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Azadeh Moaveni’s extraordinary look at the lives of women who worked for ISIS is something I hope everyone in the world reads:

The Islamic State has come to be known around the world by names like ISIS and ISIL. But in Raqqa, residents began calling it Al Tanzeem: The Organization. And it quickly became clear that every spot in the social order, and any chance for a family to survive, was utterly dependent on the group.

Not only had Raqqa residents become subjects of the Organization’s mostly Iraqi leadership, but their place in society fell even further overnight. As foreign fighters and other volunteers began streaming into town, answering the call to jihad, they became the leading lights of the shaken-up community. In Raqqa, the Syrians had become second-class citizens — at best.

Dua, Aws and Asma were among the lucky: The choice to join was available to them. And each chose to barter her life, through work and marriage, to the Organization.

Jealousy is a terrible thing. The triumphs of my sisters are my triumphs as well. That BITCH Anne Helen Petersen got to hang out with ENYA, are you KIDDING ME (also, the piece is incredible):

Her look, like her sound, seems to exist outside of time. In her songs, there are no references to objects, technological or otherwise: just emotions, swells, landscapes, time. In her real life, she checks her email once every few weeks, and even then, very quickly. “It feels so cold,” she says, making a face like she’d bitten into a lemon. “The energy is no good. I’d rather go for a walk.”

(sinks to the ground, makes quiet mewling noises)

Having hurled myself joyously into the depths of my Daniel Craig obsession, I rewatched him in the 1997 adaptation of Minette Walters’ The Ice House (I had seen it ages ago, but couldn’t remember if his character read Robert Burns’ poetry out loud with a sexy Scottish accent like he does in the novel: HE DOES NOT, which was a mistake.)

MinetteWaltersCollection-TheIceH-4 Guess who else is in this movie? A lil itty-bitty baby James D’Arcy!


These things are always super cheesy and aimed to soothe terrified Americans, but Buzzfeed’s “I’m a Muslim, But I’m Not…” video still made me smile and I’m glad it exists.

Why Mr. Snuffleupagas had to become real (this whole thing is the BEST):

Delgado: We were all amazed that this giant elephant-looking thing was actually real. You get a big reaction from everybody, and everybody was very happy Big Bird had been telling the truth all along. He was very happy people believed him.

Stiles: Big Bird [said] “Well, now what do you have to say?” You know, that was really hismoment, and I just loved giving him the opportunity to say that.

Rubin: It was incredibly respectful of a child. The conversation did not diminish Big Bird, it wasn’t dismissive or pandering. It’s how you hope a conversation with someone wishing to be heard would go.

Delgado: It was kind of a big party. And Big Bird has a child’s mind, so he was satisfied. Like, “See, I told you he was real!”

Near the end of the episode, cast member Bob McGrath makes a pointed comment: “From now on, we’ll believe you whenever you tell us something.”

Rubin: It was so honest. Some parents get caught up in authoritarian mode and don’t have the flexibility to retract, recant, or acknowledge a kid’s reality. He was the collective voice of parents—”Sorry, we should’ve listened.”

Highly NSFW, but this collection of Alvin Baltrop’s photographs of gay men cruising on the West Side piers in the 1970s and 1980s is so beautiful and wistful and tender and sensual, and if I were in NYC, I would be going to MoMA PS1 to see the “Greater New York” exhibition in which they feature.

Meredith Talusan spoke to Eddie Redmayne about The Danish Girl, and it was one of those interviews where I realized that I had taken my “ugh another cis dude playing a trans woman” irritation and put it on a PERSON instead of an industry, and I came away thinking that he was a thoughtful person, and I loved that Meredith brought such generosity of spirit to the table with her.

