Your Weekend Reader for Nov. 20-21

by | Nov 20, 2021 | Arts and Entertainment, Journalism, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

Thanksgiving is Thursday, and so I vowed to stuff this edition of Your Weekend Reader with stories that evoked some sense of gratitude — and that vow lasted until Monday morning, when I read this OPB story about how supply-chain issues are beginning to affect Oregon food banks. As you wrap up your Thanksgiving preparations, you might consider donating to your local food bank — and remember, these organizations have experience at turning cash donations into plenty of food. So we can be grateful for that.

The gratitude also effort took a bit of a hit when I came across this new Atlantic cover story from Anne Applebaum, who writes about the growth of autocracy around the globe: If the 20th century was marked by the triumph of liberal democracy, she writes, the 21st century thus has belonged to the autocrats — and now they’re sharing pages from the same playbook.

Staying with The Atlantic for a bit: If you’re looking for a new way to think about the not guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Adam Serwer examines how a claim of self-defense — which legally (and not surprisingly) prevailed in this case — has long been tied up with politics and gun culture in the United States. Especially troublesome, Serwer writes, is how Rittenhouse has become a folk hero among right-wingers; it’s no surprise that Rittenhouse’s first sit-down interview will be with Tucker Carlson. Here’s more about the high hurdles prosecutors in the case faced to disprove the self-defense claim.

Speaking of guns, The New York Times last week featured a report on America’s surge in homicide by focusing on four August cases across the nation. The most heartbreaking of the four — and, in some ways, the most atypical — occurred in Pleasant Hill, Oregon. The Times story is similar to a more ambitious series that The Oregonian/OregonLive has launched, “Under the Gun,” which aims to track what has become the most violent year in Portland’s modern history — at this writing, Monday morning, the city has recorded 75 homicides, the vast majority of them by gun.

Let’s be grateful that this Thanksgiving won’t be like last year’s, at least in terms of COVID. As Aimee Green of The Oregonian/OregonLive writes, last year Oregon was in the midst of its third surge and vaccinations hadn’t started. It would be a shame if this Thanksgiving fueled a rebound in COVID cases, and Green’s story outlines simple precautions to help prevent that. Speaking of vaccinations, this wouldn’t be a bad week to get that booster shot, if you haven’t already. And speaking of COVID, here’s a piece by The Atlantic’s Rachel Gutman examining what we know now about the disease’s seasonality. (For one thing, we know it won’t “miraculously” go away “when it gets a little warmer;” the picture is somewhat more complicated than that.)

I’ve found Robinson Meyer’s weekly Atlantic newsletter about climate change, “The Weekly Planet,” to be essential reading — and, as a big plus, it often offers reason for at least measured optimism. This past week’s edition focused on the seven Democrats who will decide the fate of Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill — or, at the headline modestly put it, “The 7 Democrats Who Will Decide the World’s Fate.” And there’s an Oregon tie here: One of the seven is U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader. (There’s a bonus if you read to the end of the newsletter: It features a spectacular sunrise photograph of Mount Hood. So we can be thankful for that.)

Be thankful, also, for Portland State professor Douglas Wolk, who read more than 27,000 Marvel comic books, so you don’t have to. Wolk did this labor for his new book, “All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told.” I had heard about the book, but I didn’t know about the Oregon connection until I came across this OPB story. And here’s a link to a review of the book in The New York Times. Reviewer Junot Díaz (no slouch himself as a writer) calls Wolk’s book “brilliant, eccentric, moving and wholly wonderful.”

Another reason for gratitude: This coming week brings the premiere, on Disney Plus, of Peter Jackson’s “Get Back,” a seven-plus hour documentary about The Beatles during the time when the band was working on the “Let It Be” album. The rap about this period in Beatles history is that it was a grim slog and that the band was falling apart. This story, from The New York Times’ Ben Sisario, suggests that the truth is considerably more complex. (As the truth tends to be.)

Still have your hair? Be grateful for that. I’m starting to suspect that my hair is beginning to fall out — and apparently I’m not alone, as The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull explains.

Looking for something to do this weekend and next week? Be grateful that you have plenty of options, and you can find them listed in my curated and frequently updated calendar of local arts-and-entertainment events.

Finally this week, the last word about gratitude goes to Abraham Lincoln — or, more likely, William Seward, his secretary of state. It was in October 1863 when Lincoln signed a proclamation urging Americans to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving. (The proclamation itself likely was written by Seward.) At the time of the proclamation, it would seem as if the nation had little reason to be grateful, mired as it was in a devastating Civil War. And yet, the proclamation lays out a compelling case for gratitude. I was particularly struck this year by the last few words of the proclamation, which urges Americans to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.” Check out the proclamation yourself before you dig into Thursday’s feast. And I’ll see you next weekend.

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