The Missing Black Male Narrative

young black man 

In mainstream news and local media, the black everyman is plentiful by number. The daily news is full of young criminals, middle and professional class social circles, helpless citizens, earned accomplishments, and quiet nods to a lifetime of sacrifice. As individuals – three dimensional men who justify their own existence – they are barely visible. What’s the last story of note you can remember about a black man, or black men in general, that wasn’t about a famous entertainer or steeped in televised controversy?  Few media outlets dedicate themselves to examining the individual lives of these men as they are living it.

GQ, the ultra-glossy aspirational men’s magazine, does regularly run reportage and life-lesson pieces, independent of status or celebrity influence. Esquire relies on celebrities, but talks to them as men and woman unto themselves. The defunct Men’s Vogue had excellent monthly columns reserved for profiles and reportage of the lives of individual non-celebrities. Outside, Art of Manliness, Men’s Journal, The Good Men Project, and Men’s Health, on the other hand, live and die by the concept of the everyman.  But, commonly, any deep dives into the experiences of black men’s lives depend on pop stars and media darlings.  These one-percenters inherit the heavy burden of representing the breadth and depth of the cumulative black male experience. As a result doing so responsibly becomes all the more important. Yet, even as recently as last month, the largest and most respected of media outlets have tried to squeeze these larger than life personalities into tired narratives, instead of letting what stood out about the individual speak for itself.

New York Times’ September profile of Jay-Z, for example, spends a lot of time reaffirming every notion of what a hip-hop star and celebrity at large like him is supposed to be (dresses younger than his age, perception of artistry vs. menace to society, a famous man blending into the common man’s world, etc.). It only briefly mentions things that uniquely define the man and the artist. Jay-Z says he dislikes that rap is not treated as an artform, is annoyed that people regularly ask him questions he answered in his 2010 memoir, and believes that Obama’s contribution to the irrelevance of the hustler represents progress.  All these things, along with the writer’s claim that the rapper’s lyrics are “built to handle contradiction” are treated as asides of little importance.

It fails to discuss Jay-Z’s uncommon and wildly successful practice of nurturing artists for years before expecting a profit. It doesn’t question his ironic history of dramatic failure in long-term working relationships with artists who were stars in their own right (R. Kelly, Beanie Sigal), Kanye West aside. It never explores Jay-Z’s feelings behind the tireless, mignon-like effort he has put in adding value to the Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise, despite that he only owns a tiny sliver of the team. His actions can be interpreted as a foolish blowhard’s attempt to earn high society credibility, a take-nothing-for-granted sweat equity attitude any man can learn from, or anything in between.  These are issues that speak directly to the way the man thinks, things that only he can clarify. But we never know the answers, because no one asks. The article simply recycles an established narrative, referring to Jay-Z as more of a grounded deity requiring little more than opaque commentary. It gives no indication of a man worth exploring.

To be fair, coaxing fresh material from a seasoned superstar can’t be easy. They’ve answered the same underwhelming questions hundreds of times. They have a brand to protect.  They’ve had years of practice artfully dodging issues they don’t care to address. But it still stands that thorough profiles of men of color are few and far in between. Halfway effective write-ups like the New York Times piece do not help alleviate the problem.  In this respect, major media outlets may have something to learn from smaller, niche websites and magazines. It seems that, recently, in the realm of musicians and entertainers, interviews and profiles of those below the radar have done better to uncover the core of personalities readers can engage with.

Bass Musician’s interview with Marcus Miller, for example, introduces readers to a jazz musician, writer, and film composer many may not know of, but should. He has been around long enough to work with Roberta Flack, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, and a bunch of renowned artists outside of popular music, but fluently waxes poetic on more modern interests like Janelle Monae, Robert Glasper, and pro basketball. It’s obvious he is steeped in knowledge and worldly experience in and outside the scope of professional music and entertainment. By the time you finish the interview, you want to download a copy of Tutu and King of Blue, hop on a plane, and go experience the world you’ve just read about. You want take a second listen to the music you’ve loved for years; the right way this time. 98% of black men could be jailbirds, slingers, and aspiring entertainers without a shot in hell, and it wouldn’t change what you thought of the man. The article lets Miller stand on his own his two feet., Nashville Scene, Jazz Advance, and iCrates cover Wynton Marsalis, Rashaan Barber, Hakim Bellamy, and the Detroit music scene in similar fashion. Readers are presented with a learning experience that stands on its own; not a replica anchored to society’s expectations. Why does this happen? My best guess is, without a room built in between cultural floors and ceilings reserved for the entertainer’s public existence, the focus is on the artist themselves. For a long time, rappers were branded macho or conscious and R&B artists were devoted lovers or suave players, with little room in between. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a common behavioral yardstick for today’s jazz artists to be measured against. They are their own muse.

Even the crime that supposedly dominates the black male narrative in the news can be covered more comprehensively. Black crime is low as well as high. There are reasons that people commit crimes and situations that allow it. While the 21 year-old black male who was arrested or killed in Houston may have some things in common with the man of similar description and circumstance in Chicago, I’m willing to bet there are things that are distinct about their situations, their persons, their cities. I say this as a matter of fact more than poetic justice: criminals are people too.  And the situations that surround them are generally driven by all sorts of human motivations, perceptions, and interactions.

The recent spree of violence in Bridgeport, CT and nearby New Haven serve as examples. Individually, the stories in the local media are just blurbs. Together, they tell a more coherent story. A young father anchored to the city by simple economics. Neighboring communities who make every effort to limit his choices. Legal and black market entities that benefit from local violence. Police forces and community members with conflicting priorities. Real, violent, ignorant pride celebrated through music. Policy makers who choose easy and dismissive over difficult and effective. Community members whose decision not to vote make it that much easier for criminal motives to have influence in their neighborhoods. Putting that all together doesn’t justify the violence.  But it does give readers a lot more to think about than “21 year old black male suspect wanted for murder of local teen. Assumed to be gang-related.”

What of engaging stories of the other everymen? The men whose snapshots won’t be seen on or in the local neighborhood police blotter? I spent about a month on Google News and looking for just that and consistently came across articles like “Winning Isn’t Everything,” “The Racing Life,” and “The Longest Fight.” They are rich, wonderful profiles that neatly fit into the “quiet nods to a lifetime of sacrifice” category, with the caveat that a solid amount of these deep engaging narratives are about men who are no longer living. That a noticeable chunk of the better profile pieces available seem to cover experiences from the distant past is in itself a problem.

These stories about aged, seasoned, and expired men are wonderful unto themselves. But waiting, in bulk, to profile these men only once they have  passed their peaks or have been recognized as worthy by the rest of society feeds into the false pretense that a man is only worth something once he has attained wealth, shrine, or status. Profiles in the now shape a dynamic present and future built on a historical foundation, rather than a static look into the past. Readers get to tag along for the journey as it happens. It's something tangible, close enough for a young boy or man to feel he can aspire to right now.

What do you think would be more effective in encouraging an eleven year old kid to explore, hands on, the world at large? A five page interview with a 50-something year old musician, playing music the kid and his peers can hardly recognize? Or a two page profile of a 12 year old hip-hop artist raised by a father who has been in the music and entertainment business for nearly as long as hip-hop has been around. To an adolescent, Miller and his craft might as well fit in somewhere between the beginning of time and the civil war. But an AMIRacle might plant the seeds for them to look back to a Marcus Miller once their ears are ready to appreciate his music.

This is not to say that the world needs less coverage of the Marcus Millers, Jay-Z’s, and Wynton Marsalis’ of the world, but that it needs more stories like AMIRacle ,“No Ordinary Joe,” “Papa,” and “Wunderkind.”  It needs even more “Stories For Thirtysomethings,” “DJ Mix Jus,” “From The Streets,” and “The Curse of The Black Republican,”  Ghetto Manga, “Top Prosecuter,” and Dreamer. And many, many, many, maaaany more contemporary stories about men that fall outside the bounds of sports, entertainment, and pop culture. There can never be enough of articles, blog posts, and videos like “The Importance Of Going Places For Yourself,” “Massacre In Jamaica,” “Dreams,” “The Richest,” “Work to Ride,” “Rebirth,” “Starting The Conversation,” “Controversial,” “Learning To Be Black In America,” and “Dirty Little Secret.” How positive or negative these articles appear are secondary. What’s more important right now is that these stories are searching, thoughtful, and sincere. Above all, the world at large would benefit from a future where media regularly explored the lives of these men with as much verve as the public figures they revere. They should, in the very least, find a place to exist somewhere out in medialand.

Image by David_Shankbone, licensed under Creative Commons.



Crockpot: Immigration Edition

Statue of Liberty FogLast Saturday, Hispanic Heritage Month officially began. For 25 years, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and a host of other museums and groups have celebrated Hispanic and Latino contributions to American history and culture. But this year’s celebrations are especially bittersweet, says Jose Miguel Leyva in the Progressive, when we consider the realities immigrants continue to face. After years of soaring rhetoric and patient activism, Latinos are “still being taken for granted by politicians of both parties.” The Obama administration in particular, despite inclusive language and a recent much-touted executive order, has pursued some of the most draconian immigration policies in decades, Leyva says. Most young immigrants lacking papers will be ineligible for “deferred action,” as well as Obamacare. “Latinos deserve substantive actions,” says Leyva, “not the hollow promises of politicians trying to curry favor with us at election time.”


Want to protect voting rights? There’s an app for that, says Maegan E. Ortiz in Colorlines. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law might well be toast, but laws in other states could still disenfranchise millions of voters. That’s why minority communities across the country are using social media to register, inform, and support as many voters as possible between now and November, says Ortiz. Campaigns like Native Vote use Facebook and webinars to boost Native Americans’ typically low turnout, while Nuestra Elección! aims to target eligible Spanish-speakers and curb voter suppression.


Despite the unprecedented drop in immigration from Mexico since 2000, deportations have reached an all-time high. A new report from the Department Homeland Security shows that last year, the government deported nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants, says Common Dreams. According to ICE records, that number has been growing quickly in recent years, up from 291,000 in 2007. 


Video: author Junot Diaz on immigrant rights and why Americans are still in a state of denial about the contributions of undocumented immigrants. “We should be able to recognize as a community the people who do the heavy lifting, and stop afflicting them,” Diaz says. “Our contributions have to be honored.”


On May Day 2006, millions of undocumented protesters breathed new life into an old, largely forgotten holiday. That day, the Day Without Immigrants, the streets of dozens of U.S. cities erupted with marches and actions as immigrants called for humane laws and treatment and raised awareness of their importance to American society. The 2006 actions, which marked a turning point in the immigrant rights movement, also signaled a new chapter in labor history. Since then, May Day has begun to approach its historical significance among American workers, from the 2008 West Coast port shutdown to this year’s mass demonstrations in support of Occupy and workers’ rights. Not to mention the over one million immigrant rights activists who took to the streets on May Day 2010.

Immigrants and workers are natural allies, say Ana Avendaño and Charlie Fanning in Dissent, and they’re now coming together in a big way. While some of the most high profile immigration activism in recent years has centered on the DREAM Act, many activists are now embracing a broader set of goals, and using organized labor to make them a reality. From the CLEAN Carwash Campaign in Los Angeles to No Papers No Fear, immigration activists are increasingly seeing workplaces as battlegrounds and unions as natural partners. What’s more, these alliances have expanded their scope to questions of community organizing and social justice, and in some ways resemble a burgeoning social movement, say Avendaño and Fanning. “This kind of grassroots mobilization holds much promise for those who dream of a more democratic future,” they say.

Image by Ludovic Bertron, licensed under Creative Commons.


Crockpot 08.31.12: Maps Edition

Red Globe  

There has been no shortage of map-based predictions of this year’s election, with all eyes on the 95-odd tossup electors, especially the ones in Ohio and Florida. One of the more interesting takes has been the map center at, which lets you compare solid and swing states against demographic data (their Patchwork Nation map series is also really worth checking out). But David Sparks, a Duke political scientist, has a more fine-tuned approach. Almost all election maps, he realized, were choropleth, meaning only differences between states or counties could be shown. An isarthmic map, on the other hand, allows you to see gradations and contours that don’t necessarily fall into concrete political boundaries.

So Sparks created an isarthmic election map—quite possibly the first of its kind—which lets us see the informal political boundaries that simpler maps often miss. What’s more, he created a time-lapse of presidential returns from 1920 to 2008, which gives us a dramatic portrait of how our political landscape changed over much of the last century. You can see it here, on Ecopolitology. What stands out more than anything is just how solid the South has almost always been, whether as staunch Dixiecrats before the Civil Rights Act, or as a reliable GOP base since Nixon. It also illustrates the huge, long-term changes that accompanied elections like 1932, 1960, and 1980—and of course 2008.


Wasn’t this in Russia? Yanko Tsvetkov’s amusing Mapping Stereotypes project on Brain Pickings explores the world through the unforgiving eyes of Russians, Americans, and a few others. You can check out the rest on Tsvetkov’s blog. One of the best is Asia According to Americans, with Central Asia divided between “WTF-stan,” “Vietnam 2.0,” and “Borat.”


