55 Of The Most Important Articles About Culture From 2016
Lonnae O’Neal, The Undefeated
“Biles has risen to the top in a gymnastics system in which whiteness is the default for success at every level. The gymnastics world says it doesn’t see race, but white is a race, and perhaps that’s what they’re not seeing. Whether it’s the pressures of family, the contours of race or all the outsized Olympic expectations, Biles knows how to block everything out. She is the best in the world at keeping her balance and landing on her feet.”
Dan Shaw, New York
“‘Can I ask you a question, young man?’ he asked. ‘That Brazilian fellow — is he your special friend?’ He was referencing my then-boyfriend, Carlos Emilio, a photographer whom Bill had seen me with at parties. I told him yes.
“‘That's what I thought,’ said Bill as he unzipped the worn, vinyl shoulder bag he always carried. He pulled out an eight-by-ten manila envelope with the New York Times logo, and he handed it to me. Inside, I found the most extraordinary valentine. There was a red cardboard heart about eight inches wide with a doily pasted on it, and then two polka-dot hearts that were inset with a cut-out black-and-white photo of Carlos and a matching photo of me. I was awestruck and dumbstruck by this quiet gesture: Bill had been paying close attention to my romantic life.”
Willy Staley, California Sunday Magazine
“An unwillingness, or inability, to stop is perhaps the defining characteristic of Phelps’s career. He’s been the editor of Thrasher since 1993. The magazine occupies such a privileged space in skateboarding’s collective imagination that it’s difficult to know what to compare it to. Skaters call it 'the bible,' but we’re prone to hyperbole. Maybe it’s Vogue, but for degenerates, and Phelps is skateboarding’s Anna Wintour. Phelps likes to think of himself as the Thrasherbrand personified, and in many ways, from his caustic wit to his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport, that’s true.”
Julie Phillips, The New Yorker
“The history of America is one of conflicting fantasies: clashes over what stories are told and who gets to tell them. If the Bundy brothers were in love with one side of the American dream — stories of wars fought and won, land taken and tamed — Le Guin has spent a career exploring another, distinctly less triumphalist side. She sees herself as a Western writer, though her work has had a wide range of settings, from the Oregon coast to an anarchist utopia and a California that exists in the future but resembles the past.”
Sylvia Obell, BuzzFeed
“For many people, arguably Kris Jenner among them, it may seem as if Blac Chyna came out of nowhere: the PR equivalent of Venus rising fully formed from the foaming sea with an engagement ring in one hand and a pregnancy announcement in the other. But look closer and you’ll start to notice Chyna everywhere: dancing in rap videos, sitting courtside at NBA games, making appearances on your favorite reality show, in the pews at the biggest celebrity wedding of the decade. While no one and everyone was watching, Chyna was making calculated moves to close in on her own empire with a precision and finesse that not even the Kardashians saw coming. This wasn’t a PR breakthrough. It was a coup.”
Carrie Battan, GQ
“I am here to watch Lil Jon do his job. His job is to party. He got this job thanks to a decade of nightlife anthems and a hard-earned rep — abetted by Dave Chappelle's indelible impression — as a constitutionally hyped-up wild man; he'll often appear at this club two, three, even four times a week. At one point, I ask him, Why do these crowds keep coming to see you? He replies softly, ‘I guess people think Lil Jon is the perfect person to party with.’”
Alexis Okeowo, Bloomberg
“The love of Nollywood films around Africa, says Adi Nduka-Agwu, Iroko’s head of business development, has guided the company’s growth strategy. She works at a long table, one of several in Iroko’s three-story, purple-walled Lagos headquarters, where graphic designers, video editors, and other employees spend their day scrutinizing large-screen computers. The company also has offices in New York and London, but, Nduka-Agwu says, ‘we can grow our customer base a lot faster and a lot bigger here in Africa.’”
