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#FridayReads

February 3, 2012

My friends and colleagues are giving me a serious inferiority complex:

  • I swear, every time I turn around, the mighty Michael Washburn has a new piece in a premiere publication.  This past weekend, he was back at it again in the pages of the New York Times Sunday book review with a tight little piece on our nation’s favorite handgun, the Glock.
  • The wonderful Liza Featherstone has quietly established herself as one of our best writers on education–a fact established yet again in the pages of the Brooklyn Rail this month.  Liza explores the privatization of the minds of students and parents in American public schools, noting that “Public schooling should draw families into the public sphere and make us more engaged citizens. But the privatization of the system has quite the opposite effect. Parents act more like consumers than members of a community, simply switching schools when we are unhappy with our kids’ education, though an extensive body of research shows that this practice hurts our kids and their schools. We are like drivers sitting in traffic, constantly switching lanes to get ahead, and thus snarling the traffic even more.” In this same issue, Liliana Segura looks at the case of Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, and the harassment he has experienced by the NYPD for the videos he posts on All Things Harlem of police going “on safari in communities of color.”
  • Steven Thrasher is clearly the go-to guy over at the Village Voice when the weekly paper needs a solid cover story.  The hype over his recent feature on the 100 most powerless New Yorkers hasn’t even died down yet, and already he’s back with more, this time a profile piece on Phillip Glass (who lives just a few blocks from where I grew up).
  • This just in: NYRoB has released advance copy of its next issue which includes Corey Robin‘s response to Mark Lilla‘s dunderheaded review of The Reactionary Mind. Corey efficiently dispatches Lilla’s claims, an artful dissection that Lilla seems to have no defense against other than a return to his original, specious position. In the process, Lilla demonstrates little other than the fact that Mark Lilla is, well, hopeless.
  • Sujatha Fernandes has a great op-ed in the Times on the role of African rap music in the protest movements sweeping through Africa and the Middle East.  But I’m also interested in the role of rap music here at home.  Beyond the garbage churned out for popular audiences–think anything Kanye–a huge amount of lesser-known-but-better rap has been produced over the last decade. And a healthy share of it has been explicitly political.  Indeed, I’m hard pressed to think of a genre that has featured so many artists recording what amounts to protest songs. A quick sample, from Immortal Technique’s recent OWS-inspired The Martyr and Cunninlynguists’ “Dying Nation,” to basically the entire oevre of The Perceptionists and Dead Prez, gives a taste of a broader selection of rap inspired by the excesses of unaccountable power at home and abroad.  Has any other genre even come close?
  • Rolling Stone has a must-read piece by Sabrina Rubin Erdely in the latest issue, “One Town’s War on Gay Teens.”  Terrifying.
  • On a related note, the New Yorker features a lengthy profile on Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student who took his own life last year after discovering that he was being spied on by his college roommate, Dharun Ravi. Seriously, this kind of shit needs to stop.
  • Steve Coll continues to defend his position as the country’s premier analyst and writer on national security. His review in NYRoB this past week on Dana Priest and William Arkin’s Top Secret America, Paul Pillar’s Intelligence and US Foreign Policy and Eric Schmitt and Thom Shankar’s Counterstrike is simply excellent, and captures the enormity–not to mention the most troubling aspects–of the subject.
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