The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

1. The Fighter

C.J. Chivers | New York Times | Dec. 28, 2016 | 73 minutes (18,429 words)

The story of Sam Siatta, a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Afghanistan who returned home with PTSD and landed in prison after committing a crime he says he doesn’t remember.

2. Can a Gun Victim and a Gun Advocate Change Each Other’s Minds?

Lisa Miller, Marco Grob | New York Magazine | Dec. 26, 2016 | 25 minutes (6,443 words)

Gun advocates and victims of gun violence meet together to participate in a “story exchange” in which they pair up to share personal stories, and then tell their partner’s story in the first person in front of the group. The process, organized by Narrative 4, is supposed to engender “transformative empathy,” to get two people with opposing points of views to understand the other side.

3. OxyContin Goes Global — ‘We’re Only Just Getting Started’

Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion, Scott Glover | Los Angeles Times | Dec. 18, 2016 | 16 minutes (4,022 words)

Part three of an investigation by the Los Angeles Times looking into OxyContin’s role in the opioid epidemic.

4. Unnatural Disasters Series

Bani Amor | Bitch Media | Dec. 16, 2016 | 29 minutes (7,276 words)

A devastating four-part look at the connections among white supremacy, racism, privilege, misogyny, and climate change, and the effects they all have on women and people of color in places where climate change-related disasters occur.

5. Rewriting the Code of Life

Michael Specter | New Yorker | Dec. 26, 2016 | 28 minutes (7,159 words)

Can we eliminate diseases like Lyme and malaria by rewriting DNA? Specter walks us through a powerful new biological tool capable of altering the genetic destiny of a species.


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/30/the-top-5-longreads-of-the-week-150/

Carrie Fisher on Talking About Her Private Life

GROSS: You’ve been very open about your life and — or, you know, comparatively open about your life.

FISHER:
Spread eagle.

GROSS: (Laughter) And certainly, you know, you’re very revealing in your new memoir. Have there been consequences in your life for, you know, what some people might think of as oversharing?

FISHER: Oh, I think I do overshare, and I sometime marvel that I do it. But it’s sort of — in a way, it’s my way of trying to understand myself. I don’t know. I get it out of my head. It creates community when you talk about private things and you can find other people that have the same things. Otherwise, I don’t know — I felt very lonely with some of the issues that I had or history that I had. And when I shared about it, I found that others had it, too.

GROSS: Have there ever been consequences when someone overshared about you?

FISHER: No, that would be really hypocritical.

— From “Fresh Air’s” interview with Carrie Fisher in November. The actress and writer, most famous for her work in the Star Wars franchise, died on Tuesday at the age of 60.

Read the interview


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/28/carrie-fisher-on-talking-about-her-private-life/

The Case Against Christmas

Long after winter has ended, hating on Christmas remains popular sport, as much a holiday tradition as eggnog and overspending. In the New Republic in December, 1990, James S. Henry published an essay outlining his yuletide complaints and what he sees as Christmas’ flaws. The magazine republished Henry’s piece online for Christmas this year, so I thought I’d share it here, too. The stats might be dated and popular toys no longer the same, but the case Henry builds is as evergreen as a spruce. Each New Year I hope we live in a world with less hate and more understanding. But complaints? I have a few. Happy Holidays.

Christmas destroys the environment and innocent animals and birds. These have perhaps not been traditional concerns for economists. But when one takes account of all the Christmas trees, letters, packages, increased newspaper advertising, wrapping paper, and catalogs and cards, as well as all the animals slaughtered for feast and fur, this holiday is nothing less than a catastrophe for the entire ecosystem. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 33 million Christmas trees are consumed each year. Growing them imposes an artificially short rotation period on millions of acres of forest land, and the piles of needles they shed shorten the life of most household rugs and pets. All the trees and paper have to be disposed of, which places a heavy burden on landfill sites and recycling facilities, especially in the Northeast.

This year, according to the Humane Society, at least 4 million foxes and minks will be butchered just to provide our Christmas furs. To stock our tables, the Department of Agriculture tells me, we’ll also slaughter 22 million turkeys, 2 million pigs, and 2 million to 3 million cattle, plus a disproportionate fraction of the 6 billion chickens that the United States consumes each year. To anyone who has ever been to a turkey farm, Christmas and Thanksgiving take on a new and somewhat less cheerful meaning. Every single day during the run-up to these holidays, thousands of bewildered, debeaked, growth-hormone-saturated birds are hung upside down on assembly-line racks and given electric shocks. Then their throats are slit and they are dropped into boiling water.

Read the story


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/25/the-case-against-christmas/

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

1. The Great A.I. Awakening

Gideon Lewis-Kraus | New York Times | Dec. 14, 2016 | 60 minutes (15,174 words)

The story of how Google developed artificial intelligence to vastly improve its translation service, Google Translate, and what machine learning might be able to do in the near future.

