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Stuff We Like

What makes the staff of Brill's Content happy? Glad you asked. We're proud to unveil "Stuff We Like," a new feature that focuses on a few of the things that bring us pleasure.

January 21, 1999 - Steven Brill recommends:
"ESTEEM HEAT" - Samuel G. Freedman.

New York magazine columnist Samuel G. Freedman exposes a "pageant of obsession and ignorance" performed by our nation's print journalists. When an idealistic white teacher assigned the book Nappy Hair to her third graders, she was denounced by furious parents in the mostly-minority school district and exiled by the school board. Journalists found the story --"white martyr persecuted by ungrateful blacks"-- irresistable, and 170 articles were written in the first six weeks alone. But, writes Freedman, every single one overlooked the real story.

"RAISING THE IMPEACHMENT BARR" - Ann Woolner.

Unless you live in Atlanta, you've probably missed this well-written, amusing examination of the the prosecutorial career of Congressman Bob Barr, Jr. (R-GA). As one of the thirteen House Judiciary Committee members named to prosecute the President, Barr has been getting a lot of press conference mileage out of his stint as U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, touting his experience in stamping out corruption. In this article, which originally appeared in the Fulton County Daily Report, Woolner reveals that the impeachment hearings will be Barr's first real prosecutorial gig, and tells us why that makes him the perfect man for the job. - Steven Brill (January 11, 1999)

THE OBSCURE STORE AND READING ROOM
The trouble with the Web is that dozens of news outlets, from CNN to the Texas A&M Battalion, are publishing interesting articles that you would probably never see-if it weren't for James Romenesko. Every day, Romenesko, who covers the Internet for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wakes up at 5:30 A.M. to scour the Web for offbeat features, investigative pieces, and quirky items, and then summarizes at least a dozen of his finds at The Obscure Store and Reading Room (www.obscurestore.com). He's a witty Matt Drudge. The December 16 headline offerings included "Cheesehead hat maker wants street name changed" and "Monica drops in on a party, and fights with an ATM." For major news events, such as the Matthew Shepard killing, Romenesko points readers to local press outlets such as the student newspaper at the University of Wyoming, Shepard's school. The Obscure Store also features a comprehensive list of other on-line sources, including seven Associated Press news wires, nine foreign papers, a dozen weeklies, 22 daily gossip columns, and the latest talk show transcripts. -Noah Robischon in the 2/99 Issue

THE WEEKLY STANDARD
Sure, it's too conservative for many tastes. But this Rupert Murdoch-owned Washington weekly is fun to read, well designed, provocative on a surprising range of subjects, has lots of original and important reporting, and usually crosses the line from clever to smart when it makes an argument. And, by example, it reminds us what liberals really lack-a sense of humor. It's what an ideologically based magazine should be. -Steven Brill in the 2/99 Issue

King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero
(RANDOM HOUSE)-Boxing has practically vanished from the public consciousness, but Muhammad Ali is still the greatest. In King of the World, New Yorker editor David Remnick skillfully tells the story of Ali's transformation during the early 1960s from Louisville loudmouth to heavyweight champion. In his climb to the top, Ali embraced Islam and shattered stereotypes. Remnick's narrative ends before Ali's protest against the Vietnam draft, the act that expanded the boxer's legend beyond both sport and race. But in Remnick's story, the early Ali is already a complicated icon of individualism and celebrity.-Ted Rose in the 2/99 Issue

Geography Quiz on The World
(Public Radio International)-Even inveterate globe-trotters stumble for answers to The World's daily geography quiz. The host of this weekday radio broadcast, Lisa Mullins, titillates listeners with little-known facts about sometimes exotic locales: The world's northernmost capital city? Reykjavík, Iceland. The "water tower of France"? The Limousin region, with six major rivers running through it. Home of a 100-mile desert horse race? It's Dubai, of course, the second-largest of the United Arab Emirates. For local stations and times, as well as a bank of past puzzlers, go to www.theworld.org. -D.M. Osborne in the 2/99 Issue

With wit, grit, and a scrappy cartoon caricature, this Economist column's weekly one-page take on American politics-from presidential impeachment and American foreign-policy failures to Chicago mayor Richard Daley's grand plans and the obstacles facing the newest U.S. Census chief-makes sense of the sometimes nonsensical. When the less-than-animated Gray Davis won the California governorship, for example, "Lexington" noted that the victory of such a wooden candidate gave new hope to putative presidential candidate Al Gore.-Leslie Heilbrunn in the 2/99 Issue

JIM MULLEN'S HOT SHEET
This Entertainment Weekly column has a pretty audacious mandate: In just a half page, it relates "What the country is talking about this week...." Okay, maybe it should be subtitled "What Jim Mullen is thinking about this week." But Mullen manages, in short, pithy items that assume a fair amount of knowledge on the part of the reader, to capture some truths (and absurdities) that more ponderous treatments miss. On Monica Lewinsky's book deal: "She'll reportedly get $600,000 to tell her story. Which is what they'll have to pay me to read it." Or, on bottled water: "A report indicates that drinking it may promote tooth decay. No wonder Coca-Cola wants to get into the business." Mullen doesn't take anything in the news too seriously, which may be a very healthy-and often appropriate-stance.-Eric Effron in the 2/99 Issue

Harper's Magazine is a trove of reflective journalism and reasoned opinion. But its "Readings" selections-an eclectic medley of already published work-are often unreflective and poorly reasoned, and this is their particular genius. The Harper's editors troll the flotsam of American culture to find material for "Readings," like oddball court depositions or inane Web postings, with essays and short fiction thrown into the mix. Harper's September issue reprinted screenplay ads from a trade newsletter (the ad for a screenplay called Power Kills says,"Sex and hilarious situations prevail until people turn up dead, killed in unusual ways with power tools"); its December issue featured listings from Who's Who In Professional Speaking (one of the entries:"Jackie Pflug:Was shot in the head during a terrorist attack. Helps people gain a new perspective in overcoming life's obstacles"). "Readings" poses as effortless, stand-alone satire, and it works.-Jeff Pooley in the 2/99 Issue

The "Girls on" Network
In a word-COOL. "The Girls" are four New Yorkers who serve up smart, witty takes on movies, TV, and books. Features and columns on culture add to the mix. The Girls never hold back-"I don't hate [Ally McBeal] because she's too skinny (she sure looks unhealthy though)," writes one. "I don't like Ally because she's not nice. At all." The site is visually exciting and easy to navigate. And while the chat is more of a draw for female cybercruisers, there's plenty there for the guys. -Dimitra Kessenides in the 2/99 Issue

Magazine writer JOEL STEIN is the thinking man's Stuttering John (a Howard Stern sidekick)-the jerky boy who went to a good college. Over the past year and a half, Stein has transformed Time's Arts Q&A feature into a forum for questions few others would dare ask. He queried Jennifer Lopez, "What's the big deal with your booty?" He told Gene Simmons of Kiss that a Kiss Visa card "doesn't scream rock 'n' roll to me." He inquired of Vanilla Ice, "How much of your life now is just getting made fun of?" That attitude carries over to his feature writing. While everyone else was nailing former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle for his lack of journalistic ethics, Stein nailed him for not being hip. "He lifted jokes from George Carlin," wrote Stein. "What year is this? That's like stealing lyrics from Pete Seeger." Memo to Time's editors:Please give the "People" page back to Joel. -Michael Kadish in the 2/99 Issue


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