The Ten Best Things We Read in February 2019

Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid A Price. by Joe Coscarelli and Melena Ryzik for the New York Times

In the days following the publication of this piece, the FBI opened an inquiry into Ryan Adams’ communication with an underage girl, retailers cut ties with Adams, former colleagues of Adams denounced him, and Adams canceled his upcoming album. The music industry’s #MeToo moment has been a long time in coming, partially because of the inequity between musicians and their victims, who are often isolated fans. But it’s here now. It’s here, and the consequences are real. Thank God for that.

Here’s some important related reading, too:

I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter by Dina Zirlott for Huffpost

Of all the Christian beliefs I was raised with, the hardest one to unlearn, by far, was the pro-life stance. We really are raised to believe abortion is murder; we really do think we’re advocating for women’s rights. When I volunteered at a “crisis pregnancy centre” at sixteen, I didn’t think of myself as an evil cog in the machine of Gilead. I thought I was providing free diapers and baby food and pre-natal vitamins to pregnant women, and making it easier for them to keep their pregnancies and raise their babies. I thought I was making the world a better place. Pieces like this one are absolutely invaluable in exposing the ethical issues at the heart of the pro-life stance. Zirlott’s writing is wrenching, but I can’t recommend it enough.

Shelter skelter: Inside Toronto’s Seaton House, Canada’s largest men’s shelter by Justin Haynes for Now Toronto

Journalists aren’t typically allowed inside Seaton House, a Toronto shelter for homeless men, and Justin Haynes’ article demonstrates why: sleeping on the street sounds like a step up from sleeping on a cold concrete floor strewn with garbage, in a facility where mentally ill and substance-using residents are either ignored by staff or ferried away by cops. It is a devastating demonstration of Toronto’s comprehensive failure to care for homeless people, and it speaks volumes that John Tory’s office didn’t respond to Haynes’ e-mails until he told them he’d booked an interview on CBC to talk about his experience. Seaton House is due to be demolished next year, and God only knows how the city plans to help the people who depend on it now. Or if they plan to help these people at all.

This Twitter thread on hope by Scott Benson

Scott Benson is one of the creators of Night in the Woods, one of the greatest video games (and young adult novels, if we want to stretch the definition of “novel”) of the past decade. Especially affecting and life-changing is this scene, where the protagonist gives us her teenage dirtbag spin on Tony Kushner’s “more life” monologue. Scott’s Twitter account is one of my favourites, and this thread was a real balm in a rocky month.

This Twitter thread on “Blazing Saddles” by Lindsay Ellis

I’m a Mel Brooks bitch through and through — The Producers is foundational to my identity; in high school, I changed my relationship status to “Married to Matthew Broderick” — and I loved this thread from Lindsay Ellis, a perfect exploration of why Brooks’ brand of satire works so well, and why Brooks’ hatred of ~P.C. culture~ is out of line with his own ethos.

This Twitter thread on queer vocabulary by Avery Alder

Avery Alder is saying something that I’ve been unable to put into words for the longest time: it’s impossible to impose rigid rules on LGBTQ language, because our language has always defied rules. Primers about what’s right and wrong, politically correct and incorrect, are always going to fail, because they’re fundamentally at odds with the way LGBTQ people live their lives. If any editors are reading this: pay Avery Alder lots and lots of money to turn this excellent thread into an article, please and thanks.

“She Never Looks Back”: Inside Elizabeth Holmes’s Chilling Final Months at Theranos by Nick Bilton for Vanity Fair

The image of a Siberian husky puppy — a dog which is, incidentally, not a wolf — defecating on the floor of a corporate boardroom in front of Henry Kissinger is now forever seared in my mind. Thank you, Elizabeth Holmes, for blessing us with your never-ending batshittery. The Jennifer Lawrence biopic is gonna be fucking lit.

The wolf in the fold by Anthony Olveira for Xtra

Anthony Olveira’s past writing on the case of Bruce McArthur has been unparalleled in its balance of rage, grief, and tenderness. This latest piece is no exception: reporting from the courthouse as the victims’ friends, families, and communities read impact statements, he tries to make sense of McArthur’s violence and the violence of the institutions that enabled McArthur.

Time’s Up: Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar, and the liberal feminist sideshow by Charlotte Shane for the Baffler

I realize that we have no shortage of shit to be furious about these days, but truly, few things have made me angrier in recent weeks that the reflexive defense of Amy Klobuchar’s tendency to throw blunt objects at her employees and Dianne Feinstein’s insane condescension to a bunch of literal children. Charlotte Shane’s essay is like light cutting fog, a call to stop defending the indefensible in the name of feminism. To those who argue, We don’t care when men do these bad things, so why should anyone criticize Amy Klobuchar and Dianne Feinstein for doing these bad things?, she has this to say:

When we feed toughness or combativeness or hubris or whatever other vaguely masculine name one can give this personality trait into our current political machinery, we don’t walk away with justice or more rights. We don’t get change. The machine is too robust to be broken or outfoxed by feeding it more of what built it, which is why we have to apply our creativity to dismantling the whole thing instead. Acting more “like men” isn’t the key to progressive success, and neither is shaming optimistic children who still have hope that the political process can accomplish meaningful goals.


Since Parkland

This is a phenomenal project: 1,200 eulogies, written by teenage journalists, for the 1,200 American children murdered by gun violence in the year the Parkland school shooting. The victims are organized in groups, by extracurricular interests — “gamers,” “artists,” “dancers,” — or by stages of life, from “infants and toddlers” to “young parents.” I can’t stop thinking about Jaquincy Ross, an eighteen-year-old who was helping his girlfriend raise her infant daughter, even though he wasn’t the child’s biological father. “With the little girl about to turn 3, he spent a week looking for money to buy a scooter, her birthday wish, while struggling to find a job,” writes 16-year-old reporter Angele Yang. “He managed to raise the money for it. But he never got the chance to purchase it.” It is gutting to read these stories, but they deserve your time.

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