I just saw the Yankees play the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, my first professional baseball game in about eight or nine years. I found it hilarious and delightful, but truth be told, I only have one true love when it comes to baseball.
I hope you laughed at that — happy Friday, gang! Fun fact: Arlo Guthrie and I share a birthday, which is coming up this Monday. Fingers crossed we get some good news?
- I almost don’t care if it’s sort of a conspiracy theory at this point, I’m fascinated by this proposition that Amelia Earhart survived and wound up in the Marshall Islands.
- You know how much I love nonfiction comics (in addition to all the other kinds); recently we’ve had two exploring a subject close and dear to my heart. At CityLab, Ariel Aberg-Riger (whose work I’ve loved before) has written and illustrated a gorgeous, poignant piece about Mr. Rogers and what makes Americans hunger for his kind of neighborhood. Meanwhile, at Longreads, Candace Rose Rardon is a world traveler, but she’s found meaning in one global commonality: “Home Is a Cup of Tea.”
- For Kajal, Nadya Agrawal pushes on a trope we’ve seen in multiple acclaimed “South Asian man is just a normal American guy” films and TV shows: “Why Don’t Brown Women Deserve Love Onscreen?” Responding on Twitter to a related essay from BuzzFeed (“Why Are Brown Men So Infatuated With White Women Onscreen?“), S.I. Rosenbaum digs into something that both essays miss: “When the author says ‘quirky,’ he means ‘Jewish.'” For more on Jews, particularly American Ashkenazi Jews, and whiteness, see Tumblr use Salt Dragon, writing on Jay-Z’s not-really philosemitic lyrics and what many urban Jews became after World War II.
- I posted this over a holiday weekend, so if you missed it, I wrote up how Jewishness and Israelis don’t fit into a POC/white, colonist/indigenous binary and how otherwise committed anti-racist activists can entirely miss clear signals of antisemitism.
- If you want a really sad, troubling story of a progressive, feminist, sex-positive activist gone “red-pilled,” read Katelyn Burns’ “The Strange, Sad Case of Laci Green” for the Establishment.
- On July 3, I saw the Yankees play the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, my first professional baseball game in about eight or nine years. I found it hilarious and delightful, but truth be told, I only have one true love when it comes to baseball. Someone once said that as The Shawshank Redemption is to men, A League of Their Own is for women. It’s simply perfect on every level, and given that I saw it at 7, it’s incredibly formative for me. Katie Baker, writing for the Ringer, shows why it’s still the greatest sports movie of all time.
Stay brave, friends.
Image credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame; click that link, it’s a great article too. See also: this great art from Project Wisconsin, just because it’s great.
Weeks ago, a friend invited me to join her in the audience for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which, no-brainer! It was only yesterday that I finally made the connection between the date we’re attending — tonight — and the fact of the first presidential debate, also tonight. I thought maybe that meant we could escape enduring it altogether, but not only is this Stephen “Stephen Colbert” Colbert we’re talking about, but actor/White House adviser Kal Penn and The West Wing star Rob Lowe are the guests. At least it’s going to be much better than exposing myself to the unedited horrorshow firsthand.
Good luck and godspeed, my friends. Below, have some stories that are not about the debates at all, while I go devour the GQ cover story on Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he’s doing next. (Maybe you can just listen to the cabinet battles between Hamilton and Jefferson on loop instead: OCR, #Ham4Ham and #WhiteHouse4WestWing4Ham versions.)
- The New York Times Magazine has a sober, fascinating look at a design and architecture question: “Can You Erase the Trauma From a Place Like Sandy Hook?“
- Sometimes apps are in fact developed for good and not for evil. Sapiens profiles Joshua Hinson, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who felt disconnected from his own ancestral language. So he built both software and community institutions to get all generations speaking it again.
- Michelle Goldberg, writing for Slate, has some wonderful insights on the true tragedy of Ralph Nader’s campaigns and movement: “In the 2000 election, the high priest of anti-consumerism turned politics into the very thing he hated most.”
