Search Results for: The Baffler

Editor’s Roundtable: Fans, ‘Grams and Installment Plans

The Wing in Boston. (Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

On our September 20, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Essays Editor Sari Botton, Head of Audience Catherine Cusick, and Culture Columnist Soraya Roberts share what they’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads.  

This week, the editors discuss stories in Inc., The Cut, and The Baffler.


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6:52The Wing Has $118 Million in Funding, Superfans Like Meryl Streep, and Plenty of Skeptics. It’s Just Getting Started.” (Christine Lagorio-Chafkine, October 2019, Inc.)

17:28Who Would I Be Without Instagram?” (Tavi Gevinson, September 16, 2019, The Cut)

26:00 “Revolution on the Installment Plan.” (Jessa Crispin, Sept/Oct 2019, The Baffler)

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Produced by Longreads and Charts & Leisure.

“A Series of Small Collapses Caused by Continual Neglect”

CLEVELAND, OHIO, UNITED STATES - 2020/09/29: Protesters wearing masks march through University Circle while holding up placards and banners during the protest. In reaction to the presidential debates being held in Cleveland, protesters gathered to protest against President Donald Trump and show support to black lives. The initial protest began with speeches at Wade Lagoon, and proceeded with a march throughout University Circle that ended at Wade Lagoon. Stragglers from the initial protest went downtown towards the intersection of 105th St. and Chester Ave. where police were stationed. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In this deeply moving essay at The Baffler, Hanif Abdurraqib reflects on the protests of last summer and the ongoing fight for equality with a mix of grief and pride. As he considers those who protest systemic racism in America, he says “… yes, it is thrilling to see a generation that has harnessed their firsthand knowledge, their resources, their steadfast care for each other, and their rage, and channeled it into multilayered action.” But he yearns for a day when the time and energy and fortitude required to protest can be “freed up not only for other fights but for other endeavors that make newer uses of their time.”

What pushes people out into the street and what pushes them to organize might be sparked in a single moment, but before that moment, and often stretching on long after, is a series of small collapses caused by continual neglect.

A series of small collapses is how they come to be radicalized.

We were there because it was necessary that we be there. Because someone we loved was in the streets and they needed protection or care or simply someone else they knew to add to the long braid of someones blocking traffic and holding the line when cops descended with their sprays or their horses or their hands on their weapons.

The grief of this moment, this life, is torrential. More for some than others, of course. But in the midst of it, one small, distinct grief that I have been focused on is the grief that sits alongside the immense pride and excitement I feel watching young activists step fully into themselves and realize they are entirely unmoved by and unafraid of power. I had that inside of me when I was a teenager, and a lot of the people I lived with and hung around did too. But so few of us actually knew what to do with it. We knew we hated that cops were in our schools and in our neighborhoods—their primary function to inject fear into the day-to-day movements of largely marginalized kids from largely marginalized communities. But it didn’t seem like there was much to do with that rage except funnel it back into our own ecosystems, our own selves. We knew our anger but not our capacity to organize.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

May 31, 1977 —Cambridge, MA — Photographs of American slaves, possibly the oldest known in the country, have been discovered in the basement of a Harvard University museum. Among the previously unpublished daguerreotypes discovered are these (L-R): a Congo slave named Renty, who lived on B.F. Taylor's plantation, "Edgehill"; Jack, a slave from the Guinea Coast (ritual scars decorate his cheek); and an unidentified man.

This week, we’re sharing stories from Clint Smith, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lise Olsen, Jaya Saxena, and Emma Carmichael.

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1. Stories of Slavery, From Those Who Survived It

Clint Smith | The Atlantic | February 9, 2021 | 29 minutes (7,250 words)

“The Federal Writers’ Project narratives provide an all-too-rare link to our past.”

2. Grief’s Anatomy

Hanif Abdurraqib | The Baffler | January 4, 2021 | 8 minutes (2,074 words)

“Hope awaits organizers like a trap.”

3. Undetected

Lise Olsen | Texas Observer | February 8, 2021 | 15 minutes (3,762 words)

“Prior to his arrest, local authorities had dismissed nearly all of those incidents as an unusual spike in natural deaths—a run of bad luck. But public records and interviews reveal that, time after time, investigators in Dallas made critical mistakes and overlooked or ignored signs of foul play.”

4. The Limits of the Lunchbox Moment

Jaya Saxena | Eater | Febuary 8, 2021 | 13 minutes (3,400 words)

“The story of being bullied in the cafeteria for one’s lunch is so ubiquitous that it’s attained a gloss of fictionality.”

5. Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird Are Goals

Emma Carmichael | GQ | February 9, 2021 | 21 minutes (5,324 words)

“Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe both had Hall of Fame–worthy careers before they met. But to reach new, boundary-obliterating levels of achievement on and off the field, they needed each other. And, as they tell Emma Carmichael, their work is just getting started.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Supreme Court of the United States under dark, gloomy skies.
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Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court?

Jane Mayer | The New Yorker | January 24th, 2022 | 6,800 words

Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement was the big Supreme Court news of the week, but don’t sleep on this disturbing story about Clarence Thomas’s wife’s many, many ties to right-wing groups and figures—including ones directly involved with major SCOTUS cases. Perhaps you read about Ginni Thomas expressing support for the January 6 insurrectionists and the lie that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. But did you know she sits on the advisory board of a conservative academic group that filed an amicus brief in the affirmative-action suit that SCOTUS just took up, or that she was a paid consultant at a “security” organization when its leader filed a brief supporting Trump’s Muslim ban? Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg in this damning story, reported by one of the great chroniclers of U.S. political power. Above all, Jane Mayer calls much-needed attention to the fact that SCOTUS is not bound by a code of conduct, the kind of rules that would prevent such egregious conflicts of interest. —SD

2. On Writing: An Abecedarian

The Hudson Review | Priscilla Long | January 24th, 2022 | 4,430 words

Sit down to savor Priscilla Long’s evocative musings on writing. Long’s essay, structured in fragments inspired by the alphabet, is a lovely journey across history, across ancient books and literary texts, and comments on so much: from the emergence of writing to the transformative experience of reading, from the age-old desire to write to the different ways of saying and seeing: “To be inside the cathedral of a language is to be inside a particular view of the world.” My husband made an interesting comment recently about his current online reading habit, in a time when so many distractions shatter our attention. Reading, for him, has become transactional — he reads to get practical information. The remark, which made me a bit sad, came to mind as I got deeper into Long’s piece. This is not that kind of read: it’s a treat, like a glass of my favorite red wine, and a nudge for me to take the time, for once, to read for myself and enjoy the space that writing creates. —CLR

3. Searching for Susy Thunder

Claire L. Evans | The Verge and Epic Magazine | January 26th, 2022 | 6,815 words

Depending on when you grew up and how much you cared, you may not know the name of any famous hackers. (Other than one named Neo.) But I defy even dedicated Luddites not to get sucked into Evans’ then-and-now tale of Susan Thunder, the most formidable phone “phreaker” (and prolific groupie) you’ve never heard of. Evans’ 2018 book, Broad Band, chronicled many of the women who laid the groundwork for the internet; now, consumed with the legend of Thunder, she sets off to find out what motivated that legend, and separate myth from truth. What makes it compelling isn’t merely the hunt for a woman who has no interest in being found — it’s what happens when she is found. From the Leather Castle to dumpster dives to DEFCON conferences, Evans weaves a twisting tale of deceit, manipulation, empowerment, and regret. Come for that, but stay for a visual design that unerringly evokes the days when all someone needed was a landline and some social intuition to take the power back from the system that had already robbed them of so much. —PR

4. After She Escaped Her Strict Religious Community, There Was No Turning Back

David Alm | Runner’s World | August 6th 2020 | 5,737 words

This essay shows us just how powerful sport’s mental lift can be. David Alm describes how running carried Connie Allen through a dark time in her life, giving her the strength to leave an ultra-Orthodox sect of Hasidic Judaism, Satmar. Connie found running on her own; it was not acceptable in the Satmar community, which rejects modern life and maintains the customs and dress of their Hungarian ancestors. Instead, writes Alm, Connie locked herself in her room to first do “jumping jacks, then high knees, then running in place…nearly passing out from the effort.” It was a way for her to carve out a small piece of her own identity, a seed that grew over the years until eventually, she rejected her old world. This piece provides a fascinating insight into Hasidic life and how hard it is to leave. By the time Connie is standing, shivering, on the starting line of her first 5K in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, you feel a real sense of pride. —CW

5. Mementos Mori

Sophie Haigney | The Baffler | January 27th, 2022 | 1,851 words

When was the last time you saw an ashtray? I don’t recall, but I do remember the heavy, green glass ashtrays my parents used every day. Growing up, my brother and I had to do the dishes. I refused to wash those ashtrays, my only form of protest against their pack-a-day habit. Ashtrays are among the objects that Sophie Haigney discusses in her review of Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects at The Baffler. The book’s essays cover objects that, for one reason or another, failed or fell out of fashion. It asks: “What was it that has disappeared and why? And then, what was the significance of this loss?” The loss of some things, such as ashtrays — for some — is nostalgic. There’s less nostalgia for zeppelins, all-plastic houses, and flying boats. What I enjoyed most about Haigney’s review is that it got me thinking about a social change that seemed to happen instantly, but in reality took place over decades. As Haigney responds to Catherine Slessor’s essay: “Ashtrays are no longer status symbols, displayed waist-high in suburban living rooms. Now, there is something illicit about possessing an ashtray, associated as it is with the mild rebellion of smoking cigarettes.” Slessor writes, “The ashtray is not only an adjunct to social pleasure, but a memento mori, a reminder that you are dancing with death.” —KS

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

The Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the countrys largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen on April 20, 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Nick Roberts and Rosa Amanda Tuirán, Carroll Bogert and Lynnell Hancock, Kiese Makeba Laymon, Alicia Kennedy, and Kitty Kelley.

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1. ‘It’s a national tragedy’: What a devastating Covid-19 outbreak at a California slaughterhouse reveals about the federal government’s failed pandemic response

Nick Roberts, Rosa Amanda Tuirán | The Counter | November 24, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,691 words)

“In the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, the federal agency responsible for workplace safety has essentially allowed meatpackers to regulate themselves—leading to chaos, confusion, and fear in facilities across the country.”

2. ‘Superpredator’

Carroll Bogert, Lynnell Hancock | The Marshall Project | November 20, 2020 | 10 minutes (2,500 words)

“The media myth that demonized a generation of Black youth.”

3. Now Here We Go Again, We See the Crystal Visions

Kiese Makeba Laymon | Vanity Fair | November 19, 2020 | 6 minutes 1,565 words)

“With the help of Fleetwood Mac, the mailman, and 68 high school students, the author of Heavy finds hope for the future.”

4. Eat Your Vegetables

Alicia Kennedy | The Baffler | November 24, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,530 words)

“On Deborah Madison and the taint of vegetarianism.”

5. Death and the All-American Boy

Kitty Kelley | Washingtonian | June 1, 1974 | 18 minutes (4,728 words)

“Joe Biden was a lot more careful around the press after this 1974 profile.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

(Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for EBMRF)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Aaron Gell, Donovan X. Ramsey, Hannah L. Drake, E. Alex Jung, and Lina Mounzer.

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1. Unlucky Charms: The Rise and Fall of Billion-Dollar Jewelry Empire Alex and Ani

Aaron Gell | Marker | July 8, 2020 | 43 minutes (10,868 words)

“Astrology, private equity, a $1.1 billion gender discrimination lawsuit, and a precariously built bangle behemoth.”

2. The Political Education of Killer Mike

Donovan X. Ramsey | GQ | July 8, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,644 words)

“Mike is for Black banks, Black businesses, Black guns, Black colleges, Black homeownership—all things Black Americans can do here and now without passing a law or asking for permission. He’s also for using Black voting power to wrest everything we’re owed from the government. It’s Black nationalism with a hint of socialism and armed to the teeth.”

3. Breonna Taylor, Say Her Name.

Hannah L. Drake | The Bitter Southerner | July 7, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,591 words)

“Louisville poet and activist Hannah Drake reflects on the women in her family whose names were lost and stolen and the names of Black women that must never be forgotten.”

4. Thandie Newton Is Finally Ready to Speak Her Mind

E. Alex Jung | Vulture | July 7, 2020 | 31 minutes (7,920 words)

“What I am evidence of is: You can dismiss a Black person. If you’re a young Black girl and you get raped, in the film business, no one’s going to fucking care. You can tell whoever the fuck you want, and they’ll call it an affair. Until people start taking this seriously, I can’t fully heal.”

5. Waste Away

Lina Mounzer | The Baffler | July 7, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,363 words)

“To say that we’re drowning in our shit—the shit we all made together—is no longer a figure of speech in Lebanon today.” Lina Mounzer writes about Beirut’s broken sewage system and the political and economic factors that have drowned the city in its own waste.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Maria Elena Fernandez, Jake Bittle, Eva Holland, Naz Riahi, and Terra Fondriest.

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1. If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode

Maria Elena Fernandez | Vulture | April 2, 2020 | 27 minutes (6,812 words)

“Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.”

2. On a Wing and a Mayor

Jake Bittle | The Baffler | March 30, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,274 words)

Are mayors the heroes of 21st century politics, or is going from getting the snow shoveled and the sewer lines fixed to managing a global pandemic a leap too far?

3. The Frontier Couple Who Chose Death Over Life Apart

Eva Holland | Outside | March 30, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,945 words)

“Artist Eric Bealer was living the remote, rugged good life in coastal Alaska with his wife, Pam, an MS sufferer, when they made a dramatic decision: to exit this world together, leaving behind precise instructions for whoever entered their cabin first. Eva Holland investigates the mysteries and meaning of an adventurous couple who charted their own way out.”

4. All That Is Lost and All That Is Remembered

Naz Riahi | Catapult | April 1, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,409 words)

On the 30th anniversary of her Navy captain father’s political execution, Naz Riahi recalls her love for him, and reveals a persistent grief that is always with her.

5. Ozark Life

Terra Fondriest | The Bitter Southerner | March 24, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,305 words)

“A photo essay of the intimate beauty of daily life in rural Arkansas.”

The Beauty of “Bl-Bl-Bl-Blue Moon”

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Barry Yeoman, a man with a lifelong stutter, suggests that while society mostly views a stutter as a disability, stammering really isn’t the problem at all. At the Baffler, he argues that the real problem to cure is the assumption that those who stutter are somehow deficient.

Like virtually all disabilities, stuttering has long been viewed through a medical lens—as a pathology in search of neutralization, an obstacle to a successful life. That lens is embedded in the language of speech impediments and speech pathologists. At best, stuttering has been framed as a “despite” condition: we can be happy and productive despite how we talk.

Some of us, though, have been trying to flip the paradigm, to reframe stuttering as a trait that confers transformative powers. We wear our vulnerability on the outside, and that invites emotional intimacy with others. We slow down conversations, fostering patience. We give texture to language. We gauge character by our listeners’ reactions. We are good listeners ourselves.

“There’s something interesting about stuttering in a world that moves at increasingly breakneck speed,” says St. Pierre, the Alberta professor. For most of human history, we measured time in lunar cycles, menstrual cycles, agricultural cycles. Today we rely on “clock time,” standardized and designed for industrial production. Clock time values efficiency; it has no patience for silences and repeated syllables. “Stuttering highlights that fact: that clock time runs roughshod over all these other ways of creating time, but that they still persist and are still important,” he says. “Stuttering interrupts this hegemonic order of time.”

Alpern wrote an essay for Stammering Pride and Prejudice, an anthology published this year in the United Kingdom. (The British use “stammering” as a synonym for “stuttering.”) St. Pierre has a chapter; so does Constantino, who is one of the book’s editors. In hers, Alpern tells the story of ordering a “Bl-Bl-Bl-Blue Moon” at a bar and finding unexpected pleasure in the extra syllables. Part of the delight is in using a voice that is uniquely hers; part is the hard-earned absence of shame.

Part is physical: “that little loss of control that resolves itself so beautifully sometimes,” she writes. “I am falling through the air for an instant, then catching the ground again, like Fred Astaire pretending to trip when he dances.”

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‘You Could Literally See Our Shit From Space’: The Broken Bowels of Beirut

Photo of Ramlet el-Baida beach in Beirut, Lebanon, taken in February 2018 by Sasaki Makoto / Getty Images

Lina Mounzer‘s recent essay in The Baffler on Beirut’s crumbling sewage system, and the corrupt politics and rotting infrastructure that have the city’s residents swimming in their own collective waste, is a beautifully written piece on shit:

Beneath every city, its underground twin. Its dark heart; its churning guts. This is no metaphor: I’m talking about the sewer system. A network of pipes connecting to every shower drain, every kitchen sink, every toilet, disappearing a household’s dirt and grease and vomit and urine and feces down the gullets of small pipes that flow down into the ground, that then feed into bigger pipes, and ever bigger pipes, all our shit merging: the organic, fibrous roughage of the rich, the nutrient-deficient poop of the poor, and all the middle-class crap in between, all democratically flowing together in a single system, ideally powered by gravity, ideally leading to the great bowel of a treatment plant meant to deal with all this waste, turn it clear again, so that it can be safely dumped into rivers and seas.

She recounts a time with friends when they picnicked and drank on Ramlet el-Baida, the city’s only public beach, and later swam in its waters:

One night we took supplies of wine and beer down with us, as so many others did. Drunk, we ran into the waves stripped down to our underwear beneath the moonshine sky. I remember splashing around giddily, then leaping away, screaming nervous laughter when I imagined something might be brushing against my legs.

Sometime later an architect friend showed me a satellite image that had been taken of Beirut, in such high resolution you could zoom in on the dense patchwork of tightly packed blocks and see the individual rooftops of buildings, see who could afford satellite dishes and who still kept pigeons. The image had been taken from space, and so from space you could see the two dark lines on either side of the Ramlet el-Baida beach extending out beneath the deep blue of the sea. Outfalls of raw sewage flowing straight into the water; you could literally see our shit from space. When I swam there, I had been afraid of sea monsters lurking beneath the waves. I did not know that the things I should have feared were much, much smaller, measured in parts per million: monsters of our own making.

But raw sewage spewing into the sea isn’t the only problem. It now rains less and less in Beirut, but harder, and so violently that the city and landscape — the soil, the pipes, the streets, everything — cannot handle the deluge:

When it rains that hard the sea becomes invisible in the distance; the horizon is a single gray wall of water from earth to sky. It is not hard to imagine that the sea itself is falling upward, roused out of its bed to roar vengeance down upon us: the poison of our shit, our garbage, our waste, the collective punishment of our carelessness both innocent and deliberate having mutated it into a monstrous thing.

And so Beirut drowns in, swims in, and eats its excrement in an endless cycle:

When the border between this world and its underground twin collapses, we have no choice but to live with the monsters of our worst nightmares. All that shit we tried to hide, forget, reroute, ignore, is out now, flooding the streets for all to see.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Emily Bazelon, Alex Ronan, Justine Harman, Emily Harnett, and Sam Leith.

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