Things I’m Verbing: War heroes, late capitalism and the City of Lions

D-Day has a hashtag this year: #DDay73. Meanwhile, last night I finally saw Wonder Woman, taking on a different world war, and it’s spawned a cascade of hot takes ranging from “Is it really feminist?” to “You sheeple don’t realize this film is propaganda!” What a time to be alive.

D-Day has a hashtag this year: #DDay73. Meanwhile, last night I finally saw Wonder Woman, taking on a different world war, and it’s spawned a cascade of hot takes ranging from “Is it really feminist?” to “You sheeple don’t realize this film is propaganda!” What a time to be alive. Still:

  • If we’re going to talk about improperly lionizing the military, let’s start with Adam Serwer’s gut-wrenching demolition of the myth of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. As a childhood Civil War nerd, I had never heard any of this. Serwer’s response to the inevitable “He was a man of his time!” articles (provided, in this case, by the National Review) is equally damning.
  • Wellston, Ohio, is very close to where I grew up. New York Times science journalist Amy Harmon went there to meet the students pushing back against learning about climate change. This story exemplifies all of Harmon’s empathy for her subjects, without editorializing on them, and that kind of reporting may have a payoff by the end.
  • I forget sometimes how engrossing and beautiful book reviews can be. Jacob Mikanowski’s “Wine, Olive Oil and Wisteria: A Sensual Tour of the ‘City of Lions’” is Dictionary of the Khazars-level detailed and fascinating. It’s a tour through time and empire of what is currently Lviv, Ukraine, illuminating both the forces of history acting on the city and the individuals who make it memorable. Book reviews like this are a project I want to take on someday; the Open Notebook has some interesting thoughts on how to get started.
  • Twitter loves its @Alt- and @RogueAgencies. You can even become a Resistance Ranger with an actual wooden badge. Snopes has finally carried out a task we needed from the beginning: creating a directory of verified accounts.
  • I keep thinking about Sarah Jeong’s February comment that “Silicon Valley is obsessed with solving problems that are clearly most efficiently solved with better public works.” In that light, read “Uber, But for Meltdowns.”

If you want to end on a happier, sillier note (goodness knows we all need it):

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Singing fish, skeleton keys and apocalypse crystals

Again, the pace of daily news overwhelms me — are we still talking about Kellyanne Conway? If not, it’s a bit of a shame, if only because I was really looking forward to sharing Erin Gloria Ryan’s recent New York Times op-ed, which includes language so amazing, I can’t resist it even now, when we’ve all moved on:

I watched her the way a person might stand at the kitchen window and watch a raccoon abscond with the first tomato of summer. I didn’t agree with what she was doing, but I admired her chutzpah.

It’s a good, actually pretty compassionate piece. Don’t let it get lost in the churn.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Science smackdowns, Trump-loving grandmas and what even is a Playborhood?

While you weren’t looking, Scientific American posted one of the most damning, a-plague-on-everybody’s-house political broadsides I’ve maybe ever seen. Right, left, objective, biased, it doesn’t matter: Everyone gets the unfunny version of “being read for filth.” You need to read “A Plan to Defend Against the War on Science” for so many reasons, but the root of it is this: When science becomes subject to politics and not observable facts, whether that’s denying climate change or misunderstanding GMO foods or even choosing what observable facts even are, that opens the door to a situation like, well, Donald Trump, where baldly lying to gain absolute power becomes the new normal.

A family friend mailed this out this morning, and I’m so glad, honestly — because even This American Life is getting anxious about the state of truth and lies in this country. Major points off for uncritically using the term “illegal immigrants” over and over, Ira Glass, but on the other hand, this episode also gives us Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. singing in character as President Obama, courtesy of composer and singer Sara Bareilles, and… it’s actually really, really good.