- I don’t watch High Maintenance, but after E. Alex Jung’s look at how one episode deconstructs the tired and tiring “gay best friend of straight woman” dynamic, maybe I should. In some ways, I’d like to pair this with “Who Gets to Write What?” from author Kaitlyn Greenidge, about writing what you know, cultural appropriation and the ongoing mess regarding aggrieved writer Lionel Shriver.
- Racked has a visually beautiful and totally fascinating history of pockets for women. If you’re a fellow, this sentence probably leaves you utterly cold, but I guarantee most women have the following response:
On a side note, I’ve started a new blog for personal essays and their ilk, if you’re interested. Today I posted “Let’s go visit the swans,” which is both about animals, continuity and memory and about how dogs, suburbs and moms are dopey and wonderful all at once. I hope you like it, and I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading!
Even if the story is infuriating, I’m delighted to share my first piece for Tablet, a publication whose stories I always learn something from. What happens when a comic book company needs to sell a lot of comics and upstage its chief rival, but there’s just not much money in comics anymore? Turns out there’s always revealing that a beloved 75-year-old character is a sleeper agent for his greatest enemy. Alas, when that character is Captain America and his greatest enemy is a stand-in for the Nazis, that publicity isn’t as great as you hoped. From “Say It Ain’t So: Captain America Is a… Hydra Agent?!”:
Speaking with Newsarama, Marvel Comics executive editor Tom Brevoort both acknowledged and dismissed the outcry. “We certainly knew…that reveal…would be shocking and unsettling, and take people aback,” he said, “but we didn’t anticipate the sort of math that got people to the idea that it’s anti-Semitic.” For Captain America to say “Hail Hydra” in a cliffhanger moment is not anti-Semitic. But it’s no surprise that fans read it that way, not when it rhymes so well with cultural and contemporary traumas.
Needless to say, between the jerks who insist we should all calm down and let the creative tell their story and the jerks who insist that disempowered fans who criticize hurtful editorial strategies are the same as toxic assholes who send death threats (which, nah), I’m going to focus on one good thing that’s come from this stupid, unsurprising mess:
- If you really want to talk homegrown fascism, which Marvel seems to think it is, BuzzFeed‘s Rosie Gray went inside a white supremacist conference, one that’s become a lot more popular since the rise of Donald Trump.
- This week, my Facebook feed blew up with the New York magazine feature on Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Whatever your political preferences, it’s a lot of great writing. I’d consider it Pulitzer-eligible just for the following: There is an Indiana Jones–style, “It had to be snakes” inevitability about the fact that Donald Trump is Clinton’s Republican rival.
- Hey, viral news! Darlena Cunha, writing for Contently, has a great piece that may interest journalists and non-journalists alike on how to write viral news without 1) selling your soul and 2) devaluing the reporting process. Pair with Slate’s legitimate grumping of the day, “Dear Journalists: For the Love of God, Please Stop Calling Your Writing ‘Content.’“
- Of course, the wildest stories don’t need tricks to sell them. The Washington Post tracked down North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s aunt, who has lived quietly in the U.S. with her husband for almost 20 years. Pair with “Dream Weevil,” a segment from a This American Life episode chronicling the abduction and escape of two South Korean movie stars by Kim Jong Il, who forced them to make films for his regime.
- Thank goodness for Hamilton, which is always good for filling you with the feels, especially if you want to close out a link roundup about the power of art and how we build relationships with particular stories. Sports writer Joe Ponsanski’s daughter loves Hamilton, with the kind of love he recognizes from his love of the game. So he decided to surprise her with tickets, and his experience of her experience is just — it’s really, really lovely.
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…
- There have been a lot of dumb takes on Civil War, but not all hope is lost. NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour took on “Captain America, Aaron Burr and the Politics of Killing Your Friends” — thank you, Linda Holmes, for everything you are. Tor.com also looked at the emotional underpinnings of the story and how they refute the need for successively bigger world-ending threats. My favorite article on storytelling trends, proved right again!
- For more great women who are creators, Vice has a nice interview with cartoonist and illustrator Kate Beaton, who left “prestige” creative cities Brooklyn and Toronto for Nova Scotia, and with good reason.
