The Dangerous Beauty of Russian


Keith Gessen‘s parents left the Soviet Union when he was six, young enough that he speaks unaccented English but old enough that he still knows Russian — which he’s now teaching his son Raffi. In a lovely essay in The New Yorker, he reflects on bilingualism, child development, and why he’s teaching Raffi the language of a country he won’t even take him to visit.

When we started reading books to Raffi, I included some Russian ones. A friend had handed down a beautiful book of Daniil Kharms poems for children; they were not nonsense verse, but they were pretty close, and Raffi enjoyed them. One was a song about a man who went into the forest with a club and a bag, and never returned. Kharms himself was arrested in Leningrad, in 1941, for expressing “seditious” sentiments and died, of starvation, in a psychiatric hospital the following…

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The Urban Crisis of Affluence


After three decades living in and around New York City, I, too, am leaving to make way for the only people the city is still welcoming: billionaires who don’t live here.

In Harper’s Magazine, Kevin Baker writes at length in “The Death of a Once Great City” about how the few who can afford to build and buy in New York don’t want to live here, either. In one affluent twenty-block corridor, “almost one apartment in three sits empty for at least ten months a year.” A couple of neighborhoods south, developers at an eighty-three-unit luxury condo were recently offering “to throw in two studio apartments and two parking spots for any buyer willing to shell out $48 million for the building’s 7,000-square foot penthouse.” That’s five empty things for the price of one empty thing, in case you’d like to park dozens of millions of dollars in an…

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Mining Britain’s Recent Past to Save Our Future


Coal once fueled the British Empire, yet with little industry pushback the United Kingdom announced plans to stop burning it by 2025. Carolyn Beeler of Public Radio International chronicles the decision’s instigating events including divisive strikes, climate change awareness, and a levy on coal usage. Digging through this history unearths a glowing ember remaining staunchly reliant upon coal: The United States.

The announcement signaled the dethroning of King Coal in a country where it had reigned for more than a century, and where just six years prior it provided more than 40 percent of the nation’s energy.

By the turn of the millennium, environmentalist and lawmaker Baroness Bryony Worthington says, the issue of climate change was starting to work its way into the UK’s politics.  “There was a real sea-change in attitude toward climate change,” says Worthington, who today is a member of the House of Lords and heads the Environmental…

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Puma’s Ploy to Become Relevant in Basketball Again


There were few players as dominant in college basketball this past season as Deandre Ayton, a 7-foot-1 center who played his freshman year at the University of Arizona before declaring for the NBA draft. The native of the Bahamas was an imposing force and, as such, will likely be selected as the top pick in the 2018 NBA draft, which will be held at the Barclays Center this Thursday.

It’ll be a historic moment: If he is chosen by the Phoenix Suns with the first pick, Ayton will become the fourth international player in the past six years chosen as the number one overall pick. But even if he’s chosen as the second pick, Ayton will still make history — in a shocking turn, the center spurned Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour to sign a four-year multi-million sneaker endorsement deal with Puma, a company that hasn’t been relevant in the…

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The Power in Knowing: Black Women, HIV, and the Realities of Safe Sex


Minda Honey | Longreads | June 2018 | 11 minutes (2,763 words)

In December, when a creative agency asked me to participate in a regional Volunteers of America public service announcement encouraging my fellow community members to “know your status,” I said yes. A hesitant yes, but a yes. At least once a year, I make it a point to enlighten myself by asking my gynecologist for a full screening for sexually transmitted infections, including an HIV test. But I’m more of a safe sex bronze medalist than an all-star. My 17-year track record of requiring men to wear condoms during intercourse is only nearly flawless, my trysts with unsafe sex more recent than I’d like to admit.

A retrospective on my vagina’s contact with bare penis: When I lost my virginity — It was over and done with before I could utter any questions about using protection. There was…

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Standing in the Buffer Zone


In MEL Magazine, merritt k has an interview with Jeff, a 30-year-old man from Indiana who’s volunteered as a Planned Parenthood clinic escort for almost a decade. Patients trying to access healthcare services at Planned Parenthood clinics are often forced to make their way through a vocal gauntlet of anti-choice protestors; escorts serve as both a physical and emotional buffer. And as Jeff notes, male escorts are particularly good at redirecting protestor ire.

