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Story Wrangler, Senior Editor, Longreads. Not to be fed after midnight.

‘Leaving the Bay Area is the Best Thing You Can Do Right Now, If You Have a Dream’

In an essay at Curbed San Francisco, Diana Helmuth explores why so many young people have left California. It’s not normal, she writes, considering a dozen loved ones have moved away in the past two years.

We are witnessing two migrations. One is the continuation of the Californian dream, where young people flock here for gold and glory, ready to hustle and disrupt, hammering to hit the motherlode and laughing at the odds. The other is the migration of young people out of California, which seems to have affected everyone I know, but which I rarely hear examined. These people want to be artists, teachers, blacksmiths, therapists, mechanics, and musicians. They want to have children, open bakeries, own a house. But they can’t. There is no room here for those kinds of dreams anymore.

Eleanor, the twelfth person in Helmuth’s life that’s decided to leave, had moved back in with her parents a few years ago, to her little hometown of Stinson Beach. North of San Francisco, it had gradually become a getaway destination of Airbnbs for rich tourists and well-off city residents alike.

“Imagine working at Disneyland, then going home to your place in the back of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride while drunk frat grads puke into the water,” she told me.

To be clear, she loved her town and its bearing in the coastal California fantasy. She wanted to share it, brag about it, celebrate it. But selling bourgeoise yogurt crocks and $100 bottles of wine to people who didn’t see her as part of their shabby-chic fantasy was becoming difficult to bear.

After visiting Pittsburgh and witnessing the success of other friends who had relocated and were living their lives, Eleanor wanted to give it a shot there, too. But this exodus from the Golden State means an influx of Californians to more affordable cities like Pittsburgh — and not all in these places are welcoming. To these residents, Helmuth wants “the record set straight about who exactly is moving where and, above all, why.”

To the angry locals of Portland, Seattle, Denver, New Orleans, Kansas City, Phoenix, Austin, and elsewhere, please hear this defense: The Californians who are coming in and “ruining” your cities are not snobs. They don’t have trust funds. They aren’t entitled. They are the opposite. They have been kicked out of their own backyards for not learning Python fast enough or not having a dad who could introduce them to VC firms or not wanting to live in their family’s in-law unit at age 30 or not being able to afford a $2,000/month studio on a $20/hour paycheck. They aren’t techies; they had the audacity to want something besides tech. They are some of our best, most creative, most hardworking people—and you are getting them. We are losing them.

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In the Age of Instagram’s Travel Influencer, Your Pretty Home Is the Backdrop for Their Photoshoot

These days, whether you like it or not, your photogenic house may be a prime location for tourists’ photoshoots. Take “T,” for instance, who lived in one of the three picture-perfect houses with pastel trim on Rainbow Row in Savannah, Georgia. In May 2017, her home’s very Instagrammable exterior was the backdrop for a travel blogger’s carefree action shot, which included this bit in the caption:

This was about 3 seconds before the little old lady living in the green house came out and scowled at me for taking pictures in front of her home (which mind you is famous in Savannah and mentioned on all of the trolley tours). If it were me, I would have taken advantage of the tourist attention and started a mimosa stand or something!

Posing in front of photo-worthy facades, from famous landmarks to street murals, is nothing new. But with the rise of influencers on the world’s most popular photo app, snapping photos in front of or on someone’s property — when adorable porches and picturesque stoops are involved — brings up issues of privacy and etiquette. At Curbed, Alexandra Marvar explores homeownership in the age of the Instagram travel influencer.

Halpern’s brand, Live Like It’s the Weekend, asks the question: “Wouldn’t it be freaking awesome if people […] felt free to follow their passions every day, not just on the weekends?” Her curated target audience is the “creative female traveler,” her feed a litany of styled jet-setting and starry-eyed wonder. Sometimes she breaks to reflect on the personal, disclosing a struggle in a caption, reminding us that we shouldn’t assume a person is as they appear—that they may not be the look they’re giving you. For Halpern, discussing the personal details of her life—including the difficult ones—is right on brand. She shares her thoughts openly with her followers, right alongside a post plugging a jumpsuit she loves or a spa she just visited. And her followers seem to love it.

They liked the post of T’s house too (1,581 times, last I checked), but to identify a private home and evaluate the behavior of its owner to an audience of 60,000 isn’t the same as evaluating a resort stay or an outfit, things given to her or that she paid for. The act ate at me, and at T’s family. What right did she have?

Halpern has every right to snap such a picture from public property. We all do. She has every right, as the copyright owner of her photographs, to use them for commercial gain. She is perfectly welcome to use a social media caption as a platform to rally moral support from digital disciples, a feature of social media we all love. Save for some forms of name-calling, and any certain nuisance (excessive noise, blocking the sidewalk, and so on), the law allows for all of this.

But since Instagram exploded into the world in 2010, photography—travel photography in particular—has evolved faster than the law can accommodate. Where the law falls short, we have ethics—moral principles that guide our conduct in business and life. And in the application of our ethics, we have etiquette—a societal code that shows us how to be polite.

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A Reading List to Celebrate World Breast Pumping Day

The Willow wearable breast pump on display at CES International 2018. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

As my daughter Emilia turns 7 months old on January 27, which happens to be World Breast Pumping Day, I can say I’ve finally gotten the hang of pumping breast milk. On my maternity leave, I was lucky to be able to exclusively breastfeed her for the first six months. As I prepared for the transition back to work full time, I pumped periodically to get familiar with the bulky, noisy machine I’d soon spend a lot of time with, as well as to build a modest freezer stash of milk for all the future occasions I’d be away from the baby. (Spoiler: there haven’t been many.)

I wouldn’t say I enjoy pumping in the same way I enjoy nursing (well, when Emilia wants to nurse, which — in her recently distractible state — has been less frequent). But it can be very satisfying to collect ounces of milk, the only substance my baby really needs in her first year to live and thrive, from my own body. Serena Williams, after all, called breastfeeding a superpower; I too feel invincible, even if just for those moments, being able to provide nourishment for this tiny human I’ve made.

But, like so many women before me have said, pumping is also awkward and onerous. I look at this image of ultra-runner Sophie Power from last fall, who stopped halfway through the 105-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc race to pump and breastfeed her son, and think, wow, here is someone partaking in an incredibly demanding activity, pushing the limits of the human body, but — just like any other mother — she can’t get around the physical need to pump.

Because no matter who you are, the logistics of pumping can be challenging, if not impossible. Even if you can afford the newest wearable models that promise more freedom, like the $500 Willow and Elvie pumps, pumping is still a commitment and huge part of your day-to-day life.

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A million reasons why I wanted to post this picture. Obviously #rachelmcadams looks incredible and was quite literally the dream to work with but also this shoot was about 6 months post her giving birth to her son, so between shots she was expressing/pumping as still breastfeeding. We had a mutual appreciation disagreement about whose idea it was to take this picture but I’m still sure it was hers which makes me love her even more. Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can’t for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of. I don’t even think it needs explaining but just wanted to put this out there, as if it even changes one person’s perception of something so natural, so normal, so amazing then that’s great. Besides she’s wearing Versace and @bulgariofficial diamonds and is just fucking major. Big shout out to all the girls 💪🏽 #rachelmcadams for @girls.girls.girls.magazine .com cover shoot 📸 @clairerothstein #pleaseshare . . . Side note: I did not look anywhere near as fabulous as this when feeding/pumping. And that’s ok too. . . . Stylist: @alicialombardini 👠 #girlsgirlsgirlsmag #girlsgirlsgirls #bringingbackthewoman #nogrungejustglamour #independentmagazine #printisnotdead #normalisebreastfeeding #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeeding #life #women #versace #bulgari

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It was interesting, then, to follow the larger conversation around Rachel McAdams’ high-fashion breast pump photo. Last month, while doing a Girls Girls Girls magazine cover shoot, the actress was photographed wearing a Versace jacket and Bulgari diamond necklace — while pumping from both breasts. While the photo was praised by some for its attempt to #NormalizeBreastfeeding and show that even celebrities need to take pumping breaks, some say it missed the mark and wasn’t truly subversive, while many mothers expressed that the image did not represent them — and what a pumping session really looks like.

As I settle into new motherhood, and as each day brings new challenges — why won’t she nurse? where can I pump? why has my milk supply dipped? — I continue to read as much as I can: to learn how mothers juggle the task with everything else in their lives, and to remind myself that I’m not alone. Here’s a reading list of stories, new and old, that explore the complicated act of breast pumping.

1. Baby Food (Jill Lepore, January 2009, The New Yorker)

In this piece from 10 years ago, Lepore discusses the history of breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, and the rise of the breast pump.

In 1904, one Chicago pediatrician argued that “the nursing function is destined gradually to disappear.” Gilded Age American women were so refined, so civilized, so delicate. How could they suckle like a barnyard animal? (By the turn of the century, the cow’s udder, or, more often, its head, had replaced the female human breast as the icon of milk.) Behind this question lay another: how could a white woman nurse a baby the way a black woman did? (Generations of black women, slave and free alike, not only nursed their own infants but also served as wet nurses to white babies.) Racial theorists ran microscopic tests of human milk: the whiter the mother, chemists claimed, the less nutritious her milk. On downy white breasts, rosy-red nipples had become all but vestigial. It was hardly surprising, then, that well-heeled women told their doctors that they had insufficient milk. By the nineteen-tens, a study of a thousand Boston women reported that ninety per cent of the poor mothers breast-fed, while only seventeen per cent of the wealthy mothers did. (Just about the opposite of the situation today.) Doctors, pointing out that evolution doesn’t happen so fast, tried to persuade these Brahmins to breast-feed, but by then it was too late.

2. Why Women Really Quit Breastfeeding (Jenna Sauers, July 2018, Harper’s Bazaar)

For many women, the circumstances in which they pump are unacceptable or worse, nonexistent.

Under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. companies are required to provide break time and a clean, private place to pump milk. Sauers offers an overview of pumping legislation in the U.S. and the challenges of pumping in a variety of work places, from co-working spaces with open floor plans to hospitals and college campuses.

But even as doctors and nurses promote breastfeeding to patients, their own working conditions sometimes make pumping difficult.

Sarah, a registered nurse at Northside Hospital in Atlanta who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she is currently struggling to pump at work. She and her colleagues, several of whom are also pumping, work 12-hour shifts. Sarah gets to work early so that the last thing she does before clocking in is pump; that way she can go as long as possible before taking a break. When her shift begins at 7 a.m., that means rising at 3:45 a.m.

“Typically, the way our patient flow goes, I probably won’t get another opportunity to pump until about 9 or 10 a.m.,” she says. “From there, it varies. A lot of days, we don’t even have the staffing to relieve people for lunch. I have to tread lightly asking for a pump break when most people aren’t even getting lunch breaks.”

3. ‘A Pumping Conspiracy’: Why Workers Smuggled Breast Pumps Into Prison (Natalie Kitroeff, December 2018, The New York Times)

Kitroeff reports on the staff nurses at Deerfield state prison in Capron, Virginia, who weren’t allowed to bring breast pumps into the facility. Some tried to pump in an unpleasant men’s restroom; others resorted to expressing milk in the backseat of their car in the parking lot. But one nurse, Susan Van Son, had had enough — and she smuggled her breast pump in, piece by piece.

In July 2016, another Deerfield nurse, LaQuita Dundlow, 32, returned to work after giving birth to her second daughter. Like Ms. Olds, Ms. Dundlow said managers told her to pump in the men’s restroom. She couldn’t produce milk in the fetid space. “The smell, it messed with me,” she said.

So Ms. Dundlow hung baby blankets from the windows of her Ford Expedition. Three times a day, she came out to express. Occasionally, she said, she had to explain the situation to a security guard who tapped on her window, wanting to know what was going on inside.

Sometimes, she didn’t have time to take the quarter-mile walk from one end of the prison to her S.U.V. On those occasions, painfully engorged, she would take a sterile cup normally used to collect urine samples, go to the bathroom and express milk by squeezing her breasts. Then she would hand the cup to her husband, who was also employed at the prison, as a correctional officer. He would take it to a cooler in their car.

4. Stop Shaming Working Moms Into Pumping (Jessica Machado, December 2015, Elle)

As Jen Gann writes in The Cut, figuring out how and when to pump is a privileged problem to have.

After returning to work after a 12-week maternity leave, Machado quickly realized that pumping was an activity around which she would structure her entire life. “I had become not a breastfeeder, but a pair of breasts owned by a machine,” she writes, describing her shame over not being able to keep up with her son’s demand. She explores why working mothers in America are pressured to pump.

I live in Brooklyn, just south of Park Slope, where the mommy wars have been won by upper-middle-class leftists in comfortable fair-trade sandals. Though I am neither in the right income bracket nor organic threads to think of myself as a Park Slope mom, there is a bar of motherhood that is set by those around me that can’t help but seep into my subconscious. Women wear their babies in slings as a badge of attachment parenting; they buy vegetables from the co-op to puree in top-of-the-line food processors; many have nannies to assist them in the juggling of domestic priorities. When working mothers have problems breastfeeding in my area, they reach out to lactation consultants, who charge $125 to $400 a visit to show them tips like adjusting the pump’s speeds and making sure the pump’s parts fit properly. These moms can also combat dwindling supply by renting a hospital-grade pump, which is not covered by insurance but costs upwards of $70 a month––a pretty high price tag for people like me who are already struggling with the added expenses of daycare and baby necessities.

And my breastfeeding peer pressures and pumping obstacles are minimal compared to most. I’m not a cashier or a server or a police officer or a professional driver or basically anyone whose job is to serve people when they need to be tended to, who can’t just drop everything to keep up with a pumping schedule. I am not an employee who has to share my pumping space with a conference room or a break room or a broom closet. I’ve never had to pump in the car or a public restroom. I’ve never had a coworker or stranger walk in on me, half-naked, while cones were on my breasts sucking like vacuums. I am not a mom on WIC assistance who is punished for formula-feeding by getting benefits for half as long as those who breastfeed.

5. The Unseen Consequences of Pumping Breast Milk (Olivia Campbell, November 2014, Pacific Standard

“There’s an assumption that bottle-feeding breast milk to a child is equivalent to breastfeeding, but that may not be the case.” Campbell looks at studies that suggest exclusive pumping may not be as beneficial for mothers and babies, citing issues like milk contamination, an increase in coughing and wheezing in infants, and potential health impacts for mothers (including the risk of postpartum depression, reproductive cancers, and more).

Thorley has written extensively on the potential perils of “normalizing” the separation of breast milk from breasts. She says that bottle-feeding of breast milk has a place in specific circumstances, such as when a baby is unable to adequately stimulate the mother’s milk supply, or in cases like Boss’, where a baby is unable to nurse directly. And while she agrees bottled breast milk is better than infant formula, “breastfeeding is about more than the milk.” Babies don’t just breastfeed for nutrition; they nurse for comfort, closeness, soothing, and security.

6. The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am (Angela Garbes, August 2015, The Stranger)

Breast milk contains all the vitamins and nutrients that a baby needs in its first six months of life. It’s also dynamic: adapting to the baby’s needs. And like a fine red wine, writes Garbes, the flavors in a mother’s breast milk are subtle, reflecting its terroir: her body. Garbes takes a closer look at the complex makeup — and value — of this precious liquid.

I love the idea that even before her first encounter with solid food, her taste buds had already begun telling her that she is part of a city filled with the cuisines of many nations, a household that supports local farmers, and a Filipino family with an abiding love of pork and fermented shrimp paste.

We can’t expect the value of breast-feeding to just trickle down to mothers in the trenches, pumping away in cramped offices and broom closets, working multiple jobs, forking over significant portions of income to day care, and, yes, tired and close to the breaking point, cursing their own desire to continue feeding their children their milk. We have to make an effort to reach all mothers, not just those actively seeking support and information.

7. A Certain Kind of Mammal (Meaghan O’Connell, April 2018, Longreads)

In this excerpt from her book And Now We Have Everything, Meaghan O’Connell describes the all-consuming activity of nursing her son.

I had tried the breast pump a few times, recreationally, but not yet so as to explicitly buy time away with my own milk. The pump looked just like I’d imagined, like something you’d use to masturbate a farm animal. The bulk of the machine was a little yellow box the size of a toaster oven that gasped and sighed with a rhythmic, mechanical sucking noise that was initially disturbing, like it was trying to tell me something but couldn’t quite find the language. There were two snaking rubber tubes that ran from the box to the air-horn-looking boob funnels and from there into baby bottles that collected the milk. The horns were where the magic happened, where your tits went. Sucked into the machine, my nipples looked like long, pink taffy, stretched and then milked.

The first time I saw milk stream out of my body and into this contraption, I felt woozy and then oddly turned on. It’s not often in life we gain a brand-new secretion.

A Fascinating Case of Precocious Puberty

Image by Chetan Menaria / Pexels

The LHCGR gene (luteinizing hormone/choriogonadotropin receptor) triggers ovulation in women and testosterone production in men. And like all the men in his family, Patrick Burleigh carried the same gene mutation, leading to an extremely rare disease, testotoxicosis, which brings on puberty prematurely. The result? Burleigh got his first pubic hair when he was 2 years old. He went on to have a difficult time growing up until he reached the age of 14, he writes, when “puberty was finally done with me.”

At The Cut, in partnership with Epic magazine, Burleigh shares a beautiful personal essay on his unusual childhood.

Testotoxicosis affects fewer than one in a million men, and a leading expert estimates that we may only number in the hundreds. Being an anomaly for having pubes when you’re still breastfeeding isn’t typically something one brags about, which is why, like my forefathers, I spent the majority of my life hiding it, lying about it, repressing it, and avoiding it. This feeling of freakishness, of being strange and different, persisted well into adulthood, such that I refused to talk about it with anyone other than close friends and family.

That is, until a little over four years ago, when my wife and I were trying to have a baby of our own, an endeavor that took two years and countless episodes of joyless appointment sex before we finally decided to do in vitro fertilization. I came in a cup, my wife pumped her body full of hormones, scientists fertilized the eggs, and we ended up with five viable embryos. Everything looked great. And then I was faced with the hardest decision of my life.

We learned that we could biopsy the embryos to find out if any of them carried the mutant LHCGR gene: the mutant responsible for a childhood rife with shame, embarrassment, and bullying; the mutant responsible for my violent, antisocial behavior as a boy; the mutant responsible for the troubled adolescence that my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and I all endured, an adolescence that nearly delivered each of us to jail or worse. If one of our embryos tested positive for a mutation of the LHCGR gene, we could eliminate it. My body would be the final destination of the disease that had defined my family for generations.

There was no reason not to do this. But I hesitated. Yes, my childhood had been unusually challenging, but I was now 34 years old and, by most metrics, I had a great life. How much of that life would have been different if I’d cast off the very thing that had made me me? Then again, could I watch as my son suffered, knowing I could have saved him from that suffering? I didn’t know. So I went back. Back to my childhood. Back to my infancy. Back to that first little baby pube.

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Sacrificed for the Super Bowl: The Wiping Out of an Atlanta Neighborhood

Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Georgia Dome remains in the foreground. Image by elisfkc (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Thirty years ago, the entire community of Lightning, on Atlanta’s west side, was demolished to build the Georgia Dome. The dome was then destroyed in 2017 to make way for Mercedes-Benz Stadium, host of this year’s Super Bowl LIII. At The Bitter Southerner, Max Blau compiles an oral history of a long-gone, forgotten neighborhood, told by the residents that were displaced.

To Atlantans, Monroe holds the title that always designates a native: He’s a “Grady baby,” born in Grady Memorial Hospital, the public institution that has cared for Atlantans of all classes since 1892. He is also a son of the west side. To west-siders, he’s a native of historic neighborhoods like Vine City or even Bankhead.

All are stand-ins, though, for where he’s really from — which is nowhere, looking at the current map of his hometown.

Ivory Young, the late Atlanta City Councilmember, said in a filmed interview with the Historic Westside Cultural Arts from 2015 that “the Georgia Dome, and the phase four expansion of the Georgia World Congress Center, took place on an approximately 90-acre tract. … In the shadow of all that downtown infrastructure, [Lightning] was a neighborhood with a lot of value.”

Michael Julian Bond: The first [business] to go away was the old lumber yard [run by the Frank G. Lake Lumber Co.]. It seemed permanent.

Rev. Jerome Banks: They got rid of all the companies. The Atlanta Casket Company. Bailey Coffee Company. They closed down [the factories]. Those buildings stood empty for months.

Michael Julian Bond: There were churches who had a dwindling population. By this time, in the mid-’80s, most of the residents of Lightning were gone. There were houses still.

Rev. Jerome Banks: Most of the residents [left] were renters. So [state officials] were talking to landlords. Residents got notices that you got to move. We moved because of that. I don’t think nobody would’ve left if we weren’t forced out.

Velma Coachman: My parents held out. Everyone in Atlanta knew they were buying us out. They didn’t want to give people in Lightning a fair price. They wanted the land. They were trying to run us out. Sell the home — or else.

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‘I Was Restricting Myself to This One Country All This Time’: An Immigrant’s Search for Work in the U.S.

As a result of Trump’s April 2017 “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, immigration policies have become more strict toward companies applying for H-1B visas, making it much harder for them to hire highly-skilled legal immigrants. And while the U.S. still attracts top talent from around the world, these more rigid policies make education and employment in other countries more feasible and attractive.

For Philadelphia magazine, Gina Tomaine describes the challenges her future brother-in-law, Akirt Sridharan, faced while looking for work in the U.S. Sridharan, a 26-year-old man from India, graduated from the University of Delaware with an MBA and a master’s in electrical engineering. He had spent $125,000 on tuition in the U.S., and after graduating in May 2017, had applied to 2,000 jobs — with no success.

After graduating, Akirt began an odyssey into the byzantine American job market. He had high hopes at first, with an early lead at a financial company in Delaware. But after a second interview, the company learned he needed visa sponsorship and stopped the conversation.

“I’ve been sleeping on so many couches, they’ve just become my bed,” says Akirt. “I obviously never wanted to burden anybody, and that feeling is always in the back of my head. When you’re at someone else’s place all the time, you don’t know where home is anymore.”

He applied to more jobs. Then more jobs. He moved to San Francisco, since that’s supposed to be where the tech jobs are centered. Many companies wanted to hire him. What they didn’t want? To sponsor a visa at a time when applications are often rejected and the lottery system is a gamble.

All of this has been happening, of course, as tech companies in particular are desperate for skilled workers.

With no prospects, Akirt began to look for work outside of the U.S., and after four years of living in the country, he left. And suddenly, he was getting job interviews.

Akirt landed on November 7th in Chennai, a burgeoning start-up hub — the city his parents are originally from and have retired to. Their white marble high-rise apartment, whose decor features Hindu gods and goddesses, African tribal artwork, and every Apple product imaginable, sits next to a huge technological park — one that’s currently hiring Americans. Now that he was looking beyond the United States, Akirt seemed to have opportunities everywhere.

“I was restricting myself to this one country all this time,” he said. “Now, I have hundreds of countries left to explore.”

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‘Rhyming Was No Longer a Symptom, But a Cure’: From Stroke Survivor to Rap Legend

In the late ’80s, Sherman Hershfield, a white doctor from Beverly Hills, had a stroke. As a result, he began to slur and stutter, and suddenly became obsessed with reading and writing poetry. And when he rhymed, his speech stumbles disappeared; rapping kept his seizures under control.

Eager to hone his rhyming skills, Hershfield discovered Leimert Park, an area in South Central that had been the center of African American culture in Los Angeles since the ’60s. There, he became a regular at Project Blowed, an open-mic workshop for budding rappers. For Hershfield — who later became known as Dr. Rapp — “rhyming was no longer a symptom, but a cure.”

At the Atlantic, Jeff Maysh tells Hershfield’s incredible story: how he became an underground rap star, befriended hip hop legend KRS-One, and found his flow.

Undeterred, Hershfield put aside his Tchaikovsky records and listened to NWA and Run-DMC. He played rap music in the bath, Michiko told me. When she found out he was preparing for rap battles in South Central, she told him, “You’re crazy!” But she couldn’t stop him from returning to Project Blowed every week, sometimes making the six-and-a-half-mile journey from Beverly Hills on foot.

