Things I’m Verbing: Barack’n’Roll

I dug up some artifacts from Nov. 4, 2008, the day Barack Obama won the highest office in the land. I was in Chicago, 24 and a bit, an uninsured temp worker editing brochures for the American Medical Association about the nearly 50 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance then. First, I wrote this:

Cynicism is easy. It’s safe. It keeps you insulated from disappointment and makes allowances for you to feel protected in all possible outcomes.

To ask this electorate, which had its heart so thoroughly broken in 2000 and 2004, to hope as it has done this year, is incredible.

What we’ve seen, what people have done for each other, the stories they’ve shared, is incredible.

Always remember this.

Cynicism is easy.

Hope takes elbow grease and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.

Later that evening, before I left to go to Grant Park to await the results, I posted this:

I want to say something, for all of you who can’t be here right now.

There’s something magical happening in Chicago. The weather has taken this freakishly beautiful turn, and it’s been low 70s when we should be battling gray skies and blustery wet winds. Everywhere you go, people are wearing Obama buttons. I can’t describe what it’s like, seeing all those little flashes people are wearing. It’s just something you catch in passing, but it’s true: I’ve never seen people get like this. There are five or ten Obama buttons or t-shirts in eyeshot at any given moment you walk down a street, and that’s just without looking closely.

It’s everybody, too. It’s old men and construction workers and students and marketing managers and people behind counters and executives and just. It’s everybody. It’s everybody. Obama. This skinny guy with big ears and a funny name. Obama.

On my lunch break, a coworker and I went to the Freedom Museum at the Trib Tower. It’s an entire museum, free of charge, dedicated to the struggle for equality and free expression. A group of kids was there, running around and watching the short films and rigging the electoral map consoles and lining up eagerly to toss their tokens in the Obama box, to “vote” at the end of the tour. I passed all the displays about women’s suffrage and Native American rights and banned books and censorship and hate speech and eminent domain and marriage equality and it was all I could do to not cry.

On the bus home, an older gentleman in full Uncle Sam gear declared in an English or Australian accent that he’d lived in this country for 56 years and this was the first time he’d ever felt anything about an election. He then led the bus in a song of his own composition. I wish I’d taken down the lyrics.

Then, miraculously, after the thunderous scream shook hundreds of thousands of onlookers when CNN called Ohio, my home state, for Obama, after the crew called a soundtrack for the president-elect of the United States, I recorded this phone message:

I say this so you won’t forget that it can go the other way, that your hard work and screams for truth and justice won’t always go unheeded, mocked and crushed. Remember the other inauguration, that in January 2009, like me, you maybe heard this piece and wept:

Dignity is still real. Meanwhile:

Stay brave, friends. Take care of yourselves; we’re going to need you soon.

Things I’m Verbing: Science deserts, ghosts versus bad houses and the evils of SEO

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.

Things I’m Verbing: Not sitting still, not using his own money and not honoring bad men

Usually viral Kickstarter campaigns leave me indifferent at best, but the latest “it doesn’t exist yet, but it can and it will, so get in early!” craze has sucked me in. I’m not even a particularly fidgety person, but the Fidget Cube looks freaking great. One of my favorite parts is how the campaign appeals to research about why fidgeting is a legitimate human need. Nineteen dollars (or $25, once the Fidget Cube exists in the wild) seems a little steep, but honestly… gosh darn it, it’s just so cute and appealing, right?

  • Not at all gadgets are as unifying, of course. Apple confirmed last week that the next iPhone won’t have the headphone jack we’ve been using for 50 years or so. Yahoo Finance and The Verge are decidedly grumpy about it for a range of reasons, particularly regarding the ongoing battle over digital rights management — in this case, literally who gets to control what you listen to. BuzzFeed bravely tells us that we’re all freaking out over nothing, whatever, it’s actually a pretty good experience as a piece of technology. Frankly, there’s a bigger worry that women in particular have:

  • Also lost in the eternal chum of American election-year reporting, you definitely can’t miss the Washington Post’s look into how Donald Trump hasn’t spent any of his own money on the Trump Foundation since 2008. I mean, you’d have to be a sucker to think you have to give charitably yourself to take credit for it. Just get donors to give to you! (Surprised, in a not-surprised kind of way? This isn’t at all out of line with his licensing schemes for developments.)
  • Katy Waldman, writing for Slate, is a freaking gift. Her beautiful, considered review of Nadja Spiegelman’s multigenerational mother-daughter memoir I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This is both a pleasure to read in itself and a wonderful vehicle for generating interest in the book. Definitely pair with Alexandra Petri’s hilarious “An Easy Guide to Writing the Great American Novel.” Are you out there, Guy in Your MFA?
  • Even though it’s been nearly two years since I left Chicago, city of my heart and soul, I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe from all the local news Twitters. And of course, because Chicago, it was big news that Greektown’s iconic Parthenon restaurant was closing — as well it should be: this is the place that invented saganaki, the famous flaming cheese appetizer that’s one of the best parts of going to Greek restaurants, even if you’re not the one ordering. “Opa! In Praise of Flaming Saganaki” is a nice tribute from Chicago Magazine. Talk about an eternal legacy.
  • Which leads nicely into a feel-good item from my actual hometown: Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University (see previous post). Looks like not only is the Scripps School of Journalism removing alum Roger Ailes’ name from the WOUB newsroom, it’s returning several hundred thousand dollars in donations and trying to distance itself from a scholarship he set up. “I really don’t know how I would have taught in that space another day,” said one j-school professor at the announcement. Finally — at least one happy ending in 2016.

