Michael Hastings, the journalist best known for taking down General McChrystal, died yesterday in a car crash in Los Angeles. He was 33. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed has written a touching and honest tribute to his former colleague.
I first came to read Hastings' work after a friend compared him to Hunter Thompson, a journalist I am rather fond of. Soon after the recommendation, Hastings published his searing indictment of General McChrystal and I was sold. Longform has put up a collection of Hastings' work and I can't recommend these articles highly enough. I will miss reading Hastings' journalism—all the stories "he didn't live to write," as Ben Smith puts it—especially as there are too few journalists like him working today, and now more than ever we need journalists of Hastings' caliber and talent.
My girlfriend Lauren passed along this fantastic piece from Melville House responding to Vice's ill-conceived, tasteless "suicide spread" fashion shoot, callously titled "Last Words," in which models reenact the final moments of many well known female authors' lives, including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Wonderfully it is Sylvia Plath's daughter's words—not even aimed at Vice's desensitization, but at the English Heritage for initially wanting to place a plaque at the home best known for Plath's suicide and not at the residence where she wrote most of her finest work—that condemns the magazine in a way the many critics appalled at the photographs cannot. As Frieda Hughes said in 2000:
"I do not want my mother’s death to be commemorated as if it had won an award. I wanted her life to be celebrated, the fact that she had existed, lived to the fullness of her ability, been happy and sad, tormented and ecstatic, and given birth to my brother and me. I think my mother was extraordinary in her work, and valiant in her efforts to fight the depression that dogged her throughout her life. She used every emotional experience as if it were a scrap of material that could be pieced together to make a wonderful dress; she wasted nothing of what she felt, and when in control of those tumultuous feelings she was able to focus and direct her incredible poetic energy to great effect."
As Melville House points out, "That’s not something you get in the Vice photograph of a model staring into a gaping gas oven—and that’s the real sin here."
On a more upbeat note, my former editor at It's a Trap!, Mr. Avi Roig, clued me into Palms, the intriguing marriage of members of Isis—bassist Jeff Caxide, keyboardist Clifford Meyer, and drummer Aaron Harris—with Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno. Spin has been kind enough to stream the self-titled debut due out next Tuesday (25 June). Palms' record will bring the number of fantastic records released this month to five by my count: Jon Hopkins' Immunity, Boards of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest, Sigur Rós' Kveiker, Deafheavens' Sunbather, and soon Palms' self-titled offering. If you like Yeezus (at least more than contributing writer Andy Minor did) then June's been an even more bounteous month. And we still have Earl Sweatshirt, Weekend, Washed Out, and Holograms set to release albums later on this summer. Wonderful time to be a music fan.