Thursday, March 31, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/31/16)

(I am traveling and therefore writing this post in advance, so if link selection does not seem to take into account very recent news developments... that's why.)

There hasn’t been a criminal defense lawyer on the Supreme Court in 25 years. That’s a problem.

How Donald Trump Bent Television To His Will

The First Time Party Bigwigs Tried to Stop a Front-Runner From Becoming President It Backfired — Big-time

What Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reveal about the limitations of the Bechdel test

I always have such mixed feelings about publishing authors' (or other public figures') letters and diaries: Charlotte Bronte and Her Best Friend's Broken Promise

Yes: "The episode itself is the most important single unit of storytelling on TV, not the season or even the series. Without good episodes, shows inevitably end up feeling muddled and aimless."

The Consequences of Resisting a Professor’s Advances

I am fundamentally incapable of believing that anything said in giant closed Facebook groups will remain secret. Am I too cynical? Are these people too naive? Who knows!

Inside Will and Kate’s Privacy Obsession

Not Your Korean Sidekick: The Frustrating Career of John Cho (I miss Selfie.)

The Nine Lives of Isaac Mizrahi

“Oh…No, My Thing Is Happening”: Women Leaving Tactfully In Western Art History

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/30/16)

ICYMI: I reviewed Chris Hayes's Twilight of the Elites.

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s Campaign Manager, Is Charged With Battery

We Expect Women to Have Impostor Syndrome. That’s Why We Can’t Handle Hillary Clinton.

Ivanka Trump Makes Donald Even Scarier

This is great: @MichelleObama: An exclusive look at how the First Lady mastered social media

Sent Home From Middle School After Reporting A Rape

"Twenty-first-century feminism’s primary medium, the diversity critique, has as its functional terminus the ‘freedom’ of consumers to purchase a picture of a utopia from a company whose interests lie in preventing any of those utopias from occurring."

Please don't believe anyone who tells you that trolls and online smears don't matter in real life.

Oh: Prominent Silicon Valley investor denies he kept a sex slave for 13 years

I will never tire of reading about Ferrante theories, and am also cynical enough to think that whatever her original intentions, this is a GREAT marketing strategy.

So I kind of disagree with this about how she OBVIOUSLY wants to be left alone but that piece makes some other interesting points. I guess I'm partially saying that I still don't really buy the Death of the Author.

End of an era: Grandchildren of Sound of Music's Von Trapp family announce farewell show

Every Meal In Jane Eyre, Ranked In Order Of Severity

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book Review: Twilight of the Elites

Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes

I've long enjoyed Chris Hayes's reporting and commentary and had picked up a copy of his book Twilight of the Elites a while ago, but it sat in my bookcase with hundreds of other unread books until I started noticing how many of Hayes's Twitter followers were claiming that the book - published in 2012 - perfectly explained the state of the 2016 presidential campaign. I was skeptical. How could it? Clearly hyperbole! But these comments made me curious enough to give the book a try.

And: not hyperbole! I expected to like Twilight of the Elites but I was honestly shocked by both how good it was and how exactly it explained our current political situation, especially the rise of Trump and to a lesser extent Sanders. Hayes draws from a wealth of historical and cultural examples to analyze how the recent breakdown of trust in institutions (government but also the Church, the media, even Major League Baseball) due to corruption and failure have created a society that rejects experts and others seen as "elite" and creates an authority vacuum. It's engaging and readable and somehow both comforting, in that it makes what's going on make sense, and terrifying, in that it makes what's going on make sense.

My main quibble with the book was that it was too short; I would have happily read many more pages of analysis of each of Hayes's examples. There were a few points at which the differentiation of the themes of distinct chapters could have been stronger, but over all the book maintained momentum and felt remarkably cohesive for a text touching on so many varied subjects.

I've seen some reviews fault Twilight of the Elites for not being prescriptive enough, but that didn't really bother me: it's certainly possible to diagnose and analyze a problem in a useful way without also claiming you know exactly how to solve it, and if anything I'm glad Hayes didn't offer easy solutions to something so complex.

If you want to know how Trump could happen here, or if you just want a fascinating synthesis of recent American history, politics, and culture, I'd definitely recommend picking this up.

(If you'd like to see more reviews and other non-link posts, support the blog on Patreon!)

Morning Coffee (3/29/16)

Lest we forget what we're fighting against: Angola jails 17 activists for rebellion after public reading of political book

Oh good: North Carolina Sued Over Anti-LGBT Law

Bernie Sanders just won landslides in 3 diverse states. He's still toast.

This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest

Max Fisher sincerely tried to understand Trump's foreign policy positions and pretty much concluded that Trump just has no idea what he's talking about.

Related! Comments by Donald Trump Draw Fears of an Arms Race in Asia

Alyssa Rosenberg at the Post is doing a neat thing: she sent a survey about positions on the arts to all the candidates. Trump is the first to respond.

Well. This is an interesting Gallup poll for those who are convinced no one's excited about Clinton.

Lost in Trumplandia

The Onion, barely: Advisors Tell Trump, Cruz To Stick To Just Attacking All Women In General

A model first lady, despite receiving unprecedented scorn

Dirtbag Ethan Frome

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/27/16)

Happy Easter! I am writing this on Saturday because I am TAKING SUNDAY OFF. It's kind of shocking, an entire day off; I'm not sure how I'll handle it.

I meant to link to this a few days ago, but Radovan Karadzic was finally convicted of genocide.

The Sisterhood of the Easter Rising

"I’m not here to argue about Clinton versus Sanders. I genuinely like them both. I’m here to say that I’m sick of seeing her reviled for the same things people forgive easily when they’re done by men, and that the stakes are too high this election cycle to indulge that or leave it unexamined."

"Through this series of tiny gestures, Obama achieved what 50 years of American resistance to Cuba was not able to. He defused any lingering military tension. He showed the Cuban people that America has good intentions. And he managed to humiliate the Castros, utterly, without appearing, even in the slightest, aggressive. He did all that in a couple of hours. There's only one word for it: genius."

Wow: French journalist Florence Hartmann jailed by war crimes tribunal

Voters in Arizona had to wait in line for hours to cast ballots. Here’s why that matters.

Slate has started a Trump Apocalypse Watch, if you're into that kind of thing.

Here is an important read about Jian Ghomeshi.

On Race, Good Intentions, and the Benefit of the Doubt

I think this overstates the supposed current awesomeness of Manchester a bit, but it's an interesting read on the history of the city.

We should make espresso in chocolate Easter eggs a thing.

People In Western Art Who Can Only Be Lovingly Described As “Wan” And “Bitchy”

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/26/16)

ICYMI, in yesterday's Friday Five I talked about mystery series that should be TV shows.

Here's what's going on with Cruz and the National Enquirer. FWIW, Anne Helen Petersen, who knows whereof she speaks, pointed out on Twitter that the people who investigated things that turned out to be real (like the Edwards story) are no longer AT the Enquirer. So.

And this, about tweets alluding to this story for a while now, almost made me sad that I don't follow more conservative media figures on Twitter. Almost.

UGH: Bernie Sanders’s Hail Mary: maybe superdelegates can save me Hint: If you need the party elite to overturn the will of the people to give you power, you are NOT inspiring a populist revolution.

The one thing he's consistent on: Donald Trump Hates Women

And: White Men Prefer Trump's Overt Misogyny to Clinton's Failure to Center Them Every Moment

"If Kasich wins the nomination after effectively determining that primary voters’ preferences needn’t count, then that establishes primary voters’ preferences needn’t count."

Good Friday and the feast of the Annunciation fell on the same day this year (yesterday) and here is a fascinating post about the history and theological and artistic significance of that.

Kate Spade’s Shiny, Sparkly Success Story

Need a reading list? A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction

Better late than never? NFL acknowledges, for first time, link between football, brain disease

This tragic story brings up a lot of interesting questions about the interaction between cultures; I'm inclined to think that, at least in this case (as described in this article), some of the "they have to be kept isolated to preserve their pure primitiveness" feels like fetishization more than like what the people themselves necessarily want.

Every Meal In Wuthering Heights Ranked In Order Of Sadness

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Five: Mysteries Series That Should Be TV Shows

Grantchester returns to PBS for season two this weekend, and I am VERY EXCITED, so let's talk about other mystery books that should be TV shows, and what networks they belong on! I look forward to hearing your ideas.

1. I've said this for years, but Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books are much better suited to an open-ended show than a frankly rather terrible movie franchise. (I'm pretty attached to that scene where Jason O'Mara makes her an omelet, though.) If USA still made what I think of as USA shows, this would be perfect for them, but these days I guess I'd give a female-driven soapy procedural to ABC.

2. J.D. Robb's In Death series of futuristic procedurals with a romantic suspense angle would also be perfect for an open-ended TV series. Anything sci-fi makes me think Syfy at first, but this would actually be perfect for Fox - it's like a mix of Bones and Almost Human. They could launch it off Bones's final season. They need something. Now I'm angry they're not actually doing this.

3. I feel so strongly that Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series would make the perfect anthology mystery series - one complex case per season, rotating protagonists with some cast overlap - that I text friends about it at least once a week. (It has been optioned but there's been no news in quite a while.) I don't know enough about Irish TV to know if there's someone suitable there to make and export it, but if not, let's give it to ITV.

4. P.J. Tracy's Monkeewrench series, about anti-social game developers helping the cops solve murders, sounds a lot like CBS's Scorpion when I put it that way. Huh. It has a more adult feel to it, though, and involves less action, and . . . let's give it to TNT. After CSI: Cyber I don't actually trust CBS to make anything that not intensely stupid about programmers.

5. Jane Haddam's Gregor Demarkian mysteries, about a retired FBI agent who returns to his Armenian-American neighborhood and starts freelance consulting on murder cases, are probably my favorite series that virtually no one I know reads. (Though someone must, as there are almost thirty of them and you don't publish that many books if no one's reading.) The complexity and standalone nature of the cases lends itself to the traditional British model of short seasons of movie-length episodes (think Poirot or Foyle's War), even though these are American. Hey, PBS is trying to do more original drama. Let's put this on Masterpiece! Mystery.

Morning Coffee (3/25/16)

Happy Friday! (As usual, my Friday links are positive/light/funny/cute; we'll return to the usual misery tomorrow.)

If you are a Patreon backer! You should have gotten my March update yesterday, complete with a survey on what content you'd like to see here.

ICYMI, my thoughts on Tana French's Faithful Place.

It's Friday: Let's watch President Obama dance the tango. (He did well enough that I wonder if someone prepped him a bit, just in case this situation came up on this trip to Argentina.)

It's Friday: Let's ogle Prince Harry with a beard and a hat and an adorable baby in Nepal.

It's Friday: Let's watch the Hamilton cast do one of their songs as a scene from The West Wing IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

It's Friday: Go look at my friends' adorable new puppy. (I envy Nicole Cliffe her daily dog pictures in her link roundups on The Toast - do you read those? You should - but not enough to actually get a dog, so.)

I pretty much want one of everything from the new Liberty London line for Uniqlo.

This is just PERFECT and hilarious: Debilitating illnesses in literature, ranked

If you need an ego boost, this Which Jewish Woman Writer Are You? quiz gives GREAT results. I'm Dorothy Parker! My friends all seem to be Nora Ephron or Judy Blume! There is no downside here!

Ooh, a new Cole Porter musical may be headed to Broadway!

If you're watching The People vs. O.J. Simpson (and you should be!) check out this interview with the production designer and set decorator.

Keep Track of Every Mission Throughout the Solar System with This Handy Map (It's also GORGEOUS.)

I would have LOVED AltSchool as a kid.

This is so cool: How Gallaudet University’s Architects Are Redefining Deaf Space

Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 Books: Faithful Place

Faithful Place by Tana French
Penguin Viking, 2010
400 p.

Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books have quickly become one of my favorite mystery series, and I can't decide whether I want to tear through the rest or space them out. (Book six comes out in August, so I'll probably catch up by then.) With each book in this series, I wonder if I'll be able to get attached to a new protagonist, but of course I always can. I love how these are so different in character and case specifics but all strongly written and absorbing. Faithful Place has two murders that take place a few decades apart - I tend to like that in a mystery - and French does an admirable job of drawing the Ireland of the 1980s as well as the current setting. I really liked Frank and his complicated family; the one thing I missed in this one was the time the previous books spent in the actual Murder Squad headquarters.

If you like complex, character-driven mysteries, you should definitely try these, but start with In the Woods.

See all the books I've read this year here.

Morning Coffee (3/24/16)

ICYMI: I liked The Big Short. (The book. Well, I liked the movie too, but this is about the book.)

The Rolling Stone endorsement of Hillary Clinton is very clear and well-written and gets at a lot of what I think is important about both Clinton and Sanders. I can barely decide what to quote, because it's all so good. "Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. Anger is too narrow to motivate a majority of voters, and it does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern." But go read the whole thing!

Zubik v. Burwell, the newest Supreme Court birth control challenge, explained (A lawyer friend wound up telling me all about this case last month on the way home from a Kasich event, which I feel is a good indication of the kind of stuff you leave Kasich events thinking about.)

Whoa: Russia, Light on Cash, Weighs Risks of a Heavy Tax on Oil Giants

Interesting! All Marines will get “unconscious bias training” to prepare for women joining combat units

"I suspect that the millennial women who are supporting Bernie may simply not have gotten to a place in life where they’ve experienced this kind of chronic, internalized, institutional sexism."

Neocons for Hillary: why some conservatives think Trump threatens democracy itself

Marie Claire (!) has a very interesting feature on Women and Guns. (No, really, should I be reading Marie Claire??)

White Nationalists Still Think Trump Could Really Be One Of Them

This is such a heartbreaking story, and honestly does not feel that far from what a President Trump would do, if he thought of it: Tricked Into Cheating and Sentenced to Death

"Don't we read fiction exactly to be upset?" (I still have not read A Little Life; I know, I know.)

Somehow this is not a joke: Camilla Belle and James Franco are starring in a movie about patients in a mental asylum in the 1800s forced to put on a production of Moby-Dick.

Heh: A Guy Walks Into a News Cycle

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Books: The Big Short

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
264 p.

In this book - the source material for the movie of the same name - Lewis does a really incredible job of explaining the subprime mortgage crisis in a way that both makes sense and is narratively interesting, while not (so far as I could tell) oversimplifying things to a harmful degree. This is a crazy true story, and I couldn't put it down and also felt smarter at the end of it.

Morning Coffee (3/23/16)

ICYMI: I was disappointed with An Ember in the Ashes.

Brussels Attacks Underscore Vulnerability of an Open European Society

And some useful background: The Brussels attacks are a profound threat to the European project

(My boss, not the Rent character) Maureen Johnson has announced a new book series and I am very excited about it! Boarding school and murder!

This is a little old now but very well-written and illuminating: How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable

I feel like this has gotten lost in a lot of the discussion: "Rubio would have easily been the most radical nominee in Republican Party history."

Hillary Clinton, ‘Smart Power’ and a Dictator’s Fall

The hope and hype of super delegates

I finally read the Jennifer Garner Vanity Fair piece and it's just as good as you've heard.

Our relationship with TV is messed up. It’s time for a change.

This is a little hard to describe but quite compelling: Blood Ties: Conjuring up my own personal conquistador

Why Everyone on TV Has the Same Hair

Lines of Text I've Clicked to Exit Pop-Ups, Ranked From Least to Most True

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 Books: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Razorbill, 2015
446 p.

I have very mixed feelings about An Ember in the Ashes, which combines a lot of the YA dystopian conventions with a Greco-Roman-inspired political situation and some jinn and other fantasy elements. I was completely fascinated by the world-building, especially the military empire, and would have loved to read more about the history and politics and sociology of it. The fantasy elements seemed a bit undercooked - I sort of forgot about them a few times as I read and then was surprised when they popped up - but it was done in a way that made me wonder if they would be more prominent in subsequent books in the series. But as interested as I was in the world of this novel, I had trouble getting invested in the specific characters at the center of it. Honestly, part of this is probably just dystopian fatigue, but it didn't feel like these leads had much to define them aside from a collection of tropes.

I was also disappointed by the sexism of both the narrative and the characters. Now, it makes sense for people living in a militaristic empire with defined gender roles to absorb that worldview, and I do not think that characters need to model correct behavior. But some of this seemed kneejerk rather than designed to illuminate anything about the characters or their world. I'm sick of premises that rely on One Girl Who's Different From The Other Girls, as we have here with one girl allowed into elite military training each generation. And it felt like the narrative was reifying rather than challenging the male lead's sexism when one of his big revelations at the end of the book relied on him realizing "Oh, right, girls always think differently than boys and just care about love stuff."

Morning Coffee (3/22/16)

If you're wondering what I've been reading, I've updated my 2016 book list, and I'll be posting thoughts about a bunch of these books over the next few weeks to catch up. Let me know if there's one you want me to prioritize!

A fascinating, important read: The Obama Doctrine

FiveThirtyEight's Delegate Tracker is pretty nifty.

There's a big problem with Bernie Sanders's free college plan

Hundreds Of Donald Trump’s Employees Have Sued For Alleged Labor Infractions

"It turns out the only thing we hate more than a candidate who doesn’t meet insane standards of perfection is seeing the work that goes into trying to meet those expectations."

How the internet is disrupting politics

She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’

I agree with the Fug Girls here about celebrities and access and personal space.

Whoa, they're making a Dare Wright movie.

Who Is the Greatest Supporting Player of All Time?

Someone is finally being sued for crowdfunding something to which they don't have rights and I am so happy.

Two Monks Illustrate the Old Testament

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/20/16)

Shot: Reminder: John Kasich Is Also Evil

Chaser: Insiders: Kasich could win a contested convention (Read to the end there; there's a lot of interesting stuff about both parties.)

An Investigation: Which Presidential Campaigns Have the Largest Gender Wage Disparities?

"While the requirements of a good leader and a good man are similar, the requirements of a good leader and a good woman are mutually exclusive."

“To them [Trump] is a good character to show the deficiencies of the democratic system, that such a person could become president. It is just unbelievable. Beijing is definitely gloating over this.”

Oh surely nothing bad will come of this: Trump militia forms to ‘forcefully protect’ rally goers against ‘far-left agitators’

Call me old-fashioned but I'd prefer candidates actually RUN for president.

Terrible: A female editor was asked if she slept with her bosses at the Hulk Hogan trial

Important and very well done: Out Here, No One Can Hear You Scream: The dangerous culture of male entitlement and sexual hostility hiding within America's national parks and forests.

Insane: Why a Russian Hacker Declared War on the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

The Times has a new policy on anonymous sources.

There's some interesting info in this piece about Caesar's death and I am curious to read this guy's book!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Five: Literary Songs

Books AND music, all at once! What are your favorites I don't know?

1. "Ariel" by October Project A lot of things I liked in high school are a little iffy in retrospect, but THIS ALBUM REMAINS PERFECT.

2. "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush I enjoy making people who have never heard of Kate Bush listen to this without warning them what they're in for.

3. "The Wendy Trilogy" by S.J. Tucker is - let's face it - the only version of Peter Pan worth its salt. "Wendy when she'd had her fill of Pan and the other Lost Boys"? Yes please.

(Here are parts two and three.)

4. "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits I have a lot of questions about this music video. But the lyrics! "The dice was loaded from the start, and I bet, and you exploded into my heart." Perfect.

5. "The Lady of Shalott" by Loreena McKennitt I appreciate McKennitt's commitment to Poems Beloved By Anne Shirley. (See also: "The Highwayman")

Morning Coffee (3/18/16)

Happy Friday! Time for our weekly break from current events. Here are some links that (I hope) won't make you want to cry.

Josh Malina is doing a West Wing podcast!

The new Florence Foster Jenkins movie looks like tons of fun, but it's also interesting that we're making this into a brave story of following your dreams rather than "rich lady buys the reality she wants."

This review of And Then There Were None (which is worth a watch) made some very interesting points and made me curious to read the book.

TRUE: Tagalongs, the Most Underrated Girl Scout Cookie, Deserve Better

Neat: The Real-World Locations of 14 Sci-Fi Dystopias

Marijane Meaker: The Most Important Lesbian Writer You've Never Heard Of

I always love interviews with Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (of Go Fug Yourself and The Royal We).

Speaking of, let's talk Breton shirts.

I'm glad someone is finally looking into The Vast Bay Leaf Conspiracy.

Heh: Scenes From Iconic Films Hastily Rewritten So That They Pass the Bechdel Test

Oh, Scotland. Some of these are not names at all.

Perfect: Great House Therapy: Mistress Mary’s Melancholic Manor and Secret Outdoor Space

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/17/16)

Here's a primer on Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

I know we've all been distracted by craziness HERE but the situation in Brazil is not good.

Putin didn’t win the Syrian war for Assad. He restored it to a stalemate.

If we're treating Ted Cruz as some sort of less terrible alternative, let's make sure we're clear on his potential issues with separation of church and state.

"Yet here we are, with an eminently qualified woman running for president — a former criminal defense lawyer and advocate for children’s rights, the first female partner at her law firm, the first female chair of the Legal Services Corp., a former senator, a former secretary of state, a liberal by any fair measure — and she just may lose the nomination to a 70-year-old white man who has been in politics for 35 years and yet somehow brands himself an outsider versus Clinton’s establishment candidacy. The truth is that the now coveted outsider status in politics is the status quo for women in male-dominated professions. But for women, it’s nearly always a detriment. Outsider status as an advantage is a privilege reserved largely for men."

Remember when Bernie Sanders was against superdelegates until he decided maybe they could overturn the will of the people in his favor?

WELP: Two Trump delegates with ‘foreign’ names underperform in Illinois

It says a lot about our current political situation that I read this headline and thought "literal barricades?"

Oh: Sheriff says rape kits are irrelevant because most rape accusations are false

Read this: Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines

And then this: "Libertarian but very pro-government": the distinctive ideology of Silicon Valley

Heh: Ayn Rand Writes Torch Songs

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/13/16)

Don't forget about the springing forward nonsense.

Donald Trump ditched free market ideology for nationalism — and it's working

Why #NeverTrump is doomed

It scared me that a third of Sanders supporters say they wouldn't vote for Clinton in the general, but: "To be fair, the #BernieOrBust temper tantrums come from a minority of Sanders supporters; most Bernie backers, like most people supporting Hillary, will gladly vote for either candidate should they be the nominee, in part because they are adults who realize "democracy" is not a synonym for "give me whatever I want or I'm calling my mom!" and in part because Clinton and Sanders are more similar than they are different — and they are both very different from anyone running on the Republican ticket."

Rubio tried to give Kasich an olive branch. Then Kasich's campaign lit it on fire.

There is no "real" Donald Trump

#VettingBernie, aka a Timeline of Sanders Bull@#$%

UGH, John Goodman: "The entire point of this story is vengeance against a woman who "embarrassed" him by not treating him like the most important thing on the planet the moment he arrived in her vicinity. And I'm not going to pretend for a moment that it was ever intended to be anything else."

This is disappointing: The Mass-Market Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird Is Dead

This "eating out of a bowl" trend piece is hilarious, but also, I would give a LOT to have one of those restaurants here.

I don't even watch dating shows, but this history of them was fascinating.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/12/16)

ICYMI: Friday Five: Great Books About Reading

In case you weren't paying attention to the news last night, Trump canceled a Chicago rally because of protesters, and obviously everyone is taking this in different ways (fascinating commentary, Kate). I'm inclined to think that being able to say the evil liberals shut him up will only help his numbers.

Related: The problem with violence at Trump rallies starts with Trump himself

Aw, poor dog. (Don't worry, it's not sick or anything, but its people are making it pledge allegiance to Trump.)

I couldn't decide which part of this hilarious debate recap to quote, so you should really click.

Down with term limits!

Ugh, this news about the Wounded Warrior Project is pretty depressing.

What. GOP donors pushing Condoleezza Rice to run independent campaign

I'm glad Sanders is making everyone talk about the Cold War and Latin America, because I always want to read about that.

IMPORTANT: "And in shifting public attention from Yelp’s working conditions to Jane’s character, this narrative successfully managed to suggest that other minimum-wage workers at Eat24 not penning open letters on Medium must be satisfied with their conditions—all while pressuring those workers into silence."

The New Greek Invasion

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Five: Great Books About Reading

I love books about what people read and why and how they feel about it - I was going to say "they're so inspirational" and I guess I mostly mean inspiring me to... read... but hey, that's fine. I'm sure there are some great ones I've missed - what are your favorites? Here are five of mine.
1. So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson
2. Something by Nick Hornby. I think it was Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, but until I went to look it up for this, I hadn't realized he'd published several books about his reading life, and OH MY GOD I HAVE TO GO READ THEM RIGHT NOW.
3. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (I took a friend's copy of this with me on a camping trip and it got wet and I had to buy her a new one. Never go camping. It's terrible for books.)
4. The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
5. Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan

Morning Coffee (3/11/16)

Happy Friday!

ICYMI: Your February book review finally posted, because I didn't want it getting lost in all the movie posts. You'll get a second one for March. If you want two book reviews EVERY month, consider supporting me on Patreon - that's the next goal!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is writing a book!

New DuckTales!!!

Speaking of revivals, I'm mildly interesting in this Legends of the Hidden Temple movie but I wish they'd just bring it back AS A GAME SHOW.

GQ's Eddie Redmayne profile is thoroughly delightful. (Apparently delightful magazine profile are the way to my heart. Last night a friend on Twitter asked which celebrities we wanted to kiss, and I had to think about it a lot but eventually came up with "Damian Lewis, because of his New Yorker profile.")

This Game of Thrones snow art is incredible.

19 essential books about TV sounds relevant to our interests.

Whoa, look at these knitted electronics.

Amazing: "Siblings Jack Gore, 10, and Phoebe Gore, 7, founders of the Gore & Gore Detective Agency, already have three solved cases under their belt. They’re organized, quick and know what it takes to build a solid reputation solving mysteries."

Why Jean-Luc Picard Never Carried a Wallet

How to Tell If You're In a Viking Saga

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books, 2016
391 p.

Salt to the Sea, set in 1945, is the story of four teenagers from different backgrounds swept up in the chaos as refugees stream through Prussia trying to escape a Soviet advance - and head straight for the Wilhelm Gustloff, soon to be the site of one of the greatest maritime disasters in history. There's a love story, several stories of survival in horrible circumstances, some wonderful friendships and found families - and a suggested solution to one of a famous mystery of art history, for good measure. Ruta Sepetys has written two previous young adult historical novels - I'd recommend Between Shades of Gray, especially - but I think this is her strongest one yet: thoughtful and action-packed, haunting and tragic and life-affirming.

As you'd expect from that description, there's a lot of intense stuff going on in this novel, and Sepetys pulls it off. It's very, very powerful. (I should probably mention that, since this is about war, there are discussions and depictions of all the violence and horrors that involves, including rape.) I don't cry over books particularly frequently, but this one had me struggling not to openly weep on a plane in front of dozens of strangers. It sounds terrible and calculating to say this, but in fiction about something terrible - like a war or a shipwreck, actually - there's a fine line to walk: You make your readers care about your characters who will be involved in this tragedy, and most writers are loathe to then kill all these characters off. How many get another ending, and how realistic and how happy can that ending be? While there were a few plot points toward the end that struck me as a little too tidy, I thought overall Sepetys did a fine job of dealing with this.

Going in, I was a little worried about the perspective switches - point of view rotates between four characters, often switching after just a page or two - but the voices were distinct enough that it wasn't a problem, and I wound up really liking the way the voices wove together, both in showing these events from different perspectives and in building up an increasingly thick layer of dread as disaster came closer. I had my favorite characters, of course, but I never found myself hurrying through a chapter trying to get back to a character I cared about, as I sometimes do with multiple POVs (*cough* George R.R. Martin *cough*), and even when I was slightly less into a particular story at a particular time, I appreciated the way the points of view created such a full, multi-faceted world for the novel.

Salt to the Sea can definitely stand on its own, but at the same time, I'm the kind of reader who always wants more historical context. I'm reasonably well-versed in the basics of World War II, but don't know a lot about this specific time and place, and often wished I could look up exactly what was going on as the characters were mentioning various things. (I probably would have except, as I mentioned, I read this on a plane, so was dealing with the text pretty much in isolation. Which was probably both good and bad for my experience of the book, in various ways!) The book did have a map, which was helpful, but I wanted more.

That's a small quibble, though. Salt to the Sea is beautifully written, tragic without being tragedy porn, illuminating one specific, important moment in history while meditating on universal questions of patriotism and family and love and survival. Bring your tissues and be prepared to keep thinking about this book long after you finish reading.

(If you like reading reviews and other longer pieces here, please consider supporting me on Patreon!)

Morning Coffee (3/10/16)

Ted Cruz's secret life as the Zodiac Killer, explained

Study: Bernie Sanders's tax hikes are bigger than Donald Trump's tax cuts (I love this quote from an economist: "If you wanted to test the economic effects of a very large tax increase, this plan would be a good experiment. That is not an endorsement.")

Mississippi flag’s Confederate imagery incites ‘acts of racial violence,’ lawsuit alleges

UGH: Trump backers hate “political correctness.” That's why gaffes don't hurt him.

How one letter changed the story in Pope v. Trump

On the one hand, no duh. On the other, I'm glad people are doing research to show this isn't all in our heads: Online harassment of women at risk of becoming 'established norm', study finds

Team Gloria Steinem, obviously.

Update: That 'Yelp for Humans' App Is Still Awful

FASCINATING: The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

This book sounds interesting and I think it's important to fight the idea that "everyone" was religious until very recently: Atheism has ancient roots and is not ‘modern invention’, claims new text

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/9/16)

Sad news: George Martin has died.

This seems obvious but is important to keep in mind! "Ted Cruz is more interested in winning the Republican nomination than stopping Donald Trump from winning it."

Russia's Communist Party is making a comeback — and it's bad news for Putin

Ugh, John McAfee.

I don't think this should actually SURPRISE anyone but: Trump Tower Funded by Rich Chinese Who Invest Cash for Visas

Perhaps you, like me, are the kind of person to be soothed by a Platonic analysis of Trump, in which case: Here you go.

Internal Data Offers Glimpse At Uber Sex Assault Complaints (with an important update here)

This look at the history of horoscopes in media was very interesting, even for someone with less than zero interest in horoscopes, but also contained the most preposterous sentence I've read in a while: "Astrology is more real than football." What. No. That's not how anything works.

It's sad how often we have to think about this stuff: "Do I cut ties with anyone a friend tells me has been abusive or manipulative, or does their abuse need to reach some arbitrary level of horror? Do I need proof? How many people do I have left after that? When you cut them out, how many publications are left to write for? How many parties are left to go to? How many friends do you start to question because they’re friends with the person you cut ties with? Do they even lose anything without me, or am I the one at a disadvantage?"

Scientists Discover a Boiling River of Amazonian Legend

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/8/16)

ICYMI: A few thoughts on ABC's The Family.

So: Bloomberg is not running, but this piece about his plans and research is fascinating, and there's even a rough cut of an ad. I think his calculations about running now ending up making it more likely for Trump to win are probably correct, so I'm glad he's not, but this would have been SO INTERESTING to watch, and in a Trump/Sanders/Bloomberg race I would have at least . . . considered him.

I'm so happy that Erin Andrews won a big victory yesterday, and this piece about other female sports journalists and safety while traveling is a must-read.

Good: A Big Win for Same-Sex Adoption at the Supreme Court

"In short, Hillary Clinton is running to lead Democrats, and Bernie Sanders is running to lead liberals."

This is important: "Nothing Trump has said about immigrants, the Ku Klux Klan, or anything else violates the GOP’s baseline standards. The problem is that he implicitly proposes to invert the party’s hierarchy, prioritizing its right-wing social resentments while tolerating ambiguity on economics. And his popularity suggests that maybe average Republicans aren’t maniacally obsessed with shrinking government after all."

Crossword drama update!

Also: A bridge scandal! What a time to be alive. (Confession: I STILL have no idea how bridge nor poker work, at all. I understand other card games! Just not the ones people talk about all the time.)

Kelly Clarkson Says She Was ‘Blackmailed’ Into Working With Dr. Luke, Who Is ‘Not a Good Guy’

Whoa: Ego depletion may have been debunked.

America's Scandalous, Psychic, Forgotten First Female Presidential Candidate

Monday, March 7, 2016

The (Non-)Problem with ABC's The Family

(Some vague spoilers through episode two of The Family below.)

The second episode of ABC's new drama The Family aired last night, and I'm still finding myself drawn in almost in spite of myself, because this story of what happens when a child thought murdered surfaces ten years later is extremely compelling and also, like pretty much every Shondaland show, feels like it might fall apart at any moment. In some ways, The Family is operating within the tradition of "missing kid comes home" narratives, along with fine young adult novel When Jeff Came Home, popular 1990s YA series The Face on the Milk Carton, and MTV drama Finding Carter. But The Family is doing SO MANY other things at the same time, and that's both its strength and where I fear it will all come undone.

Because this show is trying to do way, way too much - but I can't figure out what I'd want them to drop, because each thread is plenty interesting.
* What actually happened to Adam ten years ago, and in the intervening years. (In some ways, this may be the least interesting aspect, weirdly.)
* How the neighbor falsely convicted actually played into things
* Whether Adam is actually Adam
* How his disappearance affected his parents' marriage, and his father's writing career
* And his siblings - each sibling here (both played by actors I like a lot, Alison Pill and Zach Gilford) is fascinating and could easily be the center of a show
* Especially his sister's religious journey and how that has affected the family
* How his father's affair with the lead detective affected the investigation
* The politics both within the local police department and between the local cops and FBI
* The ACTUAL politics surrounding Adam's mother's career, and the way she has to run for office both in spite of and on the basis of being a mother
* The tug-of-war between local and national media outlets
* The local paper's "lesbian lifestyle blogger" and her relationship with Adam's brother, and also all the journalistic ethical questions that whole thing brings up
* And I'm probably forgetting a bunch of things!
Usually, when a show has bitten off more than it can chew, I can pretty easily say "Ugh, just drop xyz subplot, no one cares." But I care about all The Family's plotlines, and perhaps care least about the supposedly central mystery and more about the threads more obliquely surrounding it. I just don't believe that it can keep all these balls in the air. So I guess I'll let myself get sucked in while trying to keep myself braced for the moment when it all comes crashing down.

Morning Coffee (3/7/16)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week, including a premiere date for the Hot Vicar Show! Er, I mean Grantchester.

