Not-So-Magic Kingdom

That Disney’s theme parks exist in stark economic contrast with their surroundings is no mystery. (See: Sean Baker’s 2017 film, The Florida Project.) But in this reported essay, Gaby Del Valle traces a long arc — from Roy and Walt Disney’s initial vision for Orlando, through the flawed development of nearby town Celebration, to newly announced affordable-housing plans  — showing that the company’s voracious real-estate dealings act to further disenfranchise the very people who make its resorts the Happiest Place on Earth.

Celebration, announced a year after the bond scandal, was part of a public campaign to repair Disney’s increasingly negative image. More importantly, though, it was a message to Orange County legislators — a reminder that Disney also owned property in Osceola County, and that it could choose to develop its unused land there instead. To the public, Celebration was presented as the realization of Walt’s dream for a City of Tomorrow, a place that would use the best ideas from the past to build a forward-looking community. “That was all press copy stuff,” a former Disney executive told Foglesong. To state and local officials, and to Celebration residents, Disney’s refusal to build affordable housing in the town — instead donating only $300,000 over three years to Osceola’s Housing Assistance Plan — signaled a far more exclusive vision of utopia.

Source: The Drift
Published: Jun 14, 2022
Length: 16 minutes (4,161 words)

What Was the TED Talk?​

“I recently watched some of the talks from this conference on my laptop. They hit like parodies of a bygone era, so ridiculous that it made me almost nostalgic for a time when TED talks captivated me. Back then, around a decade ago, I watched those articulate, audacious, composed people talk about how they were building robots that would eat trash and turn it into oxygen, or whatever, and I felt hopeful about the future. But the trash-eating robots never arrived. With some distance, now, from a world in which TED seemed to offer a bright path forward, it’s time to ask: what exactly is TED? And what happened to the future it envisioned?”

Source: The Drift
Published: Jan 31, 2022
Length: 19 minutes (4,757 words)

The End of the Road

“Living in a van represented a new, glamorous ideal, unburdened from homeownership and a steady job — unmoored, even, from the physical world itself. If owning a home was no longer possible, there was endless space on Instagram.”

Source: The Drift
Published: Apr 25, 2021
Length: 22 minutes (5,559 words)

The Original Karen​

On “colonial nostalgia and Nairobi’s Out of Africa industry.”

Source: The Drift
Published: Feb 1, 2021
Length: 17 minutes (4,259 words)

Nature’s Revenge Porn: Animal Documentaries at the End of the Earth

“From the emergence of the form, documentaries have sought out and fictionalized the most extreme points of contact between ‘humanity’ and ‘the wild,’ not only reflecting back but actively promoting a set of myths that license oppression, extractivism, mass eviction; the histories of documentary, exploitation, and wilderness conservation are darkly intertwined.”

Source: The Drift
Published: Jun 24, 2020
Length: 23 minutes (5,750 words)