Longreads Is Joining the Automattic Family

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This month, Longreads is celebrating its fifth anniversary. I started this service in April 2009, and it has grown into an incredible global community of readers, writers and publishers. Together, we helped create a thriving ecosystem for longform storytelling and helped reverse the myth that the Internet has shortened attention spans or diminished our appetite for reading. (more…)

The Difficulties with Dirty Words

There are a number of difficulties with dirty words, the first of which is that there aren’t nearly enough of them; the second is that the people who use them are normally numskulls and prudes; the third is that in general they’re not at all sexy, and the main reason for this is that no one loves them enough….

Thin in content, few in number, constantly abused: what chance do the unspeakables have? Change is resisted fiercely, additions are denied. I have introduced ‘squeer,’ ‘crott,’ ‘kotswinkling,’ and ‘papdapper,’ with no success. Sometimes obvious substitutes, like ‘socksucker,’ catch on, but not for long. What we need, of course, is a language which will allow us to distinguish the normal or routine fuck from the glorious, the rare, or the lousy one—a fack from a fick, a fick from a fock—but we have more names for parts of horses than we have for kinds of kisses, and our earthy words are all . . . well . . . ‘dirty.’ It says something dirty about us, no doubt, because in a society which had a mind for the body and other similarly vital things, there would be a word for coming down, or going up, words for nibbles on the bias, earlobe loving, and every variety of tongue track. After all, how many kinds of birds do we distinguish?

From On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William H. Gass

Busting Out of Online Poker: Our College Pick

Montana

College campuses are full of ghosts. Alumni magazines have the glossy success stories about the alumnus who made good, but what students remember are the cautionary tales. The tormented writer who worked here for a while. The student who fell to his death from the eighth floor of your dorm. But these stories are almost always more legend than fact. Alexander Deedy’s chronicle of the University of Montana fraternity brother who built an online poker site into a multimillion dollar outfit and then went to jail for it is as much a celebration of the fantasy life of young men as it is a sober warning about the long arm of the law. Deedy’s pacing and sympathy makes his story compelling and his main character relatable.

“Almost Billionaires”

Alexander Deedy | The Montana Kaimin | March 27, 2014 | 15 minutes (3,863 words)

Netscape, 20 Years Later

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Chris Wilson: I still remember the very first time I got HTML content pulled over the network through Libwww and I was displaying it on my debugging monitor in my office at NCSA with Jon Mittelhauser sitting over my shoulder looking at it, and thinking that was amazing. I knew that it was going to be an amazing thing and the social aspect of everyone can publish on this platform was going to be amazing. But the idea that it would become this powerful and interoperable, I can’t take any credit for thinking that up front.

Rob McCool: I remember when I was driving somewhere in 1994, I was driving from Illinois to here [California] and I saw a URL on a billboard and I was like, “Oh my god! What is that doing there?” Now it’s taken for granted, but back then it was like, “Wow! What is that? Why is that there?”

Jon Mittelhauser: I can’t even begin to think it’s 20 years. But then I look back and I realize I’m significantly older than the guys I thought were the old guys who were managing us. The guys who had come out of SGI. Now I’m in the role, or senior to the role that they were in at that point. Aleks Totic: This is the stuff I’m thinking about these days: For me, I’m not used to being in the winning position. I come from a long tradition of geeks. Where you’re just not a winner. It’s really weird to see that the vision we had has just won over completely. That revolution is still being played out. As Marc said, software eats the world.

-An oral history of Netscape on its 20th anniversary, from the perspective of its creators. Read more oral histories.

