Sunday, December 30, 2012

Links for the week ending 30 December 2012

An abbreviated list for the last Sunday of the year, when there's not much being written besides best-of lists.

Because I have only pulled a weapon on another human being once in my life — on an Indian bus — I'm starting with Nilanjana Roy's "For Anonymous." Via Lydia Polgreen.

From Kim Barker at ProPublica, an essential story for understanding how American elections get bought and sold: "In Montana, Dark Money Helped Democrats Hold a Key Senate Seat."

A blog post from Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times, on the National Rifle Association's influence over judicial confirmations.

From Elizabeth Bachner at Bookslut, on being a blond tourist in Nepal, and being a reader who travels: "You can start to feel like you've already been someplace you've never been. You can also start to feel, dangerously, like you're a person you've never been." (N.B. for any of you who are also looking for a living equivalent of Alexandra David-Neel: Dervla Murphy. You're welcome.)

Also at Bookslut, an appreciation of Ursula LeGuin's literary legacy and a convincing argument for reading her not as a genre writer but as a profoundly influential American novelist. By Julie Phillips.

At The New Inquiry, Atossa Abrahamian on the libertarian appeal of the Paleo diet.

Via Longreads, Abigail Tucker at Smithsonian Magazine with, "Are Babies Born Good?" Possibly more interesting for the profiles of researchers in the field than for the conclusions drawn so far, but worth reading either way.

At the Smithsonian Magazine's blog, Karen Abbott presents a haunting unsolved mystery from West Virginian: "The Children Who Went Up In Smoke."

The Michael Pollan title made me laugh so hard I cried. Mallory Ortberg with "Predictions For The 2013 Bestseller List" at The Gloss.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Links for the week ending 23 December 2012

The part of the news cycle that I struggle with most is the one in which the event and all there is currently to know about it has been discussed at length, but any person who is paid to an express an opinion about anything has had time to write and file his or her column about or incorporating said event. That's the time when I feel it most strongly, how we commodify human tragedy and make it into a product for sale or exchange. That said, there were necessary pieces written about gun violence this week. Among them was this one on starting a movement, by Mother Jones co-editors Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein; this one on the media response by smartest-person-on-the-internet Zeynep Tufekci; and this one on the abomination that was the NRA's press conference, by Amy Davidson. But this struck me as the piece that was most inspired by the author having something relevant to say (rather than the author getting paid to say things): at xojane, Haley B. Elkins with "How a Gun-Loving West Texas Girl Learned to Fear Assault Weapons."

Onward. From the week before, by Nicola Abé for Der Spiegel, "The Woes of an American Drone Operator."

By Sarah Childress at PBS Frontline, "Why Soldiers Keep Losing to Suicide."

At The New York Times (so the usual caveats about cookies apply), Sheri Fink on a death in the Sand Castle apartment complex in Far Rockaway two weeks after Hurricane Sandy laid waste to the region.

"68 Blocks": a joint project by five reporters (four of them women) at The Boston Globe on a year in the life of the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, "listening and asking why violence persists where love and loyalty also run so strong." The series includes enough stories to keep you reading a whole afternoon, but it's worth reading piecemeal, too.

Nikole Hannah-Jones at ProPublica with a new installment in her very strong — and very dismaying — series on the persistence of housing segregation in America. This one is about the federal government's refusal to use undercover testing to actively investigate discriminatory housing practices.

Dream Hampton at The Detroit News on the arson of her childhood home, and the neighborhood disintegrating around it.

At The New Inquiry, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi on the the death of Larry Donnell Andrews, the model for the character of Omar Little on The Wire.

Via Gharavi, a personal essay about a hold-up in Tehran by Norma Claire Moruzzi at the Middle East Research and Information Project. "How is it possible to eat tangerines while tied up, hands behind the back?"

"I hadn't thought of how many of these photos could just as easily trigger a happy memory as they could a visit from DHS, CPS, a PO or an abuser." At The Center for Media Justice, amalia deloney thinks about political security and marginalized communities while she nukes her Instagram account.

