A yearlong investigation of Greek houses reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems—and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame:
One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 19, 2014
LENGTH: 60 minutes (15228 words)
Long-distance digits long ago shed their monetary worth, but they gained something else in its place: cultural value.
I grew up in Carmel, smack in the middle of the new code region; my first cell phone number—the only cell phone number I have ever had—bears that 831 preface. I have held on to those three digits through happily-multiple changes of location (New Jersey, New York, Boston, Washington) and through unhappily-multiple losses of handset. The powers that be—hardware salespeople, cell service representatives—have, at one time or another, tried to force me into a 609 and a 917 and a 617; each time, I have resisted. Because I am not, fundamentally, a 609 or a 917 or a 617. I am not even, my current residence notwithstanding, a 202. I am an 831, wherever I may be in body, and will remain an 831 until they pry those three otherwise totally meaningless digits out of my cold, dead iPhone.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 13, 2014
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3200 words)
Our story picks of the week, featuring Gary Greenberg, Missouri Review, New York magazine, The Atlantic and The New York Times.
A fisherman's improbable rescue after going overboard in the middle of the night:
The first thing you’re supposed to do, if you’re a fisherman and you fall in the ocean, is to kick off your boots. They’re dead weight that will pull you down. But as Aldridge treaded water, he realized that his boots were not pulling him down; in fact, they were lifting him up, weirdly elevating his feet and tipping him backward. Aldridge’s boots were an oddity among the members of Montauk’s commercial fishing fleet: thick green rubber monstrosities that were guaranteed to keep your feet warm down to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature Montauk had not experienced since the ice age. Sosinski made fun of the boots, but Aldridge liked them: they were comfortable and sturdy and easy to slip on and off. And now, as he bobbed in the Atlantic, he had an idea of how they might save his life.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 2, 2014
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7588 words)
The writer on losing his mother to cancer, and on the science of grieving:
My mom died on July 18, 2013, of pancreatic cancer, a subtle blade that slips into the host so imperceptibly that by the time a presence is felt, it is almost always too late. Living about 16 months after her diagnosis, she was "lucky," at least by the new standards of the parallel universe of cancer world. We were all lucky and unlucky in this way. Having time to watch a loved one die is a gift that takes more than it gives.
Psychologists call this drawn out period "anticipatory grief." Anticipating a loved one's death is considered normal and healthy, but realistically, the only way to prepare for a death is to imagine it. I could not stop imagining it. I spent a year and a half writing my mother a goodbye letter in my head, where, in the private theater of my thoughts, she died a hundred times. In buses and movie theaters, on Connecticut Avenue and 5th Avenue, on crosswalks and sidewalks, on the DC metro and New York subway, I lost her, again and again. To suffer a loved one's long death is not to experience a single traumatic blow, but to suffer a thousand little deaths, tiny pinpricks, each a shot of grief you hope will inoculate against the real thing.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 3, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3466 words)
is a Senior Editor at Aeon Magazine
. He has written extensively about science and philosophy for several publications, including The Atlantic and The Economist.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 90 minutes (22700 words)
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.