Frequent readers will know that merely saying the words “Oscar Pistorius” in my presence without adding “the murderer” sends me into a tailspin, and I could not put down “Bantu In The Bathroom”) London Review of Books):
It soon became clear that a strange, racially charged and legally confused distinction would be at the heart of the trial. If Pistorius didn’t fire the shots through the toilet door in the knowledge that Steenkamp was inside, then he believed he was shooting at an intruder, in which case the charge of premeditated murder wouldn’t hold up. There was no doubt that the second possibility was seen – or rather would be presented by Barry Roux for the defence – as the lesser offence, and not just because the legal category of ‘putative private defence’ (defending oneself against a presumed attacker, even if the presumption was wrong) could present the shooting as a legitimate response to fear. What was largely unspoken was that in the second case we can be more or less certain that the person killed in the bathroom would be – could only be – imagined as black. ‘As the judge will not have failed to register,’ the journalist John Carlin writes inChase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius, ‘if his story were true – and even if it were not – the faceless intruder of his imagination had to have had a black face, because the fact was that for white people crime mostly did have a black face.’
Margie Orford was one of the few to draw out the racist implications. ‘It is,’ she wrote in an article for South Africa’s Sunday Times, ‘the threatening body, nameless and faceless, of an armed and dangerous black intruder … the contemporary version of the laager’; it is ‘nothing more than the reclaiming of the old white fear of the swart gevaar’ – the black peril. For Orford, there is something profoundly amiss – morally, for sure, and perhaps legally – if this is Pistorius’s main defence. ‘If Pistorius was not shooting to kill the woman with whom he had just been sharing a bed,’ she continues, ‘those four bullets indicate that there is still no middle ground. Because whoever Pistorius thought was behind that door, firing at such close range meant that when he finished there would be a body on that bathroom floor.’ A Bantu in the bathroom. Or to elaborate McKaiser’s point: in the white racist imagination, the only Bantu permitted in a white bathroom is a Bantu who is dead. Depending on how you look at it, the killing of Reeva Steenkamp was either a sex crime or a race crime.
You probably can’t read the whole thing, because I have Slate Plus and you don’t, but:
Gabriel Roth: What did you say when Slate asked you to consider becoming Dear Prudence?
Mallory Ortberg: I think I asked Julia [Turner, Slate’s editor in chief,] if she was my friend Nicole messing with me, and that if she was, I was never going to forgive her. It was like being asked if I wanted to be Santa Claus, or happiness, or Calliope, the muse of poetry. I was astonished and so thrilled. It wasn’t even something I had thought to want, and then the moment it was suggested to me, I was consumed by the wanting of it. I’m so glad to be here.
That being said, ALL OF US can read her first normal Prudie column:
Q. Baby Name Rudeness: Welcome, Mallory! My husband and I are expecting a baby girl and have chosen the name “Charlie.” I realize this is a slightly unconventional name for a girl, but I think it’s adorable. As we have started sharing the name, we have gotten more than one rude comment (usually from acquaintances or strangers who ask). These comments are generally along the lines of: “For a girl?” or “Wouldn’t you like to save that name for a boy?” What is the best way to respond to these comments? I want to let people know that they are being inappropriate and rude, but I don’t think saying, “What the hell is wrong with you?” (what I’m thinking) is the best response.
A: I always wonder when people say something like, “That’s a terrible name” to a stranger describing her yet-to-be-born child. What’s their projected outcome? “Ah, I see how terrible that name, which I liked enough to give my child five seconds ago, is now. Thank you. I shall name my daughter after you and send her to you for seven years of service when she becomes a woman”?
I think Charlie’s a nice name. Leslie used to be a boy’s name, and look at where that got Leslie Howard. (Well. He died a hero’s death during World War II, but you see my point.)
Beloved Friend of The Toast Jaya Saxena nearly sliced her thumb off with a mandoline last week and had to have it chemically cauterized, and what a great opportunity to remind you that I once wrote a fake history of the mandoline (DO NOT USE A MANDOLINE, also, any victim-blaming of Jaya for being viciously attacked by a mandoline will be deleted and the user’s IP will be blocked, do not try me, I do NOT joke about mandolines):
The mandoline was invented in the late 18th century by Doctor Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (better known for his eponymous creation) and named after his ex-girlfriend, Mandy. Marie Antoinette, struck by their cunning charms and miniature stature, ordered that one be placed in every room of the Petit Trianon, for doll executions. Following her death in 1793, her nephew, Francis II, asked for and received his aunt’s remaining mandolines (four having been irreparably damaged during their attempted escape from Paris.)
