Tag Archives: Washington Post

Can Two Groups Who Are Wary of One Another Have a Civil Debate?

David Wright, 44 and Christopher Gambino, 35 (left) of BAIR meet with two members of the Islamic community; Ali Ghouri and Tameem Burdi, 33, to discuss Islam and the goals of BAIR. (Ilana Panich-Linsman For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In these polarizing times, is it possible for two groups who are suspicious of one another to come together, set aside their differences, and have a productive conversation? In The Washington Post, Robert Samuels reports on what happened when two groups of men — anti-sharia activists and Muslims — decided to meet and have a civil debate:

The men talked for two hours at a branch of the Halal Guys, mostly about Wright’s fear that the mosque was still funding terrorists. Ghouri explained that the mosque’s leadership helps vet donations to ensure they don’t go to bad actors. He explained how their religion is a peaceful one.

“I’m not sure I believed him,” Wright said. “But I did get a free lunch out of it. I had a halal sandwich. That was good s—.”

Wright maintained that he didn’t learn anything about Islam from the conversation, but he allowed that “it changed my perspective a little bit. I have a little more trust for the average Muslim person.”

At first, Ghouri felt that lunch made an impact.

“I think I saw a little bit in him that he did not want to hate Muslims,” Ghouri said. “Maybe over time, he’d change his beliefs.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post via Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from John Woodrow Cox, Danielle McNally, Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs, Michelle Dean, and John Knight.

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An Ode to Dishwashers, the Unsung Heroes of the Restaurant Kitchen

Dishwashers Esteban Soc, left, and Joselino Aguilar, right, at work in the kitchen of Mexican restaurant Caracol. (Photo by Scott Dalton for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In the Washington Post, food critic Tom Sietsema signed up for a dishwashing shift at Caracol, a 250-seat Mexican restaurant in Houston to experience the job Anthony Bourdain said taught him “every important lesson of my life.”

Dishwashers get paid a median annual wage of $20,000 a year in the U.S. and are a critical component of the restaurant industry. As Emeril Lagasse puts it, “You can’t have a successful service in a restaurant without a great dishwasher.” More restaurants are finding ways to recognize and reward their dishwashers:

After years of performing tasks no one else wants to do — cleaning nasty messes, taking out trash, polishing Japanese wine glasses priced at $66 a stem (at Quince in San Francisco) — the unsung heroes of the kitchen might be finally getting their due.

This spring, chef Rene Redzepi of the world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen made headlines when he made his dishwasher, Ali Sonko, a partner in his business. The Gambian native helped Redzepi open the landmark restaurant in 2003. And in July, workers at the esteemed French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., one of master chef Thomas Keller’s 12 U.S. restaurants and bakeries, voted to give their most prestigious company honor, the Core Award, to a dishwasher: Jaimie Portillo, who says he has never missed a day of work in seven years.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo: Associated Press

This week, we’re sharing stories from Libby Copeland, Patrick Blanchfield, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Cory Taylor, and Tabitha Blankenbiller.

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The Uncomfortable Discoveries That Come with Home DNA Testing Kits

Photo: Associated Press

In the Washington Post, Libby Copeland follows the story of Alice Collins Plebuch, a 69-year-old woman who believed she was the daughter of Irish Americans until she took a “just-for-fun DNA test” that upended everything she thought she knew about her family history.

Genetic testing companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com have made it much easier for consumers to learn more about their genealogy and health risks. But home testing kits have also led people to unexpected discoveries:

For adoptees, many of whom can’t access information about their birthparents because of closed adoption laws, DNA testing can let them bypass years, even decades, of conventional research to find “DNA cousins” who may very well lead them to their families.

But DNA testing can also yield uncomfortable surprises. Some testers, looking for a little more information about a grandparent’s origins, or to confirm a family legend about Native American heritage, may not be prepared for results that disrupt their sense of identity. Often, that means finding out their dad is not actually their dad, or discovering a relative that they never knew existed — perhaps a baby conceived out of wedlock or given up for adoption.

In 2014, 23andMe estimated that 7,000 users of its service had discovered unexpected paternity or previously-unknown siblings — a relatively small fraction of overall users. The company no longer provides data on surprise results. However, its customer base has more than doubled since 2014, and now contains more than 2 million people — and as more people get involved with recreational genomics, bloodline surprises are certain to become a more common experience. The 2020s may turn out to be the decade that killed family secrets, for better and for worse.

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Where Have All the Guitar Heroes Gone?

Fender Telecaster guitars hanging on a wall rack.
Many Fender Telecasters via Wikimedia/Dennis Brown (CC0 1.0)

Guitar sales have dropped by a third over the past decade. On the Washington Post, Geoff Edgers tries to find out why.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have guitar gods anymore. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, that sound is — well — it’s old. And the new crop of stars don’t inspire the pursuit of guitar god status the way someone like Carlos Santana did.

Here’s Dave Gruhn, a 71-year old Nashville guitar dealer who helped sell off part of Eric Clapton’s collection:

“What we need is guitar heroes,” he says.

He is asked about Clapton, who himself recently downsized his collection. Gruhn sold 29 of his guitars.

“Eric Clapton is my age,” he says.

How about Creed’s Mark Tremonti, Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer? He shakes his head.

“John Mayer?” he asks. “You don’t see a bunch of kids emulating John Mayer and listening to him and wanting to pick up a guitar because of him.”

Sir Paul McCartney has a similar take on the decline in the guitar’s popularity.

“The electric guitar was new and fascinatingly exciting in a period before Jimi and immediately after,” the former Beatle says wistfully in a recent interview. “So you got loads of great players emulating guys like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and you had a few generations there.”

He pauses.

“Now, it’s more electronic music and kids listen differently,” McCartney says. “They don’t have guitar heroes like you and I did.”

