Things I’m Verbing: Brave geeks, inland farming and Zac Efron’s abs

It’s been an otherwise stupid week for speech; the furor about comedian Kathy Griffin’s Judith-and-Holofernes portrait of herself with the severed head of the president is an exercise in one-sided performative outrage, which the left has self-abasingly internalized from the right.

I make a habit of linking as little breaking news or reaction pieces as possible. Given the ridiculous speed with which this administration’s already imaginary moral center collapses into a gravitational singularity, it hardly seems worth trying to keep up with it all. Every once in a while, though, someone gets so furious and so creative with their fury that I have to celebrate it. This week, snaps to Charles Pierce of Esquire, writing on Trump’s withdrawal (for “negotiating a better deal,” very reality show) from the Paris Accords on climate change. Calling it “the Rose Garden’s dumbest moment on record,” he sold me with “obvious anagram Reince Priebus” and just keeps going from there.

It’s been an otherwise stupid week for speech; the furor about comedian Kathy Griffin’s Judith-and-Holofernes portrait of herself with the severed head of the president is an exercise in one-sided performative outrage, which the left has self-abasingly internalized from the right. That said, my favorite literary take on this administration comes from SFF writer Catherynne M. Valente, who realized back in April that Trump is our first magical realist president.

  • This isn’t all going to be outrage, but personally, I’m fed up with the rapturous response to David Alm’s “I was friends with Richard Spencer” essay in the Point. The surface-level read is a seemingly brave self-examination about why Alm stayed friends with the white-supremacist troll. He doesn’t seem to notice that every woman and minority tells him from the outset that Spencer is bad news. In fact, the entire essay is a master class in falling prey to Geek Social Fallacies, which, as a fellow alumna of the University of Chicago, surprises me not one bit.
  • Speaking of white supremacy, sit with Garrett Epps’ lovely piece for the Atlantic on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue, “The Motionless Ghosts That Haunt the South.” As a Civil War–obsessed fifth-grader, I dragged my parents on two separate Spring Break trips to battlefields and museums. One stopped in Richmond, where a transplanted Northerner working at the Museum of the Confederacy told us the row of statues was also called the Avenue of Second-Place Trophies.
  • From the New Food Economy, consider Chelsey Simpson’s look at who benefits from VC money for food startups, with a case study on the local food movement in Oklahoma City.
  • Death with dignity, as the assisted suicide movement calls itself, provokes strong emotions on all sides of the issue, especially disability rights activists. For many my own age, physician-assisted suicide may raise the specter of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, with its unsettling euphemism “being released.” Myself, I appreciated (and wept through) this New York Times Magazine exploration of a man who attends his own wake. It’s a complicated, thorough look at ceremony, survivors and agency at perhaps the most vulnerable time in anyone’s life.
  • Wonder Woman comes out in the United States today. Among the many preemptive criticisms I’ve seen of the film (most, from star Gal Gadot’s nationality to the studio’s “risky gamble” on a female director, unworthy) stands the odd complaint that Gadot isn’t buff enough to play an Amazon. Writing for Vulture, E. Alex Jung takes on the film industry’s insistence on outrageous swole bodies for male actors. “I’m worried that the Hollywood Chrises are just one scoop of protein powder away from total renal failure,” he writes.

I’m excited for Wonder Woman, personally; I’ll be seeing it in one of the Alamo Drafthouse’s all-female screenings, which I expect will be both delightful and powerful.

Stay brave, friends.

Photo credit: payattn13/Flickr

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.

Okay.

  • 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.