3:30 pm - Wed, Dec 11, 2013
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The New York Times has been excelling at long-form multimedia online journalism in recent months — remember the Russia road trip? Andrea Elliott’s intricately reported story “Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life” was released on Sunday after much vague hype and subsequent speculation, and it certainly deserves the attention it’s received so far.

The story meticulously profiles Dasani, a 12-year-old girl in Brooklyn who is one of New York City’s 22,000 homeless children — a population that is largely unknown to the public, blending in at school during the day and trying to make ends meet in shelters at night. Elliott examines the vast array of factors that contribute to homelessness in New York, including addiction, family instability, and an often ineffective and abusive public shelter bureaucracy. But she also includes the human side of things — one of our favorite episodes was the confused encounter between Dasani’s mother Chanel and a perky wine-store attendant in Fort Greene. And best of all, it’s painstakingly sourced, with a whole page of endnotes.

Take a look for yourself.

3:31 pm - Wed, Dec 4, 2013
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That splendid video belongs to Syrian singer Omar Souleyman’s slick new single “Warni Warni.” The AV Club reminded us that we haven’t mentioned him on the blog yet — while he’s been singing at weddings for decades, and has even made a guest appearance with Björk, his new album was produced at a studio in Brooklyn and captures the very best of his Levantine energy and drive.

The same AV Club thread contained an insightful commenter who pointed out how amazing 2013 has been for music in North Africa, the Middle East, and neighboring parts of the world. And it’s true: this year saw new releases from subversive Lebanese indie-rock act Mashrou‘ Leila (check out their single, “Lil Watan,” here), Sudanese soul performer Alsarah, and Afghan hip-hop producer Farhot — plus renewed interest in Mali’s Tinariwen against the backdrop of regime change in that country, and the YouTube-driven rise of Saudi-Jordanian rock band Hayajan.

It’s an exciting world out there, and there’s music up your alley from every country under the sun. What are some of your favorites from the Middle East, North Africa, or Central Asia?

3:30 pm - Tue, Dec 3, 2013
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Geoffrey Cain argues that K-Pop has industrial policy to thank for its recent success outside of South Korea:

That’s right: lurking behind the flashy Gangnam Style sets and Girls’ Generation’s gum drop twerking is hard-nosed, East Asian-style industrial policy.

[W]hen the Asian Financial Crisis crippled the South Korean economy… President Kim Dae Jung chose the entertainment industry as a growth engine.

You know how we feel about nuanced political analysis of pop culture (hint: really enthusiastically), so we particularly enjoyed the new angle from which Cain approached a story that has been told to death in other news outlets. We would love to have seen a comparison to Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, two other countries seeking to raise their international profiles and stabilize their economies through cultural capital.

(Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

3:30 pm - Mon, Dec 2, 2013
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Crunchy Internet Update

We’ve long been fans of the rustic, the old-fashioned, the handmade, and the homegrown. In fact, with Amanda writing a thesis on modern homesteaders and DIY enthusiasts, we’ve taken to calling the genre “Amandabait.” Over the last week or so, we’ve run into a whole batch of Amandabait stories we want to highlight for you:

  • In The Atlantic, the English Twitter user @herdyshepherd explains why the digital medium is perfect for sharing his life’s work with the world. (The above photo, by the way, is of one of his dogs.)
  • The Better Backpack wants to revolutionize the way we think about consumer goods, so they designed a sustainable, “slow-designed” backpack. They’ve surpassed their Kickstarter funding goals, but you can still give them seed money until December 27.
  • And The American Conservative's Gracy Olmstead highlights Kinfolk, a young Portland-based magazine that wants to combine the very best of Martha Stewart-esque hospitality & entertaining with a philosophical grounding in a sense of place and community, explicitly referring to Wendell Berry. (We’re especially intrigued by the Mormon connection; Brigham Young University in Hawaii?) Some may think it’s overly quaint and sincere, but perhaps our generation needs to revisit the communitarian basics of how to be a human.

Have you seen any other good pieces of Amandabait — er, crunchy lifestyle news lately?

3:30 pm - Fri, Nov 29, 2013
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Black Friday, the official holiday of American consumerism, has garnered a lot of criticism around the Web. Patagonia, a Ventura, CA-based clothing and outdoor sports equipment retailer named for the mountainous region in South America, is turning Black Friday’s reputation on its head.

Make Magazine reports that this year, Patagonia will release free repair guides for its products and offer in-person repair assistance in select stories. Responding to comments that discouraging customers from replacing older items is a strange business model, a company spokesperson says, “I would argue that a funny business model is one that encourages people to buy stuff that they don’t need. A world based on limitless consumption, greed, and growth is not sustainable—or satisfying… On Black Friday we are encouraging people to repair their gear [and] celebrate the journeys taken in these old clothes… There is joy in owning something for a long time because it continues to serve our needs, and we want to encourage people to consider the value an item will have for them 5, 10, or 20 years from now.”

Patagonia’s free repair guides are worth checking out even if you don’t own any of their products. Mending is a universal skill, and one that your hosts are proud to have been taught by our respective parents!

On the other hand, there’s the American Express-sponsored Small Business Saturday, which cleverly tries to have it both ways: promoting an cheery image of community solidarity while also sneakily benefiting the concept’s corporate sponsors. And don’t forget the fresh-faced cousin, Cyber Monday.

Have you heard of any other anti-Black Friday campaigns by retailers? What do you think of the “holiday” and its implications?

3:30 pm - Tue, Nov 26, 2013
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In “great things we never knew we wanted” news, Tim Gunn has a new political fashion column cowritten with Ada Calhoun at Politico Magazine, called, naturally, Project Beltway. It is exactly as precise, humorous, insightful, and aesthetically appealing as one would hope. We’ll be reading!

(Alas, it looks like the name Project Beltway is already used by another DC fashion blog, so watch this space as the title may change.)

If smart analysis of fashion and style in politics interests you, check out The Style of Politics, which has been doing this kind of thing for a long time.

(Photos by Eric Gay, Mike Segar, and Eduardo Munoz of Reuters and Charlie Neibergall of AP Photo)

3:31 pm - Mon, Nov 25, 2013
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We knew the way you know about a good melon.

Mallory Ortberg describing the first time she met her internet friend and fellow cofounder of The Toast Nicole Cliffe IRL.

Why are we posting this? Frankly, we just thought this was adorable and also accurate for us two Internet friends who started a website together. (And are you reading The Toast? Seriously, go read it. It’s like Tumblr and Gawker had a baby, but one of those babies that’s somehow much better looking than its already more-than-decent parents.)

9:57 pm - Sat, Nov 23, 2013
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That’s the Iranian foreign minister with what may be a historic tweet, signaling a success to the latest round of Iranian negotiations with the P5+1 (a negotiating group that includes the US, France, the UK, China, Russia, and Germany), over Western sanctions, nuclear enrichment, and other issues.

Details will follow from the White House at 10:15 (less than 20 minutes from now). Keep an eye on Twitter in the meantime for background; here’s who we recommend you keep an eye on.

5:01 pm - Fri, Nov 22, 2013
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On November 22, 1963 — fifty years ago today — three men died: most famously John F. Kennedy, but also wide-ranging writers Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. We’ve found that you can tell a lot about your friends by which of those three shows up in your social feeds most. For us, it’s been about 70% Lewis and 30% JFK.

Though we were both pretty bookish at a young age, Ivan’s most significant experiences with Lewis aren’t with the famous Narniad. (He didn’t read them until he was about 15!) Instead, he credits Lewis’ “entry-level” Christian works, like The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, with helping him move beyond a sentimental attachment to religion and begin approaching it like an adult. Amanda, in contrast, read and re-read The Chronicles of Narnia until the pages started to fall out. Only recently has she started to read Lewis’s non-Narnia works, finally growing beyond her elementary school religious education with the help of Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce

For a closer look at Lewis’ intellectual and literary background, we suggest Surprised by Joy, in which he reflects on his early life. The book describes how besides influencing the ambitious Narnia project, his scholarly interest in early European myths and fairy tales led him to an understanding of how stories affect entire cultural psyches. If you’d like to sample the hundreds of C.S. Lewis retrospective articles out this week, check out Alan Jacobs (who’s also been great on Tumblr lately) and retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

So, tell us: were you a Narnia kid?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

5:01 pm - Thu, Nov 21, 2013
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Since meeting at an unnamed Ivy League university in 1983, a faceless committee (the Name of the Year High Committee) has presided every year over a fierce competition for the most glorious, convoluted, unlikely, or simply great name. They brought us classics such as Assumption Bulltron, Barkevious Mingo, and Courvoisier Winetavius “Crime Tyme” Jackson, all meticulously documented by newspapers.

Alas, the original sitting High Committee has grown old, and has announced that it is relinquishing power to a bright new team of commissioners. You can visit their website now to cast the deciding vote between two 2013 finalists: “Pornsak Pongthong, Sriracha FC defensive midfielder” and “Leo Moses Spornstarr, aspiring actuary.” Polling closes on Sunday!

Name of the Year is dead. Long live Name of the Year.

2:01 pm
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You may have heard that selfie has been crowned the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionaries. We approve.

2:01 pm - Mon, Nov 18, 2013
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Think of it as the Dish - but deeper, longer and uncut.

Andrew Sullivan, the prolific daily blogger who ended his partnership with The Daily Beast to fund his website through independent reader subscriptions, today launched a long-form monthly magazine called Deep Dish. Sullivan sees it as “a downpayment on a future of long-form journalism delivered online," dozens of pages of essays, audio, interviews, and poetry paid for by his subscribers. 

As the Internet holds its breath waiting to see if Deep Dish works out, let us know: are you a Dish subscriber? Does this magazine tempt you to subscribe? Is there a better model for funding long-form journalism?

2:01 pm - Fri, Nov 15, 2013
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Remember the video we made last year about crunchy conservatism and lived political philosophy? It was inspired by Rod Dreher, a columnist at the American Conservative and author of the book Crunchy Cons. Well, lo and behold, our faces made it onto his website! Click through above to read Rod’s very flattering comments, and maybe give us a shout-out in the comments =)

2:01 pm - Fri, Nov 8, 2013
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A powerful Canadian official has become entrenched in scandal after admitting to using crack cocaine, a taboo in this socially conservative society. In a country where dissent is limited by traditional mores, the transgression has sparked rare public outrage and raised concerns about the stability of the Canadian regime.

The official, Rob Ford, reigns over the restive border town of Toronto, a multi-ethnic hotbed known for its bustling markets and history of violent conflict.

Max Fisher is exoticizing the familiar again, and it’s magnificent.
2:01 pm - Thu, Nov 7, 2013
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Love, Hate, and Breaking Bad

Editors’ Note: Friend of the show Eric Schneider submitted an op-ed to us on the end of Breaking Bad and morality in TV shows. We thank him for his contribution, and hope you enjoy his review!


No more half-spoilers, reader. That being said, full spoilers for all of Breaking Bad ahead.

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