Things I’m Verbing: Cultural memory, peanut stew and how to be a better gentrifier

I don’t like to get off-track with posting, but today I’m delighted to have such a fulfilling excuse. For an assignment in my magazine editing class in journalism school, we had to pick a print publication to analyze. I wandered from the Medill newsroom in the Loop to the nearby Sears Tower, which not only boasted a Corner Bakery (their mini-M&M-studded Monster Cookies are just about my favorite) but a newsstand in the basement. On a bottom rack near the entrance, I spotted a nice-looking cover with a title I’d never seen before. It turned out to be a fascinating issue, and I’ve wanted to write for them pretty much ever since.

Yesterday, after some of my favorite reporting and editing I’ve ever done, I finally got to share my first piece for Pacific Standard. This story started with a grumpy late-night tweet; it became an investigation into how we form and curate cultural memory, and what we can gain from truly confronting the Great War and its legacy. I hope you enjoy it: “Why Do So Few Hollywood Movies Take Place During WWI?”

  • Two actors in talked-about shows have recently shared excellent personal essays on the nature of their performances. First, Corey Stoll, who played Brutus in the Public Theater’s recent faux-controversial Julius Caesar, wrote about that experience and why it solidified his commitment to free expression. Then Betty Gilpin, one of my favorite surprises from American Gods, bowled me over with a raunchy, hilarious and vulnerable look at how her large bust has messed with her confidence over the years, and how working on the new Netflix ’80s wrestling comedy GLOW has changed that.
  • I was really taken by this piece for Quartz Ideas: “Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously.” Definitely something to consider while we mock women who rave about alternative health practices.
  • I’ll always read alarming internet privacy stories, and Gizmodo has a small-but-noteworthy doozy on autofill and the company that collects that data even if you don’t submit it.
  • The title is sure to spark strong feelings, but the interview within asks a lot of difficult, interesting questions about what it means to live in an urban neighborhood: from the newly redesigned CityLab, “Toward Being a Better Gentrifier.”
  • For Serious Eats, Sara’o Mozac pens a beautiful, cranky and loneliness-curing essay on the Afro-Trinidadian meals he grew up with and the food he sought out during a college trip in search of his roots: “East, West, Then Backward: Falling for Groundnut Soup in Ghana.” Pair with the latest episode of Gastropod, about the history and science behind peanut butter.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Inside/outside, middle ground and how to have a baby

Have you seen Hidden Figures? You absolutely need to see Hidden Figures, a movie that makes no apologies for its brilliant Black women and for its depiction of the systems that humiliated and suppressed them. I just get really excited whenever I see that it’s doing well, and for a non-scifi film, it’s inspiring some incredible fanart. My favorite is this set of watercolors by Stella Blu, which I very much hope she’ll make available as prints:

I’m looking for inspiring and gorgeous art to put on my walls, given how close we are to the coming four years. Shepard “Obama Hope Poster” Fairey and two other artists are blasting through a Kickstarter campaign to flood Washington, D.C., with resistance images for an inauguration that’s banning large signs; for a $50 pledge, you can get a signed copy of your favorite print, plus unsigned versions of all five stunning images. The wonderful Summer Pierre is also doing limited-edition print runs of her Obama farewell address cartoon, as well as her 2017 resolutions for hope and action — proceeds go to charities addressing hunger and education.

On the personal essay side of things, I’ve also been thinking about spaces this week. At my site Screwball HeroinePortal fantasy, Williamsburg, Brooklyn” takes on the interior worlds of depression and the rejuvenating promise of a little retail therapy.

Okay, on to the rest.

