Things I’m Verbing: Expendable courtiers, boring dictatorships and the end of life

There’s still goodness in the world:

As I type this, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the man too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s, is undergoing confirmation hearings for the post of attorney general. Civil rights lion Rep. John Lewis and, in a first for the nation, a sitting senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, will actually testify against Sessions. Pretty galling that it got this far, but I suspect we’ll be saying that a lot over the next few years. If you need some fortifying banter, I recommend you check out the Says Who? podcast, by journalists/hilarious people/angry progressives Maureen Johnson and Dan “@MayorEmanuel” Sinker. The latest episode is called “Flashlight in the Darknesscast,” to give you a taste of tone.

I’d also like to promote the first of a series of personal essays I’m committing to writing this year, as part of the #52essays17 challenge. Over the years, I’ve come to love online advice columnists, from Dear Sugar to Captain Awkward to Mallory Ortberg’s new, improved Prudence. Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly can be so good when she’s good, but when she’s bad, she totally misses gigantic signal flares and gives a very depressed person the worst advice she could. I should know. Read on in “Our Lady of Broken Pheromones” at Screwball Heroine.


  • Republicans are hellbent on defunding Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that no federal money has gone to abortion care — a legal medical procedure and personal right! — since the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. Women should have access to abortion, and cutting off access won’t make abortions stop, it will only make them more dangerous. Read Rebecca Traister’s latest in New York magazine for more on that (and also). But if you don’t know what Planned Parenthood does, day to day, you should. Comics artists Tillie Walden and Anna Sellheim show you what taking care of women really looks like.
  • I go back and forth on some Vox takes. On the one hand, there’s nothing boring to women or people with health problems about the government taking away access to life-saving medical care for the sake of politics. On the other, Cornell University professor Thomas Pepinsky thinks Americans have a much too apocalyptic vision of what living under an authoritarian state really looks like.
  • Oh hey, speaking of exciting times! In one day — yesterday — sixteen Jewish community centers across the country faced bomb threats. But sure, antisemitism isn’t a thing and Trump’s election hasn’t emboldened bigotry — after all, Jared and Ivanka are observant Jews! Yeah… about Jared Kushner and expendable court Jews.
  • Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk is one of the best grief memoirs I’ve ever read, and so I’m eager to see just about anything she does next. I wouldn’t have necessarily called “In Search of Post-Brexit England, and Swans,” but the bird theme is unmistakable. So much of the conversation around both Brexit and the Trump “win” are about what nations have somehow lost. So, what does that look like? What does that mean?
  • Two very different profiles, on big subjects that we shouldn’t be scared of: First, for New York magazine, a photo essay on what it actually looks like to raise a child with Zika-related microcephaly. Next, for the New York Times Magazine,One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die.” I never expected to read the words “quirky hospice” ever in my life, but this isn’t some twee hipster bullshit — this is about figuring out how to honor your most essential self. Pair with another New York Times essay, briefer, which invites some conversation of its own: “The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage.”

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Chuck Tingle is real, Wendy Davis is happy and Constance Wu isn’t selling out

Okay, so, it’s been — what? Brexit, SCOTUS, Regrexit, No Bill No Break, world economies panicking and tanking, governments in disarray, racists charging out into the open, V for Vendetta yet again becoming a users’ manual, the next issue of Nazi Captain America comes out tomorrow…

Hang tight.

There’s still good news out there. Look how staggeringly beautiful the Blue Mosque is.

Also, the featured image at the top of this post is a shoe selfie I took with reproductive justice heroine Wendy Davis last year. You know, the filibuster lady who had a great reason to smile this week.

Also also, thank goodness for Chuck Tingle.

Okay — feeling better? Okay.

