Things I’m Verbing: Flora, fallout and floating birds

Did you hear the one about the trans reporter who lost her job because of pressure from activists?

I keep following the Chicago Dyke March story because I can’t look away. There is so much evidence I still want to see, and yet so much hatefulness keeps erupting from actors and observers both. In the past week or so, the official CDM Twitter account has reveled in an antisemitic slur it claims it didn’t realize was quite that bad, while the trans Jewish woman who broke the story appears to have been relieved of her reporting duties after harassment from CDM supporters. I want to share a piece by the always-worthwhile David Shraub: “Not Knowing ‘Zio’ Is a Slur Is an Indictment, Not a Defense.”

[T]he implication of their apologia is that not that they are free from racism — far from it. It’s that they grew up in an environment where racism was so normalized that they didn’t even know how to recognize it. Such a situation demands some very hard work of unlearning, of radically questioning one’s own presuppositions and acknowledging that one needs to acquire substantial new information before one can feel confident in one’s ability to relate to the other group in an ethical manner.

[…] I’ve long thought that the heart of oppression as a discursive practice is a perceived entitlement to talk about a group without knowing about the group. The Chicago Dyke March pleads ignorance about Jews and antisemitism, but that ignorance in no way dissipates their belief that they are absolutely entitled to talk about Jews and Jewish institutions however they want and be treated as credible and legitimate entrants to the discussion.

I also really liked this point by Emma Needleman:

As someone who went from anti-Zionist to becoming a Zionist, a big part of what changed me was realizing that the Jewish communities that tended to be the most Zionistic were also the most precarious: working class, less “rooted” in their home countries (former USSR, Latin America, Middle East/North Africa), recent immigrant status, facing political turmoil or rising ant-semitism.

For a little more on that, see the 49-minute documentary The Forgotten Refugees for first-person accounts from some of the nearly 1 million Mizrahi Jews forced from ancient communities in MENA countries after World War II and who now make up more than 50 percent of the Israeli populace. Especially watch this if you believe that Zionism is no more than a manifestation of colonialist white supremacy. I hope it complicates your worldview no matter how you’re coming to it.

Anyway, that’s all still terrible. How’s the rest of the world?

  • For a truly staggering look at how the past never really leaves us, read Lacy Johnson’s monumental investigative piece for Guernica, “The Fallout.” In the idyllic suburbs of St. Louis, no one knew that the reason so many were getting sick was intimately tied to, of all things, the Manhattan Project.
  • For a certain kind of person, it sounds great, doesn’t it? Work remotely from Bali (or wherever!), without interrupting your communal and administrative needs. Jessa Crispin’s “The Unsettled,” for the Outline, examines a utopian vision for globe-trotting future-of-work winners, which, naturally, isn’t so great for the ~exotic getaways that host them.
  • It’s not that I love bread so much that I always need to have it, but baking sourdough bread from starter is proving a fascinating challenge for me (and I definitely have not yet mastered it). Marcus Woo, writing for NPR, looks into the microbiomes of delicious carbs, as scientists try to figure out what makes your local loaf taste so particular. Pair (tragically!) with this Bloomberg piece about the possible imminent extinction of Camembert cheese.
  • Please read Frances Lee’s “Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice.” Think also about Yair Rosenberg’s excellent new term, “cultural McCarthyism.”
  • There’s a gold-plated phonograph record hurtling through space, carrying with it audio demonstrations of our global humanity. One sound on the record is a laugh — but whose? The answer will delight you, and hopefully remind us all that the world can still be good.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Cultural memory, peanut stew and how to be a better gentrifier

I don’t like to get off-track with posting, but today I’m delighted to have such a fulfilling excuse. For an assignment in my magazine editing class in journalism school, we had to pick a print publication to analyze. I wandered from the Medill newsroom in the Loop to the nearby Sears Tower, which not only boasted a Corner Bakery (their mini-M&M-studded Monster Cookies are just about my favorite) but a newsstand in the basement. On a bottom rack near the entrance, I spotted a nice-looking cover with a title I’d never seen before. It turned out to be a fascinating issue, and I’ve wanted to write for them pretty much ever since.

Yesterday, after some of my favorite reporting and editing I’ve ever done, I finally got to share my first piece for Pacific Standard. This story started with a grumpy late-night tweet; it became an investigation into how we form and curate cultural memory, and what we can gain from truly confronting the Great War and its legacy. I hope you enjoy it: “Why Do So Few Hollywood Movies Take Place During WWI?”

