- A mural in Belarus became an unlikely symbol of defiance against the country’s increasingly totalitarian regime. Sarah A. Topol has the story for the New York Times:
But if it had started as an accident, perhaps the rest of it was fated. If the mural had been placed elsewhere, Diana thought, maybe it would have vanished. Maybe when the authorities decided to paint over it, as they had so much other revolutionary graffiti, no one would have stopped them. But the residents of the newly named Square of Change noticed. The mural meant something to them, and they would ensure it would come to mean something to the entire nation.
- A Minneapolis CBS station found some amazing footage of pop star Prince at age 11, who was attending the 190 Minneapolis teachers strike. He was even interviewed.
- This episode of Frontline is a must-watch. The report is in partnership with ProPublica and it looks at the strange origins of the claim that the 2020 US Presidential election was stolen. It’s chilling.
- The National Academy of Design just published the catalogue raisonné of 19th-century American artist Eastman Johnson online, and it’s a treasure trove of images.
- Sean Campbell of New York Magazine‘s Intelligencer blog raises questions about the decision by the leaders of Black Lives Matter to buy a $6 million house in Los Angeles:
On March 30, I asked the organization questions about the house, which is known internally as “Campus.” Afterward, leaders circulated an internal strategy memo with possible responses, ranging from “Can we kill the story?” to “Our angle — needs to be to deflate ownership of the property.” The memo includes bullet points explaining that “Campus is part of cultural arm of the org — potentially as an ‘influencer house,’ where abolition+ based content is produced by artists & creatives.” Another bullet is headed “Accounting/990 modifications” and reads in part: “need to first make sure it’s legally okay to use as we plan to use it.” The memo also describes the property as a “safehouse” for leaders whose safety has been threatened. The two notions — that the house is simultaneously a confidential refuge and a place for broadcasting to the widest possible audience — are somewhat in tension. The memo notes: “Holes in security story: Use in public YT videos.”
In an emailed statement on April 1, Shalomyah Bowers, a BLMGNF board member, said that the organization bought Campus “with the intention for it to serve as housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship.” The fellowship, which “provides recording resources and dedicated space for Black creatives to launch content online and in real life focused on abolition, healing justice, urban agriculture and food justice, pop culture, activism, and politics,” was announced the following morning.
- Noam Chomsky says we’re approaching the most dangerous point in human history in this conversation with George Eaton at the New Statesman:
The occasion for our conversation is the publication of Chronicles of Dissent, a collection of interviews between Chomsky and the radical journalist David Barsamian from 1984 to 1996. But the backdrop is the war in Ukraine – a subject about which Chomsky is unsurprisingly voluble.
“It’s monstrous for Ukraine,” he said. In common with many Jews, Chomsky has a family connection to the region: his father was born in present-day Ukraine and emigrated to the US in 1913 to avoid serving in the tsarist army; his mother was born in Belarus. Chomsky, who is often accused by critics of refusing to condemn any anti-Western government, unhesitatingly denounced Vladimir Putin’s “criminal aggression”.
But he added: “Why did he do it? There are two ways of looking at this question. One way, the fashionable way in the West, is to plumb the recesses of Putin’s twisted mind and try to determine what’s happening in his deep psyche.
- Jasmine Sanders interviews influential cultural critic Margo Jefferson for New York Magazine:
Growing up there was a plural experience that could find expression only in hybridized form; it feels as if Jefferson, looking about and seeing no suitable models, decided to construct her own. Negroland homes in on these dramas with her sister cast as both dramaturge and lead actress. Constructing a Nervous System is a cultural memoir in the same vein, a topography of Jefferson’s many selves. The book begins on a stage — one she saw in a dream. (“It’s a big writing challenge to make one’s dreams work on the page,” she says. “I’ve seen it fail enough times that I wanted that challenge.”) Its pages are full of swings, digressions, delights, with Jefferson acting as tour guide through her intellectual and cultural landscape. She calls it cultural memoir, temperamental memoir, temperamental autobiography. Handed to her by the poet Wendy S. Walters over dinner, the title gave order to the assemblage, one the author feared would not gel: “I was afraid of a certain disjointedness. It was a struggle to make it all cohere — I worried about losing the reader.”
- So mushrooms may be communicating with one another using up to 50 words, according to Linda Geddes of the Guardian:
Previous research has suggested that fungi conduct electrical impulses through long, underground filamentous structures called hyphae – similar to how nerve cells transmit information in humans.
It has even shown that the firing rate of these impulses increases when the hyphae of wood-digesting fungi come into contact with wooden blocks, raising the possibility that fungi use this electrical “language” to share information about food or injury with distant parts of themselves, or with hyphae-connected partners such as trees.
- Everyone was impressed with the efforts to unionize the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island (the first Amazon warehouse to be unionized). Josefa Velasquez and Claudia Irizarry Aponte of The City write about the major win that might change union organizing across the country as we know it. This quote by Chris Smalls, the man credited with spearheading the effort, is priceless:
“We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going up to space, because while he was up there, we were organizing a union,” a jubilant Smalls said in remarks outside the NLRB offices in Brooklyn.
“We went for the jugular, and we went after the top dog. We’re going to unionize. We’re not going to quit our jobs anymore” Smalls said, adding that Amazon executives “are going to have to bargain with their workers now.”
- In the 1990s, the US government paid TV networks to insert anti-drug storylines into their plots and Gabe Levine-Drizin has collected the most egregious examples:
Put another way: If you’re curious why there were so many corny and ham-fisted anti-drug plot lines in your favorite shows growing up, they didn’t emerge from some organic social contagion about combating drug abuse. Instead, they were well-compensated, unattributed, and undisclosed commercials paid by the federal government that helped them sustain the requisite moral panic around its $50 billion a year “war on drugs” pursuant policy goals of caging surplus black and brown populations and maintaining a militarized presence in most of Latin America.
Just as the Armed Forces and the CIA have given Hollywood funds and access in exchange for positive coverage and the ability to review scripts, the exchange between the networks and the ONDCP was similar. Starting in the spring of 1998, networks would send advanced scripts and tapes to federal drug officials who assigned to them a monetary value depending on the content, ratings impact, and length of the episode. Given that the program was quite secret, it is often hard to figure exactly which episode was valued at what amount. However, drawing mostly from Salon and the New York Times’ reporting at the time, the clips presented here are from nine different series that each aired episodes from 1998 to 1999 that were submitted for government approval. When possible, the government’s changes to content and the monetary value of the episodes are noted.
- You’ve heard of Wordle, right? Well, now there is Heardle, and you have to guess the song.
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.