Scott Pruitt’s Anti-Protection EPA, Laughter in Space, Vince Staples, More: 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 also been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

Eva Latterner, Gillet Rosenblith, and Sophie Abramowitz (full disclosure: a close friend) write for Slate about the very real, damaging impact that Confederate statues have had on black communities in Charlottesville, VA, particularly in their facilitating of displacement. The article comes in the midst of previous and upcoming planned protests and rallies from the likes of the alt-right and the KKK against the removal of statues and renaming of former confederate parks in the area. Latterner, Rosenblith, and Abramowitz write:

What has been missing from this fight, though, is the specific history of Charlottesville’s Confederate statues. Intimately tied to Charlottesville’s city planning projects and its persistent displacement of black residents, that context is emblematic of the relationship in the South between urban renewal and gentrification, Confederate memorialization and Lost Cause white supremacy, and the town-and-gown dichotomy inherent in university communities…The statues of Jackson and Lee not only symbolize the violence of the ongoing displacements of gentrification; they also initiated and facilitated these changes when they were first put up.

Under Trump/Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency appears to be becoming more an agent of environmental destruction. In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the EPA’s intention to rescind the Obama-era Clean Water Rule (also referred to as Waters of the United States or WOTUS), and how, separately, back in March, Pruitt reportedly met with the head of Dow Chemical before declaring an end to another Obama-era ban on a neurotoxic pesticide called chlorpyrifos. (Most of it, she notes, is produced by Dow AgroSciences, though an E.P.A. spokesperson claims they didn’t talk about the pesticide when they met.) Kolbert writes:

Of course, if the Trump Administration was really interested in “regulatory certainty,” the rational thing to have done would have been to keep the Obama-era rules in place. wotus had already been finalized. The proposed change will take years to wend its way through the rule-making process—we can only hope more years than the Trump Administration has left. Similarly, the Administration’s decision to reverse course on chlorpyrifos will result in more uncertainty, rather than less. Already, seven states have filed legal objections in an effort to force the agency to follow through on the recommendations of its own scientists.

Vince Staples’ second studio album, Big Fish Theory, is experiencing near-universal praise following its release last week. As you familiarize yourself with it, instead of guessing or turning to critics who’ve guessed at Staples’ musical influences, you can read his own words on his 10 favorite songwriters, published in the Guardian. On André 3000, he says:

“It’s not a duplicate of anything; it’s the way he structures his sentences and delivery. It’s not directed by the punchline, there’s no crescendo – it’s just like: this is what happened…Everything is a conversation. It never feels impersonal. Do I wish he did more? No, not at all. If he wants to be an artist, then that’s his art – take it or go home.”

He says of Amy Winehouse:

“I don’t know a weak Amy Winehouse moment. She was always creatively strong. Look at Stronger Than Me, Fuck Me Pumps, anything from Frank. It’s always been there. She was honest, and honesty is important. She showed the evil within people…”

Vulture named Better Call Saul‘s Michel McKean the Best Actor on TV for their fourth annual Vulture TV Awards, and Jen Chaney wrote an in depth piece on his portrayal of James McGill’s (aka Saul Goodman’s) brother, Chuck. She writes:

Michael McKean’s portrayal of the complicated, maddening…Chuck McGill on Better Call Saul is outstanding on its own merits. But when one considers that McKean is primarily known for his work in comedy — as, among others, gentle, greasy goofball Lenny Kosnowski on Laverne & Shirley and frustrated aging rocker David St. Hubbins in This Is Spinal Tap — his transformation into Chuck rises to another level. On Better Call Saul, a man we primarily associate with laughter fully transforms into a control freak with a broken mind who is as allergic to humor as he (allegedly) is to electromagnetism.

Adrienne LaFrance writes for the Atlantic about the Golden Record — a “sonic postcard, of sorts” onboard the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts, meant to present the soundscapes and landscapes of earth to whatever Heptapods or Xenomorphs might stumble upon them. Contemplating one particular audio clip on the record — of the sound of laughter — led LaFrance down a rabbit hole. She describes:

It occurred to me last fall that I’d never actually heard the laughter track—and that I wanted to. What sort of laugh did the record’s producers select as a depiction of our species? And whose laugh was it? It could have been a chuckle, a snort, a guffaw, a snicker. It could have been anything from the irresistible staccato of a baby giggling to a the deep-throated mwahaha of a Hollywood villain. But my idle curiosity led me to more and more questions, and those questions turned into a months-long investigation into the origins of the Golden Record.