Things I’m Verbing: Moral politics, strange medicine and the perks of being fantastic

I don’t consider myself a politics writer, even though I’m immensely concerned with politics (I tend to find them in everything else I write and think about). Sometimes lately I ask myself whether I really need to focus so hard on sharing links about Trump; Things I’m Verbing was always supposed to be more wide-ranging than that, or if it did narrow focus, it would be because I had a better idea of how to define my professional interests. (Spoiler alert: still a copy editor at heart, still interested in absolutely everything.) So, do I need to share that spreadsheet of signs of fascism? That write-up of narcissistic personality disorder and what it means for covering this impending White House? That (I believe) misguided, if well-meaning, announcement that a Hillary-voting journalist is now voluntarily writing for Breitbart?

Ultimately, for now, I can’t do anything else. It’s all I can think about, and it’s all I seek out. So, for now:

  • Thank goodness for Masha Gessen. Her newest essay for the New York Review of Books, on Trump and moral realism, is essential.
  • The Guardian has two great, interlinked pieces on the systems that elevated Trump. Shot: “Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy“; chaser: “What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right.’
  • The Atlantic, which has a wonderful science section, put out an interesting article yesterday, about how we should actually consider Trump’s relationship to science. I’m generally skeptical of “no really, it won’t be that bad!” articles, but this is a nuanced analysis of something a lot of people are very frightened about.
  • Here’s a headline I never thought I’d click on, much less truly enjoy: from the Los Angeles Review of Books, “Doctor Strange and the Trump Presidency.” I’ve given this Marvel film a miss thus far, but you don’t need to know much of anything about it; the essay explains the national mood among a certain set very well.
  • Sidling over to some further film criticism, I actually agree with Slate on this one: “J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts Flirts With Gay Allegory. Its Sequels Should Go All the Way.” Contains spoilers, but hey, I think you should see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — I went in with no expectations and knowing it would have problems (oh boy, it did), and yet I came out absolutely loving it.

Things I’m Verbing: Clowns, witches and the trapdoor to Hell

You might say to yourself, “Esther, it’s Monday. Don’t your link roundups come out on Tuesdays and Fridays?” To that I say, “There is no way I’m missing out on sharing Halloween stories before the clock hits midnight and it’s November.” FOR INSTANCE: I have written a story for Refinery29 (my first!) on clowns and the cultural and psychological reasons behind why they freak us all out. It was a delight to do, and actual clown expert Ben Radford lights up my day just by existing and being really cool.

…I actually don’t have much more Halloween content, although The Establishment has been posting some great stuff on witches (plus Pacific Standard, plus A.V. Club, plus every single outlet writing up the greatness that is The Craft). Before we dive into the horrorshow that is the final week before we elect someone president at last, let’s savor this comic:

  • Today in “Wait, that guy was still alive?”, Jack Chick of the Chick Tracts died. Comics Alliance writes about his surprising influence on indie comix, while The New Republic pretty aptly compares him to Nazi documentarian Leni Riefenstahl without breaking Godwin’s Law. The Nib memorializes Chick in pretty much the best way imaginable.
  • This American Life is always kind of a big ask for me, listening-wise. An hour is a lot to commit to, and they don’t always land it. But “Will I Know Anyone at This Party?” doesn’t fall prey to hipster preciousness — instead, it’s a thoughtful look at the Republicans aghast at the nativism and racism that’s infected the party they love. The episode’s main focus is the white community’s response to Somali refugees settling in St. Cloud, Minnesota — essentially a history of “Muslim bans” and how that started.
  • Thank goodness Donald Trump pissed off The Washington Post. While it’s staggering that this is still possible, David Farenthold, who’s been owning the Trump charity beat, has published the biggest doozy yet. It starts with Trump blithely stealing honors from a major donor to a nursery school for children with HIV/AIDS and only goes downhill from there.
  • Back to the other gut-churning pillar of this campaign, Liz Meriwether, writing for The Cut, has a blistering, all-too-familiar essay about how women talk about sexual harassment and assault, and how it’s surprising the men around them.
  • It’s been a while since we talked about Marvel movies, right? Worry no more: Dr. Strange comes out in the U.S. this Friday, and it’s been taking a beating in activist circles for months going on years, thanks to its truly unfortunate baked-in Orientalism. The good news, according to BuzzFeed, is that the movie looks amazing and isn’t as joyless as the previews would have us believe. The bad news: We were right about the Orientalism.

Side note: I write personal essays at my blog Screwball Heroine, and this weekend I published “Baby’s first burlesque show,” about fear, monsters and baring it all. (A friend sold it on Twitter as “depression, creativity and nipple tassels”; “Whatever helps grab the eye,” he said.) I’m still figuring out what kind of essayist I want to be, particularly given the first-person industrial complex, but I think this one’s worth it. For all my fellow writers and anyone who’s just interested, the New York Times wrote up a roadmap for great personal essays their way.