Five Things to Read/Watch Right Now

There is law in Watts; it’s just not the law that is written down by the government. “Fundamentally, gangs are a consequence of lawlessness, not a cause,” the author says.

Frank Bruni, through an interrogation of Cynthia Nixon’s bid for governor of New York, analyses why people like Nixon or Donald Trump, are encouraged to apply for jobs that they aren’t qualified for. I appreciate his analysis of the situation. There is something going on here that goes deeper than a general mistrust of elites or the processes of government.

We live in a time when all knowledge feels like it is up for question, where superstition mingles freely with facts. So who do we turn to in order to parse out the two? Experts, of course.

I re-read this classic piece out loud the other night to Marguerite, just for fun. It is wonderful writing that has a sneaky way of invoking the chaos of home life with young children. Sample: “Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you have nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.”
Japanese armor, glassware, and spoons (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
This documentary is about the whistle-blower who alerted the world to the Russian doping program. It was good, but not as good as the next documentary.

Most people reading this newsletter will have heard of this six-part documentary by now. It is concerned with the social and legal battles of a religious group that moved to the Oregonian wilderness in the 1980’s. Many of the factual revelations (e.g., the construction projects undertaken by the group) are almost too grand to believe. So are the more sinister acts.


This is one of the best-made movies I have seen in a long time, especially because it goes to great lengths to report multiple sides of the issue without prioritizing one over the other. The followers of the religion are portrayed sympathetically, and when one of the followers (in a present-day interview) gets choked up talking about his former leader, I believe him. It reminds me of the Tony Robbins documentary. I watched it, and while I knew that it was essentially a feature-length commercial for the motivational speaker, I felt that he did have some worthwhile insights into life and that he did truly help people. While the Rajneeshees of Wild Wild Country went off the rails, I am wondering if, had they not, would the Raineeshees just be considered a religion instead of a cult? We all know that “cult” is just a pejorative term for a “religion.” The movie leaves open a good question: what is the proper response to bigotry? Is it relying on the tenants of free-market capitalism? Jurisprudence? Chemical warfare? Murder?
What have you been reading or watching this week? Let me know!

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