Discover more from The Crunchwrap by Adam Chandler
The ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Edition
Ukraine + how to talk about life right now
Happy(?) Wednesday and welcome back to The Crunchwrap.
This is the third version of a letter I’m writing — a breezier one from Friday seemed weird and cold to send out considering Ukraine, the news, and the sorrows of the world. Then, a much bleaker one I wrote for Sunday felt a bit intense to share with folks who may only be receiving this because I often write about hamburgers.
Because I suppose the tension is universal, I’ve decided to split the difference here and talk a little bit about these competing energies.
Even if it’s nominally my job to sort out how to talk about things, it always feels odd to assume readers’ priorities here. After all, there are SEVERAL ongoing global catastrophes vying for our attentions, actions, and empathy. We’re still in a pandemic and have been for two years. (We’re bifurcated there, too. The CDC is saying 70 percent of people in the U.S. can stop wearing masks indoors, a majority of voters [that no one seems to know about] thinks we should keep wearing them, and ~2,000 people a day are still dying in the U.S.)
I’m writing this from Texas where last week, as I was packing my suitcase to fly here, the governor decided to empower citizens to report as child abusers, the parents of minors pursuing gender transitioning procedures. (Full disclosure: I still not only flew here, but I’ve been posting dumb pictures of brisket on Instagram.)
The reality is that not everyone wants to gaze into the abyss. Or to gaze into it all the time. Or to acknowledge the existence of the abyss at all.
Not to be that guy (with any real malice), but at the same time that the U.S. was leveling sanctions on Russian oligarchs last week, the Treasury Department also announced new sanctions on the Houthis, the Iran-backed rebels that control Yemen’s north in a civil war that’s been raging for almost seven years now. Yemen is and remains the ongoing site of the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world,even if there aren’t many Facebook flag filters dedicated to it.
* * *
Look, nobody likes a glib asshole, even if they tune into Real Time With Bill Maher. If I’m cranky, it’s because it feels as frivolous to be angry about things as it feels to be evasive of them. Our attention feels overspent and our lack of capacity to engage with more crises feels exacerbated by the all-encompassing awfulness of this moment. And everything seems dumb as a result of it. I get the sense I’m not alone.
Writing ahead of the State of the Union, Jacob Bacharach observed how the speech — as an already awkward spectacle back in the days of Jefferson (who ended the practice for a century) — is now somewhere between weird and insufferable in the era of social media political theater:
We find ourselves watching a regional industry dinner, the sorry spectacle of insiders wallowing in self-congratulation over rubber chicken amid too much applause.
In spite of this, the theater still matters, right? If you're a fan of the president, promulgating the sense that things aren’t actually as bad as they seem in America is critical to the political future of Biden and his party. Elsewhere, even if there’s little they may be able to do about it, protestors in Russia are risking their lives just to let the rest of the world know they don’t co-sign the ongoing atrocity in Ukraine.
And, in some ways, even the actions that seem a bit empty — like those Ukrainian flag filters on Facebook — must have some generative effect in shaping sentiment. For those for whom this is deeply personal, it absolutely matters.
On Monday night, I got this email from an old coworker:
I gave what I could and I’m sharing the link, which intimates that the money goes directly to the Ukrainian armed forces. If maybe, possibly giving directly to foreign armies isn’t in your practice, here’s a good Washington Post primer on how you can help in other ways. For now, I’m not sure what else we can do.
Since this week’s Crunchwrap has a real whiplash motif to it, here are two videos that really bring the highs and lows of life into focus.
The first one is the fantasy: A one-minute supercut of AP correspondent Philip Crowther reporting the news from Ukraine in half of dozen languages:
This, of course, spawned no shortage of lusty responses:
The second video is the reality: Local correspondent Myles Harris getting embarrassed by his mom as he tries to report in Columbus, Ohio:
Snack of the Week: Instant Pot Arroz con Pollo
I appreciate the amount of hate mail I got after posting a tofu recipe in the last Crunchwrap. This week, I’m going to back to my roots, which means a decadent meatly dish prepared in a way that relies on gadgets that tend to annoy people.
The best part about this recipe from Daniela Galarza is that you only need an Instant Pot for the whole shebang. The chicken is browned using the sauté function and the rice (along with everything else) gets cooked using the pressure feature. Also, it’s delicious and pretty easy.
Chef’s notes: You DON’T need an Instant Pot to make this. I went with chicken thighs instead of drumsticks and instead of the achiote oil, I just used regular ol’ vegetable oil and added more spice during the second step. The recipe says 45 minutes, but for tramps like us, an hour is more likely (especially if you go with chicken thighs).
Nu, what else?
If you didn’t get to that viral piece by Jen Senior talking about how friendships tends to erode (often unintentionally, organically) in adulthood, you really ought to read it. I left the tab open on my computer for two weeks so…consider this a belated endorsement. It’s a perfectly executed piece of writing that may resonate if the pandemic has you reevaluating your relationships.
How bad/insane are people being to flight attendants these days? UNBELIEVABLY bad/insane. This Maggie P. Jones story will flabbergast ya.
I made an appearance on the BBC World News to talk about my Atlantic piece on the rise of online sports betting in America. Two important things happened:
The first is that failed to adequately light my office.
The second is that I inadvertently wore the exact same outfit as the intrepid host, Nuala McGovern.
I appreciate everyone who gave me shit about this.
That’s it for this Crunchwrap. Thanks as always for reading.
In another bleak, black twist, according to human rights groups, designating the Houthis as terrorists and some disrupting their finances will make the humanitarian crisis even worse.
Meanwhile, the American party in that picnic, a Saudi-led coalition, has also been been committing war crimes left and right and we’re now distancing ourselves from them.