Lightsabers, DeRay Mckesson, a Romance-Only Bookstore, and More: Today’s Recommended Reading

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Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today we have two profiles: one of a man trying to leverage his Twitter following to win an election, and another about Star Wars fans who build custom lightsabers. We’ve also got a story about a bookstore that only sells romance novels, and a report about National Public Radio in the era of podcasting.

Racked profiled The Ripped Bodice, a Culver City, California, bookstore that deals exclusively in romance novels. Though the retail bookselling industry is, in general, not doing so hot, the Ripped Bodice may thrive because its a welcome home for romance fans who don’t always feel so welcome in traditional bookstores.

“There’s kind of a stigma that you can’t be a smart girl if you’re reading romance,” says Milan. “There was a point when I would go to bookstores and I would buy my four romance novels, and then I’d find some other book that I kind of wanted to read, but not really, and I would put that on top of my romances to buy it.” Bea and Leah experienced the same reaction from booksellers: “In a normal bookstore, you don’t know what the reaction you’re going to get is when you ask for a romance novel,” says Bea. “It can be quite rude, and also a little scary! It’s frequently a sexist, kinda-gross leer. Like, ‘Oh, you like that stuff?’”

FiveThirtyEight followed Black Lives Matter leader and Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson on the campaign trail. While most mayors climb their local political ladder, Mckesson is trading on his political experience as activist organizer and well-known internet personality. He’s been able to raise money and, in many ways, compete with the city’s top contenders, but not necessarily by earning the support of his constituency. On the details behind translating his status as a national activist figure to votes in Baltimore:

The day before, Mckesson had announced his fundraising through March 15, and now his feed was filling up with reaction. He thought the numbers were good news: He was near his goal of $250,000 and had the third-most donors from Baltimore of any candidate and by far the most donors overall. (Pugh and Dixon both hold more cash, and venture capitalist David Warnock’s largely self-funded campaign is spending more than everybody else, including $650,000 on TV ads.) But the vast majority of Mckesson’s donors — 95 percent — are from outside the city and include some prominent technology executives. Mckesson is the candidate of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; of Twitter’s executive chairman, Omid Kordestani; and of YouTube’s global head of family and learning, Malik Ducard. Mckesson says that’s much better than some of his rivals’ donor bases, which include special interests in Baltimore that he thinks are more likely to expect favors than the executives of companies based elsewhere. Some of Mckesson’s critics — and even a few of his fans — disagree, interpreting the support of digital tycoons as the mark of a sellout.

Slate used NPR’s news shows — Morning Edition and All Things Considered — to explore the rift that’s forming between traditional “radio journalism” and the magazine-style programming that’s become popular through podcasting. To hear Slate tell it, the divide between the two is growing, and threatens to rip NPR apart if it doesn’t adapt.

This distinction between “news” and podcast-style “storytelling” has emerged as a key fault line in the debate over NPR’s future. And while it is considered impolite to value one above the other, there’s a tendency among some podcast people to think of themselves as too ambitious and creative for the constraints of the four-minute radio news spot, and a tendency among some radio people to look askance at the pretentions of podcasters and their twee, personality-driven soundscapes.

The Verge profiled Michael ” Master Yoda” Murphy, proprietor of FX Sabers, a California-based company that specializes in making high-end LED lightsabers for hardcore Star Wars fans.

“I guess somewhere deep down I always wanted to be a toymaker,” Murphy tells me across the island in his kitchen. Except for the rack of lightsabers by the couch and the detailed blueprints and sample materials sitting on the counter, it feels like any suburban home in America. “Even though I originally wanted to build cars, those are just big toys. More dangerous. More money.” His eyes shift mischievously, and he laughs. “This is something that’s much more unique.”