The Sunday Post for October 8, 2017

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

“Like Sonny Liston”: An Appreciation of Tom Petty

The best thing about this piece by the Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood is not his apt and lyrical assessment of Tom Petty’s achievements as a musician, or the wry anecdotes (Petty and the Replacements trading barbs on stage, Hood napping through a one-time chance to meet his hero). It’s how he articulates the different kinds of grief he felt last Monday: the devastating grief we all shared over the grotesque fucked-up-ed-ness of the shooting in Las Vegas — and our government’s continuing permission of such events — and the lesser but still painful loss of a much-loved musician. Many encomiums to Petty have ignored Las Vegas entirely, as if nothing else happened that day.

Thanks for not doing that, Patterson. Play on.

My pain and anger at all of this are so out of control and unfathomable that I don’t even know how to begin to process them. I don’t know how to address it. I sure as hell ain’t going downtown to raise a glass about it. I’m hoping that in time, maybe someone will wake the hell up before it’s too late (if it’s not already) and bring about some kind of real change in our bloodthirsty gun culture. I hope it happens before a massacre occurs in front of me or to one of my loved ones. When members of our government say that they are praying for the victims, I say, Save your prayers for yourself and the hell that I’m certain awaits you. Thoughts such as this are not constructive or helpful, but it’s all I have right now.

And Tom Petty has passed away. I can’t really fathom living in a world without him, but I know for a fact that I’ll never really have to. He lived a full life, not long enough, but fuller than most ever dream. He was loved by millions and left us a legacy of music that will live on for decades, perhaps centuries. He touched our lives and made each day, even the darkest ones, a little brighter and better.

To that, I can raise a glass and toast.

An Epitaph for Newsvine

Newsvine, the Seattle-based news site that helped pioneer citizen journalism as a credible alternative to professional reporting (the latter should probably have quotes, air or literal, at this point), closed its doors on October 2. The decade-plus in which Newsvine operated saw seismic changes for the industry, mostly driven by the vast shift in media consumption via social media. Co-founder Mike Davidson’s brief comment on the site’s origins and evolution during this time is both interesting and insightful.

When we look at how the average person’s news and media diet has changed over the last decade or so, we can trace it directly back to the way these and other modern organizations have begun feeding us our news. Up until 10 or 15 years ago, we essentially drank a protein shake full of news. A good amount of fruits and vegetables, some grains, some dairy, some tofu, and then a little bit of sugar, all blended together. Maybe it wasn’t the tastiest thing in the world but it kept us healthy and reasonably informed. Then, with cable news we created a fruit-only shake for half the population and a vegetable-only shake for the other half. Then with internet news, we deconstructed the shake entirely and let you pick your ingredients, often to your own detriment. And finally, with peer-reinforced, social news networks, we’ve given you the illusion of a balanced diet, but it’s often packed with sugar, carcinogens, and other harmful substances without you ever knowing. And it all tastes great!

If you're looking for more on the media, and you've somehow avoided an outraged adrenaline spike this Sunday morning, try this: Buzzfeed's Joseph Bernstein on how Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos made it okay to be a Nazi.

Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks

All of Eaters’ essays on the decline of the great American chain restaurant are excellent; the series is a delight to explore. But it’s Helen Rosner’s piece on the Olive Garden that won the Internet’s heart this week.

At first I thought that was just the web’s ongoing fascination with the OG. As an Applebee’s girl from childhood, I find this inexplicable (contrariwise, Chip Zdarsky’s gentle, loving mockery of his local Applebee’s has long been my favorite bit of restaurant irony).

But man, now I get it. Rosner’s essay is so good. It’s got art, metaphysics, memoir. It’s funny, contemplative, and knowledgeable. And it holds the menu hack to unlock a magical plate of toasted ravioli.

In the infinity of Olive Garden meals that make up my life, one stands out from the great glutinous mass of memory. It took place outside of Madison, Wisconsin, off a commercial strip that I vaguely remember abutting a retaining pond that was home to an extremely aggressive paddling of ducks. At this meal, two great things happened.

The first is that my boyfriend introduced me to toasted ravioli. This was — and remains — the single greatest thing Olive Garden has ever sold. “Toasted” is a euphemism for fried: The breadcrumb-coated squares of pasta are simultaneously crispy and chewy, filled with a savory meat paste that’s not dissimilar to the inside of a mild Jamaican beef patty. You dip them in warm marinara sauce, which comes in a ramekin on the side.

My boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks after we shared that meal, and when I next entered one of the many doors of the infinite and singular Olive Garden, I wanted the toasted ravioli appetizer, but I couldn’t find it on the menu. The toasted ravioli turned out to be a parable: I scanned the name of every dish on the menu, hoping the next and the next and the next would turn out to be the one I was looking for, and came up with nothing. Here’s the secret: They were right at the beginning all along. Tell your server you want to Create A Sampler Italiano, the very first thing listed on the menu, which involves selecting two or three items from a set of options, toasted ravioli among them, listed in the description in quotidian roman type. Then make every single choice the toasted ravioli.

The Touch of Madness

Nev Jones, a brilliant young philosophy student, noticed one day that a nearby stone wall was both solid and infinitely porous — so much space between its molecules that you could almost blow it away with a puff of breath. It sounds like typical college-kid pretension, but for Jones, it was the first note in a symphony of mental disorder. Writer David Dobbs paired up with Jones (now a successful psychologist) to document America’s self-defeating, isolating response to madness and how it leads us right to the outcomes we’re most afraid of.

Monday, April 21st, 2008, was a particularly fine spring morning in Chicago, with a warming sun and magnolia blossoms scenting the air. The kind of day that, after a tough winter, can seem a miracle, lifting one's spirits and hopes. Jones, ready to start the week's classes and only a few weeks away from summer, was enjoying the walk to campus when she noticed she had a voicemail from Dr. Holland.

Holland seldom had reason to call. Jones became anxious as soon as she saw the message. She would later see the call, and the news it relayed, as the moment in which she went from clinging to a safe place within a small subculture to being flung away from it. The effect would prove catastrophic and lasting.