Tag Archives: The New York Times

A Personal Odyssey Through Florida’s Varied Regions

The New York Times has an essay by Searching for John Hughes author Jason Diamond that’s equal parts memoir and travel writing. Diamond, who’s also an editor at Rolling Stone, takes a drive through Florida from top to bottom, getting to know the state most of his family eventually settled in, but which he has only flirted with for months at a time here and there, mostly when he was much younger. Traveling from one region to the next, he comes to realize that there is no one single Florida. It’s a collection of disparate cultures.

Florida represents so much that’s good, bad and bizarre about the United States, all rolled into one long state. It’s where all of our sins go to be washed away by the ocean: drugs, shady real estate developers, and the Palm Beach County man who, in 2012, ate so many cockroaches and worms in a bug-eating contest (the prize was an ivory-ball python) that he vomited, collapsed and died.

It’s filled with beauty and contradictions. Legend tells us Ponce de León ended up sailing to somewhere near Melbourne Beach in his search for the Fountain of Youth, and grandparents go there to live out their golden years. It’s the setting for movies like “Moonlight,” and fiction by Elmore Leonard and Karen Russell and Laura van den Berg. It’s mysterious and beautiful, spooky and exciting. And yes, it’s weird.

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The Internet Won’t Prioritize Quality Without an Intervention

In an interview with The New York Times, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams admits to David Streitfeld that he thinks the internet is broken — and apologizes for the role Twitter played in the ascendency of Donald Trump.

President Trump has said he believes Twitter put him in the White House. Recently, Mr. Williams heard the claim for the first time. He mulled it over for a bit, sitting in his Medium office, which is noteworthy only for not having a desk.

“It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” he said finally. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Trump’s campaign slogan may as well have been Extremity First, a strategy his supporters considered the conscious technique of a mastermind playing 4D chess with the media. What the internet is missing, Williams argues, is an ethical framework, a new business model that will introduce a market correction to what the internet perceives as user demand for extremism:

The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.

His goal is to break this pattern. “If I learn that every time I drive down this road I’m going to see more and more car crashes,” he says, “I’m going to take a different road.”

But a new road may have other problems. It may, for instance, be a dead end.

Mr. Williams isn’t the only one trying to fix this mess, of course. If he and others can’t find a path forward, if they can’t solve what he calls “the architecture of content creation, distribution and monetization on the internet,” there are unsettling implications for the future of news and ideas. Maybe it will be all car crashes, all the time. Twitter already feels like that.

Williams has been attempting to course-correct with Medium, a publishing platform conceived to intervene on this vicious cycle of misinterpreted rubbernecking with an ad-free, subscription-based business model. Medium’s successes have been tempered and debatable, while its missteps, like so many of the internet’s favorite car wrecks, have been more memorable. (Williams announced layoffs in a blog post before all the sunsetting employees were informed, shocking investors and publishing partners alike; when Williams introduced the $5 subscription model, Bryan Clark published an op-ed titled Ev Williams has lost his goddamn mind.)

While the need for an intervention is readily apparent, the question of how to make publishing sustainable — in spite of, or by somehow newly leveraging, the internet’s existing mosaic of incentives — continues to pose considerable challenges to the viability of new approaches to funding. As fellow Twitter cofounder Biz Stone has said in response to Williams’ statement that he wants to make publishing profitable: “Yeah, so does everyone else.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Renee Montagne, Nina Martin, Alex Tizon, Mary Mann, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Andy Newman.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week we’re sharing stories by Caity Weaver, Matthew Desmond, Chris J. Rice, Kent Russell, and Rafe Bartholomew.

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In Your Dreams: A Reading List

I dream often. Every night, actually. Sometimes my dreams are sexy or scary. Mostly, I dream about school. It’s the first day, and I don’t have my schedule. It’s the last day, and I didn’t take a math class and now I won’t graduate. I’m lost. I’m running late. I skipped too many English classes, didn’t do the reading, and won’t pass the final. I can walk in my commencement ceremony, but I have to return to campus in the summer to finish my degree. Everything looks familiar but wrong somehow, like it does in all of our dreams. I look at numbers or words and realize they’re jumbled, unintelligible symbols. Sometimes, I know I’m dreaming, but I can’t control what’s happening; I’m not a lucid dreamer. Occasionally, I throw myself into the dream-ground and fall into bed. The dreams where I don’t want to wake up are the best ones, of course, and the next night I won’t fear sleep.

1. “A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying.” (Jan Hoffman, The New York Times, February 2016)

Hospice Buffalo is integrating their patients’ dreams and visions into their treatment and comfort routines, breaking with old-school care traditions.

