Things I’m Verbing: Living legends, gritty reboots and how to rise above

The folk singer Dar Williams has a song that blew my mind as a Beatles-loving high schooler. “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” surmises, much to my dutifully myth-swallowing teenage heart, that Yoko is not only a person but a gifted artist who had much less to do with “breaking up the Beatles” than an easy, misogynistic narrative would have us believe. I bring it up because of a lyric it turns out I’ve been mishearing:

When John called the wind an opera
Making love with every chakra
When he said her voice would carry
And when he whispered old Chuck Berry
Only then would Yoko set him free

I always thought it was oh, Chuck Berry, which I still think is kind of a beautiful possible moment. Chuck Berry turns 90 years old today, and we just found out he’s releasing a new album, the first in almost 40 years. The actual father of rock’n’roll is coming out with new music. The world can still be amazing and good.

  • Something else making a comeback, in a strange and fascinating turn: DC Comics is rebooting The Flintstones, and… it actually sounds kind of amazing?
  • Also in comics news, The Millions has a great piece on one of the comic strips I learned to read on — Berkeley Breathed’s biting, iconic, hilarious Bloom County. If you’re not sold on the title (“Citizen Ack: On Whimsy, Trump and ‘Bloom County’“), I don’t know how to help you.
  • The Harvard Business Review, of all places, has a humane (and negotiator-driven) look at life after Nov. 8: “How to Build an Exit Ramp for Trump Supporters.” This isn’t so much about excusing ugliness as creating a space for proud people who need a guarantee of safe passage once they’ve come to terms with their loss.
  • Case in point: that Washington Post story everyone was linking and which is absolutely up to the hype. “The White Flight of Derek Black” tells how the preeminent heir to the white nationalist movement came to doubt his upbringing, all thanks to an invitation to a weekly Shabbat dinner.
  • Finally, from the Atlantic, in a review of two new books about dating, technology and culture, someone finally explained why dating today can feel so much like fruitless and depleting work: It’s basically an unpaid internship.

Things I’m Verbing: Free publicity, soulful virality and transcending “content”

Even if the story is infuriating, I’m delighted to share my first piece for Tablet, a publication whose stories I always learn something from. What happens when a comic book company needs to sell a lot of comics and upstage its chief rival, but there’s just not much money in comics anymore? Turns out there’s always revealing that a beloved 75-year-old character is a sleeper agent for his greatest enemy. Alas, when that character is Captain America and his greatest enemy is a stand-in for the Nazis, that publicity isn’t as great as you hoped. From Say It Ain’t So: Captain America Is a… Hydra Agent?!:

Speaking with Newsarama, Marvel Comics executive editor Tom Brevoort both acknowledged and dismissed the outcry. “We certainly knew…that reveal…would be shocking and unsettling, and take people aback,” he said, “but we didn’t anticipate the sort of math that got people to the idea that it’s anti-Semitic.” For Captain America to say “Hail Hydra” in a cliffhanger moment is not anti-Semitic. But it’s no surprise that fans read it that way, not when it rhymes so well with cultural and contemporary traumas.

Needless to say, between the jerks who insist we should all calm down and let the creative tell their story and the jerks who insist that disempowered fans who criticize hurtful editorial strategies are the same as toxic assholes who send death threats (which, nah), I’m going to focus on one good thing that’s come from this stupid, unsurprising mess:

  • If you really want to talk homegrown fascism, which Marvel seems to think it is, BuzzFeed‘s Rosie Gray went inside a white supremacist conference, one that’s become a lot more popular since the rise of Donald Trump.
  • This week, my Facebook feed blew up with the New York magazine feature on Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Whatever your political preferences, it’s a lot of great writing. I’d consider it Pulitzer-eligible just for the following: There is an Indiana Jones–style, “It had to be snakes” inevitability about the fact that Donald Trump is Clinton’s Republican rival.
  • Hey, viral news! Darlena Cunha, writing for Contently, has a great piece that may interest journalists and non-journalists alike on how to write viral news without 1) selling your soul and 2) devaluing the reporting process. Pair with Slate’s legitimate grumping of the day, “Dear Journalists: For the Love of God, Please Stop Calling Your Writing ‘Content.’
  • Of course, the wildest stories don’t need tricks to sell them. The Washington Post tracked down North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s aunt, who has lived quietly in the U.S. with her husband for almost 20 years. Pair with “Dream Weevil,” a segment from a This American Life episode chronicling the abduction and escape of two South Korean movie stars by Kim Jong Il, who forced them to make films for his regime.
  • Thank goodness for Hamilton, which is always good for filling you with the feels, especially if you want to close out a link roundup about the power of art and how we build relationships with particular stories. Sports writer Joe Ponsanski’s daughter loves Hamilton, with the kind of love he recognizes from his love of the game. So he decided to surprise her with tickets, and his experience of her experience is just — it’s really, really lovely.