Search Results for: Daniel A. Gross

Editor’s Roundtable: Just Put Some Eyes On There (Podcast)

Cynthia Breazeal, roboticist and social robotics pioneer, is pictured with Jibo, a personal assistant robot. (Matthew Cavanaugh for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On our June 14, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Audience Editor Catherine Cusick, Contributing Editor Aaron Gilbreath, and Books Editor Dana Snitzky share what they’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads.

This week, the editors discuss stories in Grub Street, The New Yorker, Gay Magazine, and The Verge.


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0:20 How a Cash-Strapped Start-up Became the Internet’s Food-Nerd Utopia. (Chris Crowley, June 18, 2019, Grub Street

“The ultimate distillation of a conversation going on with all the slow bits cut out and all the best parts included.” – Aaron Gilbreath

In 2006, Ed Levine launched Serious Eats, which quickly became a go-to place on the internet for the food obsessed. To coincide with Levine’s memoir, Grub Street created a “meta-food experience” by speaking with writers involved in the early days of the website. The Longreads team discusses how the oral history format seems to get people to lower their filter and allow personalities to come to the forefront. They also talk about the ambitious lengths people went to to get a story during this period of the blogging internet, and how that ambition often wasn’t reflected in the low rates and long hours they worked. 

8:20 The Strange Story of a Secret Literary Fellowship. (Daniel A. Gross, June 16, 2019, The New Yorker)

The Optics of Opportunity. (Hafizah Geter, June 19, 2019, Gay Magazine)

“Racism isn’t a revelation, it’s ever-present and we’re always dealing with it.” – Dana Snitzky
“And it’s not a surprising reveal at the end of a story.” – Catherine Cusick

The team discusses the New Yorker’s story about a secret literary fellowship funded by Barnes & Nobel owner Leonard Riggio’s family foundation and a rebuttal companion piece to the story from Gay Magazine.

Geter is a main character in Gross’s piece and both writers were participants in the fellowship but, as our editors discuss, the structure and framing of the pieces differ greatly. In Gay Magazine, Geter asks who gets to tell a story and critiques the New Yorker’s editorial choice to frame Gross’ piece as a story about wealth. The editors question the down-the-rabbit-hole structure, which posits racism as a mystery’s big revelation, rather than, as Geter shows, the glaring center of the story, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The team talks about how opportunity and predation are intertwined, and the difference between people who feed hope and those who feed on it.

24:08 They Welcomed a Robot Into Their Family, Now They’re Mourning Its Death.  (Ashley Carman, June 19, 2019, The Verge)

“I didn’t expect my friendly home robot to die.” – Catherine Cusick

Jibo was one of the first social robots engineered to normalize the notion of “a robot in every home,” to appeal to children, and to become part of the family. Jibo’s eyes, facial recognition responsiveness, and personalized greetings fostered a bond with owners, who developed pet-like affection for the dancing digital personality. Now, the company that makes Jibo has been bought out, and Jibo owners have been put on notice. His servers are shutting down “soon,” but no one knows exactly when.

The editors talk about how to say goodbye to a robot you didn’t expect to “die,” the challenge of trusting the reliability of something that corporations can unplug at will, and how consumer relationships to home assistants are complicated by their intentional emotional appeal.

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Produced by Longreads and Charts & Leisure.

Living With a World on Fire: A Reading List

Below is a guest reading list from Daniel A. Gross, a journalist and public radio producer who lives in Boston.

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As a teenager growing up in Southern California, I remember looking up one day and seeing a fine white powder falling from the sky. It was the middle of summer, and for a moment I wondered, absurdly, if it was snowing. The flakes crumbled between my fingers and left streaks like flour on my clothes. They were ash.

Every summer, swaths of California burn. Grass, brush, trees and even houses go up in smoke. In the worst years, they drift back to earth in the form of a thin gray coating on windshields and awnings. On local TV, between late-night car chases and tanned weather reporters who know every synonym for sunny, I remember images of hillsides that glowed orange and black.

It’s fire season again. So far, nearly 30 major wildfires have torn through 12 states. As this year’s blazes seem to reach their yearly peak, here are four stories about risk and resilience in the face of fire. They’re a glimpse into the lives of those who fight fires, those who flee them, and those who rebuild, literally, from the ashes. Read more…

A Reading List of International Nonfiction Comics

Below is a guest reading list from Daniel A. Gross, a journalist and public radio producer who lives in Boston.

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Comic books bridge continents. Superman spin-offs are a hit in China; Japanese manga trickled into American culture through Frank Miller’s Ronin and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Adventures of Tintin was translated from French into more than 50 languages. Alongside the superhero franchises and funny pages, a thriving genre of nonfiction comics has created new audiences and new appreciation for everything from war reporting to memoir. Here are five modern classics whose intricate illustrations have shaped the form.

1. Joe Sacco, “The Fixer and Other Stories”

The Fixer is a war story set in peacetime. In 2001, Joe Sacco traveled to Sarajevo, hoping to find the interpreter who’d helped him during the Yugoslav Wars. By this time, correspondents had cleared out and soldiers had become civilians. Memories of atrocity were starting to slip beneath the surface—but Sacco’s book excavates them. During one flashback, Sacco portrays his wartime arrival to Sarajevo, and it’s styled like film noir: hulking architecture, empty streets, long shadows. In a surreal scene at the Holiday Inn, the concierge points to the hotel on a city map. “This is the front line,” she says. “Don’t ever walk here.” Then, in the lobby, Sacco meets his fixer. Read more…

1964: A Sidelong View of Sports

Longreads Pick

New reading list by Daniel A. Gross: “Sports in the 1960s proved a rich arena for writers looking to flex their literary muscle, and Talese and Wolfe tried out unconventional sports writing while still kicking off their careers.”

Source: Longreads
Published: Nov 17, 2014

1964: A Sidelong View of Sports

Below is a guest reading list from Daniel A. Gross, a journalist and public radio producer who lives in Boston.

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Fifty years ago, a champion boxer picked up his son from school, a literary critic was tackled by NFL players, and a famed NASCAR racer tended to his chicken farm. Such was the sidelong view of sports presented by Gay Talese, George Plimpton, and Tom Wolfe. Sports in the 1960s proved a rich arena for writers looking to flex their literary muscle, and Talese and Wolfe tried out unconventional sports writing while still kicking off their careers. You won’t find much reference here to the sweeping political developments that tend to dominate our narratives of 1964. Instead, you’ll get some sense for the texture of the time. Read more…

Could the Ideal Mormon City Be One of Inclusion?

In a recent piece for The Big Roundtable, Daniel A. Gross profiled Alasdair Ekpenyong, a gay Mormon struggling to make sense of his sexuality within the context of his faith. Alasdair sought answers in many venues, including alternative communities and Mormon history. From the story:

That winter, Alasdair began to write a series of academic essays about the Mormon city. This was the topic that his former bishop studied, the topic that Alasdair had been researching at the commune back in April. He still worked for that bishop sometimes, combing through old Mormon documents that might illuminate the spiritual dream of a utopian city. The bishop had supported him for a long time. He had been there at the end of Alasdair’s mission, after that first sexual experience with Rick, and during Alasdair’s transition to earning a living without his mother’s support.

In those months and months of research, Alasdair felt he had found some deep kernel of truth. He had read the prophet Joseph Smith’s writings on architecture and urban planning, writings that had deeply influenced the layout of both Provo and Salt Lake City. Smith had mapped out the city of faith he imagined. It was a careful grid, split up for farms and factories, for houses of worship and houses of men—each of the many pieces that comprise a House of the Lord. “Let every man live in the city,” wrote Smith, “for this is the city of Zion.”

One of Alasdair’s essays took Smith’s command literally. In the city Alasdair described, perhaps a man did not need to date a woman to remain in the church. He proposed a city designed for inclusion, a city with fewer locks and more doorways.

Read the story

More stories about religion

Photo: Miami University Libraries, Flickr

The History of the Future: A Reading List

Longreads Pick

A new technology reading list by Daniel A. Gross, featuring Wired, The Atlantic and Esquire.

Source: Longreads
Published: Apr 15, 2014

The History of the Future: a Reading List

Below is a guest reading list from Daniel A. Gross, journalist-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. He also writes and produces radio about the lives of stuff and the stuff of life.

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Journalism has been called the first draft of history. Here are 5 technology stories that belong in the second draft. Like a lot of technology journalism, they’re each focused on an emerging future, which at times makes them a bit breathless with excitement. But unlike most technology journalism, these stories have only gotten better with age. They’re sprinkled with uncanny predictions and unexpected depth about the devices we’ve come to take for granted. Read more…

Searching For Mackie

A portrait of Immaculate, "Mackie" Basil in Peter and Vivian Basil's home in Tache, British Columbia. All photos by Andrew Lichtenstein.

Annie Hylton | Longreads | February 2020 | 20 minutes (8,310 words)

This story was produced in collaboration with The Walrus.

As Peter Basil remembers it, the week leading up to Father’s Day, in June 2013, began like any other; he’s since replayed the events in his mind like a recurring bad dream. Peter recalls standing in the kitchen of his modest split-level home in Tache, a First Nations village that lies deep in the wilderness of northern interior British Columbia. His younger sister Mackie, then in her late 20s, followed him around as he made a pot of coffee.

“Promise me you’ll take care of my baby,” Mackie asked Peter, referring to her 5-year-old son.

“Yup,” he replied.

Mackie trailed Peter to the living room and sat next to him on the L-shaped couch, under high school graduation photos of herself and her sisters.

“Promise me you’ll take care of my baby,” Mackie repeated to Peter.

“Yeah, geez,” he responded. “Should I be worried? Are you coming back?”

“I’ll be back,” Mackie promised.

Read more…