2. “Loose But Lucid: A Dreamer in Paradise.” (Bucky McMahon, Esquire, February 2002)

Bucky McMahon travels to Hawaii to learn how to lucid dream (successfully!) from expert Stephen LeBarge.

3. “Can You Die From a Nightmare?” (Doree Shafrir, BuzzFeed, September 2012)

In 2012, after two years of writing and almost a decade of night terrors, Doree Shafrir published this essay about her violent, unpredictable sleep behaviors. Investigating potential causes and cures for her parasomnia led Shafrir to check in at the New York Sleep Institute, phone up comedian Mike Birbiglia, and sit down with Tim Dubitsky, the boyfriend of the late artist Tobias Wong, who killed himself in the midst of a night terror.

4. “Angry Signatures.” (Ursula Villarreal-Moura, Nashville Review, December 2016)

Short fiction from a Texan author about a mother-daughter pair and the manifestation of their prophetic dreams.

5. “Why We Dream About Our Childhood Homes.” (Janet Allon, The New York Times, July 1998)

What do New Yorkers dream about? Subways, manholes, expanding apartments, and flying over Central Park. Janel Allen includes each dreamer’s profession, and I enjoyed trying to make connections between their dream and waking lives.

6. “What Escapes the Total Archive.” (Rebecca Lemov, Limn, March 2016)

Pursuing the twentieth-century dream of capturing all sociological data in a single clearinghouse, a group of American social scientists in the mid-1950s attempted a bold, if not completely unprecedented, experiment. They would test the limits not only of content (what was collected) but also of format (how it was collected, saved, circulated, and distributed). The resulting data set of data sets, which I call the “database of dreams,” but which its creators referred to by the somewhat less evocative Microcard Publications of Primary Records in Culture and Personality, took shape between 1955 and 1963. Meanwhile, its more extensive vision—the total archive it portended and evoked containing all ephemeral data from the domain of subjectivity collected from peoples around the world, and available in turn across the globe—never did come about. Yet its would-be creators spoke of it as if to invoke it into existence.

Alexander Chee: ‘He thought I wanted monogamy more than him, and I didn’t.’

detailed carvings on an archway at the alhambra in granada, spain

When the New York Times asked authors to share stories of love intersecting with travel, Alexander Chee recalls a summer in Granada, Spain, with M. — his boyfriend at the time — who betrayed Chee at a local hammam. “He thought I wanted monogamy more than him, and I didn’t. And I couldn’t forgive that I didn’t get to choose.”

I liked M. I was having my first summer in Spain and he was good in bed, funny at dinner, smart about books. Enjoying that was not a mistake. Hiding himself from me was. When I eventually discovered the truth, I was more offended that he wouldn’t tell me. He thought I wanted monogamy more than him, and I didn’t. And I couldn’t forgive that I didn’t get to choose.

Some things I remember very clearly from that summer: learning to love the feel of cold red wine in my mouth on a hot day. The beautiful boy on the bus the whole way to the beach at Carboneras from Granada, burning the back of the rubber and vinyl seat with a lighter, but slowly, never enough to catch fire, who stopped only to take pictures of himself on his phone. The man putting saccharin in his fresh orange juice. And the streets paved with stones taken from the river, smooth and shining in the dark, like the backs of fish.

M. can keep his secrets, I told myself then. I have this. That was my bargain. I still think it is a good one.

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‘Women and Girls Were Not Jumping Up and Down to be Interviewed’: Rukmini Callamichi on Interviewing ISIS Sex Slaves

Rukmini Callimachi

Columbia Journalism Review has an as-told-to account of New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi’s experience reporting a page-one story that ran in March of 2016, which bore the headline “To Maintain Supply of Sex Slaves, ISIS Pushes Birth Control.” Callimachi talks to CJR‘s Elon Green about various aspects of getting the story, spending time with the victims, and earning their trust.

Being a woman was helpful. I say that with caution, because some of the most revealing and sensitive stories on rape have been done by my male colleagues: Jeffrey Gettleman on male rape in eastern Congo and Adam Nossiter on the rapes inside of a soccer stadium in Guinea, for example. Both stories put important issues on the map. But I could get these girls to open up by telling them, Somebody very close to me, in my own family, was gang-raped as a teenager. I was raised with her story. I’d tell them they should not suffer any shame for what happened to them. It was not their fault. I tried to make it clear to them that what they’re about to describe is something quite personal to me, given my family’s history, and I do not come at this with some morose curiosity.

Callimachi also discusses her process as a writer.

I tend to fight. I think I’ve been a pain in the butt for some editors. Because writing is so hard for me, when I find a formulation that I love — moments of inspiration usually happen when I’m going on a run; I’ll have an ah ha! moment — it’s painful when editors cut that very thing. I know that the editing is obviously a very important step in what we do. It’s why The New York Times is what it is. So I am trying my best to push less and to be less attached to the specific phrasing.

I don’t editorialize. Sometimes people ask why I don’t condemn ISIS. Why don’t I say this is terrible? I’m like, Are you kidding me? Why would I need to say that, when it is so transparently terrible, right? It’s so obviously horrible and what do I, Rukmini, this writer from America, have to add by saying, This is awful? I think that gets in the way of the narrative.

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The Religious Iconography of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

logo for Old Dutch Cleanser cleaning product, 1940s

With eerie political timing, the Hulu version of Margaret Atwood’s prescient 1984 book The Handmaid’s Tale drops next month. In the introduction to a new edition, which also comes out in April, Atwood responds to the three most popular questions about it: Is her novel feminist? Is it a prediction? Is is anti-religious? In response to the third, she takes us through the influences that helped her build the world of the Handmaids.

The modesty costumes worn by the women of Gilead are derived from Western religious iconography — the Wives wear the blue of purity, from the Virgin Mary; the Handmaids wear red, from the blood of parturition, but also from Mary Magdalene. Also, red is easier to see if you happen to be fleeing. The wives of men lower in the social scale are called Econowives, and wear stripes. I must confess that the face-hiding bonnets came not only from mid-Victorian costume and from nuns, but from the Old Dutch Cleanser package of the 1940s, which showed a woman with her face hidden, and which frightened me as a child. Many totalitarianisms have used clothing, both forbidden and enforced, to identify and control people — think of yellow stars and Roman purple — and many have ruled behind a religious front. It makes the creation of heretics that much easier.

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Month 13: What Happens After the Year-Long Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Ends?

It’s a year-long commitment to privately sponsor a Syrian refugee family in Canada, where sponsorship includes funding and helping the family navigate Canadian culture and society. Sponsors assist newcomers with daily tasks of living, including grocery shopping, banking, getting jobs, learning English, and ferrying families to appointments and activities. In the fourth and final installment of Refugees WelcomeThe New York Times’ year-long series on Syrian refugees in Canada — Jodi Kantor and Catrin Einhorn profile the Hajj family and members of their sponsorship group, reporting on what happens at month 13 — the point at which the sponsorship agreement officially ends.

Still, with the deadline nearing, the Hajj sponsors faced uncomfortable, nagging questions: Were they doing too much for the Syrian family? Should they stand back and stop acting as chauffeurs, planners and all-around fixers? Were they willing to let the family make mistakes? Even if they wanted to stop helping, would they be able to?

The sponsors, mostly retirees, had the time to help, and they thrived on their shared sense of mission. They wanted so much for the Hajjes: not just the basics, like language and literacy, but for them to participate in the mainstream of Canadian life. They could not bear the thought of the family becoming isolated, the parents marginalized, the children missing out on activities their own children had taken for granted.

One morning in February, Moutayam’s school bus failed to appear, so the boy dialed one sponsor after another until he got Ms. Karas, who rushed right over instead of letting his mother figure it out. She feared the boy would miss a day of school if she did not step in.

“The dependency comes from both sides,” said Sam Nammoura, a refugee advocate who observed similar situations in Calgary, Alberta, where he served as a liaison between sponsors and Syrians. “The newcomers fear taking risks, and the minute they take a risk, the sponsor thinks, ‘They don’t speak English, I will help them,’” he said.

Across the country, as Month 13 turned into Months 14 and 15, the early results of private sponsorship of Syrians looked a lot like Mr. Hajj’s progress — still tentative, but showing forward motion. According to early government figures, about half of privately sponsored adults were working full or part time.

As a group, they were outpacing the thousands more refugees who did not have sponsors and were being resettled by the government — only about 10 percent of them had jobs (on the whole, they were less educated and had higher rates of serious health problems and other needs). Previous refugees to Canada over the past decade — a mix of Iraqis, Afghans, Colombians, Eritreans and more — had followed the same pattern, with privately sponsored refugees more likely to be employed after a year at similar rates.

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Stand Up For Transgender Equality: A Reading List

I was in the lobby of a theater in Washington, D.C. when I saw the first of the tweets about the Trump administration’s decision to stymie protections for transgender students on the federal level. It wasn’t until the play ended and I was on the Metro home that I had cell service; I began to piece together what exactly had happened. My palms were sweating. I tried to make conversation with my friend, but I felt nauseated and heartsick.

I thought of the transgender and gender non-conforming kids in the youth group where I volunteer and the outspoken, proud, lovely trans kids in our county’s schools. I thought of Gavin Grimm, who’ll stand up against the Gloucester County School Board in front of the Supreme Court on March 28. I thought of how often trans folks have to reduce their stories to make them palatable to cisgender people, smoothing all of our glittering edges into sameness, rather than celebrating our differences, to win over those on the fence.

