Each year, I track the most exceptional stories I encounter while assembling my twice-weekly newsletter, The Best of Journalism, as well as acting as an editor-at-large for Byliner. These projects afford me the opportunity to read as much impressive nonfiction journalism as any single person possibly can. The result is my annual Best of Journalism List, now in its fifth year. If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s the 2011 edition.
There are, of course, worthy pieces of writing and reporting that escaped my attention in 2012, but I can assure you that all of the 102 stories listed below deserve wider attention—as do the authors of these stories. The featured bylines are linked to the authors’ Byliner writer pages, which makes it easy to discover and read more of their excellent work. The stories are listed alphabetically by writer.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll also note that I’m a staff writer at The Atlantic (where my colleagues neither saw nor influenced this list) and have done my best to remain objective. I hope you enjoy this year’s selections. —Conor Friedersdorf
An Oxford philosopher argues that we are not adequately accounting for technology’s risks—but his solution to the problem is not for Luddites.
"Human beings have been around for roughly a hundred thousand years on this planet, so how much should that count in determining whether we're going to be around another hundred thousand years?"
Greg Ousley murdered his parents at 14. So why does he think he deserves to get out of prison?
"On one occasion, while his mother hung laundry in the backyard, he took a rifle down from the gun cabinet and aimed it at her head, imagining what would happen if he pulled the trigger. He quickly put the gun away, terrified by his own thoughts."
In the Golden State, the great writer first chronicled the social changes that would transform America.
"All that money, freedom, and sense of limitless possibility have the same effect on California writ large as they do on people who rocket overnight from steelworker’s son to superstar. Out pours everyone’s inner weird. And enter Tom Wolfe."
How a re-creation of its most famous battle helped erase the meaning of the Civil War.
"Four hundred feet long. Fifty feet high. It was art on an astonishing scale. 'The impression upon the beholder as he steps upon this platform,' one reviewer wrote, 'is one of mingled astonishment and awe.'"
The first lesson of teaching dying children is to come back the next day.
"Gio’s was the first death I witnessed as a writer, as an outsider who enters into the intimate world of struggling children. I assumed that his death was a template of sorts: this is how the very young die; they become almost holy."
The three-time NBA All-Star shares a distinctive piece of NBA history with Michael Jordan. So how did he end up here, in the remotest of hoops hinterlands?
"In five hours Walker will take the court for the Idaho Stampedes. An All-Star living in a $915-a-month apartment, and playing for a salary of less than $25,000. He has no car, subsists mainly on cold cuts and fast food and plays in front of crowds as small as 155."
We throw thousands of men in the hole for the books they read, the company they keep, the beliefs they hold. Here’s why.
"What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement."
"Any faceted solid, he showed, no matter how complex or irregular, could be folded from a single uncut sheet of paper. Start with a piece of paper big enough, and you could model Notre Dame down to the last gargoyle."
Merging Continental and United means endless decisions, from uniforms to coffee.
"Even simple-seeming choices grow comically intricate when they involve commercial air travel, with its constant balancing of safety, cost, space, style, reliability, convenience, speed, and comfort."
Many years after selling lifetime passes for unlimited first-class travel, American Airlines began scrutinizing the costs—and the customers.
"He was airborne almost every other day. If a friend mentioned a new exhibit at the Louvre, Rothstein thought nothing of jetting from his Chicago home to San Francisco to pick her up and then fly to Paris together."
How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains.
"What really is a color? Just like the crayons, we’re taking something that has no natural boundaries."
Yearning for conception in a world of fecundity.
"A large part of the pressure and frustration of infertility is the idea that fertility is normal, natural, and healthy, while infertility is rare, unnatural, and means something is wrong with you."
Unraveling the mystery of why the inhabitants of Ikaria live so long and so well.
"The years passed. His health continued to improve. Today, three and a half decades later, he’s 97 years old and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria."
One of the most terrifying aspects of Alzheimer’s disease is that those afflicted can seldom tell us what it is like.
"Lowell has an absurdist bent that complicates a reading of the illness. One of his typical jokes: 'What’s the difference between a duck?'"
"In our Moore’s law-driven age, we expect devices to continuously be getting smaller, lighter, more powerful, and more efficient. All this is great for innovation, but it’s terrible for reliability."
A troubling disorder changes everything.
"Once you've had cancer, no one will ever tell you you're healthy. The best you can hope for (and it's wonderful) is the little phrase ‘no evidence of disease’, often shortened to NED. This is less comforting than what you really want."
On reading—and re-reading—James Joyce’s “monster.”
"Sometimes I felt like I almost understood the Wake, and sometimes I felt like I was not supposed to understand it. Every so often I got so caught up in the hectic flow of its prose that I stopped worrying or wondering if I understood it or not."
Last fall, one of Spain’s greatest matadors took a horn to the face. It was a brutal goring, among the most horrific in the history of bullfighting. Miraculously, Juan Jose Padilla was back in the bullring—sí, fighting bulls—a mere five months later. And in the process of losing half his sight, he somehow managed to double his vision.
"The horn crunches through Padilla's skin and bone, exiting through his left eye socket. Cameras clock the instant that a glistening orb pops loose onto the matador's cheek. A frightening silence descends on the crowd. Nobody knows the depth of the wound."
Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, the biggest troll on the Web.
"The idea of free speech is sacred to many Reddit users, a product of the free-wheeling online message board culture from which Reddit springs. If you criticize someone else for posting something you don't like, you are a whiny fascist."
Aleppo residents, battered by war, struggle to survive.
“One sixth grader, Ahmed, clutching the kindling he had made by ransacking a room, offered an irreducible argument for looting his own school. ‘I want heat,’ he said.”
Cooking for the condemned.
"The last meal is a tradition that dates back to pre-modern Europe, wherein offering a last measure of human comfort before carrying out the execution absolved the executioner of his guilt."
"The message has long been clear: the Civil War is a story for white people—acted out by white people, on white people’s terms—in which blacks feature strictly as stock characters and props."
On August 13, 1986, Michael Morton came home from work to discover that his wife had been brutally murdered in their bed. His nightmare had only begun.
"He had no criminal record, no history of violence, and no obvious motive, but the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, failing to pursue other leads, had zeroed in on him from the start."
What do you do when the cops you work for are dirtier than you are?
"Two and two came together in White’s mind. They did it, he suddenly knew. They messed up. They killed that old lady. Now his heart pounded as the implications became clear. And they want me to cover for them."
Walken is one weird dude. But he’s also so much more than that.
"I found that Christopher Walken is a man who walks through the world as if through a dream, blissfully unaware that most people are frightened by him, and inexplicably unaware that he is a cult figure."
Why even members of India’s lowest classes cling to unfair system.
"Unlike slavery, where whites actively relied on authorities to maintain their slave holdings, the caste system is an informal, self-perpetuating institution."
Childhood obesity rates are soaring, youth participation in sports and other active pursuits is plummeting, and a generation is coming of age with little understanding of the joy and freedom of unsupervised play. There’s a simple solution—but all across the nation our schools earn a failing grade when it comes to letting kids ride their bikes.
"In 2009 only 13 percent of all children walked or rode to school, whereas in 1969 nearly half did. Experts blame broad cultural changes for the decline, as well. "We've gotten so used to ferrying kids around in cars," laments one."
In the past decade, the flow of goods emerging from U.S. factories has risen by about a third. Factory employment has fallen by roughly the same fraction. The story of Standard Motor Products, a 92-year-old, family-run manufacturer based in Queens, sheds light on both phenomena. It’s a story of hustle, ingenuity, competitive success, and promise for America’s economy. It also illuminates why the jobs crisis will be so difficult to solve.
"I had come to Greenville to better understand what is happening to manufacturing in the United States, and what the future holds for who lack higher education, but are striving for a middle-class life."
Exile, ethnicity, and the search for the perfect futon.
"It’s like this. I fell in love with the place. I spent a sabbatical here a few years ago just for the hell of it, and by the time it was over, I never wanted to leave."
The coming war on general-purpose computing.
"General-purpose computers are astounding. They're so astounding that our society still struggles to come to grips with them, what they're for, how to accommodate them, and how to cope with them."
"But here’s the clincher. LSD had helped them solve their complex, seemingly intractable problems. The 26 men unleashed a slew innovations shortly after their LSD experiences, including a linear electron accelerator beam-steering device."
Your shopping habits reveal even the most personal information—like when you’re going to have a baby.
"The moment a couple have a baby they are instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way."
"Women who encountered Joan Didion received from her a way of being female and being writers that no one else could give them. She was our Hunter Thompson. He gave the boys twisted pig-fuckers and quarts of tequila; she gave us quiet days in Malibu and flowers in our hair."
An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented.
“Releasing a newborn language into the wild, where it can evolve and be corrupted in the mouths of others, has consistently proved difficult for language creators.”
Growing up in the church.
"I was fascinated by the E-meter when I was little; wouldn’t you be? The machine promised to show you what was going on inside the black box of your brain and give you the power to change it."
The voyage of Enrique of Malacca.
"Enrique of Malacca is, it turns out, the closest thing there is to a hero in the story of Ferdinand Magellan's horribly botched attempt to circumnavigate the world."
Following the stars during World War II.
"Hitler’s death was assured, he explained, by Neptune entering his house of death at the same time as his progressed Ascendant conjuncting his natal Neptune, a set-up to be triggered by transiting Uranus."
Why do we lock up so many people?
"How did we get here? How is it that our civilization, which rejects hanging and flogging and disembowelling, came to believe that caging vast numbers of people for decades is an acceptably humane sanction?"
A military wife on the sacrifices made by those left at home.
"I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it, but I could see it now: This is where he belonged—on a journey that would take him away from me again and again to a world of select men I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to understand."
Why audiobooks just don’t speak to some readers.
"Reading is that heroic and dignified effort of the raccoon resisting the shiny objects and paying sustained attention to the page."
How a dropout dreamer from the Midwest helped win Cuba for Castro and played a dangerous game with Hoover’s F.B.I.
"In 1957, when Castro was still widely seen as fighting for democracy, Morgan had travelled from Florida to Cuba and headed into the jungle, joining a guerrilla force. In the words of one observer, Morgan was “like Holden Caulfield with a machine gun."
Bikini Atoll, a tiny ring of islands halfway between Hawaii and Australia, is a world-class diving destination and home to one of the Pacific’s last great fishing grounds. So where are all the tourists? Welcome to heaven on earth, where the vestiges of hell lie just below the surface.
"The soil under our feet, whitish gray in color with flecks of coral, contains a radioactive isotope called cesium 137. The soil itself is not dangerous to touch. The danger lies in the plant life that takes it in, and in the animal life, like the huge coconut crabs that live on the island and eat the plants."
“No guitar is as beloved—or as famed. On Trigger’s face you can see the topography of modern music, the countless hours Willie has spent playing country, blues, jazz, rock and roll, swing, folk, reggae, thirties pop, forties pop, and eighties pop.”
In 2006, while in Indonesia and six months pregnant, Abigail Haworth became one of the few journalists ever to see young girls being “circumcised”. Until now she has been unable to tell this shocking story.
"Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted."
"Even as I’d begun to understand the harm that I was doing to myself, that was being done to me, I’d never used the words 'abusive relationship.' For one thing, of course, as he reminded me so often, we weren’t actually in a relationship."
How Tabi outran the odds against her.
"The college mail reminded her how badly she wanted to escape her mother’s destiny. And yet the glossy pictures of emerald campuses revealed how far away that green world was."
When it comes to targeting and persuading voters, the Democrats have a bigger advantage over the GOP than either party has ever had in the modern campaign era.
“When it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era.”
Former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson has some words of warning for Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III on the day of the NFL Draft.
"The NFL is a man’s world, and even when secure in the blossoming of one’s own manhood, the question is unavoidable: Am I man enough?"
Hundreds of Kashmiri militants who left home as young men two decades ago have begun to return, middle-aged and disillusioned. What happens to them now?
