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: Free speech, werewolf handbooks and the 3.5 percent

I had jury duty on Thursday; happily (sorry, civic duty), I wasn’t selected from the pool, but actually happily, that meant I walked out of the Brooklyn courthouse right into the Yemeni-American Bodega Strike. It was stunning and beautiful. I’ll let this video speak for itself:

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"JUSTICE! NOW!" #bodegastrike

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It’s a wonderful antidote to all those “protesting just distracts you from the REAL problem, which you can’t fight!” thinkpieces. For more on that, see Huck magazine’s “There is no secret motive: Trump is as shambolic and as racist as he seems” and Ijeoma Oluo’s “Fuck This White Dude Game Theory.”

  • A really interesting statistic made the rounds this week, as Guardian headline announced that only 3.5% of a nation’s population can peacefully overthrow a regime. Thank research by University of Denver professor Erica Chenoweth, who also sums it up briefly and wonderfully in a TEDxBoulder talk from 2013 (link includes transcript).
  • Journalism loves navel-gazing, and one of its favorite conversations is about objectivity and evenhandedness. Who decides what neutrality is, however, is not neutral at all, as Lewis Wallace discovered this week when he was fired from Marketplace for a blog post musing on institutional power and the responsibilities of reporters to acknowledge bias and imbalance.
  • Sometimes with the news you just want to love somebody, and for me this week, it’s queer Black breast cancer survivor and activist Ericka Hart, whose “Mastectomy Story” video over at Allure is just so human and honest and fabulous.
  • Hey, meanwhile, Marvel needs to stop trying to make us feel conflicted somehow about Nazis. If you want a really good comic that will make your heart swell with joy, may I recommend How to Be a Werewolf? Queer characters, immigrant characters, multiracial characters, birth families, found families, a coffee shop, a mysterious old house on the edge of town, social anxiety… it’s so perfect. You will love it. Just go — it won’t take you that long.
  • Finally, this XKCD comic about free speech and what it really means is always handy and will never go out of style. Actual threats to free speech as enshrined in the Constitution come from the government.

It’s the weekend, friends. Stay brave.