Dave Weigel: What I Read

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The first thing I do in the morning is visit Politico’s front page, to check if Ken Vogel or Ben Smith have already reported out something I was thinking of reporting. I won’t say how often this is the case.

After this, I load up Tweetdeck and see if anything is breaking, at the micro (read this new article) or macro (something exploded) levels. I check in with what Slate has published overnight, then I read the big three morning e-mail blasts: Playbook, Dealbook, and Wonkbook. Have we stopped being amused that the most truncated forms of news are now called “books?” There’s some Morning Joe as I have breakfast, then I head to the office or to an assignment, checking Twitter sporadically on the iPhone or the iPad. (I use the iPad frequently to answer e-mails while in a bus or cab or train, although it still feels ostentatious doing so.)

Daily, I click over to Politico, the New York Times and Washington Post, National Review, Reason, Talking Points Memo, The Washington Independent, and CQ. From there it’s the blogs – Yglesias, Sullivan, Serwer. I’ll check in on political news in between calls or interviews or my own writing, and by the end of the day, if I’m not on deadline, I’m finally reading the big take-out articles people are talking about. There are exceptions – I remember dropping everything to read that fantastic Esquire profile of Roger Ebert.

Recommended Reading

The three commentary outlets I couldn’t live without? Well, I used to say Slate and MSNBC but now I’m hopelessly biased on those counts. So: National Review, The Huffington Post (especially the congressional reporting), and The Onion AV Club.

I don’t watch much TV news during the day. Not since I worked at Reason have I had a TV in easy sight, and I like that, because – Matt Yglesias has written a lot about this – there’s a distorting effect if your priorities don’t match up with the priorities of a cable newscast that’s competing for eyeballs RIGHT AT THAT SECOND.

I’ve never really figured out RSS – people tell me that it would vastly improve my productivity, but two things happened. One, I locked in my Internet habits in 2003 and 2004, and don’t know how to unlearn the browser windows/email ping pong game. Two, I used NetNewsWire and it was excruciatingly slow at updating links on my iPhone. I’d leave it open for 10 minutes and it would be refreshing links from weeks ago. Just useless, as far as I can tell.

You know, I barely ever use Facebook anymore. The best way not to reach me is to send a Facebook chat message; I hear that ugly click/beep and I remember that I accidentally left the page open. I do use Twitter all the time; I consider it a conversation with 200-some people (I follow many more but they don’t engage as much), supplementing the conversations I have on listservs and in person, but with handy HTML. Some favorite tweeters: @elilake, @JamesUrbaniak, @mattyglesias, @kausmickey, @andylevy, @mkhammer, @jimgeraghty, @attackerman, @lizmair, @pareene, @alexgutierrez, @benjy_sarlin, @garrettquinn, @bradreed. I approach Twitter the way I used to approach doodling or short-form blogging. Tweets are thoughts that I consider funny but not worth extending into big, sprawling arguments. The things that appear on Twitter reflect around 10% of the odd things I think on any given day.

As for magazines, The Economist is the only magazine I subscribe to, although I read The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and Entertainment Weekly, and the Wired iPad app is as beautiful and useful as you could imagine. I thumb through the big journals when they come out: Foreign Affairs, Democracy, The New Criterion. It’s just rare that they have big new ideas in them that I haven’t read stirrings of in other outlets.

I listen to a ton of podcasts, with preference going to the ‘casts about stuff I don’t know or the stuff that makes me laugh. That means NPR’s Planet Money and Science Friday, APM’s Marketplace, This American Life, The Sound of Young America, Comedy Death Ray, All Songs Considered, and Doug Loves Money.

Before I go to bed, I read a book or watch a TV show until I get sufficiently tired. Currently the book is “The Passage” (on the iPad) and the TV show is “Saxondale,” off of the excellent box set of Steve Coogan shows. I’m also currently reading Christopher Hitchens’s “Hitch 22,” and Edmund Morris’s “Theodore Rex” in preparation for the third and final installment of his Teddy biographies.

Nobody believes me when I say this, but I got into this to be a music writer. When I was 15 I submitted fanboyish reviews to Mark Prindle’s record review site – it’s still up, he’s still brilliant – and in 2005 I freelanced a few music reviews. There are ambitions, somewhere in my brain, to pick this back up, because I listen to new and old music all the time. Currently, it’s a Rhino compilation of the history of heavy metal, all of Van Morrison’s 1970s and 1980s albums, the operas of John Adams, and the new Robyn albums. When I’m polishing off an article I play one of a few ridiculous pop songs. The current favorite is Lita Ford’s Kiss Me Deadly.

I try and watch at least 40 new movies per year – I’ve seen 19 so far, the best of which were “Scott Pilgrim” and “The Kids Are All Right.” And “Doctor Who” and “The Venture Brothers” are the best things on TV.

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