Disneyland with my invisible guest

At 33, Tabitha Blankenbiller believed she didn’t want any children, until — unexpectedly — she got pregnant.

Source: Salon
Published: Jan 13, 2019
Length: 16 minutes (4,103 words)

Office Politics

How the Business-Industry Political Action Committee is teaching corporate America how to make sure its employees vote for the right candidates and causes.

Source: Salon
Published: Oct 15, 2014
Length: 15 minutes (3,827 words)

Colleges Are Full of It: Behind the Three-Decade Scheme to Raise Tuition, Bankrupt Generations, and Hypnotize the Media

Thomas Frank argues that journalists have failed when it comes to holding universities accountable for the rise in college tuition:

What I mean to say is that the tuition price spiral is part of the larger history of inequality, just as is the ever-rising price of Andy Warhol paintings, or the ever-growing size of the McMansion, or the ever-weightier catalogs issued by Restoration Hardware—and, of course, the never-increasing wages of American workers. As the rewards that can potentially be won by members of the white-collar class have gone from meh (in the egalitarian 1970s) to Neronian (today), it feels natural that the entrance fee for membership in that class should have escalated in a corresponding manner. The iron logic of inequality works the other way as well: Although a college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a life of splendor, not having one pretty much makes a life of poorly compensated toil a sure thing. Finding ourselves on the receiving end of inequality is a fate we will pay virtually any price to avoid, and our system of higher ed exists to set and extract that price.

Source: Salon
Published: Jun 10, 2014
Length: 16 minutes (4,150 words)

The Day I Left My Son in the Car

A mother recalls a temporary lapse in judgment and how it has affected her as a parent:

Over the past two years, I’ve replayed this moment in my mind again and again, approaching the car, getting in, looking in the rearview mirror, pulling away. I replay it, trying to uncover something in the recollection I hadn’t noticed at the time. A voice. A face. Sometimes I feel like I can hear something. A woman? A man? “Bye now.” Something. But I can’t be sure.

We flew home. My husband was waiting for us beside the baggage claim with this terrible look on his face. “Call your mom,” he said.

I called her, and she was crying. When she’d arrived home from driving us to the airport, there was a police car in her driveway.

Author: Kim Brooks
Source: Salon
Published: Jun 3, 2014
Length: 24 minutes (6,125 words)

‘Why Did You Shoot Me? I Was Reading a Book’

An excerpt from Radley Balko’s new book Rise of the Warrior Cop, on the militarization of U.S. police forces and the reasons SWAT teams have been able to conduct raids for seemingly minor alleged crimes:

“In 2007 a Dallas SWAT team actually raided a Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost for hosting charity poker games. Players said the tactics were terrifying. One woman urinated on herself. When police raided a San Mateo, California, poker game in 2008, card players described cops storming the place ‘in full riot gear’ and ‘with guns drawn.’ The games had buy-ins ranging from $25 to $55. Under California law, the games were legal so long as no one took a ‘rake,’ or a cut of the stakes. No one had, but police claimed the $5 the hosts charged players to buy refreshments qualified as a rake. In March 2007, a small army of local cops, ATF agents, National Guard troops, and a helicopter raided a poker game in Cary, North Carolina. They issued forty-one citations, all of them misdemeanors. A columnist at the Fayetteville Observer remarked, ‘They were there to play cards, not to foment rebellion. . . . [I] wonder . . . what other minutiae, personal vices and petty crimes are occupying [the National Guard’s] time, and where they’re occupying it. . . . Until we get this sorted out, better not jaywalk. There could be a military helicopter overhead.'”

Source: Salon
Published: Jul 8, 2013
Length: 30 minutes (7,500 words)

Revenge, Ego and the Corruption of Wikipedia

How “revenge edits” and the case of a Wikipedia editor named “Qworty” raise questions about how much we should trust the site:

“In the wee hours of the morning of January 27, 2013, a Wikipedia editor named ‘Qworty’ made a series of 14 separate edits to the Wikipedia page for the late writer Barry Hannah, a well-regarded Southern writer with a taste for the Gothic and absurd.

“Qworty cut paragraphs that included quotes from Hannah’s work. He removed 20 links to interviews, obituaries and reminiscences concerning Hannah. He cut out a list of literary prizes Hannah had won.

“Two edits stand out. Qworty excised the phrase ‘and was regarded as a good mentor’ from a sentence that started: ‘Hannah taught creative writing for 28 years at the University of Mississippi, where he was director of its M.F.A. program …’ And he changed the cause of Hannah’s death from ‘natural causes’ to ‘alcoholism.'”

Source: Salon
Published: May 18, 2013
Length: 20 minutes (5,224 words)

My Brother’s Life, Unraveled

The writer loses his brother to suicide—and the family is left to wonder how they could have prevented it:

“According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, at least 90 percent of people who kill themselves suffer from a treatable and diagnosable mental illness. Anthony didn’t see a psychiatrist and was never diagnosed, but he displayed symptoms of any number of them. These diseases can be triggered by genetic makeup, by experience, by a life situation, by family dynamics dating back to early childhood.

“Not long after his death my mother asked me why Anthony couldn’t just muddle through like the rest of us, why he was so fragile. It’s the question all of us who loved Anthony have to live with, how such a capable person could be so wrong about the biggest question there is and so many smaller ones. His death is hard to understand and harder to forgive. It goes against the human instinct to make what use of our talents we can, to breed, to survive.”

Source: Salon
Published: Mar 12, 2013
Length: 22 minutes (5,545 words)

Asleep at the Roger Clemens Trial

Experiencing firsthand the boredom that overtakes the courtroom during the perjury retrial of the seven-time Cy Young winner:

“As far as jury duty goes, you might think the perjury trial of the most decorated pitcher in baseball history would be the kind of blockbuster assignment you tell your grandchildren about. But if you’re enough of a baseball fan to recognize Roger Clemens, you would have been booted out of the pool in short order. The ladies and gentleman of this jury have been carefully selected on the basis of their ambivalence toward the nation’s pastime. That’s why witnesses must pause to define elementary baseball nomenclature like ‘foul pole.’ To clarify what it means for an athlete to be ‘in the zone.’ To explain that the game is played both indoors and outdoors, and that Fenway Park is home to the Boston Red Sox.

“So you can begin to see why two jurors have already been dismissed for napping during testimony. Only 13 remain, and Judge Reggie Walton is determined not to lose another. The survivors have been encouraged to take advantage of the complimentary coffee in the jury lounge, for the defense is expected to argue deep into June.”

Source: Salon
Published: Jun 10, 2012
Length: 19 minutes (4,910 words)

The Evolution of Death

When do we really die? Is it when the heart stops—or is there a certain point that brain death means actual death? As we make advances in medicine, it’s raising new questions about what’s final. An excerpt from Teresi’s new book, The Undead:

“Michael DeVita of the University of Pittsburgh recalls making the rounds at a student teaching hospital with his interns in tow when he remembered that he had a patient upstairs who was near death. He sent a few of the young doctors ‘to check on Mr. Smith’ in Room 301 and to report back on whether he was dead yet. DeVita continued rounds with the remainder of the interns, but after some time had passed he wondered what happened to his emissaries of death. Trotting up to Mr. Smith’s room, he found them all paging through ‘The Washington Manual,’ the traditional handbook given to interns. But there is nothing in the manual that tells new doctors how to determine which patients are alive and which are dead.”

Source: Salon
Published: Mar 18, 2012
Length: 13 minutes (3,368 words)

The Making of Gay Marriage’s Top Foe

How an unplanned pregnancy during college changed the life and worldview of Maggie Gallagher, now one of the leading voices against gay marriage:

“On a mild November day, Gallagher and I are upstairs at City Bakery, near Union Square in Manhattan, where after months of requests she has agreed to meet me. As Gallagher tells it, she and the baby’s father were close; they had been together ‘on the order of one year,’ she says, so he might have been expected to stand by her. ‘My son’s father was my boyfriend at Yale,’ is how she describes their relationship. But when she told him she was pregnant, right before spring break in 1982, he vanished on her. ‘I was in his room and he had to go do something, and I was going to fly out in a couple of hours, had to get to the airport. And the last thing he said to me was, “I’ll be back in 30 minutes.” And then he wasn’t.’

“He just left her sitting in his room. And that was the end of them. When summer came, Gallagher moved home to Oregon and took some classes to finish her degree. In the fall, she gave birth to a baby boy, Patrick.”

Source: Salon
Published: Feb 8, 2012
Length: 33 minutes (8,308 words)