Lunch Break Reads: Is Hello Kitty A Cat Or What?!, Liars, Canada's Nifty Russia/Not Russia Map, Shorter Men Are Rad, Literary Classics, and "The Parable of the Unjust Judge" / by Lars Garvey Laing-Peterson

DEVELOPING STORY: The Huffington Post reported last night that Hello Kitty is not, as many believed, a cat, but is a British girl (or something, I really don't know), and the internet all but fell apart. Then Sanrio stepped in to correct the situation, saying that Hello Kitty was not a human girl, but not necessarily specifying whether she was indeed a cat. Now, Sanrio says that "Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It's going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat."

"A personification of a cat"? Really, with a story this important, we're engaging in cat semantics?! Are you guys hitting the catnip over there at Sanrio headquarters?!

Maybe some mysteries were never meant to be solved.

Why must you lie, liars?!

This has been a bad week for Lunch Break Reads—two people I publicly praised have had their stories fall to pieces. First, Jesse, the young homeless man Miley Cyrus sent to collect her VMA award and to speak to America about youth homelessness, has holes poked in his claim about being homeless, namely that his family says he can come home any time he wants, but he chooses not to. And now Josh Shaw, who I called a "total badass" after stories came out that he destroyed his ankles jumping from a balcony to save his drowning nephew, has said that his heroic story is a fabrication

Just when I was learning to trust again!

Full story at The Wire.

Canada has decided to step in to help Russian troops not "accidentally" cross the border into Ukraine with the aid of this tweet and nifty map (which has been shared almost 18,000 times at the time of writing this). And if you thought this might annoy Russia a little bit, note that the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia earlier this year, is included in the "Not Russia" part of the map.

Full story at The Telegraph.

New Republic is reporting that shorter men make better boyfriends and husbands! Take that, all you tall jerks! Some of us never quite made it to 5'8", and we're going to make women happy in ways you never could... by doing an hour more of housework each week. (What, really?! Is that legally binding?) 

But anyways, we also are likely to earn more and aren't as likely to up and divorce our ladies. So, like, suck it, you lanky jerks! But, you know, before you do, can you help me get that thing off the top shelf?

This contrast, between a celebrated and largely unread classic and an enduringly popular classic, shows that a key to a work’s ongoing celebrity is that dangerous term: universality. We hold the word with suspicion because it tends to elevate one group at the expense of another; what’s supposedly applicable to all is often only applicable to a certain group that presumes to speak for everybody else. And yet certain elements and experiences do play a major role in most of our lives: falling in love, chasing a dream, and, yes, transitioning as Pinocchio does from childhood to adolescence. The classic that keeps on being read is the book whose situations and themes remain relevant over time—that miracle of interpretive openness that makes us feel as though certain stories, poems, and plays are written with us in mind.

The Paris Review examines why some classics continue to resonate today while others, well, don't. 

I made the conscious decision a while back to make Lunch Break Reads "lighter fare," especially as there's plenty of deep, dark, and heavy stuff going on most of the time, and I assume most TCoI readers are already well-versed in these stories and don't need any more reminders that the world is a cruel, awful place.

That said, I have noticed my mind wandering back to the tragedy and unfolding events in Ferguson, Missouri, with some regularity. The facts seem pretty clear cut to me: a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager by shooting him six times. The mental gymnastics needed to make those facts into a narrative where the white police officer acted out of any form of self defense are insane, and yet people are really trying to do this. Just a few days ago, Jon Stewart went after Fox News for their "outrage" at the coverage of the Ferguson tragedy (which Fox seemed to feel focused too much on race, because... I don't know why), and that segment should be required viewing.

Yesterday, The Toast put up a powerful, visceral piece from Ezekiel Kweku on how certain media outlets have covered the death of Michael Brown, and it struck me pretty hard.

In the days after Michael Brown’s death, we watched a sadly familiar story play out. The media ran pictures of him staring sullenly into the camera and making “gang” signs with his hands. They emphasized his weight and large frame, listened to his music and declared it “violent hip hop.” For their part, the police made certain to pair pertinent details about his death with seemingly irrelevant details about his life: releasing the long demanded name of the officer who shot him alongside surveillance footage of an unrelated shoplifting incident, leaking a toxicology report indicating that Brown had “marijuana in his system” at the same time they released an autopsy confirming that he’d been shot six times. Black people desperately tried to defend Michael Brown, pointing out that he was a child, that he was gentle, that he never got into any trouble, that he was going to college. If we fail to name the battleground being fought upon, this fight over what narrative to impose on the details of Brown’s life might seem oddly tangential to the argument over the circumstances of his death. So let’s be clear about the stakes of this conflict: we are trying to decide whether or not Michael Brown was a nigger. A dead human being is a tragedy that needs to be investigated and accounted for. A dead nigger doesn’t even need to be mourned, much less its death justified.

Michael Brown's death—which, frighteningly, isn't an anomaly, isn't something any of us can say is completely out of the norm for America or our police forces—has re-sparked a debate on race and media narratives that I think we all need to be a part of. Kweku's piece hits hard, but some things are meant to hurt, some ideas need to get knocked about, if only so we can reevaluate the way we live our lives and work towards a better future for everyone—not just comfortable middle-class white guys like me.

I'm truly exhausted, frustrated, and angry about living in a country where if I had been in Michael Brown's place, I would not have been shot. And if I had been shot, there wouldn't be any of this bullshit about leaking a toxicology report showing I was drunk along with my autopsy, no disgusting readings into my lifestyle—"Lars Laing-Peterson listened to violent punk rock music like White Lung and the Clash, and ran a website filled with controversial political views," facts about my life taken out of context and mentioned only to invoke ideas of anarchists throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at G8 summits, giving the police officer who shot me reasonable doubt for ending my life, despite the fact I was unarmed. "He looked like a crazed anarchist! I feared for my life. You know how those white punks can be."

The fact that we all know a "fear of white punk rockers" defense wouldn't work in any courtroom (or in the court of public opinion) makes it even more ludicrous that we still live in a country where every young black man can be made to seem like a violent gang member because they like rap music, and that indeed certain media outlets tried to make this out to be the case for Michael Brown.

When does it end? And how many more young people have to die before it does?