Giles Harvey, The New Yorker
“The techno-dystopian ‘what if'’s that Brooker poses in ‘Black Mirror’ are far-fetched, but his meticulous attention to detail gives the show a remarkable plausibility. ‘I’ve never been interested in the school of sci-fi that’s about, you know, aliens with croissant-shaped foreheads flying about through Sector Alpha-6,’ Brooker said. ‘I can’t get a foothold on that.’ Instead, he grounds his high-concept stories in the humanly mundane. Like 'The Twilight Zone,' another anthology series that distilled the ambient paranoia of its age, ‘Black Mirror’ ranges effortlessly across genres, cannibalizing everything from police procedurals and kitchen-sink dramas to eighties music videos and feminine-hygiene commercials; it is manifestly the work of someone who has clocked up many hours of screen time. But the show returns again and again to the domestic: horror, Brooker understands, begins at home.”
SCIENCE AND HEALTH
Eli Kintisch, Hakai
“As the crew unpacks the gear, Jensen lies on her stomach to peer down into the crack, assessing the soil layers that descend to about twice her height and stretch back 4,000 years in time. She lists the dangers to her team: tumbling into the crack, ‘half a ton of sod falling on you,’ ‘impalement’ on stakes, getting crushed by soil. ‘Nobody goes into the crack,’ she declares. Too bad, says geomorphologist Owen Mason, who sees ‘good wood’ of ancient houses in there. Standing in a safe area, Jensen examines the exposed strata. Top layers, still deeper than the researchers went in 1968, could shed light on the most recent occupations. The lower layers could offer clues about when the Paleo-Eskimos first began hunting here. And organic material throughout the strata could shed light on the plants and animals that constituted their world.”
Meaghan Winter, Bloomberg
“Clinic directors say the political climate has made it almost impossible to open clinics. ‘You’d think, This is crazy,’ says Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Whole Woman’s Health, which has acquired or opened clinics in five states since 2003. She’s the plaintiff in the coming Supreme Court case over abortion laws that have shuttered two of her five Texas locations. Arguments begin on March 2. The extra costs she and other providers face are at the heart of the case: The decision will largely come down to whether the justices think the laws have made it too expensive for clinics to operate — and to what extent that burdens patients. Says Hagstrom Miller: ‘This is probably the most difficult business you could ever run.’”
Nina Strochlic, National Geographic
“The baby still growing inside Pineda is battling the same virus that scientists say caused thousands across Latin America to be born with microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies’ undersize heads hide severe brain abnormalities. Another chilling thought crossed her mind: prison. Pineda feared that if she miscarried the baby, she might be accused of having had an abortion — a crime in El Salvador that could put her behind bars for up to 50 years.”
OUR MINDS, OUR SELVES
Meghan O'Gieblyn, The Point
“It is no accident that Alcoholics Anonymous originated during the 1930s, at a time when the deprivations of the Great Depression caused Americans to question many of their long-held assumptions about such matters. The sociologist Robin Room has noted that the program’s philosophy deeply resonated with the generation of men whose motto ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’ had failed to protect them from economic calamity. AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, was a stockbroker whose personal nadir coincided with the crash of the market, and in his autobiographical writings he often conflated the failure of this national ideology with his inability to master his own drinking. ‘A morning paper told me the market had gone to hell again,’ he wrote of a relapse in 1932. ‘Well, so had I.’”
Daniel Engber, WIRED
“Kennedy was himself once a famous neurologist. In the late 1990s he made global headlines for implanting several wire electrodes in the brain of a paralyzed man and then teaching the locked-in patient to control a computer cursor with his mind. Kennedy called his patient the world’s 'first cyborg,' and the press hailed his feat as the first time a person had ever communicated through a brain-computer interface. From then on, Kennedy dedicated his life to the dream of building more and better cyborgs and developing a way to fully digitize a person’s thoughts.
“Now it was the summer of 2014, and Kennedy had decided that the only way to advance his project was to make it personal. For his next breakthrough, he would tap into a healthy human brain. His own.”
Andrew Reiner, The New York Times
“It should come as no surprise that college enrollment rates for women have outstripped men’s. In 1994, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, 63 percent of females and 61 percent of males enrolled in college right after high school; by 2012, the percentage of young women had increased to 71, but the percentage of men remained unchanged.
“By the time many young men do reach college, a deep-seated gender stereotype has taken root that feeds into the stories they have heard about themselves as learners. Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.”
Daniel A. Gross, Nautilus
“‘It’s pretty clear that music has a biological basis,’ [neuroscientist Josh McDermott] says. ‘The evidence is that music is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t seem to be a purely cultural convention in the way that movies are. In pretty much every culture we know of, no matter their state of development or technological advancement, there’s always something you see and recognize as music. That seems to suggest that there’s something in the human brain that causes groups of humans to engage in musical behavior.’”
THE SHIFTING MEDIA LANDSCAPE
Robert Epstein, Aeon
“To understand how the new forms of mind control work, we need to start by looking at the search engine – one in particular: the biggest and best of them all, namely Google. The Google search engine is so good and so popular that the company’s name is now a commonly used verb in languages around the world. To ‘Google’ something is to look it up on the Google search engine, and that, in fact, is how most computer users worldwide get most of their information about just about everything these days. They Google it. Google has become the main gateway to virtually all knowledge, mainly because the search engine is so good at giving us exactly the information we are looking for, almost instantly and almost always in the first position of the list it shows us after we launch our search – the list of ‘search results’.”
Jason Burke, The Guardian
“New technologies have not only made it possible to produce propaganda with astonishing ease – they have also made it far easier to disseminate these films and images. Isis videos include the executions of western aid workers and journalists, Syrian government soldiers, alleged spies and suspected homosexuals, a Jordanian pilot, Christian migrant workers, and others. Some have been decapitated, others shot, blown up, hurled from tall buildings or burned alive. A representative sample can be viewed, entirely uncensored, with a few simple clicks on the device in your pocket or on which you may be reading this. One such video appears on a popular British newspaper’s website after an advertisement for family holidays. The scenes of actual killing have been removed but little else.”
Dune Lawrence, Bloomberg
“[Benjamin] Wey had already started tweeting that I was implicated in ‘massive frauds.’ When Bloomberg’s lawyers sent him a letter telling him to take down the tweets and stop defaming me, he fired off another long e-mail. ‘You are a tabloid writer, a sensational woman, a total loser with absolutely no sense of morality,’ read the message, which nonetheless went on to say that ‘this is just the beginning of endless efforts to express our opinions forever, and continues the debates of our differences in civility.’
“I knew something was coming, so I kept Googling my name and Wey’s name to see what it would be. That’s how I discovered my star turn on TheBlot.”
Aria Dean, The New Inquiry
“Intuitively, the selfie still feels valuable, but the compounded male, white, and colonialist gazes that work so hard to blur Black women and femmes into oblivion have too much force behind them to leave me with enough agency both to politicize a topless mirror selfie and to believe in that politicization one-hundred percent. Since it has been made abundantly clear, of late, that photo or video documentation proves very little and changes even less, simply documenting the Black female body falls short. Maybe a selfie comes close to proving that you exist – that you are at least firmly situated in time and space — but it proves nothing else conclusive about you: this is to say that, self-documentation of Black life still seems unable to contend with the ‘mass of images’ produced by anti-blackness’s aggressive and distributed media campaign.”
KIDS THESE DAYS
Elspeth Reeve, New Republic
“To grow a following on Tumblr beyond people you know, you have to post more than updates on your personal life — you need stuff that will resonate with strangers. Viral fame on Tumblr in the early 2010s was an uncertain path to fortune. The most common was the Tumblr-to-book phenomenon: The creator of Hipster Puppies closed a five-figure book deal in 2010. While other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn generated billions upon billions of dollars, Tumblr gradually evolved into a fast-moving conversation focused on jokes, art, and sex. The culture of Tumblr began to be dominated by teens — weird teens.”
Emilie Friedlander, Vice
“Approximately 50 million people under the age of 21 — or roughly half of the teens and preteens in America — are on musical.ly, and a handful of that generation's most beloved viral stars got their start on the app. There's Baby Ariel, a 15-year-old Florida native who began uploading lip-sync videos to songs by Justin Bieber and Drake while living in her grandparents' house; as I'm writing this, she has 13 million followers on musical.ly, does national tours with other digi-celebrities, and makes money off of sponsored editorial on her YouTube channel. And there's Jacob Sartorius, a former child actor from Virginia who debuted his first pop single, ‘Sweatshirt,’ to his roughly 10 million followers on the app. By September, the song—a tune about the 14-year-old heartthrob offering to let a girl wear his sweatshirt in case she's not yet ready to kiss—had more than 26 million views on YouTube.”
Clive Thompson, The New York Times
“For one thing, it doesn’t really feel like a game. It’s more like a destination, a technical tool, a cultural scene, or all three put together: a place where kids engineer complex machines, shoot videos of their escapades that they post on YouTube, make art and set up servers, online versions of the game where they can hang out with friends. It’s a world of trial and error and constant discovery, stuffed with byzantine secrets, obscure text commands and hidden recipes. And it runs completely counter to most modern computing trends. Where companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google want our computers to be easy to manipulate — designing point-and-click interfaces under the assumption that it’s best to conceal from the average user how the computer works — Minecraft encourages kids to get under the hood, break things, fix them and turn mooshrooms into random-number generators. It invites them to tinker.”
Jessica Contrera, Washington Post
“Max’s family is used to hearing him pretend that strangers on the Internet can see him. In the six years he’s been growing up, YouTube has become the largest platform for children’s entertainment on Earth. Today’s kids have little interest in the well-groomed child actors that past generations saw on TV. They want to watch each other.
“Videos of kids simply acting like kids attract millions of viewers, sometimes billions. Every moment of childhood — getting new toys, tagging along to the grocery store, making up games in their back yards — is material that can be recorded and uploaded.
“So is it any wonder what the children who watch these videos begin to act as if their entire lives are being recorded, too?”
Eternity Martis, Hazlitt
“On a February day, a group of Grade 8 students from an Etobicoke public school came to the Mackenzie House, listening to heritage interpreter Bruce Beaton talk about William Lyon Mackenzie’s role in the Toronto abolitionist movement. The TD Bicentennial Education Fund sponsored the visit with the aim of increasing youth accessibility to Toronto’s historic sites. Some students got to play hooky because the weather was bad, but others looked forward to the free trip. Sitting cross-legged on an old, patterned rug in Mackenzie’s living room, an iPhone sticks out of a girl’s back pocket and a Samsung phone beeps. But the phones stay put, the kids are attentive and engaged. Even though the burning question is if Mackenzie died in the house, they are just as interested in the tales of escaped slaves and political defiance.”
Adrian Chen, The New Yorker
“It is difficult to find a resident of Davao who is willing to speak out against the death squads. One day I visited Clarita Alia, a sixty-two-year-old vegetable vender, who became a strident critic of Duterte after her four teen-age sons were killed within six years. She lives in a one-room shack on a narrow street in Bankerohan, the site of the largest market in Davao. An ancient television sat on a plastic barrel, and bedding and clothes were stacked along one wall. Alia sat cross-legged on a wooden bed frame with no mattress; next to her, her daughter played with her three-year-old granddaughter. When I asked Alia what she thought of Duterte, she said, ‘He is a demon.’”
Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley, and Andrew Willis, Bloomberg
“According to Sepúlveda, his payments were made in cash, half upfront. When he traveled, he used a fake passport and stayed alone in a hotel, far from campaign staff. No one could bring a smartphone or camera into his room.
“Most jobs were initiated in person. Sepúlveda says Rendón would give him a piece of paper with target names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. Sepúlveda would take the note to his hotel, enter the data into an encrypted file, then burn the page or flush it down the toilet. If Rendón needed to send an e-mail, he used coded language.”
Cian Traynor, Huck
“People saw the terrorism in Paris, for example, as part of an ongoing campaign to create a police state – one where government agencies engineer hoax tragedies to instil fear and bolster control. A fake Syrian passport found near the body of a suicide bomber was considered a tell-tale sign.
“Then there was the timing: coming one day before the G20 summit in Turkey meant terrorism would overshadow all other issues among heads of government. So when French president François Hollande pledged to invoke emergency powers that would constrain civil liberties in the name of safety, it was exactly as conspiracy theorists predicted.”
Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed
“The group is, according to a White House statement...receiving their orders from the highest echelons of the Russian government and their actions ‘are intended to interfere with the US election process.’ For the cybersecurity companies and academic researchers who have followed Fancy Bear’s activities online for years, the hacking and subsequent leaking of Clinton’s emails, as well as those of the DNC and DCCC, were the most recent — and most ambitious — in a long series of cyber-espionage and disinformation campaigns. From its earliest-known activities, in the country of Georgia in 2009, to the hacking of the DNC and Clinton in 2016, Fancy Bear has quickly gained a reputation for its high-profile, political targets.”
THE U.S. ELECTION
Hannah Gold, Mask
“I was walking with a friend through Chelsea toward a party, discussing the presidential election, what else, when the line came to me: ‘Omarosa could be the next Valerie Jarrett!’ This took some explaining, since my friend had never watched The Apprentice, and I did a poor job of it, because I have no memory for the plot points of reality TV shows. I would say it’s because I ‘have a life’ but honestly I’ve forgotten the plots of hundreds of reality TV shows. The best I can conjure is that Omarosa Manigault didn’t win, but is still the most famous cast-member in the history of our future overlord’s NBC-produced business acumen gauntlet. She was ruthless, or her character was edited as such, and she always wanted to be ‘project manager.’ (Google it, life-haver.) In one episode, a small piece of plaster dislodged from the ceiling of a worksite she was supervising, hitting her in the head and causing her to lose focus in the competition.”
Jeet Heer, New Republic
“On the first night of the Republican National Convention, Rudy Giuliani laid downthe apocalyptic stakes of the the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton:“There’s no next election. This is it. There’s no time left for us to revive our great country.” The former mayor of New York City was echoing Trump at his most apocalyptic with the suggestion that the country faced a choice between life and death, that the very election of Clinton would spell doom.
“Giuliani earned the most enthusiastic response from the Republican crowd of the evening because he made the message of impending death the most explicit of anyone speaking. But he was only the loudest ranter of the evening; otherwise his message wasn’t unique. One way or another, almost all the speakers came back to the matter of death.”
The New Yorker
“Among the institutions in decline are the political parties. This, too, was both intuited and accelerated by Trump. In succession, he crushed two party establishments and ended two dynasties. The Democratic Party claims half the country, but it’s hollowed out at the core. Hillary Clinton became the sixth Democratic Presidential candidate in the past seven elections to win the popular vote; yet during Barack Obama’s Presidency the Party lost both houses of Congress, fourteen governorships, and thirty state legislatures, comprising more than nine hundred seats. The Party’s leaders are all past the official retirement age, other than Obama, who has governed as the charismatic and enlightened head of an atrophying body. Did Democrats even notice? More than Republicans, they tend to turn out only when they’re inspired. The Party has allowed personality and demography to take the place of political organizing.”—George Saunders
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
“The ties between the Obama White House and the hip-hop community are genuine. The Obamas are social with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. They hosted Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean at a state dinner, and last year invited Swizz Beatz, Busta Rhymes, and Ludacris, among others, to discuss criminal-justice reform and other initiatives. Obama once stood in the Rose Garden passing large flash cards to the Hamilton creator and rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, who then freestyled using each word on the cards. ‘Drop the beat,’ Obama said, inaugurating the session. At 55, Obama is younger than pioneering hip-hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, and Kurtis Blow. If Obama’s enormous symbolic power draws primarily from being the country’s first black president, it also draws from his membership in hip-hop’s foundational generation.”
THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
Steven Thrasher, BuzzFeed
“No one had shown up to support him. His own mother wasn’t there; she would arrive late and leave before his trial ended. His only ally that morning was his public defender, Heather Donovan, a petite white woman in a gray suit, and she stood up in front of the pool of potential jurors and told them that her client was…guilty until proven innocent.
“Amid groans in the courtroom, the judge, Jon Cunningham, reminded Donovan that she’d meant to say the opposite: that her client was innocent until proven otherwise.
“Things never got better for Johnson, who has become one of the most highly publicized targets of America’s controversial HIV laws, which make it a crime for HIV-positive people to have sex without first disclosing that they have the virus. When actor Charlie Sheen announced that he is HIV-positive last month, he said that at least two of his sexual partners had been ‘warned’ about his health status. But another of his sex partners came forth to say the actor never told her that he has HIV, potentially opening him up to prosecution under California’s law.”
Scott Eden, GQ
“For its case against GS9, and Pollard in particular, the prosecution was relying in large part on a series of recorded phone conversations. One of the GS9 crew, Devon Rodney, whom everyone called Slice, was doing a stint on Rikers Island. Once investigators grew interested in GS9, they went back and listened to Slice's calls from prison to his friends back home in the neighborhood. The slang-laden conversations, snippets of which were transcribed and included in the indictment, seemed to depict a group of kids preoccupied with armed conflict with their enemies, encounters with cops, and, apparently, dealing drugs, although the quantities in question are not made clear by the prosecution. To law enforcement, the slang was an elaborate ‘code’ worked out by the ‘gang’ specifically to camouflage its nefarious dealings. To ‘suntan’ was to shoot at someone. To "scoom" was to shoot at someone. A ‘tone’ was a gun. A ‘CD’ was a gun. ‘Twork’ was drugs. ‘Crills’ were drugs. Lined up chronologically in numbered paragraphs in the 74-page indictment, the 120 snippets of dialogue — the ‘overt acts’ purporting to show a group of people conspiring together—formed a highly compelling prosecutorial narrative.”
Lili Holzer-Glier, Vera
“When people are arrested—even before they visit bond court—within hours they are interviewed by social worker Elli Petacque-Montgomery and her team to screen for mental illness, a procedure unique to Cook County. Among the 60 people screened for mental illness on November 10 of last year after their arrest, 63 percent of women and 37 percent of men were considered mentally ill. Five had previously been involved with the Department of Children and Family Services, often indicating childhood abuse or neglect.
“Petacque-Montgomery’s team quickly assesses crisis situations and immediately places acutely psychotic, violent, or suicidal arrestees in single cells away from other inmates. People who are psychotic are then sent to CERMAK, the jail’s division for physically ill and acutely mentally ill patients. Those with minor mental illness are sent to Division Two, Dorm Two, where they live in dormitory-style bunk beds instead of cells and receive therapy and medication.”
Tom Scocca, Gawker
“Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection.”
“As tens of thousands of secret emails reveal, Al Jarah and Unaoil were at the heart of a global bribery operation funded, sometimes wittingly, by dozens of US, British, European and Australian multinationals. These firms paid huge sums to Unaoil. In return, Unaoil used its friends in high places to win billions of dollars worth of government contracts.”
Chris Hamby, BuzzFeed
“Say a nation tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution. Imagine that a company could turn to this super court and sue the whole country for daring to interfere with its profits, demanding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars as retribution.
“Imagine that this court is so powerful that nations often must heed its rulings as if they came from their own supreme courts, with no meaningful way to appeal. That it operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret. That the people who decide its cases are largely elite Western corporate attorneys who have a vested interest in expanding the court’s authority because they profit from it directly, arguing cases one day and then sitting in judgment another. That some of them half-jokingly refer to themselves as ‘The Club’ or ‘The Mafia.’”
Jeremy Gordon, The New York Times
“With each passing year, more and more facets of popular culture become something like wrestling: a stage-managed ‘reality’ in which scripted stories bleed freely into real events, with the blurry line between truth and untruth seeming to heighten, not lessen, the audience’s addiction to the melodrama. The modern media landscape is littered with ‘reality’ shows that audiences happily accept aren’t actually real; that, in essence, is wrestling.”
Tim Struby, Victory Journal
“Once in a while a Team USA staffer will score a ticket or two for athletes to sit in the stands. On rare occasions an alternate has even snuck in to the ceremonies. But for the most part, alternates watch on television, at a restaurant, or in their hotel rooms. Or, as was the case in 2004, at a toga party at the American College of Greece in Athens. ‘They had a viewing party for us in the dorms about a block from the USA training facility,’ says Tim Morehouse, a 2004 fencing alternate. Team USA provided large screen TVs, mounds of food, and music for the group, which also included support staff and coaches. Yet no matter where alternates watch the ceremonies, the reaction is universal. ‘Athletes say that the moment they feel like Olympians is the moment they walk through the stadium tunnel of the opening ceremony,’ says Morehouse. ‘That’s the moment I really felt not part of the Olympics.’”
Rembert Brown, New York
“It’s a potent reminder that what Kaepernick and others are doing is not just a sports issue, not just a free-speech issue, and not even just a race issue. This is about risk: that first bold statement, that first leap of faith into the intimidating world of dissent. It’s about doubling down on being a minority in white spaces, with an understanding that your place in said space will never be the same. It’s a harsh reminder that those who now publicly distrust you genuinely thought they were doing you a favor by accepting you in the first place.”
LIFESTYLE AND BUSINESS
Kyle Chayka, Racked
“Over the past five years, Kinfolk's signature aesthetic has birthed a sprawling empire. Its umbrella includes translated international editions, clothing lines, a boutique creative agency, and a new print title launching later this year, as well as two books, The Kinfolk Table and The Kinfolk Home, that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The last lifestyle magazine to arrive before multimedia social networks truly took hold, it's equally relevant in print and on-screen. On Instagram, #kinfolk and related hashtags like #liveauthentic collect millions of posts from loyal fans who style their own lives in the magazine's image.”
Lux Alptraum, The Verge
“On Christmas Eve, 2013, Beyoncé and Jay Z hit a small SoHo boutique for a $6,000 shopping spree. Normally, this might not have been newsworthy. But the boutique in question was Babeland, an upscale sex toy shop known more for its collection of butt plugs than Balenciaga.
“Within days, the story was all over the tabloids; appearing first on Radar, then making the rounds to virtually every news outlet with an interest in Bey, Jay, or Babeland. For most reporters, the story seemed to be less that the Carters had bought sex toys – their sexual adventurousness having already been well documented in ‘Drunk in Love’ – and more that they’d spent so much. How, exactly, was it possible to spend thousands of dollars on marital aids?”
Sapna Maheshwari, BuzzFeed
“The trend toward making a ‘Drybar of’ for every beauty service has resulted in an array of niche salons that allow women to have a personal makeup artist, aesthetician, or weekly hairstylist without the high costs typically associated with these luxuries, with appointments that can be squeezed into busy schedules. During our interview, Webb said she got her eyelash extensions at a place that specializes in eyelash extensions. These businesses, Brod said, are big beneficiaries of a culture soaked in selfies and social media.”
Laurie Penny, The Baffler
“The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are.”
Emily Byrd, Narratively
"‘While the use of cannabis is central in the church’s spiritual practice, it isn’t used to promote any single deity or religious tradition. As church member Gerry Gobel – a professional comedian – describes it, the importance of the sacrament is its ability to act as a sort of ‘spiritual accelerator.’ It’s grease on the wheels – a supplement to aid spiritual introspection and self-actualization. Gobel, 48, says this is scarier to most people than simply reading through a few ancient verses, singing a hymn, or declaring allegiance to a restrictive religious practice."
Amanda Chicago Lewis, BuzzFeed
“Even though research shows people of all races are about equally likely to have broken the law by growing, smoking, or selling marijuana, black people are much more likely to have been arrested for it. Black people are much more likely to have ended up with a criminal record because of it. And every state that has legalized medical or recreational marijuana bans people with drug felonies from working at, owning, investing in, or sitting on the board of a cannabis business. After having borne the brunt of the ‘war on drugs,’ black Americans are now largely missing out on the economic opportunities created by legalization.”
Alex Mayyasi, Priceonomics
“McAlpine is an athletic man whose spirit animal is almost definitely a brown bear, and he grins as he explains that his parents never knew that he and his friends smoked weed as they worked out in the garage. When he got older, McAlpine went to the gym with a bong sitting in the passenger seat of his Mazda 626. ‘I would get bored about 45 minutes in. Every workout, I’d go out to the car at the 45-minute mark… and I’d pork a big one, and my mind was right again. I worked out twice as long because I had that bong hit.’”
Cynthia Tan, Inc.
“One day, a machine broke in the assembly line, causing some Cheetos to not get dusted with the bright orange cheese powder, so Richard took some home and put chili powder on them. He created his own recipe for a spicier version of Cheetos that was inspired by a Mexican street snack called elote (corncob).
