A Capital anticipations list: Campaign finance anatomy, Henrietta Lacks, sea disaster films, PEN World Voices
Each week, Capital's editors and writers will offer a list of the events, activities, releases and personal obsessions that we are looking forward to during the next week. Here is a list of our anticipations.
"The Anatomy of Campaign Finance" at the New School
Azi: I'm an unrepentant dork and would go to this thing even if I wasn't a politics reporter: On Tuesday, May 1, the New School will host a talk, titled "The Anatomy of Campaign Finance: Money's powerful influence on US politics and policy." Super PACs will be flooding the airwaves in the 2012 cycle and, anyone living in New York City since 2001 has experienced what a $100 million mayoral campaign looks like.
But the debate about how to "reform" the influence of money in politics is always a tricky one, replete with unintended consequence. The New York Post's Fred Dicker recalled recently how reform efforts to one current boondagle in Albany. Right now, legislators that have to travel to Albany get their housing, meal and travel expenses covered in the form of a set fee, known as a per diem. They check in for work, submit a form for their per diem, and whatever they don't spend, they get to pocket. The result was legislators had no incentive to end the session early; if anything, the longer they were in session, the more money would go into their pocket.
That's the system "reformers" pushed for, Dicker noted. Prior to that, legislator got one lump sum at the start of the year, and there wasn't much reporting or accountability on how it was spent. The result, according to Dicker, was that legislators hurried up with the business of legislating in Albany so they could return home, quickly, and pocket as much as they could. Sessions ended earlier in the year and state government had, truly, a part-time government.
Gardening and Rebecca Skloot's Henrietta Lacks
Dana: On Sunday, for the first time this season, I am happy to report I will be gardening. The first order of business will be my front yard. The tulips my friends helped me plant in the fall, despite their early rat-bitten appearance, came up beautifully. And the hydrangea and hostas are returning in good form. But the rest of it's looking pretty patchy.
I also plan on finishing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot's awesome book about the woman whose cancerous cells—the same ones that killed her—have become intrinsic to all sorts of groundbreaking medical research. Lacks didn't know her cells were being taken, and her family hasn't benefitted from their dissemination. All of which raises a bunch of troubling ethical questions.
Refused regrets, Hunter's open studios, sea disaster films
Joe: This week's entry is kind of a reverse one, in which I anticipate continuing to wallow in the regret of my decision to not go to Monday night's secret late-night Refused show, played to about 200 people at some Bushwick dive bar following their stellar performance at Terminal 5 earlier in the evening. For anyone who didn't come of age in the '90s hardcore scene, it's difficult to convey how important this band and their seminal 1998 album The Shape of Punk to Come were, other than to maybe point out that 14 years later, their reunion was covered by The New York Times. (P.S. They are from Sweden.) So to everyone I know who is moshing it up in the footage above (that includes you, Gillian Reagan!), rest assured that my jealously of you right now is limitless.
PEN World Voices
Gillian: I'm still recovering from those Refused shows. Otherwise, the PEN World Voices festival begins next week and there are a bunch of events worth checking out, especially this panel on understanding Egypt and Margaret Atwood on "the Writers' Mind and the Digital Otherworld." Sign me up.