‘What To Read’ Rears Its Head Again

I changed the format on What to Read, then promised to update in early and often, only to post with even less regularity than before. Anyway, here, finally, are some reading tips from around the web, adjusted for my personal politico.cultural biases and interests. By my regular rhythm, you should expect expect to see another installment sometime in early summer.


* Friday marked a revolution in my podcasting habits, as hard-charging liberal host Keith Olbermann winded down his show, Countdown, and left MSNBC. Olbermann relationship with his employer has been rocky for some time, particularly due to his two-day suspension for undisclosed political donations last fall, one of which was to none other than Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). The company’s policy seemed a little harsh and not least arbitrary, and speculation about Olbermann’s future has been going on for months. There’s no less of it now: The New Yorker speculates that he could launch his own media entity, while Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast reports on the ongoing feud between Olbermann and his bosses. And here’s Washington Post’s take on the situation. The upside of Olbermann’s departure is that The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell will move from 10 PM ET to 8 PM, and thus expand from 4 shows a week to 5. The Ed Show takes the 10 PM slot.

* For health reform junkies, Jonathan Cohn’s essay on the legal challenge to Obama’s biggest domestic policy achievement is a must-read. Cohn does a good job in laying out the conservative case for why the individual mandate could be considered unconstitutional, but for someone of a liberal persuasion (like me), he’s even better in describing how essential how hypocritical the GOP criticism of the mandate is, and how essential it is to making a market-based health care reform work. Cohn’s main point is a scary, though not a novel one: There are ways to get around the individual mandate, but it requires a Republican willingness to look for alternatives. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Also, be sure to read anything Ezra Klein of The Washington Post or Jonathan Chait of The New Republic writes on this topic. And speaking of TNR, they deserve kudos for making Cohn’s piece the first in a new series of long-form online pieces.

* Staying in the realm of politics, it was a week of liberal jubilation as the ostensibly “indepemdent” Senator Joe Lieberman decided against runnung for a fifth term. New York Times columnist wrote an acidic takedown of the pompous neocon ex-Democrat, while Slate’s Emily Bazelon regretted that she never got the chance to vote him out. Salon’s Gleen Greenwald chronichled Lieberman’s appallling record on war and civil liberties issues, and also ripped Times columnist David Brooks, that predictable purveyor of Beltway common wisdom for his fawning Friday column. While to some extent I understand the impulse to say that Lieberman’s relative loyalty to the Obama agenda makes some of the criticism seem unfairly harsh, I too find Lieberman’s demeanor and self-importance his perhaps least appealing quality. Never one to refuse to put himself front and center, over the last three years Lieberman not only endorsed John McCain for president (and Palin for veep!); he also played an instrumental role in watering down every progressive element in the health care reform bill. He won’t be missed.

* In film news, Gregg Araki, a founding father of the New Queer Cinema movement and a favorite of this blog, recently spoke to The New York Times about his latest movie, Kaboom. It opens in America this month, and sound like a return to the visually arresting trashiness of earlier Araki flicks like The Doom Generation (1995) and Nowhere. While I’m square enough to consider Mysterious Skin Araki’s best film by far, his so-called Teen Apocalypse Trilogy (whose first installment was 1993’s Totally Fucked Up) is definitely worth a look. Gorgeous boys and sexual frankness is a trademark of Araki’s and judging from the buzz on Norwegian movie sites, Kaboom – starring the surprisingly crush-worthy Thomas Dekker, previously of 7th Heaven, Heroes and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – is Araki’s most well-conceived comedy to date. Says Araki: “It’s not like I found Jesus, or I’m a Scientologist now. But I’m not as crazy as I used to be.”

* I know I shouldn’t get worked up about this, but everyone else seems to be, so: The New York Times reports that the Parents Television Council have filed complaints over MTV’s alleged violation of child pornography laws in its adaption of the British teen drama Skins. The case looks flimsy at best, and Matt Zoller Seitz urges the network to stand up against censorship, arguing that it will eventually boil down to a question of artistic value, and, says Seitz, “[e]ven the dumbest lawyer on earth could make a good case for “Skins” having compelling artistic value.” According to Jace Lacob at The Daily Beast, the problem isn’t the underage nudity but the show’s poor quality, whereas Slate’s television critic Troy Patterson calls it not so much child pornography as “cultural pornography for children.”

* Finally, a shout-out to a friend and mentor of this blog. Over at Stephen Mills’ blog, Bryan Borland talks about his first year in book-publishing, what to expect in 2011, and his and Mills’ upcoming book, The Hanky Code. The interview has effectively and entertainingly killed off any need for a follow-up on the profile I wrote of Bryan last February. Read’em both.

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3 Responses to ‘What To Read’ Rears Its Head Again

  1. jay says:

    I’m really looking forward to Kaboom , thanks for the interview link .

  2. Gregg Araki hadn’t been on my radar for a while. This inspired me to add all of his work on my Netflix queue (with the exception of “Smiley Face” and “Mysterious Skin”). Looking forward to his new movie because it sounds so strange. Dekker is an interesting choice. His character in “Heroes” gave me serious gay vibes.

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