Maps have also been a big part of this year’s climate change debate. NASA’s Arctic melt imagery seems to be everywhere this summer, along with equally foreboding graphics like this one from the U.S. Drought Monitor. A little more optimistically, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has devised a series of maps showing the nation’s best hotspots for renewables like wind, solar, and geothermal, available at Grist. The upshot seems to be that Americans west of the Mississippi have the greatest potential to develop sustainable energy, whether it’s wind farms in the Great Plains, solar in the Southwest, or geothermal in the Mountain States.

And a little less optimistically, the Center for Global Development has mapped where the worst effects of climate change are likely to strike, from severe weather to sea level rise, to famine. The results are kind of what experts have been saying for a while now: while the U.S. may see more extreme weather, the biggest overall risks remain in the Global South, especially sub-Saharan Africa. A key challenge for Northern countries may be how to respond to humanitarian crises and disasters that are likely to erupt in the Third World.


What if our maps are wrong? In cities with a lot public transit, official maps of the subway or train systems are almost always distorted, says Smithsonian Magazine. Usually that means making downtown way too big, which is what Chicago and San Francisco do. But in some cities, like London and New York, the errors go a step further, putting streets in the wrong place and misplacing intersections. Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, for instance, is completely out of whack, says Smithsonian. OK, so how much does it all matter? Apparently a lot. Distorted maps influence people’s commutes and rides, and might even get them lost. So much for efficiency.

Image by Kieran Lynam, licensed under Creative Commons.  


Saving A Rainforest: Crockpot 08.24.12

Metalmark Butterfly

Our weekly guide to what you may have missed.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many Global South countries depend on fossil fuels for economic survival. But Ecuador has found an innovative solution, says Audubon. The Quito government knows full well that its Ishpingo, Tambococha, and Tiputini oilfields are worth billions, but the fields are also sitting on Yasuní National Park. And the Amazonian park has treasures of its own, including a full 20 percent of world bird species and more tree varieties than all of North America. So, President Correa has proposed a bargain: if the rest of the world can pony up a (small) percentage of the oilfields’ lost revenue by 2024, they won’t drill. The proposal may add up to blackmail, but major players are already heavily involved, including the German government and the UN. The upshot could be a protected forest and an empowered Third World economy. 


Understanding Rem Koolhaas’ satirical architecture: from the “setback” New York office building to the “crumbling” Bangkok high-rise, Koolhaas’ largely unbuilt designs disrupt expectations and lend common forms a shade of irony, says Smithsonian Magazine. There’s even an occasional anti-corporate message. One proposal for a Paris office block includes a single floor jutting away from rest of the tower, complete with subversive billboard signs such as ne jamais travailler, or “never work.”


It’s not easy to catch some civil discourse these days, but it’s still out there. Check out Treehugger’s list of “26 Things We Can All Agree On” (with pictures!), mostly having to do with the environmental crisis. It’s a lot of no-brainers—“Every kid should have the opportunity to climb a tree,” “Tap water shouldn’t catch on fire”—but that’s the point. The sooner we realize most of us see eye to eye on things like, “Kids need healthy food,” the better.


President Obama may be ahead in national polls, but that doesn’t change the Democrats’ deeper demography problems, says Jack Metzger in Working Class Perspectives. Like most Democrats, Obama did very well among minorities and women in 2008, winning the nonwhite vote by a full 60 percentage points. But also like previous elections, 2012 will likely come down to working class whites—and probably males. In that group, the Dems have a lousy record. Such a crude classification of American society is unfortunate, says Metzger, but the fact is that if the Republicans can edge out just 5 percent of the white working class from 2008, Romney’s headed for the White House. And in 2008, those white working class voters made up a majority in battleground states like Ohio and Iowa. The solution? The Democrats need to stop thinking in stereotypes, Metzger argues, and maybe—just maybe—stop calling everyone “middle class.”

Not to mention the fact that the middle class itself is changing faster than pollsters seem to realize. Should the Democrats venture far beyond Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium during the DNC next month, they might catch a glimpse of what local photographer Nancy Pierce has recently documented. There, once-booming exurbs have been transformed into ghost towns, says Streetsblog’s Angie Smith. We’ve known about exurban decline for a while now, Smith adds, but Pierce’s photography is still a powerful and surreal portrait of decay—and naturally poignant as the city plans to soon host the biggest political shindig of the year.  


And don’t miss Democracy Now’s moving remembrance of Howard Zinn, who died two years ago at the age of 87. Zinn would have been 90 today, and to celebrate his birthday Democracy Now has posted a 2009 interview in which Zinn discussed honesty, history, and the power of ordinary people. And of course his message of standing up to injustice and falsehood is resonant as ever. 