Saganaki/general representation of the world and the U.S. presidential election (despite not taking place in a dumpster) photo by Adam Minter; you might also check out this photo by Flickr user lhongchou, just for the amusement factor.

Things I’m Verbing: Owning memory, wrecking public parks and vindicating the Nick Fury approach

Who’s strong and brave, here to save the American way? Captain America, who’s a Nazi now, apparently! I’m excited to see how Marvel spins this one — it takes a special kind of willful dismissal to insist that “people who seem good can really be bad!” is a meaningful storyline when the character himself was created by two Jews to shame the United States into staving off the genocide of a minority group.

Come on, Marvel. Let us have nice things for once.

Ugh. Moving on.

  • This is actually perhaps the perfect time to link On the Media’s excellent new episode on the politics of memory, specifically but not solely regarding World War II.
  • Why don’t campus health centers provide access to abortion? Good question.
  • Slate has a long, interesting look at liberal Christianity in the United States, and how it could mobilize as a political force to challenge that of the right. Lots of interesting numbers.
  • Summer in Chicago is all about street fests and music fests. Unfortunately, they’re rarely about actually helping neighborhoods anymore. The Chicago Reader highlights efforts by community organizations to keep major events like RiotFest and the Pitchfork Music Festival out of their parks — because these events are wrecking everything.
  • A lot of these links are about questions of ownership. Who owns Captain America? Who owns the Christian vote? Who owns the places they live? Aeon takes that question deep into antiquity with a really neat examination of artifacts and ancient Iraq. The twist? They’re Jewish incantation bowls. So who gets them — Iraq or the Jews who fled Iraq?

Oh, and if you’re confused by the title of this post, I present one of the few things Joss Whedon added to the MCU that I like:

Things I’m Verbing: So many hedgehogs, not enough Agent Carter and, of course, Midwest Is Best

Good morning, friends! I am back in Chicago for the first time since I moved to New York, and I have been doing a really excellent job of revisiting all my favorite haunts, including pulling a double-header with the superlative Improvised Shakespeare Company last night. (That’s a Top 5 Thing I Miss About Chicago item, by the way. Probably the most magnificent improv ever improv’d — not to get hyperbolic, but it’s true.)

I also watched the GOP debate in Detroit. That sure happened.

Here are some links that have nothing to do with the GOP debate, because honestly, what more is there to say?

  • There are enough hedgehogs in Ipswich to require a dedicated hedgehog officer.
  • The second season of Agent Carter ended last week, and it was amazing and I loved it and very much want more. Alas, the ratings are worrisome (as they always are with your favorite shows, right?). TV Guide and Variety both wrote excellent defenses of the show, and I’m not above not-so-quietly linking a “How to tell ABC you want Season 3” guide. This show is both important and great.
  • Speaking of excellent feminist role models, if you haven’t read firefighter Caroline Paul’s excellent op-ed “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared?” you absolutely should — and, if you want to see what they’re up against, follow it with A. Hope Jahren’s piece on women in STEM and the male colleagues who harass them out of their careers.
  • I did j-school in Evanston, but I came to Chicago for Hyde Park. Chicago magazine just did a brief shout-out to six great things happening on the South Side these days. It’s nice to hear about good examples, because UChicago’s relationship with the neighborhoods where it lives hasn’t always been exactly rosy.
  • Have I still not been able to distract you from the GOP debate? I mean, at least one woman literally thinks living in 1939 — not high on the list of good times in history — is a better option than the present.

Things I’m Verbing: Slack channels, bear-punching and sweet home Chicago

Even if you’re not from or familiar with Chicago, I really want to make sure everyone reads Dan Sinker’s look back at the legacy of @MayorEmanuel. This was a fictional but real-time Twitter account of a much better version of Rahm Emanuel in his quest for the mayorship in 2010–2011. It was foul-mouthed, aggressive, surreal and intensely in love with the City of Big Shoulders. To be living there as it unwound was an incredibly special experience, and like virtually all of his followers, I was heartbroken when @MayorEmanuel vanished into a time vortex during a clap of thundersnow five years ago this week.

Sinker, who has maintained the tweets on (trust me, it makes sense) and released an excellent annotated book version, also seemingly flirted with bringing @MayorEmanuel back. But in his Medium post, he explains why that could never be. It’s a sober, elegiac look at what both Twitter and Chicago have lost in the half-decade since, and it’s an entirely grown-up reflection on what fiction can’t and can offer us. Sinker also reveals how the story really continues, and it’s magnificent in a way only the world’s &($%(#%*ing greatest cup of coffee can be. You really should read it.

I’m also heading back to Chicago next week for the first time since I moved away, a week before Halloween in 2014. It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from the city in my adult life, and I can’t wait to go back. In the meantime… well, I can’t say this is the fluffiest set of links I’ve ever shared, but: