The New Prospectors

Every year, members of the Gold Prospectors Association of America pack up their RVs in search of adventure, friendship, and a bucketful of pay dirt.
Source: Topic
Published: Jul 15, 2019
Length: 12 minutes (3,200 words)

Going Down the Pipes

For the “Journeys” issue of Topic, Anna Holmes shares a reprint of a 1996 New York Times Magazine piece by Darcy Frey originally titled, “Something’s Got to Give.” The piece is a wild, frenetic look at the fragile fraternity of air traffic controllers minding the busiest airspace in the United States. “Every hour around here is 59 minutes of boredom and 1 of sheer terror.”

Author: Darcy Frey
Source: Topic
Published: Jul 15, 2019
Length: 36 minutes (9,120 words)

“Your Judge Is Your Destiny”

“The judge keeps a low public profile, but among attorneys in Louisiana, her reputation is feared. According to data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees our nation’s immigration courts, Judge Reese has presided over more than 200 asylum hearings during the past five years. The applicants who have stood before her have come from all across the globe: Somalia, Eritrea, Mexico, Cameroon, Honduras. Some have lawyers, some do not; it makes little difference. Unique among her peers, during the past five years, Reese has rejected every single case.”

Source: Topic
Published: Jul 6, 2019
Length: 23 minutes (5,933 words)

Love in the Time of Britney

One British man spent his adult life devoted to his favorite star. His personal collection tells us a lot about fandom—and about the life cycles of music ephemera.

Source: Topic
Published: Jul 2, 2019
Length: 9 minutes (2,300 words)

Pull Over, I’m Having a Baby

“A few hours later, after giving birth in the car’s back seat, there was paperwork to do. In my bed at New York Methodist, my daughter’s buttery newborn skin against my chest, I tabbed through papers in a blue folder embossed with the hospital’s logo: birth certificate and social security forms, lactation support resources, a brochure asking, helpfully, “Can Your Baby Hear You?”

One line on an insurance printout caught my eye. PLACE OF BIRTH: EXTRAMURAL.”

Source: Topic
Published: May 6, 2019
Length: 19 minutes (4,800 words)

Breakdown Palace

“Kingsley Hall was an experiment that is considered imperfect by all who took part in it, deeply flawed; to some on the outside, it was wildly irresponsible, perhaps a failure.”

Author: Alex Mar
Source: Topic
Published: Apr 24, 2019
Length: 56 minutes (14,037 words)

Who Is John Frum?

In the 20th century, anthropologists fell over themselves to study the “cargo cult” phenomenon in the South Pacific. But was it really a new religion—or just a Western fantasy?

Source: Topic
Published: Apr 18, 2019
Length: 24 minutes (6,200 words)

The Mortician and the Murderer

An incredible photo essay in which both the images and words tell the crazy story of imprisoned mortician David Sconce (up for parole in 2022). In the ’80s, Sconce turned his family’s California funeral home into a mass crematorium and black market body part- and organ-harvesting business.

Source: Topic
Published: Mar 21, 2019
Length: 15 minutes (3,783 words)

In Bad Taste

“Garishly food-styled heads of hollowed-out iceberg packed with pimiento cheese, or baked beans in aspic, bolster our own superior sense of ourselves. Like the Instagram freakshake, they are fantasy transgressions against which we define our superior awesomeness.”

Source: Topic
Published: Mar 5, 2019
Length: 10 minutes (2,605 words)

The Color of Money

After her book, So You Want to Talk About Race, becomes a bestseller, Black author Ijeoma Oluo offers to build her white mother a home with her earnings and learns how race can affect the ways adult children care for their aging parents.

Source: Topic
Published: Feb 19, 2019
Length: 6 minutes (1,706 words)