Neda Semnani on her father’s capture and execution during the Iranian Revolution:
After the Amol uprising, I stayed with my father most days, while my mother worked. He would spend hours telling me fantastic stories, and as he told them, he would draw matching pictures in a notebook, which I still have. When I wasn’t with him, my father would fill his days sculpting and painting. He’d make children’s toys that had secret compartments perfect for passing messages—just the pastime for a revolutionary family. He built nesting boxes made of blond wood that held together without nails. On each box, he painted delicate pink peonies. I still have the boxes hidden in my closet. As a child, I thought them the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I still think they are wonderful, and I am constantly afraid something will happen to them, and they will disappear.
The New Yorker has a fascinating profile of Megan Phelps-Roper, who is no longer being a horrible monster (I don’t want to be flip about that, actually, because I think these kids grew up under a ton of emotional and physical and spiritual abuse, but I also know that if you had Megan shrieking profanity at you about your dead uncle sucking dick in hell, watching her not-do-that anymore and get credit for it might be grating.
What’s remarkable in this story is learning how the patient engagement on Twitter with her awful ideas by real, well-meaning people eventually changed her heart, and I found it profoundly moving):
Phelps-Roper increasingly found herself turning to Bible passages where tragedy is not met with joy. The Old Testament prophet Elisha, for example, weeps when he foresees disaster for Israel. One day in July, 2011, Phelps-Roper was on Twitter when she came across a link to a series of photographs about a famine in Somalia. The first image was of a tiny malnourished child. She burst into tears at her desk. Her mother asked what was wrong, and Phelps-Roper showed her the gallery. Her mother quickly composed a triumphant blog post about the famine. “Thank God for famine in East Africa!” she wrote. “God is longsuffering and patient, but he repays the wicked TO THEIR FACE!” When Brittany Murphy died, Phelps-Roper had seen the disparity between her reaction and that of the rest of the church as a sign that something was wrong with her. Now the contradiction of her mother’s glee and her own sadness made her wonder if something was wrong with the church.
Phelps-Roper’s conversations with C.G. often drifted away from morality. C.G. liked indie rock and literary fiction. He introduced Phelps-Roper to bands like the Antlers, Blind Pilot, and Cults—“funnily enough,” she said—and to the novels of David Foster Wallace and Marilynne Robinson. “Hipster shit,” Phelps-Roper said. He turned her on to the Field Notes brand of notebooks. He poked fun at the inelegant fonts that Westboro used for its press releases. After C.G. complimented her on her grammar, she took pains to make sure that her tweets were free of clunky text-message abbreviations.
I honestly don’t want to quote the entire story, but, I MEAN, the Jewish people are the real heroes in this story:
When David Abitbol learned that the sisters had left Westboro, he invited them to speak at the next Jewlicious festival in Long Beach. They agreed, hoping that the experience might help them to find their way, and to finally understand a community that they had vilified for so long. “It was like we were just reaching out and grabbing on to whatever was around,” Megan said. Abitbol said, “People, before they met them, were, like, ‘So, now they’re not batshit-crazy gay haters and we’re supposed to love them? Fuck that.’ ” He added, “And then they heard them speak, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” The sisters befriended their hosts, an Orthodox rabbi and his family. They went kosher-grocery shopping together, and Megan and Grace looked after the kids. Grace became especially close with the family, and ended up staying for more than a month. “They were amazing and super-kind,” Phelps-Roper said. Abitbol joked about the dramatic role reversal: “ ‘Your Rabbi Is a Whore’? Your rabbi is a host.”
Some day a time may come when there is an article about Freaks and Geeks I do not immediately need to tell you about, but today is not yet that day (Martin Starr, you are my HEART, and also your character in Silicon Valley is every dude who’s ever successfully negged me):
Samm Levine: Of the three geeks, Martin was definitely doing the most acting. Which isn’t to say we weren’t acting, but I just didn’t have to stretch very far as an actor to reach the apex of Neal.
Starr: I saw Bill Haverchuck as thoughtful and kind and scared and genuine. I mean, those aren’t different from the ways I saw myself at certain times, either, but it’s from a different perspective. I had just done a lot of my own internal work, and made distinct choices in how to carry myself, where he walked from, where he talked from, how he moved, how his speech was affected, what was important to him. But it was easy, because their writing system ended up being built around the characters we created.
Why independent content producers may need to band together and sue Facebook:
When Google acquired YouTube in 2006, they knew that one of the site’s greatest weaknesses (and one they were inviting into their whole company) were the lawsuits that would eventually be filed by large copyright holders. Viacom eventually did send that suit.
But they lost it because, in 2007, YouTube created Content ID, a system that checks every single video uploaded to YouTube against a massive database of copyrighted content (including many thousands of videos that are uploaded by independent content creators every day.)
Facebook uses a similar system, and it does a really good job of preventing the upload of videos from large copyright holders like Disney, Viacom, and the NFL. It does not, however, allow independent rights holders to upload to it.
Deleted comment of the day, from Ed, who sounds mad (I definitely wanted to approve it, but then sometimes that makes the system approve his OTHER comments, which, trust me, you don’t want, because Ed is a real dick):
— Mike Dang (@reportermike) November 16, 2015
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.