Things I’m Verbing: Rebel librarians, CEO presidents and lost boys who need to wander back

We have stripes. I don’t know why I’m amazed by this fact, but human people have stripes! Bless, Mental Floss, this really brightened my day.

  • Other things that brighten my day: confirmation bias. And I don’t just mean backup for my apprehension about gyms. Laurie Penny, who has been writing about Milo Yiannopoulos long and deeply enough to text with him for comment, has a smashing longread at Pacific Standard. “On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right” takes an inside look at what happens when a movement of gamers recognizes they’re not players, but pawns (their subhed, not mine). As good as everyone’s been saying on Twitter. Read it.
  • Libraries are great. Librarians are great. Protect them at all costs.
  • Former colleague and current BuzzFeed ace Sara Yasin has written one of those essays you wish some so-called deplorables would really absorb and understand: “Muslims Shouldn’t Have to Be ‘Good’ to Be Granted Human Rights.”
  • George W. Bush’s administration was supposedly characterized as that of a long-awaited “CEO president,” which was, until recently, historically unpopular. Trump is also a CEO — is this a common thread? Actually, not at all. Writing for the Conversation, business professor Burt Spector explains the huge cultural differences and investor expectations of heads of family-owned corporations.
  • Pour one out for the failing New York Times; this Modern Love column on working in a dog shelter totally made me tear up.

Stay brave, friends.

Image credit: San José (California) Library, 2010 (Flickr)

Things I’m Verbing: Innovations in linguistics, the history of fear and TSA-proofing your phone

Yet again, where do we even start? Before we dive in, let me share a good hour of nature sounds you can play in the background as you absorb the news. This one’s only an hour, as opposed to 10, but it’s lovely:

My very favorite is the crackling fireplace, but I’m always on the lookout for a good forest sounds ambient mix. Let me know in the comments if you have any recs.

  • Sure has been a week for talking about antisemitism, hasn’t it? Trump, for instance, shouted down an Orthodox Jewish reporter for asking an “unfair question” about how Trump planned to push back on rising antisemitism. Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg wrote up the handy “Five myths about antisemitism” for the Washington Post. For those still confused and angry about it, Chaim at Return of the Judai discusses the fine (or really, not-so-fine) line between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
  • Earlier this week, I shared an essay from a psychiatrist who felt comfortable armchair-diagnosing Trump with a mental disorder, even though both journalism and psychology/psychiatry strongly discourage this as unethical. I shared the essay because the writer goes into the discourse surrounding the topic, even though I couldn’t agree with her conclusion. As it turns out, however, the doctor who codified Narcissistic Personality Disorder has a few strong words about why Trump doesn’t fit the profile.
  • Quincy Larson, a teacher at FreeCodeCamp, shared advice about maintaining your digital privacy on international flights — namely, don’t give security the option of the simplest workaround: physically forcing you to access your data.
  • This is a big, ambitious link, but worthwhile. From the New Republic, check out “Fear: The History of a Political Idea,” a series of five essays about short-circuiting all your best intentions.
  • Bless the Scots. Not only has #PresidentBawbag become a worldwide phenomenon in part thanks to Richard “Toby Ziegler” Schiff, but Scotland may also have given us the latest addictive epithet to get us through the chaos: “shitgibbon.” Turns out there’s a whole grammar behind constructing these kinds of insults, and it’s all pretty brilliant.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Inside/outside, middle ground and how to have a baby

Have you seen Hidden Figures? You absolutely need to see Hidden Figures, a movie that makes no apologies for its brilliant Black women and for its depiction of the systems that humiliated and suppressed them. I just get really excited whenever I see that it’s doing well, and for a non-scifi film, it’s inspiring some incredible fanart. My favorite is this set of watercolors by Stella Blu, which I very much hope she’ll make available as prints:

I’m looking for inspiring and gorgeous art to put on my walls, given how close we are to the coming four years. Shepard “Obama Hope Poster” Fairey and two other artists are blasting through a Kickstarter campaign to flood Washington, D.C., with resistance images for an inauguration that’s banning large signs; for a $50 pledge, you can get a signed copy of your favorite print, plus unsigned versions of all five stunning images. The wonderful Summer Pierre is also doing limited-edition print runs of her Obama farewell address cartoon, as well as her 2017 resolutions for hope and action — proceeds go to charities addressing hunger and education.

