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: Raising the dead, weighing the soul and decrypting the wires

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.

Things I’m Verbing: Disreputable hometown figures, magically vicious book reviews and Tim Gunn’s perfect shots fired

Okay, goal for the week: No more talking about Donald Trump, especially in re: media failure (not that there isn’t plenty to discuss even without this week’s Matt Lauer farce).

  • Lauer is actually one of the highest-profile alumni of Ohio University, the company of the company town in which I grew up. I was distressed to learn that one of its other famous graduates was none other than gruesome Fox News misogynist Roger Ailes. But there’s nobody better to read up on Ailes with than New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman, and his long feature on the women who took down Ailes is really something else.
  • Mother Jones backed up a first-person account of what it’s like to work at a gun range, from a man who’s spent years in that community. It’s staggering — from dealing with suicides to hosting future mass shooters to watching the rise of paranoia and hatred among its core customers. This presents a narrative about angry old white men that Mother Jones readers want to hear, but all the same, it’s not comfortable reading.
  • I have a complicated history with Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated. When he published the novel, his senior thesis at Princeton, to dazzling acclaim, I was ready to resent him to the ends of the earth. Then I read it and loved it more than I ever thought I would. (A recent attempt at a re-read has proven a little more eye-roll-y, but I still enjoy a lot of what the story does, particularly the Trachimbrod sections.) Foer has just released a new novel, and I’m going to be honest, the savage reviews are delightful. Top of the pile: “With joyless prose about joyless people, Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Here I Am’ is kitsch at best” from the Los Angeles Times, plus Michelle Dean, writing for The New Republic, in “Me Oh My!” which begins, “You can’t make a woman come just by looking at her. Or so it seemed we all agreed, until the arrival of Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel.” Delicious.
  • Designer Tim Gunn doesn’t spare any words or pity for the fashion industry in an op-ed today for the Washington Post. I can’t emphasize enough how much I air-punched at “Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace.” Even as simply a tall woman with broad shoulders and hips, shopping is so much more difficult than it needs to be. Gunn’s most perfect shots fired: “This a design failure and not a customer issue.” Share this with everyone.
  • I haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, since finding out a college coffee shop co-worker is a writer (so weird!! I have to process), but writer Drew Mackie has taken it upon himself to share more of what we loved (??) about the weird 1980s. He’s collected two hours of strange VHS-tinged TV for your viewing pleasure, separately and all at once. For all us Oregon Trail Generation kids, that we grew up with all this and turned out the way we did doesn’t seem so odd after all.