“The Internet was a wonderful invention. It was a wonderful network which people used to remind other people that they were awful pieces of shit.” It’s a hell of a way to start a novel, and Jarett Kobek’s I Hate The Internet has enough brilliance and animus to back it up. The story follows Adeline, a comic-book writer, who commits the “only unforgivable sin of the Twenty-First Century,” which is: being a woman, having an opinion and having that opinion shared on the Internet. Kobek uses this skeletal plot to make informed digressions/manifestos on the dire state of everything from comic-book culture to social media to San Francisco tech bros to race relations. Written in stark, declarative statements, it almost feels like reading a bullet-pointed novel. At times, it feels a little brain-washy, but Kobek’s presentation of the Internet as a weapon instead of a bastion of free ideas makes more sense every day, especially considering that death and rape threats have become commonplace on social media.
U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) made headlines recently for his impassioned speech about gun control during the Democrat sit-in on the floor of the House. Moving as that speech was, suffering the wrath of House Republicans is small potatoes compared to what the man went through during the Civil Rights era of the ’60s. In the spirit of nonfiction graphic novels such as Maus, Persepolis and Fun Home, Lewis’ series of March books are both beautifully drawn and intensely paced. With help from co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, the first two books spanned from Lewis’ youth as a sharecropper’s son, to his meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. and culminating in the March on Washington in 1963. The recently released third and final book covers the voting rights protests of the deep south, including the Selma march where Lewis thought he was going to die. The series recently picked up a much-deserved Eisner Award (the comic industry Oscar) for “Best Reality-Based Work” which is suitable enough considering many of the issues discussed in March, from racism to voting rights, we’re still struggling with today.
I don’t like football. It’s boring and kind of brutal, especially now that we know about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the major issues it causes. Still, the sport offers many young men, especially underprivileged men of color, a chance for a bright future. Nothing pulls at my heart and makes me sob like a baby like an inspirational sports story. Last Chance U is just that. The Netflix documentary series follows a community college football team in rural Mississippi that is full of powerhouse players who were dropped, lost their way or have been dealt a setback in their collegiate football careers. A dedicated team of coaches and counselors help these young men make it on the field and in the classroom. This is basically Friday Night Lights IRL, with the Tami Taylor role being taken by a tough but caring counselor named Brittany Wagner. This docu-series will ignite, or reignite if you’re a football fan bummed out on the Chargers, your passion for rooting for the underdog home team.
Pascal Plisson’s moving 2008 documentary needs to become an annual staple shown to U.S. kids who grumble or groan about what a hassle it is to get to school. There are some hard treks to the schoolyard in this country, but no American kid has it as tough as is depicted in the four tales of travel found here. In Morocco, three 12-year-olds walk four hours through mountains to get to boarding school. A brother and sister in Kenya have to avoid rampaging elephants in a 10-mile trek. Argentine siblings share a horse to navigate a 22-mile round-trip course to school. And in southern India, 13-year-old Samuel must be pushed in a dilapidated wheelchair by his two brothers—through rivers and soft dirt and sometimes with a flat tire. Show this to your teens and tweens (it’s available on iTunes) and expect them to keep their carpool simpering to a minimum.
There are a lot of voices on Blood Orange’s third album Freetown Sound— including indie pop singer Empress Of, pop star Carly Rae Jepsen and Blondie frontwoman Deborah Harry—which at times makes Blood Orange singer/songwriter Dev Hynes a little like a supporting player on his own album. But what Hynes does on Freetown Sound (in addition to playing essentially all of the instruments on the album) is curate his own live-recorded mixtape about American black culture, past and present. “Desiree” incorporates clips from LGBTQ ball culture documentary Paris is Burning in a hazy and warm dance number, while “Hands Up” directly references the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Even the relatively simple ballad “Love Ya” ends on an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates about the careful choices he had to make as a teenager, for his own safety. Freetown Sound is as much about harsh realities as it is about celebration, and the songwriting is Hynes’ best yet. It’s a deep, thoughtful and compassionate look at race, gender, sexuality and identity.
The bleak reality is that one in five women on college campuses are victims of rape or attempted rape, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Since the definition of “no” is somehow unclear, women need prevention and protection tactics. Cue Wearsafe—a plastic, oval “tag” that alerts a pre-selected group of people that you’re in trouble at the touch of a button. Think of it as Life Alert for millennials. When you push the tag’s button, your GPS coordinates are sent to the group along with an audio recording of your surroundings (including 60 seconds of sound before the button was pressed). A chat is automatically opened and contacts can discuss the best way to send help. The only catch is that every contact must also download the app in order to be part of your network, and there are essentially zero directions on how to set it up. The idea itself is genius, but the execution could be improved, like including an instructions manual or allowing users to send alerts without Wi-Fi.