Inside the social media factory created by former Huffington Post cofounder Jonah Peretti—how they’ve cracked viral content, invested in original content, and made money:
“At around 5 p.m., Stopera published ’48 Pictures That Perfectly Capture the ’90s’ on BuzzFeed. ‘These pictures are all that and a bag of chips!’ he wrote at the top of the list. A BuzzFeed visitor with an appetite for ’90s nostalgia could scroll down, gawk at the 48 retro images, read the deadpan captions, recall Bob Saget, Tipper Gore, and Scottie Pippen, laugh at the crazy fashion, and resurface to the present day in a matter of minutes. It racked up 1.2 million page views.”
I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten the reason for the Montana special election, which takes place today. It’s for a single congressional seat—the state has only one House representative due to its population—which was vacated earlier this year by Ryan Zinke when he was chosen by Trump to become the Secretary of the Interior.
Anne Helen Petersen has been reporting for BuzzFeed from Montana for months, and her definitive feature on the special election is a careful, compassionate, and clever look at the Montana voter—a true political unicorn who won’t be pandered to or told how to vote.
The special election may seem like a tantalizing chance for Democrats to turn a red state blue—56 percent of voters swung for Trump. “But that same election, 50.2 percent also voted for their Democratic governor, Steve Bullock,” Petersen reminds us, and “in 2012, 48.6 percent voted for Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat.”
I listened to PJ Harvey’s 2011 album Let England Shake obsessively while researching people who were sickened or died as a result of their work building nuclear weapons. The album is both simple folk storytelling, and a timeless work about war in the grand tradition of Goya or Hemingway; like the best writers, she turns discrete stories into a broader lens through which to view the world. The music helped me grapple with what each data point of suffering and sacrifice meant, the contradictions in our national remembrance of the cold war, and the forces still shaping that memory.
With Jeff Sessions banging the drum to bring back the war on drugs, access to marijuana — even for medical use — seems more and more remote for red state users. At BuzzFeed, Alyson Martin meets activists who take a faith-based approach to ending marijuana prohibition.
Decker, 49, tells anyone in Texas who will listen why cannabis is, in fact, a permitted therapy for Christians — not a sin. She hopes her openness will help generate support for medical cannabis among state lawmakers, and in April she submitted passionate testimony in hopes of swaying them. She described being rushed to the ER, “gasping for air” on New Year’s Day in 2014, when her COPD was first diagnosed, and the blur of medications and treatments she’s endured since then. “I live 80 miles from a legal state line,” Decker wrote, referring to New Mexico, where medical cannabis is permitted. She questioned why such treatment should be off-limits to her, “just because I choose to live and work in Texas, where I was born?”
Genesis 1:29, which Decker formed in 2010, is named after a Bible verse that’s oft-repeated by Christians in favor of medical marijuana: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” To Decker, a nondenominational Christian who follows the Bible’s verses in a literal way, it means that cannabis is “meant to be eaten, whether in oil, whether in an edible,” she said.
Obviously, not everyone in Texas is receptive to Decker’s interpretation of the Bible — none of the laws covering medical or recreational cannabis were likely to pass before the legislative session ends in late May.
“People in the Bible Belt say, ‘You’re using the Bible to promote drugs,’” she said, drawing out the word “drugs” for emphasis. Decker disagrees. “We’re using the Bible to promote what God gave us. We say that God made the perfect medicine. Man is the one that made it illegal.”
Karen Tongson was named after the 1970s soft-rock music icon Karen Carpenter, and she immigrated to the United States from the Philippines soon after Karen Carpenter died in 1983 at age 32. As Tongson returns to the country of her birth, she examines what fuels the Carpenters’ continuing popularity in her home country and how their music has had affected her life. Read the story at BuzzFeed.
While the Carpenters mania that seems to exist in perpetuity in the Philippines might easily (and to a certain extent rightfully) be construed as yet another of the many vestiges of the nation’s colonial entanglements with the United States — what the scholar Vicente Rafael describes in White Love and Other Events in Filipino History (2000) — I want to make a case here for a power relation more difficult to parse: a different dynamic, another species of intimacy. You see, the Carpenters belong to us, not the other way around.
But with Karen Carpenter, we aren’t just fans, followers, or cheerful colonial acolytes, Taft’s infamous “little brown brothers” worshipping another white woman’s prudish perfection. Karen’s voice is our voice…we have the power to reanimate her, for better or worse, as our echo.
I begin to understand what Karen has actually done for me. She is more than my namesake; she is my constant. She is the anchor to a now, a then, a never-was, and a never-will-be. Karen Carpenter’s dispassionately passionate vocals multiply not only across the harmonies in her own recordings but also through countless Filipino voices, making sense of both Manila and the Southern California suburbs that became my eventual home.
A funny thing happened after colonists, disguised as Native Americans, dumped 300-some chests containing tea into the Boston Harbor: The importance of tea—both politically and culturally—in the United States was over, and the people needed something else to drink. That void was filled by coffee, which first arrived in North America courtesy of Captain John Smith, but until the Boston Tea Party, coffee was a niche beverage: just .19 pounds per capita was consumed in 1772.
Following the Revolutionary War, a period in which John Adams wrote of the troubles “wean[ing]” himself off tea, Americans had fallen in love with the coffee bean, drinking 1.41 pounds per capita by 1799, and the infatuation skyrocketed for the next 150 years. Coffee was enjoyed by all classes—Park Avenue socialites and coal miners alike could take their coffee black or with a dash of cream. And as boiling the grounds with water gave way to the percolator and the electric drip coffeemaker, Americans put the pot on more and more often, drinking an astonishing 46 gallons per person a year—a record that will never be topped. Read more…
I dream often. Every night, actually. Sometimes my dreams are sexy or scary. Mostly, I dream about school. It’s the first day, and I don’t have my schedule. It’s the last day, and I didn’t take a math class and now I won’t graduate. I’m lost. I’m running late. I skipped too many English classes, didn’t do the reading, and won’t pass the final. I can walk in my commencement ceremony, but I have to return to campus in the summer to finish my degree. Everything looks familiar but wrong somehow, like it does in all of our dreams. I look at numbers or words and realize they’re jumbled, unintelligible symbols. Sometimes, I know I’m dreaming, but I can’t control what’s happening; I’m not a lucid dreamer. Occasionally, I throw myself into the dream-ground and fall into bed. The dreams where I don’t want to wake up are the best ones, of course, and the next night I won’t fear sleep.
1. “A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying.” (Jan Hoffman, The New York Times, February 2016)
Hospice Buffalo is integrating their patients’ dreams and visions into their treatment and comfort routines, breaking with old-school care traditions.
2. “Loose But Lucid: A Dreamer in Paradise.” (Bucky McMahon, Esquire, February 2002)
Bucky McMahon travels to Hawaii to learn how to lucid dream (successfully!) from expert Stephen LeBarge.
3. “Can You Die From a Nightmare?” (Doree Shafrir, BuzzFeed, September 2012)
In 2012, after two years of writing and almost a decade of night terrors, Doree Shafrir published this essay about her violent, unpredictable sleep behaviors. Investigating potential causes and cures for her parasomnia led Shafrir to check in at the New York Sleep Institute, phone up comedian Mike Birbiglia, and sit down with Tim Dubitsky, the boyfriend of the late artist Tobias Wong, who killed himself in the midst of a night terror.
4. “Angry Signatures.” (Ursula Villarreal-Moura, Nashville Review, December 2016)
Short fiction from a Texan author about a mother-daughter pair and the manifestation of their prophetic dreams.
5. “Why We Dream About Our Childhood Homes.” (Janet Allon, The New York Times, July 1998)
What do New Yorkers dream about? Subways, manholes, expanding apartments, and flying over Central Park. Janel Allen includes each dreamer’s profession, and I enjoyed trying to make connections between their dream and waking lives.
6. “What Escapes the Total Archive.” (Rebecca Lemov, Limn, March 2016)
Pursuing the twentieth-century dream of capturing all sociological data in a single clearinghouse, a group of American social scientists in the mid-1950s attempted a bold, if not completely unprecedented, experiment. They would test the limits not only of content (what was collected) but also of format (how it was collected, saved, circulated, and distributed). The resulting data set of data sets, which I call the “database of dreams,” but which its creators referred to by the somewhat less evocative Microcard Publications of Primary Records in Culture and Personality, took shape between 1955 and 1963. Meanwhile, its more extensive vision—the total archive it portended and evoked containing all ephemeral data from the domain of subjectivity collected from peoples around the world, and available in turn across the globe—never did come about. Yet its would-be creators spoke of it as if to invoke it into existence.
At BuzzFeed, Laura Turner grapples with losing a child at 13 weeks and learns that miscarriage is more common than she had originally thought: “Women were always talking about it. It’s just that most people weren’t listening.”
When someone you know and love dies, your life changes, and it is the change that fuels your grief. You can’t call them or see them like you used to; you can only smell their cologne on the clothes that still hang in their closet. But when it’s a fetus that has died, or a baby, or whatever you want to call it, your life doesn’t change, and that’s the strange part — because it was supposed to.
Your belly was supposed to grow, but it doesn’t. Your breasts were supposed to get more tender, but they return to their normal size. Your office was supposed to be turned into a nursery, and you resented that, but now the plans for a crib and a changing table are gone and nothing at all needs to change. The sadness is in how things stay the same.
Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a beautiful black boy coming of age in a dreadfully under-resourced section of Miami. As with any great work of art, it’s the tiniest details that reveal the most — the inflection of a phrase, the subtlety of a glance, the seconds of silence. Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, with cinematography so lush, the balmy humidity of south Florida oozes off the screen, Moonlight is filled with moments like this. It happens when young Chiron avoids eye contact with a drug dealer during their first encounter, and again when Chiron welcomes an unexpected friendship on the soccer field with clear hesitation. You can see it every time Chiron flinches at his mother, and in the need that remains in the shadows of his eyes when he does. It happens when his mother makes Chiron read books instead of watching TV. “Find something for you to read,” she says.
The first time I saw Moonlight, these small revelations of humanity disarmed me. I felt exposed, and had to turn away from the screen. How did the filmmakers know, I wondered, that growing up black could be so contoured with dark peril, so layered with pure, sweet joy? That yes, absolutely, a drug dealer could be a respite, a much needed stand-in for a father? I realized its novelty is due in large part to the sheer, sad fact that it is rare to see black characters coming of age on screen. Two thirds of the movie is dedicated to Chiron’s childhood and adolescence; we see his intelligence and sensitivity unfurl, retreat, and finally unfurl again.