January 12, 2013

Weekend Long Reads

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“Our Symptoms, Ourselves”
Alexandra Kimball
Hazlitt
November 29, 2012

“It is as if she lives each moment twice: first through direct experience, and then through the lens of a perceived non-crazy other.” This is Alexandra Kimball’s description of her friend Rebecca, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006. In this piece, Kimball looks at Mad Pride, a movement begun in Toronto in 1993 that aims to celebrate mental illness, looking to empower those suffering from it, instead of stigmatizing them. For Kimball’s friend, the mere idea of being labeled with a condition alters her reality and “compels her to distinguish her ‘real’ feelings from her symptoms.” Yet movements like Mad Pride, as progressive as they are, also rely on a patient’s ability to be a part of a community. That ability may depend on access to a functioning and affordable health care system, like Canada’s, which is committed to the treatment of mental illness.

“A Land Without Guns”
Max Fisher
The Atlantic
July 23, 2012

Max Fisher’s report on how Japan has all but eliminated gun deaths has some lessons for the U.S., even if this comparatively small country has a far easier legislative process than we are currently facing. Need we be reminded after the horrific number of gun deaths we saw just last year alone, “America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest,” Fisher explains. “Of the world’s 23 ‘rich’ countries, the U.S. Gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22.” Now take Japan, which saw a mere 11 deaths from guns in 2008. Here’s just part of the process required to legally obtain a gun in Japan: “[A]ttend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle.”

“Speaking in Tongues”
Sarah Nicole Prickett
The New Inquiry
May 7, 2012

We are often told that our wireless world is stunting our imagination, mollifying our attentiveness, ruining our relationships, and so on, ad infinitum. Sarah Nicole Prickett’s essay on the merits of sexting makes a different case, a case we don’t hear too often, maybe because we’re all too busy diddling around on our phones and then writing treatises about how we shouldn’t be. She references the New York Times op-ed from this past spring, “The Flight From Conversation,” which argued that the digital revolution is replacing conversation with “mere connection.” There is nothing “mere” about many of these connection, Prickett argues. “Privileging face-to-face conversation makes a virtue of proximity and reduces the wide world to a set of hyper-literal possibilities. It’s so obsessed with the real that it’s unrealistic, atavistic, and just silly.”

“Can A Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?”
Nathaniel Rich
The New York Times Magazine
November 28, 2012

In the New York Times Magazine, Nathaniel Rich discusses the Benjamin Button of the animal kingdom, a sea floor-dwelling creature called the Turritopsis dohrnii, or “immortal jellyfish,” which was first observed in 1988 as appearing “to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.” Despite the fascinating process this creature goes through, it has been largely ignored over the past 25 years because. Big creatures, Rich explains, are more commonly studied than small creatures. But there is one man, in a beach town south of Kyoto, who has devoted his life to the immortal jellyfish. Dr. Shin Kubota mostly works alone, traveling the world with his jellyfish in a cooler to give talks, or conducting experiments at home in his lab, which sometimes involve intentionally mutilating one of the jellyfish in his lab in order to watch it “rejuvenate.” He’s also a pretty well-known musician in Japan, and many of his songs are about the immortal jellyfish. When he appears on Japanese television to talk about the creatures, he often performs a song or two, all while wearing a special immortal jellyfish costume. Some sample lyrics, from a song called “Scarlet Medusa Chorus”: “My name is Scarlet Medusa / A teeny tiny jellyfish / But I have a special secret / that no others may possess / I can — yes, I can! — rejuvenate.” Amazing.

“Some Notes on Attunement” (Behind the paywall)
Zadie Smith on Joni Mitchell
The New Yorker
December 17, 2012

Many of us have had this experience: hear a musician, feel nothing, or even feel annoyed. Years later, hear them again and be suddenly struck by an arrow. Our experiences with art are so often about timing, about maturation and patience. I didn’t like Bruce Springsteen, for example, until I fell in love with him. The incomparable Zadie Smith discusses her slow-to-come love for Joni Mitchell in the December 17th issue of the New Yorker. “I can’t listen to Joni Mitchell in a room with other people,” she writes, “or on an iPod, walking the streets. Too risky. I can never guarantee that I’m going to be able to get through the song without being made transparent – to anybody and everything, to the whole world.”

“The World At Her Feet”
Jason Sheeler
Texas Monthly (Free registration required)
April 2012

Bloggers are everywhere, but there’s a certain little cloud reserved just for teenage fashion bloggers, several of whom have risen out of the obscurity of their high school (or middle school) hallways to some kind of stardom. In last April’s Texas Monthly, Jason Sheeler wrote a sharp-eyed profile of Jane Aldridge, she of Sea of Shoes, a Dallas-based personal style blog focused primarily on designer footwear. What is the day to day life of a successful blogger? Especially one who isn’t even a grownup yet? Sheeler finds Jane to be an “intimidating” young woman who has no qualms about snapping at her interviewer and regularly collaborates with her mother, a stage mom for the digital age, to create the perfect photograph of herself wearing exceedingly expensive shoes. About those shoes: most of them originally belonged to Jane’s mother, and they were the blog’s initial “investment,” as far as Jane’s parents were concerned, but this blogger now makes around $5,000 for sponsored posts and $20,000 for public appearances. Read it and weep.

“The Mogul Who Made Justin Bieber”
Lizzie Widdicombe
The New Yorker
September 3, 2012

Often it’s the people behind the stars who are most interesting than the stars themselves: the agents, the managers, the moms and dads. Lizzie Widdicombe profiled the manager Scooter Braun, a former party promoter who discovered Justin Bieber on YouTube, in the New Yorker in September. Like her 2011 profile of Taylor Swift, Widdicombe’s story is shrewd, probing and funny. At one point in the interview process, Braun asks Bieber what he thinks Braun’s biggest fault is. “He’s too hard to impress,” Bieber says. “He’s too hard on me. In life.” Yes, well.

“The Oral History of the Beatrice Inn”
Kelley Hoffman
The Cut (New York Magazine)
December 10, 2012

Thought Catalog contributor Kelley Hoffman compiled this great oral history of the infamous West Village club Beatrice Inn, with contributions from regulars like Chloe Sevigny, the former owners (including Chloe’s brother, Paul), and the “ordinary” people lucky enough to have been able to get into the place. “If you seemed like you were a guy who was going to hit on every single girl, you weren’t allowed in,” explains former doorman Angelo Bianchi. “There was always a kind of air that something dangerous could happen,” says Chloe. “Or something really unexpected. It just felt like you could really let loose in a way you couldn’t in any other places that I remember. It was a reckless kind of place…There was freedom inside once you passed through the door.” A truly transportive and funny read. TC mark

image – [YouTube]
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