TFW you spend a year chasing down evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia, and then Trump Jr. scoops you on Twitter.
That… sure has been some morning!
- How about a nice history of skateboarding from 99% Invisible?
- Or, from On the Media, a look at how science fiction is tackling climate change? It’s not all doom and gloom — one of the piece’s loveliest features is the words listeners made up to describe the new environmental realities we may face in coming years. See also: Atlas Obscura’s great piece on demonyms, and where you come from if you’re a Leodensian.
- Also related to the future: from Pacific Standard, “The Fallacy of Endless Growth.”
- Via Quartz: It turns out we understand calories a lot less than we think we do.
- Last night, I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming, and it was a complete and utter delight. I wouldn’t call it a terrifically deep film, which is a great strength — emotionally, it’s great, but it doesn’t ask big questions like even other Marvel movies (e.g., my all-time No. 1, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). That’s my awkward segue into a piece of excellent pop culture criticism from Angelica Jade Bastién, writing for Vulture. Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a Civil War-era story about Southern belles that features no people of color, has drawn lots of criticism for its oblivious whiteness. Bastién, however, offers a different perspective in “How The Beguiled Subtly Tackles Race Even When You Don’t See It.”
Stay brave, friends.
Here we are! Here… we are…!
- A secret GOP vote to demolish an independent ethics committee with congressional oversight doesn’t sound fishy and self-serving, right?
- Look, I know there’s a lot of Judean People’s Front vs. People’s Front of Judea infighting going around on the left, but let’s maybe take this opportunity to advise people to unite and speak out without trying to reclaim the phrase “good German”?
- I don’t know who Rebecca Ferguson is, really, but I appreciate that she’ll sing at Trump’s inauguration on the condition that she sing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”
- Do you understand bullet journals? Every time someone tries to explain them to me, my brain turns into an animated cartoon scribble and collapses with a crashing sound effect. PopSci gave it a pretty good try, though.
- I’ve got a Netflix rec, of all things. I’ve become very interested in World War I, and I just discovered David Reynolds, a Cambridge historian who’s written many books and hosted many BBC documentaries about the 20th century. One is Long Shadow, a three-part series not only hashing out how much more nuanced and complicated the players of the Great War were, but detailing how the decisions of a century ago are still driving politics and national identities today. It rhymes so much with Brexit and Trump themes, which isn’t too comforting, but most of all, it uses incredibly vivid period footage that I’ve never seen before, and which is incredibly affecting. I highly recommend the documentary, and I’m looking forward to reading his book as well. April 6 marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. joining the fight, so I hope we’ll all be talking about this a lot more.
Well, there it is, friends. Stay brave.
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.
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!
The news waits for no one. I was so overwhelmed and buzzing with possibilities from an amazing four days at THREAD, the storytelling conference/workshop at Yale (that’s me up top experiencing VR for the first time!), that I was trying to find exactly the right in to discuss it here. Then one asshole committed an atrocity in Orlando, then another tried to one-up him at the Los Angeles Pride Parade, then Donald Trump outdid himself with just three words, an impressive feat on any number of terrible levels:
Thank goodness for the Tonys last night. And if you’re looking for the story par excellence to escape into, may I suggest the Dodo’s “Chicken Sails Around the World With Her Hot Dad“? It’s got everything, and I hope it brings a little light back into your world. The rest of today’s links are not nearly so fun.
- I’ve been watching two stories about sexual assault gain traction in my Facebook feed especially. There’s the Stanford rapist Brock Turner sentencing outcry, and an exposé from the Chicago Reader on rampant harassment at a local theater going unchecked for years. These have led to a number of nuanced, thought-provoking considerations of what constitutes justice, all the more worth considering in the light of unspeakable acts like a mass murder at a gay bar.
- Jes Skolnik writes about restorative justice, and something in her phrasing really struck me — that the violent act itself is one thing, but the injustice of the system endangering and failing so many more is what we can concretely fight.
- Radiolab just started a spin-off miniseries about the Supreme Court, called More Perfect, and it’s truly worth your time. The first episode, “Cruel and Unusual,” is another exploration of how we try to enact vengeance or justice through the state, but can’t seem to reconcile the desire for the death penalty with the reality of how it comes to pass.
- Two other writers took on the subtler cultural choices that have wracked various theater communities. As a one-time would-be improviser, I can absolutely confirm what Julia Weiss says about the language of sexual violence and misogyny in improv, and how real concerns get dismissed in the name of comedy. Meanwhile, Anthea Carns considers the way theater valorizes a certain kind of male anti-hero, and how those stories are considered “deep” and “meaningful” simply by dint of their aggressiveness.
- Many outlets have reported that the incomparable Geena Davis will be producing a documentary on gender disparity in Hollywood; many others have noted with some outrage that the project has a male director. The Mary Sue gets to the bottom of both questions, and reminds us that we can’t dismiss true allyship while also demanding it. That said, pair with the Atlantic’s piece on why film studios no longer make live-action films starring young girls.
- Meanwhile, Ars Technica takes us into an odd project that could put us all on our heels anyway: a short film written by an AI.
- There’s been some incredible reporting lately about bodily trauma. First, NPR profiles the Iraq veteran who threw himself into researching the emblematic injury of that war, the TBI. Next, the New York Times Magazine asks whether PTSD might in fact have physical roots. Pair both of these with GQ’s initial look at concussions in the NFL.
- We’re 10 days away from the vote that determines whether Great Britain will leave the European Union. The Nib is an excellent nonfiction cartoon and comics site, and since I went to THREAD to experiment with graphic novel-style journalism, check out their explanation of what Brexit could mean and what its supporters and detractors have to gain and lose.
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: