Tag Archives: New York Times

The Lonely Life of a Pro Basketball Player

Jackson Vroman of Lithuanian BC Lietuvos Rytas scoring during a Euroleague match against Greek Aris TT Bank in Vilnius , Lithuania ,Wednesday ,Feb.20, 2008. (AP Photo/Liusjenas Kulbis)

There are only fifteen spots available on an NBA roster, so for the thousands of college players who wrap up their amateur status each year, that opening — coveted since picking up a basketball as a child — is a slim one.

For most who still follow that burning desire to make a living out of their various basketball skill sets, that means carving an existence overseas, a prospect that, while much more glamorous than in past years, is still a tough life. Yes, Skype and FaceTime have made communication with family members back home easier, but that’s dependent on finding a working (and consistent) WiFi connection. Depending on where you play, language barriers abound, and though the money is better than what the G League (formerly the D League) pays, it’s a never-ending hustle.

Talk with any player who has spent significant time overseas, and the path is a tiring one, which is why this New York Times’ examination of the life and death of Jackson Vroman by David Waldstein is all the more tragic. Vroman had all the tools to eke out a role stateside in the NBA, but an injury permanently derailed his chances to stick in the league. While he was in high demand, playing in six different countries over an eight-year span, the grind grew. Waldstein, who intended to write a piece about Vroman during his playing days, spoke with those close to the forward, who was found dead at the bottom of a friend’s pool in 2015 after ingesting a cocktail of ketamine, GHB and cocaine:

The Toronto encounter would also lead me to to Jackson’s father, Brett, a former center at U.C.L.A. and the one person whose life, in some ways, was just like his son’s. And I would also get to know Brett’s second wife, Pari Habashi, a therapist who loved, nurtured and fretted over Jackson until the day he died.

In April 2015, the three of them attended the 40th anniversary of John Wooden’s last championship team at U.C.L.A., one that Brett played on. Jackson was gaunt, not in playing shape and seemingly overcome with emotions and a growing spirituality. He went to where his stepmom sat, got down on his knees and hugged her.

“I remember he was just tired,” Habashi said. “I knew there was something different then. But he was so loving. He was hanging on Brett and hanging on me and saying, ‘I love you so much.’”

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The New Age of Anxiety

No one needs to tell you that times feel anxious. Are you reading this on your phone? Swiping? The tone of the era is nervous, tense, preoccupied, and so many elements of our culture — our books, technology, TV shows, politics — reflect our internal state. At The New York Times, Alex Williams explores how this new age of anxiety is the unfortunate, natural progression of the original age of anxiety that poet W.H. Auden named 70 years ago. (Though every generation had reasons to be anxious.) What is our deal? How do we deal? Yoga, weed, removing the app.

Consider the fidget spinner: endlessly whirring between the fingertips of “Generation Alpha,” annoying teachers, baffling parents. Originally marketed as a therapeutic device to chill out children with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism, these colorful daisy­-shaped gizmos have suddenly found an unlikely off­-label use as an explosively popular toy, perhaps this generation’s Rubik’s Cube.

But the Cube was fundamentally a cerebral, calm pursuit, perfect for the latchkey children of the 1980s to while away their lonely, Xbox­-free hours. The fidget spinner is nothing but nervous energy rendered in plastic and steel, a perfect metaphor for the overscheduled, over-stimulated children of today as they search for a way to unplug between jujitsu lessons, clarinet practice and Advanced Placement tutoring.

According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, some 38 percent of girls ages 13 through 17, and 26 percent of boys, have an anxiety disorder. On college campuses, anxiety is running well ahead of depression as the most common mental health concern, according to a 2016 national study of more than 150,000 students by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University. Meanwhile, the number of web searches involving the term has nearly doubled over the last five years, according to Google Trends. (The trendline for “depression” was relatively flat.)