They prefer to yell at dude escorts, which I guess is the best case scenario for everybody — they get it out on us. What you learn quickly is that they don’t have a lot of space for women’s agency in all the ways you’d expect. Like, when they yell stuff at me, it’s particularly targeted at how “men are supposed to protect women.” The idea that women have choices isn’t involved at all. Certainly that’s the case…

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Chuck Klosterman on the Success of Taylor Swift, and the Word ‘Calculating’


If you don’t take Swift seriously, you don’t take contemporary music seriously. With the (arguable) exceptions of Kanye West and Beyoncé Knowles, she is the most significant pop artist of the modern age. The scale of her commercial supremacy defies parallel—she’s sold 1 million albums in a week three times, during an era when most major artists are thrilled to move 500,000 albums in a year. If a record as comparatively dominant as 1989 had actually existed in the year 1989, it would have surpassed the sales of Thriller. There is no demographic she does not tap into, which is obviously rare. But what’s even more atypical is how that ubiquity is critically received. Swift gets excellent reviews, particularly from the most significant arbiters of taste. (A 2011 New Yorker piece conceded that Swift’s reviews are “almost uniformly positive.”) She has never gratuitously sexualized her image and seems pathologically…

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Looking Back at Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville


Sometimes the music that endures is the music a musician writes early in their career, when they’ve lived inside a bubble free from fans and critical expectations. Songwriter Liz Phair made a huge splash in 1993 with her debut album Exile in Guyville. The album spawned a devoted following and, thankfully, its own 33 1/3 book. Twenty-five years later, Phair is rereleasing Guyville alongside her early home recordings.

For Esquire, Phair-fan Tyler Coates sees her play at Chicago’s legendary Empty Bottle, examines his own fandom, and talks with Phair about creativity, authority, and those early years before, as she put it, “I had a public awareness of what I represented to other people. There’s me, and then there’s Liz Phair.”

The dueling identities—the public and the private—are tough to pull apart for your average listener. Most of Phair’s work feels brutally honest and unfiltered; Guyville, released when she…

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Come for the Crullers, Stay for the Community


In a bid to get to know the people in her neighborhood, Laura Yan spends 24 hours in the Nostrand Avenue branch of Dunkin’ Donuts in New York City. As she reports at The Outline, what she discovered was that the lovely people she met and the new friends she made more than made up for sleep deprivation, stale croissants, and watery oatmeal.

Before I spent the day in Dunkin’ Donuts, I had the feeling that it would be a lonely place, a modern-day “Nitehawks” in Brooklyn. But my 24 hours there was full of delight. Instead of loneliness, I founded an unexpected community.

Weeks later, I walk past the Dunkin’ and look for familiar faces in the window. I can recognize the rotating staff, and situate them in the rhythm of shop: the morning rush, the indulgent afternoons, the evening lulls, and the late nights, when everything became…

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Lettuce Try to Grow Dwarf Tomatoes Next


How do radiation and a gravity-free environment affect plant growth? How do we keep the plants free of microbes? How does fresh food affect astronaut morale? At Popular Science, Sarah Scoles writes about how learning to grow food in space is a critical milestone to furthering space exploration, because astronauts simply can’t haul all the food they’ll need to thrive during long absences from Earth.

On August 9, (Commander Scott) Kelly snapped a picture, standing in front of the unfurling greens. His brow was furrowed, faux serious. “­Tomorrow we’ll eat the anticipated veggie harvest on @space_station!” he tweeted. “But first, lettuce take a #selfie.” Soon he crunched the harvest live on NASA TV. It might seem like no big deal, but a single leaf can make a big difference to someone who’s been eating rehydrated fare for months. During a later harvest, astronaut Peggy Whitson would use them to…

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