  • Two actors in talked-about shows have recently shared excellent personal essays on the nature of their performances. First, Corey Stoll, who played Brutus in the Public Theater’s recent faux-controversial Julius Caesar, wrote about that experience and why it solidified his commitment to free expression. Then Betty Gilpin, one of my favorite surprises from American Gods, bowled me over with a raunchy, hilarious and vulnerable look at how her large bust has messed with her confidence over the years, and how working on the new Netflix ’80s wrestling comedy GLOW has changed that.
  • I was really taken by this piece for Quartz Ideas: “Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously.” Definitely something to consider while we mock women who rave about alternative health practices.
  • I’ll always read alarming internet privacy stories, and Gizmodo has a small-but-noteworthy doozy on autofill and the company that collects that data even if you don’t submit it.
  • The title is sure to spark strong feelings, but the interview within asks a lot of difficult, interesting questions about what it means to live in an urban neighborhood: from the newly redesigned CityLab, “Toward Being a Better Gentrifier.”
  • For Serious Eats, Sara’o Mozac pens a beautiful, cranky and loneliness-curing essay on the Afro-Trinidadian meals he grew up with and the food he sought out during a college trip in search of his roots: “East, West, Then Backward: Falling for Groundnut Soup in Ghana.” Pair with the latest episode of Gastropod, about the history and science behind peanut butter.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: False feminists, bad business and a very good cucumber

I’m working on deadline today, so this is going to be quick — but in a short and sweet kind of way, rest easy. They’re all good stories, Brent.

I’m working on deadline today, so this is going to be quick — but in a short and sweet kind of way, rest easy. They’re all good stories, Brent.

  • What does it mean to be a good cucumber these days? Food writer Bee Wilson believes it’s become so watered-down, we don’t even know what that means anymore. (Link goes to the Financial Times; heads up on the paywall.)
  • Small Town Noir: I’m fascinatedNiemanStoryboard asks a Scottish fellow why he’s so obsessively collecting and investigating mid-century mugshots from a small town in western Pennsylvania.
  • You swooned and screamed over the first Black Panther trailer this week, right? (Ohmygod, go do so if you haven’t.) Seems like that kind of momentum would be a great time for Marvel to showcase its Wakanda-based comics, with their excellent writers and illustrators! Or… not, apparently? In the process, they’ve revealed a fatal flaw about how the industry insists it will get new readers into comics.
  • Last night in my corner of the internet, Twitter user Rave Sashayed bravely livetweeted her experience reading the godawful and rightfully canned 2006 Joss Whedon script for Wonder Woman. It’s worth considering where the famous-for-being-feminist Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator went so, so wrong in his approach to women. A Tumblr user named Laurel Jupiter took a thoughtful look at Whedon’s work back in 2015, when we were all still angry about the mess that is The Avengers: Age of Ultron. As she writes:

I wish he hadn’t turned, in twenty years, from the man who wanted to see the blonde girl in the horror movie survive and thrive into the rich bastard who thought it was funny to call Natasha Romanoff a cunt on IMAX and who called her a monster for being the victim of medical abuse. I’m still laughing angrily at Joss being driven off twitter by a mob of angry, betrayed female fans, because wow does he ever deserve it, but man, Joss. It didn’t have to be that way.

  • Samantha Bee is everything, and Full Frontal this week was a glorious poke in the eye to Jeff Sessions. Let’s end it on that:

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Fake food, bad HR and the act you’ve known for all these years

It is an act of radical self-care to remind yourself there is other news and journalism out there totally unrelated to Comey, Trump and the downfall of the republic!

It is an act of radical self-care to remind yourself there is other news and journalism out there totally unrelated to Comey, Trump and the downfall of the republic!

Chris Evans giggling at his dog is also a radical act of self-care. But also:

  • Let’s start with the Beatles. I love the Beatles. I spent the three years from sixth to eighth grade listening almost exclusively to the Beatles, so I’m honestly pretty chuffed (don’t @ me) at all the coverage of the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (Fifty! Years!) All Songs Considered brought in Giles Martin, the son of Beatles producer George Martin, to talk about how he went back into Abbey Road’s vault to not just remaster but remix the album from scratch. As someone who knows nothing about sound engineering, it’s fascinating to hear the differences in production side by side. See also:
    • Vulture had the nerve to rank 213 Beatles songs from worst to best, always sure to produce hilarious and furious discussion, because obviously it’s going to be wrong bottom to top. (Although I can’t disagree with their No. 1 pick, why “Hold Me Tight” doesn’t occupy the final slot is a mystery.) The piece provides a fantastic history of the band in non-chronological vignettes along the way.
    • I have not read this yet, but I’m thrilled that this 2008 paper exists on PsyArt, a self-described online journal for the psychological study of the arts: “The Space Between Us: A Developmental History of the Beatles.”
  • Also coming from the podcast word, Gastropod, which charmingly examines the relationship between food and science, has an episode on fake and adulterated food (and the cops that stop its proliferation) that could put you on edge in the grocery store for the rest of time.
  • It’s a short response to a larger fawning article by the New York Times, but the New Republic‘s Sarah Jones punches back at the notion that tech giants fund coding programs for kids out of the goodness of their hearts. Speaking of techno-libertarians, a reminder from a former ardent supporter why Julian Assange is garbage. Same with Uber.
  • Journalism is in serious trouble. We all know that, even if we’re not in media. But the ways in which it’s in trouble on the hiring side aren’t always apparent to outsiders. Rachel Schallom, who will soon by starting a job with the Wall Street Journal, wrote up a clear-headed and damning account of what’s wrong with newsroom hiring practices, from the unpaid labor and lost intellectual property the luckiest desperate applicants give away to the ways in which HR performs gatekeeping through the interview process and the job postings themselves.
  • You can’t end a Friday post that heavily, so I present, from NPR: cat cafes vs. dog cafes vs… raccoon cafes?

