Hey, we’ve done it! (She said, incautiously, with 36-ish hours to go.) 2016 is still sucker-punching us with all it’s got, right down to the wire, of course. I’m not even a huge Star Wars fan, but the outpouring of raw, ragged grief at losing Carrie Fisher has really overwhelmed me. That her mother, Debbie Reynolds, would die a day later is just… well. If you’re going to read one Carrie Fisher thinkpiece, make it Anne Theriault’s “General Leia Organa Is the Hero We Need Right Now.” This started as a widely shared Twitter thread, and I’m glad to see it in a more permanent, shareable format.
(The full-sized original of that is by Julian Callos, by the way. I wish there was a print available, but it seems to have been a charity painting, so there’s just the one.)
So, how are we going to round out this flaming shitstorm of a year? Mad as hell, for the most part.
- Madeleine Davies, writing for Jezebel, speaks for so many of us, I think, in “Becoming Ugly,” an essay about the fury of the constant humiliation of baked-in cultural misogyny. It starts off with young Davies dick-punching an asshole teenage boy, and the injustice that followed. I don’t know any woman who doesn’t identify, somehow.
- One of the Rockettes spoke to Marie Claire about the command performance at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Meanwhile, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has resigned rather than sing for that event; more than 20,000 Mormons have signed a Change.org petition to get the group out of their commitment.
- Just what the transition needed: Israel/Palestine bristling up again. Michael Koplow, policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, has an even-handed explanation of what the UN resolution condemning settlements will actually do to the peace process.
- You’re not going to get a much better polemic against this year than Chris Kluwe’s “Fuck You, Donald Trump.” It lays the blame where it belongs: everywhere. On the “a plague on all your journalistic houses” note, pair with Dan Gillmor’s “Fix the Demand Side of News Too,” a call for media literacy, now more than ever.
- And yet, at the bottom of Pandora’s box, there was hope. WYNC podcast Note to Self re-aired its episode on FOMO versus “the joy of missing out” — an actually excellent conversation about presence, mindfulness and overload, particularly in that everything we complain about in being overwhelmed and oversaturated with media is exactly what suits the business model of the companies that fuel it. Also listen to their interview with performance artist Marina Abramovic, who has turned the focus of her art from her own body to her audience. I hope these both help.
Stay brave, friends. We can do this.
It’s a rough world out there. The more you learn about Trump, Putin and their nuclear bromance (at least in Trump’s mind), the more you may just want to retreat into concrete joys in life. For me, one thing I decided earlier this month was that if I got a spiralizer, everything would be okay. (It was after midnight, and I’d had one drink earlier in the evening; I’m a lightweight, but an inspired lightweight.)
Now that I have this implement, of course, I have to learn to use it, which sent me down the rabbit hole of spiralizer recipes, which led me to the most beautiful vegetable tart I’ve ever seen, summer and winter versions. My own ambition to dive right into complicated food-making is its own kind of optimism, so I’ll take it. Here is an incredibly soothing video of a cuddly German hipster making an intensive pie by hand, from me to you.
Okay, ready for the rest of it? I promise it’s not all bad.
- I was supposed to go see Star Wars: Rogue One on Christmas, and I totally blorped out of making any plans at all, in favor of sleeping in and cleaning my apartment. (Sorry, Meisje, ugh!) However, as with every release of a Star Wars franchise film, there’s been some great pop culture commentary alongside it. First, Vulture’s Abe Riesman on the dangerous politics of violence the films present — namely, when is it justified and what does that say about how we come to view violence. Another great look at the ethics (and economics!) of empire and rebellion, Imaginary Worlds takes on independent contractors and the Death Star, and whether it was okay to take them down with the ship, so to speak.
- New York magazine partnered with a nonprofit to attempt feats of radical empathy — between gun advocates and victims of gun violence, some of whom you’ve heard of. I’m thinking hard about this piece; I’m not sure if it’s forcing the hopefulness of the ending or not, or whether it’s just a reminder that you can’t expect a 100% success rate right away or ever. But this is well worth a read, plus it includes video of these people telling their stories.
- I’ve always been fascinated by the Arctic. Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sophia Roosth explores the way time wobbles in the far northern reaches, and what that means for human survival: “Virus, Coal and Seed: Subcutaneous Life in the Polar North.”
- Shoutout to my friends who grew up on communal journaling, the first real social media networks. Early this year, E.D. Adams shared “What I Learned While Exposing Myself on LiveJournal.” Rather than being snide or exploitive, this is an affecting piece about self-love, vulnerability and community — and, unfortunately, the shitty trolls that will destroy it all given a fraction of a chance.
- I know I’m late to the Lumineers, and that this song didn’t even come out in 2016, but I first heard “Ophelia” on Song Exploder earlier this year and fell in love with it. You ought to be listening to Song Exploder, in which Hrishi Hirway gets artists to aurally dissect the various ingredients in composition and shows how it all gets assembled. It’s fascinating, especially in the genres you don’t normally gravitate to. Do some stuff that makes you happy.
Stay brave, friends.
Small update from my story on Whine About It‘s Matt Bellassai: He did, in fact, win the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star. Hooray! Alas, someone in the control room sent the camera to the wrong person. Uh-oh. Either way, congrats to Matt — we both had pretty good Wednesdays!
- “Girls Explain Star Wars to You” is, to succumb to an irresistible cliche, the essay on Rey and feminism in viewership you are looking for.
- “Racism and Religious Hypocrisy on My Birthright Trip to Israel” is no How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, by which I mean it’s wrestling with different questions. Rather than examining Israel’s nationhood, it’s about the experience of a biracial Jewish woman in a very homogenous group of American Jews, and the feeling of being told one should belong when every experience or encounter shows the narrator that she doesn’t.
- Speaking of Jewish stuff, I’m still scratching my head over the complete failure of Vox to “explain the news” re: that blatantly antisemitic hero image from this week’s Saudi Arabia-Iran explainer, which does not once mention Israel, Zionism or the conspiracy theory the image references. Come on, Vox.
- “The South Stole Americana” is dense, but it’s a worthy look at music history and the creation of folk traditions.
- A few years ago, I read Studs Terkel’s Hard Times, an oral history of the Great Depression. I was shocked by how familiar the 1930s felt in the midst of the Great Recession, but the Atlantic argues it’s not the ’30s we’re seeing again, it’s the ’20s.