  • You really do have to read the New Statesman’s Laurie Penny on Brexit, the morning after: “I Want My Country Back.” If your heart needs something, well, a bit more caustic, John Oliver is your guy. For something in between, look to CityLab’s Feargus O’Sullivan and his appraisal of Boris Johnson.
  • Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu may not want to be your new It Actress, but she gave a phenomenal, emotional, hard-hitting interview to New York magazine about being an Asian-American actor, how far we really have to go in this country and how she’s not going to let racist cultural norms stop her.
  • How about that Donald Trump? Really, though, what if he quit? Not that that will solve all our problems, but it would be a nice start.
  • The first time I heard the term “moral injury” was while reporting a story on military suicide during grad school. Ben Sledge lays out the aftereffects of moral injury and how American society is nowhere close to coping with it in a long, important essay on Medium. Worthwhile reading in advance of the upcoming July 4th weekend.
  • The Boston Globe has published one of those long, well-reported stories that seem to be so emblematic of the best of daily newspapers. “Strict opioids laws hit chronic pain sufferers hard” looks at how the war on drugs isn’t prepared to handle the nuance health care in the United States so desperately requires.

Things I’m Verbing: Restorative justice, body blows and one globe-trotting chicken

The news waits for no one. I was so overwhelmed and buzzing with possibilities from an amazing four days at THREAD, the storytelling conference/workshop at Yale (that’s me up top experiencing VR for the first time!), that I was trying to find exactly the right in to discuss it here. Then one asshole committed an atrocity in Orlando, then another tried to one-up him at the Los Angeles Pride Parade, then Donald Trump outdid himself with just three words, an impressive feat on any number of terrible levels:

Thank goodness for the Tonys last night. And if you’re looking for the story par excellence to escape into, may I suggest the Dodo’s “Chicken Sails Around the World With Her Hot Dad“? It’s got everything, and I hope it brings a little light back into your world. The rest of today’s links are not nearly so fun.

  • I’ve been watching two stories about sexual assault gain traction in my Facebook feed especially. There’s the Stanford rapist Brock Turner sentencing outcry, and an exposé from the Chicago Reader on rampant harassment at a local theater going unchecked for years. These have led to a number of nuanced, thought-provoking considerations of what constitutes justice, all the more worth considering in the light of unspeakable acts like a mass murder at a gay bar.
    • Jes Skolnik writes about restorative justice, and something in her phrasing really struck me — that the violent act itself is one thing, but the injustice of the system endangering and failing so many more is what we can concretely fight.
    • Radiolab just started a spin-off miniseries about the Supreme Court, called More Perfect, and it’s truly worth your time. The first episode, “Cruel and Unusual,” is another exploration of how we try to enact vengeance or justice through the state, but can’t seem to reconcile the desire for the death penalty with the reality of how it comes to pass.
    • Two other writers took on the subtler cultural choices that have wracked various theater communities. As a one-time would-be improviser, I can absolutely confirm what Julia Weiss says about the language of sexual violence and misogyny in improv, and how real concerns get dismissed in the name of comedy. Meanwhile, Anthea Carns considers the way theater valorizes a certain kind of male anti-hero, and how those stories are considered “deep” and “meaningful” simply by dint of their aggressiveness.
  • Many outlets have reported that the incomparable Geena Davis will be producing a documentary on gender disparity in Hollywood; many others have noted with some outrage that the project has a male director. The Mary Sue gets to the bottom of both questions, and reminds us that we can’t dismiss true allyship while also demanding it. That said, pair with the Atlantic’s piece on why film studios no longer make live-action films starring young girls.
  • Meanwhile, Ars Technica takes us into an odd project that could put us all on our heels anyway: a short film written by an AI.
  • There’s been some incredible reporting lately about bodily trauma. First, NPR profiles the Iraq veteran who threw himself into researching the emblematic injury of that war, the TBI. Next, the New York Times Magazine asks whether PTSD might in fact have physical roots. Pair both of these with GQ’s initial look at concussions in the NFL.
  • We’re 10 days away from the vote that determines whether Great Britain will leave the European Union. The Nib is an excellent nonfiction cartoon and comics site, and since I went to THREAD to experiment with graphic novel-style journalism, check out their explanation of what Brexit could mean and what its supporters and detractors have to gain and lose.