For those who’ve been impatient to hear more of Joanna Newsom’s beautiful soaring lyrics and harp artistry, the wait may almost be over! In Dazed & Confused, Ms. Newsom said that a follow-up record to 2010’s Have One on Me is in the works! It’s been a long time coming, but I’m sure it will be worth it; she perfects her craft so meticulously, like I suspect few others in this fast-paced world do. *crawls away from flickering laptop screen and back to old-lady armchair*
Last week, Rolling Stone’s story about rape on the University of Virginia campus was called into question by the Washington Post. Sadly, many social media responses to the additional reporting the Post and other outlets did on the UVA story had more than a tinge of blaming and shaming the victim, Jackie—including a note to readers from Rolling Stone itself. An editor at the magazine, Will Dana, wrote, “[W]e have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” (This phrase has since been removed from the note.)
As a sexual abuse survivor who has lived with 20 years of questions and self-doubt, this made me want to hide in my bed and never come out. But right now, it is more important than ever to support sexual assault survivors, to believe them, and let them know they are believed for all the reasons Zerlina Maxwell describes in this piece for the Washington Post.
It’s also important for us to share our stories—and support other survivors who are sharing them. This week, my friend Sonya Vatomsky published a powerful, painful, and brave essay that speaks to what sexual assault cost her. This is exactly what we need to be talking about right now: voices like Sonya’s must be heard.
The impact of Rolling Stone’s choice no longer support to Jackie’s account of her rape in their UVA story is frightening. (As mentioned above, the magazine has since amended its stance.) In the Boston Globe, Yvonne Abraham writes that, “Emboldened by this one possibly fabricated story of rape, the chorus of people who believe women routinely make these things up will grow louder.” Never mind the other UVA students who came forward as rape survivors in the article, never mind that nearly 1 in 5 American women have reported being rape.
Horrifyingly, the “journalist” (I use that term out of necessity, not respect) Charles C. Johnson outed what he claims is Jackie’s full name on his Twitter. According to Gawker, he’s revealed anonymous sources’ real names and personal information online before, which is called “doxxing.” (we heard a lot about it earlier this year during the #Gamergate scandal).
This is a man who refers to himself as “a radical” and “a revolutionary.” Newsflash, Chuck: There’s nothing revolutionary about inciting mob violence against women who have already survived it. Journalists need to realize that by backing down from their support of Jackie and women like her, who are brave enough to come forward and confide in them in the first place, news outlets are effectively standing with Chuck Johnson and every creep like him.
A number of NBA players have been photographed wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts since a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the police officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner. Members of the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been spotted wearing the shirts emblazoned with Garner’s last words, as have members of the Brooklyn Nets, who were photographed with Jay Z in them (Jay reportedly hand-delivered the shirts to their locker room).
Unsurprisingly, the NYT describes the NBA commissioner Adam Silver—who, it should be noted, is white—as “trying to walk a thin line between protecting the business interests of the league and its sponsors and not appearing to mute the voices of its athletes.” Silver has been quoted as saying he respects the rights of players to voice their personal views, but that his “preference would be for players to abide by [the NBA’s] on-court attire rules.”
This is interesting insofar as professional basketball is one of the main arenas in US culture where blackness (specifically black maleness) is celebrated instead of vilified, despite still existing in the framework of both a largely white ownership and a largely white sports media. The attempts of a white league commissioner to regulate the black bodies and identities that keep his league afloat need to be closely watched and scrutinized. It seems like Silver’s focus is on earnings and advertisers, not the players, whose cultural capital is what keeps people worldwide riveted to the NBA. To commission the work of black bodies while being complicit in the erasure of black politics and identities is a way worse look than a “controversial” T-shirt.
Last month, Shield of Hope’s GoFundMe campaign raised over $400,000 for former police officer Darren Wilson, who somehow was not indicted for fatally shooting Michael Brown. So the killer of an unarmed black youth isn’t indicted for the crime, and there’s an organized effort to support him financially. Meanwhile, the middle child of Eric Garner—the man whose death at the hands of police officers who restrained and asphyxiated him was determined to be a homicide by an NYC medical examiner—Emerald Snipes, has had to start her own IndieGoGo campaign to support the Garner family in the wake of her father’s tragic death. At least one of Garner’s children is still in college, while two are parents themselves.
As Emerald writes, “Erica and I are both parents. I have a three-year-old, Kaylee, and five-year-old, Alyssa. They miss him so much. It’s hard to explain to children why Grandpa won’t be bringing birthday cake or Christmas gifts.” That’s fucking tragic. Donating to the campaign will provide financial support for the children and grandchildren that Eric Garner will never get to see grow up.
In the United States, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-delayed report on torture techniques used by the CIA on prisoners suspected of terrorism after 9/11. In the report, we learn that prisoners with broken feet were forced into “stress positions”, and that other prisoners had been kept awake for as much as seven and a half days straight, or were shackled to concrete floors in temperatures that resulted in at least one death from suspected hypothermia—and these are some of the less violent tactics used against prisoners, some of whom were held for months after it was determined that they did not meet the standard for detention (more details of the torturous, deadly techniques used by the CIA are explained in the articles linked above, but know that they are EXTREMELY frightening and violent and might be difficult to read about).
