Jon Christian

Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.

Longform Monday

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Michael Finkel: The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit. GQ, Sept. 2014.

Anne Helen Petersen: Confidentially Yours: The Banality of the Celebrity Profile, and How It Got That Way. The Believer, May 2014.

Lauren Quinn: Mr. Nhem’s Genocide Camera. The Believer, May 2014.

Florence Williams: Gulf War Illness Leaves a Mark on the Brain. Discover, Sept. 2014.

The Editors: The Free and the Antifree. n + 1, Fall 2014.

Longform reading list, week of 8/11/14

Emily Gould: How much my novel cost me. Medium, Feb 2014.

It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.

Bill Hayduke: A dispatch from two long and dark nights with the hub’s homeless in the middle of Boston Harbor. Dig, August 2014.

These days, Long Island is an isolated purgatory of lost souls, addicts, and survivors, home to rehabilitation clinics, a prison re-entry program, and a shelter that regularly houses more than 400 people. All this in a place that otherwise resembles a vacation destination.

Mat Honan: I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me. WIRED, August 2014.

By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked. To be honest, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I had done.

Mat Honan: The Most Fascinating Profile You’ll Ever Read About a Guy and His Boring Startup. WIRED, August 2014.

All told, the space is big enough for 75 or so employees, most of whom have yet to be hired.

Longform reading list, week of 8/4/14

Mary H.K. Choi: Daniel Arnold Loves NY. WIRED, August 2014.

There’s a genuine pleasure in the process and a bracing lack of irony in the delivery.

Brendan I. Koerner: Feast For The Eyes. WIRED, August 2014.

Among the basic human needs, after all, food is the one that’s most ideal for sharing on social media: It’s more wholesome than sex, more titillating than shelter, and quite a bit more photogenic than water. 

Nathaniel Rich: Dangerous Game. WIRED, August 2014.

It is a game for two friends, and best played drunk. The instructions are simple:

1) Trade phones.

2) Select a name from your friend’s contact list…

3) Write a text message to this person from your friend’s phone. You can write anything. As a rule, the crazier the message, the better.

Larry Smith: My Life With Piper: From Big House to Small Screen. Matter, July 2014.

Piper’s instincts are great (with, um, one certain huge exception), and she is not risk-averse.

Longform reading list, week of 7/28/14

Sam Knight: A God More Powerful Than I. Harper’s, Feb. 2014.

He spent the rest of his life writing sermons, essays about fishing nets, and iffy poems about the glories of England’s westernmost tapering: “O! Land of yellow ling, and powdr’d hake! / O! Cornucopia of clouted cream . . . ” His pupil died of “ossification of the body,” in 1815, and the only issue of the new marriage, Day Perry Le Grice, inherited Trereife instead.

Greg Lalas: A Portrait of the Pickup Artist as a Young Man. Boston Magazine, May 2007.

We’re not very good. We do a lot of standing around and watching pretty girls walk by. Vin tries to introduce Bob to several prospects, but Bob doesn’t persevere through their rejections. Rahul winds up sitting on a couch alone. Even Daniel, the Sex God author, stands off to the side, inert.

Michael Specter: Partial Recall. The New Yorker, May 2014.

Concepts of memory tend to reflect the technology of the times. Plato and Aristotle saw memories as thoughts inscribed on wax tablets that could be erased easily and used again. These days, we tend to think of memory as a camera or a video recorder, filming, storing, and recycling the vast troves of data we accumulate throughout our lives. In practice, though, every memory we retain depends upon a chain of chemical interactions that connect millions of neurons to one another.

Ben Westhoff: Becoming Riff Raff: How a White Suburban Kid Morphed Into Today’s Most Enigmatic Rapper. LA Weekly, Sept. 2013.

So, like the Great Gatsby before him, or countless actors, rappers and movie stars, he faked it until he made it, and suddenly there was no Horst Simco anymore. There was only Riff Raff: the little boy’s dream of what a hip-hop star would be.


