Search Results for: Slate

Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media

Longreads Pick

The story of a controversial blogger, the weaponization of online engagement, and the growing fault lines between tech and traditional journalism.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Jul 9, 2020
Length: 24 minutes (6,000 words)

The Night Gary Drove Me Home

Longreads Pick
Source: Slate
Published: Jun 16, 2021
Length: 9 minutes (2,422 words)

A Fond Farewell to a Friend: the Arecibo Telescope

The Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico. (Getty Images)

We’ve been fortunate to publish Shannon Stirone at Longreads. Read “The Hunt for Planet Nine” and her latest for us, “An Atlas of the Cosmos.”

At Slate, science writer Shannon Stirone pays tribute to the Arecibo telescope, the massive, 1,000-foot-wide radio telescope that will be decommissioned after two critical cables that hold up the 900-ton device suffered irreparable damage this past summer.

At 57 years old, Arecibo has helped us look deeply into space, at light, stars, and entities beyond our planet. In doing so, it has helped us better understand ourselves as humans and our place in the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos. Stirone credits Arecibo with sparking her interest in science.

Built in the early 1960s, Arecibo was initially designed to study the Earths ionosphere, the chemically active layer in the upper atmosphere that is ionized by solar radiation.

In the decades since, it has contributed to our understanding of pulsars, near-Earth asteroids, and planets within—and beyond—our solar system.

In the world of space and astronomy, Arecibo means different things to everyone, but at the heart, it seems to hit the same for us all—this telescope meant a level of access to the cosmos that we simply can’t find anywhere else.

Losing Arecibo—or any telescope of this magnitude, or any spacecraft—drives home something I think we tend to forget: Telescopes and spacecraft aren’t just tools. They are extensions of ourselves.

Read the story

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Young Kid Learning To Ride a Bike without Support Stabilizer Wheels Left Behind
Young Kid Learning To Ride a Bike without Support Stabilizer Wheels Left Behind

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. A Texas Teen Wanted an Abortion. Now She Has Twins.

Caroline Kitchener | The Washington Post | June 20th, 2022 | 4,100 words

If I were a journalism teacher, I would assign this story to my class immediately. Not only because it is wrenching — and my god, it is — but also because it demonstrates the value of beat reporting, editorial foresight, and covering the ripple effects of major news stories. Caroline Kitchener writes about abortion for one of the biggest newspapers in the country. The so-called “heartbeat bill” in Texas went into effect nine months ago, which means the first women in the state who couldn’t get abortions because of the law are now having babies. Therein lies the seed of a story idea, in the form of a question: What happened to those women? Kitchener found one of them, a teenager who gave birth to twins several weeks ago, and crafted an intimate narrative that simmers with pathos yet lets the facts speak for themselves. I won’t soon forget the scene in which antiabortion activists hold up the subject of Kitchener’s piece as a political victory — even lighting a candle in her honor — without any knowledge of what their shameful advocacy has meant for her well-being, her sense of self, or her future. This is complex, award-worthy storytelling. —SD

2. How Three Sisters (and their Mom) Tried to Swindle the CRA out of Millions

Sarah Treleaven | Maclean’s | June 21st, 2022 | 4,359 words

Who doesn’t love a Canadian grift story? When Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employee Carol Power was asked to audit the Saker sisters from Nova Scotia — deemed to “be the model of rural ingenuity” for their diverse portfolio of interests — she had no idea that she had stumbled on to a complicated web of serious tax fraud going back years. When the CRA prodded, the sisters doubled down on the fraud, inventing false paperwork to cover their crimes. When taken to court, they proclaimed themselves victims of a vast CRA conspiracy against them. “The CRA investigators were looking for books, records, documentation, and electronic hardware and storage devices. They subsequently spent nearly three years combing through the Saker family bank records, sales receipts and invoices and searching for T4 slips, trying to track the Sakers’ behaviour and establish their patterns. Boudreau learned that many of the businesses had been operating largely without bank accounts, and most appeared to have no employees, supplier contracts or even production expenses. When CRA investigators asked the Sakers to provide supporting documentation to prove they were entitled to the refund amounts they claimed, the Sakers produced a huge volume of vendor invoices and sales receipts…One of the many vendors listed by the Sakers was Vandalee Industries, a name nearly identical to that of George Costanza’s fake employer on Seinfeld. It was almost like the Sakers were having a good time.” —KS

3. Safety Town

Ilana Bean | Guernica | June 20th, 2022 | 3,839 words

My most vivid childhood memories are the ones where I’m on my bike, at 4 years old, just after I learned how to ride. Our family’s home has an unusually long driveway: We can fit over a dozen parked cars during parties. There was so much space: to play, to ride, to create my own little whimsical world. I thought of this formative time as I read Ilana Bean’s piece on traffic gardens, those small-scale street systems through which kids can learn about road safety. In the imaginary world I built in front of our house, cracks in the concrete became turns. Carefully laid sticks became dividers. Rocks I collected from the neighborhood became coins for the toll bridge. But this curiosity in the built physical space I moved in quickly faded, and cars — driven by adults — would take me wherever I needed to go. Bean’s mother, Fionnuala Quinn, is a traffic safety expert, focused on building more intuitive relationships between children and our streets; car culture in the U.S. means that many of us “don’t actively interact with transportation until we reach the magic age of sixteen,” and at that point, we’re then expected to master the art of driving after a minimal amount of training. This is a thoughtful read on road safety and design — which I admit I’ve spent very little time thinking about in my life, despite the amount of power and responsibility I have each time I get behind the wheel. Even more, it’s a lovely, unexpected essay on the dedication of a mother, and the potential for a world in which children are raised with the skills to navigate their environments independently and safely and people are empowered to ask for and help build better streets. —CLR

4. How OXO Conquered the American Kitchen

Dan Kois | Slate | June 20th, 2022 | 3,066 words

When the second season of the brilliant sketch series I Think You Should Leave dropped last year, one of its oddest moments was the trailer for Detective Crashmore, a hardboiled action movie starring Santa Claus as the titular cop. There’s much more I’d like to say about it, but for our purposes today the thing that matters is a single line Crashmore utters: “Everything has sucked lately.” You know why? Because he’s right! We’re all mad and sad and worried. And when we’re all mad and sad and worried, that’s exactly when you need to read something like Dan Kois’ cheerful dive into the inner workings of OXO. You probably have a salad spinner or garlic press or measuring cup from the obsessively utilitarian housewares company; maybe you’ve marveled at it, maybe you haven’t. But in a time when the clearest articulation of our global mood comes from an irascible Santa-Claus-portrayed maniac, it’s worth taking a few minutes to concentrate on something small and good. Even when that something small and good is a vegetable peeler. —PR

5. A Marriage Story

Alan Siegel | The Ringer | June 14th, 2022 | 2,330 words

“It is, without a doubt, one of the most moving film sequences of the past 20 years.” I saw Up a long time ago, in a part of my life I’d like to forget. I don’t remember much about that time in my life (thankfully!) or much about the movie itself, other than what it reduced me to: a sobbing heap on the couch. I don’t think the term “ugly cry” had been invented yet, but that’s an accurate description of my response. How could two animated film characters conjure such a powerful emotional response in a hapless viewer in a mere 10 minutes? At The Ringer, Up director Pete Docter and codirector Bob Peterson reflect on the care and craft that went into making Carl and Ellie, as well as the specifics of imprinting them and their shared history on the hearts of an unsuspecting audience in that seminal first part of the film. —KS

‘This Is Going to Change the World’

Longreads Pick

“As the new millennium dawned, a mysterious invention from a charismatic millionaire became a viral sensation—then went down in flames. Ever since, I’ve wondered: Was it all my fault?”

Author: Dan Kois
Source: Slate
Published: Aug 1, 2021
Length: 39 minutes (9,798 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from Jill McCabe Johnson, Stacey Anderson, Megan Pillow, Barry Blanchard, and Elizabeth Rush.

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1. The Night Gary Drove Me Home

Jill McCabe Johnson | Slate | June 16, 2021 | 2,422 words

“It is not a normal thing to do—to acknowledge to yourself that you may have slept with a serial killer.”

2. Beijing Calling: Suspicion, Hope, and Resistance in the Chinese Rock Underground

Stacey Anderson | Rolling Stone | June 24, 2021 | 7,800

“China has produced some of the most vital indie rock on the planet. But can the scene survive gentrification, government crackdowns, and a hit TV show?”

3. Living Memory

Megan Pillow | Guernica Magazine | June 23, 2021 | 5,158 words

“Who, then, are the chroniclers of Black lives in the pandemic?”

4. And Then There Were Twelve

Barry Blanchard | Alpinist Magazine | December 19, 2020 | 4,600 words

“Climbing culture: we come to each other’s aid in times of need. Ethan and Lorne knew they had to stay and help. The four men hunkered down inside the schrund-cave. With each cup of tea they brewed, their spirits rose. They would make it through the night.”

5. First Passage

Elizabeth Rush | Orion Magazine | June 3, 2021 | 4,556 words

“A journey toward motherhood in the age of glacial loss.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Acclaimed author and feminist bell hooks.
bell hooks (Photo by: Karjean Levine — Getty Images

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Love as the Practice of Freedom

bell hooks | Catalyst Project | 1994 | 2,900 words

Acclaimed author and feminist bell hooks passed away this week at the age of 69. Tributes to her life and work have been published far and wide. To remember her, we look back at this moving essay from her book, Outlaw Culture, published in 1994. In “Love as the Practice of Freedom,” hooks maintains that the only way for humans to make progress toward equality — toward achieving the “beloved community” that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned — is by embracing love. Loving others, but almost more importantly, loving one’s self. This self love and acceptance means examining and acknowledging our own blind spots to racism, sexism, and classism so that we can begin to eradicate all forms of domination and oppression. “The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.” —KS

2. Thoughts and Prayers in Cabot Square

Christopher Curtis | The Rover | November 30, 2021 | 3,399

In this heart-wrenching essay, reporter Christopher Curtis attends the Montreal street funeral of Elisapee, a homeless Inuit woman. As her friends gather on the street outside the unfinished condo block where her body was found, work on the building continues. Montreal does not spend long dwelling on such tragedies. Curtis’ haunting imagery highlights the city’s divisions: Above the spot where Elisapee was found, a poster for the new condo project features a glamorous woman and the slogan The exclusivity of life at the summit — a life, Curtis writes, “built on a haunted foundation.” This piece raises some important questions that I will keep thinking about: “Why do Indigenous people account for less than 1 percent of Montreal’s population but 10 percent of those living on the street? Why do women like Elisapee keep dying in unspeakable poverty? What has to happen for things to change?” —CW

3. Burying Leni Riefenstahl

Kate Connolly | The Guardian | December 9, 2021, | 6,500 words

It’s an ugly fact of history many Nazis were never punished for their complicity in Hitler’s regime. This was especially true for women who draped themselves in the myth that they had been oblivious bystanders. Leni Riefenstahl, a filmmaker and close friend of the Fuhrer, was one such woman. “Riefenstahl sought to distance herself from the regime she had served,” Kate Connolly writes, “portraying herself as an apolitical naif whose only motivation was making the most beautiful art possible.” Riefenstahl also mounted legal challenges “against those who had written or said anything about her that she disliked.” Many were successful, including her lawsuit against Nina Gladitz, a filmmaker who documented the forced labor of Romani extras in one of Riefenstahl’s projects — about 100 of whom are known or believed to have subsequently been killed at Auschwitz. The legal defeat transformed Gladitz’s life in remarkable, complicated ways. Connolly’s piece is a fascinating look at Gladitz’s four-decade, all-consuming obsession with Riefenstahl. “For most people, ‘pursuing the truth’ or ‘confronting the past’ are just platitudes or abstractions,” Connolly writes. “For Gladitz, nothing was more important.” —SD

4. Can’t You See That I’m Lonely?

David Ramsey | Oxford American | December 7, 2021 | 6,800 words

When you love a song, do you want to discover as much as you can about the person who brought you that bit of magic? David Ramsey does just this in his beautiful portrait of Fontella Bass, the woman behind the ’60s R&B hit, “Rescue Me.” More than simply a profile of a talented artist, Ramsey revels in the joy that comes from being together and hearing the music we love — a theme that persists for him. This essay reminds me of his thoughtful profile of Shovels & Rope from 2019, one where in loving detail, he describes the power music has to move the soul.

“Because when a song gets its hooks in you, it unfolds into stories, it latches onto memories, it colors in the margins of your life. And so our instinct is to seek to know the story of the singer, too. Her name was Fontella Bass…Some time soon you will hear it, you will hear her voice. It’s inevitable. You have heard it a thousand times, but then, you could say the same thing about thunder. I hope it’s at a party. I hope you see someone there who hasn’t been to a party in a very long time. I hope you start dancing. That, in any event, is my plan: I’ll be somewhere, dancing, too.” —KS

5. The American Addiction to Speeding

Henry Grabar | Slate | December 15, 2021 | 4,627 words

Having a lead foot myself, I may have been predisposed to enjoy a deep dive into the speed limit, but it’s hard not to think everyone would. As Grabar points out, speed-limit laws manage to invert the pyramid of risk, needlessly throttling speed on the nation’s relatively low-accident interstates while doing far too little to control fatally fast driving on smaller streets in densely populated areas. Meanwhile, the police use minimal speed-limit violations as a pretext for at-will traffic stops that disproportionately target Black drivers. Yet, in unspooling the history of the speed limit and discussing the options facing us, Grabar manages to resist a dry legislative review, instead finding the cultural resonances that put the issue in a more urgent (and relatable) context. “Enforcement is both inadequate and punitive,” he writes. “The cost is enormous. And the lack of political will to do something about it tracks with George Carlin’s famous observation that everybody going faster than you is a maniac and everybody going slower than you is an idiot. The consensus is: Enforce the speed limit. But not on me, please. Because while it would be nice to save 10,000 lives a year, it sure is fun to drive fast.” Read it as soon as you can — just not while you’re stuck in traffic. —PR

You Could Make This Place Beautiful

Longreads Pick

Great,” she says resignedly. “What I’ll always be known for is writing this poem about how bad things are, and maybe they could be better, but they’re bad.”

Author: Dan Kois
Source: Slate
Published: Oct 6, 2020
Length: 18 minutes (4,647 words)

How the School Reopening Debate Is Tearing One of America’s Most Elite Suburbs Apart

Longreads Pick

Noreen Malone recounts the very public and heated debate around school reopening between a teachers union and wealthy, liberal parents in a Boston suburb.

Source: Slate
Published: Dec 18, 2020
Length: 24 minutes (6,178 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Futuristic cyborg learning about humans. This is entirely 3D generated. All book covers are fictional and made by contributor.
Photo: gremlin / Getty Images

Here are five standout pieces we read this week. You can always visit our editors’ picks or our Twitter feed to see what other recommendations you may have missed.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

1. Meet the Lobbyist Next Door

Benjamin Wofford | WIRED | July 14th, 2022 | 5,000 words

A business feature that doubles as a horror story, Benjamin Wofford’s chilling piece could be the premise for a Black Mirror episode. Wofford profiles Urban Legend, a tech startup that has built “the Exchange,” an interface connecting advertisers looking to promote political ideologies with influencers ready to peddle for a price. Urban Legend’s CEO, Ory Rinat, who previously worked in the Trump White House, and his colleagues like to talk about trust, authenticity, and empowerment, but as Wofford skillfully shows, there’s no heart to their business model — there’s only a black hole, a moral vacuum. The dread of it all crept up on me as I read, which is a testament to the writing. Now excuse me while I go scream into the abyss. —SD

2. The Great Fiction of AI

Josh Dzieza | The Verge | July 20th, 2022 | 5,091 words

Could artificial intelligence help you write your next novel? Josh Dzieza dives into the world of AI-assisted genre fiction, and how independent authors are experimenting with tools powered by GPT-3 to write stories faster. Dzieza recounts Kindle novelist Jennifer Lepp’s experience with one such tool, Sudowrite, which, at first, generates strange and hilarious output. Eventually, as Lepp learns how to control the software’s quirks, she gets results that are more promising. But they are unsettling, too: When Lepp gives a finished chapter to her husband to read, he isn’t able to distinguish between her voice and the machine’s. Dzieza also talks with authors who view AI as a welcome disruption to the field, such as Joanna Penn, who envisions a future where writers will be left behind if they don’t embrace the technology. This is a fascinating read that explores ethics, creativity, and authorship, and is a complement to the stories in our . I love the playful article design, too. —CLR

3. The Haves and the Have-Yachts

Evan Osnos | The New Yorker | July 18th, 2022 | 10,000 words

Inflation. Pandemic. Recession. Yet, since 2020,  — and the  has seen its aggregate worth balloon by nearly $4 trillion. What do you do with all that money? Easy. You spend it on reminding people, as one interviewee memorably relates in this piece, that “I am in a different fucking category than you.” In this case, that means multi-hundred-foot, multi-hundred-million-dollar superyachts, the world of which Evan Osnos excavates over (exactly) 10,000 deliciously arch words. These aren’t just phallic manifestations of mind-boggling wealth. With their onboard IMAX theaters and 50-person staffs, they’re manifestations of the one thing their owners want desperately but can’t quite attain on land: absolute sovereignty. But while you and I and the rest of the hoi polloi might be seen as “ineligible visitors” to this ionosphere of luxury, that doesn’t mean that you’re not in for one hell of a read. —

4. What Counts as Seeing

Alice Wong and Ed Yong | Orion Magazine | July 12th, 2022 | 3,948 words

Are you as excited as I am to see these names side by side? Here, Wong and Yong engage in a wonderful conversation that celebrates the strange and unpredictable in nature and fosters empathy for all creatures. They discuss Yong’s books, the incredible senses of other organisms, and, in turn, the limits of our understanding for how rich and diverse the natural world really is. (I love the bit where Yong compares his dog going on a walk to sniff and pee on things as the pup’s version of checking his social media for the day.) As you’d expect, their dialogue is delightful and accessible, thanks to Wong’s ability to open people’s eyes to experiences that are not their own and Yong’s knack for explaining scientific and biological concepts in plain language. What a treat to read. —

5. The 50 Greatest Fictional Deaths of All Time

Dan Kois (and Other Contributors) | Slate | July 20th, 2022 | 8,250 words

This list is so damn fun. Starting in 431 B.C. and progressing chronologically, it levels the cultural playing field, quoting passages from Beowulf and Macbeth while also reveling in the transgressive lyrics of “Goodbye Earl.” It reminded me of at least one brilliant cinematic death that I’d somehow forgotten — before using an inhaler, make sure it’s not a gun! — and made me tear up at its description of a groundbreaking storyline in Doonesbury. Like all the best GOAT lists, it also made me consider what I would include: one of the gruesome deaths in The Omen, Mr. Jingles’ demise and resurrection in The Green Mile, Alec’s murder in Tess of the D’Urbervilles (ooooh — or the raising of the black flag at the end!?). “We’ve made this list during a pandemic, as real-life death has stalked us all, more tangible than ever,” Dan Kois writes. “One of the many things art can do is to help us navigate the pitfalls of life, and there’s no deeper pitfall than the final one.” —SD