Important: How young ‘liberal’ Americans could become racist right-wingers

Fascinating: Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump

Uncovering the Bad Math (or Logic) of an Economic Analysis Embraced by Bernie Sanders (They did a really good job of explaining how the economic analysis works here.)

Marcia Clark continues to be pretty awesome: I prosecuted O.J. Simpson. Here’s what I learned about race and justice in America.

I meant to link this last week but it's important and newly relevant in light of last night's debate: Hillary Clinton on ‘superpredator’ remarks: ‘I shouldn’t have used those words’

Marco Rubio’s Trump Attacks Expose Uncomfortable Truths for the Right

"Mr. Obama insisted that in private conversations, Republican bluster was tempered. 'They’re pretty sheepish about it,' he said." ONE WOULD HOPE.

Meet the man who can basically read President Obama’s mind

Whoa: A Plagiarism Scandal Is Unfolding In The Crossword World

This absolutely made me want to read/watch more Didion: How Joan Didion the Writer Became Joan Didion the Legend

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Morning Coffee (3/5/16)

ICYMI: Friday Five: Media Sites I Can't Live Without

STOP EVERYTHING. We've got a trailer for The Wine Show, which is my new favorite show already. "Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys drink wine and luxuriate in an Italian villa in a new show, because peak TV means that networks are now developing your dreams."

A knife supposedly found at O.J. Simpson's house has surfaced because THAT'S NOT SUSPICIOUS TIMING AT ALL. (Another crazy coincidence - FX is now marathoning the first five episodes of The People v. O.J. Simpson tonight, which is a scheduling decision obviously made in a complete vacuum. BUT the show is really good and this is your chance to catch up! Watch it!)

Can a 3-year-old represent herself in immigration court? (Um. NO.)

Here's an update on the black students asked to leave a Trump event, which, of course, the Trump campaigning is now denying they caused. (If there was any question: I believe these three separate law enforcement agencies over this campaign.)

"It’s not insulting to say that you think you can accomplish more for racial justice than Barack Obama has. It’s insulting to act like you can do it merely by showing up for work."

Jim Webb, what are you doing???????

I was excited to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and then I read this.

NOPE: 'Cumberbunnies' will allow you to eat Benedict Cumberbatch this Easter

That crazy people-rating app is finally launching - I was in the contingent who thought it might all be a publicity stunt with no real app, so I was wrong - but they've changed it enough that it's not particularly harmful anymore. I think/hope.

File under "profiles that are fascinating even if you don't care about the person/thing": The New Yorker on TMZ.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Five: Media Sites I Can't Live Without

(Remember the halcyon days of early-2000s blogging when the Friday Five was a thing? Ah, nostalgia. Anyway. This is not that.)

Trying something new, because a. I love making lists and b. I assume we are all bored on Friday afternoons. So! Going to start giving you quick lists of five things in... some category... and I'd love to hear your answers in the comments!

First up: Five media sites I can't live without, and by "media" sites I basically mean sites with regular additions of content and an editorial voice. I'm pretty much making this distinction because I didn't want to make a "five sites I can't live without" list that would be, you know, Google and Twitter and my bank's site, because that would be boring. For the record, I also disqualified sites that I rely upon for work but actually detest.

So! To the list!
1. The New York Times
2. Vox
3. The Guardian
4. Go Fug Yourself
5. The Toast
What are YOUR five?

Morning Coffee (3/4/16)

Happy Friday!

It's been QUITE A WEEK, so I'm pretty sure you need shirtless Irish farmers snuggling baby animals. You're welcome.

This piece on what it's like to host a presidential debate has a lot of interesting logistics (my favorite!) and also a very heartwarming Hillary Clinton story.

Go JJ Abrams: "Bad Robot will reportedly work with its agency partner CAA and studios Warner Bros and Paramount to ensure women and minorities are submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs for the company in direct proportion to their representation among the US population."

The Outlander stars are being very pretty for Saks, and I plan to make a friend in New York and/or Los Angeles go take pictures of their Outlander-themed windows for me. (Or I guess they'll probably turn up online.) I LOVE DEPARTMENT STORE WINDOWS.

I'm not even that into video games, but this piece on video game market research was fascinating, if tonally odd - it seemed to spend a lot of time justifying the existence of market research in the first place, and surely that's a no-brainer? Anyway, I enjoy any article about GIANT DATABASES OF MINUTIAE.

Awards show best-dressed list, explained (Brie Larson's dress still looks like a weird optical illusion to me in almost every picture. Help.)

Someone try this and let me know how it is: Amazon Echo Now Lets You Investigate the Murder of Bruce Wayne’s Parents


Why yes, I do want to read about 16 Perfect Lip Balms. (My current lip balm obsession is Perfectly Posh's Santa Monica Smooth.)

How to Tell If You Are in a Du Maurier Novel: "You have escaped disaster, and things have for the most part ended well, and yet you cannot shake a sense of dread and foreboding.

Someone is crushing your spirit. You try as hard as you can not to inconvenience them while they do it."