A Kurt Cobain Reading List in Reverse Chronological Order

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Every generation has that one unforgettable death that bears the question, “Where were you when ____ died?” For baby boomers, it was JFK. For the cool music-minded baby boomers, it was John Lennon. And, for Generation Xers, like myself, it was Kurt Cobain. Like generations past, you never forget where you were when a cultural icon dies. For me, the day the news broke that Kurt Cobain died is permanently etched in my mind because I was there.
—Former Billboard editor Carrie Borzillo

Twenty-seven years ago, in December 1987, three kids in Aberdeen, Wash. formed the original line-up of Nirvana. They recorded a 10-song demo the next month. Bleach was released on Sub Pop six months later, followed by Nevermind in September, 1991. It opened at #144 on the Billboard charts. The next January, it hit #1, and the band played “Saturday Night Live” that same night. Three months later they were on the cover of Rolling Stone. In Utero, their third and final album, was released in September 1993, debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts and selling 180,000 copies within a week of its release. Seven months later, Kurt Cobain was dead; a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

That was 20 years ago. Nirvana will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this Thursday. Kurt Cobain’s life and legacy have been examined in far too many books, dissertations and teenage diary entries to name. This list is the opposite of comprehensive; instead it offers seven specific snapshots.

The Chemistry of an Echo: On the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, investigating copycat suicide and the lasting influence of the Nirvana icon (Candace Opper, Guernica, April 1, 2014)

According to Opper, Cobain’s death was arguably the first major celebrity suicide since Marilyn Monroe’s passing in 1962. This piece, which examines both Cobain’s death and the phenomena of suicide contagion, provides a fascinating look at how suicide prevention specialists sprung into action after the tragedy, providing resources to devastated fans.

Who Killed Kurt Cobain? (Tim Kenneally & Steve Bloom, High Times, April 1996)

Two years after Cobain’s death, High Times investigated the rumors that foul play—and not a self-inflicted gunshot wound—were to blame.

Kurt Cobain’s Final Tour (Amy Dickinson, Esquire, February 1996)

Crisscrossing the country with Courtney Love, this story follows the strange saga of Cobain’s earthly remains, which, in search of nirvana, are divided, molded, stuffed in a teddy bear, held up in customs, and inhaled by many).

Kurt Cobain’s Downward Spiral: The Last Days of Nirvana’s Leader (Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone, June 1994)

Rolling Stone traces Cobain’s final days—from his nearly fatal drug overdose in Rome to the discovery of his body one month later in Seattle.

Cobain to Fans: Just Say No (Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times, September 1992)

An LA Times interview in the living room of Cobain’s Hollywood Hills apartment; he addresses drug rumors and tenderly explains that as a new father he doesn’t want his daughter “to grow up and someday be hassled by kids at school… I don’t want people telling her that her parents were junkies.”

Kurt and Courtney Sitting In a Tree (Christina Kelly, Sassy Magazine, April 1992)

From the seminal teen magazine Sassy, a cover story on the then-newly engaged poster couple for grunge love. Bonus: an I Heart Daily video interview with the story’s author and former Sassy editor Christina Kelly.

Everett True Thrashes It Out With The Latest Wizards From Seattle’s Sub Pop Label (Everett True, Melody Maker, October 1989)

From the now defunct British music weekly Melody Maker, a very early interview—right after Bleach, and back when Cobain still spelled his name “Kurdt.” Cobain jokes around, sports a goatee and is described as “your archetypal small guy—wiry, defiantly working class and fiery.” Note: This interview comes via Flavorwire’s excellent compendium of essential Kurt Cobain books, interviews and photos.

Photo: Ramsey Beyer, Flickr

The Things In Our Diaries: A Reading List

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Age 7: Dear Diary, Today I went to Clarisse’s house. It was fun.

Age 13: Dear Diary, We are leaving for Mom-mom’s funeral soon. Mom and Dad are fighting and THE WORLD IS FALLING OVER.

Age 23 [written on this laptop, not my Moleskine]: I am fulfilling my daydream of feeling like a Privileged Artist & sitting in an artisanal coffeeshop, working on my freelance assignment, next to my boyfriend who is drawing Russian-inspired characters for his latest creative endeavoring.

My diaries aren’t all that thrilling and over time, they’ve transformed from hit-or-miss “daily” self-missives to emotional ramblings over the anarcho-Communist boy who was in my 10th grade geometry class to what they are today: a commonplace book full of ticket stubs, lists of anxieties, doodles and observations. Lately, I’ve been inspired by Dear Queer Diary on Autostraddle. But enough about my journaling habits. What are yours?

1. “Reading Other People’s (Fake) Diaries.” (Alanna Okun, Buzzfeed, March 2014)

From the Dear America series to the Princess Diaries, fictional diaries gave the author a set of “emotional blueprints” by which to navigate adolescence: “Finding a way to decode your feelings and figuring out how to spend your days are worthy pursuits, characters like Harriet [the Spy] tell us.” 

2. “My Dementia: Telling Who I Am Before I Forget.” (Gerda Saunders, Georgia Review/Slate, March 2014)

Professor Gerda Saunders’ mind is dementing. She provides excerpts of her own diary and examines her mother’s Day Book, a collection of 27 diary entries written in her native Afrikaans, as she, too, suffered from undiagnosed dementia.

“2-5-2011
During my going-away meeting with Gender Studies, the faculty gave me this journal. In it I’ll report my descent into the post-cerebral realm for which I am headed. No whimpering, no whining, no despair. Just the facts.”

3. “On Keeping a Liary: Anais Nin, Autobiography, and the Lady Narcissism Debate.”(Sady Doyle, Superworse, March 2013)

Oversharing or honesty? Trivial or timeless? The worth of women’s writing rages on, and Anais Nin is a complex character in this drama.

“Let’s start with a few unpleasant facts. First: Anais Nin was a fraud. Fifteen volumes of her diary (which disillusioned fans have referred to as “the liary”) have been published, and all of them are untruthful.”

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Photo: Magic Madzik

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Critical Reading on the Conservative Movement

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Below is a guest reading list from Maisie Allison, digital editorial director of The American Conservative.

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Here is a (mostly critical) reading list for conservatives and others interested in a deeper consideration of conservatism, and how the post-movement right might draw creatively from older sources to chart a way forward. My former boss Andrew Sullivan’s rule of thumb: It gets worse before it gets better. (more…)

Generational Shift for Kenya’s Maasai Tribe

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Once the lords of East Africa, the Maasai have been close to peerless in the modern age for maintaining the continuity of their traditions—traditions now imperiled by the tentacles of the market and by technology, as cell phones and cheap Chinese motorcycles, like the one we rode, upend the very possibility of isolation. Compulsory and nearly free education, instituted by former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, means most Maasai children are today in school. Those of the prior generation who were educated only in the ways of the tribe — who speak no Swahili or English but just Maa — are around 30 years of age. Many wile away the hours in clapboard bars, unable to resist that alcohol now available in quantities unheard of in the past, when beer was brewed in the home from honey and was not for sale.

-David McDannald, in The American Scholar (subscribers only), on the effects of globalization on the Maasai tribe in Kenya.

Read more from The American Scholar in our archive

Photo: wwarby, Flickr

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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Reimagining the Student Publication: Our College Pick

NYU

This week’s College Longreads selection is as much for the publication as it is for the story. Richie Siegel’s article about a Japanese street food restaurant in Chicago called Yoshu is mostly a profile of the owners, with a little bit of a restaurant review on the side. Siegel, a sophomore at NYU, is an ambitious writer whose work will mature well. He published the article in a digital magazine he founded called Seersucker, which is produced by and for Millennials. The low barrier to publish is both the beauty and curse of today’s digital tools. But Siegel’s magazine looks and reads with more sophistication because he and his team took the time to think about how the site would work and how the articles should read. We can hope for no less from the next generation of writers and editors.

The Couple Feeding Chicago

Richie Siegel | Seersucker Magazine | March 2014 | 15 minutes (2,722 words)