Things I’m Verbing: Why we need mammoths, delayed swanhood and dictator chic

I’m taking a social media detox at the moment, which feels great (yes, I’m going to do one of these). As I watch myself try to find the Twitter app on my phone, I definitely realize how often I reach for it as a numbing agent — and how outrage itself can be a numbing agent. On my commutes, instead of draining my battery and my data trying to refresh my feed underground, I’m going for Pocket and actually catching up on all the longreads I meant to finish when I had time.

So hey, happy Friday! Happy St. Patrick’s Day (and happy birthday to one of my very favorite people in the world since middle school, the incredible Out There podcast creator Willow Belden). Have some really excellent longer “slow journalism.”

  • More on that wilderness thing: You must, you must read Ross Andersen’s “Pleistocene Park” for the Atlantic. It’s an intersection of climate change, land management and resurrecting charismatic megafauna that I never saw coming. It’s also a nice antidote to (or at least a bit of hope versus) excellent but gloomy pieces like Laurie Penny’s “The Slow Confiscation of Everything.”
  • Sarah Menkedick’s “The Making of the Mexican-American Dream” for Pacific Standard is the best blending of personal experience, good reporting and national policy. She beautifully explores the identity Mexican-Americans do and could have in the United States, and the way they’re poised to define American identity going forward.
  • I found Marshall Allen’s ProPublica piece “What Hospitals Waste” from a tweet proclaiming it “one of those stories you’re immediately jealous of.” It’s an inspired and inspiring work of investigative reporting about the conflicting requirements of desperate communities and cleanliness protocols.
  • Another great, sideways piece of analysis: For Politico, Peter York analyzes Trump’s decorating style and how it compares to other regimes historically and around the world in “Trump’s Dictator Chic.”
  • Finally, in a much lovelier look at art, Irina Dumitrescu reflects on the joys of learning ballet as an adult, and what the lives of professional ballet dancers mean, in the wonderfully titled “Swan, Late.”

Stay brave, friends.

Image credit: How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth

Things I’m Verbing: Plague pits, zoodles and the Death Star

It’s a rough world out there. The more you learn about Trump, Putin and their nuclear bromance (at least in Trump’s mind), the more you may just want to retreat into concrete joys in life. For me, one thing I decided earlier this month was that if I got a spiralizer, everything would be okay. (It was after midnight, and I’d had one drink earlier in the evening; I’m a lightweight, but an inspired lightweight.)

Now that I have this implement, of course, I have to learn to use it, which sent me down the rabbit hole of spiralizer recipes, which led me to the most beautiful vegetable tart I’ve ever seen, summer and winter versions. My own ambition to dive right into complicated food-making is its own kind of optimism, so I’ll take it. Here is an incredibly soothing video of a cuddly German hipster making an intensive pie by hand, from me to you.

Okay, ready for the rest of it? I promise it’s not all bad.

  • I was supposed to go see Star Wars: Rogue One on Christmas, and I totally blorped out of making any plans at all, in favor of sleeping in and cleaning my apartment. (Sorry, Meisje, ugh!) However, as with every release of a Star Wars franchise film, there’s been some great pop culture commentary alongside it. First, Vulture’s Abe Riesman on the dangerous politics of violence the films present — namely, when is it justified and what does that say about how we come to view violence. Another great look at the ethics (and economics!) of empire and rebellion, Imaginary Worlds takes on independent contractors and the Death Star, and whether it was okay to take them down with the ship, so to speak.
  • New York magazine partnered with a nonprofit to attempt feats of radical empathy — between gun advocates and victims of gun violence, some of whom you’ve heard of. I’m thinking hard about this piece; I’m not sure if it’s forcing the hopefulness of the ending or not, or whether it’s just a reminder that you can’t expect a 100% success rate right away or ever. But this is well worth a read, plus it includes video of these people telling their stories.
  • I’ve always been fascinated by the Arctic. Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sophia Roosth explores the way time wobbles in the far northern reaches, and what that means for human survival: “Virus, Coal and Seed: Subcutaneous Life in the Polar North.”
  • Shoutout to my friends who grew up on communal journaling, the first real social media networks. Early this year, E.D. Adams shared “What I Learned While Exposing Myself on LiveJournal.” Rather than being snide or exploitive, this is an affecting piece about self-love, vulnerability and community — and, unfortunately, the shitty trolls that will destroy it all given a fraction of a chance.
  • I know I’m late to the Lumineers, and that this song didn’t even come out in 2016, but I first heard “Ophelia” on Song Exploder earlier this year and fell in love with it. You ought to be listening to Song Exploder, in which Hrishi Hirway gets artists to aurally dissect the various ingredients in composition and shows how it all gets assembled. It’s fascinating, especially in the genres you don’t normally gravitate to. Do some stuff that makes you happy.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Actor problems, Arctic problems and asshole journalist problems

I love a lot of things about new Marvel movie season. Top of the list is seeing my favorite actors gleefully making idiots of themselves in every available interview and on every available surface upon which their faces can be displayed. However, the downside is that every time a big fandom event comes around, reporters and editors get this dumb, terrible, no-good idea that actors should confront the works fans make for themselves. An otherwise fine recent interview with Sebastian Stan, for instance, devotes several paragraphs up top to some verbal reaction shots to sometimes-erotic art featuring Stan and his character, Bucky Barnes. (One elicits “That’s—wow. Strong.”)

Fellow reporters, just don’t do this. It’s tired, it’s smug, it’s punching down and it can’t be fun for the people you’re interviewing. Generally it harms and humiliates the fans. Maybe you can try a different woman- and queer-shaming tactic, like talking about how gross and unnecessary Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter is and how bisexuality doesn’t exist. If you report on fandom without actually talking with fans and figuring out where they’re coming from, you may as well just be aggregating hot takes. Don’t be lazy. P.S. Fans are wonderful.

Anyway, for those playing along, I saw Captain America: Civil War on 3-D IMAX on Friday and loved it. Will I be writing about it? What kind of question is that?

  • Actors have bigger problems than journalists playing slash chicken. In the U.K., the Guardian lays out why working-class actors are a disappearing breed, and what that means for the arts and anyone who doesn’t come out of Eton.
  • Actually, as long as I’m on my high horse about newsroom standards (once a copy chief, always a copy chief), for anyone who ever wants to draw some analogies about “frivolous lawsuits,” here’s the truth about that McDonald’s hot coffee case.
  • Okay, back to big problems. Pacific Standard has a beautiful piece by Eva Holland on the Northwest Passage, which didn’t exist until very recently. “Cruising Through the End of the World” looks at shipping, tourism and the Inuit people caught between changes on virtually every front.
  • More essential reading, on another insidious topic: “How the Rhetoric of Imposter Syndrome Is Used to Gaslight Women in Tech.” Of course, this doesn’t just apply to STEM work, because human nature can be terrible in any field it occupies.
  • Ready for some adventure? I mean, Civil War is made of emotional whiplash, so I can’t freely recommend it unless you’ve girded yourself. But “The Battle Over the
    Sea-Monkey Fortune” may be up your alley. It’s a wild ride beginning to end.

Many thanks to Kelsey for permission to use her A+ Cap Cubed fanart as the featured image of this post.