Search Results for: David Kushner

An illiterate child from a small town in India falls asleep on a train and ends up lost in Calcutta, unable to find his way back home. Twenty-five years later, while living with his adoptive family in Australia, he locates his lost hometown using memories and Google Earth:

This was it, the name of the station where he was separated from his brother that day, a couple hours from his home. Saroo scrolled up the train track looking for the next station. He flew over trees and rooftops, buildings and fields, until he came to the next depot, and his eyes fell on a river beside it—a river that flowed over a dam like a waterfall.

Saroo felt dizzy, but he wasn’t finished yet. He needed to prove to himself that this was really it, that he had found his home. So, he put himself back into the body of the barefoot five-year-old boy under the waterfall: ‘I said to myself, Well, if you think this is the place, then I want you to prove to yourself that you can make your way back from where the dam is to the city center.’

Saroo moved his cursor over the streets on-screen: a left here, a right there, until he arrived at the heart of the town—and the satellite image of a fountain, the same fountain where he had scarred his leg climbing over the fence 25 years before.

“A Home at the End of Google Earth.” — David Kushner, Vanity Fair

More by Kushner

How George Hotz, a teenager from New Jersey, kicked off a hacker war that pitted Sony against Anonymous and the group LulzSec:

That year, someone mailed Hotz a PlayStation 3 video-game system, challenging him to be the first in the world to crack it. Hotz posted his announcement online and once again set about finding the part of the system that he could manipulate into doing what he wanted. Hotz focussed on the ‘hypervisor,’ powerful software that controls what programs run on the machine.

To reach the hypervisor, he had to get past two chips called the Cell and the Cell Memory. He knew how he was going to scramble them: by connecting a wire to the memory and shooting it with pulses of voltage, just as he had when he hacked his iPhone.

“Machine Politics.” — David Kushner, The New Yorker

More #longreads from Kushner

Chris Chaney was a 33-year-old loner in Florida who decided to shake up his boredom by breaking into celebrities’ email accounts. Soon he discovered nude photos of Scarlett Johansson and other stars, and then the FBI came calling:

While perusing the e-mail of celebrity stylist Simone Harouche in early November 2010, he stumbled across photos of her client Christina Aguilera trying on outfits in a dressing room, wearing little more than silver pasties. Chaney found a random guy on a celebrity message board and sent him an e-mail telling him he knew ‘someone’ who had hacked pictures of Aguilera. Did he want to check them out?

Chaney freaked the moment he sent it. What the hell am I doing? he thought. He was using a phony e-mail address, but he didn’t know how to effectively cover his tracks. On December 8, a headline appeared on TMZ: ‘Christina Aguilera: My Private Sexy Pics Were Hacked.’ Aguilera’s rep told TMZ they were ‘attempting to determine the identity of the hackers and will pursue them aggressively.’

“The Man Who Hacked Hollywood.” — David Kushner, GQ

More Kushner: “The Hacker is Watching.” Jan. 15, 2012, GQ

David Kushner’s new book explores the origins of the infamous videogame, which began as a straitlaced driving simulation:

By casting the player as the cop, they realized, they had cut out the fun. Some dismissed it as Sims Driving Instructor.

When an unruly gamer tried to drive his police car on the sidewalk or through traffic lights, a persnickety programmer reminded him that the stop lights needed to be obeyed. Were they building a video game or a train set? Even worse, the pedestrians milling around the game created frustrating obstacles. It was almost impossible to drive fast without taking people down, and, because the player was a cop, he had to be punished for hit-and-runs.

“Excerpt: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto.” — David Kushner, Gamespot

See also: “Can D.I.Y. Supplant the First-Person Shooter?” — Joshuah Bearman, New York Times, Nov. 13, 2009

Excerpt: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto

Longreads Pick

David Kushner’s new book explores the origins of the infamous videogame, which began as a straitlaced driving simulation:

“By casting the player as the cop, they realized, they had cut out the fun. Some dismissed it as Sims Driving Instructor.

“When an unruly gamer tried to drive his police car on the sidewalk or through traffic lights, a persnickety programmer reminded him that the stop lights needed to be obeyed. Were they building a video game or a train set? Even worse, the pedestrians milling around the game created frustrating obstacles. It was almost impossible to drive fast without taking people down, and, because the player was a cop, he had to be punished for hit-and-runs.”

Source: Gamespot
Published: Mar 5, 2012
Length: 12 minutes (3,065 words)

Meet Martin, the I.T. guy who’s helped everyone from drug dealers needing to dodge wiretaps, to restaurants looking to inflate their Foursquare numbers:

If you’ve seen that episode of The Wire, you know principle behind Martin’s system: ‘Burners,’ prepaid cell phones drug dealers use for a short time then abandon to thwart wiretaps. Prepaid phones have become so associated with drug trafficking and crime that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to require an I.D. to buy one. (Martin said if I.D.s were required he could still run his business ‘but I would probably charge triple because I’d have to make fake I.D.s’)

But burners can be a pain. For maximum security, phones need to be switched as often as possible—a top Cali cartel manager was once reported to use 35 cell phones a day. Martin’s system makes it easy for a crew to switch all their phones rapidly.

“The Mercenary Techie Who Troubleshoots for Drug Dealers and Jealous Lovers.” — Adrian Chen, Gawker

See also: “The Hacker is Watching.” — David Kushner, GQ

Thirty-two-year-old Luis Mijangos hacked into his victims’ computers, accessing their hard drives and even turning on their webcams:

Mijangos was an unlikely candidate for the world’s creepiest hacker. He lived at home with his mother, half brother, two sisters—one a schoolgirl, the other a housekeeper—and a perky gray poodle named Petra. It was a lively place, busy with family who gathered to watch soccer and to barbecue on the marigold-lined patio. Mijangos had a small bedroom in front, decorated in the red, white, and green of Mexican soccer souvenirs, along with a picture of Jesus. That’s where he spent most of his time, in front of his laptop—sitting in his wheelchair.

“The Hacker is Watching.” — David Kushner, GQ

See also: “Hacked!” — The Atlantic, Nov. 1, 2011

New York Times Writer Jenna Wortham: My Top Longreads of 2011

Jenna Wortham is a technology reporter at The New York Times. In her spare time she makes zines and stalks former America’s Next Top Model contestants in Brooklyn. She can be found on Twitter and Tumblr.

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SO many of my favorites have already been called out—Mindy Kaling’s “Flick Chicks,” Dan P. Lee’s “Travis the Menace” and John Jeremiah Sullivan’s everything, plus Doree flagged that amazing Kolker piece and Michelle laid claim to Paul Ford’s staggering essay on IVF. But these are the stories that I sent to my Kindle and the links that recurred with the most frequency in my drafts/Gchats folders on Gmail, so I think it’s safe to say that they are my top picks of 2011.

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• Ashlee Vance, “This Tech Bubble is Different.” (Businessweek, April 14, 2011)

A cutting, high-level look at the current boomlet in the tech biz—the kind that makes you kick yourself till the end for not being smart enough to have pitched it yourself. Ashlee takes a step back from the funding frenzy, sky-high valuations and feverish IPO rumors to examine the current ad-think consuming the tech world. He asks, what if instead of focusing on getting people to click on ads, buy group coupons and digital goods for their virtual farms, our engineers and entrepreneurs were trying to solve big problems in health and science?

• Lev Grossman, “The Boy Who Lived Forever.” (Time, July 7, 2011) 

I adored this piece because it shed light on a very particular corner of the Web—fanfic—without falling into the clichéd trap of portraying the more obscure recesses of the Internet as a place only inhabited by cr33p3rs and neckbeards. Instead, Lev lightly celebrates the creativity of the subculture and the communities and alternative realities people craft around their favorite characters and books.

• Jessica Pressler, “A Holly Golightly for the Stripper-Embezzlement Age.” (New York Magazine, Sept 18, 2011)

I couldn’t get enough of the vivid, and at times lurid, details in this profile of Diane Passage, Ken Starr’s fourth wife. I mean, this phrase alone: “when she laughs, her grapefruit-tree physique bounces merrily,” hooked me, line and sinker. Plus who doesn’t love a sordid glimpse into an underbelly, especially one in New York? The sharp observations and imagery from the first few grafs make you feel like a fly on the wall of a party you didn’t want to go to in the first place but can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

• David Kushner, “Murder by Text.” (Vanity Fair, November 27, 2011)

A heartbreaking read about the gruesome murder of a 18-year-old girl named Kim Proctor and the two teenaged boys who killed her and then bragged about it on World of Warcraft, which ultimately led to their arrest. Kusher smartly weaves the role of technology and the concept of (im)permanence online into the piece for a compelling narrative.

• Jose Antonio Vargas, “My Life As an Undocumented Immigrant.” (The New York Times, June 22, 2011)

I thought this was one of the most important pieces published this year, along with “The Life of Illegal Immigrant Farmers,” for giving the touchy subject of immigration a living, breathing human face. I read this stunning graf at least a half dozen times:

“And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.”

Honorable Mention:

While I was waiting for my copy of Sullivan’s Pulphead to be delivered, I stumbled across the work of Matt Bell, and immediately devoured two of his Kindle shorts—“A Tree or a Person or a Wall” and “A Long Walk, With Only Chalk to Mark the Way” and could not put them down. For such a stark, minimalist writer, his pieces are so evocative and rich with imagery that its hard not to be sucked into them almost immediately.

I also thought that this year brought out some hilarious and clever writing that touched on the way we consume and use technology and how it’s shaping our interactions, culture and lives.

Here’s a quick n’ dirty rundown of a few faves:

• Katie Heaney, “Reading Between the Texts” (The Hairpin, June 16, 2011)

• Leigh Alexander, “Five Emotions Invented By The Internet” (Thought

Catalog, January 12, 2011)

• Frank Smith, “Will the Real Frank Smith Please Stand Up” (The Morning

News, March 25, 2011)

Clive Thompson, “On Secret Messages in the Digital Age” (Wired

magazine, Jan 31, 2011)

Jonah Lehrer, “How Friends Ruin Memory: The Social Conformity Effect.”

(Wired.com, October 2011)

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See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

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When Kruse IM’d Kim to see if she was done babysitting, no response came. But he didn’t expect one. The instant message was a cover. Kruse knew Kim had never made it to her job. She was right there in his house with him and Cam. Bound. Beaten. Raped. And, by the next morning, stuffed in his freezer. Dead.

Everyone knows teens live with abandon online—exposing their secrets, likes, dislikes, sexual preferences, home addresses, phone numbers, and so on—in ways their parents can’t understand. But it’s not just this generation’s sense of privacy that’s eroding. It’s their sense of permanence. They act as though the words they write and pictures they post and texts they send vanish into the ether. But in fact they’re leaving a running transcript behind, a digital trail of their hopes, their anxieties, and, in the case of at least one small Canadian town, even their crimes.

“Murder by Text.” — David Kushner, Vanity Fair

See more #longreads from Vanity Fair

When Kruse IM’d Kim to see if she was done babysitting, no response came. But he didn’t expect one. The instant message was a cover. Kruse knew Kim had never made it to her job. She was right there in his house with him and Cam. Bound. Beaten. Raped. And, by the next morning, stuffed in his freezer. Dead.

Everyone knows teens live with abandon online—exposing their secrets, likes, dislikes, sexual preferences, home addresses, phone numbers, and so on—in ways their parents can’t understand. But it’s not just this generation’s sense of privacy that’s eroding. It’s their sense of permanence. They act as though the words they write and pictures they post and texts they send vanish into the ether. But in fact they’re leaving a running transcript behind, a digital trail of their hopes, their anxieties, and, in the case of at least one small Canadian town, even their crimes.

“Murder by Text.” — David Kushner, Vanity Fair

See more #longreads from Vanity Fair