On the personal essay side of things, I’ve also been thinking about spaces this week. At my site Screwball HeroinePortal fantasy, Williamsburg, Brooklyn” takes on the interior worlds of depression and the rejuvenating promise of a little retail therapy.

Okay, on to the rest.

  • Romper editor and no-bullshit straight-talker EJ Dickson is having a C-section on Feb. 8 and she couldn’t be happier to tell you why. A great essay on women’s bodies, women’s choices and the social pressure to allow others to control both.
  • You’d think, from the reporting, that the vast, undifferentiated middle of the country is nothing but working-class whites as far as the eye can see. Alia Hanna Habib grew up Arab-American in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a town as Rust Belt-dead as you could wish for, and her perspective deserves your attention.
  • Ariel Aberg-Riger comes from Sheffield, Alabama, another part of the country facing strange political times. Her comic “How Does One Undam?” takes on hometown changes, the Tennessee Valley Authority and what happens to family roots in interesting times.
  • Have I missed an opportunity to scare the pants off anyone today? Ned Resnikoff’s “The center has fallen, and white nationalism is filling the vacuum” for ThinkProgress should do the trick. There’s also the horrifying German court decision that an attempt to burn down a synagogue in 2014 wasn’t antisemitic because it was somehow a legitimate expression of protest against the actions of the Israeli government. That… is actually a textbook definition of antisemitism, so… cool.
  • It’s no good leaving you curled up in a ball, though, so to bring some joy back into your life: Meet Daliyah Marie Arana, an incredible 4-year-old who has already read more than a thousand books and whose photos with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden have given me hope for the future for once.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Expendable courtiers, boring dictatorships and the end of life

There’s still goodness in the world:

As I type this, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the man too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s, is undergoing confirmation hearings for the post of attorney general. Civil rights lion Rep. John Lewis and, in a first for the nation, a sitting senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, will actually testify against Sessions. Pretty galling that it got this far, but I suspect we’ll be saying that a lot over the next few years. If you need some fortifying banter, I recommend you check out the Says Who? podcast, by journalists/hilarious people/angry progressives Maureen Johnson and Dan “@MayorEmanuel” Sinker. The latest episode is called “Flashlight in the Darknesscast,” to give you a taste of tone.

I’d also like to promote the first of a series of personal essays I’m committing to writing this year, as part of the #52essays17 challenge. Over the years, I’ve come to love online advice columnists, from Dear Sugar to Captain Awkward to Mallory Ortberg’s new, improved Prudence. Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly can be so good when she’s good, but when she’s bad, she totally misses gigantic signal flares and gives a very depressed person the worst advice she could. I should know. Read on in “Our Lady of Broken Pheromones” at Screwball Heroine.

Okay.

  • Republicans are hellbent on defunding Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that no federal money has gone to abortion care — a legal medical procedure and personal right! — since the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. Women should have access to abortion, and cutting off access won’t make abortions stop, it will only make them more dangerous. Read Rebecca Traister’s latest in New York magazine for more on that (and also). But if you don’t know what Planned Parenthood does, day to day, you should. Comics artists Tillie Walden and Anna Sellheim show you what taking care of women really looks like.
  • I go back and forth on some Vox takes. On the one hand, there’s nothing boring to women or people with health problems about the government taking away access to life-saving medical care for the sake of politics. On the other, Cornell University professor Thomas Pepinsky thinks Americans have a much too apocalyptic vision of what living under an authoritarian state really looks like.
  • Oh hey, speaking of exciting times! In one day — yesterday — sixteen Jewish community centers across the country faced bomb threats. But sure, antisemitism isn’t a thing and Trump’s election hasn’t emboldened bigotry — after all, Jared and Ivanka are observant Jews! Yeah… about Jared Kushner and expendable court Jews.
  • Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk is one of the best grief memoirs I’ve ever read, and so I’m eager to see just about anything she does next. I wouldn’t have necessarily called “In Search of Post-Brexit England, and Swans,” but the bird theme is unmistakable. So much of the conversation around both Brexit and the Trump “win” are about what nations have somehow lost. So, what does that look like? What does that mean?
  • Two very different profiles, on big subjects that we shouldn’t be scared of: First, for New York magazine, a photo essay on what it actually looks like to raise a child with Zika-related microcephaly. Next, for the New York Times Magazine,One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die.” I never expected to read the words “quirky hospice” ever in my life, but this isn’t some twee hipster bullshit — this is about figuring out how to honor your most essential self. Pair with another New York Times essay, briefer, which invites some conversation of its own: “The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage.”