This Cambridge studio teaches laser cutting and 3D printing to scrubs like me. And people are using their equipment to make some beautiful stuff! So I wrote a story on them for the Boston Globe. They also told me about their highly unusual funding strategy, also detailed by WIRED a few years ago.

Mohammad and Mazen persuaded the band to go with the zany idea after they showed a demo video, produced with MIT’s laser cutters.

“I can’t imagine what the professors would have done if they’d seen us sneaking into the lab with loaves of bread,” Mohammad said.

Longform reading list, week of 7/21/14

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Bella English: Considering parole for a teen murderer. The Boston Globe Magazine, June 2014.

Because of the SJC ruling last December, 44 convicted murderers in Massachusetts could be released on parole — those who have already served at least 15 years, the minimum term for a second-degree murder conviction. A spokesman for the state parole board says that 65 current Massachusetts inmates were juveniles when they were sentenced to life in prison.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: The Fasinatng… Frustrating… Fascinating History of Autocorrect. WIRED, July 2014.

By the early 2000s, European bureaucrats would begin to notice what came to be called the Cupertino effect, whereby the word cooperation (bizarrely included only in hyphenated form in the standard Word dictionary) would be marked wrong, with a suggested change to Cupertino. There are thus many instances where one parliamentary back-bencher or another longs for increased Cupertino between nations. Since then, linguists have adopted the word cupertino as a term of art for such trapdoors that have been assimilated into the language.

Olga Khazan: Multiple Lovers, Without Jealousy. The Atlantic, July 2014.

Together, they form a polyamorous “triad”— one of the many formations that’s possible in this jellyfish of a sexual preference. “There’s no one way to do polyamory” is a common refrain in “the community.” Polyamory—which literally means “many loves”—can involve any number of people, either cohabiting or not, sometimes all having sex with each other, and sometimes just in couples within the larger group.

Bob Parks: Scan Artist. Popular Science, July 2014.

Spurred by success, repo firms have begun to make data collection an even greater part of their operations. Toth’s employer, Relentless, has hired a handful of “scouts” whose sole purpose is to suck up license plates all day. One such person is Lori Jones. For eight hours a day, six days a week, the suburban mother of four tools around Cleveland in an unassuming Honda Fit. Hidden in its air vents is a $23,000 camera suite—including a 20-millimeter lens to spot cars in motion and a 50-millimeter lens to capture vehicles parked 60 feet up a driveway. Where the back seat used to be, a rack-mounted imaging system extracts plate numbers from a photo and stamps them with the time and GPS coordinates. Jones and three other scouts in the Relentless fleet capture nearly a million images per month in Ohio.

Phyllis Rose: Secrets of the Stacks. Medium, May 2014.

There’s an element akin to secondhand smoke in the world of literature—a general consensus about whether a book is good or not that develops apart from actual ingestion of the book, as in the case of the student who, asked by her professor if she had read Madame Bovary, replied, “Not me personally.”

Matt Taibbi: Apocalypse, New Jersey. Rolling Stone, December 2013.

“I been shot six times,” says Raymond, a self-described gangster I meet standing on a downtown corner. He pulls up his pant leg. “The last time I got shot was three years ago, twice in the femur.” He gives an intellectual nod. “The femur, you know, that’s the largest bone in the leg.”

Trapped in a room with a zombie

I’ve got a new story in the Boston Globe with a self-explanatory headline: “A ticket puts you in a room with the living dead

In a rundown commercial building in Charlestown, 12 men and women are trapped in a room, trying desperately to evade the clutches of a snarling, grasping zombie who is chained to a wall.

They know the clues they need to unlock the door and escape are hidden in the room, so they’re flipping through books, scrutinizing postcards, and pulling entire drawers out of a dresser. But the pressure is on: Every five minutes the zombie’s chain extends another 12 inches with a mechanical clunk. By the end of the allotted hour, he will be able to reach everybody in the room.


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