  • Romper editor and no-bullshit straight-talker EJ Dickson is having a C-section on Feb. 8 and she couldn’t be happier to tell you why. A great essay on women’s bodies, women’s choices and the social pressure to allow others to control both.
  • You’d think, from the reporting, that the vast, undifferentiated middle of the country is nothing but working-class whites as far as the eye can see. Alia Hanna Habib grew up Arab-American in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a town as Rust Belt-dead as you could wish for, and her perspective deserves your attention.
  • Ariel Aberg-Riger comes from Sheffield, Alabama, another part of the country facing strange political times. Her comic “How Does One Undam?” takes on hometown changes, the Tennessee Valley Authority and what happens to family roots in interesting times.
  • Have I missed an opportunity to scare the pants off anyone today? Ned Resnikoff’s “The center has fallen, and white nationalism is filling the vacuum” for ThinkProgress should do the trick. There’s also the horrifying German court decision that an attempt to burn down a synagogue in 2014 wasn’t antisemitic because it was somehow a legitimate expression of protest against the actions of the Israeli government. That… is actually a textbook definition of antisemitism, so… cool.
  • It’s no good leaving you curled up in a ball, though, so to bring some joy back into your life: Meet Daliyah Marie Arana, an incredible 4-year-old who has already read more than a thousand books and whose photos with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden have given me hope for the future for once.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Expendable courtiers, boring dictatorships and the end of life

There’s still goodness in the world:

As I type this, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the man too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s, is undergoing confirmation hearings for the post of attorney general. Civil rights lion Rep. John Lewis and, in a first for the nation, a sitting senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, will actually testify against Sessions. Pretty galling that it got this far, but I suspect we’ll be saying that a lot over the next few years. If you need some fortifying banter, I recommend you check out the Says Who? podcast, by journalists/hilarious people/angry progressives Maureen Johnson and Dan “@MayorEmanuel” Sinker. The latest episode is called “Flashlight in the Darknesscast,” to give you a taste of tone.

I’d also like to promote the first of a series of personal essays I’m committing to writing this year, as part of the #52essays17 challenge. Over the years, I’ve come to love online advice columnists, from Dear Sugar to Captain Awkward to Mallory Ortberg’s new, improved Prudence. Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly can be so good when she’s good, but when she’s bad, she totally misses gigantic signal flares and gives a very depressed person the worst advice she could. I should know. Read on in “Our Lady of Broken Pheromones” at Screwball Heroine.

Okay.

  • Republicans are hellbent on defunding Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that no federal money has gone to abortion care — a legal medical procedure and personal right! — since the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. Women should have access to abortion, and cutting off access won’t make abortions stop, it will only make them more dangerous. Read Rebecca Traister’s latest in New York magazine for more on that (and also). But if you don’t know what Planned Parenthood does, day to day, you should. Comics artists Tillie Walden and Anna Sellheim show you what taking care of women really looks like.
  • I go back and forth on some Vox takes. On the one hand, there’s nothing boring to women or people with health problems about the government taking away access to life-saving medical care for the sake of politics. On the other, Cornell University professor Thomas Pepinsky thinks Americans have a much too apocalyptic vision of what living under an authoritarian state really looks like.
  • Oh hey, speaking of exciting times! In one day — yesterday — sixteen Jewish community centers across the country faced bomb threats. But sure, antisemitism isn’t a thing and Trump’s election hasn’t emboldened bigotry — after all, Jared and Ivanka are observant Jews! Yeah… about Jared Kushner and expendable court Jews.
  • Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk is one of the best grief memoirs I’ve ever read, and so I’m eager to see just about anything she does next. I wouldn’t have necessarily called “In Search of Post-Brexit England, and Swans,” but the bird theme is unmistakable. So much of the conversation around both Brexit and the Trump “win” are about what nations have somehow lost. So, what does that look like? What does that mean?
  • Two very different profiles, on big subjects that we shouldn’t be scared of: First, for New York magazine, a photo essay on what it actually looks like to raise a child with Zika-related microcephaly. Next, for the New York Times Magazine,One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die.” I never expected to read the words “quirky hospice” ever in my life, but this isn’t some twee hipster bullshit — this is about figuring out how to honor your most essential self. Pair with another New York Times essay, briefer, which invites some conversation of its own: “The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage.”

Stay brave, friends.