Monday, March 28, 2011

Sarah Kay: If I Should Have a Daughter...

I don't even know what to say for this one. My friend Avi made me watch this tonight to inspire and encourage me as I continue to slave over a personal statement for a post-BA fellowship for next year. Just watch it, seriously. Her TED bio says, "A performing poet since she was 14 years old, Sarah Kay is the founder of Project V.O.I.C.E, teaching poetry and self-expression at schools across the United States." In this talk, she explains why she became a spoken word poet. Finding my voice is one of the reasons I started writing this blog, and Sarah Kay (who is younger than me!) is an inspiration.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Come on, Jay-Z, you already have Beyonce, do you really need this?

Another example of excellent reporting in the Atlantic: Zach O'Malley Greenburg examines how Jay-Z led rap and hip hop's abrupt turn from Cristal to Armand de Brignac as the champagne of choice. The damning evidence that Jay-Z receives millions from featuring Armand de Brignac in his videos and associating himself with the brand is disappointing.

What goes along with Armand de Brignac is Jay-Z. The rap­per put the flashy bottle on the map when he featured it in his 2006 music video for "Show Me What You Got." The video is typical of mainstream hip-hop, with one pos­sible exception: toward the end, a waiter presents Jay-Z with a bottle of Cristal champagne, and Jay-Z declines with a sweep of his hand. In its place, he accepts a gold bottle of then-unknown Armand de Brignac. Coming from some­one who'd been rapping Cristal's praises for years--and once bragged that he was "popping that Cristal when all y'all thought it was beer"--this marked a major departure.
Jay-Z's rolling in it:
The math looks extremely favorable for Jay-Z. The production cost per bottle of Armand de Brignac is about $13; the wholesale price is $225. The maximum output is 60,000 bottles per year. If Jay-Z splits the $212-per-bottle profit evenly with Cattier and Sovereign, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests his annual take would be a little over $4 million. One of my sources confirmed that number, and added that Jay-Z may have received equity in Sov­ereign Brands worth about $50 million. All for dropping a few lyrical references and featuring Armand de Brignac in a couple of videos.
Great article, just superb reporting, but man, it's disappointing. I understand that rap and hip hop turned commercial a long time ago (no need for examples), but it still hurts to see how far hip hop has fallen.

UPDATE (March 28, 2011): The link has been dead since a couple of hours after I posted this. According to Politico on the 23rd, the Atlantic promised that they only had to make a few editorial changes and the page would be back up within 24 hours. On the 25th, the Atlantic told Fishbowl that the article hadn't gone through "routine editorial process," and it wouldn't be put back online. Very strange and disappointing. After much searching, I found the full article here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blogs blogs blogs

I apologize for not having blogged in several weeks, but it's been pretty crazy. This semester has been one of the busiest since I started school. I've still been reading my blogs (221 and counting!) but I haven't found time to write and give anything the attention it fully deserves.

While I recognize that there are so many crucial things in the world to write about right now- devastating murders in Itamar, Libya (including the UN's vote today), Japan, and the list goes on. Heck, NYTimes finally set a date to begin charging for content (with so many cracks, I almost wonder why they're bothering), the GOP race to the White House (or at least the race to the race to the White House) is finally getting semi-interesting, and more.

But instead of writing about those, because it's 2 AM, I just took an online midterm, I got 2 hours of sleep last night, and I have four meetings tomorrow, I'm going to write something a little more relaxing. I'm a blog and news freak, and I want to go into a little bit about what blogs, newspapers and magazines I read, and why I read the ones I do. Specifically, I'm going to highlight ten of them and explain why I like them. Please feel free to email or comment blogs that you read, love or hate, and why my choices are either amazing or awful. I'm always looking for more blog recommendations!

These aren't my top 10, but I think they're a great start, and a bit of a mix.

1. A Plain Blog About Politics. The description cannot be more clear than the title itself. While you won't (and I most certainly don't) understand every post, reading smart people writing well and simply about interesting topics is fun and important in and of itself.

2. BECAUSE I SAID SO. Yes, the Mommy blog world is unnecessarily huge, and most aren't particularly innovative. But I've always been interested in parenting, especially because I'm neurotic I'll be a bad one, and this blog reassures me that while parents don't always know what they're doing, that's okay. Plus, it's fun to read someone write about her crazy life and feel a little more sane.

3. Camp Yavneh Theory. A boy I went to college with started a project about the camp he's been attending for years. It's a fascinating read for anyone interested in informal Jewish education.

4. Curious Jew. I like a lot of her posts, I dislike a lot of her posts. Olivia is a frum Jewish girl, recently married. She's been blogging for a while, and is one of the most well-known frum bloggers. Considering her age and sex, that's pretty impressive.

5. Escaping the 9-to-5 before 25. My friends Amy and Yair moved out of their apartment in Riverdale, NY, sold most of their belongings, quit their corporate jobs, and bought an RV. They're currently living out West, while Amy dances, Yair hikes, and they generally live a life that I could never, ever enjoy. But they're having a blast, and you've got to appreciate that.

6. Gary Rosenblatt- Jewish Week. I've heard him speak numerous times and had meaningful conversations with the man, and there's no question that he's one of the most mature Jewish journalists out there.

7. Jeffrey Goldberg. If you haven't read Prisoners, do it. Now.

8. Kefizat Haderech. My friend Sammy is a chayal boded, a lone soldier in the Israeli army. He's gone through some tough emotional experiences, and he's incredibly honest and open about all of it. I miss him.

9. Kol Harav- Rabbinic Voices. Gil Student and Elli Fischer have taken the pains to translate important rabbinic statements into English, to make them more accessible to new audiences.

10. Longform. I don't even know what to say about this one. Longform bloggers scour the web for interesting articles from magazine such as Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, NYTimes Magazine, New Yorker, Wired, etc. I think I have loved 99% of the articles. This feed is a little more of a time commitment than the others, but I think it's worth it.

I know I didn't mention any obvious ones- including the best blog in the history of the WORLD, but I just assumed everyone already knew about that one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bright Girls

This article touches on themes I wrote about a couple of posts ago, discussing how praise heaped upon smart children affects them. This article takes a different approach than I've read in the past, focusing on the subset of Bright Girls and how they different from their male classmates.

Her major argument:
"She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up.":

P.S. Hat tip, my mom! And to keep going with the family, my sister Zahava responded, "Nope. I don't have to fight within. I know that I'm smarter than 90% of the women in my classes and 99.9% of the men." Classic.