Now my formative years are turning 20, which I’m both glad to see celebrated and also totally not ready to admit. It’s all worth it, though, to see the Atlantic extol the glories of one of my unironic favorite movies of all time.
I turned 13 in 1997, which, among other things, marked my passage into adulthood as a member of the Jewish people. My bat mitzvah was also the first time I met most of my older cousins for the first time I could remember, and holy moly, suddenly I had a bunch of cool music and culture recommendations to break me out of my Celine Dion/movie soundtracks/exclusively the Beatles bubbles. I joined both the Columbia House and BMG mail-away music clubs, ripping out thick folded sheets of CD-cover stamps from my issues of Seventeen and YM. Suddenly my world was Beck’s Odelay, Fiona Apple’s Tidal, Radiohead’s OK Computer and of course, as much Björk as I could get my hands on.
Now my formative years are turning 20, which I’m both glad to see celebrated and also totally not ready to admit. It’s all worth it, though, to see the Atlantic extol the glories of one of my unironic favorite movies of all time: Face/Off.
- Speaking of youth culture, my favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney, turned 75 this past weekend. Esquire has a nice little read from 2014 about how the Fab Four wrested pop culture away from the hands of ad-men and grown-ups.
- This weekend was also Father’s Day, and I’ll be real, I am a sucker for simple features like the AP’s side-by-side comparisons of famous fathers and their uncanny sons through the years.
- In less fun features, this week Amazon bought Whole Foods, and everyone is freaking out. I’ve written before about why Amazon is bad news for all of us, but let FastCompany make the case for breaking up the megacorp as an antitrust violation.
- Speaking of large tech companies who don’t get it, Wired has an excellent bit of architectural criticism — yes, I know — on Apple’s new doughnut-shape headquarters and why it’s not forward-thinking at all.
- The face of America’s veterans is changing drastically, but the systems and attitudes toward all the groups and genders that serve have not. Angry Staff Officer has proposed an eminently sensible way to make these veterans visible: a new universal veteran symbol, like one we employed after World War II.
Stay brave, friends.
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.
I wish I could say that today’s link roundup is a bit late because I was hobbled by the same Internet outage that’s messing up everyone’s day, but to be quite honest, I’ve been reading this great book about the science of the afterlife all morning. Mary Roach’s Spook is my book club’s selection for October (a fact I only realized after first reading her survey of corpses and cadavers, Stiff). About a third into it, we’ve already discussed the quest to weigh the soul, the day-to-day of reincarnation investigators and the many strange ways people once believed a person gains a soul in the first place. Pair with the Gimlet podcast Science Versus two-parter on forensic science and we’ve got some wonderful topical journalism chasing clicks and book sales around my favorite holiday.
- Also in the podcasting world, 99 Percent Invisible went for the episode that needed to happen the moment McMansionHell went viral, and it’s great. (Side note: I’m so thrilled that McMansion Hell is run by a smart, hilarious woman.)
- Undark, a science publication you will probably enjoy, explored the less flashy side of de-extinction recently. Rather than start with dinosaurs or mammoths, why not go for bringing back something actually doable: the Martha’s Vineyard-native heath hen?
- This is an older piece from the Atlantic, but I was trying to explain to a friend why so many people, especially millennials and younger, don’t like talking on the phone. I fell down this rabbit hole about sound transmission over cables versus cellular networks, and I remain fascinated.
- Catapult is another home for literate and brave essays you should get to know. “Nineteen Slaves” by Jona Whipple digs into questions a lot of Americans may have, starting with “Am I really part of the problem if my family never owned other people?”
- It’s been a good week for artist profiles and art reviews. I don’t think you should miss any of these pieces: Jeffrey Eugenides profiling Zadie Smith; Rachel Syme reviewing Marina Abramović’s latest memoir; Hilton Als considering Moonlight and what it means for depictions of gay black men on film.
Wow, I sure just read that Jezebel piece about an SEO marketing team exploiting the personal essay industrial complex by creating a fake female identity who was successful enough to be invited to appear on television. Who doesn’t love proof of a system casually hating women across the board in the morning? I was planning on linking the New Yorker’s “Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others” anyway, but if you’re conscious of paywalls, there’s always this.
- So much more entertaining: Slate not only dug into the fantastic blog McMansion Hell, but writer Colin Dickey drew the comparison between the architectural atrocities of our suburbs and a long, rich tradition of haunted houses. I’m so pleased this exists!
- “Is Donald Trump Funny Anymore?” Saturday Night Live and the Washington Post wrestle with when to stop laughing.
- It’s Nobel Prize week, and writing for the New York Times, Gabriel Popkin makes a strong case that the most pressing fields in science deserve consideration — because right now, there’s no Nobel for studying climate change.
- This has been a big story in Chicago for a while: A Whole Foods finally opened in Englewood, a South Side neighborhood better known in the media for violence and tragedy. Ostensibly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal is to bring dignity to residents and eliminate food deserts, but as the Chicago Tribune reports, it’s not as simple as bringing in one store.
- I was going to choose an article about gearing up for the vice presidential debate tonight, but honestly, why not have something joyous in your life instead? Open Culture is a reliably great addition to my day — have a link about learning to swing dance from the original greats of the 1930s and ’40s.
Weeks ago, a friend invited me to join her in the audience for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which, no-brainer! It was only yesterday that I finally made the connection between the date we’re attending — tonight — and the fact of the first presidential debate, also tonight. I thought maybe that meant we could escape enduring it altogether, but not only is this Stephen “Stephen Colbert” Colbert we’re talking about, but actor/White House adviser Kal Penn and The West Wing star Rob Lowe are the guests. At least it’s going to be much better than exposing myself to the unedited horrorshow firsthand.
Good luck and godspeed, my friends. Below, have some stories that are not about the debates at all, while I go devour the GQ cover story on Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he’s doing next. (Maybe you can just listen to the cabinet battles between Hamilton and Jefferson on loop instead: OCR, #Ham4Ham and #WhiteHouse4WestWing4Ham versions.)
- The New York Times Magazine has a sober, fascinating look at a design and architecture question: “Can You Erase the Trauma From a Place Like Sandy Hook?“
- Sometimes apps are in fact developed for good and not for evil. Sapiens profiles Joshua Hinson, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who felt disconnected from his own ancestral language. So he built both software and community institutions to get all generations speaking it again.
- Michelle Goldberg, writing for Slate, has some wonderful insights on the true tragedy of Ralph Nader’s campaigns and movement: “In the 2000 election, the high priest of anti-consumerism turned politics into the very thing he hated most.”
- I don’t watch High Maintenance, but after E. Alex Jung’s look at how one episode deconstructs the tired and tiring “gay best friend of straight woman” dynamic, maybe I should. In some ways, I’d like to pair this with “Who Gets to Write What?” from author Kaitlyn Greenidge, about writing what you know, cultural appropriation and the ongoing mess regarding aggrieved writer Lionel Shriver.
- Racked has a visually beautiful and totally fascinating history of pockets for women. If you’re a fellow, this sentence probably leaves you utterly cold, but I guarantee most women have the following response:
On a side note, I’ve started a new blog for personal essays and their ilk, if you’re interested. Today I posted “Let’s go visit the swans,” which is both about animals, continuity and memory and about how dogs, suburbs and moms are dopey and wonderful all at once. I hope you like it, and I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading!