“Fatphobia is medicine’s status quo.” This essential read in Pipe Wrench’s Fat Issue explores the history of medical fatphobia.
When you see a fat person, you associate them with ob*sity. What you believe about ob*sity and have internalized from health authorities—its causes, symptoms, consequences, treatment, and more—then guide your interaction with that fat person. You see an affliction to be cured rather than a human being. Fatphobia starts at the top, with scientific authorities who set the tone for how we think about health and illness, then seeps down to shape the lives of every fat person everywhere.
Caitlin Flanagan goes on a road trip through California — including Sacramento, Berkeley, and Malibu — visiting the homes of the late Joan Didion and exploring why her writing has had such a powerful effect on people.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album created a new vocabulary of essay writing, one whose influence is on display every day of the week in the tide of personal essays published online by young writers. Those collections changed the way many people thought about nonfiction, and even the way they thought about themselves.
In this beautiful personal essay, Josh McColough recounts a road trip with his daughter along the coast of California and makes poignant observations about humanity and our vulnerable environment.
Still, we too often move through life not considering our size and stature relative to forces and objects that humble us. Geologic time. Plate tectonics. A virus. A couple of degrees’ difference in the oceans’ temperatures. More rain and less snow. No snow and too much rain. Fire tornadoes. A couple of inches more of the ocean and a few hundred thousand more people underwater.
Our inability to see ourselves as tiny points on a much longer ecological or geological spectrum is our uniquely human blind spot. It’s where and how we fall short.
Not long after Esther began working with the Williams sisters, Serena was hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism in wake of giving birth, and then again for blood clots. Esther slept in a chair beside her hospital bed. “She never left my side,” Serena says. “And I never asked for that. That meant a lot to me.… She is such a caretaker. And beyond anything that I’ve ever seen, beyond anything you could write in a job description. There is no job description for Esther.”
At Granta, Amy Key recounts intentionally avoiding romantic love, thinking it the best way to avoid getting hurt. She concludes that depriving herself of intimate relationships has caused its own form of harm.
Absence of romantic love in my life has created its own awkward space in me. Like a corner of a room you cannot find a comfortable use for, a deficient space, grasping for its own utility. And I sense other people can see this and that it makes them uncomfortable… The frying pan has an altogether different intimate energy. Perhaps it’s because people so often fry eggs for someone they love. And to eat eggs together suggests a synchronised hunger, suggests sleeping and waking together, and says please linger, please stay. Perhaps it’s the sweet balance of ‘you cook and I’ll wash up’, how the pan moves from one person’s job to another, and the ordinariness of that joint endeavour.
Nine days of running through the Alps, soaring above the treeline and plunging into flower-filled valleys, refueling with incredible food at night? Sure, it might take a pronounced masochistic streak to count that as a bucket list experience — the trip averages nearly 17 miles a day, with thousands of feet of climbing thrown in — but once you get to the end of Christopher Solomon’s teeth-gritted travelog, you might just decide the wonder is worth the wincing.
As we gained altitude, the Via Valais uncorked the first of its many lessons: trail running here isn’t like trail running back home. Often it isn’t running at all, because the paths are so steep. How steep? I’ve been on escalators with less pitch. But aren’t there switchbacks? No, these apparently are the invention of lazy Americans. The Swiss favor the diretissima, the most aesthetic and uncompromising line straight up the mountain. On trails like this, a runner’s pride will ruin him faster than any blister. He must find a humbler rhythm to match the terrain.
An epic three-part series documenting how Tucker Carlson became America’s most racist cable TV host, and the heir apparent to Trumpism:
Like Mr. Trump, he is a winking pugilist who rails against elites even as he shapes a movement. Mr. Carlson likes to address his audience directly: “You” are decent, generous, deserving. “They” — the pro-war, pro-China, anti-American “ruling class” — are out to get you. “They’d rather put your life in peril than appear insensitive,” Mr. Carlson says of this ruling class, adding, “They literally don’t care about you, and yet they are still in charge.” He delivers these grim sermons with peppy good cheer and shameless overstatement. On “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” events of the day are further evidence of truths already established; virtually any piece of news can be steered back to the themes of elite corruption, conspiracy and censorship, from gun control to marijuana legalization to paper drinking straws.
After an accident in 2006, Dennis DeGray became paralyzed from the collarbones down. Eager to participate in experimental research in the area of brain-computer interfaces, DeGray has electrode arrays embedded in his cortex, and is one of a few dozen people in the world who can control various forms of technology with his thoughts.
If the neurons in DeGray’s skull were like notes on a piano, then his distinct intentions were analogous to unique musical compositions. An attempt to lift his hand would coincide with one neural melody, for example, while trying to move his hand to the right would correspond to another. As the decoder learned to identify the movements DeGray intended, it sent commands to move the cursor in the corresponding direction.
If brain-computer interfaces fulfill their promise, perhaps the most profound consequence will be this: Our species could transcend those constraints, bypassing the body through a new melding of mind and machine.
Andrew Leland’s fascinating piece in The New Yorker explores Protactile, a system of tactile communication that has evolved into a national movement for autonomy among DeafBlind people across the U.S.
Still, several linguists have come to believe that, among some of its frequent users, Protactile is developing into its own language, with words and grammatical structures that have diverged from those of A.S.L. “I am totally convinced that this is no tweak of A.S.L.,” Diane Brentari, one of the premier linguists of sign language, who teaches at the University of Chicago, told me. “This is a new language.” Clark believes that Protactile has the potential to upend centuries of DeafBlind isolation. “It’s an exciting time to be DeafBlind,” he has written. “The single most important development in DeafBlind history is in full swing.”
Boots O’Neal is up before dawn nearly every day, to do what he loves: to jump on the back of a horse and work as a cowboy at the Four Sixes Ranch. What makes Boots stand out from the average wrangler? He’s 89 years old.
That he’s been able to do it for so long makes him, to borrow a classic Boots-ism, “luckier than a two-peckered goat.”