From prison to PhD


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A real life feat of rehabilitation.

In a breathtaking feat of rehabilitation, Jones, now 45, became a published scholar of American history while behind bars, and presented her work by videoconference to historians’ conclaves and the Indiana General Assembly. With no internet access and a prison library that skewed toward romance novels, she led a team of inmates that pored through reams of photocopied documents from the state archives to produce the Indiana Historical Society’s best research project last year. As prisoner No. 970554, Jones also wrote several dance compositions and historical plays, one of which is slated to open at an Indianapolis theater in December.

The complete article

The Marshall Project

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The Moon, the World, the Dream


No doubt, having trophy wives, fancy cars, and other cliché trappings of midlife crises are not themselves what aging sufferers seek so much as seeing themselves with the wives and the cars; discovering what they themselves are like under these new and different circumstances; finding out at last, in this big, endlessly mystifying world, who they are. By shaking things up and seeing what remains in place, we hope to discover what in us is permanent, and what we’ve merely never bothered to toss away. If that is the real question, maybe I found part of the answer as a small boy. In a moment when the world around me suddenly seemed as scary, crazy, and unpredictable as any movie, as ill-intentioned as any conspiracy, as unfathomable as any dream, I went running toward my family, and I wanted to describe what I’d seen. At the moment when a long-standing mystery was introduced, a small area of darkness turned to light.

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Clifford Thompson — The Threepenny Review

I Was a 9-Year-Old Playboy Bunny


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A nice weekend read from Longreads.

As a child, my intuition told me my body possessed power. But over time, the world convinced me that this power was not mine to control. That my central worth was contained in the perfect arch of my back, the just-so curve of my hips, the discrete cock of my neck and my silent, wide-open mouth. There’s a price for crossing the line between sexuality and sexualization, a debt little girls can never afford.

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Shannon Lell — Longreads

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The Contagion of Euthanasia and the Corruption of Compassion


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Is euthanasia compassionate in some cases?

Humans do not live in isolation. The more our culture sends messages that some lives are less valuable than others, the more some people will internalize messages to end their lives. A psychological contagion of suicide is unleashed by euthanasia and assisted suicide laws. Condoning suicide in one circumstance implicitly condones it across the board. The wrong of suicide is no longer absolute: death is made a reasonable—even the expected—response to pain, misfortune, and sadness.

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Arthur Goldberg & ShimonCowen — Public Discourse

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THE FALLING MAN


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The story behind the unforgettable photograph.

Yes, Jonathan Briley might be the Falling Man. But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

The complete article

Tom Junod — Esquire

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Recommended by Ankit

What Life Is Like After a Life Sentence


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Today’s needull looks at life of a man who served 33 years in prison. How does he cope in a world which has changed so much in 33 years?

His time in prison did little to prepare him for a career. While he was locked up, Alabama spent less on inmates than almost any other state, and though the understaffed prison had computer classes and trade programs, Elston wasn’t eligible because of his life sentence. “I really don’t actually feel free,” he says. “It seems like everything that I try to do, you know, I run into a brick wall, because I’m not advanced with the way things is today. ”

The complete article

PHOTOS BY JESSICA EARNSHAW; TEXT BY SAMANTHA MICHAELS – Mother Jones

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The Fate of the Critic in the Age of Clickbait


Do Twitter and Facebook spell the end of the critic?

Criticism of any kind is increasingly unwelcome at the digital-age paper. Consider a controversy that flared up in Canada last year. Arthur Kaptainis, who had long been the critic of the Montreal Gazette and more recently had been writing freelance for the National Post, reviewed a Canadian Opera Company production of Rossini’s “Maometto II.” The Canadian Opera asked for a couple of corrections, whereupon the Post took the bizarre step of removing the review from its Web site. Amid the resulting hubbub, a Post arts editor was quoted in an e-mail: “I really hate running reviews for performing arts. They simply get no attention online, and almost always end up as our poorest performing pieces of digital content.” The same mantra is heard at culture sections across America. Reviews don’t catch eyeballs. They don’t “move the needle.”

The logic seems irrefutable. Why publish articles that almost nobody wants? On closer examination, some shaky assumptions underlie these hard-nosed generalizations. First, digital data, in the form of counting clicks and hits, give an incomplete picture of reading habits. Those who subscribe to the print edition are discounted—and they tend to be older people, who are also more likely to follow the performing arts. A colleague wrote to me, “The four thousand people reading your theatre critics might be extremely loyal subscribers who press the paper on others. People in power often speak of ‘engagement’ and ‘valued readers,’ yet they still remain in thrall of the big click numbers—because of advertising, mostly.”

The New Yorker

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper