Outside Reading — The Jalaiah Harmon School of Dance edition

renegade

The Original Renegade by Taylor Lorenz

There’s a long, miserable history of pop culture appropriation that swipes innovations from their creators to earn riches for performers more immediately palatable to the masses. Digital interconnectivity has only turbo-boosted that process as insidious so-called influencers snap up every meme, joke, or dance that has a shot at going viral, not giving a sliver of concern to due diligence and instead happily, rapidly branding it as their own. In one instance, anyway, the Paper of Record decisively redirects the spotlight where it belongs by profiling Jalaiah Harmon, the fourteen-year-old from Atlanta who invented a dance dubbed the Renegade and watched in frustration as others adopted it in more famous videos with nary an indication that someone else deserved credit for the moves. Harmon comes across as bright and charismatic, a superstar in waiting.

 

willie horton

End the GOP by Osita Nwanevu

Writing for The new Republic, Osita Nwanevu makes a plain and forceful case that one of the major U.S. political parties has essentially abdicated their worthiness to remain part of the nation’s ongoing experiment in democratic governance. There are severeal perfectly constructed turns of phrase across the article, but there may be no more succinct summary than describing the Republican party as “prejudiced, venal, and unmoored from reason.” In an especially valuable act of journalistic scholarship, Nwanevu demonstrates that the current state of affairs is not some aberration, a brief spell that will be broken once their especially amoral leader is driven, one way or another, from his ill-gained perch in the White House. This is the latest stage in an evolution that’s been ongoing for decades, with the GOP continually escalating their bigotry in the name of keeping power and then using that power to make sure government reflects their own greed-based hostility rather than the will of the people. In a representative government, their shared worldview is a purely destructive force.

 

blowout

Blowout (2019) by Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow examines the insidious influence and devastating impact of the oil and gas industry with a dizzying exactitude that will be familiar to anyone who’s watched her preside over a news telecast. Her voice is incredibly strong across the book, right down the occasional dollop of gleeful sarcasm and a corresponding weakness for corny jokes. The thread of humor is appreciated, because most of the tapestry is a nightmare of corporate greed and geopolitical malfeasance running roughshod over what’s good for the human race. (As George Carlin accurately explained, “The planet is fine; the people are fucked.”) Maddow is especially convincing in conveying the codependency of unethical parties that catalyzes everything from the foolish indifference of local governments to Russia’s emergence as a global chaos agent.