Things I’m Verbing: Abrahamic problems, skyscraper farms and fake hillbilly pride

You don’t often hear exhortations to read the comments, but Anne Helen Petersen is right: Hillbilly Elegy writer J.D. Vance is awfully proud of himself for moving to Columbus, Ohio, an incredibly wealthy town home to some of the nation’s biggest corporations and one of its largest state universities. It’s a bit hilarious to read, having grown up in Ohio’s poorest county. I was a privileged faculty brat, but I had to drive two hours to a decent mall and the airport just like everyone else. Live in Lancaster or Gloucester for a while and get back to us, friend.

  • Honestly, I want to put these links where no one can miss them. “It’s Time for Intersectionality to Include the Jews,” and if that makes you angry, think about why. Benjamin Gladstone’s op-ed takes the view that Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour claims there can be no overlap between feminism and Zionism; I urge you again to read David Schraub’s argument that that’s not actually clear. Related, please see the Nib asking five Jewish artists to take on Holocaust imagery in contemporary politics, particularly Leela Corman’s contribution.
  • If you want a really terrifying article about religion, see the New Republic’s “Amazing Disgrace: How Donald Trump Hijacked the Religious Right.” It’s less about Trump’s maneuvering (Republicans have been boosting their numbers with the evangelical Right for decades) than the roots of right-wing American evangelism in Southern nationalism and racism, and how the two are becoming married again.
  • Iranian-American writer Porochista Khakpour writes about the Persian New Year, and why this Nowruz is different. Pair with the Chicago Sun-Times’ report on MENA-Americans having second thoughts on the new census option for which they fought so hard.
  • I will always read stories about weird urban farming, whether it’s in abandoned shipping crates or hydroponic fish tanks in a garage. The New Food Economy has an interesting piece on the futurism of vertical farming, and why it won’t bring us to a techno utopia.
  • Oof, I’m sorry, this is all hard stuff. Luckily, the world still has Jenny Slate and Chris Evans, who are no longer a couple, but Slate makes me wish they were in this wonderful profile in Vulture. And of course, she’s the focus of the article, not him or her relationship; Jenny Slate is a literal piece of sunshine and I hope her life is brilliant.

Stay brave, friends.


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: Central Asian dictators, elegiac hillbillies and the nature of reality (or something)

This morning’s hideous Cabinet news: Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man literally too racist for the 1980s. It seems obvious that, like during the election, Trump is working to numb his enemies with a fire-hose of soul-crushing and shocking news, every one bit of which should be immediately disqualifying. President Obama is trying to keep his chin up, but this week we’ve seen Japanese internment cited as a positive precedent for Muslim registries, requests for security clearance for Trump’s children and their spouses, literal fake news straight from the horse’s mouth, accusations that protests are paid and thus should be punished and suppressed, media outlets tamping down their descriptions of racists and bigots taking top roles in the new administration…

What I’m saying is you should all be following Central Asian dictatorship expert and St. Louisan Sarah Kendzior on Twitter, although she’s going to scare the shit out of you every single day.

One tip from that last link is taking a moment to clarify for yourself what’s most important to you politically and personally. I still have no idea, in my inmost lizard-brain heart, why Trump’s campaign rhetoric wasn’t a deal-breaker for so many voters. You can talk to me about economic anxiety and feeling ignored and beaten down and disparaged until you’re blue in the face, but minorities and people of color in this country, not to mention Native people (who have the most right to rage of all, frankly), have been treated far worse by society and the government and still didn’t buy in. If you have links to an argument otherwise that truly convinces you, I’d love to see it — please share in the comments if you can.

Things I’m Verbing: Ecto-Cooler cocktails, the immune system of democracies and grace by George Foreman grill

I mean… that about sums it up, right?

  • Wow, though, Mike Pence. When you look at the issues, it doesn’t really get better. And in fact, if you listen to the alternative press in Indiana, he’s been pretty bad there in practice, above and beyond theory.
  • These paired essays are two horrible flavors that go together well. For the Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch investigates the parallels between contagion and the collapse of the American political system. “What is it,” he asks, “that not long ago allowed our government to metabolize the aggression that is inherent in any pluralistic society and still get things done?” Meanwhile, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik asks us to get really honest about what the rise of Donald Trump among Americans means. See also, from May: “The Day the Republican Party Died.”
  • Also see also: The Los Angeles Times outlining the fundamental ridiculousness of the laws that will govern next week’s Republican National Convention, and why law enforcement in Cleveland is nervous as hell.
  • Something good is happening today, though: the all-female Ghostbusters gets its wide release. Not only does this mean service pieces about cocktails you can make with the recently re-released Hi-C Ecto-Cooler, but you get to see the good parts of fandom on display, to counteract all the ugliness of grown men whining about how their childhoods have somehow been ruined by social justice warriors. (Yeah, about that.) To whit: how the film honors one super-fan who touched a whole community.
  • Other ways in which there’s good in the world, from a wholly unexpected source: The Kitchen Sisters’ podcast Fugitive Waves has been producing incredible stories lately about our relationships with culture and food. Even they were surprised, however, by what they learned about the George Foreman grill — including from Foreman himself. It’s not just the top-selling electrical appliance of all time, but it’s a vector of dignity. You can listen to the episode on that link, but I highly recommend subscribing to this show anyway.

Things I’m Verbing: The goal of terrorism, Ohio in distress and identities we don’t discuss

Things I’m Verbing: Tiny houses, big systems and even bigger hair

This is my mom’s apple pie recipe, minus all the butter, cinnamon and sugar you pile and brown on top shortly after taking this photo. Thanksgiving is delicious. Pie is delicious. This holiday is great.

Sunday was a big night for me: Though I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month several times and finished that 50,000-word story a few times in the past, this year was the first time I crossed the finish line a full day before the end of November. The story is all over the place and I’m trying to take a break before I revise it, but I’m pleased with it, as a start and as a personal symbol. It may not be writing for money, but it’s a good reminder that I can get the big jobs done.

Last night was my first night off from noveling in four weeks, so I did what any sensible person who can only handle so much amazing-but-harrowing Jessica Jones would and discovered The Great British Bake Off. It’s somehow both incredibly stressful and incredibly soothing to watch these earnest, lovely people put together gorgeous baked goods in a beautiful tent on an English country manor. Everyone is just so nice and helpful and genuinely interested in each other’s success. Time to make the world Mary Berry & Co. think we could be.