Things I’m Verbing: Bitter pills, thundersnow and big questions for feminism

How you holding up, East Coast? Or the entire northern Midwest, for that matter? For my part, I discovered this morning that thundersnow exists outside of Chicago. Living on an island, for someone who grew up in a river valley and lived for 12 years next to a lake, is a real trip.

I want my news today to be virtually all un-Trump, because screw that guy and his tweets, but I can’t resist sharing these entirely too-apt tweets from earlier this month:

  • Masha Gessen warns us about making Russia a conspiracy theory in itself, more rhetorical weapon and distraction from immediate domestic issues.
  • So, about that new Muslim travel ban: Vox reports on how it’s going to harm health care in the reddest parts of the country. See also the latest empathic-but-scolding “rural voters who supported Trump have the most to lose from losing Obamacare” piece making the rounds.
    • A blast from the past, well worth reading if you never have: Steven Brill’s massive Time story “Bitter Pill,” on why patients pay thousands of dollars for a cotton swab when they go to the hospital.
  • You’ve got to lose yourself in the New York Times Magazine’s interactive feature on the 25 songs that show us where music is going. Pair it with All Songs Considered’s audio piece on Resistance Radio, how musicians and producers reimagined the music of the ’60s for the Nazis-won-WWII show The Man in the High Castle.
  • If you have strong pre-existing opinions on either Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour or Zionism, don’t get mad at this link; read it. In response to a piece from the Nation, Berkeley law professor David Schraub addresses the intersectional movement’s argument du jour: “Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Who Knows!
  • I’m looking for a full-time journalism job (hello!), and naturally I’m concerned, to a major extent, with my online presentation. Writing for Quartz, Noah Berlatsky has some thoughts about what the obsession with personal branding implies for the future of work. In that same vein, I recommend “cyborg rights activist” Aral Balkan’s “Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons,” not least for its distrust of Facebook’s stated goal of “bringing people together.”

On one final lighter note:

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Opportunism, exposure and at least some cause for optimism

I can’t entirely fathom what I woke up to today. Two black men murdered by police on two subsequent days, plus this hideous thing that’s happened in Dallas  — I admit, I am beaten down by this, and I’m simply not able to react right now. Give me some time. Not right now.

However, I do have it in me to point out this steaming hot take:

As Rosenberg points out later in the thread, “Some blame racism and America’s checkered legacy on race relations for police shootings. Others blame the Jews.”


SJP, this is not the call for justice you think it is, and I hardly think you’re helping those who are heartsick, grieving and furious. But if you want to have a conversation, let me please point you to activist and organizer Carly Pildis’ recent piece for Tablet. I’m not going to quote it; just read it. True intersectionality can’t exclude by definition, and yet exclusion is what happens through statements like the above. That’s not conjecture, that’s observation. Activism that seeks demonization over dialogue — that demands absolute agreement before it will consider you human — isn’t any activism worth pursuing, if that demand functionally dismisses nuance, rather than affirms humanity.

Okay. Some other stuff.

  • Good news from the new Star Trek film, which has suffered so much lately: Sulu is gay! Original Sulu and gay Internet granddad George Takei wasn’t thrilled with it, but writer/Scotty Simon Pegg has a great, kind and optimistic response.
  • A few weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine published a fascinating feature on what a true archive of the internet could mean for history and humanity. The question is not remotely as simple as it might sound.
  • Facebook has made it clear that it doesn’t intend to be an arbiter or distributor of news. But given the events of this week and how they played out in real time for online audiences — given all kinds of horrors making their way onto livestreams — Facebook Live means that it actually has no choice in the matter. Is it ready for that?
  • Want something happy? How about two Hermione Grangers in one place, loving and supporting each other? Film originator Emma Watson and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child star Noma Dumezweni hit it off backstage, and the pictures and notes they shared are just really lovely.
  • I am the last person who knows much of anything about gaming, but I have heard friends raving about Undertale. Thank goodness for the Imaginary Worlds podcast; not only do I now know what the game is about, I know why it’s so revolutionary. This is how you challenge norms about violence and kindness through play. What a wonderful episode.

Things I’m Verbing: Lake Wobegon farewell, sheriff’s badges of the alt-right and fact-checking A.O. Scott

Editors want reporters to have areas of expertise, and sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing, but let’s be real: One of my indisputable areas of expertise is Captain America. I’m not a New York Times film critic like A.O. Scott, but over the weekend, I became embarrassed for him. In a survey of politically empty summer blockbusters, he of course brings up my guy and his franchise. And I wanted to take him seriously. Except then he begins a sentence with this:

Steve Rogers, a loyal creature of the American military…

Egregious fact error, sir — and on Cap’s birthday, no less. The MCU is not built to be overly subtle, but did you miss two entire movies in which Cap explicitly rejects the entire apparatus of the U.S. government and his role as propaganda agent altogether?

(Thanks for the video, Tumblr user jamesrbarnes. And if you want truly great film analysis, check out Tumblr user sashayed’s thorough investigation of Cap’s running route through the National Mall at the beginning of The Winter Soldier, and how the only reasonable explanation for it is if he’s flirting with Anthony Mackie’s outrageously charming Sam Wilson.)

  • Pivoting right into another piece about the Star-Spangled Man, Andrew Wheeler’s “Reflections on the Rifts in Superhero Fandom” is an excellent, nuanced and thoughtful look at a pattern that’s appearing more and more throughout pop culture: One group of fans reacts loudly to another group of fans’ perceived corruption of the thing they both love, and the corporation that creates that thing inevitably learns the wrong thing from it.
  • Enough about Steve Rogers, though. Does it get more American than Garrison Keillor? The unabashedly corny and deeply heartfelt radio host, essayist and commentator stepped down from his role at the head of A Prairie Home Companion this past weekend, and I for one don’t know what I’m going to do without more news from Lake Wobegon. In the weeks leading up to Keillor’s retirement (not the first time he’s done it, but it’s more likely this one will stick), a number of outlets have covered his legacy:
    • The Atlantic considers Keillor’s importance as someone who can bridge the cultural gap between conservatives and liberals, both groups to which he has belonged and empathizes with.
    • Appropriately, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a lovely narrative look at his showmanship and biography.
    • Of course, it’s not at all likely Keillor will disappear from all stages, not with so many issues (like Donald Trump’s “ducktail” haircut”) requiring commentary these days.
  • Trump, Trump, Trump. It’s bad enough that he’s lifting social media graphics right from white supremacist message boards. It’s more frustrating how many people are trying to make excuses about it (sheriff’s badge?? what?). One group that doesn’t have any illusions about the message the presumptive Republican nominee is making, though? White supremacists.
  • Facebook recently clarified where its priorities would lie in terms of what you’ll see in your News Feed. It’s not going to be the news — not like outlets would prefer, anyway. BuzzFeed‘s Charlie Wartzel has the best take on what this means.
  • Guess I’m not done with this latest Trumpian twist, am I. Right-wing Jew-hatred seems fairly obvious (“antisemitism” was coined to sound more scientific than Judenhass, so don’t let anyone get hung up on the “Semite” part of the word), but that’s not the only place these prejudices live. I recommend the following two Twitter threads as illustration; click through to get a look at the subtler ways Jews deal with this stuff all over the political spectrum.