I’ve been doing it for over a year now, but since I don’t know it anybody ever reads my (semi)weekly What to Read feature, I’ve decided to take a page out of the playbook of the magnificent Jessie Carty (whose blog you should visit several times a week). Every week, she does a roundup of Monday Shout Outs, pointing readers to interesting stuff she’s read, upcoming events or otherwise noteworthy things. Adopting a variarion on this format will allow me to elaborate a little further on what I found interesting/persuasive/provocative about a particular piece. Other than that, it’ll be pretty much like the What to Read feature a few of you may have gotten to know already; articles on American politics, gayness, journalism, television, movies, literature, history Politically, I subscribe to a European brand of liberal socialism, but I’ll do my best to make sure that the links provided here are, at the very least, well-written and well-argued pieces that cannot always be pinned down in one ideological category or the other.
That said, here goes:
– First, I wanted to highlight a fantastic piece by Christopher Hitchens from Vanity Fair. I don’t agree with this Trotskyist-turned-neoconservative about much these days, but he is still an absolutely terrific writer, offering regular articles for VF and Slate. Recently he was diagnosed with cancer, and I think the intimacy of the subject really brings out a new side of this writer. I’ve linked to a series of reviews and essays on his memoir, Hitch-22, in previous WTR installments.
– Next, you really should read George Packer’s piece on the state of the Senate in The New Yorker. It’s a must-read if you want to understand why Washington doesn’t get more things done. In addition to putting the Republican stalling tactics on full display, it’s also the story of a cultural divide between older senators, who still believe the Senate is a place for collegiality and potential bipartisanship, and younger senators fed up with having to take the blame for a broken system.
– Speaking of the Senate, Jonathan Chait of the New Republic speculates that the narrow margin of approval for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan means that it will be damn near impossible for President Obama to get a nominee – any nominee – through the Senate the should he one day have to replace one of the conservative justices. Packer and Chait provide useful political context to a recent Ronald Dworkin essay about why honesty might not be a good idea in a Supreme Court nomination hearing, and Jeffrey Rosen wrote about what juducial liberalism means today.
– I suspect Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) would agree the Senate is broken, too. He is the subject of a profile in this week’s New York Magazine, chronicling the slow-burning defeat of his comprehensive energy and climate change bill and his position in the Afghanistan debate. Much like the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) loss to Jimmy Carter in 1980, Kerry’s defeat to George W. Bush in 2004 seems to have freed him up to become a better senator. On any other subject than climate change, he might actually had gotten something through the Senate.
– Moving on, Senses of Cinema carries a fascinating essay by Max Cavitch, about how a recent gay porn movie tried to integrate the politico-cultural backdrop to a movie shooting in Israel. It’s a fresh take not only on porn, but also on the state of Arab Israelis in Israel, and, for that matter, on the limits of realism in porn.
– In Slate, Tom Scocca and Choire Sicha mix two of my favorite subjects, gayness and journalism, in a piece critiquing the instant journalistic reaction to the ruling overturning the gay marriage ban in California. My favorite line: “The New York Times; we’re not first, but at least we’re wrong!” In one of the most readable pieces of judicial writing I can remember having read, District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling can be found here.
– Elsewhere, Q. Le writes about the challenge of watching foreign movies. There are many excellent movies out there, but your job is not done when you’ve decided which one you want to see. Watching movies from another culture means that you have to take a different approach to the experience; perhaps read up on the country or its film tradition, or at the very least be a more patient, open and questioning viewer than you would with a movie from a country you think you know. It’s provocative, in a way, but it will force you to think about what kind of a viewer you are.
– Rounding out a relatively politics-heavy edition of WTR is Glynnis MacNicol’s column on MSNBC political talkshow host Rachel Maddow for Mediaite. The fiery but level-headed Maddow is a favorite of mine among the liberal opinionators, and MacNicol agrees. Maddow brings the liberalism of Keith Olberman, but a greater sense of policy detail, and none of his blowhardiness. Writes MacNicol: “If you’re looking for the future, this is probably a good place to start.” Plus: Read my list of my favorite political pundits here.