Archive for the 'good stuff online' Category

Good stuff online: NY Times Magazine and T Magazine

September 10, 2021

A shout-out to the New York Times Magazine for an especially good September 5 edition. I knew I wanted to read Ismail Muhammad’s intimate profile of Maggie Nelson, whose last book The Argonauts knocked me out and whose new book (On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint) I’m now eager to dig into. I glanced at the cover story about Terry Albury, the black FBI agent who spent four years in jail for leaking classified documents, and at first I thought, “Oh, I know all that, I don’t have to read that story” (a frequent assumption facing such articles). But Janet Reitman’s story hooked me, and I wound up glad that I read this account of a principled American in law enforcement coming up against all the ways that post-9/11 “homeland security theater” got used in vicious ways to prop up the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (thank you, bell hooks) while pretending to protect American citizens. As Albury puts it, “I helped destroy people.” He’s one of the heroes of the resistance who hasn’t gotten as much attention as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, or Reality Winner, but his story is just as compelling.

Similarly, I glanced at “The Ceremony,” David Treuer’s piece about an Ojibwe grieving ritual, and thought, “Oh, I know what that is.” I did not. Treuer leads with a moving description of his state of mind after a series of intense losses. “In the summer of 2020 I was — and there’s no fancy way to put this — falling apart.” He proceeds to share with respectful delicacy some details about the tradition of the Big Drum.

“Ojibwe Big Drum society, or ‘drum,’ as we call it, is a large, loud, social healing ceremony that takes place in dance halls designated specifically for that purpose in communities mostly in Minnesota and Wisconsin, throughout the year. To be seated on a drum, to be a member of the society, is both an honor and a profound, lifelong duty,” Treuer writes.

“There’s a process that sometimes occurs (not always or even often) during the Big Drum to help end a family’s mourning called ‘wash their tears.’ Typically, men will wash up men, and women will wash up women…A family is seated in chairs near the drum, and the veterans approach them with bowls of water and soap and combs. They literally wash the faces of the bereaved, and comb and braid their hair. These big men, with their strong hands, wash and comb with a delicacy you wouldn’t think possible. In so doing, they wash away our sadness.”

The details of how this ceremony evolved and the impact is has on its community are moving and powerful. Read the whole story here.

While I’m on the subject of the New York Times (which I used to write for and is also where my husband works), I want to sing the praises of Hanya Yanagihara, editor-in-chief of T Magazine, the Times’ fashion supplement. I never read Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life; some people love it for its honest portrayal of the damage wrought by childhood sexual abuse, and others object to its relentlessly grim portrait of gay male life. All I can say is that I appreciate the courage, determination, excellent taste, and unerring discernment Yanagihara has brought to representing queer and BIPOC culture in the glossy pages of T Magazine. The high literary quality and the diligent hunt for new/untold stories and perspectives surpasses just about any gay publication I can think of right now. Where else would I read about several young queer Asian female pop musicians (“Are You Listening?” by Ligaya Mishan) or the trans artist who calls herself Puppies Puppies (“Who is She?” by Jameson Fitzpatrick). I would be intrigued to read about these people in some arcane gay art magazine. It’s such a Sign O’ The Times (as the Purple One would say) that I’m reading about them first in the New York Times, which has sometimes been dismissed as “the Gray Lady”…but not so much anymore.

Good stuff online: Lincoln Center Theater Review’s OSLO issue

June 16, 2017

Lincoln Center Theater’s in-house journal, LCT Review, consistently assembles high-quality interviews, excerpts, and tangential background information to illuminate the plays that the theater produces. The issue devoted to J. T. Rogers’s Oslo, which just won the Tony Award for best play of the season, is an especially good example. You can pick up a copy of the journal in the lobby of Lincoln Center Theater (you can toss in a “suggested donation” if you like) or read it online here.

The play dramatizes the real-life story of two Norwegian diplomats who stage-managed the secret negotiations between Israel and Palestine that led to the Oslo Accords — a brief, probably never-to-be-repeated moment of international diplomacy that led to a famous handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat in 1990. The play builds to that shining moment of hope, and the audience is left both with a feeling of joy at the sense of possibility and a sinking feeling of hopelessness, because we know that we are no closer than ever to seeing a resolution of the long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The journal goes way beyond duplicating the themes and facts of the play but surrounds it with alternate perspectives. “You in the Wrong Place,” a beautiful piece of writing by Naama Goldstein, captures tiny moments of the author’s journey through uncomfortable shifts in her identities as both Israeli and outsider. Raja Shehadeh’s “The Peace That Ended Peace” arms Oslo audiences with a grain of salt with which to measure the sweet conclusion at which the play arrives. Milbry Polk’s “The Love of Desert Lands” introduces Gertrude Bell, the extraordinary British woman who helped organize the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks, sometimes called the Mother of Iraq. And Chris Voss’s “The Art of Negotiation” offers practical advice useful not just for international hostage crises but for everyday life:

“Whether it’s in the office or around the family dinner table, don’t avoid honest, clear conflict. Engaging in it will get you the best car price, the higher salary, and the largest donation. It will also save your marriage, your friendship, and your family. One can be an exceptional negotiator, and a great person, only by both listening and speaking clearly and empathetically, by treating one’s counterparts — and oneself — with dignity and respect, and, most of all, by being honest about what one wants and what one can — and cannot — do. Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty. Embrace them.”


Good stuff online: John Leland on Gloria Steinem

October 10, 2016

John Leland is an excellent reporter for the New York Times who has made it his beat to write about the wise old heads of this big weird city, both the famous ones and the ones you’ve never heard of. He’s currently working on a series called “Lions of New York,” and Sunday saw the publication of “Showgirls, Pastrami, and Candor,” his walk-about profile (beautifully written, as ever, and full of tiny surprising details) of Gloria Steinem, who is one of the people I admire most in the world. Bravo! (The portrait is by Caitlin Ochs.)



Good stuff online: New York Magazine October 3-16 issue

October 5, 2016

The latest issue of New York magazine is a conceptual triumph, worth seeking out and reading in toto. The concept: “Hope, And What Came After.” It’s an oral history of the last eight years, centered on a fascinating multi-part interview with President Obama conducted by Jonathan Chait. It touches a lot of obvious bases and some not-so-obvious landmarks.

My personal favorite photo:


My personal favorite Quote of the day, Andrew Sullivan on “Is This What Unites Us?”:

“Support for [legalized marijuana and gay marriage] transcended the usual demographic polarities. Marijuana use is the rare cultural phenomenon that unites urban blacks and southern whites, western hippies and southern good ol’ boys. And with gays, every family, red and blues, turns out to have them. And so sodomy and stoners did what Obama couldn’t all by himself. They helped create the pragmatic, constructive fusion that faltered in almost every other way and on almost every other issue.”

Good Stuff Online: interview with Ryan Bahr, amputee camp counselor

August 7, 2016

I was surprised, delighted, and moved to learn that there are summer camps for kids who are amputees (or have some other kind of “limb difference”). I came across this regular column by Jordan Floyd called “5 Spot: Random Questions, Surprising Answers” in the Salt Lake City Weekly, Utah’s independent newspaper, during a recent whistle-stop in that city. The column asked five questions of Ryan Bahr (below), a 21-year-old medical student who recently spent his summer as a counselor at the Amputee Coalition’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp in Ohio, which is designed, as the column says:

to help young amputees feel like any kid should: normal and accepted. The decision to help children who face similar struggles as Bahr seems to be an easy one for him. Perhaps, just as easy as the decision to amputate his right foot, which he made by simply saying, “Get rid of it.”

You can read the whole interview online here.

ryan bahr

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