On this day, 74 years ago, three young adults placed their heads beneath a guillotine and prepared to die. Their crime? Speaking out against the Nazis with graffiti and hand-printed pamphlets. Their names? Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst. It was a violent end to a peaceful student movement known as the White Rose—one that used the power of language to resist the horrors of the Nazi regime.
4. This dude caught a baseball bat as it helicoptered toward him:
6. Every New York Times Cover Since 1852. This quick video shows how and when images began to appear in the paper of record. It’s arresting and oddly poignant, to think about all of the news that came and went. We survived all of the things reported there. Perhaps we will survive today’s challenges too.
5. This Dictionary Keeps Subtweeting Trump and Here’s the Full Story. This is about way more than the Trump administration’s creative (some would say sinister) use of language, and how Merriam-Webster is handling it. It’s about creating a social media presence that’s sharp and authentic. The descriptivist stuff at the end is interesting too.
As anyone who studied linguistics in college may remember, most modern dictionaries embrace what is known as a descriptivist view of language. Rather than insisting on the so-called proper usage of a word or phrase (an approach known as prescriptivism), today most lexicographers (i.e., people who work at dictionaries) study the way words are actually being used and make note accordingly. That’s how you end up with, for example, dictionary entries for “they” in the third-person singular form or “heart” as a verb.
Inherent in this descriptivist approach, then, is the notion that a dictionary is a rather passive creature, monitoring the public conversation but not injecting itself into it.
That, of course, is being somewhat challenged by Merriam-Webster having a Twitter account with such a forceful public voice.
Our culture is drowning in listicles and fad approaches to nutrition. The truth is, we know what constitutes a healthy life, and the rest is commentary (and maybe even clickbaity propaganda).
In an email, Michael Joyner, a physiologist at the Mayo Clinic, told me that we overcomplicate everything when it comes to health. He then pointed me to an obituary in the New York Times of Lester Breslow, a researcher who, the Times reported, “gave mathematical proof to the notion that people can live longer and healthier by changing habits like smoking, diet and sleep.” Breslow identified seven key factors to living a healthy life:
Do not smoke; drink in moderation; sleep seven to eight hours; exercise at least moderately; eat regular meals; maintain a moderate weight; eat breakfast.
I’m still making my way through this beautifully-written essay about books, blackness, femaleness, and hiking. But I feel confident recommending it because it was recommended by Linda Holmes on Pop Culture Happy Hour and she’s never steered me wrong.
For many, the Appalachian Trail is a footpath of numbers. There are miles to Maine. The daily chance of precipitation. Distance to the next campsite with a reliable water source. Here, people cut the handles off of toothbrushes to save grams. Eat cold meals in the summer months to shave weight by going stoveless. They whittle medicine kits down to bottles of ibuprofen. Carry two pairs of socks. One pair of underwear.
…Few nonessentials are carried on this trail, and when they are — an enormous childhood teddy bear, a father’s bulky camera — it means one thing: The weight of this item is worth considerably more than the weight of its absence.
Everyone had something out here. The love I carried was books. Exceptional books. Books by black authors, their photos often the only black faces I would talk to for weeks. These were writers who had endured more than I’d ever been asked to, whose strength gave me strength in turn.
Behold, the only version of #MAGA I’m on board with. Excerpt:
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
And I really need my generation to get over itself. According to baby boomers, life will never be as sublime as it was when we played jacks on the sidewalk while waiting for the ice cream man to make his rounds. I guess it’s a leftover part of our general thinking circa 1968: that we knew everything then and would continue the trend.
If you need some inspiration mingled with motivation to get your butt in gear, today’s post is for you.
1. Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965: I just picked up this six-part documentary about the civil rights movement and can’t wait to watch it again. My 11th-grade AP government teacher arranged a viewing of this series after school, and he felt it was so important that anyone who watched the whole thing would get two points on their entire semester grade. I showed up for the grade. I stayed because it was riveting and heartbreaking and convicting.
“This is not what we fought for, having been in Iraq and working with these interpreters,” Buchalter said in a phone interview Sunday. When he saw an Iraqi family emerge from detention, he presented them with something he hoped would convey America’s goodwill — a Purple Heart.
The best of who we are.
6. “First They Came”: The Poem of the Protests. A lovely article about the Rev. Martin Niemoller and his poem that launched a thousand protest signs. There are many versions of the poem, which speaks to its power, but this one is displayed in the Holocaust Museum here in DC:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
[The words] quickly became popular, from there, as a lyrical argument for civil rights and collective action—and, more broadly, for simple empathy. The quote was that rarest of things: a political argument grounded in religious tradition.
In 1933, Niemöller [said], he and his fellow clergy members included in the founding documents of the Pfarrernotbund the idea that any action made against a minister of Jewish heritage would be considered an action against the collective. As he put it: “That was probably the first anti-antisemitic pronouncement coming from the Protestant Church.”
1. A popcorn kernel popping at 30,000 frames per second. Watch it bloom:
2. Productivity in Terrible Times. OK, not everyone who reads this blog is dismayed by the state of the world. But for those of you who are, how can you possibly care about completing your TPS reports amid the spread of crypto-fascism? Good advice here. [Language warning.]
It is not a good idea for you to resign from stable work that supports your family and community because you’re no longer satisfied by SQL queries. The Trevor Project needs your donation more than they need a JS developer proficient in easing animation.
3. The Moana soundtrack. The kids and I have this on high rotation lately. We’re all going to be OK, because Lin-Manuel Miranda.
4. This wisdom from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez:
“Nothing ever goes according to plan. When I hear new filmmakers talk, they [complain] about their film. “Nothing worked, it was a disappointment.” They don’t realize: that’s the job. The job is that nothing is going to work at all, and you have to turn that into a positive, and get something much better than if you had all the time and money in the world.”
Demonstrators protest against U.S. President Donald Trump during the Women’s March inside Karura forest in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya NYTCREDIT: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
6. Deeper reading.I wrote the other week about setting up some systems and tools to allow me to read more deeply and without online distraction. I’m happy to say it’s going well. Go to my Goodreads if you’re interested in what I’m reading right now.
9. Kitty! We adopted a kitten six days ago, to fill out our household and give Baxter a friend since his brother died four weeks ago of a heart defect. Rey is ten weeks old and just as fearless as her namesake in The Force Awakens. She’s also jet black:
We’ve been introducing the two cats to one another slowly, and it’s been going well. Rey hisses a little, and Baxter gives her a wide berth when she seems nervous. Last night Robert and I were overjoyed to see the two cats playing together! Stalking, chasing, batting at toys together. It’s the happiest we’ve seen Baxter in weeks.
10. The Oscar nominations have been announced!How many of the Best Picture nominees have you seen? For the second year, I’ll be joining my mother for the Best Picture marathon at the AMC in Georgetown. Nine movies in 24 hours. It’s insane and awesome. I’ve only seen one of the nine, Arrival, and am happy to see it again.
From the film Moonlight, which is the one I’m most excited to see, followed by Hidden Figures and Lion.