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Due diligence, master classes and why we bottleneck

I’m delighted to start today’s link post with one of my own: my CityLab debut, Why Do Passengers Insist on Crowding Around Subway Doors? This was legitimately a classic “This thing really gets my goat, I wonder if I can write about it?” And I learned a lot about the psychology of manspreading, sidewalk rage, game theory at crosswalks and the effects of carpool lanes on congestion, none of which made it into the final article — but I’m pleased to be able to talk about environmental psychology on public transit, with some help from Dr. Richard Wener of NYU’s Sustainable Urban Environments program. Want to be part of the solution, or just learn the secret to a more comfortable commute? Read on!

  • Terry Gross is a master class in interviewing all on her own. I only just started listening to Fresh Air after a podcast subscription binge (thanks, Sampler!), but I was riveted by her conversation with Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the two Columbine mass shooters. Both women discuss the most difficult, unimaginable topics with grace, honesty and compassion.
  • Pacific Standard recently highlighted one underreported problem within environmental conservation movements — its advocates keep being murdered.
  • With the Zika virus and microcephaly making headlines, conspiracy theories about its origins are sure to follow. On the Media took 10 minutes and some good science reporting to dispel the notion that eternal bogeyman Monsanto is behind this particular outbreak.
  • The new vacancy on the Supreme Court has inspired immensely bad behavior from many leaders in the Republican party, leading to some very dark responses. The Atlantic posits this showdown may finally provoke the correction against extremism the GOP as a party and the nation as a whole desperately needs.
  • Fast Company looks at how to build a nuclear bomb — with a Rolodex.

Things I’m Verbing: Gravity, governors and oh wow, the GOP

This would have been such a different list if I had gotten it out on Friday like I intended. But then I would have missed the chance to write about the straight-up nuclear bombshell that was the death of a major and polarizing Supreme Court justice immediately before a GOP presidential debate. Instead of streaming it online, I chose to watch the Roberto Mendoza episodes of The West Wing while checking in on Twitter. Edward James Olmos is still magnificent, and we should be so lucky to get a jurist like Mendoza next. Meanwhile, in South Carolina…

There were a lot of good takes and funny tweets, and everyone has their collection, I’m sure. For those of us certain that the hot takes are only going to get hotter as the year drags on, here are some links that have nothing to do with Scalia, the debate or even the polar vortex currently confining me to my 1BR in Brooklyn.

  • There’s still room for thoughts about “Formation,” right? It’s only been a week, and Beyoncé’s video is, of course, rich fodder for The Discourse. Jesmyn Ward wrote a stirring celebration of the bama identity for NPR, while Maris Jones for Black Girl Dangerous took the singer to task for her use of Hurricane Katrina imagery.
  • It’s also been a week since the Super Bowl, which means you ought to read Gabriel Thompson’s first-person investigation into the workers who staff these events. One beer costs more than they make per hour, and that’s just the start of it.
  • You may have heard that scientists finally confirmed a 100-year-old theory about gravity by Einstein. This is an actual big deal! Try watching the New York Times video explaining it all and not getting a lump in your throat. The New Yorker‘s long behind-the-scenes narrative is next on my reading list.
  • Okay, there are still some politics things I want to share. In October, the Nation wrote about how the GOP’s “current crackup” is the inevitable end result of Nixon’s Southern strategy. Somehow Ohio Gov. John Kasich is emerging as the “most sensible” of the Republican lineup, but plenty of Ohioans (myself among them) have a very different perspective. Here’s an Atlantic profile from last spring. If you’re sorry Scott Walker is out of the mix, this may be the guy the for you.
  • An uplifting note to end on: I just read James Fallows’ long summary of crisscrossing the United States in a small airplane to study how cities and towns of all sizes are pulling themselves together outside the hysteria of The Discourse. A good read on a lot of levels.

Okay, I keep lying about being done. But this ties everything together so nicely, and I just can’t resist: