Paula Deen, Making Millions After a Scandal


And there is still profit to be squeezed from the Paula Deen brand. Deen’s products — through collaborations with Meyer Corporation, among others—had seen a reported 35 percent sales increase in the first two quarters of this year; subscriptions to her magazine reportedly grew by 40 percent. (For perspective, in those two quarters, paid subscriptions for magazines in general faltered 1.8 percent and single-copy newsstand sales fell a significant 11.9 percent from a year before.)

An investment in Paula Deen conveys a deep understanding of America’s political temperature and where we’re headed: that Paula’s comeback isn’t about forgiveness — it’s about standing her ground. Even in her pre-scandal life, she didn’t care when Anthony Bourdain called her “the worst, most dangerous woman in America.” No, she was defiant. “There was a time,” her recipes always seemed to say, “when we didn’t ruefully chew our tree bark and soy cheese on gluten-free foam bread in the hopes of making it to 94. We lived. We ate, and we enjoyed it — right until the moment we suddenly clutched our chest on a golf course, keeled over and died at the age of 69. Men had died so we could do this.” Now we are a nation that is leaning further and further toward conservative clansmanship and white tribalism, and this sets Paula on her way to being a true tycoon of her own martyrdom.

— At Matter, Taffy Brodesser-Akner examines Paula Deen’s career trajectory after her contract wasn’t renewed at the Food Network and finds that Deen’s die-hard supporters have helped her make millions post-scandal.

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Photo: Beth/Flickr

Your Inner Drone: The Politics of the Automated Future


Nicholas Carr | The Glass Cage: Automation and Us | October 2014 | 15 minutes (3,831 words)


The following is an excerpt from Nicholas Carr‘s new book, The Glass Cage, out today. Our thanks to Carr for sharing this piece with the Longreads community.  Read more…

Is ‘Garden City’ Urbanism the Answer?


Could garden cities help fix these problems? Advocates think so. They argue that garden cities can deliver the humane, sustainable, equitable communities that people want and the planet needs, by slashing emissions, preserving green space, and encouraging neighborly interaction.

Today, garden-city projects are popping up from England to India to Cambodia. In particular, China, where construction rates have exploded since the early 2000s, has become a petri dish for garden cities. Among several planned communities is Heart of Lake, designed by Stern’s firm and currently being built on an island in Xiamen. “We are being asked to do interpretations of it in other Chinese cities,” Stern says.

But many, if not most, of these new garden cities and suburbs will look nothing like Forest Hills Gardens. They will be bigger, taller, and denser. Heart of Lake, for instance, will pack 2 million square feet of construction into a mere 25 acres and include high-rise apartments. It’s also unclear that these projects will adhere to core garden-city values, including community ownership and the mixing of social classes. What’s more, there is little data to prove definitively that garden cities are in fact the right solution for urban ills; firm figures on their environmental, social, and other impacts are hard to come by when no two projects look alike.

Amanda Kolson Hurley writing for Foreign Policy about the history of ‘garden cities,’ and their unlikely resurgence.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

How Sam Simon, Co-Creator of ‘The Simpsons,’ Is Facing Cancer


And so, in the fullness of time, it came to pass that almost 100 episodes of The Simpsons were completed, most with Sam at the helm, thus ushering the show into the lucrative world of international syndication. Then, in 1993, he left. “I can’t honestly say we were getting along as well at that point as when the project started,” he says. (The terms of his departure included a non-disclosure agreement.) “But it worked out for everyone. Everyone should be happy.” His settlement gave him a percentage of everything relating to the show—including the licensing and merchandising—worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. “I make tens of millions of dollars a year, which may not sound like a lot, but over 25 years it adds up.” Sam laughs.

“I’m an atheist, but there’s a thing called tithing that a lot of religions do. Ten percent was the minimum you were supposed to give to charity every year. And I always outdid that,” Sam explains. In 2002 he started the multi-platform Sam Simon Foundation, one arm of which rescues animals from Los Angeles kill shelters and trains some of them to be service dogs for the hearing-impaired and veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Then there’s the mobile veterinary clinic, also in Los Angeles, which offers free surgery and free spay and neuter services. But it’s not just animals; another arm of the foundation funds the Feeding Families program, a vegan food bank that offers free meals to some 400 Los Angeles families a week. “We’re on track to distribute over a half-million pounds of food to more than 65,000 people this year,” its spokesman tells me. Sam is also the largest individual donor to Save the Children, which just announced a new global philanthropic community called the Simon Society.