“‘I see the corn man adding butter, cheese, and chili to the corn and thought, what if I add chili to a Cheeto?’ Richard remembers. His family, friends, and co-workers all loved the new creation and they encouraged him to tell the plant supervisors about it. Richard called the president and talked the secretary into putting his call through. Richard told him that he had an idea for a new product and he got a chance to give a demonstration.”
Amy Lombard, Mashable
“‘Are you interviewing people about Wawa?’ a customer named Ferrenc Rozsa approaches me. ‘You know, I wrote a song about Wawa.’ He quickly retreats to his car and then back into the store with a country tune blasting through the speakers of his iPhone.
“Coffee in the morning, hoagies in the afternoon
In the evening I fill up my tank
They got everything and more
I love my Wawa, I love my Wawa
I love my Wawa, it’s my favorite store.
"Rozsa imagines Blake Shelton on lead vocals.”
David Chang, WIRED
“Cooking, as a physical activity, doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has. To compensate for my lack of dexterity, speed, and technique, I think about food constantly. In fact, I’m much stronger at thinking about food than I am at cooking it. And recently I started seeing patterns in our most successful dishes that suggested our hits weren’t entirely random; there’s a set of underlying laws that links them together. I’ve struggled to put this into words, and I haven’t talked to my fellow chefs about it, because I worry they’ll think I’m crazy. But I think there’s something to it, and so I’m sharing it now for the first time. I call it the Unified Theory of Deliciousness.”
Reggie Ugwu, BuzzFeed
“I wish I could tell you this was a story with a silver lining, that the trip to the country of my parents’ birth was ultimately restorative for my mom, dad, sister, and me. If I could make the illusion stick, I’d say it was a trip worthy of the movies, a cathartic, third-act coda that brought our lives full circle and filled our hearts with sober gratitude. And the house that greeted us there? Dad’s decade-long obsession that we’d been building (in keeping with tribal tradition) in the lush, sun-baked village of my late paternal grandfather? It was finally completed, standing even as I write this as a shining monument to triumph over adversity and the immortal legacy of mankind’s struggle on earth, or something. Yes, we had fallen on hard times, to be sure. But somehow, during those two blistering weeks together, all of the ordinary and devastating tragedies that have fractured my family in ways both sudden and inexorable were put in proper perspective, their greater meaning climactically revealed as we held each other and wept under a mighty acacia tree. I would not be above telling a story like that if only any of it were true. But, of course, that’s not the way it happened.”
Riz Ahmed, The Guardian
“You see, the pitfalls of the audition room and the airport interrogation room are the same. They are places where the threat of rejection is real. They are also places where you are reduced to your marketability or threat-level, where the length of your facial hair can be a deal-breaker, where you are seen, and hence see yourself, in reductive labels – never as ‘just a bloke called Dave.’ The post 9/11 Necklace tightens around your neck.”
Matthew Trammell, The New Yorker
“The first time I noticed Tree Man, not long after moving into my apartment, last summer, he was a weird and funny nuisance—I snapped some videos for Instagram, stared at him and listened for a few moments, then closed my window and drifted back into my afternoon nap. But when he kept returning, I came to count on him. I grew up a few blocks away, but I couldn’t guess whether he’d been climbing the tree for years or if he’d shown up the week before I’d arrived. Maybe he was enticed by the growing audience in a neighborhood that was rapidly attracting new residents. He certainly enjoyed the attention: Who climbs a tree and sings without being a bit of a narcissist? Still, I decided he was cool, with a ragged but considered personal style, and a pretty sweet orange bike. He was strange but harmless, and he wasn’t causing any trouble beyond ruining a nap or two. Other people on the busy street seemed to feel the same way. Tree Man’s concerts continued unabated through August, and then he disappeared into the fall.”
Tim Murphy, BuzzFeed
“I had a strange epiphany after that trip. I’d told no one about the trip, nobody found out, and at first I felt strangely smug that I had pulled it all off with about $30 left in my pocket. I could manage my drug use! But then it occurred to me: Here I was in Boston, cut off from every friend I’d ever had in New York, many of whom were no longer speaking to me, getting by on an $11-an-hour customer service job, no lease, no future prospects. I was by then 32. How much longer could I go on like that? There had to be a better life out there.”