In 2011, I had hair down my back. It was thick, wavy, and supposedly enviable. I hated it. I wanted it off my face, but my sensitive scalp made me prone to headaches and “sore spots,” as I’d called them since childhood. I didn’t have a knack for hot styling tools, which meant I was at the mercy of luck. When a bad hair day struck, I had to wait it out. I spent middle school trying to emulate the hyper-straightened hair of the popular girls and high school begrudgingly accepting my texture and reading a thousand WikiHow articles on living a shampoo-free life. I never could give up washing my hair completely. I’ve even made the mistake of getting bangs.
My first short haircut was a revelation. Two of my college friends accompanied me to a salon in Pittsburgh I chose via Yelp (I did not trust the hair-cutting joints in my small rural college town). My stylist was nervous, but my fellow clients and her colleagues encouraged us both. I wish I remembered her name. I felt as though I were a block of marble and my pixie cut, a sculpting. I could finally be who I was. I debuted my new “lifestyle” (the stylist’s words!) that night at the faculty talent show, striding up and down the aisles of the auditorium.
How strange that the fuzzy stuff on top of our heads is fraught with social and political implications, that it can destroy our self-esteem or make us feel like new creations. Read more…
What makes a secret society? Is it the codes and the handshakes, the physical language? Perhaps it’s accessibility—you might know an organization exists, but you’ll never be a member. Take this: I rushed a sorority—the same sorority!—three times, because I wanted to be able to walk into any room on my small college campus and see a welcoming face. I wanted the anonymity, the lettered sweatshirt, the history. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, something a little mysterious. Sure, I could study the colors and crest and memorize the majors and extracurriculars of every glossy-haired member, but that wasn’t the same as being in. I didn’t get in, obviously.
This urge to rush a sorority over and over (insanity, by Albert Einstein’s definition, I know) has manifested itself before. Middle-school me devoured books about the rich and privileged—Gossip Girl, The Clique, Private–because I knew there was a secret and I had to find out what it was. I had to, or I would be stuck reading the “How to Be Popular” WikiHow guide for the rest of my life. Kindergarten me yearned to sit next to the most popular girl in class during circle time, only to be snubbed by her henchmen. See a pattern? My identity crises have perfectly styled hair and would never wear last season’s Tory Burch flats. I continue to be fascinated—less pathetically, hopefully—by these exclusive subcultures. Luckily for you, I didn’t include any essays about the angst of privileged boarding school students. Instead, I’ve packed this list full of success stories, start-ups, witchcraft and comedy. Read more…
There are stories that creep up and remind us that there is no substitute in journalism for simply spending time with a subject. It’s a luxury many reporters don’t get, but what these stories reveal about the depth of humanity—the best and worst sides of it—make them so worth it.
The Boston Globe’s Sarah Schweitzer was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for last year’s “Chasing Bayla,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her nominated again for “The Life and Times of Strider Wolf,” in which she and photographer Jessica Rinaldi documented the difficult life of a young boy and his brother, rescued from near-fatal abuse, and sent to live with their grandparents, who face their own troubles. I sent her a few follow-up questions via email: Read more…
Writing for The Boston Globe, Neil Swideymakes a compelling case for how the rising tide of food allergy fakers may endanger actual sufferers, as restaurants begin to take “allergy” requests less seriously. But his piece is more than just an anti-faker missive, it’s also a fascinating history of food allergies in America, and their place in the restaurant world. Much of the history is interesting, but I was most surprised by the very newness of the term “allergy,” which is barely a century old:
The word “allergy” has been around only since 1906, when Austrian pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet coined it to describe altered biological reactivity. It didn’t gain traction until the mid-1920s, when it took on a big-tent definition describing reactions to everything from food and insect stings to mold and hay fever, says medical historian Matthew Smith, author of the new book Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy. For most of the 20th century, research-focused “orthodox” allergists, who insisted on a definition requiring a measurable immune reaction, battled with more flexible food allergists, whose main focus was bringing relief to their patients’ hypersensitivities.
James Post and others argue that a well-run company can—and should—be managed in a way that benefits not just the investors who own its stock, but a wide range of constituents. As opposed to “shareholders,” they call these people “stakeholders”: a group that includes employees, customers, suppliers, and creditors, as well as the broader community in which the company operates, and even the country that it calls home. According to that view, Market Basket’s employees and customers are essential to the firm’s success and, thus, rightful beneficiaries of its prosperity.
Importantly, it’s not just antimarket leftists who are making this point: It’s pro-business thinkers who want to see a more competitive future for American corporations. Critics like Post argue that the singleminded emphasis on profits and shareholder value—which took hold in the corporate world during the 1980s—has actually hurt corporations in a number of ways, giving their leaders the wrong kinds of incentives, gutting their future in pursuit of short-term profits, and often draining them of their real value and putting them at odds with their communities.
After graduating from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Kazemi entered the world of video game development, building programs that could systematically test new games for bugs. Kazemi also designed his own games—like many game designers, he considered games an art form as much as a technical accomplishment—until one day in 2012, he decided that the medium was holding him back from what he really wanted to express. It was around this time that Kazemi read a book of philosophy called “Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing” by Ian Bogost, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In the book, Bogost advanced a concept that greatly appealed to Kazemi: that it was possible to be a philosopher who didn’t write down ideas, but instead made objects that embodied them.
The “objects” Kazemi was moved to make after reading Bogost’s book were Twitter bots, a class of digital beings typically associated with irritating spam accounts that automatically send advertising messages to any Twitter user who mentions a particular word or brand name. Kazemi was hardly the first person to realize the potential in programming conceptually interesting Twitter bots—for example, Adam Parrish had already made the popular @everyword, which has been working its way alphabetically through the English language, tweeting one word every 30 minutes, since 2007. But Kazemi quickly became one of the medium’s most inventive practitioners.