  • The economics of the news industry have undoubtably contributed to the rise of partisan facts. Part of that is the sterility of media ownership: It’s limited and homogenous and desperately underfunded, in most cases. To demonstrate the extent of the problem, the University of North Carolina has issued an important report on the rise of new media barons, as well as an interactive website to help answer an all-important question: Who owns your hometown paper?
  • There’s a whole genre of “trying to understand the other side” pieces, of “how could nice people vote for X candidate?” essays. Amy Kurzweil, who has just published her first graphic memoir, about her Holocaust-survivor grandmother and how that experience plays out through three generations, has added a wonderful addition to the mix. Imagine said Holocaust-surviving grandmother announcing that she liked Donald Trump.
  • Speaking of Donald Trump, opinion pieces and brilliant women, read Alexandra Petri’s “Nasty Women Have Much Work to Do.” Hilarious, powerful and beautiful don’t begin to describe it.
  • Ah, parenting. Ah, helicopter parenting? Ah, Silicon Valley dads who think the best solution to kids being too controlled by their parents to take risks is… something called a Playborhood. There’s a lot that’s interesting about this article, because it’s true: How are you going to break free of over-scheduled kid syndrome if your kid is the only one breaking free? But also… this seems like the perfect example of a Silicon Valley dude thinking that “disruption” is the best and only solution to just about anything he doesn’t like.
  • I haven’t been able to shake “We Have Tried Every Kind of Death Possible.” Raed Saleh used to buy and sell electronics in a small town in Syria. Now he’s the head of the White Helmets, volunteers who rush to extract survivors from bombed buildings. Every platitude about how heart-wrenching his account of this life is falls flat in the face of the fact of it.

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Debbie Mccallum

Things I’m Verbing: Raising the dead, weighing the soul and decrypting the wires

I wish I could say that today’s link roundup is a bit late because I was hobbled by the same Internet outage that’s messing up everyone’s day, but to be quite honest, I’ve been reading this great book about the science of the afterlife all morning. Mary Roach’s Spook is my book club’s selection for October (a fact I only realized after first reading her survey of corpses and cadavers, Stiff). About a third into it, we’ve already discussed the quest to weigh the soul, the day-to-day of reincarnation investigators and the many strange ways people once believed a person gains a soul in the first place. Pair with the Gimlet podcast Science Versus two-parter on forensic science and we’ve got some wonderful topical journalism chasing clicks and book sales around my favorite holiday.

  • Also in the podcasting world, 99 Percent Invisible went for the episode that needed to happen the moment McMansionHell went viral, and it’s great. (Side note: I’m so thrilled that McMansion Hell is run by a smart, hilarious woman.)
  • Undark, a science publication you will probably enjoy, explored the less flashy side of de-extinction recently. Rather than start with dinosaurs or mammoths, why not go for bringing back something actually doable: the Martha’s Vineyard-native heath hen?
  • This is an older piece from the Atlantic, but I was trying to explain to a friend why so many people, especially millennials and younger, don’t like talking on the phone. I fell down this rabbit hole about sound transmission over cables versus cellular networks, and I remain fascinated.
  • Catapult is another home for literate and brave essays you should get to know. “Nineteen Slaves” by Jona Whipple digs into questions a lot of Americans may have, starting with “Am I really part of the problem if my family never owned other people?”
  • It’s been a good week for artist profiles and art reviews. I don’t think you should miss any of these pieces: Jeffrey Eugenides profiling Zadie Smith; Rachel Syme reviewing Marina Abramović’s latest memoir; Hilton Als considering Moonlight and what it means for depictions of gay black men on film.

Things I’m Verbing: Science deserts, ghosts versus bad houses and the evils of SEO

Wow, I sure just read that Jezebel piece about an SEO marketing team exploiting the personal essay industrial complex by creating a fake female identity who was successful enough to be invited to appear on television. Who doesn’t love proof of a system casually hating women across the board in the morning? I was planning on linking the New Yorker’s “Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others” anyway, but if you’re conscious of paywalls, there’s always this.

  • So much more entertaining: Slate not only dug into the fantastic blog McMansion Hell, but writer Colin Dickey drew the comparison between the architectural atrocities of our suburbs and a long, rich tradition of haunted houses. I’m so pleased this exists!
  • Is Donald Trump Funny Anymore?” Saturday Night Live and the Washington Post wrestle with when to stop laughing.
  • It’s Nobel Prize week, and writing for the New York Times, Gabriel Popkin makes a strong case that the most pressing fields in science deserve consideration — because right now, there’s no Nobel for studying climate change.
  • This has been a big story in Chicago for a while: A Whole Foods finally opened in Englewood, a South Side neighborhood better known in the media for violence and tragedy. Ostensibly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal is to bring dignity to residents and eliminate food deserts, but as the Chicago Tribune reports, it’s not as simple as bringing in one store.
  • I was going to choose an article about gearing up for the vice presidential debate tonight, but honestly, why not have something joyous in your life instead? Open Culture is a reliably great addition to my day — have a link about learning to swing dance from the original greats of the 1930s and ’40s.