“Sherman’s leaving at 10 o’clock at night and going to Crenshaw,” she told her son, Scott. “He’s hanging out with kids and rapping.” Scott, who had transitioned from a teenaged professional skateboarder into a hip-hop DJ, was now in his 20s and was scoring regular gigs at Hollywood’s celebrity-filled clubs. When he saw his stepfather rapping at home, he felt embarrassed.

“Sherman, you’re kinda just rhyming, putting words together, but you know so many Latin words, you should rap about neurology, really get into the science of it … that would be amazing,” he said. Scott encouraged his stepfather to be more like the hip-hop rappers he admired. “Even though I’m from the West Coast, most of the stuff I really liked was East Coast ’90s hip-hop … I was into KRS-One.”

In the mid-1980s, KRS-One had emerged from the Bronx as the emcee of Boogie Down Productions, with the seminal album Criminal Minded. As a solo artist, he’d created one of hip-hop’s most enduring records, Sound of Da Police, and was now a leading rap scholar and lecturer. One evening in October 1999, Hershfield heard that KRS-One was speaking about rap history at an event for hip-hoppers in Hollywood, and decided to swing by. “Try to imagine a hip-hop gathering,” KRS-One told me late last year. “You know, emcees from the hood, breakers, DJs, music is blasting. I’m giving you permission to stereotype. Then in walks this dude.” It was like Larry David had wandered into a Snoop Dogg music video.

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Musicians Come Clean on How They Live, Create, and Thrive While Sober

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on Aug. 15, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

For GQ, Chris Heath interviews nine musicians about their journeys to sobriety, and how they create today without alcohol or drugs. “Some delight in a dark humor about their earlier excesses,” writes Heath. “Others talk in a way that suggests that to dwell on these too much, to give such memories too much oxygen, would be to take too lightly something they simply can’t risk taking lightly.”

The roundtable of musicians includes Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, Phish’s lead vocalist Trey Anastasio, and other singer-songwriters like Ben Harper and Jason Isbell — plus an additional perspective from rapper Vince Staples, who has never had a drop of alcohol or taken any drugs in his life.

What were your drugs of choice?

Baker: I don’t want to be defined by the sort of drugs that I used to do, and I also don’t want to roll out a litany of my past, like, escapades. More than the specific drugs, what is more significant for me to identify is that I never liked things that were stimulating. When I sought substances, I sought things that would put a blanket over my feelings. Numb them down, turn it all off. Things that would bring me down and things that would make me feel less.

What scared you most about getting sober?

Anastasio: When I first got sober, they had me do all this writing. You have to start journaling like crazy. I was asked to sit down and write this list of everything that I lost to drugs and alcohol. And I remember with shock the first thing that came out of my pen, I wrote “sense of humor.” And it made me so sad. It’s making me sad right now, like I’m gonna cry. Because I laughed with the three guys from Phish from the day we met. Our chemistry together was so funny and so edgy, and they’re such smart guys, and the humor was like seven layers deep. And as soon as those drugs came into it, that was what went away.

Do you worry about remaining sober?

Isbell: No—I worry about a lot of shit, but I don’t worry about staying sober. What used to be a craving for alcohol is now more of a romanticized memory. I let the tape play out, watch the movie until the end and see what it would really do and what would really happen, rather than just remember the buzz.

How has being sober affected what you can and can’t create?

Walsh: I tried for maybe two years to sit down and write a song—I had never written sober. And this little voice in my head would say, “Well, you know what works…just get a little buzz.” That was always my justification: Could Hendrix have played like that if he wasn’t in outer space? I don’t think he could have. Could Hemingway have written those amazing stories if he wasn’t an alcoholic? And that was not an option, so I would have to put down the guitar and walk away. If I never wrote anything again, that was going to have to be okay. Once I decided that, I had this big sigh of relief. And about four months later, I wrote a song.

What do you think would have happened if you’d carried on as you were?

Tyler: Well, I’d be dead by now.

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“Welcome to the House of Horrors”: When IP Address Mapping Goes Wrong

For years, strangers showed up at John and his mother Ann’s home in Pretoria, South Africa, accusing them of crimes. These mysterious visitors were certain that their house was a location for criminal activity, and pulled up maps on their smartphones to prove it. But John was a lawyer; his mother was a nurse. They weren’t criminals, but rather victims of very bad IP address mapping — and it turns out, the U.S. government played a big role in the mess.

For Gizmodo, Special Projects Desk deputy editor Kashmir Hill — who reported on a similar story about a farm in Kansasinvestigates why John and Ann’s backyard had over a million IP addresses mapped to it, and how a U.S. intelligence agency’s poor decision led to a series of mistakes reflected in databases used by IP mapping sites, companies, and people all over the world.

“My mother blamed me initially,” said John. “She said I brought the internet into the house.”

The visits came in waves, sometimes as many as seven a month, and often at night. The strangers would lurk outside or bang on the automatic fence at the driveway. Many of them, accompanied by police officers, would accuse John and Ann of stealing their phones and laptops. Three teenagers showed up one day looking for someone writing nasty comments on their Instagram posts. A family came in search of a missing relative. An officer from the State Department appeared seeking a wanted fugitive. Once, a team of police commandos stormed the property, pointing a huge gun through the door at Ann, who was sitting on the couch in her living room eating dinner. The armed commandos said they were looking for two iPads.

“It’s almost with religious zeal that these people come, thinking their goodies are in my yard,” John told me. “The Apple customers seem to be the worst.”

They wondered if it would be worse if they weren’t white South Africans. And indeed, when the police showed up looking for a stolen laptop at the home of their neighbor, a pastor named Horace, who is black, the police wound up seizing a laptop at the home and taking Horace’s tenant to the station for questioning. It was a dead end, as usual.

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The Promise of Passive Income from Amazon: Too Good To Be True?

The Inc.'s logo at the company's headquarters in Seattle (Kyodo via AP Images)

Some people claim to make a passive income reselling cheap Chinese products on the internet’s largest store. Matt Behdjou and Mike Gazzola, for instance, say they’ve made thousands of dollars with not much effort. Want to learn their secrets? Sign up for their coaching seminars and pay them lots of money so they can train you in their business models.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is successful. Behdjou and Gazzola have a growing list of disgruntled clients, some losing $40,000 of their savings after following their advice. For the Atlantic, Alana Semuels explores the Amazon-coaching market and the risky business of buying random goods from China — glass wine decanters, plastic wine aerators, jar openers, lemon squeezers — and reselling them on the world’s largest online marketplace.

In late July, Behdjou invited me to attend his Ecommerce Mentors Live Mastermind seminar, held over two days at a Marriott in Woodland Hills, California, amid the sunny sprawl of the San Fernando Valley. It was free to Inner Circle members, though attendees still had to pay for their own airfare and lodging. About 50 of them had, coming from places as far as New York; one couple had driven all night from Arizona. They included an ER doctor who wanted a passive income so she could get a vacation home in Cancun, a young couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, and a man who owned a brick-and-mortar medical-supplies store trying to migrate his sales online.

Behdjou, who is 31, opened the seminar by repeatedly emphasizing his success stories. He pointed to two young men in the back of the room who he said were making $100,000 a month selling sunglasses on Amazon, and encouraged people to seek advice from those in the room who were “killing it” with their business. Another man, who said he’d made $30,000 from selling a wrist exerciser on Amazon, implored his fellow guests to “trust the process—it’s amazing.”

But most of the attendees were not so effusive. When Behdjou asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves, many said they were struggling. “I have launched, but I really need to crank up sales,” said Alicia Nager, a 52-year-old from New Jersey. She launched a knife-sharpener business in October 2017 after deciding to stay home with her son, who has juvenile Huntington’s disease. Another man noted that he’d made money in Bitcoin but hadn’t been able to crack Amazon yet, despite trying to sell vitamins for eight months. A Maryland woman, Allyson Pippin, who sells slime, said she was about ready to scrap her product and start all over. Henry Serrano, the man with the brick-and-mortar store, had spent $4,600 on wholesale medical kits, and hadn’t made any money back at all.

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