As Mark Mazzetti’s NYT article notes, one of the report’s conclusions is that “‘at no time’ did the CIA’s torture program produce intelligence that averted a terrorism threat,” and that the information the agency claimed to have learned as a result of torturing prisoners was either something they knew beforehand, gained from another source, or a lie the prisoner made up due to the torture itself. So far, the only person arrested in connection with the CIA’s torture techniques is John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who went to journalists with information about the torture of a prisoner.
Lifetime has brought in the incredible Angela Bassett, who worked with Whitney Houston on Waiting to Exhale, to direct a made-for-TV biopic, Whitney. Here’s the trailer for the film, set to air in January. Fingers crossed that it will only be as bad as the average Lifetime movie and no worse, and that it will be honest about the abuse Whitney suffered at the hands of her longtime partner, Bobby Brown. Whitney truly was the voice of a generation, and her fans (myself included) know no one will ever replace her.
In January, the Scottish twee trailblazers Belle and Sebastian will release Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, their first new album since 2010. This week, they released the album’s second single, “Nobody’s Empire,” and an accompanying video starring Tamzin Merchant, the actress who also appears on the cover of the album.
B&S’s Stuart Murdoch has said this is the most personal song he’s ever written; the lyrics, which are included in the description underneath the YouTube video, seem to be a paean to the depression that can come with reflecting on youthful idealism. It’s a tune about navel-gazing in the best way: reflecting on the hopeless, “no future” days of adolescence from the vantage point of adulthood.
DANG ALIVE, do I ever love Jia Tolentino’s writing. My favorite pieces of hers are about women’s relationships to beauty, and this week’s touches on that and more. “16 Signs You’re in a Women’s Magazine List About Some Bullshit” casually shish-kebabs those despicable girl-stereotyping listicles about, like, “59 Reasons Why You Live to Be Lazy With Your Boyfriend,” “52 Starbucks You Starbucks Starbucks Starbucks,” and “The 53 Things Only Girls With Fingernails, Hair, and Teeth Will Get.” I like hanging out in bed with my partners and having the dead keratin in my body extend from the tips of my hands (mani on fleek!!!) as much as anyone—I don’t mean to malign those things in and of themselves. But Jia gets why this form is an eyeroll factory, and turns it into something fantastic instead:
6. You want things, to the point where your whole life is defined by wanting. But it’s a want predicated on a strong floor of comfort, which is to say that you want but you don’t need. You’re not cold except for a more luxurious blanket to wrap around you while you order nachos. You’re not hungry, except maybe for a boyfriend that actually texts you back.
7. You’re almost to the bottom of this. Here’s the thing, like: if your friends are prettier than you, then do they make you look ugly in comparison? It’s hard to know, because when you see groups of friends, you see sort of their composite look, right? So if your friends are prettier than you then they’ve got to make you look prettier than you too, right? But wait, is that even possible? Can a person be prettier than herself? Hold on—is that what the whole magazine is trying to tell you? But are they trying to say it’s possible or that it’s not? Which is it? Are you stuck as the person you were born as, or can you become the person you want to be?
CAN A PERSON BE PRETTIER THAN HERSELF? I wish I knew.
AIRHORN!!!! Exciting time capsule news out of Boston: Workers repairing a leak at the Massachusetts State House have unearthed a time capsule buried by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. It’s believed to be the oldest unopened time capsule in the country!
My love of time capsules is well-documented, but this one is extra special: 60 years after the original box was embedded in a cornerstone of the building, repairs brought it back into the light. When it was put back, contemporary coins were thrown into the mortar mix. State officials haven’t yet decided whether they will return it to the building’s foundation with added goodies from our time, but if they do , future generations will get to open up a rare treat: a time capsule within a time capsule within a time capsule! A time capsule turducken!!!!
President Obama appeared on the Colbert Report this week, presumably to shill for healthcare.gov, but also to MAKE US LAUGH. President Obama sat down for an interview with Colbert (in character!), where he talked about the improved healthcare website and addressed the criticism he received for his executive action on immigration. He was adamant that his immigration order was “scrupulously within the law.” While taking over a segment called “The Word,” the President also mocked his own approval ratings. WORTH WATCHING.
I’m pretty pumped on Caitlin White’s list of top 25 YA novels of 2014: it looks like both Caitlin and I enjoyed Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar (it’s about Sylvia Plath and magical diaries, what is not to love?) and Una LaMarche’s Like No Other (a sweet, sad romance about a Hasidic girl and a black boy who fall for each other), so I know I’m going to love checking out the other novels she recommends.
In other book news, I was really moved by my fellow Australian Richard Flanagan’s decision to donate his Prime Minister’s Literary Award winnings of $40,000 to a literacy foundation that works with Indigenous youth, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. One of his reasons for the generous donation was his own history. As Flanagan, who also won the Man Booker Prize this year, said in his acceptance speech, “If me standing here tonight means anything, it is the power of literacy to change lives. The difference between my illiterate grandparents and me is two generations of free state education and literacy.”
I hurt myself laughing while reading Julieanne Smolinski’s IRL re-enaction of the 2003 rom-com How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Full of CRISPY ZINGERS such as pet-naming the dude she’s seeing “Old Meat,” and shenanigans like not finishing asandwich he had made her, this account was so funny I had to stop reading halfway through to prevent asphyxiation via my violent, body-shaking guffaws. Proceed with caution/a breathing bag nearby. ♦