A periander metalmark butterfly in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park. Image by Geoff Gallice, licensed under Creative Commons.     

Post-Olympic Blues: Crockpot 08.17.12


Our weekly guide to what you may have missed.  

“A science fiction fantasy from the sixties with a view to the sea.” We tend to forget about the Olympics once they’re over, but the games often leave behind quite a lot. In a series of vignettes in Granta, writers living in Beijing, Athens, and elsewhere recall the changes the Olympics brought to their communities, and what remains of the spectacle. “I happen to live in the Olympic neighborhood, built twenty years ago for the games,” says Santiago Roncagliolo, from Barcelona. “This is the point where past meets present, and you wonder which is the real one. I still have no answer.”

And check out this Sociological Images post on “the life of Olympic infrastructure once all the spectators pack up and go home,” from John Pack and Gary Hustwit’s Olympic City Project.  

One thing that’s clear about post-Olympic London, however: “the gloves come off,” says Dave Zirin in Edge of Sports (thanks, ZNet). International spectacle could hardly distract many Londoners from a crumbling economy, harsh austerity, and a blossoming national security state, and London politics are about to get messy. What will the city remember 20 years from now?


Video: The Center for Investigative Journalism takes on industrial ag in The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers, a new animated short (reposted by Civil Eats). Bottom line: beef is a big rip-off. For every ounce of beef that’s made, a pound of greenhouse gases are also produced. And that says nothing for other externalized costs, like health risks, water pollution, and mistreatment of workers, to name a few. Oh, and we’re addicted to it.


From Colossal: Recreating Van Gogh masterpieces with colored newsprint and pieces of wood.  


Climate change has been the forefront of a lot of people’s minds this summer, along with a lot of very difficult questions about our role in confronting crisis and adapting to change. But for Sarah Gilman, one of the biggest questions is how to deal with a loss of this magnitude. Writing in High Country News, she wonders how we “grasp the obliteration of so much we have known and loved,” as we move very quickly from world to another entirely different one. Reflecting on creative responses like Maya Lin’s “What is missing” project, Gilman’s own answer points toward the future. “Looking forward, grieving for what has been,” she says, “we must remember that loss is not new to the world, and that loss is also possibility.”


President Obama may have put the kibosh on Keystone XL, but that didn’t stop TransCanada from trying to make it happen in smaller pieces, especially in the southern plains. But activists in Texas have no intention of letting that happen, says Forrest Wilder in The Texas Observer. Construction on the pipeline could begin very soon, which is why Tar Sands Blockade got into gear on Thursday with “a sustained campaign of civil disobedience” to block the project in East Texas. Dozens of people have signed on, marking a new chapter in what Wilder calls “one of the biggest environmental fights of our time."  

The blockade in Texas makes a powerful statement, says Bill McKibben in Think Progress (via Grist), and invokes the civil disobedience last year that eventually spurred action from Washington. What’s more, the actions come at an appropriate time, as similar protests have erupted in places like West Virginia, Montana, and the Pacific Northwest over coal exports and mining. The fight over Keystone XL united a lot of disparate groups of people last year, says McKibben, and that can happen again.  

Image by Kiko Alario Salom, licensed under Creative Commons 


Seceding Is Hard To Do: Crockpot 08.10.12

Confederate Flag

Remember back in 2009 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry almost-but-not-quite said his state should secede from the union? The small media blitz that followed dramatically illustrated that even in the 21st century, the South retains a good deal of its separateness, and its bad rap among Northerners. After all, America’s most populous region was the last holdout for slavery and segregation. And among many Northern liberals, the South’s recent recasting as the low-wage, anti-union Sunbelt hasn’t helped its standing. The solution? Let them go, says writer Chuck Thompson, who’s written a tongue-in-cheek book arguing for southern secession. The upshot, says Thompson in an interview with AlterNet, would be a mutual breakup, hopefully without all the fuss of a civil war. Oh, and they can take Utah.

And speaking of culture wars, what kind of sandwich defines you as a voter? In the wake of the Chick-fil-A firestorm, it may come as no shock that restaurant preferences can say quite a lot about a person’s politics. That’s the idea behind a graphic posted on Sociological Images by Gwen Sharp that charts customers at a handful of restaurants against their voting behavior and political outlook. As with almost everything else in 21st century, there’s a pretty clear partisan divide here. But what’s really interesting, says Sharp, is what the results say about the class dimensions of voter turnout: patrons at sit-down restaurants, whether liberal or conservative, were in general much more likely to vote than fast food customers. It also points out an irony of the Chick-fil-A controversy: while Chick-fil-A customers are in general very conservative, they’re not among those most likely to vote. Whether the restaurant’s recent politicization changes this, is hard to say.    


