"Every blade of grass in every lawn was waiting. Every wife was waiting, every dog with pricked-up ears and metal tags tinking on its collar was waiting, and each blade of grass, each wife, each dog and child, whatever else they did, held still. Whatever else it was for, the suburb was for holding still. Look: black circles have been cut from the lawns and into these circles have been inserted slim upward-striving trees. Against the possibility of their flying away to unite with other trees they are tethered to the earth with wires."

— Elizabeth Tallent, “Little X.”

The Bone Factory
A constable jerks open the back door of a decrepit Indian-made Tata Sumo SUV—what passes for an evidence locker at this rustic police outpost in the Indian state of West Bengal. A hundred human skulls tumble out onto a ragged cloth covering a patch of mud, making a hollow clatter as they fall to the ground. They’ve lost most of their teeth bouncing around in the back of the truck. Standing next to the truck, the ranking officer smiles. “Now you can see how big the bone business is here,” he says. Keep reading.
Art by Francois Robert

The Bone Factory

A constable jerks open the back door of a decrepit Indian-made Tata Sumo SUV—what passes for an evidence locker at this rustic police outpost in the Indian state of West Bengal. A hundred human skulls tumble out onto a ragged cloth covering a patch of mud, making a hollow clatter as they fall to the ground. They’ve lost most of their teeth bouncing around in the back of the truck. Standing next to the truck, the ranking officer smiles. “Now you can see how big the bone business is here,” he says. Keep reading.

Art by Francois Robert

Tags: long reads

"The raised window glass still rather damp from the steam, she looked through a cotton-plugged screen and past the bug-zapper hanging from baling twine tied to a beam of the white front porch and on past the marigolds and petunias and pansies edging the curving length of gravel driveway, into a pastured distance that I didn’t know like she did. She smiled almost imperceptibly at whatever it was she saw there. “It went like Grandfather ate a piece of apple pie.”"

— From an extended rumination on the fleeting nature of time. Keep reading …

"I became intensely aware of things: the trees, the angle of sun, the curvature of the road, the crisp blueness of the sky, bluer than I’d ever seen it. The road bent around to the right and a guard rail separated it from a low wash filled with reeds. I felt like I knew what was waiting beyond the curve, even beneath the reeds. The world became hyper-real, an intensely emotional feeling, not of the brain or body but, please pardon the over-amped language, of the soul."

— An epileptic explains the first few surreal seconds before a seizure hits. Keep reading . .

A Serious Woman: What the critics—and a lot of men—don’t get about Oprah Winfrey.

A Serious Woman: What the critics—and a lot of men—don’t get about Oprah Winfrey.

The Nature Conservancy is taking a new stripped-down approach to  environmental protection: The green group is teaming up with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and online luxury retailer Gilt to raise money for beach  preservation in an unholy mashup of sex, commerce, marketing,  publishing, and environmentalism.
Why the green tie-in? “Because everyone benefits from pristine  tropical beaches. Especially when they’re occupied by gorgeous women in  bathing suits.” That’s according to promotional prose about the  partnership on the Gilt website, in an announcement that is no longer  posted. (Though you can still buy a $1,000 ticket to a New York launch party where you can hang out with the swimsuit supermodels.)
Environmental writer Derrick Jensen of Orion already saw this  sort of thing coming, having penned a prescient column in the current  issue titled “Not in My Name.” Go ahead and call him a killjoy, but I  think he pretty much nailed it:

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick  to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. …  The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be  more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but  also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists  approach the problems we face. …
Unfortunately, the notion that activism … has to be fun and  sexy pervades the entire environmental movement, from the most  self-styled radical to the most mainstream reformist.


Keep reading …

The Nature Conservancy is taking a new stripped-down approach to environmental protection: The green group is teaming up with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and online luxury retailer Gilt to raise money for beach preservation in an unholy mashup of sex, commerce, marketing, publishing, and environmentalism.

Why the green tie-in? “Because everyone benefits from pristine tropical beaches. Especially when they’re occupied by gorgeous women in bathing suits.” That’s according to promotional prose about the partnership on the Gilt website, in an announcement that is no longer posted. (Though you can still buy a $1,000 ticket to a New York launch party where you can hang out with the swimsuit supermodels.)

Environmental writer Derrick Jensen of Orion already saw this sort of thing coming, having penned a prescient column in the current issue titled “Not in My Name.” Go ahead and call him a killjoy, but I think he pretty much nailed it:

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. … The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. …

Unfortunately, the notion that activism … has to be fun and sexy pervades the entire environmental movement, from the most self-styled radical to the most mainstream reformist.

Keep reading …

Dr. Yang’s Fight Club:Four hours north of San Francisco and miles from anywhere, an unmarked dirt road rises through a forest of oak and madrone trees to emerge in a mountain clearing where a wood-shingled rotunda overlooks an emerald valley. Everything looks unusually crisp, as if a layer of cellophane has been lifted away.
In the spring of 2008, I drove to this remote mountaintop to meet Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, a kung fu master who bought the land to serve as a training compound for a select group of disciples. Dr. Yang had never had difficulty attracting students in the past—YMAA, the Boston-based organization he founded in 1982, operates more than 60 martial arts schools worldwide—but after more than 25 years, Dr. Yang was growing tired of doling out his ancient teachings piecemeal. If he died, only fragments of that knowledge would survive.
His dream was to transfer his entire legacy to a new generation in one fat chunk. But the legacy—white crane kung fu—was locked in his sinews, and the transfer would take time: 10 years, by his estimate, at the rate of six days per week. At the end of 10 years, Dr. Yang would be in his 70s and at the end of his ability to teach kung fu. It’s this urgency that explained the almost neurotic vigor he brought to his search for worthy disciples. He couldn’t risk investing effort in anyone who might bow out before the training was complete.
Keep reading …

Dr. Yang’s Fight Club:Four hours north of San Francisco and miles from anywhere, an unmarked dirt road rises through a forest of oak and madrone trees to emerge in a mountain clearing where a wood-shingled rotunda overlooks an emerald valley. Everything looks unusually crisp, as if a layer of cellophane has been lifted away.

In the spring of 2008, I drove to this remote mountaintop to meet Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, a kung fu master who bought the land to serve as a training compound for a select group of disciples. Dr. Yang had never had difficulty attracting students in the past—YMAA, the Boston-based organization he founded in 1982, operates more than 60 martial arts schools worldwide—but after more than 25 years, Dr. Yang was growing tired of doling out his ancient teachings piecemeal. If he died, only fragments of that knowledge would survive.

His dream was to transfer his entire legacy to a new generation in one fat chunk. But the legacy—white crane kung fu—was locked in his sinews, and the transfer would take time: 10 years, by his estimate, at the rate of six days per week. At the end of 10 years, Dr. Yang would be in his 70s and at the end of his ability to teach kung fu. It’s this urgency that explained the almost neurotic vigor he brought to his search for worthy disciples. He couldn’t risk investing effort in anyone who might bow out before the training was complete.

Keep reading …

A Good Old-Fashioned Death-Defying Expedition: The modern wilderness expedition is typically a heavily sponsored,  satellite-uplinked, closely tracked affair, with the expeditioners often  just a distress call away from rescue. Magazine stories chronicling  these canned adventures often rely on dramatic overstatement to punch up  their otherwise predictable narratives, so it’s a breath of fresh air  to read an expedition account that truly takes you to the edge of  adventure and to the limits of human endurance.
“Crossing Kolyma” is the understated title of Russian Life magazine’s incredible story of two men’s 10-month, 2,000-mile trek  through remote, far eastern Siberia in 2004-2005. Author Mikael  Strandberg and his travel partner Johan Ivarsson set off on their  journey with a fair bit of hubris, intending to live off the land by  hunting and fishing and, having been “born, bred, and still living in  the Scandinavian outback,” to outperform the legions of city-born  adventurers who have left the short history of polar travel “a record  full of frostbites and death.”
Keep reading …

A Good Old-Fashioned Death-Defying Expedition: The modern wilderness expedition is typically a heavily sponsored, satellite-uplinked, closely tracked affair, with the expeditioners often just a distress call away from rescue. Magazine stories chronicling these canned adventures often rely on dramatic overstatement to punch up their otherwise predictable narratives, so it’s a breath of fresh air to read an expedition account that truly takes you to the edge of adventure and to the limits of human endurance.

