Your Weekend Reader for Oct. 2-3

by | Oct 1, 2021 | Journalism, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

I’m posting this edition of Your Weekend Reader earlier than usual so that you have a few hours to bid on some of the Duck Stamp paintings that “Last Week Tonight” entered into the annual U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service competition; bidding ends Friday evening. For more on this, read on.

Let’s start this weekend with the perilous state of American democracy, take a detour into the Duck Stamp program, and see where we go from there.

Rick Hasen is a professor of law at the University of California-Irvine and the co-director of the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at the University of California-Irvine; if the name sounds familiar, that may be because in September 2020, he wrote an article for Slate headlined “I’ve Never Been More Scared About American Democracy Than I Am Right Now.” Politico Magazine caught up with Hasen lately for a Q-and-A session, and guess what? Hasen still is plenty scared about the prospects for U.S. democracy — and we probably should be as well.

Which reminds me: The primary topic on last Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” was the continuing assault on voter rights. Click here to view that segment. As you might imagine, it’s fairly downbeat. But the show ended with a hysterical bit about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Federal Duck Stamp competition. Warning, The segment includes references to duck penises. If you’re reading this on Friday, you still might have time to bid on any of the paintings the show entered into the competition.

Speaking of “Last Week Tonight,” its bracing brand of advocacy comedy owes quite a lot, of course, to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Now, Stewart is back with a new show on Apple TV +, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.” Dave Itzkoff, a fine culture reporter for The New York Times, sat down with Stewart to talk about the new show. The show itself is very much still a work in progress, says Times reviewer James Poniewozik.

Speaking of Times reviews, A.O. Scott is in with an early assessment of “No Time to Die,” the 25th James Bond movie and the last one to star Daniel Craig as 007. Scott didn’t care for the movie very much. But the initial assessment from British critics, where the movie premiered this week, has been more positive. The flick opens next Friday, Oct. 8, stateside. Regardless of what the Times says, I will mask up and go see it at the multiplex — I mean, those Times critics can’t always be right. (If you’re looking for new flicks this weekend, I’ve got the lowdown right here.)

And speaking of confirmation bias: If you’re no fan of Facebook (and who really is, even though we all use it?), you might be intrigued by this opinion piece from The Guardian’s John Naughton. Here’s a sentence that gives you a good feel for the entire piece: “Facebook is one of the most toxic corporations on the planet.” 

Ed Yong of The Atlantic already has won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the coronavirus, and he’s showing no signs of letting up. His newest piece for the magazine is titled “We’re Already Barreling Toward the Next Pandemic.” Yong writes: “Delta was an audition for the next pandemic, and one that America flubbed. How can a country hope to stay 10 steps ahead of tomorrow’s viruses when it can’t stay one step ahead of today’s?” But Yong puts the failure into historical perspective; we’ve been here before. The question now is whether we can break the pattern.

Finally this week, a pair of stories about the changing landscape of college athletics — specifically, how the athletes now can cash in on their fame and marketability. James Day of the Gazette-Times had a Sunday piece exploring how the new rules surrounding “name, image and likeness” (NIL) might play out at Oregon State University. Meanwhile, down the road at the University of Oregon, some well-heeled donors and alumni (you can guess some of the names involved), have formed a new company, Division Street, devoted to helping Oregon athletes deal with the new NIL rules.

Finally, a late addition, from The Atlantic: Marina Koren reports on how the moon is drifting away from the Earth, at the rate of about an inch and a half or so every year. It’s a phenomenon that astronomers say can’t be stopped — and, as silly as this sounds, it made me sad.

That’s it for this weekend. If you choose to bid on any of those Duck Stamp paintings, good luck.

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