It’s the Friday before Election Day! We’re almost there, if we don’t all expire of wrath and exhaustion first. Things are getting weirder and weirder by the minute, apparently. In addition the FBI seemingly openly working to elect one candidate, we’ve also got a starring role for Macedonian teenagers making money off Facebook ads by generating wildly false Trump-supporting content-mill articles. However, it’s not all terrible. Even as someone who lived in and adored Chicago for 12 years and thus is reluctant to give New York credit for much of anything, the New York Times wrote a simply beautiful lede commemorating the Cubs’ World Series win.
In other news, I have a new piece out in Refinery29! Lindsay Lohan baffled the world this week with a meandering new accent; fulfilling my duty as a nerd (and the daughter of an English and linguistics professor), I wrote about sociolinguistics and why we all pick up and drop accents. Hope you enjoy it! For those at home, my source wrote in after listening to the clip and thought LiLo sounded vaguely French, in a very Canadian way.
- Hillary Clinton answered reader questions at Rookie and it’s great. However, pair with Sudanese-American comics artist Moaz Elemam’s “Distant Fires,” lest we think politics are easy and comfortable at heart.
- The Hollywood Reporter has a fascinating profile up of “the Oprah of China” — a trans woman who was once a high-profile ballet star. There’s so much left unsaid or elided, which is just as intriguing.
- Twitter ditching @replies isn’t just an aesthetic misstep. It also makes users even more unsafe, writes sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom.
- Peace Now, the Israeli peace activist organization, has a new leader, a gay Mizrahi man named Avi Buskila. Outside of Israel, domestic politics tend to get flattened. Buskila’s interview with Ynetnews is a good window into why that’s a mistake.
- There have been many eulogies written for Vine, the six-second video network. Many of them have noted that shutting down the service means shutting down one of the richest cultural outlets for black youth in America.
To reclaim some joy in your lives (or at least my life), holy cats, you’ve got to watch the new Wonder Woman trailer. It looks amazing, on a bunch of levels. I have a lot of feelings about why we’re long overdue for action and fantasy movies focusing on WWI, as well as Gal Gadot’s Jewishness, but for now, ugh, this just looks great. Happy Friday!
Image Credit: 1derwoman/Flickr
WELL. I perfectly understand if you prefer to stick your fingers in your ears while singing “lalalalala!” or even simply discuss the existence of these candidate-scented candles (comes in Justin Trudeau, Vladimir Putin and anti-Donald Trump), but I had a fabulous time with Stephen Colbert and friends. We all watched the debate beforehand, while we were in line and waiting in our seats, and I could not have asked for better company. My friend and I were six rows back, right in front of the interviewing desk, which I thought was fantastic until the filming started and I realized that the camera or the stage manager was directly blocking my entire view of the action the whole way through.
That said, I did get to see Rob Lowe dash shirtless across the stage in the theater where the Beatles played for Ed Sullivan, so cross that off the bucket list.
A note about watching Colbert in person: completely inspiring. Just — what a gentleman, really. He was utterly engaged, utterly enthusiastic and totally committed to his guests and his audience. He was grateful, polite, kind and so professional you could only tell he was working by the smoothness of his actions. I’m so impressed by what I saw, and so inspired to be that kind of boss and that kind of team member, no joke. We all could learn a lot from watching him behind the scenes, at least from what I saw in front of a theater full of fans.
Vox: “The first debate featured an unprepared man repeatedly shouting over a highly prepared woman“; “Donald Trump trying to play off a silent audience revealed the reality star’s biggest weaknesses”
NPR: “Fact Check: Trump And Clinton Debate For The First Time”
The Atlantic: “Hillary Did What She Needed to Do”
The New York Times Magazine: “The Reverse-Gaslighting of Donald Trump”
See you again on Oct. 9. These next few weeks are going to be wild.
This week, my cousin asked what “verbing” actually means. I have two answers. One is that I wanted something vague-yet-interesting enough to cover the wide range of feelings I have about the news on any given day. “Things I’m Loving” isn’t always accurate, and “Things I’m Reading” is just boring. The follow-up answer is that Calvin & Hobbes is one of my foundational texts.
Hashtag Things ’90s Kids Understand.
And now, onto the news. Steve Bannon, Trump’s new campaign CEO, sure is worrisome. Vox has a whole genealogy of Breitbart and the alt-right that’s very worth reading. This must mean the Democrats’ foes are formidable, clever and dastardly, right? Able to get away with it all and nothing sticks, because their followers eat it up?
