Last Men Standing. The stories of eight men who aren't supposed to be here. Diagnosed with HIV in the 1980's, when that was a death sentence, they are now living lives they never expected to have. [more inside]
"Just recently, I began to see what I lost. It wasn't a job, a wife, a house. There was no tangible evidence of my fall, no record of my mistakes to be expunged. There was only the wreckage of my early adulthood, the loss of my unstoppable nature, and the empty hole where once my confidence grew. There was only a string of decisions to run and run again, to hide from ambition, to leave the theater forever, and to disown my dedication as a childish fantasy. And the reinforcement of my suspicion that I was only visible when I was wanted, and that nothing about me would ever eclipse my objecthood." (Content warning for child sex abuse)
"Growing up in this home, I was ensconced in blackness — and as an adult, I now see and appreciate the ways that affirmed my identity. I finally saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when I was 24, and I was shocked that it was lauded as a 'staple of teen comedy.' I had always thought that the classic tale of Chicago youth skipping class was Cooley High. I didn’t learn whiteness as a default, or the limitations placed on those who exist outside of it, until I was much, much older." Jasmine Sanders (@ToniAliceZora) writes for Buzzfeed on growing up in one of Chicago's poorest black neighborhoods. [more inside]
In some ways, it is hard to imagine two paths more different than being a writer and being a spy. It is certainly hard to imagine two careers with more wildly disparate stakes. And yet there are parallels in the underlying qualities of their practitioners: an interest in psychology, a facility with narrative, a tendency to position oneself as an observer, and a willingness to lie and call it something else.--writer Jennifer DuBois explains what it was like to be hired by the CIA.
The New Yorker unfurls a longform expose on Harvey Levin's gossip empire, TMZ, in The Digital Dirt - How TMZ gets the videos and photos that celebrities want to hide.
In the short hush right after, I think about something Chris said: "It is such an emotional journey to train for your first fight, even if you are a totally stereotypical dude." I am surprised to find myself so overwhelmed with gratitude that I tear up... And then they call my name.
"Why Men Fight" — a beautiful longform story about manhood, trauma and amateur boxing, by Thomas Page McBee.
"Why Men Fight" — a beautiful longform story about manhood, trauma and amateur boxing, by Thomas Page McBee.
A painting commissioned for the firm’s hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary, “Transport Through the Ages,” hung above the reception desk. Bouvier insists that he never used confidential information from his logistics business to buy and sell paintings. None of the thirty-five works that he sold Rybolovlev were in storage with Natural Le Coultre. “I have the information not because I am a shipper,” he said. “It is because I am clever.”The high-end of the art market is full of mystery, built on trust, reputation, and secrecy. What happens when someone starts turning all of that on its head? An art shipper, Russian oligarch, and a Rothko in The Bouvier Affair. (Sam Knight, for The New Yorker)
Inside the Snitch Tank. After his arrest for the worst mass shooting in Orange County, CA history, Scott Dekraai poured out his feelings to a jailhouse informant. But instead of nailing down a death-penalty conviction against a confessed killer who was arrested with murder weapons in his car, the bugging of Dekraai’s cell touched off a legal storm over prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants which has delayed justice and drawn national attention. The Orange County Register has set up an extensive website to accompany their ongoing investigation and report.
"He was a schemer who used the courts for profit and revenge. He was a paranoid, angry meth addict who had been arrested for battery and domestic violence seven times. He had been involuntarily committed, by his family’s count. And yet, in its report on Phoebe’s death, the Florida Department of Children and Families concluded, “There was nothing in the preceding several years that could have reasonably been interpreted as predictive of such an event.”
The art of tour guiding
When you’re driving a bus full of tourists through the Australian outback,
a packet of chewing gum may be your only hope.
In 2007, the Pinellas County, Florida School Board abandoned integration, joining hundreds of US school districts in former Confederacy states that have resegregated since 2000. The Board justified the vote with bold promises: Schools in poor, black neighborhoods would get more money, more staff, more resources -- none of which happened. This past August, the Tampa Bay Times published an exposé, revealing how district leaders turned five once-average schools into Failure Factories. [more inside]
Dead Air: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, especially if you’re in talk radio. [The California Sunday Magazine] By Saul Elbein Photographs by Jes Aznar
When Elgin Damasco’s radio talk show was over, his bodyguards would hustle him out of his fortified studio and into his car. They would drive him through the leafy streets of Puerto Princesa, capital of the western Philippine province of Palawan, and bring him home. There he would hunker down until morning. Police had warned him that men had been casing his house. “I don’t even have the freedom to go to the mall,” Damasco told me. Inside the cinder-block walls of his studio, the cherubic 32-year-old felt safe. His sonorous voice was hooked into the most powerful transmitter on Palawan island. He was charging forth, as his station ID went, “to defend the weak and criticize the corrupt.” From 4:00 to 5:30 weekday afternoons, no one could shut him up.
"There's a snideness about it that is in keeping with the experience and the inner life of being a certain kind of teenager. It's very anti-earnest. There was a moment after the period where that song came out where everything was humorless and grotesque. But after that, it seems like what happened was that everything got pretty earnest." Why Harvey Danger's '90s alt-rock hit "Flagpole Sitta" endures. [more inside]
"I think there are different kinds of mercy: big Mercy and little mercy. Big Mercy is so big because it is made out of suffering and ultimatums, out of saviors and omnipotence, and out of stories that have only one way of ending, which are brutal and where almost nobody wins... But maybe there's another kind of mercy—mercy so little that it costs almost nothing. So little most of us never notice it." [more inside]
"I've collected the suffering that men so recklessly visited on myself and other women and fashioned it into a livelihood. It is not a fortune but it is a tasteful empire of pain. I might be unlovable but I am not unsellable. I know some women who drink from mugs labeled 'Male Tears.' That's what I've labeled my checking account." Alana Massey for Medium: The Monetized Man.
Someday this country’s gonna be a fine, good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come: An essay on the summer of the Atomic Bomb, by Joni Tevis. Originally published in The Diagram
"Julia is a do-gooder – which is to say, a human character who arouses conflicting emotions. By 'do-gooder' here I do not mean a part-time, normal do-gooder – someone who has a worthy job, or volunteers at a charity, and returns to an ordinary family life in the evenings. I mean a person who sets out to live as ethical a life as possible. I mean a person who is drawn to moral goodness for its own sake. I mean someone who commits himself wholly, beyond what seems reasonable. I mean the kind of do-gooder who makes people uneasy."
"Whether it is the covering of breasts in Southern India or the wearing of burqas in Afghanistan, women's comportment and clothing have offered an emotionally powerful shorthand for all that is wrong with native culture and all that must be corrected by the empire." Rafia Zakaria for Aeon: Clothes and daggers. [more inside]
Every relationship brings with it a private language built on shared memories and experiences. Maybe it's a joke shared on a date, maybe a saying or misspoken phrase that privately comes to represent so much more. Following the death of her husband, publicist/copywriter and blogger Virge Randall writes about life after losing the shared language of love.
Baseball, perhaps more than any sport, is always straddling that delicate line between old school and new.
"They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing... Once allied with but now increasingly hostile to the Republican hierarchy, conservative media is shaping the party’s agenda in ways that are impeding Republicans’ ability to govern and to win presidential elections."
Pope Frankenstein, by the erudite and amusing Yanko Tsvetkov.
Jennifer Pan’s Revenge: the inside story of a golden child, the killers she hired, and the parents she wanted dead. - Karen K. Ho writing for Toronto Life magazine [via tabs]
“Happy people don’t need you to say you understand. As an artist I don’t have much to say to happy people. And that works out great because they’re busy being content. For the rest of us, coming to terms with rejection, failure, death, and the fragility of love is very important. Some people are self-conscious about these things and maybe they don’t want to talk about them, but sometimes it just feels good to know you’re not alone. Books and music do this better than possibly anything else."Author Joe Bonomo explores the sadness, yearning, and warmth of the music of Greg Cartwright. [more inside]
As with anything in this world, excess is excess, but inadequate is inadequate. A writer must know when the weight of the words used to describe a scene is bearing down on the scene itself. A writer should develop the measuring tape to know when to describe characters' thoughts in long sentences and when not to. But a writer, above all, should aim to achieve artistry with language which, like the painter, is the only canvas we have. Writers should realize that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the side of audacious prose, that occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story — no matter how affecting — in inadequate prose.Chigozie Obioma for The Millions: The Audacity of Prose.
One year later, Wessington Springs High School senior Owen Witte chronicles the story of the tornadoes that descended on his home town and destroyed more than 50 homes and left 77 people homeless. Witte's story artfully conveys the heroism and resilience of his 950-person community.
The psychotherapist Carl Jung, after seeing a photo of the Arctic explorer Augustine Courtauld, remarked that Courtauld's was the face of a man 'stripped of his persona, his public self stolen, leaving his true self naked before the world.' For women, this is doubly true: a woman's life is one lived under surveillance, a system of inner and outer regulations even more restrictive than a man's. Even a simple stroll down the sidewalk becomes an exercise in self-loathing. Suck in your stomach. Straighten your hem. (What if it rides up, exposing you?) Every shop window offers a glimpse of your own reflection. Adjust, adjust, adjust.So where are all the women hermits? [more inside]
It's enough to drive a woman crazy (and isn't this what we're always being accused of?). It's enough to drive any woman to the woods.
My mother is like another country I used to live in, familiar but no longer a place I call home. When I visit, I don't stay long; dysfunction is the official language, the terrain is a desert of constantly shifting emotions, and the weather is grey when it's not dark and stormy. Estrangement is so much easier.
This all happened a long time ago, at a time when Baker was smoking a lot of weed. All the strange interactions he had with Doc over the years have blurred together. At a certain point, things began to feel inevitable, all Baker’s small choices gaining momentum until it felt as though there were no more choices to make. And while he insists that he has no regrets about what took place later — it happened the way it should have, the way it had to — maybe if he’d made a different decision that afternoon, he wouldn’t be in prison right now. Because it can all be traced back to that very first time they met, when Doc turned to him and asked, straight-faced, as if it was the most normal thing in the world: “Have you ever thought about killing someone?”
Located in the heart of the Bible Belt, South Carolina is a deeply conservative state where men have ruled for centuries. The state elected its first female governor four years ago, but men continue to dominate elected offices, judicial appointments and other seats of government and corporate power. In many respects, the state's power structure is a fraternity reluctant to challenge the belief that a man's home is his castle and what goes on there, stays there.The 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service has been awarded to Charleston, South Carolina's Post and Courier newspaper for their seven-part special investigation on domestic violence and femicide in a state that consistently places in the top ten nationally in the rate of women killled by men: Till Death Do Us Part. [more inside]
"It's completely alone," I said. That baby, that poor baby. What had it done? "Nobody is coming for it."A meditation on adoption, heartbreak, and healing, by Sarah Church Baldwin for The Rumpus: Build-A-Bear.
Softly she asked, "Would it be OK if we called it 'her'?"
It was then as though my therapist's finger grew very long. It arced through the air, crossing the space between us, and touched my chest, the tip of it pressing into my heart, and my body collapsed around it, folded in on itself from pain, the worst pain I had ever felt because it had no source. I was the pain. I saw that baby on her back, alone, and I understood that she was me. In that moment I was flooded—intellectually, emotionally, physically—by the very knowledge I had so long barricaded myself against: that someone had given birth to me. And worse: that I had not been fit to keep.
"I don't want to bring in the violins, but we all came from hardship," says McCartney. "All of us except for George lost someone. I lost my mum when I was 14. John lost his mum. But Ringo had it worst. His father was gone; he was so sick they told his mum he wasn't going to live. Imagine making up your life from that, in that environment. No family, no school. He had to invent himself. We all had to come up with a shield, but Ringo came up with the strongest shield."In anticipation of the inimitable Mr. Starkey's imminent (and long-awaited) induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone presents Being Ringo: A Beatle's All-Starr Life.
Part of that shield was playing the fool; part of that shield was booze. It led to a lost decade of L.A./London/Monte Carlo partying where Ringo woke up many mornings wondering, "Why are the birds coughing so loudly?" But he's been sober for 26 years, and there's one essential thing that keeps Ringo young: the sticks and the drum kit.
"If his name was John Brown, he would have been in jail," one criminal justice official with knowledge of the case said. "If a woman says, 'He's the guy that raped me,' and you have corroborating evidence to show they were together and she went to the hospital and she can identify him, that guy goes to jail."Last week, ProPublica and the New Orleans Advocate published the results of their months-long joint investigation outlining how law enforcement officers in five states repeatedly (and sometimes deliberately) failed to apprehend former NFL star Darren Sharper as he traveled cross-country drugging and raping women: Upon Further Review.
[cw: rape, sexual assault, violent misogyny, law enforcement collusion to cover up same] [more inside]
[E]ven though the restaurant's cartoonish decor bordered on offensive, it was still a temple to a people and a cuisine that America couldn't ignore. Taco Bells were everywhere. In every strip mall. Off every highway exit. Even the racists, the immigrant-haters, the people who'd laugh at my elementary-school stand-up comedy routine would run for the border.John DeVore writes about finding the "unexpected, self-affirming solace" of home... at Taco Bell. [more inside]
You can laugh or sneer at Taco Bell. Shake your head at its high fat and salt content. Go ahead and lecture on what true Mexican food is. My mom would probably just roll her eyes at you, and take a broken yellow shard of crispy taco shell and use it to scoop up the pintos, cheese, and salsa.
On Memory: New Writing from Japan : a collection of newly translated fiction and non-fiction by Japanese writers, appearing in Words Without Borders magazine.
Greek MP Costas Lapavitsas on the economic barriers ahead for Syriza and the challenges of eurozone exit "I want to come clean, and this a good venue to do it, and say the following: the obvious solution for Greece right now, when I look at it as a political economist, the optimal solution, would be a negotiated exit." [more inside]
Friends often try to assure me that people mean well, urging me to go easy on them, to be gracious, to give people the benefit of the doubt. "People don't mean to be offensive," they tell me. "They just don't know how to say it without coming across that way."Nishta Mehra writes about her family's experience with learning how to navigate the landscape of interracial adoption in a "post-racial" America: Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair.
What these friends don't understand is that when the act of defining your family structure becomes an expected part of every day of your entire life, you grow tired of being gracious. It's exhausting to have strangers view your life as an up-for-grabs educational experience. For my kid, it's to constantly hear the underlying message: "Your life, your family, doesn't make sense to me. Someone needs to explain it to me. You owe me an explanation."
It's the people who live comfortably inside majorities who tend to discount any sort of commentary from minorities as being "overly sensitive." And I imagine that it's hard to step back and grasp the fact that when the world you occupy is built to accommodate you, you fit inside the boxes. You make sense. You are expected.
My Saga, Part 1 By Karl Ove Knausgaard [New York Times] Following the trail of the first Europeans to set foot in America, the first of two parts. Previously. Previously. [more inside]
Essentially two-hand-touch taken to bloodsport level, with two 25-minute halves, a mostly running clock, and referees to nominally control the mayhem, it's the closest these weekend warriors will come to professional sport, though many are high-caliber athletes.
"I was 23 and needed a summer job; he was 21 and needed full-time support. He’s one of an estimated half million people diagnosed with autism who are soon becoming adults — and who society is entirely unprepared for." (Note: graphic description of sexual abuse; SL Buzzfeed)
On Trial for Rape by Ann Brocklehurst [The Walrus Magazine]
"Late last year, in a Toronto courtroom, a young woman faced off against the university student whom she accused of raping her in a school parking lot. The media ignored the story. This is a series about a criminal rape trial that took place in Toronto late last year. The trial lasted eight days; the judge announced his verdict earlier this month." —Ann Brocklehurst[more inside]
In the darkest hour of the AIDS epidemic, Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of people whose families had abandoned them. Courage, love and the 30-year secret of one little graveyard in Hot Springs, Arkansas. [more inside]
John Holmes was a porn star. Eddie Nash was a drug lord. Their association ended in one of the most brutal mass murders in the history of Los Angeles. The Devil and John Holmes [more inside]
The Best American Essays of 2014 Many of the essays are behind paywalls, or subject to monthly article limits. I've linked to those as well because some of you have access through work, school, or subscription. [more inside]
The Indian wedding that exploded in violence: a short story by Ranbir Singh Sidhu
As the West African Ebola epidemic stretches into its 10th month: researchers have identified the likely cause of the initial outbreak: a young boy playing with bats in a village in Guinea. The NY Times considers how the opportunity to contain the epidemic was missed and the effects of Ebola on West African economies. Vanity Fair takes a look at the failure to contain the disease within Guinea, Frontline goes to "Ground Zero" in Guinea, and searches for a missing Ebola patient. Meanwhile, West Africans welcomed Christmas (previously) and the New Year. Africa Stop Ebola!