“Quick, Henry, the Flit!” Long before Horton the Elephant and Yertle the Turtle, Theodore Seuss Geisel made a name for himself in advertising and political cartoons, says Josh Jones at Open Culture. One of his most famous ads for Standard Oil’s Flit insect repellant went about as viral as anything could in the 1930s, and Geisel was soon called on to devote his artistic skill to the Allied war effort. Following the war, and after recasting himself as Dr. Seuss, Geisel devoted himself to somewhat more high minded themes and ideas. But these early works still retain a kind of surreal Seuss magic, especially when you consider the context. Here’s a link to some more.


Turns out dirty elections go back a long way. In 1758, while running for the Virginia House of Burgesses, George Washington buttered his voters up with free beer on election day. That’s the first milestone on Mother Jones’ new dark money timeline, beginning with the American colonies. But of course, it only gets worse from there.


With or without a heat wave, most Americans are probably not taking to the beach this summer. That Americans have less vacation days than workers in most other rich countries is no surprise, but it turns out most of us don’t even use the time we get. A recent survey by Right Management found that American workers leave an average of 11 vacation days unused each year, out of fear of being fired, says Kathy M. Newman in Working Class Perspectives. The survey also found that two thirds of American workers avoid taking lunch breaks and many avoid taking sick days.

And many companies are starting to take notice. But rather than provide better working conditions, firms like McDonald’s and Applebee’s are tapping into worker fatigue in advertisements, Newman says. In one recent ad for, a Norma Rae-looking scene unfolds in which a woman in an office attempts to organize her fellow office workers to, well, visit Las Vegas. Whether the woman is later fired for taking her vacation time is hard to say.

Image by eyeliam, licensed under Creative Commons.  



Biking Route 66: Crockpot 08.03.12

Route 66 Santa Monica

Our online guide to what you may have missed this week.  

The new transpo bill may be disappointing for cyclists, but that doesn’t stop more and more people from getting interested in biking. And increasingly, that means universities and think tanks, says Pacific Standard. Ideas like bikeability and how cycling figures into class distinctions are gaining a big following on campuses throughout the country. North Carolina’s Lees-McGrae College even offers a cycling minor.

And Congress also looks pretty powerless to stop a new push for national bike routes led by nonprofits like the Adventure Cycling Association. Currently, six national routes are in the works across the lower 48, including—get this—Route 66, all the way from Chicago to LA, says Grist. The Great American Bike Trip, as its known, is still very much in the planning stage, but a nod last year from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials—comprised mostly of state DOT big wigs—was a big step forward. If all goes according to plan, the road trip of the 21st century could look very different.  


The Baffler’s Thomas Frank asks, how vibrant is your city? And, more to the point, who cares?


Redlining and blockbusting may be long gone, but segregation isn’t going anywhere, says the Pew Research Center. A new study finds that segregation based on income level has increased dramatically since 1980, especially in the Sunbelt and the Northeast.


Adrien Brody does a mean Salvador Dali in Woody Allen’s recent Midnight in Paris, but Dali himself is no stranger to the big screen. In the late 1960s, the surrealist master appeared on not one, but three French TV commercials for chocolate, wine, and yes, even Alka-Seltzer. Open Culture posted this video medley, along with some fascinating background.

Oh, and here’s an equally bizarre Dali appearance on What’s My Line in 1957.


A little good news on climate from Treehugger: despite the heat wave, US energy production is generating its lowest carbon emission levels since 1992. Reportedly, this year’s first quarter saw an 8 percent drop from 2011.


Finally, how much do you spend on entertainment? Sociological Images reposted an interesting graphic comparing household budgets between classes. Among the biggest differences between rich and poor are how much goes to health insurance, food, and especially retirement. More surprising were the constants: most people tend to put about the same share of their income toward things like clothes, going out to eat, and even education, regardless of how much they make. And as a general rule, working class families tend to spend a much bigger pie slice on immediate necessities like utilities and groceries.

And those differences are growing. A new interactive feature from Demos charts the demographics of poverty in America, and how they’ve changed since 1970. Nearly 50 million Americans today are below the poverty line, and people of color, women, and young people disproportionately affected.

Image by Prayitno, licensed under Creative Commons 


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