Something Edgers doesn’t address in his article?  Uke sales have doubled in the same period in which guitar sales have declined.  In her Ukulele Anthem, Dresden Dolls front-woman Amanda Palmer says you can teach someone to play the ukulele in  “about the same to teach someone to build a standard pipe bomb — you do the math.” A kid can pick up the uke and find it satisfying in considerably less time than it takes to master the guitar. A few years back, a young Hawaii resident named Jake Shimabukuro made heads spin with his ukulele cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, proving that the uke’s simplicity doesn’t limit its musical possibilities.

The ukulele has replaced the recorder in many public school music education programs, too. And the forgiving little axe serves well as a stepping stone to the guitar. The next generation of wanna-be guitar gods could well be out there; they’re just taking a different route to blazing, finger-blistering stardom.


Not so confidential to Grover Norquist — you can absolutely get your kid a starter uke for 35 bucks, including sales tax.

 


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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Matthew Shaer, John Woodrow Cox, Bethany McLean, Robin Wright, and David Sedaris.

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I Can Totally Believe It’s Actually Butter!

A painting, aptly if not creatively titled, "Mound of Butter." (Antoine Vollon, 1875. Image in the public domain.)

In the Washington PostLibby Copeland talks to butter aficionado and food writer Elaine Khosrova — author of Butter: A Rich History — about the origins of butter, the range of butters available, and how to hold a butter tasting. But is it good for us or not? It depends when you ask.

Butter’s story is a very American story, because the arc of its vilification and subsequent redemption is a parable for how we get food wrong time and again. We alternately demonize and idealize individual ingredients — not just butter but also sugar, caffeine, red wine and supposed miracle foods featured on “The Dr. Oz Show” — and in doing so, we miss the big picture. Even now, at butter’s supposed moment of glory, many nutritional scientists worry that the pendulum may be swinging too far in its direction. American food trends are hopelessly reminiscent of Newton’s third law, says David L. Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center: “For every boneheaded action, there’s an opposite and equally boneheaded reaction.”

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On Mastery: Learning Kyudo — One of Japan’s Oldest and Most Respected Martial Arts

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Leigh Ann Henion was drawn to archery by her grandfather’s passion for it. She travels to Japan to improve her archery skills by learning Kyudo — a form of archery that is one of Japan’s oldest martial arts. In her short yet intense course, sensei Kazuhisa Miyasaka helps her realize that achievement with the bow and arrow comes only after mastering one’s mind.

We have not talked about the fact that, when our grandfathers were alive, our nations and families were adversaries. Or that when I asked him to introduce kyudo in just a handful of days, I was making an impossible request. But we both knew.

Miyasaka touches my arm, tightening my actions like the precise folds of origami. My projectiles hit sand, nearer and nearer the target. Until. Twack. I pierce paper. The target is so far away I’d need binoculars to see exactly where my arrow rests.

I’ve achieved an obvious goal. But my release felt no more important than my stance, this arrow no more special than the one sent before it. I arrived in Japan hoping to understand why hitting a target isn’t the most important part of this tradition. Now, I know the closest I’ll come is the realization that it doesn’t matter to me whether I hit.

When I hear the target rip again, from a second arrow, I realize that I had not been listening for it.

Miyasaka has been recording my final day with a video camera. He turns my attention to a flat-screen television, which seems out of place in front of the chalkboard where he sketches feather patterns. When he pushes play, I see a woman I do not recognize. She moves through the stages of kyudo form with deceptive ease. At one point, she closes her eyes.

When I see the pale cocoons of my eyelids, I think to myself: Seriously? I remember none of it.

Miyasaka looks out at the target and says, “You did that yourself. You have real skill now.”

But the sound of my target-slaying was not one of accomplishment.

It was a signal that, as long as I’m alive, I will not be done.

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The Needle and the Damage Done: ‘What kind of a childhood is that?’

Photo by Urban Seed Education (CC BY-SA 2.0)

At The Washington Post, Eli Saslow profiles Zaine, Arianna, and Zoie Pulliam — three kids 17 and under deemed “opiate orphans.” The Pulliam kids exemplify a generation of children whose parents have died of drug overdoses as a result of the opioid epidemic.

Nearly everyone in Zaine’s life had been anxiously monitoring that line for the past year and a half, ever since both of his parents died of heroin overdoses in April 2015. His parents had become two of the record 33,091 people to die of opioid overdoses that year in a national crisis that has been worst of all in rural West Virginia, where health officials estimate that overdose rates are now eight to 10 times higher than the national average. Middle-aged white men in this part of the country have lost a full year of life expectancy during the past two decades. Middle-aged white women have lost more than two years. The opiate epidemic has essentially wiped out an entire generation of health advances, and now West Virginia has begun to focus more of its resources on prevention and preservation among the next generation entering into the void.

These children are sometimes referred to by health officials here as opiate orphans, and three of the most recent ones live in a small house in South Charleston: Zoie, 10, who believed that her parents had died in their sleep; Arianna, 13, who was just starting to wear her mother’s old makeup; and Zaine, 17, who had been the one to discover his parents that morning on their bedroom floor, and whose grades had begun to drop ever since.

Madie, 53, had retired from her maintenance job at the public schools and moved into the house to help take care of the children after the overdoses. “Mah-maw,” they called her, and she told salty jokes, cooked their breakfast and slept in Zoie’s bedroom when she had nightmares.

But, on some nights, it was Madie who couldn’t sleep, when neither her doctor-prescribed antidepressants nor her occasional swallows of Fireball whiskey could quiet her grief or her rising anxiety. She had once struggled with addiction herself before getting clean. She had raised a daughter who had become an addict. Now she was responsible for three more children in a place where that same disease had officially been classified as a “widespread, progressive and fatal epidemic.”

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