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.

Things I’m Verbing: Raising the dead, weighing the soul and decrypting the wires

I wish I could say that today’s link roundup is a bit late because I was hobbled by the same Internet outage that’s messing up everyone’s day, but to be quite honest, I’ve been reading this great book about the science of the afterlife all morning. Mary Roach’s Spook is my book club’s selection for October (a fact I only realized after first reading her survey of corpses and cadavers, Stiff). About a third into it, we’ve already discussed the quest to weigh the soul, the day-to-day of reincarnation investigators and the many strange ways people once believed a person gains a soul in the first place. Pair with the Gimlet podcast Science Versus two-parter on forensic science and we’ve got some wonderful topical journalism chasing clicks and book sales around my favorite holiday.

  • Also in the podcasting world, 99 Percent Invisible went for the episode that needed to happen the moment McMansionHell went viral, and it’s great. (Side note: I’m so thrilled that McMansion Hell is run by a smart, hilarious woman.)
  • Undark, a science publication you will probably enjoy, explored the less flashy side of de-extinction recently. Rather than start with dinosaurs or mammoths, why not go for bringing back something actually doable: the Martha’s Vineyard-native heath hen?
  • This is an older piece from the Atlantic, but I was trying to explain to a friend why so many people, especially millennials and younger, don’t like talking on the phone. I fell down this rabbit hole about sound transmission over cables versus cellular networks, and I remain fascinated.
  • Catapult is another home for literate and brave essays you should get to know. “Nineteen Slaves” by Jona Whipple digs into questions a lot of Americans may have, starting with “Am I really part of the problem if my family never owned other people?”
  • It’s been a good week for artist profiles and art reviews. I don’t think you should miss any of these pieces: Jeffrey Eugenides profiling Zadie Smith; Rachel Syme reviewing Marina Abramović’s latest memoir; Hilton Als considering Moonlight and what it means for depictions of gay black men on film.

Things I’m Verbing: Science deserts, ghosts versus bad houses and the evils of SEO

Wow, I sure just read that Jezebel piece about an SEO marketing team exploiting the personal essay industrial complex by creating a fake female identity who was successful enough to be invited to appear on television. Who doesn’t love proof of a system casually hating women across the board in the morning? I was planning on linking the New Yorker’s “Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others” anyway, but if you’re conscious of paywalls, there’s always this.

  • So much more entertaining: Slate not only dug into the fantastic blog McMansion Hell, but writer Colin Dickey drew the comparison between the architectural atrocities of our suburbs and a long, rich tradition of haunted houses. I’m so pleased this exists!
  • Is Donald Trump Funny Anymore?” Saturday Night Live and the Washington Post wrestle with when to stop laughing.
  • It’s Nobel Prize week, and writing for the New York Times, Gabriel Popkin makes a strong case that the most pressing fields in science deserve consideration — because right now, there’s no Nobel for studying climate change.
  • This has been a big story in Chicago for a while: A Whole Foods finally opened in Englewood, a South Side neighborhood better known in the media for violence and tragedy. Ostensibly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal is to bring dignity to residents and eliminate food deserts, but as the Chicago Tribune reports, it’s not as simple as bringing in one store.
  • I was going to choose an article about gearing up for the vice presidential debate tonight, but honestly, why not have something joyous in your life instead? Open Culture is a reliably great addition to my day — have a link about learning to swing dance from the original greats of the 1930s and ’40s.