a profession that asks me not to declare allegiances when it could create a conflict of interest in my reporting. I understand the instances in which I’d want to be a blank slate for my sources, to be as neutral a palette as possible for them to speak their truths to, and I admire those who can.

This year, however, I do think a vote for Donald Trump is a vote against everything I stand for, as a journalist, as a Jew, as a woman, as an American, as a human being who lives in a wider world. I’m not just saying that as a lifelong Democrat; this year, we’ve been given plenty of evidence by both major candidates about fitness for office. Today’s link roundup is already a bit backward-facing. Poynter, for instance, has already listed its choices for top political journalism of the year. But like a lot of my friends, I think Roxane Gay speaks for me: “This anxiety is exhausting to watch,” she writes for the New York Times. “But regardless of this election’s outcome, Tuesday will not and cannot be the end of the world. We don’t have that luxury.”

Here are some big-picture pieces to tie up the discovery phase of this election, plus some other things — because we have to remember that, in fact, there’s still more in heaven and earth, &c.

Go vote.

Things I’m Verbing: Hometown datelines, apocalyptic morality and art as subtweet

I love Pocket — I really do. Being able to save longer stories for later, especially in the stripped-down, no-ads version that lets you best concentrate on the ideas and images, is great. But I have outdone myself in much the same way I have outdone myself rediscovering how much I love the public library system: I just have too many things I want to read or share right now. This week has been a good week for big stories! That book review about Hitler that’s a deadpan subtweet of Donald Trump; that gorgeous Michael Chabon piece about his high fashion–loving son, with that perfect, perfect ending; that profile of Maryland state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby, which a friend was raving about on Facebook, so I saved it.

I’m a bit overwhelmed. So we’ll get to those after the weekend. For now, glad as I am for an embarrassment of riches, here are some other good, important stories that have popped up over the last week.

  • I already linked NPR’s live transcript and fact-check of the first presidential debate on Monday, but it’s an invaluable resource. Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker has surely written the most straightforward, punch-to-the-heart commentary about what that proved, in an ongoing way, about Donald Trump and his fundamental badness.
  • Although the Chicago Tribune endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president today (a poor choice even aside from his stance on the issues), the paper can still publish good opinion pieces when presented with the opportunity. I suspect I’m a little bit older than Charles Johnson, but I recognize what he describes in “What millennials know: We can’t return to Rockwell’s America.”
  • My parents never let me play video games, although I did have a computer I spent endless hours on, out of the fresh air and sunlight, writing epics about the American teenaged girl whom all four Beatles fall in love with. However, the BioShock games have always intrigued me, not least for their amazing visual language and use of mid-century popular music. David Sims, writing for the Atlantic, talks about how BioShockmocked video game morality.” Pair this with Imaginary Worlds’ episode earlier this year on Undertale, which takes a totally different approach.
  • My love of baseball pretty much starts and stops with A League of Their Own, but I can’t help but be heartsick at the news of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death this week in a boating accident. Ryan Cortes, writing for the Undefeated, puts who and what we’ve lost into context.
  • There’s a journalism school at the state university in my hometown, so I’ve seen a lot of poverty porn, especially from photojournalism students, about Athens, Ohio. Little did I expect this week to hear WNYC travel to the poorest county in Ohio to see what all the media attention has done for Appalachians most in need. (Spoiler alert, straight from the mouth of the dad of childhood friends: not much.) This is an ongoing series, so I’m excited to see what the On the Media crew will tell us about the rest of the state — even if Ohio is no longer the bellwether it’s cracked up to be.

Things I’m Verbing: The goal of terrorism, Ohio in distress and identities we don’t discuss