That night, I felt hopeless and scared. Today, I’m angry. It’s Friday as I finish this post, and the people of Chicago will protest for trans liberation tonight at the corner of Wacker and Wabash. I wish I could be there with them, to celebrate our community’s strength and resilience and to honor the lives of the seven trans women of color murdered in 2017: Mesha Caldwell, 41; Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28; JoJo Striker, 23; Keke Collier, 24; Chyna Gibson, 31; Ciara McElveen, 21; and Jaquarrius Holland, 18. Seven women, and it’s only March. Unacceptable and terrifying.

This Women’s History Month, I implore you: educate yourself and stand up for your trans sisters, not only your cis-ters. Stand up for all of your transgender and gender non-conforming siblings, especially our youth, who need advocacy and protection now more than ever.

1. “Trans Rights Already at Risk in Trump’s Bumbling, Bigoted Trainwreck of a Presidency.” (Rachel, Autostraddle, February 2017)

This article on Autostraddle was instrumental in my understanding of what exactly the Department of Justice put forth two weeks ago:

Under Obama, the Justice Department had been appealing a court injunction that prevents trans students nationwide from accessing the bathroom or other facilities consistent with their gender. Under Trump and Sessions, the first order of business was to cease that appeal, and to allow a lower court injunction to harm trans students unopposed.

Unfortunately, this lack of action? reversal? doesn’t bode well for trans rights. Rachel goes on to quote Mara Keisling of the National Center of Transgender Equality:

“While the immediate impact of this initial legal maneuver is limited, it is a frightening sign that the Trump administration is ready to discard its obligation to protect all students… Transgender students are not going away, and it remains the legal and moral duty of schools to support all students.”

Rachel also describes Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ historical support of anti-LGBTQ legislation, which is unsurprising but scary all the same, and explains how Gavin Grimm’s Supreme Court case could affect the administration’s decision to cease the appeal.

Update 3/6/17: The Supreme Court has referred Gavin Grimm’s case to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit and will no longer hear his case on March 28. Read more at NYT and BuzzFeed.

2. “Janet Mock: Young People Get Trans Rights. It’s Adults Who Don’t.” (Janet Mock, The New York Times, February 2017)

Janet Mock, transgender author and activist, is the author of two memoirs: Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More and the upcoming Firsts: A Memoir of the Twenties Experience. In this passionate op-ed, Mock does what she does best: Use her personal experiences to advocate for trans youth. Mock contrasts her different school experiences–one with supportive adults, one without.

It’s adults like those in the Trump administration who don’t realize that pitting young people against one another has consequences. It encourages some to be bullies and turns others into sinister objects.

When trans students are told that they cannot use public facilities, it doesn’t only block them from the toilet — it also blocks them from public life. It tells them with every sneer, every blocked door, that we do not want to see them, that they should go hide and that ultimately they do not belong. When schools become hostile environments, students cannot turn to them. Instead they are pushed out. And without an education, it makes it that much more difficult to find a job, support themselves and survive.

Related: “What Trans Youth Need to Hear Right Now, According to Trans Adults.” (Sarah Karlan, BuzzFeed LGBT, March 2017) This isn’t longform, but it’s rare that trans kids have the opportunity to hear from trans adults who are happy and thriving.

3. “Pseudo-Feminist Trolls are Still Trotting Out Tired, Anti-Trans Ideology.” (Larissa Pham, Village Voice, February 2017)

Transphobia isn’t exclusively conservative territory. There are self-proclaimed progressives and feminists whose philosophies harm trans people in subtle and overt ways. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists, better known as TERFs, are obsessed with the false notion that trans women aren’t really women, and, unfortunately, their illogical arguments continue to appeal to the fearful.

4. Telling Our Own Stories.

The following essays and interviews feature the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming artists, authors, activists, students, cartoonists, administrative assistants, analysts and teachers.

“Telling Trans Stories Beyond ‘Born in the Wrong Body.'” (Meredith Talusan, Tiq Milan, Jacob Tobia, and Nico Fonseca, BuzzFeed LGBT, May 2016)

“Transgender Stories: ‘People Think We Wake Up and Decide to Be Trans.'” (Kate Lyons, The Guardian, July 2016)

“My Life as a Trans Woman Teaching High School in a ‘Bathroom Bill’ State.” (Aila Boyd, Broadly, February 2017)

“This is What It’s Like to Be a Trans Kid in a Conservative School.” (Nico Lang, Rolling Stone, March 2017)

“Tomboys Don’t Cry: Edgar Gomez Interviews Ivan Coyote.” (LARB, December 2016)

“Five Trans Cartoonists Respond to Bathroom Hysteria.” (The Nib, March 2017)