— In Vanity Fair, Merrill Markoe profiles her friend Sam Simon, a co-creator of the Simpsons who was diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago. He’s been continuing to live the only way he knows how: with good humor and by dedicating his life to philanthropic causes.

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Photo: Mercy for Anim

The Honey Hunters


Michael Snyder | Lucky Peach | Summer 2014 | 20 minutes (4,960 words)

Lucky PeachOur latest Longreads Exclusive comes from Michael Snyder and Lucky Peach—a trip into the Sundarbans, where groups of honey hunters risk their lives in the forests to follow the ancient practice of collecting honey.
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The Difficulty of Finding Medical Help for Survivors Who Have Been Struck by Lightning


“Finding a doctor who knows anything about a lightning strike is next to impossible,” says Tamara Pandolph-Peary, 46, who was struck by lightning in August 2010, in the parking lot of the Springfield, Illinois, Men’s Warehouse where she worked.

Following her accident, Pandolph-Peary forgot how to use everyday objects, like a potato peeler; she could no longer get from point A to point B in her hometown; she suffered migraines and fatigue; she tripped over her sentences or suddenly lost the ability to understand what other people were saying; she was often dizzy and off-balance; she had tremors and chronic pain, and would unpredictably lose control of various body parts; and every now and then, when her nerves were on fire, even the slightest touch was painfully intense.

“I struggled with the ‘Why me?’ initially,” she says. “There was a time I was angry. There was a time I really missed who I used to be. I think I got past that part. You can be angry and hold onto that, and it can ruin everything you have left.”

— In Outside magazine, Ferris Jabr talks to people who have been struck by lightning and what life has been like for them since (roughly 90 percent of people who are stuck by lightning survive). Few survivors find adequate medical help since the occurrence is rare and doctors don’t know much about how lightning strikes alter the brain’s circuitry.

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Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation

Cultural Changes: A Reading List


September feels like a month of changes, to me. Growing up, the first day of school was my New Year. I made resolutions; I felt like a new person, at least for a little while. Today, I chose six stories about (possibly, eventually, hopefully, revolutionary) changes in television, fashion, religion and more.

1. Netflix Programming: “BoJack Horseman is the Funniest Show About Depression Ever.” (Margaret Lyons, Vulture, September 2014)

I’m still naive enough to think cartoons will always be lighthearted, despite the crudity of Family Guy and South Park. When the credits rolled on BoJack Horseman, I turned to my boyfriend, close to tears, and said, “That … that was really sad.” And that’s not a bad thing.

2. Supermodel Culture: “Will Model Chantelle Brown-Young Redefine What It Means to Be Beautiful?” (Isabel Slone, The Globe and Mail, September 2014)

Seeing the fashion blogger I used to follow in my tween years on the front cover of the style section of the Globe and Mail is a little surreal. Slone delivers an excellent piece on supermodel Brown-Young (a.k.a. Winnie Harlow), who has vitiligo and rocked the runway this September.

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The Pioneering Women Assigned to Program One of the Earliest Computers


After six weeks of training, the women returned to Penn, where they were given poster-size diagrams and charts describing ENIAC. “Somebody gave us a whole stack of blueprints, and these were the wiring diagrams for all the panels, and they said, ‘Here, figure out how the machine works and then figure out how to program it,’” explained McNulty. That required analyzing the differential equations and then determining how to patch the cables to connect to the correct electronic circuits. “The biggest advantage of learning the ENIAC from the diagrams was that we began to understand what it could and could not do,” said Jennings. “As a result we could diagnose troubles almost down to the individual vacuum tube.” She and Snyder devised a system to figure out which of the 18,000 vacuum tubes had burned out. “Since we knew both the application and the machine, we learned to diagnose troubles as well as, if not better than, the engineers. I tell you, those engineers loved it. They could leave the debugging to us.”

Snyder described making careful diagrams and charts for each new configuration of cables and switches. “What we were doing then was the beginning of a program,” she said, though they did not yet have that word for it.

-Walter Isaacson, in Fortune, on the women who changed early computing forever—an excerpt from his new book The Innovators.

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Photo: U.S. Army, Wikimedia Commons