Search Results for: andrew-rice

The ‘Moderate Thoughfulness’ Hour with Preet Bharara

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

At New York Magazine, Andrew Rice has a profile of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who earlier this year was fired by Donald Trump. Bharara, known as a crusader against corporate corruption, has a new career as a podcast host. On his weekly show — Stay Tuned with Preet, launched in September through his younger brother’s holding company, Some Spider Studios — he deciphers current legal matters, including but not limited to those having to do with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the president.

Bharara can discern, perhaps as well as anyone now speaking publicly, where the mystery plot may be headed. But listeners tuning into his show for dramatic revelations are likely to be disappointed; Bharara is stubbornly resistant to allowing the show to become, as he puts it, “too Trump.” His first few shows featured friendly retrospective interviews with Democrats in exile, like Leon Panetta, the former White House chief of staff and CIA director, and Vanita Gupta, the head of the Department of Justice’s civil-rights division under President Obama. Some of his initial interviews hardly touched on Trump at all. In September, I watched him tape an interview with the outspoken federal judge Jed Rakoff, with whom he discussed the moral calculus of punishment. “What is cosmic justice?” Bharara asked.

“I don’t aspire to be a talk-show host. This is a thing that I’m doing, and we’ll see how it goes,” Bharara told me. Then he added, “I don’t know how much of an audience there is for moderate thoughtfulness from someone who used to have power.”

“You just gave us a tagline,” Vinit said, grinning. “Moderate thoughtfulness: Preet!” Bharara tried it again, in his most solemn, radio-ready voice.

“Moderate thoughtfulness … from a guy who used to have power.”

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Best of 2021: Profiles

Text "Longreads Best of 2021: Profiles" in the foreground and a background image of a silhouette of a person's head
All "Best of 2021" images by Kjell Reigstad.

Since we started the #longreads hashtag in 2009 to share great reads on Twitter, curation has been the beating heart of Longreads. All year long, we highlight our favorite stories in the weekly Longreads Top 5. At the end of the year, we love to reflect on and share the pieces that stayed with us, a tradition we’ve kept for 10 years! Now it is the turn of the profile — as we highlight the craft of writing about someone else. These five writers are masterful at providing insights into another’s world. 

The Girl in the Kent State Photo, Patricia McCormick, The Washington Post Magazine, April 19, 2021

On May 4, 1970, Kent State University students gathered on campus to peacefully rally against President Richard Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia, which would expand U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Fourteen-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio, a free-spirited teen who hitchhiked around the country to escape a volatile family life in Florida, found herself on the school’s Ohio grounds, drawn to the protests. National Guard troops shot four students dead that day, including a man, Jeffrey Miller, whom Vecchio had been talking to. She dropped to the ground and knelt beside his body — her arms raised, her face full of anguish and horror. McCormick documents her pleas: “‘Doesn’t anyone see what just happened here?’ she remembers crying. ‘Why is no one helping him?’”

Student photographer John Filo snapped a picture of her at that very moment, capturing what would become an iconic image, one that “fundamentally changed the way we see ourselves and the world around us,” writes Patricia McCormick. Through a dozen phone interviews with Vecchio, who is now 65 and living a quiet retired life, McCormick recounts that fateful day and how the image “hijacked” Vecchio’s life, haunting her even 50 years on. (Her reaction to the video of George Floyd’s last moments shook her to her core.) Affected from “opposite ends of the lens,” Vecchio and Filo are intimately connected to one another through the photo — Vecchio a “human flashpoint” and a symbol of the national conscience, and Filo full of grief and guilt over what the image did to her, despite his winning a Pulitzer for his work. Compassionate and superbly reported, McCormick’s profile hits a nerve, and especially resonates in our time of virality and smartphone-recorded moments of injustice. —Cheri Lucas Rowlands

La Cancion de la Nena, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, Oxford American, June 1, 2021

In this beautiful piece, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal offers a haunting portrait of her father, Gilberto Villarreal, a virtuoso guitarist and musician, a man who was a “prodigy at the foot of this country, in a place no one ever expects to find someone extraordinary.“ Villarreal recalls the struggles her father endured as a Mexican immigrant trying to be discovered in a music business dominated by white interests and pernicious racism: “What I experienced as poetry came first through the song my father wrote for me when I was two years old, a song whose melody is a turning helix in my blood, another way of speaking my name. It is the rarest gift I have ever received.“ This is a piece steeped in love and admiration for a man and an artist who, despite his many musical skills and achievements, did not consider himself a success. “You might think from my tone that this is a sad story,“ Villarreal writes. “And maybe it is, but it is also a tribute to an unseen life, a long overdue recognition of ordinary genius worn down by circumstance.“ —Krista Stevens

Author Vanessa Angélica Villarreal on the story from 2021 that impacted her most:

Carina del Valle Schorske’s “Dancing Through New York in a Summer of Joy and Grief“ in The New York Times Magazine was an incredibly rich, historical snapshot of embodiment, grief, vitality, and rebellion in the shared ritual of social dance, specific to Black, Latin, queer, and immigrant communities. From Harlem to Brooklyn and everywhere in between, del Valle Schorske writes a history of social dance as a site of healing after mass tragedy that is part personal essay, part performance theory, part history lesson — an erotics of survival and joy at the end of the world.

What Mike Fanone Can’t Forget, Molly Ball, Time, August 5, 2021

Given the state of the celebrity-industrial complex, the vast majority of profiles you read in any given year are about people you already know. The truly special ones, though, tend to buck convention. And that’s exactly the case with Molly Ball’s riveting portrait of Mike Fanone, the Washington D.C. narcotics officer who drove to the Capitol on January 6 to help defend it against insurrectionists. Sure, you may have seen Fanone on cable news in the aftermath of the riots, may have thought he was a hero or a martyr or a turncoat or anything else — but you didn’t know what he’d gone through that day, let alone who he was. Ball’s scene work and deft reconstruction help bring together the splintered shards of a complicated, imperfect man, one who somehow both validates and punctures whatever assumptions you had. “He’s not asking to be called a hero — he just wants us to remember what his sacrifice was for,” she writes. “Fanone believes we can’t keep trying to outrun this thing; we’ve got to turn around and face it, defeat it once and for all. That if all we do is turn away and hope it fades, it will just keep getting stronger until it comes back to kill us all.” Once upon a time, that may have sounded overwrought. Today, it’s all too real. —Peter Rubin 

Stop Hustling Black Death, Imani Perry, New York, May 24, 2021

What happens when the worst day of your life animates a social movement over which you have no control? This question is the engine of Imani Perry’s profile of Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, killed by police in 2014. Samaria was anguished, and she wanted justice. But she didn’t want to be told how to act, or to see “leaders” she didn’t know speaking for her — much less making money off her son’s death. In Perry’s hands, Samaria’s story is a window into the growing pains of Black Lives Matter. If readers are uncomfortable with what they see, that’s the point: We can’t look away from the truth, Perry says, just because it’s messy. “We have lost a great deal of history by relying upon a neat consensus narrative,” she writes. “If we’re not careful, we run the risk of letting that become the story of today as well.” —Seyward Darby

The opening lines of another profile by Imani Perry, which author Becca Andrews chose as her favorite lede of the year:

“I knew from the beginning that I would not meet Gayl Jones.

Or see a recent photograph of her. Or ask her any questions. What does it feel like, 46 years after the first, to have a new novel coming out? Why did you step out of view? Did it make you a more honest writer? Did it serve your soul? I would not get answers. I would not be able to charm her into laughter. I know she is brilliant, obscure, irascible. I imagine her smile is still wry. But does she still wear her head wrapped in 2021? Is she still adept at putting a nosy questioner in her place?“

“She Changed Black Literature Forever. Then She Disappeared,“ The New York Times Magazine

Benji Is One Down Dog, Madeleine Aggeler, Texas Monthly, June 2, 2021

This piece brought a smile to my face and delight to my heart. For even in the age of the Instagram-famous pet, it’s not often we get a proper pooch profile. Benji the dog is a George Clooney lookalike who “prefers to greet the world au naturel whenever possible,” writes Madeleine Aggeler. He is “confident that wherever he goes, everyone will be thrilled to meet him,” and he is right — they are: Benji is “one of the most famous dogs in America right now.” A worthy profile subject, indeed. His is an interesting story: His owner, the YouTube yoga instructor Adriene Mishler, was the champion of COVID lockdowns, with her online exercise classes becoming incredibly popular. Benji was a part of this, making cameos on camera that brought joy to Adriene’s viewers. Written with great creativity and humor, Aggeler’s article shows us why Benji is such a scene-stealer. — Carolyn Wells

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Hard Shell Tacos Aren’t As Hardcore Gringo As You Think

L. Fritz/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Growing up in Arizona, eating Sonoran-style Mexican food with a family raised on Mexican food, I developed embarrassingly strong opinions, and what I thought of as a discerning palate, by my teen years. Opinion 1: Tex-Mex was trash. Opinion 2: Mission-Style burritos were an affront to all burritos, stuffed with worthless lettuce and rice. Opinion 3: Do not put sunflower seeds or squash blossoms inside my tamales. Opinion 4: Hard shell tacos weren’t true tacos, they were more vertical tostada sandwiches, a Frankenstein abomination that Taco Bell unleashed to give white America something “exotic” to eat without leaving the comfortable confines of its white world. Opinion 5: I was an asshole. Actually, #5 was a fact. I also still stand behind Opinion 2, but as an adult I can see that, like so many teenagers, I hadn’t read much food history. I ate. I opined. I talked out of my behind. Thankfully age has softened my opinions and high self-regard, and I have read what author Gustavo Arellano calls “taco history.” To that history Andrew Fiouzi at MEL Magazine has added an oral history of the hard shell taco that examines its origins, authenticity, and the way fast food appropriated it. Turns out, Taco Bell is still culpable, but hard shell tacos started as authentic Mexican cuisine, though certain details are hazy.

Arellano: Now, if you’re trying to talk about who created the taco shell in terms of mass marketing them, you could make the argument that George Ashley of Absolute Mexican Food did that, because in the late 1930s, way before Glenn Bell or Juvencio Maldonado [the first guy to apply for a patent to do hard shell tacos in mass quantities], he was selling these metal taco molds for making your own taco kits at home.

Pilcher: Of course, the next step was transferring the taco to the taco shell. Glen Bell, who becomes the founder of Taco Bell, claims that he invented this Mexican-American version of a Mexican dish for a fast food audience in the 1950s in San Bernardino, California. But in fact, we have the patent application for various versions of this taco shell that were filed in the 1940s already by Mexican entrepreneurs.

The fact is, my teenage years were fueled as much by Taco Bell tacos as by traditional red chile burros. But Enchiritos? I mourned the day the chain discontinued this weird, enchilada-like Tex-Mex item smothered in cheap red sauce. Nachos? Done right, they were divine, and by “right” I meant anything using shredded cheese instead of that liquid bowling alley cheese gringos pump from a metal drum. I eat Tex-Mex now, but I also know that taste is too subjective to hold over people, and comfort food and trash are universal loves that we must respect. Find your own liquid nacho cheese and claim it. I will: I love hard shell tacos, the kind filled with simmered ground beef, anemic iceburg lettuce, and waxy cheddar cheese. As much as I looked down on them as a snobbish teen and college kid, and as much as I still prefer real street tacos filled with birria, carnitas, and even — snort — pig snout, once in a while I want a shitty, white-as-rice hard shell. 

My wife grew up in parts of the Midwest with fewer authentic Mexican restaurants. She loves hard shell tacos, and her love reminded me how much I used to, too. The first time I went to Chicago, I sought out Chicago dogs and beef sandwiches. On our last day, we found a hot dog place that sold hard shell tacos, and we ordered a bunch of them instead of char-dogs. They were as cheaply made as we like, and it reminded me that I had always loved the tacos dorados that certain Phoenix Mexican restaurants sold, which where often made with corn tortillas and fried whole, individually, and tasted like the fried tacos my parents made, based on a recipe my Granny picked up somewere in southern Arizona. Sorry. I’m going on and on about myself, but what I’m tryin to say is that before I read Fiouzi’s piece, I knew where my culinary snobbery came from, but I didn’t know where hard shell tacos came from, and how they became associated with gringo fast food. Reading this brief piece will inform you as much as make fellow cheap-taco-eaters feel seen, though surely others will feel more justified in their snobbish hatred of the hard shell. We don’t care what those people think.

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Checking in on the Masculinity Crisis

Richard T Nowitz / Getty

Kelli María Korducki | Longreads | December 2019 | 14 minutes (3,786 words)

 

Not long ago, I noticed a woman reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life at my Manhattan yoga studio as we both waited for our Ashtanga class to begin. The sight took me aback. Despite the 2018 book’s many weeks as a nonfiction bestseller, I’d somehow never considered that the scope of Peterson’s audience might extend beyond sulky white men who like to outsource their thinking. That it might include women with the disposable income and leisure time to spend their Saturday afternoons doing sun salutations, whose lives probably look a lot like mine.

Peterson, a once-unassuming psychology professor at my Canadian alma mater (I’d never heard of him during the years we were both there), has emerged in the last few years as a puzzling figurehead among men’s rights aficionados and self-help enthusiasts alike. Wielding a trademark pastiche of literary references and cherry-picked sociological data points, his writing and, to a greater extent, public lectures broadcast via YouTube deliver what is, for many in this age of ‘toxic masculinity’ and #MeToo, a reassuring story: that men are natural rulers, white privilege is a farce, and if millennial men would just make their beds and assume their kingdoms, we’d all be better off.

Peterson speaks to a constellation of loosely connected concerns that have, in the last several years, dominated popular discourse on where boys and men fit into a society in which gender norms play less and less of a role in determining how people fit together. Conversations about rape culture and damaging gender constructs take place alongside global reports of female students outperforming their male classmates. We hear of a workforce that, at least in theory, rewards the “soft skills” women are purportedly socialized to possess. Meanwhile names like “Dylann Roof” and “Elliot Rodger” have become shorthand for an epidemic of male isolation and rage. A New York Times story that followed shortly after the deadly February 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, included the observation that “about the only thing” nearly all U.S. mass shooters have in common “is that they are men.” Read more…

Talking to Alice Driver About Violence Against Women in Juárez

Schoolgirls walk in front of a mural painted with the faces of disappeared girls. Local artists and families of the disappeared have been working together to raise awareness about disappearance in Juárez; they paint the faces of missing girls on the donated walls of schools, churches, and homes around the city. Photo: Alice Driver

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico was once known as the global murder capital. It’s no longer the world’s most dangerous city, but violence still haunts the town just over the border from El Paso, Texas. Alice Driver, a filmmaker, writer and photographer whose work focuses on human rights, feminism, and activism, has written extensively about Juárez.  Her searing 2015 book More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico deals specifically with the disappearance and murder of women in Juárez. The work, which grew out of her dissertation, blends theory with stories and interviews to explore not just the violence against women in Juárez, but also how that violence has been represented in media and culture. As Driver writes:

“To talk about feminicide is to talk about violence against women in all its manifestations, and in Juárez one of the most visible of those is disappearance. When women are murdered, their bodies don’t always appear. Often they disappear, and so the violence becomes unregistered, unrecorded, and seemingly invisible. This book is about the ways in which those bodies, whether identified or nameless, have been represented in literature, film, and art.”

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Longreads Best of 2015: Business & Tech

We asked a few writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in specific categories. Here, the best in business and tech.

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“We All Had the Same Acid Flashback at the Same Time”: The New American Cuisine

Getty / 123RF images, Composite by Katie Kosma

Andrew Friedman | Excerpt adapted from Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession | Ecco | February 2018 | 17 minutes (4,560 words)

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He spent his last pennies on brown rice and vegetables, cooking them for strangers who shuttled him around. Just in time, people started feeding him.

You could begin this story in any number of places, so why not in the back of a dinged-up VW van parked on a Moroccan camping beach, a commune of tents and makeshift domiciles? It’s Christmas 1972. Inside the van is Bruce Marder, an American college dropout. He’s a Los Angelino, a hippy, and he looks the part: Vagabonding for six months has left him scrawny and dead broke. His jeans are stitched together, hanging on for dear life. Oh, and this being Christmas, somebody has gifted him some LSD, and he’s tripping.

The van belongs to a couple — French woman, Dutch man — who have taken him in. It boasts a curious feature: a built-in kitchen. It’s not much, just a set of burners and a drawer stocked with mustard and cornichons. But they make magic there. The couple has adventured as far as India, amassing recipes instead of Polaroids, sharing memories with new friends through food. To Marder, raised in the Eisenhower era on processed, industrialized grub, each dish is a revelation. When the lid comes off a tagine, he inhales the steam redolent of an exotic and unfamiliar herb: cilantro. The same with curry, also unknown to him before the van.

Like a lot of his contemporaries, Marder fled the United States. “People wanted to get away,” he says. Away from the Vietnam War. Away from home and the divorce epidemic. The greater world beckoned, the kaleidoscopic, tambourine-backed utopia promised by invading British rockers and spiritual sideshows like the Maharishi. The price of admission was cheap: For a few hundred bucks on a no-frills carrier such as Icelandic Airlines — nicknamed “the Hippie Airline” and “Hippie Express” — you could be strolling Piccadilly Circus or the Champs-Élysées, your life stuffed into a backpack, your Eurail Pass a ticket to ride.

Marder flew to London alone, with $800 and a leather jacket to his name, and improvised, crashing in parks and on any friendly sofa and — if he couldn’t score any of that — splurging on a hostel. He let himself go, smoking ungodly amounts of pot, growing his hair out to shoulder length. In crowds, he sensed kindred spirits, young creatures of the road, mostly from Spain and Finland. Few Americans.

Food, unexpectedly, dominated life overseas. Delicious, simple food that awakened his senses and imagination. Amsterdam brought him his first french fries with mayonnaise: an epiphany. The souks (markets) of Marrakech, with their food stalls and communal seating, haunt him. Within five months, he landed on that camping beach, in Agadir, still a wasteland after an earthquake twelve years prior. He lived on his wits: Back home, he’d become fluent in hippy cuisine; now he spent his last pennies on brown rice and vegetables, cooking them for strangers who shuttled him around. Just in time, people started feeding him, like the couple in whose van he was nesting. Food was as much a part of life on the beach as volleyball and marijuana. People cooked for each other, spinning the yarns behind the meals — where they’d picked them up and what they meant in their native habitats. Some campers developed specializations, like the tent that baked cakes over an open burner. Often meals were improvised: You’d go to town, buy a pail, fill it with a chicken, maybe some yogurt, or some vegetables and spices, and figure out what to do with it when you got back.

Marder might as well have been on another planet. “This was so un-American at that time,” he says.
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A British Seaweed Scientist Is Revered in Japan as ‘The Mother of the Sea’

Pahala Basuki / Unsplash, Algonquin Books

Susan Hand Shetterly | Excerpt adapted from Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge | Algonquin Books | August 2017 | 16 minutes (4,260 words)

Occasionally you can still find them out on islands, crumbling near the water’s edge, the old eighteenth- and nineteenth-century kilns built out of stones gathered from the shore. People on the Irish and Scottish coasts and in Brittany cut and burned seaweeds in the pits of those kilns to make potash and pearl ash, valuable potassium salts. The wet seaweeds — AscophyllumFucus, and the kelps — had to be lugged up from the shore, carefully turned and dried, and then burned at a temperature that would render them into products that were sold to make glass and soap, to bleach linens, to encourage bread to rise, and to use as fertilizer to sweeten fields. In the boom time, around 1809, Ireland was exporting about 5,410 tons of potash a year. It was backbreaking work that whole neighborhoods engaged in, and at its height, the many kiln fires created smoke so thick it endangered the lives of nearby pasturing cows. It wasn’t long before the seaweeds in some places were overcut, the shores laid bare.

Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the market vanished when potassium salt deposits were discovered underground in Germany and in Chile, and mines were opened.

The burning of seaweed resurfaced with the discovery that the ash residue could be used to extract iodine. But that, too, disappeared when deposits of iodine were found belowground. Left alone, seaweeds regrew, with farmers coming to the shore to harvest them for their gardens, and gatherers cutting favorite species to eat and to feed to their domestic animals. Over time, the old kilns were disassembled by wind and rain and snow. Read more…

What It’s Like for Renters in America: A Reading List

As we all recently learned from the now-Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio’s campaign, America is becoming increasingly divided along class lines. Major cities, such as de Blasio’s New York (or #deblasiosnewyork, if you like Twitter), are keeping up with that trend. These are three stories of hellish renting experiences in major American cities:

1. “Sympathy for the Landlord” (Lauren Smiley, San Francisco magazine, October 2013)

Smiley’s story about renting in the most expensive city in the country isn’t a very light read, but her nuanced view is essential to understanding the current political and societal climate in San Francisco.

2. “Why Run a Slum If You Can Make More Money Housing the Homeless?” (Andrew Rice, New York magazine, December 1, 2013)

The story of how one family gamed the system and is charging the government $3600 per month, per room, to house some of New York’s many, many homeless.

3. “Lord of the Sties” (David Bates, Boston magazine, January 2014)

Bates’ story about nightmare landlord Anwar Faisal is a terrifying portrait of what it’s like to be a college student renting in Boston.

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Photo: eviltomthai, Flickr