It’s the first Saturday in June, which means I am headed outside to bask in the halfway-decent weather before NYC converts back to a steel-skied, frozen tundra. But before I go, here are seven stories from the week you missed and should read immediately. As in, right now.
“Silenced: The Day My Daughter Was Shot In Front of Me” by Mahenaz Mahumd
What we hear now is “human rights activist” and “arts patron” and I think: No. She was not really an activist in that sense, it was just her huge sense of fairness and justice. If she felt something was wrong she couldn’t sit still, she just had to raise her voice. So she didn’t have just one cause. She would fight for any and everything - for individuals’ rights.
“Surf’s Up: Chance the Rapper, A$AP Rocky, and the Cresting Tide of Utopia Rap” by Sean Fennessey
It is a fascinating choice, pinging around this aimlessly, on a record that is by turns exuberant, lush, goofily cheery, and astounding in its scope. There is Zapp and Kirk Franklin and Freddie Hubbard and Kanye West funneling through the Social Experiment’s sound — 50 years of black music pouring forth, privileging nothing and no one, sui generis but highly accessible. Surf is a wild record, incredibly fun and airy and often disjointed in a way that won’t bother you if you’re listening with a beer in your hand and looking at a body of water. It has been praised as a generous and thoroughly modern choice by Chance, a group effort that once again tamps down the rapper-hero myth. He brings together all of his friends, and their friends, so they can be friends. It’s utopia rap — a better tomorrow, today. Music so pure it could revive the trumpet. What a wonderful world.
“The Agency” by Adrian Chen
Who was behind all of this? When I stumbled on it last fall, I had an idea. I was already investigating a shadowy organization in St. Petersburg, Russia, that spreads false information on the Internet. It has gone by a few names, but I will refer to it by its best known: the Internet Research Agency. The agency had become known for employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter, in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters; it has often been called a “troll farm.” The more I investigated this group, the more links I discovered between it and the hoaxes. In April, I went to St. Petersburg to learn more about the agency and its brand of information warfare, which it has aggressively deployed against political opponents at home, Russia’s perceived enemies abroad and, more recently, me.
“Darker Than Blue: Policing While Black in N.Y.C.” by Matthew McKnight
Not long after the police officers turned their backs on de Blasio at Officer Ramos’s funeral, I met with a black transit officer who has been on the force for seven years. One of the first things he asked me was whether or not I wanted to hear the truth about his experience. He did not feel comfortable discussing his experiences without anonymity, fearing that telling the truth could result in on-the-job reprisals and jeopardize his chances for promotions. (Numerous other policemen I spoke with either declined to comment or asked that their remarks be kept off the record. Their fears are not unfounded: an N.Y.P.D. officer named Adhyl Polanco was suspended, and later reassigned, after he complained internally about stop-and-frisk.) And so the officer, comfortable with the terms of anonymity, began to tell me his story
“How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes” by Justin Elliot and Laura Sullivan
The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.
After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.
Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.
“My Ideal Self Body Type is Jerry Seinfeld in 1997” by Sam Biddle
There’s a scene in which Kramer confronts Jerry about said chest grooming while Jerry is in the shower—we get a view of Jerry’s upper body, and I realized, between glances at the elliptical’s TV screen (what a time to be alive) and the mirror (I can’t believe I’m alive) that this is what I’m working towards, basically, when I exercise. That upper body condition is what I go to the gym to achieve and/or maintain (more the former than the latter, these days). I don’t want dadbod, gothbod, or Chris Pratt bod, or your bod—I want Jerrybod. Seinfeld was 41 when this episode came out (1997), and as a 28 year old this is either a realistic physique or I should kill myself.
“Under Control” by Cedar Pasori
Where there wasn’t money in abundance, there was inspiration. Twigs’ mother, a former dance teacher and gymnast, used to hide her daughter under the DJ booth at salsa nights, and kept copies of Vogueunder her bed for twigs to pore over (to this day, she still makes costumes for twigs). Her stepfather—“a jazz fanatic” whose “musical collection is incredible,” she explains—exposed her to eclectic sounds early on.
Some of the soft-hard sound textures fused in twigs’ music today—blending choir music and R&B/hip-hop influences—can be traced back to singing hymns at Catholic high school as much as singing hooks for rappers at a local youth center. “My first boyfriend was a hip-hop DJ, and I learned quite a bit from him,” twigs says, recalling a bedroom floor covered in records by Big Daddy Kane and Eazy-E.
[Image via Getty]