“Crossing Kolyma” is the understated title of Russian Life magazine’s incredible story of two men’s 10-month, 2,000-mile trek through remote, far eastern Siberia in 2004-2005. Author Mikael Strandberg and his travel partner Johan Ivarsson set off on their journey with a fair bit of hubris, intending to live off the land by hunting and fishing and, having been “born, bred, and still living in the Scandinavian outback,” to outperform the legions of city-born adventurers who have left the short history of polar travel “a record full of frostbites and death.”

Keep reading …

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to some truly inspiring heroes:  Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer, His Holiness  the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela, to name a few. To know not just the  crafted public face of these remarkable people but also to peer into  their innermost souls would be priceless. That is what Eric Utne has  done by publishing the love letters to his stepgrandmother Brenda Ueland  from Norway’s great explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen, who was  awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize and whose bold work with the League of  Nations and the Red Cross repatriated countless prisoners of war and  saved the lives of millions of international refugees.
The Norwegian statesman met Ueland, author of the best-selling If You Want to Write,  only in one flaming-hot weekend, when he was 67 and she was 37. The two  fell immediately in love and wrote letters across the ocean for a year  until his death. The charismatic Ueland once told Utne that she had  “three husbands and a hundred lovers”—but Nansen earned a special place.  “A letter from [Nansen] was the light of my days, and I have never in  my life felt just this way at any time… . And all the time, you  understand, it was a sort of dream love affair, a literary one.”
Nansen’s  letters to his extramarital lover show a powerful contrast to his  austere public persona. They are vulnerable, sensual, and startlingly  candid about his emotional isolation, his disgust with life and  politics, and his uncertainty and humility. He bares his inner self to  Ueland, who years later wrote in an essay: “Listening is a magnetic and  strange thing… . My attitude is: ‘Tell me more. This person is  showing me his soul… .Then he will be wonderfully alive.’ ”
Read some of Nansen’s letters to Brenda Ueland …

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to some truly inspiring heroes: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela, to name a few. To know not just the crafted public face of these remarkable people but also to peer into their innermost souls would be priceless. That is what Eric Utne has done by publishing the love letters to his stepgrandmother Brenda Ueland from Norway’s great explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen, who was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize and whose bold work with the League of Nations and the Red Cross repatriated countless prisoners of war and saved the lives of millions of international refugees.

The Norwegian statesman met Ueland, author of the best-selling If You Want to Write, only in one flaming-hot weekend, when he was 67 and she was 37. The two fell immediately in love and wrote letters across the ocean for a year until his death. The charismatic Ueland once told Utne that she had “three husbands and a hundred lovers”—but Nansen earned a special place. “A letter from [Nansen] was the light of my days, and I have never in my life felt just this way at any time… . And all the time, you understand, it was a sort of dream love affair, a literary one.”

Nansen’s letters to his extramarital lover show a powerful contrast to his austere public persona. They are vulnerable, sensual, and startlingly candid about his emotional isolation, his disgust with life and politics, and his uncertainty and humility. He bares his inner self to Ueland, who years later wrote in an essay: “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing… . My attitude is: ‘Tell me more. This person is showing me his soul… .Then he will be wonderfully alive.’ ”

Read some of Nansen’s letters to Brenda Ueland …

In “On the Benghazi Express,” the Arab Spring transports a veteran reporter Marc Cooper back to Egypt and his naive younger self. Great story.
Keep reading …

In “On the Benghazi Express,” the Arab Spring transports a veteran reporter Marc Cooper back to Egypt and his naive younger self. Great story.

Keep reading …