Things I’m Verbing: Why we need mammoths, delayed swanhood and dictator chic

I’m taking a social media detox at the moment, which feels great (yes, I’m going to do one of these). As I watch myself try to find the Twitter app on my phone, I definitely realize how often I reach for it as a numbing agent — and how outrage itself can be a numbing agent. On my commutes, instead of draining my battery and my data trying to refresh my feed underground, I’m going for Pocket and actually catching up on all the longreads I meant to finish when I had time.

So hey, happy Friday! Happy St. Patrick’s Day (and happy birthday to one of my very favorite people in the world since middle school, the incredible Out There podcast creator Willow Belden). Have some really excellent longer “slow journalism.”

  • More on that wilderness thing: You must, you must read Ross Andersen’s “Pleistocene Park” for the Atlantic. It’s an intersection of climate change, land management and resurrecting charismatic megafauna that I never saw coming. It’s also a nice antidote to (or at least a bit of hope versus) excellent but gloomy pieces like Laurie Penny’s “The Slow Confiscation of Everything.”
  • Sarah Menkedick’s “The Making of the Mexican-American Dream” for Pacific Standard is the best blending of personal experience, good reporting and national policy. She beautifully explores the identity Mexican-Americans do and could have in the United States, and the way they’re poised to define American identity going forward.
  • I found Marshall Allen’s ProPublica piece “What Hospitals Waste” from a tweet proclaiming it “one of those stories you’re immediately jealous of.” It’s an inspired and inspiring work of investigative reporting about the conflicting requirements of desperate communities and cleanliness protocols.
  • Another great, sideways piece of analysis: For Politico, Peter York analyzes Trump’s decorating style and how it compares to other regimes historically and around the world in “Trump’s Dictator Chic.”
  • Finally, in a much lovelier look at art, Irina Dumitrescu reflects on the joys of learning ballet as an adult, and what the lives of professional ballet dancers mean, in the wonderfully titled “Swan, Late.”

Stay brave, friends.

Image credit: How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth

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: Celebrity skin, the right-wing PC and magical thinking

A few years ago, when it seemed like my mother’s second surgery and chemo regimen had given her a clean bill of health, I bought myself a ukulele. I had never played a string instrument before, being strictly a piano/oboe/bassoon girl growing up (yeah, I know), but my reasoning was that a ukulele can make literally anything sound happy, including Hamlet meditating on suicide and murder. I can’t pretend that in the time since, I’ve become some sort of Jake Shimabukuro, but music is an act which adds something to the world, and as draining as the past year and a half has been and as horrible as it seems like it’s going to get, I’ll take any nourishing thing I can get.

All of this is to say that while I’m still a little shaky on the folky version of “The Star-Spangled Man With a Plan,” this week I managed the Nouvelle Vague cover of “The Killing Moon,” and that made me forget all this nonsense — that is, the Cold War-throwback news that Russia may have swung the election for Trump — for at least 20 minutes.

  • So, any time Anne Helen Petersen writes about celebrity, you ought to sit up and listen. “The Key to Trump Is Reading Him Like a Celebrity” is excellent, excellent work for BuzzFeed. Also unmissable on that site, from author Jesmyn Ward: “This Was the Year America Finally Saw the South.” Absolutely not the “pity the white working class” piece you might think it is; much more essential. (Though of that genre, though not really, Susan Faludi’s “Trumped and Abandoned” for the Baffler knocks it out of the park.)
  • As if they weren’t already, language and rhetoric are going to be more important than ever going forward. Read the libertarian Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh on patriotic correctness, the right’s stifling counterpart to that favorite bogeyman, political correctness. See also, from Tina Dupuy, “So We Elected an Autocrat: What to Do Now.” (One hint: Don’t adopt language like “MSM” or “mainstream media.” Do you flinch every time you see liberals use “flip-flop” as a verb? I do.) See also: the Teen Vogue broadside against Trump’s gaslighting that everyone is rightly talking about.
  • There’s magical thinking (the Electoral College and then the Republican-dominated House of Representatives are going to save us) and then there’s “Trump and the GOP won’t get rid of Obamacare; it’s working too well for us.” Heartbreaking.
  • What, you thought I wouldn’t post any Jewish stuff? Come on, on a scale of 1 to unmissable, “My Name Is Loolwa Khazzoom and I Won’t Change That to Come Off Less Middle Eastern” is off the charts. Given last week’s “are Jews white?” hubbub, if you have time, read Richard Jeffrey Newman’s “The Lines That Antisemitism and Racism Draw: Reflections on White Jewish Intersectionality” (multipage; one page). It was originally commissioned for a series of essays on #BlackArtMatters; you might think the two are unrelated, but read the piece. It will open up some things for you.
  • I started this on ukuleles and things that are joyful, didn’t I? Let’s end on some uplifting notes. For instance, someone found an entire feathered dinosaur tail inside a chunk of amber, and the photos are just staggering. See also:

(How are you real?!!)

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Abortion, smugness and testimony

Oh my god, what has happened since Tuesday? I mean, there’s the Heartbeat Bill in my native Ohio, which criminalizes abortion at a point before most women even know they’re pregnant. There’s Trump getting the National Park Service to deny permits for weeks around the Lincoln Memorial to prevent the Million Woman March next month. Apparently Trump also just said that internment wasn’t bad because FDR?

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Insurance conspiracies, gatekeeping whiteness and how linguistics could save the republic

I love getting to kick off with an announcement of new work, and I’ve been especially excited about this piece for a while. Earlier this year, while I was trying to find a psychiatrist who actually took my insurance, one doctor sighed and said that I didn’t hear it from her, but insurance companies definitely pad their online networks to make it look like they provide exponentially more coverage than they really offer. I got curious, especially because my insurance is very, very low-income, and I wondered if this was a feature of low-income versus high-income plans.

Turns out it was something else entirely, much less sinister but immensely more frustrating. And that story found a home at Vice’s new health section, Tonic, which — I can’t state enough how good the work has been there. I’m so looking forward to seeing how it grows. For now: Why It’s Such a Struggle to Find an In-Network Therapist.” Please feel free to share far and wide, obviously, and I’d love to hear what you think.

And if any outlets out there want to hire me and give me better insurance, by all means, let’s please chat.

  • Yesterday I finally had the experience of being not at all bothered by a story that was sending my Twitter feed up in arms. However, if you understand that antisemitism is racial hatred and that the Holocaust was about racial purity, it will not shock you very much that “Are Jews White?” is a real question the Atlantic is asking. It’s an excellent piece by Emma Green, and it’s a question many Jews online have been discussing for some time. Green addresses concerns from the left and the right in a follow-up post with poise and precision; this article is not what you think it is going in, and I applaud it.
  • On a related note, the Guardian’s “Google, Democracy and the Truth About Internet Search” starts off with a simple question: Are Jews evil? It autofilled in the search field, after all. And so Carole Cadwalladr takes us down a rabbit hole about who owns and controls information, as well as the literally viral nature of the right-wing web. An absolutely phenomenal piece, which has already — well, had some real-life effects.
  • Meanwhile, you’ve got to read BuzzFeed’s wonderful Charlie Warzel on where Donald Trump gets his news. This is a visual, data-driven effort that just…. well, it proves a point about wide-ranging media diets, while also pairing with the above piece on the right-wing web rather well.
  • There will never not be a place for post-election processing. I refuse to believe “we’re all moving past that now” and that people are sick of it. Exhibit A: Aliza Layne’s comic about queer artists and the forces that want to shout down their art, their self-expression and their very being. Exhibit B: author Chuck Wendig’s explanation of the “white working class” psyche, as exemplified by his father. Exhibit C: my photo up top; people haven’t stopped leaving encouraging post-its all over subway stations along 14th Street in New York. I do hope this continues.
  • On the Media spoke to a cognitive linguist this week about how the very act of talking about Trump normalizes him. It sounds horrible, but it’s fascinating, and more than that — there’s something actionable within it that journalists and citizens can do to fight.

Good luck out there, friends.