See also from the New York Times: “Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See the World Beyond the Court,” by John Branch

2. The Man Who Cleans Up After Plane Crashes

Lauren Larson | GQ | Dec. 20, 2016 | 18 minutes (4,683 words)

A look at the work of Robert Jensen, who has built an unusual (and successful) career cleaning up after mass fatalities, from identifying bodies to returning personal belongings to families of the dead.

3. Off-Time: Becoming a Widow at Age 36

Christina Frangou | The Globe and Mail | Dec. 20, 2016 | 32 minutes (8,122 words)

Christina Frangou writes on becoming a widow at age 36, after her husband Spencer died of kidney cancer, 42 days after diagnosis.

4. How ‘A Christmas Story’ Went from Low-Budget Fluke to an American Tradition

Sam Kashner | Vanity Fair | December 2016 | 20 minutes (4,905 words)

The history of a Christmas movie classic.

5. My Thoughts Are Murder

Pete Coviello | Los Angeles Review of Books | Dec. 9, 2016 | 12 minutes (3,232 words)

Still looking for some post-election inspiration? Try watching Heathers, and/or standing in front of a classroom. Pete Coviello pens an essay on “loving your students, hating your enemies, and Winona.”


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/23/the-top-5-longreads-of-the-week-149/

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

1. The Great A.I. Awakening

Gideon Lewis-Kraus | New York Times | Dec. 14, 2016 | 60 minutes (15,174 words)

The story of how Google developed artificial intelligence to vastly improve its translation service, Google Translate, and what machine learning might be able to do in the near future.

See also from the New York Times: “Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See the World Beyond the Court,” by John Branch

2. The Man Who Cleans Up After Plane Crashes

Lauren Larson | GQ | Dec. 20, 2016 | 18 minutes (4,683 words)

A look at the work of Robert Jensen, who has built an unusual (and successful) career cleaning up after mass fatalities, from identifying bodies to returning personal belongings to families of the dead.

3. Off-Time: Becoming a Widow at Age 36

Christina Frangou | The Globe and Mail | Dec. 20, 2016 | 32 minutes (8,122 words)

Christina Frangou writes on becoming a widow at age 36, after her husband Spencer died of kidney cancer, 42 days after diagnosis.

4. How ‘A Christmas Story’ Went from Low-Budget Fluke to an American Tradition

Sam Kashner | Vanity Fair | December 2016 | 20 minutes (4,905 words)

The history of a Christmas movie classic.

5. My Thoughts Are Murder

Pete Coviello | Los Angeles Review of Books | Dec. 9, 2016 | 12 minutes (3,232 words)

Still looking for some post-election inspiration? Try watching Heathers, and/or standing in front of a classroom. Pete Coviello pens an essay on “loving your students, hating your enemies, and Winona.”


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/23/the-top-5-longreads-of-the-week-149/

From ‘Clean’ Living to a Life on the Lam

At Vanity Fair, Allen Salkin examines the downfall of Pure Food & Wine proprietor Sarma Melngailis. It all seems to stem from her involvement with Anthony Strangis, an ex-gambler she met on Twitter and then married, and whose alleged “coercive control” may have led the vegan icon and Wharton graduate to destroy her business and become a fugitive from the law:

A source close to Melngailis describes a scenario in which Strangis resorted to cult-like techniques, including gaslighting, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation, to control her. (Strangis, through his court-appointed attorney, Samuel Karliner, denied all these allegations but did not elaborate on his denials in responding to 80 questions from Vanity Fair.) Perhaps if you can understand how a sane, successful businesswoman comes to believe the insane idea that her dog can live forever, everything else snaps into focus—how that person might be accused of bilking her investors of $844,000, owe her employees more than $40,000 in unpaid wages, financially strip her restaurant, and now find herself awaiting trial, with a potential 15-year sentence. She had thought all harm would be magically reversed, just as Leon’s life span would be extended, according to her camp.

Read the story


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/22/from-clean-living-to-a-life-on-the-lam/

Positioning, PR, and Privilege: What Casey Affleck and Nate Parker Don’t Have in Common

Nate Parker’s film, The Birth of a Nation, and Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck, were the toast of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Both promised to dominate Oscar season. And both male stars had a history that included allegations of sexual impropriety. Nearly a year later, Parker’s Oscar hopes have evaporated entirely — in no small part because people talked incessantly about the allegations against him. Affleck, by contrast, has emerged as the frontrunner for Best Actor, the conversations about the past allegations corralled into single paragraphs in laudatory profiles.

The reasons why are complex — but increasingly clear.

At BuzzFeed, Anne Helen Petersen explores assorted reasons why Casey Affleck’s star keeps rising, despite talk of the settled sexual misconduct suits against him, while Nate Parker’s star has fallen after he was acquitted of rape charges.

Read the story


from Longreads https://blog.longreads.com/2016/12/22/positioning-pr-and-privilege-what-casey-affleck-and-nate-parker-dont-have-in-common/