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In today’s edition, our editors recommend:

  • A glimpse into a mutual aid auto repair shop in Alabama, where volunteers with different ideologies come together.
  • A takedown of a phony celebrity criminal profiler and co-founder of an elite crime-solving club.
  • A story about a Croatian gambler who exploits the flaws in roulette wheels and whose methods have changed the game.
  • A read on the feral horses roaming around decommissioned mines in Appalachia, and the people who are caring for them.
  • A profile of the man behind the @dril Twitter account — “the undisputed poet laureate of shitposting” — on emerging from anonymity, Twitter, art and comedy, and creating things on the internet.

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends

Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein | Lux | March 3, 2023 | 3,498 words

I hate the South, and I love it. This internal conflict is my inheritance. My roots in the region run deep and strong, but I have no illusions about who and what fed them. “We bury the people we do not care about in the South,” Tressie McMillan Cottom recently wrote for The New York Times. “It is where we have put migrants and poor people and sick people.” As Cottom rightly notes, however, “Americans are never as far from the graves we dig for other people as we hope.” Needless to say, I’m forever grappling with the South and its sins, which lately include two high-profile mass shootings, threats to reproductive rights, two Black men’s ejection from the Tennessee legislature, and Florida circling the policy drain even more than usual. What a joy, then, to read a story with a different vision of the South. Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein introduces readers to Zac Henson and his band of leftist rednecks who run a mutual aid auto repair shop in Alabama. “The organizers,” Kaiser-Schatzlein writes, “believe that people in the South, conservatives especially, just need to be given the chance to operate in institutions that harness their most altruistic, communal, and caring tendencies — or, as Henson describes it, ‘positive reinforcement to not be fascist.’” I too want to believe this. Here’s to hope. —SD

2. The Case of the Fake Sherlock

David Gauvey Herbert | New York Magazine | April 11, 2023 | 7,018 words

David Garvey Herbert tells the wild story of Richard Walter, a low-paid staff psychologist at a Michigan prison who, in the ’80s, invented a more glamorous persona: genius criminal profiler. Walter faked his qualifications and positioned himself for decades as an eccentric, sought-after expert on the criminal mind, testifying in murder trials and enjoying the true-crime TV spotlight. “He so fully inhabited the role of celebrated criminal profiler he appeared to forget he was pulling a con at all,” writes Herbert. But how did this Sherlock Holmes wannabe fool people for so long? How can such a narcissistic impostor embed themself in America’s criminal justice system? I read this from start to finish, then went back to the beginning to dive in again. The first read was engrossing. The second? Infuriating. —CLR

3. The Gambler Who Beat Roulette

Kit Chellel | Bloomberg Businessweek | April 6, 2023 | 6,516 words

You can beat roulette: A game designed to be pure random chaos has a flaw. That is fascinating, but throw in London’s Ritz Club, Scotland Yard, and a skilled Croatian, and you’ve got a plot worthy of any heist film. But did Tosa — the Croatian who won tens of thousands from the Ritz and other casinos — even commit a crime? That is what Kit Chellel sets out to answer in this brilliant piece. He spends six months investigating the world of professional roulette players, and this careful research is evident. We learn about the tiny computers that can beat roulette tables, though no devices were ever found on Tosa. We learn that, over time, wheels develop flaws that can turn into predictable patterns: Was that how he did it? Casinos changed their wheels just in case. Miraculously, Chellel tracks down the elusive Tosa to ask him in person, and Tosa is adamant he trained his mind to beat roulette. Nothing dodgy to see here! But would he say if he had cheated? Sometimes not reaching a clear conclusion can leave a bad taste, but not in this instance. I was delighted that Tosa remains an enigma — and is still planning secret international gambling trips. I bet he wins. —CW

4. Saving the Horses of Our Imagination

Ashley Stimpson | The Sunday Long Read | April 9, 2023 | 5,236 words

It’s Ashley Stimpson’s keen eye that pulls you into her stories, original detail by original detail. In this feature that examines feral horse management in the U.S., you’ll meet Tinia Creamer, who runs Heart of Phoenix equine rescue: “At 40 years old, Creamer has a mane of dark hair, glassy blue eyes, and a full-throated Appalachian accent that stretches her vowels like taffy,” writes Stimpson. “She knows it sounds made up but swears it’s true: her first word was horsey.” You need not have an affinity for feral horses to go wild for this piece. Stimpson’s writing has that magical ability to pique your interest and make you care about a subject you may know nothing about: “Renegade was the first horse I met,” she writes. “The color of black coffee, his mane was so choked with burrs that it was twisted into green dreadlocks. I arrived unarmed with snacks, but he frisked me anyway – my fingers, my phone, my notebook, my hair – with a nose soft like flower petals.” If you’d like to read more by Stimpson, check out “Shades of Grey,” her Longreads feature about Florida greyhound racing. —KS

5. Dril Is Everyone. More Specifically, He’s a Guy Named Paul.

Nate Rogers | The Ringer | April 12, 2023 | 5,170 words

Despite being on Twitter for almost 15 years — a number that’s shameful for multiple reasons — I’ve never actually followed the shitposter extraordinaire known as Dril. I didn’t need to. His absurdism was retweeted into my feed nearly every day. Sometimes I’d laugh, sometimes I’d shake my head, but over time two things became clear. The first was that whoever was behind the blurry Jack Nicholson photo had created a wholly unique persona. The second was that this persona somehow distilled Twitter’s worst impulses into a single parodic voice: bombastic, utterly un-self-aware, and so in thrall to the Dunning-Kruger effect that you couldn’t help but marvel. Dril, in one anonymous form or another, has been written about before, but he’s never been truly profiled; that first falls to Nate Rogers, who managed both to score some face time with him and to use that as the foundation for a long, well-reported piece about the man and his legacy. Even if you’ve never heard of Dril (in which case I commend you, again for multiple reasons), Rogers’ piece functions as an incisive assessment of how we think about art and creativity, and perhaps even why so many of us have yet to fully divorce that godforsaken bird site. When a character as good as Dril exists, you don’t need the other 279. —PR

Audience Award

The piece our readers loved most this week:

The Class Politics of Instagram Face

Grazie Sophia Christie | Tablet | February 15, 2023 | 3,359 words

You see it everywhere. On the Kardashian sisters, supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, influencers, and celebrities. It’s the “perfect” face of an ethnically ambiguous woman, composed of a chiseled nose, filled lips, a Botoxed forehead, and other cosmetic work. For Tablet, Grazie Sophia Christie examines our culture’s obsession with Instagram Face; the path toward “doomed, globalized sameness” in which women are just copies of one another; and how wealthy women can easily reverse what they’ve done to their face, discarding enhancements like just another fashion trend. —CLR