A holiday trip home and Serial's hiatus opened up plenty of time for checking out the pieces amassing in my reading queue over the past weeks.
Honorable mentions: the onslaught of Christopher Nolan profiles around the release of Interstellar. You'd think this guy has never done a magazine profile before. New York Times Magazine did a dependably great piece on the man's quirks and sensibilities, while Wired took the long way around and gave the term "page turning" a whole new meaning. Read them, but maybe see the movie first—the pieces are rife with spoilers.
Enforcers, Kent Russel -- n+1
"Nobody plans for being a fighter anymore.”
“Enforcers” is a fascinating look into one of sport’s most misunderstood creatures: hockey’s enforcer. Russell is granted a style of storytelling here that cuts between an almost P.I. first-person tale of tracking down former enforcer and coach John Brophy, and a hypothetical third-person account of what it’s like to be charged with playing bodyguard in the rink. Salient because of the recent studies that have shown the sort of long-term damage these crunching athletes sustain in their careers. But as if he's too stubborn to allow all that troubling info to become a reality for him, Brophy seems unaffected when confronted with the info—though his respirator suggests differently.
The Airborne Toxic Advent, Staff -- The A.V. Club
Service packages don't get a lot of love, but the A.V. Club managed to make a gift guide that manages to be informative, creative and hilarious, not to mention admirably transparent: they tell you which companies sent them items they're recommending. I had no idea you could buy a Gremlins Christmas sweater or a vinyl-of-the-month subscription. Questionable if I was better off not knowing, considering my shopping is behind me now. I suppose there's always Flag Day.
The Jihad Cult, Staff -- Der Spiegel
The Der Spiegel staff takes on the conundrum of middle-class German youth shoving aside their comfortable lives—their “Playstations and Nutella” as the article puts it—to enter the unknown of ISIS. The piece suggests that lack of a sense of purpose is what entices these young men. But ISIS’s knack for manipulation would seem an equal factor, as they outfit a pair of recruits in “T-shirts in which the Adidas name had been replaced with "alqaida" and that depicted an aircraft flying toward the largest of the three stripes.” There are multi-million dollar corporations less brand-savvy than this.
A Rape On Campus, Sabrina Rubin Erdely -- Rolling Stone Revelatory piece on the history of sexual assault at the University of Virginia, the college with the most cases of sexual assault in the country. It's worth mentioning the controversy over RS's decision not to interview the accused or name the witnesses (understandable, I think, considering the fearful environment surrounding these sort of accusations). But even if you ignore Jackie's story, the statistics and glance at UVA's questionable judicial process make this a valuable read.
Too fishy. Even if the core of it is true—which from the sounds of it, might not be the case—odds are it was sensationalized. Jury's out, but looking like a future classroom lesson on the importance of fact-checking.