Jon Christian

Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.

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.

Longform reading list, week of 7/14

Greg Hanlon: The Many Crimes of Mel Hall. SB Nation, July 2014.

“It was Mel Hall all the time,” she testified. “Any time he left [for a road trip], he would reprimand me and tell me not to see anybody, not to talk to anybody, not to go anywhere, not to do anything but to basically wait for his calls.”

Seth Mnookin: One of a Kind. The New Yorker, July 2014.

Later that evening, when Cristina was alone with Matt, she broke down in tears. “What have we done to our child?” she said. “How many things can we put him through?” As one obscure genetic condition after another was ruled out, the Mights began to wonder whether they would ever learn the cause of their son’s agony. What if Bertrand was suffering from a disorder that was not just extremely rare but entirely unknown to science?

Daniel Patterson: The Imaginary Dinner [not available online]. Lucky Peach, Fall 2013.

I was always in the kitchen then. It was all I knew, the thrum of rattling hoods and slamming doors, the fluorescent lights, the smell of roasting onions and just-cut herbs and long-simmered stocks. It wasn’t really much of a home, but it was mine, and when I was young I left it reluctantly.

Emma Rosenblum: Pitbull: Get Rich or Die Shilling. Business Week, July 2014.

Pitbull considers this and waves at the waitress for more water. The look on his face suggests he’s about to say something profound, and he delivers.

“Culture is generation. Generation is power.” 

“Explain that to me—because you use generators to make power, right?” Zulueta laughs with a loud bark.

Pitbull continues, straight-faced. “When you become a generation—say, the MTV generation—that’s where you create your power.” 

Zulueta purses his lips, trying to understand. 

“The content fed the culture, the culture fed the generation. Everyone says content is king. But culture is everything. Content creates a culture—the Kardashians created a culture.”  

“I got it,” says Zulueta, though it seems like he might not. 

Benjamin Wallace: Kara Swisher Is Silicon Valley’s Most Feared and Well-Liked Journalist. How Does That Work? New York Magazine, July 2014.

[I]t’s an event where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates came together onstage for a historic conversation, where Mark Zuckerberg broke out in such a sweat as he was pressed on privacy issues that he removed his ever-present hoodie

Here are all Weird Al’s new music videos in one place (updated)

A Parklet Rises In Boston

I’ve got a new story in the Boston Globe’s ‘g’ insert about how a coalition of educators, students and volunteers designed and built a tiny public park:

Back at the parklet site, the scorching afternoon drags on, but the group is clearly making progress. Rogers and Bolivar are assembling a frame for a solar panel on the grass next to the sidewalk when three pedestrians stop and quizzically look around at the project and the crew.

“What are you guys doing?” a woman asks.

“We are,’’ Rogers says with a tired smile, “building a parklet.”

Longform reading list, week of 7/7/14

Trent Dalton: Welcome To Utopia. The Weekend Australian Magazine, 2014.

Beyond those mountains is Steve’s utopia, an 800ha living ark that he has spent the past eight of his 79 years creating, investing his life’s fortune in the shipment of 300 tonnes of materials from around the world to the very edge of human existence. Paradise. Salvation. A new world for when the old one dies. He calls it Edenhope. Eden would have sufficed. “Soon you will meet Ona,” Steve says. Ona is a girl. Ona is a beginning.

Andrew Solomon: Gay, Jewish, Mentally Ill, and a Sponsor of Gypsies In Romania. The New Yorker, 2014.

In my teens, I asked my Great Aunt Rose where in Romania our family had come from. She claimed that she didn’t remember. I said, “Aunt Rose, you lived there until you were nineteen. What do you mean, you don’t remember?” She said, “It was a horrible place and we were lucky to get out of there. There’s no reason for anyone to go back.” I begged her to tell me at least the name of the place. She gave me an uncharacteristically steely glare and said again, “I don’t remember.” That was the end of the conversation.

Elizabeth Spiers: Speaking up every. Fucking. Time. Matter, 2014.

And, yes, Kane is capable of behaving like a jerk. I’ve profiled public company CEOs with armies of publicists who haven’t tried to manipulate a story as much as she has. But the only thing that really tells me is that she’s a flawed human being, just like everyone else. (And that maybe she knows quite a bit more about media and interacting with reporters than she’s indicating on Twitter.)

Greg Hum: The Beat Rolls On

I’ve got a new story in Scout about Greg Hum, the fellow who plays drums while he rides his bike.

If you’ve seen Hum around Boston, you probably remember him. He rides his bicycle while simultaneously pounding two drumsticks — often steering with just one palm — on a small Zildjian cymbal, a Latin Percussion jam block and a five-gallon bucket on which he has written “Hum Drum” in black tape, all of which is mounted to his handlebars.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 586 other followers