Neil Gaiman Knows What Happens When You Dream

Ahead of the Netflix adaption of his seminal comic book Sandman, Neil Gaiman gamely sits down for a longform Q&A. The results are as probing and patient and polymathic as you’d expect.

I would love to think that we are living in a world in which the story of progress, as in the original “Star Trek” series, is always upwards and onwards, and even if there will be mad times, eventually we get to the bridge of the Enterprise where all the problems of Earth have been sorted out. But I don’t know that we ever will. We are humans, and we do collective insanity really well.

Published: Jul 28, 2022
Length: 17 minutes (4,447 words)

Why Is ‘Bob’s Burgers’ So Freakishly Lovable? This Guy.

If you, a (presumed) fan of animated comedy, were to draw a line from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist through Home Movies and on to Bob’s Burgers, that line would as looping and whimsical as the man who evolved along with those shows — from editor to writer to pun-obsessed, freak-flag-flying creator. This is the Loren Bouchard profile you never knew you needed.

What the writers didn’t know — because there was no way to tell what 12 seasons’ worth of stories would build — was that this premise would yield a remarkable study in optimism and grit: the constant question, as Bouchard puts it, of “what happens when you’re faced with your failure?”

Published: May 25, 2022
Length: 15 minutes (3,985 words)

The Man Who Controls Computers With His Mind

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.

Published: May 12, 2022
Length: 15 minutes (3,958 words)

I’ve Always Struggled With My Weight. Losing It Didn’t Mean Winning.

“What is the human relationship to the body? Is it like a roommate? A pet? A twin? A teammate? A rival? A parasite? A host?” In a frank and funny essay, Sam Anderson reflects on losing the weight he gained during the pandemic with the help of Noom and examines the relationship with his own body.

What is the human relationship to the body? Is it like a roommate? A pet? A twin? A teammate? A rival? A parasite? A host?

The crisis of my father’s body made me think, in a new way, about the basic crisis of every human body: that we will always, in the end, be disabled, lose control. In many ways, this is what our bodies are: ever-present reminders of our essential lack of control.

Published: May 11, 2022
Length: 17 minutes (4,405 words)

How Ben Got His Penis

Phalloplasty, or the surgery to construct a penis, has grown increasingly popular among transgender men — but it’s medically complicated. Jamie Lauren Keiles takes a closer look at the procedure while following the transition of Benjamin Simpson.

As Ben prepared for Stage 1 surgery, he told only his family and close friends. He knew that acceptance from some people in his life would hinge on every step going smoothly, and found himself acutely aware of a mandate to justify his desires. Though surgery today can construct a penis, it cannot reconcile millenniums of phallic anxiety: the tangled bond between penises and manhood; the supposedly inherent violence of the penis; the sense of the vagina as its wanting opposite; the feminist call to destroy gender essentialism. Even among trans men themselves, phalloplasty remains a highly scrutinized desire. It is easy to stand up for some vague and glittery right to gender self-determination; fighting for the penis is like rooting for the Yankees.

Published: May 10, 2022
Length: 28 minutes (7,184 words)

I Lived the #VanLife. It Wasn’t Pretty.

Caity Weaver spends the whole of this essay complaining — which makes it highly entertaining. Exposing the miserable reality behind the Instagram photos depicting #vanlife, this is a breath of fresh (van) air.

To suggest that the worst part of vacationing in a van is sleeping in a van is not fair to the other aspects of the endeavor, which are also all the worst part — but it is cramped, slovenly and bad. It is impossible to make a bed while already sprawled atop it. If you are sharing a vehicle that does not have rear doors on both sides, as ours didn’t, the portside sleeper will be effectively trapped on their half of the bed from the moment they enter it, as I was.

Published: Apr 20, 2022
Length: 17 minutes (4,410 words)

What Lies Beneath Hip-Hop’s Swagger

Over the weekend, The New York Times Magazine published a twist on its annual “Songs That Matter” package: “Songs That Got Us Through It.” The newest is overall a remarkable project, stuffed with keen criticism. But Smith’s piece, which feels for the pulse of aggression in today’s and yesterday’s hip-hop, stands out — as bracing as the young artists she examines.

This broadcasting of invincibility? It revs my heart. When I am, in my soul, with the band, I exist in all caps. I am fighting and flying high. But how can people not be tired of introducing and reintroducing themselves to those who willfully, even cynically, resist their humanity? Spoiler alert: The bombast is a response, a defense, a pose, a stance. It’s magic, and it seduces. But it’s labor. Under threat of a variety of harms, you have to camouflage your soul. So if I’m tired — of always staying ready, so I never have to get ready — imagine the music-makers themselves.

Published: Mar 11, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,391 words)

Is There Such a Thing as Black Thought?

“Tariq Trotter isa 50-year-old artist in a genre where youth is an asset and middle-aged rappers are rare. His voice is gravelly, though wildly flexible when rhyming. He is noticed in every room he walks into. A brother who pays attention to the way the fedora on his head cuts against his face and has been wearing sunglasses inside since his high school years. At 5-foot-8, he has been mistaken for the 5-foot-11 Rick Ross and the 6-foot-5 James Harden. Some would say it’s the beard. When asked if he straightens out those who mistake him, he says: ‘I’d rather not correct them. I let people have that moment, because for them it’s just as special.'”

Published: Feb 24, 2022
Length: 17 minutes (4,264 words)

The Power of a Good Cry

“Tears are central to great acting. A lifetime of weeping at the movies has taught me how much letting it all go in real life can matter, too.”

Published: Feb 8, 2022
Length: 13 minutes (3,490 words)

Into the Belly of the Whale With Sjón

“His books dance — with light, quick steps, never breaking eye contact — all over the line between the mythic and the mundane.”

Published: Jan 13, 2022
Length: 20 minutes (5,079 words)