- Oops. Not just that, but it looks like Bannon is actually… committing voter fraud himself, in that he’s registered to vote at a vacant property in Florida that’s set to be torn down soon. Oops.
- Up until Clinton’s speech yesterday explicitly tying the Trump campaign to the racist alt-right, it seemed she was keeping pretty quiet and letting her opponent simply get in his own way. But she’s been facing controversies of her own about the Clinton Foundation, most notably in a misleading AP tweet about her activities related to the foundation while she was secretary of state. John Aravosis refutes the case for wrongdoing in a sensible, astute Twitter thread; my favorite part it this: “[Muhammad] Yunus won the Nobel peace prize for founding the Grameen bank and pioneering concept of microlending to women in LDCs. no shit the Secretary of State met with Yunus. He’s global poverty’s Mother Teresa. That’s AP’s big smoking gun.”
- St. Louis-based Sarah Kendzior, always essential reading, has a new piece in Quartz castigating the media (and its national audience) for only caring about stories outside their coastal bubble when they’re extreme (Ferguson, Katrina, Milwaukee, Baton Rouge), and ignoring or dismissing the vast majority of the country otherwise, during the unsexy everyday brutality girding these issues.
- Ever since Hanna Rosin’s eye-opening “The Overprotected Kid,” I’ve been staggered at how much less freedom many children have simply to wander a neighborhood or do things without a parent chaperoning. This week, NPR published a fascinating interview with a psychologist whose recently published research, in collaboration with a philosopher, looks at the moral judgments bystanders make about the parents of children left alone. The way they devised their study is really interesting.
- Because I will never pass up an opportunity to shout Lynda Barry’s praises to the skies, you should read this interview she gave in 2010 about my favorite book of hers, Picture This, which is about where imagination comes from, why we draw and how it’s possible to draw like we did when we were kids again.
- I want to end on a magical note, also about art. Sigalit Landau left a dress in the Dead Sea for two months. Not to get all clickbaity, but the end result is staggering.
Happy Saturday! It’s the weekend! Sure is nice to kick back and do some reading, right?
Totally, totally. So, it’s all good stuff, I’m sure: great journalism, considered research, thorough analysis of the state of the world, a new way of looking at things, cause for… op… cause for…
…well, okay, I guess that was too much to ask. (And yes, you should click all those links, they’re pretty staggering.) It might get worse before it gets better, but there are at least some signs that it could get better.
- I’m still thinking about Charles Pierce’s Esquire indictment of the potential Trump voter. “This Isn’t Funny Anymore. American Democracy Is at Stake” is the much angrier version of the Washington Post editorial board’s remarkable full-page op-ed “Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy.”
- Two interesting — not counterpoints, but thoughts on anger as political discourse. Laurie Penny’s “I’m With the Banned” is about noxious alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos, who like all trolls sees rage as victory. I also can’t stop thinking about Invisibilia’s recent episode on complementary behavior — specifically, on how treating alienated young men with kindness rather than authoritarian condemnation kept them from joining ISIS. I don’t know what can be done about the current of selfish, racist, nationalist, nativist, xenophobic anger that Trump is riding, but I want to believe this can inform some kind of response.
- All that said, we did get one actual bright spot this week: Jon Stewart came home, and oh boy, he’s still got it.
- It’s easy to rend our hair about the Republican candidate — goodness knows he gives us plenty of cause. But I’m trying to remind myself that our alternatives are actually quite good. Cases in point:
- I finally read Ezra Klein’s long piece “Understanding Hillary,” about the gap in her approval ratings between when she’s running for office and when she’s actually doing a job. I’ve long been a Hillary skeptic, if for no other reason than dynastic politics are no better when it’s spouses rather than sons, but I found this really illuminating and encouraging, even as it’s honest about her very real faults.
- The knee-jerk liberal narrative about Tim Kaine, her vice-presidential pick, is that he’s a boring white guy on a ticket that could have been transformative. But I’m hearing different from a number of Virginians, including Krystal Ball, whose “The Progressive Case for Tim Kaine” includes this line, for those of us who balked at his record on reproductive freedom: “Kaine doesn’t want to control my body and I don’t want to control his mind, so we’re all good there.”
- More to the point, the New York Times Magazine cover story this week is a fascinating and, dare I say it, hopeful look at the economic progressives whose message is becoming more and more central to the Democratic national ticket. “Could Hillary
Clinton Become the Champion of the 99 Percent?” Felicia Joy Wong, the president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, thinks so.
- We deserve something nice after all this week’s sturm und drang. Have this baby rhino. Oh, and also:
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.