Things I’m Verbing: Hovercraft parents, salty outerwear and the unexplored interior

This week, my cousin asked what “verbing” actually means. I have two answers. One is that I wanted something vague-yet-interesting enough to cover the wide range of feelings I have about the news on any given day. “Things I’m Loving” isn’t always accurate, and “Things I’m Reading” is just boring. The follow-up answer is that Calvin & Hobbes is one of my foundational texts.


Hashtag Things ’90s Kids Understand.

And now, onto the news. Steve Bannon, Trump’s new campaign CEO, sure is worrisome. Vox has a whole genealogy of Breitbart and the alt-right that’s very worth reading. This must mean the Democrats’ foes are formidable, clever and dastardly, right? Able to get away with it all and nothing sticks, because their followers eat it up?

  • Oops. Not just that, but it looks like Bannon is actually… committing voter fraud himself, in that he’s registered to vote at a vacant property in Florida that’s set to be torn down soon. Oops.
  • Up until Clinton’s speech yesterday explicitly tying the Trump campaign to the racist alt-right, it seemed she was keeping pretty quiet and letting her opponent simply get in his own way. But she’s been facing controversies of her own about the Clinton Foundation, most notably in a misleading AP tweet about her activities related to the foundation while she was secretary of state. John Aravosis refutes the case for wrongdoing in a sensible, astute Twitter thread; my favorite part it this: “[Muhammad] Yunus won the Nobel peace prize for founding the Grameen bank and pioneering concept of microlending to women in LDCs. no shit the Secretary of State met with Yunus. He’s global poverty’s Mother Teresa. That’s AP’s big smoking gun.”
  • St. Louis-based Sarah Kendzior, always essential reading, has a new piece in Quartz castigating the media (and its national audience) for only caring about stories outside their coastal bubble when they’re extreme (Ferguson, Katrina, Milwaukee, Baton Rouge), and ignoring or dismissing the vast majority of the country otherwise, during the unsexy everyday brutality girding these issues.
  • Ever since Hanna Rosin’s eye-opening “The Overprotected Kid,” I’ve been staggered at how much less freedom many children have simply to wander a neighborhood or do things without a parent chaperoning. This week, NPR published a fascinating interview with a psychologist whose recently published research, in collaboration with a philosopher, looks at the moral judgments bystanders make about the parents of children left alone. The way they devised their study is really interesting.
    • Because I will never pass up an opportunity to shout Lynda Barry’s praises to the skies, you should read this interview she gave in 2010 about my favorite book of hers, Picture This, which is about where imagination comes from, why we draw and how it’s possible to draw like we did when we were kids again.
  • I want to end on a magical note, also about art. Sigalit Landau left a dress in the Dead Sea for two months. Not to get all clickbaity, but the end result is staggering.

Things I’m Verbing: Former Aleppos, Chicagoland Souvenirs and the Many Queens of Journalism

Busy few weeks over here! I’m delighted to share a personal essay I wrote for CityLab that I’m very proud of. “A Pilgrim in Chicagoland” is about running away from the things you love most and figuring out how not to leave what you need behind. It’s also about chintzy Chicago-branded souvenirs — and redemptive ukuleles.

I’ve also got a piece in Mental Floss about Emperor Norton, a 19th-century San Francisco tycoon who proclaimed himself sovereign over the United States and Mexico, and everyone happily went along with it. I first learned about Emperor Norton from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I’m still thrilled that he was really real.

  • At The Toast, Soraya Chemaly shares a gorgeous, unflinching portrait of her grandmother, “Listening to Old Women.” It’s a story that starts in the Ottoman Empire, swings through Haiti and persists in her granddaughter’s unanswered questions. Wonderful work.
  • At Guernica, Maurice Chammah tries to retrace the Aleppo his father left behind. “My Father’s Aleppo” takes on the guilt of immigration (or fleeing the country — it depends) and returning to those you left behind. Chammah’s father was also a Syrian Jew, which raises questions about community and exile the writer does and doesn’t expect.
  • For The Cut, Kim Brooks asks if motherhood and a creative life are intrinsically inimical to each other. I’m still thinking hard about “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom,” especially in contrast to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s recent advice-and-reassurance piece for Fast Company. Starkly different accounts.
  • That said, The Cut also published a not even comprehensive list of amazing work in journalism accomplished by women since 1960. Close your eyes and click a link — you’re bound to be staggered.
  • Finally, even though I began piano lessons at 7 and have loved music all my life, I’ve never understood or been interested in music theory. In an excellent realization of Surprisingly Awesome‘s mission to strip away the veneer of boringness from a range of topics, “The Circle of Fifths” is no longer a mystery to me. In fact, it’s some pretty amazing science and culture. Consider me convinced.