Long reads

Weekend long reads – 29 Sept

Take some time this weekend to delve a bit deeper and enjoy these long reads.

Bath salts: the drug that never lets go – Jenny Marder (PBS Newshour)

Christmas morning is usually slow for Louisiana’s poison control center, but on Dec. 25, 2010, Mark Ryan got a call about a bath salts case. Then another call, and another. In the six weeks following the death of Dickie Sanders, Ryan had noticed a rise in the use of bath salts, and that morning the calls were coming in rapid-fire succession: 11 in all. So Ryan canceled his vacation plans and started making his own calls.

The iPhone 5: a smartphone of extraordinary grace – John Brownlee (Cult of Mac)

A lot has already been said about how thin and light the iPhone 5 is, but it really can’t be overstated. The iPhone 5 is so light, you won’t even believe it’s a phone at first. It’s practically ephemeral.

The problem with Naomi Wolf’s vagina – Laurie Penny (New Statesman)

I have spent a disturbing few days with my nose buried in Naomi Wolf’sVagina. Naomi Wolf’s Vagina is warm and inviting, but seems to lack depth. Naomi Wolf’s Vagina is over-exposed. Naomi Wolf’s Vagina is crassly attention-seeking. Naomi Wolf’s Vagina is available in all good bookshops. There is something fishy about . . . no, actually, can I stop now? Are we done? Good.

The making of Goldeneye – Paul Drury (NowGamer)

A decade ago, first-person shooters were for PC gamers and Rare made very pretty platformers. Then GoldenEye came along and changed everything. We gather together four of the original development team – Dave Doak, Steve Ellis, Karl Hilton and Graeme Norgate – to tell us how they turned a film licence for a mysterious new console into the definitive console FPS.

Brave News World: media is dead — long live media – Gideon Haigh (Crikey)

Social media is revolutionising traditional media’s forms and practices: Twitter allows users to curate their own news streams; Facebook “likes” drive a growing proportion of online traffic; commentary on blogs, usually written for free, is regularly at least as expert if not more than what appears in newspapers. Locked in an awkwardly intimate embrace with an audience they have been apt to take for granted, journalists face a degree of scrutiny they used to reserve for others, and of competition they used to think was a great idea for everyone else.

How collecting opium antiques turned me into an opium addict – Lisa Hix (Collectors Weekly)

The beds were designed to give people privacy and reduce the drafts that would cause the opium lamp to flicker—they had partitions on three sides. Also, when you’re smoking opium, you find it’s very pleasurable to be in quiet, dimly lit places. You want to get away from things that are loud and noisy. For a couple of months, I wouldn’t leave my apartment. I couldn’t face people, even to order food. Life just seemed more hideous than it already is. It’s weird how opium turns the tables on you.

Creepshots and revenge porn: how paparazzi culture affects women – Kira Cochrane (The Guardian)

The issue of women’s pictures being taken and shared without their consent has been in the spotlight for more than a week now because of the furore around topless images of the Duchess of Cambridge. I suspect the most arresting photograph of the scandal will actually prove to be the one that shows where the photographer was apparently standing. An ‘x’ marks a spot on a public road, so far from the chateau where the couple were staying that you can barely make out the building itself. The perspective makes any argument against the right to privacy seem laughable, yet they continue. The editor-in-chief of Denmark’s Se og Hør magazine, which published a 16-page supplement of the photos, has implied Kate must accept some responsibility for “willingly revealing her breasts towards a public road”.

How to buy a daughter – Jasmeet Sidhu (Slate)

Desperate for a baby girl, Simpson and her husband drove four hours to a fertility clinic in Michigan. Gender selection is illegal in Canada, which is why the couple turned to the United States. They paid $800 for a procedure that sorts sperm based on the assumption that sperm carrying a Y chromosome swim faster in a protein solution than sperm with an X chromosome do.

The writing revolution – Peg Tyre (The Atlantic)

New Dorp’s Writing Revolution, which placed an intense focus, across nearly every academic subject, on teaching the skills that underlie good analytical writing, was a dramatic departure from what most American students—especially low performers—are taught in high school. The program challenged long-held assumptions about the students and bitterly divided the staff. It also yielded extraordinary results.

The other death sentence – James Ridgeway (Mother Jones)

William “Lefty” Gilday had been in prison 40 years when the dementia began to set in. At 82, he was already suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and a host of other ailments, and his friends at MCI Shirley, a medium security prison in Massachusetts, tried to take care of him as best they could. Most of them were aging lifers like Lefty, facing the prospect of one day dying behind bars themselves, so they formed an ad hoc hospice team in their crowded ward.

I am Damien Echols, death row survivor – (Reddit interview thread)

There is no mental health care for inmates on death row, just because they’re not going to spend a lot of time and money taking care of someone they plan on killing. Over the years I’ve seen them execute the mentally insane, the mentally handicapped, and even the brain-damaged. I think it’s detrimental to society, especially when you consider the fact that most people in prison will one day be back out on the street, and they will be just as insane as they were, probably even more so, than when they went in.

Hipsters and low-tech – PJ Rey (The Society Pages)

… hipsters’ obsession with antique devices reflects a desire to escape the complex and highly-interdependent socio-technical systems that characterize contemporary society and return to time in which technology appeared to be something that humans could master and, thus, use to affirm their individual agency. In short, the fetishization of low-tech is about the illusion of agency; it provides affirmation for the hipster whose identity is defined by the post-Modern imperative to be an individual, to be unique.

Suicidal dogs and bipolar wolves – Malcolm Harris (Salon)

We are comfortable going to the petting zoo or the farm and think about other animals as conscious feeling creatures with capability to be happy or sad. But I don’t think a lot of us have made the leap to thinking about other animals as individuals the way we think of ourselves. Outside of the animals that live with us that is, like our dogs and cats.

Scientology, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes: what Katie didn’t know – Maureen Orth (Vanity Fair)

There can be no underestimating how valuable Cruise was to Scientology. “Dave [Miscavige] told us in a meeting that if he could he’d make Tom Cruise inspector general—second-in-command,” says Marc Headley, “that if he weren’t Tom Cruise the actor he would be the number two.”

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