This Week in Reading and Writing
I can now more easily understand why people say they no longer read books. There is simply so much good writing on the internet. From the new members-only content that lives on Medium, to the long mini-novellas living on the Atlantic, to compelling podcasts hosted by wonderful writers themselves, there is never any shortage of material to drag my eyeballs across or plug into.
From the most impressive essay on Trump I have ever read written by Ta-Nehisi Coates to a thorough analysis of Colin Kaepernick's defiant acts of courage, here's a run-down of the best of what I have read and listened to this week.
- Princess Nokia, 1992 Deluxe
Destiny Frasqueri, aka Princess Nokia, delights with intelligent, fresh rhymes on her newest album, 1992 Deluxe. As a musical memoir, it's a unique voice and fresh perspective about identity, race, and culture (smart) that I love to listen to when I run. (Catchy!) As a self-professed tomboy, comic book nerd, and nineties kid, Princess Nokia brings her own Afro-Puerto-Rican flavor to topics and ideas that are firmly planted in the millennial conscious. So good.
- Pod Save America
Political experts, staunch democrats, and good friends Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor first brought their gut-busting rapport to the podcast mic with their political commentary podcast Keepin' it 1600. Launched in March 2016 with the help of Bill Simmons and sports news site the Ringer, Keepin' it 1600 was a fun and colorful refuge for fellow democrats during the intense rancor, distress, and divine comedy that was the 2016 US presidential campaign.
After the results of the election and their final concillatory episode, the guys behind Keepin' it 1600 made the decision to start their own news outlet. The guys left the Ringer (and their respective jobs,) to spearhead a new progressive media company cleverly titled Crooked Media. Based in Los Angeles, theirs is a burgeoning enterprise billed as a counter-measure to the new Trumpism that's currently butt-clenching America between it's very white and alt-right behind.
The final episode of Keepin' it 1600 aired last December, but continues on in nearly identical guise with the same hosts and intense wit that that has left this podcast beloved by both political junkies and average joes alike. It's new title: Pod Save America. The guys also have a civil rights podcast (Pod Save the People) and a podcast covering foreign affairs (Pod Save the World.)
I love their flagship broadcast, Pod Save America because it is a podcast of both both resistance and celebration, advice and warning, hope and despair – all neatly rolled into one very erudite and wise-ass package. As a podcast team boasting both former speechwriters, spokesmen, and senior advisors to Barack Obama, the commentary is as informed and accurate as it is partisan and entertaining. With new episodes published every Tuesday and Thursday, there's always some fresh perspective to offer towards whatever newly-created fresh hell Trump manages to cook up that week. Coupled with a who's who distinguished politicians, journalists, and activists (Anna Navarro, Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, Deray McKesson, and Joy-Ann Reid all come to mind) this is one Podcast which has quickly become one of my weekly go-to's for it's ability to both inform and entertain. I highly suggest subscribing, and then afterwards heading over to their content hub for even more political goodness. (For a great little read on how they decided to start their media company, read this great piece by the Daily Beast here.)
- Donald Trump is the First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Published in the October 2017 Issue of the Atlantic
Perhaps one of the most probing, honest, direct, and necessary essays published since Trump's inauguration was been written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and can be found in the October 2017 issue of the Atlantic. From his forthcoming book, We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates analyzes the rise of Trump over the course of the campaign and names that the basis of his truest power and the most essential of his confused ideology boils down to one terrifying fact: his total embrace of his own racism and white supremacy. Perhaps the sanest and most uncomfortable truth to emerge from the last nine months in journalism.
- Colin Kaepernick Has a Job by Rembert Browne, Published September 12, 2017 via Bleacher Report
"The remaining option—to persist—is the one that has always been inconvenient for white America. Colin Kaepernick is inconvenient. To persist is to show strength, but also to be unpredictable, hard to define, impossible to control. And to grow stronger with every lash is to become dangerous—a threat not only to power, but to inspire others to follow suit. Leaders of color in this country have long been mythologized by white America when they teach their own to thrive within the confines of current rules, not when they demand that every rule be called into question. “In many ways, he is the quintessential sacrificial lamb,” Loggins says of his friend. “And we’re just trying to not let him get sacrificed.”
- the New York Times Magazine 'Voyages' Issue
The New York Times Magazine, in my opinion, is doing the best job out of anyone showing us what being a magazine in the age of the internet can look like online, and how inspiring and visually immersive magazines can be on screens both large and small. I particularly enjoyed their wholly engrossing 'Voyages' issue, which details how people around the globe vacation. From a crowded pool in China teeming with families to secluded watering holes in Italy, to bucolic cottages in Estonia where all members of the family frequently bathe nude, a new understanding of both global similarities as well as differences come into stark relief.
- Workflow, a New Series by Writer Steven Johnson on Medium
In a series of interviews and essays, Johnson attempts to break-down the creative process of writing. The result is a series of interviews, as well as a personal reflection of Johnson's own preferred process, that illuminates the specific intellectual alchemy that goes into creating a piece of non-fiction.
- Timeline of Sounds, by Hanif Abdurraqib
In this Medium members-only series of essays, poet and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib analyzes six album anniversaries over the course of thirty years to parse together their importance. Focusing on the contributions of African-American artists, Abdurraqib's writing is a celebration of culture as much as it is an intellectual analysis of the perils of our current social climate. His essay on Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, M.A.A.D. city" deftly weaves together a celebration of Lamar's audacious talent alongside the horrors and injustices of police brutality facing communities of color. A review of Kanye West's inarguable accomplishments at the start of West's career, contrasted by West's current crumbling status as an artist of moral character becomes a meditation on the perils of excess -- excess fame, excess wealth, excess attention, even excess controversy.