Via Dan Sinker, a sympathetic and thoughtful essay by Erin Kissane on her second thoughts and reservations after re-reading the piece by Liza Long about her son that was widely-shared (I also retweeted it) in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Seriously amazing and necessary piece by Lisa Carver at VICE on her chronically ill son, Wolf: "The Right to Die Is the Right to Live." Via Longreads, I think.

It has been two whole weeks since I last directed you to be terrified by Maryn McKenna. This week she is at Slate talking about the reestablishment of dengue fever in the United States.

Random more cheerful thought, though it's in Spanish at BBC Mundo by Valeria Perasso: tortillas and salsa outsell sandwich bread and ketchup in the United States, thereby proving that, as a nation, we are not a lost cause after all.

Bigfoot, however, apparently prefers blueberry bagels. Or does he? By Arikia Millikan at The Verge. (Via Sarah Zhang.)

God, Sarah Miller at The Awl every damn time, but especially this time with "The Year In Cheating."

Analee Newitz on corvids at io9: "If meeting once a day to share food makes a friend, then these corvids have definitely become mine."

A trio of pieces: first, one of the most delightfully quotable and aptly titled essays of the year: "Joy," by Zadie Smith at The New York Review of Books. Second, "Can you sit still on fire?" Melissa Seley interviews the author of Zazen, Vanessa Veselka, at Guernica. And third, at The Rumpus, Marie-Helene Bertino on rapping "The Humpty Dance" in front of Zadie Smith and Vanessa Veselka.

Finally: "Creepy" is my 11-year-old's new favorite word to describe the doings of grown-ups. (I can't imagine why.) At The Hairpin, Mallory Ortberg makes creepy the reason for the season with "A Christmas Story."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Links for the week ending 16 December 2012

With apologies, I am not linking to any stories about the Newtown school massacre this week. Firstly because I think the stories that matter are yet to be written. But mostly because I cannot yet bear it. (By the banks of the Housatonic I sat down and wept.)

Some weeks there are released into the world dozens and dozens of stories months or years in the making, every one of them worth reading. This was one of those weeks, and I have not managed to catch up with them all. But here is a smattering of them. Trigger warnings for those of you with NICU experiences. For the rest of you, a wrenching but — stick with it — ultimately triumphant three-part piece at the Tampa Bay Times by Kelly Benham on the birth of her daughter, Juniper, at 23 weeks' gestation. Via Andrea Pitzer.

"They were the oldest teenagers in America." At the Washington Post, Anne Hull profiles a teenage girl's struggle to escape the tremendous gravity of poverty in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Via Stephen Burt.

"It was as if so many of us, myself included, were looking at the protestors and saying, 'Please, let something matter again.'" At Wired, Quinn Norton's elegiac look back on the year she spent covering Occupy encampments around the nation.

"Today the Citadel is no longer a stage for impressing visitors. It is no longer a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. It had reclaimed its original purpose — a fortress in an active battle between Syrian sons, a site to be occupied and captured once more." An incredible, Calvino-inflected eulogy for the ancient city of Aleppo, by Amal Hanano at Foreign Policy. Via a lot of people, including Azmat Khan and Rania Abouzeid.

Julia Angwin at the Wall Street Journal reports, "U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens," mining our everyday records for patterns of suspicious behavior.

"'If you believe this is a social welfare organization, I have a rocket that can get you to the moon very quickly and at very little cost.'" Kim Barker at ProPublica on the contents of Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS application for nonprofit status with the IRS.

Molly Ball at The Atlantic takes you on a long, winding tour of "The Marriage Plot: Inside This Year's Epic Campaign for Gay Equality."

"'My child was killed, and nothing on the ground has changed. No one achieved anything. Families lost children and loved ones. How can this be a victory?'" Harriet Sherwood reports from Gaza for The Guardian.

Irin Carmon writes for Salon about the loophole that allows non-Native men to abuse Native American women with impunity — and how the U.S. House of Representatives would rather torpedo the Violence Against Women Act than allow that loophole to be closed.

And they wonder why people who have the means would rather drive their damn cars. "Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations," reports Kim Zetter at Wired.

"Oil may be seeping from Deepwater Horizon site," Sharyl Attkisson reports for CBS News. I gotta tell you, my House representative could not be any more awesome. Thank you, Ed Markey.

At the NYRB, Francine Prose asks why poor kids in New York City's metal-detector-equipped public schools are forced to spend five dollars a week storing their cellphones in privately owned trucks outside school buildings, to the tune of some $4.2 million per year.

"Scalia clings to hate — what he calls animus — because he's got nothing else; what he is missing, though, is that an increasing number of Americans have found that when legal strictures and open discrimination are stripped away they are left not with the reprehensible, but with neighbors, friends, and family members whom they love, and see loving each other." Amy Davidson at the New Yorker.

Even on a week like this one — especially on a week like this one — we should not forget to be awesome. Taylor Kate Brown in the inaugural issue of Somersault Magazine on the "Epic Politics" of Nerdfighters and brothers John and Hank Green. My kid saw one of their videos in class last week, which is all by itself some pretty substantial awesome.

At Baltimore Fishbowl, Rachel Monroe interviews the awesome duo behind a whipsmart feminist parody of Victoria Secret's PINK brand for young women.

Jessa Crispin at The Awl. "Sometimes he would just sit on the edge of my bed and squeeze my foot through the blanket until I got back to sleep. At other times, we would talk. Mostly about the loneliness that is so deep it leads you into conversation with people who are dead."

Finally, at Bookforum, Ruth Franklin reviews a new compilation of interviews about Madeleine L'Engle, which will probably get passed along hand to virtual hand amongst some of us. (I love you guys.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Links for the week ending 9 December 2012

This week in The Doom Hanging Over Our Heads: Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker observes, "the possibility of a carbon tax has come to seem more likely than ever, that is, not very likely, but also not entirely out of the question." At Mother Jones, editors-in-chief Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery pull no punches in making the case that the time to do something is now.

In the aftermath of Doom, do you plan to use your cellphone? Cora Currier at ProPublica explains how the big cell phone carriers have strongly lobbied for "voluntary best practices" rather than preparedness requirements — like 24-hours of emergency backup power for cell towers.

Via @jillheather, on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, The Seattle Times published for the first time journalist Elizabeth McIntosh's eye-witness account, which was deemed too graphic by her then-employer, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

At Time, Rania Abouzeid profiles a sniper for the Syrian rebels in the ruins of Aleppo. "'We will not become Somalia after Bashar falls,' he says. 'We will have many Somalias in every province.'"

More reporting from Erin Cunningham in Cairo: "Things are getting weird in Egypt." On the alliance that is bringing pro-democracy revolutionaries and pro-Mubarak counterrevolutionaries together.

"'I do not want to pretend everything is wonderful.'" Tracy Jan at the Boston Globe profiles grumpy, brilliant, trailblazing Barney Frank as he packs up his office in the House of Representatives and prepares for retirement.

Chilling and thoughtful piece by Sarah Goodyear at The Atlantic Cities: "Life on the streets and in the tunnels of a densely packed city presents us with dozens, even hundreds of daily choices about how we behave toward our fellow humans."

Joanna Carver at New Scientist reports on a new study that found that urban birds use cigarette butts to line their nests — and decrease their parasite loads. It must have killed editors not to run with "smoking is for the birds" jokes.

At Colorlines, Akiba Solomon interviews Dr. Yaba Blay on her (1)Drop Project with photographer Noelle Theard. Stunning photographs if you click through to the project itself.

Via Andrea Pritzer, a review of a biography of singer Buffy Sainte-Marie by Lindsay Zoladz at the Los Angeles Review of Books. If you watched Sesame Street in the 1970s, you wanna read this.

Another book review, by Esther Freud for The Guardian, of the newly released (and only in the UK, alas!) The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson. Yay, Moomins!

Today in Healthcare Paranoia news, from Maryn McKenna at Wired: "Antiseptics Used to Prevent Health Care Infections Might Cause Them. Oops."

I can't even keep track of all the articles about football and violence anymore, but this one, about how the Notre Dame community hounded a sexual assault victim until she took her own life, says exactly what needs saying about the collusion of fans and the football establishment in creating that culture of violence. By Melinda Hennenberger for the Washington Post.

Wow. From Annalee Newitz, a remarkably matter-of-fact list of "Six Good Habits I Learned from Being Bullied as a Geeky Kid."

"Sometimes the known bad advice of the Inner Foot-Stomping Toddler is just too compelling, alas, to resist." Maria Bustillos at The Awl on not banishing irony in favor of some supposedly more authentic self.

IRONY ALERT: a totally true story about "The Amazing Reformation of Mitt And Ann Romney." By Ana Marie Cox at The Awl.

"[E]veryone I have spoken with has a working, personal theory that explains for them the nature of the psychic in the city." At THE STATE, Karen Gregory takes sociological theories out for a walk on a tour of New York City's psychic readers.

Via @missludmilla, a very smart post by Karen Coyle on her blog considering Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus in the context of gender inequality in available leisure time, asking, "Does this explain, in whole or in part, the masculine view of 'hacking,' the participation in Open Source, the gender nature of games and gaming?"

Helen Lewis at the New Statesman on the gamification of misogynistic abuse in the treatment of Anita Sarkeesian.

Finally, an incredible essay about video games, love, and death via @jillheather, by Jenn Frank at Unwinnable: "Allow Natural Death." I recommend locating the nearest box of tissues first.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Links for the week ending 2 December 2012

Once more into the breach, dear friends! From Erin Cunningham for GlobalPost, coverage of new protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and the "constitution conundrum" that has driven ordinary Egyptians back to the streets.

At The Daily Beast, Sarah A. Topol looks at Gaza's one flourishing business: running smugglers' tunnels underneath the border with Egypt.

Torie Rose DeGhett publishes "This Week in War" at The Political Notebook. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a weekly roundup that focuses exclusively on conflicts around the world.

The New Yorker's indispensable Amy Davidson on Private Bradley Manning's testimony this week. And also on the question of a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy for President in 2016: "one finds oneself asking, Must we?"

Colorlines' infographic wizard Hatty Lee presents some eye-opening statistics for World AIDS Day.

"'[D]efendants engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards…'" Also at Colorlines, Julianne Hing reports on the Department of Justice lawsuit again Meridian, Mississipi for violating its schoolchildren's basic constitutional rights.

Stephanie Simon for Reuters on the dubious returns on Jeb Bush's vaunted education "reforms" in Florida.

An interview at Bitch Magazine with Laurie Penny and Molly Crabapple about their very cool-looking e-book, Discordia, based on their travels and reporting in Greece.

From Alison Flood at the Guardian, how a single editor at the Oxford English Dictionary deleted thousands of words from the OED between 1972-1986 because of their "foreign linguistic influences."

This is excessively awesome. Rebecca Boyle at Popular Science on the installation by a Swedish utility of light-therapy panels at bus stops. Now THAT'S socialized medicine for the win.

Does smiling improve your mood? Does smiling around a pair of chopsticks improve your mood? Scicurious covers a recent study and finds… well, it couldn't hurt.

Moving piece from Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic on "The First Time Humans Saw the Structure of DNA."

From Maggie Koerth-Baker at (use your clicks wisely!) The New York Times Magazine, a fascinating piece on the surprising homogenization of urban ecosystems — and how that might be a good thing.

The best news I have read all year! (Even if it doesn't turn out to be true!) First, from Lindsay Abrams at The Atlantic, "The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like." Then, via @bug_girl, a post from Julie Craves at Coffee & Conservation examining media coverage of a recent scientific paper and asking, "Is coffee really at risk of extinction?" (Spoiler: not more than anything else is thanks to climate change.)

Is there anything more fun than a book review by Zoë Heller at the NYRB? With this review of Salman Rushdie's third-person memoir, I submit that the answer is certainly, "No."

"'If you're good, you can have that when I die.'" Get into the holiday spirit with this wonderful piece by an anonymous author at The Billfold: "My Nana's Will of Iron."

If you like erudite gossip about the sexual habits of the British aristocracy, this excellent piece by Emma Garman at The New Inquiry, "Baby Daddies and Dandy Scandals," is going to make your day.

Via the lovely folks at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Ann Patchett at The Atlantic: "You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell."

Finally, at n+1, a fine essay by Kathleen Massara on "The Good Life" in Omaha, Nebraska.