How rural America is failing migrants. The life lessons of soccer strategy. Moving on after the unthinkable happens. One house’s unsettling past. And a conversation between film icons. (Who doesn’t need more Nic Cage?) Welcome to our editors’ five favorite stories of the week.
Kartikay Mehrotra, Matti Gellman | ProPublica, The Kansas City Star | November 19, 2022 | 5,098 words
At the Statue of Liberty, the final line of Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” reads: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” There’s no question that the Biden administration had the best intentions in evacuating Afghan allies out of the country in August 2021 when the United States turned its back on the country, 20 years into a failed war. But some of the tempest-tost of Afghanistan have found small (if any) welcome in rural America, where there is little experience in helping newcomers and immigrants to become happy, productive members of the community. In this nuanced piece jointly published by ProPublica and The Kansas City Star, reporters Kartikay Mehrotra and Matti Gellman try to unravel the bureaucratic inadequacies that failed the Kohistani family — and may have caused 14-year-old Rezwan Kohistani to take his own life. —KS
Rosecrans Baldwin | GQ | November 29, 2022 | 3,306 words
Like so many others in my generation, I grew up playing soccer. And like so many others in my generation who grew up playing soccer, the magic of Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff was drilled into both my head and feet: his on-ball moves, his off-ball philosophy. Team Netherlands’ totaalvoetbal (Total Football) strategy may not have reigned on the international stage past the ’70s, but its emphasis on flowing in and out of space would inform player development even in the States into the ’90s. It also came to govern the larger philosophy of Rosecrans Baldwin’s friend Lars, a man who loved soccer and coaching as fiercely as he loved his family — until he succumbed to cancer three years ago. Now, on the eve of the Dutch and U.S. men’s teams meeting in the World Cup, Baldwin unpacks Lars’ impact on his own life, and how he sought to chronicle and preserve Lars’ outlook while there was still time. This is a piece about Baldwin’s loss, of course, but it’s really a piece about how soccer changed Lars, and how Lars changed the world around him. “A friend comes into your life and shows you it’s flexible,” Baldwin writes. “A friend alters your life by appearing in a new role. The role changes, the friendship changes.” Sharing space isn’t just for the game pitch. —PR
Deepa Padmanaban | Fifty Two | November 25, 2022 | 4,006 words
In these times that feel constantly pierced by mass death events, we’ve seen more stories detailing the invisible and often forgotten work of emergency responders who are first to encounter the dead. In a resource-strapped country like India, it’s hard to imagine the logistics of rescue operations, and even more so what is needed to properly and humanely manage a massive number of bodies after a large-scale natural disaster. But Deepa Padmanaban lays this all out with care in this Fifty Two story. “Prioritising the living over the dead is a given,” Padmanaban writes, but she also says that more respectful handling and more swift identification of victims allows their families to move on. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami revealed the lack of forensic infrastructure in the country, and Padmanaban reports on how practices like forensic odontology, which uses dental expertise, can be a reliable way to identify victims. (Padmanaban shares that Argentinian grandmothers in the late 1970s were the first people to suggest forensics as a way to identity victims — in their case, their daughters who had been abducted by Argentina’s military junta, and their daughters’ children.) This is an interesting piece on humanitarian forensics in India and, above all, honoring the dead and offering compassionate care to those left behind. —CLR
4. ‘The More We Pulled Back The Carpet, The More We Saw’: What I Learned When I Bought a House With a Dark Past
Matt Blake | The Guardian | November 19, 2022 | 3,311 words
Lying at the intersection of real estate, horror, and murder mystery is this gripping essay by Matt Blake. Have you ever considered your house’s past? Unless you are sitting in a brand new building, other people have called your house home before you. Blake knew this, but as he states, “treated this house’s past like the junk folder in my email: you know there might be bad stuff in there, but so long as you never open it, it can’t do any harm.” Then he opened it. Uncovering a gruesome story, Blake asks fascinating questions about where we live. Does a house soak in vibes? I was amazed to learn tears and sweat glands pump out “chemosignals” other people detect, not only in the moment but after the source has gone. Miss Habersham’s house must have oozed sadness for years. Blake traces his house’s history back to the very beginning. You can imagine the lives of the people that stood on those floors before him: “When Queen Victoria died, it was inhabited by a cordwainer – a shoemaker – and his family. When the first world war broke out, a wonderfully described ‘cutter of fancy materials’ was here with his wife and three children.” Knowing what Blake learns about a later inhabitant, I may not have stayed in that house, but Blake and his daughter do. The next family to make it their home. —CW
Hannah Ongley | Document | November 28, 2022 | 3,752 words
In my house, we worship at several artistic altars, two of which are Nicolas Cage and horror movies. My husband is a devotee of the former, I of the latter. So I can’t help but feel that this conversation between Cage and horror auteur John Carpenter was made specially for us. Situated here as two of the weirdest, most talented figures in modern Hollywood — no arguments from me — the pair talk about James Dean’s “perfect” career, how to know if your child is an actor, some very discomfiting alpacas, and doing charades with Anthony Perkins. Their dialogue is a delight. Time to rewatch Halloween and Mandy. —SD
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