Beloved Friend of The Toast Heather Seggel wrote a piece on her ten years of homelessness for Broadly, and it will not inspire you to think the government handles housing well:

That tiny place in Ukiah I won’t be moving into was appealing for its reasonable rent, but also because I am on a waiting list through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for something called a Housing Choice Voucher. When I reach the top of the list, it means that if I find a place that will accept my voucher, my rent will scale up and down with my income, but the landlord is paid in full no matter what. It’s subsidized housing, just with more options for where to go. It also means the place has to pass a very elementary inspection that my rented trailer would never have survived, increasing the chances of my being in a safe home. To most people, maybe a home without mice and rats and as many as seven leaks is something to take for granted, but when you’ve experienced the alternative, it takes on special value.

When I moved back to Sonoma County I added myself to the waiting list here but knew it was a fool’s errand: A year ago the wait was estimated to be six to eight years; it’s currently seven to ten. I learned just recently that my own wait would most likely be even longer because my address (despite being a temporary one I must vacate) is in the county seat. This means I will be continually moved to the last place in line behind not just seniors, veterans and the disabled, but also those from rural zip codes. This news went hand in hand with my experience trying to get waitlisted for a low-income apartment through the county’s biggest supplier—they immediately denied me a spot on the list for low-income housing because my income was too low. That bears repeating: my income is ­too low for low-income housing. No matter that in a lifetime where I’ve never once made three times the rent in a single month, I have always paid on time and in full. Just, “Nope.”

Loved this complex look at the student protests in South Africa and the political and generational fault lines they reveal, especially as the US watches what’s happening at Mizzou and elsewhere:

But there was also a powerful emotional component to the denial. What else had blacks fought for over so many years, if not their children’s release from a suffering black identity? When I flew into Cape Town to visit UCT, the Uber driver who picked me up from the airport, a black man from a township called Langa, spontaneously told me a potent story. His son was 14, he said; he was 50. Recently, his son had come to him to ask him what apartheid had done to him, his father. The question had made the older man feel angry. “I don’t want you to know about the past,” he had told his son. “You are free of all that!”

I’m sure you have all seen the video where Adele pretends to be an Adele impersonator, which made me cry for NO GOOD REASON, but if not, here it is.

Another cherished Friend of The Toast (he gives us money, and I love him) Randall Munroe explained general relativity in The New Yorker:

There once was a doctor with cool white hair. He was well known because he came up with some important ideas. He didn’t grow the cool hair until after he was done figuring that stuff out, but by the time everyone realized how good his ideas were, he had grown the hair, so that’s how everyone pictures him. He was so good at coming up with ideas that we use his name to mean “someone who’s good at thinking.” Two of his biggest ideas were about how space and time work. This thing you’re reading right now explains those ideas using only the ten hundred words people use the most often.1 The doctor figured out the first idea while he was working in an office, and he figured out the second one ten years later, while he was working at a school. That second idea was a hundred years ago this year. (He also had a few other ideas that were just as important. People have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he was so good at thinking.)

Alana Massey wrote “Theological Scars” for Hazlitt:

My greatest fear in writing this is not admitting my lack of faith but being exposed to the weak faith of others. I have written before about my profound love of Christianity but the absence of God in my life, and I was bombarded with emails from men admonishing my unbelief as if I had any control over it—and worse, having the hubris to believe they would personally shepherd me back to the faith. Whatever puny god these men believe in that makes human instruction rather than divine intervention the pathway by which people recognize grace again is not the god I miss. Don’t they know that such requests for my faith to be restored ought to be sent toward the heavens and not into my inbox?

The only comforting words I’ve actually ever gotten in my inbox were after I sent an email to a religious literary scholar. I told him how much I admired his work because despite having no faith, I saw his reverence to the topic as the last hope for religious authenticity in America. He thanked me for my unprompted words and ended by saying, “And please recall that apostates honor the Church as heretics do not. Heretics do it the disservice of misinterpreting its Message, while apostates pay it the huge compliment of rejection. And of course the one who rejects can still be come the one who accepts, as the heretic cannot!” He wrote with warmth and hope without sacrificing any of his conviction. That was a man of God.

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