Things I’m Verbing: Power plays, bad burgers and the real problem behind all this

I don’t have any links to share about Aleppo, and I feel terrible about that. “Massacre” seems too light a word to describe what’s happening there. Learn more about the White Helmets, the ordinary Syrians who are helping rescue people from bombed-out rubble; donate if you can. When we say never again, we should mean it.

President Obama will give some sort of press conference this afternoon; there’s a lot of speculation about what he could say, but even though he leaves for a trip to Hawaii right after, many expect it’ll be something big.

You should also be paying attention to GOP efforts in North Carolina to straight-up strip Democrats of power after they won the governorship fair and square. As Matthew Chapman says in that Twitter thread, “Frankly, this should be covered in the media as nothing less than Republicans refusing to accept peaceful transition of power.”

Stay brave, friends. Stay compassionate too (yourself included).

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: Former Aleppos, Chicagoland Souvenirs and the Many Queens of Journalism

Busy few weeks over here! I’m delighted to share a personal essay I wrote for CityLab that I’m very proud of. “A Pilgrim in Chicagoland” is about running away from the things you love most and figuring out how not to leave what you need behind. It’s also about chintzy Chicago-branded souvenirs — and redemptive ukuleles.

I’ve also got a piece in Mental Floss about Emperor Norton, a 19th-century San Francisco tycoon who proclaimed himself sovereign over the United States and Mexico, and everyone happily went along with it. I first learned about Emperor Norton from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I’m still thrilled that he was really real.

  • At The Toast, Soraya Chemaly shares a gorgeous, unflinching portrait of her grandmother, “Listening to Old Women.” It’s a story that starts in the Ottoman Empire, swings through Haiti and persists in her granddaughter’s unanswered questions. Wonderful work.
  • At Guernica, Maurice Chammah tries to retrace the Aleppo his father left behind. “My Father’s Aleppo” takes on the guilt of immigration (or fleeing the country — it depends) and returning to those you left behind. Chammah’s father was also a Syrian Jew, which raises questions about community and exile the writer does and doesn’t expect.
  • For The Cut, Kim Brooks asks if motherhood and a creative life are intrinsically inimical to each other. I’m still thinking hard about “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom,” especially in contrast to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s recent advice-and-reassurance piece for Fast Company. Starkly different accounts.
  • That said, The Cut also published a not even comprehensive list of amazing work in journalism accomplished by women since 1960. Close your eyes and click a link — you’re bound to be staggered.
  • Finally, even though I began piano lessons at 7 and have loved music all my life, I’ve never understood or been interested in music theory. In an excellent realization of Surprisingly Awesome‘s mission to strip away the veneer of boringness from a range of topics, “The Circle of Fifths” is no longer a mystery to me. In fact, it’s some pretty amazing science and culture. Consider me convinced.