This week, Melissa McCarthy bullied a bully. Judges banned the ban. Pics proved Barack Obama to be the only person who likes that Barack Obama isn’t President anymore (thanks for the best headline this year, GQ). Netflix announced “The Magic School Bus” will be back. And, whatever, the Patriots won.
A doozie of a short story turned up in last week’s New Yorker. Remarkable for its whip-smart writing—and we mean whip-smart—David Gilbert’s “Underground” beautifully juxtaposes two kinds of suffering: the slow anguish of adult life and the sharp thwack of physical pain.
He hit the bottom hard. His gasp was multiplied by the witnesses on the platform, the shock quickly followed by panic, both general and specific: people yelling the obvious, that a person had fallen on the tracks, right there, the homeless guy, on the tracks; people cursing as if only “fuck” and “shit” and various combinations of those words could sum up the situation; people rushing for the stairs, unprepared to be present for the potential tragedy and innately understanding the coming commuter hell; people invoking Jesus Christ and the prayers associated with His name; people narrating every detail and in some cases filming the scene with their phones; people commanding unseen people in authority; people imploring the man on the tracks to get up and move, just get up and move; people at the far end of the platform leaning into the tunnel and waving their arms in a desperate semaphore of Halt! and Cease!, though no train was coming, at least not for another four minutes.
This Atavist piece on the story of a long-thought-dead Vietnam POW and/or scam artist is twisty-turny longread journalism at its best. Devour it like popcorn.
For all you humans out there, this essay is for you. In the New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz tells of the day she lost everything—her wallet, her sweater, her bike lock, her truck—and finishes with an intimate show-and-tell of the week she lost her dad and the election. As one of us here put it: “Possibly favourite essay ever.”
Pete Souza is trolling Mr. President on Insty with photos from his term as Obama’s White House photographer. Bless.
This week’s untimely death: the great optimist-activist graphist Hans Rosling, a man who, with his public health work and his organization Gapminder, showed how the raw power of numbers and data visualization could be applied not just for informational purposes, but to bring about real, tangible global change.
Satire is exhausted. Last week, McSweeney’s published Trump’s bumbling Black History Month speech within its “Short Imagined Monologues” humour series. And this week, The New Inquiry published Pence’s review of the film Titanic: “a message for a generation of Americans as enthralled with out own success and invulnerability as were the varied passengers of the RMS Titanic,” he urges. “Think about it.”
The incisive power of dystopian fiction is also wearing thin in today’s political climate. Past Present suggests that the recent bump in sales for classic dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World isn't based on the desire to communicate through allegory—reality is blurry enough as it is—but on the need to assert our cultural literacy and historical awareness, all in the name of resisting today's short-sighted politicians. Or so one hopes.
If you’re feeling a little SLC Punk these days, there’s an epic Nazi-punching showreel just a click away.
One of us has been having a very weird time in Texas this week, surrounded by mud, guns, and the occasional excellent horse. Down here, the truth is spread by hand dryer. Paper towels are fake news.
And lastly, the wild plains bison. They haven't roamed Banff National Park for over 100 years. But this year, Canada’s 150th, the bison are being slowly reintroduced to the wilderness. The photos are much more powerful than Canadians themselves being reintroduced to the national parks with free passes this year.
This is a good newsletter, a fine newsletter, a newsletter to curl up next to the fire with. Fold it into a paper plane and throw it at your friends.