It’s a slow news day, so I decided to write about something that I’ve meaning to get to for a while: the best new blogs and websites that I’ve discovered over the past year.
I’ll start with the two of the new kids on the block that is the left blogosophere: Charlie Pierce, who blogs at Esquire’s Politics Blog and Corey Robin, who writes at his own eponymous site. These two bloggers each, in different ways, bring some pretty cool things to the table. Robin, an academic and most recently the author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, brings a wealth of scholarly knowledge, particularly about the right, as well as his real-world experience in the labor movement (he was organizer for Yale’s grad student union). He’s written about subjects ranging from the roots of conservative radicalism to the history of the bathroom break to Ron Paul. I appreciate the deep historical context Corey brings to discussions of contemporary conservatism — he helps you see continuities that are profound and yet by no means obvious. He’s also an astute observer of workplace tyrannies of all sort, which he connects to the conservative desire to assert dominance in the private sphere. Corey’s site has become, to me, one of the essential go-to blogs.
Charlie Pierce comes from the world of journalism — for many years he was, among other things, a sportswriter. He has a fine sense of the absurd, and he brings an old-school, hard-bitten reporterly skepticism to his coverage of politics. Clearly Pierce knows this tawdry, fallen world all too well, and has met more than a few public personages who, to paraphrase Woody Allen, would be unlikely to inspire the confidence of your average bail bondsman. And did I mention that Pierce writes like a dream? He truly does, and it’s a pleasure to read him. He is also freaking hilarious and deploys a vocabulary so inventively filthy that even I, no slouch in the foul-mouthed department myself, stand in awe. He’s used obscene expressions that are new to me, and that takes some doing — I thought I’d heard them all. He’s also come up with some awesomely rude (and profoundly well-deserved) nicknames for various loathsome public figures — for instance, “zombie-eyed granny starver” for Paul Ryan. Here are a few of the Pierce posts I’ve greatly enjoyed, on Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and last but far from least, Charlie’s favorite whipping boy, David Brooks (about whom Pierce’s writing is so dead-on, entertainingly vicious that I almost feel sorry for him. But not really).
That takes care of my favorite new political bloggers. Next up is my favorite new website, which happens to be the latest Jane Pratt project, xoJane. The best description I can come up with for xoJane is this: it’s like a virtual slumber party hosted by the coolest, most rad girls in you ever went to school with. And better yet, they’re nice-girl cool, as opposed to mean-girl cool. xoJane features a large and growing stable of regular writers, and they’re a fun, lively group. They write essays about a wide range of topics, from sex to personal trauma to pop culture to traditional girly women’s mag subjects like fashion, beauty, and food. The site is queer-friendly and has a strong but not necessarily always explicit feminist POV (although very rarely, something that’s not so awesomely feminist slips through — usually by the site’s resident rape apologist, the egregious Daisy Barringer). The site’s two best writers are the fabulous Emily McCombs and the extraordinary Lesley Kinzel. Some especially good pieces include Kinzel’s essays about fat shaming and impostor syndrome and Emily McCombs’ piece about how her rapist friended her on Facebook. There’s also a recurring feature with the wonderfully tabloidy title, “It Happened to Me!”, in which contributors have written about diverse and interesting topics such as falling in love with an internet con artist, being sent to the “rubber room”, and relapsing on mouthwash. I really love the joy, the free-spiritedness, the honesty, and the unapologetic girliness of this site. It’s loads of fun, and perfect when I want to read something smart but not necessarily super-serious.
Last but not least, there is the blog of the wonderful Chicagoland repertory film theater, the Northwest Chicago Film Society (NCFS). It’s written by my young friend Kyle Westphal, who runs and co-programs the NCFS. Some of the posts are program notes about films the NCFS is screening (such as this fascinating and politically astute analysis of the excellent William Wellman Depression-era melodrama, Wild Boys of the Road), but Kyle also takes on subjects such as the legacy of the late film programmer Amos Vogel, the case for behaving badly in movie theaters, the future of film criticism, and the ideological implications of the ongoing conversion from film to digital projection. Kyle is a terrific film writer, lively, passionate, and scary-smart. He’s incredibly insightful and deeply knowledgeable about film, but he’s no mere aesthete — he is politically sophisticated and ever alert to the medium’s social and ideological implications. He’s become one of the best film critics out there, and I’m proud to say that I knew him when (I met the lad on the University of Chicago campus when he was a mere freshman, which was only a few years ago). I highly recommend his blog to anyone with a serious, or even half-serious, interest in film.
So, those are my favorites among new-ish blogs and websites. What are yours?