- The Wall Street Journal looked into how good the jobs created by the economic recovery really are. Pair with Emilie Shumway’s essay on the psychological toll of job-hunting among young people who don’t yet have the experience to get hired… anywhere they used to, really. Not that it’s any better if you have the right experience anyway.
- At Lilith, Yaëlle Azagury’s must-read personal essay looks at growing up Moroccan Jewish and all the languages that entails. Pair with lexicographer Ben Zimmer’s take on Lin-Manuel Miranda, language and the immigrant experience in Hamilton.
- Finally, lost in the fallout over an editor potentially losing his job because of an identity from a former life, chef Eddie Huang wrote the excellent “On the Oppressive Whiteness of the Food World” first.
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:
Sometimes I get down on myself for feeling drawn to the arts — isn’t there More Important Stuff going on in the world? I should stop doing that: Not only are the arts wonderful and important, but they’re as perfect a lens as any to examine the world and how we interact with each other. Plus not only that, but noodling around through arts links led me to Making Your Life as an Artist, a free ebook by choreographer Andrew Simonet about managing your time, your money and the worth of your work. Freelancers of all stripes, take note.
- Arthur Chu is done with stupid Asian stereotypes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and everywhere else, frankly. “Not Your Asian Ninja” begins as an indictment of the second season of Daredevil, but it certainly doesn’t stop there. Short version: Nobody has any excuses for the lazy characterization and world-building that are still acceptable for Asian characters in media.
- Unmissable: “Tabletop Gaming Has a White Male Terrorism Problem.” It didn’t start with GamerGate — not even close.
- On Hamilton and the U.S. prison system: “Tonight, in the midst of our shared creative endeavor, they saw themselves smack in the center of the narrative of creation, possibility, pursuit and achievement.”
- Lighter, but really lovely (and certainly true to my experience): Animation student and beginning Lindy hopper Emei Burrell drew a series of comics about learning to swing dance and falling into the community.
- And speaking of being a beginner, ever wanted to see what the start of a staggering opera career looks like? Luciano Pavarotti performed in Moscow in 1964, and while you can see the talent and the skill, you can also see how much he’s going to grow as a presence. Useful for all of us, and a darn pleasure to hear.
It took four or five tries, but I finally made it to The Big Short this past weekend. It’s Adam McKay’s film about the housing crisis that led to the financial collapse of 2008. I remember that fall vividly: I had been working as a temp at the American Medical Association all year, and I’d interviewed for my job to become permanent, which I was so excited about. Then, out of nowhere, the money dried up and they couldn’t afford to take me on. The Big Short was a lot more impressionistic and fragmented than I was expecting, but it worked — I laughed, I cried, I think I understand “dogshit bonds” now.
I couldn’t get in because it kept selling out. The line for my theater was around the corner of the lobby when I came out. Amazing.
It’s a good Tuesday when you can share some freelance that came to fruition, so here’s my very first piece for Mental Floss: “7 of History’s Most Unusual Riots.” This was both deeply strange and deeply fun to research — I had no idea people cared so much about, well, their right to grab eels in public, which is not actually a euphemism. Fans of Hamilton, yes, you have a reason to click through too.
What a time to be alive.
- Speaking of Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, she wrote a great quick hit on a Captain America: Civil War theory which neatly explains why Tony Stark is so distraught in the film’s first trailer.
- At Women Write About Comics, Hannah Katzman articulates the need for more Jewish representation, because despite the presence of Jews throughout the comics world, it’s still easier to find fake Nazis than ourselves.
- Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief of Electric Literature has assembled a thorough, data-driven look at the so-called war between genre and literary fiction.
- This is not the segue I was looking for, but Pacific Standard took a good look at the death of vinyl in the music world, which pairs with Flavorwire‘s September article “The Premature Death of Physical Media — and the Cult Home Video Labels Keeping It Alive.”
- It’s early enough in December that I’m not yet sick of year-in-review posts, particularly when they’re the Columbia Journalism Review’s best and worst journalism of 2015.