"They find themselves back in a place they hardly recognise, transformed by decades of grinding conflict most of them did not witness. Many of the men they knew have been lowered into graves, and the simpler, even innocent, ways of life they grew up with are now long gone."
Stealing magic has become a commonplace crime. Teller, a man of infinite delicacy and deceit, decided to do something about it.
"Because Teller performs almost entirely without speaking, his voice comes as a surprise. He speaks in prose, in long, languid paragraphs peppered with literary and historical references. But his round face, particularly his eyes and mouth, continue to do much of the talking for him."
Sure, we as a nation have always killed people. A lot of people. But no president has ever waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, wherever they are.
"You are not the first president with the power to kill individuals. You are, however, the first president to exercise it on a mass scale. It is as though you realize that more than any of your policies, the Lethal Presidency will be your legacy."
Especially in the case of the Waffle House terrorists, where it may be the Department of Homeland Security that’s fomenting terror.
"They'd become famous for doing what codgers do in every community in America, and for making Americans wonder if instead of 'solving the world's problems,' as the codgers like to say, the codgers might really be talking about blowing it up."
Disposable submarines, a marijuana catapult, a tunnel entrance hidden under a pool table—drug-trafficking has never been so clever, or so complicated. Inside the billion-dollar business of the Sinaloa cartel.
“As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the cartel brings to mind that line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.”
The antimonopolist history of the world’s most popular board game.
"The official history of Monopoly states that the board game was invented in 1933 by an unemployed steam-radiator repairman and part-time dog walker from Philadelphia named Charles Darrow. The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned."
Decades after a risky Cold War experiment, a scientist lives with secrets.
"He became the military’s leading expert in a secret Cold War experiment: to fight enemies with clouds of psychochemicals that temporarily incapacitate the mind."
The legend of Ball’s Pyramid—and the “tree lobster.”
"They were alive and, to Nick Carlile's eye, enormous. Looking at them, he said, 'It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age, when insects ruled the world.'"
Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husband. The end is nigh.
"Rarely in history have so many truly smart people applied their intelligence to something as dumb as aggregating and propagating LOLcats."
It’s the dark romance of the French Foreign Legion: haunted men from everywhere, fighting anywhere, dying for causes not their own. Legionnaires need war, certainly, and Afghanistan is winding down. But there’s always the hopeless battle against rogue gold miners in French Guiana …
"An old legionnaire told me about a lesson he learned as a young recruit, when a veteran sergeant explained dying to him. He said, 'It’s like this. There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. So fuck off with your worries about war.'"
"We hear a car door slam, then a loud knock on the back window. John Deere has a gun in one hand and a badge in the other. He's telling me to get out of the car. 'Only you," he says to me. "You going to jail tonight.'"
Patrice O’Neal didn’t just want to be famous, he wanted to be as good as Richard Pryor. To hear his fellow comics tell it, he was—a brutal truth-teller who spared no one, starting with those closest to him.
"He believed that stand-up—if it was any good—had to take prisoners, that it was always at someone’s expense. And if anybody was going to be uncomfortable, it wasn’t going to be him."
What has the InBev merger with Anheuser-Busch meant for some of the most popular beers sold in the United States?
"No matter how much you industrialize it, every can of beer starts as a living thing. It’s not like making soda."
"We live in world of astonishingly advanced technologies, easy to use and all around us. Yet for nearly all of us, code, the language that controls these objects and in a way controls our world, is mysterious and indecipherable."
"Schizophrenia now appears to be a complex outcome of many unrelated causes—the genes you inherit, whether you got beaten up as a child, even how much sun your skin has seen."
Dairy scientists are the Gregor Mendels of the genomics age, developing new methods for understanding the link between genes and living things, all while quadrupling the average cow’s milk production since your parents were born.
"While there are more than 8 million Holstein dairy cows in the United States, there is exactly one bull that has been scientifically calculated to be the very best in the land. He goes by the name of Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie."
Does success spell doom for Homo sapiens?
"By luck or superior adaptation, a few species manage to escape their limits, at least for a while."
Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s discovering now will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia? Inside the emerging science of mind-controlling parasites.
“Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?”
"Impersonating corrupt vice-squad detectives, members of this ring had used underage men to blackmail closeted pillars of the establishment, among them two generals, a U.S. congressman, and several well-known actors, singers, and television personalities."
The uncanny art of studio photography’s heyday.
"Before Facebook, there was the photo studio: a room, a camera, and a photographer. Once upon a time, studio portraiture was an essential part of the visual vernacular."
"The longer we lingered, the tenser the atmosphere became. An old man with a missing finger pulled me aside. 'I advise you to leave this place. Be careful. You would be worth a lot of money.'"
In a bowling alley one night, Bill Fong came so close to perfection that it nearly killed him.
*"Every time he let fly another roll, there were audible moans from strangers and shouts from the crowd: 'That’s it, baby!' In all his life, Bill Fong had never heard anyone cheering him like that."
"Had a Norse party landed on the remote Baffin Island coast and made friendly contact with its native hunters? Did the yarn represent a key to a long lost chapter of New World history?"
"The prospect of a new viral pandemic, for these sober professionals, looms large. They talk about it; they think about it; they make contingency plans against it: the Next Big One. They say it might happen anytime."
How tomorrow is becoming today, and what it will do to your mind.
"I haven’t done a careful analysis, but my rough, back-of-the-napkin working out of the implications of these ideas suggests that we are all living, in user-experience terms, in some thoroughly mangled, overloaded, stretched and precarious version of the 15th century that is just good enough to withstand casual scrutiny."
Now that Christianity is the dominant religion on the planet, it is unbelievers who have most in common with Christ.
"Empirically, religion is what most humans do. Atheists like me are in the minority, a statistically trivial aberration. This puts us in an interesting position."
In recession-strapped America, Williston, North Dakota, may be some kind of paradise: a town where oil jobs are plentiful, lap dances are cheap, and desperate—possibly meth-addicted—men can change their luck. On the loose in the new Wild West.
"I'd heard Williston was a magical place. A small town where the recession didn't exist, where you could make six figures driving a truck, and where oil bubbles straight up from the Earth's Bakken layer like water from an elementary school fountain.”
"So there we have it. America has unseated the Scandinavian countries for the title of Easiest Lay. We are, in the world’s estimation, a nation of prostitutes. And not even prostitutes with hearts of gold."
Lance Armstrong’s Regime.
“For Hamilton, as for many of the other leading cyclists, doping did not constitute an unfair advantage. Instead, it was a way of sorting out who was really the toughest.”
"The Earth’s population of seven billion people speaks roughly 7,000 languages, a statistic that would seem to offer each living language a healthy one million speakers, if things were equitable. In language, as in life, things aren’t.”
"The hustler pours the green buds into the customer's hand, stray stems and leaves fluttering to the pavement. Seconds later, a fiftysomething man with bills folded between his calloused fingers shuffles up to the hustler. It feels like a busy day."
"His specs were, of course, familiar to me. But somehow the officious, bare-bones alignment on my computer screen—in categories befitting a prize steer at auction—rendered him a complete stranger. And a rather impressive one at that. Name: Pat Schiller. Position: Outside linebacker."
"Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone."
North Korea’s prison camps are roundly condemned as heinous, but remain untouched. When an idealistic young reporter takes on a mission to help shut them down—bearing Hemingway and Vollmann in mind—he winds up on the doorstep of the Embassy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.
"I can’t say I’m idealistic enough to fight or die for the freedom of North Korea, if that option were available to me. The old idealists fought in the mountains; I scroll over North Korean mountains on Google Maps."
"Occasionally the child, too, is a pleasure, though mostly she is a joy, which means in fact she gives us not much pleasure at all, but rather that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy, and now must find some way to live with daily."
"My daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We're weird because we go to church."
A member of a maligned class explains, among other things, how he keeps up the neighborhood.
"I used to feel guilty about charging rent. I hadn’t done anything to deserve it, other than maintaining a building—a building I hadn’t even built. Now that I’m middle-aged, though, I feel fine collecting rent."
In Argentina, rival soccer fans don’t just hate, they kill, and the violent partisans of top clubs fuel crime syndicates that influence the sport at its highest levels. Braving the bottle rockets, howling mobs, urine bombs, and drunken grannies on a wild ride through the scariest fútbol underworld on earth.
"When I landed in Argentina in May, the violence was mounting faster than ever. By the close of the season in June, the death toll was already nine. And a new season would begin in August."
The enormous fault off the coast of the Pacific Northwest has been silent for three centuries. But after years of detective work, geologists have discovered that it can unleash mayhem on an epic scale.
"What happened in Japan will probably happen in North America. The big question is when."
"Other players seem to chase the ball, while Messi moves in concert with it, full speed to full stop. Then, when the game ends, the fire inexplicably goes out: vanishing eye contact, single-syllable answers—a flatline."
Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living.
“Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living.”
Horseshoe champion Brian Simmons might be the toughest athlete in the world.
"This is what Simmons is thinking about as he stares down a 14-inch tall stake. He is thinking about the slippery clay, and how he might adjust his release point, and as these thoughts slip into his brain, he has lost without even pitching the shoe."
How luggage gone wrong gets right.
"That random sticky strip you rip off your suitcase when you get home? It’s actually a masterpiece of design and engineering."
A decade after Ken Caminiti helped pull baseball’s steroid problem out of the shadows, those who chased the big league dream in a dirty era still wrestle with how they dealt with the dilemma of a generation.
"This is a story about the real cost of steroids in baseball—about the hundreds, even thousands, of anonymous ballplayers whose careers and lives were changed by a temptation that defined an era."
He was methodical, he rode the highways, and he preyed on teenage girls. Girls who’d run away. Girls no one would miss. In the summer of 1985, the author was such a girl. One night on I-95, she hitched a ride from a stranger and endured the most terrifying moments of her life.
"He pulled the truck onto the shoulder of the road by some woods, took out a hunting knife, and told me to get into the back of the cab. I knew in my body that it was over. Then he said one word: Run."
The inside story of Pong and the video game industry’s Big Bang.
"The men who created Pong were knocked back by old men in drab suits who said games weren’t going to be big business. But games were going to be big business, even those started in unassuming surroundings. And nothing was going to stop them."
Rare-wine collectors are savvy, competitive guys with a taste for impossible finds. So how did the biggest hoax in history take place right under their noses?
"The whole apparatus of the rare-wine market is about converting doubt into mystique. Most wealthy collectors want to spend big and drink famous labels, not necessarily ask questions or hear the answers."
The Southern California of 1992 was almost unrecognizably different from today.
"There is no relationship in citizenship more elemental than that between the resident and the cop."
The celebrated documentary filmmaker talks about truth in photography.
"What upsets me about a lot of writing about photography is that the writer just emotes. The photograph made me feel x, or y, or it made me feel z."
Douglas Groat circled the world as one of the CIA’s top burglars. He thought he understood the risks of his job—until he took on his own employer.
"They were trained in what the CIA calls 'flaps and seals'; they carefully opened and photographed the code books and one-time pads, and then resealed each document and replaced it in the safe exactly as it had been before. Two hours after entering the embassy, they were gone."
A funny thing happened on the way to The Matrix.
"If I wanted to pull myself up out of the flood of information and ideas, I needed some sort of therapy: I had to find my dank drank. With a little help from my already-artificially-hyper-productive friends, I think I knew where to find it."
"All Hesham wanted was to describe in grotesque detail the fate that awaited me and everybody I loved: Our skin would thicken, not with calluses but with soft, thin, tender layers, each more sensitive than the last. And then Allah would burn off those layers individually, savoring the pain until he reached flesh."
"When I met John Abdallah Wambere, known by his gay activist nom de guerre Longjones, my first thought was: 'Will that shirt get him killed someday?'"
How antibiotics go to war.
“It is hard to imagine a time when a scratch could so easily lead to death.”