Lily Allen, Lumberjacks, and the Lottery: What’s New in Book, Film and Music Reviews

Looking for a distraction? Here’s a quick guide to what we read, watched, and listened to in our March/April 2009 issue:

In this age of Google maps (Street View, Earth, et al), it’s easy to think that we live in a transparent world. Not quite: In Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World, geographer Trevor Paglen exposes the secret airstrips, extralegal prisons, and bases that the government claims don’t exist. Moving from the world of stuff the government doesn’t want you to see to stuff you don’t want to see, there’s the documentary Food, Inc., an eye-opening tour of all the myriad gross things that could happen to your meat—from farm (chickens with breasts so big their legs can’t support them) to slaughterhouse (sick cows being tortured before slaughter) to meatpacking plant (a variety of stomach-churning germs)—before it gets to your plate.

Once you’ve learned about the backstory of your food, check out Brush Cat: On Trees, the Wood Economy, and the Most Dangerous Job in America for the inside scoop on the dying breed of lumberjacks who bring you your furniture, books, Starbucks cup, and even your McDonald’s milkshake (for reals).


There’s more: Learn how Blago fits into the the lottery’s sordid history in The Lottery Wars: Long Odds, Fast Money, and the Battle Over an American Institution. In Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption, a woman wrongly identifies her rapist and sends an innocent man to prison for eleven years. Later, against all odds the two form a deep and enduring friendship.

Music we dug includes a satisfyingly sassy new album from British pop idol Lily Allen, and the latest from psychadelic crooner Robyn Hitchcock. Political rockers The Living Things sneer their way through Habeas Corpus, and the Malian duo Amadou & Miriam cram an impressive variety of instruments into Welcome to Mali.