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Naked and Famous

A profile of photographer Ryan McGinley, whose work has influenced advertising, film, music videos, and Instagram:

One of McGinley's portraits of McChesney—taken in the bathroom of a gay club into which he dragged a mini trampoline for her to bounce naked on—was used as the lead image for his Whitney show. In it, Lizzy is caught in midair, feet a blur, mouth caught in the earliest milliseconds of a smile. The background is bisected at her torso—from the waist down, it's all graffıti, but from the waist up, it's a celestial mural. Her head pops up between two spacecrafts; her breasts—obscured by her own wrist—look to be about Saturn-sized. Twelve years later, it's still one of McGinley's most collectable photographs. José Freire calls it “one of the most beautifully optimistic things you'll ever see.”

PUBLISHED: April 10, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5028 words)

Being Gay in Russia Today: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily include stories from n+1, GQ, and The New York Times.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 9, 2014

Inside the Iron Closet: What It's Like to Be Gay in Putin's Russia

Violence, threats and living in fear that things are only going to get worse:

“Something is coming,” says Pavel. What it will be, he’s not sure. He’s worried about “special departments” in local police stations, dedicated to removing children from gay homes. He’s worried about a co-worker discovering him. He is worried about blackmail. He is worried, and he does not know what else to do. He wishes he could fight, but he doesn’t know how. Sign a petition? March in a parade? Pavel would never do that now. “My children,” he murmurs. “This law,” he says, referring to the ban on “propaganda.” “If something happens, it touches only me. And I can protect myself.” But the next law: “This is about my child. My baby.” If the next law passes, they will leave. The two women are doctors and Nik works in higher education, careers that will require new certification. Which means that only Pavel, a manager for the state oil company, will be able to work right away. They will be poor, but they will leave. They might have to separate, Pavel and Irina and Emma to Israel, where Irina can become a citizen, Nik and Zoya and Kristina to any country that will take them. They might have to become the couples they pretend to be. For now, they are staying. “We’re going to teach them,” he says of his two little girls, Emma and Kristina. “How to protect themselves. How to keep silence.”

PUBLISHED: Feb. 4, 2014
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7543 words)

Inside the Incredible Booming Subterranean Marijuana Railroad

Drug cartels are digging tunnels into the U.S. to transport massive amounts of marijuana and other narcotics from the border onto American soil. The Feds have managed to shut down many of these tunnels and capture a key cartel manager, but this is just the beginning:

The land east of Otay Mesa, around the agricultural towns of Calexico and Mexicali, is a terrible place to build a sophisticated drug tunnel. The soil is unstable, and the All-American Canal, an eighty-mile-long aqueduct that surrounds Calexico, presents a formidable obstacle. Still, the cartels have found a way.

In October 2008, Mexican authorities, responding to reports of a cave-in and flooding near the canal, discovered a tunnel unlike anything they'd ever seen. Only ten inches wide, it was essentially a pipe. The Mexican cops traced it back to a house about 600 feet from the border, where they found a tractor-like vehicle with a long barrel on its side—a horizontal directional drill, or HDD. Used by oil, gas, and utility industries to quickly bore conduit holes over significant depths and distances, this drill was believed to belong to the AFO. It was the cartel's first known attempt to use cutting-edge industrial equipment to build—in the most literal sense of the word—a drug pipeline.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 12, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5125 words)

Longreads Best of 2013: Best Old Story That I Didn’t Read Until This Year

Mark Lotto (@marklotto) is a senior editor at Medium, and a former editor at GQ and The New York Times Op-Ed page.
AUTHOR:Mark Lotto
PUBLISHED: Dec. 20, 2013

A Very Dangerous Boy

On the trial of Joseph Hall, who murdered his neo-Nazi father when he was 10 years old. (For more background on the story, see Natasha Vargas-Cooper's Feb. 2013 piece.)

Did an atmosphere of hate drive Joseph to kill? Did his stepmother? Or was it his childish misreading of a TV show? Or a complicated amalgam of factors, tangled together in a damaged brain? Was Joseph confused or deranged, a victim or a victimizer? Had he simply changed his story and implicated Krista because he was tired of being locked up? Or did he finally find the strength to tell the truth, months after the killing, because he was no longer under her sway? There were many questions, but Judge Leonard focused on one: Did Joseph know when he pulled the trigger that what he was doing was wrong?

PUBLISHED: Nov. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5279 words)

Oops, You Just Hired the Wrong Hitman

Meet the hit man who also teaches Sunday school. “Special Agent Charles Hunt” is paid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to pose as a hit man. He’s hired by people you might, and might not, expect:

There are of course lunatics who come up with painfully stupid ideas: A convicted rapist in Florida wants the judge who sentenced him killed, and so he orders a hit, from prison. But there are also people with higher standing in the community: An Air Force sergeant wants help eliminating someone who heard him threaten his squadron leaders. An entrepreneur in Kentucky, facing a financial setback, thinks about having the hit man blow up his movie theater with his business partner in it, but decides instead to just have him killed at home (tonight). Love often plays a predominant role in the stories of people who hire hit men. The jilted and the scorned. The hopeless and the desperate: A woman in New Jersey wants her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend shot in the head (“Gone, gone to the moon”) and the boyfriend shot in the foot. She’s already picked out her black funeral outfit. Women. Men. Old. Young. This race or that.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4839 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our story picks of the week, from the Dallas Morning News, Narratively, The Atlantic, The Awl and GQ, with a guest pick by Rebecca Hiscott.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 1, 2013

Confessions of a Drone Warrior

From a windowless box in Nevada, Airman First Class Brandon Bryant helped pilot drones that killed over a thousand people as part of the U.S. drone warfare program:

Bryant’s laser hovered on the corner of the building. “Missile off the rail.” Nothing moved inside the compound but the eerily glowing cows and goats. Bryant zoned out at the pixels. Then, about six seconds before impact, he saw a hurried movement in the compound. “This figure runs around the corner, the outside, toward the front of the building. And it looked like a little kid to me. Like a little human person.” Bryant stared at the screen, frozen. “There’s this giant flash, and all of a sudden there’s no person there.” He looked over at the pilot and asked, “Did that look like a child to you?” They typed a chat message to their screener, an intelligence observer who was watching the shot from “somewhere in the world”—maybe Bagram, maybe the Pentagon, Bryant had no idea—asking if a child had just run directly into the path of their shot. “And he says, ‘Per the review, it’s a dog.’ ”
PUBLISHED: Oct. 26, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5485 words)