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The Brief, Wondrous Life of Zina Lahr

Remembering the life of a talented young artist who went missing on a trail in Colorado:

After she died, a five-minute video surfaced of Zina standing in her bedroom in her grandmother’s house, which had shelves crammed with robots she’d built and other art projects. In the video, she explains that she has “creative compulsive disorder” and can’t stop making things—especially robots. The video was the first hint at what Zina was: an impossibly innocent and gifted eccentric on the verge of breaking out in the world of animatronics and stop motion. It was an audition for a Los Angeles–based reality show called Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge, a SyFy channel program premiering March 25 that’s sort of like Project Runway for animatronics artists. She’d turned down a spot on the show in order to move home and care for her grandmother, who’d been diagnosed with lung cancer in September.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 14, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3251 words)

The Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest

In the past decade, climbing Mount Everest has become a multimillion-dollar tourist attraction. Nepals's Sherpas have been hired to do most of the dangerous work on the mountain—fixing ropes, stocking camps shuttling gear for climbers—but are paid much less than Western guides. When Sherpas die working on the mountain, they often leave behind families who receive little in terms of life insurance payments:

"Soon after, Arnot was confronted by members of Chhewang’s family who wanted to immediately launch an expensive body-recovery expedition. The urgency was over Chhewang’s spirit, which was at risk of getting lost and wandering the earth if it wasn’t set free within seven days by cremation. 'I begged them not to go,' said Arnot, worried that others might die trying to recover the body. They went anyway and never made it beyond Base Camp due to snow conditions. Arnot paid $19,700 herself in helicopter fees and says her sponsor Eddie Bauer wired $7,000 to cover the puja. Arnot has now committed to paying Chhewang’s family what she can—which has amounted to roughly $4,000 a year—for as long as she’s guiding, though it hasn’t entirely eased her conscience.

"'It’s the guilt of hiring somebody to work for me who really had no choice,' Arnot told me last October in Nepal, where I’d joined her on her second annual trek to visit Chhewang’s widow. 'My passion created an industry that fosters people dying. It supports humans as disposable, as usable, and that is the hardest thing to come to terms with.'"
PUBLISHED: July 10, 2013
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6575 words)


To be a kayaker in Africa is to be constantly warned that the rivers are too dangerous—too many lethal rapids, too many angry hippos, too many hungry crocodiles. Like John Goddard and others before them, Hendrik Coetzee, Ben Stookesberry, and Chris Korbulic had simply come to terms with the risks. The new team did, however, have one serious misunderstanding of the small rivers that feed the upper Congo. The general rule in Africa is that alpha predators are still no match for men with guns, meaning that crocodiles and other monsters are at their most menacing in protected areas, where they can't be shot.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 10, 2011
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7360 words)