In 1988, he was convicted of killing his stepsons—based on arson science we now know is bunk. A quarter of a century later, Texas granted him a new trial. While the state has not budged in its use of the death penalty—just last year topping 500 executions since the state brought back capital punishment in 1982—it has reinvented itself as a leader in arson science and investigation. A new fire marshal, Chris Connealy, revamped the state’s training and investigative standards. He also set up a panel comprised of some of the top fire scientists in the country to reconsider old cases that had been improperly handled by the original investigators. Graf’s case was one of the first up for review, and it was determined that the original investigators had made critical mistakes.
"Gentrifiers are people with medium or high incomes moving into low-income neighborhoods, attracting new business but raising rents, and often contributing to tensions between new and long-term residents. Sociologists coined the term, which alludes to the European gentry—and which has only become more loaded at a time of skyrocketing rents and profound demographic changes in American cities. But are you a gentrifier?" [SLSlate]
Double Genocide: Lithuania wants to erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration - by accusing Jewish partisans who fought the Germans of war crimes.
"After Lithuanians got independence,” he told me, “we hoped that Lithuania would give us help.” But it was not to be. In one of its very first independent actions, before even fully breaking free of Moscow, Lithuania’s parliament formally exonerated several Lithuanian nationalists who had collaborated in the Holocaust and had been convicted by Soviet military courts after the war. The right-wing paramilitaries who had carried out the mass murder of Lithuania’s Jews were now hailed as national heroes on account of their anti-Soviet bona fides.
DoubleX Gabfest: The Beazel Better Have My Money Edition - "On this week’s Gabfest, Slate’s Hanna Rosin and June Thomas join New York editor Noreen Malone to talk about what it means to be asexual, Rihanna’s music video for 'Bitch Better Have My Money' and other prefatory uses of bitch, and the 1939 film The Women." [more inside]
Coining brr-geoisie, Daniel Engber suggests in Slate that "the case against AC has always been more a moral judgment than a scientific one", responding to the idea that America is "over air-conditioned" as argued in this article by Kate Murphy in the NY Times.
Interactive animation of the Atlantic slave trade. Pause and click on individuals ships for detailed data (not available for all ships).
"Why so Poky? The scourge of terrible canonical children’s books." by Gabriel Roth, Slate
Reading to one’s children is, as everyone knows, one of the great pleasures of parenthood. I love the creaturely warmth of my daughter snuggled up close and the feeling of giving her something intrinsically human and necessary. And Eliza loves being read to. She enjoys the stories and the pictures, but more than that, I think, she responds to the mental intimacy: the knowledge that she and I are looking at the same pages and interpreting the same sentences. It’s a balm for the terrible isolation that arrives around age 2, along with language and self-consciousness—the knowledge that one’s experience is inescapably private. And so the time I spend reading to her can feel, for both of us, like communion.[more inside]
The Straight Parents’ Guide to How Not to Raise a Homophobe — and How to Be a Better Ally by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie for "Outward" at Slate.
Tell us how many people you’ve slept with. Our calculator will tell you if that’s a lot. Slate features a sex history calculator. Input your age, gender (male or female) and number of sex partners since 18 and compare results with other participants.
"We know that Conrad was an admirer of Stevenson’s work, and in fact that he thought more highly of Stevenson’s South Seas nonfiction writings than of his novels, at least according to Colvin, who knew both men. To my knowledge, however, no one has connected the next set of dots, not just from Stevenson’s writing to Conrad’s, but from Stevenson’s Samoan persona to Kurtz. Why not consider whether Stevenson’s grandiose island life influenced Conrad’s masterpiece?" Where Did Kurtz Come From? [single page], Matthew Pearl for Slate. Related: Conrad’s 'Heart of Darkness' gets operatic treatment (SF Examiner) | reviews (with stage photos).
Slate's Reincarnation Machine identifies your previous lives. Actually it finds a consistent chain of people through history, each born when the preceding one died, and ending up with you.
I’m occasionally told my life would be easier if I backed off from my relentless efforts to advance evolution education. Maybe so. But to shy away from emphasizing evolutionary biology is to fail as a biology teacher. I continue to teach biology as I do, because biology makes sense only in the light of evolution.
A Historic List of Historical Lists. Particularly amusing (or distressing, depending on how you feel about the marital travails of long dead, anonymous people) is list #12, 100 types of marriage, which Slate wrote about.
We want plates is a Twitter account which shares people's pictures of food being served on things which aren't plates. What kind of things? Shopping trolleys, washing lines, and picnic tables as well as the more normal boards and slates. As seen on Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and many fine news sites.
a lost possibility: women on miscarriage (an open discussion on a topic that nobody talks about) [more inside]
"In an essay in the New York Times, psychiatrist Richard Friedman writes that the relationship of adults to their abusive parents 'gets little, if any, attention in standard textbooks or in the psychiatric literature.' But Rochelle is not alone. I have been hearing from people in her position for years, adult children weighing whether to reconnect with parents who nearly ruined their lives. Sometimes it's a letter writer such as 'Comfortably Numb' who has cut off contact with a parent but is now being pressured by family members, and even a spouse, to reconcile and forgive. Sometimes a correspondent, like 'Her Son,' has hung on to a thread of a relationship, but is now fearful of being further yoked emotionally or financially to a declining parent." [SLSlate] (Trigger warning for descriptions of abuse.)
De-cluttering your house with love: "Marie Kondo has built a huge following in her native Japan with her “KonMari” method of organizing and de-cluttering. Clients perform a sort of tidying-up festival: time set aside specifically to go through belongings. Each object is picked up and held, and the client needs to decide if it inspires joy. If it doesn’t, it needs to go." [more inside]
How can we get a less hyperbolic assessment of the state of the world? Certainly not from daily journalism. News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a reporter saying to the camera, “Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out”—or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up. As long as violence has not vanished from the world, there will always be enough incidents to fill the evening news. And since the human mind estimates probability by the ease with which it can recall examples, newsreaders will always perceive that they live in dangerous times.
"From righteous fury to faux indignation, everything we got mad about in 2014—and how outrage has taken over our lives." The Year of Outrage (SLSlate)
Slate's "25 Best Podcast Episodes Ever" Podcasts are nothing new to the Blue, and roundup lists are a dime a dozen towards the end of the year, but it's always interesting to listen to a curated list of favorites. Most of the episodes they chose are from the last 5 years, featuring an eclectic mix of stories about love, popular culture, personal success, and public failure; there are deconstructions of the what seems mundane at first glance, and tragedy that is difficult to process.
" When the stories we tell about cooking say that it is only ever fun and rewarding—instead of copping to the fact that it can also be annoying, time consuming, and risky—we alienate the people who don’t have the luxury of choice, and we unwittingly reinforce the impression that cooking is a specialty hobby instead of a basic life skill." [more inside]
"Sometimes, society gets it wrong... When that happens, strong privacy protections—including collection controls that let people pick who gets their data, and when—allow the persecuted and unpopular to survive."
What happens when we let industry and government collect all the data they want.
What happens when we let industry and government collect all the data they want.
In its inaugural episode, Slate's Working podcast spends ~35m talking to Stephen Colbert (not the character Stephen Colbert) about exactly what a work day is like for him. [more inside]
"When critics and journalists discuss John Darnielle’s new, first full-length novel, Wolf in White Van, which was just nominated for a National Book Award, they often point out the storytelling aspect of his songwriting. But Mountain Goats songs are as much incantation as narrative—they imply the advent of the trauma with declarations and appeals to dead gods, which deny it or try (futilely) to ward it off." Carl Wilson reviews the novel--about the inventor of a role-playing by mail game with a cult following--in depth on Slate. Listen to the first chapter read by Darnielle here. Autoplay
"One day I was hanging out with some SNL writers and cast members in the 17th-floor conference room. It was shortly after the writers had won an Emmy Award for the 1988-89 season. Phil Hartman, who had been a writer as well as a cast member for the winning season, marched in with an 8-by-10 photo of himself. It showed him cradling his Emmy Award in one arm and his newborn child in the other. He tossed the photo down in front of his good friend Jon Lovitz and said, "Check it out, Lovitz—two things you’ll never have." (SLSlate)
The Sad State of America’s Aging Sisters: Why are there so few nuns today?
You may wonder whether the global church the sisters belong to is interested in keeping the convents open. It sure seems like it isn't. By 2005, the Catholic Church had spent $1 billion on legal fees and settlements stemming from priests sexually abusing children. Yet church leaders have allocated no funds to take care of elderly sisters, and while priests’ retirement funds are covered by the church, the sisters have no such safety net. When their orders run out of money, that’s it.[more inside]
“Why would you want to be a nun if the archdiocese is going to treat you like they do?” Ann Frey at the Wartburg said. “Their whole lives they’ve been obedient and done what they were asked to do, and now nobody is helping them?”
Why the Ice Bucket Challenge is bad for you: "The ALS campaign may be a great way to raise money – but it is a horrible reason to donate it" [more inside]
Bryan Goldberg's site for women was doomed from the start. One year later (previously), [bustle.com is] hugely successful. What’s his secret?" (Amanda Hess for Slate)
Slate wants to know if you can name those 70s, 80s, 90s or more recent hits from hearing just the first second of them.
Slate's article on the photojournalist Brenda Ann Kenneally's Upstate Girls project article sparks huge internet backlash. Brenda spent ten years documenting the lives of five women in Troy through photography. Slate published an article about the project and then the Facebook comments rolled in. For perspective, take a look at the interview with Brenda about the project and New York Times original showcase of the project.
AskReddit asks What's a strange thing your body does that you assume happens to everyone but you've never bothered to ask? In response, Slate's Medical Examiner column invites doctors to explain 13 of them.
Atheist bashing or tough love? A thought-provoking review by Michael Robbins of Nick Spencer's new book on the history of atheism in Slate magazine. It reads like an autopsy of the recently murdered religious/atheist dialogue, with the "intellectually lazy" new atheism atop the list of suspects. [more inside]
"I enjoy buffets. I wouldn't say love buffets, but it's a very reasonable way to eat out." (SLYT) [more inside]
Slate: "Prius Repellent is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes." [more inside]
Finding out that the gorillas, badgers, giraffes, belugas, or wallabies on the other side of the glass are taking Valium, Prozac, or antipsychotics to deal with their lives as display animals is not exactly heartwarming news.
Counterintuitive as it may sound, it is perfectly fine and acceptable to just use common sense when editing Wikipedia.
Ragtime’s slaves-to-the-rhythm weren’t just figments of Billy Sunday’s fevered imagination—and “I Love, I Love, I Love My Wife—But Oh! You Kid!” wasn’t just a novelty ditty. It was, like the other hits of its era, a generational marker, an anthem of changing times and freedom and youth. The old songs sound goofy to us, but a hundred years ago they carried a teenybopper throb and the impish menace of punk rock. Lengthy (6000 words) link-rich article by Jody Rosen at Slate.
This indignant map exposes the seamy underbelly of 1890s Washington, D.C., naming and locating “saloons” and “bawdy-houses” in the so-called Murder Bay neighborhood, located east of the White House. The Library of Congress, which holds the map, tells us that it’s a newspaper clipping from the 1890s, without a known author or publisher. (Slate.com)
What that Louie episode got right and wrong about fat women. After Sunday night's airing of Louie, some thoughtful, angry, interesting articles about how the show dealt with the issue of female body-shaming have popped up. But should the issue of fat-shaming women really be brought up by men?
Has pop music criticism really devolved into lifestyle reporting as alleged by this Daily Beast article? The response by Slate reviewing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream". [more inside]