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The dark side of the transmigrante industry. A meditation on the true meaning of public safety. Staggering new health recommendations around alcohol consumption. Insight into the writers’ strike and an ode to the beauty of bees. For more great reading, be sure to check out our editors’ picks.
1. A Trucker’s Kidnapping, a Suspicious Ransom, and a Colorado Family’s Perilous Quest for Justice
Chris Walker | 5280 | May 2, 2023 | 5,292 words
Through a special visa program, transmigrantes are able to drive goods and vehicles from the U.S. to Central America via Mexico, without paying for high import and export fees. These truckers, many originally from Central America, are able to connect with their home countries through this line of work, while the industry as a whole transforms America’s excess items into valuable goods abroad. In 2014, one trucker, Guatemalan-born Enrique Orlando León, took a contract job from a Colorado employer to deliver a truck, apparently full of furniture, to his homeland. It was a journey he’d taken many times before, but this time, it all went horribly wrong. Chris Walker recounts the kidnapping, explores the unknowns around Orlando’s capture that still plague him, and describes how this terrifying ordeal has affected his entire family. Through this one man’s story, Walker exposes a dark side of the transmigrante industry. —CLR
2. “Why You Talking to a Bum?”
Katie Prout | Chicago Reader | April 20, 2023 | 2,890 words
I was going to pick a different story this week, but then a man named Jordan Neely, a beloved Michael Jackson impersonator, was killed on the New York subway. He was unhoused, hungry, tired, distressed. He said as much to a car of people. In response, another passenger put him in a choke hold until he died. The best thing I’ve read about this appalling crime is a short, poignant piece in Defector. As a companion, I recommend this essay by Katie Prout, who recently spent time on Chicago’s public transport system talking to people who live there because they don’t have much other choice. Prout interrogates what politicians, the media, and many American citizens mean when they talk about public safety. Safety for whom, and from what? Who counts as part of the public, and who is cast aside? Jordan Neely should still be alive. He deserved better. America owed him more. —SD
3. Pour One Out
Tim Requarth | Slate | April 23, 2023 | 4,656 words
Not so long ago, a glass of red wine with dinner was considered a health benefit. Apparently there was research to back this moderate approach to tipple. New guidelines from the World Health Organization, the World Heart Federation, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction tell us something anyone who imbibes, even just a little, already knows: Alcohol is essentially poison. (Did they really have to gang up on us?) “’Mainstream scientific opinion has flipped,’ said Tim Stockwell, a professor at the University of Victoria who was on the expert panel that rewrote Canada’s guidance on alcohol and health. Last month, Stockwell and others published a new major study rounding up nearly 40 years of research in some 5 million patients, concluding that previous research was so conceptually flawed that alcohol’s supposed health benefits were mostly a statistical mirage.” For Slate, science writer Tim Requarth does a great job investigating what led to this staggering discovery. (For more Tim Requarth, be sure to check out “The Final Five Percent,” his award-winning reported personal essay on traumatic brain injury.) —KS
4. Why Are TV Writers So Miserable?
Michael Schulman | The New Yorker | April 29, 2023 | 2,085 words
For the first chunk of adulthood, I thought about my TV-writer friends as having hit some sort of lottery. Here I was, writing about real people and real events like a chump, while they were sitting around a table with their friends, eating junk food and making up stories — and earning ungodly amounts of money (or so I imagined) in the process. Finish a season, go to another show, climb the ladder, rinse, repeat. Then streaming came to town, and my friends’ dispatches from the front started to change. Uncertainty. Anxiety. Short-term gigs with no sense of security. All of a sudden, TV writing started to sound a lot more like the journalism game than I’d thought. Michael Schulman’s recent New Yorker piece bears out that suspicion with a clear, anecdote-driven explanation of exactly how streaming accelerated the devaluation of the creative act. The writers’ strike that began this week isn’t solely about residuals and streaming, of course — AI’s ever-advancing inroads are maybe even more existentially concerning — but after reading this piece you’ll realize that the Final Draft crowd isn’t different from any other labor force whose bosses are privileging profits over people. Seeing your name on a screen doesn’t necessarily pay the rent. —PR
5. Hive Mind
Celia Bell | Texas Highways | May 2, 2023 | 2,847 words
Celia Bell’s warm descriptions make bee society sound lovely, with her bees visiting “flowers or the quiet creek, or, on the hottest days, hang[ing] in clusters like elderberries on the outside of the hive, waiting for a breath of cool air.” The pleasure she finds in their world is not taken for granted. After entering beekeeping during the pandemic, Bell is conscious of how it grounds her and keeps her present. A video game fan, she draws thoughtful comparisons to the rendering of the natural world in gaming. While appreciating the artistry of game developers, she feels outside of her body in their virtual landscapes, whereas sweating in an apiary her body calls out its needs, forcing her to connect with her physical self. Although online life can creep in — a buzzing phone is never far away — the bees open up “the wonder and specificity of the world.” This reflective essay will make you consider which reality you choose to spend your time in. —CW
Do you hear timpani? Here’s the piece our readers loved most this week:
What Happens When Dave Chappelle Buys Up Your Town
Tyler J. Kelley | Bloomberg Businesweek | April 28, 2023 | 4,851 words
Dave Chappelle has lived full-time in the tiny, idyllic Ohio town of Yellow Springs for more than 15 years; at this point, it’s as much a part of his personal brand as the everpresent cigarette. But as Tyler J. Kelley reports, Chappelle’s impact on Yellow Springs — including his many real estate purchases and a number of questionably zoned live shows — has become a point of contention among townspeople who fear the end of affordability and find themselves torn between pride and preservation. —PR