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: CPAC crashers, gene editors and eating for money

You can’t help but click on a story titled “The Case for Becoming a Hermit” in this day and age. It’s actually a well-written book review that makes me wish it answered the questions it raises, but for my part, the response was almost ravenously quick. There are still good things out in the world, though. For instance:

  • One feel-good story for the day: Meet the Black antifascist activist who shows how hate has consequences.
  • I love science writing and science stories. This week, On the Media re-aired two phenomenal interviews about gene editing and human cloning, as well as the ethics of both, as explored in the amazing BBC America series Orphan Black.
  • The Baffler and the Atlantic have two similar stories about the academy and its relationship to public life. First, from Maximillian Alvarez, “The Accidental Elitist,” on the humanities and the way we need to rethink the public intellectual. Then, from the excellent Ed Yong, “How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners.”
  • I loved this Briallen Hopper piece from the Cut: “Relying on Friendship in a World Made for Couples.”
  • Finally, from the Ringer, an actually excellent process/inside media story about food writing. Once I discovered The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show on Netflix, I leaped right into documentaries and travel shows like Chef’s Table, Somm, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Michael Pollan’s Cooked and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Pardon the pun, but the market’s appetite for food media right now is insatiable, and I love it. “Will Write for Food” addresses two problems we don’t really see as consumers. First, in Bryan Curtis’ own words, “If everyone wants to be a food critic, who’s going to pick up the bill?” But there’s also another issue worth exploring: “A food critic is a rock critic that has been ripened and aged.” Really interesting stuff.

There’s a lot of other big stuff going on, of course.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Ecto-Cooler cocktails, the immune system of democracies and grace by George Foreman grill

I mean… that about sums it up, right?

  • Wow, though, Mike Pence. When you look at the issues, it doesn’t really get better. And in fact, if you listen to the alternative press in Indiana, he’s been pretty bad there in practice, above and beyond theory.
  • These paired essays are two horrible flavors that go together well. For the Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch investigates the parallels between contagion and the collapse of the American political system. “What is it,” he asks, “that not long ago allowed our government to metabolize the aggression that is inherent in any pluralistic society and still get things done?” Meanwhile, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik asks us to get really honest about what the rise of Donald Trump among Americans means. See also, from May: “The Day the Republican Party Died.”
  • Also see also: The Los Angeles Times outlining the fundamental ridiculousness of the laws that will govern next week’s Republican National Convention, and why law enforcement in Cleveland is nervous as hell.
  • Something good is happening today, though: the all-female Ghostbusters gets its wide release. Not only does this mean service pieces about cocktails you can make with the recently re-released Hi-C Ecto-Cooler, but you get to see the good parts of fandom on display, to counteract all the ugliness of grown men whining about how their childhoods have somehow been ruined by social justice warriors. (Yeah, about that.) To whit: how the film honors one super-fan who touched a whole community.
  • Other ways in which there’s good in the world, from a wholly unexpected source: The Kitchen Sisters’ podcast Fugitive Waves has been producing incredible stories lately about our relationships with culture and food. Even they were surprised, however, by what they learned about the George Foreman grill — including from Foreman himself. It’s not just the top-selling electrical appliance of all time, but it’s a vector of dignity. You can listen to the episode on that link, but I highly recommend subscribing to this show anyway.

Things I’m Verbing: TV hates women, women hate the monoculture and the monoculture hates jobs

This has been a particularly crummy week for great women. Obviously I’m annoyed as all get-out that ABC canceled Agent Carter (even as Captain America: Civil War nears $300 million in domestic gross alone). It is certainly worth considering the show’s flaws even aside from ratings — this Medium post articulates a lot of what it was up against from the inside, and why the second season stumbled where the first season seemed so promising. I don’t agree with all of it, but I can’t deny a lot of it.

That said, I’m convinced more than ever of the show’s importance, especially when CBS passed on a Sarah Shahi-led series for being “too female,” when Woody Allen still commands respect, when Donald Trump brushes off years of humiliating women, when we’ll never get to see Gina Torres as Macbeth, when Iron Man 3 originally had a female villain but got rewrites because it literally wouldn’t sell toys, when instead we get… the MacGyver reboot nobody ever asked for. Per Bustle‘s Sabienna Bowman:

If female leads and women-led shows with passionate fanbases are being disregarded by network TV, then the message begins to feel like women should take their “too female” tastes somewhere they might matter — or just not expect TV to represent them whatsoever.

Well. There’s a Change.org petition to bring Agent Carter to Netflix, where I think it would be a much better fit alongside Jessica Jones, now Marvel’s only female-helmed brand. The petition has more than 75,000 signatories from around the world. While we’re waiting for that to pan out…

Ultimately, context aside, I think all these links come down to one sentiment, perfectly and profanely (as usually) expressed by Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig: