Things I’m Verbing: Christian seders, future ruins and rappelling for suffrage

I usually don’t share — can we call them incremental stories in the Trump-Russia thing, even when they’re massive, massive revelations? The thing is, it all tends to move so fast, and it’s easy to tune out because it gets overwhelming. But I can’t ignore the Washington Post’s “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel.” This is literally the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel. I will be interested to see how Trump and GOP supporters continue to justify their support for this administration, whether it’s simply calling this reporting fake news, “just some left-wing blog” or shrugworthy, as Rep. Jason “I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more” Chaffetz professes.

Are you ready for more?

  • Let’s start off light with Colin Dickey’s “Building in the Shadow of Our Own Destruction.” If that and the fact that it’s architecture criticism don’t put you off, you’re in for a thoughtful and unsettling look at how great buildings must be designed while already imagining them in ruins. There’s also a story about a man who died because of accumulated pigeon guano, so really, don’t miss it.
  • Further light reading: Noah Berlatsky, for BuzzFeed, “The Zookeeper’s Wife Is Yet Another Gentile Savior Story.” Even though all the trailers tell me otherwise, I was somehow hoping this wouldn’t be the same self-congratulatory grossness that Schindler’s List epitomizes. Easter and Passover are sensitive times for Jews, not least because Easter has traditionally been a period of heightened violence against them. Not all violence has to be a pogrom; appropriative “Christian seders” and playacting Jewish culture are pretty upsetting too. Anyway, Berlatsky makes the point that centering the heroic bystander experience in mass storytelling, rather than that of the oppressed, ultimately dehumanizes the oppressed. All of these are worth reading.
  • Segueing into another aspect of Hollywood, Anne Helen Petersen asks a worthwhile question: “How Many Times Does Nicole Kidman Have to Prove Herself?” Ain’t sexism grand?
  • Meanwhile, from the Establishment, “Why Don’t We Think Fat People Are Worth Fighting For?” challenges thin people, particularly thin women, to turn body positivity into real solidarity.
  • Finally, Elle has a marvelous and poignant longread that I missed in November. “The 20-Week Abortion Ban Bind” sits with the women who need to terminate pregnancies after the “acceptable” cutoff date, and the heartbreak of losing a wanted child that could not survive outside the womb.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Syncretism, solidarity and straight lines

Lots of antisemitism around social media right now, with many people outraged that “no one is talking about this” and “why isn’t this screaming from every headline?” It’s… exhausting to watch. I feel immensely conflicted about it, as someone who has cared and shouted about antisemitism for a long time. My first reaction is Where have you all been? It took bomb threats and grave desecration to bring you in on this? I feel overexposed, especially when I know how hypocritical and toxic conversations about antisemitism can be.

I am trying to let down my guard and not feel suspicious that this is simply an under-mined source of outrage and clicks. At the same time, I’m moved and relieved by how quickly other communities have come to our aid. You can’t understate the trauma of seeing tombstones knocked over — there is a straight line from that act to the Holocaust. It is really, really not weird that Jews and Muslims would get along and support each other, but it is gratifying to see that we truly have each others’ backs, in action and in word.

Folks who have been in this position, do you have any advice for dealing with these feelings? I’d really appreciate any links in the comments or on Twitter.

  • If you’re looking for some Jews not taking this shit lying down, I urge you to read the absolutely delightful and excellently titled “So a Nazi Walks Into an Iron Bar,” about Meyer Lansky, Jewish gangsters and 1930s-style direct action.
  • There’s always plenty to say about the Oscars, but Imran Siddiquee, writing for BuzzFeed, has a point we shouldn’t lose sight of: “What Will It Take for Dev Patel to Be a Leading Man?
  • Only ’80s and ’90s kids will understand this, &c &c &c: “The Melancholy of Don Bluth,” a look at what set films like All Dogs Go to Heaven, An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH apart from all the rest.
  • From Racked, do not miss Laura Turner’s “What Do We Do With the Clothing of Grief?” The dress I wore to my mom’s funeral still hangs in my closet. I haven’t worn it again, but I don’t know if I can give it up.
  • For just some lovely reflection on religion and identity, from Ravishly, take a look at “Finding My Rebel Catholicism in Mexico City” by Michelle Threadgould.

I have another personal essay up at Screwball Heroine, about the weird composite imaginary man I want to find and fall in love with: “To all my future husbands.”

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Falling down a chimney, lighting the oil and rereading history

The news keeps being heavy. I’m trying not to burn myself out, but it feels unbearable in its own way not to be a witness and speak out against this. If you want to stop here, that’s totally fine; here’s a first-person account of falling down a chimney for clicking over, which I appreciate. For something more apolitical, you might enjoy “Wishing Away the Wish List,” about the holidays and the desire to be known; for something about education, try “‘How Old Is the Shepherd?’ The Problem That Shook School Mathematics,” about liberating students from stupid pedagogy.

Here comes the rest:

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Good talkers, bad TV and sweet, sweet Christmas

I’m late to Scandal, and I admit, I’m mostly interested thanks to Josh Malina’s excellent banter and analysis on The West Wing Weekly. I don’t know why I let this happen to me. The show is infuriatingly bad, and yet as long as I can ignore the thoroughly useless White House plots (and the scripts’ hilarious grasp on journalism ethics) and focus on David Rosen’s terrible luck or the weird brother-sister thing between Huck and Quinn or Harrison just being the smoothest, most gorgeous gladiator in the ring… it’s pretty good “let me kill an afternoon so I don’t have to think about the slow heat-death of American democracy” material.

Speaking of:

  • Mike Pence is a very bad man. His policies as governor of Indiana hurt people — specific groups of people. If he won the vice presidential debate on Tuesday night, it was thanks to a Disney film–level ability to wish away the reality of Donald Trump. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie thinks Pence has given us a preview of the GOP after Election Day. That said, Pence and Tim Kaine seem to have gone into the debate with very different goals — and it’s possible that Kaine got just what he wanted.
  • This started off as a tweetstorm (a word I still kind of hate), and I’m glad Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall refined it into a piece, because the @replies were getting very tangled. Don’t skim past “Storm and Menace” for its Tolkienesque headline; this is a clear-eyed piece about why Jews tend to vote liberal, and why we can’t forgive the normalization of antisemitism and other hatreds that this election has become.
  • Meanwhile, totally outside the realm of politics (for once!), something amazing is happening in the world of living Yiddish (yes, it’s still very much a thing): a 21st-century dictionary, especially for those of us who like to shlingen epizodn (“wolf down” TV).
  • I’ve got Timeless and Conviction on my to-watch list at the moment, the former because I’m a sucker for time travel and the latter because I’m a sucker for Hayley Atwell. Jared Keller, writing for Pacific Standard, has more than convinced me to give Designated Survivor a hard pass. I was never a fan of 24, but “post-9/11 pornographic revenge fantasy” doesn’t seem like a thing we as a culture really need.
  • Lucky for me, there’s another option. I keep writing “Luke Cake,” in part because star Mike Colter, have you even seen this guy? (You have. He’s up top. Oh my gosh.) But the MarvelNetflix series Luke Cage, which dropped last week, is shaping up to be a treasure. See, for example, Noah Berlatsky, writing for Quartz: “Luke Cage takes on the ultimate villain: America’s toxic black male stereotypes.”

Things I’m Verbing: Yiddish for toughs, productivity for the overworked and the blues for all of us

I write these posts trying to think both of my friends who are constantly swapping the best links on Slack all day and my friends who prefer to skim the news. For everyone, I think because of its omnipresence around (journalism) social media, you can’t forget to read “The Obama Doctrine,” Jeffrey Goldberg’s remarkable long look at the president’s foreign policy philosophies, taken from multiple interviews over a long period of time. It really is long, but don’t miss it — especially because at least for me, it reinforced, in our time of trouble, how much I’m going to miss this guy and his brain.

Probably you can preface all of these links with “In our time of trouble,” which has the same scansion as a rather phenomenal blues song. Now that I’ve earwormed you (I hope), you should check out those versions — you may not have heard at least two of them.

  • If the current state of party implosion is giving you particular angst, don’t worry: Everything old is new again, and we’ve (sort of) seen this before.
  • Activist/artist Lauren Besser is struggling with a thing that rings true to me: What if Bernie was Bernadette? What’s the choice we’re really being offered from the Democratic candidates?
  • Fightland has an older but fascinating piece on tough Jews — literally, Jewish fighters and the Yiddish they used for those fights. (Can’t say I think it landed the ending, which doesn’t understand power differentials, but the rest, oh yeah.) See also: things I would love Ted Cruz to get through his noggin.
  • One more rightly viral piece for the list: “12 Things About Being a Woman That Women Won’t Tell You,” from Caitlin Moran for Esquire UK. I got catcalled twice in one residential block this week, once by a man driving a yellow school bus. Like any of us, I could tell you so much more.
  • I loved this week’s episode of Note to Self from WNYC. “Why You Feel More Productive But the Economy Isn’t” is a conversation with Douglas Rushkoff, who wrote Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, and it points a damning finger at how expectations for explosive growth warp business and companies at just about every level.