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The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie

Sullivan searches for the real story behind two phantom voices that recorded songs for Paramount in the early 1930s:

No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes. This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.

PUBLISHED: April 12, 2014
LENGTH: 55 minutes (13953 words)

How To Not Seem Rich While Running For Office

A new generation of entitled politicians may not have struggled much. So they’re stealing from their elders.

Candidates have been spinning Horatio Alger stories since the days of Horatio himself, or probably even the days of Great-Great-Grandpa Alger, who for all we know worked his nails to the nub scrubbing the decks of the Mayflower­. But politicians of the 20th century were far more likely to have actually struggled than today’s crop — they might have fought wars, grown up during the Depression or at least worked in a family store or on a farm. They were also less likely to have attended college or, if they did, were more likely to have helped pay for it themselves. Harry Truman, who graduated from only high school and fought in World War I, rode a compelling “story” of an Everyman “give ’em hell Harry” who transcended a run of failed business ventures. John Kennedy’s war-hero status mitigated his privileged family background.

PUBLISHED: April 8, 2014
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1760 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our story picks of the week, featuring Texas Monthly, The Walrus, New York Times Magazine, 5280 and New York magazine.
PUBLISHED: April 4, 2014

The Paramedic Murderer of Narrowsburg, N.Y.

A true crime story in a small town:

“He was gonna do this and save the children,” she testified. “I don’t remember exactly the conversation. He had me convinced that Catherine was the bad guy and he was the good parent and his kids were abused and his kids were miserable and we need to save the kids.”

“Did he tell you anything about what he needed to do about Catherine before Dec. 12?” the district attorney asked her.

“That he needed to kill her.”

PUBLISHED: April 1, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4722 words)

The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

An adaptation from Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, about high-frequency trading and the rigging of Wall Street:

“As the market problem got worse,” [Brad Katsuyama] says, “I started to just assume my real problem was with how bad their technology was.”

But as he talked to Wall Street investors, he came to realize that they were dealing with the same problem. He had a good friend who traded stocks at a big-time hedge fund in Stamford, Conn., called SAC Capital, which was famous (and soon to be infamous) for being one step ahead of the U.S. stock market. If anyone was going to know something about the market that Katsuyama didn’t know, he figured, it would be someone there. One spring morning, he took the train up to Stamford and spent the day watching his friend trade. Right away he saw that, even though his friend was using software supplied to him by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other big firms, he was experiencing exactly the same problem as RBC: He would hit a button to buy or sell a stock, and the market would move away from him. “When I see this guy trading, and he was getting screwed — I now see that it isn’t just me. My frustration is the market’s frustration. And I was like, ‘Whoa, this is serious.’ ”

PUBLISHED: March 31, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10876 words)

Examining the Religious, Economic, Architectural, and Cultural Facets of Gentrification: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily includes stories from Christena Cleveland, Gothamist, The New York Times, and New Geography.
PUBLISHED: March 30, 2014

A Fight Is Brewing

They’re identical twins, both world-renowned beer makers, and they hate each other:

The Danish press has caught the conflict’s biblical whiff, casting Mikkel and Jeppe as sworn enemies. Thomas Schon, Mikkeller’s first employee, told me that the twins suffer from a pronounced personality clash: “It was a big relief for Mikkel when Jeppe moved to Brooklyn. It was like the Danish beer scene wasn’t big enough for the two of them.” Mikkeller’s operations manager, Jacob Gram Alsing, said that the subject of Jeppe “is very sensitive for Mikkel to talk about.” Mikkel himself put it this way: “You know Oasis? The Gallagher brothers? They were one of the most successful bands in the world, but those guys had problems with each other.” With twins, he said, “it’s a matter of seeing yourself in another person, and sometimes seeing something you don’t like.”

PUBLISHED: March 26, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4681 words)

What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden

Did Pakistan know that Osama bin Laden was hiding inside the country? Carlotta Gall, who's been reporting for the Times from Afghanistan and Pakistan, investigates:

Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention.

PUBLISHED: March 22, 2014
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5090 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories this week, featuring the New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, Tin House, The Awl and The Walrus.
PUBLISHED: March 14, 2014