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.
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.
You can’t help but click on a story titled “The Case for Becoming a Hermit” in this day and age. It’s actually a well-written book review that makes me wish it answered the questions it raises, but for my part, the response was almost ravenously quick. There are still good things out in the world, though. For instance:
- One feel-good story for the day: Meet the Black antifascist activist who shows how hate has consequences.
- I love science writing and science stories. This week, On the Media re-aired two phenomenal interviews about gene editing and human cloning, as well as the ethics of both, as explored in the amazing BBC America series Orphan Black.
- The Baffler and the Atlantic have two similar stories about the academy and its relationship to public life. First, from Maximillian Alvarez, “The Accidental Elitist,” on the humanities and the way we need to rethink the public intellectual. Then, from the excellent Ed Yong, “How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners.”
- I loved this Briallen Hopper piece from the Cut: “Relying on Friendship in a World Made for Couples.”
- Finally, from the Ringer, an actually excellent process/inside media story about food writing. Once I discovered The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show on Netflix, I leaped right into documentaries and travel shows like Chef’s Table, Somm, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Michael Pollan’s Cooked and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Pardon the pun, but the market’s appetite for food media right now is insatiable, and I love it. “Will Write for Food” addresses two problems we don’t really see as consumers. First, in Bryan Curtis’ own words, “If everyone wants to be a food critic, who’s going to pick up the bill?” But there’s also another issue worth exploring: “A food critic is a rock critic that has been ripened and aged.” Really interesting stuff.
There’s a lot of other big stuff going on, of course.
Stay brave, friends.
I… look, I’m just as overwhelmed and wild-eyed as anyone, gang. Thank goodness for What the Fuck Just Happened Today?, at least, because as one might expect from a DDoS on American democracy, there is just A Lot.
- First things first, here is a thing that will just make you feel better. I haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, but I absolutely loved cast member David K. Harbour’s impassioned speech at this weekend’s SAG awards. It will make you feel good about art and resistance, which goodness knows we all need.
- For the Huffington Post, Thenmozhi Soundararajan writes about why international intersectionality matters in “I’m a Proud Dalit-American and This Is Why I Marched.”
- Spend some time with PEN America’s “Surviving Autocracy: Lessons From Russian Writers.” See also, from the Washington Post, “In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.”
- Some good, if not terribly reassuring, Twitter threads:
- Duke professor Gabriel Rosenberg on the emotional motivations of Trump supporters. “They see Trump as instrument of punishment, less against refugees, but against the left.”
- Author Alexandra Erin on what’s needed to tip things into impeachment territory. “The CIA hasn’t had to *live* anywhere they staged a coup before.”
- The popular Twitter account @RoguePotusStaff is mostly likely fake, based on linguistic tics that seem to indicate Russian-speaking authors (“vakay,” “-esk,” “muzzie Canucks”).
- From David Frum at the Atlantic (whose new terrifying cover story I’ve only just begun to read), “Advice for Those Weighing Jobs in the Trump Administration” has the most killer knockout final punch you could ask for. Further proof of this, from the New York Times: shot, “Bannon Is Given Security Role Usually Held for Generals“; chaser, “President Bannon.”
Stay brave, friends.
Statue of Liberty cartoon originally found at Desert Island Comics; I had no luck with reverse image searches, but if anyone can identify the original artist (Mary?), please let me know so I can properly credit. Read “The New Colossus” and the story behind the Emma Lazarus poem here.
My very earliest entries in this blog were not always up-to-the-minute stories and analyses. Sometimes I just posted things that I thought were cool. Given that by the time I post my next entry, the Shit Demon from Dogma will become the leader of the free world &c, I’m going to go halfsies on this one. If you want to skip right to the good-still-exists-in-the-world stuff, I don’t blame you in the slightest. First:
- There’s little I love less than autoplaying news video online, but I have to urge you to watch this clip from Rachel Maddow on the ever-widening gyre of Russian state meddling in the 2016 election, particularly regarding the internal workings of the FBI.
- Delightfully foul-mouthed author Chuck Wendig hosts a guest post on his blog by writer Sarah Gailey, on the eugenics of the ACA repeal, and how deeply rooted the social Darwinism of that act is rooted in American history. Update: Disabled activists Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Heather Ace Ratcliff joined the post in an interview about how eugenicist history and policy has targeted disability from the very beginning.
- Jack Shafer of Politico has not quite written the “Think of how good adversity will be for the arts!” post of journalism, but he comes close. Meanwhile, Masha Gessen urges us to learn from Russian reporters about what’s to come.
- You want to feel really nauseated? “‘You Focus on the Good’: Women Who Voted for Trump, in Their Own Words” literally mirrors the language of abuse and the abused.
- From Damon Young, for the Root: “America Didn’t Deserve Michelle Obama.” Damn right.
Okay, but now:
- A real thing in the world: collectible Hieronymus Bosch figurines.
- This Azerbaijani woman wrote out the entire Quran on black silk in gold and silver ink. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to describe this.
- Are you listening to Song Exploder? You really should. This week, host Hrishikesh Hirway (also of local favorite The West Wing Weekly) gets Solange Knowles to break down “Cranes in the Sky.” It’s so fortifying to hear an artist talk about depression, mental health, her creative process and what makes her laugh; it’s also good for me to realize that the title of this song actually has nothing to do with birds.
- Another podcast rec, from Slate: “How the Onion Remade Joe Biden.”
- A very real story that will make your heart sing: in Polish (so hit “translate” on your browser, what a future we live in!), a gigantic, authentic Nazi-eating fish.
Stay brave, friends.