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Why Quotas Still Don’t Work for Journalism

(Jonathan Torgovnik / Getty Images)

Imagine you work in an industry where accuracy and precision are hugely important. Your work is scrutinized by an ever-growing field of critics eager to catch any misstep, and if you get something wrong it has the potential to do people serious harm.

Your job often requires making dozens, if not hundreds of calls to obtain or even just verify a single fact. You spend your days wheedling information out of people who don’t want to provide it. You pore through mountains and mountains of documents which may only include one salient fact buried deep in a dense bog of data. Often these documents are difficult to find, or require the assistance of lawyers to access — lawyers you personally can’t afford and your higher ups may not want to pay for.

Now imagine this industry is failing at being a viable industry.  People in a different department than you are supposed to be responsible for that aspect — business, finances, the bottom line — but your department creates the product that is being sold. When “innovators” are brought in to come up with dynamic ideas, they pin them on you. There’s nothing to suggest the product is broken or failing, and everything to suggest that the means by which money is made from the product is the problem, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the innovators. They have figured out how to track how your product is consumed — do we have the metrics on that?  — and so they are going to use that information to suggest changes to how you do what you do.

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Chelsea Manning Stays in the Picture

The first image posted by xychelsea87 was a pair of black, brand-new Chuck Taylors, shot from above on a plain wood floor like any good Instagram influencer who “has a thing with floors.” Next up, a slice of pepperoni pizza, a hand, and a sleeve of a black and white striped shirt. “So, im already enjoying my first hot, greasy pizza.” Next post, the same hand, the same striped shirt, with two glasses of champagne. “Here’s to freedom and a new beginning.” And on May 18, Manning turned the camera on herself for the first time. It’s a carefully-styled image—her Instagram has been a study in carefulness—as she reveals a portrait on her own terms for the first time since her release. The sun is on her face — she’s outside. “Okay, so here I am everyone!!”

Chelsea Manning didn’t get to chose the image that defined her for the seven years she was in prison, a blurry shot in a blond wig, smiling in a car while on leave in the US during her time in Iraq. The leave was essential to her decision to leak the files she had downloaded as an intelligence officer, she explains to the New York Times.

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For the New York Times, a Bittersweet Ending for its Public Editor Role

Photo Credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

The publisher of the New York Times announced in a staff memo Wednesday that the position of public editor — an ombudsperson of sorts, meant to be an advocate for the paper’s readers — is being eliminated. The current occupant of the role, Liz Spayd, was expected to remain until summer 2018, but her tenure will now end on Friday.

According to a screenshot tweeted by Times reporter Daniel Victor, the memo read:

The public editor position, created in the aftermath of a grave journalistic scandal, played a crucial part in rebuilding our readers’ trusts by acting as our in-house watchdog. We welcomed that criticism, even when it stung. But today, our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik noted on Twitter that the first public editor’s tenure also “coincided with growing outcry over failed WMD/Iraq coverage.” But as Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone noted, the “grave journalistic scandal” the publisher referred to was in 2003, when reporter Jayson Blair’s plagiarism and fabrications were revealed. In a lengthy story on their own investigation into Blair’s wrongdoings, Times reporters wrote that “something clearly broke down in the Times newsroom. It appears to have been communication — the very purpose of the newspaper itself.” Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens during a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Alec MacGillis, Justin Heckert, Peter Vigneron, Michael Lista, and Anthony Breznican.

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The Doctor Dolittle of the Upper West Side

(AP Photo / Alexander F. Yuan)

At the New York Times, Andy Newman covers a day in the life of Dr. Anthony Pilny, veterinarian at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in Manhattan. Dr. Pilny’s practice routinely involves bowel-obstructed bunnies, lame ducks, and feisty, festering iguanas, just to name a few of his pint-sized patients.

The center, on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is the city’s only exclusively exotic animal hospital. “Exotic” in the veterinary trade simply means all pets except cats and dogs. The center treats anything else that comes in the door and weighs under 50 pounds. Most of the patients are rabbits, rodents, lizards or birds, but they can get pretty exotic: kinkajous, alligators, flower horn fish and prairie dogs. So can their problems.

The duck was out cold on the table in a basement operating room, a breathing tube stuck down her bill. Dr. Pilny sliced open her abdominal cavity and rooted around.

Dino has other health issues. Her egg problems led to calcium deficiency, weak bones and a fractured leg. She could no longer walk.

“She can crawl around on towels, but otherwise we have to carry her everywhere,” said her owner, E. J. Orbe, a ballroom dance instructor from Paterson, N.J.

Some people might hesitate to invest $1,200 in gynecological surgery on a lame duck. But Dino has a job: She’s a seeing-eye duck for another of Mr. Orbe’s ducks, Penguin, who is blind. “She finds food and water and makes noises, and Penguin would come over and start eating,” Mr. Orbe said.

Inside Dino, Dr. Pilny was hacking his way through a sea of yolky blobs. “It’s just a very extensive, severe amount of schmutz in here,” he said to the veterinary technician, Kristine Castillo. A clamp on Dino’s webbed foot fed her vital signs to a monitor. Her heartbeat pounded through the cheap speaker like a tom-tom drum: thwap-thwap, thwap-thwap.

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An Ode to Black Families: A Reading List

Photo by Johnny Silvercloud (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a beautiful black boy coming of age in a dreadfully under-resourced section of Miami. As with any great work of art, it’s the tiniest details that reveal the most­­­ — the inflection of a phrase, the subtlety of a glance, the seconds of silence. Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, with cinematography so lush, the balmy humidity of south Florida oozes off the screen, Moonlight is filled with moments like this. It happens when young Chiron avoids eye contact with a drug dealer during their first encounter, and again when Chiron welcomes an unexpected friendship on the soccer field with clear hesitation. You can see it every time Chiron flinches at his mother, and in the need that remains in the shadows of his eyes when he does. It happens when his mother makes Chiron read books instead of watching TV. “Find something for you to read,” she says.

The first time I saw Moonlight, these small revelations of humanity disarmed me. I felt exposed, and had to turn away from the screen. How did the filmmakers know, I wondered, that growing up black could be so contoured with dark peril, so layered with pure, sweet joy? That yes, absolutely, a drug dealer could be a respite, a much needed stand-in for a father?  I realized its novelty is due in large part to the sheer, sad fact that it is rare to see black characters coming of age on screen. Two thirds of the movie is dedicated to Chiron’s childhood and adolescence; we see his intelligence and sensitivity unfurl, retreat, and finally unfurl again.

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Is That a Pillowcase Full of Human Hair, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

a collection of wigs, in different lengths, styles, and h
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
a collection of wigs, in different lengths, styles, and h

Annie Correal’s New York Times story on the last of New York’s custom wigmakers has a little bit of everything—celebrity gossip, history, international trade, religious scandal, trash-talking Italian wig artists*, and the sentence “Nicholas Piazza keeps 600 pounds of hair in his Staten Island garage.”

The three-foot braids in Mr. Piazza’s garage came into his possession in the mid-1990s. One day, two Russian men appeared in his shop carrying suitcases. “Natural blonds, natural reds, straight off people’s heads,” he said. It was the kind of hair known in the industry as “liquid gold” — Caucasian hair untouched by Western chemicals, long and remy. “I say, ‘Whoa, fellows, you don’t have to go no further; let’s talk.’”

Of his Russian dealer’s shipments, Mr. Piazza recalled: “Sometimes it came stitched in pillows. Sometimes he would ship 20, 30 kilos of hair at a time. Sometimes I’d be going to an apartment in Brighton Beach at 2 in the morning or meeting a plane at Kennedy. He’d hand me a suitcase, and I’d hand him an envelope.”

* My new favorite insult: “hairpiece finagler.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Peter Waldman, Garrett M. Graff, Rachel Aviv, Catrin Einhorn, Jodi Kantor, andd Eric Boodman.

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