Prince, Juice Absurdity, the French Election: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

With the French election beginning this Sunday — and France’s risk of getting its very own far-right, nationalist president in Marine Le Pen — Jim Wolfreys writes for Jacobin about how Le Pen’s National Front rose to frightening acceptance in France, and how the country’s press has dangerously propagated the “detoxification” notion — that the party has purged itself of its xenophobic, fascist roots:

We’ve heard the media’s detoxification narrative over and over: a fringe group has cleaned up its act and joined the political mainstream, becoming a party like any other. The liberal press has been…uncritically relaying assertions that the FN has got rid of “the knee-jerk racists,” offering up fawning profiles of party figureheads, and imagining that Marine Le Pen took a principled stand against her father Jean-Marie’s antisemitism. A recent article described her niece, the profoundly homophobic and racist Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, as “a political star. Beautiful and fervently Catholic.”

Back to American xenophobia, Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are currently meeting with officials along the U.S. border, and dropping hints to press about their inhumane plans along the way. The Intercept reports on a recent press conference in which Kelly warned of a push to prosecute parents who have their children smuggled into the U.S.:

The journey many undocumented immigrants take to reach the U.S. — particularly those coming from Central America — is extremely dangerous, with smuggling networks contributing significantly to the risks. But so too are the countries those migrants often flee… “As a policy a matter it’s extremely troubling that Sessions and Kelly are even floating this idea that you would criminally prosecute and send to prison a parent who is trying to get their child to safety,” Cecillia Wang, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, told The Intercept. “The more general direction that Sessions is going in — that we’re going increase criminal penalties and prosecute more immigration-related crimes — is completely backwards.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. justice department, under Jeff Sessions, “fired an opening shot in the Trump administration’s crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, sending letters to nine jurisdictions asking for proof that they are cooperating with immigration enforcement, and indicating they are at risk of losing federal grants.”

The New Republic published an extensive piece by Miya Tokumitsu examining the tyrannical landscape of the American workforce — and potential radical solutions — through recent books by Elizabeth Anderson and James Livingston:

A growing body of scholarship aims to overturn our culture’s deepest assumptions about how work confers wealth, meaning, and care throughout society. In Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) , Elizabeth Anderson, a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, explores how the discipline of work has itself become a form of tyranny, documenting the expansive power that firms now wield over their employees in everything from how they dress to what they tweet. James Livingston, a historian at Rutgers, goes one step further in No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea . Instead of insisting on jobs for all or proposing that we hold employers to higher standards, Livingston argues, we should just scrap work altogether.

In case you managed to miss the only-in-late-capitalist-2017 story of the revolutionary, high-tech, $400 juice-making machine called Juicero — and the fact that backers discovered that fingers are more efficient for squeezing juice from the packets the machine uses than the machine itself — here’s this, from Bloomberg:

After the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it. Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip. The experiment found that squeezing the bag yields nearly the same amount of juice just as quickly—and in some cases, faster—than using the device.

The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson wrote a colorful recap of the controversy over the expensive bag-squeezer:

Mockery reached a fever pitch on Thursday when Jeff Dunn, the chief executive of Juicero, published a defense of the company in Medium that, among other sins, used the phrase “raw, plant-based nutrition” twice and never once referred to his product, which is juice, as simply “juice.” He dismissed the Bloomberg video as trivial—“We know hacking consumer products is nothing new”—and defended the maligned machinery, which is called the Press, with a capital p.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death, at 57. Articles surrounding the tragedy last year largely celebrated the enormous mark the artist made on just about every genre of contemporary music (…and fashion…and dance…and sexuality). One of the best pieces was actually couched within a piece about many other performers: Zadie Smith’s article for the Guardian about the overlap between dance in writing — in advance of her dance-oriented novel, Swing Time — centered an exquisite passage on Prince’s style of movement. She wrote, last October:

But Prince, precious, elusive Prince, well, there lays one whose name was writ in water. And from Prince a writer might take the lesson that elusiveness can possess a deeper beauty than the legible. In the world of words, we have Keats to remind us of this, and to demonstrate what a long afterlife an elusive artist can have, even when placed beside as clearly drawn a figure as Lord Byron. Prince represents the inspiration of the moment, like an ode composed to capture a passing sensation. And when the mood changes, he changes with it: another good lesson.

Another memorable piece came from Maggie Nelson, for the New Yorker. She wrote about her whole history listening to Prince, but a passage on “Darling Nikki,” from Purple Rain, sticks out:

Prince is doing that weird thing with one of his hands that we all imitated, where you make one hand look like it’s the hand of another, creeping down the side of your face. It’s Nikki’s hand, it’s one’s own self-pleasuring hand, it’s creepy, one’s own body made other. It’s self-seduction, a magic trick. It’s the masturbatory dream, that one’s hand could feel the way the hand of another feels on you. I think this was another of Prince’s gifts—to keep self-seduction and allo-seduction on a rollicking continuum, like those rectangular boxes that contain a bright-blue wave rolling back and forth. Why decide between onanism and obsession, when you can just celebrate the root energy of each?

Finally, next Wednesday is the premiere of Hulu’s TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Beyond rereading the book, or having it read to you by Claire Danes via the new semi-extended audiobook, check out the Katrina Onstad’s recent reported feature on the series in the New York Times.