Recommended Reading: The Tragedy of Oakland’s Ghost Ship, Taibbi vs Friedman, and the First Self-Help Guru

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week, we recommend two pieces examining the aftermath of the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland, rejoice in Matt Taibbi impaling Tom Friedman, giggle at the alt-right, and plenty more.


The fire at Oakland DIY venue Ghost Ship was tragic in its own right — pretty much everyone I know in Brooklyn has at least one friend, either in New York or the Bay Area, who lost a person (or people) close to them — and, depressingly, it’s also being used as a pretext for a nation-wide crackdown on similar illegal spaces. In this piece for the Talkhouse, sometime Flavorwire contributor Jes Skolnik argues that this is short-sighted and likely to cause far more harm than good:

Further criminalization and other moralistic punitive measures… will kill more of us than they will save. It’s true for drug use, it’s true for victims of domestic violence, and it’s true for DIY show spaces and the people, like me, who need them.


On a similar note, another former Flavorwire contributor (and, full disclosure, your editor-in chief’s girlfriend), Sophie Weiner, writes for the Village Voice about the Ghost Ship tragedy in the context of the history of electronic music, the continual pattern of governmental and institutional hostility toward electronic genres, and the ongoing battles of DIY spaces around the country to survive:

The underground has continued to become increasingly vital as a place where marginalized groups — trans, gay, black, or otherwise — can feel safe being themselves. But such parties are thrown by artists and small-time promoters who rarely have the kind of capital required to open a legitimate venue. That means those put at risk by the unsafe conditions in these spaces are the very people who already face discrimination under the law… In this desperate environment, where an entire scene risks losing spaces to gather, it doesn’t come as a surprise that collectives like Ghost Ship spring up — or that they can’t afford to invest in safety measures like sprinklers.


MTV News’s Brian Phillips looks back at the political clusterfuck of 2016, and unloads on the alt-right in a piece that’s as bitterly funny as it is depressing and terrifying (also, the URL is hilarious — go on, click through, it’s worth it):

There are people in America who are genuinely afraid for their safety. That has always been true, of course, but since the election, the fear has skyrocketed. Hate crimes have surged. Insane internet lies have led to real-life outbursts of violence. People of color, queer people, Muslims, immigrants — many feel vulnerable, in Donald Trump’s America, simply because of who they are. Then there are the real victims. I mean, of course, young white men who have not had much luck getting dates.


In an especially depressing week, it’s no surprise that the majority of pieces in this column are, well, depressing — but here’s a moment of levity! In a review that’s often laugh-out-loud funny, Rolling Stone‘s incomparable Matt Taibbi takes an axe to Thomas Friedman’s new book Thank You for Being Late — a book that is, Taibbi argues, exactly the same as every other Thomas Friedman book:

Friedman’s great anti-gift is his ability to use many words when only a few are necessary. He became famous as a newspaper columnist for taking simple one-sentence observations like, “Wow, everyone has a cell phone these days,” and blowing them out into furious 850-word trash-fires of mismatched imagery and circular argument. The double-axel version of this feat was to then rewrite that same column over and over again, in the same newspaper, only piling on more incongruous imagery and skewing rhetoric to further stoke that one thought into an even higher and angrier fire… Build a sentence into a column; build a column into many columns; build many columns into a book; build one book into many books. Then start over!


Just in time for the holiday season, a perfect riposte to the Trump-votin’ uncle/cousin/other annoying relative who responds to the fact that they’re losing an argument with you by insisting “I’m entitled to my opinion!”… this brief Quartz interview with philosophy professor Patrick Stokes, who explains why, nope, you are not, in fact, entitled to your opinion at all:

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” is considered a logical fallacy. An opinion is a view or judgement about something. So, by definition, an opinion has attached to it a certain degree of uncertainty or subjectivity, and using it as a defense only works in certain situations.


If you’ve got the time to get some really serious reading done this weekend, then feast yourself on this epic 20,000 word story by Gizmodo’s Matt Novak about early 20th century conman Napoleon Hill, who basically originated the self-help genre — thanks, Napoleon! — and lived a life that featured, inter alia, fraud, murder, fraud, many abandoned wives, more fraud, and an immortal baby cult:

Modern readers are probably familiar with the 2006 sensation The Secret, but the concepts in that book were essentially plagiarized from Napoleon Hill’s 1937 classic Think and Grow Rich, which has reportedly sold over 15 million copies to date. The big idea in both: The material universe is governed quite directly by our thoughts. If you simply visualize what you want out of life, those things and more will be delivered to you. Especially if those things involve money.


If your looking for a fabulous profile of a fabulous pop star — and trust me, your life absolutely needs this — then you should read this profile of awesome trans pop star Macy Rodman (“the trans pop Courtney Love”) by Oxygen’s Eric Shorey:

“At our first-ever party we had a naked poet. We had witchcraft rituals. We had a guy staple his testicles to his leg. We had a full range of drag queens: we had really beautiful brilliant drag queens and really messy first time, like, 19 year old drag queens. It kind of became a place where people would come to try stuff out or do whatever they want to do that they thought was weird. That environment was really fun for everybody.”


And finally, in a sort of meta-spiral of recommended reading, here is a piece in the Guardian wherein a variety of scientists choose their recommended reading for 2016. Go crazy!